One Camera. One Lens. And a bunch of perfectly smoked ribs...

I've got this friend who is a genius. Yes, he's a photographer who was profiled in Communication Arts Magazine, he's shot for McDonalds, Quaker, Canon and ESPN. He's photographed for National Geographic too. But I call him a genius for the way he cooks ribs. His name is Will Van Overbeek and his homemade smoke pit would give Aaron Franklin's pit a run for the money, that is if Will barbecued for money.... He only cooks for his friends. I am lucky to count myself among the ranks having known Will since the early 1970's.

We talked recently and we were sharing stories about losing parents and dealing with both the grief of loss and the unending minutia of settling a parent's estate. Last Friday I got a call from Will announcing his intention to fire up the pit and make me medicinal, healing ribs. I accepted the invitation in a nanosecond. 

We were at his house yesterday evening, sitting around the picnic table in the backyard and having a feast of fresh corn muffins, smoked ribs with homemade (as opposed to "house made", a term I can't stand!!!) barbecue sauce, pinto beans with avocado and Mexican white cheese, and a spicy slaw. I brought a couple bottles of Chilean Malbec others brought lagers and amber ales. It was amazing. Will doesn't cook politically correct mini-portions. We stuffed ourselves with perfect pork and there was enough left over for our hosts to send all the guests home with goodie bags of outrageously good left overs, complete with small jars of (precious and mysterious) homemade sauce.

The combination of great food, great conversation and the warm camaraderie was amazingly curative, I woke up this morning feeling more positive and alive than I have in weeks --- maybe months.... I ate my take home ration for lunch today. My blood pressure dropped by ten points, my bank account glowed happily and my hair turned one stop less gray. I'm waiting for Will to retire from his job as a full time photographer (yes! there are still some of these out in the wild) so I can convince him to open a BBQ restaurant where I'll always be able to access this supreme, platinum level of rib euphoria. We'll see...

But more importantly, what camera and lens might one take to a social event dealing with BBQ consumption and red wine oversampling? Seems logical to me that one would limit oneself to just one camera and one lens. It should be something easy to operate and simple. Maybe it would be a good idea to select a combination that's more or less weather (or wine) resistant. 

I chose one of my recent, all time favorite combinations: The Panasonic G85 and the Sigma 30mm f1.4 Art lens for micro four-thirds. 

my starter plate.

I have a few other cameras and I like them all but when it comes to easy handling, small size, great features and like-ability there are no other cameras in my studio that I like as well. Sure, I am happy to shoot all day long with Panasonic GH5's but I'm thrilled shooting all day long with the G85. 

The different choice for me, this time, is my new appreciation for the Sigma 30mm f1.4 dc dn "Contemporary" lens. It's relatively small and light, has a focal length that makes me so very happy, and is sharp, sharp, sharp. Since I put it on the camera a week ago I've been loathe to pull it back off. 

Mary made us crispy, crunchy corn muffins. Choose with jalapeƱos or without.

The aforementioned spicy slaw. 

No Texas picnic is complete without fresh avocado...

I sliced the radishes while we were hanging out in the kitchen talking about our college kids.

Huge thanks to Will and Mary for an evening with great friends, great food and a reprieve from worrying that I've missed some critical step in the administration of life. 

So, where else to we take our little camera and lens combo? Well, how about a first, exploratory visit to this year's SXSW?

Signage inside the convention center.

I did something so out of character today. I gave up the need for constant and overwhelming control of my camera settings and decided to set the dial on the G85 to "*IA" which stands for (I think) intelligent automatic. The camera decides where to place the focusing squares, what exposure to set and what music to play on my earbuds.  (just kidding about the earbuds...). 

What this means to me is all I have to be responsible for is seeing something and then pointing the camera in the right direction. It worked surprisingly well. In fact, I preferred the camera's exposure decisions more often than I might have preferred my own. 

The problem with yesterday's walk through the heart of Austin's downtown and the home of SXSW is that no one seems to have shown up this year for the conference/concerts. At least not yet...

Usually, at the start of the second week, the unofficial start of the "real show" the streets, coffee shops and cafes are packed to the gills and people are queuing up the length of football fields to get into the sought after venues. Not so this year, in fact sidewalk traffic was about par for a first clear, cool day of Spring. Pedi-cab operators were lounging at intersections with no fares in sight. Seats at Medici coffee shop in the middle of Congress Ave. were widely available and the expected throng of millennial and their moms, captivated by iPhone screens while ambulatory, were conspicuous in their absence. 

It's no secret that SXSW peaked a few years back and has become a less and less popular event. One more or less abandoned by many of their traditional (and highly profitable) corporate sponsors. No big, breathless showcases that I could see for the likes of Samsung or Google. No throng of swag dispensers ranging through the street giving away insulated can holders, pens that light up or free passes to a venue serving dead pizzas. It was just wide open side walks as far as the eye could see. And as far as the camera could shoot. I gave it a couple of hours but the expression of disappointment on my camera rig's face confirmed that the lack of interesting targets had soured us both on the undertaking. Still, even when the fish are not biting it's fun to travel light. One small lens, one small body and a clean pair of bifocals. Maybe today will be more visually productive (sounds like a doctor's description of a hacking cough...). 

One can see the crowds swirling around this car display on a blocked off, downtown street. 
You couldn't swing an obsolete Nikon around without hitting someone? 

When in doubt (bored by lack of street life) snap a hew pics of historic buildings in the late afternoon. 

Why, in a brand new Mercedes SUV, fully festooned with Blue Tooth, would one need to break the law and operate their motor vehicle with a cellphone in hand? Why? Just Why?

Again. Beware the thronging crowds on Austin's popular 2nd Street...

This is how an event melts into an inconsequential footnote...


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  2. I am drooling!

    If you really want to up your food game bring a brick of Irish Butter (I use Kerrygold) to your next gathering. As a thank you I will gladly accept some ribs, sauce and slaw.

    Bon Appetite!


  3. I am a "one camera one lens person" often in situations like yours: it is Panasonic GX7 + 20mm f/1.7. So small and compact. I use an external thumb grip for easy handling at waist level using the LCD flipped up (sorry, I know you don't like to use that!). The silent shutter is very useful. And iA comes in handy at times.


  4. I too noticed a distinct lack of crowds, this year. It didn't stop me from taking pictures, of course.

  5. Hey Kirk,

    Wanna buy some crack? Well, not crack, but almost as addicting and I know you're always jonesing for the next lens. You should try the Sigma 16mm f1.4, but only if you have the cash to buy it. Pretty darn amazing. In actual use in the real world, it's amazingly sharp, even wide open. Makes me look at the Oly Pro 1.2's and say eh, I'll pass and save a boat load of cash money. They are rumored to be making something in the 50 range to match, but I really hope they make it a 60 instead.


  6. Kirt:

    My mistake
    on my monitor, the 5 looks a great deal like an S

  7. "But more importantly, what camera and lens might one take to a social event dealing with BBQ consumption and red wine oversampling?"
    When around more mature and sedate people, slowed down even more by good food and wine, I would stick the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 on my Pen and do it slowly, nappy-style.


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