A few thoughts about style in video.

The latest 6K Nikon HD video camera? Naw. Super8 film...

I had some interesting correspondence with my recent video collaborator, James W. We shot video footage together at Cantine Restaurant earlier this Summer and our other individual projects have just given us a convenient bit of a gap in schedules that allows for the final editing of the project. While I spearheaded the initial part of the video process James is doing the clip selections and the editing.

We shot the project on two different days. On the first day we discussed a laundry list of possible shots which mostly revolved around shooting food preparation with some attention paid to food presentation and the documentation of fun activities at the bar.  We both worked with Olympus OMD EM5.2 cameras, complete with the battery grip for a second battery and to provide a headphone jack if we felt we needed one. We had a case of lenses for the two cameras that included a number of modern primes and zooms from Olympus and Panasonic as well as a collection of my old, esoteric Pen FT lenses (from the days of half frame film).

If you are familiar with the world of journalism then imagine that the two of us of have been let loose on a restaurant with the assignment of enterprise. Of looking around for fun mini-stories to shoot. Like the willowy girl at the pasta making machine, pulling strands of fettucini through the grid, or the pizza chef putting together a great


The changing nature of what we all do for a living in post modern society.

I was directing a video project, making content of a well known public relations professional as he explained the "Death of Public Relations" to the camera. I paid attention to my framing and exposure but I also paid attention to the content of this business owner's speech. I tend to think that my business (photography) is different from everyone else's and that people in my business have been disproportionally effected by the overwhelming changes that mass digitalization and social media on the web. I can point to shrinking markets in some areas and expanding but less valuable markets in other areas. I can point to the effects of citizen journalists and "good enough" for the web substitutions for what used to require professional touch. But I haven't paid as much attention as I should to the disruptions in the businesses that encircle and support my enterprise; namely, the advertising agencies and public relations agencies. Their turmoils and metamorphosis were delayed, compared to those of the image slingers, but they are deep into the changes right now.

In the realm of public relations they are seeing a huge shift. In the past the primary function of P.R. agencies was to take the issues that were dear or dangerous to their clients, figure out what sort of spin would work in mainstream media to get the story out there, and then to connect with the editorial departments of newspapers, consumer magazines, trade magazines and TV new departments and radio news people to try and sell them on assigning stories to editorial writers (freelance and staff) who would re-tell the story with the cloak of objectivity and balance that was the unique selling point that the media properties enjoyed. Consumers trusted editorial media to be trustworthy. They were the objective conduit between companies and consumers. They took the "facts", did their own "research" and delivered stories that filled space and grabbed eyes. Stories were monetized by the ads that wrapped around them. And sometimes the ads came from the very people who were providing the initial story push; the companies represented by the public relations agencies.

When  client/agency reviews came around the success or failure of a public relations campaign largely boiled down to how many stories got "sold and told." Did the local newspapers re-write that press release and get it into the hands of the business editor at the local paper? Did the billionaire who spent two hours "giving back to the community" by reading a book at a Headstart program get his story, and his photograph, in hundreds (thousands) of papers across the country through the power of syndication? How many channels of broadcast TV did a positive "breaking news" story about a company's bold expansion or paradigm shifting new product launch did they get? Those numbers were the traditional metrics of success or failure in the public relations business. (I simplify here but it's mostly accurate. There are things like media training and disaster communications that fall outside the core offerings of the P.R. agencies...).

What happened to change all this?  Online classified ads from websites like CraigsList killed revenue for newspapers and weeklies which reduced the size of each issue and made regular paid, placed display ad revenue more critical. But the need for display ad revenue hit about the time the overall ad market bloomed like a million bits of pollen and created the need to diversify ad budgets from dozens of outlets to thousands of outlets with the associated reduction of dollars allocated to each market. More channels and outlets chasing the same, or diminishing, amount of placement dollars; and the lure of "free exposure" on the web.

The bulk of people who still read traditional newspapers is over 50 years old. Young people don't (as a rule) subscribe to, or read, traditional city newspapers or magazines. Most no longer read any printed consumer magazines and revenue collection via advertising and paywalls on web magazines is not very profitable either. The demographic change was a loaded gun not just for magazines and newspapers but also for the P.R. agencies who were largely set up to partner with them for coverage.

It's conceivable now that a company will reach a wider (and more diverse) audience with a great video launched on YouTube and supported by Twitter and Facebook than would ever be reached peddling the same basic story to what's left of the legitimate broadcast news local TV stations. The media outlets are pretty much reacting not by innovating but by entering into a deadly cycle of quarterly, monthly and weekly cost reductions. Most of the cost reductions are aimed at reducing staff and replacing older, more expensive staff, with younger, less costly new staff. The $200,000 a year anchor that appealed to mom and dad is replaced with a media savvy youngster earning, literally, $40,000 per year.

With a lot fewer pages to fill and fewer good writers and researchers to fill them, newspapers and magazines are largely capitulating and picking up syndicated feeds and "stock" stories that are largely fact free, information sparse, and diffusely targeted. It's a freaking desert for traditional P.R. professionals whose previous lives consisted of meeting with smart counterparts to generate stories that the newspapers could tackle and cover with their implied objectivity. How does any company generate positive P.R. on present day broadcast television when the 24 hour news cycle is now based almost completely on shock pieces meant to keep audiences tuned in and addicted to the anxiety of fast breaking and dramatic news events. And there are millions and millions of "channels" from which to choose.

Gone are the days when two or three news crews bristling with TV cameras and microphones showed up to capture the cutting of a ribbon on a new stretch of highway, or the tossing of dirt with golden shovels at a regional mall ground breaking?

So, if traditional public relations is dying then what will take its place?  That's what remains to be seen. My video subject conjectures that companies will create their own stories and showcase them both on the websites they control and also in as many social media venues as they can effectively service. While the individual "expert" blogger might be in decline right now regular blogs from companies and associations are still seen as prime content.

The P.R. professionals will find their way for now by becoming better and better at telling the client story in videos and blogs than the ultimate client can themselves. Part of the value of an outside provider is in the emotional distance from a company they have versus an in-house writer or producer who is constantly subject to the powers and the entrenched point of view of the typical company hierarchy. Being outside means at least having the potential to tell edgier but more satisfying and stickier stories.

I asked the P.R. expert how that might change the face of his agency and he responded by saying the he'll be hiring a lot more people from the English departments and fewer from the colleges of Communication and RTF.  More people who can convincingly tell emotional and enjoyable stories and fewer people whose expertise lies in selling a story or concept to someone else's editorial committee.

I asked about art directors who worked on some of their accounts and he seemed to think that the future for graphic designers was rosy since the fastest riser in P.R. space's current field of delicious and click-rewarding content is Infographics, which have to be visually well done to be ultimately effective.

What does this mean to me? As a photographer? It largely means that my intuition was correct and the epicenter of hiring and directing freelancers is moving from the P.R. agencies, who bundled our images with freelancer's writing into a package designed to make publication easy, to enterprise in a more direct way. While the P.R. agencies will pitch stories to the corporations and have their writers write the content the power is shifting toward in-house production and in-house supervision of content providers.The truth is that P.R. agencies rarely had people in house who really understood how to best leverage images and video footage and now we'll work more in the capacity of partners than in a top down manner.

Our focus in dealing with the change happening in public relations is to make sure we maintain relationships with the agencies but to redouble our efforts to make more clients into direct clients so we garner top of mind awareness no matter which direction or which other suppliers the lead client chooses. There is perhaps a greater overall need for visual content than ever before but the responsibility for acquiring, directing and leveraging the images we create is being spread across multiple entry points and multiple clients. It's no longer enough just to send nice mailers and e-mail blasts to the handful of P.R. people in your market. You need their client's eyes as well....


Sometimes you have to step in and be the machinist.

I was photographing at a spare parts fabricating shop in Georgetown, Texas yesterday and one of the things on my list was to get a bunch of shots of this new machine. The foreman clicked it on so the screen would be live but he was quick to add that the shop was on a tight schedule that day and he couldn't afford to pull any of his people off their other jobs to pose for me.  I had gotten a lot of images of the machine by itself already. Wide verticals, exciting forced perspective shots, shots looking straight into the machine.... but I wanted on set of shots that showed someone working at the machine.

I set the self-timer on the D750 to ten seconds, framed up the shots I wanted and went for it. I just wanted the human element. I'm glad I didn't wear cargo shorts....


Noellia from a different point of view.

©2015 Kirk Tuck

So, I went to this photo workshop today and there was only one participant and one model. We didn't have to listen to anyone pontificate or complain. We got to do everything exactly the way we wanted to. The one participant had total access to the model's time and attention. The model got to work with the very best photographer in the group. The photographer got to work with the most beautiful model in the whole workshop. No one tried to sell us DVDs or photographer branded camera bags. No one compared their camera to our camera with a sneer on their face. Oh, wait, it wasn't a workshop it was just a fun afternoon with a friend. What a great way to learn more about photography....  And it's free.

Noellia. Exterior portrait. At the house.

Slowing down and enjoying a portrait session can be nice for people on both sides of the camera. This was a casual shot on one of the back porches of our house. The lens is an 85mm shot wide open at f1.8.  

Shooting a Precision Machine Shop was a fun thing to do this morning. Photographing my Friend, Noellia, was more fun this afternoon...

Noellia on the couch.

I spent my morning in Georgetown, Texas at a precision machine shop that fabricates parts for the semi-conductor industry. It was fun. Lots of cool, mechanical looking stuff to shoot in fun ways and many CNC lathes and what-not to create a visual interesting industrial landscape.

After lunch I nestled into my cool and comfortable little office to cozy up to the computer and do the post processing that comes with every job. It was very straightforward. This morning I used one camera and three lenses; the 24-140mm f4 Nikon, the 105mm f2.5 ais Nikon, and the 14mm Rokinon. Running the D750 files through Lightroom CC and tossing in the right lens profiles worked like a charm. I made fairly liberal use of one 508 AS LED panel to keep everything on an even keel.

I edited down the files to a small enough batch that I was able to send them along to the client via my WeTransfer.com application. Everything uploaded quickly and without incident. I was just typing up my invoice when there was a knock on the studio door.

It was my old friend, Noellia Hernandez. You might recognize her as the woman on the cover of my fourth book, the one about Lighting Equipment. At any rate Noellia and I have worked together on projects as diverse as book covers, the Austin Chamber of Commerce and Zach Theatre over the last eleven years. She moved to New York about five years ago but we get together whenever I'm in NYC or  she's back in Austin visiting the family.

She stood in the doorway in a great, little black dress and some dramatic shoes and I knew that we were going to spend some time taking more photographs. I shot some stuff in the studio using the D750 and both the 85mm 1.8G lens and the 105mm f2.5, lit with one of the new Photogenic PL1250 flashes into a 72 inch umbrella with a  diffusion cover attached. Then we moved into the house so we could take a few shots on the couch. In most households I think it would seem weird for someone's 59 year old father to walk into the house with an actress in a short black dress, ask her to lay down on the couch and pose but Ben hardly looked up from his laptop.  He was sitting at the dining room table and looked up long enough to say, "Hi" to Noellia. They've know each other since Ben was eight.

We did the images on the couch with available light and the 85mm and then headed outside, after a quick costume change, to do some stuff in the open shade with some landscape out of focus in the background.

You read a lot about achieving balance. From CNC lathes to NYC actors; I like to keep my work life balanced.  More from the session to come...


The All Terrain Video/Still Lens of Choice....for me.

I'm currently reviewing the material I shot for a P.R. agency last Weds. and Fri. There are several hundred still images and about 30 minutes of video footage to wade through in order to extract whatever nuggets of gold, silver or tin might be mixed in with the footage and still frames we'd never want to use.

As I look through the material I feel like I made the right choice in using the 50mm focal length for most of the shots. The relationships and sizes see to work well and it's refreshing to be able to use a fast lens nearly wide open and not have to worry about getting enough sharpness.

I am constantly battling with some part of my brain that always seems to want to compose images too tightly. I am making a real effort to "put more air" around the things I shoot. I guess it's the result of shooting so many slides for so many years. When we put together slide shows we needed to keep the format, aspect ratio and sizes of the projected images the same. That mean we did all our composition in the finder at the time of the shot. Later, when digital was in its infancy, we cropped really tightly because I was worried about loosing any of the information in the frame. Enlarging seemed to mean an immediate reduction in quality.

Now, with bountiful pixels and infinite post processing it almost seems as though we should just put a 14mm on the camera and shoot everything with the idea of cropping out the sections that we want later.... (hyperbole alert...).


Mr. Contradiction. "The camera doesn't matter." "Lenses don't matter." But I have a new favorite lens. And I'm having fun with it just walking around shooting pretty pictures.

Can't remember if I mentioned it but recently I traded in the Olympus m.45mm f1.8 lens and bought myself a Panasonic 42.5mm lens. No, it's not the ultra sexy 1.2 version it's the smaller, cheaper f1.7 version but as of about an hour ago it's my favorite lens. (If you are new to the blog you may as well add this to the last sentence: "for at least the rest of the day....").

I've been regaling you recently with tales of productivity that revolve around the full frame Nikon cameras, and you could be forgiven for assuming that my allegiance to them was complete and air tight but nothing could be further from the truth. The Nikons are amazingly proficient in the same way that my Kenmore washer and dryer have been amazingly proficient. I take them out and set the controls correctly and they return to me big, technically perfect files. That's all very well but technically perfect gets boring quickly. It's eccentricity that sells.

When I've had my fill of routine, day to day work with the Craftsman power tools of my profession I like to relax and sink into fun photography with the quirky but powerful Olympus m4:3 cameras. In fact, I had so much fun shooting with an EM5.2 today on my walk through downtown that I am already changing my Tues. plans to dump the Nikons back into their drawer in the studio and instead bring only the smaller cameras along with me on an industrial assignment, because there is nothing in the assignment that leads me to believe I'll need the "ultimate" files. The client has evinced no desire or even interest in me manufacturing Ultra Prints (tm) at this juncture. 

I am sure that the ad agency I'm working for will be happy with the micro contrast either system delivers but I have an intuition that the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 might just give me the edge where ultimate NANO ACUITY is involved. I know that the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4 is a masterpiece of Nano Acuity as well. And I'm just a little bored with the bigger cameras since I shot them for four assignments last week (proof that professional photography is waning, right?). 

Why the new resurgence of my interest in the smaller cameras? Some of the lenses, like the 42.5 (either flavor) the 25 Panasonic or Olympus, and all of the pro, f2.8 zooms for the micro four thirds cameras are exquisite and much more fun to haul around. The image stabilization in the EM5.2 is magical and the EVF, for me, handily replaces the crystal clear but dumb OVF in the Nikons. I'm of the mindset that you have to have both. Maybe it's a Texan thing; a Tesla or cute little BMW for week days in the city and a Ford F150 pick-up truck for weekends hauling crap the dump or firewood out to the ranchette. I love shooting the M4:3 cameras and lenses for just about any thing but I also love the steeper de-focus ramp of the bigger format and there are times when nothing will do but the higher res files of the bigger cameras. 

Sometimes you go to the pool to compete and other times you go to float around, stay out of the heat and have fun. I can't give up either modality. And most of the times, with the smaller format, it's hard to see that I'm giving up anything at all. 

What prompted me to make the lens change? I've had two different copies of the Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens and wide open I always found it to be good but not great. Stopped down a couple stops and it's as sharp as anything out there but with the smaller format and the more limited options for controlling depth of field it's more important to me that those first two f-stops be functional. No, better than functional, I want them to be as good as the lens's optical performance at f5.6. I want it all. 

I borrowed the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 and tested it on the new Olympus EM5.2. I found it to be sharper wide open and I liked the form factor much better. The crowning determiner in the trade-in? Those smart marketers at Panasonic throw in the lens hood as an included accessory. (kidding? maybe...). 

I've shot a few things with the 42.5 but I've been enmeshed in some video/photo hybrid shoots and that's something the D750 and D810 do with greater ease (and longer battery life) than the Olympus cameras. Today was my first day to spend three or four hours shooting with nothing but the 42.5mm economical Panasonic. When I got home from my walk I shoved the Large Super Fine jpegs into the absolute latest rev. of PhotoShop CC and took at silly look at 100%. The lens convinced me that it's in the class of High Nano Acuity along with a select smattering of other lenses. When I start investigating my own brand of ne plus ultra prints (tm) it will be one of my "approved" optical tools. 

The lens is also small and light. Works well on both dominant m4:3 systems and even comes with I.S.

You should rush right out and buy one now. They may become scarce.....

Guess which company gets a delivery of Sunday New York Times newspapers in downtown Austin!?? Why it's Google Fiber, the subsidiary of the world's biggest aggregator which is helping to kill real newspapers and journalism around the world. I guess when the elite companies who are changing the "paradigm of tomorrow" really need solid news for their own research they still depend on the wonderful resource of well researched and well written journalism from one of the few sources left standing..... And they like to put on their white gloves and read it on paper, the way the gods intended.

Fun line-up of live music at the Moody Theater/Austin City Limits. Sorry to let you know that Jill Scott is sold out. But I notice that Weird Al Yankovich is on the list....

We love taking our friends for walks around the city so they can see for themselves how beautiful and special Austin (the new Dallas) can be. The construction clutter is everywhere. No one's mom is teaching them to clean up after themselves anymore...

To sum up. Lens very good. Walk always healthy for your eyes and your heart. Construction currently ubiquitous, makes me think the bursting of the bubble is coming sooner rather than later. Finally, nice to walk on days where the temperature stays away from the triple digits. 

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