I'd like to thank the W Hotel for their nicely appointed rest rooms and
their general acceptance of photographers who need to pee while downtown.
Following on with the idea of why we photograph and how the process has changed, I thought it would be interesting to see just what I would do if I had no schedule, no pressing things to take care of and no client projects to finish up.
A rare week of Kirk in slow motion. I only use an alarm clock (my phone) when I have an assignment to which I must show up punctually. This morning I trusted an incoming thunderstorm to rouse me and get me going. I lingered in bed long enough to read one of Robert Adam's essays about photography in his small but potent book, Beauty in Photography. Essays in Defense of Traditional Values. The essay was entitled, "Civilizing Criticism." Robert Adam's written work is aging well; but it's still aging...
The thunderstorm at dawn meant no morning swim. One of the compromises of swimming year round in an outdoor pool. I made a mental note to go to the noon workout instead. The forecast called for the clouds to break and for the sun to burst out right around the time I'd be walking from the locker room to the pool.
I spent the morning cleaning up the studio/office and I took time to bail out of a managed fund and into a Treasury Fund as a short term hedge against short term economic uncertainty. Part of my role balancing my dad's accounts for safest/best returns.
Around 11:00 a.m. I packed a small sling bag I'd bought a while back from Amazon with some odds and ends I wanted to play with after swim practice. I shoved in a phone, a 14mm Fuji lens, a Fuji XE3 with the 18-55mm lens on it, some extra batteries, an old Olympus 40mm f1.4 lens (with adapter), the house keys and some cash. I went into the house to check on Studio Dog, and Perfect Spouse, and then I headed over to the pool.
On the way over the sun did indeed break through the clouds, the temperature lingered in the high 60's and it seemed like the most wonderful occasion to swim hard. Jane was on the deck coaching and we had a guest appearance by seven time all American, and 2012 Olympic 200 meter butterfly swimmer, Kathleen Hersey. Oh my God, she's so fast... My group knocked out about 3,000 yards and enjoyed every minute of the practice.
It's hard to imagine that the day could continue to be consistently that pleasant but.... I got out of the pool and pointed the VSL Subaru staff car toward Zach Theatre where I parked and then walked across the Pedestrian Bridge over Lady Bird Lake and into downtown. My immediate destination was Torchy's Tacos on Second St. One barbacoa taco with generous avocado, and one beef fajita taco with pico de gallo; both on corn tortillas. Nice lunch. So tasty. So casual. So filled with hipsters and west coasters.
I tossed my small sling-y backpack over my shoulder and carried the XE3 and zoom lens in my left hand as I meandered through the SXSW crowds and looked for interesting things to either photograph or at which to look. I wasn't very inspired by any one thing but I liked being in the center of all the activity.
I had two goals for my walk today. One was to get in three to four miles of good walking, for additional exercise; and the other was to get a better feel for the XE3 as a lightweight and compact street shooting camera. In the end I got both.
During previous SXSW festivals the real draw, even from day one, was the music and it was followed by high technology showcases with start up companies like Twitter peddling their vapor ware to anyone who would listen. Those were the years of the dorky giveaways. Vibrating pens, odd sunglasses, memory sticks and just about anything a human could drink. This year has started out profoundly different. Netflix and Amazon are the big draws this year but not for e-commerce or technology, no, the draw now is their movie and television production. Their content. Their programming. And they seem to be disrupting that space in a big way.
There is a show Amazon is pushing called, "The Good Omen." I have absolutely no idea what it's really about but it seems to revolve around satanic worship, the forces of good versus evil, and apparently features a contingent of evil nuns. One part of their promo was to build a giant set reminiscent of a Halloween haunted house and have people line up and go through it for entertainment (scare factor?). I didn't have a wrist band or badge so I couldn't go in and see the inner workings but they fielded a band of 20-30 women in nun outfits and had then strolling through the streets. Every once in a while they'd stop, coalesce and sing hymns; familiar melodies but with shocking lyrics. There was one "nun" in particular that caught my eye and pushed my photographer "buttons." I've photographed the nuns every time we cross paths and I try to mix my take with some images of the entire group but I find myself narrowing down my focus to just the one.
You'll see below some of the permutations I tried over the course of several encounters.
While I spent today with the XE3 camera and the "lesser" zoom lens I've been going down for long walks through SXSW for most of the week. Even swimmers need good amounts of load bearing exercise for good bone density and I love to walk through urban spaces....carrying cameras/gear is extra exercise. On Sunday I walked around with a Panasonic G9, coupled with the 12-100mm lens. It worked very well and reminded me what it's like to shoot with a camera that has a decent battery life. Yesterday it was overcast and gray and I decided to take out a Fuji XH-1 and the much glorified 16-55mm f2.8 lens. Every day is something different. Some days I shoot raw. Some days I try to absolutely nail every photograph while shooting Jpegs. It's all good practice for something.
I made a big circle through downtown today and headed back across the bridge to my car. I headed home, grabbed a big glass of water and settled onto the couch in the living room for an hour of napping. Studio Dog always likes to supervise my naps so she burrowed in next to me and put all four paws on my body. She likes to be in contact. And that's all I remember until it was time for dinner.
A few observations. I am never productive (photographically) if I bring more than one camera and one lens; two at the most. No matter which lens I bring I'll wish I'd brought something else instead. So, if I take the lens I wish I'd brought to the next day's shoot I'll end up realizing I had it all wrong.
I seem to be settling in on standard zooms. I figure if I can't get something with one of them there's probably nothing to get. Super long lenses are a cheat and generally mean that you lack the proverbial balls to get close enough and have some discomfort in the game.
If your last battery runs down it's a sign that you are finished for the day. If your camera breaks it's probably a sign from the photo gods that you need to do something else right now. If you struggle with your camera menu while shooting out in the street you are either an Olympus user or someone who needs to spend more time getting acquainted with your camera. ( I swear that the Olympus menus rearrange themselves during periods of dormancy; just to befuddle their owners...
There's nothing precious about being out in the street shooting for fun. You don't need to "get" every shot. You don't need to push yourself to the front of a crowd to "get the shot." You can just go with the flow, have fun and appreciate the unexpected shots the universe hands out to you for free and with very little effort required on your part (unless you try too hard).
Bring enough cash for coffee and tacos. If you are from the north it may be "bring enough cash for coffee and donuts." Whatever.
For me the nuns made my trip to downtown worthwhile. It's just a strange and jarring sight to see a bunch of nuns in habits singing in the middle of Rainey Street, across from the Lulu Lemon pavilion and just next to the pop up venue for Canadian Cable Productions. I could have spent a day just following them and documenting their antics. And, if I had been in good form and not so lazy, I would have approached the actor/nun who caught my eye and enlisted her collaboration on some more portrait oriented images.
But really, it's a week off for me and I'm resisting the urge to be ever productive. Sometimes it's good to come home with just a few random images you enjoy and a sense of calmness and a general lack of desire. That seems to be the secret to relaxing.
I think this cup might be expressing an extreme thought about coffee.
I'd rather drink decaf than....well... die. But I'd sure want to punch whoever
it was that actually slipped me the decaf.....
Girls dressed as aliens. Promoting some start up company. It's kind of sad. Like those people who twirl signs advertising cheap mattresses, standing at intersections near strip malls. There but for the grace of God, a college education, and something or other go I......
Ah. Center. My favorite "Satanic Sister."
A word to anyone thinking about buying a pass and attending SXSW this year. Don't. It's always much more lame than you imagine it will be. And really, a Platinum ticket/wrist band could buy you a darn nice new lens....... But if you do come drop me an e-mail and we'll try to meet up for coffee. I know how to do that.