Took a little break after lunch to walk around Austin in a different direction. Today was all about color.

I was reading some stuff online about the upcoming Samsung NX1 and it motivated me to grab the NX30 and the 85mm 1.4 and just stroll. Well, a stroll and a raspberry vegan donut at Whole Foods. Gee, what a bargain, they are only $10.  (kidding.)

Have I mentioned how much I like composing in a square format?

Shot with K5600 Lighting Joker and Alpha 200 watt HMI fixtures. Nikon D7100. 85mm 1.8G lens.

A snap for today.

 Shop Window Layers.


Back in the groove. Just a progress report for Thurs. November 6th 2014.

Denver Street Art. 
Pentax K-01

Finishing up big jobs always takes me by surprise. I shot for four days last week and ended up with about 4500 images. When the shooting is all over and the cameras are tucked into their mink lined enclosures and locked away in the vault it also seems shocking to me that I have to change gears and get cranking on post production. So, on monday I started making Lightroom galleries by day and event. I do them that way because it seems to help clients find the images they want quicker. 

The first step is to make a quick look through all the images I am about to import and throw away as many as I can. Near duplicates, blinks, inappropriate scratching (which never really happens with my clients) and bad composition gets trash canned before I hit "import" so I don't fill up my hard drives quite as quickly. 

I spent all day monday crunching images. The GTech drives kept me warm and the i7 processor and full complement of RAM kept things moving along at pace. By mid day tuesday I had the images in folders and inside an overall folder and ready to deliver to the client. I seem to buy 32 gig memory sticks the way some people buy coffee these days. Way too often. But I burned 25 gigabytes of large, minimally compressed Jpeg files onto two different sticks and delivered them to the client. One stick for my direct client and one for her boss. Not having to share memory sticks is part of providing customer service, right? 

With that job delivered and the paperwork done it was time to get back to my happy routine. The schedule up until Tues. precluded swim practice, the absence of which makes me really----prickly. But man oh man! A week out of the water takes its toll. I attended the Executive workout on Tues. and this morning. We call it the Executive workout because it is from 8:30 am to 9:30 am and it seems that most swimmers in that time slot don't really have a pressing need to go into work...at least they are in no rush..

We knocked out 3200+ yards in each of the workouts and it felt like swimming uphill for me. You lose conditioning quicker than you think at my advanced age. Still, 3200 yards in an hour is good work.

I also had time for the first time since last Weds. to sit down and have coffee after the workout and to read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Wow, a lot happened while I had my nose pressed against the LCD of a camera.... I tend to forget that the world marches on.

Yesterday evening the USPS mailman delivered the Fotodiox 508AS LED light from Amazon. The package was double boxed and the exterior of the outer box looked like it had been handled by surgeons every step of the way. Not even a microscopic box dent. I am charging the two, chubby batteries now and will start playing around and testing the light this afternoon. I will tell you that I am very happy with the product's presentation. It comes with a padded case, padded dividers, straps to hold the batteries and chargers, etc. The unit comes with barn doors and a diffuser panel for the front of the light. It also comes with both a double battery smart charger and a separate AC adapter. Nice. 

I turned it on and it works! Yay. 

We got our first cold spell and lots of great rain that started Tues. night. I love it. The Studio Dog hates it. She doesn't mind the cold at all but she is very mistrustful of rain in general and thundery rain in particular. 

I think it's about time I grabbed a camera from the stack and headed out the door to make some images just for me... later.


Really anxiously anticipating the arrival of the Samsung NX-1. The initial specs and good reviews from a photographer who is already shooting it may be what ultimately has kept me from buy a full framer.

As many here know it takes me a while to warm up to some things and I am an "early adopter" of others. For instance, it took me nearly two years to be civil with the Olympus OMD EM-5 but I bought one of the very first EVF enabled Olympus interchangeable lens cameras to hit Texas (the EP-2 with VF-2). I embraced the EVF in the Sony a77 even quicker. But I've been a slow study with the various cameras that Samsung has sent my way. I've always been happy enough with the actual imaging but the operational aspects of both the Samsung Galaxy NX and the NX30 left me wanting something more.

I mentioned in an earlier blog today that I had occasion to compare files from two different cameras on the same shoot recently. We shot the initial images back in early September and the client involved just made their final selections a few days ago. This morning I opened a raw image from a Nikon D7100 and a raw image from the Samsung NX 30, both outfitted with 85mm lenses, and I compared them. They were of the same person in the same lighting and in the same location. A pretty convincing test I thought.

The caveat with any test like this is in the use of two different lenses. The Samsung had their 85mm 1.4 while the Nikon sported their very well reviewed 85mm 1.8G series lens. I won't bore you with the long winded discussion but suffice it to say that I was notably more impressed with the Samsung file version even though, by all measures, the Nikon should have been technically better. I went back and looked at a number of other cross samples from the same shoot and it nearly every instance the image from the much cheaper NX30 was----better. A subjective analysis but true to my vision.

After I finished doing the post processing which consisted of smoothing some skin and taking care of some wispy black hair against a light blue background I started reviewing what I knew about the newest camera from Samsung. The NX1.  If what I am hearing from the company and from one of the photographers shooting that camera bears out in the final, delivered product it may represent exactly what I want in a camera. Dear camera gods, please help them get it right.

The imaging sensor should be one of the best in its APS-C class in that it's an all new, BSI technology sensor which means more space for chubbier, happier pixels. With 28 megapixels and no AA filter it should be within striking distance of the resolution of the Nikon D810 but at less than half the price.

Stop and think about it for a second. 28 million pixels on a low noise chip in a $1499 camera. But the amazing thing is that it will shoot at 15 frames per second with full AF instead of the 6 frames per second of the 810. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around that kind of throughput.

While I think that's pretty cool, gee whiz technology I'm rarely worried about the shooting speed of a camera as much as I am concerning about the usability of a camera. In that regard the NX30 wasn't bad it was just a bit slow and a bit rough. The EVF is okay but needed more resolution and much better contrast. That's supposed to be fixed in the NX1. Not just fixed but "best in class."  The other handling issues were all about interface responsiveness. The switch from LCD panel to EVF was too slow and subject to uncertainty if there was a high amount of ambient light. In the first iteration the time from button push to menu implementation was too slow.  And the camera was too light to feel like a precision tool.

If the viewfinder is great and the imaging quality of the sensor lives up to the initial fanfare I think it will be a camera that clouds the issue of full frame versus EVF for me. While most people seem to think that full frame is better no matter what I'm not really on that team. Fast, good glass makes up for the difference in out of focus backgrounds and fast focus fall off. The advantage on the other side of the coin is that there are probably more professional situations where it's more important to get what you need in focus than have the out of focus effect. And APS-C as well as m4:3 both do better in that regard.

Here's my hope for the NX1. A wonderful, glamorous and transparent EVF. A wonderfully done sensor with a heaping helping of dynamic range and low noise up to ISO 3200. (By that I mean that shooting at 3200 should look about like shooting at ISO 800). And fast camera response to the controls and the menus. If they get that right I'll be happy to use the camera to make enormous numbers of great portraits with the 85mm 1.4 lens I already have and love. It has always seemed like a brilliant lens looking for a compatible camera. I'll know in a week or two if that's how the story turns out. I'm not ready to be a total photo snob and only buy from long established vendors. Sometimes a bit of disruption helps move innovation while providing curious users with fun tools.

I am a little surprised that I am anticipating this one to a greater degree than most cameras. I guess the bigger the promise the greater the interest.

And, of course, I am sure our loyal VSL readers can hardly wait for me to wring out the video and see how it performs....  (a tiny bit of sarcasm..).

Won't it be funny if after their few false starts Samsung creates a camera that leapfrogs over the leaders? Well, not to surprising since they already get how important the EVF is going forward....

Why would any reasonably smart photographer buy four identical camera bodies? What the hell is he thinking?

Taking advantage of muscle memory....
...or just giving into compulsive behavior?

Photography is a crazy way to earn a living and there are at least as many opinions about how to shoot and what to shoot with as there are camera models. Everyone is so different. I have friends who wouldn't think of using anything other than a Leica S2, some who feel like I'm insane to not understand that the Nikon D810 is the world's best compromise and others who can't understand why I'd want to haul around an extra camera body, let alone two or three extras.

I shoot a pretty rich mix of assignments. In the last two weeks I've done exacting product shots, celebrity grip and grins, candid social photography, studio portraits, location portraits and even a few interior architectural photos. Try as I might to convince my clients that I'm a portrait guy they are having none of it. In their minds if I can make a nice image of a CEO on the 26th floor of an Austin high rise with the city skyline in the background than I should be equally able to make a rack full of servers sit up and smile. As long as they keep writing the checks who am I to argue?

And if you've read the blog for any amount of time you probably know that we've got a range of cameras we can bring to our jobs, selecting them ostensibly because they are just right for the project at hand. But most camera now can do most of the jobs we come across. The cameras have different visual personalities but in most cases the files are equally good, even if they do have slightly different rendering characteristics. Just this morning I was working on some post production that entailed five different poses of a female executive.

The day I shot this woman's portrait I was vacillating between the Nikon D7100 with an 85mm 1.8 and the Samsung NX 30 with an 85mm 1.4 lens. We weren't in a rush and I thought it would be a good idea to try both cameras in exactly the same shooting configurations. Reviewing them with the filter of time in place I was a bit surprised to find that I much preferred the color rendering and the lens look for the Samsung combination. Their 85mm, shot at f2.2, had just the right blend of roundness and high resolution. Flattering but sharp at the same time. I would have thought the supposedly superior sensor of the Nikon would have won the day but that's the disconnect when there are so many interconnected parts to deal with.

In a good month I shoot and process a lot of files. In October we shot well over 20,000 images across all manner of cameras. For the most part I leaned on the Panasonic GH4 because operationally it is as close to perfect as any digital camera I have ever worked with. But at every opportunity I shot whatever I could (personally and in the business) with the Olympus OMD EM-5. At this point I'll sheepishly admit that after avoiding this particular camera model for a year and a half I am very smitten with it for its combination of eccentricity, handling and image quality. Is it a better imager than any of my other cameras? Hell no. But is it more fun to shoot than anything else in the studio? Hell yes!

As I said, it's a camera I warmed up to slowly. I was put off by the micro size and the daunting and chaotic menu but having now spent a couple of months mastering both I feel like I've put a lot of equity into the camera and finally feel comfortable with it. But comfortable is too generic a term. It feels like a girlfriend in college who was not a "nice" girl, blessed with good social graces and a nice disposition. Instead the EM-5 is the passionate bad girl who inevitably seems to land you in a lot of trouble but who will make the ride so exciting that you don't care.  She may break your heart but you wouldn't trade in minute of the experience. Well, maybe this paragraph is a little over the top but there it is. The camera is fun. A lot of fun. And it does deliver the images you think you want---most of the time. But really, why four of them?

Did I mention that we've pretty quickly acquired four? It didn't start out as a conscious, rational plan (obviously) but after I returned a wayward and troubled, used Nikon D7000 camera body to Precision Camera for front focusing so far you could photograph Dallas without leaving your front porch in Austin, I still wanted to buy myself one more camera for my birthday. On the day I returned the compromised Nikon my eyes stumbled across the used shelf and there was number four.  Precision Camera was also the culprit in the 3rd acquisition. They could see my eyes get wider and my pulse rate increase and they just keeping dropping the prices on the stuff I want until I'm forced to capitulate because the deal is too good. But the first pusher was my friend, Frank, who dangled Olympus candy in front of me until I was well turned. Then he had the nerve to offer me one for a song. I sang an aria from a Puccini opera right there at Starbucks and he sold me the camera dirt cheap just to shut me up....

But back to the original question; why so many? I could answer it like this, "Did you ever go into a clothing store and buy a really cool shirt and every time you wore it everyone in the world told you what a great shirt it was? And when you wore it you always had good luck, like winning the lottery and getting great cameras cheap? And the shirt was easily the most comfortable thing you ever wore and at the same time it made your stomach look three inches smaller? And then you spilled something on it that stained it permanently and the sleeve got caught on someone's dagger blade and ripped? So you went back to the store to buy another one only to find that it was no longer made? Sure, they had a newer models but they just weren't the same. And you remember that whole experience even years later? And you still wish you had the shirt?  Almost as sad as when Leica took the self-timers off the fronts of the M series cameras.....sniff....

According to friends in the mental health field it's a reaction to feelings of anticipated scarcity but to a pro photographer it's all about "back up" and shooting fluidity. Honest. So here comes the rationale.
When I shoot events or document riots, concerts, parties or coronations----even when I shoot theater---I'm always shooting with more than one camera. At the theater I'm shooting with three cameras. One has the 70-200mm equiv. while a second has the 24-70mm equiv. and the third has a very high speed medium telephoto. You want all three bodies to be the same and to be set up the same way so you can drop one and let it dangle on the strap while you grab the next one to make use of a different set of focal lengths. You drop that one when the lights dim and you need the fast prime.  That's three. Makes perfect sense, right?  Of course, and the fourth one sits in the bag just in case a one of the three active cameras comes down with a throaty cough and a high temperature. When the sound of the shutter goes from a warm bummmb to a klaxony jack-hammer. Then you dump the dying body into the bag, put the lens on the new body (already set up like the other bodies) and you get back into the shoot.

This rotation of cameras means you never have to change lenses during a shoot. No dust, no dirt and no time lost. This also means that you aren't putting all of your imaging eggs in one basket. If a camera or lens develops an undetected defect or a memory card goes rouge chances are good that you've got two others that are still happily delivering the goods and keeping your from the unmitigated wrath of a client spurned.  If all four cameras share the same batteries you get to keep shooting longer, even if it means pulling batts from the less glamorously lensed (and less popular) cameras and feeding them into the home coming queen camera.

When all the menus, batteries, settings, accessories and lenses are interchangeable you never even have to think in terms of reliability or recovery from on shoot accidents.

This is the reason that I almost always refuse to enter new camera systems unless I can afford to buy at least two of the cameras I'll be shooting with. And it's even more important if you like to shoot with prime lenses. I was in a location last weekend where I was picking out faces from a social function to photograph candidly. I was experimenting with a 60mm 1.5 manual focus lens on one camera, backed up by a 35-100mm on another EM-5 body. If I needed to focus a fast series of images I could switch to the zoom but when I had the leisure to do so I could experiment with the prime and its faster maximum aperture. I also had a third body over the other shoulder with a 17mm f1.8 in case a couple or small group came over and asked me to take their image.

In the days before zooms were universally loved people swore by single focal length lenses that were obviously saturated with great powers and magic. A journalistic assignment might call for a range of four lenses in order to quickly and fluidly cover a happening. There would be a 20mm wide (21mm on the Leica) a 35mm lens for establishing shots, a 50mm for two person shots and a short tele like a 90mm or even 135 mm for anything you couldn't walk closer to.  A nice way of work actually since you actually had to make fewer choices than you would with a set of zooms.

But even with zooms I often opt for at least a three camera/lens combo which might consist of the EM-5s or the Panasonic GH's with the 7-14mm, the 12-35mm and the 35-100mm. Nice to know there's always an extra body along for the ride...

So, back to the original question: Why the OMD EM-5 X4 instead of the same number of GH4's? Simplest answer? I'd trade them all for a few more GH4s but not because the imaging is better, just because the GH4s are more robust and have a much longer battery life. I use the multi-combo of EM5 because besides liking them viscerally I am able to afford to have four for about the price of a single GH4 body or a single full frame body. Also, when one of them gets dropped (inevitable) the funeral for the body won't be anywhere near as wrenching...

If I shot only in the studio I could get away with using one camera and having one similar back up. But I wouldn't have nearly as much fun. All four of the EM-5 were bought used and total up to about $2,000. The depreciation and resale value had pretty much been wrung out of them by the time I got my hands on them which means that the value won't drop that much over the next year or so.  Just enough time for everyone else to fall in love with the OMD EM1 Super type 2 so I can buy up the new used inventory....

Would I have done this three or four years ago? No. Back then the cameras were still improving by leaps and bounds and EVFs weren't as good. Now we're buying new features and improvements that take our shooting from 94 to 96%. But last time I checked 96% was still an "A" and my mostly poor technique (and yours too) mot probably masks any performance difference in the cameras.

My biggest revelation after shooting about 10,000 frames with the combined EM5 collection? They are just as good as the Nikon D7100 at focusing in low light. Second thing? If you turn off the image review the batteries last forever. Third thing? Even though high speed EVF performance sounds cooler the normal setting makes the EVF look best.

After looking at everything I shot over the last weekend (4500+ exposures) I can honestly say that all the current (in Kirk's inventory) collection do an equally good job creating the nuts and bolts of images. The Olympus cameras were far and away the most FUN to shoot. If you are a very logical (Spock) person that will be just about meaningless to you. If you are a very emotional and mercurial person (Captain Kirk) that will mean the universe to you. After all, on Star Trek (the original series) who made out best with all the hot extraterrestrial babes? Right?

Spread sheets or hot dates. It's all in the cameras. ( meant as humor.... ).

Imagine life at high speed. Imagine the adrenaline on all the time.

The pleasure of shared relaxation.

Imagine that you are sitting on a train. You're sitting in the seat next to a window. The seat faces the back of the train and you are staring out the window. It's slightly warm in the train car and even though the compartment is full no one is talking. They are all staring at their phones and pecking at the tiny, virtual keyboards. You look at your fellow passengers and then you look down at the phone in your own hand. There is a text. The text reads: "When will you arrive?" You have no idea who it is from.

You turn and look out the window. The landscape flashes by. The train must be traveling at 70 or 80 mph. Unless you turn your head in time with the forward motion of the train, anchoring your vision on something outside the window and moving with it as you careen by you can only see the object as a transient blur of color and contrast. A shape without detail.

The train speeds up. The images outside the window close to the train become harder to resolve. Now only objects further and further from the window seem to be in sharp focus and only because the long distance makes them appear more persistent. You get another text and it reads: "When will you arrive?" You still have no idea who has sent you these texts. You look back into the compartment and you see that the people have changed. They seem like the same kind of people but their faces are subtly different. The jeans are worn out in different places. The dresses have changed colors and the lines on the faces run in different ways.  Everyone looks down at their hands to see what might be on the screen of their phones. Several people use the tiny, almost imaginary, keyboards to peck out responses to something they see on the screens.

You look back out the window and the train seems to have accelerated. Now even distant objects are starting to be framed in a hysteria of blur. Nothing outside the train is really completely recognizable and the speed of the train deprives you of anchor points that would help you resolve and understand what you are seeing flash past your window.  You are one of the last people in your cohort to wear a  watch. You look down and see that you've been on the trains for hours and hours. You look down again at the screen of your phone. You are almost certain that you felt a phantom vibration that signaled a call or a text had arrived. The screen lights up and you see the same text. It says: "When will you arrive?"

You look up as the train accelerates even quicker and the compartment and all the visual stimuli begins to fade and blend and get darker. In a few minutes everything goes black. Nothing else happens.

Have you been paying attention to the way people are engineering their lives in the past few years? They seem to move from experience to experience at the speed of light and sound. Like ripples in a puddle that's only a fraction of a centimeter deep. It's seems like they are looking for something but what they are finding is a series of endless shallow puddles that they splash through on the search for another shallow puddle.

Have we engineered a society in which an ever accelerating series of shallow puddles of experience is the nature of people's daily lives? Have we lost the ability to be alone with ourselves? Have we lost the ability to share face to face time with other humans or has the geometrically expanding availability of screen delivered content decimated our ability to be present and share?

I watched people interact at several events recently and the leitmotif that ran through every event was the boredom that set in so quickly when experiencing real moments. It was a boredom that seemed only to be relieved by the succor of a cool screen glow. People would be engaged in a conversation over drinks and then the conversation would pause as one or more people disengaged to compulsively check their screen. Was it a repudiation of the person or persons in front of them? Were they searching for more exciting fare? Or have people, through habituation, just become incapable of holding a thought or experience in their own minds longer than a few minutes? It's almost like smartphones have replaced cigarettes and the excitement of the screen has the same narcotic and addictive effects as nicotine.

Whether it was at a cocktail party a dinner or a mass event the pattern was the same: Engage till situated in the real event and then begin the rotation from virtual reality on the phone, back to our more solid but equally fictive reality and then back again to the phone to see if something "better" had arrived.

As I drove home one evening you could tell that it was about to rain. The clouds were swirling, the wind was brisk, the temperature was dropping and we had that unusual kind of light you get as two weather fronts collide and reduce the sunlight to a bizarre and kaleidoscopic melange of warm hues. I pulled off the main road and drove up to nearby parking lot. I got out of my car to watch nature put on a show. I stood there and felt the wind drive the temperature and down and down. I felt the first stinging pellets of rain splatter down and watched as two layers of clouds, one above the other, sped in different directions across the sky.

Then, when the rain came down with a show of force, I climbed back into my car and headed home, still fascinated by the power of the weather.

Sometimes experiencing something with undiluted intention is the only way to either enjoy it or even understand it. If the train is going by so fast that nothing makes sense to your senses it's probably a very good sign that it's time to get off the train for a while....

What does this have to do with photography? I don't know. What does anything have to do with photography? It's a process of sharing a visual contemplation, right? But if life is moving too fast to effectively capture what can you possibly end up sharing?  Just thinking out loud. Everyone's answer will be different.

We don't get extra life points for having a million different (faux) relationships lived remotely and virtually. A deeper experience has a value beyond its own measure.

When will you arrive? Are you here now?


Circling back to LED lighting. There's a bunch of inexpensive new stuff I need to test.

I was working on a book when I shot this. 
Didn't make it into the book but I always loved
the control and previsualization the 
big LED panels gave me.

It's a dangerous time for me when I'm in the final throes of finishing up a big project. Yesterday I was processing images for the client who hired me to shoot at and around the F1 race here in Austin for the previous five days. The images were really good. My appreciation for all the cameras I used is genuine. They all focus quickly (none of them focus fast enough to lock on to a race car whipping past on a straightaway) for social photography and, for the most part the colors are wonderfully accurate---or at least very pretty.  As I processed I started thinking about what I wanted to play with next. And then I can across the LED Lighting for Photographers book. 

I remembered how intrigued I was when I started that project and, while I probably burned myself out a bit cramming in tons of shooting for the book, I still feel that LEDs represent a mow mainstream and very efficient way to light lots and lots of different photographs. 

Five years ago, when I first got interested in the LEDs the big issue was the relatively poor color spectrum, especially when compared to inexpensive flash units. Oh sure, you could get well corrected LEDs but you can also get a Bentley automobile if you have enough spare change rattling around...

Now it seems that the landscape of lighting is different. It seems that the green/magenta spectrum issues have been largely fixed and that most of the newer, inexpensive lights on the market are boasting CRI (color rendering index) scores of 92 and better. A big leap from the 82 and  85 scores that were prevalent just a few years ago. Since I get a lot of use out of the Fotodiox 312AS lights I thought I'd see if those had been upgraded. They have. The CRI is now a braggable 92+ and the lights have more functional accessories such as barn doors and a digital interface on the back of the light that reads out color temperature and levels. The new model is the 312DS (color temp. adjustable, that's what the DS stands for). 

The 312DS looks very cool, comes with two, big Sony style rechargeable batteries and smart charger plus a case. I'll buy a couple one of these days to start replacing the older AS versions--- but only if the color tests out to be much better. To that end I've ordered one of the 312DS's bigger siblings, the 508AS. 

The Fotodiox 508AS uses 508 (duh!) LEDs, half tungsten balanced and half daylight balanced, to make light. While it doesn't have the highly groovy digital readout on the back it mimics the same basic specs everywhere else. Especially in the all important color spectrum area where the sellers are stating a 92+ CRI as well.  I figured I could use a big panel and if it checks out really well it's the perfect foundation for a new family of highly portable LED units. Just as I envisioned when I wrote the first (and still unique) book on LEDs for photographers. 

The first light, the Fotodiox 508AS arrives here tomorrow and I'll get right to work testing it. My #1 test will be to see if I can get a close match to daylight in both color temperature and LB. If I can nail that then I'll move on to the smaller, support lights. 

Should be fun. Almost as fun as reading The Lisbon Portfolio


Thinking about the business side of photography again. It's changing again.

Knowing WHAT do do with it is more important 
than just knowing how to own it.

The pendulum seems to be swinging again. If my anecdotal, personal evidence combined with my communication with other established professional photographers can be trusted then I'm ready to say that I am seeing a swing back into better business for commercial (people who sell their products and services to businesses, not to consumers) photographers. Our billings are up sharply this year; both the number of jobs and the average budgets. The same is true in many of the tech centric markets across the country. 

I'm almost certain that three things are at work here. First is sheer endurance. Markets are cyclical and one must be committed to staying in the market to have any chance of success. We did our best to market well even in the slowest times and it is paying off as the corporate need for very good visual content accelerates. People don't have the time right now to experiment with alternate and untested providers and are willing to pay a premium to get work that meets high technical standards (lighting and appropriate post production coupled with shooting "chops") and also those who offer a track record of continuous, successful delivery. We are starting to see more work come in providing portraits and lifestyle imaging at the very top of the market, and those marketing directors who must put providers face to face with top executives and board members are less willing to sacrifice experience and good "bedside" manner for a slight reduction in the overall costs of projects. 

Along the same lines I think ad agencies and their clients finally understand or re-understand that there is very little real difference, especially by percentage, in the rates charged by established and proven practitioners of the visual arts and a legion of new arrivals in the markets who have yet to understand all the intricacies of producing good work while keeping final clients happy and comfortable. If you are buying several million dollars of media placement and the visual in your marketing is designed to drive sales or create brand goodwill it might be foolish to opt for a photographer based on the lowest bid. While a person who has done thousands of successful shoots will likely charge a premium, the difference between a $2,000 fee and a $5,000 fee on a project with a huge ad placement budget (web or print) and/or a long endurance requirement is microscopic in the context of the overall expenditures of a complete campaign, and so much rides on the quality and impact of perhaps a single well done image. In fact, in the midst of our economic recovery a quick way to get fired from a nice position as a marketing director or marcom officer might just involve being "penny wise and pound foolish." 

An image that works positively leverages all the marketing costs and expensive media placement that surrounds it while images that just quite doesn't work may sabotage the entire project and, in fact, work against a company hoping to benefit from advertising. The quality of the message is critical. Why spec a cheap part to use on a Bentley or a Leica if it is critical to the success of the whole automotive enterprise? An M series Leica with plastic body panels? Cheap vinyl seats in your Aston Martin Lagonda?

Finally, I think the finest ally for serious, professional photographers are the iPhone and Android smartphone camera and the mass accepts that their convenience brings. Now the contrast between a professionally lit and directed image and an average consumer generated phone image is technically much starker than when every hipster, house wife and bored I.T. employee in the country was anxious to continually upgrade to more and more capable cameras on an almost twice a year schedule. If everyone opts to make their primary camera an iPhone then they trade convenience for technical quality, flexibility and, by extension, a unwillingness to carry and use lighting equipment too.  I rejoice, because while we always want to believe that it's our superior knowledge and talent that should shift the client decision scales it's an extra turbo boost of sales power when a potential client can also see a big difference in overall image quality combined with focused intentionality. 

As the market recovers and 4K computer screens and TVs sniff around the perimeter of the creative fence line more and more clients are swinging back to the idea that skills, rapport and experience provide extensive value when combined with tour de force tech. Or even just a nice meaty sensor and some well designed lighting. In our market we're finally (thankfully) beginning to see less of an emphasis on just the raw expense calculations and more credence given to long term results and performance. A welcome nod to the obvious facts that time tested visual taste combined with technical master has a real value that's greater than the first blush, mathematical sum of the parts. It's a nice change to be able to talk with clients about how to do something, why to add components, why a difference in approach is valuable instead of the tired and ultimately worthless question: "exactly what does this  cost?"  It's the fun part of the cycle wherein good clients move away from "knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Take it with a grain of salt but longer range results are trumping initial purchase price today in our market. I hope they are in yours too! 

A special note of thanks to Apple's smartphone for helping to spin the cycle of change...

Portrait Making as an antidote to the hustle and bustle of life.

I had a deep and wonderful flirtation with all sorts of medium format cameras in the film days but the camera and lens that seemed to yield the most wonderful portraits, albeit with much struggle, was probably the 90mm Summicron on the front of whatever flavor of the year slr camera Leica had on offer to foolish photographers of the time. I'd like to say that this portrait was done with an R6 or an R8 but we had a mix of cameras and since the "sensors" inside were all identical (you got to choose what film you put in..) it hardly matters. But there was (is) something about that ancient 90mm f2.0 lens that was just magic. Or maybe it was the placebo effect. Perhaps we were consistently trying to justify having spent so much more on a lens than we would have spent on one of the Japanese equivalents. The closest two lenses I've used from the "big two" would be Canon's inexpensive 100 mm f2 and Nikon's too expensive (but not in Leica territory...) 105mm f2.0 Defocus Coupling lens.

After having shot several thousand considered images this weekend on GH4's, EM-5's and the stalwart Nikon D7100 I've come to re-understand that the bodies are increasingly meaningless and that the personality of images comes from the lenses with which they were created. Something to consider.

Why does it take me half an hour to change a tire when these guys can change four in under five seconds?

Honestly. These guys changed all four tires in something like 4.5 seconds. 
They'd have made great photographic assistants back in the days when 
Hasselblads mostly shot twelve exposure rolls and we needed to change film
quickly. I'm going to guess the budget was a bit bigger yesterday than
my typical budget for assistants back in the 1990's. 

At the F1 track in Austin, Texas 
Race Day 2014.

Tired and happy after four days of solid corporate photography work.

Bob Schneider. 

In the last four days I've shot thousands of images for a corporate client in conjunction with the Formula One race in Austin, Texas. I spent three evenings photographing and being well fed in three of Austin's finest restaurants. This morning a beautiful Austrian woman made me a latté and brought me a basket of warm croissants. I photographed and watched people watch Formula One cars go around and around the track and before that I photographed Porsches going around and around the track and before that I watched a flock of Ferraris fling themselves around the same track. Mostly from a very nice vantage point.

Since it was both Halloween weekend and also Formula One weekend my client graciously put me into a room at the Four Seasons Hotel so I wouldn't have to get through traffic to get in to downtown each day. The stay at the Four Seasons also negated any sort of parking hassles. An extra bonus was the option to use the Hotel's premium internet connection which was about ten times faster than my service in the studio. 200 files need uploading? No problem, I've got and extra three minutes and fifteen seconds. 

I started out using the Olympus EM-5 cameras, switched to a mix of Olympus and Panasonic on the second day and then switched to a mix of Olympus and Nikon for the last two days. There are benefits to each system and once you've had a camera in your hand for an hour or so all the muscle memory of settings comes roaring back.

Most used two lenses were the Nikon 18-140mm and the Panasonic 12-35mm. Both, in their own way, are brilliant. 

I just got home, kissed the dog and the wife and made my way back out to the studio to edit down a day's worth of shooting so I can make a final, share-able web gallery for today. Someone won the Formula One race. Everyone else lost. I didn't bother slowing down to find out who (added: Hamilton). 

I'll flesh out some photo stuff tomorrow but I'm happy to have another assignment wrapped up and ready for final post processing and delivery. But mostly it feels good to be back home.