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Wednesday, 11 February 2015


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I've noticed the shift in the tenor away from photography as well. It's your site and we all appreciate that fact. You can write what you want whenever you want. However, the personal/life style stuff that has been emphasized lately is not the reason I became addicted to this site.

Pleasing everyone is not possible, but choosing which audience to please is.

I personally hope you come back to what made you a successful photography blogger, but if you've moved on to a different place, I'm sure you'll be just as successful.

Even if you are talking off topic there's still the photography related adds to look at... so there's still something for everyone! :o)

Keep up the good (and interesting and entertaining) work!

If anything's wrong with one of your Wusthof Classic knives, no matter what that may be, you can send it back to them and they'll mail you a new one right away. I have only done this once, when my 10" slicer lost its tip in a bizarre tumble.

Add a Spyderco Tri-Angle sharpening system, and those Wusthofs will serve you forever. I love the 10" chef's knife and that little paring knife most of all.

My vote is for doing just what you're doing. I don't look at TOP as a photography blog anymore. I look at like a neighborhood cafe or pub full of generally like minded people with enough other varied interests and knowledge to always make a visit interesting.

As a longtime reader (since 2008) I'm more in Steven's camp when it comes to the blog. As a longtime reader (since 2008) I'm of course happy for your mid-life love story :-)

Once the hormones wear off, I'm sure the the blog will go back to something more to Steven's liking. ;-) Meanwhile I'll keep coming back for the excellent content.

Apparently you haven't visited JapaneseKnifeImports.com or ChefKnivestogo.com yet. The best thing about German knives is they have pretty good resale value on Ebay once you wise up. Get a nice gyuto with good steel, perhaps a sujihiki too, and you'll never want to use those heavy, soft Germans again. Don't forget the Edge Pro sharpener and an end-grain cutting board.

Hints: Any knife sold by SurLaTable or WilliamSonoma isn't worth buying. Sanotkus are over-rated. A 270mm is not too big. Do try a wa handle. Don't spend a lot on a petty. Don't be afraid of carbon steel but get semi-stainless over stainless if you must. Mono-steel is better; Damascus is purely cosmetic unless it cost more than a good lens. Keep bandaids handy.

What happened to the desktop music post???


``... da da da dahhh... see you can't please everyone, so you gotta please yourself''.

(Keep it up - just avoid garden parties)

Good luck with the cooking! I've been cooking for myself a fair amount since teenage years, and find the idea of "fear of cooking" strange, but the human mind is infinitely (or at least "very very very") flexible and weird, often in ways annoying or inconvenient to the occupant.

Your knives match some of my favorites; isn't that bread knife great? I suspect most people have never used a real bread knife.

I suspect TOP will, in the medium to longer run, be more profitable as a photo publication than as a "Mike Johnston" publication. If only because the affiliate links interact synergistically with Gear Acquisition Syndrome :-) . As somebody who hates coffee and doesn't much care for the vast majority of jazz, many of your digressions aren't of much interest to me, but that's just one person.

Hey Mike, can we have fewer (and more!) meta-articles discussing the subject matter and quantity of posts being made here?


Sorry, I couldn't resist.

It's your blog - you can do with what you like. I, actually, like the variety. I know you can't please everyone. I've been teaching introductory geology classes for years, and when I look at reviews - in the same class they can range from he's the best teacher I've ever had to he's the worst teacher I've ever had. It just depends on the students learning style.

Bob, said, "I don't look at TOP as a photography blog anymore."

For me personally, this is the problem and disappointment. I have very much enjoyed your photography writing since the 37th Frame (going back a few years now) so am disappointed to see that becoming less of a focus on your blog. I do like your other posts because I do enjoy your style of writing but my interest is in photography mostly. You've had a lot of changes in your life recently and perhaps you just have too many things you want to say. As Jim said, if you've moved on in your blog then you'll probably be just as successful because I think a lot of people can connect to your writing style. I only read TOP, Thom Hogan and occasionally The Luminous Landscape so to lose one is a big hit in my photo reading down time, but you need to write what you need to write so all the best with whatever that may be.

Also in Stephen's camp, and don't check the site as often. Not enough photo-related material, and photo material itself doesn't seem as well informed as it used to be. Remember when you were the online photographer? I remain interested in him!

I don't mind these little "digressions", mostly because we seem to share several interests (except pool -- sorry). I am a big fan of Wusthof "Classic" knives. They're not cheap, but the knives I bought 30 years ago are still very much in service.

The absolute best buy in kitchen knives are the Victorinox line. I picked up an 8" chef's knife for about $30 a few years ago -- they're about $40 now on Amazon. Somehow, despite the price, they're wonderful.

I'd love to add a Bob Kramer knife or two, but really can't justify it -- they're the "Otus" of kitchen knives.

I'm quite happy to hear about your life, Mike, but recently TOP has been a bit short on photographic posts and a bit long on off topic ones.

I am with those who acknowledge it is your blog and you are free to take it in whichever direction you want. Your readers will have to decide whether they wish to follow you. Given that you depend on the blog for your livelihood, you do not have the same freedom as those who do it just for fun. Do you go with your heart and venture to other subjects which interest you or do you obey your head and stick mainly with photography? Either way there is compromise unless you can attract new readers who actively support you to replace those you will undoubtedly lose by going off piste more often. My gut feeling is that a mixed topic blog will fall between two stools and will be less popular, but you might to need to experiment to establish whether that is the case.

You have been one of the best bloggers about photography, but appear to have been distracted of late. You were coming back to form before the recent trip to New York, but have tailed off again since your return. Personally, I rarely bother with your articles which are not about photography and hope that you will determine that TOP should concentrate on what it says in its title. If you decide that is not what you want, I will respect that as well but I think it would be a sad day for the photographic community.

As a fairly long time reader and long time casual photographer I like reading about photos and other interesting things in life. Please continue to write about whatever strikes your fancy, I have learned about many interesting things I didn't know about before including tea, pool and pool tables, knives, and something near and dear to my heart, coffee! Please keep up the great work.

Much as photography is just part of my activities, I enjoy the off topic forays, as I usually learn something, as I do from even the more esoteric photo posts. I'm thrilled with my Mercer chefs knife; it has added a lot of pleasure to the several nights I'm head chef. Ahh, but there is a catch, sharpening. For the kitchen, I keep a medium diamond hone, and a 10" steel; if I need more, I can take them out to the studio and run them through the tiered Japanese waterstones. That, and learning to hold with the fingers bent out of the way. 8-)
Carry on and Blog free!

Complaints? The commentary belongs to Michael Johnston, and those invited to post. Just because the header mentions photography, doesn't always mean the topic is photography.

If any one of you is unhappy, there are numerous other photo columns available.

I'm looking forward to the woodworking posts.

Now that you're in your new digs surely there'll be some some custom shelving and cabinetry? Speaker stands? A standing desk?

Only half kidding here ...

Perhaps the problem is one of expectations?

The blog is it's called "The Online Photographer"** not "Michael Johnson On ..." with photography category.

I suspect most people come here because they have an interest in photography and are interested in Mike's (and others) comments on photography.

That's said it's MJ's blog so he can write what he wants but the readers are also free to stop visiting too.

What do the stats say?

** Curiously I always remember it as "The Online Photography" blog and I suspect others think the same way.

Write about whatever you want. There are plenty of gear head sites. I can only take so much of brand x's gushing about every new release, or brand y's perpetual midlife crisis lived through GAS.
Your talent is writing and it's a pleasure to read whatever you choose to explore.

Mike, I'm having a great time reading what you write. I like both the photography posts and the non-photography ones. The digressions give me a lot of hope, because the day of sufficiency in gear and gear knowledge is fast approaching for me, so I look forward to continuing to read your general interest writing after I cross that event horizon.

Dear Mike,

I enjoy reading just about everything that you write (football columns excepted), but I'm afraid I also get a sense that the blog is losing its focus (ahem) of late.

pax / Ctein

well you could please all the people all the time if you maintained several blogs!

That reminds me, are you still planning/working on the separate blog about how you can to be a father?



Perhaps you remember the late and largely unlamented magazine "George," the pet project of John Kennedy, Jr. Its focus, if you can call it that, was politics, celebrities and the high fashion lifestyle. A mystifying stew until you realized this was the world he lived in. He apparently expected that others would share his peculiarly privileged interests, all rather shallowly presented. They did not. The magazine was pretty pointless unless you were John Kennedy, Jr. or traveled in his circle.

I suppose any blogger who ventures off topic runs the risk of losing core readers, but I know if I were writing a single interest blog, I'd eventually go either bored or batty and have to write off topic more than once in a while to keep my sanity. I came here for the photography, have no interest in cutlery, played pool in college (way more than I should have) and enjoy the occasional car posts, being a Mazda fan like Mike. If he added kayaks and electric guitars to TOP, my god, I'd be hooked for life.

For the record, I love the posts on pool. But I like hearing bagpipes, too, which may explain it.

You are good and interesting writer. You write so well about a lot of things, some are photography, some are art, some are life. I read this blog every day sometimes twice and I will continue to do so even if you write about rocks. Thanks for what I know is a terribly hard thing to do, to write well on a broad spectrum.

Re Knives: I can cook well enough to feed myself and find some satisfaction working at it. I am particular about the knives I use for various things, too. However, all this time I I thought it was nothing more than a little quirk I had, and a competent cook/vegetable cutter would be equally at ease with almost any kind of knife. I now realize I was wrong: the world is full of knife-geeks and enthusiasts.
If you ask me, don't worry about if you are pleasing everyone or not. To me your blog has been a source of enriching, educational, and entertaining things to read all along.

Best regards,

Hi Mike,

If you write it, they (TOP readers) will come. The "it" is all up to you. I doubt if there's any one-person blog specializing in photography (or anything else, for that matter) that comes out with well-written original content at least 6 times a week.

I do miss it when TOP doesn't come out on weekdays; or when readers' comments aren't moderated for more than a day. I won't say I feel short-changed because it costs me nothing to follow TOP. It does cost me something when my daily TOP-fix isn't sated. But that's my issue, not yours.

I'm surprised to see such severe criticism from some commenters! I for one enjoy your off-topic posts at least as much as the on topic ones, and I suspect that some commenters don't realise that a blog is (or can be) a form of art! You can't force it, it takes a direction of it's own.

Or maybe you could force it, but it wouldn't be half as good, and you would probably move on to something else before long.

So you have a real bread knife but do you use it on real bread? Enough about coffee and music, let's have a bread post.

It's all in the name: "The Online Photographer". Not "The Online Photography Blog". You're a photographer. You're online. You talk about stuff. Keep it up!

I agree with Steven, both in regards to missing photography posts and in the lack of outside contributors. The latter, from Ctein's weekly column to the less frequent contributions of others, gave a nice rhythm to the blog, and it has always benefitted from a multitude of voices.

But those voices all share something that I have always appreciated about your blog, and above all your writing in particular: an intellectual yet unpretentious, dare-I-say humanist, take on the variety of photographic interest and practice. Your article on the death of Helen Levitt was one of my favorite pieces of writing about photography. It was touching, informative, and it showed the care that went into its making. That care has been an integral part of this blog, and as I think about it, a wonderful comment on the fact that something like this can succeed based not upon crass commercialism, but rather on care, passion, and quality.

Perhaps there have been too many business related posts and the waters have been poisoned, but I see many photography posts now that are loaded with affiliate links, some of which seem there more to sell than to inform and enlighten. [So you want free, and photo only, andno links?!? I see. —Mike] And there was all this talk about expanding the blog, hiring others to help you focus on writing, which I expect has gone nowhere. I worried when I read those, about the danger of over-promising and under-delivering... Perhaps they created some unfulfilled expectations.

Now, as this turns less into a comment and more into a post about a post by a guy writing a blog about writing a photograohy blog (that was a great insight), I'll come back to care. It's your blog, driven by your energy and emotion, and I doubt you're the kind of person who can ignore your passion. So I'll leave the rest unsaid, and wait to see what happens.

In a nutshell; your blog, your rules. That said, if I see something that doesn't interest me, I tend to skim/skip over it. But I do find what you have to say engaging - no matter what the subject, it helps that our interests seem to overlap!
I greatly enjoy the off-topic posts, although they can chew up a good part of my morning by making me think about why I agree/disagree with you. That's not a bad thing!
Finally, let me wish you the best on your new relationship! I am 53 and getting close to having spent the last two years of my life with the absolute best woman I could have ever hoped to meet or be involved with. Proof (for me) that good things come to those who wait....

All these comments saying, "It's your blog, do what you want," seem to miss one crucial point. Unless things have changed recently, this blog is, from what you've said before, YOUR LIVELIHOOD. You rely on it for your income. So you need to keep its momentum going, make it vital for your readers so they come back to it again and again. That's the only way those affiliate links will be clicked and your print sales will be successful.

So sure, you can go off on tangents and write about coffee grinders and hi-fi speakers and jazz and pool, if you want. But I doubt that will keep this blog alive as a going financial concern. I personally think your writings on photography are among the most insightful I've ever read. I hope you'll go back to doing that more often.

I like to think of TOP as your open diary. I'm here for photography, of course. But, I also like your writing, your thinking, and the diverse areas that you find interesting, even if sometimes I don't share your interests. My only complaint is when there are days of silence. Then, I alternate between feeling annoyed, and feeling concerned whether you are well.

Steel kitchen knives... so last century.
Ceramic blades are where it's at.

I've been a regular reader for so many years (going way back to the paper magazine and Tri-X/D76 days) that I can't recall how long it's been. I primarily check your column for it's articles on photography, but sometimes enjoy the OT content.

I really enjoy many of the OT posts, but I agree with Ctein that there's been a loss of focus (I'd date it the house move preparations, with ups and downs since). You've had a lot of stuff going on—much of which is very important to the future of TOP!—but I wish I was enjoying more of your photography-related writing and that of your various guest contributors again. TOP is safely in my RSS reader and I'll keep reading.

From the tone of most of these comments,
I don't suggest a further discussion of your dog's farts.

....or dogs in general.

Stick to it Mike. Reading about something you are not usually in to opens the (my) mind. I have been drinking instant, but maybe now will switch to drinking knives.. sorry home ground coffee.

What others said, especially Michael Farley and Ctein.

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