One of the promised mannequin shots you know you were waiting for....

 At a shop called "Snowflakes" on Georgia St. 

Rainy Day at the Beach. Vancouver. Lumix S5. Voigtlander 40mm.


umbrellas at the beach.

Back from Vancouver. Well rested. Well fed. And ready to get back to work. Which camera?

I found Tim Horton's. I ate a donut. It was just okay. But I got to check another
"international" experience off my culinary bucket list. (Caution: hat hair). 

I approached last week's vacation in a different way than I would if I had gone solo with the intention of shooting randomly, in the street. Instead of planning the trip around photography I thought it might be nice and relaxing to just go with the vacation flow and enjoy seeing a new city while spending quality time with the most important person I know. B. 

To that end, and for the first time in over 40 years, I took only one camera and one lens. No back-ups, no second options, no safety net. My thought was that carrying anything extra would just wear me down, slow me down and distract me from soaking it all in. I did pack two extra batteries and on the first day I carried one of the extras with me but the camera I used was fairly parsimonious with energy and after that first day I just left the extra batteries in the room. I still came away with about 1300 photographs but they are mostly fun snapshots and personal memory images. 

So, let's get to the camera and lens stuff. Since I made photography a secondary priority I decided to lock in on one focal length and make my vision correspond to the focal length option at hand. No wide angles, no telephotos. I went with the 40mm f1.4 Voigtlander and I'm pretty happy with me choice---with a few caveats. I really like the focal length and didn't feel at all restricted when looking and shooting. 

There are two things I would have changed but we learn with each adventure. The first is that the minimum focusing distance is too long. I kept comping stuff only to find that I didn't have the focusing resources with that lens to get as close as I'd like. Since nothing in particular was riding on the outcome of any of these shots it's more an observation and a reminder should I use the lens for work. Secondly, I too boldly discounted the advantages of weather proofing in lenses and between camera bodies and lenses. 

It matters so little in drought-stricken Texas where you can stick your camera under a hat for the few minutes a month it might rain but in Vancouver last week we were treated to lots and lots and lots of rain and even a nice, floaty downfall of big, fat, soft snowflakes. I worried from time to time about water intrusion and kept a small cotton handkerchief in my pocket to wipe off excess moisture. The issue was the need for an adapter which let me use the Leica M mount lens on an L mount camera. So many interfaces for sneaky moisture to slide in between. For the most part though the camera and lens were under my umbrella. And nothing went awry. 

Still, for most things the Sigma 45mm f2.8  might have been a better choice as it has some weather sealing and, to be truthful, I could have used AF to good effect from time to time. 

But, being somewhat eccentric and enjoying counter-intuitive photographic strategies, I'll probably bring the same lens along on the next adventure as well. Mostly because it's tiny and cute and still way sharper than it needs to be.

I'll post some night shots because that's where it really shined. Shone? 

On to the camera. I have lots of L mount cameras to choose from but the one that made the most sense to me on this trip was the mighty Lumix S5. Why? It's weather resistant, the batteries hold a ton of charge, it's full frame and has a really good 24 megapixel sensor that's also a low light champ. It's smaller and lighter (by far) than my Leica full frame cameras and.... finally, I know the menus and the operation forward and backward. 

Some might bicker about the AF but since I was using a manual focus-only lens it didn't matter. On the flip side its implementation of focus peaking and image magnification during focusing is nearly unrivaled which might make it the winner of the "all around manual focus full frame" camera niche. If you carry and use the camera every day you quickly make the focus punch-in an automatic gesture. Which is great because the adapter I was using for the M to L (or maybe it's the lens calibration itself...) wasn't accurate vis-a-vis the marked focusing ring. I tried zone focusing for a while and quickly found that it wasn't nearly accurate enough. Which is kind of sad since that can be such a quick way to shoot. But, as soon as you figure out an issue you figure out a workaround and move on. 

When we left our hotel (great choice of location and venue!!!) each day I just tossed the camera on with a strap and left everything but my wallet and room key back at the hotel. No pocket clutter. No camera bag. Just unfettered camera access and ease of movement. 

I'd love to write one of those paragraphs where I try to find something negative to write about the S5. People seem to love those "pro and con" articles. But try as I might I can't find a single thing wrong with the S5 for photography. The one mark against the camera is only in the video realm and that's just the tiny HDMI plug. Otherwise Panasonic may have devised the perfect, economical, user camera for still photographers. It even fits nicely in my hands. Oh, and I was able to use it just fine with my chunky gloves on. 

In use I'd drape the camera across my chest (as I've told people not to do for years....) on a Peak Design leash strap (which I've pooh-poohed for years), left the power switch in the "on" position and just grabbed the camera when I wanted to shoot something. I tried to stay in the f2.8-f4.0 zone since I'm not really a landscape photographer and kind of resent having to look at most images where everything is in sharp focus. 

Also, while I shot almost everything in color I tried imagining each shot as a black and white photograph. I guess that is a super of mine. I can't wait to pull some of the images into Lightroom and start converting. It should be fun.

Vancouver was just great. Everyone (except the guy on the beach who spit at me ---- well dodged --- because he thought I was photographing him....) was extremely nice and helpful. Just so, so nice. And with the strong dollar vacationing in Canada was cheaper than staying at home. We winced when we realized how limited Austin's restaurant scene is by comparison. We loved (absolutely loved) the rich cultural diversity. And just the general, day-to-day consideration and respect the Canadians seem to show for each other --- and their visitors. 

Some people questioned our choice to travel in an off season/dicey weather part of the year but you have to consider the huge advantages: cheaper hotel rates, uncrowded attractions, no lines for entry, easy dinner reservations at the best restaurants, quick cab arrivals, unhurried and uncrowded airports, lots of available upgrades, etc. etc. 

On sunny, bright days we rode bikes around and around Stanley Park, grabbed ferries to Granville Island and the north shore and walked every cool street in downtown. On rainy days we explored galleries, museums, the aquarium (loved the sea otters!)  and just savored the thrill (to Texas traumatized by heat and drought) of walking around being slightly chilly and feeling the mist of rain. Followed by rewards of good coffee and Lucky Donuts at 49th Parallel.

Our outwear was perfect. Our waterproof shoes did fine service. Our small umbrellas got lost frequently but were easy to replace at about $6 each at any store. And our choice of hotel couldn't not have been better for location, level of service and quiet comfort. Dang. It was just a really nice vacation. 

More images to follow...... don't fret. I was sure to grab shots of some mannequins. 

Proof to the hundreds of seasoned travelers as well as the mountain of guide books
which insist we must, as good tourists, circumnavigate Stanley Park on bicycles.
they were right....

As workmanlike as a good hammer.
Buy one, they're really useful.

What's ahead? I'm working on post production for a national ad campaign for a medical products giant. We're shooting product on Tuesday next week and three talents on location Wednesday. Lots and lots of pre-production to keep me busy between now and then. 

My favorite assistant is already booked on someone else's shoots for those days so I'm in the process of meeting new assistants. Ditto with our make-up person. I'm more or less assembling a new team. And then there is the ongoing effort to keep the studio space clean and efficient. That may be the single biggest Herculean task of my career. Staying organized...

More from Canada shortly. 

Nice to be home.