Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen have nothing to do with this blog post. Almost.

To be honest about the blog title, I wanted to see if it's really true that you can drive outrageous numbers to your blog with the silly ploy of using the names of famous celebrities in the headline.  Blogger will probably spank me for even playing around but I think in this day and age of media silliness it's interesting to see how hidden algorithms define what we see and read..... Now on with the Sunday blog.....

I went out for a walk around noon today.  I was wearing a pair of for all mankind (#7) polarized sunglasses and, as I've noticed in the past, everything looks better thru a pair of polarized sunglasses.  Skies get dramatic, colors pop and everything gets a bit janglier.  So I took them off, even though the hot noon sun was blinding, and I spent the next two hours trying to make my camera see the way I do when I have those damn cool glasses on.  That meant cranking up the saturation and doing some mild post processing on my return to the office.  Something I rarely do.

And today, of all days, I actually evesdropped on my own fleeting thought processes as I lined up photographs.  I wanted to know, in the moment, why I took the frames (not the sunglasses, the other frames) I did as I walked around on our first hot Sunday.  And just for the hell of it I thought I'd share those thoughts with you and see if anyone was hardy enough to read all the way thru.

Cute girls on stylish mopeds are always a given.  Flashing by with a short red skirt on the first hot day makes for an almost autonomic response by most photographers.  For some reason Austin is wall-to-wall with scooters, mopeds, electric scooters and motorcycles this Spring.  From a fatherly point of view I wanted to shout out that she should wear a helmet, and some foot gear, and some long pants in case she had to lay that bike down.  But advice is largely wasted on youth and I was too busy manually focusing to follow thru with sage pronouncements.

Why?  Does everyone see it?  It looks like an owl to me.  And if the architects and nature transpired together to bring off a decidedly cubist owl how can I walk away without documenting it?  I was first attracted to the slice of transluminated green on the right side window.  Then the horns on the top pushed me to stop and the glare of the endlessly concentric eyes compelled me to say, "Yes, yes, yes.  A thousand times yes!" As I bracketed a 32 exposure HDR bracketing sequence.  Then I came to my senses, deleted all but one of the exposures and figured I was actually smart enough or experienced enough (or lucky enough) to be able to get good shots that ONLY need on frame.......  I call it "Found In Baggage Claim.."

As I rounded the corner on Congress Ave.  I looked to my left and saw a long table of patrons at the bar of the restaurant on the ground floor of the Austonian.  Packed together in a line eight across were the biggest butts I'd ever seen shoved into Sunday church dresses.  Massive legs ending in fahionable high heeled shoes.  But though I'm cruel enough to write it I'm not cruel enough to stop and draw even more attention and ridicule by bringing to greater attention the plight of the enormous via photography. Even when they sit with their backsides to the giant show window, facing the main downtown street.  So I ambled along a few doors down and found these chairs stacked.  I'd been playing with the EC-S split image screen in the camera and I was amazed at how quick and easy focus was, near wide open, at the bottom of the frame.  And I thought about that instead.

When I started out my walk I went by a tall condominium tower called, Spring.   When I glanced up I saw this intense reflection of the undiffused sun.  Most people would blink and walk away but after the trench warfare of the Olympus EPL2 review (just "Google" "Olympus Red Spots") I decided to see what the difference sized pixel wells in the Canon would do.  Voila.  No red dots.  I'm of the belief that red dots are more of a winter phenomenon..... Then I just decided I liked the angles.  And I imagined that this would be the kind of building that an Ayn Rand-y architect would build if he were working in 2011 instead of 1957.  Who can know?

At some junction I think my brain is just attracted to strong lines and color contrasts.  And I'll shoot just about anything that fits the mold.  Kind of a "find a pattern named Waldo" with buildings.  And I'm a sucker for street lights on the corner.

Why did I shoot this?  Was it something Susan Sontag wrote?  Or Robert Adams?  Or, Claude Levi-Strauss (From Honey to Ashes to Street Art)?  Naw.  I just love it when corporations or the city make art for everyone to enjoy downtown.  This is an inset mural on the brick sidewalk of Second Street and is one of five or sixes pieces of original art embedded on the corner.  It wasn't there two weeks ago.  I snapped the shot to share it with my local ad friends.  Strictly Photography as a communication tool.

I've spent 30 years discovering, rediscovering and coming to grips with the work of photographer, Lee Freidlander, and as I walked down the sidewalk on Fifth St. thinking about cellphones and how lame the whole cellphone thing is, my mind clicked in and said, "Wow, isn't that a wild and chaotic assemblage of colors and shapes and stuff?   Shouldn't you stop being an anti-electronics snob and just shoot the damn thing?"  I was shocked at the intercession of a normally distracted brain and it was so novel to actually get some proactive juice out of it that I jumped to and snapped just as the cyclist hit the panel I wanted him in.  My brain thought it was pretty cool so I printed it just to keep him happy.  I wonder what Lee Freidlander's work would have been like if he'd worked all in color.  I wonder if this image above would have any power if it were in black and white.....

Documentary shock comes when you see something in your own town you didn't know existed.  In this case, actual street sweepers.  Shades of Paris in the 1970's.  Amazing.  I'd never seen it before so this is more of a documention of my protected lifestyle that anything else.

Moving along.  Nothing to say about the enigmatic art installation that's been at the intersection of Lamar Blvd. and the railroad tracks for the better part of a decade.  I shoot it to pay homage to the noble idea of art in public places.  And to mystify the drivers who sweep under the bridge, cellphone in one hand, Big Gulp(tm) in the other.  All faith placed in the steering power of their knees and the weight reducing power of 64 ounces of Diet Coke(tm).

Finally, A quiet shot done at the mysterious insistence of my new focusing screen which has convinced me in short order that every time we remove something like autofocus we are not losing tools so much as gaining directness with the objects in front of the camera.  Let me say it succintly:  Autofocus works well but it's a sucky concept meant, for the most part, to assuage the fears and trepidation of people who are too lazy to learn the totally cool art of taking charge and doing their own focusing.  Not to worry.  I'll find a reason for autofocus tomorrow.

The high point of the walk was seeing a wealth of people in the downtown area eating at packed sidewalk restaurants.  The lure of downtown is getting stronger and stronger and it feels so vibrant and un-American (in a good way).  People walking for blocks.  People moving without their cars.  People being nice to each other because they don't have four thousand pounds of steel around them and so must be responsible for their own words and actions.  Amazingly equalizing.  Just what a culture needs.

I headed over to Whole Foods and had a wonderful chopped BBQ sandwich with purple onions and sweet pickles.  Washed it down with a Pale Ale (on tap) and headed home.  I continue to be more and more pleased with the old Canon 1dmk2n and the 50mm Zeiss Planar 1.4.  Used them for my walk and never entertained the thought that I might need anything else.

Shooting tomorrow and Tues. but hoping to have my Michael O'Brien video done and approved by Weds.  Hope the week treats you well.

Postscript:  I finally gave into peer pressure and bought an iPhone.  Now I can stumble thru Whole Foods transfixed to the screen, walking into other people, head-on, who are also transfixed to their screens and once in a great while I'll use the hipstamatic app on the iPhone like all the other aging photographers in their desperate attempt to recapture the cool they assumed they had sometime in the past.  Just what the world needs.....  But at least now I'm connected.....oh brother.

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  1. Great pictures from around downtown, I just can't stay out to long, it's been really hot and sunny lately.

    Also great eye, I've been thinking about getting a moped for myself.

  2. As always, the is very well written. I can honestly say that there are few thing I enjoy more than a good wander with my camera. It is very relaxing, therapeutic, and energizing all at once. Here's some shots from a recent wander in Dallas, TX:


    I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts, Kirk! Keep em coming.

  3. Interesting post. Almost makes me want to live in Austin. Almost.

    It's great to get out and just have some fun. The wife and I went to the Corning Museum of Glass yesterday and had great fun. Lots of color, specular surfaces, and low-light situations to make it challenging and fun. We used to live in Las Cruces, NM, years ago, but the heat got to be a bit too much. I prefer air-conditioned interiors to the mind-melting temperatures of the southwest, though you can't beat the southwest for gorgeous vistas.

  4. Fun walk Kirk, enjoyed it. For click attracting headlines (clicktractive?)I'm sure celebrities help, as do brand names like Coca-Cola. Try "Coca-cola and a Big Mac for lunch" and see what you get, or when doing a review, "Coca-cola vs. Canon." Or you could always try plain old Sex, as in Sexy Downtown Photo Shoot. Claude is probably not going to help.

  5. I held my smile in until I got to the line:

    "the weight reducing power of 64 ounces of Diet Coke(tm)"

    then had to laugh out loud... fun Sunday night read!

  6. Great post, but oh my, the scooter women is not only not wearing a helmet or saftey gear but has her iPod ear buds stuck in her ears. A disaster waiting to happen. I wore full leathers on my motorcycle. I don't think the cement gives your skin a free pass if you fall off a scooter as opposed to a motorcylce.

  7. Kirk,

    But WHY did you give in to iPhone?
    You need a phone not some fancy mini computer for geeks!

  8. Anonymous, It's what all the cool kids have. I went from my 1999 Nokia to the iPhone to apparently shock myself out of my cellphone loathing. Plus, I drank a whole gallon of the Apple Koolaide. I even have Apple shower curtains and Mac floor mats for my car.....

  9. Love your comment on the ROI of giving up autofocus. You know, maybe all we really need is a Leica M3 and 50mm lens to truly get technology out of our way....

    Great reflection image - kept staring at it waiting for the order to pop out and then realized it was the disorder that made it interesting.

    Ever thought of giving photowalks around the country? Or would that spoil a good walk?

  10. Oh Mel, that would definitely spoil a good walk. Everyone should flush the phrase "photo walk" out of their vocabulary. You should be able to walk for fun, incidentally have your camera along, and have the option to respond to stuff you find interesting rather than being in the mindset of having to hunt stuff down....

  11. Apple definitely makes the best cool-aide. We bought a second ipad after my wife realized she needed the 3g version at work (and the 2 was out). No computers yet though, so I had better re-fill my cup.

  12. John, long term addict here: Family of three:

    Three MacBook Pro's, two MacBooks, on older G4 Ti Laptop, one blueberry iBook, one 27" iMac, one G5 tower, one g4 tower, two iPod touches, and now a phone. Can't count the number of Fx's and SE30's and the like we've owned over the years.

    Oh, and then there's our Apple cookware and our Apple sportsware. I worked on a PC once. My fingers and my brain still hurt.....

  13. That reminds me of the ultimate click generating headline, at least a couple years ago... Mac Vs. PC. That has to be the discussion equivalent of a high-iso photo, lots of noise, very few photons.

  14. Oh No! I find we are on the opposite side of another life choice. No wonder you photos look better than mine!

  15. Kirk, not often that I see an image on the web that makes me say "Wow!" out loud, but this one did it for me. Thanks for sharing it with us.


  16. Great bicycle shot, Kirk! I like its multi-layered structure and its air and colours!


  17. Those are expensive sun glasses! You could buy a 50mm lens for that amount of money. Not a brand I would expect you to wear. In fact, I didn't even know they made shades. Sigh.

    And the second image is definitely my favorite.

  18. Just noticed the "topless wine bar" tag. Brilliant. Sadly, nothing will draw traffic like "red dots Olympus".

  19. Another great post. I like what I call "photography at km zero", photos taken within a walking distance from where I live!
    PS: a few km zero pics here in my blog: http://thequietphotographer.wordpress.com/tag/km-zero/

    1. Better said: within a walking distance from where the photographer lives.

  20. I thought that you were in some sort of time warp, as you started out stating that this was for you Sunday blog.... and I was pretty sure that it was Saturday. Then you mentioned Olympus and Canon, and lots off the wall humor (that you don't seem to do so much anymore) and then I knew for sure that this was a blast from the past. Had me laughing the whole time though! The photos are all still just as interesting now as they were the first time, but I'm not sure about that last one, though...!

  21. I recalled seeing this one before. But I had forgotten so many details it really seems to be a completely-fresh blog entry.

    You mentioned at one point that you were trying to take shots that looked like what you would see when wearing polarized sunglasses. My initial thought was "Put a polarizing filter on the front of the lens." That shot of the "Spring" condominium tower looks astonishingly similar to a series of shots I took a couple of months ago of a new residential tower under construction in my city. Most of those shots looked like they were taken with a lens that had a polarizing filter attached to it. But I used no polarizing filter. In fact, unlike the days of color slide film, I have never used a polarizing filter since I started taking pictures with digital cameras. I just set the exposure compensation to -1, and voila, instant deep blue sky and rich colors.

  22. Just curious - new ZE 50/1.4 or old Contax? I have Contax, amazing lens..

  23. I thought I remembered reading this post before! And then I convinced myself it must be new. But there's my comment from two years ago about your sunglasses of all things. This time, I'd like to say that I still love that second shot of the box office, and that I am so glad Lee Friedlander didn't work in color - I love him, but I don't think I'd be able to handle the chaos in color.

  24. I promised I'd add back my old favorites and this one seemed so much fun to me I put it at the top of the pile. Thanks!

  25. Glad you kept this one, Kirk.

    Reading along with your thoughts was like sitting next to the person on the bus who says out loud whatever is passing through their brain...only less scary.

    Enjoy your "Sunday!"

  26. I forgot how many times I posted back in April 2011. Must have been a bad weather month.

  27. He he! An iphone eh?

    if you ever get really bored ( I somehow doubt you ever do ) you can now start an Apple vs Android argument on some sad forum.....

    ....somehow though I don't think you will!

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