12.02.2010

Afternoon Dessert.

Whenever I write two or three columns in a short amount of time that are critical of mass culture, or take pokes at the irrational foibles of our own industry (photography) I get an inevitable spate of caustic comments letting me know that I am a washed up "hack" and a "bitter old man" and those comments are generally followed by the assertion that I am so out of touch that I just don't understand the nuances of progress.  And there's the consistent perception that, since I complain about the systems I must be mired in financial decline and lashing out.....I thought about these things as I delivered another photography project to a large, international technology company this morning.  Of course the client had to wait until after swim practice.

I'm doing just fine, thank you.  But my tone must be quite bleak because, today at lunch one of my close friends (and a daily reader of the VSL blog) remarked that my last several blogs had him worried about my state of mind.  Over a double cheeseburger at P.Terry's I assured him that I was feeling chipper.  I guess the bane of experience is having seen how good something can be and then watching its decline.

We talked about my article lambasting cellphone use.  He argued that I must get used to it because society was changing.  I argued that in Texas we've been able to carry concealed weapons for a while now but we haven't made it "culturally okay" to shoot them off in restaurants and movie theaters in moments of unalloyed joy.  He just shook his head.

So, on a lighter note:  Dessert.  There are few things as yummy and fluffy as a lemon cake with white icing and little sweet crystals of lemon festooned all over.  I did a decidedly happy project several years ago for Tribeza Magazine.  I wrote ad article about three different kinds of bakeries here in Austin and what kinds of goodies they make.  I also took the photos for the article.  My first stop was at Sweetish Hill Bakery.  I'd like to talk about the complexities of lighting in this shot but........it was the existing light in the bakery and I just maneuvered around until I got the warm reflection in the metal backsplash, opened up 2/3rd's of a stop and shot a series on aperture priority automatic with a Nikon D200 and the 18-200mm VR lens.  Yes, yes.  I know that the camera is hopelessly obsolete and the lens has all the sharpness of a Coke bottle bottom but just three years ago I hadn't read all  that vital information so my photos were able to turn out well enough. (insert smiley face).

I was so smitten with the cake that I bought it after I shot it and Ben and I feasted on most of it, growling at Belinda so she would keep her distance.......(insert smily face emoticon).  It tasted as good as it took.
On another day, but for the same assignment, I went to the historic Driskill Hotel and gained access to their pastry and dessert kitchen.  The hotel has a nice cafe where one can go at all hours until late at night and have drinks, dessert, coffee.....whatever your pleasure.  I've always been happy with their chocolate cake, especially when they go all "Pixar" with the alien tentacles of chocolate waving around in the air.

The nice thing about jobs like this, either for the writer or the photographer, is that you are doing the businesses a big favor.  You've chosen them as one of your favorites so they know that, at worst, they'll get their name and address in the article, and in the best case scenario they'll have some of their flagship products showcased in large photographs, and the writer will describe a very positive experience that will leave the reader with at least a heightened curiosity about the offerings on the menu.  Everyone wants to discover something new.

Sometimes writing is harder than taking the photos.  In both of these examples the available light was ample and appropriate.  In fact, you can see the reflections of the ceiling mounted florsecents in the white dishes in the photograph just above.  But the writing has to spring, fully formed, from out of nowhere.  And you could handle it in a thousand ways.  I prefer to get my inspiration from the source so I made notes while I savored every bite of the chocolate cake, interspersed with ice cream.....

I used a small, lined Moleskine notebook and a Mont Blanc fountain pen ( a very discreet one ) to write the text.  And, of course, I have my own technical flourish for the writing......I choose to write my notes with my left hand.  Not so wild when you find that I am, in fact, left-handed...... (to my more "opaque" readers:  the previous three sentences were meant to be ironic. Or sarcastic.  Or both...)


The last segment of the article was about the Mexican Bakery on South First St. They are 100% traditional, right down to the ingredients.  I'm not sure the editors really wanted to do this bakery, but I did and I was writing and shooting the article.  So I shot here too.  It was the most fun.  I love this place because the customers have character and the food is a riot of color.  It also tastes great.

Same very involved lighting and technical information as the two photographs above.  The same Coke bottle lens and primitive body.  The same lack of all lighting gear.

I'm having a stunning afternoon.  Thank you for asking.  Potential clients have called inquiring about video projects (thank you!) and photography projects and the calendar is full of fun, contracted projects for the next two weeks. I have two book contracts.  Everyone here is in good health and my swimming continues to improve as I take Steve's advice and work on technique instead of brute power.  The dog is sleeping peacefully at my feet.

I'm taking a break in a little while to find just the right dessert for Merienda.  I'm thinking a big Mexican cookie and coffee.  Maybe you'll get up and have an afternoon snack too.  Couldn't hurt.

18 comments:

Charlie said...

I am glad you are having a stunning afternoon. You deserve it.

There are two blogs that I NEVER miss reading. Yours and TOP.

Please write about anything and everything. I enjoy snacking on your words.

Charlie McNulty
Ventura, CA

Anonymous said...

Damn Boy. I thought you were just a great portrait photographer. This stuff looks good enough to eat.

Dan Berry said...

+1

Dave Jenkins said...

Good grief. That "bitter old man" thing is just ludicrous. I don't agree with you about everything, of course, but one of the reasons I read your blog is because you exude the joy of our mutual art/profession.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering what I can use as a transport box for my 6 pocket wizards. I'm using a zip plastic bag and I know they are not protected enough.
thx
Debbi

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Enjoyed yout cell phone post as much as this one, Kirk - I have to agree with Charlie from above, there's not a single day that I don't check your VSL and Mike's TOP. *The* two sites for real photographers ;-)

Hope you've had a nice afternoon - here it's morning already, and I'm back in the office already. Nothing much to shoot around here, but I could go up later, and have a look at those cakes, hehe.

Thanks for everything,
and cheers,
Wolfgang

Thomas said...

I concur with one of the above posts. I regularly visit your site and TOP to round out my day. Just when I get bored with your lighting or swimming posts you come along with philosophical gems that let me know that you are still human (said with a smile)and which keep me coming back. You usually post these gems within days of me thinking the same things. It's nice to know I am not alone :o)

Silvertooth said...

How could you write an article with something as out-of-date as a fountain pen? Get with the times, man! Fountain pens are obsolete. Gone, gone with the wind! If you really want to write, you MUST use a computer or better yet, an iPad. It doesn't even need a keyboard! Fountain pen,...:)

Enjoyed it as always!

Martin G said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Charlie McNulty.

Kirk Decker said...

A Mont Blanc? Really? Serious writers only use vintage Sheaffers. I've got several of them soaking in Windex. Pens soaking, not writers. As soon as they unclog, I'm going to write something serious. Writing with a nice fountain pen is like a driving a sports car. It makes you want to write, and write well.

kleeks said...

As a swimmer myself, I love your analogies about swimming and photography. Both swimming and photography are difficult activities. A very famous boxer here in NM did some swimming as back-up for his workout and commented in an article that he admired swimmers and thought swimming was one of the hardest sports he had done and one of the reasons is that it is such a solitary endeavor...even when part of a Master group or swim team. Photography is also a lonely field that takes a lot of discipline and focus...and at times little support or feedback. There are times when things aren't going well, the calls aren't' coming. It is great to hear that you are having a wonderful afternoon. Thomas, don't knock swimming, it is the reason K can eat all those deserts, yum!!

kleeks said...

Wolfgang, Thomas and Charlie....what is TOP? how is it spelled...nothing came up on google despite several iterations. So much stuff out there that I appreciate suggestions to the good stuff. Thanks in advance

kirk tuck said...

Kleeks, Thanks for the good words about swimming. After a 5 or 6 thousand yard workout we people over 50 years old like to say, "I'm not as fast as I used to be but that workout would have killed ordinary people."

TOP is The Online Photographer. Michael Johnston is the writer and the link is in the links here on the above left. It's good.

Douglas Urner said...

Been meaning to comment on the cell phone post…

Perhaps I too am an <sarcasm>old, bitter, and washed up hack</sarcasm>, but I've been meaning to comment on that cell phone post. I wish I could have said it as well. The power of technology to extinguish communication, intimacy, reflection, and just plain quiet time -- all in the name of "connection" (which seems to be a polite word for a leash) -- is nightmarish. I'm grateful to those who try and wake us up.

Thanks again.

kleeks said...

K: I read in Swimming Magazine, (a long time ago..do they still publish it?) that only one percent of the US population can swim a mile. Since it is something I do 3 times a week without thought, I was floored, until I realize, that except for my sister no one in my or my husband's family (over 60 people) can do it. We swimmers are in a special league!!

BTW...do you have a forum or place to discuss issues related to your books? I ordered and received yesterday, as per your book: 1. Two umbrellas from Adorama $11 each; 2. A roll of white paper $19,(this is paper used for schools or artists 4 feet x 100 yards, recommended by someone on your blog) so much paper on the roll, I could barely pick up it up but much lighter and easier to handle than Savage seamless. I will use it on the floor to protect my more expensive Savage seamless paper from puppy paws and for product shoots and, 3. As a dog photographer I shoot low on the floor, so I bought those light stands $29 that sit flush on the floor.... In all I spent $100 and have a bunch of new toys to play with this weekend, yeah!! Thanks!!

kleeks said...

K: I too am over 50 and I learned swimming by just doing it and taking every swim class offered when I was in college, then joined Masters. What drives me nuts is that no matter how hard I swim or practice, I cannot nor will I ever swim as fast as my 2 friends that swam on high school and college teams. Glad you started your kid early!!

kirk tuck said...

Kleeks, I started swimming on a team at age six. Swam on a high school team that won state two years in a row and then swan in college. It's amazing how long it takes to become truly fluid. I hope to be swimming in my 90's.....

Box of Frogs said...

It's amazing how well it turned out considering just how obsolete the D200 is! ;¬) Afterall, my clients know instantly when I show them obsolete pixels. Seriously, Dave duChemin wrote a book about this insane compunction to always buy the latest which for business reasons I can sort of understand. However, I still shoot film, how retro!, and those 30 year old cameras and film(!) still turn in beautiful images.

And don't get me started on my plate cameras!