Tree in Zilker Park. EP2 with kit zoom. Handheld. Tree lit by a street light.
I don't know about you but I think best when I'm out walking around. Can't imagine spending the first day of the new decade sitting in front of a television set watching sports. At some point, if you've watched hundreds of football games on TV, don't you feel like you're a participant in that Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day? Excuse the digression.
I spent the morning doing a ritual celebration with some of my swim friends. We'd done a 6000 yard swim on New Year's Eve and we celebrate the next morning by heading to Barton Springs Pool to jump into the chilly, spring water and swim around. There's a group of swimmers that starts each year with a nude swim (only in the middle of Austin) at 6 a.m. but we get there at a much more civilized 9 a.m.
After we swim around and dive off the diving board we all bundle up and head over to a friend's house for waffles. A local coffee shop of note sends over a barrista and the appropriate equipment so that every swimmer and attendant family member can enjoy the city's best coffee, made to order. After the waffles and coffee we all float off and do whatever else it is people do on New Year's Day.
For me it's all about grabbing a camera and lens and walking around the city. If you've followed my blog recently you know I'm captivated with the Olympus EP2 and whatever lens I feel like sticking on the front. Yesterday it was still the little 14-42mm zoom.
Holiday Decorations on cactus in Clarksville Neighborhood.
I set off from the middle of the old Clarksville neighborhood and headed at a leisurely pace over the several miles to downtown. I stopped to see what was new at the flagship store of Whole Foods and wandered past the weird furniture store on W. Sixth Street that sells sculpture and Elvis figures.
I loved the juxtaposition of this bizzare bronze in the foreground and the statue of the Virgin Mary in the background although I can't really say why.
I should note that I shot a lot of raw files yesterday and processed them in Lightroom 2.6. I don't go in for much sharpening, and God forbid I should abuse the clarity or shadow and highlight sliders. What I usually do is to correct the white balance to make the images pleasing.
I think it's part of the pathology of photographers, no matter what their typical personal style, to not be able to pass up bizzare images of Elvis Presley so, of course, when I saw a figure of him behind bars I snapped a few frames of the "The King".
I'd set my ISO to 800 or 1600 during the waffle bacchanal and had forgotten to change it back to my usual default of ISO 200 but I don't think it made much difference in the enjoyment of the images for me. I contend that, as a result of only looking at images on computer screens people have become much to sensitized to the "horrors" of electronic noise than they need to be.
After I left Elvis I moved on toward downtown and didn't really see much I wanted to shoot. There were the many new high rise condominium towers in various states of completion but I felt I'd covered them pretty well in my last long walk. Instead I went looking for close ups like leaves with Lady Bird Lake in the background. And, for a few minutes, I understood the motivation of some landscape photographers. Then I realized that I was just having a viceral response to the beauty of the fresh, clean, late afternoon light that was rubbing it's golden glow over every object it could find. The light was just shamelessly beautiful yesterday from 4:30pm on. My first regret of the new year was that I didn't have a beautiful model in tow. This was the kind of light that could make any photographer look good so long as he or she pointed their camera in the right direction.
I went through downtown and along the Lake toward the pedestrian bridge. Since it was New Year's day all the overweight resolution makers crowded the hike and bike trail running along with the daily regulars who run year in and year out. Brand new shoes, brand new running apparel and uneasy looks of discomfort shining in their faces. Over the bridge and into South Austin where I cut past Zachary Scott Theater and up the road to Flip Happy Crepes. The light was directionless and liquid at this point and I saw this pile of rocks on one of the picnic tables. Not sure why I thought it was so cool at the moment but the rocks stopped me while the stacks of brightly colored, incredibly weathered, folding metal chairs kept me shooting for a while.
I walked on past restaurant row. Past Chuy's Tex-Mex restaurant and into Zilker Park. By this time the sun had set and I was walking the dark trails with the aid of occasional street lights. I kept shooting just to see what the EP2 and the Image Stabilization would get me. Most of the time I'm shooting wide open on the camera so it's probably not a fair test of lens quality but what the hell do I care? I'm just shooting this for my self and, for the most part, I really don't care just how sharp this or that photo is as long as I enjoy taking it and subsequently looking at it. Face it, most of us take images to remember how things looked and what we felt at the time, not as a test for some silly testosterone contest.
As a portrait photographer I spend too much time already trying to walk a line between bringing down too much sharpness without calling attention to the technique of degradation required to render things the way I really see them.
So I kept shooting stuff like this next image until the battery indicator in the camera told me to quit shooting now and the air temperature told me to go home.
The Olympus EP2 handheld. 800 ISO. Tree in Zilker Park. New Year's Day 2010.
So I'm walking around for four hours and I've hit the hills in Westlake to get home and now it's time to summarize in my own head all the things I thought about during my first stroll of the new decade. I thought about my friend, Russell Secker's new book, Running Across Countries. He's an ultra marathon runner who wrote and self published a book about his run across Europe. His book is available as a "print on demand" book at Amazon.com. After my experiences creating photographic books I've come to believe that we're about to turn the book publishing industry upside down. I think ebooks, with video components, will be launched first and then made available as "print on demand" physical books instead of the other way around.
Why eBooks? Because the markets and the technology and, of course, the products change so quickly that the old method which involved taking a year to come to press squanders some of the potential that the information contains by dint of books trailing innovation instead of helping to grow it. I'd like to do a book teaching digital photographers important techniques about video. About lighting and movement and scripting and creating a solid narrative. The market is here. Now. Today. It is resident in nearly every camera bag that contains a new Nikon, Canon or micro 4:3rds camera. But traditional publishers will give a nod to the trend when it goes "mass acceptance" instead of getting the book now.
I thought about moving images and how people are using photos in today's life. The big, framed, posed portraits of yesterday seem dated. The iPhone snapshot seems triumphant and yet I think portraits that transcend widely done styles from the past and step into the realm of fine art will still have a market. The model is Jock Sturges and Sally Mann. Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. The vanishing market belonged to the carefully airbrushed or photoshopped, posed portrait with the family in matching clothes and each subject carefully lit by four or five not altogether convincing light sources. Art and craft have to intersect to make good work going forward. Formula will no longer do the job. Not for my corporate clients and not for your retail clients.
Finally, I thought about how lucky I am to have such good friends and such great family. No matter what the economy ultimately does, going forward, we'll weather it with the insulation of love and friendship. And we'll measure value by happiness and sharing, not by acquisition and hoarding.
At this juncture I've written over 120 blog posts and gotten some good feedback. If you have a moment to make leave a comment I'd love to hear from you about three things:
1. I would really like know what you think about the future of book publishing. Do you buy eBooks? Would you? What would you like to see? 2. I'd also love to hear from you about your ideas for the perfect photo workshop. What would you like to learn? 3. Are there subjects that you wish I would write about that I've not done previously, here? Let me know. The comments cost neither of us anything so if you have the inclination then let it rip.
Thanks for tuning in and supporting my writing. I appreciate the "con" comments as much as I appreciate the "pro" comments. I am rarely 100% right and it's good feedback to get called on it.
Here's hoping we all have a great new decade. Kirk