My name is Urs Zihlmann and I'm a photographer from Zug, Switzerland. This Website is a place to share my photos and adventures in more depth!
It started with a job
I have been photographing for about 15 years. What sets me apart from most photographers is the way I came to photography. I had the opportunity to learn the trade from a studio photographer. With the best equipment (medium format camera from Phase One, Broncolor flash lights, …) we took pictures of the highest quality for our customers in our studio. However, this kind of commissioned photography has very little in common with my current photography. Today, for example, I use relatively inexpensive 35 mm cameras from Nikon/Sony for my private photography and use only natural sun and moonlight instead of flash light. What remains, however, is an eye for the motive and the enthusiasm to capture moments forever.
Desire for adventure and travel
My fascination for photography can be perfectly combined with my passion for adventure and travel. Whether on short hikes and ski tours in the Swiss Alps or on longer journeys through the wide world, I always have a camera handy!
My new Website
Since the launch of my new website I have often been asked how, with which technology and which tools the website was implemented and why I was not happy with Wordpress.
Why Wordpress does not fit
My former website was running with Wordpress (Photography Theme) and hosted by a Swiss company. No question, Wordpress offers some advantages and has absolutely its raison d'être. However, I was dissatisfied for the following reasons:
- Compatibility issues with each update
- No control: «You have what you get» with all its advantages and disadvantages
- Unwanted features (e.g. quality loss during photo optimizations)
- Long loading times and generally poor performance
- Even worse performance from abroad (no Content Delivery Network [CDN])
- Hosting in Switzerland makes little sense if most of the clicks on my website come from overseas
- No smart possibility of Continuous Delivery, A/B-/ Split Testing, …
- Wordpress is similar to TYPO3, Drupal, Squarespace, … for my needs completely over sized and for the above reasons for portfolio & photographer websites in my opinion unsuitable
«Static Website» with HUGO
Due to my bad experiences with Wordpress, I decided on a new website based on the latest technologies. The concept of static websites convinced me after a short test. The above mentioned problems with Wordpress should be history with the new website. As a Static Site Generator (SSG) I use HUGO. Alternatives to HUGO are published on StaticGen, in particular Jekyll.
Since I had no desire and above all too little time for coding my own Themes/Layout, I found a good selection on html5up. I particularly liked the freely available theme «Massively» by Curtis Timson and seemed to fit my photographic needs well.
HUGO Photo Gallery
For the photos (PhotoSwipe image gallery) I use the Hugo Easy Gallery by Li-Wen Yip. Some important criteria for a photo gallery:
- Separate files for thumbnail (preview) and hi-res
- Configurable and stylable image caption
- PhotoSwipe carousel/lightbox
- Automatic gallery based on a defined folder
Hosting on Netlify
As a hosting provider I rely on Netlify which offers the following features/services among others:
- Optimized for HUGO
- Global CDN
- Continuous Delivery with GitHub, GitLab or Bitbucket
- 1-click HTTPS
- Admin GUI
With Netlify’s current pricing model I even get all these services for free. Setting up my website on Netlify (Bitbucket, DNS, HTTPS, Forms) takes less than 30 minutes. Awesome!
Code Repository on Bitbucket
I use Bitbucket as my code repository (basis for Continuous Delivery). Also possible would be GitHub or GitLab. I use Bitbucket because I already have an Atlassian account and a private repository is free as compared to GitHub.
Build, Deploy, Test, and Continuous Improvement
I am developing my website locally on my Mac, on which HUGO is installed as a web server. For editing the templates and markdown files I use the editor MacDown. As soon as I want to publish the local website, I put some build commands in the terminal to update my code repository on Bitbucket (Continuous Delivery). Of course you can also work with different branches, which is especially useful for teams. Netlify is linked to my Bitbucket master branch, so the site has already been updated after a push. Simple, fast and super practical!
Yes, it takes some knowledges of web technologies to deal with HUGO, Netlify and Bitbucket. Wordpress is definitely easier to use, but I can really recommend switching to a static website. Why don’t you just give HUGO a try? Follow the tutorials install a theme and try to make some changes. Watch some Markdown «how to» videos.
Unbelievable though: I have no expenses for my website!
Should the number of visitors increase many times over, I would have to pay $25/month for Netlify, which I consider quite fair. The HUGO themes are free, but the developers are grateful for any support - they definitely deserve it!