8.03.2019

On Topic: The tale of two 50mm lenses for the Pentax K-1.

Camera's internal B&W interpretation in Jpeg.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... Just kidding around. But, in my usual, mysterious and painfully endearing way I did manage to buy two different 50mm lenses for my new Pentax K-1 camera. Sit back down and mitigate your excitement; neither lens is the new, super Pentax HD Pentax D FA 50mm 1.4 SDM AW that sells for $1,000 USD. That's just not going to happen.

The "normal" 50mm f1.4  lenses I did splash out for are both well used and were quite reasonable, considering that the glass on both is pristine. The one that came first, on Wednesday, was an earlier AF lens with the screwdriver focusing cam that makes a pleasant whirring sound as it autofocuses. Its body design is kind of round-y and it has a window on the lens barrel so you can see the distance scale. The seller supplied a generic, but nice, metal lens hood and, of course, front and rear caps. I played with it for while and walked around the house focusing on stuff with the lens wide open and then kept hitting the review button to see if the camera and lens combo was any good at nailing focus. They did quite well and now I trust the auto focusing on the system. At least for now.

The second lens came on Thursday, right before my lunch with Paul. I caught the mailman just as he was about to pull away from my mailbox and mis-pitch my package somewhere else. I went back to my office, tore open the box and popped the newest lens (but oldest, chronologically) onto the K-1, put the assemblage over my shoulder and headed out for sushi at Whole Foods at Lamar Blvd. and 6th St. Paul and I have both owned Pentax medium format film systems and the styling of the 50mm f1.4 SMC manual focus lens was an instant reminder of Pentax 645 and 6X7 system lenses; just in miniature.

I've done busy work all week long and I was anxious to get out for a walk with a camera today. I headed for downtown straight after the family lunch (a Saturday tradition from back when Ben was in high school....) with the K-1 and the older, 50mm manual focus lens, and not even a spare battery in my pocket.

The MF lens is hefty and dense and the focusing ring is like butter. So much better than the run of the mill, fly-by-wire manual focusing implementation we seem to get on most AF lenses these days...

I did my research and knew that I could use the lens in aperture mode and the camera would give me wide open viewing for focusing, and would take care of stopping down the lens automatically, if I put the external aperture ring in the locked "A" setting. Set up this way one can use one of the control wheels on the camera body to control the aperture setting. Pretty decent backward compatibility.

With MF lenses I'm prone to taking more chances with composition because once I know that focus and depth of field are in the ballpark I seem to move the frame around much more, and instinctively place more of each scene off to one side or the other. I'm not sure of the psychology involved but knowing that the camera and lens won't move focus around seems to be a big part of that. If I were a fan of "back button" focusing perhaps I'd manage all this differently but I'm resistant to changes like that. Changes in camera operation. 

In the three hours I spent shooting lens I careened around the aperture ring from f2.0 to around f7.1; all depending on the subject matter. I found the lens to be very neutral and well behaved. There's a bit of uncorrected chromatic aberration that manifests itself as colored lines adjacent to high contrast intersections but it's manageable and only is really obvious if I sharpen too much in post.

For far less than $100 dollars I'll chalk up the purchase of a nice, clean MF 50mm lens, that works well with the K-1 body, as a win. Next week I'm going to make a little trip to San Antonio and spend some time with the camera and the other new lens; the 50mm FA f1.4 AF, and see if the optics are any different from the manual version. The front and back lens elements sure seem to be the same. Maybe the coatings are different or something. 

Below are samples and some have captions to note special news. 








Downtown was awash with groups of young women on tour. 
There was also a big convention of people; mostly women, 
who sell scented oils and waxes.

Even Austin is plagued by "crumbling infrastructure." 
Where did all those "shovels on the ground" get off to?


See the middle scooter? Look at the right hand grip. Now look at the image just 
below. It's a big crop of that small handle and it shows the detail possible 
with this 50mm even though the lens aperture was nearly wide open (f2.5)

And there it is. At least a 100% crop. The focus was right where I expected it to be and 
(I hate to say it) the bokeh is very nice. 

A box used to protect a vendor's cart's electrical connections and also a target for my
"OMG! Look at my crop just below!!!"
It's just a little cross section of wires but I think you can see 
that the camera and lens do a nice job of getting stuff in focus and delivering details. 






One more set of "looky-looky!!!!!" photos. 
See the telephone pole in the image just above? 
The image below is a detail shot of the lower part of the pole.
I think my ability to manual focus is still pretty good but I 
will confess to using the focusing indicator in the viewfinder
to confirm good focus. It's pretty accurate. 








I've always felt like Range Rover ownership was a basic cry for help. 
One in this color is more an admission of sociopathy. 
And I'm pretty much over the style of all black wheels.


And, of course: My Homage to William Eggleston. 



On Topic: My Photographic Homage to William Eggleston.

"Red C'Art from Trader Joe's."

©2019 Kirk Tuck

What is the preferred, end result of all this camera ownership for me?


This is from a print of my friend, Sarah. It was originally shot with a camera that just made square photographs. It turns out that squares are the format that's seems best to me for making the kinds of portraits I like to construct and, also the kinds of portraits that I like to look at. I blame Irving Penn and Richard Avedon for their strong influence when it comes to formats. My one push of non-compliance with their work is that I never learned to enjoy the 8x10 format with the same enthusiasm.

I can set the Fuji cameras to shoot squares and when I look at the EVF or the LCD I end up composing in the square with a beautiful field of black framing the image.

The Pentax K1 I recently bought also allows me to set a square crop. If I use live view I see the crop in the same fashion that I do on the Fuji cameras but if I use the OVF I see a strong square made by thick lines overlaying the 3:2 ratio finder. While that's not as elegant as looking through the Fuji EVF, I'm happy to have the guidelines. The more restrictions I can add to my composing the happier I am with the end results.

I made some square portraits yesterday. Not quite dialed in just yet; not ready for public sharing, but a nice twinge of nostalgic resonance.

on a different topic: I seem always to talk about cameras I've just bought or have circled back to use with more frequency and this gives the appearance that all cameras are incoming and that none ever leave the fold. Since I subtracted a camera and a lens yesterday from my inventory I thought I'd mention it here.

I hadn't intended, really, to get rid of anything in the moment but I have a photographer friend who was flirting with the idea of adding a small, Fuji camera to his equipment selection. He shoots mostly architecture and has a Leica S2 and also a Nikon D850 and D810 but he likes to travel with his wife just for fun and has become dis-infatuated with carrying heavy cameras around in places like Santa Fe or Carmel.

We've talked about some of the advantages of the Fuji cameras and lenses over the past few months and he narrowed down the travel cameras he was interested in to the just the little Fuji X-E3 and the 18-55mm f2.8-4.0 zoom. I had one that I liked but once I brought the two X-Pro2s into the mix my embrace of the X-E3 loosened up a bit. My friend also pointed out that I had many duplications in the Fuji system and, with ownership (and near constant use) of the 16-55mm f2.8, I really didn't need the pixie zoom as well.

He dropped by yesterday with the pretense of just wanting to handle the camera and lens and, well, one thing led to another which led to him leaving with both. I think he'll like that small system for travel and I actually like having some extra space in the equipment cabinet. But all empty space wants to be filled...it's almost inevitable.

Just wanted to let you know that we let one go. Not for the first time. Won't be the last time.

Bottom line? The finders on the X-Pro2s are more compelling. I'm happy to trade smaller size and weight for user effectiveness. YMMV.

When do you "get" old? Who is in charge of your perception of aging? How does your approach to healthy living aid or hamper your photography?

"Old" men with no beer guts, swimming fast. 

I have an acquaintance who is about my age. When I think about him he seems at least ten years older than me. He's just a bit taller than me but he weighs a good 50 or 60 pounds more. His belly hangs over his belt and he's always got a sore back. The sore back is his go to excuse for not wanting to/being able to exercise. Then there are the sore knees (most likely from supporting excess weight) and the sore feet. His idea of recreation is to sit on a couch with his wife and binge watch shows on Netflix. His idea of exercise is walking from his car to the grocery store or from his car to the local Starbucks. He imagines that everyone "dumb" enough to run in the Summer will keel over and die. He has been deeply involved in nearly every fad diet you can think of. He went all vegan last year and lost 20 pounds. Then he rediscovered cookies and ice cream and gained back 25.

He'd like to get in better shape, and with three college degrees is smart enough to understand and calculate the cost/benefit calculus of exercising and improving his diet, but he is addicted to sitting in front of his computer for hours and hours each day researching websites and watching videos... and snacking.

He's had a number of health issues and his doctor tells him he is "pre-diabetic."  Thank God he's not also a smoker.

I understand that bad habits of a lifetime are hard to break. I understand the process of getting in shape for the first time in decades is uncomfortable and not nearly as much fun as already being in good shape. But there's nothing other than this acquaintance's own reticence to make lifestyle changes that stands between him and better health; and potentially a longer life. He's just continually making the same choices because those choices seem to be the path of least resistance and are more comfortable, in the moment.

I have a friend who is a couple of years younger than me and he's the opposite of the acquaintance described above. My friend just broke the world's record in his age group for the 200 meter, long course backstroke. He still competes in triathlons and is a national contender in his age group. He's good about diet and I can't remember ever hearing him say he'd been to his doctor. He's got great muscle tone and not much body fat. None of this came about by accident. He was a UT swimmer in college who never stopped exercising and he exercises, generally, for at least a couple hours a day. And yes, he holds down a job, is raising three younger kids, and still has time for fun stuff. But he makes choices. He gets out and makes time to exercise because he can't imagine anything more fun. He passes on the donuts and margaritas. I never see him wolfing down scones, candy bars, Frappucinos, etc. It's a consistent pattern of combining discipline and goal setting in order to see the long term advantages to his short term behaviors. And yes, he can do 50 push ups without breathing hard or breaking a sweat.

We all get to make a choice. Which guy do we want to be? Which protocol will best benefit our active working lives?

Some people couch the choice for fitness as being something for which you must give up something else. If so, I have absolutely no clue what people would need to give up other than their resistance to movement or their habitual sweet tooth.

But what does this have to do with commercial photography? Or even recreational photography?

I don't know about everyone else but I find commercial photography (especially working outside, on locations) to be physically demanding. Where a hobbyist can carry one bare camera and a single lens the professionals are usually bringing along redundant camera gear, lighting equipment that they may or may not have to use, modifiers for the lights and support gear for everything (tripods and light stands). They may walk miles a day with the gear, or pushing a heavy cart with gear. There are rarely convenient elevators in industrial settings. You'll probably have to climb some ladders... Sometimes you have to walk a mile or so to work to get to more remote locations. And you might need to be able to do all this in weather extremes.

Clients aren't interested in whether or not you are tired, your back hurts, you are out of breath. None of that is their responsibility. They have engaged you to complete a job which you accepted in complete awareness of what was required. In order to do the jobs and make the fees you need to be in good enough shape to complete the contracted tasks. Whether you are 63 or 23 you are engaged with the same set or parameters and you have accepted the same scheduling and rigor. Being in excellent shape means more profit, more efficiency, more accomplished in a day, more fees.

Being out of shape means being miserable by midday, having to cancel work days because of a lack of energy, or from the exhaustion that comes from not using muscles and the whole cardiovascular system on a regular enough basis; such that normal, physical work seems...extraordinary. And clients who are confronted with a photographer who isn't up to the task of shooting and moving through a job, physically, will almost certain NOT book that person again.

If you are a hobbyist/photo enthusiast you don't necessarily need to be worried about your income stream as a result of self-induced poor health but if you are not fit you most certainly cheat yourself from getting full value from opportunities. If you sign up for a landscape phtotography workshop in a remote location but you don't really feel comfortable walking more than four or five hundred yards from a trail head you'll miss so many opportunities to see and photograph amazing sights. If you book a trip to Rome to photograph in the streets but you haven't stayed in good shape by routinely walking for hours with your gear over one shoulder you'll most likely truncate your daily schedule and miss so much.

You are paying for the potential in every shooting opportunity. You pay for plane tickets, hotel rooms, meals in restaurants, entrance fees and so much more. How sad if you can only enjoy half of the potential of your vacation/shooting trip/personal project. It's like paying to see a good movie and having to leave halfway through.

I'm pretty sure the difference in exercise perspectives is a combination of factors but there are certain cities (and neighborhoods within cities) that are more focused on fitness. Austin, Texas, Boulder and Colorado Springs, Colorado, Eugene Oregon, etc. are places where so many people in the total population are regular, and consistent, exercise fans. The same places seem to have community support for healthier eating and lifestyles. And then there are the rural and rust belt communities where fitness (real fitness, not a half hour at Orange Theory or twice a week at Yoga) is an almost foreign concept. Where pushing into momentary physical discomfort for a long term benefit is laughed about and minimized.

I would guess that where you live and the kind of people who surround you have profound effects on your personal perception of what even constitutes true fitness. My advice for people living in exercise deserts, and in places where traditional American diets prevail, is to pack up, sell your house and move to someplace far healthier and then change your own perception about what you can accomplish to improve and preserve your health. It's a hell of a lot more practical than staying put and complaining about being tired, cranky, fat and unmotivated.

Cruel advice? Maybe. But would you take the advice if the majority of the last 20 to 30 years of your own life were much, much better than they would otherwise be?  I would.

Just back from morning swim practice. 3,000 yards knocked out by 8:30 am. Already planning on that long afternoon walk.... What's on your agenda?