Terra Galleria Photography

Reader Survey Results and Comments

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Last month, I invited readers to provide input to influence the direction of this blog for the next ten years. I am thankful to the 133 of you who provided responses. I am sharing those results since you may be interested in your fellow readers’ reactions. For instance, seeing that a large percentage share the same priorities or challenges as you may be comforting. I have mostly suspended my educational activities to concentrate on photography projects, but I hope that the information could also be useful to other photographers who make education part of their income stream. Taking stock of the results, I comment on how the blog will be going forward, and welcome additonal feedback.


Although initially, I was writing for a general audience, I suspected that many readers had a serious interest in the practice of photography, and for the past couple of years, I had been writing with that in mind. I started to try to distinguish those articles by starting their title with “Photographing…” but then dropped the word because it was becoming repetitive. For example, although the titles of the articles do not necessarily reflect that focus, when reporting on my visits to Cascade Siskiyou National Monument (part 1, part 2), I have commented quite a bit on the process of photographing there. However, I was still surprised by the percentage of photographers in the audience. At least I know that my comments on photography won’t bore you!


Here are the topics listed by order of popularity, with the aggregated percentages for 1-3 stars, 4-5 stars:

  • composition 8,89
  • field techniques, 14,84
  • photo locations 18,80
  • travel locations 20,79
  • travel stories 22,75
  • portfolios 28,71
  • processing 30,69
  • resources 34,62
  • books 53,46
  • gear 64,33
  • business 75,22
I am pleased to see that readers have priorities right. I think that composition is the most critical skill in photography, one that can make or break an image. However, it is not easy for me to write about it because I work my compositions mostly intuitively. I’ve tried to break down the thought process in a few “steps behind the image” posts this year, which is a format I have not often seen elsewhere that seems more instructive than just discussing an image after the fact. What do you think of the latest entry? Any other suggested formats?

At the other end, the poor interest in business topics also sounds right. Photography is one of the most rewarding ways to spend time, but it is one of the most difficult ways to make a living, so unless you absolutely have to, keeping it an amateur activity would seem the way to go – one day I would have to write about my struggles as a full-time photographer.

In the big scheme of things, gear is relatively unimportant, but it is a fun topic, relatively easy to write about, especially since as a former scientist, I have a good understanding of technical matters. There are a number of websites that are dedicated to nothing but gear, and I still remember an early influencer telling me that if I wanted to become more popular, I needed to write more about gear. I, therefore, did not expect to see so little interest in it. Is it the case that precisely there is so much of that material out there that you prefer me to write about my more unique interests?

However, speaking of unique interests, I thought that my combination of interests in book collecting, book making, and nature photography leads to a unique perspective, so I was disappointed by the unpopularity of my book reviews and surveys, and left wondering about its reasons.


Locations are at the core of this blog, and they are what make me excited about heading out. Based on the previous section, they also rank high on reader interest. More than three-quarters of the articles mentioned as your favorites are specifically about locations. Within the quarter not linked to a location, articles mentioned several times are Processing Tip: Highlights and Shadows in High Contrast Scenes (however, readers correctly sense that I am light in processing, ranking that topic below location skills) and the series on book production (although books and business are both at the bottom of the interest list, go figure). Here are the locations listed by order of popularity, with the aggregated percentages for 1-3 stars, 4-5 stars:

  • other public lands 14,84
  • national parks (remote) 19, 77
  • national parks (easy access) 24, 73
  • international 52,46
  • urban 70,27

Having been at it for a quarter-century, I am of course known for my work in the national parks, and those account for half of the favorite articles. Although the national parks are full of iconic locations, I have tried to point out to lesser-known places within them for a while. One of the comments asked to “highlight more accessible locations”, but although there is some obvious intersection, my emphasis is on lesser-known locations, rather than difficult to access locations. Some of the lesser-known location shooting spots are roadside. Several of you still remember my 2012 Yosemite Unseen series as a favorite, while the fireflies series from last year was also mentioned several times. Interestingly, the count above reveals slightly more interest in remote national park locations than for easily accessible ones.

Having wrapped up Treasured Lands for the NPS Centennial (well, kind of, I just released a second edition that includes materials from the past three years travels), my intent is now to shift my focus on other areas. For family and environmental reasons, I have decided to limit my international travels in the next few years. I do enjoy visiting and photographing urban areas very much, but more so abroad, and I do not have specific long term projects in them. So this means that my focus will on public lands other than national parks. There will be a publication hopefully in the year 2020. When I said that to my wife, her first reaction is that there would not be enough interest. This survey indicates a great match between my interest and yours, but whether this will translate to a more extended audience isn’t clear. Although I have started to post about the national monuments only two years ago, in 2017, prompted by Zinke’s “review”, they already account for one quarter of the favorite articles, with the article about the obscure Basin and Range National Monument was mentioned several times as a favorite. Most of those national monuments make even the remote sections of national parks seem popular by comparison, so it would appear that the more remote, the greater the reader interest?


The survey asked for an open answer to “your biggest challenge with photography”. I sifted through all the answers and categorized them as follows:
  • 26% Time
  • 21% Planning and logistics
  • 13% Motivation
  • 11% Processing
  • 10% Equipment and technical issues in the field
  • 10% Composition
  • 6% Subjective/Esthetic
I will address some of those in future postings. For now, all I will say is that despite (or because?) being a full-time photographer, time is a challenge for me as well. And so are those that I had lumped into the last category:
  • Capturing what I feel
  • Creating emotion in outdoor subjects
  • Taking pictures that stand out from the crowd
  • Exceeding my own expectations independent of having satisfied those of others
  • Trying not to sidetrack myself by worrying that the photography I want to do doesn’t sync up with social media fads and trends

About the blog

The survey asked for an open answer to “How can I make the blog more useful for you?”. The vast majority of answers amounted to “keep doing what you are doing”, with some suggesting topics to focus on, and a few technical ideas. Since topics were already discussed in this post, I will not elaborate further, and I will definitively see how I can implement the technical improvements, but otherwise it looks like I am on track. The last question asked was about the length of the posts.

In the blogging world, 500-word posts are not that short, but you are apparently looking for more in-depth articles. I am happy to oblige, but this might force me to slightly reduce the posting frequency from the current weekly. Once I start writing, it is not easy to stop. I will do so now since WordPress indicates that I’ve passed 1,300 words 🙂 Thanks again for participating in the survey.

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