How to drive yourself crazy as a professional photographer.

This is an old 4x5 inch photo (transparency)  of chips on a wafer.
We used to do hundreds of these kinds of shots, day in and day out.
Now most everything is a CAD rendering.
That's okay with me, it was boring work.
I came across the film this afternoon and wondered what would happen
if I laid it down in the light path of the Epson V500 Scanner and
Scanned it. The scanner only does up to medium format.
This is what happens. And then it dawned on me that I could make a 
template and do two scans and put them together in PhotoShop.
A new way to scan and stitch some older, bigger film.

I've got a job booked this coming week that is four days long, very taxing, lots of different image requirements and very, very high profile in terms of being front and center with a CEO and a world class celebrity. I even got to select and hire a second photographer to cover all the stuff I couldn't schedule. The job is a conference for large corporation. There will be thousands of people attending from all over the world. The client needs coverage from the first meet and greet through the keynote address and even down into the breakout sessions and cool product unveilings. Lots of segments require some fast turnaround times.

You can imagine that the pressure is on but what's making me nuts is the equipment end of the equation. As most of you know I just bought a Sony a99 and since I like the files very much, and the camera is the best high ISO camera I've ever used (It's kind like the high ISO quality of a Nikon D700 but with twice as many pixels...) I want to make sure it's front and center in my camera bag. But I'm in the process of backfilling the Sony systems in a transition from a focus on cropped APS-C cameras to a new focus on the full frame camera.

My first realization was the I'd need a mid-range zoom for a lot of grip and grin stuff as well as the fast breaking celebrity meet and greet. I have a 16-50mm 2.8 lens that's very good but it's made for the APS-C cameras so I started the search for the right lens for the bigger camera. I played extensively with the Carl Zeiss CZ 24-70mm for the Sony and I was going to buy one until I came across a set of lens reviews by a guy named, Kurt Munger, who is a long time Sony expert and tester. He put the older Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 for Sony  up against the CZ in a very detailed review/test. The Tamron was superior for the kind of work I do and a much better value.  Both are f2.8 all the way through the focal range but the CZ is $1895 while the Tamron is......$499.  I bought a Tamron and spent hours testing it this afternoon and it's really very, very good.  The center sharpness at f4 and smaller stops is outrageous.  Better than the Carl Zeiss. And I'll need the money I saved by getting the cheaper lens because the new Sony a99 uses a different flash hot shoe configuration than all previous Sony digital cameras (except the Nex 6).  That means I can go into multi-adapter mode or I can bite the bullet and buy the new HVL F60 Sony flash which comes with the correct dedicated shoe.

When I found out that the HVL F60 has a powerful set of built-in LEDs which provide an alternative light source my decision was made and I kiss goodbye to another sturdy packet of money.  Many lattes. Now it remains to be seen whether Amazon really can get it here to me in Austin by end of day tomorrow... And whether I can read and understand the manual tomorrow night. I called the local dealer but Sony hasn't shipped them the new flash yet....

The long end of the equation is covered. I have the 70-200mm Sony G lens and it's wonderfully sharp even if it does weigh a ton and happens to be a carpal tunnel incident waiting to happen... It also works well on the back up a77 body and gives another 100mm of reach with the same basic resolution on that camera.

If I need to go wider than 28mm with the a99 I have the Sony 20mm 2.8 lens in the bag. I can also default to the Sigma 10-20 on the a77.  Or I can throw any of the APS-C lenses on the a99 and it will use them at the appropriate focal lengths but will only deliver 10 megapixels of resolution.  With many of the images it might be a workable solution but I think I'll stick to doing the wides on the a77 and sticking with a higher resolution standard throughout the shoot.

Of course, this all needs to fit into one camera bag which I will carry around with me all day, each day, for about ten hours at a whack. Oh yes, I also have to add a laptop to the baggage for one of the days for a fast breaking turn on some timely images.

But the biggest source of anxiety as regards the shoot is my irrational desire to shoot most of the show (not any of the long shots) with the two Sony Nex cameras. They are so small and elegant and everything I shoot with them seems to turn out to be sweeter than candy. So what I really want to do is go back and forth between two systems.

But packing is already getting nuts. I have to bring two speed lights with me. Not just because no professional should commit to a big job without appropriate back up but because one speed light has a shoe for one series of cameras while the other speed light has a different shoe for the other cameras. I'll have adapters that allow the flashes to cross over in each direction but I like to work with made for this camera type flashes and not have to depend on workarounds.

So, the bag already looks like this: Sony a77, Sony a99, six extra camera batteries (Thank you! Sony for making them all interchangeable). 70-200mm for stage shots, 28-75 2.8 for most grip and grins with  flash. A 16-50mm for back up coverage for grip and grins on the a77. Two big, heavy Sony flashes that cover the situation in either camera direction. Plenty of extra Eneloop batteries for said flashes. The 20mm for wide on the a99. The Sigma 10-20mm for ultra wide to wide everywhere but dedicated to the a77. Gobs of SD cards.

I may have to compromise and just take along one Nex with one cool lens for those times when I want to be, well, cool. But I'd like to take both of the Nexi, the two Sigmas and the 50mm 1.8 lens. I already know it's a dumb idea but I'm kind of stubborn.

I'll need to take along a tripod since there is always someone who will want the stage look and signage all shot, along with special lighting effects. Those shots usually require deep depth of field.  But I'll make sure it's an older one that I can leave backstage and not cry over if it runs away from home.

If I were a risk taker I'd just schlep along the a99, the 28-75mm, the 20mm and the 70-200mm. Toss in the new flash and the batteries and be done with it. Easy as pie.  But when I play for high $takes I tend to be conservative and cover the bases so that's not going to happen.

But these are the pitfalls we go through when changing systems, and then changing systems within systems.

When you add the details of scheduling and people management to the mix, as well as arranging for a dog sitter for the duration of the show, you can see that things just pile up. Then there's the famous Austin downtown parking. And the infamous rush hour traffic, amplified by an additional three or four thousand new visitors all heading for the same locus.

Oh, and some parts of the agenda are good with business casual wardrobe while several little segments will require coat and tie. Do I need to shine my shoes tonight? Wouldn't hurt.

All of this means that today and tomorrow are the test and charge days. All the batteries get topped off. The new flash gets used over and over again with the manual open on my desk. The camera settings get double checked and, over the course of the day tomorrow I am certain we'll have more than one phone-in conference to go over new and ever expanding details. Ah well, handling the stress is what we really get paid for. I'm looking forward to a fun and challenging job. Now if only I can settle on some camera choices...


  1. Goodness! Just reading that made me feel more anxious. Good Luck Kirk!

    1. And writing it made me anxious. But it helped me remember two more things that needed to get done before the job starts.

  2. Reading your blog tonight makes me feel so happy to be retired!
    Lets see, what time will I be at the gym tomorrow? Oh anxiety, stress,
    be gone!

  3. Re: Scanning big negs/trannies with a scanner built for 2 1/4.
    I do a standard scan for a print. I place the neg on the glass and invert a small lightbox on top of the film. Lower rez scans show banding. Hi rez looks pretty good. Good enough for the web and not bad up to about an 8x10 print.

  4. Good reading. Bit of positive envy. :)

    Well, when you will feel like you want something with more personality and color, there is 28-70mm f2.8 G made by Minolta. Of course, only second hand as its old. But only for fun, dont think it would be great for work. Tho you may try it. :D

  5. Funny you should mention the Tamron lens. I just picked up a used Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 for my cropsensor Canons and I'm amazed at its clarity. I got it for a song because the front lens element was wobbly and I knew I could repair it easily. (Done)

    My only complaint? The zoom ring turns the opposite direction (from 17 to 50) than my other lenses. Annoying but not impossible to deal with.

    Have some fun with the corporate shoot. I seem to have a habit of carefully planning out the equipment in advance, and then at packing time, I change my mind about five different ways. And like most trips, I end up not using half the stuff I thought I would.


    1. Ron, that happens to me every time. I pack the kitchen sink and then curse myself for having carried around a bunch of stuff I never used.

    2. I've got the Tamron 17-50 VC for my Nikons. I've rented the 17-55 Nikkor and am more than happy with the performance of the Tamron (at half the price). Wide open I can tell its not up to the Nikkor's level but at f4 on I've got no complaints. Some of the reviews say the AF and VC mechanisms are noisy but it doesn't bother me a bit.


  6. Take the NEX-6 with the 19mm f/2.8. Keep it your coat pocket, and when the opportunity presents itself shoot from the hip like a street shooter (or maybe like one of the KoolKidz with an iPhone). Sometimes less formal is good, or maybe not.


  7. No backup for the 70-200? perhaps you could take with you the Sony DT 55-200, it might be much slower and compatible only with the A77, but it's small enough it shouldn't increase your packing problems too much. Though I guess you could always use the long end of the Tamron and crop, as well.

    Anyways, best of lucks on your job. It sounds like one of those that make you want vacations inmediately after, but those are the best sort of jobs after all ;)

  8. I had the Tamron on both my EOS 5D and D700, as well as used the Pentax version on a D20D. All units were SUPERB. Buy one. Unless you need 24mm, in which case get the Sigma 24-70 HSM (make sure you get the recent version, not the old aspherical crappo).

  9. I feel knackered just reading your blog Kirk - I can remember what those long days were like being on the ball all the time — and having to be nice and polite and happy to boot. I just remembered the neurotic checking of all my Mamiya 645 gear on Friday night before a Saturday wedding. Then I would double check that and the backup cameras and flash sync etc. etc. Not to mention ringing the B&G for a last touch base and checking maps to ensure I really new where I was going when I leaped in the car ........ I need a rest now! Me thinks a lot of caffeine is going to be consumed! Good luck.

    1. Client e-mailed at 4am this morning to set a meeting for 2pm. My anxiety quickly took over and I presumed I had gotten the start day wrong. No, just a pre-production meeting.... But it got my head spinning for a few mintes....

  10. When I order a new product and have to wait for it to be delivered I check for a pdf manual so I can get up to speed quicker when it arrives. Looks like Sony have one for your new flash at this location - http://esupport.sony.com/US/p/model-home.pl?mdl=HVLF60M&template_id=1&region_id=1&tab=manuals#/manualsTab

    Hope it helps.

    1. Andrew, nice! I'm going right there to start learning. Thanks.

  11. Don't let Kurt Munger fool you in to believing that the Tamron is as good as the CZ. Do not believe me either, but at least try it yourself. the CZ is an exceptional lens.

  12. and if you are right in saying that the center sharpness is better of the Tamron, both PhotoZone and DSLreview are doing something wrong.

  13. Take a deep breath. You have done this at least a 100 times. Your experience and technique will surpass any deficiencies in one lens or another. Let go Kirk..use the force.

    1. Shined my shoes and got a haircut. Chilling out. Maybe I'll just use my iPhone...

  14. Kirk I wish you well on this job, and I know you will succeed.
    I do not want to seem impolite but there is one question I would like to ask, not how much, but how do you determine the bottom number on your bill?

  15. Maybe just get the Sony (or Tamron) 18-200 for NEX, and call that your universal back-up? The a99 won't die, but if it does you've got the chops to do the job with the NEX, a superzoom, and 2 speedlights.


  16. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)


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