TOP GEAR for Sunday Morning!!! The "must have" accessory for the new weather in Austin, Texas. One Photographer's incredible find!!!

RIGID Tool Shop Vacuum. Suck it up!

I don't know if you've been paying attention to the weather in Austin, Texas, but we seem to have traded weather profiles with Seattle or some sort of sub-tropic rain forest. It's been raining every day for the last ten days and when I looked at the weather reports this morning over breakfast the forecasts called for at least another week of thunderstorms and other assorted rain phenomena. 

But this morning it got personal. I woke up around five a.m. which is not my usual schedule. The cause of my abrupt transition to full consciousness was a weather system that was dumping rain like crazy, accompanied with 360 degree lighting and enough booming thunder to make my dog hide, shaking, in the deepest reaches of my closet. 

After weeks of rain the ground was saturated and, after coffee, a warm chocolate croissant and a plate of scrambled eggs with my favorite hot sauce slathered on top, I went out to the studio to work on a video rig I've been customizing. I walked into the studio, flicked on the lights and immediately saw that half the space had standing water on the concrete floor. Drat. We need water in central Texas, just not on my studio floor...

The culprit was an overwhelmed French drain. The gravel over the top had become covered with a week's worth of eroded top soil and that created a slippery pathway for the water to slide right into the masonry of my small building. It's happened before----that's why we have the French drain. Who knew continual maintenance would be required?

Having been down this road before my office is equipped with a large and boisterous shop vacuum that is wonderful for sucking up water like a champ. In twenty minutes the standing water was gone and I started lifting the foam floor tiles to capture moisture hiding beneath. Now, an hour and a half later the floor is almost completely dry and the air conditioning system is doing a yeoman's job of getting the humidity under control. Go air conditioning!!!

My very first studio space was on the second floor of an older warehouse building in east Austin which had a roof that leaked like an unnamed media source. It was so bad at one point that we constructed internal gutters to channel the intruding water. We bitched about it---a lot---but the rent was so ridiculously cheap that we didn't have much leverage over our landlord. I did learn a lot of valuable lessons
from my semi-acquatic tenure there. 

No gear gets left on the bare floor. Ever. Since the water in the old space came from above we'd pile our lighting gear up on tables when it looked like it might rain and, when we left for the night, we'd pull tarps over everything to keep the drips from ruining the good stuff. I don't have any roof leaks in my current space but I can count on getting a bit of floor water once every year or so, after a particularly savage rain. I don't need to cover gear but everything does sit up above the floor. 

The first layer of protection is provided by the dense foam mats we have covering 90% of the studio floor. 

The mats are about 3/8ths of an inch thick and we've never had more that about an 1/8th of an inch of water on any part of the floor. I can leave light stands, bags, cables and other stuff on the mats and I don't need to worry about stuff---much. Today's biggest victims were four rolls of half used seamless background paper, the ends of which were sitting on the bare floor. As they have already been paid for by clients the loss to me is negligible. In the future, if I ever buy seamless paper again, I'll make sure the ends sit on the mats. 

The mats also serve another function and that's to lessen the impact of expensive, dropped items. I would estimate that the interlocking foam mats I originally bought from Costco have saved us thousands of dollars in impact damage, etc. 

All of the expensive stuff: Cameras and lenses and meters live in rolling cases like the one shown just below. These are lockable, have wheels to roll on, and sit at least six inches off the floor. Nothing I've stuck in one of our two rolling tool cases has ever been damaged or dunked. We used to buy these for around $150 and they are worth every penny. They also keep me organized; Nikon in one drawer, Olympus in another drawer, flashes and radio triggers in their own drawer, cables and electronic junk just above that.

Tool chest on wheels in against one wall. 
Note to self: Get the art off the floor....

Everything that doesn't fit in a tool cabinet or sit comfortably on the mats goes on a Metro Shelf. I bought the brand name stuff about 19 years ago and have never had to touch it again. And even though I'm sloppy about loading them the stands themselves still look great. There's nearly a foot between the floor and the bottom shelf but I do cheat and keep waterproof Pelican cases underneath to save on space. Just make sure the purge valve is closed if you do that.....

I was outside the studio today with a shovel cleaning topsoil off the bigger rocks that cover the French drain. I've also placed some material adjacent to the drain area to channel water away and to stop the erosion. We'll see what happens as the week progresses. We have a "hilly" lot so sometimes water management after 40 days floods is a little tricky. 

That's why, like Popeye the Sailor Man, I eat my fresh spinach saut├ęd with garlic.....

All images made with the (weather resistant) Olympus 
OM-5.2 and the (non-weather resistant)
Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 lens.

Hope you are safe and dry.

If you are trapped by rising water and just waiting around for it to subside 
you might want to download my Novel from Amazon.com 
and read it on your favorite device. It's a fun way to pass the time.

I've provided a link below:

But you might just need a Shop Vac instead...


Dave Jenkins said...

I see the archive is back, although apparently you have decided to include only those posts you particularly like or consider of some lasting relevnce. I'm glad to have them available again.

Ron Greer said...

You're always taking crack shots at Seattle but it's always You, in Austin, that has the crappy weather! It was in Austin that my rental car was turned to the landscape of the moon by hail a decade ago.

Seattle has some of the most benign weather in the Nation, and I'm sick and tired of the Seattle rain jokes. We're not even in the top ten rainiest U.S. cities!

By the way, we're enjoying a pleasant spring day, I'm just back from a nice jaunt on Lake Union in my runabout. Had fish and chips at Ivar's, watch a few Kenmore deHavilland Beavers land.

Kirk Tuck said...

We just slogged through the mud.

Nate said...

Rain, what rain? Seattle has drizzle and overcast for six months of the year, maybe. :-) I never saw real rain and thunder storms till I was stationed in Texas. Oh, and let's not forget about them tornados.

Steve said...

We're finally getting some good rain here in Minnesota. Just when we were about to put in the french drain system on the house we're building here. The rain will have to stop for a couple of days so we can get into the site.

Years ago in another life, I was working on doing a video shoot for the service documentation for a workstation system in the SF Bay area. The day of the shoot came and we had tornadoes around us near Moffatt Field in Mountain View. Unheard of for the area.

The rain came down so hard at one time that we had to stop the shoot because rain had so overwhelmed the building's drains that water was flowing into the room through the electric sockets. Which does tend to get your attention.

Kirk Tuck said...

I'm still guessing this is much better than our historic drought...

Kirk Tuck said...

Ron, slow down on that Seattle coffee. :-) And check out this post on what you need to know when moving to Seattle: http://raincityguide.com/2006/03/07/10-things-you-should-know-before-moving-to-seattle/

Dude, your city owns the rain. Embrace it.

Anonymous said...

Send some of that rain to (too) sunny,(too) dry California. I need a drink...of clean, clear water.

Joseph Kashi said...

Some areas of the Northern California coast got fifteen inches of rain in 24 hours only a few months ago!

Roger B. said...

Years ago I worked for my local council in their printing department. The process camera was next door in a darkroom built within another room like a concentric box. At one end between the darkroom wall and the room wall was a trough. Above this trough was a sheet plastic affair that directed the water that leaked from the plaza above into the trough.

Stalactites and stalagmites had formed from calcium from the plaza materials. When it rained a maintenance man would drain the trough into buckets. This was a permanent arrangement.

I was once called to a three phase distribution board that had water pouring over it like a waterfall. I chose not to reach through the water to switch it off. The wall edged flat roof above had a blocked drain and a foot of water. We cleared it and with a sound like a giant bath emptying, the water went away.

Anonymous said...

That's the problem living in dry areas. When it does rain...
I live in a country/area that gets around 50% more rain than Seattle and areas nearby get more than double the rain they do.
The difference is that it rains here around half the days in the year which means we rarely get the deluges, just persistent drab rain.
Of course our rain is also cold with average maximum temperatures at this time of year around 55F and at the height of summer 66F.
So you either choose dramatic, destructive weather occasionally or an all prevasive drabness that crushes your photographic soul.

Scott said...

Seattle doesn't get real rain but it gets very many days of drizzle. It takes a long time for all that drizzle to add up to much though. Portland is similar. Lots of drizzly days, not all that many inches of annual precipitation. The rain is measured in months, not inches.

Here are the ten cities in the USA that get the most rain:

"Seattle? Wrong. Portland? Not even close. The rainiest city
in the United States is Mobile. Seattle’s ranking? Number 41. Portland? 42."


There's a Texas city in there: Port Arthur is #8.

Anonymous said...

There's a good Scottish word for that grey gloom and all pervasive drizzle that penetrates all known waterproof clothing.
Dreich !
And we get a lot of dreich weather all year round.
But when the sun does come out the green landscape, sparkling sea and the quality of light filtered through the moist air over the mountains gives it a atmosphere that is very nearly unique (I'll grudgingly accept that Ireland and parts of Wales can experience similar conditions).
And in mid winter on the rare occasion the sun does come out you can experience the golden hour at midday as the sun is only 11 degrees above the horizon at noon.

Anthony Bridges said...

I live in Dallas which is 200 miles north of Austin. We are getting the rain as well. Prefer this to the severe drought that turned our lakes into mud puddles.

I know a number of photographers hate hazy, drizzly days. I can do without the drizzle when shooting outside but I dig an overcast day. The right overcast that is with just a hint of shadow on the ground and lots of diffused light. It's like life's version of the neutral setting on the camera. Add more contrast in post or some saturation. Or, leave as is for a subdued composition. It can be good stuff.