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Monday, 30 January 2017


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I just wanted to provide some words of encouragement lest you think we're all deserting you.

I find your blog interesting and thought provoking. I don't always agree with or want to read a (very small) number of your articles but that doesn't stop me from coming back.



Mike - I'm a gearhead, but also really appreciate your writing about photography writ large. I think I am a better photographer precisely because you and those like you have expended my horizons. Thanks for that. There's a reason I try to make sure all my (many) B&H purchases are via your referral link...

I like the balance of topics you offer to your audience and I'm always interested in your posts about gear. I'm endlessly fascinated by the intersection of tech and art in the world of photography.

Mike, The two readers that "stomped off in a huff" probably haven't been with you long. Those of us that have been with TOP since the beginning know your posting patterns and just wait. Eventually you get back to "pictures".
Personally I found the gear post very interesting as I noted just how many readers used Fuji and M4/3. A discerning bunch we are!
Incidentally, in the past, I have been known to buy a camera just so I could use a certain lens.

I like gear posts (because I like gear). Don't like billiards posts. Don't mind a few coffee posts. Glad the tea posts are history.

But here's the thing. A blog is kind of like ... ready ? ... a camera ! In the sense that no one blog can be perfectly tailored to any particular reader. And people who go off in a huff because a blog doesn't suit them perfectly are just like the people who rant about this camera or that camera because the manufacturer didn't design it specifically to meet their needs.

Meanwhile, TOP is the blog we choose to read, each for our own reasons. I've written before that I own practical cameras that I don't really love using and that I always have my eyes open for that camera system that I'll thoroughly enjoy. (Your recent "How to Choose Your Gear" post hit home). But TOP is the blog I read because it just feels right. Doesn't matter if it doesn't have as many of this kind of post or that as I'd like, or that there's a little too much of something else. It's the blog I check daily without fail. It's kind of the Fuji X system of blogs :) And there are other blogs for other people to read. The nice thing is that you don't have to go to blogrentals.com to try them out. You can try out other blogs for free. (Then come back here where the cool kids hang out).

There are workarounds, albeit somewhat tedious, if you want to view the NY Times online and not subscribe. I generally browse The Times online every morning but if I subscribed I would prefer the paper edition. Just my preference.

Thanks Mike. It IS all about the image. The gear is fun and all but the image on the wall is where it is.
Sad part is that so many "photographers" never put up many images. Many never visit art galleries. Many never buy a photograph from a gallery or artist. Past the few 'famous photos' or 'famous photographers' many are lost.
Learning fine art is a process that takes time and in a world of instant gratification too many never take the time needed to learn what excellence is.

The NYT current article, Child, Bride, Mother: Nigeria, has outstanding photography and a very moving story.

Thanks for writing about this, Mike. The thing is, there are people who love photography and people who admire cameras for their pure machine wonderfulness--and many, many of us who appreciate both. Journalism about photography has always been supported by gear ads or one sort or another. Many of us who remember the golden age of the photo magazine, came to appreciate those that offered content about photographs alongside the ads, as opposed to those that seemed to be blatant adjuncts to camera commerce. You are the "Camera 35" for my declining years. Keep up the good work.

commerce ("Camera 35" over "Popular Photography" ?). You

People actually leave over a few posts they don't like? Sheesh. It's not like you need anyone to say this, but don't let it get to you, sounds like it doesn't, post whatever you find interesting. If it's not my cup of tea, I just skip over it and come back the next day.

I would think that whoever publishes a Blog gets to choose the topic. A Photo Blog would obviously choose to discuss gear occasionally and once in a while there would be a plethora of new stuff to discuss. "Click Bait" really......that seems to be taking the whole thing a little much too seriously. There are a lot of days in the year to limit the topics. How about Pool Tables, Turntables, and Sports cars. Hey I read someones blog and all he writes about is artificial lights and Portraits. In 45 years of shooting I only shoot available light and I have never shot a portrait and I still enjoy his postings.

Agree wholeheartedly about the NYT. In England our equivalent is The Guardian newspaper ( https://www.theguardian.com/ ) with excellent, long, in-depth articles and photography. The print edition carries a full size center spread photograph every day; some of them are simply stunning. And it doesn't hide behind a paywall either!

Photography appeals on different, but overlapping, levels, which include art, technique and equipment. Every photographer has his or her own degree of interest in one or the other, but it's very useful to be exposed to illuminating articles on all of them. So, keep the gear posts coming.

Hi Mike,
I don't mind the gear talk at all. Your blog is still a good mix of the tools and the actual photos. I used to "subscribe" to TOP with a monthly contribution through paypal and have been meaning to renew that, so your little reveal of the economics of blogs reminded me to click your Patreon link and start a regular contribution again. You're more than worth it. Thanks!

I cut my subscription back from total access ($3.75/ week) to basic digital ($2.75) not because it's a buck less but there's just too much captivating stuff to read. I Had to get up an hour earlier just to get through part of it and drank way too much coffee in the process. It's The Donald's favorite "failing" newspaper. Get it!

My Times subscription last week also gave me a look at "4.1 Miles," the short (21 min.) Oscar-nominated doco about a Greek Coast Guard captain on Lesbos who responds to the refugee boats crossing over from Turkey - harrowing stuff. I think you can also find it on the AJE website.

Thanks for pointing out the well crafted piece in the NY Times - nice writing & photography. Not enough of it about these days........

Hi Mike,

Really? People actually got the hump because there was a wee bit of gear talk! Your publication is littered with gear talk articles. So nothing new then. I quite like the balance here between gear and non-gear articles. If there's too much gear talk, I simply don't engage with it if I'm not in the mood. I always know there be some insightful photographic topic later.

I'm glad there is not a forum here either - I get fatigued just thinking about looking at the comments section of some other (more gear orientated) sites. It's just that, personally, I get very little extra insight by reading them - there are exceptions of course, but it's rare.

And there is also this: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/27/sunday-review/29Exposures-child-bride-interactive.html

It never ceases to amaze me how fickle some people are. You write about a few pieces of camera gear on a blog about, um, photography of all things and readers stomp off in a huff. Wow! I see the "get off my lawn" mentality is alive and well. Sometimes I read a few comments on Petapixel just to see how quickly the course of discussion departs from the original topic. Sad. I like your occasional posts about gear because since they are few and far between, it indicates something is worthy of taking notice. Imagine if you had posted totally off topic. I'm stretching here but let's say billiards for example. That might have caused a sudden and accute medical condition in those readers. I like the current format, keep up the good work. Oh, and when is the next book sale? I haven't missed one yet.

Well, I've been following TOP for a long time and it is in my top three websites I go to-usually several times a day. I enjoy it all, it is is education and entertainment for me-lots of both. I enjoy the photography focus but also things like the discussions on stereo equipment, pool and Ctein's take on tea as well as yours on coffee.

I'm also a monthly sponsor because I want to "keep the lights on" without you having to worry too much about that. It is a business of course and we either support it through sponsorship, buying through links, etc. or face the consequences. If you change much, it won't be the same and I like the mix of things that I find here.

Sometimes your customers fire you and sometimes it is best to fire some of the customers. A lot of us, dare I say most of us, don't find offense in so-called "click-baiting" even if on occasion we see enough to realize that you wouldn't mind if we bought something for ourselves through your site. In other words, "keep on keepin' on". I actually recommend a subscription base like LULA has gone to, but I'm confident that you know what you are doing much more than I do.

Don't listen to them. This is the best photography blog I've found, by far. Not all the posts float my boat (I'm not really a gear-head), but the ones that do, really do.
Keep up the good work!


I'm slow to comment. I have to think about your post, and sometimes revisit it before having anything worthwhile to say. But I agree that the New York Times is a great source of good photography. I especially love the travel section.
We get the Sunday paper, not the weekly. I customized the News app on my I pad to get NYT stories digitally without paying for it, though I don't get everything, I feel guilty.
I come to TOP several times a day. I do look forward to your 'gear' talk. I think it's how you come across as not so techie, more like a over the fence discussion with a neighbor, if that makes sense.
I know this is too late to comment, but the FF+ sensor Fuji, is just too pricey for me! Almost seven thousand, body only! I'm surprised Fuji is going in that direction. And of course the lenses are not cheap either, and I imagine big and heavy too. Not for me, even if I could afford it.

I knew you were going to catch a little flack for so many gear articles.

Here's another gear topic: fixed lens cameras vs. interchangeable systems. I'm starting to come around to the pleasures and benefits of a quality fixed lens camera. I don't recall hearing you discuss the issue, so I'll assume as a lens lover you don't like to be stuck with just one.

Regarding the Times, I've subscribed digitally for a while. I love the photo slideshows through the iPad app.

I come to this website to read posts this like one. I don't mind the gear talk but I mostly ignore it.

Let's face it, that photo by Andrew Tesla was put in the article to be "click bait". Who could resist the composition, colors, and theme of that? Don't think we don't know what you're up to!

I like the photography posts most, but they are much harder to comment on. It's easy to sound superficial, and difficult to be profound. Images kind of speak for themselves (if they are any good).

But whatever you need to do to keep blogging is fine with me. At least we get to learn something now and again, which is more than I can say of any other blog I know.

If "YouTube is the hot way of making money", please tell me how!

Mike, I appreciate very much your encouraging your readers to subscribe to the NY Times. Yes, wonderful photos. You could also have mentioned the videos, such as the deeply moving 4.1 Miles.

But these days, these terrible days, subscribing to such a source of information and value is an important and positive act in itself.

I don't think anyone blames you for trying to make a living, but there's an inherent problem with gear posts, even though it may attract extra traffic. That is, I suspect most of the people who regularly come to TOP are fairly experienced photographers, and **we already have our gear.** I enjoy reading occasional roundup articles about gear, or in-depth articles about break-out gear, but we're not seeing much in the way of break-out gear anymore, and you're not really a gear reporter (I realize you could be, but that's not what you do.) So, if there's a long stretch of gear reporting, I tend not to read it as thoroughly or as consistently as I read posts on all the other aspects of photography. When I need gear information, it's usually about very specific gear at a very specific point in time, and I'll get that information elsewhere, because getting John Camp in-depth information a but a new Canon printer at exactly the time he needs it, is not what you do.

Thank you for directing me to "Love and Black Lives, in Pictures Found on a Brooklyn Street."

Keep doing what you are doing I think it's great!

Heh. Like I ever cared about blogs either. But I do care about articulate, considered, informative and entertaining writing. Which is what I get at TOP. And about my favourite subject.
Gratefully yours, (not Mike's mom).

I like your blog just the way it is. It's the first place on my bookmarks. I love to check out the links to see different equipment, photographers, etc. You even turned me on to that great Lee Ritenour CD. Keep up the good work.

Thank you Mr. Johnston. Very eloquently put. That's why I visit your blog multiple times everyday, to see what you have to say. It's like an oasis, in this crazy world of clashing opinions that we live in.

my sincerest appreciation,

Hear hear.

One of my few complaints about the pictures in the Times—I've queried the photo editors about this, but never received a satisfactory response—is the rigidity of some of the paper's post-processing protocols.

Of course, I know that publication deadlines are short and getting shorter, and agree that photojournalism should not employ deceptive editing techniques: composites of multiple images, removal of features judged extraneous to the image, etc.—but what is the rationale for refusing to correct keystoning, rotation, and other camera-position artifacts that actually distort the view that was available to the shooter?

Seems to me a more nuanced view of what constitutes acceptable PP is long overdue at the Times. Not that I'm about to stop reading the paper every day, or enjoying the photos.

Sheesh, what great readers you have Mike. For some reason I thought I was the only knucklehead who visits your blog several times a day. Hmmm....wait...perhaps I should rather say....what a great blog you have, for some reason I thought I was the only reader who visits several times a day!

Since people are weighing in on the content mix of TOP, I'll give my 2 cents. I think the balance here is quite good, but I can get the gear info from many sources. The photography posts are unique to TOP and of more interest to me. But I do read the gear posts and have interest in keeping up with the latest cameras and lenses as well.

This is THE only blog that I visit each day. I read newspapers and many news sites online, but this is my only blog.

Thanks Mike!

I second what Chas said. There are so many fora that are just about technical specs, arguments and trolling. I come here because I like how you write, you have good taste and I trust your opinion. I enjoy reading your opinions on lenses and cameras both old and new, but I also enjoy reading about everything you write about. If I don't have any interest then I don't read the post and go to another post or another site I like to read. The vast majority of people who complain or troll are in bad moods because of something personal in their life. They think it will help them feel better by putting down someone else but what really helps is compassion. Compassion for yourself and for everyone.

It time to be happy again. Bring on the camera porn!

Please keep mixing TOP the way you judge best Mike! A lot of us have stayed with you form the start.
And coincidentally, I decided after recent events I had to start paying a bit for quality journalism, so I paid the basic digital sub to the NYT the day before your article, and I'll do the same for the Guardian, too. This Brit already buys The Economist to give me a foil to the Guardian.
Even if I don't read more than 5 to 10%, it's important to me that there's someone writing fearlessly and doing there best to get at the truth. The photos are a great bonus.

I have no problem with gear talk, just as I have no problem with a lack of. I dont even mind off topic subjects. To be honest, if I was just a gear junkie, TOP would not satisfy me as the talk is far too real and relevant not gear specs and numbers.

Another very good photography magazine is The Guardian, which is freely available from its website (contrary to the NYT). See, e.g., https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2016/apr/27/david-levenson-photographer-slightly-unusual-in-pictures

In theory I like the photography content better.

I quite probably comment more, and more usefully, on the gear articles; that's because I (think I) understand the gear better. I learn more from the photography discussions.

Hi Mike, I enjoy your blog because it's opinionated. I like to know what you think about anything and everything, cars included. I'm more inclined to equipment, simply because I consider photographic equipment to be beautiful and the pinnacle of precision manufacturing. I can't say I like your selection of images, but that's what makes the world go around, yes?

I must admit I used to think your World's Greatest ... epithet was sarcasm. Now I realise it was meant seriously. Sorry, NYT.

Just one point: in the shot of the Romford Market, you spell the photographer's surname as Tesla, but in the text you spell it Testa.

Do not change anything. Your approach, content and writing are a joy.

Mike, I noticed the gear-heavy focus last week too, but I figured it was just time to pay the bills.

BTW, the New York Times's Instagram feed is a great way to get bite-sized samples of their great photojournalism.: https://www.instagram.com/nytimes/?hl=en

The New York Times has always been among the best sources for worthwhile photography available. Nowadays it may well be the foremost source, for even as photography has become increasingly popular over the years, places to find a consistently high level of photography have become far fewer.

If camera manufacturers sold gear only to photographers, they'd go broke. Instead, they target consumers as such, promising that feature A and buzzword B will substitute for knowledge and technique, so that just by spending a few dollars you too can call yourself a serious hobbyist or even a pro. Consequently, among the many forums available on the web to discuss photography, one mostly finds arguments about gear, and whether this feature or that feature, this brand or that one, is superior, along with mutual confusion, often, about such esoteric things as shutter speed and aperture.

Among all the many places on the web to discuss photography, there are surprisingly few where people actually discuss photography, and where people talk about gear, when they talk about it, like people who use it instead of just buying it. If you know what I mean. In fact, there are so few places like that, you really appreciate one of them when you find it. Among these too few places, TOP is the top of the heap.

You wrote, "First it was being a student, then it was being a teacher, then it was writing magazine articles, then it was writing multiple columns for a variety of outlets; for a short time it was the PDML and the LUG and other forums; now it's TOP."

If you don't mind saying, where did the "37th Frame" days fit in there?

I enjoy all aspects of you current blog: the gear, the non-gear and the non-non Open Mike!

I recently read The Documentary Impulse, which I learned of from your blog, and have just now read "Love and Black Lives, in Pictures Found on a Brooklyn Street." These photos are a marvelous example of the documentary impulse, and the article illuminates their significance as a record of everyday life, as artifacts of historical import, and as a medium of human connection. I would never have found the book or the article on my own. That's why I read TOP.

Let's also remember that besides the digital content, the NYT also packs a lesson in photography - often monochrome - in the Sunday NYT Magazine. Print beats the screen for me every time for depth and impact.

This is not to take anything away from the wealth available on their site, of course, which is why I subscribe there.


Mike, to your point about the Times photos, the image of the Le Loir dans La Théièr cafe is wonderful!


I went, saw, and subscribed. Many thanks for the heads up.

Cheers, Geoff


Now I can unsubscribe from the New York Times! In just two days I have seen enough superb photographs to surfeit me for a year! Try this one from the science section today. OMG. http://tinyurl.com/glzczq8

Thanks so much for the heads up on this.

Cheers, Geoff

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