And in book publishing news.....


Gov. Ann Richards. ©Kirk Tuck

I appreciated being included in the writer's very short list of photographers along with Annie Leibovitz and Ave Bonar.

A Couple More Indulgent Pix on Father's Day. No text.


Happy Father's Day.

 The greatest gift I think a parent; a father, can receive is the success of their children. Raising smart, kind, curious, and bright children into adulthood is a project that is by turns a frightening responsibility and ultimately rewarding. There are always stumbles along the way but it's the aggregate result that matters. 

Ben is 26. He's happily employed in a job that's near the cutting edge of high technology. He's financially successful and a good steward of his own future. He runs. He bikes. He climbs rocks. He analyzes and writes for a living. He is surrounded by friends.

And on Sunday evenings he comes over to our house for dinner and conversation, and a recap of his week. And many times he makes us all dinner. He is a much better fish cook than his mom or me. He makes great salmon dishes. He's adept at making Brussel sprouts in many different, novel and delicious ways. 

And that's really all I ever dreamed of having on Father's Day.

Let's talk about black and white in the age of digital. It's no big deal to do.

A reader complimented the black and white images I posted yesterday. Another reader asked about my black and white technique. I've always liked black and white photographs very much and spent about 25 years going in and out of my own darkroom, making black and white prints of all the personal work I was making. In one way it was easier to make good black and white work in the "paper" darkroom because so much of the aesthetic heavy lifting was done by the variety and different "looks" of the photo print papers available at the time. And the wonderful and varied tonal renderings of films like Tri-X or Agfapan APX 25. Before the web got popular it seemed, at least to me, easy to lose myself and lose track of time working on a series of nice, double-weight prints. I'd work on images I loved for hours and sometimes would look down at my watch to see that it was 2 in the morning and I had been printing since just after dinner...

I find that it's harder for me to go out now with a camera that's set for shooting raw files, and shooting them in color, and actually visualize how they'll look at black and white images that I'd want to share. My brain really prefers it when I go out with the intention that the final result of my effort will be in black and white. With that in mind, and knowing I have a limited imagination when it comes to previsualilzing things like monochrome results or after-shot cropping, I decide at the outset that I'm going to work in black and white. 

I set the camera to shoot Jpegs and then I adjust the very few controls on my Leica cameras that allow me to shoot the files in black and white. On the camera I used yesterday; a Leica SL, I go into the Jpeg Settings menu and, under saturation, I choose: "monochrome." Then I turn up the contrast. There are only really three settings for contrast in that camera which interest me. There is the null point; the neutral position. There is "medium high" (which is the setting I choose for normal daylight work -- direct sun, etc.) and there is one more step: "high" which I only use on very cloudy and overcast days.

There is also a sharpness setting with the same course choices: Medium, Medium High and High. Again, I default to Medium High almost always.

Now, I understand that most pundits on the web advise photographers and videographers to use low contrast settings and even lower sharpness settings with the idea that all will be fixed and optimized on post processing but I'd rather see it in my camera while I'm making the images. It seems more efficient and, for want of a better explanation, braver to me to try to get close to what you want to see in the viewfinder. 

There is no option to set color filters in the Leicas that I shoot with. That option does exist in the Lumix S1 series cameras and in my (wonderful) Sigma fp but they never seem to have much effect, or more importantly, the effect I want to see when I use them.

I generally import the files into Lightroom Classic to get them into my system and to archive them. To my eye all the images benefit from an increase in "clarity".  I'm liberal with the slider and dial in between 15 and 40 points of clarity for most street scenes and landscapes. I am usually more prudent with portraits. 

I don't have the option to use the HSL settings as I've made my stand to monochrome in the camera. I could only make color channel adjustments with a color file. I can use the color temperature sliders to make the final image warmer or cooler, greener or more magenta. But those are options that are not too useful for the way I like to see my photographs in final form. Though I did play with color temperature on several images in yesterday's batch.

Portraits benefit from a bit more contrast and the addition of some fabricated grain. 

This image was taken several years ago when the big "Sail" buildings was just getting started. This is infrastructure below ground level. I have photos from the inception; from the digging of the enormous pit to the final fitting of door knobs and hand rails on the newly unveiled entrance doors. 
This image has some "clarity" added but is otherwise as it came from the camera. 

The image just above had some contrast added and the exposure was increased from 
the original setting in post production.

Gloomy and rainy days beg for more contrast and clarity. But it's important not to go overboard with contrast to the point where the darker tones block up. A judicious use of the clarity slider and the shadow recovery slider, in tandem, is sometimes called for....

I'm a simple photographer so I try not to make more, and more complicated, work for myself in post production. I also prefer to roam the streets looking for interesting stuff than to spend too 
much time micro-processing every square centimeter of an image. If you didn't get it 
mostly right in camera chances of making radical improvements in the "digital darkroom" are negligible. 
See first. Fix as a last resort. 

Hope this is helpful. 

Happy Father's Day. 


HeatWaveTography. Getting out before noon. Walking slower.

The total anti-UV experience. Long sleeves, a bucket hat, enough sunscreen to paint the side of a house...

Another glorious morning in paradise. The pool temperature is holding constant at 80°. Cool enough to make the first jump in a little thrilling. Cool enough to allow for fast swimming and longer distances. I think all the swimmers are saying little prayers under their breath for a continuation of perfect water temperature. 

The sun is already on all four corners of the pool by the middle of workout. I've started applying sunscreen before I leave the house. I'd hate to have to admit to my dermatologist that I didn't work at a bit of self-protection if we hit another "rough" patch. Hard to admit to a guy with a sharp knife in his hand that your lackadaisical attitude made his work that much more difficult...

After a quick breakfast I headed downtown to take some photographs. Sure, I shot about a thousand frames this last week but there's something delicious about photographing exactly what you want without a client in tow or client expectations throttling your creative choices. 

Last night I had the idea that I might enjoy revisiting the recently acquired Carl Zeiss zoom lens. The 35-135mm one made for the Y/C Contax mount and adapted for the L series cameras. I also had the idea that I'd want to photograph in black and whites and I'd want to use Jpeg files. So I put a fresh battery in my pristine Leica SL (the first gen., 24 megapixel model), fitted the lens and grabbed the functional but fashion impaired bucket hat and got moving. 

A blogger recently talked about creativity ebbing and flowing. That sometimes inspiration just doesn't arrive.  My response was that I believe in the discipline of work. Creative things happen when you are working and if you can muster the discipline you can be working with your camera all the time and deeply engaged in the creative process. It's when you start looking for excuses NOT to go out with your camera and play that you've hit a pivotal moment which could go either way. Either you'll spiral away from the process, finding more and more reasons to delay or postpone, or you'll have the epiphany that the Muses strike mostly when you are already immersed in your craft and intentionally practicing it. They rarely make house calls when you are sitting around in your pajamas watching reruns of "Jeopardy" on the TV. The goddesses of creativity are especially resistant to people who want to procrastinate and whine about not being ---- inspired. 

I wanted to walk with a camera today to more closely align my practice with my own vision. These walks are like "palette cleansers" after a week of commercial work. You are essentially giving yourself permission to do "stream of consciousness" photos for as long as you want to. Or, in this Summer, for as long as you can take the heat. Consider yourself well blessed if your photo play takes place indoors, nestled in the chilly but comforting blossom of air conditioning. 

After a busy week of photographing with the SL2 and then the GH6 I had almost forgotten how much I like working with the simple, minimal and industrial SL. It's so well built and so rationally laid out that it becomes about as transparent as any of my other favorite cameras. And since I paid less than a third the price I parted with for the new SL2 I have no trepidation about taking the SL into any environment. It feels as if it can meet any challenge my staid walks can toss at it. And its demise will sadden me but it's easily replaced.

The Contax Zeiss 35-135mm zoom is a monster. The slower apertures (f3.3--f4.5 variable max) make manual focusing a bit less sure because the depth of field tends to muddle the exact point of sharp focus. I usually have to magnify the frame to make sure I'm putting the laser-edge of sharpness at just the right point. But so far I've been delighted by the look of the files from that lens. Even today, shooting in black and white, I am impressed with the bite of the images and the way the files work in black and white. 

I started my walk at 10:30 but by noon it was just too darn hot to continue. The heat just weighs on you after a while and you start to pass up shots and at some point you become so weary that the idea of pulling the camera up to your eye seems like too much of a burden. That's when you know it's time to head home, drink ice tea and scare up some sort of light lunch.





A new version of "giving someone the finger." 
"I look at things from both sides now...." Thanks Joni Mitchell.

Stay Frosty out there. But still....get out there. Somewhere.