hanging out doing post processing from yesterday's job and amusing myself by looking at new cameras and lenses. There's some fun stuff out in the marketplace. I'm not in a buying mood but I'm always curious.


Actor, Beth Broderick and concert pianist, Anton Nel just hanging out in the studio.

I'm pretty much still in the honeymoon phase with three different cameras. All three are Leica models. I like the SL2 for its projection of image quality dominance. I like the original SL for its almost indestructible build quality (and its panache that still shows after eight years in service). And I really like the Q2 for its compactness of purpose and its almost perfect design. I am amused to still consider that I am in the honeymoon period with the SL2 as it's been well over two years since I bought that camera. In the past my crushes on new cameras diminished to mere "confidence of purpose" within the first year and started out the second year as something "usable" while I looked around to see if there was something better. And at the end of the second year it was "ship jumping time" even if the grass wasn't much greener anywhere else. 

There are some brands though that keep nipping at my consciousness and imploring me to give em another try. And then there are some, like the Sony A7 series, that I consider unusable and unloveable. Like milk that's been in the fridge for months. Or a car that keeps breaking down on lonely highways. While no Sony has left me walking into the next small town looking for repairs they just aren't cameras that inspire me to do fun work. Or any work at all. I'm sure lots of people like them. I'm sure lots of people can point to good photograph which have been taken using them. But I'm equally sure that some number of people also sung the praises of the Pontiac Aztec while it was on the market...

I often wonder if I've overlooked some brand that might have finally perfected its offerings enough to give the Leicas a run for their money where I am concerned. Here are the ones I actively think about when I should be thinking about keeping the car in the correct lane, or pouring steaming hot water over fresh coffee grounds, or handling explosive materials, or trying to fix my own refrigerator...

There are actually two different Fuji APS-C cameras that I've been following since their introductions. One is nudging closer and closer to the dangerous, "What could it hurt just to try one, along with one, single solitary prime lens?"  That would be the Fuji X-Pro3. I know the sensor would make great images because, if I remember correctly, it's the same sensor used in the XT-3. That was a camera I used a lot and enjoyed very much. The appeal to me of the X-Pro3 is the rangefinder styling and the overall design of the camera and the controls. I've always enjoyed top mounted shutter speed dials and also EV dials. The camera looks sleek and beautiful while also giving an extensive nod to "retro" fashion. That body with something like the 35mm f2.0 lens, or the even more whimsical 35mm f1.4 lens would make a great "artist's" camera and I wouldn't mind walking around shooting with one. 

I imagine that I will pick up one eventually but I'll most likely have to wait for a year or so. They currently seem to be back-ordered everywhere and I figure they won't tumble into the aggressive used market for at least that long (a year or two) around the time when most lukewarm hobbyists give up cameras and photography altogether and turn their attention to riding lawn mower races or goading Europeans about their banking habits. 

The advantages of the X-Pro3 for me are the eccentric and happily silly flip down rear monitor screen with its illustration of film types on its rear panel when closed. That and the ability to actually use the camera like a rangefinder; not necessarily for focusing but for viewing directly. I'm sure you'll read a review of this product here long after the review might have been useful. Kinda like the Leica SL.... (circa 2015). 

The next Fuji camera on the list is one of the latest ones. The XT-5. As I said, I liked the overall handling and image quality of the XT-3 but I traded it away because I was convinced, at the time, that I "needed" a more video extensive model. The XH-1 was close but plagued with audio issues. I moved on. 

But now I don't really give a crap about video production, would rent a real video camera if needed, and kinda love the idea of an upgraded and even more capable version of the XT-3. Fuji has solved so many of the issues I had with the older camera. Bigger battery and more shots per. A nicer, higher res viewfinder. I'd be torn though by also thinking about the XT-4 which used the older 26 megapixel sensor and I always seem to like the files coming from lower res sensors better; all those things the same. 

The XT-5 has some allure but really, it's the X-Pro3 that will probably find itself nestled in my shopping cart. I'd be interested to hear from past or current owners as to why they bought it and if they still use it.

Another brand/model of camera that constantly shows up in the hands of satisfied, serious photographers is the Nikon Z6ii. Nice, 24 megapixel sensor, nice body styling and size. And, according to many, a really nice and super performing 50mm f1.8. My favorite focal length and not so fast as to be a compromise between speed and performance or speed and handling. I was always pretty happy with older, DSLR Nikons I owned, as far back as the D2HS and the D2X cameras but also the full framers like the D700, D800e and the D810. My only problem with the later, higher res models was the angsty frustration of trying to get lenses to focus accurately. So many were either front of back focusing. When correctly dialed in the whole system of camera and lens was great. But getting there could be a nightmare. Of course, one of the many great things about mirrorless cameras is the accuracy of focusing. In fact, I think if I ever ended up ditching the L mount cameras two of the Nikons would be top choices as replacements. They are small and light, have good battery life, nice screens and pretty files. Nice color science. 

Those would be the Z6ii and the Z7ii. A couple of good zooms and that 50mm to start. But, as I said above, still in the honeymoon period with various Leicas...

Last in today's list of cameras I'd like to at least try out would be the Ricoh GR111x. Most people seem to like it because it's small. A lot of people like it because they find the lens to be quite good. I think I would like it because I think someone finally got the right focal length lens on the front of a point and shoot camera. A 40mm equivalent. It would harken me back to the days when I started out shooting with a Canonet QL17 camera and how much fun that focal length was (and still is) for me.

Sure, the battery life is shorter than a cup of hot coffee in a snowbank and sure, there isn't a nice EVF, but you can get a nice bright line finder and there is something to be said for a camera you can take with you just about anywhere. Even in the pocket of your tightest disco pants. If you are so inclined. 

I wonder how many of you have picked up the GR111x and what your thoughts about it are. Inquiring minds attached at the hip to credit cards want to know....

Next time we might want to cover some current lenses that whet the appetite. There are a few that keeping falling in and out of my online shopping carts. Now just waiting to see what the tax bill will be like before I pull the trigger. If I can even afford to trigger a purchase in the first place. 

Be well. Stay refrigerated. Demand good service. Pay your full share of taxes so I don't have to shoulder your shortfall. 

Thanks, Kirk

I worked for an advertising agency yesterday. It was fun. They were so nice to work with. It made me nostalgic for work.

I first met the person who now owns and runs the ad agency I worked with yesterday many years ago. It was the mid-1990s and he was working in the marketing department at Motorola. I guess, at this point we've known and worked with each other for around 28 years. The creative director of the agency and I go back even further. Their company is on my new shortlist of "companies I still want to work with." 

Their company has grown quickly over the last five years. They keep adding employees not just in Austin but across the U.S. We've been making portraits of the staff, in a certain style, for the last two years. We started out photographing the people in downtown areas/locations that were a mix of new architecture and industrial looking backgrounds. The subjects were subtly lit and the backgrounds were intentionally out of focus. 

Of course, since we were working outdoors and on uncontrolled locations we ended up having to deal with wind, rain, hail and security guards. Sometimes one at a time but sometimes everything at once. At some point, after carefully watching the weather forecasts only to be surprised by 40 mph wind gusts we decided to do the ongoing project in a different way. I made a "library" of interesting blurry backgrounds and then we started making portraits against white in a small studio at the ad agency's headquarters. 

This meant that, for the most part, we were immune to sudden changes in weather, etc. but it also gave me total control over the lighting. For the agency it meant being able to schedule more people in a morning or afternoon. And have fewer people traveling outside the office and into downtown Austin. That saved on the emotional wear and tear of driving through a frenetic and crowded cityscape and the sometimes difficult task of finding parking. (A note to our European readers: No. There is no mass transit between the agency location and our downtown location. Well, nothing that would take less than four or five hours of travel time and three or four bus changes/transfers.... on a route you could drive with a car in 20 or so minutes...).

Yesterday the agency was onboarding four new employees and there were five other employees who had joined the firm in the last 90 day and all of them would be at the H.Q., in person. So, we needed to make portraits of nine people. The project coordinator and I scheduled about a week in advance to set up around 10 a.m. and photograph between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. The late morning start meant that I could make it to swim practice and still have plenty of time. (Grueling swim practice...but that's a story for another post).

I've done this sort of job many times and my biggest surprise was the anxiety I felt the day before. It had been a while since we packed up and went out to engage with clients. Not more than three or four times in the first quarter of this year. 

I've been slimming down the amount of gear I bring with me on projects. Yesterday I packed light. Two battery powered strobes (Godox AD200 Pros), a couple of light stands for the lights, two umbrellas (a 60 inch and a 45 inch), two light stands for the short roll of white seamless paper/background, and the flash trigger+back-up. 

I thought a lot about cameras and lenses and in the end I defaulted to the Leica SL2 and the Sigma 65mm i Series lens. At first I thought about going completely "old school" with the cameras and lenses and shooting "long." As in, a 90mm to 105mm focal length equivalent. The traditional "tight" headshots. I would use the SL2 in the APS-C crop mode which would give me an ample 22 megapixels of resolution and a focal length equivalent of nearly 100mm. But on further reflection I decided to break out of old habits and just embrace the wider focal length of the lens. I shot all the portraits in the full frame mode of the camera. After all, I needed to shoot wider; waist up, in order to do clean drop-ins/composites with the images from the library of urban and industrial backgrounds. 

Why do I adore clients like this one? Well, they schedule projects with my schedule preferences in mind and they don't reflexively like to start early in the day. All of the people who have been there for a while are more like friends than clients. They really do care about their relationships with both sides of the work equation: clients and vendors. When I walked through the doors with my small load of gear I got hugs from 50 year old men. Offers to carry my gear by the young recruits. Hearty handshakes. Queries about my son's career and when he might want to jump ship and join their agency. Queries about B. and her retirement ( her last design project was actually for this agency for which the agency and B won Addy Awards at the most recent Advertising Agency awards show). And a genuine interest in learning what I thought might be big trends in the industry. Those guys know how to "work a room" but it was genuine.

I arrived at 10 and was set to go by 10:30. That's when the project coordinator dropped by the studio to check in and invite me down the hall to a lobby where they'd set up coffee, pastries, breakfast tacos and yogurts for agency meetings. "Help yourself." And not just "breakfast tacos" but "GREAT BREAKFAST TACOS" from my favorite restaurant. Outstanding coffee as well.

With the lights set and metered I was ready for a steady stream of "customers" and was not disappointed. I had a wonderful and long conversation with one of the original principals who does media training for execs at companies like Dell and IBM. I met the new executive creative director who was fun, nice and hilarious all at once. And every younger person was excited to be there and to be engaged with their industry. It reminded me of how much fun it was when B. and I were running a regional advertising agency back in the 1980s. (How quickly we forget the headaches...).

The Leica SL2, combined with the Sigma 65mm f2.0 was just perfect. Snappy eye-detect AF and, afterwards, luscious, detailed and color accurate files to work with. 

After I wrapped the gear and stuck it into my car they invited me to stick around for the "all hands" lunch that included various tuna, chicken and avocado wraps, fruit salads, pasta salads and more. The CEO and I swapped some old Motorola war stories and then I headed home to start on post production. 

A wonderful day and a reminder that there's still a lot of projects out there I want to do. I guess I'm not so much "retired" as "becoming increasingly pickier" about what I want to do and who I want to do it for.

On the domestic front: This morning I'm still dealing with the dreaded and recalcitrant refrigerator from hell. But today I'm wildly optimistic. I had four visits from a third party tech over the last month. From a third party company that contracts to do warranty service for GE. All miserable failures. A rude and smelly tech each time. And each time a refrigerator that went right back to its malign ways. I'd finally had enough and asked an attorney to take over this convoluted adventure. He got in touch with GE....

This morning at 9:45 a.m. two (not one. TWO) GE Appliance Repair trucks arrived at my house. GE Technicians (x2) got out and assembled real, actual diagnostic tools. Laptops, Fluke meters, cables and all manner of devices to finally, accurately figure out what the hell is wrong with the refrigerator. They will be here until it is fully repaired and tested. And tested.

An adventure in domestic appliances that I need to make into a novel. Gotta look and see if anyone  installed spyware on the machine...



I just wanted to take a moment to thank my readers who sent me advice earlier in the week, re: banking without checks.

 Many have written to brag to me that they have not dealt with checks (or cheques) in years, or even decades. They don't write them at all. Pretty amazing to me. But each have admitted that sometimes they do receive checks (or cheques) and that they have a super-technically, ultra-efficient way of handling the disposition of checks (or cheques). Apparently they are able to point their smart phone cameras at the check in question, make a photo of the check and somehow send this information to their banks which are somehow able to intuit what to do with the photographs. 

I suspect that this method might require one to place onto their phone something that's called an "app." Which is short form for application. Being able transfer or deposit checks this way on devices that are among the world's most secure devices, on networks known for their high security and unhack-ability is mind-boggling to we few banking muggles. I'd like to try this new method but I have a question or two. 

My biggest question might paint me in a somewhat sinister light but I really want to know if it's possible just to use PhotoShop to add a few digits to a check's total in order to boost my income by a bit? Secondly, will I need to print out the check I've photographed, on paper, and then send it via physical mail to the bank?

If I do need to print out the check will I need a special kind of printer or a special kind of paper? Are checks more authentic when printed with, say, a Canon printer versus an Epson printer? And does paper type matter? Is a check better handled on glossy or matte. And, I hope you'll forgive my ignorance on this but if I have to send the photograph of the check via USPS (United States Postal System) why could I not just send the original check along instead?

But here's where the mental gymnastics get a bit trickier. One commenter suggested that after sending the phone-enabled check to the bank via whatever radio waves the phone uses I could then elect to spend the money via some type of card or another. But that brings up the whole question that started this particular thread: What if I would like to receive cash, folding, paper money to put in my pocket as a result of this check deposit? Not ephemeral money in some cloudy online account but legal tender printed by the government? Spendable just about anywhere. At least in the USA.

When I use the "phone app" does the cash/paper money get sent to me by mail, or Federal Express? How long would that take? What if someone steals it from my mailbox? How do I get my hands on the cash?

I guess I could make a photograph of the check with my phone, then print it, then send it to my bank and then get in my car and drive somewhere in town where there might be an ATM (automatic teller machine) that works with my bank, surveil the surroundings to ensure a lack of obvious muggers, enter a plastic card into a slot on the ATM, enter a PIN (personal identification number), navigate to "withdrawals" and then hope the cash money squirts from the machine, rush back to my car, jump in, lock the doors and take off. 

Seems like a hell of a lot of work to me for something that should be... convenient. 

And if I use an ATM and it has a skimmer on it and my information gets stolen and my account gets "hacked" how much time and energy will I spend trying to get my money restored? Which I guess is preferable to getting robbed at knifepoint gunpoint (thanks John) while standing in front of an ATM. Right?

So, if a big insurance company sends me a paper check and I can put it in my wallet thinking that my bank is downtown at the intersection of most of my almost daily walks, and on my route could I not, instead, just deviate 25 feet from the path, walk into the bank lobby, hand the check to a warm, happy, conscientious bank teller and have them hand me the folding, paper cash money into my waiting hand with no delay and no risk? Wouldn't that sound pretty good? 

I mean, it's not like I need the money to pay bills or anything like that. Goodness no! I do that at home through a service called, "online banking." No, I just thought it would be nice to have some real cash to do things like: tip Skycaps at the airport, drop a few bills into the near empty tip jar next to the surprisingly good street musician, donate some lunch money for an aging homeless fellow on Congress Ave., pay for an inexpensive cup of coffee. Or maybe just for the nostalgia of having some cash in my pockets. 

Sadly, the bank where I do most of my larger transactions is in a different state and I generally have to do my transactions with that banking resource via that secret thing I mentioned just above: online banking. 

But I've never done a transaction bigger than $200,000 at any one time. And that was to pay off a mortgage. Kind of scary to do that as a "bank transfer" or "wire transfer"; especially something that big but it seemed to work out just fine. Probably easier now since that was about ten years ago. 

Now, is there anyone who could step up and help me with my darn VCR (video cassette recorder)? It's very frustrating but after one of the maids accidentally unplugged its electrical connection from the alternating current wall socket it's been acting squirrelly. Now that I have plugged the unit back in it just keeps blinking "12:00" over and over again. I've tried turning it off and on again but it insists on blinking those mysterious numerals. I have heard that there are things called "DVDs" but my son, who works for an A.I. (artificial intelligence) tech start-up tells me that a thing called "streaming" is all the rage now. You can "download" or "stream" movies!!! On demand!!!! But he does tell me that I'll need to progress beyond our dial-up connection in order to take advantage of this new technology.... I wonder if they can just fax the movies to me?

I would mention the reality that I can still, in 2023, get in the car and go to a theater to see a projected movie but I'm sure the same crew of commenters might pooh-pooh that idea as well. After all, Isn't watching a feature film so much better on the screen of an Android phone? I ought to try that sometime. I'm sure it's just as compelling an experience....

But...wait for it......I have just been informed that all not cameras now need to take films. But that's a subject for another post. Or "blog". 


The Leica Q2 is a very nice Monochrome camera. I'm wondering just how much better the dedicated monochrom model might be....


My tip about surviving a blood test: Visualize your favorite camera. Now visualize photographing your favorite image with the camera. If this doesn't work just whimper and cry until it's over...

After going over some details pursuant to the upcoming multi-person portrait shoot this afternoon I looked at the mess I'd made on the dining room table. There were multiple camera batteries, a Leica Q2, a Leica SL2 and a Sigma fp layered over the top of a bundle of brokerage statements and notices from Medicare. I wanted to choose a camera and lens to take with me on a long walk to my bank. It's smack in the middle of downtown. I thought I wanted to play with the Leica SL2 and the Sigma 65mm lens but in the end the smaller size and the intriguing (to me) 28mm focal length of the Q2 won out. I grabbed an extra battery for my pocket and put the Q2 over my shoulder. Then I headed out. 

I haven't had any cash in my pockets since I was in Vancouver, Canada last November. Just don't use it anymore. And, like film, I don't really see myself transitioning back. ApplePay is safe and easy. Everyone accepts it. I don't have to deal with ATMs or other points of failure. But every once in a while stuff conspires to put cash back in my pocket. Yesterday I got a reimbursement check (very partial) for my recent dental check-up. A whopping $48. I decided to incorporate a physical visit to my local, one location bank to cash said check. And after the SVB imbroglio I wanted to make sure my commercial bank was still alive and kicking. They were. They cashed my Medicare reimbursement check and didn't even need to see my I.D. Why would they? I've been working with the same cashier for a couple of years. 

I like my bank. They are responsive. They are local. The CEO is an old pal from Dell Computer. He used to be the CFO there. My personal bank officer is a guy I swim with named..... Guy. When I opened an account with them I asked about fees and charges. Guy just laughed. Jim just laughed. "We'll never charge you a fee. Ever." That's a bank I can enjoy. I'll just remember to keep less than $250,000 there on deposit. 

With my $48 shoved into my pants pocket I continued my walk with the overriding objective of just walking, looking and making images of stuff I wanted to see photographed. I have to say that after fits and starts, and stops with the Q2 I now see why so many people are enamored with the camera and why it's so popular. It just exudes quality and precision. And the images that pop up on the screen after I press the shutter button seem a cut above everything else I shoo with. 

Lately I've been doing more and more black and white with that camera. Sometimes I shoot raw and then convert to black and white by trial and error, and more trial and error while at other times I find myself surrendering to the BW HC mode in the camera menu, enhanced with a little customization of the contrast. Which all brings me to the point of wondering if the Monochrom version of this camera might be even better in its representation of black and white images. 

I've reached out to an old contact at Leica and requested a Q2 Monochrom loaner. I have every indication that they'll send one along. After all, in the past they've sent along a 15mm Biogon, an M8, and three different Summarit lenses for me to test. As well as a 35mm f1.4 Aspherical and an M9. I can't wait to try it out. I have some projects in mind that are a nice fit for the parameters of the camera and lens. And black and white.

Life is short. I'm impatient. I want to go right to the source. I don't have the time or inclination to monkey around with half measures. If the Monochrom is as good as I think it might be I'll snag one for long term use. Why not?

Does anyone reading this have any direct experience with the Q2 Monochrom? I'd love to hear about it. 

Thanks, KT

P.S. Austin is hosting the Country Music Television Awards in our downtown this week. What does that mean? Well a bunch of inconvenient street closures mixed with a bunch of really, really shitty "music" for the unwashed. Do you love, love, love country and western music? (Not counting Bob Wills or Willie Nelson) Then you might want to stop reading the VSL blog because with the exception of Mick Jagger's song, "Heartbreak Hotel" I think that almost all that genre of music, done over the last 30 years, is absolute crap.

And I hate to see Austinites inconvenienced in their own downtown for the benefit of companies profiting from  a bad "art" and a crowd with bad taste in music.


OT: Prevention. A good strategy for long term health?


Ben leading in the last lap of the mile. 2016.

One of the things I hate most in adult life is getting a blood test. Not a happy little finger prick but a full on jab deep into the vein in the crook of my arm. "We'll only need two tubes." "You'll hardly feel it..." In what universe is two tubes of hot, red blood not too much? And there might be people out in the world with no nerve endings in their arms but I'm certainly not one of them. The emotion of a it all must give me a vaso-vagal response that's off the charts because I can assure you that drawing my blood while I'm sitting or standing will have me unconscious on the floor in seconds. To my greater incredulity I have heard (often) that there are people who like to watch the procedure of their own blood draws. That would have me sitting in front of my psychiatrist in a....heartbeat.

So why do I, yearly, submit to this relatively quick but deep torture? Well, mostly because I do believe in the old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." And also, although there isn't a nifty saying about it, I understand the benefits across a wide range of maladies of "early detection." 

Over the weekend I wrote about winding down the business a bit. Maybe not a full "ripping off of the bandaid" but more of a throttling back of the engines of photographic commerce. One of my friends joked that this would free up more time to visit doctors. Which seems to be an active pastime of people over a certain age. It's funny that all of this change would coincide with a dentist appointment (all good, no cavities, no gum disease), a visit with my dermatologist (all good, no cancerous or pre-cancerous spots --- but a lengthy discussion about the relative merits, for him, of a Leica Q2) and then again this morning for day one of a two day physical exam (routine and yearly --- concierge physician; my personal provider of 27 years, and how I can mostly ignore the American medical system...).  

My blood pressure was a bit high before the blood draw. But nicely purring along when taken again ten minutes after the "jab and flow." I weighed four pounds less than I did at my last physical. My eyes are 25/25 and symmetrically enabled. I can hear bats echolocate with my right ear and I'm just above average in my left ear. My EKG was normal. As were all the BMI, % of fat, and other metrics. I have not shrunk in height over the years. Not yet. And my balance is very good. Actually....excellent. 

The rest of the physical takes place next week and the doctor and I will get to deconstruct the numbers from the blood test. The only thing I've added to my routines lately, beyond lifting weights, is a striking increase in the consumption of really good peanuts. Which are not actually a nut but are, instead, a legume. Super-low glycemic index, lots of protein and fiber and chocked full of good minerals. My new snack food. Thanks to a reader/commenter/friend of VSL who sent me a giant tin of Whitley's Peanuts after a recent visit. I just re-ordered....so "thank you." 

I'm sure most of you go through routines like this once a year (teeth and skin x2) because you want to take charge of your good health, or you just want to get your money's worth out of your insurance, or your Medicare policy. I think it's great for trying to figure out what you need to change, add or remove from your day to day lifestyle to live optimally. I joked a week or so back about adding strength training to my regimen so I could continue to carry heavy camera gear but you know what? It really works!

Checking on your health is not much different than checking in with your wealth management team over the course of a year to make sure your investments are on track and doing well. Or keeping your car running safely and as it should with routine maintenance. 

We're holding steady on the camera and lens inventory over here. I was tempted to follow through and pick up the Leica 50mm f2.0 ASPH lens last week but in retrospect I'm glad I didn't because it appears that Sigma, on April 3rd, will be announcing or introducing their own 50mm f2.0 lens as part of their i-Series lenses. I'd rather own the Sigma as every i-Series lens I've gotten from them has been a wonderful combination of great styling and superb optical quality. And it seems slotted in to be 1/3rd the price of the Leica SL product. Or 1/8th the price of the 50mm APO model. And, of course, you know how I like to watch every penny....

But, surprisingly,  not all of my favorite clients have fled the playing field of photography. On Thursday I'll head over to public relations and advertising company, Hahn, and make portraits of eight different people who I will then composite into some backgrounds the art director and I shot last year. A very large medical products company keeps teasing a big, upcoming (and production intensive) campaign and there are several ad agencies in San Antonio that have just requested bids and treatments for upcoming projects. Not nearly as dire as it might seem to be around here and certainly enough to throw off sufficient dollars with which to pick up fun gear from time to time. 

Can't wait for that 50mm Sigma lens. Just the right size, price, etc. All the rest of the stuff? We'll take it on a case-by-case basis. 

A quick tutorial on finance for new photographers. Part one, maximize marketing to maximize profits and gross income. Part two, never spend a cent that you can't bill back to a client,  and use in multiple jobs, and depreciate or deduct. Save money outside the business every month. Buy and hold S&P 500 index funds. Buy and hold carefully researched stocks only in companies that you deeply understand. Don't buy expensive cars or trucks. Don't feel as though you are entitled to costly family vacations at the drop of a hat. Never have cable TV. If you must eat out at restaurants try to limit yourself to once a week. Better yet, twice a month. Only buy clothes you can wear until they disintegrate from prolonged use. Don't buy a boat. Don't learn to fly your own plane. Don't buy a plane. Don't buy real estate at the top of the market. There will almost always be a recession coming along that will give you great "discounts." Same with other investments beyond the mandatory monthly investments in the stock market. 

Never marry a spouse with demanding and expensive tastes. Always marry someone who is smarter than you. Always marry someone who is more practical than you. Never marry a spouse who has a Nordstrom's charge card. Beware of people who "need" to buy shoes that cost over $150 a pair. Don't buy a motorcycle. You will fall off. It will be an expensive fall. I have learned from experience. Don't run your business without liability insurance. Same with your household. Eating healthy is more important than eating gourmet/luxury.  True story: when B. and I talked about getting married (some 36+ years ago) her only hesitation was my cavalier approach to handling money. She required me to take all of my accounting to her CPA and have the CPA generate a clean and meticulous tax return for that year. She did not want to "inherit" stupid debt. At the time I thought it was a bit over the top. Now I laud her for her judgement.

If you like to drink wine be sure, at least, that it's very good wine. Instead of "more" wine. Don't get subscriptions. To anything.  Use your local library. Here's a mantra for morning biz meetings: Breakfast at home. Coffee out with clients/peers/friends. Have an agenda and a goal.

I have tried all of this and it works well. Here's a few more:  Don't discuss your net worth on the web. You will make some people jealous, others will pity you and a third group will wonder why your parents didn't tell you that your finances are nobody else's business. The fourth group will be scammers....

Take care of yourself. Take care of business. Always be invested. You may get tired as you get older but your invested money will work for you around the clock. 

Oh....and try to take nice and interesting photographs. Be nice to everyone you meet.  That's all. 


VSL continues but KT Photo regroups. What's going on?

 It's been a long and profitable ride in the stretch limousine of photography for me. My first start in the business was back in 1979. Then came an interlude as the creative director and agency director at Avanti Advertising and Design. A regional advertising agency in Austin. When our biggest client was absorbed by Barnes and Noble back in 1987 I decided to quit the advertising business and start up again as a photographer in 1988. I can't believe that was 35 years ago. 

When I made my re-entry to photography the industry was vibrant and very profitable. I came back into it with ample savings from my advertising career and tons more knowledge about how advertisers worked with photographers on one side and what advertising clients wanted from their photo investments on the other side. I'd spent eight years working with both sides and it paid off for me in spades when the time came to negotiate and work with big clients. 

The two biggest barriers to entry back in the late 1980's were the need to have a large studio and the other need which was to have a well equipped studio. Sure, we did stuff on location, but we did a lot more stuff on our home turf. And spent zillions of man hours processing fun black and white work in our on site darkroom. I still remember the unfettered glee I felt when I purchased my Leica V35 enlarger. It sat next to my Omega D5 large format enlarger and both racked up many miles of usage in the seven years I spent in my downtown Austin studio. Throw money and knowledge at problems and you could mostly expect to make even better money doing it.

Starting in the 1990s and up through the 2010s we transitioned from a big studio to a smaller studio (much closer to home and much more manageable) and much more location work. We worked everywhere, from un-air-conditioned maquiladoras in Mexico to legendary museums in St. Petersburg, Russia. And lots of places in between. But starting in 2010 there were many changes to the industry. Some annoying and some existential. Throughout it all my business was buoyed up by having clients of long tenure, an ability to roll with the changes and adapt, and a certain sense of (maybe misplaced) optimism. Another secret has been having a "CFO" who was focused on moving any spare cash out of the business and into smarter and safer investments. Especially during the "gold rush" years.

It's March of 2023. To date I've booked three projects for the entire year. In years past we would have booked two or three projects in the first couple of weeks of January. The work of being a photographer is changing as rapidly as I would ever have imagined that it could. Printed brochures are becoming a thing of the past. 80% or more of advertising dollars are now spent on the web and of those dollars the vast majority end up supporting very small ads seen on very small screens on phones. Old guys seem to think that there will always be clients out there who will support the old status quo but I'm here to tell you it's not so. Just as no one went back and started a new trend of shooting 8x10 sheet film for magazines in this century no one is going to go back and start up more and more long form magazines that actually get printed. Or super glossy print ads. Or super sexy direct mailers. 

Most photographers plan their careers with a certain blindness, or on the strength of their own anecdotal experiences. I prefer to talk to people in the industry I work in. My son is a rich source of reality therapy when it comes to current technology company marketing. My spouse is a recent retiree (former art director) of an advertising agency that handles the 1st or 2nd largest computer maker's advertising. One of my swim buddies is a global strategist for a huge software/hardware icon. Another friend works in making predictions for a global company from Cupertino. They have different opinions but all their insight trends in the same direction. 

Eventually all meaningful advertising as well as visual engagement in the arts will take place on the internet, will not require huge files, acres of pixels, mountains and mountains of dynamic range or even very detailed photographs. The emphasis will almost always be, going forward, fast impact. Which means filling the frame with the main subject and using bright colors and high contrast. Easy work for phones and an ever accelerating move away from large and complex production. That's more and more reserved for video. Anything on a big screen will be high def video. Count on it.

Thinking long and hard about this I'm loath to spend the money, and especially the time, to continue jousting with the windmills. Or remaking lances with which to do so.  Especially as the population of windmills of merit are disappearing quickly. And not being replaced by profit centers I either recognize or really want to be part of. Could I learn to make interesting photos with A.I.? I'm pretty sure I could. But do I want to? Is that what I really signed up for? Not a chance.

I read yesterday on theonlinephotographer where Michael Johnston laid out his own financial situation and showed how the market for all things photographic (in traditional ventures) is shrinking and shrinking. How his income is reducing year over year. He's trying to find an exit strategy and I wish him luck and also send him my genuine condolences. It's like being wrapped up in a boa constrictor...squeezing, squeezing.

Reading of his business experiences and melding that information with my own view, and the predictions of well qualified friends and business partners, convinced me that commercial photography (as practiced by my generation) is in a death spiral and isn't going to recover in any recognizable way. At least not for me.

So, what to do now? My best guess is that I should spend more time photographing just for myself, spend as much time as I have routinely spent swimming and otherwise exercising, and spend more time traveling with B. And B. if he wants to tag along (pretty sure he's focused on the start-up...). I'm not "officially" giving up working as a photographer. I'll gladly accept any fun projects that come over the transom or through the genuine desire of smart and creative art directors to work with me. But the fervor to market myself and lock in work has fallen off the table as a priority. 

And it's important, I think, to say that this is not about aging or losing energy or stamina. It's about a market changing and shrinking and my lack of need to change with it. Am I still relevant? Frank counsels me that I shouldn't care and that sooner or later I will perforce need to embrace my own irrelevance as time goes by. I think he's right about that. He usually is. ( find a mentor to get older with.... ).

The French see life differently than Americans do. I just read about this in an opinion piece in the Washington Post. They see life in three chapters. Childhood, their work life (with which they keep at emotional arm's length) and the good years from 62 onward that provide time and security for enjoyment, hobbies, travel and fun. In the USA we seem to have a prevailing idea that once one becomes an adult the passion to work becomes overwhelming, all consuming and  for most very necessary. For many traditional retirement is not even an option. That written piece also gave me pause. 

From this point on I'll have to admit that my expertise on what's driving the photo market is slipping toward the muddled mainstream. That my visual style will be more and more at odds with prevailing commercial styles (if any continue to exist). I'm divorcing myself from the idea that I have to be a successful working photographer to be happy and fulfilled. 

I still enjoy writing this blog so now you'll just have to accept me as a peer and fellow participant. That's my new role and one I can get behind. I'm not willing though to accept the responsibility of becoming a geriatric influencer by any stretch. If readership falls off that's fine. I'm not monetizing this in any way now. Haven't for years.

Don't fire up a Patreon page for me and don't send me money. Smarter minds than mine have already taken care of all that detail work. From now on it's photography for fun and occasionally for profit. But without the laser like focus on profit I've maintained for the last 38 years of running a business. Time to cool my jets a bit and take a deep breath. 

More to come as I grapple with the future of the future. Nice and comfortable here. More time to walk around with a camera.

In a 2010 VSL blog post I predicted the future as we are just beginning to see it here. My take was meant as a joke. Now it's real. Take a look. Yes. Written in 2010.

 Here's the copy from the second paragraph:

"With these lessons learned we have adapted the device to serve as a verbal to visual translator.  Now I don't even have to take images.  I can describe them in various levels of detail and our Imaginizer 2020 will create visual images in the minds of the subjects who wear the devices.  So far, my verbal descriptions have been described as boring and mundane but I'm buying a thesaurus and I have high hope.  When it works right the subjects stop looking at me as subject #3210z is in the mind-o-graph above and they just get quiet, like this:"

Does this make me a futurist? Did I nail this about 13 years in advance? I think so.....

Here's the link to the full post: 


Just a refresher for all my friends who've purchased a film Leica M camera, a 28mm lens and who have decided to become "street photographers." You might have already read this one....


It's from 12 years ago. But I think it's appropriate for the moment.


Just re-enjoying a photo I made many years ago when we spent more time playing and a lot less time arguing, posturing, competing and dissecting the things we were engaged with.

 Amy walked into my little studio in Westlake Hills with her good friend Renae. Renae was my assistant for a number of years and maybe I remember those years as "the Golden Years" of photography partially because of my collaborations with Renae and partly because we had both time and  optimism on our side. 

The studio space was perennially and almost permanently set up with lights just in case someone interesting/beautiful/wonderful dropped by. We didn't over think technique back then. We played more than we (collectively) do now. There didn't seem to be much on the line to prevent a certain insouciance and fluidity to our pursuit of things like spur of the moment portraits. 

I asked Amy if we could make a portrait and she, of course, agreed. She did a little touch up on her make up and then stepped into the sweet spot of a 40 by 60 inch softbox's glow. 

I focused as well as I could with an old Leica R8, stopped the even older 90mm Summicron (no APO or ASPH) down to f5.6, Renae did a quick check with a light meter and we snapped our way through a 36 exposure roll of Ektachrome or Fujichrome. Maybe it was Astia. Whatever. It was some ISO 100 slide film and when I got it back from the lab I thought it looked great. 

It's funny. Sometimes I post stuff to make a point about gear or technique but most of the time, at least with portraits, I'm posting stuff because I enjoy looking at it for a second, third or hundredth time. For me that's the real value of doing the work. 

And the joy of it.

Wanna Compete with stuff like this? Really? I'd rather take a walk or read something interesting.


Take a selfie or two on your smart phone and send it along to them. They'll use A.I. to make it into a "real photograph/headshot" and give you a bunch of variations to choose from in just two hours. For $29. Done.

And by "done" I mean the business of commercial headshots not a "task completed." 

This is all hitting right now. No reason not to enjoy taking photographs for fun. Just going to be a lot harder for a lot of folks to make a living competing.

Inflection points. The end of one era of photography and the beginning of another.


this is a prime example of the machines with which we used to create profit
by doing photography. No AF, no autowind, no endless buffer, no high res EVF, 
no cost free frames. But man! Could they convert vision to dollars!

and this was the work I liked to do with that camera. 

One thing we learned in the lightning fast transition from film to digital in the commercial world is that big changes to a culture, a technology or the acceptance of a new paradigm aren't slow moving events. Kodak's best strategic brains assumed that they would have years of film dominance even as late as the early 2000's only to see global adaptation of digital cameras happen almost overnight. By the same token, if you had asked industry "experts" back in 2010 or even 2012 what the future trajectory of interchangeable lens digital cameras was you would have heard, almost uniformly, that the growth of the industry was at its infancy and it was all clear skies and big profits ahead. Ask several of the computer companies a couple of years ago about desktop computer sales and they would have predicted a steady replacement rhythm instead of the 25% drop in purchasing, year over year (except for Apple whose computer sales dropped by little over 1%....outlier?). 

I would have thought that DP Review would have chugged along until at least a couple of big players took Samsung's cue and exited the interchangeable lens camera market altogether. But I guess declining sales, bloated and costly staffing and a failed strategy toward maintaining profitability snuck up much quicker and more decisively than any of us imagined. 

Photography is being re-invented yet again. I swam with a technologist from a major, major technology superpower company this morning. After our workout we got into a long discussion about all the disruptions taking place across many markets. He makes a living strategizing about technology trends. His take is that we are at an inflection point not just for photography but across a number of industries and we are never going back to the way it was only a few years (or even months) ago. And he was predicting that the disruptions, changes and creations of new tools (Dall-e, Chatbots, ChatGBT, A.I., Machine learning) and so much more is starting to look like the massive shift that occurred with the 2007 introduction of Apple's iPhone. But on a more diverse and expanded group of technologies. And across an even bigger playing field.

It's wise to remember that pre-iPhone we needed computers to function in the work space. We needed laptops for mobile computing and communication. We needed stand alone cameras. We needed music players to enjoy our music with. We needed hulking big video cameras to make movies with. We needed ATMs to do our banking. We needed maps to get to new locations in our cars. We needed phones to call people and to do primitive texting. Think ahead to now and how our phones have wiped out the need for so many peripherals we once thought to be necessary and practical. And so many services (banking, shopping, etc.) have been de-peopled and streamlined. 

I wrote a blog post while flying back from the NYC Photo Expo in 2013 (also shuttered as no longer relevant) about societal change in photography and parts of the post were prescient. Here's a link: The Graying of Photography.  Read it. It might make more sense now.

But it's not as if we didn't have clues and telltales about the onrushing inflection point we seem to be in the middle of right now. Here are two subsequent articles, each written eight or nine years ago pointing to exactly what is unfolding right now: 



I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that commercial ($$$) photography as we know it is going to cease to exist in a couple of years. No one will be monetizing the work being created at anywhere near the scale we were able to in the past. But a new understanding and market for photography will emerge. We just have to be open to understanding it and willing to take part in it. Or....we can keep copying work like Ansel Adams landscapes and Robert Frank street photography, and considering a paper print to be the gold standard, until we all die off and head to visual Valhalla to commiserate with the buggy whip makers, the floppy disk engineers and the people checking to see if anyone left their change in a payphone booth. Me? Oh I'll be hanging out by the cigarette machines looking to pick up models for after-life retro portrait photography.

The closing of DP Review is just one of many sign posts and they weren't the first to go. Not by a long shot. They held on as long as they did because they were better capitalized. Not because they were better. 


A quiet walk up and down S. Congress Ave. looking for pix and enjoying a cappuccino. A mid-afternoon cappuccino.


Sent this photo to my spouse who is out of town taking care of family....

I was looking for something a bit different this afternoon. I'm sure these are a radical departure from my usual style but I was using the little Sigma fp and the matching 45mm f2.8 Sigma lens. I even went with the camera fully stripped down. No finder, no hood. And it worked just fine even out in the daylight. But I did have to wear my eyeglasses to see the screen well enough. 

This part of South Austin has become tourist central. There are nice restaurants and endless boutiques up and down the street. But it's lost most of its "rougher" charm. I keep hoping that the downtown area gets a dose of rejuvenation; but just enough.

Walking around with the little fp and the small 45mm lens was relaxing and with them as my casual cameras I don't set unreal expectations. The pair work really well together and the colors are nice. I was lazy today so I went with .DNG files instead of Jpegs. When I shoot Jpeg I'm always riding the white balance settings with the intention of getting as close to accurate color as possible. I also "cheated" and used Auto-ISO. 
I really love vintage trailers. They seem so 1950s. Largely replace by Airstreams and big RVs these days but the charm of a small trailer or even a "tear drop" trailer is not lost on me.

Still. I have no idea with "Leaf Porn" is and little to no inclination to find out.

That's a whole lot of "No-s" for a retail store. Maybe that's why I've never been in
even though they sell candy and I love some kinds of candy...

Austin's love affair with Willie Nelson continues unabated. And South Congress seems 
to grow a new mural every week...

 I was walking through the famous Hotel San José when I bumped into famous 
photojournalist and educator, Don Winslow. We had a great chat about Rome.
We both wished we were there right now photographing. Fun to see famous icons
sporting cameras around town! 

One of my favorite S. Congress mural destinations. It's a Home Slice Pizza. 
It's good pizza and way popular but closer to home I get better pizza
at Baldinucci Pizza. Love the Roman style crust.

Seemed like an unprovable brag but the cappuccino they whipped up for me
today puts them into the running. Yeah, It's Jo's Coffee. All outdoor seating, but covered 
in case of rain, hail or snow.

The backdoor at Amy's Ice Cream. Another Austin original that's spread across the state...

What if the other guy is right?


an attempt at a softer touch in processing.

I stayed out of the fracas between Mike Johnston and Moose a few days ago. Moose had taken one of MJ's photos, manipulated it and then displayed both the original and the "enhanced" version side by side and proceeded to make an argument that MJ was processing images too flat. MJ pushed back and said he liked em that way. And that they were not "too flat" from his point of view. And that was the way he intended them.  All of which started me thinking about the way I process my own images and display them on the web. My knee jerk reaction was that my own work looked "better" if it was snappier and more saturated. My black and whites better with more "clarity." But as I mulled this over and over in my head I remembered something my father used to say to me when I was so, so sure I was right and whoever I was arguing with was dead wrong. "Consider this..." he would say, "What if the other guy is right?"

Which got me thinking even harder. I grabbed a few favorite files and started looking at them made softer, harder, sharper, more diffuse, brighter, darker and, of course, snappier. By the end I was more confused than when I started. 

Then I remembered B's ever-present mantra about.....everything: "All Things In Moderation." 

And I remembered that all through her career as an award-winning art director and graphic designer for some of the USA's biggest businesses she always steered toward the middle ground. Not "boring" middle but "accessible" middle. It was nearly always work that pleased her design sensibilities, spoke to consumers and delivered for clients. 

Maybe that is a target I should be aiming for in my own post production. Timeless versus cutting edge. Comfortable instead of trendy. Happy instead of strident. It's a thought anyway.

Really though, what if the other guy is right? Can you change your mind?


Taking my own advice and stepping away from the internet for the day. With a camera over one shoulder.

This is pretty much how my eyes saw this scene. Maybe not with as much saturation but with some information in the shadows...

This is how my Leica SL2 saw the same scene with the same exposure setting for the highlights. 
Some photographers reject post processing but I say, "make the shadow/highlight/clarity (mid-range contrast) sliders your allies. 

Same with the two below.

I felt a certain sense of calmness when I pushed away from the keyboard and monitor yesterday. I put on comfortable shoes. I walked. I looked at stuff at a distance. I drank a nice coffee at Mañana. I had a decent croissant as well. And as I was sitting at a café table watching the sun go down and feeling the wind pick up I did an inventory of the day. 

When I got up I read the national newspapers. Something I'll slow down on and maybe try to be more supportive of the local papers and outlets. I went to the gym and used their machines to really try and strengthen my core, my lats, my triceps and my larger leg muscles. I stretched. And felt exhausted by the end. 

I made some scans of old negatives in the office and was delighted by the results. I read a few online articles already memorializing DPR. I felt conflicted. 

The cure for temporary confliction for me is a good swim so I went to the noon workout and swam well with a smaller crew that we usually have at early morning practices. Instead of only working on swimming hard and fast I took the coach's suggestion and worked on feeling balance in the water. A fun exercise is to float on your back with your nose, belly button and toes out of the water and to stay calm and quiet. Maximum balance is hard to achieve but pushing more doesn't make it better. You actually have to relax to do that drill well. And I think we could all do a better job of relaxing.

I came back home, had lunch and then took a 25 minute nap. Ran a few errands. Ignored the siren call of the internet. Checked the stock market on my phone. Was happy with what I found and thought about going online to buy something cool. Resisted the urge to fire up the Easy Buying Machine and went off the above mentioned walk instead. Played around with my camera and with the files. 

The rest of my evening was more or less typical. Dinner, do the dishes, read until the book started dropping out of my hands and my eyes closed without my willing participation. 

It is possible to curtail time spent online. It's hard to do because it's become such a habit for so many of us.  One good exercise that might work as a first step is this: When you go out for a walk or a photo walk just leave your phone in your house or your care. Don't put it in your pocket or your camera bag or your backpack. If it's there you'll want to use it; check it; check your stocks, check the weather, see if anyone called, check your favorite website, check you stocks, check the weather, see if anyone texted, etc.

If your phone isn't with you then you won't need to spend time serving it with your precious time. Everything can wait till you get back. Really, everything will be fine.