I've got this week off. I'm getting ready for the three weeks to come. And, man....it's hot today!

My mannequin friends. They are never impatient. 
They never need coffee. But it sure is hard to get them to 
change poses...

 I've been testing and testing my Leica 24-90mm Vario Elmarit zoom lens on a variety of Leica and Panasonic cameras and other than the fact that it is damn heavy it's pretty much without any optical flaws. It just starts sharp and gets sharper. But it's not the lens I'll be using to make 50 portraits over the course of three weeks. Nope. I'll be using the Panasonic 70-200mm f4.0 S-Pro lens on a Leica SL for several reasons. First is that the 70/200 covers all the portrait lengths I'll probably use. For most headshots I find 90mm to be a bit short; especially for studio work. I generally end up shooting somewhere between 105mm and 135mm but since people have different head sizes the zoom is a good tool for equalizing the size within the frame. The 70/200 is sharp wide open and even sharper stopped down. I tend to shoot right around f5.6 and the lens is super well behaved at that f-stop. 

The SL has face detect AF (but not eye detect) and since I'll be using LED lights (Continuous) there will be more than enough light for the camera to be able to focus optimally. I'm testing right now to see if the Panasonic S5 has the better focus via it's eye detect capabilities but I'm leaning toward the SL cameras because I like the raw files better. 

I've finished up my (small and inconsequetial) trauma with the IRS today. That's out of my hair. 

Tomorrow my handyman is coming over to install a new A/C unit for the studio. It's not a split system nor is it central A/C. It's just a very modern window unit with a high enough BTU rating to keep the place as cold and dry as I'd like no matter what the Texas weather has in mind. And that's a good thing because we're slated to see hot weather through the weekend. For me the most vital part of air conditioning, beyond my comfort and the comfort of my guests, is keeping the humidity in the studio nice and low so nothing grows (haze, fungus) on the lens elements in my collection of lenses. 

The de-install/install operation should be very straightforward since I measured the dimensions of the hole in the wall and the exterior of the new A/C unit about ten times. I thought about doing this all myself but I remembered how heavy the last unit was to drag up to the seven foot mark. That meant standing on a ladder and hoisting 60 or 70 pounds over my head. I'm in good shape but not that good. Or maybe I just have too much to lose...I'd hate to injure my lower back and be sidelined from swimming for even one day!

I'd be remiss not to mention swim practice this morning because I changed my routine. I usually get up about an hour before the start of practice and have a cup of coffee with some milk in it and a piece of multi-grain, sourdough toast with peanut butter and blueberry preserves (low sugar variety). Just enough to provide good energy through the hour swim... While eating my toast and drinking my coffee I read the news on the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall St. Journal sites. And I check today's weather. Then I leap up and rush to the pool just in time to make it into the water as the clock strikes the hour. 

Today I got up a half hour earlier, ate and drank my stuff, skipped all the news feeds and spent half an hour doing quiet meditation and breathing exercises. Also some time mindfully visualizing my overall stroke mechanics for freestyle swimming. Sounds new age-y but I thought it might help me be more relaxed in the water during a harder workout. 

It worked well. I was more relaxed which means I wasn't fighting against tight muscles which robs one of endurance over longer distances. I may experiment with substituting decaf for the pre-swim coffee just to see if cutting down that first dose of caffeine will take me down one more notch into the paradise of calmness and relaxation. But rest assured that the first post-swim cup of coffee will be laden with as much caffeine as I can cram into a cup. 

So what happened during my experiment in training? I learned I could slow down my stroke, pay more attention to the exact dynamics of how my hands grabbed the water and pushed it toward my feet. I found I had been turning my right hand slightly and not catching as much water as I should have been able to. This simple thing made the stroke more efficient and added some power which meant I could make the intervals with less effort. That made the whole swim different because I had the ability to increase my speed through the sets without an endurance penalty. It's a huge difference. It probably computes out to about 3 to 4 seconds faster per hundred yards. But that seems like a difference when you are trying to stay up with the faster people in your lane. I also had less fatigue in the early afternoon; after workout. 

Reducing external stress and working on visualization of the swim mechanics is something I keep hearing about from top swimmers in our program. It seems to actually work. I'll try more meditation and less media ingestion before swim practice. It's a nice effect. That, and a concentration on stroke mechanics. The physics of presenting the best cross section of my hands and forearms to the highest resistance of the water.... and pushing straight back.

I've set up the schedule for the next three weeks so that no photo sessions happen before 10 a.m. I'll get out of daily swim practice at 9 a.m. and back to the studio by 9:30 at the latest. Coffee in hand and two hardboiled eggs in the system with time to spare. Should I need more time I'll switch to the earlier swim practice but that will mean cutting off an hour of reading time at night. I guess we have to make sacrifices somewhere...

That's all I've got for today.