Portrait of Renee. Fixing stuff around the house. Planning a trip to Germany for Autumn.


This portrait came from an afternoon test shoot in my old studio in East Austin.  Shot on black and white film, printed on black and white paper and then, years later, copied via a digital camera so I could share it on the web. It's cropped square but I seem to have a specific memory of playing around with a Pentax 6x7 camera that day. When I used that big, thunderous beast I alway used the mirror lock-up before triggering the shutter. Otherwise, with the slow flash sync and the huge moving mirror, it was sometimes difficult to freeze motion in the frame or in the camera just using it "raw." 

I met Renee through a mutual friend with whom I shared a bakery. I'd head down on slow days to read the newspaper, swill coffee and occasionally indulge in some lavish pastry. My friend was a painter and had many beautiful friends. She introduced me to Renee and we set up several portrait sessions as tests. 

Life in old Austin was easier back then. Less traffic and less rushing around being busy. This must have been around 1995. You could actually buy a house back then for a reasonable amount and restaurant prices seemed....reasonable too. As did the price of film. Of which I seem to have shot ... lots and lots. 

I miss the days when everyone had time to play. Life has gotten more expensive for so many people that they've had to move faster to stay still. It's not good for the practice of art. 

Domestic crap: So, our old and well loved refrigerator died after 17 years of noble service and it had to be replaced. Parts were no longer available for a repair and believe me, I loved that old fridge enough to have willingly paid a "new refrigerator" price to have saved it. I hate having to recycle stuff that's designed well and made to be visually unobtrusive. 

We finally tracked down a decent unit that would work in our kitchen and which could be delivered within ten days and so we bought it. It got delivered to the house last Monday but the ham-fisted delivery people nicked our front door frame trying to shove the machine through without thinking about geometry. They also damaged a vital hose that runs up the back of the machine. 

I figured a repair person could fix or replace the hose in less than half an hour but big box appliance stores don't function that way. There was no option but to have the delivery people come back out, remove the damaged fridge and bring a new replacement along. We had to pay again for the new one but would be refunded the payment for the first try as soon as it got back to the store. What a fucking mess.

The trade of damaged for new happened on Wednesday. I wanted to be here to supervise but had already booked a portrait shoot downtown for that morning. Not to worry, B. was at the top of her game. The problem seems to have been one of the delivery people's inability to read a tape measure. The width of the front door is 35.75 inches. The width of the refrigerator is 33 inches. But they wanted to position a dolly on the side of the refrigerator and bring it in sideways. That's exactly what they did the first time around. But the depth of the machine is right at 35.50 inches and they were experts at misjudging distances and angles. 

When the delivery people arrived they decided that they would remove the doors and then the unit would slide right in. The problem that B. saw when she watched them take the doors off the old unit to get it out of the house was that none of the deliver people had a clue about how to remove the doors correctly and they banged and banged and ball bearing spilled out across the floor. 

B. told them in no uncertain terms not to attempt to do any disassembly on the new unit. But when she walked up the driveway to supervise the delivery people were just about to visit the same havoc and amateur hour deconstruction of the new refrigerator. She laid down the law. (She's Not the Person I would tell one thing to and then try to do the opposite).... She had the store manager on the line in minutes and the delivery people were "inspired" to at least try putting the machine in through the door as we had planned. 

Guess what? Measurements work. The new unit came in unscathed and was summarily hooked up to the water line and then B. went through every single step of customer quality control double-check one could imagine. We now have a workable refrigeration solution in place. The store offered a 15% discount on the final purchase price to compensate us for all the slapdash theatrics surrounding the two deliveries and we're now working with them on having them pay to rehab the door frame. Which, if B. has anything to do with it, will get repaired to like new

By the time I got back from my shoot the general atmosphere at the house was ..... distinctly.... on full alert. But she's much quicker to let stuff go than I am. I'm glad I skipped this one. 

So, over the last month we've replaced the kitchen door and door frame, had every door in the house re-weather stripped, had the sweeps under all the doors replaced, had one set of our five french doors repaired by a master carpenter, and we seem to just be getting started. 

We're getting estimates for repainting two bathrooms, a living room with very high ceilings, the exterior trim (Thankfully most of the house is rock which doesn't need paint) and both the studio door and the front door of the house. After all of this we will need a vacation. 

Thoughts about vacation: It's been so long since we traveled far. I had a blast in Berlin when I was there for the IFA show for ten days back in 2013. B. Hasn't been to Germany. I think it might be fun to go in the mid-Autumn time, squeaking in between trade shows, and seeing Frankfurt, Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden and, of course, Wetzlar. 

The idea of travel to Germany came when Lufthansa Airlines openly a weekly direct route to and from Austin, Texas. Ten hours and ten minutes from city to city. A complete bypassing of my least favorite airport in the known universe, Heathrow. And the rates in the off season (which for Americans means, "not Summer") seem cheap. There's 38 trains between Frankfurt and Berlin each day and the three hour trips costs a princely.....$10. 

Like all creatures of habit I have a favorite hotel in Berlin. It's inexpensive as well. We'll splurge outside Berlin but really, most hotel rates in Germany seem very reasonable. 

We're now jockeying with dates. We're trying to line up our favorite house sitter. We might actually follow through.  I wonder if there is a Leica Outlet Mall in Wetzlar. You know.... for scratch and dents...

Kidding. Just kidding. 

Now setting up for a portrait here in the studio for tomorrow afternoon. Not a beautiful woman but a very jaunty male oral surgeon. Now trying to decide between flash and LED lighting. Oh well, I have time to figure it out.

Just hope I can stop spending money on the house for a while. I walk around and look at a project and think: "OMG! That's a Leica SL2-S right there! Darn it." 

Leica Keeps Adding Cool Stuff to the SL2. It's like getting an upgraded model every few months. But why no mention of the update on the World's Biggest Digital Camera Review Site?


No question here. I'm a big fan of the Leica SL series cameras and especially the SL2. High resolution, beautiful color and beautiful industrial design. Besides the price, what's not to love?

I just became aware that Leica updated the firmware in the camera from 4.1 to 5.0. In doing so they added an internal perspective control feature, which I think is really great for all those architectural shooters out there, but what they added for me that put a big smile on my face is the ability to pair an old manual (non-Leica) lens with the camera's really good image stabilization. 

Previously the camera would look at whatever lens you put on it to see if it was: A. A native L mount lens from one of the three participants in that lens family. B. An R Rom lens mounted to the camera with a Leica R to L adapter. C. A coded Leica M lens mounted to the camera with a Leica M to L adapter. If you had Leica lenses that were not equipped with coding or rom you could look in the lens profiles and choose your Leica lens. There was no option to just key in the focal length of a non-profiled lens and take advantage of the in-body I.S. 

Sure, you could cheat and select a lens from one of the Leica lens on the profile lists and make due but the profile for, say, the 50mm R Summilux, includes more than just the focal length. The engineers built profiles that take into consideration things like color shifts across the frame and those are different from lens to lens. Same with distortion characteristics and vignetting. Using an included profile not specific to your actual lens might give you I.S. but it might also provide you with a host of unwanted issues as well. 

With the update to 5.0 you can now go into the menu and select a specific focal length for a "mystery" lens and the camera will use the information for the purposes of stabilization without messing up other parameters of the lens's imaging. It's really nice to have. 

The update to 5.0 also enhances the performance of other makers's L mount lenses (Think: Sigma and Panasonic) when used on the Leica SL2. I'd conjecture that we'll see greater battery life and more responsive AF performance as a result.

This and the previous major firmware update (4.0) both added to the camera's depth, performance and video chops. It's a continuous transformation of an already great product. 

But I have a pressing question.

Why is it that the world's "largest" digital camera review site made no mention of such an important upgrade on a current, production camera? Has DPR given up reporting on Leica products altogether or are they too busy noting what's in Chris Nichols's backpack when he goes out on a canoe ride to bother reporting major camera upgrades from a company that is both a legend in the industry and the most profitable (per unit) camera maker in the world?

I guess when Barney left we ended up depending on DPR's "B" team for timely info only to see laid bare that their real focus is on.......only contemporaneous, mainstream product launches and leaky articles about technology on which they have a very shaky grip. Caveat Emptor.