Don't you hate it when a company discontinues one of your favorite products? I just got up to speed on a great camera and, BAM, it's discontinued. And as far as I can tell there are no plans to replace it.... What to do?


TTArtisan 23mm f1.4 for L mount on a Leica CL. Wonderful.

You dig through cameras for years and then you find one that really speaks to you. It's small, lightweight and easy to walk around with but at the same time its 24 megapixel sensor, combined with great image processing, gives you about 95% of the quality you get using bigger and much more expensive cameras. You buy one and start working with it and over time come to trust its metering and white balance. Your hands find the right way to hold the camera. You find the best way to attach the camera to you with its strap. You learn the ins and outs of its imaging processes. You can judge battery life almost by intuition. 

And then....the retail universe pulls the rug out from under you and the camera becomes discontinued. Should you decide you want an extra body to incorporate into your small travel system your only recourse, over time, will be the vagaries of the used camera market. And, if my current experience is any indication, good condition-to-mint condition cameras will vanish quickly. 

I thought I would really enjoy the Leica SL2 camera more than any other camera I own. But....for some reason or other I find it to have the least magnetic attachment to me. Oh, it's great for work. The files are incredibly detailed and the dynamic range seems limitless. Even when working with video the camera is a superb commercial tool. But once you've finished shoot your jobs .... that's where the charm of the bigger and heavier system recedes. 

I find that when I need just the right look in a full frame camera for any subject matter that doesn't need to be printed large and with endless detail I actually prefer the "look" of the files I get with the SL cameras. And, if push comes to shove and I really want a specific color and tone palette in full frame that makes me smile every time, it's always the Sigma fp. Not the new fpL with the 61 megapixel sensor but the original 24 megapixel sensor model. 

But all these choices pale in comparison when it comes to choosing a camera to roam around through the streets of a city, or to bring along to a dinner party, or to take on a trip to someplace new. More and more I'm depending on the affable, comfortable, minuscule Leica CL. And a collection of small lenses that leverage its advantages even more.

I always meant to dig into my wallet and splash out for a back-up CL body. I have a TL2 but it's just not the same. I've always had a thing for creating systems based around two matching camera bodies. I dragged my feet when it came to my APS-C Leica. But then that day came last month when Leica announced that they had discontinued the CL. They made it pretty clear in interviews, etc. that they would be stepping away from "cropped" frame cameras to concentrate their efforts on full frame (35mm) sensor cameras. I found myself a bit sad because of the announcement but I hopped onto the web thinking I would track down a new, in the box, second unit to pair with the first one. How difficult could it be?

Well it seems that soon after the announcement people who had always wanted a CL, or people like me who found their first encounter to be a profitable one, rushed (ahead of me) to kill off the remaining inventory at all the big (and small) retailers. I'd see a used body listed at someplace like Camera West (in San Francisco) and by the time I clicked on the product it was already listed as "out of stock." 

After ending up late to the party at a number of online Leica vendors I finally asked one of my favorite shops if they could put me on a list or inform me when they got a nice, clean, relatively unused CL back in stock. 

I got an e-mail yesterday from my favorite Leica Store and I responded as quickly as I could. On Monday the camera will be on its way to me. I guess I should downsize my current inventory of stuff and sell off some of the excess but I don't really want to. I'd rather pull the batteries out of the cameras I am not currently using and put the bodies into temporary storage. Especially since I seem to have a habit of regretting my sales of favorite cameras and then ending up replacing them at more cost to myself down the road.

The Leica CL is very appealing to me for a number of reasons. My very first Leica camera was used Leica IIIf (red dial) that came with the ubiquitous 50mm f3.5 Elmar collapsible lens. That body is an almost exact model for the rounded ends and small size of the CL. In fact, I pulled the IIIf out of the filing cabinet and compared them. I can see exactly where Leica got their inspiration for the CL. They stole the design from...Leica. Steal from the best?

The IIIf was the camera I took with me on a solo trip to Mexico City back in 1980. Loaded with home-rolled Tri-X film it actually returned some very nice negatives. I was happy when I got back to the darkroom and realized that the 50mm had not yet hit its "expiration date." That camera was so small and unobtrusive that I could walk the streets of Mexico City at 2 in the morning, by myself, and never draw attention to me or to the fact that I was out photographing in the middle of the night. 

The digital CL is the direct descendant of those cameras from first 30+ years of Leica's golden period of growth and invention. The just discontinued CL is also a beneficiary of the L mount alliance and there is a range of great lenses available from Leica, Panasonic, Sigma and TTArtisan. Two of my favorites are from the Sigma Contemporary series of lenses. The 56mm f1.4 is an awesomely sharp and precise lens. You can shoot it wide open on a CL and it performs remarkably well. The other Sigma lens that is a tremendous value is the APS-C only 18-50mm f2.8 lens. If you don't need longer focal lengths these two lenses and two camera bodies constitute the most compact and powerful imaging system in all of the L mount camp. Sure, the TL2 is a bit smaller (not by much...) but it lacks the built in EVF which makes the CL so effective for photographers like me. 

I know as I type this that someone will chime in to tell me that I could have gotten any number of cameras with many more "features" or with bigger sensors, or with more resolution, or better C-AF for the same money I spent in getting this bare-bones camera but none of those factors make much difference to me. I have other cameras. They have features and spex galore. What they lack is simplicity and a streamlined approach to casual photography. 

I like the CL for its simplicity and for my dexterity with it. And I think the red dot is cute. YMMV. It usually does. 

I turned the air conditioning down last night and finally got a fabulous night's sleep which greatly improved my overall attitude today. It's still hot outside and a bit forbidding but I can roll with it better now. Added to that was a great swim practice this morning with an old friend in my lane. Fast, smooth, easy and happy. Starting to sound like the Seven Dwarves. 

Get the camera you want. Don't listen to anyone else. Retirement accounts. Pish. Those are for pessimists. 


The Strange Social Paralysis of a Heat Wave. And a few more samples from the Leica SL camera shot in monochrome.

We're 14 days into a heat wave. There's a high pressure system parked over lots of Texas and here in Austin we've been over 100° (f) for the last two weeks straight. Downtown is always worse. There's so much dark pavement acting as a giant heat sink and so few trees or green spaces to break up the still heat. 

When we factor in the humidity it feels so much worse. I can look out the window of my studio and watch the grass go from green to yellow to brown almost in real time. I'd water the lawn more but I'm always trying to balance out the ethics of wasting water in an ongoing drought. It's an ill-fated attempt at balance when you realize that it's the beginning of Summer and unless the universe makes some big meteorological changes nothing is really going to save that expanse of natural carpeting. I asked B. today if crushed granite counted as a native species. The answer was a partial yes. It counts if the granite comes from around Llano, Texas. 

I used to be impervious to the heat. In fact, B. reminded me the other day that there was a time when I thought nothing of going out on a day like today, when the "mercury" is touching 104°, and do a five mile run around the lake. I'm no longer convinced, as I might have been back then, that I am bullet proof any more and that in itself is a little depressing. 

Earlier today I was out cleaning some mold and mildew off a seventy five foot rock wall that runs across the front of our property (we're not just "wood fence" people...) with a bucket of distilled vinegar, water and a stiff brush. Every once in a while I would turn on the hose and spray it up over my head and stand in the cascade of tiny droplets as they came down on my head and my long sleeve shirt. But after an hour of hard labor I was feeling quite spent and tossed in the brush. Headed into the air conditioning. Drank more water. 

I can only imagine how dangerous this kind of weather can be for people who have to work outside all day. I'm thinking you really have to build up a resistance to the daily toasting to survive. But I'm equally sure that relentless heat ages one. 

But what does this have to do with photography? I can't really make any cogent points about client projects because all the clients are, by their own admission, hibernating until the weather breaks. If it does. 
The typical ad client spends the vast majority of their life sitting in an air conditioned office communing with their computer and sitting through endless meetings. Acclimation isn't on their resumé. I can speak to how it affects me.

I'm sitting in my office with the A/C humming along and I'm surrounded by cameras and lenses I'd love to be using right now. I have a battery charging for the Sigma fp in the hopes that we'll have enough cool hours left after tomorrow's swim practice to get a walk in and make some photo art. But the weather has done a good job of keeping most people off the streets and camping out in restaurants and malls. It has driven the younger people out to the lakes to float on paddle boards and various rafts drinking canned beer and testing the efficacy of their base layer tans. No one in their right mind is taking a stroll down Second St. dressed in fun fashion and waiting to be discovered by a crazy photographer. 

I called a friend to see if he'd like to meet for coffee but he was adamant that he's not leaving his apartment until we're back in the 90's. Not the decade but the temperature range. I called another photographer friend but he escaped to Vancouver in the hopes that the weather would cooperate. I'd love to be in Iceland right now but then so would about a million half drunk UK party people on their way to being fully drunk. It's mostly why we don't do much travel in the Summer months. Everyone else is traveling and everything is crowded. Who wants to wait in line to see a melting glacier?

It's odd to feel isolated and in the depths of heat dystopia, especially after having been busy in all of last week and for a long day this week. But there it is. 

I wanted to write a long article today explaining why I feel that 24 megapixel cameras, and even cameras with lower pixel counts, are more suitable for the kind of photograph we mostly do these days but I'm too tired from the heat to type anything cogent. 

I'll pick up the Sigma fp and the 45mm Sigma lens when I head back into the house. The idea is that I'll see something delightful or interesting and snap a shot or two. But in reality the camera will sit on the edge of the dining room table unused until I grab it tomorrow morning and take it with me to swim practice. At least I know there will be people there.... 

Hope you have a better plan for the Summer than I do. And I hope you are executing it well. Cheers. 

 So, the supreme court took a bite out of happiness and constitutional democracy in the USA this week. 

Had me looking at property in Switzerland. Too bad I can't afford it....

Fifty millimeters of joy. An inexpensive, practical, fun lens for L mount cameras.

I'm a sucker for 50mm lenses. Just love the focal length and the fact that they have a long history in photography and, compared to zooms or wide angle lenses, are easier for camera makers to design and produce well. It's rare for even the least expensive 50mm lenses to be anything but sharp at f5.6 and most of the good ones are usable at wider apertures as well. 

When I first started using L mount cameras the only 50mm lenses for the system were the Leica 50mm f2.0 SL lens (@$5K+), the Panasonic 50mm f1.4 S-Pro (@$2.3K) and the huge, heavy Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art series lens. In a moment of rash exuberance I splashed out for the Panasonic 50mm f1.4. It was a great lens, all Leica Certified and composed of many, many exotic elements and more. It also came with a weight problem (no body shaming here, just the facts) and it was .... too big. Sharp and punchy, for sure, but not an optimum choice for a carry around camera. At least not for me.

I was instantly interested when I read that Panasonic had come out with a new 50mm that was smaller (wish it was smaller still), much lighter and, when on sale, dirt cheap. That's the 50mm f1.8 S lens that comes complete with a composite material body, and not much else. It feels cheaper than the big 1.4 lens but I think most of use need to get over our emotional allegiance to the idea that metal is always the best material for lenses. 

I find the newish 50mm f1.8 Panasonic lens for the S series cameras to be pretty much "just right." 

These are samples from that lens, taken with a Leica SL on a day when the clouds were happy and artsy and cooperative. I've also been playing around a bit more with a "sideways" competitor for the Panasonic lens. That would be the TTArtisan 50mm f1.4; also for the L mount. I say it's a "sideways" competitor since they are not directly comparable. The TT-A lens is totally manual which slows down the focusing process and you are focusing at whatever aperture the lens is set for so accuracy probably goes down as the f-stop gets smaller. 

From f2.0 on down to f11 both lenses are sharp and crispy. They each have a different visual fingerprint but both are totally usable and enjoyable on all the L mount cameras --- from the Sigmas to the Leicas. The differences in coatings and construction would have been more visible and important in the film days but the differences are small enough so that either lens can be "tuned in" to nearly match one another. 

I've been testing my current 50mm lenses because I've heard good things about the performance of the Voightlander Ultron 50mm f2.0 Apo lens and I'm vacillating about getting one. It's not an L mount lens but is available in the Leica M mount and there are adapters galore for the systems. 

But after looking at the results from a casual outing with the Panasonic 50mm f1.8 S I'm not sure the additional dabbling with the Ultron is even rational-i-zable. And wasn't Ultron the ultimate evil villain in the Transformer movies? Gives me pause. 



Trying to summon some affection for my least loved camera. Yes.....we've circled back to the Leica TL2. Now discontinued but still functional. I'm getting there.

Who thought it was a good idea to ask 66 year olds to swim sets of 50 yards butterfly at workout this morning? Let me speak to the manager! Kidding, of course. It's just par for the course. But I have to say that having about a quarter of the hour long workout being comprised of butterfly stroke can be....daunting. Although the 20 year old in the adjacent lane didn't seem to be struggling at all...

"Fast is wasted on the youth.."

Seriously though, if you want to get your heart rate up and sustain it there nothing beats sets of butterfly in the pool. Maybe tomorrow we can spend the morning doing innocuous stroke drills instead???

So, after swim practice and a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon I thought it would be a good time of the day to head downtown and walk over to my bank (which is on my usual route) and actually make a check deposit in person. Mostly because I was curious to see if banks still really have physical tellers who you can see in person, and such. They do. And the ones at my bank were very friendly. The walk to the bank was a thinly veiled excuse to try to build a bit of love... or at least grudging acceptance....for what is my current least favorite camera in the studio. And that would be the Leica TL2. 

I didn't do it any favors though. I put the TTartisan 17mm f1.4 lens on it and mostly used it at f8 along with some half-assed zone focusing. The ultra bright sun was a good challenge when it came to composing on the rear screen. The searing heat made concentration hard. So most of the images are just random snippets of visual errata. I finally gave up when the soles of my shoes started melting into the sidewalks and went home...

I'll grudgingly admit that the screen was bright enough to see well; even with my sunglasses on. And I'll also admit that I really like the colors and tones from that camera. They are right in line with files coming from the CL and the SL, both of which I really enjoy. This particular version/sample of the 17mm lens is also quite good. Yes, there's a bit of distortion but it's easy enough to fix with Lightroom. So, unlike tests in the past with the same camera, I'd put today's effort down as an overall success. 

Things I liked? The lighter weight. The quality of the .DNG files. The general competence of the rear screen ---  even when used in bright daylight. A surprising bout of endurance from the battery. The overall cuteness of the camera and the little, bizarre looking lens. 

Things I disliked? Easy. The fact that the camera often switched to video when its rear screen rubbed against my shirt. That nuisance of the camera changing modes from "A" to "S" if I touched the screen inadvertently. The cryptic nature of hunting for some settings in the menu. 

But if you are going to judge a camera by the files it creates I'll have to say that I'm changing my tune about the (now discontinued) TL2. Maybe I'm liking it more because of its new status as a discontinued underdog. But for whatever reason I seemed to have a more enjoyable time with the camera than I have had ever before. 

But take all this with a grain of salt since my brain and my assessments of the camera might have been addled by the overwhelming heat as we soared to 100+ by noon. And we'll still be at 98° late into the evening.  Stay hydrated but don't spill water on the TL2, I'm not sure it's at all weather sealed.

24 megapixels of APS-C goodness. A good selection of competent-to-excellent lenses. A natty little black leather half case. What's not to like? Well, besides all the stuff I listed above...


Every truck in Texas seems to have those metallic (but plastic) windshield heat thingys. 


Satisfied with my portable flash system. And I've used a lot of portable electronic flashes over the years...


Godox AD200 Pro in a silicon body glove to prevent impact damage.
Also features the "round head" and dome diffuser. 
Love mine.

There's been a big shift in lighting toward the use of more and more LED lighting. I'm a fan of continuous light sources and I even wrote a book on the topic, for Amherst Media, which was published back in 2010. That seems like ages ago. But not every type of photographic assignment can be shoe-horned into existence with one particular set of tools. Sometimes you have to take into consideration components of a job that demand a different solution. 

A case in point would be photographing a portrait subject in front of a set of windows. Especially if the scene outside the windows is a sun-drenched Texas landscape. You'll quickly realize that even at ISO 100 you'll be shooting at 1/250th of a second at f5.6 or higher. You could do that with a powerful enough LED light, after all, they do it when filming movies all the time. But you'll need an incredibly powerful light source and most likely your subject will be squinting and uncomfortable through the whole process. 

A simpler and time honored solution is to use flash. Electronic flash has the benefit of freezing subject motion but also allowing a photographer to match the exposure levels so that what is lit by the sun outside the windows can be lit to the same level inside. Where the air conditioning is...

I was hired to do a photograph of a new CFO for a privately held financial services company today and I knew exactly which flashes I wanted to use.

Over the last three years I've photographed executives for this company in the same location. Some in the boardroom, some in their lobby and some in both. I knew they'd want some continuity with past portraits so I set up and shot on both locations and I'll have them make the final choice. But the flash equipment? That's my call.

So, the offices are on the second floor and the easiest way to access the offices is to park out front, go through the front door of the building and then take the stairs to the second floor. I wanted to put together a lighting and camera package this time that fulfilled a number of requirements.

1. The main light would have to be powerful enough to match sunlight even if I was using the main light in an umbrella or softbox. 

2. I would require three identical lights. I planned to photograph with two lights at the shoot and wanted a third light as a back-up; or in case I wanted to get fancier with my lighting design. 

3. The three lights, along with extra batteries and accessories, would have to pack down into a fairly lightweight case that I would be able to comfortably transport from car to stairs to the interior offices with one hand. And without breaking a sweat. 

4. The flash batteries needed to have enough stamina to keep working even if I got carried away and shot more than 200 or even 300 exposures.

5. All the lights would have to be controllable and triggered by a radio control sitting in the hot shoe of my camera. I wanted to be able to adjust both lights (or all three lights) individually and from camera position. 

6. I'd like for the lights to be reliable.

The lights I combined into my location kit were three of Godox's AD-200 Pro units. They are 200 watt second flashes and the thing that inures them to me is that they have interchangeable flash heads. The stock head looks like a conventional flash front end. A rectangular reflector with a diffusion panel facing the subject. This flash head also contains a small LED modeling light. 

The units also ship with a bare bulb head which spreads light very evenly in all directions. I like to use the bare bulb head inside soft boxes. The one thing the bare bulb heads lack is the modeling light. There is a third type of flash head/reflector and that's the one shown in the photo at the top. It's called a "round head" by the maker and it's a well diffused, round head with a circular flash tube inside which also has magnets in the front that allow one to attach a number of different accessories to it. The accessory/modifier I have attached above is a diffusion dome which further softens and spreads light from the unit. 

I've been using one round head on my main flash for a while now and, in combination with an umbrella, is my favorite light source. So, when I broke a flash tube by dropping it on the floor last Friday I decided I'd replace it with a round head instead. One advantage beyond the soft lighting and nice spread delivered by the round head (and especially when used with the dome!) is that the round head contains an LED modeling lamp that stays on as long as you'd like and also has three power settings. 

It's not a bright modeling light when compared to the old halogen 150 watt bulbs that were used in traditional flash heads but it's a godsend when working in a low light environment and since the lights aren't very big or heavy the flash's LED becomes a good flash light when the shoot is over and we're packing up in the dark. 

All the flash gear fits into one modest sized tool bag from companies like Husky or Black and Decker. The B&D bag I'm using cost all of $30 at Lowes, is strong and well made, and is a good  travel bag for anything except airline travel. I haven't weighed the bag with the three flashes and accessories in it yet but it's easy enough to move with single handed. 

I have an ancient Tenba stand bag that's soft and light (no padding) and I've got three fairly light, aluminum stands in it along with several different sizes and type of umbrellas. That bag also hold my (must have) tripod. It's a Sirui with a ball head and it goes up over my head if the center column is extended. 

The heaviest thing in my new, portable location kit is my actual camera and lens gear. Today I was carrying a Leica SL2, a Leica SL, the big Leica zoom and the Panasonic 24-105mm zoom as a back up. I also packed a light meter, a bunch of batteries for the cameras, a couple of flash triggers and also batteries for the triggers. All of this fit into my newest luggage acquisition: The Gitzo Adventurer 30 L backpack. The backpack is a bit over-engineered and I could do without the waist belt but it's nicely padded, holds everything safely and I can carry it on my back which frees up my hands for the other two cases. 

With my subject at a diagonal to a wall of windows that looked out over the Texas Hill Country I positioned a flash in a 45 inch umbrella just to the left of my camera as a main light. It did a great job of illumination without a reflection in the glass and, at a quarter power (used close in) it was powerful enough to balance with daylight. The second light was used much further back along the windows and worked as a well aimed backlight or glancing side light. The third head stayed in the case awaiting its eventual turn in rotation. 

In the course of shooting in two different locations and with a necktie change or two during the process we banged through 200+ exposures and got some really great expressions as my time with the subject went on. 

Repacking and getting back to the car was as easy as getting in at the beginning. The total cost of the three light system, which is completely battery powered, is about $1,000. I think it's a bargain. And, with a hard case added you could travel anywhere with these lights and have a reasonable expectation that they'd work on arrival. 

I arrived at 10 a.m. shot till 11 and was packed and back to the car by 11:15. When I got back to the studio each light's battery still had more than half a charge left and I considered that great since they were on for the entire time of the session and that includes having the modeling lights on as well. 

I have each light encased in a protective silicon sheath to prevent breaking the rear screen (something that happened dramatically on a remote location about four years ago....) and I think that the "bumpers" or sheaths are a screaming bargain if it prevents light death. 

We used the same lights on our seafood shoot on Friday. I saw the "client approved" double truck ad from that project today and I also approve. The AD200s are great. I don't sell them. There is no link. 

I just seem to have used them pretty much non-stop for the last four years and thought I would shout out to them. That's it. 


Learning to enjoy the hot afternoons. Bring comfortable shoes. New 100°F workshops!!! Learn how to suffer better. Sponsored by Gruff and Associates, Experts in Provocation.


Finished painting the fence this morning, ate left over Father's Day BBQ for lunch and then got bored with staying indoors. Grabbed some comfortable sandals, the Leica CL with the 23mm f1.4 lens and one of those obnoxious hats and drove downtown. The heat wasn't that bad. You learn to walk on the sides of the streets with the most shade. Seems obvious but it's taken me a lot of tries to get it right.

At the end of the walk I found myself at REI buying my favorite REI t-shirts because they were on clearance sale. Still too expensive but whatcha gonna do? I bought six more. They're soft and cool. They're UPF 50. They wick moisture. They're antimicrobial. And did I mention they were on sale?

Today's exercise was to figure out how I make the skies in my urban landscapes so nice and dark. I didn't set anything special so I have to tell you that I don't have a clue. Maybe I'm generating some sort of electro-magnetic field that makes skies bold and sassy. Or maybe all those "elitist scum yuppie Leica owners" are actually on to something here. Who knows?

We took the day off from "real" work but the week looks like non-stop post production. I guess it could be a lot worse.

Go snap up a Leica CL before they disappear altogether. Or wait five years until everyone decides they've become collector's items and you can snap one up for twice the price. But don't forget to buy the super-cheap TTArtisan lenses to go with yours. That's the secret magic ingredient. 

B. Scolded me last year when I told her I was thinking about Crypto. 
Since she scares me a little because she's so smart I decided not to 
take the plunge. I asked her about it again  in January but she was too
busy shorting the market overall to answer me....

And if you believe in Crypto I'm here to tell you that Lawrence Welk had the 
presidential election stolen from him back in 1956.

no. The sky was not stripped in...

A mannequin with intensity.

Austin City Limits drops the hammer on cellphone addled fans.

and one in color as the "control group".


Seen around town in black and white. Plus...."wealthy" suburbanites painting residential fencing...


Seen in black and white on the streets and in the galleries of Austin, Texas.

I'm really enjoying photographing in black and white, in the streets of Austin,  across a selection of fun cameras. The Leicas have the fewest controls or settings for their monochrome settings but seem to do a great job of rendering black and white images with the tones I like best. Who knows why? (And that's not really a rhetorical question...). 

Today is too freakin hot to care about technical details and the "pursuit of perfection" so I'm making do with the little (and lightweight) Leica CL, paired up with a TTArtisans 23mm f1.4. And I may switch that lens out for the Sigma Contemporary 24mm f3.5 just so I don't have to waste the energy focusing for myself. 

Like many other Americans we're currently roasting in place with a high pressure dome overhead and record heat all around us. We're in good shape to "weather"  it if we stay inside but I'm already suffering from permanent cabin fever and I'll go out walking this afternoon; at least for a little while...

In a related story, I did "blue collar" work today. We've been trying to get our wooden fence repainted this year. Sure, the costs/charges have gone up a lot since the times before the pandemic, but our biggest issue is that the labor market in Austin is all screwed up. House repair and maintenance demands are at an all time high and the myriad waiting lists for.....everything are untenable. 

For example. In the Fall we ordered new windows for the house. It took nearly four months to get them built and delivered to Austin but another two months to get on the schedule with the company's installers. Half a year for a dozen windows.  Used to be two weeks. 

I finally got tired of looking out of our new windows at the ever-weathering fence and decided that I'd just do it myself. I've been getting up each morning at 6 a.m. for the past couple of weeks to get in a few hours of painting before swim practice. I finished today. We don't swim on Mondays. The pool is closed for maintenance. So I wrapped up with a marathon painting session and even remembered to clean all the brushes. 

I guess physical labor can be fun. I don't find that to be the case for myself. I'll work harder in the future to sock away more cash to trade for someone else's time doing that kind of work. I think I'm more productive when I'm taking photos. Not when I'm (carefully) sloshing paint on a fence and trying to schedule the work around staying out of the brunt of the heat. 

But someone had to do it. And those waiting lists....

In another related story I discussed with a long time restaurant owner on Friday, the unintended consequences of every economic action. She's had a tough time staying in business. Her vendors are being hit by everything from a shortage of truck drivers to the ever escalating cost of diesel fuel (which has gone up more dramatically than gasoline). The prices they charge her have gone up. Some dramatically.

It's harder than ever to retain employees even if you are paying unskilled people twice the minimum wage and offering some benefits. But on Thursday the city of Austin announced that they were raising the lowest tier city worker wages to $22 per hour + benefits. A good thing for workers but another blow to small businesses.

Most people believe that working for any part of any government is easier and cushier than working in the private sector so now lifeguards, gardeners, parking ticket issuers and many others will start at the new wages with the city and create yet another huge diversion of workers out of the service industries and into "public service." My client's prices will have to go up if she is to stay in business. 

But with all the talk of a pending recession and the collapse of various financial markets the customers she is counting on are tightening belts, learning to cook at home, reining in non-critical credit card expenses and generally becoming highly price raise resistant. It's anything BUT a virtuous circle...

It's at times like these that not having employees seems to have been a wonderfully wise decision. And it seems that even something as droll as painting one's own fence is a decent strategy for capital conservation. And a quick way to ruin a pair of pants...

It's a changing world. 

Finally....Texas Republicans. Really? "Thoughts and Prayers" that Texas survives the colossal vitriol and obvious insanity of the State GOP. Just astoundingly evil. You can't make some of this stuff up!

I've been cleaning out the studio. I looked in some boxes I hadn't gone through in half a dozen years. I found lots and lots of prints.

At one point in my photo-trajectory I had a habit of printing my favorite frame from every job or project. The only exception was the typical "headshots." Nobody really needed to see large prints of modern office workers standing or siting in front of seamless backgrounds. But everything that looked good to me as a print got the treatment. 

My process was simple. I'd select a frame, do a bit of post processing that would make images look better on printing paper and then send them over to my local Costco to be printed on their lustre surface paper at a uniform and mostly uncropped size of 12 by 18 inches. If I was impatient or just wanted to see what variations might look like I'd fire up the inkjet printer and make prints on Canon's Photo Paper Pro Platinum or Lustre. I always had the idea that the process of printing all the work I liked would quickly give me a huge variety of really nice photographs that I could place into custom configured portfolios when needed. 

But over time I realized that I never got around to showing a book anymore and that all the art directors and creative directors I wanted to work with were more than happy to go to my website and look around there. So now I have storage boxes upon storage boxes and hundreds and hundreds of large prints that I can't bear to throw out. I still like most of the images very much. 

It's fun to look through the boxes and shuffle through the prints. I can see the evolution of digital cameras over time but, also the disappointing realization that, in these sizes, the quality differences between the 24 and 36 megapixel cameras and the more "primitive" 6 megapixels cameras comes nowhere near to matching the hysteric promises and marketing of camera makers and their legions of reviewing minions. 

I guess if we all shot everything in very, very dark settings, and needed all of our printed pieces to be made as large 48 by 60 inch murals, you could make a decent case for the constant camera upgrade mania but if you are a rational human being (rare) and you can put images shot decades apart side by side for evaluation you'll most likely be disappointed to discover that every dollar spent after a certain point was just money being tossed onto a hot fire. 

In the images I randomly tossed in to fill out the visual component of today's blog there is an older (2012 era) micro four thirds camera represented, an older Nikon APS-C camera, a Canon 5Dmk2 camera, a Nikon D2X camera, and even a Fuji S5 camera. But laid out on the floor, adjacent to each other, each printed image looks sharp, mostly noise free and aptly color balanced. Much more alike than they are different.

Of the prints here the one of the kids is the one I like best. And it was taken with a camera most would consider the least competent. Sometimes perspective can be both valuable and a bit painful...