B.Y. @ the Metropolitan Museum.
My corporate supervisor.
Well, the afternoon of testing is over and so is any nervousness about the upcoming job. Amazon delivered my ten foot, USB-C to USB-C 3.1 Gen2 cables right on time. I read about software issues between the latest version of Lumix Tether 1.7 tethering software and Mac OS Catalina 10.15.0 so I immediately updated my Laptop OS to 10.15.6. The combo seems to work fine with the S1R right now. I ran it all for an hour with lots of full-res and high-res raw test shots and nothing glitched. That part of the job seems locked down nicely.
The post focus feature of the camera is a bust for me on this job. It's just not reliable enough to be workable and just being able to pull 18 MB Jpegs is not going to work for this client. There is also a vicious frame crop when using it. After evaluating the post focus feature I spent a little while testing different lenses for the different shooting situations but my real focus (yeah, yeah) was to see what I could do when it came to the still life shots that require more depth of field than my usual subjects.
Using the normal 47+ raw mode I shot the camera at one second and the lens at f16 and brought the raw files into PhotoShop for some eye-watering inspection. If I leave space all around (lower magnification) the product/target I can get sharp front and back edges most of the time. But the winner in this race is clear. It's best to shoot with the high-res/multi-shot mode and get the angle I want and the comp I want but leave about 1/3 of the total frame empty. This means I am shooting further from the subject and gaining depth of focus as I move back and making the object smaller in the frame. Works well almost without fail. And the amount of detail in those huge files is breathtaking.
If they throw something at me that's enormous and needs more depth of field I'll shoot it with manual focusing stacking, using raw files, and go back to blending the frames in Photoshop. But I'm pretty certain I've got it wired with the super high res + distancing protocol.
The next thing I wanted to check was how much sharpness I'd lose stopping down to f16 with my current lenses. The short answer is....not much. I was oversold on the idea that f16 isn't particularly pretty or useful with current digital cameras. That's not true with the lens I have in mind for the product shots.
I picked up a 24-70mm f2.8 Lumix S Pro lens back in February and have used it sparingly but every time I do so I'm surprised at its high performance. I did test shots at the medium focal lengths (28-50mm) and the results at f16 are just fine. I might want to push in a bit of texture sharpening and boost the low radius sharpening a bit in post but the images I'm pulling out of camera are quite nice and sharper than any I would have gotten from whatever I was using a few years ago.
If I start with a 180 megapixel shot, using the center 2/3rds of the lens circle, I'll have tons of detail to play with when I downsample to useable file sizes. Another problem solved? Naw, just a bit of anxiety squashed.
The second part of the job is almost the polar, technical opposite. The clinician shots will be done with very narrow depth of field (gobs of background blur!) and a desire for flares and optical artifacts in the frame. Here's my only issue with that kind of work, so far: None of my current lenses seem to want to flare; even when used wide open with a light source in the frame. And none of them like to show off any artifacts. But the A.D. and I discussed this "issue" and we are both comfortable adding some of those effects in post. We'll start clean and dirty them up as we work on them.
I've selected four lenses for the shots of a clinician working with each product/device. I like the Sigma Art 20mm f1.4 because it's the obvious choice for any shots that we decide must be both wide, sharp and still drop the background out of focus. While a 20mm isn't a logical choice for limited/shallow depth of field we'll be working close enough to the subject make it do what we need. I tested that lens today and it's plenty sharp by f2.0. Nearly perfect by f2.8. A far cry from the old 20mm's I started with many years ago. Those might have sharpened up enough, generally, by f8.0 or so. The Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art is a good, all around lens for tighter shots that still require soft backgrounds and it's as sharp as I could ask for wide open, getting cleaner and sharper all the way out to f4.0. It always earns a place in the mix.
The 50mm f1.4 Lumix S-Pro is sharper wide open at f1.4 than my Leica 90mm Elmarit is at f5.6. I'll use it for as many of the shots as I can. I'm not worried about the clinician shots because I know it's easier to select and drop areas out of focus than it ever is to try and make something that's already soft in a file sharper. The 50mm f1.4 Lumix was a splurge but every time I shoot with that lens I get two benefits: Tangy sharpness, even wide open, and a nice workout for the bicep and forearm muscles on my left arm. The lens is a big, heavy piece of gear but it was made for style controlled advertising shoots like this one.
Finally, I have to include the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens because of all the lenses I own the combination of performance and focal length is as close to perfect as I can imagine. I don't think we'll really need something that long and at the same time delivering such a narrow depth of field but you never know, and it would be nice to have an opportunity to stretch my time hanging out with that lens a bit. Especially since, in this case, I won't be carrying it around in the heat at the end of a strap, married to a dense and heavy camera.
In shoots like these the shoulder mounted camera bags stay home and the cameras + lenses travel in a wheeled Think Tank case. We'll move maybe 50 feet in three days. I think my assistant and I can handle that.
That's all I have to share about the upcoming assignment and the process of selecting and testing the candidates for the gear inventory. I hope this was somewhat entertaining and explained my thought process in getting ready to go on location. I've missed the mental exercise.
Self-casting. I needed a person to do something in the frame and there wasn't anybody around.
I cast myself and made good use of the self timer on my camera. It was easily 100° in that factory in Matamoros, Mexico. This week's job will be in pleasantly filter A/C.
A historic shot of Austin which predates about ten new high rises.
A favorite crane shot. With Apple expanding in Austin and Tesla coming here too I'm guessing these cranes will not be an endangered species for a while...
The boy and I had a pre-production meeting this afternoon.
He'll be assisting me for the last three days of the work week.
It won't be his first rodeo by a long shot...
a trusty collaborator.
Getting the depth of field right for a product shot
That's all I've got for now. Hope the week goes well for everyone.