2.29.2016

Making robots and speaking Chinese. Sure is fun to be a student these days.

Part of the Robotics Team.

Now that I'm totally finished with my photography project at the school I wrote about I thought I'd spend a little time mulling the assignment over and thinking about what worked, what didn't work, and how to improve my odds the next time I embark on helping to create an image asset library for a company or institution. 

I'm an eternal optimist at the start of every job and an anxious pessimist when I'm packing up the cameras and lights and heading home to start the post processing. I see little reason to worry up front so I'm always a tad light on pre-production planning and making tight schedules. I see little reason for hope once I've snapped the last image and I bite my nails in post production, certain that everything I tried will fail.

The reality is that I spent three days of walking through and around the (pre-K to eighth grade) school relentlessly making photographs. I seem to have arrived at the right spots at the right times to catch well over 2,000 good images (edited down from 3800), but many of them are variations of a set-up. I could get to a higher percentage of keepers if I shot less but my philosophy when shooting in a documentary mode (we did no set-ups) is to keep shooting in the belief that no matter how great the shots you already got are there's bound to be something even better, if you give it all a chance to play out. So that means I shoot the hint of a smile and wait around for that hint to blossom into a full, genuine smile; shooting all the time. Same with action. I also find that the longer I shoot the less attention gets paid to me and the more authentic the expressions and actions of most groups become. I'm sure you can make a case for being a parsimonious shooter

2.28.2016

Art pops up all over Austin. Murals and Canoes.


Mural off Guadalupe St. Across from the UT campus.

I was on campus checking out the show of new acquisitions at the Humanities Research Center and afterwards I decided to take a walk down memory lane. The main drag near UT Austin is Guadalupe St., referred to by locals as.....The Drag. It's a series of restaurants, a book store, coffee shops, clothing stores and shops offering a wide array of weird UT stuff and services. Same but different from when I first came to school here in the Fall of 1974. I spent a lot of time on the drag. From 1974-1980, I went to the bookstores and hung out at Captain Quackenbush's Intergalactic Bakery and Coffee Shop, doing my homework; being a student. When I taught at UT, in the College of Fine Arts, the drag was the place we headed after class, mostly to have a beer or something at Les Amis Café, or to buy batteries for our cameras at the Co-op. 

I haven't spent much time around campus lately but my stroll down the street let me know that, while the pages of the calendars have whipped by with ferocity, nothing has really changed. There is still an abundance of public art, lots of homeless people and tons of students. Back in the 1970's we were wearing sandals and tattered jeans and just hanging out. Now everyone has their head bowed and their eyes firmly on their phones as they move quickly, without ever making eye contact, down the street to their next appointment. 

I spent some time photographing the murals and then I headed over toward the engineering buildings (I started my higher education at the electrical engineering school) to see what was new in that quadrant. That's when I came across the giant sculpture made up of canoes and flat bottom boats. A monumental and very interesting construction (see images below). 



I had not intended to make my afternoon yet another shooting adventure but, of course, I rarely leave the house without some sort of camera flung over my shoulder so I just couldn't help clicking off a few frames. Here's a new assortment of Austin pix for you to enjoy. Sorry to inflict more clear, blue skies on you but that's just the kind of year we seem to be having....



A throw back transportation solution from an earlier time...

All images taken with insouciance and a Sony RX10ii camera. 

I came home and had chocolate cake. 

What fun.


Take a class: Become more skilled and knowledgable. Have more fun.




One of the original Craftsy Photo Classes and 
still one of the best! 

I met Lance a couple of weeks ago in Denver
and found him to be really fun and knowledgeable 
this class reflects what he teaches in hands-on
workshops in Ireland and Iceland, as well as 
cool places around the U.S.

How to make what we shoot into a cohesive
train of visual thought.




There is a new show of newly acquired photographs at the Humanities Research Center on the University of Texas at Austin campus. Some great. Some good. Some less so.


The HRC at UT owns one of the foremost collections of photography in the world. Occasionally they show some to the general public. This season they have produced a show that shows work recently accessioned, by purchase or donation, to the collection. The bulk of the new work shown covers the time period from the 1960's to 2014. 

I went not knowing what to expect but I left knowing that I would have made a few different shopping choices. Let me get this out of the way: Alec Soth has gotten a lot of press in the art world for the last few years but if the two pieces I saw today are indicative of his current work I can only hope that the museum picked them up on the cheap. Like, in the territory of a couple of coffees and a scone cheap. Because the two images I saw from his recent black and white work (done in Texas originally for The Texas Triangle Magazine) were less than bad --- they were boring and plainly evocative of typical work from any one of thousands of college fine art student studying  photography in early days. Just printed a bit bigger. Two or three thumbs down for me. Maybe he was just on vacation from being an artist when he made the work on display....

On the other hand the acquisition included work by Andy Warhol that was fun and good, as well as some work by Anne Noggle that was provocative and well done. There is one photograph in the show that stopped me in my tracks and that was an image of by Dave Heath of a 10 or 12 year old boy on the street. The print was small. No bigger than 5x7 inches. It's one of the most compelling images I've seen in a long time and an exquisite example of the perfect use of narrow depth of field. 

The main gallery is sprinkled with gems amid photographs that are more important as footnotes than masterpieces. If you are in Austin the show is well worth taking time to visit. It will be up through the end of May. See the Alec Soth prints and imagine that you too could (easily) be a famous "ART" photographer. See the rest of the works and see actual creative thought instead. 


I am looking forward to visiting the nearby Blanton Museum later this coming week because they have a new show. Here's what the museum says about it:

Come as You Are: Art of the 1990s

February 21, 2016 - May 15, 2016
The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin presents Come as You Are: Art of the 1990s, the first major museum survey to examine, within an historical context, art that emerged in this pivotal decade. The exhibition showcases approximately 45 artists born or practicing in the United States—including Doug Aitken, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Glenn Ligon, Donald Moffett, Shirin Neshat, Catherine Opie, Gabriel Orozco, Shahzia Sikander, Frances Stark, and Kara Walker—and features installation, video, painting, sculpture, drawing, prints, photography, and early Internet art. Organized by the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey, the survey includes works created from 1989 to 2001, and explores a range of social and political issues as diverse as the decade from which they emerged.
I have high hopes for this show. It looks like a bunch of fun, dynamic and topical work examining the (nearly) current social landscape. 
I am constantly reminded of the value of looking at art. We live in a culture that tends to be so homogenous, it's refreshing to see creations that were made because artists felt compelled to make them for themselves and NOT for the money or potential return.  Go see some art.



Take a class: Become more skilled and knowledgable. Have more fun.




One of the original Craftsy Photo Classes and 
still one of the best! 

I met Lance a couple of weeks ago in Denver
and found him to be really fun and knowledgeable 
this class reflects what he teaches in hands-on
workshops in Ireland and Iceland, as well as 
cool places around the U.S.

How to make what we shoot into a cohesive
train of visual thought.





2.27.2016

Why I buy lots and lots of older, Nikon Ais lenses, and use them in the business of making photographs and videos.



There are many people who would not even consider a lens that didn't autofocus, and I can understand their position. Some have poor vision and are unable to achieve sharp focus with today's DSLR focusing screens. Others feel as though technology is the salvation and advancement of every field and every pursuit. A pervasive belief that every new generation of lenses is, logically, better than the last. And a fair number of folks just haven't been exposed to the idea that some of the finest lenses are still available in somewhat good supplies on the used market.

Photographers can be an odd breed and seem always ready to choose the "idea" that a super sharp or super fast lens is innately superior to a lens with "character." Or that there are limits to how sharp a lens has to be to make a convincing and attractive photograph. But consider this: Most lens and camera development is not aimed at making stuff better, it's aimed at making stuff cheaper to make and more profitable to sell. 

While it's true that new lens coating technologies can be better, and, as regards cameras bodies, new sensors can offer better performance but, the critical thing about making great lenses is creating a process to enable and maintain tight tolerances, parallel planarity from element to element, and to use materials that ensure both precision and long term reliability.

It seems that most lenses coming from camera makers are

2.25.2016

The Daily Double. Portraits in the morning and a video production in the afternoon. "Don't cross the streams!"

From: "The Grapes of Wrath" at Zach Theatre. Photo: ©2013 Kirk Tuck

Multiple shoot projects make for long days. Here's my Thursday saga:

I committed to two projects today and they were each a bit unusual for me. The first was to go to the offices of an advertising agency I do work for and make portraits in their small, all purpose photo/video studio. We'd be photographing four people from an accounting firm, individually. Now, most of the time I shoot in my studio or we go to a client location, commandeer a biggish conference room and shoot there. Doing the job in someone else's studio was a new wrinkle.

In keeping with my recent LED hysteria I packed up four of the big, new LED lights, appropriate light stands, two soft boxes, tripod and a bag of cameras. I went with the Nikon cameras for two reasons. First, the in-house photographer (who is also a too busy creative director) shoots with a Nikon D800 and I didn't want to spook him or create an atonal vibe by interjecting

2.23.2016

The weather changed. I stayed in today. Well, that was because we were shooting in the studio.

It was a dark and stormy night. The winds blew through like the hounds of hell and small children cried as the thunder was so loud... It was the best of times. It was the worst of times....

So, quite a bit of feedback about my penchant for shooting under blue skies but really, I can't help it if I'm living in paradise. On the other hand, we do have the traffic...

When I was out walking and shooting yesterday the weather was perfect. Until it wasn't. The clouds started rolling in as I walked back over the pedestrian bridge away from downtown. The video shoot that had been working on the bridge was wrapping up and the models and production people were doing the mandatory selfie coda to the whole thing.

By the time I got back to my car and headed toward home the wind was starting to pick up and the temperature started dropping. Around one in the morning it got crazy windy and we got a jumbo drop sized, dramatic, inch or two of rain that swirled around and seemed to bang at every window. This morning was windy and cool.

We were scheduled to shoot in the little studio today and my client

2.22.2016

A much needed walk with a fun lens. The Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art(sy) lens. And some ratty, old Nikon body.


I enjoyed my commercial photography project last week. Three full days of making fun photographs at a school, followed by two packed days of really intense post processing. I stayed busy over the weekend with a marketing project, two great swim practices and a lot of book reading. By the end of the workday today I was ready for a little break from the business of photography so I grabbed some toys and headed out to pursue my long overlooked hobby ---- photography. 

As a balance to my recent, near worship of the somewhat diminutive Sony RX10ii camera I chose my oldest full frame Nikon, the D610, with a battery grip attached, and the densest lens I own; the Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art lens. My primary intention was a brisk and meandering walk through the ever-changing downtown area and my secondary pursuit was to grab a few frames with the 50mm to see some apparent indication of optical quality and thereby help me justify its thousand dollar price tag. 

My walk was successful. The combination of tools (both bought used) cost me about $1700 and holds up well. I was considering jumping on the recent medium format bandwagon but realized that for about $48,000 more dollars I might (might!) get about 3-5% more usable, handheld quality out of the investment. An investment that will dive down in value faster than thirty feet per second, per second.

My eyes may be getting old and tainted by years of compromise but frankly I'm not sure I would see much of a difference between the latest cropped frame medium format camera and the mundane Nikon full framer when we post their respective images on our websites at 2100 pixels wide.... But I sure would miss the money and the opportunity loss...

So, cool (used) lens+recent (and still pretty cool) camera = happiness x 2

You can click on these images if you want to see them bigger....
















One of the original Craftsy Photo Classes and 
still one of the best! 

I met Lance a couple of weeks ago in Denver
and found him to be really fun and knowledgeable 
this class reflects what he teaches in hands-on
workshops in Ireland and Iceland, as well as 
cool places around the U.S.

How to make what we shoot into a cohesive
train of visual thought.

Every once in a while I find a post I've written years ago recirculating on the web. I always want to score how well I prognosticated...

https://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2014/05/terminal-ubiquity-when-everyone-offers.html?showComment=1399543931722

Read this one and let me know how I did.....


Take a class: Become more skilled and knowledgable. Have more fun.




One of the original Craftsy Photo Classes and 
still one of the best! 

I met Lance a couple of weeks ago in Denver
and found him to be really fun and knowledgeable 
this class reflects what he teaches in hands-on
workshops in Ireland and Iceland, as well as 
cool places around the U.S.

How to make what we shoot into a cohesive
train of visual thought.