3.05.2021

Some purchases are just for fun. Some cars and cameras have the "street appeal" most are utilitarian.

 

Corvette. 
camera: Sony Nex-7
Lens: Sony 50mm f1.8 OSS

It's been a wild week in Texas. ERCOT might have to refund 16 BILLION DOLLARS; billed in "error", the governor has gone over the edge and basically unleashed the mask-less hordes just in time for a Spring Break Covid-19 resurgence and the stock market is dropping because (?) bonds are selling off? Crazy times. 

Me? I'm just enjoying going through old files and separating the wheat (thimbles full) from the chaff (ton loads). 

The image above was taken on one of my many, many monotonous walks through downtown Austin. It's a beautifully maintained, early 1960's Chevrolet Corvette. Not a very practical car but a very striking one indeed. I have to say that the twin headlights and the front grill are wonderfully designed. And car aficionados always love a car with "hips." 

If I looked to photography for the analogous product it would probably be a Leica M4, in chrome finish, with a matching 35mm Summicron on the front. That seems just about right.

So happy it's Friday. I think. But what month is it? 

 

People always say of photographs, "It's all about the light." But I think you need to have an interesting subject for the light to fall upon.


 Noellia is an actor I met when an ad agency cast her for a print campaign for the Austin Chamber of Commerce. We had a fun time working together in the studio and it was a fun coincidence when I ran into her again, but this time at Zach Theatre where she was performing a kid's play called, "Suessical." (how topical). I hired her again to help illustrate lighting concepts in several of my books but we always had the most fun in impromptu photo shoots meant to help both of us build portfolios and goof off around Austin. 

After she moved to New York and started really advancing in her acting career I was sad to think we wouldn't have the opportunity to work together as often but I was wrong. Every time she returned to Austin to visit her family for holidays or vacations she'd text me in advance and see if we could get our schedules to match for at least part of a day. She'd arrive at a chosen location with an arm full of wardrobe and I'd have the camera of the day with me. 

This photograph was from the earlier days. I was using an interesting camera at the time and one of the few cameras I really wish I still had. It was the Sony Nex-7 which was one of the first to use an 24 megapixel, APS-C sensor. I used the little Sony 50mm f1.8 lens that was popular at the time. 

I remember the day well because of the stifling heat. We started shooting over by Barton Springs Pool and finally made our way under the little railroad bridge at the intersection of the hike and bike trail and Barton Spring Rd. We ended up there for the shade and relative cool. While we were shedding some of the heat load we found time to make a few more images. 

You photograph when you have the opportunity. 

3.04.2021

Black and White or Color? Which would you choose?



The image started out in color (just above) but I kept "seeing" it in black and white. I still can't decide which one works for me...

Photographed with a G9 and the 40-150mm f2.8 Olympus Pro lens. 


Added Friday afternoon: A fix by Mr. Judd:

Maybe, but I miss some of the surrounding colors. Good variation...

 

Several Landscapes of Iceland Posted After Reading About 17,000+ Earthquakes in One Week. And the Prediction That a Volcanic Eruption Might Occur!





 I am not a landscape photographer but I suppose I could play one on YouTube. I was reading the newspaper yesterday and came across an article about last week's dramatic increase of earthquakes in the Southern region of that county, not too far from Reykjavik which is where something like 90% of the country's population resides. 

Reading the article triggered a few memories from my trip there in 2018 and I went back into the galleries to see if there were any images I hadn't previously posted. I guess I just wanted to remember what it looked like then, better. 

I was happy with many of the images I made while there. I took only Panasonic G9 cameras and shot mostly with the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro lens. It was a nearly perfect travel combo. I'm not sure, in retrospect, that I would pack anything else. 

As if a global pandemic wasn't bad enough now we have a possible, gigantic, volcanic eruption to worry about. The last one took down a lot of air traffic in the Northern hemisphere and caused a lot of health and safety issues. I hope this one is colorful, dramatic but non-destructive. 

I guess it's time for me to buy an RV, outfit it with a bunch of computer crap and photography gear, and drive around taking landscapes.... Oh, who am I kidding? I'd rather watch grass grow. I guess it's a pursuit (landscape photography) you either love right off the bat or spend your life trying to understand why other people enjoy it so much.

I'm resolutely in the second camp. 

off topic: I've been following TheOnlinePhotographer for years and was reading about addiction, food and lifestyle stuff there this morning. Yes, it's bad to be addicted to stuff that negatively affects your life. So, I finished reading the blog (and the comments) and moved on to reading the Guardian. 


A quick summary is this: In countries where the majority of adults are overweight or obese the death rate is 10 TIMES!!!!!!!!!!! that of countries where the majority of adults are NOT overweight. This follows similar data from the World Health Organization from last April. TEN TIMES MORE LIKELY to DIE!!!!

I knew that obesity was a contributing factor or co-morbidity but TEN TIMES?!!!!! And that's the result even though countries like the U.S. and Italy have much better health care systems than almost any country the population of which hasn't succumbed to being......fat. 

I thought about this while I swam my 3200 yards early this morning. I thought about this when I ate my Greek yogurt, muesli, blueberries and walnuts at breakfast after my swim. I thought about this as I checked the battery life in the camera I'm bringing along for my noon walk through town. I thought about the article long and hard. Have we, as a culture, come to the point where we're willing to engage in so much bad eating and absolute disinterest in exercise that we're okay with setting ourselves up for a much earlier death? And a much less rewarding and more painful old age?  Even when we know better? 

None of the information about diet and exercise is new (although it seems like people re-discover it over and over again!) or ground breaking. It's just an application of good dietary ideas mixed with discipline; the same as it has always been. Swim, run, walk and don't eat like someone from Mississipi. Sorry to anyone from Mississippi but I'm going by national statistics....

I looked at the Texas qualifications for being in one of the first groups to be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine (after first responders, doctors and nurses) and in addition to qualifying if one is obese, has diabetes, heart disease, etc. you can also skip the line (metaphorically) if you are a smoker. That's right, a new fringe benefit of smoking cigarettes is now a preferred spot in the vaccine queue. I almost gave up hope altogether when I read that. 

The more bad habits you willingly embrace, it seems, the more preferential treatment you receive. What the hell kind of message is that?

Rant over. Gone outside to do something (anything) other than sit in a chair all day while eating stuff I don't need. Hope the same for you. 

3.03.2021

I was filing photographs into folders by projects and I came across this. It was part of a model test to choose someone to work with on my LED book.

 


I needed a model to help me illustrate various lighting techniques for my fifth book, LED Lighting. I did a little casting call and Jana got in touch. We set up a test shoot making photos in the street and my favorite coffee shops. We scheduled the test for a Saturday afternoon and Jana, having never met me before, and being smart, brought along a friend to chaperone. We all ended up having a great time that day and, in the weeks following, I made lots of lovely images of Jana for the book. 

Testing was a thing back then. Maybe it still is. Maybe it will be again. 

I was shooting with a Canon 5D Mk2 at the time and almost all of our images that day were done with the 100mm f2.0 Canon lens. The fit and finish on the lens was nothing to write home about; a lot of plastic and a construction that felt....loose. But the image quality of the lens was right up my alley = sharp enough but not too sharp. 

Everything I shot that day was as a raw file so I'm sure this test image started life in color but I kept seeing it (in my mind) in black and  white.  It's fun to look at older work as it reminds you that maybe, at one point, you actually had mastered the rudiments of both photography and also portraiture. 

Last time I heard from Jana she was on her way to becoming a very good photographer. When I first met her she was a communications/advertising major. She was a first rate talent, for sure. 



Photograph of B. Back when we knew how to focus by hand... & How to get back to work.

 


Austin is springing back into action and was ramping up even before our governor's rescinding of the statewide mask mandate. We've been hit here by a mini-wave of requests for bids and I'm spending some time trying to decide exactly how I'd like to respond. 

By the middle of next week I should have my second dose of vaccine and a couple of weeks after that I should be reasonably safe, or at least fairly assured that I won't drop dead if I do catch Covid-19. But business ethics go far beyond whether or not the owner of the business will be safe. We have to think of the impact on family, on our clients and on the people who support our businesses; such as make-up artists and assistants. Being out and around also means we'll need to rely on front line workers for coffee and food when on locations, and every additional exposure could potentially up the virus load for each of them. 

Until everyone in our family circle is vaccinated I'm not comfortable having people in the house. and since we use the living room, kitchen and bathrooms for clients during longer shoots in the studio I'll be using rental spaces in the interim. This means that most of the photographic jobs I accept will either be on location or in rented studio spaces. Precision Camera has a nice, large rental space so I'll start investigating that. 

Most of the people who have come to the studio to be photographed recently are sent over from our major medical practice clients. Nearly all of them are doctors or nurses and all have been completely vaccinated. We'll continue to serve them in the space. Most of their appointments are for half hour time slots so the impact on the family is negligible. 

Moving forward I'll negotiate with clients and my support teams to keep following CDC guidelines rather than relying on the insane proclamations of our psychopathic governor. That means always wearing a face mask (even if you've been vaccinated) and practicing social distancing. We'll still have hand sanitizer everywhere. If we learned anything in the past month it's that the machinations of a far right wing government can never, ever be relied on for one's personal safety!

It's early for this but here's the lesson I learned from buying a Leica SL2: The Panasonic S1 series is remarkably good and consistent. It's fun to have the Leica to play with, and the files are really great, but unless one wants to go "all in" and buy a bunch of Leica prime lenses there's really no advantage at all to just owning the camera. It's pretty. Guys over 50 always comment on it. But when it comes right down to evaluating images taken with both the S1R and the SL2 the differences are negligible to non-existent. Sure, there are differences in the choices each company made as far as Jpeg rendering but in raw? Nothing that the S1R can't emulate, and vice versa. 

The differences in video have yet to be fully uncovered. I'll keep you posted.

I'm a slow learner but I can afford to make a few missteps. 

And that's my take.


3.02.2021

wow. The Governor of Texas just lifted our mask mandate and signaled that ALL Texas businesses could go back to 100%. Wise Steward? Or CRAZY LIKE A PSYCHOPATH????


 Join us as Texas actively participates in another round of Darwinian Roulette. 

Traffic in Austin got crazier today. So did our ruling government. Can't wait to get that second dose of Moderna....... next week?

Up for some excitement? Come visit our bars. They'll welcome you with open arms...


3.01.2021

Monday morning. Just checking the roadmap ahead.


Fadya.

I keep reading about the dwindling numbers of camera sales, year by year. Compared to 2010 camera sales in 2020 were down by over 90%. It makes me stop and think about the future of the business of photography (not the hobby!). We hear over and over again that the figures are misleading since they don't include the number of iPhones and other camera-centric smart phones get sold each year. And that's something I do agree with. There are certainly no fewer people taking photographs and, compared to the film days I'd say the difference in quantity of photos per capita in most societies is now off the charts. 

It's interesting to see how photographs get used these days. One could make the argument that the use of photos hasn't changed much but that's not true at all. Yes, there are still glossy magazines being published and sold but their circulations have shrunk and the use of photographs is neither as extensive or as adventurous as it was in the past. Magazines are more an adjunct to the content that's already on websites. The printed materials serve as a feeder or teaser to the bulk of the creative content which is firmly planted on the web. 

With the march toward video everything static print loses it's primacy because, well, the magazines can't do moving pictures. They can't change content at the drop of a hat (do people still have hats?). They have sunk costs in paper, ink and physical transportation, none of which impacts web content. Even on photo centric websites there is an inexorable march toward more and more video content. Just look at Digital Photo Review; five years ago it was surprising to see any video at all on their site. Now, they have over 1200 individual videos on YouTube and the number is growing quickly.

The flip side of the move away from print and to web imaging is that there are more venues to enjoy online than ever before. Some are actually pretty good. 

While the future is always much harder to predict than the past I'm of the belief right now that we'll see a schism in the visual arts universe. All the topical content will continue to head to the web but we're going to see a resurgence in traditional, physical,  gallery and print oriented work by artists. By the people who make stuff for the long haul; not just for a few hours of "like" harvesting on the usual sites. 

This belief is fostered by the observational evidence that shows me, once again, that people are irrepressibly social and no matter how much they are told not to gather they continue to gather. There is so much pent up demand for human contact, socialization, and physically shared experiences that I think we'll see a gallery explosion that coincides with  (and is enabled by) a majority of people in each country being vaccinated against Covid-19. Especially in the demographics that value the experience of shared art.

I'm a great believer in diffusion intuition. And by that I mean that we spend our time enmeshed in a culture and even if we don't have facts and direct observations to cite we absorb the zeitgeist of the time through some communal, and shared, thought process. A commonality of the momentum of desire which we come to understand emotionally long before we can tag it rationally. 

Recently, as I walk in the city and observe the people shopping, meeting for dinner and drinks at outside venues, and even traipse through museums (while masked), I've also started to feel the overwhelming desire to make art that I can share via big prints. I'm asking people if they would feel comfortable coming into the studio again once I get the second dose of vaccine and wait the requisite number of days to manifest practical immunity. The responses are overwhelming. People want, badly, to reconnect, as long as it's face to face and not over a Zoom call. 

My thoughts these days go back to various gallery print shows I've had at different times in my career and how much more poignant and impactful the work was for the audiences. How much the event of an opening solidified my exposure and connection with potential clients and also, on the other side, with potential subjects. 

I know that I'm not alone in my thoughts about this. I hear it from many people with cameras and a passion for the art of photography all the time. 

I'm now sourcing printers who can print very large. I'm preparing to shoot more and more with my highest resolution cameras to take advantage their efficacy for larger print sizes, and I'm working diligently on the more exacting post production of the small amount of work I can do right now. It all feels like momentum in a certain direction. 

For every action (the lockdowns, the restrictions, the isolation) there is an equal and opposite reaction. Yes, we are patient enough to wait till things are safe(r) but at some point the reaction will be concentrated and powerful and we'll once again revert back to our basic need to be out in society, to be seen, to see people and to truly experience their work. Human nature rarely changes for long. 

Renae.

Work notes. It was a prodigious task but I cleaned the studio this weekend and sorted all the mess that had been piling up. I can once again set up a background and walk far enough back from it to make portraits in my style. I've been practicing with my long suffering family so that I feel comfortable working with the Leica SL2 and the Lumix S1R in a square format, in black and white, and with a selection of longer than average lenses. It was an exercise in overcoming entropy. Mostly emotional entropy connected with the restrictions of the moment. 

We've cleaned up everything from the winter storm that marched through Texas. I've stopped tracking sand indoors from the sidewalks and walkways around the house. For those who were worried, our electric bill for the month was about $65. Groceries are back in stock everywhere around our neighborhood. We've got ready access to everything from fresh salmon to fresh blueberries.

As things return to normal there's a tendency to want everything to return to normal. Counting the days till I once again meet with the Moderna vaccine. Probably the middle of next week. It's progress and we are finally starting to feel the progress more viscerally. And that can only help our practice of making portraits. 

No longer driven by the $$$, now driven by the desire to create.

Currently reading two books: How to Train a Wild Elephant and The Intelligent Investor.

Both, in their own way, are very beneficial. 


 

2.28.2021

I'm a sucker for new lenses but sometimes I come across images from unappreciated lenses which make me stop and wonder why I keep looking. Here's one...

 

An Actor from Zach Theatre. On Halloween 2019.

In October 2019 I was still halfway into one system and on the way out with another system. I'd been shooting with Fuji XH-1 cameras, and some of their (optically) really good lenses but the Panasonic S1 system caught my attention and just seemed to make so much sense. 

I started out with one S1 camera and the 24-105mm f4.0 zoom and on my first week out with the new camera I shot the image above, hand-held and in low, mixed light, with the lens wide open. A few days later I was at the Day of the Dead celebration, downtown, and I shot a bunch more images that I liked right way. In fact, there were dozens and dozens of keepers. I wrote a blog and showed a bunch of the images here: D.O.T.D.

The upshot of these two sessions was my wholesale abandonment of one system and my embrace of the new system (which I should note is still my primary photography and video system with nothing new on the horizon). 

I bought a number of amazing lenses, probably motivated by the "idea" that an "all in one" zoom lens like the 24-105mm couldn't possibly be as good as, say, a Sigma prime Art lens. But as I look back through everything I've shot I have to say that the zoom is just perfect. On almost every level. Just perfect. 

If I could go back to early October 2019 in the VSL time machine I'd convince my younger self to just buy the 24-105 and the 70-200mm f4.0 (which is also superb) and then I would snatch the credit cards right out of my past self's hands and declare a buying embargo for either five years or until such a time as one of the lenses experienced a catastrophic failure. They are both that good. 

If I were to recommend a "system" to an aspiring professional on a limited budget is would be to just buy the 24-105mm lens and an S1 body and then add to that inventory only as needed and when the work paid enough to cover the additional costs. 

I recently bought a Leica SL2 and have been using it as much as possible so I can become familiar with it. I have an embarrassing admission to make. Embarrassing since I spent $6000 on the Leica.... But at this point in time I still like shooting with the S1 a bit better. Might be a case of being more confident with a camera one is most familiar with but...there it is. 

Heading out the door to walk and think about all this. After having written of my high regard for the 24-105mm lens you'd think it's a "no brainer" that I would take that lens along with me but---no. I'm walking out the door with the 70mm Art series macro and the S1. Trying to get comfortable with that lens right now. Later on I'll slip the 24-105mm onto the SL2 and see if I can learn to love the camera through my familiarity and respect for a great lens. All conjecture at this point.