Revisiting, "Oh My God, That's Sharp!!!!"

I've been fooling around with lots of different cameras over the past few years.  I guess I've been looking for the Holy Grail of cameras.  We all seem to want something small and light, fast and sleek and almost infinitely flexible.  And, most of us (myself included) are drawn like moths to the newest and trendiest of inventions.  I know we're looking for a magic bullet that will make our photo work shine.
 But I've learned a lot over the past two weeks.  I learned that I can be wrong in a blog and it's okay to change my mind.  I learned that most people are interested and kind and patient and I re-learned that the world seems to keep assholes around for balance.  But mostly I learned that we spend a lot of time spinning our wheels reading stuff like this and trying to divine some meaning in it all that probably isn't there.  We (myself included) tend to think that photo bloggers are exceptional photographers.  In a recent forum someone mentioned my 500px gallery and suggested people take a gander.  Started a skirmish as one person jumped in to say he found nothing exceptional about my work.  The battle was on as people friendly to me took umbrage and pushed back.  But the happy or sad truth is that I'm not better a photographer than hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.  In fact, you may be much better than me.  But it doesn't matter.  And I don't care.
 The real secret of photo bloggers is that we (tend to) write well (otherwise people wouldn't bother to read) and we're  early gear adopters and we seem to be able to tap into what's hot in the market. And that may be because we are, for the most part, the same demographic as you.  We're photo entertainment more than photo education.  If it's fun to read and you get something out of it, who's to judge?
But to make the jump from "a fun read" to "great photographer" is a daring and foolhardy leap.
 I like little cameras and, if you read the blog you know that I'm partial to the Olympus m4:3 cameras for a number of reasons.  I have a happy history with their previous PEN products, I've made a good number of images I like with the current cameras and they are easy on the shoulder.  But the blog drives me to extremes.  A few popular articles about the m4:3 cameras and the "good blog ratings" drive me to write more and more about them.  Perhaps a subconscious desire to "own" the subject.  To grab mindshare.

But it makes me blind to all the other great stuff out there.  So today I left all the trendy, tiny cameras at home and went out with the camera that I reach for almost every time I head out the door for a paying job, where I'll have time to use a tripod or tether my camera and use studio lights.
I picked up my heavy, boring, bad menu, bad LCD screen, Canon 1DS Mk2.  
I also put the Zeiss lenses in the drawer and stuffed the "L" lenses in there with them.  The lens I took out with me today is one I don't talk much about but use all the time.  I haven't really mentioned it because it's not sexy.  It's not "L-ish" and it's not German or even faux German.  It's a Tamron 90mm f2.8 macro lens that I bought used for about $300. A really nice focal length for me and as sharp and easy to use as it was cheap to buy and boring to talk about. It's a lens I can use wide open at f2.8 but it spends most of its time in the sweet spot around f5.6. So, a little walk today 
with a heavy, ancient camera and an inflexible, cheap lens.

Because at ISO 100 and a decent, hand holdable shutter speed, files from this combo remind me just how good and sharp and detailed files from professional digital cameras can be.  I own a Canon 5D Mk2 but for my money the older 1DS mk2 is better at ISO 100 and 200.  Much better.  In fact, I like the files better than just about any other digital camera I've shot.  
They (Canon) seem to have gotten that one just right.
 So, today wasn't a manic day dedicated to shooting stuff to share with you on the blog.  It was a return to my old walk around downtown, shooting my old favorite sites. Watching the clear, winter sunlight play across the buildings and remembering what it's like to shoot with a camera, not because it's cool but because it works like you expect a camera to work.  Not a scathing denouement of Pens or Panasonics or Fujis or anything else.  Just me shooting with a comfortable, old favorite.
 I had no intention of writing a blog today.  But I liked the images in an amateur way, not a professional way.  And I wanted to share them because I liked all of their technical qualities.  And it seemed fresh to me.  I've written some blogs recently that people misinterpreted as depressing or negative or hopeless about photography, but nothing could be further from the truth.  In each article I suggested that the old way of doing the business of photography is dying.  But I also suggest, with great certainty, that the business of photographers will be re-invented and eventually thrive.  I just don't know what the new paradigm looks like and even though I write a popular blog I don't have any more insight than you do about what will happen next.  But I'm generally happy, thrilled to be along for the ride and still confident about putting a kid through college with my creative businesses.  
Both shooting and writing and consulting.

It's hard to write a blog that works for professionals and hobbyists at the same time.  There are bound to be conflicts.  I'll say truthful stuff that I think other pros need to have a dialogue about.  Some hobbyists think, when I talk about the "death of the existing photo business", that I'm talking about the end of all photography and that's just silly.  Photography is the most popular hobby in the entire world......next to jabbering away on cellphones.....  You have to pay attention and understand when I'm talking in general and when I'm making a point about what we do on the commercial side of the coin.
When I got back to the studio I downloaded the raw files and looked at them in Adobe Bridge.  I chose the ones on this blog and added a bit of contrast and a little bit of saturation.  The files from the 1 series cameras from Canon are, by default, a bit flat.  Perhaps more room for post processing....

I was very pleased at the high sharpness.  In fact, there's even some moirĂ© on a few windows of the Frost Tower which tells me that the balance of the anti-aliasing filter is just right.  Does this mean I'm abandoning the smaller cameras?  No.  But I'm trying to find a better balance than all or nothing.  Maybe pursue the middle path.  Some people look to me for an "expert" opinion about cameras and lenses; I am anything but.  All I know is what I see and what I feel and how the files will work for the things for which I want to use them.  That's it.  Collectively, this group knows far more.
Finally, let's talk about what I want out of this blog.  I've tried to be very transparent.  I write the blog because I'm interested in photography and I like adding to the dialogue.  I write the blog because I like to write.  But truthfully,  I write the blog because I hope that people will like the way I write and buy one or more of my five books on photography.  When I stepped away from the blog last Fall many, many loyal readers posted asking what they could do to help.  Some suggested adding a paypal "gift button" while others suggested making it a subscription site.  A few people sent unsolicited donations. (Thank you).  But the reality is that I hope that once a year you'll take advantage of the very inexpensive pricing at Amazon.com and take a chance on one of my books.

Right now I'm suggesting the LED book.  It's a very current topic.  I think I did a very good job presenting an overview of how photographers might best buy and use LED lights and there are hundreds of photographs as examples.  If you do photography as a business it would seem that a book about lighting would be tax deductible (check with your accountant).  If you do photography as a avocation/hobby/joyous art form/distraction from cold hard reality, etc. it would most probably be the absolute cheapest photo specific expenditure you would make in all of 2012.

Buying one of the books means I get a royalty from the sale. Buying the book through the link below means I'm get a small percentage of the sale from Amazon, which will cost you nothing.  It's one of the ways I support my family and this blog.  There is no membership fee here and no one is required to buy anything.  

Reading is fundamental.

From Last Week. Not last decade.

Panasonic GH2.  Elinchrom monolight into Photek Softlighter 2-60" with diffuser.

Amanda is one of our swim coaches.  She agreed to sit for a portrait.  She's an amazing swimmer with a perfect butterfly stroke.  She also has tremendous energy.  I'm busy writing and shooting.  I'll be back to the blog soon.