the bar scene on Austin's Sixth Street is widely known to be a class act.
We had a cool, wet Spring. The first part of June followed along for the ride; but last week we headed back to typical, mid-Summer, Texas weather with heat indexes heading past 107 degrees and an intense sun unfiltered by any clouds. Hot. Sweaty, grimy, oppressively hot.
We're getting the edge of a monster heat wave that's ripping through California and our adjoining states in the Southwest. You've got to have sympathy for the folks in Palm Springs where the temperature is predicted to hit 118 on Sunday and 121 on Monday. Yikes!
But you can't spend the Summer hiding in your house with the curtains drawn and the air conditioner panting. So even on the zany days I like to grab a camera and go for a walk. I know downtown is a heat sink, what with all the asphalt and heat transferring, reflective buildings but that's where all the stuff is. Like today's 2nd St. Music Festival. And Voodoo Donuts.
It's Saturday so I hit the pool for swim practice at 8:30. When we finished at 10 the usual crew headed to the local coffee shop to catch up. I made it home in time for lunch. The family consensus was BBQ. Ben's been up in New York all Spring and there's little stuff you can really call good BBQ outside of Texas. Tennessee BBQ? (chuckle) that's just smoked meat with sweet sauce poured over the top... I have no idea what transplanted Austinites do when they find themselves in upstate N.Y. with a serious hankering for perfectly done brisket or ribs.... I guess they just suffer until they can get back and get in line at Franklin's, or Pokejo's.
At any rate, the afternoon was going by quick so I grabbed a small camera and got ready. Walking sandals? Check. Sunscreen on face and arms? Check. Long sleeve technical fabric shirt with an SPF of 50? Check. Khaki shorts? Check. Decent hat? Check. Non-polarized sunglasses? (All the better to see screens with...) Check. Seemed pretty thorough but on days with UV at 10+ on a scale of 0-10 I was looking for just a little more protection.
A couple of years ago I bought a UV umbrella from Whole Earth Provision Company. It's a small, collapsible umbrella with a reflective, silvered fabric on the side that faces the sun and black fabric on the side that faces Kirk. It's a perfect piece of portable shade, and since big swaths of my usual route are in direct sun I decided to bring it along. It's really kind of cool (literally and figuratively) to be able to bring your own shade with you...
I stuck a clip on my belt so the umbrella could hang out while I was shooting. And away we go.
I parked my car in the usual, shaded spot and started walking downtown with my Sony a6300 and its 50mm f1.8 SEL lens (the APS-C version, not the new product disaster version...). I was about 20 minutes into the walk when I pulled the camera up to my eye to shoot yet another boring shot of the skyline with cranes when I noticed the distinctive visual pattern of a dust spot, dead center in the frame. And if it's big enough to see in the finder it's got to be a whopper.
I clicked the shutter and examined the image in review. Yep. A big hunk of dust hanging out right in the middle. I found the shutter cleaning feature in the menu and tried it several times. No luck. No happiness. I sighed. It was too late to turn back. I cruised on with the knowledge of my compromised camera weighing on my mind.
The halfway point on my walk is the (nicely air conditioned and open to the public) Austin Convention Center. I ducked in, grabbed a drink of cool water from one of the water fountains and found a comfortable chair, and then I put on the reading glasses, popped off the lens and took a look at the sensor. Yep. There it was, a white piece of dust big enough to be seen by the almost naked eye.
Against all logic and good sense I tried to blow it off with a puff of breath. Fortunately, the heat had dried me out so no spit flew onto my sensor. I came to my senses, put the lens back on and decided that the afternoon's take of photos would create a good opportunity to practice my retouching skills later on....
I left the convention center and wended my way down Sixth St., past the sleazy bars and the homeless panhandlers, past the Oxfam volunteers and Save the Children volunteers with their bright tee shirts and their clipboards with petitions and pledge cards. I stopped from time to time to document some of the better logos and signs on display --- like the one for the Dirty Dog Bar and the one just below, for the Velveeta Room (just love the microphones around the top half of the sign).
And, of course, I am endlessly fascinated with the mystery of tattoos. I can't buy a shirt I'll like for more than a season or two, how do people think they'll want to keep tattoos all their lives?
Eventually I made it back to the car, after stopping by Book People to get the latest copy of Photo District News. All in all, a pleasant way to spend a quiet Saturday afternoon.
When I got back home Studio Dog gave me the look that said, "Where the heck have you been and why didn't I get to go?" She makes me laugh. She hates the heat. We would have gotten about three blocks before she would have plunked down and refuse to go any further. But I guess that's never the point...
The dust spot came off with the first puff of compressed air. All good now.
Hmmmm. No recent Austin music festival seems complete without the appearance of underwear models. I'm not sure of the connection but it's nice to see that not everyone in the city is getting fat....
Every once in a while I make it by Esther's Follies to see if Kerry Awn has painted new murals.
See Austin! And then please go back home...