Jen. The choreographer for Zach's production of "Christmas Carol."
Lighting? Crappy. All available, top lit, florescent fixtures from the 1970's positioned three stories up in the black ceiling. Exposure? Super-crappy. I needed f1.4 at 1/250th with ISO 4000 to get a useable image (faster shutter speed needed for moving parts!). Color? Ultimately bad. Jangly greenish florescent color in older fixtures with loud ballasts that caused random but frequent banding and exposure swings from frame to frame.
With all the things lined up against this shot why did I want to shoot it and why am I happy to show it here? I wanted to shoot it to get a different documentation of an early rehearsal in the short life of a big musical production. I wanted to see just how much I could squeeze out of a Fuji X-H1 with a 56mm f`1.2 mounted on it. And I wanted to see how close I could get the color to something pleasing from a grand soup of stinky color.
Why am I happy to show it here? Because I love Jen's gesture. I love humorous effect of the bodies flying out of frame in the top two corners. I love the bedding textures and I love the objects sliding off into focus oblivion on the far, back wall. So, I'm just sharing an image from what Ming Thein would call, "The Edge of the Envelope."
It's hard to believe that 2019 is almost over! It's been a tumultuous year for me. I spent the first five months of the year helping my father handle dementia and a steady physical decline. I took care of all his financial affairs, kept him current everywhere, got him to all doctor appointments, took afternoons off to go to San Antonio to get him to his barber for hair cuts (even at 91 he wanted to look "proper."). Spent all the holidays and Sundays with him and then lost him at the end of May.
I've spent the rest of the year handling his estate which felt like deja vu since I'd done the same for my mother's estate the year before. Needless to say my photography (both kinds: commercial and personal) certainly took a back seat all year long. If I'm truthful with myself it was really the last 18 months that I felt sidelined. I'm even a bit amazed that I was able to keep the blog going along.
But slowly, and with stops and starts, I've been building back my interest and my intention to do photography both for a living and as my passion. This year I booked and completed a mere 50 jobs or assignments for clients. About half the number (or less) than I shoot in a more typical year. It's reflected in the billing and it's reflected in the amount of free time I know have to sit and wonder how so much slipped by so quickly.
So, I have a job booked for tomorrow, in the afternoon. I'm working with the in-house marketing team at a financial services company to photograph one of their top tier customers at the company's headquarters in a new building in downtown Austin. We've got four hours booked which should be more than enough time to get a nice range of environmental portraits done. And maybe a more formal shot or two as well.
The marketing people really like the style I've been doing over the last few years of having the subject well lit and in focus while letting the background quickly slide out of focus down long open spaces. I've started placing objects like chairs and taller furniture off in the background specifically with the idea of having the objects go completely out of focus while adding soft shapes and colors in what might otherwise be a bland expanse of background.
There are two critical lighting tools but both are light and easy to pack. One is a flash and flash trigger combination which, in conjunction with a nice, soft, white umbrella will add direction and a clean color rendering for my main subject. The second is an arm that holds a collapsible reflector to a light stand. I use this to float a diffuser or reflector over the head of my subject in order to block any existing top light that might be littering the scene on location. This helps to kill bad color casts and negates the effects of an unwanted, direct light coming in from a direction that's counterproductive to my main lighting design. That's pretty much all I'm packing as far as lighting goes. Maybe I'll stick an extra shoe mount flash in the case to use if I need some sort of additional fill light.
The style depends on getting the background far enough out of focus to cut out the clutter and busy-ness of most spaces while having a very sharply articulated subject in the foreground. Older lenses weren't always sharp enough wide open to be used at or near fully open apertures for this kind of work but the lenses I plan on using tomorrow have been tested and, even at f1.4, whatever is in focus is sharp and detailed.
I'm packing into a new Think Tank Airport Security roller case. I'm bringing two Lumix S1 bodies (chosen because I want to shoot RAW but don't want the burden of files that are 4X larger, like those I get out of the S1Rs. The lenses I intend to use are the 50mm and 85mm but I'm bringing along the 35mm for shots that work in compositionally in tighter spaces, as well as the 24-105mm kit lens; just in case I either need more reach or everything goes to hell with all the primes and I need to use the kit lens as a back-up.
So, two S1s with battery grips attached. Two XQD 128 GB cards (one in each camera), a couple of V90 SD cards for back-up files, the four lenses (Sigma 35mm and 85mm Art lenses, 50mm f1.4 S Pro Lumix lens and the Lumix kit lens) a couple of flashes with radio triggers and the three light stands, an umbrella and a circular diffuser.
Everything fits in one rolling case and one stand bag so there's no need for the big cart or extra baggage.
It's the last job of the year and I'm trying to anticipate everything I'll need to do to make good art on location. It should be a satisfying way to end a year of personal turmoil, loss and too much responsibility...
I can't think of anything else I need to pack beyond a good attitude and a smile.
I'm not ready to give up on this profession. Not by a long shot. Let's see what we can do in 2020!