OT: Reality intrudes and swimming goes on hold for a week. Hospitalizations rise in Austin area. Mellowness achieved.

We've been doing our masters swimming workouts every morning from 6-8 a.m. The group has devised methods to maintain social distancing and has been very observant about reducing any "on deck" interactions. We've done a good job and, so far, no one in our program has had symptoms of or tested positive for Covid-19. What this meant for me was a return to the pool four weeks ago and a renewed program to get back in shape after months out of the water. 

But...we got a message from the club/pool manager last night that a lap swimmer (not in our program) had been at the pool around 1pm one day early last week and had, shortly thereafter, tested positive for the virus. That was the last week on which we also had noon master swim practices (which I did not attend) and it's possible that some of the noon swimmers crossed paths with the infected person (not likely). But, with a need for caution, and a responsibility to the 400 member families of the club, the board of directors opted to close down the facility for a deep cleaning this week and an attempt at contact tracing with the person who tested positive. 

If the swim gods smile upon us we'll resume regular, morning swim practices on Tuesday morning, June 23rd. I am currently offering offerings to all the wet and wild deities and demigods in the aquatic pantheon... 

Since the pool won't be available in the meantime I'm back on my long, long walks, shorter three mile runs, planking and weight lifting regime. I have added one thing to my total health regimen which is very interesting to me. Let me preface this by saying that what I'm about to discuss should not be taken as a recommendation that you follow the same path! Everyone is different.

At any rate I have to start by admitting that I've grappled with lots of anxiety over the past decade. It was overwhelming for a year or so back in 2007-2008. I tried several medications but didn't like them at all and chose to work through the anxiety by researching and trying all manner of cognitive training approaches. I was able to master and stop the panic attacks that sometimes crept up and surprised me but for the rest of the decade since I've had pervasive and uncomfortable levels of more or less continuous anxiety. It's almost like a low level of electric current running through my body. Swimming both soothes and at the same time exacerbates the anxiety. I love the physicality of it but my anxiety intrudes in the form of performance anxiety. Which is odd for an older swimmer; I should be long past the point where I feel like I have anything to prove; or an audience that wants to see me perform...

My doctor and I talk about this whenever I drop by to see whether some skin abnormality will kill me or if he can burn off the offending blemish with liquid nitrogen. About three months ago he suggested that I might try taking a supplement called 5-HTP for my perennial anxious state. I bought some and it sat unused on a shelf for a couple of months. When we started swimming again I decided to give it a shot. I've been taking it twice a day and, for the first time in a long, long time I'm "electric current-anxious buzz" free. It took several weeks for me to see a real effect but it's there now. 

I don't have more or less energy. I am not more or less depressed (and certainly not clinically depressed...). My mood is neither elevated nor de-elevated. It's just that I don't have that tingling, annoying, frightening feeling that catastrophe is just around the corner and that I should be hyper-vigilant and on full alert. 

An interesting thing happened after I noticed the cessation of anxiety symptoms. I take my blood pressure every day and I also recently started checking my oxygen uptake and pulse rate. My blood pressure has always been under control (without meds) but it dropped from averaging 120/65 to 110/65 in the last two weeks. The metric that really surprised me though was my resting heart rate which dropped from an average of 62 to a new, sustained low of 53 bpm. The resting O2 measurement remained static at 97-98.

Seems that not having the overlay of anxiety is good for one's cardiovascular system. Since I am not having side effects from the 5-HTP I'm certainly going to continue to take it. Maybe it's reducing all that free flowing cortisol.

I now have a little cocktail of medications and supplements I'm taking during the Covid-19 pandemic. I'm taking 10 mg of Atorvastatin since this particular statin is well know to smooth the inner epithelial tissue in arteries and veins. Since the Covid-19 virus seems to do the most damage to the cardio/pulmonary systems it seems wise to reduce inflammation and roughened inner artery walls as much as possible. I'm taking 1000 mg. of vitamin D since recent studies pointed to vitamin D shortages as being a common condition in Covid-19 patients who have had the highest mortality rates. And I continue to take 800 mcg. of Folic Acid daily to reduce arterial inflammation caused by possible build up of homocysteine. 

I'm also dosing myself with good coffee at every opportunity. We eat so many fruits and vegetables you'd think we were product testers for the produce industries, and we eat red meat only glancingly and then in small amounts. 

I do think it's important in these precarious times to do as much as possible to boost your immune system in order to fight off infections, to the extent that it's possible. Diet, anxiety control, exercise and getting enough sleep might go a long way toward lessening the effects of a Covid-19 infection, or just making a seasonal cold less miserable. Any way you slice it there are no real downsides to being is as good a physical shape as you can get. 

Ah. An image from back in the good old days when three people could 
socialize in the pool while doing kick drills....
Not advised these days...

Well, Texans have outdone themselves. Our governor convinced all the "low information" people in our state that everything was more or less dandy and that we should all just suck it up and get back to work. As the scientists and medical experts predicted confirmed cases and hospitalizations have both just ticked back up dramatically. The city of Austin has extended the "stay at home" advisory and asked, pleaded and begged citizens to please, please, please wear a face mask whenever you go out in public. 

I'm only visiting businesses that absolutely mandate that everyone wear a mask to enter their establishment. I don't care what political cult people subscribe to but private property owners can make their own rules up for customer safety and anyone who doesn't want to play by the rules should find some place else to shop. I'm wearing a mask everywhere I go and I'm not stopping till we have a cure and a vaccine. If you have an anti-science response just save it because it will get deleted in the interest of not giving bad information to the public. 

I'm giving Austin citizens mixed reviews on their masking skills and social distancing awareness. The Trader Joe's store in our neighborhood is getting high marks for their 100% required compliance toward masking and limiting overall store occupancy. One local coffee shop flunked miserably (not a national chain) when the counter person who poured and handed me a cup of coffee did so with a face mask pulled down under his chin. 

It's all a reminder to me to pay attention to the visiting doctor in my studio tomorrow, and to also make sure I wipe down the camera, lens and tripod I'll be using before (and after) his visit. 

Waiting for the vaccine fairies to deliver a nice, safe vaccine for all of us.

An image from the past that I hope will once again be routine.
12 people circle swimming in a warm-up lane at UT 
before the Masters Nationals.

Hook Em Horns.


What is my "Photography Business Re-opening" strategy these days?

Exterior, environmental portraits fall into one of my lowest risk categories.

When the pandemic hit and people in the USA started taking it seriously the federal government (or what's left of it...) issued a decree for businesses to close down and for everyone who could to stay home. With regard to both science, instincts of self-preservation, and general ethics, I complied and stopped booking photographic jobs and even halted all but the most cursory business/marketing communications. I think this was all smart and collectively we probably prevented hundreds of thousands of new cases of Covid-19. 

But now everyone is grappling with the nuts and bolts of how (and when) to safely re-open businesses while protecting personal safety and without opening up our businesses to liability lawsuits that may arise from persons contracting the virus and singling out our businesses with what might be frivolous lawsuits. (A program note: Many companies are insisting that customers sign Covid-19 waivers to "protect" themselves from customers contracting the virus while visiting said company location or when using the company's services. There is a decent chance that most of the waivers will prove to be unenforceable and are, in some instances just ploys to discourage the filing of lawsuits. See your attorney to get the best guidance...). 

My business exists in a state that has been in a rush to get back to business. Restaurants, movie theaters, nail salons and most other kinds of businesses are being green-lighted for re-opening in concert with certain restrictions (most of which seem, from the customer point of view, to be voluntary). Texas is tossing the dice and betting that the economic recovery will outperform the effects of the death rate from the virus. The virus spread seemed to take a break when everyone was observing common sense restrictions (face masks and distancing) but the virus's spread is now accelerating again in lockstep with the enthusiastic re-opening. 

I'm not necessarily making a judgment about the calculus of business versus safety for anyone else but since I'm the head bottle washer over here I have an obligation to set policies, strategies and schedules that I think are in the best interests of everyone I work with. It would be sad to die for a portrait.

Some parts of the business are self-limiting. A lot of my profitable business, pre-Covid19, was event photography for corporations. Most events would last for 2.5 to 3 days and involve day long sessions with hundreds or even thousands of people seated side-by-side in row after row of closely packed chairs. While not vociferous like a political rally or a religious revival the spaces got quite crowded and it would not have been possible to maintain social distancing under those circumstances. Even less so in the evening hours when the entire cohort crammed into bars and restaurants to talk close and loud while drinking free adult beverages and listening to loud music. Wading through giant crowds like this, with or without a camera, seems the perfect recipe for a super-spreader event of magnificent proportions. 

Every business that we normally deal with on these kinds of events has shut down their schedule for the remainder of 2020. And, I expect that we'll see the shut down of large, corporate events continue until such a time as a vaccine becomes widely available and acceptable. That might be (optimistically) the third or fourth quarter of 2021. However it pans out I won't have to take the responsibility of giving a thumbs up or thumbs down on my participation because there won't be even a chance of any kind of large event resumption. 

Probably the area I have the least worry about and the most control over is corporate headshot work here in my own studio. I can control the frequency with which I schedule sessions. I can insist that sitters sanitize their hands when they come in the door and also wear a face covering until they are positioned and ready to be photographed. I control the sanitation of the space and I can mentally inventory the surfaces our customers touch and remediate them immediately after the customer leaves our space. 

We don't have physical contact with the customer as a barber or stylist might and our space is well ventilated and air conditioned with fresh air, not recycled air. 

My plan is to re-start portraits by appointment on the first of August unless there is bad news from the public health front. We'll start marketing in earnest in the last two weeks of July. 

Another subset of studio work that's even safer (but is a small part of our service mix) is still life photograph. We have a workflow to deal with unboxing deliveries and feel safe handling most non-organic products. If clients want to supervise the shoot we can do that by tethering the camera and sending images over the web for approval or changes. We could start the marketing for these services right away but will wait and market these alongside the studio portraits in the second half of July. 

In the past two years we've done an increasing number of corporate advertising shoots at exterior locations for clients deeply involved in infra-structure projects. Think of portraits of the CEO or a skilled worker in front of a dam project in a remote part of a state. Or at a job site where a large facility is being built. Since these are outdoor environments there is a lower risk of contagion and we can still control our use of masks, social distancing and the sanitizing of gear used. I think that's a safe bet for a re-start. 

The big caveat in environmental shoots done for our corporate clients is the necessary travel. I'm not at all certain that air travel will be a workable gamble until a rock solid and reliable treatment for Covid-19 is identified and tested. Traveling by commercial airline is very much a gamble at this point and I'd want some sort of treatment "guarantee" if I was to take that gamble. For the immediate future, barring such a treatment or, even better, a vaccine, I'm not planning on accepting jobs that require air travel. The exception would be for those few clients who might be disposed to sending along a private jet. We'd consider that sort of travel... I'll spring for the Chlorox Wipes.

With that caveat about air travel I would still consider undertaking big environmental advertising projects where I'm given enough time to travel by car to each destination. I grew up in Texas. We were trained to drive for hours at a time. We actually enjoy it, mostly. A benefit of driving myself to job sites is that I can bring along all the gear I'd ever want to use, with no weight limits! I can also bring along lots of food and refreshments. The only component of this kind of travel that worries me is staying in hotels and motels. 

Bring those wipes along and maybe your own sleeping bag and look for the motels what have individual window unit air conditioners and heaters. That's about as safe as you can make it. 

I envy my friends who are strictly architectural photographers. They seem to have worked with few impediments (at least locally) over the past few months. But the downside is that you'd have to spend your days photographing nothing but architecture...

I'm doing a test run for studio portrait shooting on Wednesday this week. In anticipation I'm pulling up all the foam floor tiles in the studio, washing the concrete floor with a good disinfectant, separately disinfecting the tiles and drying them in the sun. Wiping down all hard surfaces in the studio space and positioning hand sanitizer next to all doors and touch points. With a 135mm lens or the 70-200mm lens on a high resolution, full frame camera I'll be able to work outside the six foot circumference around the subject to keep both of us safe. 

The corporate headshot sessions require lots of set up before the clients arrive but by the time they walk in the door 80% of the work is done and we usually can do a great job in 15 to 20 minutes in front of the camera. That limits everyone's exposure to what I think are safe levels. I'll keep my mask on throughout but, of course, the sitter will need to be "face naked" for the duration of the shoot. 

I'm using disposable masks so when the client exits I'll put the mask in the trash, sanitize my hands and head into the bathroom to wash by hands and face. Then I'll grab a new mask and keep it handy for the next session. 

It's good to do a trial run before we presume a "full on" photography practice. I want to see where the stress points are and how to handle variations before we ramp back up and are working too quickly to see clearly how we might improve. 

Looking forward to seeing you in front of the camera on August 1st. Safe, happy and oh so photogenic. 


Sometimes looking at what people are currently reading from my blog's past pushes me to revisit posts I wrote nearly a decade ago. And sometimes I like them.

Go here to see a long, long post I wrote in 2012 about the role of critics in art:


I re-read it this morning and my opinion hasn't changed. At all. The industry and the hobby and the webification of everything has changed but not my basic thoughts.

Just thought I'd give you something old and new to read while you are waiting for your international flight to some place intriguing and spectacular...

Loved the appended comments to this post as well.

Happy Sunday! A great day for a swim!!!  KT


Accelerating constant change. Online learning. Virulent Introverts. Moving targets. And, Isolation.

Long time readers will remember that I starred in three online learning projects for Craftsy.com. They were very successful online programs when they hit the market in 2013. I had a blast doing the productions with a great video crew in Denver, Colorado but declined to do any more because I felt like I had tried the experience and moved on. Back in 2018 Craftsy.com sold their online learning assets to NBC/Universal which continued the online learning business under the name: Bluprint. 

Partner/Contributors to Craftsy.com, now Bluprint, got notice last month that the business would be closing and that after giving customers the opportunity to download their paid for programming they will be shutting down the online education products. Craftsy/Bluprint will cease to exist. 

It was interesting at the time to be involved in the earlier stages of online learning products. To many in the industry it seemed that the potential of online glasses was nearly unlimited. The secret of success, many in the online education space thought, was to clearly identify which subjects (and which subcategories) would appeal to broad enough and passionate audiences. Making the right choices and backing up those choices with very high end, three camera video productions, and good editing decisions, would give the site owners enough creative "product" to potentially make a handsome profit while also paying talent/participants very good royalties and a share of the profits. Additionally,  the talents could increase their income by delivering referrals back to the site. 

I had a great time doing the original three programs. Each one took a week or so of pre-production on my home turf. After going back and forth with a producer to fine-tune tight, written outlines, I got to travel to Denver where the company put me up in a comfortable downtown hotel, gave me an generous advance, and an even more comfortable per diem, and then coached me through three or four days of in studio or on location shoots. I learned more about producing video by being on a set for eight to ten hours a day, over the course of a month, than I think I could learn from actually watching endless YouTube videos about video production for a year. Which, in itself, is a pleasant irony. 

2013 was a busy year. On the heels of my three stints at Craftsy's studios I headed to Berlin, Germany for ten days to go to the IFA show and to participate in some beta testing of Samsung's doomed Galaxy NX camera. When I got back home I was off a week later to NYC to participate on behalf of Samsung at the Photo Expo. For about a month I felt like a celebrity photographer. I was even considering buying one of those photojournalist's vest, a Tilley (boomer) hat and maybe even a larger camera bag. People back then would actually pay to go to workshops by small town photographers like me, or pay for photo business advice from at least two semi (web) famous photographers who've spent their careers poised on the precarious edge of bankruptcy. And dissolution.

But that was then and this is now. Life in the pandemic. Businesses closed. The market for creative services on the thinnest ice. 

So.... Craftsy.com/Bluprint is closing. It had a good run. The sad thing will be the loss of those nice royalty checks. Not all of them were big but some were generous enough to pay for wholesale camera system changes whereas others barely covered the cost of a new lens. But I always saw the payments as gravy; not a core part of my business income. Like a continuous and generous tip for a job well done.

Samsung has long since exited the camera markets and, I like to think, at least some of that decision was arrived at with our collective feedback about the Galaxy NX camera which, I think, was universally hated amongst real photographers. Yes, you could play Candy Crush on the 5" screen if you were bored but that was no real compensation for the 30 second start up time.... In spite of the shortcomings I thought the sensor and some of their lenses in the NX system were really good and I have have some great photos as a result of my participation. 

Change happens all the time and it may just be my perceptions but I think rate of change is also continually accelerating. The pandemic will force us (collectively) to completely re-imagine how everything will look in the future: from dining outside your own home to how, and whether or not, commercial photographs get commissioned. I would count it all as scary if you were taking advantage of the status quo previously, and stumbling along on little more than your good looks and your uncanny ability to always show up with a camera in your hands. 

Styles that were pervasive as late as last Fall already seem dated and passĂ© now. "Influencer" work seems to be trouncing conventional photographic work as far as advertising agencies are concerned. I got a call from an agency last week and was asked to bid on a couple of jobs for a multi-national medical products company. To do the jobs right will require $20,000 of budget for each job. I have no reasonable expectation that the company or their agency will go forward on these projects. I wouldn't. The campaign already looks dated and over produced. I'd look for something a lot cheaper and a lot less "produced" but no one really asked me for creative direction. 

I look at stuff like this as the "last gasp." Campaigns like this are being pushed by art directors who've been in the business for twenty or thirty years and it feels like a retreat to familiar safety. No one is willing to take a chance here. But just like the short cycle of online learning I think we'll see a big and scary transformation in the advertising space and people with ten or more years in the business will have absolutely no idea what hit them when the shift gets geared up. 

It seems not to make sense that online learning channels are having more difficulties right now since everyone is staying close to home and either overwhelmed or bored, but in fact Bluprint is hardly alone in seeing a decline in paid access or subscription schemes for online learning channels. Given that most of the people who are in the demographics where they can choose to spend extra dollars for edu-tainment are the same people who are most able to work from home and are also stuck on Zoom calls, helping their kids navigate online education, and then filling their time with TV and movie bingeing on Netflix, Hulu, Disney and Prime burn out with passive entertainment must be rampant. In the case of my classes, specifically, I believe that anyone who was interested has already taken the course and also, so much has changed since those were produced seven and a half years ago that they have become dated. 

But therein lies a similar problem for all the streaming services I mentioned above. The "faucets of content", the producers, crews, etc. have been prohibited by the pandemic from feeding the beasts of "on demand streaming" with new stuff. I often joke that I need to cancel my Netflix subscription because I've already seen all ten of the good movies they have in rotation....Everything is started to look like a re-run.

So, what is the world going to look like after we emerge from our various bunkers and go back out into the sunlight of normalized existence? I can tell you right now that there's going to be a hell of a lot more take out restaurants and a radically declining number of sit down establishments. Haute Cuisine is going to look a lot more like private dining and not a shared dining room experience. 

A lot of advertising is going to keep flocking from photography into video. A lot of video is going to be crowd-sourced from people who've spent the last 3 to 6 months bingeing on tutorial videos at No Film School and all over YouTube and Vimeo. But those same channels are also going to see radical declines in viewership, and by extension, cash in payment for their content. It's a wild time to be a visual artist and yet this more or less clears the decks of the remaining boomers and sets a fresh stage for millenials and gen Z folks to make the industry over in a new way. A way that's essential for them. 

I have a nice office. If only I made the effort to keep it tidy...
Can't imagine staying at home in a smaller space.

For many freelancers right now the big worry is the money. With corporations living in liability fear and unwilling to put their employees in potential danger there are so few video/film/photo projects being done anywhere that you can pretty much count them with a one line abacus. I'm in okay shape financially so I have the "advantage" of being more worried about the effects of isolation on my spirit and my practice of emotional intelligence, and glib conversation. I am, shockingly, sometimes finding myself at a loss for the right word, the right phrase, or the pithy quote that used to fall off my tongue like crystal glasses balanced precariously over a granite floor. 

My belief is that when it's safe to come out again, when there is a vaccine for this coronavirus, when there is a widespread and proven treatment for those who contract the disease - like Tamiflu for the seasonal flu - we are likely to see some really profound changes. And some will be in the nature of a pendular swing back toward enhanced, actual social networking and face-to-face engagement.

If nothing else I think the lock down has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that no one, NO ONE actually likes online education. Not the teachers and certainly not the students! By extension, I think venues like Creative Live, Masterclass and all the firewalled private areas of V-logger's YouTube channels will (already are) experience a huge fall in viewership and revenue as people have been overdosed with Zoom calls and relentless, in-house, video entertainment. 

I can almost see the logic of people betting on Cruise ship stocks, Casino stocks, and airline stocks. People will have had their fill of video in all of its guises and will be ferociously motivated to go out and have real experiences, see real things and talk to real people. In fact, video learning might be the platform shoes and bell bottom pants of the current time.  
What does this presage for photographers over a certain age? Don't know. I think it all depends on why you practice photography. If you have a beautiful, modern style of portraiture you can probably count on business from commercial clients who need to re-introduce their companies to the public and, by extension, introduce their newly re-balanced staffs. If you are a videographer you'll find endless opportunities to help companies explain their new safety standards and processes. Basically, training videos that show customers how to use the company services in a post pandemic society.

Gone for now are the huge crews that used to make TV commercials. I've got an iPhone for that.

If you do photography for pleasure it may well become a new "golden age" for you as things open back up and you find new resolve and pent up passion to get back to making photographs of the things you just could not access a few months ago. Streets, parks and wilderness will re-open and be available as canvases for your ready re-discovery. I might even catch the "landscape bug" and start doing more work in Texas's rougher western region. I can only dream of making photographs in the streets again... of beautiful people without masks. 

It's been a funky year for me. I've lost so many things and people and family members who meant so much to me. But I've also "lost" my photography. The stuff I love to do. I hope it comes back. The parents and Studio Dog are gone. I'm left with my good memories and my photographs. But my photography is the one thing that can, hopefully, be saved. 

I hope I'll once again be able to invite interesting people into the studio and make portraits of them. I hope I'll once again be able to pack a few cameras and a few changes of clothes and travel somewhere I haven't been in order to make photographs that are completely new to me...again. 

Studio Dog watching me carefully to make sure I don't screw up. 

Or drop food on the floor. 

I guess there is no good age at which to experience what we've lived through and continue to grapple with. The specter of a deadly disease and the cessation of normal and fulfilling life. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to be alive and well, but as I get older I get more cognizant of the fact that I've got less time in front of me than behind me and I begrudge anything that's standing in my way and preventing me from experiencing my idea of life to the fullest. But, of course, it could all be lots worse for me.

I am nostalgic now just for work. Not for the billing but the actual process of making photographs.

 More typing at the very end.....and now, a photo intermission...

Ben picking out peppers at Skidmore. Three years ago. 

 one of my favorite, casual studio sessions. 
The amazing and beautiful Michelle. 

In the end it will all work out the way it's supposed to. I guess. But I'll be happy when we have the virus under control and we can blossom into a happy and emotionally prosperous society again. It never helps us extroverts to be surrounded by legions of introverts. They relish the isolation. The revel in the myriad projects they seem to find to work on. They savor the silence of the day.  And they have that look in their collective eyes that says, "Hey extrovert! Calm down and read a book."

Believe me, that's not helping.

Swimming note: It was so beautiful to be at the pool today. On the weekends we only two workouts to choose from each day. You can workout from 8-9 or from 9-10, but you can't choose both times on one day. I opted for 9 am. After a week of rising at 5:15 to be at the pool and ready to go by 6 in the morning, 9 am seemed like a sybaritic holiday. The sun was warm, the sky was clear and the water was an almost frosty 76 degrees. I was fortunate to have my own lane and we thrashed through a nice set under the guidance of our coach, Hannah.

I count this morning as one of the ten most enjoyable swims of the past 365 pool adventures. It was just that perfect...

Camera news: Two friends get Fuji GXR cameras. I am vaguely impressed. I take the Lumix S1R and Leica 90mm out for a spin and I quickly get over any gear coveting I might have had. Seems smart right now.


Out photographing with the ancient Canon G10 last Sunday. It's a wonderful little camera.

Kenny Williams is an actor I met at Zach Theatre well over 20 years ago. He's toured the world in the ensuing years as a gifted singer and performer but we've managed to keep up with each other. He texted me last week to see if I was interested in going for a walk through downtown. He has an interest in photography and wanted to see what I do when I take a camera for a walk. I was happy to have him along with me for a couple of hours. 

We both made odd choices of cameras. He claimed it was too hot (it was!) to carry a big camera around so he prudently opted to take his phone instead. I'm just eccentric and I chose the Canon G10 because it was on a shelf right next to the door and it seemed so obvious, in the moment. 

But I'm almost always interested to see just how great an older, smaller, cheaper camera can take photos if all the parameters of the shooting experience mesh with the capabilities of the camera. Full sun? Check! Slow moving objects? Check! Raw files available? Check. Well then, off we go. 

First off I'll say I'm shocked at how well the G10 handled the scene above. Kenny is in open shade and we can see the sunlight street and sidewalks behind him. Yes, some parts are burned out but I'm impressed by how well the camera (set to "P") handled the exposure and how well the raw files dealt with the background. I'm getting better results from this camera than I remembered and I'm going to chalk that up to the idea that raw converters have been continuously improved so the raw files from cameras follow those improvements in lock step. Even from cameras that are 10 or more years old. Have raw file, will process.

In the photo just above I'm impressed at the differentiation in the greens of the image. From the leaves on the trees to the water behind them. A Jpeg shot at the same time gave me greens that were much less differentiated and actually started to blend into each other. 

I find the colors from the older CCD sensor to be richer and deeper than the colors from the newer CMOS sensor in the G15. Funny. you'd think newer would be better but that's not always the case. I think CMOS trades off color depth and color saturation for lower noise and longer battery life. I'd rather have the colors....

My final observation concerning the G10 is just how sharp the 28-140mm lens can be. While Blogger limits the reproduction size here I was surprised at how competitive the G10 raw files were with more modern cameras fitted with bigger sensors and much, much more expensive lenses. 

As you can see in the image just above, the trade-off for high sharpness and lack of vignetting with the Canon G10 lens is some slightly more complex than simple barrel distortion on the edges of the frame. Not the camera you want to use to photograph projects for architects --- but I think that falls into the category of common sense. Right?

Kenny and I walked through downtown to search for new murals and street art. A lot of the good stuff from the early days of the pandemic are now gone. Taken down as businesses on East Sixth St. rushed to take the plywood off their doors and window and open up for business. Makes me happy I made multiple trips down to document them. 

One of the biggest losses I encountered was the "paint over the top" of the Superman and Wonder Woman mural I showed a week or so ago. Senseless removal as it was replaced by......white paint. Sad. So Sad. 

Another perfect morning at the pool. I wonder if I can get paid to swim?

I hit the pool at 6:00 this morning. The air was cool (62 f) and dry. The water was a chilly (but wonderful) 77 degrees. It was dark when I got in and fully light when I pulled myself out of the deep end, grabbed my phone and took the images above and below. Yesterday I forgot all my swim gear at the pool. It was waiting for me in a small bin at the side of the deck when I got there this morning. So nice. 

I hope Austinites and Texans are smart enough to continue doing the social distancing and face mask wearing so we don't  have to shut down the pools again. It would be sad to let the pandemic win when there are still thousands of potential swims left. 

I use Blogger to create the blog posts. They've changed the whole interface and it may take me a day or two to get used to the new way of doing things. I hope there's no interruption of service and I hope also that I don't get myself into a technical pickle and mess stuff up. It would be a bad time to do so since my technical staff is busy troubleshooting the small cold fusion reactor we use to power the labs, etc. 

Now off with a odd mismatch of cameras: The S1R with the 85mm Sigma Art lens and the Canon G15 (with freshly charged batteries...). Have a great day! Drink lots of coffee! Play hard.


Currently "testing" two different cameras. From nearly the same era. But what does "testing" really mean in this instance?

Belinda cleaned out a closet and found an older camera. It's an Olympus epm-1 which is a very small, very thin m4:3rd camera that hit the market around 2011 and did not take the world by storm. At the time the Olympus offerings, regardless of price, were limited to a sensor resolution of 12.3 megapixels. The epm-1 is the smallest interchangeable lens mirrorless camera that I've come across yet. It's just a tiny bit bigger in one dimension than an iPhone XR and smaller in another dimension. But I don't want to get too multi-dimensional here....  Olympus sent it to me out of the blue. No request to review. No request to write about it even in passing. It came to me some time in 2012 along with a tiny flash that fits in the hot shoe and a highly promotional, super small, black backpack to hold the camera, charger and flash unit. I spent a day trying to figure out where they hid the controls and then, frustrated, I gave it to Belinda to see if she could get any use out of it. Turns out that she is much smarter than me and she used it right up until she discovered the Canon G15. At which point she handed back all the epm-1 stuff to me.

It's funny because the epm-1 arrived back in the studio this week and shortly afterwards I took possession of another G15 so I could have one too. A confluence of weird cameras. (They seem right at home with the equally eccentric - but loveable - Sigma fp).

So, right now I'm "testing" them. What does that really mean? Let me explain.  I have a camera test pedestal that is a massive lead and nickel alloy tripod head on top of a reinforced concrete pillar that goes down through the floor of the lab  (without touching the actual floor --- too many vibrations!!!) to bedrock forty seven and a half feet below. I mount the cameras on this and use a laser interferometer to get the camera perfectly level and parallel to the NASA test target that I had micro-etched with blue lasers onto an 8 by 12 foot sheet of one inch thick titanium. It's a good test target. It seems dimensionally stable.

I can't be in the room at the time of actual testing because we create a complete vacuum in the space in order to rule out atmospheric anomalies during testing. This also helps to prevent dust from impinging on our test results.

The room isn't state-of-the-art since we only filter particles down to 1.5 microns but we're working on improving our technologies because of the important work we're doing here with used, $100 to $150 dollar cameras, which were created nearly a decade ago.

Before we have our robotic interface run the actual tests we mould the center of a 30 pound warhead core of spent plutonium into the shape of the exterior of the camera and place the final plutonium construct on top of the camera to minimize any residual, external vibrations. A tight fitting, low gamma emitting plutonium pseudo "bean bag" is just the right solution for any shutter shock that might be resident in the cameras as well.

Once everything is clamped into place we test the cameras over a vast range of temperatures starting with an immersion in liquid nitrogen and then increasing the temperatures up to the point of failure, or until the camera's exterior begins to melt.

All professionals should know the "melt" point of their cameras if they are to truly deliver the best results for their clients. So far, of all the cameras VSL has tested in this manner, the Pentax K-01 tops the scale for heat resistance and resistance to electromagnetic vituperative lashings. It did, however, fail our test for high pressure immersion in Diet Coke (one of the toughest tests our lab currently has, in house, for satellites and cameras).

Once we've gotten several thousand terabytes of "metrics" that cover aspect from Nyquist quiescence to  all the relevant Ferbil integers from our lab tests, we feel more confident in taking said unit out into the "real world" and "making" test images to evaluate its actual performance. It's a months' long process as we need to shoot the camera in all natural lighting and weather conditions and we sometimes wait months for the right intersection of temperature, humidity and astrological star stage.

Finally we give it to our physics guy so he can take pictures of his girlfriend standing next to her mountain bike. That's the crucial end point of the testing.

We're in early days on the two cameras mentioned above. Really early days. How early? We're still in the battery testing stage at this point. How do we test the batteries? Glad you asked that. First we fire up the cyclotron and.............

Somebody make coffee! This might go on for a while...

But in all seriousness (if I have any left) I'm having fun playing with fun, basic, stupid and cheap cameras this week. Maybe I'll discover something no one else has. Maybe they'll end up back in a drawer for the next 10 years.

Microaggressions. That's when your camera won't switch modes as fast as you want it to. But it seems to require sentience from a camera and that may be a stretch. Conversely maybe it's really the action you take against the camera when it doesn't perform as you'd expected. But really, isn't that why we test?

It's June 10th. Absolutely nothing is happening today and that's okay. Sometimes it's nice if life just proceeds on its own.

Yesterday was super hot and sticky here. This morning I woke up at 5:30 this morning and it was a cool, dry 65 degrees. Just right for a swim. Actually, just right for anything. Yesterday's early swim practice was packed with people. I had to share a lane with Olympic gold medalist, Tommy Hannan; it was intimidating. He's half my age, twice as fast and...well, a gold medalist in butterfly. We pretty quickly determined that we should split the lane instead of trying to circle. No way I was going to swim on his intervals. It all worked out. We're still on speaking terms...

Today was a lightly attended workout; I had my own lane in the pool at 6 a.m. The water was cooler today. That means someone at the pool turned on the aerators last night. It's easier to swim faster in cooler water. 76 degrees Fahrenheit is optimum for racing but anything under 82 is fine for an hour long workout. 

The sunrise did its beautiful light show once again, this time with a deep, French blue background and warm, magenta-hued clouds accented with soft orange. I with I'd had a camera in the pool with me because at one point the whole balance between pool lights, sky, clouds, and the pervasive glow of ambient light was astonishing. I swam backstroke while I watched the colors build to a crescendo and then, like flicking a switch, just turn into normal morning light. No big yards today. Just a long, strong swim in perfect water and perfect light. 

I went home, cooked two over easy, fried eggs, made toast from sourdough bread, and tossed in a slice of ham for good measure. Yummy. But after I washed my dishes and thought a bit about sitting in front of the computer aimlessly working on....something/anything...I decided not to waste such a beautiful morning indoors. I put on an old pair of Merrill walking shoes, grabbed the Sigma fp camera  and headed downtown. 

The Sigma fp is a fun camera for casual shooting. I use it mostly bare (without an auxiliary finder) and almost always in the aperture mode. The 45mm Sigma lens I use has an external aperture ring which is handy and oh so nicely made. The 1/3rd stop clicks are just about perfect. The lens is supposed to be "soft" at f2.8, which is its widest aperture. I'm not so sure "soft" is exactly the right description for what happens to the image at f2.8. I think it's more a lowering of contrast than a major loss of resolution. That being said, if you are a stickler for absolute, corner to corner prickly sharpness then maybe using f2.8 will be problematic. 

With this in mind I like to set the lens to f5.6 and shoot just about all my street photography and little fine-artsy documentations at that setting. I find that f4.0 is also very nice: sharp and contrasty but I like that extra depth of field I get from 5.6 for most normal focal length shots on full frame. When I'm shooting bigger vistas I generally opt to go to f8.0 so I can get reasonable focus in more depth. Sharpness, and extension of sharpness in depth, are also quite dependent on the focusing distance as well as lens design. Some lenses perform better as the subject-to-camera distance increases. Most film lenses used to be optimized for best performance at a distance of 50X the focal length of the lens. I'm not sure if that changed when lens makers started implementing close up corrections that are done by moving various lens element groups independently while focusing or not. It stands to reason that a lens would be optimized for one extreme or the other. The moving groups are an attempt to have performance at both ends. And in the middle.

I remember using earlier macro lenses from Canon and Nikon (pre-CRC*, *close range correction) and experiencing noticeable decreases in sharpness as I focused closer to infinity. 

One thing I love about shooting with the Sigma fp for casual work is the ability to bring up a waveform monitor on the LCD and work with exposure the same way I do when shooting video. A waveform gives me more actionable information than a simple histogram. I just make sure the waveform doesn't go over 100% and I know that nothing in the highlights will burn out. 

On a day like today, when my photography is ultra-casual, I really end up shooting in a modified "program" mode. I want control over the f-stop so I use the "A" setting but then I also set the camera to auto-ISO. Most of the shooting was done in bright sun so I certainly didn't fear that the camera would select an unusably high ISO. I'm happy with the sensor performance all the way to 6400 ISO and even beyond but the camera was mostly selecting ISO 100. I also can't use the camera's digital image stabilization with raw files so I want to make sure I'm shooting at a shutter speed I can predictably handhold. For me, with the 45mm, I try to be conservative and set the auto-ISO lower shutter speed limit to 1/160th as a bottom/slowest speed. 

My most used control is the exposure compensation dial which is the control wheel on the back of the camera. Usually, I'll tweak an exposure up a bit for a lighter than average subject to make sure we're not dropping the mid-tones too low. With the waveform monitor engaged it's a simple strategy. I just look at the photo preview on the LCD and turn the dial in the correct direction until the waveform is where I want it. Shooting raw is part of my point and shoot strategy with this camera. I can be underexposed by up to four stops (I'm usually not...) and still get a usable file in post production. If I know a highlight might burnout I'll under expose by a decent margin knowing I can hold the highlight in post and normalize the image with a  shadow slider and some mid-tone contrast correction. 

Today I wore the camera 1960's tourist style. That's where you wear the camera on a neckstrap, have the neckstrap around the back of your neck and let the camera bounce around on your chest or stomach. That way the camera strap doesn't keep sliding off my shoulder and the camera is instantly ready to be grabbed in both hands and used. It also makes one look very photo-nerdy so everyone just assumes you are a harmless tourist...not an opportunistic artist.

I would have taken the new (used) Canon G15 out for a spin but UPS seems to have mis-delivered the package. I got a notice telling me the package had been delivered to my front door but the time stamp for the drop was supposed to have occurred when both of us were home and paying attention. I usually hear the trucks pull up and usually the driver rings the door bell before running off. Not today. So, I've started the sad process of tracking down the lost package. It's so frustrating. I may never buy anything that needs to be shipped ever again. My local camera store will be delighted to read that... Now I'm waiting for someone at the local UPS distribution center to call me back. Right. We'll see if that happens. No big deal, I guess. It's not like I was depending entirely on that particular camera to change my life.

As I was photographing buildings and signs on Congress Ave. I noticed that the LaVazza coffee shop was open so I ducked in to get a cappuccino to go. I was the only customer in the store. That's got to be pretty safe. The coffee was as good as I remembered. They make a great cappuccino. I also like to drop by there because Elliott Erwitt did a calendar for the parent company and this shop has a big, mural sized, black and white of a couple with a small baby drinking LaVazza coffee will waiting to catch a train in some far off land. The baby is looking right into the camera and the parents are otherwise occupied. It's a wonderful photo. Seeing it enhances the effect of the coffee.

I also love the fact that their to-go cups have an insulating sleeve that runs down the entire expanse of the cup. It's a small touch but thoughtful. I haven't enjoyed a cappuccino that good in months. Really. It was that good. It was comforting to know that LaVazza is still there since, sadly, Medici Caffé is now closed up and gone from Congress Ave. Alas, it was one of my favorite haunts.

A giant, yellow wall. Too yellow. But sharp. Oh so sharp.

There were so few people downtown that it reminded me of the first week or so of the lockdown, back in March. No one was heading into any of the big office high rises and no one was in line for coffee, etc. The only people I ran into were various homeless people and private security people who are tasked with preserving the "sanctity" of all the private property. 

The homeless are at a double disadvantage in downtown these days. They have historically survived by panhandling from the downtown workers and a never ending stream of tourists, but both of those streams have effectively vanished. Secondly, they are the epitome of a "cash" enterprise since they don't have checking accounts and don't have credit card terminals. Few people walk around with cash anymore. I'm not entirely against a handout if their story is good and my (sometimes flawed) intuition prods me but I've long since stopped using cash or even carrying it around with me. I don't think I'm an outlier in this regard either.

The weather was so comfortable I could have stayed downtown all day. But I'd been up since 5:30 and needed to break for lunch, and also wanted to check on my (failed) camera delivery, so I headed back home to warm up some leftover pizza and check in. 

In closing I guess I have to say that I enjoy the Sigma fp precisely because of its earnest potential and in spite of its small flaws. Things I wish I could change? Not the AF. Not the C-AF. I just want a few little things like, the ability to attach a small EVF like we used to do with the Olympus EP-2, 3 and 5 cameras. I'm learning to modify my dirty baby diaper hold with this camera so I guess I'll survive. That's about it. Amazing that I really can't think of anything else I'd want to change. But if they do make an EVF attachment I'll get right in line to buy one. 

Coda; I talked with two very sharp and responsive people at UPS. They took my information down and advised me that someone would call me in one hour. I got a call 42 minutes later. They asked me to look outside our front door. The package had just been delivered. They were asking me to confirm. Yes! That is the best customer service I've had on a delivery for a long, long, time. Well done UPS. Very well done!!!

If you see my UPS driver would you let them know I'm at 
Latitude 30.2832  by Longitude -978030 ?
That would be nice...

The Resolution: I talked with two very sharp and responsive people at UPS. They took my information down and advised me that someone would call me in one hour. I got a call 42 minutes later. They asked me to look outside our front door. The package had just been delivered. They were asking me to confirm. Yes! That is the best customer service I've had on a delivery for a long, long, time. Well done UPS. Very well done!!!