Empathy Training. An immersion course for a photographer.

We're all such good artists and we know our way around cameras, lenses and lights like Zen masters but are we really that good when it comes to establishing a rapport or a good feeling with our portrait subjects? Do we really understand just how nervous and uncomfortable a lot of people can get in front of the camera? Do we understand how our demeanor or studio habits can exacerbate the problem? And do we have real empathy for the position that we put our clients and friends into when we have them sit in front of the Cyclops of imaging.

I rarely have my photograph taken, and generally when I do it's an informal snap shot at a conference or social event. So I am always shocked and surprised at how uncomfortable I feel when I'm asked to sit in front of a camera and have my portrait taken. I understand the fear on a number of levels. On one level I find it disheartening when the camera shows me the disparity between my carefully crafted self-image and the reality of my true image. I still think of myself as young and well put together and untouched by the ravages of aging that affect so many other people my age. But when I look at the resulting clinical evidence I am dismayed and disheartened to see that there are bags under my eyes, a little wattle under my chin and various age spots and skin discolorations peppered across my face like the canvas a more reserved Jackson Pollack painting.

Similarly, I still believe that I am in fantastic physical space and near my optimum weight with muscles as toned as a Stradivarius violin string but imagine the horror when I look at a proffered photograph and find that some sneaky and malicious, rogue retoucher has added a good ten pounds (or more) to me in contrast to the pristine body image I keep in my mind. And he's added the poundage in all the wrong places!  It's enough to make me contemplate surrendering to the inevitable entropy and decay. But even scarier is the realization that I can't muster (anymore) the exact expression that would make me seem, to the external audience, as brilliant and debonair and witty and charming as I think I must be inside. I'm inclined to think that the world is being defrauded and my value devalued in the service of frozen imagery. Yikes! We haven't even begun to explore the sniping intimations of ever shortening mortality yet. "Over my shoulder I do hear time's winged chariot drawing near..." (Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress").

I think all of us brilliant and strident portrait artists could use a bit of empathy training and that's just what I got for three long days last week. I'll never treat a portrait sitter in quite the same way again. That's certain.

If you are a regular blog reader you probably know that I spent some time last week as the "talent" on a video project and I was as nervous going into this as I've ever been. I was certain that I'd forget the subject (photography), forget my lines (because we were doing it extemporaneously), forget to breathe, and I would eventually collapse in total defeat after a producing a collage of failed and embarrassing attempts. I was convinced that after ten minutes of shaking, fumbling and dry mouth mumbling that the producers would step in and cancel the project and I'd be stripped of my plane ticket and left to my own devices at the Greyhound Bus station.

And that's exactly how my first five minutes on camera seemed to go. Time stood still, and not in a good way. I did flub my first lines, badly. And my mouth did go drier than a west Texas well.

After a re-boot I finally got it together and started to string together semi-coherent sentences that didn't shake and actually made some grammatical sense. With practice I got a bit better and the fear started to ebb away. And when I finally felt fully comfortable with the video cameras I was confronted by my next nemesis, the still photographer...

Seems that we needed to get a headshot of me. Something I avoid like artificial sweeteners or TV shows that feature Honey Boo Boo. The charming woman who photographed me was quiet and must have assumed that, after all these years of doing photography, I could direct myself. But, of course, that didn't take into consideration the paralysis caused by the Biblical flood of cortisol gushing through my system, interfering with my limbic system and beyond. Torture. I tried one pose after another but I couldn't find a comfortable way to turn my head, and my posture looked like bad origami. But eventually it was over. I survived being portraitized and the shaking subsided much later,  after several glasses of hotel bar wine.

So...to my point. Now I feel I understand what my portrait subjects feel when they are asked by their bosses or spouses or marketing departments to make the grim pilgrimage to my studio to sit and be inventoried by the soulless camera and the ominous photographer. And I'll be doing several things that I think will help all of us have a better experience.

1. I'll greet my subjects as they come through the door with a warm handshake and a warmer smile and welcome them into the space.

2. Before we get started we'll sit down across from each other and I'll talk them through the process and try to make it sound as easy and straight forward as humanly possible. I'll ask all kinds of questions about themselves in order to learn more and get them talking about familiar stuff. Comfortable, familiar stuff.

3. I'll have every light and camera I need to use set up and ready before my subjects arrive so they don't have to sit and wonder if their presence has triggered some sort of emergency reset.

4. We'll make jokes about technique at my expense to mitigate any implied hierarchical structure.

5. When we start I'll ask them for suggestions instead of pushing ahead with my plan.

6. As we shoot I'll give good directions and show them by example the kinds of poses and gestures I want. Even if it makes me feel silly.

7. Every time we re-frame I'll deliver positive feedback.

8. If my subject seems nervous or anxious I'll slow down and talk them through the process again and do what I can to make them feel at ease.

9. My biggest strategy will be to systematically demystify the process at every step so nothing seems alien or scary.

10. My overwhelming goal will be to make sure my sitter/subject has fun and leaves feeling as though they've conquered the ravages of time in a beautiful and serene way. And that we are a team with one goal.....to make them look as good as their own mental self-image tells them they are.

My total immersion was transformative. It's not easy being on the other side of the camera. Self-revelation is an act of courage. Especially for us who are not perfect. And that's pretty much everyone.


Just a little teaser... I take temporary possession of an Olympus EP-5, with VF-4 and Leica 25mm tomorrow for testing....

Kirk in a round mirror with an early Pen digital camera....

Light withdrawal symptoms. I never knew I'd miss my Fiilex LED light so much...

I brought my little, Fiilex P360 LED light along with me to my project in Denver and we used it non-stop. Not just for portrait lighting set ups but for most of the video work as well. In the studio it plays well with mixed lights. By changing color temperatures with the switch on the back it could be balanced to work with the tungsten fluorescent tubes in the Kino-Flo lights and with a twist of the same knob I could match the color temperature to flash or even other LED panels. (Our studio ran mostly on Kino Flo fluorescent fixtures for video but they did have a selection of LitePanels LED fixtures as well). While the Fiilex P360 isn't much bigger than a can of Del Monte pineapple rings it kicks out an appreciable amount of light and the barndoors make it very controllable.

As you can see from the front shot, above, the actual light source (large, surface mount type LEDS) is a very small two and a half inches in diameter and it is one of the first LED lights I've used that can give you a harder light. An LED light that can carve out sharp shadows.

I used it mostly as a background light. I'd use it directly into a seamless background with the barndoors out of the way and it would give me a nice, soft edged circle of light that was perfect for backgrounds. Sometimes we'd use it with the barndoors closed down to about the width of my finger to create diagonal slash lights across the background. Since we were working with Kino-Flos the power with the Fiilex on the background was a pretty even match. We could crank it up a bit or down a lot to emphasize of de-emphasize the overall effect.

Now, saying that we used it as a back light is not be be construed as minimizing its potential. The backlight is the second most important component of most of my portrait lighting set ups. And I'd say most portraits that don't work well from a lighting point of view are sabotaged by inept backlighting. Having a very flexible instrument which can be dimmed and quickly color matched is a critical times saver in any set up.

The Fiilex units are much more expensive than the Fotodiox AS312 panels I've been using and recommending but there are two factors that make it worth the cost to me. The first is it's ability to create a real "hard light" effect in an image. The second is the really tight color rendering of this new generation of LEDs. The match to midday daylight at one end of the rheostat is just about perfect while the match to tungsten fixtures is perfect. The unit comes with an A/C adapter but it's set up to work with most professional 12V video batteries on the market. With a big Anton Bauer battery this light can run for several hours before sucking down the last tasty sips of power.

Now that I'm working more in a hybrid mode where flash is less and less essential I am entertaining the idea of adding two more of the P360's to my light inventory and leaving the flashes at home for just about every situation except where I need the power of the flashes to overpower the sun in shooting situations.

If this is the face of a new lighting paradigm then count me on board. Small, accurate, flexible and well designed. Just the way I like my lights.

So, why do I say I'm having Light Withdrawal Symptoms? Well, I took the little guy along with me to Denver and the folks there are shipping all my lights and stands and modifiers back to me via UPS Ground. That means I probably won't see the Fiilex until Friday of this week. And now that I've played with it for ten hours a day, three days it a row, I can't imagine a shooting situation where I would not want this fixture in my case standing by to do a quick fill or throw a slash of well controlled light into a dark corner. A working week seems so long....

As I was designing lighting set ups I found myself being more surgical and more interested in pools of light with the Fiilex P360. I found myself working closer with the lights and getting stuff I couldn't get with bigger, softer panels. It was a nice change. Not every scene needs a softbox or an umbrella. Knowing what NOT to use is as important as knowing what to use.

Finally, the continuous lights don't put out as much total light as the short bursts of flashes do. That makes faster and better corrected lenses a nice and comfortable companion for continuous lighting. The unit above is my all time, continuous light portrait favorite. It's the Sony a99 and the Rokinon 85mm 1.5 Cine lens. It's pretty sharp in the middle at f2 and the a99 lets me punch in and check focus at 8x or bigger before I start shooting. It's nice to see that kind of instant, almost 100%, focus confirmation before you start committing the time and resources to a shot.


My down time in the fabulous city of Denver. With my little point and shoot camera. The one with the really nice sensor and the great 30mm lens....

Denver Federal Court Building. Camera: Samsung NX 300 with kit zoom.

When I wasn't in front of the cameras yakking or getting instruction about my content and delivery from my producer I was walking around downtown Denver with my little Samsung NX 300 shooting random shots. These (the courthouse stuff) are from early on Friday morning, before my first call. I love stacking pillars like this. The camera and kit lens generate really nice Jpeg files and the built in lens profiles seem to go a long way toward ensuring some geometric sanity to the images.

The long end of the zoom.

I am coming to grips with not having an EVF (though I would prefer one). I took the Samsung NX 300 along with me because it's small and light and the system I have is self-limited. I only have two batteries and two lenses so I wouldn't be able (when packing) to capitulate to my own weakness for gear and pack all the lenses and bodies I could stuff into one bag. As it is, after 675 images, I am still on the initial battery charge...with three of four bars still showing. I guess I just don't chimp much anymore. One look to make sure we're on target and then blaze away...

The camera performed really well on this trip. I've gotten used to the operation to the point that making changes is now transparent. The AF is amazingly accurate and the overall operation of the camera is much "crisper" than the operation of any other mirrorless camera I've tried. If the shutter were as beautiful sounding as the EP5....and I could get an optional EVF...I'm not sure I'd need to shoot with anything else.

Also, since the camera was given to me I have a very insouciant attitude to it and I'm not babying it. Thus far it laughs at any of the indignities I've tossed its way.

My goal now? To go to Korea and visit the plant where they design these cameras and do a project photographing and interviewing the prime movers in the camera division. I want to see what makes the camera designers tick..... My target date? How about a plant tour in early October?

I'm back. I've been traveling. And working. And performing.

Small, regional jet. How cool is that....?

I traveled to Denver and back this week and the trip was a success. I'd shipped up three cases of equipment the week before and everything, even the fluorescent tubes in my new fixture, arrived unbroken and unscratched. I arrived in Denver on Wednesday afternoon and first thing Thurs. morning I was in a studio setting up portrait lighting demos, getting make-up on my face and listening while my producer picked out the grey, Joseph Aboud polo shirt (with two pockets) that I'd be wearing for my first day in front of the video cameras. Together with a fantastic crew I worked under the studio's Kino Flo glow until we finally finished, exhausted, on late Saturday afternoon. We were shooting the principal content for an educational program about studio portrait lighting.

Everything went just like every video shoot I've ever been on as a still photographer or in the capacity of creative director or DP. Slow and steady. The shoot was more complicated than most because we were trying to show the effects of my lighting and at the same time the crew was trying to make sure that I and the set were both well lit into the bargain. While we had a basic shooting script the was broken down in eight sections, and further divided into chapters, there wasn't a word by word script. Nor was there a teleprompter or even cue cards. I would talk with the producer about a chapter, think for a few minutes about what I needed to say and how I wanted to say it, and then we'd plough right into a take. I flubbed the intros of the first few takes but after I hit my stride we were able to pick up the pace and nearly all the sections (complete with chapters) were done in only one take per section.

We covered a lot of ground. Hard light and soft light. Short light and broad light. Color temperatures, tools, lighting designs, model rapport and style. I even did a section on working with and posing models. The course will be about 2.5 hours long and will launch sometime in mid-August. As soon as I have all the details and permission from the company I've partnered with I pull the wraps off and let  you know all about it. 

I did want to write this today because this is the first time I've been on the other side of the camera (any camera) for a protracted period of time and I feel like I've learned a great deal from a client or talent perspective and I'd like to share a little bit of my new enlightenment.  Here's what I learned:

The first five minutes of the first day were the scariest day I've had in years. I felt myself getting more and more nervous.  My mouth got drier and drier while my brain shut down altogether and I forgot everything I've learned about portrait photography over the past 25 years. I flubbed my lines two or three times and then I changed my mindset, ignored the camera and pitched to the crew instead. It worked. I hit a stride, just as I have in workshops, and the information started flowing. So, don't think of the camera as your audience. Play to the person behind the camera or, if they don't want a direct into camera shot, direct your energy to a real person instead.

Instead of trying to memorize a "speech" about your content break it down into the "big thoughts" and memorize them. As in, I need to start out with an introduction to the course, talk about why someone would need or want to learn portrait lighting, talk about what we're going to cover, intro myself and then do a "tease" or intro into the next lesson. 

I learned that if I slowed down and took a beat between thoughts it was a lot easier for the team to be able to pick up at the end of a thought and just redo whatever didn't work the first time rather than having to start at the top and go through the whole section again. 

I learned that everyone should always check and make sure the main microphone is switched on if they want to go home on time....

It is obvious, and not a new lesson for me, but having a really beautiful and smart model on the set as your foil for the program makes everything much, much better. In this situation the producer presented me with choices weeks earlier and let me make the final call on models. I chose correctly. If you could build your own perfect portrait subject the same way you can build a custom teddy bear at the Build a Bear store at the mall then Victoria is the model I would have designed....


This is just a quick shot at lunch but you can see how fresh and beautiful Victoria is. She was also smart, witty and a natural part of our production team. Wonderful when that happens.

Every morning someone would come by my hotel to fetch me and my bag of cameras and then every evening someone else would drag my bone tired carcass back to the Magnolia Hotel, just in the middle of the city near the theater district. I'd drag myself to Harry's Bar each evening for a quiet dinner, then I'd walk around for a while with my little Samsung camera and try to be in bed and attempting sleep by 10pm. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't.

I was worried that I'd be affected by the altitude but I felt no ill effects whatsoever. I did notice that my resting heart rate did increase from 56 beats per minute to about 62 beats per minute but it's back to normal now that I'm home. 

One thing was different for me on this working trip: I did not bring along a lap top. I brought an iPhone and an iPad. One evening I left my phone and my iPad at the studio and didn't discover their absence until I had been dropped off at the hotel. Miraculously, I found that one can go to a place called a bookstore and actually buy printed books and magazines. The world did not collapse or spasm. I checked my messages the next morning and no massive issues had erupted. 

Today I navigated through the Denver airport. It was packed. It's a tougher crowd than that found at the Austin airport. On average each adult seemed to be about 30 pounds heavier. The wardrobe of this vast sea of "extras" in my airport "scene" today was markedly more "blue collar" that either the cast of my Boston trip or of a recent San Francisco trip. People frowned more. And I've figured out another reason why I don't like tattoos. So many people have them now and most of them are so poorly done that now it's hard to tell which people actually spent time in prison and which people just have poor judgement compounded by bad taste. Denver's tattoo count, per capita, far exceeded Austin's and I've always felt like my home town was awash with bad ink....

I wanted to take an Airport Security roller case (Think Tank) with me but when I found out I would be flying on a munchkin jet I defaulted to the time honored, large Domke bag. All the roller cases got mandatory gate checking while the fully stocked Domke slid right under the seat in front of me and left the plane slung over my left shoulder. Did I want wheels? Hell yeah.  Did I want to gate check $10K worth of camera bodies and lenses and then wait in a sad line in jet way tunnels while baggage "handlers" dropped my cameras off the side of the plane onto the tarmac? Even more hell no. So pragmatism won out over comfort. The bag is wonderful. Don't believe any of the bag talk you've been reading recently on the web. If you don't have a Domke bag you are under equipped. Sorry, no arguments accepted.

I bought some reading material for those two desperate times. The time after they close the cabin doors and the time when the pilots tell you to turn off all electronics for landing (sometimes in the vague future). All electronics go off and then what do you do? Well, that's what the magazine is for. Good article about Soft Lighting and good interview with Joey L. in this month's rag. It was a thirty minute  life saver but I left it on the plane of the next photographer. After all, it is just a 30 minute read.

Weird coincidence. On the same return flight I ran into three of the partner/doctors from Austin Radiological who've been clients of mine for years and years. I've never run into them before when traveling and it's even more coincidental (although there are no intermediate steps of coincidence....) is that it happened in the same week in which Ben will be visiting them to have his wisdom teeth removed. I can only hope they were coming back from some new conference where they learned a new technique to make the procedure painless.

Thanks for patiently waiting. I hope your week was exciting and fun. I'm back and itching to write about photography...


Travel Broadens the mind?

Kirk with toys. Photo: Amy Smith

Travel. I love arriving but I hate the process. Travel is different than a journey. A journey carries with it the idea of adventure, an open ended itinerary and leisure. Business travel means long lines, tight deadlines and cramped seating.

I am heading to Denver, CO. this afternoon and I will be there until late Sunday. While there I'll be working, diligently, on educational programming having to do with photography. We'll see how I do on the other side of the camera...or more precisely, the video cameras...

I am not taking a laptop but I am taking my iPad. I'll check e-mail and do basic stuff but I have no intention of trying to write blogs or otherwise keep up with the Visual Science Lab until I return. I think my producers have me booked far too tightly for that. If possible I'll jump in and moderate comments each day. 

I'm reticent to talk about the project I'm working on until it launches but I think it has lots of potential and I feel lucky to be involved at the level I am.

I hope everyone has maximum fun during my hiatus. There are nearly 1500 blog posts to wade through if you are new to the site. Some are fun.

Thank you for reading what I write here every day and thanks for you patience when we make (hopefully temporary) changes to sand off the rough edges of the human interface. 

One more note: I'm playing with the idea of doing a "hang out" on Google+ just to meet VSL readers and talk about photography. If you are interested please start adding me and each other to your circles so we can invite each other. Also, if you are a daily reader please consider becoming a "follower" of the blog. It's nice to see that number grow. We're at 1193 right now. My rather symmetrical mental construction pines to see an even number. Maybe 1200. Or, fancifully, 2,000.
Speaking of metrics VSL is averaging 20,000+ pageviews a day.  On particularly contentious days we peak up near 35,000 pageviews. When I write reviews of micro four thirds gear it spikes even higher. 

My friend, Frank, got his EP-5 with VF-4 finder last week and has generously offered to loan it to me for evaluation on my return. Here's my first blush with the camera: Oh My God! The shutter sounds incredible. Really incredible. (as in: I'd buy it just for the shutter). The body feels much better than the OMD EM-5 and the finder rivals the EVF in my big Sony. I'm already falling for it...stay tuned.


Walking and shooting as a form of meditation.

Not "what's my favorite lens????" But: "Which lens consistently brings home the bacon???"

Tiffany Mann in "One Night With Janis."
(click on the image to englarge).

I'm so guilty of loving on esoteric lenses like fast 85's and quirky high speed 50's. The more specialized the lens the more I seem drawn to it and to carry it around with the expectation that I'll find cool stuff to use it on. In the film days I went crazy with lenses in different systems. I owned the 80mm 1.4 Summilux for the Leica R cameras and the 85mm 1:1.2 Canon L lens for the original EOS-1 camera. I even carried around the hulking and flawed 50mm 1.0 Canon L lens until my back started to hurt and my schedule fell behind while waiting for the behemoth to focus. And while I'd love to say that all my favorite work consistently came from these lenses the truth is that there's always some sort of time, access, weight or depth of field compromise that drives me back to more sane camera lenses.

I have a Rokinon 85mm 1.5 lens and it's a focal length I really like. It's fast too. But when I'm setting up to do a portrait in the studio it's not always the lens I reach for. I've had several Zeiss 85mm 1.4 lenses (all manual focus) but I don't think of them first either. Even though I have the best of intentions when I buy the bling glass I always seem to default to one of two more pedestrian lenses with which to make money and make day to day photographs.

My can't live without lens is the venerable 70-200mm f2.8. Every system has one (or in m4:3rds, an equivalent) and for the most part they are universally good. There are certainly single focal length lenses that cover various parts of the 70-200mm's focal lengths and are considered to be wonderful lenses but, on the whole, the 70-200mm 2.8's (and the Canon f4's) are the lenses that do most of the heavy lifting around here. 

If you pitch your tent in the Sony camp you'll probably end up with the Sony 70-200mm 2.8 G lens. The "G" is their version of Canon's "L" lens. It means that it's made to a high standard and offers really good performance. I bought mine a couple of years ago when I bought the first two Sony Alpha cameras, the A77's. But the lens really came into its own for me when I bought a couple of the full frame Sony bodies. At first I had some focus issues with the a99 but I did a very thorough micro adjust and now it's just amazing. 

I was motivated to write about the premium, long zooms when I edited my "Janis" take yesterday morning. The image above jumped out at me for two or three reasons.  First of all it was taken as a "fine" jpeg, not a raw file, and that's the standard sharpening out of the camera. Considering that the lens was handheld and nearly wide open (f3.5?) I'm impressed by the sharpness and detail. Next up, the file was shot at 3200 ISO with no noise reduction beyond whatever is applied by the camera. And what is applied by the camera doesn't seem to have smudged the fine details. Next, given that the file was shot a 3200 ISO I find the color saturation to be very good as well. Finally, the out of focus areas in the background are very nicely soft and happy which is nice for lens that is pretty much all about making non-essential stuff go out of focus.

When I look over the mountains of metadata I have from files since the dawn of digital time I am always surprised (but shouldn't be...) that the images that consistently sell my photographic services have come from Nikon, Canon, and Sony's 70-200mm 2.8 brotherhood. It's a combination of convenience, relatively high performance and focal length flexibility all in one package. 

I did mention that there are two lenses I turn to these days. The other lens is the Sony 85mm 2.8. Not a glamorous lens at all. At less than $300 brand new, it's hardly a status buy. And with it's small, unimpressive front element and obvious plastic construction it won't turn any photographer heads. But...it's performance is very, very good; even wide open. And it is feather light. It's the lens that goes on the camera after the job is done and I want to walk around shooting for myself. 

It's my newest esoteric lens. And it is one I use all the time. I'd like to think that new (to me) Sigma 50mm 1.4 is the lens I'll be using the most but I know it will always to the 70-200mm. It's just too close to perfectly structured to ignore.

Curious to hear which lenses are your "money makers." And I mean that metaphorically so I'm not just looking for other mercenary professionals....


Having Retro Fun In Austin. Janis Dress Rehearsal.

Kacee Clanton plays Janis.

If you like the music of Janis Joplin and you dug the whole popular music scene in the late 1960's and early 1970's I think you'll really trip out on the new Janis show that's opening at Zach Theatre this week. The stage set is vintage cool and the music is really great. It will make older Austinites reminisce about the days of yore when Janis Joplin played clubs like the Vulcan Gas Company and Threadgills. Back when gas was a quarter a gallon and rent was almost free. Back in the days before condos and parking meters. Back when a great meal in Austin was the chicken fried steak at the Stallion on Lamar. But enough digression...

My client, Zach Theatre, kindly moved up my dress rehearsal shoot to last night. We usually shoot on Tues. and post process on Weds. morning but I leave town for a project on Weds. and I didn't want to cut things too closely. The show is well set. The costumes were done and the stage design complete. The part of Janis is sung and played by Kacee Clanton. The part of "The Blues Singer" is sung and played by Tiffany Mann. They both have more energy on stage than you can imagine.

I brought along two cameras and two lenses. The cameras were the Sony a99 and the Sony a850. I used the Tamron 28-75mm 2.8 for my wide shots and medium stage shots and the venerable 70-200mm 2.8 G lens for the tighter shots. I set the a850 at ISO 1250 and the a99 at ISO 3200 and I was happy with the noise performance of both cameras when shot this way. I recently re-calibrated the AF on the long zoom (with the a99)  and I am now officially impressed by the sharpness of that lens, even when used wide open.

There were only two challenges in shooting this rock and roll music production and those were the same challenges that people who shoot bands face. First of all the lighting is constantly changing, both in intensity and color. For manual exposure shooters (all that black in the background tends to throw off even the best in camera meters) that means paying careful attention to shutter speeds and f stops. While the EVF in the a99 makes it all a bit easier I did have to do some quick chimping to stay in the groove with the a850. The second challenge is the constant movement of the actors when they perform. They just flat out rock.  Janis was constantly moving and when shooting at f2.8 at the long end of a long lens you find that you've got very narrow depth of field, and that you pretty much have to nail focus for the shots to work. I used the focus hold buttons around the end of the long zoom almost constantly to quickly lock in focus.

The evening was very successful and the Theater will have images a bit earlier than usual. The show is fabulous and once again I am very happy with the results I got from my cameras. Any deficiency in the images is down to me.

The entire event was quite groovy. I'm looking forward to sitting in the audience, unencumbered with cameras, when I get back into town.

Co-Star, Tiffany Mann, as "The Blues Singer"

Co-Star, Tiffany Mann, as "The Blues Singer"

Co-Star, Tiffany Mann, as "The Blues Singer"

Sad Monday Post.

The blog has been under assault by one disgruntled reader who hates post processing, doesn't understand photographic art, thinks of himself as an expert critic and has way, way too much time on his hands. Rather than spend my mornings being trashed by a totally anonymous commenter and then having to go post by post and excise his nonsense I've decided that I'll have to start having the comments moderated.

What does this mean for all my nice, happy, well adjusted readers? It means you'll have to sign in to comment and you'll have to do the little word verification thingy. It's a pain in the ass but so is the anonymous commenter. I'm sorry that there's not another way to handle this but I don't have the time or inclination to become a filter for someone's else's venal incompetence.

As always, thanks to the thousands of nice, civilized and well informed readers of the Visual Science Lab. We'll try unfettered comments again in a couple of weeks.