5.14.2020

Inconsequential news of a product failure. Or perhaps just a failure of quality control...

full frame file from an fz1000 ii. 

Same. Central area magnified.

You start out using a camera one way and enjoy it but then you use it another way and uncover a fatal flaw. At least that's how I progress through onboarding a new camera. 

About a week and a half ago I splashed out some cash and bought a brand new, sealed in the box, Panasonic fz1000 ii. I bought it from a USA official dealer with a pretty flawless track record. I set up the camera for the way I usually like to use these bridge cameras and fine-tuned the menu items with my idiosyncratic methodologies in mind. For the last week I've been using it while on walks around Austin and have stayed in a fairly narrow and easy use window by mostly setting the aperture near its widest setting or no smaller than f5.6.

I've been happy with performance of the camera and found it was capable of creating very sharp and nicely colored files. All in all, a good performer and a nice camera to take out when you want to be ready for just about anything. With a 25mm to 400mm zoom on the front it's a camera that can deliver results in just about any situation. It's at its best in strong light and that's how I was using it today. 

I was standing on the pedestrian bridge that joins north and south Austin, shooting an image of the city skyline, when I decided to stop down a bit more to get sharpness across a deeper section of the photograph; I wanted to make sure the paddle board riders close to me and the bridges further away were in sharp focus. For grins I stopped down to f11 and shot a few frames but when I did so I noticed a mustache shaped blur object at the top of the frame. Uh oh. 

I tried the same shot at f8.0 and the blur object remained. Now, this is where I'd take a conventional, interchangeable lens camera home to blow the dust off the sensor. Worst case scenario I might even do a wet cleaning... but this camera does NOT come with an interchangeable lens; it's a sealed system, so I looked through the menu to see if I'd missed a menu function for sensor cleaning. NOPE. It's not an option. 

So, here I am with a week and a half old camera that's never been subject to sand storms, leaf blowers, desert winds, the sea shore or work in an industrial setting and it's got a honking big piece of crude on the sensor. 

I came home and looked at the file writ large on the screen of my 5K monitor and noticed that the mustache artifact was not lonely but was accompanied by smaller dust bunnies. (See bottom left of the magnified frame, and also, just above the left side of the "mustache). 

Say what you will about intuition but there must have been some reason why I saved the original box and all of the packaging when my usual inclination is to dump out all the manuals, warranty cards and boxes into the recycling. In this instance (perhaps the lethargy of the moment) I'd tossed the whole package that constituted the packing and materials into my closet next to the spent cores from our experimental nuclear reactor. Just above the shelf with the souvenirs from Area 51. 

With a warning call to my sales associate at our local bricks and mortar store I jumped into the VSL limousine (no, I do not literally have a limousine!) and headed up with the box, materials and flawed camera in hand. But not before taking a moment to print out an 8.5 by 11 inch print with which to demonstrate the inadequacies of my particular unit. 

Without a murmur of push back my sales person asked me how I'd like to handle the unfortunate situation. Would I like to trade the camera for a different, new and boxed unit? No, I decided, I'd rather just get a refund to my credit card and soldier on with one less camera in my inventory. The whole transaction was amicable and as smooth as teflon. 

This marks my second mishap with a Panasonic Lumix camera this year. I'm not at all enthused. But, considering all the really crappy things happening in the world now this falls below the line of even caring. 

I'll miss the camera's long reach and easy wide angle but I won't miss the unwanted clutter in the final files. A bit more Q.C. might help cement Panasonic's reputation for the better. Just a thought. 

Kudos for the prompt and effective response on the part of my favorite "bricks and mortar" camera store, Precision Camera. Nice to be able to manage things face mask to face mask.

I came home and watched the news. That put the camera imbroglio into perspective...

What will the profession of photography look like in a year? Or Two? Pretty sure it won't look like it did before but will the photos have changed or will the way we look at them have changed?

"Hairspray" Zach Theatre.

I was looking through a folder of my own images this morning and I found myself wondering how my photography will change next year or the year after when we emerge from the pandemic and the new financial depression. Will there still be a theater in which to make images? Will there still be plays and musicals? And will people still want to drop by and have their portrait taken? Will I have lost the skills I've spent decades working on? Will my isolation slowly rob me of my glib repartee and make my social skills slow and clumsy? Will I have lost a pivotal time frame in which I might have done my best work? Will I be consigned to the concept of yesterday's photographers?

These are the things I think about when I wake up in the middle of the night, with unspecified anxiety and then lay awake until I've decided that the time has come to get up and start the routine of my daily suspension from art over again. At least I still look forward to that first cup of coffee...

When the smoke clears and people walk back out of their shelters will there still be a demand for photographs or will more practical and immediate needs wipe away any residual appreciation for the graphic arts? 

I fear for physical galleries and museum spaces. I think the former won't come back for quite a while and the later will be diminished. I think the shift from photography to video will accelerate while also pushing down incomes and moving us further away from the idea that intellectual property has value.

We'll all be a little sadder if we lose some of the legendary camera makers that we grew up with. Product introductions will slow down and the tools and selection of tools will become a bit more constrained and limited. 

Will models and talent agencies exist anymore? Maybe only in the biggest markets like Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas. Will NYC even be a player in the creative spaces going forward? Will compacted living become an impediment to attracting talent anymore or will people seek to live in less expensive and more diffuse communities? 

Maybe a year or two of not being able to go out and shoot exactly what we've always wanted to shoot will cause us, collectively, to lose interest in photography as a hobby and passion and by extension losing the most affluent part of the camera market will be the final nail in the coffin for camera sales and  finally make iPhone photography the dominate channel for all kinds of imaging. 

I think most of us reading here are at an age and a demographic segment where our worries are more likely focused on losing our relevance to our local culture more than they are about want and deprivation. We can count ourselves lucky to have nice roofs over our heads and well stocked pantries. But every generation is and will suffer through this shut down of normalcy in some way that is pernicious to each bracket.

The millennials will have an unexpected gut punch to their ability to get good jobs. The generation X folks will have taken two steps backwards in funding those college accounts for their kids and saving for retirement, and even the kids still in primary schools will be scarred by the sudden shifts of parenting and education. The burdens will fall (as they always do) most harshly on those with the least income and wealth and the affects of the upheavals will be less burdensome for the wealthy. 

I understand all this and there is little I can do to ameliorate the chaos for anyone, but I can understand what the chaos feels like for me and it most immediately feels like so much loss potential and lost opportunity. Both as a working photographer and as an "artist." I am almost certain that 2020 will be a lost year for work. We're coming up on the half way point of the year and there are no signs of recovery for our businesses. And no opportunities to make the kinds of photographs that I love. The foundational ones that make the rest of photography seem fun and fulfilling. 

I feel like one of the Olympic athletes who trained for years and years only to have the games postponed. Having peaked too early. And, the possibility that when everything resumes it will be somehow too late.

We're lucky, sure. We only had travel plans and personal projects disrupted. Our social security contributions will be lower this year and that will drive down future income. But we haven't lost people close to us to the disease and we're doing fine. It seems selfish to write this but the only truth is in writing what you know. Trying to explain what you feel.

I head outside with a camera every day. My goal is to find one good photograph every day. Sometimes I get it and sometimes I fail but I'm committed to keep my hands in the process; my mind in the game. 

Today I selected images that I like, that were fun to make and fun for me to look at. I chose them to bolster my own spirits and to help renew my hope that we'll all get to go back to whatever work we loved as soon as it's possible. At 64.5 I've learned that I only get to do this whole process of life once and every lost year is irreplaceable and something to be mourned, at least in passing. 

Intellectually, I know this is so much harder for people everywhere. But if we don't talk about the way it affects us personally we're pushing down real feelings that will surface less elegantly later. 

It helps to have friends. I had coffee with a great friend today. He's just ahead of me on the life experience scale and he's a great mentor. Every connection helps. Just a quick "thank you!" to Frank. Much appreciated.

photographing big, fun set up shots for 
Zach Theatre's marketing and advertising.
Wearing short pants and sandals.

Michelle's beautiful smile.



this is now a documentation of the past. 
The Chair has been recovered and is now looking 
modern and snappy. I miss the wrinkled and the padding 
that had been compressed far too often for far too long.



checking on the reservation status of state parks in West Texas.
Ready to go back to Ft. Davis State Park and watch the stars in
a dark and dramatic sky while camping a bit rough.

The last time I was in Mexico was two years ago.
We photographed an industrial plant. It was hot, loud, 
humid and fun. 


the Kirov Ballet at the Mariensky Theater in St. Petersburg.
The view from the Czar's box. Was this performance
"the Firebird"? I think so....

Up to Saratoga Springs to see Ben graduate from college and to see 
Fred for coffee at Common Grounds. 




Noellia at the Barton Springs Spillway.

a model getting ready to hit the catwalk at a show in South Beach, Miami.

Boston. Dress shop.

Austin. Dress shop.

Ben at Asti Trattoria. Austin


A still life shot on stage. During a rehearsal for "Million Dollar Quartet." 
@Zach Theatre.


Ben. Looking earnest.


South Korean Photographer at lunch in a Chinese restaurant in Berlin.

My dining room with a model blocking the view. 
Made potentially for a book cover.

A pause while getting make up done for a photo workshop I taught.




At the Spa.

In the old studio.

the end of the road? Or, another beginning?