We have successfully completed our still life in studio assignment today. That means we get to progress to the next level... Oh wait. This is not a video game...


This photo has nothing to do with today's photo assignment. 
I took this at the Vancouver Art Gallery about a week and a half ago...

I worked harder yesterday than I did today. Maybe it just felt harder because I hate the process of cleaning and organizing. I used to have a full time assistant who would do all the stuff I disliked but the industry changed and we started working fewer and fewer days for more and more money and it became inefficient to have someone around all the time. Now we might only do five or six days of real work a month. Nothing for an assistant to do on the other 25 days. And no one to bill their time to. 

As usual, once the studio was cleaned up and cleared out I set up a shooting table and started putting up lights. I wanted to experiment shooting very, very small objects so I'd feel warmed up for today's shoot. 
I tethered the S5 to the laptop, launched Lumix Tether and experimented with all the settings. I wanted my client to have a technically seamless experience today. No crashes or flustered photographer. 

At a quarter of nine this morning I started the Krups coffee maker. At five till nine I pulled the muffins out of the oven. At nine o'clock I answered the door and greeted the art director. She was followed five minutes later by the marketing/traffic manager. We stood in the kitchen of my house and drank some coffee and ate some muffins. Everyone was very relaxed. 

We headed out to the studio. Everything was set up and the lights were already on. The art director handed me a 14 page shot list with about three or four images per page. There were illustrations of how each product should be photographed along with notes describing the products and details such as, "side shot, white background." 

A number of the products were less than an inch long in any dimension. Well, I'm not sure that's exactly true because there might be dimensions we are not aware of in which size takes on different meanings. But in our reality a lot of the parts of metal, medical devices were fairly small. I had the camera mounted on a side arm so I could position the camera directly over the camera for the shots that called for a straight, overhead shot. The camera was tethered so I could arrange the product or raise and lower the camera without having to look through the camera's EVF or rear screen. 

Tethering came in handy. We could take a shot, punch into the review image on the laptop screen and assess whether I had gotten good focus, or more importantly, if I had gotten focus well distributed across the shot. Kind of critical for some images where we were approaching a 1:1 magnification. 

We used blue masking tape to create little templates on the laptop screen in order to match angles and sizes when shooting very similar products. Getting the sizes to match is a big help for graphic designers in post. Since the camera was triggered by the program on the laptop I was able to set a 2 second self-timer delay and trigger the camera with no movement. And not flapping mirror to cause any unsharpness. The tripod and side arm are very stout and the floor under them is concrete so vibration, even at higher magnifications was undetectable. If it had been an issue the next step would have been to switch to using the electronic shutter mode. 

The art director kept the products flowing to me and kept track of our progress. The marketing manager took the already photographed products, repackaged them and put them back into their boxes. Our lighting was good, the lens spectacular (Sigma 70mm f2.8 Macro Art Lens) and we got into a good working rhythm checking the raw files from time to time in Preview to make sure we were getting good focus at 100%. 

After we got the products squared away the team called in the project manager and had him come by to arrange the compositions for more complex assemblages of catheters and surgical tools. He knew exactly what he wanted and we didn't have the "let's try it five different ways and see what we like best" syndrome stunting our progress. 

In the original scheduling of this campaign we set aside a full day for product photography in the studio but we finished up around 12:45 pm and the clients went to lunch. I was invited along but demurred since I had to strike the set and pack gear for a completely different type of shoot we're doing on location tomorrow. I suggested that if we did two lunches in a row they'd get tired of hearing my best stories twice. 

When we finished up the files were in place on the laptop's hard drive and on the two memory cards in the camera. I've since used Lightroom to ingest the files and back them up on two more hard drives. I've also made some small corrections to the files and wrote out a set of .DNG files to send on to the client via WeTransfer.com. 

It's mid-afternoon and I'm taking a break with a cup of Irish Breakfast tea. I like to change gears through the day and do different tasks. The act of writing a short blog helps me process in my mind the work I did earlier. It also helps me half way visualize what I'll do tomorrow with three models and a small crew under my direction. It should be an interesting day since I'm switching gears and cameras. 

I'm planning on using the big Leica tomorrow and "tethering" it to an Atomos HDMI monitor instead of to the laptop. There are several reasons to do so. One is speed. The other is pairing down the complexity. I may have it all wrong but the only consequences are, really, that the client might have to take a leap of faith and put some trust in the rear screen of my zany camera. We'll try to make sure it doesn't come to that. Batteries and cables abound. 

I'm almost packed for tomorrow and I'm glad I have an assistant coming. I'm packing five big light stands and that's a burden. There are also two cases of lights, a case of lenses and a case for cameras. I guess we'll just have to be okay with turning tomorrow's shooting into photographic theater. Lots of gear and sparkle to do what we used to do solo just a few years ago.

I had to talk myself out of getting another S5 and the free 50mm f1.8 Lumix lens.
I came to the conclusion that I could, in principle, justify owning different 
50mm lenses but owning two identical ones along with a growing collection 
of good and/or odd lenses was just one step too far. 

So I changed direction and bought a 50mm f.095 lens instead. It should arrive 
tomorrow. I'll shoot some stuff with it on Friday or Saturday. 
Not much will be in focus....

Gotta go. The client just sent over a style guide for tomorrow.
I guess I should read it in advance....

Oh. And B. just reminded me to pour out the leftover coffee and to clean
up the mess I left in the kitchen. That's fair.


Prepping for tomorrow's shoot, and the shoot the next day and the shoot on Thursday. Hmmmm. A lot to keep track of...

Tethering for the hell of it. 
"How collaborative!" 

 We're photographing small, metal, medical products tomorrow. The kind you need a good macro lens to do right. We'll also be shooting some products that have fine catheters/wires that will need to show up when the images are dropped out against white. On Wednesday we're photographing the models we've been casting over the last two weeks. They'll be dressed in scrubs and will play the roles of medical pros, even to the point of inserting stuff into dummy cadavers (no. not real dead people!). The two shooting days are for the same client but could not be more different. One with intensely small products and in the quiet studio. The other with models and make-up and big locations. Oh boy.

After much research and playing around I've decided to shoot the products (day one) with a camera that tethers to my MacBook Pro laptop. I've spent a lot of time working with the Lumix Tether software in the last week and it is exactly what I need on a couple levels. It's rock solid running on the MacBook Pro. It's a slim program that seems very efficient. It loads Panasonic raw files very quickly. It will allow me to write files to either the Laptop, or the in-camera cards, or to both. In fact, I think it will allow me to set up the two in-camera cards to record simulaneously, backing each other up, and still write to a folder on the laptop. So, a three way back up while shooting. 

I looked at the demo version of Capture One rev. 23 but it only allows for file ingestion into its mysterious folders and not to two sources at once. Remember all those folks who were screaming and crying about only getting a single card slot on their cameras? Why doesn't the same emotion hold true for tethered images? Just curious...

I'm using the Sigma 70mm f2.8 macro Art lens as my primary product lens. I have an older Nikon 105mm f2.8 macro lens sitting in the drawer as a back-up. It's a nice lens as well. Maybe not quite as capable of the detail the Sigma can capture but it's close. 

The Leica software for tethering that I could find is a bust and the plug-in they made back in 2019 for Lightroom of that age doesn't play well with the current version of Lightroom. I could use one of the Leicas with Capture One but it's just rudimentary support with no live view and very little control of the camera itself. Not that it matters much since I would use the same lens on the Leicas...

Instead I am using the Panasonic S5. Twenty four megapixels from a really good sensor is more than enough resolution and the camera, like the tethering software, is rock solid. I used the Panasonic S5 a lot in the last ten days and I feel right at home with it right now. That counts for a lot. I've got two fast SD cards in the S5 and the computer I'm tethering to has a 1TB SSD that's pretty spiffy. It's wired together with USB 3.1 so I can't think that I'll be waiting much for images to pop up. And that's wonderful. I remember tethering with the ancient Kodak DCS760 C cameras and a G4 laptop and you could take a coffee break waiting for files to wend their way across a SCSI connection. And by the time they did you'd need to change the camera battery again. Ah, those were the days when pure persistence in the face of crappy technology really was the main thing that separated professionals from wannabes. 

Since we're shooting in my studio tomorrow there are lots and lots of cameras sitting around just in case something craps out. My secondary/failsafe set up is to press the Leica SL2 into service along with an Atomos Sumo monitor hooked together with a stout HDMI cable. It's a fast set up as well and will give us more than enough clarity to assure everyone that the composition and basic exposures are on the money. 

I wish that Sigma made tethering software for the Sigma fp because it would be nice to sub that camera in for a set of files for a direct comparison to the images from the S5. If you read this and you know that Sigma snuck in some tethering software that I couldn't find, please let me know right away!!! Such a nice camera. Even if you are only using it for color shots. 

Lighting for the products tomorrow? I'm using two NanLite LED units. One is a 300 and the other is a 200. If we need additional sources we've got three Godox SL60s on one shelf and two Godox SL150ii lights on another. I'm blasting them into fairly small soft boxes since our products are pretty small to begin with. 

For the still life stuff we can shoot at ISO 100 and f16 all day long. If we don't need the depth of field we'll drop down to f11 and try to avoid diffraction effects. Works for me. And triggering the camera from the laptop eliminates a major source of camera shake. 

I'm now officially set for tomorrow's shoot. I've cleaned the guest bathroom, gotten the old Krups coffee maker polished up, bought snacks (both healthy and naughty) and we're in good shape. 

After the shoot tomorrow I'll repack for Wednesday. I have an assistant who just came back from working for a few years in NYC. Up in the city they tend to make every shoot a huge production with lots of entourage. And, it seems from our chat, that most people are still shooting with flash... Commercial photography theater.

After our chat I had a bit of trepidation. Models on location. In a medical/tech environment. Should I be shooting with strobes as well? I pulled out the two big 400 watt, plug-in-the-wall monolights and the three Godox AD200 Pro lights and gave it all a good, long thought. After playing with both sets of lights and also messing around with the LEDs I decided to go continuous. Somebody made a really good case for LEDs about a decade ago in a book. Seemed to make sense then. More so now. 

Assist arrives at my place early on Wednesday to help pack up the car and then we head down the road to the client's offices. I dropped by the client's campus this afternoon to do a quick scouting and the place is fantastic. We've got our choice of a 6000 square foot meeting room AND two high tech medical test labs. 

We'll meet up with the client and the make-up artist at 8:30 and start our set up. The talent starts arriving at 9:00. I'm sure the assistant will be surprised by the way I mostly operate, which is a bit eccentric. I dislike working with big crews, never have a digital tech on site (since cameras and laptops are pretty easy to parse these days), and I have my own way of lighting stuff and working with talent. I hope the assist is able to chill out, relax and go with the flow. I never like a shoot to be harder than it needs to be. 

I had a "Merry Christmas!" moment today during the scouting. The client is going to handle the hard parts of the post processing. I get to edit down the files, color correct them and correct for density, etc. and then hand over 16 bit .PSD files which the client will take and do the drop outs/selections/clipping paths and incorporate our images into their backgrounds. It's like a really nice gift. I should remember to send a "Thank You" card. 

The camera package for this day will be similar to the one in the studio. I'll use the S5 and the MacBook Pro but I'm changing lenses to the Leica 24-90mm because it did a beautiful job at the end of last month when we were making environmental portraits for the accounting firm. The back-up/emergency cam will remain the Leica SL2 and the Sumo and I'll bring along the Panasonic 24-105mm zoom for my just in case the Leica lens dies back-up.

Four of the big, beefy LED lights for most of the lighting and a couple smaller ones for accents. I'm eschewing soft boxes in favor of big and medium sized umbrellas mostly just to do something different and tangibly retro with my light. The 200 and 300 series Nanlites will do great bouncing off the ceilings but I do like some directional quality to my main light...

The big tragedy for tomorrow and Wednesday is that I will miss my swim practice on both days. Can't be helped. Well, I guess it could be helped if I just turn down jobs that start before ten a.m. But I was so excited to get this job that I just couldn't pass it up. Nice art director, great budget, fun stuff. 

I'm excited about having a real assistant to help me pack it all up at the end of the day and help me drag all the lighting stuff back into the studio. I'll make sure the files are all backed up from both days before I hit the rack on Wednesday night and the gear will sit on the floor in the middle of the studio until such a time as I am motivated to mess with it. If ever. 

Thursday is a completely different style of photography and a very, very familiar one at that. In the morning I'm photographing two employees of Texas Appleseed which is a non-profit, legal defense organization trying to make the laws in Texas less brutal and regressive. Things like oversight on zany payday loans. Battling the school-to-prison pipeline in underserved neighborhoods, issues surrounding educational equality. We've been doing their portraits in the same outdoor spot for the last ten or fifteen years. No big set up. Just a light on a stand with a small soft box and maybe a "cutter" to block sun from hitting my subjects directly. 

That's the warm-up shoot because later in the day we go to the Four Seasons Hotel for Texas Appleseed's big, yearly fundraising gala. I have shot this event for the past 22 years. This will be year #23. 

It's an old school event. During the VIP reception and the following general reception I'll use a flash on camera and try to get as many posed mini-groups, couples, quad-person shots, etc. as humanly possible. I'm not shy and I probably know about half the people who will be attending from seeing them in years past. The head count is around 450 and at $10,000 a table plus a wild live auction the non-profit should do well. 

I'm also tasked with photographing all the speakers and award winners as well as any surprise entertainment. 

I haven't decided on which camera yet but I do know that I'm planning to use those zany, silly, eccentric Godox Lux Senior flashes. The ones with the retro, fold out, circular reflectors. I'll pack a conventional TTL flash though, just in case. It's typically a fun evening in which I get to circulate non-stop and shoot whatever I want. Making photographs of anyone I find interesting but also getting the images I know the client needs for future fund-raising. 

The Four Seasons Hotel are experts at cooking up wonderful food, even if they are doing it for nearly 500 people at a time. I always enjoy the dinner and the wine pairings are always a step above those at lesser galas. I can't wait. It should be another fun evening and a chance to give some lucky camera, lens and flash a really good, concentrated workout. After I finish up the gala pix I'm off the clock for the entire week of Thanksgiving. Already planning a small out and back trip somewhere just to ....... take a few images with one of my cameras. Thinking pointedly about making it back to San Angelo to see what it looks like in November. I keep seeing stuff from the art scene there and I'm always impressed. 

I've got a fair amount on my plate right now so don't worry if it takes me a little longer to moderate comments or to disagree with misguided commenters. You're not that lucky yet. I will be back

A list of cameras I am interested in right now: 

Leica is having a promotion right now for former customers. $1300 off the price of either a Leica SL2 or an SL2-S. I tried to buy an SL2-S today after I found the sale (announced by Leica this morning) but they were already sold out of that model. I'll keep trying. I can replace my older SL bodies with two of these....

The Sigma fpL keeps bubbling up to the top of my acquisitive consciousness. Don't know why but I thought I should give one a try considering how much I've enjoyed the basic Sigma fp.

Prices are dropping on Panasonic S5s. I logged onto B&H today and tossed a $1697 priced S5 into my cart and it automatically included the (really quite good) 50mm f1.8 into the cart for free. That's a $450 lens which, if you need the lens, makes the actual price of the S5 (which is a great camera) about $1247, brand new. 

Hell of a deal for someone. I bought my S5 from the local store and cajoled a couple extra batteries from them. The free lens would have been an even sweeter deal. 

Finally, I am interested in trying out the Nikon Z6ii. A friend bought one on a whim, along with the 50mm f1.8 and he's been raving about the color and overall image quality. 

If you have experience with that camera I'd love to hear about it.

Well, it seems from my current schedule that I have not yet been able to convince myself to retire. That's okay, the cash will come in handy if anyone gets stuff back in stock.

Good Hotels are fun. What makes a good hotel?


The Paradox Hotel in Vancouver.

I love staying at nice hotels. As an advertising person in a past life, one of my clients was the Austin Raddison Hotel and another was the Austin Four Seasons Hotel. They spoiled me. 

My biggest benchmarks for a good hotel are: very clean rooms, very comfortable beds, very, very quiet rooms and hallways, prompt room service, congenial staff, a concierge with great knowledge of local treasures like interesting, independent restaurants, small galleries, interesting clothes shops, etc. And...relative affordability --- which is highly contextual.

We spent our previous week at the Paradox Hotel in Vancouver. It's a five star hotel that hit the target in every one of my categories but its most outstanding feature was the almost dead quiet hallways and rooms. Someone paid attention to the room designs and basic sound abatement. But the thing that helped most was that each of the upper floors had only 6 or 8 guest rooms on it and, by their own admission, the booking staff tried to spread out guests over many floors where possible to create sound buffers. 

For someone with a heightened level of pervasive, general anxiety the calm and quiet in a room is conducive to relaxing and also getting a better night's sleep. Nothing is as grating, to me at any rate, than two loud and half drunk men carrying on a loud (outside voices) conversation while walking from the elevators and past your room at two or three in the morning. 

Our trip was during the "off season" so the hotel wasn't at max occupancy and I'm sure that helped a lot. 

The hotel is in the middle of the best part of downtown, bordered by Georgia St. on one side and Alberni on the other. The side streets are Thurlow and Bute. It's a five minute walk to one seawall and a ten to fifteen minute walk to the opposite side; to the other seawall. There are five or more coffee shops/donut repositories within eyesight of the property and a great restaurant which serves a fabulous breakfast one block away. That restaurant is called "Tableau" and is attached on one side to the Loden Hotel --- which also looks to be great. 

While the Paradox is a five star hotel it is nowhere near as tony and expensive as the downtown Fairmont Hotel which is a hotel enthusiast's dream. A magnificent old building, grand and soaring public spaces, great art in the lobbies, and, I can only imagine, really great rooms. It would be a splurge but next time up to Vancouver I hope to spend at least one night experiencing it. 

In my travels as a working photographer I've stayed in a huge range of hotels. From The Breakers in West Palm Beach to a run down, no name motel in a tiny town in rural Indiana. In every instance I would much prefer the former to the later. But sometimes a destination will be so sparsely populated and so far off the map that you have one choice. On several occasions I traveled to construction projects that were so far off the maps that the only hospitality was bedding down in the back of the rental SUV. Not optimal...

B. knows that I don't care much about how we fly. Sure, Economy + or Biz class is always a treat but the plane gets to the destination at the same time no matter the cost of the seats. But if we're going to treat ourselves to a fun vacation the real priority is always the hotel. Why scrimp? I'd like my temporary environment to be at least as nice as my own home....

Just a note about photography: I was the only person in any of the hotels we stepped into who had a camera with them. No other visitors seemed to have any interest in taking photographs. None at all. 

And, a well rested and well cared for photographer takes better photos... sometimes. 


The rationalization for bringing along only the 40mm f1.4 Voigtlander lens. Right and wrong.


I didn't exactly buy the Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 lens on a whim. I've been using the Sigma 45mm f2.8 lenses for several years now and I like that focal length niche between 35mm and 50mm lenses. The 45mm is good but the slightly wider 40mm is great. I know. There are some among you who can shoot anything with a 20mm lens, pre-visualize exactly the crop you're going to make weeks from now in post, and happily proceed. But the rest of us don't do that. We like to be flexible but we're even more comfortable if we know where the edges are and we calibrate our compositions to those restraints. 

I chose the 40mm V. lens because it covers full frame, is fast enough for low light work (night scenes on city streets) and it features manual focusing. One of the bigger advantages is the small size of the lens. 

But my most compelling reason for buying and packing the lens was my research into the "look" of the images made with this lens by various photographers who share their images on the web. The lens is sharp in the center even when used at f1.4. The lens has vignetting (which I like) but it's not so much vignetting that it can't be corrected in post without obvious corner artifacts. The standout optical characteristic is the way it handles colors. It's neutral in contrast but the colors it creates are more saturated; more color rich than the other 40-45mm competitors. And that's something I like. 

I know you can add saturation in post but the rendering is different if a certain level of saturation and clear discrimination between colors is built into the optical formula. 

This is the lens I took with me to Vancouver and, for the most part, I'm very happy with my choice. It was just the right package for casual shooting on vacation. The only thing I would want to change would be an assurance that the lens was water resistant. I didn't have any issues with the lens but it would be comforting to know that steps had been taken in manufacturing to keep moisture out of the system. But that's all psychological; I'm pretty sure. 

In normal practice I never use a "protection" filter on the front of my lenses but in this instance I decided to spring for a B&W filter to use on the front. Just an extra barrier between rain drops, snow and the front element. I'd rather keep wiping drops off the front of a replaceable filter than off the optical element. 

Several people have commented that the images from my vacation trip look different than the ones I usually post. I would have to say that a large part of the difference in "look" comes from the characteristics of the lens. The rest come from the use of the lens on a different camera. It's a good combination with the Lumix S5. The only real difference I can think of in the whole shooting process was to consistently shoot cooler (more blue) color corrections than I usually do. And I added fewer changes in post processing --- letting the camera and the lens express themselves more transparently.

I think that because of the influx of so many technical people into the field of digital photography over the last twenty some years there is a belief in the binary nature of everything. This would include that, other than sharpness, all lenses of a particular focal length are interchangeable. Or, if there are big differences between the way two lenses render an image then the extension of the technical-oriented thought process is that the differences can be squashed down and homogenized in post processing. 

The follow on thought to that is the assumption that there is a universal color/contrast/D-range look that should be the standard for all images. Which is absurd. 

I like the 40mm V. lens not for any particular thing it does brilliantly but for its faults and peccadillos. I love the vignetting. I love the soft flare over small areas of a sharp image when shooting into small light sources. I like  image edges that aren't samurai sword sharp. In short, sometimes I like a lens more for its "faults" (which aren't faults but are instead signatures) than I like most lenses for their purported perfection. 

There are many cases where high performance and a highly accurate documentation are necessary. An example would be commercial still life photographs of small objects which look best with high sharpness and detail. A "clinical" macro lens would be the choice for those situations... But there are many times when a less accurate lens provides the differentiation from the typical rendering which actually makes the resulting photograph more interesting. More intriguing. Less a slavish documentation.

When I shoot with a lens like the 40mm I know I'm not getting a direct and complete representation of the object being photographed. But I am getting an interpretation of the object and that interpretation is something I understand will happen when I choose a certain lens. 

It's part of the reason LensBaby products endure. Or why some older Canon FD lenses are in high demand. It's because of their personalities that people buy them. If they were craving accuracy overall they'd probably choose a Zeiss Otus lens instead. 

Clinical versus Personality. There's a place for both and it's dictated by the intended final use of the image. 


It was recently brought to my attention that I've been woefully behind in posting swim information!!!


Vancouver Aquatic Center.

I'm sure any of my readers who are also planning trips to Vancouver will want to know about the Aquatics Center. It's on the way to the water taxis that take people to Granville Island. I'm curious to know why none of the folks more familiar than I with Vancouver failed to mention this standout facility.... 😆

The pool is a 50 meter main pool with a separate diving well to the far side of the entrance. The cost to swim is $3 Canadian and if you are so disposed there are two different masters teams that have scheduled practices throughout the week. It's an absolute must see! for anyone traveling into the northwest.

I have been watching videos of American swimming star, Katie Ladecky, for the last month. She shattered the world records in both the 800 and 1500 yard short course events. Many of the swim sites on YouTube have been showing her swims in slow motion and pointing out all the ways in which she achieves speed and efficiency in the water. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p20kZqUAd0k you'll definitely want to check this out. It plainly shows the difference between real sports and.....games. 

I have been trying to incorporate as much of her style into my own freestyle swimming and I'm pretty happy with the results. So much of the finesse is in the arm/hand catch and the trajectory of her pull through. Just watch the video and you'll probably swim faster by five seconds per hundred. 

I got back into town and finally home at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday morning so I missed the workout that morning. I thought it better to sleep. But I have made the next three days in a row to make up for the week I took off. 

This morning was wonderful. Our weather is about to turn but it was warm and there was a gentle breeze when we hit the water at 8. I shared a lane with Leslie and we paced with the folks in the adjacent lane hammering through the typical 3,000+ yard work out. The time off was helpful and I was nicely relaxed in the water today. I've been trying to stretch more between workouts and that seems to aid in making my stroke a bit more efficient. 

We did a series of nine 100 yard swims and I was delighted to hold a 1:25 pace on most of the set. Not too bad. 

I've got two more good swim days ahead of me before I break for a couple days of work. Add in some strength training and I've basically got a full schedule ahead. 

Note: more and more scientific research is pointing to exercise as the fountain of youth. doesn't really matter which kind of exercise as long as you're moving and breathing harder than you do when you're sitting on the couch watching TV and munching on chips. An hour a day is nice. Two hours is even better. 

I just knew you wanted to read a bit about swimming.... so there you go. 


I often wonder why stuff has to be complicated. But that's part of the job.

In the commercial field of photography the actual taking of fine and dandy photographs is pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. In fact, it would be a wonderful undertaking if not for all the stuff you have to administer to get to the point where you are standing in front of the subject ready to push the shutter button.

We're in the final throes of pre-production for a large job right now. Many moving parts. Here's every stumbling block: 

My favorite assistant was already booked for the dates by another photographer. I have used this assistant for over a decade and it never occurred to me that I might not, some day, be able to use her for my own shoot. She kindly sent along to me a list of assistant resources for which she could vouch. Of the fifteen people on the list the first five phone calls were more or less a snapshot of how well photography is doing in Austin, Texas. 

All of them were booked. I finally got ahold of someone on the "approved by Amy" list and we booked him for the days needed. 

The client asked me to cast for three very specific talents and to negotiate the terms of use for them with a professional talent agency. That back and forth between me, three agencies and the client's team started at least a week before I left on vacation and was only finally completed while I was sitting in the airport, cellphone at my ear, in Seattle on Monday night. 

The client asked me to handle billing and payment of the talent and their agency and, since this is a trusted and ongoing (and great national) client I agreed. I know how difficult it can be to set up a new vendor in the corporate accounting processes, on the fly. 

During Covid, as business slowed way down, I decided to stop having a credit card merchant account and to handle all credit card payments via PayPal. It's worked out great. Until now. Apparently our deposit from the client for models exceeded whatever triggers are in place for "too big an amount." Jumping through hoops and layers of certification were the penalty; all of which takes valuable time and energy. So far it's been a two day process, about an hour a day on the phone, to resolve. We're close...... so close....to final resolution...and the ability to use the client's money to pay the client's models... If not then the usual workaround is to call my banker and have them extend a line of credit for the next 30 days until PP gets their process ironed out. Alternatively, I guess I could pull the money out of my own account but.....why?

Next on the list was lining up a make-up artist to make the three talents picture perfect. And....over the last three years of Covid my first two choices have exited the field looking for greener pastures. Back to Amy for some contemporary suggestions. Amy to the rescue with a great, new to me, make-up artist. Now booked for the shooting dates. 

I never knew Rubix cubes were so hard to puzzle out. A lot like finding shoot dates that worked for multiple models and support people as well as a photographer, the art director, and a handful of clients. Back and forth ensued and we landed on the only two days that fit for the 4th entire quarter.

We're shooting one day of product in the studio before the shoot days on the client's location. The days with talents. But this means that, as a congenial host, I have to organize and clean the studio space, the bathrooms in the main house, sparkle up the kitchen, stock in coffee, pastries and a few healthy snacks and  set up a guest network for wi-fi. 

We have a final pre-production call with everyone tomorrow to set schedules, go over wardrobe, confirm addresses and staging, and to generally answer any questions that come up. Then we generate a call sheet and send it out to everyone involved. The call sheet has the name, job position, and basic information for each person on the crew side as well as whoever will be our liaison at the client side. It will also have cellphone numbers and email addresses for everyone. Finally, it will have the call times (arrival on set) for each person: when and where they need to show up. Call sheets are critical for bigger projects with lots of moving parts. 

Speaking of moving parts.... We're packing heavy for our two days of location shooting as we may need to light up an entire lab and also have additional lights to optimally illuminate the products used by the humans . In some cases the compositions need to be pretty exacting and some of the technical constraints are complex. Might add a second assistant at the last minute --- if I can find one. 

Then there is the whole issue of being able to tether the camera I want to use. My first choice is the Leica SL2. It's a wonderful camera that creates perfect DNG raw files and the lenses I have for it rock. But it's only "tether-able" via the latest rev of Capture One. I'm sure Capture One is a great application; I have an older copy of it here somewhere, but I hate that I can't save files to internal memory cards AND C-One. It's also my least desirable interface of all the photo applications I use. 

I might end up going with a Panasonic S1R instead, or even the S5, because both work well with Panasonic's very stable and simple tethering software. We're not going to be post processing files on site. We just want to show examples to the clients on a bigger screen. With the Leica it seems my choices are limited to either Capture One or just using Leica Fotos (the wi-fi app for phones and iPad). Neither works for me. I'd love it if I could do a seamless set up tethering with Adobe Lightroom Classic. 

An alternative, and one I've used in the past, is to use an Atomos Ninja monitor, connected via HDMI, to the camera to call up previews. It works but it can be very kludgy. I'm usually comfortable shooting directly to the camera on most shoots but I perceive that multiple people will be anxious to review and approve images on site so we'll get to the solution that works best. I remember when Lou Manna (food photography specialist in NYC) used to hook up his cameras to a 50 inch, flat screen TV and show the client previews that way. But, again, we're not disposed to haul around a big TV either. 

As I was walking down a wet street on a cold afternoon in Vancouver with just one camera in my hands and one lens. No schedule. No client. No staff. No payment issues. No details other than what to have for dinner.  I remember wondering why I continue to do this. I love small shoots, portraits, easy gigs. And while the kind of job I've outlined above is the kind of job most younger commercial guys crave I'm not seeing the paycheck or the challenge as much as I'm realizing how much time we spend getting stuff ready on one end and cleaning stuff up on the other end. And always on tight schedules.

But, as B. reminds me, I'm always a curmudgeon on the front end of a shoot (classic worrier) and I'm usually ecstatic while actually shooting and playing around. I hope, once again, that she's right. 

At any rate the client has been a dream to work with. Highly organized, super-personable, flexible and collaborative. Can't ask for more than that. But I knew that going in....we've worked together before.