7.21.2015

I love nailing white, on white, on white on stage. Balancing the highlights and the flesh tones makes some images work well. This is with the D810 in the DX crop mode. Still a 20 megapixel image....

©2015 Kirk Tuck for Zach Theatre.

Tip: Manual Exposure. Spot meter for the white coat and then open up 1 and 2/3rd stops. Push up a third of a stop in post.  KT

www.kirktuck.com

The Novel...

Defying Gravity On Stage.


What: A Dance number from "Sophisticated Ladies" 

Where: Zach Theatre at 1510 Toomey Rd. Austin, Texas 78704

Camera: Nikon D810+Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 lens

Particulars: f3.2, 1/1000th of second, ISO 1600, manual exposure, autofocus - center group Jpeg file.




Buy Kirk's Novel!

7.20.2015

What's the boy up to this Summer?


He's working at a software company (what did you expect in Austin where we have more software developers than baristas?).  I think he works all day on a computer there and when he comes home he relaxes by....working on his computer. In about a month and some change we'll disrupt the routine all over again and send him back off for his second year of college.

Why is there a desire to build a time machine that could go into the future? Time is going forward more than fast enough for my taste....


7.19.2015

News Flash!!! One Hundred Dollar Zoom lens does well. Pressed into use at Pedernales Falls State Park in an attempt to stave off boredom.


The image above was done from a long distance with an Olympus 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 zoom lens, mounted on a nice tripod. I shot it with a polarizing filter on the front to do fun stuff to the body of water on the right, lower corner of the frame. I shot at f8.

When I enlarge the frame it is delightful. And I must say that everything I had with me in my backpack weighed less than the 80-200mm f2.8 lens I would have used had I been dragging a Nikon all over the place. By a long shot.

Click on the photo and it will enlarge....





Forget the new lens. Read the novel...

An afternoon spent testing the Olympus 40 meg (and 60 meg) Hi-Res feature at Pedernales Falls State Park. Hot and crazy.


I'm not much of a landscape photographer but I'm willing to fake it for an hour or two at a time if I'm trying out something different and new. That would be the Olympus Hi-Res mode out in the real world. 

I packed a couple of the EM5.2 cameras and two lenses. The Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 zoom and the Olympus 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 R. I also packed a 58mm polarizing filter and three bottles of Evian water. Grabbed my straw Stetson cowboy hat, a Columbia long sleeve Sun Guard shirt and a bottle of spray on sun screen, and then I drove the 40 minutes to the park.

All my gear was in a little backpack and I carried a Berlebach wooden tripod over my shoulder. I parked the car and slipped on the backpack then I headed down the steep trail to walk out over the rocks, worn and crevassed by centuries of running water. The head of the falls that bubble up from underground is a vast field of smoothed rocks that hide little pools and streams that all run together in to the Pedernales River.  It takes fifteen or twenty minutes to trek down from the car and another thirty or forty minutes to find the good spots. Spots uncrowded by people dragging along coolers and screaming children.

It was about 97 degrees by the time I got to the boulder field. My hat provided good protection from direct sun, as did the shirt, but after two hours of walking around, finding interesting views, setting up the tripod and comping everything up for the shots, all in direct sun,  the heat just starts to wear you down. It radiates from the baked rocks and even with UV protection in all quadrants the sheer thermal load just starts to elevate your core temperature. 

I headed into the trees surrounding the field and drained the contents of one Evian bottle. Then I looked at what I'd gotten. I liked it. 

When I first started to shoot I set the camera to record in Hi-Res, in the Super fine Jpeg mode. Later I modified that by selecting the Raw+Jpeg setting. While the files jumped up from a 40 megapixel size to a 60 megapixel size I didn't see much difference in quality when I got back to the studio and could take a good, long look on the monitor at 100%. 

After a little break in the shade I headed down the long trail to the area of the park where people are allowed to swim in the river. It's about two miles from the Falls. I spent some time shooting there as well but I kept thinking about the walk back in the heat so I cut the photography down when I started to feel a bit off and trekked back to the car, drained another bottle of water and headed home. 

So, what did I discover about the Hi-Res mode in the EM5.2? First of all, being on a tripod in broad, Texas sunlight just feels so strange. It took me right back to my view camera days. You get to spend a lot of time extending legs in uneven arrangements and making adjustments to the tripod. The upside of my time spend with the "blond beauty" of tripods was that the wood is wonderful to touch even after being exposed to direct sunlight for hours. While a black, metal set of tripod legs would fry your hands the Berlebach was more or less temperature neutral.

In Hi-Res mode the images are loaded with tons of real detail. They also have a different, richer color palette than images that are shot in traditional modes. But much can be done to equalize files from traditional capture and Hi-Res. To this point I have included a file from a large super fine jpeg shot in the regular mode at the bottom and I find it malleable enough to get close to the look of the High-Res stuff in terms of tones and colors. Where it is no match is in resolution.


While we are mostly programmed to profess our undying love for RAW files I think in the future I'll stick to my instincts and shoot the Hi-Res stuff in large super fine jpeg. It looks great to me that way.

I set the camera to the regular file size for the image below because I felt constrained by having to shoot motionless subjects with the super-pixel mode. I like to see people in my images and I like it even better when they move around and do stuff. All the files here are sized to 2100 pixels on the long end for blogger. You'll have to take my word for the fact that the larger files have a embarrassing amount of detail. But for everything that moves you'll probably be just fine with the 16 megapixels you get standard. Nice to know you aren't totally screwed if you left that tripod at home....


After years as a medium telephoto curmudgeon I am grudgingly coming to love walking with a wide angle zoom lens. Either my vision is getting wider or my selection of subjects is shifting...

I love the aluminum canoes. They remind me of Summer camp at Camp Carter in Ft. Worth, Texas.
We did an overnight canoe trip and my partner and I managed to capsize our canoe in the middle of the lake. We used what we learned in canoe class to right it but most of our possessions drifted slowly to the bottom of the lake. It was a chilly night camping out but everyone chipped in something; a shirt, a blanket, etc. and we made it through okay. 

The canoes above are from the Zilker Park trail that runs next to the stream connecting the pool to the city's central lake (which is really a part of the Colorado River....).

Nikon D610+Tamron 20-40mm zoom lens.




Read the Novel....






7.18.2015

The "Wall" as a counterpoint to the wonderful blue of a wide angle sky.


Sky with Wall. Nikon D610+20-40mm lens. 

I am posting lots of pictures instead of words because I think the period of my technical relevance is waning. Everyone is already an expert in everything having to do with cameras. All that's left is to do the art.

I love paths that curve and arc. This one runs down to the Lamar Blvd. bridge.

When I started the blog back in 2009 there was so much to write about. Photography appeared to be growing by leaps and bounds and there was a seemingly insatiable audience of people who were anxious to learn whatever they could about photography. And lighting. And the business of photography. Now it feels like we've lived through the upper curve of a sinusoidal wave of interest and innovation and we're heading for the inevitable trough. 

I looked back today at some of the things I've been writing about, like micro four thirds cameras and electronic viewfinders. The push back, in our comments,  from most people doing photography at the time was pretty remarkable. Everyone assumed that we'd continue with the status quo and live on a rich diet of incremental DSLR improvements. Everyone assumed that pros would always use Canon and Nikons. They also assumed that we'd always be using optical viewfinders. To read some of the comments back then one would think that the inclusion of EVFs on good cameras was the work of satan. 

But the photo world has matured, flattened and become fully researched and rationalized. I'm sure most people reading this have handled most of the same cameras I have. Most have paid more attention to the owner's manuals than I have and most can tell you all the shortcuts you can implement with various function buttons on your new cameras. Which I cannot.

Although very few of us are engineers or scientists here there are many discussions all over the web about technical aspects of imaging grounded in high physics and arcane optical theory. Even my dentist and my lawn guy love to wax on about "micro contrast" and "noise floors" and "shot discipline." If I need to understand how lens designs create optical signatures I need go no further than to the woman who cuts my hair to have a full on discussion. Sensor technology? I go to my barista for that.

But the sad thing, at least for me, is that when the internet has succeeded in gifting us all with the same knowledge and the same proxies of experience then there's not much else to really discuss besides whatever new product is lurching through the gear pipeline (which we mostly want but mostly don't need) and the actual photographs that we take. All the other stuff we used to talk about is instantly redundant because the minute it is written and published by anyone it diffuses into the marsh of general knowledge like India ink in my glass of sparkling water. 

I wish I had a willful lack of self-awareness because I could have monetized what I know through a series of mostly meaningless workshops. Entertainment thinly disguised as photographic workshops....

But really, all I have to share is my own work and my views about how I do the work. And the last thing I would recommend here is that someone slavishly copy my methodologies since they are not really well founded, technically,  and are certainly suspect aesthetically. 

We are mostly technocratic males here and it would be healthy if we could all just meet face to face for coffee or beer. We could talk about so many things that are more comfortable and information rich than just what lens to choose to take pictures of that intense red fire hydrant against the rich green carpet of grass spreading out behind it like a.....green screen. 

But most of us will only meet here. And even sadder than the homogenization of subject matter is the understanding that most people love what they, personally, shoot and are indifferent to other people's work. Maybe talking about them "shootin' irons" is easier and more fun because it is surrounded with the excitement (as in gambling) of risking large sums of money. 

People repeat the old saw of being tired of the endless discussion of gear, gear, gear but the statistical reality of blogging is that every gear post here out pulls every post about aesthetics by a factor of nearly 10:1. For those few non-math majors here let me say it like this: If I put up a post about making an image or having an experience making an image (and that post doesn't concentrate on cameras and lenses) then about 200  people will click on it and read it all the way through. But if I put up a post about the new version of an old, but popular, lens about 2,000 people will read it in the same time frame. To really goose readership all one has to do is write a controversial review/editorial on a popular piece of Olympus, Canon, Nikon or Fuji gear. A mirrorless versus DSLR piece is also a sure bet!

If I could make a reasonable argument that the Fuji XT-1 is a piece of garbage and everyone shooting with one is delusional and certainly will never make art with one, I might be able to scrape up fifteen or twenty thousand readers in the same time frame. (Sorry, can't really make that argument). So even though everyone gets all high horsified about relentless gear posts ("tut, tut, let's talk about the art...") they are like a cigarette smoker who professes trying to quit. They denounce the drug and then step outside "just this once" to light up. 

The sales numbers for gear are illuminating. The market for cameras tanked hard, and I think it's going to tank even harder this year. It's not because ardent photographers have embraced phones with cameras it's because huge numbers of ardent photographers have moved on to something else. Their interest crested and plunged. When a market troughs there's nothing to do but ride it out and enjoy actually doing the craft instead of talking about it. Even if that's not nearly as much fun...

I think everyone here knows that I am a commercial photographer. The market is currently better than it's been for years. Some sort of inverse relationship between the popularity of the hobby and one's ability to charge for it.  I intend to keep writing the blog from that point of view and showing what I am working on and what I am interested in. 

I sound like broken record lately, vacillating between Olympus EM5.2 cameras and Nikon's traditional DSLRs, but the reality is that's my current focus and I'm not anxious to rush out and buy or borrow new stuff just to satisfy our collective need for a geardrenaline rush on a weekly basis. Maybe part of the reality of the craft right now is about settling in with what we have and doing actual work. Wouldn't that be novel???


I was walking along, writing things in my head, when I saw the clouds playing with the street lights. What a lovely sky!

Austin Morning Sky.


More images from a walk through the park with a nice camera and an old lens.

This is one of the trails that leads to the Barton Springs Pool.
To the left is the stream that connects the pool to 
Austin's Ladybird Lake. 

At various places along the stream people sit in the cool water
and while away their time making balanced rock sculptures
from rocks they find on the bottom.
The water is always cool. Mostly 68 or 70 degrees (f). 
At the other end of Barton Pool it comes bubbling up from underground.

People who pay admission to the pool usually keep their clothes on. 
People who swim in the stream instead are less likely to do so...

In the morning there are many canoes at the open air canoe rental shop.
By noon on a hot day there are none left to rent. 

This is the trail that leads away from the pool toward downtown.
We have miles and miles of trails around the waters that flow through
our downtown area, most covered by old and new trees for shade.

This bridge takes traffic over the creek on Barton Springs Rd. 
On a hot afternoon paddle board people and canoe-ers glide under and linger for 
respite from the powerful sun.

I walked all morning and on the way back to Barton Springs and my car I saw hundreds of 
fit, young people paddle boarding, canoeing and running through the park.
It certainly gives weight to the graffiti on the column in the image above....

These stairs lead down from the running trails that interconnect around
Zilker Park to the pool at the north end of Barton Springs Pool. It's area that 
people frolic in when they don't want to or can't pay the $3 admission to the 
big pool. 

All images: Nikon D610+Tamron 20mm-40mm zoom.

Lovely day for a walk.