One Year On & This Blog is Changing
A year ago this week, when I first started blogging, my idea was simple: I would share all aspects of what I was doing photographically that might be interesting to others. Better than that, if it accidentally produced any revenues then I would give them to my favourite charity, Photovoice, with which regular readers will be familiar.
Part of the subject matter would be gear views and reviews. I was in the middle of an exciting re-evaluation of my equipment needs involving a switch from medium format digital to the Nikon D800 system and that meant two things: firstly, I would be buying a lot of new equipment and secondly, I would be assessing which pieces of gear were keepers and which were not. That meant testing. And what better discipline, I thought, than to have a reasonably rigorous real-world testing regimen and a place to sort and record my findings?
Besides, I was already sharing the results of whatever product evaluations I was doing in various online forums and would often find myself searching online for something I had written months or even years before, in order to remind myself of the attributes of some long unused lens or camera. It seemed more sensible to keep my own findings all in one place for future reference.
I decided that I would not accept 'freebies' - to this day I haven't accepted anything for free or any loan of equipment that I felt might compromise perceptions of my independence. I would not take advertising. I would not seek or receive click through revenue, again in order to protect my independence. And most importantly, the blog would be about a lot more than gear. There would be guest photographers, reviews of exhibitions, essays on creative approach and technique and a general effort to impose my own Weltanschauung on the readership. This lead to articles such as the one I wrote on the question of What is Fine Art Photography? - a piece that raised some eyebrows, some hackles and, I hope, some issues.
All very good. But what has in effect happened is that I have slowly and unwittingly (no one to blame but myself for this) become a slave to the web stats and to the self-imposed feeling that I should be providing weekly content.
Those web stats. Hmmm. They are a fascinating and frustrating thing.
Equipment reviews are the web stat winners. An in-depth piece or series of pieces on a high-profile camera or lens can get tens of thousands of readers. Very gratifying and something I am sure I could monetize if I wanted to. But the pieces on guest photographers receive much lower footfall, and if I venture into a subject as recherché as, for example, photo-ethics, the visitor count goes off the proverbial cliff. So after more than eighty articles I have learned that this blog is not going to become a free-thinking, holistic salon where creative types move effortlessly from deep tech to high art in witty and erudite discourse. It just ain't gonna happen and there's no point crying over it.
And, slightly disappointingly, the donations to Photovoice that have resulted from my occasional requests have been very, very few and far between. I calculate the revenue at less than 0.004 cents per page view, of which there have been many, many hundreds of thousands.
It is curious, also, to see the seeming contradictions: on the one hand the stats tell me that writing about the Leica M240 or the Sony RX-1 will bang the visitor rates right up. Here's a list of the top ten articles in terms of footfall:
But on the other hand, some of the angriest emails and comments I get are from those who want to tell me, as if it weren't already perfectly clear that I know this, that 'good photography is about more than just the equipment'. I wonder if they might like to know that a thoughtful piece on visual memory garnered only 500 visits? Or that a world-class Guest Photographer can command as few as 1,100 views? That's about 2% of what a juicy piece on a sexy piece of gear can get.
In other words, people want to read about gear. And interestingly, very specifically, they want to read material about gear which has been written from a very particular perspective, that of the technically and contextually aware field user. They are not prepared to rely on the more lab-based tests popular on-line, and they want to think in terms of systems rather than of individual components.
For now, though, I have run out of new gear that I personally plan to buy. My big re-shuffle has ended up with a feeling that I 'need' a D800E system and an RX-100 and I love using and therefore want to keep my IQ180 with Alpa/Rodenstock, my M240 system and my RX-1. That is far too much gear already and my cupboards are full. There's also a Nex 7 in stock somewhere, a full 5D II system, a capsule Pentax SLR system, some micro four thirds stuff.... all that has got to go.
On top of the fact that I am now in disposing rather than acquiring mode and will consequently have less stuff to review, I have been asked to write from time to time for OnLandscape, a rather brilliant online magazine that I was already subscribed to. It does, commercially, much of what I originally wanted to do here and it will pay a fee, which can go to Photovoice. On top of that, I will no longer feel guilty about taking exotic loan gear because everyone knows the deal by now, both with me and with OnLandscape, and I hope both are well-trusted. So, rather excitingly, next week I will be taking delivery of both an IQ180 AND an IQ160 Achromatic for review. Very nice.
So where does it leave this blog? Well, I have decided to back off from providing weekly material. It might be called a 'blog' but it has become more of a micro-level review site and the only way to continue with that, which might be interesting, would be if I were to start to monetize the content in some way. At that point it becomes a business and that's just not what I want. It would distract from my being a photographer.
Instead, I will revert to blogging in a more traditional sense. Comments on stuff that interests me, links to new photographers that excite me, brief thoughts if they strike me. Readership will drop like a stone but hey ho, on we go! This might all change with time, who knows, and when I do happen to purchase new gear and have something useful to say about it, I will do an in-depth review as ever - it is just that this will happen much less frequently.
Last word: Thank You to all the regular readers and correspondents who have been so full of encouragement and support and so generous with their thanks and praise. It has been a real pleasure writing for you and hearing your responses and I have learned at least as much as I have shared.
Maybe renting camera and lens could be a option?
They offer 645D with standard 55mm, unfortunately not the DA 25mm which is probably what you are looking for landscape work. Lensrentals.com offer both, but they are only renting USA only.
Kodak sensor in 645D is somewhere around D800 quality, at least in ISO 100-400, but maybe 645 lenses are less flawed then Nikon counterparts. Price wise besides DA 25mm, they are on the lower end at least when you look at competition.
Anyway I'm just a Pentax APS-C user, that is the only connection for me to Pentax, not trying to sell anything, but will leave a few links regarding 645D and DA 25mm lens (weather sealed) for you maybe to look.
Thank you Marin! Though of course not everyone agrees with such high expectations... some people think I am too critical ;-)
I haven't looked at the Pentax system because I mainly review equipment I purchase for my own use and these medium format systems are very expensive. If I had an account of every penny I spent on Phase and Leica MF gear over the years I would be in trouble with the family!
Today I discovered gem in form of your blog and with a fast pace of reading it with only a few articles left for me to read.
Definitely refreshing in the sea of reviews of photography gear. One can not but agree with such high standards when looking at cameras and lenses.
Didn't see anywhere you mentioned Pentax MF digital system as Pentax 645D and full array of new and old lenses, with focus on older ones that are left from film era with I must say bargain prices. :)
I just discovered your treasure trove of excellent in-depth articles today. Also very refreshing to find a not for profit site with a cause and without links to B&H etc. Thanks very much!
I'm looking forward to reading all the way through your site, and hope that you keep posting every so often.
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