#555. A Force for Positive Change

By pascaljappy | News

Feb 03

This is one of those posts where we look back at what a long and crazy road it’s been since post #1 and pat ourselves on the back reliving memories of millions of views, distant trips, exotic reviews and great comments.

Or is it ?


We tried to find a special significance for this post, putting the full might of Google search to task. Results were strangely few, strangely for such an auspicious set of digits, that is.

555 is how all fake phone numbers begin in American films.

555 is (apparently) a number that has become as legendary in sports as 10 (shirt number of football / soccer superstars Pele, Zidane, Beckham, …) and 23 (Michael Jordan) for being the number of straight wins by squash hero Jahangir Khan.

555 is a deficient number (ie, an integer strictly greater than the sum of its strict divisors).

In terms of photography, it’s tough to think of anything relevant : 5 blades is a recipe for fugly bokeh highlights, so does that make 555 3 times worse?  It’s also the price most of us would like to pay our next camera, knowing full well we’ll have to apply a (very) strict multiplier.

Thankfully, religion has come to the rescue, indicating that 555 denotes an Angel that represents a force for positive change. I like that one best.


Positive. Force. For change. Let’s build on that 🙂



Let’s start with force. It’s no secret to anyone in the industry that many photographic blogs are on their way out. Traffic has dwindled through the combined impacts of Google SEO idiocy, saturation of the marketplace and displacement of the main center of interest of the public towards smartphones and video.

DearSusan hasn’t been hit as hard as others, but is far from immune. Back in the ol’ days when we reviewed more gear (particularly more affordable gear) we’d get up to 15 000 visits in a day. Today, we’re nowhere near that. And that’s a good thing because (a) we don’t monetize our traffic and the blog’s running costs were starting to make gear look cheap. (b) engagement is high, we still get as many comments. Basically, we’re focusing on what we enjoy and readership has just filtered itself accordingly.

Which means, we’re a community. Which was the goal from day one.

And that’s where force comes into play. A closely knit community is far stronger than a list of readers. Over the coming months, we‘ll do our best to get that community to become more vocal, more active. Guest posts are a nice start. We want more, much more, if you’re willing to give it.


Desoto, Hackberry AZ

(c) Paul Perton


Change. I work in marketing, and have a close affinity with online training. In both activities, you don’t sell a process, you sell a transformation. And that’s the dream for DS. The blog is named after Susan Sontag, a writer whose essay “On Photography” has been more transformative for me than any other source of information before or since. And its goal is to break moulds to open up new ways of thinking and looking at things.

So I’ll be writing less about my opinion (very biased 😜) and more about the craft. This has started already, in the form of some discussions about composition. More will follow. And other topics too (colour theory, monochrome psychology, processing …) We’ll be picking up the interviews from where we left them. It’s a long and complex process but very worth it. And I’d love all you guys and gals reading to volunteer know-how of your own (like Brian Patterson’s article on adapting enlarger lenses). Don’t be shy, it’s fun. Don’t be selfish, it makes you miserable. Sharing and helping are vastly underestimated paths to true happiness.

We’ll also curate a lot more stuff from around the web.



Positive. Not being psychopaths, we’re not going to try to make your lives miserable, obviously.  So it probably goes without saying the transformation we’re looking for is for the better.

But that’s only half the story. If that.

We don’t pretend to be the sort of experts who can change lives through the power of our writing and photography. We’ll share what we know. But the real transformation can only come the crowd. If you stay on the other side of the screen nothing will happen. And I’m fine with that. I’ll continue to write what amuses me, so will Paul. And that’s a very acceptable status quo. But only a very weak one compared to what we could do if you started sharing your little tricks and dirty secrets.


San Quirico, Belvedere Sunrise -Olympus OM-D (c) Steve Mallet


Think about it. I’m sure, deep down inside you, you know you’re better than most people at something very specific. Maybe you’ve never thought of it that way. Maybe you’ve acknowledged it but never wanted to push that further. Maybe you’d love to but don’t know how. Teach ! That’s the very best way of forcing yourself to think a process through and get ever better at it. And those most people who don’t do it as well? They’d love to hear from you …

So, what’s your secret? Are you great at stacking photographs? Are you great at calibrating a screen? Are you great at finding exotic reptiles that no one else notices? Are you an expert at adapting legacy lenses? At machining adapters? At selecting tripods? At shooting into the sunlight? At post-processing skin? At matching frames to prints? At curating photographs? At finding interesting exhibitions? At designing productivity tips for photographers? At building UV lamps for platinum printing? At reviewing books? At archival processes? At data storage and recovery? At cyber-security? At psychology of art? At visual semiotics? At infrared? At finding great spots from Google Earth? At fixing old cameras? At approaching wildlife? At astrophotography? At panoramas? At the Orton effect? At model makeup? At smart sharpening? At finding visual commonalities in different subjects? At teaching kids the basics? At comforting sufferers of GAS remorse? At focusing fast? At selling prints online? At using intelligent apps for photographers? At sourcing old film? At creating a mesmerizing slideshow? At removing casts? At cleaning sensors? …


Take the plunge


Let me tell you a story. My young (2014) consultant business never was more active than in 2016. I don’t even have a website (yeah, a marketing strategy consultant without a website, in this day and age). My contracts mostly came to me through connections made on this photography blog!!! Case in point, I met co-author Philippe via the blog, we fast became good buddies and we now work together on multiple projects. Paul and I met via the blog. And I’m pretty sure, had he the good taste of not living in a distant paradise, we’d be working together too.

This is not to say you’ll publish and grow rich. Our Insight Guides initiative never made in sales as much as it cost in eCommerce tech, for instance 😉 But all manner of good things happen to people who share. The rewards are not always financial but they are always there. It’s very fulfilling.


(c) Philippe


So there you are. That’s what we’re offering. Make your life better by sharing with others and making their lives better. Start now. Tomorrow won’t be a better day for it. Or the day after. Do not seek perfection. Start small. Share a tip. Or just a photograph you love and want others to see and comment upon.

Why not a forum? Because forums encourage short form. Writing a post, even a short 300 word one makes your work orders of magnitude better for you and for others. Forum relationships are fun but shallow. A forum is entertaining but offers weaker ties than a true community.

So, just like Nike told us for shoes and Paul told me for my Macbook: just do it! And let’s build a photographic force for positive change together. Interested? Just leave a comment or write privately via the contact form at top right. We’re all looking forward to it and so are you 🙂

How will that work? Initially, we usually publish guest posts and interviews ourselves. But, if you’re interested in sticking to it, you get an author account and just publish your own article with a few minor guidelines. Every article you write can contain links to your own website/gallery to drive traffic if you want. I don’t own the blog, I merely pay the bills. The door is open. Just walk inside and settle in.


A frozen puddle makes patterns like a first and a foot. Zeiss Distagon 35/1.4 ZM and Sony A7r


And, even if you don’t feel like contributing yet, will you let me know your thoughts about the idea and about what topics you want us to cover in the future? More gear? Less gear? More locations? More composition? More post processing? More theory? More practical? More jokes (A horse walks into a bar. The barman asks “why the ling face?”) ? More rants (we hold world records at those)? More analysis? More art critique? … Tell us, I’m begging you 😉


Email: subscribed: 4
  • Michael Bayles says:

    More “why a certain picture works” commentary is what I would like to read about. There are lots of gear review sites but not many composition sites.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks Michael, you’ve got it. We used to have a “every story tells a picture” series dedicated to the analysis of a specific photograph. Maybe we can bring that back.

  • Wolfgang says:

    Regarding “Eyvery picture tells a story”: Would you kindly pass along to Steve Mallet, that his picture of San Quirico is most touching?
    Since seeing it I have a strong urge to see this light and location once in my live?

    Thanks for your blog!


    • pascaljappy says:

      I will tell him, Wolfgang, and ask whether he’d agree to tell us a little more about the photograph and how it was made. Thanks for the kind comment, Pascal

  • Jan says:

    Personally, I enjoy the unpretentious rants here – so more of those would make me happy ;-). And since most of the time, I share the opinions published on this site, but not the perspective (I’m a portrait photographer), some diversification (as in guest posts) also sounds good to me.
    However, as an ex-computer science student, just opening things up to everyone rings all sorts of alarms with me… Then again I might be underestimating the goodness of this community :D.
    Ming Thein published his thoughts in the same vein recently. It’ll be interesting to see, where each of your sites will go in the future (from to already quite different standpoints). Anyhow, keep it up!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Jan, thanks. We’re quite good at ranting, so it should be no problem to keep that up 😉 We’re not worried about excessive noise. (a) Few will volunteer initially, if any. (b) Judging from the comments, it is a high quality community. We moderate less than 1%. (c) We’ll keep a watchful eye on what gets published.I didn’t know about Ming, that’s for telling me. Maybe we can cross pollinate. Cheers, Pascal

  • DL Manning says:

    I continue to enjoy most of your articles and especially the inspiring compositions from exotic places. Along these lines I’ve been also enjoying foto and travel posts from my friend “Bob” who is spending the winter in Chaing Mai Thailand. One of his posts has some charming relevance to your post number:
    “Live from Soi 9, just off Sri Mangkalijarn Road, its the Bob diary. I can now pronounce these street names without thinking about it. Good luck with the rest of the Thai language! Local tidbit… If a Thai wants to put an “LOL” into a forum or text, they type “555”. The number five is pronounced “ha”, so 555 is ha ha ha.”
    It’s a small, smouldering world……click

    • pascaljappy says:

      Brilliant. Now we have another meaning for the number that’s even more fun 😉 Does your friend blog? Please send us a link so we can look it up 🙂 Paul is the main culprit regarding exotic lands, my travels are more limited to France and the UK, at the moment. We’ll be posting plenty more travel pics as they come along, but would love for readers to do the same as well. The more the richer …

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Hmm – lots of stuff to think about (as usual, in DearSusan).

    I agree that there’s a nice sense of community in this group. Which pleases me for an unstated reason – I was raised on the basis that if you haven’t anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything – and that, unsurprisingly, has left me with a deep-seated distaste for “critics” who imagine that word entitles them to criticise and belittle other people, without contributing anything positive or noteworthy themselves – and with them, trolls, who appear to be a post-Zuckerberg spin-off from “critics”. And “opinions”, loaded with lead, and used to beat you over the head with. I can live with “a point of view” – but “opinions” have a darker side and are distinctly nasty creatures.

    In saying that, I’m ignoring Pascal’s claim to having such things as “opinions”. He’s simply trying to wind me up, he knows perfectly well what I think of them 🙂

    What a long winded way of saying “we’re all nice people in this group”! 🙂

    And that leaves us well placed to be creative and imaginative, and go where no ‘tog has gone before.

    So – we are being enjoined to knuckle down and share some of ourselves, with the rest of the group. Oh dear – everyone else has been “at it” with digital far longer than I have (except at snapshot level) – I’m still fooling around with “projects” to learn more about what I can or can’t do, with the gear I have. And to be honest, my path isn’t main stream anyway – I’ve never been a conformist and it’s way too late for me to learn how to, now – my mother went to her grave chanting her mantra on the subject of her youngest son (me), “I don’t know what’s come over you lately – you used to be such a nice little boy”, and by then she’d been saying it over & over, for more than 4 decades. (I could never write my autobiography – the ink would vaporise and the paper would auto self-combust!)

    OK Pascal – within a few days I should be able to start penning some thoughts on several of the things on your shopping list – screen calib, post-processing, matching screen colors to prints. It’s tied to my rebellious behavior – nobody does prints these days, so of course I still do 🙂

  • NMc says:

    Please keep the travel theme a priority.
    Some of the more commercial sites that have a go at everything and anything seem too diluted and are poorly curated. Less is definitely more at DR compared to most sites with frequent article posting.

    Anti-rants, where deserved. For example congratulations to gear manufacturers that try to offer something different (not odd or peculiar ) that will potentially be great for some users. Most review sites seem to caution readers if something is not typical, rather than giving us the chance to make up our own mind’s.

    Less glamorous or overlooked locations that are fun and/or interesting, so less London,Barcelona and Paris more secondary cities. Don’t prioritise difficult to get to photo trophy locations (but don’t avoid either).

    Regards Noel

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    The ink was barely dry, when . . .

    Oh dear – yet another “hopeful”. Ricoh has released a new Pentax, which is trying not to be just another DSLR (which, apparently, it is) and which is “not quite a mirrorless” (and of course, it isn’t one, and nobody looking at it could possibly have dreamed that it might be). The biggest selling pitch for it is that it is your ultimate low light camera, running on anything up to 819,200 ISO (why both mentioning the last 200, I cannot imagine) and using two types of shutter, it seems – a conventional one and an electronic shutter capable of a blistering 1/24,000th of a second.

    It has heaps of other features, but I digress from why I’m mentioning it. (For the record – heaps of weather proofing – TICK; 27 AF points – TICK; great shake reduction – TICK; and so on)

    Few reviews (yet) so I scouted around for some information. And found a page where Ricoh has posted photos taken with their latest product. Which you are invited to “blow up” to a larger size. And this is the URL if you want to view them for yourselves:


    Now these shots have left me feeling puzzled. Surely if the camera is being promoted on the basis of its huge maximum ISO rating, these photos should demonstrate how the camera handles these high speeds? There is an acknowledgment that if you shoot with its top “film speed” of 819,200 ISO, there may be “some noise” in the image. So I dug further.

    Well – they’ve published 9 photos; I thought several were rather pointless, but let’s ignore that and see what they show; and what else? There’s not one single shot included, that demonstrates the high ISO. The fastest speed used for their 9 specimen photos was 3200 ISO, which these days isn’t all that unusual. Then there’s a shot a 1600 ISO – and all the others are taken between 100 ISO and 800 ISO.

    The 1600 ISO shot is unsuitable for testing the “noise” issue – the subject matter of the photo makes that kind of appraisal rather difficult. The 3200 ISO shot has significant noise – within the range of noise levels from competing cameras fired at the same speed, admittedly.

    But not SO little noise that I would be encouraged to throw discretion to the wind and shoot at 819,200 ISO. I did eventually see a shot at 819,200 and thought of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Mikado”, where Nanki Poo sings –
    “Let me make it clear to you
    This is what I’ll never do!
    This, oh, this
    Oh, this
    Oh, this, —
    This is what I’ll never, never do!”

    I’m sorry to say this – but I think this relentless pursuit of weird targets is getting completely out of hand, quite bewildering, and a bit pointless. Money goes into research – tooling up for production also costs – and what does Ricoh expect to gain from this? I’m not their marketing consultant – but I think they would have been better employed in working out how to help buyers kit their new camera up with a reasonable range of lenses, and this ISO stunt is not much more than a distraction.

  • Lucy March says:

    I much appreciate your combination of generosity and “just do it” encouragement. Paul and you are a great combination and the friendship between you sets a wonderful tone for Dear Susan. Much appreciated!

  • Danny Burk says:

    I’ve only recently discovered your blog – via what means, I can’t remember – but it’s bookmarked and I return frequently. I’ve found it both refreshingly different and, at times, thought-provoking.

    I’d be happy to contribute something. As to what, I’ll mull over what thoughts of my own could be provoked…

  • PaulB says:


    Count me in. I’ve done similar things in the past and can do more.

    If you were serious about me writing an M10 review, I can do that. Well, it will really be more of a second impression than a review, but it will be different than most.

    Plus, I have a lot of experience adapting lenses and modifying adapters to work. And if I really put my mind to it, I can probably write a starter (US Tax) guide for people wanting to become professional photographers.

    Concerning the M10 article, I have already started. I’ve borrowed a camera and have about a dozen images from 4 lenses that are worthy of an article. What makes this different than most reviews is the lenses are all legacy (i.e. film) designs.


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