4.01.2020

In a great mood this morning. Here's why:

 I can't do much about a pandemic. Sure, I can do my part by staying away from everyone and washing my hands a lot, but I can't cure a virus or save jobs. I can't do anything for the people who may not make it through this except to remember them and remember them well. But I can appreciate what I still have and what we still have. I can decide to worry a little and then put that worry aside to make room for daily doses of happiness and joy.

We got up late and it was still just 55 degrees outside. We went for a walk together and the sun was nestled into one of the clearest blue skies I've seen. As we left our house we looked up at our little forest of giant live oak trees and marveled at how healthy they look right now. They'd been a bit leaf-sparse and wane in the Fall and we had them deep fertilized. They appreciated our efforts and are rewarding us with a lush green canopy.

As we walked through our neighborhood we talked about the news of the day. Things will get worse. Then they will get better. Hope is more pleasant than despair. Everyone in our families is healthy for now. We hope it stays that way. It's true that I can't swim right now; I would but the pools are all closed. But I also love walking and so I walk for an hour with Belinda in the mornings and I take a longer and brisker walk later in the day. Videos about swimming technique help remind me of what I need to work on, technique-wise, when the pools re-open.

We've lived through recessions many times with little but residual fumes in our bank accounts but this time around we're coming off a prosperous year and many profitable assignments. I'm still wrapping up a few projects. We can coast for a while. No panicking in 2020...

Austinites, in general, seems to be hewing to the new rules about social distancing and community safety. We're not a big hot spot yet. I hope we, as a community, continue to work on our efforts to stay safe. We'll have streamlined coffee to-go practices in no time...

I worked on my home coffee techniques yesterday and I made a perfect cup of coffee today. Absolutely perfect. I think I've got a winning formula figured out which dulls my ardor for coffee from the outside. I miss seeing familiar faces and hearing the steam release from the espresso machines. 

We've been eating well. Last night it was fresh trout with a lemon caper sauce, roasted cauliflower and mashed sweet potatoes. We're stocked up with groceries and produce for at least the next week and a half. 

We're staying entertained. I love writing the blog. We both love reading novels, and last night I splurged and paid Amazon  for a rental on the latest Star Wars movie, which we missed at the theaters. So, $6 bucks for an evening of entertainment. We even made popcorn. And, happily, no teen agers texting in the rows in front of us...

I seem to have lost my insistent desire for a constant flow of new cameras. I'm saving thousands of dollars at a whack. I've deduced that part of my ability to rationalize even the most extravagant investments in cameras was based partly on the idea that I needed this or that new camera so I could deliver the latest expert results to my clients. I could justify the expense in the moment with the promise that each new piece would help leverage my skills into more profitable engagements. 

When all clients go away so does that rationale. Now I seem happy to shoot for days and weeks with the same small collection of really good cameras. So far I'm even resisting the lure of the Leica song.
While prices on used Leica SL camera bodies drop so has my interest. Will it resume when our confinement is over? Let's find out!

I stay in touch with you on this blog. I stay in touch with other friends via texts and phone calls. I stay in touch with Belinda by walking into the house and checking in. I do miss Studio Dog. She would have loved having us both home for 23 hours a day....

Funny, when we were constantly busy we complained about not having the time to slow down, relax and do the projects we thought we always wanted to do for ourselves. When we were busy making money we groused about not having time to travel. And now fate is making us come to grips with what is really important to us. It's not the hobbies so much, and it's not the travel. The most wonderful thing, and the thing we miss most, is sharing time with family and friends. Big dinners together. Fun happy hours. Meeting for coffee and breakfast tacos. But we'll try our best to make up for that in the near future. 

In times when all the news is bad and we can't have a fix or solution to fall back on it's a good practice to take time to savor the stuff we really love about life and to do a little inventory about everything that brings us joy. 

I never realized how much I took my house for granted. But it's so comfortable and inviting. I can spend hours in a big, upholstered chair in a corner, just reading a book. Occasionally closing my eyes and just feeling how great it is to breathe. Our house is situated on a big, half acre lot and our neighbors to every side are distant and blocked by trees and landscaping. Even this close to downtown it's serene and quiet on the back porch. That's where I like to eat my Greek Yogurt mixed with berries and muesli. It's almost become a ritual. If I'm lucky I see hawks spiraling around up above and there's a black squirrel in the yard that used to taunt Studio Dog. He comes as close as he can to where I'm sitting, almost daring me to chase him.

It's enough in the quiet moments to remember just how lucky we have been... 



I inherited this coffee cup from my father. Also my appreciation for coffee....

I am happy that it is still legal to walk around with a camera; as long as we follow the 
social distancing rules. 



Trader Joe's grocery store has frozen croissant which you have to allow to rise and then bake.
They are delicious. I keep a box in the freezer, next to the box of Lava Cakes. 

There is something absolutely luxurious about going to bed as late as you want
and sleeping in or lounging around in bed until you get bored....

Over the years I'd gotten into the habit of taking my showers at the pool. 
I'd forgotten how comfortable and well appointed my bathroom is at home.
I now relish a hot shower after my walks but before dinner.




If we lose electrical power and the internet I've cleverly kept a Nikon F and a brick of Tri-X on hand so I don't miss the opportunity to document the moments.

Austin gets more and more beautiful the fewer cars there are on the roads.



Some day soon swimming will NOT be dangerous.
(the sign above was from Iceland. You'd have to be crazy to swim in the 
33 degree bay....)
















I'm fortunate to have experienced the Spanish Steps in Rome before sitting on them became a crime.
I will go back to Italy as soon as it is safe and will spend as much money as I can eating well 
and helping our Italian friends rebuild their tourist economy. 

We haven't had this much free time for our art since we were students in our 20s. 




More time to linger with great photo books. 
Deeper dives into the history of photography. From a certain point of view. 


It's love that keeps hope alive. It's hope that keeps love alive.

Coffee in Canada tastes as good as it does in Austin. 

I miss the museums so much...


Loving the his and hers Subarus. 
Four wheel powered automotive delight.





Getting to know you. Getting to know all about you.....




Sorry to go off topic (photography) but I felt good about life today and wanted to share it. 

Might be a fleeting gesture but I don't think so. We're looking forward to the future but not at the expense of the present....

Much happiness to everyone. KT

3.31.2020

It was somber and rainy yesterday. What a perfect time to go outside (yes, yes, taking all precautions and obeying all the rules!!!) to photograph with a nearly forgotten 20mm f1.4.

Lady Bird Lake at Twilight. Austin, Texas.

The whole of yesterday was boxed in by rain and mist. I drove to Dripping Springs with the wipers beating time to NPR and fresh coffee in the cup holder. I walked with my friend in a friendly, peppery rain shower, along with his kind dog who was just thrilled to be invited along. When I got back to Austin it was still raining and gray (although looking out the window just now is like watching a sunny scene from a Disney cartoon) and by the end of the "work" day I was ready to get out again; stretch my legs; play with a whimsical camera and lens. 

Sometimes I feel that certain lenses are like neglected children. The bright and vivacious ones get all the attention while the ones that are hard to handle get the perfunctory nod and just enough support and affection to keep them well. The 20mm focal length is perennially one of my "neglected children" mostly because I don't know how to handle it well. It seems like such a specialty focal length in the scheme of lenses. 

Last year when I was buying into the Lumix S1 system I greedily bought all my favorite lenses. I'm so well stocked for medium and short telephoto lenses. My zooms range from 24mm up. But...I remember a fair number of times over my career as an image maker for profit when I needed a little bit wider lens to get impromptu interiors or dynamic wide shots. Or those times when I just could not back up one more step without accidentally trashing someone's million dollar lab, or plunging off the edge of a high roof. I seem to have always grudgingly included a 20 or 21mm focal length lens in my bag and more often than not it's the lens that actually pays off the quickest....at least in terms of expanding opportunities. 

So when it came time to commit to the new system I picked up an interesting 20mm; it's the Sigma 20mm Art Lens and the crazy thing about it is the f1.4 max aperture. Every 20mm I've owned from other makers thus far has been limited to f2.8 or even f4.0. The trade off, of course, is that the Sigma Art 20mm is enormous and heavy. I guess you just can't have it both ways. 

I bought the 20mm lens assuming it would only come along with me on commercial assignments and would not be a frequent companion on long walks on hot and dusty trails or in soggy, chilly weather. All business and no self indulgent artwork. So in a fit of contrarianism that's exactly the lens I reached for yesterday. A big, fat, heavy lens with no promise of weather proofing or water resistance. The perfect choice for a mindful walk in the early evening rain...

A different angle, five minutes later. 

In defense of my battered intellect the rain had stopped when I left my office. But by the time I reached the psychological point of no turning back it started up again with a mix of big, random, splashy drops and a non-stop, near mist of smaller, more consistent droplets. 

I parked by the Theatre and started walking towards downtown. The rain was like a musical piece that ebbed and flowed. Now harder, now softer, now a break altogether and then back again. I had the lens attached to an S1 and I didn't have much fear for the S1 but I was a bit nervous about water+lens. I took off my faded and battered black baseball cap and used it to cover the whole assemblage from the rain, pulling up the hood on my rain jacket to pick up the slack. The cap did a good job diffusing the water into the fabric and creating a barrier from the more aggressive rain.

Downtown was barren and still. Nearly bereft of humanity except for a tiny fleet of cars waiting to pick up and deliver to-go orders from restaurants. These would be the drivers for Favor and Door Dash who are trying to make ends meet as the mobile intersections between customers and what remains of the restaurant industry...

Nothing to see in the grid of tall buildings and empty sidewalks...

But the lake trail seemed ready to collaborate. I kept seeing little scenes that seemed almost custom made for wide angle capture. Lots of leading diagonal lines, odd colors in the sky and a few near/far combinations that seemed almost natural. 

When I bought the lens I had the idea that the fast, 1.4 aperture was just there as an exercise in one-upmanship by Sigma. Not really usable and probably soft and blurry, especially in the corners. But that's not at all the case; in fact most of the images I shot were done at f1.4, 1.6 and f2.0. Every once in a while I'd want more in focus and I'd revert to previous wide lens experiences and stop down to f5.6 or even f8.0.  But when I started looking at the images I'd shot while I was post processing I was impressed at just how sharp and contrasty the lens was at f1.4. 

The Sigma 20mm Art is not perfect. You can see that if you are shooting in Raw and processing in Lightroom. The lens profile isn't automatically selected in that case; it's up to the user to enable it in the software. And because of this you can see just how much distortion and vignetting is going on "under the hood." 

But once you click on the profile everything tightens up and brightens up. 

And that brings up an interesting (to me) topic: Just how perfect do I want my lens to be?

While I was shooting part of the allure in what I was seeing was exactly the wonderful corner and edge vignetting and distortions which seems to add some excitement and drama to a lot of the images. Clicking on the "perfecting" button felt like I was taking some of what caught my eye in the moment of  taking out of the picture. The rush to perfection somewhat crippling the wonder I saw in the moment. So I stopped automatically clicking the lens profile button each time I started working with a file. I like most the images better that way. Completely raw, raw.

If I was shooting interior architecture for a client I'd be exhilarated at just how well the profile corrections work but, for myself, I'm just not so interested in a "perfect image." YNMV (your neuroticism might vary). 

In the end I felt like I got some images over the space of my hour and a half of walking around (very few other people were out on the trail in the rain ---- a sighting every ten minutes or so) and I'm actually surprised at how much I enjoyed using the 20mm focal length. I may even do it again. But not today. That would be too soon...

Lamar Boulevard Bridge. Austin, Texas. 
 Trailing edge of twilight.


Multiple arching.









This image, and the one below it, is part of a memorial to homeless 
people who have passed away in Austin. It's adjacent to the First St. Bridge and
the south side of the Hike and Bike trail. 


How many years I've run this bridge in blazing heat and freezing cold...
Today it was just cool and mellow. And wet.

Unfulfilled promises in the frosted windows at Lambert's Restaurant in Downtown.
It looks like they tried the "to-go" strategy for a while and then ultimately 
gave up and closed the doors for now...

But damn. Why did they have to advertise pie? It would have been just right, in that moment...

This is where my path on the trail ends. It's just north 
of the Zach Theatre complex. It's sad to walk by the dark and empty 
buildings. "This too shall pass" they say. I hope it's soon 
enough that we don't lose the potential of a generation...

20mm. Not just for work anymore....

3.30.2020

Monday morning adventures. How to mess up your car with coffee...

It's not sunny here. But I like Pikachu and I put him at the top of the blog to 
spark oceans of sunny joy for my readers....

So, I have a friend who is a restaurant owner and because of the current crisis he and his wife/business partner decided early on to close down the business temporarily. Financially they'll be fine but he's such an extrovert that the "social distancing" was getting to be a burden for him. We texted each other and he invited me to come out to his place and do a long walk. I'm a tiny bit of an extrovert as well so I jumped at the chance to change the scenery...

I made a mediocre cup of coffee at home, along with some pancakes, then tossed a camera and my phone into my car and headed out. As I drove up our street, my senses still stinging from having to endure such a below average cup of coffee, I remembered that our neighborhood coffee shop was still making coffee to go. I pointed the Formula One worthy Subaru Forester Race Car in the right direction and 30 seconds later I was at the front door. I bought a medium coffee to go and, in an ongoing attempt to support Trianon Coffee's business, I also bought a pound of Organic, natural Ethiopian coffee beans. 

I opened the passenger side door of my ultra high performance vehicle so I could put the coffee beans on the seat. A seat already crowded with a Sigma fp camera, an iPhone, a small notebook and pen, a rain jacket and two Bob Dylan CDs ("Blood on the Tracks" and "Highway 61, Revisited"). I was in the process of leaning in over the seat to put my beverage in the center holder when I gripped the top of the cup too hard, the top started to come off, and fresh hot coffee gushed out over the resident contents of the seat. 

Grrrr. Sigh. I had a swim towel with me and started mopping stuff off. It was raining so I put the Sigma fp on the hood of the car to let the mist and gentle drops clean off the coffee. I sprayed off the iPhone with some alcohol. Luckily, most of the liquid was caught up by the rain coat. 

The owner of the coffee shop must have seen my minor catastrophe because he came out and handed me a second cup of coffee (which I did not spill...). After a bit of a wipe down I headed the exhilarating and svelte Subaru toward Dripping Springs, Texas. 

I met up with my friend at his ranch/house and we suited up in rain jackets; his pristine, mine painted with fresh coffee, diluted with half and half, and headed out into a mild misting rain. During our hour walk my rain jacket got cleansed and my attitude improved mightily. But on my way back home I discovered an as yet, sinister further downside to the crisis: With all the places closed to customer traffic there are no places with available restrooms. So, you've got a 64 year old guy with three big cups of coffee sloshing around inside and no place to pee. Actually, that would make for a really funny short film---if it wasn't starring me. 

I made it back home with seconds to spare. Could have been tragic. I can deal with spilled coffee....
Ah, the indignities of progressively becoming more "mature." 

I've swabbed down the Sigma fp now and hit the passenger seat in the highly competitive Forester so everything is back to normal in my little, secluded chunk of the universe. 

By the way, "Blood on the Tracks" is the best of all Bob Dylan's work. If you've never taken time to listen to it now might be a great time to become a renewed fan. Nobel Prize. Just sayin.