Lighting matters to most commercial projects.

This was a fun image to make.  We were doing an annual report project last Summer and part of the brief was to go around central Texas and make portraits of people who were part of "shovel ready projects."  While many national projects didn't materialize, here in Austin people did get back to work and they've been building much needed road infrastructure right through the economic downturn.

It was hot and we were working close to busy streets.  I was dressed a lot like the guy in the photo.  Hard hat, reflective Gatorade colored safety vest and work boots.  This was a classic, Kirk-style, exterior location portrait.  I like the puffy clouds in the background and the rich blue sky and the only way I know to get that combination is to shoot with the sun behind you.  But the problem with doing that is your subject will end up looking into the harsh sunlight or near enough to it to make them blink or squint.  Here's how I like to do it.  Once I figure out the composition I bring in a 4x4 foot diffuser or a light blocker.  In this case it was a Chimera panel with two layers of white, fabric diffusion cloth on it.  The diffusion took the direct light off his face which made my worker a LOT more comfortable and dropped the exposure on his face by almost four stops.  For all intents and purposes he was standing in "open shade."  But he was still squinting a bit so I put up another 4x4 foot panel with black fabric centered on his eye line right behind the camera position.  This way he'd be looking into a dark area and could rest his eyes a bit.  Over to the right of my camera I put up an Elinchrom Ranger RX AS electronic flash pack and put an "A" head into a small softbox for my main light.  The bottom of the box is on the same level as the subject's chin.  The box is about 45 or 50 degrees to the right of camera.

I was working with a Canon 5D mk 2 but I didn't like the top shutter sync speed of 1/160th of a second so I think I switched to my Canon 7D for its 1/250th of a second top sync speed.  Part of what made this a tough shoot is that we had breezes and thunderstorms on and off all day.  That meant (as far as the wind was concerned) we needed to sandbag everything that lived on a light stand.  It wasn't just for the safety of the lights or the subject; we couldn't take a chance that a light would blow into traffic speeding by and cause an accident.  Many of our locations required us to park 50 or 100 yards away and bring the gear over in several trips.  I can still remember the misery of walking through the heat of a soupy day with a 20 pound sandbag in each hand and a light case slung over one shoulder...... nasty.

At the end of the day none of that matters.  All that matters is that we get images that match what the client has in her mind.  And this one passed the test.  The best piece of gear for stuff like situations above?  A Hoodman Loupe for the LCD screen on the back of the camera.  It's great to be able to accurately judge the effects we're working so hard to get in the field.  What's that you said?  Why didn't we tether it to a big Mac on a ergo cart?  Sorry, that's just too insane.

Now that I've got my Hasselblad mojo cranking up again I'm looking for more beautiful people to sit in front of my camera.  But as Gordon will tell you, I'm horrible about delivering final images.  I'm working on the backlog.  Maybe we'll have something for recent (last two years :-) ) sitters by Christmas.  Not saying this year.  But if you are strikingly beautiful and want to come by and sit for a portrait, send me an e-mail and we'll see what we can work out.  The image of Michelle, above, was done the third time ago that beauty dishes were in style.  Still works for me....

Finally, a recent headshot for candidate for Texas Railroad Commission, Christi Craddick.  We were asked to do a nice portrait of Ms. Craddick for use on her election website and other collateral.  I went on location to the small studio at Arts and Labor, here in Austin to do the job.  We hung a grey seamless in the background and used a 28 inch Fotodiox beauty dish with a diffusion cover over to camera right as our soft but directional main light and used a Photek Softlighter II just over the left of the camera as a fill light.  I washed the background with two very even direct lights and added a gridded hair light coming over Ms. Craddick's right shoulder.  We had a make up person, with an assistant, and a very nice intern who kept bringing us good food as we worked with different wardrobe and expressions.  Altogether is was a quiet and calm session that yielded a number of very good portraits.

Canon 5Dmk2 with a 70 to 200mm f4 L lens.  All lights used were Elinchrom D-lite 4 IT's.  All the units performed as expected.  

I love shooting portraits like this.  The backgrounds and lighting are pretty much stylized by the campaigns which is fine.  It means we can concentrate on expression.


An interesting client perspective. And other observations.

I was riding around in the car today shooting an exterior assignment with a good client.  We've been working on the project since Wednesday and I must say that she's been a real trouper.  We're shooting roadways and landscapes and most days it's already in the 90's when we start, and well into the triple digits when we call it quits.  She's the designer for the annual report and she's got a good eye.  I know she bought a new DSLR last year so I decided to broach a tabu subject and I asked her if she considered shooting the project herself.  She chuckled and explained,  "It always looks easy when you see good people do it but once you try it yourself you realize that it's a lot of work, that practice makes perfect, and that I would end up doing even more work than I am now but for the same amount of money.  If I use you, or someone else who's experienced, I know I'm going to get good pictures to work with and I won't have to spend time reshooting, experimenting and doing all the post production stuff that you do for me."

The overall implication was basically this:  We have a job to do and we might both be able to do each other's job but we have a limited amount of time to do it in and it makes more sense to share the labor.  We each do what we're best at.  At the end of any given year I'm going to guess that we'll each end up making about the same amount of money.  Me in profit and she in salary and benefits.  If she adds my job to her existing workload  she might have fun at first but she'd quickly be dealing with a much increased stack of stuff, some that are currently outside her professional comfort zone.  Finally she told me that she liked the way I did skies.  She likes the blue I get.  Sounds good to me.
But this put me in the mindset of thinking about my work and how I add value to projects.  It's good to understand your REAL value proposition, not the one you'd like to believe in.  I've always been a "word guy."  I love to write.  I love to tell stories.  To tell the truth I've always had to work harder than most to create photographs that people like.  And my many critics on the web are quick to point out that they don't find my work "exciting."  My friends and families are quick to tell me that my work is good but I always pushed back.  Then I had coffee with a friend named Frank and as we talked I came to understand (again) that a photo is about so much more than composition and lighting and the technical art stuff. As I talked to him, and later to my friend Andy, I came to understand that the thing they liked about my work was the way people looked in my photographs.  They valued the things that I didn't think about.  I am always too busy worrying about getting the good light, and trendy styling, and good technique but what they were responding to were the expressions on peoples' faces,  the look in their eyes, their attitude, their affect.  Andy and Frank's points of view about my talent had more to do with my selection and handling of models and portrait subjects than about technical stuff.  And that opened my eyes to the idea that photographic talent could be much more than finding just the right "super angle" and just the right glittering light and it could well be that story telling was an equally valuable component that I minimized specifically because I could do it pretty well.  

And thinking now about the photographic engagement I see it differently.  I know that what I'm trying to encapsulate in one still photo is a narrative or story about the subject.  I want to show images that look as if the subject is deeply attentive and invested and I moved away from the camera and you moved in and shared my point of view.  You joined us in the middle of the sitter's story and you can hardly wait for what comes next.

The benefit of your talent being about the process and the content instead of the design and the stylish nuance is that you are not captive to trends, styles and glitter.  If you can tell a good story you can create a good portrait.  And essentially, isn't that what all really captivating portrait photographers reach for?  Isn't that why we look at Annie Leibovitz's classic portrait work?  Aren't we trying to divine the story behind the image?  But when we look at a cliched,  highly stylized photo of another model jumping or leaping and the lighting is "oh so obvious..." aren't we looking at "See Jane run.  See Dick run."? But done with gold leaf on the edges of the deckled page.....? And when we look at an Avedon photo of a model at a sidewalk cafe in Rome in 1952 with street kids in the background aren't we sitting down with an amazing book, dying to know what's on the next page?

One of my acquaintances was telling me about a documentary he recently saw of a very good photographer who is still working, collected and revered, deep into his eighties.  After a while the interviewer asked him if the "revolution" in cameras, which had made it easier for "everyman" to take good photographs, had profoundly and irrevocably changed photography for the worse for professionals.  The older photographer laughed and said, "No more than pencils and paper changed the game for writers.  You still have to do the work.  You still have to have the talent.  You still have to be creative.  That's never changed."

And I loved that sentiment.  It's the same as the man who buys the same bike as Lance Armstrong, hoping to ride at the same level with a few hours of practice over the weekend.  Or the person who takes up the violin and buys a Stradivarius in hopes that it will take the place of talent.

I love to hear those stories but it always brings me back to the idea of talent.  I believe that it's innate and easy or that you can work hard and try to get close to what the talented people can do with the flick of a wrist and a quick squint through the viewfinder.  And I'm one of those without a drop of native talent for visualizing. (Back to that!!!)

So, I was kicking on a kickboard in the pool today and I was talking to Jane about creating art.  During our quick conversation she helped me with a new perspective.  The idea was that everyone, either through hard work or native talent, or both can be an artist.  We can all do it.  We may come to it in different ways but we all have the potential to creatively express our own vision.  But the bottom line is that most people allow themselves to get boxed into conventional lives and don't have the courage to try and live outside the box.  Or to create outside homogenized parameters.  They fear the trade off of possibly having to deal with defeat, censure and failure time and again.  And having to "eat only what you kill" by the skill of your brain.  And only that creative side of your brain.  So they choose security and assurance instead of a life in art.  And by dint of just showing up and doing the process you are providing a set of ingredients that trumps talent.  You've shown up.  You've done the work. You've battled the demons that tell you that you'll never make it.  The ones that tease you with the idea that the money will always elude you even in the face of evidence to the contrary.  And the people at large respond to the fact that you've conquered that fear and done something they really fear to do.  To step into the box of creating for themselves and making it work, without instructions.  Or a safety net.  Real skin in the real game.

It sounded lofty as we talked about it and kicked through the cool water as the white hot sun peeked over the tree line and sent a laser beam of energy glancing off the lane lines and bouncing off the lenses of our goggles.  And for a few hundred yards I was convinced that I was an artist because I'd had the courage to step off the farm and go into the woods in search of images only I could make.  The hell with the wolves....

But by the end of workout, as I got on my bike and headed back home, I realized that I'd already slid back to that place that says,  "Yes, this could be an art.  But it's also a business and we have to please the client..."  So you can see that I slide from dilemma to dilemma and realization to realization.  It's an examination of life that I'm sure we all mull everyday.  And in the end we die with it unanswered.  Because there really isn't a right answer or a definitive calculus that defines what we SHOULD be doing and what we SHOULD value.  But we never stop looking.  And we never stop longing.

Yes. Rick Perry is running for president.

     ©2011 Kirk Tuck

This photo is probably the last one I'll be able to make of Rick Perry before he's surrounded by secret service people and becomes unapproachable by everyday photographers like me.  Funny enough, this was totally "Strobist Style" shooting.  David Hobby would have been proud.  I posted this image again today because when I posted it before I ended that blog with the question: "So, is Rick Perry running for president?"  Now we all have the definitive answer.

Of course my question now is:  "If Rick Perry gets elected president can I please be the official White House Photographer?"  I swear I'd have a rockin good time.....  His staff knows where to find me.

In order to keep the blog more politically neutral I am closing the thread to new comments and hiding the ones that are already there.  Thanks.  Let's stay on photography.


Putting my hands, my eyes and my head where they belong.

It all came together for me a few days ago.  I realized why I'm such a formalist when it comes to photography. Why I like the older cameras.  Why I like the old Hasselblads.  They slow me down and make me think about what I'm about to shoot.  I came home from an assignment (thank you, dear clients for continuing to believe in the value of creative, custom images...) and I was taken by the light in my living room.

It's been hellishly hot here for the last few weeks and we have six double French doors (all glass) that face west.  For a few hours they get direct sun, filtered through a few 60 foot tall, live oaks.  One day when I was in the studio I realized that I owned three, two stop silk diffusers that were currently just sitting around taking up shelf space so I went outside and put them up over the outside of the French doors.  You can still come in and out but you have to come in thru a curtain.  And when the sunlight hits the silk it lights up my living room like a movie set.  It's a wall of intense but soft, directional light.  The same kind of light you might think you'd get out of a six foot by eighteen foot softbox but you wouldn't.  It's better because the sun is further away and the fall off is less quick.  In the digital only days I would have grabbed Ben and shot a few handheld portraits and walked away.  But a few days ago when I came home I was transfixed by the light and decided I'd give the new (old) camera a try.  I loaded some Tri-X, into the camera, locked the 150mm lens on the front and then tossed the whole assemblage onto a Berlebach tripod.  I grabbed an old Minolta incident light meter and headed into the house. The finder is so perfect that I took my time comping the shot for the sheer pleasure of it.  I was critical, thoughtful, deliberate.  I pulled out the meter and metered the exposure very carefully.  I had twelve shots and I was committed to getting what I wanted in twelve or fewer exposures.

Ben was game and planted himself, as directed, on the arm of a chair at an angle to the wall of light.  It was so easy to focus the 40 year old lens.  Wide open the slender sliver of sharpness popped up like candy.  Instead of banging away with a motor drive we were both thoughtful and collaborative in our imaging duet.  The feel of the shutter release was industrial engineering at its finest.  The slap of the mirror was solid and calm like the closing of a door on a big Mercedes car.  The snick of the shutter was flawless.  And then there was a pause as the finder went dark and the whole process waited for me to wind the crank and reposition all the internal clockwork for the next shot.  Time enough to mentally process the slow changes wrought by multiple seconds of delay between each release of the shutter.  Time to talk to Ben, to listen and then to make everyone quiet again in anticipation of the next opportunity.

When we finished Ben went off to do some last minute Summer math assignment and I had the pleasure of pulling out the film insert, removing physical film and licking (yes! licking with my tongue) the adhesive paper strip that seals the exposed film into its own cocoon of paper layers to protect the latent image on its journey to the lab.

It was a wonderful experience.  And now I'm hooked.  I shot a commercial job on digital cameras today and I have no doubt that it will be well exposed and sharp as a tack.  The colors will be on the money and if they're not I can fix the raw files in any  number of programs.

But with the film camera I had to get it right.  I had to use both sides of my brain in tandem and I realized how much exercise I'd need to get my creative muscles back into shape in order to re-master real photography.  Challenge = joyous success.  Shooting film means you have more skin in the game.  That makes the sweet taste of success all the sweeter.

A break from the medium format nostalgia to talk about the Boy Scout motto.

 You know the motto.  It's "Be Prepared."  And corny as it sounds it's one of the most important things I remember from the fogs of my own history as a Boy Scout.  And I generally hew to the motto in all things photographic, from having back-ups in my gear to double checking locations and weather maps before shoots.  But I fell down on the job yesterday.  I rallied but I wasn't happy with myself.  Yesterday was our first day of shooting on an annual report shoot that will go on for the next week or so.  We have to shoot in August and, since it's for a roadway/construction concern, all the photography is outdoors.

As you might know Texas is in the midst of both an extraordinary drought and a record breaking heat wave.  We've gone over sixty days with triple digital daytime temperatures.  It's pretty amazing stuff.  If I were a landscape architect right now I sure would be reading up in the finer points of xeriscaping.....

So when I planned for the shoot yesterday I found just the right broad-rimmed hat, the perfect non-polarized sunglasses,  a Sportif technical shirt with an SPF of 40 (long sleeves please),  a very cool pair of long cargo shorts (I know, I know....) and appropriate shoes for stumbling around big blocks of concrete and rebar.  I put a case of 16 ounce bottles of Gatorade in the ice chest along with a couple of cooling neck wraps.  And then I packed the gear.

We were shooting for a square print sized brochure with ten inches on a side.  I packed a Canon 5Dmk2 as my main camera and the 7D as a back up.  I knew we'd want some sweeping, dramatic shots so I packed the 20mm and the 24-105mm L for the full frame camera and a lovely old Tamron 11-18mm SP for the cropped frame 7D.  I also brought along but never got around to using the full complement of Zeiss lenses.....

And here's where I screwed up.... I opened the filter drawer and grabbed all of the circular polarizing filters.  There must of have been two pounds worth.  I tossed them into the camera bag along with the other stuff.  And I ASSUMED I had all the filter diameters covered.  Both the 11-18 and the 24-105 take a 77mm filter.  I had 52,  55, 58, 62, 67, 72, and 82mm filters.  In some cases I had duplicates!
But not a single 77mm filter.  So I did the next logical thing and looked through the filter case for the 77 to 82mm step up ring I was almost certain I had.  Nope.  Didn't exist.

Turns out that the lens/filter combo I ended up using all day long was the 11-18+ cir.  polarizer.  I gave new meaning to "hand made photos" as I ended up holding the filter in place with my fingers, being as careful as I could be not to intrude on the image area.  Everything worked well but it was a pain in the butt.  Sometimes I was perched on top of a ladder, camera gripped in one hand, filter gripped in the other, gripped with more than my normal dose of acrophobia......all while sweating away in the direct rays of the sun.

When we finished our shot list for the day I made a careful inventory of the filters and all of my different lens filter sizes and went straight to Precision Camera to fill in any blanks.  We start up again today and I'm happy to say I feel like I am finally well prepared.....

A quick note on contracts.  When you start working with a new PR agency or Ad Agency it's an important time to revisit your commitment to getting signed contracts.  We have a policy here in the studio that calls for signed agreement forms for every new project.  If we've worked with a client for many years and are responding to a quick request for a shoot chances are we'll send them a quick e-mail outlining the project and the cost and ask them,  "Is this what you had in mind?  Does this price work for you?"  And when we get back, from an ongoing client, a response like:  "Yes.  That works.  The budget is fine."  We'll get to work even though we haven't covered ourselves with grade "A" paperwork.

But every once in a while there's a new agency taking over an account we've worked on for years.  Even though we have a good relationship with the final client it's pretty much mandatory, if the agency is "contracting" with us for the client, that we get a more robust contract in place with details about who is paying for what and when.  We also have a policy of getting a deposit for half of our initial project fees and costs upfront.  It's a quick way of separating the serious from the bullshitters.  Money talks.

If we don't get the signed contract we have a couple of choices.  Of course we can walk off the project but then we open the door to any and all competitors......and you can be sure that a new agency you haven't heard of has one or two favorite suppliers just waiting in the wings....or you can go back to the direct client and make your case to them.  Another reason to keep your client relationships happy and mutually beneficial.

And I'll let you in on one of our firmest rules:  All attorneys, churches and politicians must pay up front or when we deliver the images.  No exceptions.  Here's why:  If you get crosswise with an attorney as a client you'll never be able to outmaneuver them when it comes to collections.  They know every way imaginable not to pay a bill they aren't fond of.  Churches all believe that you really shouldn't charge them in the first place because, of course, they are doing "God's work."  They will forget an unwritten agreement quicker than a prayer.  And it's really not going to raise your professional profile within your community to have to sue a church.....  Finally, if you work for a politician and they lose....they are already out of money and you'll become just one in a long line of unsecured creditors.  And believe me, it's hard to raise campaign funds after the fact to pay off debts already incurred.

You can go all self-righteous on me if you are an attorney.  I understand that there are a ton of good and honest ones.  It goes back to the "bad apple" theory.  (In all honesty, I have friends who are attorneys who I would work for at the drop of a hat...these are rules that can be interpreted....).    You can be appalled at my lack of respect for "the church" but I've been on the other side of a couple of deals and I'm pretty sure that as long as humans are involved in the process there are a few financial leaps of faith I'd rather not make.  And no matter which side of the ideological coin you fall on I'm pretty sure, if you think about it, you'll get my very direct caveat about working for politicians.

Don't forget your hat and your polarizers.  It's going to be a hot one....


Nice light is good.

I love large, soft directional light with a good shadow for some drama.  When you find it out in the street it's a wonderful thing.  Just make sure, when you find it, that you have someone around who is fun to photograph.

info:  Belinda in Verona. Tri-X.

Saying hello to strangers in public.

 I know it can be kinda scary to walk up to strangers and ask them if you can take a picture of them.  It's even scarier if you don't share a common language.  But it's a fun challenge.  Especially for the introverted.  I was walking through the streets of Rome when I saw this imposing looking person. And he looked so different with the headscarf, the aviator sunglasses and the cigar in his right hand that I just had to get his portrait.  But I didn't feel right trying to be surreptitious so I walked right up to the table he was sitting at and asked him if he would mind.  "No Problem."  I focused my Hasselblad, having already judged the exposure the minute I stepped into the square.  I was using the 100mm Planar so it was important to get physically close.  That's not a long focal length on a medium format camera.  I shot a frame and then he leaned over and mugged a kiss to his mom.

I snapped that too.  He smiled, she smiled, I smiled.  I was about to thank him and walk away when he took off his glasses and his headscarf and gave me this very direct portrait.  I loved it.  We shook hands. I bowed and walked off.  The man seemed delighted that he had been singled out for a portrait.  He gave me good stuff.

When I go on walks in San Antonio with groups of photographers and when I do lectures about photography there are always some people who want to use long zoom lenses to sneak photos of interesting people.  But the images they get always leave me unengaged.  In many ways these long distance photographers have no cultural skin in the game.  And the photos lack dimension.  The camera is so, so, so secondary to the whole equation.  It's all about responding, reacting and collaboration.

A great exercise for all kinds of photographers is to stretch out of your comfort zone. Minimize your camera gear so that you don't need to make any choices.  That takes it out of the mental process.  Go somewhere with lots and lots of people and try picking out the most interesting people in the crowd, approach them, tell them your true intentions for taking an image and photograph them with their willing complicity.  You'll meet people.  You'll learn what it means to get permission.  And your photos will be more interesting.  Was it Robert Capa who said, "If you're pictures aren't interesting you're not close enough?"  

Techfo:  Hasselblad 500 CM,  100mm 3.5 Planar,  Tri-X film.  Scanned on an Epson V500.


Academia Portrait.

I love going on vacation with one camera and, at the most, two lenses.  You learn that camera and those lenses forward and backward.  And if you're really in the game you'll limit yourself to one kind of film.  Digitally is wonderfully convenient.  But sometimes, at least for my brain it's too convenient.  There's a digital camera I wish someone would make.  Kodak almost did it for a brief time.  I want one that shoots squares.  Only squares.  Not something I can over ride or change.  Just square all the time.  And I want it to shoot in black and white.  I know I can set that combination on a number of cameras but I know equally well, and more importantly the bossy part of my brain knows, that I can change right back to a different combination.  My brain works better when it's forced to work with inflexible tools at hand.

The year this was taken, 1993,  Belinda and I had planned a trip to Florence.  As we sat in the airport in Dallas, Texas the television played some breaking news.  A car bomb had just exploded outside the Uffizi Gallery.  We arrived the next day......

Hasselblad 500 CM with 100mm f3.5 and Tri-X.

Technical note:  Someone asked in a comment if I would share my scanning workflow for the black and white negatives.  I'd be glad to.  I have an Epson Perfection V500 Photo Scanner on my desk next to my little computer.  It came with film holders for 35mm and medium format.  I blast the dust off the glass and the negative with some compressed air and then I go straight into the Epson Scan software and set all the typical controls.  16 bit grayscale.  Sized to 10 by 10 inches @300 dpi if I'm eventually aiming for the web.  24 by 24 inches at 300 dpi if I'm aiming on making a print.  I turn unsharp masking to low and turn off any of the grain enhancement and dust removal controls off.  I make a preview, size it, hit zoom and look at the way I've cropped the image in a bigger window.

Then I go into level controls in the Epson Scan software and set white and black levels and the corresponding output sliders until I have what I want, image wise.  Then I scan and save as an uncompressed tiff.  It takes all of four minutes for the smaller size and about nine minutes for the larger size.  Then the image gets opened in PhotoShop CS 5 where I use the healing tool to spot the image.  I do my final sharpening in PS CS 5, usually (point)1 radius at 300% (unsharp masking) followed by a quick, "sharpen edges."

I used to think you had to get drum scans to get good images but once I was doing a big show of black and white images from a 1995 trip to Rome and I sent out twelve images to be scanned for something like $80 each.  I hated all the scans.  And this was from a famous scanning house.  They were too highly sharpened, to saturated and kinda dirty.  I knew I could do better.  I bought an earlier version of the scanner (I think the 3200 Perfection) and scanned the stuff over again on that $300 machine.  The lab I used to output the 24 by 24 inch prints with a Lightjet printer were very impressed by the scans and so have many other photographers.    There is a print of the Russian Girl on the Spanish Steps in Rome above my desk and it's as perfect as any enlarger print I've ever made.  Many times the high priced equipment is only necessary for the underskilled user.  Practice scanning and, like cameras, you can use just about anything to get a good image.

If I'm going to web I reduce to 1200 pixels wide and run the save to web in PS CS 5.  Always as sRGB files.  In fact, I use sRGB for everything except my Costco prints.  Those go out with the Costco profiles for specific printers embedded in the files.

Then I put the negative back in the protective sleeve or page and sit down and write the blog.....

A continuation of the train/Hasselblad series.

The interesting thing to me about medium format Tri-X negatives is the long dynamic range they had when developed just right.  I marvel at the detail of the cloth weave in the reflection of Belinda's blouse in the window and how gracefully the reflections roll from white to soft gray to middle gray.  How smoothly the grays hold detail in the head rest cover behind Belinda's head and how wonderful the tones look in the over head lighting in the top, right hand of the frame.

I have no idea where we were other than somewhere in the middle of Italy.  The old Compur shutter on the 105mm purred like a cat and, after the mirror came up the shutter was all but silent.  I love the composition and the placement of lights and darks.  I shot one frame.  I discovered it twenty years later. I saw it when I shot it.  And when I developed it.  And when I contact printed it.  But I only really saw it last night.  

I am in love with love.

Old images from an earlier time.

In 1991 Belinda and I took a trip to Italy to explore the country and celebrate the end of a long recession that had gripped Austin since 1986 or 1987.  That recession was also caused by the real estate market and inept or criminal banking practices.  Some, in the savings and loan industry were actually prosecuted.  I took along one camera and two lenses.  And a bucket full of Kodak Tri-X.  The camera was a Hasselblad 500CM and my favorite two lenses at the time were the ancient 50mm and the amazing 100mm 3.5 Planar.  Kind of a 28 and 60 point of view in 35mm terms.  We were on a train heading to or from Parma and Belinda was making a note about something or another and paused to look out the window.  I made it a habit, back then, to always notice the ambient exposure when I entered a room or a train compartment so my camera was already set at an approximately correct exposure.  I looked down into the finder and focused and then I clicked the shutter button.  Looking at the image and how quickly the pencil and the headrest go out of focus I am almost certain that the lens was set either wide open or, at the most, f4.

Weeks later, when we came home I had at least 100 rolls of film to develop and process.  In those days I  processed and contact printed any film I shot for myself.  I did it to save money.  After all, we'd just survived a big downturn and one that changed the advertising market locally for some time to come.  And at my core I'm pretty frugal.

When you are developing 120mm roll film in a cannister that holds four rolls you don't do all 100 rolls in a day, or even a week.  You have to leave time and space for hanging the film up to dry and harvesting it from the clothesline in the darkroom and then cutting it into strips and putting it in archival pages.

Once I'd made the contact sheets I'd go thru with a china marker and mark in red the frames I was interested in printing.  A quick square around an image meant that it was "of interest" while an extra line over the top meant "keeper" and two extra lines over the top of the frame meant "print now."

Today, twenty years later, I've probably printed fewer than 10% of the 1200 images I took over the course of that month.  Every once in a while I look through the three ring binder that holds this trip and I find another one.  They appeal to me differently now.  I'm watching my past with nostalgic glasses.