I needed a break so I convinced Ben and Belinda that I needed to head up to New York to help Ben pack up all his winter stuff (coats, boots, comforters, many pairs of gloves, acres of Polartec and GorTex and some towels) for the Summer. The boy is really very competent and quite able to handle all this on his own but if you see a travel opportunity you can couch as a favor it's my belief that you might want to consider taking it. I would then travel back with Ben to Austin. It all worked well except for the trip back. And that's totally on the weather! We ended up being delayed overnight in Albany as nothing was flying in or out of Chicago, our half way point back to Austin...
I didn't take anything spectacular, camera and lens-wise, along with me to Saratoga Springs. Just a Nikon D610 and the cheap but nice 50mm f1.8G. There were times when I would have liked a lens that was a little longer but I am constantly reminded by my more pragmatic photo friends that "cropping is always an option."
It's an interesting experiment to limit oneself to a single camera and a single lens in this day and age of near endless choices. While we would have thought nothing of the concept back in the days of the twin lens Rolleiflex cameras (non-interchangeable, normal lens) or as a student with a Leica M3 and a 50mm Summicron (too poor to buy other lenses...) it does seem strange to willingly limit your choices in the grand age of zoom lenses.
It's a good exercise though, and it's amazing to see how quickly one gets used to the focal length and the constraints of composition. By the end of the first day I was finding good ways to cram everything I wanted into the frame and by the third day my brain was only looking for compositions that would match the angle of view; or, in a pinch, a slightly wider scene that could be cropped.
The Nikon D610, on the other hand, seems to have no limitations at all; if you discount the reality that the camera can't natively shoot square format images conveniently....
I enjoyed my time in Saratoga Springs a great deal. Unencumbered by the mountains of gear I'd been hauling around on my annual report project the week before I felt almost naked with only one camera and one lens. Heck, I didn't even go through the first camera battery by the end of my visit. The one thing I did do though was to eat well. Saratoga Springs seems to have more than its share of really good restaurants. My good friend in the town introduced me on the first night to a small place that's been there for decades called, Hattie's. The specialty of the house is fried chicken. Of course that's what I got. When the plate came I was overwhelmed. It was half a chicken. Perfect if you live in town and can take home leftovers.... But the chicken and the sides were incredible. And the company first rate.
The next morning I had a superb latte at my favorite local coffee house, Uncommon Grounds, and then lunch with the boy at the dining hall at Skidmore College. The choices were wide and varied and I made an unlikely but satisfying match of fettuccine Alfredo and steamed kale. I'd promised to take the boy out for an "end of the semester" dinner and I left the choice of restaurants up to him. We ended up at a nice place on Broadway called, Max London's. Nicely done Tuscan hanger steaks, arrugula salads, etc.
The only glitch I have to report in my travels, and that is totally my fault, was leaving my iPhone charger in my hotel room. By mid-day Friday the calls, texts and voice mails were starting to stack up and I planned on dealing with the communications outbreak during our wait at the airport. That's when I discovered that the charger was missing. I was mulling this over when the weather struck. A possible hurricane moving toward the east coast neatly framed on the other side by a thousand mile swath of tornados and violent thunderstorms from Austin to Chicago and most places in between.
We ended up spending the night in a hotel next to the airport in Albany and then getting up on Saturday morning at 4:15am to make all new connections. I was nervous because I was scheduled to photograph a gala event on Saturday evening in Austin. Two good friends of mine were the co-chairs and Lucy Johnson, the former president's daughter, was to be the keynote speaker.
Southwest airlines didn't let me down. While the Saturday morning rides were plenty bumpy we pulled into the gate at Austin Bergstrom airport right on time. Four hours later I was shooting "grip and grin" photographs and looking longingly at the open bar...
I took the same D610 body but with the 24-85mm zoom lens and a 105mm f2.5 lens for a little extra reach during the speeches. I also took along an Olympus EM-5.2 and it's friend, the Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 zoom and a little Olympus flash. I've never thought of Olympus cameras as being strong on-camera flash systems but the combination nailed just about everything I pointed it at. By the end of the evening I was having fun going back and forth between the two systems, mostly just to see how they handled quick flash stuff.
Now I'm back in the studio and I have a white board full of things that need to get done before next week even gets started. The coming week is filled with "wrap up" stuff. Final retouching on some annual report images, billing jobs already delivered and resettling gear into an organized holding pattern, making it ready for the next wave.
Tomorrow's assignment is to shoot images for print advertising during a video shoot for a large, statewide, medical practice. I pack the cameras but the production company sets the scene and lights it. Should be good, clean fun.
All the best to my friends in Saratoga Springs. Nice town you've got there...
Not my hotel. Just channeling Eggleston. Or Stephen Shore.
From my Walker Evans phase.