9.18.2012

What's so new about the Sony/Hasselblad Fusion?

Sony a77 camera attached to a Hasselblad 150mm f4 Sonnar.  I think they make a good combo.
Tomorrow I will shoot executive portraits with an a77 and an 80mm 2.8 Planar. Isn't focus peaking delightful?

Available light squares.





I'm in a constant process of re-inventing the way I see portraits. I'm finding that the available light images are the ones I like the best. It's good to look back when you are trying to move forward. It's part of the process of finding out what worked and what didn't. I think that's important.

Camera: Hasselblad
Lens: 180mm f4
Film: Tri-X
Subject: Lou

9.17.2012

Photographic Ennui.



 It's been one of those days. Promised checks that remain elusive, phone calls unanswered, plans in a state of uncertainty. There is a weight that comes upon you gradually as you move through the business of photography. It's the inertia of the boulder that keeps rolling down the mountain.

The real contest is to generate enough optimism and energy to wake up every day and push the boulder back up the mountain.

"The struggle itself [...] is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."  Albert Camus

From The Myth of Sisyphus  -Albert Camus.

Another blow to the survival of film...


I just saw a press release from FujiFilm that says they have decided to stop making movie film. They state that they will still make film for still photography. For now. I guess it was inevitable. Kodak and Fuji are not charities.

http://www.engadget.com/2012/09/13/fujifilm-ends-cinema-production/

But if you are anxious to jump in and shoot till the very last roll is gone you might be interested in this:

http://www.petapixel.com/2012/09/13/rolleiflex-still-happily-making-analog-tlr-cameras-fx-n-to-debut-at-photokina/

Olympus Announce a new Pen, A new Compact and several new lenses. It's official.

Let's start out with the camera that many, many frugal yet demanding Olympus fans have been waiting for since the introduction of the OMD EM-5, the PEN version.

The Olympus EPL-5

All of the information in this particular blog comes directly from a press release issued by Olympus USA.  All images and information are used with the permission of Olympus.

Let's cut right to the chase: The new Olympus Pen OMD EPL-5 uses exactly same sensor and is said to deliver exactly the same image quality as the recent, blockbuster OMD EM5 camera. That alone should drive sales of this camera like nothing else. The maximum ISO setting is an amazing 25,600. Most of us will be quite happy to shoot at 3200 ISO and get the kind of low noise performance we've seen in the flagship model. To focus at the scary edges of darkness the camera is bundled with an AF illuminator and accessory FL-LM1 flash, which will add to the low light performance.

This camera has a few other cool upgrades in addition to the sensor performance. Of course it uses a touch screen and the same instantaneous shutter triggering Touch AF Shutter function technology we've already seen. At to this a more than 2X increase in frame rate of 8fps in Single AF mode.  The screen on the back is a 460,000 dot LCD and has an Anti-Fingerprint coating. According to the press release the screen is bright enough to allow composing even in harsh, midday light. (I wonder if the light in a Texas Summer counts...).

The camera allows for shooting in 1080i, full HD and includes two cool things. 1. A movie teleconverter that magnifies the image up to 4x with NO image deterioration (make sense since the actual sensor is 8X the number of dots one ends up with in 2K video).  And, 2. There is a fade effect that allows one to transition between art filters without having to stop or pause shooting.

There's some nonsense about being able to share images on your (anti) social networks wirelessly but I ignored most of that paragraph since the concept is only of interest to died in the wool hipsters...

The estimated street price is $650 and the folks at Olympus indicated that the camera will start shipping in October.  Check over at DPReview for a complete page of specifications.

My short list of specs is:

-16 megapixel super sensor, ala OMD EM5. Very, very cool.
-Improved video functionality.
-very fast 8 fps performance in S-AF
-Fast action touch shutter on the touch screen.
-Usable with the (almost mandatory) VF-2 EVF

Available, I'm sure, in all the usual colors.

If you were mostly interested in the OMD EM-5 for the low light performance and better dynamic range of its breakthrough Sony sensor here's a way to get exactly the same performance for about half the price----and in a form factor that people seem to like very well.






click on any of these to enlarge.




BUT THERE'S MORE.  MUCH, MUCH MORE.

Olympus also upgraded their mini Pen camera. The new offering is small, cute and potent. They are calling it the Olympus PEN E-PM2.

Pen E-PM2

I'm not going to go into too much detail about this camera since I think the majority of my readers are interested in cameras that are aimed more at hobbyists and professionals but this one also has the Promethean sensor of the micro gods; the OMD EM5 sensor and, according to Olympus has the exact same image quality of its bigger and more expensive brethren. Not only that but it's also the only one available in this delightful red...  A you a real image quality purist? Not a camera snob? Maybe this one is for you....

But wait, there's more...

It wouldn't be a full on product introduction without another camera introduction. The designers in the compact camera bullpen at Olympus have repackaged and upgraded the Stylus XZ-1 and unveiled a new product called, the Stylus XZ-2 iHS which they say, "Takes the compact camera category to the E-Treme."  Right.


I could discuss this camera at length but it would be easier and more comprehensive if I just went ahead and copied the existing press release...

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., September 17, 2012Olympus pushes the compact digital camera to a new X-treme with the introduction of the Olympus STYLUS XZ-2, its game-changing, flagship high-performance point-and-shoot. The STYLUS XZ-2 is a hybrid that combines optical brilliance, the manual controls of a DSLR and the unbeatable convenience of a lightweight compact in a body every imaging enthusiast should love. Inheriting the 4x optical / 4x Digital zoom iZUIKO® DIGITAL f1.8-2.5 large-diameter lens found on its predecessor, the award-winning Olympus XZ-1®, the Olympus STYLUS XZ-2 builds on its low-light performance with new features: the world's first hybrid control ring, customizing controls so ambitious photographers easily capture the shot; a new fast, touch-sensitive tilt screen; the powerful TruePic VI image processor; Full HD movie recording and FlashAir® compatibility to share images immediately on social networks.

The digital lens of the Olympus XZ-2 (iZUIKO f1.8-2.5 (28-112mm*), a 4x compact version of legendary ZUIKO Digital lenses, is designed for clear, high-quality photographic performance, whether set at its maximum f1.8 aperture for amazing wide-angle shots, or at f2.5 for 112mm* telephoto images. The result is expressive background defocusing and sophisticated bokeh, plus the flexibility to use short, blur-free exposure times in low light. The camera’s iHS technology and the large-aperture lens work together to deliver high-sensitivity, low noise and blazing auto-focus performance that translates to the highest image quality of any Olympus compact camera.

The newly developed 12.0 megapixel, 1/1.7" high-sensitivity back-lit CMOS sensor, working with the TruePic VI processor, the same processor used in the Olympus OM-D E-M5™ system camera, provides faster recovery time and shutter release to capture images with true-to-life colors, rich details and low noise. To complement the speed of the f1.8 lens, the camera’s low-light mode automatically adjusts the ISO sensitivity up to ISO 12,800 to take sharp, full-resolution photos in dim conditions, and an easily accessible built-in pop-up flash and AF illuminator brightens low-lit subjects, reduces red-eye and fills in dark areas.

The Olympus XZ-2 is equipped with the world's first hybrid control ring, built around the lens, which allows users to easily assign function settings to their preferences as well as switch between analog and digital operation of the ring. The digital operation provides a solid click on controls, whereas the analog operation offers a smooth, gliding feeling. When the Fn 2 lever next to the lens is placed downward, the ring around the lens switches to analog control so it can be used as a focus or a zoom ring. If the lever is placed at an angle, the ring around the lens switches to digital control to change exposure-related settings quickly and easily. This feature enables fine-tuning of the focus in macro, composition selection when shooting, and exposure adjustment all without looking away from subjects.

Basic operations and settings of the Olympus XZ-2, starting with touch controls and Live Guide, as well as a new graphic user interface will be familiar to Olympus PEN® and OM-D shooters. Instantly activate the Touch AF Shutter function to select the subject you want to focus on and activate the shutter simply by touching the swivel 3.0 inch, 920,000 dot LCD screen. The XZ-2 design is enhanced with a removable grip that offers the option for a sleek style grip, and metal is used throughout the body for a strong and sharp look.

The Olympus STYLUS XZ-2 is packed with additional technologies including DUAL IS, which combines with high-sensitivity shooting to reduce camera shake and subject blur, providing double image stabilization. HDR backlit correction captures multiple images with a single shot at different exposures and automatically merges them into one image, and Super Resolution technology expands zoom power up to eight times with minimal image degradation. iAuto mode automatically identifies up to 30 different scenes. The XZ-2 also features 11 Art Filters and 5 Art Effects that easily bring artistic visions to life.

In addition to superior still image quality, the 1080p Full HD Movie capability with stereo sound captures movies in the best quality currently available in compact cameras. Multi-Motion Movie IS image stabilization corrects for the common gradual camera shake that occurs when shooting on the move, delivering more stable, higher-quality movies. Beautiful movies can be shot even longer with a 1920 x 1080 High-Definition size and MOV/H.264 movie compression that has an excellent compatibility with computers.
The Olympus XZ-2 is also designed to make sharing your amazing images even easier. Using the smartphone connection function, simply set up a compatible Toshiba FlashAir SDHC card with an internal wireless LAN to make a Wi-Fi connection. With the Olympus Image Share smartphone application (to be released in September), easy image upload onto a smartphone via a thumbnail index, adding Art Filters to images on a smartphone, and sharing images on various social networking services is possible.

A wide range of creative and practical accessories is available to adapt the Olympus XZ-2 for specific needs, including three alternative grips in a variety of colors (red, beige and purple), a body jacket and underwater housing. There’s also a sleek, matching black LC-63A lens cap that opens and closes automatically whenever you activate the camera. To expand the camera’s versatility, the XZ-2 includes an accessory port for compatibility with a growing range of Micro Four Thirds® accessories.

*35mm equivalent.









I am so happy they added a grip to this camera as it the thin body is different enough to me to confuse my fingers when I first started using the XZ-1...

I'm sure you're exhausted by this point but we haven't even touched on the new lenses.  Yes, new lenses!




Going through by increasing focal length, there are some interesting new lenses for the Olympus Pen (and all other m4:3 standard) cameras. First off is just a cosmetic change. You can now get the very well respected 12mm f2.0 wide angle lens in......black. You'll pay more money for the privilege. The estimated street price is $1100. And while it's a very good lens that puts it into the same pricing territory as Panasonic's very, very good 7-14mm zoom lens.  But then again, I guess a large part of the fun is in the selection process.  Moving on....

The "Body Cap."

Olympus is calling this one "the Body Cap" and I think it's fun and intriguing. It's a 15mm, three element, f8 lens (30mm eq. on 35mm FF). The actual designation is the BCL-15 f8.0 Body Cap Lens.  The lens is just 9mm thick and it's meant to be left on the body whenever you're just tooling around or when you've got the camera stuffed inside of some pocket or a boot or a sock.

It's basically a lens that's always in focus due to it's small aperture and short focal length. It actually seems like a perfect snapshot lens.  It can be manually focused and will focus down to 30cm's.  "A lens-protection barrier is provided  so the lens can be mounted permanently on the camera and even put in a pocket together with a camera."  No street price was given in the press release but it's sure to become a cult favorite among Lomo-ists who secretly crave a camera with more control and an infinitely better sensor...... See below for a camera mounted view of the lens.

Camera with "Body Cap."

Now here's a serious and covetable lens. The 17mm f 1.8.

But here's a lust prevention warning: The above lens is "in development" and will be available in the first half of 2013. Bummer. This is the lens that everyone I know wants right now.

When it hits the market it will be the 35mm 1.8 equivalent to get. This len on an EPL-5 camera body will be a wonderful street shooting combo, as long as they have the brains to also make it available in a nice, black finish.....

Personally? All lenses should be black. A VSL study shows that images from black lenses are 0.3275 more interesting than images from all other lens finishes.

And Finally.  The last of the Olympus introductions for Now....


Yes. It's a 60 mm f2.8 true macro. 
It's dust proof and splash proof. 
And knowing Olympus it's really, really sharp.

Since I haven't played with it anything I say about it would be total conjecture. I like using my older 60mm on the Pen cameras. It's a nice focal length. While not nearly as fast as the original Pen 60mm 1.5 I am sure this macro will be decades sharper.  We'll see. I'm sure I'll have one to test as soon as they come out.  In the meantime here's what Olympus says about it in their press release:

"""CENTER VALLEY, Pa., September 17, 2012 – Today, Olympus adds to the Micro Four Thirds family of  lenses with the release of the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm* f2.8 Macro lens, a single focal-length macro lens with a dust-splash-proof body that’s ideal for harsh weather conditions. Also joining the expansive list of Olympus® lenses is a limited edition black version of the popular M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm f2.0 high-grade snapshot lens and an M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f1.8 high-grade lens currently under development.

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 lens features excellent close-up capability with 1X** magnification and a focusing distance of 19cm. Its dust-and-splash-proof construction enables the user to shoot macro images in a wide range of conditions, including in the rain or near the water, in addition to traditional landscape and portrait photography.

To ensure the best possible imaging quality, 13 lens elements are incorporated in 10 groups of lenses within the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 with extensive use of special glass materials such as ED (Extra-low Dispersion), HR (High Refractive index) and E-HR (Extra-High Refractive index) elements to completely eliminate the chromatic aberrations often noticeable with telephoto macro lenses. This optical design ensures consistently clear, sharp, high-contrast imaging performance.

Ideal for capturing brilliant still images and high-definition (HD) videos, the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 employs an Olympus developed MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) autofocusing mechanism that features an inner focus system to drive quick and quiet focusing. A shooting distance and magnification indicator window enhance macro shooting control and precision.

A focus limit switch sets the focusing range to enable faster focusing. Three modes are available, including close-up (focusing distance between 19 and 40 cm), normal (focusing distance from 19 cm to infinity) and far view (focusing distance from 40 cm to infinity). The 1:1 mode shifts focusing to 1:1 with one-touch operation. Simply setting the mode according to the application makes it easy for users to shoot quickly and comfortably with various shooting styles and at a range of distances.

The optional LH-49 Lens Hood designed exclusively for the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 blocks harmful rays of light and can be safely stored without detaching it from the lens. The lens eliminates the hassle of attaching and detaching the hood before and after every shooting session, but also providing effective protection for the lens body. The FR-2 Macro Ring enables compatibility with the RF-11 Ring Flash and the STF-22 Twin Flash Set."""

kirk's final notes.

I think Olympus will have great market success with the EPL-5. What's not to like about it? Fast, amazing image quality, small and light, usable with a mountain of lenses and who can forget those amazing colors in the jpegs?

The 60 macro will end up in just about every OMD EM5 user's bag since it's most probably going to be a great optic and it is one of the few weather resistant lenses in the line.

I hope the Body Cap Lens is cheap enough to be an impulse purchase and I'm sure someone will create a style around the look. If it's priced over $125 I'll be amazed...and amused.  Even more so if people flock to buy it.

Looks like a well done introduction. Now all we have left is to sit back and wait for the ultra-professional Pen body, the EP-5 to hit the market.  The right form factor and this time with the right sensor. When they've done that Olympus will have maximized the value of the m4:3 proposition. Well done.






9.16.2012

One of those rainy, sunday afternoon walks around downtown. Camera in hand.



It was a wonderful week for the lawns and lakes and bushes and flowers of central Texas. It rained long and hard on Thurs. and it's been raining a nice, steady, drippy rain all day today. The streams, just weeks ago dry from the drought, were roaring and filled. Shoal Creek was deep and fast as it ran toward Lady Bird Lake. 

Even though it was raining steadily I just couldn't bear to stay inside and wile away the time working on this or that. Some irrelevant errata of photography or the mind numbing business of business. I grabbed a sweatshirt because it was our first day in months and months to be under seventy degrees. I grabbed the small, collapsible umbrella I bought the last time I was in Italy, and I grabbed the most eager and anxious to please camera in my collection, covered it with a neoprene case and headed out.

My first stop was to Whole Foods for a sybaritic snack of coffee (decaf, of course) and a vegan, raspberry filled, jelly donut. I had ulterior motives as I'd seen a delivery of pumpkins there earlier in the week. At the time the sun was up and bald and the light held no mystery whatsoever. Today was a different story. The blue-ish pumpkins let the light wrap around them like they were in league with a DP on the set of some kind of Tim Burton movie.

I was shooting today with a Sony a57. I'd given my first a57 to Ben for his use in this year's ongoing cinema class and I missed the camera so I bought another one yesterday and I put a 50mm SAM DT 1.8 Sony lens on the front and I haven't taken it off since. I also bought a Hoodman ruggedized 16 Gb SD memory card. Don't know why but it looked cool on the rack and  it seemed like it wanted to come along with the camera. I don't know if it's any better than the Transcend SD cards I've been using but it seemed like a fairly harmless (though more expensive) indulgence.

I spent 15 minutes with the blue pumpkins and now I have a wonderful collection of them.  So with my pleasurable merienda and my warm up photography complete I set off toward a gray and quiet downtown. The streets were slick and shiny. The crowds were staying indoors, watching football, napping, reading novels or locked in endless multiple player online games. The light was vague and milky.  

I walked for about an hour, the rain a constant soft stoccato on my umbrella, the neoprene case dangling from its tether, my right hand wrapped around the camera body.


I walked past restaurants with their big umbrellas folded and anchored against the weather. I saw gloomy college students nestled in for the afternoon with their little computers at little tables all around my favorite coffee house, and I saw harried parents dragging their over-bundled small children toward the Children's Museum, intent on providing some sanctioned entertainment.



On the way back to my car I walked by an anonymous condominium project and I remembered seeing the white and blue glass in the beds earlier in the Summer, in lieu of mulch, and I changed my course to go by and see how they'd fared.  The little red flowers against the crispy blue background was my reward.

I came home and poured myself a cup of tea, settled into the leather chair in front of my small, laptop computer and proceeded to write this to tell you what I did today in order to relax and keep at bay the routine of my regular business.

Tonight we'll eat crostinis and green soup. Goat cheese and kalamata olives or fresh tomatoes. After dinner we'll all take the dog for a walk and we'll turn in early. Everything starts all over again tomorrow and it begins with the 6:15 am drive to Ben's cross country practice. 

I'll have a blog entry up in the morning with some Olympus announcements. I hope your Sunday afternoon was as quiet and peaceful as mine.











9.14.2012

Croissant and Female Hand.

from the bakery series. Croissant and Female Hand.

Rolleiflex 6008i
150mm Lens.
film: Agfapan APX 25
lighting: Profoto

Why: Just for fun.

Bravo. DP Review finally reviewed one of the best values in a DSLR. Or should I say DSLT?....it's a Sony.


I know I can sound like a broken record when I get all infatuated with a camera but today I'm reprising my assessments of the Sony a57 only to commemorate the day that DP Review finally got around to recognizing what a very good camera this one is for well under $800...with a lens.

DPreviews assessment of high ISO performance, handling and image quality is so close to what I wrote many months ago that they could have just directed their readers to the series of experiential reviews I wrote and saved themselves the time and money. :-)

In case you missed the Visual Science Lab rambling reviews of this camera you can find them at these links:






Verbose and in-depth.  That's the way we do it here.  But we also get to the really important cameras first... (tongue in cheek, implied).










So, skip Photokina and just pick up an a57....



Untitled still from a recent photo assignment.


Taken on location with a Sony a77 camera and a medium range zoom lens.

Lit with an enormous, diffused umbrella, powered by a Profoto 600B acute flash system. 

I posted this because I liked the light and wanted to remind myself to stop using too much fill.

9.13.2012

practice might not make perfect but it sure makes for a joyous and fluid rendition.

This is pianist, Anton Nell, on the new stage at Zach Scott.

This post is the 1,200th blog post written by me on The Visual Science Lab. I've been sharing my thoughts about life and photography here since 2009. I plan to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Some of you are new to the site and some of you have been visiting regularly since nearly the beginning. I thought I'd catch up and let you know, at this milestone, what I've learned, what I want to learn and where I think photography, in general, is going.

First of all here is a recent image of your host and writer, Kirk Tuck:


It was taken in robot mode with one of my Sony a77 cameras set to smile detection.  Honest.  You can set these cameras to recognize when your subject smiles and then shot a frame. Or a ton of frames.  Just keep smiling and then frowning and the camera will keep blasting away. All silly business all the time...

While the photo business has been challenging over the last three years 2012 is finally feeling stable and, in my market, seems to be returning to a more natural rhythm of more and more assignments with less down time in between.  In the last month or so we've had good, substantial assignments from healthcare, technology, publishing and hospitality clients. I have my fingers crossed that we'll return to the smoother and more profitable times we enjoyed before the big bust hit in late 2008.

The business has changed. More and more stuff may be going to the web and in that arena the competition is fairly brisk but contrary to the predictions of the experts there is a growing resurgence in print production and direct mail and what this means it that images that will be sloshed large on nice paper, with good ink, have to meet certain quality standards and color reference standards that have all but left the curriculum studied by many newcomers to the market. We're seeing an  uptick in requests for images that will go on trade show displays as well as in nice brochures and, for the first time in three or four years we're seeing lots of demand for images that have to be lit well. Really well.

I'm happy everyone has run off and done the off camera, battery flash thing to the exclusion of all traditional lighting because it means clients will pay for stuff that needs to be lit up with large, +1000 watt second studio flashes firing into big softboxes and then massaged by light sucking modifiers and what not.  I did a job yesterday and in the old times it would have been considered a very straightforward thing: Make a photo of a group of 25 business people in an interior location. 

Last year the photographer the group hired showed up with a shoe mount flash and a belief that ISO 3200 solves all problems. One bounced flash off grey acoustic tiles on a 24 foot ceiling isn't quite the same look as 3,000 watt seconds of state of the art flash gear banging through three Chimera Lanterns, each hanging up over carefully designed groupings to make a dynamic shot. Cutters to keep reflections off back walls and nets to tone down foregrounds in pre-post-production (actual) shooting.  The results? Ecstatic clients with big time budgets.

I'm feeling a pendular swing back to more production and away from "good enough." I think that means companies have money again and they are starting to lose the fear of investing it on their brands.

But the change also means that more and more clients are really asking for video content.  Interviews, product demos, stuff to stick on the web, stuff to play in meetings and presentations, and all the rest. I enjoy delivering the content but I enjoy even more working in collaboration with good editors who can and want to take care of the back end.  This probably explains my current attraction to the Sony cameras I've been using, the a77's. They may not be as good as a $10,000 production video camera but for a hybrid tool they are pretty darn good.  And if, going forward, half of my billings are coming from leading clients through simple but very well lit and well crafted interviews then when choosing my shooting cameras I'll be weighting more and more of the buying decisions around not only their ultimate image quality but also their ability to help me make profitable motion content for already happy clients. If I were a hobbyist I would not give a crap about the video potential of a camera but as a working stiff I can't see how it helps me to be a purist and turn down synergistic and good paying work, just because the images move and people talk.

From a hobby point of view (and yes, I still consider photography my hobby as well as my vocation...) I see the gear getting more and more interesting now that companies have figured out how to make most stuff work well.  But I am unsettled by one trend that I think plays against our enjoyment of the work as art and that's the scarcity of opportunities to come together and share work face to face.  I'll admit it, I like shows of prints.  The bigger the better. And I want a chance to meet the artist.

Sure, we can put stuff up on Flickr and Google+ and just about anywhere else but that's hardly a serious venue for serious efforts. And so many in your hoped for audience are looking at the images you sweated bullets to get on little cell phone screens and iPads and older laptops. It doesn't do justice to most people's vision. And this kind of virtual sharing is so disconnected. So ephemeral.

What I'd love to see in every city and in as many neighborhoods as possible would be venues where interested artists could stage actual, real, physical shows and invite friends, family, colleagues and competitors to experience your work just as you intended it to be seen.  A while ago I did a show of prints from my favorite black and white negatives from Rome. As you probably know if you've been reading the blog for while I shot most of the images on medium format films.  One of the benefits of doing that is you can scale up prints to really large sizes without losing the integrity of your photographs. My show was in a small venue. A restaurant owned by a dear friend. We covered the walls with thirty by thirty inch images, surrounded by ample white mats in 48 by 48 inch black frames.

The images were big and crisp. I hand painted on some of them. I made patterns around the edges of others with oil paints and other media. You could get up close. We served good wine at the opening and made appetizers like bacon wrapped scallops and prosciutto wrapped melon. We did rustic pizzas. The party/opening attracted 250+ people over the course of a four hour evening and everyone paid at least glancing homage to the large prints around them.

More of that should happen. Not just for me but for everyone with a passion to make photographic work. The commitment of doing the show pushes you as an artists and the chance to come see someone else's work, made large, helps you bust out of some self imposed boundaries and opens your perspectives about what is possible and what is fun.

I highly recommend shows and a good way to stick your toes into the water is to put together a group show where everyone has the opportunity to put in up to three cohesive pieces and to share the cost of invitations, food and other gallery goodies.

When I'm not shooting and writing I am swimming and eating.  The eating is boring to read about but fun to do. Ditto with the swimming.  I have a set of swimming goals.  I have someone in my age group that I want to beat in a 50 meter butterfly race in October.  I want to keep improving my times and my skills but in the end I really just want to stay as fit as I can so I can beat my 25 year old assistants up the stairs with a case of photographic gear in both hands.

As we live through an interesting Photokina month it's important to remember that when I write about equipment that's coming out of Cologne and onto the web I'm doing it out of fascination not out of some misguided belief that we should own all of this stuff or use it all.  No one who is shooting with a currently good Nikon or Sony camera really needs to run out and replace it with the newest toy (unless they want to).  So when you read stuff about new products here don't get all bent out of shape and think you have to defend your personal choices.  There's so much good stuff on the market already just about any choice you make will be a good one. It's okay to marvel at innovation and progress.

But the most important thing for an artist it to practice and play all the time, just like pianist, Anton Nell.  Doesn't matter what piano he practices on what matters is that he practices. And the practice makes music.  And the music makes joy.  And it's no different for photographers.

I may want a Sony a99 but there's not much I can't already to with an a77.  Either way I go I'll still need to practice.

The bottom line is that I want to be a better photographer. Not a better technician but someone who can see clearly what it is they want to say.