7.20.2018

The Dog Days of Summer are Upon Us. Nothing left to do but go out and shoot a few photos with that Tokina 16-28mm lens I bought earlier.

My little "office corner" of the studio.

I like to do self portraits from time to time. I find them years later and it reminds me of how things were at a specific point in time. This photo (above) is from a few hours ago. I put it here to talk about something I bought for the Nikon D800's a little while back. 

After I bought two D800 variants (used) from my friends at Precision Camera I asked the repair/rental expert at the store if there were any "known" issues with those cameras beyond the early problems with left/right focus differences. He told me never to bang the camera hard on the bottom. Apparently earlier cameras like the D700 had a solid metal bottom under the cosmetic skin. It protected the little circuit boards and stuff from damage from blows to the bottom of the camera. The new cameras have a split plate that, once struck hard enough, kills the cameras badly enough to make them too costly to fix. The remedy for a camera disabled in this fashion is....total replacement. 

I asked if there was any workaround or fix and he suggested fitting a battery grip to each. I certainly didn't want to splash out for the Nikon grip because the price is outrageous so I did what every cheapskate photographer does and went looking for a cheap, generic substitute on Amazon. 

I found the Powerextra MB-D12 on the giant shopping site for a whopping $34. It's worked great. I have mine loaded with an extra battery and so far have had zero issues. Even the AF button on the battery grip works well. But included in my extravagant expense of $34 was also a wireless remote shutter triggering device. One button. Push it and the camera (with battery grip attached) fires. I tossed the remote in a drawer and didn't think about it until I needed to do a product shot and wanted to remotely trigger the camera. I pulled the remote from the drawer and it worked perfectly. 

Once vetted on a client's job I then moved forward and used the remote for my most important work --- my self portrait at my desk. It works for that too. So, in addition to camera protection I also got extra features for my big expenditure. I've kept the remote in the camera bag for those special occasions when the human touch on the shutter button isn't optimal. Like when I'm halfway across the room...

The Austin Public Library.

I had to retouch out the power lines that ran through this view...

I bought a used Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 lens a couple of months ago with the intention of doing more interior architectural work and then I realized that I have a tiny attention span when it comes to non-portrait photography and the lens has languished since its indifferent debut. 

The potential project for which I bought the lens has been rescheduled a couple of times and, based on need, the lens might have lain unproductive for months if I had not had to move it to get to a battery charger yesterday. I felt kind of sheepish having run out and bought the lens when the need was nowhere as pressing as I first imagined and, feeling a bit guilty for not trying harder to like very wide angle lenses, I vowed to try using it and to try getting used to seeing way too much in each frame. 

So, after yesterday's logistical missteps (driving 80 miles for a real estate closing which got delayed) I thought I deserved a little time away from the keyboard and the office and I grabbed the Nikon D800e, and the Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 lens, and headed downtown to take a few images of the new(ish) public library, along with a few photos of my favorite, white industrial constructions.

I've been taking advantage of the "system" when it comes to car parking for the last few days. Austin is the kind of city that isn't keen to send non-essential workers out if there are "dangerous conditions" afoot. A National Weather Service "excessive heat" warning generally means that the parking meter attendants remain indoors doing paperwork instead of writing tickets for expired meters. Works for me. I've been parking with impunity for the last two days. No tickets! But now that I've written it out loud I can only imagine that the gods who detect hubris and mete out punishment can't be far away. 

I've been trying to get a good shot of the new library for a couple of months now but my attempts reaffirm that I am aesthetically hamfisted when it comes to the nuances of good architectural photography; either that or I am too impatient to wait for the perfect light. 

Once I realized my limitations all that was really left was to try to like it. While I'm sure a more expensive optic might offer something more the Tokina 16/28 is very sharp and capable of rendering a lot of detail; especially when wedded to a 36 megapixel, full frame camera. I find the lens seems to be at its best at f7.1 and that's where I'd use it for paying work on a tripod, but I would not be afraid to go all the way to f11.5, given the right camera, with the right sized pixels. While it opens up to f2.8 I think some of these fast apertures on very wide zooms are really just a throwback or nod to the time of film when every photon needed to stand up and be counted, and when lenses needed to be fast in order to be easier to focus. 

There is actually a lens profile in Lightroom for this lens and it does a great job correcting for vignetting and most of the geometric distortion in the frame. Once you toss in the correction for chromatic aberrations you have a photo that's pretty convincing at all the focal lengths the lens offers. 

I got a great deal on mine because it was used, so for around $400 I think it's the bargain of the century. But then I'm not a power-user/architectural photographer. On the wide side this lens matches the angle of view I have with my Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm zoom.  16mm seems pretty extreme to me but I do remember getting some interesting and highly usable stuff with even wider lenses, like the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens. You really need to have the right subject matter to get the most out of lenses with extreme angles of view. But when you find yourself in situations like that these lenses can be a lot of fun. They create images so different from my usual perspective that the photographs do stop me cold sometimes. 

I guess it's like anything else, if I use a very wide zoom lens enough I'll start to figure out the strengths of these focal lengths and maybe even start to master a different look. I can tell you this: I could hardly wait to get home and drop a 50mm onto the front of the camera....

I'd be interested to hear how many of you like shooting with extreme wide angle lenses? How do you figure out how to compose? Why do you like them? And, of course, of all the stuff available out there what ends up being your favorite focal length. (For me, it's the 90mm). 

Thanks for reading.


The problem with shooting this building is that most of the angles that make the building look good have other buildings intruding into the frame. I guess the architectural pros just retouch the extraneous buildings out.....



I can't get enough of this wacky bridge. 
I like the soaring curve shots but I really, really like the details.



Not sure 16mm is great for street photography....



This is just "bad-vertising." Weathered signs that used to tout this project as a luxury living situations fallen into disrepair and sending exactly the opposite message. If I were the developer I'd be chasing out this kind of signage until I've sold the very last unit. It's just a lazy approach to chasing real estate dollars. Ooops. I hope this isn't one of my friend's properties.....

7.19.2018

Exterior Job on Monday Cancelled Due to Heat Forecast. Yikes.


We had a job scheduled for Monday and I was just about to call the client to see if we could juggle the days so I can get down to San Antonio on Monday to follow through on that pesky real estate closing. Just before I reached for my phone I got an e-mail from the same client. She nervously asked me if we could schedule her job later in the week. I was quick to agree and then I asked her, "what happened?"

She admitted that she just couldn't take the heat. Even though we'd have access to shade and places where we could take air conditioner breaks she shared that even today's "mild" 105 degree temperatures were more than she felt she could deal with and the forecasts are for temperatures on Monday to be up over 107 degrees. I had to agree with my client; I had a meeting at UT Austin today and had to walk about a half mile across campus from the only parking I could find. The heat hit me like a physical wall. My long pants and dress shoes didn't help much.

Addendum; forecast for Monday revised to a high of 109 degrees farenheit. A new record for that day in Austin, Texas.

I walked through downtown yesterday and even though it was only 102 I had to tie a cotton handkerchief to my camera strap to keep the sweat from rolling down my arm and soaking my camera.

There are some days which experience and common sense tell us are better spent laying on the couch under a couple of ceiling fans, reading a good book, and praying to the air conditioning goods to keep your systems running.

Also, for all of you who must shoot in this heat, be aware that high temperatures can cause an increase in file noise in digital cameras. My old Kodaks were infamously noisy when the temperatures rose over 102 (f). You could see the noise as color artifacts randomly distributed over the frames --- even at ISO 80. A white "flag" over the top of your camera works wonders for keeping the black metal surfaces from heating up and transferring the thermal load toward the innards.

Don't forget your wide brimmed hat and your big water bottle. If you're shooting around here you're going to need em. Careful y'all.

I like my client. She probably saved me from my own worst instincts; the ones that tell me to always be working....


7.18.2018

Lens Battle. Mostly Theoretical. Kinda Lopsided. Doesn't Make Much Sense. But.....hey.....Sigma ART.

In this corner it's the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens. Ten pounds (zany exaggeration) of prime glass and metal wrapped around a Nikon mount at one end. Priced for the photographer who just has to have the best performing 50mm lens with auto focus capability.

And in this corner, the featherweight, mostly plastic, screwdriver motor focusing, no rare element 50mm "nifty-fifty" ala Nikon. You can pick em up all day long at the used counter for less than the price of a decent Wagu hamburger and start shooting like HCB. 

But which one should you buy?
Which one should you use?
Which one is best?

In theory I love what Sigma has been doing with their art series lenses over the past five years. This is the second copy of the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens that I've owned and they've both been more or less optically perfect. My favorite lens test site, Lenstip.com gushes about the center performance of this lens, even when used wide open, and rates it as equal, or slightly better, to the Zeiss Otus 50mm lens which is at least three times the price and lacks AF. 

When I shoot carefully with the Sigma and combine it with the right camera (any D8xx series Nikon) it's capable of incredible results. When you use f4.0 and nail focus you get files that give you amazing detail and contrast; far better than almost any other lens but the very best from the various makers. At the 50mm focal length I haven't personally used anything that will beat it. (But bear in mind that I haven't used the current APO series lenses from Leica!). For around $900 it represents a great bargain if.......

You have to use it with good technique to get your money's worth out of it. If you just need a lens you can stop down to f8 and shoot with an on camera flash you would be better off investigating some of the cheaper options. If you are a world traveler and want to/need to travel light then this is not the family of lenses for you because it takes up a lot of space in a camera bag and it's hefty. Very hefty. 
If you shoot in the rain and surf then this lens is probably not for you. Nowhere in the promotional literature or in the specs doesn't Sigma make any promises about weather sealing, moisture resistance of protection of any kind in harsh environments. 

I use it a lot when I want to shoot loose, environmental portraits in which I want high sharpness on my subjects, enough background to establish the location and also the ability to drop out the focus on backgrounds. At five feet from my subject, stopped down to f2.8 and used with a full frame camera I get a perfect editorial look.  For me it's a great lens. I don't mind the size if I'm driving to a corporate job and have my gear in roller cases. But you have to understand that for a 50mm lens it's huge and heavy. Way too heavy. I guess that's the Sigma trade-off for the best optical performance of just about any 50mm f1.4 lens every made.

With all this nano-acuity, superb sharpness and obvious (brag-able) lens gravitas why on earth would I fuss around with a cheap, plasticky, mass manufactured starter 50mm lens like the Nikon 50mm f1.8D lens from a previous generation? 

Well, to start with you can pick up a clean and perfectly functional used copy for just a tad north of $100. While the Sigma Art lens is the operational equivalent of a Nikon G series lens ( no aperture ring) the Nikon 50mm f1.8D lens has a fully functional aperture ring which will allow you to use this lens in a fully manual mode with other brands of cameras via a lens adapter. That's especially cool if you need a good, cheap, long lens for your micro four-thirds hybrid camera. Or a good, manual normal lens for your new Sony A7III. You can use it on a Nikon....or practically any other camera out there which has a shorter sensor plane to lens mount flange distance than a Nikon camera. 

The 50mm f1.8D is pretty poor performing at f1.8 but gets better and better as you stop it down. For handheld shots, using moderately good technique, the performance at f5.6 and f8.0 is hard to distinguish from the performance of much more expensive 50mm lenses (see above). While we seem to all love fast lenses the reality is that most of us are shooting most of our work in moderate to good light and, coupled with low noise sensors that deliver low noise at higher ISOs, we aren't pressed to use the widest apertures nearly as much as we once were. I say that the nifty-fifty is poor performing at f1.8 but I should explain a little better. It is not a flat field lens and won't give you a perfect linear/perpendicular plane of sharp focus. Like most lenses that share its design family it's got good performance in the center, even wide open, but the performance falls off because field curvature means that the outside areas of the lens focus in a different plane than the center. By f2.8  to f4.0 the effects of lens curvature on edge sharpness are largely ameliorated by the effects of increased depth of field.  

The real benefit of the 50mm f1.8D is the smaller size and the lighter weight. It makes the camera system in your hand much easier to carry around and it takes up much less space in your camera bag. It's the lens to buy if.... you are on a budget. You work mostly around f5.6 and don't need to impress your fellow photographer friends. You need a beater lens that can be subject to harsh conditions without triggering your anxiety about lens damage or loss. It's the daily shooter for people who are tired of the weight that comes with perfection or people who have injuries or health conditions that make a much lighter lens a necessity.

The bottom line for me is that I find too much to like about each one of them to make a "final" choice.  If you already have the big Sigma you might pick up the smaller Nikon 50mm lens just to have something small and light when you are just out for a walk or an adventure, saving the bigger lens for more serious work on a tripod.

There are very few reasons to ever actually need the bigger lens over the smaller lens in amateur or professional work. The number one thing in the Sigma's favor is that it is much sharper wide open and close to wide open which allows you to isolate a subject via limited depth of field which still ensuring that what is in focus is spectacularly rendered. If I didn't want to blow money or do a lot of slow and considered work on a tripod I'd advise to just get the $100 lens and enjoy the hell out of it. 

The difference to most users, even talented users, will be the difference between 92% and 98%. They are both decent enough for just about any subject matter but the picky users will see a difference in quality when all other conditions are good. 

I shot both today and was happy with the results from each. See below for a size comparison.

Life Notes: I'm heading to San Antonio early tomorrow morning. I'm closing the sale of my father's house. My brother, our spouses and I have spent the last six months emptying the house, organizing the outflow and getting the house ready to sell. We put it on the market a little over a month ago and got our first offer (and a contract) within 24 hours. Now I'll be able to cancel utilities, cancel the homeowner's insurance and stop worrying about the property while trying to sleep at night. 

The closing is in the morning after which I'll have lunch with my dad and then spend the day by myself at the spectacular McNay Museum at the Austin Highway and N. New Braunfels Rd. Once the transfers are complete I will have successfully completed all of my responsibilities
for handling my mom's estate. After the house exits my continuous mental subroutine maybe I'll be able to concentrate more fully on making photographs and recharging my business of image construction. 

addendum: Well, the didn't go as planned. I got the thumbs up from everyone yesterday so I headed down to San Antonio this morning. I left a bit early so I didn't have to drive my poor, beleaguered car through the hottest parts of the day. I was about five minutes away from the title company when I got a call from my realtor letting me know that the lender had a last minute screw up and the closing could not happen until Monday. I climbed back on the car and headed home. We'll try it again next week. Argh. 

Swim notes: I stopped using fins at any time during my training over the last three months and have found my kicking technique in freestyle and backstroke has gotten much, much better. I also switched to using smaller hand paddles during stroke drills and find my turnover has gotten faster. A faster arm turn over with a more efficient kick is like Christmas coming early for a creaky, old masters swimmer. I like that!

Future Advertising Copywriter/Creative Director Studying old Communication Arts Annuals. Getting great advice from wonderful people in the Austin Ad community.

Ben Tuck. Studying the noble art of advertising.

Many years ago I started out as an advertising copywriter. I would write anything for just about anybody. From public relations stories about model homes for local builders to smart sounding articles about medical or technology "breakthroughs." To be honest I will have to date myself and mention that part of my success was tied to the fact that I started in an age before word processors and my finest skills were being able to type fast, on a typewriter, and with few mistakes. I eventually learned how to massage the content too.

Now, decades later, my kid, Ben, has graduated from college and is seriously considering working in the advertising business as well. His mom (a thirty year veteran of the business as a graphic designer/art director) and I tried to present a truthful picture of the advertising business but he wants to do it anyway....

We've aimed him at accomplished pros in the business and he's been doing investigational interviews with them. Each person has given him a reading list which contains books and publications they think are crucial to the nurturing of a young person's ad career. So far several books are ending up overlapping in the multiple circles of the book recommendation Venn diagram. Regardless of the age of the mentor the one standout book that is a constant recommendation, for understanding both the history and the underlying creative process of advertising, is "Ogilvy on Advertising" by David Ogilvy. It appears to be the timeless bible of the industry.

Advertising is a tough business but not impossible to master. He's a quick study. We'll monitor his progress. 


Photo: Nikon D700. Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens. Handheld. ISO 800. 

7.17.2018

Dancing Napkins. Anything to make dinner more exciting!


Dancing Napkins from "Beauty and the Beast" at Zach Theatre. Austin, Texas.

Whimsical fun on stage. This was a fun number to photograph! 

7.16.2018

It looks like we've hit critical mass. The trip to Iceland is a go. And just thinking about the upcoming trip is a nice diversion from the heat and dust storm we're experiencing today.


I've been looking over the details for my upcoming trip to Iceland and I'm already getting excited about it even though we don't leave until October 27th. Part of my excitement is just the anticipation of cool weather; it's going to be in the 100's here for the foreseeable future and we've also got the twin (discomfort) overlays of high humidity and a freak dust cloud from the Sahara Desert making the skies look smoky, hazy and blah.

Here are the trip details. Now comes the hard part.... What kind of gear do I pack?

I'm kidding. Nothing hard about that. I'll take the same kind of gear I would take for any fun travel adventure but I'll add in a good, lightweight tripod for long exposures.

Since we have no idea what systems I'll be shooting with in a couple of months (kidding, kidding, kinda...) I thought I'd put together a non-branded gear list and you can tell me if you think I'm leaving anything out.

First up: two identical cameras bodies. probably full frame and high resolution since we'll be doing a mix of shooting. But really, two bodies because I'd hate to be in a beautiful place, have a camera go on medical leave and not have a replacement within easy reach. And while I'm at it I'll pack at least two batteries for each camera body. If I decide to mix in a bit of video I'll add a few more batteries just to make sure I can always make it through a day of high volume, mixed photography and videography.

I'm taking a super wide angle zoom lens. Generically speaking how about a 14-24mm f2.8 lens? Sounds perfect for anything I might need in the wide regions. I'll also take along a 24-105/120mm standard zoom to use for lots and lots of handheld stuff that falls into my preferred focal length range.
On the long end, no matter what system ends up in the bag I'll bring a 70-200mm f4.0 (or equivalent) for a bit of compression. And, finally, since I can't seem to leave home without one, I'll being some sort of fast or semi-fast 50mm lens. Maybe (going off the generic path) the Sigma 50mm Art lens!

I could comfortably do with just the standard and long zooms but I figure we'll have transportation and time so why not push my own envelope a bit and play?

Maybe I'll drop one small flash in the bag but I'm not leaning in that direction right now....

Just thinking about packing for "moderate" weather is bringing a smile to my face. Now, where did I put that sunscreen?

Olympus 12-100mm view #1321, the skywalk from the convention center to the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Austin, Texas.



After lumbering around Austin in the heat with a big Nikon full frame camera and an even more solid  lens it was a relief to cruise around at the end of last week with the other part of my Jekyll and Hyde camera collection, the Panasonic GH5 and the Olympus 12-100mm lens. I could have reduced the burden further by switching lenses and using the pixie-like Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 but following that logic I could have saved even more space and weight by just taking along my iPhone....

I love walking almost as a I love swimming. Not only is walking a great exercise but a good walk is a good excuse to grab a camera and just go out to look at stuff. Or, grabbing a camera and going out to find new photos is a great excuse to go for a walk. Either way it's a nice process by which to lower your blood pressure.

Sometimes I think I'm being a bit too compulsive, walking the same route most weeks, and that might be true in a slow growing,  sleepy city that doesn't change much, but Austin's downtown changes weekly, sometimes daily. When I miss a week and then resume walking through downtown the next week I'll often find a flattened field which had been home to a multi-story building that had sat on that lot for decades. Two weeks beyond that I'll find an excavation of enormous proportions, made in preparation for yet another skyscraper.  I walked around the convention center last week just to see the completed skyway between the center and the new(ish) Fairmont Hotel. The shot above is a detail of the steel netting that replaces traditional railings.

It's all interesting to me.

Every once in a while I look into a folder from five or then years ago and find images of open fields which are now jam-packed with new high rises. Here's a shot (below) looking toward the Seaholm Power Plant, which is now which is now bracketed by 20+ story residence towers and retail shopping centers.

Walking through the constructions and the new business openings is one way to stay connected to my current city and not wedded to my nostalgic vision of what the city was 20 or 30 years ago...


7.14.2018

Totally off topic: Healthcare. Not a discussion about the Affordable Care Act !!!


I know many of my readers worked for the government or big corporations before retiring or may still work within those entities. I don't want this to devolve into a political discussion about the ACA. I just want to start a discussion about how freelancers access healthcare and what my strategy is for my healthcare. It's part of being a photographer and it's even more important as one hits middle age (and older).

I've always carried health insurance, rarely had to use it. I researched physicians in Austin about 30 years ago, asked my dentist and friends of mine who were doctors in various specialties, and went out and actively interviewed general practitioners. Most people just throw a dart at the dart board of whoever is offered in their employer paid health plan but I wanted an actual partner in my healthcare and I wanted someone who would go beyond the seven minute evaluation and the quick exit after writing a prescription. I wanted the kind of doctor my grandfather was; a caring and dedicated professional who would follow you through life, understand your history and think before diagnosing.

I found a great general practitioner and over the years I'd go in for a yearly physical, get ear infections treated and get my immunizations done. He never blindly prescribed, we talked through modalities of treatment and he offered options and let me know his preferences.

About two years ago my doctor decided he'd had enough of jumping through hoops and reducing fees for the big insurance companies and he decided to re-start his practice as a "concierge medicine" practice. Clients pay a yearly fee (mine is $1,600) and in return they get a thorough yearly physical exam with lab tests and all the office visits one might need over the course of the year.

I was also happy to get a direct cellphone number (not a medical exchange number) so I could get in touch right away if I needed to. Since insurance is not involved (although I still carry an ACA approved policy with a high deductible) there's no paper work when I go to see my doctor. There are no bills, no copays, no road blocks.

I had a rash on my forearm that popped up a day or two ago and after swim practice yesterday I called my doctor's office to request an appointment. It was 9:15 in the morning. The scheduler at my doctor's office let me know they had appointments available that day. Did I want to see my doctor at 10:15 a.m. ? They could make that happen.

I arrived on time and was ushered straight into an exam room where my doctor's nurse took my temperature, blood pressure and asked me a few pertinent questions. She was out of the room for 30 seconds when there was a knock on the door and my doctor entered. He examined the rash and prescribed something. He burned off an actinic keratosis on the other arm with liquid nitrogen. Then he asked me how life was treating me. We talked about my dad's recent cardiac event and my anxiety over the impending house sale. In all he sat and chatted with me as a friend and advisor for nearly 45 minutes. I left with the assurance that the rash was not some deadly cancer (me: ever the hypochondriac), feeling better about my recent changes in lifestyle (father's administrator and supervisor of his care) and happy to see that my long term "white coat syndrome" has largely resolved and that I can actually have a normal blood pressure of 115/65 while talking about my health.

Jointly my wife and I pay nearly $20,000 a year for health insurance although both of us are very healthy and rarely need more than glancing course correction. That represents nearly 15% of our income. Some of my associates suggest that I not pay for the concierge medicine and only pay for health insurance but I can say that once you've experienced appointments on demand, real continuity of care and the unhurried attention of a professional you trust it would be very difficult to give it up.

I remembered back, as I was writing this, to December 24th which was the day my mother was rushed to the emergency room. Being able to get my personal physician on the phone on Christmas Eve to talk me through the enormity of issues confronting my mother, and, by extension, me as her medical P.O.A. was something I just can't put a price on.

At 62 years old I am cognizant of the inevitable decline all of us will eventually experience. No one gets out of this alive. But there are good ways to get care and frustrating ways to get care. For me the investment in a dedicated professional seems to be a bargain.

If you are a freelancer under 65 years of age what is your strategy? Have you looked into Concierge Medicine providers? What has your experience been?

In a way my physician has become more of a freelancer, like me. He's just working on a fixed retainer. I get the whole idea. I like it. I'm waiting to see what changes in whole insurance world. I'd love to be able to buy a catastrophic policy and have that in reserve instead of having to duplicate some expenditures to get my care the way I want it.

You could buy a lot of cameras for $20,000 a year.......

7.13.2018

"Why does that photographer shoot so many images of each scene???? He must get paid by the frame."

A photograph from the opening night show of "The Beauty and the Beast" at Zach Theatre. With Meredith McCall, John Christopher and Martin Burke. Photographed with a Panasonic GH5 and the very nice Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro series lens. Get one. They're great!!! Sorry no affiliate link for you...

It always comes up. "Why do you shoot so many frames?"

I'll look at the results of a photo shoot; either a portrait session or a dress rehearsal, and I will have shot something like 100+ images for a "simple" (no such thing) portrait or somewhere north of a 1,000+  images for a two hour dress rehearsal of a live theater production. That's a lot of frames!

I've watched other photographers work hard and with much gnashing of teeth shoot ten for a portrait and a couple hundred for a live performance. Am I just stupid or am I a gluten for editing punishment?

I'll give myself the benefit of the doubt and toss out a rationale based on my personal experiences.

In making a portrait rapport with the sitter builds as you spend time together. There's a rhythm to the shooting; a cadence almost, and it takes most sitters some time to accept it and then, ultimately ignore it as they become more and more comfortable with the whole process of being photographed in a studio. In most cases we could probably toss the first dozen or two images and be pretty confident that the best stuff will come around the 2/3rds point in the session.

In addition to the "warm up" frames there is also the question of micro-expressions; little changes in expression that are more telling than one might at first believe. Little things like tension around a subject's mouth or eyes, a smile that's forced. If you see these things shooting more frames gives you time to re-direct conversation or direction and head into a different look. And, as I suggest, sitters get more comfortable over time --- if you engage them genuinely and with good intention.

After we get things happy and calm I might see and expression or gesture+expression that I really like and then we shoot more frames while we fine tune all the details, from the way hair falls to the way a collar sits on someone's neck, all the while working back to that great expression/gesture. It takes frames and a certain amount of trial and review to get things where you probably want them.

Once you have some really good frames the last 20% of the shoot is spent seeing if there is any way to improve the work and get even better frames. It's easy to see how you could get to 100 or more images in twenty minutes or so of working with a portrait sitter.

Yes, if you only took 12 you might get a useable frame but would it be a good frame? Would it be a photograph that both you and the sitter would be proud to share? The numbers are your friend in this case. You can throw away all your mistakes in the editing phase but the big mistake is to not have taken the great image in the first place, constrained by your own overly frugal regards for digital frames....

But what about show photos? Well, you are still looking for the perfect expressions but as in the image above we now have more parts in motion. We have three people, all moving, all expressing all doing their parts. In a world in which I would have absolute and complete control, an endless budget and infinite patience I would photograph each actor individually and with every variation of pose and gesture I could think of and then I would select the best frame of each actor and drop them into a master frame.

But that's not the reality of theater photography. You don't have unlimited access to actors. You don't have infinite budget for retouching and compositing and the theater probably wouldn't want that service if you could provide it. They value authenticity over perfection.

So we overshoot each scene so that we can be reasonably sure that there will be at least one frame in which everyone looks great, has their eyes open, is turned in just the right direction and in which the photographer has nailed composition, focus and exposure. Oh, and good handholding technique. As weird as it may sound your "perfect" selection ratio might be one really good and usable photograph out of a series of 50 or 60 that don't really make it.

With theater you also have to add in the reality that this may be the first time you've seen the productions and have no idea what comes just after the shot you thought was going to be the ultimate keeper. I keep shooting because I don't want to stop only to find the very next second or minute or whatever holds an even better version of the frame I just shot. We can always trash the frames that don't work but we can never get frames we lost by assuming we'd already hit the peak of action only to take our eyes off the prize just as it turned to gold. A little extra shooting and a little extra editing is the price we pay for looking for the potentially great shot in a sea of adequate shots.

And that's why I shoot so many frames.

One last thing. I may be partial to a certain look or gesture or expression but I try to shoot beyond my preferences because clients may have different tastes, points of view, or understandings about what constitutes a great image for their marketing efforts. In a very real way I'm shooting get stuff for me and for them even if the stuff in question is shot in two different ways. At least, if I overshoot, more of us will be happy with the final choices we get to make.

If I were shooting still life stuff to a tight comp we could probably get the shot in three frames....and two of those would just be safeties...

On a different topic (kinda): I wish Olympus made lenses for other camera makers. I love my m4:3 cameras partly because the two Olympus Pro lenses I use are so darn good. But I'd love to have them make a 25-125mm f4.0 lens for full frame Nikons and Sonys because I'm almost certain they'd blow the doors off what the big boys put on the market. And I know their image stabilization would also rock. Ever thought about what would happen if every photography player just played to their strengths? The lens I described just above with Nikon or Canon color science and Sony mirrorless tech? We couldn't even use a system like that. It would be too good for most uses. We'd end up crying over the lost potential........

Maybe it's just the heat talking...

7.12.2018

A production photo of Brianna Brooks at "Belle" the Zach Theatre's Production of "Beauty and the Beast." Now, if I can only remember which camera and lens I used to get this one.....

Belle at the Castle of the Beast.

I made it sound like I was on pins and needles this week when shooting the photos for "Beauty and the Beast at Zach Theatre. Yeah, I did two different shoots and also attended a non-photographic run through as an exercise in scouting; but the truth is that I enjoyed every minute of it. I've been shooting marketing images at show rehearsals for decades and I guess I've done it well enough so that each new marketing director doesn't come in and try to "manage" me, or give me shot lists, or tell me how to shoot the photographs. Instead they tell me when the curtain will be going up on a rehearsal and they tell me when they'd like to get the final images. With an open ended mission and a bag full of cameras and lenses to play with --- what's not to love?

I shot at the play for as many days as it took to get the shots that I wanted to see. That's how it works.

Camera and lens? Not the Nikon. It was the GH5 and the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro zoom. 1/80th of a second, lens wide open. ISO 1600.