the evenings out here - Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

Should I stay or should I go ?


in Site Admin , Wednesday, July 09, 2014

I recently received my annual web hosting invoice for this site. This, together with domain name registration, costs me around £100 per annum. And, by the way, if you’re looking for a reliable independent web hosting service with excellent technical support, full features and non-USA hosting, I can safely recommend Meirhosting.

The reminder that all this costs money as well as time gives me cause to reflect on why I’m doing it. My data on Google Analytics makes quite depressing reading: I get very low traffic, my most popular posts are the few dedicated to gear, and the least popular are those talking about photography and photographers in general. Earlier this year, the stats were trending upwards. Now they’ve slumped.


Lies, damn lies, and statistics. According to Google’s monthly view, of the 40-odd visitors I get daily, 75% are new. So they don’t come back :-(


AWStats shows a similar story - the levels are pretty flat.

I’ve maintained a website since around 1996. I registered the snowhenge domain in 2001, I think, and the earliest version of went live in or before August 2001, according to the Wayback machine. I added blogging through MovableType in mid 2003. My first post was made at 04:32 PM on 17th July 2003. Apart from a pause of a few months in 2007 when I transitioned to Expression Engine, and switched hosting, I’ve been adding material fairly constantly. So far there are 673 blog posts. There have been several design overhauls and refreshes, but the current look has been around for 4 or 5 years. The photographic content has changed over time, as I tried to improve presentation and focus, and the non-photographic stuff has dwindled to very little. The one constant in all of this, though, has been the flatlining statistics.


The Grey Period: in early 2003

My original motives for having a web site included a large part of experimentation with web technologies, which fed into my various “day jobs”. This is now gone, my day job has no need for such frippery. So it is now essentially a platform for publishing and talking about photography, and the arcana surrounding photography. The question is, then, is it working? At present the answer has to be no. There’s very little conversation, although what there is tends to be of above average quality, and statistics on my galleries show little interest from the outside world.

So why so little traffic? A number of reasons spring to mind: the content is uninteresting, I’m not an engaging writer (or photographer), it’s all too self-serving, it’s all too idiosyncratic or weird, the presentation is poor. Or, also, I have no reach, I don’t publicise the site well, my search engine optimisation doesn’t work, I don’t network enough. Or the site performance is bad and the navigation is confusing. Or the Disqus comment platform is unpopular and puts people off. Probably a combination of all of these factors means that the site fails to get noticed in the vast ocean of similar voices clamouring for attention on the web.

So what next? Should I just call it a day? It would be a shame, after close to 20 years of uninterrupted web presence, then again you could say after 20 years of failure I should have got the message. I could run a survey to see what my audience thinks, but there’s a bit of a snag in that plan. And then again, I’m not even sure I could keep up with things if I started getting a lot of feedback.

It’s clear that one criticism could be that the site is too generalist, that is has a split personality. This is true enough, but it’s not accidental. It reflects my personality: I’m not just interested in photography - far from it - and not even in one particular field of photography. Personally I find that photographer “portfolio” sites get boring pretty quickly, however good the photographer is. I like to understand some of what makes the artist tick, not just photographers, but writers, musicians too. And I’m interested in science, and in much else. So the somewhat “warts and all” approach is me basically trying to create the type of website that I’d enjoy visiting. Seems I’m in a minority! One reason I axxed my Facebook page is that I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable about the wide cross-section of “friends” I had: I felt that by posting stuff on say, Antarctic science, I was letting down people who followed me as a landscape photographer.

The ultimate goal of is to promote my photography. That isn’t working, and the years are ticking by. My feeling at the moment is that I’ll give it another year, and seriously put some effort into improving traffic. I don’t hope for thousands of visitors - I’m happy if just one person gets some benefit from an article I post - but I don’t want to carry on shouting into the void. So in the coming weeks I need to settle on some realistic expectations and measurable objectives, and work out a plan for achieving them. If trends start to improve, fine. Otherwise, in one year it will be time to call it a day.

This is the point where, ironically, I ask for feedback. It would be great to get any opinions, suggestions thoughts, advice on all of this, but also just to let me know that you’re reading my writings and getting some sort of value out of it.  There are many blogs which I read frequently, but never comment on. Maybe it’s a similar story here.

Hey, maybe the problem is that all my posts are too long ?



prisoners of our own device

in General , Thursday, April 24, 2014

Over the past 5 years or so, I’ve blown hot and cold on Facebook. Or rather tepid and cold. I’ve never much liked it, I find it fundamentally invasive and cynical. Basically it’s another advertising agency, like Google, and it’s users are it’s product, which it sells, with no holds barred, to advertisers. But a few years ago I had to engage on a professional level, when building applications (an awful experience), and so I kept up my public profile.

Most of my posting has been generated from this website, so most of it is essentially photography-orientated. But the majority of my Facebook Friends are probably not very interested in this. At the same time, I’m finding a lot of content pushed at me is various kinds of soft and not so soft selling. Certainly, there are people I want to remain in contact with who I only really “see” on Facebook, and I’ll be sorry to diminish that, but really, we all have each other’s email addresses, and, Heavens forbid, phone numbers, and I’m really starting to feel that Facebook has a corrosive influence on me. I’m spending too much time checking in, and getting far too distracted.

Of course, it’s about as easy to check out of Facebook as it is from Hotel California. You can deactivate any time you want, but you can never leave. And that’s another very disturbing trait.
So I’ve decided, I’m opting out. Back to the relative basics of email, and maintaining my “brand”, if that’s what I want, on my own website, with my own rules, and no advertising. I’m sorry if anyone feels slighted by this, but I’m not hiding. Even if you don’t know my email address, Google certainly does. And of course thanks to Facebook’s evil data retention policy, I could always change my mind.

But for now, I’m trying to find the passage back, to the place I was before.


Commercial Break

money for nothing

in General Rants , Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Today I received an unsolicited email informing me that “Getty Images is interested in ANOTHER 12 of your photos! Wow! Awesome! High Five!”.


So what does this actually mean?  Some algorithm, trawling through Flickr has picked a set of photos which have, for whatever random reason, picked up a lot of “faves”.  In order to benefit from the privilege of Getty putting them up for licensing, and, in the extremely unlikely event of getting a bit, grabbing pretty much all the paltry sum that would accrue, I’d need to spend several evenings uploading high resolution versions, filling in forms and generally being a part-time Getty slave.

I guess if they throw enough mud, some of will stick. They can’t really lose, and they cruelly raise many people’s hopes of making money from their photography.  But I’ve been on the other end of the licensing game, and what the vast majority of buyers want is well-executed, but neutral, bland imagery with can serve their brand. That’s what stock photography is about.

And while opinions may differ on the merits of my photography (recently I was told that it is “overdone technically and cold and sterile”), it certainly isn’t designed to please anybody except me, and looking at it from the perspective of a stock imagery buyer, I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole. The selection they’re proposing is, frankly, weird. I certainly hope no human calling themselves a photo editor was involved.

Oh, and that bloody puffin. Why does EVERYBODY choose that one??? Even Getty’s sodding algorithm.

So, yeah, thanks Getty, but don’t call me, I’ll call you. Real soon.


Gear Exhaustion Syndrome

Lord won’t you buy me…

in General Rants , Monday, November 25, 2013

In my opinion, “Réponses Photo” is one of the most consistently good general interest photographic magazines on the market. While it covers gear and technique - how could it not, and remain in business - the core material is really dedicated to photography and photographers. But every 12 months, it bows to market pressures and publishes its annual “Spécial Matériel”, a comprehensive buyers guide to what is now the digital camera market only.  I guess they might follow up with a short film / analogue section in next month’s issue.

01Couv 261 303x400

I have to confess, in years past I was probably as guilty of fantasising over the hundred or so pages of technological temptation as anyone else other male photographer with a pulse. But nowadays I’m left pretty much cold by it all. What does get my pulse racing in this issue is the article by Sylvie Hughes about the Aeolian Islands volcanos. This is one of my favourite locations, and while I’m not exactly daydreaming about the latest insignificant iteration of Canikon’s DXYZ1234-X-PRO-Turbo, I am constantly thinking about places I want to visit and revisit, discover and get to know, and maybe even photograph.  Spend all the working week chained to a desk, and most of the weekend recovering from it, I don’t even find time to visit the fantastic locations I have close by, except for a snatched couple of hours every month or so.

I guess for some Gear Acquisition Syndrome is partly a mechanism to dull the frustration of not being able to get out there and photograph. But it doesn’t work for me anymore.  There are some cameras I still kind of fantasise about, but they’re either out of reach, like the Linhof 612 (and also more or less out of time, in that case), _way_ out of reach, like the Pentax 645D, or they don’t exist (a rugged DSLR with swivel scree that takes Tilt/Shift lenses - which, anyway, would be out of reach!).

But frankly I’d swap all of that for an extra 4, or even 2 weeks of vacation every year, so that I can use and enjoy the ridiculous amount of stuff I’ve already got. And for that matter, enjoy the world.


Flickrd Off

plus ça change, eh ?

in General Rants , Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ouch.  That’s what my eyes tell me when I see this - sorry, AL&S, nothing to do with your classic alpine scene, just how New Improved Flickr has delivered it to me.


I’ve always found Flickr to be, basically, the worst online photo sharing site except for all the others. Now, it has torpedoed itself on two fronts. The aesthetic changes are truly horrible, and the financial changes would make Abobe’s bean counters blush.

I’ve been fairly careful about how I prepare images for Flickr, with borders designed to set the photo off against the white background. This is now totally screwed, most of my photos look dreadful on the new layout. I’ve always complained about how badly Flickr presents panoramic formats - ironically, this has now improved significantly, taken alone, but the combination of all photos pushed together like sardines in a can, and the ridiculous formatting of portrait format seriously puts the balance well into the negative.

My biggest gripe against other sites such as 500px and WhyTake is that they decide to present my photos as standard square crops, in gallery views, which makes a total mockery of any pretence at being designed for photography. However, 500px does have a major plus point from my point of view, which is its emphasis on portfolios over single photos.  I generally edit my photos as part of some set or narrative, and this never really works on Flickr.

Another thing which the new layout loses is the nicely positioned title.  On Flickr, at least, the title has always been a equal partner to the image in my uploads. Now it just hides part of the image. As does the user avatar, overlaid on the photo.  I can’t believe that any even semi-serious photographer was involved in this redesign.

And it is as slow as s**t, if it loads at all.

Of course, there is always a negative reaction against unexpected change, so I’m not necessarily going to throw my toys out of the pram just yet.  But for now, I will no longer be uploading any new photos to Flickr, and I may well decide to delete my account, if it just makes my photography look even more crap than it actually is. And that’s quite an accomplishment.

For now, see you on 500px.


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