I spent some time a week ago photographing some new material for Esther's Follies. They have a new cast member. She's great!!!

Chelsee J. On a magical apparatus. Part of her performance is assisting with 
Ray Anderson's magic.....

I love photographing theater. Especially good, funny, topical theater. Like the kind I find at Esther's Follies, on Sixth St. in Austin, Texas. I've been photographing for Esther's Follies for a couple of decades and a recent book published about the incredibly talented troupe is filled with my photographs from over the years. https://www.esthersfollies.com

The cast at Esther's Follies does hilarious political satire and comedy (nailing both sides of the aisle) and, for as long as I've been going there a big draw is an irreverent but wonderful magic act by renowned magician (seriously: internationally famous!) Ray Anderson. 

When he does his feats of magic he calls on the services of one of the glamorous cast members to serve as his assistant. Chelsee J. is his able assistant these days. She gets chopped in half, defies gravity, is levitated out of a pool and much more. Since she's a recent recruit I got to make some images of her (Above and Below) along with our regular show documentation. . 

Photo assignments at Esther's are the antithesis of many Zach Theatre shoots. At Zach I mainly shoot in a documentary style during a technical or dress rehearsal (or both). I don't do any lighting and we don't set up shots at the rehearsals (we might do set ups in a separate session....). At Esther's I drop by and set up three or four lights (generally electronic flash mono-lights into generous umbrellas) and we run through fun set-up shots that showcase the current skits, gags, magic, and ample song & dance. 

We give the flashes a real, old fashioned workout; sometimes shooting six or seven hundred shots during an afternoon session. 

Last week I photographed everything with one Lumix S1 camera and the 24-105mm f4.0 Lumix S lens. The combination worked perfectly and the AF never missed a shot. 

I love going back and forth between the theaters. Keeps me from getting rusty, or too complacent with one style or the other. If you come to Austin you owe it to yourself to catch a show at Esther's Follies. Soft-brained liberal or cold-hearted, cruel conservative? Doesn't matter = you'll leave with a big smile on your face, certain that the other side got it worse....

Funny sometimes to go and look at the analytics to see what posts from the past are trending on any particular day. Like one of my favorites from 2011....

From today's walk through downtown and around the lake...

but here is the post from 2011.

I was so much smarter then....

Walking in a soft, Fall rain with a camera and an old lens. Getting wet is part of the process. Makes you appreciate getting warm and dry....

This is the view of downtown from the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge just west of downtown proper. 

We had a lovely Thanksgiving and I hope you did too. But after spending a lot of time socializing it's nice to spend a bit of time doing some walking meditation with a camera. Even if it is raining and a bit chilly. 

Natives like to think of Austin as a first tier city where everything is super-cool and something outrageously fun is always happening, but I'm here to tell you that it was like a ghost town in downtown the day after Thanksgiving. I walked through about two miles of tall buildings and shorter shops and only saw a few dozen people out on the streets. Well, a few dozen in addition to the homeless. 

I did a few assignments earlier in the week which involved people and some lifestyle and I got a lot of use out of my new ├╝ber lenses (the Panasonic S Pro 50mm and the Sigma 85mm Art) but on a walk through a quiet urban environment, wrapped on all sides by a gentle, misting rain, I thought a more subdued and understated lens would fit better. I reached across my chaotic desk and grasped my older 50mm Contax f1.7 lens and put it on the front of the S1R instead.

It's actually a good fit. Literally and figuratively. The cheap adapter seems to do the job just right and the lens is really pretty good at making photographs. Okay when used wide open but much, much better at f4.0 and f5.6. Still, in a side-by-side comparison the Lumix lens is like tech from an advanced civilization. Not that you'd really see much difference looking on a website...

The old, Carl Zeiss lens does one thing much better than the Lumix Pro S, it lightens your walk-around burden and makes the camera/lens package pretty perfectly sized for recreational imaging. For some reason I've warmed up to it on the S1R body more so than I have developed any affection for the Sigma 45mm f2.8. But I'll chalk that up to being more comfortable with a lens I've owned across years and camera systems rather than as a mark against the Sigma.

I didn't have a rain cover for the camera and lens but I tightened up the neckstrap so the camera would sit up under my left arm (I wear the strap on my left shoulder). My arm, in my voluminous hoodie, blocked most of the rain and mist and I also cover the top of the camera with my favorite bandana as an extra layer of protection. I understand that the camera is supposed to be splash resistant but the lens and adapter are bare and bereft of casketing and protective engineering so I'm loathe to take chances. No matter. It barely slows me down. 

I do love these kinds of days. It's one time at which all the dynamic range in the world is largely meaningless as the water in the atmosphere and the close cloud cover render the shadow/highlight ratio as 1:1. You won't really be worried about blowing highlights on a day like today...

Curious to hear if anyone (besides me) took advantage of the open box sale at B&H on the S1R. I paid $3700 for my first one so I couldn't resist dollar cost averaging and paying $1800-something for a second one. We'll see if "open box" is all it's cracked up to sometime in the middle of next week.... I hope that great return policy is still place. Just in case. 

It's a cold and rainy day in Austin, and I guess everywhere. A perfect time to check out the Die Transfer print sale over at Michael Johnston's site: theonlinephotographer.

Here's a link: https://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2019/11/master-dye-transfer-print-sale-one-week-only.html

Michael's artist friend, Ctein (one name only; like "Cher") is a master die transfer print maker and photographer and he's selling off his collection (built over decades of hard work and mastery) of gorgeous prints on Michael's blog. A look through the work is a fun way to spend time on a post-Thanksgiving Friday. Sitting in front of a nice, warm monitor with a hot cup of coffee in your hands while taking in the results of what might have been the most beautiful print process every invented for color photography....now very rare.

Can you say, "collectible"?

I don't want to compete, visually, so I'm tossing up a black and white print here just to stay with my tradition of always putting a visual image in the blog post.

If you don't know Michael Johnston's site; https://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/

You should. He's a great writer and one of the few writers on the web who understands both the art of photography, the art of art, and the art of writing about photographic art. His past experience also makes him a steady hand when it comes to discussing and dissecting cameras and (especially) the lure of lenses. Try his site. It's free. You'll thank me. He's a better writer than me but I hope you'll come back here, at least sporadically, after you've discovered his work, just to see what new camera system I might have changed to in the interim...

Seriously though, a sale of die transfer prints like this, by a master printer, is a rare thing and worth a look. Costs nothing to browse...

Here's my somber photograph from today's walk:

Ooops. I snuck in a second shot. (Below).
Both with a Lumix S1R and the adapted 50mm Carl Zeiss 50mm 1.7