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.

Farewell to the Photoshop Tax

A new year's gift for Marcel

December 31, 2011, I had a decision to make: pay to upgrade from Photoshop CS4 to CS5.5 or lose a 20% discount. The end of year deadline served to bring forward a bigger decsion: whether to remain a Photoshop customer at all. I found that I could not justify even the reduced $140 that the increment in version number would cost me. That’s is all the upgrade would have brought: a change of digits at the end of the name that contained no new capabilites that I cared about.

Like many photographers, I am deeply frustrated by Adobe’s change in policy – to no longer offer upgrade pricing for owners of three versions prior but only one (see Scott Kelby’s open letter to Adobe for the full details on this) – but perhaps there is a silver lining? Whether Adobe’s planners are being smart capitalists or doing a Netflix remains to be seen, but it has been quite refreshing to be forced to recognize that I truly don’t need Photoshop at all.

The fundemental reason that photoshop upgrades offer nothing new to photographers is that there is nothing we need that it does not already do and can’t get cheaper elsewhere. Despite the “photo” in the Photoshop name, photographers have not been Adobe’s primary market for the product in a long time (if we ever were). Adobe’s own Lightroom, Apple’s Aperture, ACDSee Photo Manager, and a growing collection of tools from other suppliers cover the needs of photography more effectively than Photoshop; it’s time to move on.

A few weeks ago, right after news of Adobe’s upgrade rule change percolated out, I spent $30 on a copy of Pixelmator through the Mac App Store. It’s not a complete Photoshop replacement, not yet at least, but in combination with Lightroom I am confident I have all my bases covered. I won’t regret discontinuing payment of the semi-annual Photoshop upgrade tax.

the anxiety of photography

the anxiety of photography, Arthouse at the Jones Center, Austin

The banal anxieties that I had in mind as I worked on this image were rather different from the postmodern conceptualist concerns of the curator’s introduction and artist statements for the The Anxiety of Photography exhibition we had seen earlier that day at Arthouse in downtown Austin.

My egocentric concerns, last Saturday, were:

  • Will I have the courage to do more street photography in 2012?
  • Are my photographs any good?
  • Should I adopt the Sony NEX-7 or Panasonic GX-1 as my core camera in 2012?
  • Will my stock options be worth enough to afford a new camera in 2012?
  • Should I purchase an unnecessary upgrade to Adobe Photoshop, that I cannot right now afford, at the ‘special’ discount price expiring December 31st?
  • Will I fall down these stairs if I don’t stop looking through the viewfinder?

[Asside: The last two issues are the only ones that I have yet resolved: I did not fall down the stairs and I did not, and will not, give Adobe any more money for Photoshop until they revert to their previous upgrade policy. More on Adobe in a later post.]

The exhibition’s concerns were (quoting the description for the associated book by Matthew Thompson on Amazon.com):

Photography’s undefined, in-between status–as a medium, a tool, an object, a practice or, more often than not, some combination thereof–is still however, unresolved.

As with much postmodernist art, the curator’s preamble and many of the the artist statements required the prior consumption of a shelf full of books and considerable deconstruction to interpret. Despite this fog of obscurity, several of the art works were worth taking the time to see and, for me at least, successful. I particularly enjoyed the two pieces by Erin Shirreff, which were visually striking from a distance and increasingly rewarding on approach; these managed to combine aesthetic pleasure in their form with humor and commentary in their content.

Still, at first blush, such postmodernist thinking does not have much connection to my own form of “straight” photography. For the purposes of the Arthouse presentation, the term “Photography” in “The Anxiety of Photography” has the same relationship as “oil paint” in “Impressionist Painting”, i.e. photographic content, chemistry and references as material for inclusion in the construction of composite work rather than as a stand alone, self contained, art medium. But the longer I have pondered the more I have come to recognize that my images are no more concrete and no less synthetic than the works shown in the gallery space.

The picture above may suggest anxiety in its angled forms, shadows, reds, voids, doorways and the feet of hidden approachers (a gang maybe?), but those anxieties were not present at the time the photograph was taken; they are my superimposed interpretation after fact. The image is not “documentary truth” of an event or physical state that actually existed; the image is “true” in my mind but not true in any court of law. The anxious center of the image, the woman in the red sweater, is actually my wife whose main concern at the time was how many blocks she would have to walk to get to the nearest café. I may not be a postmodern conceptual artist but I am definitely a candidate for postmodernist critique, just not important enough to be worthy of the effort.

New Year’s Resolution …

Congress Avenue, December 31, 2012

It is perhaps fitting that the final day of Austin’s hottest year on record was itself unseasonably warm at 79°F (26°C); not a good day to wear my Christmas present fleece! It was a good day, however, to start working on my New Year’s resolution a little ahead of schedule: to take more photographs of people.

Like all worthy resolutions though, this one won’t be easy to keep; I don’t have Garry Winogrand’s impervious skin when my subjects look back.

Urban Void

Free Offer, Oak Knoll & Research, Austin

This is not a happy image; it’s downright gloomy, depressing, a little sinister. The car dealer that was here has shut up shop and left nothing behind but the barren forecourt; its a sign of the hard times.

“Covert” is the threatening name on the building across the street, easier to see if you click on the image for a larger version. At a still larger magnification “Wrong Way” is legible in the near central flash of red. Three white cars fly past in formation, hurrying to leave the frame.

A rule of thumb when using a wide angle lens is to make sure that there is something interesting in the foreground, close to the camera; something to catch the mind. I choose this picture as it stands, with its harsh angles and parallels, its urban tundra of tarmac and concrete, tire marks, hovering clouds, discouraging words, repeating and repeating toward some distant vanishing point.

Humanity is missing; this is a post-rapture landscape without the rapture.