#823. We’re going nowhere

By Paul Perton | Opinion

Feb 22

The two seem to go hand in hand; a hobby (or profession) and reading about it on the Web. For me, steam trains and the many railway preservation blogs are a significant part of my daily/weekly read. I don’t live near a preservation railway and the regular posts are a way of keeping up-to-date and in touch.



Photographically, there has always been a plethora of verbiage available to accompany my efforts. Sadly, as with so many sites in the blogosphere, the output has usually been limited to photographers with a working knowledge of cameras, lenses and/or post processing software, but not so much writing ability or creativity.


More recently, in an attempt to retain eyeballs, a surprising number of these would-be experts have moved to vlogging, populating sites like YouTube with a bewildering collection of badly planned and recorded how-to and look-at-me videos.


I avoid most like the plague and rarely manage to sit through more than a couple of minutes of the others. The endlessly wiggling mouse pointer, coughing, um-ing, er-ing and demonstrations that don’t work first time, the hallmark of a desperation to review/show and publish something before anyone else, regardless of how watchable and/or tolerable it might be.



Lots of bloggers have simply walked away from their sites. In a recent trawl through a lengthy lists of archived bookmarks, I’d say anything up to eighty percent have simply walked away without even as much as a ta-ta.


When Kirk Tuck announced earlier this week that he was taking a blogging sabbatical, I found myself surprised and saddened in equal parts. On the occasion of his 4000th post (DearSusan stands at way <900), Kirk is wearied and in need of a recharge of his blogging batteries. For as long as he is absent my daily must-read list, I will miss his quirky attitude and practical approach to making a living with a camera.


At The Online Photographer, Mike Johnson quotes Kirk thus; “…and “[I] can hardly shake the feeling that photography as we knew it and practiced it has changed so profoundly that the Visual Science Lab is now, more or less, irrelevant.”


Which brings us to what’s happening here at DearSusan.



There are three of us driving things forward; Philippe, Pascal and myself. With us is a veritable team of regular part time contributors, including Dallas, Art, Steve, Bob, Steffen and Adam plus a small group of very occasional writers. And with that, just about every brand of currently relevant camera technology has a user (or two) amongst the DearSusan glitterati; essential if you plan to write and/or opine about such things.


As regular DS readers will know, we share many behind the scenes group e-mail chats and often from these, an insightful, or interesting post will emerge. This genesis of this week’s Monday Post was one such conversation.


Doubtless more will follow.


In preparing this post, I asked Pascal for his views:


As TOP quotes, photography is changing and there is no “expert” middle ground left. There are people interested in gear and there are sites that cater very well to their needs. I feel Kirk sat in the expert tech part which very few people are interested in any more. People who enjoy gear for gear are rarely good photographers and people who enjoy making photographs have largely shifted to phones or, like me, to cameras they hope will eliminate the need to think about gear for the next decade or more. They usually don’t give a hoot about gear or software. Kirk can reinvent himself but he’ll probably have to find a new positioning to get back on track.


DS is special in that we don’t seek to make any money from our writing. So we can talk about anything and don’t look at the numbers so long as the engagement is motivating enough. I think our greatest strength is the variety of points of views and opinions. The fact that we don’t always agree with one another probably reflects the variety of points of view in the market. Our readers are usually experienced and educated photographers and I like that we speak to a very specific high-quality audience. We have huge engagement relative to our traffic.



All this to say that not only are we still here, but we’re not just surviving in spite of the general doldrums. We discuss far more fundamental ideas than the latest preset, so we’re here to stay and we’re having fun.


Feel like contributing? Drop one of us a note via the contact page or send us a comment and we can explore the possibilities.


To sum up – we’re still here and as long as it’s worth it – that is our visitor numbers continue to justify the considerable effort that goes into keeping DearSusan interesting and relevant – we’ll keep at it.


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  • Adam Bonn says:

    Amen and damn straight.

  • Jack says:

    Yes, please keep at it. The variety of views really stands out, thought provoking.

  • Chris Stump says:

    I fall into your ‘very infrequent contributor’ camp, and have to say I’m surprised, and very happy, to see this post.

    Why surprised? Because I had not seen Kirk’s post, and also because it never occurred to me that the continuation of DearSusan and her ilk could be in doubt.

    One of the estimable Mr. Johnson’s commenters used the term ‘daily stops on the internet photo highway’, and DS is certainly one of a very few for me. I like the variety of both photographers and topics, as well as the uncluttered format chock-full of excellent images large enough to really enjoy.

    There are a few things I’d like to see…a full-screen gallery feature for all images in a story for one; auto notification of replies to comment authors for another. But all-in-all the site is always a pleasure, never a chore.

    Back to the surprise, I have to say I should have seen coming the decline in engagement Kirk mentions. I too used to be ‘in the business’, and as well posted very often on my own site. Still do, much less frequently, as a hobby. It’s a lot of work to come up with engaging topics and produce a narrative that you feel will appeal to a wide audience.

    And more and more folks are clearly just spending their day on the larger social media sites rather than click a bunch of disparate links on their bookmark bar. At least, that’s what I blame for recently anemic page views.

    Heck, maybe I’ll follow Kirk out the door soon. 😉

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Chris, video is also responsible for the decline in blog views. Very few people read anymore. But, as long as there are people interested, we have no intention to stop 🙂

      A gallery at the end of the post, hmm? OK, I’ll add one. We can test that for a few posts and see if readers are interested. If so, we’ll make it a regular practise, thanks for the idea 🙂

      When you comment, I think you can check a box to receive notification when someone adds another comment. We moderate all comments because of the amount of spam flying about, which slows interactions down. It’s difficult to lift that restriction and keep the website safe, sorry.


      • Chris Stump says:

        Ah yes, video. Absolutely.

        And, I mentioned ‘clicking links on the bookmarks bar…’. What a very old-school, desk-bound computer with an external monitor thing to say, huh?

        Occurs to me that mobile and tablet use is also to blame. I suspect fiddly little bookmark buttons are less convenient to use on those small platforms than just staying immersed in a social app tailor-made to keep you there, happily swiping and liking. Ha.

        Totally understand about the comment moderation, etc. No issues. I do see the little blue checkbox above ‘Post Comment’, but don’t think I receive them.

        No biggie. Just a thought. Conversations in the Comments section are often just as interesting as the original article!


  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    This *is* one of the strengths of DearSusan, that it isn’t a one man’s, pardon, photographer’s creation.
    The greater variety helps keep it going and attracts readers!
    – – –

    That first (title) photo, Wonderful!
    – – –

    Btw., talking of gear:
    Ming Thein just published an uncommonly good (as usual) article comparing gear with different sensor sizes.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    There is always “difference”. While it’s my nature to believe everyone’s equal, I have to face reality occasionally and I do tend to pick up on the fact that we’re all “different”.

    Paul, in your post you have pointed up one fundamental “difference” between this team and the rest of the pack.

    On the one hand, the rest of the pack – “I avoid most like the plague and rarely manage to sit through more than a couple of minutes of the others.”

    And on the winner’s podium – DS, with “not only are we still here, but we’re not just surviving in spite of the general doldrums. We discuss far more fundamental ideas than the latest preset, so we’re here to stay and we’re having fun.”

    Paul in a fair average day I read a lot of stuff about photography (and a lot of other things!) posted on the internet. But the one “I look forward to, each day” is – in fact – none other than “Dear Susan”. It’s pleasant – it’s informative – there’s almost a family atmosphere among the main contributors, the occasional ones, and the rest of us. As you say, we all bring to the table a vast variety of different gear, and I’ve yet to see anyone on DS make disparaging remarks about anyone else’s gear – instead, we hear the owner’s comments with interest and absorb the comments on photography, admire the pictures, and engage in chat with each other.

    Take a bow, guys. 🙂 Soul searching leads to manic depression which leads to suicide. We’ll have no more of that – life is for living – and for taking photographs – and sharing them, along with our experience and knowledge. 🙂 Which is what Kirk Tuck has been doing. And how we bring up our children. And help each other in the workforce. It’s part of the normal order of things.

    And maybe we’re more backward in Oz than elsewhere. But I do find it interesting, wandering around. There seems to be a resurgence of interest in “cameras”, and at times it’s surprising where I find it. One of my friends has a landscape camera (wider format) which he’s incredibly proud of, and only shoots colour film – he’s a middle aged leading hand in heavy duty pipe construction & maintenance, and took to photography in his 30s – unlike me (with my “dumb phone”),he has a smart phone – but like me, he uses it mainly for messaging, and relies on his camera for photography. The lady who bred most of my dogs took to photography in her early 50s – with a half frame Canon EOS – and she’s taken a keen interest in photography ever since – in fact, she’s accepted a gift of my last remaining film cam (a Pentax, kitted out with several lenses and other accessories – even had a camera bag for it, for her!) – and we exchange thoughts on each other’s work several times a week. Tourists fresh of cruise liners passing through (I live in a port district) have cameras and I see reduced numbers of them using cellphones to take their shots.

    Maybe Dallas can describe the Sydney scene – Sydney’s more “advanced” than we are, here in the Wild West! 🙂

  • Brian Nicol says:

    Hi, I am a competent photographer that needs to keep taking my captured images to the next level. Most blogs are incompetent and complain about things like a camera does not have 2 SD slots. I have 2 SD slots in my Olympus G9 and Hasselblad X1D and use them for more memory; not backup memory. I have never had memory failure since doing digital starting in 2008. Or they complain a camera can only do 25 frames per second versus another cammera can do 27 FPS. When I was doing photography back in my Nikon FM2 days serious photography was about capturing a compelling image out of chaos through competent use of depth of field and shutter speed choice. What I care about is whether a camera has the haptics for me to feel like I can capture the decisive moment. My recent Leica Q-P is perfect. Once you develop muscle memory, I can get into the zone, glance at the camera, quickly adjust setting as I lift camer to the eye, then focus on frame and it is in the bag. As far as glass goes, incompetent reviewers focus on the measurable specs that generally do not matter such as resolution on a flat plane at a closeup distance – hey, isn’t that what a quality macro lens is socialised for? What really matters for quality glass is its artistic rendering: obvious examples are the Leica 50/1.4, Leica 50/0.95, …zeiss ZM 35/1.4, Zeus’s ZM 50/1.5, Hasselblad XCD 30/3.5, and so on. Some glass such as the magnificent Zeiss ZM 50/1.5
    (count the very few competent reviews on this lens that judge it by flat plane resolution and so on) needs very specific light conditions but it worth carrying as the correct paint brush for the right moment. I treat glass as paint brushes and am concerned about how they impact the rendering I want to achieve.

    The problem with today’s cameras is that all the automation allows any person to capture in many situations a reasonably focussed and exposed record shot and never get better by needing to at least learn ISO, depth of field, shutter speed. I used to enjoy a camera club back in the film day as there was competence and inspiration from others. I quit 3 clubs years ago because most were using program mode on 3-5 thousand dollar camera bodies and showing pathetic pictures looking for a pat on the back. I really enjoyed this site when it was talking about rendering of various glass and showing image sets but drifted off for awhile when I felt it was venting and whining on things like processing tools. Ansel Adams would have wondered what you were complaining about. Especially after he unloaded his mule.
    I used to be a watercolour painter and I met with artists and we never asked each other about our brushes and were they hand made by virgins with organically grown squirrels. Or who made our light fast pigments . The discussion was how their art spoke to us and why we did the painting.
    I think it would be good to think about photography as art and how do we improve and inspire each other rather than the emphasis on tools.
    I also suppose I should stop being a user and humbly submit an article – feel free to reject it. I am working on a post for another blog that you can review to determine whether I can help out rather than a pure user.

  • NMc says:

    Well written article, thanks Paul
    If what I read on the internet is anything to go by, video and vlogging is post peak as well, probably because of what you wrote and because there are so many copycat presenters, diluting the experience even more.
    To add one positive example of survival, Ming Thein ( https://blog.mingthein.com/ ) is a good example of someone who avoided crashing out by downsizing in frequency and quantity whilst maintain his quality, with the help of Robin Wong.
    The online video post format as it has evolved, developed and become codified in such a way that it has contributed to us losing our concentr…..wow, did you see that, there’s a new Ricoh GR -Phwar!

    Regards Noel

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      I think Ming’s blog site is one of the best sites on the internet, for photographers. He is an amazing man – all the more so, for the amount of his time and effort that he makes available, when he shares his incredible knowledge with other photographers from around the world. Sometimes I dive into the archive of his blog- it’s fascinating!

      • Brian Nicol says:

        I agree with you on Ming. His technical knowledge; breadth and depth is unchallenged by anyone I am aware of. He is so generous with his knowledge and I also go into his archive and mine the gold.

  • Dan says:

    Gentlemen, a bit late but here it is: I greatly enjoy your site and your approach to photography. I find it inspiring and interesting. Your minimalist aproach matches my current approach to photography – a handful of lenses, one body, and more interest in how the lenses render the colours than in sharpness and rezolution. Very refreshing.

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