2.27.2020

How will the stock market plunge affect photographers in the near term; in 2020?


I was packing my bags for a shoot tomorrow that we're booked to do for a law firm located in the downtown area, when I stopped for a few minutes to look at the financial news on my computer. I noticed that the stock market (the Dow Jones Industrial Average) has dropped nearly 13% this week, effectively wiping out all the gains for this year and much more. The short term retreat of the market is mostly because of the widespread fear/logic that the coronavirus will affect enormous numbers of suppliers based in China and that the short fall of assembled goods, commodities and other cogs that drive industry will be in short supply around the world, which will hamper businesses in every corner of the globe.

As the virus spreads through big markets like the E.U. and north America there is also the realization that fears of the pandemic will cause consumers to snap wallets shut and shelter at home, away from bars, restaurants, shopping malls and events. Travel will be curtailed and the hospitality industry will directly suffer. The slowdown of all the consumer and B-to-B businesses will mean fewer assignments for photographers and lower marketing budgets for everyone.

So, I guess one thing we can expect is a retardation of business engagements and more re-use of old stock imagery by clients. But this slowdown will also have a negative effect on all those folks who like to buy stuff or need to buy necessities; like cameras and lenses. It's true that many of the cameras and lenses we want to buy are still made in Japan but I'm guessing that the vast majority of Japanese branded cameras and lenses are now made and/or assembled in China and neighboring countries. More or less the epicenter of the virus outbreak...

Even in the cases where our favorite products are made in Japan the tsunami a few years ago made it painfully evident that the supply chains for nearly ever electronic product run through China; be it the raw materials, or the tiny resistors that fit on critical circuit boards, the shortage of one part delays an entire shipment and radically disrupts the sales cycle, and plays havoc with consumer demands. 

My take on the equipment side of this new crisis is this: if you are planning a purchase and the product is already on retailer's shelves you may be smart to buy it now because it may be that when supplies on hand dry up getting the next batch into the system might be dramatically delayed. 

Looks like the bubble we've all been watching on Wall St. is in the slow motion beginnings of a wild and scary pop. Guess all we can do is hunker down, try to figure out where the bottom might be and get ready to drop all those bucks we saved up by not buying Leica and Hasselblad gear, or sparkly Bentley automobiles, into equities as they bottom out. If history repeats then we'll all ride the up cycle back to happiness. If history has been permanently disrupted (does happen from time to time) then I hope you've been buying real leather camera straps because I'll be posting a good recipe that uses them to make soup....





A quick after action report on a hybrid shoot with a couple of Lumix S1 cameras. It seems we have a couple of the only good ones out there....sigh. (Sarcasm alert).

Scenes from the play: "Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch." 

Last week I tried to show that most of the pundits on the web are not accurate when they pronounce: deal killer! deal killer! deal killer! about the Lumix S1 cameras, arguing (incorrectly) that continuous AF doesn't work with video. I even supplied video which showed the camera I was using locked in tight on a person we were interviewing. But facts don't seem to matter much anymore...

 (added: Feb. 28: Hey, how about all you folks who are having trouble getting a state-of-the-art camera to focus correctly read the instructions first so you know WTF you are actually doing when you shoot?
Here: https://www.panasonic.com/content/dam/Panasonic/Global/Learn-More/lumix-af-guidebook/LUMIX_AF_Guidebook_S1R_S1_Sep_19.pdf  Read up! I know, I know; reading is sooo hard and that many pages with pictures on every page is so long.. and you shouldn't have to know anything to use a camera just like the professionals do...) TSDR? 

Ignoring the negative propaganda of the online faux reviewers entirely I took the same cameras, along with several really good lenses, along with me to make marketing, dress rehearsal photographs and also video content for a new play that my dear friend, Emmy award winner, Allen Robertson wrote, scored and is currently directing at Zach Theatre. The play was great. I laughed, cried and fogged up my glasses.

But I also used the Lumix S1 cameras under tricky conditions to make both photographs and video; not for my hobby, but for an actual client who depends on the quality of my content creation for most of the marketing they do for their productions. The Theatre is a non-profit enterprise with many employees and an operating budget that depends on ticket sales and solid performances; not just from the actors and crew but also from the marketing team and marketing vendors like me. In other words while some people on the web show tests of cameras done in bright sun, with fake models and lots of time to fine tune, or add light, the tests that I tend to show and write about are done in situations with no time or resources for re-do's if I screw something up. And no opportunity for me to tweak light levels, to modify poses or, really, to do anything but document. And the ramifications of failure ripple through the workflow of the theater and affect, well, everyone in the organization. 

So, when I use a camera I am not subjecting it to the cotton candy happiness of a best case scenario or a set-up situation meant to show a camera (or lens) in its best light. I'm mostly using cameras near the ragged edge of what's possible. It's surely a better way to understand just what a camera is capable of in real use. In bright sun, with a cute model in a bikini, or in a bold and colorful landscape, just about any camera out on the market in equivalent categories will do pretty much the same great job. It's when things aren't optimum that differences show. 

This is what we might call an "after-action" report based on the way I used my two Lumix S1 cameras and assorted lenses from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. last Friday. I documented two runs of the play I mentioned to produce a collection of marketing photographs and then applied the camera, with the V-Log upgrade, to making promotional videos for the show without the crutch of additional lighting (just stage lights). We had a lot to do in a short amount of time so I worked fast and without more than two or three takes per set-up, max. 

The first run through of the play was done without an audience. It was a polished tech rehearsal and even without an audience it's a challenging hour of shooting. Here are the obstacles: 1. This was on our smallest stage which is a theater in the round. That means action happens in 360 degrees. You have to try and intuit which way the actors will be facing in each dramatic (photo-worthy) situation. I had help from crack lighting designer, Austin Brown, who has been hands on with the production from the minute they moved from the rehearsal stage to the studio. He cued me to the locations I needed to be in with enough time for me to get in place. 2. The ceiling, walls and entry doors are all black. Matte black. The lighting is sparser and less powerful than the array of stage lights the theater has "on tap" in the big, shiny-new MainStage. 3. This play is made especially for kids (but with appeal for adults) and the action moves very quickly. If you aren't ready and poised to shoot you'll miss a lot of stuff.

I chose to use two identical cameras so I could mirror color and exposure settings between the two. I put the new Panasonic 24-70mm f2.8 S Pro lens on one body and the 70-200mm f4.0 S Pro on the other. I used both lenses wide open, whenever possible. A typical exposure setting was ISO 3200, S.S. 1/160th, Aperture f4.0. I shot raw because this play has lots of different color gels in play for the lighting and I wanted the luxury (and certainty) of being able to fine tune after the fact. 

When you walk in cold it takes a few minutes to really understand the feel of the production, the physical quirks of the actors and the general balance of the lighting. After that you pretty much go on autopilot and start looking only at content, gesture and expression.

I used an AF mode on the camera that's like a single point mode but adds a bit of smart slop space around the chosen AF square. It's a tenacious setting. I shoot these plays mostly in S-AF because I don't want to lock on and then have the camera shift focus unintentionally. Even in this low light, with moving targets and a moving photographer my hit rate for AF was about 95%. When I edited out photographs it was mostly because the timing was wrong or an actor blinked or my composition was off. Usually it's the timing. The hit rate was easily as good (or better) than anything I had gotten in previous shoots with cameras like the Sony A7R2 or the Nikon D810s. 

After we broke for a quick lunch we took a deep, collective breath and got ready for the second run through which had an invited audience. Usually far fewer people show up for invited performances in the early afternoons during a work week. Allen's work (and Allen) is so admired that the house soon filled up to near capacity. I had only 180 degrees of the back row in which to shoot and move. The audience pushed the performances up to 11 out of 10 and I captured even better material in the second go around. 

When the play ended things started to get trickier. We wanted to keep about half of the audience for a quick section of our video. Two of the actors would lead the audience is a dancing/singing routine with the most popular song from the show. I needed to switch my brain from photographer to videographer/director in five minutes or less. 

I had staged a Manfrotto video tripod just off the entry door. The tripod was fitted with a wheeled dolly so I could move it around for shots and place it quickly for lock down shots. I had an audio interface on the camera and I had the sound engineer for the show drop a long XLR cable to camera position so we could get a music feed directly into camera to make post processing easier. 

It's important to understand that the line coming off most professional sound boards is a line level output rather than a mic level output. You'll need an interface of some sort if you are bringing the feed into the camera's microphone plug. The S1 allows you to set the difference in a camera menu but most cameras do not. Also, the XLR adapter from Panasonic for the GH5 and the S1 cameras also provides switches for each channel to allow for mic or line.

The two actors; young women from Zach's Pre Professional School, led the (enthusiastic) crowd through three rounds of song and motion while I rolled camera and panned through and across the audience. I used continuous AF in the "tracking" mode to maintain focus on the closest actor and it locked in like a dog with a bone and never wavered. No glitches. Happiness under time pressure. 

During our shooting for the rest of the afternoon we did several scenes in which five actors are sitting on a big, black box, all with their backs to each other, singing the theme song for the show. They were very active and moving around a lot. I used the wheeled tripod to do a number of 360 degree moves around them. I used the face detect AF and took advantage of a technique a smart pro who also uses the Lumix S1 cameras showed me. 

He insists that the people who can't make the face C-AF work on the camera aren't playing with a full deck or they haven't read the freakin' manual. You can't just point a camera at a group of people and expect the camera to know where you would the like the focus to reside. Further, as you circle around a group the prominent, camera facing face changes five times!!!!

To use face AF in a situation like this the camera operator must exert a bit of control and give the camera some intelligent direction. Every camera on the market will hesitate as you are moving and the face you had locked is going away while a new one is coming into the frame. You can let the camera decide when and where to focus or you can take charge; like a real videographer. 

In the Panasonic S1 when there are multiple faces in a frame the camera puts boxes around all the faces (or bodies) and prioritizes to the closest face unless you intercede and tell it which face you want in focus. You do this by using one finger to touch the box in which the image of your intended subject is contained, on the rear touch screen. That box will turn green and the AF will stay on that person until such a time as the person turns away and the face detection is forfeited in favor of a more recognizable face. But the bottom line is that not only can you make the decision, if you want success you MUST make the decision. This is not a fault of the camera, this is a reality of film making and a reality of the camera not knowing where you want the focus.

If you want to track only one object which will always stay in the frame you can use focus tracking. But even in focus tracking you'll need to tell the camera which thing in the frame it is that you want the camera to track. You do so by putting the AF square on the (in this case) face of your subject and then touching it on the rear screen to engage. The camera will not automatically find the thing you find most captivating in the frame, agree with you, and then engage without fail. How could it know?

After talking to several photographers I think I understand where they are having issues with C-AF and various cameras. They expect the camera to do all the decision making without their input. They would suggest that one should be able to pull a camera out of a camera bag, point it at a general scene and instantly have the camera lock on to the thing the "photographer" most cherishes in the scene. It might work that way on some cameras but it's certainly not an optimal way of working when confronted with scenes that are more complex that just a centered selfie vlogger. 

To sum up: The cameras worked well for both photography and video. The AF in video locked on securely to anything I asked it to focus on. The 4K, 10 bit files, recorded in camera look fantastic; especially the skin tones. In short, when used as designed the S1 is a remarkably good, all around, hybrid imaging machine. Especially so if used correctly and intelligently. I'd say "read the manual" but most manuals are too sparse. Better to understand what the camera needs in terms of guidance and then figure out how to accurately deliver the input that will make both of you shine.



Amber Quick and Samantha Beam as "mother and daughter" 
in "Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch." 
Below is a crop from the side of the same frame. 



Nicholas Kier as "Mr. Hatch."

2.26.2020

A progress report on the repair of my wayward Panasonic Lumix S1R camera. Good news, bad news. As ever....

Photo: Kriston Woodreaux. In "Every Brilliant Thing" at Zach Theatre.
Shot with a reliable S1, not the jinxed S1R....

You might remember that I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a camera that stopped working two months into its time here and had to be shipped back to Panasonic for repairs. The camera in question was an S1R that I bought as "new" from B&H Photo & Video; an authorized USA dealer. My local store handled the logistics of getting the camera out and back to Panasonic. I was pleased when I got a phone call today, less than two weeks from the time we shipped it out, telling me the camera was ready for pick-up.

I was less pleased when I read the repair report. The repair people replaced the 47 megapixel sensor as well as the main PCB. That's a lot to repair in a two month old camera that's never been subjected to any abuse, weather or even stern looks! But, okay. Panasonic did the repairs quickly and got it back to me quickly. I was willing to believe that we'd dodged a bullet on this whole deal....until I took the body cap off the camera pursuant to putting on a lens and then testing the body.

I never got as far as putting on a lens. There! Right in the middle of the sensor was....wait for it......a big, juicy fingerprint. Yes, on the cover glass of the sensor. Big as day. Didn't need a magnifying glass to see this one!!! I was....shocked, pissed, and in a state of disbelief since the sensor is the whole reason for existence for a digital camera; right? 

Q.C.? Not a chance. No one could have missed that. It was just an atrocious oversight. Have I made a grievous error in embracing the Lumix S1 series of cameras and lenses? I hope not but this ain't the way to sell seasoned pros on a whole new camera line that is supposedly aimed at professional and advanced users. In all the time I've used digital cameras I've never put a fingerprint on a sensor. Neither has anyone at our local repair shop.

How can Panasonic and their representatives make this right? 

What would you expect? How would you handle this?

2.24.2020

Off Topic and much more vital (to me) than anything photographic.....

Studio Dog.

I've been on pins and needles here for the last few weeks. My noble and incredibly brilliant friend/dog/and spiritual guide, Studio Dog (real name to remain anonymous at her request) has been showing signs of distress and, knowing she had been diagnosed with a heart murmur and enlargement of her heart two years ago, I was expecting the worst. She had collapsed on a walk and I carried her home. Her heartbeat has been racing and dysrhythmic and, intermittently, her breathing has been labored. 

Our mobile veterinarian came by last week and seemed grim about Studio Dog's prospects but recommended that we make an appointment with a canine cardiologist to get a better assessment; but even as she suggested this our vet seemed to be preparing us for the worst. 

Belinda and I took Studio Dog in this morning where she had a sonogram and a multi-lead EKG. An enlargement on one side of her heart, along with a congenital valve condition had pushed her into atrial fibrillation. The cardiologist told us we could manage the a fib with several medications which would lower the heart rate and help smooth out her heart rhythm. 

We asked for a forward-looking prognosis and heard that she might have 12 to 18 months more of good quality of life. We were overjoyed. None more so that my son who has a very special bond with our very special dog. 

I had stopped taking jobs in anticipation of a tough row just ahead but the sense of relief I feel this afternoon is almost euphoric. Where would I be without her tough but kind critiques of my various post processing experiments? Who would bark up the incompetent postal carrier? Who would whine about my poor selection skills when it comes to choosing dog food? And who would sit with me on the couch, watching La Dolce Vita while my friends and family roll their eyes?

She's rarely met a camera or lens she didn't like and has no patience for wedding photographers or Tony Northrup's videos. But rather than write her eulogy today I'm thrilled that I'll be running errands and doing favors for her for months to come. Now, if I can only convince her to use part of her allowance to help me buy a couple of Leica lenses.....  But no. Dogs aren't nearly as dense and impractical as me.

Flowers on the Pedestrian Bridge for Valentine's Day.

Sigma fp + 45mm.

Belinda and I were walking around the downtown lake on Valentine's Day and when we were crossing the pedestrian bridge we came across some people who had put up this wreath of flowers and were making photographs of couples posed in the wreath, as a gift. The photos were free. The flowers were provided by a local florist. We both thought it was very sweet.

I walked by the next day with two new friends and the wreath of flowers was still there. It made me happy to be a long time citizen of Austin. Beautiful stuff still seems to happen every day...

I take a camera with me when I walk. But not when I run. 







2.23.2020

The Inspiration of Operational Friction. Why old guys want to go back and shoot film.

The Sigma fp can be a pain in the ass to shoot with...
for the uninitiated. 

Face it, some people just love a challenge. It's why humans invent stuff, create stuff and generally push boundaries when they really don't have to. When things become so easy that the results are eerily predictable people get bored and look for ways to make their processes harder so they can own the virtue of the effort required to do things that are not easily do-able by everyone else. 

Most old guys who profess to "love" photography grew up in the time of film and had to learn all the alchemy of shooting, processing, printing and presenting if they wanted to be successful in the field. I've written before that I think most were drawn to the challenge of having a complex process to learn and master more so than actually having a profound visual message they wanted to share. At one point in history photography they nestled in at a point where the discipline was still difficult to master but not nearly as daunting as the age of large format glass plates, and, having achieved a balance between ease of use and just enough friction photography became the pervasive imaging tool of choice for many. From the 1970's until the turn of the century film became much more consistent, cameras much easier to use, and printing was a mature technology.  But it still took time. And resources. And knowledge.

Make no mistake, the whole process still required people to know a lot and to practice the workflow and processes a lot. There were also far fewer ways to "fix" images that you messed up on in the initial taking stage of photography. You had to get more things right in camera to be proficient. The process for most working photographers, and a great number of ardent amateurs, was still time consuming and daunting, and information was harder to come by that just initiating a Google search or watching a "take me by the hand and explain to me with small words" video tutorials on YouTube. Most people hit the wall when it came to loading film onto reels in total darkness...

Film had to be correctly loaded, meters read, focus adjusted, filters applied for shifting color temperatures and so on. If you wanted faster or slower film you either had to unload and reload your camera or carry along multiple cameras, preloaded with a variety of film types. 

Most people in the general population could not be bothered to either learn the minutia or to spend the money required to participate fully. Most lighting stuff didn't really enjoy the low prices mass production made possible in the first two decades of this century: it was priced more painfully. 

While it's true that, adjusted for inflation, most cameras were equally affordable back in the film days, compared to current digital cameras today, but what people who make those comparisons miss is the sheer cost of film and its attendant processing. It cost money per frame to shoot. Money that seemed then to constantly be in short supply for most. And it required experience not to mess up a developing tank full of latent images by making some critical misstep.

For the last twenty years or so hobbyists and pros alike have been investing their discretionary time and money into digital cameras and all the associated accessories and, until recently, having a blast doing so. They've been hellbent, in the early stages of digital development, in having the pleasure and bragging rights of mastering yet another aspect of photography. Living on the new edge.

Photographers seemed to be having a blast until right up to about three or four years ago at which time I started hearing about many people's enthusiasm for photography waning. After having mastered the "art" of getting images out of the new technology that are, by every measure, profoundly better than what they had been able to get out of film and film cameras they had become bored. (The gods make  bored first those whom they wish to destroy - Virgil...).

It was at the point when "sufficiency" was declared (the idea that current technology and capabilities were more than enough to satisfy most users) that the boredom set in like a fog over the legions of photographers who had just a few years earlier been on the hunt for the "next great thing."  Seems that in the absence of a message, or a subject matter to pursue, the game of "mastery" had run its course and many photographers became victims of a certain ennui. An emptiness about their hobby. A feeling of gloom about their occupation.

I posit that any true art requires a certain degree of friction in its process for us to feel that it is both challenging and worthwhile. Writing a novel comes with a set of challenges that is immune to changing technologies. Yes, you can now dictate your manuscript directly to your computer but the true guts of any novel is the story, the descriptive artistry, and the perseverance to get the whole story out before you run out of time and die; or become too bored and distracted to finish. 

Mastering html or the art of "researching" on the web has, really, nothing to do with the true process of writing the book and telling the story. In this one way writers are naked and alone. There's no machine to blame for the short comings of the final product, no special keyboard that will facilitate the use of better analogies or cleaner word play. But in photography......it's all interwoven. The vision, the technology, the human interface and even the final presentation. If you are subject driven that means you can create things more easily (a good thing) but if you are process or mastery driven it means there is so much less mastery needed; the friction which moves art forward has been remediated. Squashed. Lined with Teflon.

We can't even walk without friction giving us enough purchase to move forward. We couldn't pick up a cup of coffee without the friction between the surface of the skin on our fingers and the sides of a cup. Why would we think we would enjoy our process of mastery more if the one thing that gives us meaning in our proficiency is eliminated? Watch how art dies as the friction of creation is systematically removed. 

Since we adore mastery and we require a certain amount of friction in a process to push us to overcome and master the process the newest flurry of equipment and apps creates a tough choice: Give up and find something new to master or re-introduce enough friction to the process to both challenge ourselves and to create a barrier to easy mastery by the great unwashed. 

(This has nothing to do with the 10%(?) of photographers who are motivated purely by a subject matter they absolutely love or a message they feel duty bound to share with a wider audience. If that's you then don't take any of this personally...).

So now bloggers and writers of a certain age, who've been right there cheerleading the digital takeover all along, now find themselves bored (real challenge gone) and generating less income (all cameras now good enough and on a longer replacement cycle) and  they are looking around to find something different to take the place of that quick digital mastery. As Dash says in the movie, The Incredibles: "When everyone's special then no one is." 

What the pundits and hobbyists are mostly saying is that they want the friction back in their process. They want this photography thing to seem more like work and less like just hanging out and watching shit on TV. I'd even go so far as to say that in the cultures which embrace photography as a popular hobby there is a connection to how people feel valued while engaged in work. In many ways photography is the "work" of people when they are not at work. Some feel at loose ends when they aren't being productive in the moment and photography, with some friction involved, allows them to feel the familiar comfort of appearing productive even during time off, or on vacation. 

Give me back my friction. Give me back the belief that my work matters more than the inherent magic of the camera itself. 

Well, from what I hear and read the cohort of photographers who grew up with film and remember with nostalgia how much "better" and more difficult it was to take pictures back in "the day" are going retro. They are buying up film cameras and lenses to go with them. They are buying whatever film formulations are left as well. And they intend to go back to a time when not everyone did things the way they do now. They intend to reconstruct their feelings of engagement, challenge and even friction by pulling the baseplate off a Leica M film camera and struggling to get the film leader to catch just right. They look forward to a wide and virtuous variety of over-exposures and under-exposures which will only go to prove how difficult (hence rewarding) this revived process truly is. Mostly because it has the requisite amount of friction. 

Inevitably they'll bring with them (for a few months anyway) the energy and focus of new disciples. Film photography will be the "real thing." They'll start proselytizing the wonders of shooting with film, the wonders of advancing film with particular camera brand wind levers, gushing about the smooth focusing of vintage, manual focus lenses, ad infinitum. There will be a run on all the remaining film cameras littering Ebay and a whole cottage industry for writers will emerge as new readers require the guidance of a "film camera expert" to guide them through the wide range of cameras still available.

And then film will finally vanish and we'll have to find some other way to re-introduce enough friction into our lives to revive our feelings of adequacy and worth. 

Can't imagine videographers on a hot search for old 16mm movie cameras but then that's a whole different topic.


Final note. 

No one is immune. The reason I love shooting with the Sigma fp is that it can be a straight up pain in the ass to use. The I.S. is just silly and inconsequential, there's no EVF, it's interesting to hold, etc. but it does serve to make me think more and work more to get photographs I like.... Just so you don't think I hold myself above the fray.

2.20.2020

OT: today was a chilly, exuberant, happy, rainy swim. You should have been here...

Random Boot Shot. Texans love their boots, but no, we don't wear em in the pool. 

When I woke up this morning there was a consistent but light rain falling, nicely blended in with gusty breezes that wiggled trees and shook more water off the leaves. Groggy and sleepy I walked down our long hall to the dining room to check the weather on my phone. I couldn't find my phone so I grabbed one of the MacBook Pros (which seem to be reproducing all over the house) and looked there instead. It was 42 degrees outside and the prediction was for rain and gusty wind through the day. I pulled on a warm sweatshirt, grabbed a medicinal cup of instant coffee, with lots of milk, pulled a towel from the clothes dryer and headed out the door.

The car windows were slathered with rain on the outside and started fogging up inside the minute I got in and closed the door.

I got to the athletic club in plenty of time, changed in the locker room, and stoically began the cold 100 yard walk to the pool. Goggles, swim cap, hand paddles and pull buoy filling my hands the same way groceries do when I run in to the store just to "grab a few things" and resist taking one of the little baskets to put all the stuff in.

Our pool is outside but we heat it with gusto. It was too hot today. The coach told us that it was 83 degrees. A good, competition pool should be around 78 but we've got members in other programs that don't move fast enough to stay warm in the cooler water, so we adjust...

Jimmy was our coach and he loves to author swim practices that are filled with repeating patterns at different distances.

Warm-up started with a 600 yard swim that was set up to be 150 yards freestyle swimming + 50 yards of any other stroke. Then a 400 yard swim that was set up to be four 75 yard freestyle swims interspersed with 25 yards of kicking. Then five 150 yard freestyle swims on a tight interval followed by a 100 yard sculling drill, followed by 4 x 25 sprints. Then back to five 100 yard freestyles followed by the same 100 sculling drill, followed by 4 x 25 yards sprints with no breathing on the way down the lane and two breaths coming back. The pattern repeated and repeated. We ended up knocking out about 3400 yards and we were coasting in to the end when one of our swimmers suggested that we put on fins and do a set of five shooters.

Shooters are 25 yards underwater, pop up at the wall, then swim back. Doesn't sound difficult but at the end of a longish workout I find it a bit challenging to swim five lengths of the pool underwater as part of ten lengths total; all on a 60 second interval. You might too.

The hardest part of the workout is getting from the nice, warm pool, out into the 42 degree wind gusts and making it to the locker rooms without freezing. Ah, thank goodness for hot showers.

In other news, I pressed my Sigma fp into service shooting a portrait in the studio today. It worked well but it's too quiet. My subject didn't know when I was hitting the shutter and when I wasn't. No aural cues. We'll all get used to it. At least the files looked great.

On the Sigma fp front: my Samsung T5, 1 terabyte SSD arrives today so I can start shooting some raw 10 bit video tests first thing tomorrow. I have a suspicion that the drive will fill up quickly. I just checked and the files are about 2,000 mbps... Ouch.

What's the use case? How will "supreme performance" translate to your actual target?

Moving back to the future...

I have a friend who is a battle-scarred corporate videographer and he's always searching for the "perfect" camera. Over the years his idea of what constitutes "perfect" has become more and more of a slippery moving target. And, over the years, his final use of much of his video has transitioned from broadcast and large tradeshow presentations to smaller screens that are less technically demanding.

A few years back we had discussions that circled around whether the Arriflex video cameras were that much better than Red cameras and, if not, what were the tradeoffs between the two. Reds overheated while Arriflexes were frighteningly expensive.

As web video grew and broadcast became ever more specialized the discussion settled in to be about cameras like the Sony FS-7 and its various competitors. Now he's decided that gimbals and constantly moving cameras are all the rage and he's jumped in with both feet; but that's where his hesitation comes in. He remembers the need for all the heavy duty stuff that came along with topflight cameras (really good audio interfaces, SDI connectors, built-in scopes, endless fine adjustments to file parameters, and the really good stuff like 10 bit files and more color information.

But as assignments change and become less resource intensive he's become more and more of a one man band on many projects and putting a giant camera like a Red or a Sony FS7 on a gimbal isn't practical. Now he's looking for the same video gingerbread he's used to but in a package that's easy to float on a gimbal. That means that he, like nearly everyone else, is looking at the Sony A7 series cameras. The final decision on what to use is fraught with compromises.

In still photography we face the same kinds of prejudices. We come from a time when it was really tough to get affordable cameras with more resolution that 24 megapixels so we reflexively reach for the cameras with the most resolution we can buy...even though our use for the cameras as well as the final destination for the files usually argues against that strategy.

We (collectively) are constantly adjusting between our tools and our targets.  Between our irrational consumer demands and the actual needs of the work.

I have always be partial to camera bodies but I'm finally coming around to how much of a difference lenses make versus most improvements in sensor tech. I can see differences between less expensive and less intensively designed lenses and their pricier counterparts. As I spend money on the more expensive options I'm constantly wondering if the results of the better lenses will be obvious in my work when it's viewed on screens of various sizes.

What I'm coming to grips with is that I can see the differences and whether or not these improvements are visible to final clients and audiences I've falling prey to the idea that once you've tasted the good stuff it's hard to trim the budgets and go back to the less expensive models.

Since I shoot a variety of assignments I've convinced myself that while a $2300 50mm f1.4 will not generate results that will make audiences gush when viewing stuff on their iPhones we still do enough lifestyle work that sometimes gets used in large print graphics and that's where the differences in optical quality will show up.

I had coffee with my videographer friend. I think he's had enough success with a Sony A7iii on a gimbal to get comfortable shooting 8 bit video files. For many of his projects the 4K files at any bit depth are overkill. Now he's looking backwards and gauging just how good cameras can be at 1080p. How retro! But, in fact, it makes the entire workflow chain easier for him and faster for his clients.

I guess the important consideration is to match the output of your main device to the demands of your creative target. Get what works for 80% of the workload and plan to rent stuff for that other 20%.

If you have not already bought a larger monitor that does 4 or 5K resolution you might not know how much of an improvement stepping up the quality of lenses can be. I'm stunned when I start comparing material I shot with older lenses against work I'm making with much better lenses. I might need to slow down ( a lot ) on new body acquisition if for no other reason that to free up resources for better "glass."

The new (to me) Panasonic 24-70mm f2.8 Pro S lens is an eye opener for me. I didn't think it would be that much better than my 24-105mm or the lenses I shot with just a few years ago but comparing them on an improved monitor shows so much more different than I expected.

I guess we'd all save time and money if we were more rational in our purchasing. Trying to be ready for everything is that moving target I mentioned. Get everything just right and some one will invent an 8K television that's wall sized. Then we'll all be aiming to deliver into that. It's just a matter of time....


2.18.2020

The Social Contract: We happily agree to meet and talk to each other. Which also means: We will not be checking our phones, our watches or our Google Glasses. Leave all that crap in your car...

Rome. Pre-Smart Phone.

"Smart" Watches. Amazing tech but now responsible for some more erosion of social grace.

Paris on a rainy afternoon in the Fall.

It seems like every new invention and gadget that people like to carry with them, and play with frequently, makes social life and existence within a consumer culture meaner and more coarse. I hated the way the original, simple cellphones allowed people to take phone calls in every inappropriate place imaginable; from nice restaurants to movie theaters, from libraries to quiet parks. No place was immune from the thoughtless intrusion of a gush of loud, insane and highly personal conversations. What made it even worse was that one had to hear one side of the conversation only which added to the disconnection and discomfort. 

Until now my biggest gripe has been with "smart" phones which have invaded every corner of modern life; at least here in Austin. People walk down the sidewalks of downtown like entitled zombies clutching their phones in front of them like social divining rods. They blaze down sidewalks on scooters  seemingly unaware of the pedestrians in front of them, limp hands holding the phone toward their unobservant faces.  The prevalence of the bright shiny phone screens has limited my choice of movie theaters. If I want to see a movie in a theater I have to make sure it plays at the Alamo Drafthouse which expressly and aggressively prohibits illuminated screens, phone calls and texting during movies. If I go elsewhere my focus on a movie is destroyed by a constellation of bright points of light scattered among the selfish audience in front of me.

When I go out and walk with a camera I can peer into cars as they go by at various points in my walk. I see legions of people steering with their knees so they can actively text with their handheld phones and occasionally glance up to make sure they aren't about to impact with anything. They are the same people who sit at the front of the line at traffic lights and need constant horn prompts when the lights turn green. It takes a while, and often their car is the only one making it through the light before it changes...

But iWatches are more surreptitiously destructive (I single out Apple because their stuff actually works well but other brands are equally obnoxious). While smart phones are macro erosive by dint of being obvious and ubiquitous the smart watches serve to erode not the comfort of the group but on a more micro level the shared pleasure of one-on-one social interactions. A watch isn't too obviously distracting and intrusive to everyone in a coffee shop, it just serves to degrade the relationship between two people who, in the past gave each other their full attention in conversation. It's the person without the watch who is the screwee. 

Now, because of FOMA (fear of missing out) any wrist thumping pulse from the watch which notifies the wearer of: an incoming text, a phone call, an e-mail, a calendar reminder, a temperature change, etc. pulls the wearer out of the engagement and creates a series of micro-barriers, robbing his counterpart of the watch wearer's full attention. His commitment to the conversation. His attention. His shared humanity.

Smart watch users seem to become more addicted and obsessed with their watches than with any other piece of personal tech. That may be because it's readily available, the action of looking at the watch derives from the casual look at a traditional (mono-purpose) watch making it seem acceptable, and it offers a potent, distilled dose of the very essence of what makes smart phones addictive = the fiction that constant interruptions means one is not missing out, is still loved, is part of a group. Even though most aspects of both watch and phone are more or less automatic feeds set into motion by the user themself. 

If you were sitting in a coffee shop having a hot beverage with Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, or Picasso, would you interrupt your once in a lifetime moment with a legend to run a 30 second, one lead EKG on yourself? Would you really need to check in every few minutes to see what the sound pressure levels inside the café are? Would that reminder text that your personal butt wipes have now shipped from Dollar Shave really seem so important? A good time to check on your 401K?

People generally have the best of intentions (at least I like to think so) but the erosion of social contracts and the degradation of the niceties that make society worth living in are gradual and, as the lowest common denominator of human being plumbs just how intrusive their use of personal tech can be there is a concomitant acquiescence from other users who subconsciously are empowered by the lowering of the bar to feel no guilt about their own transgressions. 

The smart watch is just the latest way of making personal relationships less rewarding. Social engagements much less fun and business meetings much less effective. Bravo smart watches - helping to bring on the collapse of polite culture since 2012. 

Better rush home and make sure those butt wipes and razor blades aren't stolen out of your mailbox. You've been alerted! Your phone demands answers...

2.17.2020

Testing out a new Lumix 24-70mm f2.8 S Pro lens. Yow.

A view of  the swimming pool at the Carpenter Hotel in Austin, Texas

Lumix S1 + 24-70mm f2.8 handheld at 1/4th second.

I was busy this weekend. Busy mostly relaxing and hanging out with new friends. It's a little strange for me to get a new lens on a Saturday and not open the box till late Sunday afternoon. But, you know, priorities, priorities. I decided to get the Lumix S Pro version of the 24-70mm f2.8 lens instead of the Sigma version, mostly because the Lumix is supposed to be much faster and better at autofocusing than the Lumix, a bit higher performance than the Sigma, and....most importantly....I could have the Lumix lens right away. No waiting list. After using the manual clutch feature and checking out some images I'm pretty happy with my choice. We'll see how it works out for video in the next week or so.

Allergies have been breathtaking (literally and figuratively) this month and I have been walking around with my head in a fog but it didn't deter me from spending a couple of hours walking through Austin, Texas's downtown and trying out the new lens on a high res, S1R body. I'm lazy today so I shot mostly in the Jpeg mode and didn't stray too far from my favorite paths. 

Nothing tumultuous or revelatory to report so far. A very nice lens that seems sharp and mostly artifact and flare free. My only glitch today was a dust bunny on the sensor that I only became aware of in the post processing of the photographs. Here's some samples, be sure to click on the images to make them bigger.....


Yes. It's February and it hit 80 degrees Fahrenheit today... 



focused on the wires in the foreground. Honest.














shot through a glass window...


Inspired by the keen eye of Mr. Rose... In my own backyard; so to speak.

This is a horn sculpture out in front of the Topfer Stage at the Zach Theatre campus.
I've walked by it a million times and never photographed it. 
At either end of the flared horns there are speakers that play
whatever is happening on main stage performances. 
It's kinda cool. 

Shot with the Lumix 24-70mm f2.8 on an S1R.



Fleshing out the high end lens inventory for the Panasonic Lumix S1 series cameras.

Lumix S1R camera + Lumix 24-70mm S Pro f2.8.

I don't think many would argue that one of the most popular lens types for full frame cameras are those featuring the 24-70mm focal length. The sweetener for that kind of lens is getting one with an f2.8 aperture that stays constant through the focal length range. It's a type of zoom that all the camera makers (and some independent lens makers) offer and it's a very useful tool for people who shoot a range of events, on locations, and including a wide-ranging subject matter. 

It's no secret here that my favorite focal length is 50mm so I guess it's no mystery that many of my favorite lenses in every system are clustered around that focal length. Consider my current infatuation with the L-mount cameras from Sigma and Panasonic. If you look into the equipment drawer you'll find the typical "must have" lenses like the 70-200mm and a fast 85mm portrait lens but I think it's revealing that the majority of my purchases include or are close to what is considered "normal." 

Were I looking in from the outside and playing pop psychologist I would probably diagnose myself as being very optically conservative as well as too lazy to master either edge of the lens angle-of-view distribution pattern. No 14mm's here. Nothing longer that 200mm tugging at my heartstrings...

I now have two Panasonic zooms that seem, in many ways, to be redundant. The 24-105mm f4.0 and the 24-70mm f2.8. I look at the 24-70mm f2.8 as the perfect lens to pair with a 70-200mm for theater photography and an all-around toolkit for a photographer who works in many locations but mostly specializes in making images of people. I don't ever want to make environmental portraits at a focal length wider than 24 (actually happier at 50 and above) and the long end of a 70-200mm gives me more than enough isolation and compression for my work. 

The 24-105mm f4.0 (aka: the kit lens) is continuing to reveal itself as a wonderful video lens for quick work (ENG type and basic interviews) and especially work done solo where I need to be able to go in tight and be able to trust the face detection AF to help as a second set of hands. The benefit of the 24-105 when shooting either video or stills with a camera like the Sigma fp is that the lens brings its own powerful image stabilization to the table. The electronic stabilization in the fp works okay with the Sigma 45mm lens but it's not much more than okay. When I use the 24-105mm I can see a big improvement in I.S. which allows me (especially at the wider settings) to use the lens and camera hand held and still get acceptable results. 

To my mind all the contemporary 24-70s across the major brands are very, very good. But when buying into the Lumix S1 system I made a conscious decision to abandon my old ways, born of early career financial constraints, and stop buying "stop gap" or "good enough" or "but it's funky and has character!" equipment. To my mind the Lumix S1 system is only one of two really professional, full frame systems available. That's not to say that Sony, Nikon and Canon cameras and lenses aren't every bit as sharp and as capable of making equally great images, rather I'm saying that you pay more for the Lumix cameras because they are built in a way that should provide a maximum longer term benefit for professional users. More robust bodies. Better thermal management. Better video capabilities. Better handling. And access to some of the very best lenses in the world --- if you are willing to pay for them!

While it's true that Nikon's D6 is a great tool for some professionals, as is the new Canon 1dx2, both of those are aimed directly at sports photographers and are even pricier than the Leica SL2, which, agruably, has even better overall image quality and surprisingly superior video imaging. The Nikon and Canon are very heavy and bulky, and so is the Lumix S1 when paired with a battery grip. The difference is that you can remove the grip on the Lumix cameras to slim them down but can't do the same for the competitors. 

I'm not suggesting that anyone else change systems. If yours does what you need and you like the way it feels and operates, then stay the course and reap the financial benefits of constancy. But if you've cobbled together workable but less than the best systems for decades and are ready to negate various compromises...

But I'm not here to praise the Panasonic cameras or Leica SL2 bodies, I'm writing today to explain what it is about the Lumix 24-70mm f2.8 S Pro lens that cudgeled me into purchasing one, in spite of my already owning (and liking) the 24-105mm.

To set the stage, I once had a prejudice against most zoom lenses. Then I bought a Nikon 28-70mm f2.8 lens which was the predecessor for the future flurry of Nikon 24-70mm lens. It was amazingly sharp and well mannered. At least as good as the handful of Nikon prime lenses I owned at the time. Later, when I plunged into the Panasonic micro four thirds cameras I took a chance and bought the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro lens and was immediately blown away by the sharpness and lack of visual compromises the lens presented. Now, I'm almost predisposed to consider fast, low zoom ratio lenses to be excellent optical performers. When I bought into the full frame Panasonic system I knew I wanted a fast, medium range zoom but having bought the 24-105mm 4.0 in a package I thought I'd take my time and see what became available. I wanted to see how much better or worse the Sigma 24-70mm 2.8 would be and whether it would be close enough to the overall performance of the Panasonic zoom to make me happy and save me $1100 into the bargain.

Then the Sigma lens got delayed (and still is not available for me at my favorite retailers...) and I did more research as to what the differences might be. Early adopters of the Sigma (lucky people on the early lists) were mostly happy with the imaging performance but less happy with the speed and certainty of the continuous AF of the lens on L mount cameras. Users who owned both Lumix S Pro lenses and the Sigma lens found that the dual focus mechanism and the tight integration of DFD technology in the Lumix products made focusing much faster and more certain. Even in C-AF for video the Lumix lenses locked in and maintained focus about as well as most of the top end competitors cameras and lenses in the same class. 

One day I played with the Panasonic 24-70mm lens on an S1R body for the better part of an hour and came away convinced that Panasonic had gone to the wall in engineering and building this S Pro lens model. The specs are almost intimidating: 18 elements in 16 groups. 3 Aspheric elements. 4 Extra Low dispersion (ED) elements. 1 Ultra high refractive index lens. All put together around an 11 blade aperture for beautiful out-of-focus rendering. 

I looked at the test images I was shooting (always wide open), smiled,  and slotted the lens in as a future purchase priority. 

Last week I shot 38 very short video interviews with an S1 body and the 24-105mm. When shooting in desperately low light I quickly hit ISO 6400 and f4.0. I would have been thrilled with another stop of light. The 24-70mm popped back into the front of my mind. I went back to the Panasonic site and started comparing MTF charts ( I know, I know, gear nerds will use any handy justification for their purchases) and was impressed by the luxe product.

On Saturday I was showing a friend around Precision Camera and I asked to see the 24-70mm one more time. The store made me an offer I didn't want to refuse so I bought the lens. It now joins all the other lenses in my collection that cover, or come near, the 50mm focal length. 

The difference with my current purchases is that they are all best in class and uncompromised pieces of equipment which take away any technical/gear excuses I might have had for any failings of my images. 

As I work on my own personal video projects; projects in which speed and flexibility are secondary to the look and feel of the work, I find myself appreciating features that I have already discovered and tested in my other two S Pro lenses; the 50mm f1.4 and the 70-200mm f4.0. Most important is the manual focus clutch that all the S Pro lenses offer (but not available on the 24-105mm...) which allows me to pull the focusing ring back to take advantage of a long through manual focusing ring, complete with great distance markings, that has stops for infinity and closest focus and which makes focusing manually both accurate and repeatable. In concert with the 5 million plus pixel resolution EVF the big MF ring makes manually focusing a breeze. Even without using my Atomos monitor.

The second feature of all the S Pro lenses is more esoteric. I may not yet be sophisticated enough in motion picture production to appreciate it yet. But the lens is designed to reduce focus breathing (change of image size when focusing from near to far, etc.) which many feel is one of the essential differences between cine lenses and consumer photography lenses.

There is one final "feature" that plays to my own pride of ownership and that's the little line of type on the back side of the lens barrel that reads: "Leica Certified." Which a technical representative explained to me as indicating that the lens was at the same quality level as a Leica lens product at the same focal length and that, in some instances, very expensive Leica glass was included in the construction of the lens. Say what you will about Leica's penchant for Ostrich hide M cameras and weird collectibles but you'll get very little push back on the fact that Leica makes many of the very best contemporary lenses you can buy at any price for photography and motion picture production.

In some senses, the Leica certification means we can now buy Leica quality, and a certain sought after "look" to our images, but at half or less than the previous price of entry. 

I'm looking forward to putting the new 24-70mm f2.8 S Pro through its paces in the next few weeks. I'll keep you apprised of my progress. Thanks. 

So. This is the spot where the big, flashy 
ad would go if I did affiliate advertising!
I do not get free cameras or lenses 
from any camera maker or retail store. 
I buy the stuff I use and I buy or temporarily 
borrow (but always return!!!) the stuff
I write about. But lately.... I mostly buy 
it if I'm interested in a product or 
ignore it entirely if I have no need or desire for it. 

Waiting for my offer from a major camera 
company which would have to include 
a Bentley company car with platinum 
wheel covers...

2.16.2020

Looking ahead. Photography settles back into a fathomable groove.


We're only human. I'm only human. We tend to look at information coming in from all sides and then...panic. Over the course of the last year I've read that many bloggers have seen their readership and incomes drop precipitously over the last few years. I've read over and over again that interchangeable lens camera sales are plunging ever lower. I read that everyone (meaning potential clients) is more than happy enough with photographs that spring from the latest iPhones. I hear from photographers (about whose marketing and skill sets I know very little) announce that all commissioned work is drying up and Armageddon is approaching our industry like a cyclone bomb of economic doom.

What's a person trying to reconcile data points to do?

I'm falling back on anecdotal evidence. Business in my little geographic niche seems to have picked up quite well after the holidays and future dates are being booked for events and advertising projects. Local friends are back at work after a lackluster Fall season.

I have a suspicion that a partial explanation for the business wobbles has to do with the nature of advertising and marketing. It seems that everyone wants to get advertising for free. Photographers seem to think that exposure on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is all that's required to grow a business and generate queries that lead to jobs. For many social media is their total marketing strategy.

Being older, and old school, I have a different point of view. While I think one needs to select social media that is appropriate for them (and constantly test it) it's business suicide to abandon all the traditional media. Targeted traditional media has a strong place in the overall combination of customer facing communications and the fact is that businesses still need to spend money for physical direct mail and placed advertising to be successful in regional and smaller markets.

Why?

"Free" social media is saturated. Amazingly oversaturated. There are millions (billions) of people vying for attention across the platforms and even if one builds an impressive list of followers (quantity) the eyes on your material are not necessarily the target market that wants to buy any photography at all (quality). They may visit a platform like Instagram just to see what other people are producing and how it stacks up to their own work. They may be there for entertainment but a tiny, tiny percentage of them are qualified buyers of creative content.

I write this blog (God only knows why.....) and it's been up for over ten years. It's got thousands of posts to read and at least ten thousand images to look through, but I can quickly point out that no client or client type has ever landed on the blog site, evaluated the work, and proffered either a job or even a chance to bid. No, the constituency I seem to be writing for is other photographers. Competitors, hobbyists, enthusiasts and, of course, the trolls. By the logic of the web, with tens of millions of page views and high Google recognition numbers, I should at least be rolling in job offers or invitations to submit bids. The reality is that what I gain is an audience of peers who, if anything, are absolutely the worst potential customers for the actual work we produce = original photography.

100 written blog posts generate fewer inquiries and action than one, single, direct mailing of a great postcard to 250 targeted, potential and existing clients. Pretty amazing.

I've learned a lot about the real buying habits of the customers I am interested in because I have friends and former co-workers in the advertising industry, and also the corporate event industry. I'm also lucky to have two family members who are well versed in advertising and public relations by dint of having worked for large agencies. From all the conversations I have with friends and family concerning how agencies and corporations use photography and video I've been able to see a "real world" pattern that's different from the assumptions that bounce and echo around the web.

While very young advertising people at very big agencies in several really big cities might spend part of their days surfing through sites like Instagram searching for new talent I was surprised to hear that in the "real world" of advertising, with it's fast paced production schedules and shorter and shorter deadlines, the folks who work at agencies servicing international technology companies are focused on finding "rights managed" stock photography on one of three or four venerable stock agency sites. Rights managed images give the client company a bit of control so the images used in marketing don't show up at trade shows, or run in advertising campaigns that use the same images as their competitors, in the same time frame.

Word on the street is that art buyers and art directors find new photographers from a small subset of photographers who happen to be proactive; who reach out to targeted art buyers and show samples: self-published magazines of images, collections of targeted post cards, etc. Or even enticing e-mail promotions that direct buyers to creative websites, curated with images that target specific industries.

After direct contacts with these art buyers the creative (and marketing savvy) photographers might then garner the art buyers as new followers on sites like Instagram but it would take sheer luck to have an art buyer hit a random creative spirit by chance. Another route to the intersection of a photographer's work and an art buyer on the web is a link provided as a recommendation from one of the art buyer's trusted friends or co-workers.

When Instagram was nascent and posts were less overwhelming in sheer numbers it's possible that some standout people really did get discovered that way which probably led to the groupthink that now permeates the very idea of social marketing but that changed when image postings went from millions to billions. A corollary thought is: How many inhabited planets have we discovered in our galaxy from the billions of planets out there...?

While an active Instagram (or other) account is a net good thing it's probably a lot more valuable as a place to share new work with people you are already acquainted with than as a forward operating base for attracting new and qualified potential clients. It's not the totality of good marketing, just a smaller adjunct of a larger marketing plan. You need more focused vehicles that drive people to these "free" repositories of your work.

It's the same as it was in the 1970's, 1980's, 1990's and the earlier 2000's; what works to drive businesses forward is a mix of advertising materials that all make contributions to an overall strategy. For photographers it can be as easy as highly targeted post cards that are the initial opening gambit. Even mega-super tech companies like Apple and Dell still depend on print advertising, traditional television, and direct mail for a large segment of their marketing. And, if the traditional media didn't pull as well as their percentage of the overall spend, you can rest assured that the experts in data analysis at each of the companies would pull the dollars from those budgets and immediately put them somewhere else.

I hate to say it but you need to think like a major consumer tech company such as Apple to maximize your outreach to potential buyers. You target the customers with needs that correspond to the features of your products, invite them to investigate, make compelling ads, commercials and direct mail. Bring them into your advertising ecosystem and then work to keep their interest. Only when they have "discovered you" through your hard work in trad. media will the free social media because viable.

When I go through periods in which I'm indifferent to the prospect of work I tend to shy away from spending real $$$ on critical ad stuff and convince myself that a daily post on Instagram, a brilliantly conceived and written blog post, and some sharing on LinkedIn is all it's going to take to get the work pouring in. When it doesn't I, like everyone else, start to blame the horrifying decline of our wonderful industry. But strangely, when I go back to the tenets of traditional marketing (an organic mix of media) the work seems to crawl right back up to at least the baseline we've become comfortable with.

When I am amazingly motivated; enough to go out to some advertising happy hour functions and meet new people face to face, I am immediately struck at how effectively I can promote my work to a new cohort of potential clients. Beats the hell out of getting a few dozen "likes" for my photo of my lunch on Instagram.

A reminder that there really is NO FREE LUNCH to be had. You have to work for your clients---if you want to work for your clients. (See what I did in that last sentence? Cute huh?).

Hope you are having a nice, warm, happy, sunny Sunday out there. It's a beautiful day here in Austin.