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Six days till homecoming. (Image: Ben from many years ago). 

I've just spent the last few days redesigning my website and I'm in the arduous process of uploading it to my internet service provider. It contains new images, a dynamic interface and a gallery page with 13 videos on it. I'm watching the small progress graphic ( a slowly connecting circle) with much anticipation. If I were in S. Korea, home of the world's fastest broadband connections, this all would have been loaded before I even started. I can only hope we don't regress back a decade to the time when I would get 95% of an upload stuffed up onto the web only to have everything crash. Then we'd start all over again. 

Note: The upload went fine and the site is now live at: www.kirktuck.com. As with most websites it is a work in progress and exists mostly as a resource to show clients what I do. The update was motivated by my need to add video to my galleries.

Older readers will hate the large text type but probably read it thoroughly, looking for typos. Younger readers will love the large headlines and read only the largest type on the pages, opting to look at the photos and video instead.

If you have suggestions please offer them in the contents. I guess this amounts to crowdsourcing valuable feedback but, of course, there is no guarantee that I'll follow through with changes. There is emotional inertia that keeps me as far from website production as I can get. 

The Benjamin countdown continues. He is scheduled to get back sometime on Thurs. evening and we're making all kinds of plans for his welcome back. I can't decide if the banner should be discreet and elegant or if we should just go ahead and wrap the entire house. I am also considering painting a welcome sign on the roof; just in case he is able to see it from the air. We've kept his scheduled arrival a secret from Studio Dog because she is hazy about "future tense" and will start looking all over for him if we tell her "Ben is Coming Home." I don't want to see her going from door to door and window to window looking hopeful and yet confused for the next five days. 

External recorders. I wanted to also report on the use of the Atomos Ninja Flame. As I expected, the improvement in the files depends to a large extent on how much you push the files coming from the camera. If you are filming at ISO200, in good light, with little camera movement, good color balance and careful exposure I am going to tell you that an external recorder won't magically and radically improve the video image. You will not hear angels singing. You won't have upgraded your shooting rig to match the files coming off your friend's $60K professional video camera because you will already be operating in a universal sweet spot. 

It's a different picture if you need to work at high ISOs, make big color or tonality corrections/modifications and if you routinely underexpose. Then, in post production, you'll probably see what I see: More detail, an easier to correct file, less noise and a greater range of color separation. 

Is the expense of $1200 or so worth it for people making video with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras? Only you can really decide if the units fit your value equation positively, but for me  there are three or four aspects that make a great external video recorder/monitor well worth the expense. The first is the ability to use vector scopes, wave form monitors and false color to fine tune (and nail) exposure and color balance. Meters solve a lot of issues. Second reason is the much enhanced ease of use for focus peaking and just plain focus evaluation. Having a high resolution screen that's multiple times bigger than the LCD on the back of your camera is a  godsend for achieving consistent and accurate focus. Punch in on a sharp, seven inch screen and you can see precisely where fine focus exists. Even with smaller sensor cameras that have the mixed blessing of deeper depth of focus/depth of field. 

Finally, having the video files already converted to a less compressed and very standard editing format means you don't waste time transcoding your video material before you can start your editing process. Plus, the transfer from the SSDs is remarkably fast. All in all, a good productivity tool. 

Speaking of video...I have to say that I've been shooting some video with the Panasonic G85 and I wish I was more impressed. It's not bad in 4K; not bad at all, but it's not as crisp as the fz2500 or the Sony RX10iii and doesn't come close to the high ISO performance of the  A7Rii in crop mode. It's a good enough camera but even the image stabilization is a bit disappointing because it's not at all stable if you are handheld and changing direction with a pan. There are artifacts. For a sustained, handheld shot with little camera movement it's fine but when the camera starts to move the issues come into focus. I'm disappointed but I'm still, on the whole, a fan of the camera because it does a very, very nice job with still photography and the video on a tripod (in 4K) is just fine. There is no free lunch. This camera is just a discounted lunch. 

Lenses. I want to call out two lenses that are more or less obscure, have been on the market for a while and have, in the minds of most consumers, been superseded for attention by the subsequent, relentless product introductions in the lens market. They are the Rokinon 100mm f2.8 macro and the Rokinon 135mm t2.2 (cine version) lenses. Both are manual focusing and neither has any electronic connection to any camera but both are exquisitely sharp, even wide open. I had occasion to use both recently and came away with a new appreciation for them. The 135mm is especially interesting as it gives a very sharp core image wide open and, on a full frame camera gives an exquisitely narrow depth of field when used there. Look around for used copies, cast off by people with short attention spans, and buy them cheap. They are well worth it if you are casting around for a certain sort of look from your full frame cameras. 

Weather. As I understand it California, and places west of Texas, are being pounded with heat from an intransigent high pressure dome that's propelling the heat up into the 110-120 (f) range. It's expected that the temps will stay there through the next week. Here in Austin we've had a period of high humidity with actual high temperatures near the 100 mark which makes for a dangerous heat index. Not good weather for exterior shooting. Thank goodness I've been inside, working on the darn website. 

Swim Practice. We've had some great swims lately. The coaches are getting more inventive as we go along, and all of them must be frustrated engineers since everything they write on the board has complex patterns of increasing and decreasing distance coupled with negative splits and descending interval times. Good times. If you aren't exercising you might want to consider doing so as an investment in your long term ability to be mobile with your camera. No fun trying to do street photography from the couch....

A Final Note. I am have contracted to be a photography instructor for a travel company. We are on track to begin in 2018 with a fun trip (in the Fall) to Iceland followed by a December adventure in England. More details as they become available. As a warm up I'm planning a trip in late Summer to Mexico City and in the Fall to Tokyo. As the kid finishes up his senior year by May of 2018 more and more funds seem to become available for the kinds of travel we used to do before those dreaded years of parental responsibility. Stay tuned.

Feedback on the website is welcome but really, try to be nice...




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