I love being out taking photographs far more than I like talking about cameras but the weather is actively campaigning against me spending much time tromping around in the nasty heat jungle that seems to have settled over Texas. Perhaps it's a karmic punishment for our political transgressions. Maybe it's just a rogue weather pattern that won't let go. But right now we've got an actual temperature of 105° and when you combine that with 30% humidity you wind up with a lusty 112° of heat index; or what it feels like to your body. We're exceeding our "Wet Bulb" threshold by a good margin.
As of July 19th Summer we have had 78 days over 90° (actual temps) and now 41 days in a row over 100°. We're all getting just a little tired of the relentlessness of it all. Can't wait to see the electric bills....sigh.
I've been getting up earlier in order to water the plants and trees that I consider "mission critical" to my long term lifestyle/mental health. The Japanese maples are getting special treatment these days. I've even rigged up a few scrims to block the direct sun on a few branches that were showing signs of heat stress. It's hard work but it would be harder on me to lose the trees. They are quite beautiful.
After I take care of my horticultural chores I make myself a cup of (these days....) decaffeinated coffee, eat a piece of toast and head over to the pool for our coached workout. The water temperature is as cold as we can make it with evaporative coolers but with our daytime highs and nighttime non-lows we're struggling to keep the water temperature under 84°. That's a hot swim and it sucks the moisture right out of your body when you are swimming hard. We each keep a cold, re-usable bottle of water at the end of our lanes and in between sets our coaches encourage ample re-hydration. I didn't used to take it very seriously but this year I'm zealous. Sixteen ounces an hour.
Sadly, or happily, I took a break on Monday from swimming with the team and went to the Deep Eddy Pool which is Spring fed and just freaking marvelous. The spring water is refilled every couple of days and it comes out of the wells at something like 68°. Plunging in on Monday morning was a little bit of heaven. The laps were better than free money. But now I feel that the memory of the perfect water colors my appreciation of our team workouts in the warmer pool. Deep Eddy is a public pool and I'm pretty sure the City of Austin isn't going to invite our whole team over to monopolize all the lap lanes any time soon.
Since the "mercury" has been hitting 100° or higher by noon each day I try to get errand running done as quickly as possible. Our house uses a septic system for wastewater and our septic guy, Bob, recommends we drop a gallon of a special live, beneficial bacteria solution ($48 per gallon !!!) into the main tank at least twice a year. The stuff in the gallon bottle smells really bad but I can tell you that the grass is much greener over the septic field --- and we haven't had any major problems with the system in years. Occasionally a pump fails. It gets replaced. And yes, I do have a septic guy. I hope he never retires...
Except for a few assignments inside chilly high rise office buildings we're dead in the water here, business-wise. And that's okay. Nearly everyone in Austin who can swing it is working from home, nestled in their air conditioned refuges. Few are venturing out in the heat of the day. I'm no different.
If you've read the blog for a while you know I'm usually a big adherent of getting out in the afternoons and walking no matter what the weather. But not in this. If people won't come to work and there's little traffic on the roads it's probably a message from the hive that we should all just slow down and be more careful than usual. So, since I got home with the septic stuff I've been chilling in the house, just reading a novel on the couch. But I got bored so I ventured out the twelve feet from the front door of the house and into the studio. I've been keeping the A/C in there at 85° when I'm not present --- that's what our power company recommends --- so I turned the thermostat down to 78° and got comfortable.
On the floor by my desk I found a camera and lens that I'd put together for some project that never happened but I'm more and more attracted to the potential of the actual "system". The lens is an ancient Carl Zeiss zoom lens made originally for the Contax Y/C system but rejuvenated by the mirrorless revolution and the availability of a huge range of cheap lens mount adapters. Yes. Even for the L mount cameras.
I've shot with it before and posted about it here. The lens is big and bumbly. It's a 35-135mm and I have to say that this must be the absolutely perfect focal range for me. I don't miss the wider angles at all and I love being able to zoom out to 135mm. It's slow by today's standards in several ways. First the variable aperture is from f3.3 to f4.5. Certainly not a problem on a camera like the Panasonic S5 or the Sigma fp. Those two cameras can pretty much see in the dark. The lens is also "slow" because it's a manual focusing lens with a long throw focusing ring and that makes for sloooow focusing. Finally, it's a one touch zoom in that the zoom ring and the focusing ring are one and the same. The whole front of the lens trombones out as you zoom to 135mm. It takes practice to make this combination of focusing and zooming efficient.
When I use the lens on a non- image stabilized body focusing gets progressively harder as the focal length gets longer. Why? because the finder image shakes. We're spoiled by new tech.
I mounted this slow, plodding lens on the front of the weirdest camera I have in the studio. That's the Sigma fp. It's an eccentric little genius of a camera and when you get everything just right the files are wonderful. They just exude "art." But it's a demonic looking system when put all together, as above.
I'm only comfortable using it on a tripod and for this particular lens I really have to have the big Sigma loupe attached to shade and magnify the rear LCD. I'm pretty sure I'll never run into anyone out in the field who has exactly the same set up. The odds are long.
But when it's hot outside and you're playing with your toys in the miracle that is air conditioning it's all good. Can't wait till we get some cooler days so I can get out and shoot with this beast of a system. Stay cool.