10.26.2017

I was so excited by the Sony A7Riii announcement, and the afterglow of the Nikon D850 announcements, that I pre-ordered something.

It's the Olympus 45 f1.2 Pro lens. I'm pretty sure it's going to be a great lens and I'm equally sure I won't be able to use it on either of the cameras in the headline.

I'm so impressed by the Olympus Pro lenses I've been buying that I'm started to consider the cameras just an accessory.

I am preparing myself to be wowed!!!

Also, an announcement. Tomorrow is my birthday. I have a job booked from 7am till 4pm, and must attend a wedding out at a ranch that starts at 5:30pm (No, I am not the photographer...). I may not have time to squeeze in a swim tomorrow, much less a blog post. I'll look around and see if our impresario, Charlie Martini, has anything in the hopper he can offer to fill the space.  tempus fugit



A gallery of ONE INCH SENSOR photographs. Just for fun. Click on them. They are happy to be large.















10.24.2017

The process of "zeroing in" a camera. It takes longer than one might think...

There are hundreds and hundreds of building projects all over Austin. 
I walk downtown at least once a week and many times stumble across 
a new building that was only a hole in the ground weeks before...

I've been working with the Panasonic GH5 cameras since the end of the Summer and I'm finally starting to feel like I understand their color and the best way to use them. I think the best way to get a handle on any camera is to use it a lot for stuff that's not client-centric so you can push the envelope hard enough to break it. Then you know what your limits are but you also know where and how your system looks best. 

I think the GH5 does best at ISO 100(l), 200 and 400 for most things. For portraits the lower the ISO the better. But the compensation for not being the most stellar high ISO camera is that the camera, with the best lenses, has a really rich color palette and a wonderful ability to render flesh tones at these lower ISO settings. 

I've learned that I don't like using very flat profiles with the photographs because it's hard to replicate a nice tonality in post. Why bother when using "standard" or "natural" will give you really adorable files?

My one wish for the next version of the camera is for a physical exposure compensation dial on the camera body. I'm comfortable with the on-screen version now but....
Looking behind the advertising curtain. I love that the torn graphic exposes a couple yards of plywood. 
The same could be said for the general construction of many buildings. 
A new appreciation by contractors of planned obsolescence. 

It's all about the bright spots and the shafts of light. 
The buildings are only the foil. 

I've loved compressed building shots since.....forever.




So, when did this wall at the east end of Barton Springs Pool get painted pink?
Nobody asked me if that was okay...

I've had two lenses in my hands for the last few days. One is the 12-100mm Olympus Pro (which I love more and more each day) and the other is the Panasonic 42.5 f1.7. It's tiny and cute but an imaging machine. Working with them for hours at a time helps you feel comfortable when you have to turn around and use them for a real job. Then, they don't seem like strangers; they seem like friends.

Morning Travels with a camera. Set on "Photographic Nostalgia" mode.

The lens of the day is the 42.5mm f1.7 Panasonic. It's sweet. It's tiny. It's sharp.

I spent all last week shooting what my clients wanted to today I got up with the sunrise and headed out the door to shoot stuff that was just for me. My style. My subject matter. Nothing serious or well thought through but satisfying to my eye and my ongoing curiosity. I cut my teeth with square cameras like Rollei twin lens cameras, Mamiya twin lens cameras and an endless assortment of Hasselblads. For years pretty much nothing but Tri-X film saw the inside of my personal cameras. So, when I found the dynamic monochrome filter setting on the GH5 I thought I'd see how close I could get to the feel of yesteryear in modern Austin. 

I parked at Barton Springs Pool and headed around the lake to First St. where I left the hike and bike train and lurched into downtown. I shot along Second St. and then, after buzzing through the Seaholm Power Plant I reconnected with the hike and bike trail for my long looped return to the big pool. 

The photography this morning was fun. The GH5, in square, black and white mode is very satisfying, mostly because the EVF is so incredibly good. But the real nice thing is how life affirming early morning is in central Austin. Hundreds and hundreds of people are running around the hike and bike trails, people are already swimming laps in the brisk waters of Barton Springs, couples are walking their dogs, talking and laughing. 

When I walked across the street and into downtown I saw so many people biking to work, walking down the broad sidewalks with their cups of coffee and already having animated conversations with their work mates. I saw people with stabilizing rigs shooting their video versions of Austin morning and a number of photographers doing just what I was doing; getting exercise and working on their vision the world. It was glorious. 

It makes me wonder why we go to work at all; there's so much other fun stuff to do!













Getting Lucky with the "Brick Wall" test. On Sixth St.


I was walking around with the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro lens stuck on the front of a GH5 when I saw this wonderful brick wall to photograph. Sadly, there were no kitties or puppies to also include in the frame... At any rate I loved the blatant advertising messaging from the bar attached to this wall. They really cut to the chase with their marketing "promise."

I just don't understand where the bike rentals fit in.....

My first glitch with the GH5. Three corrupted files. Let's explore.


I got on a kick two days ago of using my GH5 and 42.5mm f1.7 lens as a kind of mini-Hasselblad. A nod to the old days of square format, black and white film. I set the camera to large, fine Jpegs, the aspect ratio to square and I went off the usual control freak script and engaged the little painter's palette setting on the control dial. In the "filter effect" menu I chose: Dynamic Monochrome.

As a side note I was happy to see that the camera offers an additional amount of control, offering: "Simultaneous record w/o filter". This setting will allow you to also record an unchanged file. Nice. 

Now I don't know if it's a fault of the camera or if the older, Transcend SDHC 32GB memory card was at fault but I got three different "damaged files" out of the hundreds I shot on the card, today and on Sunday. I've included them here.

In the 30,000+ images I've shot (mostly in raw or raw+Jpeg) these are the first glitches I've gotten. I've marked the body with a piece of tape and I'll keep checking it as I go along. My current thinking is that I tweaked the photo gods by recently writing about not having had a card failure in quite a number of years and they may be anxious to punish me quickly for my hubris.  Of course, I could chalk it up to the idea that nobody should be using these cameras in a silly "palette icon" mode but then, there it is. I was doing just that. 

If you are shooting with a GH5 and you've had a few file glitches can you let me know in the comments? I'd like to keep a running tally of this to see if it was an isolated thing caused by getting up too early and trying to operate a camera without sufficient coffee or, if there is a hidden stumble in the mix. Thanks!


10.22.2017

I also like playing around with black and white conversions....

Celeste C.
©2017 Kirk Tuck.

I like making portraits of actors.

Celeste C. 

A few weeks ago Celeste asked if I'd make a portrait for her portfolio. She was heading up to NYC to continue an acting career. I met her at Zach Theatre where she worked in a number of great productions. I was happy to spend a couple of hours with her because it was a great opportunity to see how the new GH5s would work as portrait cameras. I made most of the images with the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro lens but Celeste was patient enough to let me try some variations with several old Pen lenses. I'm working on those samples and will post my favorites soon. 

I didn't think the images had enough noise in them when shot at ISO 100 or ISO 200 so I added some noise to them in post. I just sent along her gallery. I hope she finds a few that she'll be able to use.



A Weekend Review of my photography life from the last seven days.

Looking back.

It was a busy week. Nowhere near the hectic pace we kept up in the pre-digital days but brisk nonetheless. My work weeks usually start on Sundays when I start organizing and cleaning up for the week ahead. When you do a lot of work on location, with nearly every job calling for different gear, you can generate quite a mess in the middle of the floor of the studio.

Monday: My first assignment of the week was to go on location and photograph a new partner at one of the downtown law firms. We've (me+ad agency+client) established a style for this client that is based on shooting environmental portraits. That means we use the interesting spaces in their offices as backgrounds instead of bringing a background of our own. I have generally shot portraits in their beautiful and modern styled offices with a full frame Sony camera and a fast medium format telephoto lens so I can drop the background walls, windows and interior design nicely out of focus. I've always found it easier to do a job like this with continuous lights since it's easy to use whatever range of aperture and shutter speed work best. I've found that current LEDs are a good match for the indirect daylight that floods in from floor to ceiling windows on the 27th floor.

For this engagement I was using the Panasonic GH5 so instead of shooting at f2.8 or f4.0 and being able to depend on the lesser depth of field given by a full frame camera I had to shoot lenses with wider apertures to get the same effect. I brought along the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 as a "safety" knowing I could shoot it wide open with sharp results and then blur more of the background in post production, if needed. But the lenses I intended to shoot with were a motley collection of much less expensive prime lenses. I brought the little Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7, an ancient Olympus Pen 40mm f1.4 and a Zeiss 50mm f1.7 that was originally made for the Contax Y/C system.

We set up in a large conference room and I put the frosted wall behind my subject. The wall gets hit by all kinds of light and shadow. It's a beautiful pattern, with nice, cool color variations that look great out of focus. I used an LED light in a 50 inch diffuser as a main light and set a level that would match or slightly overpower the background. I used several smaller LED fixtures to provide backlighting and accents. But the real trick was finding just the right combination of focal length and aperture. The image that was finally chosen and finished out for the firm came from the 50mm Zeiss lens, shot at f2.2.

One part of commercial photography we gloss over is timing and logistics. I wanted to be on site at 9am so I could be lit and ready to shoot by 10am. That required me to plan backwards. Heading downtown during rush hour could take up to 30 minutes from my house, only five mile away. Austin traffic can be horrible. I would need to add 15 minutes to that in order to navigate the parking garage, find a parking space, load all the gear on a multi-cart and get up to the 27th floor. A bit more time if there was a new security guard at the front desk hell bent on saving the world from a graying, 60+ year old photographer...

Add in 15 minutes to stop by the coffee shop for necessary fuel and that puts us at one hour from leaving the front door of the studio to walking into the client's lobby. Since it's too easy to forget stuff in the morning that means that I'll want to pack everything the evening before. Two of the LED panels I wanted to use run on rechargeable batteries that need five hours to charge. I wanted to top off a couple of camera batteries. And there was a very specific shirt I wanted to wear that needed to be washed. Yikes. There goes a chunk of Sunday afternoon.

The GH5+Zeiss combination exceeded my expectations. The flesh tones from the combination were as perfect as I could ask for and easier to color correct than anything I'd ever gotten from my Sonys or Nikons.

The actual portrait session started at 10am and we were finished by 10:20am. The worst part of any shoot is breaking down a set and packing everything back up. It's annoying when the parking exit kiosk won't read the QR code on the pass you need to exit the garage but it's still Austin and someone came over, shrugged, and let me out. Good thing since the minimum charge for parking at this particularly tony building is $25 for the first hour....

I got back to the studio and ingested the files into Lightroom, making a second back-up set on a separate hard drive. Then I took a break to swim two miles and grab lunch.

Soaked, chilled, exhausted but fed I sat down to make subtle, global corrections to the 40 files I would put into a gallery and upload to my online gallery at Smugmug.com. While the files uploaded via my pokey wi-fi connection I unpacked and re-shelved the lighting equipment and put the camera battery and lighting batteries back on their chargers.

Once the images were uploaded I sent a link and a password to my client, along with an invoice for my services and for a license to use one resulting image for the website, for public relations and for general marketing.

I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to track down a great background for Wednesday's shoot.

Tuesday: I was up early for a run around Lady Bird Lake. I headed back home for breakfast and a shower and then I started organizing for Wednesday's shoot. This would be a day long "cattle call" shoot where, over the course of the day, I would make portraits of 24 people, all in front of the same background and with matching lighting. This would be a more traditional shoot and I decided to use electronic flash since I'd never seen the space before and didn't want to chance having big windows or uncontrollable ambient lighting that would interfere with the lighting design I had in mind.

For this assignment I wouldn't be concerned with trying for exacting depth of field so I was set on using the big Olympus Pro zoom at f5.6 and bringing along the 12-100mm Pro lens as a back up. I went through the lighting design in my head and then mapped it out on paper. This helped me figure out exactly what to bring in terms of lights, stands, reflectors, cabling and remote triggers. I changed out the batteries in the triggers and the light meter (always take the light meter...) and charged the battery for the Godox AD200 I planned on using to light the background. I laid out all the stands on the floor, along with the bigger Photogenic flashes, all the cables, speed rings and reflectors.

Then I took a break to swim a really pleasant afternoon workout with my friend, Emmett.

It was the day before the shoot and I still didn't have just the right background but I had a workable candidate. I was waiting on two different backgrounds I'd ordered from Amazon.com. One came mid-afternoon and the other came at 7:55pm. I liked them both better than my back-up so I packed up all three.

After dinner I packed up everything in appropriate cases and bags and put everything except the camera case into the car. It's a really, really safe neighborhood but I hate to tempt fate the night before a shoot by dangling the cameras to chance. The last thing I did before I left the office was to print out my correspondence with my client which had the address and all the details, plus examples. One copy for the camera bag and one copy for the passenger's seat of the car. I checked the map online. I knew exactly where I was going as the client's office is right next door to a great competition swimming pool (which I did not have time to try out...).

Wednesday: So, up at 5:45am, shower, coffee, breakfast taco and then out the door at 6:35am. I padded my time just a bit because --- if you are on time you are already running late --- and arrived at the client's parking lot with eight minutes to spare. I finished listening to something interesting on NPR and then loaded up the cart and headed to the front door.

I met my client, loaded in at 7:00am, had a quick conversation about backdrops, made our selection and then I started building the set in a large training room. A big bonus was that my client was thinking ahead and cleared everything out except for two, big chairs and a couple of tables on which I put my camera stuff.  I'd brought a pneumatic posing stool because I hate looking for a chair that might work.

I set up the background we selected and then started setting up lights. In the end I decided on just two lights and one passive reflector. With that gear we were able to hit the look and feel they were after.

I finished making the last meter reading and setting up the camera with a custom white balance at 7:45am and my client and I rewarded ourselves with a quick cup of coffee. We had people scheduled to come into the temporary studio every 20 minutes throughout the day, with an hour scheduled for lunch --- which the client catered. We finished our last portrait at 4:30pm and I went through the hated process of breaking everything down and packing it up.

As I exited the client's parking lot it dawned on me that I was halfway to Costco so I headed over there to pick up my two new pairs of eyeglasses. Nice to see the details again. The diopters on the cameras compensate well but I can't spend my days walking around holding the cameras in front of my eyes.....

Of course, the day is not over until the gear is out of the car, put back onto shelves, batteries placed on chargers, and files loaded into the system and backed up. It was my turn to do dinner. I'd picked up a couple of Asian chicken salad wraps and we sat down to eat them at 9:15 pm. A long day but very productive.

Thurs: I read another part of the ongoing review about the Nikon D850 on DPReview. The thought the bubbled up as I read was of the time in America when the only (popular) measure of new cars was how much raw horsepower their engines could generate. That was always the magic number. The landscape was festooned with giant cars that boasted of having 300, 400, even 600 horsepower. Of course they got less than 10 miles to a gallon of gas and were hardly good (performance wise) for anything but going in straight lines. None were adept at cornering or even stopping well. (yes, I am sure there were exceptions). It was a drag racing mentality which thankfully dissipated when gas prices spiked more or less permanently...

The D850 certainly checks the horsepower box with it's 45+ megapixels. But in many ways the analogy is apt given how archaic DSLRs are in general. Lots of horsepower, just not fun to drive anymore. But I'm digressing.

I got up and went for a self-paced swim practice. It was cold and lonely. But the yards slipped by.

I spent nearly all day in Lightroom editing down 1600+ portrait files into more manageable 600+. I color corrected every person's set to match everyone else's and then converted the selected images from Raw to Jpeg and started the time consuming process of uploading them to an online gallery. I convert to full sized, minimally compressed Jpegs for the galleries because the big files provide another layer of back-up for the images.

Once I get the upload started it's time to thoroughly clean the studio for Friday's shoot. We'll be photographing a doctor in four different ways for one of my long time medical practice clients.
The studio is a mess. The floors need swept and washed. The shelves need to be de-cluttered. The desk top needs to be excavated and all the other gear I already used during the week needs to find its happy spot --- off the floor.

Friday: I get to Deep Eddy early for a long swim and then meet one of my video mentors at the local Starbucks to hear about his latest adventure and learn from his experiences. It's always best to hear from people whose experience is a known thing than to take advice on the web from someone who rarely leaves their basement.....

After lunch I give the studio one more cleaning sweep through and airing out and I begin to set up in earnest for a shoot I've been dreading. We have four different imaging needs for advertising. The first is a family portrait of the doctor with his wife and five children who range in age from six months to about ten years old. I'm looking around the studio for anything that might be dangerous to little kids and spend time getting sharp edged things off the floor and taping down cables. We'll light this with classic "family portrait" lighting and use an innocuous muslin background. The image will be used in a community newspaper to announce to consumers that this doctor has joined the practice.

Once we get the family shot nailed down we need to re-light and put up a gray background for the doctor's solo photographs, in a suit and tie and then in a white coat. Finally, I need to change backgrounds again to a green screen and light that appropriately. We'll be taking a full length image of the doctor on green screen so I can drop it into an existing exterior group photograph of the other 14 or 15 doctors.

So, three background changes, three lighting changes and small children all in about an hour. Yes, it's definitely a case for flash. And a fast focusing camera...

The doctor and his family are out the door and we have good photos in hand, and just enough time to ingest them into the system, before Belinda and I head out the door with our dog to go to our friends' house for a wonderful dinner. We sit under the stars long into the night. On the drive home I make a mental note to start post processing the doctor and doctor+family photos right after swim practice tomorrow morning.

That's a look at the last week. Other stuff happened. I ate pizza. I scheduled other work. I did a bit of marketing. I had coffee with two other friends. It's a river of activities and we just float along from one to the next. The only consistent thing this week was using the GH5's for everything on my plate. Nice cameras. No glitches.

Looking ahead to see what I'll be packing for this coming week. The one consistent thing ahead is swimming at Deep Eddy Pool. Ah, routines.

Added Sunday afternoon: I left the house at 12:45 this afternoon and headed to Deep Eddy Pool. I have four more boxes (credits) on my little Tyvek swim pass that I bought many years ago but which the city of Austin still honors. I used one more today. The outside temperature was 78 but the pool was a crisp 70 degrees. Today I broke with my usual sprinter's tradition of swimming sets and decided to just do 2,000 yards straight through. I hate unbroken distance swimming but I feel the need to work on pure endurance so I set a pace I imagined I could keep and soldiered through for 35 minutes.

It's harder for me to swim distance in Deep Eddy since I am used to a 25 yard pool and not a 33.3 yard pool. I get one less flip turn per 100 yards and I really missed the long glide off the wall. While you don't get oxygen during a flip turn the long glide offers a tiny bit of muscle rest. When I got to the end I was ready to stop. I did a couple more laps, slowly, in the deeper part of the deep end and then headed toward the showers.

My punch card will run out on Wednesday (if I swim on Mon.-Tues-Weds.). I'll have to pay the full price of three dollars a day to swim on Thurs. I am booked all day Friday so --- no swim on my birthday (sniff, sniff, tear drop) but when I get to the pool on Saturday morning I will be 62 and eligible for the $1 entry fee. It's all moot though as the pool entry become free after the 30th of October.

I left Deep Eddy Pool and headed to Whole Foods/Amazon for a slice of pizza and a veg smoothie. Then a nap on the couch with studio dog. Now, that's how I like spending a Sunday afternoon!!!

10.21.2017

I hate wearing glasses. I love wearing glasses. I hate wearing glasses. But I do like to see the camera screen....

The industrial strength prescription. 

It was a day in October about 20 years ago when the whole idea that my vision might not be perfect reared its ugly head and dashed my hopes of immortality. Up until age 40 my eyes had always been perfect. 20/20. I was the only person in my family who never needed to wear glasses. A nice perk if you've chosen photography as your lifelong (a)vocation.

Here's how my vision smugness got shattered....

The mid-1990's were a heady time for commercial photographers; clients needed us and were willing to pay well for our services. I'd had a nice, long stream of jobs with Austin's Motorola divisions and I decided to reward myself with a cool, new camera (some things never change, right?). Hasselblad had just released their electronic 201F body and it worked with my 110mm f2.0 and 50mm f2.8 Zeiss lenses I'd bought for my older FCW2000 focal plane camera. The 201F had built in spot metering and was a very pricey body, for the time. 

The camera was ordered and arrived at Capitol Camera a week or so later. I spent some time getting acquainted with the camera, reading the manual over and over again while testing out every feature. About a week after getting the camera I decided to use it on a location job. We needed to shoot a group of 12 electrical engineers at Motorola's facility on West William Cannon Dr. I decided that this would be the perfect maiden job for the new H-Blad. 

I packed up a camera bag with the new body, three lenses (the 100mm f3.5 Planar, in addition to the above mentioned lenses) and some loaded film backs. My assistant and I arrived on location with our cart full of lighting gear and got to work. We set up a canvas background in one of the wide hallways and lit it with two Profoto 600 monolights with umbrellas. We had brought along a bunch of apple boxes so we would elevate a second row of people to make the group shot work better. 

I put the new camera on a tripod and chose the (well tested) 100mm f3.5 lens on it. Then I popped up the waist level finder and started to focus on the front row of people. No matter which way I turned the focusing ring I couldn't get the image to show sharply on the focusing screen. It just didn't seem to be critically sharp at any setting. Knowing that the lens was in good working order I was certain something was wrong with the new body. I zone focused and we shot at f16. I knew we were getting sharp images because the Polaroid tests looked nice and sharp. But that finder just didn't ever get critically sharp. Boy was I pissed off. I'd spent north of $5,000 for a body that seemed defective. 

I wrote an "aggressive" note to Hasselblad and