Some Real Talk about Andy’s Travel Blog

The other day I received a comment on my post about American’s new LAX-HKG service.  I contacted the author of the comment and received his permission to publish it on this post:

Andy: thanks for this update and very detailed explanation, your insights are always valuable.  Dare I say the following?  Well let me go ahead anyway…

 

Recently your fascination with photography has brought the blog more in line with addressing the interests of semi-pro-photographers rather than travelers. Accompanying images to blogs about travel ALWAYS need to feature strong images, taken by skilled photographers. However, the focus of a travel blog should not be on how the images were crafted behind the lens ~ a good image simply speaks for itself.

 

Please don’t take offense. I’m sure there are many regular visitors to this blog will appreciate the photog detail. It’s just that, for me, the task of framing the images become supplemental to the text/information they border.

I wanted to address the comment and felt the reply turning into a State of the Blog sort of reply so I thought I might as well write it out for my entire audience.  Before I get going though, I want to emphasize very thoroughly (for the commenter) that I was not at all offended in any way by the comment and very much appreciated the candor.

One of the first pictures ever posted on Andy's Travel Blog

One of the first pictures ever posted on Andy’s Travel Blog, taken November 2012

american airlines 787 review

American Airlines 787 (taken May 2015)

How often do I write?

The very first post on Andy’s Travel Blog was published November 26, 2012.  In the 1200 days since, I’ve published a total of 376 posts.  That means I post once every three days on average.  There have been some long spells between posts as well, but I really do try to get something out every few days, in addition to the weekly Picture of the Week posts on Sundays.

What do I write about?

After a lot of thought, I’ve summarized it as follows: I write about my travel experiences with a gracious outlook to encourage others on their journey.  This means I focus a lot on trip reports, which for me means focusing a lot on photography and the art of showing the story as well as telling it.

I’m part of the BoardingArea and Prior2Boarding blog networks.  Both of these networks have lots of bloggers who focus on the points and miles “hobby”.  Some of these bloggers do this as their primary source of income and do a great job covering the breaking news in that space as it happens.  Unfortunately I just don’t have the time.  My primary job is managing an implementations team for a financial technology company in Dallas (this will pretty soon change to business development for a product franchise in Asia and Oceania for the same company).  In addition, I have a photography habit I’m trying to turn into a second income and the blog, both of which are passion projects more than they are financial ones (My revenue was less than $1000 from Andy’s Travel Blog last year against quite a lot of expenses).

Ahu Tongariri

Ahu Tongariri

How long are my posts usually, how many pictures do I post?

According to blog experts (blogxperts) a good post should be between 500-800 words long.  My posts tend to be way longer than many other bloggers.  It’s probably a reasonable estimate that I’ve published around 325,000-375,000 words on this site, almost every single one of them authored by me.  I do not have regular guest contributors, in fact I believe there is only one guest post on the blog at all.

I’ve always used photos to enhance my stories.  To date I have posted roughly 2,300 pictures on my blog.  I do not subscribe to a stock image agency.  If you see an image on my blog, it was taken by me (with the rare exception of corporate logos and images released as part of press releases, like the images made available as part of American’s new lounge announcement, I try to notate these likewise in the captions).

The Old and the New, by Andy Luten

The Old and the New, by Andy Luten

Why did I start the blog in the first place?

I got tired of having to sum up a trip with “it was good” when people would ask “How was the trip?”  There was so much that happened on these trips that I think it’s a crime to sum it up so harshly and without context!  I want people to know what I felt, why I picked the places I was going, absolutely everything about the trip.  Most of all, I wanted to encourage people that if my dumb self can do it, they can too.

I started learning the miles and points game from Ben Schlappig and Gary Leff.  Their blogs were crucial for me getting started and they’ve since become acquaintances who have always been gracious with their time and thoughts when I’ve needed them.  As I learn something I try and teach it, it’s just who I am.  What that ended up being was a blog focused on trip reports with as many explanations of my process as time would allow.

Why did I start posting so much about photography?

My first camera for the blog was a Fuji X10, which I love very much to this day.  When I bought it (at the encouragement of a pro photographer friend) I asked my buddy to put the dials where they needed to be so I could just point and shoot and not worry about “that nerdy stuff” like camera settings.  My early photos on the blog reflect this, plus my fascination with HDR Photography (as many of you lamented during the early days of ATB).

I decided I wanted to start diving into photography more in the summer of 2014, which led me to purchase my Sony a7.  I’ve long thought that photography should be fairly easy to learn and looking back I was partially right.  There are so many online resources these days that I figured I didn’t need to buy books or tutorials initially.  I started watching Serge Ramelli’s videos and followed along with his editing steps in Adobe Lightroom and quickly found myself taking some great pictures and capturing the emotions of the scenes I visited.

Part of learning photography is looking at an image and wondering how it was shot.  I think this is where the For the photographers section of the Picture of the Week posts comes from.  I would find myself going crazy trying to figure out exactly how they shot it and, although the camera settings are just one piece of an image, I liked knowing what camera and lens they used.  Additionally, I liked seeing photographers out in the field taking pictures and seeing what they could do with an image in post processing in order to finalize the image before releasing it or adding it to their portfolio, so I started doing some videos in a similar style.

Like I said above, as I learned how to take pictures I wanted to share what I knew, so the greater quantity of photography posts was a natural progression in my eyes.

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Main pool area

What do photography and travel have to do with each other?

More than you’d think.  Like I said above, my goal is to write about my travel experiences with a gracious outlook to encourage others on their journey.  Photography is an essential part of the travel experience in my opinion.  Pictures remind us of where we’ve been, inspire others who want to live vicariously through those who travel, and can even lead to a huge large moderate small secondary income.  To me, photography and travel are inseparable parts of a journey, since great experiences are even better when shared.

What’s the point of all this?  What am I on about?

I post based on what’s going on in my life.  The good days and the bad days.  When I’m traveling, or when there’s news I have the time and ability to report, you’ll see more travel posts from me.  When I’m at home for longer stretches you’ll probably see more photography-centric posts from me, simply because I don’t really ever have an excuse to not take pictures during a given week.

I agree with the commenter from the other day that sometimes this blog seems like a photography blog.  I think in a perfect world I’d be able to produce enough travel-related content, supplemented by excellent photography, to fill the next 375 posts.  As I take a realistic and honest look at my blog I think the only way that would be possible is to start taking on additional writers and possibly even start getting some stock photos of generic airports with ethnically diverse crowds laughing for no reason.  I just don’t feel like that fits the character of the blog.

I try to write in a very no-frills way and the theme of the blog is very similar: simple stories told well.  At times my photography enhances travel stories and sometimes photography is the story.  My promise to my readers is that I will try and find a balance as time allows.

You’re not giving up blogging are you?

Of course not!  That said, I’ve thought about giving it up a few times, to be honest.  Through the encouragement of my readers and the support of the BoardingArea network and great people like Randy, Denny, Mark, Meagan, Heather, Josh, and the rest of the gang, I have the unique ability to not worry about selling ad space or things like web hosting and simply do what I do: blog.  I truly love this blog and the 15000+ unique visitors who stop by every month.  Basically, I wanted to ramble on for a bit about the blogger more than the blog for once.

If I leave a critical comment will you write a post replying to it?

Haha, no.  That comment was genuine and honest, as I started replying to it I realized I had typed a few hundred words and was giving way more information than was appropriate for a comment reply.

6 Comments

  1. Personally , what keeps me coming back to your blog is the photography aspect. Be it the techniques that you share or the excellent images that accompany your blog posts. Being a photographer myself, I can absolutely relate when you say that you sometimes stare at images trying to understand how they were produced.

    Every blog has a different approach to things, and that’s something good in my opinion! We read what we like, and skip what we don’t like! If every blog was the same, we would probably be bored!

    By the way, if you liked Serge Ramelli’s videos, have a look at Elia Locardi and what he did with FStoppers. They produced some awesome content!

    Reply
    • Elia’s tutorials changed the way I do photography! Worth every penny!

      Reply
      • I didn’t buy the tutorials yet. Just watched the behind the scenes and the other content he has online. Would you recommend buying them? The price tag makes me hesitant!

        Reply
    • And thanks for the comment as well.

      Reply
  2. I love your blog for it’s photography, beautiful images which I can look at. I kind of envy (in a good way ) how good you are since 2 years on I still use my DSLR just on auto mode 🙂

    Keep it up..

    ps. I actually remember watching one your ur Periscopes on how you organise your photos. Every time I look at my photo albums i think how much organised they need to be in order to find photos. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Started following you several years ago via your posts on Texags – have it enjoyed it ever since!

    Reply

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