1.25.2015

I shot with a new "old" lens yesterday and it was good.

Dog and friend at the Graffiti Wall. D610+Cheapo lens

Model at the Graffiti Wall. 70-210mm at 210mm, f5.6

Editorial Note: I wrote a post yesterday about a lens and an experience at the Austin Graffiti Wall. It was too negative and angry. I decided that's not a direction I wanted to go in this year so I took the post down. This is what the original post should have been...

It's not hard to be a lens-aholic when shooting with the Nikon system, after all, they haven't changed the lens mount in just about forever and any Nikon lens made from about 1977 onward will mount and work (some with limitations) on even the newest Nikon bodies. When I look at lenses for that system (one of two systems that I am currently using for work and play...) I find myself drawn to older classics rather than the newest formulations and models. I've shot, on and off, with Nikon equipment since the late 1980's and I have a lot of experience with the lenses (and the bodies) through the ages. I've always loved the look and feel of the manual focus lenses and now I even like the prices. 

Recently, I borrowed the newest 70-200mm VR type 2 to compare with an older AF 80-200mm f2.8 D lens that I recently bought for a song. I wanted to make sure I wasn't deluding myself and compromising the overall system performance by choosing an older lens. I shouldn't have worried as the older lens is as sharp and low maintenance as I remember it. What am I giving up by using an older lens? Mostly just the VR but in the ways that I plan to use the lens it's not much of an issue. I plan to use the fast zoom lens mostly for theatrical performance documentation sitting on the front of a Nikon 610. I've tested it onsite and it works exactly as I wanted. 

But there is one issue I have with the 80-200mm f2.8 and that is the bulk and the weight of the unit. Don't get me wrong, for the applications I have in mind it's not an issue and there's really now way around a certain size and heft if you want optical performance and speed on a full frame camera. It's a trade off. But in the back of my mind I started thinking about the times when I might want to tote around a nice focal length range like the one on the 80-200mm during one of my "spells" when I also want to use a big Nikon camera. So I started looking for a cheap, smaller, lighter lens with the same basic focal range to use when tooling around outdoors, without my team of equipment hauling Sherpas. 

The search led me to a number of choices but the one that seemed to have the most promise, when reading other people's reviews, was the D version of the Nikon 70-210mm f4-5.6, push-pull zoom lens from the 1990's. It focuses pretty quickly; on par with the consumer AFS lenses. It''s noisier when focusing but not too bad. It's less than half the size and weight of the 2.8 lenses but it's mostly built with metal and feels very solid. I bought one for right around $100. I generally test lenses just as soon as I buy them but last week we had nasty weather. It was cold, gray, rainy and windy for four days in a row and I just didn't have the motivation to go out and shoot with much of anything.

The weather broke yesterday (resulting in a glorious and very well attended morning swim practice) and in the late afternoon I finished up all my chores and decided to go out for a bit of shooting. I put the lens on the D610 and headed for the Graffiti Wall. It was absolutely packed with people, including a mass fashion photo workshop. I stayed for a while and snapped some fun shots which I then brought back to the office to look over. The lens is fairly sharp wide open and the appearance of sharpness improves with a bit of post processing. When sharpening is done right the lens delivers fine detail along with a contrast that seems to be a balance between the lower levels of the older, manual Nikon lenses and the exaggerated contrast (and saturation) of the newest generation. I found myself liking the push and pull to zoom control. 

All in all the lens was a bargain for $100 and reminded me that some of the older stuff is still primo. 

I bought this lens for my particular uses and I'm not suggesting that you rush out and change camera systems or rush out to buy this lens. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that there's a lot of good, older stuff out there that's selling at bargain prices and rewards buyers who are patient, willing to test their own gear, and who buy from vendors who will allow you to return stuff that you might find lacking in performance to your standards. I like my big, heavy fast lens for a number of shooting opportunities and I like the more compact lens for daytime travel and street shooting. I'm lucky enough to be able to have both. 

Another editorial note: My book giveaway came to an end on Saturday morning and in the two days it was active we gave away over 6,000 Kindle versions of, The Lisbon Portfolio. I hope that we'll start to see a rash of (nice) reviews in the next few weeks at Amazon. I hope everyone enjoys the story and doesn't get too annoyed with any editing issues. I'm working on the second book and want to have it done by October of 2015. I continue to rely on your motivational support and encouragement. 

Thanks, Kirk

curiosity. What long telephoto zooms do you reach for when you go out to shoot and you know you want/need some reach? I'd be curious to know what my readers think the best fast tele zooms are for your systems. Comments?

1.23.2015

I was putting together yet another presentation for yesterday afternoon and remembering how diverse a pitch might need to be.


Die on wafer.

Last week I got a call from an advertising agency here in central Texas. I'd been recommended to them by another advertising agency and that's always a nice introduction. The new agency and client are involved in creating a new high technology market around a breakthrough process, and the machinery and attendant software to do the process. I know a decent amount about this particular area of tech and while I'm not an expert I'm pretty certain this will be amazing stuff, and the client will make lots of money. But before I get invited to play I have to pitch. 

So today I'm going to talk about the pitching process as it relates to specialties. Most of the half million or so "professional" photographers working today are working with some variation of consumer cameras, using battery operated strobes or winging it with the convenient phrase: "I am an available light specialist." Most of the people who sell work in the general photography market came up through the ranks as wedding and family photographers. Almost zero percent have worked with film, cameras with movements, or specialty lenses and lights. Even fewer come from technical backgrounds and understand technology processes.  When I go to pitch commercial clients I try to leverage my strengths against those weaknesses.

The first thing one should do when pitching a potential client is head straight to their website and read up. The reading should include all the white papers and product information. The research should go on to include everything you can find on Google and LinkedIn about the people to whom you will be presenting. Go all the way back to their college stats if you can find them. See where they've been and what their credentials are. Then go and research their competitors, if you can find them. Once you've done that then figure out where you fit in. Define all the things you can offer them and figure out the areas where you clearly excel over your own competitors. Have these features and benefits clearly in mind when you walk through the client's door.

In this particular case the client's executive team all came from high technologies industries. Their company sells physical machines that create a new technology product. But the key staff are also pure researchers who are working with light, polymers, and lots and lots of stored electricity. I knew I should lead with some pure technology to show them what I've done for previous generations of innovators so I led with things like die photos, the cover of IEEE magazine for which I shot the very first multi-core wafer created by IBM, and the image of the historic, first PowerPC device, which I shot for Motorola. I led with a dozen pure technology shots including a few from inside a .25 micron cleanroom because I knew the images would lead into a conversation that would allow me to show off my early technical education, my grasp of underlying physics and chemistry concepts driving their innovation, and my efforts to stay topically current about key areas of technology over the ensuing years. 

We were also able to share in discussions about using oil bath techniques on chip dies to eliminate certain diffraction effects when focused under the oil layer. We discussed light piping and planar staging and a few other issues having to do with 1x-5x magnification, technical photography, and I think it cemented, in their minds, that I understood the imaging challenges we'd be facing with some of their process and products. 

The next step in the presentation was to show industrial products shot in various ways, from server racks to small details. I love the red front panels on the Salient Systems servers and showed them because we could discuss the fact that the server front panels are curved in several dimensions and this created various reflections that needed to be eliminated. Walking them through that lighting process will pay off when we produce bids because the client and agency will better understand why some things take time.

I included a handful of "ghosted" images like the receiver below so the client could see an application I thought would work well for them; the ability to show off the product as a whole while highlighting interior technology that is the point of their selling proposition. 

As we did a "walk through" of their facility I asked cogent questions about the process so I could get a handle on how we might handle organizing the photographic assignments as part of a narrative to tell their story. The walk through gave me a chance to see things that might make the story better for a lay person like a procurement officer or non-technical finance director of a potential customer company.

While I showed a good proportion of product and techie images I didn't neglect the fun portraits done for the arts, or the environmental portraits of executives in a range of companies, because I know that while the client generally loves to tell the "technical" story the agency understands that people work with people and that websites and collateral need to be a balance of tech and real people from the company. I'm selfish, I want both sides. 

Finally, I asked about their proposed use of video and asked if they were interested in seeing a video presentation we'd done for another local technology company. They did so we fired it up on a 15 inch MacBook Pro and, at the end, asked me all the right questions. "How did we shoot it?" "What is my process for video projects?" "How big (read: disruptive) was my crew?" And my favorite: "Who does your scriptwriting?'

I've pitched a lot of clients over the years and I have a good feeling about this one but the presentation is just the first step. The next step will be fleshing out budgets and time tables and making sure we get fairly compensated while the client gets exactly what they need and want. I have no idea who else they are talking to but I know the cohort of people still working in the field with deeper knowledge of technology imaging is small and shrinking. This is a smart client looking for a long term relationship. They are looking for experience and track record. They'll look to their agency for the creative overlay. 

On every pitch I've ever participated in I've learned new stuff. This time around I had to scramble to put together industrial work because it's not "sexy" like beautiful people shots and movie stars. It's not the kind of stuff we routinely share on the web or stuff into portfolios but if you are pursuing work with manufacturers and inventors it's pretty critical to have proof of performance in hand. 

The next time around I'll have a more locked down system for pulling up older work and consolidating the "heroes" from current work into centralized promotional catalogs that I can dip into quickly. The final point of photographic interest to me in this process was the wide variety of cameras and lenses that was represented within the material I showed. 

The video was shot with current GH4 cameras. The server racks with the same GH4's. The D2A receiver was shot in 2004 with a Kodak DCS 760. The PowerPC processor was shot with a bellows and 120 Makro Planar on a Hasselblad film camera, while the die image at the top of the article was done with a Canon 1DS mk2 with a 50mm Olympus macro lens on a bellows---camera and stage bolted to a custom modified copy stand. I showed a few main frame computers we'd shot with 4x5 inch view cameras and transparency film. And there were ample samples from DX frame Nikons and Canons as well as some full frame Sony stuff from the a99 and a850. Funny thing? They all look uniform in an on screen presentation.  Lighting and style trump gear?

The final steps in the presentation process are: follow up with "thank you" notes to the agency and client, and the delivery of a nice gift to the agency that (once again) recommended me. 

None of this has to do with the actual process of taking photographs but I thought I'd share my thinking about the process of actually getting the work. It's a bit tougher than just prancing in, showing a leather book filled with prints of various generic images and walking out with a purchase order. But really? It's always been this way.


Rack Mount Servers.

The very first PowerPC device from the Somerset Consortium. Hello RISC.

See through product shot. D2Audio.

1.22.2015

Want something free? Today and Tomorrow Amazon is running a promotion on my Novel. Jump on over there and get a (Kindle) copy absolutely free. 2 days only.

Click Through to the Free Book.

When it's over it's over.


A Friday morning update: The book is #2 in "Action and Adventure" in the Kindle store:

Product Details


    Please let all your friends know about the free book deal. We've given away over 4,000 copies. I'd love to make it 10,000 by midnight tonight. Thanks. Enjoy.

    Kirk

    1.21.2015

    Kinetic Photography. Young love. Boston.

    A mirror free camera with a 50mm f1.8 lens. Boston, Mass.

    Off to meet one of my long tenured friends for happy hour. Maybe she will have the secret of the universe. I'm pretty sure it has little to do with photography.


    Resume following me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KirkTuck

    Hanging out with the smart people.

    The I.T. Center Lobby at the University of Texas at Austin.

     The reception area in the Student Services building at Brandeis University.

    I like visiting colleges. I taught for a while at the University of Texas at Austin and I also hang out over at Austin Community College when I go see my buddy, Bill. He's the chair of the Photography Department there. Sometimes he invites me over to talk to the students.  The nicer colleges invest a lot of money for places to sit down and swill coffee. That appeals to me. Sitting, drinking coffee and reading. Nice work if you can get it...

    If you work somewhere and the coffee is not good does it seem reasonable to talk to the people in H.R.? I'm thinking about starting a VSL H.R. department so I can complain to myself about my variable ability to make decent coffee. But I don't want to ruffle any feathers...


    Resume following me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KirkTuck