I love that thing that fast medium telephotos do to the background when you aim them at people and photograph nearly wide open.

Noellia and the 85mm lens.

My back yard has endless possibilities. But it needs a new barbecue pit. That would make for endless possibilities+1. 

Walking the streets. Looking for gold.

I needed to go for a walk to get some exercise and clear my head. Too much detail stuff at the office. Too many chores at home. It was a hot one today so I wore my dorky Panama hat because it covers my ears and gives me the most shade. I was also breaking in a pair of lightweight hiking boots because it always hurts less finding problems close to home.

The important thing for me is to go out without having expectations of what I'll find. I walked a new way and went by the state capitol building. I hiked down Congress Ave. and over to the convention center. I tried to let the camera drift on my shoulder while I looked and walked. My latest addition to the exercise (and I think this is something I've learned by osmosis from Studio Dog) is to take time to stop and really smell the environment as well as just looking at it. A hot and toasty day downtown has it's own smell. It's different than a cool day and much different from a rainy or windy day.

I knew it was hot because I was sweating in the very first hour of the walk. The sun felt like it had its own gravity and it was working to push down on me and slow me down a little bit at a time. Walking by bars with their doors open, spewing air conditioning made the effect of little oasis sprinkled down the ribbon of sidewalk on Sixth St.

I hate being weighed down so I was carrying only one camera and one lens. The camera was the Nikon D750, which is the most assured feeling of all the digital cameras I've owned. Not the best. Just very assured. You know the battery isn't tumbling toward inconvenience and you suspect that the exposure will be just as you thought it should be.

The last time I went out I had fun working the wide end of an old, manual focus, 25 to 50mm f4.0 Nikon lens so today I went wider with a Tamron 20-40mm f2.7 to f3.5 lens. Both times I put circular polarizing filters over the front.

I saw the turquoise patterns of the mural (above) out of the corner of my eye. They were painted on an interior wall of a parking garage at the intersection of Guadalupe St. and Third St. I walked into the garage and messed around with my exposure while a shaved headed young man in a white t-shirt revved a noisy motorcycle and adjusted the music on his mobile stereo. He gave me the "hey dude" head nod and rode off in a cloud of noise and exhaust.

But I liked the mural very much and I'm glad I walked around and found it. It's nice that people are making big art in the middle of the city. I love the gold fish on the woman's head. It's a nice touch.

The Packing Ritual. A Holiday Tradition. First comes the rite of selecting the system...

Shot for Primary Packaging in NYC. 

I have two assignments this week. One takes place tomorrow and it's not very gear intensive. I'm going to go around the Zach Theatre and photograph as many people as I can while they are engrossed in their work. A "behind the scenes" of what goes on behind the scenes. The gear selection there is simple: A nice camera that does great high ISO stuff --- because the request is that this shoot be all "available light." I'll take the D750 and the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art and a few other fast lenses. The 85mm for sure. Maybe the 24-120mm Nikon for the wide stuff. Everything will fit in one shoulder bag.

But as soon as I finish up at Zach it's home to pack the car, pet the Studio Dog and slide into the Tuesday evening traffic heading to Houston, Texas. I'll be working there Wednesday, Thursday and maybe also a half day on Friday. The client is an international company that's involved in biochemistry and other arcane stuff and our assignment is to create a library of lab images and facilities images that the parent company can use on websites and in collateral to market and promote their products and services. I know I'll be working indoors and I know that there will most likely be clean room scenarios but other than that the project is a bit opaque to me right now.

If past work in the industry is any predictor of the upcoming assignment I'm pretty certain that most of the images will be made in lab spaces that are uniformly lit with high quality, fluorescent fixtures and that there will be a mix of measuring instruments, process machines with interesting GUIs, and people who are interacting with the first two subjects. My goal in these situations is never to overpower the existing light with powerful strobes but rather to augment the existing light with other constant light sources. To the point, I am looking at constant light sources that are somewhat controllable and quickly portable so that leaves out my collection of big, fluorescent Pro-Lights. They are too bulky for a fast moving, single operator pace.

I'm taking mostly LED lights. I'm bringing along four of the Fotodiox 312AS bi-color panels because they are superb accent lights and wonderful at creating small pools of fill light. We're charging two sets of batteries per unit right now. I'll also take along the bigger Fotodiox 508AS for those times when I want a quickly positionable, but stronger, fill light or a fast main light for portraits. Used with a layer of diffusion it's strong enough to overpower existing light by just enough to add direction to a subject. The batteries are charging for that one but it also comes packed with its own A/C power converter.

The lights that I hope will get the most use are the two new RPS CooLEDs; the 50 and the 100. They each are a much smaller point source of light and can give me a sharper illumination which may be very useful when we are lighting for a little more drama and more control of spill and spread. Since they both have polished reflectors and much more power they are perfect for stylized portrait work when pushed through pop-up diffusion material. We have an assortment of the pop-up, circular 5-in-1 reflector/diffuser units and I have them in a range of opacities from 1/2 stop to 2 stops. I'm also bringing black cine foil to control spill.

All of the LED lights and an extension cord, along with some sheets of Rosco diffusion, fit nicely into a large, wheeled Pelican case and this case will represent the bulk of my lighting inventory. But I'm always on the look out for situations that bite me on the ass when I get in to "all or nothing" scenarios with gear. (All flash, all LED, all available light, etc....).  To cover other contingencies I am packing three Cactus and Yongnuo flashes along with a full set of Cactus V6 triggers. This is for that one shot I don't (but have) anticipate where the art director says, "Oh, by the way, we need to get a shot of the CEO in his office. We go there to find the office flooded by sunlight from floor to ceiling windows on two sides....." That's why these lights are coming along for the ride. That and the every once in a while request to "freeze motion" on some equipment shot. I hope they don't come out of the case in the way that lifeguards hope they never have to throw the life preserver. But we like to be prepared.

I'll have a little stash of batteries for the flashes and a couple of collapsible, Westcott umbrellas just to round out the flash capability. As I am driving over to the big city some of this extraneous gear could be left in the car and fetched if needed.

The stands and tripods are self explanatory, we'll take along as many as we think we'll need and, invariably, there will be one shot where we need "just one more." Hello gaffer's tape...

That brings me to cameras. We always end up at the cameras. If this were a steady client I'd probably bring along the Olympus cameras and do all the stationary shots in the hi-res mode, the rest of the stuff as raw files. But this is a first time client, flying in from another state and is the client of a photographer from a different state who recommended me (thank you!).  It's more important to me to make the client happy with the work and with her steady photographer's recommendation than it is for me to go off on some sort of Zen gear path of discovery.

I'm presuming that my counterpart is using either a Canon or Nikon full frame system and I want to use what is client is comfortable with. My primary camera will be the D810 and I'll use the D750 as a back up. I'm taking a wide range of lenses including the 24-120mm, the 14mm, the fast 50mm, a 55 micro Nikon, the 85mm and the 80-200mm f2.8. Tons of extra batteries and connector cords for tethered shooting with either a laptop or the Marshall monitor (via HDMI out).

I'll be shooting 36 megapixels raw files and making custom white balances as I go along. My goal is to make every image sing before I even get it into the raw converter.

Why do I write stuff like this? It makes for a good rationalizing exercise and keeps Belinda out of the forest of, "should I take this or that." It creates a good equipment list that jogs my brain so I don't forget that one set of clothespins that might be the linchpin for a shot that requires a set of filter. I look back on these posts after the jobs to see just how well I hit the targets. Sometimes I'm right on the money but other times I'm just whistling in the wind. When I have a good rationale it also informs my shooting and helps me get ready to be productive and focused from the very start. Less trial and error. Less stop and start.

And occasionally a reader will see something I overlooked or didn't consider and help me move in a different direction. It's interested because our readers all seem to be good photographer but a large percentage are also active professionals. There are a thousand ways to describe subjects with light; mine are not always the best ways. I'm never to old to learn...

The Craftsy Learning Promotion Continues....

 I've been a Craftsy.com instructor now for several years and I think their courses are well done and a good deal. Once you buy a class at Craftsy.com you can go back and review it over and over again. You can pause it, watch parts of it again, and even send the actual instructors direct questions on a course forum. You'll get real answers from the people who are teaching the courses, generally in a day.

When I first started watching the Craftsy.com courses I only watched photography programs. Since then I've branched out into the cooking programs and I had a great time learning how to make chocolate croissants. And then sauces. And then bread.....

There are lots of craft courses that other people in your house might like. They include subjects like: Painting, gardening and even course on making better pizzas. I think the courses also make great gifts for people who are really into their hobbies.

Clicking on the Craftsy link here takes you to the site and also gives me a small commission which has no effect on the price of your classes. But it does help support my coffee habit and keeps me writing new stuff. And by the way, we've just crested the 2500 article milestone for the Visual Science Lab. I'll celebrate over the weekend.....

Check out Craftsy.com. Every class has an intro video you can watch before you decide whether you want to buy it. Wouldn't hurt to take a look....

Hey! Go watch my Cantine Video. Shot with Olympus OMD EM5.2 cameras. You'll like it.