Notes from the fields of photography: March 17th.

 Opening up old boxes of prints can be like Christmas all over again.

Well, here we are again. First of all, happy St. Patrick's Day! 

I'm a little bit amazed to find that I'm still busy. Not with ongoing assignments but with the residue of and billing of assignments completed last week and the week before. I have lists of selected frames of portraits that clients would like for me to retouch and beautify and it's nice to have a bucket of tasks in front of me as I hear about more and more businesses temporarily shuttering. I was surprised when one of my clients in the healthcare field called to see if I was still taking appointments for portraits this month; they had an executive who needs a headshot. 

And, in fact, we are still open for business in our own way. We've never had street traffic or walk-in engagements. Everything we do is for an advertising or corporate customer and access to and from us is controlled by that filter. 

Even so, when I do portraits in the studio now I follow all the best practices for keeping my space safe. I will even ask the person booking the appointment if they would be less anxious if I wore a face mask. I didn't go out and buy or horde face masks but we did have a big package left over after we did an assignment for an eye surgery ad campaign....

I have hand sanitizer at every critical touch point in the studio as well. And, no, we didn't go out and buy new hand sanitizer we've had bottles around the house and studio, routinely, for years. I guess it makes sense since many of our clients are in healthcare and are more attuned to active prevention. 

At any rate, I'm thinking we'll all get through this phase of the crisis in the next few weeks and we'll be ramping back up to a more normal business environment. But we won't benefit in the recovery unless we take steps to do a bit of longer range marketing. 

During my long walk (solo-- at least 10 feet away from any passerby) yesterday I thought long and hard about what I should be doing for marketing. It doesn't make any sense to do advertising aimed at pushing up demand in the present. Few people are in a position where they can't or won't wait until stuff settles down a bit. Until the fear is more manageable.

The marketing I want to do is more long term and aimed at keeping myself at or near the top of people's mental lists of visual content creators. Now is the time to tell the small stories about what makes you fun and profitable to do business with. Now is the time to share personal photo projects with clients. Now is the time to catch up and send letters talking about new technologies you offer and new ways of approaching future projects that you've discovered. It's a longer term approach and more aimed at bolstering your brand and name recognition than it is driving short term sales. 

I'm also toying with the idea of creating a weekly video and a video channel to support them. The videos would be about various parts of my business and how we do the work. I don't need to be the star and would like to find an appropriate spokesperson to use as my presenter. Being behind the camera gives me a chance to also show off my video production skills. 

Even if we just remember to send out fun postcards over the next few weeks it will be helpful in the long run. The worst thing you can do right now for your business is to hunker down and go silent. You need to let your valued clients know that you'll be there when they need you. And that you'll be in the forefront of finding a way to work through the down spots. 

Speaking of the down parts: I was sad to get two e-mails yesterday evening. Both were from restaurants that I've enjoyed going to for the last 20 or so years. They were both announcing that they would be closing. One for the "foreseeable" future and the other for "two weeks, or more." Both restaurants together account for a large share of my family's "out to eat" budget every year, both are loved by everyone in my family, and we can't wait for the crisis to run its course so we can help them recover. 

To younger readers: The stock market and investing markets seem very scary right now and the values of investment accounts and retirement accounts have had dramatic swings (mostly down) over the last few weeks but....but....if you have the discipline to keep investing on a regular schedule you'll benefit in the long term from dollar cost averaging. It's the process of purchasing cheaper and cheaper shares as the values (temporarily) fall. When the markets recover (hopefully, and historically) the shares you bought at the bottom will help offset your short term losses and will help to restore the value to your financial portfolio. Not yet investing? If you are in business you should already be putting some aside for the inevitable retirement.

Do a Google search about dollar cost averaging to learn more details!

To scruffy, older, wealthier photographers: I have discovered a new index. It's called the "Used Camera Sale Price 1000" and it's not listed on the major exchanges. I've been watching the prices on used (but in 9+ shape) Leica SLs since the financial markets started tumbling. The average price on the average minty, used SL body has progressively and quickly dropped from $2795 to $2595 and most recently has fallen into the $2300 range. I've always wanted one and I'm not afraid to try and "time" this market. Waiting for the price to drop under $2,000 for a mint condition one. Alternately, I guess I could call one of the big, used Leica SL "depositories" and place a bid that's good for 30 days.....

How low will they go? If I miss the bottom of the market I won't shed any tears. I have enough toys to play with for the moment....

 Well. I'm getting back to the tasks at hand. A bit of retouching and bit of billing. Hope you are having a safe, happy and productive day. KT


A few misconceptions about the Panasonic S1 system. Just my point of view.

For decades most camera makers have attempted to build lines of cameras that would cover every price range and need parameter in order to garner the most market share and to give buyers a ready upgrade path as their skills and perceived equipment needs changed. At times the range from maker to maker was overly populated. At one point in their film days the number of Nikon SLR variants was out of control. From the EM all the way to the F5. From a super-cheap plastic camera with mostly automatic controls to a real, top-of-the line, professional camera. Lenses too were made in an astounding range of prices and capabilities. You could buy cheap consumer lenses or pricey, no-holds-barred lenses that mostly covered the same focal length ranges and you could spend a little or a lot. 

Camera makers each wanted to be the "big tent" and offer stuff that people in every price range could afford. That was the standard business practice at the time and, during the early days of digital, the practice was ratcheted up even more. By 2010 new digital cameras were being introduced in lots of 5 or more models per year; by manufacturer. So it's little wonder that buyers today just assume that a camera maker will give a smiling nod to each income bracket and keep producing a wide range of cameras so that a buyer who like the idea of a system (or their advertising) can find a model they can afford. Or a model they can "move up to." 

Recently I've read many articles, and comments on various forae, taking Panasonic to task for two things: (1). Not having enough inexpensive lenses for their S1 (full frame, mirrorless) system and, (2). Not having an entry level or mid-level body that would offer an upgrade path to consumers who are not yet ready to spend the big bucks it takes (relatively speaking) to enter the S1 system as it is right now. 

The underlying presumption is that Panasonic, in order to compete in the full frame, mirrorless arena, must inevitably show up with a full complement of models that can satisfy the budgets of both professional users as well as new parents, students, casual users and all the other sub-categories represented by the great cross section of photographers. 

But I'm of the opinion that Panasonic is taking a totally different approach to making and marketing their premium line of cameras than they would have in the past. Rather than make something for everyone --- within the S1 system --- they are focusing on providing tools for the higher end of the market: serious users. professionals. advanced artists. video specialist. and people with deep  pockets who want cameras built to a high level. 

My conjecture is that Panasonic will continue to market their mirrorless m4:3 cameras to a wider target and will use the smaller format cameras as stepping stone products, the final step up being from very proficient cameras like the G9 and GH5 to the S1 system. 

While there's no doubt that Panasonic could reduce the quality of materials and the feature set of their current S1 cameras and offer a $1500 model I have doubts that it would sell well because of the lack of consumer priced lenses. What Panasonic seems to be doing is trying to create a Japanese Luxe camera for the higher end markets, similar to that of Leica, around their S1 products. 

And I think it's a smart move. They offer a differentiation in build quality and their basic approach to photography compared to their competitors. Every S1 Pro lens I've bought is pricey but optically spectacular --- and built to handle professional bumps and bangs. While there was a less expensive 24-70mm f2.8 available in the Sigma Art series L-mounts I chose the Panasonic S-Pro lens for its feature set and the performance edge I expected (and received). 

My needs might be different from those of a more casual photographer and my budget, given that I make images and video for a living, gives priority to buying the tools I think will best satisfy my profit needs. 

While other makers chase a broader market I think Panasonic, with the S1 line, will continue to focus on a smaller niche and provide cameras and lenses that create a brand identity of being the mirrorless professional camera system rather than the system for every use and user. It's a strategy that Leica is using to good effect since buyers of high end gear tend to be much less price sensitive and more insulated from the ebbs and flows of global markets. The shifting global economy is a paradigm shift that has to affect camera makers. People in the middle and lower income stratas will, by necessity, be more cautious about buying in downturns and recessions. That will affect camera makers with the broadest diversification more so that makers who have limited and highly targeted product lines. 

Just as we probably won't see a budget, all electronic M camera from Leica at a price of less that $3,000 I think we won't see a raft of lesser spec'd products from Panasonic. If one is waiting for the S1-Z, with a 20 megapixel sensor and a polycarbonate body construction, for under a certain price point, or if they are waiting for the introduction of an APS-C model, I think they will be in for a long and fruitless period of frustrated anticipation. 

The one place where Panasonic could help their marketing would be with the introduction of lenses that are slower (apertures) but still made to the same high standards. Not every photographer needs fast lenses to do the work they like. Sigma has shown the way with the 45mm f2.8 lens and it's proven to be quite popular even though it's priced higher than competitive products. 

I would welcome the introduction of an 85mm f2.0 or a 135mm f2.8. If the optical quality is as high as that of the initial lenses the new ones would be a good value for photographers like me. 

For the time being I'll keep cherry picking lenses from Leica, Panasonic and Sigma's L-mount Art and Contemporary lens lines. While most are bigger than I'd like I'm happy with the quality of imaging and the robust construction I've encountered. 

Would I like a "lesser" camera body from Panasonic? Maybe. But if I really want a "beater" to use for day-to-day slamming around I'd probably just buy another used S1 and commit it to the "risk" camera set. Those are the ones I don't need to keep in perfect shape for client work... 

Right now that's where my Sigma fp is slotted. It's my "take anywhere" and "leave on the floor of the car" camera. It's been great to have hanging on my shoulder for days like yesterday when I walked through an empty downtown in a gentle but steady rain. 

Note: I'm not flexible enough to literally put my foot in my mouth although I am highly capable of doing so while writing. If I tweaked anyone severely with my blog about staying inside then I apologize. We're doing our best to stay close to home. All the city pools are closed now as well as my club pool. There's not much to do right now except polish the cameras and write silly stuff on the blog. 

I hope some of it make sense. 


A generalized update from Austin. Life in the time of contagion.

Mixed message, both from big governments:

1. Loneliness is an epidemic and a known cause of early death.

2. Self Isolate and stay home alone.

You can't fucking win. 

Well. More official news from the city of Austin management: We're limiting public gatherings to groups of 250 or less. All city sponsored events such as Kite Fest and the Flower Show are cancelled until at least May 1st. Schools are cancelled until April 1st (at the earliest). There have been no requests from state or local health officials to have the majority of the population self-quarantine. It is strongly suggested that the elderly and medically compromised self-isolate for the present. There is no current hysteria here like the #StayTheFuckHome messaging coming from other quarters.

On Friday, during and after the failing administration's declaration of a national emergency, there was a run on food, cleaning products and toilet paper at all the local stores. By yesterday morning more rational thought prevailed and people started to unclench and go back to their usual buying habits. The perceived need for each person to have hundreds and hundreds of rolls of toilet paper had passed.

Belinda and I went grocery shopping (not grocery hoarding) this morning at one of Texas's best grocery chains: HEB. The headquarters is in San Antonio and they generally do everything well; especially in times of general crisis such as tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. It is no different so far in this crisis.

The entire store was restocked and ready to provide whatever we needed. Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables; in fact, a mountain of fresh avocados! I had to go with my second choice of Ezekiel sprouted bread (sesame) but that kind of inventory variation happens all the time.

The store put limits per customer on some essentials. We were looking for brown rice and coming up empty until an employee came over with dozens of packages. They were being returned to the shelves from the check out area where someone had tried to corner the market in brown rice....

There was lots of inventory and the inventory was deep. My favorite preserves were back on the shelf. My preferred brand of cheese. Even my favorite over the counter allergy medicine.

People were shopping nicely. Not with white knuckles clinging desperately to the handles of their shopping carts but with the same casual Austin neighborliness we usually see. People smiled at each other and folks rolled their eyes at each other when the outlier shopper blazed by with mountains of Charmin toilet paper heaped in his cart.

There were antiseptic wipes everywhere. You could wipe down your cart, wipe down you hands, wipe your produce; hell, you could even wipe down the carton of milk you were about to put in your cart. No one coughed, sneezed or wore a face mask. We are all being cautious but I think most of us are also trying to balance a certain quality of life with the imperative for safety.

I will be leaving the house with a camera in a few minutes. This is allowed by our local government. And in no way discouraged. I'll park in a mostly empty parking lot and walk my usual route through downtown Austin with a Sigma fp camera and a 45mm lens. I promise not to get any closer than 6 feet (2 European meters) to any other pedestrian, as per the recommendations from the CDC. If I touch a door handle anywhere on my walk I'll pull out my little, personal bottle of hand sanitizer and use it. When I finish my walk and head back to the car I'll sanitize my hands before using the door handle. No one will be endangered by my walk. Not in the wildest of imaginations.

And that brings up my next thought: Where do we find balance? This will be the first time in modern history that we allow an epidemic or even a pandemic to shut down our entire global economy in an attempt to prevent a large number of deaths. Our health officials have admitted that we can no longer stop the virus from spreading but that they are working to flatten out the infection curve in order to reduce critical time-loaded impacts on health care resources. To repeat, the same number will get the virus but we are attempting to spread the contagion over perhaps a year or two instead of having the disease spread quicker; more immediately. The idea is to smooth out demand for hospital resources. Less peak demand.

But there is a flip side to this and also a "slippery slope" argument to be made. If we shut down the world economy for as short a time as a month what will we have done to damage the global population? Many will be financially ruined. Many will never be able to catch up and be made whole for their lost time and wages. During the 9/11 crisis the incidence of cardiac arrests doubled. During the 2008-2009 crisis suicides skyrocketed and drug addictions that stem from those times have yet to abate. Hunger will rise among those most in need. The focus on caring for virus victims will cause a redistribution of healthcare services again, depriving the most needy in favor of the richest and fittest.

How many lives will be put on hold? How many futures will vanish or become diminished? And, as we try to compensate by pushing down interest rates, granting tax cuts to big businesses while "hoping" for a trickle down effect, will we be robbing future generations to pay for today's potentially useless fixes? How many retirements will dissolve into irreparable despair?

I don't have an answer. But they are questions worth asking.

Public health professionals are focused like a laser on one thing: preventing the current spread of the disease.

But there is more to the picture than this one narrow focus. I'd like to hear more about how we're going to handle all the collateral damage of an event like this and less about how we should all sit at home like zombies in front of our televisions, streaming mostly crap.

Unintended effects are everywhere. See the enormous crowds wait closely packed together at our international airports for hours and hours with strangers from all over the world --- waiting to have their temperatures taken. Could you even invent a better way to spread a virus?

But that's just my point of view and you'd be silly to take world health advice from a photographer.

All this to say --- we seem to have achieved a good balance for now in Austin. Hope everyone else stops panicking. Sure, do what you can do but let's drop the hysteria (written by a 64 year old who is in the target zone). 


I'm on a waiting list for the Sigma LCD magnifier for the Sigma fp. I may have just saved $250 by buying something else.

The more astute among you may have noticed that I have fallen in love with the Sigma fp camera as a personal/art camera not the least because it's so damn eccentric. It adds friction to everything I shoot with its funky operating methodologies and also because of its lack of a feature I used to think of as "mandatory on any modern camera" an eye level viewing function. EVF or OVF (but preferably the EVF so I can learn as I go...).

The fp is a little brick of a camera and it has NO frills (unless you consider 12 bit DNG raw video as a frill). It has only the immovable screen on the back of the camera for you to use when composing or evaluating an image. Absolutely basic point-and-shoot primitive. (It largely makes up for any shortcomings with a perfect sensor and a enervatingly good selection of shooting menu color tweaks).

The list of accessories for the camera includes a big, bulky and supposedly solidly constructed loupe which fits over the rear screen but doesn't occlude the control buttons. It's supposed to screw into the tripod socket and be of stout and heartwarmingly resolute construction. But I've never seen one in the flesh and I'm beginning to believe that it does not exist. That it is vaporware meant to entice less cautious photographers into a system that may not exist as a complete ecosystem.

Much as I love the camera and make excuses for any of its shortcomings I am becoming a bit disconsolate at the lack of support from its maker. While the rear screen, in its naked glory, is just fine for indoor photography it, like just about any screen exposed to the brilliance of the sun, is dreadfully painful to use in bright, exterior light. I've tried to cobble together a substitute for the $300 Sigma accessory by using rubber bands and a Hoodman loupe but it kept falling off, hitting my shoes and randomly diminishing the effect of my rigorous shoe polishing (a different story altogether).

I was about to go to a priest and ask for advanced absolution for the vigorous and profane venting of spleen directly to the poor, hapless people of Sigma when I remembered that I am not catholic and I don't have the contact information for any one of any influence at all at Sigma. I also remembered that real absolution in this time of fear and anxiety might be difficult to obtain with any real assurance. Especially for something as petty as excoriating Japanese manufacturers over their inability to get me a gadget. One I don't even need for my real work.

But then, one evening when lightning played like distorted shafts of sun off a chaotic mirrored ball puncturing the black of night, and thunder scared all the woodland animals so badly they decamped and moved to Oklahoma, I happened upon a product on a site called Amazon.com and it seemed like exactly what I needed only fashioned out of lesser materials and promising a lesser result. But it was only something like $50 and I knew I could send it back if it turned out to be so tawdry that using it would imperil my singular vision of the world. It was the Movo Loupe and included in the description was the "promise" that it would fit on the Sigma fp.

It arrived two days later. We had, by then, emerged from the root cellar that serves as our redoubt in intense storms, and were ready to brave shooting in full sun once more. I rushed to the Amazon locker that held my newest treasure safe. I pieced the unit together and attached it to the camera.

At first I was sadder than Persephone on her endless returns to Hades. While the unit fit just fine and covered the screen but not the controls, the image through the ocular, even after adjusting the diopter to its maximum was soft and gauzy. What a disappointment!!

But as I was driving my new Tesla X at 98 mph Subaru Forester at 15 mph in the parking lot of the bank (location of the lockers) I looked down and noticed that the lens closest to my eye when using the finder still had on it a protective film of plastic. I removed it and the view improved---but not enough to make me happy... yet. 

Later, when I used the hinge on the loupe to raise up the eyepiece up towards the heavens and look directly at the screen ( nicely shielded by the loupe's remaining surround) I happened to see something I hadn't noticed before. The inside element, the one closest to the screen, also had a plastic film covering it as a protective measure. Once I removed that film the loupe started to perform remarkably well for such an inexpensive product. 

Now I can say that I am happy with the Movo loupe and can give it a resounding recommendation (as long as you incorporate the  low cost into your matrix of points of satisfaction). While the Sigma loupe might be engineered out of better materials (the Movo is polycarbonate....) we may never know because, in fact, we may never have the opportunity to see one in the wild. It may be the "Ghost Leopard" of the photographic industry. 

And that's my review. Don't like it? Sorry, go read about Ctein's Tesla X instead. You'll be back....

We are attempting a hybrid approach to self-isolating...

While it's important to stay home and not mix with crowds of potential pandemic carriers there are some occasions which defy commonly accepted restrictions on socialization and travel. To wit, an invitation to Will's house for BBQ'd ribs. Compared to the opera or a day at the mosh pit of SXSW an evening in Will's garden is almost antiseptic. It will be a small gathering; no more than perhaps eight people. We'll keep our distance from each other except when it comes to the passing of heaping platters of perfectly smoked ribs.

Belinda, in the kitchen with sprigs of rosemary. Photo made with a Lumix S1 and the 50mm f1.4 S Pro lens. Horticulture in the time of contagion.

Everything looked bleak yesterday. Today is much better. The difference? Nothing from the government. It was the re-stocking of Trader Joe's and the resilience of normal people.

caregivers. the newly recognized heroes.

Yesterday had me down and edgy. The conflicting and sometimes misinformed flow of "facts" from the government caused me no little alarm. But what really hit me between the eyes were the aftereffects of the pronouncements from national, state and local governments. 

I think we can all agree that social distancing and the cancellation of events where people are in prolonged close contact are good ideas and will help a great deal to slow down the spread of contagion but it was when I saw the way this near total shutdown will affect normal people's daily lives I was depressed.

The first shock was a message from Zach Theatre that all productions would be immediately shuttered, until at least April 1st. The kid's plays have a longer run cycle and if we can get back up and running at the beginning of next month we'll breathe a collective sigh of relief. But we had a one person play called, Every Brilliant Thing, and it's run was only scheduled through March. Suddenly, the actor is without a job and a paycheck. Even though he is scheduled to start in another production in L.A. on the 6th of April there's no guarantee that the L.A. theatre won't also take the step of temporarily closing...

As I read the actor's plea for temporary work on Instagram I started multiplying in my head all the actors in theaters across the country who may be out of work and without a paycheck for weeks, or months. to come. It's a vulnerable segment of our population because most are classified as independent contractors and are not eligible for unemployment compensation. 

The same situation awaits so many currently making it by in the "gig" economy. Legions of graphic designers, delivery people, tour guides, soccer coaches, drivers, and so many others working in these not very secure positions will likely be laid off without benefits as companies gird themselves for a long slide down and then even more months of recovery. It's the same for every single photographer who runs their own business and depends on the support of the interwoven market for existence. 

When the money runs out there is no unemployment scheme waiting them at the end of their cash flow slide. When the money runs out it runs out. 

All this was filtering through my brain when I got the notice that our pool would be closed and masters workouts put on hiatus until the end of the month. Personal tragedy. Doesn't rise to the level of actual 
existential dilemma. I'm sure I could throw money at another pool and be back swimming again in hours. With cash nearly all things are possible... but when humans who are used to grand entitlements are forced to change ingrained habits we tend to be less than gracious about our frustrations...mea culpa.

I came home in a funk and wrote an ill-natured post. Then Belinda came home and told me stories of her trip to the nearby grocery store. The store was out of everything. Bare shelves as far as the eye could see. The only remaining products were the vegan dishes and the gluten free stuff (another litmus test for marketing?). Panic over the week's news and the less than graceful new conference by a very corrupt federal administration had pushed people into the fear zone and they were panic buying everything from toilet paper to coffee ice cream. We'll save the oil and gas industries at any cost but the citizens who pay for everything are now on their own... Belinda was trying to find eggs. She thought she'd make a cake or something. Maybe it was brownies with almond flour... She went to three stores and there were no eggs or milk at any of them. 

I was amazed by this new inflection point and headed over to Trader Joe's to see it for myself. The scene there was as though the store was closing forever and having a going-out-of-business sale. All the frozen foods were gone. Completely sold out. No bread. No milk. No yogurt. No eggs. No beef, chicken or fish. No granola. The only things still in stock seemed to be beer, wine and chips. I was stunned. this was a run on a grocery store like I'd only seen in coastal towns preparing for category 4 and 5 hurricanes. 

When I got home we did the back of the napkin calculations aimed at figuring out how much cash on hand we had and how long we could budget with no work without having to touch our investments or retirement accounts. The good news is that we'll make it through just fine. But having the money and having access to groceries seems to be two different parts of the same equation.

We stayed in last night and watched a movie on a streaming service. Our plans were to figure out how best to stock up for the next two weeks and to figure out the best use of our time. The final straw on the pathway to quiet dismay was to read Ctein's mawkish review (on The Online Photographer) of his new "$100,000" Tesla car. What an ill-timed decision to showcase that bit of braggadocio... Ah, the (in)sensitivity of the nouveau riche... 

New headline: Old man with beard drives new car 100 mph. Attempting "die" transfer...

I woke up late this morning and made a peanut butter and blueberry preserve sandwich, on Ezekiel sprouted flax bread, to have with a cup of instant coffee laced with whole milk. Since I had not figured out a swimming alternative yet I put on some running shoes and headed to the hike and bike trail to run the 4 mile loop. And that's when my mood and attitude started to change for the better.

The trails were packed with people. Earnest runners, whole families, people even older than me. And dogs. Seems like everyone had at least one dog in tow. Or were being towed by at least one dog. And these days all friendly dogs make me smile...

There was no observable panic, no angst, no paranoid actions whatsoever. No one had a mask on. No one was running with latex gloves on their hands. It was recreational business as usual. Multiplied by thousands. On the way back to my neighborhood I drove through Zilker Park and was heartened to see hundreds and hundreds of people on the soccer fields just embracing the Spring weather and enjoying life. (while staying one to two meters away from each other and only ever coughing into their elbow sleeves.

I stopped into our neighborhood Trader Joe's grocery store on the way home on the off chance that I might actually score some fresh eggs. The store was so different from yesterday evening. All the frozen foods were restocked. Fresh free range brown eggs were amply available. All the different kinds of peanut butter and fruit spreads were back in stock. Along with fresh milk. And bread and just about everything else.

Alas, many of their refrigerator cases were broken but the manager assured me that by tomorrow, at the latest, they would be repaired and restocked. Yes. And you could buy paper towels and toilet paper right then and there. Still rationing the hand sanitizer at two containers per customer --- ask your cashier. 

I bought the eggs and a fresh loaf of sour dough bread. I bought some orange marmalade, just for grins, along with some more Greek Yogurt and Muesli. Our refrigerator at home is now stocked with everything we could think of for a short pandemic. Right down to a selection of wines and ice cream. 
Frozen foods galore, and many bagged salads (which don't keep and need to be eaten, serially, in the next few days -- my rookie shopping mistake). 

I think Austin, in general, is dealing with this crisis just as I hoped it would. People are bumping elbows instead of shaking hands, doing curt little bows instead of the usual gushy hugs, but they are getting on with their lives and looking for the bright spots to inform their happiness; along with ample doses of hand sanitizer and a ready supply of wipes. 

By the time I got home I was calmed down and ready to dig in and enjoy my self-isolation. 

How will I spend that time? I've got a back log of cleaning and organizing to do. It's a great time to really, really learn how to make videos with the Sigma FP at the highest level I can. And, it's time to create a quiet, continuous marketing presence so that when the worst is over and the businesses start to wake up and bloom again we won't have disappeared from people's radar or their memory.

And we're donating photo/video services and money where it can do the most good. Food banks. Non-profits. Friends caught a little short. Maybe "giving back" needn't be done in big virtuous bursts but in a daily, sustainable stream. And not to up and coming kids from wealthy families but aimed squarely at the places where it will do the most needy the most benefit. It's a start.

Today's blog images come from a weird assortment of cameras. The top one is from a Nikon D2H camera and a 100mm lens. The one just below was done with a Nikon D810 and some long zoom.. The image of the shielded syringe was done with an Olympus e300 and the kit lens. While the bottom image, in a medical warehouse, was done with the Panasonic FZ-2500. Funny to see such a quilt of cameras.


I have a "Bingo!" Now all booked events through March are fully and resolutely cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I now declare March a non-work month.

Channeling my inner-Eggleston.
entitled: Red Chair

The process is complete. All six assignment days for corporate events in March have just been officially cancelled. In polite parlance: rescheduled. Except we don't have a future date so I guess that should be: potentially rescheduled. I knew this was coming the minute I heard that the giant SXSW Festival was cancelled. All the clients were very kind. Each asked if there was some sort of cancellation fee they owed me for holding the dates but, of course, it's part of customer service to say, "No" except in egregious circumstances such as a cancellation from an event that is still happening. Especially egregious when that sort of cancellation happens the day before a show...

No, we are kind to our good customers in the hope that they will actually re-book us when the new dates for the events are put on the calendar. I often say, "we'll need their money just as much then..."

While I think I understand, intellectually, what all this means; the social distancing, the fear of contagion, the desire to stay safe, I'm not sure I was processing it in the part of my brain that understands solid, practical stuff. So I went out for a walk through the city today to get a gauge on the emotions and the general vibe in downtown. Would it be a ghost town? Would everyone have on a mask and latex gloves? Would trucks be driving slowly past the residence towers with loudspeakers blaring, broadcasting the call from medieval times, "Bring out yer dead. Bring out yer dead."? 

I took the little, happy and ebullient Sigma fp with its whimsical companion lens, the Sigma 45mm f2.8. After spending the afternoon with that camera and a cheap, big loupe for the rear screen, I can't imagine why I was thinking of getting a Panasonic GX8. The answer of what to buy next was right at the end of the camera strap. The little Sigma fp kept whispering to me: "Wait until the Dow drops under 18,000 and then buy some more Apple stock...." 

Green Table.

As I walked across the pedestrian bridge into downtown everything was quiet. Looking out toward the west of the lake I thought I'd see the usual dense fleet of paddle boards and kayaks but there were only one or two, drifting aimlessly, their pilots glued to their phones, no doubt watching the minute by minute gyrations of the stock market or the else reading about the conflicting, ever changing and self-serving manipulations of our criminal government. Ah. A halt to payroll taxes...that way, after the election we can strip out social security and medicare with the claim that they will inevitably become insolvent... Another in a series of victories for the robber barons of 2020. 

But I digress. While I saw fewer people rushing around today doing commerce I did see more people out walking their dogs. I saw very, very few people in the restaurants lining 2nd St. and Congress Ave. and I noticed that traffic was so light today that one could find not just one or two but dozens of available parking places around the city. 

I trudged on to what should have been the epicenter of SXSW; the convention center. It was empty. Only the maintenance people remained and they were busy hauling unused signage to the dumpsters. 

I crossed the street to the adjacent Hilton Hotel. Normally, it's packed during SXSW and the lobby is overflowing with coffee swilling tech boys and girls. Today you could chase tumbleweeds through the lobby blindfolded and never chance hitting another guest. The taco restaurant was closed, I think, out of sheer despair, and the loading docks were overflowing with cases of unwanted tequila. 

trying to channel my inner Stephen Shore but I couldn't find any scene boring and mundane enough. 
I settled for colorful chairs. 

What made the eery quiet so strange today was the fact that all the clouds had dissipated and the sky was clear and beautiful. The temperature was in the low 80's which is usually a strong lure for Austinites to be out and about, tanning and preening and enjoying outside. 

It was a comfortable walk. Social distancing was not a problem. The sidewalks were nearly empty and the streets were quiet. As I walked along with my camera clutched in my left hand I found myself daydreaming about what to do for the last half of a month with no obligations, no reservations and no schedule. Looks like I'll start with a trip to the coast followed by a trip to the deserts of west Texas.

The Sigma fp is raring to go. But we might bring along a few extra lenses. That 20mm is begging me to accelerate my dicey learning curve. I need to become a bit more comfortable with wide, wide angles. 

Everything else is a caption. 

The last time it hit 80 with bright sun you could have walked across the packed kayaks and paddle boards to the other side of the lake without getting your Birkenstock sandals damp. Today? Not so much.

Channeling W.E. #2

Spring sprang about a month ago and everything is green and blossoming. 

Shadows and highlights with no intervention from the sliders.

Oh. Yay. Another downtown building. I wonder which Austin landmark they tore down this time to make another posh nest for attorneys....?

A mural at the convention center Hilton Hotel. 

A chair at the convention center just longing to be sat upon by a SXSW attendee. 


the next three photos are the empty venue. 

Even the space around the new library is as empty as in one of those movies where everyone is dead and only zombies remain and all of a sudden they rush out of the crevasses of the city and try to eat your brain. But today the library didn't even play host to zombie hordes....

Scooters went unloved. 

Steps untrod. 

And men were reduced to carrying pink bags for girlfriends who had YouTube programming playing on phones, phones clutched behind their backs like secrets. 

The dogs were the happy ones. No competition from bad bands from Poland and Belgium...

And that's the saga of the immediate impact of COVID-19 on the photo scene in CenTex.