My mini-review of a lens that's been around for years. The Panasonic/Leica 50-200mm f2.8-4.0. It's one of those micro four thirds lenses...

I tried to work with an older, used lens to get both a long reach and adequate sharpness. It was the Panasonic Lumix 45-200mm lens. It was clearly designed for a time in the camera universe when 10 megapixels was hot shit and lens technology followed suit. I guess the designers couldn't imagine a time in which 20 megapixels would be baseline normal. The lens was okay at f8.0 but who wants a slow, single aperture lens?

I shot with the used lens at an outdoor concert on Wednesday and felt the need to return it to my local, bricks-and-mortar retailer this morning. They understood and cheerfully refunded my purchase. I think that was a good move on their part because I was in yesterday dropping $1500 on a much better lens. It's the lens I should have bought in the first place. It's the Panasonic/Leica 50-200mm f2.8-f4.0. 

But before I got all cozy with the 50-200mm I needed to take it out for some exercise and make sure that it's really the improvement I imagined it would be. I put it on the front of a G9 camera body and headed out for a late afternoon walk through a sun-drenched city that was settling in to Friday afternoon with clear, bright skies and high temperatures around 70°. 

My big use for the lens is for all those times when I have to be in a stationary position but need to cover a long range populated with moving actors and singers. My 70-200mm S-Pro lens is right on the cusp of being highly useful when used in an APS-C mode, which gives me an equivalent focal length (compared to full frame cameras) of 300mm. But I found myself consistently wanting the flexibility of that last 100mm of stretch. 

Here's what B&H Photo has to say about the new, 50-200mm f2.8-4.0 lens (a quick and dirty way to cover the specs...):

"the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4 ASPH. POWER O.I.S. Lens from Panasonic is a 100-400mm equivalent zoom designed in collaboration with Leica for Micro Four Thirds cameras. The long reach is complemented by a bright f/2.8-4 maximum aperture range, which benefits working in low-light conditions and also affords control over depth of field for isolating subjects. The optical design incorporates several low dispersion elements, two aspherical elements, and an ultra-high refractive index element to control both chromatic and spherical aberrations for improved clarity and sharpness. A Nano Surface Coating has also been applied to limit flare and ghosting for increased contrast and color fidelity when working in strong lighting conditions.

Benefitting both stills shooting and video recording, a 240 fps high-speed AF motor offers quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance. Also, a POWER Optical Image Stabilizer will compensate for camera shake and works with Panasonic's Dual I.S. and Dual I.S. 2.0 in-camera stabilization functions to minimize the appearance of camera shake. Additionally, the physical design of the lens is dust- and moisture-resistant, as well as freeze-proof, for use in inclement shooting conditions.

With a 100-400mm equivalent focal length range on Micro Four Thirds cameras, this telephoto prime is well suited to working with distant subject matter.
Bright f/2.8-4 maximum aperture range excels when working in difficult lighting conditions and provides increased control over depth of field.
Two ultra extra-low dispersion elements and two extra-low dispersion elements minimize various aberrations in order to produce a high degree of clarity, sharpness, and color accuracy.
Two aspherical elements and one ultra high refractive index element help to reduce distortion and spherical aberrations for improved sharpness and accurate rendering throughout the zoom range.
Nano Surface Coating has been applied to individual elements to reduce flare and ghosting for improved contrast and color neutrality.
POWER Optical Image Stabilizer minimizes the appearance of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting, and also supports the Dual I.S. and Dual I.S. 2.0 functions for increased stabilization performance.
A 240 fps AF motor offers fast, precise, and near-silent focusing performance to benefit both stills shooting and video recording applications.
Splash, dust, and freezeproof design benefits working in inclement weather conditions down to -14°F."
I want it for two reasons. First, I want to use the lens when I do still photography of shows where I can't approach the stage so I can get tighter shots on individual performers. Secondly, I want the additional reach so I can pan with moving performers as they move from one stage that's 50 feet away to another stage that's 70 feet away. But...I want the images to be sharp and the image stabilization to work almost as well as a current gimbal. 

On my walk today I concentrated on objects that I could shoot at the full 400mm extension of the lens while having the aperture set at f4.0. The images above and below are the result. I'm happy with the optical performance of the lens but I need to spend more time tomorrow practicing the manual focusing of the lens. That will be critical for my video use. 

So far, I'm finding the lens to be very sharp; even wide open. At the long end it does not lose sharpness or contrast like so many lesser lenses. If it passes my manual focusing tests I will have found my new, favorite long lens. It will also be part of my traveling kit. 

I learned when I was in Iceland in 2018 just how great the G9 and some of the m4:3 lenses really are. My "small camera" kit now includes the G9 along with the 12-60mm Panasonic/Leica lens and, hopefully, this lens as well. I bring along a GH5 as a back-up/companion body. Both cameras take the same battery and both, obviously, take the same lenses. It's all a match made in heaven.

Browse through the photos and let me know what you think. The adore-or-return test starts tomorrow at sundown on the plaza at Zach Theatre. I'll post more after that. 

From all the way across the wide river.

You've heard about crop circles, how about crop squares?

A quick test shot at the theater. Just making sure it's the right combination for tomorrow's video.

Who is my favorite YouTube personality when it comes to learning technical stuff about video?

 That would be Gerald Undone. He's smart, fun, informed and makes great videos about lots of different technical stuff in which I am keenly interesting. 

Need to know the best way to set up an Atomos Ninja V monitor/recorder? He's on it. 

Want to learn how to dodge common V-Log editing pitfalls? Yeah. Covered. 

A good, deep dive into LED lights for video? Saw it. Liked it and made a buying decision based on the info. Guess what? That light is now one of my favorites.


He won't waste your time with a lot of useless fluff in the openers and he's face paced. Best of all? A table of contents by time. Go straight to what you think you need to know...

That's my recommendation for anyone interested in diving deeper into video. At least it's my recommendation for today.

Disclaimer: I have no association with Mr. Undone. No affiliation whatsoever. Just a fan who has learned a great deal from his content. 

Also, he's Canadian, so there's no drama......


So much work got done in the last two days. Where to start???

Judy Arnold singing at Zach Theatre's "Songs Under the Stars."

We finished up a job for Jaston Williams ( a wonderful stage actor and playwright) yesterday afternoon and I immediately fell into post processing mode. We'd shot in a temporary studio set-up back stage at Zach Theatre's MainStage. But this shoot wasn't done for Zach it was completed for Jaston's own production company. We were just renting space at our favorite theater. 

We spent two days with a gifted make-up artist, a director, a costume designer, a lighting designer and Jaston creating photographs of characters that will appear in a multi-media production of Jaston's next big show. 

But after we finished photographing and my assistant and I wrapped all the gear (a mountain of gear!) getting it all safely back to the studio I needed to re-pack and turn around pretty quickly. I did take time download all the big, juicy raw files from that day's adventure but I was out the door an hour later, heading back to the theater to photograph the evening concert series the theater is calling, "Songs Under the Stars." 

I tossed in a little twist this time. Since I can't physically block the stage from the audience I've been shooting with longer lenses. But the longest lens I have for the Lumix S1 series cameras is the 70-200mm f4.0. In fact, I don't think Panasonic has delivered a longer lens for the S1x system yet! I've been using it on the S1R with the camera in the "teleconverter" mode which is basically a 1.4X crop that yields a 23.5 megapixel file (the full frame file being 47 megapixels...). That at least gives me a 300mm equivalent to work with.

I'm always looking for a longer focal length for these productions and last week I picked up an old, used lens for the micro-four-thirds cameras. It's an early 45-200mm f4.0 - 5.6 Panasonic lens. I covered the concert with the tried and true, full frame camera first but then I stuck the 45-200mm onto a G9 and started to blaze away. Even with dual I.S. it's damn hard to get lots of keepers with a 400mm equivalent lens. I tried a bunch of steadying techniques and even put the rig on a monopod but I wasn't able to get enough satisfyingly sharp images until I got the shutter speed up above 1/200th. And that required me to ramp up the ISO to 6400. Yes. 6400 on a "cropped frame" camera. Astounding. Impossible. Inadvisable. Etc. 

The saving grace of modern cameras is to shoot them in Jpeg mode when you go from the sane settings to the weird and over the top settings. The idea is that the camera and its engineers have probably figured out a better noise reduction technique that I will have done in the post processing of raw files. And I think it worked on about 2 out of every 10 shots. The one above was shot two thirds of stop lower than wide open, and the ISO was 6400. 

The image is certainly usable for social media, etc. but the keeper rate from the lens is far too low. It's partly because the image stabilization in the lens is very much first or second generation while we are now in a time of 8th or 10th generation I.S. I also think that the lens is not really as sharp as I'd like when used at its longest focal length, especially while the lens aperture is at or near its maximum. 

I liked the reach but I decided that we'd need a much higher quality optic to make this bold experiment in the use of smaller sensor cameras work. What better solution for a self-inflicted problem than some immediate retail therapy? I decided I liked shooting at 400mm and I'd like it even better with a faster lens that was also razor sharp wide open. I decided to add a 50-200mm f2.8-4.0 Panasonic/Leica zoom to the studio mix. I picked it up this morning after scouting a location for a third client in far north Austin. Thankfully this lens is currently on sale at $200 off the usual price.

I'll have to put up some comparison photos next Wednesday or Thursday, after I've had a chance to shoot the next show in the same lighting. It should be interesting. 

Pandemic safe meetings. I had a meeting with a client this afternoon to discuss an upcoming project. Since it was with a person I've known for years and years I thought she would be open to a new meeting venue. I proposed that we meet in the vast, central city park (Zilker Park). We each sourced our own coffee and met under the trees there. I brought two lightweight, Adirondack-style chairs with me and we set them up so our legs were in the sun but our faces were shaded by the leaves of a friendly tree. 

It was 61° and bright this afternoon. There were wind gusts but it was, altogether, very pleasant. We chattered away about concept and design of a campaign for the better part of an hour. I took a few notes. At the end we were both relaxed and the thought crossed my mind that perhaps business meetings could produce better results if we did more of them in nature; weather permitting. The chairs were comfortable and there were no fellow associates to interrupt my client. No ringing telephones (we left them in our cars). And across the street we could see the happy-go-lucky younger adults playing rounds of Frisbee golf. Maybe happiness is contagious. At least it felt like it.

With a bit of distancing, some clever chair positioning to make sure we weren't breathing towards one another, and lots and lots of fresh, cool air I think it was easily the safest (quasi-) face-to-face meeting I've had since we learned about Covid-19. I realize it's not optimal for people living in the northern regions but on the odd day when the weather is warmer than it should be it might be a good idea to bundle up a little and go exterior. 

I have a meeting tomorrow morning with an agency creative director, I think we'll try another version of the meeting in the park. Could be a trend.

I have to admit, I wasn't expecting the Apple Watch 6 to be as good as it is! Yes, I got the watch for my birthday and I've been getting up to speed on it, day by day. I haven't been able to get the death ray to work yet but that might not even be a real thing. I'm loving checking my vitals. I love that it tells me when I've got a call and gives me a quick way to ignore said call. And I like changing my watch face throughout the day (currently using Mickey Mouse...). I love the heart rate monitor and I value the loud noise warnings.

My watch was very concerned yesterday since the amplified concert I photographed was way too loud, and lasted for over an hour. I tried and tried to tell the watch that I was definitely using earplugs --- because I always use earplugs at concerts, but the watch wasn't getting that point. Interesting to see though just how much loud sound people willingly subject themselves to. Little wonder so many become hard of hearing as they age...

The only depressing thing about the Watch, both yesterday and today, is how easy it becomes to check the current value of one's investments. Just like the other suggestions, like breathing more, the Watch should admonish me for checking stock prices too often....Especially when values are dropping like rocks.

No big work tomorrow. Just one happy meeting and then a relaxing day. I'm looking forward to chilling out a bit.



A wonderful birthday gift from the universe. A photo job that goes perfectly.

 Singing in the Rain. from a few years back. 

I guess as we go through life we get cynical. Stuff always goes wrong. Even really good projects usually have rough edges or misfires along the way. We get hardened to it. Maybe we start making little excuses as we go along just to blunt the blow when we realize something could have been really good but now, because of little flaws it's all just "good enough." 

Sometimes, when I work on projects with lots of collaborators, lots of moving parts and lots of "gray space" I find myself tensing up and getting ready for some moldy shoe to drop or some critical prop or piece of gear to fail. I steel myself because I'll have to do a work around but also because I realize how good a project could have been if not for.......whatever. 

And even when we figure out how to fix a deal breaking failure we end up against a running clock that occasionally runs out before we can fix whatever it is that needed fixed. The disappointment wears you down. 

But not today. I got to collaborate with one of my favorite Texas playwrights, Jaston Williams. He was one half of the acting and writing team that created "Tuna Texas" and followed up with "Greater Tuna" and most recently, "A Tuna Christmas." All are plays about a mythical (but very real) small town in Texas and the amazing characters that inhabit it. 

Jaston's newest work is still in production so I can't go into detail about it but I can say that he plays a dozen different characters from a small town and he takes a deep dive into each character. 

A few weeks ago his agent from L.A. called to see if I would shoot "portraits" of Jaston in each costume and character. Could I shoot them against white in "Your Richard Avedon" style. 

Today was the first of two shooting days. We rented the main stage at Zach Theatre for the project. We had Jaston as our talent. We also had a genius of a make-up artist, a brilliant costume and prop designer, a bright and very cooperative director and even a videographer shooting behind the scenes. 

I've worked with Jaston on ten or twelve projects in the past. We have a trust and camaraderie that's pretty cool. No one from the producer on down stepped into my creative space to tell me how they wanted the images done. My only brief was: They need to be shot on white and, they need to be full body shots - head to toe.

I got to the theater an hour before everyone arrived so I could set up and take my time to tweak. I was shooting with LED lights and I brought a bunch with me. Two for the background. One main. One fill. One background light. Two accent lights. I worked with a big, soft light as the main light. I like strong, hard shadows on the other side but I put a little bit of soft fill light into the mix. 

We shot five different costume and character changes today. I was blown away by how deeply and authentically Jaston immersed himself in each of the characters. If his character was "old Texas mechanic" he had it down to the accent, the posture and even the weathered skin tone. 

I just finished doing post production for today and was compelled to write this because it's one of my recent jobs in which everything went exactly as it was supposed to. The color and exposures are perfect. The detail from the S1R is breathtaking. The images themselves aren't "work" images; they feel like "art" to me. 

As I've worked through the 860 image I shot today I was trying to dissect the shoot or understand what I might have done to make this work so well. I finally decided that it was because I didn't try too little but I also didn't try too hard. I tried just in the middle of a big comfort zone. 

If every shoot could be like this I'd work seven days a week with a smile on my face.

Usually it's the client who brings most of the roadblocks and unhappy accidents. There's something special about working with a consummate artist. They have a vested interest in my success because we're making art that they'll use to leverage their work. That, and the fact that they respect our process in a way that most commercial clients rarely even understand exists. They understand. 

It was a wonderful way to spend a birthday and I get to go back and finish the project tomorrow. 

I just wanted to thank them for the gift of giving me the space to make art. And to help Jaston make his art. 

I'm guessing that's why a lot of us got into this discipline. Not just to make money but to make beautiful and evocative work. 

Also from "Singing in the Rain." That happy feeling when stuff just works.


It's 42°. Up and out for swim practice. Hope they have the pool heaters on....



One of the least talked about parts of commercial photography is just the logistics of getting everything you need where you need it when you need it.

A trimmed down "follow" camera from Saturday's video shoot. 

 I woke up this morning knowing that I was finished with Saturday's live concert video project. I'd double-checked the video footage from all three cameras we'd shot with then, archived it across a couple of HDs and prepped a third HD for my client to pick up from the studio yesterday. So, all done. Feeling of satisfaction. Stuff taken off my plate. 

But the feeling of completion was short-lived. As soon as my brain registered that job "complete" it started working away on the next one. And, as I drove home from picking up more supplies this morning it dawned on me that, looking back over decades, the second most important thing we do on projects; after getting the assignment, is logistics.

Assembling the right gear is critical to commercial success. But that nearly always means more than just camera, lenses, batteries. And it's more than lights, and models. And assembling the gear is pretty much meaningless unless you also have a plan to deliver it to the right place. On time.

I realized in a flash this morning that for every minute I've actually spent with a camera in my hands, photographing a commercial jobs, I've spent at least an hour getting ready. It's odd to realize that you've spent much more time as a furniture mover and supply buyer than you will have ever spent actually making the art. 

Today is a perfect snapshot of that. Tomorrow I start a two day shoot with one of my favorite national acting talents, Jaston Williams. He's producing a new play and his agent from L.A. reached out to offer me the job of photographing Jaston in a wide range of costumes and make-up. The photos will be used as content in the production and also for marketing. His production company has rented a large stage at one of the local theaters and we'll be shooting everything against white so we can drop out the background in post. 

I wish I was a "famous" photographer with a devoted entourage and I could task someone else with all the stuff we need to do to get ready for a relatively straightforward series of photo sessions. But I guess I never developed the personality that would allow me to lounge about on the set with a martini in my hand while others do the work. Some day, maybe, but it hasn't jelled yet.

So, off my brain goes on the next game of "Be Prepared." 

I start from the back of a set and work/plan my way up. We need to shoot on a white seamless paper background. I checked our current roll. It's tattered and has only a few yards of life left. I need a new roll. I head to the camera store and grab the last roll of "Super White" nine foot wide seamless and head for the counter. Then it dawns on me that this might be the first time I've stuck a long roll of white seamless in the new car. Will it fit? Yes. On the way home I start making a list of all the stuff I need just to make the background paper work. 

I'll need to tighten the levers that lock in the sections on the background stands. That takes a Phillips head screw driver and a wrench. I need to pack two clamps to keep the paper from unrolling as we loft it. I need a roll of white duct tape to tape the front of the paper to the stage floor. I need a small knife to cut the paper out of its box and then out of its protective plastic bag. Also to slice off used paper if we decide to roll out more.  I need two, white, shiny Formica panels to put on top of the seamless so the talent can stand on them without destroying the paper underneath. The panels are also easy to clean. Remember to bring shop towels and spray cleaner. All that stuff gets added to the inventory list. 

Once the background gets figured out I work on the lighting. How will I light this so the background goes away but Jaston looks fantastic? Do I use flash or continuous lights? Well, we'll have a videographer in tow shooting BTS and also web content so flash is out. That means I need to bring a bunch of LED lighting to get the levels high enough to freeze action. I'll need four lighting instruments to make the background even and bright. I'll need four stands for those lighting instruments. I'll need some clamps and some Black Wrap to control light spill. I'll need reflectors and barn doors for those fixtures. I'll need an electrical cable for each unit and a "master" extension cable for the back four lights. With a splitter. Okay. Then I'll need a case to make transporting the lights and stands more efficient. 

What about the front of the set? We'll need to light that as well.. I'll use a big, Godox SL200 Wii, as the main light, firing into a 48 inch octabox. That requires a stout light stand, a power cable, the actual octabox and access to yet another long extension cord. Oh, and a 30 pound sandbag. I'll also want to backlight Jaston so we'll need a heavy duty stand to hold a boom arm with a smaller light firing into a small, 32 by 32 inch soft box. We'll need a power cable for that as well as a speed ring for the soft box and....the soft box. 

To even out the front light from top to bottom in the frame I'll want to put a shiny reflector on the floor in front of Jaston and aim a light into that. I'm not looking for a 1:1 fill from the bottom source but enough added light so that the costuming doesn't go too dark near the bottom. Add in another light, another stand (a short one), another speed ring, another small soft box, another electrical cable and a big, shiny reflector. 

Since I'll be using the main light 45° to one side and 45° tilted down I'll want to have a fill light to boost exposure on the shadow side of Jaston. That means one more light, one more stand, one more cable, and one more modifier. To keep it simple I'll bring a medium sized, shoot through umbrella. 

To wrangle all that light we'll need our light meter. I think I'll bring the Spectra Cine Pro 1800 meter, just for grins. It's the perfect solution for continuous-only metering. No flash mumbo-jumbo to get in the way.

The second set of lights (the front of scene lights) will also need a case for transporting as well as an additional stand case for the four other light stands and the boom arm. (I bet you already forgot about the boom arm....).

And that gets us to cameras. We'll keep this simple. We need high resolution and more resolution so we'll pack a Lumix S1R along with another S1R as a back up camera. Each camera travels with two batteries and each camera is loaded with a 128 GB SD card and a 128 GB CFexpress card. We'll bring the 24-70mm f2.8 S-Pro lens, the 70-200mm f4.0 S-Pro lens and also toss in the Panasonic 24-105mm S lens as a back up for both of the other lenses. Remembering to pack a bulb blower for dust on the sensor, lens cleaner, a micro cloth or two, and, of course, a case to hold the cameras lenses and accessories. 

I'm thinking, given the large size of the stage, the lack of any close by electrical outlets, etc. that it's probably prudent to bring along four 50 foot, heavy duty extension cords along with splitter boxes for each. We have a  box for those. 

Finally, I need to bring along out cart to get all this stuff in and out of the building. No sense making a dozen trips in and out to the car if we can do it in two or three trips.

Logistics. After we unload the car I have to set all the stuff up and test it. Then, on Wednesday afternoon, after our two day project is wrapped at the location I'll pack all that stuff back in boxes and cases, cart it out to the car, drive it home and carry it back into the studio. We'll check all the lights, meters and cameras to see if anything needs batteries or maintenance and then start on the post processing part of the job. 

Once I've got a handle on post processing I'll start pulling stuff out of travel cases and putting it back on the shelves and in the cabinets where it mostly lives. 

At every step of the way it's the logistics of moving things in and out, remembering the little accessories that attach or power the bigger stuff, having the right materials, etc. I'm lucky on this job in that they have their own, dedicated make-up person and their own costume and wardrobe manager. There's a P.A. on set and, since the main production company is very professional there will be coffee. 

I'll have Ben or another assistant travel to the theater in a separate car and help with with the load in and then again the next day with the load out. But I sure don't need an assistant to hang out with me all day long. Especially since I anticipate a lot of downtime for costume and make-up changes. 

We'll have a tight turnaround on Weds. We finish shooting at 4 pm and start packing and moving gear to the car. I anticipate being back at the studio by five or five-thirty where we'll unload and then grab a different set of cameras (2 x S1s) repack the same lenses, and head back to the theater complex to photography that evening's show of "Songs Under the Stars." That's the outdoor concert series I've working on. The rest of the week is dedicated to post production with a little break for a location scout out at Luminex. But the Luminex shoot doesn't happen until the following week so I haven't starting worrying about the logistics on that one just yet. One at a time. I think that's the best way to handle stuff. 

Looking back over 30 years or so I'm fascinated with just how much of my career has involved the logistics of packing and moving stuff. We did a project in Russia in 1995 that required cases full of Hasselblad cameras and lenses, cases of film and Polaroid and cases of lights and stands. We spent a couple of weeks shooting the Catherine Palace and the Alexander Palace and it was a quick reminder that handicap access was not on the radar at that time in St. Petersburg or Puskin. Just more layers to logistics. 

It's all about packing and gear handling. Many times I dreamed of being a photojournalist instead. One Domke bag full of gear and some strange khaki vest with pockets. That and a passport. 

But I think commercial work turned out to be more financially productive....

Life. All about regrets, lost opportunities and logistics. Always logistics. 

Dammit. I forgot about the tripod. Now I've added that to the list....

Somewhere in there I'll make time for a 65th birthday celebration and a couple of swim workouts. Staying busy is energizing. Feels just like the old days.


Several things I did last night that made my video much, much better. And nicer to watch.

 If you read the manual hard enough you can actually learn stuff with benefits. And if you pay attention to physics you can be steadier as well. 

We've been shooting live, outdoor concerts for Zach Theatre. Last week was our first foray into doing a three camera show documentation and while the client was pleased I saw lots and lots of room for technical improvements with our long lens, follow camera. The one from which we'll pull 85-90% of the imagery.

I won't get too far in the weeds but I'll admit some humbling observations. 

First off, last week I used my Atomos Ninja V monitor on top of the camera cage which put the center of gravity for everything sitting on top of the tripod head much further up than it could have been. With that much weight sitting up so high it accentuated every vibration from touching the camera or lens (and it hurt to crane my neck up to look at the monitor for an hour and a half). 

The biggest issues came when I needed to loosen the tilt control to tilt up or down when compensating for a performer changing position. The top heavy camera and monitor would answer the calls of gravity quickly and gracelessly and I wasn't always able to adequately dampen the movements. Partially, this was because the load on the head was poorly balanced but mostly because the monitor and its battery became a long lever for the forces of physics to exert themselves.

I started over from scratch this week and my first step was to put the video tripod head on the biggest, heaviest and strongest tripod I own. The second thing I did was to move the monitor from the top of the cage off the tripod head assemblage altogether. I used a clamp and a stand adapter to attach the monitor to one of the tripod legs so I could operate the touch screen without any vibration to the camera rig. That was a major good move in the right direction. It was also much more comfortable to look at. 

Next I gave very close attention to balancing the camera and lens on the tripod head. I moved the tripod mount on the lens forward and backward in the quick release until I hit a neutral point where the whole set-up would balance without me having to lock down the tilt controls. To say it made a big improvement over an hour and a half of hands-on operation is a profound understatement. 

Next I fixed a major issue with focusing. I was so impressed that my L series S-Pro lens have a clutch that allows manual focusing with hard stops at both infinity and the close focus point that I felt compelled on the previous week to use them. But that was just stupid. It would have been great if I was looking for rehearsed repeatability but the manual focusing rings is non-linear and has a relatively short throw. That meant that fine focusing the lens when used wide open and racked all the way out to 300mm (APS-C mode) was a nightmare. The short throw made it almost impossible to nail very specific point. I had to rack the focusing ring back and forth to get an exact and satisfying fine focus point. The barest touch would put you in front or behind the point of highest sharpness. It was a frustrating evening.

I could see the focus point go in and out on the monitor. It was very obvious where the focus "should" have been but the short throw just made the process endlessly glitchy. 

A more thorough study of the S1H camera manual reminded me that all of the S1 cameras allow one to choose how they want the electronic focusing ring to work (not the manual ring!). You can choose between a linear or a non-linear focus throw and you definitely want a linear throw for video! Then you can select how many degrees of rotation you'd like between the closest focusing of the lens and the infinity focus. 90° is too short. Even 180° feels short with a long lens. I settled in at 270 degrees ant this generous amount of throw gave me much more controllable discrimination in focusing. Things didn't "jump" into sharp focus, instead you could see a long smooth transition into sharp focus. It made hitting the mark so much easier and the technique so much less obvious to any audience. It felt like you were given 10 times the control of the manual focusing process. And it was all right there in the camera. 

Finally, with a bright set of stage lights and a very dark background it's not always obvious how to set exposure. Waveforms are great on controlled shoots but when people are moving in an out of lights it's great to have a different method of figuring out if you have faces exposed correctly. I started using "false color" on the shoot last night. Each tonality on a scale is given a different color. On the Atomos monitors average flesh tones/skin values fall into a green color. This is something you can see in real time if you are referencing an external monitor. 

Last night was a bit of a triumph for me. I conquered my long lens focus glitches (while shooting video) and took 99% of the camera bounciness out of the shoot. My exposures were tighter and more accurate. In all, I count a week's worth of study and trial and error to be successful. 

Some of you seasoned video pros are probably chuckling at this having long ago conquered most of these impediments to good production. But I would counter that, at least, I have the thrill of learning it all for the first time. 

so, how did the cameras perform? All three of the cameras (S1H, S1 and GH5) ran without any issues or glitches. No thermal warnings. No dropped frames. All were running in 4K, 10 bit, 4:2:2, Long Gop. All ran for an hour and fifteen minutes. While I didn't bother to check the GH5 I did notice that both of the S1 series cameras had over 50% battery power left at the end of the long session. It was interesting since the S1 had image stabilization turned off while the S1H has I.S. turned on. The battery life at the end point was indentical. I guess I.S. on a tripod isn't as much of a "battery suck" as I imagined. 

I just finished transferring files to my hard drives and the made a copy on a third HD to deliver to the client. 300+ Gigabytes of content seems like a good night's work. And, bonus! I don't have to edit it. 

Happy Sunday! 

the GH5. Last night's "set it and forget it" champion. 
That's the Meike 12mm lens on the front.


The best way to drive is to look out through the windshield in the direction you want to go. Too much time spent looking in the rearview mirrors is dangerous and may cause one to loose situational awareness in the moment.

Until we invent time machines you'll just have to let the past go and focus 
on everything in front of you. 

If you ask my friends and family they would most likely tell you that I'm not one to dwell on the past. I like to keep moving forward....like a shark. In writing the blog over the years I occasionally dip into the past; telling photo related stories and waxing nostalgic about cameras that I enjoyed using but my main focus is to stay anchored to the present and to flow with the rhythm and currents of ongoing change. It's also why I like to upgrade cameras and try out new systems. While I am not the most avant-garde of photographers, technically, I'm most certainly not a believer that all the good stuff in photography happened decades ago in the age of medium format cameras, film and darkroom work. I actually believe in leveraging the present instead of (metaphorically) sitting on a deck chair, a plaid wool blanket over my legs, going on and on about all the glories of yesteryear.

I get that not everyone feels that way and there is a propensity for people to associate what they did successfully in the past with a high point in their chosen craft, or even culture. I suppose it's even comforting for people who've allowed themselves to get stuck in certain time periods to dredge up the way we did stuff in the good old days and try to resurrect the original feelings of mastery and competence they felt after having learned something cool for the first time. I can go on for hours and hours about my first 100 jobs with a 4x5 view camera and I can regale (bored) young people with stories about my battles in the darkroom to get the perfect tray development methods for "souping" black and white film but other than signifying the length of my tenure in this particular craft I can't see how it moves the blog, or my progress as a photographer, forward. Unless my goal is to stop all forward momentum and make myself into a museum dedicated to my photographic past. Something I personally would find overly introspective and boring. 

I wrote something once about how life is like a fast moving river with strong currents. If you can never get to the side and exit the river you have to learn how to navigate it. We swim with the current until we get too tired and then we find a convenient rock to cling to. If you never let go of the rock to continue swimming your fellow swimmers (your generation?) swim on and leave you behind. Eventually your whole world becomes that lone rock in the middle of the river. You cling to it and it anchors you. It both saves you (temporarily) and dooms you by narrowing your vision. Once you start to live in the past you lose the ability to embrace the current and move on. And then you die (at least creatively). 

If your aim is a retrospective show then you've already given up. If your goal is to find the next great shot then you are still swimming (and dodging rocks). When I meet people who are morose I generally find them glorifying the past and moaning about the perceived meanness of the present. When I meet people older than me who are happy it's because they are curious, willing to constantly experiment, and they are engaged. 

Creating photographs seems to me to be more like performance art than painting. The activity of actually doing the work is what an artist craves. Interpreting and dissecting the art seems to be a job for someone other than the artist who created it. But once all the focus is on the work from the past and the tools, techniques and artists of the past it's at that point that the artist has gotten tired of swimming with the current, going with the flow, and has effectively given up and found their rock to cling to. 

At 64.99 years old I feel like I'm still 18. I love making new images. The cameras are largely immaterial. They are secondary to the process of seeing new images and capturing them. And then saying, "Look What I Just Saw!!!

From time to time I have a recurrent fantasy of just hiring someone to back a truck up to the studio door and having them take every scrap out. Every camera, lens, light, computer, stand, umbrella, etc. And then, the next day, I would wake up and figure out in which direction to go now. 

In many ways we are like writers. At our best we are story tellers. Our images weave an instant narrative. But imagine if writers spent most of their time inventing and perfecting ever more expensive machines with which to tell their stories. What if the lore about the machines dominated the discussion of writing the way cameras seem to now dominate our discussions about photography? Would the stories get better or would they languish as writers waited for hardware and software upgrades to the ever-growing writing machines?

I think we are all a bit guilty of presuming that we have to use certain cameras and lenses to legitimately share the stories we want to tell. We build legends about lenses. We transfer part of our power as artists into the belief that some new camera will give us more potential imaging power than an existing one. We embrace the magic of machines to a greater and greater extent while at the same time using the new technology to replicate what we did with the older technology. It's easier now and that bothers people. But, like a writer, our machines are wholly secondary to our stories. Only now our dependence on both the visual constraints of our past, and the desire to overlay those constraints onto new working methods, keeps us from experimenting with any new storytelling. 

Eventually, if you want to move your art forward, you need to burn down the past rather than wallowing in it. You don't need to actually put all your prints, negs, digital files on a nice, toasty bonfire. You can archive them in any way you want. But at some point, in order to do good, new work (rather than just repeating the greatest hits...) you'll need to slip off the anchors of the past and resume your swim. It's the only way. 

Rocks are alluring. Rocks are comforting. At some point you'll master the rock. And it will master you.  Letting go and moving forward takes effort and faith. But aren't you curious to see what's around the next bend?


Taking the Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN lens in the M4:3 mount out for a spin. Nice and small.

Ben turned 25 this week. I'm stunned how fast time sprints. The kid is doing great. Looking at a new job as a writer for a cutting edge tech company and generally staying fit and centered. I'm always happy when he drops by the office in running apparel and tells me he's heading off for a long run around the lake. He's so, so much faster than me but I guess that's to be expected, given our 40 year age difference... 

We had dinner with him last night and I took a few photographs of him with the new lens. 

I picked up the new lens on Thursday. I meant to get a used camera but I started psycho-analyzing myself on the drive out and decided that my desire to buy new cameras right now must be a reflexive reaction to not being able to go any place or shoot anything exciting. I thought maybe a lens would be a less Jungian trope.

I'd been thinking about this lens for a couple of weeks. I wasn't paying attention when it was first announced but Sigma's Contemporary lens line has mostly been surprisingly good. The current line up, consisting of the 16mm f1.4, the 30mm f1.4 and the 56mm f1.4, is really superb considering the moderate cost. They offer the lenses in the Sony E mount, the M4:3 mount, the Fuji mount and now the L mount. All three lenses are designed to cover APS-C sized sensors, and smaller. I can't see the logic of me getting an L mount version since I have so many "normal" lens options for the Panasonic S1 cameras and the Sigma fp. So it was a pretty straightforward choice to opt for the M4:3 mount.

The Sigma 56mm f1.4 has an extremely sharp center area; even wide open. It's a great, longer lens for a small sensor system if you routinely want to photograph under low light conditions and you don't need expansive depth of field. The lens body is much smaller than that of the 16mm f1.4 and the front filter diameter is a very useful 55mm. The lens doesn't not include image stabilization and I think that helps keep the size and weight down. 

Just like the new 85mm f1.4 Sigma Art lens (v2) the 56mm was designed with compromises that are largely meant to be fixed by automatic, in-camera correction software. Both the lenses feature exhibit a relatively high degree of pincushion distortion and both have appreciable vignetting when used wide open. Used on a Lumix GH5, G9 or GX8 the system seems to do a good behind the scenes job making everything look great. 

I pulled the lens out of its box yesterday, put it on a G9 body and headed out for a walk through downtown. The focus was quick, precise and accurate. I'm happy with the optical performance and I've put a selection of images down below so you can see for yourself. Be sure to click on them to see them larger. 

My birthday comes up next week and I think I'll use the opportunity to spend more time swimming and less time thinking about what new gear to buy. Seems like more of a New Year's Resolution than a birthday thought but there you have it.

We're having our first "cold" snap here. My Calgary Friend, Eric, will laugh at this but it got all the way down to 52° Fahrenheit last night and I got to wear a light jacket this morning. After swim practice I bought a coffee and an egg sandwich and went to my favorite park to sit at a concrete picnic table to eat, drink coffee and watch the millennials play Frisbee Golf. Nice to just do normal things and watch happy activities in a year so fraught and disturbing. Be sure to turn off the news from time to time and watch people play and laugh and have fun. It's a reminder that we're meant to be good and to have fun. But sometimes we have to work at it.

I had coffee with a friend who is, politically, my polar opposite this last week. We skirted political conversations. We spent a lot of time discussing video. When we left we promised each other that no matter who wins the election we'll take a few days to recover and then, as usual, we'll meet for coffee. That made me feel good. 

I just can't pass up those multi-paned, reflective windows when I've got a camera in my hands.

We started out our day with the usual heat and humidity and then the winds blew in 
from the north, sucked the humidity out and dropped the temperatures quickly. Sweet.

There was never a reason for valet parking to exist in Austin when I came here to go to the University. The city was sparsely populated. You could park anywhere. The parking meters cost a dime for six hours.
Now that our economy is adapting and recovering the valet parking is roaring back.
It all seems so strange to me. It always has.

Fun to watch the wind gusts blow the trees over a bridge. It felt like the first day of Fall. 

An odd business concept. 

An electric boat on Lady Bird Lake. All selfies all the time...

String. Blowing in the cool wind. 



My continuing interest in both micro four thirds cameras and Sigma lenses.


I had a tough time practicing self-restraint today. I saw, via their website, that Precision Camera had taken in a used Panasonic GH5S which was bundled with the battery grip and a SmallRig camera cage made for the GH5S with the battery grip. The price was $1,499. I went up to inspect it and I have to say that the camera was in perfect condition. Not even a tripod mark. I wanted to buy it on general principle because I had one once, before I was smart enough to appreciate it, and it's wonderful camera for making video. The biggest advantage is also the camera's biggest disadvantage: The camera is equipped with a 10 megapixel sensor. 

For video this is a distinct advantage because the sensor is absolutely right sized for 4K video. The bigger pixels on the sensor make it more light sensitive which translates into better high ISO noise performance. The relatively low number of pixels means that the system gets data off the sensor and into the buffer much more quickly that would a higher density sensor, which reduces rolling shutter. It's all wins in the video category. 

And, of course, the disadvantage is that you only get 10 megapixels of resolution for photographs. Enough I think for the web but probably not enough to satisfy most picky users.

The camera also lacks in body image stabilization, which some find to be a full-on deal-killer. I would have thought so a few months ago. In a blurry time I call: the Pre-Gimbal-anian period. But the lack of IBIS has one great advantage, the camera will run for a long, long time and never get hot because the sensor is wedded to a big, internal heat sync; something you can't really do with a stabilized sensor. And the smaller sensor with fewer pixels has less to process and generates less heat to begin with. 

(Read the full comment below by Hal. "...And out of curiosity, are you sure that camera overheating is more related to the sensor itself or to the CPU/GPU in the image processor? I always thought the heat was more driven by processing than the data flow off the sensor. If so, that would not make IBIS any more problematic than a fixed sensor from a heat generation standpoint, as the thermal bottleneck is downstream from there."

I'd never made that connection before. It's an eye-opener for me. Thanks Hal !!! )

At any rate, I stood around at the counter and played with the camera and the cage/rig for a while before deciding that my real interest in acquiring new video cameras all hinges on whether or not they can create ALL-I video files. This one can. But then so can my S1H and my GH5. Oh, and also my Sigma fp. Would I really be gaining anything? Not so much. 

Sure, it might make a really good dedicated gimbal camera but the GH5 is doing a fine job at that since it acquired the latest firmware update. I use it now instead of the G9 mostly because the GH5 offers the ALL-I format and I think I can see a difference in the way motion is rendered between the two file types.

In the end I decided not to spend another $1,500 for a camera I don't really have any pressing need for. Sad. If I knew of an up and coming videographer who needed a great camera to start and grow with I couldn't think of a better one than that GH5S at that price. For me it would be just another excuse to move from a three camera set up to a four camera set up and at that point the editing of hour long video projects would become overwhelming. 

But on the way out of the store I spied a lens I'd read about recently. It's the Sigma Contemporary 56mm f1.4 lens which is available for m4:3 cameras and also for Sonys. I asked to see one on a Lumix G series camera and loved the finder image. I decided it would get much more use than yet another camera body. So I brought one home. Now I'm on the way out the door to go into a gray and inconsistent weather day to see just how much I really like the lens. Or not. 

That's the next report.

Also, we're shooting video for another concert at the theater tomorrow night. It's the same show I shot stills for this past Wednesday (Female Rock Stars from the 1970's). I've changed video tripods and fine-tuned every aspect of the rig for stability and ease of use since last week. We're still going to do three cameras but I'm determined that our follow camera work get much, much better. Wish me luck.


I love mixing stuff up. I shot the least obvious camera at the new show last night. On the high wire with no net. Also, OT: My run in with the dermatologist this morning...


The fp is so unusual that it's cute. 

I love to try new stuff even when I've got technical features figured out just right with the perfect gear. Sometimes I'm looking to see if a quirky camera adds something to the mix. Sometimes I'm just bored and want a challenge. It's a silly ass way to run a business but then again, not everything needs to be completely transactional.

You'll remember that I photographed at an outdoor concert last week and used a perfect combination of cameras and lenses. The unassuming Panasonic 70-200mm f4.0 S-Pro worked really well with the "low light monster" the S1. I also brought along an S1R with a 24-70mm for assorted wide shots and that combination worked beautifully too. By "working beautifully" I mean that the cameras were easy to use, trouble-free, transparent, and above all they generated beautiful files. So the obvious strategy for photographing a new show this week at the exact same location would be just to pack up the same gear, toss it all in the car and sally forth. Right? Well, maybe. But I rarely repeat myself and maybe that's a personality flaw more than a creative gesture.

But first a silly confession. I've been working with a Sigma fp since the holidays last year. I bought the big finder that attaches to the camera with a plate into which the finder is bolted. The plate is then bolted into the tripod socket and the whole assemblage makes for a tight fit and a tidy package. But it also means (at least I thought...) you can't use a cage with that configuration. I bought SmallRig cage for the fp and I fell in love with the wooden handle which supplies a generous grip on the right side of the camera. But I didn't see how to attach the finder accessory. I guess I didn't look closely enough. Then I ran into a fellow Sigma fp user who seemed to have it figured out. He had both the finder and the same cage mounted on his fp at the same time. He showed me where the cage had the same bolt sockets as the Sigma bottom plate. Now I could see clearly that the finder could be bolted straight onto the lower part of the cage structure and work as seamlessly as it did when using the other bottom plate. 

I was overjoyed. Actually, I wasn't overjoyed, I was just momentarily happier than I had been a few minutes before. 

Back to the story... Once I found out how to perfectly configure the fp (for me) I glommed onto it for the rest of the day and by the time I headed out to the assignment I had made up my mind to try to shoot the whole evening's event with it. Which is not a logical thing at all. The camera is slow to focus, the reviews on the fixed LCD are a blurry mess when they first come up on the screen and then take their time resolving into sharp images. If you punch in to manually focus with some magnification the magnified image sticks on the screen until you take the shot. There's no built-in image stabilization, etc., etc.

To make amends for the lack of in-body image stabilization I did everything with a stabilized lens (the 70-200mm) and then, since I was using the lens sometimes with the camera in the APS-C crop mode for longer reach, I hedged my bets by using the camera on top of a small (but good) Sirui tripod. I was rusty at first and nearly gave in to fear and uncertainty. I needed more practice on my manual focusing skills at the long end of a zoom lens.  I almost popped the lid on my Think Tank backpack and hauled out the ultra-trusty Panasonic S1R. But eventually I started to adapt to the camera, and to trust myself.

By the end of the hour and ten minute concert I had photographed the three singers, together and individually, in over 1,000 frames. Like I mentioned, I was hedging my bets. 

I had stuff to do this morning so I was intent on post processing the files last night; before bedtime. The camera continues to fascinate me. Unlike the Panasonic S series cameras you can shoot RAW and in "crop mode" at the same time. With full frame you get a 24 megapixel file and with APS-C mode you get only 9 megapixels. But even at ISO 6400 the images are insanely sharp and noise free. I have a mix of Jpegs and RAWs as well as a mix of 9 and 24 megapixel files. They all worked interchangeably. 

I really overshot the assignment and I ended up editing the take down to about 350 images. The colors and tones were wonderful. I tossed them up in a gallery on Smugmug, sent the link and the password, and headed off to bed. Now I'm over any reticence I've had about day-to-day use of the Sigma fp. It's obviously an eccentric choice and I would not counsel anyone to make it their "only" camera, but it's a nice change of pace from the more operationally competent and more traditional Lumix cameras. 

With the big loupe, and mounted on a tripod, the camera and lens combination was actually more facile and fluid than I thought it would be in the shooting process. I also shot one song in the 4K, All-I, 400 mb/s mode and it was just great. I'll pass it along to the marketing folks for potential use in the social media. 

The one aspect of last night's shoot that surprised me was that the Sigma fp shot lots of frames over the course of an hour and 15 minutes, all on one battery.

OT: Hi Dr. Dermatologist!

As you probably know I've lived in Texas for a long, long time and I've been swimming outside, year round, for decades. Many decades. Most of the swim workouts are in the mornings but I've done many more than my share of (sun drenched) noon and afternoon swims over the years. If you are of English ancestry like me you are probably light complected. Add in blue eyes as a risk factor and you are more or less just continually rolling the dice. Sooner or later a spot on your skin will emerge that makes you a bit nervous. Especially if you are a solid hypochondriac like me.

I see my dermatologist once a year for a full body check up. I see my general practitioner on the opposite six months to get his opinion and to create a prevention bridge so I don't usually go longer than six months between somebody checking me for cancerous skin damage. I'm an amateur; I can't tell and age spot from a full blown tumor...

I got a little spot on my face a couple of months ago and when it didn't go away I visited my G.P. He carefully inspected the small spot and decided to zap it with liquid nitrogen. A month later it came back and it was both a little bigger and now raised. I went back to see my doctor with the idea that perhaps another blast of the bracing liquid nitrogen might do the trick but he demurred and sent me scurrying to the dermatologist to have my new growth biopsied. (Biopsy is such a scary word...). 

We never miss swim practice if it can be avoided so I hit the 8 a.m. workout and then showed up at my dermatologist's office at the stroke of 10. He laughed at me for smelling like pure chlorine and I had to explain that because of the pandemic we couldn't use the showers at the pool for the moment. Although I'd done a quick and very chilly rinse off with a garden hose...

After appropriate small talk he gently jabbed me with a small needle to deliver a local anesthetic and then scrapped off the growth with an insanely sharp scalpel and finished up by cauterizing the wound. Now I have a round Bandaid(tm) on my left cheek. My first question for him was whether I would still be able to swim tomorrow (see? it's all about making fitness a priority!!!). He allowed that it would be okay as long as I used a waterproof Bandaid over the area. 

He's sending the offending tissue off to be analyzed. If it's just a wart or actinic keratosis then we're all done and no more torture of your favorite blogger need be done. If we turn a different corner then I get to go to a specialist and have Mohs surgery performed on the area. You know, it's the "gold standard" for getting all the nasty stuff out to the margins. That might require a bit more recovery time outside the pool so if the dice go that way just prepare yourself for three or four, long, rambling blogs a day while I whine about inaction and soreness. 

Wear your wide brimmed hat in the sun. It's a crap shoot but you might as well cheat the house in your favor, right? 

Now whining to my family about my ordeal; hoping the sympathy will mask the expense of a new phone.


What I learned from filming an hour long, outdoor concert with three cameras... A few painful lessons.

Bag of cameras. Meaningless without the right techniques. 

I am a veteran of shooting many interviews and other kinds of projects where the subjects don't move very much, lighting is an important component, and audio needs to be clean and recorded at a good level. Beyond that my advertising and filmmaking experience is limited to writing and creative directing projects that other people shot. But I'm learning all the time. Really....I am. 

This past Summer I learned a lot in a very short amount of time about moving the camera during a shoot. I went from tripod to all out gimbal shooting in the space of just a couple of weeks. And some of the footage actually looked good.

So when the theater asked me to shoot a one hour concert with three stationary cameras I thought: "Piece of Cake." And now I get to laugh at myself for my (again) misplaced hubris. 

There was nothing wrong with the footage from either of the two cameras that were unmanned (B cameras). I set them up before the show to shoot wide angle, head-on views of two stage areas using the exposure, focus and color settings I'd extrapolated from a photography shoot earlier in the week. The cameras just sat there and ran, whether actors were in front of them or not. When we pulled the footage it was all rock solid and each camera even delivered a decent scratch audio track. 

No, the real issues came from my inexperience in running a "follow" camera for over an hour. It's something I never trained for, I just assumed that if you knew your way around the technical aspects of file generation in a camera everything else would just fall in place. Ouch. There's so much to learn. 

Let's start with the biggest problem I faced:

The follow camera had to be set in a certain spot so it didn't interfere with the sight lines for any paid audience members. It also had to find a spot that would give an unobstructed view of two different stage areas. The performers were able to move from one stage to the other and back and I would need to follow them with the "A" camera the whole time. The location we arrived at was far enough back from the stage that I needed a long lens to get good looking (relatively) close-up shots of two, or  even one performer at a time. My longest lens is the 70-200mm f4.0 for the Panasonic S1 system so I used that. But I still needed more reach so I decided to switch to APS-C mode which got me into the ballpark with a 300mm equivalent. And therein lies my first stumble. 

While I was set up on a decent tripod and using a very nice tripod head my camera had lots of "gingerbread" or accessories hooked onto it via a "cage." My biggest mistake was attaching a monitor (with a big battery) to a convenient cold shoe on the top of the cage. This made the whole rig top heavy. Any time I touched the focusing ring on the lens, touched the touch screen of the monitor to switch between the waveform meter to the magnified focus setting, or even zoomed the lens, the magnification of the long lens exaggerated every movement and delivered jumpy, unprofessional looking motion artifacts to the visual image. While the client is perfectly happy with the footage I'm a bit embarrassed. 

I should have known that the monitor and all the other attached paraphernalia made the whole rig way too top heavy and could not be optimally balanced no matter how much I moved the camera rig backward or forward in the tripod mount. As soon as I tilted forward or backward I was dealing with the added inertia of the monitor's weight. I picked probably the absolute worst position on which to position a lot of extra mass. 

Especially with it sticking straight up from the top like a momentum sail. 

The crappiest part of the poor monitor mounting was that it sat higher than my camera at eye level so I had to keep craning my neck up to check fine focus. It was a very awkward position. 

After conferring with more experienced camera operators I'm planning on first using a huge, heavy and aggressively stable set of tripod legs. I'm also taking any extra weight off the camera. The only thing the camera will "wear" will be the small audio interface unit with one XLR cable running from it. Then I plan to use a Super Clamp and a Magic Arm to attach the monitor to one of the tripod legs just below the top of the leg. With the Magic Arm I'll be able to position the monitor just about anywhere that it's comfortable for me, and if I touch it there should be no chance of introducing vibration into the shots. 

To ensure quick, ballpark, "good enough" focusing on the fly I'm marking the manual focus ring with three small, bright dots. One on the focusing scale for the distance to the closest stage, one for the furthest stage and one for the transition area between stages. I hope to be able to switch between the three settings quickly and without a lot of drama. I will also test the AF tonight while I'm over at this evening's shows shooting stills. I'd love to use AF but there's so many issues with the focal length, the low light, etc. that I'm reticent to depend on it. 

I may also use a follow focus attachment so I can mark distances on the wheel and operate even more smoothly. 

The next thing I messed up on was comfort. I figured I could just stand the whole time and operate the camera. Then my left foot hurt. Then my right foot hurt. Then I just wished I'd brought along a bar stool to sit on. Thank goodness the house manager thought to bring insect repellant because the little critters were rapacious that night.

There's a lot to learn and most of it involves building muscle memory and learning the best ways to set everything up. And that takes practice plus a lot of trial and error.

My one victory from last Saturday's video shoot? The sound out of the "A" camera was perfect. 

It's humbling to learn how much I have left to learn. But I do think that constantly challenging oneself keeps your brain and your fun gland young, and keeps you more aware and fit than just sitting back in that easy chair with a "cold one." 


 Smooth moves beat fast moves. Good focus is better than hunting for perfect focus. Keep your hands off the tripod and camera for as much of the show as you can. There's a reason pro event cameras and video cameras for sports have electronic zoom and focus controls located on the tripod arms and not just on the cameras. And, There's always next time.