You can probably tell I'm really shy and introverted but I'm trying really hard to work out my quiet and retiring nature by throwing myself into photo situations that require a tiny bit of give and take.

I had some time. I gave myself an official break from assembling the accounting information for my CPA and I went downtown with a little camera and lens just to see if I could still move through crowds, make new friends and get over my shyness. (I am kidding, I'm no more shy or retiring that anyone else.... maybe less so...). 

After hauling around bigger cameras earlier in the week I gave myself permission to use one of the wondrous and adorable Leica CL cameras along with an equally winsome Sigma i-Series 56mm f1.4 lens. I didn't walk endlessly. I just planted myself on a few hopping blocks of East Sixth St. and watched the people go by. There were lots of bands that were not part of the official SXSW roster but who had come to SXSW to do impromptu showcases out in the streets or to give the public a taste and then pass out promo cards for later performances at big and little clubs sprinkled all over the downtown area; spilling over to the east side. The bands down here on Friday afternoon were predominantly composed of African American musicians and performers. The energy was high. And finally the street was filled with people filming for social media...with real cameras. 

I made myself right at home. As a 67 year old guy with white hair I guess I must have stood out from the crowd, all of whom were younger and more appropriately dressed for the event. I must have looked like I just walked out of a geriatric REI catalog. But I really didn't care. If I saw someone whose look I liked I just smiled and walked up and talked to them about making their photo. Everyone was game. Well, I did ask one person who was doing a food concession and didn't want to be photographed, but everyone else was up for it. 

I shot four or five hundred frames with the camera set to DNG+Large Jpeg and when the battery in the camera expired I was torn between calling it quits or pulling another battery out of my pocket and going onward. In the end I decided I'd better call it quits. I had a dinner invitation to a famous photographer's house and I remember that both he and his wife are incredible cooks. I dropped by Trader Joes for a bottle of wine and headed over for an amazing St. Patrick's Day dinner. A nice way to end a day of wandering around aimlessly in crowds and trying to figure it all out. 

I did feel less shy and retiring as I walked back to the car......

I'm showing some frames in color and in black and white just so I can look at the differences and decide how I really like them. Don't tell me which way to go. I'll change my mind tomorrow.



The disconnection between an online portfolio and the amazing detail and resolution of contemporary cameras and lenses.

If you are a photographer who came to photography in the film days or the early days of digital cameras your intention on most jobs was to deliver high resolution, high dynamic range files. Since my career started around 1980 I came into this profession expected to deliver images from 4x5 inch cameras and medium format (real medium format = 6x6 cm and larger....) cameras that could easily be used across a "double-truck spread" in the four color print process. The minimum target for use in most brochures and magazine spreads was 11 by 17 inches. Since film didn't have a set DPI we just aimed for as much quality as we could. The color separators were the ones who converted our analog film to measurable CMYK files. 

But the clients and the color separators were always happier with the biggest pieces of film you could deliver. And to get the jobs that required this; and paid the best, you had to show portfolios that were creative, beautiful and also technically as good as they could be. Clients reviewed portfolios by calling in actual enlarger printed "books" or portfolios. Another way of presenting work was to have black matted 4x5 or 8x10 inch color transparencies to show... because....everyone had a light table and a loupe back then. Splash twenty or so rich and detailed 8x10 inch transparencies down on a light table, watch an art director dive into the detail and technical achievements and you were well on your way to booking your next job. 

It feels like it was around 2006 or 2007 that the creative community collectively decided that calling in portfolios and shipping heavy collections of transparencies or big selections of prints around the country via Federal Express was too expensive and had become unnecessary. As budgets tightened and art directors started getting spread thinner and thinner fewer of them took actual phone calls from creative freelancers and more and more of them started looking at websites when they were considering hiring photographers. 

All of a sudden big, beautiful physical presentations went out the window ---- like typesetters. At that juncture clients started relying on what they saw via email promotions, and websites that were always a compromise between speed of loading and quality. The photographers at the top suffered most because the presentation formats killed the ability to show off the richness of a beautifully made, large format image by rendering it a fraction of its actual size and also at a diminished bit depth. The web became locked into Jpeg files, rendered to about 1600 pixels, distilled down to 8 bit and then represented, compressed, onto a 6 bit (if you were lucky) monitor. It's a huge difference when compared to viewing a pristine print or transparency presentation firsthand. In person. Right there in front of you. 

Now things are even worse when it comes to presentation. A lot of younger art directors and designers are getting by using laptops for work. The images they see are even further diminished. A lot of creative professionals are scrolling through Instagram or even Flickr to find photographic talent. And while broadband has improved the load times and sizes of webpage images the viewing restrictions and monitor capabilities are still depreciation funnels for good photography. What clients see on various screens, viewed in mixed light conditions, is nothing like what prior portfolios used to be. And on the social media sites your work, which may have started life as something beautifully lit and gorged full of delicate and wonderful detail will now sit next to other peoples' work, some of which is edited down to be more adaptable and easier to digest on phone screens. Incredibly detailed work next to work customized for quick consumption on a small screen. 

Which begs the question in 2023... why in the heck are we endlessly pursuing "better" cameras and lenses? Unless you are routinely printing large or delivering files to people who will use them to print large it's mostly a waste of money and then there's all that time lost "researching" new gear. To be honest, while I bought and use a Leica SL2 if I'd had more time and experience with the 24 megapixels SL I would have stopped right there. Perfect camera and perfect image size for so much of what we do all the time. For one or two jobs a year that require more quality and resolution than 24 megapixels it makes a tremendous amount more sense to just rent the needed gear. 

Same with the Leica Q2. I would love the weather tight Q2 body and nicer button configuration but wrapped around a 24 megapixel sensor instead of the current 47+ megapixel sensor. True...you can crop more. But do you really need to? And how much quality is diminished by cropping if your final target destination is something 1600 pixels max on Instagram? Really? More? You need more?

For those few clients who really do want to see how much quality they can expect we put up galleries at full res on Smugmug.com. They are still 8 bit files but at least we can show them with all the detail that's contained within. And I still send out printed mailers from time to time. But we are now at the point where the final targets on most jobs actually are the websites and social media sites that are related to the client business. So, where do we go from here?  Is it time to sell everything before everyone else realizes how bizarre the market has become? Can we do it all with our phones? More importantly = will anyone actually want to pay us to make photographs with our phones? The jury is still out. I guess we'll wait and see....
Overkill? Wasted resources? How many phones could we have bought instead....?

this was a huge file. Not anymore....

OT: Survived the early morning appt. with my dermatologist. No issues. Even made it to swim practice on time. Actually, early. Good start to a cloudy, gray day. Now the dentist appointment looms large. ("looms" = for JC).


And here we are again at tax time. The bane of working photographers. Well, one of the banes. Can there be multiple banes?


Urban Landscapes. Camera: Leica SL2. Lens: Sigma 45mm f2.8 

When I look through my image files I find that I really like what I'm calling, for want of a better category name, urban landscapes. These can be anything except landscapes of just natural terrain and no evidence of buildings, people, structures, etc. This was taken because I was attracted to the look of the sky and the Austonian building was the perfect foil to the vague structure of clouds. I also seemed to have found an angle at which none of the other downtown buildings intruded into the frame. 

The exif information tells me I was using a Sigma 45mm f2.8. It's a cheap and underrated lens. I don't like to stop down much so this was shot at f4.5. When I look at the full frame file; even though it was shot in Jpeg, I love the very high sharpness and the wonderful colors and tones. 

I should be filling the "pages" here with beguiling street photography from SXSW this week but to be truthful the show seems very anemic this year. Not particularly well attended; at least at street level, and even at that most of the attendees look like they all came from the same mall. Gone are the music "gangsters" all dressed in black and trying to look dangerous. Most of the people here this year look like young, mid-level managers who convinced their bosses that some value might be derived from attendance.  After all, no want wants to miss out on the next Twitter.com (sarcasm intended). 

Day after day I've been making a valiant effort to drive into the heart of downtown and find compelling images but the universe seems only to be presenting me with a never ending stream of middle class kids and their slightly wealthier peers. The full access price to attend of $1895 might have something to do with the homogenous demographic...

The sky and the buildings never seem to fail me. And I like looking at them. I'll go down once again today and give it another stab. 

Consider picking up the 45mm f2.8. It's not an earth shattering lens but it's got a quality that says, "I'm well made, well designed and can make your photographs look a bit more interesting. As an added plus I am small and easy to carry around." 

The beefy Leica SL2 makes none of these promises. 

Refrigerator news: Guy came yesterday and replaced the master control board in my four month old GE French door refrigerator. 24 hours later it's still cooling appropriately, not frosting over and not making odd noises. I guess I'll consider it fixed. I put the last of the milk in there today. I'm slowly recovering my emotional equilibrium about appliances today. If the fridge makes it through the weekend I'll stop thinking about it for a while.

Tax news: My partner, B, is usually the person who pulls together all the endless tranches of information to distill down and send to our CPA to do our duty to pay taxes to keep our nation strong. But this year she is out of town taking care of a family member. The burden of paperwork and far reaching task of acquiring information from banks, brokerage companies, credit card accounts and black, offshore hordes of gold bullion have fallen to me. Oops! Forget that part about the offshore gold bullion. I meant chicken bullion; really. 

I guess it was about time I realized how much work is involved in getting everything together. My target day for completion is Monday. Our long time CPA ensures me that this will be ample time to get the return out in time. Funny, when I look at the raw numbers I always come to the haggard realization that I spent more than I thought I had and, conversely, I made less money that I imagined. I guess it all comes out in the wash. 

At any rate I set up a six foot long table to spread everything out on and my CPA kindly sent over an associate to help me organize a bit. Now, if I can only remember some of the passwords I haven't used in a year...

Happy Swim News: I have been working out with weight machines at the local gym under the watchful eye of a good trainer. She pushes me more that I would push myself but it seems to be paying off. I was able to hold the corner of the car up with one hand yesterday as I changed the tire with the other hand... Okay, that's not true. But I have noticed that my swimming is improving by leaps and bounds. 

Many of the sets of machines I'm using I've selected because they build specific swim muscles: triceps, lats, shoulders and back. I'm also using a leg press machine as often and with as much challenge as possible. My pushes and streamlines off the walls are more powerful and so I get more distance from each turn. We call that "free speed." I also swam the most beautiful series of 25 yard butterfly sets I've swum in years. It's enough to push me to WANT to go and lift weights instead of just doing so because I think it the right thing to do. 

Now I'm pretty much convinced that everyone over 50, and certainly every every one over 60 should be hitting the gym three or four times a week as an added part of their long term fitness regimen. 

Prevention Month at VSL: It's the time of the year when I get checked out by my crack medical team. Tomorrow we've got a 7 a.m. (curses! what was I thinking when I scheduled this?) appointment with my dermatologist, Dan, who will inspect every square inch of my skin, look for stuff that might kill me, and nuke all the stuff that's just....unattractive. Many hate the sting of liquid nitrogen but I live for the tingle of it. I hope my enhanced vigilance with sunscreen and pre-morning light swims pays off and nothing is too frightening. 

In keeping with the prevention theme tomorrow afternoon is also my every six month encounter with my dentist and her hygienist. Yes! I have been flossing very regularly since the last visit and I've learned to appreciate my Braun Oral B toothbrush. It's even got bluetooth. Why? I've never figured that out. But it's great to get one's teeth cleaned and inspected. The mouth bacteria seems to be a precursor to lots of nastier conditions throughout the body. Inflammation and all that sort of stuff. A clean mouth is a happy mount and more people will want to kiss a fresh and healthy mouth. Yum. I hope, after paying hundreds of dollars I get a free toothbrush to keep in my swim bag...

At the end of the month I'll spend two days with my regular G.P. measuring body fat, heart rhythms, blood chemistry, oxygen uptake, blood pressure, vision, hearing, balance, and even check for cognitive decline. It's always fun to be poked, prodded, and chastened about the deficiencies of my lifestyle. I can hear it now ---- "are you eating your twelve servings a day of kale?"  

It's interesting. I never paid much attention to preventative stuff in my youth but statistically getting on top of anything that's going out of whack quickly and with people who know your history is a huge plus for longevity. And by extension happiness. 

My favorite example is that a routine skin check back in 2021 discovered a squamous cell cancer on my face. Left to my own devices I might not have noticed it for a while and when it comes to cosmetic surgery on your face the small the radius a surgeon can work it the better. That early detection helped me retain my movie star good looks....

That's all I have for today. Still waiting on Mike Johnston to answer all the questions he requested last weekend. Can't wait!!!


Held Hostage by the Refrigerator Repair Person. Trapped in my office venting.

 Who would have guessed that an appliance could create so much chaos and frustration in modern life? We're heading into our third (or is it our 4th?) week with a brand new (three months old), $2,000+ GE refrigerator that the warranty repair person doesn't seem to know how to fix. His 4th visit was supposed to be this morning between 8 and noon but of course I got a call at 12:15 pm letting me know he was running late. A Samsung ice maker somewhere was impeding his progress... 

I wasted yet another four hour block of time that could have been spent swimming, swilling coffee with friends or cajoling clients into loosening some purse strings for my own future happiness. But...no...I waited for the repair guy. Again. 

The general approach to repairing things now seems to be just taking a guess at what might be wrong ordering a part from the manufacturer, waiting for the part to come in and then making a new appointment to install the part. And then waiting a few days to see if it worked. If it didn't then we make a new call to GE and they re-approve the next warranty repair and then we navigate the online scheduling system with the third party warranty repair company and then we get another four hour window to twiddle our thumbs through. The guy shows up again, conjectures that the last repair didn't work... (no shit) and decides on the next random part order. And we start the process all over again.

I'm pretty much at my boiling point. Today we're replacing the master control board. Maybe it will work. But if it doesn't work I'm going after GE like a howler monkey crossed with a killer whale. The unit will exit my house one way or another. I'll get a check or GE will get a tangle with my attorney. The offending and wholly demonic refrigerator that now sits glowering and not cooling in my kitchen will be replaced by the most reliable fridge on the market. At any cost. 

The sad thing is that the service phone operator at GE is great, gave me her direct line, and commiserated wisely. The crappy thing is that the warranty service company doesn't have a telephone number and you have to communicate through bad Windows 1995 website design to reach anyone for anything.

This has to be the worst retail disaster I've ever experienced. I'm so angry I put all my cameras in a locked case to keep me from being inspired to use them to beat the refrigerator to death. 

Just thought I'd let you know how this particular day in paradise is working out for me.... 

The Killer Robots Have Arrived. They are called "Generative AI." They are here to destroy photography.


A new style of photography is suddenly popping up all over the web. It features very exotic (mostly female) human constructs in equally exotic and near perfect backgrounds. The images are mostly convincing as photographs but they are constructed by computer programs using artificial intelligence. I also see many portraits on Instagram of (mostly female) models that look almost perfect but in many cases there is something just enough "off" to cue one to dig deeper to see just how the images were made. Eyes and skin too perfect, the proportions just a bit off, etc. ( A program reminder that most modern entertainment technology evolves first in the pornography spaces...).

Programs such as DALL-E, Mid-Journey and Stable Diffusion work by translating textural descriptions (shit people write....) into illustrations which directly mimic photographs. People are essentially describing what they would like to see, entering it into one of the popular programs and then looking at the many iterations the programs quickly generate, choosing one of the images and then tweaking it in post production. 

How did the programs become "smart enough" about photography to get to the point where they can do this? Easy, they stole your photographs off the internet, along with the photographs created by hundreds of millions of other photographs, then analyzed them endlessly and used the analysis to and create content fabricated from bits and pieces; constructs based on similarities and bits of direct appropriation. Classic machine learning, I think. But the companies that are making this sort of AI software were totally dependent on gaps in current property and copyright laws to be able to steal our work and use it to program these "weapons" which will, almost surely, devastate the commercial markets for photography going forward. You can try to explain it all away or protest that I am being an alarmist but I think, as photographers, we're facing an existential inflection point that will make the market disruption caused by "penny stock" photography back in the 1990s look like a very minor blip. 

Should you care? Not if you don't care about original human art, the theft of private property, the appropriation of human work, and the ability of advertisers and corporations to create alternate realities with which to more intrusively manipulate your reactions to their products and their process of "appropriating" copyrighted materials to strip you of wealth, security and stability while showcasing damagingly unreal body and facial construct images to your children and grandchildren with devastating psychological results. If you don't care you can just go along for the ride. 

Being able to create images that look like real photographs just from written descriptions creates new weapons for bad operators to create convincing deep fakes, near endless political misinformation, destructive propaganda and even worse things. And make no mistake, the same technology is coming for video. Soon bad actors/terrorists/governments will be able to "create" news events that never happened, speeches from trusted leaders which were never spoken, never actually delivered, and all will be used in the service of stripping away your money and your rights.  

But the first victims will be creative artists. Creative visual artists. 

Popular photo websites backed by international corporations will jump in soon to "make it all okay." They'll extoll how much fun you too could be having by using the programs to "create new art." But the sad coda to that campaign of getting people to love their own creative destruction will be the demise of the jobs of those people writing about how great generative AI is right now. Once they convince enough of the population that we shouldn't care about the bad effects of unrestricted generative AI they'll be as disposable as the rest and a new generation of highly refined ChatGBT and other AI applications will take their places. Their jobs. Their pulpits. And why not? If you were a leader in a mega-corporation wouldn't you love to replace a gaggle of writers and editors with robot writers that never get tired? Never push back when you ask them to work in the absence of morals and ethics? When their primary mission is to extend the power and reach of their owners by manipulating content. 

At the point where we lose control of the creative process and abdicate our rights to own and control our personal creative content it sure won't matter if Sony cameras AF the quickest or Fuji has the nicest color science because our robot overlords will no longer need us to use actual cameras and lenses to make more material; more data points for study. And that hobby/profession/fun pastime will disappear. And then we can skulk back to our homes and watch more TV. Or continue to cruise the web. The programming for which will also be generated by artificial intelligence with the sole purpose of controlling human thought, individual action and ultimately channeling cultural momentum. A dream scenario for authoritarians.

Fun times ahead. Of course this is just my take, pre-coffee. Let the apologists for misguided technology push back in the comments. I'd be interested to see how deeply the robots and their masters have implanted their rationalizations into the general population...

Gotta stop watching Transformer movies...


More images from Sunday's walk through SXSW...

There's something refreshing about being out in public, walking with a camera and only the vaguest agenda. If the population is dense enough you could just stand in one place, keep turning around and around and keep your finger on the shutter button of your camera. 

Something came to mind yesterday when one of my acquaintances asked me if it was "scary" to photograph "strangers" on the street. He then asked me if I got threatened or harassed. It made me remember something about my mom. 

We lived in Turkey for two years. A city called Adana. It's in the southeast of the country. My mom was always fascinated by different cultures, learned to speaking passing good Turkish and was more or less fearless. One day she heard about a very large encampment of "gypsies" who were about 10 miles from the edge of town. She wanted to go and see them and, oddly enough, take photographs of them. I say, "oddly enough" because my mother never showed much interest in taking photographs of anything other than family back then. She also was armed only with an older Argus A-3 camera. 

She hired a taxi cab in front of the America consulate, which was across a grassy field from our five story apartment building, and with her Turkish cab driver headed out to find the gypsy encampment. When they found it she asked the driver to wait for her and headed off to find one of the elders in order to make an introduction and ask permission to photograph. 

She found a group of older men who assured her that for a small contribution she would have their blessing to make pictures. She spent a half hour or so meeting people and photographing them and when she was ready to leave she found that the contribution she'd made to the elders had no bearing on the rest of the people she had been photographing. They all wanted to be paid. My mother had brought along some cash but not nearly enough to pay modeling fees to dozens and dozens of now aggressive people. 

She and the taxi driver made a hasty retreat to the cab. The driver asked her to give him all of her change. All of the coins she had with her. He added some of this coins to the collection and then strategically tossed the money out the window of the car in such a way as the path cleared out ahead. He jammed the car into gear and they effected a hasty retreat.

Years later I looked at the snapshots again as I was going through my late parent's house in San Antonio making it ready for sale. The photographs were not technically very good but my mother had one advantage over more technically proficient photographers. She was able to get close to her subjects. And she was able to develop an almost instant rapport. Even with gypsies armed and ready to press their advantage. 

To my mind my mother's intention was to just be there. The camera was an excuse; a reason to make the trip. An aside from the pleasure of being immersed in something different. 

When we returned to the USA she continued to photograph only sporadically. Birthdays, holidays, family trips and that sort of thing. I never thought consciously about this before but I wonder if my mother's interest in cultures different from hers was some sort of bread crumb trail for my own interests. Strange to dredge this up after so many decades have passed...

But here are a few more images from yesterday. Not clouds....

At SXSW companies are anxious to give their stuff away for free.
Sadly, it's mostly stuff you probably don't want. Like energy drinks filled with 
caffeine and sugar. Or phone screen cleaning clothes.

I had to take this because everyone in the photo looks, dour, pissed off or too serious by far.

See? No clouds...

Impromptu album cover shots everywhere.
I focused on the photographer, not the model.
She seemed more important....

"Wolverines ripped my trousers..."

Even the mannequins are decked out for SXSW.
Bokeh city...

My tip of the day. Never pass up red stuff. Especially deep red stuff.

so. I guess the point of the story about my mom is that we should, as photographers, try to be a bit more fearless than we might normally be. In most urban areas the worst thing that might happen (almost never) is that someone will try to forcefully try to steal your camera. Relax, the cameras are all insured. right?

But my mom's story from 1965 is still "archival positioned in the minds of her three children."