12.30.2021

It's eighty degrees and we're shooting on the street in short sleeves and shorts. So much for Winter...

 


The more I photograph with it the more I am growing to appreciate what the designers at Leica had in mind when they connected and created the CL camera. It's small, discreet and efficient and it feels just right as an adjunct to just being outside. I've been pairing it with the TTArtisan 35mm f1.4 lens which gives me the same old feel of a 50mm lens on a classic M series film camera. My concession to modern times is the addition of a thumb grip in the hotshoe. It helps me get a more secure grip on the package. 

I've given up on the "power saving" function because it takes too long for the camera to wake up. I just set it to be live all the time and carry a couple extra batteries with me. I'm probably being too paranoid since I was out with the camera for a couple hours and the battery was at least half full by the end. 

Every time I shoot into the big, round, convex parking garage mirror it looks different to me. Ah well. 

Glass ornaments in a shop window. A restaurant worker thru the window.

Family on Second Street. 

Family on the turf at Seaholm.

Some days are just casual. Some days are intense. Some are just right in the middle; like today. 

Health note: To all those thinking of moving to Austin: a friendly advisory... We have this thing here called "Cedar Fever." It's a wide spread allergy to juniper cedar pollen. It hits us most years around late November but it waited until the day after Christmas this year. 

The symptoms are: itchy eyes, red eyes, bloodshot eyes, a runny nose, ample sinus congestion, a bit of fever, headaches, the desire to sleep --- all the time, endless sneezing and a feeling of relentless fatigue. But some people get even worse symptoms...  The Cedar Fever symptoms can go on for months. Everyone who moves here eventually becomes sensitized to the cedar pollen and deals with the effects in their own way. I know some people who buy multiple HEPA air cleaners and lock themselves into their houses until the pollen passes. Some people move to remote islands after two or three seasons of dealing with the scourge. And some just give up and sit on their couches, cradling a box of Kleenex and weeping. 

I've tried every over the counter medication for allergies known to man and right now I'm trusting my continued existence to Zyrtec. It's helpful. I've also bought three big, HEPA air cleaners for the house and one for my office. If I sit in the stream of clean air and am very careful not to open doors and windows it's all just bearable. The walks outside are rough. Sometimes my eyes itch so badly after a walk that I can't drive home. I sit in the car, running the filtered air conditioning until the symptoms abate and then make my way back to my house, through a stream of tears. 

So, given that our house prices are now rivaling those in NYC and the West coast, and that we are largely incapacitated in the middle of Winter, and subject to intense heat and humidity in the Summer, it should be obvious that you might reconsider moving here... It might actually be one of the meaner levels of purgatory. 

Or maybe I just wrote this because traffic is getting so bad again and the license plates of the cars that seem lost, erratic and dangerous are all from out of state..... Whatever.

If that was your car from Kentucky that weaved from one side of the road to the other while speeding up to 60 and then slowing down to 10 mph in the middle of the day......please move back home. And to the woman eating ramen from a bowl, with chopsticks, while driving her BMW SUV and talking on the phone --- from Maryland; please consider never driving again and be sure to put a note on that bicycle you accidentally ran over. But, of course, you can wait until you finishing texting and can find a place to double park....

In an effort to take my writing more seriously I bought a mid-century, small writing desk for the studio. Not a camera.

A favorite reading table at Zilker Park.

As some of you may have become aware, I love to write. I carry a little notebook with me all the time and while I record facts and observations I like to mix those building blocks with more imaginative stories. When I sit down to write on a serious project, like a book, or a presentation ghost written for a business leader, I like to do so while surrounded by my notes and lots of clutter. But when I write fiction or when I'm making an outline for something I might write for the blog I enjoy writing in an environment where nothing beyond my own imagination triggers my thought processes. 

I used have the bad habit of buying a new laptop every time I started on a new, non-fiction book for my publisher. Each generation was a little faster, a bit more assured, and as clean as could be. It seemed to mark the beginning of a project and, when the project was completed, I generally put a coda on a project by giving away the laptop to a much younger relative who could make a much longer use of the machine. 

When I write blog posts these days I generally do it at the desktop using an iMac Pro computer filled with a big and fast SSD drive and lots of speedy memory. In the nearly three years that I've had that computer it has never crashed, never faltered. When I sit down to write a blog post I like to imagine that it's so fast it makes my writing faster. The computer is surrounded by big, eight and ten terrabyte drives filled mostly with photographs so finding images with which to illustrate my blog posts is a bit easier. But the clutter isn't conducive to serious writing...

I have no issues with limited attention span or distraction in general. I have worked on some things for 18 or more hours straight through, getting up from time to time to stretch, pee or drink more coffee. I've never missed a publishing deadline. I've never been late. 

Recently, I've walked by a trendy furniture store more than a few times and always stopped to look at a very small desk that I can see clearly through the store's big, plate glass windows. Over the course of a couple months I've ventured by the store maybe ten times. The appeal of the small desk has grown with each visit. I mused that I would buy the desk in order to create small area in my office that was mentally cordoned off from business. 

When I sit at my usual (ordinary) desk I feel the resonance of all the past jobs. The high speed gateway to the web is alluring and tempting, the projects on hold call for review. The billing looms large. And the clutter can be overwhelming. I sit at that desk to do photographic post processing. And video editing. And billing. And scheduling. And indulgent/indolent web surfing. Worst case scenario? I sit here looking at Leica dealer websites and trying desperately to resist the temptation to click on "buy." 

But I've never been able to write a book at that desk. Never. I can write parts of one in a coffee shop, or at a desk in a hotel room, or while balancing a laptop on my lap on the expansive sofa in our living room, but I've never been able to do long form writing projects at the "big" desk. 

So it seemed logical to me to buy a desk that's just big enough for a laptop or maybe a legal pad and a notebook of source material. The desk I bought today (on my way home from a walk) is small but it's quite beautiful in its minimalism. It has one central drawer which is very flat and shallow. Just big enough for a scattering of pens and a few small notebooks. I'm already clearing out a corner of the office for it. I've been informed that it will be delivered early next week. I can hardly wait. 

In the meantime, between holiday duties and pleasures, I've read through Andy Grundberg's book on how photography morphed, enabled and winnowed its way into the pantheon of contemporary ART. It was a good read although Andy G. is a bit self-indulgent in places. But it reads well. 

Most of my serious reading is done outside the house and office. In fact, I've recently become cognizant that the pandemic has shut down my safe access to coffee shops and the library which, in turn, has reduced the number of spots where I like to read down to but a handful. In good weather I mostly grab coffee from Trianon Coffee and head to Zilker Park. Once there I search out one the old, stone picnic tables that have been there forever. I like to have a view of the disk golfers walking through the greenery but mostly I like reading under the very old but very accommodating live oak trees. 

I get engrossed in the reading and rarely notice how long I've been there until I take a break and reach for the coffee only to find that it's gone cold and bitter. I look at my watch, that signifier of boomer-ism, and realize that hours have passed and the sky is fading away and doing its progressive vignette. Then I mark my last read spot in the book at hand and walk, with a certain amount of resignation, back to my patiently waiting car. 

Andy's book at twilight. 

Parks are wonderful places for reading but they are only really good within a certain temperature range. In deep and toasty summertime you have the issue of sweat running down your arms and staining the pages of your book. In Winter, no matter how warm you dress you realize at some point that sitting still just makes you a target for the discomfort of the cold. Then you have to find the refuge of a well padded and well positioned chair in a warm and charitable room. 

But it's nearly the same with writing. You need to be cool enough to hold a pen without it sliding around in a nano coating of sweat in your hands. But you also need to be warm enough so your hands don't shake and your teeth don't chatter as you try to come up with the right words. I love my own office because it offers solitude and a controllable resistance to intrusions. When I shut the door behind me I know that B and B won't "drop in" without a good reason. They value their solitude at least as much. 

When I start to write something in earnest I turn off the phone and deactivate the wi-fi on my computers so I can't be summoned perfunctorily. As much as possible I control the environment. The new, tiny desk is just a small adaptation. An indulgence. A tool. It's well made and well designed and priced far lower than a good camera. What a blessing for anyone who still writes from time to time with a pen....

I guess it's a holiday gift for my writer self. It's a nice break from cameras and lenses. 

The park roof over my head. 

Book photographed with a Leica CL. Coupled with the $80 TTArtisans 35mm f1.4 lens. 

The view off into the middle distance. 

I finished reading this book on Friday evening. 
It's worth the price of admission. You will be forced to 
learn more about "modern" art. 
But you will be rewarded by understanding Photography's Victory.