Mild celebration: We've crested 16,000,000 page views. Yes, that's sixteen million.

resident blog maniac: Kirk Tuck yells instructions from behind the Leaf AFi7.

I almost missed the fact that today we hit another milestone and crested 16 million pageviews since 2009. I've generated more than 1600 posts, been pummeled by thousands of troll comments and changed camera systems more frequently than some people change their underwear. And we're still here. Writing. (Dear God, why?).

The reason I almost missed this landmark occasion was the breaking news across the internet. No, it's not about the nation's budget crisis, it was the admission by Jasmine Starr that she "lifted" a number of her most popular blog posts from "unattributed" sources on the web and passed them off as her own. (stole, pilfered, plagiarized?) Even though we don't do that sort of thing here at VSL I have looked into my heart and forgiven her. It's tough to write a blog every day (though a bit easier for her since she also used interns to source materials) and I can understand the pressure that comes from having to write about new shoes and yet another life changing and incredible wedding in the same week. What you get here is genuine original stuff (even when it stinks) and I am writing under my own name.....

so what's up in the VSL news?

I wanted everyone to know that I'll be in NYC next week for the Photo Plus Expo at the Javits Center from October 24th to October 26th. I'll be demo-ing the new Samsung Galaxy NX Android camera and generally having a fun time surrounded by tens of thousands of photographers and vendors who hope photographers go away with a genuine and enduring lust for their products. Please, please, please come by and introduce yourself, say hello and let me know you're there. If you can pull yourself away from one more workshop about using small flashes....

On another front I've completed two more really fun photography courses for Craftsy.com and I'm waiting breathlessly for them to launch. They're trying to make me look as good as they can in post production and that takes extra time but I think we're going to see them launch the courses in the early part of November. I'd love it if you tried one of the courses because it materially benefits me and, if you really don't like it.......there's a 100% money back guarantee. I hope you won't feel the need to use it.... One of the courses will be offered absolutely FREE. No Charge!!! Just go take it.

I'll let you know when it launches. 

Finally, I've taken up a new hobby. I'm writing a blog that's just about gear. It's for that side of my brain. It's called RIPE CAMERA and I'll roll it out in a few weeks when I have enough fun content there. You can start enjoying it now by Googling "Ripe Camera."

I love writing the blog and I don't particularly care if you click on any of the links to Amazon that I haphazardly post but I ALWAYS APPRECIATE THE FEEDBACK that you put into the comments. It lets me know that you are there, paying attention and you maybe even appreciate having a free content source about photography to distract you between work and online shopping. So, if you have a moment make a comment. Nice ones are best but the mean ones tend to generate more acrimonious secondary blog posts so......if you think things have been too calm around here then take your chances. But no ad hominem attacks or I'll track you down and give you a stern look. 

That's all I've got right now. You fill in the blanks.

Studio Portrait Lighting

I'm a Craftsy Instructor

Have you noticed that some cameras get down on their hands and knees and just beg you to shoot with them?

I've bought cameras that I had high hopes for and they ended up languishing on a table after the first few attempts at making photographs. As time went by they seemed like more of a burden than a partner and off they went to owners with less romantic ideas about how cameras should feel. Then there are cameras that seem dorky and lumpish that seem to come alive as you use them, tossing a lasso around you and tightening their grip until you hardly think of shooting with anything else. I can never tell when I buy one just how I'll feel but after the first few dates you start to get a sense of which way the relationship will go. I stopped dating a woman once who was incredibly gorgeous and all my friends thought I was nuts. Until I told them that she liked to eat chicken noodle soup with her hands....

I got rid of a well respected Nikon camera because the sound of the shutter was so boring and offensively obvious.

I don't pretend that there's some sort of logical engineering references that inform my decisions. Some cameras work and some don't. I guess it's all very personal. I do know that eating soup with your fingers is not the way to go....

Inflection point reached. The death watch for traditional DSLRs begins now.

Nearly four years ago I wrote an article that was very unpopular with "serious" photographers. In it I talked about the new EVF's and I predicted that in a few short years most cameras would ship with EVFs while traditional optical viewfinders would exist only on specialty cameras aimed at people with big wallets and a high resistance to change. When I look out over the landscape of photographers and consider the choices they are making with their gear purchases I can see that I was a little premature but I also see that the inertia is right there and the change is accelerating.

I have exactly one camera with an OVF, the Sony a850. It's a sterling example of a last century concept for a this century digital solution. It's big, heavy, solid and ponderous. And it makes good images. No better than an a99 but good images all the same. When I look at the rest of my stuff I find EVFs in everything but the Samsung NX 300. That camera is available only with a rear LCD. Also something I never dreamed I would own. Much less use. But everything changes.

I speak about the inflection point because a number of industry announcements (and nearly announced rumors) make me believe that, going forward, it's all going to little TV screens in our finders.  And down market it will all be little flat panel TVs on the backs of cameras. Really, really good TVs.  You may hate this trend. You may be one of those who "will give up his D4 when you pry his cold, dead hands off the camera," but I predict that you will eventually cave as well.

The first announcement (oddly enough) was about the crappiest Sony camera I can ever remember handling. It's the a3000. But it's an important camera because it showcases the concept that will bring mirrorless imaging with EVF to the masses. It has the popular form factor and Sony is able to supply the camera with a very decent zoom lens and quite a good sensor at an astonishingly low price. How? By eliminating the moving mirror, the pentaprism optical finder and the attendant mechanical complexity. The EVF is the worst I've ever seen but it will hardly matter as the iPhone and now the Galaxy phones have trained an entire generation of entry level photographers to compose and shoot on the rear screens of their cameras. Sony is, in effect, supplying a picture machine that can compete with Canon and Nikon APS-C cameras (in the parameter of image quality) in a body style that evokes the public's idea of serious photographic camera at the first totally affordable price point for the masses in the history of digital imaging. They are the first mover in this market. And the changes and compromises will flow uphill.

But the a3000 also sent a signal rippling through to the Sony DSLT faithful: To wit, going forward we are pouring all of our R&D funds into the Nex lens mount. This new configuration will be our corporate standard bearer. How do we intuit this? Well, there should be an announcement in a few days showcasing a new Sony camera model that makes their strategy clear. The web is redolent with rumors about the new Sony a7 camera. Photos of the product are flying across not only the rumor sites but also the reputable sites. The camera will (according to all accounts) to a mirror less, interchangeable lens camera that features a 24 megapixel, full frame (135) sensor. The designs shown seem to echo the overall design of Olympus's newest "pro" camera and that points to a very high quality EVF with a very fast refresh time. Once this hits the market and we see how well the adapters work with the traditional mirrored Sony cameras there will be no reason for Sony to keep two lines of competing cameras in inventory.

The focus on one mount gives them a number of advantages, including (given the short back focus distance of the Nex mount) the ability to use the legacy lenses from just about any traditional DSLR system from any maker. Just add the right adapter and go. You may (or may not) lose some automation but you open up an enormous range of specialized gear for what will be a nearly universal platform.

If you are so inclined you can pick and choose from the best optics from every current maker to use on the new Sonys. Perhaps you have a hankering for a Nikon 14-24mm or a Canon 17mm tilt shift lens. With an adapter you can take advantage of both. And, if the sensor is as tremendous as many people presume it will be can you imagine the cold chill that's going through the halls of Leica's camera designer facility? Leica lenses on a state of the art, full frame chip camera for a fraction of the previous tariff. When and if the a7 and its rumored higher pixel count version hit the market the dealers in Leica glass will have a wild celebration, as will a rash of serious photographers. And it will all be done without mirrors and without optical finders.....Perhaps Leica will roll with the tide or they may just become a "lens only" company...

In one sense it's the holy grail for hobbyists. It's the chance to bounce from lens system to lens system with near reckless abandon. And when an improved sensor becomes available NONE of the investment in glass is impacted. In fact most of it can be cross ventilated to the Fuji or M4:3 systems if better choices arise there.

Let's move on an consider a few more tidbits of change. I asked all my professional movie maker and video production friends about which digital still camera is the best video camera. Some mentioned the ubiquity of the Canon 5D3 but to a person they all said that the Panasonic GH3 has, hands down, the best looking video of all the hybrid cameras. The caveat that keeps Canon 5D3's in place is their ability to handle lower light levels with less noise. But the reality is that for just under $1,000 the GH3 provides the best video imaging of the still camera class. And that includes $5000 Nikon D4's and the Canon 1DX. What makes it great? Well, for one thing the engineers at Panasonic got the codec for video just right. But they also added microphone and headphone jacks and full audio control. But the coolest thing is that the EVF and the mirrorless design work to give you more flexibility than ANY of the bigger, more expensive, traditional cameras. You can use the EVF in full sun without the need for extra (and bulky) loupes. And the camera can focus, quickly, while in operation. Plus it's small and light enough to carry around all day. The confluence of advantages offered up by the mirrorless design and the EVF moved that camera into contention. The finesse of the video stream made it ascendent.

The two hot cameras of the last year? The ones that caught everyone's attention? Oh yes, those would also be mirrorless cameras with EVFs. The Olympus OMD EM5 has been wildly popular. Not in terms of overall sales to the masses but in the affection of and uptake by very serious hobbyists and professionals who no longer wish to keep a chiropractor on staff. The image stabilization is legendary and the EVF in this camera has converted more people to the pleasures of electronic viewing than anything else.

The second hot camera? That would be the Fuji x100s. A runaway hit. Drooled over by no less than Zach Arias, David Hobby and countless other professionals. What's not to like?  A great processor in a fake Leica body, coupled with a great lens and, of course, an EVF and hybrid optical viewfinder. Of course it's mirror less. Why would it need a mirror? But it's not just the x100s that is making for happy Fuji fans. Fuji hedged their bets by releasing the Pro-1X first. It has a combination optical and electronic finder. Now they've launched several other bodies that retain the sensor users loved but with simplified bodies offering just EVF's. And they are selling well. Fuji's secret for success is simple: mirrorless cameras are cheaper to build so, if sold at the same (or higher) prices than competitive DSLRs their margins will be higher. The chips are good and the lenses are even better. What's not to love?

What will this year's hot camera be  for the cognoscenti ? (Not for the Target/Walmart/Costco shoppers).  All signs point to a battle royale between the Olympus OMD E-M1 and the Sony a7. And that's funny because they seem to both be variations of the same basic body style. Not that funny given the cooperation between the two companies.

What will the drivers be? The smaller size, the lower weight, the incredibly good EVFs, the ability to use millions and millions of lenses, the choice of a new sensor size in the mirrorless space, the new performance of on-chip AF sensors, and a new style of imaging that's less about the mythology of how "pros used to shoot" and the reality of how people shoot today. We are so much less concerned about capturing super fast action and so much more concerning about documenting our lives. Different tools. Different ways of seeing.

Finally, I think the evolution will continue, rapidly. I never thought I'd compose and shoot primarily with the screen on the back of a camera (although I certainly did back in the days of view cameras). I've been vocal in my dislike for the "hipster hold" for cameras (also known as the stinky baby diaper hold) but I've found myself quite happy using the enormous rear screen on the back of the Samsung Galaxy NX camera. Especially in the studio and on locations where we control the light. Again, the camera is equipped with an EVF (which I guess is the new credential for "professional") and is mirrorless.

If Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji and Samsung all make only EVF driven mirrorless cameras---and they are a preferred choice by the coolest photographers---can a real "tipping point" in the industry be far behind? I don't think so. The phones will train the next generation to eschew traditional camera paradigms because of their ponderous affect and their complexity. People love composing with a live view and not a truncated live view with focus issues. That love of live composing coupled with a desire to compose on a screen will be the drivers of a whole new camera paradigm. And, of course, the efficiency of pre-chimping(tm)....

The days of the dedicated professional loaded like a llama with an arsenal of heavy, expensive, ponderous  gear are coming to a close. People want their adventures in image making to be smooth, compact and easy. Even the serious people who are trying to squeeze out the finest images possible will be convinced by a the rich profusion of choices coming at us in the next year. Remember how quickly people adapted to smart phones? The product cycles are shrinking and the products are evolving. The days of the flapping, frantic mirror and the "dumb" viewfinder are quickly coming to an end....

Now, what do I do with this big Sony stuff?

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Why looking at the best work in the world is important. And fun.

You may or may not remember that several years ago my friend, Will, and I were engaged to make a video about the Magnum Print Collection. The occasion was the long term loan of the collection to the Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin by Michael and Susan Dell. Here is the video featuring then curator, David Coleman, and a selection of original prints: http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2010/03/video-about-magnum-print-collection.html

That was in 2010. Just this month the HRC opened a show with several hundred wonderful prints made by the legends of the Magnum photo agency over a period of years from about 1955 to about 2008. There is work from Henri Cartier Bresson, David Seymour, Josef Koudelka, Phillipe Halsman, Constantine Manos, Raymond Depardon, and many others. It's an amazing show both for the breadth and for the almost uniform high quality of both the seeing and the prints. If you are a photographer and you live within a day's drive from Austin you owe it to yourself to come and see the show. It's free and open to the public. (Check the hours before you drive in from El Paso...).

I was particularly stunned by how good the technical quality of the photography was, given the allegedly inferior equipment and "image sensors" the master of photography were using sixty or so years ago and yet many of the images seem head and shoulders better than the vast majority of the work I see all over the place today....including work lauded by all the usual sources.

There is one image of three people in a small room by Josef Koudelka that riveted me. I devoured it with my eyes for five long minutes and then returned to it two more times before I finally exited the museum. It's an interior, available light shot of three "Gypsies." A young woman, an old man and an old woman. The composition is perfect. The young women is to the right of the frame and in a plane closest to the camera. She is gazing directly into the camera. Over to the left of the print is the old man with a hat. He is looking at the young woman but he is in a plane behind her which adds a wonderful depth to the image. In the center of the print, in a third plane even further removed is the old woman, bent over a primitive stove. And behind her is the intersection of the two walls of the room and the ceiling which creates soaring diagonals that come forward toward the two other subjects. The effect is full of energy and endlessly compelling. It's a wholly self contained narrative about existence.  And the print is better than 99% of all the digital prints I've seen since the dawn of the digital age. Effortlessly better. Not bigger. Just better. 

Did photographers see better in the 1960's? Was the act of committing precious film ( and miles and days away from more film....) a consideration that drove photographers to a higher level of attention and intention? Pondering this caused me to question almost every piece of photographic art I've seen since 2000. You may not agree with me. You may not like Koudelka's work. But the act of communal viewing in a darkened space with perfect light, with the object of your observation unencumbered by your screen and its limitations may provoke you to experience art at a different level than the screen will ever allow. At least that's been my experience. The print is still relevant. Come see them while you can.
It's a different and wholly inferior art form when confined to an electronic screen. Honestly.

Bonus blog over at RIPE CAMERA: http://ripecamera.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-complete-rationale-for-buying.html


Every now and then old gear MUST get cleaned out to make room in my brain.

I know, I know, you are a genius and able to compartmentalize everything in your life so that no sub-routine in your brain intrudes on any other. I'm not wired that way. There's a part of my brain that keeps track of where every piece of gear I own is right at this moment, what state the batteries are probably in, how long it's been since I shot with said gear and approximately how much money I've made (or lost) shooting with each camera and lens. It's a blessing and a curse. More of a curse if someone moves one of the cameras or lens to a different place. But the biggest problem with gear that spans technological generations is that each piece in some way or another anchors my brain into a magnetic logic that keeps me from thinking totally in a new way.  I can remember almost every minute of shooting with the Kodak DCS 760 in the image above. I did some remarkably fun print campaigns with that camera and several campaigns we did made use of the images for large display graphics. Big lifestyle shots that were used as large as five feet on the long side.

But as long as those older pieces of gear remain in inventory there's a mischievous part of my psyche that wants to pull the stuff out and do jobs with it just to prove how good we were and how much we were able to squeeze out of these cameras. The problem for me is that in some instances the tools start to mould the way I would shoot a job. I self limit. And just having these objects in the space seems to fence me in creatively. I keep reaching back to the way we used to style something or the way we used to solve a problem.

I hit a tipping point this morning and I started going through the drawers and pulling stuff out. Digital Photography machines I hadn't used in years (in one or two cases, literally a decade...) and I started matching up batteries, chargers, lenses, owner's manuals and accessories. A partial list of stuff that left my orbit today includes: The Kodak DCS 760, the Kodak DCS SLR/n, a Nikon 900, Nikon 950 and a Nikon 990. I got rid of two Sony APS-C cameras today, the a58 and the a57. I got rid of a stack of dedicated APS-C cropped coverage lenses from Sony, Tamron and Sigma. All of the Sony Nex (four bodies and ten lenses) equipment is gone. All that remains  of the Hasselblad equipment is a 150mm Sonnar that I use with an adapter on the full frame Sonys. Gone are all the assorted battery powered flashes that no longer fit any of the cameras I owned. Gone are the first and second generations of LED lights. A Nikon 200 body I forgot I had and several older, less productive lenses that I had squirreled away for it. It wasn't a Spring cleaning, it was a purge. A palace insurrection.

What have I ended up keeping in the studio? What's my plan and what am I using? Might as well go over that as well.

I have two Sony a99's and one Sony a850. I have some groovy, full frame competent lenses from Sony and Sigma for those cameras. I have a Pentax K-01 for pointy shooty art stuff. And I have a loaner case of Samsung stuff that doesn't really count because I'll probably have to give most of it back when I'm finished doing my evaluation and tests.

That's as light as I've been on cameras since.....well, since I started shooting twenty five or so years ago.

What am I planning to add? Well, of course there is the second Pentax K-01 that's coming tues. but that hardly counts because it's cheap and silly and fun. And they are as much art as they are tools.

The one addition I did make today was to buy a Panasonic GH3 and a 25mm Leica lens to go with it. I bought it for video projects. My friend, Frank, bought one and used it to shoot some video projects and the imaging is  much better than what I've seen from the Sony a99 and the Canon 5D3 (unhooked) that I felt like I was buying a video production camera and not another still camera. That and the fact that we've still got a drawer filled with juicy Pen F lenses and adapters standing by.

Well. There it is. A giant purge. A feeling of freedom and fewer subroutines running in my head.  Staying current is good. Collecting depreciating stuff with decaying batteries and slowly deteriorating capacitors and oxidizing circuit boards is so last century...

A video project that the Visual Science Lab worked on...

This is a promotional video for Zach Scott Theatre's production of Les Miserables. I lit, sound engineered and shot the interview footage with the director. Colin Lowry shot the live stage footage and David Munns edited the piece together.

It's a really great musical and Zach has done an amazing job with the production. Just wanted to share some work stuff....


All gear all the time.


I don't know if you read this one a while ago but some people found it helpful....

What am I expecting to see at PhotoPlus?

I'm heading up to PhotoPlus in two weeks. It's a big photographic tradeshow/gathering held every Fall at the Javits Center in NYC. I've been thinking about the show and the huge and pervasive yawning sense of apathy that seems to have settled over the photography industry in the last few months. I think we're going to see a lot of re-hashed product, hear a lot of seminars about how to get ahead "in the new economy," and every once and a while we'll be surprised by an announcement we probably didn't see coming.

To start off with I think that Samsung will make big waves with their new Galaxy NX camera. It took me a while to understand the value proposition of its features but now I get it. I'm starting to see it through the lenses of younger generations. The camera is either getting better and better to shoot (could be firmware updates that happen automatically when the camera is in a wi-fi network) or I'm finally getting comfortable with the new ( to me ) control interface. The sensor is good, the lenses are good and, for people who need quick access to.....everything current sharing technology has to offer... it's the only game in town. I'll be demonstrating it along with Philadelphia photographer, Nick Kelsh and we won't just be shooting nice images of beautiful models----we'll be putting all of the connectivity features through the wringer.  But it's certainly not the only game in town.

I'm especially interested in what Sony will be announcing. Those guys are nearly as fickle as I am! If the rumors on the web are true we'll be seeing the introduction of a Nex-styled, full frame camera for under $3,000. But this makes me a little bit nervous since I have a lot of resources tied up in what we've been calling "Alpha" stuff. I thought the product line was split between the DSLT's (Alphas) and the mirrorless offerings (Nex) but lately Sony's been slapping the Alpha signature on everything, including the little piece of cr*p camera they are calling the a3000. Does the introduction of a full frame Nex mark the incipient demise of the traditional camera line? Will my a99 be obsoleted and abandoned? Will the a850 become even more obsolete? Will we be howling in the wilderness looking for bodies to mate with our orphaned lenses? I guess we'll find out at the big show.

I hope someone at Sony has done their market research and not just taken notes over at the DPReview Sony Nex Forum....Even if they throw all their resources into the Nex style line of cameras and abandon our last century configurations I'm sure the Sony engineers have figured out how to make cute and expensive adapters for our full sized Sony and Zeiss lenses.... But, I'd rather have a choice and be able to get cameras that still have some real estate for my hands and enough build to hold big flashes up and big lenses in some sort of balance. Are you listening Sony?

Is anybody going to show any new studio flash products? Oh, I'm sure there's going to be some new cosmetic touches on existing technology but I sense that the high end studio lighting market ( focus on professional studio use) is falling through the basement floor and rapidly being replaced by more and more, small, light lithium battery powered options that allow flash anywhere.  The focus on flash lighting that was aimed at perfectionists is being disrupted by the reality that so much of the market has moved from making art to making consumables. Not works meant for the test of time but images that have a "use by" date measured in hours and days instead of months and years. No one working for those markets (outside a small circle) really cares about that last 1% of UV light suppression or 1/10th of stop consistency on the 900th pop...

I'm sure we'll see lots and lots of cr*ppy LED lights that are rushed to market for low price points but I hope we'll see some really good, new stuff from Fiilex, Lowell, Arri and others. I am still a big proponent of LED lighting. I may have been a year ahead of everything I wanted coming to market when I wrote the LED book but when I look at my newly repaired crystal ball, five years from now, I'm seeing LEDs routing flash in many, many current applications. What am I looking for at this show? A fresnel, focusable spot LED with a whisper cooling fan for the electronics and enough oomph! to bounce into a big diffuser and give me enough shutter speed and f-stop to rock even a portrait with some movement in it. And, call me "crazy" but I'd like to get it into my studio for less than $1,000. Three in a nice case for $2,500? Keep the cheesy stands and just give me the good stuff....

What will Nikon and Canon show? Probably not much. This show is out of sync from their typical schedule of product announcements. Nikon seems to be flailing and I'm not sure the new D610 is a confidence builder. Rather than looking at DSLRs the real logic for Nikon is to do something great for their mirrorless line. The V cameras could use a new body that's aimed at enthusiasts. If Fuji can iterate three or four mirrorless bodies in the space of a year I would think that Nikon could pop out a rangefinder style variation of the V bodies with the updated sensor without breaking a sweat. If it's good and fun and priced right it might sell. As long as it doesn't spray oil all over the place....

I noticed that Canon withdrew their horrible EM mirrorless camera with very little fanfare. Apparently the critics did not appreciate its operational nuances. Wouldn't it be nice if they re-entered the space with a camera that could focus in fractions of a seconds instead of haltingly and in slow motion? That might sell too. And the prices that the camera finally sold for proved that every camera can be successful once the accurate value proposition is rationalized.

The company that once made the greatest compact camera ever (the Canonet QL 17) should be able to go toe to toe with Sony and their RX1 and if they could do a well designed product that competed for a much lower price they would doubtless have success in that market as well. Canon needs to launch a prime lens camera with a 35mm focal length and a full frame sensor that's as well designed as the old Canonet and nearly as accessible. Wouldn't it be great to see an f2.8 model for under a grand? And the heck with AF. If real rangefinders are good enough for Leica then they should be good enough for Canon.

I think the real news at the show is going to be in technology and sharing. One of the reasons the iPhone quickly became the most popular camera in the world is that it not only took reasonably good photographs but that the images could be worked on, in camera, and then shared instantly. Look for the market to reverse polarity and start pushing easy sharing right back up the camera hierarchy. There will be legions of "experienced" curmudgeons who will denounce any additional features in a camera. Look at the venom thrown at video implementations in DSLRs. People are fond of saying that the camera makers could have made the cameras cheaper if they made them without video, but from the camera makers' points of view the inclusion more than outweighed the sour grapes of last century enthusiasts by opening up a potentially huge new market of people who would have previously skipped still cameras altogether and just bought video cameras.

Adding wi-fi sharing or NFC sharing to a camera can't be that costly and if it attracts a whole new generation to consider a camera in lieu of a cellphone for their work then that's an enormous (if temporary) benefit to camera companies.

Finally, I expect to see a bunch of new monitors, screens and televisions aimed at the emerging 4K sector. Not just in video but also for photographic presentation. We'll be shooting images and showing them on large 4K TV's and we've been discussing the need to shoot at full res in order to utilize the full power of the screen resolution. We are at an inflection point where framed art on the walls of homes, businesses and stores is going to be replaced by large screens. The ability to go back and forth between motion and still, and at enormous resolutions (which give our images much better and richer tonality) is priceless: both from a marketer's point of view and also from the consumer's point of view. The experience will be enhanced and everyone's photos will look better (or worse) than ever before.

We're moving toward a ubiquitous screen experience. That's the real message I keep taking away.


What role will instant access have in the working lives of photographers?

It's no secret that I've been playing with a camera that is nearly always connected to the web, if I want it to be. And it's forced me to start thinking like a 17 year old instead of a 57 year old. To wit, what will the next generation of cameras bring me when it comes to workflow, efficiency and value to my clients, if anything? I've more or less come to grips that it's really all about changing my mindset.  I think there are rewards for being in the forefront of new ways of delivering images. That's why I'm exploring them.

I grew up in the golden age of traditional photography and made a relatively quick and easy transition to digital in the late 1990's. The technology isn't an issue but the baggage of "how it's done" is almost a crushing burden. If you started out with black and white film in your hands and the print was your target then speed wasn't the real driver, just getting through the process correctly and with a good end product was the driver. We came to value craft and repetition as the secrets to making uniform products that we could sell, lease or license to our clients. We were creating artifacts. We were creating physical products. But that really isn't the world I live in today. Now we're making Virtual Consumables. And part of the consumable ethos is relentless freshness. We're now creating images to consume rather than images as permanent artifacts. At least commercially...

It's the same in parts of my photo business as it is in my blogging. If I don't provide timely new content for the blog the audience falls off in some sort of mathematically proscribed fashion until we hit single digit readership. The fresher and more relevant the content the more readers and the more growth the site enjoys. In making and disseminating images I'm finding that more and more clients are using the content on their sites they way I am using content on this blog. They are looking not for news but certainly for fresh. I'm not at the point yet where all my clients want everything right now buy we're getting closer and closer as our businesses get more intertwined and collaborative.

When I worked for Dell, Inc. at their Worldwide Conference last year there were parts of our shooting that required immediate turn around. When I photographed President Clinton with 60+ different people one morning part of the brief was that I would hand off a copy of the images to his public relations people before they left the building. And they were leaving the building about five minutes after the shoot. I brought along a computer and a couple of flash drives and we transferred as fast as I could. We made the deadline, but just by a nose hair.

As I worked with the new, wi-fi and cell enabled camera I've been tested it dawned on me that I could have set up a folder in DropBox and sent each image to the folder as I was shooting at the Dell Event. The client would have their copies in the cloud immediately. And in a format and "place" where everyone in their team could have nearly immediate access.

Then I started thinking about the basic format of shows and the need to send images to so many people. I would be shooting one part of an event and get an urgent call from someone in another department who had an immediate need for photography we'd taken a little earlier. If we were constantly streaming into a shared folder I could take myself out of the equation and let the PR people handle the access to the images internally.

When I started down that line of reasoning I immediately thought of our shoots for the theater. We end up shooting dress rehearsals the day before the first openings and the PR folks need images to send to websites and press first thing in the morning after the dress rehearsal. Our routine is to shoot, head home, download, back up, do a rough edit and then put all the images on a portable hard drive and either deliver them to the theatre or have them picked up by a harried marketing person from the theater.  Wouldn't it be much cooler and less agonizing to start uploading images to a shared folder from the very beginning of the show? Depending on the speed of the network the camera would inevitably get ahead of the upload but it would catch up during intermission and on the drive home. Maybe the final files would load from wherever I left the camera (in my own wi-fi or cell zone) when I went to bed.

The delivery is happening during the process. If time is of the essence a marketing person could be sitting in the office reviewing the images as they populate the folder and do a rough edit and cull. Once I hit the house I can head to bed. Later on I can go back to the shared folder and download all the images in order to back them up or I can go "old school" and back them up from my cards.

I have a client in California who hires me to shoot portraits of her company's executives here in central Texas. How great it will be to start sending test images as we set up and wait on make up and all the rest of the pre-production. I could get immediate approval or input on lighting design and the overall look.

But even thinking more traditionally, Wi-fi networks and NFC (near field communications) networks can be much quicker to use for virtual tethering than actual tethering or FTP based sharing systems. Make one shared folder and invite everyone to share via tablets or even phones and you can do a big production shoot with everyone collaborating and sharing.

All this stuff is scary for me but it works. It's not scary for people who never shot film and who grew up interfacing with screens and menus all day long, all life long. And they are our competition going forward. I'm not sure I want to be left out just to be a champion for the "the way we've always done things." I don't want to be in that part of the graph with the people who were sure that color television would never catch on. And I don't want to be the last guy selling color prints to people whose wall space is a big monitor. I'm not willing to sacrifice my access to a new generation clients just to bolster and defend an anachronistic set of traditions.

I know that a lot of my readers have been perplexed by my decision to accept and embrace this learning experience, especially given my long history of being a curmudgeon and a person who pushed back on trends. But the bottom line is that this is a business where you learn, grow or fade away and take early retirement. My CFO counsels me that the last choice isn't an option for at least the next four years so I've made the conscious decision to swallow my pride and step up to look through the window and see what the future is delivering right now. And to find a use for it or even reject it totally. But even if I reject it I owe it to myself to understand it.

Who would have thought we'd be shooting digital video? Or sharing work and production in the cloud. In a few years most cameras will probably also be communication hubs and resources. I'd rather learn about it all in the front end and be able to pick and choose how I want to use the new technology. It was sad to watch the last hold outs of digital trudge through the well worn path so many had already passed by before them. Change is scary. Not changing can be even scarier.

Note that this particular blog is not about a specific camera. There are several companies doing wi-fi capable cameras. The whole point is finding the sweet spot of the technology and deciding where, if anywhere, it fits into your business instead of waiting and letting it blindside you.

If you do this for fun instead of as a capitalist enterprise you really needn't worry about the subject. But you might find it interesting. First thought my amateur brain had was "instant back up of travel images from anywhere in the world. No computer required." Just food for thought.