Book Excerpt. The Lisbon Portfolio.

A few more from the wall. It changes every day. Adventures in Austin, Texas with a camera in tow.

All images: Sony a6000 + 18-105mm f4.0 G.

I hate unexpected brushes with the intimation of mortality. I was on location yesterday, getting ready to shoot a public relations job, when I reach down and grabbed a heavy bag of cameras and flashes the wrong way. If you've ever had a lower back spasm you'll understand when I say, "Ouch."  It's been years since I've tweaked my lower back but it's something most photographers eventually deal with, and it never gets easier, or more fun.  I finished the shoot and made the mistake of grabbing the camera bag again and swinging it up onto my shoulder. "Ouch." Again! 

I've taken it easy since then and the whole issue is resolving many times quicker than it has in the past. I credited some of that to strengthening my core muscles with the push up regimen I wrote about a while back. At any rate I skipped swim practice today (emotional "Ouch") because the idea of doing a hundred or so flip turns with an achy back wasn't particularly welcoming. But after lunch I decided that it might be therapeutic to take a bit of a walk. I grabbed a small and non-combative camera and headed downtown. I thought I'd walk to the Graffiti Wall and then do a long circuit of downtown. 

After spending half an hour shooting at the Wall my back warned me to knock it off and I surrendered to my physical self's higher awareness and headed back to the car. One more day off and then we'll get back into the groove. 

Aside from the physical trauma ( a new reminder of my advancing maturity age ) the walk was pleasant and the park was filled with graffiti tourists; myself included. I didn't see a whole lot I felt like I needed to document but I did enjoy using the small and light camera and lens. They work well together, and that 24 megapixel sensor is pretty outrageous. I'd read some review that were lukewarm about the lens but in practice it does a great job with high sharpness, and the image stabilization is as advertised, pretty good. 

As Robin Wong reminds me, sometimes getting out and shooting for yourself is a form a therapy. In this case a brief warm down from the day before. Go ahead and click on any of these to see them bigger. They are jpegs that came popping out of the camera. Good, clean fun. 

Doing stupid things like bending over to pick up a camera bag reminds me of an old saying:

"With Age Comes Wisdom. Sometimes Age Comes Alone."

Just another afternoon photograph in Austin, Texas.

At the Graffiti Wall with a Sony a6000
and the 18-105mm f4.0 G lens. 

"Through the portal."

OT: The house next door is for sale and they are having an open house. No, more like an OPEN HOUSE!!!!!

Our neighborhood was quiet and affordable until about five years ago. That's when the speculators and people arriving fresh from S. California showed up with bags of extra cash and the desire for their own, "West Austin/Hill Country Homes." A couple of speculators bought the large, rambling house next door. It was decades old and not particularly well cared for. Over the course of the next two and a half years, up to the present, the speculators tore down the old house and built a nouveau riche dream home, of sorts. The construction was stop and start. We never knew if we'd have peace and quiet or an army of saw and power tool wielding construction workers next door.

Soaring windows, multi-level pools and a hot tub big enough to hold Shamu. Faux Modernism in every kitschy architectural touch. They even built a recirculating "stream" along the front of the house which runs for about 200 feet and ends near the storm drain at the corner of their property. (Water rationing anyone?).

So, now they are (almost) ready to sell the house. The price tag is a choking one million, seven hundred and eighty nine thousand dollars, U.S. Today is the open house. They've spent weeks "staging" the house with trendy furniture, plants and throw rugs. The landscape company came this morning for one last "spruce up." There are balloons and "bandit" signs at every street corner, throughout the neighborhood. A three piece ensemble of musicians showed up to perform. They have cakes from "Nothing Bundt Cakes" and tea from one of the boutique tea shops that have sprouted up around oh-so-current Austin.

And the big draw for gentleman home buyers is the opportunity to test drive either the black or the bright red Tesla S automobile. How amazing? Right?  Look at a $2,000,000 house and test drive an electric car at the same time. Chic.

After having been inconvenienced over and over again by the speculators' contractors we are disinclined to help out with the marketing of the house. To that end I've parked an ancient, pollen covered, Toyota Corolla with no hubcaps at the top of our adjoining entry way. It's there mostly to keep the herds of black Range Rovers and BMW X cars off our driveway. I've put the trash bags full of leaves out on the curb for the trash collectors and our lawn guy took a couple of weeks off. I was thinking of hiring some people from the theatre community to do, "Trailer Trash Homecoming" in the front yard, complete with Colt 45 malt liquor and big, bare bellies with tattoos, sitting in lawn chairs but my spouse said, "No!"

There are several problems with this whole gentrification thing that I'm having trouble getting over: One is that the asking price is ten times what most of the surrounding neighbors paid for their homes twenty years ago (when the neighborhood was casual and middle class) which means our property tax comparables will skyrocket (and we live in a state with no income tax which means everything comes from one of the highest property taxes in the country). The second is that when projects like this are successful in a neighborhood it opens the floodgates to an army of wannabe speculators and then all hell breaks loose.

Ah. The maturing of Austin, in which we get to pay in advance for the next generation's expenses and live day by day and month by month with fleets of cement trucks and dumpster deliveries rumbling up at all hours of the day and night. One issue I dealt with this year was not being able to do videos in our little studio. Couldn't do audio with all the jack-hammering. Sometimes it seems like the only answer is to sell and move along but ......

I sure like my house and my studio. And my dog loves her yard.  Ah crap.

The new Sony RX10iii is an interesting adjunct to an existing, small sensor system. An easy choice for videographers, a tougher choice for "still only" shooters....

The Sony RX10iii. 
Long, long, long. 

Sony continues to create new iterations of existing cameras at a rapid clip. I purchased one of their RX10ii cameras right around the end of last year and I have pressed into use for an impressive number of photographic and video projects which would have been the realm of APS-C or micro fourth-thirds cameras previously. The RX10ii is a good, all around photography tool that would suit the needs of many photographers for many kinds of projects. It's not right for everything, but then no camera is.

I also have the first version of the RX10 which I refer to as "the classic." After Sony came out with their firmware upgrade (improving the video codec) I didn't think I would want to upgrade to the "version 2" but I was lured by the 4K video as well as the newer, higher resolution EVF. I'm happy to have the newer camera because the image quality is slightly improved (mostly in the shadows) and the two cameras together make a good pair of production cameras for video when I am shooting 1080p on both, simultaneously.

I've discussed the merits of the RX10 (both iterations) several times here on the blog but as a reminder: 20 megapixels is good for at least 90% of our projects. The video is probably among the best quality of any 1080p camera out there limited to (in camera) 8 bit 4:2:0 output. The build quality is great. The lens is a good (for me) range of 24mm to 200mm. The image stabilization is quite good. For most purposes they are fully loaded for video work: microphone in, headphone out, zebras, good profiles, focus peaking, etc. To my mind Sony has done a great job of producing a serious compact system which is a great adjunct to the usual inventory of a working photographer.

If the Sony RX10ii is so well implemented then why would we also be interested in the Sony RX10-3?

The camera adds only one thing to the overall system. It adds a zoom lens that yields the equivalent angle of view of a 600mm lens on a full frame camera and it does so on a sensor that's big enough to take advantage of the reach. In my shooting universe the need for anything longer than the 400mm on the Panasonic fz 1000 is rare, but there are times when I do need the reach and those times might become more frequent if the potential were part of my conscious thought process. A thought process sometimes driven by what is at hand. Meaning: If I had "it" I'd probably use it.

From a non-professional point of view there's no reason to own both a Sony RX10ii and the RX10iii. If you need the longer reach you would just choose the newest camera and you'll be able to take advantage of all the things I love about the RX10ii along with the added reach of the new lens. And, importantly, Sony doesn't make you give up the wider end in a focal length compromise. If you always shoot wide, never long, and you like the lighter weight and smaller overall size of the originals you would go for the RX10ii. If you want the basic performance of the RX10ii but don't need the latest finder technology and 4K video --- but would love to save about half the purchase price --- you can buy the original and few if any will see a difference in sensor performance or pipeline performance between the three.

But some professionals have different needs than their enthusiast counterparts and so may want to consider owning two different models from the RX10 system of cameras. I like photographing P.R. exterior events with the RX10 cameras for both the reach of the lenses and the ability to work without endless chimping. (Yes, I know that many of you are OVF genii would can estimate all exposure parameters to within one sixth of a stop. I am not Vulcan, only human and I love the ability to fine tune, through the finder, on the fly. It's a time saver).

I am a bit eccentric and, even though I keep a raft of full frame Nikon DSLR cameras for client work (where necessary or implied...) I am starting to look at the RX10 family of cameras as an alternative professional imaging system of the future. Narrow depth of field has been a style for a long time now but there are numerous situations in which deeper focus is more or less demanded. Products, group shots, landscapes, most video, etc. With the improved performance metrics of Sony's BSI 20 megapixel sensor and the very good performance of the Zeiss branded zoom lenses the only two places that require different cameras choices are quickly becoming situations requiring very narrow depth of field and situations that call for the use of very, very high ISOs. For nearly everything else all of the formats are capable of good results on a wide variety of media.

I'm certainly not suggesting that anyone need change a system that works for them and that they like I am trying to outline why someone in my occupation may be interested in the one inch cameras as an alternative or an adjunct to a more traditional system.

The zoom lens on the front of the RX10iii, if it lives up to its marketing spin, will give many of us our first real taste of extreme telephoto reach, coupled with a good performing imaging sensor. And we would be getting this reach at a fraction of the cost of the same sort of lens from, well, anyone.

If you need the reach of a 600mm but can't handle the weight, price, size and logistics of handling a traditional lens this camera will be logical and almost mandatory. I can hardly wait to put the long reach to the test at the next big swim competition. In most lighting conditions for swimming concerns about AF performance aren't vital. But being able to reach across a pool from the audience bleachers and get tight close ups of competitors could be amazingly fun. I also love a good compression shot and this is a camera/lens choice that would handle that superbly. It comes with a small penalty over it's sister cameras in terms of weight but, apparently, nothing else.

When I go out to shoot video I want to take two cameras with me for a number of reasons. The first being the need/desire for nearly identical, redundant back-up. With so many resources being focused on a specific time frame it's folly to go out without a second camera. Cameras don't just fail on their own, they also get dropped, mishandled, splashed and stolen. $1300-$1500 more, spent on a second camera is just like buying insurance. You may never need it (in a back up capacity) but if you do it can be a job saver...

The other compelling reason is the ability to use two cameras to video capture the same scene or interview from two different angles and two different focal lengths. Having more material with which to edit is never a bad thing. That the 2 and the 3 are mostly identical except for the difference in lenses is a great thing. When you are in the middle of a series of interviews, with short windows of available time, being able to go back and forth between cameras with identical menus, codecs, profiles and setting is an enormous time saver and reduces anxiety on important projects.

I could write more things about the cameras but I have covered most of the big features in my review of the RX10ii. The important thing to remember is that I'm not necessarily using any of the cameras exclusively. My purchase of an RX10iii does not mean that I would use it all the time, instead of any other camera. It would be a nod to the idea that there is no one perfect cameras that's perfect for everything you might want to throw at it.

The bottom line for me is that I've been shooting with the RX10 products since their inception and have found them to be reliable,  functional, easy to handle pieces of equipment that do many of the things I like to do with a camera well.

I've asked my supplier for a "review" camera when the "type 3" comes out so I can put it through its paces and write a knowledgeable review of it. Until then I am actively resisting the pre-order hype, mostly because I am so darn happy with the RX10ii. We'll see....

Also, quick question for video inclined readers: Have you used the Sony PXW X70 HD422 video camera?  If you have I'd love hear/read your impressions. Thanks.


Personalized Marketing Goes a Long Way Toward Differentiating You From Your Competitors... At Least That's the Theory.

A three dimensional view of today's card.

(click the images to see them bigger...)

I wrote recently about a marketing project I've been working on. It's a series of folded cards with images on them and a short, written piece inside. I print the cards on my Canon Pro-100 inkjet printer and mail them out in envelopes. After reading the article a number of VSL readers asked me to go into a little bit more detail about the cards. Here's all I have. 

The easiest part of the project is choosing the card stock. I buy boxed sets of pre-scored, large cards from Museo. They come 100 to the box, with matching envelopes, and my local photo merchant sells the boxed set for about $80. Add in the cost of inkjet ink ( and spoilage ) along with a first class stamp and your per unit cost for a card is about $1.50. Yes, you can get printed postcards on the web much cheaper but my strategy is predicated on being able to modify or fine tune the art and the story in small batches, for specific markets. 

To get a bit more technical, the cards are 5-1/2 inch by 7-3/8 inch, 220 GSM, acid free cotton, in an art/matte surface (there is discernible "tooth"). 

The hardest parts of the project ( aside from the obvious issue of procrastination... ) is choosing the right images and writing the correct story for each audience. You may be good at this but I always run my choices past a designer or art director friend before spending ink.

I print my name and return address on the envelope in a type that matches the type I use inside ( Georgia, 13pt ) but I am superstitious about using labels or having the printer address them. I am a believer that if you are personalizing a mailing you should take the time to hand address to the recipient. You may have different deeply held beliefs. Such are modern times...

Front of card with matching envelope.

Inside of the card. 

I always sign the cards I send and, usually, I write a brief, personal note to the recipient in the space you see under the image, just above. This allows me to purpose the card as either a "Thank You" card or a reminder card; or a straight forward marketing impression. I sent one out today with a note of thanks to someone who had recommended me for an assignment. I sent out another card today with a note confirming and out-of-town  lunch for next week. I sent out a third card to gently remind a client that we still need to finish up our video edit and are waiting for their input. 

In all, I sent out twenty-five cards today. 

By the end of the week I will have sent out around 90 cards to customers who have done work with me in the past or to acquaintances who I know but have not worked with yet. The most productive cards are always the ones that go to our best clients. It seems that seeing images "reminds" them of projects they need to get done. The cards remind them that I am ready to help them. 

With copy I have learned not to be technical and to always try to make some sort of story. The one here is plain but serviceable. 

I keep a list of the people I have sent cards to on a legal pad I keep in my top desk drawer. I like to keep track of what I've sent out and to whom. 

This is the back cover. It has my contact information. 

Over the course of a year my core audience of around 200 people will get eight different mailers from me as well as e-mails and other "touches." My goal is not to generate immediate sales (although that's always nice) but to maintain "top of mind" awareness of my business and what I offer to them.

When this mailer is complete I will immediately start planning my next marketing effort. I am leaning toward a color post card mailer with location portraits. I won't know until I'm in the middle of the project exactly which images I will use and how I will design it. I will probably choose to use the Hahnemuhle FineArt Inkject Photo Cards in the 285 gsm pearl finish. The base is a bright white and the finish allows for an impression of high sharpness with good color saturation. It works well with the Canon printer. 

Marketing is the lifeblood of most businesses. Buying cameras is more fun. A good mailed-card campaign can be much more profitable. 

Historically I can expect about a 10% response rate over the quarter. Not too bad for direct mail. 

Hope this answers the bulk of your questions! Tomorrow is April Fools day. Stay tuned.


"One inch" sensor cameras have been very useful for years now. EVFs work very, very well for a growing swath of serious photographers.

Michael Dell Volunteering at Austin Easter Seals.
Shot with a Nikon V1. Years ago. 
©2010 Kirk Tuck

Just a few blog reminders for those who visit infrequently, are new to the blog: 

I receive no money or free gear from any of the companies whose products I discuss here, with the following (past) exceptions: I was a member of Samsung's Imagelogger program and received several cameras and lenses in exchange for posting images (but not reviews or commentary!) taken with the gear. They (Samsung) seem to have exited the camera business last year. At no time did anyone at Samsung request, cajole, plead, beg or ask me to write anything at all about their products, nor did they offer to pay me for any sort of endorsement or online discussion of their products. 

The Cactus company sent me three triggers and one flash to test and review. I was under no obligation to review the products. I did so because they worked well and represented a fair investment for users who work with small flashes. 

In 2009 Olympus paid me to present several demonstrations using their photographic products  to a live audience at a Photo Expo here in Austin. I have received no additional payments from them and, while I have been loaned equipment to review it was promptly returned. Olympus have never tried to influence my reviews nor have they paid me to make any assertions about their products on any of my blogs.

I have shot with Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony in the past three years and have not received from any of them, or their agents or assigns, any gear, money, consideration, junkets, travel or even swag. Nothing. Nada. Not from any of them. Not even a promotional coffee cup. (Cheap bastards).

I am a Craftsy.com instructor and believe that the courses I've taught are good and have value to photographers who are learning the craft. I use the blog from time to time to promote these classes. They are offered with a "no questions asked, money back guarantee." 

Our blog site, like almost every other blog site in the photography niche, is an Amazon affiliate. We sometimes link products I am writing about back to Amazon. If you click on the link and go through to Amazon and buy something Amazon gives me a commission on that sale that does not effect the price of the product or service to you.


Why am I writing this? Disclosure is always good. And I'm getting tired of anyone who disagrees with something I've written immediately stating that, "Tuck switches systems because he's a paid shill for XXXXX." Anyone who thinks the camera market is full of people getting paid to use gear from camera makers is delusional. There are a few people who get consideration, assistance with travel, and the use of the latest gear in exchange for their honest reviews and assessments but I bet we could count those U.S. photographers on two hands....  And I'm sure not one of them. 

All the equipment in my studio right now; today, was bought and paid for either from Precision Camera here in Austin or came from Amazon.com. I neither asked for, nor have been extended, any privileged pricing from either merchant. My average monthly income from this blog for the past year is approximately = 25 Starbucks Venti Lattes (per month). The amount of time I spend writing blog posts and responding to them is approximately 60 hours a month. You do the math. 

I currently derive the majority of my income from creating photographs which I license to clients directly, or through advertising agencies. I write the blog as a way to share images and ideas. It's usually lots of fun for me and I'm met many, many fine people who I would not have known if not for their interest in the blog. The only time I regret having spent the time writing is when someone links to VSL from a forum on a major photographic website and the people there go ballistic because they either disagree or lack the intellectual capability of understanding correctly what they are trying to read. And, of course, the anonymity of the web allows them to be as nasty as they want to be. The unfounded assertions and ad hominem attacks abound. My comment queue goes toxic from time to time. Feels --- not worth the trouble...

Current Status: Happily self employed, financially stable, busy with projects and still buying whatever I want to shoot with. Also, still writing the blog...

Photograph from Primary Packaging Project in NYC.

©2016 Kirk Tuck. All rights reserved.


Why do we still design, print and apply stamps to physical, direct mail in our photography business?

This image, from a project in New Jersey, went out ten days 
ago as a printed 4x6 inch post card with rounded corners. 
We mailed it to 150 people. 

I am currently printing and mailing a five and a quarter by seven and a quarter inch, folded card with a big photograph on the front and carefully researched and written copy on the inside. Over the course of the next few days I will mail out 75 to  existing clients and potential clients who have some connection to the healthcare industry. It will be my third, targeted, physical (delivered by the mail carrier) direct mail piece this quarter.

Why? Why in the age of free e-mail barrages, instant Instagram feeds, and equally free opportunities to market on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn would I spend the time to send "last century" marketing to anyone? Why "waste" the money? And time? And resources?

It's a good question and one posed by a reader of the blog this morning. I'm going to try and answer it. 

With the advent of voice mail getting connected via phone to a real person with whom you do NOT already have a relationship is almost impossible. It's just too easy for an overworked art director, marketing director or art buyer to ignore the message. You are, after all, competing for one of their most precious resource --- their time. If art directors at good agencies took every call made to them by illustrators, videographers and photographers calling to arrange portfolio shows they would not have enough hours left in the day to do any of the work they get paid to do. When artists stop being able to cold call successfully (in this digital age) they turn to the next avenue of communications; e-mail. 

E-mail can work well if you are sending your message to people who already know your name and have some idea of what you do and why you may be sending them a message. If your e-mail isn't "invited" you have a very small chance that your intended target will open it. Blast away all you want but don't expect that your e-mail blast, with your latest images of your sad dog, or your happy girlfriend eating an ice cream bar, will make your phone ring or your mailbox chime with a request for bids. 

The underlying issue in both cases is that there are enormous numbers of people who: Want to reach and art director or art buyer (client), and don't want to part with a penny for their own marketing. E-mail may have worked in early days when it was more novel and less utterly ubiquitous but from my conversations with clients who are in the industry I hear that they are drowning in what they consider spam e-mails. They are routinely getting 250-350 e-mails advertising for commercial artists per day. 

The idea that you can join in, create a devastatingly cool e-mail ad, and subsequently cut through all the clutter is based on the ill-conceived idea that the audience is willing to open every e-mail and gaze at it for a few moments. Yours, of course, will pop out and the art buyer will bookmark your site immediately. Good luck with that. Your e-mail is statistically more likely to be read by the hardworking spam filters every single time. E-mail works only once you are on their radar. 

But what about all the people who get discovered on Instagram and Facebook? Hmmm. I've met a lot of artists who have followings on those outlets but I haven't met anyone who has been discovered and used for real advertising projects (with a purchase order and subsequent payment) as a result of something they've posted on social media. I'm sure some lucky artists exist but....  The issue is that 600,000,000 people are already there ahead of you and there's really no sure way to filter down the mess and get yourself to the top of the "interest" heap if someone has no clue of who you are. Or where you exist.

So, if clients won't/can't take your phone calls and haven't "found" you (through referrals and shared links) on social media, and all of your witty and gorgeous e-mail blasts don't make it over the spam "drawbridge" in the e-mail system, then how in the world are you supposed to meet new people in order to get invited to be considered for jobs/projects/assignments?

There are three ways and I try, diligently, to use all three. First of all, I love getting referred to new people. When I work with good clients I ask them if there is anyone who might benefit from collaborating with me. Anyone who would get good value from the kind of work I do. When good friends refer you to their good friends you come pre-approved. Vetted. And there is a tiny, almost invisible obligation to at least give you a shot at pitching, as a nod to their friendship with your referrer. Cool. That's a gold standard for getting new business. 

The second way is to go to professional events and meetings (ad club?), happy hours, etc. and actually introduce yourself to the people who do the advertising and marketing work that may benefit from your taste, vision and expertise. This can work well if you have a great business card, a winning smile and are willing to pick up the price of a few drinks. Even so, you'll have more success if you go with a wingman who is established in that community and is willing to introduce you. 

(Side story: When I was running an ad agency I had a photographer, who I worked with, call me up and plead to take me to lunch and pick my brain. He was frustrated because he went to all the photo association meetings and knew all the other photographers in town, his portfolio was good and he wasn't repellent, but he was having trouble getting any traction with art directors and art buyers. I suggested that he "hunt where the game lives." That he stop wasting his time with other photographers (competitors) and spend the majority of his time in association with the people he was trying to court as clients. He joined the Ad Club, volunteered to help with the yearly awards shows, eventually became the local chapter president, and has never wanted for work or connections since.).

Third (our real subject here): The best way to reach large numbers of potential clients, who do not know you already, is to send them marketing pieces that tell your story and show off your work beautifully. No one in the industry gets much physical mail anymore. It's almost a novelty because it has become so rare. Very few people will throw away, unopened, a hand addressed, first class stamped (not bulk mail!!!!!), enveloped piece of mail that was sent directly to their attention. If they open it, see your photograph, and see your name, you will have made your first impression on them. 

With good paper stock, good art, a good story, and a good mailing list, you can fine tune messages for small groups of people. Today I am targeting healthcare clients. Next week I may do a mailing of 50 pieces to the people who commission executive portraits. I may do a micro mailing of 20 cards to people in the local semi-conductor industry the following week. But well done cards in hand addressed envelopes are hardly ever considered "junk mail." 

There is an old, advertising rule of thumb that says you need to reach a person 7 times before they are aware of your existence. You'll need to intrigue them 12-20 times before you solidify in their consciousness and are allowed into their world. The physical, direct mail campaigns are designed to get you and your impressions past the voice mail and spam filters. They are designed to connect with the people who are too busy to aimlessly cruise the web looking for interesting work out of the 200 million images being uploaded every day, across the social networks. They are intended to differentiate you from the masses of people who will never get around to making prints, buying stamps, tracking down contact addresses and following through. 

While I don't know of anyone being hired sight unseen from a social media site to do an assignment for a legitimate advertising client I do know scores of artists who have been asked to submit bids or proposals as a result of their direct mail introductions. This is the stuff that gets your foot in the door. E-mail is what you send to people after they know you and invite you in.......

The more things change the less they change. If everyone in the world advertises exclusively on the web because it's free the clutter is too profound for even the most determined client to wade through. But if your promotional piece is the only one coming through the mail slot in their office door I can almost guarantee it will be read. 

Have you ever tried to tack an e-mail blast to your bulletin board? Doesn't work nearly as well as a nicely printed card. Believe me.


Self promotion currently under production. Happy but sad to have found that one, little typo...

Under Construction. 
Hasselblad Film Shot from 2010. 

I'm working on a self-promotion project. I have a wonderful photograph of a neonatal nurse holding a premature child in her arms. It's sweet and wonderful. I'm printing the image on a Museo Artist Card with my Canon Pro-100 printer. The warm, matte surface paper is perfect for this, and the Moab Fine Art Rag profile works very well for this image and this paper. 

I wrote a nice narrative inside the card, about my experiences creating images and image libraries for a wide variety of medical practices, clinics and hospitals. I will send the card to medical clients and potential clients. I spent time this afternoon perfecting the design and the overall presentation. But this evening, when I sat down to address a few envelopes, I gave the card one last look over and found the one, elusive typo. I had transposed the "v" and the "i" in the word, "provider." 

Into the trash can (actually, the recycling can --- as I live in Austin, with a "green" spouse...) goes twenty really beautiful cards. Out the window goes the time and energy getting everything ready. And now we start the two sided printing all over again. 

I don't do well with dumb failures. Especially when they are mine. But I'd rather eat the cost of some paper and ink; and my leisure time, than send out a marketing piece with a typo in it. 

Seems like we all mess up from time to time. It must be the nature of being human...

Now reprinting and checking that type one more time. We can always address and mail tomorrow.

Spring. Spring cleaning. Allergies. Blue Bonnets. Cameras and Kitsch.

Ben and his Mom at Emma Long Park. 

Hard to know when Spring started here in Austin. The trees were already showing their leaves in February and we've had none of the late freezes that marked past winters. Now we're almost submerged in a vast sea of green. We've had good rains and, for the most part, the moderate temperatures that seem to tickle the growth instincts of our lawns, gardens and random flora. 

I generally spend a few days in the Spring getting rid of lots of material objects that I find myself mindlessly hoarding from year to year. Right now I am looking at a Fotodiox 72 inch Octobank that seemed like an especially good idea about four years ago. The fatal flaw for this modifier is that, at nine to ten pounds (steel rods x 8) the soft box is so front heavy that it pops the speed rings right off the Elinchrom flashes and tries the patience of the tightening mechanism on my Profoto monolight stand brackets. The damn thing is a beast. I've put effort into it and about three years ago I just gave up using it. It's almost new...  And it's sitting on the floor with some other junk as I try to decide what to do with it. 

I can say the same thing about an ill (self) advised purchase of an early LED panel. If it was just an LED panel that took double A batteries I would have passed it along to someone who needed a quickly deployed light source that's small. But it's actually a "system" that came with a five pound, lead-acid battery and a big charger. The battery and charger were overkill for the small panel --- except that one could run said panel for eight to ten hours before it would finally dim and sputter. The battery and charger were just too much effort for too little reward and so they've sat in a dark corner, slowly deteriorating, and the LED panel kept them company. 

This is also the year I do something about all the damn frames that live in the studio. They appear to multiply like bunnies. Most of the frames are utilitarian ones that I used for doing photography shows in Sweetish Hill Bakery over the course of the 20 odd years I displayed work there. They aren't quite what we might want to use to decorate in our home and there's little available wall space in the studio. These will probably go to the curb (after I've removed the images) along with a sign that says, "Free to Anyone who Needs Them." I think we are quickly coming to be a "post frame society." 

Then I really have to do something with the growing forest of tripods that threatens to take over my space. I think I hit the tipping point last month when I capriciously acquired a very big Benro tripod that extends up about seven or eight feet in the air. Well over my head without having to extend the center column. I thought I was going to need it for a job but it turns out, no. So, it's joined eight other tripods and the assortment of monopods and I think they are all plotting a takeover of the rest of the space. They are inanimate so they are patient. The patient ones are the dangerous ones...

The sneaky ones are the old tripod heads that seem to be free ranging around the studio floor. I thought there was a place on a shelf for these renegades but apparently gremlins come in and free them every once in a while and scatter them over the floor. They use some sort of high speed computer to calculate the exact spots throughout the room that will do the most damage when I inevitably trip over them.

And then there are the books. Like viruses in a verdant Petri dish, they just keep reproducing in an attempt to overwhelm the bookshelves and give me a complex for not having enough time to read them all; expediently. 

As it is Spring in Texas all my acquaintances who know that I am a photographer, but who have no clue what sorts of things I like to photograph, are either asking me where the most photogenic patches of native bluebonnet flowers are to be found ---- or they are texting, Facebooking and e-mailing me (not so) secret maps the motherlode of these plain, low-lying flowers. I'm sure the last group think they are enabling me to fulfill my pent up desire to photography chubby, cherubic children nestled in among the plants, and, are looking forward to seeing the rosy cheeks of children, over-lit with poorly done fill-in flash. My only advice to them (and it's serious!) is to watch out for rattlesnakes. They love the blue bonnets....

I like to mess with the folks who seem disposed to love the kitschy photographic adorations of the bluebonnets and other native flowers. I always say how much I love to photograph the rich color palette of the flowers but, like Ansel Adams, I always shoot my landscapes in black and white. For all of you who came of age, photographically, just in the last ten years, let me translate: "black and white" means "monochrome." 

I've been cleaning up all morning and trying to find new homes for the endless materiel I've accumulated recently whose value to me didn't match my anticipation. Now I am taking a break to head out for lunch. 

Which camera will I take? Oh, I am so glad you asked. It's the Sony a6000, saddled up with a Sony nex-to-Nikon adapter and an ancient (pre-Ai) 50mm f1.4 lens. All the fun, none of the progress.....

Any hints on what to do with a stout and heavy, Canon promotional ball head from 25 years ago?
Didn't think so....