Fast Trips to Someplace Else and Back Again.

These tiny planes are hard for photographers who need to bring along 
a little bit of everything. But flying into smaller markets comes
with compromises. 

It is said that Travel Broadens the Mind but from what I could see in my quick jaunt across the country, with any clarity, is that travel seems not to do much more than to broaden the girth of the participants. It's sometimes stunning to see just how large people have become. And how much weird stuff they consume from the shops in airport waiting areas. The most disturbing sight of this week's journey to Knoxville was in that city's airport where I waited for a tardy plane. 

A man who must have weighed much more than four hundred pounds was sitting next to a table eating a Cinnabon from a box which contained three other, large Cinnabons. He was, naturally, washing down this strikingly odd meal with......you must have guessed it....a Diet Coke. As if. 

I was in Knoxville to shoot portraits on a continuation of a project I started with a company last year, in the fourth quarter. Most of our portraits were done outside with some really nice, dense foliage in the background. Last year I shot the same kinds of images with a Panasonic G9 but we're continuing on now with the FujiFilm X-T3. That camera, along with the 40-150mm f2.8 lens was the only combo I shot with all day long yesterday. I ended up photographing about 12 people, including the CEO of the company. 

I switched from using the X-H1s to the X-T3 for only one reason; the X-T3 is smaller and lighter and I knew I'd be riding on a small jet, like the one just above, and that luck (which routinely favors me in big things, but rarely in smaller situations) would make sure that the plane was full and that I would be the last one to board. This meant that all the shoe box sized, overhead compartment space would be filled and I'd need to be able to prove beyond the shadow of doubt that my Think Tank Airport Essentials backpack would actually fit under the seat in front of me. Which it did. Barely. I brought the X-T3 with me as my main shooting camera but did bring along a couple of X-Pro2 bodies to serve as back up cameras. They are even lighter and seem more compact. I thought of bringing the Pentax K-1 as well but it's too heavy to fly on tiny, regional jets. 

I traveled with the small camera backpack and one Tamrac rolling case for the lights and accessories. Since I knew exactly where I'd be shooting most of the portraits (in a tree shaded park in the morning) I pared down from the All Contingencies Boy Scout Readiness inventory to just a manageable one. I packed two medium light stands, two collapsible soft boxes, one small stand (for "just in case") three small, battery powered, shoe mount flashes with Godox soft box adapters, some bungee cords to attach improvised weight to the light stands on location, and one large (60 inch) translucent, white umbrella to block direct sun. In the lid of the case I packed an extra pair of pants, an extra shirt, and some flip flops. Somewhere, floating around the interior of the case was deodorant and a fresh pair of boxers. 

I keep my toothbrush and toothpaste in the backpack so I can practice good dental hygiene in even the worst case delays. 

The selection of gear turned out to be perfect. I used just about everything I brought and wanted for nothing. Best of all the big case weighed in at 50 pounds even so I didn't have to pay overweight charges, which, looking back to my second paragraph, is keenly ironic. 

Ah, the luxurious life on the road. I "got" to stay at an Embassy Suites next to a highway. I asked about quiet rooms but I'm pretty sure my check-in person didn't quite understand the concept of a quiet room. That's what earplugs are for. But sleeping with ear plugs means you might not hear your alarm so I've had a friend who is smart with electricity whip up a device that plugs into my phone and sends an electric shock to a little adhesive pad I attach to my left ear. We're still getting the voltage and amperage correctly dialed in; I can tell we're not quite there yet from the excruciating pains and burn marks on my earlobe... (for the insanely literal: That last part is made up. As in "not true." And, for my republican friends, that last part was "fake news"). 

It was five a.m. Austin World Standard time when the ear probe zapped me into consciousness on Tuesday morning and I got to take part in the early breakfast on the road ritual of business people. They stare like zombies at Fox and Friends, read tattered copies of USA Today and eat lots of bacon and sausages. Or sausages and bacon. And sometimes biscuits with gravy. There is fruit and oatmeal and stuff like that just in case the hotel is captured by vegans. I tried to go middle ground and mix cantaloupe with scrambled eggs. But I did sneak a slice of bacon into the mix. It's rare I escape the watchful eye of my live-in, organic diet disciplinarian, Belinda.

But at least the coffee was good. 

It was a stress free two days for the most part because my client caused me to be chauffeured everywhere. The picked me up from the airport on Monday and drove me to dinner and then the hotel. Someone was there to drive me to the shoot promptly at 8 the next morning. And to lunch. And to the CEO's house for her portrait. And then back to the airport. It was pleasant to have a "travel aid" who kept track of times, schedules and itineraries. 

I've spent time today re-charging batteries, re-packing for the video shoot at UT (Texas; not Tennessee) tomorrow, editing down to 800 the images from yesterday's shoot and doing a global color and exposure correction on them, and reeling from the kindness of the comments posted today. 

I do think that the original commenter who sparked my angst might have chosen a better way to express his discontent with my photo choices but I may have been too reactive as well. In any case while I don't know him personally I think it's a bit overboard to infer that he's an A-hole. I think we just got our signals a bit crossed. It happens. We should all be nicer to each other. That's what I learned on Bill and Ted's Adventure....the re-make of which will feature our new friend, Holland Taylor. What a circle.

And  (below) here is the amazing view from my hotel window at 7 in the morning... luxury all the way. 

An ancient posting that still makes me smile: https://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2010/11/passion-is-in-risk.html


Frank Grygier said...

I've seen the burn marks. Fake news...The view looks strangely familiar.

Robert Roaldi said...

The photo from the hotel window reminds me of one of my favourite Ted talks, https://www.ted.com/talks/james_howard_kunstler_dissects_suburbia.

jiannazzone said...

Odd things people consume in airports .... During a recent layover, a larger man in the gate area pulled an eight ounce size block of cheese from his bag, unwrapped it, and ate it all. I had planned to look for a yogurt but decided to just take another lap around the concourse.

Greg Heins said...

Lovely view indeed. But seriously, if you're really meaning to take more time photographing for yourself, do it. There are photographs in Knoxville, I'm sure, even if it's not Rome. Take an extra day (or even two!) on your own dime and go find them; after all, you're already brought the cameras with you.

Dave Jenkins said...

Too bad you didn't have more time to explore beautiful East Tennessee, one of the true garden spots of the whole earth. If I decide to do the "Backroads and Byways of Tennessee" book, I'll send you a copy.

MikeR said...

Not necessarily on-topic for this post, but for recent ones:

I just read an article about Chris Buck in the Sep/Oct issue of Digital PhotoPro. His description of his methods for portraits reminded me of yours.

Then I had a flash of insight about what you do: You tell stories.

It's not that you ARE a "writer" or a "photographer." What you DO is tell stories, both in words and pictures. And pretty well, I think.

So, please, keep it up.

Anthony Bridges said...

Hi Kirk. Your website and The Online Photographer are the two sites I prefer reading. Please keep it up.

I regularly fly on these small jets home to Alabama from Dallas. One time I decided to take some of my lighting gear home to photograph family. My stands and umbrellas were in a long photo bag. I placed a TSA lock on the bag. Well, not only did TSA unlock my bag and throw away my lock, they left the bag unzipped as well. Nobody knew anything when I questioned them about it. I'm glad my flashes and triggers weren't in the bag. I had that squeezed into my carry on.