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.