Photographing a glorious afternoon and early evening. Eighty degrees and beautiful yesterday. If you weren't outside....

I walked on Friday with a friend but I went right back on Saturday afternoon to take another look. It really is different when you go out by yourself. Yesterday was gorgeous. The temperature got all the way up to 80° which meant everyone was in shorts and t-shirts and just enjoying the heck out of the day.

I grabbed the little Fuji X100V and got to photographing. The images below are in reverse order, chronologically. Don't know why but that's how Blogger presented them to me. So we start at the end of the day and work our way back.

Under the Lamar Blvd. Bridge on Lady Bird Lake.
Wringing everything I can out of the camera's sensor.
ISO 6400. Handheld. Dark enough that I couldn't read 
the top dials of the camera.

Waiting for Godot?

The Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge was packed with people.
Some came to sit quietly and watch the purple sunset 
take over the day. Some were just passing through.

A photographer waiting for the light to get just right.

Ah. Barefooted.


Two Friends Talking on the Phone. One Trying to Rationalize a New Camera and the Other Trying to Talk Him Out of Buying it.


Long time readers of my blog can be forgiven for thinking I buy every camera I see or hold. I have been through an enormous number of cameras over the years and at times the ones I buy seem like irrational choices. I entertain the conceit that I'll figure out how to use them in my work as a professional photographer and will find a way to make each of them return more money into the coffers than the sum I yank out to buy them in the first place. Sometimes it actually works out that way while at other times the wheel of non-profitability just spin and spin. And my partner and my CPA just stand by shaking their heads. "Opportunity costs!" they say. 

Given this you would think I'm the last guy any of my friends would call to get a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down" on the wisdom of purchasing a new camera. I certainly would not depend on me to be a backstop for anyone else's reckless spending; especially not in the sweet and savory world of cameras. But in spite of my flagrant disregard for logic and common sense spending I still get a call every once in a while from a friend who is trying desperately to convince himself that it's a great idea to spend a large sum on something new.

I was sitting around the office on a gloomy and cloudy day last week when my phone rang, my computer also informed me of an incoming call, and my Apple watch piled on and notified me, physically and with an annoying sound, that I was being summoned to conversation by a caller. I looked at the caller I.D. and saw that it was one of my close friends.

We spent a few minutes talking about the GameStop affair over on Wall Street and we disparaged our elected leaders again, for a spell. Then he got down to business. He was calling to get my take about the idea of buying the new Fuji GFX 100S and "three or four of their better lenses." I suspect he wanted me to join him in an optimistic assessment of the future of commercial photography by agreeing that this new purchase would be a wonderful way to greet prosperous times ahead. It might just be the camera....

I didn't agree but there's a way to approach disagreeing with a purchase decision of a good friend and it's never the right thing to do to just laugh at his idea and denounce it out of hand. You have to go through the right process. It's a version of allowing one another to "save face." 

My friend is no novice with cameras or photography. He's been working in the business as long as I have. He's owned more expensive MF systems and, in fact, just sold off a Fuji GFX 50R and a lens the week before. As I've never owned a Fuji medium format system he's got to be much more knowledgeable about the advantages and pitfalls of ownership than I am. So, no, he wasn't fishing for technical information; in a very understated way he was looking for tacit approval to pull out his favorite credit card and buy a new object, right now. 

I started out by talking through the advantages of the new system with him. The amazing resolution. The reduced price compared to the previous model. The quality of the lenses Fuji is making for the system. And the idea of making this his primary system which, without a trace of irony, he says he could live with for the next ten years. At the end of this portion of our program we were both in agreement that the camera and the system was great and it would just make perfect sense for everyone to buy one and be done with camera shopping for a while.

At this point I threw in a "But......" And we proceeded to break down all the stuff we agreed to about the system's miraculous features and benefits but looking at them from a different angle. We started with resolution. 

It's my belief that soon 90% of all our assignments will be to make photographs that are destined to be viewed and shown on monitors, TVs, and computer screens of all sizes. If we take that as a given then the two camera systems he currently owns, based around a Nikon Z7 and a Panasonic S1R, are certainly more than capable of far exceeding the potential of current media. Even if a client did want to use a photograph across a magazine spread in one of the most luxuriously printed magazines in the world either of his current systems would do a fine job. In a different way than my business he is lucky that most of his work is in the field of architecture. A subject that doesn't have to confront subject motion and doesn't impose the need for high ISOs with super low noise. Also, both of the systems he owns are among the top contenders for extended and useful dynamic range. 

While the new Fuji sensor might exceed the single frame dynamic range of the sensor in the S1R the ability to use the S1R's hi-res, multi-shot feature is certainly an effective equalizer. Remember, he's photographing static buildings and interiors. Not moving models and never sports or outdoor adventure.

I reminded him that his desktop computer is nearing retirement age and, coupled with the slower hard drives he's been running for years, if he wants to take full advantage of the Fuji's full, raw 100 megapixel files he'll be spending a lot of time making coffee and playing Mind Craft as he waits for files to import and process. 

This, of course, led us temporarily down the pathway of computer replacement as an alternate option. But he valiantly fought his way back to the original subject, tabling the computer upgrade as being something "uninteresting" to him. 

We moved on to lenses and I asked him which lenses really stuck out to him. Which ones did he have targeted to buy with the GFX100S. He hemmed and hawed on this one for a bit since he works primarily (almost exclusively) as an architectural photographer and has spent years amassing arcane, wonderful and frightfully expensive tilt/shift and perspective control lenses for previous medium format systems (Leica and Hasselblad). In fact, he was already, at this early point in the Fuji GFX100S launch, investigating which adapters he could source to cobble his existing lenses onto the new system.

This led to a discussion of how he is working on stuff right now. Which lenses? What format? He admitted that he was working happily, and with a huge selection of lenses, in the 35mm digital camera ecosystem and had previously abandoned larger formats because of how kludgy they were to work with and how much cost and effort it was to marry the right lenses to the right cameras. The current Nikon and Panasonic cameras offered rich pools of lenses, adapted and otherwise, that worked well for him. 

Next up we discussed how many of his clients were disappointed with his current format. How many were clamoring for more resolution, bigger files and higher fees? He admitted that his clients were already groaning under the sheer bulk of the finished Tiff and .PSD files he was already delivering. None had even hinted at any need for technical improvements. If anything they were begging for more manageable file sizes.

At this point I thought I had _________ on the ropes. I thought, for his own financial good, I'd shut down this discussion with the old "one-two" punch. I asked him why, after skating through at least as many cameras and systems as I have in the last 20 years he had any conviction that he'd settle in on this particular system to spend the next ten years with. And I followed up with, "I don't know about you but my business is way, way down and looking ahead for the rest of the year I really don't see it getting much better. How about you?" 

He admitted that, like me, he'd just done a handful of smaller projects over the last several quarters and the work calendar for 2021 was currently sparsely populated. We commiserated about the lack of work for a bit (a common topic for most photographer I meet with these days) and I thought we'd pretty much worked through the reason why I would "keep my powder dry." I also asked, "What if you buy the system now and don't have much opportunity to work with it for 2021 and then, just as work picks up Phase One drops the price of their 100 MP sensor camera, which has a much, much bigger (dimensions) sensor, and you have to scramble to sell the Fuji (at a loss) to grab onto the Phase One?" Could that be a thing?

Like a self-help life coach I tossed in one more thing. "If you have a spare $12,000 hanging around burning a hole in your pocket why not wait till the stock market drops 10% and stick that cash into an index fund? The way the market has grown in the last six years you might find that instead of losing money on a depreciating camera you end up with enough new, free money to pull enough out of your investment to pay for a newer, better camera." 

He thought that sounded pretty good. We wished each other's families well and then ended the call. As I walked into my house I thought, "Wow. That sounded pretty good. Maybe _______ will take my advice and save some more cash. Then I patted myself on the back and told myself that I sounded so wise. I might even want to start taking my own advice!

But by the time I got back to the office and checked my phone I had already gotten a text. It read: "I always enjoy our chats. Thanks for your point of view. I pre-ordered the camera and just a couple lenses from XXXXXXX. Who are you going to order yours from?"

the heart want what the heart wants.


City portrait in black and white. Amazing little camera, that Fuji X100V. (From a walk today with a close friend).

Unicorn on Sixth Street.

I wish, just for me, that camera reviewers would spend a lot less time trying to write and a lot more time shooting the cameras they profess to be reviewing and then posting the results on their sites. You know, in the way that most people would want to use those cameras. Not on flat test charts. More likely on real life.


Seems like a growing swell of people want to accompany me on romps through Austin's quiet downtown. Hmmm.


Portrait for the cover of my first book, "Minimalist Lighting:
Professional Techniques for Location Photography"
published in 2008.

Maybe it's the decades of daily swim workouts or the discipline of getting up at 5 in the morning for long photoshoots (even though I am, by nature, a night owl and love staying up reading well past midnight) but I have never been a believer in the gift of raw talent in the arts as much as I believe that doing something with your craft everyday opens you up to both lucky chance and also a practiced fluidity that allows one to better take advantage when the fates toss you a bon-bon. 

Not so much that luck comes to those who are prepared but more, if you do something often enough you'll have a statistically better chance of getting everything right when you need to. At least every once in a while.

During the pandemic, and a series of lockdowns which mostly prevented doing any commissioned work, I found myself, for the first time in thirty odd years, floundering a bit to get some sort of grip on how to best use my newfound spare time but also how to keep my focus on photography fresh and practiced. 

I was a bit surprised over the last two weeks when I was able to walk into two different law firms to set up and shoot portraits without fumbling with the lights or forgetting how best to set and use my cameras. I thought I'd be a bit rusty. And maybe I was a bit "stiff" around the edges when it came to the rapport and human interaction part of the process. I'll need some more warm-up on that front.

But I guess my thought here (if there is a cogent one...) is that my daily practice of grabbing a camera and lens and heading out the front door to walk around in my home city has at least kept my fingers nimble enough to push the shutter button in time, and to also fiddle somewhat competently with the exposure compensation dials on different cameras. The one thing I do know is that my daily walking with a camera and then writing about it has kept me engaged in something I've always enjoyed. The pure act of taking pictures. 

Almost every day I get two or three e-mails or texts from friends, acquaintances, or people who've read my books and my blog asking me if they can accompany me on a walk through downtown; just to see what I do, where I go, and how I handle my style of photography. I never know what to say to them in response. 

I think the most important aspect of a "successful" walk around town is to know where the most convenient and hospitable restroom facilities are. Followed by a good understanding of the vague and ever-changing schedules of the best coffee vendors. But those priorities may just be those presented by my personal comfort levels.

To do a successful "photo walk" I think there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost is to never wear a brand new pair of shoes; especially dress shoes in which you've never walked more than 100 yards, and have done so mostly on plush carpeting. I once wore a brand new pair of Cole Hahn dress shoes which didn't really start to hurt my toes and heel until I was at the furthest point in a long walk. Every successive step back to the car was painful and I spent weeks afterwards walking in the most reliable shoes I own; my toes and heel covered in Bandaids. Hardly a great way to proceed.

Breaking in new shoes should be done gradually and in small spurts. The same applies to clothing. There are some people who are overly fearful of being cold and who come on walks wrapped up in the latest goose down from North Face, and insulated hiking boots made for treks through the arctic. Yes, 50° is a bit chilly. Especially if you are stationary for the most part; like sitting outside a coffee shop nursing a cappuccino. But if you are walking with intention you tend to get warmer. If you start out at noon on a sunny day and end your walk around 2 pm you might find the temperature has crept up from 50° to 65 or 70°. In those cases a big down jacket is more like a straight jacket to the process because you'll eventually end up having to carry it so you don't roast. I start out chilly and end up a bit warm. That's generally the nature of walking. (We're assuming Fahrenheit).

Of course, the above is hardly good advice to readers in the great Northern spaces where the wind chill is sub-zero. Then, I understand, layering is called for and I don't have enough long time experience to give any useful advice about this.

So, good shoes and appropriate clothing. The human body adores homeostasis. It will adjust. Don't indulge it.

One more note on clothing. Three of my four favorite restroom stops are at four and five star hotels and stomping into a lobby with ratty clothes, even though they may be appropriate for casual "street shooting" is hardly conducive to being ninja-like in hoity-toity spaces. If you want to pee there you need to look like you should be there.

You don't need a coat and tie but..... that MAGA gimme hat and Q'Anon T-shirt isn't going to win you a free pass to relief in the same way a collared dress shirt and clean pants will. The goal is to blend in then get out with raising any concerns. If it's a nice facility you'lll want to be welcome back.  Being 60-ish with gray hair is helpful. It may seem that I am putting a bunch of emphasis on accessing restrooms but with most of the restaurants and coffee shops closed to inside dining/quaffing about 90% of the convenient restrooms in the public sphere have gone off-line. I guess, if you are braver than I, you could just traipse down an alley and pee against a convenient wall. Not my style.

My biggest failures for a good photo walk were the times when I finished up all my chores, returned all my messages, drove down to my favorite route through vicious rush hour traffic, battled for a parking spot and headed out walking only to find that my chosen camera was lacking a memory card. That's hard to recover from. And I'm ashamed to admit it's happened to me more than once. The second tier of failures has to do with the vagaries of camera batteries. 

A cursory glance might indicate a full battery but ten minutes later it may be heading down to zero entirely. Especially in cold weather. I regret every time I've left the house without a fully charged spare in a handy pocket. 

So, good shoes, acceptable clothing, memory cards and fresh batteries. Those are the basics. Everything else is about equipment and process. 

The walks I hate, with few, few exceptions are the ones on which I have decided to lug around alternate gear. I'm at my best when I don't have to make any decision about gear while walking. I've learned that a primary way to suck joy out of a good walk is to bring along: A camera bag, a second camera body, a flash, extra lenses of any sort, a laptop or iPad, and a cellphone. I cringe when I see an earnest photographer hobbled by an enormous black camera bag slung over a slumping shoulder. His gait constantly interrupted by the swinging and banging of a twenty pound weight cascading against his hip. It seems so counterproductive to the fluidity and grace of making one's way down a sidewalk without undue affectation. Or, appearing normal.

A walk shouldn't be a singular event. You don't need to pack as though you'll never be back. If your schedule is compliant you could walk a route everyday for weeks, and bring a new (solitary) lens with you each time! Bringing the whole Sony, Nikon or Panasonic catalog of goods along with you inoculates you against ever having the ability to keenly focus on looking, walking, seeing and enjoying the process. And it marks one as a rank amateur. 

Walking with a small, obscure camera is preferred but if you walk with purpose and practice you can get away with a husky camera and modern, behemoth lens. But just barely. My S1R with the 65mm is just at the limit of what I find to be...comfortable. When I put on a bigger lens I feel conspicuous and my process becomes heavy. Stilted.

The one thing I think is helpful when walking with a camera is to have a route in mind.  You can always divert from the path if you feel an intuitive draw to a different spot but you'll be much more intentional in your walking with a destination to aim for. I have several routes through and around downtown Austin that I like for different reasons. Some intersect with the lake and parkland so I have landscape-y things to photograph. At other times my route is planned to connect with the state capitol and the university. Most times it's a path through the guts of our traditional downtown where it's the light and the abstract patterns of buildings that attract me. I used to be interested in people but with face masks on nearly everyone I'm not so attracted. To approach anyone now seems like an intrusion, and not approaching them is NOT my style. Some are into surveillance style street shooting methods but I love a direct engagement when I can get it. Now is not the time.

Walking with a camera is a very intentional sort of walking meditation and I find it's best done alone. You stop and start on your own schedule. What you choose to stop and photograph is totally up to you. Having a companion changes the process and compromises it. If you have to constantly engender the willing complicity of your companion you've already lost the thread of what should be a personal art form.

So, if I decide I'll walk with someone I abandon the idea that any good photographs will be taken. I still bring a camera but I seem to turn a switch in my brain that tells me the walk is just a walk and not an opportunity to stretch those photography muscles. The walk might be pleasant and the company engaging but it's a totally different experience for me than my own routine.

I'm happy to hear from others here on the blog that they are in agreement with my assessment. 

There are times though when it's hard to turn good friends down. You have to gauge when it's good to just share time together with no big "art" expectations and when it's okay to turn people down. 

When I do go with someone I try to set their expectations and indoctrinate them into my idea of "walking with a camera." Most ignore me and proceed in the way they are most comfortable. If they are pleasant companions I'm happy to set my prejudices aside and just enjoy their company. If I find we are mostly incompatible in this kind of activity I will try to make the walk as long and arduous as humanly possible with the idea of physically exhausting them so they never want to go again. You mileage may vary, mine might increase. 

If not for the pandemic I'd put aside one afternoon a month and invite all comers. But not right now. 

How do you know "what" to photograph? That's the hard part. I let the light and whatever subject matter the universe shows me lead my selections. There are some subjects I explore every time I walk a route because in some way they speak to me and I'm trying to figure out why. Other things crop up that have a time-limited value : meaning that they are here now and I may never see the same thing again. Then I try to photograph the object or person as well as I can. Most of the work from walks gets thrown out now. There's too much to keep track of and if keeping track becomes too important that means, to me, that I'm valuing the result over the process and that's never been my intention with the walks. There might be keepers but the hit rate is rarely high. I share images here before trashing them.

As I get older I keep fewer and fewer images. Mostly family and friends or beautiful, single portraits, but I refuse to burden myself with what should be, in these instances, transient art. If I have to spend time working with the residue of a walk it limits the opportunities I have to enjoy my ambulatory glide through life. 



Taking a first journey with the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN, I-series, Contemporary lens. Love at first focus.

I've been waiting impatiently for this lens to arrive in the market. I've always liked shooting with the 50mm focal length but on occasions when I was able to photograph with a 58mm or even a 60 macro I almost always felt like I was getting closer to the sweet spot for my photography. I own a fast 85mm but it feels like a compromise to me. My portrait work feels better at longer focal lengths like 100 to 135mms. But my casual, walking around looking for found objects and casual people photography always felt like it needed to be shorter than the 85. I've been looking for the "Goldilocks" focal length that I was sure lived somewhere between 50mm and 85mm for a long time.

I mentioned 60mm lenses but the ones I found were always macro lenses like the Leica 60 Elmarit-Makro or the Nikon 60mm f2.8 Micro lens. Both of them had very long focusing helicoids and hunted like mad badgers. Both were also optimized for close-up work and were less convincing at longer focus distances. What I've been looking for is a lens that handles like a 50mm in terms of focusing speed, size, weight and speed but has more reach and the ability to isolate objects to a greater degree than a 50mm.

Last Fall Sigma announced three new additions to their line of L-mount lenses which cover full frame sensors. The lenses were: A 24mm f3.5, a 35mm f2.0 and a 65mm f2.0. The specs on the 65mm looked most promising. It's a thoroughly modern optical design that uses three different specialty glass elements. The overall design uses 12 elements in 9 groups, which represents a fairly complex and sophisticated design for a long, normal lens. And the other specs indicate that this lens is constructed completely out of metal; all the way down to the lens hood. 

Knowing how uncertain the product channels are these days I decided that I'd pre-order a copy. I did so at both B&H Photo and at my local dealer, Precision Camera. My sales associate at Precision texted me about four hours ahead of B&H's notice. I cancelled the B&H order and headed up to PC the next morning to grab the lens. That was yesterday. 

I had so many good intentions to get out of the neighborhood with a camera and this lens this morning and really put it through its paces but too many things came up. I'm the family I.T. director and there were network issues today. Still not totally resolved but there are workarounds in place that ensure basic productivity for all three of us here. There was a car issue that needed to be taken care of. Who knew that Toyota would launch a third recall for defective airbags in one model. It's the kid's car but he was engulfed in a work project and didn't have the bandwidth to mess with getting a car to service. That also fell to me. 

By four o'clock I was hellbent on getting out to get more fresh air (got tons this morning at swim practice) and to see if the lens was as good as I thought it might be. It was. 

The lens is solidly made and features a grippy, metal knurled focusing ring and the same for the aperture setting ring. The aperture can be set on a tactilely luxurious, external ring or you can set the ring to the "A" setting and use a camera dial to control the aperture.  The lens hood has the same design aesthetic as the 45mm f2.8 lens's hood. It's solid metal with a knurled finish that matches well with the focusing ring and the aperture ring. While the lens comes with a standard "pinch to remove" lens cap it also comes with a solid metal lens cap that is held on by magnets embedded under a felt ring. It's so lux. 

While the 65mm f2.0. isn't tiny and certainly isn't a pancake lens, neither is it like the newest generations of gargantuan 50mm lenses with enormous front elements and 82mm filter rings. The lens is about 1/2 the volume and weight of the 50mm S-Pro lens for the Lumix L-mount cameras. It feels just the way a long normal lens should feel, if you grew up in the days of film lenses and use those as a referent. 

While f2.0 isn't a super fast f-stop it's more than enough for current, full frame cameras  which seem to handle ISOs like 3200 and 6400 effortlessly. I've been veering away from my tired, old dogma of using the cameras at their base ISOs for highest quality and have started setting my ISO to Auto and letting my cameras head north; toward photon fulfillment. The S1 is happiest at 6400 and below. The S1R likes to settle in at 3200 and below, while the Sigma fp is perfectly happy all the way up to ISO 12,800.  It all seems like magic to me. But I'm happy to take advantage of it. Especially if I'm working in black and white. 

My first tests with the new lens were to see just how well it performed at f2.0 and I'm happy to report that it's nicely sharp wide open. Stopping down to f5.6 improves the performance incrementally but it's already so good wide open that the improvements are modest. This means I can use the widest apertures with impunity instead of dancing around with sloppy edges, and trying to valiantly get to f4.0 or slower. 

I used the lens to shoot about 200 images this afternoon. It was cold, bright and crisp outside in the late afternoon and I was happy to be mobile and moving. I should probably give the long suffering keyboard a rest and just let you browse the final images. 

I used the Sigma 65mm f2.0 DN DG lens on a Lumix/Panasonic S1R and it seemed like a great match when considering the overall look and integrity of the package. It also represented a perfectly balanced mix. The camera felt absolutely neutral and comfortable in my hands. My only issue so far was that the lens and camera had trouble focusing through a couple of dirty, glass windows but I switched to manual and had the focus nailed quickly. The manual ring, while fly by wire is very well damped and has a nice, predictable feel to it. In fact, it didn't just make manual focusing proficient or easy, it made manual focusing fun. 

I shot all the images presented below as fine Jpegs. Knowing I'd only be presenting this work on the web I chose to shoot in the medium size setting of just under 24 megapixels.

I found the lens a delight from two points of view. First, I liked the focal length and framing. Secondly, I loved the whole idea of a reasonably fast, perfectly sized and masterfully built lens on the front of my camera. I can't imagine even a Leica lens exceeding the build quality on display here. 

I am smitten which will probably signal the death knell for this whole blog enterprise since I can imagine that I'll never want to use anything else ever again and you will become bored in a five or six months after I write hundreds and hundreds of paeans to the 65mm lens's magnificence. A wonderful addition to any L-mount kit. And, for those lucky Sony A7x owners--- it's also available in e mount. 

A bargain at $699. (USD)

Click to go big.