3.08.2012

What a week. What a life.

This, of course, is Ben. Years ago. Dynamic range?  You bet.  It's called negative film.

I'm always amazed at the lunacy of the web.  I posted something about using a homemade florescent lighting rig for a specific need and I've waded through several blogs about how I must be a cheapskate or a noob or a person who doesn't care about my clients or someone who only cares about "good enough" instead of great photography.  How handy to have other people make my point for me and even put an exclamation point on it for good measure.  I am, of course, referencing my post this week entitled, "You can't use that.  It's not professional."

In the early 1970's, even in to the mid 1970's there weren't any readily available, affordable softboxes.  Certainly nothing light enough or small enough to take on location.  But photographers looked at giant, metal "scoops" and "softlight" fixtures (made of metal and mounted on dedicated light stands) and they adapted them for location work by making their own "softboxes" out of foamcore panels and tape and sheets of diffusion material.  Then Chimera and Photoflex followed with their own portable designs.

There's a rich tradition of the very best photographers making their own, "do-it-yourself" devices when the need arose.  A great photographer named Peter Gowland even started a side business making and marketing interesting cameras like a 4x5 inch twin lens reflex camera, the Gowlandflex.  It's only in the age of digital photography that it seems that photographers have become such unimaginative wimps that they only feel comfortable with the (mostly) dreck foisted on them by the hive of companies that swirl around the periphery of photography offering up silly crap to the rubes.  Did everyone give up their balls when they got issued credit cards?

On one forum a very challenged poster postulated that my makeshift florescent fixture could, at any moment, fly apart and cripple my clients and everyone within a 200 meter circle.  Imagine the liability!!! He suggested that if I had the financial wherewithal to buy a "professional" product I would be spared this devastation and loss of human life should the assemblage ever be "knocked over."  I can only say, "moron."  

But the sad thing is there are legions of photographers running wild in the world who equate spending money on branded gear as the zenith of professionalism.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The guys who shill the gear directly for the makers get paid and get gear in exchange for constantly chattering about their wedded brand.  They have a fiscal relationship with a manufacturer.  It's in their best interest to interest you in buying what they use.  The relationship continues.  The marketing advantages continue.  The pipeline of gear continues.  But it does raise the overall level of photography? No.  And it keeps too many smart people from experimenting and inventing their own solutions.  And having the satisfaction that goes with personal success.

But if you are doing this as a real business instead of entertainment for amateur photographers you use the gear that matches the project.  And sometimes you make that gear by hand.  The crews on films that cost 100 million dollars to make have been doing it for years.  They have access to the best stuff imaginable but sometimes they invent their own lights for special needs.  And they work with manufacturers to make it in a repeatable fashion because, once other film makers see the results they will probably want to try something similar.  Kinoflos were invented on the set of a police movie for under dashboard lighting and small area fill.  Now they're the big name in professional florescent fixtures for video and film.  But it was a lone gaffer or DP whole came up with the idea and did the initial product.  Same with the first uses of LEDs.

Buying everything off the shelf means that you're doing stuff the way everyone else in the business does the same stuff.  That's called "boring." Real pros modify, adapt and create. They use off the shelf gear but they use it in their own way.  Hotshoe? Really?  See David Hobby.  See Syl Arena. They looked at the hotshoe for mounting flashes on their cameras and they said, "We can do better." And they used the flashes off the camera.

The monetary price to enter this field isn't much.  It's not about the "best" gear.  It's about the best ideas and the diligence and patience to pull them off.  The best work I see nearly always comes from the kid who's 30 days from being evicted, doesn't own more than a body and a few lenses and has an overflowing box full of ideas.  The more gear you need the weaker the concept.

You need a box with a sensor (camera), a lens, some light and a subject.  Then you need an idea, a point of view and the ability to make it all happen.  That's it. Bob Krist talked about using king sized bedsheets as a diffuser in a pinch. That was years ago.  That was before people marketed ScrimJims or Photoflex panels or Chimera Panels.  People started asking for ready made panels after Bob Krist used the bed sheets and talked about it in his first book.

An American Express Platinum card with a stratospheric spending limit never made anyone a great artist.  

But that's just my opinion as a noob.

My favorite comment.  From Scott Baker:  All true, Kirk. When fans of a specific brand see the introduction of a new much anticipated camera, it is such a deflating experience if the review sites label it "enthusiast" or "advanced amateur." They would love the camera if it was labeled "professional," but because the label said "enthusiast" the collective gasp is FAIL! Then the genius comments start coming in like "don't they realize that if they made a professional level camera with (insert XYZ specs) and sold it for (insert figure about $1000 under going rate) they would corner the market?! Don't they realize what we NEED?!" If I was to introduce a camera it would be called the Pro Elite Professional Pro 1.





Just another day.

 Sony a77 with 16-50mm 2.8

I flipped my day upside down.
I slept in late.
I skipped my swim.
I avoided my office. 
I saddled up my car and flowed into downtown.
I got a breakfast taco and some coffee.
I talked to a nice person I'd never met before.
She's has a business importing and selling Fair Trade
fashion accessories from third world countries.
We had fun talking about advertising and photography.
Then I went for a walk.


Whose flowers?
They were on the sidewalk just south of the grocery store.
I was going to pick them up but I didn't know what I'd do with them.
I photographed them, wondered who they were intended for 
and then shrugged and walked off.


I finished drinking my coffee in the middle of the bridge.
I looked for a trash can.  There wasn't one.
I decided to photograph my empty coffee up with Shoal Creek in the 
background.  I love the out of focus background.
I picked up my cup and went on looking for a trash can.
The coffee was from Mexico.  At least that's what the little sign next 
to the coffee pot
said.


Every downtown business is stocking up for SXSW.
The chubby guys with the black button down shirts
under black sports coats worn over black jeans have landed from the 
coasts.  Their eyeglasses are geometric and 
fashion forward.  They all dress the same.
When all glasses are fashion forward......

I hadn't seen a Yumi Ice Cream Truck before.
I loved the product illustrations on the sides.
The swirl cone looks incredible
and 
the Håagen-Dazs looks really rich.
A nice burst of color on a grey and misty day.


I've finally figured out how to do a 100% crop.
Now all the people who must know will be able to know.
This is the window at Estillo. 
They sell "fashion." 
It looks like clothes to me.

The top one is 100% the bottom one is full frame.


"I hate EVFs.  If XXXXX camera company switches to them I'm 
switching to YYYYYY."
"I love EVFs.  I'm selling all the cameras I own that don't have EVF's."  
I love the middle ground.  I get to shoot with both.
Switching is fun.  Even chocolate pudding would get boring
if I had it at every meal...

Sometimes I really want chocolate mousse. 


"Are you from out of town?"  "No we're just heading out for lunch. We live here."
"Can I take your picture?  Would you squinch a little closer together?"
"Me?  Yeah, I live here too.  I'm just talking a day off to do my hobby."
"Have fun!"  "You too!"
(And don't forget to dial in a stop of exposure compensation for that bright sky
 in the  background. Got it.)  


At some point, for some people, life is all about disk golf.
That's a great collection of disks.  Some go left and some go right.
Some go straight ahead.  A man's got to use the right tool for each throw.
I used my zoom lens.


This is the guy who owns the brightly colored disks above.
This is Trevin.  He's in radio.  He does a show 
on 101x every night from 6 to 10 pm.
He was going to hide the cigarette but I liked the "retro" 
charm.  Thanks for posing!
I made him black and white to offset the color from the disks.


I found this fellow at the Belmont.  It's a popular restaurant and bar
on West Sixth Street.
He's re-wiring the whole place.  And he's an electrician.
Isn't that an amazing yellow door in the background?
I don't think he had anything to do with that.
I felt a little guilty since he seemed to be working hard 
and I was just out walking around with a camera
being a tourist in my own town.

I was walking around with a Sony a77 camera and the big, honking
16-50mm f2.8 zoom lens.

You shouldn't be surprised since I talked about that camera
last year.  It's been out of stock forever because of the floods in Thailand.
Did I mention that I really like EVFs?

It's a nice camera.  If you need one with lots and lots of resolution you might consider it.
If you need a camera that takes Canon or Nikon lenses it's probably not a good choice....

Also, I've read but haven't tested this for myself, some testers say that the files are noisier by a stop than other cameras in its class.  I wouldn't know.  I was shooting at ISO 200 most of the time.
I'm getting ready to do a shot in the studio at ISO 50.  I've heard that the 
Dynamic Range at that setting is pretty darn amazing.

But I'm sure I'll show you what turns out for me in due time.

Don't buy this camera just because I did.
I have a long history of buying strange gear.

Mellow Kirk signing off.

Post note 5:11 PM same day:  It's dark and grey and raining here and getting colder by the minute.  What a wonderful time to be in the studio, looking west out my wall of windows and working on a book.  The glow of my laptop screen tanning my face, and my mind churning out little plot points and descriptions.  Beats the hell out of working.