3.03.2016

It's "ART" because it's in black and white. And don't you forget it. Plus, we've got bokeh!









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.


Steeling myself for the SXSW onslaught. Could this be the year we do the definitive video of the whole happening?


In one week the hordes of pale people, dressed in black on black on black, will arrive in the three square miles of downtown that embrace SXSW. Our usual coffee houses will be overrun by people with Minnesota, New York and Southern Californian accents. Lots of people will smoke cigarettes...in a show of youthful rebellion. Some people will wear their pants so low you'll be able to see their vertical smiles. Some people will wear skinny jeans that probably need to be applied, medically, at the beginning of each day. All of them will walk around downtown Austin in a most meaningful trance, convinced that everything is here and now.

The locals will rent them their houses for astronomical amounts of money and then grab tents and sleeping bags and a week's worth of Trader Joe's wine and head to Ft. Davis State Park or Big Bend State Park to wait out the Tsunami of hipsterism; and count their winnings. The unfortunate locals who stay will be glued to their apps, looking for alternate routes around the implied coolness.

If you are lucky enough to live in West Austin you can hunker down in your own neighborhood with quarts of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia and wait it out. If you are young you can go downtown and wander around with the riffraff, looking for free venues, free samples and free swag. Test drive an all electric Chevy Cruise, play with virtual reality googles, listen to bands who are begging for meals at Denny's. And generally make life miserable for the hourly workers who can't change their schedules, attend conferences or circumvent transportation delays.

If you own a downtown business you've long since learned how to rent it out to dumbass startups for hedge fund type fees. If you are a local musical artist you're working on figuring out how to get to your venues on time while Uber jacks your rates. If you are struggling photographer you might have already sold your soul (and cut the legs out from under your chosen profession) by signing up to be a "volunteer" photographer for the vastly wealthy company that owns SXSW. You work like a dog, give them all the images and all the rights, in exchange for entry into a few paltry events that you would never --- during the normal year --- have even consider attending, just so you can say you were there and you were a photographer. No matter that you became management's bitch of the moment.

Ah. SXSW. The chamber of commerce loves it. The rest of the city hates it. Not like Austin wouldn't be wonderful without it. We survived in a state of high coolness for decades before someone inflicted all this crap on us. No one ever had to detour because of the Armadillo World Headquarters....

But I don't care. It starts the same time as my kid's Spring Break. He'll be home and we'll have fun. His generation already knows SXSW for what it really is; A chance to fleece the people who wish they were cool enough to live here year round. Maybe this year he and I will form a father/son grifter team and go sell them all elevator passes for the JW Marriott and the Convention Center. Could be 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.


Studio Dog is my co-pilot. Adventures in cars.


Studio Dog and I were out for a joy ride when we spied a roving band of renegade of squirrels. She insisted that we pull over and give chase but I outvoted her. I'd been to the hard, early workout today and didn't have the energy to fling open the car doors and give chase to small rodents. She was clearly miffed but we rode on. There were one or two other incidents in which Studio Dog could not believe my reticence to give proper chase. One included three lazy cats in a yard near a stop sign. "Easy pickings!!!" she exclaimed. I rolled through the stop sign and she sighed a resigned sort of sigh. One that clearly said, "Chicken."

We were out testing a new camera. I don't own it; I'm just borrowing for evaluation. It's the new 100 megabyte Sony RX10-3. ISO up to 400,000, 30 frames per second. 19 stops of dynamic range. Alternative dimension pixel arrays that yield pixel wells 10 microns across, in nano quant sublimated space. It also includes flea and tick euthanizing technology.

We chased a slow, fat, mailman, Pee'd on many, many things. Laughed, cried, and headed home for treats. It was a productive day. Not for civilization or photography but for general carousing.

It's a dog's life and I'm lucky to share it. Vote Terrier in the upcoming election... I'm afraid Studio Dog will insist on it.


Why does new gear always seem so much more alluring when business is slow and income is just dribbling in?

From Zach Theatre's "Alice in Wonderland."
Open shade with sidewalk sun bounce. 
Camera: Sony RX10ii. Lens: Yes.

I've been practicing a new discipline lately; one that my fellow freelancers can be cavalier about. The new discipline is to make sure my SEP (retirement) contributions and quarterly tax payments are up to date before writing checks for any new gear. It's been an effective throttle on the capricious and stochastic acquisition of gear I would really love to play with but have no real, business-y reason to actually own. The only real downside is that I have less to write about in the most popular sphere of blogging: Gear, gear, gear!

I got off the phone with a photographer friend this morning and had to ponder the whole gear/income/anxiety axis. We were just catching up and we got around to talking about work. I've been very busy with projects since the beginning of the year and I noticed that my actual, ongoing desire to buy more cameras and lenses had diminished in direct inverse proportion to my increase in profitable work. This friend and I used to talk more about "what to get next" than anything else but with both of us booked up our gear talk was minimal. Most of the conversation was about investing or interesting client interactions (seems everyone is paying their bills very quickly this year --- what does that mean?).  After I got off the phone I thought about it and here's what I thought...

When we are not busy we do things to fill up the time. After we've sent out e-mail blasts and physical postcards and scheduled the lunches with art directors there's only so much more marketing you can push yourself to do. So we start thinking about the art. The mechanics. The tools. We have time on our hands to really delve into what might work well on that next big project --- if it ever comes in.

We look at our cameras and lenses and wonder if the paucity of work might be related to the relative antiquity of our gear. Can clients sense our aging inventory? Is the Jones family photo business bringing newer and better stuff to the table? Is that why the phone isn't ringing, the e-mail account lies fallow and client texts are as rare as titanium Nikon F2s?  The quiet times are dangerous time for artist's frail egos and popping open the box on a new Sony A7R2 may make us feel a bit more invincible for a day or two...

I find that most of my big equipment purges seem to happen two or three weeks after the end of a big string of jobs. The files have been massaged and the bills sent out and perhaps I've been twiddling my thumbs worrying if I will ever work again. Then the thought creeps in: "You could get the new XXXXX and go out and shoot a new portfolio with it. It's a remarkable camera/lens/light and your clients can't help but be impressed by the new work. The new c/l/l will pay for itself in one shoot. Believe me, I'm your subconscious. Would I lead you astray?

And off we go. To get that new device that might have the potential to change the face  of your work and lead you out of the darkness of the slow times and into the promised land of high day rates and huge usage feels.

So, we end up with the box and a bunch of remorse, and a week later we're looking around the studio to see what we might be able to sell off to pay for the new arrival. But, if it comes in the form a new system camera, the sell off of the older system becomes more and more inevitable as the gap between work and today grows ever longer.


At the opposite end of the spectrum is our buying behavior when we are busy with work and projects loom large across the calendar. This is the time that we hold tight to the gear we have, comfortable in our mastery and comfortable knowing that we have all the camera bodies and lenses we need in order to execute well. I live in fear of buying a new camera midway through the work deluge mostly because I am so deficient in working my way through the menus that I can't imagine tossing myself into a tight scheduled, inflexible shooting environment with the chance that I might not remember how to set a custom white balance, turn of the image review or work some other vital, menu driven control. We might add a lens with a big project looming, knowing that the learning curve for new lenses is extremely shallow, and that the promise of a big, sure payday makes it easier to sell the idea of our new purchase to our chief financial officers...

But what I do during the fertile times is to flesh out the smaller items that we need at every shoot. I replace the errant, ancient and rickety light stand with a newer, better one. This is the period when I am very susceptible to new camera bags and new rolling cases. My immunity to cool light meters plunges, and being able to rationalize a new light fixture is enhanced. More new tripod heads have been purchased in the time between two big annual report jobs than at any other times in my career.

Interesting that we have a tendency to double down on periods of financial weakness by adding new debt or needlessly diminished our precious capital only to husband it more effectively during times of plenty.




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.