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In Which a Commenter Gets His Soapbox

Today, a peek inside the sausage factory that is this blog.

Every blogger has to deal with this question at some point: What do you do with commenters who attempt to use your site as a large platform on which to go after a third party?

To my view, it is the equivalent of a guest who has had too much to drink standing up in your living room and uncorking loudly on another guest within full earshot of everyone else. And clearly, it reflects more on the commenter than the target of his or her rant.

Normally, this sort of remark falls well outside of the comment guidelines, which have evolved to the point where they effectively screen out this kind of stuff.

And really, I do try to err on the side of publication. I do not want to censor peoples' views. But neither do I want to cede the comments section to the lowest common denominator. And that's the lens through which I normally view comment moderation.

But today, a comment of such ironic merit that I am elevating it to the status of a post. Fully annotated, of course.

The Background

On Monday I published this post featuring the Dave Black videos of using multiple, high-speed flash to shoot surfing and motocross. Alas, I tried to head off the inevitable, myopic comments that were sure to follow with a nod in the post itself. Even so, I did publish most of them -- if they were civil and restrained.

On 8:58am the following day, reader Dale Harper submitted the following comment which will henceforth live in my mind as the gold standard of its genre. Not seeing his comment immediately published (um, I moderate comments) he again submitted it one minute later.

And Now: The Comment, Verbatim

This is dumb, you don't need all that to do that shoot...motion anyway, this crap pissed2 me off. Waste of money. On further review, I went through the blog thingy ma bob as well, he's making a hash of everything, go back to basics dude and work your way up again, maybe re-think your lighting ideas.3 Everyone goes through a faze4 of over powering things but damn, you've taken it to the extreme. anyway, this isn't meant to be insulting5, i'm gonna go put the kettle on. Right, back to this again. I looked through the surf shots on his blog thing. There are 2 good shots up there, that's all you ever need right?6 right! So we don't need to complain about that at all then really...kind of. That's when i searched through the blog more...please re-read the strobist blog7 from the beginning and pay special attention to things like balancing the ambient with flash. I'm sure that you will be well on your way then.8 I know all you 'just out the studio' or 'inanimate objects' only photographers9 will be impressed by this and I can understand why. To me this should be a how-to on how-not-to do things.10 Anyway, I'm only pissed at this because of the amount of money spent on crap he didn't need and he's selling e-books11 on techniques that should never be implemented... but I probably just sound like a dick.12 Some of us had to learn to use light to our advantage and have spent a long time fussing over everything, it's like he just went from zero to hero by buying a load of shit he didn't need.13 Sorry again, but ffs14. Okay, so you didn't get paid for this and it was 'an idea in your head' and you wanted to see if 'it was possible'.15 I understand that. You call this balance? (ISO2500, 1/1600 at f6.3)16 wtf... And the answer is yes, you are welcome to visit me anytime you like17 and I'll be happy to talk about it over a cup of tea or whatever. Please, just think before you light18...

And, The Annotations

1. Leading off: The Straw Man. The video is in fact not about motion blur at all. To be more clear, photographer Dave Black started out shooting at motion-freezing shutter speeds -- made possible by the same FP flash system the commenter derides as overkill later. He only dropped down to motion-blur speeds to eek out a few more minutes of shooting at the end. Like many others, I would have done the same thing.

2. Ya think?

3. Let's not forget the personal attack, shall we? Not only is Dave wasting money, but he is apparently a hack. (Yeah. Turns out, not so much.)

4. While I am no spelling bee champion, I am inclined to note at this point that sheer volume of grammatical/spelling errors and epic run-on sentences do tend to undercut the sting of condescension in the comment.

5. Wow. Good thing, huh?

6. Meh. I usually bale bail after one, myself. 'Cause I'm that good.

7. Oh. No. He. Didn't. Dude, please do not pull me over to stand next to you while you tee off on a third party. I was embarrassed enough by this comment before. But this just ensured it would not have been published. Normally, at least.

8. Oh, yes, yes. I certainly have much to teach Dave Black. And when I am done with him I am going to bring Greg Heisler up to speed, too.

9. Of course! Why limit our condescension to Dave Black when we can go after the entire readership?

10. Funny, I was just thinking that about this comment.

11. FWIW, Dave's teaching experience (back to 1986) predates the existence of eBooks by many years.

12. Um ... no comment!

13. At this point I begin to speculate that Dave Black's first Sports Illustrated credit probably predates the commenter's birth.

14. Actually had to look that one up.

15. Well, if you look at the video, it is under the account of LightWare, who makes the FourSquare and very likely could have been retaining Dave's services to demo it. That's really irrelevant to the quality of educational content in the video, but to assume Dave is working for free is unfounded.

16. Since you asked, here is the thinking. My assumption is that Dave chose 1/1600 as good, base motion-stopping speed. It's about where I would have chosen. Similarly, the D3s has insanely good high ISO and 2,500 could well be Dave's personal ISO quality roof for this kind of thing. Plugging in those two values would have given him the best possible DoF (at f/6.3) for the light level. Not to mention the 200-400 is gonna be sharper there than at wide open. As the light drops, you pick a variable to walk with it that will affect your quality the least. Last would be dropping the shutter speed down at the very end for motion blur attempts. Or, um, what you said.

17. We thought you'd never ask! You can see more of Mr. Harper's work, here. [UPDATE: The blog has been at least temporarily taken down. Presumably -- and ironically -- because of reader comments. Yeesh.] I must note that this separates Dale from the vast majority of comment feces-hurlers. A link to their own work (even if it was left rather obliquely) is exceedingly rare. Please be nice in the comments section.

18. Maybe you meant, "write"?

In All Fairness

As it happens, I recognized a person who turned out to be a mutual friend in a photo on Dale's blog. (Kinda cool, as they both live about 4,000 miles from me.) In an email Mark (the mutual friend) reports that Dale is actually a decent guy whom one would probably enjoy having a beer with.

But sometimes I think we all can sometimes get a little testy in the comments. Or at least look that way in writing when the recipient has no other contextual info with which to interpret.

Or maybe Dale was just temporarily possessed by The Devil. Or a fine single-malt, as Dale is Scottish.

The takeaway: Please do not use these comments as a platform on which to tee off on a third party. And if you are gonna anyway, try not to do it in such a spectacularly (and unintentionally) ironic way.

As always, the comments are open. Be nice.


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