A nice plus for using higher resolution cameras for work. Counter-intuitive but...more control over depth of field. And....refrigeration.

 This cutting edge electric motor is about two feet in diameter. We were out on a factory location and the client asked me to take a really great, impromptu product shot of a newly assembled motor. It's the kind of shot that wants to be sharp from front to back and, as you probably know, there are a number of ways to achieve this. If you have the time and control, as in a studio setting, you could certainly try in-camera focus stacking but I've always found that some problematic artifacts show up and take a long time to fix in post. I've never had luck doing discrete products against white with in-camera stacking. I'm also no a big fan of stacking in post with add-on software. I know it works well with some programs but when you are on location with and art director and client in tow, and stack of things to photograph during one visit, there is a certain satisfaction in getting as good a file as possible, in one shot, to share with them and get quick approvals on. Explaining how things might work in post sucks. It falls into the same category as trying to explain why V-Log files are flat and desaturated in video but why they might look great once they've been color graded...

If we agree that most files are fine, usable and industry standard at 24 megapixels we can use that as a final delivery target for product shots. When I need more depth of field my in the field solution is to go to the edges of what I think a lens will handle before pernicious diffraction takes hold (small apertures) and then back out away from the object until I can see that I've achieved focus at both the near and far points of the product. Shooting with a 47 megapixel camera I can give up about 50% of the frame data and still have enough detail and resolution for a full 24 megapixel final file. Done this way there is no heroic post-processing needed and I can zoom in and show clients on the spot just how the final image will look. 

To my mind this is a better solution for fast moving work than most others. Were I shooting product in the studio where we have much more control, and we are trying to make the ne plus ultra of final, single shots I'm sure a multi-frame stacking process might add some pizzazz to the final product. But in the middle of a production, factory floor, using portable flashes and some white foam core as a background I think my all in one shot solution is more efficient. 

For this example I was using the Leica SL2 and the Leica 24-90mm Vario-Elmarit zoom lens. I'm okay with using that zoom at medium focal lengths all the way out to f11.5. The files can be sharpened up well in post. I'll even stretch to f16 is needed. But the real secret is backing away from the product so it's smaller in the frame and that gives you more depth of field from front to back. 

Just thinking about that this morning instead of:

My 16 year old Kitchenaid refrigerator dying in the kitchen. 

The carpenter repairing some water damage on one of our french doors to the outside.

The supply chain issues that are keeping me from getting the perfect refrigerator right now; today. 

And the return of heat and enhanced humidity after our brief brush with that rare thing called rain. 

Heading out to look at new fridges once the carpenter finishes up. Then to negotiate, hard, for "enhanced" delivery. 

I know all you tough, highly independent types will suggest I just hunt down the right fridge and strap it to the roof of my car, then get the wife to help me haul it in and set it up. That's not going to happen....

But damn. In the old days you'd pick one out and arrange for delivery the same afternoon. It would get installed and you'd have your coffee ice cream chilling out 24 hours later. Not in these times. Not by a long shot.


My final version of Jaston in black and white. And a color file to compare with.


I've been working on dialing in my skills at converting from files shot in Raw/Color to black and white images that work well in print and online. I photographed Jaston for this image originally as a color file. I brought it into Photoshop and corrected all the stuff I wanted to "fix" while in the color space. They I used the black and white sub-menu in the adjustments menu to convert the image to black and white. Since the final use of the image will be a very large wall print at a University alumni center I decided to try the "zoom" control in Adobe PhotoShop's "Neural Filters" panel.

You can enlarge the image with "zoom" while letting the "AI" program calculate new detail, sharpness and noise reduction. I was able to take a cropped 47.5 megapixel image and res it up to about 9200 pixels on the long side. The original crop was to about 6000 pixel so it's a bit more than a 50% linear increase.

I thought it worked really well. 

Someone at the school had the idea to do a very stylized version of the images on this "wall of fame" and I got called in by the artist to try and work within their style but to also get an image that was closer to his idea of what his image should look like. 

Here's a sample of one version that we might send along. The other choice is to send the image as above (no texture or color treatment) and let them apply their post processing changes to the image to match the other works. 

I will say that the SL2 and the Sigma 90mm f2.8 are a very nice combination for all manner of portrait work. And, I hope this series puts to bed the rumor that I am only capable of making nice portraits of beautiful young women... 

Original color sample below:


Nostalgia. Not all it's cracked up to be. Looking at the Canon FTb QL.

A shutter noise like the pounding of metal garbage can lids and minor explosions.

I had such great memories about my early film days in general and the Canon cameras I used in particular. At the time the cameras seemed almost magical. Robust, quick to operate and satisfying to have in one's hands. Then came all the ensuing years of AF film SLRs which atrophied many peoples' abilities to manual focus lenses at all. After that came digital cameras with quieter shutters, endless potential frames, instant feedback, higher sharpness and ample resolution. But I never thought about those progressive changes until I confronted them last week. My nostalgia got head-butted by reality. 

I'd ordered an inexpensive 1970's era, manual SLR mostly just to get the lens that came bundled with it. I like the lens a lot. It's a Canon 50mm f1.4 FD lens and it's tons of fun to shoot with. The colors and tonalities of the files it creates are different from contemporary lenses and fuel a healthy nostalgia for one version of how images looked back in earlier times. With a good adapter the lens becomes more or less transparent to use. Almost.

But not so with the camera body. Oh...I've forgotten so much.

The FTb QL was a very popular SLR for Canon. It was the step-up camera from the very, very rudimentary Canon TX. While the TX topped out at 1/500th of a second the shutter in the FTb soared all the way up to 1/1000th of a second. The model I just received was the second version of the FTb which had a badge on the front reading, "QL." That stood for quick load. It has a mechanism that allowed one to put the film leader over a sprocket and then a spring loaded plate came down to hold the film in place while the back of the camera was closed. On the TX you have to finagle the end of the film into a slot, hold the film with one finger while you wound a bit on and gingerly closed the back, then said a little prayer to the camera gods asking that the film would not slip out of the slot and fail to go through the camera. A failing you generally discovered when you started wondering if Kodak had really started to put 50 or 60 exposures on a roll instead of the usual 36.... The QL function saved a lot of newbies a lot of embarrassment and ego-shattering failure...at least when it came to getting the film installed. 

The FTb, like most bigger cameras of the time, was built like an absolute tank. Not a Russian tank, the pentaprisms don't tend to fly off,  but more like one of those really cool Swedish tanks. Solid metal everywhere and all the weight that goes with it. 

I would call all of these earlier cameras semi-automatic because, with a matched, branded lens you could actually meter an exposure. And the exposure was pretty much in the ball park ... if you aimed it at the right target. In my mind, at least back then, a fully manual camera was something like a Leica M4 or M3, or a non-metered prism Nikon F. You had to figure out your exposures on your own with one of those non-metered bodies. With the FTb you could set the ASA (now ISO), watch a needle move in the finder and try to match up the needle with a lollipop/indicator that was hooked up to the aperture to that needle. If everything lined up you were probably going to get somewhere in the ballpark with your film shots. 

These old cameras charge the shutter when you use the film wind lever to move the film to the next frame. In fact, when you wind on to the next frame a whole series of things happen. The shutter curtain returns to its ready position, the mirror spring is tensioned and the camera waits breathlessly for your next move. 

And you can do all these things for days, months and years without ever needing a battery. No need to plug in a USB 3 cable. No auxiliary battery pack needed. In fact, the only thing the small, mercury battery ever did was to make the meter work. That's it. And now, since mercury batteries were outlawed in most countries about 40 years ago you'll need to find a silver oxide replacement and recalibrate your metering system for the camera. It's easier just to either memorize the most useful, general exposures for the film you like best or to buy and learn to use an external light meter. 

I thought for a while (a day or two) that I'd enjoy buying a dozen rolls of film and trying my hand at the craft as I had practiced it in my youth. I checked on the price of Tri-X film and almost fell off my chair. It's between $12 and $14 a roll, depending on the snootiness of your retailer, and that doesn't include processing or printing. Here in Austin, done right, I'd have to drop about $25 just to buy, process and contact print one roll of film. To revisit the darkroom I ended up working in would mean re-buying a Leica V35 enlarger, sodium vapor safelights, a couple thousand dollars worth of plumbing, etc. I started to realize the folly of even thinking about it especially since I'm very happy making black and white images with my digital cameras, along with a little nudge from Lightroom.

But the final blow to my own nostalgia came when I operated the film wind lever, pulled the camera up to my eye, tried to frame something through the dark and dingy viewfinderfinder and then, with much anticipation, fired off the shutter. I had completely forgotten just how loud, how harsh and how kinetic those old cameras were in actual use. There's no way I'd put up with that now. In fact, I should probably go and have my hearing checked after having clicked off the shutter ten or twenty times in a short session of cameras induced time travel. 

It reminded me that doctors in the 1970s were still working with re-useable syringe needles back then. Cars belched smoke with abandon and without the benefit of catalytic converters, people smoked in airplanes and hospitals, and railed against having to use seatbelts in their automobiles. I'll now add loud, busy cameras to that list. 

It was fun back then because I didn't know any better but from my perch here in the future I can only feel pity for the photographers of that age. Who, of course, were busy pitying those older photographers carrying around Graflex cameras and flashbulbs, and those few were just glad not to be coating their own plates. And those plate coaters were happy not to stand over a steaming mercury bath to finish out their work. And accelerate their mortality...

Be careful what you wish for...you might get it. It might be attached to that cool lens you thought you wanted it. Almost sounds like the lyrics in "For the Roses" by Elvis Costello...

So there is my modern day assessment of the Canon FTb and its ilk. Take it with a grain of salt.

Wrapping my brain around just how cool I thought 1/1,000th of a second on 
a shutter speed dial seemed back in the middle of the 1970s. 

A massive move forward. The quick load mechanism.

And in several places on the camera are little signs instructing the user in how to
take advantage of these modern engineering breakthroughs. 

Anybody need a decent FTb body? Let me know....



Variation on Jaston #3.


Jaston Williams. In Studio. August 2022.

Variation on Jaston #2.

Jaston Williams. In Studio. August 2022.


Variation on Jaston.


Jaston Williams. In studio. August 2022.

Another morning in paradise. A walk to the bank.

Some mornings the light looks delicious. When I have checks to deposit at my bank, and I have the time to forgo electronic banking, I like to park on the edge of our downtown and walk to the center where my bank has their offices. It's old fashioned but I like handing my deposit slip across the counter to a teller, discuss the weather and get a receipt. It's another excuse to walk instead of doing things the easy way. 

It was warm and as humid as ever this morning. But the light was really sweet. Not too intense but not gloomy either. I photographed a few little scenes until I got to the spot above and then I realized that I really liked the giant chimney in the foreground and the cloudy speckled sky in the background so I stopped and comped up a shot. As I was started to shoot a woman walked through the small patch of sunlight that was illuminating a small part of a wall. It was just right. 

I liked the square of light just in the right spot so I walked closer and tried a few variations. I liked all of them. It only takes a day or two of rain in Austin for all the green to stand up straighter and look refreshed. The clouds were right out of "landscape photograph central casting." 

I traveled light today. No big camera and no big lens. Just a diminutive Leica CL and the quirky looking TTArtisan 17mm lens. After walking around with bigger, heavier cameras I was barely cognizant of the CL's presence. But I like the way it renders photographs. It can be really nice. 

I moved on after I got a decent vertical, got coffee at a newly opened coffee shop and then wended my way back home to answer some e-mails and also to send a folder of theater images to a creative director in Switzerland. I was in such a good mood by the time I wrapped up my morning chores that I bought a new pair of my favorite Summer pants on REI.com. They were on sale. How could I resist? 

MJ is playing with a monochrome version of the Sigma fp over at theonlinephotographer and I'm very interested to see how he likes the camera and the 45mm lens he's using. I never thought about it before but it might be the perfect black and white camera. Mods or not. Worth taking a look at...


"He was never overburdened with conventional good taste."

 Phone photo. 

I've been reading a series of essays in the book about Richard Avedon called: 

Evidence: 1944-1994 Richard Avedon

In one of the two major essays in the book writer Adam Gopnik is reporting on a walking adventure through Manhattan with Avedon. As a tangent to their walk they are looking for a small, witty gift to send to a friend's wife. They walked into a tacky, little gift shop and found some costume jewelry which Avedon considered and then rejected. The writer noted that: "Avedon was never overburdened with conventional good taste." I love the turn of phrase. 

In another essay in a different book Avedon was quoted as saying this about portraiture: “All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”

I think I usually spin my wheels too quickly and don't take enough time to pause and really soak in everything that goes into our ideas of what photography is and where we find the whole construction of it right here and right now. In our present moment. We are living through a profound change in our cultural perceptions of what constitutes a legitimate photograph and how our photographs should look. 

On a domestic note we had a double door at the house fixed yesterday by a good carpenter. It was a french door with two large individual doors paned with big, solid pieces of glass over most of each. One needed to have some wood damage removed and fixed while both needed new sweeps. The doors are out of intensive care now, thanks to the carpenter's skill, but the responsibility for putting a couple coats of primer over the repaired parts, and then painting the doors, falls to me and B. 

In preparation for applying primer we had to sand and smooth the doors and prepare the surfaces so that our upcoming painting will create a seamless finish. There is a lot more work than it seems when you stumble into another professional's field of expertise...

But it was such a non-photographic thing to do that it effectively separated me from my mania to go out each day and look for photographs. And I think that's a good thing. 

After we got the second coat of primer on not just those two rehabilitated  doors but also on four others we were done for the day. Not physically exhausted so much as mentally fatigued from the rigor of doing something outside our areas of expertise. Thank goodness I had the good judgement to hire a professional to do the expert work. 

We did the exterior work early when it was still cool and almost comfortable outside. When we finished the inside work the day had turned hot, humid and cloudy. It just didn't feel like a day for me to be wondering around aimlessly, outside, with a camera. The reading chair and the soft light through the window pulled on me like an attached rope harnessing me into the air conditioning. 

The Avedon book I picked off the shelf; this one in particular, has always seemed to be to be the roadmap to understanding his approach to his best work. A cryptology key to the roots of his process and his deep emotional and intellectual connections to portraiture. Adam Gopnik's essay felt different today. As if I had slowed down enough to actually consume it at a pace that, for the first time, allowed me not just a literal reading but a reading with enough pause and pacing to savor the texture of Gopnik's thoughts. To make his observations stick like epoxy to my usually restless mind. 

When I walked back out to my studio a bit later all the lighting gear looked new and fresh and I felt a renewal of passion for my own portraiture. 

It seems good to take a break every once in a while to let my appreciation catch up to my experiences. Too often we move too fast for the satisfaction of our work to really stick. I'm generally guilty of having my eyes too firmly fixed on the project just a few feet into the future to really savor what we've already done. 

But not today.


The Canon 50mm f1.4 FD lens I ordered came in yesterday evening. I walked around with it today and shots some tests. Mixed results. I love it and am keeping it. It does create some green fringe on highlights at the two widest apertures. Not a "deal-killer" for me.


Here is my test for center sharpness when used wide open. This  lens, circa 1972, does very, very well as you can see from the rendering of the type on the front of the lens. That's where I put the focus. This was shot at f1.4 to show off the bokeh in the background. I don't know how to describe bokeh but it looks pretty cool to me. 

This sample and the  enlargement of the center rose was shot with the lens at f1.4.

this image and the one just below were shot at f2.0

Interesting...Adobe still has a lens profile in Lightroom for the Canon 50mm f1.4 FD lens. A lens that's fifty years old. I think it's pretty wonderful. And for all the people who've been sending "hate" mail about the usurious prices of those "damn" Leicas... this lens came in a package with a mint, black, Canon FTb camera, also from the early 1970s, for the princely sum of $150. So, if I divide out the package and resell the camera body I'm pegging the price of this lens alone at about $75. The Leica SL body did not refuse to work with the lens. It did not reject it or try to destroy it. They just worked it out. And I think the results are good. Except for the green fringing on the white chairs.  Yeah. There's that.  I expect that I could have gotten the same overall results with a Panasonic S5 or a Sigma fp. The Leica was just convenient. 

So much hate for such good gear....