New (to me ) camera suddenly enters the gear inventory; invited along for the ride by the lens attached to it. It's a current but older model....like me...

Lou. circa 1992. Studio, Film, medium format. 

I found myself mentally exhausted on Friday afternoon. I'd done a long day shoot the previous Friday, followed by a weekend of post production, and then headed straight into a three day conference assignment for WP Engine the first three days of this week, followed by more post production and capped off the week sending out insurance claim forms and death certificates and having phone calls to my attorney, and multiple financial institutions. By 2 pm I was toast. I crawled into the exquisite Subaru Forester ( I can't actually believe that a better car exists....)  and headed up to Precision Camera for a bit of shopping therapy. 

Backing up a few days..... I recently bought a used 56mm f1.2 APD lens for the Fuji X system and I was, quite frankly, amazed at the wonderful look that lens delivers when used at or near wide open apertures. I kept shooting it throughout my recent assignments and every time I slogged through the resulting files I'd be happily surprised by the output from that lens. So much so that I started reading, listening and researching everything I could to find out what other lenses, made for Fuji X, deliver the same superlative kinds of files. Of the lenses I did not already own two in particular kept popping up with uncanny regularity --- and the praise the two lenses garnered was consistent. Those two lenses were the 35mm f1.4 and the 23mm f1.4. 

I'd been toying with the idea of getting the 35mm f1.4 for several months now, trying to rationalize my way around the fact that I already owned the 35mm f2.0 and was generally happy with that lens. I finally gave up caring about budgets and seemingly senseless duplication and ordered a brand new one from Amazon.com. I was too busy to mess with Austin traffic and nowadays the trek from my neighborhood in the Southwest quadrant of the metro to Precision Camera in the North/central part of the city, roundtrip, can take up to two hours, depending on time of day and the random stupidity of some drivers. It was nice to have the Fed Ex guy just hand me a box. 

I've yet to shoot much with the 35mm f1.4 since it arrived in the middle of my second post processing frenzy, but the few shots I have taken make me disposed to overlook the noisy focusing mechanism and the tentative auto focus... (I need to check and see if there's been a firmware update...). 

So, back to the shopping therapy. I kept hearing and seeing more and more good things about the 23mm f1.4 lens so I did a cursory search for used ones on Precision Camera's website. They had one in their used inventory for $499 which I decided was a practical cost. I did the stop-and-go vehicle dance all the way up the Mopac Expressway, entered the store and went straight to the used case. There was the lens. It looked good except for some smudgy filminess on the front element. Ian (my sales guy) cleaned it off very professionally and I was ready to grab my new prize and head for the door. In a moment of weakness I looked back at the Fuji cameras and lenses in the burgeoning used case and my eyes alighted on a Fuji X-Pro2 that looked to be in decent shape. 

I'd tried the Fuji X-Pro1 when it came out but it didn't have a diopter for the finder and it was a kludgy camera as far as general operation was concerned. It just seemed.....un-precise. 

Later on, when the X-Pro2 was first introduced, I handled that model and, while much improved, there still seemed to be a hesitancy in operation and a "unfinished" feel about it that made me avoid not just that camera but the whole Fuji line. The X-Pro2 I handled at the store yesterday felt like an entirely different camera. That camera has been the recipient of an amazing number of firmware upgrades over the course of its lifetime. Fuji has streamlined the feel of general operation, added 4K video and made many processing improvements to the camera. 

Ian put the lens I was purchasing onto the camera so I could, "see how they felt together." Everything seemed to fall into place, especially since the menu in this three year old camera is almost identical to the menus in the X-H1 cameras I seem to be using nonstop these days. 

We haggled for a few seconds and I bought the combination for a bit less than the marked price on each item individually. I can't help my propensity to bargain; I did spend two years living in Turkey where, at the time, pretty much everything was negotiable. In fact, negotiation was considered an honored part of the buying/selling process...

Today I'll be heading out for a nice, toasty walk and I'll be taking along the X-Pro2 and the 23mm f1.4 for a bit of a work out. I'll probably head into any building interiors I can find to look for details and potential images so I can work with the lens at its maximum aperture, or thereabouts. That is, after all, the reason to own this fast optic. 

Now, at least as far as cameras and fast lenses go, I think I've got my Fuji "aspirational" system in the bag. For serious prime lens work I'm looking toward a very conservative and traditional trio of fast lenses: the 23mm, 35mm and 56mm, all with f1.4 (or faster) apertures. For those times when I want to travel far and light I've got the X-E3 camera with the trio of "Fujicrons"; the 23, 35, and 50mm f2.0 versions of the lenses. 

Overkill? Naw. Just the delightful pursuit of new imaging tools at the fruitful intersection of my hobby and my business. 

Shopping Therapy comes just before "Shutter Therapy"

Fun still from Xanadu included just for my own amusement.


Fun Work. Work Fun. A roller case full of Fuji cameras and lenses and a bunch of stuff to point them at....

This graphic was about six feet from the wall behind me and stretched along for 
20 or 30 feet. It was the first time I actually needed the 8-16mm to 
get everything in the shot. I brought it along. 

I've been working too much to blog. That's a weird sensation because in the past few months I seemed to be too busy blogging to work. But most of the blogs were written while waiting for unrelated stuff in San Antonio. The universe seems to have gotten the "green light" on my current schedule and it's dumping a stream of jobs onto my plate. And since I enjoy the work I'm happy about it. Last Friday was my opportunity to see how well the combination of the Fuji X-H1 + 56mm f1.2 APD + Godox SL60W LED light worked on location (very well) but Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week I got to do my favorite kind of assignments for one of my very favorite Austin clients, WP Engine.  I used different gear for that.

The assignment is a three day conference that's tightly packed with very interesting speakers, lots of cutting edge marketing research, lots of "deep dive" breakout sessions and a nice mix of food and socializing. The conference was host to about 500 attendees and was held a one of the newer hotels in the downtown area, the Fairmont. The hotel sits across First St. from the Rainey St. neighborhood (which has been converted from a sleepy and poorer residential neighborhood to Austin's hottest bar and restaurant locale --- a complete business gentrification...) and it sits across Red River St. from the Austin Convention Center. It's basically ground central for business tourists. 

WP Engine is the client who taught me the nuts and bolts of ultra-fast turnaround, which is actually not just challenging but a fun problem solving exercise. They love it when I can get really good images of main tent, stage speakers in the first fifteen or twenty minutes of a presentation and then bolt back to the  communications suite and archive the images into a series of folders on an SSD and then put them straight up (no post processing, no resizing, no hestitation) onto a Smugmug.com gallery which eight or ten marketing people and social media experts have unfettered access to. They can scroll through the new work (all the newest work goes to the front of the gallery) pick images that work for the messaging they want, in the moment, and instantly download the file. In many cases images of speakers were up on Twitter and Instagram before the speakers even started to wrap up their presentations. For most of Tuesday, which was our most intense day, my client was the top Google trend in our market. The client likes that!

How do I set up and shoot this kind of stuff?  I get into the comm room early on the first day and make sure the fast wi-fi is set up and humming and that I have the passwords I need. I have the Adobe password taped to the bottom of my laptop and have memorized the Smugmug.com passwords. You'd be surprised how sleepy even the best conference hotels can be when it comes to getting their show networks set up and running....

Once I get the wi-fi set I pop a portable SSD into the USB 3 port and start creating "daily folders;" a folder for each time I come in to upload a batch of images, and then a folder for fast breaking events or special events. The fast breaking folder may have smaller sub-folders but I label them as I go so I'm organized by the time the show is over and I need to get everything looking pretty and delivered, en mass, to the client. They have access to everything I shoot during the show via the galleries (which are high res, big Jpegs) but at the end they like to be presented with all the images + any b-roll video I might shoot all on a memory stick. During the show there is a fluid sharing of photos between all the corporate departments and the contemporaneous access leverages the news cycles nicely. 

When I shoot in the main tent it's never, ever with flash. As HCB once was reported to have said, "Using flash is like taking a handgun to the opera." A reference that may be lost on some Americans who might actually think that taking their Glock to Aida is normal... Constant flash at a conference speech is as disconcerting to a crowd as a very loud fart. And about as welcome. 

I've narrowed down the shooting gear this year to two cameras and two lenses. I use two Fuji X-H1 cameras which are set identically. Since we need to upload large groups of images, all of which are used for social media and web marketing, I've settled on the Jpeg > Medium (12 megapixels) > Normal settings. This gives me a very nice file that sizes out to about 5 to 6 megabytes. Just right for uploading, big enough to print, fast enough to sprint to Twitter. Sure, I'd love to shoot raw but there is literally no time for that. This means that I have to get the color balance and exposure just right. Since the stage wash was consistent I went in early with white and gray targets and asked the AV people to show me the actual show stage wash. I measured it, set the K value in the menu and then fine tuned to color in the WB fine tune box (K = 3300, Plus two steps of blue).  I've worked under stage lighting enough to be able to translate what I see in the X-H1 EVF to make very accurate exposure assessments. Accurate enough that none of the material that was posted during the conference required any adjustments. 

You have to pay attention and really work hard not to underexpose but it is entirely possible to do this kind of work exactly as we did in the days of transparency film; if you are willing to be rigorous in your testing and camera setting. Never judge color on the rear screen while sitting in the giant presentation space unless the entire space is illuminated with daylight balanced light, the ambient light, especially colored light, will contaminate your perception of correct color! Put your eye in the EVF and wait for some adjustment.

The stage lighting was provided by my friends at MEC (Media Event Concepts) and it was very well done. I was using a basic exposure of 1/200th of a second, lens wide open at f2.8, and an ISO of 1600. That's an easy enough use case for the X-H1 and the files were detailed, largely noise free and well balanced. Another important aspect of shoot prep is to figure out the best color profile to use in conjunction with Jpegs. I shy away from Standard and Velvia because the shadows block up way too quickly and the flesh tones are way too saturated. By the same token I shy away from Eterna with a well lit stage because that setting is too flat. I've had good luck shoot with the Pro Neg Hi which emulates the portrait film (C-41) reference but with just a bit more contrast. I keep most fine tuning settings at zero but tend to go to minus one with noise reduction because I'm sensitive to skin tones getting to "plastic." 

more below

CEO, Heather Brunner, wraps up the third day

When the conference main tent sessions start I find a seat that gives me a close enough proximity to do a tight, half body shot with the long end of my 50-140 f2.8 zoom (on camera "A") and a full stage (including rear screen) shot with my 16-55mm f2.8 on the "B" camera. My client loves a trio for each speaker: a set of wides which show the person and the enormity of the stage, a set of mediums which show the speaker and, if possible, the company or show logo, and a series of tighter shots, which seem to work best on small screens. I shoot a lot of frames, not because I am unsure of the technical settings but because I am always, always looking for better and better expressions. We can toss stuff we're not excited about but it's hard to be excited about something you didn't bother to shoot....

During a smooth session with several speakers I'll upload somewhere between two hundred and three hundred images for the marketing team to wade through. Smugmug.com makes it pretty easy since you can see pages of thumbnails on the left of the screen and the big "selected" image on the right. Downloads are one icon click away. I use two cards in the shooting cameras for these shows. The "A" card gets pulled out of the camera every thirty to forty minutes and since I'm pushing it in and out of a card reader, etc. I'm always a bit nervous about glitches caused by handling and different interfaces. If I were shooting straight through the show during the show and never touching the card during a shooting day I wouldn't concern myself with having a back-up card, but in such a high physical use scenario like this I think it's best to hedge a bit and have the second card backing up and never being physically removed. 

Unlike many corporations that seem to be driven by fear, and an unholy belief in rigid hierarchies, WP Engine is one of the most egalitarian companies I work with. While the stage hands and AV people are acculurated to staying separate from the attendees my client knows that my ability to get great images is partly a function of access. Both physical and social access. Because of this I'm not an adjunct to the process, I am embedded into the mix. When people gather for bacon and eggs and coffee at an early breakfast I'm at the table with them, meeting them and fitting in. At the end of the show, after the guests have headed to the airports or back to their offices, I am in the communications room with the marketing teams sharing a birthday cake and a glass of Champagne with the crew. This means I can work fluidly because everyone knows who I am and why I am there. When they make me feel like part of the team I'm always willing to go above and beyond to answer quick requests, tight deadlines, etc. 

When we wrap we talk in terms of what we're going to do to make the show better next year. The implication being that I'm already on the program. 

As far as fitting in goes I'd like to speak about computers. In the comm room there is a long, long conference work table that can seat about 24 people. There are folks sending e-mails, tweaking web pages, uploading to social media, checking and updating schedules and all the other stuff that happens at a technology centric conference. In looking through the entire room there was only one difference between computers and it had nothing to do with brands. There were two kinds of computers. Both were laptops. One type had 15 inch screens while the other had 13 inch screens but other than that every single machine in the room was an Apple MacBook Pro. All very recent models. No homemade PCs. No Windows laptops of any kind. My 13 inch (current model, space gray) was a perfect fit. Bitch all you want about the price or the performance, or whatever metric you want to devise to rationalize your dislike for Apple products, but having a PC in that room instead would have been the equivalent of being in a room full of people in business attire while you are decked out in sweat pants, combat boots and a T-shirt with a beer logo on the front..... 

Now that we've riled up the 42% of my readers who use PC's I'll switch topics and speak to how well or how poorly the Fuji cameras worked. 

more below

the editor in chief of Wired Magazine. 

In addition to the main tent speaker sessions and technical breakout sessions I also cover the social events and special guest speaker stuff. Our first portion of the job was to provide candid coverage of the welcoming reception, a cocktail party around the 7th story outdoor pool area. It was pretty cool. We had rain earlier in the day but the event planner was brave and decided to take a chance on benevolent weather. She won. It was in the upper 60's when our event started and we ended up with clearing skies and temps in the 70's when we wrapped. I shot everything with a Fuji X-H1 and the 16-55mm lens, which is a natural for social events. I used the Pro Neg High setting and it did a good job of keeping the files from being too contrasty as the sun broke through. 

While the Fuji cameras have a reputation for weak battery life I was able to get through each day with just the first battery, or one and a half batteries, as indicated by the LCD icons. I'd come home each evening and plug in the grip and the camera via the USB port and the port on the grip and charge them back up again for the next day's shooting. 

By my count I've shot more than 25,000 frames across the three X-H1s I've had now for better than five months. That's given me enough time to understand the menus, to memorize were important settings are located and to also get use to handling the exterior buttons and knobs without having to consciously think about their positions. The camera with the battery grip is perfectly suited to my hands. While the whole assembly gets a bit heavy with the 50-140mm added to the mix it's rock solid and feels well balanced. The most important aspect, for my work, is that I've come to trust the integrity of the files and  I've also been able to translate what I'm seeing in the EVF almost perfectly to what I'll finally see on a calibrated computer monitor. It's nice when you can full confidence in your camera system. 

From time to time through each day I'd find a scene on stage or in the technical demo areas of the show that would make a perfect selection for video b-roll. By changing the shutter speed to emulate a 180 degree shutter, and then turning the frame rate dial to the dedicated video setting I could switch over from photographs to video in about 10 seconds. When using an OIS lens like the 50-140mm on the image stabilized X-H1 body I was able to get good, handheld video clips that my client could weave into their social media content without breaking a sweat. 

One of my favorite parts of the show this year was walking through the public areas during the coffee breaks between speakers, looking for shots that say, "networking." People engaged in serious looking conversations or just making business connections. To make it more fun this year I pretty much glued the 56mm f1.2 to the camera and used the lens wide open for a large number of images showcasing interaction. Being able to drop backgrounds totally out was fun and something I'm sure my clients will enjoy. The lens is pretty sharp at the point of focus which is a nice change. I've played with far too many fast lenses that just trade light gathering capabilities for sharpness when used wide open. The Fuji 56mm f1.2 APD lens is the real deal. If you've focused correctly then whatever is covered by adequate depth of field is sharp in the way that primes are supposed to be. I'm rarely interested in my lenses being "flat field" lenses so I rarely care about sharp corners and blisteringly sharp edges but I do want the inner 50% of the frame to be sharp and contrasty even if I'm shooting wide open. I get that with the 56mm. I liked the look and the effect of the 56mm f1.2 so much that when the show was over I went out and bought the 35mm f1.4 and the 23mm f1.2 on the presumption that the design goals would be very similar to those of the 56mm. I'm testing them now but so far I'm loving what I'm seeing. 

The final segment of the event was an inspirational speech by (American) football legend, Emmett Smith, a three time NFL Super Bowl champ and all around great guy. After his speech I accompanied him to a large and well appointed meeting room where we did about 50 grip and grin portraits with clients and WP Engine staff. I used an X-H1 with the 16-55mm f2.8 zoom. I wanted the zoom for quick compositional fine-tuning. It was also the one occasion on which I used flash. I set the ambient exposure to be about 2/3rds of stop under the correct setting and then bounced my shoe mount flash off the white ceiling, set to provide the missing 2/3rds stop. I generally took two frames per person with Emmett Smith and since I had time to post process I was happy to shoot raw and give the files some extra attention in Lightroom before converting them to Jpegs. 

I never knew that Emmett Smith has his own brand of Tequila. We tasted it as we waited for the guests I'd be photographing and I had to agree with Mr. Smith that it's one of the best Tequilas I've tasted. I sipped a small amount straight while he had the bartender in our room mix his with a Bloody Mary mix.  I didn't taste that but my client did and she seemed to approve. 

I loved using the Fujis but, frankly, I could have used just about any camera and come away with sellable and enjoyable images. How do I know this? Am I just spouting some sort of internet truism? Naw, you know me better than that. The logical answer is that since this was my third annual Summit conference with this client you know that I've used totally different cameras for every single year. All of them did well, from full frame to a brace of Panasonic G9s to this years APS-C Fujis. I must admit though that I am charmed by the physical user interface on the Fujis. It always makes me smile. That, and the lenses, which also make me smile. 

So, the conference wrapped on Wednesday and I spent most of Thursday doing post production, processing and then archiving everything I'd shot. The whole family had projects that challenged us this week. Ben with the demands of his company's P.R. client, Belinda doing graphic design at Dell's agency, and me with my happy and fun conference. 

When we all met at home today we knew it was a good evening to forget cooking and cleaning and to instead head over to a restaurant called, The Blue Dahlia, and to relax and let people wait on us. Now I'm getting excited that we're heading into the weekend. The weather is supposed to be good and the pool beckons. It's been a wonderful treat to be able to go to swim practice both weekend days. I love it. 

Today was partly consumed by estate paperwork. When I hit my saturation point I took a break to head up to Precision Camera to shop. I knew immediately that I really deserved both a ________ and a ____________ so I had my sale guy bag them up and I headed back to my zip code to play with both. More in the next post...


Age and Photography. From the point of view of a commercial photographer.

The Graffiti Wall is closed. In a few months all that will remain are the photographs that many photographers took over a time span of four or five years. 

If you are like most affluent Americans you've probably spent most of your life believing in your own immortality and, as you have aged, you've probably had, nestled in the back of your mind, the idea that advances in science and medicine would extend your useful lifespan far beyond the 78.7 year average life expectancy currently calculated (average) for men in the U.S.A. If you've lived past 65 already then congratulations because your life expectancy bumps up to somewhere in the mid-80s.  As a culture, we have a dim view of getting older since most equate it with encroaching infirmity, diminished mental and physical capacities, and loss. A loss of mobility, friends, loved ones and relevance. 

I've been thinking about this from the perspective of a person still working in an industry that is well known for being a young person's occupation. There are few photographers who keep working in the field after they hit their fifties; even fewer continue plying their trade once they get to their 60's. And there are so many reasons for that. First is a general agism which has as its base the idea that society's memes, visual styles and references are lost on older generations which means that only people under a certain age can really understand and translate the new for audiences today. Each successive generation seems to believe that any important cultural trend had its genesis during their generation and any understanding of current innovations is unfathomable to an older generation. We often hear that young people are more facile with the screens on their smart phones because, "they grew up with the technology."  Never mind that smart phones were introduced, really, with the iPhone in June of 2007. Grownups bought them first. Of course, grownups had already mastered proto-smartphones from Rim (Blackberries), and primordial flip phones before that. 

I cringe when younger people presume that anyone over 60 does not really understand how to operate a personal computer. They don't seem to understand that we were buying and using the first widely available IBM PCs, and the first generations of Apple Macintosh computers, for at least a decade before most of the millienials were even gleams in their collective parent's eyes. And since there were NO web tutorials (and no web) we were also our own I.T. help desks and our own trouble shooters. 
The next big fallacy is the idea that anyone over a certain age (50?, 60?) is winding down physically, and quickly. That we'll soon be toddling along with a cane, moving slowly and blocking the sidewalk to the disdain of a faster and more mobile generation zipping along on electric scooters. The idea that at 60+ we are still able to lift stuff, run, swim and even outperform a more sedentary, more recent generation is almost unbelievable to most. But that's a prejudice based on observations of the most sedentary and infirm older Americans; the ones stereotyped on TV and in movies. 

I am not immune from some prejudices about aging in the general population; I think far too many people spent far too much time sitting in awkward office chairs instead of walking, moving, running, swimming, hiking. Spent far too much time trying to wick off the affects of long, boring days at "the office" by parking themselves in front of screens, wedged into easy chairs, eating chips, and slowly, physically killing themselves. I'm also aware that I have an almost unhealthy prejudice against bad diets and the affects of obesity on human performance (probably the number one way to ruin your knees and ankles...). So many people forgot to get in enough exercise in their middle years that many do come into their 60's with a host of health issues that fuel generational stereotypes...to the general detriment of those who were more diligent.

But as Dr. Andrew Weill says, (and I'm paraphrasing here) if you want to eat healthy, hang out with people who eat healthy. If you want to be optimistic then hang out with optimistic people. And if you want to stay in great shape then hang out with the people who are active and engaged in good, routine physical exercise. If you hang out with a bunch of guys at the local bar and eat a diet of burgers and French fries and soft drinks you have only yourself to blame for creating and pushing unhelpful stereotypes into the ongoing discussion about the capabilities of older generations. 

So, why am I writing about aging and perceptions of aging today? A couple things. I recently lost my dad; he was 91. And while the my recent observations revolve around his decline and death at age 91, I've spent a good amount of time remembering him as he was in his 70's and his 80s. He was a bike riding fanatic all through his seventies and didn't give up the sport until his right knee blew out in his early eighties. He actively played tennis into his eighties, even with a gimpy knee. He read voraciously every single day of his life. He and my mom lived in their house together until my dad was 90 and my mom passed away. Right up until he moved into memory care he was carrying bags of groceries into the house, doing yard work and walking everywhere, with his cane offsetting his bad knee. 

He had little patience for slowing down and even less patience for people who bought into the general gestalt about aging by pampering themselves and letting entropy win. I liked that. He never bought into the idea that you were required to become docile and coddled just because you were older.

But I am mostly writing this to deflect the idea that one can't pursue commercial photography in one's 60's without a minivan full of younger assistants to "help" carry stuff. To dispel the cunard that the older photographer can only work in short spurts, in between his naps and his Metamucil cocktail breaks. To negate the belief that all older photographers are frail, fragile, and slow. But most importantly to dissuade people from thinking that we are required to lose our "edge" and our grasp on modern culture and style just because we've blown out more birthday cake candles and because we have more wrinkles around our eyes. 
Healthy eating = longer, more unencumbered life.

The prejudice about aging was tossed in my face at a recent social event where several people "marveled" at the idea that I would still, at 63, be dragging a cart full of heavy gear up the ADA ramp to an office building and spend my day setting up, tearing down, moving and setting up again the gear required to do a lot of commercial photography jobs correctly. That I would have the stamina to do physical work all day long...seemed to mystify them.

While Austin has a reputation for being a "fit" city I think it's been riding on a reputation developed in the 1980's and 1990's but long ago more or less homogenized into the America median because of the enormous influx of office worker bees in high tech and information services businesses. The refuges from spots all over the U.S. brought their trailers full of stuff here and also their appetite for Philly Subs, Oyster Po'Boys, In and Out Burgers, and piled them on our own bad offerings of BBQ, chicken fried steaks and Tex Mex cuisine. Fry me a river...

The athletic cohort of the city seems to exist as a separate group, different and removed from the rank and file worker. Disciplined and different. The runner, swimmer, biker, rower, triAthlete who is competing, or at least practicing, at a high level has a different idea of discipline which requires working toward physical results. The more sedentary may be just as disciplined about their jobs but the benefit they deliver is a collective benefit to their corporation, not a benefit to their own personal longevity and physical health. 

In the field of photography it's the same. If you attend social functions for photographers you'll see a cross section that are, at 30 or 40, already overweight and under fit. They move slower. Photography is their obsession to the exclusion of other important things in a balanced life. The ones who survive their 40's and 50's are the ones who balance their focus on healthy living with their occupation. They set limits. They don't allow clients to schedule over early morning workouts. They have learned to push back when confronted with the idea that everyone should work "through" lunch and just graze on Peanut M&Ms, Snickers Bars and Trail Mix. That a Red Bull, a triple espresso or a large Coke is the secret to getting through a long day. 

Good allies are crucial if you want to stay in the game.
A partner who understands that what you do is mostly for 
the passion of it is far more likely to be supportive of things like
solo shooting trips, crazy expenditures, and a studio that's like a second home. 

The biggest two things to allow one to keep working in such a kinetic industry are, as I wrote above, being physically up for the manual labor the enterprise requires, but, even more important, it's the desire to constantly change and to understand change. And that means not only the changing importance of camera gear but also popular culture. 

I get that people in general love to keep doing things exactly the way they first learned them and are most comfortable using the tools on which they first learned the craft side of the profession. That's why people still keep doing three point portrait lighting and shooting everything with a certain kind of camera and a trio of three zoom lenses that has been popular since SLRs and DSLRs overtook medium format cameras as the preferred tool set for the majority of working professionals. The love of consistency and routine is one reason why it was so hard for photographers to get comfortable with also offering video services. Why it was so hard for so many photographers to move away from a print centric retail market. And why it is so hard to evolve new styles and new approaches to making photographs. Wouldn't it be sweet if you could spend a full day making one portrait with three big studio electronic flashes, captured with a DSLR and a 70-200mm zoom lens, delivered on a sheet of 16x20 inch photographic print paper? Even sweeter if a magazine were willing to pay you thousands of dollars to do so and thousands more to surround yourself, Ala Annie Leibovitz, with a circus of young assistants?

You could hold out for that. You can look for clients that might accommodate you. But if you don't have an international reputation, and you don't live and work in NYC, London, L.A. or Paris I'm going to conjecture that you might starve to death while you continue your search for these rare, unicorn clients. 

A desire to stand firm with the style that originally brought you to the table is probably the very thing that absolutely will kill your chances of moving forward in the imaging industry. It's like praying that 8 track players will come back for cars because you happen to have so many 8 track tapes in your storage unit. And, are you still wearing that "off the rack" suit you bought for that wedding you went to in 1998? Thought so.....

I get a lot of flack for changing systems too often. I get flack for buying new lenses (or unearthing older ones) but underneath the churn is a constant search to understand where the market is headed and where my vision and the markets can intersect. Profitably. And with a large dollop of fun besides. 

There is a secret for maintaining relevance that is far more important than playing with new methods, new gear and new lighting, and that is the need to be in touch and interfacing with the people who are working currently in your market. Last week I did a couple of jobs for a company whose marketing director just turned 30. She is a great client. The question of age has never entered our working relationship. I learn point of view and cultural mindset from her, she gets a vision honed by my having tried and discarded, tried and assimilated hundreds of thousands of imaging parameters. She also gets years of logistics and production experience from me at no extra charge. 

There is no real premium for experience; most jobs have a value and you can accept the value of that job and do it or hold out for more because you were a big deal in the past.....but you will lose the job to someone who better understands the value proposition of the finished work in the context of the client's needs. 

I work with Zach Theatre and several other theaters on a regular basis. Not once or twice a year but once or twice, or three times a month. The crews are young, the guest directors are currently hot properties coming in from New York, or major theaters in other big cities, to do selected productions. They bring with them current trends, looks and visual expectations. I'm always along for the ride. Sometimes I wish I had more input but I end up finding that the more friction I feel the more I can learn and the end result is that I generally have pushed back against my own reticence to change which makes me more (not less) hirable and (re)trainable. By gaining more elasticity in my vision and the way I operate I can more fluidly become part of a collaborative team instead of the boring S.O.B. that always seems to trot out, "Well, back in the good, old days we always did it like this!" Nothing is guaranteed to kill a creative collaboration with a more recent generation quicker. 

I'm about to start a three day job for WP Engine. It's a big software services company and they are constantly rated one of Austin's top companies to work for. Its offices are filled with young people banging away on keyboards and doing wonderful, mysterious stuff on the web. At the general sessions, the breakouts and the social events it's highly likely that I'll be the oldest person in the room. I'll be shooting a combination of video and photos and will, over the course of the day, alternate between shooting and uploading a constant stream of new content to a shared web gallery. The social media team on the client side will have an ample supply of just in time media at their fingertips which they will use to populate Twitter, Facebook, Medium and dozens of other platforms I haven't learned about yet. We'll all be sporting contemporary Apple MacBook Pros. We'll all be slinging around archived files on tiny SSDs. We'll all be racing to the web.

I started working for the company on the power of someone's recommendation. I feared that it would be a one shot engagement; that my age would be off-putting. But this is the third year in a row that I'll be covering their multi-day conference. And one of a dozen jobs I've done with their events team in the last two years. The secret is to blend in, work proficiently and deliver what they want and need with as little fuss and friction as possible. 

Last year we had a brief visitation to their show by a much, much younger photographer who was there to photograph just one of the speakers on stage. She was deeply embedded in old school technology and methodology. She started out blazing away with flash until one of the event staff swiftly shut that down. Didn't matter, the full frame DSLRs she was using were so loud that every one of 300 attendees turned around in their chairs every time the shutter went off to stare and scowl. She didn't get the memo that we'd all moved on from what was legit in the 1990s or just after the turn of the century. That the debate between mirrorless and traditional moving mirror cameras was not so much about the files coming out of the cameras but the whole use case. The ability to use silent shutters. Really silent shutters. Shows have changed. Pity for the photographers who can't change with them. Clients value anything that rivets the attention of their audiences to their corporate message while still delivering the photographic reportage they can use to spread the message outside of the ballroom.. You should never be the focus of anyone's attention in a main tent session.
Why mirrorless cameras? Because they are smaller, lighter, have a quicker feedback loop, usually better image stabilization and the files are just the right size. Lower noise, lower overall profile along with proficient results. Inside the acceptable envelope of performance. 
Right in the middle, not on the edge. 

Frequently celebrating success with clients and friends is critical. 

Where commercial photography is most like pure commerce are the jobs where the client is in some distant location and you are being hired and dispatched to do an assignment based entirely on the strength of your reputation and your portfolio. In those situations, unless you have some weird, stylized portrait of yourself front and center on your website you are most likely being hired in a completely age blind way and you will be judged only by the work you end up making. This is where you'll get the nourishing affirmation that you are still totally relevant as far as the actual work is concerned. 

I get hired a number of times each year by clients whom I have never met and, in all probability, will never meet. None have queried me about my age, my physical ability to do their jobs, or about my willingness to work as a collaborative team member. I get sent to weird places and fun places. The understanding is that if you can't do the job you'll figure out how to turn it down instead of setting yourself up for failure. But when you pull it off you know you are able to compete, head to head, with everyone else out there. 

So, when I talk about hanging on to my career a number of people immediately presume that because of my ardor for staying in business I must have led a life with no idea of accounting or financial awareness; that I've spent every cent I've touched and am hoping to just keep working --- stumbling along on fumes until social security kicks in at which time I'll live out the rest of my life on packaged ramen, ersatz pasta and the occasional bottle of Walmart Cabernet Sauvignon. That I persevere out of the demands of abject poverty and a past life of reckless abandon. Why else would I stoop to using Fuji cameras and lenses instead of some premium brand of full frame cameras? Why else would I keep doing everything from headshots to product prototype photographs?  And why would I keep working for another "artsy" organization like a live theater? 

Well, just to assuage your concerns.... We've done a very good job of saving and investing. My wife wonders sometimes why I don't just retire and write the novels I profess to want to write. My wealth management person wonders why I didn't retire several years ago. My kid wonders why we don't sell our house in the middle of Austin's most sought after neighborhood, take the money off the table and move to Paris or Rome (mostly we don't because I don't speak fluent French or Italian). 

My silly sounding and perennial answer is that I absolutely love what I do. I feel like I did when I was 25 years old. Not just physically but mentally as well. I don't want to lose any part of that feeling. I don't want to "slow down" and I don't want to forego racing my twenty-something assistants up multiple flights of stairs with cases of gear in each hand. I don't want to let that 30-something in lane four beat me in swim set. I don't want to ever say, "I used to be a photographer." I don't want to ever hear myself say, "Well, back in the golden age of photography we used to....blah, blah, blah." It's never just about the work...it's only about the work. And everything I learn every day as I do jobs for other people is more than just which colors look pretty together or how much of the background I can drop out but also what's the coolest new restaurant? How do people speak now? What's our target for our combined work? What shoes are cool?  What kinds of portraits make younger people smile with approval? 

I haven't found the fountain of youth and I understand that aging and then dying is inevitable. But embracing old fart-ism can be optional. Sitting in a Barca Lounger with a can of beer is definitely optional. The early bird special at the local cafeteria is extremely optional in the way that a country might embrace nuclear war. I don't intend to give in to the stereotypes of aging. Not personally and not in my craft. You might want an endless retrospective but I want to constantly burn the past and create into the future. And I believe it remains possible for any one of any age able to carry his own gear and create a rapport with people who are different from themselves. Different cultures and different ages. 

The reason I won't stop is that making beautiful photographs is so damn fun!!!!

Yeah. I'm going to stop doing commercial work when someone pries that camera out of my cold, dead hands. Or at least that's today's plan. 

if you know exactly which camera you're going to be shooting with tomorrow and next week and next month then I'm here to tell you that you don't have enough cameras. Not enough choices. 

with a full tank of gas and open skies you can go anywhere. 

The secret to everything is relationships. 
Better than cameras but without obviating the need for cameras. 

Sit down when you get tired but always have a plan to get moving again. 

There will be enough time to rest in whatever afterlife the photo gods provide. 

It is a rich person who gets to do exactly what they want to do for a living.
Why doesn't anyone ask Warren Buffett when he is going to retire?

The latest research says walking is the best exercise overall. 
I'll keep swimming but it's nice to know I was never wasting time 
when I was walking around with my cameras. When I finish this I'm heading back out for a walk. 
You might consider a couple miles a day as just good photo job prep.....
And an excuse to buy fun shoes. 

There's a certain adrenaline rush being a hundred or so miles from any major city, down a dirt road as a giant blizzard heads your way. But if you've already gone to all the trouble of showing up 
it behooves you to linger for a few minutes and get the shot.

The best weather in which to photograph is any weather you can get. 

If you aren't up, out of the house, and doing something fun when the sun comes up you'll have no one but yourself to blame for missing out on life.