11.26.2015

Craftsy.com classes on Sale for Black Friday. Many of the most Popular Photography classes offered for less than $20..


I am an instructor for the online learning site, Craftsy.com. My classes are about casual family photography and studio portraits. They are basic courses and I loved teaching them, but there are many other great classes about photography, lighting, post production and more that you may be interested. Go to this link: Special Holiday Sale to see a list of great classes by well known instructors!

Craftsy.com is a great way for people to learn more about stuff they love. The classes are online video programs. Once you buy a program you have access to it pretty much forever. The classes last between two and three hours and you can go back over information again and again. If you have questions there is a private forum for each class in which you can ask the instructor directly for clarification or more information. If you sign up for a class and you aren't happy with it you'll be happy to know that there's a money back guarantee. In short, it's a fun, risk free way to learn by watching instead of just reading. 

If you use this link: Kirk's Holiday Link you'll have access to hundreds of classes under $20. In the interest of full disclosure you should know that I will also get a small payment from Craftsy.com if you sign up for any class. It will make me smile. 

The weather is turning colder. I've already watched just about everything I'm interested in on Netflix. At least if I'm watching a video on better lighting or more efficient post production I'm getting educated while being entertained. And if you are a professional making $$$ from this business you can probably write off the cost of the course from your taxes (check with your tax professional to see if this applies to your situation...). That's the end of my sales pitch. Now we'll get back to our usual programming....

Jana having fun on second street. Austin, Texas. Canon 5d2, 100mm f2.0.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

11.25.2015

Photographing "A Christmas Carol" at Zach Theatre, circa 2015

a quick collection of my favorite shots from "A Christmas Carol" at Zach Theatre.

















Let's discuss actual photography. One of my jobs as a freelance photographer is to take photographs during the dress rehearsal of the plays at Zach Theatre. Technically, these are called running shoots because we do the photography while the cast is running the play. In the very early days of my theater photography we did our running shoots in black and white because, in Austin at the time, all of the outlets for public relations photos related to entertainment, ran in black and white; and mostly in tabloids that were web printed on newsprint. If we wanted to do color shots we found it very difficult to work at the highest quality under the hot lights and with the slow films available in tungsten color balance.

When we attempted to shoot color during the actual dress rehearsal I would load up Leica M series cameras with Kodak's ProTungsten 320 film and push the ISO one stop to 640. At 640 I had a fighting chance at getting a high enough shutter speed (if I watched for the peak of action) to freeze movement while getting a workable f-stop. I was generally walking the line between 1/60th and 1/125th of second...

To get really great color stuff we would do set up shoots. Sometimes on stage and sometimes in my studio, depending on how far along a show as in the rehearsal. Sometimes the crew is working on creating a set right up to the week of the play and back in the film days the lead time for publications was appreciably longer that today.

I loved doing the set up shoots because the quality of the images wasn't constrained by the stage lighting, and we could stop the action and pose our actors exactly the way we wanted to. If we had some feature in the background we really liked we could change camera angles or an actor's position to accommodate the feature. The most compelling reason for my appreciation of the "set up" shoots was that they represented an opportunity to light the shots extensively and also to bring to bear our medium format cameras and lenses, along with slow, delicious, rich color transparency films.

My good friend, Jim Reynolds, who was the marketing director at the theatre during most of my career, would come to the studio or the stage with five or six different shots in mind and we'd carefully set them up and light them, always trying to make them look as though they'd been lit with theatrical lights, only with much better results. My tools back then were a mix of big, 4x6 foot soft boxes along with small fresnel fixtures made for Norman and Profoto flash heads. We worked around the contrast limitations of the film with smart lighting. The images could be amazing. They were the backbone of the theatre's marketing in the days before online social media and we spread them around everywhere as post cards, subscription mailer content and posters.

Now we tend to rely on the running shoots (dress rehearsals) for everything and in some ways it limits us from evolving the absolute best images from a play. The chance to re-stage and to shoot iterations of the same gesture or look are very powerful tools and I think we tend to ignore them in the rush to maximize efficiency and the time commitment of cast and crew. I long for the days when it was the standard to at least aim for perfection in our work. I think it imbued the photographs with more energy and that came across to the viewers.

The one other thing that has changed for me is the change of the actual theater space. Three or four years ago we moved from a very small, intimate theater space to a beautiful new theatre that can seat 350 people. With it came all the attendant costs of owning and using a very large space: more crew, more electricity, more expensive lighting instruments with which to throw longer and longer beams of light, and a much bigger stage. Once we did this the theatre decided that we'd bring in audiences to the house for the dress rehearsal. These audiences are "family and friends" and there's no denying that it's a good experience for the actors to play to a nearly full house before the first performance in front of an audience paying the full ticket price. But with a full house I no longer really have the option of stalking the actors from directly in front of the stairs.

We've changed the methodology and now I am constricted into a small space that's much further from the stage. This means that we're using more and more telephoto lenses which, in turn means we're seeing less and less depth in the shots and more compression. What's lost in the translation is a sense of visual intimacy that the immersive nature of a wide angle lens, used close, provides.

Instead of shooting from ten feet away with a fast, wide zoom I am shooting from thirty or forty feet away (or more) with a longer lens like an 80-200mm f2.8.

While I understand the restrictions we're working under as regards the space, the budgets and the availability of the actors, no small part of me wishes we could go back to the previous methodologies because they helped me to create more interesting and, I think, harder marketing images.

For the play I shot yesterday, A Christmas Carol, I worked in the new methodology with both a longer zoom on the Nikon D810 and a shorter zoom on a D750. I'm now shooting down on the stage instead of at eye level to the actors. Since most of the stage is dark and the actors are in pools of every changing light I use manual exposure and try to anticipate and rides the shutter speed as needed. The goal is to watch scenes form, choose a composition that's tight and graphic and then make sure I have sharp focus on the important subjects, as well as the right exposure. I cheat a bit lately by shooting in raw with the Nikons and having the option to pull up or push down exposure in either direction by one stop.

There is always a battle of sorts, in my mind, between lighting that works well and is exciting for an audience versus lighting that works well for photography. We're constantly trying to tame wild contrast ranges and at the same time work to figure out what the dominate light color is. It's a fast chess game for the brain; especially when you know that you won't get "do overs" of any particular scene.

With all the constrictions aside, the challenge of the shoots and the potential to get really exciting visual content certainly makes shooting live theater worthwhile to me. If you can shoot a fast moving show with a huge range of contrasts and constantly changing colors I think you are ready to shoot just about anything. I always go back to see the shows later, without a camera in front of my face. It's amazing how different a show is when you are working and then when you are a part of the audience.

This version of A Christmas Carol was amazing. I can hardly wait to see it again.

I have to be in New Jersey for a shoot all next week but I'm already making plans to see it again the following week. I know I'll love it even more!

I love to go to a dress rehearsal of a play that brings (happy) tears to my eyes and "A Christmas Carol" at Zach Theatre does it to me every time.


I may be more emotional and nostalgic than most manly photographers who seem drawn to our business, but I have to admit that there are times when I am photographing a great play and there's a special, heart warming moment that brings tears of joy or tears of recognition to my eyes. The point in the holiday play, A Christmas Carol, (Charles Dickens) when Scrooge discovers his humanity and undergoes his spiritual catharsis is one such occasion upon which I must pretend that I've been beset by allergies and that must be the reason my eyes are watering and my nose is running, a bit. Not to mention the lump in my throat...

I had a Nikon D810 in front of my face when Tiny Tim, hoisted up in Scrooge's arms, says, "God Bless us, everyone." and I must confess that I kept the camera and lens there for a few moments longer so as to regain my composure.

Seriously though, Dave Steakley, the artistic director at Zach has infused what was a hoary classic with so much modern music, incredible choreography and joyous singing that he has transformed the play into a wonderful new....instant classic. When actor, Kenny Williams, belts out Pharell William's song, Happy, at the end, surrounded by the entire cast .... well, just like Suess's Grinch, my heart felt like it grew two sizes that day.

From beginning to end I was transfixed. I have to go back as soon as I can to experience the magic that this cast delivers without the distraction of my camera and lenses. I guess I just kicked off my own holiday season ---- and it feels so good!

If you live within 100 miles of Austin you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to get over and see the show. It's opening TODAY.

http://zachtheatre.org/show/christmas-carol-2015

I have a new camera bag. It cost $20. It's comfortable to carry and holds a lot of lenses. It's also bright red.



So, I was sitting around one day reading some book on critical theory or the unconscious when I heard a tiny noise that sounded suspiciously like a leaky toilet. I put my book down and wandered around the house looking for the culprit. Yep. Time to replace a flapper in the toilet tank. Should be a $5-$7 repair but it never really works out for me that way...

I headed to the hardware store to buy a flap and then I made my typical mistake; I looked around at all the cool stuff on display. Well, of course I might need a new adjustable wrench because I wasn't really sure where the old one might be. I can always use a couple more "A" clamps. And, of course, I needed to see what's new in economical, new LED light bulbs.

But as I turned down one aisle to walk to the check out I notice mountains of these red bags and I reached out and touched one. I'm not sure what construction workers use these for but you can readily see that there are three pockets on the side facing the camera as well as two big pockets on the ends and (while you can't see them in this photo) there are three more pockets on the other side. The bag is big and roomy and, on the interior, there are pockets all around the edges.  The handle are stout and well padded and you can see that they are anchored all the way around the bag.

I started thinking about a kind of job I do often. I'll arrive at a big, sprawling business office with the assignment of walking around looking for interesting photographs of interiors, intermixed with casual and set up portraits of different kinds. I walk through a space, find the image I want, and then reach into my bag to get the lens that might work best. I also reach into the bag from time to time to grab a new battery or switch out camera bodies. In location assignments like this I don't need the padding or the secure lid closure or the velcro flaps that are part and parcel of the typical camera bag.

There is a reason for bags to be designed the way they are. Most often they are used outside, in non-secure environments. But most of my recent assignments aren't like that. They are more about being in a secure and controlled environment where I have the luxury of putting my bag on the floor and walking away for a while. I may be naive but in my 30+ years of doing work like this I have yet to have any piece of gear go missing...

At any rate I saw this Husky brand bag and I looked for a price. It was about $20. I'd purchased a similar (but not as well made) bag from my local cinema supply store and it was probably three or four times the price. I decided to buy the Husky bag and try it out for the kind of project I've outlined above.

The fabric of the bag is very thick and resilient and the bag stands up well on its own. I had a job on the six floor of a new office building, located in on of the dozens of new developments of office towers and mixed use buildings that are popping up all over Austin. The brief was to shoot everything from the CEO greeting employees to the  brand new office, to lots of interior architectural details, to many shots of people working at their open plan desks. We spent a couple hours making modern environmental portraits of the executive leadership team, and ended the day with an "all hands" champagne toast to the company's new offices.

I put all the camera gear into the Husky bag. It contained two Olympus OMD EM5.2 cameras, a bevy of lenses, placed around the periphery of the bag, in the external pockets, and also a Nikon D750 with a 24-120mm lens. The bag also held the usual photo shoot "pocket" trash: the cellphone, a shot list,  extra batteries for everything, a small flash and off camera cord, and a small notebook and a pen.

I could see all the available lenses at a glance and the handles made the bag easy to carry from place to place. The bag never ended up on my shoulder --- there is no shoulder strap.

On almost every job like this I bring a cart to move all the gear from the car to the shooting location. The cart has the heavy stuff like light stands and cases of lights. This bag rides in on the cart and then, for most of the day (unless its contents are needed) the cart sits in a corner waiting, with it's load of gear, to be pressed into service.  The rest of the day I work out of the bag.

How did it work?  I loved not having to fasten the fasteners on a camera bag before hoisting it up on my shoulder; closing up the bag is a habit developed to make sure the traditional camera bag doesn't dump its precious cargo onto a hard floor. I didn't miss the ritual of opening each velcro'd pocket to search for that one needed, but hidden from sight, lens.

As I pushed my cart back to the car at the end of the day I had two thoughts. The first was of all the money I'd spent chasing the "ultimate" camera bag when, most times a cheap bag like this would actually be more efficient for many of the jobs that take most of my time. Second, I remember looking around as I headed to the parking garage and seeing dozens of construction workers who were carrying the same or similar bags filled with tools and materials for their jobs. I felt like I'd crossed over from some photo-snob attitude into the mainstream demographic of "worker."

Yeah. I used the same bag again for a dress rehearsal shoot at Zach Theatre. The bag sat at my feet and I could reach down and grab a lens directly from a pocket. I could drop a body and lens right into the center of the bag without messing with lids and straps. It worked well and seems to also be making my left shoulder a happier shoulder. Here's to thinking "outside the bag."

11.24.2015

Luminous-Landscape.com heads behind the paywall and I salute them. It's content that's (generally) worth paying for.



For those of you who are unfamiliar with Luminous-Landscape.com let me take a go at describing the website. Imagine an ardent photographer who also made some money in various other careers. Imagine he and a partner start a website in the early days of digital imaging and write a series of articles, over more than a decade, which intelligently trace the evolution of photography through this period. They offered us reviews of cameras that fascinated us and became parts of our own stories, as well as aspirational cameras we knew we personally would never buy but wanted to know all about (medium format digital). They also offered articles on technique and videos that helped us understand better, how to make the most of video features and "darkroom" techniques.

That all sounds good but add to that a real objectivity, decent writing and logical thinking and you come up with a compelling website for serious photographers.

I've read the primary content for years and I've also found the input on the forum, from a large number of very well informed pros, to be very valuable to me in my journey of video and digital photography. Since the inception of the site it has be available for free and was subsidized/monetized by advertising and affiliate links. The owners of the site have discovered what most bloggers and special interest websites have found in the past year or so: ad engagement, revenue, participation and every other measure having to do with making money online has gone into a controlled crash and burn trajectory. They have decided to try their luck in making the site on that requires a paid subscription from readers. They are charging a mere $12 A YEAR to make all the content (including videos that were usually sold as products on the site) available to subscribers.

Using the Kirk Tuck Latte Value measurement tool we can see that the price of a year's worth of knowledge and reading pleasure barely budges the needle, equalling three grande lattes from Starbucks. Not a high price to pay.

Their site goes to the paid model on November 30th and I plan to show my support by being a member from day one. If you want to support smart content on the web please think about supporting their site. I'm sure most of you read it already.

No big changes at VSL. We're just trying to stay relevant.

disclosure: I have no connection with Luminous Landscape and no person relationship with any of the writers or owners of the site. I wrote this blog (above) as a public service as I feel the site I am discussing has both contemporary and historic value. 

11.22.2015

innovation in cameras is highly overrated.


Innovation certainly drives commerce. Photographers who were once happy to change cameras every five to ten years have been trained, like monkeys hitting a treat bar and getting a piece of fruit, to upgrade to a new and different camera every time their favorite manufacturer rings the bell (or, advertises a new and improved camera model). 

But it's important to know that not all innovation is net positive for the consumer. I went to buy a phone recently and looked at the various iPhone models. The newest ones seem huge compared to the previous models. The 6S is bigger than the 5S and "features" the rounded corners and gently beveled case that every other current phone from every cellphone maker "features." You could suggest that a bigger phone is an "innovation" but I think we all know it's just a choice. Bigger screen or smaller screen. Bigger phone or smaller phone. Nothing innovative there. It's just the new "plus" sizing for people who need a bit of room....

The innovation that the previous iPhones brought to the table (in addition to their highly capable software features) was a beautiful design that allowed the phone to do just about everything normal people wanted to do with a phone but also allowed the phone to fit in the pocket of one's jeans. Even one's tight jeans. The iPhones before the iPhone 5S did that trick even more gracefully. Their innovation was to use design to decomplicate a product and at the same time make it more transparent to the user in daily life.... 

All the phones can display e-mail and texts and all of them can field telephone calls. An innovation would be an invisible phone, or one that you could buy once and use forever with no additional fees. An innovation would be changing to a power supply that never needed charging. Or was bulletproof.
Having a slightly bigger screen or being able to play Candy Crush a bit faster could be counted as an "improvement" but not an innovation. 

In the world of cameras I don't see size differentials as profound innovations. Cameras can be larger or smaller and still take great photographs. The size difference might signify convenience to one part of the market (small enough to fit in a woman's purse of a "man bag", larger to supply good ergonomics for handholding with bigger, heavier lenses).  We can put a big chip in a small body, a la the Sony RX1 and we can put a small chip in a big body a la the Panasonic FZ 1000 or the Panasonic GX8. Other attributes will define whether or not the camera is an innovation. In the case of the Sony RX1, for example, it might be the tight integration of the sensor and the permanently mounted lens---but that really just strikes me as a performance enhancement....

I started thinking about this because I've been reading articles and blogs which continually denigrate Canon for not "innovating" over the past five years, in the field of digital cameras. (Keep in mind that Canon sells more single use, digital cameras than any of their competitors). The writers, and their respondents, continually blame Canon's sales decline of cameras to their lack of innovation. 

When I dig a little deeper I see that what they mean by innovation can be shortlisted down to three main concerns. First, for whatever reason, they want Canon to take the mirrors out of their cameras. There is a pervasive idea that mirrorless cameras are something for makers of cameras to aspire to. I have long been an adherent of electronic viewfinders in cameras but I've never cared whether it is a result of removing the mirrors or not. Sony did a decent job of incorporating EVFs into all the late models of their Alpha cameras with no major problems. It is not required, technically, for Nikon and Canon to remove mirrors from their cameras in order to implement EVFs, although I presume it would make the process both easier and less expensive.  At any rate, the pundits want those mirrors gone. 

Next, they want everyone to use the same metrics for measuring the value of the sensors in the cameras. The litmus test is the Sony A7R2 or the Nikon D810. Match them for the performance metrics those sensor excel in or meet with withering criticism and derision. It may be that the advanced Canon products have metrics at which they excel but the crowd consensus is ready to discount those attributes pretty quickly. It may be that Canon's color rendering is better. It may be that Canon sensors outperform the Sony sensors for dynamic range at higher ISOs (where it might even be more meaningful for image quality improvements) but none of that matter as long as "innovation" is uniform and lockstep. 

Finally, the third category is size&weight. The idea being that all smaller cameras are better than bigger cameras, all things being otherwise equal. Given that I have friends who are almost seven feet all and who can palm two basketballs in one hand, and I have friends who are tiny and whose faces are mostly hidden behind an Olympus OMD with a battery grip attached, I think I would have to say that there is no overwhelming advantage to any particular sized cameras in the aggregated market. 

Then there are those of us who are effectively size neutral and who can be comfortable with a super-dinky EM5 but also be right at home with a Nikon D810 or D4s. 

While it is true that Canon and Nikon have spent the last five years iterating their cameras lines instead of making ground shaking innovations I see the subtle but real improvements from camera to camera as being just as valuable as silly things like camera body shrinkage (less for your money?) and a fixation with odd stuff like ultra high electronic shutter speeds, ultra high frame rates, etc. 

As consumers I think we should rejoice and applaud a lack of useless innovations by good camera makers because in some small way it helps to trim down our voracious appetite for a constant flow of new and improved stuff. 

I would much rather have Nikon, for example, fix the focusing issues of the D7000 in the later models (the D7100 and D7200) than add stuff like twenty stop bracketing to the new cameras, instead. I would much rather have Canon improve the sensor in their line of Rebel cameras than improve the ability of the cameras to do more things like internal HDR, improved GPS (surely you can remember where you went on vacation last month without having to research it in your cameras.....right?). 

I applaud Nikon and Canon for continuing to make workable tools that actually fit into adult hands. I'm not sure I want them to innovate themselves into a limited product offering of mini-cameras with nothing but cheesy and annoying rear screens for composition. 

There are some camera attributes that don't need re-thinking: size, handling and ergonomics are some of them. I would much rather have the same body style year after year with nothing more to look forward to than better sensors and better movie codecs.

Have you noticed that the steering wheels in cars haven't changed much in the last twenty years. If you measure them across different models you'd find an amazing relative consistency in circumference. And position. And design (circular). No joystick versions from movies about the future. And there is a reason for this..... They found a design that works across a huge demographic. People have been acculturated to understand how to use them. The design of the steering wheel is always expected by drivers. Just so with cameras. Body sizes and styles are a reflection of 60+ years of designing and researching handheld cameras. 

If you want to demand real innovation then let's start thinking of really cool stuff we'd actually want or need on a camera. How about an atmospherically neutrally buoyant cameras and lens that floats along in the air with you instead of weighing down your shoulder. How about a sensor that tracks where your eye is looking and focuses on that point for you? Oh, wait, Canon designed and introduced that in the 1980's....

How about unifying the raw file format among all camera makers so you don't have to wait for Adobe to reverse engineer hundreds of different cameras codes every year? Just imagine, you buy a brand new camera and go right out and shoot raw files without having to default to some camera maker's 1970's version of a raw converter for post production.  Innovation? How about a sensor module that could be easily traded out for a yearly, or every other year, quality enhancement of the camera you already know and enjoy using? A $400 update to a better sensor while running the same camera control firmware you know and love. And the same lenses, and flashes, and batteries...

And an innovation for Olympus users? How about a menu that makes sense to the rest of the world?

Was it an innovation a year and a half ago when Pentax put a row of LED lights down the front of their consumer level DSLR? Disco lights on a camera? No one else had done it. No, not innovation --just senseless bling and quicker battery drain. 

We'd love to place blame for the decline of the overall, single use camera market at the feet of Nikon and Canon and accuse them of killing off the craft by not innovating appropriately and quickly enough but the reality is that the market shrunk because photography got (apparently) easier and no longer very challenging. Everyone's ability became special, all at the same time. 

The call for innovation in cameras is silly. How often does the hammer get redesigned? Or the screwdriver blade? Or the basic elements of a refrigerator? Or the driving controls of a car? Why should cameras have to answer to a higher standard? Isn't it enough to continue improving them year after year.? Isn't it a benefit to be able to spend time getting up to speed on the device?

The one major product sector that changes with every season is fashion clothing. Surely we aren't ready to admit that we only buy new cameras because of the addiction to ever changing product styles... 

What do you really want in a single use camera? The ability to continue using the lenses you like. A straightforward interface. Good performance. Good handling. And like the porridge that Goldilocks was shamelessly stealing, they should be not too big. Not too small. But just right. 

There. I think we covered it. 

11.21.2015

My User Review of the Panasonic FZ 1000 "Swiss Army Knife" CameraSystem.

C

100% of a file you'll see down below.

I'll confess that I'm not fond of writing camera reviews because everyone who uses cameras beyond the ones in their phones has different needs and different tastes. A close friend of mine who is a videographer can't stand to see any noise at all in his video files. Stuff that most of us would consider top notch sometimes fails his QC because of the noise he sees in the shadows. Doesn't bother me, even for a minute, even after he goes to great pains to point it out. By the same token I can't stand poorly lit images. So many people think that stratospheric ISO settings are a substitute for good lighting and they miss the concept that light can be a vital tool because it provides direction, cues for texture, hardness, softness and even color purity. I'm not saying you should notice that something has been lit but you sure as hell shouldn't have a gnawing annoyance because an image is flat, dark and noisy. 

I write some camera reviews because I find a camera that seems to have been overshadowed by other cameras or newer cameras but, when I use it I find the camera compelling enough to make me smile and to make me want to use it again and again. In simple terms, I know the Nikon D810 is better "on paper" than the D750 but the D750 is a perfect blend of compromises and handling that keeps me coming back again and again. It's the same with the Panasonic fz 1000. 

What is it? The FZ 1000 is a part of the class of cameras that photography writers have labelled, "bridge cameras." That means they are more  sophisticated and capable than your phone or a basic "point and shoot" camera but supposedly are not quite up to the performance levels of a typical DSLR camera. Most bridge cameras have an extensive zoom range, a non-removable lens, and are almost as bulky as a regular DSLR. 

Bridge cameras have been with us for a long, long time. They existed in the film days as well. In fact, when Olympus exited the SLR market their sole, upmarket cameras were a line of fixed lens bridge cameras. Sony ushered in a new mini-niche of what we might call "premium" bridge cameras a number of years ago with their original R1 camera. It featured two things that made it a great working tool and a nice overall camera: It had a large sensor that was close to the size of an APS-C sensor, and it had a fairly fast and very, very, very good 24-120mm (equiv.) Zeiss zoom lens on the front. 

After the Sony R1 was discontinued nothing in the premium bridge camera caught my attention until Sony came our with a wonderful camera; the RX 10. It used a one inch sensor along with a 24-200mm, constant f2.8 lens and, after a nice firmware upgrade, offered great still and video performance. I owned one. It was superb. Nice finder, nice video, nice stills and a nice form factor. It wasn't compact but it wasn't monstrous either. In fact, the only negative that most reviewers and normal people mentioned was the relatively high price of $1299. I disagree with that critique because I thought it was a bargain for the great lens, wide range of features and the quality of the results. 

Hot on the heels of the Sony RX10 Panasonic launched the first and only competitor in the category of premium bridge cameras, the FZ 1000, which we are dissecting today. It was an interesting entry in that it didn't necessarily go head to head with the Sony in every specification; it bobbed and weaved when Sony weaved and bobbed. The Panasonic zoom lens (designed by Leica) covers 25mm to 400mm (equiv.) and starts at f2.8 but quickly slows down to f4.0 as the focal length gets longer. 
The Sony RX10.2 (the new and updated version) as well as the original RX10.0 both use the same Zeiss designed lens which only covers half as much focal length range but does so with a fixed aperture of f2.8, all the way through the range. One isn't necessarily better than the other but people will have their preferences based on what they see as more important in their lens: Speed or Range.

The Panasonic offers 4K video which outperformed the original Sony RX10 model but the newer Sony is at least the equal of the Panasonic and offers a lot more video control with features like higher frame rates which can yield more dramatic slow motion. The Sony also features a real headphone jack for directly monitoring audio. The Panasonic (sadly) does not, and that is my single biggest gripe about the FZ 1000. Looking back at the compromise blender, the lack of some video features on the Panasonic camera is offset by its current cost against the Sony. The Sony RX10.2 currently sells for $1300 while the current Amazon price of a U.S. warrantied FZ 1000 is just a little more than $700. 

Having used the original Sony RX10 a lot, and having now used the fz 1000 almost an equal amount at this point I will have to say that the quality from both original cameras is nearly identical. There are slight internal processing differences but in the end they are very much alike. And what that means is that, in good light, the cameras provide saturated, low noise files with tons of detail and great colors. The Panasonic put me off at first because there's no good profile selection for raw files in Adobe Lightroom. The program seems to apply a dark, flat profile to the raw files I bring it. They respond well to tweaking but pulling the same files into DXO is a revelation. They are great. But most of the time I shoot the camera in Jpeg and I'm happy with what I see. 

The newer Sony model uses the newer BSI version of the one inch, 20 megapixel sensor but, the people who test in depth (DPReview, CameraLabs, DXO), pretty much point to video throughput as being the big advantage of the new processor and not any big leap in dynamic range of noise reduction versus the older sensor.

So, the FZ 1000 is basically a premium bridge camera that offers an alternative to the pricier Sony option while delivering a longer focal length range at a much lower price. 

But how good are any of these cameras? Can they replace my conventional DSLR cameras or my collection of micro four thirds cameras in any compelling way? The answer, of course, is maybe.
Let's get the big stuff out of the way first. There is no way you'll get the trendy and lovable, extremely shallow depth of field that's all the rage, with this camera when you compare the results to the output of full frame DSLRs, with fast lenses (or even lenses with the same maximum apertures) at the same angle of view. It's just physics so get over it and accept it. Second, you won't be able to match the noise levels of the full frame DSLRs which shooting at the same ISOs. You might be as much as 2 or 2.5 stops behind the performance of the very best DSLR or Sony A7 series cameras when it comes to noise. 

This generation of premium bridge cameras is, as far as noise is concerned, about on par with cameras like the Nikon D300s from four or five years ago. But that only makes a difference if you are the kind of photographer who loves to photograph in low light situations most of the time. If you shoot a lot of stuff for clients, in the sun light, or in a well lit studio; or just about any situation in which flash or other supplementary light is available, you can control the amount of noise you'll end up with in your files by carefully selecting your ISO, and carefully optimizing your exposure. 

I mention this because I am currently using the camera on a extended assignment. It's not an assignment to shoot available light portraits with tiny slivers of in focus subject matter, illuminated by moon glow. It's an assignment to shoot details of buildings and snippets of sky to use on a website. In this situation the combination of features and the relatively high performance at lower ISOs makes this camera much more effective and efficient than just about anything else I could choose because----it doesn't get in the way of the creative process. 

What are the features I find compelling? There are three interrelated features that make the camera a powerful imager for the work I've described. They are, 1. State of the art image stabilization. I am able to routinely handhold the camera with the lens zoomed all the way out to the equivalent of 400mm and get sharp images. 2. A very, very good EVF with a high resolution. I love being able to look through the finder, dial in the polarizing filter and see exactly what I'll be getting in terms of exposure and color before I click the shutter. I shoot in "A" mode a lot and ride the exposure compensation with my right thumb on the rear wheel. I push the wheel in (click) to switch over to aperture setting when I want to change f-stops and then click it back again to put me right back in exposure compensation mode. It's a fast and effective way to control the image and work at speed without endless chimping. And, 3. The long range of the lens is a revelation for me. I love being able to compress images with the maximum focal length and seconds later created some dynamic, forced perspective with the wide angle end of the lens. 

If I use these three features and shoot at ISO 125-800 I can walk away with beautiful shots that clients are happy to buy. Pretty amazing when you consider the purchase price of the camera at $700-750 includes a great lens. 

Another feature I find convenient is the leaf shutter which enables me to sync flash at higher shutter speeds than I can use on the Nikon, and do so with any flash. 

The camera uses Panasonic's new DFD focusing technology and it is much faster to find and lock focus in S-AF than my original Sony RX10 was. I have borrowed a new RX10.2 and my preliminary test indicate that it's no faster than the original. The AF on the Panasonic is at least on par with that of my Olympus EM-5.2 and I find that camera to be pretty quick with slow moving stuff (like executives) that I tend to shoot for work and play. 

Handling. We can go back and forth on this in the comments all day long but I am very resistant to the ultra-miniaturization of cameras. When designers shrink hand held tools too far it effects handling in a negative way. Over the decades industrial designers have worked hard to find "right sizes" for various objects that are manually controlled. I picked up a Sony RX100.4 to see what all the excitement was about and I couldn't give it back to the sales person quickly enough. It's just too small to work well for anything more than quick snaps. And I'm not a person with huge hands. I wish I was because then I could swim faster. But no such luck. 

I went into the store, originally, to play with this camera (the FZ 1000) and I expected, based on other reviews, that I might find it too large, too bulky. But I found that my hands wrapped around it in a very natural way and my fingers fit on the shutter button and other controls without the need for extensive camera operator rehab. For a camera with an extensive range of focal lengths it seems to have just the right feel to allow someone to handhold the whole package securely and without the dissonance of weird projections or bumps. 

Along the same lines I worried, initially, that I'd find the one dial control for my most commonly used dials (aperture and exposure compensation) to be burdensome but, now, after a month or two of fairly regular use, it seems perfectly natural. 

I have a user complaint about the initial portage system included with the camera. The strap is too thin at the ends where it connects to the camera and twists too easily. I tried to get used to it but hated it and switched it out for one of my standard Tamrac straps and have been feeling warm and fuzzy about carrying the camera around ever since. 

Video. I'll be honest. I am pissed at Panasonic for making such a decent video platform and then shortchanging us by not delivering a headphone connection. With the addition of a headphone jack this camera would have been a really compelling Electronic News Gathering, 4K work camera. The focus in video is good, the lens range is excellent and the image quality in 4K is just great. I made a video for my kid's 20th birthday, using this camera to interview many of his friends who still live in Austin and, when well lit or just supplied with enough photons to stay with low to middle ISO settings, the camera makes crisp, detailed and color neutral images that remind me of the quality I was getting from the GH4 (waiting patiently for the GH5---I have the feeling that it's due the first quarter of 2016----just a feeling). 

If I had been able to listen to audio while recording it would have been perfect. As it was I played back the video as soon as I completed shooting just to make sure I had usable sound. A pain in the ass, to be sure. 

While the 4K video is good the 1080p video is very decent but limited to the usual 28 mbs ACVHD video we've all come to know and dislike. It makes more sense to leave the camera nailed into 4K and then just choose when importing whether you need 2K or 4K. 

A nice feature is the video profiles that come with the camera. Pretty crazy for a $700 device. But it comes with a CineLike D and a CineLike V profile. The first is flat and emulates a mild S-Log profile. I can't figure out the why I want the V profile since it seems to be contrasty and saturated which is pretty much the opposite of what I want when I go to edit. These profiles are not available during still photography. They are video only. Too bad, because I actually like using the flat profile in some situations with the Nikon D750 and D810 cameras. 

I can only give a provisional approval on the FZ 1000 as a video camera. The visual component is quite good at 4K and I could see just about any MOS (mit out sound) situation being successfully filmed with the camera but for anything with interviews or general narrative work you would have to be able and willing to work with double sound and sync up the sound from an external audio recorder during your edit process. Not optimal for someone who needs to use this camera for video work on the daily basis. If you fall into that category and are looking for a truly flexible tool for both video and photography I'd immediately disregard the FZ 1000 and snap up the new model of the Sony RX10.2. The audio is well done on that camera and the video in 4K is competitive with the video from the Panasonic. 

Final take? Good for MOS work. Good 4K image quality with lots of controls. Sound is the weak point and you can either trust to the meters, use and external recorder or look elsewhere. Not sure if Panasonic is trying to coerce us back into doing silent movies but if I were in their network of photographer affiliates I'd be howling about this one. 

Battery life: This camera uses the same battery as the new Panasonic GX8 as well as the older G6. I've found it to be a good battery with more stamina that its competitors. After using the batteries for five or six charge cycles I've been getting a fair amount of image through the camera before having to stop for a battery change. The specs say about 360 (CIPA) shots per charge but I find that I'm regularly getting closer to 500. I don't chimp much at all and rarely use the rear screen so I don't know if that accounts for the difference, but I am getting a bit more out of the batteries than I seem to with the EM5.2 from Olympus. I have four batteries. If I go out to shoot video I bring all four and two chargers. If I am going out for long afternoon walk I'll just bring one extra battery and be pretty confident that I'll get through the day.  If you are an American and shoot Panoramas, or English and shoot Panos, you might be unhappy to find that the tripod socket is not centered under the lens but is off center and annoyingly close to the battery/memory card compartment. If you are any other nationality or language group you will find the same thing. (I just find the use of Panos, Journos and other faux-jaunty abbreviations grating).

Image Quality. If you have to have the highest image quality on the market at all times then stop reading this and go buy a Nikon D810 or a Sony A7r2 right now. You probably won't be disappointed. If you need good quality and are a good craftsperson you will find a lot to commend the Panasonic. They finally have their color palette all straightened out. A few generations ago the consensus was that the Jpegs colors were a bit off. A bit far behind Olympus and Fuji. I'm going to say that I find the colors, after I've tweaked the profiles I'll be using, to be right on the mark and not oversaturated like the colors from the aforementioned rivals. The current palette is very neutral and all the images I'm showing from the camera are mostly right out of the camera. 

When I first started shooting with the camera I found the file detail starting to get mushy when the ISO went up. I experimented around a bit and, after bringing down the noise reduction slider by two clicks I was able to see a nice increase in fine detail. I would much rather have the option to apply my own noise reduction in post processing than be handed a mushy (but apparently noise free) file to work with. Once the noise reduction is baked in there's not much you can do to change it up. 

Below are several images that I shot today. The first one down is a church next to the state capitol. I've always liked the metal dome. This is the camera at 125 ISO, with the aperture set at 5.6 and the shutter speed unrecorded. AWB. Profile = Vivid -2 Noise reduction.

The full frame version.

Slightly more than 100% crop. Click on the image to see bigger. 

400mm equivalent from half a block away.


The thing that consistently amazes me about the camera is how well the image stabilization works at longer focal lengths. There is a real argument to be made concerning actual quality of a bigger lens on a full frame sensor shooting the same shot but without the benefit of this outstanding image stabilization. 

I like shooting in the Jpeg world because the camera does such a good job with distortion correction. See the doorway shot above. All the lines are straight (I used the two axis level in the EVF) and the detail, even out to the corners, is very good. 

Compared to a DSLR. I've thought a great deal about why I end up buying cameras like this and I've come to some conclusions. First off, there are many situations when having a complete package of camera and lens that fits in one hand just makes sense. If I was to do the same job I am currently working on, but with full frame cameras, I would need to be carrying around a 24 to something millimeter lens, an 80-200mm lens and a 200-400mm lens to get the same angles of view. I don't know if you've shopped for those combinations lately but it will make a (used car sized) huge dent in your monthly budget and you'll be carrying well over ten pounds of gear. Most of it unstabilized. 

In optimum conditions the DSLR gear will give you lower noise and more detail but in real world conditions it may be a draw. The compromise being ease of use versus overall image quality. And if your final filter is the web, will you be seeing all the image quality that is potentially there in the bigger cameras? I'm not sure you will. 

That being said, this is not a narrow depth of field camera (nor are any of the other premium bridge cameras) so it's a hands down, grand slam for DSLRs and fast lenses, in that category. 

But, interestingly enough, I just had a meeting with a graphic designer on a large job and I mentioned using narrow depth of field for her project. She politely informed me that while this was a popular style in her company's home country of Germany a number of years ago she would be curious to know if I could shoot in a style where MORE STUFF IS IN FOCUS. Interesting, yes?

The other attractions of the DSLR are most certainly the ability to change lenses and to use fast, single focal length, prime lenses. You won't be doing that with the FZ 1000 but you won't be wasting time trying to decide upon which lens to use, either. 

Compared to dedicated video cameras. While this camera is a good all around, cost effective solution you'll probably find a dedicated video camera easier to work with for some projects; especially those that require long recording times (the FZ is limited to 29 minutes and change). Most video cameras have headphone jacks and audio controls that will give you a lot more leeway in getting great audio. 

Compared to Micro Four Thirds cameras. Ah. There's the rub. While the M43 cameras are really good I'm not sure they are that much better than either the Sony or the Panasonic. The benefit is the ability to use super high quality, fast lenses like the 42.5mm f1.2 Panasonic lens or the 75mm f1.8 Olympus lens for various work that requires more DOF control and ISO control. The other deciding attribute is also in the lens camp. It's the ability to use wider lenses, like the 7-14mms from Panasonic and Olympus. Based just on wide range zooms though I would say the PBC's are close to the performance of the M4:3 camera for most things. 

Compared to the Sony RX10.2. To be honest, if I were coming into this clean, with no budget constraints whatsoever, I'd go for the Sony RX10.2 instead. The one stop faster aperture is compelling where it is needed most; at the long end. And the video controls, and especially the audio controls, are worth it. But as I said, IF there was no budget constraint, etc. The reality is that a person shooting in outdoor situations, who only used video sporadically, and for fun, would be a natural for the Panasonic instead. 

In my situation I shoot video with the Nikon D810, the D750 and also the Olympus EM5.2. While none of them shoot 4K all of them have good audio controls, headphone jacks and total manual controls. I bought the FZ 1000 mostly for the reach and the all-in-one package. I am convinced that the next iteration of the Nikon D810 will have 4K video and much improved video handling and I'm waiting to invest in that. Should Nikon fail to deliver I'll end up with something like the Sony FS5 for my video work. But the Panasonic FZ 1000's are already earning their keep on project after project. I'm very happy with them. In the interest of extreme disclosure Panasonic won't even return my calls, much less give me free product (so get lost if you want to play the "fanboy" card or the "on the take" card). I liked my first Panasonic FZ1000 so much that I bought a second one, both with my own hard earned cash. I thought I might take them on a shooting trip, one backing up the other. I may still. 

Finally, below, is a quick shot on the pedestrian bridge next to First Street. The DFD works well as does the multipoint focusing system. 

My Conclusion: The two premium bridge cameras have one distinct advantage over the mirrorless legion or the APS-C cameras. There is no decision making to be done. You leave the house with a package that covers most everything you need. The Panasonic FZ 1000 is very fast to focus, starts up fast and has a very decent buffer. The colors are good and the files are very competent right up to 1600 ISO. The Leica designed lens is very, very good and is worth the expenditure for the whole camera. A really skilled operator could make a living shooting with one of these cameras and rarely feel as though he or she was shortchanging his clients. Especially if they were looking for sharp images with deep focus. Two extra batteries, a variable ND filter and a Polarizing filter are all you need to have a complete camera package for almost any use. Add an external audio recorder and you could make near state of the art video productions as well. 

Final word? I like this camera a hell of a lot better than I like the current Canon Rebel or Nikon D3300 with their cheesy dual zoom lenses. The Panasonic is faster to shoot, has a better lens and yields on sensor results that are at least as good but without the hassle of changing between two mediocre lenses. The EVF, to my mind, is always a distinct advantage. And the smaller sensor and increased depth of field can be seen as a benefit for those who've always had trouble nailing focus or getting enough stuff sharp. I like the colors I'm getting and I think the menus beat the snot out of the Olympus menus. At $750 (or there about) I think this camera is a bargain. If you have tons more money then ignore everything I've written and buy the new Leica SL. It won't be nearly as cost effective but you will be able to change lenses AND your investment of nearly $10,000 more dollars will get you narrower depth of field with some lenses. Seems like a slam dunk to me.

A quick and impromptu shot on the bridge.

11.20.2015

Fun assignment for the last 14 years. And it was fun again, last night.

Just above the children's choir, slightly to the right of center frame, was this year's honoree, Charles Butt. Standing to his left is former Texas Supreme Court Justice, Harriett O'Neill. 

There is an organization in Texas called, Texas Appleseed, that does good legal work for underserved people in our state. They work with law firms across Texas to tackle legal issues that range from the criminalization of students for minor infractions to developing protections against excesses of the payday loan industry. They do great work.

Every year they have a fund raising event at the Four Seasons Hotel to honor someone in the community who has made a big difference for children and at risk people. This year they honored Charles Butt who is the CEO of HEB, the biggest grocery store chain in Texas (and beyond).

Every year I provide photographic services at the banquet. I started doing it 14 years ago at the behest of my friend, Annette La Voi, who was the initial executive director. I think this non-profit organization does good work and I've continued to provide event photographs for them every year. In doing so I have met the absolute top legal professionals in the state along with a number of Texas Supreme court justices and many elected officials.

At almost every banquet I am amazed at the amount of good works people are doing with very little (or no) fanfare or press. Sometimes I leave with a lump in my throat when I realize

11.19.2015

Irrationally rational lens buying. Cine ready Nikkor. No longer naked in the 35mm focal length range.

Nikon 35mm f2.0 MF lens. An optic for the affluently-challenged. 

I've always been a 50mm adherent, when it comes to primary lenses for full frame camera, but lately my vision seems to be widening out a bit. I've been wrestling with the idea of an efficient and economical, two lens kit that could do a majority of street shooting and personal work and I finally settled on pairing an 85mm f1.8 and a good 35mm lens. I looked at the Sigma 35mm Art lens and while I would dearly love to shoot with it I would despair of carrying it around. I remembered that I liked the Rokinon 35mm t1.5 cine lens when I had one for the Sony a99 but it's big and not the most comfortable lens as far as holding it in my hands. Too many rough edges and hard rings.

Today I looked at the Tamron 35mm f1.8 VC lens and I was impressed by the general fit and finish of it but if I'm honest with myself I've been craving a more "blue collar" solution. Something small and comfortable and simple. After playing with the Tamron and the Sigma for a bit I wandered by the (danger! danger!) used cases at Precision Camera. There was the lens I was looking for. It's an old, traditional, manual focusing, auto indexing lens from the 1970's or the 1980's.  It is the 35mm f2.0 lens. One that used to be in the bag of nearly

11.18.2015

A Working Wednesday with two different camera systems. And finally, some sunshine...

All images here today are from the Panasonic fz 1000, taken for my downtown art project.


It was early this morning when I dragged myself out of bed, microwaved a sausage, Gouda cheese and egg breakfast taco, fired up a double cup of coffee to go in the Keurig, and hit the road. I'd loaded up the CRV yesterday evening and all that was left was to drag the camera bag out to the car and head the car in the right direction.

I hit Johnson City at 8:15 and headed to the LCRA Park to meet up with a bunch of people from my favorite electric utility company for some photographic fun. We arranged 13 Kubota all terrain vehicles in an attractive, modified chevron pattern with the Pedernales River in the near background, and then the Hill Country in the far background. Each Kubota vehicle had an lineman standing next to it, in the company uniform, wearing shiny, new hard hats.

We photographed from ground level and it was good. But we had more resources available in the form of two, large bucket trucks. These are trucks with boom arms that allow one to rise to any occasion; up to about 50 feet in the air. We directed one bucket truck into the area behind our formation of ATVs but in front of the river. We positioned the other one just behind the point at which I had set up my tripod. One of the linemen handed me a harness and a hard hat and I climbed up on the truck and into the bucket. A few seconds later my Nikon and I were about forty feet above the ground, shouting  directions down to our art director and getting everyone positioned for a shot that encompassed a lot of space and a lot of detail. 

Par for the course, we shot with the linemen wearing hard hats, and also holding the hard hats under one arm. We shot with the second truck in the background, and without the second truck in the background. Then I made a series of detailed photographs to accompany the big, wide, group photograph. 

For this morning's shoot I felt that using the Nikon D810 was an obvious camera choice. The sharp, detailed files it is capable of creating are perfectly suited to a wide shot with 14 vehicles and 13 different people scattered across a fairly big field. It also helped that, at ISO 64, the dynamic range of the sensor is pretty much unmatched by other cameras in the same price range. I paired the D810 with the sometimes maligned, sometimes praised, Nikon 24-120mm f4.0 lens. 

While some find that the lens has too much distortion; especially at the short end, the reality is that the lens is very sharp and there were no obvious straight lines when looking down at a landscape of yuccas, scrub brush and a meandering river. The main attribute I was looking for in a situation like this one was sharpness/resolution, followed by focal length flexibility. Lack of geometric distortion wasn't even on my radar.

With the camera set to an optimum ISO and the lens set to an optimum aperture the only thing that remained on my check list was to toss as much fill light as I could into the front vehicles and the men standing next to them. The sun was coming in at a 45 degree angle from one side. I placed an Elinchrom flash head with a 42 inch silver umbrella at the camera position and turned the power all the way up. All 1100 watt seconds. But since the umbrella and light were easily thirty feet or more to the closest subject the effect was barely noticeable. I would be depending on accurate exposure and the combined power of the camera sensor's great dynamic range, and the power of the shadow slider in Adobe Camera Raw, to pull up detail on the shadow sides of the ATVs and the men who drive them. 

I worked around f8.0 and f11 as my preferred apertures to get the depth of field I would need as well as the optimum performance from the lens. Being used to working with EVF enabled cameras made me miss the LCD loupe I neglected to bring along. I had to use my black baseball cap as a light blocker so I could see what was on the rear screen more clearly. I used the histogram as my crutch of last resort. But I needn't have worried as the images matched the metered value given by my Sekonic incident light meter. 

After we wrapped the Johnson City shoot we paused first for breakfast tacos (from a local place called, Charro's. Very, very good) and then we paused at the office of the client so I could download 17 gigabytes of very juicy raw files to her company's server. The client will be doing the post production on the files for this project. It's a rare thing for me to let go of but I trust the client and it was the only way to make the budget work for everyone. 

With the car packed and a fresh cup of coffee in the central cup holder I tuned into NPR on the radio and headed back to Austin. When I got home I downloaded the files onto my system ( you can never be too careful...) and put the Nikon camera battery on the charger. 


I swung by the house to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and have a big glass of milk. I unloaded the car, grabbed a new camera and headed for downtown. You see, I've been waiting to shoot a second project that I think is crazy good fun, but it is a project that depends on nice, clean skies to work the way I envisioned it. I've educated the client and agency about the need to patiently wait for the light to get neat, and the way I figured it I had about 2.5 hours of excellent sunlight of which to take advantage before I could switch everything off and head out for Mexican food and a local IPA ale. 

I'd spent the morning shooting "big" and traditional so I was ready to switch gears and embrace smaller and more modern. Almost jet age. A camera with a great EVF. The Panasonic fz 1000. 
I shoved a couple extra batteries in my pocket, put a polarizing filter on the front of the lens and headed over to the wedge of Zilker Park that butts up to the south side of the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge. There's a little parking lot there that's free and, if you get there on a weekday before school and work let out, there's almost a 50-50 chance of getting a space. Today the parking gods were benevolent and ushered me in to a prime space. 

I spent the rest of the illuminated afternoon walking around shooting interesting shots that may or may not end up, in rotation, on my adventurous client's website. Large. Across the screen. 

I generally set the camera to ISO 125 and shoot in the Aperture priority mode. The dial on the back of the fz 1000 has a push button incorporated. It's how one switches between setting the aperture and setting the exposure compensation with the same dial. I was mostly shooting raw but every once in a while I'd find something that would look better with a more extended range to the highlights and shadows and I would engage the in-camera HDR. I usually set the HDR app to give me a three stop spread and that better be enough because, on this camera, you only get the choice of 2 and 3 stops and I always err on the bountiful side. 


It's harder to feel loose and unrestricted when you realize that your photo walk has the prospect of money-in-exchange for performance aspect to it. Suddenly the kinds of images I usually see on a downtown walk become more important (and seemingly more scarce) to come by.  For the most part the built in HDR works well with landscapes and building-scapes. 

By the end of the day I'd been moving from 7 to 6:30 pm and I was ready to call it over. I'd found some new angles in the old town and I was feeling as though the Panasonic camera and I had really bonded. The Nikon D810 has better looking files, technically, for sure. But the Panasonic is super fun and tremendously easy to use as a "sketch book" style camera.  A fast shooting and stable platform from which to go out and blaze away at everything that catches my eyes. 











In the end I made a handful of good images this afternoon. I'll keep banging away at it until my client looses patience with me --- or until I need to get a check to cover some silly expense or another. The day is supposed to be sun filled and magnificent tomorrow and I'll try to shoot for more hours between a location scouting meeting in the late morning and a gala shoot starting at 6pm.  

Tomorrow will be the flip of today where cameras are concerned. I'll shoot with the Panasonic for the exterior building project for most of the day. I'll give it two batteries worth while working around the scouting meeting. Then I need to get home, change into a dark suit with a loud tie, and get over to the Four Seasons Hotel for the annual fund raiser for Texas Appleseed, a charitable organization that matches pro bono work from major law firms who work to provide social justice. In our state they have been taking on the Juvenile justice system and, most recently, payday loans. I like their work and more importantly they get results. 

The photographic requirements of this job call for many "grip and grin" images of attorneys and their spouses hanging out with other attorneys and their spouses, as well as documenting the speeches, the giving of awards, and the giving of more speeches. There will be the typical, elegant, Four Seasons dinner and ample open bars. I'll be pressing the fast focusing D750 and the 24-120mm lens into play, along with a TTL flash from Nikon or Metz. The real secret to success in these situations has very little to do with gear and everything to do with how confident you are, how fast you can work and how authoritatively you are able to move people into small groups and get them to face the camera and have everyone in the group flash you a winning smile at the same time.

I'll put some sort of little bounce card on the flash to soften its light but mostly the evening's toil will swirl around establishing a nice rapport with many of the same people I've seen at these events since the early part of the century. That, and not over thinking the whole thing. It's sometimes very important to know how to stay out of one's own way. 

That's the long and short of it. Hope you are having fun with your projects.