Tincture to prepare ten days in a dark place then it is filtered.priligy side effectsPatients askaridozy most often are treated santoniny, sankafeny, or piperazin.However the most important point of treatment of prostatitis in house conditions is the constant control of the attending physician and approval of all applied methods by it.where can i get priligyApproximately in one and a half months the course can be repeated again.Patients askaridozy most often are treated santoniny, sankafeny, or piperazin.priligy preise5.



















After Dark photography education – Cincinnati, anemia

In an earlier post I mentioned how impressed I was with After Dark’s workshops & seminar series in Las Vegas. I was invited by Dave Junion to teach at the Cincinnati venue this past week as one of the Mentors.  I presented 4 seminars and shooting sessions, infection
and another impromptu demonstration late the one night. It was exhilarating and energizing to be a part of it.

After Dark has a certain structure –  10 areas / pods set up for seminar presentations; and 10 studio bays set up where Mentors can teach in a direct hands-on manner. But all this doesn’t really describe the easy-going flow of activity and learning and sharing that goes on. In that earlier post I described After Dark as ‘controlled anarchy‘. And that is what makes it so unique. You can move around between presentations and shoots, and learn from anyone. You can even ask any of the Mentors or attendees to help you. It’s an incredibly supportive and nourishing environment for any photographer.

Just as cool is that there are studio bays that are open, which might not be busy at any point. You can then mark down that you want to spend some time there. You also get the opportunity to play with a huge variety of lighting gear. You can play around on your own, or have someone help you. You can make mistakes. You don’t have to impress anyone. You just have to learn and have fun with it all …

This fairly straight-forward portrait above was taken with just a single Westcott 7′ Parabolic Umbrella (B&H). This massively large umbrella isn’t something I’d normally be able to play with – the studio space I can scrounge in my home is far too small for this impressive light modifier. So it was interesting to play around with it. I really really loved the light from this parabolic umbrella. The way it wraps light around your subject is just wonderful. Oh, and yes, there were models available.

By placing the light fairly close to the background, I got enough light on the background that I didn’t even need to light the background to bring it up close to white. This shot from behind will give you some idea of the size of this monster light modifier. (It is surprisingly inexpensive too.) It just seems like one of those can’t-go-wrong ways of lighting your subject in the studio.

Finally, here is another image that I grabbed at one of the studio bays. Our gorgeous model was lit by a ring-light (continuous light), giving that typical Fashion look with the very even light on her. I shot this with my Fuji X100, so I didn’t have the telephoto reach that others had, so I decided to include the ring-light as part of the composition.

By the way, that is the out-of-camera JPG from the Fuji X100, shot at 1/500 @ f4 @ 800 ISO … and it looks wonderful at 100%

Anyway, the point about all this is that you get to try various lighting setups and equipment and techniques on your own, or with a Mentor or any other knowledgeable photographer. After Dark is just a cool place to be if you’re considering a lighting and photography workshop. Check their website, or join them on Facebook, to be kept informed about the future dates and events.

If you find these articles interesting and of value, then you can help by using
these affiliate links to order equipment & other goodies.   Thank you!

Stay informed of new articles via the monthly newsletter.
Also join us on the Tangents forum for further discussions.

now available on iBooks : on-camera / off-camera flash photography

I’m very happy to announce that both my books on flash photography are now available on the Apple iBook Store. The image quality is very good, sale
and like the other books available on iBooks, the readability is excellent. There is a difference in price between the two books that I can’t explain – these things are out of my hands – however, the off-camera flash book is available for less than $20.00

So for those who have requested an electronic version of these two books … there they are now!

Of course, the printed books are available via Amazon, or can be ordered directly from me for an autographed copy.

initial impression: Fuji X100 – not quite the review yet

The Fuji X100 must be one of the most eagerly awaited cameras in recent times. The camera just looks beautiful. Retro-cool. With initial reports being mostly very favorable, endocrinologist
I was quite keen to get my hands on one of these. My X100 arrived last week, just before I was to leave for the After Dark Photography Education workshops in Cincinnati, OH. What better time to geek out over a camera with gorgeous models around and so much opportunity to play with photo gear and lightning techniques.

The photograph above of Alyssa, (one of our models), was lit by LED video light. Now, when using video lights for photography, you’re dealing with wide apertures and high ISOs. An immediate challenge for a camera. And the Fuji X100 excelled. The image above was from the in-camera JPG, with the color balance tweaked slighting in Photoshop. The image was also slightly straightened.

camera settings: 1/60 @ f2 @ 1000 ISO … manual exposure mode

Now before I show the 100% crop of the shadow areas in that image …

here is the camera itself:

Clearly designed with an eye on the classic cameras, the Fuji just looks beautiful. But the camera’s looks wouldn’t mean much if the image quality doesn’t hold up.

image quality of the Fuji X100

For an overview of the camera’s specifications, the best place would be Fuji’s official site. What is important to note here, is that the Fuji X100 is a 12 megapixel rangefinder-styled digital camera, with an APS-C size sensor. So you wouldn’t expect digital noise to be as well-controlled as it is.

Looking again at the image at the top:

From the area below her left elbow (camera right) – 1000 ISO
(not sharpened in Photoshop)

But this in itself wouldn’t be impressive if the low level of digital noise was achieved at the cost of detail. Now, this isn’t a proper review yet, so there aren’t comparative images yet, but the next image should give you an idea of the amount of detail this camera can capture. This next image was shot at 800 ISO. (Close enough to 1000 ISO to still give you an idea of the way the noise is controlled vs potential reduction in detail.)

Also shot at the After Dark workshops, I bumped into the group that my buddy Chuck Arlund was leading around the plaza in Cincinnati. He had somehow convinced a model to get into the fountain. Using only the available light at the fountain

camera settings: 1/125 @ f2 @ 800 ISO  … manual exposure mode.
Available light only.

A 100% crop of the statue under the fountain:  (not sharpened in Photoshop)

The detail is there! With a further in-depth review, we’ll definitely have a look at how the camera performs at higher ISOs than merely 800 and 1000 ISO. With the initial images I shot with the X100, I am quite happy with the image quality.

controls, operation & handling of the Fuji X100

Here I have to confess two things immediately:

- I have no experience of range-finder cameras aside from briefly playing with Leicas that friends owned. But I never shot with one. So, no experience of rangefinders. But then, the Fuji X100 isn’t a range-finder camera. It is styled like one.

- At this point I haven’t read the manual yet. I’ve been too busy to sit down with the manual and figure the camera out from start-to-end before using it. I’ve also been too excited about the camera to not just go out and just use it. I also think it might be easier to read and understand the manual when there is some familiarity with the camera already. So, I’ll get there.

But in the meantime, I have used the camera already.

So for all that, being a complete noob with rangefinders in general and the Fuji X100 specifically, I found the camera easy to understand. I am sure there will be more details and functions that will be revealed once I delve deeper and properly into it. But for now, the camera isn’t a mysterious awkward camera. The operation and the menu is simple enough to decipher from just placing your fingers on it.

So how does the camera feel? Surprisingly light. From the metal used in building the camera, you’d expect something more hefty, but the Fuji X100 is both light and fairly compact. (And have I mentioned yet that it looks beautiful and elegant?)

The shutter dial and aperture dial and exposure compensation dials, all feel solid with a silky movement. This camera quietly tells you that it is a quality machine when you handle it. It feels good to hold and use. Even the lens cup comes off with a soft gliding movement.

I should also mention that the Fuji X100 has a fixed 23mm f2 lens, which is the equivalent of a 35mm f2 lens when compared to a 35mm or full-frame digital camera.

What I will have to adapt to in using this camera, is that the X100 isn’t a Nikon D3. The Nikon D3 is a fast, responsive brute of a machine. The X100 needs a more considered approach to taking a photograph. The simple act of looking through the viewfinder to the side of the camera is quite different than looking through the viewfinder of an SLR. The controls are also different than a DSLR. I am used to having the ISO selection immediately available. For me, choosing the ISO is as much part of exposure metering as is it is to change the aperture or shutter speed. With the Fuji X100, I changed the Fn button to bring up the ISO so I didn’t have to go through the menu to find it first.

Now, much mention has been made of the Hybrid viewfinder of the X100.
To quote from Fuji’s site:

The Hybrid Viewfinder combines the window-type “bright frame” optical viewfinder found in high-end film cameras, such as 35mm or medium-format cameras; and the electronic viewfinder system incorporated in fixed single lens or mirror-less digital cameras.

You have the choice of the electronic viewfinder (which I dislike a lot in every camera that I’ve encountered it), and the optical viewfinder. What you do need to actually see for yourself, is how bright this viewfinder is. Even better, it has all the info you need .. aperture, ISO, metering display … and best of all, a histogram overlay in the one corner.

Every photographer that I’ve shown the camera to, has responded with an “oh wow!” or “holy crap!” when they look through the viewfinder. Reading about it on a website or on a brochure doesn’t quite describe how impressive it is when you actually use it. Fuji really did their home-work on this.

Better yet, it is possible to set the View Mode of the camera, so that the live preview can be seen on the back of the camera (like pretty much all compact cameras behave) … but the moment you lift the camera to your eye, the camera senses it, and moves the display inside the viewfinder. So the camera (for one of the View Modes), will do that – flip between LCD preview on the back, and the view inside the viewfinder. Elegant!

So far I really like the camera. It does have a few quirks which I’ll get to with the proper review. (I also need to familiarize myself properly with the camera.)

You may well ask why I bought the Fuji X100 and what I might use it for. Since Fuji is billing this as The Professional’s Choice, one may well wonder where the Fuji X100 would fit in with a working professional’s kit. Here I can only answer for myself – currently I shoot with Nikon D3 bodies, and I would not want to hamper myself in any way during a paid shoot or event, by using a camera that is less responsive or is limited to only one fixed lens.

For my personal photography, I wanted a camera that is a point-and-shoot, but without being too simplified that I have no control over it. I also wanted image quality that wouldn’t fall down entirely in comparison to a camera like the Nikon D3. And this is where the Fuji X100 fits in perfectly. It is small enough to be  walk-around camera. It has superb image quality (going by the first images I’ve taken with it.) And then it offers something that most smaller cameras don’t have – a classic elegance and stylishness that was meant to appeal to the serious photographer and connoisseur. The Professional’s Choice.

But we’ll come back to all this with a more complete review of a camera that is destined to become a modern classic.

The Fuji X100 and accessories can be ordered from B&H
through this affiliate link.

If you find these articles interesting and of value, then you can help by using
these affiliate links to order equipment & other goodies.   Thank you!

Stay informed of new articles via the monthly newsletter.
Also join us on the Tangents forum for further discussions.

mixing the white balance of different light sources

While we would do well to gel our flash when working in a very warm or incandescent spectrum, here
(such as when shooting at a venue bathed in Tungsten light), the last few articles showed how we can use it to our advantage when using different light sources with different color balance. The effect can be quite dramatic.

The examples shown have been varied:

In the first example (with Bethany as our model), we looked at using random found available light as portrait lighting. With the next example, the effect was purposely sought by gelling our flash for effect. A similar contrast in white balance can also be found by using a Tungsten-gelled LED video light in a non-tungsten environment, forcing all the daylight colors to go toward a bold blue tone. The most recent example showed how we could use the modeling light in the studio with additional flash as rim light, to give a punchy image with warm colors.

Those four examples all had entirely different scenarios, but the same idea was used in all  of them to get punchy colorful images – using light sources with different white / color balance.

This image here at the top was shot with a similar set-up as the sequence where we gelled our main flash with 1/2 CTS gels to allow the background to go blue

With this first image, both the foreground flash and the background flash were ungelled, and shot at Cloudy WB. The blue tint of the drapes in the background, were from lights in the ceiling. This is exactly the same light that gave the strong blue background in the other article on random found available light as portrait lighting.

With this image which is the starting point, I decided we could make the background far more bold by once again gelling our main flash (in the Lastolite Ezyboz softbox), with two 1/2 CTS gels.

And this is how we ended up with the final image shown at the top, where the background goes to a neon blue. Quite striking.

The main flash on her was a speedlight in a Lastolite Ezybox softbox, set to camera right. The background light was a speedlight bounced straight up into the ceiling to the left here of our model, and further back than our model’s position.

The motion blur seen there was purposely done by shooting at a relatively slow shutter speed while there was such movement.

camera setting: 1/60 @ f4 @ 500 ISO … TTL flash @ +0.3 FEC

Finally, all this is to bring home again the idea that we could use the same thought-process in a variety of situations. While each situation was different with different light sources used, there was a similarity in the approach to the lighting (or even recognizing the lighting). This gives us a method and thought-process to come up with striking images under a variety of conditions – by creating and using light in our images which have divergent color balance.

Equipment used with this photo session:

Nikon D3;  Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S II (B&H)
(3x) Nikon SB-900 (B&H);  (2x) Nikon SD-9 battery pack (B&H)
(3x) PocketWizard FlexTT5 transceiver (B&H)
Lastolite EZYBOX Softbox Kit (24?x24?) (B&H)
(2x) Manfrotto 1051BAC light-stand (B&H)

If you find these articles interesting and of value, then you can help by using
these affiliate links to order equipment & other goodies.   Thank you!

Stay informed of new articles via the monthly newsletter.
Also join us on the Tangents forum for further discussions.

photography: mixing different light sources in the studio

While playing around in the studio late this evening with a group of attendees at the Treehaven workshop, this
someone challenged us each to come up with an idea, web
using any of the lighting equipment there …

I decided to rim-light our model, Amy, with a studio flash behind her. The main light on her is the modeling light in the large softbox that everyone else was using. I preferred to disable the studio light’s output, and just use the modeling light on her as the light from the camera’s point of view.

The modeling light, which is a continuous light source, and is quite warm. I expected it to be close to Tungsten / Incandescent, but it wasn’t quite as warm. Still much warmer than the ‘cold’ light from the studio flashes … or the speedlight I eventually used as a rim lighting.

I intentionally under-exposed her, wanting the rim-light to etch her against the out-of-focus (and darker) backdrops. In the first shot I took of her in this pose, I liked the light, but the gridded light on the floor behind her, cast too much light on her chin from beneath, causing too large an area to blow out. Overall, the image looked good, but it needed to be fine-tuned.

The fine-tuning took place as I replaced the gridded light on the floor with a speedlight on a light-stand directly behind her. In carefully positing myself and Amy and the light-stand with the speedlight, I was able to completely hide it behind her. No editing in Photoshop needed to remove any part of the back-light. I didn’t gel the speedlight behind her, since I wanted the rim-light to be more blue than the light from the front.

About the exposure:

There is no one specific “correct exposure” here. It is just whatever looks good … or is preferred. And I liked it like this. So even though it is technically “under-exposed”, the rim-light is what defines her. The light on her from the modeling light inside the large softbox is just there for a touch of detail. It could’ve been brighter or less bright. It’s a matter of taste then. It is the rim-light that does all the work here.

The speedlight was set to 1/16th power. It doesn’t quite matter though. Since the rim light is there to blow out the very edges of her form in this photograph, the flash’s brightness can vary, and it would still look great. As such, it need not be correctly metered.

camera settings: 1/125 @ f4 @ 1600 ISO

More about the choice of white balance:
This image is very warm. Again, intentionally so. I used Daylight WB, knowing that the light on her would go quite warm as a result. I liked that bit of a red glow the light at this exposure and chosen White Balance.

This brings us back to the idea about things needing to be “correct”. Just as the exposure here is a matter of choice, the White Balance too, is a matter of preference. What supersedes the idea of “correct”, is the need that the image looks good. I’d rather have pleasant WB than correct WB. (Although it is easier to get to a pleasant WB if you have correct or near-correct WB.) Someone else might have chosen a much cooler WB, but I have a preference for warmth.

In that sense, this article ties in with the current series on different situations where the difference in White Balance in the image was used for effect.

Equipment used with this photo session:

Canon 5D mk II (B&H); Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II (B&H)
Canon 580EX II Speedlite (B&H);
Canon ST-E2 Speedlite Transmitter (B&H)
Radio Poppers
Photogenic studio light

If you find these articles interesting and of value, then you can help by using
these affiliate links to order equipment & other goodies.   Thank you!

Stay informed of new articles via the monthly newsletter.
Also join us on the Tangents forum for further discussions.

using a gelled LED video light for a change in color balance

Continuing with the theme of combining dramatically different color balances in a single image, order
there is this striking portrait of Rebekah. She is one of our models at the workshop at Treehaven, visit this site
WI, therapy
this week. Working in the fading evening light, I had Rebekah pose somewhere in the middle of a large clump of trees. I knelt down so that I could shoot up and catch the last remnants of the evening sky as the background.

The blue light filtering through the trees was then exaggerated by using an LED video light with the deep Amber gel on it. LED video lights are balanced for daylight, so the light from them is quite ‘cold’ compared to Incandescent light. By now using the specific gels that are supplied with it, you can change the color balance of the video light to match Incandescent / Tungsten light. It is normal to work with the Amber gel to shift the LED video light towards the warm spectrum of Incadescent light.

In photographing our model here, I wanted to use the warm light from the Amber-gelled LED video light to create a big jump between that and the color of our background light. (I specifically didn’t want to use the LED video light as daylight-balanced light source.) This now caused the blue-ish tones of the evening light to go to a much deeper shade of blue. The rapid fall-off in the light from the video light, gave that typical spot-light effect. This really accentuated her face.

The pull-back shots reveal just how big a jump it really was in the color between our surroundings and the video light …

I love the way her face is now that single spot of warm color in the pool of blue light and dark tones. It really draws your eyes in.

camera settings:
1/125 @ f2.8 @ 1250 ISO

equipment used:
Nikon D3; Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S II (B&H)
Litepanels MicroPro (B&H)

more articles about the use of video light for photography

If you find these articles interesting and of value, then you can help by using
these affiliate links to order equipment & other goodies.   Thank you!

Stay informed of new articles via the monthly newsletter.
Also join us on the Tangents forum for further discussions.

multiple off-camera flash – gelling your flash for effect

All the light you see in this image here, disease
is from two speedlights. The blue color in the background is because I gelled my one flash. While that might give you the idea that I gelled the background flash with a blue gel, what I actually did, was gel my main flash with two 1/2 CTS gels. That’s all I had with me, but I wanted those hard cold blue tones to the background.

A single 1/2 CTS gel would take the flash to 3700K. Adding a 2nd gel didn’t take it as far as a full CTS would’ve, but closer to 3350K, going by my settings with the RAW file.

By having my main speedlight (in a softbox) now at a color temperate of around 3350K, meant the background shifted towards blue in comparison. Intended effect achieved!

Now, about the placement of the speedlights, and to explain what the spectactular background actually is ….

Photographing Bethany in the foyer of the night-club where we did these photo sessions, I saw this curved wall lined with small mirror tiles. Just like one giant curved disco glitter ball. All kinds of awesome. But it needed light. This club, outside of hours, was dark!

In this first pull-back shot, you can see the main light on the left – the Lastolite EZYBOX Softbox Kit (24″x24″) (B&H). In the middle you can see the blue hot-spot on the mirrored wall as the other flash lit it up.

This pull-back shot, shows Bethany in relation to the flash providing the background light. The area was too small to do a complete pull-back shot, getting everything in a single frame. This background light had a black foamie thing on to flag (block) any direct light from it hitting Bethany.

Without the blue background, the results were nice … actually pretty good … but not as other-wordly as the final images.

Adding the blue background (via the un-gelled flash), immediately gave it an unusual feel. Something like a modern-day Marie Antoinette in a futuristic night-club.

The statically posed shots we came up with looked really good … but then Bethany suggested some movement to get her jewelry swinging around … so we did a sequence of photographs were Bethany spun around on the spot. Quite a few missed shots as I mis-timed or she blinked … but in the end we got several shots that worked. The image right at the top of this page is a favorite, as well as this next image.

A fabulous model in an unusual setting … all sweetened with some interesting light, and I think we have  some eye-catching results.

Technical details & settings:

The two speedlights were both fired via two PocketWizard FlexTT5 transceivers (B&H). I had another FlexTT5 transceiver on my camera, on top of which was an SB-900 controlling the output of the two speedlights.

The light on the background was adjusted to taste by looking at the camera’s preview. I’m not even sure it would be possible to use a light-meter to meter for that, since there is so much reflection of light. So it was quicker for me to set a low power setting of around 1/16th full power, and adjust from there. I controlled the output with my on-camera (with TT5) SB-900 speedlight which was the Master controller. (I don’t recall the exact final power setting of the background light though.)

As mentioned earlier, this background light was flagged with a black foamie thing to make sure that there was no direct flash on her from that side.

Both speedlights were set to manual output since it was much simpler controlling the exposure like this. There was no real way to predict what TTL flash would do here with such a reflective background.

Camera settings: 1/60 @ f6.3 @ 200 ISO

another article on Tangents, featuring Bethany:
available light portrait

Equipment used with this photo session:

Nikon D3;  Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 AF-S (B&H)
(3x) Nikon SB-900 (B&H);  Nikon SD-9 battery pack (B&H)
(3x) PocketWizard FlexTT5 transceiver (B&H)
Lastolite EZYBOX Softbox Kit (24″x24″) (B&H)
Manfrotto 1051BAC light-stand (B&H)

If you find these articles interesting and of value, then you can help by using
these affiliate links to order equipment & other goodies.   Thank you!

Stay informed of new articles via the monthly newsletter.
Also join us on the Tangents forum for further discussions.

random found available light as portrait lighting

With the recent trip to California for the workshops, buy more about
I was also keen to meet up with another favorite model, order
Bethany. We were allowed to shoot in a night-club on a Sunday afternoon when it was all quiet with no one there. It’s an interesting place to work with a beautiful model, vitamin
finding interesting spots and then figuring out how I might adapt my flash setup. I had 4 speedlights with me and 2 softboxes and a slew of the new PocketWizards.

The first series of photos of Bethany however, was shot with just the available light there. But first I had to recognize the light as being interesting light for a portrait. I had to “see” it first. As it happened, I only saw that this might be useful light for a portrait when I did a few test shots while Bethany was having her hair and make-up done.

As photographers we should always be aware of the light, and how the interplay between light and shade affects our subject. And how the quality and color of light changes.

Sadly though, I didn’t recognize that the light was interesting just by looking at this scene. I only saw it once the test images popped up on the back of the camera, and I went hmmm!

Here is a pull-back shot a little bit later on, when Bethany was completely ready. The main light was simply that bare incandescent light-bulb which the make-up artist used to do Bethany’s make-up. Simple as that.

But the magic happened in how the warm Tungsten light worked with the much colder existing light within the night-club. I’m not sure what the other light source was, but it looks like it might be Daylight balanced light-sources in the night-club. Perhaps more blue / colder than that. Whatever it was, it looked great in that first few shots of Bethany’s prep.

When Bethany was ready, this is then where we started.

posing and directing a model

When working with hand-held video-light, we most often work by moving the light until it falls onto our subject in a way that is flattering. But with the single light-source now being static, I had to direct Bethany so that the light shining on her was flattering. It helps in that Bethany is an experienced model, being able to work with very little direction from the photographer. But she, like most models, will have no immediate idea what the photographer is attempting in terms of lighting. I did show her the test shots during prep, so she knew what I was after, but she still needed to be directed.

In posing her, I had her leaning into the light a bit, taking care that I got loop lighting. The way that the shadow falls  under her nose, means it is just that ‘loop’ of shadow there. It is most often the way that I use a hard or small light source. It keeps from weird shadows falling over your subject’s mouth, or a strong shadow of your subject’s nose falling across their cheek. So I tend to keep it simple like this, since it is usually the best place to start and get good results immediately.

Now it was just a matter of a few quiet instructions like, ‘drop your chin a little bit’; ‘turn your head slightly more to me’ … until the light looked good falling on her.

And there’s the result:

camera settings:  1/60 @ f2.8 @ 1000 ISO
Nikon D3;  Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S II (B&H)  … zoomed to 155mm

That was just the start of the photo session though. What I really was after was working with multiple speedlights in those interesting nooks in the night-club. But that’s for another article.

If you find these articles interesting and of value, then you can help by using
these affiliate links to order equipment & other goodies.   Thank you!

Stay informed of new articles via the monthly newsletter.
Also join us on the Tangents forum for further discussions.

MiniTT1 & FlexTT5 for Nikon by PocketWizard on Vimeo.

using the PocketWizard MiniTT1, viagra sale
FlexTT5 and AC3 during photo sessions

While in Vegas earlier this year during WPPI 2011, PocketWizard recorded a video clip of me while photographing two photo sessions.

The first part of the clip shows the sequence while I work with my friends, Natalie and Chris. The final image was a dramatic B&W portrait of the couple, in the vein of old Hollywood Glamor style portraits. My description of this photo shoot appeared in that article on Tangents.

Afterwards I photographed model, Shawna, still with the idea of getting a dramatic and glamorous portrait of her, using the new PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 units.

In watching this clip now, I realize I was speaking too fast. A combination of nervousness and my usual manner of speech. So be ready for a rush of words.

old Hollywood Glamor style portrait with Natalie & Chris

dramatic and glamorous portraits of Shawna

The PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 radio slave system for Nikon:
(B&H affiliate links)

MiniTT1 transmitter

FlexTT5 transceiver

AC3 ZoneController

The PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 radio slave system for Canon:
(B&H affiliate links)

MiniTT1 transmitter

FlexTT5 transceiver

AC3 ZoneController

If you find these articles interesting and of value, then you can help by using
these affiliate links to order equipment & other goodies.   Thank you!

Stay informed of new articles via the monthly newsletter.
Also join us on the Tangents forum for further discussions.

Continuing the photo session with Ulorin, dermatologist
we worked inside the hotel room for the next part. The photo above is a candid shot of Ulorin fixing her hair between changes in clothing. Ulorin’s next outfit shown in this article, was more revealing than the previous outfits during the photo session. (Just a heads-up for the Tangents readers who are surfing from their workplace.)

Photographing inside the room, I initially tried to work with just the window-light, but hit a small snag. The indirect light through the window kept changing on me as clouds moved in and out. Instead of changing my settings continually to match the light, I decided to revert to using flash to mimic the window light. This would give me consistent light.

off-camera flash as window light

This is the quality of light that I was after … soft directional light that still added a sense of drama. The light shown here is mostly flash, with a bit of ambient light. It took a few adjustments though to get to this point where I really liked the look.

camera settings for both images:
1/250 @ f5.6 @ 800 ISO … manual off-camera flash.

The slight change in contrast that you see in the light on her face, is because Ulorin shifted in position relative to the light as she changed her pose. (I edited out the white bedsheets in the top image to see if the image was improved without the distraction of the white bed sheets.)

This is where we started. In these test shots you can see the table and clutter in the background. This is before we moved everything out of the way. What is also immediately noticeable is that the exposures here are different, even though my camera settings were the same:
1/200 @ f4 @ 650 ISO

The available light looked good (as in this image below), but it was too inconsistent. I’d rather be concentrating on the photography, than have the rhythm of the photo session be broken by constant adjustment of settings.

1/250 @ f3.2 @ 800 ISO .. available light.

I then thought I could mimic the window light by placing an off-camera flash in the window. The flash pointed outwards and up, bouncing off the glass of the window. I had the flash-head zoomed wide.

The result was a flood of light into the room. I guess this would’ve looked like window light on another sunnier day. And with the room not facing another hotel across the narrow road. It just didn’t look like I wanted.

The next step was the Big Adjustment. I moved the light to the left of the window frame, and rotated the flash so that it pointed to the left. Now the light bounced off the glass towards the top of the window pane. Yes, even though I am pointing the flash outwards, enough light will bounce off the glass to make the difference.

And now the direction of the light is exactly what I was after. I had zoomed the flash-head to a tighter angle to make the swathe of light less broad. I wanted the light to accentuate Ulorin’s face. And here is the result …

And in case anyone needs convincing that bouncing the flash off the glass had any effect, here is the shot without the flash.

Camera settings for both images .. in fact for all the images with the flash positioned here:
1/250 @ f5.6 @ 800 ISO

The manual off-camera flash was controlled in the same way as for the photo session with Ulorin in the red latex outfit. The speedlight was controlled via a PocketWizard FlexTT5 on which the flash was mounted. The output of this flash could be controlled as manual flash via the FlexTT5 and AC3 ZoneController on the camera.

As photographers we needs to pre-visualize what we want to achieve with our lighting .. and work towards that by figuring out where we need to place our light. Then we also need to figure out what we want to achieve with the light.

As shown in the previous post with Ulorin in the red latex outfit, the lighting set-up that we end up using can be quite simple. It needs some thought and adjustment and experimenting to get to where we want to be with the lighting. As in the previous post, a simple speedlight offered unexpectedly good results.

other articles on Tangents, featuring Ulorin:

model – Ulorin
Ulorin in red
manual off-camera fill-flash  (model – Ulorin)

Equipment used with this photo session:

Nikon D3;  Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 AF-S (B&H)
Nikon SB-900 (B&H);  Nikon SD-9 battery pack (B&H)
(2x) PocketWizard FlexTT5 transceiver (B&H)
PocketWizard AC3 Zone Controller (B&H)
Manfrotto 1051BAC light-stand (B&H)

If you find these articles interesting and of value, then you can help by using
these affiliate links to order equipment & other goodies.   Thank you!

Stay informed of new articles via the monthly newsletter.
Also join us on the Tangents forum for further discussions.


There are many interesting articles on the net however some of them are better that the others. Here you can find list of syndicated articles from several photo blogs i like the most such as Niel vN, sickness
strobist, pharm
nikon cls guide. Some more Visual science lab, tooth
wedding photo workshop.

Some of them does not have RSS feed however I really belive you should have a look there:

The obligatory self-portrait.

Since I shoot a fair amount of video with the lenses I have for my Panasonic GH5 I've bought a good number of variable neutral density (VND) filters. One's options for shutter speed settings outdoors in full sun are limited if you are shooting video. Especially if you are hopeful about using faster apertures...

I'm cheap when it comes to some parts of the photographic buying frenzy. I could never bring myself to spring for +$250 for a 62mm B+W VND is I can buy one that works well from Zomei for less than $40. If there are color inconsistencies that result from using the bargain filter I haven't found them yet...

So we use the VNDs all the time in video production but I rarely read about people using them in still photography. Especially for non-technical stuff like street photography. Come to think of it I haven't used them very often for that either. This morning I decided I'd see what I was missing (if anything).

Of course, if you are using a camera that offers electronic shutter capability you may already have the ability to set very high shutter speeds in order to shoot wide or nearly wide open with fast lenses in the sun. But you might find that the freeziness of those fast shutter speeds has a different look --- and you may not like it. I wanted to work with a solution that would give me: A. Low ISO. B. f1.2 or 1.4. And shutter speeds in the range from 1/125th to 1/1,000th. 

I took along a GH5 and the Rokinon 50mm f1.2, as well as a Zomei 62mm VND. I was able to stay at f1.2, where I remained throughout the morning - with only one or two exceptions solely to get more depth of field... I would comp a subject, look at the exposure numbers in the finder and then twist the VND front ring until the shutter speed numbers dropped right into my preferred range. What I found is that the Rokinon 50mm f1.2 is better than I thought. Previous test were done as such low light levels that it was hard to separate out which weakness in technique was giving me crappy results; bad focusing, subject movement or camera shake. With daylight, faster shutter speeds and ample light with which to focus it turns out that the actual performance of the lens is quite good. 

I'm excited about the technique but the very next time I go out to do this I'm bringing along a beautiful and mysterious looking companion/model so we can make better use of the subject distance to out of focus background. It will also give me a much more interesting subject to photograph. I just need to find someone fun and relatively immune to the wretched heat. We will always be looking for open shade. Although a sweating model would be novel.... Happy to try new stuff. Nice respite from the harsh reality of real life.

Subject too far from camera to show off effect well.

The second door from the left side of frame is my target in the image just above.

Nicely sharp wide open. And look at the pavement in the background....

Read the rest of this entry »

Don't get me wrong. I really like all that Nikon stuff. The full frame, at 36+ megapixels makes for lush files and a fairly easy working process. Big, juicy files, laden with detail, make work at the edges of the ISO envelope a bit less of a nail biting experience. But the cameras and lenses are huge. The lenses, even the good ones, aren't perfect and the lack of an EVF means there's more screwing around to get just the right exposure. Shoot. Chimp. Shoot Again. Chimp Again. Repeat.

I was heading to the Blanton Museum on the UT Austin campus yesterday morning and I wanted to bring along a camera with less physical gravitas. I was getting tired of the bundle size, the irrefutable effects of gravity and the extra layer of work involved in using an "old tech" camera so I decided to bring along the smaller Panasonic and one lens. I looked into the m4:3 drawer in the equipment cabinet and passed over the alluring prime lenses; the single focal lengths that always promise I might get one glowing, razor sharp nugget of visual joy. I went straight to the 12-100mm; my interest in it stoked by an hour's use of it for the video project done just the day before. 

I loved the show of art from modern Australian Aboriginal artists. It's a great show and  a celebration of interesting patterns and symbols intertwined with beautiful colors and textures. When I had gone through the galleries twice, with the camera hanging over my left shoulder, I went back and walked the galleries one more time cradling the camera in my hands and shooting images of the gallery itself.

With the Olympus Pro 12-100mm I believe the system defaults to using the image stabilization in the lens. In any event it all works well to deliver a very stable and handholdable package that I can use down to something like a 10th of a second with no discernible artifacts. The lens is supremely sharp and is well corrected at most focal lengths. At 12mm there is some noticeable (but not excessive or complex) barrel distortion but it's easy enough to handle in Lightroom or Photoshop if you need perfect geometry. The thing I like about the lens is it's feeling of confidence. No matter what the subject matter, if it's in the range of 12-100 you can shoot without a neuron wasted wondering if your lens is up to the task.

This lens, in combination with the really tight and capable GH5 body is a great all around system. It's my default and my basis. While the Nikon full frame system ( or Sony or Canon ) is great for those times when you just have to have all the clutter in the background disappear courtesy of the magic of limited depth of field, in many way the smaller format is better. Easier to stabilize. Easier to ensure image quality across the frame. More physically manageable. 

In the end they are all just cameras. The show at the Blanton shows me the real nature of art work. It's the WORK. It's getting up and thinking about the work you want to create and then committing to doing it with all your attention. Making time to work is work. But doing the work is good work.

Doing it with a camera you enjoy using takes a bit more friction out of the process.

So, what's on tap for today? Well, I was the subject of a fun interview yesterday evening by Gary Friedman, I signed lots of paperwork for the sale of a house in San Antonio. I caught up on billing and client correspondence, got a bunch of video files over to the Fedex office for a client in Florida and a bit more. But over the last week I missed my traditional walk through the city of Austin with a camera and I'm afraid this weekend might be similarly tricky so I'm taking the morning off to recover, stroll with mindless (mind free? unmindful?) abandon through the familiar streets of the city and take a (metaphoric) deep breath before stumbling back into the strange world of self-employment I've constructed for myself. Some moments feel as though I am hanging by my fingertips while other moments feel like I've just walked into the most spectacular party on the planet. But I'm never sure which agenda is ascendant and which is on tap for the present.

Read the rest of this entry »

Into every photo a little light must fall. It can fall well or poorly; that's up to you.

Read the rest of this entry »

I think we tend to make big presumptions about why photography is popular and enduring. As a culture we tend to collect objects and creating, printing and collecting images of our food, our fantastic experiences and our unique (ha!) possessions fulfills a bevy of urges constructed by our existence within a mercantile culture. We are also fond of using photographs as symbols of our relative wealth and overall social status. The image of a cruise ship is not about showing your friends or relatives the design and displacement of an ocean going craft it is about a photo becoming a souvenir which, when shared, says, "I had enough money to do this. My social status allowed me this freedom." The same could be said for our images of landscapes taken while on vacation or as the focus of our vacations. I believe that legions of older men feel the need to take their fine cameras somewhere remote from their daily lives in order to give weight and provenance to their artwork by embuing it with a cost of time and travel that is extraneous to the merit of the art itself. 

Our prodigious outpouring of images, spewed across the web, are really two dimensional advertisements for our achievements. We collectively create the understanding that, in order to create a landscape or urbanscape that is of a certain quality, we are  required to travel away from our daily lives in order to see nature/life/monuments in a new and fresh way. 

In effect, the majority of landscapes, cityscapes, and photographs of our stuff  are merely postcards that gather like progressive graffiti to shout, "Kilroy was here. Kilroy had his wallet out. Kilroy traded his time and some of his money in order to position himself to see in real life what you can only see via this small postcard shot I've shared with you"

We've also moved from the idea of sharing being a benevolent act of giving something of value and desire to our fellow travelers. Now sharing has come to mean, in many instances, "I will show you that I am more worldly, more tied in and more able than you are, have more and better friends than you,  and I will do so by making you look at something I have done which does not benefit you and is, almost certainly, of no interest to you. And you will look and act interested in order to preserve the parts of our relationship that you do value. Or you will suffer my need to strut through my catalog of experiences in order to maintain a social equilibrium. 

This is in no way a new thing. People have dreaded for decades the idea of sitting through some horrid evening consisting of uncle Bob's slide show of his trip to the edge of the Grand Canyon, complete with running monologue, "You can't really see it here very well but that spec on the other side of that cluster of trees on the other side of the canyon is actually a bear!!!!!" "You really had to be there to understand it....." And that, of course, is the real message. 

I love Rome and have visited and photographed there perhaps a dozen times. But I can't think of anything more boring that sitting through someone's travel video about the city.

The worst permutation of all this new sharing is the insensitivity of sharing anything visual on the  screen of a cellphone while standing around in bright ambient light. I've given up being nice. I just tell people, "I don't look a pictures on cellphones. It sucks too much."

No, if we are honest, with the exception of commercial work which clients need in order to push their businesses forward, no one really loves anyone else's work. Not wholeheartedly. We do this photography thing because we love our own work. Sure, there are ten or twelve or maybe twenty photographers whose work you admire and wish you could compete with but it's not Joe at the camera club and it's certainly not that guy who has photographed Mount Bonnell in every season and from every angle and with every camera. Robert Frank? Maybe. Richard Avedon? Sure. But that guy who keeps buying those monster zoom lenses and takes shots at the kid's football games? Not on your life. 

So, if I'm such a curmudgeon and so grumpy about photography why do I even bother to practice and share it? Well, my interest is in people and what I've found after working through a lot of life is that there are polite ways of looking at people and then there are interesting ways of looking at people. There's the quick glance and there's the long stare. 

The short answer is that the camera, and the practice of photographing people, gives me a certain permission to really look at and absorb the beauty or presence or energy of the person who stands or sits on the other side of the camera. I photograph (for myself) only the people I find beautiful, interesting, compelling, engaging or scary. Because in this way I can spend time circumventing the polite (and necessary) rules of our culture and stare a little longer, sit a little closer and engage people on a different level than that which is part of our social contract in everyday life. That's why portraits are so captivating. Not necessarily only mine but everyone's. You can stop and look. If you are of a certain generation you might be looking to see if the surface details disclose some evidence of the subject's soul. From another generation you might be admiring aesthetic balance and form. For others it's all about expression and connection. But the bottom line is that the attraction to images of people is our innate curiosity about what makes the person across from us both different and the same. 

My images give you permission to stare. And it's an invitation to see and understand what I find interesting. Fields of blowing cornstalks versus faces directly engaged. No contest. 

Read the rest of this entry »
The two lenses I used today to complete a job that required stills and video. 

I'm always impressed by the delusional pursuit of perfect lenses. There is a power in the process that is capable of sucking money out of my bank account faster and more frequently than any other part of my expensive photography habit. I recently acquired a Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens. It's spectacular. You'd think I would use it for everything but it's only been out for a few walks and it's been toted along but unused on a handful of assignments where I imagined that it might make a critical difference in ..... something pertaining to my work but it ended up staying in the bag and mostly just taking up space.

Over the years I've made the same kinds of errors in critical thinking over and over again. The acquisitive/rationalizing part of my brain tells me that the ultimate lenses will help me make much better photographs. It persuades me that all my clients will see and appreciate the difference that an ultra-cool-expensive-flashy-fast lens will make in the work I do for them. And I follow that bad part of my brain and rush to the store or to my computer keyboard and throw caution to the wind in my breathless desire to own the best. Almost without exception the most prestigious lenses I ever buy inevitably get sold off a while later. Always at a loss that exceeds any sort of depreciation.

I think my least wise purchases over the course of my career were the purchase of a brand new 80mm Leica R Summilux 1.4 for my (also bad choice) Leica R8 system. There was nothing wrong with the lens. In fact, it was really, really sharp, had flawless bokeh (I measured it on the same brand of Bokeh-Meter used by the savants at DP Review -- It was a 9.5 on the Kroniform Thyquisty Coefficient of Wunderblur. Beaten only by a Lens Baby...) but the cold hard reality was that 80mm is a shitty focal length for me and I should have known better before casually tossing down north of $2500 for a lens I used maybe three times and liked maybe once.

The second was an Olympus 14-35mm f2.0 zoom that was made for the now deceased Four Thirds system. It was supposed to be a beautiful lens. It was $2200. I could never get it to focus on the sensor plane. It loved the space behind the sensor and enjoyed the space in front of the sensor but it plainly reviled the actual focal plane of any Olympus camera I ever owned. I even
Read more »

Read the rest of this entry »

Last week, and all weekend up until the end of Monday, sucked. My dad didn't like being in the hospital and I sure didn't like spending nights and days there trapped in a small room, with bad coffee and worse decor. But we've moved past that now. My dad is home from his stint in observation and, according to my sister, is back to his (recent) old self. Happy and adjusting quickly to being back in his senior living center. I'm now on to other parent care initiatives such as selling the "ancestral" home. We are on schedule to close next week. There goes another day.

But for now I'm happy to have work and I'd rather write about packing for tomorrow's shoot. I'm heading to the Driskill Hotel in the middle of downtown to both photograph and make video of a team building exercise for a national engineering firm. We've got a short time in which to work and lots of stuff to capture.

The client spec'd 1080p video and that's something the GH5 excels at; especially when you set it to do 1080p in 10 bit, 4:2:2, All-I. I don't think I'm going to have much time to dick around with lenses and settings so I've got the camera set up with the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro lens and I'll most likely spend the morning shooting it wide open at f4. Why not? It's monstrously sharp there, has more than enough depth of field and I'll have a fighting chance in lower light situations. I'm taking a couple fast primes in case the client throws me a curve ball and we end up in a room with next to no light.

We're not doing interviews, just capturing the flow of the team building episode but it's still important to grab some ambient sound during the process. I'm using the Aputure Diety shotgun microphone mounted on top of the Panasonic GH5's audio interface and I'm toying this evening with the decision of bucking best practices and setting the module to use Automatic Level Control (Satan's setting) so I don't have to ride levels while I'm shooting.

I have a small cage for the camera, and the image stabilization in the lens is great, but I know I'm not Superman so I'm going to depend on a Benro video monopod. It's one of those that has the little "chicken feet" at the bottom to help with overall stabilization and it has a nice fluid head on the other end. I practiced with it today for half an hour and I think I've got the hang of it. 

I did the firmware update on the GH5 last week and the AF tracking seems much improved. I may trust it this time for a bit of an assist. So that's it for the video portion of our morning but I also have to capture much the same progression of event with still photographs as well. 

To that end I'm bringing a Nikon D800e and the 24-120mm lens. One lens, one body. I'm also hedging my bets by bringing along a small, shoe mount, electronic flash unit to bounce off the ceiling for the times when I feel like I've just got to have a little more illumination....

Everything packs down into a small backpack (except for the monopod) and I like that because I'm working without an assistant and I want to get in and out fast. I'll shoot raw for the stills and deliver corrected Jpegs but I'm sending along the video as OOC (out of camera) files and letting the client's team in another state incorporate it into whatever project they have in mind. 

I'll head to swim practice first thing in the morning and then see if I can't catch the bus downtown. It's so much easier (and cheaper) than trying to find weekday parking in downtown Austin. For a couple of bucks I have convenience and a nice break from having to pay attention to anything. Should be a nice change....

One reason I am looking forward to working at the historic Driskill Hotel = they have really good coffee...

Young Ben at Asti Trattoria. 

It will be nice to get back to something I am reasonably good at, for a change. And I love having engineers as subjects. Then it's back home to put on my "real estate" hat and get a house sold. We've got some contract stuff to get through but should be closing on the property next week. It's actually fun to keep checking stuff off my list. 

Dad is in good hands back at his memory care facility. The staff is great. The nurses are great, and my little sister flew into town to spend the rest of the week visiting him and catching up. No panicky sub-routine running in the back of my brain while I'm trying to navigate two different system menus. 

I also wanted to write a quick bit about owning one's own copyright. I know a lot of people will tell you that owning the rights to your images and charging additional fees for licensing is extinct or somehow last century, but we still do it. Case in point: we photographed for an architectural firm a few weeks back and we billed them for my time and usage fees for public relations and marketing use of the images. Late last week the multinational construction company which built the project I shot for the architects got in touch with me having been referred by the architect. 

They needed images from the project as well and it dawned on them that our images were real, not future tense or virtual, that they reviewable and that they could have the option of licensing (not buying---just renting) the images individually for their PR and Marketing as well. I checked with the first client and we have no conflict. My offer to the construction company for the use of the images was $125 per image or $1250 for the use of the catalog of images from the half day project. They looked at the galleries and quickly chose the second option. Getting paid twice for the same job is the best way to make this profession profitable. It's not cheating anymore than selling multiple tickets to the same movie is cheating. 

If you aren't currently estimating and bidding based on usage fees and secondary or shared usage you might want to give it a try. Five minutes of phone time for a good fee seems worth learning how to explain this business method to potential and existing clients.

The Summer shooting season is picking up. We've got three theater productions to photograph as well as some fun stuff for several of my medical practice clients. Now, if we can just all stay healthy I think this might work out...

 The rest of the images are just here (below) because I like looking at them. You could stop reading here if you like. ..

back lighting mania.

Crusty old photographer. 

Read the rest of this entry »
Dad is back at his Memory Care/Assisted Living Facility. My sister is in town handling stuff for the rest of the week. I made it back to Austin late this afternoon in a little over an hour. Can't wait for dinner with Ben and Belinda, with Studio Dog in attendance under the table, leaning on my feet and waiting to see if anything is left over for her. I was only gone since Thurs. but I think that dog used up all her saliva licking my face in welcome when I walked in the door....

Photo of Ben from 20 years ago.

Job on Weds. Stock sale today. Lunch with a best friend tomorrow. Momentary recovery.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hey. I drove to San Antonio on Weds. for a meeting, got a call from my dad’s cardiologist, rushed dad from assisted living to the hospital. He has a pacemaker/ICD with cellular telemetry that indicated ten cardiac arrests in the middle of the night. The ICD revived him each time. I’ve been  sleeping on a chair in his room since then. Being there makes it easier on him and the nurses because his dementia is exacerbated by the absence of familiar faces and routines. It is taking a toll on me and reduces blogging as a priority. Dad is getting discharged today (finger crossed) and things will return to normal soon. I sure miss swim practice. And I hate writing this on a cellphone. 

I’d very much appreciate any supporting and well intentioned comments.

With a bit of luck you’ll hear more from me soon! Kirk

Read the rest of this entry »

I think I enjoy this one because there is so much blue in this shot that the red construction elevators just seem to come alive by contrast. I see the buildings as large waves and the elevators as small fish. It's kinda crazy but endless building is a topic of art exploration that will become more and more interesting as population growth heads toward geometric and there is an ever mounting pressure to build enough living and working spaces to accommodate everyone. It will be ever more relentless.

Documenting the growth of a city is like taking a long term pulse....

On a different note, I was comparing images taken with the same wide angle zoom on the D700 and D800 cameras. I like the files from the D700 better --- at least if no one is going to blow them up really large. They just seem sharper and more topographically juicy.

Read the rest of this entry »
At the Breakers in West Palm Beach.

If I was smart enough to be retired I'd like to think I'd end up somewhere like the locale in the photo above. Next to a beautiful, clean pool which is itself next to a beautifully manicured beach, sitting in a comfortable chair daydreaming as the sun sets and the sky glows impressionistically, and the waiter approaches with my light snack of foie gras on whimsical crackers and my evening bottle of Louis Roerderer Brut Champagne; chilled but not too cold...

Instead I am sitting in my small office watching the heat waves waft over the asphalt on the road outside and wondering why work always slows down in the early part of Summer and how I can compensate for the trickle of engagements with an increase in the frequency and scope of my marketing.

I've found a nice, thick printing paper that works well in my crusty Canon ink jet printer. It's Moab Lasal and it's a matte surface stock in a heavy, 235 GSM weight. I've been getting it in boxes of 13 x19 inches to make large prints for my portfolio and also in boxes of 5 x 7 inches which I use to make small, custom prints for specific clients and potential clients.

It's getting rare to show an actual printed portfolio anymore. It's just not a very efficient path. If you have a great "book" and you can get an appointment with an art director, you'll have a really good chance of nailing down some work but it's a labor intensive proposition and cold calling reminds me lately of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman. I maintain the printed portfolio for all those times when agencies or clients call in multiple portfolios from two or three other photographers in order to drill down and decide with whom they'd like to work. Or when someone calls and asks to see work in a different way than via a website.

The marketing that seems most productive to me is to make small prints of beautiful subjects, be they portraits, products, architecture or industrial scenes, writing notes on the reverse side and sending them in hand addressed envelopes to carefully selected people. I've sent along a few downtown shots today to various principals at an architecture firm and I've sent along a few shots of people working on an assembly line to an art director at an agency that just won a similar account.

I try to maintain a list (ever evolving) of 100 people (not companies) that I'd like to work with and, once I put someone on the list I like to mail to them at least four times a year. I intersperse physical mailings with e-mails that show off recent jobs that I think will resonate with the recipients. I also send out letters on stationery to announce things like recent awards, and the addition of new services (different types of imaging or different levels of video production).

Invariably the personal letters work best. Each one is unique because they are written directly to one person. No boilerplate. No over-arching template. When you engage a person directly, and they know it, they appreciate the time and energy you've taken to reach out. You might not nail down a job immediately but the good will accrues over time.

Once, in an unusual moment of despair, I asked my all knowing spouse why no one was calling to book me (this was about ten years ago). Was I over the hill? Had photography vanished as a form of profitably business? Would I ever work again?

She sat me down and was very patient. She reminded me that she had worked for large ad agencies as an art director for nearly 20 years at that point. She pointed out that a lot of "creative" agency work is repetitive, not very creative and, and sometimes built around stock photography or illustration. She remarked that she had the opportunity to generate about 4 or 5 jobs per year that required high end photography services. If I got the five jobs from her in a given year that was about all I could count on. It wouldn't matter if I sent along an extra hundred mailers or blasted her e-mail way too often. The number of jobs just wouldn't change.

Her message was clear: You can't depend on a small handful of loyal clients. There might not be enough work from them to make your bank account happy for the year. You have to remind former clients you still exist and are working well. You need to find new opportunities and start the long process of reeling in new clients (sticking with our literary theme) like Hemmingway's, The Old Man in the Sea, reeling in the big fish and hoping to hold onto it long enough to land it.

It's a matter of providing both a personalized engagement with your current clients and a constant outreach to new clients that makes any business work. Different prints for different purposes.

So, I'll set a goal to knock out ten individualized marketing pieces in a given day. Once I've done that I allow myself to escape the office and work on something that makes me happy. It usually works...

And...yes. I've learned by know that the first few weeks of June are when many people take vacations. I should put this knowledge into next year's calendar and do the same myself.

Read the rest of this entry »

Okay. I'm having a blast shooting this big, bulky lens. It's the Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 ATX Pro lens. It's the cheapest of the big, fast wide angle zooms and while nobody is going to insist that the corner sharpness, wide open, is anything to write home about I am starting to understand why so many people like shooting this wide; you can get a lot in the frame and that makes you work harder at trying to pull good compositions from chaos. 

When I stop this lens down to f8 I become fearless about
Read more »

Read the rest of this entry »
Ellsworth Kelly Installation on the UT Austin Campus.

One of my earliest memories of my maternal grandmother was a visit to her house in the Ben Avon neighborhood of Pittsburg, PA. I was probably five or six years old and I was fascinated that a house could have three floors and an attic and basement. Even more fascinated that every room was filled with newspapers, furniture, housewares, books, lamps, etc. And when I say, "filled" I mean that each room had small walking pathways through the stacks and clutter that occupied the majority of the square footage in each room.  I remember walking into one room on the third floor that had been my grandfather's home office for nearly 50 years. It was filled with IBM typewriters of nearly every vintage. When a typewriter broke my grandfather would put it on a shelf and pull a new one out of a box and continue typing. He never trusted a machine once it failed him. I'm sure he always meant to have the dozens and dozens of typewriters repaired, or at least donated, but he never got around to it.

Once my grandparents filled one house they eventually bought a bigger one nearby. I remember visiting years later to find that the new house was now so full of stuff that the family was storing a mahogany table that would seat 16 under a tarp on the front porch. I don't know where all the stuff came from but it seems that once it entered the house it was trapped their forever...

But this is not a story about my grandparents, it's about my own parents. They bought a modest house in San Antonio about 38 years ago. I never lived in that house as I was already in college and firmly ensconced in Austin, Texas. I would come down for holidays or dinners and I never really paid attention to my mother's tendency to save everything in the event that a greeting card or jelly jar could be repurposed or in case the IRS wanted to see some detail of a return filed 37 years before. 

Most stuff ended up layered in boxes which were layered in closest and in the garage. When I say, "layered" I mean that a box might have old Christmas cards from friends and family, circa 1982 on one layer and under that might be some series EE savings bonds and under those might be a cache of credit card receipts from 1993 and under those might be some photographs from the end of the 19th century. These seemingly endless boxes of stuff were everywhere but since my parents seemed to be competent to handle their own lives the "archives" never hit my radar. 

That all changed at the end of 2017. My mom, the curator and essential content creator for most of the saved material passed away rather suddenly. Then it became glaringly obvious that my mother and her housekeeper had been keeping my dad's progressive dementia and memory loss from the three of us kids. My dad hadn't signed a check, balanced a checkbook or participated in financial record keeping in the better part of a decade. He had no idea what was in the boxes, or, more importantly, where to find important documents and things like checkbooks or bank statements. 

At the time it seemed a herculean task but we were able to find a very good memory care facility for dad. I thought that would be the toughest task to get done in this tumultuous and emotion laden transition... But it paled in comparison to the enormous process of cleaning out my parents house and finding, and securing all their legal documents and financial instruments. 

Belinda and I took on the task of sorting through everything to find all paper with account numbers and social security numbers on it. Anything that could be used for identity theft or information theft. We would head down to San Antonio once or twice a week, from January through May, to both visit my dad and to also sit for hours opening and sorting through boxes, filing cabinets, desks and cupboards. We looked through every nook and cranny. We had a three bin system. One bin was for all things with identifiers on them but which did not need to be saved for legal or financial purposes. This box was called, "Shred." A second bin was for memorabilia. Anything from family snapshots to class rings, old watches, cards from various grandchildren (my brother seemed incapable of tossing anything his kids had made as presents for our parents....) notes, letters, etc. This bin was called, "Memorabilia" and had a note: "to be sorted by Alison and Ned" my siblings being more attached to the nostalgic residue than I.  The final box that Belinda and I worked to fill was for recent tax returns, property deeds, stock certificates, life insurance policies, financial accounts and medical records. All of this material went into a bin called, "Save and File." 

We have, just this week, finished our primary filtering of all the boxes, desks and hiding places. Belinda and I brought the ten moving boxes of shredding up to Austin and called a service that will come to your business or home and shred documents in a big truck fitted with a powerful, industrial shredder. They charge by the pound. We handed over to them 420 pounds of material to shred. It was sweaty work for the technician to pull the boxes out and into the hot interior of the truck but we were overjoyed to get our space back in the studio and in Belinda's office. 

My brother and his wife have taken care to mine all of the memorabilia and to sort it for "keep" and "throw." 

All that's left in the house now is the bulk of the furniture (some rescued by my two siblings and their kids) bedding, kitchen ware and old clothes. We thought of having an estate sale but no one was up for spearheading that so we're working with a charity to have then come and take anything of value.  After that we've found a service that will excavate the house of all trash, unwanted items, unclaimed stuff, pile it all into a dumpster and haul it away. 

So, what is the tangential lesson I've received from the universe by doing this process? First, that most of the stuff we're probably hanging on to is worthless to nearly everyone else in the universe. Second, that over time we spend enormous amounts of money accruing crap we don't use up and don't store well. And, finally, that after we die someone else has to take responsibility to put aside sentiment and radically downsize the ever growing piles of things we thought we'd take out and look at sometime in the future which have laid, untouched, in boxes for decades. In fact, I'm pretty sure my parents had no idea what was finally in most boxes and could not have found anything particular thing which they had not used or seen past two years. 

Two things struck me as odd. One was that my mother and father were fond of Bonne Maman jams, jellies and preserves. I like the look of the jars just as much as the next person but when I opened a cabinet in their kitchen I came across several hundred empty jars which had been used, cleaned out, had the labels removed and were stored with their lids on. There was no sign that my mother had ever reused even one but the collection grew right up until near the end of 2017. 

The second odd thing concerned a chunky collection of U.S. Savings Bonds. Series EE. My mother seemed to collect these as well. She worked for a large insurance company for many years and, in addition to the generous pension that was part of her compensation she also seemed to love the month ly purchase of these government bonds. Since I had been designated as the administrator and executor for both of my parents my mother brought out a thick 9x12 inch envelope on day in 2016 and asked me what she should do with these bonds. It was the first time I knew of them. I told her she should take them to her bank, cash them and put the proceeds into one of her accounts. We never spoke of them again but I called the bank after her passing to see if she'd ever completed the transaction. No. Now the search was on for the envelope. 

We looked in every nook and cranny. Every strong box. Every moving box. Nothing. Finally, I was gathering up clothing and accessories to take to Goodwill or their church's thrift shop as donations. One old canvas bag that hung with some of mom's well used leather purses seemed a bit heavy and bulky so, of course, I looked inside and there was the envelope we'd spent months looking for. 

I can't wait to sell the house. I never liked it. And I'm tired of writing checks for taxes, utilities and maintenance for a house that no one lives in. I'm meeting with a realtor who my elder law attorney has recommended. I hope the sale can be handled with as little intervention on my part as possible. 

I hate projects that go on forever.  I'm stacking up my banker's boxes with old tax returns in a corner of the studio. When I pull out all the old paper from the filing cabinets I'll call the shredding service again. It's cathartic. And it's something you should try not to pass on to your children. Not when they'd rather be walking around testing a new lens....

Read the rest of this entry »

New York infrared B&W photos

It’s Summer again and (intermittently) sunny outside, and the trees are green … or snow-white as in this B&W infrared photo. The contrasty tones, and the dark skies with bright foliage are typical of B&W infrared photographs. Last year, in this article on mirrorless cameras and B&W infrared, I mentioned how I had searched for a Fuji camera & lens combination that worked without giving me a central hot-spot. I found the Fuji 14mm f/2.8 lens (B&H / Amazon) worked beautifully on my infra-red converted Fuji X-E2, without that hot-spot in the middle of the photo. The 14mm lens also gave me the necessary wide sweeping view that I wanted for B&W infrared cityscapes.

Here are a collection of images shot recently, with that infrared converted Fuji X-E2 and the Fuji 14mm lens:

The B&W infrared images tend towards the surreal – which works to our advantage. Here the white steam from one of these roadworks pipes appear to blend with the clouds … but are in front of the traffic light. This makes the traffic light appear simultaneously more distant.


This photograph was taken during dusk when there is less infrared light to be found because the sun has started to go down. Except in this case, the heat from the food cart provides a ghostly (infrared spectrum) light compared to the surroundings, which then drops into comparative darkness. I wish I had taken a similar photo with my iPhone to show how bland it looked as a color image. None of this dramatic light.


Sunlight reflecting off one of the many windows in Manhattan, gave this oddly structured highlight on this building, revealing just the face of the person in the billboard advert as the rest of the building drops into dark shadows.



Times Square tourists participating in one of the street performers’ acrobatic antics, incongruously seem to be praising the Westworld billboard in this photograph. The ghostly white skin tones that B&W infrared render helps make this even more surreal.


Next up, three images taken in and around Bryant Park in New York. Two scenic photos, and then also this photo of the boule players in the park. You can just barely make out the heavy metal ball flying through the air.


The next two photographs show the architecture surrounding the area around the Ground Zero Memorial in New York.


Related articles


Converting your camera for infrared capture

If the look of infrared photography appeals to you, then you can have your camera converted by Life Pixel. On their website they list all the options, as well as which cameras are suitable, and which lenses might be a problem. There’s a ton of useful information on infrared photography! Check them out.


The post New York infrared B&W photos appeared first on Tangents.

Read the rest of this entry »
I liked Abraham's (ODL Design) suggestion that I source an inexpensive Olympus EM-5.2 and use the hi-res mode in conjunction with the 8-18mm Panasonic/Leica lens to make very high resolution shots for my upcoming architectural photography projects. I have one modification that I'd make to his suggestion and that is to try the process with the Panasonic G9 as I like the finder better and it can generate equally large (or bigger) raw files.

The detail that remains to be see is whether or not the 8-18mm lens will actually resolve 45+ megapixels of resolution on the camera's very dense sensor.

I'm working on getting a test camera to see just that. Stay tuned and we'll see if we can't do a head to head comparison. Either that or I can just bag the whole idea of shooting architecture and keep making portraits. Might be a better use of my time.....

Read the rest of this entry »

We were doing marketing photographs for the new play and we were warming up with with some individual portraits. Jill was my first subject of the day and she stood patiently as I fine-tuned the camera and lighting settings.  I've photographed Jill many times over the years and really admire her acting talent. And her tolerance of photographers who fiddle with their cameras too much.

We were doing a shoot within a shoot on that rainy Friday. I was photographing the principal actors while a photographer from the local newspaper was photographing me photographing the models  and a video crew was also filming the actors, me and any other other B-roll they thought they might need in order to complete their production.

Since we had a three camera video crew in tow I decided to light the stage and the set with continuous lighting to make the motion shooting easier. If I had used flash on the dark stage there's no way my skimpy modeling lights would have provided the right illumination for noise free video, and the video is a big part of ourmarketing push.

I set up a bunch of Aputure LightStorm LS-1 and LS-1/2  LED panel lights, some shooting through a six by six diffusion scrim on Jill's right and several more bouncing off multiple 48 inch reflectors on Jill's left side. There is also a "wink" light on the top of the camera just to add a little catchlight to her eyes.  Just a small and inexpensive LED panel...

The video crew did their jobs well and we are closing in on 20,000 views of their opus: Zach Sundays in the Park. Here is more information from Zach about their production: http://zachtheatre.org/shows/main-stage/sunday-park-george/

This is not one of the frames the marketing team chose. I use it here because it's one of the quiet moments in a shoot that is a photo of the transition to the next moment. It's just a quiet moment.

I used a Nikon D800 and the 24-120mm f4.0 VR lens to take the series of images and I used an Gitzo tripod for system support.

Read the rest of this entry »
20mm. f5.6

I did a P.R. job for an architectural firm. We were there to do a ribbon cutting and to make photos of VIPs making speeches. I got to the location about an hour and a half early, no one was there yet, so to stave off boredom I pulled out a tripod and a 24mm lens and made a series of images of interior spaces and exterior glamor shots of the building. I'm not exactly a neophyte at shooting architecture and have a couple dozen magazine covers to my credit from 4x5 view camera work of buildings and historic homes from back in the late 1980's and early 1990's. You know, back when you had to know a bit more, technically, than how to set the HDR function on your DSLR...

I sent along the building images with the photographs they'd requested and didn't give it much thought until I got a very laudatory e-mail telling me how much they loved the work. We exchanged a few e-mails and the next thing I know I'm bidding on a full day of shooting; and the almost promise of future work. 

The speed bump for me was the immediate realization that I'd need something wider than the ancient 24mm f2.8 AF Nikon lens I used that afternoon. I'd already bumped into limitations in that first, informal shoot and knew I needed a lens that would allow me to get a wider frame. More so because I knew I'd want to go a bit wider and then use the lens tools in PhotoShop to correct geometry and keystoning, after the fact. (When you make fixes in post you inevitably surrender a bit of the frame in the process. Starting wider and allowing for a post production crop is the smart way to proceed.  Especially if you are using 36-45 megapixel cameras. You can afford a bit of slop space...

Since this all came up I've been tormenting myself with a bit of recreational lens research. I have the very good Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm lens but I'd like to take advantage of the higher megapixel count for work like this, just as a hedge against my own missteps, and use the 36 megapixel, Nikon D800e.  It would be an added safety factor for the extra cropping I anticipate.

No. I'm not going to invest in Tilt-Shift/PC lenses so don't bother lecturing me on their mandatory use....

I narrowed down my search to a small selection of lenses which included: The Sigma Art 20mm f1.4. I like the idea of one prime but....there's that whole "give me wider so I can crop" argument. For similar reasons I also rejected the Nikon 20mm f1.8. I looked hard at the Sigma Art series 14-24mm f2.8 and, to be truthful, it's still on my radar. Every test I've read gushes about it and the idea of a zoom in that range with high sharpness and minimal distortion is tempting; even at a price of $1299. 
I rejected the Nikon 14-24mm out of hand because it's getting long in the tooth and the value proposition just isn't there. It would be the most expensive of the lenses I'm considering...

A strong contender at a (somewhat) reasonable price was/is the Tamron 15-30mm and I may yet test it. 

In the middle of all this someone suggested that I look at the Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 ATX Pro lens. Apparently lots of people think it goes toe-to-toe with the Nikon 14-24 but at nearly 1/4 of the price. I added it to the reading list and eventually tracked down a bunch of conflicting reviews. "Sharp in the middle but not in the corners...." "Wild and crazy flare!!!" "A great lens at 1/3 the price of...." "bad QC." "Great results." I priced a new one at Precision Camera and at Amazon and found I'd spend about $629 to get one brand new. I filed the information in some unused part of my brain and went back to my "research." 

Earlier today a friend called me to let me know he'd been up to Precision Camera, scrounging around, and had seen a used 16-28mm Tokina in mint shape languishing on the Nikon used shelf. I called and asked the salespeople to put a "hold" tag on it and made the hot journey north to check it out. The sales person reflexively dropped the price for me and I walked out with the lens having spent less than $400. 

Even though we hit the century mark this afternoon for the high temperature I was anxious to check out the lens and see for myself just how good or bad it would be for the work I want to do. I shot it either at f5.6 or f8.0 for everything today because that's where it's sharpest and there's no reason for me to try shooting wide open if I'm always going to be on a tripod. By the same token there's no reason to stop down past f11 because any sharpness I might gain from depth of field I'll probably lose to diffraction. 

The center of the image in the focal lengths I am interested in (16-21mm) is nicely sharp and very, very presentable. The corners are a bit soft at 5.6 but get better at f8.0. Of course it takes pixel peeping at 100% on the 36 megapixel files for me to really see this. At normal sizes it's all fine. 

There is also a conundrum involved in shooting super wide with bigger and bigger formats. The corners are much further from the exact point of focus than the centers of the frame and, even with the extensive depth of field provided by the focal length, there is always going to be a discrepancy between the furthest point in the frame and the focus at the center. 

I need a point of comparison so I'll borrow the Sigma Art 14-24mm and shoot them side by side to see what I'm missing. If the results from the Sigma don't beat me over the head I'll be keeping the Tokina. It's fun. And it seems sharp enough for the kind of work I'm imagining for it. Even in those pesky corners. 

You could say the corners are not as sharp in the photo just above but the bottom corners are so much closer to the camera than the point of focus on the middle walkway that you can't discount a certain differential in focus coverage. 

Sharp? yes. 

So. Here's the flare test. Direct Texas sun in the frame. Minimal ghosting flare overall. But look in the bottom right hand corner and see the "prismatic" flare presenting itself as curved rainbows. Kind of fun but not what most architects are looking for. Perhaps a good reason not to shoot directly into the sun.............

The hoary and dated "brick wall test."

And what camera/lens test would be complete without the obligatory self portrait in reflective window? 

Your thoughts on wide angle zooms?

Am I missing something vital?

Should I just buy a bag full of Zeiss primes?

What if I decide I really do hate photographing buildings?

Then what?

Read the rest of this entry »

 I start every morning looking at this one. It reminds me of why I do commercial work. It reminds me of a wonderful life (still, happily, in progress). It reminds me of why I like 50mm lenses on 35mm camera bodies. It reminds me of a family favorite hamburger joint that is no longer in business. It reminds me of how great french fries in puddles of ketchup are. It reminds me of why I was happy to pay for someone to go to college. And it reminds me of the value of taking a good camera with me nearly everywhere.

So what's hanging up in your daily environment? How does it serve you?

Read the rest of this entry »
Woman and child head to the Ellsworth Kelly Installation at the Blanton Museum.

As administrator for my father I do all kinds of things I'd rather not do; like talk on the telephone to probate attorneys and doctors, pay his bills, generate spreadsheets, keep tabs on his general welfare, buy him new shoes with Memory Foam(tm) soles... etc. All this stuff takes practice and patience. 

Another thing that's not high on my list is consulting with small businesses about advertising and marketing. My endless refrain: "It's not enough to have a great, kick-ass website with scrolling graphics--- you also have to have a strategy to get them TO the website!" Sometimes we get stuck because someone wants to pick the colors for the logos before we even select a graphic designer...
I'm jinxed because I did advertising in what was a small town (Austin) for nearly a decade before hitting photography mostly full time...the town has a long memory.

Then there was the copy for ad that was due today before noon to a specialty medical practice. I can write ad copy in my sleep but sometimes the ink leaks out the pen onto my pillow and makes a mess. I decided to do that today too (no, not leak ink; write the ad...). It seems that no matter how hard I try to be "just a photographer" someone is pulling me in one direction or another.

So, around noon today I shut down the computer machinery, reached over and smacked the iPhone with a large, iron mallet, grabbed a camera and lens and escaped from my office. I was dressed in artist/photo attire. A loosely hanging white, button down dress shirt (complete with wrinkles for that "This artist must sleep in his car" look), an ancient and weathered pair of khakis, with holes in the pockets, a cheap pair of fake leather sandals from Costco that I bought for $19,  and some sort of silly "Just in from hiking the prairies" straw hat. It was the perfect defensive haberdashery for a day with blast furnace breezes and enough moisture in the air to keep cigarettes from lighting. 

In hopes of saving the black vinyl dashboard of my car I've taken to tossing a white towel onto it when I leave the car parked in the sun. It also helps me ensure I've always got a towel, in some shape or another, for those early morning migrations to swim practice. 

Cut off from connected civilization and robo calls (the best cell phone is the one you NEVER take with you) and looking reliably scruffy I headed over to the Blanton Museum to see what was new and to take advantage of the free admission that's a Thursday perk. I parked long N. Congress Ave. at one of the metered parking spaces. I feel like I've been living in Vegas lately because I am purposefully playing the odds with parking. I conjecture that the meter readers can't be everywhere and would rather be positioned in the heart of downtown where parking infringement is more common than coffee. It's like shooting fat fish  in a skinny barrel with a big shot gun for them; lots of closely packed parked targets to prey upon. I might fly under the radar as I have on my last 6 visits to metered zones (nearly everywhere in Austin outside of my neighborhood). I mean, really, who wants to pay two bucks an hour for a metered space? 

Well, I truly messed up on my museum visitation schedule. The museum was open but the first floor gallery is currently closed for the installation of a big show of Modern Aboriginal Art from Australia. I am mostly convinced that they created the show just for the alliterative potential. 

That's okay with me. I have no issue cruising through the upstairs renaissance painting galleries, alternately looking up at the paintings and looking down on the boorish oafs chattering away on bulky cellphones as they waddle from gallery to gallery, making everyone around them miserable. "Let me tell you the details of my messy goiter surgery, Ethel."

But in those moments when I can subdue my piggish elitism I have a great time looking for shapes and colors that I think will look good in photographs. Like this stunning read sitting swash. I happily hit the galleries for a while and then headed over to see (again) the Ellsworth Kelly Installation adjacent to the main museum courtyard. Just over there on the UT Austin campus.

After my compulsively honest tirade about the horrible Olympus menus I thought I owed it to the m4.3rd's world to take up one of the pygmy sensor cameras I happen to own and to wring out as much fun as I could from it today. Of course I was happy with every shot that came tumbling out of the GH5 when I got back to the studio and resuscitated the computing machine/modern photo viewer.

I always feel like a genius when I use the Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm wide angle zoom. I shoot mostly in Jpeg and always have the lens distortion corrector turned on full blast. That way, when I look at my photos, all the lines are straight and none of them wiggle into mustache designs on the top and bottom edges of the frames. Plus, no matter what I do in terms of camera handling, the files always seem sharp and toasty (which means "perfectly baked and full of crunchy detail). 

I meant to make the visit a short one so I limited myself to 30 minutes of looking at stuff directly; without a camera velcro'd to my face, and then 30 minutes of just looking for images that would play nicely with my camera and lens combination. But once I finished at the museum and reacquired my car (yay!!! no ticket once again!) I felt irresistably drawn to Whole Foods on N. Lamar for a rectangular plate of sushi (defying the weather....) and a glass of Champagne. Wrecking my schedule entirely.

I have one more required task this afternoon. I'm meeting a client at a coffee shop. Not to have coffee but to scout the location for a photoshoot we're scheduled to do tomorrow afternoon. I'd have been happy to meet them after lunch but, hey, they decided that 5:15 p.m., right in the middle of a vicious rush hour, would be a much better logistical solution. Ah, clients. 

If I sound a little flippant today it's probably either the result of too much sustained responsibility or it's the strain of trying to research and then buy a new very wide angle lens for the Nikon system. I've been looking at stuff like the Nikon 14-24, the Sigma Art Series of the same focal lengths, some primes ( the Zeiss 21 and 18mm's) and, odd man out, the Tokina ATX 16-28mm lens which has a surprising number of really complementary reviews and is less than 1/2 the price of the other zooms. Or, in the case of the Nikon zoom, 1/3 the price. 

I'll be fine when I get the projects in hand wrapped up, stowed away and well billed. Till then I think I'll just go on doing whatever I feel like in the moments between scheduled drudgery. 

Read the rest of this entry »

This is a small rant engendered by a series of comments on one of Michael Johnston's posts today. He was querying his readers about the virtues and detractions of various small sensor cameras with great image stabilization. The Olympus cameras came up repeatedly. The first verse from everyone was: (paraphrasing here): "Oh, they are great cameras except for the horrible, horrible, painful, brain searing menus..." Which would be reflexively followed by: "but once you take the hours, days, weeks, to get the cameras set up exactly the way you will always use them you rarely need to even enter the menu (hell) again!" As though that was a good and proper way of tackling a photographic tool.

What the hell?  I am sure there may be some who can dip into their camera menu and set all the dozens (hundreds?) of variable items, methodically, and then never have to touch the menu button again but I'm absolutely baffled about who those shooters might be and why they feel that it's rationale, sane, practical, etc. to use exactly the same camera settings over and over again.

I've owned several Olympus EM-5s and several EM-5II cameras and I readily admit that they are capable of taking great photographs, stabilize lenses better than anyone in the universe, and, in the case of the EM-5ii, make really, really good video. But I have to ask what professional or advanced amateur shoots exactly the same thing over and over again? And at exactly the same settings? If you shoot different kinds of images, or go back and forth between video and stills, you'll need to be diving into that swamp creature of a menu every day. Deep dives.

Going from theatrical work to video work to portraiture requires changing imaging profiles, metering modes, shadow and highlight distribution, focusing modes and so much more. Even after owning both sets of cameras and using them for months at time a few days off and the need to find a very specific menu driven control could be downright paralytic. Not to mention that some of the symbols Olympus uses for their menu items are not standard camera icons or abbreviations. And NO! I can't load everything I need onto a Super Control Panel.

I hate hearing that nonsense about setting the camera up once and never touching the "hidden" controls again. It's entirely disingenuous. The people who make this statement might be a rare breed of single subject shooters but the rest of us depend on the same system being able to handle all kinds of jobs and projects.

The ability to justify the Olympus menu system is becoming almost cultish. But the reality is that Olympus has some sort of misguided corporate death wish. Why else make using the product so damn hard? So frustrating.

I thought I might have been over reacting until I started shooting with the Panasonic cameras. The GH5 in particular. Its menus are well laid out. Logical. Easy to navigate.

When I picked up a Nikon D800e it took me about ten minutes to get back up to speed with their menus and they are not nearly as coherent as the Panasonic menus. And I had not handled a Nikon for two or three years before picking it back up.

If you like horsing around with complex spreadsheets, sudoku and the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle then I can respect your ..... affectations, but trying to normalize such a faulty disfunction in camera making is over the top.

Just imagine how great those cameras could be. Great color. Great I.S. Lovely finder. Good, multishot high res modes, better and better video....now imagine the camera was also easy to set up, change menu items, re-set parameters and understand. It would be amazing.

Just don't tell me I can preset a tiny handful of parameters and use them for everything I'll ever do with a camera ever again. That's nonsense.

Read the rest of this entry »
Jill Blackwood at "Dot" in "Sundays in the Park with George".

Oh, we've been busy taking photographs again. I was doing a little informal test on Sunday and Tuesday. I photographed two different rehearsals of the Steven Sondheim play, "Sundays in the Park with George" with two different camera systems. On Sunday I shot with the Nikon D800 and several different lenses, last night I shot with the Panasonic GH5 and two different lenses. The results were interesting and the contrast between the working methodologies was even more interesting. 

It was an illuminating comparison because the lighting, costumes, actors and sets were identical and I could go back and compare results in the same scenes; one set shot with a full frame camera, set to raw, and the other shot with a micro four thirds camera set to fine Jpeg. While there are certainly aesthetic differences between the sets of files there were bigger differences in the way I took the photographs and the difference in efficiency between the mirror free camera and the mirror burdened camera....

This is in no way an exacting test of the two cameras because I was using an odd collection of mid-tier Nikon zooms (as well as a bonafide "antique" lens = the 70-210mm af-D) while I was taking advantage of my investment in great glass for the Panasonic cameras (Olympus Pro 40-150mm f2.8 and the amazing 12-100mm f4.0 zoom lenses), but there is more to imaging than format and glass.

I was restricted to using the Nikons to Sunday evening because of their loud shutter noise. The positive trade off was that since we didn't have an audience in the theatre for the technical rehearsal I could move around anywhere I wanted and get as close to the stage as I wanted. That helped give me a more dynamic set of images and I never had to worry about disturbing "clients." (audience).

That's a huge restriction! If I get serious about shooting theater again with the Nikon cameras I'm certain I'll quickly replace the two D800 variants with at least one D850 just because it has a much, much quieter shutter. I had toyed with buying a product called "The Camera Muzzle" but by the time it came onto my radar I'd missed the shipping window to be able to use it on Tues. Having it Sunday wasn't important (no audience to piss off) but spending $150 on something I may or may not use in the future is irrational, even for me. 

(The Camera Muzzle is a soft camera cover with lots of insulation. It fits over the camera body and lens but has enough room to get your hands inside in order to operate the shutter button and camera controls. Its whole reason for existence is to muffle the noise of mirrored cameras and make them acceptable (acoustically) when you are shooting in certain environments. As I understand, it's not nearly as good a dedicated hard blimp (starting at $1,000) but for $150 does a good job. Your sensitivity and tolerance may vary. Here's a link: CAMERA MUZZLE-FOR PEOPLE WHOSE CAMERAS MAKE TOO MUCH NOISE!!!  It might be perfect for some event spaces where noise can be an issue. But given the bulk, the tendency for your hands to get hot and sweaty, and the not 100% noise abatement, I'm thinking we'd all be better served to use cameras with silent shutters.....

UNLESS---- But "hold that thought." 

From a user point of view (and the owner and purchaser of both systems) I can say that the Nikons operated just as expected and, beyond the noise and the need to constantly chimp exposures, they did a good job making images under fast changing lighting and color temperatures. Had I used the latest and greatest lenses (and a D850) I would have to say that the system has the potential to make superior images for theater work. If I continue to use the big Nikons for live theater shooting I'd certainly want a fast 70-200mm zoom and an equally fast 24-70mm zoom. My current "theater photography wish list" if I want to shoot with the Nikon cameras reads something like this: 2 X Nikon D850's @$3300 each = $6600. 1 X Nikon 70-200mm VR e f2.8 zoom = $2,800. 1 X Nikon 24-70mm VR f2.8 = $2400. The revised system would set me back nearly $11,800. That's a tidy sum. 

And the major downside would be that after spending all that money I would not have an EVF, which I think is an amazing benefit for theater work, or work on any project where exposure and color temperature are constantly changing... Add to that the enormous weight of those fast lenses and even a buff young thing like me cringes at handholding the two cameras and their attendant lenses for hours on end. 

Are you still "holding the thought" I asked you to hold a two paragraphs before? Cool. So let's take a "brand break" and talk in general terms about camera noise. A worst case scenario for me is having to shoot images of a dress rehearsal in a theater just packed with people. Even worse, to have to shoot a performance with a packed house of paying customers in a scheduled show run. Many Fuji, Olympus, Sony and Panasonic mirrorless users will, no doubt, puff their collective chests out and stridently (and usually with a patronizing tone) let me know that THEIR SUPER DELUXE CAMERAS HAVE TOTALLY SILENT ELECTRONIC SHUTTERS as an option. 

Well, good for you. Going forward, in all but the oldest and least well equipped theaters (those still using tungsten lights), you will NOT want to use your "silent shutter" to shoot the action on the stage. Not going to work. Not going to make your client happy. Not going to create problems that can be easily solved in post production. Your silent shutter has just been shut down by LED theatrical fixtures!!! You'll read this, doubt me and then find out the hard and expensive way all on your own...

But here's the deal: While current, high quality LEDs designed for video and still photography use various electrical designs to keep them from flickering during short exposures (1/60th and shorter) the makers of light fixtures for live theater are much more concerned with output power, beam throw and automatic motion control than they are with quelling all the flicker that your cameras might see but which audiences will almost certainly NOT see. More power, more flicker and more cost savings on "un-needed" things like highly regulated power supplies. 

I used to rejoice that my new cameras (almost every mirrorless model and many new DSLRs) had silent shutters but now I ignore them unless I am shooting in a courtroom or need ultra fast (electronic) shutter speeds. The LED lights in Zach Theatre (and in many other venues in which I've worked) create flicker which manifests itself in each frame as a series of light and dark bands which are very, very visible....to everyone. 

Yes, some cameras have features that promise flicker reduction but it rarely works out perfectly in the flawed, artifact-y, real world. 

Hmmm. Last night I was sitting away about six feet away from the closest audience members. No one was behind me or beside me, it was the row six feet in front of me that I was concerned about. Last night was the dress rehearsal and we had an invited audience (family and friends)  so it wasn't a "life or death" but we still want our fans to have a great time so I wanted to be as audibly discreet as possible...

When it got quiet I switched over to the electronic "silent shutter" and immediately saw banding everywhere. The trade-off wasn't worth it. We needed the photos for marketing. I switched back to the mechanical version.

The GH5 has a fairly quiet and well damped shutter. Much, much quieter than the full frame Nikons. But they still make noise. In a raucous show like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or Tommy, the Rock Opera, or Priscilla Queen of the Desert the sound of a small camera shutter is well hidden by the music and bombast of the performances. But there are quite a few moments in a more cerebral play, like one about George Seurat, that are very quiet, just dialog with lots of dramatic pauses, and, yes, sometimes you can hear the proverbial pin drop. Or at least the shutter of modern camera. 

For most of the performance I tried to time my shots to the sound design on the stage. In all but the quietest moments the shutter was inaudible to the people in front of me. In truth, I could barely hear it in most parts of the play. If everything is equal and you are trying to decide on a good camera for this kind of work it certainly would behoove you to check out the mechanical shutter noise, and noise profile (sharp and tinny or low and mellow) before you toss down dollars...

So, what's my assessment in the battle of cameras in front of the stage? Here's where the Panasonic GH5 wins: 1. The EVF offers the most elegant way to constantly check color and exposure without missing shots because you had to chimp and then check what you have already shot. Pre-chimping through the finder is much more efficient and fluid. In this situation even the very best optical finder is a burden to fast and effective shooting. That big, clear window isn't going to buy you any better focusing or composition but will add a number of steps to your ability to constantly adapt to changing lighting and scene conditions --- second by second.  2. The Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 lens is bitingly sharp and can be used all day long at its widest aperture with no compromise to optical performance. None. The image stabilization in the lens is perfect for the lens. And the 12-100mm lens is in exactly the same rarified strata of lenses. A big win. Yes, I know that Nikon lenses are great as well but at more than twice the weight (not counting the weight of the cameras) they quickly become a burden for long periods of handheld shooting. Oh, and you lose two stops of depth of field with the bigger lens when used wide open. Not important in one person scenes but this can be critical if you are trying to spread focus deeper into the stage for group shots. 3. The sonic profile of the shutter in the GH5 is much lower and more pleasant than the sound of the older Nikon shutters. I do like the new D850 shutter but I haven't done a side by side comparison yet. The acoustic jury is still out.

When I tested the GH5 files against the Nikon D800e files in lower light situations I found that using the GH5 at ISO 1250 got me into the same noise ballpark as files from the Nikon taken at 3200. The noise in the GH5 files is more uniform and grain like and, at 100%, the Nikon starts to show tiny white specks which are not visible when downsampled to the same size as the Panasonic files. 

The pluses for the Nikon cameras are all about format size. The bigger sensor is better overall with noise at higher ISOs. The bigger sensor does give you a two stop advantage when you want to throw clutter in the backgrounds out of focus. The bigger sensor will give you more detail (if you nail focus and exposure correctly) in your images when you blow them up. 

After shooting about 1500 images in each system on the same set I'll give the nod to the Panasonic jpeg files which handled noise well, were every bit as good as the Nikon files at the sizes we'll use the images, and gave me a good, quiet shooting system that I could handhold for hours longer.

If you are currently shooting with one system or the other there is only one compelling reason to switch to or stay with m4:3 and that would be the utility of the EVF. The Nikon stuff really comes into its own for other kinds of shoots we do for the theatre. The bigger cameras are at their best when we do set up shots with big flashes for marketing and posters, with rehearsed moves and total control. In those situations the superior imaging quality of the sensors can be fully leveraged. 

No winners. No big losers. Just different ways of working in a specific kind of location. 

 Matthew Treviso as the boatman.
Paul Sanchez at Louis the baker. Jill Blackwood at Dot.

Amber Quick as "Nurse",  Brian Coughlin as Randolph and B. Mahstedt as Louise

Read the rest of this entry »
Leica M6+35mm Summicron. Tri-X. Family dinner at Asti.

Pure dogged determination and bad time management skills make for a long run on a niche blog. Did anyone like the last 3651 posts? Drop a comment into the mix and let me know. 

And if you are unsatisfied with the content I'll return your initiation fee AND your deposit. We don't charge here so we make it up with volume...

Read the rest of this entry »

Actor/Talent/Model and Friend, Noellia, and I spent a couple hours one Summer 
making photos on one of the hottest days of the year. 
That's the Barton Creek Spillway in the background.
We were using a Sony Next-7 and the 50mm f1.8 lens at the time. 
Lots of fun stuff to shoot when everyone is out playing in the water.

The national weather service is predicting that we're about to get socked with some record high temperatures near the end of this week and over the next weekend. There's a high pressure zone parked right over the top of the Austin and San Antonio area. You would think that Austinites would head indoors and find places like cold, dark movie theaters and chilly malls to lurk around in, and I'm sure some of our recent transplants will, but most of the city's core population will see it as an excuse to hit the local pools; natural and manmade.

I'm trying to be better about too much sun exposure so I've shifted to the 7:00 a.m. swim practice for the Summer months. The water is getting warmer but that didn't stop our masters swimmers from hitting the pool in force today. We had four and five people circling per lane and another group stepping in at 8:00 a.m. as we exited the early workout. As the water temp goes up our yardage tends to go down a bit. It's just as easy to get over heated in a warm pool as anywhere else.

So, what are the long practiced tips for surviving photo shoots in the outdoors in the Texas Summer?

Here are mine:

1. Start early in the day. Get to your locations at first light instead of waiting for the sun to warm everything up. If you start early you can finish early. While the sun might be at its peak around noon to one p.m. the heat continues to rise until about 5 p.m. Finishing by 2 or 3 pm is how the landscapers do it....

2. Don't wait until you feel thirsty to start drinking water! By the time you feel thirsty you are already getting dehydrated. Start with a big glass of water even before the first cup of coffee and then repeat all day long. And, actually, yes; coffee counts as part of your hydration, if you are an acclimated coffee drinker.

3. Just as oil companies transition from Winter gas to Summer gas formulations it may be time to leave the Nikon D5 or Canon 1DX and the big ass zooms back at the house and transition to "Summer" cameras. I'm back to packing the much smaller and lighter Panasonic GH5's and a smaller assortment of lenses. The heat makes for different priorities AND the light levels seem abundant. 

Less weight makes for less work which makes for less thermal build up in your own system.

4. I own a bunch of black camera bags but I also own a big Domke camera bag that is a very light beige color. All those black bags and cases do a great job absorbing heat. The beige one does a decent job reflecting it. I also take a FlexFill (circular collapsible reflector) along and use it as a bag cover when I have to stop and shoot in an area where there is no shade. I put my bag down, pop open the reflector and put it on top with the silver side facing up toward the sun. 

You may think that cameras are built to handle heat but anything over 104f (and a black camera can hit 140 in direct sun) causes increased noise and artifacting. If you are shooting video you'll find shooting in direct sun can also cause so much heat build up that your camera shuts down! I'm always trying to find ways to keep black cameras and lenses covered when I shoot in full sun. 

One more thing, if you are used to relying on hard stop infinity settings on your lenses be aware that the heat can cause metal lenses and glass to expand and will change marked focus accuracy!

5. Wear a freakin hat!!! You need to create your own shade and when the sun is brutal a good hat will make a big difference. Get one with some good front overhang so it can help keep sunlight off your viewfinder. 

6. Dress for coolness but be sure to cover up exposed skin or douse it regularly with sunscreen. I prefer to cover with loose, thinner clothing than to coat myself with chemicals. There are lots of technical shirts, even long sleeved ones, with high SPF ratings.

7. It may be a perfect shot that you are waiting for but if you feel too hot it's time to make for the shade, douse yourself from head to toe with water and stay still for a while, letting evaporative cooling do its work. If you feel ill effects then get into the air conditioning. Another shot will certainly be there tomorrow. Heat stroke takes all the fun out of photography...

8. If you plan on using a tripod you might want to get a nice light wooden one that won't transfer heat when you grab it to move to the next location. If you don't want to buy a new one then wrap some fabric around the thick, top legs and secure with gaffer's tape. At least when you grab the tripod legs you won't burn your hands. 

9. Don't leave your cameras in your enclosed car; especially if you are parking in full sun. Car interiors get super hot and while the circuitry in your camera may not fry you can imagine the damage cumulative heat does to rubber weather sealing, faux leather texturing and LCDs. Just take your camera in with you like we all used to do in the film days. We all knew that film didn't mix well with heat....

10. Instead of long expeditions think in smaller chunks of shooting interspersed with lots of stops for air conditioning and beverages. Topping off a day of shooting with a nice craft beer might be a good way to restore some lost electrolytes....

That's pretty much my list. We could get more detailed and talk about keeping a couple gallons of water in your car, making sure your tires aren't getting brittle, and a bunch about shoes, but I'm aiming the above advice toward urban shooters who aren't in remote areas. But, Heat is Heat.

Read the rest of this entry »
...makes me appreciate the nuanced eye of the the show's lighting designer and also adds to my appreciation of the optical qualities of the Nikon 70-210mm f4-5.6D Ai Zoom lens. An elegant rendering from the long end of a consumer zoom lens, used wide open...

From: Sundays in the park with George. Zach Theatre. Starts this week.

Read the rest of this entry »
Two assignments in one city in one week. It was 2001. We were Shooting for a telecom company called, Broadwing Communications. We were shooting for a south American fashion show. We did digital for the corporate folks and color negative film for the fashion. Burning the candle at both ends; pounding the room service at the Delano South Beach Hotel. That's back when people really knew how to spend money....

Read the rest of this entry »

I'm always a bit curious about older lenses. I'm a cynic. I think camera makers use new lens design tools not necessarily to make lenses that are distinctly better than their ancestors but to make the new lens designs easier to manufacture and cheaper to make. I'm sure new glass types are wonderful and some of the newest lenses can do amazing things, in the right hands, but I am equally sure that there is a general race on to make lenses more uniform; more consistently consistent, and if they get some optical improvements then that's considered a bonus...

To a degree I think lens design is driven by an uninformed and loud group of consumers who have different ideas about what is essential in a lens than the lens designers themselves did a decade or so ago. The emphasis now is on lightweight, fast apertures and (because of very poorly conceived lens test interpretations) sharpness across a flat field (to the detriment of potential sharpness in the center 2/3rds of the lens). 

I was shopping for a 70-200mm lens last week, knowing that I'd soon be shooting some theater productions with the newly acquired Nikon cameras. I was shocked to see the price of the current 70-200mm f2.8 Nikon lens was $2800. I was so miffed at the rampant inflation for this product category that I abandoned my search for a current product all together and decided to plumb the opposite end of the market. I had in my own inventory a Nikon 70-210mm f4.0-5.6 manual focusing zoom that I'd picked up cheap a while ago. I subsequently read that Nikon doubled the focusing speed on the "D" series version of the same lens and I searched out a copy of that version. The one I found is very functional but a bit beat up. That's okay since I spent only $75. 

I took it along with me last night to do technical scout of Zach Theatre's newest production in anticipation of the "official" shoot we'll be doing on Tuesday. I didn't have overly optimistic expectations that the old 70/210 would be anywhere near as good as a modern lens but I wanted to try it: under stage lighting (this play has a very contrasty lighting design...), handheld (no VR back when this lens was made and originally sold) and at it's wide open aperture (look, I figure I'd just be using this for the longer end and it's already f5.6 from about 105 onward).  Seems like a viciously unfair test for a lens that's decades old --- right?

Well, I'm not so sure. Below are three variations from the same digital frame. The older screw drive lens was able to nail focus quickly and well. The lens also resisted flaring. But the thing that I appreciated is that the image is nicely sharp. As sharp as I expected it could be on a Nikon D800 set to 3200 ISO. 

After seeing the results and comparing similar files shot with the 24-120mm f4.0 and the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens I've called off my shopping and researching for a newer or faster telephoto zoom. While it may not check all the boxes for you this one delivers enough image quality for me. If I need a better lens I'll pull one of the Olympus Pro lenses out of the drawer and put it on a Panasonic GH5. Not a bad deal for a whopping $75. Sorry, no link. You'll have to find your own.

The full frame.

A tight crop.

Getting into the 100%, pixel peeping realm.

Read the rest of this entry »

A VSL blog reader, Stephen Kennedy, kindly sent me a lens. He seemed to understand my attraction to older, less expensive, more mainstream lenses from days gone by. The lens he sent along is a Nikon Series E, 36-72mm f3.5 Ais. It's manual focus only and a short zoom lens and it fits right into the genre of lenses I like to put on the front of my cameras when I head out in the midday sun for a bout of photographing. A terse zoom range, no frills and imbued with very decent performance- especially when used at f5.6 and beyond. 

There are some other Nikon Series E lenses, released in conjunction with the low cost Nikon EM SLR, that show up on the radar screens of old lens aficionados, the most popular being the 100mm f2.8 and the very, very well regarded 75-150mm f3.5. All of them were above average performers but never attained a huge following when new mostly because they represented a move away from Nikon's traditional heavy metal lens construction which always seemed to promise a certain indestructibility. 

I put a 52mm circular polarizer on the lens, attached it to the front of a Nikon D800 and set out to see just how good ( or bad ) this little jewel of a zoom lens could be...

Overall, I found it to be smooth, fairly sharp and well behaved. The one aspect that could be a deal killer for someone looking around for an inexpensive alternative to today's pricier lens fare would be the lens's close focus limitation of 4 feet. It makes casual portraits a bit dicey. 

Read the rest of this entry »

The torrent of spam I've been enduring has ground to a halt. None today. Two weeks ago there would have been dozens of invitations for hair regrowth, marriages to foreign super models and so much more. I should have added Captcha to the blog years ago. 

I love being asked if I am a robot. 

If I were to be a robot I'd hope to be eight feet tall, ripped like a Spartan and encased in a solid Vibranium shell. And I would go looking for people who spam. With my adamantium claws out.

F*&K Spam.

Read the rest of this entry »

It's going to be another hot day in central Texas. My brain is working overtime these days and I have trouble sleeping in past 6 or 6:30 in the morning. I'm thinking about what comes next. What will the next set of wrinkles in my working life be? How will I move the business forward? Is photography really evaporating or is it my own personal engagement that seems threatened? 

With my only child having successfully graduated from college I no longer feel the tug of complete financial responsibility pulling at me. But that's been replaced by a new worry: Am I no longer relevant to the world of commercial photography? Have a I crossed some universal but invisible boundary that will progressively limit my connection to the business of taking photographs? Will age discrimination or disengagement finally thin out my selection of clients until I am left sitting next to the computer, a pile of gear next to me, waiting for someone --- anyone to reach out with an e-mail or text and invite me to the next engagement?

When I look in the mirror I seem old now. My hair has shifted from brown to gray to mostly white. I have age spots. The people selling tickets at the theaters no longer even ask before tendering my "senior" discount ticket. I have multiple pairs of bi-focal glasses; some in the house, a few in the studio and an extra set in the car. I like the glasses because they are sometimes effective in hiding some of the wrinkles around my eyes. 

These are all external cues but on the inside I can't shake the feeling that I'm an 18 year old trapped in the wrong container. I watch many people sink into that gloomy sense of adult resignation but I watch just as many of my friends fight the progression toward the trappings of being older with every breath. In fact, I've even come to believe that an egregious expenditure on a new toy is really the desire to affirm that there's more life left to live; that the purchase of the hot new camera or the amazing new car is really an unconscious act meant to convey that you believe you'll be around for a while to enjoy the fruits of the purchase. That you are continuing in the continuum. 

The house was quiet when I got up. The dog looked up at my from her bed, metaphorically shook her head and then, with a sigh, nestled back into the upholstery and dropped back into a nice, even sleep. I went into the kitchen and made myself a couple of multiple-grain toaster waffles and ate them while drinking a glass of water. I chided myself for a lack of courage --- my real 18 year old self would have eaten cold pizza just before the Saturday morning swim workout. He might have been going to the pool directly from a late date...

I felt slow and stuffy and tired on my way to the pool but when I finally hit the cool, fresh water it only took three or four laps to brighten up and get into my groove. I swam in a lane adjacent to one of my favorite swimmers. She's competitive and driven and at least 14 years younger than me but I matched her lap for lap as we pushed the intervals down and I hit the end of each set with my heart pounding and my lungs greedy for more air. I savored every flip turn that I executed well. I focused on the front end of my freestyle stroke trying to grip a hold on the water and move my body past that point. It's as much a mental practice as anything else. 

The sun came up fully on the pool, it was 8:30 and we'd done our 3200 yards for the morning and yanked ourselves out of the water. An unspoken belief among swimmers is that if you are in good enough shape to swim masters you never use a ladder to get out of a pool and you never put a knee down on the deck during your exit. You place your hands wide on the deck and pull yourself straight up high enough to toss your feet under you. Sure, if you are nursing a bum shoulder you are temporarily exempt but, a knee on the deck.....? 

But what does any of this have to do with photography? I'll conjecture that a large measure of the disquiet I feel right now is that I'm becoming aware that peoples' perspective about "who" photographers really are comes from the advertising created by the people who make products for photographers. Their ads mostly feature youth as practitioners of the modern photographic art.  There are some hoary holdovers who've continued to have media relevance well into their senior years. I just read Thom Hogan's article about the Sony junket last month. He was rubbing shoulders with venerable like Bob Krist and a few others but the event was dominated by the YouTube Youth Gangs like Kai and his cohorts,  and the (now aging) hipster crew from DP Review. Jordan and Chris, as of late from DP Review's newly revitalized video channel, and many other newly post adolescent photo/video/bloggers. 

The message in advertising, and video blogging on YouTube and elsewhere is that photographers are young, hip, innovative and aspirational. They spend their days snapping pix of their beautiful boyfriends and girlfriends and virtually sashaying around Instagram with an air of coolness that increases with every media post and its attendant "likes". I guess I see enough of the programming to have understood the message and taken it to heart: "this is a young person's game in a young person's universe." When you see the meme often enough it's hard not to internalize it and worry that you've become as obsolete as an old Canon Rebel. As worn as a film era Leica.

This messaging misrepresents reality. All around me the successful photographers I encounter are almost without exception past forty. They are comfortably established, they jumped and struggled up the waterfall, from film to digital, like successful salmon in the run. They are the ones with the credit lines that allow for impulse purchase follies like medium format cameras, European flash systems, and Billingham bags. But the marketers miss the mark with their messaging. They only have eyes for the millennials now, the one segment of the population swimming in student debt. The generation hit hardest, economically, by the giant recession of 2008-2009. The generation in full embrace of the iPhone as the camera of choice. A misguided read of marketing stats if I've ever seen one...

When I write this all out and think about it logically I suppose life has always been like this. Every generation grows and peaks and wanes. Advertising has always preferred the cute and the young. Understanding it makes me feel better. I love taking photographs and it's really not up to me to determine the relevance of my craft to our current culture. I don't have enough data points to ever really know. It's enough for now to still have good work and still have the desire to get out every day and visually interpret my world in my own way.  And with role models like Duane Michals and Elliott Erwitt how can we go wrong? Persist or perish. There are no other choices. 

But DAMN. Isn't photography a blast?!

In car selling circles the Toyota Avalon was smirkingly referred to 
as "the geezer pleaser" for it's soft ride, ample trunk and 
welcoming interior appointments. If there is a camera that 
I would call a "geezer pleaser" it's got to be something like
the Nikon D800 or D810. Lots of nostalgia, good performance
and middle of the road comfort. Some would say it's the Nikon DF but 
I think that's more like a vinyl topped, two tone Riviera...

In a flash of coherence this is sometimes the message I get from online discussions 
and advertising about photography.

I like the pool because I can't take my cameras in with me. 
It's just me and a couple thousand gallons of water and some people 
who want to swim faster than me. Whether or not they succeed is, in some
part, up to me.

Now it's time to change gears and go to lunch with the family. Later in the day it will be time for some fun photography. What Robin Wong would call, "Shutter Therapy."

Read the rest of this entry »
Five of my friends who know that I'm a pushover for really cool lenses in the 100mm range sent me links to the press releases about this lens today. It's the splash resistant, dust resistant, fast focusing and incredibly big and heavy = Sigma 105mm f1.4 Art lens. If you go to the Sigma site and read all the stuff about it right here you'll come away highly conflicted; I know I did.

On one hand you have what might be the ultimate 100-105mm focal length prime lens. The MTF curves sure suggest it. It seems to be one of the ultimate "bokeh" optics of our time. Super sharp wide open and with a creamy out of focus character that borders on sinfully sensual. Of course you want one. But remember, this may the only 105mm prime in photo history that comes with its own tripod mount. It's got 105mm front filter ring and it's dense and heavy with important sounding glass elements.

At $1500+ it's pricy. At 1.4 it's fast. At "ART" lens it's bound to be sharp and well corrected. If you can avoid the inherent hernia potential almost promised by this product then this might be the ultimate portrait lens. My finger hovers over the "one click pre-order button" as I type this..... Maybe yes, maybe no....

Read the rest of this entry »

A few weeks ago I found myself in a factory in Matamoros, Mexico that does all kinds of parts manufacturing for various industries.  My goal was to spend a day photographing and come away with a couple hundred usable photographs that would range from showing high tech circuit board and wire harness assembly to showing workers bending large sheets of metal that are used to make rack mount shelving for servers. The facility was well over 100,000 square feet and, like most heavy production facilities, required eye protection, ear protection and safety shoes. 

My main camera and lens combination was the Nikon D800 and the 24-120mm f4.0 VR zoom lens. The camera does low light well and I was able to handhold shots that didn't have subject movement at  shutter speeds down to 1/30th of a second with confidence. 

Working across the border is interesting. We had to check in with the Mexican immigration folks to get a work visa for me. A lot of people might skip this and rely on the "idea" that they can get away with being tourists but there are spot checks at the factories near the border and not having a valid work visa could cost serious time and money.

I don't speak much Spanish beyond what's on the menu at my local Mexican food restaurant even though I've been married to someone who is fluently bi-lingual for the last 30+ years. I'm used to working here in Austin and it was interesting to work with folks who didn't speak my language and vice versa. We did fine with equal amounts of limited Spanish and limited English and a bit of pantomime. 

My working methodology in the factory was to have all the gear I needed in the rolling case and to leave the rolling case in one of the front conference rooms, and just putting the camera and lens on a Gitzo tripod with a bullhead to walk around with. If I knew I might need a faster lens I stuck it in a tiny camera bag that lived on my shoulder. I kept an extra battery in my pocket and, with a 256 GB, UHS-II card in the SD slot, I rarely needed to revisit my gear depository. 

Most of the work I did was on the tripod. Some of the shots, like the person using a grinder (above) were shot handheld. The tripod allowed me to get depth of field when I wanted it and to plumb the depths of vibration reduction when needed. 

I also carried around a small, pop-up Lastolite gray/white color balancing target. I kept it clipped, with a carabiner, to one of my belt loops, and I would grab it and take a new reading as I moved from location to location. I was trying to get close with the dominant light source in any area knowing that, in RAW file mode, I'd be able to nail white balance exactly in post. If you start too far away it can be difficult to correct across the full spectrum. 

While I spent most of my time with the 24-120mm f4.0 VR on the camera I did get a fair amount of use out of the 85mm f1.8 and the manual focusing 28mm f2.8 lenses I brought along. There are times when the fast aperture of the 85mm makes more artsy looking images. Clients still like it when the background goes out of focus.... The 28mm was useful because it's so well corrected for distortion. Stuff just looked better in some instances when I shot with that lens. 

On several occasions I switched over to Jpeg from RAW so I could use the in-camera HDR feature. A three stop range (the most you can get in-camera with a D800) was sometimes very useful in wide shots when I could not control all the light.

I love assignments like this because it's fun to spend a day playing with photo toys and doing continual technical problem solving. Tossing in some light from an LED panel for one shot, a little bit of flash, bounced off a wall, for another series of shots.

What would I do differently if I could re-do this assignment? 1. I'd listen to a Berlitz CD  that teaches Spanish for the entire six hours I spent on the way down in the rental car. 2. I'd bid it as two shooting days instead of one because I kept seeing in my mind, after the fact, all the shots I missed or could have done better. A second day would allow for new thinking and a certain amount of "do overs" that might yield a bunch more keepers. But, 3, I'd stop being dumb and stop driving half way across Texas when I could have flown to Brownsville (the American side of the border) in 45 minutes on Southwest Airlines. But I guess I'd never get the opportunity to listen to the language CD, right?

I chose to use the Nikon D800 rather than the Panasonic GH5 because most of my shooting was done in marginal lighting and I really needed good looking files at ISO's like 3200-6400. I did, in fact, take the GH5 and the 12-100mm lens and used it for two different video interviews. The Panasonic system was perfect for that!

The real star, as far as I am concerned, was the 24-120mm lens. You could shoot just about anything with that and have it look good. Go get one. (Or the equivalent in the system you prefer). I already have an equivalent lens for the GH5; it's the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0, a remarkably sharp and stable lens for the smaller format camera. Primes? Sure, when you have an agency tagging along as a client and don't want to spoil them by moving too fast......

Paint Shop.

Parts curing.

The tripod comes in handy when you need to have a person in the frame and 
there's no one else around. 

From the light of an acetylene torch.....

Read the rest of this entry »
« Previous Entries