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Monday, 06 June 2011


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"Over 70" means the tolerable part of the year is coming to an end, and I must retreat to the climate-controlled areas compatible with my species (which is apparently not human; but that's been obvious for years, every time I use anything designed by a "human factors" group it's horrible) until that raging nuclear inferno is at least less directly overhead.

While I don't really agree with it, it didn't occur to me that the "mythologizing" comment was weird. Possibly I should blame Neal Stephenson, who did mythologize Sanskrit in his novel Snow Crash. I've heard a lot more mentions of the language since then.

There's this "http://1x.com/", but I can't make up my mind about it.

There's places like this "http://www.gallery.ca/en/see/online-showcases.php", that is, online exhibitions from public art galleries. I am sure there are others. That one includes the Canadian Photography Museum, although they don't have everything live online. It will probably take a while before their entire collection is available online.

Well I don't know of any services like that for serious photographers, but I'd be interested to know what you're requirements for such a service would be. (I might look at making something like this over the summer if there is enough interest)

For instance, would it be pay only? 100% moderated? or just difficult to get an account in the first place?

What sort of options would you want for uploading and organising photos?

Any other requirements...


Since we got a Darkroom update, how about a Lulu update.


Tripod aversion rears it's head again. A tripod can be viewed as a crutch I suppose, stifling creativity and spontaneity but given film iso limitations almost a necessity more often than not. score one on digital's side.

I read a lot of photography blogs, but this one is first on my list and one of only 2 or 3 that I venture outside Google Reader for. And the reason is simple, your posts are worth reading, it is not just a clipping service letting us know about interesting links (not that there is anything wrong with that :).

Whether I agree with what you write, or not, every time I read a post I know a little bit more than I knew before.

If you did it another way it won't be as interesting for us, or for you. And what is the point of soullessly making money (says the lawyer :)?

I don't really have a Lulu update...we're still in rehab, with her activity severely curtailed and her physical therapy ongoing. But I have no idea whether she's progressing or whether the healing is on schedule. I think it will be a few more weeks before we know.

Thanks for asking....


Make millions with a photo blog? Hell, I'd like to break even.

Your comment about earning money with a blog reminds me of the old joke: How to make a small fortune in [your area of expertise goes here]: start with a large fortune!

I check out flakphoto every day. It's a well-curated window on contemporary art (predominantly art-documentary) photography. My cup of tea (or at least one of them). But I suspect you are more interested in vernacular photography.

With the featured photos, Flak primarily points you to the artist's actual project site for in-depth exploration.

Most serious photographers now have their own sites. So where do we go to find the good ones? I suppose the magazine and book publishers and galleries that actively look around for new and good stuff, like flakphoto and jen bekman.

I assume that there are good editors on flickr who are using the curating tools to maintain excellent and ongoing collections or groups, but I have no idea how to find the best.

"three consecutive days over 70"

The downside to living in South Central Texas is the summer heat. Although we may see the odd 70 degree reading early in the morning, every day from now until October will be ninety plus degrees.

Yesterday I spent a few hours in Luckenbach listening to roots music and taking pictures. I drank at least half a gallon of water and still came home dehydrated. It was well worth the water loss. If you live within a hundred miles of Austin you are just about guaranteed to have excellent live music on tap.

A few years ago, a close friend of mine - a confirmed monochrome (film) photographer in medium and large formats, a superb, meticulous darkroom worker and a very fine printer - retired, moved to a new house and spent around $20,000 on a state of the art monochrome darkroom. While the work was being done on the darkroom he bought his first dslr, a Nikon D70, just for fun.

As far as I'm aware, the darkroom has never been used.

1. Nobody with "lung problems" should be fooling with a chemical darkroom in middle-age. Leverage the work you've already done to adapt the space into a to-die-for digital editing & printing lab. Invest some of the cash you would have spent on fart fans into a top-notch large-format printer. Then start taking print work to earn extra income and to able to take advantage of potentially advantageous business tax structures.

2. I don't troll for online images nearly as much as you probably do. So I doubt that I could point to any site that you don't already know. But one site that I have begun visiting with some regularity is David Alan Harvey's Burn Magazine for "emerging photojournalists". Yes, some of the work seems immature, overly self-styled, and straining to impress through look-alikeness. But gems do often appear. More inportantly, however, each presentation is a contiguous body of work, not a collection of greatest hits.

Your darkroom story is the perfect example of why I finally transitioned to digital. For me, film work was unsatisfactory without my own darkroom. So four house moves over a couple of decades, to different states, required going through your experience four times, each with its own set of challenges. Faced with a fifth move a few years back, I finally gave up.

But, I never gave up the contemplative, disciplined approach to my photography. Slow and steady...like a farmer's rain...gets the job done. Just new tools to use.

Ah, yes, the siren song of Internet millions. People have made millions, and even billions, on various internet-related developments, of course, just not anybody you know.

Some magazine - maybe Time, or the Economist -- once asked, "If porn drives the internet, as was once widely alleged, where are the porn millionaires and billionaires?" Well, they must be somewhere else, because nobody can find them around here. Sure, an ex-roommate knows a guy whose cousin did so well in porn that he bought a Cadillac...but that's about it. If it's even true.

I recently read an article about apps that said some really smart kids got together in a class at Stanford (I think it was) and wrote a bunch of apps that generated money "well up in the six-figure range." There were like 47 kids writing these, and my girlfriend said, "Well up in the six figures...why don't we write some apps? We're smart, we could do that." I pointed out that six figures, construed most generously ($999,999) divided 47 ways equalled about four months wages for an average mailman. Sucked the bloom right off the rose...

There are people who will still make millions off the 'net, but a lot of the easy money has been made. Now, it'll come down to hard work. If I were determined to make money from TOP, I think I would (as soon as it was affordable) round up a bunch of (paid) freelancers who would be willing to write for TOP, and develop some kind of effective advertising representation. You might also have to change the format to allow more advertising.

I was talking to Ctein last year, about TOP, and he said something to the effect that you (Mike) thought you were running a blog, but what you were actually doing was running a newspaper. That is, a blog is something fairly simple, but a newspaper is much more complex. You'd have to relearn being an editor. The question is, if you stepped back from being the front-line guy, would the blog keeps its character? Or would it become homogenized? And if you tried to do that, could you generate enough income to pay for the extra staffing?

I think there may be two essential and possibly competing forms of online photography magazines -- the Luminous Landscape/Digital Photograph Review model, which is basically an old-line photo magazine model (Pop Photo) with a very heavy focus on equipment and technique; and the TOP model, which is much more oriented toward image-making, and not so much toward equipment and technique, more in the LensWork mode.

I think either model could be viable as an advertising medium (which is where the money would come from), but I think there might be room on the 'net for only one or two successful enterprises. Luminous and DP Review currently have that model nailed down, but I don't know of any really successful blogs in the TOP mode. In other words, I think there is still a space there.

Have you ever noticed how much saturation increases during one of those soaking rains? It's a great time to take your gear out and get wet!

1x.com is moderated, maybe that's what you're looking for?

Hmmm, Mike. 1x has been mentioned at least twice in comments on recent posts. There's also Lensmodern, a London-based on-line gallery whose photographers are invitation-only. Some of them are rather well-known.

Cheers, Eric

Farmer's rain. Sounds like an English summer:)

I don't know if you ever look at 1x.com. They are pretty selective about what the allow to be shown. I know it will not all be your cup of tea (nor mine), but there is a lot of interesting work nonetheless. The following reminded me of one of my all time heroes, Ernst Haas.


I do think it would be fun though if - perhaps on a monthly basis - you did a TOP 10, your selection of 10 photos "discovered" by TOP readers. The only stipulation, they must be taken by amateurs and they must be posted on public websites ;) A sort of adjunct to random excellence?

Mind you, perhaps I should start a blog and do the same - you will just have to tell me how to make a million (or at least just enough to make a modest living ;)


Reminds me of that saying...
How do you make a million in the fine art gallery world?
Well, first you start out with five million...
(Your blog is a favorite.)

Hereabouts, all the local farmers are grumbling about another day of 'farmer's rain'. It's been the third wettest spring in recorded history for Western NY state, and most of the fields are still quagmires. Many of my patients are farmers, and one of them told me he's only got 80 acres of corn in so far, instead of the expected 800.

On the other hand we've only had one microburst that tore the roof off the high school, and no tornadoes. So there's that.

Speaking of Mike, what's your favorite formula for pushing B&W film? Or do you not play that game?

Mike Said:

"One day I am going to write a post called "How to Earn a Million Dollars with a Blog..."

Reminds me of an old saying from my youth (and it is a good fit for this blog post):

Q: How do you make a farmer into a millionaire?

A: Give him 2 million dollars in the Spring and he will be a millionaire by September.


Cheers! Jay

FWIW, Hyde Park Photography is curated. It's a new website/magazine that's still getting off the ground so it has a number of kinks to work out. It's sort of based in Italy, so a lot of the information is in Italian. But essentially anyone can join and add a gallery, but the galleries are curated and only the accepted ones are shown. (Not accepted ones are deleted.)

Their goal is to run it as a magazine. The first issue (PDF only) came out a couple of weeks ago, with "Street Photography" as the theme. The current theme is "Black and White."

Like I say, there are still a lot of kinks, and the navigation isn't easy. Anyone can see a preview of the "Street Photography" issue but only members (it's free to join) can view the whole thing (it's viewed through one of those online magazine viewer things). I should add that the "Street Photography" issue is absolutely gorgeous. (Disclosure: some of my work appears in the issue.)

You can see it/join it here:


Mike, I know one site where serious photographers present redacted bodies of work: www.burnmagazine.org

It's one of my favorite sites, curated by David Alan Harvey.

We've been having farmer's rain here in central England, too.

I've been having another look at your previous darkroom posts today. You have the ventilation intake vent just above the wet bench. Do you not mean exhaust vent? An intake vent there would just blow the fumes across the darkroom. If that's your extract vent, then of course you could site the fan outside the darkroom so that the noise doesn't drive you mad, and draw air in from one of the corner windows. (He guessed)

I used to have to specify extract fans occasionally and was advised by the heating and venting guys in the office to choose one that did the job on it's medium setting rather than a smaller fan at full speed, as it was quieter. You also have to make an allowance for the ducting as it cuts down on the air flow, but I never learned how to do that. Opinions vary between five and ten air changes per hour for darkrooms.

While I think about it, now the fuse board is in the darkroom it might be an idea to get one or two of those plug in torches that are always on charge and come on when the supply fails. It would make life a lot easier if you lose your lights for any reason, and it would be easier to get up and down the stairs. Of course, you wouldn't keep one in the darkroom...

Being an actual farmer would drive me straight around the bend in short order...I figure I'd be driving myself half insane with worry no matter what was happening. Too much rain (when will it stop?), too little rain (when will it rain?), even just right (how long can this last?). And then the killer: if you have a good year, it means everybody around you also had a good year, which drives prices down. It would drive me crazy.


P.S. I hasten to add that I have nothing but admiration for real farmers, don't misunderstand. I'm just saying that personally I couldn't take the stress. Probably also couldn't take the work, if my month as the nurse to a single rehabilitating dog is any indication.

"Speaking of Mike, what's your favorite formula for pushing B&W film?"

Augh! Bite your tongue. You have spoken a nasty word.

"Pushing" is the work of the Devil--Satan himself. Never, ever push. It is the root of all black-and-white evil. Observe the commandment: Thou shalt pull. Good people--decent people--successful people--righteous people--expose enough, and don't develop too much.

Never push. Never.


Would you have time to start and run the money blog and keep TOP the same? You needn't tell your loyal readers here. Come to think of it, maybe you've already done just this...

what we have is 10000 maniacal sites. no reason to band into the one.

facebook, etc started without need nor interest in content. they provided a wall and cans of paint.

the money, by the way is just fiction. 10million equals 17 billion only in the land of Rabbits.

nevertheless, a grand idea.


You said:

" . . . Here's something that might sound strange to you: I could earn a lot more money with TOP than I do. I know how. It's just that then it wouldn't be as...interesting. It wouldn't be what I want to do any more . . . "

Do you mean concentrating on a style and type of content whose primary purpose is to generate traffic, clicks, and affiliate sales, rather than concentrating on thoughtful content whose primary purpose is to provide quality information and provoke intelligent dialogue?

If so, that truly would be a loss for us readers.


No need to post, but I seem to recall reading in a publication I used to subscribe to (;-))that you could ventilate using PVC pipe hooked to the fan. The article said that you cut channels the length of the pipe and locate it slightly above and to the rear of the sink.

Maybe you could try something like this. In addition, I use an industrial gas mask with chemical vapor filters. Years ago, I contracted pneumonia, and am now susceptible to bronchitis. Darkroom work caused me a problem, but no problems since I started using the mask. Plus, my kids think it is a riot.


"Do you mean concentrating on a style and type of content whose primary purpose is to generate traffic, clicks, and affiliate sales, rather than concentrating on thoughtful content whose primary purpose is to provide quality information and provoke intelligent dialogue?"

Basically, yes. I've learned what generates traffic, and it isn't exactly what I do. I think if I really worked at it, I could double TOP's traffic and probably triple its income, or come close. But it would be a lot of (not-as-interesting) work and I might burn out doing it.


Hey, if it makes you feel better Mike (and keeps you from selling out)---I went to Amazon through your links today and bought a flash...

I'd like an update on your whole plate camera. I've wasted many an hour thinking about and then not ordering one myself. I even thought to write you and offer to purchase yours after the bloom is off the rose. Maybe I am! In any case, keep up the good work, I read TOP daily. Give LuLu a milkbone for me!

I can never have...


Mike, surely the incentive to make more money would be to have funding for a Howard Hughs type oxygen tent with your darkroom in that: triple whammy- money, blog, health !
Failing that I suggest you buy an army surplus Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare suit, or see what Nasa have kicking around in a locker: shirley a minor inconvenience, (and you wouldn't dip your tie in the fixer).
Anything else you aren't shore about, let me know : 'Simples' as we say in the UK. (Catchphrase from an ad.campaign run by Meerkats, of course).

1x was set up by people who gave up their jobs with the intention of providing a quality image site to sell prints, 4th comment down on this link shows where they're at;

I think you can only make real money on the 'net if you are first with a new idea that becomes popular that you can then sell to google,yahoo et al.

Where we live in Devon Sw England it's been extremely dry for the last few months and I'd love some decent rain. For a mossy, ferny county it's not too good. Trees are dying and I reckon farmers will be struggling this year. I grew up in a farming community and couldn't do it for a living.

all the best phil


your appreciation of a 'farmer's rain', and your clear statement of choosing quality in your daily work over financial quantity, create for me the opportunity to thank you once again for mentioning Walden - and advising me to read it outdoors. Which is what I did, the past two weeks, in the French campagne. While I feared, in the beginning, when just loafing through, that it would be one long, very serious sermon of a utopian shed-dweller, I very soon started to enjoy it and really love the guy. Very interesting also how Thoreau by just perceiving his day so well, could be so visionary. He wouldn't even attempt to double TOP's traffic...


I guess you should take the "mythologizing Sanskrit" criticism as a compliment. It takes some quite interesting and unique content for a photography blog to generate (earn?) that criticism...

21°C? We've already had over 30°C here. It's definitely time to go soak in the sea.

BTW, DD-B, it was Sumerian, not Sanskrit in Snow Crash. Enkidu, Inana and clay tablets. An agglutinative language.

Dear JC,

In my opinion, if Mike stepped down, TOP would simply cease to exist in any recognizable form. I couldn't do what he's doing for any sum of money. I can be an editor (readers may not be aware that I was high in the queue to replace Mike as editor of PHOTO Techniques magazine when he left the position). I can't be an editor, come up with three or four new article ideas every single day, research them, and write them. I am not so dedicated nor prolific. That's aside from all the administrative duties that an editor has to do, that Mike is doing alongside the content creation.

Off the top of my head I can't think of anyone who would be both willing and able to do that. Except for our esteemed and insane editor.

I could do it with a part time staff of four pretty dedicated people. And a modest stable of regular columnists (which Mike has said he has had much trouble coming up with, aside from moi). To make that happen TOP's income would have to at least double, and still no one would be being paid what they ought to be except the editor. The only chance everyone else would have for a decent income would be if I could pull a Huffington and sell the thing for a trainload of money. Not bloody likely.

(lengthy parenthetical digression: I do not understand the Huffington situation. It's not about whether her authors had a contractual guarantee of money (they didn't) or whether they had reason to expect money (anyone who *expects* to make money off the Internet is crazy), it's that it just doesn't make any real sense. In her shoes, I'd have taken one quarter of what I got and given $4 million to each of my top dozen authors, $2 million to each of my next dozen top authors, $1 million to each of the next dozen, etc. Everyone on the planet would be amazed at my largess; I'd be declared a hero of the revolution. I'd be the popular choice for the benevolent capitalist of the century. Who could buy me that kind of reputation: robber baron and saint simultaneously? And I'd be pulling that off while still walking away with the lions share: $250 million, which even among my billionaire friends is considered an excellent rate of return for the (considerable, in fact) level of time/energy/money investment Huffington made in the site. Like I said, I just don't get it.)

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

I shot almost entirely Plus-X at normal speed, and TRI-X pushed to at least EI 1200 (sometimes as far as 4000).

Mostly for the pushes I used ACU-1, one-shot pushing developer from the people who made Acufine (and Autofine and Diafine).

Mike is right that pushing film has drawbacks in tonal range (and doesn't give a "real" ASA boost). But in many of the conditions that I did and do shoot in, EI 400 was simply not useful (1/4 second exposures of humans are pretty hopeless, 1/15 second you get at least a small percentage of usable ones); more was needed. This is one of the many reasons digital has been such a tremendous win for me -- the high-ISO performance exceeded film rather early.

(Rember that extreme push for TRI-X using HC110 Replenisher? Not the developer, the straight replenisher? 1:15, 10 minutes at 75 degrees, or something like that? That's the one I rated at EI 4000. High base fog level, and the negative curls strongly when dry?)


I would be very interested to hear your opinion on the quality and style of work curated at 1x.com - I have been trying unsuccessfully to get a photo accepted there for some time (as the worst kind of enthusiast amateur only, I don't begrudge the site for not accepting anything of mine).

It seems to me the curators have a very defined idea of what they want to show, and it is typically very post-processing/concept heavy stuff. Perhaps this is just how it appears to me, and an expert would see differently - but I would be interested to find a good resource for more straight/classic photography, to study and learn in this style rather than practice my photoshopping!


500pix has editors. The URL for the site is: http://500px.com/

"I went to Amazon through your links today and bought a flash..."

DUDE! You rock.


"Being an actual farmer would drive me straight around the bend"
I grew up on a farm and one result is that I'm pretty much worry proof. Not only does worrying not help, but whatever you are worrying about always turns out to be the wrong thing.
My father used to tell about one day being worried that he wasn't going to be able to get the tractor work done before the irrigation water came, or that the cows might get out through the hole in the fence that ought to be fixed better if he weren't in a hurry to finish the tractor work, then the tractor sounded like it was coming apart and when he crawled under it (it was a caterpillar) a B52 bomber crashed on top of it.

Maybe you could make a million dollars blogging the same way you can make a million dollars on Wall St. Start with Two Million.


I hear what you are saying about unmoderated sites; however, when I look at, e.g., 1x.com, I see what seem to be super manipulated, albeit often stunning stuff. But it leaves me cold mostly. It's too slick and not close enough to the straight photography ethic that I like. I guess Photoshop makes it too easy to go over the top of what dodging and burning gave us. I'm all for trying to get better, but I also get pleasure, even if not at much, from some shots that work OK, but not great. I've found a number of interesting folks to look at on Flickr and just don't bother to browse the current firehose flow of uploads too often and conentrate on groups and people I know will produce interesting work, at least sometimes.

I love the blog. Keep up the good work.


I push my GF1 from base of 100 ISO to 400 and even
800 and I have no problems.

"Oh, and one more thing about blogging: you'll get every criticism you can think of and then you'll get a lot more."

We're rough on you sometimes, but most of us are big fans of your blog. Keep up the good work!

Over 70, Really? It's been 95 plus here for a week now. I like your comment on getting the housekeeping done. I think most of us struggle with the mundane but ultimately it makes those moments of artistic expression that much more meaningful.
And, by the way, a million bucks ain't what it used to be.

Re darkroom comments: see http://photorumors.com/2011/06/07/this-digital-camera-can-print-photos-on-any-surface-but-is-it-real/

Re: the maid. Mike. Are you envisaging a Schwarzenegger-type arrangement, or would the bed-sheets need to be pressed on an ironing board?

Ha! No, just like the Neil Young song says: "Just someone to keep my house clean, / Fix my meals...and go away."


I'd gladly trade with you, Mike. Yesterday was the first 23C (73F) day in six months here in Singapore. I've been waiting for years for it to drop to 20C (68F) so I can start using my darkroom again, a vain hope when the all time record low is around that temperature.

It's not paradise though. Relative humidity is almost always above a sauna like 70%...

Dear Dean,

Extremely dubious on several levels.

1) It's an order of magnitude faster than any other printer on the market. While companies like Epson, Canon and HP may keep their ink prices artificially high, they do not keep their printers artificially slow.

2) The computational requirements for compensating for the imprecision of hand swiping are huge.

3) Their website makes claims for a next generation printer that is even more improbable, including even faster print speeds and the ability to swipe the printer in any direction-- horizontal, vertical, even diagonal -- and still successfully paint a printed image.

I can't *prove* it's impossible. I am doubtful in the extreme that their time. budget, and selling price are anywhere close to adequate to the task at hand.

pax / Ctein

I, too, find the sensitivity thing frustrating. But I've occasionally dabbled in Ilford's Delta range, in 120 of course. Delta 3200 is astonishingly good for a film of that speed. Far, far better and more usable than the similarly fast films of my youth (15 years ago, I guess)

Best and last in B&W, indeed.

But the commenter who recommended reusing the space for digital stuff has a point. Photo chemicals aren't that pleasant

Here in Sheffield, UK we could do with some Farmer's Rain. We're heading for a drought, crop failures and high food prices if the weathermen are to be believed.

What we do have is Farmer's Blonde http://www.bradfieldbrewery.co.uk/home/bradfield-beers#farmers_blonde, a very tasty pint.

There is 500px.com, it's semi-curated like Flickr but oriented more towards serious photography.

It's not entirely worksafe though as it's popular with russian nude photographers as it doesn't censor the new and popular feeds unlike Flickr.

Mike, I'd like to slip in a recommendation for a superb book entitled, 'Bad Land', by Jonathan Raban (Picador, 1996). The timing of your post regarding 'farmers rain' coincided with my reading of a particular passage about the fine margin of rainfall for growing in the Bad lands of Montana and its effects on the early 20th century migrants to the area: "With twenty inches or more, you'd be in clover. With fifteen or less, you could be in trouble", goes one passage. Your thoughts on worrying about the rain if you were a farmer was desperately real for the thousands who sold up on the back of the railway companies glossy promises - but I'm sure you are a lot more steeped in that history.
This book is a part travel, part historical journey and there is a real descriptive power to the particular series of moving events that have swept through the Bad lands: very well written.There is even an insightful chapter on the frustration the author had of trying to photograph the Bad lands in a meaningful way with a 'not wide enough' compact camera, and he then describes how the contemporary photographs with their narrower field of view conveyed the essence of the place.
I will have to buy this, as what I am reading is a library copy.

An example of an online camera (note I didn't say "photography") magazine is Valentín Sama's DSLR Magazine.

I'm not sure what your Big Idea for an online photography (note I didn't say "camera") magazine would be, but let me know if you want help.

> I've learned what generates traffic, and it isn't exactly what
> I do. I think if I really worked at it, I could double TOP's
> traffic and probably triple its income, or come close. But
> it would be a lot of (not-as-interesting) work and I might
> burn out doing it.

Have you thought of a separate blog (or subscription site) telling readers like me some of the things you've learned? I'd love to read something of that sort written by you. You could adopt a tone of wistful regret. :-) Seriously… you've learned a ton of stuff and achieve a very rare balance of quality and quantity. I'd love a few tips.

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