I'm on a waiting list for the Sigma LCD magnifier for the Sigma fp. I may have just saved $250 by buying something else.

The more astute among you may have noticed that I have fallen in love with the Sigma fp camera as a personal/art camera not the least because it's so damn eccentric. It adds friction to everything I shoot with its funky operating methodologies and also because of its lack of a feature I used to think of as "mandatory on any modern camera" an eye level viewing function. EVF or OVF (but preferably the EVF so I can learn as I go...).

The fp is a little brick of a camera and it has NO frills (unless you consider 12 bit DNG raw video as a frill). It has only the immovable screen on the back of the camera for you to use when composing or evaluating an image. Absolutely basic point-and-shoot primitive. (It largely makes up for any shortcomings with a perfect sensor and a enervatingly good selection of shooting menu color tweaks).

The list of accessories for the camera includes a big, bulky and supposedly solidly constructed loupe which fits over the rear screen but doesn't occlude the control buttons. It's supposed to screw into the tripod socket and be of stout and heartwarmingly resolute construction. But I've never seen one in the flesh and I'm beginning to believe that it does not exist. That it is vaporware meant to entice less cautious photographers into a system that may not exist as a complete ecosystem.

Much as I love the camera and make excuses for any of its shortcomings I am becoming a bit disconsolate at the lack of support from its maker. While the rear screen, in its naked glory, is just fine for indoor photography it, like just about any screen exposed to the brilliance of the sun, is dreadfully painful to use in bright, exterior light. I've tried to cobble together a substitute for the $300 Sigma accessory by using rubber bands and a Hoodman loupe but it kept falling off, hitting my shoes and randomly diminishing the effect of my rigorous shoe polishing (a different story altogether).

I was about to go to a priest and ask for advanced absolution for the vigorous and profane venting of spleen directly to the poor, hapless people of Sigma when I remembered that I am not catholic and I don't have the contact information for any one of any influence at all at Sigma. I also remembered that real absolution in this time of fear and anxiety might be difficult to obtain with any real assurance. Especially for something as petty as excoriating Japanese manufacturers over their inability to get me a gadget. One I don't even need for my real work.

But then, one evening when lightning played like distorted shafts of sun off a chaotic mirrored ball puncturing the black of night, and thunder scared all the woodland animals so badly they decamped and moved to Oklahoma, I happened upon a product on a site called Amazon.com and it seemed like exactly what I needed only fashioned out of lesser materials and promising a lesser result. But it was only something like $50 and I knew I could send it back if it turned out to be so tawdry that using it would imperil my singular vision of the world. It was the Movo Loupe and included in the description was the "promise" that it would fit on the Sigma fp.

It arrived two days later. We had, by then, emerged from the root cellar that serves as our redoubt in intense storms, and were ready to brave shooting in full sun once more. I rushed to the Amazon locker that held my newest treasure safe. I pieced the unit together and attached it to the camera.

At first I was sadder than Persephone on her endless returns to Hades. While the unit fit just fine and covered the screen but not the controls, the image through the ocular, even after adjusting the diopter to its maximum was soft and gauzy. What a disappointment!!

But as I was driving my new Tesla X at 98 mph Subaru Forester at 15 mph in the parking lot of the bank (location of the lockers) I looked down and noticed that the lens closest to my eye when using the finder still had on it a protective film of plastic. I removed it and the view improved---but not enough to make me happy... yet. 

Later, when I used the hinge on the loupe to raise up the eyepiece up towards the heavens and look directly at the screen ( nicely shielded by the loupe's remaining surround) I happened to see something I hadn't noticed before. The inside element, the one closest to the screen, also had a plastic film covering it as a protective measure. Once I removed that film the loupe started to perform remarkably well for such an inexpensive product. 

Now I can say that I am happy with the Movo loupe and can give it a resounding recommendation (as long as you incorporate the  low cost into your matrix of points of satisfaction). While the Sigma loupe might be engineered out of better materials (the Movo is polycarbonate....) we may never know because, in fact, we may never have the opportunity to see one in the wild. It may be the "Ghost Leopard" of the photographic industry. 

And that's my review. Don't like it? Sorry, go read about Ctein's Tesla X instead. You'll be back....

We are attempting a hybrid approach to self-isolating...

While it's important to stay home and not mix with crowds of potential pandemic carriers there are some occasions which defy commonly accepted restrictions on socialization and travel. To wit, an invitation to Will's house for BBQ'd ribs. Compared to the opera or a day at the mosh pit of SXSW an evening in Will's garden is almost antiseptic. It will be a small gathering; no more than perhaps eight people. We'll keep our distance from each other except when it comes to the passing of heaping platters of perfectly smoked ribs.

Belinda, in the kitchen with sprigs of rosemary. Photo made with a Lumix S1 and the 50mm f1.4 S Pro lens. Horticulture in the time of contagion.

Everything looked bleak yesterday. Today is much better. The difference? Nothing from the government. It was the re-stocking of Trader Joe's and the resilience of normal people.

caregivers. the newly recognized heroes.

Yesterday had me down and edgy. The conflicting and sometimes misinformed flow of "facts" from the government caused me no little alarm. But what really hit me between the eyes were the aftereffects of the pronouncements from national, state and local governments. 

I think we can all agree that social distancing and the cancellation of events where people are in prolonged close contact are good ideas and will help a great deal to slow down the spread of contagion but it was when I saw the way this near total shutdown will affect normal people's daily lives I was depressed.

The first shock was a message from Zach Theatre that all productions would be immediately shuttered, until at least April 1st. The kid's plays have a longer run cycle and if we can get back up and running at the beginning of next month we'll breathe a collective sigh of relief. But we had a one person play called, Every Brilliant Thing, and it's run was only scheduled through March. Suddenly, the actor is without a job and a paycheck. Even though he is scheduled to start in another production in L.A. on the 6th of April there's no guarantee that the L.A. theatre won't also take the step of temporarily closing...

As I read the actor's plea for temporary work on Instagram I started multiplying in my head all the actors in theaters across the country who may be out of work and without a paycheck for weeks, or months. to come. It's a vulnerable segment of our population because most are classified as independent contractors and are not eligible for unemployment compensation. 

The same situation awaits so many currently making it by in the "gig" economy. Legions of graphic designers, delivery people, tour guides, soccer coaches, drivers, and so many others working in these not very secure positions will likely be laid off without benefits as companies gird themselves for a long slide down and then even more months of recovery. It's the same for every single photographer who runs their own business and depends on the support of the interwoven market for existence. 

When the money runs out there is no unemployment scheme waiting them at the end of their cash flow slide. When the money runs out it runs out. 

All this was filtering through my brain when I got the notice that our pool would be closed and masters workouts put on hiatus until the end of the month. Personal tragedy. Doesn't rise to the level of actual 
existential dilemma. I'm sure I could throw money at another pool and be back swimming again in hours. With cash nearly all things are possible... but when humans who are used to grand entitlements are forced to change ingrained habits we tend to be less than gracious about our frustrations...mea culpa.

I came home in a funk and wrote an ill-natured post. Then Belinda came home and told me stories of her trip to the nearby grocery store. The store was out of everything. Bare shelves as far as the eye could see. The only remaining products were the vegan dishes and the gluten free stuff (another litmus test for marketing?). Panic over the week's news and the less than graceful new conference by a very corrupt federal administration had pushed people into the fear zone and they were panic buying everything from toilet paper to coffee ice cream. We'll save the oil and gas industries at any cost but the citizens who pay for everything are now on their own... Belinda was trying to find eggs. She thought she'd make a cake or something. Maybe it was brownies with almond flour... She went to three stores and there were no eggs or milk at any of them. 

I was amazed by this new inflection point and headed over to Trader Joe's to see it for myself. The scene there was as though the store was closing forever and having a going-out-of-business sale. All the frozen foods were gone. Completely sold out. No bread. No milk. No yogurt. No eggs. No beef, chicken or fish. No granola. The only things still in stock seemed to be beer, wine and chips. I was stunned. this was a run on a grocery store like I'd only seen in coastal towns preparing for category 4 and 5 hurricanes. 

When I got home we did the back of the napkin calculations aimed at figuring out how much cash on hand we had and how long we could budget with no work without having to touch our investments or retirement accounts. The good news is that we'll make it through just fine. But having the money and having access to groceries seems to be two different parts of the same equation.

We stayed in last night and watched a movie on a streaming service. Our plans were to figure out how best to stock up for the next two weeks and to figure out the best use of our time. The final straw on the pathway to quiet dismay was to read Ctein's mawkish review (on The Online Photographer) of his new "$100,000" Tesla car. What an ill-timed decision to showcase that bit of braggadocio... Ah, the (in)sensitivity of the nouveau riche... 

New headline: Old man with beard drives new car 100 mph. Attempting "die" transfer...

I woke up late this morning and made a peanut butter and blueberry preserve sandwich, on Ezekiel sprouted flax bread, to have with a cup of instant coffee laced with whole milk. Since I had not figured out a swimming alternative yet I put on some running shoes and headed to the hike and bike trail to run the 4 mile loop. And that's when my mood and attitude started to change for the better.

The trails were packed with people. Earnest runners, whole families, people even older than me. And dogs. Seems like everyone had at least one dog in tow. Or were being towed by at least one dog. And these days all friendly dogs make me smile...

There was no observable panic, no angst, no paranoid actions whatsoever. No one had a mask on. No one was running with latex gloves on their hands. It was recreational business as usual. Multiplied by thousands. On the way back to my neighborhood I drove through Zilker Park and was heartened to see hundreds and hundreds of people on the soccer fields just embracing the Spring weather and enjoying life. (while staying one to two meters away from each other and only ever coughing into their elbow sleeves.

I stopped into our neighborhood Trader Joe's grocery store on the way home on the off chance that I might actually score some fresh eggs. The store was so different from yesterday evening. All the frozen foods were restocked. Fresh free range brown eggs were amply available. All the different kinds of peanut butter and fruit spreads were back in stock. Along with fresh milk. And bread and just about everything else.

Alas, many of their refrigerator cases were broken but the manager assured me that by tomorrow, at the latest, they would be repaired and restocked. Yes. And you could buy paper towels and toilet paper right then and there. Still rationing the hand sanitizer at two containers per customer --- ask your cashier. 

I bought the eggs and a fresh loaf of sour dough bread. I bought some orange marmalade, just for grins, along with some more Greek Yogurt and Muesli. Our refrigerator at home is now stocked with everything we could think of for a short pandemic. Right down to a selection of wines and ice cream. 
Frozen foods galore, and many bagged salads (which don't keep and need to be eaten, serially, in the next few days -- my rookie shopping mistake). 

I think Austin, in general, is dealing with this crisis just as I hoped it would. People are bumping elbows instead of shaking hands, doing curt little bows instead of the usual gushy hugs, but they are getting on with their lives and looking for the bright spots to inform their happiness; along with ample doses of hand sanitizer and a ready supply of wipes. 

By the time I got home I was calmed down and ready to dig in and enjoy my self-isolation. 

How will I spend that time? I've got a back log of cleaning and organizing to do. It's a great time to really, really learn how to make videos with the Sigma FP at the highest level I can. And, it's time to create a quiet, continuous marketing presence so that when the worst is over and the businesses start to wake up and bloom again we won't have disappeared from people's radar or their memory.

And we're donating photo/video services and money where it can do the most good. Food banks. Non-profits. Friends caught a little short. Maybe "giving back" needn't be done in big virtuous bursts but in a daily, sustainable stream. And not to up and coming kids from wealthy families but aimed squarely at the places where it will do the most needy the most benefit. It's a start.

Today's blog images come from a weird assortment of cameras. The top one is from a Nikon D2H camera and a 100mm lens. The one just below was done with a Nikon D810 and some long zoom.. The image of the shielded syringe was done with an Olympus e300 and the kit lens. While the bottom image, in a medical warehouse, was done with the Panasonic FZ-2500. Funny to see such a quilt of cameras.