1.05.2020

I like to use a "stand-in" for the final portrait subject when I'm getting my lighting set up. Sometimes everyone is at lunch and the stand-in is me.


I pretty much know how the light from a soft box is going to look, and the same goes for a light in an umbrella, but sometimes you end up in a location where you are shooting against windows and there's all kinds of light bouncing around outside (and inside) and you really need to make sure there's not going to be a big reflection staring back at you in the glass....

After I get my lights roughed in I like to ask someone to stand in just so I can see how everything is working out. And I like to do that before the star of the photo session walks in so I don't have to waste his or her time resetting errant lights. It's also good to know just how much depth of field you are going to end up with at a given subject-to-camera distance and also how it will affect the background. Right?

So, I was setting up to photograph the CEO of a hedge fund late last year and when I finished my set up I found that everyone in the office was either in a meeting or out for lunch. My assistant for the shoot was me. So I grabbed my assistant and demanded he stand in for some test shots. He grumbled a bit, told me he didn't get paid enough to do this, but I finally got the guy to cooperate while I set the self-timer on the camera and walked back to stand on the mark I'd made with white gaffer's tape, on the floor. 

I was then able to assure myself that we'd have a fighting chance of getting a decent shot of the CEO as soon as the cast came back from meetings and lunch. It all worked out fine but even though I've done this sort of shoot for decades it's nice to have the extra layer of assurance that comes from a decent test shot. 

I now realize that self-timers on cameras were invented specifically so photographers could do a one-man set up and test for on-location portraits. Anything else they tell you about self-timers is B.S. 

I don't always look so stern but when I have to switch roles and become the stand-in/assistant I want to make sure the photographer knows I'm taking my job seriously. Those photographers are demanding bastards; that for sure!

No assistants were harmed in the making of this self portrait. 

(Damn. I should have retouched......).



A Camera with a different character. The Sony RX10 series.


A friend who is not a "photographer" and doesn't want to start collecting gear, asked me to recommend a great camera that would make good images and allow him the most flexibility for shooting everything from wide angle scenes to kids playing sports. I thought about all the interchangeable lens cameras I know about but my friend is a guy who is unlikely to want to change lenses or keep several lenses in a bag. It was a weird moment for me to realize that there are lots of other, sometimes better options, out in the world besides our traditional, mirrorless or DSLR system cameras, with their raft of lenses, accessories and operational traditions. 

I thought back over all the work I've done in the past ten years to come up with a camera that I had personally used and enjoyed, but one which would also meet the more limited operational parameters requested. After I cut out all the interchangeable lens cameras I was left with a handful of choices. There are the artsy-hipster-advanced artist, fixed lens prime cameras like the Ricoh GRIII and the ever-iterating Fuji X-100x series but the wide, fixed, prime lens is far too limiting for anyone other than a person who might want to have a small camera to play with but who also possesses a massive inventory of "real" cameras for those times when portraits and other long lens scenarios come into focus...

Eliminating the "art school" camera set left me with just a couple of options. There's the compact, zoom lens cameras like the Sony RX100x's and the Panasonic Lumix LX100ii but I think they are too tiny and fiddly to work with. Then I found a folder of images I made one year when I took a Sony RX10iii to the big Spring party in Austin called, "Eeyore's Birthday Party." Smiling as I flipped through the images in the folder I realized that really good, longer telephoto capability is one of the things that separates really useful, impactful and highly competent cameras from "fun, handy" cameras. 

I sent along the information about the Sony RX10iii, let him know that there's a newer model but that I hadn't used it yet, and I also sent along a folder full of color and black and white images I'd taken with the camera. He was hooked. Then he saw the pricing on the RX10 series and paused. He's using a borrowed RX10iii right now but every time we speak I can see that the camera is sinking its highly capable hooks into his wallet. And his visual vocabulary.

I love the RX10 series. Each new model had something to recommend it (and a deletion to bitch about....) but I'd almost forgotten that the lure and allure for me on the two later cameras is the absolutely first class long end of that 24mm-600mm equivalent zoom. I can isolate subjects, defocus backgrounds and get stellar stabilized results with much less hassle than trying to do the same with a professional, full frame body and a bag full of lenses that, when used together, give me the same kind of reach but with the burden of more weight and complexity than most people (who aren't being paid to make photographs) want to endure.

I should never have opened the folder and re-visited the images. Now I feel the attraction of the RX10IV. Resist. Resist. Resist.