Why I continue to buy cameras in pairs --- when it's possible. And why it kinda makes sense. At least to me...

I remember the shooting day when I went through three medium format cameras before the job was completed. That's three cameras in one shooting day. I was photographing for a company that, at the time, was a big competitor for Home Depot. They were called, Builder's Square. We were shooting a print advertising campaign for their ad agency based around the concept of kids sports. The project took place on locations around San Antonio and we undertook the project in the dead of Summer, during the heat wave of 1990. All the interior sports (basketball, volleyball, etc.) were problem free. I had a small crew of three helpers and the client/agency fielded about five people who in turn played hosts to a flock of attending clients. 

It was one of those dry Summer days during which getting under 100° would have been delicious. Illogically, the ad agency saved the most grueling part of the project for last. In the late afternoon we we're setting up to shoot lots of photographs of kids playing baseball. In combination with triple digit heat, and an ongoing drought, the winds started to pick up when we got to the baseball field. We were on the the receiving end of the remnants of a dust storm from the flat, arid west Texas dust lands. But the light was good and the kids were thrilled to be at a photo shoot and we soldiered on. 

I brought along three Hasselblad film cameras and a brace of lenses to do the project. We set up and started shooting tests and first images when the blowing sand and dust infiltrated the shooting camera and it locked up. I took a deep breath and tossed it into a case and pulled out a second ELX motor drive Hasselblad. I attached a lens while inside my car as a safety move. But within a half hour that body decided to stop working as well. The agency people sensed my ..... anxiety? worry? growing sense of impending doom? The dust and sand got into every piece of gear!

But I assured them that we had already gotten a lot of good images and that we had one more camera in the equipment case that we could count on. I pulled a well used but well maintained H-Blad 500 CM out and set it on the tripod. My assistants and I all crossed our fingers for good luck and breathed a huge sigh of relief when, at the end of the shoot, the camera was still fully functional. If we'd had to go back and re-shoot I would have been on the hook for the talent fees, the location fees and the additional travel and work time for the assistants. And I'd also be that guy whose cameras ALL broke and couldn't finish the shoot. 

That was a big lesson for someone really just hitting his stride in the commercial market for photography. With film cameras you really did need back up gear that you could sub in if and when your primary cameras decided to take a mechanical sabbatical from work. Stuff broke. Stuff needed adjustments.

While digital cameras seem to be much more reliable my work shooting corporate events taught me the value of having multiple camera bodies for a different reason. When you are working quickly there's not always time to change lenses. If you've been photographing a speaker on a giant stage and you've got a 300mm lens on your camera, on a tripod, but now you need to pivot quickly and photograph a demonstration on the side of the stage, with a wide angle lens, you'll probably want to leave your telephoto lens and camera right where they are and grab a camera with a wide zoom lens off your shoulder and hustle over to the demo area to get the shots. 

It's the same with theatrical photography. I shoot a lot of actor close-ups from mid-way up the audience seats from the stage but often I'll want to go from some tight one, two and three person groupings to a wide, overall shot to capture something like a special effect or a really neat (and very, very temporary) lighting cue. To work at the best efficiency I bring (at least) two identical camera bodies and put a 70-200mm on one and a 24-70mm on the other, set them for identical color balances, and profile settings and put the one I'm not using on the seat next to me. When I need it I grab it and tweak the exposure and then shoot quickly. When I need to go back to the telephoto zoom camera it's sitting right next to me, ready to go. I plunk down the wide zoom camera, grab the tight zoom camera and it's little more than a gesture to go from 24 to 200mm in a flash. If I time it right I almost never miss a changing light effect or an actor's dramatic close up. But the secret is in having the two bodies ready at all times. 

I can't imagine how much delay there would be if I brought only one body and tried to change lenses over and over and over again (in the dark) during the run of a live show......

But I know what you're probably thinking. Something like: "Yes Kirk, we get the need to have the right gear at hand for commercial work but the Canon G16s you picked up this week are for art, travel and play. Why on earth would you need two of them?"

If you think about travel for a few moments you'll realize that flying from Austin to Iceland or Rome or St. Petersburg is more expensive by far than a second camera body. And staying in nice hotels isn't cheap either. So if the whole point of your trip to one of these far away places is to take photographs (the 'busman's' holiday!) wouldn't it be a shame if you arrived, the weather was perfect, the people were amazingly beautiful and graceful....and your camera died on the first day?

Never happens? Hmmm. I remember a trip I took back when I was shooting with Leica M film cameras. I loved the 50 Summicron lens and my idea of heaven was that 50mm sitting on the front of a beautiful M3 Single stroke camera. I found a mint M3 SS about a week before Belinda and I left to go to France and Italy back in 1986. I asked the head repair guy at our local camera repair facility to give the M3 a close inspection and, in a moment of bravery/stupidity, decided to lighten my usual camera load by taking ONLY the M3 and the 50mm lens along with me. That, and a brick of Kodachrome 64 film. 

After checking into our hotel in Paris we headed out into the streets so Belinda could immerse herself in the Paris street life while I stumbled along behind and tried to take great photographs. About an hour into our vacation the film advance lever on the M3 locked up and the camera became a very beautifully designed metal brick. I was crestfallen. Depressed.

I went to the FNAC at Les Halles and bought another camera. I couldn't justify buying another M series camera so I defaulted to the then brand new Contax Aria camera (small and lightweight) along with a very sweet little 28-85mm zoom lens. But it was never the same. I had my mind all wrapped around shooting with that Leica and I was too immature to just let it all go. I was selfishly sulky. I went back to the FNAC and bought a small Minox ML (super compact 35mm) and was happier but still pissed at having to spend thousands to replace a camera that had the reputation for being indestructible.

I've never gone on assignment or a personal photograph trip since without at least one back up camera which uses the same batteries and lenses as my primary shooting camera. If the back up and the primary are the same model of camera then so much the better. Less friction going back and forth between different menus...

So, I bought the twin G16s because I remembered that Belinda made beautiful photographs in Montreal with the predecessor to the G16 (the G15) and I thought at the time how great it was for her to travel with such a compact and highly portable solution. When we can travel again I thought it would be freeing to take along nothing but a small point and shoot --- after all, I'm supposed to be good at photography and I should be able to make decent photographs with just about any modern camera; right?

But I would hate to be wherever it is that we've just spent 24 hours getting to and having a single, lone camera die. I'll always to pack a second one. And that's why I buy cameras in pairs. 

Especially when the used cameras I'm buying are less expensive than some dinners we've had. And small enough to stick in a jacket pocket. And that's my rationale.

The heat in Austin is oppressive right now. I dread hitting the pool in the morning because I'm sure that even with aerators running all night long the water temperature is going to be uncomfortably warm. That led me to think about cooling beverages and desserts with ice cream. So I posted some here. 

Do you buy cameras in pairs? Why not? What would change if you did?

What's your favorite cold beverage? Did you know that Canon R5s overheat when shooting video? I heard all about it at the camera store today. Not a pretty topic for a newly launched camera.....

A pet peeve I just realized I have today is one about blogging. I hate it when blogger finds a subject that his or her audience finds to be juicy and then leaves the blog static for days at a time. I guess I think blogs these days should be more daily stream of consciousness. Something to look forward to in 24 hour installments. But maybe I'm not being smart and efficient as a blogger. Maybe I should just put stuff up intermittently. Opinions?

Bored with staying home. But committed to doing the right thing. Hope Texas gets its stuff together soon....

I saw a post from five or six years ago come up on the stats for the blog today. I re-read it. It's still true. De-bunking the breathless five minute CEO portrait sessions...

You might enjoy: https://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2014/01/myth-debunking-five-minute-marathon.html

Here's a gratuitous photo; just for fun...

Ben, standing in for Ottobock Canada President, Mark Agro.

Texas State Senator and former Austin mayor, Kirk Watson.


James Evan's book, "Crazy from the Heat" is my theme for today. I spent some "quality time" out walking with a new (to me) camera this afternoon. It's a Canon.

Wow. Just wow. 
I'm regressing to a time in 2013 when small, light and potent "point and shoot" cameras were still a thing. And I'm having an epiphany about just how good these little machines were/are. Let me back up and give you some context. Small, inconspicuous, non-interchangeable lens cameras have had a rich history in the world of photography for as long as I can remember. All us refugees from university art programs in the 1970's had a Rollei 35S somewhere in our gear bucket. Minox also made a super small but amazingly good fixed lens 35mm camera that actually could fit in one's pocket back in the 1980's.

Before the DSLR took off like a comet the vast majority of people who wanted to try their hands at photography started out not with a Canon Digital Rebel but with a smaller digital "point and shoot" camera. They were cheaper to buy and easier to use. And, over time, several camera makers upgraded and enhanced their compact cameras' capabilities to the point that they could rival (in good light) cameras twice as big and four times as expensive. 

Canon started producing their G series of cameras back in the very early 2000's. The first model was a G1 which I bought after having used a smattering of Nikon's own Coolpix cameras. The G1 was a 4 megapixel camera (very cool at the time) and it featured a fast zoom lens, good color and nice files. I made images for the first Sweetish Hill Bakery website with that camera!

Canon proceeded to work their way through model numbers making the cameras smaller and more capable. They were the "go-to" option for most photographers who might have spent a fortune on the DSLRs of the day and then needed a less expensive "back up" camera just in case all else failed. 

About 12 years ago Canon tossed a G series camera on the market that really caught everyone's attention. It was the G10 and it was a 14.x megapixel camera with ISO 80 image quality that rivaled just about any comparable resolution camera on the market. The founder of the Luminous Landscape website, an avowed medium format digital camera user, once shot the same landscape shot both with the tiny and (relatively) inexpensive G10 and a big, Hasselblad camera with a digital back. He printed both files nice and large and challenged printers and advanced photographers to guess which print came from which camera. The tally of opinions was more or less a tie. Validation that skill and good light can reduce the expected results of superior technology to a near draw.

I bought a brand new G10 around the time I was working on my third book (Lighting Equipment) for Amherst Media. I was so enamored by the G10 that I used it, on a tripod and at its lowest ISO (80) to do all the equipment still life photographs in the book. I didn't tell anyone at the time and once the images were printed in CMYK they worked well in concert with the demonstration images done with a range of much more expensive and (supposedly) more capable DSLRs. 

I was hooked. For a while. I still have a G10 and take it out from time to time to see what it can do. I am generally still impressed. That camera has the limitation of not being a great high ISO performer and once you go past ISO 200 you start confronting noise.

Last year I bought a slightly used G15 camera. It's 1:1.7 sized sensor has less resolution than the G10 but it's a CMOS sensor and handles low light better. It's 12 megapixels. One of the improvements over the G10 was the return by Canon to the faster lenses that they had outfitted G cameras with prior to the slower G10 lens. The G15 is compact and easy to use but it still delivers great images. I handed it to Belinda to use in Montreal and I've never gotten it back. It has her stamp of approval. And as an art director who has worked with images from a wide range of great advertising photographers that's a tough approval to earn. 

I tried buying another G15 recently but got burned by Amazon.com. A "good" condition G15 arrived with sticky tape residue on the body and a few small scratches on the lens. It's workable but I hate starting behind the eight ball with a camera. I'll always be leery of the effect the scratches may have on my images. That camera lives in a drawer somewhere and when someone needs to borrow a "beater"camera I'll lend them that one in the hopes that they lose it or never return it.....

So, yesterday I was delivering some groceries and treats to my son, Ben, who is quarantining from the pandemic at his house with his roommates and I figured that I was already halfway to Precision Camera and perhaps I should just drop by and see if they had any interesting new arrivals in the used cabinets. I'm always on the look out for interesting photographic artifacts. 

There in the case were two identical G16s. The G16 is the final expression of the long running G cameras from Canon and is basically an ultra-tweaked version of the G15. Still 12 megapixels and still the same 28-140mm f1.8 to 2.8 lens but a new processor and some new features. And....tweakiness.

Unlike the G15 that Amazon sent along these two G16 bodies were lovingly cared for and looked, for the most part, like we'd just pulled them out of a factory sealed box. I bought one on the spot. On the way home I second guessed (started to regret?) my spur of the moment purchase and decided to go out today and really test out the camera to see if I was just buying nostalgia or a real, useful and unique camera. 

I headed out around 2 p.m. today, just as the temperature crested the 100 degree mark. With the humidity factored in it felt like 106. But I was dressed for the adventure and, of course, had my goofy but protective wide brimmed hat. 

While the G16 isn't going to win any contests for super-wide dynamic range it's impressively sharp, the auto white balance is right on the money about 95% of the time and it's a delight to carry around on a hot, oppressive day. 

Instead of my usually walk through downtown I decided to do a loop around and through the University of Texas and the environs. I did seven years there as a student and three as a specialist lecturer in the College of Fine Arts. I go back once or twice a year to lecture to classes for friends who teach in photojournalism but every time I go there's a new building, a new pedestrian boulevard, or a new high rise tower. Today was no different. 

So, I've attached some of the photos I made from my hour and a half in the heat to show off the capabilities of the little G16. I am very happy with my copy. So much so that I called my brilliant sales associate at the store and asked him to hold the second one till I get back out there. Everyone's got to have a hobby; I guess my newest hobby is cornering the market on older "point and shoot" technology. Captions where motivated.

At the fried Chicken place on Guadalupe. 
The G16 image stabilization is wonderful. Works well in video too.

You can't buy happiness but you can buy pristine Canon G series cameras...
That's kinda the same thing!

Working hard to keep the detail in the white electrical conduit...

Medici on the drag is closed until further notice. 
The paucity of good coffee to go is becoming near critical...

I have no idea what eyebrow threading is or why UT students might need it...

the G12 has a built in ND filter. It works well. I wish all P/S cameras had one. 

Mural in open shade. On the Drag.

I found a spot next to one of the engineering buildings where the cold air from the air conditioning system flowed outside. Funny to be walking around in a hundred degrees of heat and find a "bubble" of 68 degree air. A nice place to stop and make some camera menu changes.

go ahead. blow it up. It's amazingly sharp.

I know a lot about art, I just don't know what I like...

Walking by this enormous pit just north of the state capitol. 
They're building a series of gigantic buildings just across from the 
Texas History Museum. Huge, huge project. Many cranes...

And then back to the patient Subaru Forester. The latest VSL staff car. 
I've had it for a year and five months and I have about 12,000 miles racked up. 
Not a big year for driving long distances...

Maybe next year. 

I had a big iced tea in a thermos bottle in the car. How refreshing!

That's it. The newest studio arrival under $300.