The best way to drive is to look out through the windshield in the direction you want to go. Too much time spent looking in the rearview mirrors is dangerous and may cause one to loose situational awareness in the moment.

Until we invent time machines you'll just have to let the past go and focus 
on everything in front of you. 

If you ask my friends and family they would most likely tell you that I'm not one to dwell on the past. I like to keep moving forward....like a shark. In writing the blog over the years I occasionally dip into the past; telling photo related stories and waxing nostalgic about cameras that I enjoyed using but my main focus is to stay anchored to the present and to flow with the rhythm and currents of ongoing change. It's also why I like to upgrade cameras and try out new systems. While I am not the most avant-garde of photographers, technically, I'm most certainly not a believer that all the good stuff in photography happened decades ago in the age of medium format cameras, film and darkroom work. I actually believe in leveraging the present instead of (metaphorically) sitting on a deck chair, a plaid wool blanket over my legs, going on and on about all the glories of yesteryear.

I get that not everyone feels that way and there is a propensity for people to associate what they did successfully in the past with a high point in their chosen craft, or even culture. I suppose it's even comforting for people who've allowed themselves to get stuck in certain time periods to dredge up the way we did stuff in the good old days and try to resurrect the original feelings of mastery and competence they felt after having learned something cool for the first time. I can go on for hours and hours about my first 100 jobs with a 4x5 view camera and I can regale (bored) young people with stories about my battles in the darkroom to get the perfect tray development methods for "souping" black and white film but other than signifying the length of my tenure in this particular craft I can't see how it moves the blog, or my progress as a photographer, forward. Unless my goal is to stop all forward momentum and make myself into a museum dedicated to my photographic past. Something I personally would find overly introspective and boring. 

I wrote something once about how life is like a fast moving river with strong currents. If you can never get to the side and exit the river you have to learn how to navigate it. We swim with the current until we get too tired and then we find a convenient rock to cling to. If you never let go of the rock to continue swimming your fellow swimmers (your generation?) swim on and leave you behind. Eventually your whole world becomes that lone rock in the middle of the river. You cling to it and it anchors you. It both saves you (temporarily) and dooms you by narrowing your vision. Once you start to live in the past you lose the ability to embrace the current and move on. And then you die (at least creatively). 

If your aim is a retrospective show then you've already given up. If your goal is to find the next great shot then you are still swimming (and dodging rocks). When I meet people who are morose I generally find them glorifying the past and moaning about the perceived meanness of the present. When I meet people older than me who are happy it's because they are curious, willing to constantly experiment, and they are engaged. 

Creating photographs seems to me to be more like performance art than painting. The activity of actually doing the work is what an artist craves. Interpreting and dissecting the art seems to be a job for someone other than the artist who created it. But once all the focus is on the work from the past and the tools, techniques and artists of the past it's at that point that the artist has gotten tired of swimming with the current, going with the flow, and has effectively given up and found their rock to cling to. 

At 64.99 years old I feel like I'm still 18. I love making new images. The cameras are largely immaterial. They are secondary to the process of seeing new images and capturing them. And then saying, "Look What I Just Saw!!!

From time to time I have a recurrent fantasy of just hiring someone to back a truck up to the studio door and having them take every scrap out. Every camera, lens, light, computer, stand, umbrella, etc. And then, the next day, I would wake up and figure out in which direction to go now. 

In many ways we are like writers. At our best we are story tellers. Our images weave an instant narrative. But imagine if writers spent most of their time inventing and perfecting ever more expensive machines with which to tell their stories. What if the lore about the machines dominated the discussion of writing the way cameras seem to now dominate our discussions about photography? Would the stories get better or would they languish as writers waited for hardware and software upgrades to the ever-growing writing machines?

I think we are all a bit guilty of presuming that we have to use certain cameras and lenses to legitimately share the stories we want to tell. We build legends about lenses. We transfer part of our power as artists into the belief that some new camera will give us more potential imaging power than an existing one. We embrace the magic of machines to a greater and greater extent while at the same time using the new technology to replicate what we did with the older technology. It's easier now and that bothers people. But, like a writer, our machines are wholly secondary to our stories. Only now our dependence on both the visual constraints of our past, and the desire to overlay those constraints onto new working methods, keeps us from experimenting with any new storytelling. 

Eventually, if you want to move your art forward, you need to burn down the past rather than wallowing in it. You don't need to actually put all your prints, negs, digital files on a nice, toasty bonfire. You can archive them in any way you want. But at some point, in order to do good, new work (rather than just repeating the greatest hits...) you'll need to slip off the anchors of the past and resume your swim. It's the only way. 

Rocks are alluring. Rocks are comforting. At some point you'll master the rock. And it will master you.  Letting go and moving forward takes effort and faith. But aren't you curious to see what's around the next bend?


Taking the Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN lens in the M4:3 mount out for a spin. Nice and small.

Ben turned 25 this week. I'm stunned how fast time sprints. The kid is doing great. Looking at a new job as a writer for a cutting edge tech company and generally staying fit and centered. I'm always happy when he drops by the office in running apparel and tells me he's heading off for a long run around the lake. He's so, so much faster than me but I guess that's to be expected, given our 40 year age difference... 

We had dinner with him last night and I took a few photographs of him with the new lens. 

I picked up the new lens on Thursday. I meant to get a used camera but I started psycho-analyzing myself on the drive out and decided that my desire to buy new cameras right now must be a reflexive reaction to not being able to go any place or shoot anything exciting. I thought maybe a lens would be a less Jungian trope.

I'd been thinking about this lens for a couple of weeks. I wasn't paying attention when it was first announced but Sigma's Contemporary lens line has mostly been surprisingly good. The current line up, consisting of the 16mm f1.4, the 30mm f1.4 and the 56mm f1.4, is really superb considering the moderate cost. They offer the lenses in the Sony E mount, the M4:3 mount, the Fuji mount and now the L mount. All three lenses are designed to cover APS-C sized sensors, and smaller. I can't see the logic of me getting an L mount version since I have so many "normal" lens options for the Panasonic S1 cameras and the Sigma fp. So it was a pretty straightforward choice to opt for the M4:3 mount.

The Sigma 56mm f1.4 has an extremely sharp center area; even wide open. It's a great, longer lens for a small sensor system if you routinely want to photograph under low light conditions and you don't need expansive depth of field. The lens body is much smaller than that of the 16mm f1.4 and the front filter diameter is a very useful 55mm. The lens doesn't not include image stabilization and I think that helps keep the size and weight down. 

Just like the new 85mm f1.4 Sigma Art lens (v2) the 56mm was designed with compromises that are largely meant to be fixed by automatic, in-camera correction software. Both the lenses feature exhibit a relatively high degree of pincushion distortion and both have appreciable vignetting when used wide open. Used on a Lumix GH5, G9 or GX8 the system seems to do a good behind the scenes job making everything look great. 

I pulled the lens out of its box yesterday, put it on a G9 body and headed out for a walk through downtown. The focus was quick, precise and accurate. I'm happy with the optical performance and I've put a selection of images down below so you can see for yourself. Be sure to click on them to see them larger. 

My birthday comes up next week and I think I'll use the opportunity to spend more time swimming and less time thinking about what new gear to buy. Seems like more of a New Year's Resolution than a birthday thought but there you have it.

We're having our first "cold" snap here. My Calgary Friend, Eric, will laugh at this but it got all the way down to 52° Fahrenheit last night and I got to wear a light jacket this morning. After swim practice I bought a coffee and an egg sandwich and went to my favorite park to sit at a concrete picnic table to eat, drink coffee and watch the millennials play Frisbee Golf. Nice to just do normal things and watch happy activities in a year so fraught and disturbing. Be sure to turn off the news from time to time and watch people play and laugh and have fun. It's a reminder that we're meant to be good and to have fun. But sometimes we have to work at it.

I had coffee with a friend who is, politically, my polar opposite this last week. We skirted political conversations. We spent a lot of time discussing video. When we left we promised each other that no matter who wins the election we'll take a few days to recover and then, as usual, we'll meet for coffee. That made me feel good. 

I just can't pass up those multi-paned, reflective windows when I've got a camera in my hands.

We started out our day with the usual heat and humidity and then the winds blew in 
from the north, sucked the humidity out and dropped the temperatures quickly. Sweet.

There was never a reason for valet parking to exist in Austin when I came here to go to the University. The city was sparsely populated. You could park anywhere. The parking meters cost a dime for six hours.
Now that our economy is adapting and recovering the valet parking is roaring back.
It all seems so strange to me. It always has.

Fun to watch the wind gusts blow the trees over a bridge. It felt like the first day of Fall. 

An odd business concept. 

An electric boat on Lady Bird Lake. All selfies all the time...

String. Blowing in the cool wind.