OT: The second dose has landed. The process was efficient. Now, back to work.

Long flowing dead grass. Just outside Trader Joe's at Seaholm.

 My older brother was deathly afraid of getting shots. Terrified. Once, when he was a child of about 6 we went as a family to a hospital on an air force base. My father was in the U.S. Air Force at the time. We walked up to a temporary building which served as the immunization clinic and that's when it hit my brother that this was really going to happen; we were all going to get the required immunizations so we could move to Turkey for a couple of years. And immunizations meant "shots!!!"

He bolted just before reaching the door to the clinic and crawled under the building, refusing to come back out. My father was irate and bellowed at him to get his butt out in an instant. The sheer force effect was futile against the absolute terror of the needle.

My mother tried the capitalist way and offered a bribe, the nature of which I don't remember, but that had no effect either. My father was on a tight schedule, and had meetings with his commander directly after this family event. The last thing he wanted to do was to crawl in the dirt under a building while wearing his clean and pressed uniform and his shiny black, regulation shoes. 

In the end we were reminded that rank does have its privileges. My father was the hospital commander and several of the enlisted men under his command happened to be passing by and, after assessing the situation (and the potential benefits of succeeding), immediately crawled under the building and dragged/cajoled my brother out. 

I'd like to think my brother would have outgrown this phobia as he entered adulthood but the continuing stories of his medical phobia are now family legends. And worse than shots for him? That would be blood tests where a quantity of blood is required. He might steel up his nerve now and go in to the appointment, if there is absolutely no recourse, but he routinely faints dead away on contact with the needle.

He was not the only person with a needle aversion in the family, to a lesser degree I shared his anxiety but I tried to be more stoic. I can give blood if I'm horizontal and I can get shots if you let me sit for a few minutes afterwards to regain my composure. But I do remember the time we had to get TB tests in order to volunteer at Ben's pre-school. The test was called a Schick Test and basically it's just a little prick and an air bubble under the skin. 

I went to my private doctor's office with Ben in tow to get the test done. I was led into the exam room and the nurse quickly "Schicked" me. I got up and walked down the hallway and into the waiting room where Ben was happily reading under the watchful eye of our favorite nurse. Then I felt a bit woozy. Then I sat down and put my head between my knees. Then I started sliding toward the floor. Very embarrassing, to say the least. 

We'll, I'm happy to report that I seem to have conquered this fear; at least for now. I've had several novocaine/lidocaine injections at the dermatologist's office this quarter, another at the surgeon's office and one at my dentist's office. No dramatic, visceral or regurgitant responses to report. And now I am also two for two with Moderna Covid-19 vaccine injections. In fact, in my own mind I seemed both macho and brave for both doses of the vaccine; both times I got my jab and proceeded out to the observation area without missing a step or having a vasovagal response of any kind. Not even a tremor in my hands --- and that's notable given the amount of coffee I ingest...

I wish I had been able to take a selfie today because I looked absolutely heroic while actually getting the jab. My jaw was set (rigidly) in a posture of pure nonchalance. But there were signs everywhere prohibiting photos; even selfies.

So, I was scheduled to get my second dose today at 10:30 p.m. but in an excess of hyper-punctuatility I arrived at 9:55, was ushered right in and, after cursory paperwork, plopped down in a chair in front of a steely-eyed nurse who crashed the giant harpoon of a needle nearly through my massively muscled upper arm and then recommended that I go straight home and take an extra strength Tylenol. She was formidable so I followed her suggestion. I am almost four hours past the injection and I haven't had a side effect yet. The same nurse told me to keep moving my arm around for the first half hour afterwards as that would subdue the soreness. I think she was right. 

Now, if I play my cards right, stay out of mosh pits, avoid the biker bars on Sixth St. and stay out of overcrowded elevators for the next two weeks I'll become as immune as I can be in the moment, and less cautious during every day. 

But if very many more people insist on poking me with needles in the near future I might end up under a portable building trying to become invisible. I doubt B. or B. will try to bribe me out. If they do want to try a bribe I'll quickly suggest a 50mm Apo Summicron lens. Just, you know, as a nod to system completion. 

I'll report back if there are any delayed, adverse reactions. Thanks for everyone's patience with my hypochondria. 

The follow up: We're nearly eight hours out from Vaccine Zero Hour and so far I've had no side effects to report. No fever, no chills, no nausea, no headache. Maybe they gave me the placebo... Waking up tomorrow morning will be the real test... 

The Odd Couple. My favorite camera and lens combo of the day.

 If you are like me you spend a lot of time thinking about which lens might be the absolute best lens in the world for your kind of photography and then spend even more time trying to figure out how to pay for it. And when you finally achieve the nirvana of acquisition you are stunned by the realization that the cost for ultra-high performance is a big, fat lens that weighs a ton and has a visual footprint so big that even sloths sprint away when they see you and your "best in class" jumbo lens approaching. It wasn't supposed to be this way...

What I think we really want, if we can eliminate the zany idea of "having to have the best!!!" and concentrate on how we use lenses (and cameras) is a compromise. While I realize that compromise is no longer fashionable in politics I realized a few days ago that what I was looking for in a lens is really just the best compromise.

I started processing these lens thoughts as I looked once again at 50mm lenses. I want something that works natively (with all features enabled) on my L series cameras. I wanted a lens that would work well on a Leica SL2. I played with a $5,000 50mm f2.0 Apo Summicron which I should love, love, love since it's supposed to be the mostly highly corrected and painstakingly designed  normal lens currently on the market. There are two reasons not to like it. The first is how big it is. It's just so......obvious. It's ungainly. When combined with the camera it just makes the proportions ugly. 

Sure, it may help one take better photos in that focal range than any other lens of its kind on the planet. But the cost is outrageous and if the lens actually scares people then at what cost is perfection achieved?

I should have known better based on my year long experiences with the Panasonic 50mm f1.4 S-Pro lens for the L mount cameras. It's a stunning optical tool. If you live with a test bench you'll be delighted. And the times I've used it for commercial work where appearance, size and weight aren't mission critical I've been impressed by its stellar optical performance; even when used wide open. Just stunning. 

But the problem is that I've spent $2200 on a normal lens that I end up more or less refusing to carry around in the street and use on a daily basis. And that sends me back to the studio to get something more...comfortable. Less threatening. More portable. Less ponderous. And when I reach into the drawer I sometimes pull out the very likable 45mm f2.8 Sigma lens. It's adorable and looks cool. It's understated, small and unassuming. But I find myself constantly wishing it was a stop faster and 5mm longer. 

I like the 65mm Sigma f2.0 equally well and it is a stop faster but sometimes I just crave that 50mm focal length. I have an adapted 50mm Contax/Zeiss f1.7 lens and it's a very good performer but I'm then locked out of being able to use autofocus and, when in MF, I don't get the "touch the ring and see a magnified image" feature all of the native L mount lenses offer. Ditto with the older R series Summicron 50mm. 

What I guess I am really waiting for is the introduction of the Panasonic Lumix 50mm f1.8 which I'm sure will come out in the near future. At least I hope it will. 

I'm tired of pursuing the "ultimate" in performance if it means that the lens must become more or less physically unusable.

For the last week I've surprised myself with an odd combination of lens and camera. I put the inexpensive, Panasonic 20-60mm zoom lens on the SL2 one afternoon and discovered that, physically, it's the perfect match for the camera. It feels just right. The right weight. The right size and, happily, the right cost. 

I've been taking this combination with me everywhere. I'm certain that this lens pales in comparison with the much more expensive lenses I've used but on the other hand I'm equally sure that it does a competent job and, if I used it optimally, it would return all the performance my typical walking around photos require. 

The funny thing about photographers is that we tend to see camera bodies in a vacuum, rarely accounting for the haptics of a camera and lens combined together as a system. Sure. the SL2 body feels great when I pick it up without a lens on the front. It's almost a perfect gripping surface and design for my hands. But as soon as I put the "wrong" lens on the front it can feel awful. A great example is, again, that super high performance 50mm Lumix. Add it to the SL2 and the whole package becomes front heavy, large and ungainly. Take the "perfect" 50mm off the front and stick the 50mm Contax lens; complete with adapter, on the front and it once again becomes a perfect combination for actual use. 

This may be one of the reasons I've never walked around town with a 70-200mm "professional" lens. It's just too big. The big, fat lens draws way too much attention, is awkward to carry and weighs so much that I have anxiety about the whole package being so heavy that the strap lugs will get wrenched off the camera. I use that lens all the time for jobs but it arrives on set via a camera bag and goes straight onto a tripod via the included tripod adapter. But out on the street? Forget it. 

Back that brings me right back to the 20-60mm. What I think I'm "giving up" is a fast aperture and a bit of optical performance outside the center 50% of the frame. I know the corners are softer than if I had used a much "better" lens but I also know that for most of the images I make the far periphery of the frame isn't important. What is far more important is that they camera feels just right in my right hand as I carry it down the sidewalk. The lens offers me three of the focal lengths I like to use: 40, 50 and 60mm. If I carry just this one lens and see something that requires a wide shot I'm ready without having to dip into a camera bag and change lenses. 

Yesterday I decided to stop presuming that I was giving up a bit of sharpness by choosing the zoom over some more effete primes so I set up a few test shots and put the SL2 on a tripod. I focused carefully and shot every lens at f5.6. The 50 Lumix S-Pro was absolutely great. But then so was the ancient, Contax/Zeiss 50mm f1.7. And interestingly enough, so was the Panasonic at 35mm and 50mm. 

Now, as I'm heading out the door I have many fewer concerns about using the zoom for more and more stuff. I'm starting to get more comfortable at 20 and 24mms as well. But more important than how it performs optically is how it feels when I use the whole system. I know car analogies get boring but most of us use our lenses like we use cars. They are functional. We mostly drive 65 miles an hour or slower. Our ability for aggressive acceleration is very limited. Whether you drive a BMW M5 or a Honda Accord you reach your destination in the same comfort and safety. It's almost a binary thing. You use the tool (car) and you arrive, comfortably at your destination. While there is more performance potential in the M5 chances are very rare that you'll ever realize that difference. Not in real life. 

By the same token landholding a camera and lens is a real equalizer; a leveler of performance. It's the same as going 65 mph on a good, clean roadway. It just works. The differences between ultimate lenses and workmanlike lenses evens out and you get the shot you intended in more than enough resolution, contrast and sharpness for nearly every task that doesn't require high speeds. 

It's comforting to find a lens for the interim. A system feels right when, if it's dangling by your side on its shoulder strap it begins to feel like a part of your own human system. All the stuff in the right place and nothing so showy that you draw too much attention to yourself and your photographic intentions. 

That's the formula for a well balanced photographic system.