I'm a sucker for new lenses but sometimes I come across images from unappreciated lenses which make me stop and wonder why I keep looking. Here's one...
I can sense that all of you have been waiting pensively to hear about our return to swimming. I shouldn't have kept you waiting for information for so long!!!
The Arctic Blast closed down our swimming pool for the better part of ten days because, at first, the management (rightly) decided it was too dangerous on the roads to ask lifeguards and coaches to travel to the pool. When the temperatures went sub-freezing it was also decided that leaving the insulating covers on the pool was a prudent conservation of energy already spent. Finally, the bitter cold damaged pipes in the changing rooms and some ancillary equipment.
We got the all clear to schedule new workout times and to get back to work swimming at the pool this past Tuesday. The workouts on Tuesday mornings are traditionally the most crowded of the week but this past Tuesday seemed almost overwhelming. Swimmers were so anxious to hit the lanes and get moving again that even chilly water didn't dissuade. The covers came off at 6:55 a.m. and 30+ hardcore athletes hit the water for an hour of hard work under the watchful but somewhat sadistic (kidding, just kidding...) supervision of one of our favorite coaches.
I loved the pain, the fatigue and the muscle soreness so much I made it back the next day for another dose. At the end of that workout I'd kicked off enough soreness and stiffness to start feeling like normal again. Two days, four miles and change later. I slept very well on Wednesday night.
But yesterday was the first day that I felt "back to normal." I swam with my favorite lane partner, Matt, and we plowed through 3200 yards with no breaks in the action. We swam many sets of 125s and 75's and finished up the day's workout with four underwater shooters. That's four times 25 yards completely underwater (a long time to hold one's breath after an hour of fast swimming...) with 25 yards of recovery heading back to the starting wall.
By the time of yesterday morning's workout the water had stabilized and the temperature was a perfect 79 degrees. What a luxury!
I'm sticking with my new tradition of cross training on Fridays so I skipped today's swim and I'm lacing up my running shoes for a leisurely run around the three mile loop at the downtown lake. Slow and easy. Trying just to look like I'm not struggling too much.
I hit on the idea of mixing up Fridays so I can rest up for a harder effort on Saturday mornings. That seems to be the rhythm of the days. Hard on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. More concentration on technique and turns on Wednesday and Sunday. Something outside the pool on Fridays and Mondays.
I did a bunch of resistance and weight training during the big freeze, as well as long walks when the weather wasn't too intimidating, so I lost less endurance over the last ten days than I thought I would. Still, it's icky to have too much down time. At least we very rarely have to close down for weather.
Just FYI for Austin swimmers: Both Barton Springs Pool and Deep Eddy Pool have opened for lap swimming again and admission is free until further notice. Be aware that strict adherence to a waiting in line protocol is expected and enforced. Play nice. Swim well.
I was out messing around with my camera last Friday afternoon. The weather had broken and we finally had sunshine and temperatures warm enough to start melting off the snow. We're all unaccustomed to walking on icy sidewalks here so I was moving slowly and carefully.
As I crossed Congress Avenue I saw this guy on a bench and we nodded at each other. Basically saying, "I see you and acknowledge you." I was walking by and he said, "Hey. Take my picture."
He liked the idea that he was smoking and continued to pose with his small cigar up to his mouth. I shot three frames and thanked him and walked on. It was fun.
That was my day to shoot with the SL2 and the 65mm Sigma lens and this shot was done with the lens wide open at f2.0. The entire encounter took 10 seconds but, in retrospect, I really like the image.
Thawing out. Feeling spunky after my first dose of vaccine. Counting the days till the second dose...
It sounds a bit silly to have a mentor at 65 years of age but there it is. My mentor is not a photographer and has nothing to do with advertising, imaging or freelancing. He was a successful business person who made his fortune and retired. But he has also been a world class athlete since his years in college.
Lately, when we've talked on the phone I've tried to push the conversation toward things like "legacy" and "happiness." These are buzzwords in our generation and they have different meanings for different people. For most photographers of a certain age legacy seems to mean getting your photo archive in shape to leave something behind. This gives many folks a reasonable sounding excuse to putter around their office, looking through sheets of slides, contact sheets and online galleries, spending time reminiscing and taking photos from one stack and putting them in another stack. There are all kinds of strategies that the usual "experts" on line will share as if these strategies are a bold and effective battle plan.
We're told to rank images and put them into "keep", "maybe", "probably not" and "throw." The web-visor usually convinces us to put aside one "platinum" pile of images that will have resonance with your family and, perhaps, collectors. This stack is generally limited to one hundred images which have "stood the test of time." It's the artist equivalent of having a park bench named after you....
I asked my mentor about this at one of our casual meetings. He had recently completed a 10 mile open water swim race (at age 74) and he was very direct with me. This is a paraphrase of what he said (but it's pretty much accurate):
"All that shit you are supposed to do when you "get older" is rank bullshit. When people get old they tend to get stuck in their own comfort zones. The idea of sorting stuff is just an excuse to sit comfortably in a favorite chair and aim your whole being toward your impending death."
"You only have X number more years to live. If you are lucky! Do you want to spend them sitting on your ass waiting for the big decline or would you rather head out the front door every morning in search of a big adventure, a new adventure, a thrill, a challenge, a kick in the ass? Because I can guarantee you that aging isn't a process whose pace is carved in stone. You can speed up aging or you can slow it down but the secret is that if you aren't dedicated to enjoying RIGHT NOW to the hilt you are already deep in the sordid process of dying."
"If you want my advice you should take everything that isn't absolutely precious to you and toss it now. Do it the day they come to pick up the garbage so you can't change your mind and go retrieve it. Throw away everything you don't use, don't want, haven't played with and haven't shown to people. That way you break the leash. You pop through the protective barrier and you startle the people around you who thought you should just slow down, and shut up, and age gracefully."
"Swim harder, train faster, and if you have to be a photographer then go out and be a photographer because, as I understand it, your best work is always, always just ahead of you. The stuff you already did is finished. It's a race already swum. It's already given you your time on the awards stand. Do you think if you play with those pictures over and over again they'll give you another ribbon or a trophy? Dude, the magic is in the race. It's in the experience and the practice. It's certainly not resident in the snapshots of you standing on the award blocks."
"Do you know what you should do every time you finish a great race? You should start training the very next day for the next race. And when you swim that one you should start training the very next day for another one."
"There are two kinds of people in life. Those who do and those who sit on their ever growing butts and watch everyone else have the real fun. Which one would you rather be?"
And with that he stood up, thanked me for the coffee and (literally) ran off to get started on his next project. Starting a running program for kids at risk.
Later in the afternoon I looked at a pile of stuff on my desk that I'd been trying to sort. Mostly ancient headshots for big companies that made up my client list for most of my career. I carefully pushed all the old envelopes off the side of the desk and into a convenient trash can, put on some walking shoes, grabbed a camera, and headed out the door. There might be gold out there. Just maybe. But I know I've got better things than to find places for images I never want to see again. Or move statements around from desk to filing cabinet to trash.
This blog is just a thought as I get ready to go out today. And I had one last thought about my mentor, the swimmer. If people could transfer, just for one day, their consciousness into a 74 year old's body that was in infinitely better shape than their own, full of strength, energy and endurance, free of all pain, would the experience inspire them to change their lifestyles the minute their consciousness switched back into their own bodies? Would they start walking with the goal to start running? Would they take up Judo or long distance swimming? Would they live their lives at the peak of their potential? --- once they discovered that it felt great and WAS possible?
I'd like to think they would. But I'm always haunted by the idea that most people are complacent enough to prefer just embracing the entropy and giving in.
Everyone, it seems, gets a choice.
We spend a lot of time at the dining room table talking over dinner. Ben, Belinda and I have been sharing nearly every evening meal together for the better part of the pandemic. Breakfast is different. Ben and Belinda are grumpy when they wake up and I find it's more efficient (and better socially) if I head to swim practice before they get up. They mumble answers at the breakfast table and, sadly, I am the only "morning" person in the family. Best that we all keep a quiet and respectful distance until they are fully awake.
But dinner is much more lively. They are completely conscious; animated, and we discuss everything from exercise, diet and politics to sociology, technology and advertising.
Last night I got off on a tangent about corporate events. How they were held just over a year ago and before that all through time immemorial.
The image above triggered a memory for me of an over-the-top event I photographed for a high technology company in the first decade of the new century. We camped out at the Breakers Hotel in West Palm Beach, ate Lobster at Mar-a-Lago and sat through presentations on How to Save your Company given by professors from Stanford and the Wharton School. (ironies of ironies...)
While always physically in the middle of things but on the periphery of relevance I loved these kinds of events where I was well paid to be a social documentarian. Catching nuance of the meetings and events for some unknown, future use.
My favorite part of the whole show (after the bits of high strung corporate drama and posturing) was waking up early in the mornings to see the sunrise or walking down the beach in the late afternoon with a camera in my hands and a break in my schedule.
I'm sure events will come back at some point soon. Everyone will have their vaccine passports and we'll gather once more to munch on crustaceans and guzzle expensive liquor. I hope the photographers will be invited back, along with the caterers, meeting planners and various other barnacles clenching tightly to the bows of commerce.
It was one year ago when I made this portrait of Kriston Woodreaux for his one person performance of "Every Brilliant Thing" at Zach Theatre. It seems like a decade.