Sometimes the sky just looks so good you have to go out with a camera and make photographs...

Every square inch of downtown Austin is under construction. It's getting to be bizarre. It's almost as if the real estate investors have forgotten a simple rule, "whatever goes up must come down..." But that's a story for another blog post. 

Austin is currently experiencing the lowest temperatures we've seen in over a year. When I woke up this morning the thermometer on the outside of the house said it was 25 degrees (f). I made a cup of Irish breakfast tea, with milk and a little sugar, and then I grabbed a fresh towel and headed to the pool. As you know, if you read the VSL blog on a regular basis, my masters team swims year round in an outdoor pool. It's heated but still, on days like today there's a huge psychological barrier involved in making if from the nice, warm locker room to the pool about 100 yards away.

We have insulated covers on the pool at night to retain heat so the first arrivals at the pool help our coach pull off the covers and roll them onto their carrier. When the covers come off clouds of steam roll across the pool like a fog in the background of a 1950's werewolf movie. It's a leap of faith to plunge in but we do it every morning. I am cautious and wait for the first person to make a move. Once I see that he or she suffered no hypothermic shock I'm ready to plunge in. 

It was cloudy this morning and the low temperatures (you have to remember that we are in no way acclimated for this!) were exacerbated by a gusty, 30 mph, north wind. It's the kind of Sunday morning that one just puts one's head down and pounds through the workout for an hour and a half; not much chit chat since surfacing to talk is almost painful. 

Today we did a bunch of individual medley sets to start. Nothing like swimming some butterfly to really engage with your body on an early Sunday morning...

The most painful part of today's aquatic adventure was exiting the pool and making it back to the locker room while soaking wet and being pummeled by the north wind. Coffee never tastes better than it does after the swim+chill combination. I didn't keep track of the yardage today but I'd say we got in our 4500 to 4800 typical yards. Maybe a bit less since so much of it was breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly. It's always easier to rack up the yards if you are doing distance freestyle sets but, hey! what's the fun in that?

Since it was a typical Sunday I had breakfast, read the NYT, and then headed to the studio/office to meticulously retouch ten rush portraits and then bill for four different jobs, spread across three different clients. No one seems to have gotten the message that we just happen to be in the middle of the end of year, holiday season! But that's okay because I really enjoy the billing...

Once I got the important stuff out of the way I checked the weather again and was pleased to see that the temperature had climbed to 30 degrees by 2:30pm. Perfect for a long walk through the city. 

I layered up, found my Craftsy "swag" hat and grabbed my favorite camera of the week; the Sony a6300. I vacillated between taking the 18-105mm or the little, Sigma 60mm f2.8 Art lens. In the end the Sigma won. I'm loving the a6300 these days because I am finally intimately familiar with the menu and loving the quality of the files I've been getting from that little camera; both in stills and in video. 

I wondered around for the better part of two hours with the camera and lens and only gave up shooting when the failing light pushed me past ISO 6400. I'd shot about 200 frames, and even in the freezing temperatures the battery indicator was showing 80% full at the end. Certainly not reflecting the hysteria about Sony batteries that I routinely read on the web...

As I come to grips with the demise of traditional photography and wrap my head around a more software, firmware, hardware combination of stills and video I am less and less attracted to the "nods" to yesteryear in camera interfaces and more interested in exactly how much the camera can do for me. The flexibility of the RX10 series is probably a major reason I like them so much. They cross over between the disciplines well. As does the a6300. 

I shot the a6300 as still camera today but left the SmallRig video cage on the body. It handles a bit better for me that way. More surface area for my hands. More to hold onto. My one compromise for still imaging was to take the (for stills) vestigial handle off the top of the rig. 

I got home as the last light faded from the sky and I could just make out the giant Christmas "tree" and its hundred foot strands of light from Zilker Park. I put the camera battery on the charge and started playing with the files. There's nothing earth shattering in the folder. Just fun juxtapositions of color and hard angles. I'll more than likely erase the whole folder in the next day or so. The idea is really never to go out and find a masterpiece for all eternity. No, the real plan is to go out and look at the world and just marvel at how different it is every single day. The camera is a basic foil that lends the pretension of an artist at work. It gives me grown up permission to do something ultimately non-productively fun and joyful. The camera gives me the cover of somehow being at work while hiding the fact that I'm really just soaking it all in. 

The things I find interesting are probably droll to most readers. Old machines, painted a hundred times. A dress in a window. A building framed against an abstract sky. Meaningless on one level and yet as meaningful as anything else humans do in their short lives. Walking around in the cold, looking for nuance and warm coffee beats the hell out of "getting a jump on those first quarter tax estimates!" 

Don't ever forget that we are all entitled to have down time and fun in as wonderful a proportion as we desire. Screw being a serious adult. That way lies madness...

This dress in the window of this shop reminding me of a time long past. 
Interesting that the shop has several windows displaying much larger sized mannequins, wearing much bigger dresses. I guess it makes sense but what happened to "aspirational" fashion?

Custom cup holders for a bicycle.

Austin based Vodka company. "Shovel ready" for heavy drinking...

There's that sky I referenced. It looked pretty astounding this evening. 


Butch said...

Loved this. Hm, the paragraph that begins: "I got home as the last light faded..." Kirk, it reminded me of a week-long vacation in Santa Cruz/Capitola in 1998. I worked in a legal office that was engaged in defending a protracted case with important First Amendement implications (the right of a small church not to be driven out of business by a larger one that claims it owns all of the master's teachings; we won 95 percent of the issues in the case; America doesn't savor religious monopolies). Anyways, I spent the week carrying a Nikon F4 and taking not one single picture. Instead, I walked up and down the Santa Cruz main drag people-watching. I was astounded by what had happened to my brain and heart. Colors and patterns were nourishing to my soul. I even looked at Ray Gun magazine and a book by David whatsisname even though I HATE when artists play with type. A wonderful vacation; my digs ere on the beach but I spent no time on the sand. Later, a Vedic astrologer said that my moon had been sitting on my venus or something - anyway, a rare art-infused wonderful visual period. I wanted to take pictures but just could not; it would have interrupted the experience. People's clothes, window decorations, a fence, a sign, it was all life's blood. Cheers, Kirk, I've grown addicted to reading your life chapters. Nourishing in many ways.

Mike Rosiak said...

Shudder!!! I'm impressed by your commitment to your daily swim. As one who, on a balmy day and 80 degree water, takes over 5 minutes to become fully immersed, I wince every time you describe a morning like this one.

Iceland, early June, raw overcast day, brisk breeze, but at the famous Blue Lagoon, water temperature in the 90's, fog rising off the water blending with the low clouds, I found the immersion part to be ridiculously easy. But that scramble out ... YIKES!!

Anonymous said...

I applaud your swim discipline. Getting up early, freezing temps, the 100 yard walk to and from the pool, your the man! At that temperature my bicycle stays in the garage for another (warmer) days ride. The wind chill is a bit much on a bike.
I also like your philosophical attitude toward the camera walks, and more, life.