Blogosphere

One of the most important things I do on this blog is respond to comments

Reading other blogs was one big reason I started this blog. If other people could do it, I sure as heck could too!

I still love blogs. On them, everyday people share their lives and their thoughts. I think we all lead interesting lives and I’m deeply curious about yours. But I won’t just come up to you and ask you to tell me your stories. When you have a blog, I can come visit and get to know you.

At my desk
Where I work on this blog

Sometimes, a post really touches, moves, amuses, or otherwise impresses me and I leave a comment. It is always a little disappointing when it is ignored. It is flat out frustrating when I want to leave a comment, but the blog doesn’t accept them.

I get it, I don’t have a Constitutional right to comment, and nobody owes me a response. But my frustration and disappointment led me to set a policy when I started my blog (way back in 2007): I would allow comments, and I would respond to every comment.

That was easy at first, as few people read what I wrote. By 2015 this blog was getting about 2,500 comments a year, and sometimes comments would turn into long threads going back and forth. It became a little challenging to keep up. So I modified my policy: I’d respond to every initial comment, but I didn’t have to have the last word in every thread.

I think that my reply policy is why this blog gets so many comments, and why the overwhelming majority of comments are of good quality. People really like the interaction.

Having conversations with you in the comments has turned out to be enriching for me, as well. I learn so much from you. Just this morning someone commented on one of my recent Michigan Road posts having done some research with old maps, finding an old alignment of the road I had missed. When I taught myself to develop and scan black-and-white film, several of you offered meaningful advice that shortened my learning curve considerably. And when my oldest child died, your condolences really did help me grieve.

Because of this, I don’t understand bloggers who ignore comments or don’t accept them in the first place.

I make an exception for bloggers who are well known. For whatever reason, commenters come out of the woodwork with axes to grind. But most of the bloggers I follow are everyday people with small followings. My blog gets about a quarter million pageviews a year, which ain’t bad, but that still places it in the “small following” category.

If you blog but don’t allow comments, try turning them on. Try responding to comments. I believe it attracts loyal readers.

I do have a comment policy, finally implemented last year when a couple comment threads got out of hand. Read it here.

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Blogosphere

Why I still recommend WordPress.com for new bloggers, but am not as bullish on it as I used to be

Blogging was super hot in about 2005. Today, we’re in the post-blog era where everybody’s doing YouTube videos and podcasts. But I still maintain that if you have thoughts, ideas, or stories to tell, if you are working on a creative project or have one in mind, then you should start a blog to showcase your work and share it with the world. And I still recommend WordPress.com as the place to start your blog.

But I’m less excited about WordPress.com for new bloggers than I used to be, for two reasons. First, the free WordPress.com plan now drops pesky, low-quality ads all through your posts. Second, WordPress has evolved toward being a Web site builder, which has had the consequence of making it more complicated for a blogger to learn the tool.

Low-quality advertising

A brand new blog with its low traffic sits at the very bottom of the barrel for targeted ads of the type WordPress.com shows. That blog’s tiny audience just won’t attract major advertisers, or even advertising that has anything to do with your blog’s topics. You get lousy ads like these:

Oh, for the grand days of the free Internet — free meaning both gratis and libregratis in that you could sign up for a free blog, and libre in that you could say anything you wanted on it. Libre is still with us, but only when you own the space you’re communicating in — and having your own WordPress site accomplishes that. The Internet has never truly been gratis, however. Servers and storage cost money. In the past, companies absorbed those costs, frequently causing them to operate at loss. That was never going to last. Internet companies had to figure out how to make money.

Advertising has been the main way most Internet companies have monetized their products. Still, I can’t imagine WordPress.com makes real money from ads on its free blogs. New blogs don’t attract large audiences, which leads to low-quality and low-paying ads. It takes time and work to build a blog audience. By the time you have a decent-sized audience and can attract better-paying advertisers, you’ve outgrown the free WordPress.com offering anyway.

I support WordPress’s other way of making money: paid plans that unlock ever greater functionality and storage. The least-expensive paid plan, Personal, costs $48 annually. It removes those weird ads, increases your storage space from 3 to 6 GB, and gives you access to WordPress.com support.

This blog is on the WordPress.com Business plan, which costs $300 each year. It lets me extensively customize my site, turning it into a full e-commerce destination if I want to. It also offers 200 GB of storage.

WordPress.com, stop showing ads on your free blogs. They’re intrusive, crappy ads that harm the reader’s experience and give both that blog and WordPress.com itself the appearance of being low value.

WordPress as Web site builder

WordPress was born during the days when blogging was new and fresh. It was a purpose-built blogging tool, and it offered flexibility and functionality that its competitors couldn’t match. This led WordPress to become the engine behind at least 25 percent of all Web sites.

To continue to grow as a business, WordPress has pivoted its business away from being only a blogging platform to being a Web site builder. They completely rebuilt the back end — the editor that bloggers use to write posts.

Before, creating a blog post was much like writing a document in a word processor like Microsoft Word. That made the learning curve fairly shallow for new bloggers.

That editor is gone. The editor that replaced it does not work like a word processor; rather, it has created a unique usage model for creating content. Personally, I love it. It offers a great deal more power and flexibility than the previous editor. However, I work in the software industry and am far more technical than the average person. I take to new software easily. I am not so sure that the average blogger will find it quite as easy to learn because they can’t easily transfer know-how they already have to be productive quickly.

WordPress would do well to allow the old editor to continue to function, and allow bloggers to switch to it if they want.

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Blogosphere

Fifteen years of Down the Road

Fifteen years ago today, I published my first post on this blog. You can read it here.

Down the Road, v. 1.0

I didn’t know that day how central to my life this blog would become. But it has. I think about what I’m going to write and share here often, and I work on it at least a little most days.

On this blog’s tenth anniversary I had a whole bunch to say and wrote several posts. On the fifteenth, I don’t. But everything I said on the tenth anniversary is still true enough; go read it all here.

Three years ago today I expressed considerable frustration that my blog hasn’t achieved greater reach. I felt, and still feel, sure that there are others out there who would enjoy what I write and photograph if only they could find me.

I’ve worked hard over the last few years behind the scenes to make my blog more findable. I upgraded to WordPress.com Business to get access to SEO tools, which I’ve used heavily. It took a lot of effort, but I’ve now optimized this site to look like it’s about film photography to Google, even though I write about a whole bunch of topics. It has helped many of my film-photography posts, particularly camera reviews, rank higher in search results. But that hasn’t translated into many new readers who have subscribed. My readership has plateaued; my stats bear it out.

My annual stats at the end of 2021

Now it’s time for me to experiment with the new content I publish, to find ways to draw people in. I’ve generally avoided opinion pieces here (beyond reviews), but have started trying my hand at writing them. It is my hope that as I share them around the Internet, they will bring new readers and make them want to stick around.

Additionally, I’m in the process of changing my posting schedule around a little. It’ll inject fresh energy, both for you and for me.

I also plan to give the blog a new look and feel this year. I like the look I have now, a lot. But sadly, the theme that powers it has fallen behind the times technologically and can’t take advantage of all of WordPress’s latest features. If there’s anything I’ve learned in more than 30 years in technology as a career, it’s to stay current.

This blog is a lot of work. It is personally satisfying work, which is why I’ve kept at it. But I want it also to keep growing in readership — and if it’s not doing that, I have to question whether I continue to invest in it at the level I have.

Now I’d like to turn things over to you. I’d love to know who you are, where you’re from, how you found my blog, and how long you’ve read it. Especially if you’re a new reader or a longtime lurker — please leave a comment and tell me!

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Essay

Strengthening the creative muscle

Since 2015, I’ve published here six days a week. People ask me how I do it. Well, here’s how — and you can do it, too.

A portrait of the photographer
Me out working on this blog

I set aside time almost every day to work on the blog. I get up earlier than I otherwise need to every weekday so I have at least one morning hour to brainstorm post ideas, write, and/or process photographs. I often spend my entire Saturday morning working on this blog.

I write about a well-known set of things. They say there’s no greater tyranny than a blank page. I’ve overcome that by narrowing down the kinds of things I write about. Most of my articles are reviews of photo gear and film, road-trip reports, essays, and personal stories. My fallback is to write about photographs I’ve made, whatever comes to mind. Even though my shtick is varied, it’s not overbroad. Truly, to generate an article all I need to do is buy an old camera or a kind of film I’ve never shot before, use it, and write about the experience. Or take a day trip to some Indiana city, photograph it, and write about it. The best part is that these are things I enjoy doing anyway. Sharing the experience with you heightens my pleasure with it.

Through these things, I’ve built a strong creative muscle. The more I publish, the more I publish. Once I start generating and executing on ideas, more and more ideas generally come. Sometimes I have more ideas than I have time for! If I don’t write them down, I lose them. Other times, work or family consume my time and thoughts. When that happens, idea flow slows or even stops. To re-prime the idea pump, all I have to do is pick a kind of article I normally write, and write one. My go-to is to choose a photograph and write whatever comes to mind about it. Then I write another, and another. Very soon, article ideas start flowing in again.

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Blogosphere, Film Photography

Film photography blogs you should follow

It’s time for my annual list of film photography blogs! A great joy of film photography is the community of people who enjoy everything about it: the gear, the films, getting out and shooting, and looking at the resulting photographs. Lots of us share our adventures on our blogs.

Bathroom mirror selfie
A portrait of the blogger

This list has shrunk a little since last year, by five, to 101 entries. Yet 16 blogs are new to the list this year, meaning that 21 blogs from last year’s list stopped updating. This list has done nothing but grow each year since I first created it — could the pandemic have cooled off people’s blogging?

Not that long ago, most of the blogs on this list were about vintage film gear. But now, a growing number are about making photographs, and it happens that they are on film. I like this shift toward writing about film photography and not just gear. I think this shows that film photography has become far more alive and well than any of us could have imagined just ten years ago!

If you don’t see your blog here, I hope you won’t feel put out. Maybe I just don’t know about it. Let me know which blogs I’m missing in the comments!

If you do see your blog here but think my description misses the mark, go to my About page and send me a message on the contact form. Tell me in up to 25 words what you’d like me to say about your blog. I may edit it but I’ll use it to update this list.

You’ll see little emoji next to some blogs:

  • ✨ is a blog that’s new to this year’s list.
  • ❤ is one of the blogs I look forward to most.
  • 📷 is a blog that’s part of a little kaffeeklatsch I belong to where we talk about photography and photo blogging.

Also, I list only blogs that have posted recently and post regularly, and have an RSS feed so I can aggregate them into my reader.

  • 127 Film Photography — A blog dedicated to 127 film and cameras, and the major proponent of 127 Day, held annually on July 12th.
  • 35 millimetre — Film photographs by Charlotte Davis in the UK.
  • 35mm Chronicle — Rob Lowe does some lovely work in black and white.
  • 35mm Film Shootist — Black and whites from Martin Smith’s Leica.
  • 📷 35mmc — Hamish Gill and his crew write about cameras and films and photographic skills
  • 6×6 Portraits — Kenneth Wajda shares his excellent work and writes essays about photography.
  • 📷 Alex Luyckx — A dedicated film photographer shares his work. His film reviews are the most useful on the Internet.
  • All My Cameras — Christoph in Germany and his growing collection. In German and in English.
  • 📷 Aly’s Vintage Camera Alley — Alyssa loves obscure old cameras, and shoots as many as she finds.
  • Analog Cafe — A group blog of photo essays, reviews, and stories.
  • Analogue Wonderland — The blog of Analogue Wonderland, a film store in the UK.
  • Andrew Bartram — Film landscapes of the Cambridgeshire Fenlands in eastern England.
  • 📷 Aperture Preview — Reviews of vintage film cameras, by Eric Jason.
  • Aragon’s Eye — Chris shares photographs and film-camera reviews.
  • arhphotographic — arh shares his work and gear reviews.
  • Barnaby Nutt — Barnaby documents his life with his film camera.
  • Bernard Prunesquallor — Essays on many topics, illustrated with film photographs.
  • 📷 Bill Smith’s Photography — Bill shoots 35mm and medium format, and shares in a visual diary format.
  • Broken Camera . Club — Mostly reviews of mostly obscure gear.
  • ❤ 📷 Camera Go Camera — Peggy reviews lots and lots of gear, some of it off-the-wall stuff she bought while living in Japan.
  • Camera Legend — Sam collects legendary cameras and writes about using them.
  • 📷 Canny Cameras — Gear reviews and photographs by Alan D. This site explained why the Lomography 110 film I use sometimes leaves light spots on some images. A tip of the hat for that.
  • ❤ 📷 Casual Photophile — This site written by James and his crew sets the Internet standard for vintage gear reviews. Excellent writing, excellent images, great cameras. I read every post, from beginning to end.
  • Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris and Carol — Photos of gear from their extensive collection, mostly Yashicas.
  • Christopher May — Christopher shoots both film and digital, but film keeps calling him back.
  • Earth Sun Film — An exploration of gardening and photography, by Jerome Carter.
  • 📷 EMULSIVE — A place for film photographers of all backgrounds to share their knowledge, experience, and thoughts about everything related to film photography.
  • Film Advance — Gary shares images from his eclectic collection of film cameras.
  • Film Based Traveler — Nicole works in a biomedical research lab by day and shoots film in her spare time.
  • Film Photography Blog — A straightforwardly named blog from the Film Shooters Collective.
  • FilmPhotography.Blog — Film photographs from northeast England.
  • Film Photography Project — You gotta include the blog of the FPP gang.
  • Filmosaur — The photographer behind this blog asks us to rise above the oppression of bad photography!
  • Fireside Five — Gretchen shares her photos from her vintage cameras as she lives her life.
  • Fogdog Blog — John takes his Nikons and his Pentaxes (and sometimes his Leicas) along the northern California coast.
  • For the easily distracted… — Rhianne in the UK shoots film, and lots of it.
  • Found Film — Simon Hawketts finds old film images and shares them here.
  • fourohoh — Film photographs from the Hawaiian coast.
  • Going Lomo — Dan likes alternative film looks as he photographs the places he visits around the world.
  • GQGlasgow — Film photographs of a life in Glasgow.
  • I dream of sumac and milkweed — Personal essays and film photographs.
  • Japan Camera Hunter — Bellamy lives in Tokyo and finds lovely old cameras for you. And writes about film photography.
  • Joe Van Cleave’s Blog — Experimental film photography by Joe Van Cleeve.
  • John’s Old Cameras — If it can make an image, John Margetts will give it a try and share his experience here.
  • 📷 Johnny Martyr — Photographing portraits and live music on film.
  • Journeys in Film — Matt publishes lovely film photographs, and tells stories about the places they represent.
  • Junk Store Cameras — The blog of one of the longest-tenured film-camera sites on the Internet.
  • Katie Shoots Film — Katie shoots film all over the world, using a small stable of cameras.
  • 📷 Kosmo Foto — Stephen dispels the myths about film: that it’s too hard and too expensive, and breaks film-photography news.
  • Lily Schwartz Photography — Lily is a European documentary photographer who often shoots film.
  • Marcus Peddle — Marcus shoots film all over Korea, where he lives.
  • Mere Film Photography — Shooting film, printing digitally, thinking and writing about the craft.
  • Michael Elliott Photography — Michael shoots film in part because it makes him more deliberate.
  • 📷 mike eckman dot com — Long form histories and reviews, from common cameras to wacky stuff you’ve never heard of.
  • Mostly Monochrome — A photo-a-day blog with a surprising number of color photos given its title.
  • My Favourite Lens — Lee shoots vintage lenses on his mirrorless digital cameras as well as his film cameras.
  • myvintagecamerasblog — Kathleen experiments with cameras and film.
  • Natalie Smart Film Photography — A film photographer in Brighton, UK, who shoots 35mm, 120, and instant.
  • Nick Collingwood Vintage — Nick shoots Polaroid and Super 8.
  • North East Liberties — Michael shares scenes from the region of Northern Ireland his blog is named after. His specialty is printing.
  • Now Developing — Dylan is a hobbyist photographer who aims to feature good work from the film photography community.
  • Old Nikons and Other Photographic Items — Wes writes primarily about Nikon rangefinder cameras.
  • Outside the Shot — Nathaniel writes about classic gear.
  • Peter Barker — A blog about photography and, sometimes, classic cameras and films.
  • Peter Barton — Peter takes pictures, collects cameras, drinks coffee and travels a little, though not necessarily in that order of preference.
  • 📷 Photo Thinking — Theo Panagopoulos writes a friendly and informative blog on photography, photo processes and the wonderful and varied cameras used to create pictures.
  • Photo-Analogue — Nicholas shares photos from his 20 film cameras and discusses tech and technique.
  • Photography and Vintage Cameras — Mike does great work with his old cameras, especially in black and white. He can make an old folder or box camera really sing.
  • Rambling Camera — Lance King with essays about film photography, plus gear reviews.
  • Rambling Polymath — Tobias tells stories, regardless of whether they are told with a camera, a pen, a blog or in the newspaper.
  • Random Camera Blog — Mark shoots frequently with his old cameras and shares the results here.
  • reCap — Gear and photographs. A German blog in English.
  • Richard Haw’s Classic Nikon Repair and Review — What it says on the tin. Extremely informative.
  • Rick on Film — Rick Scheibner chronicles his film photography journey, including his best work right along with mistakes made in this medium, all with the goal of showing growth along the way.
  • S.H.O.U.T. — Andy in the UK shares his analog adventures.
  • Sasha Krasnov Sasha reviews gear and writes about artists.
  • Seeing Wide — Photo walks and street photography, on film, by Monette.
  • Shoot With Personality — A combination personal and pro blog by a photographer who shoots film.
  • Steel City Snapper — Medium format and 35mm photography from Sheffield, UK.
  • Steven Lawrence Pictures — Steve makes film photographs mostsly around Seattle, where he lives.
  • Street Dances — Simon shoots the street, mostly on film.
  • Studio C-41 — A group blog about film photography, including breaking film news.
  • Ted Smith Photography — Pro photographer who favors film, especially for his personal projects.
  • TeGieeR — Michael Sikorski is a Polish photographer who favors 35mm film.
  • the carrot room — Nigel and his film cameras, mostly Voigtländers.
  • The Glass Aerie — Nicole shares her film photographs
  • The Resurrected Camera — Joe proves that film photography doesn’t have to be expensive.
  • The Unrecovering Photography Addict — Sam loves everything about photography, from the gear to the process to the result.
  • The View from the End of the World — New Zealander Steve Mitchell shares his film photographs.
  • The Vintage Lens — Tim Jeffers makes photos with cameras at least 50 years old.
  • thegashaus — Mark has collected about 500 film cameras. He shows them off and puts film through them.
  • This Old Camera — Lots of gear reviews.
  • Tim Dobbs Photography — This Welshman shoots film.
  • Toivonen Photography — Henri in Sweden likes old gear and unusual films. He shares what he’s learned about printing and scanning, too.
  • ULTRAsomething — Gregory Simpson has returned to film, and wants to share his work.
  • Uncle Jonesey’s Cameras — Gear reviews, stories, and images, all about vintage film cameras and the darkroom.
  • Urban Adventure League — Bicycling, geography, history, and film photography.
  • Urban Decay — Andrew shoots dilapidation he finds in Mississippi and surrounding states, mostly on film.
  • Utah Film Photography — Shaun Nelson with vintage gear photographs and reviews.
  • Vintage Camera Lenses — Reviews of old lenses.
  • Why Use Film Cameras? — Frank in Luxembourg shoots film, proving every day that it’s not as expensive as you think.

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Blogosphere

Two years with Ko-Fi — and thank you!

Until about two years ago, I ran ads on this site to help cover its costs. It was an unpleasant experience. Despite my ad provider’s promises to the contrary, the ads generated pop-ups and videos that played automatically. Sometimes music would play, and there was no way to shut it off. I had to keep emailing their support team to make the ads behave. My few inconspicuous ad placements generated about 20 bucks a month. I could have made more if I had plastered ads all over the site, but I think that would have turned many of you away. The money I made wasn’t remotely worth the hassle. I finally had enough and disabled the ads.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Some of you told me that you’d like to support my work, so I set up an account with Ko-Fi and put their “Buy me a coffee” button on my site. Each time you click it, you can send me $3, or any multiple of $3.

Since then, I’ve dropped that button at the end of every post. I announced it at the time, and I mentioned it one other time, but otherwise I’ve not promoted it. To my astonishment, you have responded generously! In an average month you donate $30 on Ko-Fi! That’s one third more income than the annoying ads, and I do next to nothing extra for it. Win!

Your donations have bought a ton of film and developing as well as several old film cameras, all of which I have featured on this site. They also helped me buy a dedicated scanner for 35mm negatives, which significantly improved the quality of the scans I share with you.

As always, any time you click that button I will be most grateful. Every time Ko-Fi notifies me of a donation, I feel honored and validated — my work matters enough that you’re willing to support it financially. But if you never click it, you are always wanted and welcome here!

I considered other platforms to help me cover this site’s costs, but they were more complicated for me and for donors, and to get the most from it I would have had to create special content for those sites. I’d rather share all of my writing and photographs here!

Ko-Fi offers many of those features, and they keep offering more. They recently announced an integration with the Discord community platform, and soon will release Ko-Fi Memberships where supporters can subscribe monthly at whatever level they choose. But you don’t have to use their extra features to get value from it, as my results show — and the basic Ko-Fi service remains free for creators like me.

If you’ve supported me via Ko-Fi, again I say thank you! And thank you to Ko-Fi for your easy and valuable platform.

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