Another Project Just Now Published. A story about a collector and her home in Fredericksburg, Texas.

I first started working for Early American Life Magazine in 1981. I got a call that year from a very nice editor from Harrisburg, PA. She'd been referred to me by one of the people working in the art department at Texas Monthly Magazine. The EAL editor gave me the assignment to make images for their magazine all over central Texas, but mostly around Fredericksburg and Roundtop. It was my first major magazine assignment which entailed shooting 4x5 inch sheet film on locations. It was also my first marathon length shoot using big studio electronic flashes outside the studio. I was nervous but when I picked up the editor in my old Chevy pick-up truck at the Austin airport she assured me that everything would go well. 

We had a blast, I got my first national magazine cover from that first assignment and came home with a fistful of beautiful 4x5 inch transparencies. I went on to do about a dozen more multiple day assignments for the magazine and scored three or four more cover shots. It was a good relationship and one that lasted for well over a decade and a half. Eventually the magazine was sold to a new owner, they moved to a new location and I resigned myself to the possibility that the new publisher and staff would have established relationships with photographers in Ohio, where they are now headquartered. 

I was pleasantly surprised, after a number of years, to get a call and an assignment from them near the end of 2013, shooting images at a restored historic home outside of Fredericksburg, Texas. The assignment went well and led to another assignment last year to photograph the home and collections of antiques expert, Edyth O'Neill. 

It was a warm day in late Spring when I packed up the Honda and headed an hour and a half west from Austin; back to Fredericksburg, Texas. I brought an assortment of lights which included a lot of small LED panels and I brought along two camera systems. The main system was the GH4 with assorted lenses and the second system was the Sony RX10 camera with its fixed zoom lens.

I started the morning with interior images, using the Sony RX10, and never shifted to the micro four thirds system. The combination of sharp focus at wider apertures and very clean files at ISO 100 were enough for me to get the images we needed. The combination of the variable color temperature LED panels and the wide depth of field and great optical performance of the Zeiss lens on the RX10 camera allowed me to move through the house and capture at least twenty five different angles/set-ups in the six hours I spent there. The EVF was very effective in giving me a clean view of what I was shooting in areas with high ambient light levels and the LCD was great for everything else. 

Contrary to my usual practice I used the camera in the Jpeg mode and not the raw mode so I could make use of the sophisticated, built-in HDR system to bridge the gulf between high and low tonalities in a way that would provide a usable files for the magazine. While it may seem counter-intuitive to use this small sensor camera for a national magazine assignment it's really just what the doctor ordered for this kind of editorial work. The lens is superb and when the camera is used on a hefty tripod and you use continuous lighting judiciously, you get files with tons of detail (20 megapixels worth) and a nice, long tonal range. Couple those benefits with the wider depth of field provided by the smaller format and you can get away with things you would never be able to achieve easily with much bigger cameras. 

The magazine used 16 of my images on five spreads and the reproduction throughout is very, very good. The client was very satisfied with the work and the files. When I got the magazine I went back to my archives and compared the images in the current publication with some done over twenty years ago on 4x5 inch sheet film. There are some differences but the lighting style is consistent and in print any quality differences are well nigh invisible. Fun to be able to compare how we did it then versus how I do it now...

If you are interested in early American life; the crafts, the furniture, the homes and so much more, you might want to look into Early American Life Magazine. The writing and research standards are very high and the geographic reach nicely diverse. It was fun to flex a different part of my photography brain. I found myself liking the challenges of architecture again. 

The End.


Michael Matthews said...

Very nice job.

I'd been wondering from time to time about 1-inch sensors -- the Sony RX10 and others. Having one zoom lens optimized for the sensor, as you've said before, can lead to surprisingly high quality. Looks like this magazine feature makes the case.

My understanding of the math involved is spotty, but it looks like that little sensor could provide a 300 ppi file 18 inches wide --more than enough for a full two-page spread in this magazine's format.

Once again, Kirk takes the prize for out-of-the-box thinking in choice of gear.

Dave Jenkins said...

Using an EVF or rear screen sure beats blowing through several boxes of 4x5 Polaroids, doesn't it, Kirk?

Did you keep your RX10, or is it among the great departed?

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Dearly departed. But actually back on the radar after seeing the magazine...