This post was supposed to be about Eeyore's Birthday Party but now it's really about my friend, John Langmore, and his new book published by Twin Palms.

Loading a Leica M series rangefinder with fresh film. 

I had the intention of going to Eeyore's to watch all the zaniness of pot smoking, half naked students, old hippies in drum circles, and every possibility in between. Every year for at least the last 50 years Austinites have been celebrating the first of May (and we can be right iffy on exact dates....) with an outdoor party called, Eeyore's Birthday Party; named after the Dour Donkey in the "Winnie the Pooh" stories. Every year the event gets bigger and bigger and every year I go out and drag at least one camera down with me to try making visual sense of it all. 

This year I fumbled and continually false-started because I was trying to use a small sensor camera that I'd had in my possession for barely a day. I finally gave up and just became a roving spectator. You can't win every time....

But I'm happy I went because I realized that I no longer want to photograph Eeyore's Birthday Party; what I really want to do is make a video documentary about it now. I'm also happy because, in the midst of the swirl of humanity at Pease Park last Saturday I ran into two of my favorite Austin photographers and both of them have just published, or had published, books of photography!!! What are the odds?

I wrote last week about my friend, Andy's, self-published book, "On the Street: India", and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in street photography or in photographing on the streets of India (I know that was a convoluted sentence but it makes sense to me that one can be interested in something or interesting in the "doing" of something, and that there are differences between the two). Andy's book is outrageously good: in a gritty and visceral way. It's just an amazing first book. 

Andy came up to me in the middle of the throng and tapped me on the shoulder. I have no idea how he found me among the thousands and thousands of people there; many much taller than me. He was working with his Olympus Pen F when I saw him but he also has a very small bag with some smaller, older, compactier cameras tossed in. We chatted for a few minutes and then wandered off to see what we could....

My other friend at the park was John Langmore who is the son of Bank Langmore, who was a legendary photographer in Texas when I was growing up. John's new (first) book, "Open Range" is a black and white, printed monument to the cowboy profession. But unlike so many who've tried to make smart and immersive essays about cowboys from the perspective of the outsider John is unique in that he spent 12 Summers, in his youth, as a working cowboy here in Texas. The real deal. And so, after he spent years in his "real" career in the legal industry, he came back and spent six years at some of the biggest ranches in the Southwest, shooting photos for this book. 

It's published by Twin Palms so it's not a vanity project. It's printed in a tritone process and there are nearly 90 images spread across the 11x14 inch dimensions of the book. I haven't seen it in person yet but John was very happy with the printing and, having seen John's beautiful black and white prints in gallery shows, I can pretty much guarantee that if he likes it it's amazing.

John is an interesting and talented photographer who, as you might be able to tell from the photo above and the one below, has never been lured by the digital sirens. He still works the way most of us used to work back in the day = black and white film, a Leica rangefinder camera, and getting close-in with a wide angle lens. No hiding in the shadows and sniping with a long zoom lens for John. He makes a practice of getting close enough to smell the sweat (and patchouli and pot) of the moment. 

If you love beautifully done black and white work go HERE and see his book's page on the Twin Palms website. Take some time to look around Twin Palms site as well; they are one of the few publishers of photographic books who continue offering the finest quality in printing, design and presentation. 

Note the wear-to-brass on John's camera. This guy has shot a lot of frames through that camera. And it's a look that few digital cameras will see since we churn them so often......

And John gets into the moment. He came in full Austin Hippie regalia; right down to the tie-dye shirt and sandals. Yes, that's a wig under his bright red top hat.....

After hearing about John's book and running into Andy the rest of the event seemed less exciting. There were the usual contingents of people stripped down to the barest wardrobe to show off their bodies, folks sitting in a dense circle of people rhythmically pounding away for hours on all kinds of drums, there were acrobats and jugglers, a May Pole, lots of food stands and beverage purveyors; and, of course, the enormous swell of folks sitting under the trees on the hill side smoking all manner of cannabis. I realized that I'd seen it all before, through so many different finders, I'd just lost my inspiration to look for more this year. Good to know when you've lost the thread. Maybe I'll find it again next year with a smaller video team. We'll see. 

Here are a few shots I took before retreating to the craft beer bar at Whole Foods, about half a mile away (and awash with air conditioning). All done with the Canon G15.


Yeah. It's Sunday and I went for a walk to break in a new camera. No, not the Canon G10. Something else.

I'm on a new breakfast ritual these days. I mix up a bowl of Muesli and 2% Milk Greek Yoghurt, sprinkle a handful of blackberries over the top and the crush a smaller handful 
of walnuts over that. A small Turkish coffee makes everything just right.
Belinda is always happier when I rinse out my bowl.... 

I was excited last week to get my hands on a Canon G10 from yesteryear. It's a compact camera that I owned once, really liked and then sold off for no good reason. But here's the problem with reacquainting oneself with an older camera; you get to wade through all the comparisons to newer models and competitive models. I happened onto a series of articles about the Canon G15 and by the end of my brief re-introducftion to the G10 I had already convinced myself to also get a G15. Fewer megapixels in the newer camera, as well as a CMOS sensor instead of a CCD. The G15 sensor is a BSI CMOS and offers a much lower noise floor than its older sibling. It also has a much more powerful processor, faster AF, faster overall responses and it has full 1080p video. The icing on the cake is a very, very good version of lens-based image stabilization. So, at a used price of about $250 what's not to like?

I got the G15 via UPS on late Friday night and only had time to confirm that it worked and the battery would charge. I took it to Eeyore's Birthday Party at Pease Park on Saturday afternoon, after swim practice, but I was uninspired to shoot much this year. Maybe, after all these years, I'm losing my enthusiasm for the event. I did run into a number of my photographer friends there, including my buddy, John, who just had a photo book published by Twin Palms. He was blazing away with an older Leica M series film camera and seemed to be having a blast. I met his son who was shooting Super8 film in an ancient (but stout) Nikon R8 movie film camera. They were both having a blast.

When I got back home yesterday I started learning the G15 in earnest and by the time I fell into bed last night I thought I had the camera pretty well sussed out. Not too much change occurs in the Canon menus over the years and I think that's a good thing.

I set up the camera to use the AI-AF and it does a great job as long as the thing you'd like to have in focus is usually the closest thing to the camera. It helps if the object or person is near the center of the frame. I was worried about battery life with the G15 and have been going through and unusually difficult time getting replacement batteries from Blue Nook, via Amazon (and that's another story...) but I needn't have worried because I'm finding battery like to be just fine. I shoot about 500 images at Eeyore's yesterday and still had  2/3rds of my initial charge left when I finished up and headed over to Whole Foods for a hydration session with draft beer.

Today I drove to San Antonio to have lunch with my dad. His dementia isn't much worse but it's not any better. Still, he remembers each of us kids and he's nicely conversational at lunch. He seems fine and happy...

So when I got back to Austin in the late afternoon I was ready to go walk with the G15. Battery charged, 32 GB card installed and formatted. Comfortable shoes on. Glasses newly cleaned. I headed to my favorite parking spot a block from Whole Foods and then meandered through the metropolis. I agreed with nearly all of the camera's white balance selections but I will say that I think my most used dial on these smaller sensor cameras will be the exposure compensation dial as I find myself always tweaking exposure to keep from ever overexposing. I figure that when shooting RAW I can under exposure by 1/3 to 2/3rds of a stop and recover the file nicely in PhotoShop without sacrificing my highlights. 

I went to full "stream of consciousness" shooting today, even using the camera all afternoon in the "P" setting. I'm very happy with the focal lengths (28-140mm equiv.) and the camera is nicely responsive.

Yes. It's just a fire hydrant but when I first looked at it I was struck by how effectively it blends in visually with the street. My next thought was that a fire hydrant should be painted red or yellow so that it really stands out in an emergency. Might also keep people intent on walking while viewing cellphones from overlooking it and colliding. But I guess that's too kind a thought to waste on cellphone abusers...

An "Alec Soth" wall. 

A "Stephen Shore" wall. 

Checking to see if the camera will focus on a slender object. Yes! 

In this test I checked to see if the camera was responsive enough to quickly focus on a moving object(s). It is. Cute dog. I call this one, "Crossing Sixth Street."

One huge benefit of the small sensor and fast lens of the G15 is depth of field forever. 
Of course, that is also its downside.

 Beer and crawfish at one of the bars on Sixth St. 
Surprised to see that Coors Light is still a thing. People still drink mass market beer?
I'd have never guessed it.

Yes, the lens has barrel distortion even after the automatic, in camera correction. I'm not 
too comfortable recommending that you give up your shift lenses and downsize to the G15 for critical architectural work. Unless your client is indifferent to whether or not the edges of their creations are straight and true. 

The G15 is capable of delivering nice blues.

Attack of the Scooter Hoodlums. Yes, they are still making even the sidewalks an adventure. 
Good thing the camera is small and light. It helps me dodge them. God forbid I should be trying to work with an 8x10 inch view camera; or even one of those enormous full frame monsters....

Brick Wall Test. Passed. 

Our city is so affluent that we even have "free" pizza right on the sidewalks bordering Sixth St. 
Yours for the taking. Go ahead. I dare you....

No Clue. 

My in color "Lee Freidlander" Pizza window. 

When I swim at Barton Springs I always dream I'll hang out with mermaids. Really beautiful mermaids. But nice ones who won't try to drown me and steal my soul (the original Hans Christian Anderson version.....).

Crosses #1

Crosses #172. 

If you are in Austin on May 8th go and see my favorite Jim Jarmusch movie, "Stranger than Paradise." It's in black and white and five-D. It's amazing. Slow but amazing.

I think it's got that Winogrand tilt. I like to tilt the camera so I can see what things look like when tilted. 

the Bermuda Triangle of color. 

Well... How do I like the G15?
I think it's pretty cool. 
More to come.

If I can just get the damn batteries here...


The return of the Pixie cameras. My first day out the door with a Canon G10.

The Canon G10 is one of those compact cameras who entire niche seems about to be overwhelmed and relegated to history by the the endless improvement of smart phone cameras, but when it came on to the market back in 2008 it was something special. Compact but incredibly solid it was the first of a series of cameras that pushed the megapixel density of its sensor to the limits. It was an (almost) pocketable camera with a 28-140mm (equivalent) zoom lens and a CCD (as opposed to CMOS) sensor that had great detail and amazingly good color ----- as long as you stayed toward the low side of the ISO settings. I was always happy with the files I got from mine when I stuck to ISO 80 or ISO 100. If I wasn't going to blow up the files much I think I got pretty decent images up to ISO 400 but after that it was pretty much an exercise in Pointillism. Noise in the shadows dominated...

The G10 has a straightforward manual exposure mode, the ability to store two custom white balance settings and, most importantly (for some) the ability to shoot RAW files. The camera takes SDHC memory cards and it even features a hot shoe and an optical finder (not much to praise about that last feature...). The one feature that helps (a bit) to take the sting out of the need to shoot at low ISOs is a very good, in lens image stabilization. 

I got a "like new" G10 yesterday after having not had one for about six years. I can't remember now why I sold my original one but it must have been some rationale about not needing a small camera since I had recently jumped back into the micro four thirds, Olympus cameras. At any rate I spent some time yesterday afternoon reading the owner's manual and re-reading the old review on DPReview.com. I also ran down the battery by shooting endless video with the camera of nothing at all. I just wanted to run the battery down and then do a long charge. I had no idea about the health of the battery but a good charge seemed in order. 

One thing I was thinking about when I got my "new" G10 was the fact that Adobe must have improved the RAW file converters immensely since the launch of the G10 and, perhaps the RAW files would be even better than I remembered them. And, yes, the highlight and shadow sliders really help augment the camera's dynamic range.

I was at loose ends today, just a few e-mails to return and a few props to source for an ad agency assignment we're doing next week. So, after swim practice and breakfast with Studio Dog (the rest of the family long since headed downtown to work in the coal mines of advertising...) I grabbed the camera and one of the many 8 GB SDHC cards I'd been thinking I'd never use again, and headed over to the Blanton Museum, and then to the Humanities Research Center (aka: the Harry Ransom Center) to see just how well I might be able to hand hold the little G10 while shooting in what are, in places, dim interiors. 

I found the automatic white balance and exposure of the camera to be good and worked mostly in the aperture preferred mode but taking an active approach to both ISO changes and EV dial over rides. I could describe the results to you but the world wide web allows me to post samples images instead so I'll spare you what might have been thousands more words. 

So where are we now with this whole retro compact camera enthusiasm? Well, I've got two new batteries coming via UPS tomorrow, along with a new charger. I've also ordered a later model, the G15 as well as two new batteries for that camera. I think I'll charge all the batteries up and pack the two cameras into a small, small backpack and then take them (after swim practice) to Eeyore's Birthday Party at the park tomorrow afternoon. Should be a really long and extensive test of the way I'll be shooting with these cameras. I hope to have some more samples on Sunday or Monday. Stay tuned. 

I love the illustrations of "Mickey Mao" in the third panel from the left.

I know a lot of people in other cities think that their burgs have a lock on great photo collections but UT boasts not only the Gernsheim Collection, the first photograph, and the Magnum Print Collection but apparently about five million other artifacts of photography.....

A most boring show at the HRC. "The craft tradition in the U.S. and England in the 18th century. Mostly "literature about....." 

But just behind this divider is one of my favorite Elliott Erwitt photographs; the photograph of his very pregnant first wife laying in bed with a small kitten sitting next to her belly. 

All in all I think the G10 is a capable little camera. We'll see if I grow to love it again or if I will once again give it up. I'm older now......maybe I'm wiser...

You know the old saying, "With Age Comes Wisdom"? Well, apparently, sometimes age comes along...