Playing around with video in the Sony RX10 and goofing on camera.

sony rx10 from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.

Goofing around with the video part of the Sony RX10 camera. It's me mugging to camera. Click through the link and go see it on Vimeo to see the HD version. Note the detail in my hair, etc. It should give you a small idea of what the Sony is capable of....

Please, no fan mail...

Portraits, Interviews, Faces and Stories.


Shot on Kodak Portrait 400 BW film in a Rolleiflex 6008i with a 150mm Sonnar lens. Scanned with the magical desktop scanner. 

The Visual Science Lab has done some soul searching, some market research and some number crunching and we've finally arrived at a business game plan for 2014. Our noble leader, Kirk, will be implementing our master plan of providing portraits and interviews. Or as he says, "Faces and Stories." As you probably know we've been doing portraits for years but you might not know that we've been doing interviews, PSAs, web-based video commercials and similar video production for a while now too. We've honed the skills, put a sharp edge on the tools and we're rolling forward in 2014. We're ready to help our customers and our partners tell their stories. 

Our core business will always be portraits. It's way too fun and addictive not to love. But the video stuff is crazy fun too. With so many video channels available on the web it's kind of silly not to be there with good video. 

We'll try to keep Kirk from going too far down the rabbit hole with things like the performance of microphones, or endless reviews of audio mixers but there's only so much we can do....

For those interested we're basing our new business model around cameras like the Panasonic GH3 and even the Sony RX10. We're aiming to be efficient and creative providers of programming for the web but we sure won't turn up our noises at broadcast commercials,  or even long form story telling. 

We're ready right now. Let 2014 begin. 

Theater Portrait. Square.

See the two notches on the left side of the frame? The ones in the black frame line? That means this image was shot with a Hasselblad film camera. And the notches are specific to a particular camera back. That way, if a back developed an issue, like a faulty light trap, it would be easy for the photographer to know which back was messed up. Nice.

I really like the tonality of scanned black and white negatives.... This was scanned in the little Epson flatbed scanner (perfection v500 photo) that sits on my desk.

Traveling light and with purpose. Life is a never ending series of lessons.

Early last week my sister called me from the east coast. My parents had been visiting for the holidays and needed to return home, close to me.  Both of my parents are heading toward their ninth decade and both of them need (more than) a little help getting through airports and negotiating travel. I was happy to help out so I booked a flight out of Austin and made all the necessary arrangements. I knew I wouldn't have the time or the free hands to make photographs but I couldn't bear the idea of traveling without a camera somewhere close by. I chose the Panasonic G6 and a little, silver kit lens to take along as both a talisman of good luck and a travel camera. 

Even compared to the Sony RX10 the G6 is small and very light. I took a few images while I waited for my flight east and a few images out the window on my way there but from that point on the camera stayed in the bag. There are times in life in which being totally present for the situation in hand is necessary and this long weekend was one of them. 

I guess I'm writing this for only one reason and it has very little (nothing) to do with photography. I'm writing to express how my interactions with airport security, airport Sky Caps and airline flight attendants has surprisingly brought a smile to my face and re-energized my positive feelings about people in general. 

I've traveled a lot. A lot. And most of it has been solo. I stream through airports like water around rocks mostly. I always pack light and I'm always ready for the curve ball. Always anticipating the odd occurrence. Always packing a "plan B" and a "plan C." But not this time. I would be traveling with two people who would require assistance at every turn. Both parents traverse the airports in wheel chairs. My dad, with a bum leg and a cane would miss every plane at his usual walking pace. My mom has a breathing disorder that requires portable oxygen and means that walking more than a few hundred feet is taxing. I expected the worse. I haven't flown with them since we traveled together to Paris nearly twenty years ago...

We arrived at the airport for our flight back home, TSA pre-screened boarding passes in hand. The Sky Caps came in smoothly with wheel chairs and I followed along with three carry-on bags. The Sky Caps were gracious and light hearted. They joked with my dad and kept a good eye on my mom. We breezed through security in five minutes or so. The TSA people we interacted with were warm and polite. They sped us on our way without shoe removal or insertion into the machines. The gate agent at our gate went out of her way to accommodate us and defuse my nervous anticipation. She even found me a spot on her power strip to recharge an oxygen machine's batteries. She and her co-worked joked with my parents as they swept them down the ramp into the plane and made them smile. 

Once we got seated our flight attendant quickly apprised our situation; the oxygen machine and the parents who want aisles seats to assuage their claustrophobias, and she started working her plan. She reseated the passenger in my row who had the window seat into an upgraded seat so my mom and I could spread out a bit. She re-seated the person in the middle seat who had been next to my dad so he'd have a bit more space. And she did it all without making her machinations obvious. The flight went without a hitch.

Once we hit our destinations we waited for everyone else to deplane and then were met by another set of Sky Caps who wheeled the folks to the baggage claims and waited patiently for my father to identify that one checked bag. My plan was to position my parents on a bench out in front of the arrival area, get my car from the parking garage and circle around to pick them up but the Sky Caps insisted on pushing them all the way to the car and helping them in. From start to finish everyone we dealt with was patient, positive, welcoming and ready to bend over backwards to make our day work and our trip as pleasant as it could be. I wanted to write this to say a huge "Thank You!" to the folks at U.S. Airways for an amazingly stress free trip. And to all the people who helped us make the journey on the ground.

Getting older is a bitch. It's wonderful to see that the world is full of caring people who are willing; no, happy, to take a little more time to make sure our more seasoned citizens can still maneuver through life. Thank you to everyone! 

Total number of images shot over the weekend? Three... Re-learning patience and gratitude? Much.

Portrait of Suzie on the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Past.


I really love to make portraits. How much do I like the process? Well, after a hard day's work in the studio, making portraits, I love to unwind by heading out of the studio and making some more portraits. This is an image from long ago. Suzie was an Austrian make-up artist that I used to work with. While her expression in the image above is a bit severe she was a warm, happy and thoughtful work friend. The kind of person who brought you herbal tea when you came down with a cold. 

We both had some time one day to just go out and shoot, and even though it was the middle of a hot summer we trudged down some thin trails to the slow flowing water of Barton Creek. Suzie brought along a couple of outfits and I brought along a Pentax 6x7 medium format camera, a tripod and a pocket full of Kodak T-400 CN film. Interesting film. It was basically color negative film that yielded a black and white negative with a very, very long tonal range. The advantage that I saw was that my lab could process it in C-41 chemicals thereby freeing me from more time in the darkroom, swirling chemicals around in a metal tank. 

We shot until the light evaporated and then we trudged back up the trail in the semi-darkness of the sunset's afterglow. 

It's not an amazing portrait or much of a fashionable image but it reminds me of the sheer immersion with which I lived photography at the time. Hardly a day would go by without me somehow going through four or five rolls of film (on a day off) and thirty or forty rolls of film on a work day. I still shoot a lot. Mathematicians might tell us that the act of creating so many "data points" probably increases my chances of getting something decent more often than if I'd have stayed home and watched TV. 

I loved that particular time period of photography. Everything was transiting in my business from large format to medium format. The feel of the backing paper wrapped around the film. The little strips of adhesive paper with which one sealed the finished and wound off film. The quick glance at a Minolta incident meter to make sure your brain's internal meter matched reality... The cameras seemed like magic back then. And the mirror slap of the Pentax 6x7 was legendary. I used the mirror lock up for nearly every shot. Why not when you're on a good tripod?

I've been away from photography since last Friday and I feel deprived. When I finished the clerical work and accounting work I have at hand I'll head out for a stroll with a camera in my hand. But not a Pentax 6x7. Those were just too damned big.


Sharing my first impressions of the Sony RX10 video. And a little twinge of hesitation.

No beating around the bush here. I wanted to know what the RX10 would do if pressed into service as a video camera. I had some time this afternoon, no models around, no ready subject matter and the ominous threat of rain so I pressed myself into service as on camera talent. That's probably why I'm showing you a still of the camera instead of some web compressed footage...

Just a fun picture of a friend and a Rolleiflex at coffee at Jo's.

Ah. The early days of this century. When we went back and forth between film and 
electronic photography without a care in the world...

A Rollei photographed with another Rollei. Fuji Reala film flowing through the backs. 80mm lenses all the way around. ISO 100 in the open shade. 

Just pausing to reminisce. 


The first sniff test with the Sony RX10. Stills only right now.

VSL CEO gesticulating wildly at an advisory board meeting for the photography 
department at Austin Community College. Image taken by fellow board member during the "new camera pass around."

Claire knew that it was inevitable that I'd be buying an RX10 and deep down I knew it from the day of the first announcement. How could I not after having experienced nearly nine years of perfection from it's noble ancestor, the Sony R1? For those who've chosen to remain out of the new product loop I'll make a brief detour to flesh out what the camera is: Sony has taken the backlit 20 megabyte sensor from the RX100-2, put it in a body with a serious and uncompromising 24-200mm (equivalent) Carl Zeiss Sony with a constant f2.8 aperture (yes: all the way to 200...), designed in a very good EVF and added enough video feature sets to make most new school video artists very happy. 

They packaged all of this into a beautifully designed package with lots of button and dial controls, a snazzy and easy to navigate menu and the ultra cheap price of $1300. If it does everything it's supposed to do it will be a bargain. One video reviewer who was virtually salivating on his keyboard about the lens made the point that he would pay upwards of $2,000 if he could get just that lens alone for his preferred video system. My friend Eric summed the lens up yesterday by saying that if it performed as advertised it represented the "holy grail" of lenses for videographers...

I'll reserve judgement on the ultimate quality of both the lens and the files until I've had a bit more time with the camera. Today was my first day out with the new toy and of course it was a gray and rainy day (just what one of our UK commenters suggested I try only yesterday. 

So far I'm having glorious fun with the camera and I have not yet revved up the video half. The lens is a "power zoom" and it's "fly-by-wire" so it takes a little getting used to but it's well damped in it's action and doesn't exhibit any of the overshoot I used to get from the first version of Canon's 85mm 1.1:2 L series lens with its fly-by-wire manual focusing. 

The camera is light and agile and while you know you are using a contrast detect AF camera there's really very little focus hesitation or hunting, even in lower light situations. 

I set up the camera today by selecting Jpeg, extra fine, AWB, Auto ISO and I shot mostly in the aperture priority mode sticking to f-stops on the fast side of the dial. It's perfectly fine at f2.8 and I like the bountiful depth of field I can get at the 24mm equivalent when I stop down to f5.6.  I used the center focusing system in S-AF as I do with most cameras and didn't mess with stuff like HDR or fast frame rates. 

With all the talk of bokeh I decided to look at the bokeh of the Pentax 18-55mm DA II lens. It's not a big test as it was all done at f8.

I think the evaluation of bokeh works well when you focus on something close, put the background out of focus and then evaluate the transitions and lens artifacts that manifest themselves in the out of focus areas. In this set up I included (on the right hand edge of the frame) a green "A" clamp in order to have a hard edged object to evaluate. I chose to do my investigation at f8 because that's a sweet spot of overall performance for this lens and all similar lenses. I also chose that f8 stop to challenge the prevailing idea that bokeh is somehow always tied to a wide open lens aperture when in fact it's the description of the quality of the out of focus areas and not a description of lens speed!

What I see in the image is a very nice and even flow through the out of focus areas and calm, happy tonal intersections. In fact, I think the lens is an exemplary rendition of the classic "kit" lens that is so widely and undeservedly disparaged. 


I really like the way the Pentax K-01 makes images of Sony RX10 cameras....

I was working in the studio today but every time I started to make progress on something my calendar program would chime in and remind me of something I needed to be doing somewhere else. I'd promised a friend that I would speak to his kid about what to expect of a career in the arts. The kid is in college and is focusing on what she wants to do in the real world. After our Starbucks consultation I headed over to meet my friend, Will, for lunch. Instead of heading off to yet another restaurant he invited me to his house and served an incredible clam chowder, some wonderful stinky cheese on freshly toasted sourdough bread, and a nice glass of chardonnay.

Over lunch I was reminded of how nice it is to have friends who are both great cooks and also much smarter than me. Will shared some of his newest assignment photographs with me and gently chided me for making the statement that 'photography has gotten too easy.' He is already a master of the art and he was quick to point out that there is always so much more to learn.