6.20.2022

Seen around town in black and white. Plus...."wealthy" suburbanites painting residential fencing...

 





Seen in black and white on the streets and in the galleries of Austin, Texas.

I'm really enjoying photographing in black and white, in the streets of Austin,  across a selection of fun cameras. The Leicas have the fewest controls or settings for their monochrome settings but seem to do a great job of rendering black and white images with the tones I like best. Who knows why? (And that's not really a rhetorical question...). 

Today is too freakin hot to care about technical details and the "pursuit of perfection" so I'm making do with the little (and lightweight) Leica CL, paired up with a TTArtisans 23mm f1.4. And I may switch that lens out for the Sigma Contemporary 24mm f3.5 just so I don't have to waste the energy focusing for myself. 

Like many other Americans we're currently roasting in place with a high pressure dome overhead and record heat all around us. We're in good shape to "weather"  it if we stay inside but I'm already suffering from permanent cabin fever and I'll go out walking this afternoon; at least for a little while...

In a related story, I did "blue collar" work today. We've been trying to get our wooden fence repainted this year. Sure, the costs/charges have gone up a lot since the times before the pandemic, but our biggest issue is that the labor market in Austin is all screwed up. House repair and maintenance demands are at an all time high and the myriad waiting lists for.....everything are untenable. 

For example. In the Fall we ordered new windows for the house. It took nearly four months to get them built and delivered to Austin but another two months to get on the schedule with the company's installers. Half a year for a dozen windows.  Used to be two weeks. 

I finally got tired of looking out of our new windows at the ever-weathering fence and decided that I'd just do it myself. I've been getting up each morning at 6 a.m. for the past couple of weeks to get in a few hours of painting before swim practice. I finished today. We don't swim on Mondays. The pool is closed for maintenance. So I wrapped up with a marathon painting session and even remembered to clean all the brushes. 

I guess physical labor can be fun. I don't find that to be the case for myself. I'll work harder in the future to sock away more cash to trade for someone else's time doing that kind of work. I think I'm more productive when I'm taking photos. Not when I'm (carefully) sloshing paint on a fence and trying to schedule the work around staying out of the brunt of the heat. 

But someone had to do it. And those waiting lists....

In another related story I discussed with a long time restaurant owner on Friday, the unintended consequences of every economic action. She's had a tough time staying in business. Her vendors are being hit by everything from a shortage of truck drivers to the ever escalating cost of diesel fuel (which has gone up more dramatically than gasoline). The prices they charge her have gone up. Some dramatically.

It's harder than ever to retain employees even if you are paying unskilled people twice the minimum wage and offering some benefits. But on Thursday the city of Austin announced that they were raising the lowest tier city worker wages to $22 per hour + benefits. A good thing for workers but another blow to small businesses.

Most people believe that working for any part of any government is easier and cushier than working in the private sector so now lifeguards, gardeners, parking ticket issuers and many others will start at the new wages with the city and create yet another huge diversion of workers out of the service industries and into "public service." My client's prices will have to go up if she is to stay in business. 

But with all the talk of a pending recession and the collapse of various financial markets the customers she is counting on are tightening belts, learning to cook at home, reining in non-critical credit card expenses and generally becoming highly price raise resistant. It's anything BUT a virtuous circle...

It's at times like these that not having employees seems to have been a wonderfully wise decision. And it seems that even something as droll as painting one's own fence is a decent strategy for capital conservation. And a quick way to ruin a pair of pants...

It's a changing world. 

Finally....Texas Republicans. Really? "Thoughts and Prayers" that Texas survives the colossal vitriol and obvious insanity of the State GOP. Just astoundingly evil. You can't make some of this stuff up!

I've been cleaning out the studio. I looked in some boxes I hadn't gone through in half a dozen years. I found lots and lots of prints.





At one point in my photo-trajectory I had a habit of printing my favorite frame from every job or project. The only exception was the typical "headshots." Nobody really needed to see large prints of modern office workers standing or siting in front of seamless backgrounds. But everything that looked good to me as a print got the treatment. 

My process was simple. I'd select a frame, do a bit of post processing that would make images look better on printing paper and then send them over to my local Costco to be printed on their lustre surface paper at a uniform and mostly uncropped size of 12 by 18 inches. If I was impatient or just wanted to see what variations might look like I'd fire up the inkjet printer and make prints on Canon's Photo Paper Pro Platinum or Lustre. I always had the idea that the process of printing all the work I liked would quickly give me a huge variety of really nice photographs that I could place into custom configured portfolios when needed. 

But over time I realized that I never got around to showing a book anymore and that all the art directors and creative directors I wanted to work with were more than happy to go to my website and look around there. So now I have storage boxes upon storage boxes and hundreds and hundreds of large prints that I can't bear to throw out. I still like most of the images very much. 

It's fun to look through the boxes and shuffle through the prints. I can see the evolution of digital cameras over time but, also the disappointing realization that, in these sizes, the quality differences between the 24 and 36 megapixel cameras and the more "primitive" 6 megapixels cameras comes nowhere near to matching the hysteric promises and marketing of camera makers and their legions of reviewing minions. 

I guess if we all shot everything in very, very dark settings, and needed all of our printed pieces to be made as large 48 by 60 inch murals, you could make a decent case for the constant camera upgrade mania but if you are a rational human being (rare) and you can put images shot decades apart side by side for evaluation you'll most likely be disappointed to discover that every dollar spent after a certain point was just money being tossed onto a hot fire. 

In the images I randomly tossed in to fill out the visual component of today's blog there is an older (2012 era) micro four thirds camera represented, an older Nikon APS-C camera, a Canon 5Dmk2 camera, a Nikon D2X camera, and even a Fuji S5 camera. But laid out on the floor, adjacent to each other, each printed image looks sharp, mostly noise free and aptly color balanced. Much more alike than they are different.

Of the prints here the one of the kids is the one I like best. And it was taken with a camera most would consider the least competent. Sometimes perspective can be both valuable and a bit painful...