Additional experience with the Sigma i-Series 35mm f2.0 Contemporary Lens. This has almost converted me into a 35mm focal length fan. But the lens had some help from a favorite camera.

the salad dish. Dinner at a friend's house. Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, purple onions, zucchini, bleu cheese and a wonderful dressing. Handheld in the dining room, in the evening. 


It was just last Friday when I decided to replace my first generation Sigma Art lens of the same focal length with the newer, slower, but much sexier looking f2.0 version. I have already fallen hard for the new lens. It just handles so much better. There was really nothing to complain about when it came to image quality with the one stop faster Art lens but damn! it was big and heavy. The new arrival is about half the volume and half the weight of the lens it replaces and the makes a huge difference if most of your shooting (at least these days) is done walking around in the heat, carrying your own stuff with you. 

After swim practice in a too warm pool this morning I had the sudden urge to eat a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast taco at a place called Torchy's. This worked out really well because I also got an email from REI that another pair of "Sahara" long pants I'd ordered online for tromping around in the sun was ready to be picked up from their downtown store. Torchy's and REI are about a quarter mile from each other and so my brain started to map out a route that would encompass both and also provide a loop through downtown so I could walk around and play with the lens again. 

But first, the taco. B. doesn't care for Torchy's Tacos but I find their breakfast tacos, on flour tortillas, to be very good, very authentic and a bargain. I ordered the egg, bacon and cheese taco and it arrived to the table in a paper lined, plastic basket, accompanied by a small container of salsa. I was so far off the reservation today that I ordered a Mexican Coke to go with my taco. For those of you who don't know domestic Coca-Cola is made with high fructose corn syrup while the Mexican product is made with cane sugar. Once a year I get curious enough to want to try a soft drink and when I do I try to make sure it's one of the Mexican Cokes that come in a traditional 12 ounce glass bottle. Yum. But only permissible once a year and on days where it is destined to be over 100°. I haven't gone full "Johnston" on a healthier diet just yet. 

The thing about Torchy's is that the tacos are amply stuffed with ingredients. And I don't know where they find such salty, perfect bacon but the salinity only adds to its "bad boy" allure. Tip the salsa along the diameter line of the taco and indulge. Protein, fat, processed white flour, spicy salsa. What's not to love? But just one. Never two.

Properly filled I headed out to take some black and white images, and the occasional saturated color images, of my favorite area in downtown. 

I used the lens on a Leica SL camera and set the camera for large Jpegs with enhanced contrast for even more snap. The lens balances beautifully on the ample camera body and the combo, especially in high octane sunlight, focuses instantly and with rigor. If you look at the "bendy" building shot a few images down you'll see that with the sun just out of the top of the frame I was able to elicit a bit of flare but I can't imagine any other lens would be much better in that regard. 

Most of the images are shot at ISO 50 which is the actual, native ISO for the Leica SL camera. For the black and white images I set the Jpeg parameters to "monochrome", medium high contrast, low noise reduction and medium high sharpness. Works well for me and I think the medium high contrast setting is what helps to accentuate the tones in the sky. I can't think of anything else that would since there is no option to apply digital color filters to the files (like green, yellow, orange and red...). 

I really like the camera and lens combination now. It's the best combination of all the camera bodies and lenses I currently own. See images below to make assessments about the technical qualities of the files.....

Park car. Turn around. See clouds. Shoot clouds.

devilishly handsome photographer becomes famous by photographing himself
day after day, week after week, month after month, in a mirror at the W Hotel. 
will it ever stop? f2.0 

A welcome (to me) vision of chaos in urban scape.

Look for the flare. Be at peace with the flare. 

Savor all that fantastic dynamic range. Ah. ISO 50.

Minimalist Landscape Photography. Less is less?

for years I have resisted coming to terms with the ever present 35mm focal length on a full frame camera. But not anymore. I have turned over a new leaf of acceptance and emotional regard for it. I must be mellowing from the passage of time. The antidote? More time with the Sigma 65mm f2.0. What a nice pair they make though. An SL on each shoulder. The 35mm on one and the 65mm on the other. Some extra batteries and more clouds in the sky. It's all we really need. 


OT: My car review. How is it doing one year+ in?

 That's my car. It's a 2022 Subaru Forester. It may be the most practical and boring car you can buy. But I love it. In fact, it's my second identical one in just four years (previous was a 2019). I have to special order them because I want all the premium driving and safety features but I have a dread/hatred/engineering bias against sun roofs, moon roofs or any other spurious hole cut into the middle of a car's roof. I've been told by BMW mechanics, Toyota mechanics and Independent mechanics that the one long term flaw of every car with an open-able rooftop is the inevitable potential for water leakage. In most cars they also cut down on available headroom by about an inch. They are just a bad idea all around. You don't need to be staring up at clouds while piloting your vehicle.

So far, in about 11,000 miles, two trips to Santa Fe, NM. and lots of hauling gear around this particular car has had zero defects. Nothing. No rattles or mysterious noises. No electronic failures. It even connects with my iPhone with zero issues. Go CarPlay. 

The ground clearance is great. I can drive over parking lot blocks with impunity. I've never bottomed out. 

The interior trim is utilitarian and I like it that way. If I wanted a big, padded Barca-Lounger for a seat I'd buy one for the house and be done with it. But in a car I think I want only two things from the driver's seat: the right driving position and good back support. The Forester has both. 

Car "enthusiasts" (AKA people from a certain generation....) go on and on about the Forester being "underpowered." It's not a heavy car by any means and the engine that's in it generates something like 185 horsepower. There were no other optional engines when I bought it. I have never felt that the car doesn't accelerate quickly enough. It's perfectly quick. In fact, when I look back at a six cylinder BMW 5 series I owned for the second half of the 1990s I am reminded that it weighed about 1,000 pounds more than the Subaru and had about 10-12% more horsepower. It also sucked down premium gasoline and started falling to pieces the day after the warranty ran out... It wasn't really much faster on initial launches from stop lights than the Forester. But in today's dollars probably cost at least twice as much money to purchase.

One benefit of the flat, "pancake" engine is a lower center of gravity than a V-type engine or Inline engine. That effectively offsets any potential handling problems that might have arisen based on the ground clearance of the car. 

On my giant, two-days-out, two-days-back trip to Santa Fe in April I consistently drove over the Texas and New Mexico highways at speeds averaging 75-80 mph and was able to get over 30 mpg. Considering the constant use of air conditioning during the expedition I consider that fuel economy very good. Not as good as my European friends might want but much, much better than those folks passing me at 110 mph in giant, dually pick-up trucks with confederate flags flying furiously from their antennae. 

The real value to a working photographer of any vehicle is the ability to load it up with everything you might need for a job without killing the interior or blocking your field of view. With the back seats folded down I can bring it all. It's not as spacious as my old Honda Element was but my load out is smaller these days too. And, most important, a long roll of seamless background paper fits in nicely. You put one end in the passenger footwell and the other end has a comfortable ten inches or so of space to the rear window. 

The two Subaru Foresters are the first cars I have owned that come with four wheel drive. It actually works well. I've driven through mud and  sand and never lost control of the car, or gotten stuck. It's much better in that regard than the front wheel drive Honda CR-V I owned previous to these. The Element was also a front wheel drive version and I remember getting stuck on a muddy incline with an art director who was scouting locations with me. We had to be towed out of the ditch. It was embarrassing. 

After having lived through some pretty nasty Summers since 2008 I will never own another car that is not white. And I will never own a car with very dark, or black, seats. When it's 115° from time to time you learn to always use a sunshade on the windshield while parked and I augment that by putting a white shop towel over the top of the black steering wheel. I'm not quite ready to get my fingerprints cauterized off by a sun-charged steering wheel....

I drove my previous (almost identical) Forester during the giant freeze that gripped Texas in 2021 and it did well on all the snow and some of the ice. Without snow tires or chains I'd say all bets are off on really nasty ice or in areas with steep inclines but that's what coffee at home is for...

I paid about $27,000 for the most recent Forester and I consider that a screaming bargain. I have two close friends who made different choices. One splashed out on a new Range Rover and a year later is still taking it back to the dealer regularly for annoying things like not being able to sync her phone. A total shutdown of the app screen in the center. A couple of times when the vehicle just would not start. She's pretty adamant that she'll be moving on from the Range Rover long before the warranty expires. Another friend is a BMW adherent who bought an X3 used. He's already, in the last year and a half, spent about one third of my car's purchase price on non-warrantied repairs. I'm certainly not saying Subarus are perfect. Far from it, I'm sure. But B. and I both drive Subarus now and our experiences have been nothing but good on our current cars. The idea of spending $50K or $75K or more on a "luxury" car is just crazy to me. 

Not when you can get a highly functional, comfortable and reliable car for about half the spend and you can invest the rest for the future. 

So.....no moon or sun roofs. Always white paint. Never black seats!!! In Texas, no heated seats. Get the all weather floor mats and you are done for at least a few years. Next time I'm sure I'll start looking at electric cars. I'm pretty sure we're at a good inflection point for the average car buyer/income demographic. 

But till then I'll be the guy driving that white Subaru Forester and trying to avoid all the people driving fast on Austin roads while texting their friends or watching videos on their phones. 

Just thought about this as I drove home from the pool and enjoyed the drive.