Martin as "Elwood P. Dowd."

Martin in "Harvey." At Zach Theatre. 2013.

This is one idea about portraiture and skin tone. We shot it with LED lights for a marketing campaign.

Erin. Photographed last year for the play: Hip, Beat, Mad and Gone.

It's a different way of making portraits.

If you need a good Summer read or a book for a long plane ride I hope you'll give our first photo/fiction/action book a go. As always, I appreciate your support!


On writing and giving birth to a book. Most especially fiction.

From Hip, Mad, Beat and Gone.

I love to tell stories but I hate the details of writing. I've always been this way. I am a poor speller and an even poorer copy editor. When I wrote ads and TV commercials in my ancient career as an advertising agency copywriter I had people all around me who specialized in taking my thoughts, and ideas, and finding the little glitches and "gotchas" that necessarily remain when typing and thinking are done at speed, under a tight deadline. If the proofreaders and junior writers didn't catch stuff there were always a couple rounds of client approvals as well. 

I rejoiced when I was asked by the publisher at Amherst Media to write a book about lighting back in 2007. "At last," I thought, "someone will have the job of editing what I write and making it beautiful." Alas, I found more than a handful of typos which made it through the gauntlet of multiple readers and editors and into the book. And in each ensuing book a few typos always slipped through as well. But I felt I was absolved of blame (for the most part) because there was a formal distinction between being an author and being an editor or proof-reader.

But with my own book, The Lisbon Portfolio, I found myself in uncharted waters and, until recently, without a real life guard. Here's the background: In late November of 2001 I had some health issues that required me to take months of time to recuperate and get back to work. I spent my (unwanted) free time writing a novel.  I did it the way I generally do stuff; I got an idea and I sat down and plowed through it until I was done. Essentially I wrote the first, long draft of The Lisbon Portfolio in about six months. Then my health recovered and I got back to my photographic work and back to the regular pace of real life. 

Everything possible interceded between me and the book over the course of the last twelve years. The field I work in went through radical and unpredictable shifts and then the world economy went upside down and I feel like I spent the last five years navigating a leaky boat through the rough and chaotic waters. During all of those years I wanted to finish the original writing project but something always came up and I kept loosing the thread. I wrote five non-fiction books about photography but somehow I could never circle back to the book that had the most meaning for me.

2014 has been one of the most stable years for me that I can remember in a good, long while so I finally committed myself to getting this project done and out. I read the manuscript over and over again but I've come to the conclusion that if you are the one who writes something as long as a novel your brain somehow cancels out your ability to see the errors on the pages, after the fact. It may be that as the creator I keep getting caught back in the story instead of being able to make a dispassionate survey of possessives and subjunctives and all that vital stuff. For one reason or another the individual words have become greek to me. But one of my blog followers has stepped in to help me. He read the story and liked it. A lot. He got in touch with me to see if it would be okay for him to submit an edited manuscript with corrections highlighted. 

I am thrilled! He is half way through the correction process already and I'm standing by to implement all of his changes upon completion. The wonderful thing about self-publishing a book as a Kindle book is that when you find things (or things are brought to your attention) that need to be fixed you can wade back into the formatted manuscript and make those changes. Within 24 hours of making corrections the revised manuscript goes live on Amazon.com and every copy downloaded from that point onward has the new changes.

If we have started with a paper book the first buyers would end up having to live without the changes. But if you bought a Kindle version of my book as soon as the revised copy is uploaded you can trash your current copy and download the newer copy at no charge to you. It's like a firmware upgrade for a book. 

I know that many people believe that a product has to be perfect before it goes out the door and I would love to have delivered one of those six sigma products. But the story is the story and it's not going to change (much...if at all...). But it was vitally important to me, personally, to finish up The Lisbon Portfolio and get it out. I wanted to share it with my readers and I needed to move it out of my mental inventory to make room for the next writing project. No, it's not going to be another book about lighting or portraits. It's the next "Henry White" novel and it's already starting to gel. 

I love telling stories and I love writing about what I know. While the action and adventure depicted in The Lisbon Portfolio is totally fiction the surrounding threads of a corporate trade show are all crafted from an amalgam of my professional experiences. 

In the first week readers have already snapped up hundreds of copies of the book. We have our first four reviews on Amazon.com and I am proud to say that none of the reviewers are family and none were bribed to write their reviews. I'd like to share them all below: 

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cure for a Sluggish Pulse June 24, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I recall reading “The Exorcist” one night (back when it first came out – the early 70’s), and I just could not put it down. Page after page, tension mounting, my heart racing, I pushed through to the end. At about 3 AM!

“The Lisbon Portfolio” got to me the same way. I began reading on the plane from Philly to Dallas. (To about 20%, according to the Kindle reader app’s little gray note on each page.) We were visiting with some of my wife’s family, but there were periods when I had time to myself, so I’d open the Nexus tablet and plow on. All were amused by my periodic “percent complete” reports. I finished it by the end of the second day.

If you have followed Kirk Tuck’s Visual Science Lab blog for any length of time, you can get a sense of who the man is. And I think Kirk Tuck is “The Lisbon Portfolio” protagonist Henry White. But, Henry White is not Kirk Tuck, even though they both hail from Austin, Texas. Not unless Kirk has been keeping his NSA and CIA adventures a secret from us. Just today (Monday), Kirk describes his gig at the RLM Math Conference in Denver, and it could easily have been a passage out of the book, as Henry Smith describes how he plans to shoot the Global Data Systems (GDS) 4-day international conference in Lisbon. He even brings in references to his Leica cameras. (Hint: a film Leica plays a significant role in an exciting scene in the book.)

Having spent the last several decades in the Corporate IT world, I could relate to his depictions of the GDS annual sales conference, aka “the dog and pony show,” intended to entice current and would-be customers to take the chance on the next (buggy) software release.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The good news is the title indicates this is book 1 June 27, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Fast paced thriller featuring the James Bond of photographers. The good news is the title indicates this is book 1, hopefully more are to come.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intricate and deadly June 18, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is one well-paced, intricately plotted spy-vs-spy story, featuring high-tech weapons theft and black market dealing. The author is a professional photographer and writer who knows what he...and his hero...are doing.

Nothing about the book requires an interest in or knowledge of photography (it never gets bogged down in technicalities), but for those who do have an appreciation of the craft there are tasty photo-nuggets here and there which draw the reader even further into the story.

Plenty of action, none of it forced, all of it credible. You can follow the fate of a man pulled into a dangerous situation way over his head and see how he survives. If he survives. Along the way, get to know the bloodiest public restroom in Portugal, perhaps in all of Europe.
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Kirk Tuck is a fine photographer, specializing in portraits and corporate work, who has a widely-followed, well-written blog. He also, apparently, is a fan of the Tom Clancy, Ken Follett genre of adventure fiction. He combines these two interests in this tale, drawn from his past experiences in overseas corporate event photography. The story moves along briskly, through lots of short chapters, with the requisite levels of suspense, daring and lucky escapes, international and domestic villains, and unlikely coincidences. There are many novels that follow similar patterns, but this one will be particularly attractive to readers with strong photographic interests, since there is a lot of technical detail about equipment, lighting, and the demanding business of corporate event photography. Tuck also writes poignantly about the pleasures of personal photography with a Leica M4 film camera, and the stresses of earning a living as a self-employed photographer.

I deduct a star, however, because - to my surprise given Tuck's good writing on his blog - this novel could have used a much more stringent editorial scrubbing than it seems to have received. Apostrophes are frequently misused: it's for its, who's for whose, etc. Sentences are overloaded with adjectives and with often unnecessary and repetitive descriptive detail. I think the book could have been 10% shorter, and proportionally more enjoyable, if the annoying shrubbery had been removed by a good copy editor.

Despite these criticisms, I enjoyed the book and found it a good companion on my Kindle while traveling in Eastern Europe. I recommend it to photographers who also like mystery/adventure novels, or to fans of adventure fiction who are curious about the life of a professional photographer.
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If you need a good Summer read or a book for a long plane ride I hope you'll give our first photo/fiction/action book a go. As always, I appreciate your support!

Retail alchemy turns loser flash into sparkling 17mm lens. It's like magic.

Playwright. Stephen Dietz.

Many of you who tuned in to VSL last week read the saga of the flash that wouldn't. It's the sad tale of a frightfully expensive flash that is so moody and unreliable that it drove me from the world of TTL flash to a more pedestrian and workaday model of flash that eschews automation altogether. 

When I finished writing my scathing review I decided I would take it to Precision Camera and see if I could make a silk purse out of Sony's sow's ear. I walked in and talked to the people at the repair and rental desk because they also handle trade-ins. They took the flash, tested it and tossed out a monetary value. Since my own estimation hovered around zero I thought their much higher offer was generous enough to preclude haggling so I turned the flash over to them and spent some time looking around for something to spend my trade in credit on. 

I played with a used Olympus EM-5 and remembered once again just how nice the shutter sounds on that camera and just how confusing the menus are. I put it back in the salesman's hands. Then I spent a nice half an hour on one of Precision Camera's comfortable leather couches, getting to know the Panasonic GX-7 (which is on my short list of cameras I might want to have if I needed more than four).  While the flash trade-in was generous the spread between my trade-in credit and the GX-7 was a bit too wide to justify and so I started concentrating on lenses. 

I played with two Nikon lenses that I considered strongly. One is the 105mm 2.5 ai, a variant of at least ten that I've owned over the last two decades...(it's a marvelous lens but it tends to get flushed at transition points from Nikon into other systems or Kodak/Nikon cameras into other systems...) but I eventually decided against it because even though I maintain the overly romantic notion that I will, someday, go back to shooting some images with my Nikon F4s, deep down I know that my days of whipping film through the system are largely over. Especially 35mm film...

As the afternoon waned I came across a silver, used Olympus 17mm f1.8 and I seemed to remember reading something nice about it somewhere so that's what I decided upon. When I came home I read some of the lukewarm reviews and decided to ignore them and find out for myself. The lens is good for almost everyone, anywhere unless you demand absolutely linear performance across the entire frame. Me? I like em blisteringly sharp in the center and if they can do that I'm happy. So color me happy on this one. 

I've traded a useless flash for a fun lens. Now I am out the door to see how it handles Austin's amazingly exciting downtown scene. 

Don't miss the blockbuster action/adventure photo novel of the Summer!!!!!
Follow the adventures of corporate photographer, Henry White 
as he travels to Lisbon for a week of mayhem and photography!!!

Get your Kindle copy before they are all gone...

Using an RX10 as a journalism camera.

Chef being interviewed.

This past March I covered an event at SXSW for New York public relations agency, Allison PR. The event featured chef, Dominique Ansel, making his signature baked product, the Cronut(tm) and he also introduced a new product which is a chocolate chip cookie, shaped like a shot glass or tumbler and served filled with cold milk. As is usual for a SXSW event over 400 people waited in line for several hours to gain entry to the Stephen F. Austin (Intercontinental) Hotel for their chance to taste one of these delicacies. 

My job was to cover all the aspects of the event, from the baking and making to the crowds of fans who had a blast sampling the product and visiting the adjacent bar.

I brought along a few full frame cameras but I ended up leaning on my favorite camera of the moment, the Sony RX10. The wide zoom range was valuable for shooting tight in and then whipping back fro establishing shots. ISO's from 200 to 3200 were intermixed and looked great. Certainly more than good enough for the primary use which was a quick journey to the web. 

From bounce light in the above image to fluorescent lights in the images below the camera was able to absolutely nail color balance and exposures while being quick and automatic to operate. 

Much as I love the RX10 (and I really do!!!) I have to report a flaw that recently popped up. You know that wonderful switch on the bottom of the lens that gives you a choice between defined click stops on the aperture ring and free wheeling action for video production? Well that switch no longer holds in position and the camera constantly wants to shift from the click-y position at which I've set it into the click-less position, in which I have much less interest...

While it's not worth sending it in to fix it is nonetheless an aggravating failure for a camera that carries a premium price in its niche and which has been handled lovingly and with kid gloves. Of course, if Sony values good customer relations they will no doubt read this and send a team over to the studio to fix it on site. Hey! Sony guys! If you are headed this way can you stop by the Starbucks on Bee Caves Rd. and Walsh-Taralton and pick me a up a Venti half caff drip coffee? I'll pay you back when you get here....

making the tops of Cronuts happy places.

Adding garnish to the Cronut.

The chocolate lined cookie shot glasses, awaiting milk.

Many lines are written on the web that would make one think no professional job could be done with less than a D4s or a 1DX but you won't read those ideas here. The RX10 was more than adequate to the task and the images ran in hundreds of places. The event was a screaming success. 

Don't miss the blockbuster action/adventure photo novel of the Summer!!!!!
Follow the adventures of corporate photographer, Henry White 
as he travels to Lisbon for a week of mayhem and photography!!!

Get your Kindle copy before they are all gone...

Portrait. NYC 2013.

While we all love talking about the tools we use, and the state of the photographic industry, I do think it's beneficial to occasionally pick up a camera and make images. If nothing else it will give you more data points to share when you discuss the bokeh of the latest lens.