1.24.2022

Art Monday. Daniel Johnston's work writ large..

This was the scene just off Congress Ave. The Daniel Johnston mural officially "opened" this 
week and a steady stream of Austinites cruised by to document the wall. 
The mural coincides with a full gallery exhibition of Johnston's work on 
the first floor of the museum. 



 The Contemporary/Jones Center in downtown Austin is having a show of Daniel Johnston's art. Johnston's bio can be found here: Artist's Bio. His work is lo-fi, distinctive and sometimes biting.

The first public art by Johnston that I saw was on the side of a building on 21st Street, here in Austin.

Here's a photo: 

Photo courtesy of Carol Highsmith ©Carol Highsmith. 

Here's the story behind this mural:

"Original caption: ""Hi, How Are You," while one of the simplest murals in Austin, Texas, is also one of the city's favorites.  Also called "Jeremiah the Innocent," the sketch on the side of the Sound Exchange music store was commissioned in 1993 by store owner Craig Koon.  According to several stories, Koon paid a local musician, Daniel Johnston, $100 to spray-paint the image of the happy frog that had appeared on the cover of one of Johnston's albums.  The frog image had recently become nationally recognized from media images of Kurt Cobain wearing a "Hi, How Are You?" t-shirt during Nirvana's promotion of their 1991 album "Nevermind." After the record store closed, the building remained unoccupied until 2004 when a Mexican grill franchise called Baja Fresh took ownership and decided to remove the wall that held the mural. Following street protests, a group of people who lived in the neighborhood convinced the managers to leave the mural intact. "
It's fun being in a city that celebrates art the way Austin does. 

In other news: It looks like the annual South by Southwest Conference will be held, live this year, sometime in March. If it comes off as expected it will finally seem like a fledgling return to normal life. The show producers are emphasizing that vaccinations will be required and all events will, additionally, require face masks. If it happens I think the Chamber of Commerce will breathe its first sigh of relief in a long while.

Financial stuff: Looks like the stock markets are taking it on the chin right now. The S&P Index just hit a 10% correction this morning, off its record highs. I'd love to jump in and buy some "bargains" right now but I think I'll take wiser advice from B and wait to see what Vladimir Putin has in mind before I do anything rash. A lot of people seem to be taking a lot of money off the table...

It's interesting to watch consumer behavior when the markets go in one direction or another. When the stock markets and real estate markets were marching ever upward people enjoyed the feeling of being wealthier and, over the last year, adjusted their overall spending upward to match. A lot of new homes were commissioned on the irrational premise that stocks would spiral ever upward. Hondas got replaced with BMWs and Teslas. New, custom homes got a lot pricier. People started drinking better wines and taking better vacations. And the debt load of upper, upper middle class families increased with the promise of low interest loans forever.

Funny (but not in the "ha, ha" sense...) how two weeks of stock market losses and profit taking change sensibilities. I wonder how this will affect luxury goods like cameras? And lenses? Locked in a weird dance of inflation driven cost increases and rapidly declining wealth it seems that consumers will soon be tightening up on their pleasure spending and start "treading water" instead. 

Putting off that Bentley delivery van purchase for the foreseeable future....



1.23.2022

Mirror Selfies. Keeping track of which glasses I wear when.

 

I was feeling mighty minimalist today. On days when that feeling hits it's time to revert to the absolute basics. Old, dark green sweat shirt. Analog watch. Trash glasses from the back-up pile. A single credit card in the back pocket of a worn pair of jeans. Grab a "no frills" camera and put a manual focusing 50mm lens on the front. Set everything to black and white. Go out and see if the world looks different. Yeah. It  does.

I shot a lot of stuff out and around town. Some good and some just bad. I had tacos at three in the afternoon and coffee at five thirty. It was a gray day complete with grayscale images. But it felt just right. 

I keep coming back to the most cosmetically challenged Leica SL body I own and I keep re-discovering how great the TTArtisan 50mm f1.4 lens is. Extra battery in one pocket and the adventure is on.

1.22.2022

A Saturday of Leisure and an appreciation of an inexpensive lens.

 


Last week I walked around at dusk photographing in the downtown area and returning once again to the "Sail" building (future home of a complete battalion of Google employees) as the remaining daylight whispered away and fell off over the horizon. This is an angle I particularly like because of the curve. It's not a "fisheye" shot and you can tell that from the straight lines throughout the image. It was done with an odd combination: The Leica SL2 (used in APS-C) mode and the TTArtisan 17mm f1.4 lens. 

Many will struggle to understand why one might put a lens designed for a crop format on the front of a full frame, high resolution camera, but my instant rejoinder would have to be: "Why not?" Or, "Just to see how it works." 

I was photographing at the edge of the acceptable technical envelope for the SL2. It's a camera that's happiest at ISO 50, ISO 100 and other settings in that ballpark. But with no light I needed to let the camera take its chances at ISO 6400. I wanted to stay around 1/125th of second so I could handhold the camera and get all the edges sharp but a high resolution sensor gets noisier as we go up the ISO scale...

I could have gotten a lower ISO with f1.4 but I wanted to use f4.0 so I could get the whole structure in reasonable focus. That "three legged stool" of exposure parameters is a strict set of compromising options...

Of all the weird, manual focusing, made in China, lenses I've bought brand new, this year the 17mm f1.4 is clearly the tremendous bargain of the bunch. Even wide open the center of the frame is sharp enough for most fun work and when stopped down to f5.6 or f8.0 the performance is...awesome. If you enlarge the image above (by clicking on it...) you'll see that it does have a lot of noise in it but you'll also see that the lens has performed very well and there are few artifacts to pooh-pooh over. 

Swim. Damn. It was hard getting out of bed this morning. It got cold last night and I was toasty and sleepy under a stack of covers. The air in my bedroom was in the 60s and by comparison with my warm nest it felt freezing. I stuck out a tentative toe and then turned off the alarm clock and hauled myself out of bed. I'm always running against the clock in the mornings. I needed to make sure we didn't lose any water pipes to the surface of Neptune-like low temperatures we had overnight and I needed to grab something to eat and some half caffeinated coffee to begin the thawing and coffee-hydration process before the Saturday morning swim. I have a little check list. It goes: Coffee. Toast with peanut butter and blueberry preserves. Swim suit and thermal swim cap. Swim bag. Big towel. Brush teeth. Water bottle. Keys.

My unflinching iPhone told me that it was 25 degrees when I left the comfort of my rambling house. That's pretty chilly for an early morning, outdoor swim practice but it's better than no swim practic at all. I was wearing a new winter coat from a company Dan Milnor pointed me to called, Beyond Clothing. They specialize in techie, layered winter clothing and support stuff, like gloves and hats. The jacket is warm and bulky enough for a sweatshirt or down vest underneath. I like it. Today was its maiden voyage to the pool. 

There's the pool in the photo above. I took that image a while ago, in warmer weather. Today there were clouds of steam rising up from the water's surface. The water temperature was 82° and the air temp. was 25° and that vast spread makes for pretty dramatic vaporous fog at the interface between air and water. 

Our coach was bundled up and had one of those restaurant-style, radiant gas heaters going at the end of the pool. It was too cold to write the workout details on a white board so he just called out the sets as we went forward. That's fine, even at my advanced age I can remember workout sets and intervals because it's part of the fun. We did a lot of backstroke and freestyle today. It must be I.M. Season (individual medley = all four strokes) right now because we've been incorporating a lot of non-freestyle strokes into our workouts. 

The hard part of working out early, in a warm pool, on a freezing day, is the emotional difficulty that comes from pulling oneself out of a warm, comforting body of water onto a freezing pool deck and walking as fast as you can over freezing walkways to the far off locker rooms. The next worst thing is waiting an eternity for the showers to finally warm up. After that, everything else is a piece of cake. 

I was lazy for the rest of the day. I was re-reading a Tom Clancy novel about a Russian invasion of Lithuania for most of the afternoon. It was my turn to buy lunch so we ordered our favorite subs from Thundercloud Subs. Then it was back to the action/adventure page turner. (Commander in Chief by Mark Greaney). We barely won this time...

I spent the entire day NOT doing anything with or about photography. Well, if you overlook writing this blog. It was fun to blaze through an action/political thriller novel today. Since the plot of the book was about a Russian invasion it was eerily close to geopolitical events of the day.


1.21.2022

An evening with the SL2 and the Sigma 18-50mm. An afternoon spent with the Leica CL, the Sigma 18-50mm, a warm hat and nice gloves. Pretty much alone on the streets of Austin. The cold weather scared off the regulars....

Mannequin embraces dystopian afternoon. Unmoved by the weather.
Leica CL

As I become more selective about which clients I want to continue working with I'm also finding that I'm becoming more selective about the equipment that I'm interested in and finding my previous mindset of wanting to be prepared for any kind of assignment (equipment-wise) is crumbling quickly. As I talk to clients about new potential projects I'm more and more convinced that by NOT having every possible contingency covered, gear-wise, it becomes easier and easier to turn down the projects that I don't want to do. Projects I used to accept just because they paid well are being consciously replaced by projects that I want to do whether I am being paid or not. And I'm finding that these projects, the ones I want, only require the most rudimentary equipment. 

In the past many buying decisions were made with an eye to fulfilling some unique and maybe even arcane decision of a client or ad agency. If I were still eager to accept advertising still life assignments on which we try to make tech products look good and exciting there's no doubt that I could quickly convince  myself of the need for a Fuji GFX 100 S and a handful of lenses. After all, doesn't the client's project deserve the best? Well, probably not. At least not if it's something I need to keep in inventory for only a handful of jobs that I'm not really motivated to shoot, or disposed to enjoy in a given year. 

In the past I'm sure I owned too many camera bodies but it was easy to rationalize that I needed them for video projects on which we used multiple cameras to catch multiple angles simultaneously. But I hate editing projects like that, hate collaborating with the larger number of people needed to do jobs like that, and finally, dislike that whole complicated process. Don't get me wrong. I like shooting video projects but only for myself and only with me, and only me, behind the camera. No extra gear needed if there's no client to please. So, no need to have multiple cameras just in case. 

In the past I did a lot of assignments that couldn't be easily repeated and I always felt the need to have duplicates of everything (lights, cameras, lenses) in the studio and in the field. I'm pushing back from high stress jobs like that which means the rationality of having three really good zoom lenses that cover the same range from 24-70mm (and longer) is....less rational. I could easily pull back from the ample edge of redundancy and just own one perfect, standard zoom lens for my full frame cameras. And I could happily sell the other two. Especially the fast one that doesn't have image stabilization....

Pulling back from the hard charging edge of commercial advertising photography also means that I never need the "features" of the latest and greatest camera systems. I've never been held hostage to super fast AF and I've never felt the need to have the absolute highest resolution in my cameras either but now I seem happier to buy older versions of the current cameras (Leica SLs over Leica SL2s, for example) because I know they fit my style of shooting and my output targets just fine. It's almost fun just saving the money. 

I'd like to narrow down the gear but I'd also like to see a few new product introductions. I'm waiting to see if Sigma ever reconfigures and redesigns their 50mm f1.4 ART lens for the L mount cameras. The current one is great but to make it work with L mount cameras Sigma just took a DSLR version and added some length (and weight) to make it workable on the mirrorless system. If they redesign the lens for mirrorless they might be able to trim at least an inch from the length. And if they are redesigning for the current cameras they might also be able to make the lens smaller and lighter by moving some of the image corrections from the optical design to in-camera software instead. 

I'm also interested to see what Panasonic will do with their S1 line of cameras. I liked them very much and would consider picking up a newer model if they make certain improvements. I'd like to see a lower resolution model (staying at 24 megapixels) with a BSI sensor and a thinner filter stack over the sensor. Making the new model a worthy contender (and good match up) with the Leica SL2-S camera. But these are just niggles in the bigger picture. That bigger picture being my recently started downsizing of gear and engagements. 

A tighter focus on projects that really speak to me instead of just continuing to look for assignments that pay well. We'll see how it all works out. And we'll see if I can really put my camera buying on a diet...

The photo in this post are a mix of cameras but all done with the same lens. The Sigma 18-50mm f2.8, which is an APS-C lens. I normally use this lens with the CL and the TL2 cameras since they are both cropped frame cameras but I wanted to see how the lens would perform on a full frame camera like the SL2. So, for the twilight shots, I put the Sigma on the bigger camera and gave it a whirl. I think it works quite nicely. In both sets of cameras. The SL2 adds IBIS back into the mix. Points for that when handholding in twilight. One afternoon we're in the 80s. The next afternoon it's 26° Winter is interesting here.

Amazed that the battery in the CL handled the cold so well. 
Out walking for an hour and a half and still had 3/4 battery power in reserve. 

The 18-50mm is nice and sharp at f4.0 and well behaved in the corners. 
I really like this big, red rabbit. He's been on 2nd street for years now. 
Love the way the CL handles the color red.

The message of the past decade?

Handheld exposure with the SL2 at twilight. 

A different viewpoint for the "Jenga" building. 
In downtown Austin. Leica SL2

Leica SL2 + Sigma 18-50mm in APS-C mode.

Looking good at ISO 3200-6400. 
Leica SL2 + Sigma 18-50mm in APS-C mode.

Leica SL2 + Sigma 18-50mm in APS-C mode.

Leica SL2 + Sigma 18-50mm in APS-C mode.

Leica SL2 + Sigma 18-50mm in APS-C mode.

Leica SL2 + Sigma 18-50mm in APS-C mode.


Leica SL2 + Sigma 18-50mm in APS-C mode.

Leica SL2 + Sigma 18-50mm in APS-C mode.

Leica SL2 + Sigma 18-50mm in APS-C mode.

Leica SL2 + Sigma 18-50mm in APS-C mode.

 A daily walk with a camera and lens keeps your hands familiar with the camera's operation and the iterative process of shooting and evaluating what you've shot keeps you aware of what the limits and potential of your gear is. I recommend some hands on time for photographers with their gear every day. 

As my favorite swim coach used to say: "It's all about time in the water." 

"You Chattered on and on About the Sigma 65mm f2.0 Lens...Where are the SAMPLES?

All these images were done with a Sigma i-Series 65mm f2.0 lens for full frame cameras.
This one was used on a Leica SL2 camera body and all the images were shot as Jpegs.
Remember: you can click on the images to make them full screen. 


I wrote about the 65mm Sigma lens earlier in the week but I didn't include nearly enough samples to illustrate why I think it's so good. If I really wanted to wow you I might have put the camera and lens on a tripod and consistently stopped down to f7.1. But the lens is darned good at f2.0. Perfect at f2.8 and it maintains that level of performance all the way up to f11. It's a wonderful lens and I think its rendering is very neutral -- and sharp from side-to-side.













Next up. How's that 90mm f2.8 Sigma working out? 

We had Winter weather this week. I was prepared for the worst....

 

Cold Weather. A good time to try out the Leica CL + Sigma 18-50mm lens in sub-freezing temps.

I remember Wednesday. It was gorgeous. The skies were blue with thin, high clouds and when I stepped onto the pool deck at Western Hills Athletic Club for the noon swim practice the temperature had climbed to a nurturing and wholly comfortable 80 degrees. Hard to imagine a more perfect, mid-January day. But everything changes. 

Wednesday evening my friend Will had me and a few other friends over to his house in Travis Heights for smoked ribs. We sat outside in short sleeve shirts and shorts and, under the fading sky, ate great smoked pork ribs, carrot and red cabbage cole slaw, pinto beans cooked with wine, and a basket full of just out of the oven corn bread muffins dotted with fresh blueberries. All washed down with a wonderful cabernet sauvignon. 

As we were discussing global events, photography, finance and other fun dinner table topics the wind started to pick up in little gusts and the temperatures started to drop. After a while we headed inside for fresh pumpkin pie and Champagne. And that was the last of the perfect weather. 

I looked at the weather report early Thursday morning and the story was that our high temperature of the day was already in the rear view mirror and we'd see the "mercury" drop into the mid-20's by early afternoon, accompanied with freezing rain, sleet and even a flurry or two of snow. Fortified by the magic elixir our people call, "coffee" I headed outside to cover the standing flower beds... and the reclining flower beds. I paid special attention to B's carefully crafted succulent gardens. You might notice that we routinely use studio background cloths for our ground covers. The plants next to the studio get covered with a green screen fabric. I like to think the plants feel better with the green over the top.

The white muslin is double layered. The backdrop is ten feet by twenty feet and I've had it since 1998. It's seen many a hard freeze and yet it remains quite usable as a photo accessory after a quick romp through the washing machine. 


I think the big clamps make my treatment of the raised flower bed 
protection protocol look more professional...

I had a quick coffee and an apple danish yesterday.
I thought it was pretty safe, pandemic-ly speaking, to have coffee 
indoors since I was the only customer in the six thousand square foot space....

The only sad thing about nasty weather has to do with swimming. In years past there were very few weather events (excluding dramatic lightning storms) that ever caused the pool managers to cancel a masters swim workout. We're mostly a resilient bunch. But the club is working with a new manager who seems happy to close the pool at the first hint of inclement weather. Today (Friday) is a gorgeous weather day. The sky is perfectly clear and the wind has died down to near nothing. The thermometer is saying about 30°. But last night we got the dreaded e-mail announcing that the masters workouts on Friday would be cancelled on account of bad weather. It's a freakin tragedy. 

This morning the roads were clear, the skies were blue, and here I am lacing up the running shoes in a poor attempt to compensate for no pool time. Sure, I'll do my miles and get that heart rate up but it would be a hell of a lot better to do so in a perfect outdoor swimming pool....

The Leica CL is a wonderful small camera. The files are sweet and the size and weight are addictive. I can't say enough good stuff about the new Sigma zoom lens (18-50mm f2.8). It's tiny and terrific. I can shoot it wide open and not worry about losing sharpness. Sigma is doing great lens designs. I can't wait to see how (and if) they re-make their Art Series 50mm f1.4 lens for native mirrorless systems. I bet it's going to be breathtaking. I just hope it's a bit smaller...

Warm enough here. Coffee flowing. 

One last thing: The Promaster photo gloves I bought a few weeks ago? Best gloves I remember owning. Love mine. And so inexpensive. 

How do I know? Well.....Ben is going skiing up North next week so I took him to REI to overload him with all sorts of warm clothing (parental angst) and we looked at super warm ski gloves. They range in price from $85 to over $200. I never knew. We rarely wear ski gloves in Texas. And there's so much other stuff to buy too. I left the store as winded as if I'd just bought another serous lens. I guess, when it comes to pissing away cash, all hobbies are about the same...

At least the kid won't freeze to death on the slopes.


1.18.2022

I've routinely glossed over the Sigma 65mm f2.0 lens. I've been negligent.

 

Sigma 65mm f2.0. Nice stuff.

Photographers tend to be creatures of habit. Someone told us long ago (and over and over again) that 50mm lenses were the normal/standard lens for 35mm photography and we accepted that. Then the media instructed us that the 35mm focal length (and now the 28mm...) was the standard for "street" photography and we've mostly accepted that too. So when Sigma came along with a fast, sharp 65mm lens that wasn't a dedicated macro lens most of us didn't know where to place it in the pantheon. It's been one of the least discussed new lenses I've seen recently and I think its omission is a disservice to many photographers. 

This lens is a lot more than just an extension of a typical, low cost, 50mm lens design. It uses 12 elements (two aspherical and one SLD) in nine groups to achieve extremely high sharpness; even at f2.0. Stopped down to f4.0 and you have a lens that rivals the very best lenses in the marketplace. High sharpness coupled with high contrast was a design priority. 

If want a lens that delivers snap and a bit of a compressed point of view, vis-a-vis the standard 50, 55 or 58mm this lens is stand out. The 65mm is part of the Contemporary, i-Series lenses from Sigma that feature really wonderful build quality, all metal construction, external aperture rings, big, comfortable focusing rings and metal lens hoods that match the design and construction of the lenses themselves. I find them to be beautifully designed and constructed. 

I started out with the 45mm f2.8 lens which is small and fairly lightweight. I love the way that lens renders and I ended up with two of them since I subsequently bought a Sigma fp that was a kit and featured the 45mm at a very low cost. I keep on on the Leica CL a lot of the time and the second one on one of the Leica SLs. I bought the 65mm as soon as it was available and find it to be a versatile combination of a long "normal" lens and a nice, short portrait lens. 

Higher and higher resolution in cameras somewhat changes a traditional approach to working with lenses. In the days when 12 megapixels was the norm I was careful to select lenses which would give me the angle of view I wanted or needed and which would not require much, if any cropping in post. When file sizes are spare you want to "give away" as little of the resolution as you can. 

Now that we've hit 45+ as a high standard of resolution it's become much easier to choose a lens like the 65mm for an environmental portrait and then crop in tighter in post, if that's the way you want the final image. Any resolution loss from normal cropping becomes mostly invisible. Looked at that way the 65mm can take the place of an 85mm or 90mm and give the user more options with fewer lenses in the bag. 

When I first started using the 65mm I fell back, reflexively, on old habits; old information. I tended to use f5.6 for most shots because of my previous training that told me these middle apertures were where I'd find the best image quality. Now I use the 65mm at any aperture without hesitation. Everything from f2.0 up to f8.0 and beyond is pretty amazing. 

I borrowed a 50mm Summicron SL Apo from a friend to test. I shot some comparisons at like apertures with the 65mm and finally felt comfortable leaving well enough alone having proven to myself that although the Leica 50 App is a "reference" lens for the SL systems the image quality delivered by the Sigma 65mm is so close as to make the differences invisible. At least to me.

I currently have the 65mm attached to the SL2. I've put a few nicks and scratches on the camera so I'm no longer subconsciously cautious about taking it out into the field. The combination of the SL2 and the 65mm is pretty impressive. It's a very sweet, sweet spot and it's quickly become my daily adventure combo. 

And, even though getting the magnetic, metal lens cap off with the lens hood on correctly is fiddly I love the idea of its innovation. As a package the 65mm lens is one that pulls you into Sigma's vision of what a family of lenses should be like. At $649 it's a bit of a bargain. After using it for a few months I added the 90mm f2.8 to the mix as well. Another unsung but terrific lens at a good price.  More on that later. 

1.17.2022

No clever observations today. Just thoughts about life in general...

 

One of our readers requested a photo of the mid-century style writing desk I bought last week. It's from a chain furniture store called, West Elm. The desk is finished in "acorn". It's heavy for its size and very solid. At least, here in the first week, I've done a good job keeping everything off the top except my laptop and, from time to time, a small, black leather notebook and a pen.

The idea I had was to separate writing from all the functions of photography. My usual desk is a glass -topped, steel-framed model with two black filing cabinets to either side. I bought it originally as a prop for a "modern office" photoshoot but it was non-returnable and so replaced a much crappier used desk that I had been nursing along for years and years. Seems as though I luck into a new desk every eighteen years or so. 

The idea of separating functions and tools always works for me so I'm hoping that I'll create some boundaries to put in place for the times when I just want a clear space for thinking and writing. We'll see.  I do like the desk very much. And it doesn't wobble when I type with enthusiasm...

We do have several desks in the house proper but I like the isolation of the office/studio and find that I write best when alone, undisturbed and without the noise of other people's mental processes swirling in the background. It's probably an inefficient use of house space but since we aren't competing for square footage in Tokyo or Hong Kong I guess I'll just maintain my habits. I'm working on a book right now but I think it's going to take a while. My target is the end of the year.

We have two leaky faucets. There is a constant, every five second drip in one of our bathroom's sinks. There's another in the shower at the back of the house. I looked up how to fix leaky faucets on the internet and found a couple tutorials from Lowe's and Ace. I have some tools and I have some time so I thought I'd take a stab at doing the repairs myself. I mentioned this to B. She was shocked. And adamant that I call a plumber and have the job done right. Her logic? I have no experience whatsoever with plumbing. I don't have the right tools and if I did have them I wouldn't know how to use them. By the time I figure out what replacement parts I need, purchase them and install them she conjectures that I would being losing money compared to just having a professional do the job.

Why would should have these presumptions? I think it all goes back to my poor performance with a tree saw a number of years ago. I might have told the story before but I think it bears repeating. 

We have a fair number of trees on our property and every once in a while dead branches need to be trimmed and alterations made. There was one big branch (maybe 4 inches in diameter) that hung out over to the side of our driveway. I thought about what a tree service would charge us to remove the branch and decided (all on my own) that I would buy a nice, bright red, manual tree saw and just cut that branch down on my own. 

I informed my spouse and she said, "Be careful." And I replied, "Aw. What's the worst that could happen?" And I headed out the door with my new purchase and a profound sense of new purpose. I didn't bother to move B's new car because the part of the branch I was sawing off was over to one side and not directly over her shiny automobile. After sawing for a while with both hands stretched up in the air I got tired. I never thought about how hard actual work might be. I was about 3/4ths of the way through the branch when it crashed toward the ground. But it was still attached to the tree with a tenuous bundle of fibers so the downward force because a pendular arch back up but now just over the top of B's car's hood. At its apogee the branch tore loose from its remaining attachments and at a full height of about 12 feet disengaged.

The four inch diameter branch slammed down onto the hood of the car. And then it bounced up. I was standing, paralyzed at the end of the car hood, staring in horror. Then the branch seemed to target me and bounced right at my face, slamming into my newly acquired, Giorgio Armani, titanium bifocal glasses bending the frames and breaking them while cracking the Zeiss optical glass lenses. The branch also took a shot at my right temple opening up the skin and causing blood to flow down across my face. I grabbed a lens cleaning cloth out of my pocket to hold over my bleeding forehead and staggered into the house asking B (for the dozenth time) to drive me to the emergency room. The one where I used to get frequent flier points. 

And she said, as she grabbed her keys, "I guess we figured out what the worst thing that could happen might be..." As we left the driveway, heading toward some emergency stitching I said, gamely, "Don't jinx us, we're not at the hospital yet..." 

And this is the story she trots out when coercing me to hire professionals. It's probably the reason we've never gotten a lawn mower. Or an electric saw. And it's probably a good reminder for me that I don't like DIY home projects and actually do think that hiring pros is a great idea. An idea I used to pass along to my own clients all the time. 

I know some of you brawny, tool-owning, snow-blowing, wood-chopping men and women who also have extensive and grand work benches in garages will laugh and respond about how simple things like plumbing and tree trimming are in reality. But you won't make a dent in B's resolve and you won't manual labor shame me into somehow transforming into a guy with overalls and an oily rag stuffed into a worn pocket. I'd rather go for a walk with a well behaved camera. But I have been watching some cost saving videos about doing your own minor brain surgery. Seems like a good mirror and a set of surgical tools are all you really need and, here's a skilled area where you can really save big money! When I mentioned it to my long suffering spouse she did a quick search on YouTube for Do it yourself lobotomies. She left the channels bookmarked for me...

A note about photos with phones. I have two apps downloaded onto my iPhone XR that are supposed to make phone photography look quite good. One is called First Light and the other is called Halide. I've been concentrating lately on getting used to working with Halide and it's intriguing. I like that I can shoot in either HEIC or Raw formats. I like the way the program makes images look straight out of the phone in HEIC and I like being able to fine tune stuff with the app. 

When I went out for a walk yesterday I stuffed a Leica TL2 and some lenses in a small shoulder bag, as a backup in case of phone-frustration, and walked around just photographing with the phone. It was a lovely experience. In good light, if the focal length needed was right, the images seemed as good as any I'd take with thousands of dollars of Leica camera gear and at a fraction of the cost. I even uploaded a few shots as I strolled around snapping, directly to Instagram. Perhaps I'll become an influencer.

Here are some samples. Just for fun. :







I guess I should just rip off the bandaid, stop horsing around with early century camera tech and plunge into the iPhone 13 Pro. I'll take another walk and think about it.... 

But no chain saws. And no welding stuff either....