Who's a nerd? I am! I am! Who's got the first PowerPC chip photo?

Back before the bulk of the Twitter-Babies who now cruise the hallowed halls of social media were even toilet trained and before they entered the workforce with a swagger that said, "We basically invented high tech," we still had computers and we still had something that resembled the internet.  And we used it to do stuff.  Microprocessors got invented.  And improved.  Usenets spread info, sans virus or Viagra advertising.  And back then some American companies even came together for a while to improve the construction and design methodologies of chip making (not Taco Cabana).  If I remember correctly the first PowerPC processor was code-named Somerset and came from a partnership between Motorola, IBM and Apple.  That was back in the Camelot years of U.S. dominance in almost all things tech-y.

The whole design process was based around reduced instruction set computing (RISC) and it worked out pretty well for a while.  Well enough for me at least because I got to photograph a lot of the product they put out.  This was well before digital.

The above device was glued down to a white plexiglas plane, rear lit with blue gels and then the areas we wanted to go black where masked off.  I used some fiber optics piping to guide white light onto the chip surface from a halogen source.  The shot was done in two exposures,  one for the chip and the front light, the other for the background blue glow.

The device was rather small and we wanted a big transparency so I used an Apo-Symmar 210mm lens on the front of a Sinar 4x5 view camera.  The camera was specially rigged with a Hassleblad 2001 FC body, prism finder and A12 back.  This allowed me to take advantage of big bellows extensions for magnification,  image placement and management using the camera movements, all the while being able to view the image directly in the finder.  Every component was locked in place and we used the Shutter in the camera to control overall exposure.

We bracketed through one roll of 120 professional color transparency film, left everything set up until the film came back from the lab and then sent the selected frame out for a drum scan.  The image was used everywhere the big three went.  Including a 12 by 12 foot version for stage shows.

Might be a bit easier to shoot now but it really didn't seem like a big technical deal back them.  Just had to make sure all the planes were planar and all movement was cancelled.  Don't want any jiggle between your two exposures.

I found the above image in a drawer on a 5x7 inch piece of color print paper.  They used to send them out by the hundreds during the first product launch.  Nice to remember how we did stuff old school.  I'm still pretty proficient with products.  I don't like shooting them as much as shooting gorgeous models but, really, who would?

I'd link to a lot of the product I talk about above but.......but "that train has sailed." (quote: Austin Powers).

On a random note:  I was so proud of the new Hasselblad system I bought and was using on an assignment at Motorola.  One day I was monologuing about how cool and costly it was.  He obviously was tired of my BS and wanted to get back to work.  He said, "That's a really cool $5,000 camera.  Now will you stop leaning against my million dollar electron scanning microscope?"  Puts the toys in some sort of perspective.

Intense Theater is different than intense movies. You're actually in the same room with the intensity..

 I am wholly unqualified to review live theater.  I've seen a lot and I can tell good craft from bad but I'm shallow when it comes to much of the subtlety of scriptwriting and the nuance of great direction.  Last night I photographed the dress rehearsal for The Book of Grace,  the play by Suzan Lori-Parks.  The one thing I can comment on is the difference between two dimensional entertainment, like movies and TV,  and intimate, live theater.  With live theater when the action gets intense you are pretty much in the middle of it.  You feel the emotions projected by the actors in a much more direct way.  The Book of Grace had me on the very edge of my seat for the first 2/3rds of the performance.  By the last third I was  making plans to duck and cover right up to the end.  Amazingly powerful theater.
I went into the performance with several cameras and two primary lenses.  I started out shooting with the Canon 5Dmk2 and the Zeiss 85.  Then I switched to the 50mm Zeiss on the 5Dmk2 and put the 85mm on the Canon 1Dmk2n, just for safe keeping.  Big mistake.  The first time I pulled the 1D+85 combo to my eye and clicked I was hooked and shot most of the evening with that combo.  Why?  Great focusing acuity,  lightening fast system response and the perfect ergonomics.

The play was staged in the round in the smaller theater at Zach.  It's always tough and kinetic to shoot theater in the round.  Unless you've been in multiple rehearsals you don't know where to actors are going to end up or just where you need to be to get a good two person grouping.

You are constantly trying to balance your need to be discreet and invisible to the actors with your need to get the images you know the marketing people need to sell the show.  Of course I dress in dark colors, try not to move during emotionally charged scenes, and stay low.  As cameras have evolved I've found my original way of shooting theater to still be the most compelling.  That's manual focus and manual exposure.

There are no "do overs" for the photographer during the dress rehearsal.  This is the last chance the cast will have to go straight through the performance before they have an audience.  If I don't get what I want it's just too bad.

The only issue I have with shooting performances these days is with the color filtering of the light sources.  And this will be a point of contention between lighting designers who are moulding the light to drive an emotional context and photographers who are (wrongly) trying for neutral accuracy.  At some point you have to accept the lighting as it is and move on.  A strongly gelled light will defy any attempt to bring the scene back to neutral color, no matter how good your PhotoShop skills are.  The light is part of the artistic collaboration of theater.  It's part of what I'm there to document.

Shooting dress rehearsals is incredibly good for practicing your integrative photography skills.  You have to think on your feet, react, make fast decisions, understand the value of exposure compromises and anticipate action and blocking.  And, you'll be doing this in the dark since the house lights are gone and all the light is on the stage.  That means you better know how to use your camera blindfolded.  

Just takes a little practice.  Better get started now.


All we can really do is show other people how we see the world.

I am always amazed at the workshop experience.  I start out being baffled that people think there's some secret to be learned.  By the end of the day I end up learning much more about myself and my relationship with photography.  My constant conclusion?  I should spend more time shooting.

Someone asked me, recently, what I would do with my time if I no longer had to work to support myself and my family.  For a second or so I thought about our whole social construct.  Of course, we could sell our house and a lot of my toys and probably live fine on what we've already saved.  But there's that striving gene.  The "gotta put the boy thru school" ethos.  That "need new ________ mantra."  But after a few moments lost in the delirium of just dropping out I respond, from the heart,  I would basically do just what I do right now.  Make photographs that show people my happy and optimistic view of the world around me.
I guess I would swim more.  But wouldn't we all swim more  if we had more free time?  No?  I'm shocked and confused.

Maybe I'd take more road trips to Balmorhea Springs and.........

Spend more time really looking at the little fish on the bottom of the pool.....

Or watching beautiful sunsets.

Or going to more plays and performances....but wait, I'm already go to 28,000 times more than the average American....

I guess I could also learn what's on all the cable channels.  But probably not, since we don't subscribe to cable and wouldn't start if I stopped raking in the fortune that commercial photographers all make.

I'd have more time to venture out and meet beautiful people and ask them to sit for me so I could work on my skills as a portrait photographer.  That's a relentless goal anyway.

And you know that, if I didn't have to work,  I'd become a fixture at the Paris fashion shows.  Just, you know, to keep my runway chops in shape.  Might be easier now, in the days of AF and digital.  But where's the challenge in that?

But really,  whether we call it work or a hobby isn't photography just an excuse to look more closely and relentlessly at the people and things around us?  Maybe it helps us understand something.  Or maybe it just lets us play with patterns in the chaos.

Kind of a silly blog post but I've spent time today just looking at old photographs and reconciling the ways in which they inform what I do right now.  I'm about to make a big shift in the way I work.  Away from the traditional business construct and into areas that are self directed.  More creative.  More multi-disciplinary.  And when you read the blog you're along for part of the ride.

More books.  But self directed books.  So I don't have to feel guilty if they don't sell.  More film projects that make televisions worth having.  And more intersections with other artists.

The cool thing about being in a creative field is that whatever boundaries exist they are all self constructed.  And whatever you want to do you are free to do.  And that's a cool thing to realize.

The last image is just me shooting into a mirrored window at some giant, skyscraper high-rise with the Austin Music Hall reflected in the background.

When I finish typing this last paragraph I'm going to go pack a camera bag for this evening's dress rehearsal shoot of Suzan Lori-Park's play, The Book Of Grace.  I'm using the three Zeiss lenses.  It's a challenge to shoot manual focus lenses in an ever moving  production, in the round, under low lights but....that's what makes it fun!  And we all need to learn how to have more fun.

Totally off topic for you, perhaps. But not for me.

 Poor Ben.  Not a moment's rest.  I went to pick him up from swim practice this morning and I didn't like what I was seeing.  When swimming freestyle his hips were too low in the water,  his hand exchange was too rapid and he wasn't getting nearly the glide he should have gotten from each stroke.  To make matters even worse (for Ben) I didn't have any pressing deadlines today so after lunch and some downtime (and half an hour for Ben to read Emmett Hine's book on fitness swimming.  The all important chapter 4...) we went back to the pool to do a few drills and work on that pesky stroke.

Here's a tip for photographers and swimmers alike.  It's hard to work on pure technique while you are in the middle of a workout or in the middle of a shoot.  You default to what you know.  That's why it's important to walk around with a camera during leisure times and work on seeing and combining the seeing with the eye/hand/brain interfaces.  In swimming you go back to the pool, slow down the pace and work on one piece of your stroke at a time.

We worked on our "catch-up" drill this afternoon.  Swimming continues to evolve as we understand more and more about the physics of hydro dynamics.  We've learned that "longer boats" go faster in the water.  With one hand fully stretched out above your head you represent a longer boat.  If you exchange hands at shoulder level you've shortened "the boat" and now resemble more of a tug boat.  This slows you down almost immediately and isn't good for the streamline you are trying to maintain.  In the 1980's a Russian swimmer, Andrei Popov, changed the face of freestyle swimming by introducing what has become know, in the competitive swimming world, as "front quadrant swimming."  This technique takes full advantage of your streamlined glide and helps you maintain a lengthened body profile throughout the stroke.

The catch-up drill makes you keep one hand out in front of you while the other hand cycles through it's full stroke.  When the moving hand catches up with the front hand you then repeat the pattern with the other hand.  Once you practice the technique 10,000 times you'll find that you're swimming faster without expending nearly as much energy.

Ben and I worked on the catch up drill for a while, modified his head position and then worked on the cadence of his interchange for a bit.  He could definitely feel a difference in his stroke by the end of our practice session.  Tomorrow we'll put in a a little extra time over at Barton Springs.  Just for a change of perspective.  Should be just what a 15 year old wants to do on his summer vacation, right?
Austin's gem:  Barton Springs Pool.

It's important to take some interest in your kid.  Especially when it comes to swimming.

Back at Zach. Playing around with quasi-traditional lights and having a blast.

Sometimes I throw "hipster" caution to the wind, leave the battery powered flashes and massive LED panels at home, disregard available light and just muddle my way thru an assignment with a crate full of traditional studio flashes.  Oh my.  There go all of my "wanna-be cool" credentials.  It is possible to do work with "old fashioned" tools.  I proved it to myself yesterday evening.

Here's the way I decided to handle yesterday's assignment for ongoing client, Zachary Scott Theater.  We needed to do promo shots for an upcoming version of the musical play, Hairspray.  The play has already been cast but we didn't have sets and we're still weeks away from dress rehearsals.  Our brief was to shoot various actors against a white background.  We needed to shoot on location at the theater so we could take advantage of hair and make-up professionals in house, as well as having access to the full costume shop.  We were very limited on actual time with the actors because of rehearsal schedules and actors who were also in the final stages of rehearsal for the Suzan Lori-Parks play, The Book of Grace.

I packed up a white muslin background with stands, four regular light stands, two strobe systems and my cameras.  To light up the background I used two Profoto Acute heads running off a single Acute 600e pack, using standard zoom reflectors.  I plugged both heads into the "B" channel to reduce overall output power.  I like to shoot at f5.6 so I like to keep the photons a bit tame.

Just to the left of the camera I used one Elinchrom head with a 33 inch Varistar umbrella/softbox modifier as a main light and a second Elinchrom head with a 60 inch Softlighter 2 umbrella as a fill light just to the right of the camera.  I used an asymmetrical Ranger RX AS pack so their is always a 2:1 power distribution between main and fill.  The Ranger pack is capable of 1100 watt seconds per flash at full power but on a scale where 7.0 is full power I found myself working mostly around 4.2.  This ensured 1.5 second recycle times and more than enough charge in the battery to easily handle the 680 frames we ended up doing.

Lately I've been working with my bigger Canons and I felt that I was neglecting my APS-C cameras so I used the Canon 7D with the 24-105mm L lens.  The 7D snaps into focus quickly and it's very easy to program in specific focusing spots.  Since we had total control of power I was able to set the camera at ISO 200.  While the Canon 5Dmk2 might be better at ISO of 1600 and up it didn't matter in this set up and I gave the nod to the 7D for its ability to lock focus much quicker in dim lighting.

Speaking of dim light, we were working on a bare stage with only the ceiling mounted work lights for illumination.  I added a small, battery powered LED light down on the floor just to light up the front of the actors enough to take away any last struggles for the autofocus but also the stop down the irises of the actors a bit.  A smaller iris makes the eyes look more natural.  Why was this necessary?  Because the Elinchrom system I was using for the front lights is battery powered and the modeling lights automatically shut off after 15 seconds.  We shot a whole range of images with six different actors but these ladies were my favorites for the evening.

Once you have the lights set up and you've figured out the exposures you can get to the harder work which is the posing and expressions.  There aren't as many quantitative "how-to" books around about those subjects so you really have to work at it if you are as linear and logical as I tend to be. 

We set up at 5pm and we wrapped the whole shoot at 7pm.  I was back home in time for dinner.  I prepped the files this morning and turned my attention to other business.  It felt good to get another one under my belt.  This evening I get to shoot the last dress rehearsal for the Suzan Lori-Parks play.  I've been told the play is "intense."  My job is to translate and convey "intense" into images that will drive audiences to take a chance and see some real, dramatic theater.

Do I like all the stuff I get to shoot and watch at the theater?  Nope.  But I will say that every time I stretch and pay attention to something I didn't think I'd like I learn a lot.  And it's mostly about me.  And self knowledge is a valuable gift.

Hairspray will be a fun play.  The Book of Grace might actually make me think....

Thinking about buying a 17-55 EFS 2.8 for the 7D.  Anyone have experience with this optic?  Can you tell me what you think?


When language obscures thought.

I hate language that's too finnicky and overly precise.  I think a story told should be more exciting than accurate.  I think we wrap too much caveat and limits of liability into our descriptions and narratives.  But, by the same token I resent and despise the seemingly relentless desire of mass culture to abbreviate.  A particularly foul Brittish language tic is the abbreviation of University to "uni."  Like fingernails on a chalk board.  But the worst abbreviation I've come across in my field is "togs."  I guess it started as a "hash tag" on Twitter but it should be stamped out at every opportunity.  "Photogs" is no better but slightly more sensible.

Please,  when commenting on my blog, try to use actual words that have actual meaning.  No more "uni" and please, please, no more "togs."  It's not cute or clever.  It's just wrong.  University.  Photographer.

For the Biblically inclined I would reference the Tower of Babel.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could continue to understand each other while speaking exactly the same language?


The scariest part of being a photographer....

The scariest part of the race is waiting to get to the blocks.  

Without a doubt the scariest thing about being a photographer is putting together a portfolio.  There is always a self-inflicted monster conflict between what you'd "love" to put in the book and what you "think" will sell to potential clients.  Then there are the conflicting foibles of putting 20 of nearly the same image in the book versus putting in 20 completely different styles and subject matters in the pages of your portfolio.  Which brings up the whole issue of "how many images?" to put in a portfolio in the first place.  Followed by the "what size should they be?" question.

Maybe there's an easy set of answers but I've never found them.  Maybe that's because every art director or client is so different.  And the things they are looking for depend on what kind of projects they're working on at the moment.

Some of my friends took the plunge a few years ago (before civilization collapsed) and had large, custom books done.  These were done on big, lush papers and then bound by professional book binders into impressive, nearly overwhelming toures de forces that are so impressive.  Except.....they are finding out two years or so down the road that styles change, presentations change and favorite photographs change but custom made books don't change gracefully.  Here's the scenario:  You printed up 40 great, oversized images on unimaginably expensive inkjet paper.  You used the equivalent of several car payments worth of ink to get the images printed.  You spent $1500 or more having the collection artfully and permanently bound.  And then you went out and showed it to every potential client......good for you.  But the scenario continues.  You showed this impressive, museum quality piece just minutes before AIG hit the wall and Goldman Sachs walked off with everyones' money.  Now the market is recovering and you need to get some work.  And you want to show the dream book.  But most of your potential clients have already seen it.  Do you show it again and risk them thinking that you've been trapped in amber, or worse; unemployable, these last few years?  Or do you punt and show something else.

As a former CD I'd say the smart play is to put together a lesser book (lesser bobka?) and take it on the next round.  You've already shown the previous viewer that you can knock presentation out of the park.  Now you're trying to show them that you've been working, you are flexible, you have new stuff to show. Think of this round as "portfolio lite."  The real magic is to keep yourself in front of the buyers.

On to the idea of showing your portfolio on a iPad.  If you do a lot of video this makes perfect sense as you can put both stills and videos together on one asset and show them easily.  I think iPads are great for informal shows of photos and shows to people under 30.  For everything else I think large, well done prints are more impressive and show off your production skills.  It's easier to see faults at 12x18 and 16 by 20 inches and it's easier to be impressed by no faults at the same sizes.  If you live in San Francisco, Austin, New York and Boston you're not going to blow anyone away with your "awesome" grasp of new technology by walking in with a tablet.  At this point you'll just be at the end of a long line of people who got there to show off their new toys first.  Better be sure that what's on the screen is more impressive than the screen itself.  If you really want to blow away an art director  show them the portfolio on a tablet and then.....just give it to them.  But if you can afford to do that a few times a week then you're doing better than I am and don't need my advice.  Just don't confuse "new to me" with "new to you."  And don't make the mistake of thinking that a smaller (one quarter size) presentation is somehow more impressive than a full sized one.

I've done it every different way.  I used to hand tip fiber paper prints into beautiful, handmade Panodia books and take them around.  Clients loved the presentation but the books are still on my shelves with prints from the early 1990's and that market has flown.  In fact, if I showed them now I'd have to get into the big, ugly discussion that goes something like this:  "No, we don't have those cameras anymore. No, they don't make that film anymore.  Come to think of it they don't make that lovely printing paper anymore.  And no,  I no longer have a darkroom in which to do these kinds of things in...  And, no, I'm not sure why I'm showing them to you now."  Embarrassing to sell something you can no longer really do....

For a while we converted everything to 8x10 transparencies.  And that was pretty neat because they looked cool on a light box and we showed them loose so we could constantly change the mix.  But that got really expensive as custom labs everywhere stopped doing 8x10 dupe transparencies, stopped souping big E-6 film and......well,  you know the story.

So now I go back and forth between showing prints in boxes and showing prints in portfolio cases with clear plastic pages.  I love the idea of clients being able to handle each 16x20 print in a free form black box.  I hate the reality of having to keep making new prints to replace the ones crimped by young art directors who've never handled a print before.  I also sneezed on one.  That had to be replaced.  Quickly.

But the boxed prints get unorganized quickly and are cumbersome to clients used to turning pages in books.  So I go back to the anonymous black portfolio cases with enough 13 by 19 inch pages to hold 48 images.  I have everything printed a 12 by 18 inches and I keep the unbordered style constant.  Not as sexy as holding the prints in your hands but pretty efficient, easy to carry and easy to view.  And most important, easy to interchange.

Here are my secret weapons for putting together a portfolio and getting it in front of a client without ruining my self-esteem or scaring the hell out of myself.  First off, I've been systematically making five to ten prints (12 by 18) at the end of every job or project I do that I like or that has relevance to a large number of clients (or, if I'm being really venal, if I've photographed someone famous.)  I currently have three to four hundred 12 by 18 inch color prints in archival keeping boxes on the shelves of my office.  I can customize a 48 print showing in about and hour.  I added ten more prints this afternoon.  By not waiting till the last moment I never have to deal with:  1.  Oh dear God, the DVD is corrupt!!!!!  Where's the cleverly hidden back up file???  2.  Having to do a scad of post production and runs to the lab to get something together.  3.  Forgetting about those cool jobs you did last year.  Ordering prints in advance also spreads the cost out over time and gives you the chance to change your mind, show to show, without stress.

Second, while I might narrow down the selection I'll get together with Greg or Belinda or Mike and run my choices by them.  They are much more intertwined in day-to-day advertising and I trust their taste.  Probably more than I do mine.  If more than one of them says, "Take that one out."  Believe me, it's gone even if I had to wade thru acid to get the shot.  I try not to run the work by other photographers because they seem easily swayed by gimmicks and tough techniques.

Final weapon?  I arrange, at my first show to come back and show more work.  To do a second show.  And that's why I can't have a spectacular "take no prisoners" uber book.  I wouldn't have a good excuse to go back again.

Final advice for you if you are competing in my markets, here in Texas.  All that I've said above obviously doesn't apply to you.  The quality of your work will be self-evident.  Just put up a nice, flash website, sit back and wait for the assignments to come rolling in.  Really,  I'm sure you only need a website.  Really.  (sarcasm alert for the hard of humor...)


Kinda of getting paid but still asking for lots of people to work for free. Seems a bit mercenary to me.

Deep background:  Written after two assistants called me to talk about "offers" they'd received soliciting free labor.  The offers were from working photographers either doing personal projects or projects for which they would be paid or benefit from indirectly.

I keep seeing tweets and posts and other stuff wherein ostensibly working photographers are putting out the call to Attract/get free assistants.  They want people to stand around for a full day in the stinking hot sun to shoot second camera, video camera, behind the scenes camera or  to provide some other function in the service of the photographer's project.  The dodge is that they are justifying the "free" ask by claiming the process will be: fun, educational, a way to garner potential work experience/resume fodder or (the most disingenuous) a way to participate in an innovative social networking event.  The final argument might also be:  "Hey!  I'm not getting paid (directly) for this either!"

Let's break it down:  If a photographer with decades of experience is doing a project big enough that it requires multiple assistants (and even more so, anonymous assistants) he is doing it with the expectation that there will be a payoff of one kind or another, for him, down the road.  If it is true that he is not currently getting paid perhaps he will be willing to pay you by giving you a percentage of his take when, and if, the project does become profitable down the road.

For a project to be "fun" it would have to be challenging, entertaining, comfortable and leave you with good memories.  Perhaps you can't have all the things on my list but you should expect a combination of some of them.  It might be intriguing to learn how to hold a light stand in a brisk wind but I think the fun value might be more like......five minutes.  Not eight hours.  Will the volunteer opportunity be catered?  Or will you be expected to be delighted with a bottle of Ozarka water and an out of date PowerBar?

For a project to be a learning opportunity it would need to include time for you to observe the process, unencumbered by volunteer work.  And there would have to be something to learn.  Perhaps the lesson is: "How to take advantage of people who want to be in a creative occupation so badly that they'll work against their own enlightened self interest."

Ah.  The resume.  I started working as a full time professional photographer in 1988.  That's 24 solid years of good and bad experience.  In all that time I've never had a client request to see a resume.  A portfolio of my own work....yes.  A resume?  No.   I thought I might be an anomaly so I asked around.  Nope.  No other working photographer keeps a resume on tap.  Doesn't come up.

Oh goodness.  The chance to participate in a social networking experience!  I thought these only happened in Paris, Los Angeles and Tokyo (sarcasm served up piping hot...).  I heard  from a professional rep who went to a talk given by a photographer who has probably donated/thrown away/wasted/spent more time on social networking, tweeting and other forms of "Hi!  I'm here.  This is what I'm thinking about right now.  Look at this link!  Please remember me?!"  The rep asked the world famous social networker point blank:  "How many paying projects have you gotten from all the time you've spent doing this?"  The honest answer?  "TWO."

So, next time you are asked to do a job get a bit mercenary (take care of yourself first) and ask, "What's in this for me?"  If you want to ask a lofty question you could always try, "How will this project move our industry forward?"  And if you are totally pragmatic you could always ask, "What's in this for you?....and how do I get some of it."

Remember that the barriers to entry are about an inch high when it comes to technology and working with the photo gear.  Learning to do a one inch high hurdle shouldn't be a lot of leverage in exchange for a day of your valuable Spring season time.  The only other product of most creative products is the expression of creative vision.....but I can almost guarantee you that it won't be your vision in the project and few people have found a quick way to teach in depth creativity.  In other words....go into any volunteer project with your eyes open and an understanding of what everyone stands to gain.

You might find the weekend to be more enjoyable hanging with beautiful friends, taking fun images and relaxing around a pool.  I get being a volunteer for the Red Cross.  For Bob's Photo Hut Inc.?  Not so much.

85mm 1.4 Zeiss ZE Rocks for me.

It was a long, happy day yesterday.  I spent my morning and part of the early afternoon at St. Gabriel's School here in Austin taking photographs for their marketing and "look book."  I photographed young students with their older mentors, kids learning, drawing, playing, looking at Texas snakes and even playing under a giant colorful parachute.  It was a good job.  One that moved fast.  One that actually made good use of my ability to direct kids and teachers.  As soon as I wrapped that job I headed back to the world headquarters of the VisualScienceLab and headed into the top secret lab to download around 1500 raw files I'd shot.  I used three different cameras, including:  The Canon 5Dmk2, the Canon 60D and the Canon 1Dmk2N.  I used several Canon L zooms but my favorite lens of the morning was the Zeiss 85mm 1.4.  The images I shot with it seemed to have a sparkle and a snap that's more elusive to capture with the zooms.

So, after downloading the files and checking for any issues, and after recharging the batteries for all the cameras I got to packing for my next job, my service as the volunteer photographer for the mighty Rollingwood Waves swim team.  It was a hot day.  The meet started at 5pm.  I'd been trying to cover everything at previous meets and had been hauling around two 1D series cameras along with a 24-105mm L lens and a 70-200mm L lens.  I wanted to change up everything and in the process change my point of view for the rest of the afternoon.  To do that I committed to one lens and one camera body and headed to the pool.  I chose to work with the morning's winning combination:  The 1Dmk2n + Zeiss 85mm 1.4.  I have the 1Dmk2n fitted with a split image rangefinder screen that's optimized for manual focus and it works very, very well.  Especially in bright sun.

The pool area was packed.  There were 180+ swimmers on our team and over 200 swimmers on the Westwood Country Club team.  Add in three hundred or so parents and coaches and you have quite a big crowd.  Our pool has electronic timing and we tend to run a fast meet but even so it took nearly an hour and a half just to run thru the 25 and 50 yard freestyle events.  Heat after heat.  In the heat.
Instead of shooting the swimming action I spent the day photographing the kids.  And, in the process, remembered the things I love about the 85mm Zeiss lens.  It's great to work in close and to be able to drop backgrounds out with luscious, soft transitions.  When focused correctly on peoples' eyes there is a sparkle that gives images extra dimension.  The focal length on the 1D camera equals about a 113mm lens on a full frame 35mm camera so I can fill a frame with a person's head and not be right on top of them.  The Zeiss lens isn't necessarily sharper than the 85mm Canon lens I had been using but it seems cleaner and, for want of a better word, more "accurate" to the way the scenes look to my eyes.  But the snap and the sparkle is the thing.  I uploaded these files in a larger size than I usually do so you could click on them and see a much larger image. Note the detail in the boy's eyes above.  I may not be putting what I'm seeing in words very well but maybe the image will show you what I mean....

There's a distinct operational advantage to working with one lens and one body.  It's easier to get into a shooting rhythm because you start to anticipate, well before you bring the camera to your eye, what will be in the frame and how the background will most probably look.  That's a cool thing because you begin previsualizing how your shots might look instead of bringing a camera and zoom lens up to your eye and then zooming around hoping to find a workable composition.  I've always thought that the fewer choices I have to (or can) make the more powerful the photos.

 After my experiences last Sunday trying to photograph Suzan-Lori Parks in a dark rehearsal studio I was a bit nervous about my ability to quickly manually focus with autofocus based cameras.  I guess the morning's working session helped me get my focusing eye back in shape because there were very few missed in the afternoon's take.  I stayed at apertures around f2.8.  Sometimes playing with f2 and occasionally messing around with 3.5 but never stopping down past that.  If someone goes out of focus in the background then that's how the art was meant to be.  I know the Canon 5Dmk2 is supposed to have much better IQ than the three generations older 1Dmk2n but I like the way the older camera shortens the reaction time and fires with much less shutter or system lag.  And I am convinced that, for the most part, the inherent quality in both cameras still exceeds my abilities to extract it.  The 85mm lens gets me closer to my goal.

I'm happy with the images I got for the might Rollingwood Waves.  And I'm glad I was only carrying around one camera and one fixed lens.  The part of my brain that usually has to keep track of which zoom is on which body and which one would be best to shoot in a given situation got to take a rest.  And I found out just how much system resources that constant set of subroutines demands.  Freed of largely unnecessary decision making the rest of my brain could spend time analyzing the scenes in front of me and figuring out how to fit them into a fixed construct.  It was like working a with a reduced instruction set computation.  More a+b= photo than a convoluted equation with lots of variables and multiple correct answers.

Next weekend, at one of our saturday morning swim meets I'm going to bring along a 300 2.8 and shoot some video.  We'll see if that makes it into our end of the year slide show.  Big fun.  Cool water.