Just Working. Shooting Portraits out in the mid-morning, Texas Sun. BHS.

Many of my clients like the idea of having portraits of their key executives made outside, in nature. It seems like an easy thing to do unless you want control over the quality of light and control over your backgrounds. This is a quick post about shooting outdoors in the sunlight. 

If clients gave you a blank slate you would probably find a place with ample open shade and a lovely background that was also in open shade. Then you'd have controllable contrast and consistent color in  your images. You would also have comfortable portrait subjects because they wouldn't be looking into bright areas that make people squint. 

Even though I prefer photographing people in my studio I understand the need for many corporations to stage photo sessions either on their premises or close by. My client was looking for nice, saturated greenery in the background, a location one block from their H.Q. and someplace adjacent to air conditioning and restrooms.  We found a location just outside the front door of the LBJ museum in "downtown" Johnson City, Texas.

I had scouted the location previously and had a good idea what a series of portraits, made across the space of four hours might call for, logistically. We'd need a powerful flash to match direct sun falling on the trees in the background. We'd need a large silk panel to cut the direct sunlight as the sun marched up over head and we'd need some black flags to both cut direct light and give the subjects something dark to look at in an attempt to prevent squinting. I also decided to toss in a silver reflector panel to add some fill light to the shadow side of peoples' faces. I knew I would need a medium telephoto focal length in order to get the camera to subject distance we wanted and to render the background sufficiently out of focus. We might as well combine all of that with a high dynamic  range camera in order to help prevent blown highlights on skin and grouchy shadows.

Our first subject was scheduled to be photographed at 7am which meant leaving Austin at 5 a.m. If the trip timed out right I'd have an hour to set up and test before we needed to get rolling. A 5 a.m. departure means that I pack the night before. Easier to navigate my checklist when my brain is still relatively engaged.

I arrived to a dark location right at 6 a.m.  I set up a Fotodiox 508AS LED panel to use as a work light for the area I wanted to work in and proceeded to set up panels and lights.

My basic lighting was this: One medium soft box, powered by an Elinchrom Ranger RX AS power pack on camera right, positioned high enough to cast a shadow under each subject's chin. The box is about 35 degrees to the right of the camera. That's my main light source. Next I put the silver panel to the subject's opposite side (to the left of the camera) to grab some photons from the main light and redirect them into the shadows. So far, so good. 

Once I get this all metered (yes, I still use a meter. It's helpful to know you are in the ballpark before a stand-in is even there to stand in) I start bringing in 4x4 foot flags that are black on one side and white on the other. I want to use one of these panels (with the black side facing the subject) to block any direct light from the sun on the subject. I use a second 4x4 with black facing the subject to give my portrait sitters (standers today....) a place to rest their eyes. This panel goes directly behind the camera. 

I put my panels on C stands and used a 30 lb. sandbag on each light stand. The combined weight of the largest C stand and a sandbag is about 50 lbs. That makes for a good anchor against the kind of light (and welcome) breezes we had this morning. The main light in the softball is on my favorite, heavy duty, Lowell stand and it's also anchored with with big sandbag.

The view from the back/side of our temporary set showing all the components surrounded by benches.

Side view of the set. Note the two flags to the left. The lower one just behind the camera is to set to show black to the subject which helps them keep from squinting. The taller of the two blocks any direct light from the sun onto any part of the scene not covered by the large scrim. The silver fill flag is in the middle at the far side of the set.

The main light is an Elinchrom flash head in the softbox. The head is powered by the Ranger RX AS pack. We shot from 7-11:30, made portraits of ten people, twenty to forty images per person, and the pack power indicators still showed "full power" at the end of the shoot. Five years on with the Elinchrom system and not a single failure! (Hope I didn't jinx myself...).

Note the heavy duty sandbags on all light stands with flags and softbox!

Sandbags draped over tall legs on C-stands are easier to set up, easier to take back down. And C-stands don't cost much more that the shitty light stands you get from the regular sources.

Yes. I own multiple sets of radio triggers. Yes, in spite of that the camera and flash are hardwired. 
Can you say, "Interference free!"?

The soft silver fill panel. The least sexy component on the set. But helpful in its own way. 

This is a view from the left and back of  the camera position. We didn't need the big scrim first thing in the morning but it sure came in hand for the sessions we did between 10:30 and 11:30 am. The sun was high up and raging. The scrim blocked direct light and provided shade for the portrait subjects. 
The 77 x 77 inch scrim is anchored to the park benches with bungie cords. Before we started shooting I roped the front and back of the frame to the benches as well so it couldn't move even with a stout gust of wind. No sense spending time nurturing a client only to end up clonking them on the head....

The clamps are nice and tight but I like to make sure nothing can slip so the connection to the panel is wrapped in a couple loops of gaffer's tape. Just to be sure...

I like bungie cords because then give a little and then restrain. Nothing held down by bungies ever seems to break. And they disconnect quickly when you are done. 

The nice thing about using super powerful, professional lighting gear instead of hot shoe strobes is the fact that half power still gives you nearly 600 watt seconds per flash but you also get pretty fast (1.5 sec.) recycle times. And if you need short duration flash to freeze fast moving executives you can use a Ranger "A" head for durations like 1/3250th of second. 

It would be difficult, exhausting and time consuming to try and work with 100 pounds of sandbags, multiple stands and frames, heavy duty flashes and more without the trusty cart. It certainly earned its meager pay today.... (Client: Thank you for the water, the coffee and the lunch. All were needed and just right!)

This is a Fotodiox soft box that I bought from Amazon. It was cheap, can be used with 500 watt tungsten lights, sets up quick, seems impervious to unintentional destruction and also puts out a nice quality of light. Less than $100. Used for well over a year. No wear visible.

Once you get wood you'll never go back. I grabbed my black C-stand and quickly let it go. Sitting in the sun heated it up quickly and well. Not so with the aged, white ash, hand made German tripod. Grab a wooden leg and you find the rig to be "temperature neutral" even in blazing sun. I want another one --- just in case they go out of business and stop selling them. They are that good. 

This view is a bit behind where the subjects stand. Just want to show you the collection of flags and reflectors from a different direction. Nice, huh? 

Since we kept following the sun we kept changing configurations to make sure we were able to keep our subjects out of direct sunlight. The images above and below show the final settings for the images taken around 11:00- 11:30 am. 

We photographed ten different people today and tried to get them in and out quickly so they would not wilt in the heat. After the last person trudged back to the office I took everything back down, took the frames and the softbox apart, loaded the cart up with all my stuff and re-packed the car. 

It took about 45 minutes in the early morning to get everything set up and ready for the job and it took about 30 minutes to collapse it all, pack it and stow it for the trip home. 

Once I packed my car the art director and I sauntered off to a well deserved lunch. 

I always laugh when someone suggests we take a "quick" portrait outdoors. There is no substitute for control sometimes. And that requires some stuff. 

Here's an image the client took of me being my own stand in for the lighting:

I should have used the make-up kit.

Below: seen on the way to lunch...

Camera used for project: Nikon D810
files: raw, 12 bit losslessly compressed
lens: Nikon 24-120mm @120mm
ISO 64.


Showing up ready to shoot means more than just packing the gear.

Calamari for an Austin Hilton Hotel restaurant.

When I accept a project for a client the first thing that the client and I do, together, is to figure out what kind of need they have, how they want to solve it and what they want to end up with when our photographic project is complete. This means that we talk about style, execution and who will be responsible for what and when. 

The assignment that generated this image, along with ten or twelve other food and beverage shots, required a number of pre-planning steps. First of all there is the primary decision: will we rent a studio space with a commercial kitchen and bring in a food stylist or will the client want to shoot at their location and have their chefs and food&beverage managers handle the food preparation and initial styling? There are advantages and disadvantages in either direction. In this situation the client was adamant that we come over to their turf and have their people work with the food.

The next step was a consultation at the location with the art director. He and I walked around the restaurant that the hotel wanted us to use and scouted for a perfect spot. We chose a smaller, private dining room because we'd be able to control the light and we would be able to work even if there were customers in the main dining room. While we were at the location the art director filled me in on the general look and feel that he would like the photographs to have. A lot of that discussion centered around what to do with the background. The white background worked for both of us. I added the white background material to the list of equipment I would need to bring. 

Next up I wanted to talk to the chef who would be spearheading the kitchen on the day we'd be shooting. I wanted to make sure he knew what we needed and what we were trying to accomplish with the food. Both in terms of styling and presentation as well as the timing and process of getting the food out to us while it was fresh and intact. We needed to let the chef know that we wanted a "stand in" dish first so we could figure out the lighting and the angle for presentation, and then, when we had test shots that the art director and the marketing person from the client side were happy with, we would call for the "hero" dish, tweak it, and then shoot quickly to maintain the food's fresh look.

A nightmare situation would have been a chef sending out everything at once and then going on a coffee break. We knew the guys in the kitchen at the Hilton knew better but it's the responsibility of the photographer to assume that no one has ever done this kind of thing before and therefore should be walked through the process to ensure it's all going to work out.

My next step, after confirming the date of the shoot, is to start assembling everything we might need for a successful shoot. That includes not only the cameras, lenses and lights but also things like: chopsticks for carefully arranging/fine-tuning food on the plates, a small atomizer of water to apply condensation beads to cold glasses, shims to angle plates up or down, tweezers, scissors, and toothpicks for propping. We even bring little styrofoam peanuts to fill in the bottom of bowls so salads sit higher.

I usually bring along a sprayer with olive or canola oil to use in a pinch to glisten up some foods, as well as a hand held steamer for not only pulling creases out of tablecloths and napkins but also to steam food with to give dishes a moist, hot feel. 

In the days leading up to the shoot day I spend a lot of time looking through food magazines, like Food and Wine, to get styling ideas and to look at the way food is presented. I also look through a book of food photography I've had for years that was done by Lou Manna. Might as well steal from one of the best....

Another important part of being ready is to pick the right assistant. For a food job at a nice restaurant I'm not looking for a young kid with a blue collar aesthetic and a lot of energy I'm usually looking for an assistant who likes and understands fine dining and who is seasoned enough (yes, I get the pun) to be calm and measured on the set. Not everything needs to happen at the speed of light. I also want someone who is very detail oriented because that's my blind spot. I can see a bit of chaos and rationalize it as "casual" where a more detail sensitive person makes a better decision about how sloppy is too sloppy.

An important part of any shoot that requires the willing participation of third parties is the "call sheet" or agenda for the day of the shoot. This is a standard feature in video and film production and I tend to make it mandatory on days with agencies, clients and collaborators whom I do not directly control. 
The call sheet let's everyone know when they (individually) need to be on the set or bring something to the set. It also provides contact info for everyone so if someone is running late they know who and how to call. 

I like everything in a call list because if we say, "We'll be there at eight!" The client or agency might interpret that to mean, "We'll start shooting the product right at eight!" The call sheet takes out any interpretation. It would say, "Kirk, Assistant and Art Director to arrive on location at 8 am to begin unpacking and setting up. First test dish to be ready from Kitchen at 9 am." A detailed schedule might include times for each dish to be ready. It will also include a stop time. And a packing up time, which should occur within the eight hour shoot day, not as an addition to it. 

There is a tendency of people to charge by the day or the hour but I would like to always charge by the project and by the usage of the project and here's why: If I can schedule the project to be done (portal to portal) in less time, and my schedule is accurate,  I win and the client wins. We know up front what our time commitment and cost will be. If we separate hours from the value of the finished images I am generally rewarded for my experience because I'll be able to do a better job faster. The client gets great images and always gets back valuable time that can be leveraged somewhere else. Ditto for the Art Director. I get paid for my experience and my eye, not how many hours I spend. Charging by the project also keeps clients from "adding in" extra shots and extra work to punish your expertise and experience. By that I mean that if we finish earlier then our day was more efficient for everyone. The client got the value they expected to pay for. Charging by the day means some clients start looking for extra things for you to do if you finish "early."

If we charge solely by time instead of calculating a fee based on usage and the value of the images then we can include the time spent researching images into the value as well as our career history of learning things up to that point. If we charge by the hour we then get into explanations for time that most people who work on salary have a harder time understanding. We are paying you to pack up and load your car? We are paying you to drive over here from your studio? (the unspoken objection: "no one pays me to drive to work every day! Pout!). We are paying you to pack up your stuff and drive back to the studio? We are paying you to unload your car? Changing the conversation from time value to image value allows you to skirt unproductive conversations and objections. 

If you aren't as good as you think you are you might need to stay longer and make less on a per hour basis, following this method, but you'll learn for next time. It's all part of the process and knowing how you'll charge and why is an important part of being ready to shoot. 

Finally, showing up ready means that you need to have the energy and enthusiasm to do everything right for the client and the project at hand. Maybe that means turning down that second glass of wine the night before. Maybe it means getting to bed earlier and getting a reasonable amount of sleep. For a very complex job it may even mean a bit of meditation the day before to calm your mind and open yourself up to alternate ideas. For me, it also means eating a good breakfast with a lot of protein. A long and dependable energy source always beats downing a bear claw with your no fat latté and then having to deal with the sugar crash a few hours into the job.

The most important part of being ready is to have some sort of visual image in your mind of what the final images should look like when you've done the job the way you wanted to do it. Because without the mental map you might just shoot unanchored and get stuff that doesn't match and doesn't fill the parameters that you promised the art director and the final client. A focused mental image of what visual success looks like is the blueprint for successfully bringing the work to fruition. 

Oh yeah, and then there's the gear. But we've talked about that enough.


Pedernales Falls State Park. Pool with puffy cloud sky.

Converted from color to black and white with DXO FilmPack 3.0.

click to see larger!

Try the novel...add some spice to your Summer vacation.

Using the Nikon D810 as a "Zoom" Camera.

Chanel Haynes-Schwartz at Zach Theatre. 
©2015 Kirk Tuck

I'd love to own every lens in the Nikon catalog (except the crappy kit lenses and weird, DX lenses) and I'd also like to own all of the Sigma Art lenses but, unfortunately, I live in the real world reality of a commercial photographer working in a second tier market. C'est la vie.

If I had all the lenses I want I'd have one of the discontinued Nikon 300mm f2.0 lenses and a full time assistant to carry it around for me. I chose to buy a car instead. We still need those in Texas. We don't need 300mm f2.0s quite as much.

But where it would always come in handy is when shooting dress rehearsals on the new Topfer stage at Zach Theatre. In the two older stages we rarely ever shot dress rehearsals with a full audience and the venues were tiny by comparison. Generally, I got by handily with a fast, medium range zoom and something like a 70-200mm or sometimes even just a 135mm f2.8. Something with enough reach that, from the front row, created a sense of close intimacy.

Ah, how things change. We are now shooting with almost full houses and while I could move about (marketing takes some precedence over "family and friends" non-paying audiences) I think it's too disruptive and too difficult to work around and in front of a packed house in the same way. I've mostly chosen a vantage point that allows me to shoo fully stage shots (side to side) from the middle row, sitting in front of the videographer and just on the aisle row that has space between the front and read of the house.

Now if I want an intimate shot I'm racking my 80-200mm f2.8 all the way out and praying that the actors do fun and interesting stuff near the front of the stage. Lately, I've decided to do what I would have never done with a less resolution intensive camera and I've started using the various crop modes that the D810 offers. I can easily switch between the full frame (200mm) a 1.2X crop (240mm) or the DX crop (300mm). I know that these modes are really just crops of the sensor but they help me visualize (with the finder lines) exactly what I'll end up with and, since I shoot so many images it potentially saves me a ton of time in post production.

This shot is a perfect example of where a high resolution camera, in crop mode, shines. Chanel was near the back of the stage, at least 100 feet from my stationary position and I really wanted to get in tight enough to make the shot interesting. I did a longer, vertical shot of her to show off the dress with the exaggerated train but I felt like the tighter composition would be more engaging. Since I was already at the 200mm setting of my f2.8 zoom it was necessary to start using the "punch in" crops. I used the 1.5X, DX crop and I still had enough resolution to allow the art director to crop even tighter, if she wanted to. When you click on the image above you'll see it at around 2100 pixels wide but the original file is 5520 x 3680 pixels. That's still an amazing amount of resolution to play with, especially for web use.

More amazing to me is the image quality of the files given that they are shot at 1600 ISO and are handheld with neither the camera nor the lens having the benefit of image stabilization. At a 300mm equivalent that's pretty great performance from every part of the chain (including me).

I now pronounce the Nikon D810 the current, ultimate zoom digital camera. Crop to your heart's content and do it in camera so you know what you are getting. Cropping after the fact is just an act of desperation or stubborness...

And, by the way, take a chance and read the novel....

Sometimes you engage the shutter button because you love the light, the tones and the textures you are seeing more than the content of a shot. For me this is a good example...

I also like the ambiguity of it all.

Shot during a dress rehearsal at Zach Theatre.

The Novel


I love nailing white, on white, on white on stage. Balancing the highlights and the flesh tones makes some images work well. This is with the D810 in the DX crop mode. Still a 20 megapixel image....

©2015 Kirk Tuck for Zach Theatre.

Tip: Manual Exposure. Spot meter for the white coat and then open up 1 and 2/3rd stops. Push up a third of a stop in post.  KT


The Novel...

Defying Gravity On Stage.

What: A Dance number from "Sophisticated Ladies" 

Where: Zach Theatre at 1510 Toomey Rd. Austin, Texas 78704

Camera: Nikon D810+Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 lens

Particulars: f3.2, 1/1000th of second, ISO 1600, manual exposure, autofocus - center group Jpeg file.

Buy Kirk's Novel!


What's the boy up to this Summer?

He's working at a software company (what did you expect in Austin where we have more software developers than baristas?).  I think he works all day on a computer there and when he comes home he relaxes by....working on his computer. In about a month and some change we'll disrupt the routine all over again and send him back off for his second year of college.

Why is there a desire to build a time machine that could go into the future? Time is going forward more than fast enough for my taste....


News Flash!!! One Hundred Dollar Zoom lens does well. Pressed into use at Pedernales Falls State Park in an attempt to stave off boredom.

The image above was done from a long distance with an Olympus 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 zoom lens, mounted on a nice tripod. I shot it with a polarizing filter on the front to do fun stuff to the body of water on the right, lower corner of the frame. I shot at f8.

When I enlarge the frame it is delightful. And I must say that everything I had with me in my backpack weighed less than the 80-200mm f2.8 lens I would have used had I been dragging a Nikon all over the place. By a long shot.

Click on the photo and it will enlarge....

Forget the new lens. Read the novel...

An afternoon spent testing the Olympus 40 meg (and 60 meg) Hi-Res feature at Pedernales Falls State Park. Hot and crazy.

I'm not much of a landscape photographer but I'm willing to fake it for an hour or two at a time if I'm trying out something different and new. That would be the Olympus Hi-Res mode out in the real world. 

I packed a couple of the EM5.2 cameras and two lenses. The Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 zoom and the Olympus 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 R. I also packed a 58mm polarizing filter and three bottles of Evian water. Grabbed my straw Stetson cowboy hat, a Columbia long sleeve Sun Guard shirt and a bottle of spray on sun screen, and then I drove the 40 minutes to the park.

All my gear was in a little backpack and I carried a Berlebach wooden tripod over my shoulder. I parked the car and slipped on the backpack then I headed down the steep trail to walk out over the rocks, worn and crevassed by centuries of running water. The head of the falls that bubble up from underground is a vast field of smoothed rocks that hide little pools and streams that all run together in to the Pedernales River.  It takes fifteen or twenty minutes to trek down from the car and another thirty or forty minutes to find the good spots. Spots uncrowded by people dragging along coolers and screaming children.

It was about 97 degrees by the time I got to the boulder field. My hat provided good protection from direct sun, as did the shirt, but after two hours of walking around, finding interesting views, setting up the tripod and comping everything up for the shots, all in direct sun,  the heat just starts to wear you down. It radiates from the baked rocks and even with UV protection in all quadrants the sheer thermal load just starts to elevate your core temperature. 

I headed into the trees surrounding the field and drained the contents of one Evian bottle. Then I looked at what I'd gotten. I liked it. 

When I first started to shoot I set the camera to record in Hi-Res, in the Super fine Jpeg mode. Later I modified that by selecting the Raw+Jpeg setting. While the files jumped up from a 40 megapixel size to a 60 megapixel size I didn't see much difference in quality when I got back to the studio and could take a good, long look on the monitor at 100%. 

After a little break in the shade I headed down the long trail to the area of the park where people are allowed to swim in the river. It's about two miles from the Falls. I spent some time shooting there as well but I kept thinking about the walk back in the heat so I cut the photography down when I started to feel a bit off and trekked back to the car, drained another bottle of water and headed home. 

So, what did I discover about the Hi-Res mode in the EM5.2? First of all, being on a tripod in broad, Texas sunlight just feels so strange. It took me right back to my view camera days. You get to spend a lot of time extending legs in uneven arrangements and making adjustments to the tripod. The upside of my time spend with the "blond beauty" of tripods was that the wood is wonderful to touch even after being exposed to direct sunlight for hours. While a black, metal set of tripod legs would fry your hands the Berlebach was more or less temperature neutral.

In Hi-Res mode the images are loaded with tons of real detail. They also have a different, richer color palette than images that are shot in traditional modes. But much can be done to equalize files from traditional capture and Hi-Res. To this point I have included a file from a large super fine jpeg shot in the regular mode at the bottom and I find it malleable enough to get close to the look of the High-Res stuff in terms of tones and colors. Where it is no match is in resolution.

While we are mostly programmed to profess our undying love for RAW files I think in the future I'll stick to my instincts and shoot the Hi-Res stuff in large super fine jpeg. It looks great to me that way.

I set the camera to the regular file size for the image below because I felt constrained by having to shoot motionless subjects with the super-pixel mode. I like to see people in my images and I like it even better when they move around and do stuff. All the files here are sized to 2100 pixels on the long end for blogger. You'll have to take my word for the fact that the larger files have a embarrassing amount of detail. But for everything that moves you'll probably be just fine with the 16 megapixels you get standard. Nice to know you aren't totally screwed if you left that tripod at home....

After years as a medium telephoto curmudgeon I am grudgingly coming to love walking with a wide angle zoom lens. Either my vision is getting wider or my selection of subjects is shifting...

I love the aluminum canoes. They remind me of Summer camp at Camp Carter in Ft. Worth, Texas.
We did an overnight canoe trip and my partner and I managed to capsize our canoe in the middle of the lake. We used what we learned in canoe class to right it but most of our possessions drifted slowly to the bottom of the lake. It was a chilly night camping out but everyone chipped in something; a shirt, a blanket, etc. and we made it through okay. 

The canoes above are from the Zilker Park trail that runs next to the stream connecting the pool to the city's central lake (which is really a part of the Colorado River....).

Nikon D610+Tamron 20-40mm zoom lens.

Read the Novel....


The "Wall" as a counterpoint to the wonderful blue of a wide angle sky.

Sky with Wall. Nikon D610+20-40mm lens. 

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???

I was walking along, writing things in my head, when I saw the clouds playing with the street lights. What a lovely sky!

Austin Morning Sky.

More images from a walk through the park with a nice camera and an old lens.

This is one of the trails that leads to the Barton Springs Pool.
To the left is the stream that connects the pool to 
Austin's Ladybird Lake. 

At various places along the stream people sit in the cool water
and while away their time making balanced rock sculptures
from rocks they find on the bottom.
The water is always cool. Mostly 68 or 70 degrees (f). 
At the other end of Barton Pool it comes bubbling up from underground.

People who pay admission to the pool usually keep their clothes on. 
People who swim in the stream instead are less likely to do so...

In the morning there are many canoes at the open air canoe rental shop.
By noon on a hot day there are none left to rent. 

This is the trail that leads away from the pool toward downtown.
We have miles and miles of trails around the waters that flow through
our downtown area, most covered by old and new trees for shade.

This bridge takes traffic over the creek on Barton Springs Rd. 
On a hot afternoon paddle board people and canoe-ers glide under and linger for 
respite from the powerful sun.

I walked all morning and on the way back to Barton Springs and my car I saw hundreds of 
fit, young people paddle boarding, canoeing and running through the park.
It certainly gives weight to the graffiti on the column in the image above....

These stairs lead down from the running trails that interconnect around
Zilker Park to the pool at the north end of Barton Springs Pool. It's area that 
people frolic in when they don't want to or can't pay the $3 admission to the 
big pool. 

All images: Nikon D610+Tamron 20mm-40mm zoom.

Lovely day for a walk.


Oh Gosh! Do you think that lens is sharp enough? Do I need an ART lens? Do I need to get that Otus lens? Will people make fun of me if I'm not using an "L" lens? Will the "gold ring" make my image better? But what about cameras? Which one......

Match up the leaf crop below with its position in the image above...

The answer to everything is: "Yes." But only if I'm the seller and you are the buyer.

(spoiler: twenty year old lens. third party. my cost? $120. Is is sharp enough? ---- Duh.)

Good Morning Austin. What's going on at Barton Springs? Let's go see.

All blog images today taken with a Nikon D610+Tamron 20-40mm SP+a good attitude. 

If you want to photograph a popular place in Austin without a lot of people in your shots you might consider doing your photographs in the earlier part of the mornings. It's been my experience that millenials are like vampires, they rarely rise before noonish...