blogging about photography

oregon coast black and white
beach grass -- oregon coast

I posted a while back on whether a photographer should specialize or not, and it led to some pretty interesting comments. Personally, unless I decide to pursue a certain avenue of photography as a way to earn an income, I’d rather not specialize in anything but my own peculiar vision. There is too much interesting subject matter out there that tickles my eyeballs for me to choose a certain subject to concentrate on.

Sometimes I feel differently about a blog though. To my notion, the best blogs are consistent. They tend to be tightly focused — not necessarily on a certain subject matter, but a certain theme, whatever that theme may be. They’re consistent, and you usually know that a visit there won’t be a waste of time. To me this blog is drifting away from any sense of consistency. It feels scattered, which it is because I’ve yet to be able to establish any sense of normalcy or routine since I landed here in LA, and it feels like I’ve lost the handle on what I want it to be. I need to bring it back to what it started out to be — my thoughts and ideas about photography as a means of expression, as an art form. To me it feels confused, like I’m trying to go in too many directions at the same time.

Lately I’ve been posting quite a bit about my move to LA, and the transition from Montana to California, but that’s not really where I want to go with this site. I don’t think anyone really gets much from those kinds of posts other than an overwhelming feeling of relief that they’re not here too. But if I spend more time challenging conventional wisdom, if I can somehow challenge you readers to challenge the rules, to look into yourselves and find your own true visual voices, if I can give you something to think about, then maybe I have something to offer. Time will tell.

The photos I post here will be from LA and California simply because this is where I am now, but I don’t think a running commentary of my exploits and adjustments to life here in LA really has a place on this blog. If I feel I need to do that, and if anyone is really interested, then I’ll start another site as a side project and chronicle my time in LA there. It’s easy enough to do. I want to get back on track with this one. It’ll likely mean posting less while I scramble to resolve issues here, but so be it.

I’ll sign off with a question to those of you who regularly read this blog, and I’d greatly appreciate your feedback. What do you prefer to see in a blog — one that goes off into a wide variety of topics, or one that is more tightly focused along a certain theme? Which do you find more valuable to your growth as an artist?

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22 thoughts on “blogging about photography”

  1. I would say that a tighter focus is USUALLY preferrable, but not ALWAYS. As a personal expression, a certain amount of ranging around on a photoblog is inevitable and expected because you are focusing on what interests and concerns you. Your interests are inevitably going to be a unique mix, not all of which will seem relevant to everyone.

    I am in accord with bringing your primary focus back to: “my thoughts and ideas about photography as a means of expression, as an art form,” but I feel that sprinkling in some of your “transition from Montana to California” is interesting to us readers, ESPECIALLY as it relates to photography. In my perception, the reason everyone is hanging on your every word regarding your transition is, number one because they care about you as a person because they have connected to your particular ideas about photography, and, number two because they are interested in how a new location, new job and new life situation will affect your photographic vision. So it does all relate to photography and if you can keep that relation clear and present in each blog post, you can write about anything else that is going on in your life that you feel is important.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts David. Point taken, and it’s a good one.

      I guess it really does all tie in together if it’s done right. Lately this blog has felt almost incoherent, but maybe it’s just me.

  2. I will give a most definitive answer…”It depends.” :-)

    Photography is such a personal journey it often refuses to remain tightly and consistently focused upon a defined path. A defined path is dependable and may address a topic of interest, however, deviations can be opportunities for others to learn or be of keen interest to those on a similar journey.

    Part of what keeps me coming back to a site is feeling like I get to know a little about the person behind the site, becoming what passes loosely for friends here on the Internet. If it makes me also a better artist, that’s icing.

    1. Thanks Earl. “it depends” is actually a pretty good answer.

      I truly enjoy the connections and friendships that have grown around this blog. I certainly don’t want to do away with that personal aspect of it. At the same time, I don’t want it to simply become a diary of my day to day exploits. I want to offer up more than that. I guess the best thing to do is to get actually settled in down here and find that balance again.

  3. I’ll somewhat echo the sentiments of David and Earl. I visit photo blogs/sites I like largely if I feel some sort of attachment to the author, and the author does good work. For me, since I apparently have ADD (A quick visit to my blog will confirm this through the wide variety of things I feature!), I don’t mind some divergence from time to time, within the general theme. For example, I’d be somewhat less inclined to continue visiting a site that was supposedly a photography hang out but was always posting things completely unrelated and with nothing to do with photography.

    The way I see it, the whole photography thing is a journey. Your journey lately has had you move across the country to a place where you are a stranger in a strange land and your photography echoes that journey as you look for some sense of normalcy.

    I’ve continued to enjoy your work on the west coast as well as your intermittent ramblings, I think they make me a better photographer and for that I’m thankful.

    1. Thanks Derrick. I appreciate hearing that. I don’t know that I deserve any credit for your improvement, the credit belongs to you, but it’s nice to hear you get something from this blog.

  4. There are times when it is necessary to venture into the “personal” as a way of finding your way. Your art is very personal and it expresses where you are in your life and if there are times when things are unsettled I feel it helps to write about it. It helps to clarify the mind and get you grounded again. I know that I have done this recently and was also concerned as to whether or not it was appropriate. After some thought I decided that it was OK to do this every once in awhile as it gives others insight as to who you really are and where you are. And you will find that most people will respond in a kind and supportive manner.

    When I moved back to California from Idaho I was totally traumatized by the contrast in just abut every thing from the number of people and their attitudes to the traffic and air pollution. I really felt isolated and lonely surrounded by throngs of people.

    So, do I mind your personal thoughts. Not at all. After all your art is you. I would much rather read about what motivates you than what f-stop you used.

    Best Regards,
    Greg….

    1. Thanks Greg. I agree — it does help to clarify things when you write out some of your own thoughts and struggles, and the feedback and support can be quite valuable. I guess I’m just leery of letting this blog become a place where I do little but vent my own frustrations, and end up offering little beyond that.

  5. I’m leaning more towards a tight focus. The Internet itself is a vast collection of random information and if I am after a given tidbit, I’ll use a search engine or visit a web site dedicated to the general topic.
    I rarely visit news blogs. The ones I read are predominantly personal and reveal the sensibilities of the author. I would not want them to stray too far from that to accommodate generic information that can be found elsewhere.
    Then again, there are exceptions and as long as the general theme is maintained, I wouldn’t suggest being overly strict.

    Guy

    1. Thanks Guy. On the one hand I think blogs that maintain a tight focus on a certain theme are stronger, they tend to carry more of a sense of authority, but on the other hand I enjoy and respond well to personal writings on them too. It adds a certain human touch that can be quite appealing. Like I said in an earlier comment, I guess the trick is to find that balance. The best blogs seem to do that.

  6. Put my vote in the hat labeled, “It Depends.” I personally don’t think your blog has been off topic, as your art really has revolved around your geographic location. Others have said it more eloquently than I can, but I don’t feel like your blog has been off the mark, nor do I think you should start a second blog.

    Just my $0.02 worth, but I’ve enjoyed the journey. It may not happen in May, but in June, I plan on driving to LA to meet you formally. More on that later, though.

    Cheers,
    Greg

    1. Thanks for your input Greg. No doubt most of the scatteredness I’m feeling here is due to the sudden and drastic change of my move, and not being able to get set up in my own space and have my own routine yet. I’m sure it will all sort itself out. I don’t know that another blog is really necessary either. Mostly I just need to put more into this one.

      Maybe by June I’ll be a little more settled. I look forward to being able to finally meet you.

  7. Personally, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the extraordinary photos and the lively discussions about photography. I want to learn from those photographers that I respect and admire. I was given a book, “A Year in Art”, years ago and it is a collection of artwork for each day of the year, with very little text or documentation. I found it to be very inspiring.
    Having said that, it’s not that I don’t read whatever is written in a blog and I do like an interesting story. Your move was an adventure and your sharing that with us was unique.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Ken. I certainly do want to keep a personal element alive on this blog, I think that’s important, but I also want to make sure it relates to my own growth as a photographer and doesn’t just degenerate into grousing about difficulties I have in adjusting to a new place and situation. Sometimes I feel like I’m drifting real close to that. Hopefully that’s just me and doesn’t come across that way to others.

  8. I vote, “Depends.”

    There was a time when I was trying to read too many blogs and had to eliminate some of them. The ones I kept are the ones where the author shares of themselves, both personally, as Guy mentions, and photographically. Those that failed to stay on my google reader were mainly using their blog for marketing or attaining some number of visitors. Blogging has become an extended family for me, including the opportunity to meet some of you I follow.

    I’ve asked myself the same question. I write and post images about my life of travel, nature, street scenes, portraits, still life, etc. You are doing the same and one of the reasons I stop by here. How I see the world around me is what I try to portray in pixels. My main focus is photography. John Muir did the same, he wrote about what he saw, drew images of what he saw but without the internet. In addition he shared with family and friends through letters what he was experiencing, the discoveries in his life and the daily life he was living.

    In answer to your question, “Which do you find more valuable to your growth as an artist?” I find the personal growth of others through their successes, failures, lessons and trials to encourage and motivate me. I’m inspired by their philosophy shared through their images and writing. Hopefully, I become a better writer (or babble), photographer, and person through this experience. Enough babble.

    Oh, and I also stop by here cuz ya ain’t too shabby of a photog. Love this simplistic image!

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment Monte. That’s what I like about your blog, the variety of things that move you throughout your travels, and your way of expressing that visually as well as in words.

      I like to have that variety here too, but like I mentioned to Ken in the previous comment, I want to make sure it relates to what I’m doing with this blog rather than merely becoming my own personal rants. My own situation is probably of little interest to anyone, but I can see where what I do with it and what comes of it could possibly be interesting to some readers. Or maybe not.

  9. Interesting question PJ, I have often wondered the same thing. Quite often though I am simply at a loss for words in either the blogs I read or just trying to maintain my own. I suppose I follow the practice that many have stated here, visit blogs where I have come to know (at least electronically) the people in part. I have often wondered myself what people really want to read. I used to try to follow a lot, contribute to forums, etc, but it just became too time consuming. I don’t really care for some photog blogs where the main intent behind every post is to sell something. It feels like self-induced spam to me. :-)

    1. Thanks Mark. There does seem to be a fine line between being personal and being too personal, or between trying to make a few bucks through affiliate programs and becoming nothing more than an ad site. Then there is the time factor you mentioned. Sometimes the whole damn thing feels like a high-wire act.

  10. What I like about your blog, PJ is your lack of bs…you seem straight-forward and honest and I enjoy that. I made the traumatic move from Texas to Yankeeland so I can empathize with your stresses and I enjoy watching what comes out of them.

    Sharon

    1. Thank you Sharon. I appreciate that. I guess if there was only one rule I could set for myself it would be to keep it honest. If you can’t do that, the rest doesn’t really matter.

  11. A little late to the conversation here but I’m in the “write what you want” camp. There are enough photocentic blogs out there. I’m always in the mood for a good story. Writing strictly about photography all the time would be tough to do well. Widen the spectrum a little and you would have more subject matter and it would still be pretty darn interesting I’m thinking.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Jeff. I like a bit of variety too, but I don’t want to stray too far from the main theme of this blog. I guess it comes down to that balance thing.

      I’d say too that there’s really no right or wrong way to do this. It’s kind of an ongoing experiment to see what seems to work and what doesn’t.

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