I don't usually do wedding photography..........

But I thought I'd try my hand.  Actually, this is the wedding scene from Zachscott Theater's version of "Our Town".  We shot these during the dress rehearsal.  Maybe the next step in wedding photography will be to build sets and light everything with stage lights or studio flashes.  Heck, we could even put marks on the floor with exposure info next to em.  "Stand here for f5.6 @ 1/125th ISO 400."  Produce them like we do big production ad shoots or videos.  The photos would be pretty cool.  Brides might like that.  Naw, who am I kidding?

On another note:  I was out walking today in the downtown area.  I was near the intersection of the lake and Lamar BLVD. when I actually spied a serious photographer, with a serious camera, just out messing around and taking photos for fun.  Really.  Just out in the heat and humidity having a good time.  If he reads this:  Go for it!  Good for you.

Happy Fourth of July!


Is technology destroying art? Does anyone care?

This is the naked die of a micro something or other.  We shot it last month for the semiconductor company that makes it. Its brethren will go into some sort of consumer product that will make some person's life more efficient.  And the promise of that increased efficiency should have meant more free time for that person to do things for themselves.  Play with their kids,  wash the car, see a movie,  or do art.

But it isn't working out that way.  Society is using the increased efficiency to get more out of the next person.  More lines of type per hour.  More lines of code per day.  More products more quickly to the marketplace.  Cameras that autofocus faster and have aquarium modes. More profits to the shareholders. More stuff.

Cellphones seemed like such a good idea.  They would free us from the umbilical cord that tethered us to the desk or to the house.  But it didn't really work out that way.  Faceless corporations found that they could get more "free" work out of their workers by using a virtual umbilical cord that keeps workers connected to their offices nearly continuously.  And injects a sensibility that there's duty to make the job one's life.

And please, make no mistake, when I say workers I don't mean it in the old communist way:  as a description of the uniformed factory people who made things with their hands or dug for coal.  When I say workers now I also mean the lawyers and executives and nearly anyone who has a job working for anyone other than themselves.

I've watched the progressive strangling of people's time by new technology.  Executive dads sitting in the bleachers frantically jabbing at Blackberries with their thumbs trying to get in front of a new "issue" while little Johnny makes a soccer goal that dad doesn't catch.  I watched three investors glued to their iPhone screens in the middle of a play and wondered why they'd taken the time to come to the theater.  You could quiz them and they wouldn't know whether they sat thru "Oklahoma" or "Romeo and Juliet".

Everyday I watch couples at restaurants staring into their screens instead of each other's eyes.  They seem afraid that they'll miss something.  That the world will introduce the next miracle and they want to be in on the genesis and get the announcement.  So much so that they miss all the important stuff.

So, efficiency was supposed to give us time to exercise and relax and invent and enjoy and do our own art.  But what it's really done is increase the work week of the fully employed, robbed them of their own un-contracted leisure time, convinced people that a salaried position means 24/7 contact (and mindshare) and left them ragged and unable to concentrate on the present and the  here and now.  It robs them of living life as it's happening.

And the ability to process great volumes of information hasn't done much for us either, as far as I can tell.   May be it's good for predicting sales or elections.  Data mining can't stop hurricanes or earthquakes but endless data availability progressively robs us of our privacy and financial security.

But none of that really bothers me.  I understand better than you might think that the nature of western man is constant innovation---for good or bad.  No, what bothers me is that we've used all these tools to turn our lives into something that's measured based on productivity.   Volume.  Throughput.

I heard a great actor speak two days ago.  He defined art.  It's not about which lens renders hairs on the kitty photo the sharpest or who's got the best toys.  And it's certainly not measurable.  He defined art in this way:  Art teaches us what it  is to be human.

But this is a problem because art is notorious for being unmeasurable.  And in a society that values ranking and measuring above all else it gives one the feeling that art, which teaches us what it is to be human, is being replaced more and more by craft just for the sake of craft.  And the craft is powered more and more by precision, performance and production and less and less by ideas and translations of human experience.

It starts in school.  We, as a society, need to give as much weight to the study of art and art history, music and drama as we do the math and science courses.  We need to make sure our kids are as content literate as they are process literate.  I can assure you that, as technology becomes more and more pervasive the real value; the "gold",  will be content.

Multitasking?  I've got a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in......

A quick look at a recent editorial job.

My friend, and one of my favorite "lifestyle" models, Ann.  In Book People Bookstore.

Contrary to the idea that all professional photographers are competing against each other constantly, this job came to me as a referral from a photographer who was booked up on an architectural project and trying to make hay while the sun shown.  He nicely recommended me to his client of many years.  It was a shelter magazine and they were doing an article on the ethics and results of shopping locally, instead of sending all of you money out of your community by spending it at national chains.

The editor had lived in Austin and remembered one of the great remaining independent bookstores in the country,  Book People.  Three stories of great book inventory right in the heart of Austin's downtown.  Could I find a model, go there and shoot some variations and send them some selections?

Their directions were clear and concise.  We quickly came to a contractual agreement and I sent a letter of agreement to them with all of our terms and a description of the project.  Business part done.  Now it was time to get down to business.  And I made a mistake.  I should have shot this with conventional gear and gotten down the road.  But I was in the middle of "micro 4:3rds fever"  and I grabbed an old legacy Olympus lens and an adapter ring and pressed my EP2 into service.

Ann and I did a bunch of shots around the store.  We followed the brief.  But the light in the store was pretty low and, not wanting to go past ISO 800 on a magazine job that might require the images to be used as a double-truck (two page) spread I shot a lot of stuff wide open and at slow shutter speeds.  

The camera was fine.  A bit noisy maybe, but nothing I couldn't handle with some judicious noise reduction in post production.....It was the lens that was the Achille's Heel.
I should have spent more time testing that particular vintage lens.  I'd shot some stuff outdoors and it looked great at f5.6 and f4.0  but down at f1.5 and f2 it was a whole other story.   But not one that was readily apparent on the camera's LCD.  When I got the images back to the studio I blew them up on my cinema monitor and looked closely.  The lens just didn't have the bite it needed.  In it's defense, at f1.5, not many do.  As to my own defense,  hubris comes before the fall.  I thought I could pull off more than I could.
I called Ann back and she graciously agreed to shoot again.  I grabbed a full frame camera and a well corrected lens and shot the whole thing over again.  This time I shot at f4 and smaller most of the time.  And I carefully blew up test frames as big as they would go on the LCD screen to try and make sure that I was getting critically sharp stuff.  I came back and edited through the second take and sent along 30 different files.

This was all invisible to the client.  I met their deadline and sent the images they needed.  Fortunately the quality control came from my end first.  And yet,  I don't feel like I made the worst of decisions.  It's good to try new stuff and push envelopes and boundaries.  The first stuff I shot had a great feel to it on one level.  But it was too far into devolution to pass the publication test.  If I posted it here I'll bet few could see the differences between the files.  But my QC department can be tough.  Especially when the client comes from a peer recommendation.

Why am I sharing all this with you?  I don't know.  I guess I'm going against basic marketing by admitting that we're all only human and making mistakes is part of the deal.  I don't always follow the standard play book.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  But I know one thing:   If you're going to screw around with "alternative gear/processes"  leave in enough time buffer to do it over again.......

Rainy day here.  Rainy week.  Cancelled shoot.  More blogs.

Ken Rockwell's Prediction for the future of professional photography

Sometimes I'm accused of being less than optimistic about the future of photography for professionals.  The usual suspects tell me to become better and smarter.  If I could I sure would.  But most people just tell me that the world is cyclical and that I should hold tight and hope it all comes back.  I've got my own opinions but I'm always interested in what other people in other markets think.

I know many of you hold Ken Rockwell in less than high regard but in the last five years of reading his stuff on his blog I can't recall a single time that what he says hasn't turned out to be pretty darn true.  In a column a few days ago he went through his mailbox and answered a few questions for us.  Most were along the lines of, "what camera should I use?" But this one had to do with this question:

3. Future of photography & photographer's role in it?

And I find his answer quite interesting and along the same lines as what I would say.  That I agree with him doesn't mean that I'm personally depressed.  Or that I am a "sore loser."  Or that I need to get over myself.  Or that I should be irrepressibly Pollyanna about the future.  It only means that I dispassionatly agree with his assessment of the future of photography for money as we practice it today.  If you click the title of the blog it will take you to Ken's site.  Scroll down the page a bit to find this list of answers.  Without belaboring it further, dig in:  

(The following is from Ken Rockwell's blog.  ©2010 Ken Rockwell.  Don't pass it along without attribution, please!!)

3.) Downhill, and less of a role in it.
The future is downhill because photography, which is the art of seeing, has beendiluted into becoming a hobby for computer people, instead of an art practiced to excite the imagination of others.
Photographers will play less of a role in it, as most pro photographers will no longer be needed because today's cameras do all the technical stuff for which paying photography clients used to have pay someone with basic technical skills. These people with basic tech skills, but little to no vision, used to get by by calling themselves "photographers," even if they were simply camera jockeys who could wrangle a light meter, but had little ability to see the picture in something, or see it from a new angle. Now that anyone can snap a technically decent picture, only those with the ability to see the real image inside something will survive as photographers.
Photography is exactly like sculpture. When you start, you've got a big block of something that means nothing. The artist is the one who sees the final work living inside this big block. The final carving away of the unnecessary bits to release your vision into tangible form is simply the final mechanics, not the art. With photography, you're removing the irrelevant parts, leaving only what matters. It's seeing it in the first place that is photography or sculpture, not the carving or the snapping.
Tomorrow, all we will need are the real photographers with vision, while clients who don't need vision, but merely a decent record photograph, can do it themselves.
We've already seen this in stock. Guys no longer can pull in $30,000 every month through formal stock agencies renting out old slides of people standing in airports holding phones, or holding blank signs, or pointing to globes. Today, everyone can and does snap these same boring images and sells them via microstock online. (Hint: why not photos of hot girls holding phones? Why aren't those images sold as stock?)
Photography is the art of seeing. Photography is showing people things in ways that they didn't see for themselves. Photography is the art of seeing the picture that's already standing in front of you, but that no one else has noticed. Photography is the art of recognizing the hidden beauty in everyday things. Photography is the power of observation.
Photography has never been about cameras. The hard part about photography is seeing something. The trivial part is taking the picture of it once you've seen it.


A rather boring article about how I lit a portrait on location last week.

One of my most important tools.  The standard apple crate.  Used in film and video productions everywhere.

I was shooting some executives at an industrial company here in Austin last week and the client let me know that there were one or two execs in other cities who would also need to be shot.  They weren't going to budget for me flying out of state just to do one or two head shots so they asked if I would document the set up and be willing to share the information with photographers with which they have relationships in the other cities.  Of course.  I'll share just about anything.

I used this handsome devil as an example because it was easy to get a model release from him. :-)

It's pretty standard lighting.  In a nutshell it's a big soft light from the left, a big white reflector from the right, a gridded flash on the light gray background and a small flash in a small softbox from the back of the set.   The image I chose to use as an example doesn't have the backlight added in.  Sorry.  You'll just have to imagine it.

Above.  The view from the left of the camera.  You can see that I'm using a Softlighter 2 60 inch umbrella with it's diffusion "sock" on the front.  It's hooked up to a 1200 watt second Elinchrom Ranger RX AS pack but it's on the low power tap and set to a fairly low setting.  Though the wide angle lens I've used to make this image distorts the size/distance relations the light is really right next to the chair.  Almost touching it.  The camera is a Canon 5dmk2 and I'm using the 70-200 f4 L lens at around 135mm as my taking lens.
Above is the view from right behind the camera and it gives you a better idea of the various relationships between the lighting instruments.  I use the apple crate to stand on because I am five feet and eight inches tall while some of the taller subjects were six foot, three and six foot, five.  (Mutant giants?)
I always use this zany Lastolite pop up target to set custom white balances with.  I like this Will Crockett version because it has a target to focus on.

I use an incident light meter to meter every light source and get them all in the right target zone.  I base my whole exposure around f5.6.  I fine tune it for each person.

Here's what I'm using for the light on the background.  It's a Vivitar 383 df used in the slave mode.  I like them because in the slave mode they are triggered by an optical slave and the setting overrides the auto shutoff.  Since the light is basically direct it only takes 1/4 power to give me the spot I want.  The box on the front is from Speedlight Prokit.  It's a multi-purpose little light modifier.  You can use a grid on the front or a softbox style diffuser.  It's a pretty good accessory for taking the edge off direct light and softening out the edges.  With a grid in place the fall off is very pleasing.
This is a view from the right side of the set up.  The combination of a 60 inch softlighter diffused umbrella and the 48 inch white reflector is the basis of most of my quick light set ups for indoors.  By moving the umbrella closer and further from the subject I get more or less contrasty light.  By moving the reflector closer or further from the opposite side of the subject's face I get more or less fill in the shadows.
And where oh where would I be without the Barbie kit?  Most of the executives I photographed needed just a touch of translucent powder to shut down the shine on their foreheads and noses.  Please note the white barber's drape which I put over the subject's clothes.  Keeps light colored powder off dark colored jackets.
There's nothing special about the back light.  I just want the barest touch of back light so I use another Vivitar 383 df down at 1/8th power and it seems just right.  I think people make a very common mistake when they use a back light bare.  The light just doesn't seem to match the rest of the light in a conventionally lit scene.  A small box works well.  If we were working in my studio I might have used a big piece of foamcore to flag the light and prevent spill but the space was big enough and the ceilings far enough away that it just didn't become a problem.  A grid on the front of the box would be a good addition as well.
Here's what the scene looks like with my back right up against the grey a paper looking out toward the camera.  Not too intimidating.  Pretty straightforward.  It's nice to have a standard set up that you can fall back on when you are working quickly and need repeatable results.

I like the Elinchrom and I also like the Profoto battery units.  It's nice when you are in a big setting not to have cables running to distant sockets.  And at the low power settings I was using that particular pack is good for several thousand flashes.

We set up starting at 8:00am and finished testing the set up at 8:35am.  My first of ten portrait subjects, the COO, arrived right at 9am.  We finished our last shot just in time for lunch.  My default for delivered food on industrial shoots is usually Jason's Deli.  I order the quarter Muffaletta.  Good stuff.

After a "walking lunch" I broke down this set up and we proceeded to our afternoon shoots around the factory using mostly available light and a good tripod.

So, what constitutes a good tripod?  That's coming up.

Learn how to do the big group shot. You never know when you might need it.

©2010 Kirk Tuck.  The Rollingwood Waves.  At the Westwood Country Club Pool.

This is a very short blog.  I have very little actual advice to give about shooting group shots.  My first piece of advice is to stop spending time fidgeting around with your gear!  This was what we call a "grab shot".  You throw out a suggestion and hope people respond.  When they do (like these young ladies instantly snapping into a line up and throwing arms around their comrades) don't waste time fooling around with how you might compose or whether the exposure is "just" right.  Just push the button a few times till they get bored and then move on.  In the tradition of Zen Buddhism there is no "right" or "wrong" way to do something.  Just decide and go.

My second piece of advice is to always take advantage of overcast days.  Groups in full sun squint, are uncomfortable and the results are way too contrasty.  If you can't wait for clouds look for shade.

My third and last piece of advice is to start with small groups and move your way up to the larger ones.  Get a feel for being in charge and then come to grips with the fact that you'll never truly be in charge.
If there's no money on the table it's a hell of a lot more important to have fun.....and be in the fun....than it is to make everybody miserable getting the  "perfect shot".

©2010 Kirk Tuck.  Practice on the smaller groups first....  If you're in the shade you don't even need fill flash.

Trumped by a graphic designer.

photo of the mighty "Rollingwood Waves" fourteen year old boys.  ©2010 Belinda Yarritu.

I've been photographing my kid's Summer league swim team for the better part of ten years now and I like to think my photos are pretty good.  Last Saturday was the last swim meet of the season and, to tell the truth,  I was too burned out to lift up the camera and hit the project with gusto one more time.  Had too much on my brain.  So my wife, Belinda, (who is also a wonderful graphic designer) grabbed my Canon 7D and asked me how to use it.  I was going to give her the long explanation but she just wanted know know if the focus would lock when she pushed the button half way down.  Yes.  I put the camera on "P" for professional, set the focus for center group, one shot and she was on her way.

When we did the final slide show on Sunday night, for all the parents, kids and coaches, this was the hit image of the evening.  Now, looking at stats on Smugmug this is by far the bestseller from that day.  And she did more.  Many more.  Like this one:
photo of a mighty "Rollingwood Wave" five year old boy in the lake.  ©2010 Belinda Yarritu.

She captured the exuberance of the kids in every shot.  Mine seemed so posed by comparison.  The amazing thing is that she did about 250 images using just one lens.  It was the only one I brought along (I figured we had more than enough images for a good slide show by that point in the season-----silly me).
It was the 60mm macros for Canon's smaller sensor cameras.  Equivalent to about a 96mm lens on a traditional 35mm camera.  No zoom.  No wide.  Definitely a "zoom with your feet" optic.

She shot everything in jpeg.  Large/fine.  And it was weird when I went to process the stuff.  No exposure comp was really needed.  After she really got into it she was able to really connect with the kids as well.  I love this photograph because it's so close and so full of energy:
photo of the mighty "Rollingwood Waves" ten year old boys.  ©2010 Belinda Yarritu.

When I look at the photos it makes me wish I could start all over again and unlearn so much of the "safety" stuff I've subconsciously taken on over the years.  But most of all I wish I could compose like she does and ignore the technical stuff like she does.  One of my wry, female, creative director friends saw the images and pronounced (loudly and with a certain amount of serious intent....)  that I should become Belinda's agent and assistant.  I could do the techno stuff and Belinda could do the art.  Been thinking about it ever since......

She's a very good graphic designer.  Here's her old website:  www.belindayarritu.com  the new one is just waiting for me to write some copy........

I shouldn't be surprised that Belinda is a good photographer.  She was shooting with an Olympus OM-1 before I ever picked up a camera.  And if I remember correctly she only had one lens.....the 50mm 1.8.  And she's worked with the best photographers in the business for the last twenty years.  I guess having a point of view and the visual chops is the counterpoint to so much of what I get around to talking about here.

Anyway, I just wanted to share.  Drop a comment her if you like her stuff.  Sometimes she gets around to reading the blog.


Marketing works. But it only works when you do it.

I am constantly reminded that for marketing to work you have to send it out.

Many of you have jobs in other fields and have no interest in marketing for photographers.  I get that.  But there's a fairly big proportion of young photographers here and I thought I'd throw together a blog about the most important aspect of professional photography, marketing.

Lots of photographers and reps save up and do one or two or three big marketing blasts a year.  And they send out material or e-mails to thousands of people at a time.  I think it's kind of dumb.  When I wrote my book, Commercial Photographer's Handbook, for Amherst Media I interviewed a lot of art directors and art buyers so that I would really understand how all this works.  To a person they all had the same basic response:  "We get so much stuff it's hard to remember what someone sent last month, let alone last quarter."  

What the really means is that you've got to stay in front of people.  But no one media can do everything. All the media you can use work together to build people's awareness that you,  A.  Exist.  B.  Provide Photography.  C.  Have a style they like.  The image above was sent out as an e-mail blast to around 100 people.  Why 100?  Because if you don't get a good response you might find out that people don't really respond the image.  Isn't it better if only 100 people see a ho-hum image to start with instead of 1,000? Next,  you could call to follow up with 100 people by making ten calls a day for ten days.  That's about as many as you can follow up with and not burn out.  And finally, you can handle those numbers without having to outsource to a bulk mailer.

I sent out about 100 of these e-mails as embedded pdf's.  I got two responses one business day later with invitations to show the book.  I booked a job on the second appointment.  In the next few days 14 people e-mailed me to comment on the mailer.  While it's not a huge response it's typical of the responses I get if I choose the right images and send out the right mailer.  

I think people send out a lot of e-mailers but I think campaigns should alternate between e-mail and direct mail and other kinds of promotions.  For every e-mailer campaign I do another print campaign to balance things out.  I recently had a series of 5x7 prints made at Costco for 29 cents a piece.  I sent out three prints in one envelope.  Each print has my website address and my tagline on the front.  (I just add the type to the photo in PhotoShop...).  The most telling response I get is, "Wow.  I love getting actual mail.  These days photographers seem to rely totally on e-mail.  I get a XXX number of e-mails a day and I don't have any real way of dealing with them or filing them for later.  If I like a print I can pin it up on the wall or stick in a physical folder."

The two questions I get most from other photographers are:   1.  How do you build a mailing list?  And, 2.  How do you decide what to send out?

To answer the first question, I have two strategies.   The first is that I've been building a personal list, one contact at a time, for nearly 20 years.  I meet someone, shake their hand, talk about the photography and/or advertising business and boom! they go into my address/contact book.  That's supplemented by buying a yearly list from Freshlists.  The first list is continuity and the concept that it's easier to sell to people who've already done work with you or know you throw referrals and social intermingling.  The second list exposes me to my (potential) new customers.  It's a nice mix.  Your friends get a mailer and call to tell you that you're a genius.  The new people start to get to know you.

When it comes to what to send out I follow the path of the greatest general emotional response.  Doesn't matter if I particularly like a piece but if three art directors all tell me that a piece is a favorite I'll use it mercilessly.  There's a strange idea afloat the you need to only show the newest stuff and that everything must be constantly updated.  I find that to be total and utter bullshit.  I think you should layer in "golden oldies" along with new stuff so there's continuity of marketing.  People may not remember you name but they may remember an image.  If you send it out frequently they'll find yo and use you if they like the piece enough.  Don't get me wrong. I think constant experimentation is great.  But I also know from studying advertising that you need to let an image sit and build for a while before you change it.  It takes a while to show up on people's radar even if they've seen it in passing several times before.

Bottom line?  If you are bitching about slow business and you're not mailing and e-mailing and following up then you must not REALLY want to be in this business.  But remember,  the mailing and e-mailing is bullshit by itself.  Those media are really just an invitation.  An opening.  What you really want.....and what really closes deals.....is sitting across the table and showing your portfolio.  And also showing off WHO you are and why they should care.  Even in the age of total internet most deals are done over coffee and a handshake.  Nothing else compares.

That's the end of my marketing sermon.  Now, back to our original programming......


My friends are packing. Not heat. Cameras.

Summer vacation at Barton Springs Pool. Austin, Texas  (Sony R1 camera).

I'm the last person to tell someone not to buy gear.  I'm like the guy at the buffet table who likes everything and I'm always trying to slide it on my plate.  But even though I'm well stocked and hitting buffet table over and over again I'm not trying to slide the table thru the door and onto a plane.  Because I've been there and it's not pretty.  At some point in the parabola of passion that is photography we get the notion that we've got to have everything "covered".    Simple but insidious concept.  Like mold in that air conditioning evaporator pipe.  "Covered" means the inventory grows as you discover new stuff that fills in gaps you didn't even know you had before.  "Covered", when it comes to lenses means you've got zoom lenses and prime lenses that stretch to supply a focal length at every degree from 5 to 180.   If you are truly "covered" in the brainwash sense of the word then you've got the widest and longest lenses offered by your camera company of choice and no unavoidable gaps in the focal length continuum.

I know that no one intends to take every lens they own when they go on vacation but even to be "covered" from 14-200 means some hefty poundage.  Especially if you are partial to the f2.8 constant aperture zooms from Nikon and Canon or the f2.0 constant aperture zooms from Olympus.  I maintain that thru practice you could generally find three individual focal lengths that will do everything you really want and provide other benefits as well.  I am reminded that, for decades, the holy trinity of primes was something like: 28mm, 50mm and 105mm.  If you were a minimalist Leica shooter it was probably either 28mm and 50mm or the 35mm and the 90mm.  The zoom (r)evolution gives use more flexibility but at the cost of having to become a porter for the gear.

But as bad as the lens choice dilemma is the body conundrum may be worse.  And it's more insidious because in so many ways it's an intersection of conflicting benefits and detractions.  To that point, I have a friend who is a Nikon shooter.  He's going on vacation.  And he'll be doing a fair bit of traveling and hiking in another country.  He's lucky enough to have both a D3s and a D3X but his good fortune is also part of his travail.  He knows it would be crazy to take both.  Especially since the 24-70 2.8 and the new 70-200 2.8 are a foregone conclusion.  But how to choose?  The D3x, used at lower ISO's is perhaps the best imaging DSLR ever created and easily the most detailed.  But the D3s is very, very close in quality, has a couple stops advantage in low light and brings a smaller file size bonus to the table.  They weigh about the same.  Which one do you put in the camera bag and which one do you leave at home?    Then there is always the argument that you need a "back-up".

The back up craze is a wonderful boon for camera companies because it implies that cameras are inherently unreliable.  Most of us have racked up tens of thousands of exposures with lots of different cameras and I rarely hear of a failure these days.  Doesn't matter.  Every pro that's survived from the film days wouldn't be caught dead without a back up camera on a job and that seems to trickle down into the thinking of advanced amateurs who channel the pro vibes.  So, do you bring two D3s's or do you default  to the idea of a small, agile camera that's cheap and nearly expendable as your back up?  Something like a D5000.  If you were a Canon shooter you could default to a Rebel T2i as the back up for your 1DS Mk III.  If you go the first route, two D3s's then you have the weight to consider.  If you back up with a D5000 you have the additional second battery type and additional charger to think about.

Then there's the question of backing up the files.  Do you bring a laptop and back up to the hard drive and perhaps also to a DVD?  Certainly will make your evenings thrilling.....(Yawn).  The missus or mr. will be so excited.  "Oh boy, honey.  We can watch Baywatch in German, like God intended, while I burn these disks...."  Or do you buy one of those gold plated Epson back up appliances?  ( I find the price of CF cards at places like Costco are soooo cheap that it makes a lot more sense to buy ten or so cards and use them like old style film.  Use em up and put them aside and pull the next one out.)

Here's another interesting avenue to pursue:  Do you lean on the VR/IS in your camera or do you schlepp around a tripod.  And if you take a tripod, just how big and competent should it be?  If it's too small it ends up being a useless burden.  Too large and it becomes a heavy, but more useful, burden.  Maybe that's why the people at Leica invented the ultimate table top tripod...

And then there's the luggage.  Unless you're planning on buying your vacation wardrobe abroad you'll be bringing a checked bag and then a bag full of camera gear.  Will it be a Think Tank airport Psycho with all the trim?  It's got to have rollers or you wear yourself down.  But the cases themselves are heavy.  Maybe that has you considering a Gura bag.

So why have I started on all this?  Well, I have a friend who loves photography and he and his wife are going to Prague and points east.  He's a doctor in Austin with a very successful practice so this is hardly a once in a lifetime trip for him.  He wants to take great photos but he also wants the trip to be enjoyable for his wife.  He's been worrying the travel inventory for a good while.  He called me over the weekend to pick my brain (or what was left of it after nearly a week without an air conditioner in my car......).

We did the logic thing.  One body, one lens.  In his case an Olympus e3 and a 12-60mm lens.  No flash. We talked about a tripod but I reminded him that everywhere he would want a tripod it was probably forbidden to use a tripod.  In the end we decided that the imperative was to enjoy the romance and not let a camera get in between.  That was the deciding factor.  That's something people don't think about.  Enough.

I've been doing this for a long while and have made many trips to shoot professionally and for fun.  And I've made trips with the family where I've taken only a point and shoot.  Here's my general advice:  If you are doing the job professionally take everything you know you will need.  Don't assume you can rent great gear in Lisbon or Tanzania.  If you are going on vacation with your family take a good snapshot camera with a wide ranging zoom lens and pass it around to everyone in the family.  Make sure to take a lot of group shots.

If you want to do art do what the big boys do:  Buy one plane ticket.  Choose your favorite (most productive camera).  Choose three of your absolute favorite primes or one zoom.  If you can do it with one prime--more power to you.  Then clear your mind and shoot without a schedule and without compromise.  You can't serve multiple masters.  You need to be clear about why you're traveling and why you have people with you or why you don't.

It's not hard to figure out but the desire to have it all is crippling.  Don't delude yourself, you can't do art on a schedule.  You can rarely do art with an audience and you'll rarely have fun running to catch up with the rest of the group.

It was interesting for me to have my behavior reflected back to me by another parent at a swim meet recently.  I was diligently shooting all the kids diving and racing during the swim meet.  Deborah, a parent of one of Ben's peers (my 14 year old son) came up to me somewhere near the end of the meet and she said,  "It's so fun to watch you.  You concentrate on getting pictures of all the kids.  And then when Ben gets up to swim you put the camera down and watch every second of the race.  You never shoot his races.  It's weird."

I know why.  I want the pure experience.  In the moment.  Not filtered by the camera and the process.

Have a nice vacation.

I thought this was professional gear.......

I figured out the almost fatal flaw of shooting Canon.  Maybe some of you really smart people out there can fill me in and educate me.  Lord knows I need it after this week.  Okay.  Where to start?  When I shot with Nikon you could ditch the silly "DCS...." at the beginning of every file and you could change the naming structure so that each camera's files had a unique identifier.  I called one camera KRT, another camera was D700 and a third camera was BOY.  And here's the important thing:  As long as I never reset the counter there was NEVER the possibility that I would have different files with the EXACT same name and number anywhere in my workflow.  Never ever.  I also knew which camera was having a maintenance issue because I could instantly identify troubled cameras by their three letter "call sign".

Seems eminently logical to me.  And to millions of photographers around the globe.  But not to Canon.  Canon will allow you to write copyright info to the metadata but you can't change the naming config. (If you can, let me know how---in the camera----and I'll send you a copy of my book.  One person only).  Who cares if you only shoot with one camera body?  But what do you do if you shoot two pretty new cameras like a 5d2 and a 7D?  When I shot my project on weds., thurs., fri. of last week I came home and started doing my regular workflow.  It was then I noticed LR 3 tagging some files with a "-2" which means that there's already a file in the folder with the original name.  Yikes.  I went back and looked at everything I shot and there was a 250 or so shot overlap.

So I went into the LR3 menus and figured out how to do a rename.  But it's a pain the butt because you have to conceive of a naming convention and make sure to keep track and reset for each camera you download from.  What a stupid idea.

My searches on the web were interesting.  I quickly learned that most people buy a re-naming program and run it on the folders after they are downloaded from the CF card to the hard drive.  Adding a big ole step.  And again,  you have to figure out a consistent way to tag the right camera.  So if you have  pocket full of CF's to download you are in a for a mondo fact finding session before you can get anywhere near messing with your files or doing any editing (in my book editing is "thumbs up or thumbs down" on images, not post processing.....).

I ended up buying the best reviewed of the renaming programs and I'm sure it will work fine but I shouldn't have had to do it.  It should be a simple matter to make the camera work for me rather than the other way around.  I guess this is in the same category as Nikon forcing people to buy Capture NX instead of bundling like Canon does with their software.  But what if you are in the field shooting for a magazine with two bodies and you need to do stuff quickly?

It just plain sucks and it makes me a bit angry.  What do you guys who shoot Canon do?  Don't tell me your whole workflow but what do you do to ingest images and how do you decide how they will be labeled or renamed?  These are pressing questions for me.  Last week, from Sunday to Sunday we shot nearly 4800 files.  I want to make sure that this first step (ingesting) doesn't screw up the rest of my workflow.  Anybody got suggestions?

Again, if I'm wrong, you know I'll apologize to Canon.   But if I'm right I'm sure I'm not the only one pissed off about getting dozens of menu options I'll never use but not getting the one feature that every pro would use.........