Digital Photography Review, the Universe's biggest camera review site and online photographer community, just announced that they are closing shop on the 10th of April. Sad News. (DP Review).

 My discovery of DP Review happened back around the turn of the century when there were far, far fewer equipment review sites and the ones that were out there were variable in quality. I think it was a guy named Phil Askey that started the whole thing back in 1999. But his reviews were just great and he really was running a one man show, more or less. 

The site was based in London and the writing was always great back then. And the understanding of photography (as opposed to mumbly faux physics of recent times) was deep and both technically and aesthetically well grounded. Professionals turning from film to digital depended on the site to parse out the best new digital camera gear and to learn best practices. It was the anchor for camera knowledge in the early years of digital adaptation.

Amazon bought the site in 2007, moved DPR's HQ to Seattle and watched it grow during the lead up to the peak year of digital embrace (and sales) back in 2010 or, depending on how you measure, 2011. After that sales of interchangeable lens cameras and their lenses dropped in quantity year by year. But as the reviews declined a bit in quality and scope (compared to Phil's stuff) the enthusiasm for the site's ability to build community (forums) and become a home for various rants and hot user competitions/debates between brands of cameras grew unchecked. As did eyeballs on the content. 

Even in current times I'll go and read a camera review of some model that's interesting to me. And being both the biggest photo gear oriented site on the web and the one connected at the hip to the world's biggest online retailer (Amazon: which, of course, sold cameras, lenses, accessories, etc.) the editorial staff of DPR got the first crack at the latest test gear, the latest beta gear and the latest gear, gear. So, readers got a heads up about new cameras as soon as humanly possible. Barring NDAs. What a privileged position to be in.

While I was put off by the endless bad information in the fora, and the rage that ensued and continued almost endlessly, I did find the industry press releases they published and the camera tests the new crew tried to put out still readable and sometimes informative. They lost me for a while with all the sturm und drang over "equivalence" but after a guy named Rishi left all that died down and became floor fluff. Background noise. Rant fuel.

While I will miss the site I think the effect on the world of photography will be much more profound. Think of this: Millions and millions of viewers every month came to the site to learn about new cameras, new lenses and new accessories. Most of these products were introduced via editorials which meant that the manufacturers were getting direct access to the world's biggest market for upscale cameras at no cost to them. Well, other than sending along some cheap swag and some review cameras. Even the camera reviews (unpaid by camera makers) were amazing free marketing for the camera industry in general.  By closing the site Amazon will be removing from Nikon, Sony, Canon and even Leica millions and millions of direct connections to potential (and proven) buyers of their goods. I predict that without DPRs crew priming the pumps and waving the flags of "new innovations" we'll see a noticeable-to-huge decline in camera and lens sales world wide. And none of the camera makers will want to step up their advertising placement budgets by millions and millions of dollars to replace the lost (free and global) reach. They've been attached to the free nipple of promotion for so long they may not even know how to effectively generate demand through other media. 

The ripple effects will be endless. Without DP Reviews reviews of new top-of-the-line cameras and the implied approval provided by those reviews people who still hear about the new gear might be more hesitant to buy. It's different buying an item that's largely unvetted versus buying a product that's been vouched for by a long running and mostly respected review site. No one wants to be bit from being and early adopter.

As camera makers' reach dangerously erodes so too will sales at local and regional merchants who also depend on DPR to trumpet new product arrivals. Many of these smaller stores exist precariously as it is. This may be the event that pushes many of them into insolvency...

And if my blog were a source of income I'd be leaping into action to come up with something to replace affiliate profit sharing because a decline in (free) world wide advertising and product awareness will definitely bring down sales and by extension affiliate cash, which represents a big part of site revenues. 

You may say that this will be temporary, just a bump in the road. And if sales had been hopping along well for the industry for the past ten years I might optimistically agree but you have to understand that the overall market for cameras (not phones...) has been in a yearly free fall since about 2013. Ten years of annually declining sales already. 

What was (is?) your experience with DPR? What do you think their closing will cause? Have I missed some mitigating facet that might actually benefit the industry? 

The funny thing is that this might just bolster the commercial market for actual photography. I'll have to think on that a while before I write more. 

Just thought I'd let you guys know.

First black and white film scan with the new copy stand.

 I set up a little semi-permanent copy stand/film copier set up in one corner of the office. I'm starting to "scan" medium format, black and white film from the past.This image is my first try. It's a photo I took with a 6x6 cm camera onto Tri-X film many, many years ago. The subject is "Lou" and the location is the gardens at Laguna Gloria Museum. 

The whole set up is quite simple. I bought a small but well made copy stand, attached a Sigma fp camera fitted out with a Sigma 70mm f2.8 macro lens (Art Series). The lens was set at f5.6 and I let the camera select the shutter speed via A priority. Then I used the exposure compensation control to get the tones I wanted. Set the camera to shoot DNG files and to have a 2 second self-timer. 

When I brought the file into Photoshop I merely clicked on "invert" in the adjustments menu and I was presented with a flat but pretty well detailed image file. I opened levels and used the black eyedropper tool to sample the space between frames (which should print black if you were doing this in a conventional dark room) and then adjusted the highlight and mid-tones to taste. 

Because it's film I did have to spot out a few dust spots with the little "band-aide" icon. I sharpened the parts of the frame that I thought needed it, letting the photo spirits guide me. And then, with the click of a button, the photograph appeared on my desktop. Time elapsed? About five minutes. I think it's not bad for a first try. Might need to find a sharper negative though. I think I just missed getting the focus on her face...

Sobering epiphany strikes Kirk while undertaking new duties.

In most partnerships there is a division of labor that should play to each person's strengths. I tend to be a "big picture" guy. I like the sweep of big ideas and get bogged down by details and responsibilities for things that aren't fun. Fortunately I married someone who is both patient and disciplined, and relentless about working with details. She has, for the last several decades, put together all of the numerical evidence required for our CPA to prepare and submit our federal income taxes. And she's done a stellar job.

I try as well as I can to keep invoices logical and tidy and deposit them into a folder in drawer #2 with as much regularity as I can muster. I save invoices when boxes full of juicy lenses arrive in the studio. The lenses go in one drawer and the invoices go into a specific filing cabinet drawer and into a folder. I try not to forget writing down who and for what I've written checks. I dutifully print out my monthly credit card statements and make notations where appropriate. But there are gaps. And there's so much paper. And everyone's attempts to make me use Quickbooks Pro have failed miserably because I'd rather be outside with a camera than inside with a stack of paper, entering column after column of what seems to me to be nothing more than rationalizations about how I've spent money. 

But our usual arrangement did not work out this year. B has had to spend the last month+ out of town, taking care of her mom who had a fall and cracked a bone. Since she has her priorities straight all the work on the taxes was relegated either to me or to limbo and if I didn't step up I would be the one paying interest and penalties as a result.

So, about a week and half ago I started rounding up all the needed information. Our accountant sent me a template based on what B delivered to him last year. He suggested that I follow that guidance when looking through all of 2022's records. I concurred and got busy. I had to download statements from four different banks, from brokerage firms, from credit card companies and others. I had to assemble the invoices and expenditures from my business. Lost invoices had to be replicated and inserted. Mileage logs rescued from the abyss of the center console of my studio car. And, I had to do the same for B's half of the family "fortune." (very loose usage....)

What I discovered in this solitary and sordid ordeal was sobering. I spent a fortune on coffee last year. I guess I was so thrilled to be out and about after all the lockdowns that I made meeting up for coffee the newest symbol of freedom. I also spent way too much on wine. Not too much wine, just too good wine. I guess I momentarily felt rich but I seem to have adopted the mantra that if I was going to be a sensible (meaning not to excess in terms of quantity) wine drinker and vaguely temperate I might as well reach for the $30 and $40 dollar bottles instead of the grocery store staples from the mega-wine industry. And I found that this can get expensive quickly.

But the real culprit in sucking my checking account drier than the Colorado River in 2022 seems to have been my unhesitant embrace of buying any and all of the lenses and photo accessories imaginable. From reflectors to flashes to LED lights to hard drives, and lens, lens, lens, they all seemed fair game. I'm sure this is the way I have been living in the photography business for some time but this is the first time I've been viscerally presented with my profligate spending because it's the first time in a long time I had to sit down and painfully sift through the numbers by myself. Tallying one's own excesses is a twinge-y sort of pain. 

I was also informed by the CPA about a whole bushel basket of things I would not be allowed to deduct from the tax bill, such as my masters swim monthly dues or all those cool shoes I bought from REI along with the cool pants and the even cooler shirts. Solo runs to the bakery for coffee and pastries were also off the list. As was our weekly pizza from Baldinucci. And I found out that there are limits to what you can deduct for charitable giving so, of course I'll never donate to another charity again... (kidding, kidding). 

It was quite a blow to find that I can't "write off" the time I spend writing this blog. Or the time I spend walking around downtown taking photographs! Which, now that I know it's all fruitless, I'll never do again. 

There are things I can deduct, such as that luscious Leica Q2 that accidentally fell into my shopping cart toward the end of 2022 but now I find that I have to pay for them first. Well, I guess that wasn't an earth shattering revelation....

I sent along all those droll 1099s and W-somethings along with the results of all my  categorizations and lists to the CPA last night. They'll tabulate the results of my accounting grunt work and combine that with the constraints of the tax laws to come to some sort of end product. And then everyone will send me a bill. I'll have to once again pony up for the cost of running the federal government but also pay the bill from the CPA for keeping me out of jail and maintaining my position as a productive member of society. 

Many, many years ago, when I wrote my first book, I labored under the misguided delusion that a publisher's deadline was a real thing. I'd always wanted to write a book and have it published so I was determined to play by the publisher's rules and get them the manuscript and the 158 photographs right on time. Even if it meant working en charrette. On the very last day before the proposed deadline I was manically working to get everything ready for the evening run to the Federal Express office to get the package shipped. 

I felt pangs of panic and a general sense of life threatening "something". I started to tingle all over. My peripheral vision started to close in. I was hyperventilating. There were bright "floaters" in my vision. I was certain I was experiencing the symptoms that indicated that I was having a stroke. 

In a panic I called into the house to B and begged her to drive me to the hospital about a mile away. My nervous trembles growing worse as we navigated through late afternoon traffic. 

When I got there I breathlessly told the attending physician, and a bored bevy of nurses and other staff, about my symptoms. They did a few tests before deciding whether or not they would admit me. I seem to have passed the tests and they soon diagnosed acute panic attack/anxiety. It was suggested that I take a Xanax and calm the fuck down. Fifteen minutes later my imminent stroke symptoms completely resolved and a sense of relief washed over me. I also dodged a $1500 to $2000 emergency room charge which helped my attitude quite a bit.

B helped me get the final package together and to the Fedex. I'd made it. Right under the "very critical" deadline. 

It was radio silence from the publisher for several weeks and I finally got up the courage to call and ask them what they thought. To assuage or confirm my fear that the whole project was crap, and worse, unpublishable crap. The publishers were cavalier. They said, "Yes. It's here in the pile. We'll get to it soon." 

I asked them why they told me to have everything in by the deadline if they had no intention of getting to it with dispatch. They countered that of the 100 or so people each year who accept a contract from them to write a book, and who accept advance money to do so, only about 10 are actually able to follow through. The rest give up and return the advance. So, one out of ten people who have the opportunity to write a book actually follow through. Amazing because this is a small percentage of people who have shown a proclivity for writing, some sort of writing track record, and desire to do a book project. 

I mentioned this to my CPA and he quickly said that the IRS is not like my publisher. They are serious about their deadlines and there are consequences for missing them. Consequences that would cost me time and money. 

So yesterday, as I was racing through endless columns of numbers and trying to track everything down for the taxes I started to have the same symptoms I'd evinced back in 2007 at the near completion of book #1. This time I figured out exactly what the issue was, took a small dose of an anti-anxiety potion and laid down on the couch for a few minutes. The panic passed. I finished in more than enough time and walked away with a renewed appreciation for the power of that division of labor and the comfort of having someone else to do the heavy lifting. 

Now to wait sullenly for the tally and the emptying of my checking account by the 15th of April. Like the god Janus, success has two faces. One makes you feel like you can do almost anything while the other reminds you that it all comes at a cost. 

After seeing the huge amount of money I appear to waste over the course of a year I've resolved to be a bit more parsimonious. Maybe make more coffee at home. Maybe drink cheaper wine or none at all. And maybe to take a pass on that next miracle camera from Leica. Either all that or I need to find a quick way to double my income. Yikes.