7.28.2014

A photograph from The Gospel at Colonus. Zach Theatre. Austin, Texas 2014


A shot during dress rehearsal. There's really nothing else to say.

Camera: Sony a99. Stage lighting. 

Meeting young Richard Linklater.

Richard Linklater, Director. 
© 1992 Kirk Tuck, All Rights Reserved.

I got a call from an art director at Elle Magazine. "Would you take some portraits of a young, Austin director for us?" he asked. This was way back in 1992. I told them that I'd be delighted and asked for a little direction. They gave me very little direction.  The art director said, "Just something casual." and then they gave me his telephone number. 

Richard had already done the movie, Slacker, and was in pre-production for a new movie called, Dazed and Confused, but he still answered his own phone and we made a date to meet at the apartment he was renting just off campus and to walk around shooting some photos. I talked an aspiring young actress named, Renee, into coming along with me to help carry a flash. There were no publicists involved, no fashion editor from the magazine, no entourages.

Richard's apartment was one of five or six that had been carved out of an old house just on the corner of 24th street and San Antonio St., a block over from the venerable and famous Les Amis CafĂ© and only two blocks from the University of Texas. When we got there he was sitting out in front on the steps waiting for us. Richard, Renee and I talked for ten minutes or so and discovered that we had all been in the English department at UT at one time or another. 

We walked down the long alley behind the main drag where we found this wall that all of us liked and we took a bunch of photos in that area. Richard even agreed to do some shots in a little brick area made for trash cans. The pictures of him laying on his side in a glamor pose are still funny.  

Everyone is very buttoned up now when it comes to things like make-up and costuming/wardrobe but on that day Richard was carrying a couple different shirts in a backpack and if we wanted to do a costume change he'd just pull off one t-shirt and pull on another one. It was Austin. He'd directed Slacker. Everyone was quite laid back. 

My favorite images from the shoot were taken with the Varsity Theater in the background. The vaguely out of focus murals in the background were of movie stills. It was cool. I've moved a couple of times since I shot those and I'm still looking for that box of medium format transparencies. I know they are here somewhere.

We ended up shooting some soft box lit portraits back in the studio but I think we all (including the magazine) knew we wanted to use the outdoor shots.

The magazine selected their favorites from six or seven rolls of 120mm transparencies. That's about 70 different 6x7 cm images in total. The image ran big enough to be decently credible with my peers and I enjoyed telling my women friends that I had a shot running in Elle. It was cool.

I shot with two different Pentax 6x7 cameras. One had a normal lens and one had a short telephoto on it. Almost certainly the lens we used was the 165 mm f2.8. What a wonderful lens...

I shot the whole collection of images handheld with ISO 100 transparency film and I can see that by today's standards the details in the images are a little soft. The main reason was that the Pentax 6x7 camera was the ultimate granddaddy for what we are now calling, "shutter shock." Back then we called it "mirror slap" but it all in the same category: unsharpness caused by camera vibrations.

Richard's newest movie, Boyhood, has opened to rave reviews from ...... everyone. And it's an amazing project done over twelve years. It's a small town here in Austin, the actress who plays the younger girl (11 or 12) is the daughter of a videographer whom I have worked with on many projects, for decades.  Another friend and one time writing partner spent part of that year as the official chaperone on the movie set of Richard's second feature.

It's fun to look back at where currently famous people started out. I will remember Richard as being one of the least pretentious and most accommodating people I've worked with. And it was nice of him to hire my assistant for a part in his next movie. It is obvious that his current celebrity was fairly and well earned.

Finally. Kirk stops horsing around with dumb format philosophizing and puts up something useful. It's about time. "How to keep your camera comfortable."



I'm tired of thinking about camera sensors and arguments about why one format is better than another. I know it doesn't really matter because no matter what anyone else says I'll still go on shooting some stuff with tiny cameras and other stuff with big cameras and I'll use all the stuff in the middle too. I decided that this morning I really just wanted to share a stupid idea that came to me yesterday afternoon. I know it's painfully obvious but I just figured it out right then. 

Let me set the stage:  It's about a hundred and one outside yesterday afternoon around 3:30. It's not the pleasant, desiccating, dry heat that the people in Phoenix get to enjoy. This is Austin humid/heat. We had some nice rain last week and when the sun amped up the humidity came along for the ride. Anyway, it's hot and a little uncomfortable outside unless you happen to be in a pool. Or on the lake. 
I was playing with a different camera and lens and I decided it would be fun to go out and walk around the lake and try to get some great Summer shots. You know, people on paddle boards, people in swan boats, people in skimpy swimwear, crazy people running in the heat, kayakers, canoe enthusiasts, etc. And I knew all of them would be out in the afternoon. 

I grabbed a camera and headed to the downtown hike and bike trail that surrounds the lake. I also grabbed a little scarf-like thing thinking I would soak it with cold water and wear it around my neck as a tool for evaporative cooling. I buy these stretchy cloth things from REI for just that reason. They also come in handy in the winter. I wear one over my mouth when I run in the cold to warm up the air before it hits my lungs.  The ones I buy are from a company called, Buff. They are essentially a big rectangle of cloth that's sewn on on side to create a tube. You can roll them up as in the image just below and wear them around your neck or your forehead or you can unroll them and adapt them in other ways. 

Buff cloth, rolled up and ready for neck ware.

Here's what the cloth looks like unrolled. 

And this gives you an idea of the construction. It's just like a ski gaiter. 

So, I start walking. Now I've got on my sunscreen and a good hat and a pair of cool sunglasses but I look down at the camera dangling off my left shoulder and I realize a couple of things about dragging a camera around in a hot climate. First of all most of the cameras I use are black and even the least knowledgeable among us know that black soaks up heat instead of reflecting it. We also know that heat messes stuff up. While it might not cause lasting damage to a camera using one with a core temperature over 104 is woking outside the expressed operating range. That might cause the lubricants to get a bit more lubricant-y than intended and the increased temperature might cause more noise in your videos or image files. 

The next thing I realize is that I'm grabbing the camera with my sweaty, drippy hands and that salt water in the form of sweat is almost certainly not good for the exterior of the camera or the little control knobs and what not. Even with total disregard for the health of the camera I had a moment of selfish satori as I realized that the camera would be harder for me to handle when wet and/or sticky. What I have over my shoulder is a precision instrument baking in the sun and exposed to caustic chemistry every time I handle it. 

Now I'm beginning to understand the rationale of those leather, ever ready cases that were somewhat popular many years ago. Of course you could always pop the camera into a camera bag or into a backpack but then you've made it many steps more difficult to access the camera when inspiration strikes you. I wanted my camera somewhat protected by easily grab-able.  Just in case inspiration does strike a glancing blow...

It must be something in the air. Here's what Zack Arias has to say about sensor size this morning..... It's a good read.

http://dedpxl.com/crop-or-crap-math-or-moment/

Zach is a photographer in Atlanta. His written work is fun, high energy and occasionally bombastic. I love it when we're on the same page.

Go read and enjoy.

Happy Monday.

(Thanks to Jean Marc Schwartz for pointing me to Zach's current blog post!).