Posts tagged ‘Austin’

The Lazaras Creek

Taking a break from downtown and people as subjects, the heavy rains overnight on February 17 sent me back to Bull Creek the following morning to continue observation of how it has been changing under the impact of our continuing drought. The creek had been resurrected, if only briefly, even as the broader drought continued. The surreal mystery of the fire hydrant standing in the middle of the dry creek last October now runs to full irony.

Finding a Groove

Waiting for Godot - Fifth & Congress, Austin

Bad weather inside and outside the house, of both the meteorological and the overworked perfectionist teen psychological variety, kept me from going downtown the first weekend of February but I was more successful this last Saturday. The results, while not yet completely satisfying, are beginning to coalesce into a recognizable style.

My brain is proving to be more plastic than I had expected: it is getting less daunting to keep my camera held up to my eye as people approach. And David Hurn’s advice that “the subject must be not only practical but continuously accessible”* is proving itself. Being able to make images in or around the same location on a regular basis is causing a shift in my photographic concerns away from the natural landscape and increasingly towards human content; not documentary, not specific individuals, but human form located in the midst of modernist and post-modern surrealism.

In turn, my priorities for the kind of camera system I would like to build are changing too. For several weeks I have been shooting with a single, fixed length, prime lens: the Panasonic 20mm f2.8. I am finding that the current lack of high quality telephoto zooms for Micro Four Thirds, Sony Nex and Fuji XPro-1 is of diminishing significance in my ruminations. After 30 plus years of emphasis on landscape, this apparently genuine and deep seated shift in mind set comes as something of a surprise.

No artist is ever completely pleased with their work, at least not when honest and in private, but I have a very long way to go before I would lay any claim to being a fully fledged street photographer. The image above is not all I want it to be. Next time I will try harder to avoid having the cars in the background, next time I will wait for stronger coincidences of line. The good news is that next time may be as soon as this coming weekend.

* Hurn, David, and Bill Jay. On Being a Photographer: A Practical Guide. Anacortes, WA: LensWork Pub., 2008. Print.

So Far So Good, But …

Through thick and thin - 7th & Congress, Austin

With the discipline of a newly made committment, I have overachieved on my New Year resolution to take more photographs of people and, camera in hand, I have visited downtown Austin every Saturday morning for the last month. However, it might be more honest to redefine my objective as being to make “pictures with people in them” rather than “pictures of people”.

Thomas Leuthard has published a free PDF book, “Going Candid”, on his approach to making street photographs and building an audience for them; it is well worth the download to read. Leuthard’s approach to street portraits is very different from, say, Kirk Tuck’s. Kirk asks, Thomas doesn’t; and I am not a portrait photographer at all, period.

It’s just not in my nature to make the kind of direct and aggressive street images of Thomas Leuthard or Eric Kim, and that is more than a simple lack of balls. There will be some overlap in our respective content, but taken as a whole my portfolio will contain far fewer recognizable individuals and far more human figures as symbols, ciphers signing for all of us. Thomas Leuthard, Kirk Tuck and I are motivated by different visions and propelled by and into different practices.

“All photographs are accurate. None of them are the truth.”
    Richard Avedon

If I were to try to make portrait photographs, Kirk Tuck’s 500px portfolio would be my yardstick for success. Perhaps I’ll buy one of Kirk’s books on Amazon to find out if my aging brain is yet plastic enough to learn some new skills.

I am doubtful though; just because I know what an f stop is does not mean that I have the necessary eye and personality for successfuly making any and every type of photograph. “Stay on the f*cking bus” Thomas Leuthard’s book quotes from the excellant Helsinki Bus Station Theory essay by Arno Rafael Minkkinen. Yes, creativity comes from working at the edge of your comfort zone, but not from changing zones for the sake of doing so. My most truthful photographs will not necessarilly appeal to the widest audience, but they will be mine.

Win Some, Lose Some

Barefoot group photo on a cold day - Cesar Chavez & Lamar, Austin

More than a thousand gorilla’s ran the streets of Austin on Saturday morning and I failed to get a single decent image out of the spectacle. I was in the wrong place with the wrong lens but, most of all, I lacked the craft to take advantage of what was by any standard a golden photographic opportunity. I am just not practiced at action photography and ended up with dozens of motion blurred or misfocused images for my trouble. Lessons learned: 1) reconfigure your camera settings for action before you start even though the camera has not been used that way in the nearly five years since it was bought; 2) don’t try to mix quality father-daughter time with photography; 3) listen to your instincts about location, ignore the more convenient parking option and take candids at the start or finish line.

The day was not a complete wash however. Some quality one-on-one time was achieved with my daughter and serendipity presented the scene above as we headed back to find a café. Quite why a troop of teenage girls would change out of jeans and coats into summer dresses to assemble, barefoot, for a group photograph on a blustery, 45°F morning is mystery but they made for an interesting photograph. There will have been a logical reason, at least from the perspective of a High School “spirit” dance team (if that’s what they were), but it had a bizarre appearance to sensible coat wearing onlookers.

5th & Alley

5th & alley - West 5th & Congress, Austin

By happy coincidence this week’s theme at VXFY Photos is “City” and I spent yesterday morning wandering the streets of downtown Austin collecting images that easily fit that topic. This is one of them.

My intension is to get out into the city at least a couple of times a month until it get’s too hot to walk the streets in June. If – and it is a big if – I stick to the plan I will post all of the pictures in either the “City & People, 2012” or the “Singles and Short Series, 2012” galleries as I go.

Photoshop Reprieve!

Come on in, Danskin Triathlon, Austin, 2006

I just had to post a W00t! for Adobe’s most welcome change of heart regarding its upgrade policy for older versions of Photoshop, but not having any new photographs on hand I had to dig back and pull out an older one from the “reconsidered pile” to have something to go with it. The water’s great, come on back y’all.

I saw the Adobe Relents news first on Michael Reichmann’s Luminous Landscape site and knew immediately that I would be reversing my own course: I will be buying a Photoshop upgrade in 2012 after all! It will be to CS6 when that launches later in 2012, skipping over 5.5. I am so happy that I did not fold and pay for a CS5.5 upgrade on New Years Eve (see my previous post, Farewell to the Photoshop Tax).

That’s two lots of positive news out of Adobe in two days. Yesterday brought the Lightroom 4 Beta announcement, something I will be downloading and installing this week. Michael Reichmann (again!) has had an advance copy for some time and he has posted a video preview titled A Kitchen Table Video Overview on Luminous Landscape. Unlike Photoshop increments, the transition from Lightroom 3 to 4 appears to offer a lot of meat for photographers. So Adobe will get two orders from me this year reflecting quite a change in my attitude in just a couple of days.

That’s not to say that I regret my investment in Pixelmator; I’ll be keeping an eye on their progress and $30 is not a lot to spend as a vote of encouragement. You never know when that lifeboat might come in handy.

You can read more about Adobe’s change of heart in the Adobe Listens to Users, Defers Big Changes to CS6 Upgrade Policy article on the ProDesignTools site.