Just stuck my camera out the window and blazed away today. Someone else was driving the car up the "Devil's Backbone."

The landscape looks more exciting when it blazes by at 85 mph. Wear your glasses in case the June bugs come a splattering.

Panasonic V-Log. A quick and simple test.

This is the video in its V-Log form, unedited by human hands.


This is the video after I've applied the Panasonic V-Log to Rec 709 LUT and tweaked a few settings.

It's a quick and easy test to make sure that the GH5S, Final Cut Pro 10X, and the LUT all play nicely together. Ostensibly, you can get more dynamic range with a Log file but you have to shoot a file that looks very flat in your monitor. The GH5S has an in-camera LUT (look up table) that changes the way the file looks on your monitor, as you shoot, to get you, visually, into the ballpark.

You bring the super flat file into your editing program and overlay a LUT that maps the file into a REC 709 space so it looks normal. I find I like a bit more richness/darkness in the shadows so I also hit the curves controls.

The GH5S nicely passes my test for a good 1080p shooting machine.

shot in V-Log. ISO 320. 60 fps. 10 bit 4:2:2. All-I. All done.

Random Thoughts on a Random Thursday. Collaged Thoughts.

I have no idea with this product does but I know it was fun to 
photograph it with a wide enough lens so I also saw this guy's feet...

Yes, that would have been done for a 2018 commercial client 
with the Nikon D700. And, yes, we did get paid to show up
with that ancient equipment....

Most important news first. I had a really great swim practice this morning. I did some research on the web because what I'd really love, going forward, is for some major corporation to pay me just to swim every day. If I had to do less "real" work I could get back to two workouts a day and I'd be in really great shape. I just can't figure out how to spin the advantages of me swimming for clients so they'll want to toss me ten or fifteen thousand dollars per month. I do take a baby aspirin every day...I wonder if Bayer would play ball? Anyway, I think it would be really cool to maintain my lifestyle by swimming for a couple hours a day and maybe starting a blog about that. "Swimming my way to retirement"? 

What makes for a great swim practice? Hot weather combined with chilled water. It was right at 79 degrees today; cold enough to really feel your hands getting resistance in the water but not so cold as to make short rest intervals uncomfortable. Nice lane mates. It's great if you swim with two or three other people in your lane who are just a couple seconds faster per hundred than you are. Then you really have to work at keeping up and making the intervals. Clean water. The clearer the better. A great coach on deck; someone who will leave you alone when you are "in the zone" but who will step in to give you encouragement if something is a bit off. Finally, those wonderful days when someone thinks ahead and brings coffee and fresh fruit for a poolside, after-swim snack. Greet the sun. Feel the water. Raise your heart rate. Feel alive. 

This was my favorite video camera to date. It may drop down a notch 
when I've got the GH5S thoroughly figured out.

I'm heading out to practice handholding the new GH5S in conjunction with a variable neutral density filter and the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro lens. I've already tested one important parameter: the lens does provide image stabilization while shooting video, and it's very good and very steady. The weak link right now is just my lack of daily experience handholding this particular rig in video mode. It's something you get if you do it all the time. You get comfortable with the best way to hold and move with the camera. I want to get my hand and body skills nailed down first and then I may look at handheld gimbals. They seem so alluring and yet the gimbal can impart its own style if you just go with the flow. I want to know the old school way to handle the camera before I get a new crutch. And, yes, the audio from the GH5S and audio interface is perfect enough for me. I'm heading out to do snippets in downtown and I'll be experimenting with V-Log and HLG. Now I just need to scare up the right LUT for the GH5S in V-Log + Final Cut ProX. 

Monday afternoon is coming quick and I'd like to get about 8 hours of hands on practice in before I start shooting with the new camera for client. So far I haven't run into any monster glitches; not even a small gremlin or two. 

Look!!! Nikon has gone mirrorless!!!

Where are we with all the Nikon mirrorless announcement stuff? Michael Johnston (the Online Photographer) questioned whether Nikon "deserves" to be successful in the space. I thought that was a bit odd but it seems as though that kind of moralizing futurism is a great way to garner comments on a blog. He's gotten about 103 comments, and counting, since yesterday. I would say that most companies who haven't committed crimes, cheated their customers, or knowingly launched defective products deserve every chance the free market will give them. Nikon is not some company that spews out the dregs of the industry and begs for your money; they have a one hundred year history of providing great photographic products and, for the most part, standing behind what they sell. I've heard the same reactions directed at Sony. I think we need to get serious. It's not like these companies are Monsanto or ADM. They aren't poisoning the lakes and rivers or making genetically engineered seeds and then patenting all seeds. They are just trying to make some really nice and precise consumer products for grownups to play with. And enjoy. And make art with. 

We should wish all the camera makers good luck because we'll sure enough be moaning and groaning if they start to exit the market en masse and we wind up with one Microsoft Giant Type, monopoly camera company that controls an enormous swath of the market and doesn't feel the need to innovate or even fix their self-inflicted stumbles. I'm happy when all of the camera companies are humming along and making stuff we love. You should be too. 

Just wanted to put that out here. Now, on to Nikon. Seems like we're getting more and more believable stuff from the rumor sites. Today's conjecture is that we'll have two bodies coming soon; one that's tweaked for high speed (sports, et al) that will have a 24 megapixel sensor, and a second body that's optimized for ultimate resolution and image quality that will have 45 megapixels and the ability to stun people senseless with its image quality. The 24 megapixel version sounds yummy to me. I'll be buying one of those used in a few years. I can hardly wait. 

The other news is about lenses, and two in particular seem to be making peoples' antennae twitch. One is a 58mm f.095 and the other is a 36mm f1.2. Both will be native Z mounts and they'll be joined with the usual suspects; 24-70mm lenses in both fast and vanilla, and a few other lenses in which I had no immediate interest. I have my fingers crossed that they lens mount adapter is not the one accessory that launches on permanent back-order but then again... it's still impossible today, a year after launch, to get one's hands on a new D850 in north America.... All will be revealed in a week. 

How do I know a play at Zach Theatre is very, very popular? I start getting request from friends and family for comp tickets. I'm pretty good at snagging comps for myself but the inventory of ready tickets for "The Beauty and The Beast" is very, very thin and as long as the theater can get hard currency for seats it's tough to convince them to give them away. I've seen the play three times; they deserve your cash...

Here is my very first exterior shot with the GH5S (above). I was on my way downtown and passed by the theater around noon. I shot it close up with the Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm lens. I like leaning buildings but I'm not going to win new architect friends with that backward leaning image. It's a tough building to photograph because the only option other than a super wide is to shoot across four lanes of one of the busiest streets in Austin. Like this......(below).

In other notes, we're heading toward September, most public (and private) schools start up again in Austin next Tuesday, and downtown was bustling yesterday. There were lines of thirty to forty people at the popular food trucks, lots of people waiting for tables at nearly every downtown restaurant, and all the burger joints were packed. This  means more people on the streets to photograph and more people coming back to town to share coffee. 

Austin continues to grow but I'm not quite sure of the sign I found below. It's on a fence next to a giant hole in the ground. I'm not sure a weathered and sloppy sign is quite the advertising message I'd want to convey for a new high rise office building. I guess we'll see if their dream comes true. 

Finally, Kirk does car repair. I don't own a lawn mower and I don't have many tools. I have some pliers, a hammer and a set of socket wrenches. Somewhere in the studio I have a saw for cutting nine foot rolls of seamless down to more manageable sizes. I've never changed my own car's oil. I didn't grow up fixing cars. But yesterday I finally did one heroic car repair.

It was a hot and muggy day. I'd just finished shopping for dinner (my turn) at the local Trader Joe's and I had a bag of perishable groceries in the back seat of my car. I turned the ignition key and the car hesitated a bit before starting. I should have driven straight to the Honda dealer and thrown myself at their mercy at that moment. Instead, since the car started, I made a mental note to get the battery checked in the near future and I drove off to a gas station to fill up my tank. Task completed I got back in the car and turned the key only to hear a wimpy and short grrrr. grrrr. from the starter followed by a painful silence and no joy from the engine. The car was in shade and the gas station had both "full service" available as well as mechanics. Good luck for me.

One of the mechanics came over and popped the hood. He put some sort of external jump starting battery on the terminals of my battery and I started the car. Then he used a different device to check the alternator. It was fine. "You've got yourself a dead battery." He said. I asked if they had a replacement in stock. "No. We'd have to order one and we probably couldn't get it till tomorrow afternoon. If it was me I'd just head over to Costco and buy one. You'll save a lot of money." I thanked him and headed home.

I turned off the car in the driveway and borrowed Belinda's car to head over to the local Costco. I took the battery inside and they looked at some hieroglyphics on the outside of the dead box and determined that it had not yet crested their 3 year battery warranty, so.....they traded it out at no cost for a brand new battery.

I Googled how to replace my battery. It was dark by the time I got started but that gave me an excuse to set up four battery powered LED lights, on light stands, around the engine compartment. Things were going well until a skunk showed up. It stood on a sidewalk about thirty feet away and just, more or less, watched me. I'd turn the wrench one rotation and then look back over at the skunk --- I didn't want to be taken by surprise --- and I have enough trouble keeping clients happy without showing up smelling of skunk! He finally relented and sauntered off into the darkness and I was able to devote my full attention to the task in front of me. I know I should have grabbed the GH5S and done a behind-the-scenes video of my heroic battery replacement so you guys could see how adroit I was with tools but there was dinner waiting.

Everything works now but I did have to reset the clock in the car. Tip of the hat to Costco for their generous return policy. A big "thank you" to the skunk for not wanting a more active role in this adventure. Batteries die quicker in hot weather. I think it's all the time we have mired in traffic on super hot days that kills 'em. But, as long as I have access to Google I think I can change another battery in the future. No skinned knuckles.

Not as much fun as not having to change batteries. Funny, when I pulled out the battery it looked a bit smaller than the battery in my last car. My first thought was, "Sony battery." Couldn't help it.


First test walk with the Panasonic GH5S. No big news.

Video projects all next week. Monday through Friday. But this week is all about reading the owner's manual, trying out V-Log and just, you know, making sure I've got my bearings with a new camera (that feels and handles a lot like a camera I already own...). 

I acquired a GH5S with about 100 actuations on the shutter and maybe two hours of video run time on it. The body is nearly exactly like the GH5 (classic) and the only two markings that identify it as an "S" model are a red record button near the shutter button and a red ring around the drive selector dial on the left hand side of the camera (as you are holding it in user position).  One more marking; there is a small red "S" under the normal gray lettering that says, "GH5". 

As you probably know, both bodies take the same battery type, the same memory card types and all of the operating controls are the same. The two big differences are that the classic version is 20 megapixels and has in body image stabilization while the "S" is 10 megapixels and the only image stabilization is moderating your coffee intake. But the 10 megapixels are bigger megapixels and the S features a dual ISO scheme that will either give you better dynamic range at lower ISOs or better noise handling capabilities at high ISOs. Most of the effect is optimized for video files. 

I set the camera to raw (14 bit) and went for my usual pleasant walk through the bustling urbanscape of Austin around noon. It was a hot and sultry day and I was out walking while everyone was strolling around to their favorite lunch places. The sidewalks were busy. A huge contrast to last week when it seemed everyone had abandoned town in fear of mid-August weather and ennui. Now the kids are back, it's almost time for school. Their parents are back at work. The millennials are back from surfing or video game tournaments. The roads are filled back up to capacity and it's only going to get crazier on Tuesday next week when vacation is over for everyone. 

I walked and shot and tried out a few things on the camera files. I played with the shadow/highlight feature and it was pretty cool. I shot in the 3:2 ratio because the multi-aspect ratio sensor doesn't inflict a pixel penalty at any of the popular rectangular options. You always get the 10 megapixels for which you paid. 

I can comment that the color is very nice, the camera, in raw mode, handles high contrast sunlight very well and when using a V90 rated SD card the buffer clears faster than I could have imagined. Even with 14 bit raw files. Focus seems right on the money and the Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm looks sharp and natty at every focal length and aperture I used. 

Now I am back at home base and I'm getting ready to go into the sun-dappled front yard and try out the V-Log setting. I may get the hang of this camera by Monday morning. At least I'll try. 

A "thank you" to Michael Kohnhorst for the recommendation of a Guerrilla Eyecup for the camera. It looks like a good addition for people who like to shoot video while using the EVF.  I've ordered one to try out. More information to follow as I dive in. All good tips welcome.

The entire week will be in the 100's. Thinking about staying 
hydrated. Real Ale Brewing Company, Devil's Backbone?
I know, I know. Drink plenty of water too.

What will it take for Nikon mirrorless cameras to "win"?

Does anybody really win in a declining market?

I love all the conjecture about the Nikon cameras that are to be announced on August 23rd. I can tell you exactly what to expect. You'll get bodies that have a grip something like the D750; big enough to hold comfortably and conformed to a real human hand. If that is the only difference between Nikon on the presumptive front-runner, Sony, then we photographers will have already won because we'll enjoy holding the better designed camera in our hand and the benefit will accrue for years and years; we'll enjoy it every time we handle the camera! Which means we'll want to handle the camera more and more often. It's a joyous circle in which good haptics creates the desire for more contact. Why Sony was hellbent on the pixie proportioning of the A7 series cameras is beyond me ... especially since they got the body configuration just about right on the RX10 series cameras.

And good overall industrial design delivers more benefits than just handhold-ability, the bigger grip means more space for a bigger battery which will go a long way to making a transition to the new cameras more "operationally" seamless to current Nikon owners. There is comfort in knowing that the freshly charged battery in your camera will probably last you through a day of shooting plan your day's journey through the streets of some fascinating city.

I don't doubt for a minute that Nikon will deliver color and tone characteristics that will please a large number of users and those users will have an easy time with post processing. It seems that color science is still more magic than science and there is some argument to be made that the longer a company works on delivering top notch results the better they become at it.

It is widely suggested that the new body will bring a new lens mount into play. Let's count on it. And I would argue that they did this to be unfettered by physical restrictions arising from the narrow diameter of their long running F mount. Expect to see announcements about a bevy of much faster primes and zooms made specifically for the new camera. There is already a rumor about the introduction of a new Nocto Nikon 58mm lens with an f-stop faster than f1.0. I predict they'll follow Sigma's lead and start introducing selected short range zoom lenses with apertures of f2.0 as well. That should be a fun shot across Sony's bow.

The flagship camera will use the newest full frame sensor; either the one in the D850 or an altogether new sensor in the same pixel count range. Nikon will concentrate on making the magnification optics for the EVF as good as they can be in order to make the viewing experience better than most of their competitors. They will even let you, the buyer, know that they've nano-coated every element in the magnification chain to maximize quality.

The final feature that makes any difference at all to end users will be the addition of full frame 4K video with plentiful choice of codecs, including one that delivers 60p 4K at full frame and the option for 10 bit 4:2:2 at that high frame rate. My hope, more than the changes in video codecs, is that they'll finally make in camera audio world class. Quiet and precise audio pre-amplifiers that are also capable of healthy gain levels.

So, if this all comes to pass, will the Nikon be "better" than the upcoming Canon or the pre-existing Sony competitor. Yes, probably. At least for a month or two. But with the exception of handling differences the range of quality image performance is very, very small. There just isn't much difference between the quality of the raw files amongst any of the big three, full frame camera makers and I don't expect that to change.

Whether or not you buy the new Nikon mirrorless cameras will come down to just a few things: Do you like the way the camera looks and feels better than the cameras from Nikon's competitors? If so, you're probably a candidate. Do you have an enormous inventory of Sony or Canon lenses that you like? If so, I bet you'll throw shade on the Nikon and wait, anxiously, for your chosen supplier to step up and match the Nikon entries. Will there be a unique feature in one company's cameras that you can't or won't live without? Not very likely, all three camera makers seem to leapfrog  each other in some sense but the underlying performance difference across the brands are subtle, ephemeral and almost unmeasurable.

With all this in mind I'd predict that this move will, at least temporarily, improve Nikon's market share (in a declining market) and most of the share will come from Canon. Canon will then launch their equivalent product and it will steal back share from Nikon. If both Nikon and Canon learned their lessons from watching the mirrorless evolution they will certainly use their strong photographic brand equity to steal back lots of market share from Sony. If the imaging performances achieve parity it will then be easy to win back that market share from Sony. All Nikon has to do is put a better designed and better handling camera into people's hands to remind them of what a great pleasure photography can be.

Ditto for Canon.

Say what you will about the dinosaurs but I've experienced this first hand. The Nikon D850, 810, 800 and all the way back to the D700 are much more comfortable cameras to shoot with for extended periods of time. The fascination for tiny camera bodies is waning. Rational choices will be made. But it may be too late for an industry that is shriveling toward inconsequential. For the rank and file non-enthusiasts the results are in. Smart phones have already won. The big three camera makers are just squabbling over the carcass.

Note. Professionals will still want and need higher quality cameras and may be able to market the look of full frame images as a USP. They'll still want certain kinds of cameras. It's the vast midrange that will vanish.

Just a few thoughts about a week out from the introduction.

One more certain prediction: The web will be on fire with hand's on reviews, previews, spec analysis, and endless debate within seconds of Nikon's NDA's timing out. A quiet and empty time for those of us not ready to go into full on gush mode about a couple of new cameras.

D700 looking pretty swank to me.


Portrait of Susan. Shot for a book cover. Not used. Tragic.


I shot this image as a possible candidate for the cover of my LED Lighting book, published by Amherst Media. I loved the shot and left a lot of space on the left and right for cropping, titling and sub-titling. The publisher decided to go in a different direction. And the hard fact of the matter is that the cover is part of the book's marketing and that is nearly always controlled by the publisher. 

Proof that I don't always get my own way. It was fun for me, at least, because I got to work with Susan; who was a great talent.


Interesting video project coming up next week. Time to consider the GH5 variant known as the GH5S? Chime in if you have an opinion...

West Texas WPA Landscape. Picnic Area in the Middle of Nowhere.
Olympus EP-2 camera. Lens not noted.

I spent time on Saturday evening re-watching the Beatles movie: "Hard Day's Night" and was once again blown away. Not by the story-telling or the celebrities but by the wonderful camera work and moving imagery of the work. Director, Richard Lester, brought an amazing visual aesthetic to this 1964 classic with his use of moving, handheld movie cameras and the great (and nearly noiseless) 16mm and 35mm black and white scenes he was able to capture. A lot of the interior scenes and on-the-train scenes were obviously lit and lit quickly but the majority of the film is like watching a beautiful photographic spread in an older Life Magazine spring to life and move. 

So, what was I doing hanging out on the couch watching an old movie when I should be out dancing and schmoozing and making the chauffeur earn his keep on a Saturday night? Good question.

I was actually doing research for a short film I'm starting on next week. There is a comedy theater in town that I work with (Esther's Follies on Sixth Street, in downtown Austin) and I'd been thinking about making a small, black and white film to create an artsy look at the energy and movement that goes on there in front and behind the "curtain." As a fan of Wim Wender's movie, "Wings of Desire" and Gordon Willis's genius work on Woody Allen's movie, "Manhattan", it seems only natural that I would want to work in black and white as well.

Much of the footage I have in mind would be shot behind the stage, in dressing rooms, during rehearsals and other times, mostly in situations that have less than optimal levels of illumination. The working spaces at the theater are small and there's no real room for much supplemental light so I intend to shoot mostly available light to create the video content. And that brought me to the idea of supplementing the GH5 (original) with the newer GH5S which, in video, is said to be about a stop and a half to two stops less noisy, in low light.

The two main differences between the cameras are that the GH5S is optimized for video so the sensor "only" has ten megapixels of resolution. This means the camera can use the direct imaging pixels in 4K video without the need to downsample or pixel bin. It should be a more carefully optimized video image. The second difference is that the "S" does NOT have in-body image stabilization so using it handheld with older, legacy lenses is problematic; unless I acquire and learn how to use a gimbal.

I'm not too concerned about the lack of IBIS because my intention is to use lenses that already have stabilization, use the GH5 (original) in set ups where I want to use ancient lenses and IBIS, and to run out and buy a bunch of Olympus Pro lenses with their own stabilization. (Mostly kidding about rushing out to buy new lenses. The 12-100mm is stabilized and offers pretty killer performance. As does the Panasonic 42.5 f1.7 lens). Part of working with certain cameras is adapting to their limitations and using them as formal boundaries for seeing. If I were heading into the project looking for perfection at any cost I'd already be sourcing the rental of an Arriflex Alexa camera and a suitcase full of Zeiss Speed Primes. Right?

How did the idea of acquiring a video centric version of the GH5 come up in the first place? Well, I have a good friend who is a brilliant video artist and, as a supplement to his Sony A7Rii, A7iii, FS7 and a few other fine cameras, he also bought both a GH5 and a GH5S. He's come to realize that, when using the m4:3 cameras for his video projects the one thing he values most is the IBIS; especially when using his inventory of older, cinema lenses. He wants two identical cameras so his B camera and A camera always can be made to match up exactly. I happen to have two of the GH5 cameras, and a bucket full of full frame Nikons, and my video needs are much less exacting than his. I can play around with two different camera variants and not even notice the differences in noise profiles that would drive him a bit nuts ---- especially when he's cutting together two different camera views of the same scene and can see (to him) a big difference in the characteristics of the noise.

While the GH5S might be better optimized for video he's always got the dedicated FS7 video camera to turn to for a more exacting level of precision and quality. And, bottom line, it's fun for both of us to play with different cameras.

We'll swap bodies and I'll toss in money to cover the difference in price, to make the deal fair. Then I plan to spend the better part of this week testing, testing, testing. Not just video features and performance but also how the GH5S handles regular photography. I'm especially anxious to see how it handles portrait work since it is the first m4:3 camera to come with the ability to generate 14 bit raw files!!!

I think it's a great idea and it's certainly not one that will "break the bank." I'd love to hear feedback from other people who own the GH5S, or both cameras, to see what the gotcha's and pitfalls might be and how to avoid them. Let's share info in the comments.

A most wonderful choice for anyone who needs to make a movie without a crew.

If you are in Austin it would be fun for you, or you and the family, to go see "B and the B" at Zach Theatre.

While you are enjoying the play pay attention to the lighting. It's very, very good. 
And it's mostly LED. 

Above: The post card. I made the photograph and Rona Ebert did the design and production.

Nikon D800
Nikon 24-120mm
Neewer Vision 4 Flashes


Why do I still have warm, fuzzy feelings about the old Nikon D700? I guess it's because the photos I shot with it eight years ago still stand up today. Can't say that about some other cameras I've bought....

New Pix at Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kirktuck/

One of the most fun photo assignments I've done for Zach Theatre was a season subscription brochure shot back in 2008 or 2009. We photographed the actors who were going to be cast in different productions and the marketing team let me decide how to light them and how to design their looks. I wrote about it in a very early blog post here: Hot Lights. Fun Lights. I used a Profoto Tungsten light in a beauty dish pounding photons through a 72 by 72 inch scrim to light my subjects. As an afterthought I wrote about the camera I used to make the shots. Just so happens that it was a Nikon D700. Lost to the sands of time and memory is what lens I used. Looks like a 105 f1.8 to me... 

I remember that we shot on a Saturday and that my art director/friend/theater marketing mentor, Jim Reynolds, loved it when I shot more frames. We photographed six or seven actors that day and probably went through 500 shots per actor to get just exactly the right photograph for Jim. The camera never missed a beat and probably made it through that shoot with a battery and a half (not that Nikon was ever in the business of making half batteries). I guess I was so confident in what I would get from the D700 that it was barely a footnote in the original article. The files were like butter to edit. The skin tones fell right into place and the tonality was perfect. I've shown these photos over and over again and I love the look and the general file characteristics. 

But what about MORE MEGAPIXELS????? It never came up. The files worked flawlessly and transparently as printed pieces on glossy paper at 10 by 13 inches (CMYK Offset Press) as well as on life size lobby posters. No glitches, no issues with the super big enlargements. I grabbed one of the files from an archived DVD yesterday and played around with it in the current revs of PhotoShop and Adobe Raw and I'm able to make even better files today. The software got better and can do more complex processes with the files (Something I am certain camera makers DO NOT want you to ponder.... as in: "Was my 2008 camera's primary limitation just the processing software of the time???? What would happen if I used the most current version? OH MY GOD, IT'S BEAUTIFUL!!!! IF I'D ONLY KNOWN").

I moved on from the camera (big mistake) because I thought I needed a more sophisticated (and quieter) shutter and more resolution. I could not have been more wrong. I just needed ten years of software improvements.

The final image I'm showing here was done in the laundry room of a wonderful and beautiful five million dollar, west Austin home. We needed a nice laundry room in which to make this photo of a spirited kid grabbing his teddy bear from a gas dryer. It was part of an ad campaign for a Texas utility company. This one photograph could have paid for a bag full of Nikon D700s. And it was done with a D700 camera and a small European flash system. I loved what I could get out of those cameras then and love the files even more now. We have other cameras. They are each good, in their own way. But there's something very cool about the D700. Ah well. 

OT: Sunday's with Kirk in the Kar.

My Dad. A couple years ago. At Cappy's Restaurant in San Antonio.

Sundays have followed a very familiar pattern this year. I get up and pack a small camera bag. I put into it cameras I might use if I have time to stop and do some street photography. I never do. The bag also gets a phone, some eyeglasses and a checkbook. We all walk the dog together in the early morning and then I get into my car and head for IH-35; the most direct route to San Antonio, Texas.

The drive can be quick and efficient. Today I covered the 78 miles, from door-to-door, in about an hour and fifteen minutes. Sometimes the drive can be excruciating. One day, because of a series of accidents and one construction detour, it took over three hours to cover the distance. Music helps after the Sunday morning radio shows on NPR start to merge together in my consciousness.

When I get to San Antonio I head to the big H.E.B. grocery store near my dad's place. If you are from Texas you more than likely shop in a neighborhood H.E.B. or grew up shopping with your parents at one. I drop by the store ( A huge Texas chain) to pick up a copy of the Sunday New York Times and a small bag of Hershey's Kisses (milk chocolate: traditional) because my dad has been reading the NYT for nearly 60 years and has probably been eating Hershey's chocolates for even longer. I also stop at the H.E.B. to use their toilet; a vital step given that I leave Austin with a large coffee in the car's cup holder and by the time I get to San Antonio it's all gone...

Some days, I also pick up a package of Depends (adult diapers) and some antiseptic wipes, just, you know, in case we're running low at my dad's place. I show up at the front door of his deluxe (and brutally expensive) memory care facility most Sundays (traffic permitting) by 11:00 am. I get buzzed in then sign into the guest book. I glance through the pages of the register to see who else has been by to visit my dad in the last few days. I'm always hopeful I'll see my older brother's scrawl on one of the pages. Sometimes it works out.

I head down the hall and knock on dad's door. He's generally in his favorite, big upholstered chair. Sometimes he's listening to classical music on his Henry Kloss radio. Sometimes he's napping. I check in with him to see how he's doing. He still remembers me without hesitation but his memory is fading fast. My sister called to tell me that when she visited recently it took him a while to understand who she was.... Memory loss and dementia is a long goodbye...

We get down to business and I tell him how he's doing financially. He likes to hear the current investment strategy and how it's working. He's always happy with the results. While we talk I check his closet and his dresser drawers to make sure the facility is up to date with dad's laundry. He likes to look professional even at 90 years old. Even after being retired for decades. Although we'll probably never use them I keep several of his business suits and even some formal wear in his closet. You never know. And I think knowing the suits and pressed dress shirts and ties are there makes him feel better. Somehow still attached to his previous life and work.

On good days we go for short walks around the (very nice) facility. He introduces me to the staff members whose names he can remember, sometimes explaining, as he has for the last 30 Sundays that I am his son and I've come by for a free lunch. Around noon one of the staff drops by my dad's room to let us know that they are serving lunch. The food is really, really good. The soup in the first course is always exemplary. There are always fresh flowers on the table and linen napkins for our laps.

Everyone who lives in the facility is about dad's age. Some are a few years younger than 90 and a few are even older. All are living with various conditions that rob one of memory and cognition. About half the folks come to our dining room (higher functioning residents) with the aid of walkers while the other half come in wheel chairs. There is one gentleman who still walks without mechanical assistance and my father takes pride in getting around with just his wooden cane. The same one I got for him when he had a knee injury twenty some years ago.

Dad and I sit at the same table, with two other people, on each visit. One of my favorite tablemates is a woman who is always smiling and positive. She sometimes asks me a number of times during the meal who I am. I always smile and answer the same way. The staff brings each person the soup of the day to start. Then they bring two "show" plates by the table so the residents (and their guests) can see what their choice of entrees will be. Today we had a choice of chicken breast or pork loin, each paired with two fresh vegetables. We all swear that my dad is eating in a healthier fashion than he has for years. Dessert today was a small fudge brownie with walnuts; finished with a swirl of whipped cream. Delicious.

After lunch we'll walk out into the enclosed and landscaped courtyard and dad will tell me disconnected and oddly conflated stories that mix memories from his childhood with random conjecture and repetition. I listen with rapt attention and agree with everything he tells me. I have learned to distract him from subjects that upset him and deflect his attention to other topics. After a while we go back to his room and he settles in with his music and the fresh NYTimes and there's a moment when I can tell he's ready to slow down, take a nap and push the company out the door. He's always been happiest spending time reading, alone.

We make small talk and I remind him to have one of the staff call me if he needs anything. Anything at all. This week he let me know he wants a haircut. There is a barbershop on the campus; over in the assisted living wings. One of the staff will take him over in a wheel chair and wait with him while he gets his hair cut. There will be a charge on the monthly statement from the memory care facility for the barbershop. I've stopped even looking at the bills. At 90 you should be able to do exactly what you want. I don't worry about the money. It's there. He and I can afford it.

When I leave his room I'm exhausted from the energy it takes to always be positive; always smile and to be present in a way we never really were when my mom was alive and ran the show. Before I leave the facility I stop by the nurse's station to ask how his week was and how his vital signs look. I also want to make sure he's not giving them too many problems about taking his medications. I say "goodbye" to the staff whom I've come to admire for their infinite patience and care, and sign out, heading for the car.

If it's been a long day and I haven't been sleeping well I'll stop by a Starbucks in the neighborhood and grab another cup of coffee. Then it's back to Austin. I'd stay and shoot some images but it's hard to change mental gears so quickly and then I never really know how the traffic will be on the way back. I'm also trying to take care of myself. Part of that is making it back home in time to get ready for my own job tomorrow, to take Studio Dog out for another walk, and to have a nice, quiet dinner with my own small family.

I can say with authority that the traffic coming back into Austin will be brutally slow and stupid. I used to link up my phone to the bluetooth in my car because one or the other of my siblings would always call and want to get "a report" about dad from me. They know my schedule too well.

Since I own my own business the siblings equate what I do with "being somewhat retired" and they imagine I have loads and loads of time to spend managing my dad's finances, legal stuff and healthcare through the week, with ample time left over for the Sunday visits. I started to get the feeling that I was reporting to my "bosses" (and I've never really had a boss before) and this left me feeling a bit unsettled so I've just turned my phone off and tossed it back into my camera bag for the journey home. I generally send a group text when I get home with a synopsis of the day and week. I try for transparency without judgement. Sometimes they just get transparency.

When I get home it takes me some time alone to get back into my own rhythm. I carry a certain amount of worry about my father throughout my waking hours. There is an inevitability about his eventual demise but knowing that doesn't assuage my persistent feelings of responsibility, and a bit of dread. Ah well. I hope I'm setting a good example for my own son.

Speaking of the boy!!! As you may know he's graduated from college and has been searching for, and interviewing, for jobs. I'm pleased to announce that he got, and accepted, an offer on Friday. It's a great job in public relations for a large San Francisco firm with an office here in Austin. The job has stuff we freelancers have never experienced!!!! Such as paid health insurance, dental insurance, a 401K with a match, a parking place in the garage, and an office in a downtown high rise. After accepting the offer the firm asked if he'd like to fly out to S.F. on Monday to meet the H.Q. team. Youbetcha. I'll be dropping him off at the airport tomorrow morning at 5. We're very excited for the boy but he seems to be taking it all in the same calm stride with which he navigates most things in life. Yes, millennials do work!

Well, that's how I spend Sundays. Me, the car, and my dad. Sometimes it seems like a duty but mostly it seems like a nice opportunity to spend time together. I don't leave him until I see a smile...

Hope your Sunday is equally interesting and well spent.

So, you've decided to go retro with a Nikon D700 but you don't like my suggested 2nd lens choice. Well, maybe this one is more your style.

shot with a Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN at f7.1 on a GH5 body. 
Nice set up for products. 

I'm not much of a wide angle lens fan but two recently purchased lenses have gotten me further and further into the tar pit of shorter focal length image-making. Both are zooms and neither would be my primary recommendations for a third, bargain lens appropriate to match up with a "minty" used, decade old, Nikon D700. But both encompass a range that covers approximately 16-28 (or more) and when I use them I find myself gravitating more toward the longer end of their range. When I check the lens information I find that my super wide angle zoom lens usage falls into an equivalent of 28mm at least half the time. (One of the zooms is the Tokina 16-28mm f2.8, which has its flaws but can be a sharp, fun lens when used with care. The other is a much better behaved lens; it's the Panasonic-Leica 8-18mm f2.8-4.0 zoom. It's quickly becoming a favorite for establishing shots for videos when using the GH5!).

But I guess my point is that when I do use wide angles, unless I am constrained by my ability to back up, I end up in the 24-28mm range much more often than not. With that in mind, and wanting a compact and fairly light single focal length lens for those times when two pounds of zoom seem like overkill, I starting researching and testing the various 28 and 35mm lenses in the Nikon mount. Remembering back to the film days my first thought went to the 28mm f1.4 D lens (ultimately fast and sharp) but a quick check revealed that the current used price for that lens (with a glass aspheric element) is currently hovering around $2100. That one immediately fell off the list.

I narrowed my choices down quickly. I owned both of the 28mm f2.8 AF lenses and they were both ho-hum performers. Nikon figured out how to make their AF lenses a bit rattier and probably much cheaper; at least in this focal length and speed. The manual lens pictured here is the 7 element Ai version. The two AF-D lenses were: five elements in the first iteration (which was widely disparaged) and six elements in the second version (which was a bit better). The manual focus lens in this range that is widely believed to be one of the best is the Ais version of the above, (manual focus) lens which trades the 7 element construction for an 8 element design. It's the best of the 2.8 bunch.  I couldn't find one in good shape for a good price and so I compromised and went with the original Ai, 7 element version. Wide open the newer lens is supposed to be marginally better, in terms of overall sharpness and contrast, but by the time you hit f4.0 the differences shrink down to the point where only the most compulsively ardent lens analysts think they can see a difference. And then it's mostly at 300% magnification.

The model I bought (7 element Ai)  is in great shape and features a silky smooth, long throw focusing ring which makes it a great candidate for video as well as regular photography. I paid a whopping $125 for my copy and have used it often for location/industrial work. It doesn't flare, is scary sharp by f5.6 and better than just "usable" when used wide open.

The 28mm focal length makes a nice half of a two lens kit when paired with an 85mm. If I were specifically looking for a second lens to pair with the 105mm f2.5 Nikon lens I guess I'd be looking more for a 35mm focal length (so the gap between lenses isn't overwhelming) but so many of the zooms I already own cover that focal length nicely so I'm sticking with the 28mm.

Small, light, sharp, wide enough and dirt cheap. That makes it choice number three in my budget, full frame, retro kit. You could do a hell of a lot worse.

Find a used one at Amazon (or elsewhere).


Once you've gone Nikon-Retro what is your second lens choice? What would you pair with your D700?

A Fairly Modern Copy of the Timeless Nikon 105mm f2.5 ai Lens.

Here is where I'll lose a huge swath of photographers whose focus is on landscapes and street photographer versus portraiture and detail work. If you are one of the lucky VSL reader who just got your hands on a new/old Nikon D700 (or D3, D3x or D800 of any flavor....) you might be wondering about which lenses to pair with your new and wonderful camera. Especially if the Nikon world is new to you...

Yesterday I made the argument that the first lens most people should consider would be the 24-120mm f4.0 VR zoom lens. It's wide focal length range, high sharpness over most of the frame, and its very good image stabilization make it a really good all around choice for such a wide variety of situations that I think it doesn't require much deep thought to appreciate its value. But what comes next?

Well, a prudent business person could probably stop at the 24-120mm zoom and get most of his or her work done without having to invest another cent in lenses but I know most of us aren't wired specifically for practicality; and that the lure of the lenses is


You went retro and bought a Nikon D700. What's my recommendation for a great first lens?

By: KirkTuck.com Austin, Texas. 2018

If you read the blog you'll know that I've reached back in time to cherry pick few really good cameras that Nikon made and to use them for much of my still photography work. I've written a bunch about one of my favorite cameras, launched in 2008, the D700, because it seems to me to be a wonderful blend of compromises that led to a camera of high reliability, great mechanical performance and speed, and it has a sensor that delivers 12 really good megabytes of resolution along with some of the best color performance and tonality I've come across in cameras; at least since the days of the Kodak professional cameras...

In the last few weeks there has been a run on good, clean, used D700 camera bodies as people snap them up and discover which part of the compromise equation they may have missed out on due to their allegiance to a certain camera conception or mythology. For example, one friend never shot full frame before. When they came to digital photography they embraced the basket of compromises and features (light weight?, small size?, good video?, good stabilization) that micro-four thirds cameras offered and rejected other options. Now they've decided to experiment with a different format and a different basket of compromises and, most would agree, that older full frame cameras flooding the markets right now can be a bargain. Certainly, the expense of $500 for a good, used imaging tool isn't going to break the bank; and if the new adopters decide the added weight, the moving mirror --- with its attendant noise and vibration--- and the lack of in body image stabilization isn't the balance they most enjoy they can easily sell the camera back into the market without much, if any, loss. They will have only really lost