9.19.2018

Photographing the dress rehearsal of a new play at Austin's premier regional theater. Using the GH5 and GH5S interchangeably. Some with Image Stabilization and some without.


I shot the tech rehearsal of the show, "Once," with a Nikon D800e and a very versatile Nikon 24-120 f4.0 VR lens. But I went back again to do a shoot in a completely different style, two days later  at the dress rehearsal (with an audience in attendance). At the dress rehearsal I shot with a GH5 and a GH5S along with the two really cool Olympus Pro lenses I've been writing about. One is the 40-150mm f2.8 and the other is the 12-100mm f4.0.  I shot the GH5S (with its whopping ten megapixels...) in raw format and the GH5 in Jpeg (large fine). I also went back and forth with the lenses because I was testing my premise about image stabilization being an interesting side issue in the fervor surrounding cameras in actual use. 

I used the Panasonics for fun. I also used them for their silent operation (although you can see some banding from LEDs in some continuous tone areas in some photos....) their night mode and to be try comparing the files from the two cameras side-by-side. No big winners or losers here. Both do a great job. It was interesting to see how the images looked to me when viewing them next to similar images (under the same lighting, etc.) as the Nikon images from two days earlier. Again, they each have their aesthetic merits. 

The new fiber internet service is working well. A gallery that would have taken multiple hours two and a half weeks ago now uploads in about 15 minutes. Remarkable. A much bigger improvement to my workflow than any lens or camera I've purchased in years. Now I need to replace my current laptop...

Enjoy the show....
















9.18.2018

One feature I am looking forward to in the Nikon Z7 camera.


One feature that hasn't been widely mentioned in the writings I've seen about the Nikon Z7 camera is that Nikon has decided to give photographers a range of aspect ratios, including 1:1 at 5500 by 5500 pixels, which gets me a square format image of a little over 30 megapixels. Oh joy!!! This might be the new camera for the legion of portrait photographers who crave being able to see their format (as it should be) in the high resolution EVF finder of the camera. We'll be able to compose as we did in the halcyon days of image making. No longer enslaved to a paltry couple of lame aspect ratios, or nearly worthless red frame lines overlaid on an optical finder. We'll see the square (I hope) surrounded by a rich field of black and will walk away with files big enough to satisfy most people who want to make large prints. 

I haven't check to see if the Canon full frame mirrorless camera offers the same wonderful compositional freedom, but I hope for the sake of Canon shooters that it does. 

The lack of a 1:1 format in my Sony A7Rii (when it would have been so incredibly easy to include) is one of the reasons I soured on using the system. True, the D800s don't have a square format or even an EVF but I see the D800s as a stop gap respite in the mad rush to the future. And in my world the future will be square.

The intersecting realities of image stabilization and subject movement. Why image stabilization doesn't make me giddy.


I'll be among the first to admit that image stabilization is pretty cool when it comes to objects that aren't moving. I love using my image stabilized lenses or cameras, or lenses and cameras when I'm photographing subjects that are at rest. Stationary. Not moving. Moving slowly. I.S. is a feature that helps me handhold my camera and lens system at lower shutter speeds than I usually would be able to without it. How much better is I.S. than photography without I.S. ? That really varies from system to system and even from format to format. 

I think most would agree that Olympus is the master of this feature. I used two Olympus EM-5.2 cameras a few years ago to create a video for a restaurant and my accomplice and I were able to do the whole project handheld. All the takes were as smooth as you could want and in the ensuing years I've been asked by friends in the video production business which gimbal we used to do the project. Some cameras were far less convincing with their image stabilization; the Sony a850 featured Steadyshot Inside but I'll be darned if I ever got more than one and half stops of assistance from that 2009 vintage camera. More recently I was using various Sony cameras and I found that the least effective implementation of image stabilization came in the A7Rii. The I.S. in the APS-C a6500 camera I used over the course of a week was much better at stabilizing images than my full frame sensor cameras at every focal length I tested, but the real winner in the Sony systems (in my experience) was the RX10 iii. The RX10 was nearly as good as the Olympus cameras and was very useful in the video and photography. 

For a while I was very enamored with I.S., whether it was lens or body based. But one day it dawned on me that the idea of constant stabilization was sidetracking me from using my cameras in the most effective ways. I was becoming dependent upon the camera to stabilize everything and, by extension, to make everything sharp, but I was so impressed with some cameras' abilities to work miracles at shutter speeds as low as 1/8th of second that it was becoming of game of seeing just how low we could put the limbo stick of exposure before camera movement started to manifest itself. 

Of course none of this took into consideration the more important effects of subject motion. If you are photographing a person who is talking with some degree of animation; moving their hands, nodding their head and bouncing from one foot to the other then all the image stabilization your camera can muster won't fix the problem of blurry hands, blurry heads and blurry bodies that come from trying to capture life at too slow a shutter speed. An animated speaker needs, at a minimum, about 1/125th of a second exposure in order to give the camera a fighting chance of pulling off a perceptively sharp image. You're much better off is you head up to 1/250th of a second as your minimum shutter speed. Subject motion is generally a much more realistic determiner of quality with any animated subject. I'm sure of this because I've spent the last 32 years trying to figure out how to shoot theatrical dress rehearsals where one is dealing with a triangle of evils in the image making. You need a fast enough shutter to freeze, or at least minimize, motion but you'll need a higher ISO to get you that shutter speed because the lighting is fixed. If you add clicks to the ISO dial you'll get more noise. Sometimes it's possible to use a faster lens but the longer your focal length the less and less likely that you'll find as fast an aperture as you do on shorter lenses. 

The third side of the triangle is light levels. In a shot that your are setting up and lighting you have the option of cranking up the power on your lights, but in the theater or in reportage you don't have the option to modify the light; you shoot with what you get. 

I used to think that image stabilization was mandatory even in the 1/160th and 1/250th range of shutter speeds, I mean, why not have all the potential image quality magnifiers you can get? Right? But one evening, after a long and crushing week, I shot a show at my local theater under challenging lighting with the fairly fast Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro lens. I had been shooting with a GH5 and the (best in the universe all in one lens) Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro lens. The difference is that the shorter lens features really good I.S. while the longer lens doesn't have I.S. at all; it depends on the bodies to supply the support.

I forgot that in the moment and didn't have the I.S. engaged in the body. I blithely shot the whole evening without the glory and majesty of technology enhanced stabilization. When I got into the office the next day I started my usual routine of importing files and editing them. I was halfway through the edit and things were going well. I took a break at the behest of Studio Dog (you gotta play fetch at some point during the day or you might be a piss poor dog companion....) and when she did something super cute I grabbed the camera and blasted off a few frames. Then I look for the I.S. switch on the lens and BAM! in a moment of cold sweat awareness realized that it didn't exist. I flipped into the camera menu sure that I must have had the in-body stabilization engaged but HORRORS! no. 

For the rest of the morning I kept reflexively grabbing frames from the edit and enlarging them to 1:1 on my 27 inch screen. I was certain my folly would become obvious. Equally certain that my client would gasp in disgust and toss the whole shoot back in my face...

Only it didn't work out that way. I'd hewed to good practices and kept the shutter speeds as high as I could without cresting the 1600 ISO mark. I mostly shot the evening before between 1/160th of a second and 1/320th of a second. The images were very, very sharp. Comparing them with production photos from a month earlier made me realize that, at the shutter speeds I'd chosen to freeze subject motion the presence or absence of image stabilization was largely inconsequential. 

I logged that information away in my brain and let it ferment. And then I started taking more "chances" because after all, we'd been able to make perfectly good photographs all the time before the invention of this amazing technology. So, this last weekend I found myself shooting a bunch of stuff at an Amputee Coalition event with a Nikon D700 and a Nikon 24-120mm f4.0 VR lens (VR is Nikon's brand of stabilization. The VR stands for "vibration reduction"). 

I was shooting everything at f4.5 because the lens is sharp there and I like to drop backgrounds out of focus. I thought of it as a benefit that the lens also brought me really good image stabilization as well. But the combination of the f4.5 (for sharpness), the light levels, and the desire to keep ISO around 800 for the best looking available light files meant that I was shooting down in the 1/60th to 1/125th zone. I was getting blur from head movement and arm & hand motion. More than I wanted. I pulled a (non-stabilized) 50mm lens out of the bag and set it to f2.5 which gave me the ability to use nearly two more stops of shutter speed without changing my ISO. That meant shots at 1/250th or 1/320th of a second. I started getting more shots without subject blur and I got the added bonus of less in focus in the background. 

Had I needed more depth of field at the higher shutter speeds (keeping the ISO the same) I guess I could have switched to a smaller format. Too bad I didn't pack a smaller format system...

When we are given new features we tend to let them become mandatory settings for everything and then, since we are only human, we get over confident that I.S. will save our bacon in a pinch. That a newer system will let us go lower and lower with shutter speeds. But too often we misjudge what the important parameters of a shot might be. If the camera makers put a new and improved "hammer" feature in our cameras then every shooting situation seems like a new and improved "nail" situation. 

There really are no technical reasons I know of not to just leave I.S. on (unless you are putting your camera on a stable tripod) except for one that might affect users of "mini-battery" cameras like the first two generations of Sony A7 cameras or Fuji cameras. Image stabilization does consume battery power. As long as it's in use it's sucking down power like crazy. 

On the flip side there is a benefit which doesn't get as much mention as the primary function of I.S. (reducing blur) and that is the presentation of a stabilized viewfinder. And when you get a stabilized view through the finder your autofocusing module is also getting a stabilized feed which, theoretically should make focusing easier for your camera. 

The important thing I wanted to get across here is that image stabilization is not a magic bullet for everything. You still have to pay a lot of attention to subject motion. More so when light levels fall. Image stabilization is great to have but you still have to pay attention to the rest of the photographic equation. At least if you want sharp photos of moving objects....

I'm not particularly religious about which way I "must" have my I.S. I get that having it in-body means I get to apply the benefit of the feature to older lenses or lenses that may not have I.S. built in. But on a theoretical level I can make a convincing argument that having the I.S. custom designed and calibrated for individual lens designs (especially longer focal lengths) should be more effective. Think for a second about how far a sensor would have to be able to move to correct for camera motion with something like a 300mm lens. Eventually the sensor will run out of space in the camera to travel further. A long lens with built in stabilization can offer a greater range of correction when you get near the boundaries of what's possible --- at least in theory. 

Ah, what the hell. Just remember to match shutter speed to subject movement and I bet everything will turn out well.




9.17.2018

One secret of effective direct mail. A novel delivery method.

I spent a rainy Saturday indoors in San Antonio at an Amputee Coalition event. There were lots of people there sharing stories and discoveries, learning new methodologies and generally having a good time. As usual there were representatives from various companies showing off their new technologies; their latest products. I found one exhibitor who had her service dog with her. I think the dog was bored because it decided to hand out pamphlets instead of just curling up at her feet. I've been wondering all morning today if I could also train my dog to pass out marketing pieces. Maybe the key is to start out small, with business cards, and eventually working our way up to larger direct mail pieces.... It's a thought. Probably not a good one. 

I have to say, especially after last week, one of the things I love about my career is the diversity of the projects I photograph. From the Amputee Coalition to Dell, Inc., to Ottobock, to the Seminary of the Southwest, to Zach Theatre, it's been a series of very different engagements. I guess the one common thread is that every project involved photographing people. Each industry and association is specialized but the need to engage real people, face to face, is universal. That seems to me to be the important part of the business. 

Happy Monday. Now processing hundreds and hundreds of files from an ancient Nikon D700.... (The Tri-X of digital cameras?).

9.16.2018

It's been a long week working in the trenches of commercial photography...

Studio Dog pondering the universe down the long hallway.

I miss Studio Dog. I've been in San Antonio since eight o'clock yesterday morning, missing both swim practices, lunch with my small crew and the comforts of home but, in the moment, I miss the dog. I think it's because it's impossible to tell her where I'm going, how long I'll be gone and when I'll be getting back. She always knows I'm going some place when I pull out my little Osprey overnight pack and load it up with clothes. She always delivers that sad, sad look and somehow conspires to put her chin down on my thigh and let out a forlorn sigh just as I'm getting ready to get up and walk out the door.....

I've been in and out of the house all week long and on the days when everyone will be out working from dawn to dusk we hire Studio Dog's pet sitter to come by the house, play with her, walk her and generally try to reassure her that the people will return shortly. I wish I could take Studio Dog along with me on assignments but she gets restless and I'd hate to have to choose between taking her outside for a potty break and finishing a shoot with a CEO or a celebrity... (I'd always want to pick in favor of my dog...). 

After a week of shooting tight deadline projects with stills and motion content, in Austin, I had two more projects to complete this week. One was yesterday's shoot in San Antonio, Texas for the Amputee Coalition. I needed to be at the University of Texas Health Sciences School by around eight o'clock a.m. and I didn't feel like heading down the night before so I got up at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. and got on the road in a driving rain by 6 a.m. packed, as is becoming typical lately, with still cameras, video friendly cameras, lenses, microphones, cables, batteries and portable lights. I drove by several wrecks as I headed south on IH-35 which slowed me down a bit. The NPR station was non-stop coverage of hurricane Florence. The cup of instant coffee I'd made quickly to bring along with me had long since lost my attention. 

I'd been doing nearly all of my photography this week with two D800 cameras; one D800e and one D800 plain vanilla. They are fine cameras and do most things well. The raw files are enormous, ponderous and usually not entirely necessary. My one wish for those cameras (and the D810, etc.) would be to have a reduced size raw file. All the color and post processing flexibility in a smaller and friendlier package. I'm starting to chaff at filling up a couple Terabytes a month of hard drives....

I was packing up the routine kit Friday afternoon with the D800s and the wondrous and near perfect Panasonic GH5S and I changed my mind. The D800's went back into the equipment drawer and I pulled out the two D700's. I made sure I had four charged batteries and them put them into the Think Tank rolling case with the usual boring but competent selection of lenses. 
I also tossed in the older Nikon 50mm f1.8D, an even older 28mm f2.8 A-is lens and the ancient, 85mm f1.4 A-is lens. The video kit stayed small with just the microphones, the GH5S and the Olympus 12-100mm Pro lens. 

The client I shot for on Saturday didn't need to make posters from my work and the D700s were perfect for a day long event with several hundred amputees, as well as speakers and industry experts.

With glowering skies outside and perfect ambient lighting inside I was able to make two custom white balance settings on the D700 and use them all day long. The lighting was so even in the giant auditorium/classroom that I was able to take one exposure reading and use it for the entire day without even a tweak being necessary. All I needed to do was to find the right people and processes to photograph and catch them, or direct them into existence. The one slight against the D700s is that the shutters are loud but for the most part the room was loud and everyone there knew they might be photographed and had agreed to it in a blanket release. 

After the shoot I had the option of driving home in the rain or sticking around San Antonio. Since I usually visit my Dad on Sunday mornings (also in San Antonio) I decided to stick around. I ate a solo dinner at La Fonda restaurant (the latest interation of my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant for the last 44 years) and booked a room at a La Quinta Hotel that's five minutes from my dad's memory care residence. After a long week of tight deadlines, voluminous post production and weather hazards I was worn out and just needed some time in a quiet room. 

I did more research on Iceland for my upcoming workshop, watched a movie on my laptop and then slept for ten hours. After a midday visit with my dad I'll head back up to Austin to start working on yesterday's files (no super tight deadline! Yay!) and re-pack for a marketing production at Zach Theatre this evening, which starts promptly at 7 pm. For the first time in a long time I've worked, actively, for clients from Sunday to Sunday with no breaks. Next week is less structured. There's billing, post production and archiving to get done. Batteries to charge and a few portraits booked. 

I'm looking forward to getting back into the swimming pool and getting some yards in. I'm also looking forward to some long walks and good conversations with Studio Dog. I know she loves to hear the details of my time away. Or maybe she's thinking of chasing squirrels while I ramble on. One never knows, but she seems to smile when I speak directly to her....

The photos below have nothing to do with anything. I was browsing through a gallery and just picked some that I wanted to look at again. Maybe after I check in with my dad I'll sit down and write interesting and amusing captions for them. Or maybe I'll just write captions for them.

Currently thinking about getting one more GH5 body. I could use the matched set back. Love the GH5S for anything video but nothing beats the perfect hybrid nature of the original GH5.

Hope your next week is nothing short of spectacular. Kirk out.

All cameras all the time.


Workhorse. Not nearly ready for retirement or replacement.


Super nifty fifty. The Sigma Art.

Chopped BBQ sandwich, sausage on the side. Traditional Texas lunch.

DeConstruction 139 Waxwood.











 Siena.







9.14.2018

A short and tentative review of the Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 lens. I like it.


I was at a small college yesterday making images hither and yon. At one point I got myself over to the small, 1950's vintage library and made some photographs there. I made a point to pack the Tokina 16-28mm (Nikon F mount) lens because I hadn't really had an opportunity to give it a good, real life, tryout and I wanted to see if some of the less than stellar reviews that this lens sometimes gets on the web were accurate. So many lens reviews seem really to be a review about the writer's (questionable) technical abilities more than any shortcomings of the products being tested....

I've given up trusting all but a handful of lens reviewers. Who do I trust most? Probably Thom Hogan. I've read reviews by him, bought a lens he has reviewed and found it to be exactly as he described it. I would only trust reviewers who understand how to use their cameras in the field and then only if they had some real experiences with the products. Like weeks and months rather than speed preview assessments from walking around the blogger's office.... I would trust Roger Cicala at LensRentals.com as well. His writing is pretty damn good and he seems to lack any (deal-killer) brand compulsion disorder which might cause him to damn good products from brands he doesn't favor while overselling the brands that he does like. That's a good thing in a reviewer. 

There are some reviewers who are nostalgic and color their reviews with beliefs around the ideas that only prime lenses can be good, or that one company or another has a lock on the secrets of making the best lenses. Often, you can read between the lines of their reviews and intuit that they used a lens ten years ago to make a photograph that was saturated with personal meaning for them and they've never let go of the association..... a very subjective way to understand lenses. 

It's easiest to collate a list of preferred reviewers that have a track record of insight and experience but are not weighted down by the need to sell you something, or anything, in order to survive. That way lies the madness of the slippery slope. I want to read a review by someone who won't go hungry next month if we don't click the links and buy the products. 

I digress. But I think it's important to understand that all reviewers are not created equal. In this case I have less experience than some when it comes to wide angle zooms. I bought the first Canon EOS 20-35mm zoom back in the film days, the first 12-24mm Nikon APS-C wide angle zoom in the early digital days, I've shot a bit with the Nikon 14-24mm and also own the (very good) Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm lens. I can only compare how the files look in relation to the lenses I use everyday. I don't expect all lenses to rise to the level of a Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens but I do expect the lenses I use to have certain performance qualities. Sharpness, minimal color casts, good resolution, convincing acutance and minimal flaring and ghosting. With wide angles it's also very nice if they don't have outrageous distortion; or distortions that can't be easily corrected in post production processing. Most lenses, outside the too good to be true bargain lenses meet these criteria pretty well. 

The lens I am discussing today is one I have owned for about two months. I didn't use wide angle zooms much until recently but I did a series of jobs for an architecture firm and the seem to adore really wide angle shots in some situations so I thought I read up on what was available and see if I could find any used bargains out in the universe. I was pretty well convinced I did not need anything wider than 16mm or 18mm so I tended to shy away from the 12-24mm models and concentrated on the lenses that had smaller zoom ranges on the assumption that they would be easier to design and build correctly and so would have more consistent performance. 

I didn't care about speed but my research seemed to guide me to the idea that most of the f2.8 models were very good and that the faster aperture might be very useful in more accurately manually focusing the lenses, even in live view. I narrowed down my field based on reviews and user reports to the Tamron 15-30mm (new but not G2; it wasn't out yet) the Sigma 14-24mm Art, and the Nikon 14-24mm. The Tokina wasn't on my radar to begin with but I ran across one in perfect shape in the display case of used Nikon mount lenses at Precision Camera. It's a current model but Tokina's pricier lenses don't seem to have the market share or popularity that the other brands enjoy in the U.S.A. It required more research before I was willing to bite. 

The lens has one finicky performance issue that is mostly apparent with strong light sources in the frame and even just outside the frame. It generates a color artifact that can be a line or curved line of bright color in parts of the frame, echoing the shape of the reflection or light source that causes it. Some people imagined that the corners were less sharp but my post purchase testing leads me to believe that some people don't understand imaging curvature and how affects flat field image sharpness in closer ranges. Finally, I was informed that bright light sources in the frame and just outside the frame can cause higher than average ghosting or veiling flare. This is somewhat true but good technique can go a long way toward minimizing this. 

But here's the deal; my use of the lens is mostly for interior shots in buildings, houses and factories. Most are well and evenly lit and I can control and mitigate light striking the front element of the lens. If I use the lens correctly in these situations it does everything I would want it to. 

After reading decent reviews from multiple sources (each also pointing to the same weaknesses...) I decided to buy the lens. I bargained for a used price that was a fraction of the price for new versions of any of the lenses I had under consideration. It was the combination of the low price and the 10 day return privileges that pushed me to try the lens out. I figured if the lens was a poor performer, or the artifacting problem was untenable I would have nothing to lose by returning it. 

I took the lens out on a sunny day and most of my shots were sharp, contrasty, saturated, color cast free and largely distortion-correctable. I was, however, able to duplicate the color artifact on occasion but judged it to be a minor annoyance and one that was moderately easy to avoid. I would have preferred to buy the Sigma 14-24mm lens but my irregular use of ultra-wide angles in general, and the much higher price of the Sigma, led me to very much appreciate the qualities of the Tokina. 

So, yesterday I documented an older library on a small college campus and I used the Tokina 16-28mm on a Nikon D800e, on a tripod. It was one of the first times I used Nikon's implementation of live view with the D800e and it was primitive in comparison with the live finder image of a mirrorless Panasonic or Sony but it was still very usable and allowed me to use the built in electronic level to good effect, and to fine focus with good accuracy. 

I've included some samples and would note that I also included images that have light sources in the frames. I looked carefully and did not see either excessive ghosting or the dreaded color artifacting. I did about thirty shots over the course of an hour or so with the Tokina and was happy with the quality of the images in each case. Note that I did not shoot the lens wide open at f2.8 and that's consistent with the kinds of shots I'll want to do with the lens.

Having spent a lot of time with the two Pro Olympus lenses I have around the studio I loved the fact that the Tokina also had a manual/autofocus clutch around the lens barrel. It was a familiar way to switch back and forth. 

The lens seems to be robustly constructed and is big and heavy. Not a lens to take on a casual stroll around town, along with a Nikon D800e and a battery grip loaded with 8 lithium double A batteries....

But if you are going from interior location to interior location with a rolling case the weight and size is largely irrelevant. 

Do I recommend this lens? Hmmm. At the Amazon price of $566 it's a bargain if you are an intermittent users of extreme wide angles. It's a better bargain, slightly used, at about $400. If I was a practicing architectural photographer I'd break the credit card out of that block of ice in the deep freeze and get my first choice, the Sigma Art. If I had more common sense I would never have sold my Canon 20mm f2.8 EOS lens and a camera body to use it on. I used to just tell clients that 20mm was as wide as I could comfortably shoot. If I was a high earning architectural photographer I guess my "go-to" lens would be the manual focusing, Zeiss 21mm f2.8 prime along with several other Zeiss primes. The images might not be much better but I'd feel so smug....

For a guy who is satisfied with the regular images he gets from a mid-tier Nikon lens like the 24-120mm f4.0 I think the Tokina lens is a good match for my intended use and my budget. I doubt I'll buy another wide angle zoom. I think I'll just look for a Sigma 20mm art lens and call it quits. In the interest of full disclosure, if my old Nikon 20mm 2.8 (which wasn't quite as good as the Canon model) had not fallen apart and ignominiously failed I would never have fallen down this rabbit hole and jostled with the Red Queen for zoom lens supremacy. In the long run it would have been just as smart to replace the Nikon 20mm with.........another Nikon 20mm. 

Not much of a review but then again it's an honest one.




At about 24mm. f11
At 16mm. f11

9.12.2018

Interesting how the support equipment is usually the "make it or break it" stuff in most jobs. Today my "support team" was a monopod and a faster broadband connection. Yesterday it was a safe car.


Golly Jeepers! It's been a rough week and it's only Wednesday. It started on Sunday. I shot the first part of a project for a seminary/graduate school in the afternoon and evening. A matriculation ceremony followed by a reception. It was one of those old fashioned shoots where I was trying to capture the look and feel of the event; almost like a wedding but with a much lower degree of stress. The job came in through an ad agency and we'll do more work on the project (photographs for a fund raising brochure) tomorrow. But it was an easy one to pack for, a couple of Nikon D800 series cameras with a 24-120mm, a 70-300mm and the Sigma 50mm Art tossed in for good measure. I also packed and used a Godox fully manual flash which came in handy at the reception; the facility had a beautiful, white ceiling that was two stories high. With the camera set at ISO 800 and the flash at 1/4 power it made for a very nice, though homogenous, lighting effect.

The useful support team member on Sunday's job was the Godox flash. I'd long ago figured out how to use guide numbers, and have been burned with inconsistent exposures when using TTL flashes so many times that I feel more comfortable figuring out flash power and exposure for myself. Since there was adjacent parking I left an emergency bag in the car. It had extra lenses and an extra flash, just in case something went awry.

Yesterday I packed up two systems and headed to Dell, Inc. through a rainstorm which, in the moment, seemed daunting but will no doubt seem lame once hurricane Florence makes landfall this week. The assignment at Dell was to document a large meeting of executives (think hundreds) in an event to discuss....the future. I was of two minds coming into the project. On one hand the Nikon D800s would make short work of the job because, compared to my GH5's, they nail white balance quickly and well, they have insanely detailed files, and a lot of exposure latitude. On the other hand they are loud. As loud as most other full frame DSLRs, and I had no idea how big the room was or how somber, or light-hearted, the tenor of the event might be. Would a clacking of the shutter ruin the ambiance? Would I limit the way I shot in order to create less...distraction?

Once I scouted the room I put the Nikons back in the car and grabbed the bag with the GH5 and GH5S cameras. Even using them with their mechanical shutters would ensure a much quieter and less "in your face" experience. With the silent mode engaged there was no sonic intrusion whatsoever. I put the 12/100mm Olympus lens on the GH5S to take advantage of the lens's image stabilization and used that combo as my "B" camera. It was tasked with audience shots, reaction shots and stuff that had to be shot in dark areas. I put the 40-150mm f2.8 Olympus Pro lens on the GH5 (OMG! That's a profoundly cool lens) and used it for all the speaker shots and all the images that I knew would end up in marketing materials and on primary websites.

It was a good call. The room was on the smallish side and we were packed in. I moved through the room to get the angles the marketing team needed and was happy to be hauling less camera weight than I would have shouldered had I stayed with the Nikons and their husky zoom lenses. I was happy not to disturb the meeting by shooting a loud shutter camera inches from the attendees.

I covered the event well and my client was happy with the final images. We were on a tight deadline so I finished up the assignment at 4:30 pm and raced through the sloppy traffic and wet roads, getting back to my studio around 5:15. I sat right down and started editing. My target delivery time was 8 pm. I shoot too much and I edit too little but this time I really did try to keep myself in check. I whittled down about 750 shots to something around 450 shots and I felt pretty proud of myself. Since I tend to do custom white balances a lot most of the images only needed to be "lightly touched" for contrast correction or "shadow lifting" so post processing the edited images (see what I did with the words there?) didn't take long. It was my first rush assignment with my newly improved, fiber broadband internet connection.

I was shocked to see my five gigabyte upload zip through in less than seven minutes. My previous connection would haven't taken about five hours; unless the connection stopped for cocktails somewhere along the way.....this is an amazingly wonderful way to deliver files now. I'm so happy!

I took a break for dinner and then came back into the studio to charge batteries and re-pack for today's shoot. We worked for our German healthcare client and I needed to provide documentary coverage of a new product rollout with both high res photographs and an assemblage of b-roll that would go out to television stations, via the company's public relations firm, no later than 3pm today.

This meant that I had to pack for two different kinds of shooting and be able to go back and forth between two camera systems to get what I wanted. I was mostly interested in using the Panasonic GH5S as an ENG  (electronic news gathering) camera and using a Nikon D800e camera as my photography camera. Since most of the program was in a large and well lit classroom (with ample exposure to the outside light) I was able to satisfy both criteria without having to light anything. The Nikon is a better low light camera and is very flexible when used with the 24-120mm f4.0 VR. In fact, I used only that combo for all the still shots, but kept a D800 and several other lenses in the Think Tank Airport Security case I used today. It's always a sound business practice to keep back up gear around.

I set the GH5S to 1080p @ 30 fps using the 200 mbs, All-I codec. I used Rec 709 as the color profile. I kept the zebras on and at 105% and made a custom white balance for each room in which I shot and changed it often as the gloom of a rainy morning gave way to a sunny sky in the afternoon. While the classroom was lit with 4400 K ceiling lighting the stronger sun outside did have an effect on color...

The support team member that was worth its weight in gold today was the Benro monopod with "chicken feet" that I bought last Fall. It took some practice to get the most out of it but it paid off today by providing a very steady base and the ability to do gentle and jitter free pans. I bought this one. And having used it all day today if I lost it I would rush out to the nearest good camera store and buy another one immediately. How did I live without this?

The client was hazy about exactly what they needed in their b-roll video so I covered a lot more than I needed to. Near the end of the morning I was able to talk to their public relations person and she was able to pare down the fluff and let me know exactly what she wanted to send out for network use. Love the smart P.R. people. They know what to send along to the media.

I used the Nikon like I've been using cameras for decades; figure out what you want out of the shot, compose it, meter it and bang away. Use the camera with authority so everyone just assumes you know what you are supposed to be doing and you must be in the right spot...

As we got closer to noon I had photographed and shot video of most everything on my list. Since me 3:00 pm deadline began to loom large I packed up, said goodbye to my contact and headed back to the studio to both edit and then post process (see what I just did there with those words?) the stills, and upload them, and then edit and color grade the video in order to piece together a b-roll video program to be disseminated far and wide. Everything had to be in the "hands" of the P.R. agency by 3:00 pm to make it all work so time was of the essence.

I got to the studio, took the dog out for a quick "fire hydrant consultation" and then got to work on the files. The beauty of nailing exposures and setting custom white balances while shooting is that you don't have to hit each file with multiple corrections. I edited down to 200 images, color corrected and contrast corrected them, and then converted the huge raw files to manageable Jpeg files for delivery. I was once again stunned as I watched my broadband connection make short work of the upload.

As soon as I heard the completion tone of the upload I stopped playing chess with Studio Dog and started editing the video as I imported it. I grabbed the clips I wanted and avoided importing the bulk of the hour's worth of material I'd shot; after all, I only needed three minutes! In this instance Final Cut Pro X was my friend. I created a b-roll program with 10 to 15 second clips of pertinent visual content, separated by 1.5 seconds of black between each cip.

The selection and edit process, along with some color grading, took about an hour and I was able to upload it all to my client with time to spare. Since I had time to spare I jumped back in and made an alternative edit and sent that along too.

That's three jobs completed so far this week with more to go tomorrow and Saturday. Each time I shoot I become aware of one piece of gear which leverages the power of the rest of the gear and makes my job easier. I gave props to the Benro Video Monopod for today but I could have easily chosen to laud my ancient (2009 Vintage) Think Tank Airport Security roller case. It also rocks. And I was amazed when I thought back to when I first purchased it, and how long I've had it. The case has easily done a couple of marathons worth of moving and it's still going strong.

When I read all about the newest cameras I sometimes think we have it all wrong. The valuable stuff we buy is the support gear, and it sure returns many times its purchase price. I used a light stand on Monday that I swear I bought the year I quit the advertising business and started working full time as a commercial photographer. That stand has been in service since 1988. As have my background stands. Now that's real value. Cameras? Not so much.

So, I'm shooting again tomorrow and then Friday is a post production, pre-production and cleaning day. If the photo gods allow it I'll also be able to get in a swim and maybe even get my car's oil changed. No promises but we wouldn't want to slow down ahead of a Saturday shoot....


9.11.2018

Weird Gear Acquisition Plot Twist...


Now that my kid is out of college and we're no longer paying for his tuition, room, board, and other associated costs, I imagined that I would plunge back into the market for fine cameras and go crazy. It seems like I can afford anything I want now that I'm no longer keeping a private college in business.

But here's the crazy thing: I'm not interesting in buying new cameras. Just no motivation to go shopping for something new. I guess you only really want what you feel like you can't have.

I did buy some stuff yesterday that's tangentially connected to my work. I bought two pairs of "32 DEGREES" heat performance leggings. In older parlance, two pairs of long underwear. I also bought two more batteries (non-brand name) for my Nikon D800s. I figured both pairs of products would come in handy on my upcoming trip to Iceland. Cameras? Got enough of those for the trip already...

I've been posting a lot of older images lately; many from film, but I'm shooting more and more lately with the Panasonic GH5S. It's a wonderful, little camera and one that's overlooked by stills-only photographers. The recurring "bad rap" that I hear from people who haven't used the camera is that the lack of in body image stabilization makes the camera unusable. That's just silly since you can always put stabilized lenses on it and get the same image stabilization performance you might front a stock GH5.

This morning I am packing up a camera bag to go out and photograph an executive event at the facilities one of the largest computer makers on planet. I've got two big Nikon D800x cameras in the bag, along with appropriate lenses and flashes but I'm also packing the GH5S with the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0. I'll use it for shots where I have to have a truly silent camera which also has great high ISO performance. Will the 10 megapixels limit me? I don't think so. Seven years ago I shot one of these events with a Nikon V1 mirrorless camera, with only ten megapixels, and the company keeps inviting me back. But maybe they're inviting me back for my loquacious and jovial personality and not that much for the camera work.

Curious to know if any VSL readers have also picked up a GH5S and what your experiences with this camera have been. Anyone?