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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Whaddaya Want?

Some months are fast: November and the first half of December always seem to go by at double-time, as people, schools, and businesses gird for the coming Judeo-Christian holidays. The Spring months, with summer ahead, trip right along. February is slow (thank God for Valentine's Day.) But August is the King of Slowness. August drags. In North America and Europe the heat reaches its peak; things shut down as people go off on vacation. (Europe takes August off. They're more civilized than we are here in the U.S.)

I don't know what August is like in Australia and New Zealand. The seasons are reversed—is the school schedule reversed too? Presumably the holidays aren't. Is August slow or fast Down Under?

One of the nice things about August's slowness, of course, is the way things get up and running again come Fall. Home from vacation, kids back to school. Fall is a string of holidays in the U.S., and we enjoy a little thing called football season.

So let me ask ya: when things get rolling again in the Fall, what do you want most from T.O.P.?

What kinds of features have been your favorites? We ran a "T.O.P. Ten" last year, ostensibly of The Greatest Photographs Ever Made (debatable concept, but a fun and interesting exercise in practice). We've done a continuing series about lesser-known photo people called "Who The Heck Is...?", and a series of posts about photo shows at major museums. Of course, there are camera and gear posts, and industry reports (selections only). Then there are personal "diary-entry" type posts in which I gas on about what's happening in my personal photographic life, and of course the odd, occasional "satiric" post in which I haul off and make fun of somebody or something.

T.O.P.'s chief poster, Mike J., with son Zander. Photograph by Catherine Hill.

We've featured different viewpoints, in the form of posts from contributors like Paul Butzi, Oren Grad, David Emerick, and Carl Weese. Should we expand our roster?

Anything else you especially like? Book reviews? Entries about software? Photoshop tips? Salad recipes?

Let me know. T.O.P. aims to ramp up in the Fall, just like everything else.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

P.S. As always, private messages to me should be left as comments but labeled "NOT FOR POSTING." And remember, I can't respond to private messages unless you include your e-mail address in the message.

30 Comments:

Blogger David said...

Mike, I kinda would like the issues of the newsletter (I think 4?) that I subscribed to. I like TOP for that quick fix, but the newsletter format gives you more time to expound.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Adam McAnaney said...

Dear Mike,

I've said it before, I'll say it again: thanks for creating such a wonderful site. In my opinion, what distinguishes TOP from other sites is that it is about photography as art, rather than about equipment. That and the fact that you aren't pedantic. I think you should play to those strengths.

1. I love your posts regarding photographers and your take on their vision. This often comes through when you're talking about photography books, exhibits or recent events involving photographers. It was also fascinating to see your favorite photoblogs. I would love to have you make a regular feature of picking 3 pictures from someone's photoblog and talk about what attracts you to the pictures. NOT a critique. At least not in the sense of "the horizon isn't straight", "you should have cropped out X", etc. Either pick pictures that don't have those "faults", or where those elements just don't matter because the picture is strong enough to overcome them (though I realize that "overcome" is a pejorative term, which I was trying to avoid, I think you know what I mean). I want an emotional and artistic response to the picture, not a technical one.

2. The reason why people (or at least I) like your "diary entry" type posts is because they provide insight into the artistic process. Your life is interesting in its own right, but it is fascinating to see how you document it, how you choose your subjects and how you look for artistic inspiration in the things around you. You have a pretty clear photographic style that lends itself to these posts.

Other notes:

3. Although this is similar to 1., above, I love the tidbits of photographic history that you provide us with, especially with regard to old cameras (or comparisons between old and new cameras), methods and photographic processes. Which brings up another TOP strength: the fact that you (and your collaborators) focus on prints and printing processes. Most sites are devoted to image capture and manipulation. They don't express any interest in actually doing anything with the image once it has been processed.

4. More pictures, more pictures, more pictures. As a photographer at the bottom of the learning curve, nothing is more helpful or interesting than seeing the work of others. It is tremendously helpful that you provide links to larger versions of the pictures you post. Full screen size would be even better, but I realize that you don't always have access to the pictures you post and that there are bandwidth limits.

5. Definitely keep (and expand) your roster of contributors. I check TOP so often, it's embarassing to admit it. Providing multiple posts a day is a drag, I'm sure. Let others help. It contributes another view point, and the occassional debates between you and others are fascinating.

Last note: I also enjoyed the posts on LightZone, which I will probably buy soon. Photoshop, while a tremendously powerful tool, is a huge, expensive, complicated beast. Don't provide us with Photoshop tips; provide us with Photoshop alternatives. Lightroom and Aperture are there, but it is especially interesting to hear about lower-cost, creative programs that handle real problems or tasks in an innovative and affordable way.

There. That should keep you busy until next August... ;-D

Thanks again, and keep up the good work. I expect you e-mail box is already flooded with suggestions...

Adam McAnaney

P.S. In other words, I want more of the same. Lots more.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Svein-Frode said...

Justkeep on keeping on! That's all I ask! Greatest photography blog ever!

3:15 PM  
Blogger Sean Winslow said...

I especially appreciate the 'Who the heck is' and your insights into the dark corners of the photographic industry, such as forgotten cupboards full of ugly cameras, pioneer bios, and paeons to alternative processes that no sane person would actually want to use.

Keep us abreast of current trends in the field, but keep the obscurantia coming as well.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Photo-essayist said...

Mike, there's one topic in particular I wish you would address: where the heck this medium is going. I know that's a tall--impossible--order, but I would like to see examples from time to time of examples or ideas that you think suggest some of photography's new directions.

For anyone who's been at this game for awhile, it's obvious we've been going through a decade of tremendous upheaval. Twenty years ago, could you have imagined high quality prints made on your desktop, pocketable camera-phones, or a generation of young people who think of photographs as existing in cyberspace rather than on film or paper? How about stock photos for 1 1/2 cents a pop?

I suspect we're undergoing a big paradigm shift regarding what signifigance we give photos, even those which in the past we regarded as being great. It's all apparently so easy now.

I know from all your previous writing that you bring an excellent perspective to these matters. From time to time, I hope you might toss some chicken bones and point out a few likely indications.

3:21 PM  
Blogger charcoal heather said...

I enjoy reading about other photographers and seeing photographs I would otherwise not have known about. Articles about composition and light are always welcome.

My only advice would be to avoid writing about equipment. My favorite articles here are the ones that are actually about photography, not the ones about the latest and greatest piece of silicon and 1s and 0s.

3:21 PM  
Blogger pohanginapete said...

Some people would say every month is slow in New Zealand. Unfairly, of course.

The seasons are indeed reversed; your summer is our winter. August is the deep end of winter, although you wouldn't believe it given the weather we've had over the last few days.

As for fast and slow months, I suspect they're related, to some degree, to the frequency of public holidays. Here, we have a long period from June until late October with no respite from the 5+ days a week of toil for the unfortunate majority who struggle with conventional work patterns; consequently, Labour Day in late October is very welcome indeed. We're well into Spring by then, too; spirits are often lifted and not yet crushed by December's social and commercial pressures.

I can't comment on school holidays other than to say they too often coincide with times I'm trying to book ferry tickets.

I know this isn't particularly helpful, but — keep doing what you're doing. I enjoy the uncertainty of what I might find on T.O.P.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

Speaking for myself, I'd say don't change a thing.

The attraction of TOP to me is the wonderfully diverse, eclectic range of topics that you post. Perhaps I'm just getting old (duh) but I find photo forums and most "blogs" tiresomely adolescent, both topically and grammatically. TOP is different. Perhaps unconsciously you've established a coffee house for mature-minded photographers and photographic enthusiasts. The comments that precipitate from many of your topics are often as interesting and thoughtful as your original post. I wish there was a coffee house where many of us "regulars" could casually convene to chat in-person. It would be terrific.

Failing that, we'll have to be content with this less personal venue. Keep 'er goin', Mike. Yer doin' jus' fahn!

(BTW, that's a wonderful snap of Zander and you!)

3:39 PM  
Blogger Max said...

You both have a Nordic look in the picture. It's a good one!
Adam was quite thorough in what he said. What can I say? Life as a whole is an artistic process, if we express ourselves, mostly everything we do dances to the same rhythm. So I must strongly agree on all the eclectic posts aside the strictly photographic being very valuable to us.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Adam has said it all. I like the sense of surprise:I don't know whether I'm going to learn about a new ball head or find a new reason to appreciate a photograph. And I do like your pungently expressed opinions: I am a proud owner of Even Hitler had a Convertible.

More! More!

Michael

4:00 PM  
Blogger David MacFarlane said...

How about the top ten places that a photogragher should go and photogragh.
Not the usual places like antelope canyon, though I have never been there myself, so maybe I don't know what I am missing.

David MacFarlane, aspiring amateur

4:02 PM  
Blogger Colin [auspiciousdragon.net] said...

January is the slow month is Australia - as Christmas merges into summer and it is too hot to do anything.

As to your real question. More light-hearted stuff would be good. Those posts can often be more revealing and thought provoking than the serious ones. More stuff about photographs, yes. More stuff about gear, no. More people to post, yes (with the obvious caveats about getting the right people).

Salad recipes would be preferable to Photoshop tips.

4:03 PM  
Blogger cb said...

Dear Mike,
I would appreciate a little aloofness regarding all the Latest and Newest. Your better comments (i.e. 'lens ramblings' on Photography in Malaysia and even some remarks you left on Pnet)always had more scepticism.

Regards

Christian Becker

4:10 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"I am a proud owner of Even Hitler had a Convertible."

Michael,
Hang on to that--it may be very valuable someday. I'm seriously considering submitting that book to The Guinness Book of World Records as the lowest-selling book of all time. Not even my own mother bought a copy. It think total sales so far are something like 8.

--Mike

4:26 PM  
Blogger eolake said...

"Europe takes August off."

It varies a bit. France does. UK, it is more spread out. In my native Denmark, it is July which is the great vacation month. (I worked once in a management company, July was dead.)

4:47 PM  
Blogger eolake said...

I forget where I read it now, but a good tip for blogging is to forget about format, planning, and discipline. Just write off the cuff whenever and about whatever graps ya.

4:50 PM  
Blogger ANDREW! said...

I'm not too keen on the PS/software posts but skipping the occational computer-related post is a small price to pay. Keep up the good work.

5:05 PM  
Blogger DonovanCO said...

Maybe your contributors, possibly an expanded group, could address a topic each presenting their own viewpoint and experiences.

5:19 PM  
Blogger RG said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Björn Ylinenpää said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Del Bomberger said...

I really like the depth and the breadth of subject material on the site and find myself dropping by several times a day.

I appreciate having links to sites regarding hardware developments, etc. and agree that it would be best to avoid becoming such.

I enjoy reading about art and photography without the pixel peeping which abound other places and for which there is a need (apparently).

I was particularly taken by the report from Beirut and forwarded it on to a number of friends, which is something I am very cautious about. It was well received by all.

Keep up the good work. I hope it can become financially viable for you-it deserves to be.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Don said...

I agree with all that's been said in comments already.

Just keep doing more of what you're already doing. I check in daily and enjoy whatever you've posted for that day.

8:43 PM  
Blogger JC said...

Just keep going! I love your blog! There is not one day I do not check in in the morning and at least 2 more times during the day! Great blog!!
Jean-Claude, Switzerland

2:05 AM  
Blogger Adrian Malloch said...

What Adam said. And Ken. And Pohangina Pete. (Is that Pete from the Pohangina Valley in the Manawatu? Wonderful memories of blissful summers spent camping there in the '70's). Slow every month is just fine by me. If I wanted to be in the fast lane then I imagine I would have a few more dented panels by now.
It really is the surprise factor that keeps me coming back to this site. Predictably unpredictable.
Keep it changing, mix it up, go out there, take a chance. No rules and few formats.
I feel you have the balance about right. Everything from geeky technical discussions and camera reviews to stream of consciousness raves about weird cars in parking lots.It's all good.
A few more contributers could be OK but don't drop the standard just for the need to get more momentum.
You have an international audience, so some European, Asian, New Zealand or African contributers would be great for some different viewpoints, provided they had something to say, and could keep going, week after week.

I'm kind of intrigued by David McFarlane's comment about the Top ten places to photograph.

I've never been to Antelope canyon and I suspect I never will.

Here's a start for the list:

My family. Could there be a more important place to take photographs?
My town. You could spend a lifetime photographing the people and environment of the community you live in and still not be short of inspiration.

Ka kite ono
Adrian Malloch

4:28 AM  
Blogger wojtekk said...

Holy JC! Mike! You look like Abe Lincoln :)

6:13 AM  
Blogger Maciek said...

1. more of your thoughts and comments
2. i'm not really into seeing photographers bios
3. more retro stuff, more analog;)
4. general articles on photography, not on wats going on in the photo business - we have that everywhere else
5. history of one shot - how was it taken, what hardships you met shooting it, why you did it this way and so on.
6. more of the 'B&W photohraphy' sort of things we got used to thru the years;)
My regards
maciek

1:33 PM  
Blogger paul said...

Mike,
I seem to be in the minority here but I do like to hear your thoughts on gear. Especially old vs. new, wins and losses, that sort of thing.
You once mentioned a top ten list on the best-built cameras of all time. That is something I would like to read.
Paul

2:30 PM  
Blogger Wituniasty said...

more pictures, thoughts and considerations like this:
http://theonlinephotographer.blogspot.com/2006/06/photography-rules.html
or this:
http://theonlinephotographer.blogspot.com/2006/06/great-photographers-on-internet.html

please

4:49 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I agree with David. I am very pleased with TOP, but would also like to get the issues of the newsletter that I subscibed to last September ...only one received.

5:30 PM  
Blogger aizan said...

i know. revive the smp book of the week!

12:41 AM  

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