2.10.2016

Why a Sony RX10 mark 2? Why not???



So much of our indulgence in photographic gear is motivated by history, legacy and lunacy. The old dinosaurs of the industry remember the days of old when bullet proof cameras were the suit of armor worn into imaging battle by legions of photographic infantry. A camera destined for photojournalism was deemed to be professional only if it did certain things and had certain attributes. For some reason these parameters have been passed down from generation to generation like some commandments from strict gods. To wit: The camera must be made entirely of heavy metal, you should be able to drive nails with it. Even though tons and tons of great work was made with cameras that had to be manually wound from frame to frame the introduction of motor drives meant that every professional camera that came after had to shoot at 3,57,10 and how 12 or 14 frames per second to be used by the pros!. And recently, the misguided mantra about necessary professional cameras is the one must always be in hot pursuit of the most megapixels on the biggest sensor ---- but more importantly, the sensor must be full frame to make the cut.  

All this means bags full of heavy and expensive gear that costs a fortune. If we were all working for clients who needed to blow up all of our images to sizes that would fit on the sides of buildings this might make sense. But the reality is that our targets have changed radically over the years and what we need in cameras is so different from yesteryear. 

The last five professional photography assignments I have done this year have been done on cameras that don't look like or feel like the cameras of the distant past, reworked to evoke confidence in the present. We didn't need to pull out the 36 megapixel, full frame camera or the 24 megapixel camera. I shot two jobs with the Panasonic fz 1000. The photos were good and the client was very happy. I shot one job with an Olympus EM5.2 and the photos looked good and the client's were very happy. And most recently I shot two jobs back to back with the Sony RX10 cameras and I was very happy, the client was very happy and, it was probably the optimum way to shoot the job in question ---- if your brain is willing to start with a clean slate. 

I have had some time to do a few video tests with the new (to me) RX10 mark 2 from Sony. It's not just a good video camera, it's an amazingly good video camera. In fact, when I've come across several pre-reviews from highly excited bloggers covering the hot new (buy it now, buy it now!!!!) Sony A6300 I looked at the con column and realized that the RX10 mark 2 checks way more production feature boxes than the newer camera. Things like a real head phone jack. A 29 minute run time in 4K and the package comes complete with a really good lens. 

The reviewers are breathless about the latest innovations which they apparently overlooked during their cursory date with the RX10.2. Things like: A clean HDMI output so you can use external digital recorders for endless takes. Customizable zebras. S-Log profiles. Focus Peaking. 100 mbs XAVC S files in 4K, right in the camera. Non-line skipping video for much higher sharpness and fewer artifacts. Etc., Etc. It always amazes me when people leapfrog over a bargain in the blind pursuit of the latest package ---- even when the new package is less capable. 

I kiddingly wrote that this year might see "The Rise of The One Inch Sensor Cameras," but now I am more or less serious about it all. I keep looking through 4K video trying to find a fault but, with the exception of high ISO noise limitations (high ISO being a crutch that allows people to think they know what they are doing instead of really learning how to light stuff well) I haven't found any Achille's heel in the mix.

I like the RX10 type 2 because it is so damn capable. So already packed and ready to go! And so perfectly sorted for a vast swath of photographic projects. But the cherry on the top is that this camera is also perfectly suited for a photojournalistic style of videography. Keep a variable neutral density filter (62mm/same as the Panasonic FZ 1000) in one pocket and a couple extra batteries in the other and you are pretty much prepared to shoot at the drop of a hat. Which always brings me back to the same conclusion: The obsession about "ultimate" cameras and lenses is for the entry part of the commercial market. It's the lighting that separates the artist from the gear jockeys. But lighting gear isn't usually nearly as glamorous and much harder to wear (without dire affectation) to the hip, neighborhood coffee shop. 

Below are two samples that I love from the original RX10. 


An ISO 1600 image of a musician on stage at the David Bowie Project
modern dance/concert in 2014 at the State Theater. 

A landscape of flat Texas, between Fredericksburg and Johnson City.
Probably my favorite, personal example in a genre I have very little 
affinity for...

If pushed one could make a business with just one of these little cameras and some decent lights. Very few clients would ever know you weren't shooting with a throwback to an earlier time. And they would like the video better than anything coming out of a Fuji, Nikon, Canon (non-cine) or Olympus camera. Pretty amazing for a retail investment of $1299...

I am running an ad, below, for Lesa Snider's Portrait retouching class. It's the same one I ran yesterday and I'm doing it because I was stuck in PhotoShop today, trying to turn a woman's hair from bright red to a dark brunette without messing up the detail and character of the hair. I watched Lesa's segment about doing that very same thing in her video and it worked so well. I was very happy to remember that the segment was there. It was also a good refresher about using the "refine edge" tool. I thought I'd give it another "two thumbs up" for anyone out there that might want to improve their portrait post production.

Here it is:





2.09.2016

A Fun Selection of Online Learning Classes From My Online "Alma Mater," Craftsy.com


I rarely put up ads on the blog. I don't want to interrupt the flow of articles that a lot of my audience has come to enjoy. But, in fact, we worked really hard up in Denver, Colorado to produce some online programming that is fun and educational. If you are the kind of person who enjoys taking workshops or spending time on various learning channels fleshing out your technique and your knowledge of photography you might really enjoy a lot of what is on offer at Craftsy. 

Many of you comment on my portraits; the lighting and the rapport with subjects. In the class above I give a detailed presentation of how I like to light. Not the routine formulas endemic to the web but exactly the way I like to light and interact with my subjects. I have a beautiful model and I play with my favorite lighting and modifying tools in the course. The Course lasts about two and a half hours, in sections. With the link above you can get the course (forever online) for about $25. Or five Venti Latte Coffees at Starbucks. You can go to the link and sample the course for free! If you pay the $25 and don't like the course you can get your money back. 

In addition to the Studio course above I am also including, in this blog, a discount link to a course that is a bit more basic and covers a lot of beginner topics as well as some Lightroom-Lite at the end. It's a fun course because it teaches but it's narrative in nature and each section is a fun adventure. I love the stuff we shot with a family at a horse ranch up in the mountains. Go and see the intro. You might like it. It's certainly something fun to watch if you are socked in by weather and can't get out to photograph on your own!


In addition to my two classes above I've actually gone through the catalog of classes offered by Craftsy.com and picked out a number of my favorites in the photography section. I like them and found them valuable so I thought you might too. Here they are below, in no particular order:



One of the original Craftsy Photo Classes and 
still one of the best! 

I met Lance a couple of weeks ago in Denver
and found him to be really fun and knowledgeable 
this class reflects what he teaches in hands-on
workshops in Ireland and Iceland, as well as 
cool places around the U.S.

How to make what we shoot into a cohesive
train of visual thought.


So, Lesa is the author of "PhotoShop, the Missing Manual" as well as a dozen other bestselling books on Photoshop, Lightroom and all things Post Processing. She is a superstar in that area and this is one of her first Craftsy.com workshops. It was right up my alley. I have been working in Photoshop for twenty years and I still learned about a dozen really great techniques to make the portraits I've shot look incredibly better. This one is a must for anyone interested in making images of humans look amazing.

Of all the people I met in Denver her course was almost perfectly aligned with what I needed to learn.

I am seriously signing off to go watch "Perfecting PhotoShop Portraits" one more time. I'm retouching 21 portraits of architects tomorrow and I want to get comfortable with some new techniques.

Suspend disbelief and click on a few of these links. It doesn't cost a cent to go and look.

That's my commercial message for the week --- now back to our original programming.

2.08.2016

Pursuit of beauty in photography. That's why we make portraits.



I have a small studio in Austin, Texas.
I like to make portraits there for myself.
I use all kinds of cameras and play with lights.
I'm looking for a quiet intensity.
People being actively alive.

It's more fun than working.

2.07.2016

At the Barton Springs Spillway with an Old Sony A56.


Old School Portrait. Back from the Canon days.

Belinda. In studio. 

In all the excitement of new, smaller cameras, I love to slow down, go through the files, and see what images looked like from a more "primitive" time in digital photography. This image was taken with a Canon 1DSmk2 and a Canon 85mm f1.8 lens. The shutter speed was 1/20th of a second. The aperture was f2.5. Seems to work okay considering the "vintage" contraption with which it was taken....