7.31.2018

Something I wrote about using gear, over on LinkedIn a while back.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/use-up-getting-your-moneys-worth-out-gear-kirk-tuck/

Today is "estimate day" around the office. I have three potential projects that need estimates and all three clients would like to have them today. How do we estimate?


I love to hear from clients. Especially clients with whom we already have an relationship. And I like it best when they call and talk to me about future projects. After all, that's what I'm in this business for.  But even if I've been a proven and reliable supplier in the past I still have to provide a gameplay and an estimate or bid for each new project; after all, every ad agency is representing a client and those clients all have budgets they're trying to meet. we have to really sharpen our pencils sometimes  when a fun project is attached to a smaller budget. And sometimes we have to let stuff go because the money is just not there to support the project. The happiest days are when the fun projects directly intersect with ample budgets. We bring out the gold plated lenses for those assignments.

My first step in estimating a photographic or video project is to determine whether it's the right fit for me or not. It doesn't make a lot of sense to spend time photographing something that doesn't interest you at all, even if you are being well paid to do so. You'll do a better job on a subject which holds real interest for you. Fortunately I'm interested in a lot of different subjects and I also find people consistently fun, interesting and entertaining. There are few jobs that include people that I'll turn down, as long as there is enough budget attached to do the jobs well.

Once I decide to commit I grab a legal pad and write notes as I try to envision how the whole project will come together. One of the projects I'm estimating today

7.30.2018

Why Canon and Nikon Might Crush the Life out of Sony in the Full Frame Market Place. Blame Engineering and Physics.

I don't know how many people remember all the discussions way back in the mists of the distant past when Canon ABANDONED their long time, FD, bayonet lock lens mount and put all their chips and bets on the new EOS EF lens mount. It was a crazy brave thing to do when they were locked in what was basically a two way sales contest between Canon and Nikon. But do you remember all the white papers and marketing rationales for this cataclysmic change? No? Let me do a refresh...

The old Canon mount was close to the size of the Nikon mount and both worked very well as long as super fast lenses were not required. Remember that back in the mid-century film days an f2.8 lens was a routine and daily user. People generally accepted that lenses performed best at two or three stops down from wide open so speed wasn't the obsession it is today and photographers were happy to get great images at a relatively low cost per lens. Photojournalists and others who worked in low light pushed camera makers to get faster lenses but mostly because having more light pouring into the dimmer DSLR viewfinders meant it would be easier to achieve quicker and more accurate focusing; even if they eventually stopped down to f5.6 to take the photographs.

With Canon and Nikon competing head to head,

7.29.2018

Why I will absolutely rush to buy the new mirrorless Nikon but will probably never take possession of one...

why pine for unavailable cameras when it's really the lighting stuff that 
makes the real difference?

Breathlessly waiting for the big announcement of Nikon's mirrorless delivery date.  I can't eat, I can't sleep, I can't even drink coffee because I'm so excited to finally be able to buy the camera(s) I've always really needed. Right? Yawn. Not so much...

I'll rush to Precision Camera and put my name on the Nikon waiting list the minute we find out when that mirrorless, premium camera has a ship date! But, I previously put my name on lists for the Nikon D850 at Precision Camera and at Amazon.com (it's a race!!!) and that was months ago. I still don't have one of the "world's greatest" cameras in hand with which to shoot. At this rate the mirrorless camera from Nikon might be available to average consumers like me in late 2019... But by then someone else will most likely have announced and actually delivered the very next "miracle" camera and my choice will be to grab something that exists and is purchasable versus waiting for an object of desire that seems to be more "vaporware" than attainable, own-able hardware. Yep. just checked again and both outlets are still showing the D850 as backordered. Wasn't that camera launched like six months ago?  I guess once they sent one to every

7.26.2018

I always get a kick out of the angst visited upon industry experts when something new is on the horizon.


I was busy being amazed at how well the refurbished Nikon 24-120mm lens was working for me on an ancient, used Nikon D700 (see above) when I chanced to click on Lloyd Chamber's camera site today and read the back and forth between him and Thom Hogan. All of a sudden it seemed that camera design and camera marketing were life and death issues.There was a mini-argument about whether or not Nikon could actually do innovative design work and then more wonkiness ensured.

If we could harness the human potential squandered across the web, reading tea leaves and trying to guess about future camera introductions, we would have already landed on Mars and cured cancer.

I'm pretty much ignoring all the misspent energy about future cameras this month. It's too hot to argue with anyone about much beyond who drank the last beer? 

Eric Rose asked me 'how much better a Nikon mirrorless had to be than a GH5 before I switch systems?'

I thought about it for a while but I'd just come back from a very warm walk with the D700 and the recently acquired (but still ancient) Nikon 105mm f2.8D micro lens and I was busy being re-amazed at the incredible sharpness and

7.25.2018

Watch Nikon Pursue the "Apple" Strategy of Letting Other Companies Work Out the Kinks and then Releasing a Great Product.

Remember in 1959 when all the rangefinder users laughed about SLR cameras?
They'd never equal the appeal of rangefinders, right?
So, who came through with proof of concept?
Hint: It was not "first to market" Exacta....

Many pundits on the web think that somehow Sony got all the knowledge about how to build advanced cameras and poor Nikon (and Canon) are just standing at the backdoor of the Sony camera factory begging for table scrapes. But I'm thinking that nothing could be further from the truth. I think Nikon has been riding a long tail of profitable film and then digital cameras and they've been standing back watching and learning from both the pitfalls and the successes of the companies who have been making and marketing mirrorless cameras for the past eight years.

Don't forget that Nikon launched the One Series of mirrorless cameras well over six years ago and they were able to get a lot of stuff right without having a Sony mirrorless one inch sensor ILC camera around to copy from.

We are hearing that Nikon will launch their first "professional," full frame mirrorless camera in the next few months. While it's true that Nikon stumbles from time to time they also have been making very successful and popular cameras since at least the early 1950's.

Here is why I think Nikon will come into the market and do well:

Love what you photograph. Photograph what you love.


Too often we are so enamored of our cameras as intricate little (metaphorical) puzzles that we come to subconsciously believe their purpose is provide the entertainment of puzzle solving, not image making. When we make images we seem to forget that our highest and best use of our cameras is as tools to interpret and share not only what we see but how we see it. Our initial impetus to buy and learn how to use a camera is usually the result of something new and special in our lives. That could be new insight or knowledge about a subject (the idea driving photojournalism) which we feel needs to be shared, or the arrival of new life or new love. The original embrace of the camera comes from the desire to show and share, and to prove that we were here with our own, unique sense of what is beautiful; what should be visually interpreted and preserved.

Try as we might to destroy the world by wringing from it every ounce of profit and plunder we can't stop beauty from continually swirling around us in our everyday lives. We can notice it, appreciate it, gain refuge from the knowledge of its existence, and try to share it with other people thru our cameras.

Sometimes we have to quiet our thoughts in order to see beauty more clearly. Sometimes we have to subdue our need to master a craft in order to understand more completely its real magic and its real reason to exist.

Just a few thoughts on a hot but happy day.

7.24.2018

OT: A modest reward at the end of a long, hot day...


It was a long, hot day last Thursday. I'd driven from Austin to San Antonio to attend a real estate closing that was cancelled at the last minute. I was literally within site of the title company when I got the call telling me they needed to re-schedule. I had no other pressing business in San Antonio so I headed back home.

There were a few traffic delays on the way back and it took longer than usual. The trip sapped my will to get anything else constructive done that day so I puttered around the office, answered some mail and paid bills. When I walked into the house a bit after six in the evening I was tired, frustrated and a worn out from the stress and the delay of the big transaction.

I looked in the fridge and saw that one of my friends had left me a couple bottles of Real Ale Brewing Company's beers. There were labelled, "The Devil's Backbone." I'm not really much of a beer drinker but the idea of a frosty, unfiltered, Belgian style ale seemed alluring so I popped the cap off one and poured it into a large glass.

I walked into our living room and put the glass down on our old, weathered coffee table, in front of the couch. By chance I'd put the glass down in exactly the right spot to encourage late afternoon/early evening sunlight to toss some magic toward through the glass and the beer.

When I glanced over and looked my first thought was not to drink the beer but to grab a camera and photograph it before the light faded altogether and the head on the beer crumbled into a visual mess.

On a nearby counter I found a Nikon D700 and an ancient, manual focusing 55mm f3.5 Micro Nikkor lens. I shot five frames and then the light was gone. The beer tasted good too. Wish I'd taken the TV remote out of the frame before shooting. Ah well. Next time.

The Real Brew is in Blanco, Texas. My halfway point between San Antonio and Austin, when I go "the back way." I've never been to the brewery but I'm planning to get there as soon as the weather cools off just a bit ----maybe in December. I love their products; especially the taste of their "Fireman's Four." It's a pale ale popular all over Austin. Sadly for many of you The Real Ale Brewing Company does not sell their products outside the state of Texas....

Radically hot Summer.


Barton Springs Pool. 

I shot this image of a lifeguard at Barton Springs Pool a few Summers back. I was walking around that day with a very special camera; it was the Sony R1. An all-in-one camera that had an APS-C size sensor and a pretty darn great 24-120mm (35mm equivalent) Carl Zeiss zoom lens on the front. It wasn't particularly small but it wasn't a heavy camera. I got the most amazing shots with it. The color and contrast was pretty much always on the money. The wide end of the lens was well enough corrected to allow me to use it for some brochure projects in which we photographed buildings and interior architecture. 

On the day I shot this it was smoking hot outside. I took the Sony R1 along with me on this adventure because I didn't need to bring along anything else. No attachments, no battery grips, no extra lenses and no extra batteries. Just a camera that was easy to operate and even had its own very usable EVF. When you work in the heat it's great to distill down the details to the fewest possible. Making fewer and fewer decisions is a great coping mechanism for dealing with heat.

Yesterday was a record setter for that particular date in July, in Austin, Texas. The temperature was 110 degrees and, with the humidity added in, the heat index was more like 115. Of course, that would be the day that the title company in San Antonio would want to schedule the final closing on my parent's house! The closing was scheduled for 2:30 pm and I didn't relish flogging my own car (yet again) through the tire shredding heat, nor did I look forward to the inevitable full stop traffic jams on the dreaded IH-35 highway. Really, who wants to sit at a dead stop on a blistering blacktop on a 110 degree afternoon, waiting for the coolant in their radiator to boil out? But since I had to execute the contract as power of attorney (or attorney in fact) I was more than ready to get the process over with, in spite of the heat.

In a flash of genius (they come few and far between...) I decided to rent a car for the trip down and back in the heat. On Sunday I picked up a white Buick LaCrosse from Avis car rental. It was as close to brand new as I've ever had from a rental agency, with only 4,000 miles on it. The car reminded me of the kinds of cars we got to drive in the 1970s. Big and heavy, smooth on the highway and fast. And I'll have to say after owning a number of BMWs and Hondas, GM knows better re: how to do air conditioning for Texans. You could keep a six pack of beer cold enough just by sticking it in front of the vents....

The car was fun and the traffic was surprisingly moderate. We closed on the house with no glitches and then I headed back up to Austin at 3:15 in the afternoon. I chose to go the back way, across the "Devil's Backbone" on Hwy. 281. I cut across my favorite "lonely" rural highway, #165 and saw few cars and no big trucks. When the temperature on the car thermometer hit 114 degrees (f) I started watching the radiator temp and then oil temp a little closer. I sure didn't want to have a breakdown five miles from the nearest ranch house...

Everything went like clockwork and I got back home around 5pm, just in time for Austin's legendary rush hour traffic. But since I was heading into town instead of out of town even that wasn't bad. I took a camera with me on the trip but the heat convinced me never to stop and click off a shot.

With the sale of the house behind me I finally (for the first time this year) feel like I can devote some real attention to resuscitating my own photography and videography business. I'm excited by the prospect.

We had a cold front blow in late last night. It should only hit 100 today!!! Break out the sweaters!!!

I hope everyone is coping with the Summer heat load well. Only three more months of Summer to go here in Austin and then we'll settle down and get our two weeks of Autumn. Brrrrrrr.

Now is the time to swim.



7.21.2018

The kind of photo session that makes you happy and reminds you why you love making portraits.

©2018 Kirk Tuck. All rights reserved.


©2018 Kirk Tuck. All rights reserved.

In this "final frame" E. is finished with our session and getting ready to walk out the door. I couldn't resist getting just one more frame. 


©2018 Kirk Tuck. All rights reserved.

I shot three profile frames. 

My work for the theater rewards me with the joy of meeting many talented and inspiring people. One of those people is a choreographer and dancer that I've worked with for a number of years. She asked me a week or so ago if I would take some promo photos of her daughter for her budding acting career. I gladly agreed and was thrilled when mom, dad and E. came to my studio for a session.

We photographed in the studio for a while and then we headed into my house just to change up the look. E and I collaborated on over 400 shots. She never lost focus or grace. I was amazed at the obvious talent of this amazing four year old. Our session made me happy to be a portrait photographer. I felt as though I'd been given a gift to work with such a great young talent. An hour today which reminded me why I love my art.

I had at my disposal a bunch of different cameras but a little voice in my head pushed me to use one of the D700s. I paired it up with the older Nikon 85mm f1.8D lens for these two images. In the studio I used the 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 VR lens. With the raw file settings at 14 bit, uncompressed, I think this camera is unbeatable for its portrait look. Better than any other full frame camera I've shot with in years.