Another day another adventure in studio set up. Another day spent looking at lenses I should not buy...


Ben. Prepping a dinner. We love it when he cooks,
he's better at it that we are.

First off, the air conditioner I installed in the office last week is doing a perfect job. Yesterday and today were torture tests for the unit. It got up to 100° with 84% humidity and the unit just purred away and pumped cold, clean air into the space. I'm trying to conserve energy so I'm resisting my Texas upbringing and trying not to get the room down to 60°. I think 78° is than more reasonable. I also bought a Medify Air air filter that has a real HEPA filter and I have it sitting up on a filing cabinet next to my desk where it gently caresses my face with ultra-clean air. One more addition is a small, quiet, traditional fan because I think I should pay more attention to circulating the cool air once it leaves the A/C vents. I'll call this project a win. 

I'm currently on a camera strap jag. I keep buying cameras and they almost always ship with a camera strap, and the camera strap that usually provided is, for me, a complete failure. They are uniformly big, bulky and aesthetically unpleasing. I tried a Peak Design strap but it was poorly thought out. It's one of their bigger straps and I guess most people use them across their torso diagonally and take advantage of the slippery, seatbelt nylon to Sliiiiiiiiiide the camera up to their face and then, after use, let the camera dangle at their hip level with the shiny strap transecting their torsos. There is a deposit of grippy rubber on one side of the strap but the way the straps are constructed you'd have to be content to have the connectors, seams and stuff on the wrong side if you want to use the strap as a conventional, appropriate shoulder strap and take advantage of the grippy surface. There's another $50 down the drain. And yet I see people with cameras (not photographers) with these straps all over the place. Perhaps they've never had a good strap with which to compare.

I sat down under a tranquil tree in order to meditate about camera straps when I found that even the strap packaged with the Leica SL2 was wholly deficient. It works at keeping the camera on one's shoulder but it's hardly elegant and the terminations at the camera lugs and the adjusting hardware are very pedestrian. All the way down to the plastic strap devices that allow you to adjust strap length. The only plus for their sorry strap is the nicely sticky/grippy material at the shoulder pad position that keeps the package well situated on your shoulder instead of forcing you to adopt a faux military, bandolier style of camera portage. Something had to give. 

Chrome Fuji with Domke strap.

After much agitated meditation (it's a new style in which you force your mind to careen all over the place) I decided that I was just wasting my time and that possibly, now that Tamrac discontinued my all time favorite strap, I would never find strap joy again. But as I stood up to begin a search for the calming properties of freshly brewed coffee I reached down to heft the small camera bag I was carrying with me. It's a Domke F2 bag with an oiled, waterproof finish. I grabbed the bag's strap and my hand felt the secure sensation of grippy material right there on the correct side of the strap; running almost the full length of the strap. And it dawned on me that though I hadn't consciously thought of it before this grippy strap on the camera bag was an integral part of why ALL my camera bags are made by Domke. They work the way photographers need them to work.  I felt the joy of rediscovery wash over me like a warm shower after a bitter, long walk in a frozen wasteland. 

I turned the car around and headed up to Precision Camera to see if they stocked Domke camera straps. And there they were; two sizes of Domke Gripper Camera Straps. A one inch version and a one and a half inch version. To make the discovery completely delightful both sizes of straps were available in both a light khaki color and the traditional black. I bought one of each color, in the smaller size, for my chrome and my black Fuji X100V cameras. Now they have transcended being mostly good to being beautiful and good. (Yes, yes, the khaki strap on the chrome body and the black strap on the black body. I am such a traditionalist. 

Hey, guess what! You can get two perfectly sized and engineered Domke straps about about the same price as one of the almost unusable Peak Design straps. Go figure. I guess, in a pinch, you could use the Peak Design strap as a seat belt?!

Buy em by the bushel. 

After a few delightful days with the new straps and the Fuji cameras I decided that I also wanted to outfit the Leicas and the Lumix S5 with Domke Gripper straps. I knew the Lumix was small and light enough to do well with the thinner strap but I wasn't sure about the Leicas since some of the lenses I use on them are a bit heavy. I bought two more straps; one of the one inch models and one of the wider straps. I'm thinking wider strap for the SL2 because I mostly use it with the very dense 24-90mm Vario Elmarit lens but I'm confident that the SL bodies, along with a prime lens will be well served by the thinner strap. I have no qualms about security as all the straps use the same attachment hardware. 

If you've been a photographer long enough you probably have found the strap you really like. If you are a picky photographer you'll probably also have moved on from the straps that come packaged with your cameras. If you are a cheap bastard you probably have the original strap with the big brand name done in phosphorescent paint that came in the box. I guess if you like it you like it. But if you like the Peak Design strap I hope you (non-judgmentally) write a comment and gracefully inform me about what I seem to be missing. Why should I appreciate one? If only they could put the grippy's on the correct side of the strap...

This is a garden hose. We are finally getting some use out of several of these here at the end of the Summer. The alternative is brown grass. And then, when the rains come they'll take the topsoil along with them. Ah well. Conserve and die or water and sin. It's tough choice. 

Urban Abstraction. With rain.

I spent time this morning with a vacuum cleaner, some furniture wipes and some window cleaner. My goal was to make the studio space presentable and comfortable for the large numbers of people who will be visiting over the next three weeks to have their portraits made. The place looks pretty good now. I wish I had time to repaint but I wasted it all watching videos about black and white processing on YouTube. 

I'll be using a Godox SL150mk2 in a three foot diameter octabox for a main light, the same model LED light in a five foot diameter octabox for a bit of soft fill light, a Godox SL60W with a grid modifier as a background light and a small Nanlite Lumipad 25 panel light as a close in hair light. I might add a second panel as an accent light, where needed. 

Lately I've decided that people look "better" standing than sitting. Shirts and Jackets don't bunch up and fewer things wrinkle. I think it also makes people look slimmer. But in order for most people to feel comfortable standing for a portrait I think you need to have a posing table in front of the to anchor them in the good position and to give them something to put their hands on. So, I guess that's the next thing to start cleaning. 

I tested all the cameras and for this adventure I'll be using the Leica SL (24 megapixels) rather than the SL2. Most of the use for the photos will be on the company's website so 47 megapixels is a bit of overkill. Neither the Leicas nor the Lumix cameras do smaller raw sizes and I like the security of shooting raw for stuff like this where I might want to do very fine color matching between people. The older camera's files are half the size so less storage space gets used. If I were very brave I'd shoot in the 12 megapixel Jpeg size on the SL instead. We'll see if my courage increases as the number of engagements climbs. But one always has to watch out for "technical hubris." 

It looks as though Zach Theatre will attempt a re-opening of the inside, main stage theater with their Holiday production of "Christmas Carol." I don't know how everything stands there anymore as I've been more or less out of the loop since last December. I hope I get to photograph the show because I miss the routine but so much of the marketing staff has changed and the new people might be looking to bring in their own favorite suppliers. We'll see. 

I do know that in order to attend a show you'll need to either have had a negative Covid test within 48 hours of show time or you'll need to prove that you've been fully (yes, two doses!) vaccinated. No exemptions. And masks. Always masks. 

An odd thing the theater brain trust is doing now though is to shop around the idea of a monthly subscription model for their MainStage shows. You would pay something like $40 a month, all year long, to be able see any show you'd like. The subscription is for an individual and is not transferrable. So if you and your spouse wanted to do the program together you'd both need your own subscription/memberships. I wish them luck with the new idea. I wonder if this is something theaters in other cities are experimenting with. I wonder if the big ad agency in town could be talked into paying me a monthly subscription for my services. It could be nice...

that's all I've got for now. 

Be careful out there and don't fall for any trendy but 
highly flawed camera straps. 

I'm off to make a roasted vegetable and feta cheese recipe I saw recently.

You chop and slice broccolini, red peppers, add grape tomatoes, lemon slices and 
red onion all into a prep bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of EVOO, cumin, 
red pepper flakes, black pepper and sea salt. Spread out on a baking sheet 
around one inch thick slabs of sheep's milk feta cheese. 

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 400° and serve over orzo. 

It looks pretty when it's in a magazine. Let's see what I can do....

Finally: while I love to complain I'm thrilled; very thrilled to have nothing more to complain about than vacuuming the studio and searching for the right camera straps. In all other things life is wonderful.
Happy and wonderful.