I read the press release about Olympus selling off their camera division and it immediately reminded me of the fates of Polaroid and Kodak. Salvaged for the names and parts.

There is a press release from Olympus posted over on the DPReview.com website. Go there to read it if you want the details. The TL:DR is that Olympus is "carving out" its camera division and selling it to a Japanese holding company which plans to "operate" the concern with the intention of continuing to make cameras, lenses and accessories. But I think we've all seen how this kind of corporate move plays out. It's more of an exercise in salvage than anything else. 

I know many folks will rush to blame Olympus management but it's good to be rational and admit that the whole camera sector is being beaten like scrambled eggs right now and Olympus is a small enough player which makes the beating so much harder. Even before the pandemic camera sales in nearly every category have been falling, year-over-year. Now, with massive unemployment growing in every corner of the globe the ability and desire on the part of  most consumers to rush out and buy more cameras seem like fantasy. 

The Olympus cameras have always been alluring. From the compact but potent size of the bodies to the flashes of sheer brilliance in lens design Olympus offered a fun and highly competent alternate option to all the homogenous cameras that Canon and Nikon pumped out into the digital markets over the last 20 years. Olympus has also been at the forefront of innovation with things like industry leading image stabilization. 

My first brush with Olympus cameras was playing with my wife's OM-1 film camera back when we were dating in the college years. It was the perfect camera for her smaller hands and logical way of operating. Later, when I was working in an ad agency I discovered the amazing world of Olympus Pen F, half frame film cameras. Olympus designed (in the late 1960s and early 1970s) and built an entire professional system around the idea of the half frame camera. A camera that would take 72 shots on a roll of 35mm film. It featured a rotary, titanium shutter that sync'd with flash at all shutter speeds. Right up to the top speed of 1/500th of a second. The camera used interchangeable lenses, many of which were brilliant and beautiful optical tools. I still have a collection of my favorite lenses from that era (1970's) and still use them, with adapters, on current micro four thirds cameras. They are also a good match for Sony a6x00 series cameras and most of the lenses amply cover the APS-C sensors. 

It was fun to use the very robust and solid Olympus digital bridge cameras, the E-10 and E-20. We did solid, commercial work with those 4 and 5 megapixels, all-in-one cameras over the course of a year. In fact, it was this line of cameras that helped transition thousands of former film photographers into digital photographers. 

The E-1 camera (pictured above with Amy) was a magnificent camera but probably one that led the company down the path to where they find themselves now. In the early part of this century the costliest part of every digital camera, by far, was the sensor. The bigger the sensor the more astronomical the price. I don't think Olympus did a good job at predicting how quickly sensor prices would drop. They went all in on the smaller sensor and designed all of their new lenses around the geometry of a sensor that is a quarter the size of a traditional, 35mm type sensor. But over time the majority of camera buyers pined for the "full frame" they had become used to in the film days.

The lenses for the Olympus DSLRs were/are so cool. My favorite was the 35-100mm f2.0 zoom lens. It was a heavy beast but it was sharp wide open and so much fun to play with. Their lens line-up for their conventional DSLR m4:3 cameras was ambitious. It was also built on three tiers. There was a consumer line which was mostly slower zoom lenses. A step up line that featured good glass and better build quality. And then there was a professional line of lenses that were, for the most part, uncompromising. Looking back one can see that their 7-14mm lens was a game changer for the industry. Super-wide and super sharp. 

Olympus was so far ahead of their bigger competitors that they, along with partner Panasonic, killed off their first interchangeable DSLR systems and made the switch to a mirrorless concept years ahead of any other camera company. It was a brilliant move and opened up the modern, digital camera world to the use of legacy lenses from a vast range of system on a modern camera. I loved the ability to use old Pen F lenses, Leica lenses, Nikon lenses and so many other on the system. 

For a while I was all the way into the Olympus system and found a remarkably good value in the second generation of the OMD EM-5 camera, the OMD EM-5ii. The image stabilization was, at the time, like science fiction. The video capabilities of the camera were highly underrated as well. My friend, James and I used multiple EM-5ii cameras and a box full of lenses to make this video: 
https://vimeo.com/137964319  In the five years since we did this newer cameras have launched featuring 4K video files and some improvements but the files from that time frame, out of the EM-5ii never stop impressing me when I re-visit the video...

Olympus have always had a loyal following for their cameras and lenses. Even after I moved on from the camera bodies I still had a love affair with the lenses. The one Olympus lens I really regretted selling was the 12-100mm f4.0 Pro series lens which I used extensively on Panasonic G9 cameras. It is a superb lens. Absolutely wonderful. And the 40-150mm f2.8 was/is...perfect.

I'd like to be optimistic and hold out hope that the new company will take the ball from Olympus and run for some new and worthwhile goals. I'd hate to see the choice of Olympus's alternative vision removed from the marketplace. They have consistently made wonderful and inventive products and produced them at a very high level. 

If they fall into the same Hell as Polaroid then who will Sony steal new innovations from? 

I have no way of predicting the outcome. I have no idea if the products currently on the market will see a run up in price and a rush to hoard them against some future shortage. Or, when the direction of the new company becomes obvious will these jewel-like cameras hit the wall causing a sell off of orphaned system parts? 

Sad either way. The long shot hope is the new camera company rising like a Phoenix and mounting a dramatic comeback. We can always hope.

Photos from the EP-2 taken on a trip to West Texas in 2010.

I downloaded Adobe's new PhotoShop Camera app for phones and... well... I guess I need more coffee. Maybe even a pastry...

So, maybe I've already broken it. I downloaded the new app to my iPhone XR and started playing with it. The app works kinda like the regular camera app but you can use all kinds of "lenses" to take the photographs. Not lenses as we traditional photographers understand lenses but "lenses" as an alternate term for "special effects." Or just weird effects. These are from the "Pop Art" lenses. 

There are other "lenses" that will make even the blandest and grayest skies come alive with saturated blue and puffy clouds. Other lenses will "help you" take a portrait in which everything but your face, or the face of your subject, is out of focus. You can download "lenses" (treatments?) from the app and use them to make your photographs.....different. 

PhotoShop Camera is included in your Adobe software bundle for free. Even my $10 a month Lightroom+PhotoShop subscription includes this magnificent and valuable new imaging tool (sarcasm alert for the linear and humor deprived reader). 

I've packed up all my other cameras and am sending them off to KEH.com today because this new tool will revolutionize how we make photographs from this day onward. I can't wait to read the reviews on the smart blog sites. (again, alert. Not really getting rid of cameras........yet).

Are you as excited by all this as I am? 


I've been reading an enjoyable book about writing. It's a different perspective on writing than I remember from school. And...pictures.

From the reading spot.

My favorite spot to read books is on the big couch in our living room, flat on my back. In the middle of the afternoon sharp, clean light flows in through three large sets of double French doors. There are two Hunter ceiling fans moving cool air around. And a small stereo on a cabinet at one end of the room; today it was playing an old Enya album; but not too loud.

I get antsy if I'm there on the couch for too long. I'm not yet used to the quiet "schedule" and I feel vaguely guilty for not being out somewhere sweet-talking a client and trying to figure out how I'm going to light an un-light-able space before some important person in a suit shows up, ready to get on with it.

I gather up my modern necessities and head the little white car to the local Starbucks. My favorite afternoon drink is a small cappuccino made with whole milk. Please add an extra shot...

There's a place in the central park that's never crowded on the weekdays. It's in a circle of live oak trees where there's an old picnic table made from cement. Even though the table sits in speckled shade the heat and humidity of a sunny afternoon, after a hard bout of morning rain, is uncomfortable enough to present a nice contrast to the homey luxury of my living room. Sometimes a bit of friction helps concentrate my mind on what I'm reading. The bright and public location pretty much ensures that I won't take an unscheduled nap...

My friend, Patty is a good swimmer and an even better literary editor. When she discovered that Ben (my son) wanted pursue a career as a writer she started finding him more -- interesting. From time to time she'll send me over a text, which I'm supposed to forward to Ben, with suggestions for books and articles that she finds helpful in her own writing and editing practices. As a doting father I'm always appreciative of people trying to guide my kid closer to his goals. 

Last week she made a few new book suggestions, one of which was called, "Several short sentences about writing." by Verlyn Klinkenborg. I took a look at the book on Amazon and read the few pages they allow as a preview. I ordered two copies of the book. One for me and one for the boy. He'll get his copy this evening when he comes for dinner but I cracked my copy open on Sunday afternoon and I've been picking at it ever since. Or maybe it's been picking at me...

After I understood the rhythm of Klinkenborg's writing I found that I couldn't put the book down. I took it up this morning, sitting in the stuffed, white chair in our bedroom and read for several hours. After a lunch of Greek Yogurt, muesli and fresh blueberries I moved to the seductive, gray couch. When Enya finished her performance of "Paint the Sky with Stars" on the little stereo I felt like a change of venue. The park was perfect. Right on the edge of too hot and too humid but with just enough breeze to tease me into sticking around and finishing the book.

This book, along with a copy of the ever useful Elements of Style, seem like a wonderful, basic set of manuals for any writer. At any stage in their career. The last book about writing I enjoyed this much was "Bird by Bird" by Ann Lamott. If you are a writer you might enjoy it too. It's a nice way to gambol through an afternoon in the Summer. 

It's been an unusual day. At 6:00am this morning, as the early masters swimmers were arriving on the pool deck for our workout it started to rain. Hard. The swimmers hopped in and started the warm-up while the coach went to find an umbrella. 

The rain came and went and came back again. Sometimes gently and sometimes in torrents. The swimmers, already wet, ignored the rain and spent the hour following the black lines up and down the lanes. We were lucky. As everyone was exiting to make room for the next, larger group the coaches started looking nervously at weather apps on their phones. Nature made the decision for them with several bright flashes of lightning and some impressive thunder. And just like that the 7 a.m. workout was cancelled. 

The rain was constant at our house until mid-morning and then the skies slowly started getting lighter. By lunchtime it was a bright and sunny day, complete with steam coming of the rapidly warming streets. 

Since I'm not working much I've been paying closer attention to the stock market. My favorite stock went nuts and shot up by nearly $10 a share. I felt rich until Belinda reminded me that even in finance there is such a thing as gravity. 

Now I'm back in the studio and I have the urge to buy something. Anything. Maybe I'll order one more extra battery for the Sigma fp. It came out of hiding today and prodded me to include it on the trip to the park...

Ben is coming over this evening to celebrate father's day. One of his friend's fathers tested positive for Covid-19 virus two Sundays ago so he and his roommates have been quarantining themselves. He missed Father's Day. We're celebrating tonight with BBQ and a great looking bottle of wine our neighbors sent over. It's good to celebrate together. I'm looking forward to it. 

But I can't go overboard because we've got swim practice tomorrow morning at 6, and there's the next book in the stack to read. Such a busy time...


Walking around shooting black and white with my "pretend" film Hasselblad.

You're probably tired of me talking about how much I loved shooting in the square with a bunch of film cameras. Cameras like the traditional Hasselblads, the Mamiya 6, and the Rollei 6000 series. I even have a folder full of Tricks-X negatives that were made on an old Rolleiflex twin lens. I preferred the 80mm 2.8F Planar version even though I'd heard (many times) that the 75mm 3.5F Xenotar was the sharper lens...

Now I just find film annoying. Like changing your own oil filter in the driveway. But I still like the look of the square frame and the grittiness of my old black and whites developed in Rodinal 1:50. So, when I find a likely candidate to stand it as a digital "imposter" camera I'm always game to give it a try. 

Today's attempts were done with the 47 megapixel Lumix S1R. I chose it because I wanted to use the 1:1 (square) crop and I still wanted to end up with over 30 megapixels of information in the files. I tweaked the L. Monochrome settings by reducing the noise reduction, choosing the green filtration, boosting the shadows a bit and pulling down the highlights by the reciprocal amount. 

Remembering how much I liked shooting with the 100mm Zeiss f3.5 Planar on the old 500CM I recruited my closets equivalent, the Lumix 50mm f1.4 S Pro lens. I used f2.8 for most of the shots because that simulated my almost obsessive use of f5.6 on the medium format lens. 

It was hot and sticky today and I didn't spend too much time outside in the afternoon. Walking in high humidity, when temperatures are in the 90's, is much less comfortable with a face mask on.

But I was happy with the images I ended up with. I'll do this experiment again but next time I'll invite a beautiful model to walk with me so I can photograph a person for a change. But the camera and lens? They worked well for me. 

Pandemic Retail. 


A person left a comment asking why I rarely shoot from any perspective other than eye-level. Here's my answer...

Renae in studio with a twin lens camera.

Some writers come to believe that if they only had a discernible "style" everything would fall into place and they would become successful and revered. But really, writing is about telling the story you'd like to tell without distracting the reader with undue/unneeded decoration or complexity. A reader usually looks for a lack of ambiguity and a minimum of unnecessary augmentation in order to enjoy the flow of an article or book. As well as the flow of the sentences themselves.

Most often the writers that readers enjoy are the ones who put as few stylistic twists into the writing and deliver both interesting sentences and simple to understand sentences. The fewer flourishes that take the reader's mind out of the story the more successfully the reader can submerge, happily, into the rhythm and imaginative unfolding of the story.

In photography we've collectively come to conclusions about things that move us away from musing about the content of an image and, instead, make us think about the mechanics of making of an image. Stylistic embellishments brought about by techniques but without adding meaning. In this category, historically, are contrivances such as fisheye lens perspectives, extreme telephoto compression, obvious color filters, "tromboning" one's zoom lens, obviously added "film" grain, the odd focus shifts caused by mis-used tilt/shift lenses, and the heavy handed use of high dynamic range imagery and various soft focus filters. Just to name a few. 

I regard a labored and non-intuitive point of view as a stylistic exercise that also removes the power and importance of the photographic story from an image and instead offers a "trick" to provide a bit of temporary pizzazz to an image. An attempt to distance the image in question from others in the same genre. But I find super low viewpoints, captured from flat on the floor, or from a kneeling position, to be a contrivance that provides all the power (and the painful withdrawal symptoms) of a sugar high. 

When we take and share photographs it seems that we say, "Here is how I view my world, or this part of my world, and now I'm sharing it with you." But nearly all of my engagements with the subjects in my orbit are done from the perspective of a camera floating more or less between 5 feet and four inches and five feet and eight inches from the ground. It's different if I'm sitting down.

I've tried from time to time to work a forced low angle shot into my working repertoire (but never my personal work) and have never had a client use the low angle shot. And I found myself relieved by the client's editing as the low angle shots never appealed to me either. Not nearly as much as a shot, well conceived and captured, from my own eye level. 

In the world of writing editors and publishers are always (strongly) suggesting: "Write what you know."
By the same token I find myself only willing to make photographs that seem natural to me because my camera and I are: "Photographing what we know." And I know what my world constantly reflects back to me as I walk through it at upright.

But it's not just the eye-level point of view that works as a formal framework for me, it's also my desire to see vertical lines properly rendered and specific compositions respected. Any contrived technique or forced perspective that requires me to turn on my conscious thought and change my consistent approach to photographing inevitably ends up distancing me from the resulting photograph and, eventually dismissing it.

Because of this I seem immune from the charms of ultra-wide angle lenses. I can never figure out what do do with all the stuff on the top, bottom and sides of the frame. Anything wider than 20mms and I'm lost. 

But, of course this proclivity of mine should be obvious since I've had a life long love affair with portraits. A shift up or down from the eye level of the subject makes for a shift in how we perceive the subject to a very great degree. It's a shifting of the balance of power. My preference is for the neutrality of camera height to subject eye level. I want to allow the personality and character of the subject to be the story they tell instead of editorializing with various tricks. That I would carry along the same sensibility to documenting graffiti, urban art, street photos and other ephemerata seems logical; comfortable. 

To others the temptation to crouch, kneel or climb a high ladder in the service of their own vision might be more natural and even an ingrained way of experimenting with photographs and I'm not against it. But I can probably count on the fingers of one hand how many times I've enjoyed looking at a photograph that's been taken from a very low or very high point of view. Maybe that speaks more to the rigidity of my own practice than anything else. 

Just my counterpoint. 

Young Ben. Showing off his muscles!

©2000 Kirk Tuck (Ben's dad).

Happy Father's Day. It feels like a privilege to be a dad.

Originally photographed for an advertising campaign.

I hope all of you out there who are fathers are being well celebrated by your children today. And, of course, for all of you who are lucky enough to still have fathers, I hope you are showering them with your love and appreciation!

I feel so lucky to be part of the club of fatherhood. It certainly can be a very joyful thing. And it helps me keep life in a healthy perspective. 

Children are like our Buhddas. We learn at least as much from them as they learn from us...

An organized image file comes in handy when clients need replacement images in a hurry. Food, glorious food.

Hudsons on the Bend.

I was sitting in a large, upholstered chair in the corner of my living room yesterday afternoon, drinking a cup of coffee while browsing through the Avedon, "Power" book. My cellphone beeped and I looked over to see if it was someone I wanted to talk to or just another telemarketer trying to sell me solar panels, or "help" me sign up for Medicare. The call was from a friend. 

He owns a restaurant and was trying to get things ready for a "safe" re-opening. He and his partner are starting by doing curbside pick-up and also food delivery. At some point, when they feel it's safe enough, they'll open the patio area for customer and then, down the road, they'll figure out how to re-open their beautiful dining room. 

But the reason for his call was to see if I still had some of the images I'd created for a video project about his restaurant about five years ago. He had some images but they were all tiny thumbnails and the service designing the restaurant's page on an app for delivery needed images with higher resolution. They needed images that were bigger than 1200 pixels on the long side. 

I assured my friend that I could find him the photographs he needed if he could give me ten or fifteen minutes. I closed the Avedon book and put it back on the shelf. I rinsed my coffee cup and put it in the "still using this one" spot to the right of the sink and then headed out the front door of the house and into my office. 

Two quick keyword entries and the folder with the restaurant's images popped up. I selected my favorite, nicely post processed food photos from the venue and sent them, via WeTransfer.com, to my friend. It took all of five minutes. 

It was a quick reminder of the need to keep good records and to have a workable strategy for storing useful images. And one never really knows which images will ultimately be "useful." 

My friend was amazed that I could find the work as quickly as I did and was appreciative. I hope the new strategy for his restaurant works well. He and his partner have survived for over twenty years and I hope this temporary pandemic (and I hope it is temporary...) isn't the thing that stops them. I would feel quite sorry for my friend and I would miss the ambiance of the space, and the delicious food.

The photograph above and the three just below are not from the restaurant I am writing about. They are random food shots that I enjoyed making over the years at other restaurants. Until I pulled these back up I had forgotten how much I like to photograph food. It's a challenging subject matter but it's also one of the most visually interesting. There's always something fun about collaborating with good chefs.


Hudsons on the Bend.

Hudsons on the Bend.

I can hardly wait until my friends get their business up and running again. I have no doubt that as soon as it is safe we'll show up on their doorstep ready to make another fantastic video for them. That's when the fun will re-start for me.

Experimenting: After I delivered the still images I had a thought about re-purposing video frames for quick, lower resolution web use. We've always known that we can pull really nice and very useful 4K video frames out of edited clips and use them as stills but I was curious to see how well it would work from a video that had been shot in 1080p and edited down. A video from five years ago...

I found the video my friend, Chris and I had done for Asti a few years back, pulled it into PhotoShop and started "scrubbing" through it. The edited master I saved was a 10 bit, 4:2:2 file so I thought there was a good chance that the resulting still files would fit the brief that the web app developers had called for. I found frames with the least amount of motion and started saving them out as Jpegs. 

Here's a selection taken directly from the .Mov movie files:

I think the next time I shoot a food video I'll do it at 60 fps with the idea that I might want to use some individual video frames as photographs for web use. That would make the images sharper. It was easy to see that the subject movement that results from 24 fps, while good for video, is less than optimal when you are trying to re-purpose the images. 

Just thought I'd look at images from the perspective of a different use case. A bit of looking backwards in order to be better prepared when looking forward.