Ranch Weather. Ranch Lenses. Texas Girl.

Selena.  Zeiss 50mm Planar.  

It's been in the triple digit temperatures here in Austin for the last twelve days in a row.  It was 96(f) here last night at 10 pm.  And I don't know why but that always makes me think of west Texas ranches.  I remember driving out I-10 toward El Paso in some cranky old Buick and watching the wiggly heat waves shimmer up from the ribbon of black top up ahead on the horizon.  And whenever you got somewhere you got there thirsty.  Even though Selena and I did this shoot on a cool Spring day it has that feel.  And I think it's my brain putting together the long drives of my youth, done in the Summer months when school faded away with my memory of ranches owned by the family of friends.

I've shown some images of my shoot with Selena before but the soft focus shimmer off the road outside my studio at 10:30 in the morning put me back into that little niche of combined memory and I went back to my library and started to look for images that resonated.....

Selena.  Zeiss 50mm Planar.

I like and fear the Summer in Texas.  Seems that all the clients head out on vacation and the ones who don't wish they had and sit quietly in their offices staring out the window.  The heat slowing them down and slowing down the entire process of commerce.  I like the Summer because in the one hour of swim practice we go from cool breezes and the first glow of sun over the trees by the pool to full on sun and a warm set of rays caressing your back.  When I get out I'm ready for the day.  Summer means the kid is home from school and I can't be totally selfish.  I have to make concessions.  I have to drop him off places and pick him up.  If he's around the house I make sure he gets lunch.  When Belinda is working I spend more time walking the dog.

I fear that we'll never get rain to break a long drought.  My lawn is like fresh bread left too long in the toaster.  Getting crisper and crisper as the time drags on.  We're on voluntary water rationing and we take it seriously.  But I get out every evening and hand water the flowers and shrubs and I try to get some deep water to the trees because I'd hate to lose them.

I like that Summer makes everyone a bit more casual.  Shorts and flip flops are the norm.  Suits are gone.  Well, that's not totally true.  The state capitol was wall to wall lobbyist suits a few weeks ago.  All anonymous grey with bright red power ties...  But my friends, my people are in shorts and flip flops and lightweight ball caps.  Sunglasses become really important.   And I like that the heat wave gives me an excuse to try different Riesling wines.  I like the dry Rieslings, they're refreshing after a day of.....well....kicking around town trying hard to look productive.

Selena.  35mm Zeiss Lens.

I've done a good amount of work already this Summer and I guess another reason I dug up these images was to see what the Zeiss lenses look like.  When you are finishing an assignment you've been working on you've seen all the images too much in too short a time.  You're in and out of Lightroom and burning DVD's and all that and you really don't have time to just sit with the pictures and decide what it is you like and what it is that you don't like about them.

It seems like every job I've done recently, and especially the stuff I've shot for myself, I've been shooting with my little collection of Zeiss lenses.  And it's nice to go back and look at older stuff like this and compare it side by side with stuff I shot a few days ago.  I've also been looking at stuff I shot with Canon lenses and even Nikon stuff.  And I've come to the same conclusion I always do.....
Selena.  35mm Zeiss.

All the cameras we have at our disposal are very good these days and the difference between a Zeiss 85 and a Canon 85 and a Nikon 85 is like trying to define the difference between three good beers.  They may taste different but there's no good, better, best.  It's a matter of taste.  They all get the job done.  
Once I stop the lenses down to f4 or f5.6 they are, for all intents and my purposes, identical.  Even the slower, cheaper ones.  So much of what we buy is vanity.  Or self delusion.  Or the ubiquitous search for that talisman of optical power that may (in our dreams) confer some of its power to you or me.

Selena.  35mm Zeiss.

I really have come to understand that 90% of success is showing up.  The other 10% is asking for what you need.  That doesn't leave a lot of space for the influence of "great glass."

Selena.  35mm Zeiss.

Lenses trump cameras.  Lighting trumps lenses.  Gesture trumps lighting.  A good idea, well executed wins the hand.

Selena.  85mm Zeiss Planar.

Photographers as a group seem obsessed with whatever is next.  It could be the look of HDR.  It could be the anti-camera fashion of shooting everything with iPhones.  It can be prodigious post processing.  But in the end if the subject matter and the idea are boring your audience will soon discover that what you've done is create a costume for an idea that might be better savored without the embellishment.  Without the little paper umbrella.

Otherwise we'd have nothing but "manifesto" art.  And while that's great for MFA candidates to talk and write about it's about as satisfying staring into a funhouse mirror.  

If the subject and the idea are great you could probably make a good image with even.......a Samsung phone.  Ring, ring.  Your camera is calling.  You might want to answer that.


Danny Chatham said...

Excellent article,Superb photographs!

Mindless said...

I totally agree with your last paragraph! :) Although the quality can't be the same but I shouldn't say this to you... :D

I liked the blog and the mood of the pictures. :)

Sean Murphy said...

Mmmmm Beer Lenses... two of my favorite things, now together! Flavor is a good description, personality is one I have always used. Cameras, lenses, etc have personalities; no nonsense, delicate, creamy, prickly, powerful. with personalities there isn't a best or worst, you just know how much time you can spend with a specific one.


Anonymous said...

Hot girl. Great pix. Fun copy. Two thumbs skyward. Thanks.

Dennis Elam said...

Another great KT quote

Lenses trump cameras. Lighting trumps lenses. Gesture trumps lighting. A good idea, well executed wins the hand.

I will put this on my student blog www.rprofessorelam.typepad.com

Hopefully they will see the metaphor

neopavlik said...

Great post.

Been getting rid of some talismans that I don't use for things I will. Currently trying to ignore the siren call of the trendy ringflash.

John Krumm said...

Love the shot of Selena on the stairs, and love your quotable thoughts on lenses.

Frank Grygier said...

Your words help to define the line between the passion and the obsession I have for photography and temper the madness for the glass.

sey said...

"Photographers as a group seem obsessed with whatever is next. It could be the look of HDR. It could be the anti-camera fashion of shooting everything with iPhones. It can be prodigious post processing. But in the end if the subject matter and the idea are boring your audience will soon discover that what you've done is create a costume for an idea that might be better savored without the embellishment. Without the little paper umbrella."............Brilliant, this should be engraved on every piece of photographic equipment/software/literature!

Patrick Dodds said...

My favourite part? "The other 10% is asking for what you need." Perfectly put.

Dave Elfering Photography said...

Stephen Covey has a quote I like "begin with the end in mind". We who live and swim in the carp pond of phtographic wannabes often buy cameras or lenses because someone says they have 1.5 points higher on a bar chart. But we don't often question why it is we want that. We have no objective in mind other than analyzing camera data like a TSA agent on an airport scanner.

Side note: I too love the tactile engagement of nice manual focus lenses. There's something empowering about tweaking the image yourself. It's personal versus the industrial wham-bam process of auto-focus and software based eye detection, blink detection, etc.

Bold Photography said...

People look externally for improvement (equipment, etc), where in fact, they've been wearing the slippers the whole time...

Max Young said...

"Lenses trump cameras. Lighting trumps lenses. Gesture trumps lighting."

Profound yet simple (because profundity is always clothed in simplicity).

Thanks for writing this.

From Down Under, shivering in the winter cold!

Bill Beebe said...

Photo #2 (stairs looking down) looks like an album cover.

Stathis Tzouvaras said...

Wonderful photos !!

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