A productive and uplifting walk through Austin with a Sigma fp camera and the cute, little 45mm f2.8 lens. Oh yeah....and a polarizing filter.

It's been a fun day for me. I heard from an institutional client who wanted to know if I could bid on a television spot scheduled (tentatively; always tentatively) for August. After that I got a call from a law practice/firm I've worked with asking if I would be interested in making a couple of "tasteful" (non-ambulance chasing) TV commercials for them. The attorneys will be ready to go as soon as we work out how to proceed while under the restrictions of the pandemic. 

I spent the early afternoon finishing up the retouching of images for another law firm. And billing! I'm so thrilled to still be billing...

But once I'd gotten through the retouching I'd had enough office time and had spent enough time in the proximity of conduits to the endless news cycle so I got up, grabbed a camera and a homemade face mask and headed out for one of my legendary walks with photographs in mind. The camera of choice today was the little Sigma fp, and it did feel little after my recent amble with the Lumix S1 and the Sigma 20mm f1.4 art lens. Knowing we'd have bright sun through the afternoon I looked around the equipment drawer and found a 55mm circular polarizing filter. Funny trivia = it was a Minolta brand filter. That certainly dates it.

I had a certain route I wanted to take because I'd seen some video that showed some cool graffiti on the plywood covering the storefronts on Sixth St. And I'm a sucker for good graffiti. Please keep in mind that in all but a few areas of the country which are in complete lockdown, we in Austin are allowed; no, encouraged, to walk for exercise, as long as we're careful about distancing ourselves from others! 

As usual, I parked in the lot adjacent to the Zach Theatre (no other cars in the entire lot) and walked across the pedestrian bridge. It's this part of most walks where I spend time "dialing in" the feel and settings of the camera. I capriciously decided that today was an ISO 250 day and that we'd go fully manual for a change. Well, fully manual exposure but I still used the autofocus because it works so well on sunny days. 

There were a ton of people out on the bridge and on the hike and bike trails but everyone was doing an amazing job of skirting around other people, maintaining that six to ten foot distance, and being attentive to their surroundings. Many more face masks today.  Once off the bridge and the trail, and fully into downtown, the foot traffic dropped to nearly zero. I still kept up an eye-roving surveillance; my "head on a swivel" as they say in the action/adventure spy novels. 

The thing that impresses me most (after the small size and weight) about the Sigma fp and the 45mm lens is the amazing amount of detail in the finished files. It's quite different in its nature than the look of apparent sharpness one gets from other brands. This camera does an especially good blend of super-high resolution coupled with great acutance. It helps that my use of the camera in full sun is generally predicated on using f5.6 and f8.0; f-stops at which this particular lens excels. (Please click on the images on a big, fat 5K monitor to really see what I'm talking about. But when you do please remember that these files are only 2100 pixels on the long dimension....). 

The view to the east of the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge. 
If there is sunshine there will be kayaks and paddle boards...

The lens tends to compress space but I used a laser "measuring tape" to ensure that the 
two men on the bench were at least two meters apart. They did think me 
quite odd.... But then so do my friends.

I thought I'd remark in passing that the image just above was originally overexposed by over a stop.
I pulled the exposure down in post. There was no clipping to be seen in the highlights. 
I think I can get away with a +1 overexposure from time to time with no penalty1

Promotional posters for Red Ash Italian Restaurant on 3rd St. 

While I was looking forward to seeing the graffiti on Sixth St. my new path took my by a high rise on Third St. that has a nice Italian restaurant on the bottom floor. The graphics in the window caught me by surprise and I actually laughed out loud when I saw these three posters. 

All of them are a take off of World War Two posters but these are aimed at getting loyal customers to future-support this restaurant by selling gift cards to be used when the establishment re-opens. As I read the fine print I see that they are offering a one hundred dollar gift card for $60. A good deal...if they make it through the fallow times. See the two below.

It's a brilliant campaign, it's kind of tragic that there is so little foot traffic to see it...
I applaud their marketing team for some fun work1

It seems the local bars (see just below) are getting into the to-go business. The governor of Texas lifted restrictions on selling alcohol off the restaurant premises and now just about every restaurant and bar is rushing to sell and have delivered: food+alcohol, food, alcohol and drink mixing kits. Not sure why people can't just use a Mr. Boston's bartender's guide along with a quick trip to the local liquor stores (which the governor has included in the list of essential businesses which are allowed to stay open during the crisis. I guess you could use the Tito's vodka to sterilize stuff while pickling your brain cells). 

With all the downtown professionals and their entourages working from
home all of the food trailers are locked up tight. No customers, no business.

But this image above and the ones just below are the one's I wanted to see. They were my primary destination for today's walk. The street looked so bare the first week after the storefronts on our most popular and densely packed bar district were covered with particle board and plywood. The same people that sponsored the Graffiti Wall got permission to invite artists to decorate the "crisis covers." 

At some point, if the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" restrictions last long enough, I look forward to seeing street art on every square inch of plywood and particle board on the 200 establishments bordering our famous hospitality district. It should be interesting in its own right. 

It will be a sad and happy day when the boards are peeled off and the businesses re-open. 
That will mean Austin is back in business but it will also mean that the art will go away. 
As I'm sure you guessed, I will be back again and again to document it all. 

Since downtown is totally bereft of both working people and tourists an unintended consequence of the "stay home" ethos is a radical thinning of the crowd of homeless people who just weeks ago thrived in the area. Except for the hardiest most have looked for greener pastures or fled to the shelters; mostly driven, I suspect, by hunger. Makes the sign must above seem superfluous, yes?

After my jaunt through downtown I headed West on the Lady Bird Johnson Hike and Bike Trail happier than ever with my little Sigma fp. It just oozes personality and a solid, ingratiating grace. Here's the refrain you've probably read many times before: I might just have to find another one....

To update: I went to Trader Joe's grocery store today, wearing my homemade face mask and clutching my small bottle of hand sanitizer. I shared the store with fewer than 30 people (they are rationing access). I followed all the rules and, upon returning home, sat out front of the house wiping down the bottles, cans and containers with alcohol and wipes. I disposed of the bag and then re-sanitized my hands before bringing my stuff into the house. 

With great joy I must announce that there will be fresh baked Almond Croissants on Saturday morning. 

My sanitizing protocol was approved by my keen and strict supervisor and house mate. We have gone 17 days with perfect social distancing and have spent 90% of that time isolated from everyone outside our tiny familial sphere (two). I think we're doing okay but I'm equally sure that, at some point, it's all the luck of the draw. We're just trying to play the long odds. If we do get sick we want to put if off as long as possible in the hopes that the protocols will be in place to generate decidedly better outcomes across the board when it comes to treatment.

On an off topic note: 
Michael Johnston gave us a movie review on TheOnlinePhotographer today. I feel compelled to "keep up with the Joneses" so here is my (much shorter) review of my movie viewing from last night: 

We saw the most recent Star Wars movie on Amazon Prime last night. It was action packed and entertaining. But overall George Lucas's reputation for directing has nothing to worry about. JJ Abrams threw everything in his directorial playbook at the latest movie in the franchise. Barely crested the Jar Jar Binks bar for good story telling. But again....entertaining. The popcorn was great.

Hope everyone is well. Maybe tomorrow I'll write about coming to grips with my fascination concerning the old, used Leica SLs. But maybe not. Maybe I'll just shrug my shoulders and get another fp. I know those are great. 

In a great mood this morning. Here's why:

 I can't do much about a pandemic. Sure, I can do my part by staying away from everyone and washing my hands a lot, but I can't cure a virus or save jobs. I can't do anything for the people who may not make it through this except to remember them and remember them well. But I can appreciate what I still have and what we still have. I can decide to worry a little and then put that worry aside to make room for daily doses of happiness and joy.

We got up late and it was still just 55 degrees outside. We went for a walk together and the sun was nestled into one of the clearest blue skies I've seen. As we left our house we looked up at our little forest of giant live oak trees and marveled at how healthy they look right now. They'd been a bit leaf-sparse and wane in the Fall and we had them deep fertilized. They appreciated our efforts and are rewarding us with a lush green canopy.

As we walked through our neighborhood we talked about the news of the day. Things will get worse. Then they will get better. Hope is more pleasant than despair. Everyone in our families is healthy for now. We hope it stays that way. It's true that I can't swim right now; I would but the pools are all closed. But I also love walking and so I walk for an hour with Belinda in the mornings and I take a longer and brisker walk later in the day. Videos about swimming technique help remind me of what I need to work on, technique-wise, when the pools re-open.

We've lived through recessions many times with little but residual fumes in our bank accounts but this time around we're coming off a prosperous year and many profitable assignments. I'm still wrapping up a few projects. We can coast for a while. No panicking in 2020...

Austinites, in general, seems to be hewing to the new rules about social distancing and community safety. We're not a big hot spot yet. I hope we, as a community, continue to work on our efforts to stay safe. We'll have streamlined coffee to-go practices in no time...

I worked on my home coffee techniques yesterday and I made a perfect cup of coffee today. Absolutely perfect. I think I've got a winning formula figured out which dulls my ardor for coffee from the outside. I miss seeing familiar faces and hearing the steam release from the espresso machines. 

We've been eating well. Last night it was fresh trout with a lemon caper sauce, roasted cauliflower and mashed sweet potatoes. We're stocked up with groceries and produce for at least the next week and a half. 

We're staying entertained. I love writing the blog. We both love reading novels, and last night I splurged and paid Amazon  for a rental on the latest Star Wars movie, which we missed at the theaters. So, $6 bucks for an evening of entertainment. We even made popcorn. And, happily, no teen agers texting in the rows in front of us...

I seem to have lost my insistent desire for a constant flow of new cameras. I'm saving thousands of dollars at a whack. I've deduced that part of my ability to rationalize even the most extravagant investments in cameras was based partly on the idea that I needed this or that new camera so I could deliver the latest expert results to my clients. I could justify the expense in the moment with the promise that each new piece would help leverage my skills into more profitable engagements. 

When all clients go away so does that rationale. Now I seem happy to shoot for days and weeks with the same small collection of really good cameras. So far I'm even resisting the lure of the Leica song.
While prices on used Leica SL camera bodies drop so has my interest. Will it resume when our confinement is over? Let's find out!

I stay in touch with you on this blog. I stay in touch with other friends via texts and phone calls. I stay in touch with Belinda by walking into the house and checking in. I do miss Studio Dog. She would have loved having us both home for 23 hours a day....

Funny, when we were constantly busy we complained about not having the time to slow down, relax and do the projects we thought we always wanted to do for ourselves. When we were busy making money we groused about not having time to travel. And now fate is making us come to grips with what is really important to us. It's not the hobbies so much, and it's not the travel. The most wonderful thing, and the thing we miss most, is sharing time with family and friends. Big dinners together. Fun happy hours. Meeting for coffee and breakfast tacos. But we'll try our best to make up for that in the near future. 

In times when all the news is bad and we can't have a fix or solution to fall back on it's a good practice to take time to savor the stuff we really love about life and to do a little inventory about everything that brings us joy. 

I never realized how much I took my house for granted. But it's so comfortable and inviting. I can spend hours in a big, upholstered chair in a corner, just reading a book. Occasionally closing my eyes and just feeling how great it is to breathe. Our house is situated on a big, half acre lot and our neighbors to every side are distant and blocked by trees and landscaping. Even this close to downtown it's serene and quiet on the back porch. That's where I like to eat my Greek Yogurt mixed with berries and muesli. It's almost become a ritual. If I'm lucky I see hawks spiraling around up above and there's a black squirrel in the yard that used to taunt Studio Dog. He comes as close as he can to where I'm sitting, almost daring me to chase him.

It's enough in the quiet moments to remember just how lucky we have been... 

I inherited this coffee cup from my father. Also my appreciation for coffee....

I am happy that it is still legal to walk around with a camera; as long as we follow the 
social distancing rules. 

Trader Joe's grocery store has frozen croissant which you have to allow to rise and then bake.
They are delicious. I keep a box in the freezer, next to the box of Lava Cakes. 

There is something absolutely luxurious about going to bed as late as you want
and sleeping in or lounging around in bed until you get bored....

Over the years I'd gotten into the habit of taking my showers at the pool. 
I'd forgotten how comfortable and well appointed my bathroom is at home.
I now relish a hot shower after my walks but before dinner.

If we lose electrical power and the internet I've cleverly kept a Nikon F and a brick of Tri-X on hand so I don't miss the opportunity to document the moments.

Austin gets more and more beautiful the fewer cars there are on the roads.

Some day soon swimming will NOT be dangerous.
(the sign above was from Iceland. You'd have to be crazy to swim in the 
33 degree bay....)

I'm fortunate to have experienced the Spanish Steps in Rome before sitting on them became a crime.
I will go back to Italy as soon as it is safe and will spend as much money as I can eating well 
and helping our Italian friends rebuild their tourist economy. 

We haven't had this much free time for our art since we were students in our 20s. 

More time to linger with great photo books. 
Deeper dives into the history of photography. From a certain point of view. 

It's love that keeps hope alive. It's hope that keeps love alive.

Coffee in Canada tastes as good as it does in Austin. 

I miss the museums so much...

Loving the his and hers Subarus. 
Four wheel powered automotive delight.

Getting to know you. Getting to know all about you.....

Sorry to go off topic (photography) but I felt good about life today and wanted to share it. 

Might be a fleeting gesture but I don't think so. We're looking forward to the future but not at the expense of the present....

Much happiness to everyone. KT