I read my own post this morning and I'm taking a two week hiatus to rework the whole VSL concept.

Seriously.  Today is Sunday the 25th.  I won't be adding new articles until sometime after the 10th of April.  I am re-tooling the concept of the blog in order to make it more coherent and relevant.  I feel like I've become a "tool catalog" and that was never my intention.  Please read the piece about criticism that preceded this one.  I think the points I make are cogent to the state of photography on the web right now.  You can disagree.  Vociferously if you want to.  Have fun and don't break the furniture while I'm on vacation.  And will someone feed the fish?

Belinda with 35mm slides.

LED Lighting Professional Techniques for Digital Photographers


  1. Kirk, I have only followed your writings since the beginning of the year. So please excuse me if my early impressions are uncomfortable. But your frequent essays seems to lean toward self-grumblings (like the previous piece) and wild exclamations/proclamations ("I sold all my dslr gear"). That's fine. There's nothing wrong with letting the world eavesdrop on your thoughts if you're inclined to be so generous. That's why so many find blogs so self-therapuetic.

    But I wonder if that's what you really want? Yes, sabbaticals can be good.

    1. Every point of view says as much about the person holding that viewpoint as it does about the subject being discussed. This is, perhaps, the key element of awareness that is missing from the vast majority of human discourse.

      We all have egos, the trick is to be aware of it, and to not let the ego "drive the bus".

      Every action we take in the world is a mistake in some fashion. Every action has upsides and downsides. Long ago, a student asked the Buddha, "Do you ever make a mistake?" He replied. "I'm making a mistake right now."

      This is true whether in reference to Kirk's blog, or responses to it. We are all free to make our own way through the world. We owe it to ourselves to be awake and aware of what we are doing, what we are saying.

      Our over-caffeinated, helter-skelter society does not always lend itself to quiet contemplation and self discovery, but for those so inclined, it is well worth the effort.

      Personally, I deeply appreciate the open candor of Kirk's blog. His viewpoints and thoughts are informed by a lifetime of art, education and practice. To be able to run a successful business while maintaining an awakened consciousness is no small achievement.

      Whichever direction Kirk chooses to go with this blog, I will go along for the ride. However, I enjoy it just the way it is.

      One final thought for Kirk: There is a reason why your blog is as successful as it is. That is you. You put a little bit of yourself in every entry. Beware of the critics, because the truth depends very much on your point of view, and every action, every point of view, is a mistake in some way.

      Best regards.

    2. "One final thought for Kirk: There is a reason why your blog is as successful as it is. That is you. You put a little bit of yourself in every entry. Beware of the critics, because the truth depends very much on your point of view, and every action, every point of view, is a mistake in some way."

      Indeed, I wholeheartedly agree. That is what makes VSL the single blog I have ensured I read daily since just after it was started. Kirk, I love your thoughts & ramblings. You put your *OWN* stamp on it and don't always (boringly!) go with the flow.

      However ..... (Hehehe!) Kirk, did you not state yourself after your last sabbatical from VSL that you would not be doing all the gear reviews and would strictly stick to your ideas on technique etc? Hey, I like your gear talk and frankly enjoy reading almost everything you post but maybe, just maybe the gear talk (and whatever criticism it attracts) is what is making you uncomfortable (?) about the present situation? I don't know, hey it's your blog and I'm happy with most of what you discuss so no complaints from me either way. I almost always learn when I look in here and that is why I continue to do so.

      Just seems you are not entirely happy/comfortable is all - I'm sure pretty much ALL of us would rather see you enjoy it more so whatever you decide upon is fine. I wish you all the very best and many thanks for your continued input & wisdom, I just hope it carries on coming! :-)

  2. Heh. Bet you can't stay away. :-)

  3. Personally, I very much like the mixture of themes on your blog. And I hope you will not stop doing equipment reviews, because I find them more helpful than the more clinical tests and reviews available at other places on the web. From them I can get cold specifications, but from you I can get more of the feel of using a piece of equipment.

    You really, really should edit your blog posts, organize them by themes, and publish them as a book. I would buy it in a heartbeat.

  4. Kirk,

    I second Dave Jenkins' suggestion that you take the best of your blog posts (most of them, IMHO) and put them in a book.

    I also suggest that if your current contract with Amherst Media isn't exclusive, that you publish this book independently as a e-book only (pdf, epub, etc...) and rely on your readership to provide you with 100% of the revenue.

    You've written how difficult it is seeing significant income for the effort expended from the books that Amherst publishes, and I'm willing to bet money that you would be surprised at how many of your followers would buy a book of your writings and you/Amherst wouldn't incur the overhead involved with publishing a traditional book.

    Take a look at Seth Godin's recent blog posts (either his personal blog or the one he maintains at the Domino Project).

    Sharing your experiences in commercial and portrait photography is invaluable to me and I'm guessing many others.

    Your post on checking out the Sony A77 jpeg engine and its various functions was great to see for me, and helped remind me that I shouldn't even bother to casually read the pixel peeper forums and instead get out and test my camera's capabilities myself.

    I get a whole lot more out of your reviews or those of Michael Reichmann at Lu-La than I do of all the pixel peeping reviews at Dpreview and Imaging-Resource (they do have their place) -- sometimes it helps to hear the perspective of a successful professional when it's all too easy to question whether it's my technique or the equipment (although I usually assume it's my technique).

    Your posts on actually doing the commercial shoots is even more valuable to me.

    I've bought two of your books as a result of finding your blog through the Online Photographer, and two more of them are on my wishlist to pick up soon.

    I hope you'll keep sharing your thoughts and experiences, but anything you share is appreciated.

  5. I read and appreciated your prior post but I also appreciate your views on equipment. Sorry, but I won't feed your fish. I'd feed them to the cat, if I had a cat. ;-)

  6. $10 says you have a new post in by the end of next week. ;>

  7. Kirk enjoy a break, in the past I have found your posts after/during a break to be great. Write when you are ready to write.

    “In the end it’s all about making yourself happy.”
    – Kirk Tuck, the Visual Science Lab, Monday Feb 28th, 2011.

  8. Hi Kirk,

    Self examination must be catching. I'm thinking of quitting this blogging thing altogether. Apparently I'm not smart enough to run with the big boys aka the know it alls.

    A friend

  9. Kirk:

    A rare man is smart enough to make himself think, and wise enough to do so...

    Damn, I just made that up... I'm brilliant! See you when you return, enjoy the hiatus.


  10. Ps,

    You could always use the time to roll into Baton Rouge for some rabid caffeine consumption and aimless wandering with a camera or three.

  11. Enjoy your time off, Kirk. On the one hand I appreciate what you have to say about equipment, but there is certainly much more to be said about photography (and art in general) than to merely discuss the tools with which it is made. My favorite posts of yours are those in which you speak from your heart without concern for what anyone will think. Unfortunately you sometimes go back and delete those the next day. I can understand that, since open and honest speech is frowned upon in our society and it probably attracts a lot of nasty comments both on the blog and elsewhere. Still, many of these posts have value beyond anything that could be said about the latest camera or lens.

  12. Longtime lurker here, but I must say I have enjoyed your blog more than any other photo-related places I tend to lurk. A change of "scenery" is often a good thing, but try to stay true to your roots; therein lies the magic.

  13. Kirk long time reader of your blog and I'm a big fan. Sure you've had a lot of equipment posts, but sometimes it also goes in the opposite direction. You write about what you are interested in, or what you are doing and that's what I like most. Even if it's grumbling about gear, it's really interesting to hear your perspective rather than read another dry technical review. Now it's about figuring out your new toys, than it will be a return to a couple weeks of business related posts. Keep up the good work!

  14. HONESTY.......that's what it's all about
    and that is what you do so well, Kirk.

    Self-criticism demands total self-honesty
    to be of any value to one's self firstly, and then
    one can share one's work and thoughts with the world
    and be taken seriously.

    You, Kirk, are 'virtually' the most honest person I know.
    Please keep saying it as it is.

  15. Kirk I've been reading your blog for quite awhile and to be honest the I found the product oriented posts the least interesting. Not only that but (forgive the unsolicited critique) I find the work you shot with black and white film to be by far the most engaging, which is the kind of cultural dissonance that epitomises the web. Everyone likes to talk about the latest and greatest but when it comes down to it the work I find the most engaging is made with technology that has been established and in many ways hasn't changed for decades. There is something missing in modern photography it maybe craftsmanship or a face to face human element but I can't help feeling we've lost something important.

  16. “You can disagree. Vociferously if you want to.”

    Only because you gave permission to do so. I have purchased all of your books, and enjoyed them. We have a mutual friend that says you are an incredibly nice guy. I have read every blog post from the beginning. I say this to show that I have no particular vitriol toward you personally. If I were in Austin, I would probably buy you a beer and some good Mexican food. But I find myself disagreeing with you quite often. I am generally non-confrontational and don’t like to post comments on blogs, good or bad. But since, at least for today, you are a fan of critics, I am afraid I am going to be a bit critical.
    Whether it is theatre, music, literature, or the movies, I rarely if ever agree with the so-called expert critics. Why would I think that a photography critic would be anything more than intellectualy pretentious? Don’t get me wrong, a critique from a teacher or mentor can be helpful, especially when you are in the learning stage. Because critiques are nothing more than opinions, I am not sure how unsolicited critiques from this army of critics you would create would be helpful to anyone. People in general don’t respond well to unsolicited criticisms. I hate to say it, but you are living proof of this. As you related, when a friend recently gave you unsolicited advice about your blog, you became quite angry. Why is unsolicited critique of someone’s idea of art any different? And why would it invoke a different emotion? If you are a student of history, you should know that when photography was first invented, it was hotly debated whether it could ever be art. You should also know that much literature would never have been written if the authors responded to the critics. Examples:

    Lord Byron on John Keats (1820)
    “Here are Johnny Keats’ piss-a-bed poetry, and three novels by God knows whom… No more Keats, I entreat: flay him alive; if some of you don’t I must skin him myself: there is no bearing the drivelling idiotism of the Mankin.”
    Charles Baudelaire on Voltaire (1864)
    “I grow bored in France — and the main reason is that everybody here resembles Voltaire…the king of nincompoops, the prince of the superficial, the anti-artist, the spokesman of janitresses, the Father Gigone of the editors of Siecle.”
    There are plenty more, but you get the idea. Someday, Kirk Tuck on HDR will be added to that list. (That’s a whole different argument, but I personally believe that if Ansel Adams were alive, he would embrace HDR and would probably be able to teach Scott Kelby a thing or two about photoshop.)

    “ the minute anyone receives even a good natured critique that calls any facet of the work into question the original poster flies into a rage and goes into a defense mode akin to a dictator facing insurrection. “
    Again, isn’t this exactly what you do whenever anyone criticizes something you have written? In the past you have deleted comments, turned off the ability to comment, and threatened to quit writing the blog entirely. “If you put work in a gallery you are inviting the world to experience it and react to it.” Same with a blog.

    I’ll quit now. I know that you don’t know me from Adam, so my opinion probably doesn’t matter to you. Just consider me one of the “privileged amateurs.” That is, if by privileged amateur you mean I worked my ass off the last 30 years so that I can afford whatever toys I choose to play with. This privileged amateur has studied a bit of history, and learned to shoot on a fully manual Canon Ftb in the mid 70’s. And yes, I spent a lot of time in the darkroom back then. I’ll concede that you probably took more pictures last year than I have in my life, but I still contend that art, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And your opinion of what is or isn’t art is no more or less valuable than anyone else’s opinion.

    Interesting read on film critics, but I think it applies to critics in general:

  17. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But art is an entirely different matter. It's a coherent cultural concensus of history and aesthetic value. That's more objective than, "I like anchovies on pizza."

  18. I will miss your posts. Come back soon. You are a constant inspiration to me. Seriously.

  19. I enjoy the honesty and variation of your posts. This makes your blog one of the more insightful places to read about photography on the web. Whatever changes you decide to make, please continue to write from your heart.

  20. It's been said that "a change is as good as a vacation." Don't know that I always agree with this, but one way or another -- enjoy your vacation!

  21. Kirk, first let me say that this is your blog and you have every right to do whatever you wish with it. I think I read somewhere that "A divine dissatisfaction is the root of all creativity." Or maybe I just made it up -- I'm not sure. But I think it's true.

    But before you take any drastic measures to fix your blog, please evaluate carefully whether it's really broken. I think hundreds of readers would agree with me that we enjoy the wide-ranging, unpredictable nature of your posts. I don't always agree with you, but your writings are always a good read. And even though I've been in this game longer than you have, I often learn worthwhile things from you.

    So please -- if you must repair, repair with care.

    Actually, though, I don't expect things to change all that much. You write from the heart, so your blog posts are a reflection of who you are. I think the only way you can change that is to stop blogging altogether, and I don't thing you want to do that either.

  22. I will chime in as another reader who hopes you return soon, refreshed and not very different. I value your equipment reviews just because they are not "equipment reviews", they are one person's take on said piece of equipment. If you have fun with a new camera/lens/lighting rig I can be 95% sure that I will like it too. Between you and Mike Johnston you have moved a lot of camera gear and books into my house and I don't regret one of them.

    Your rants are fun to read whether I agree with you or not. To paraphrase (mangle?) a quote from Jurassic Park," Art will out." All of the smart phone photos will never be printed and end up lost. The good ones will be printed and won't be lost. Your work will endure because it's good.

    I have even bought a Mexican cookbook due to your pictures and will soon try it out (I have to wait for my peppers to produce, the Datils are almost ripe!)

    So, enjoy your leave of absence, get in the pool, have some more coffee and we'll see you when we see you.

    Jim Weekes

  23. What a beauty!

    I'll miss your posts... VSL and TOP are my two favorite blogs. But then, I'm much more of a philosopher photographer than a pixel peeper. However, the bottom line for me is do what you want. I think the real purpose of a personal blog (maybe aside from marketing yourself) is to be a channel for your own self exploration. And if you do that with authenticity, we'll feel it and stay connected to it.

  24. Kirk,

    I look forward to your return, whatever the format.

  25. Enjoy the blogcation. Back when I used to try to keep my blog updated regularly I found it induced a weird sense of anxiety and irritability. Back when I used to play guitar regularly I found that if I took a few days off, I was always more creative on the return, even if my fingers weren't as nimble.

  26. Well, Kirk, if you decide to stop all the hardware analysis I personally will miss it. It's nice to hear about what a sophisticated photographer thinks about this corner of the trade, and I like your take on things. But I also enjoy your discussions about why and what you shoot, and your overall philosophy - I enjoy your writing. So, no matter what you do to revamp/reinvent, I'm still gonna read it.

  27. What I like in this blog, which I follow regularly since a few months is the mix of topics and specially your real working experiences, from which there is always something to learn.

  28. Long time lurker here, funny how you bring us out of the woodwork.
    Love the blog and HOPE YOU DON'T CHANGE THING!
    And in regards to - " I feel like I've become a "tool catalog" and that was never my intention." - I for one am very interested in your "tool catalog" because it relates to you and your pro/amateur interests. I'm waiting to see where you end up with the 4/3's equipment and what works best for you all around.

    So keep the writing. rod

  29. I almost never agree with you or Mike Johnston on religion or politics. But I like your style. And his. So, take a chill pill and come back swinging. Honesty is the best policy.

  30. I love VSL because it is unpredictable and personal. It is not sanitized. Your quite public conflicts about why you do it and what you write about are part of the deal. Stop talking about gear for a while and then change your mind if you want. Don't make it rigid. And thank you.

  31. Thanks for the feedback. I think it might be impossible for me to become to rigid, or sanitized. If anything it is my intention to go in the other direction.

  32. Just doing what you want to, and changing your mind, makes VSL all the better. Keep doing what you do, and then something else. Or not. I lookforward to every entry. Predictability is no virtue.

  33. A propos your current state of mind Kirk, might be worth taking a look at the hammer article Mike Johnston references over at TOP. Hope you are back soon.

  34. Hammer article noted and appreciated. +1 for Lensrental.

  35. Read the Lensrental post. Convinced me to drop most forums from my reading list. Please hurry back. I am ready.

  36. What is VSL? Where was it defined?

  37. George. A learned committee of visual experts created the name. I am merely the spokes person for this bold assemblage of brilliant thinkers in our field. Wait. I'm not sure I understand your question.

  38. Wait wait. Do not define VSL Defined, it will lose all charm. It should just BE. VSL is about today is today, and tomorrow is different Kirk worries about what it has become and reinvents. Just let it be. And be reinvented, without needing to be defined. And thank you.


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