8.17.2018

We're heading into the busy Fall season.

Selena R. at Willie Nelson's Ranch.

It seems to always start out slow in August. After the first week or two with little, or no, business I begin to panic; certain that no e-mail and no texts means I'll probably never work again. The phone doesn't count as clients forgot about calling when they learned I'd respond to texts. I start planning to pull money out of my savings account or to sell plasma, or both. I tell Belinda we can no longer afford anything other than beans and rice. We turn the thermostat up a little bit more, even though we're mired in the hottest month of the year. 

Then the dam breaks and work starts to flow in. Next week is spoken for. A solid week that weaves stills, video, stills and then more video. The first few days of the following week are set aside for editing, and after that we start on a big project that will have me and my videographer in San Antonio for a couple days a week for most of September. And there's stuff starting to fill in around the edges. 

We've re-introduced fresh vegetables into our diets and the thermostat has crawled back down. Belinda reminds me that this happens every year. We call it "The Sigh Before School Starts." Parents scramble to get their kids ready and then the race to get half a year's worth of projects done between now and the 15th of December starts in earnest. 

We'll have the same sinking feeling from Dec. 15th until January 15th. Would someone please remind me in January that things cycle up as the holidays recede into the past?

(remember that short period when I bought a Canon 1D mk3 and some Zeiss lenses and played around with that camera for a while? It was actually pretty good).

Photography as ever changing content in today's advertising paradigm.

Selena. Singer with "Rosie and the Ramblers."

 It's interesting and bit depressing to understand how the role of photography has changed in the realm of advertising. I know many of my readers are hobbyists and don't really care how some art director in San Diego or Miami intends to use images in the course of her work but there is a shift in the basic understanding of how photography works in advertising that affects its role and value to each of us across our cultural map. 

In the days of limited and expensive distribution which defined print advertising it was impossible to cost effectively provide consumers (and specific target audiences) with new visual content that changed daily. The mandate then was to create advertising that had a temporal stickiness to it so that the visual impression an ad created would have enough impact to provide results over the span of weeks or months. The strength of an ad's impression was also a determined by how many times people passed along a magazine, newspaper, brochure or direct mail piece to another audience member. 

Since advertising agencies and their clients had limited and expensive vehicles for their advertising it was important to the process to develop a truly creative message for delivery. This meant that quality time was spent conceiving and testing their "one way" communication with a target market. Since photography and illustration were the primary sources of stickiness a lot of time (and money) were invested in getting just the right image to carry the message and branding for the client. 

In a time when national advertising placement in magazines could cost as much as $100,000 per insertion, per magazine; and when multiple magazines and newspapers needed to be used to effectively hit a complete target market, the costs of media always exceeded, by an enormous multiple, the cost of image production. But because each volley of ads was (relatively) so expensive and needed to have a long shelf life no expenses were spared in really fine-tuning the photography or illustrations used to market client's goods and services. Even for a simple, industrial shot in the studio we might have a day of pre-production meetings, several days to acquire or build props, followed by a full day of photographing in order to squeeze out the absolute best image possible. The image was the lever that made the expense of advertising work.

After our jobs as photographers were done the final images were sent out by the advertising agency for color separations which were then delivered to the magazine or printer. Good color separations were always a blend of art and science and, with retouching, could cost thousands of dollars. The negatives sent to each individual magazine could cost hundreds of dollars per set. No wonder art directors paid so much attention to detail and to a workflow that gave ample time for fine-tuning and quality control at every step. 

And, I am sure that a digital variation of this exists at the high end of national advertising even today. But I'm equally sure that the dollars spent on traditional placed media are a tiny fraction of the share they used to command in the overall pie of advertising expenditures. Access to the web changed everything. Advertisers have trained consumers to expect daily (and sometimes hourly) engagement; complete with spontaneous feedback loops. Now that "placement" on the web is just about free there is far less concern with getting individual messaging absolutely correct and able to withstand a long run cycle. It's been replaced with the need for constant content constantly supplied to an ever hungry audience. Trading a quantity experience for a quality art product.

If advertisers needed to make each image as creative and well produced as they did back in the time when print was dominant the cost of production, because of the demand for quantity and diversity of images, would be insurmountable and not sustainable. Now the image is secondary to just "having the door open" and rotating new visual inventory to the daily audiences on the web. The need for quantity is also driven by the granualization of the overall media landscape; even on the web.

We are rarely called upon now to make one glorious and remarkable image for clients these days. Instead, we are called upon to work quickly, with minimal pre-production, and to make a wide range of images (an image library) over the course of one engagement such that we can provide an inventory of diverse images which can be pushed into the ever hungry delivery channels as quickly as "content providers" can package an image with a terse little marketing story, whipped out at speed by an "associate" copy writer or a copy-writing app. 

Often, when I show current work to old school photographers they (rightfully?) grouse about little details that would not have passed through the previous workflow process without correction or retouching. A wisp of hair out of place, a wrinkle in a shirt, a hanging thread at a seam, a less than perfect composite, a slight color shift, all things which would be critically deficient for an image destined to lead a month long or quarter long campaign, lingering like fine perfume on the market. But none of those things are now deal breakers (or even speed bumps) in the current hourly manufacture and upload of content for the web. 

We now have clients who bring iPhones to the shoots with the stated intention of shooting everything we do during a shoot and sending the BHS images off to a remote designer who packages them and inserts them at Medium.com, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, often creating a buzz campaign before we've even taken a break for lunch. This is not surreptitious behind-the-scenes behavior; it is mapped out as part of the shoot experience at the stage of preliminary negotiations. 

A recent shoot for a theater featured me shooting marketing stills, a video production company shooting a BHS video for immediate upload, and a photographer from the daily newspaper shooting the same BHS images and uploading them in bursts to his editor. The press photographer's images didn't hit print, they were delivered directly to the daily news feed on the newspapers website. And, of course, as soon as I got back to the office and started post production on the primary marketing images I was busy selecting my favorites and uploading them to this blog and to Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn so I could  grab a tiny bit of attention while the stuff was still fresh......

When each image has a lighter load to carry, and each image is desperately disposable, then each image is far less valuable. They become less like distinct art objects and more like the nightly local TV news. Bland stories, competently (barely) told, there to act that the mortar between bricks of advertising, and gone stale five minutes after the sign-off. Whether you admit it or not this downward appraisal of the value of individual images permeates through the collective psyche of our social structuring/ our culture. The endless flow diminishes the value and the attention paid to each individual pin prick of photographic presentation. 

The most interesting aspect for some of us is the way a diminished level of production value is rationalized; the way the shortcoming are re-packaged to become features. Any flaws (either in conception or image making ) are supposed to have been done intentionally in the pursuit of "authenticity." The idea being that flawed or poorly constructed images or messages will be more positively received by their intended audiences precisely because they "appear" to be a more honest message capsule. Less a corporate message and more just a slice of life. 

Am I depressed or "bitter" about all this? Not really. I presume that the overall market will rush to the bottom and soon nearly all web-ad images will be made quickly, mostly on the way to lunch (which will be recorded), by whatever phone is handy, and will become so bland and undifferentiated that data analysis will come to determine that all the energy wasted in loading up the web is ultimately inconsequential to sales which will bring a new generation of ad pros around 180 degrees, hellbent on creating a brilliant, standalone message that will be printed beautifully on thick and expensive card stock and then hand delivered to intended recipients, with a flourish. All of a sudden the mantra will be: They were so innovative. They were the first agency to reject the homogeneity of the web and embrace a whole new category: We're calling it "High Touch" marketing. Carefully crafted messages, exactly delivered. 

The new marketing will be touted as a break through, hybrid approach that combines state-of-the-art data-mining of demographics and combines it with quality messaging that is unique in both creative power and delivery. 

This may be critical marketing theory once we come to grips with the fact that the demographic over 50 years old controls over 75% of all wealth in the USA. And they may remember a time when advertising was delivered to them instead of just pushed off onto a screen. And they will probably remember that they liked feeling as though they were getting quality message, aimed directly at them, in a medium they enjoyed engaging with. Not all products and services will be able to slice down into the most cost effective slivers of the markets so there will always be mass market advertising that depends on the cheapness of the web. 

It will all be moot when video routs the final still imaging holdouts. The only thing that was holding video back was bandwidth and most of the fertile consumer markets have long since jumped that hurdle. Are we "looking forward" to a time when advertising just stream content 24/7? I'm not so sure but I may be outside that demo as well....

What does all this have to do with the image at the top of the article? Not much, except that I still like to see beautiful images that stand on their own. We may be the last few generations of people who share that regard. It makes me sad when photo reviewers like Thom Hogan write that the biggest impediment to success for companies like Nikon is not having software on the cameras that will easily and automatically send images immediately to the web. Why? So those images can join the millions of others queued up in the firehose? Seems like two concepts battling each other; the idea of a necessary and immediate flow of poorly considered images, flooding to the internet, versus brilliant concepts, careful planning and a process that would result on in glorious and stunning images that stand the test of time. 

Sad, if you believe that we can't have both. We can. Just not in the same wrappers.... 

8.16.2018

Just stuck my camera out the window and blazed away today. Someone else was driving the car up the "Devil's Backbone."

The landscape looks more exciting when it blazes by at 85 mph. Wear your glasses in case the June bugs come a splattering.


Panasonic V-Log. A quick and simple test.


This is the video in its V-Log form, unedited by human hands.

    

This is the video after I've applied the Panasonic V-Log to Rec 709 LUT and tweaked a few settings.

It's a quick and easy test to make sure that the GH5S, Final Cut Pro 10X, and the LUT all play nicely together. Ostensibly, you can get more dynamic range with a Log file but you have to shoot a file that looks very flat in your monitor. The GH5S has an in-camera LUT (look up table) that changes the way the file looks on your monitor, as you shoot, to get you, visually, into the ballpark.

You bring the super flat file into your editing program and overlay a LUT that maps the file into a REC 709 space so it looks normal. I find I like a bit more richness/darkness in the shadows so I also hit the curves controls.

The GH5S nicely passes my test for a good 1080p shooting machine.

shot in V-Log. ISO 320. 60 fps. 10 bit 4:2:2. All-I. All done.

Random Thoughts on a Random Thursday. Collaged Thoughts.


I have no idea with this product does but I know it was fun to 
photograph it with a wide enough lens so I also saw this guy's feet...

Yes, that would have been done for a 2018 commercial client 
with the Nikon D700. And, yes, we did get paid to show up
with that ancient equipment....

Most important news first. I had a really great swim practice this morning. I did some research on the web because what I'd really love, going forward, is for some major corporation to pay me just to swim every day. If I had to do less "real" work I could get back to two workouts a day and I'd be in really great shape. I just can't figure out how to spin the advantages of me swimming for clients so they'll want to toss me ten or fifteen thousand dollars per month. I do take a baby aspirin every day...I wonder if Bayer would play ball? Anyway, I think it would be really cool to maintain my lifestyle by swimming for a couple hours a day and maybe starting a blog about that. "Swimming my way to retirement"? 

What makes for a great swim practice? Hot weather combined with chilled water. It was right at 79 degrees today; cold enough to really feel your hands getting resistance in the water but not so cold as to make short rest intervals uncomfortable. Nice lane mates. It's great if you swim with two or three other people in your lane who are just a couple seconds faster per hundred than you are. Then you really have to work at keeping up and making the intervals. Clean water. The clearer the better. A great coach on deck; someone who will leave you alone when you are "in the zone" but who will step in to give you encouragement if something is a bit off. Finally, those wonderful days when someone thinks ahead and brings coffee and fresh fruit for a poolside, after-swim snack. Greet the sun. Feel the water. Raise your heart rate. Feel alive. 

This was my favorite video camera to date. It may drop down a notch 
when I've got the GH5S thoroughly figured out.

I'm heading out to practice handholding the new GH5S in conjunction with a variable neutral density filter and the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro lens. I've already tested one important parameter: the lens does provide image stabilization while shooting video, and it's very good and very steady. The weak link right now is just my lack of daily experience handholding this particular rig in video mode. It's something you get if you do it all the time. You get comfortable with the best way to hold and move with the camera. I want to get my hand and body skills nailed down first and then I may look at handheld gimbals. They seem so alluring and yet the gimbal can impart its own style if you just go with the flow. I want to know the old school way to handle the camera before I get a new crutch. And, yes, the audio from the GH5S and audio interface is perfect enough for me. I'm heading out to do snippets in downtown and I'll be experimenting with V-Log and HLG. Now I just need to scare up the right LUT for the GH5S in V-Log + Final Cut ProX. 

Monday afternoon is coming quick and I'd like to get about 8 hours of hands on practice in before I start shooting with the new camera for client. So far I haven't run into any monster glitches; not even a small gremlin or two. 

Look!!! Nikon has gone mirrorless!!!

Where are we with all the Nikon mirrorless announcement stuff? Michael Johnston (the Online Photographer) questioned whether Nikon "deserves" to be successful in the space. I thought that was a bit odd but it seems as though that kind of moralizing futurism is a great way to garner comments on a blog. He's gotten about 103 comments, and counting, since yesterday. I would say that most companies who haven't committed crimes, cheated their customers, or knowingly launched defective products deserve every chance the free market will give them. Nikon is not some company that spews out the dregs of the industry and begs for your money; they have a one hundred year history of providing great photographic products and, for the most part, standing behind what they sell. I've heard the same reactions directed at Sony. I think we need to get serious. It's not like these companies are Monsanto or ADM. They aren't poisoning the lakes and rivers or making genetically engineered seeds and then patenting all seeds. They are just trying to make some really nice and precise consumer products for grownups to play with. And enjoy. And make art with. 

We should wish all the camera makers good luck because we'll sure enough be moaning and groaning if they start to exit the market en masse and we wind up with one Microsoft Giant Type, monopoly camera company that controls an enormous swath of the market and doesn't feel the need to innovate or even fix their self-inflicted stumbles. I'm happy when all of the camera companies are humming along and making stuff we love. You should be too. 

Just wanted to put that out here. Now, on to Nikon. Seems like we're getting more and more believable stuff from the rumor sites. Today's conjecture is that we'll have two bodies coming soon; one that's tweaked for high speed (sports, et al) that will have a 24 megapixel sensor, and a second body that's optimized for ultimate resolution and image quality that will have 45 megapixels and the ability to stun people senseless with its image quality. The 24 megapixel version sounds yummy to me. I'll be buying one of those used in a few years. I can hardly wait. 

The other news is about lenses, and two in particular seem to be making peoples' antennae twitch. One is a 58mm f.095 and the other is a 36mm f1.2. Both will be native Z mounts and they'll be joined with the usual suspects; 24-70mm lenses in both fast and vanilla, and a few other lenses in which I had no immediate interest. I have my fingers crossed that they lens mount adapter is not the one accessory that launches on permanent back-order but then again... it's still impossible today, a year after launch, to get one's hands on a new D850 in north America.... All will be revealed in a week. 


How do I know a play at Zach Theatre is very, very popular? I start getting request from friends and family for comp tickets. I'm pretty good at snagging comps for myself but the inventory of ready tickets for "The Beauty and The Beast" is very, very thin and as long as the theater can get hard currency for seats it's tough to convince them to give them away. I've seen the play three times; they deserve your cash...

Here is my very first exterior shot with the GH5S (above). I was on my way downtown and passed by the theater around noon. I shot it close up with the Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm lens. I like leaning buildings but I'm not going to win new architect friends with that backward leaning image. It's a tough building to photograph because the only option other than a super wide is to shoot across four lanes of one of the busiest streets in Austin. Like this......(below).


In other notes, we're heading toward September, most public (and private) schools start up again in Austin next Tuesday, and downtown was bustling yesterday. There were lines of thirty to forty people at the popular food trucks, lots of people waiting for tables at nearly every downtown restaurant, and all the burger joints were packed. This  means more people on the streets to photograph and more people coming back to town to share coffee. 

Austin continues to grow but I'm not quite sure of the sign I found below. It's on a fence next to a giant hole in the ground. I'm not sure a weathered and sloppy sign is quite the advertising message I'd want to convey for a new high rise office building. I guess we'll see if their dream comes true. 


Finally, Kirk does car repair. I don't own a lawn mower and I don't have many tools. I have some pliers, a hammer and a set of socket wrenches. Somewhere in the studio I have a saw for cutting nine foot rolls of seamless down to more manageable sizes. I've never changed my own car's oil. I didn't grow up fixing cars. But yesterday I finally did one heroic car repair.

It was a hot and muggy day. I'd just finished shopping for dinner (my turn) at the local Trader Joe's and I had a bag of perishable groceries in the back seat of my car. I turned the ignition key and the car hesitated a bit before starting. I should have driven straight to the Honda dealer and thrown myself at their mercy at that moment. Instead, since the car started, I made a mental note to get the battery checked in the near future and I drove off to a gas station to fill up my tank. Task completed I got back in the car and turned the key only to hear a wimpy and short grrrr. grrrr. from the starter followed by a painful silence and no joy from the engine. The car was in shade and the gas station had both "full service" available as well as mechanics. Good luck for me.

One of the mechanics came over and popped the hood. He put some sort of external jump starting battery on the terminals of my battery and I started the car. Then he used a different device to check the alternator. It was fine. "You've got yourself a dead battery." He said. I asked if they had a replacement in stock. "No. We'd have to order one and we probably couldn't get it till tomorrow afternoon. If it was me I'd just head over to Costco and buy one. You'll save a lot of money." I thanked him and headed home.

I turned off the car in the driveway and borrowed Belinda's car to head over to the local Costco. I took the battery inside and they looked at some hieroglyphics on the outside of the dead box and determined that it had not yet crested their 3 year battery warranty, so.....they traded it out at no cost for a brand new battery.

I Googled how to replace my battery. It was dark by the time I got started but that gave me an excuse to set up four battery powered LED lights, on light stands, around the engine compartment. Things were going well until a skunk showed up. It stood on a sidewalk about thirty feet away and just, more or less, watched me. I'd turn the wrench one rotation and then look back over at the skunk --- I didn't want to be taken by surprise --- and I have enough trouble keeping clients happy without showing up smelling of skunk! He finally relented and sauntered off into the darkness and I was able to devote my full attention to the task in front of me. I know I should have grabbed the GH5S and done a behind-the-scenes video of my heroic battery replacement so you guys could see how adroit I was with tools but there was dinner waiting.

Everything works now but I did have to reset the clock in the car. Tip of the hat to Costco for their generous return policy. A big "thank you" to the skunk for not wanting a more active role in this adventure. Batteries die quicker in hot weather. I think it's all the time we have mired in traffic on super hot days that kills 'em. But, as long as I have access to Google I think I can change another battery in the future. No skinned knuckles.

Not as much fun as not having to change batteries. Funny, when I pulled out the battery it looked a bit smaller than the battery in my last car. My first thought was, "Sony battery." Couldn't help it.

8.15.2018

First test walk with the Panasonic GH5S. No big news.


Video projects all next week. Monday through Friday. But this week is all about reading the owner's manual, trying out V-Log and just, you know, making sure I've got my bearings with a new camera (that feels and handles a lot like a camera I already own...). 

I acquired a GH5S with about 100 actuations on the shutter and maybe two hours of video run time on it. The body is nearly exactly like the GH5 (classic) and the only two markings that identify it as an "S" model are a red record button near the shutter button and a red ring around the drive selector dial on the left hand side of the camera (as you are holding it in user position).  One more marking; there is a small red "S" under the normal gray lettering that says, "GH5". 

As you probably know, both bodies take the same battery type, the same memory card types and all of the operating controls are the same. The two big differences are that the classic version is 20 megapixels and has in body image stabilization while the "S" is 10 megapixels and the only image stabilization is moderating your coffee intake. But the 10 megapixels are bigger megapixels and the S features a dual ISO scheme that will either give you better dynamic range at lower ISOs or better noise handling capabilities at high ISOs. Most of the effect is optimized for video files. 

I set the camera to raw (14 bit) and went for my usual pleasant walk through the bustling urbanscape of Austin around noon. It was a hot and sultry day and I was out walking while everyone was strolling around to their favorite lunch places. The sidewalks were busy. A huge contrast to last week when it seemed everyone had abandoned town in fear of mid-August weather and ennui. Now the kids are back, it's almost time for school. Their parents are back at work. The millennials are back from surfing or video game tournaments. The roads are filled back up to capacity and it's only going to get crazier on Tuesday next week when vacation is over for everyone. 

I walked and shot and tried out a few things on the camera files. I played with the shadow/highlight feature and it was pretty cool. I shot in the 3:2 ratio because the multi-aspect ratio sensor doesn't inflict a pixel penalty at any of the popular rectangular options. You always get the 10 megapixels for which you paid. 

I can comment that the color is very nice, the camera, in raw mode, handles high contrast sunlight very well and when using a V90 rated SD card the buffer clears faster than I could have imagined. Even with 14 bit raw files. Focus seems right on the money and the Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm looks sharp and natty at every focal length and aperture I used. 

Now I am back at home base and I'm getting ready to go into the sun-dappled front yard and try out the V-Log setting. I may get the hang of this camera by Monday morning. At least I'll try. 

A "thank you" to Michael Kohnhorst for the recommendation of a Guerrilla Eyecup for the camera. It looks like a good addition for people who like to shoot video while using the EVF.  I've ordered one to try out. More information to follow as I dive in. All good tips welcome.







The entire week will be in the 100's. Thinking about staying 
hydrated. Real Ale Brewing Company, Devil's Backbone?
I know, I know. Drink plenty of water too.

What will it take for Nikon mirrorless cameras to "win"?


Does anybody really win in a declining market?

I love all the conjecture about the Nikon cameras that are to be announced on August 23rd. I can tell you exactly what to expect. You'll get bodies that have a grip something like the D750; big enough to hold comfortably and conformed to a real human hand. If that is the only difference between Nikon on the presumptive front-runner, Sony, then we photographers will have already won because we'll enjoy holding the better designed camera in our hand and the benefit will accrue for years and years; we'll enjoy it every time we handle the camera! Which means we'll want to handle the camera more and more often. It's a joyous circle in which good haptics creates the desire for more contact. Why Sony was hellbent on the pixie proportioning of the A7 series cameras is beyond me ... especially since they got the body configuration just about right on the RX10 series cameras.

And good overall industrial design delivers more benefits than just handhold-ability, the bigger grip means more space for a bigger battery which will go a long way to making a transition to the new cameras more "operationally" seamless to current Nikon owners. There is comfort in knowing that the freshly charged battery in your camera will probably last you through a day of shooting plan your day's journey through the streets of some fascinating city.

I don't doubt for a minute that Nikon will deliver color and tone characteristics that will please a large number of users and those users will have an easy time with post processing. It seems that color science is still more magic than science and there is some argument to be made that the longer a company works on delivering top notch results the better they become at it.

It is widely suggested that the new body will bring a new lens mount into play. Let's count on it. And I would argue that they did this to be unfettered by physical restrictions arising from the narrow diameter of their long running F mount. Expect to see announcements about a bevy of much faster primes and zooms made specifically for the new camera. There is already a rumor about the introduction of a new Nocto Nikon 58mm lens with an f-stop faster than f1.0. I predict they'll follow Sigma's lead and start introducing selected short range zoom lenses with apertures of f2.0 as well. That should be a fun shot across Sony's bow.

The flagship camera will use the newest full frame sensor; either the one in the D850 or an altogether new sensor in the same pixel count range. Nikon will concentrate on making the magnification optics for the EVF as good as they can be in order to make the viewing experience better than most of their competitors. They will even let you, the buyer, know that they've nano-coated every element in the magnification chain to maximize quality.

The final feature that makes any difference at all to end users will be the addition of full frame 4K video with plentiful choice of codecs, including one that delivers 60p 4K at full frame and the option for 10 bit 4:2:2 at that high frame rate. My hope, more than the changes in video codecs, is that they'll finally make in camera audio world class. Quiet and precise audio pre-amplifiers that are also capable of healthy gain levels.

So, if this all comes to pass, will the Nikon be "better" than the upcoming Canon or the pre-existing Sony competitor. Yes, probably. At least for a month or two. But with the exception of handling differences the range of quality image performance is very, very small. There just isn't much difference between the quality of the raw files amongst any of the big three, full frame camera makers and I don't expect that to change.

Whether or not you buy the new Nikon mirrorless cameras will come down to just a few things: Do you like the way the camera looks and feels better than the cameras from Nikon's competitors? If so, you're probably a candidate. Do you have an enormous inventory of Sony or Canon lenses that you like? If so, I bet you'll throw shade on the Nikon and wait, anxiously, for your chosen supplier to step up and match the Nikon entries. Will there be a unique feature in one company's cameras that you can't or won't live without? Not very likely, all three camera makers seem to leapfrog  each other in some sense but the underlying performance difference across the brands are subtle, ephemeral and almost unmeasurable.

With all this in mind I'd predict that this move will, at least temporarily, improve Nikon's market share (in a declining market) and most of the share will come from Canon. Canon will then launch their equivalent product and it will steal back share from Nikon. If both Nikon and Canon learned their lessons from watching the mirrorless evolution they will certainly use their strong photographic brand equity to steal back lots of market share from Sony. If the imaging performances achieve parity it will then be easy to win back that market share from Sony. All Nikon has to do is put a better designed and better handling camera into people's hands to remind them of what a great pleasure photography can be.

Ditto for Canon.

Say what you will about the dinosaurs but I've experienced this first hand. The Nikon D850, 810, 800 and all the way back to the D700 are much more comfortable cameras to shoot with for extended periods of time. The fascination for tiny camera bodies is waning. Rational choices will be made. But it may be too late for an industry that is shriveling toward inconsequential. For the rank and file non-enthusiasts the results are in. Smart phones have already won. The big three camera makers are just squabbling over the carcass.

Note. Professionals will still want and need higher quality cameras and may be able to market the look of full frame images as a USP. They'll still want certain kinds of cameras. It's the vast midrange that will vanish.

Just a few thoughts about a week out from the introduction.

One more certain prediction: The web will be on fire with hand's on reviews, previews, spec analysis, and endless debate within seconds of Nikon's NDA's timing out. A quiet and empty time for those of us not ready to go into full on gush mode about a couple of new cameras.

D700 looking pretty swank to me.

8.14.2018

Portrait of Susan. Shot for a book cover. Not used. Tragic.

Susan.

I shot this image as a possible candidate for the cover of my LED Lighting book, published by Amherst Media. I loved the shot and left a lot of space on the left and right for cropping, titling and sub-titling. The publisher decided to go in a different direction. And the hard fact of the matter is that the cover is part of the book's marketing and that is nearly always controlled by the publisher. 

Proof that I don't always get my own way. It was fun for me, at least, because I got to work with Susan; who was a great talent.

8.13.2018

Interesting video project coming up next week. Time to consider the GH5 variant known as the GH5S? Chime in if you have an opinion...

West Texas WPA Landscape. Picnic Area in the Middle of Nowhere.
Olympus EP-2 camera. Lens not noted.

I spent time on Saturday evening re-watching the Beatles movie: "Hard Day's Night" and was once again blown away. Not by the story-telling or the celebrities but by the wonderful camera work and moving imagery of the work. Director, Richard Lester, brought an amazing visual aesthetic to this 1964 classic with his use of moving, handheld movie cameras and the great (and nearly noiseless) 16mm and 35mm black and white scenes he was able to capture. A lot of the interior scenes and on-the-train scenes were obviously lit and lit quickly but the majority of the film is like watching a beautiful photographic spread in an older Life Magazine spring to life and move. 

So, what was I doing hanging out on the couch watching an old movie when I should be out dancing and schmoozing and making the chauffeur earn his keep on a Saturday night? Good question.

I was actually doing research for a short film I'm starting on next week. There is a comedy theater in town that I work with (Esther's Follies on Sixth Street, in downtown Austin) and I'd been thinking about making a small, black and white film to create an artsy look at the energy and movement that goes on there in front and behind the "curtain." As a fan of Wim Wender's movie, "Wings of Desire" and Gordon Willis's genius work on Woody Allen's movie, "Manhattan", it seems only natural that I would want to work in black and white as well.

Much of the footage I have in mind would be shot behind the stage, in dressing rooms, during rehearsals and other times, mostly in situations that have less than optimal levels of illumination. The working spaces at the theater are small and there's no real room for much supplemental light so I intend to shoot mostly available light to create the video content. And that brought me to the idea of supplementing the GH5 (original) with the newer GH5S which, in video, is said to be about a stop and a half to two stops less noisy, in low light.

The two main differences between the cameras are that the GH5S is optimized for video so the sensor "only" has ten megapixels of resolution. This means the camera can use the direct imaging pixels in 4K video without the need to downsample or pixel bin. It should be a more carefully optimized video image. The second difference is that the "S" does NOT have in-body image stabilization so using it handheld with older, legacy lenses is problematic; unless I acquire and learn how to use a gimbal.

I'm not too concerned about the lack of IBIS because my intention is to use lenses that already have stabilization, use the GH5 (original) in set ups where I want to use ancient lenses and IBIS, and to run out and buy a bunch of Olympus Pro lenses with their own stabilization. (Mostly kidding about rushing out to buy new lenses. The 12-100mm is stabilized and offers pretty killer performance. As does the Panasonic 42.5 f1.7 lens). Part of working with certain cameras is adapting to their limitations and using them as formal boundaries for seeing. If I were heading into the project looking for perfection at any cost I'd already be sourcing the rental of an Arriflex Alexa camera and a suitcase full of Zeiss Speed Primes. Right?

How did the idea of acquiring a video centric version of the GH5 come up in the first place? Well, I have a good friend who is a brilliant video artist and, as a supplement to his Sony A7Rii, A7iii, FS7 and a few other fine cameras, he also bought both a GH5 and a GH5S. He's come to realize that, when using the m4:3 cameras for his video projects the one thing he values most is the IBIS; especially when using his inventory of older, cinema lenses. He wants two identical cameras so his B camera and A camera always can be made to match up exactly. I happen to have two of the GH5 cameras, and a bucket full of full frame Nikons, and my video needs are much less exacting than his. I can play around with two different camera variants and not even notice the differences in noise profiles that would drive him a bit nuts ---- especially when he's cutting together two different camera views of the same scene and can see (to him) a big difference in the characteristics of the noise.

While the GH5S might be better optimized for video he's always got the dedicated FS7 video camera to turn to for a more exacting level of precision and quality. And, bottom line, it's fun for both of us to play with different cameras.

We'll swap bodies and I'll toss in money to cover the difference in price, to make the deal fair. Then I plan to spend the better part of this week testing, testing, testing. Not just video features and performance but also how the GH5S handles regular photography. I'm especially anxious to see how it handles portrait work since it is the first m4:3 camera to come with the ability to generate 14 bit raw files!!!

I think it's a great idea and it's certainly not one that will "break the bank." I'd love to hear feedback from other people who own the GH5S, or both cameras, to see what the gotcha's and pitfalls might be and how to avoid them. Let's share info in the comments.


A most wonderful choice for anyone who needs to make a movie without a crew.


If you are in Austin it would be fun for you, or you and the family, to go see "B and the B" at Zach Theatre.


While you are enjoying the play pay attention to the lighting. It's very, very good. 
And it's mostly LED. 

Above: The post card. I made the photograph and Rona Ebert did the design and production.

Nikon D800
Nikon 24-120mm
Neewer Vision 4 Flashes