Going backwards. Or, the epiphany I had while out for a walk in the blazing heat. Or, how to rationalize buying a new Hasselblad...

This is one of the very first medium format images I ever shot.  

It was shot with a Yashica Mat 124G which was the desirable cheapy MF camera of the 1970's.  I shot this in late 1979 at my place on Longview, near the UT campus.  It was done on Kodak Panatomic X film (ISO 32) using a Novatron 150 watt second pack with one head aimed thru a shoot thru umbrella.  I only owned one head at the time so that's how I shot it.  (Was Zack Arias even born back then???).

I hand developed the film at the Ark Cooperative darkroom and eventually printed it on Ilford Ilfobrom double weight paper.  This was before the Bass brothers tried to corner the silver market so a box of 8x10 double weight fiber paper, 100 sheets was about $6.95.  I scrimped and saved to buy it.  Texas was a poor state back then and my finances were precarious.  I was so in love with Belinda that any photograph I took seemed incredible to me then.  We dated for five years, spent lots of time enjoying Austin and places like the Armadillo World Headquarters  (saw the Talking Heads open their for Devo one night.....) and eventually decided to get married. But that's a whole other story.  This photo represents our first year together.  She abandoned teaching for studio arts and I abandoned electrical engineering to be a writer.....


Portrait Professional. A user report. From the frigid wastelands of my studio cave...

 You've probably guessed that it's extremely rare for me to talk about software on this blog.  It's not because I don't use software in my photography business but I always considered myself a "purist",  unsullied by the "phony" effects of HDR software or any of the other canned effects that I see all over the web.  Yep.  I always considered myself a basic PhotoShop warrior with the credo that, "if it couldn't be done in PhotoShop you really shouldn't be doing it....

But lately I've wavered.  My friend at atmtx keeps doing HDR stuff that I actually like.  You can see it here:  the guy that does good, mostly subtle HDR.  We had lunch yesterday and I'm kinda blown away that he doesn't even use PhotoShop but does his magic with a combination of Apple's Aperture and Photomatix.

So, I was sitting in front of my computer one day, contemplating a virtual stack of portraits that I needed to retouch/enhance and dreading the time consuming method I'd come to after years of just hacking away with clone tools and various adaptations of layers and gaussian blur when I came across an ad for a piece of software called, Portrait Professional.  And it was aimed at exactly what I was working on.  I mean exactly what I was working on.  I downloaded a trial and twenty minutes later I was back to download the full deal, credit card sizzling hot in my hand.

In a nutshell the program offers you all the stuff a seasoned professional retoucher would bring to a basic portrait retouching job, organized in a straightforward way, with tons of individual controls.  I used the basic tools for the job at hand and estimate that I did the project in less  than a third of the time I would have done it in with my previous, antiquated workflow, and more importantly, I did a much, much better job than I would have previously done.  I just had to kill and bury that 20th century purist who had always (subconsciously??) held portrait retoucing in low regard.  He's gone now.  It's a new century and I'm all about making portraits that my clients love.  If I want to do "Art" I'll do in on my own time and on my own dime.  This is a tool for taking a conventional business headshot or ad shot and cleaning up skin tone, remapping some features and generally flattering the hell out of your sitter without tipping your hand too badly.  Now, don't get me wrong.  You can go all extreme and dangerous with the program and turn out Barbie Doll skin and wacky space alien features but you can also use the power of the program with a bit of restraint.

Once you open the program and select an image you'll see a "before" and a "working" image side by side on your monitor.  The program leads you thru the process of "marking" the outside point of each eyes, zooms you in to fine tune your selection of eye and eye brow and then sends you along to do the same kind of quick marking of lips and nose and the general area and shape of the face.  I assume the program uses this information to figure out what is skin and what everything else is.  You also select whether you are working a male or female face and even whether or not you are working on a child's face.  Once you've done all this (two minutes?) you push the space bar and the program does its automated retouching and then opens a brilliantly conceived and laid out interface that allows you to go into dozens of parameters and change settings to your heart's desire.  Finally, when you've done everything you want and you've watched the changes, you push the spacebar again and the program finishes out your creation and saves it.

I'm cheap, I bought the basic program.  It'll work with Jpegs or Tiffs and it works as a stand alone program.  If I need to clone something or mess with a background the image has to go into PS.  But you can buy more complete versions that allow you to use it as a PS plug-in and even in 64 bit.  I didn't realize how much I would enjoy working with the program and how much easier it's making my professional life or I would have gone straight to the best/coolest implementation.  I hope they allow me to upgrade.

I'm a curmudgeon at times but once you beat me over the head with the time savings of something and the fact that the program keeps me organized and better able to turn out a great enhanced/retouched image that is perhaps better than my patience and skill previously permitted, I'll jump every time!

Check it out and see what you think.  If you go to their site there's a free trial:  http://www.portraitprofessional.com/?gclid=CKmjkqyRuaoCFQ0S2godKgfGMw  The company is Anthropics Technology.  And now I'm curious about what else they may have to make my life easier.

Final Note:  It's not particularly fair or revealing to use Jana (above images) as a before and after because she has such beautiful features and photographs so well.  I thought about using someone plain until I realize that I make it a habit of never photographing anyone who isn't gorgeous......


I have a lot of cameras. Why do I keep coming back to the Olympus ones?

Of course I have egg on my face about the Olympus XZ-1 and my initial perspective of letting ergonomics define everything.  Turns out I just needed to retrain my left hand and part of my brain.  Now I seem to carry it everywhere because, even with the EVF-2 on it, it's light as a feather and the quality of the files is very, very good.  I like the metering and I like the colors.  Noise?  Sure.  Why not. But not enough at 100, 200 or 400 to even register to me.  Print them out and 800 works as well.  Higher than that?  Well, I had a $5,000 Nikon D2x that didn't look any better over 400 ISO, so I don't worry about it much.  I like that it goes wide and I like that it's got a fast aperture.  Is it worlds better than the Canon or Panasonic products.  Not in its native form but when you add the finder it makes it worlds better.  Say what you will about the extra expense, or the way the finder sits on top of the camera like a goiter, but that finder is magical and if you haven't actually looked through one and seen how much fun it makes the cameras it is attached to you should do that before you comment.  Otherwise I'm just trying to describe how good steak tastes to someone who's been trapped and held captive by radical vegans since birth.


A regular job that was fun and straightforward. Traditional photography lives.

You've read about the Cows and you've read about next generation transportation so I thought we'd throttle back a little bit and look at a job that may seem less glamorous and cutting edge but which, in fact, takes just as much photographic skill and business expertise.  Shooting products.  There's an Austin based company called, Salient Systems and they are a leading provider of IP video surveillance software, video management systems with IP video servers, and hybrid CCTV software.  Their stuff comes in rack mountable enclosures and they call from time to time and ask me to photograph new products.  I do so happily.