What's in a lens?

In an article I wrote several weeks ago I talked about 85mm focal lengths.   I love this focal length.  Just look what it does for the background.  I've owned lenses in this range from most camera systems and I'm going to let you in on a secret.  But first the list:  I've owned the Canon 1.1.2 (version one), the Canon 85mm 1.8 FD,  The Nikon AIS versions of the f2, the f1.4 and the f1.8,  Both versions of the Nikon AF 85's.  The Zeiss 85 2.0 for Contax and even the 80mm Summilux for Leica R.  Now I own the Canon AF 1.8.  I've shot tons of stuff with all these and there's only one that's just "good".  The rest are astoundingly good, regardless of brand or hype.  The one "only good" lens was the old, manual focus Nikon 85 f2.  And people snapped them up in the past because, wide open, they took the hard edge off portraits of women.

I'd feel comfortable using any of them.  I also chuckle when I read the DXO tests or the other definitive tests and I see that they've cautioned people about the mediocre performance wide open.  Maybe in the supercomputer but not on the prints.

People have just kinda gone nuts in the digital age.  It's sharpness at any cost, for any use.  Well that's okay.  All the lenses above will do wide open sharpness just fine.  But then we always have to go back and smooth out the skin tone.  One step forward..........

Program Note:  Just a reminder that I'm doing a book signing at Precision Camera in Austin, Texas this Saturday from noon to 2 pm.  Well be talking photography, maybe looking at prints, definitely drinking hot beverages and so forth.  I hope to see you there if you live in the area.

A strategy for shooting with a new talent.

I'm not much of a team player.  My friends would say that's an understatement by a long measure.  But I do love the collaboration with a great photo subject.  With a crew or a workshop or even with a tag along boyfriend you have this dynamic that subliminally pushes you to keep things ticking along.  Stay on schedule.  Stick to the plan.  But when you go out shooting with one person you can guage each other.  If you have any sort of rapport you can see when your talent's enthusiasm is wavering.  You can tell when it's time for  change of venue or a change of pace. But I think the important thing, when you take someone out to shoot in the streets, is to make sure you are both on the same pages as to what it is you both want to accomplish.  To have an "emotional theme" for the images.

In a typical portrait shoot I can't stand to have my subject's eyes off camera.  Looks weird to me.  But in the shoot we did on Sunday I was working with a narrative that went something like this.  Boy moves to new town for job.  Girlfriend decides to come for a visit and is having a hard time hunting him down.  She is lonely, a bit lost and looking around every corner in anticipation.  

We talked about the feel in our pre-shooting e-mails and again on the shooting day.  I call it a shooting day but I can't imagine a more relaxed and laid back couple of hours.  We had locations in mind (remember?  I walk this area about once a week...) and we just went with the flow.  It's nice to shoot for yourself,  or more correctly to shoot for each other.  No crew, no make up, no hair person.  No assistant holding stuff up that you really don't need but thought you wanted.  

What's the old Elvis Costello Lyric about the "lip stain on the coffee cup that you poured but didn't drink.  But at least you thought you wanted it that's more than I can say for me..."?   That's how I would feel if I were one of my assistants......  Sometimes vital.  Sometimes necessary.  Like a flu shot.

And, of course, in the last frame he walks through the door......

Go shoot downtown.  It's fun.

Here's one that's been post processed in Lightroom 3:

No cameras were hurt in the shooting of this series.  Canon 5dmk2 and 85mm 1.8 for everything.

TYR Socket Rockets Eclipse Racing Goggle (Metallic Steel)