Portrait of Sarah. On a lovely film from Agfa. XPS 160. Designed especially for portraits.

This is one of my favorite portraits because I like the lighting and the expression on Sarah's face. The quality of light is meaningful to me but the actual gear used to accomplish it is not. I love the dance, I'm not really interested right now in deconstructing the dancing shoes...

In other news, it was 85 degrees here in Austin today, setting a new record high for the 31st of January. I spent the day in shorts and flip flops. The trees are starting to bud. The grass is green and lush. I love taking portraits I just don't love the cameras right now.


Saturated Saturday. A downtown Austin walk with a Sony RX10 and nothing special to think about.

Well, I had some extra lights I never used and I traded them to a guy for a Sony RX10. Lightly used on both sides of the transaction... Now, I had owned this model before, loved it and then found what I thought would be a greater love for some Nikon gear and so traded it away. But the lure of the one inch cameras is strong, and when the chance came to reacquire this classic I felt as though I had to jump on it. And it's been sitting on the corner of my desk for a while; daring me to pick it up and use it some more...

This has been the busiest January I've worked in since ---- well ---- years. We usually end up taking long walks with the dog during this month or lingering over late lunches and hanging out at coffee shops, sheltering from the cold and the ennui of the slow times. But somewhere around the 4th of the month I started getting phone calls and e-mails from a diverse group of clients and we started ramping things up. A TV commercial led to publicity shots which slid into event work and veered back again into some advertising content. Toss in a weekend in Denver learning to be smarter and you've got a full schedule. Or at least I do. It got so busy over the last two weeks that I actually had to skip a number of swim practices! God forbid!!!

But last night I stayed late in the office, a glass of red wine just to the left of my keyboard, and I billed and billed and billed. While invoicing for services and licenses already rendered is fun and entertaining, the photos tacked to my bulletin board were a reminder that it had been at least two weeks since I'd had the free time to wander around with a camera and no real agenda. And, for me, the time spent walking is great time spent thinking and consciously dreaming. I'd missed the ramble around downtown. 

So after a wonderful and jaunty swim practice, coffee with my masters swim team buddies, and lunch with my wife, I carved out the rest of the afternoon to tool around with one camera and some decent hiking boots. The camera I chose was the RX10 and there's a simple reason for that: It was this camera's turn in the rotation. The Nikons saw a lot of serious use in the early part of the month and last week was the week of hard labor for the Olympus and Panasonic cameras. The odd man out had been the Sony. 

I had the best of the rationalizations when I acquired the RX10 for a second time. You see, the firmware has been updated and the video went from merely "really good" to "superb." I rationalized that I'd be using this camera to create wonderful, snapshot style videos that people would adore. Of course, after I bought the camera I abandoned that line of reasoning (for now) and started using the camera as I use all cameras; pressed into the service of whatever visual whim I was serving in the moment. 

This camera has a curious effect on otherwise logical photographers. In actual use it totally convinces one of its abilities; its credentials. While Malaysian photographer and camera blogger, Ming Thein is now heading down the path way of ultimaticity with his high res, full frame cameras and Otus lenses, even he was swayed by the RX10's charms and stated, quite clearly, just a two years ago on his blog, that he could easily use the RX10 for nearly 95% of all of his client work, if needed. That's saying a lot, coming from a person who now brooks "no compromise" in his efforts to bend the physics of photography to his will. 

I have no such lofty goals for the RX10. I have only my usual assumptions. That the camera will be fun to use. That the files will be sharp and colorful. That I won't have to waste a lot of time rescuing said files in post production. That I will be enchanted by the zoom lens. That I will bounce back and forth between my Panasonic cameras (the fz 1000) and the Sony and never be totally certain which one is "the best." 

But today I was happy just to walk around with the little camera over one shoulder and to really look at stuff. I stopped by REI and bought a couple of cool, gray shirts. I stopped by Medici Caffe for a cappuccino. I bought a copy of American Cinematographer Magazine at Book People. And I snapped images of down town to look at later (now). In my mind this equates to living the good life and, in that scenario the make or model of camera hung over my shoulder is about as consequential as the brand of gasoline I put in my car. The Sony is extravagantly competent. Nothing earth shattering but nothing shabby either. Now, where did I put my fz 1000?


Infatuation with a camera. It's that damn OMD that's gotten under my skin. Once you've snuggled up with an EM5.2 it's hard to get it out of your mind. Once you've had Olympus you'll ........

I've been under the spell of the big Nikons lately. It's the old story; you'll never get fired for recommending IBM. Which meant, in the early days of computing, that IBM was the way everyone always did things and so buying IBM was so logical you felt as though you didn't have to explain your choice. But guess what? KayPro, Apple, Dell, Compaq and others stepped in and changed the computer market forever.

In a certain way the analogy is true, lately, when applied to photography. Used to be that the "big irons" from Nikon and Canon were universally acknowledged to be the pro solution and showing up with something different might get you a sidelong look that signified trouble.

I worked all last week with the Nikons and boy are those files lovely. And nobody questioned my choice of cameras. But even the most addicted Nikon (or Canon) power user would have to admit, after working with a good, EVF endowed camera for a few weeks, that their choice of tools is growing kludgy and long in the tooth. It's not a question of lenses and sensors but

Photographing "Tribes," A new play at Zach Theatre. A surprising camera choice.

Mitch Peleggi (former X-Files cast member) in "Tribes."

I'm pretty sure a huge percentage of the photographic community thinks I'm nuts for changing cameras from time to time and constantly experimenting with new ways of photographing things but I think they are equally crazy for doing things over and over again in the same style and with the same cameras. Just look up Albert Einstein's definition of insanity somewhere on the web....

But I have to tell you that sometimes you try something new and it works. Against common legend lots of stuff works really well. And here's the important context: You only need stuff to work a bit better than your best targeted end use...  That web profile photo? Doesn't need to be shot with the new 100 mp Phase One camera. Honest. 

A case in point: My photographic coverage of the dress rehearsal for Zach Theatre's: Tribes. 

There is usually an audience ("friends and family") in the theater for the final dress rehearsal and for reasons of budget (and the fact that all the costumes and light cues are done) we've started shooting the "live" marketing images of the big plays on that day. What it really means is that I'm often relegated to a position in the cross over row in the center of the house.  It's a reach to the stage. And on a show with a small cast and a tight set my full frame cameras, coupled with the 80-200mm f2.8 lens is getting close to the edge of practicality. I end up wanting to get closer and have tighter compositions on my subjects. I want to feel the action in the photographs. 

While the image files of the Nikon D750 and D810 are great and the dynamic range ample, the handling and quickness of the system, for theater, isn't optimal. The light changes quickly and, by extension, so does exposure and even color balance.  Theater photography cries out for the instantaneous feedback of a good EVF camera. I have tried using the Olympus OMD cameras with longer lenses but the focus in low light just isn't fast enough to keep up with the action, sometimes. I've been looking for a different solution. I want a long lens, great image stabilization and fast, sure focusing. I took a deep breath and plunged into shooting Tribes with one of my favorite cameras for most stuff: The Panasonic fz 1000. 

This camera has what I was looking for in all the parameters I just outlined but the perceived weakness of that camera for this kind of work has always been questions about the low light performance of the 1" sensor. Is it too crowded with pixels to keep the noise down to a minimum? Or at least at a level commensurate with the final, targeted use of the images?

On Tuesday evening I headed to the theater with the lightest camera bag I think I have ever taken there. It had just two cameras and two extra batteries. That's it. Two Panasonic fz 1000 cameras (pro's cameras travel in pairs, set up identically. If one fails it's brother is ready to jump into the fray with no hesitation and no set up delays. After all, a lot is riding on getting good marketing images---they help put paying patrons in the seats!

My basic setting for the camera (I used only one) was manual exposure, ISO 1250, raw, and f4.0-5.6. 
I tested the dominate face lighting in an early tech session and found the color on faces to be equal to 3700K with 2 clicks of green. 

Here's my assessment: The magic, dfd focusing of the fz 1000 (same as the GH4) is great. Really great! When used with "pinpoint AF" the camera absolutely nailed every single frame I shot. 100%. If I did not get sharp focus on a face it had to be because I forgot to aim the AF sensor at the face. Better than my Nikons? Well, if the comparison includes the 80-200mm f2.8 then the answer is a resounding yes.

Here's where this seven hundred dollar camera beats the crap out of all the other combinations you might bring to bear in the theater: You get a long, long, very sharp zoom lens that caps out at f4.0. I worked the long end of the lens for a lot of the images and it was wonderful. I doubled my range and did so with a camera that could be handheld down to about 1/60th of second because of the I.S. 

Anything slower than 1/60th is a was at 400mm because you also have subject motion to contend with and their is no magic cure for subject motion as the shutter speeds drop. 

But here's where the Panasonic beats my Olympus OMD EM5-2 cameras resoundingly: The EVF (set to manual, not automatic) when thoughtfully calibrated (which means shooting and comparing the results in the EVF to the results on your post production monitor) is a perfect exposure setting tool. If it looks good in the EVF of my fz 1000 I have a 95% assurance that it will be correctly exposed when I get to the post production stage. That's huge. Try as I might to do the same with the Nikon D810 the rear screen of that camera is good for little more than composition compared to the radically cheaper (but more capable) Panasonic. Again, for a busy shooter doing post processing on say, 1200 files late at night, this is impressive and appreciated. EVF as color meter and finely tuned exposure meter. Sold. Dammit Nikon! Get me a D500 WITH an EVF. Stat.

When I got back to the studio at a late hour I put the images in Lightroom and started playing. Most needed a 1/3 to 1/2 stop nudge up in exposure to be perfect but, in defense of the camera, I tend to shoot to protect the highlights and am willing to put the "sensor invariance" to a little test. The files sharpen up well and there was no objectionable noise in the darker background areas --- certainly no problems with color speckling or grain clumping. The details could use more detail at 100% but in actual use they are right on the money. 

Would I do it again! How about next week. I am shooting another play the Sunday following this one and I'm also bringing along the Sony RX10 (original, not the model 2) to see if the f2.8 aperture really buys me anything. My primary camera will be one of the fz 1000s. I am putting them in their own rotation to try to keep from wearing out one or the other prematurely. I have no idea how well made the shutters are in a "consumer" camera but I do put a lot of internal wear on cameras. I tend to shoot a lot. My final word is that the smaller file size is a post processing blessing and a relief to my client who was getting tired of sorting through 36 megapixel images. "Sufficiency?" Naw, just matching the highest use target to the right camera. 

Experiment successful. And yes, on a paid job. It's not like I haven't put 25,000 exposures on the camera already....

Where's Waldo? Find the grain and lack of sharpness in 
this ISO 1250 image, shot wide open near the long end of the 
lens, handheld. You might see it by I sure don't. 
Not in any meaningful way. 


Camera Confusion Continues. Why use an Olympus OMD EM-5.2 to do still life when you've got a Nikon D810 sitting on the corner of your desk...

Still life set ups get tight. See the Westcott Fastflag behind the camera?
It's the diffusion rimmed in yellow. 

I guess there was big excitement here in Austin this week. Apparently the folks from Olympus chose our fair city in which to launch their new Pen F camera. One reader asked if I was invited to participate and preview the camera ahead of time but, sadly, I was not. I can only imagine the other camera makers remembered my ill-fated decision to work with a progression of Samsung cameras and have never forgiven me. Likely never will. And that's okay because the lessons I learned from those two years was the vital importance, as a person who reviews cameras from time to time, never to have an ongoing relationship with the camera makers. I don't want to have to defend my credibility every time I write something nice about a a camera and conversely I don't want to spend time fending off the accusation that I'm a "shill" if I write something honest, but critical, about a camera from a maker I haven't previously used. For instance, if Nikon sent me cameras to test on a regular basis and then I wrote a blog wondering just what people see in the Fuji system I would get endless Fuji acolyte hate mail that would more or less start with..."I expected no less from a Luddite Nikon user! Don't you understand that the future is mirrorless????!!"

My friend, Andy, was one of the testers and he wrote along and involved initial review of the camera that he posted last night here.  His review is much more in depth and nuanced than are many of the reviews on the web. If you want to read the opinion of someone who owns and uses many Olympus models, as well as cameras from other brands, he's the one to go to today for the Pen F.

I wish I could have played with the new Olympus camera today since I am considering buying one when they come out but.... I've been hard at work the last three days on......work. 

I got back from my Craftsy.com conference very late on Sunday night and was a bit mopey because Ben had headed back to school earlier that day. I hit the ground on Monday with a full schedule of post production. Tues. was meetings all day and an interesting dress rehearsal all evening followed by post processing of 1200 theater images until the wee hours of the morning. But today was wall to wall still life photography. I sequestered myself away in the studio and only came out to drive the mile and a half to Thundercloud Subs to get their famous, Texas Tuna sandwich. It's basically tuna salad, guacamole, sliced jalapeƱos, Thunder Sauce(tm), and (for me) provolone cheese. We top it off with lettuce, tomato and onion. If you get the big one, on fresh, whole wheat bread, it should last you till a late dinner...

At any rate, today was my day to shoot a prototype from a high technology start up. A real product, not software, not vaporware. It was a black, metal box and the front was covered with some of the most heavy duty heat sinks I've seen in a long time. The advertising agency and the client had one brief brief: Shoot as many interesting angles and details as you can on white. 

As most of you are aware I spend most of my time making images of people and it takes some concentration to change gears and get all detail oriented with products. (more below).

A view from the back of the set.

That's not to say that I don't know my way around still life photography. I've shot hundreds of computer products for Dell and IBM, food for magazines and cookbooks, and for two years back in the 1980's I shot an ad a day with books and products for BookStop Bookstores, mostly with 4x5 cameras and sheet film. And buckets of Polaroid. In fact, at this point I think it's safe to say I've logged 10,000 hours just in those pursuits. It's just that I really like the people part.

The RPS CooLED 50. This light can also take a battery pack which takes 
12 double A batteries. Too zany for me right now.

The first thing I have to do when people want still life work is to figure out which camera system I want to use and how I'm planning on lighting stuff. We don't need to get the background perfectly white or shadow free since we'll be making clipping paths so I concentrate on using controllable lights that will help me deal with reflections on reflective surfaces. On the last few still life jobs I've done I've used the EM5.2 cameras because I like the combination of extensive depth of field coupled with the hi-res (40 megapixel) files. The still life stays still and the camera is on a tripod anyway. 

At first glance the Nikon D810 looks like the logical choice because of the full frame sensor and the high resolution but I'm leery of stopping that camera down too far and having to deal with diffraction effects. At some point the files start to get muddier and muddier as you head toward f22....

The Olympus EM5-2 is limited to f8 if you intend to use the hi-res mode. If you need more depth of field beyond what that combo (f8.0 and smaller sensor) gets you it's pretty easy to do some remedial focus stacking. I ended up choosing the Olympus because I think the high-res mode is pretty cool and it gives me a chance to use the Sigma DN 30mm and 60mm lenses. I am rewarded, at f8.0, with amazing sharpness out of a set of $200 a piece lenses. Pretty damn amazing.

Light covers, diffusion sock and a Manfrotto Magic Arm lounge on the floor, waiting their turn in some sort of rotation.

And that brings me to lighting gear. I like to use continuous lighting on product shots because I can see, on the rear screen on in the EVF, exactly what my final shot is going to look like before I trip the shutter and I can tweak it until what I've got is a perfect as I am able to get.  The big fluorescent panels are too diffuse for work like this. Not that I don't want most of the light sources to be diffuse but, I also want to skim some hard light through the shots to gain a greater impression of sharp edges. That's where my cheap RPS CooLED lights come in. I now have two of the bigger models, the 100. They put out a good amount of light and they are the first LEDs I've owned that I can stick into a softbox and not feel like the light loss is is too much. In fact, I used one of these big lights through a small soft box today, over the top of my shooting table for a main light. 

I also have two of the model 50s, which are one stop less powerful. But they are still brighter than most of the panels I've used. The beauty of all of these fixtures is that I can use them just as we used to use traditional tungsten lights. I can put diffusion scrims in front of them, put them into soft boxes or umbrellas and, with the standard 10 inch reflectors, I can even feather them nicely. Two of the reflectors have barn doors so I can created tighter, hard edged beams of light. 

Ah. The Manfrotto Grip Head. We use them for everything. 
In this instance I'm using one to hold the Westcott Fastflag
with a diffuser. Kind of like a highly customizable softbox. 
You control the intensity and diameter of the light flow based on distance. 

Shooting a new product is kind of like being on a first date. You have to make small talk and get to know the geography. Today's featured product would not stand up on its own. The giant heat sink on it made if very front heavy. I finally got it to stand up straight by attaching a nylon string to a bracket on the back of the unit and anchoring the string to a sandbagged C-stand. The product also had beveled edges which meant that it wouldn't sit on its side without some sort of support. The secret is to use enough support but make it concealable....or easy to PhotoShop out. 

The finish on the product was just shiny enough to make my morning and part of my afternoon challenging as I tried to "play pool" with the lights and bounce them into quadrants that would not return unhelpful reflections. Word to the would-be-wise, check your lighting at camera position, the effect is radically different when you move away from the camera but what the camera sees is the only thing that matters. 

Invariably, the client who is sitting ten feet over to one side will mention that he or she seems a big glare from where he or she is and wonders how you intend to fix it. I am always gentle as I guide them to the camera position and beckon them to look once again......

One of my "secret weapons" is a horizontal arm on my Gitzo tripod. 
With that tripod and arm I can arrange the camera to shoot straight down 
on a subject. Here I have the camera tilted back to get a specific angle. 

It's old news, of course, but one of the benefits of the LED lights is the cool working environment. Funny though--- today it was chilly outside and I found myself thinking how nice it would be to work with 3 or 4 thousand watts of tungsten lighting. We would have kept nice and toasty warm without having to turn on the studio heater.

Yes. I will finally admit that the tilt-fllippy screen on the back of the camera does 
have its uses. I was often putting the camera in positions that would have required 
better balance than I think I can muster to get the shots. 

As soon as I came to grips with the idea that I'd shot every conceivable angle and detail of this new, prototype (meaning not totally polished and cosmetically perfect) product I jumped right into post processing the individual files. Since I wasn't looking through a series of different expressions (people) I was able to select the best frame from each set up and just work on those. 

No matter how much I cleaned the product I have surrendered to the realization that some very fine (and very white) dust will end of statically sticking to areas of the product. It's dust that's so fine I can't see it with my naked eyes but it becomes very visible the you blow up 40 megapixel files to 100%. So, after I color correct, exposure correct and use the lens corrections to make things line up I spend about five to ten minutes per file spotting dust with the healing tool in PhotoShop. Once I like what I see I save a full res LZW Tiff file and go on to the next image. Today we did a bunch. At the end of the day I use the script in Photoshop to automate making Jpegs. It's called "Image Processor." 
I generate full size Jpegs with #10 compression and then smaller, web rez Jpegs that are easier for some clients to handle and review. 

I uploaded all of the files to WeTransfer.com and send them to all the involved parties. My hope is that everyone will write back to me and let me know how much they love the files but, being the anxious type, I generally wait on pins and needles, expecting the sky to fall and my career to end at any moment. Tragic. I know. 

So, here's my beauty shot of my favorite Olympus camera of the moment. 
Will I buy the new Pen F? Not after being snubbed!
Just kidding. I'll line up like an Apple iPhone buyer to get 
my hands on the first black one in Austin. Count on it. 

I don't usually do my photography and my processing on the same day. I like to take a walk or a swim after the shoots to let what I've done sink in. But this week is somehow different. We seem to have projects stacking up like serial romances and I'm trying to make sure the "back office" work doesn't stack up and end up biting me on the butt at some inconvenient moment. Tomorrow I photograph the president of one of (maybe "the") biggest real estate company in the country. I'd like to have all the other stuff cleared off my plate because, invariably, the photo session of busy executives if followed by a tense conversation with the administrative assistant in which the words, "We need to have all of these by tomorrow morning!!!!!" get repeated over and over again. It's like a tourist trying to bridge a language barrier by repetition and volume.

The schedule says I get a break next Thurs. I can hardly wait. But what camera will I want on that day to take on a long walk through my home town?

Some panels are here to block window light. 

Bag it. Or knock something over and pay for it....

I'm sure next year I'll be asked along on an Olympus junket. But isn't it nice to know that I wrote this because I found a good use for the camera, not because of a nice dinner and the open bar?


By reader request: The Battle Royale Between the Sony RX10 and the Panasonic fz 1000.

The two bad boys of bridge cameras....

I wasn't going to write about gear today but really, I had to. One of my readers wrote me to ask which of the two top bridge cameras I prefer and, for once, I have enough data points on both to answer him. Here's the lay of the land: When it first came out I rushed to buy a Sony RX10 camera, convinced that it might be the "holy grail" of fixed lens cameras. That's a category that's had a soft spot in my heart since the introduction of the Sony R1 about ten years ago. The Sony R1 spoiled me for compact cameras and for other bridge cameras. How could it not? It was the first camera with a nearly APS-C sensor in a fixed lens body whose fixed lens was a crazy good, 24-120mm equivalent Zeiss branded zoom lens, custom matched to the sensor. I finally passed that camera on to a good friend last year because I felt that it needed more love and attention than I was giving it. 

But for a couple of years I shot almost everything with a pair of the R1s. Everything from portraits to theater to architecture. The lens really was amazing. My commercial interest waned when we finally got 24 megapixel cameras that could see in the dark. Then I thought my clients might snub the 10 megapixels in the R1. How foolish was that?

But let me backtrack and tell you why I was (and am) interested in "bridge cameras" to begin with. First of all there is the attraction in, first the Sony R1, and then in the Sony RX10 and the Panasonic, of a bigger than average sensor (compared with most compacts) coupled with a very, very high quality lens. In the case of the Sony it is a Zeiss

Assistant standing in so I can see how the out of focus background looks. Cool.

I don't spend as much time as I should here talking about style. Style is the photographic manifestation of your unique vision. Or, at least it should be. I've been working on my portrait style for executive portraits for about a year. Much of it surrounds giving the photograph a suggestion of authenticity by visually implying that the image is "available light," and for the most part the construction of the images does depend on an available light source.

Ben and I went on location last week to make portraits for a client who likes this style. As with any job we got to our shooting spot about an hour before our first executive was slated to arrive. There is a floor to ceiling window that extends along the wall to the left of Ben at least 50 feet. The first thing I do is to look at the light mix to see what needs to be changed. In this case there are lights that hang down to about 12 feet from the 15 foot ceiling. These are strong compact fluorescent or high density LED light sources. Tests show me that they are much greener and more yellow than the light that's coming through the windows. While the window light is stronger overall the hanging lights cause color casts in hair (or on bald heads) and on the tops of jackets or the parts of the face on which that light strikes. Once you have a mix of two different light sources in an image your ability to color correct convincingly is much diminished and you'll spend a lot of time doing spot color retouching.

We use circular, pop-up reflectors with black and silver sides to kill the overhead lights (which invariably are on switches that effect large areas of the workspace and cannot be turned off during work hours...). The reflectors are used on arms and "float" between the subject and the lights. I use the black side toward the light to kill as much of the artificial light as possible and the silver side toward the subject to reflect and enhance the natural light.

Behind the camera position I use a very large, white umbrella with either a small flash or an LED fixture pointing into it so I can add front fill light to control ratios. The fill light is usually tiny. Infinitesimal. Subtle. Vague.

I also use a subtractive panel over to the right of Ben to pull some light from the side, and sources just behind Ben, down. Finally, in a situation where a subject comes to me in a white shirt I'll grab a net on a frame to pull down the exposure on his right shoulder (closest to the light) so the cotton broadcloth doesn't burn out beyond 250 in a histogram. I want to be able to recover real detail.

I have two favorite lenses to use in shooting this style and, to some extent, the one I use depends on how "intimate" I want the portrait to feel. For a very close portrait I'll use the 135mm and for the version with a little "air" around it I'll use the 105mm. I've been using both of the lenses at f4.0 lately because I don't want to go over the top on the whole out of focus look. I want more than eyelashes and nose hairs in sharp focus. But, used close in like this at f4.0 both lenses do a good job rendering the background nicely out of focus and with commendable bokeh (the quality of the out of focus area image).

This is just a test so I didn't work very hard on the most important part of the portrait process; my rapport with my subject. That's why Ben looks very serious and borderline mean. I don't blame him, I had just sent him to the car which was in the parking garage to fetch a piece of gear that I then decided not to use. And I made him "stand in" for a long, long time while I fussed around with live view.

Our executive arrived one half hour earlier than scheduled. That's okay. We were ready and tested. The subject was in and gone in ten minutes; not because he was temporally demanding but because we were tested, set and ready. He was easy going and genuinely good natured and we were able to work together to get some great frames quickly.

In a way it is sad. The set up and tear down always seems to take much longer than the actual "hands on camera" time these days. It just goes with the territory.

Discounting the expression of my subject (above) what do you think of this portrait style? 

Back from Denver with lots of ideas and even more "writer's block."

The Berlin Wall and Beyond.

I have to confess that I haven't taken many trips in the last few years just for the hell of it. I've gone on many corporate event projects that are anything but relaxing. On those trips I'm along to document...everything. From the great revelations of the engaging CEO's to the wry smiles of the audiences, and a lot of stuff in between. And I approach each of those engagements with my usual anxiety and trepidation. I try to make each working event pretty much bullet proof. By that I mean that I take along duplicate/redundant gear, I leave a lot slop in my travel schedule and I bring a first aid kit filled with various quick cures; from antihistamines to antacids to aspirin. 

In fact, I think it's largely because of my almost unrelenting anxiety that I had never tried Uber or gotten to an airport less than two hours before my flights. I'm certain the same need to perform without hiccups is the magic ingredient that makes most business oriented travel very stressful for me. I don't mean to say that I'm a quivering mess for the entire time I'm gone, in fact, I feel pretty darn relaxed and happy when I'm in the air on the final leg of a flight home. It's just the rest of the time that I could be a walking advertisement for Xanax. 

So imagine if, after hundreds of corporate shows, conventions and forums, at which I was working and creating externally focused content for client, I actually got invited to go to a show as an attendee? How would that play out? 

I found out this past weekend. I am an instructor for the premier online learning channel for arts, crafts and photography. I've created three classes with Craftsy's talented teams of producers and videographer, and I've had fun doing it. Even more fun is feeling like a celebrity when I meet a student out "in the wild" and they tell me how much they love the course. To an artist with a fragile ego (are there any other kinds???) it's like pure gold. I got a taste of that a week ago when I was working on location at an international company's north American headquarters and one of their people came walking across the room towards me, excited to tell me that he'd taken one of my Craftsy photography course over the holidays and had, "Loved it!!!"

So a month of so ago the folks at Craftsy decided to bring together their instructors in one place to have a retreat/forum/learning experience wrapped around our involvement with teaching our Craftsy courses online. We got to meet our counterparts across all the categories of courses that Craftsy offers. They generously offered to pay for our food, our bar tabs and our rooms for the weekend and they brought in lots of great speakers to help make us smarter about social media and marketing. 

This is the first time in ages that I've been invited just to be an attendee. No obligation to speak or do a demo. No required attendance and no schedule parsed out in five minute intervals. As a bonus (at least for sports fans) we were put up at the Inverness Conference Resort just south of Denver and shared the hotel this weekend with the home team, the Denver Broncos! (They were sequestered at the resort before the AFC championship on Sunday --- some of those guys are enormous!). 

I packed one carry-on and then I went into the studio to try and figure out what camera to take. In the end I turned around, closed and locked the studio door and decided that, since I wasn't required to take a camera this might also be a mini-vacation from my almost obsessive need to photograph things. That attitude of non-responsibility carried through to everything...

I had ridden in Ubers summoned by others but had not downloaded the app and tried it myself. If I were heading out on a paying gig I might not have tried it but the downside of a failed Uber experiment was minimal in this case and I figured that if a car didn't materialize Ben could drive me to the airport. No need. Everything worked like a charm and the coupon I had downloaded to my phone paid for my trip to the airport. One more anxiety trigger cured.

Now I feel comfortable using ride sharing services without reservation. 

I usually get to the airport way, way too early. It's a knee-jerk reaction to all those times we've had to return rental cars, check in overweight and oversized equipment cases and be on guard for airline induced schedule changes that might jeopardize our first day of work in another city. This time, flying for fun I headed to the airport and arrived about 45 minutes before my flight. Jeepers. Never done that before. At least not willingly. And I had a revelation: It's nice not to spend time fretting in the waiting area at the gate any longer than one has to. 

I made my own reservations so I wasn't at the mercy of someone else's travel department. I chose to fly Southwest and, of course, it was great. 

The weekend was incredible and the input from so many different sources has had me questioning and examining all of my preconceptions about everything from direct mail (good stuff) to my blogging.  I'm working through it now. 

One of the things that disturbed me and is causing me some marketing soul searching this morning as I sat down to start writing was looking over to the right of my blog at the list of followers. A couple of weeks ago we had about 1525. Since then we've lost about 40. In my years of blogging the number has always gone up and never gone down. And now (fragile ego) I want to know why. I also want to know if what I am writing is relevant to any but a tiny contingent and, if that's the case, should I abandon the way I've traditionally approached the blog (I've written what I wanted to)  and default to the more profitable, and marketing driven engagement, wrapped around selling more courses, linking to more products and writing to a wider (and less educated) audience. Which would entail writing shorter articles with more superficial dives.

The marketing people who spoke this weekend were uniform in two things. One is that they exhorted people to be "genuine" and to "tell their own stories" but on the immediate flip side they pushed us to see what is trending on Facebook and Google and customize our content for that. It's an approach that builds audience but, I think, in my case, is antithetical to my authentic nature and also to what I think makes this blog functional and meaningful. It would be nice to have it both ways but I'm not sure I want to change my "voice" to fit a marketing template. By the same token I'm not enthused about "building a following" on Facebook. Might be good for some people but I can't write with a fake smile plastered across my face. Just can't do it. 

So, let me ask you guys (and it is mostly guys) a few questions about the blog and maybe you can help me out a bit by giving me some feedback and direction. 

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise....

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything? 

I could go on and on but I really am at an impasse where I feel like, just as with camera sales, I am speaking to a shrinking audience and not getting the return engagement I'd really like to see. 

I don't want to turn this blog into a sales tent. I don't want to change my subject matter to go off in pursuit of some mythic audience. But, if it's no longer relevant for most people to read blogs from photographers, or to read blogs specifically from me, I'd really like to know. 

I would ask, again just for the sake of my own ego, that if you enjoy the blog please become a follower. It serves no other purpose but to make me feel good. To make me think that people get something of value here in the mix. 

Over the next few days I'll be talking about some trends in marketing that I'm sensing (and which, surprisingly, are supported by metrics). It could be interesting. I'm also even more interested in video, and video as a new modality of "snapshot" aesthetic. And I still like to talk about cameras. 

I guess, for a guy with writer's block, I'm navigating my keyboard and my brain pretty well for right now. Sorry for sharing too deeply but I don't want to do the blog in a total vacuum and I think you can help. 

I'm back from out of town and I had a great trip. Let's get this week started. 


Thoughts about photography just here at the end of the week.

image done for Texas Gas Services. Used in ads and in direct mail. Nikon D700 and Profoto flashes.

I just finished a long week of projects with my kid, Ben, helping out as an assistant. We shot for a German based medical devices company on several days, shot one day on location at a large, commercial printer; and shot more video. I love working with Ben because he's incredibly reliable, calm and smart. I like having someone around to help carry cases and to find the tiny screws that fall out onto the gray and black flecked carpets in the halls of corporate American.

I am getting ready to head to Denver, CO. for a marketing training seminar for Craftsy.com instructors and I will be there until late Sunday night. Ben is heading back to college on the east coast early Sunday morning; if the weather gods allow...

As I wind down from the week I think about the things that worked well. I also find myself continually marveling at how little actual camera handling and shooting gets done versus the necessary socializing and rapport building. That, and waiting for the next photo opportunity.

We used the Nikon D750 to shoot about 20 individual portraits over two days. The images are of sales team members, photographed against a very light, soft, warm gray background. I use the Nikon 135mm f2.0 lens but in a sharp break with my usual style I shot at f8.0. The application drove the style. That, and continuity with the client's existing work. These images will be used on websites and in small print applications. I chose the D750 over the D810 mostly to keep the files sizes reasonable.

The sales team portrait set up was lit with two Photogenic 1250 DR electronic flashes modified with medium sized Chimera soft boxes. The fine control of levels on the 1250 Drs is nice to have. You can figure out what f-stop you need and how close you want the boxes for your taste in light fall off and then just dial in the power to suit. Since we set up and took down the portrait lighting set up it was great that Ben mastered the packing/unpacking the first time and left me to the grander task of finding good coffee. It wasn't that hard since there was a Starbucks at the Westin hotel in which we were working for those parts of our adventure.

We also created portraits of several executives, in fact, presidents of their respective geographic parts of the global corporation. These are done in a style that I instituted in collaboration with the company's marcom dept. We placed the execs near the wall of floor to ceiling windows that run alongside the north of the building and let the soft, indirect light through the window work as a giant main light. We pulled some shadow contrast in by placing black panels on the opposite side of the subject from the windows to kill some of the spill from the white walls. I also used a flash into a 60 inch, white umbrella, dialed way, way down just to tweak color and add a little more to the catchlights in eyes.

For the senior executives I used a Nikon D810 and will take advantage of the monster sized raw files to tweak the heck out of the final, selected images before I get into the retouching. To a certain extent I chose the bigger camera to help me make my own mental break with the previous, less complex images we'd shot earlier. The window images have a lot of moving parts, including interior lights, open, out of focus spaces behind the subjects, as well as a bit of mixed light. The D810, in conjunction with the Nikon 105mm f2.5 was a perfect combination, even though I occasionally felt the need to drop into live view to check sharp focus...

We went from a resoundingly international corporate environment one day right into the world of craftsmen and hands on workers the next day. Ben and I got to the printing plant at 7am and got right to work. We were out to make presses (and their human masters) look monumental and intriguing. We shot environmental portraits, giant machine portraits and lots of production shots. When the clients (ad agency)  showed up around 10 am we had already shot 30 different set ups and angles. The client led us through a few more and we were happy to oblige. On this job I used several lenses that fit well. I got a lot of work done with the Nikon 24-120mm lens (which has distortion but also my respect) knowing we'd be able to correct that lens's distortion via profiles in Lightroom. It's very hand tool when working in a confined space and when you need to change focal lengths on the fly.

The other lens I made good use of was the 14mm Rokinon Cine lens which made my D810 feel much like a view camera in that I used live view for every shot with the wide angle. All the better to see the edges that way. That's another lens that benefits from profiled distortion correction in software and the D810 helps to ensure that you don't lose too much sharpness in the process.

Near the end of our engagement at the print shop the art director asked if we could do some handheld video of one of the fast moving (conveyor belt) binding operations. I didn't think we could hand hold the D810 well without a grip or stabilizer of some sort and I was about to explain why we couldn't do that to the client when Ben reminded me that we'd brought along a Sony RX10 and, with the firmware upgrades, coupled with the smaller sensor and built-in image stabilization it would be a natural for some quick, handheld video. We grabbed the camera, set it up and were shooting in minutes. The client loved it which, of course, led to some other video clips as well. The camera has the best 1080p video of any camera I've owned. We were successful. The shoot was successful.
Everyone was happy.

At the end of our short day of shooting at the printer we headed to PokeJo's for BBQ. You can keep the two to four hour wait at Franklin's. Most BBQ in Texas is pretty darn good and PokeJo's is a favorite BBQ lunch dive for us. Knowing he would not get decent BBQ again until his return in late Spring, Ben went for the three meat plate, choosing brisket, pork ribs and pulled pork. As a general nod to health he got fruit salad as one of his side dishes.

I was, of course, more reserved and managed to limit myself to a two meat plate with "just" pork ribs and brisket. We were happy to sit and talk having had lunch with corporate clients the day before and anticipating the same the next day.

Good tools, good food and good clients. Add in good coffee and a good assistant and you've got a recipe for a series of fun, engaging and profitable shooting experiences.

To summarize on the gear side: D750 = best all around shooting camera in my collection. The one I pull out when it has to be good, well focused and noise free. The D810 = a detail monster and the ultimate portrait camera for me because the dynamic range keeps shiny skin from blowing out to white when tangling with specular highlights. Also, this camera is a "known" camera by the exec class which is a good conversation starter. Sony RX10 = killer "grab it fast" camera and emergency, high quality video camera. Add one to your bag. Add one to your shoot. Add some numbers to your billing.

Well, I've run out of time for now. More after the conference. Now to summon my Uber.....


TV Commercial for Zach Theatre's upcoming show: TRIBES. Video production: Ben and Kirk

Tribes at ZACH TheatreVIDEO: Tribes is a touching and provocative play about family, hearing and being heard. We can't wait to share this show with Austin! Our first public performances are right around the corner, the week of the 27th!For tickets visit: http://tickets.zachtheatre.org/single/PSDetail.aspx?psn=3142
Posted by ZACH Theatre on Friday, January 15, 2016

Edited by Michael Ferstenfeld.  


This is a public service article for bloggers who have been in the imaging business less than five years, think they know everything about photography, and are in (publicly aired) despair about how hard it is to make a living "just" taking photographs.

Photo of Ameerah Tatum, actor. At the old studio on San Marcos St. 

Dear __________,

You seem to do a great job attracting other photographers to your blog but I'm here to tell you that they (the vast majority of your readers) won't hire you to do great assignments and make great photographs. They love to read your stuff because many of them wish they had the balls to leave the apparent safety of a corporate job to try their luck in this tough game. They are having a vicarious but safe experience watching you agonize through the process.  If you really want to do this for a living, and want all the trappings of (at least) a middle class life, then you'll have to change gears and start marketing to people who can actually hire you and pay you what you need to earn.

You love to write about gear so you must think it's the vital part of making a living at photography. No, you would be dead wrong. 95% of clients just don't care at all about what kind or brand of gear you shoot with. In fact, I have a handful of clients who enjoy teasing me about my fascination with new gear. They think it's cute. They also think that this buying habit is what keeps me from getting rich..

But if they don't care about gear then the clients must care about how well you can make and print technically perfect images, right? No. Wrong again. Clients care about how well you can incorporate their message into a photograph and then bundle it together with a charming visual sensibility that makes the image attractive and comfortable to ingest for a demographic that is disposed to buying the client's products or services. Some demographics love to have their heartstrings pulled (that requires superb people casting and direction). Some love to play the testosterone game (pick up truck buyers, lawn mower enthusiasts, beer drinkers), and some demographics like the genuine feeling of a snapshot aesthetic (millennials?); the anti-thesis of "sharp to the bone", and harder to do well than it sounds.

All clients like to work with people they enjoy being around. If they wanted to work with sullen, compulsive engineers they'd give their own compulsive engineers cameras. But they do like people who are warm, effusive, open, sociable and ..... happy. They like to work with happy people; surprise! If you approach commercial photography as though there is a set series of formulae to follow, and a metric to measure its successful completion, you've already failed. Big time. Winning means that, not only did your new client like and enjoy the photograph you created, they also liked you and enjoyed hanging out with you and working with you because you brought both your unique vision, and your sense of humor and humanity along for the ride.

How do you market to these clients since they are not photographers, do not read photographer's blogs and don't pay to attend workshops on how to find intersecting patterns in urban architecture, and then capture them with high sharpness? Cute pictures of your significant other?  Or headshot workshops, for that matter... ? Well, you speak to them directly in their language. The language of advertising and marketing, not the language of lenses and cameras. You send images to them that they would be likely to appreciate because they are the kinds of images that they would like to assign and then use in their projects.

Most of the images that successful corporate and advertising photographers create are photographs of people. People doing things, people making things and people enjoying a lifestyle. The images that seem to be most sought after, and most successful, show people directly engaged with the camera. It gives the appearance of having the model, or talent, or portrait subject directly engaging the viewer. Many years ago David Ogilvey (book: Ogilvy on Advertising) did the research that still underpins a lot of advertising creation. He found that when test groups were shown images the highest response rate; by far, was for pictures of people directly addressing the camera. Not of products, buildings, food or urban street scenes.  People looking at, and seeming to engage the viewer directly. (not to say that a good niche specialty like architecture isn't profitable too...).

The majority of people who do well in this business learn that working with ad agencies and corporations returns the most profit because those are the entities that have the most money and who need, most often, to invest in ongoing advertising that works.

I love to take portraits but would never open a portrait studio because individual, retail clients won't give me the level of fees that would make it worthwhile, nor will they repeat their visits as often as I would need them to in order to make enough money.

Most of us enjoy looking at black and white prints; some of us even like looking at color prints, but I would never depend on gallery sales to make a living for the same reason. If I had to make money from prints I would approach large corporate users of interior graphics and try to sell to them. But that would take lots of time and energy that I'd rather spend shooting.

If I hustled I guess I could market workshops and spend a lot of time traveling, and teaching other people to do what I would rather be doing than teaching. Every day, hour, week or month spent on teaching workshops, as a business, is that same amount of time lost to you for the creation of your own work. Time you will never get back; traded for one time (non-recurring) fees...

Finally, if I lived in a very bad market for the kind of work I wanted to do I would either move or go to the place that does have ample amounts of work in the style I want to do, find the clients there and convince them to use my services. We live in a global economy now. Head to NYC or London (but stay out of Austin, okay?).  I may need to travel back and forth to shoot, and visit clients, or I may be able to shoot from my location, but either way I'll be better paid for it than sitting in a crappy market complaining about the competition or the clients. And don't get me started about bribes and kick-backs....

If you want to do something at the peak of your ability (thereby gaining entry into the most affluent and profitable markets) you need to get clear on what it is you really want to do. Do you want to teach? By all means, open up your school and maximize the value to you and your flock. Do you want to try making money via selling art prints? Then dive in and make a bunch of work that sells to your (researched and targeted) audiences, and then spend some quality time building gallery relationships all over the world. But if you are truly up to the big boy business of making money shooting real images for real clients then you need to buckle down, market well, delivery great stuff, and make it all fun for the clients you would like to work with. It should be a joy for them  to call you and start out on a new project; not something approached with dread, fear, or the expectation of confrontations. I think you know as well as anyone else that your can't spread yourself too thin and be successful in everything you try. Stop taking your eyes off the actual prize.

Whatever logic you used in other industries might not convey well into a niche profession that's perceived to be an "art business." The sooner you get over the idea that you can measure everything, and then apply a formula to its creation and sale, the sooner you and your new clients will be happy, and the sooner you will be prosperous.

I can't think photography by itself will ever make us rich but saving money every year, and applying the magic of compound interest to everything we save, might just make us well off, over time.

I think it takes five to ten years to really become successful in the imaging businesses. Photography, video, etc. If you don't want to take the hard path of proving that you are competent, fun, and here to stay, then you might want to look for another way of making a living and keep photography around as an enjoyable hobby.

Here's a book that may be helpful:

Does anybody ever bother to re-review cameras that have been on the market for awhile but have been graced with new and much improved firmware? Here's one: Sony RX10.

There's this thing that happens in the camera market. A new camera hits the market and everyone rushes to review it. The camera may be good but it may have some rough edges that keep it from being great. Or perfect. Then, maybe six months or a year later that camera gets the firmware it deserved the first time around but, by then everyone has moved on to the latest miracle camera that's come sliding down the chute. The now improved, earlier camera gets no more love and dissolves into irrelevance in the marketplace. That recently happened to one of my all time favorite, non-DSLR cameras; the original Sony RX10. 

I'm revisiting that camera right now because used prices for them have dropped to "bargain" status and that camera model was visited by the firmware update fairy last year ---- with just the right amount of pixie dust and magic. If you have one be sure to update your firmware to 2.0. If you don't have one then maybe you should....

Where did we leave off with that camera? I had used it for an eight page, national shelter magazine assignment with good results and loved almost everything about the camera. It got sacrificed in one of those ill considered trade deals but it wasn't really missed as much as it should have been because, while it should have been the perfect hybrid camera (and all-in-one camera) it suffered from having a mediocre video codec, and enhanced video capabilities were one of the selling points of that camera. 
I was working with the Panasonic GH3 and GH4 at the time and just about any other camera would have been hard pressed to match their video performance. Even today some cameras might have less noisy video but few have video that can match the GH4's detail and color. So the camera found a new home probably around the time I was considering the purchase of the Nikon D810, etc. 

Last week I came across a used one for less than half the price of the same model new. It had no wear and was in "like new" condition. And I remembered that Sony had made significant improvements just where I thought the camera might need them to rise to it's ultimate potential. In the video. 

The new video firmware moved the RX10 from 28 mb/s ACVHD to 50 mb/s XAVC. This was the one parameter that every knowledgeable reviewer stuck on. Each reviewer basically said, "This camera would be the perfect hybrid video/still camera if only....XAVC." It's a much better codec. Same one used for 1080p in the Sony A72 series cameras. It handles motion better and it's a more robust codec for editing as well. It was enough to push me to go back to the change jar and the deposit bottle collection (and a little bit of plasma donation) to see if I could swing the purchase. I was successful with a last push for cushion change diving in the sofa and two arm chairs. 

Having bought the camera, and the several additional and requisite batteries, I decided that I may as well test the camera and see if the upgrade was the final piece of the "perfect bridge camera" jigsaw puzzle. One thing to understand though, is that we're talking here about version one, not the latest version two --- which is a sparkling and cool camera in its own right...

I had a strategy when I left the house today. I headed to the graffiti wall with the RX10 and a variable neutral density filter and I shot about 20 minutes of video (which is too boring to show) which proved to me that big improvements had been made and that the camera is very much ready for (well lit) prime time video production. Especially electronic news gathering varieties. Fun to set the manual exposure on the camera and then work the variable neutral density filter along with zebras in the EVF to hit perfect exposure. It worked well and, since I am at heart a very lazy person, I left the VND filter on for the rest of the time at the outdoor gallery; even when shooting still photographs. 

What is my assessment of the RX10 now? Well, with one of these and two of the Panasonic fz 1000 cameras (a very close cousin, hobbled only by the lack of a headphone jack) I'm pretty sure I could shoot a serviceable feature or at least a really fun TV sit com. I know, how about a sit com based on a hapless, 60 year old photographer who loves to press "toy-like" cameras into real world shooting assignments only to have unexpected, but very funny, things happen to him? I wouldn't watch it but I bet somebody would. 

Seriously, the camera does a great job with video. And I already liked the work I've done with a previous one in still photography. I'm glad to have another one back in the fold. I hope I won't be so cavalier about getting rid of it next time...It's a perfect complement to the rest of my stuff. Now I just need to remember all the menu stuff. 

I don't pay attention to all brands of cameras equally but I am sure this kind of improvement over the lifespan of a camera is not limited to Sony bridge cameras. I remember how excited I was when Kodak added Jpegs files to what had been introduced as the "raw file only" DCS 760. I'm also reminded of some recent, valuable upgrades that Olympus bestowed on the current EM5.2 and the venerable EM1. I welcome as many fixes as they'll give us. I don't expect them but I do appreciate them. It's made several of my cameras more fun than they were when they started...

Blog Note: Ben and I are booked on corporate imaging work (my actual job) the first three days of this week and then I head to Denver early Friday for a marketing forum that lasts until Sunday night. The tight schedule and the need to do post production around the edges of our paying jobs may mean that the blog is going dark until next Monday, January 25th. I need some downtime anyway after my last troll skirmish. Not sure where we're going with the blog. I still enjoy writing it but I'm a little concerned that its relevance has passed. That the format and the information have less value than when we started out this little venture. A good topic for discussion at the upcoming media marketing forum. I'll take notes. We'll reconvene. In the meantime, aren't the rest of you just so tickled that I wrote (and serially posted) some extra blogs for you? Stay tuned. 

Having a style you like doesn't mean you have to abandon experimentation. I like to try everything to see if I can come across ... a better style.

This is an example of making a portrait with a ring light. One of my clients insisted I buy a big, highlight flash for an advertising project (that never saw the light of day). One day Noellia came over to the studio in one of her cool outfits and I decided to drag out the ring light and give it a go. It was a fun effect. I then experimented with different post processing styles. I won't be changing my core style for this one but I learned a few new things. I think that's always the point. 

After all these years some people are still hazy about the blog...

Get the hazy reference? The person behind the camera is..... hazy. Cool huh?

We write what we want. We post when we want to. We use the "royal we" as many times as is pleasurable to me. You are free at any time to skip a post, read a post later, read all of a week's posts on one day, or to just look at the photographs displayed here and then go away.

Sometimes I will be working on a project and not be able to post for a few days. Other times, at the end of a project, I'll have more time and will make myself happy by posting more blog entries. Blogging is not my job. My job is taking photographs and making video content for clients.

Blogging is a fun outlet for me. You are not my client. You are not my boss. You are not my mother.  This is not Target or Nordstroms, I am the only "complaint department" and the complaint window has been closed for years.

I hate getting a comment telling me what to do with the blog. Especially one that says,

"Anonymous said...
One post a day, please. No one likes a serial poster."

So, if you happen to be the entitled reader who donated that thought yesterday, please stop reading my blog; it is obviously overwhelming you. If you are one of my regular readers or a commenter who includes his name along with a comment, Thank you!

Other than an occasional nudge to buy a book I've written, and a once in a while link in the copy to an Amazon product page, this blog asks nothing of its readers other than a modicum of reciprocal politeness and the willingness to share your experiences and knowledge.

I don't hawk weekly, monthly, quarterly workshops, no appeal to buy my (high nano-acuity) hyperprints, no sidebar filled with display ads, no crowdsourcing appeals, hell, I don't even have a t-shirt to sell you. (but I am working on a coffee cup (joke)).

Read at your own peril. But don't tell me how to enjoy my own blogging. Got it?

We are now ramping up the comment moderation. I've put Charlie Martini in charge. You can still disagree with me but you just can't be a dick.