Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Times change (Updated)

A little over 11 years has passed since the Ohio River Blog hit the internet. A lot of things have changed since then, but this blog hasn’t. Maybe the time for change has come.
In 2009, there weren’t nearly many people devoted to posting photos of towboats and such on the river. There were several, but not nearly as many as there are now. Cameras have improved. So have cell phones. Today a deckhand with a new iPhone can take a photo that would have been deemed magazine quality in the film era. Seriously. I have a copy of Ohio Magazine from the 1980s or 1990s. It had beautiful photos of the river taken by a pro, but today a deckhand with a smartphone or a cook with a camera off the shelf from Best Buy could duplicate those images with just a little training. Because of that, the number of boat photos on the internet has exploded as people upload their images to Facebook.

Boats weren't my only interest, though. I like bridges and weather and wildlife and all the other things you see along the Ohio. Fishing has never interested me, but I enjoy getting photos of people fishing. You'll have to figure that one out; I can't.
Look at the number of Facebook pages devoted to river topics -- towboats especially. It has increased, too. If RiverWorks Discovery existed a dozen years ago, I didn’t know about it. Now it’s a great place to go for river-related photos and information.

So where does this leave old coots like me? I did some thinking on the matter a few days ago as I sat on a bench at the top of the riverbank in Greenup, Ky., as I waited for the M/V Marathon to come up the river and get in position for a photo. Ten years ago, a professional photographer of my acquaintance did a lot of commenting on Facebook about what he and other pros called “Wal-Mart photographers.” These are the people who go to Best Buy, get an inexpensive digital SLR and declare themselves photographers ready for business. They might not know the difference between a JPEG and a RAW file. They might not know how to shoot on manual. They might not know the difference between Micro Four Thirds and CMOS. They might not care about any of these things. But they can call themselves photographers and take business from people who know how to work a camera and how to make good prints beyond having 4-by-6’s printed at their nearest Walmart.

As for me, as time passed I grew tired of people downloading my photos and not giving me credit. Taking a picture that’s been posted here or elsewhere and not giving the photographer credit is theft of intellectual property. I’ve heard of a few people who download photos from various sources and post them on Facebook without giving credit. That’s the same as passing them off as your own work.
Some of us shoot and post. Some of us prepare before shooting. There’s a lot of work that goes into making a good photo before you press the shutter button, and sometimes there’s a lot of work that comes after. I’ve been shooting photos of the river since the 1960s when all I had was a Kodak Instamatic and very little money for developing. I like to think my skill level has increased since then.

And we won’t mention how much a good camera costs nowadays, or a good lens. I want to buy a particular lens, but when I compare its cost against something I need to do around the house, the lens has to wait.

People who share without giving credit probably see a pretty picture they want to post on their own site. People like me see the time and money that has been invested into getting that one special image, and it hurts to see it lifted and no credit given for what we put into it.

In the past year or so, I’ve seen my former contributions to river photography become less and less necessary as others have gotten the bug to snap pictures of towboats and post them on Facebook and Instagram. My hard drive is full of good stuff that I’ve shot for my own enjoyment primarily. I need to publish them someday while I’m still able. I know I've said that a lot but sorting through those photos is a time-consuming task for someone who has a full-time job and who likes to spend time with his family as he can.

But I’m working on some opportunities to get  even better shots before the end of this year. No matter how many photos I have that I'm proud of, there's always one more out there waiting for me.

While all this was going on the past ten years with still photography, video took off big time. I moved into my house when the best internet access you could get was dial-up. We got something close to broadband around the time this blog started, and it’s still pretty weak compared to what some people get. A couple of months ago I loaded a 45-second video to Facebook, and the process took more than an hour. My son the school bus enthusiast doesn’t upload anything to his YouTube channel (Project 681) until he can use the wifi on the Marshall University campus. I’ve thought about adding video to this blog or creating a YouTube channel, but my service here is woefully inadequate for that stuff.

And people don’t read anymore. 

So what does that mean for this blog? Probably fewer entries and more focused entries. I’m not about to be the guy I was ten years ago when I drove to the river to get photos of a boat I hadn’t seen before. There are a few boats I will go out of my way to shoot, but I’m more interested in getting a photo I haven’t gotten before than just shooting for the sake of shooting.

A new challenge is something I desperately need. I don't want to post just pictures of boats or bridges. There are photos to be made that speak of something to me, and they might speak of something to you, too. Don't expect me to duplicate what other people do on RiverWorks Discovery or on Facebook sites. That's not me. When I started my career in journalism, I figured if I chased the same stories everyone else did — if I followed the pack — nothing would stand out. So I made my own path. There have been a few detours, but it has served me well the past few decades.

I might make a greater effort to sell some of my best photos. Or find a place to exhibit a few just for the fun of it. As all that is going on, several of the links on this site are outdated. The list will be shortened soon if not eliminated entirely.

Times change. This blog and this blogger need to accept that fact. So what should he do? That's the question that remains to be answered.

UPDATE: Hmm. I wish I had edited this more thoroughly, but the sentiment remains. We have a lot of people out there taking pictures of the Ohio River. The challenge for people like me is making our work stand out. So stay tuned as I figure that out.

And thanks for reading, whether this is your first visit to this site or if you're a long-timer. I appreciate you. Really.

And keep shooting and making me up my game. I appreciate that, too.