4.10.2020

Two images from a Medium Format camera from circa 2008.


Eleven years ago I was shooting a lot of portraits and writing about them in some magazines that still existed. Actual printed magazines. On paper! And everyone who was making medium format digital camera systems was sending me product to use and review. One of my favorites was the Aptus II-7 which was a 36 by 48 mm, 33 megapixel back on a Rollei body. Along with the Schneider 180mm f2.8 lens it was a superb combination of parts. One afternoon, as I was working on a photo book for Amherst Media we decided to make some test shots of Heidi, my model who was collaborating with me on the book. My assistant, Amy, helped me get the lighting set up and we shot about a hundred frames. Then the batteries for the camera gave out and we stopped. I just found the files again and thought I'd make few prints. They stand up pretty well, even in the age of breathless Sony sensors and the madcap rush to super high ISO....

Having too much time to shop online is dangerous.

Joyful Portrait of Alaina V. 

My Walter Mitty-esque day dreams...

I spent a good part of the morning today looking through current and older hard drives trying to round up a big collection of photographs of my dear, late dog, Tulip. There are twelve years of images scattered across a dozen or so hard drives and probably dozens of DVDs. Had I been wise (retrospection is so piercing...) I would have created a folder on Smugmug.com and put photographs up there from week to week so as not to get this far behind. But I promised my son I'd make a really nice print of our best dog ever last Christmas and I've been dragging my feet since she passed away. 

At some point looking through all the photos just made me sad so I did what photo nerds and people who love shoes do, nationwide; I went shopping online. It seems especially dangerous right now because I'm trying to convince (delude) myself that we've done such a good job of eliminating debt and accruing a motley handful of assets that nothing seems really out of reach right now (vast hyperbole). All that actually stands between me and financial armageddon is my very rational fear of that disapproving look I know I'll get from my spouse if I come home with something silly and impractical like a Porsche 911 Turbo S. Or something even sillier, like a pool table...

But what about a lightly used Mini Cooper S? Or maybe a great deal on a medium format Leica S3 and a couple well chosen lenses? How about that custom street bike from Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop? A new "Cheese Grater" Mac Pro, all tricked out with $40,000 of RAM and SSDs? Would it really be that bad to come back home on a Ducati Multistrada motorcycle? Especially if I got a good helmet? 

In the end both practicality and need stepped in to bring me back to reality. I order some more ink for my ancient but still workable Canon Pro-100 inkjet Printer and a packet of 50 sheets of 13 by 19 inch Pro Lustre paper. I'll pick it up curbside from the usual photo/crack dealer in the morning. And to enforce the message of exercising practicality I dug up a $50 coupon good off the purchase price. 

I've got some printing to do and I've run out of excuses to put it off. Gotta get some parental controls on my office computer and block any "for profit" sites. Self-preservation...

Every once in a while I like to post this image of Amy to remind me that I can make really good portraits. If the stars are lined up just right....


I've made portraits with so many different cameras and lenses but the thing that's always made the most difference, in the end, is the lighting. That and the rapport you are able to engineer with your subject. I photographed Amy one afternoon in my Westlake Hills studio when my assistant, Renae, and I were between jobs and a little bored of photographing each other. Renae called Amy, who came right over, and we did an impromptu session just for fun.

No stylist then. Our models mostly did their own make up. The light was a Profoto strobe in a 4x6 foot soft box hung up above Amy's head level. Angled down and slightly to one side. There was a tiny bit of light on the background. And no fill except the studio walls.

I can't remember what we were talking about when I took this frame but we were all in a fun, playful and worry-free frame of mind. This was the most serious frame of the day. A few minutes later everything devolved into Happy Hour.

Shot with a Leica R8 on slide film. The lens was probably a 90mm Summicron but could well have been the 135mm f2.8 Elmarit instead. The camera didn't print the shooting info on the cardboard slide mount.... (must have been defective).

Seeing frame like this has the effect on me of "steadying the boat." When I doubt myself I remember I can do portraits like this and then I take a deep breath, slow down and start lighting.

Hope your day is nice and cheery.

All the best, Kirk

Introverts and extroverts. How's that working out now?


I really wouldn't call myself an extrovert. I mean, sure, I love to swim every day with 30 or 40 or my closest swim friends, can't bear not meeting somebody to have coffee with, mid-morning, and like to have a lunch date booked with a friend or client (or in the best of all worlds, both) two or three days a week... but "extrovert"? Well, I have made a career out of being in the middle of events, cajoling grumpy executives into looking their best, and always tickled to go out for a happy hour with colleagues; or anyone else who will have me along... But I've never really thought of myself as outgoing. Couldn't live without blogging, and answering comments, and rarely make it back from a walk around downtown without meeting at least a couple of new people, but isn't that pretty much the same for everyone? Can't wait to get to the theater to watch shows and mix in the lobby during intermission with a drink in my left and and a friends all around (leaving the right hand free to shake hands --- oh.  Yeah. That's so last year. No more handshaking, must learn to bow). 

So being "locked down" and "sheltering in place" for over 30 days in a row is becoming an amazing exercise in endurance for me. And it's made all the more difficult by having a spouse who is quiet, self-contained, calm, not chatty, and happy to be isolated in her rambling, comfortable home, taking advantage of her home office to do "all of the projects I've never had enough time to get to." And after that? "I have a stack of books this high (motions four feet off the floor) that I've been wanting to get to." 

I'm beginning to think that if I didn't try to pull her into conversations she might go days without uttering a word...

So, as hard as it's been for me not to be out, around, deep in conversation with everyone I know, it's probably been equally hard having me around constantly trying to....engage. Chat. Reminisce. Question. and generally disrupt everything just because of cabin fever and lack of continuous social contact. Did I read somewhere that humans are social animals? Did introverts not get the message?

If the virus doesn't kill me I'm thinking a nearly complete shut down of my social network will. Don't jump in and suggest I "Zoom" with people or "FaceTime" with people; it's just not the same. Not into online socializing beyond the blog and a few texts (mostly to make sure Ben is still okay...). What I really look forward to, and what you can help with, is a bit of life on the blog. If you are an introvert (and who knew there were so many of you?) have a little sympathy for quasi-extroverts like me. If, in the back of your mind you thought for even a second about posting a comment, gird up your firewalls and grit your teeth and belt that comment out. I may not love what you have to say but I will be grateful to know you are out there....

I don't want your money and I don't have anything to sell you but I love to hear from fellow photographers and creative people. Maybe I just need to write more clickbait-y stuff and get into arguments about "Sony versus Fuji" (the current current) but maybe I just need to ask you to join in. We'll see.