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Tools have always, it seems, been a part of my life. Maybe it’s a guy thing – or just this guy’s thing – but I’ve been fascinated by them, admired them, enjoyed having them, and used them for as long as I can remember. I’ve never regretted buying a good tool.

There is something about the feel of a tool in the hands. The better the tool, the better they feel. It’s almost a privilege to use a good tool.

I realize the gadget nature of photography plays into this as well. I get the same feeling from my camera and lenses. Even the software that I use. They are all tools.

The ability to create and use tools is after all what makes us human. Perhaps it is my primal connection.

This image I’ve used before. To me it sums up the love affair my hands have had with tools. It must resonate with a lot of people because I get a lot of comments on it:


I was shooting something totally unrelated in my garage recently. I was inspired by some frozen food (if you can believe it) still life’s by Irving Penn (if you can believe that). Although inspired my shots were not exactly inspiring. Proving yet again that I fall far short of Mr. Penn.

But since I was in the garage, and I had a still life setup, I grabbed some tools and made a quick composition.


Tools always seem to make good subjects. Their surfaces allow playing with light – the family of angles. The ruler is made of steel and is shiny. It’s direct reflection of the light source overhead tells you that. But the chisel lying on top of it is also steel and is also shiny. It appears black because it is lying at an angle to the light source.  It does not directly reflect the light. It’s beveled business end, however, lies at the same angle as the ruler so it appears shiny. Fun with specular reflections.

The light, and the family of angles, also allow us to see their patina as well.  From hours of use (and abuse) it tells something of a story of what they helped to accomplish. Yes, the chisel is nicked. It needs to be sharpened. And the ruler needs to be cleaned. They will complain – that cut will not be as precise, and some of the markings will be obscured. But they will do the work nonetheless.

I’m back to shooting human subjects this week. But every now and then I take solace with the inanimate object. A still life periodically is good for the soul. Especially if it is tools.

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