12.18.2018

Just sitting in the twilight thinking about a sunny Summer day at Pedernales State Park, just up the highway from here.


I was surprised when I looked at the file info for this one. It was done with an Olympus EM-5.2 and the dirt cheap Olympus 40-150mm f4.0-5.6. Granted, it was shot at an aperture that makes most lenses look acceptable. I forget sometimes that not every image needs to be shot at the widest aperture on the fastest lens.

I like the Summer look and the wide vista. It's different from most of what I like to photograph.


It's the buying season here and, as a blogger, I'm supposed to torment you with a "TOP TEN THINGS TO BUY" list. I'm late so let's get to this.

"Casting a wide net for the holidays!"

Every website and blog I've visited in December is breathless with "news" about "incredible deals" on the most "amazing" and "must have" gear of the year. Plenty of links to click through. Lots of excitement about new camera models that have "improved" and now provide...27.5 pixels instead of the vastly inferior 26.2 megapixels of resolution.

The bloggers and review sites also hedge their bets, knowing that not everyone can afford to splash out on new, $2K+ cameras for themselves just at the peak of the holiday season. For those unfortunates the sites also have lists of "top ten" accessories, and "top ten" suggestions for online workshops that are more....affordable. I think their goal is to get their readers, viewers, visitors, members, etc. to buy something --- anything --- so the owners of these places on the web don't have to finally learn real skills or get real jobs. Those click throughs just ain't what they used to be....

So, here's my top ten list so I can fit in and not be ostracized at the next blogger convention or blogger holiday party for being a wet blanket (Link for wet blankets).

Number 10: A bottle of inexpensive (but not cheap) wine for your accountant who keeps you from governmental perils and self-inflicted business decision wounds. You want the CPA to return your phone calls and be responsive, right?  (Link for cheap wine with nice labels...).

Number 9: A set of reading super cheap reading glasses that are NOT your prescription. Use these to "evaluate" the sharpness of your camera at 100% and to compare cameras that you are pretty sure you'd like to buy. Put samples from both up on your screen, magnify to 100% and then don on the glasses and begin your evaluation. Extra points if the glasses are from the Goodwill Store and have plastic lenses. This will save you lots of time and trouble learning new menus.

Number 8: I can send you my complete course entitled: How to enjoy a walk with your favorite camera and lens for not very much money at all. In it you'll learn the joys of dropping by your favorite coffee shop, trying to steal a good photograph of a pretty girl/guy out in the wild, how to walk quickly enough to burn calories but not so quickly that you pass by cool stuff to photograph. Bonus: For a limited time only you can learn to bring along a friend, spouse or family member and integrate them into your grand photographic world. (Link for direct payment for walking workshop; includes: video with shoe tying, street crossing tips and more).

Number 7: One of my favorite things, if you just need a smaller gift for yourself, would be gift certificates that you can make for yourself giving yourself the gift of a midday or mid-afternoon nap. Wake up refreshed and ready to show that Alec Soth a thing or two. Naps are also generally indicated if you get to a location too early and you're willing to wait for better light. Tip: all those snazzy phones have alarm clocks built in. Don't worry, you won't miss anything.

Number 6: You desperately need a brand new Hasselblad H6D 100c camera and a couple of lenses. Without this 100 megapixel imaging machine you'll be doomed as a photographer. They're cheaper than the average family car so maybe also get a back-up body!!! You can get one right here.

Number 5: If you aren't already considering a mirrorless camera then you might be falling behind. I'm suggesting that you buy the very best one on the market so you can really enjoy all the new vistas it will undoubtably open up for you. And according to those in the know the best one is THIS ONE.

Number 4: Once you splash out for that mirrorless camera (and really, that's the future of all imaging, right?) you'll need some primo glass to hang off the front. It's well known that bigger, faster lenses are much more impressive to all the people around you as you venture out so I'm going to suggest that you look at something like a 12-1000mm f1.4 from one of the premium lens makers. If you can carry it with you you'll also save on that gym membership you didn't want to purchase. My favorite one to buy is this one: It's very, very dramatic!

Number 3: A serious suggestion. Go out and see live theater as often as you can in 2019 and beyond. You'll learn so much that you can apply to your photography. Sophisticated lighting, practiced gestures, beautiful movement and much more. A handful of show tickets will be entertaining, enlightening and probably less costly than any piece of gear you might have had in mind.... Along the same lines I'd suggest joining as a supporting member of your city's best museum. Can't hurt --- unless they put up and Ed Ruscha photography show.... My fave in Austin is the Blanton. I'll bet your city has a good one too.

Number 2: Another serious suggestion. Buy yourself a plane ticket and go someplace you've always wanted to see but haven't had the guts to splash out for. I traveled a lot in the second half of the year. I saw new stuff. I learned stuff and, after a few weeks off I'm ready to go out on the road again. Maybe if things are slow in January I'll take my own advice and find a cheap flight to Seoul or Lisbon. Maybe just to Mexico City. It really helps your photography if you've got something interesting to point your camera at.

My number one buying suggestion of the season is to get yourself the camera you always wanted. There's got to be one you've always had an unrequited love affair with. Now might be the time to buy it. But don't buy it from one of my links, find a bricks and mortar store that's fun and independent and willing to work hard for your cash. I just bought myself a Fuji X-H1. It's a gateway camera. I'm liking it enough to now start considering their GFX line of medium format cameras. But first I'm going to toss some money here to protect my rights as provided by the Constitution of the United States of America. It's the patriotic thing to do in the season.  

Well there's nothing here that will bring me affiliate cash but I guess you know that's not the point of the VSL blog. It's more about having a platform and a community. We'll kept it running and free if you promise to drop by to read and comment.

That's it for the Holiday Top Ten List. Hope you found something you'd like!!!

This is an interesting contrast to most other societies... so I documented it.


The image just above is of the president of Iceland's residence. It's the nice, big house tucked behind the cleanly designed church in the foreground. We dropped by to see it one morning and we were very early. We were there just after sunrise.

Coming from the United States of America and having photographed more than one president I was expecting to see fast boats with machine guns trawling through the water just a few hundred yards to the right. A phalanx of black suited military types showing off their tactical gear and sporting the latest H&K fully automatic submachine guns. Maybe a few rocket launchers on the roofs of both buildings; you know, just in case of an airborne assault... And finally, I was expecting to see the beefy guys in mid-tier business suits, with earphones in one ear and the same Oakley bad ass sunglasses masking their authoritative, darting eyes.

No such luck. As far as we could see there was one lone police car parked on the left hand side of the main house. Not a black Chevy Suburban in sight. When we parked in front of the church in our little van a policeman stepped out of the car to get a better look at us, then waved and got back into his car. I don't blame him. It was chilly that morning.

Our native guide asked us not to go past the front of the church. It was security based on the honor system. There is no fence, no wall.

Our guide also told us a quick story about a group of people who came to see the church and the president bringing them out coffee and fresh scones...

Quite the contrast with our current regime. Almost makes me want to live in cold weather year round.

I do like the photo. I took it with a Panasonic G9 and that wonderful 12-100mm Olympus Pro lens.

Not everywhere in the world is as "dangerous" as we're constantly led to believe.

Sometimes the sky is so beautiful you just pray you'll find something interesting to anchor it.

©2018 Kirk Tuck.