Project "Post Partum" Depression. Ouch.

Shot in Willie Nelson's private saloon, somewhere west of Austin.  Canon 1dmk2N and Zeiss 50mm 1.4 ZE lens.  Daylight thru a dirty window.

I'm pretty sure most photographers and writers, and just about anyone else embarking on a lengthy project, confront an sense of ennui and lassitude when they finish up their work and send it off to wherever it's supposed to go.  There's a sense of freedom and elation as you become aware that you've been freed from your obligation in the best possible way:  You saw it thru and completed it.

But if you've been working on a book as both the writer, photographer and creative director you've had to shift your life around to compensate for the inevitable deadlines.  You delay some things.  Put off commitments and reposition yourself to be most efficient and focused until the project ends.  When you are the one who pitched the book there's always an extra onus on you to do it well and do it on time.  You're submerged in the process of proving the value of your undertaking at every turn.

So when you finally emerge you probably do the same silly thing I do and send out an e-mail announcing your triumph.  You're done.

But most people (all of them?) didn't put their lives on pause just waiting with ever ripening anticipation for you to prevail and shower them with wisdom.  On the contrary, if they were friends in your social sphere they probably (barely) tolerated months of conversation that was always just a few degrees removed from "the book" and they were happy someone finally stuck a stake in it's heart so you could get back to holding up your part of the social bargain.

So even though you've announced your triumph in the loudest possible way you should consign yourself to getting back a few well intentioned "attaboys" and not hold your breath for a flurry of congratulatory bottles of good champagne, and month long string of celebratory dinners at the best restaurants in town.

When Steve Pressfield finished his first novel he rushed to tell his mentor.  His mentor said something along the lines of,  "That's great.  Now you'll want to get started on the next one tomorrow..."  And that was it.  And that's the way it works.  But today is the monday after I put my most recent project to bed.

I shot for Zachary Scott Theatre on Saturday and Austin Oral Surgery on Sunday but I still feel a little lost and anxious.
Michelle on medium format Tri-X.  One tungsten beauty dish as fill.  One diffused tungsten spot as a main light.  Hasselblad.  180mm Carl Zeiss lens.

That's when I know it's time to re-group, have a cup of coffee and work on my marketing.  But I always think it's time to work on the marketing.  And that's how we start the cycle all over again.

Don't worry about me, though.  My publisher already sent a contract for the next project.  I've assured myself that I'll take some down time though.....How about I start on April 1st?  That should work.

Reminder.  I'm not a paid reviewer.  My readers don't pay me and the manufacturers don't pay me.  I write stuff because I'm genuinely interested in what I write about.  I turn down the "opportunity" to play with/review ten times more stuff than the stuff I write about.  And in most cases what I write about is stuff that I own or will own.  And I'm very upfront about the fact that I don't give a crap about charts, graphs and test numbers.  I only care about why I might like something, not whether you will like it too.  And I can't think of another way to do it because I don't have a clue what each of you hold to be critical priorities and what you think is fluff.

Someone named Steve took me to task yesterday for not sounding the alarm about the damn "red dots" in my EPL-2 review.  Implied that I was some sort of elitist who had so many cameras at my disposal, and bought so many new ones, that I wouldn't care if a camera were tragically flawed.  I didn't like his implication,  I didn't like the way he stepped over my line.  But here's the deal:  The visual science lab is me thinking out loud.  Really loud.  And if you don't like the angle or the way I think (out loud) you can demand a refund of my "lifestyle consulting fee" and leave.  I'd write this stuff even if I only had an audience of 25.  And I have......

But I won't homogenize what I write to fit a "one size fits all" faux "objective" audience.  I'm not going to invest in test gear and if something doesn't pop up in my tests, and fun shooting periods, I'm not going to spend my time tracking down and brutalizing my gear so you can have a "worst case" scenario appraisal of a $500 camera.  That's just bullshit.

Honest difference of opinion with respectful writing?  Your comment gets posted.  Call me stupid?  Your comment gets flushed and I take you off the sweepstakes list to potentially win big.  Sounds fair to me.  


Photovalve said...

I like your blog just the way it is. There is DPReview for technical reviews and they do a good job. I prefer the personal view because it usually covers usability and it allows me to experience vicariously lots of cameras I cannot afford to buy. Keep it up :)

RocketRick said...

There's a sweepstakes list? Cool!

Anonymous said...

Excuse my language, but people are Fxxking idiots. You give them stuff for free and they demand more. Let em pay for it. They probably can't afford you. I agree with Photovalve. I love the way you write and the things you write about. Please keep it the same.

kirk tuck said...


steveH said...

I spent a few weeks digging out review and analysis of m4/3 cameras, including the E-PL2, red dots and all. Thought about it. Considered it.

And then I got one. I like it. I don't shoot directly into strong lights (on purpose.) I can use my ZD 4/3 lenses on it, and my M-mount RF lenses.

It's like every other piece of equipment I've owned or used over the past 40-odd years: It's got good points, it's got some deficits.

Life is still good.

And I still like reading the Visual Science Lab.

So there.

RocketRick said...

On the serious side, I absolutely /love/ your reviews, as they tell me what to expect in real situations. I couldn't give a tinker's damn about modulation transfer functions and similar measurbating. I just want to know how the gear /feels/, and how it works in the hands of a photographer who wants to /use/ it.

I never intended to buy in to the micro-Four-Thirds system, but I bought a used E-PL1 based on the strength of your positive reviews. It truly is a damn fine camera, and it works with all of my Four-Thirds lenses via the adapter. I'm currently looking for a used viewfinder to make it complete.

I'd never have even considered it, until you gave me the perspective of a photographer that I respect, telling me how it felt in your hands, and how it worked for you. I'm happy I listened, and I encourage you to keep it up.


Anonymous said...

+1 People are idiots. Keep going the way you are. I love the way you steer.

theotherme said...

I was totally going to buy a Bugatti Veyron but a buddy of mine heard that if you ram it into a wall going 150mph it TOTALLY DENTS THE BODY. What a piece of crap. I read a blog by a guy that rented one and he didn't even bring that HUGE shortcoming up. What a tool! lol

Love the blog Kirk.

Congratulations on finishing the book! I'm looking forward to adding to my Kirk Collection. :-)

Frank Grygier said...

I believe you mentioned the infamous red thingy in your review and even showed an example. Anyway.. Chill...Take a photo walk and contemplate the mysteries. I look forward to reading about lighting with LED's

andrew said...

Some people just don't get it - cameras are tools....

Sh#t happens....and you get what you pay for - which in this case is a hell of alot of camera for the bucks...and it only happens when???

NOT EVERY SHOT!!! Get a life mate.....

Kirk, I discovered your blog a while back, and it's now one of the few I read every week - I like the perspective you have as a WORKING pro, who uses the most appropriate tool for the job...

Keep on blogging mate...you're doing a great job

Les said...

Gloating is IMPORTANT. I write open source school admin software. After every new release, I have to walk around with a smile on my face for a variable length of time before I start over. Something I learned from my wife: Take Time to Celebrate life's successes (no matter how big or small).

Douglas Urner said...

I'll be nice. I'll pretend Steve doesn't exist :-)

Seriously though, I bought an E-PL2 on the strength of your review of it and the M6. The M6 review told me that we were on roughly the same wavelength, the enthusiasm with which you wrote about the E-PL2 suggested that their might be joy in using it that was missing in my serious (read big, loud, and heavy) cameras.

I wish the E-PL2 was even quieter. I wish the EV locked in. It's felt a bit sluggish ever since I tried shooting video. None of those complaints are deal-breakers, not sure yet that the sluggishness isn't a setting I got wrong. The red dots would be fatal, but I haven't seen any (that was humor). I don't even think about them. If they happen, I think I know what to do. Kind of like flare I suspect.

I like the images. I'm getting used to the UI. Lightroom handles the raw files. Could it be better? Sure. Does it seem really close to doing exactly the job it was hired for? Absolutely. Would I have found it without your review? Hard to say. Mike Johnston wasn't as compelling.

Thanks for the reviews, their value is precisely in the "missing" technobabble.

Greg said...

Kirk, I just lost my comment due to some Blogspot glitch, so I'll repeat the main points.

I like your article. Both parts.

I don't think people are idiots. They get confused and act idiotic.

I love your Hasselblad portraits! They have that magical, timeless quality to them that makes them stand out for me among your (and many others'!) work. I think you will be remembered for those for many years to come. Doesn't mean that your other work is unimportant but those medium-format portraits are just outstanding.

If someone will ask me who I think is a greatest living portraitist of our time I will say just a (very!) few names. Your name will surely be on that list.

Greg Shanta

Ron said...

It's easier to criticize than to create...

Kurt Shoens said...

I've known many people who have gotten PhDs. It's a long drawn out process and towards the end, most people forget why they started. And every single one, if you ask them at the moment everything's signed, sealed, and delivered, "You just finished your doctorate! How do you feel?" will tell you, "Meh."

It is powerfully strange when the thing that's been dominating your time goes away. All that time you're thinking that if you could just get this done there's so many other things you could work on. Then it's done and where did those other things go?

There's a book I've been hoping you'll write. You probably don't want to jinx the next project by talking about it yet and I don't want to jinx my hopes with a guess. Fingers crossed though.

MGO said...

Good for you.

Thank you for blogging.


Hugh said...

I read your blog regularly because you don't talk about crap like red dots if you shoot at the sun...

Anonymous said...

You're right about the major project hangover. Finishing a book can be like falling off the edge, somehow.

That thought combined with the title of your piece so that on my first glance at your photo I saw (I thought I saw) a pile of paroxetine pills! Took me a second look to see straight. Robert.

Dave Elfering Photography said...

Some people would complain if you handed them a goose that poops golden eggs. They really would.

Its precisely the real-world view you have that gathered my attention. Most Internet forums remind me of a bunch of 3 year olds arguing over which crayon does the best job. Ugh.

For real issues with a red dot, the person should visit a Leica blog :)

JD said...

Ok, I'll bite. How do I get into this win big thing?

Doug said...

Kirk: The most demanding people in the world are those who get something for nothing. Just started reading your blog a few weeks ago and think it's great. Flush away whenever necessary!

Bold Photography said...

Maybe a lunch will help you feel better?

Joe Harper said...

Kirk: i agree with many of the posters above and read your blog for inspiration and a different point of view. If i want technical specs (useless in many cases) i would go elsewhere. It was told to me long ago by a previous employer that a persons resume is full of reasons to not hire someone. Meeting, talking, sharing a meal, now that is the way to evaluate a candidate. As i subscribe to this theory whole heartedly i truly appreciate the personal mannor that you write in this blog and the candid way that you express yourself.

Cheers and keep on doing what your doing. You do this for yourself, it is on us as readers to find our own value in your words.


atmtx said...

Congratulations again on you latest book, on LED lighting.

I also enjoy your reviews quite a bit. Unlike the technical sites, they talk about what matters to photographers and photography.

Jaime Fanlo said...

Congratulations on the new book!!

I remember this saying, i dont recall where i heard or read it, but it goes something like:

"Be careful whose advise you take, but appreciate those who dispense it for free."

I always enjoy your reviews, and i look forward to reading more.

All the best!

Manila, Philippines

Rick D said...

Hi Kurt,

I absolutely love that portrait. It's...well...I love it.

Anyway, your E-PL2 review is currently the only one I point people to who want to know more about Oly µ4/3 cameras. I think once they've read it and seen your examples, they'll have a good idea whether the camera might be right for them. So there.


Daniel said...

Hey Kirk!

Just wanted to say that your reviews are nice for users, not so nice for those who like to stare at their equipment wishing they had better portfolios.

Also, if you didn't write about things that interest me, I think I would visit your site just for your writing style.

Anonymous said...

@ (first) anonymous- What people are doing to idiots is their own business.

@Kirk- You wrote a book?

Jeff E Jensen said...

Funny, my mom just finished a family history book that she has been working on for a couple of years. We are all REALLY glad that she is done.

Like the others, I enjoy what I read here and I keep coming back. Keep it coming!

Greg said...

Ron said...
"It's easier to criticize than to create..."

Ron, since your comment immediately follows mine I assume you are saying this to me. Well, sometimes I do criticize other people and that's a shame. But I surely haven't done it here. In fact, I think I did just the opposite.

If your words weren't addressed to me, please disregard this little repudiation of mine.


kirk tuck said...

Greg, I'm pretty sure Bill addressed that remark to the person I originally described in the blog. Pretty sure about that. Thanks though.

Jessica said...

Thought this was eerily appropriate:


As always, love your thoughts on whatever equipment you happen to be playing with. Don't waste your time worrying about the average consumer. And that portrait is stunning.

Greg said...

Thanks, Kirk. I am relieved now. And sorry, Ron, for taking it personal with your comment which was never addressed to me. Mea culpa! I should have known better.

Kirk, I have read your article again and I must admit that I lied to you when I said that I liked both its parts. Now I do but back when I read it for the first time I was so taken by your portrait of Michelle that I temporarily lost my ability to retain the stuff I was reading. So, the second part of your article, although registered in my mind at the time, forming certain opinion, which I immediately expressed, never actually remained in my memory. So, by the time I came across Ron's comment coming right after mine, I thought, absentmindedly, "Wtf, I wasn't criticizing anyone!" I don't consider myself a stupid person but sometimes I do convincingly act like one!

All my mumbling above has a purpose, though, besides trying to restore my renommée. I've re-experienced here, to my delight, that an image can be very powerful. It sure is worth a thousand words. To the extend that it can actually wipe some words out from your memory entirely.

There was the first part of the article, which my mind absorbed and stored in memory the usual way. Then there was the image and then a blackout (or a 'whiteout', I should say, as the image was, in essence, mostly white). Amazing stuff! I remember one photographer saying that he never 'takes' his pictures but is rather 'taken' by them. I can relate to that.

Interesting psychological phenomenon, isn't it? I can compare it to music as having the same kind of power over human mind. I can recall certain embarrassing moments that involved some great classical music (which I happen to love) and my inability to 'perform' in certain delicate capacity. From then on, I always insist on a no-music arrangement in such situations.

This concludes my uninvited guest article on psychological phenomena in art and love. Sorry, Kirk, for taking so much cyber-space on your blog. Just wanted to share my observations.

Greg Shanta

John F. Opie said...

Kirk -

To thine own self be true. You've been doing that, it's awesome that you are willing to share that, and reading here about LED lights was an epiphany for me.

I just got back from BaselWorld (watch exhibition) using the EP1, the 50f2 and both an LED ring light and a 140 LED Panel attached to the top of the camera. It ROCKED, and let me do video and stills at a quality level that is just plain amazing. Just one camera, two lenses (I used the 12-60 as well via the Lumix adapter) and a slew of batteries. Beats the hell out of having to use a trolley to carry around everything otherwise and be bound to a tripod...like everyone else. :-)