9.18.2019

The interesting shift continues; from DSLR to Mirrorless to Phone Cameras. From a brief period when everyone wanted to be a "pro" to a current span when "pro" is almost a pejorative.

Annie. ©Kirk Tuck

The battle lines keep getting re-drawn. In the infancy of digital we scampered around trying to find cameras that had enough megapixels to use for professional work (to take over from our 35mm film cameras) that didn't cost as much as a decent used car. Once prices dropped the aspirational target for nearly everyone practicing any kind of photography with enthusiasm was the "professional" quality DSLR. We fine-tuned that, modifying the "ask" to include a full frame sensor. And then the insurrection started. The shot across tradition's bow were the mirrorless cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. 

Many people imagine that the main selling points of the cameras were: "Small" and "Lightweight" but what really connected for most people (even if they don't realize it, consciously) was the introduction of workable EVFs, with all the new promises of workflow immediacy and instant near visualization of the final image....before you even pressed the shutter. The new aspect of the mirrorless revolution that resonated with photo nerds specifically was the shorter lens mount flange to sensor distance which opened up the adaptation of hundred or thousands of lenses designed for all other systems which could be easily adapted and used with little penalty (except that we learned that a lot of lenses we thought were great were actually mediocre on the smaller format because they lacked resolution and bite).

We've now seen the completion of a circle combining all the things we thought we wanted when they were scarce or non-existent; we have full frame sensor cameras that deliver most of the promises of EVF technology and can also be used in conjunction with a wide, wide variety of older lenses! 

But, of course, no photographic manufacturing target, dependent on consumer interests, can stand still for long and now, after everyone has finally leapt aboard the full frame, mirrorless train (hurry Pentax, the rest of the guys are leaving the station....) We see all that hard work (at least on the part of camera makers and retail marketers) come to a period of slowing or negative growth as previously adamant amateurs and pros of each camp now come to grips with a subject that we've mulled over here on VSL for years: Do top flight cameras matter anymore in an age where 75% of all images are viewed on telephone screens?

I've seen a growing cadre of young and old users who have discovered the new potential imaging quality of phones from Samsung and Apple who are re-thinking their previous dependence on traditional cameras. And, I hate to tell you this, but among people under 40 (maybe under 50) that video capability, which traditional camera users maligned for years as an expensive feature no one wanted, has now become a vital and much used part of the whole camera/phone package. Among younger photographers I'm seeing more video being made than still images....

People push back by talking about the poor handling characteristics of iPhones as cameras but it's only a matter of months before their complaints turn into a torrent of Kickstarter Kampaigns aimed at building cases for phones that add handling features and mimic traditional camera handling niceties. 
I'd count on that. Pop that flat and non-grippy phone into a case that allows for a traditional set of controls and play "street photographer" at will. 

Yes. 12 megapixels will not match the image quality of a Phase One camera with 100 megapixels when it comes to printing a 40 by 60 inch print. But how closely do they match up when the final images are compared on a phone screen? An iPad? A 60 inch 4K television monitor viewed at 10 feet? And do you really need the full potential of whatever top of the line camera for every shot you take? Really? 

It's going to be interesting to see where all this takes us. It seems like a sea change has happened and a bunch of us weren't paying attention and we're still in denial. Not saying we never need to use better cameras than the ones in our phones, only that we're far, far, far from the mainstream market whose mainstream buying previously subsidized the ritzy and technically masterful cameras we've usually embraced. 

I hope my next standalone camera doesn't get priced up into trust fund territory. But the way clients are acting now for many photographers I'm pretty sure the iPhones and Galaxy phones will be more than enough for a number of markets....I have the feeling that full frame, high res cameras are the large format and medium format cameras of our time. The phones are the 35mms and point-and-shoots.

Evolution is tricky, especially when you are in the middle of the process. 




9.17.2019

Just to add a little chaos to the beginning of the week, here's why I like the Pentax K-1.


It happens the same way a lot of the time. I'll go into our bricks and mortar camera store here in Austin, Texas; Precision Camera, with the intention of picking up some ink cartridges for my ever thirsty printer, or I'll have a pressing need for a specific shade of gray seamless background paper, and as I'm standing around chatting with my sales associate I'll spy a camera that's still a mystery to me. 

It happened about a month or so ago. I was finished with my business (buying yet another microphone) and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a used Pentax K-1 nestled at the bottom right hand side of a massive mountain of used Nikon cameras. I asked Tamara if I could take a closer look and she pulled it off the shelf and put it into my hands. This is a camera with that exudes toughness and it's denser and heavier than it looks when sitting dormant. I played with it and deliberated for a few minutes. The purchase price was under $1,000 and I'd casually looked at prices a week or so ago so I knew it must be something the store didn't think would move quickly because typically a very mint condition K-1 sells used for somewhere around $1300. I decided to buy it. I asked about lenses but the store is no longer a Pentax dealer and had no inventory of full frame lenses; used or otherwise.

So, exactly what is the Pentax K-1? In a nutshell, it's Pentax first effort at producing a full frame, high resolution, professional caliber DSLR. Not mirrorless but a traditional DSLR. With all that entails. The camera is obviously over engineered and feels like it's milled from a solid block of metal. All the buttons and dials are inspiring examples of good fit and finish. And the 36 megapixel, full frame sensor is much lauded by reviewers all over the web for both its incredible dynamic range (at least equal to the Nikon D810 when matched for ISO) and it's really good noise performance when used at high ISOs. 

The camera has its own idiosyncracies and it also has some charming features that haven't shown up on cameras from other mainstream makers, yet. My favorite "far out" feature is the inclusion of LEDs all over the body which can be turned on to help a photographer find his or her way around the controls in dark environments. There are lights on the rear of the LCD screen so that when you pull the screen out from the body and push the "light bulb" button on the top of the camera four LEDs illuminate all the controls on the back of the camera. Guess work eliminated. There's an LED in the card slots area so you can be confident you are engaging slot one instead of slot two, if that's your goal (another weird twist is that unlike all other two slot cameras I've used the "first," or number one slot is actually closest to the front of the camera instead of being closer to the user. In other words, the slot closest to the back of the camera is actually slot #2. Weird, but then whose to say which is the "correct" orientation?

There is also a light just under the front of the pentaprism hump which illuminates the aperture ring and is a wonderful help when changing lenses in very dark situations. It's actually a godsend for theatrical photographers. Lens changes no longer have to happen in complete darkness....

Even though the camera is bereft of an EVF the actual optical finder is big and bright and sexy to look into (even if it shows you only a fraction of the valuable information spewed forth by a decent EVF). The body is chunky and amazingly comfortable to hold onto for long periods of time; if you can handle the weight. I've bought four lenses for the system so far. I initially bought the HD 28-105mm f3.5-5.6 FA WR lens because it seemed like the smart thing to do if I ended up relegating the camera to being an expensive "point and shoot" camera. But I quickly added two different 50mm f1.4 lenses because; well, you know ----- 50mm!!! Right?

While all of the lenses worked well and did nice stuff optically I ended up craving a portrait type focal length that would be faster than the 105mm f5.6 of the zoom so I bought the 100mm f2.8 macro lens. It's nice and also a bit Quixotic, at least when it comes to its industrial design.

The camera is pretty much just a summary of what professional DSLRs were like for the last decade= big, robust, fast to focus, full frame-y, and with lots of bells and whistles. The main differences between this camera and the Nikon and Canon variants really comes down to the health of the eco-system. How many different lenses can you buy to use on the camera? How many different third party lens makers supply their better lenses in Pentax K lens mounts? Etc. 

The Pentax faithful will tell you that there are currently 13 billion lenses (mostly left over from the film days) that will fit the newest K mount cameras but most are a compromise as far as utilizing features is concerning. Most are manual focusing and a large portion don't work in most automatic modes. Frankly, lens design has changed and there are things that need to be taken into account when mating any lens with a state of the art, high def sensor. The coatings must be different than those used with film and special care has to be taken to avoid light reflecting off the sensor surface and bouncing back to the rear element where it has the potential to cause artifacts and also create flare. Additionally, film lenses were never designed and calibrated for very high resolutions. Most were designed to favor acutance over lines per mm. 

Don't get me wrong. You can put together a modern system with current lenses, designed for modern sensors but the pickings outside the system will be slim. Only a handful of Rokinon/Samyang lenses are made in the Pentax mount (24mm f1.4, 35mm f1.4 and the 85mm f1.4 as well as the 100mm macro and the 135mm f2.0) but again these are all manual focusing and have no communication between camera and lens. You can put together a Pentax full frame version of the "holy trinity" with the 15-30mm, the 24-70mm f2.8 and the 70-200mm f2.8 and you'll be covered for most shooting situations. There's a pricey 50mm f1.4 that's supposed to be as good as anything out there (and a bargain compared to the price of the 50mm f1.4 for the new Panasonic full frame cameras!!!!) but if you want current, affordable primes you'll really need to pick and choose. I bought two different 50mm f1.4 lenses. One is the last MF model (SMC) and the other is the (still current in the catalog) inexpensive, screwdriver drive version that's potentially a remake of the MF lens. 

One does get the distinct feeling that if Ricoh doesn't pay a bit more attention to fleshing out the full frame product in the next year that they'll be partially responsible for driving the Pentax line into extinction. 

So why did a I bother? Why did I buy a second body? Why do I keep buying additional lenses (like one of those old ladies in Las Vegas who wears a glove to prevent blisters as they keep feeding quarters into a slot machine and pulling down the lever? I guess I like the novelty of the whole experience. Then again it massages my nostalgia for a way of working that goes all the way back to the film days. The files from the camera are as good as anything out on the market at any price, up to (but not competing with) medium format. It's one of the few systems that has really, really good IBIS and that means all my lenses (the small handful I currently have) are now stabilized. The lack of lens choices helps to keep me from spending all my money on ever newer lenses and tricks me into taking seriously the idea of being a Pentax full frame minimalist. 

On the other hand my left brain loves the fact that it's mature technology. That the shutter is rated to 300,000 exposures. That the camera is incredibly well sealed and completely gasketed. And then there all the features that I love the "idea" of even if I may never get around to using them. Things like the multi-shot high resolution feature and the astrophotography feature. The composition fine tuning, horizon adjustment and other weird stuff. When you realize how much full frame goodness you can get for a very satisfying price, in a body built like it's tough enough for a moon launch, the K-1 makes a good candidate for a second system to use during those times when you just want to go old school, or deliver files with even more resolution and sharpness than you can get when you pull out all the stops in your APS-C system. That said, my recent hit rate with a Fuji X-H1 and the 90mm f2.0 Fuji lens far exceeded the success rate I got from the K-1 in a small, dark theater.

I like using the K-1 cameras for personal work. It's just a different feel and a different mindset. One that I'm not immune to enjoying. I'll be taking one of the K-1s, a 50mm and the 28-105mm on vacation with me in a couple of weeks.

Personal note: Though I travel a good bit for clients (about 30 roundtrips in North America and one to Iceland last year) I haven't paid out of pocket for my own travel since Ben graduated from his college in upstate N.Y. I haven't taken a real vacation since my parents started faltering.... So, Belinda finally put her foot down and mandated that we take a real vacation; not a "write off" vacation. We decided to go to Montreal early next month and explore the area around that great Canadian city. We're committed. Tickets booked. Non-refundable hotel suite booked. Passports and Global Entry cards at the ready. Camera selection just beginning. Any VSL readers in Montreal? 











OT: Maintaining an optimum weight and BMI is pretty easy if you have steely discipline, a highly competitive nature and a couple good pairs of running shoes...

Ben Tuck #418. A cross country race in Texas in early September. 

Occasionally we photographers seem to like to go off topic and talk about our philosophies regarding fitness, diet and weight control. A common belief circulating on some photo blog sites around the web is that finding the correct combination of foods and beverages will do the trick. I don't believe it for a second. I think weight loss is easy. Same with maintaining an optimum (healthy) weight and BMI. Here's the secret formula = At first light (or earlier) haul your butt out of bed, strap on a pair of running shoes, don on some weather appropriate clothing and head to your favorite running trail. Warm-up gradually for the first ten minutes and then try to hold seven or eight minute miles (or faster) for the next hour. Warm down a bit at the end. Go home, take a shower and then eat anything you want. 

Get up the next morning and do it again. Get up the next morning and do it again. Get up the next morning and do it again. Get up the next morning and do it again. Get up the next morning and do it again.....

During the day be sure to take the stairs instead of the elevators, walk to lunch, take a midday break to do some push ups. Eat whatever you want. This has been Ben's routine since his sophomore year in high school. My preference is to swim but I still run a couple of days a week. If you move (and move fast) you will burn calories and you will regulate and attain a good stasis over time. 

It was well over 100 degrees yesterday by early afternoon. I swam in the morning but the workout was a bit truncated because of some (coach driven) scheduling mistakes. After a post swim breakfast and some time spent helping around the house I pulled on my running shoes and hit the trail to do the 7+ mile course. I'm sixty three and had already swum for 1.5 hours so I set a brisk walking pace instead of trying to over do and run it. Too hot to go hard on a second workout...

It was hot enough to thin out the crowds on the trail but I spied someone coming towards me fast. Oh, yeah, that's just Ben getting in a Sunday run. Doing the course in the opposite direction.

He came over to the house for dinner last night. His mom made a healthy salad full of cabbage, lettuce, kale and radishes. She also roasted a bunch of cauliflower. Me? I bought the steaks and I was in charge of cooking them. Ben and I ate steak like we hadn't seen food in a while. I got up this morning and......I'd lost a pound. 

Wanna lose weight? Move to Texas and run. Run in the heat. Or just run. Don't be too easy on yourself; you need to get tired and sweaty and sore. Then you'll know you're doing it right. Swimming is a good substitute if you've already trashed your knees.  Or......you could just search aimlessly among the millions of self-certified diet gurus to find yet another "magic bullet" theory, complete with boring food and no discernible pay-off. 

I prefer to do my dieting in the pool or on the trail. If you are swimming or running I can pretty much guarantee that you are NOT snacking. Just don't fill that water bottle with anything but. 

YMMV but it should at least be mileage and not just yards.....

9.16.2019

Portrait of Chef, David Garrido, at his restaurant in 2013.

©Kirk Tuck

Shot with a Sony a99 and a Rokinon 85mm f1.5 lens. 

Marion, Head Chef and Owner of La Traviata on Congress Ave. in Austin, Texas. For an editorial assignment about the best chef's in Austin. Back before everything was sushi...

©Kirk Tuck

35mm Tri-X film. Printed and scanned.

Editorial Portrait of Chef, Emmett Fox, for an article on Austin's Top Restaurants.

©Kirk Tuck
On 35mm Tri-X film.

Horse Photo. Somewhere in northern Colorado.

©Kirk Tuck

Portrait.


Get close. Metaphorically and actually. Be nice. Respect your subject. Collaborate. Don't dick around with all the controls on your camera and your lights. Be ready to photograph when it's time to photograph. Nothing ruins the flow of a portrait shoot worse than the photographer diving into the menu to sort stuff out. Waste of everyone's time. If your work doesn't flow then you are not "working" on a project, you are just playing around with your toys...

Must be Monday. I'm in that kind of mood.

9.14.2019

I'm not a person who bets money on stuff but if I did I'd say it's a sure bet that the new, three lens iPhone 11 is the nail in the coffin for much of the traditional camera world.

Selena at Willie Nelson's ranch. 

I bought an iPhone XR a few months ago and I'm pretty impressed with the images I can get out of the camera. It's not a "real camera" replacement for me for a zillion reasons (the lens isn't long enough) but it does a good job for all the times when I just need some quick, wide angle documentation of "stuff."

But when I saw the introduction of the new phones from Apple that include a portrait lens, a slightly wide lens, and a full-on super wide angle lens, along with even faster processing, and computational tools that enable users to easily blur backgrounds, and also shoot very good 4K video, I more or less found myself thinking that the writing is on the wall for the mass abandonment of traditional cameras by a whole new tranche of former camera users.

The Xs and X iPhones that are the current flagships in the phone line (until next week) have great cameras in them already but the "11" models seem to me as though Apple stopped thinking in terms of designing a set of phones with cameras and started thinking in terms of designing brilliant, little cameras that can also text, make a call, or assist me in making a mobile deposit of that check I got last week from a client. The mindset changed; now they are designing communications tools with a hard and sharp emphasis on photography and videography and they will pull in a large number of former stand alone camera buyers for whom photography is no longer the center of their universe. But I don't even mean that these people have downrated their enjoyment of or participation in photography but that they no longer want to buy cameras, test lenses, learn antiquated rules and aesthetic "guard rails".  (cough, cough, looking at you Rule of Thirds). They just want to easily take photos and videos and share them with friends, family, and far flung strangers who might just hit the "like" button on Instagram or Flickr. They want a transparent experience and one that's more or less instantaneous, from capture to share.

Before you run screaming from the room I have a few pieces of anecdotal evidence I'd like to share...
One of my close associates is a videographer with many years of hard won experience. He is sooooo not a millennial. Anyway, he works with large clients like Subway, USAA, NXP, Purina and many others. His video work is superb and usually he does his work with a Sony FS7, or a couple of Sony A7R2 cameras, and a box full of great lenses. He wrapped a daylong shoot a few weeks ago and packed all the cases into his car only to remember that he needed some beauty footage of the headquarters building for his client. He was exhausted and didn't feel like pulling out the cases of gear, assembling cameras and lenses and putting them all on a big video tripod. His choices were to either use his iPhone Xs to do the video or come back on another day when he had the energy to set up the whole assemblage.

He opted to use his phone for the footage. His phone was ably assisted by a $15 app called, FilmicPro. It gave him a better codec than the one built in by Apple, as well as total control over all the usual, professional video settings. The built-in image stabilization worked perfectly and he ended up with some very beautiful video of the building and the surrounding campus. He incorporated it into the final video project and it was, for all intents and purposes, a seamless inclusion. Proof once again that the camera is secondary to the eye and the experience of the user.

I have another friend who is a full time photographer. He pooh-poohed my standing rule about always bringing along a back-up camera on a paying assignment and found himself stuck near the end of a location shoot on which he was responsible for making portraits of a number of execs. His newish Sony camera crapped out/died with two exec portraits still to go and he momentarily panicked, then he pulled out his phone, dialed in a good exposure for his LED lights and completed the shoot with his iPhone.

He needed to do a bit of Photoshopping to match the out of focus backgrounds he was able to get with his full frame camera but when he showed me the final, retouched images and asked me to compare it was a very close call. I'm certain his clients had nothing to complain about. Sure beats him flying back to Vancouver on his own dime to pick up the two people who were scheduled at the end of the job....

I'm not saying that I'm ready to give up my "single purpose" cameras yet. There's a ton of work that I and others among us do that can't be handled right now by iPhone cameras. Stuff that requires long lenses, low noise under low light, fast focusing, total control, etc. But there is a lot of personal stuff that's easily handled by those little Swiss Army Knife communication tools.

But it's the video field in which the newest iPhones currently hold the most promise. With an application like FilmicPro you can have nearly absolute control over the "camera" in your hands. There is even a Log setting for increased dynamic range (although the computational exposure control seems to provide an optimum level of D-range already). It's no exaggeration that I could easily shoot interviews, stage documentation and art video with any of the latest cameras and the only stuff I'd have to compensate for is how to work with audio. There are tools that allow you to bring the signals from professional microphones directly into the phone/camera but the interface (screen area) gets too crowded to work with fine-tuning levels, and also there are limitations to monitoring the audio as well.

But filmmakers have worked for decades with dual sound systems, using external audio recorders for many of the same reasons. Even with fully outfitted dedicated video cameras. A small, separate audio recorder provides a lot of flexibility....

The latest thing to pique my interest is the flood into the market of very able and very inexpensive gimbals made for the phones. You can now do "Steadi-Cam" work that rivals the stuff we're were raised with in movies and all it costs is an additional couple hundred dollars and a few weeks of practice.

If I was to recommend a new camera to someone who wants to record their daily life, record family vacations, take portraits of their kids and generally do all the photography most people use conventional cameras for I would probably steer them towards a great phone. The only caveat would be if they required the reach and focusing acumen required for shooting fast moving sports. If they have a kid playing soccer then all bets are off but if the mainstay of their oeuvre is taking snaps of their lunch, and selfies with the city skyline in the background....then what the hell?

My kneejerk reaction to "iPhone-ography" when it first popped up (2009-2010-ish) was to be dismissive. The cameras in the phones weren't at parity yet. But now? Now my only objections to embracing the phone as a fully functional imaging tool for many uses is my (dumb) nostalgia for the form factor of traditional cameras and my habituation with them. Strip all that away and just judge the images on an objective basis and you'll find conventional cameras quickly becoming more and more niche.

If I were zooming around the world taking travel videos I'd be at the Apple store right now, standing in line waiting to get two of the newest phones. (You still always need a back up......).

Will traditional cameras survive? Sure, until all of us old guys die out and photography moves past our collective memory of those super star photographers from the last century who carried a worn Leica over one shoulder on a leather strap well seasoned with ample gravitas. Or our memories of the great studio shooters of our time looking casually over the tops of their motor driven Hasselblads.

We shoot what we shoot (in terms of cameras) because we know and trust what we're most used to. But I'm already thinking of tossing my new iPhone XR to Ben and having a (manufactured) reason to get an iPhone 11. And, yes, I'll use it in 4K for my next video project, securely clamped onto a $200 gimbal and giving me new capabilities that I only dreamed of a few years ago.

Yes, just as I stated a few years back that we could use a Sony RX10ii or iii for 95% of our commercial projects, I'm just about to that mindset with the latest phone tech. And too many people have already proven the concept for anyone to argue otherwise....

9.13.2019

My new Pentax camera(s) are NOT perfect....

Maybe that's why I seem to like them....

So. 36 megapixels. Old tech/DSLR. No big selection of current lenses. A bit heavy. Kinda bulky. But oh so cute and formidable looking. I'm having a blast shooting "old school." I bought a second body just in case.... I think I'm good on lenses for now....

An interesting counterpoint to the Fujis, for sure.

Any Pentax users out there? Have you played with the K1? 

Packing up for today's video project. Yesterday's swim. A trip to the dermatologist. How to invest? I guess I could call this a "end of week wrap-up."

The "Goatman" of South Austin.

Today's project: The folks at Zach Theatre are producing a family oriented play based on Rudyard Kipling's, "the Jungle Book." I'm doing the cinematography for a TV spot we're producing to market the play and I have a feeling that this will be one of the more fun video projects I'll get to do this year. I don't need to light it because the lighting designer for the show is part of my crew and he'll be handling the lighting board and adding or subtracting light at my direction. That means I don't have to pack lights, light stands, modifiers and power cables. All of the audio will be done in post (announcer bed, special jungle sound effects, etc.) which means I don't have to boom in microphones and watch audio levels, etc.). Finally, this is a traditional, one camera shoot which means I only have to make perfect files on one camera; one scene at a time. Since the target for the video is a thirty second TV spot it also means I won't be shooting endless amounts of footage. The cherry on the cake is that the theater is doing the editing in-house. They have a really good person in marketing whose specialty is video programming and stuff related to marketing.

I'm shooting with the Fuji X-H1 camera (and grip) and, of course, I'll bring back-up cameras just in case. I'm hoping to get a lot of use out of the fast primes but will also be taking along the three Fujicron (f2.0) lenses in case we decide to try some push-in moves that might benefit from autofocus. Those are the three lenses I trust most with locking in and maintaining focus within the Fuji system. 

I'll be using a tripod on a dolly, a big, industrial strength slider, a chicken foot monopod for fast b-roll takes, and a shoulder rig in case I want to go off the more stable rigs and create a bit of the "Jason Bourne" handheld freneticism. My only question now is about color profile. I'm partial to ETERNA but it's flat if you use it straight out of camera with no grading. I'm not sure how much experience my editor has with color grading and we'll have a quick conference about it before we get cranking. If he's not totally up to speed with color grading we may select something like one of the NPS profiles just as a safety. 

And, yes, we are shooting in 4K even though the final deliverables will be in 1080p. I think the whole team would always like the option of being able to edit into the files (crop; Ken Burns action, etc.) without any penalty (note to self: get those V60 cards in the camera now!). 

I'll let you know how it turns out and will post links to the video. Seems like fun to me right now....

A few fun shots of a kid's swim meet at the lake...

Yesterday's swim practice: I've been pushing myself to swim faster and to that end I'm doing two different things. First of all I've moved myself up to a faster lane where I am constantly challenged to make the intervals the rest of my lane mates are setting. I'm having to repeat intervals five to ten seconds faster per hundred but the focus on speeding up has paid benefits in adding some muscle and losing a couple of extraneous fat pounds. I'm trying to keep my body fat index under 12% as measured by my doctor's diagnostic device. 

In order to get faster for longer periods of time in practice I've had to really work on my strokes and get more efficient. My coach chided me about a month ago for not using a good, high elbow recovery. A high elbow recovery (as opposed to just muscling through and swinging one's arms around) takes much less effort and is more effective for good initial hand entry and a nice body roll. I'm also working harder than ever to make the front "catch" fo the stroke, and the first third of each freestyle stroke, more powerful. Trying to really grab the water way out front and hold it through the stroke. Since I am about ten years older than the next oldest lane mate I have to be more efficient and work harder on taking out sloppiness in my swimming by streamlining off the walls and getting a sustainable kick tempo in order to keep up. I could care less about keeping up with people my age. My goal is to hang with athletes 20 years younger. Might as well set tough goals. If the goals are all easy ones you just get fat and lazy...

So, I swam with Matt yesterday. A tall, in-great-shape, triathlete. The one way in which I could keep up with Matt is to hit each of my flip turns perfectly. He was not a swimmer in his formative years and his turn takes too long. It gives me an opportunity to make up lost yardage at each wall. When you age up you have to get more strategic. Cunning. The days of depending on muscle power and raw stamina are fleeting. Good technique is golden. I guess it's the same in photography. 

Random Swimming Pool in a Lisbon Neighborhood. 

My field trip to see the dermatologist. Here's an interesting fact, people who visit their doctors and dentists on a regular basis actually live longer and suffer less from debilitating and sidelining medical issues. Who knew? Well, I guess it's something the very wealthy have known for a long time since they outlive the general population by a relatively wide margin...

A few years ago my family practice doctor, whom I've had in my corner for several decades, decided to do a "concierge" practice and to stop accepting most insurances. You have to pay a set charge on a yearly basis but you get ready access to your doctor and, basically, all-you-can-eat primary medical care. I thought the relationship of 27 years was worth retaining so I signed up. It's been three years now and I'm very happy with my decision. I get seen promptly, have my doctor's direct cellphone number in my pocket and I can indulge my once in a while hypochondria without fear. 

Where is this heading....?  Well, I've been swimming in Texas for about five and a half decades and I spend a lot of time out in the sun photographing and making little movies. I get ample UV exposure and I have a English/Scottish/German ancestry with all that encompasses when it comes to skin health (and timeliness). It seems that often when I post a self portrait here on the blog someone will comment on my "red" skin and admonish me to cover up and coat myself with sunscreen (I used SPF 40, reef safe, non-nano tech, zinc oxide sun screen when I walk and when I swim....). 

After my last yearly physical, earlier this Spring, my doctor asked me to book an appointment with a dermatologist and get a baseline skin check. Just as a second set of eyes on my many little spots and self-generated but boring "tattoos". I took his suggestion and sallied forth into the arms of modern medicine. Long story made somewhat shorter: no questionable spots. no melanoma. no "interesting" growths. Basically, a clean bill of skin health and an appointment for a follow up in a year. Dear God, they even checked the bottoms of my feet!

I assured my new dermatologist (who I liked very much) that I would skew toward pre-dawn swims, would wear my wide brimmed hat when working or playing outdoors, and would continue to buy technical shirts that offered SPF values. I'm also testing out a pair of half gloves from a company called "O.R." The gloves are called Active Ice and they protect the backs of one's hands from sun damage while wicking away moisture to keep hands cool. So far I love them and will probably get a couple more pairs (so I can prevent those actinic keratosis spots from forming.....). I'll review them when I've used the tipless gloves over the course of a long day in the field. They look a bit dorky but hey! I'm already happily married and Belinda is rarely out in the field with me to see just how dorky I can really look when outfitted to combat sun damage. 

He's Alive!!!!!!

Investing: We're always supposed to be smart about investing but boy oh boy, do I have misgivings about tossing hard earned money into the current equities markets. Dare I say it? "Over-valued." So what's the consensus advice for self-employed, freelance artists?  Buy lottery tickets? Play that hunch Bob's uncle mentioned? Just copy Warren Buffett? Suck it up, buy some index funds and stop looking at the day by day, week by week returns? Inquiring minds and all that....

I have one friend who more or less refuses to invest for the future and spends every cent that comes through his hands. He thinks I'm way too conservative, financially, because I save money and don't buy expensive stuff (no BMWs or trips to Vegas here), but I've seen that people in my family can live into their 90's and I think it's better to be 90 and have some cash in the bank than to be 90 and depend completely on Social Security. So, what's your (successful) strategy? Willing to share it? 

And, just to create a baseline for discussion: I do understand that not being in debt is a given in any discussion about investing. No debt here (even though it seems I must be swimming in it given my propensity for buying new cameras......hello! Pentax!!!) but how do you make the money you do have grow faster? 

Pushing off the wall when swimming is the closest most people will ever come 
to the experience of flying.

this is what investing currently looks like to me....

And this...

9.11.2019

An older post that I originally wrote for TheOnlinePhotographer but rediscovered in some analytics. Action versus Activity --- Indeed.

Action Versus Activity.  One makes you an artist the other makes you tired.

Action and activity are two very different things and it’s very important for an artist to know which one they’re focusing on.  Action derives from need or reaction.  You are hungry so you eat.  You need to get somewhere quickly so you walk faster.  You need to get warm so you head for shelter.  You have a vision you want to interpret as a photograph so you do the process of making that photograph.  You are pushed to eat from necessity and you are pushed to create the photograph by necessity.  One driver is physical while the other pursuit is driven by passion.  Both are pretty unencumbered pathways and both have an immediate aim.  Eating gives you the fuel to go on while creating art gives you the emotional fuel to enjoy life.

Compare honest hunger with a more common variation:  Eating because you are bored.  Eating because the food is in front of you.  Eating because you want to keep your hands busy.  And, eating because the taste of whatever you’re eating entertains you.  In this sense eating becomes an activity instead of an action.  And activities are the biggest time wasters in our lives.

As photographers our focus should be on the making of images.  But that’s hard work.  Even if you are hungry to make an image there are all kinds of impediments.  You might have to find models or subjects that truly resonate with the vision you have in your head and you’ll have to find locations and you might even have to get permission from a property owner to make your image on their property.  But if you are really driven to make the image and express your art you’ll find a way to channel the resources and the energy.  If you are committed to expressing yourself and sharing your interpretation of the world around you then you’ll punch through the mental and rationally based “resistance”  to actually creating art and you’ll get your project done.  That’s action.  It comes from a need:  the need to express your art.  The action fulfills the need.

And if you practice your art with a focus on the action you’ll find that it becomes less and less scary to pick up the tools of your art and head out the door to just do the process.  But.....some of us get trapped by one or more of the insidious spider webs immobilizing us from taking the right action.  We get stuck in one of the levels of hell that I call “Endless Preparation.”  It’s also known far and wide as, “Research.”  

For photographers endless preparation begins with the selection of camera gear.  As rational, educated and affluent adults we move in a world of bountiful information but we’re not always good at asking the right questions or divining the right answers.  In fact, we focus so narrowly on some parameters and not at all on others.  We’ve been taught that good preparation is paramount for any successful mission and we’ve taken that to heart.  And so we begin the first part of the journey into the sticky spider webs of rampant indecision and quantitative ambiguity....  I’ve been doing it all month.  I would be better served inviting my quirky and interesting friends into my little studio and making their portraits with whatever camera and lights I already have but.....shamefully, I’ve allowed my subconscious resistance to getting that project started push me into the un-winnable  endless loop of trying to decide which little mirrorless, compact camera deserves my true affection.  Will it be the Nikon V1 or the Olympus EP3?  And, of course it doesn’t matter which decision I make because I’ll end up using it for casual work and not the work that really motivates me to create my own personal art.  But I’ve already wasted plenty of time shooting with both cameras and then writing down and sharing my observations.  In a sense I’m also guilty of disabling other would be artists’ progress by inferring that the issue of picking the ultimate “little camera” from a “moving-target” list of camera is an important and valuable consideration.  Which, of course, it’s not.

And even though my mercurial and unstable selection processes are becoming (sad) legend among fellow photographers I find it hard to resist.  Just like everyone with a facile and functioning mind I’ve found that my subconscious can rationalize the hell out of just about any equipment “research” and acquisition.  The latest is a little voice that says, “The art of photography is getting more fluid and fluent.  We’re capturing sequences and interlacing it with video and, all the presentations are going to the web.  We need small cameras that can capture both quickly and easily.  The small cameras with fast processors are the equivalent magnitude of destructive innovation engendered by the screw mount  Leica cameras of the 1940’s and early 1950’s.”  Hell, given time I’m sure I could rationalize selling my car and buying all the small camera models. 

You may laugh at my personal quagmire but I see variations of it in and among my friends and colleagues, and all over the web.  You may be the kind of person who finds the activity of researching and testing small cameras lacking in restraint but your “activity” may be endlessly profile your printer, your monitor, your camera, your wall, your light stands and so on.  While my wasted time is spent comparing reviews and specifications of delightful neckwear bling your wasted time is spent scanning and shooting Greytag MacBeth color targets and “mapping” them to some new paper from Croatia.  It’s really the same thing.  It’s a preparatory activity that’s powered by the rationalization of mastery but it’s really just a strategy to procrastinate; to keep from dipping a toe into the unknown.

I also have a friend who is really a good photographer who has been on a relentless workshop circuit.  If they’ve offered a workshop somewhere on the web he’s probably been there and taken it.  And yet what each workshop offers is a new set of technical skills that he feels he must master before he heads out to do his “real work.”  But since there’s an endless supply of workshops, and a nearly endless reiteration and repackaging of techniques, he’s mostly ensured that, without some effective catharsis, he will never really get around to doing the work he envisioned when he first became entangled in the sticky webs of photography.

If the activity that fills your nervous void is something like eating or smoking chances are you will either become very large or very sick.  But if your activity is the research and mastery of every corner of our craft you will become an expert in arcane lore and analysis and a pauper in creating and sharing finished art.  And there’s is no law that says you can’t make that choice.  But so many of us are so well trained in debate and rationalization that we suppress a mean reality that we should at least give a passing nod to.  In some ways my own blog tends to enable the endless search for endless things for which to search.  But it sounds preachy if I tell everyone to stop reading and contemplate what it is they really want to say with images.

So, what am I getting at?  Well,  I’m trying to become a “recovering” researcher in my own work and I’ve made myself a little checklist to work with.  I’ve set some ground rules to keep myself within the design tolerances of sanity.  We’ll see how well this works out.....

Kirk’s Rules of choosing Action over Activity...

  1. It’s okay to buy a new camera but I am required to go out and shoot fun images with it for more time then I spend writing about it or measuring the results.

  1. It’s better to shoot images that are fun, make you laugh and make your friends happy than images you think will impress other photographers.  Even better if the images can work in both camps.

  1. If there’s no reason for me to be out shooting I can default to a nap on the couch to replenish my body and spirit.  Sometimes pushing myself out the door is just the wrong move.

  1. If I catch myself shooting test charts I stop immediately and head out the door with a good book.  Or a camera.

  1. The feel of a camera in my hand should always trump someone else’s written evaluation.  No one really knows how I want things to look either.

  1. I have a post card sized white card pinned to the wall behind my computer that says, “Making Portraits is my Art.  Anything else I do is not-art.”

  1. Quiet contemplation is more conducive to having fun ideas that relentless study.

  1. All the things I really need to know to create are already locked away in my brain, I just need to be still and quiet enough to open that door.  Sitting quietly beats looking at DXO results for thinking about creativity.

9.  Inspiration comes to those who leave space for it to come in.  A busy mind usually lacks the space.  

10. I have a smaller card tacky waxed to the bottom edge of my monitor that says, “To stop suffering stop thinking.”

And therein lies the real secret roadblock to all creativity.....at least for me.  We spend far too much time thinking about our art than just doing our art.  Being smart is highly overrated because it requires us to do too many mental exercises to prove to ourselves that we should be doing what we already know we want to be doing.  And the process of rationalizing and the desire to master each step is the process of not doing the final step.  The “going out and shooting.”

The photographic process (in a holistic sense) works best for me when it works like this:  My brain comes up with an idea for a visual image.  (Not the overlay of techniques but the creation of the image itself ).  I quickly decide how I will do the image.  I go into action and book a model or call a likely subject.  We get together and I try to make my vision work.  Within the boundaries of the original idea we play around with variations and iterations.  Finally, the photo session hits a crescendo and the subject and I know we’ve gone as far as we can and are spent.  

My years spent as an engineering student, taught to be logical and linear, have been my some of my biggest impediments to doing creative work.  Because there’s always a subroutine running that says, “This is the step-by-step approach to doing X.”  And I’m always trying to approach things logically.  But to get to X is hardly ever a straightforward process and being able to step outside routine and  to stretch past logic creates the time when fun stuff happens.

Beyond my ten steps to choose action over activity is the realization that I already know enough technical stuff to last a lifetime.  And, if we admit it to ourselves, the technical stuff it the easiest part to learn because there are no immediate consequences to learning or not learning the material.  Really.  You might waste a bit of time and money but for most of us that’s about it.  The hard part is being brave enough to stake out a vision and work on it.  The hardest part for most of us is to continually engage the people around us that we want to photograph and convince them to collaborate in the realization of our vision.  But it’s only through doing photography again and again that our styles emerge and our art gets stronger.  The technical stuff is so secondary.  

As an exercise, when I’m out walking around with my camera I make it a point to approach a stranger each time and ask them if we can make a portrait together.  If I get turned down I approach someone else until I find someone who’s willing to put a toe across the fear line and play.  The image isn’t always stellar.  Hell, it’s rarely great work.  But it gives me the practice and the tools to abate my fears so that when the right muse comes along I am ready and willing to give it my best shot.  Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Practice frees your art.  Relentless activity depletes that same energy like air escaping from a balloon.  

I hope you’ll accept what I’ve written here in the spirit I’ve intended.  We’re all on a journey to amaze ourselves.  The first step is to choose action over activity.  


And, by the way......there is no ultimate camera choice.

9.10.2019

A Lazy afternoon at the golf course, camera in one hand and a club in the other. Is it f8? Or a par 4?

Golf Professional, Chris DiMarco, shows me a few better ways to get up and out of a bunker. 
We were on the Fazio Canyon course at Barton Creek Country Club. 
Nice day to be out on the fairways.

Yes. It was hot yesterday, but it was about eight degrees cooler than the same time 
last week. I took a break from my usual work to take a few photographs
of beautiful chunks of Summer clouds moving with purpose over the golf course. 

I'd love to insinuate that I spend some of my free time with a Ryder Cup champion, out on the local luxury links instead of feverishly clutching a camera in my hands, wiping my face off with an already damp bandana and hoping not to be overcome by the Texas heat...

...but yesterday was one of those rare, pleasant jobs that goes along nicely paced, complete with a convivial and accessible celebrity guest and a small group of laid back folks; the kind of people that can leave the office at the drop of a hat, middle of the afternoon, to spend time learning how to play golf better, do a little low key networking, and enjoy an open bar and a nice buffet at the nicest golf course in central Texas. 

I was there to snap a few candid photos, have some pulled pork nachos, photograph 20 or 30 of my client's clients, have a cold Fireman's Four beer, and generally enjoy the scenery. 

After Chris DiMarco gave us all a private clinic I brought the guests over to a scenic spot at which I'd previously set up a battery powered monolight on a stand, with a soft box, and spent twenty minutes or so making what we'd call, "grip and grin" photos of Chris and individual guests. 

Afterwards we retired to a small rock house called, "The Rock House" situated out along the golf course, savored the air conditioning and listened to DiMarco talk about the life of a professional golfer. My takeaway? Get a pocketful of great sponsors....

I arrived at 2 pm and was back home by 6 pm, in time for supper. I spent some time editing and tweaking the files this morning. They are now uploaded, with download links sent, and now I'm onto another project. 

I'd nearly forgotten how wonderful a photographic assignment can be when one is working for a huge client, with pockets deeper than the Marianas Trench, whose expectations include....everyone being comfortable and having a good time. The venue was 7 minutes from my house and studio, the weather was benevolent and the catering superb. All that's left now is to send along a bill. And to search the horizon for another job as relaxing as yesterday's. 

Golden Age of commercial photography? September 9, 2019. 

I woke up and read some sad news this morning. Photographer, Robert Frank has died.


When I drove through West Texas in 2010 I spent quiet evenings in small, out of the way hotels and motels, reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac. It's no coincidence that Kerouac wrote the introduction to The Americans, a revolutionary collection of 80+ images from the 1950's by Robert Frank. Kerouac and Frank mined the same subject matter = culture without the saccharine gloss of the post WWII, suburban perspective in which everything is fine, everyone is doing well and there is no inequity or angst.

To many photographers who are slightly older than I Henri Cartier-Bresson was their role model and an exemplar of modern photography. HCB was probably singled handedly responsible for the sale of more Leica rangefinder cameras than any photographer before or since. But to my generation it was Robert Frank's piercing, counter-cultural point of view that made him our "hero."

The magazines and art critics of 1958 ( the publication date of Frank's breakthrough book) were livid about the style, content and presentation of Frank's work. To read reviews published at the time one would think his work was a complete failure, but what strong legs the work has turned out to have. Since 1958 it seems that each generation of photographers is in some way influenced by work done over six decades ago. Much of the interest in "street photography" was initially created and generated by his work.

Of all the masters of 20th century photography whose work I've seen, and even experienced first hand, in the form of original prints there are only two whom I would list an primary inspirations. As photographers whose vision helped to shape my understanding of the power of photography. Those two are Richard Avedon and Robert Frank.

Of the two I see Avedon as an outlier; an artist who would have been just a successful as a painter or illustrator but I see Frank as the most pure example of the artist solely as a photographer. He exemplified to me what the real power of photography is all about.

Now, I know that Robert Frank moved on from photography to work in motion pictures but that doesn't diminish what he accomplished in a few years in the middle of the 1950's, working with no crew, no assistants, no entourage and no roadmap.

We should all stop, grab a copy of The Americans, sit quietly and just soak in the images. Whether you like it or not the images in this book single-handedly changed our shared language of photography forever.




9.08.2019

Just marking the 4,200th published blog post. It was yesterday's post. It's been a good, long run. Might as well aim for 5,000+

Early career. At the Sheraton Crest Hotel. 1980.
Covering the elections...
Photo by ©Alan Pogue.

I like the writing as much as I like the photography. 
I keep doing it because it's fun. 

Thanks for being here!



A favorite interview by Paul Perton:
https://www.dearsusan.net/2018/05/03/718-interview-kirk-tuck/

9.07.2019

Extending boundaries and also revisiting an old "friend."

Underneath the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge.

I didn't mean to turn a walk around the lake into an expedition yesterday but that's the way it ended up. Over the course of the last few weeks I'd been concentrating on getting comfortable with retro technology in the form of the Pentax K1 and I was ready to take a "vacation day" from the arduous rigors of shooting and composing with an optical viewfinder camera. I pulled an X-H1 out of the equipment locker and thought about the manner in which I would like to use it. The unmotivated idea of trying for optical perfection didn't appeal (please, let's take a break from modern "super" lenses) and I wasn't in the mood for the wishy-washy-ness of tromboning around with a zoom lens. I looked around the "vintage" lens drawer until I came upon the Olympus Pen FT 70mm f2.0 lens and decided to make that lens the focus of my photography. I used it with an adapter on the Fuji camera....

I must confess at this point that my ardor for walking is not principally motivated by a desire to look for photographs, rather, the walking is the goal and the camera is just along for the ride. Bouncing along on my shoulder just in case I see something I want to capture in the moment. When I write about walking with a camera it sometimes "reads" to me that the whole point is about the photography but about 90% of the point of most walks, for me, is to burn off nervous energy and to augment my other exercise practices. That, and a real practice of walking meditation.

At any rate, the X-H1 is very familiar to me now and I thought it would a nice walking companion. The  Olympus lens is small and relatively light so that's a bonus too.  As a result of a few reader comments bitching about seeing downtown Austin over and over again in my photographs I've started to branch out and walk more on the ex-urban trails around Austin. I've moved from shooting buildings and shop fronts, etc. to concentrating on the one part of photography at which I am least proficient ....landscapes and cityscapes. You might as well lean into your challenges; you never know what will emerge and how it might augment your usual practice...or, if nothing good comes out of it at least it doesn't cost much to try...

Once the camera and lens were squared away there were only the questions of: which route to take? and, what supplies I would need? I decided to park at Zach Theatre (which is adjacent to the lake and the trail) and do the usual five mile loop which would include Congress Ave. and the Mopac Expressway pedestrian bridge. I lathered myself with reef safe, zinc oxide sunscreen, put on my wide brimmed hat and stuck a big bandana in my pocket which I could use to wipe the sweat from my hands or for those times when I wanted to operate my camera, or to use protectively, hanging down from the back of my hat, to shield my neck from too much sun. I also stuck three dollars in my pocket in the event I found myself in desperate need of coffee; or, more prosaically, needing to buy a bottle of water. 

It was blisteringly hot this past week and today seems even more of a scorcher. When I headed out for my walk yesterday it had just hit 100 degrees but I didn't care much since I've done a good job of acclimating myself to the heat this Summer (which should come in handy on Monday afternoon when I photograph a golf event out on a central Texas golf course....). 

The first part of my walk took me along the south shore heading east. The 70mm lens is fully manual and, being 50 years old, has no ability to communicate in any way with a modern, AF camera. The combo of the 70mm f2.0 and the X-H1 does seem to work quite well in the aperture preferred mode and a bit less well in the focus peaking mode. In truth, I don't think the lens is optimized for sharp focus and good rendering at infinity --- or it could be that the adapter I'm using just doesn't allow accurate infinity focusing. I discovered that foible near the end of my walk when I stopped for water and to review a few of the shots. 

In the familiar part of the trail; the part I use most often...

While the sun was a bit oppressive it was a beautiful day and when I got to the Congress Ave. bridge I decided to keep heading East instead of crossing over to the north and returning along the North side of the lake trail. There's a lot of shade on the part of the trail that goes from Congress Ave. bridge until one gets near IH-35 and these were parts of the trail I hadn't been on for a number of years. They've been kept up well. About half way between the bridges the city of Austin has built a series of austere but extremely functional boardwalks that extend the hike and bike trail up over the water and around areas that are either private property or environmentally sensitive. I hadn't walked on these before and found my discovery of them downright joyous. 

One of the things that makes the walks even more enjoyable to me is seeing the large number of normal ly configured people and thin people out engaged in activity and exercising in the middle of the day. Not dozens, but over the course of the walk, hundreds. And that doesn't begin to count the people all across the lake on paddle boards, kayaks and canoes. It's great to see an emphasis on fitness in our city; even on a less than comfortable day, weather-wise. 

Of all the gear I brought along (not much) I think I'd give the nod to the hat and especially the bandana as being most useful. After an hour in the heat my hands were dripping with sweat and operating the camera would have been less pleasant if I had not had the bandana with which to wipe my hands before I pulled it up to my eye and used the focusing ring on the (not weather sealed) lens. The hat just kept me from frying my brains...

A small, city office at the beginning of the trail.


For the most part the south side of the trail is quiet, treelined and a nice immersion into nature in spite of running (along with the river) through the very center of downtown. But when you get to the IH-35 bridge you are re-introduced into the manic pulsation of modern, urban life. IH-35 is a relentlessly busy highway that is packed with cars and trucks of all kinds. Fortunately, there is a small, separate walkway from runners and bikers that takes one over the river and delivers one to the North shores. 

I ended up walking the entire IH-35 to Mopac loop and I checked on one of the park maps to see that it's about 8.2 miles in all. There is a longer loop on the trail, heading further east, but that's there for another time when the temperature is 10-20 degrees cooler, at least. I thought I was making good progress but it ended up taking me the better part of two full hours to complete the loop. I guess I lost time stopping to take photographs here and there. The nice thing about this loop is that at no time do you need to cross any roads. None at all. The walk ways either go under roadways or there are separate pedestrian portions of the North/South bridges you can use. 

If you are going to walk the 8.2 mile loop in the hottest part of the year I'll suggest a shirt that breathes very well (and wicks away moisture efficiently) as well as a broad brimmed hat, sunglasses and a bandana to use either as a towel or as an adjunct to your hat when the sun's angle is just so. You'll want to leave waterproof shoes at home and select footwear with good padding and a loose weave on top that breathes well too. 

It's nice to take a break from some parts of our pervasive technology and nothing seems more aggravating than watching a slow, fat executive in expensive running shoes walking sloppily down the middle of the trail (oblivious) and talking at the top of his voice into his cellphone. Do everyone a favor and leave yours at home. Or at least in the car. Believe me, if you get into an emergency situation while out on the trail someone within 100 feet will have a cellphone you can use to call 911. Best not to be burdened by the tech or subject one's precious phone to all the sweat and wear. Even if you don't give a shit about making everyone around you uncomfortable...



When I got back to the house I rinsed myself off with a garden hose, just to cool down, and then headed into the house to greet Studio Dog, tell her about my adventures, and let her sniff my dusty shoes. I took a shower, made lunch and then dropped the camera onto my desk in the studio. A quick glance at my watch let me know I needed to hustle if I was going to get to a TV commercial, pre-production meeting in time. 

Later, looking at the images, I was impressed with how well such an old and battered lens did in most picture taking situations. As I said before, the only place where I was not 100% happy was with images that were taken at infinity. But I'll get that figured out too. 

There are so many reasons why people go out on long walks but I find the best reason for me is that it clarifies my thoughts about things I'm working on or things I'm worried about. As many of you know from reading the blog over time, I've been dealing as the executor with both of my parent's estates. We lost my mom a year and a half ago and my dad about three months ago and I've been doing un-fun things like clearing out and selling houses, pulling together all of their investments and accounts, going through the process of probate and, in general, making sure to do everything right so I could both honor their legacies and not drop the ball on passing inheritances to family members. 

I took the walk yesterday in part to celebrate my completion of the final probate and my having distributed the bulk of my parents' estates to myself and my siblings. I don't do a lot of high finance. You probably guessed that when you found out that I do professional photography as my sole source of income... So I had a lot of anxiety and trepidation about wiring big sums of money to my siblings' accounts. I just didn't want to screw anything up. I had no idea I was as emotionally wound up as I was until I was mid-walk and, for the first time in a year and a half, my mind wasn't half filled with planning, scheduling or trying to understand the "next steps" I needed to take, or the contracts I needed to be ultimately responsible for. 

For the first time in a long time it felt like I was just out for an unencumbered walk with a good friend (my camera) and time that belonged only to me. Not to anyone else. And not to a legal process. 

Belinda, who has steadfastly guided me through all the trauma and drama of losing parents and gaining more responsibility than I ever wanted, has ordered (and she rarely makes emphatic commands!!!) that I go somewhere fun and far away from Austin and take a week or two for myself. Her idea is that I need to get back in touch with my photography in a way that I haven't been able to in several years. To be able to shoot just what I want and just where I want with no restrictions and no other obligations. Nothing to worry about...

I think I'll take her up on this but the question now is, "Where would you go to shoot for ten+ days if schedule, money and access were not limiting factors?" How would you choose?" "When would you go?"



The boardwalks.













A favorite interview by Paul Perton: