Strolling through the swampy weather with nothing but a naked fp and 90mm of optical happiness.

El Camino.

The family had stuff to do yesterday so after swim practice in the morning I was left to my own devices. I thought long and hard about cleaning up, and straightening up, the studio/office and I started the process in earnest but soon became overwhelmed by the drudgery of the chore. And bogged down by the realization that I once again have a lot of cameras and lenses to muddle around with. I decided that a walk might help me clear my head and give me some self-awareness when it came to my obvious camera hoarding. (It did not. I think complete self awareness might be a long term project for a mental health expert; or team. But if I pay someone thousands of dollars to help me figure out why I like to buy cameras I will instead be saddened by the knowledge that I could have skipped therapy sessions, bought new cameras with that money and come out about even in the end...). 

I used ample amounts of sunscreen, wore long safari/Sahara pants (UPF 50) and an anti-stylish hat, a moisture wicking, breathable, light weight shirt and spiffy, bifocal sunglasses and headed toward the desk to, like a guest at a buffet, pick out a camera and lens to drag about with me in the heat. As I looked over the inventory it struck me that I had not yet paired the Sigma fp with the 90mm Sigma f2.8 lens for an outdoor shooting experience. I put them together, tossed an extra battery in my pants pocket and headed out. And, in a different twist, even though the sun intensity was set to 11 out of 10, I decided to try composing and focusing on the naked, rear LCD screen. No protective loupe! I even removed the vestigial grips from the camera body.

It was just me, the camera and the lens, all tethered together by a Domke Grip-Strap. 

I started out with the idea of shooting both in black and white (Jpeg) and in the square aspect ratio. But I started seeing stuff I knew might look better in color and folded like a cheap chair under a fat guy using it as a step ladder to hang a string of ornamental lights. But I kept the Jpeg setting and the square. Two out of three. So much for disciplined operational parameters...

When I got into downtown I remembered that I hadn't had a post swim breakfast so I stopped by Torchy's Tacos on 2nd St. for a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast taco and washed it down with a cup of their middling good coffee. I looked for the better version of coffee but it doesn't exist in that restaurant.

When I use the Sigma fp for walking around and casually photographing I like to default to the "standard" color setting. It's pretty, and well behaved, and has just a bit more contrast bite than the neutral or natural setting. I knew from experience that the Sigma 90mm f2.8 Contemporary lens is nice and sharp all the way from wide open to pinhole so I left it set at f4.0 and ignored the camera settings for the rest of the morning. >

In my earlier forays with the Sigma fp I always felt like I had to have the big chimney finder/magnifier attached in order to effectively see what was on the LCD when shooting in extremely bright light --- but now I'm pretty sure that I was over-thinking the issue and all I really needed was my bifocals and a little patience. 

I'm trying a new approach to life right now. It's called, "Don't try so hard." The idea is that some of us go through life relentlessly trying to make sure everything we touch works out perfectly. But that's too hard to keep up. So now it's: Don't try so hard." The word of the week is: "ease."

The funny thing (to me) is that the new less rigorous approach to life came to me when a swim coach, who competed recently at the Olympic level and has some gold to show for it, told me he didn't get really fast until he stopped trying too hard. When he relaxed a bit it pushed him over the inflection point into world class. I have no presumption that I'll improve when I ratchet down the focus on pushing too hard but I'm already finding that I'm enjoying everything I do a little more. And a little more beyond that. 

So, with my new philosophy firmly in place I decided that whether I came back home with a blank memory card, just a few fun images, or a small collection of "tourist" shots I'd be happy. And interestingly enough ---- I was. 

The Sigma fp is a fun camera. It really is small and relatively light. It's slow to perk up once you turn on the power but it does everything else just fine. In the square format the Jpeg files are 4,000 pixels by 4,000 pixels for a total of 16 megapixels and that's far more than enough for anything I'll use the images for. By opting for the square format I never had to turn the camera 90 degrees to one side for verticals. I like that because I can continue to wear my polarized sunglasses without the screen blacking out when I turn it and change the polar interference pattern with the LCD. Go Squares!!!

Surprising action and adventure...

For the first time in ages I was accosted by a very agitated and largely incoherent street person who came roaring, wobbling and bellowing up the street and who then lunged at me in a show of intended intimidation. I'm 66 but I'm still adequately quick on my feet and I dodged his initial grasping lunge and stepped out of the range in which he could respond too quickly for me to parry or evade. I put a parked car between myself and him and I guess he decided the heat made another aggressive assault too much trouble. He bellowed a long stream of obscenities and stumbled off in the other direction. By that point two people had already whipped out their cell phones and called the police. Sad. I've walked a few times in the urban area with a friend who is both a photographer and a practicing psychiatrist who pointed out to me all the signs of people who were off their anti-psychotic meds --- and this guy yesterday was a classic case. 

Were I living out a "novel" fantasy written by an action adventure writer I would have had my character take charge and quickly disable the fellow with some spectacular martial arts moves but in real life it's always best to get out of the way and stay out of the potential attack zone. Always good to choose flight over fight if you are the one with the most to lose. But keep a Bench Made Bug Out lock blade in your back pocket... just in case you run out of room to move. 

I took a few deep breaths when the action passed and continued the walk. In the next block I watched a different homeless fellow get up from his reclined position against the wall of a bank building, shuffle over to a low planter positioned next to the curb of the busy street, unzip his fly and piss on the plants. Right on Congress Ave.  Just a few blocks from the Capitol building. I've walked downtown for years and that was a first for me...

It was just that kind of day.

So I continued on and the rest of the day was uneventful. An enterprising street person asked me for two dollars. I declined. He asked if I would "pay" him two dollars if he could do 20 perfect push ups. I agreed. He took a few moments to put on his shoes and then proceeded, in the 103° heat, to pound out 20 perfect push ups right there on the side walk. I was impressed so I fished into my pocket for some cash. All I had was a five but I thought he deserved some kind of bonus for not only doing the promised perfect form but because he delivered something of value for the money. I walked off examining my own topography of thoughts about the matter and I'm still a bit perplexed by my reaction to all that. That slice of time felt like the Fellini movie, Satyricon. 

I looked in my wallet to see if I had anymore cash but I didn't. I wanted some coffee and perhaps a croissant so I was happy when I came across a gift card in the folds instead. I walked over to the Four Seasons Hotel and had a fun coffee, a fresh croissant and a Perrier with ice at the lobby bar. A nice, temporary antidote to the strange vibe in the street. But I am happy not to have been carrying a full camera bag and not having worn goofy shoes. It's nice to move quickly and with some agility when you want to/need to. 

I got back to the office in the mid afternoon and sorted down about 150 images to a dozen. I downloaded the keepers into my "DESKTOP ART SUMMER 2022" folder and played around with them in Lightroom Classic. In the end I decided I'm still too big of a fan to get rid of the fp. It's different and fun. Like a palette cleanser during a complex but compelling dinner. 

Today I'm struggling a bit with boredom and struggling even harder to get any work done on my prequel to "The Lisbon Portfolio." Made especially difficult since I have the conflicting desires to "not try so hard" but also to work more diligently at editing out the fat in this second novel... I took a procrastination break to grab enchiladas and a guacamole salad at Maudie's Tex-Mex restaurant over on Lake Austin Blvd. It's trash food but oh so tasty, and a good way to fend off an hour or so of impending work.

The combination of the Sigma 90mm and the Sigma fp is pretty magnificent when 
it comes to recording detail and sharpness. The photo above was shot across four lanes of busy road by a recently accosted photographer walking through a hellish heat wave with a camera and lens that are both bereft of image stabilization.  Just below is a close up looking into the center arch.....

I threw my best "Garry Winogrand" tilt at this one. 
I think I'll include it in a Guggenheim Grant application...

Walked by the Google building on 2nd...

Ben came over for dinner. He and I threw together a Ni├žoise salad and waited for B. to come home from her visit to San Antonio. We laughed, told stories, had some wine, and then he headed back home and B. and I settled into the books we were reading... Altogether a day in which I didn't try,  even for a minute, too hard. 


One Lens, Two Looks.


I recently photographed 15 attorneys in a temporary studio at a hotel. I used the Panasonic GH6 and the 42.5mm f1.2 Leica lens. I was very happy with the raw files from that set-up. But I was curious by how much the overall image quality had improved since the days when I was running around shooting everything with a Panasonic G9. I went to a folder from my time in Iceland and looked carefully at a number of images. Of course it's all apples and oranges since only a direct comparison between photographs shot in identical situations by each camera and lens combination is at all meaningful but it was still a fun exercise and showed me what I wanted to know in the moment. 

The two images above are of a light house or beacon in the harbor of Reykjavik. They were taken with the G9 fitted with a 15mm f1.7 Leica lens. While I am fairly certain the GH6 would have the overall edge when it comes to dynamic range I am equally certain that the G9, and the 15mm, are very good image makers even in 2022.

While I didn't have time to review again all the 5800+ images from the 2018 trip I did look through several hundred and the only ones I found wanting were flawed by operator error or just a floundering photographer pointing a very good camera at something or other that was boring before I tried to photograph it, boring as a photograph, and which will continue to be boring in the future... I certainly can't blame a camera for lack of insightful subject selection. 

Working on a small project right now and I'm having fun carting around the GH6 + GH5ii system with a handful of lenses. So much smaller and lighter than my bigger Leica system. And, for final use on the web the images are far, far better than they need to be.

The heat is taking a break today. Temperatures are forecast to stay under 98°. Thanks Mother Nature. I'm sorry we pissed you off.