A light, airy and silly post about an absurd purchase from last week....

Subtitled: Crazy stuff photographers buy at trade shows. Not the camera.....

If you read the blog you already know that I have a soft spot for silly cameras that are secretly great image makers but you might not know that I, like many other technical leaning male picture makers, have a penchant for buttons, knobs and anything else you can add to a device that makes it look cooler or more.....meaningfully complex. It goes back to that whole painful mastery thing we talked about on Sunday...

At any rate Nick Kelsh and I were tooling around the trade show in New York looking at all the cool new video stuff when I can across a small table whose inhabitants specialized in "viewer technology."
They had all kinds of viewfinders and hoods and shades for the LCD screens that hang there on the backs of still and video cameras. I found the biggest, meanest, gnarly-est one I could and measure it with my pocket laser rangefinder/caliper system to make sure it would fit on the backs of my Samsung NX 300 and my remarkably cool Pentax K-01's and then I borrowed a hundred bucks from Nick and bought one.  It actually occupies more cubic space than either my Pentax or my spunky little Samsung. And it's photographic comedy to see it in use....but now I can get my money's worth out of those expensive little flat panels that keep showing up on the backs of otherwise perfectly good cameras. 

The company that sells this is called, Swivi and I think the product is a bargain at $100. It's got an eyepiece blind (for what? I'm not sure...) and a big diopter adjustment ring that's made out of metal. You can see that the rubber eyecup is steroid enhanced. Absolutely hulking.  You'll think you've gone back to the eyecup on your Arriflex 16S. 

The loupe construction is hinged so you can flip up the magnifying element and look at the shaded LCD directly or hold the camera at arm's length in classic, stinky baby diaper--daddy needs glasses" style. Wonderful for new school or old school. 

Best of all this beast bolts onto the bottom with belligerent bravado. The all metal mounting hardware is a salad of metal bolts and rods that allows the unit to be custom fit to just about any camera with a tripod socket. Shifting left and right or up and down is easy and when you've got it where you want it the whole thing locks down tightly. And wearing it with a diminutive camera will make you look like the biggest photo nerd in the area. But I'll still bring it around with me when I actually want, or need, to see what's on the screen at midday in the blazing sun. YMMV.

The wonderful thing bout the construction of the loupe and the mounting hardware is that
nothing occludes the Marc Newsome signature on the bottom of my camera. 
And secondarily, nothing gets in the way of the battery compartment.

The one fly in the ointment? You lose your tripod socket.
C'est la vie. That's what vise grips are for......

Life in the booth.

Gloria. Samsung Galaxy NX. 60mm Len. 

I've never been a "booth babe" before. I've been to a lot of trade shows and photographed tons of corporate events as a show photographer but this was a first for me. There something both magical and mercenary about pretending to be plying your trade (portraiture) in front of a mob that ranges from keenly interested and kind to downright sociopathic and demanding. I've rarely felt as exposed. But once you steel yourself up it kind of grows on you.... Like breaking in new shoes.

In the Samsung booth Nick Kelsh and I were shooting with our cameras electronically tethered to a rather large and impressive television and this meant that, with constantly on live view, everything we pointed our cameras at was shown simultaneously to everyone around the booth. Every snap we reviewed was popped up on the "big" screen ---real time. So, when we flubbed exposures or got the most horrible expression from a model imaginable the results were there for our ever changing panel of "judges."

Every once in a while I'd push the wrong series of buttons on my camera in way too quick and chaotic a manner and the camera would give me an error message. The "fix" was generally a quick jab at the power button and we'd be back in business but I'd always get rattled and hand my camera to Andrew, our technical wizard. He'd push the requisite two buttons and hand the camera back with a smile and I'd go on shooting.

I found out that there is, at some point of the day, going to be a show attendee who hates your brand, loves his chosen brand and is dropping by your booth to be as obnoxious as possible. But until everyone starts throwing punches you really can't call security. But you can try to change the conversation to something else....or pawn him off on a booth "expert" in your camp. Goes with the territory. 

So, what did I learn in my close embrace of the general public for three days? Well, it's much easier to demo a camera if you look at the big screen on the back or the even bigger screen over your head when you are shooting test shots and sample shots. That way you stay with the crowd instead of retreating into your viewfinder.  I learned that on an APS-C sensor camera that my absolute favorite portrait focal length is, without a doubt,  60mm! I had the 85mm 1.4 in my bag and while it's a wonderful lens that focuses quickly and images nicely it seemed just a bit long, which put me just a bit further away from my subject than I'd like to be. I went shorter once or twice but it just never seemed to gel for me.

I now know why I like to use a tripod! I can compose and maintain that basic composition even if I need to, or want to, step away from the camera to answer a question or stare at that Leica S camera just a few booths away. When I come back to the camera it's still all set up the way I left it. The tripod also allows me to keep my hands free to push buttons or gesticulate wildly at the models...

I never liked shooting tethered before. In the early days the Kodak professional cameras and the Photo Desk software made tethering straightforward and relatively easy but ensuing products from other makers were always more tenuous and halting. Mid-decade programs crashed and ran slow (for portrait shooters) and I always hated being on the end of the inevitable leash. But tethering wireless and "at speed" is great. The image was on screen almost simultaneous to my shooting it and the giant TV and the LCD on the back of the camera seemed to be a reasonably good match. Yesterday I found myself shooting a portrait "old school" and realized that I've already spoiled myself in just three days. Now I'm shopping around for a "smart" TV that does wi-fi so I can set it up in the studio and change the way I've been doing portraits....

I found that in the "behind the scenes" areas of a trade show booth there might be Crumbs(tm) cupcakes and many of them might conspire to have my name on them. I also found treasure troves of  Halloween candy which I shamelessly bartered with the gatekeeper at the V.I.P. lounge for fresh coffee. I've come to understand from my booth mates that no matter how much product literature you bring you will run out. The only thing worse than running out of literature is to bring a sparse amount and NOT run out.

I've come to realize that no matter how big your shooting area you would always like just a few more feet on every side. But mostly I've come to realize that a collaboration with a talented and beautiful model will always make you look like a better photographer. Really.

 Photos of Kirk provided by VSL reader, Tom Judd. ©2013 Tom Judd, all rights reserved.

Finally, I will always look ten pounds heavier than I think I am in any photo taken of me....

Thanks Tom!

link to tumblr: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/visualsciencekirk