What are you listening to?

“The Mic” by Mark Hunter.  Flickr

“The Mic” by Mark Hunter. Flickr

I don’t remember the exact quote or who said it, but the saying went something like “Show me your bookshelf and I'll see what kind of person you are”. I think a modern equivalent of that might be “Show me what podcasts you subscribe to and I’ll see what kind of person you are.”

This week has been a complete non-photography week; I don’t think I’ve taken a single new photograph, neither with my analog nor my digital gear. The weather has been crap, my motivation has been low and my most frequent photo partner (a.k.a. my dad) has been down with a serious cold. In order to post to my daily 365 image I’ve had to dig into my archives, but that is ok because that gave me a reason to look through and edit some recent photos to post. So…this week’s blog post is about podcasts instead, since I listen to A LOT of them.

Whenever you might see me out and about with earbuds in my ears and a cord snaking down into a pocket it’s very unlikely that I am listening to German techno going oomph, oomph, oomph, a singer-songwriter describing his latest heartbreak or a metal band blaring my ears out. Nope, I am most likely listening to podcasts!

I used to listen to night radio a lot when I work, but after a while you realize it’s the same short list of songs, the same type of people doing call-ins and more of the same, same, same. I did audiobooks for a while and that was great (nothing like Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter in your ears to make a boring few hours of work rush by!). Eventually I came upon the phenomenon of podcasts, and that’s been a constant in my life now for MANY years, interspersed with an audiobook here and there.

(Quick break to count how many podcasts I actually listen to)

Alright, as of this moment I subscribe to 84 different podcasts. That might sound like a lot (and it is), but they don’t all update every day, or even every week, so I have a good selection of new episodes every day to pick from. Also, with that abundance of content I can skip an episode if I don’t find the summary interesting enough. The luxury of surplus you might call it.

I have mostly photography related podcasts on my phone (not a big surprise given that photography is my main interest!), so there are two of them below, among the five I’ve picked to write a bit about.

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Planetary Radio
This is the official podcast of the Planetary Society, who are advocates of space research (and co-founded by Carl Sagan back in the day). For a space nut like myself this is a great show to listen to, since they bring on the researchers and scientists who are working with the rovers, telescopes, satellites and other gear that NASA, ESA, JAXA, ROSCOSMOS and others are using and let them tell the world about their research in a comprehensible way.

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99% invisible

An audio podcast about design, about the things we don’t usually pay attention to you might say. Roman Mars and his team are very good at finding topics and subjects that once you hear the episodes you’ll start noticing stuff in the world around you, things that make our world look and behave the way it does (or in many cases doesn’t!). One of the best produced and edited shows out there, in my opinion.

Film Photography Podcast

This is one of the original podcasts about film photography, hosted by Michael Raso and with lots of input from a revolving cast of voices who are all providing various insights on cameras, film, development and other analog related topics. It also has moments of nonsense and tomfoolery that to some might be an acquired taste, but to me it’s fun to listen to, and I’ve learned a lot through the years about this hobby of mine that I have picked up in the last few years.

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Negative Positives Photography Podcast

If the FPP is the original this is a newcomer, hosted by Mike Gutterman and Andre Domingues. Twice a week they talk about (mostly) photography in a fun, very unscripted way. It feels like listening in on two friends having a conversation about photography, along with many other topics that might pop into their minds during the conversations. While it is nowhere near as slick a production as 99% Invisible or the FPP I do enjoy it a lot. The podcast also has a very active Facebook group with almost 3,000 members who post interesting stuff at a remarkable rate.

Welcome to Nightvale
This is probably the first fictional podcast I started listening to back in the day (I think they were on episode 6 or 7 when I found it; they’re at 141 now). A strange desert town where anything can happen and all conspiracies are true, all told by the local community radio station host Cecil Palmer (played by Cecil Baldwin) and various guest actors. I absolutely like the way that anything can, and will happen in the stories, including a five-headed dragon running for mayor, a sentient glow cloud (?), lethal librarians and a dog park that’s strictly forbidden for both humans and dogs…

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Screenshot from my PocketCasts app

Screenshot from my PocketCasts app

These are but a few of the many shows that I follow, but a list of all 84 would be a very tedious blog post, both for the readers as well as for me to write, so I’ll stick with these five. I will just say that these days there are so, so, so many podcasts out there that if you have a special interest or something you want to learn more about, there is going to be a podcast (probably several) about it. And with a few exceptions they’re all free to subscribe to, via an app on your phone or on your computer.

I use PocketCasts on my Samsung S8+ and it’s working very well for me. I used to have them in my iTunes library too, since I used an iPhone for a while, but there’s no need for that anymore, the phone app handles it all for me. It’s also easy to search for new podcasts on the app, either by subject or name of the podcast, or even podcast network it airs through. I haven’t tried any of the other available podcast apps out there but I am sure they work in mostly the same way as mine does. It cost me a few dollars, but that’s a small amount to pay for all the entertainment you’ll have access to!