11.09.2017

Do you take your camera out in rough weather? How rough? Do your cameras generally survive?

The annual Ferrari Owner's Parade in Rome.

One of the things I always grapple with is the idea that our modern cameras are weather sealed. It's a great idea but on some level I'm always incredulous about camera maker claims. I still grab a big Ziploc plastic bag to take along when I head outside and it looks like rain. 

The Panasonic G85 is supposed to be splashproof and dust proof. I'm never sure what that really means. And so, my question to the virtuous and brave readers of VSL. Can you share with me your experiences  of taking modern digital cameras out into inclement weather? Do you routinely use an unprotected camera in the rain? Do you take any sort of precautions? Are there limits you won't push beyond with your gear? Have you ever experienced a gear failure that was a result of soaking your camera?

The worst thing I've done with a camera is to stand in torrential rain shooting video with the Sony RX10iii for half an hour. Nothing failed. I did have duct tape over the battery and card doors.....

What's your most riveting weather+camera story?



11.08.2017

I mentioned photographing a keynote speaker at a recent gala. Here's a couple of stage shots. Nothing sexy but the WB?

Panasonic GH5 + Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro. 
Manual Exposure, Manual White Balance =3000K 
ISO 640.

With good stage lighting in place electronic flash should never be necessary. 


It's been a while since I worked in the Kleberg Theatre. Less light compared to the Topfer Stage. But more intimate...


About a week and a half ago, on a Sunday evening, I had the assignment to create marketing photographs for another production at ZACHTheatre.org. It was "A TUNA Christmas" which is a holiday comedy spoofing life in a small time, Texas town. Tuna Texas. The play is directed by Jaston Williams who is rightly famous for co-writing and co-acting in the nationally touring original, "Greater Tuna." 

If you grew up in Texas you've met nearly every character in the play, at one time or another. If you are a new transplant to the Lone Star State this play will help bring you up to speed on the basics of rural Texas living. The production is both hilarious and sweet, with a dry humor that generally has me stunned with laughter. 

Three actors play all 25 citizens of Tuna Texas so costume changes are fast and furious. I was amazed at how convincing the actors were in every role. I could have sworn they had a company of eight or ten....

But I was there to make photographs with my little cameras. I used two wildly different models to do most of the images. In the seat to the right of me I had my Panasonic GH5 with the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro on it. In the seat to the left I had my Panasonic FZ2500 super bridge camera. I alternated for fun, for focal length coverage, and just to experiment. I also brought along a 40mm f1.4 and used it more sparingly. I wanted to see what I could put out of focus in the background....

Unlike the bigger theater space I usually work in the Kleberg stage projects into a (much smaller) space with seating on the left, right and in front of the stage. The theater seats about 200 and is a much more intimate space. But being our oldest theater space in the Zach Theatre compound it also has the oldest (and weakest) lighting gear. While working with most productions on the bigger stage I can keep my cameras comfortably around ISO 800 but in the Kleberg space everything pretty much needed to be shot at ISO 1600 in order to get subject freezing shutter speeds with mostly wide open apertures. 

Before the rehearsal started I asked the lighting director to give me a "light wash" that was made up of the dominant light structure for the most of the play. I walked out onto the stage and placed a Lastolite gray/white WB target in a spot shielded from the colored lights that spill across the background and made a custom white balance with each camera. I varied the WB a bit during the show but hewed pretty close to 3200K with a bit more magenta dialed in and that seemed to work fine for most of the photographs. 

The production practiced austere minimalism when it comes to set dressing but it hardly matters because the script is so great and the dialog is delivered perfectly. This is a situation where the video will be a better sales tool because you'll be able to hear the voices and see the nuanced gestures that make the characters so authentic. But I tried my best to make the stills work hard. 

If you find yourself in Austin and bored (highly unlikely) between now and the new year you might want to spend an evening at "Tuna Texas." You'll likely be glad you did. 


















Let's talk about the new Panasonic G9.

An Ancient Studio Shot for Client, 3M. 
Heat Shrink Tubing.

It's been exciting to see Panasonic get some of the same treatment that Nikon and Sony have been getting from the review sites and bloggers. They launched a new camera today and one of the remarkable things about this launch was how well they were able to keep the announcement under wraps. We only started hearing real new in the middle of last week!

The new camera is the model G9 and it seems aimed at assuaging the feelings of traditional photographers who seem to have issues with too much video capability being resident on the cameras they want for still shooting. So, what does the new camera deliver that the fairly recent GH5 doesn't?

According to Panasonic, both cameras use the identical 20.3 megapixel sensor. The G9 has what is described as an improved Jpeg engine which takes advantage of the huge processing power of the camera's imaging pipeline to provide improvements in color rendering and tonal nuance. While I think this is a good thing the underlying, but unstated, assumption is that the raw files from both cameras are more or less identical...

The new camera shoots up to 20 fps in continuous focus mode when used in the electronic shutter setting. Some people will see this as a valuable capability. I don't but then I also don't like team sports, or watching team sports, or being around people watching team sports so it's a feature that is lost on me. Another metric I find more or less meaningless is difference in point to point autofocus lock on. The GH5's spec was .05 seconds while the G9 spec is .04. If you can detect a difference

11.07.2017

Just reminding myself that the fun part of photography is making photographs.







Good clean fun with a cheap normal lens. The Panasonic 25mm f1.7.

Le Politique on Second St. tries hard to emulate a Parisian café.
Hanger steaks and frites with a bottle on wine while sitting on
the sidewalk in the valley of modern office buildings?
Mixed metaphor, for sure....

Whether you own a full frame DSLR, a mighty APS-C camera or one of the whimsical micro four thirds cameras there's one thing that's more or less a constant; and that's how great the inexpensive 50mm (equivalent) lenses are for each system. I've always been a big fan of "normal" lenses and it's probably because the first two cameras I owned had variations of normal lenses before anything else. 

I spent my morning creating estimates for project bids, ordering new audio machinery and getting my car serviced. I'd put in some extra time doing post production last week and felt as though I deserved some free time to walk around the downtown area with a camera. So I did. (Don't tell my boss --- he thinks I was doing "research"). 

If the day had been bright and sunny I would have taken the Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm lens with me, mounted on a GH5, but it was cloudy and flat outside so I opted for the normal lens instead. Bright afternoon sun would have made for good sample shots at various wide settings with the zoom but when it gets "wintery" I'm alway in the mood for black and white images taken at an elegant focal length. 

I ate lunch at Whole Foods where the sushi is a right good bargain, and then I headed over to the new, six story, $130 million library which just opened in the heart of downtown. It was packed with the homeless, the hipsters and a huge swarm of young, eager corporate types, armed with phones and laptops, who were obviously glad to have a new venue with free meeting space. They tried to look casual and cool and give off the impression that they emoji candidates they were busily debating would be mission critical to client X. Everyone in the corporate clique had coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

Want to see a cross section of Austin's new arrivals? Go skim through the six floors and the rooftop gardens of our new library. Don't miss the bicycle garage in the basement; my triathlete friends seem to talk of nothing else.... (Library - Austin - so, of course, a bike garage. Might even be a bike valet...).

I had my camera set up to use "filters" which are the same as presets or looks. I chose "dynamic monotone" and I must say I am pretty happy with the look. Like most 50mm equivalent lenses the 25mm f1.7 is bright and sharp. Even wide open it's pretty darn good. Stopped down to f5.6 it becomes almost analytical. While the lens usually sells for around $250 it sometimes goes on sale for $149. I was in the market for the lens but my sales person at the local camera store counseled me to wait a week or two. I did. He called to tell me the price had dropped again and that he'd put one aside for me. Nice.

Stay tuned, the 25mm price usually drops right around the time Panasonic announces a new body...

I did a circuit through the city's downtown and for some reason it was packed with people today. Mostly people walking down the sidewalk in little groups of two, three or four, all walking side by side, all staring at their own phones held, almost prayer-like, just in front of them at chest level. Here's an observation after watching this phenomenon for nearly two hours: Men cannot simultaneously look at their phones, walk down the sidewalk and also talk to other people in their groups. Women can and do all three things simultaneously. Almost as though it's mandatory.  It's interesting. 

I wonder what the next trend will be. I'm presuming everyone will get phone implants so that the physical handling of the phones becomes unnecessary. Just walking through the chattering hordes made me feel like an anachronism. There are no dedicated use cameras left in public anymore. None. They are all gone. Well, that's not exactly true. There was one guy with a Nikon or Canon slung around his neck. He was even older than me..... 

Ancient Trees. Just hanging on for dear life...


My favorite "point and shoot" camera is also a "serious" camera.

I think we can pretty much agree that the traditional "point and shoot" camera is nearly extinct. The all-in-one configuration that, in days of film, were mostly 35mm cameras with fixed mid-range zoom lenses and optical finders  set up in the rangefinder style. The reason they were popular was a combination of convenience and, surprisingly, image quality. The lenses rarely got fancy and stayed in a focal range and speed that made designing and manufacturing easy. The large size of the 35mm film was also a benefit and the "noise" profiles of the "camera files" could be improved in seconds by loading whatever the latest, best fast film of the day happened to be.

So, why did the "point and shoot" start its decline and then fall off the map in the recent days of digital photography? I think that's a pretty easy question to answer: The bulk of the digital point and shoot cameras used tiny, tiny sensors that were far worse than film in anything other than blazing daylight. Then there was the race for longer and wider zoom lenses which led to an actual decrease in optical quality that even a rank consumer could gauge. Finally, the screens on the backs of the basic point and shoots were mediocre while the early EVFs were atrocious. The real question might be: Why would anyone buy one of these cameras in the first place?

There were always exceptions to the sallow picture I've painted in the previous paragraph. The Sony RX100 series. The Panasonic LX series and even, to a certain extent, the likable Canon G series (at least the 9 and 10). But for the most part the digital equivalent of the film point and shoot was a miserable product.

At the high end it's been replaced by cameras like the Sony RX1 line, the Fuji X-100s and a few others.

It seems to me that the true replacements to the point and shoot cameras we used to love are the new entry level cameras from the mirrorless camera makers. The one I gravitated toward is the G85 but it is similar to the Olympus EM10iii and even the Fujifilm XE-3. If you want a true point and shoot you'll probably gravitate toward the Sony RX100V but I wanted a few more things that the Sony doesn't provide.

I wanted enough grip space to be able to handle the camera comfortably in the same way that I hold and use my cameras when working professionally. I wanted a camera with interchangeable lenses that would allow me to play with older lenses but also access all the new stuff I'd bought for the GH5s. I also wanted a camera that would share my existing cache of batteries that I use with the FZ2500.

That led me to the G85.

The camera is a micro four thirds model. It's set up like a traditional DSLR, with a vestigial pentaprism hump and all the basic design cues. While the sensor isn't state-of-the-small-camera-art when it comes to resolution the color character is of the moment and the sharpness is superb. It's probably a result of removing the anti-aliasing filter from the sensor array.

I spent $899 for the camera when it was on sale. That included the 12-60mm kit lens which features the dual image stabilization capability which gives the camera+lens a stability approaching the market leading Olympus cameras. The range of the lens is great and the optical quality is very good. Not as needle sharp and contrasty as the Olympus 12-100mm I've been using almost non-stop, but very good for a kit lens.

The G85 starts up quickly and the EVF is very well done for a camera in this price class. The camera is solidly built and gives one the impression of workmanlike reliability and purpose.

But why would I even need/want a camera like this if I have two GH5s and a nice selection of more esoteric zoom lenses?

If I were less timid I'd just use the GH5s for everything and replace them if they are destroyed, stolen or used up. But I'm always thinking that I want to preserve them for working projects. For jobs that generate money. The G85 gives me 90% of the potential of the GH5s (for still work) in a mini-system (camera+lens) that's about a third the replacement cost of the GH5+lens.

The G85+kit lens is also much smaller and lighter than its bigger sibling which makes it more pleasant to carry constantly when serious photography is not the priority of the day.

I'm currently shooting for work and pleasure with mostly just two camera models; the G85 and the GH5. They share lenses and they share menus, for the most part. I still have the FZ2500 but use it sparingly now that the GH5s have taken over most of the heavy lifting in video.

This represents the smallest number of cameras I have ever owned since started out as a hobbyist in 1978. It's a very freeing experience. There's little of the indecision about what to take to work that used to haunt me. After working with the Olympus 40-150mm I'm also thinking about selling the FZ2500 which would get me down to just three cameras. The Olympus lens does a great job supplying a "long lens" solution and I could apply the proceeds of the sale back into more lenses.

But the G85 is a bit of a linchpin. It gives me a "what-the-hell" camera to take out in the rain, in dust storms, during hipster stampedes, and other situations in which having to watch out for your money making cameras kills the mood and hampers risk taking.

In the end the GH5s cement their position in my work universe every time I use them. The G85 is expendable. Fun but expendable. Everyone should have a capable camera whose demise would not break one's spirit or one's bank account. For everything else there is the iPhone... But the G85 might be cheaper to buy and is cheaper to operate......

11.06.2017

A Visual Science Lab Blog Reader asked, "Why filter your flash?"

 He asked if I was the last photographer to carry around color filter gels....

Here's the answer: We tend to believe that the automatic white balance in our cutting edge cameras will be able to correct for any color inaccuracies in the scenes we encounter when photographing. Many think that this will work by blending or mixing the various color casts together in one file which will somehow be correct; but rarely is.

Here's the prevalent scenario for event shooters: We are in a large room that is lit by tungsten light bulbs. There is a tungsten spot light (or two or three) illuminating a keynote speaker. We need to take images of people talking together at their tables, conversing together at the back of the room and also watching the speaker. In short, we need to handle a range of shooting situations in an environment where the entire room is lit at >3200K while our lighting (and motion freezing) instrument is color balanced for somewhere between 5200 and 5600K. If we use the flash with auto white balance engaged on our camera then whatever is lit by the flash will be close to normal while the some much warmer light contaminates the edges of the subject and the background goes red/orange. It's not a great look.

If we want to have the room show up in the frame (with the subject in the foreground) then we have to find a shutter speed/iris/ISO combination that provides an exposure in which the main subject is lit to a good exposure and the background of the frame is also lit enough to see details and bring up the general exposure of the room. That might be 1/30th of a second, f4.0 at ISO 1250. If we do this then the room light contaminates the main subject to a much greater extent because there is very little difference in the amounts of mixed lighting hitting the subject and the background. 

But, if we put a correction filter in front of the flash which converts the flash color balance from daylight to something much closer to the ambient illumination's color temperature then we're shooting under two light sources that are much closer in character to each other. Since the filter provides a known color temperature we can easily select the lightbulb icon in our white balance menu or we can fine tune with a set Kelvin number to best match the two light sources. 

Now when we shoot a frame of the two guys talking in the back of the room, illuminated by ambient light from overhead and flash from the front the two light sources are close enough to be homogenous and the scene is more natural to our eyes and less contaminated by mixed colors.

I find that exposing this kind of work is best done in the manual exposure setting because one can use the shutter speed setting to increase or decrease the overall illumination of the ambient portion of light without changing the amount of flash on the subject. Through trial and error we can have a background/foreground ratio that is nearly equal or we can dial down the background light so the subject stands out more. We can control flash via the power setting on the flash or by changing the aperture. If we change the aperture to affect the flash we can compensate for the change to the background with our friend, Mr. Shutter Speed. 

Done this way you never have overly warm flesh tones or horribly murky backgrounds. You could, of course, create your own color style by picked a filter and a color temperature setting that is halfway to tungsten and letting the background go warmer or you can filter the lens and leave the filter off the camera to get the same effect as described in our initial example but I can almost guarantee that filtering the lens is going to require a couple of stops more power and exposure and will make autofocusing nearly impossible.

One part of the equation remains; what to do about the speaker on stage? Well, if the stage is well and amply lit you don't need to do much more than identify the color temperature of the fixtures being used to light him or her and then set your camera accordingly. Turn off your flash altogether and snap away. In my example from last Friday it was pretty obvious to me that the fixtures were tungsten balanced and that cued me to set the camera to 3000K (most lighting people use dimmers to pull the lights down a bit so the speaker doesn't get the "deer in the headlights" look) to get a nice, neutral color balance. If I don't  use flash I don't annoy the audience or the speaker, and if I'm using a state of the art mirrorless camera I can shoot in complete silence and pound away at anywhere from 12 to 20 fps to capture the "magic moment ==== I don't though because it's a lot more fun to practice catching the right expression through anticipation and faster reflexes. And it makes it so much easier to wade through the files in post.

Just because you have a flash on your camera doesn't mean you have to use it....

To re-cap: Make all the light sources as close to the same as you can. Filter your flash to match the vast ocean of available light in the ballroom, meeting room, convention or conference center and then set the right white balance for the filter in your camera's WB menu. Use your shutter speed to change the ratio of the ambient light in relation to flash. Use aperture to increase or decrease flash exposure and then restore your ambient/flash balance with the shutter speed.

Shutter speeds too low? Flash not powerful enough? Don't be afraid to increase your ISO.

And that's how I generally handle lighting mismatches and why. Thanks for asking!

11.05.2017

Weekend Notes. Galas. Cameras. Clipping Path Hangovers. Counterintuitive Event Cameras, and a bit of Swimming.

This here flash is a Godox TT685O. 
It's a right good unit. 
Sure enough.

It's the weekend. We're in the first week of November and temperatures in the mid-to-high 80's mean we're still fighting swirling flocks of mosquitos. The Texas sized mosquitos; as big as dragonflies. Best bring along some insect repellant with DEET if you're planning to join the nationwide trend of moving to Austin to enjoy the view from the center of the universe, there have been cases of West Nile virus reported in surrounding cities...

Let's talk gala's. Big ass, fundraising galas. One of my clients asked me to come to a gala last night to take photos for three hours. She's been a client at various tech companies for years and years so, of course, I said yes. 

Sadly, I think I've matured away from galas. Or I've been to so many I'm having banquet ennui deja vu. When I got to the massive and imposing downtown hotel and waded through the throng of people at the bars which encircle the actual property, like a tipsy human moat, I headed upstairs to the 4th floor ballroom. The big one. I had on my dark blue suit and a shirt with a tiny black check pattern that I bought on a lark at Nordstroms. When I hit the fourth floor the ballroom foyer was filling up with woman in that odd age group of 30s and 40s who all seemed to be wearing variations of prom dresses ---- or those vengeful bridesmaids dresses that people remember with shame years later.

Most galas have all the standard features of fundraising. There's the "silent auction" with products and services donated by friends, associates and vendors. Mostly vendors and artists. There's the perfunctory 45 minute "happy hour" at the beginning where the women in odd dresses and men in an assortment of crisply tailored suits, or ill-fitting, off the rack suits mill about in little groups with a drink in one hand and a smartphone in the other. 

Uncharacteristically, I had little contact with the person requesting my service. I knew where and when but had no idea of "what." It was an "agenda on the run..."

My first duty/position was near the entry area where the client had set up a background with a logo in the middle of it. I guess no one really thought it through but really? The big logo right in the middle? Five feet wide? On an eight foot wide background? We might be able to break up a couple and put one person on either side of the logo for a photograph but I think that would be very awkward. The problem was more or less immediately solved when people started coming over to be photographed in groups of four, six, eight; even twelve. The logo stayed behind them. We couldn't figure what else to do...

But let's talk about a new understanding of "event photography" for a minute. In the past people would dress up (gentlemen, at least buy a shirt on which you can button the top button and wear your necktie correctly....) and part of the gala process would be for each couple to have a commemorative photograph made. Now it seems that the "step-and-repeat" background serves two masters. The traditional photography paradigm and then (a bigger priority) the iPhone selfie hordes. 

I stood at the ready with my camera and a flash but the majority of the attendees were happy to group themselves into small clusters on the background, do the little bended knee posture and then make "duck face" for their own cameras, which were being wielded by their friends. At one point a number of small groups of prom dress women did ask me to make their group photos but most only wanted me to do so with their phones. This year, and perhaps the next few, will be remembered by photo historians as the period of time in which every young woman was photographed with a phone in one hand and a drink in the other. But no photos will actually exist since our government (or what's left of it) will outlaw Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in an attempt to limit election fraud and, as the services go bankrupt the first things to go will be people's photo albums....No one ever said social media was benevolent...

Moving on, the guests are summoned to dinner by hotel food and beverage people who walk through the happy hour space in the foyer striking little melodic chimes on tiny, handheld xylophones. The seating process is arduous because the entry into an new room reminds everyone of something they forgot to mention to their friends during the happy hour and fifteen minutes later people are still standing next to their tables yakking as the emcee for the event heads to the podium. 

Our emcee is a real celebrity. He's the local weather man on one of the network channels. He's been calling out the weather (or flipping a coin and faking it) for decades here in Austin and, of course, his first comment of the evening is about the weather. Ouch. 

Dinner gets served as people speak about the merits of the charity being bolstered. Cute kids are sent to the microphone to testify about how much their lives have changed since joining this program. 

Now the guests have had drinks at happy hour and decent wine at dinner. They've been softened up by videos and testimonials from all the people the charity has helped and now the big guns come out; the auction, with a crew of five auctioneers all sporting gray cowboy hats. The things being auctioned off are more or less events or experiences. You can bid on a trip to taste vintage retsina wine on a Greek Island for you and your closest seven friends. Go hunting for Pandas at the world's greatest hunting lodge is some vague area of China (kidding). And, the recurring auction item of the decade (as witnessed at five different galas...) VIP tickets for six to see "Hamilton." 

This gala was bigger than most in Austin and easily raised over a million dollars. It was so big that the organizers had cascading shifts of photographers. Mercifully, I was slotted from 6 to 9 pm. I was out the door with my take at 9:05...

But let's talk about the gear. Since I was working strictly in the role of publicist/documentarian I packed lighter than I ever have before in my career. The choice of camera was made for me by my recently reduced inventory of cameras. It was either going to be a Panasonic GH5 or a Panasonic GH5. The lens was even more of a "no brainer." What better lens could I want than the Olympus 12-100mm Pro? A nice, wide angle for those big groups festooned across the logo'd backdrop and a tight, 200mm equivalent for shots of the keynote speaker up on the stage. All bundled with exceptional image stabilization. In fact, the stabilization is so good that, at times, I can take both hands off the camera and it floats in place, in midair, on its own! (hyperbole alert. do not try this with your camera....).

The only real question I had was "which flash to take?"  I have a shipping crate full of manual flashes from Godox, Cactus and Yongnuo but I decided I would like a dedicated TTL flash for the Panasonic system. I've had good luck with Godox lately so I splashed out $125 on the model, TT685O, which is the same form factor as several others I own and useable with the same remote triggers. It features full automation and can also be used as a master or slave flash in a multi-flash system.

With Eneloop NiMH batteries the flash worked like a charm.  My first use of the flash was in taking shots of couples in front of the above mentioned logo'd background. I tried a bunch of flash modifiers but shooting directly into a shiny vinyl background was always going to create a hot spot so I defaulted to bouncing the flash off the high, white ceiling. It looked much better. I started with the system on TTL but sometimes large expansive of white prom dress caused underexposure while couples draped entirely in black caused some overexposure. I realized that I could just set the flash to manual power at about 1/2 and, since our positions rarely changed, the exposure on my subjects would be absolutely perfect from shot to shot.

I started off shooting in AWB hoping to mix the ambient lighting with the flash but didn't like the way the flesh tones inevitable went to warm. I put a full orange filter on the flash to match it to the basic ambient light color and then set the camera at tungsten. Again, bypassing the automatic setting made for very repeatable results and much more pleasing color on the faces of my subjects.

Let's talk about that lens for a second. You know how everyone talks about how you can tell a great camera sensor because you can shoot it at the base ISO or ISO 1600 and by lifting the base ISO exposure to match the 1600 ISO exposure there's no difference in noise? I can't remember what the wags at DPReview call this but I'm renaming it "sensor indifference." What it basically means is that up to a certain level it really doesn't matter where you have the ISO set, the files will look the same.

So what does this have to do with the Olympus Pro lenses? Well, I very much believe that they are truly aperture indifferent. They look as sharp and contrasty wide open as they do stopped down to f8.0. I used my 12-100mm at f4.0 all evening and when I got back to the studio and magnified the files to 100% I was re-surprised at how sharp and detail rich the files were. Even at ISO 800. It's exciting not to worry to much about focus. The contrast detect AF is nuts on accurate and even though the focusing speed slows down in dim light (hello grand ballroom) when the AF confirmation signal locks you know you've got it nailed down.  It's fun to shoot with an aperture indifferent set of lenses because you never have to worry about trading lighting gathering for sharpness.

The camera (GH5) was a counter-intuitive choice for event work mostly because nobody seems to work with it that way. In our rush to mark this tool as a video centric imaging solution most reviewers have overlooked its very competitive still photography performance. The files, when created with discipline, are absolutely beautiful. The flesh tones make me happier than what I've been getting from most other systems and the size of the package for the performance is ridiculously good. I finished out my three hour shift with nearly 700 images on the V60 SD card (no wait for a buffer, ever) and I still had two of the three bars on the camera's battery indicator. Very pleasant, no struggles.

I think I've found one of the sweet spots between the one inch sensor cameras and the full framers.

Clipping path hangover.... What an ordeal. For a number of days last week I'd wake up at six in the morning fretting about getting all the clipping paths for 91 files knocked out in time. Each file needed to have two different clipping paths and we needed to work at a level of precision that would allow the images to be used in just about any medium. I'd lumber into the kitchen and make coffee and then, cup in hand, I'd head out the front door of the house and into the studio.

I had operational amnesia about one aspect of path making that I could not solve but was so happy to have the braintrust at our VSL blog rush into action and save me from my own ignorance. Another big "THANK YOU!!!!" to a brilliant advertising agency owner in Toronto, Canada for getting me the information I needed just when I needed it.

I preach against sitting in front of a computer screen doing fine work all the time but it's exactly what Belinda and I did last week. I've spent the better part of the weekend walking around in a daze, staring off into the middle and far distances and occasionally trying to extend my vision to infinity. And this just a week after getting new eyeglasses....

Every time I finish a project like this I say, "Never Again." But a few months later, when accounts receivable dip like a well drying up, I succumb to the weakness of commerce and, smiling, agree to another bout. When will I learn?

And now for the real reason most read the blog: swimming news!!!!

As you may recall, the water at our newest swim destination, Deep Eddy Pool, took a decided turn toward frigid last weekend. Apparently the city was using water from a back-up well while they fixed the pumps to the main well. The pool is refilled every other day so when they switched from the primary well to the secondary well the temperature dropped from a barely acceptable 72-73 degrees right down to 67 degrees. After a mile swim in that water, last Saturday, I rushed to buy a short wetsuit to preserve core temperatures for future swims. It came in very handy on Sunday when the water was also like the Antarctic ocean.

But this last week the repairs to the pumps were made and the pool has cleaner and more temperate water than I've seen since I started swimming here again a month ago. the temperature is back into the 72-73 zone and the wetsuit stayed in the car all week long. I have been warned, however, that the well water temperature will start dropping as soon as (if ever) we get some winter weather. I'm keeping the wetsuit handy....

Yesterday I met up with my friends, Anand, Emmett and Julie  and we self-coached a 3200 yard workout, from noon to one pm. We did 33.3 yard sprint sets, sets of 66.6 yards, sets of 100 yards and we interspersed these with 200 yard kicks and 400 yard distance swims. Swimming in colder water than I have been used to for the past 20 years is different. Muscles get tighter which causes more resistance. But the water seems to keep core temperatures in a good range for best recovery/performance. We're swimming harder and better but man! am I tired and sore later in the day.

Thinking about getting an inexpensive underwater camera to shoot some video with, if anyone has any suggestions.

Coming up. I deliver the clipping path job tomorrow afternoon and then, for the rest of the week I'll be on pins and needles waiting to see what new camera Panasonic will be releasing. There are plenty of rumors and a rumored date of Nov. 6 for the announcement. If it's a cool still camera and less pricy than the GH5 I'm pretty much in.

Also awaiting the release of the Olympus 45mm f1.2 Pro lens. I'm arranging to borrow one from my local vendor to test and see if it's really so much better than the Panasonic 42.5 I currently use. If it is then it may be irresistible.... I'm finding it increasingly difficult not to be assimilated by the Olympus Pro series lenses. So far, they are a brilliant differentiator between existing formats.

11.03.2017

The clipping paths have been completed. The sample sent to the client was approved with high marks. Ahhhhhhh. Now to relax at a gala!


Belinda and I methodically made our way through the 91 compound clipping paths. Now our client will be able to use the file with a white background and their product on a white (shiny) mannequin. They can select the next layer up and have an image of the white mannequin+their product on a transparent background, with an embedded clipping path, or they can go to the next layer up and have an image of their product sitting on a transparent background with no mannequin ---- but with a very nice, attendant clipping path.

It takes more time when the mannequin needs a few little scuff marks retouched, etc.

I made good use of the curvature pen tool and also the "select and refine" option.

I finished the project in enough time to have a late lunch, to pack and to head downtown for a gala at the JW Marriott Hotel for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Austin.

The glamorous life of a photographer....

Tonight I'm packing a dedicated (TTL) Godox flash for Panasonic/Olympus, a GH5 with the 12-100mm lens and a bunch of batteries. Too set in my ways not to bring along a back-up rig so I've also packed a G85, the small and lightweight 12-60mm lens and an extra manual flash. And again, batteries for all.

At least business is brisk.