8.21.2019

Fast Trips to Someplace Else and Back Again.

These tiny planes are hard for photographers who need to bring along 
a little bit of everything. But flying into smaller markets comes
with compromises. 

It is said that Travel Broadens the Mind but from what I could see in my quick jaunt across the country, with any clarity, is that travel seems not to do much more than to broaden the girth of the participants. It's sometimes stunning to see just how large people have become. And how much weird stuff they consume from the shops in airport waiting areas. The most disturbing sight of this week's journey to Knoxville was in that city's airport where I waited for a tardy plane. 

A man who must have weighed much more than four hundred pounds was sitting next to a table eating a Cinnabon from a box which contained three other, large Cinnabons. He was, naturally, washing down this strikingly odd meal with......you must have guessed it....a Diet Coke. As if. 

I was in Knoxville to shoot portraits on a continuation of a project I started with a company last year, in the fourth quarter. Most of our portraits were done outside with some really nice, dense foliage in the background. Last year I shot the same kinds of images with a Panasonic G9 but we're continuing on now with the FujiFilm X-T3. That camera, along with the 40-150mm f2.8 lens was the only combo I shot with all day long yesterday. I ended up photographing about 12 people, including the CEO of the company. 

I switched from using the X-H1s to the X-T3 for only one reason; the X-T3 is smaller and lighter and I knew I'd be riding on a small jet, like the one just above, and that luck (which routinely favors me in big things, but rarely in smaller situations) would make sure that the plane was full and that I would be the last one to board. This meant that all the shoe box sized, overhead compartment space would be filled and I'd need to be able to prove beyond the shadow of doubt that my Think Tank Airport Essentials backpack would actually fit under the seat in front of me. Which it did. Barely. I brought the X-T3 with me as my main shooting camera but did bring along a couple of X-Pro2 bodies to serve as back up cameras. They are even lighter and seem more compact. I thought of bringing the Pentax K-1 as well but it's too heavy to fly on tiny, regional jets. 

I traveled with the small camera backpack and one Tamrac rolling case for the lights and accessories. Since I knew exactly where I'd be shooting most of the portraits (in a tree shaded park in the morning) I pared down from the All Contingencies Boy Scout Readiness inventory to just a manageable one. I packed two medium light stands, two collapsible soft boxes, one small stand (for "just in case") three small, battery powered, shoe mount flashes with Godox soft box adapters, some bungee cords to attach improvised weight to the light stands on location, and one large (60 inch) translucent, white umbrella to block direct sun. In the lid of the case I packed an extra pair of pants, an extra shirt, and some flip flops. Somewhere, floating around the interior of the case was deodorant and a fresh pair of boxers. 

I keep my toothbrush and toothpaste in the backpack so I can practice good dental hygiene in even the worst case delays. 

The selection of gear turned out to be perfect. I used just about everything I brought and wanted for nothing. Best of all the big case weighed in at 50 pounds even so I didn't have to pay overweight charges, which, looking back to my second paragraph, is keenly ironic. 

Ah, the luxurious life on the road. I "got" to stay at an Embassy Suites next to a highway. I asked about quiet rooms but I'm pretty sure my check-in person didn't quite understand the concept of a quiet room. That's what earplugs are for. But sleeping with ear plugs means you might not hear your alarm so I've had a friend who is smart with electricity whip up a device that plugs into my phone and sends an electric shock to a little adhesive pad I attach to my left ear. We're still getting the voltage and amperage correctly dialed in; I can tell we're not quite there yet from the excruciating pains and burn marks on my earlobe... (for the insanely literal: That last part is made up. As in "not true." And, for my republican friends, that last part was "fake news"). 

It was five a.m. Austin World Standard time when the ear probe zapped me into consciousness on Tuesday morning and I got to take part in the early breakfast on the road ritual of business people. They stare like zombies at Fox and Friends, read tattered copies of USA Today and eat lots of bacon and sausages. Or sausages and bacon. And sometimes biscuits with gravy. There is fruit and oatmeal and stuff like that just in case the hotel is captured by vegans. I tried to go middle ground and mix cantaloupe with scrambled eggs. But I did sneak a slice of bacon into the mix. It's rare I escape the watchful eye of my live-in, organic diet disciplinarian, Belinda.

But at least the coffee was good. 

It was a stress free two days for the most part because my client caused me to be chauffeured everywhere. The picked me up from the airport on Monday and drove me to dinner and then the hotel. Someone was there to drive me to the shoot promptly at 8 the next morning. And to lunch. And to the CEO's house for her portrait. And then back to the airport. It was pleasant to have a "travel aid" who kept track of times, schedules and itineraries. 

I've spent time today re-charging batteries, re-packing for the video shoot at UT (Texas; not Tennessee) tomorrow, editing down to 800 the images from yesterday's shoot and doing a global color and exposure correction on them, and reeling from the kindness of the comments posted today. 

I do think that the original commenter who sparked my angst might have chosen a better way to express his discontent with my photo choices but I may have been too reactive as well. In any case while I don't know him personally I think it's a bit overboard to infer that he's an A-hole. I think we just got our signals a bit crossed. It happens. We should all be nicer to each other. That's what I learned on Bill and Ted's Adventure....the re-make of which will feature our new friend, Holland Taylor. What a circle.

And  (below) here is the amazing view from my hotel window at 7 in the morning... luxury all the way. 



An ancient posting that still makes me smile: https://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2010/11/passion-is-in-risk.html

More sterile and lifeless photographs posted for my own enjoyment...

I'm tired today. It was a shitty week for blogging. I shot lots of stuff for clients that I'd be happy to share if only they weren't in an "embargo'd" state. Seems advertising clients don't really want to see photographs they paid lots of money to create in Instagram and on blogs long before their own publication and use. The images I created yesterday in Knoxville are of people and they'll need to be edited, selected and retouched before the client starts using them. It could be months before I'm cleared to show some....

Before I left I read a comment from a reader letting me know that my usual selection of images is quite repetitive, sterile and lifeless. I understand that he was not trying to be mean or troll-y but was in fact complimenting the set of images from the hike and bike trail I'd posted that day. All the same it made me pause and wonder  just what the fuck a working photographer should be showing in a photography blog.  I work a lot at my "job" but so much of it is video (and I seem to have only one or two readers who like to even read the word, "video.") or  it's proprietary (re: money making and commissioned) imagery, and photographs of people created for marketing campaigns, etc. We're constrained by model agreements, NDAs and other contracts from showing some images in public venues.

In between the paying work (which I do show when I can) I don't have the time-luxury to run off to the Himalayas for a few days to jet in and shoot some extra landscapes for my loyal readers, haven't got time to rush off to Alaska to shoot a new batch of northern lights images in between corporate portrait projects, don't have time to rush off to Hollywood and wait around the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel to scout for beautiful actresses to photograph (as if I had the access). All of which makes me ponder why I bother to spend time writing this dreadful blog anyway. No one really gives a shit about other people's photography other than to reverse engineer the stuff they find useful and then critique the rest. The fun glow of being a full time photographer has faded, culturally, at about the same rate as camera sales, and if you really need to know about camera technology there are literally millions of places to read about it, hear about it, and watch videos about it all over the web. Most of which are far more invested in the camera and lens review process than am I.

As I was sitting in the airport in Knoxville, delayed as we waited for United Airlines to fix a mechanical problem which may have led to the toilets overflowing, I sipped a bad cup of lukewarm coffee and pondered the concept of the blog; creating free content for anonymous consumers

We finally got on board the plane and took off an hour late. As I ran from terminal to terminal in Houston International a couple hours later, trying to make my connection into Austin, my mind continued to mull over the blog conundrum. Was my desire to blog entirely driven by a need to be recognized in some way by the photographic community at large? Was it an attempt to connect with like minded people and discuss things about photograph we both share a passion for? Was it just a desire to keep writing as a way of creating my own journal of day to day life? And is there a restroom between here and gate C11? (yes, there was).

I think some of my readers have mistaken my role for that of an Instagram Influencer, thinking that I'm bound to entertain them in exactly the fashion they'd like because, of course, I'm being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by sponsors. I wish it was true. But, for the very linear minded here: I'm not. I was writing it for fun, but now that highly "curated" galleries of all new photographs, built to order, are more or less mandated I can feel the fun being sucked right out of the space.

I always thought the audience I imagined I was writing for was interested in the writing. Interested in what I thought about a certain subject or event. Why I work the way I do. What ways the gear influences in the work. What motivates me to work instead of just retiring from the field and frittering life away. But apparently it's the photographs that are important. The web is full of them. Have at it. Go crazy. I think I'll stop posting photographs after this. They just seem to get in the way of the process of blogging. Or maybe I'll just stop writing and post images of birds in flight, water flowing at slow shutter speeds, kittens, landscapes and other mindless filler instead. It sure would be easier than writing stuff down.

So. Here are some pretty landscapes. At least I think they are pretty. Knock yourselves out. I've got no words of wisdom or entertainment to accompany them.















Couldn't help it. I had to include the dancing girls. 

8.17.2019

Walking the lake instead of downtown. Using a prime lens instead of a zoom.

A view of Zach Theatre's main stage from the Hike and Bike Trail.

As of now next week is fully spoken for. We have portraits to shoot in Knoxville, TN. A video project to complete at UT Austin, and a photo assignment after the Friday show of "ANN." I've been swimming in a pool that's too hot and I figured I'd take a break, change the scenery and get my exercise this morning with a long walk around the Hike and Bike Trail that surrounds Lady Bird Lake (which is also the Colorado River). I've talked about running and walking on this trail in my blogs for about a decade but I haven't really shown many images of the actual trail so I thought I'd take the "eccentric" camera out of a spin this morning (Friday) and give you some idea of what the trail looks like.

Plus, I thought I'd play around with captions; just for fun. For the curious camera lovers out there the "eccentric" camera is the Pentax K1. I attached the 50mm f1.4 AF lens to it and just blasted away at the scenery. It's kinda fun and kinda retro to hoist and operate an "old school" style DSLR once in a while. The whole experience has its PROS and CONS. Sadly, no pre-chimping. One actually has to commit to an exposure and the REVIEW the image afterwards to make assessments. Very primitive indeed. 

It's an interesting contrast for me since I spent time at the museum yesterday with the X-Pro2 and the 35mm f 1.4 lens which is a whole different photography/gear experience even if the lenses are a relative match for angle of view..... 

One nice thing about such a weather sealed camera body is that I need to wipe the sweat from my hands off the body but will probably just take the camera into the shower with me.....Do you think I'll need a lens or body cap on the front????

This is part of the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge which crosses Lady Bird Lake. The bridge runs north and south while the river runs west to east. It's a beautiful bridge and even has gardens and flower boxes along the edges. It's nice to be able to cross the lake without having to do so with a line of stagnant cars in rush hour. Very civilized and one of three good pedestrian options for navigating the north/south transit of the lake/river.

This is the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge as seen from the Hike an Bike Trail on the south side of the lake.
The view from the area below the Pfluger Bridge looking west to the Lamar Blvd. Bridge which used to be the only convenient north/south bridge for cyclists, walkers and runners. And a dangerous option it was....Narrow walk ways butted right next to lanes of fast moving cars. And yes, a number of pedestrians lost their lives on that bridge...



A view of the newest downtown construction project, recently completed. 
This view is from the Pedestrian walkway on the First St. Bridge. 
That walkway is totally separate from the part of the bridge open to cars. 
At the south intersection of the river and First St. are a bunch of water fountains, out door showers and a large dog park. It's a hub for so many runners and walkers....


This is a view of the "Jenga" tower from the north shore of the lake. I'd never seen this particular view of the building before but I've become a bit fascinated by the project. It's so odd to see a building that looks so .... unbalanced?

When I first started running the Hike and Bike trails some 45 years ago there were far fewer trees, and the trees that were there were much shorter and smaller. Now, if you are running the five mile loop on the trail you'll have shade from the big, mature trees for about 1/2 of your walk. It really makes a difference when that "feels like" temperature settles in around 110 degrees for days a a time. 
Because, really, you can't just give up on your running....

Part of the city's old power plant which has been unused for many years. 
It would make a great studio but it's only zoned for municipal use. 

This is a circular ramp way that allows runners and bikers to descend from bridge level to train level without having to use the stairs. It's kind of cool that it's covered with ivy now. Nice place to stop and hit more water fountains. This is on the north side of the lake.


When it's not 96 degrees at 8:15 in the morning the trail is utilized by many more people. Today was a light day but I'm guessing it's because everyone is getting ready for their kids to go back to school next week. Traffic coming soon.


This (just above) is a historic site. Just past the arch of the bridge is the spot on the trail where then governor, George W. Bush was nearly run over when a speeding garbage truck lost control and jumped the curb, barely missing him. George W. Bush was a regular trail runner back then. 
Lousy president but turning out to be an interesting and quite likable fine art painter.

This is a view of the Lamar Blvd. Bridge from the opposite side. I'm always a sucker for the reflections.

From underneath the Lamar Bridge, looking south.

On the north side of the trail and heading west.


There's a five mile loop that runs from the Mopac Expressway to First St. and then back to Mopac. Mopac and First St. are the book marks for this but the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge is kind of in the middle of the two. You have longer options. There is a part of the trail that goes over to IH35 and is about 7.5 miles and a longer loop that goes all the way to a dam in east Austin. That's a 12 mile loop. 
If you go from Mopac Bridge to Pfluger and back you're at a bit less than 3 miles. 
When I was younger and in better shape we'd do the 12 mile loop. Now, as a point of pride I won't go less than the five mile loop. Maybe when I turn 80 I'll pare it down to the three mile route....
But maybe not.....


Looking west from the Mopac Bridge. That's the part of town where the real money lives. 

Overpass grafitti. 

Electric scooters are banned from the trail. That's a great thing. Now there is a pilot program being run to slow down the bikers so the danger of pedestrians and bikers intersecting at blind corners is cut down. Funny to see a radar speed thing on the trail. I tried to run toward it but could only get it to 8 miles per hour. I'm not a moving hazard....

That's the trail I've been walking and running for nearly 44 years.
I hope it is here forever. Now it's Ben's favorite running destination.
He's been on the trail since he was a tiny guy in a baby jogger thingy.
I tell him to keep the habit up so he can run fast when he gets ..... more mature.