Back in the groove today. I photographed at my favorite law firm. The "Covid Security" was amazing. My first commercial, location project in a month.

Clients can remove their masks once all the lighting tests are done and we're ready to make photographs. 

Cabin fever is weird. I find myself sitting in front of the computer looking for cool stuff to buy. More or less momentary relief via Shopping Therapy. Yesterday I hit on the idea that I'd be happier with one Leica SL2 than one each of a Panasonic S1 and an S1H. I e-mailed the buyer at my favorite camera store and he shot over a trade-in value for the pair, against a shiny, new Leica SL2. 

That engendered the usual bout of hesitation and indecision. On the one hand the Leica seems pretty darn cool. On the other hand it seems to do just exactly what my Panasonic S1R already does, and does really well. And the S1R has already been paid for and well tested. The concept behind this proposed transaction was deeply flawed. I'd be using the same lenses on the new camera so not much would change vis-a-vis image quality. I'd just have....a shiny, new Leica. 

I decided to ponder it further. Maybe I'd head over to the candy store camera store after a quick job I agreed to do for my favorite law firm today. They got in touch a week or so ago and needed to do a new group shot for the top banner of their website. They also had a new partner that needed a headshot and some environmental portraits. 

We discussed the elephant in the room; the covid virus. In all there would be six people in the group shot. And then the one person who needed his individual portrait made. They each have large offices on a floor 20+ stories up. They have the whole floor in their building. Each attorney has a huge office and their conference room is large and airy. So far so good. Several of the attorneys are near my age and are clearly worried about the pandemic and their own mortality. Several have already been through both rounds of vaccine doses.

They agreed that everyone would be masked on my arrival and, since I'd photographed there before many times, they would just leave me to my own devices in the conference room setting up lighting for the group shot. I wore two masks today. The one closest to my face was a KN-95 which fit good and tight. The second mask was a black, multi-layered cloth one. I kept a spray bottle of Trader Joe's excellent hand sanitizer in my back pocket.

The first part of the whole gauntlet was getting into the building. Few people were working in the building and my arrival was scheduled for 11 a.m. There weren't many cars in the parking garage and the elevators to the underground walkway between the garage and the building proper were completely empty. I had to call security to actually have them electronically unlock the subterranean access door to the building. Then I had to go to the security desk, have my temperature taken (for the third time today), sign in, and wait for the freight elevator. I rode up the 25 floors alone. Well, I did have my faithful cart with me. I got off the freight elevator and switched to the law firm's private elevator for the trip up the next three stories. 

When I got off the elevator everyone was sequestered in their offices with their doors shut. I let one of the partners know I was there and then headed into the conference room to construct my lighting set up. Two electronic flashes into matching softboxes set over to one side of the room in order to keep reflections out of the large windows. 

I brought along one primary camera and two lenses. The "A" camera was the Lumix S1H and for the group shot I used the very exceptional, Lumix S-Pro 24-70mm f2.8 zoom. The S1H was one of the cameras I'd considered trading in. I thought it would be a good reminder of whether or not I really liked this camera or if I would feel no remorse trading out. I also brought along the Sigma 85mm f1.4 (new version) for the portrait work. (Yes. I brought a back-up/emergency camera. It was the Sigma fp...).

We got through the group portraits in about five minutes and I exiled everyone from the conference room so I could re-set the lighting for a single, formal portrait in solitude and calm. When I was ready I rounded up the new lawyer and made some shots with the lighting set up in the conference room and then we roamed around the public spaces to get some "B" roll photography that their web designer will use on that attorney's page. As soon as I finished everyone apparently left the office to head back home. They really only came by to have photos taken. 

I said "goodbye" to the last remaining attorney; he was waiting for a package to be delivered, and began my lonely journey through a near empty office building back to the glitzy and glamorous Subaru Forester and packed the stuff in. I took a moment to spritz my hands with good smelling sanitizer then removed the top mask, re-spritzed and then removed the bottom mask. I was back home in minutes. There really are very few people working in downtown so the dreaded traffic is, strangely, not too dreadful. 

When I edited through files in Lightroom I was chastened by just how good the files are coming out of the S1H. And by extension the rest of the S1 series cameras. 

By the time I'd scrolled through the individual portraits taken with the Sigma Art 85mm I was metaphorically kicking myself for ever even considering such a foolish camera trade deal. I chalked it up to boredom and mental lethargy and wrote a note for the bottom of my computer which reads: "Stop Buying Toys." And a second note that reads: "Don't Buy Stuff, Do Stuff." 

That's the first job I've done for anyone since the last video I shot over at Zach Theatre on December 6, 2020. I'm glad to see I have not forgotten (yet) how all this fancy gear works. 

The S1H is a remarkably good camera. I'll keep it. Now that I have my note on the computer I feel like both the camera and I are on safer ground. Learning lessons over and over again is so much fun (sarcasm strongly implied). 



Joe Biden became our president at noon, Eastern time which is 11:01 Central time (here in Austin, Texas). At 11:01 I breathed a huge and grateful sigh of relief... and noted that my blood pressure dropped 20 points.


The point in time, today, at which I felt like I could stop holding my breath.

I can hardly wait to go out today and photograph in a free democracy again. It feels as though we turned a giant ship just in time to avoid the nastiest iceberg I could imagine. 

I'll celebrate with family tonight but after I type this I'll head out and walk with a camera in my hands and hope in my heart. That's my idea of a personal celebration.

* Added after 5 pm.  Was just at our friendly, neighborhood wine shop (Twin Liquors) thinking I'd duck in and get a really nice bottle of Champagne to have with our celebratory dinner this evening. I don't know why I thought I'd be the only one in our neck of the woods to have this idea. I ran into half my neighbors there. All of them had ecstatic smiles on their faces and bottles of bubbly in their hands, waiting to get rung up. I guess we're not the only ones in our zip code who are planning to celebrate tonight. 

Went by the state capitol today and ran into a camera crew from one of the local TV stations. I asked them, "Where are all the crazies today?" They laughed and told me that three people from Trump-Land showed up to protest. The protesters hung out for about 30 minutes but as there were dozens and dozens of National Guard soldiers with automatic weapons on the other side of the gate, and no one outside the gate to yell at, the protesters crammed into their rusty and bumper sticker covered Ford Pinto and went off to find a Denny's. 

All in all it's shaping up to be a really good day. 


Getting back on task. Shutting down the idea that I have to be ready for any type of project that comes my way.

If you are like me you got into photography because you loved making certain kinds of photographs. I started out photographing people I knew and liked. That was the bedrock. Every purchase of cameras or lights, in the early days, was strictly in the service of making "better" people photographs. Before I started accepting assignments I never thought about having specialized sets of gear that would enable me to make architectural photos, or macro still lifes, or event photographs. No need for focal range coverage, no need to cover everything from 15mm to 1,000mm. And in those seminal days I never had a thought of buying video cameras, microphones and fluid tripod heads. My focus was very precise, highly curated, and singular: make images of beautiful faces. Seems simple and direct, and like most people who are, perhaps, less smart than they think they are, I let things get out of hand. For thirty-five years.

I rationalized having one of everything; just in case. I felt that we could handle every assignment that came my way because we had the stuff needed to do the process. It's been exhausting. I just didn't recognize the burden of "being equipped."

The pandemic and the lockdown have provided us with ample opportunity to step back from what we've been doing, reflexively, in our lives and to re-evaluate the choices we've made and the paths we travel down. While it may seem that my almost daily walks are all about playing with cameras and making inconsequential images that lead to frivolous discussions about which is best for what kind of work. I consider the walks these days not so much opportunities for exercising the gear but as self-therapy. A way of helping my mind circle back and decide what's important and fulfilling to me instead of how to use photography to assuage my ego, fight off the ravages of time, and let me posture as some sort of expert. I seem to spend more and more of my time walking and thinking about how badly I might have missed the big clues and road signs as I blazed through life without paying much attention to what I really wanted out of photography.

To be self-honest I have to admit that I'll never take the time, or have the burning desire, to excel as a film maker. Video and movies can be incredibly engaging but a little self-knowledge assures me that I'm the furthest thing from a "team player" imaginable and that the core of making good movies is the ability to bring a team together and motivate them all to embrace your vision, ideas and story. I can barely tolerate one person at a time in my collaborations, much less enough of a  team to make a worthwhile project. So, I've been casting off redundant gear to younger colleagues who have a sharper, clearer focus about film-making than I ever will. 

I've cleared out a few cameras and lenses, a fluid head tripod, some lights and stands, a couple of microphones and a gimbal or two. They've been gifted to people who have a sure desire to make projects in motion and only lacked a few critical pieces of gear to step up their craft. But it's been revelatory for me because it feels like letting go of baggage I've carried around for years but never found a passionate use for. 

Now, I walk into the studio/office everyday and my first thoughts are: What can I get rid of? How much of this stuff can get distilled down to one nice set of portrait making tools? Do I really need back-ups of everything I work with?

The answers are: I can get rid of as much as I'm emotionally comfortable letting go of. And that's down to process. I can distill down to two lights, two stands, one tripod and a few modifiers. I can ratchet down the inventory till I get to the point where I have two small systems. One system is for studio portrait work and that's all full frame Lumix stuff. The other system is "walking meditation" cameras and for now that seems to be a set of Fuji X-100V cameras. 

If I keep a cabinet full of video gear and audio gear it comes with an implied obligation to do something with it before it all decays from lack of use. My brain knows the stuff is sitting there and as long as it is there my brain thinks we should be doing something with it. That's a sub-routine that takes focus away from other, more primary work desires which circle around making portraits and reducing distraction. You are more apt to drive more often if you own a car. It's the same thing.

One might think that writing a daily blog would be an ultimate distraction but, in fact, it's just part of the ongoing therapy of being a photographer on the cusp of aging out of the commercial game. I'm still fit and competent but I'm not as pretty as I used to be nor as willing to be compliant. That comes from the rich residue of experience. There is also a slight (to me, at any rate) ethical question of when it's time to give up some of the (less fun) work and let a younger generation get their shot at more commercial success. It's harder now than it's ever been for younger photographers to make a living; made harder still by people who refuse to get out of the way. Richard Avedon worked until his death at 84 years old. He loved what he did. And he profited handsomely right up to the end. He was right to keep working because no one was in the wings waiting to take over what he was capable of making.

I'm no Richard Avedon but I know that making portraits is something that I'd love to do...right up to the end. Whenever that is. And I am more and more loathe to spin my wheels and waste my time taking starkly commercial images that have nothing to do with my passion for the craft. Because, I have discovered, it's not the cameras or photography I really love as much as it is a well crafted portrait pulled out of a compelling session with an enchanting person. This is a clarity I wish I'd acquired decades ago. 

A former client called last week and wanted to talk about a video project that would require a series of conventional interviews about products and processes that are, frankly, boring. The people I'd be interviewing are boring. And unpracticed in front of a camera. Alien to the interview practice. Halting and unsteady. 

The project appealed to my ego. I would have yet more proof that I was still at the top of my game. That I could still pull out a great project from a sack full of mediocre parts. But then I thought of all the time I would spend on it, all the frustrations attached and the fact that I'd probably not even put that kind of project onto my reel, into my portfolio. 

I demurred and passed on the offer. And almost instantly I felt lighter and freer and ... happy. Then I looked through a gallery of old portraits I'd done and felt like I was home. It's a strange time. I wonder how my own destiny would have unfolded without the intermission the pandemic forced on us. But I think you can never know the future just as you can never change the past. You can only find the things that make you --- satisfied. And do them. Now.

Cleaning a bit more out of the space every day. Today I'm shredding papers I've kept for some unknown reason. Even invoices from 30+ years ago. Most of the paper has been unexamined since it was created and copies were sent to clients. None of it has meaning anymore. It just takes up space. Better for me to toss it all out now than to burden Ben at some inopportune time in the future with the unpleasant task of figuring out what he should keep or toss. That seems more like the job of cleaning up after one's self that would be my responsibility. 

Just some thoughts after a remarkably nice swim practice in the rain today. No thunder or lightning so we got through the workout with no interruptions. Swimming hard in the morning makes the rest of the day feel smooth and productive. Just saying. 

Looking forward to the inauguration tomorrow. Hopeful for a new period of calm and success for our country. And, as a bonus, we get to hear Lady Gaga sing the national anthem. 



An Additional Freebie for Fuji X camera users who want film simulation recipes...

 If you go to the Apple App Store and look for "Fuji X Weekly Film Recipes" you will be able to download, for free, over 100 different film "recipes" to use with four generations of Fuji X series cameras. The author of the app is also the owner of the Fujixweekly.com website. His name is Ritchie Roesch. He is offering the recipes at no charge. You can download them to your phone or iPad and have them at your fingertips. 

You'll still have to load the settings manually but for most of us once we've found our "home" recipe (for me it's the Tri-X) you'll probably not change to often. You can become a Patreon member of Richie's site and it will unlock some tweaks but I haven't done that yet. I'm still checking out my first attempts. But I'll gladly send along the $16 if I decide the recipe is valuable for me. I'm heading in the direction. 

Still need to put some real people in front of the camera...

Just wanted to let you know. Everybody likes free stuff. 

AHA! Digital Black and white. I found a cool site that made me smile so big. Shoving Tri-X into my Fuji X-100V. For free.

A convenient model happened by....

 I was catching up on my Fuji lore when I happened upon a YouTube channel hosted by Omar Gonzales. He's a Fuji user and he grabbed my attention with a headline that read something like: "Loading Film into the Fuji Xpro3." I dived right in. Omar seems like a smart guy even if he does go on a little long and a little slower than I'd like, but the gist of his video was that there is a site dedicated to making film profiles for Fuji cameras that mimic classic films we used to cherish. 

The site is: Fujixweekly.com and if you are a Fuji shooter it's like Christmas morning. I immediately started scrolling around to see if they had a profile for my favorite film of all time: Kodak's Tri-X. Yes. They do. It's right here: https://fujixweekly.com/2020/06/18/fujifilm-x100v-film-simulation-recipe-kodak-tri-x-400/

The recipe includes shadow, clarity, chrome, WB tweaks and much more. I won't lay it out here because you should reward Fujixweekly.com for their fine work by paying them the visit. 

I sat down on the couch with my laptop open to the Tri-X page and dutifully changed all the parameters as suggested. There are about 12 steps so it's nothing cripplingly difficult. While there are many, many profiles to chose from they are divided into sensor types in the Fuji family. The reason is that Fuji keeps adding more and more controllable parameters with each new generation of sensor and processing.

The profiles I'm most interested in are the ones that are tweaked for the current 26 megapixel sensor cameras since that's what I'm shooting with right now. All the profiles can be used across the Fuji line but older cameras won't have things like color chrome effect available.

Some of you have questioned me about why I have both a chrome and a black X-100V camera. My rote answer is that one should never go on a trip or a job without a back-up camera, and I'd take that a step further and say no one should venture out without a back-up camera that operates in exactly the same way and which takes the same battery, the same filters and the same memory cards. Hence two copies of the X-100V, differentiated by color.

Now I have a new answer. The black camera is for Tri-X/Monochrome photography while the chrome body is dedicated to color. When the black one is in my hand I'll know I'm about to start shooting my new, digital Tri-X camera. When it's the chrome body I'll know I'm about to start shooting color slide film. Easy to remember and no struggle to juggle settings on the fly. 

I might need to tweak a bit (or I might not...) but here are some of the test shots I took this morning while walking over to the state capitol building to see if anyone was there fomenting trouble and trying to tip our nation into facism and white nationalism. I am happy to report that there were only a few tourists on Segways in front of the fence, snapping pix. All clear downtown. Here are the pix:

click to make the images big, big, big.


The "Peter Lindbergh" book that Mike Johnston recommended over on his blog. I'll stick in a link with my review.

Caution! This book weighs about seven pounds.
It's 483 pages of photos. 
And it's good. 

 Mike Johnston at the Online Photographer Blog wrote about the publication of Peter Lindbergh's huge retrospective (post humous) book of photographs here:  MJ's Getting His Fashion Groove On. He had featured an image of Lindbergh's office or home about a week ago and then he came across the new book at Amazon. Mike opted to cut a few corners and order the smaller, paperback edition of the book but being ever cavalier about all things financial I just started hemorrhaging money and placed an order for the full Monte. The large, ponderous, heavy and beautifully printed hard back version. It was still a relative bargain while on sale for only $50 and change. 

I got it yesterday, pulled up a comfortable chair, turned on the good light, poured a glass of the nice wine, and spent an hour going through the book. I'll go back again and again since there is so much here. Nearly all of the images are printed full page or as double trucks and the paper they are printed on is thick and beautiful. I've always been a big fan of Peter Lindbergh and this book is a wonderful addition to my collection of superstar photographer monographs. Taschen Publishing did a great job with this book!

Will you like the images? I don't know. The book had me when Lindbergh combined Kate Moss and Rome. Almost everything is in dark, moody but lovely black and white. I'm glad I ordered the book but I've got to distance myself from MJ's site or I'll soon go bankrupt. Too many good suggestions....

Since he is to blame, if you are a big Peter Lindbergh Photographer fan and want to order the book I'd suggest using the link above to go over to Mike Johnston's site and order from his links. You won't pay anymore for the book. You'll help Mike stay on the keyboard. And I don't offer links to Amazon or B&H anyway. 

So many beautiful people. So much photography.

Big fun with nicely printed paper. Enjoy. 

It was beyond time to get out of town and chill out somewhere else. So I did. I don't want to surprise you but I took a camera along for the ride.


I'm spending way too much time in my office. I blame the lockdown. I blame the economic conditions, but really, I just blame myself for not being more proactive with my time. I woke up bored this morning and that's never good. I skipped my usual swim practice and slept in till nine. That's a bad sign. So, after breakfast I grabbed a black Fuji X-100V and an extra battery and pointed the car West. 

My first stop was Johnson City, birthplace of a great president, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Man, he got a ton of work done and bills passed for a one term president. Just an amazing amount of very good legislation. I've done a lot of research about his life and career (we produced two plays about LBJ at Zach Theatre) and I'm sure most people don't know that he pushed through 87 major pieces of legislation and got 84 bills passed, which gives him the record with a 96% success rate. And most of the bills didn't do anything to destroy the middle class or raise taxes on less affluent people. In fact, it was almost a golden age for fairness. 

Johnson City is still small but its proximity to Austin means it's growing up and offering more sophisticated visitor amenities. There are several very decent restaurants, a science museum and a lot of art galleries and wine tasting rooms. The architecture all around town is classic Depression Era Texas Modest. With some buildings featuring embossed tin ceilings and layers and layers of styles. It's also home to a sometimes client of ours: The Pedernales Electric Cooperative

I made some photos of LBJ's boyhood home, a location which further reminded me that at one point in our country's history a person could rise up from a middle, middle class, rural childhood to become president of the United States of America. It's fun. And you can walk right up and touch the house, if that's what you are into. I touched it with my camera. Then I headed over to Blanco, Texas which is about 10 miles South along Hwy. 281. 

Blanco has a nice state park with a river that runs through it but I was more interested in the old courthouse. It's now a visitor center, and a charming young woman named Riley welcomed me and gave me some local perspective. I'd shot stills for a movie production that used this courthouse as a location for three or four days. That was about 25 years ago. Since then the location has been used by a number of other feature films. In fact, it's the go to place in Texas if you want to do a period courtroom scene but can't afford tens of thousands of dollars in location fees. It was fun to see the space again. I'll chalk the visit down to scouting for one of the law firms we provide photos and video to. They'll love it.

One great find today was a new coffee shop in Johnson City. That was the one thing that kept the town from getting an "A" from me as a destination; no good, local coffee. Now the Johnson City Coffee Company is going full steam (intended...) and serving great coffees and pastries. I sampled their medium roast, drip coffee along with a lemon, blueberry scone, freshly drizzled with fresh, thick creme. Delicious and well done. 

So funny though, when I walked up and ordered the woman at the counter said, "I recognize your voice. Did you used to swim in the Masters at Western Hills Athletic Club?" I said that I did and she said, "I thought so. I'm Nancy. I used to swim with you all there." I remembered her in flash. So hard to be sociable these days with everyone hidden behind masks.... Nancy and her family own the new coffee shop. They'll do well. She was always a disciplined swimmer.

I'm thrilled with the new shop. Finally, a way station between Austin and Fredericksburg, Texas (or Marble Falls) with great coffee, a good rest room and a wide selection of above average pastries. Better than the fare at Starbucks and located in exactly the right spot. Well, at least for everyone driving through the hot spots in Central Texas. 

The camera I took was the Fuji X-100V. The black one. It had fewer than 100 shutter actuations on it when I left. Now it has 396. I set its white balance to the little "sun" icon and kept it there all day. I tried to stick with f8 for most stuff but I did bounce around on apertures when I went into the courthouse. And when I photographed the big ceramic deer. I find the image files to be wonderful; especially when I use the Astia Soft setting in full sun. All good there. Now a recommended camera. At least, it's recommended for me.

Blanco Courthouse Interior. 

Blanco Courthouse, exterior. 

Vast amounts of outside seating at the Johnson City Coffee Company.  Maybe bring a chair in case it gets crowded. Bring two chairs if you are traveling with a spouse. Or fight over one chair. 

Hate to get out of your car? They've got a drive through on the other side.

This is a detail of a building I found just outside of Johnson City. 
It's like a super-modern Quonset Hut but beautifully designed. 
I had to pull in and walk around it a couple of times. The next 
few frames are different angles and magnifications. 

Courthouse in Johnson City. 

who wants to pay for premium electricity?
What do you get if you pay extra?

Gate to the LBJ boyhood house. High security, yes?

The observant among you will notice that I finally got a haircut. 
Belinda tells me I look meaner with short hair....