A heated experiment with the L. Monochrome S color profile in a Lumix S5.

Super-heated life in the urban heat islands of Austin. 

I live to the west of downtown, up in the hills a bit and across the lake from downtown. When I check the temperature here on hot days I get the localized weather report and it's always much less daunting than the temperatures recorded in the downtown area. There's more traffic there and a lot more impervious cover and blacktop. The reflective windows of the high-rises do a great job reflecting light and heat onto what should be the shadow sides of their neighboring buildings, which retards the natural cooling that would occur if there was no giant reflectors engaged. And then there's all the exhaust from the many building air conditioning systems. So, generally the downtown area where I like to walk runs anywhere from 5° to 10°
hotter in the middle of the day, to the late afternoons and beyond. 

It makes photo life a little bit more challenging if you are out trying to do small tests with your cameras. 

I walked a couple miles with B. through the hills early this morning. Before the sun heated the streets up. Before the temperatures crested the 80° mark. But when I headed back out to do errands and to make these tests for the blog it was already 99° in the neighborhood and, when I parked in complete shade down on Toomey St. the car insisted to me that it was 107° outside.  And it felt like it. But look at the nice tonality on the dashboard!

the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge, the walker's bridge between north and south Austin. 
Spanning the Colorado River, aka: Ladybird Lake.

belt cinched waist on a Summer dress.

Today's walk featured the Panasonic S5 with me trying a few new tricks. First of all I've set the camera up to try to get used to back-button focusing. I decided it would be more interesting to separate the exposure lock from the focus lock. The camera is now set up so I can put the attached lens in MF and then push the AF-L button on the back of the camera to initiate AF. Once I release the AF-L button the lens stays focused on the target I selected when pushing the button. It's second nature for a lot of you but for me it's all experimental. I'm getting used to it. But frankly, it's almost as quick to leave everything on the camera set to manual and just focus with my fingers on the focusing ring. Who knew?

I'm also trying out the "L. Monochrome S" color profile for Jpegs but I'm such control freak that I kept dragging the exposure down by a full stop for most of the images. They just seemed too bright in the finder. I need to keep working on this to find where the sweet spot might lie but there is, at least, more control over the Jpeg files than I can get in camera with the Leica SLs. 

The lens today should be one of my favorite solely because of its contrarian oddness. It's the 65mm f2.0 i-series lens from Sigma. A bizarre focal length but one that my brain insists is just right for me even if my visual appreciation gland hasn't quite dialed it in yet. I still find myself in the old conundrum of not being able to decide if it's just a 50mm lens that's a bit too long or an 85mm lens that's too wide and therefore distracting for me. Again, it's a matter of training and experience more than anything else. That, and having something interesting to photograph with it. 

I started my adventure out this afternoon by heading to the city of Austin recycling facility where they cheerfully accepted my old window air conditioning unit. They assured me that part of their job is to remediate the freon (or whatever coolant is in there) and render it safe for the environment. And then there is apparently a lot of valuable copper in the compressor and the coils. They have a market for that. The rest of the metal will also be recycled. I left happily assured that I wasn't attacking the environment with a flame-thrower...

After the recycling duty was fulfilled I headed downtown to do my walk-with-camera and to better understand the B&W profile. Damn. It was hot. 

By the end of the third mile I was ready to call it quits so I headed back to the car, tossed some water on my face and in my hair, and headed to the closest Starbucks to get a Venti (extra large) iced coffee. It was just what the doctor would have ordered if he'd gone out on the walk with me... but they are generally too smart for that...

the long hallway at home.

After looking at the images from the 65mm and the L. Monochrome S profile (don't know what the L. or the "S" mean...) I can say that the basic tonality is pretty good but I'm reserving judgement until I can convince someone to come sit for me in the studio so we can really see what this combo does. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. 

I think I'm finally coming around to the wisdom of shooting in raw, in color, and then converting to black and white in post. I'm interested in how other people do their digital black and whites but not so interested that I'm of a mind to go foraging on the internet for info. I'll just pretend that everyone is as confused and headstrong as me.

In case my dermatologist is reading along... I wore a long sleeve shirt with an SPF rating of 50, long pants with an equally high SPF and a broad-rimmed (and very stylish) hat. I also tossed some sunscreen on the backs of my hands. Just for the record....


It's Monday. It's Labor Day. What's up now?

Last week was wild. Or yucky. Or better consigned to the "ignore this" pile. I wrestled with air conditioning. I paid a tax bill for the third time (same one!), and I had to change my e-mail password because of a spoofing attack. Stir all these things together with  some 100°+ days coupled with high humidity and you've got...Summer Malaise. But the interesting thing, at least to me, is that if you just knuckle down and do the work in a step by step fashion you end up with all the odious stuff in the rear view mirror and a clean stretch of highway right in front of you. Right now. 

I'm always interested in the bright side so I look at it like this: Yes, I spent four hours on the phone to the IRS and then sent them a check but now I'm pretty certain that we're all done --- at least till next time, and it's one more parental estate duty permanently off my plate. 

The A/C is what it is. They don't last forever. I was initially unhappy when I got ghosted by the service that was supposed to help me install the unit but the flip side is that I got a renewed sense of self-reliance....resilience...when I decided to throw delegation to the winds and do the whole thing myself. I was happy I can still wield carpentry tools and frame stuff out. I was equally happy to see that I still had the muscle strength to toss air conditioning units around without damaging myself (note for the future: Is it really a good idea to place the opening for the A/C unit six and a half feet off the ground? Existential question: Does an air conditioner for a single room really have to weigh 70-90 pounds?).

Someone tried to spoof me with my own e-mail address and threatened to "expose me" if I didn't pay a ransom. Silver lining: I sent a note to my ISP late Saturday night asking for guidance. The security officer called me at home on Sunday evening to calm down my worries and to assist me in changing my passwords. Same guy who helped me set up the stuff years and years ago. He spent half an hour getting me reset, and in the process renewing my allegiance to their company. I've spent hours and days trying to fix things with AT&T and others before so I really value an expert who will hang with me on the phone until everything is perfect. Yippee. So many layers of protection. 

I took advantage of the A/C project to throw out more accumulated stuff in the office and to clean a bunch of stuff. If I still have the energy I'm considering buying some white paint tomorrow and hitting the studio walls with paint for the first time in 20 years. Spiffy, right? But no promises there....

In the world of cameras I've been working to familiarize myself with Lumix S5 which I'm leaning on to be my primary video camera now. In all honesty I can hardly wait for the new iPhone 13s to drop as that makes a lot of sense for many of the applications I find for video. The iPhone is the perfect riding on top of the wildly kinetic grape harvesting machine while shooting perfectly stable super slow mo high quality video machine. But there are times when I need a camera with optional XLR connectors in order to shoot video interviews and other programming where sound is important. 

In the course of walking around with the S5 and the Sigma i-Series 65mm f2.0, making photographs, I've found a new setting in the color profiles that immediately captured my attention. It's the "L. Monochrome S" setting. It provides a more open shadow rendering in black and white and also a more gentle highlight roll-off compared to the other monochrome settings. It's a bit flat but not too flat and the controls allow one to add back a bit of contrast and also to warm or cool the rendition in small steps. It's early times with my latest "discovery" but I'm heading out to shoot most of today with the new black and white setting and so far I like it a lot. Not quite as in-depth in terms of control as the "formulas" available for customizing the Fuji black and white options but very, very good in its own way. Hoping to find some willing human subjects to photograph. That's the plan at any rate. 

The Panasonic S5 is an very dense and solid camera. It inspires confidence. The EVF is a let down but I've used cameras with much, much worse viewfinders without a whit of complaint. The camera focuses quickly, the Jpeg files look great in color (we'll see what we can get from the black and white) and the sensor handles high ISO settings well. Not a bad deal for less than $2,000. And it's all in the L family so lenses that work on the Leicas work just as well on the Lumix. One advantage of the S5 over the $6500 Leica SL2 is that the Lumix features eye detection AF instead of just face detection. I'm not sure how much of a difference that makes in studio portraits but I look forward to exhaustive testing in the portrait realm starting the second half of this week. 

An Observation about Healthcare in America. And aging: 

In all the years that I spent a king's ransom for private health insurance I generally felt that a trip to the doctor, or even worse, a hospital, was an invitation to have the healthcare industry rummage through my bank account and pillage whatever they felt they needed. There were no cheery invitations to practice or collaborate on preventive care or proactive diagnostics. The insurance was a crushing financial burden and the only good rationale for paying ungodly amounts was to prevent a possible bankruptcy resulting from some unexpected medical emergency. And even then the cost effectiveness was still dicey. 

Now it's like someone flipped on a light switch and I'm showered by constant "check-ins" and happy invitations to get checked out, by my Medicare provider, all the time. And the doctors are in on the switch too. Now they schedule automatic wellness checks every six months and the low cost to me is too fun to pass up. 

A few weeks ago I had a rousing good check up with my cardiologist. He couldn't find anything for me to worry about and, after thinking about it for a while, he suggested, if I wanted to, that I might do a Heart Saver CT which is basically a calcium scan. I could book this at one of my client's practices and the cost is minimal. I asked the Dr. what we could do with the information generated and he thought maybe....diet and exercise? Hmmm. Okay, I'm game to try it out. 

Then there was the second follow up for the root canal done by the endodontist earlier this year. It was a pleasant visit with nothing to report. She'd love to see me again in six months. Why? I'm not really sure...

I have my every six months dental visit tomorrow where they will thoroughly clean my teeth, measure any worsening periodontal gaps, lecture me about flossing again (though I do floss every night....) and remind me to use my Sonicare tooth brush for best results. Being an American I will have to pay for most of my dental care out of pocket but Medicare will cover enough of the visit to pay for a nice lunch for two sometime down the road. 

But we don't stop there on our new, Medicare Victory Tour. The next visit is with my dermatologist on Thursday, in the morning (don't worry I proactively scheduled swim practice for noon) --- which, if you think about it, is very counterproductive since the sun will be at its worst at noon while 7:15 am would be a downright healthy time to be in the pool. Ah well. That's why they invented sunscreen. 

It costs me $45 to see the dermatologist and I'm fine with that. He's the guy that discovered and biopsied that little squamous cell last Fall. The one that made swimming with water proof bandages so much fun...

And after this week's menu of medical fun I start in on my yearly examine with my G.P. next Monday. It's a two day torture routine with blood draws, and all sorts of other unmentionable samplings. By the end of the ordeal I should know my Max VO2 (but my watch estimates this for me every day....) as well as my % of body fat to muscle. And a number of other factoids which probably (hopefully) won't affect the current trajectory of my existence. 

In essence, through the generosity of Medicare I am getting more and better care in a month than most people younger than 65 get in their lifetimes. On a global scale. 

In addition to all this I'm bombarded by offers from the Medicare provider for free home healthcare visits by a registered nurse, who, no doubt, will duplicate the cursory checks of blood pressure and blood oxygen levels I can do on my own, at my leisure. There is even a "carrot" offered for my compliance. If I alert my Medicare provider of each wellness visit to each healthcare provider they will send me Visa cash cards with money on them. In effect they are now offering to pay me for services that would have cost me a fortune a little over a year ago. Oops! I forgot the eye exam, which was free. And the partial payment of my new eyeglasses. I was miffed though to have to pay out of pocket for the anti-reflection coatings.....

Since I am not on medications of any sort and not on any recurring treatment regimens I am finding that getting older is actually more profitable that being younger. Who would have guessed this would be true after reading all the Sturm und Drang in the general press about the cost of aging?

Like other photo bloggers I feel unconstrained about offering diet and wellness advice so here goes: 

Exercise strenuously for an hour per day, every day. Do it in a group setting for better compliance. 

Exercise at a moderate pace (quick walking? slow running?) for another hour, every day. 

At least a couple times a week lift moderate weights to retain muscle mass. Very important. Pushups are good too. 

Eat a well balanced diet that provides a vast array of nutrients but never eat so much that you gain weight. Weight gain is NOT an inevitable companion of aging. It's just not. Metabolisms really don't slow down, they are finding. People do. See "exercise" above. But mostly don't eat too much stuff. 

Shocker: you can eat meat, ice cream and chocolate cake! But not everyday or even every week. Buy a scale and monitor the belt notches. If they change you took advantage of your own generosity and ate too much stuff. Or didn't exercise enough. Fruits and vegetables are good....but so it lots of other stuff. 

Life must be fun or there will be a tendency to become despondent and give up. So, if a bowl of ice cream can turn it all around then go for it with gusto. And wake up the next morning and lace up those shoes. 

It's interesting how simple life turns out to be. You get up. And, Step 1; Drink the Coffee. Step 2: Do the Stuff. At least that's what the September page of my office calendar says!!!