I am posting lots of pictures instead of words because I think the period of my technical relevance is waning. Everyone is already an expert in everything having to do with cameras. All that's left is to do the art.

I love paths that curve and arc. This one runs down to the Lamar Blvd. bridge.

When I started the blog back in 2009 there was so much to write about. Photography appeared to be growing by leaps and bounds and there was a seemingly insatiable audience of people who were anxious to learn whatever they could about photography. And lighting. And the business of photography. Now it feels like we've lived through the upper curve of a sinusoidal wave of interest and innovation and we're heading for the inevitable trough. 

I looked back today at some of the things I've been writing about, like micro four thirds cameras and electronic viewfinders. The push back, in our comments,  from most people doing photography at the time was pretty remarkable. Everyone assumed that we'd continue with the status quo and live on a rich diet of incremental DSLR improvements. Everyone assumed that pros would always use Canon and Nikons. They also assumed that we'd always be using optical viewfinders. To read some of the comments back then one would think that the inclusion of EVFs on good cameras was the work of satan. 

But the photo world has matured, flattened and become fully researched and rationalized. I'm sure most people reading this have handled most of the same cameras I have. Most have paid more attention to the owner's manuals than I have and most can tell you all the shortcuts you can implement with various function buttons on your new cameras. Which I cannot.

Although very few of us are engineers or scientists here there are many discussions all over the web about technical aspects of imaging grounded in high physics and arcane optical theory. Even my dentist and my lawn guy love to wax on about "micro contrast" and "noise floors" and "shot discipline." If I need to understand how lens designs create optical signatures I need go no further than to the woman who cuts my hair to have a full on discussion. Sensor technology? I go to my barista for that.

But the sad thing, at least for me, is that when the internet has succeeded in gifting us all with the same knowledge and the same proxies of experience then there's not much else to really discuss besides whatever new product is lurching through the gear pipeline (which we mostly want but mostly don't need) and the actual photographs that we take. All the other stuff we used to talk about is instantly redundant because the minute it is written and published by anyone it diffuses into the marsh of general knowledge like India ink in my glass of sparkling water. 

I wish I had a willful lack of self-awareness because I could have monetized what I know through a series of mostly meaningless workshops. Entertainment thinly disguised as photographic workshops....

But really, all I have to share is my own work and my views about how I do the work. And the last thing I would recommend here is that someone slavishly copy my methodologies since they are not really well founded, technically,  and are certainly suspect aesthetically. 

We are mostly technocratic males here and it would be healthy if we could all just meet face to face for coffee or beer. We could talk about so many things that are more comfortable and information rich than just what lens to choose to take pictures of that intense red fire hydrant against the rich green carpet of grass spreading out behind it like a.....green screen. 

But most of us will only meet here. And even sadder than the homogenization of subject matter is the understanding that most people love what they, personally, shoot and are indifferent to other people's work. Maybe talking about them "shootin' irons" is easier and more fun because it is surrounded with the excitement (as in gambling) of risking large sums of money. 

People repeat the old saw of being tired of the endless discussion of gear, gear, gear but the statistical reality of blogging is that every gear post here out pulls every post about aesthetics by a factor of nearly 10:1. For those few non-math majors here let me say it like this: If I put up a post about making an image or having an experience making an image (and that post doesn't concentrate on cameras and lenses) then about 200  people will click on it and read it all the way through. But if I put up a post about the new version of an old, but popular, lens about 2,000 people will read it in the same time frame. To really goose readership all one has to do is write a controversial review/editorial on a popular piece of Olympus, Canon, Nikon or Fuji gear. A mirrorless versus DSLR piece is also a sure bet!

If I could make a reasonable argument that the Fuji XT-1 is a piece of garbage and everyone shooting with one is delusional and certainly will never make art with one, I might be able to scrape up fifteen or twenty thousand readers in the same time frame. (Sorry, can't really make that argument). So even though everyone gets all high horsified about relentless gear posts ("tut, tut, let's talk about the art...") they are like a cigarette smoker who professes trying to quit. They denounce the drug and then step outside "just this once" to light up. 

The sales numbers for gear are illuminating. The market for cameras tanked hard, and I think it's going to tank even harder this year. It's not because ardent photographers have embraced phones with cameras it's because huge numbers of ardent photographers have moved on to something else. Their interest crested and plunged. When a market troughs there's nothing to do but ride it out and enjoy actually doing the craft instead of talking about it. Even if that's not nearly as much fun...

I think everyone here knows that I am a commercial photographer. The market is currently better than it's been for years. Some sort of inverse relationship between the popularity of the hobby and one's ability to charge for it.  I intend to keep writing the blog from that point of view and showing what I am working on and what I am interested in. 

I sound like broken record lately, vacillating between Olympus EM5.2 cameras and Nikon's traditional DSLRs, but the reality is that's my current focus and I'm not anxious to rush out and buy or borrow new stuff just to satisfy our collective need for a geardrenaline rush on a weekly basis. Maybe part of the reality of the craft right now is about settling in with what we have and doing actual work. Wouldn't that be novel???


Ian said...

Thanks Kirk. I appreciate the variety of topics which you cover. Glad to hear that you will keep writing.

amolitor said...

Not buying it. I tried an equipment review on my blog to boost traffic. Zip. Nada.


Kirk Tuck said...

Funny that. My biggest (in terms of total views) blog post ever was my long review of the Olympus EPL-2. It had 89,851 individual views so far... One of my favorite photos ever, in a post this Spring garnered 270 view.

Mike Rosiak said...

Maybe I am one of those 200. Your gear posts: sure I read them, because I am interested in how you think about these things. Your business and process posts: they give me valuable insight into how one really makes money ... regardless of profession. But your posts on creativity and "making Art" - they help me keep my head on the right track.

Several years ago, I had the most fun with a Canon A530 & A590, and the CHDK firmware hack. It satisfied my technical itch, while I got very interested in making good prints. The Nikon languished. Today, my thoughts turn to returning to fixed lens cameras, and getting back to the "good print." Both you and TOP help.


Dave said...

In my business (technology) there are a lot of people who sound like they know something. Up to a point they may even be able to use it. But they are satisfied with that and lack any degree of mastery. Sorry Kirk I would rather you kept writing and letting us leach tidbits from your experience and critical reasoning.

The pictures are great, and I don't always post a response but do appreciate them.

Funny thing about the EPL2 is they're by and large forgotten. Shows how the Internet camera seeker libido works.

Robert Hudyma said...

Kirk wrote:

The market for cameras tanked hard, and I think it's going to tank even harder this year.

As a Canadian, our economy is in recession and our dollar is in the toilet so I will not be making any equipment purchases this year.

There is a much shorter equipment lifetime in the digital world, many film cameras were manufactured for a decade or more (Nikon F, Leica M6), in the digital world a new model comes out every 18 to 24 months and the value of your previous purchase drops to zero like a rock.

And, at the end of the day if your digital camera has 16M pixels or more then you are golden. I am still using a some "old" Sony image makers: the Nex-3 and the A58, and the imaging quality is still great. Both are worth next to nothing today, so not worth losing any sleep tonite.

typingtalker said...

Who is this person called, "everyone"?

Dave Jenkins said...

I think you have already said this, probably multiple times, but it seems to me that one reason camera sales have tanked is that many of us, including you, have reached the point of good enough. Your Nikons and Olympi do pretty much everything you need cameras to do. Newer cameras are not likely to make your pictures better or your photography easier to do. I've reached the same point with the Canon 6D and the Oly E-M5. I'm satisfied, my clients are pleased, so why spend more money. Better I spend it on marketing instead, or a trip somewhere.

I still have my E-PL1 from 2010. It's actually quite a good camera. The photos look great at 12x12 in a book I'm working on.

Victor Bloomfield said...

I click on your site every day at least once, and enjoy whatever you've posted. (You and Mike Johnston of TOP are my top two go-tos.) The photos of scenes around Austin are particularly interesting for this Portlander/emigrant from Minneapolis who tends to view Austin as the third in a triumvirate of livable American cities. Your portraits, of course, are superb. The examples of commercial work, with explanations of lighting, etc., are enlightening to a hobbyist. For me, probably the most interesting reads are about the business of photography, something I'm grateful I don't have to contend with. And I was even a reader of your novel when it first appeared. So keep it all coming.


tnargs said...

Hello Kirk, the period of your technical relevance as an educator might be waning, but the period of your technical relevance as an experienced pro makes you and your comments relatively outstanding compare to the vast number of photography bloggers who are not currently earning most of the living from selling images that have been commissioned by clients.

For that reason I will always value and look forward to your blog posts on technological devices that relate to our passion for photography.

Anonymous said...

A post I've been waiting to read for a long time, from anyone. Thanks.

William Beebe said...

Let me preface this comment by saying that I've long since passed the point of sufficiency when it came to gear. For me the idea of reading yet another gear post brings a sense of not-quite-revulsion. The reasons for that are many, but the basic #1 fundamental reason for avoiding gear posts is money. I can't afford to keep buying more and more gear. The cost for newer cameras, especially from makers such as Canon and Nikon, are pushing the mid four-figures just for the bodies. New lenses are also pushing into that territory. I left Leica decades ago because I couldn't afford their cameras and lenses, and the idea of going out and using that much money with the possibility it might get damaged or stolen pushed me completely away from any Leica body or lens. And I now find I've left the Nikon and Canon circles as well. Trust me; when I come here, it's not to read about your gear.

What I'm looking for these days are pragmatic cameras and associated lenses. Buying them, and then settling in and learning how to use them well enough to help me realize what many might term as a "vision" or a "look." My most pragmatic camera and lens, the one I use now more often than any other combination, is the Olympus E-M10 and the M.Zuiko 12-50mm. That combination isn't the fastest, won't shoot 4K video, and requires that I move up into the higher ISO range in dim light with all that that implies. For what it can do (which I judge is tremendous), and for what it costs to replace it should it get lost or broken (which I can actually afford after a fashion), I can live with quite happily. That means I can get out into the world and use it when I can. And that's all that truly matters.

>> We are mostly technocratic males here and it would be healthy if we could all just meet face to face for coffee or beer.

I did try back in June, but you were busy. Next time I'm in Austin maybe we can try to meet up again. I least I met Andy and had a good look at Precision. I thought Black's BBQ was pretty good :)

amolitor said...

(My earlier comment was actually a joke, my 'equipment review' is somewhat non standard)

Russ said...

I am also glad to hear that you will continue writing. Although I would never give up my amateur status to become a professional photographer, I enjoying getting the inside skinny on how you choose what gear you put in your bag depending on the type of gig you get. Like myself, you remember the days when Kodak was King. I find your ruminations on where photography is headed to be insightful and entertaining.

Michael Taylor said...

Kirk, writing about your work and your thought processes is the REAL gem of the LAB. Sure, I love many of your comments on gear and how you incorporate specific equipment into your process but like the other Mike says - I really value a working photographers thoughts and you communicate your experiences well! Please keep it up!!

Craig Yuill said...

I have read pretty much every blog post you put up since you posted that E-PL2 review. While I have been interested in reading about what gear you have, I have been more interested in how you use that gear. (Mind you, what gear you have can dictate what you can do with it.) I used to make comments here more often in the past, but I find that I do that less frequently on any website where readers can submit comments. It has a lot to do with the fact that others have usually already stated things that I would have said, often doing so better. I figure that if I have nothing to add to a conversation then I won't bother trying to do so.

Posting more photos and fewer words makes sense. After all the main thing to do with a camera is create photos with it. And that's the best way to show us how to use gear. I was dismayed a couple of years ago when you announced that you were going to close down this blog site. I hope that you continue to add blog posts for many years to come. You can rest assured that I will be one of those reading it.

G Gudmundsson said...

Interesting post. I'm an amateur, started on this hobby in a serious manner in 2005 - Canon 5D + assorted lenses. Didn't have a clue about most things, and the tools were a total overkill for my abilities and knowledge. 10 years later I have bought and sold more cameras and lenses that I can count.

Then I stopped buying and selling. Today I have a Panasonic GX7 (for the past 18 months) and PanaLeica 25 f/1.4 + the Sigma 60 f/2.8 + the 14-42 ll kit lens. Thats all and that's more than enough - for me.

What you say in your article resonances with what' I have been thinking - not necessarily starting to make art - but to use what I have - learn to use it, explore the possibilities. When you are always chopping and changing you let go of things before you learn to use them.

As you and others have said million times, most cameras and lenses, no matter who makes them, are good enough - for most of us. And therefore the market plummets + plus of course for the fact that many people have migrated to new hobbies.

The novelty of digital photography has worn off, for many. Phones are enough. Instagram enough to satisfy the 'creative urge' of many ... etc...

For me personally - I love to have a camera in my hands - and the love is growing.

Thank you Kirk, and please keep up the good work ... I log onto your posts everyday. You are the nr. 1 photoblogger in the known universe and beyond .. ;-)

Nick Davis said...

A wise post Kirk. As you are are someone who is not entirely immune to the pull of new gear it will be interesting to see if you stay on this course! As for the gearheads, well they are simply trying to satisfy a never to be satisfied itch. However these people should not be denigrated, for their quest for the latest and the best enables people like me to pick up gear that is "so last year" for not much money. They are also what keep Canikon in business! As others have suggested here, it is largely a male trait. I have an art director friend who has almost as many guitars as I have cameras. Producing nice pictures is much more satisfying long term, even if they are not masterpieces.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

I'm with Bill here - getting over one's gear is the thought. I also take my 14-42mm "kit lens" and mount it onto the wonderful E-M10 from time to time, that's usually more than one could ask for. There are other things which make a good photo than just gear.

And if it has to be, there's the E-PL5 with one of the primes (14, 25, or 45mm) mounted to it.

Frank Page said...

Great article. Love seeing your photos. I need to work on shooting. Could care less about fuji or nikon.... Currently my gear lust is just about 0 - have what I need and don't really want anything else.

Michael Matthews said...

Interesting. Not only does writing about gear spike readership and comments -- writing about writing about gear has the same impact.

James Pilcher said...

I am as interested in gear as the next gearhead. I do, though, read every article you post, Kirk. I am always particularly interested in your thoughts on the business of photography. Your business insight is excellent. In my mind, I like to remove "photography" from the article and replace it with my own business, IT consulting. I'm constantly amazed at what insight you have into my profession.

To be sure, I read your gear articles with great interest. You seem to like and use the same cameras I do (ยต4/3), so I get a satisfied smile on my face when this world-renowned pro validates my equipment. Yes, world-renowned pro.

I enjoy every photo you post, but the gearhead in me is particularly satisfied when I know what camera and lens you used. I do not think I will ever let go the gear side of photography; it's just too seductive. I make no apologies for that, but I do use my camera to make images, not just to fiddle with dials, buttons, rings, and levers.

Jim Natale said...

I certainly don't claim to be psychic (although, as the now-old joke goes, I do have ESPN), but it is remarkable how my photo-interest cycles are almost simultaneous with yours. Became enamored of the Panny G6 and the Nikon 1 V1 at about the same time as you. Now using a Panny GX7 and had looked forward with anticipation to see what the GX8 would bring. Came the announcement--and I felt curiously unmoved. Nothing particularly wrong with the camera; it's just that--as others have noted--there's no need for a better camera, at least not in my world at the moment. So, I again think you're on the right track. Must also say, I enjoy your writing, no matter which track you're on, and, as one of "the 200," I enjoy viewing the work. Thanks.

Lynn said...

I read because you are a straight shooter(maybe pun intended)
My wife is in the marketing advertising biz and I forward your posts when you thoughtfully ruminate on the business.
But like all your writing, you do not simply scratch the surface of the nuts and bolts and ideas, you dig down and EXAMINE the roots down there that tie into not just the technical part of photography but you write what you’re THINKING about the aesthetic values inherent in image -making.
Bottom line. You appear to be thinking about the tools and vision without one being emphasized to the detriment of the other.
Works for me.
Write when you have to. I’ll still look each day to see what’s up here.

Paul said...

Photography is changing. Digital was supposed to make us all become photographers as we could shoot thousands of images at no cost and then try and make the picture "work" in Photoshop. The camera manufacturers sparked an orgy of camera buying with the megapixel wars convincing people to upgrade every year or so. People discovered lighting and the Strobist phenomena happened and everyone rushed to over light their photos with suitcases of flashguns. The punters were not happy just because you've read every single piece on using small flash, been to umpteen seminars and bought every doodad that can be velcroed to a flash gun does mean that that you can make a good photograph, no matter how much you play with it in Photoshop. Street photography suddenly became where it was at and it seems that every man and his dog had dreams of becoming the next Bresson or Frank, but guess what? It is hard to make interesting street photos, but never mind it sparked off a whole buying frenzy for fast prime lenses and "discrete" cameras. Most people have since realized that after a few buying cycles the equipment is not going to make them a photographer and a good number have decided that their iPhone and Instagram is all they they need for the photography that they do and they get an upgrade of camera every time they upgrade their phone. The camera manufacturers are worried, having grown used to the profits driven by rapid upgrade cycles, they are now having trouble convincing the public to open their wallets. The dabblers are now satisfied with their phones and their dSLR is stuffed in the back of a wardrobe, and the diehard enthusiasts have realized that for the most part what they've got is all they need.

I come here not to read about gear, but to read the thoughts and views of someone who is passionate about making photos. I don't want to read articles written by someone who thinks he knows more about lenses than a Zeiss optical engineer. I want to read about how good photos are made and actually look at them. Keep it up Kirk you are appreciated!

Max Rottersman said...

You just discovered wide-angle photography so your technical relevance will wane? We'll see! :) My favorite wide-angle setup is the Sony A6000 and 10-18mm. https://www.flickr.com/photos/maxotics/19044807364/in/dateposted-public/ That combo isn't much bigger than an Oly and 7-14mm and mft wide lenses are no bargain ;) Microsoft photosynth now has different kinds of panorama viewers (where you can walk around an object, or forward, instead of the panorama being from one point outwards). Lyttro? They are just getting started. IBIS, small camera stabilizers. And these super resolution cameras that mitigate the Achilles heel of bayer sensors (chromatic aberrations). Printers and monitor color depth--they still sorta suck. Maybe we'll see more improvements there. LED lights that are now becoming less CRI suspect?

Anyway, as others has said, VSL is never one thing to anyone. I have no interest in having a beer with you because I feel we have one every day on your blog--AND YOU PAY! (doing all the writing work) :)

kcphotos said...

Although there is abundant technical information available on the web for any camera configuration, lighting challenge, photographic technique, etc. ad nauseum, ... the thing that keeps bringing me back to your blog is that you also write from the point of view of an artist, of a photographer. Not solely a camera operator, but a custodian of moments of light.

That has great value to me. So please, keep writing.

By the way, one of my favorite posts of yours recently is the re-post of this article: http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2010/11/passion-is-in-risk.html

Thanks much!