announcement, article

2019 Blog Round-Up and Top Posts

cowboys riding horses

It’s been another great year in the weird little corner of the internet known as Suburban Syntax.

We got a fresh look and face lift just in time for Halloween. We started talking a little more about film photography along with our primary subject of writing. And last, but certainly not least, we got a LOT of brand new readers and followers! That might mean YOU!

First off, thank you to everyone who drops by and reads these posts, discusses them in the comments, and shares them around. “Suburban Syntax” isn’t something I do for financial gain (does anyone make money blogging these days?) so it’s seeing regular faces drop by and discuss posts that really keeps me coming back and updating it on the semi-regular. You rock, and I hope you stick around.

Adding Photography

Aftering purchasing and inheriting some film cameras this year, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the interest my posts about film photography have garnered. It’s definitely a niche art form at this point, which is re-growing after bottoming out in the early 2K’s. I’m by no means a great photographer, but it’s an extremely fun hobby to dabble in, and I’m happy to have cross-over with film photo readers – many of whom I’ve begun following to learn more about the craft and cool vintage equipment.

Top Posts

It’s always fun to run the numbers and see which posts were everyone’s favorites.

For 2019, here’s what everyone was reading

Kodak Gold 200 Film Discontinued?

My film folks were in effect. Maybe it was the click-bait-y ? I threw in the title, or the promise of an adventure through local Walgreen’s pharmacies, but this post BLEW UP. It was the best performer by far, ever when it posted a little later in the year.

How to Draft Short Stories

Hot on Kodak’s heels was this short guide on how to draft short stories. This one even got re-posted around the interwebs in a couple places, which was flattering. It’s nice to think that other people might take my advice when it comes to penning short fiction.

Thoughts on Self-Publishing in 2019

In 3rd place was my speculation/opinions on the changing landscape of self-publishing. Authors prefer you call it “Indie” now, but I am stubborn. Scouring a few articles from industry-types that are much more qualified than I am, it seems like a few of my predictions were correct, and things are definitely trending in a certain way. I’m very curious to see what the new decade brings in terms of author’s being able to get traction for their work through the self-publishing route.

What’s Ahead in 2020?

To close this out, I’d like to give a quick teaser on a few of the things I plan to focus on for the blog in 2020.

  • GUEST POSTS – I love guest posts (and guest posting!) so I am hoping to get some other writers in here to voice their opinions on writing and/or photography
  • NEWS POSTS – I make it a point to create “evergreen” content, but it seems like people enjoy the occasional timely “news” post too. I plan to tackle some of those with my own editorial spin on them
  • PHOTOS & REVIEWS – I’m going to continue expanding the photo-related postings where I can, but I’ve been VERY lax about book reviews. I’d like to get back in the saddle of reviewing books, and perhaps cameras and film too.

Thanks again to everyone who is my audience. I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season, and I look forward to an entering an exciting new decade with you in the  coming weeks!

-BLD

photography

Reviewing Flickr One Year Later

flickr logo

When it comes to putting your photographs on the internet, the options are overwhelming.

Instagram, Facebook, Amazon Photos, Google Photos, Flickr, 500px, and many others are all competing for your your images.

When I got back into film photography, I wanted to find a place to present my best images, and also have the option to link them here.

Right around the same time, Flickr was purchased from Yahoo by a company called SmugMug, and they began a long and painful restoration of the service from years of neglect by the previous owner.

Since I don’t use Facebook and didn’t use Instagram (at the time), I thought Flickr would be a nice option given that it doesn’t compress uploads and I wanted all the grainy goodness from those negative scans.

That was in late 2018, and there have been a number of changes and updates to Flickr since then. Some for better, some worse.

Positives

  • High-Res Photos: Whether you’re free with a 1000 photo limit, or pay for their “Pro” accounts, Flickr let’s you upload full resolution photos, no compression, and within a few parameters view them in up to 6K. Being able to push photos up to the internet without the cropping and compression of most social media sites is really nice if you want to show off images in their full glory.
  • Prints-On-Demand: Flickr also has functionality to purchase prints within the site/app and that is a good feature if you’d like high-quality physical copies of your full res uploads.
  • Groups: Flickr has an extremely knowledgeable photo community that is very focused. With Instagram having transformed into a marketing/Influencer playground, it’s nice to see groups, Events, and a community solely dedicated to the craft of photography.
  • No more Yahoo login : Thankfully, you no longer need a Yahoo email to log into Flickr, and they updated their mobile app as well. It has a nice, clean and easy-to-navigate interface.

Negatives

  • Limits on Free Accounts: I questioned whether to list this. I will, only because so many people complained about the 1000 photo limit after SmugMug bought the site. Yahoo had let Flickr decompose into a photo-hosting dump over the years. It was basically a crappier Imgur. The new Flickr has a narrower focus, and it imposes limitations unless you pay for an account. That said, if you’re a photographer who wants unlimited online storage of uncompressed photos, it’s not a bad deal. Or if you’re a hobbyist like me, 1000 photos and a few occasional ads isn’t really horrible, especially considering they let you keep the rights to your images and don’t share any of your personal data like the larger social sites do.
  • Site is “slow”: I do not mean technically. What I mean is, other than exploring photos, there isn’t much to “do” on Flickr. It doesn’t have the same level of interactivity as Instagram. To my point above, its very useful if you’re a photographer, but it doesn’t have the wider appeal of the major social media sites. One of the problems they seem to have is after combating all the image spammers Yahoo ignored, they have a bunch of abandoned groups. I think Flickr would do well to clean house and improve their community capabilities so the existing active users and newcomers can find one another more easily.
  • Long-Term Viability: I received an email from Flickr’s CEO that the site is still losing money. This doesn’t bode well at all for its long-term viability, and I hope that it survives. I think there is a lot of potential, and from what I understand a number of photographers are starting to move away from Instagram in its current incarnation. Hopefully Flickr and other dedicated photo sites can catch that population.

Conclusion

If you’re interested in photography as a hobby/craft (or a business) and are looking for a site as a quick portfolio, I think Flickr has made some huge strides in recovery and is worth at least checking out. Yahoo really let it languish, and my hope is that it manages to financially stabilize and eventually recover as the team there makes continued improvements. If you have an old account and haven’t logged in for a while, give it a look.

re-blog, writing tips

Maintaining A Creative Output During The Holidays

The holidays are a great time to relax with family and friends, and catch up on all those new horror movies you missed back in October (maybe that last one is just me?). But they are busy, and it can be hard to get your writing done. Luckily this great post from K.M. Allan has some useful tips to keep your output going through the end of the year.

K.M. Allan

The holidays are a time for relaxing and taking a break, even Stephen King doesn’t write on Christmas day!

But writers like to make ourselves feel guilty if we aren’t penning down words, even when it’s time for a well-earned break, so here are some tips for maintaining a creative output during the holidays.

Make A To-Do List

Even Santa makes a list at Christmas. You don’t need to check yours twice, but at least have something to look at that’ll keep you on track.

There are a million things to think of and do this time of year, so list writing tasks and non-writing tasks, work out a plan for getting them all achieved, and then tick off each task. It’ll keep you motivated, organized, and get things done. That might sound like a lot for one little list to do, but hey, it’s Christmas, the season…

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photography

Point And Shoot Film Camera Hype

Contax T2 35mm film camera

I was discussing film cameras with a photography friend this weekend, and the conversation of Point n’ Shoot cameras came up. While I love Point & Shoot Cameras, I think there is some serious hype going on that should be avoided, or that film photographers (especially new ones) need to be aware of.

The Hype Bubble

I won’t go into the details of Kendall Jenner’s Contax T2 and her effect on film photography, but I’ll start this post with a nod to it.

I harbor no resentment. In fact, I think it’s great when more people get into film because demand keeps production going and anything that keeps film alive is OK in my book.

My problem isn’t even with the prices of PnS cameras skyrocketing either. Because the Contax T2 is in fact, an excellent camera. My issue is with the overall value of the tool versus what people are now willing to pay for it.

A Camera By Any Other Name

Contax’s and Olympus MJU’s are excellent cameras. No doubt.

However, I came across a Youtube “influencer” yesterday who was using a Contax G-series in a video for FILM BEGINNERS. That is a problem in my mind.

I think beginners shouldn’t be given the impression that they need a $900 camera from the early 1990’s, or that those are the only option. It seems more and more people are grabbing them as status symbols. And that’s fine, if that is all you are looking for.

For someone who is just starting out with 35mm film and wants the simplicity of a Point and Shoot (though I’d argue an SLR like a Pentax or Minolta will teach you more) there are so many inexpensive alternatives that will produce nearly-as-good photos as something like a Contax. They might not look as cool, but they will work.

Mechanical Animals

I still firmly believe mechanical is the way to go with old cameras. They are sturdy and can be repaired in many cases.

Point and Shoot Cameras are often electronic, and if something malfunctions on them, you’ll have a hell of a time trying to find parts and a repair/service shop. This makes investing in an high-priced PnS camera a risky proposition.

The other thing to consider is that Point and Shoots are by their nature limited. Their convenience comes with trade offs. You can stuff them in your pocket, but they’ll never give you the control and flexibility of an SLR or even a rangefinder. Often that’s fine, but I think there is a kind of intangible “value cap” on what they are capable of. I personally go digital when it comes to PnS. I stick with SLR and Rangefinder for film.

If you want to get into film photography, $1000 could buy you multiple SLR’s, lenses, a rangefinder, and a couple of decent point and shoots. Plus lots of film!

It is What It is

This post may sound a bit rant-ish, and perhaps it is, but I’m not complaining for the sake of it. I feel the same way about beginners being exposed to Leica’s on the internet as teh defacto rangefinder.

To round things out, Here’s a quick list of questions to mull over before you purchase ANY camera:

  • What functions do I need it to perform?
  • Can it be easily repaired?
  • Is it within my budget?
  • Are there comparable cameras that provide the same quality at a lower cost?
  • Do a lot of people on Youtube and Instagram hype this camera up?

Those questions along with twenty minutes of research should set up anyone looking for a 35mm Point and Shoot Camera for success. Honestly, there are probably quite a few well-loved ones waiting at your local thrift store for $15 right now.

 

writing, writing tips

Writing Tip: How to Take Writing Advice

feedback smiley scale

Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman

 

Oh Neil, you’re so correct. The above advice “works for me” and I take it.

So should you, dear blog reader.

Everyone is a Writer (even when they aren’t)

I’ve written numerous times about the benefits of writer’s groups. I firmly believe you should find one local to you and join it if possible.

With that out of the way, there are still some important guidelines when it comes to accepting advice from either a critique group, beta reader, or even (I’m going there) an EDITOR.

One of the things that makes writing difficult is showing it to others. Once the cat is out of the bag, you’re going to get all kinds of feedback. Some of it will improve your story, and some of it needs to be ignored.

Advice to Take

  • Rule of 3: I adhere to the “Rule of 3” – If three people independently tell me something isn’t working for them or they didn’t like part of a story, then I’ll look at it and try to improve or fix it. It is obvious that something is amiss for that many people to notice. Better 3 than 3000.
  • When Something is “Off” – Like my man Neil G. said up top. When readers have an inexplicable feeling that something doesn’t work, then you need to review that part of your story. Good writing evokes emotion, and if readers are getting all the wrong feels, then that is a red flag.
  • (Most) Advice from Your Editor – HAH! LOOK I BACK TRACKED! But seriously, if you are working with a professional editor, put your ego aside and respect their objective skill set. If they are questioning something that is absolutely, 100% non-negotiable to your story, then you should at least have a detailed discussion with them to try and figure out whether other edits can make that thing you’re holding onto work better in the greater context. I mean, sometimes even editors can be wrong…sometimes.
  • “Tough Love” from your Inner Circle – Most authors develop relationships over time with a few people they REALLY trust. Writer’s groups, editors, beta readers, etc. If one of your most trusted people who has a solid, previous track record of quality feedback says something like “this just isn’t up to your normal standard” or something similar, then you should listen. It might hurt, but it’s very likely they have your best interest in mind.

Advice to Ignore

  • “Here’s What you SHOULD WRITE” – It’s not their story. Don’t change your words into the ones they wrote for you. NEXT!
  • “That’s Just My Opinion” – If 10 people love it, and 1 person says it is total trash, you’re probably safe to ignore it. Especially if there is no underlying reason and they just “didn’t like it”.
  • Twitter – Don’t take generalized writing advice from social media. (But DO take expert long-form writing advice from random authors who you stumble across on blog sites like WordPress!)
  • Angry People – This is a very situational one, but I’ve had it happen. If someone blasts you, and just tears your work apart, sometimes it’s them and not you. If you have a personal connection and know they are going through a difficult time or are just not in the correct head space to read critically, then sometimes you should either ignore the advice or ask them to read it again at a later date if you’re comfortable doing so.

In Conclusion

I hope this post can help you navigate the difficult situations that can arise when you’re taking feedback on your work. I have a feeling it might, but I’m not going to tell you which tips to specifically use.