I have achieved nearly complete downtown anonymity. A milestone day. But vaguely embarrassing...


This afternoon I was continuing my exploration of Sigma's exciting color profiles. I'm stuck on "cinema" right now but might be moving on soon. My current favorite place to shoot is in a ten or fifteen block chunk of downtown Austin. I headed there with the idea of getting a latté, checking out the arriving Formula One tourists, and snapping away with the Sigma fp and the old (but really nice) Canon FD 50mm f1.4 lens. 

I shot some frames of my favorite mannequins and some shiny buildings. I shot a shadow selfie with resilient plants in the frame. And I photographed a guy chilling out on the Astro-Turf at the Seaholm Shopping center about to be ambushed by a bird. 

Then I stopped into a little coffee shop on Congress Ave. got a latté.  I took the coffee to go and headed north toward the Capitol. There is a nice marble bench in front of yet another coffee shop that's outside and comfortable. I thought I'd sit for a spell (that coffee shop closes early and was shuttered when I got there) and enjoy the brisk 69° air. 

Many years ago our downtown merchants and office buildings created the "Downtown Austin Alliance" and part of their play to make downtown safer and cleaner is their team of (unarmed) street ambassadors who pick up trash, calm down people who are off their meds, liaison with the police, and also check in with the homeless population when the weather gets bad. It's bad PR to have people die of hypothermia on the doorsteps of a downtown bank building.... They have a basic uniform and when it gets colder the Downtown Austin Alliance "ambassadors" all have red windbreaker jackets with the DAA logo on them. I guess it was "cold" today because they all had their jackets and matching hats on this afternoon. 

Anyway, I was sitting on the marble bench out on the sidewalk sipping my coffee and just soaking in the ambiance, camera in my lap,  when an "ambassador" walked by. He stopped and very nicely asked me, "Are you doing okay?" In that tone that's both helpful and welcoming but also reserved. I smiled and said that I was. Then he asked, "Are you staying warm enough?" And I realized that he was operating under the assumption that I was one of the homeless population. I was touched by his concern and at the same time embarrassed that I could pass for....a down on my luck, homeless person. But then I reframed the whole episode and thought that I had finally achieved that which every street photographer works toward: Almost perfect anonymity. Of a sort. 

I guess I just had that weathered, tired and displaced look today. I headed back to my car, drove back to my neighborhood and re-entered my normal life. It was an eye-opener for me today though. But I guess in some strange way it speaks to my ability to shape shift in order to get the photos I want. It will make a good story down the road.

Also met and talked with a younger photographer who was working the streets today as well. He was sporting a vintage Leica M6 with a 35mm on it. He asked me what I was shooting with and I told him. He was a nice enough guy and he saw that I was floundering (not "foundering") at street photography. He suggested that I try reading a blog he'd recently come across that actually inspired him to come downtown to shoot... yeah. I read it. 

Watch out for that old 'homeless' photographer...


We got our first cold weather of the season today. It got down to 60° and stayed there most of the day. Might get even cooler in the middle of the week.

Sigma fp. 45mm.

I'm starting to think that all of the "practice" photos we take when we are just out with our cameras, tasked with no projects and no agenda in mind, are very much disposable. Maybe it's even a good exercise to learn how to toss away images permanently after you've looked at them. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in having hard disks more or less filled with lots of "almost" "nearly" "pretty good except for...." "so close" "so boring" etc. photographs. Someone mentioned on a different blog site that various masters of 20th century photography often felt the need to shoot two or three rolls of film every day, just to stay "tuned". Just to stay warmed up for the main events. 

Josef Koudelka was reported to have walked around a friend's house aimlessly shooting his camera each morning until he'd blasted through a couple of rolls of film. He felt it was something he needed to do to keep from getting rusty. Playing the scales as it were.

I seem to do the same thing but with the fecundity of digital cameras I come back home with hundreds and hundreds of frames. Not a handful. Not just a couple dozen. Some indifferent, most boring, but a few with promise. A very few.  

Schooled in the days of film photography we got into the mindset of never throwing images away. Even "seconds" or almost frames could be recycled as stock images or something. Now the costs of keeping a half million images on hand is trivial but the burden of having them in the mental subroutines we use to remember where we store it all is brutal. Excessive. Debilitating. 

Lately, like a sport fisherman, I've been tossing lots of catches back into the ocean of photos once I feel I've bagged my limit. I think I've come to a somewhat rational conclusion that since I'm not inclined to stop shooting all these files, wanted and unwanted, they are going to continue to increase in quantity and will eventually gum up the works. Both literally and figuratively. 

I've become less attached to the images that I used to be. Maybe it's the realization of my own fleeing years and the mortal goal posts getting progressively closer but I've realized that I don't want to spend whatever years (hopefully decades and decades) I have left hunched over the hot fires of a jam-packed computer sorting wheat from chaff and making some sort of catalog that will eventually dissolve like sugar in hot water. Better to start tossing now and with gusto then to become trapped by images that linger; vaguely wanted but mostly only as signposts along the way and not as real art, with real value. To me or anyone else. 

I like the image above. But it's not very compelling. I don't have a story that goes with it. It's decor in some downtown building at the corner of two famous streets. But whatever art is contains is lodged with the actual object and not my haphazard documentation of it. I can now bring myself to share it once here and then discard it permanently. A tiny part of a gorged hard drive will probably breathe a very small sigh of relief but then gird itself for the onslaught of more. 

It's an addiction to keep shooting when you've filled every nook and cranny of storage you own. Like a gambling addict the addicting rationale is to just keep buying more of those cute little hard drives and keep hoping that one of the stored images is a blockbuster prize/the winning lottery number, the must have NFT that's just temporarily dormant. But with the full knowledge that you'll never be shouting "Bingo!" Or "read em and weep" where all these images are concerned. 

You know the ones you need to keep. They are of treasured memories. Of close loved ones and their visual history. Your collection of celebrity photographs that may increase in value as the news cycles become ever more rabid and desparate. You keep the images that cause you to pause and look and smile every time you see them on your screen. But damn man, it's time to get rid of all the rest. 


A small gallery of Sigma fp files with the Cinema minus two profile. All images taken with the Sigma 45mm f2.8 Contemporary lens.


Cult camera and lens takes its place as the best "point and shoot" / eccentric, weird camera of this decade. And I'm not the only one who thinks so.....kinda.


I got an email today from a friend who is also a reader of the blog. He's heading to Paris on a solo photography trip. Something he has apparently done a lot. He and I have traded emails lately concerning the Sigma fp. A camera that was thrust back into the limelight by master blogger, Michael Johnston. I have to say that over the last couple of months it seems to be the camera I carry around with me everywhere. And I'm not sure if it's the camera by itself or the camera+the 45mm lens combo that endears it to me so readily. 

I'm one of the original crazy people who bought my fp as soon as it first shipped in 2020. I was attracted by the design and the specs but I was finally captured by the amazing images that I saw quickly floating around the web. When the YouTubers and big review sites poo-poo'ed the fp I knew it was probably a camera that I would love.

Since the Spring of 2020 I've shot a few video programs with it but most of my use of the camera is in the taking of photographs when I'm out and around, running errands or quality control testing coffee at various vendors within a constrained area. (I'll branch out when we've gotten all the coffee production in 78701 perfected. It might be a while). 

But circling back to my friend... he's planning to take only the Sigma fp and, I believe, the Panasonic 24-105mm zoom lens. He's got a finder for the camera and, after giving it a lot of thought, I'm pretty sure he's selected the best package for making all kinds of photographs with the fp. The lens has the range I would want and, being a product of the L mount alliance it adds image stabilization to the system. The final kicker is that he has, in the past, been a Panasonic FZ1000 users so he's already got plenty of batteries that will work in the fp camera. He's set, as far as camera gear goes. 

I got his email after I came back to the house from running errands and photographing around downtown as I made my rounds. Among other things I concentrated on unusual Halloween decor I kept coming across. I was also playing around with a customized version of the cinema color profile. And, as you probably know by now I have no fear of working with Jpegs files... When I'd made a good, long loop through the urban jungle I quit and headed to Precision Camera to buy "just one more" sandbag. 

I bought a bright orange one. I figured the more garish the color the more it could serve as a warning beacon as well as a stand immobilizer. When my graphic designer/advertising professional spouse looked at the color with a bit of disgust I knew I had selected the correct color. it would work well as a cautionary sign...

The effect of the cinema color setting is somewhat subtle. I like it a lot but in its stock configuration it's way too green and way too flat. I use the settings in the menu to add a bit of contrast and to take out a bit more of the saturation. The contrast is plus 4 steps while the saturation is minus 4 steps. Then you can adjust for the overall effect. I select minus 2 for that global setting. It gives me files that I think mimic the softer color negative films that Kodak designed back in the 1990s for portraits. And perhaps even more of a close match to Agfa Pro Portrait 160 color negative film. It's all good, clean fun.

I still experiment with the 24mm f3.5 lens from Sigma and also the little 90mm but I keep coming back to the 45mm f2.8 as my perennial favorite. It's small, sharp and at the same time....mellow. It's just the right optic to pair with the cinema color mode. Yum. One of my favorite "point and shoot" cameras ever! But with the added happiness of interchangeable lenses, a full frame sensor and amazing image quality.

Sand bag. $40. I was thinking that's pretty pricy for a yard of canvas and 25 pounds of sand but I forgot to factor in the shipping charges. Can't imagine how much you'd have to pay Fedex to overnight a couple of sandbags to you. And, yes! I know they make empty sandbags you can fill yourself but where is the fun in that? 

I have another friend who is a pro photographer in Atlanta. He also tests cameras and lenses and stuff for some online photo magazines. He's currently testing the Sigma fp L. The 60+ megapixel version. He wrote me yesterday to say that the rolling shutter ("Jello" effect) was off the charts bad. I wrote back to tell him that it's a feature, not a fault and to try not moving the camera around while making photographs. 

I cannot print his reply here because we try to keep this a "family friendly" channel. He did not agree. 

This negative appraisal of course triggered an opposing response from my brain and I've spent a small part of today re-researching the fp-L with a vague urge to add one to the fp. But in truth the fp is so close to perfect that the smart play might just to buy a second one of those just in case. 

Prepping for video this week. V-Log in both Panasonic cameras. A wild mix but all within the same family. 

More infö on that when it's all in the can.

What an exciting birthday month. Can't believe I'll be 67 years old by the end of next week and I'm still dragging around C-Stands and sandbags. My friends think I'm crazy and I'm starting to agree. I'll ponder it tomorrow morning at the early swim practice. Gotta get warmed up for the shoot....


First Perfect Use Case I've Ever Seen with a Drone. Wow!


I had to post this one. Even though I found it on the world's biggest photo site.

Caution: Wonderful mountaineering shots. 

Jeez. What a weird time I had from 4:00 a.m. till about 11:00 a.m. this morning. And this is totally off topic if you are looking for something about photography...

this is currently my favorite shooting combo. It's so illogical and counter-intuitive. An "ancient" camera body from the 2015 era coupled with a lens from the early 1970s. And not a "collectible" cult lens or amazing powerhouse lens. Nope. It's all just comfortable stuff that feels like the cameras I learned on but still has enough technical prowess to make decent photographs. No doubt that your mileage will vary otherwise we'd all be shooting with this combo, we'd all be married to B., We'd all swim more and we'd all complain more....

My day started around 4:20 a.m. today. The early wake-up certainly wasn't by design. I had the alarm clock set for 7 a.m. with every intention of sleeping right up to the edge of the clock's precision and then, fully rested, leaping out of bed and heading over to the pool for the early Sunday masters swim practice. Yep. That was the plan. And that's how it usually goes in my little section of paradise. But not this weekend...

One of my least favorite parts of living and working in Austin is our seeming, collective addiction to mass attendance outdoor music festivals. I love live music in concert halls, small clubs, The Continental Club on Congress Ave. Even solo works at places like The Elephant Lounge. I've seen great concerts at the Bass Recital Hall at UT and on the stages of three or four live theaters sprinkled around town. But the joy of sitting in large dusty or  (weather intruding) muddy field surrounded and hemmed in by chain link fences, being sold $12 dollar Cokes, using nasty Portable Potties strung out on the periphery of a hot field has always eluded me.

The music never has the polish of a indoor venue for many practical, acoustic reasons. And out of any crowd you'll have about 10% of people who are bad actors, or just plain obnoxious. So, at a concert with 100 people at a club you just need to deal with ten people. At a concert outdoors with 100,000 you'll need to be on guard for about 10,000 rude, surly, loud and inconsiderate people. Same 10%. Just feels a lot different when events scale up...

Our next door neighbors made the gamble to rent out their beautiful $3.25 million dollar house (currently on the market, if you are interested) for the weekend via AirBnB. Their house has multi-level pools on a well landscaped deck. Lots of bedrooms and bathrooms, and this weekend the house also had an infestation of 4 hard rocking, sociopathic couples. I had the suspicion there would be trouble when they first showed up and one woman in the group stood on the back deck, facing my house, and screamed over and over again, "This is just fucking incredible." I will give her points for the power of her voice and its range. While 150 feet away she sounded like she was right there in my backyard, standing right next to me. 

Not a big deal in the moment. Just a precursor of things to come. 

The whole group went off to sit in the dirt and damage their hearing at the concert. When they got back at 10:30 p.m. they started to party....hard. On the pool deck. Right across from my house. The yelling was prodigious. The hoots and yelps were sustained and feral and all of it prohibited by the rules laid out by AirBnB and the home owners (who had escaped to a hotel on the town's periphery). At 2 pm I'd had enough. Even with all the triple-paned windows in the world every scream and every bass note came though into my bedroom loud and clear. I texted the home owners who texted the "guests" who wound down the party at 2:30 and crawled off to sleep. (Rules from neighborhood, home owners and AirBnB: No parties, no noise after 10 pm). 

They were gone again all of Saturday. The homeowners apologized to B. and me profusely. Claimed to have made the rules "very, very clear" to the renters. "It would not happen again..." Etc. And, amazingly, the evening progressed well. The group was out on the town. All quiet even at our late bedtime. Ah, the miracle of sleep...

Until the group got back to their temporary base next door and ramped up a thumping good party back on the pool deck complete with ugly people skinny dipping, loud conversations, excited screams and whoops, and lots and lots of music from the sound system. I woke up immediately from a deep and wonderful sleep and looked at my watch. It was f-ing 4:10 a.m. in the morning. They were in a quiet, family-centric, residential neighborhood blithely tossing away any semblance of empathy or restraint and hitting it hard. 

I pulled on a pair of pants, walked over and asked/told them to turn off the music and take the noise inside. They mostly ignored me so I walked back over and texted the home owners. Again. At 4:20 in the morning. Calls were made. I assume the renters were threatened with being delisted from AirBnB. They finally shut their party down. 

But if you are like me and you get shocked awake in the middle of the night, and then have a confrontation with a bunch of drunk and disorderly "young adults" there's no way you'll ever get back to sleep. I lay in bed thinking of all the most violent chapters in "The Gray Man" series of novels by Mark Greaney. I fantasized about shooting a Javelin missile through the patio doors of the house next door. I sent another volley of texts to the homeowners instead.

Then, since sleep was elusive,  I got up, made a cup of Chamomile tea, tried to meditate about peacefulness and letting go of bad energy, and then (metaphorically) dragged myself to the first swim practice of the day at our club pool.

I usually brag here about my incredible swim performances but not today. All I can say is that rocks could swim better than me today. Two nights in a row of deeply disrupted sleep tend to take a toll. Being royally pissed off takes a toll. I moved down three lanes at practice. From pretty fast to just creeping along. It was my lamest swim workout of the year. But I consoled myself with the fact that I showed up and I finished the workout. That counts for something in my book. 

When I got home there were more profuse apologies on my text string and the owners were next door in the process of evicting their renters. I didn't have even a milli-second of second thoughts. And anyone who calls out, "NIMBY" or "Get Off my Lawn" in response can go dig a hole and sit in it and meditate on all the ways that they are way out of touch. 

Last I heard from the home owners the entire house smells of pot and cigarettes smoke. (Also forbidden by the rules). They've tallied up a couple thousand dollars of physical damage to their house. They've collected six bags of strewn about garbage. They're pretty furious as well. And they are not ancient men and women. They are right in the middle of the Gen X generation. 

This was the second weekend of the big, loud, inconvenient music festival. I hope my neighbors have learned something valuable. I hope they sell the house very quickly to a nice retired couple with very young grandchildren and no desire to leverage their own homestead for some quick cash. 

Working photographers really do need their sleep. We get absolutely feisty without it. 

Now, who do I sue? The neighbors? The renters? AirBnB? All of them? Letting this one go, I guess. The neighbors are actually pretty sweet. But....that's strike one and two....

Photo news: big purchase on the agenda tomorrow. I need to buy one or two more sandbags. It's for the outdoor video shoot on Tuesday. Might be contending with some breezes.... Big, exciting purchase. More sandbags are never enough.



Video Shoot Prep. Checking each piece of equipment and also trying to anticipate what could go wrong.


We're making video next week. We have one session that I'm worried about because I'm always worried about the sections of projects that have many moving parts. I think I've got the visual components well figured out for this two camera shoot but audio is always a weak spot for videographers. If something is going to head south on a shoot it's most likely to be audio. The roadblock of every production: audio issues. And you can multiply that by X2 if your audio system is based around wireless microphones. In fact, you can count on experiencing some glitch with wireless even if you've done this a thousand times before. 

The job is not huge and the stakes are not high. If we screw up there is the opportunity to come back and try again but since we have a person who has agreed to be on camera, doing a testimonial, I think it's best to try not to depend on those sorts of fall back strategies. I'll try my best on any shoot to make sure we get it on the first try. Not necessarily the first take. 

My basic routine, well in advance of the shoot day (because you never know when you might need to rush  an order for a replacement of something...) is to set up and check each piece of gear in the exact use it will get on the shoot. It's not enough to turn on a device and get a "welcome" screen. In my view you have to hook everything up and make test video. You have to see and hear that it will work. That it does work.

We'll be making video outside for the testimonial. The location is a walkway around a beautiful backyard swimming pool. If we had the perfect environment I would suspend a really nice hyper-cardioid (shotgun) microphone eighteen inches above the talent's head, pointed down at his mouth. But here's the deal; there is construction going on with some of the surrounding houses. It's a very affluent neighborhood and I think it's in the middle of that post pandemic re-modeling spurt. There's no way we're going to get multiple construction crews to stop working while we shoot so microphone choice becomes much more important. 

In situations like this an omni-directional lavaliere microphone is a great choice. You can position one close to the person's mouth and then the inverse square law helps you out by dropping down the volume of background noise as it gets further and further away. Also, the talent's body acts as a barrier to noise coming from behind him while a shotgun microphone has different nodes of sensitivity and a less rapid fall off. Another plus in this situation is that most of my lavaliere microphones are designed to work with wireless systems which means less set clutter (wires, extra stands, etc.) when we are actually shooting.

With all this in mind, and knowing I wanted to use the Panasonic GH6 as my "A" camera I pulled out the Pelican case with the mixers, pre-amps and wireless microphone systems and grabbed my Sennheiser wireless set and its ME2 lav microphone. I always remove the batteries for storage so I pulled out the Ziplock bag with double A batteries and filled up the transmitter and receiver. I ran the output from the receiver into the XLR/Pre-amp adapter for the Panasonic GH cameras, set up the camera as I would for the shoot, put on headphones and fired everything up.

From the back of the camera I set appropriate levels and then walked around to the front of the camera to do some vocal mic tests. I quickly noticed that quick movements and certain positions for the transmitter caused loud, static encrusted "hits" so I started trouble shooting. 

I pulled the transmitter cable out of the pre-amp/XLR adapter and plugged in a shotgun microphone. It worked perfectly and with no hits. That's what I expected from a hard-wired mic system. That ruled out everything from the XLR box thru the camera, including the headphones. Next I replaced the cable that goes from the radio receiver to the XLR adapter. Still had the hits when I powered back up. 

I reached into the case and pulled out another lav mic and replaced the first one. Still problems. At that point I was starting to worry that I had something going wrong with the wireless components but decided to do a system re-sync. It's pretty easy to set a new frequency pair for both the transmitter and the receiver and... BINGO; problem solved. Something somewhere was interfering with the wireless transmissions in my environment. 

I went through the same exercise with the back-up set of wireless gear and it was good to go as well. 

While I want to use the wireless lavalieres I will also bring along a small collection of super-cardioid and hyper-cardioid mics that can be hardwired and boomed, just in case....  Because?  Gremlins. Better remember to pack fifty feet or so of XLR cables...

Next up I tested the GH6 set to 4K, 60p, 422, 10 bit with the profile set to V-Log and a monitor LUT applied. I shot footage outside, in a sunlit environment and with a one stop diffuser over head. I used the luminance spot meter in the camera to set exact exposure using a gray test target. Then I brought the "footage" back into the studio and opened it in Final Cut Pro X, applied the same LUT to the imported files and looked carefully at the waveforms and vector scope. All good. 

Next step is to repeat all the steps with the B camera which will be the Panasonic GH5ii. When it tests out as well as the GH6 I'll breathe a sigh of relief and move on to testing my lighting.

We'll replace all the batteries with fresh stock the night before the shoot and say a little prayer to the photo gods. 

But there are other steps to successful projects, regardless of size. 

One week ago I met with the client at the shoot location to do an in-depth scouting and to identify all the potential B roll at the location. It took a couple hours but now we're on the same page when it comes to setting up the talent and getting shots to assist in and out of the primary shots. 

Yesterday I met again with the client to go over content. It's not a scripted testimonial, per se, but I wanted to go over what answers we were looking for and how best to construct the questions to get the optimal answers. We spent several hours distilling down our talking points and the direction we need to give the client but I think that's time well spent if it reduces the amount of delay and backtracking it takes to do the actual interviews. 

I'm sending the meeting notes to the client's assistant this morning for further feedback. 

The final thing on my list of stuff I must do or must acquire before the shoot is to go to the camera store and buy two more 25 pound sand bags. One for every light stand or C-Stand on the set. Because you can never be too careful. Especially when working around a body of water. 

If I have time this afternoon I'll test the audio with a Rode lav mic, the Sennheisers and also several microphones from a Saramonic system. I'll let my ears decide which one I like best and that's the one we'll use. There's always one more thing to do before every video production. Not doing it just makes more headaches for me down the road.


A trivial feature until you want it. Then it's pretty darn cool... (Caution: Leica oriented...).

 One thing I dislike about nearly all the "focus-by-wire" lenses out on the market is the inability of the user to set the lens to a specific distance without having to bring the camera to your eye, focus it, lock focus and then wait for your subject to be in the optimal spot. Especially frustrating when it comes to street shooting or discreet photography where pre-focusing on a certain distance can be very effective. 

Remember the days of manual focus lenses? They had distance scales on them, long focus throws, and detailed depth of field scales. You could set your 24mm lens to something like ten feet, set your aperture to f11 and be sure of getting good sharpness from 7.94 feet to 18.04 feet. Or somewhere in the very close ballpark. 

Not so with all the enormously expensive and oversized lenses we now have offered to us for our modern cameras. Big use-ability steps backwards at many turns. At least for people who like to zone focus, pre-focus or use the idea of hyper-focal distance setting. 

I'm not sure how Sony, Fuji, Canon or Nikon deal with this but there is a nice solution for Leica SL, SL2 and SL2-S users. If they are using L system lenses on their cameras and they set their lens to manual focus then a half press on the shutter brings up a nice graphic on the camera's top screen. If you've set the aperture to a specific f-stop as you turn the lens focusing ring the display will read out the exact focused distance, the focus behind the point of sharpest focus that will still be acceptable (back), and the distance at which the system will still be in focus in front of the camera (front). 

I tested this feature out again today. It works with native Leica SL lenses, Panasonic L mount lenses and Sigma L mount lenses. I don't know if other camera makers offer the same feature or something similar but for people who like to, want to, or have to manually focus anything less is a deal-killer. Yep. Deal-Killer. 

This isn't "new tech." In the M Leica world this sort of necessary and helpful information was right there on the lens for immediate visual access. And in fairness it was on all camera makers' manual focus lenses back in the day. The disconnection started with AF systems and got progressively worse in the digital age. 

Sure, Fuji and Sigma make lenses with manual aperture rings but few of them have marked distance scales and even fewer have depth of field marketings for the most used apertures. Panasonic and Olympus and Fuji make a few lenses with clutches that put the lens into a fully manual mode with hard stops at both ends of the scale and good distance and depth of field scales. That's the way to handle it on the lens side of the equation. 

But for all the other lenses the Leica SL, introduced in 2015, set the standard for this kind of usability feature. 

Not trying to be a brand champion here but I will say it's a feature I can see all kinds of use for in practice. Especially with the wider lenses. 

The perfect reason to buy a $7000 Leica SL2 body? Maybe not quite. But if you are locked into a system that doesn't have this feature, or something similar, you might consider banding together with other like minded users and starting a letter writing campaign. It might just work.

Added: A decent article about hyperfocal distance measuring and implementation.... https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/calculating-hyperfocal-distance-in-photography

Part of being engaged in photography, for me, is seeing really wonderful work. Seeing it printed and well displayed. So, let's talk about a show I saw yesterday.


The HRC promotes their shows in part with these larger than life
posters. There are smaller posters hung on nightstands nearby as well. 

The Humanities Research Center at the UT Austin campus has one of the largest collections of photography in the world. It houses the Magnum Photo print archive which my friend Will and I did a video about ten years ago. It's the location where I first met Elliott Erwitt and  then spent an afternoon with him in downtown Austin. It was my favorite place to take small groups of students to explore master works by 19th and 20th century photographers. On one visit there I ran into Arthur Meyerson. On another visit Magnum Photographer,  Eli Reed. Suffice it to say that it is, in some ways, ground zero for art photography in our city. The core of the collection was contributed by photo historian, Helmut Gernsheim: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmut_Gernsheim 

I hadn't been to the galleries in a while but I noticed in an email that the ground floor gallery (the big one) was going to have a showing of Laura Wilson's portrait of writers and I knew I had to see this. Laura Wilson first landed on my photography radar back when Richard Avedon was working on his grand opus, "In the American West." Laura Wilson had been hired to help produce the photographs. Not as in produce the actual prints but as in: figure out the locations with the most potential, arrange the endless road trip travel with Avedon and his assistants. Help pull people/strangers into the project as subjects and so much more. She also documented the project, photographically, over the course of six years and...if that wasn't enough....she also wrote the text for Avedon's resulting book. There is a book she wrote and photographed for about Avedon's process and journey west that is, in itself, a very interesting look at how art gets made. My copy or her book is dog-eared. Re-read at least a dozen times.  What I did not know at the time was how she was connected and that she was also a wonderful photographer in her own right.

Her specialty has always been portraiture. I was blown away when I looked at her bio here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Wilson_(photographer) Her book on the Hutterites of Montana was well received by the arts community and was probably one of the reasons she was hired for the Avedon project. But enough about Avedon. I'm here to praise Wilson's amazing work.

She's spent a large part of her career photographing internationally renown writers. Novelists, poets and playwrights. The work being shown at the HRC is all black and white (except for a small wall by way of a collage) and printed large....  and well. The space in the HRC is enormous and so each section of the show is well lit and well hung and viewers have ample space to step back and understand how expansive it is. When I walked into the gallery yesterday around 2 pm I was the only visitor. I had the whole show to myself. It was amazing and I felt privileged to see the work absolutely unencumbered by the presence of anyone else. Not even a guard or a docent.

Two interesting additions to the story. First, Wilson has some famous children. Luke, Owen and Andrew Wilson. Owen is one of my absolute favorite movie actors. He credits being constantly a subject for his mom's photography as a small child for his comfort now in front of movie cameras. ( loved him as "Hansel" in Ben Stiller's great movie: Zoolander).

A second addition to this story is a Six Degrees of Separation coincidence. I noticed on one of the placards next to an beautiful print of a Scottish writer Wilson mentioned that the writer cooked dinner for her and her photographic assistant. The assistant was a fellow named, Matt Lankes. He's a native Austinite and I have worked with him from time to time. He used to be one of the best of the best photo assistants before he moved on and became a very superb portrait photographer in his own right. He was the still photographer for Richard Linklater's movie, "Boyhood" and the stills from that movie are incredible. 

Matt assisted me on the day I photographed former president, Bill Clinton for Dell, Inc. He's not only a great photographer but apparently an excellent soccer player as well. He reached out to let me know that he accompanied Laura Wilson on a large number of shoots the photos from which ended up in this show. 

One can look at images on the web or in books but it is a completely different experience to see works printed exactly as the artist intended, in sizes big enough to make an impact and to allow deep exploration even by older audience members like me who need to look through the top part of my bifocals to see large prints in their entirety and then look through the bottoms of the glasses to see the detail. Yeah, I should try no line bifocals again.... sigh.

I suggest anyone interested in photography who lives within 100 miles of Austin to make a day trip of Laura Wilson's wonderful show. If you are flashy wealthy then by all means hop on that plane from wherever and comes see the show. It's pretty darn wonderful. 

One of a half dozen long walls covered with portraits of writers.

Writer, Zadie Smith. 

My favorites from the show are these images of Carlos Fuentes. 
He is one of Mexico's greatest writers. I love that each artist is shown not only
in a formal portrait but also in his or her environment in a series of detail images. 
The formal portrait of Fuentes is amazingly well done. (The little blue dot just
about his head in the forma portrait isn't part of the print; it's a reflection of a gallery light). 

blog note: 

I want to thank everyone for responding to my short, casual survey.

I love writing about photography. I just need to get better about ignoring 

distractions and such. I'm certain I'm still having trouble dealing with the  

trauma of the international pandemic which totally changed my art and business, 

and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Next week I'll get around to worrying about the stock market.... 

I ask for your patience. I've been afflicted throughout adulthood with 

acute anxiety and all of its attendant issues; one of which is being too reactive 

to criticism. I'm working on it. That's all I can promise.