You've probably guessed by now that I like to swim, I like to walk, and I like to make photographs of three different mannequins that live over on 2nd St. Whoever designed the mannequins put a lot of time and effort into their gesture and the expressiveness of their hands. That sort of attention to design gives them an equivalency to commercial photography, as a practice.
When I photographed this pose back in early 2021 there was a young man who dressed and positioned the window facing mannequins at this shop. He was meticulous in his fashion sense and each time I walked by the shop something was repositioned, partly re-clothed or completely re-dressed. The window designer seemed to know where to position each "model" so that there was attention to how the reflections on the windows would affect the overall look.
This designer seemed to have left the shop back in the Fall of the same year and the windows have struggled to maintain his high standard.
I've photographed the windows with all manner of lenses but I never really nailed the look I was trying for until I took a lens along that might seem counterintuitive for "street" photography; the Sigma 65mm.
In recent years I've worked hard at making peace with wider angle lenses. Lenses like the 20mm and 24mm were tough for me because, I think, I've spent so many years making portraits and my portrait style favors longer lenses. When photographing faces I seem most comfortable with the angle of view provided by a 135mm lens on a 35mm camera. Or a 180mm lens on a square 6x6 cm camera.
Everyone else seems to be in love with the 28mm or 35mm lenses for "urban adventure" work and I've tried mightily to "see" in those focal lengths. Obviously with mixed success. As I venture toward 50mm I get less and less antsy about composition and depth. When I bought the Sigma 65mm I thought it would be love at first sight. But every unfamiliar angle of view takes time for me to become really familiar with.
The first few outings with the lens left me feeling a bit incompetent. I'd choose the lens as my sole walking companion but suddenly all those wide angle vistas kept rushing towards me. It seemed almost as if the universe art directed perfect 28-35mm frames just to taunt me. To challenge me for bringing along a lens that requires some space. Some distance in order to work well.
Over the last month or so I've been tossing the 65mm back into the mix. I reviewed some of my favorite shots with the combination of the Sigma 65mm and the Leica SL this morning and this image popped up and waved at me. And it was interesting that, at the time, I was also playing with converting many of the images I was making from color into black and white. Monochrome.
At the time I thought the B&W image was the keeper. But now, a year and a half later I'm not so sure. There's a lot I like about the low contrast color image and I keep coming back to it. Part of the appeal is the intermixing of the blues and the greens. Another facet is that shallow depth of field and the ephemeral rendition of the background. I'm happy to have both versions.
Lately, I've chosen to work with the 65mm on a cropped frame (APS-C) camera for some corporate portrait work. I'm using it on a Leica CL and the combination gives me the effect of a 98mm lens on a full frame camera. The lens is one of the sharpest lenses that most test sites have tested. I find it to be amazingly sharp and detailed at its widest aperture. Stopping down gives incremental improvements but it's sharper wide open than many other similar lenses are two or three stops down.
The CL isn't a popular camera because of its initial pricing and its limited range of trendy features. But the one thing in its favor is a really great sensor with no anti-aliasing filter at all. The color science is great and the high pixel density, coupled with high sharpness, is a great test for lenses. The 65mm is definitely up to the challenge.
My use case for the combo in commercial work is when I'm doing available light or continuous light portraits of men. I like having extra sharpness and definition in this genre and I always want to start with maximum sharpness with the idea that I can easily take away unwanted sharpness in post. That's much easier than adding sharpness that wasn't present in the first place.
The use of the 65mm or 90mm Sigma lenses on the CL is refreshing for me. The biting sharpness coupled with the fine detail at maximum apertures delivers a style of its own.
That's today's morning thoughts about photography. Pondered in the pool and then fleshed out after I cleaned the windows at the front of the house.
checking in with my medical providers.
I've been working on my flossing. I asked my favorite cardiologist for a list of all the things I could do to stay "cardio" healthy and near the top of the list was the active prevention of gum disease. Apparently bad bacteria in one's mouth causes pernicious inflammation in the rest of the body, but especially in one's arterial walls. Which leads to stenosis and other Latin-esque words that cause fear (although that word seems more ancient Greek to me..). His suggestion was to be mindful and resolute about brushing one's teeth with a Sonicare or Oral B electric toothbrush at least twice a day and to be sure to floss, and floss well each evening.
I see my dentist twice a year. Her hygienist is like badger when it comes to looking for periodontal dismay and decay. I floss so that I don't have to endure her disappointed look when it comes to gum probing. After all, who could be proud of "deep pockets" when it comes to gums? I look at it as a challenge. I saw my dentist and my hygienist on Thursday and after an hour of looking, scrapping and measuring the general pronouncement was, "Good Job." Putting off any random ambulance rides for as long as I can with the simple habit of playing with string.
Since I was peppering my calendar with medical stuff (I also photographed a couple of oral surgeons in the middle of the day) I thought I'd start off the morning with a seven a.m. visit to my favorite dermatologist, Dan. He's got a photographic record of all my spots and bumps that goes back five or so years. I strip down to my boxers and he uses a UV light and magnifier to examine every dark speckle of skin on my entire body; all the way down to the bottoms of my feet.
He loves to use his spray can of liquid nitrogen to zap stuff so he was happy to find a number of "SKs" and "AKs" that were just begging to be annihilated. He hit a couple on my face that now makes it look like I've recently been in a fist fight. But he hit a big sebborheic keratosis spot that's been rubbing on my waist line for years. I thought it would be great to have it gone but .... damn.... that hurt.
But, at the end of the early morning venture, he proclaimed that I am currently "skin cancer free." Now, I know a lot of you live in the Northern climes and you don't see sunlight for years, sometimes decades, and all this talk of visiting dermatologists twice a year seems like lunacy. Or a sheer waste of dough. But consider a lifetime swimming in the Texas sun and you'll understand my caution when it comes to things I can live through --- if they are caught early.
Next week is the yearly visit to my cardiologist. The guy who is the big fan of flossing. I guess I'll run on the treadmill with wires hanging off my chest and stomach but I'd much rather do a stress test in the pool. Too back they don't make underwater EKG machines. I'm hoping I get the same response from the heart guy as I got from my dentist and dermatologist. But however it pans out I know I'm doing my part to keep the economy thriving and the medical professionals in the black. Not enough stuff going south with my health to help any one of them finance their new BMW but that's a net positive for me.
It's a beautiful day in Austin. It would be even better if it was 20 or 30 degrees cooler. Wouldn't that be nice?