I was playing around with a Samsung NX30 this afternoon and found a lens I really like.

Inside the Austin Convention Center.
©2014 Kirk Tuck

I've done so much work in the last ten days that I needed a small break. I needed to put down the cameras I've been using and also step away from the computer and just go out for a walk. To mix things up a bit I unearthed my Samsung NX30 camera and the Samsung 50-200mm f4-5.6 zoom, checked the battery and headed out the door. 

I walked along my familiar path from Whole Foods flagship store to the Austin Convention Center (home to SXSW) and back again. When I made it back to WF I did stop in to buy a lovely Proseco, but that's another story...

I haven't spent much time with this particular zoom lens but it was just what I wanted this afternoon, and, after looking at the images, I have new respect for the lens.

It's small, light and image stabilized. It's sharp, contrasty and seems to handle flare well. The combination of the NX 30 and the 50-300 is pretty cool since it gives me the equivalent of a 75-300mm zoom in a small and easy to handle package. I'll be using it to shoot some theater with next week as a test of the camera's high ISO capabilities. I'll have more samples then but I did want to include one more because I was very happy with both the sharpness and the tonal balance in the image below:

Sixth Street in Austin, Texas. 
©2014 Kirk Tuck

Disclosure: I am a member of Samsung's Imagelogger program and I am testing the NX 30 and several lenses which were sent to me by Samsung. I am not required by the nature of my relationship with Samsung to post images or articles on my blog with images from their cameras. I chose to do so because the camera returned to me images that I like and with a tonality and structure that is different from what I get from other manufacturers' cameras. The difference is more than enough to keep me intrigued. that and the fact that I really like the camera and lens combination's rendering of color. It's a rich palette. Especially when I process the best quality jpegs exactly the way I want them.
Other than the camera and two lenses I am not being given any other consideration at this time by Samsung or their marketing associates. Do I hope they will send me buckets of money and send me off again to wonderful locations? You bet. And I'll let you know straight up if they do. 

For now the NX 30 is a nice change. Almost a busman's holiday camera for me....

17,034,000. And counting.

I was too busy to notice but several days ago the blog (Visual Science Lab: Kirk Tuck) crested the seventeen million page view mark. Much writing but even more reading. I'd love to hear you check in and tell me if I'm still doing a good job. 

I'll take some criticism too but don't cross that line.......

Seriously, thanks for reading.

Experimentation is the spice of something. Adventures in narrow depth of field with m4:3 cameras.

I've had such good luck with the Panasonic GH3 in the video realm that I am now trying out zany lenses to shoot with and I've come to like shooting with some of the same lenses for my conventional photography. On Monday this week I was making portraits of architects and while I wanted images with defocused backgrounds I just wasn't into carry around the bag of full frame Sonys and all the lenses. We weren't shooting studio style, I was shooting environmental portrait style. That means that I didn't mind supplementing the existing light but I wasn't going to set up backgrounds and soft boxes and flashes either.

I've had good luck using adapters to mine the rich vein of the manual focus Olympus Pen FT lenses such as the 60mm 1.5 and the 40mm 1.4 but I wanted something just a bit short and equally fast. My other option in the Olympus drawer was the Pen 38mm 1.8 but that lens is a bit flat and flare-y and really on gets acceptably sharp from 3.5 on down. Not what I was looking for in this instance.

I looked around the studio and decided to try the behemoth Rokinon 35mm 1.5 Cine lens. I had a Sony Alpha to m4:3 adapter just sitting there looking pretty on my (actual) desktop so I put it all together and attached it to the front of a waiting camera. Do the quick math and what you end up with is a 70mm equivalent that opens up to t-stop 1.5. Nice----if it's sharp enough.

I shot a number of wider, environmental portraits with it and I like what it does to the backgrounds and the tonalities in general. While it's sharp enough wide open it does better at f2 and better still at 2.8 where it is just about perfect.  Of course, by then you're starting to give up some of the benefit of the narrow depth of field. But overall, wide open it is sharper than the Pens.

The portraits look pretty darn cool. I also tried the Sigma 50mm 1.4 lens on the adapter and then I was really happy. The center part of the lens (the part I really care about) gets sharp really quickly and the equivalent of 100mm is just exactly in the sweet spot of my portrait lens taste profile.

Long enough to get close but not so long as to exclude all detail. It's a well done lens. Even (or especially) for micro four thirds. I can only imagine that the new version is that much better.

I am interested in hearing from m4:3 shooters about their favorite lenses for doing narrow depth of field. I presume everyone has a "go to" portrait lens but I'm especially interesting in reading about adaptations of older (and newer) lenses that are being re-purposed away from their original format targets. Whaddaya Got?

Mystified by it all.

If it's true that everyone wants everything for free and that everyone can 
do everything themselves then why do some people still pay to have 
someone else park their cars?

So. The Getty's new business model is to give the public whatever they want for free in return for creating a web site that's deemed worthy of advertising dollars. I guess that's the gist of it. They've capitulated to the larceny of the masses and they are going to put a best face on the reality of it all and drive as many eyeballs to their site as humanly possible, using photographs provided by photographers (free content for Getty no matter how you slice it) and they are going to turn around to ad agencies and clients and monetize the crap out of their site by selling consumer eyeballs to the advertising clients who can exactly target their potential markets. And buy advertising space.

No Getty photographer will make a single cent on the billions of free images that will be given away, over-used and quickly devalued for all time. Not a cent. Nothing. You can argue that the exposure will help their business but what does exposure really mean for a commodity product? Nothing at all.
Will the cream rise to the top? Sure. Maybe. Probably not. It's being crowdsourced by consumers whose overriding concern is price----or the lack of it. Understand that this is not a marketing ploy to sell more of the images that photographers are basically throwing over the transom to Getty. They (Getty) have no sustained interest in selling those images. The stream is the content in the same way that endless episodes of Honey Boo-Boo and endless re-runs of the Beverly Hillbillies exist only as  wrappers for commercials. You watch the stream. You ingest the ads. You never buy the stream. And Getty never sells the stream. They sell your eyeballs. They sell billboards next to your camera content. Content created and willingly given away.

If valet parking were free we'd never have to circle the block again.

How does all this effect real working photographers? I think it's a wash. People still need custom images of their people, their products and their processes. That's a basic. And in those markets it's always been a matter of taste intersecting the graph of cost. Some companies understand the value of really good work while others have always been in the camp of : "Good enough for government work."

The binge trough of free images does damage our ability to help clients understand usage rights and copyright but that's a whole different battle. One we're losing on our own through inertia, cowardice and ignorance.

The bottom line is that the world is awash with images and most of them are de facto free. The world of profitable commercial photography is changing and many of the niches that used to provide profitable incomes have morphed into crowd sourcing and lowest common denominator pricing.

How it will all turn out is a mystery. I think there's a huge bubble comprised of on line companies whose products attract hundreds of millions of users and their strategy is to capture the most attention and the most use by people in demographic that appeal to marketers and international suppliers of consumer goods like cellphones, cameras, cars, branded food products and techno-toys. They are delivering------AD SPACE. And they are brilliant because unlike the television networks who had to buy their content to wrap commercials around----or radio stations that have to buy the rights to air music or pay the salaries of on air entertainers---the new wave of media AD SPACE providers are crowdsourcing their content absolutely free. That's how Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and now Getty work.

But just as in the newspaper business the market can only provide revenue for a small number of providers. Think back. It's rare even in the heyday of newspaper publishing that even a major city had more than two big newspapers. The web market is much more diluted and granular. Advertisers can more effectively pick and choose markets. The markets change more fluidly and quickly now. The Facebook and Getty of today will eventually become the AOLOnlines and MySpaces of tomorrow. It's not a tech bubble, it's really an advertising inventory bubble and every tech company is racing to be part of it.

But when consumers have no real sense of community or loyalty to a site or a concept the bubble is much more fragile than before. On the other hand there's really no infrastructure to most of the companies so the downside of a bubble bursting for most of the new starts is that 20 or 30 start up specialists move on to something else and the people who held the newly created equity have their generation's own Enron stories to tell...

Photography is morphing but done correctly and used correctly it still has real power and value for clients. I'm putting on my poncho so I don't get spattered by the explosion of free images when the AD SPACE TECH BUBBLE pops and creates a mess.

The free food at the buffet for a mass market promotional event is almost as good as real food....


Photographer leaps across the great chasm to produce profitable video projects.

This is an image of my friend, Suzi W. It has nothing to 
do with this particular post other than to point out 
that I love taking portraits. Whether they move or are moving. 
Or Both. 

I've been shooting video for a while but it's only in the past year that it's become more captivating for me as a part of my business. Still photography, as a business, can be a perilous undertaking (financially) and it's nice to spread out the risk by doing different, but related, types of work. I find that I love doing video projects because they speak to so many facets of my experience base. The frame work of videos for commercial clients is the marketing and branding message. All the pretty footage in the world doesn't matter if someone isn't taking time to bore down and understand what the basic selling proposition the client is trying to communicate.

My process in the video world is different from that followed by many in the industry who are, in a sense, just trying to trade their still cameras for a camera that does motion. There are legions of people who "just want to show up and shoot." In the parlance of the video production industry these people are referred to as "camera operators" and they are part of a crew that all works together to follow the orders of a director. The director may be working from a script written by someone he or she has never met.  For the camera operator the generic position is a day job. 

I recently put together and completed a job done just the way I wanted to do it. The client was a technology company with a bundled hardware/software product that has compelling features for a number of commercial and retail markets. They needed a video to show at trade shows and to put on their website that would speak about the features and benefits of the product and do so in a voice that would target a specific set of industry professionals. 

My first job was to immerse myself in the company and the product. Of course I researched on their website and read every scrap of marketing information the company had ever produced. I talked to the tech people, the salespeople and the company marketing people. I wanted to know what the product really did and I needed to understand a number of real world applications. The second most important piece of research was to find out exactly who the decision makers who trigger a purchase of the product would be. 

When I felt like I had a comfortable grasp of the product and the market, the problem the product solved and how the solution actually worked I was ready to plan and present a budget. We would use guided interviews as the framework for the story. As luck would have it one of the biggest customers for the software, in the retail space, was thrilled to go on camera and give and interview/testimonial. 

I also got lucky in that the client's product strategy director had a great voice and was a very good interview subject. Together, their interviews formed the backbone of the story we were telling. 

I created a secondary story with actors. The product is all about security and loss prevention so I hired two talented actors and secured a great retail location where we could act out some petty transaction theft. One actor was a "store clerk" the other his "customer" and accomplice. I would use their interactions, shot from six different angles and magnifications to create a visual narrative that would be like shorthand to professionals in the theft prevention business.

We started the project with our product strategist's interview. I shot the "A" camera and my assistant shot a different angle so we had visual variety to use in the edit. We shot lots of B-roll of people working with the technology and we shot B-roll of random stuff that inferred a corporate setting. 

While I was engaged in the shooting I had a graphic artist hard at work giving me variations of graphic transitions to use to accentuate primary information and also to animate both the company logo and the product logo. She was able to give me a number of options. 

After the first round of interviews and B-roll shooting I had to spend two long days in the studio reviewing the footage, marking the best takes and trying to figure out where the holes might be in my program. The back end of multi-camera shoots can be daunting. It's important to match up the footage from two camera angles on the set and to match up the sound tracks. 

We traveled to Chicago last week to film our client's customer interview and I was prepared with my list of leading questions to help guide the interviewee into filling the holes in my content. He was incredibly good and thankfully the client was flexible enough to let us rearrange the program to make more room for his interview.

I finally sat down last Saturday morning to start putting together the jigsaw puzzle from the "box" of pieces I had in front of me. I cut back and forth between my interview footage and my secondary narrative to constantly reinforce visually what the experts were delivering via spoken word. 

I spent all day Saturday and all day Sunday editing into the wee hours of the night. I had intended this round to be a "rough cut" but I had the vision in my head for exactly how I wanted everything to cut together and I just kept fine tuning and fine tuning until I had a fairly polished program.

I had to put everything aside on Monday to shoot a still job for a different client and I walked into a meeting with my video client Tues. morning with the same trepidation I always experience when delivering a creative product: Dread mixed with hope....

Worst case is the client looking silently at the three minutes you've put on the screen and then turning and saying, "Well, it's a good first start but........"  And the response you pray for is: "Rough cut? You're kidding, right?" Followed by, "We love it just the way it is. Can you give it to me right now on a memory stick?"  While the second response is rare it does happen. 

My client had one change at the approval meeting. I held my breath....  She wanted to add the company's website URL at the very end of the program. Just a quick build of white type on black.
That was it. Everything else was approved. I went back to the office to polish the project; tighten up the sound and the music bed, fix any inconsistencies and generally make it as perfect as I could. I delivered the final today. Three days ahead of schedule. 

And that was a great benefit to my client who would be taking the program to a trade show on Monday and was dreading having to approve a project right under the wire. 

I got to use my marketing skills, my 58 year old life skills, my interviewing skills, my camera operation skills, my sound engineering skills, my editing skills, my job management skills and my writing skills to put together a project that I'm proud of and with which my client is very happy. And I'll be well paid for every skill set. A much better proposition than being an interchangeable camera operator. And a wonderful adjunct to my traditional photography business. 

Tech nuts and bolts: 

Cameras: I used Panasonic GH3 cameras for all the video production. I made the most use of my Olympus Pen FT 60mm 1.5 lens and my Olympus Pen FT 40mm 1.4 lens. Wicked sharp with beautiful drawing. I also used the Olympus 12-50mm 3.5 to 5.6 zoom and it worked well in video. 

I used a Benro S6 fluid head on a Berlebach wooden tripod for my Austin work and a smaller Gitzo tripod with a Manfrotto fluid head for my work requiring travel. We used a Manfrotto micro fluid head on an Igus rail as a home made (and very effective) slider to do lateral camera moves and push ins. 

Lighting: All of the interviews in Austin were lit with multiple Fotodiox DayPro fluorescent light banks. In Chicago we used four Fotodiox 312AS LED panels which survived airline baggage handlers and worked flawlessly.

Editing: I used Final Cut Pro X (version 10.1.1) to do all of the storyline editing, sound sweetening and lower third title effects. My designer used Apple's Motion to animate titles and transition slides. 

Consulting: Ben came back from a college trip just in time to look at the project and suggest three valuable changes. Which were made. And which improved the final product. 

More video projects, please!

(project currently embargo-ed until client's first public use. Then we'll share.)


Just back in town and reporting on a video business trip.


I'm coming home and on Sunday my kid is heading out to go visit a college in Pennsylvania. My how things change. As a parent I'm scared to put my (18 year old) baby alone on a plane but at the same time I figure he's smarter and more resourceful than I've ever been and he has the full financial power and backing of his two parents behind him....

I headed out to Chicago yesterday because my client had the opportunity to add a powerful testimonial to a video we are creating for them from a huge, national client. I'm always game for a "shock and awe" endorsement. 

The idea was that I'd be shooting an interview of the big company's security V.P.  at their H.Q. and we might also be able to pick up some additional B-roll for our video. 

Here's how I packed: In my Think Tank Retrospective 30 bag I packed two Panasonic GH3's (best under $10K video cameras I know of) a couple of Panasonic Zoom lenses, the 40 and 60mm high speed Olympus Pen FT half frame lenses and the Olympus 12-50mm lens. I brought along about 100 gigabytes of fast SDXC memory too. One of the most important things I packed in the camera bag was the Sennheiser wireless microphone system. With fresh batteries. 

In the Tenba rolling Roady case I packed three Manfrotto Nano light stands, a Gitzo tripod with a Manfrotto fluid head, Four Fotodiox 312AS battery powered LED light panels, a collapsible, translucent, white umbrella, extra microphones and cables and a mixer. 

I also brought along a small backpack with a light weight monopod and a Leica ball head in case the Tenba case did not arrive and I was reduced to window light and a monopod bungied to a high backed chair...

We left Austin on a Delta flight and it may have been one of the newest jets I've ever flown on. We connected through Denver and everything was as perfect as a Swiss clock. We arrived right on time and headed to our hotel. On the way my client and I got a text which let us know that because of legal issues and corporate constraints we would not be able to do our interview on site. We arranged for a suite at the hotel and moved our interview there. 

I put three lights ( the Fotodiox lights miraculously all worked) into the translucent umbrella as my main light. I used my remaining panel, bounced off the ceiling, as a fill light and used the soft, late afternoon diffused light coming through a set of white curtained French doors as my back light. Exposure: ISO 400, 30fps, 1/60th, f2.8 as the primary exposure. Custom white balanced with a Lastolite white/gray target. 

I used one of my Panasonic GH3s as my "A-roll" camera with the 40mm 1.4 lens on it. I used the Sennheiser wireless mics as my main audio input source, placing the lavaliere mic on the placket of my interviewee's shirt.  I set up a second camera on the conference table about 75 degrees off the angle of my main camera. That GH3 had the Olympus 12-50mm lens on it and I used it just about fully zoomed to its widest angle. The shots I got from this camera show the interviewee using his hands and they also show the context of the space. 

I put a small, Azden shotgun microphone into the hot shoe of the b-roll camera to record audio which would work as a scratch track for multi-camera audio waveform matching in FCPX and also as a back up for the audio from the "A" camera. It worked very, very well and will give me 50% more editing opportunities. 

My clients are good ones. That's been a blessing in my career: good clients.  They actually (on their own accord) left the room while I conducted nearly 45 minutes of interview. And I got great, great stuff. Afterwards client entertained client while I tore down the lighting and repacked my cases. I did a quick QC check before we released the client back into the wild  and the QC check included listening to samples of all the audio as well as checking the visual footage. 

I used a Tenba Rolling Roadie case as my main lighting and tripod case, the Think Tank Retrospective 30 (which I bought last Fall to take to Berlin) and a small, leather backpack I bought in Geneva, Switzerland in 1995 to carry everything. Mostly painless. 

My client put me in a five star suite last night and after breakfast this morning we retraced our steps back to Austin. My Graphic Designer wife greeted me with Motion Graphics samples that were perfect and now all that remains of the project is music selection, editing, a rough edit approval and then more editing and then a final edit and finally a final edit. So far the project is exceeding my expectations. 

What would I do different next time? Not a damn thing. We were fast, fluid and flexible and we got the job done with no hysteria or pretention. I have two different post processing people working on the still jobs from earlier in the week and the week before and I'm already in the process of packing for the kind of still photography project I love on Monday. Making environmental portraits of 16 people at an architecture firm.... love it. 

The rest of the week is already reserved for video editing and meetings. A wonderful stepping stone to garnering the next project.

Video and Still Imaging. Busy and billing every day. And loving it.