It's Thursday Afternoon in Austin. The phone stopped ringing again and I keep checking my e-mail to make sure it's not dead. New paradigm? Or just the dog days of Summer?


It was gorgeous outside when I hit the pool at 8 this morning. Pure blue skies dotted with white, puffy clouds and a temperature in the middle 70s. The water was a bit warm at 83° but considering the afternoon heat lately, and the lackluster cool downs overnight I was happy enough with it. Julie was our coach this morning and she brought the fun stuff. She loves to write long, complicated sets with lots of ever-tightening intervals punched up with lots of chances to sprint. We logged our 3,000+ yards and got out of the pool feeling like we'd all started our days on a nice trajectory. 

After some busy work and some gratuitous blog writing I grabbed the nearly new Panasonic S5, put one of the little Sigma 45s on it and headed out for my favorite walk through downtown. I'm glad I picked up the S5; I think it's the camera we all wished for; hoped for, back a few years. It's a small and light, weather resistant, full frame camera with lots of good video specs, fast S-AF and really nice colors right out of the camera. The battery life is quite good and if you pick up one with the matched kit lens (20-60mm)  you can get the whole package these days for a bit under $2,000 USD. It's the antidote to the "ultimate performance" big, heavy lenses that crowd the L mount system and, after carrying a couple big Leica SL cameras for a long day, the S5 barely lets you know it's there, swinging at the end of a strap just over your left shoulder. Yeah, they could have dropped in a higher res EVF but I'm guessing that to hit a performance metric and non-painful price point something had to give, and I would have made the same decision if I had to build a camera. I want the juicy imaging performance and the low price was appreciated. If I really wanted a great EVF, and that was a paramount consideration for a shoot, I'd pull out a Leica SL2. But I find the EVF on that camera is so good that sometimes I get transfixed and just sit there starting at stuff through the finder. forgetting to even push the shutter button. 

No, the S5 and the small 45mm is my antidote for the SL2 and its hefty friend, the Leica 24-90mm. Don't get me wrong; I think the SL2+24-90mm is tough to beat when you're looking for killer performance and wonderful final results, it's just that sometimes you just want a companion camera kit that's slim and low maintenance for a long walk on a very hot afternoon. For me, having options in gear choice can be the difference between walking out the door looking forward to a jaunt through the heat or weighing up the additional strain of trudging in the blistering inferno with four+ pounds of gear and deciding it's just not worth it. That way lies the couch, a novel and a box of chocolates. Not the way to stay amazingly gorgeous...or to see the world as it exists right now. In this minute. 

There wasn't much new that caught my eye and demanded to be photographed. I stopped in at Torchy's and ordered a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast taco and also a fajita beef taco and had a nice lunch at one of the outside tables. One with a view all the way up and down 2nd St. Then I walked some more and headed to the state capitol building. I was hoping to see our brain damaged governor so I could set him straight about his anti-health, anti-sanity mandates but I'm guessing he was in his office with the air conditioning set at 50° pondering how many more ways he could put Texas school children in mortal danger in order to appeal to his slathering and agitated base of the Texas Wing of the American Taliban.

Anything to keep the gun shops open and bringing in sales tax... thoughts and prayers...

I walked back south on Congress Ave. took a left on Third St. and walked till I got to Intelligentsia Coffee. The wonderful woman with dark hair who actually makes the coffees we order started making mine when I walked through the door. A special order for days with temps over 98°. A lattĂ© with the milk steamed only to 135° Fahrenheit. You have to make some accommodations for the heat in Summer time. We'll drink hotter coffee in the late Fall. 

The view above is from my little cafĂ© table under a line of protective trees. I don't know what type of tree they are but they have a very dense canopy and the shade is great. They also sit in an area that seems always to get a nice cross breeze. I sat and sipped my coffee and watched as a legion of downtown condo dwellers walked by, one by one, with their requisite French bulldogs leashed to one hand and their phones getting full attention in the other hand. Several very talented people walking by were also balancing a big "to go" cup of coffee along with the other essentials. All very impressive. 

Coffee drained, heat soaked, bored and restless, I headed back to the VSL compound to stare aimlessly at the various bookmarked websites, each subtly promising I'd be that much better of a photographer is I just splashed out a little bit more for .......... this lens. Or that new system. I'm starting not to believe them...

It's fun (and more challenging) to look for great moments than it is to try and set them up or recreate them. The first method requires paying attention. The second way is boring.


I actually very much dislike setting up images. They never seem as "real" as photographs that you come across while you have a camera in your hands and you are just open to the possibility that something good will happen in front of you and that you'll be alert enough and ready to capture those moments. It's like the photo-gods are constantly giving you small gifts to reward you for paying attention. But not being to dogmatic.

It was early in the day and we were in the vineyards. The young woman in the photograph was handpicking grapes and stopped for a moment when she felt the first direct light, post dawn, bustle through the collage of leaves in front of her and she stopped to savor the warmth on her face. She closed her eyes and breathed in and at that particular moment I pushed the shutter button. 

Had I set up the shot there are things I would like to have changed. I would have removed the person behind her so the young woman's face would more neatly separate from the background. And the same for her hair. I might have positioned her further away from the vines; a bit more to the right, to balance the frame. But if I stopped to do those adjustments and then tried to direct exactly the gesture I saw here I know it would seem posed; set up. And the real power of the shot, to me, comes from its authenticity.

I might try removing the second person in post production. It would not be hard. But in the meantime I'm grateful for the shot that I was able to get. It's a strong memory trigger of how it felt for me to be in the moment, at that moment. 

camera nerd info: Leica SL2, DNG, 24-90mm Vario-Elmarit used at 90mm f4.0. ISO 500. Available light.

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