Muggy Day Exploration with A Basic Camera. May 26. 2017

Yesterday I wrote a bit about the idea of my process being akin to dreaming. How coincidental that I would start my walk today by seeing a bit of type on a step I've walked over many times and never noticed. While Michael Johnston writes that it's good to look up from time to time the universe seems to be telling me that it's also important to look down.

This week has been rocky. I've had a couple false starts on a video project edit. I've rolled up my sleeves and ratcheted down my typical need to be right all the time and ended up with a better product as a result of actually collaborating with my client (as opposed to just giving lip service to the idea of collaboration...). 

I photographed attorneys for one of the downtown law firms I work with on Monday. And then, of course, there is the required post production afterward. I made portraits here in the studio on Tuesday of a tech giant with a need for new images to attach to a rash of new projects. Which, of course, required the usual post production afterward. 

I worked on a bid for an advertising agency. Normally I can estimate a job in five or ten minutes but a job that entails shooting lifestyle images on seventeen different locations with 25 different models/talents needs to be attached to a bid that is far more comprehensive. When I finished factoring in usage rights (yes, agencies and their clients still pay these) and craft service for the six shooting days the bid is right as the boundary of six figures. I may or may not get some work from this. Usually the ad agency will have a budget figure in mind and we'll start cutting and pasting the bid for while until we hit the point where the need for the images in an ad campaign outweighs the pain of paying for them...

During this chaotic week I also fired a client who was too cavalier with my schedule and I seem to have done most of it with the worst Summer cold I've had in years. No wonder I felt the need to turn off the phone, put the computers to sleep and head out the door with a demure camera and lens to clear my head and get some non-swimming exercise done. Shutter Therapy indeed (credit to Robin Wong).

The camera I chose was the battered Sony A7ii I bought used last year. The lens that looked the coolest riding on the front was the Contax Y/C Zeiss 45mm f2.8 planar. And the setting was all Sony monochrome with two tweaks; plus one on contrast and plus one on sharpness. As I close the door to my studio I always take a moment to shoot a random test shot with whatever camera I've chosen to bring along, just to make sure I've remembered to insert a fresh battery and to confirm that there is a functional memory card along for the ride. That's the side of the studio on the left, the kitchen side of the house on the right and two of the towels I take to the pool. I hang them on the gate to our backyard to dry. Today everything was fully operational. (above).

The black and white matched the day and my mood. It was gray and cloudy outside and I was tired of multi-party decision making. A walk is something I can more or less own and do however I see fit to do it. I guess that's why I so infrequently walk with other people. 

Yesterday was the last day of school for most of the kids in our city and it's also Memorial Day weekend. The downtown area was as unpopulated as I've seen it in a long while. Few runners were on the trail and even the world famous traffic seemed tame and mellow. 

I parked at Zach Theatre and headed across the river toward downtown. For the first time in several weeks I had no agenda, no deadlines, no meetings. The air was soupy and the heat index is supposed to be around 105 when the sun comes out this afternoon. I was glad to be out walking in the morning. I'll get to that last motion graphic later; when the sun is beating down out side. 

The Contax/Zeiss 45mm is a small, pancake style lens that is fully manual on the Sony a7 series cameras. The focusing ring is tiny and positioned right around the front ring of the lens. The camera has a green hyperfocal marking on the focusing ring. It's right around the 10 foot mark. The f8 aperture is also marked in green and this is intended to be a quick setting for street photography and documentary news photography. If you are working close in with your subjects it gets you a zone of focus that's fully sharp from about 7 feet to about 25 feet. I left the lens set to f8.0 but I used focus peaking to quick focus most shots more carefully. For some reason I felt like I should always return the focusing ring to the green spot index mark after every flurry of photographs. At least this way I was always starting at some neutral point.

When I got back to the studio I looked carefully at a few of the images; especially the ones with trees and leaves, or chain link fences. I wanted to see if the lens was as sharp as I had been led to believe when stopped down to f8.0. I can confirm that it is. It's exquisite at that setting. Today's walk had a nice, calming effect on me. I talked myself out of the need to buy a Panasonic GH5 and talked myself into shooting for myself more often. And when shooting for myself to do it more often in black and white. 

I hedged my bets a bit. I shot in Raw+Jpeg just in case I didn't like the way the camera's monochrome profile worked on some of the images. I needn't have bothered. I think the camera and I see black and white in much the same way. That's nice to know. 

The little A7ii and the tinier 45mm lens are the perfect combination for roaming around shooting at random. With only one focal length there's very little extraneous decision making to suffer through; you basically line up your composition (stepping backward or forward to adjust), take your chances with zone focusing or take a moment to dial in focus peaked focus and then bide your time until the moment is right and push the shutter button. My only other control was to ride the exposure compensation dial while watching the enchanting black and white images in the finder. 

"Dream to See Anew." Coincidence or message? I'll go with message. 


  1. I don't really have anything to add, but these good posts shouldn't be allowed to pass without at least one comment to indicate that someone has read them!

  2. I'll second what Mr. Jenkins said. I simply enjoyed looking at these and reading the thought processes you provided along the way. Too much choice can complicate life. As a man of similar age as you, I've been simplifying for some time now. Life is better and so is my photography.

  3. It's a goodness to get out and just be for a while. Things are so complex so many times for probably all the wrong reasons. One camera, one lens lets me just do what I need to and take the gear out of the equation.


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