So, What Happens Next?
Without missing a beat, I've been writing a new Phototip article here at Earthbound Light for over 20 years. That's a long time.
Back in the 1990s, I took part in several discussion forums online, answering questions and helping aspiring photographers learn and grow. Even before such forums moved online, I was a moderator on the Nikon discussion email list. I learned a lot from the collaboration inherent in such mediums, so it was a lot of fun.
I set up Earthbound Light at the turn of the century to share my photography on the web. By that point, connection speeds sufficed to support more than just words, and it was the trendy thing for photographers to do. As a reminder, Facebook was still several years away, and Instagram was even more so. If you wanted to create an online portfolio of your work, you generally had to build one yourself.
Over time, I noticed forum posts on discussion sites tended to roll off and be replaced by new questions that were often subtle variations of the old ones. I had also begun to realize that search engines of the era only indexed words, and my nascent Earthbound Light site, mainly containing pictures, was hard to find. I added the running series of articles on Earthbound Light to address both points, dubbed "PhotoTips" in 2001. That made search engines happy, and I could answer many forum questions with a link to my website. What could be better? If I spent the time to write a good article on a topic, I could use it to answer multiple questions, and search engines could find lots of words to index.
Early PhotoTip articles generally addressed camera functions and field techniques. We were years away from reclaiming the second half of photography in the digital darkroom. And there was a lack of good reference material for aspiring photographers to learn from, so the focus seemed obvious. As I became more comfortable writing, articles grew in length, and my writing skills improved so that I could take on more complex topics. Things were looking up.
A new world of topics to learn and write about opened up once photography became digital photography. At first, I was just scanning film, but it wasn't long before my entire workflow from capture through processing was digital. It was hard to satisfy everyone for a while, given that everybody switched to digital at their own pace. But it was hard to avoid digital for long, and it's been a long time since I've heard anyone say I don't talk enough about film.
Digital continues to change rapidly; if anything, it's sometimes been hard to keep up. Some articles show their age all too quickly. But at the same time, there's been an explosion of other sources popping up online, many with entire teams of authors to share the load. I don't always agree with everything I read from some, but variety is the spice of life, so who am I to say? It's not easy to explain things clearly in a way that does justice to the complexity of some digital topics.
One enduring topic over the entire run of PhotoTips has been composition. No matter how good your camera or software may be, the responsibility to see a subject creatively lies with the photographer. My very first article talked about using a tripod to help with composition. Over all these years, that remains true. A tripod forces you to slow down so you have time to make decisions consciously.
Perception is a crucial ingredient in good photography. It's not enough that you take a picture of something. What that picture looks like is what matters. My appreciation for this fact has continued to grow over the years. The beauty of photography is that images don't have to be strictly representational. What a viewer sees is what you show them. Make it count.
Now that I've briefly covered my growth as a photographer and writer over the past twenty years, you may wonder what comes next. Cutting to the chase, I've decided to put PhotoTips on hold for the time being. Over the years, I've written more than enough words to fill several books. So at least for now, I plan to shift my focus now to longer-form writing projects. There are no guarantees on how this idea will turn out, but it seems the right thing to do.
I appreciate loyal readers, many of whom I know have been following me for years. Until we meet again, thank you.