It's hard to believe that I started Rambling Polymath more than a year ago.
But if I’m being honest, the days and weeks have kind of blurred together these last few months. I still wake up thinking it’s late spring despite what the calendar or the cool nights of fall have to say about it. Soon, it will be winter. I wonder if only then my brain will move on to summer.
Setting aside the pandemic, a cantankerous election and a year seemingly bent on beating the human race down, amazingly, I’m still rambling away about my plurality of interests and hobbies.
And looking back, I've managed to achieve quite a bit in the 12 months since I started blogging again, despite these distractions.
A rambling what?
As some of you reading this may recall, I started this blog as a place to share my thoughts, however strange or tangental. I didn’t have a clear topic or goal in mind when I started this blog. Instead, I figured I’d start writing and see where I ended up.
I called the project Rambling Polymath, somewhat ironically, because that’s what a career in journalism has left me: a talker who knows way too much about nothing important.
I’ve met countless people, experts in their respective fields, gleaning a little from each to weave their knowledge in hundreds if not thousands of stories.
I think it’s fair to say this experience has left me something of a polymath — someone with knowledge of a vast many subjects. Only that knowledge rarely runs very deep. I liken it to being the world’s worst Swiss army knife. My knowledge is vast, but my memory is rusty. Yet, I keep talking, or in the case of this blog, writing.
So with that little bit of history out of the way, here are a few notable achievements.
I switched back to Canon
With Canon's recent camera launches, it seems like everyone is clamoring for the EOS R5 and R6. But just a few months ago, there was a massive exodus of Canon shooters switching to Sony, and for good reason.
For the money, Sony's A7 line still offers a tremendous value compared to Canon's aging 5D Mark IV and pricy R-series cameras. And since I don't really shoot video, in April last year, I picked up a Sony A7 II as a birthday gift to myself.
This was my first Sony. I'd shot almost exclusively with Canon, Olympus and on occasion Nikon cameras up until this point, so this was a bit of a leap of faith.
But for as much as I wanted to, I never really fell in love with the A7 II, and I always felt like I had to work to get pleasing images out of it.
The dynamic range was phenomenal, but the colors always felt flat and grey. So after I accidentally broke the camera while trying to clear some debris from the rear control dial, I decided to pick up a Canon EOS R while it was on holiday super sale.
While far from perfect, the EOS R offered me everything I needed from a stills camera: great autofocus, amazing lenses, good low-light performance and unbeatable colors.
I picked up film again
Sticking to the photography theme, in January, I started shooting film again.
I've always had an appreciation for film. Even as digital caught up and eventually surpassed film, I continued to shoot it through high school and college.
I recall, faced by the high cost of film and higher cost of development, reading about caffenol, a home brew developer made from vitamin C powder and instant coffee. The concoction was as cheap and effective as it was pungent.
I shot and developed countless rolls of Fomapan 400 using this method.
Later, these skills would win me a job in the University darkroom, where I taught others to shoot, develop and print.
After graduating in 2015, I had little money or means to continue my beloved hobby, and so I put it on hold until earlier this year, when I imported a Canon EOS-1 from Japan.
I've since reviewed the EOS-1 and started a series of film reviews exploring the qualities of each emulsion.
I started writing about blogging and vice versa
Writing and blogging have always been two areas I've wanted to write more about but never felt I was qualified.
But late this summer, I decided to start a series on blogging. The idea was to provide a framework for other journalists interested in starting a blog. Since most of my friends and many of my readers share this profession, I thought this was a good place to start.
The three-part series explored why journalists should be blogging, where you should be blogging, and how to host a blog in the cloud on the cheap.
Alongside these posts, I've been sharing tips, tricks and insights I've gleaned over the course of my career as a journalist and blogger. Things like why autocorrect is not your friend or the keyboard shortcuts that have changed my life.
I dumped WordPress for Ghost
After nearly a decade of blogging, this summer, I waved goodbye to Wordpress and said hello to a new platform called Ghost.
While most of these changes happened under the hood, you probably noticed the revamped site design and the launch of a Patreon-esque subscription model.
While I’m sure most bloggers are familiar with WordPress, Ghost is a relatively new content management system that launched in 2013. More importantly for me, Ghost was built from the ground up with bloggers and content creators in mind.
And because Ghost is built on the latest web standards, it’s particularly zippy compared to Wordpress.
The decision to ditch Google Analytics and Hyvor Talk were motivated by a desire to eliminate unnecessary subscriptions and better protect my reader’s privacy from the likes of Google or Facebook, which would very much like to track your movements across the web.
Thanks to these changes, Rambling Polymath has never been more secure or private.
My plans for year two
Looking back at the last year of posts, two topics have dominated the conversation: and . This, in all honesty, shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’ve been writing my entire life. From the time I was old enough to peck away on my mother’s typewriter, I’ve been crafting stories.
One of my fondest memories is of sitting on my mother’s lap as I dictated a tale of great adventure for my classmates to read. I must have been 7 or 8 years old at the time my brother and I conceived of our first periodical, which we proudly declared The Chronicle.
I’m sure I’d cringe at the lack of exposition and the endless supply of plot holes only the mind of a third-grader could unravel, but the same could probably be said of my early writing as a community journalist in rural Wisconsin.
Writing, they say, is a process, and I couldn’t agree more.
Just as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve also had a camera in my hands. The two, I’ve learned, make for a killer combo.
Moving forward, I’ll be focusing my efforts on this intersection. On top of my regular and tips, I’ll be taking a deeper look at how photography and writing play a role in storytelling, blogging and photojournalism today.
And of course, my occasional musings on life and the state of the world aren't going away either.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below:
- Why did you start writing? / How did you get into photography?
- What do you like writing about most?
- Do you prefer to carve out a niche or keep your options open?
- What would you like to see more of in Rambling Polymath’s second year?
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