The Sigma LCD View Finder, LVF-11, finally showed up. Ordered last year...was it worth it???

Top view of the Sigma fp with the hood/loupe in place.

You are probably aware that the Sigma fp camera has no EVF, no optical finder and its operation depends entirely on your ability to see and engage with the rear screen of the camera. A screen that neither tilts nor swings nor facilitates narcissistic selfies. If you really intend to use this camera in bright sunlight, or you need a magnified view with which to fine focus you'll need to find some sort of magnifying loupe to both block out extraneous light and also to magnify the information on the screen. 

Okay; I get it. I knew about these limitations when I bought the camera, but I wasn't too worried because the demo version I saw had a nice view finder loupe on it and the view looked good. Little did I know that these Sigma LVF-11 hoods, made expressly for this camera, would be completely unattainable in the U.S.A. for the last six months. In the interim I bought several stop gap products, one of which worked well enough and one which was a waste of about $100. 
this "stop gap" loupe was only $59 and has a feature I wish the Sigma loupe shared. The body of the loupe is hinged so I can swing the magnifier lens up and view the rear screen directly. The mounting hardware worked to position the whole apparatus in the right place and the buttons along the back/bottom of the camera were still accessible. But....the finder construction isn't quite strong enough to ensure a tight fit with the back screen and I would get a bit of light coming in from the top where the whole melange tended to gap. If you aren't picky and just need a decent loupe for sunny days this might serve you pretty well.... It's all plastic and I have trepidation about the mounting plate integrity.

The other device was a Hoodman loupe but there was no elegant way to mount it to my Sigma fp so I finally gave up on it. 

The Sigma loupe gets a lot of things right. The mounting plate on the bottom is stout and sturdy and attaches with a tripod socket and a separate positioning pin which means there's none of the dreaded "plate twist" which plagues the cheaper finders. I like the 3/8th inch tripod hole because it makes me feel so -- European... Once the loupe is mounted you'll have to take the whole thing off the camera if you want to view the LCD screen directly. Too bad we don't have a hinged design... On the other hand that probably makes the Sigma LVF-11 sturdier and less flex-y. 

The loupe extends very far back from the camera and it's awkward to carry around; especially with a big, fat, heavy lens mounted on the front of the camera. If you are working on a set it obviously no problem but if you are out doing art or shooting in the street you will have just traded away even the pretense of discretion and low profile photography. 

these buttons are spring-loaded extension buttons that engage the buttons on the camera. 
They worked fine, let the loupe huddle up to the camera better, and didn't give me 
any problems on my long test evaluation.

The finder optics come with a  protective cap that fits snuggly and is tethered 
to the body of the Loupe. It fits TOO snuggly and is a bear to take off if you
push it on too tight.

The actual optics of the loupe are very sharp and clear and the finder magnification is 2.5X. The image through the eyepiece is huge but there is one problem: if you wear glasses there's no way to see the actual edges of the frame. This is not a "high eye point" finder. You'll even be moving your naked eye from edge to edge to get in all the information. I guess the only way around this would have been to either make the finder with less magnification or to have increased the lens-to-screen distance more. The way it exists now might be the most practical compromise between the two. 

The finder optics are adjustable. You can use the ring surrounding the eyepiece to focus the whole system onto the screen. The "diopter" settings are marked but hard to see at first since they sit on the body of the optics, just forward of the large, knurled focusing ring, in a little channel next to the body of the finder. 

If I use this set up for actual work-work I'll invest in about a one inch strip of black gaffer's tape, adjust the eyepiece exactly for my vision and slap the tape on to lock it down. If you wear the camera on a strap and walk around the lake with it the knurled ring will probably contact your clothes and change its setting, if you forgo the tape...

With a hand grip attached to the tripod mount under the camera the whole jumble of gear is quite handhold-able but I don't think it's an optimum way to use the camera. It's just not a run-and-gun piece of video gear. Mostly because its reason for existence, in my mind, is its ability to shoot .dng/raw video. But if you are shooting 10 or 12 bit raw video you'll find that image stabilization --from the camera's electronic set up or the in-lens I.S.---is not available. Once you take I.S. out of the mix you are more or less screwed and consigned to a tripod, gimbal or monopod. I'm steady enough to take good stills without stabilization in most situations but video is a whole different animal. A little shake goes a long way...

So, is this loupe worth $292 and six months of nail biting anticipation. Part of me says, "No fucking way." I think they should have included it in a basic package with the camera. $1900 for a naked brick of a camera is already a big "ask", to add another $300 bucks to make it a workable tool for shooting in exterior lighting seems....presumptuous.

On the other hand, I spent the afternoon shooting various video clips to test not only the finder but also to see how the .mov movie modes worked. I found that shooting 4K in the All-I format at 200 Mb/s was actually really great. And being able to use the rig just like an old Super-8 film camera (at eye level) was a nice throwback. In a week or two I'll probably get over the cost of the accessory as long as I'm really enjoying what I get out of the camera. And I have to say that it's a much better viewing experience than trying to shade the camera screen with one hand while shooting; just to see what I get.

With the loupe mounted in place it's an unusual look for the camera and totally messes up its low profile appearance as a still photography camera. But as a quirky and powerful video tool the loupe is fine. 

After an afternoon messing with the diopter adjuster and just getting used to the handling I was happy/comfortable/at home grabbing a Panasonic S1 and shooting video with solid I.S., a great EVF and instant access to the rear screen. But I like the video files from the Sigma fp just a little bit better. 

It's always this way; a compromise between quality and operational ease...

Yeah. Sure. I've got an Instagram account. Don't you?


Added: If you want VSL readers to know about your own Instagram stuff you are welcome to post the info in the comments. Might discover new stuff..... Best, Kirk


A quick post about the nuts and bolts of yesterday's shoot. How good is a used, $500 all-in-one camera?

this business was operating in Austin for over 50 years.
It is now permanently closed. 

Hi Everyone. We're in high spirits here as I've devised a way to have coffee with a friend-at-a-time. Trianon Coffee is open for take out and across the parking lot is a long, unused, tree shaded line of picnic tables. We get our individual coffees and then head to the table. First arrival stakes out the prime position and then "guest" gets to pick his choice of seating locations in the 8-10 foot range. It's outdoors, which is healthier, and the space is currently not used by anyone else. I loved being able to sit and try to sort out the world's problems together with my good friend, James, today. Made me feel like we're making some progress... Masks at the ready and bottles of hand sanitizer spray in shirt pockets. 

Yesterday I had an absolutely delightful time documenting fresh art in the downtown area. Go see yesterday's post if you haven't already. Some of the graffiti and new art is wonderful.

I wanted to write a quick post today to talk about the camera I decided to use yesterday. It felt like a nutty kind of selection but I think it was the perfect camera for that particular project. The color was right on the money and the lens/sensor combo was plenty sharp. The camera I took was the recently acquired Panasonic FZ2500. I decided on it because it's a convenient video tool and has built-in neutral density filters. I ended up not shooting any video but I did use the 1/4 ND in some sun-drenched locations. If you take a look at those photos and the ones here you'll see that the camera and lens perform very, very well. No problems with any lack of sharpness or detail. 

The camera was purchased used from the folks at Precision Camera, here in Austin, for about $500. It came to me in mint condition and it's as good as I remember. (I owned one for about a year; purchased when they first hit the market some three or four years ago). 

There is an oft-repeated rumor that the camera model has a soft lens, particularly at the long end, so I was anxious to test that out for myself on this unit. I shot mostly wide open yesterday and depended on neutral density and high shutter speeds to compensate. I did this for two reasons: 1. With a small, high density sensor, the wider the aperture the less sharpness gets robbed due to diffraction (bending light rays is mind bending...) and, 2. If the lens has an issue with low sharpness or low detail that should make itself known most obviously at the wide open aperture where lenses are less well corrected. 

You can look for yourself by clicking on these images and you'll see what I saw at 3200 pixels wide. There may be some mushiness introduced by Blogger Compression but I don't think it's that much. 

Different cameras do different things well and I think this camera does video well and also has a great zoom range; in fact, some of the images are shot from across a four lane street --- but I can't tell in the finals. At a certain point you'll have to pay more attention to what I write about sharpness here than what you might see on your monitors or phones just because it's different when you can compare and see stuff at full resolution on a 5K monitor. For $500 this camera is, to me, a steal. Never should have sold the last one. YMMV.
An Austin favorite for decades, now also out of business. 

Just settling in for a week of writing proposals.

Helped Belinda paint the back porch last week. Love the new look.
Adirondack chairs for the back yard now arrived and thoroughly enjoyed. 

No new cameras to write about. Oh well. No real loss. 


Heading downtown to document an onslaught of ART in progress. Fascinated by pure creative energy in the midst of crisis.

Told as an action/adventure story...

I'd heard vague rumors that artists had descended on Austin's post apocalyptic, Sixth Street bar district to create artwork on the ugly and repressive looking plywood and particle boards that were nailed across the doors and windows of Austin's favorite watering holes. Throwing all caution to the wind I striped my face with camo stick, put on my rugged 5.11 outer wear, put all kinds of PPE (knives, pepper spray, credit cards, fake NRA membership card, hand sanitizer, and even some sunscreen, into my cargo pockets. I didn't want to be identified by any of the 160,000 surveillance cameras that festoon the downtown sectors so I used not one but two face masks (both camo patterned), my most anonymous sunglasses and my favorite "Courtland Gentry" low profile ball cap. I tried to always cover my face with the bill of the cap when walking by any live cameras.... always trying to maintain cover.

I waited for that moment in the neighborhood when the folks around my H.Q. were distracted, otherwise occupied trying to keep their kids separated from all the random kids from lesser families, or authoratively instructing their yard men and gardeners on the correct length of cut for St. Augustine grass. I exited our house and crawled on my belly through our compound to the passenger side of my car. It was by far the less open and exposed entry point into the vehicle. I had one camera and one trusty lens by my side as well as a complete set of topographical maps of downtown on the seat next to me. I needed to travel light and fast if I was to be successful...

When the time was right, and the nosiest neighbor was instructing his yard man in exactly how many RPMs are optimum for a gas powered mower, I pulled the car out of our driveway and pretended to head toward Trader Joe's. Should a nosy neighbor ask I already had my story well sorted --- I was just running out for more toilet paper and lots more cheap wine. 

I felt the excitement build as I exited my zip code and sensed in my gut the rythmic beat of my car's powerful four cylinder engine, growling around under the hood like a caged tiger. At one point I was certain that the art censors were following me so I performed a seven hour SDR (surveillance detection route) to shake anyone tailing. I was pretty sure I lost them so I headed into downtown and parked, being very careful to back into the parking space in case I needed to exfil at speed. A temporary spasm of anxiety had me clutching the hand sanitizer and planning/visualizing exactly how I'd use it if I got into a rough spot. After all, I was heading into a full-on art infested area and I couldn't count on the group protection of my fellow suburbanites for safety. I'd have to spray aloe and alcohol with precise aim and then run and hope that my evasion skills were enough. It's tough being a photographer these days.

Before leaving the car I reminded myself to keep my head on a swivel and to be ready for anything. To paraphrase some famous secret agent: Go into every situation figuring out your exit strategy and then figure out how to kill I mean photograph, everyone in the room. In a bit of last minute prep I made sure my camera was unlocked and loaded and that I had extra "ammo" by way of my lucky second battery.  How many times had that additional battery saved the day? I can't even count the times that little bit of prep saved the day...

Part of my tactical plan was to approach the live A.O. on foot to take advantage of the natural cover. It was hot and humid and within minutes of entering the concrete jungle which is downtown I was nearly lost and exhausted. But I knew in my heart I had to keep on, had to make that critical documentation, had to satisfy my curiosity about this hive of "artist action." Was it the next wave of resistance? And who was the mastermind behind this rapid fire artwork ?

Standing on the corner of Congress Ave. and Sixth St. I clutched my camera in my sweaty right hand and then peered carefully around the corner of the Bank of America building; looking east down Sixth. I could see action up ahead but I'd forgotten to bring along my up-armored binoculars with the thermal imaging feature and knew I needed to get up close if I was to have any chance of getting the right aim and the right angle to SHOOT the art. Could I get close enough to be in range? Would the windage be an additional problem? 

With my camera clutched in my hand and my head on a swivel I made myself as low profile as I could. I alternately skipped, pivoted or spun around in circles from time to time to disguise the seriousness of my effort --- the real intensity of my mission. Sometimes I whistled or hummed show tunes to myself to seem more...normal. And as I got three or four blocks into the danger zone I could see that all my planning and tactical prowess was going to pay off. People were painting. The artists were on ladders and boxes, brushing and spraying to their heart's content. I blended in like the "Gray Man" of photography...

With shaking hands I set the camera for a color balance that would match "open shade." We'd practiced this scenario so many times in our intensive training that it was almost second nature. All that training and class time paid off. I was able to match the color balance setting to the actual situation while in the field, under extreme duress. It reminded me of those hot afternoons at the "swamp" when we'd practice shifting color balance settings during what we would call a "live fire" training scenario. The gruff and tough old soldier who trained us would fire off bursts of Kodachrome film frames from a battered old Nikon F that had a motor drive so loud that it scared the bejeezus out of us. But the training worked. Now, even confronted by placid and accepting artists, I had no problem finding the right button and making a critical choice. You can only be as good as your training --- and I found that out today. Go color balance!

As I crept along the street, dual masks strapped on so tight I'll have permanent facial creases, and wielding a six foot ruler so I could always measure and maintain an appropriate distance, I made my way warily along the street. Stopping every so often to survey the battlefield city street to search for "hard targets" --- mural art worthy of documentation. Camera in one hand and my six foot ruler shoved through my belt like a broadsword.

After making it up and down both sides of the main street I felt as though I'd taken enough chances for one day so I retreated from the "live zone," the A.O., and made my way back to the relative safety of my vehicle. As I rolled out onto the ground from the passenger's side of my tactical vehicle, now relatively safe in the  driveway, I crawled, in agonizing pain, over sharp gravel and into the safety of my office with no one around me the wiser. 

Mission complete: I was able to get a number of fun images of the art that local artists are creating to bring some life and color to the #post apocalyptic ruins of the Austin bar scene. A section of town destined to become, in perhaps a hundred or a thousand years from now, our Colesium, our Pantheon, our city's Forum. Once lively and active and now shut down possibly forever. A place for busloads of future tourists. See Images below. 

It's wonderful to calm down after a dangerous self-assignment such as this. But another two or three martinis (poured, not spilled) should be enough to both calm my jittery hands and also get me on the other side of writing this silly nonsense. 

Have a camera? Life changing minute by minute? I guess we could document stuff, right? Now if only I could remember which camera I took on this kinetic mission. Might come in handy during the top secret debriefing...

Is now the time to be upgrading gear?

Photo from 1978 taken with an old light fixture, a cheap, used SLR and an ancient
135mm lens. One of my favorites. And I didn't know what the hell I was doing...

thank goodness. 

There are interesting things still happening in video and photography equipment right now. In the middle of the crisis. Canon has just dribbled out more details about their newest semi-pro stills(?) camera, the R5. Right now we only know the video specs but if they don't come with an encyclopedia
of disclaimers we can expect to see a consumer camera that has amazing data throughput. Canon says the new camera will shoot raw, 8K video using the full frame and offers the same performance in 4K. Given that their latest, top end sports camera, the 1DX3 can shoot raw video and generates (a 4K) files that are over 3000 megabytes per second we can assume that the raw data rate for the R5 will be about the same. This is a giant leap over anything from Sony, Panasonic, Nikon or Olympus.

It means that not only is their processor set a generation faster than anything from the competition but that their newest sensors can off load information to the processing engines at equally amazing speeds. With processor performance like this it would also stand to reason that the camera's autofocusing performance won't be limited by processor performance either. Pretty amazing stuff.

I guess this means we should all head over to our favorite Canon dealer's site in put in our pre-orders right now. We wouldn't want to get left behind...

But, putting on the brakes for just a minute, does this really have relevance to photographers who have no interest in video? I'd say yes, no or maybe. If you are making beautiful still images with your current 24 or 46+ megapixel camera it's likely that you'll see no real effect by moving to a new camera like this one; other than the hit to your cash flow (which I'm guessing is taking a bit of a hit right now as it is).

If you have a Canon 5DIV, a Nikon Z6, a Lumix S1 and you can't make good pix this sure isn't going to help. If you don't currently own a camera and have the cash then this may be (maybe) a camera to consider.

You probably know that I love to buy gear and I'm often hypnotized by cutting edge technology but this time feels different to me. Being confined to my home base now for well over a month has given me ample time to make some painful discoveries. To wit: I like some of the images I shot 40 years ago with a point and shoot Canonet camera and Tri-X film better than, well, anything I've shot in the past ten years...at least. I like prints and slides made with 35mm cameras twenty five years ago better than anything I've shot during the following years of my career as a professional.

What it boils down to, I think, is that the art of photography has morphed from something centered around capturing great images into something that's more about acquiring and mastering ever newer digital technology. A big ass dose of FOMO (fear or missing out).

So, 40 and 25 years ago we mastered black and white film and color slide film. While camera models got replaced every five to ten years there was absolutely nothing new that we were required to master. The aperture, shutter speed and ISO dials were all that really mattered. No function buttons to screw around with (and memorize) and no need to make endless choices when what we should be doing is concentrating on getting the picture in front of us.

We spend so much time now trying to get everything perfect that we've lost the ability to be spontaneous, careless, experimental, or to embrace the possibility of failure. We're trying to metaphorically swim a race with life jackets and floaties on. And it sucks and it's stupid.

Early on in digital I tried to master every aspect of the camera's menu only to find myself with one arm down a rabbit hole, both feet in a tar pit and the other hand holding a camera whose battery was rapidly failing. And cameras have only gotten worse and worse.

Oh yeah. The sensors (might) be better. And you can customize the camera anyway you want to but it shouldn't take a half an hour to set up a camera for the way you like to shoot. Turning on and off factory defaults left and right just to get your camera to the point that it's a tenth as usable as a Nikon FM or an Olympus OM1 from decades ago. Cameras that were ready to go as soon as you put a battery and some film in them. And the battery was OPTIONAL.

In our enforced STAY HOME segment I've been watching a lot of movies from the 1950's and 1960's. Great ones like Roman Holiday and La Dolce Vita, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, and even older ones like, Casablanca. The images are riveting and wonderful. Emotional and nuanced. Detailed and pristinely lit. Story telling that's head and shoulders above, visually, just about anything we see now.

But those movie productions were all done quickly, on tight budgets and with gear so primitive that directors of photography working for Netflix and Amazon now couldn't figure out how to make it work even if a producer held a gun to their heads (and it would be one of those guns that never runs out of bullets, like most modern thriller gun play). But the lack of options, the lack of extraneous and seemingly beguiling choices, and the resulting ability to ignore what they couldn't change meant that there was intellectual momentum and hard won craft in the movie making that's disappeared, mostly, from today's fare.

And it's the same in photography. We're so dependent on the special effects provided by post processing and the need, almost like a pacifier, to have every possible (mental) labor saving device on one's camera. Talk about the "nanny state" think about cameras that basically make it impossible to fail on most parameters except the ability to point said camera at the right subject at just the right time.

Photography while wearing a life jacket, a bicycle helmet, a dental guard and the rest covereded in bubble wrap.

So, should we be busy upgrading our gear? No, it's time to admit that if your gear isn't good enough now (presuming you own current stuff from any of the big companies) then the fault is solely with your technique, your laziness or your impossible expectations. I'd say we'd all be better off shedding everything for a while and going into hibernation until the economy restarts and then buying the cast offs from the bleeding edge heroes as they rush to do their own upgrading. 

Me? I just don't care anymore. If someone gave me an extra $10,000 and said "this is extra. go buy anything your heart desires." I'd probably toss it into my brokerage account and go out looking for better coffee. Without access to anything, with no clients anywhere, and with no travel allowed, why do we even bother to try and make images?

I laugh and then cry when I see stupid articles on "ways to make your photography fun during a lockdown." My number one suggestion would be to make sure you are locked in with a bevy of incredibly beautiful models who are highly motivated to work on their portfolios with you. At that point would the camera model matter at all? And would an article about shooting through frilly drapes to get fun landscapes of the parking lot behind your apartment really have any relevance? I thought not.

I can only practice shooting an egg on a white backdrop so many times before it becomes a recipe for a mental health crisis.

So, will we all run to buy the latest cameras? We will even get to use the cameras we already have?

The market bets NO. Sales are down 80% (Y o Y) for interchangeable lens cameras in the US. And that didn't happen all of a sudden. It's been happening for several years. The virus just accelerated the trend.

The underlying reason for the collapse? All the friction and joy and challenge of making great photos left the room to be replaced by the rote learning of post production masturbation. More time in Luminar and Portrait Professional and Capture One and Photoshop. Less time in bars, coffee shops and fabulous locations filled with people and things to really get excited about photographing.

The rest is just an meaningless exercise. And I already get that for free every time I put on my running shoes...

A sad time for art. A very sad time for art. You might have a different opinion - maybe I should hear it.

So, upgrade gear? Not unless you are rich, bored and have too much time on your hands...


Just a print to sum up the end of the week. How I'm feeling in the moment...

Paris Metro, 1986 ©Kirk Tuck. 

Opening another box of prints and looking at past work. Yes, the edge print is real, not digital...

This photo was taken in the early 1990's in my studio on San Marcos St. in east Austin. Renee and I were shooting just for fun and then I was using the images to work on my printing. Before clients beat it out of me I loved making portraits with large pools of dark tones. If I used fill light at all it was in the form of a passive reflector and not a light at all. Most of the time I moved the reflector so far away that I ended up with no detail in the shadows; and that's how I liked my prints. Once I'd logged enough "client hours" I knew I'd have to shoot with more shadow detail. Killing my preferred style slowly, a session at a time.

I used a 90mm-R Summicron on an R series body to make this image and I'm pretty certain I was using Agfapan black and white film at the time. Probably Agfanpan 100 souped in Rodinal developer, diluted 50:1.

I know I printed it on Seagull Portrait paper because this photograph is just a quick copy shot of the actual print and I can tell a toned Seagull print from everything else I've printed on. The copy capture added a warmer, browner tone to it that will make some people think that the paper was Agfa Brovira or Agfa Portriga Rapid but no.

When I look at this image I remember that we had a lot of fun and took a lot of photographs but what it really makes me think about most is how great it was to have such a large studio at the time. I was able to shoot 35mm film at a middling aperture, and with a fairly short telephoto lens, but still able to drop the background nicely out of focus. It's because I could put Renee as far forward from the background as I wanted to.

I mentioned the edge print because everyone whose printing experience only extends to digital probably doesn't even know why photographers printed with the edges of the sprocketed film showing. We did it mostly to prove that we were able to compose without after-the-fact cropping. That we were printing the full and unvarnished content of the negative.

To achieve the effect it was necessary to take a negative holder (and most were machined to fit the exact live area of the negative and NOT the edges) and file it out on all four sides so one could see the edges, and in some cases, the edge print of the film. Digital "artists" copied this idea and made endless actions people could buy in order to translate a physical attribute of analog film production to their more clinical digital images.

The position of the negative in the holder could vary from print session to print session so that now two sessions produced exactly the same edges.

I loved working in the dark room but I find ink jet printers to be less that fun. I still print the occasional ink jet print but always under self-imposed duress. It's not the same. And paying for ink sucks.

Staying in decent shape so we'll be able to haul cameras around again in the hot Summer. If and when the economy re-opens in Texas.

Recent studies show that sustained, aerobic exercise is the only sort of exercise that restores telomere integrity which is associated with retarding aging. Great! So we just hop in the pool and knock out some yardage, right? Well, tragically, all the pools and public swimming areas in Texas are closed down, so no swimming. I guess you could hop in one of the recreational lakes but do you really want to take your chances with drunk Texans and speedboats?

So we've been running. Which works for those crumbly telomeres but isn't nearly as much fun for me as a good swim. 

I've got two routes figured out at the Butler Hike and Bike Trail here in central Austin. One is a three mile loop and the other is a 4.9 mile loop. This morning I was up and on the trail doing the three mile loop by 7:15. I'm  happy to report that I encountered about 15 serious runners and a couple of walkers over the entire 38 minutes I was on the trail. Additionally, we were almost a satire of safe practices. Runners hung close to the right side of the trail leaving ample passing space on the left hand side. People passing called out crisply: "On your left!" as they sped by. That helps with overall situation awareness and prompts people who have a tendency to drift left to course correct.

But with all this running and no swimming I am worried about maintaining strength and muscle mass in my upper body. There are some easy ways to exercise the bigger muscles with my two favorites being planking and push-ups, but lately I've noticed that no matter how much broccoli I eat my biceps are not getting enough workout to maintain good form so I added some weight training. I don't use heavy weights because I don't want to over build mass; I use lighter weights with much higher repititions to gain strength without adding too much bulk that could impede swim function when my access to the pool returns. Big, tight muscles create their own resistance and make swimming more difficult...

The weights I've been using for bicep and tricep "curls" are 10 pounders and I do 50 reps per arm in  the morning, after the run, and then another 50 at the end of the work day. Same with the triceps curls. It's not my favorite way to train but it sure helps keep the weight down and the muscle mass up. Plus, they are cheap and easy to use and you can train with them just about anywhere. 

Finally, with a few velcro straps they make for good light stand stabilizers. Not as handy as a sandbag but almost. 

I'm upping the aerobic stuff to seven days a week, alternating the 3 mile loop and the 4.9 mile loop from day to day. If you are a good walker and want to take a stab at running you might try doing it in stages. Start with a slow run until you are out of breath and need a break. Walk briskly while taking ten deep breaths and then run again until you need to slow down. Repeat this for a week or two and by the end you should be able to run longer continuous distances. I like interval training because I'm inherently lazy and like little breaks. A walk/run three mile loop is a perfect starter distance. Once you can go the full distance without a walking break you can move on to running a bit faster each day. Or you can just enjoy the same run at a comfortable speed. 

Being fat/overweight/obese seems to be a prime indicator for who will die early so you might think of a good running regimen as an investment in staying alive....

A quick note about the Leica 90mm Elmarit I've been playing with. I'm a sucker for test photos that show the full frame and then show a 100% crop. But I'm sloppy about getting an exact crop. Whatever. Here is a quick, early test shot of the armrest of an office chair along with the mandatory crop in. This was shot handheld, wide open at 1/15th of a second using an S1R with its very good image stabilization. I don't know if you can derive anything from the images but I'm convinced the lens is really good. But then, most are. 

A public service announcement: 

I called my doctor today and asked if I should inject or ingest bleach or 
other disinfectants to prevent disease. He contradicted our president and told me that 
this was not a good course of action. That I should under no circumstances
ingest, inhale or inject bleach or any other disinfectant.

I was amazed to hear that doing so would cause permanent damage 
and quite possibly (probably) death. 

Since my doctor is smart, rarely ever wrong, is board certified 
and graduated from medical school I decided to believe him instead 
of listening to advice from the president, whose expertise is in selling
real estate.

If you like the blog I implore you not to use the bleach or disinfectant for anything other 
than cleaning surfaces or getting skid marks out of your tidy whities. 

I need to keep all the readers I have. 



First (legally allowable) outing with the Leica 90mm-R Elmarit lens. A morning trip to Pedernales State Park.

I got an e-mail a few days ago from the Texas State Park folks letting me know that a number of parks were opening back up to the public starting Monday the 20th and I rushed to make a reservation. I checked the weather first. The app predicted that today would be a beautiful Spring morning in central Texas. Coolish temperatures and low humidity, and not a rain cloud in the sky. My reservation was for Pedernales State Park which is about 45 minutes due West of Austin. I stuffed sunscreen, a couple water bottles and some roasted almonds into my little leather backpack and grabbed a Lumix S1R with the Leica 90mm on it. I tossed a Zeiss 50mm into the pack, just in case the 90mm became too claustrophobic. Oh, and I invited Belinda to come along with me.

We hit the park around 9 a.m. and picked up our "no contact" windshield sticker from a board outside the park office and then we headed for the falls. The Park officials have some rules: First, all reservations must be made online and in advance. Second, the entrance to the park is staggered by time slots. We had the 8-11 a.m. slot. We're allowed to be in the park all day until 10 p.m. but we had to be in by 11 a.m. latest. Third, face masks are to be worn at all times. Fourth, everybody has to practice proscribed social distancing. With thousands of acres of fun land to explore, and only about 18 cars per time slot allowed in, the park was a much different place than what we experienced a year ago. We saw very few people and intersected with almost no one. Everyone followed the rules to the letter. 

The 90mm Elmarit R lens is wonderful. Very well behaved and as sharp as a macro lens. While I post my images here at 2800 pixels on the long side I can assure you that at the full resolution of the S1R raw files, and with f-stops set to 5.6 or 8.0, the amount of detail you get in a file is just stunning. The color is neutral and the nano-acuity is off the charts. The lens was just as I remembered it and now I'm keeping an eye open to see what I can pick up in the used markets. I'd like to pick up a 50mm R Summilux (f1.4) and also the 80mm Summilux but I fear the cat is out of the bag among Panasonic S users and the prices are starting to surge up again. Not the worst outcome for me; I can always at least try to practice some financial restraint from time to time....

I didn't bring a tripod or an ND filter so all my water in the shots flows in real time. But that's okay; I was getting a bit bored with the clichéd, smooth water I see in EVERY landscape shot that includes moving water.

We hiked until one p.m. and figured we'd soaked up enough vitamin D, nature and sunlight. I'd shot some test shots to play with and it was starting to heat up going into the afternoon (it's supposed to hit 98 degrees (Fahrenheit) tomorrow afternoon --- not looking forward to that). We exited the park and went to look for lunch. 

When we were younger adults, with meager budgets, we always loved finding a What-a-burger hamburger stand out in the Texas countryside. They started as a Texas chain and we trained ourselves to love their griddled burgers and mustard based condiment philosophy. It was, and probably still is, the only fast food, burger chain where you can order Jalapeño slices as an addition to your burger. We found one just outside of Dripping Springs, Texas today but as it was lunch time and they were only doing drive through, the line of cars was outrageous. We skipped What-a-burger and headed towards home. 

There is a McDonald's just a few miles from our house and when we drove by on the main road we saw that there were only a few cars in line so we stopped there to grab a lunch and take it home. We probably haven't done that in a decade but it was a carefree day and we were enjoying the nostalgia of it all. The food was...okay. But the adventure was fun and relaxing. Next week we may hit Enchanted Rock State Park, if we can get a reservation and the weather is nice. 

And I'll probably bring the 90mm R along in tow. 

Signs everywhere telling you two things:

"Practice Social Distancing."

"Keep an eye out for Diamond Back Rattlesnakes."

got it.