Random Thoughts After a Long, Hard Week of Working in the Trenches of Video and Photography. Sept. 22. Phones, the "Cool" lens and general angst.

It's been a physical week. I had a very traditional photo assignment on Monday which required shooting portraits and environmental shots at three different, blue chip law firms and at a company that provides insurance to the legal industry. I say that it's been a physical week because that job had me packing and unpacking a lot. I was able to stuff everything into one heavy backpack but it was one heavy backpack. 

I used small lights, off camera with triggers, and tried to do justice to portrait subjects in a series of quick encounters. But really, it's the packing and moving that wears one down. Tuesday was one of those relentless post processing days when the jobs done on Saturday, Sunday and Monday finally get ingested, tweaked and sent on to web galleries for their brief moment in the sunlike glare of clients' attention. 

I was back to the location work on Weds. with portraits at yet another law firm. I was using the big LED panels (Aputure Lightstorm) and four of them are a heavy package. They shared space on my multi-cart with plenty of light stands and grip gear. But the portraits I did that day were some of the best I've ever done. A lot of the quality had to do with the particular subjects but I'll give some credit to the lighting. When you finally get the perfect mix of window light and panel light, and all the planets line up correctly, if you are lucky enough to get it all balanced and sprinkled with magic pixie dust you sometimes get a gift from the photo gods. But sometimes you just get photos that are more or less in focus. I had a smile on my face when I looked at the final files this time....

Thurs. was the back-to-back work, stills and video projects for Zach Theatre. Flashes and a seamless background for full length shots of two actors at a time followed (in a different building) by two interviews (lit with LED panels) and some really fun footage of a full rain effect (with tap dancing) on the main stage. The video, when mixed with stills from the tech rehearsal this coming Sunday will get smooshed up together to make an promotional piece for "Singing in the Rain." 

I have figured one thing out. A way to lighten my load would be to lose the sandbags we use to keep stuff from falling over. But then stuff would.....fall over. A few years back Calumet marketed plastic sandbags that were meant to be filled with water at the location and then drained after use, but before packing. They worked okay for the first four or five times I used them but on one shoot, in a nice setting, they started to leak and that was the end of that. Ah well.

It's also the week I started to add some additional weight training to augment my swimming. Nothing big but even adding 50 curls with 20 pounds is enough to make one sore if one has been avoiding their weight bearing exercise....

By today I was dog tired and, after noon swim workout, I could have used a nap but instead I started reading reviews about the photographic capabilities of the new iPhone 8s. And I started thinking in earnest about computational photography. I don't think I'm breaking any new intellectual ground here when I make the statement that I sure as hell would not want to own stock in a traditional camera company from here forward. 

The inclusion of portrait modes on the new iPhone 8s that emulate the traditional optical look of out-of-focus backgrounds is going to take a huge chomp (once again) out of the low and middle tiers of the market for professional photographers. Once those cameras transition from beta computational software to the full implementation they will be able to do the few things that kept larger formats alive in the eyes of the majority of the market. They'll provide big files with lots of detail, much less noise, and the ability to drop backgrounds nicely out of focus. 

Ah, but we'll still survive because we know how to light portraits! Right? Ummm. The beta software includes the ability to change the lighting on human faces. Game over for a lot of people who were able to make a living because they could put a TTL flash with an umbrella on a light stand, get close on exposure, drop the background out of focus and depend on the generous latitude of raw files to save butt in those times when the TTL didn't quite work the way the photographer wished. And yes, you can change the background in the iPhone software. Oh, and the screens are much higher quality than just about anything on current enthusiasts' cameras. 

If I were just starting out a career in photography I'd be running for the exits so fast.... With a few well thought out accessories you and your new iPhone could be competitive with a lot of newly minted pros. Imagine if these phones ever fell into the hands of really accomplished photographers and you'll understand why I think traditional cameras are not long for the world of general photography. 

In two years there will be three classes of cameras left: the smartphones (95% of the market), mirrorless cameras with killer specs and great video (for the few working pros who are left) and traditional Nikon and Canon DSLRs for the errant dentist or nostalgia buff.  It won't be pretty on the blogs...

But I am here now and still working so I'll write about a fun lens I used for a ton of stuff this week. I've written about it before but I'll recap: I bought an Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro lens to keep my first Panasonic GH5 company. I found both its optical qualities and its image stabilization to be quite good. So I've started using it for more and more work. I used it for most of the work I did at law firms in the early days of the week. And I used it yesterday, with the GH5, for both the actor images against white and the director and choreographer interviews I did in 4K video in the afternoon. I love this lens and camera combination. Everything that comes out of the camera is sharp and sassy but not exaggerated. 

The one lens that I played with this week that's even better is the Olympus 40mm-150mm f2.8. I used it wide open to make one of the most beautiful portraits I've made in years. But you just can't beat the range of the 12-100mm f4.0. And the remarkable thing is that most of the time I've been using it wide open. Pretty stunning. Everyone should run out and buy one immediately. Or not.

So, how do I feel about my recent decision to bulk up on GH5's and attendant lenses? Pretty damn good. Nearly every estimate request and bid request I get these days calls for some part of the project to be video. I was negotiating a three day event for next week and the client was pushing back on price. I pushed back too but I wanted the job. I would have ended up reducing the price if I had to but in the process the client noticed that I was also offering video services on my website and asked if I could also provide some conference b-roll video. I said, "yes" and all of a sudden my original bid was fine and reasonable. 

How much video? Roll on a speaker for 20 seconds in the middle of a session. Get some quick footage of people networking during the breaks. Show a few angles of a panel discussion. Get some footage of the band on stage at the ACL/Moody Theater. It's all stuff that will fit well around the photography I'll already be shooting. This is what the whole hybrid concept was really meant to be. 

It also works in reverse. I've been hired to shoot video interviews and had the client's marketing team enjoy the process we use with their executives enough that they were willing to add a day just to shoot portraits and some interiors. And if you think about it every single day of commercial use just about pays for one individual GH5. But none of this would work if the footage out of the cameras wasn't great. It is. In both directions. Just thought I'd throw some love to my current favorite camera. Made my favorite camera partly because of the lens contributions from Olympus. They're a better fit for me that some of the similar Panasonic lenses. 
The GH5 is definitely a keeper. 

I'd like to say that I'm planning to chill out this next week but we're already gearing up. I shoot the tech rehearsal for "Singing in the Rain" on Sunday (mostly for video b-roll) and the dress rehearsal on Tues. (mostly for marketing photography). I use any downtime on those days to do post production on the content. Then, it's a Weds. - Fri. corporate event with two handfuls of GH5 cameras. Photos and video, followed by more days of post. I've learned it's good to make hay while the sun shines. The marketing mood and the national economy have a tricky habit of turning bad on a dime...


  1. While the 40-150 is a fantastic lens (and is on my camera 95% of the time), for a truly exquisite portrait lens have a play with the 75 f1.8.

  2. My colleague Arno has that Huawei phone with the Leica lenses - a P9 or so I think. And he's really loving it for its photo capabilities, taking lots of shots when before he didn't. Here are some he took of me during some of our lunch breaks: https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipO7JdG9RGA15XcPaCHWE1T1ubHU-2gpteoJPgYI4S9WJO_mF3CI_6EOHotjx_M9mQ?key=cG1aNWljdWEwak1yejVRcmYweGNCQ2NoWWpyMXp3

  3. Kirk, you miss one type of camera that is still going well in the marketplace. View Cameras. Sales are doing well - especially with used gear. A lot of photographers working with the old and new bodies and lenses though the numbers are small compared to digital shooters.

    Still nothing quite like an 8x10 or larger contact print done well. Whether on pure Contact Printing papers, Color, Pt/Pd or other 'alternative processes' these images have a look all their own.

    Not viable for many these days they do provide good images and a "total immersion experience" for those who get excited by the process and the results.

  4. Wolfgang, I have the P10, and like your friend Arno, I am using more for its dedicated black and white camera because the results are really good for the convenience of the camera.

    On the video front, I am adding sound absorption to my studio today as I push towards more video. I was wanting to do a time lapse, and I thought, okay, I will crack out my camera and lens and set up a time lapse etc etc... But then I grabbed my phone and lo, there is a simple easy to set up time lapse option. So I will give it a try today to document the work.

    The m43rds system is honestly growing to be a force for those who recognize the strengths, as opposed to people who only want to have the product that "wins" the most comparisons. The 40-150 is a perfect example of people not understanding it's strengths. It is roughly the size of your average FF 70-200 f4, probably a bit lighter, people complain about its size but as an almost do everything (in the tele range) lens clawing back one of the stops (when compared to an F4) but with a greater range, greater magnification, great build, and lighter weight. For people to see how far that lens has to go, stop down to F4 and do a high res shot. There is buckets of useable resolution left for future bodies.

    A real win for me so it is the default lens attached to my EM1.2.

  5. Kt,
    Been reading your blog for years. Photography, swimming, studio dog,coffee, the family, its as if I have been peeking over the fence into your life. Happy you have found still more gear to make you happy but I remind you that its your years of experience, talent and attention to detail that really makes the difference. You are the man!
    cheers and beers,

  6. In'aresting view ;-)

  7. Hi ODL Designs, I'm going say that the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 is about half the weight of my Sony 70-200mm f4.0 G lens.

  8. I just sold most my Canon gear a few days ago. Because i agree😉 In The future i Will Do most my events on 2 gx 80 bodys. I kept a 24mm and 85 mm fullframe Canon lenses and brught a speedbooster xl for The thin focus look. I have a fz 1000 and kept an old 5d2(not much resale value) for the few ocassions that dont fit The gx80's.


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