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I am aware that many photographers like to shoot tethered to their laptops or tethered to their studio PCs. I'm sure this makes sense in still life shooting situations that require exacting compliance to a client's comprehensive layout or when working collaboratively with an art direct bent on arranging props within a static scene in just the right way. But I have never warmed up to the idea of shooting portraits while tethered to a monitor or laptop. It would seem that one loses control over implementing one's own style and the conviction that they understand and can assess the value of the "right" frame in a better, or different, way than can the portrait sitter in front of them. 

So it is with sad resignation that I am approaching a project next week. One of my clients is having a sales meeting. It's an "all hands on deck" function that will bring people in from all over north America for the week. The marketing folks have decided that it will be an opportune time to provide portrait photos for anyone who needs them or wants them. This request falls on the other side of the line from "Large and beautifully crafted prints to be displayed proudly" and resides on the side of the use field that includes: headshot for LinkedIn and Facebook, small snap for electronic proposals and (maybe) use on a website. In other words there stated expectation is that we'll take about five minutes per person to get a good shot. Not much more. 

But here's the kicker: they want us to shoot tethered so we can show the portrait sitters the images immediately after we've shot them. They want the sitter to select an image on the spot and they would like us to send the image directly to them via e-mail, on site. 

The tight scheduling means I have to work with an assistant. I choose Ben. The real issue is the throughput and the inevitable delays as people hem and haw over exactly which frame they should choose. I don't like to work this way because there is always some retouching that can be done in post to make each person look better. It just be a judicious crop but it may also be removing a pimple or smoothing skin. 

Recently Panasonic delivered a new application that is free to GH5 and G9 users. It's called Lumix Tether and it delivers tethered shooting and camera control. It's very straightforward software so it doesn't create a gallery of images; it just shows them one at a time. In order to make it easier on the people who will be choosing the images I decided I would take the tethering one step further and combine it with Lightroom so we can look at images side by side, zoom in, etc. After much trial and error I was able to get the three pieces (camera, Lumix Tether and Lightroom) to work together. I can shoot, pull the images into a "watched" folder and then share them on the screen with the "customer." 

Then I ran into another glitch of sorts; my MacBook Pro laptop has a 13 inch screen and the display images in Lightroom are just too darn small to be easily readable. I'm not about to haul my primary computer off my desk and leave it in a Westin Hotel meeting room for three days so I started looking around for other options. It dawned on me that I could use the Thunderbolt connection on the laptop to create an HDMI port, via an adapter I have in my toolkit. Then I could attach a TV to the whole shebang and people could adore themselves, large scale. It would be a much more cost effective alternative to buying a new, fully spec'd 15 inch MacBook Pro with a i7 processor. 

If I could send the image from the laptop to the TV I could provide enough square footage to make selection easy. I could go straight from the camera to the TV with an HDMI cable (thank you! Panasonic for giving me a full size HDMI port!!!) but that would complicate the process of then sending the selected file via e-mail, on the spot. For that I'd need the laptop in the mix.

We have one TV in the house. It's an older 50 inch Vizio 720p unit and I am loathe to disconnect it and bring it along, mostly because I think a newer model would have a much better and more detailed screen image but also because the size of the unit is painful and our space on site is limited. With all this in mind I headed to Costco to buy a current TV. I bought a 32 inch model that's LED, 1080, wi-fi enabled and has a convenient HDMI port. It's also a Vizio (my other choice was a Samsung...) and it set me back less than $200.

With the whole mess assembled together my number one priority is to remember not to wander off with the camera in my hands and thereby pull everything crashing down to the floor. At peak times the TV image will no doubt attract a "peanut" gallery who will attempt to "inspire" the sitter with exhortations and catcalls. I can hardly wait. Yes, the space the meeting planners have chosen for us is mostly public...

The client and I are still flirting with negotiating a different process. I would be happy to keep the TV in the mix, happy to allow for immediate, on site image selection too, but I am trying to sell them on allowing us to record the frame number of each person's selection on a form, along with the person's e-mail address, and then touching each file with some magic retouching spells at the end of each day and sending along the improved images. We'll see how strong my powers of persuasion might be. 

The lure of the paycheck so far outweighs my righteous indignation at having an external force willfully change my workflow. We'll see if we can't maintain that rational approach as the situation devolves into the unknown by the end of the first day...

On another note, below are images I made yesterday on my first walk through downtown in the new year. Actually, since the 22nd of December. 

The rationalization for the walk was stress relief but the underlying reason was to put the Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC DN (haven't a clue as to what those abbreviations might mean; if anything) through its paces. I was very happy to have it along and I find myself liking the files at least as much as I did when I owned the same basic lens (different mount) for the Sony APS-C, Nex cameras. 











A corner of the kitchen in my parent's house. 
Image shot with the Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN art at 3200 on G85 with no processing. 
Nostalgia included in the mix.

Final thoughts on tethering: Don't do it unless you have to and you're going to get paid for it. Tethering is a pain in the ass.

With all the trauma and anguish of the past three weeks I entirely missed noting a small but important-to-me milestone. About three posts ago I put up the 3500th post since the birth of the Visual Science Lab blog. If you figure that the average length of a typical blog here is about 2,000 works then I've bashed out some 7,000,000 million words,  reviewed a lot of gear, and tried my best to piss off the entrenched photo community.

If nothing else the blog has given me the opportunity to improve my skills as a typist...

If you enjoy the blog please take time to comment from time to time so I know that I'm not writing into a vacuum. Of course any contribution is totally voluntary but let's not waste each other's time; checks or cash in thousand dollar increments are the most efficient wealth transfer for both of us....

If you are feeling particularly charitable, and are so inclined, I could really use a new Bentley automobile in order to more efficiently do my writing research in far flung locales. Should a Bentley prove too dear one of the S class Mercedes cars would suffice. We all need to make adjustments....

I think I'll write a few thousand more blogs. Some routines are hard to break.

One of my friends who is a professional videographer is thinking seriously of supplementing his Sony FS7 dedicated video camera with the new Panasonic GH5S. He's looked closely at the files and finds a lot to like about them. We were sitting around having coffee and he asked me for recommendations of lenses to use with the new camera. His requirements (or strong preferences) are to have lenses that have apertures of f1.8 and faster for each lens. He would also like to keep cost down; if possible. 

My first suggestion was that he consider the three new f1.2 Pro lenses from Olympus. All three have been well reviewed and seem to have superior imaging characteristics as well as the ability to move into a manual focusing mode that has hard stops for minimum and maximum focusing distances. We both are on the fence about this family of lenses, we love the "idea" of them but also feel that there are more cost effective options in the overall m4:3 universe which might not be the highest performance where high resolution still photography files are wanted but which would definitely do justice to the 4K video files he (and I ) will likely shoot. 

Now, this is a topic I like to sink my teeth into. He also stated that he was more interested in using lenses specifically designed for the format instead of trying to match lenses from other systems via various mechanical adapters. 

I started making a list. The first lens on my notepad was the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 short telephoto. It fills an important slot as a perfect focal length for intimate video interviews. It's also fast enough that when used close in allows for dropping backgrounds out of focus in a very nice way. I bought my second copy several months back and, in the past, found this lens model to be a bit sharper, wide open, than the Olympus 45mm and it also features lens based image stabilization. It's a solid recommendation for a low cost video centric kit. We wish the focusing ring had hard stops in manual focus but you can't always get what you want at the price you're happy to pay. If you want good, sharp performance at a bargain price then this is the system lens I start with. 

My next suggestion is a cheat because it violates his first preference of only considering lenses faster than f1.8. I'm suggesting that everyone who shoots longer focal lengths with the m4:3 cameras get their hands on the Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN Art lens. Of course I understand that it's a stop and a third slower than my friends limit but it's so sharp and so inexpensive that you just can't go wrong. This is a lens that you can set at its widest aperture of f2.8 and never have a moment's hesitation about its optical performance. At an equivalent of a 120mm lens in the full frame world its a focal length that's almost perfect for classical, tight head shots. Sorry, no built in image stabilization so it's either no coffee or a tripod if you want those frames to be nice and sharp. I love the sleek and minimalist lens body design but it's not everyone's cup of tea. Especially those who shoot year round with soft wool gloves. Not enough grippiness to make those folks happy...

Next up on my list of really good and really well priced fast(er) primes is the universally well-reviewed Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens. It's priced at $339 (or close by) and this will be the second time I've owned this product (albeit in a different mount: I had it for the Sony a6300). On the APS-C frame of the Sony it's the equivalent (FF) of a 45mm lens but on the m4:3 it's closer to 60mm and that's a focal length of happiness for me. I ordered the m4:3 model last week and it came this Tues. Today is the first time I've had enough free schedule to walk around and shoot with it but the first few hundred frames I shot today reminded me what I like about this lens: the center of the frame is nicely sharp and contrasty at f1.4.  The lens is a bit bigger than other m4:3 lenses but it's not nearly as big or heavy as the Olympus Pro series primes. If you like slightly long normal lenses this might be a lens you put on the front of your camera and never take off. I recommend it whole-heartedly. 

Heading down to the wider focal lengths puts me into territory that I only care about when clients request it. The shortest lens I would work with for my personal work would be the 25mm focal lengths for this format which, of course, yield an angle of view like a 50mm lens on full frame. My first choice here (at prices much lower than the Pro series) would be the Panasonic-Leica 25mm f1.4 which is getting long in the tooth but is also a very well made and good performing lens. It's a classic fast lens with the best performance at wider apertures being in the center 2/3rds of the frame. It's not a lens for flat field macro work but if you like shooting fast and you're working in the video world the performance will exceed the resolution the video files well past 4K. So, it's my first choice in this focal length range for the Panasonic cameras. Important to note that this lens does not offer image stabilization either so it's best used on the latest cameras (G9, GH5) for stills or on a tripod or gimbal if paired with the new GH5S. 

If price is an object (and of course it is since we've rejected the budget busting territory of our first choice of the Pro series lenses) then there is one more normal lens that I can recommend with no trepidation or hesitation and that is the Panasonic 25mm f1.7. It's exactly what you might think of as the system version of the Canon or Nikon "nifty-fifty" lenses for full frame bodies. It's decent wide open and then sharpens up very nicely so that by f4.0 and above it's almost on par with the pricier options. This lens is priced at around $250+ but it goes on sale with clock-setting regularity for the blow-out price of $159 and I think it's well worth that price. You can use it wide open and get most of the frame into the very good to excellent category or you can stop it down to f4.5 and get sparkly sharpness throughout. 

As we move down into wider lens territory I can only parrot what I hear from my experienced users and take my cues from them. If I were not content with my Olympus 12-100mm Pro lens and I wanted to stay away from zoom lenses with slower maximum apertures the one additional prime I am actively considering buying is the Panasonic-Leica 15mm f1.7 lens. It seems well made, gets high marks across the reviewing world and seems affordable for 28-30mm equivalent users at around $549. 

I'd suggest lenses wider than 15mm if I knew of any that were really any better than the zooms that cover the wider ranges (Olympus Pro 7-14mm, Panasonic-Leica 8-18mm) but I think when you get into focal lengths under 15mm the inherent depth of field of any of the available primes is no smaller than that of slower zooms; in a practical sense. I can't think that an 8mm f1.8 would have that much less depth of field that the 8mm end of a zoom at f2.8. The zooms I mentioned both have high optical quality; especially near their wider ends so it's not really a question of the primes delivering better image quality. In the end, the flexibility and quality of the two wide zooms wins out in the actual world of making photographs or videos.

My ideal kit for the m4:3 cameras would include the three fast Olympus Pro Primes, the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro and the (incredibly flexible) 12-100mm lens and all of these would be supplemented by wider zoom options (the Panasonic-Leica gets my cash because it has filter threads and I can use variable ND filters on it).

I haven't covered long, fast lenses because I just don't think you can do better than the 40-150mm f2.8. If you need longer or faster you'll probably head into adaptations. The 75mm Olympus f1.8 gets very high marks and I consider it somewhat of a speciality lens. One I'd like to own but one that I have to work hard to justify. 

Everyone's choices will be different. I'd opt for different lenses if I were photographing solely for my own pleasure. I'd be happy with a 25 and a 45 and I'd be opting out of the buying cycle after locking down those two models. But here I am on the cusp of a week long shoot for a large medical practice that will call for very wide shots, very tight shots, large depth of field and shallow depth of field in a random pattern throughout each day of the assignment. It helps me to justify the choices I've made!
To my videographer friend: I hope this is helpful. 

Have I left any good lenses out of the mix that I should know about or learn about? Let me know!


Irrational purchases versus marketing strength.

(postcard mailer)
Versus...
(new camera of the moment)
Or this....

A piazza in Rome.
Street shooting in Rome.
I love cameras as much as the next guy. Maybe even more. But, at some point the mania of researching, buying, testing, trading and selling off cameras, and then wading through the next generation of offerings seems...over the top.  This isn't really me talking, it's my book on Commercial Photography.  I re-read it last night after having coffee with a pragmatic gentleman yesterday who mentioned the book.  

I get that it took a number of years and a number of tries for camera makers to get digital cameras back to the same level of working transparency that they'd achieved decades ago in film cameras.  Up until the time of the Canon 5D2 and the Nikon D3 we could easily rationalize that we "needed" to upgrade our camera to take advantage of the curve that was still grasping for true "holistic" usability in our professional tools.  But boy did we sacrifice some hard earned money, time and mental rigor.

Around 2009 all of the pieces were firmly in place.  Any of the top cameras on the market that year are totally satisfactory for the function of creating great images and mastering the needs of the mainstream commercial marketplace.  My Olympus EP2 was a perfect camera for the leisurely hobby of shooting fun stuff while on a walk or road trip.  And it still is.

My Canon 5Dmk2 is a perfected working tool for what I need to do to keep my clients happy.  In fact, the 1DS mk2 from 2004 was just about there as well.  When you think about it, just about every camera with delusions of professional competency made since 2008 or 2009 is probably better, overall, than us operators.  And in point of hard fact most professional assignments are usually done either on a stout tripod (at a reasonably low ISO) or in complicity with electronic flash or other supplemental lighting (also at a reasonably low ISO) and can be handled with a wide range of cameras and lenses.  Including (when stopped down) most recent zoom lenses.

What's fueling the race to make every camera full frame?  What's the cattle prod that keeps the herd begging for higher and higher pixel counts?  And what's the new fascination with the new "rangefinder" styled cameras.....that are anything but?  Desire and marketing?

It's fun to buy new cameras but even I have limits.  I was drooling over the Fuji X pro camera shown on Michael Johnston's blog and all over the web when my inner business guy (deeply repressed during most camera buying escapades) emerged, beating me about the head and shoulders with a rolled up copy of my own business book.  

He had a couple of questions.  But first he looked around the studio and started counting cameras and lenses and lights and gadgets.  He was still counting an hour later when I came back from lunch.... and then he turned on me like a spreadsheet badger and demanded to know what the hell I was thinking.

"I see enough cameras to re-brick a wall." He shouted. "But I don't see any new promotional mailers.  I don't see a revised contact list.  I don't see any work being done on adding to the e-mail lists.  Where the hell is the new portfolio of people we've been talking about, ad nauseum?  And why am I stepping over three or four different camera systems here?  Are you fucking nuts?  Or did you just win the lottery?"

(My inner business guy can really get in my face...)

But he had a point.  And I could see it pretty clearly.  And so can my bank account.  

"Hey, Photo-Punk."  My inner business guy taunted.  "Let me give you a quick lesson on asset allocation."  I slunk down in my chair and got ready for the lecture I knew I deserved...

He began:  "I see you have the Canon 1DX on order already.  Pretty sweet.  But dude (he calls me that when he's really pissed...) we're talking seven large  ($7,000) for that one camera body.  And how often, when making one of your executive photos or your product shots of electronic toys do you actually need like, 10 frames per second?  Or more throughput? (said with a vicious sneer...)  What you really need are more new clients and more return visits from old clients and, guess what?  They like the gear  you're shooting with right now just fine."

I reached for my cup of coffee and he slapped my hand with a ruler, hard.  Then he looked at the Starbucks label and just shook his head.  "We'll deal with that money leak in another conversation..."

Back to business:  "For the same $7,000 you could finance a coherent, effective direct mail campaign to every art buyer and worthwhile art director in Texas.  One thousand postcards, printed, would run you around $200.  One thousand stamps for said will run you another $430.  A little more elbow grease and a little less time haunting the Photo Equipment Porno sites and you'd have your mailing list in good shape.  Throw some cash at a good graphic designer and for less than $1,000 you can reach a pretty well defined list of potential, check writing clients.  And you could do that seven times in one year for the price of that one camera body!!!!!"   He was screaming and foaming at the mouth by this point...

"If you get a handful of new clients from just that advertising it would return a zillion times more cash to your pocket than a camera that you'll be convinced is obsolete by the time the next big photo trade show rolls around."  (Then he muttered something unflattering under his breath.  Very much a hard nosed business guy....not a marketing guy.  A marketing guy can insult you and smile at the same time.)

I decided to stand up for my inner artist.  I said that I needed the tools that would make my inner artist happy.  That was the argument I trotted out.  Bad move.

"Your inner-f-ing artist????  You gotta be kidding me.  That guy was happy shooting on the streets with an old Hasselblad, a used lens and a pocket full of slow film.  I haven't seen anything from these profit vampire digital cameras that looks any better.  And do you know why?  Because you keep spending all your money on toys.  Back when a camera would last you longer than indigestion you could put money aside for travel and adventure.  Remember travel and adventure?  A hell of a lot more fun to do, and write about, than the buttons on the lastest f-ing point and shoot cameras.  Wouldn't you agree?"

I looked back down at my shoes and tried to remember the last time I got on an airplane and left town to shoot art for myself.....

"Let's take that same $7,000 and see what you could do if you were smart enough to use if for a trip.  Shall we?"  

"Hey look!   Here on Expedia.  You could get a round trip ticket and ten nights at a decent hotel in Tokyo for less than $2,800 bucks.  But wait, don't you have a friend with an extra room in Paris?  And a couple million frequent flier miles?  So all you'd have to pay for is.....film?  No, not even that?  Just food?  And you're standing around your office, getting older and slower and looking at dinky ass digital cameras?  Just grab one out of the drawer, throw a couple of lenses in a bag and get your sad butt in gear.  What the hell are you waiting for?  Or take the $7,000 and go to Rome for a month.  Maybe you could even write a book about it.  Where's your old penchant for blue sky?  Have you turned into a photo pussy?"

He was right.  Where was my inner business guy as we got all wrapped up in the digital marketplace?  Now that we've got cameras that are more or less as transparent as the film cameras they replaced what was my excuse to buy more?  Was it the habit we got into as we feverishly tried to master early digital?  Or was it just resistance and the thinly disguised belief that we "techie" photographers have that the newest camera is like a magic talisman that will give us power over our competitors?  According to my inner business guy the only real magic is the work you do on your marketing to clients.

Everything else is just addiction to the "new car smell."

1DX order cancelled. Passport renewed.  Cards in process. How's that for a kick in the ass for the New Year?
The newest sibling in an interesting family.

I've had my nose in family matters for the last few weeks and I nearly missed the exciting news from my current favorite camera company, Panasonic. They've been busy lately churning out very desirable cameras and they've just announced one that most photographers will snub while their friends across the hall in video might just adore. It's labeled as the GH5S and, much like Sony's line extension of the A7 series into an A7S and A7Sii, it's the low light version of their previous flagship hybrid camera, the GH5. While you can do a lot of great engineering in order to make a camera that is a good compromise between still photography and video there are some advantages in presenting a camera with a sensor that is optimized for one or the other. And that improved video segment is what the GH5S is directly aimed. But while its specialization for video files seems to disqualify it as the top choice for a stills camera I still find it fascinating. I'll try to explain why...
Read more »


Using speedlights without softening modifiers greatly expands your outdoor working range. And it does so enough that you can easily light a large group photo with a small, portable gear pack.

Today, we'll walk through how to do that, along with a few tips to tweak and improve your results.Read more »

I worked in a blacked out theatre, using some of their work lights but mostly shaping light in little pools by using multiple, weakly diffused LED panels. The light was there to provide dimension and shadows, not just to increase illumination.

We worked with a Panasonic GH5 and the 12-100mm Olympus Pro lens attached to a Ninja Flame monitor so the art director and I could move lights and change levels in little steps until we both agreed that we'd gotten what we needed for a whole series of different poses and shots.

The illumination levels were low so I worried about file noise but needn't have. With a bit of noise reduction in Lightroom the image came right into line allowing us to use it almost life-size on lobby posters and, easily, in all our electronic displays; regardless of screen size.

The shoot took an hour and thirty five minutes from start to stop and generated dozens and dozens of different looks and variations.

The background was added in post.

It's challenging play. If you are in Austin it's well worth the price of admission.

Notes: I am back in Austin and heading back to the theatre to shoot a video interview this morning for a very different project. I got a good nights sleep last night and had the first cup of good coffee I've had in weeks this morning. 

I am quite fascinated with the new Panasonic GH5S camera and will be writing a bit about the Panasonic professional camera family (fast growing!!!) this afternoon; just to blow off some steam. I currently feel quite vindicated in my decision to through in my lot with the Panasonic/Olympus systems. Come back later to see if I actually got finished writing about deciding between the G9 and the GH5S. 
News from the photographic caregiver:

I am closing in on a piece of closure; my dad will be going to a memory care facility tomorrow. While I love him dearly none of us is able to supply the round the clock attention and care he needs to cope effectively with his level of Dementia. Tomorrow afternoon my wife and I will pull the rest of the financial papers and valuables out of the house for safekeeping and head back up to Austin to resume, as best we can, the life we've created for ourselves there. 

I understand that there will be emergencies, calls in the night, unexpected and confused stuff that comes at us out of left field, but my therapy and salvation has always been doing my work. There is a comfort in the consistency of getting up and packing the car, greeting clients, setting up lighting, engaging in repartee with portrait subjects. Puzzle solving on the annual report shoots. Creating the flow of video production. The familiarity and mastery are tied together and create a comfort for me that I can't really explain.

It will also be good to sleep in my own bed instead of on the fold-out couch half asleep, waiting to hear if my father stirs in the middle of the night and needs to be reminded of where the bathroom is.

On Tues. morning Ben and I will pack up the car and head over the theater to get that one last interview I need in order to start editing a project we've been working on since before Christmas. We don't really need footage from a second camera but I think the boy wanted to attend to keep an eye on his own father. To be able to step in if I've overestimated my own emotional resilience and need a gentle reminder that life goes on and work goes on and that's okay. 

This is probably the last post I'll write about my parents. There's a ton to learn but it's mostly lessons for me. It's time we got back into the mad throes of photography. Anyone up for a good Canon versus Nikon fight? How about the ongoing exercise in hermeneutics over mirrorless vs DSLRs? No one? I guess well just have to start right in about the insane price of the fully tricked out Pro iMac..... Till then. Kirk Out.

BTS video clip: Studio photo shoot with a model

I’ve mentioned before how much I like to shoot with and observe other photographers at work. I recently got to hang out with my friend, Andy Foord in the studio while he photographed a model, Olga. The inspiration was a Vanity Fair style portrait – soft, yet with a hint of the dramatic. I watched Andy set up the lights and photograph Olga – during this I shot a behind-the-scenes video which I’ve posted below. It is short, and meant as a glimpse into the process, and as a way of seeing the lighting setup and see the studio.

Instead of a longer video that takes much more time to edit and deliver, I wanted to test a new direction here – to see how feasible it is to shoot some behind-the-scenes footage to add to new articles here. The video is meant to be quick and easy to shoot and edit … yet hopefully will add something. Maybe it is fun to watch, and perhaps reveals more than the typical pull-back I usually show. If there’s interest in more, this is something I could add more regularly – let me know.

Also, keep in mind that if you need a rental photo studio in New Jersey, my studio is available.

Before we get to the BTS video clip, some of the photos I shot of Olga using Andy’s setups:

 


 

BTS video clip: studio photo shoot with Olga

And of course, here is the pull-back shot, and the techie details with the listing of photo gear used:

Camera settings & Photo gear used in this photo session

This pull-back shot will show the lights in position – the main light is the 5′ octabox to our right here, and the fill light is via the Softlighter 46″ (affiliate), and the white V-flat opposite that light. All this added to a fairly even light, but with slightly more shadow on Olga’s left side (camera right).

 

 

Related articles

 

The post BTS video clip: Studio photo shoot with a model appeared first on Tangents.

Wedding photography – Style & Serendipity

There’s this balance I feel I need to maintain in my professional photography, and especially with weddings. The photos I take, need to solidly be within the style that I show on my website – this is what my clients hired me for. On top of that though, there is the urge within as an artist, and as an obligation to my clients, to produce more. To deliver photos with a little extra. Something slightly different. I want to expand what I do, and expand on my style and ‘look’. So with every shoot and every wedding, I’m always looking for anything out of the ordinary. Get the solid photos in my pocket, like the example shown above … it works. The bride looks beautiful. The lighting is good. The pose isn’t rigidly controlled – it is natural and complements her personality. Typical of my the kind of romantic portraits I do during a wedding. But I also want to get something unusual and artistic, yet is still within my style. I want to surprise myself, my client, and anyone who sees the photos.

Serendipity plays a role. Louis Pasteur had this beautiful saying: “Chance favors the prepared mind.” It is up to us as the photographers to recognize these opportunities and run with them.

I want to show two examples at this wedding when we photographed the bride, Tonya, and we chanced upon something a little out of the ordinary by playing with the light.

For example, this image came about when we saw how the light and shadow played across Tonya when my assistant was holding up the light, and it swung, and we saw the pattern of light move across her dress. We instantly knew we had to use it. Then it was just a matter of guiding Tonya’s gaze and the light falling through a curve in the railing, to accentuate her eyes. The pull-back shot will show this better – the light is the bare modeling light of the Profoto B1 flash (affiliate).

Camera settings & Photo gear used during this photo session

  • 1/60  @  f/4  @  1600 ISO

 

 


Direction & Quality Of Light

Direction & Quality of Light

I wanted to distill the essence of what we, as photographers, work with – light! Before we can truly grasp on-camera flash and off-camera flash, and really, any kind of photography, we have to be aware of the direction and quality of light. We need to observe the light that we have, and then decide how best to use it, or enhance it.

With this book, I try my best to share those “aha!” moments with you, and I do believe this book can make a difference to your photography.

The book is available on Amazon USA and Amazon UK, or can be ordered through Barnes & Nobles and other bookstores. The book is also available on the Apple iBook Store, as well as Amazon Kindle.


 

 

The initial effect here was fairly subtle – the bevelled edge of the mirror refracting into strips of light. For this, I asked Tonya, the bride, to move very slightly to her right until the beams of light were over her eyes. The pattern is irregular, and the effect might not be to everyone’s taste, however, this is another sequence that added variety to the final selection I offered to the bride and groom. It all adds up to more variety.

Here is the pull-back shot to show the position of the light – the bare modeling light of the Profoto B1 flash (affiliate).

The reason for the images shown here – from the initial photo at the top, and the subsequent two variations, is that the modeling light has a White Balance that matches the warm tones of the Incandescent and warm fluorescent lights in the venue. I don’t need a powerful flash  – I just need a subtle light that can enhance the existing light. And for that, the modeling light of the Profoto B1 was good enough. The image at the very top was with the modeling light bounced into an umbrella. The other main images were all with the bare modeling light directly on Tonya.

Camera settings & Photo gear used during this photo session

  • 1/60  @  f/3.2  @  2000 ISO

 


 

Summary

The key here is not to get locked into just the usual way of working, but to always be aware of possibilities – to recognize opportunity when it comes your way. Make serendipity part of your style.

 

Related links

 

Video tutorials – wedding photography

If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check out these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.

The post Wedding photography – Style & Serendipity appeared first on Tangents.



When working with one speedlight outdoors in daylight, logic dictates that you need to find the shade if you want to create a nice quality of light.

This is because you only have one light, which a) needs to do all of the heavy lifting, and b) is not very powerful. Which means that you tend to go soft—and close—with your one light.

So one light can be limiting. But as you'll see, a second light can open up some pretty neat options. Read more »
A Momentary Hiatus While I Take Care of Family.

Dad. Eight Years Ago.


We’ve discussed many things here on the Visual Science Lab blog but dealing with family and loss hves never been among them. I consider myself lucky; I’ve made it to sixty-two and have only lost two close friends, and until now, no one in my close family. There have been brushes with mortality but always followed by successful recoveries. I haven’t given enough thought to just how much a death in the family can affect the day to day routines and expectations of a self-employed person’s life —- until now. 

It was the morning of Christmas Eve and family was getting ready to converge on my parent’s house to celebrate. My father has been dealing with dementia for years and, for the most part, my mother was his primary caregiver; keeper of the finances, scheduler of the doctors appointments for both of them, as well as the social director for them both. My sister and brother-in-law were in town and staying at my parent’s house.

Just after breakfast my mother, who has been dealing with C.O.P.D. for many years collapsed, unable to catch her breath. My sister called 911 and off to the hospital she and my mother went in an ambulance with lights flashing. Mother suffered cardiac arrest in the hospital but was revived after six minutes of CPR and other procedures. Once stabilized she was intubated and sent to the intensive care ward under sedation. My brother-in-law (the man is a blessing!) stayed at home with my father.

My little family was still in Austin. Our usual Christmas ritual was to have Christmas Eve dinner with a family we have known and loved for decades. We planned to ring in Christmas with nice wines and better company. One phone call from my sister and I had a bag packed and was heading south on highway I-35 as quickly as I safely could. 

Ben and Belinda could handle anything that needed to be done in Austin. 

When I got to the hospital my mother was sedated and unconscious and there was nothing for me to do there. My sister insisted on staying by her side so I headed to the family home to check on my father. He was agitated and having trouble understanding or processing what was happening. My older brother lives in San Antonio and he was at my parent’s house adding his help in caring for my father and sorting out our next steps. All the grandchildren were arriving in town, there were hams and tamales and holiday food in the refrigerators. None of that mattered anymore. 

My mother got progressively worse. When she was taken off sedation all she wanted was to come home. She was inconsolable. We talked to the doctors who were pessimistic about her chances and they agreed to send her home with hospice care. She died quietly and without pain in her own bed yesterday at 12:52 pm. 

Earlier in the day yesterday, Belinda, Ben and I had taken my father to a well regarded “Memory Care” facility for evaluation. If you are familiar with the term “memory care” in this context it’s basically an assisted care facility with emphasis on patients with memory loss, Alzheimer’s and dementia. We have a small apartment reserved but it won’t be ready until the end of this week —- and making the reservation will be the easiest part of the battle; dementia patients can have big mood swings and may go from liking a place to having paranoid delusions, anger and panic later in the same day. 

My sister and her family have gone home to the east coast. She needs to take care of herself as she has a serious cancer battle to fight and is overdue for her chemotherapy. My brother and his wife are school teachers handling some student debt for their three children’s recent college work and they need to get back to work as well. 

Many years ago my parents, in their wills, divided up the duties of their children as regards medical directives and estate management. The burden of medical decisions falls to my older brother (he lives in the same city as my parents) and he’s been wonderful in jumping into all kinds of situations with my parents and helping. He’s the one they call at 3 in the morning when my father has ended up on the floor and is unable to get back up. He’s the one they’ve called when the pipes froze or the electricity went out. Proximity ends up meaning “more responsibilities.”

My duty is to take over the financial end. To sort out to whom my parents owe money, from whom they receive money, which insurances need to be changed or renewed, to pay their bills and to be a good enough steward to make sure they don’t run out of money before they run out of life.

My mother kept things running, financially, and never shared information willingly, but in the last few years she allowed me to set up things like a durable power of attorney. Her filing methodology consisted of paying the bills as they came in and then putting the paperwork into shopping bags, trash bags, random desk drawers, under the sink, etc. 

With my sister out of the picture and my brother heading back to work I am currently shouldering the 24-7 task of both caring for my father ( from first coffee and oatmeal to changing adult diapers and repeating (with a smile on my face) the same answer to the same question that he may have asked twenty or thirty times in the last hour. He is sometimes quite lucid and pleasant and as he wears down over the course of the day will sometimes become agitated and disoriented, insisting that “this is not my house! Take me to my real house!” and then deciding that I am a stranger coming to rob him. It’s a tough change from my (last week) previous life which mostly consisted of swimming on my own schedule, having coffee with friends and colleagues along with bouts of judicious napping. 

Last night was a rough one. As his agitation grew it dawned on me that while I might be able to get him checked into the right facility but it might become a big battle or even require me to get legal help to keep him there. I woke up already tired this morning and started doing laundry and making an inventory of the food on hand and planning what I’d make for him to eat through the day. I need to get on the phone to make funeral arrangements for my mom and then I need to find and collect bills and get them paid. 

I get that these are events and situations that nearly every child will face one day. Maybe it’s a warm-up, or training, for our own inevitable demise…

How does this relate to photography? Well, the stunning thing I am beginning to understand, now that my time is being swept away by a resilient and relentless tide, is that I must continue to work and be financially productive in order to get my own child through his last year of college, to keep putting money into my retirement accounts and to pay for the lifestyle my wife and I have created. I never realized that what I saw as “tons of unspecified free time” was really tons of flexible time during which I billed, wrote blogs, wrote books, stayed in touch with clients, maintained batteries and gear, practiced the new or hard parts of my craft, and so much more.

I have my first job of the new year booked for Friday the 5th. Pre-catastrophe I’d be planning out how I wanted to actually produce the video shoot and start gathering and testing the equipment. I’d have a plan. I’d have gotten a great night’s sleep and had a healthy breakfast. Now I’m frantic to line up paid caregivers and some of my parent’s younger friends to cover that day for me and then to have my brother come from his job as a school teacher to handle the “night shift.” I’ll be back in the car (instead of in the pool — newly reopened) heading back down to San Antonio to take the reins from my sibling to give him some respite.

I’m hoping this brutal schedule is as temporary as I imagine it might be but I know there will be the frantic phone calls from the senior living facility, the long weekends of digging through a chaotic melange of paper without a roadmap or logical guidance, and then the sheer drudgery of taking over their accounts with my paperwork in hand and being responsible for getting their taxes done, their bills paid, getting my dad to future doctor’s appointments, and so much more. I can’t shake the feeling that my life will never be the same. 

The next job starts on the 10th. And then more jobs follow. The extra stress of not knowing what roadblocks or emergencies will arise and hamper my ability to commit to work schedules drives my anxiety. The “not knowing” if my dad will go willingly into memory care is a fear the size of a grizzly bear hugging my back.

Thankfully, my brother and sister are logical, kind and caring. We are all a united front. We all like each other and we don’t squabble. Thankfully, my wife is amazing and patient and logical and so very supportive. Thankfully, my son is incredibly responsible, helpful and compassionate (especially toward his father—-me). Another area of gratitude is that my parents leveraged their depression era fears of poverty into enough resources to last for any foreseeable needs my father may have. 

My career as a photographer/film maker/blogger/writer? I have to believe that I’ll be back in the saddle by the end of the month. Shouldering some additional obligation but at least able to get back to the work. 


Thanks for your patience and advice. It’s all welcome. Keep it coming; it makes me feel connected...



I've discussed many of the Olympus Pen FT half frame lenses that I enjoy using but I've mostly glossed over one. It's the 20mm f3.5. When I used it on its intended half frame Olympus film camera my results were always hit and miss. Mostly it looked soft and mushy. I had better options among the autofocus lenses that came along with each generation of m4:3 lenses. The poor 20mm just basically got side-lined. 

But I am nothing if not persistent. I decided to give it one more try on the front of my favorite photo camera, the G85. The Olympus Pen FT 20mm lens is from about 1968 and was the widest focal length lens made for the half-frame cameras (which have a crop factor of 1.4 with ff 35mm and 2.0 with m4:3). 

Each newer generation of Panasonic G cameras seems to be getting better and better at implementing focus peaking. And it's getting easier and easier to enable focus magnification while manual focusing. 
This is all good for older, manual focusing lenses.

As I walked around and shot frame after frame with the G85+20mm f3.5 combo I came to realize just how tricky it was in the pre-EVF days to really focus a slow, wide lens accurately. The visual depth of field on a focusing screen seems to obscure the real limits of the "in focus boundaries." 

No matter how much I love to romanticize older lenses there is a basic fact that their maximum aperture performance falls behind that of more modern lens options. With that in mind I mostly shot the lens at f5.6 since stopping down nearly always improves the performance of any older lens; up to a point. 

When I returned to the studio to evaluate the lens' performance I noticed several things. First, the lens is not particularly sharp wide open and also shows some green and magenta fringing at tonal junction points. Stopping the lens down gains sharpness but it's the old fashion sort of sharpness formula that combines lots and lots of resolution but at a lower contrast and acutance than any modern lens. It's a good candidate for post production, with an emphasis on a good sharpening routine coupled with a liberal use of the clarity slider to add back contrast and edge snap.

Unlike software corrected wide angles of the present the lens is much better corrected for geometric corrections right out of the box. It had to be; there was no firmware correction available when it was designed and sold. 

If you go into this lens with the idea of using it for substantive work you'll need to be comfortable shooting either at f5.6 or f8.0 with m4:3 cameras. Those are the sweet spot apertures for this lens. I should also note that it amply covers the APS-C format as it was originally designed to cover the wider (1.4x crop) area of the half frame film cameras. With a decent adapter and with the caveats I mentioned above it should work well on any of the Sony APS-C mirrorless cameras. It may even cover the full frame, but only at the closer focusing distances.

In all, I like the lens for photographs of people and may use it for something but I'm being progressively spoiled by the wide open clarity of lenses like the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0. It's harder now to rationalize using some of these older wide angles on the smaller format cameras when there are so many better modern alternatives. But it's fun to see that it's still highly usable on the latest cameras. Nice delayed obsolescence. 


Flash Photography workshops NJ NYC

Photography Workshops in NJ / NYC  (2018)

Here are the dates for the group photography workshops for 2018.
There is the regular workshop on flash photography with speedlights, and a a workshop on studio lighting.
Then there are the 3 dates where we will do the Photo Walks in New York again.

As always, there is the possibility for personal workshops and tutoring sessions which can be tailored to your needs and to your schedule.


Flash Photography Workshop with Speedlites

The fee for the full-day workshop is $600 and the workshop is from 9am to 8pm. Lunch and refreshments are included!

The workshops are limited to 6 people, so that I will be able to attend to everyone. There will be two models with us. The workshops will be held at my studio in Little Falls, NJ. The tempo is relaxed – I want to make sure everyone benefits, and will be a stronger photographer at the end of the day.

The flash photography workshop for 2018 will take place on:

  • July 22, 2018  (Sunday)  –  NJ

For more details and to book a spot: Flash Photography Workshops.

 

Photo Walks in NYC

With the NYC Photo Walks, we will photograph a model around a colorful, interesting parts of New York City. The group will be limited to just 4 photographers, so it won’t be crowded. We will also work at a relaxed tempo, so that I can attend to everyone and help everyone get amazing images. There will be an assistant to carry and hold the light for us. We just get to shoot and have fun! Here is a recap of a previous photo walk which took place along Brooklyn’s East River waterfront.

I will provide the Profoto B1 flash, and will have enough Nikon, Canon and Sony wireless TTL triggers for the Profoto flash so that everyone can shoot individually.

The $200 fee for the 2-hour photo walk is due at the time of registration.

  • May 27, 2018  (Sunday)  4-6pm  – Brooklyn Waterfront
  • August 26, 2018  (Sunday)  4-6pm – Brooklyn Waterfront
  • October 28, 2018  (Sunday)  4-6pm  –  Brooklyn Waterfront

For more details and to book a spot: Photo walks in NYC 

 

Studio Lighting Workshop

If you’ve been curious about getting to know more about studio lighting for portraits, but it all seems too daunting or technical, then this Studio Lighting Workshop is for you. The program is aimed at being is a learning experience where you get to use studio lights and light modifiers. After this workshop, I want you to feel comfortable next time you step into a studio, knowing you have a solid place to start from, and have the confidence to experiment further.

This workshop will be held at my studio space in NJ, and it has a wide range of studio lighting gear! It is easily accessible from New York as well, and we can fetch you from the local bus terminal. There is also free parking at the studio.

  • April 22, 2018  (Sunday)

For more details and to book a spot: Studio Lighting Workshops.

 

Personal workshops & tutoring sessions

If you would like an individual workshop, or a personal tutoring session, those are available as well throughout the year, depending on both of our schedules. The studio is only 17 miles from Manhattan. Just a short hop from New York and quite accessible by bus. Oh, and there’s parking at the studio. Free parking.

If you are limited in how far you can travel, there are Skype sessions and also video tutorials to help you get a much better understanding of photography and lighting techniques.

 

 

The post Photography workshops (2018) appeared first on Tangents.


My wife and my son decided I needed a break from parent and sibling drama and could use a ration of calmness so my little nuclear family decided they would take me to the Blanton Museum to get a second look at 

The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip

Once again the prints were exciting to look at. I have a new appreciation for Joel Sternfeld. His work is beyond great; especially when seen in its 40 by 50 inch, printed glory. 

We each set our own pace through the gallery and then walked together through the contemporary galleries on the second floor. 

After a bout of art we headed over to our favorite Chinese food restaurant and had lunch. We've been taking Ben there since he was three years old and everyone called him by name when we walked in. I've worked on a project for one of my favorite law firms this afternoon.

On a photographic note: the Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN showed up three days after the first promised delivery date and it's as good as I remember. The files are bright and sassy and the focal length is great for my point of view. A nice bargain for $240.

On an off topic note: Does anyone have a successful strategy for getting elder parents to give up the single family dwelling and move (willingly) into assisted living? If so, the suggestion might be worth its weight in gold... I could shoot more if I worried less...

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