Recalibrating my fear and paranoia with a good walk. Plus, a high temperature test run with a new camera and lens

If you spend too much time listening to the radio, watching the news on TV or scanning Google News on the internet you will eventually develop anxiety and a brace of related mental health disorders. The media is a cruel filter and saturates the more compulsive members of its audience with a never ending stream of doom and gloom. I respond by battening the hatches and hunkering down into the bunker of the studio, anxious for the storm to pass and for light and decency to prevail. But are things really so wretched?

I recently got rid of a huge mess of gear in the spirit of distilling down. Focusing on one system. One set of cameras and one small collection of lenses. I decided to abandon the system I've been working with all these years and go with a fresh canvas, a counterintuitive side step. (I have more space in the drawers of my cabinets since I started back into the business in 1987...). I decided to take a break from the internet and the TV and all the other voices of misery and take my new camera for a walk. A real, get down and play with your camera, sort of walk. And it was so cathartic.

I grabbed a tiny little Olympus e520, popped an 11-22mm lens onto the front, jammed a 4 gig card in the side and fired up the Honda Element. What I needed was a little bit of downtown adventure. When I parked the car near the city's hike and bike trail around 11 am the temperature was already in the mid-90's. I pulled out a hat, put up the windshield reflector thingy and headed off over the pedestrian bridge to downtown.

Here's what I found as I walked through the downtown area: Dozens of high rise, luxury condominiums. Some built and occupied, some under construction and some breaking ground. None of the projects was on hold. The streets were filled with people in suits or shirts and ties walking to meetings or early lunches. By noon the downtown eateries were full and in some there were lines for tables. Not too many "sale" signs in the boutique windows. Most people seemed pretty happy. Pretty content.

None of the "doom and gloom" wasteland scenario.

And then there was my new little camera. I've long since given up caring what the exposure meter says to me. On a sunny day like today i learned to set the right exposure at least 25 years ago. Put the camera on manual and set for ISO 100, set exposure at 1/500 @f8. Unless something changes, don't move the dials.

At the end of three hours the temperature was cresting 100(f) and I was sweating like a boxer. I'd re-acquainted myself with humanity and made at least an introduction to my new camera so I headed home. Less fearful about the economy. Less paranoid about the localized representation of the human condition and happy with my photographs.

The 4:3 format suits me well. The lens is great. The finder is good. I can be happy working with this camera.

I bought a couple of battery powered flashes today. They are both Vivitar EF-383's. They have built in slaves. They supposedly work in ttl on my new Olympus stuff. They are less than a third the price of the Olympus flash. I'll let you know how they work out. They are coming on the snail express from Amazon.

Three or four of the images above are from my little stroll around Austin today. The other one came from my first adventure with the new cameras. I was out last friday and I shot this with my friend, Emily. We were playing around with a 4x4 foot scrim over her head and a flash bounced out of an umbrella for the main light. It's all fun.

No presumption that any of the images are great art (or even minor art). I'm in that stage where I'm getting the new stuff all dialed in and that goes for the economy as well.

NEWS FLASH: I'm going to be a presenter at the CREATIVE PHOTOGRAPHIC RETREAT in Dallas, Texas on the 23rd, 24th and 25th of July. Should be fun.

IN AUSTIN: On Sunday, August 9th, I'll be giving a lecture and a lighting demo for the Austin Photography Group at Book People, third floor from 7pm on. I think it is free and open to the public. I know my friend Paul will be coming by to heckle. I'll be showing some work and then showing my favorite ways to light portraits. If you are in Austin please come by. I'm sure we'll head out for coffee or a glass of wine after we wrap.

EVENT: Thinking about a happy hour this coming Monday. 5:30pm at Threadgills at Riverside and Congress. If you are in Austin and want to go hang out, have a beer and talk about art drop a line or leave a comment. One dollar Lone Star Longnecks all day long.......Look for the guys with the camera.


fingerprinz said...

So true. Txs for the great post.

Glen Goffin said...

The tags on this post are an interesting mix of life, that's fer-sure!! This is a great blog. I always enjoy reading it. Thanks and peace.

Michael Clay said...

Been lurking on your blog since your talk at the Photo Expo here in Austin. You seem to be a good photographer, but what impressed me most was your introspection about photography and what it means to be a photographer in this time. The philosophy of photography is really what is missing in other blogs. They are mainly about the mechanics of photography (which are definitely important), but really, why should I take a picture of a particular subject in the first place? Would it make a good PICTURE (never mind if it's underexposed or out of focus, etc.)? This is something that you address along with the thought process of why you do what you do, not just how to do it. And I thank you for that :-)

As I inferred before, I'm in Austin (and happen to be free on Monday). I'll see your beer and raise you a Chicken Fried Steak!

Viva L'Olympus!!

jefflynchdev said...


I think you've hit the nail right on the head! I stopped watching the evening news a few years back and found my attitude and my creativity much improved.

I'm heading to the Angelina National Forest on the 17th for a long weekend of nature photography, landscape photography and peace & quiet. Why don't you join me and see what a little walk in the Piney Woods can do for your mental health. Cheap hotels, good food and a $3 daily fee. All the East Texas fresh air you can handle.


Anonymous said...

Gonna be picky here: 2 of these AREN'T at 1/500 & f/8.

MyVintageCameras said...

great idea.....I've been home a lot and finding the news did depress me. next week i will jump on the bus and head into Denver for my own urban photo shoot.....thanks for the inspiration

Ed O'Mahony said...

Been lurking here since you first started this blog - said nothing - but your comments make for fascinating and thought provoking reading, keep it up.

kirk tuck said...

Thanks Ed and all. The news is the news. But we only get this one shot at life. I headed downtown to walk around in the heat and take photos. Today I'm using the Olympus e1 and the 100 macro. Just wanna see what it's all about.

Thanks, Kirk