6.11.2016

The enigmatic 50mm lens for Sony A7x. Continued...


Of course, in the interim, while deciding on what constitutes the ultimate 50mm lens for the Sony A7 cameras, I am pressing the 60mm f1.5 Olympus Pen FT lens into service and I must admit that I'm liking both the focal lengths and the overall rendering of this ancient lens very much.

It works very well with Sony's focus peaking and, though one of the expensive options I've explored may be sharper, the old Olympus lens stands up very well. The only reasonable objection I can see to it is the slight vignetting in the corners at most focal lengths and apertures. And, in fact, I am finding this flaw a bit endearing given that the lens was computed to work with half frame cameras and was never (as far I my research can uncover) intended to cover or work with the full sized, 35mm frame.

That it works as well as it does is a bit of a miracle. How strange that this combination can actually deliver sharp and contrasty images!

The combination certainly looks wonderful. The lens is compact and fast, and, even with an adapter to convey its charms to the Sony cameras, it is a small and graceful package, made entirely of metal and glass. It's most charming feature is that I have already paid for it many, many years ago.

On another note: A reader named, Ken, left a comment a few days ago. He was complimenting my writing skills (Thank you, Ken!) and at the same time he was honestly telling me that he doesn't really like the style of photography I usually show on the blog. He also stated that he would be fine if he never again saw a Kirk Tuck image of architecture again. I feel his pain. I am not an architectural photographer and sometimes I get foolishly carried away with the promise of a new lens or camera and am not patient enough to wait for the right subject matter to roll along in order to test out the new toys. I guess I often default to shooting what's available. I'll try to do better.

But this all got me thinking about what people might consider to be my style or why they might question the kind of work I do for clients. It's hard to show client work. I'm reticent to show the many, many, many portraits I shoot in a year because they are created to fit a space on a website or in a capabilities brochure and are not unique nor inspiring but are instead the bread and butter of a real photography business. I also hesitate to show work portraits because I sometimes need permission from the subject and the company in order to share them.  What this tells me is that I should spend a good bit more time lining up fun, personal portraits to shoot.

But even with non-portrait work there is a weird dissonance between what I show and what many, many other photographers show as work. I try to show actual, daily work; not the once in a lifetime, big budget shoot or work created speculatively that masquerades as commissioned work because this is not a "portfolio" for me as much as it is a dialog about the process of a photographer's life. I can cherry pick from the hundreds of thousands of photographs I've created and show more exciting work but it would hardly be a reflection of the reality of the industry as I see it. As I live it.

This became clear to me on a project I was working on last week. When we started talking about it we were talking about portraits in unusual locations, created with dramatic lighting, made with contrasty and layered lighting. We (the client and I) talked about making each one exquisite and beautiful; reminiscent of some of the earlier work they had seen in my portfolio. This was a first conversation with the graphic designer. But, of course she would need to run all of this by her supervisor who, we found out, would have to run this by the V.P. of marketing, who then felt duty bound to run it by the founder and CEO of the company.

At each step the concept got watered down. First they supervisor balked at the cost of shooting the portraits on unique locations. Couldn't we just bring everyone into a conference room? Then the marketing V.P. stepped in to have his say. He didn't like contrasty photos with dark shadows on the shadow side of the face. Could we flatten out the light but still make the images "exciting"?

By the time the founder got involved the discussion was more about which shade of gray, seamless paper would look best in the background behind the shadowless images, shot in the small conference room and cropped to head and shoulders.  And he nixed the idea of shooting squares...

Which all left me to wonder how in the world we've ever gotten through the creative killing labyrinth of business relatively unscathed enough times in my career in order to have anything at all to put into the portfolio, much less to have enough material to place in the blog on a daily basis... That I have anything at all to show seems sometimes to be a miracle to me. Maybe that's why I write....

15 comments:

Bob Krist said...

You might suggest to reader Ken that if he paid a subscription fee, you might be able to go further afield to shoot your test shots, but to get your excellent content at its current price point, he may have to look at Austin architecture:-)

Ken said...

Well, just to clarify, I said I liked your theater photography. And not just your writing but the brain behind the writing. :) In other words, there is much to draw me back to your blog multiple times per day despite the results of your commercial assignments and camera testing subject matter.

Raymond Charette said...

creative comittee is an oxymoron!

Michael Reed said...

I read your blog because of the "process of a photographer's life" sprinkled with some images and tech along the way

john gee said...

contax 50mm

Kirk Tuck said...

Bob, Ken was right and I'm happy he felt comfortable writing it. I was letting the imaging skate a bit. I am going to work on it and, I really do like the whole idea of the conversation!

JereK said...

Are there any Leica R Lenses in the 50ish range you liked in the film days? Would inagine they would adapt well.

I was thinking about the Post from a couple of days back and I came to the conclusion that I am a passive reader of the site because I mostly read it on the mobile. I loathe writing anything longer than a tweet with mobile. So the change from Computer to mobile is same as from creator to Consumer.

gj said...

I'm a long time reader but have never posted a comment before. Love this blog and look forward to reading it every day. I have been taking photos for 50 years but only as a hobby. Don't change anything you are doing on the blog. Its a "day in the life of a real photographer " for me and I'm sure many others. We live vicariously thru your adventures!

Greg Johnston

Daniel Walker said...

Glad to see Bob Kirst comment. I haven't seen his writing in also a year, I was fearful something had happen to him. Please Bob continue to write on your blog.. For the record I disagree with Ken.

Dave Jenkins said...

"What this tells me is that I should spend a good bit more time lining up fun, personal portraits to shoot."

Since you brought it up, I'll go ahead and offer one of the suggestions from the e-mail I wrote you last week but did *not* send:

Find a way to market personal portraiture and sell large prints. Get yourself another Hasselblad and some Tri-X and do it right. This will put a great deal of zest back into your life, and you certainly have enough contacts in the Austin community to make a good start if you let it be known you are available to do personal portrait sessions.

On the other hand, if you don't want to develop it as a profit center, then spend time finding people with interesting faces and photograph them for your own enjoyment. Do portraits instead of architecture, or along with the architecture when you're out for one of your camera walks. If you can't find the people and faces you want on the streets of Austin, maybe it's time for another trip to Italy!

jlemile salvignol said...

"Mise au point" in french:

* Focus
* Clarification

In both senses, this post - and the comments - are absolutely perfect.

Mike Rosiak said...

What Greg Johnston said.

ODL Designs said...

Love the direction of this post! Look forward to the results.

Penfan2010 said...

Kirk- I've been mulling over a response to your post the other day asking your readers whether you should continue or not with the blog, and where photography is headed. Your point in this post clarified it for me:

"I try to show actual, daily work; not the once in a lifetime, big budget shoot or work created speculatively that masquerades as commissioned work because this is not a "portfolio" for me as much as it is a dialog about the process of a photographer's life."

It's precisely your sharing of the day-to-day musings of a working man, in a tough industry, who also happens to be a dad, husband, dog owner and passionate swimmer, that makes me come back and read every day. Sure, there is a bit of living vicariously "the road not taken", as well as the real, real world reviews (i. e., while actually using gear for your profession), but it's mostly the window into a professional working man's life where I find the appeal.

Geof Margo said...

Kirk,
A little late, and others have said much of my point already, but here goes: no matter what percentage of photographs are taken on cell phones, many of us enjoy cameras that give us more for the challenge. For me, and I'm sure many others, reading about your real world work and learning from your experience is meaningful; enough to keep coming back. I also had a child at Skidmore so that little touch makes it feel more personal as well.
I love seeing your portraits; whose partner can be the subject of so many fine portraits?! And for me, Austin buildings are interesting; we have some, but not nearly as much, new architecture in Philadelphia.
My main reason for writing though is to let you hear that we're out here, reading, learning, engaging at a distance; and of course not always agreeing but certainly appreciating your openess to sharing. Thanks.
Geof