Blogosphere

Promoting your creative blog in social media: for now, the key is Facebook

Promoting your blog and its posts is work, and it takes time. If you want to put your blog in front of more people, however, you have little choice but to invest the ongoing effort.

Facebook has proved the most valuable way for me to promote this blog, which is a creative and personal blog. I don’t know what’s best for other kinds of blogs. I’ll explain how I do it, and why I think it’s the best option for creative/personal blogs like mine, in this post.

In case you have negative feelings about Facebook

Welcome to the club. I may quit Facebook someday as I think it has become a net negative for society. But until then, I’ll milk it.

Be realistic about your prospects

Despite my promotional efforts, Facebook drives but a fraction of total page views. In 2018, Down the Road gathered 212,035 page views. Only 14,815 of them came from Facebook. In contrast, search engines delivered 57,965 page views with no effort on my part.

None of my other deliberate promotional efforts have been as effective as Facebook.

Creative blogs have legitimate, but limited, appeal. Facebook may be the best way to reach people who will enjoy your work, but it won’t unlock Internet fame.

However, sometimes one of your posts will really resonate. My post about Traders Point, Indiana, (here) got a lot of traffic after I shared it on Facebook in a couple Indianapolis and Indiana history groups. It turned out lots of people were curious about that former town’s history. Every now and again someone will reshare it and it’ll get another couple hundred views. Most of its 7,300 all-time page views have come from Facebook. But that’s about as good as it gets.

Why other social media is less helpful

I also promote my blog on Twitter, but to little effect. I think it’s best for echoing outrage, and I don’t post anything outrageous. I admit I haven’t worked very hard to build a giant Twitter following, which would help. But I’ve talked about it with fellow photo bloggers and we all have the same experience. Twitter just doesn’t generate engagement with creative content.

I used to use Instagram to promote my blog, but because you can’t put links in posts it did little good. That limitation is by design — Instagram wants you to keep scrolling to see the ads. I built a decent following by seeking out other film photographers and following them. A good number of them followed me back. I put a link to my blog in my bio. I’d post a photo there from every new blog post, tell about what was on my blog today, and added “link in bio.” Almost nobody bit.

A few times, Reddit has brought a lot of visitors to my blog. Reddit has subreddits about anything you could ever blog about, and offers a vast audience. But Reddit aggressively frowns upon all but the most occasional self-promotion, and bans users who flout the rule. I’ve gotten traffic from Reddit only when someone else shared one of my posts there.

I know some people find Pinterest to be a good way to promote their blog. From what little I’ve seen, blogs about crafts, interior design, fashion, and the like do best there. I know little about Pinterest otherwise.

The key to Facebook is Groups

Your best bet today is to promote your creative blog in Facebook Groups, given the sheer number of people on Facebook.

Join Groups related to things you blog about. I’m in a bunch of film-photography and film-camera groups as well as groups about old roads, roadside architecture, and roadside attractions. I’m in groups for the Indiana cities and towns I’ve lived in or visit a lot. I’m even in a couple groups about heartfelt personal writing. That covers my blog’s subjects! To find groups, type keywords related to your blog’s topics into the Facebook search box and see what turns up.

Read and heed each group’s rules. A few forbid posting links, especially to your own blog. Some groups don’t mind if you share links to your blog if you participate in the group otherwise. Some groups are happy for you to only share links don’t as long as they’re directly related to the group purpose and are interesting to members. In all cases, it’s good etiquette to Like and comment on other posts in the group. And don’t carpet-bomb any group with your links. You’ll be seen as a gadfly.

You can also create your own groups, although it takes some work to promote them to build a following. Whatever you blog about, others are interested in it too. A couple other film-photo bloggers I follow created a group where members share photos of the old cameras they buy (here). The group creators use it specifically to share posts from their own blogs, and encourage shares from other bloggers (like me). I’ve used that group to share every last one of my film-camera reviews. It’s helped bring people to the blog, and some have subscribed.

Even if groups already exist for your favorite topics, you could create another one anyway. There appears to be room for many similar and overlapping groups. I’m in a bunch of old-car groups, for example. Some are general and some are specific, such as the one that’s for photos of entry-level models only, with no chrome and dog-dish hubcaps.

How to share a post in a Facebook Group

First, create a Facebook Page for your blog (instructions here). My blog’s page is here. Link your blog to your Page using WordPress Publicize (instructions here), so that each blog post automatically posts to your Page. This makes it easier to share your posts to groups.

You can also build a following on your Page, which can lead to new blog subscribers.

From there, here’s how you share a post in a Group.

  1. On your Page, find the post you want to share.
  2. Click the Share button. A menu appears. Click Share in a Group.
  3. A popup opens. In the Group box, type letters from the group name. A list of groups appears. Click the Group you want.
  4. Click the Include Original Post box until a checkmark appears. This shares your post with a link to your Page, which helps build your Page following.
  5. In the “Say something about this” area, type a custom introduction to the post.
  6. Click the Post button.

As group members interact with your share, it’s a good idea to respond, at least by clicking Like on comments. That encourages them to keep interacting with your shares.

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Blogosphere, Road Trips

What to do with aging Web content that is still important?

I’ve had a Web site since about 1995, when the Web was young. The Internet crackled with excitement and openness and promise. Nobody could imagine that it would turn into an advertising and surveillance engine, as it has.

I coded my original site by hand in Notepad, created a simple logo in Microsoft Paint, and uploaded it all via FTP to the free space my ISP gave me. My original address was http://members.iquest.net/~jimgrey. I submitted the URL to Yahoo! in hopes they would include it in their original human-indexed search engine, and to my delight, they did!

The Jim Grey Page, jimgrey.net, last updated in 2014

At first it was a site about me and my family, like we all used to do then. But shortly my wife objected to me sharing family info online, so I turned the site into an info resource about central-Indiana radio stations. I’ve always had a deep interest in radio and it was fun to catalog local stations while teaching myself advanced (for the time) Web development techniques.

In about 2000 I got Microsoft FrontPage and Corel PaintShop Pro and redesigned the site to the design it still wears. I switched my ISP to Comcast and therefore my site’s address to http://home.comcast.net/~jimgrey. In 2006 I got proper hosting, registered the jimgrey.net domain, and moved my site there. I wanted jimgrey.com but someone was, and still is, parking on it and I didn’t and don’t want to pay them to get it.

I’d started my road-trip hobby and began to write long-form reports of those trips on my site. They’re still available; see them all here. When I started this blog, my original vision was that my main site would stay about road trips and the blog would be about everything else that interests me. By 2010 the blog got way more traffic than the main site, so I started writing road-trip posts here too. They’re all under the Road Trips category; see them all here.

In 2012 I stopped adding content to jimgrey.net to focus on the blog. In 2014 I made a few code changes to make it more compatible with mobile phone browsers. Since then, I’ve ignored jimgrey.net.

Three things prevent me from killing it. First, I’ve had it in one form or another for 25 years, which makes me a genuine Web old-timer. I like having the evidence to prove it. Second, since 2011 my blog address (blog.jimgrey.net) has been a subdomain of jimgrey.net; for that to keep working, I need to keep owning the jimgrey.net domain. It seems silly to keep it and not put anything on it. Third, those road-trip reports are now historic records, as much has changed along those roads over the years. I don’t mean to be grandiose; the Library of Congress hasn’t come inquiring or anything.

Here’s just one example. Here’s the Michigan Road, the Dixie Highway, and US 31 southbound, 6 miles north of Plymouth, Indiana, as it looked in September, 2007. US 31 curves off to the left under that overpass, and the Michigan Road follows that one-lane ramp toward Plymouth. That overpass is northbound Michigan Road, which merges with northbound US 31 to the left just outside of the photo.

Southbound

Since I made that photo, US 31 was rebuilt on new terrain from South Bend to a point a few miles southeast of here. From Google Street View, this is what the road looks like from about this same spot today.

© 2019 Google

Former US 31 was removed from here to where it meets up with the new-terrain US 31. The overpass that carried the Michigan Road was removed and the road rebuilt in the same place at grade. The four-lane former US 31 still exists from South Bend to here as a county road.

Off the top of my head I can think of six other major changes to roads, or to things along the roadside, from what I documented long ago! I’ll bet if I repeated all of my old road trips I’d find scores more major changes.

It’s a head scratcher, what to do with all this interesting content I created so long ago. It deserves to live on as a sort of historic record, for the small audience who finds it interesting or useful. It’s heavily deranked on Google now, I assume because of its age and because it’s on straight HTML pages. I’d like to make it easier for that audience to find it.

I could recreate it all here on the blog. It would be a massive project, and I’d be sharing now information I gathered as long as 14 years ago. I suppose I could title posts to reveal the year I made the trip. It would enhance the ability for interested people to find this information when they search for it. But I’m not sure it would interest most of my regular blog audience.

Another option I’ve considered is blowing away my old HTML jimgrey.net site, setting up a self-hosted WordPress instance there, and moving all of my old road-trip pages to it. It would still be a massive project, and it would still make that info more searchable, but it would remain a separate site to maintain.

I’m not sure what’s best! But I do know that it’s time to stop putting this off.

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Blogosphere

2019’s greatest hits

At the end of each year I look back at how this blog performed: raw stats and popular posts. It’s a chance to revisit the best of what I published this year.

Pageviews are down in 2019, largely due to search driving way less traffic, as I wrote about here. Search started driving big traffic here in 2015 (about 138,000 views) and continued through 2016 (127,000) and 2017 (also 127,000). It started to fall off in 2018 (96,000), and dropped sharply this year (60,000).

If you subtract search-driven views from the last five years’ total visits, you get 132,000 in 2015, 124,000 in 2016, 160,000 in 2017, 149,000 in 2018, and 152,000 in 2019. 2017 remains this blog’s best year in terms of pageviews, but overall I think Down the Road is still growing, slowly.

Here’s a far better measure of this blog’s success: comments are way up. (About half the comments represented in this count are mine, as it’s my policy to respond to nearly every comment.) I blog because I want to engage with people like you, so thank you for every comment!

And now, the traditional Top Five lists. First, my five favorite posts. If you click no other links on this page, click these. I put my whole heart into these posts.

These are 2019’s five most-viewed posts, thanks largely to being shared widely on Facebook. I don’t much like Facebook anymore, but it’s hard to ignore how powerful of a platform it is for promoting little blogs like mine.

  • Welcome to New Carlisle — A small town on the Michigan Road in northern Indiana, New Carlisle retains considerable charm.
  • The giants at Bernheim Forest — You can still go see these remarkable wood sculptures at Bernheim Forest in Kentucky.
  • A 1989 photo ride — I took my camera out on my bicycle in the Terre Haute neighborhood where I lived after graduating from college.
  • Kodak No. 2 Brownie, Model F — This 90-year-old box camera still has the touch. It’s a decent camera even today.
  • Recommended film labs — Do you have film you’d like to have developed? These are the labs I recommend.

This year I decided to teach myself to develop my own black-and-white film, and scan it. You all taught me a lot in your comments — thank you! Three of the top five most-commented posts relate to that project.

I appreciate it when you click Like on one of my posts when you don’t have a comment to offer, because then I know you’re still out there. Here are the five posts that got the most likes this year.

Thanks for reading Down the Road this year! Now on to 2020.

If you’d like to see my Greatest Hits posts from past years, they’re all here.

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Blogosphere

You should start a blog

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.

Just expect that blogging won’t make you rich or famous. There was a time when bloggers could attract vast audiences, but those days are over. We’re in the post-blog era; the big audiences are all on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube now. This is why in recent years I’ve dissuaded people from starting new blogs.

But I was wrong and I’m reversing my position. You should start a blog.

Unless you’re already famous, gaining attention on the Internet beyond your friends and family requires lots of both effort and luck. The biggest audiences are on social media, so it might seem obvious to do it there. But the giant tech companies nakedly seek monopolistic control. They gather and use information about you in any way they please. Facebook and Google are actively working to wall you off from the rest of the Web so that you stay always within their services. Google is now more about advertising than helping you find things on the Internet. These companies monetize you. They are not on your side; they are not your friends.

A blog is free from the datamongers and monopolists. Starting a blog extends a solid middle finger toward their practices, and uses the Web in the open and equal fashion that its builders envisioned.

The giant tech companies can still be useful to you and your blog, however. Organic search still can lead people to your work, and you can use social media to promote your blog and individual posts. (I need to write a post about what I’ve learned about both.)

So: start a blog. With effort, persistence, and patience you’ll find the people who find what you do to be interesting. With a more effort, you can build a community of those people. This is incredibly satisfying!

I want to tell you about the Courthousery blog. Ted Shideler had an idea to document every still-standing Indiana courthouse — city, county, state, and federal, past and present. Little by little he drove to every one of Indiana’s 92 counties to photograph them. He researched each one and told its story. He’s even beautifully woven some of his personal stories into some of the posts, which is one of the quirky and interesting things you can do in a blog. He’s covered most of Indiana’s courthouses now, so he’s branched out to nearby states to keep going.

Courthouse at Paoli
Orange County Courthouse, Paoli, IN. Pentax ME, 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M, Kodak Ektar 100, 2012.

Ted will probably decide one day that he’s completed his project and stop updating his blog. But then his blog becomes a permanent record, a site people interested in a particular courthouse, or in courthouses in general, will find when they search. They’ll be grateful for Ted’s careful and thoughtful work.

If Ted had posted his research and photographs only on Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter, they would have become lost. Have you ever tried to find an old social-media post? It’s nearly impossible. They’re not available to search engines, either. They’re meant to be of the moment.

They’d not be entirely lost to Ted, who has the right to download his own Facebook posts. You have the right to download yours, too; do it on this page. But that would include everything you’ve ever posted there, not just posts related to your project. It could be a staggering amount of information to sort through. But crucially, it would not include the comments anybody left on your posts.

Because Ted chose to blog, however, he can export just his project at any time and save it on his own computer — comments and all. WordPress.com has especially robust blog export tools, which is one reason I recommend WordPress.com for bloggers.

Even though neither Ted’s finite project nor my continuing photographs and stories have mass appeal, there are people in the world who enjoy what we do. It’s a big world — some people are likely to enjoy what you do, too.

You can attract readers to your blog, and keep them. You do it one reader at a time. Some readers will find you through search. Some will find you as you promote your posts on social media. Some will find you through word of mouth, which is how I found Ted’s blog. Persist, and you will find an audience.

Courthousery is Ted’s gift to the world. Down the Road is my gift to the world. Your blog can be your gift to the world. What do you have to say? What do you have to show? There will be others who find it interesting.

Start a blog!

If this post has encouraged you, here are links to a whole bunch of other posts I’ve written that share many of the things I’ve learned about how to blog well.

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Blogosphere

Google giveth and Google taketh away

My blog’s stats are essentially meaningless. I’ve said it several times to you that engagement with you is far and away the biggest joy of this blog for me. I love it that I put my thoughts and photographs out into the world and people like them enough to keep coming back.

Yet it bugs the tar out of me that my pageviews are way down this year.

If my average daily pageview rate holds this year, Down the Road will net about 216,000 visits by year’s end. In 2018 it was about 245,000 visits. 2017 was Down the Road’s best year ever at 288,000 visits.

I’ve written before that search is driving fewer and fewer visits to my site. In 2017 search brought 10,000 to 20,000 visits each month. Now it’s no more than 4,000 monthly

I think this is in part because many others have started blogging and YouTubing about film photography and the more crowded field has diluted my blog’s influence.

But I see now that I may also have shot myself in the foot in June of 2018 when I completed a large project to change this blog’s tagging scheme (announced here). Tags are little keywords that further describe the post. You can click any tag to see all of the other posts I’ve written that use that tag.

When I started this blog, an old friend who works in advertising gave me some search-engine optimization (SEO) advice. A key piece of his advice was to tag posts with good synonyms for the post’s main subjects so search would have an easier time finding them.

I was inconsistent and sloppy with it, and I wasn’t sure it was helping bring people here at all. Then I decided to add tags to my photography and road-trip posts to help organize that content by cameras, films, and places. Now when you click a tag for a camera, film, or place, you see every post I’ve ever made related to it.

Then I deleted scores of what I thought were useless synonym tags. The decline in search visits roughly correlates to the time I did that.

Correlation isn’t causation. I did that synonym-based tagging scheme from 2007 to 2018 and it wasn’t until 2015 that search started bringing people here in any real numbers. So I can’t say for sure that my tagging scheme had anything to do with my search-driven visits.

I blog to connect with people who share my esoteric interests. Some of you found my blog because you searched for something I wrote about, and you liked what you found here and kept coming back.

If search is bringing fewer people in, there are fewer chances for those connections.

Let’s say that search drove monthly visits in 2019 roughly equal to an average month in 2017. That would bring an extra 5,500 visits to my blog every month, or an extra 66,000 visits all year. That would make 2019 Down the Road’s most-visited year ever.

I blame Google in my title because you have to play their SEO game to rank well in search results. But it was my choice to stop playing the game.

Its time for another tagging project, one in which I restore the synonym tags. I can do it in a more organized manner this time.

I’m also going to read up on SEO. The game has changed a lot in the dozen years since my old friend advised me. There may be some simple changes I can make that will help bring search traffic back.

I have also just upgraded this site to WordPress.com Business to gain the SEO optimization tools and plugins available at that tier of service. It’s three times more expensive than the Premium plan I was on. But after this many years it’s clear that this blogging thing is not a passing fad in my life. The connections I’ve made through this blog are meaningful and enriching. I want to keep making new connections. One of the ways I can do that is to play Google’s game on its terms.

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Blogosphere, Film Photography

Film photography blogs you should follow

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.

Side mirror selfie
A portrait of the blogger

I’m going to list all of the photo blogs I follow. 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!

This year I’m just going to list the blogs alphabetically. When you see ✨ next to a blog, it’s new to this year’s list. When you see ❤ next to a blog, it’s one I look forward to most. When you see 📷 next to a blog, its author or owner is a member of a little kaffeeklatsch I belong to where we talk about photography and photo blogging — and share each others’ posts around the Internet.

Also, this year I’m limiting the list to blogs that have posted recently and post regularly.

  • 35 millimetre — Film photographs by Charlotte Davis in the UK.
  • 35mm Chronicle — The fellow who writes this blog never shares his name, but he 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
  • 📷 Alex Luyckx — A dedicated film photographer shares his work. His film reviews are the most useful on the Internet.
  • Alex Yates Photography — Pinholes, Polaroids, and 35mm.
  • All My Cameras — Christoph in Germany and his growing collection. In German and in English.
  • 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.
  • Aragon’s Eye — Chris shares photographs and film-camera reviews.
  • Attempts at 35mm — Pekka waxes philosophical about cameras and street photography.
  • 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.
  • coronet66 — Photos from lots of great film gear from this UK blogger.
  • Curating Cuteness — Katie shoots film with a small stable of cameras.
  • 📷 EMULSIVE — A place for film photographers of all backgrounds to share their knowledge, experience, and thoughts about everything related to film photography.
  • Field Photographer — A group blog about gear and adventure with that gear.
  • Filling the Time — Karen explores photography and film cameras.
  • 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 is Back! — Wayne in New Zealand shares his film and film-camera adventures.
  • Film Photography Blog — A straightforwardly named blog from the Film Shooters Collective.
  • Film Photography.Blog — Film photographs from northeast England.
  • Film Photography Project — You gotta include the blog of the FPP gang.
  • 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.
  • I Still Shoot Film — A group blog about all things film.
  • I dream of sumac and milkweed — Personal essays and film photographs.
  • Ivan Pilov Photography — Film photographs, mostly from Israel.
  • 📷 Japan Camera Hunter — Bellamy lives in Tokyo and finds lovely old cameras for you. And writes about film photography.
  • John’s 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.
  • 📷 Kosmo Foto — Stephen dispels the myths about film: that it’s too hard and too expensive, and breaks film-photography news.
  • Mere Film Photography — Shooting film, printing digitally, thinking and writing about the craft.
  • 📷 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.
  • myvintagecamerasblog — Experiments with cameras and film.
  • Natalie Smart Film Photography — A film photographer in Brighton, UK, who shoots 35mm, 120, and instant.
  • North East Liberties — Michael shares scenes from the region of Northern Ireland his blog is named after. His specialty is printing.
  • Olli Thomson Photography — A career ex-pat who lives all over the world, shooting his film gear and sharing his work.
  • Photo A Day — Daily film photos shared more or less weekly.
  • Photo-Analogue – Nicholas shares photos from his 20 film cameras and discusses tech and technique.
  • Photo Jottings — A lot of film camera tests and reviews.
  • 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.
  • ✨ 📷 Photo Thinking — Theo Panagopolous writes a friendly and informative blog on photography, photo processes and the wonderful and varied cameras used to create pictures.
  • Physical Grain — Personal essays, illustrated with film photographs by the authors.
  • 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.
  • Seeing Wide — Photo walks and street photography, on film.
  • short stories — Gerald, amateur photographer, professional misfit.
  • shot on film — New images from old cameras.
  • Slow Photography — Jordi shares his experiences with gear and technique.
  • Steel City Snapper — Medium format and 35mm photography from Sheffield, UK.
  • the6millionpman — Lots of medium format.
  • TAZM Pictures — Tom films everything, and often on actual film.
  • 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 Vintage Lens — Photos with cameras at least 50 years old.
  • Utah Film Photography — Shaun Nelson with vintage gear photographs and reviews.
  • View from the Carrot Room — SilverFox moved from the UK to the US and records his life on film.
  • Why Use Film Cameras? — Frank in Luxembourg shoots film, proving every day that it’s not as expensive as you think.
  • Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic Photos of gear from his extensive collection, mostly Yashicas.

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