Good moves by Olympus to flesh out offerings for an advanced market...

Noellia as hippy. Shades of Donovan.
Samsung Galaxy NX 85mm 1.4
Backyard Photography.

I've been following three camera companies with much interest and mostly for three different reasons. The first is Olympus. While I didn't like the feel of the OMD EM-5 I am the first to admit that the files from the camera are beautiful and that the five axis image stabilization is little short of amazing. My many friends who dumped fat cameras to go smaller are pretty much uniformly delighted with the cameras. I kept picking up the EM-5 and trying to like it by I think there is a point at which a camera becomes too small for some people. Maybe it's decades of hand training and maybe it's just individualized haptics but there it is.  

When Olympus rolled out their announcement of the OMD EM-1 I immediately thought that they'd gone a long way to fixing the niggling problems I had with the "5."  The body is a bit bigger and the controls are placed in more convenient places. The finder, if it's the same one used in the Fujifilm x100s, will be remarkably good, and the view massive. There's one addition/improvement that was a complete surprise to a me and a quick shorthand signal to all the older photographers that the camera is intended for a sophisticated audience. That was the addition of a PC sync socket. Wow. Shades of the last century.... but oh so nice for triggering stuff when you've got a microphone or some other accessory in the hot shoe.

The second, most welcome, improvement over all the previous Pen and OMD offerings is the addition of a dedicated microphone input. If they get around to implementing a headphone monitor jack in the next rev they will finally be able to compete in the digital video department. 

When you add in the new 12-40mm f2.8 zoom you've got a pretty awesome picture making package in a nice, compact package with lots of potential.  Final point: Olympus! get to work on the batteries...

While it's a step in the right direction for Oly to admit that people routinely use external microphones the line of thought always brings me to Panasonic. While their previous designs seem less polished than the Olympus offerings they are kicking butt in the video department. I've been over every video specification of the GH3 and I've got to say that when I'm tooling around shooting video with my Sony a99 I'm always experiencing a deep seated lust for the GH3 instead. Whatever Panasonic doesn't get about marketing they more than make up for in their understanding of production video. For less than $1500 it kicks a stock Canon 5D3 right in the shins. And with the addition of the two professional, constant aperture zooms it's a tidy package. 

The synergy between those two companies is what will ensure their viability in the future. It's entirely practical and logical for anyone entering the professional market now to consider a hybrid approach (photos and videos, mixed) to the business and to do so within one ecosystem. The logical way to build a great, economical system is to pick and choose between the Panasonic and Olympus lines, knowing that they will intersect flawlessly. The smart way to make a system would be to pick up a couple of the new EM1 bodies for still shooting and a GH3 body for video production. Both use the same lenses interchangeably and make great back ups for each other. And all the Panasonic users should appreciate that Panasonic finally replaced the dumb 2.5mm microphone input of the GH2 with a 3.5mm input on the GH3. Little favors.

If more and more professionals and advanced amateurs picked up these cameras and tested them in the U.S. and the EU I think the shift toward mirrorless technologies would proceed at an accelerating pace. But who knows? Maybe generations become enamored of tradition and resist any change, regardless of its advantages. Small, light, good and inter-usable seems like a good argument to me. 

But if you are a hard core traditionalist you might be interested to know about my other new fascination. I picked up a Pentax K-01 recently because I loved the weird design and the price was too good to believe. When I got around to shooting the camera I was very impressed with the lens and the imaging done by the sensor. Really nice files. So I started researching the Pentax cameras. They had been off my radar for a long time. I walked into Precision Camera (why does that sound so familiar when I write it?) and asked to see the Pentax Kr-5ii. It's a traditionalist's camera. Nice (but still small) optical finder. Traditional hold and feel. Very solidly built and fairly compact. I brought the camera up to my eye and clicked the shutter. It sounds so good. Much like the priceless shutter on the old Olympus e-1 camera. I almost bought a body and some groovy lens on the spot. I may still.

I've been immersed in a new camera for the last three weeks. But that doesn't mean my mind's gone dark to the rest of the camera universe. I'm more and more convinced that hybrid content creation will drive the professional markets in the near future. The one thing that stopped me from buying a Pentax body was the poor video implementation. 

So, where am I on cameras right now?  Using the Sony Alpha line for just about everything and waiting to see what they bring to market later this fall. If they lose the mirror altogether and keep bolstering their head start in video I'm there for the foreseeable future. I like the full frame video. I like the headphone jack. I like the front multi-control.  If they stumble hard and become a Nex-only company I'll start considering options.

I'm also testing the Samsung Galaxy NX and while I'm loving the images I can get out of the camera and lenses I'm weeks away from writing any sort of review because the camera is still a work in progress. I'm waiting for one or two firmware tweaks before I can evaluate the camera fairly.  It's interesting to shoot two (Sony and Samsung) such different types of cameras nearly side by side. My brain had to relax a little bit to make room for two totally diverse menu structures and my hands vacillate between having a button and dial for nearly everything and having a touch screen and i-function controls for the same stuff.

It's an interesting time for the camera industry. On one hand you have Pentax steadfastly embracing the traditionalist ethos. Almost like an aristocrat in a private club. On the other hand you have Samsung trying to re-invent the way we shoot and share images. That nerdy programmer kid you knew in college. And every other camera company is somewhere in the vast middle ground.

Have I left anyone out? Oh yeah, Canon and Nikon. Inertia is a powerful marketing tool. I think they'll be surfing the cultural memories of Life Magazine and National Geographic for years to come. And, like Windows, they have the first in the market advantages. When the waves break I'm equally sure that they'll look over the landscape of imaging populated by truly innovative companies and cherry pick all the stuff that's working and jettison all the stuff that failed in the market. A strategy of letting the other guys hang ten on the bleeding edge of the board.  Hey, it's a strategy that worked for Dell Computer for nearly two decades....


Shooting in the studio. My favorite lighting set up....

I love shooting portraits in the studio. I love the feeling of total lighting control. My space isn't very big but it's pretty efficient. For these two images I used my favorite lighting set up. It's one big (six by six foot) frame, covered with white silk diffusion material at about a 35 degree angle to the subject. My camera is right at the leading edge of the diffusion panel....actually touching the frame. I used three big fluorescent lighting units to push light through the silk. What this gives me is a big, soft, but directional light source that I can use to sculpt light across a face in a very flattering way. Since my studio has an all white interior I placed some black panels to the shade side to keep the portrait from getting too filled in. 

Once your great big light is set you've got a lot of lee way to let your model move around and be comfortable in the space. 

I used the Samsung camera's touch screen to actually take the images. I would touch the part of the screen where I wanted the camera to focus and then I'd touch the virtual shutter button to take the image. It was kinda fun but after a while the novelty wore off and I went back to composing in the EVF. 

I like the look of the images. And I like the perspective of the longer, 85mm lens on this APS-C format. But most of all I liked composing in the square on that big, juicy rear screen. When I mentioned earlier that I thought this camera would make a good studio camera that's what I meant....you could compose on a huge screen so that even if you are cropping square there's still a ton of real estate with which to play. 

Why do I like continuous light over flash for stuff like this? Well, it just feels more kinetic and alive. That's pretty much my overriding rationale.

Big thanks to Noellia for dropping by and letting me put my toys through their paces. Hope you've had a weekend of shooting fun stuff.

Studio Portrait Lighting

Got a cool camera? Remember to have fun...

An 85mm lens on an APS-C camera can seem a little long until you head outside the studio and move back from your subject. Then, at least for me, the perspective starts to look really, really good. My friend, Noellia, dropped by on Friday afternoon and it was the perfect opportunity to shoot more images with the Samsung Galaxy NX camera I've been testing. Fortunately the product manager sent along a selection of lenses I really like. Most manufacturers who send cameras out for review or test send along a standard kit lens. I get it. That's the way the vast majority of people will actually buy the camera. But if they sent along lenses that photographers really shoot with they'd get more interesting sample images.

In this instance my intention wasn't to shoot "sample" images but to shoot stuff that Noellia wanted for  her website and her acting portfolio. She started her acting career here in Austin at Zach Scott Theatre and then headed off to NYC. She's done work for Disney and she just finished up a four month run of the Broadway production of The Buddy Holly Story. She wanted some different images and since we were both in town she came on by.

Every photographer should have a group of friends who are actors, performers, models and natural beauties. It's mutually beneficial: You get someone fun and interesting to photograph and they get material to help them diversify their careers. My intention is to use some of the studio photographs Noellia and I did this week to illustrate an article I'm writing for Photo.net. Fortuitous.

For these two images we shot in the open shade of my back porch. I shot them both with the Galaxy NX camera and I used the 85mm 1.4 Samsung NX lens. I'm quite happy with the imaging power of the combination.

I processed the images in Aperture because I like the one click skin color correction.

Open shade is almost always your friend....

Studio Portrait Lighting


My friend, Noellia, dropped by for a visit. We broke out some lights and make a few portraits...

Noellia dropped by just in the nick of time. I'd promised to write a tutorial piece on lighting for a website and I wanted a beautiful person to sit on the posing stool and get photographed so I could have interesting stuff for the article.

Noellia is very patient, she's 26 and I think I've known her since she was eighteen. She never seems to mind when I fumble with a new camera or try out some silly new lighting technique.

Today I was using four fluorescent fixtures behind one of my 6 by 6 foot scrims to do nice soft lighting. I was shooting with the ever present Samsung camera and, embarrassingly enough, I was playing around with the touch focus and touch shutter on the touch screen. I think it actually works but I'd only want to do that technique as long as my camera was anchored to my tripod. If I was holding the camera with one hand and poking with the other I'm afraid I'd drop the whole rig.

I shot the image above with the 85mm lens at something like f2.8. I kept poking N's eyes on the screen to make sure I was hitting focus there. I think I got it at least 50% correct.

I have accidentally found another use for wi-fi. I pulled the microSD card out of the camera slot before I unmounted the card icon. To be honest I don't think I even remembered to power down the camera. At any rate the card wasn't readable in a card reader or in the SD slot on my computer but the camera was able to automatically upload the 800+ files we took to my DropBox folder.  Nice save.

Of course that means the camera is sitting on the edge of my desk endlessly uploading while my Dropbox account is endlessly syncing with my desktop application. The endless joy of technology.

More Noellia images to come....

Studio Portrait Lighting


Shooting video today. And mixing in some stills.

Sixth St. Austin, Texas.
Samsung Galaxy NX camera. 
85mm lens.

The image above has nothing to do with the content of this blog. I just stumbled across it, like the movement in it, and the gestures.

The professional reality of intermixing still photography and video production as interchangeable parts of my business (and the businesses of most other commercial image makers) is really starting to sink in. I've been looking over the projects my business has done in the last few months and I was surprised to see that the balance is trending toward video over stills.

I think there are a number of reasons for this. One is research that seems to show people are three times more likely to spend time on a site that features video over stills. The second thing is that most web oriented photography is getting simpler in specification and easier to do. While it seems sad that the smartphones are kicking ass they are just another tool and a large number of marketers and practitioners have made the assessment that the image quality has hit the point that it's fun and easy to do some marketing stuff with a camera phone. The next reason is that while uploading an Instagram'd photo is quick and easy, almost mindlessly easy, creating a good video program still requires some skills, some gear, and a lot of editing after the shooting. It's not like chomping down on a candy bar, good video (watchable video?) is more like having to assemble, mix, melt, cook and package the candy bar parts before you can eat it. Or serve it to someone else.

I was hired back in July to do a few still shots for a financial company with chic offices in a central downtown bank building. Offices? How about three floors? While we talked about their imaging needs they mentioned that they'd also like to see some numbers for a few little video interviews which ultimately turned into two days of video interviews and two days of editing. The still remained constant at half a day. Would I like to have just the one half day or would I be happier with a total of four and a half days of billing? Oh...I think I'll take the four and a half days...

A couple weeks ago I did a phone meeting with a medical practice (114 doctors here in central Texas) and they wanted a multi-media campaign, print ads featuring embedded photos which, when scanned would take the viewer online to full motion video expansions of the original marketing message. We'd shoot stills and then shoot interviews. The stills could be done in no time at all but the videos required direction, lighting design, sound design, editing consultations, and a bit of scripting. We spend fifteen or twenty minutes shooting the still shots (full length portraits on white) before spending an hour or so on each interview. Would I like to just do the stills and let some other company handle the video? No. I'd like to keep the billing and the bulk of the project in house. I did hire an editor for this adventure but that's a benefit. It means I can shoot more projects instead of dividing my time up sitting in the dark.

The interviews are not great cinema but they are good marketing content and I try my very best to make them as good as they can be. I light them to leverage the strengths and weaknesses of video capture. I use good microphone techniques and carefully monitor sound. I help clients craft the right questions; questions that lead to good answers. The level of involvement with the marketing departments is much higher and that tightens my integration with their teams.

If I were a purist, eschewing video as "different" and not my "cup of tea" I fear that I'd find my income and my involvement in advertising projects shrinking by the month. Some people say that the disciplines are so different that it's hard to cross over. I don't buy that for a second. Yes, you have to tell a story instead of illustrating one point. Yes, it's really great if stuff moves and is visually interesting and of course we've never had to consider sound in our regular work before. But the resources to learn each part are there and are logical and well documented. The hardest part for me is crafting a story and then translating it into scenes that make sense when cut together. The easiest part is the lighting and sound craft. But it's a constant learning process.

Pandora's box is open and the video pixies have been released into the air. There's no way they are going back into the box. And with professional photography largely being democratized out of existence do we really have the option of turning our collective photographic backs on a new business avenue that can help stabilize our incomes and keep us relevant to clients? I don't think I can.

I'm taking it one step further by being on three sides of the camera. I'm shooting projects. I am working on the opposite side of the camera as talent in on-line classes and, on the third side I am writing and scripting for other projects. That adds three income streams to a career in the visual arts that used to have only one real income stream.

The gear is less important than we think. The ideas are more important than we think. And at all times what we are selling is not our time but our expertise.

Just thinking about that today during the crew's lunch break.

Studio Portrait Lighting

I'm a Craftsy Instructor


Square crops in camera...

...are an aid to good portrait composition. The Olympus cameras all have the ability to crop square. So do the new Samsung NX cameras. Makes me wonder why Sony didn't add that little fifty cent bit of firmware to their cameras. It certainly would have made me happier.

Olympus EP-3 with the 45mm lens.


South Beach Miami. 2001. Is that film? You bet.

Taking a break.

I finally got in the pool this morning for a swim workout with my masters team. God, it felt good! I chose a slower lane today and it was nice to swim almost recreationally. When I got back from my trip it seemed like there was so much to schedule and take care of. We have a video shoot here in the office most of the day tomorrow and I'm trying to collaborate with my editor and get what he needs to piece the project together. I had a nice lunch meeting with one of my favorite creative directors today and I'm photographing my actor friend, Noellia, this Friday. Saturday and Sunday are shooting days for the season materials for Zach Theatre and next week we have two days of location portraits to shoot. Seems like September will be over before I know it.

On the 25th of September I leave for another week and go to Denver to do two more classes for my friends at Craftsy.com . I remember now, this is what a healthy economy used to feel like.

But today....I just felt like putting up a quiet photograph and cruising a little bit.

Off to clean up the studio so it sparkles tomorrow. Easier to shoot if you can actually see the floor and the table tops....

Image above taken with the Samsung Galaxy NX camera and 60mm macro.


Pano-Mania. Going extra wide for fun.

I've not really a panorama guy. I played with Noblex cameras and Widelux cameras a little bit back in the film days but it always felt kind of like a gimmick to me. Now PhotoShop and digital imaging have made do-it-on-the-cheap panoramas entirely possible, even for people with no technical talent whatsoever... Count me in.

Camera: Samsung Galaxy NX. Kit lens.
PhotoShop > Photo Merge

Studio Portrait Lighting

Sony exercises their right to build a crappy camera.

The Alpha 3000.

I wrote about this camera two weeks ago and said we should wait and see what it's all about before we pass judgement. It might be a surprisingly good product. That was two weeks ago.

When I was in Berlin we took a side trip to one of the biggest trade shows in the world, the IFA show. We were guests of Samsung but I still shoot most of my professional work with Sony cameras like the a99 and the a850 and I was naturally curious about the new camera from Sony.

I trudged from one corner of the show to the opposite corner of the show (It's spread out among 27 large exhibition halls) just to see if I could handle and play with the new Sony a3000 mirror less camera and it's familiar kit lens. I slid through a throng of people who seemed captivated by the latest TVs and cellphones and finally found the small area dedicated to cameras. There were few people around the camera area so I was able to walk right up and handle a camera that, while tethered to the display table by a security cord, was accessible and possessed of a fully charged battery.

I looked through the EVF, adjusted the diopter and cringed. Now I know why people who have not seen better quality EVFs hold the experience of looking through cheap and nasty ones in such disregard. I could view well enough for composition but there would be no way to judge fine points of focus and no way at all to judge image color or contrast. I instantly came to think of this EVF as a targeting device only.

I didn't have much more happiness from the screen on the back. I'd forgotten how primitive a screen could be after three or four years of looking at 1.44 and 2.44 megapixel OLED screens. 

After I got over my first impressions of the two screens I kept reminding myself that I was not in the target market for this camera. I remembered having written that even if the screens were inadequate for some tasks that perhaps the camera was redeemable by virtue of a stellar sensor. We'll have to wait a bit to test one and see.

But then came the final blow that had me getting the camera out of my hands just as quickly as I could...I had actuated the shutter release several times and the tinny clacking noise was so jarring and high pitched that I felt a little bit of my photographic interest/spirit in general being sucked away from me every time I heard it.

Again, the sensor may redeem the camera. The lens (I've owned two) is very decent, especially with the right sensor. But the camera has so many strikes against it both visually (the screens) and aurally (the obnoxious shutter noise) that I found myself not really caring about any of the other parameters.

Who the camera is for, exactly, is an interesting question. But I can answer with this: It's not aimed at anyone who truly enjoys working with cameras and making great photographs. This is a camera to shoot with only when all of your backups have died and you must get a shot to go on living.

Not recommended. If you are on that tight of a budget start looking for used cameras...

Studio Portrait Lighting

I went to the remnants of the Berlin Wall.

I went to the part of the Berlin Wall that was preserved and made into an ongoing project with murals from artists from around the world. The artists have created all kinds of works dealing with freedom and barriers. The ones that spoke to me most clearly are the murals which illustrate other walls around the world. Walls in Palestine, the Texas-Mexico boarder and the walls between north and south Korea.

I was trying to find some way to illustrate the wall but I'm not a landscape landscape artist and I generally mess up compositions that have huge horizontal sweeps. I started looking for human elements to juxtapose with the Wall.

These are quick shots done quickly but I think it would be wonderful to come back and do a series of images on a few cold, grey and overcast days when the light is less direct and the feeling of it all is quieter.

I like the two images above but I'm including the image below because the bill board was so disturbing and so inappropriately placed. I would ask if there are no limits to the vulgarity of advertising but I already know the answer. I used to work in the industry....

The billboard is across the four lane street on the other side of the wall. That it seems to be an addition to the top of the wall speaks to its enormous size.

Shot at f11 for more depth of field...

Camera: Samsung Galaxy NX.


I'm back from Berlin and I learned a lot of stuff. I don't even know where to start...

All images from the Samsung Galaxy NX camera.
0. Whatever plans you make an airline will probably mess them up...

My wife always thinks that things will work out just fine and she sometimes teases me for being so pessimistic about things like scheduling, arriving early so I always arrive on time and also for having multiple back up plans. Need to be somewhere far away in a short amount of time? I think you need to worry about everything from possible weather intervention to human incompetence. And you can never pad the schedule with enough time to take care of all the human incompetence you'll run across when you travel...

Case in point was my travel to Berlin. I got to the airport way, way early. Good thing as my original flight had been cancelled. I worked with United to get re-booked (on Labor Day...) on an American flight and I got the last available seat. What if I had come to the airport "on time"? Go early. Be ready to shift.

1. I hate the electronic (fake) keyboard on my iPad.

I finally tumbled over the line that separates spare from under-equipped when hubris pushed me to go on this trip to Berlin with only a naked iPad as an all around blogging and post processing tool. It might have worked if I had been smart enough to pack a small, Apple bluetooth keyboard. But I didn't and the blogging gods dropped by every night, after our late dinners, to mock me and use their powers to make letters become other letters. Letters I had no intention of using.... I vow never to travel without a full on keyboard again. I'm sure my blogs looked like Jackson Pollock's mother's quilts by the time they got sucked out on to the world wide web. Ouch. Lesson one: the keyboard is always mandatory!

2. Lonely Hunter, Better Hunt.

I was in Berlin as both a guest and part of a group. As such I felt a certain obligation to stay with the group (for the most part) and share in the activities.... And I learned again, as I rode on a little tour bus to a town two hours away, that I am fickle, irascible and hardwired to want to do all photography on my own schedule, in my own way and in as much solitude from other photographers as imaginable. 
Why is this such a hard lesson for me to permanently learn?  I was talking about this to a photographer I met in Berlin and he laughed and referred me to an article called, "Lonely Hunter, Better Hunt."  When I told him that I'd written that piece he laughed again. This time AT me. Note to self: Very little good creative work (or any other kinds or work) are done in groups. Be especially mindful not to go with groups where the majority of people enjoy landscapes and city skyline photography if you are resolutely a people photographer. It's like putting the javelinas in with the vicious leopards... Hunt alone and you get to eat everything you run down. Go with the group and everyone gnaws on the same carcass.

3. Street Shooting takes time for acclimation.

You can't just drop into a different city or different culture and start shooting good stuff. You need to feel the rhythm and the emotional spacing of a city's inhabitants. That means you've got to spend a day or two warming up your brains, your empathy glands and your skin thickness potential. I'm glad I got into Berlin a day early and left a day after the group. The warm-up time is conducive to good shots. You have to have an understanding of just where you fit into the whole milieu to know how to shoot someplace new.Ostensibly, in the perfect world you would stay long enough to know your way around physically and culturally but not so long as to loose your fascination with the new. A big city like Berlin? I think you need about three leisurely weeks to really get up to speed and be good at street shooting there. I could be wrong. Maybe you need a year.....

4. Start shooting....Now!

So you land somewhere and you're totally whacked out by time changes, lack of sleep, dehydration and frustration and you have some choices. You can surrender and try to go to bed. You can get drunk and feel even worse or you can brush it all off and take your camera and your favorite lens and head out the door of your hotel and go looking for something fun to shoot. I walked five minutes from my base and stumbled on to this light show. I may hate these images a month from now but they got me out exploring and sampling and of course looking for the classic lovers in the park in a picturesque embrace...

5. It's tough to learn a brand new camera and 
a brand new paradigm in two days of shooting 
with no manual....

But that's no excuse. If the sensor is good and the optics are good a competent photographer should be able to do good work. I was working with a camera that hasn't been launched in our market yet. I wish I could blame my short comings as a photographer on some foible or other of the camera but the reality is that the sensor and lenses are great and I immediately defaulted to what I knew: Set the exposure manually, set the ISO manually, set the color balance manually. Now the only parameters that should be challenging to someone who's been doing this for thirty years should be the camera's ability to focus and my ability to find an interesting composition and find the perfect moment to snap the shutter. 

A camera may have a thousand new features but if you want to hit the ground shooting you need only master the stuff above. That puts the onus right back onto the artist. My quick review of the pre-issue version of the Samsung Galaxy NX I was shooting with? I love the color and consistency of the image files. Great sensor. Great (really great) lenses. Everything else I'll figure out. If you have to blame the camera for something it may be that you didn't come with the human element fully engaged. Suck it up and shoot.

6. The Best Way To See A City Is To Walk It.

It was a revelation to me. But one I've had again and again. Like the movie, "Groundhog Day." You see best when you are fully engaged. Mentally and physically fully engaged. When we drove around in a mini tour bus and disgorged to look at some area or monument it all seemed so...disconnected. But if I walked to a destination not only would I find a dozen great things to photograph along the way but I felt organically connected to the destination once I got there. 

I covered a lot of ground on foot this past Friday. I basically walked from my hotel through the major central park (Tiergarten) and through most of the historical parts of the town and I felt so connected and inserted. I could stop, turn around, shoot and then continue in such a fluid and satisfying way. And since I like to watch people and document the flow of humanity I didn't really need to be in any special place physically. I just needed to be in part of the flow, humanly. And what better way to get into that mental state than to be actually, physically immersed? Added benefit? Nine hours of steady walking will keep you trim and fit...
7. We love to talk about all kinds of esoteric lenses but
when push comes to shove the range covered by
the normal kit lens is really, mostly all we need....

I know, I know. You shoot sports. You shoot NFL football games. You shoot soccer. You desperately need the long, fast glass. But the rest of us mostly make documentations of our lives in unhurried and thoughtful photographs of the world around us, and most of the time we're unconsciously happy to be in the range of 18-55mm (on an APS-C camera). I can count the times I wished I'd been able to use a 400 mm f2.8 lens on one finger. And that fisheye lens they invented to study cloud patterns? I never wanted one of those, ever. When I walked around Berlin I'd stick the 16mm lens on the front of my camera because I thought I should shoot it but it really never felt long enough for me to be able to make a good composition of the stuff I liked to see. 

At the other end of the spectrum I was smart enough to leave the 85mm 1.4 lens at home because I knew it would so long that for quick snaps in the street it would require me to know how a composition was going to come together seconds before it ever happened. I may be a good photographer but I'm no clairvoyant Henri Cartier-Bresson. In point of fact, nearly all the time I was happy to have the small but potent kit lens on my camera or, in low light, the 30mm f2 lens. They just feel right to me. They seem to match the way I see unless I'm trying to shoe horn my vision into someone else's style.
8. When I'm in the testing phase with a camera I take a lot of
"snapshots." You can understand that this is part of a process or you
can stick bottle rockets (fire crackers)  up your nostrils and light em...

I don't know about you but 99% of the images I end up shooting don't work as great art. Or even good art. But they are effective documents. You should be able to look at images that I post and see if a camera has the quality levels you need. I'd love to hit it out of the ball park every time my forefinger glances across the shutter button but, sadly, it was not meant to be. I am not that gifted. Most of the images in this blog were shot over the course of five short days in Berlin. Some of the time I spent there was at a trade show or in events. When you distill it down I had maybe ten or twelve hours of hands on time to really shoot with a new camera. I think I was able to nail focus and exposure for those images but sometimes you have to wait around for art or wait around even longer for inspiration... 

I'm sure you would do a better job (Mr. Anonymous Commenter) but I am just a flawed human and rarely am able to operate above the 90% mark. 

I hope the rest of my readers will be able to look through the work and discern what I was trying to do and why. I wanted to put a new camera through the paces and show what it was able to do. Is that art? Probably not.  Does it fulfill a purpose? Maybe.  Was it fun? You bet.

9. Juxtapositions are fun.

10. Photographing people in restaurants means you have to get the right seating...

I've noticed a self-serving pattern in my life. If I'm out to eat with a friend, acquaintance or even a family member I find myself always seating myself with my back to the prevailing window. It's not that I don't enjoy gazing out into the big world, it's more that I'm greedy to get the best light onto the faces of people I'm dining with. In Berlin on day we headed to a Chinese restaurant as a group. I found myself maneuvering myself into the seat that was at the perfect opposite angle to the light falling on the two Korean photographers I was with. These two guys really like photographing their food so they enjoyed the nice backlighting that their table position afforded them. I chose my position because, as Derek Zoolander would say, I'm a face guy.  I was thrilled to get angled ambient light across both of their faces and a nice was of ambient light interwoven with the restaurant's lights in the background areas. If you would work as a portrait photographer then choose your restaurant seat accordingly. You might miss the view of the outside world but you'll be rewarded with better light on your intended subjects....

11. Pack light. Because you'll be the one who has to carry all this crap...

I left a lot of stuff at home on this trip. I overstepped a bit when it came to writing tools. I left with just an iPad and while the software was fine I was sorely disappointed in my ability to get used to the virtual keyboard. I could have handled the weight and size of a blue tooth keyboard. Maybe even a 13 inch Mac Pro....

I also didn't bring multiple camera bodies, fast, fat and heavy lenses, tripods, flashes or other gizmos. And I'm thrilled because I believe it is human nature to adapt quickly to the tools instead of pining away for stuff we didn't bring along. My bag felt so light compared to my recent forays with full frame camera tools and their associated lenses. Don't discount this logic until you've needed to carry your camera bag for a couple of 12 hour days.... The difference between six pounds and thirteen pounds can be astounding. If you don't absolutely need it-----leave it at home.

12. Wanna get invited back? Shoot some stuff for your hosts.

This ersatz fashion show at one of the trade show halls made me laugh.
I kept thinking of Derek Zoolander, the male model in the movie, "Zoolander."
Being from Texas my first thought was, "do they make that outfit in camo?"

And here the designer explains his inspiration. I didn't listen carefully but think it had to 
do with oatmeal and an affinity for early TV episodes of Star Trek....

When on a date be sure to treat your friend to "the red carpet."
The Concert Hall steps.

We interrupted our elegant outdoor dinner to rush over and shoot some quick stuff at magic hour.
Just because we could....
13. The bottom line? Always think about what you want  to shoot.

I know myself pretty well and while I can appreciate all kinds of photography I know that I shoot like a writer, not like a painter or a traditional artist. I like images that tell stories more than I like images that show off a new way of seeing something. I like the story over the flourish and I like the present more than the wrapping. So I look for an image that can incapsulate a story. A short hand approach to the narrative using imagery instead of words.

It's easy to be side-tracked by what other people are doing---especially if they are getting lots of positive feedback. But you really have to be loyal to the visions of the things at your artistic core. I know I'll never be a landscape photographer but I've never met anyone whose story didn't interest me. I've never been to a city that didn't yield up straight forward visual documents of beauty just based on representing what was there.

I'll never be a photographer who coats my images in a style to make a visual point but I hope my successful images reflect my years of experience in life and my curiosity in knowing what makes people who are different from me tick.

I guess that's one of the lessons I re-learned in Berlin last week. More to come tomorrow.  

Also, I'm saving up my cash for my upcoming trip to Tokyo. My target date is November second. I'd start a Kickstarter campaign for myself if that didn't seem so narcissistic to me. Besides, I still have tons of frequent flyer miles to use up before they go stale. Thanks to Christian for helping me get ready.

Hope you are happy and well.