And then there was that day when we set off the low yield nuke because we thought it would make the sunrise look cooler. Too bad the models got vaporized.

Oh. My mistake. This one is just a geyser. Forget what I said in the title....

A. Molitor reminded me of this one through a circuitous route. It stands the (short) test of time. You might like to read it again....


One of my favorite "unsung" lenses of 2018; especially when used in conjunction with the m4:3 square format.

Just looking through folders of images from 2018 and I kept coming across files I really liked so I started diving into the file info to see how which lens was delivering the good stuff.  Disproportionately it was the Sigma 30mm f1.4 DN lens that made photos that made me smile. There's one series of square images from the Panasonic G9 that represent what I like about that lens and the way that focal length mixes with square crops on the smaller sensor. There's a nice 3D feeling to some images and a nice, flatness to others. A visual chameleon. And not so pricey.  Here's some samples: 

Breaking the new camera spell by looking at photos already in my collection.

This is one of my favorite photos from Iceland.

Yeah, yeah. I suckered myself into laying out more cash for yet another camera system. I sat down today to look at the range of lenses available in the Fuji system and I was in that "I'm doing important research..." buying mode until one of my clients texted and asked to see my gallery of images from Iceland. I pulled up the gallery on Smugmug.com and decided to buzz through it to make sure there were no images of me drunk and hanging from a chandelier that might make said client reconsider our working relationship. That's when I was brought up short. I was immediately reminded of how much I loved the color and detail of the images I shot with the Panasonic G9s. They are beautiful. I looked over at my selections of lenses for the G9's system and smiled. There wasn't one in the drawer I didn't enjoy using.

A stand out for me was the selection of images I took using the camera's square format setting in conjunction with the Sigma 30m f1.4 DN lens. The colors and textures make me sit up and take notice. In fact, I can't see much reason for pursuing any technical improvements for my use...

I can't really blame Michael Johnston's review (theonelinephotographer) of the X-H1 for my latest buying spree. Everything he wrote is true from my perspective. I think it's just human nature to presume that the grass on the other side of the fence is always greener (and yummier). 

Will I stop cherry picking the Fuji lens line up? Probably not.

Why not? Well, I can afford the cameras and lenses without any financial strain on my family unit. As one of my sage friends once remarked to me when I confessed to my terrible camera buying addiction: "Cheaper than keeping a mistress. Or collecting Ferraris. Or putting in a wine cellar and filling it up. Cheaper than collecting fine automatic watches."

I think most people are far too timid about funding their passions and hobbies. How tragic I think it would be to have saved millions and millions of dollars for retirement; to have planned to finally engage in that wonderful pursuit of art, only to get hit by a bus, or an errant anvil or grand piano falling from a building window,  and die the day after you turn over the keys to the office and the I.D. badge...


In a most curious set of circumstances a Fujifilm X-H1 joins the inventory here at the Visual Science lab H.Q.

It seems, sometimes, that intentionality drives the universe. But maybe everything is merely coincidental. I started my day yesterday pulling stuff together in the studio/office that I planned on giving away, donating or trading at my local camera store. I figured that if the guys at Precision Camera even just valued my collection of antiquated light stands, extra tripods (both video and otherwise) as well as a large collection of modifiers and more or less unused Pelican cases, by the pound I'd at least walk away with some pocket change. Maybe enough for a Big Mac and a shake; with a little cajoling I might even get enough for Super-sized french fries....

I handed off a tripod to a long time friend who would best appreciate it (he can be very old school about technique). I handed off one of those Tenba stand cases that opens up in the studio to present a "wall of stands" but when zipped together will keep stands and tripods safe, even from the airline baggage handlers. Everything else went to the camera store and, after three trips back and forth from the car, I had a pile of gear stacked up in front of the rental/trade-in/repair department.

My "advisor" who would value the gear left me to my own devices and, of course, I was drawn to the cases housing the used gear. I never mind buying from these guys because they are good about checking out used gear before putting it on the shelves. They also have a generous return policy that goes a long way toward taking the angst out of surrendering ever more money for our hobby/profession.

Before I go on I have to go back 24 hours and set the stage. I'd just read Michael Johnston's long Paean to the X-H1 model on his site, here, and he left me salivating to try one. Everything he wrote resonated with me about the handling and overall design of the camera. When I got home I saw that I had a message from an old friend who happens to work at Fujifilm. He was calling because he reads the blog and wanted to see how I was getting along with the X-T3. I grilled him mercilessly about the X-H1. He told me over and over again that the video and overall imaging quality of the X-T3 was better but I dug my heels in and kept coming back to ....... image stabilization. He finally relented and agreed that if I wanted a Fuji camera with image stabilization this was it. But he did advise me to get more batteries and to be sure and get the battery grip!!! I thanked him for his candor and moved on to other tasks.

Later in the afternoon I read some of the comments about the X-H1 on Michael's blog: TheOnlinePhotographer, and that's where my momentary fascination ended. At least for the day.

Getting back to yesterday (this is getting confusing...and I was there!). I was standing in front of the Fuji used case and there it was. For the first time I can remember there was a minty condition H-H1 with the battery grip and the little vestigial flash they've been including with their fleshless cameras.
The price was amazingly low. I had my sales guys grab it off the shelf for me and I claimed it as my own. During the transaction process they store staff was already fielding calls for the camera since it had just recently hit their website.

The trade-in guys came back and proposed a value for my collection of studio build up and I walked out of the store having paid a little more than $500 for a camera and accessories that I had, the day before, contemplated spending at least three times as much for.

We'll see in the days to come if the camera is as good as MJ thinks it is but I can tell you two things right now: 1. It gets pissy if you use older, non-"S" type batteries (it shows the battery symbol of the older batteries in yellow and the new ones in white....) and the mechanical shutter is the quietest and most gentle shutter I have ever experienced. To paraphrase the line Rene Zellweger delivers in the movie, "Jerry MacGuire", "you had me at 'click'......

More to come. Right now I'm finishing up the last of the post processing on my month long job venturing around America's hinterlands and I'm also heading down to Austin for the Holiday Party at my dad's memory care facility this afternoon/evening.

Yesterday I wanted a Fuji X-H1 but didn't want to spend the money. Today I have the camera and still have most of the money I didn't want to spend. I know I'm just rationalizing but it feels like a win...


I hereby dedicate the next two weeks (whenever I have nothing else to do...) to the cleaning and organizing of my studio/office in anticipation of the new year.

black and white mode in the Fuji X-E2. 

Stuff just builds up over time. When you can't see the surface of the top of your desk it's past time to clean off the desk. When you can't print with your inkjet printer because it became the convenient flat surface when sorting out portable hard drives then it's time to free the printer. 

I mostly used my office/studio for two things in the last six weeks; I used it as a way station between out of town assignments and I used it as a place to do intense post production and to charge camera batteries and flash batteries. Each assignment was a bit different and so the contents of cases got dumped on the floor, regularly, and rearranged. Sometimes new stuff got into the cases and sometimes lots of ill considered stuff ended up on the floor. Jettisoned by recent experience.

I've been living in the film past when it comes to hard core gear like tripods and light stands. I'm getting rid of all the old stuff. It's creaky and on its last legs (don't conflate us!) and it looks shabby when I'm out shooting in someone's brand new headquarters. I don't want my gear to carbon date me so much. I'm banishing the light stands that are sticky to open. I'm getting rid of the background stand set that has bent legs, sometimes spontaneously diassembles itself, and has a crossbar that has to be secured at each use with gaffer's tape.

I have a stack of four Apple laptops which cumulatively span twenty years of service. None of them can be updated to the latest operating systems and they just sit on a shelf reminding me of all the time we spent together and how much work flowed through them. But to be nostalgic for your collection of laptops is a bit daft. I will confess though that I can't quite come to grips with getting rid of the original Blueberry iBook as I'm certain I'll need to use it as a prop in some period piece short movie I'll want to make the day after I get rid of it.... the rest will soon be recycled.

All the drives I use with the computer are now USB3 so what the heck am I doing with a bunch of USB2 hubs and all the attached wiring? Those old ones are on the floor now, replaced by a newer, brighter and faster hub. 

And what about the Tenba heavy duty stand case that's been relegated to storing old photo umbrellas for the last 22 years? It was a great travel case for lightstands, tripods and assorted long, heavy stuff back in the days when airlines had fewer restrictions on size and never thought of charging by the ounce for baggage... Now, well, it's just been sitting there like a short Darth Vader presence, tickling my mind with the idea that someday we'll need to cram six or eight lightstands and a fat tripod into it and zoom off into the photographic fray like the old days. it's only truly functional if you need to bring lots of heavy duty stands and it should only be used in conjunction with strong assistants. It's got to go. 

Looking around the studio I can't imagine what I was thinking or how I managed to acquire (over time) 12 light stands when I only need five, at most. Some of the odd ones have to go. Why did I think nine tripods was better than two tripods. Yes, some of those will have to exit as well....

And while I'm on a roll it might just be time to get rid of the desk and the chair. That way I know I'll spend a lot less time sitting in front of the computer and shopping on Amazon....

In the cleaning mode and can't be stopped. 


Who is my current, favorite, smart blogger writing about the side of photography that has to do with thought and theory and not "nyquist-crappola-equivilence-gear." ???

Oh yeah. That would be Mr. A. Molitor. He's been writing great stuff over at "Photos and Stuff" for a enough time to prove to me that he's on to something good and that he had a great, cynical sense of humor.

Try this one out for size: http://photothunk.blogspot.com/2018/12/synergy-ii.html

No disclaimers needed here. He's not trying to sell you anything and, on this post, neither am I.

Go read some of A. Molitor's stuff if you are getting bored here. Warning: I think he's smarter and funnier than me. Sad. For. Me.

Damn mathematicians....


A snippet from his most recent: A common thing that happens on the Internet where n00bs appear is that a n00b shows up with a need to take some photographs of products. His girlfriend is making artisanal crack pipes or something, ....

I just read a fun, smart book about photography. Not about gear; just about photography. You might like the book and it might be a nice holiday break from....THE GEAR.

What I'm reading now....

I have to say at the outset that I love reading K.B. Dixon's work but sometimes his style catches me off guard. He doesn't write in long, sweeping, detail oriented academic prose; instead, he's the master of making a quick point, writing in brief but contagious paragraphs and, well, getting right to the point.  But instead of re-inventing "what the book is" I'll just copy the blurb on the back to get the idea moving in the right direction:

"IN A NEW COLLECTION of idiosyncratic essays on the subject of photography, Too True, K.B. Dixon offers a close-up look at an enduring fascination. A writer and photographer, Dixon comes at his enigmatic subject from every direction---from the experience of reading Roland Barthes to the question of posing, from the art of the author photo to a real time history of the Vivian Maier phenomenon. He provides the reader with a distinctly personal take on the many mysteries of a maddening medium."

I have read his books, "A Painter's Life" and "The Photo Album" and enjoyed them both very much. But a word of warning, these are not "how to" books. They are books about ideas, feelings, and the flow of life--- in the life of an artist and a writer. In this book Dixon discusses topics ranging from a critic's appreciation of photographer, Garry Winograd, to the writings of Janet Macolm, to ideas about Vivian Maier and her awkward posthumous legacy. The essays are like interesting meals in that you can sit down, read one and feel satisfied and then return again and have a different dish the next day. I particularly like his observations about posing. Not physically posing, per se, but more the affectation of posing. 

If you like terse, dry, non-fiction then this is NOT the writer for you. If you want to be amused and understand something we all have a passion for (photography) from another (smart) person's point of view then you'll likely love the book. At 130+ pages it's not going to tire you out. You won't have to revisit your studies of Claude Levi-Strauss from the philosophy courses ALL OF YOU SHOULD HAVE TAKEN IN COLLEGE in order to enjoy the essays. They are, for the most part, light-hearted and non-destructively cynical. Fits right in with the VSL POV.


Just Landed. A First Look at the 7Artisans 55mm f1.4 Lens for Fuji Cameras.

Around here there's a never ending curiosity about 50mm lenses. Not 50mm equivalent focal lengths; just lenses in the 50-55mm ballpark. On a full frame camera they do one thing and on a smaller sensor they do something different. I'm working on a small stash of eccentric adaptations for both of my camera systems but the system that seems to have the energy this month, and the hunger for 50mm lenses, is the Fuji and I'm playing with a rich treasure trove of lenses I can adapt, or use directly, on the Fuji X cameras. (Go mirrorless, go focus magnification, go EVFs!!!). 

So far I have the Fuji-cron 50mm f2.0, an adapted Contax Zeiss 50mm f1.7, a Kamlan 50mm f1.1, I'll fudge it a little bit and allow the Olympus 40 and 60mm Pen FT lenses, an adapted Nikon 50mm f1.1.2, and now, the latest arrival: The 7Artisans 55mm f1.4. It's supposed to have a zillion aperture blades for yummy (real) bokeh (not just shallow depth of field; which is an entirely different thing....) and it's all metal and glass. I first saw it on Amazon.com but the site was so wishy-washy-ness about their ability to deliver it before the holidays that I did a quick search and sourced one at B&H Photo & Video. It came to the office this afternoon; two days early. 

I haven't had time to go wring it out on an extended walk and I don't have a pressing artsy project on which to give it a go but I can make a few observations about the look and feel of the lens. It's small but dense with no rattles or shakes. Since there is no automation and no image stabilization there's really nothing to bounce around inside. The finish is nice and the focusing ring turns easily enough but it also nicely damped. I made a few casual, handheld shots of thing three and four feet away that were festooned with small type and the lens seems to resolve whatever is in focus pretty well. 

I've got it (obviously) on my X-E3 and, after swim practice tomorrow morning, I'll take the rig out for spin and see if it really does earn those five stars that early adopters/reviewers have awarded it on Amazon. It's not really rocket science to design and produce a conservative six element, five group Sonar variant lens in 2018, and to polish its performance with some decent coatings. If it's not perfect I won't cry; the lens came well packaged and in a nice box and cost, brand new, a whopping $119. But if it works for portraits......

We might be very happy. 👍🏼

Product shots courtesy the outrageously good Panasonic G9 with 
the (now) $149 25mm f1.8 lens. Nice.


Sometimes you just want a new "beater-cam" to take with you when you know it might rain, camera might get banged around, etc. You know; a camera you like but don't care about....

Sometimes people's agonizing desire for a brand new camera is a mystery to me. I wonder what they have at home, in the moment, that makes it imperative that their next purchase be a "new in the box" latest thing. I get it if you are working professionally and stumble across a wonderful series of assignments that could be done even better (or easier) with the latest camera model in your brand's line up. Most of the time, though, we're just scratching the itch to buy something. Anything to satisfy that urge to have more. 

You should read this with a grain of salt because even though I resist the "brand new" temptation from time to time I'm as big a victim of reckless desire as anyone else. But that doesn't invalidate my contention that most people want, and should have, a beater camera. A camera that could get accidentally run over by a car and not cause too much grief or inconvenience in your every day life.

I finished up some big jobs recently and I was pleased with both sets of cameras I'd been using. The weather forecasts for Austin were basically calling for a week of rain and general ick. I felt restless and was procrastinating on all fronts. The end of a long string of jobs was giving me something quite rare; a sense of boredom. And when most of us are bored we think about things we can buy and use to alleviate the momentary ennui. 

If you are a regular reader here you probably have read that I'm now flirting (heavily) with the Fuji cameras. I bought an X-T3 and some lenses, liked them and bought some more lenses, and then the growing lens inventory led to the rationalization to have a back up body so I bought an X-E3 (which I  also like). But both the X-T3 and X-E3 are brand new, still shiny and, having been purchased at retail, still feel too new to expose to the elements if fees and paying jobs are not on the line. 

I wanted a used camera that has the same basic menu structure, the same basic color family and which also takes the same Fuji lenses. I remembered seeing five or six X-E1 bodies up at Precision Camera, on the used shelf, that looked to be unbrutalized and still very functional, and they were priced at $199 each. Now that's in line with what I think you might want to spend for a camera whose existential mission is......to potentially be destroyed. So I got in my car and headed north to put my own hands on the inventory and divine which of the five or six bodies emitted the best aura of usability for me. 

I played with them. I played with a Fuji X-Pro-2 (not loving that one....although it's the camera that should be the most interesting...). And then, nestled in the cluster of X-E1s I came across a very well maintained X-E2. It was priced at $295. I leaned on my sales associate and got a slightly better price. I'm sure it bugs him when I do that but I did live in Turkey for two very formative years and I can't bear to buy used stuff without a little bit a ritualistic bargaining....
It's all black except the camera. And the gloves.....

I brought the X-E2 home, charged its battery and read the actual, printed owner's manual cover to cover. Then I put on the 35mm f2.0 lens and went out for walk in the hazy drizzle to see how I like the whole assemblage. I did. 

It's operationally a bit less refined then the model "3" but it's largely speaking the same user language. 
It's sixteen megapixels instead of 24 megapixels but if you've followed the blog for any length of time you'll know that I may consider that a strength rather than a weakness...

Drizzle landed on the camera and lens and I brushed it off and kept shooting. It's a pleasant package and the light weight of the unit makes hauling the X-E2 around a burden-less experience. I like the files I got from the camera and I like using it in the totally manual mode. So, less than $300 bucks for a fully functional, 16 megapixel camera with nice colors in the files. A good beater camera for sure.

And the yellow is nice.