3.27.2019

Gearing up for a busy week ahead, starting with a deep dive into the play/musical, "Matilda" at Zach Theatre.



I'll be at a late rehearsal on Friday to watch the blocking and the flow of a new production at Zach Theatre. I don't charge for my early reconnaissance because I know it will make me a better photographer on the two shoot days that follow. On Sunday, and then again on Tuesday, I'll be photographing the Tech Rehearsal and then the final Dress Rehearsal to generate marketing and public relations photographs. There are a lot of children in the play and since they can't work the same kind of schedule the adult actors do there will be a "red team" and a "blue team" which will alternate. Shooting at Tech and Dress rehearsals ensures that I'll get photographs with all the members of both teams. 

While I may modify my selections after my scouting adventure I thought you might be interested in what kind of gear I'm planning to bring along and why. 

I'll be depending, mostly, on two lenses for the bulk of my coverage; the 16-55mm f2.0 and the 50-140mm f2.8. I certainly don't need anything wider as the 16mm end of the shorter zoom can cover the entire stage from midway up the orchestra seating. The 16/55mm is perfect for wide coverage when we have large ensembles on stage while the 50/140mm is perfect for closer shots with the 140mm focal length allowing me to fill the frame with a standing actor or compose a nice, tight two person shot with good isolation. 

Both lenses are usable wide open and I intend to shoot them either wide open or, at the most, one stop down from wide open. I'll use both of the lens on dedicated XH1 bodies. While I don't necessarily need the image stabilization I do want to use the soft shutter in those cameras, in mechanical mode, if I start to see any banding in the electronic shutter mode. The mechanical shutter is quiet enough to use even with an audience, if necessary. I use battery grips on both cameras with three batteries per camera so I don't have to worry about the need for battery changes during the show.

I'm also bringing along the new, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 for its theatre debut. I'll dedicate a third XH-1 body for that lens as well, also with a battery grip. I want to see how usable the longer zoom is for isolating the person in the starring role for some of the special effects shots on stage. One of the benefits of owning three identical bodies set up in exactly the same way is the ability to put a camera down on the seat next to me, grab a body with a different lens to shoot and not having to worry about doing anything more than fine-tuning exposure. I'll know pretty quickly whether or not the long lens is going to be useful in this situation and, if it isn't I'll turn off that camera and ignore it for the rest of the evening. 

I'm comfortable shooting the XH-1 cameras at a full stop above what I am comfortable with when shooting with the Panasonic G9s so I am looking forward to working between ISO 3200 and 6400 instead of my previous range of 1600 to 3200. 

The main things I am looking for in my scouting will be how often and in what configuration dance numbers happen and how often groups come together for dramatic compositions. I'll actually take notes with quick sketches in order to get the run of the show clear in my mind. Secondarily, I'll be looking for the lighting cues and color filtration of various scenes and try to figure out how best to configure the cameras for the best compromise between total control and useable file size. 

That's what I'm up to on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday. 

On Thursday I'm back in San Antonio for a day to shoot a corporate event for Austin based client, WP Engine. The rest of the week is set aside for pre-production for video. We'll be going into a sound studio location to make a promotional video for a different production coming to Zach Theatre after "Matilda." I'll be working with their in-house technical director on a three camera shoot and we're both looking forward to the project. This is one I get to do the way I like best: we plan together, we shoot together and then I get to hand off the footage to the technical director and sit back while he does the heavy lifting of editing. Ahhhhh.

A shoot like this is a great opportunity to give some of the single focal length lenses a real workout. The technical director and I both agree that the majority of our project will work very well with a limited depth of field look. I hear the 90mm f2.0 calling......

Austin is starting to come back to (business) life after SXSW and Spring Break. It's nice to get back into a working groove. I've had enough time off. 




OT: My iPhone and my dad's 91st birthday.

Dad's favorite table in the dining room at memory care.

I arranged for a pet sitter to hang out with Studio Dog today. The rest of my small family had to go to work. I hopped in my car and headed to San Antonio. Today is my father's 91st Birthday and I wanted to be there to celebrate with him. I got a chocolate cake (his favorite) and my sister shopped for great presents to give him. We had birthday cards to share from friends and relatives. I don't normally take a big camera into his residence because of concern for HIPAA laws but I did take in my iPhone and did a few interviews with my dad as well as documenting him blowing out the candles on his cake. 

I left around three this afternoon. All the big action was over and Dad decided it was time for a nap. I wanted to get home and make a photo gallery to send to my sister and brother. 

It's an ancient iPhone by current standards; a 5S. But it works well enough for most uses...

My dad was happy and well. I can't ask for more. I drove home pretty happy. Indulge me for a few personal images.....


It's rare to see Dad without a hat of some sort. 

And balloons. 



lungs still good enough to blow out candles. 




3.26.2019

Portrait of a Middle Aged Photographer. Taking an objective view of one's own face.

Kirk Tuck by Frank Grygier, ©2018 Frank Grygier.

There is nothing like spending one's life taking portraits of other people and then being confronted by someone else's portrait of oneself. This is a portrait of me as photographed by friend and fellow photographer, Frank Grygier. It's scary to see what I really look like but I think Frank has been neither too kind nor too unkind in his attempt to capture something of what it is like to be 63, to be in a very bizarre business, and to carry around within me the hard core belief that I'm really still 23 years old. 

I love his use of classic 3/4 side lighting, it's both dramatic and clinically revealing. His use of a 100mm  lens renders my face with more accuracy than a shorter or longer lens would have and I love the fact that the glasses frame on my right eye (left of frame) is darker and the frame on the right is light against darker skin. On a personal level I twinge to see that errant and unruly eyebrow hair float up like a flag against the left temple but at the same time I admire the inclusion of that detail as a light-against-dark contrast that makes my expression more interesting (at least to me). 

Seeing this photo and then boring into the details makes me wish I could go back in time and apply sunscreen every single time I left the house, and especially on the days of those blissful midday swims. We luxuriated in the strong sun back then but I pay for it with vague and worrisome tattooing of the skin on my face now. The portrait's details give me an uneasy assurance that I'll be getting to know my dermatologist quite well, some time in the future. 

Frank's strategic placement of my hand serves to hide a bit of "turkey neck" that comes with age and heredity. But even the way his light plays across both sides of my wedding ring adds to the allure of the  split nature of the lighting in the frame. 

My eyes look, by turns, fearful (who would not have trepidation to have their flaws so blatantly exposed?) but also inquisitive and present. I'm always keenly interested in how other people make portraits and watching Frank added ever more data points to my bank of possible lighting solutions.

I think it would be an interesting micro-workshop for each of us to seek out a photographer friend within our age demographic; someone whose work we admire, and ask them to make our portrait. After sitting through a session we would then turn the tables and make a portrait of the other. The reason is that we each could use portraits of ourselves as a more objective measure of how the world sees us. A different perspective than the one in the mirror. Because it is well known that the gaze in the mirror is modified second by second by the desire of the mind for assurance that things have not gone along quite so far....

A little telephoto compression is good for the soul. Well, maybe what I meant is that it's nice look...

A production still from: Sophisticated Ladies. At Zach Theatre.
Austin, Texas. 

My Favorite V-Logger, James Popsys, Makes an Incredibly Sensible Program About Becoming a Better Photographer.

I took a day off from Photography so I could go out and photograph.

Here's is what Mr. Popsys has to say....


I think he is smart, funny and fresh. 
I love his accent; I wonder if it is really or
if he is secretly from Dallas or somewhere like that.
He may not be your cup of tea but....

He's certainly "safe for the workplace."

A photograph for March 26th.

before Lane's fashion show at Garrido's Restaurant on 3rd St. 

3.25.2019

Some thoughts about testing longer lenses...

The long end of the Panasonic FZ2500... Stage lighting.

I always feel a bit disingenuous when I describe myself as a neophyte with long and very long lenses because over the years I've dabbled in long lenses across many systems. I've never owned any of the ultra-nose-bleed-expensive super telephotos. No 600mm f4.0s or 300mm f2.8s. But I will say that the introduction of semi-super long lenses in several one inch sensor cameras did much to whet my appetite to try longer and longer zooms in the m4:3 and APS-C systems. I shy away from using fast, long lenses on full frame or medium format cameras as I value my lower back and really don't want to flirt with herniation anywhere on my body. It might hamper my swimming....

But if you are hankering for a taste of the long stuff I would say (emphatically) that a good way to get your feet wet is with a Sony RX10; model three or four, or a Panasonic FZ2500. The FZ2500 has the equivalent angle of view of a 400mm full frame lens. The RX10.4 goes all the way out to an equivalent of 600mm. If that's not enough reach then you are heading for specialist territory and a quick wallet draining.

Whichever system you choose and whichever long lens (let's consider long to be anything with a field of view smaller than that of a 200mm equivalent = the long end of everyone's 70-200mm vanilla zooms) I think you need to really test it; not just to see how much potential and sharpness it delivers, but to see how much you might need to work on your chops in order to squeeze out the goodness designed into the modern, long lenses. 

Why am I suggesting this? Because a cursory review of long lens reviews on YouTube and many blogs shows that nearly every reviewer is telling you how sharp ( or more frequently; unsharp) the lens you've been thinking about actually is. There are a few reviewers like Thom Hogan who understand that they're not going to see the whole potential of a lens unless they have it secured to a good tripod and, further, that they must practice good shooting techniques. 

The realization that a tripod is essential for lens testing comes to me after reading in 90% of the reviews that, a. they are only shooting handheld, but with image stabilization and at fast shutter speeds (you know---the shutter speeds that don't seem to work well with I.S.) and, b. the lenses they test always tend to get worse and worse, performance-wise, as the reviewer progresses to longer and longer focal lengths. 

Are we actually to believe that all our caffeine besotted web-reviewers are like demi-gods in that they are able to securely, and without shake, handhold a 600mm lens so well that there is no degradation of imaging performance due to camera movement? I'd be amazed to find one who can pull it off. 

Here's another aspect that might not occur to testers in mild climes, when the atmosphere heats up you get heat waves that reduce resolution and contrast in longer lenses. Oh, and while we're talking about atmospheric effects, let's also consider that smog, smoke, fog and other airborne diffusion filters (atmospheric haze, yikes) profoundly limit the sharpness of an image that was focused on a distant subject. Is it any wonder that a reviewer who is handling a loaner lens for a week consistently finds all the distant subjects, taken at long focal lengths, handheld, to be less sharp and snappy than the review photos taken of said reviewer's cat from five feet away, in daylight, with a 50mm prime lens at f5.6?

I thought about all this as I read through plus and minus reviews of the Fujifilm 100-400mm XF lens I bought for my Fuji cameras last week. I want to see for myself what I might expect from the new lens and so I'll be testing it as time allows throughout the rest of the week, culminating in its use at a dress rehearsal for a new play at Zach Theatre on Sunday. 

Here are some of my essential practices for testing long lenses: 

1. If you live somewhere hot get up early on a sunny day before heat waves act like a soft focus filter for your lens. 

2. Put the damn camera and lens on a tripod. I know, I know, tripods are not sexy + God forced people to make image stabilization because he/she hates tripods. Whatever. Your test is meaningless if you don't at least establish a baseline with the camera and lens mounted on a tripod. After the tests are done you can throw away the tripod, if you like, but at least you'll come to know that the lens might be sharper than you think while you may be less sharp than you imagine. 

3. Don't confuse a camera's inability to perform good continuous AF tracking with lens softness or "a lower performance at the longest focal lengths. Yes, you should eventually test the total system performance but putting a new 100-400mm on a older XT1 body which has not had any firmware updates and then blaming the lens when the focus is less than stellar is unfair. Which brings me to point #4....

4. Update both the lens and the body firmware before you do your tests. Even systems that don't always tout their latest upgrades will almost certainly have improved what they can with each new rev. Even if they don't announce the improvements, incremental or otherwise. I've purchased several new lenses which had firmware that dated back years. I update them before I test them. 

5. I've had enough Nikon 800 series cameras to know that many times a "soft" lens is really just a symptom of a camera body that needs a bunch of focus adjusting to work right. If every other person who owns the lens you are testing is getting good results, and you don't, you might need to change bodies just to be sure a lame body is not the culprit. Especially if a normally well regarded lens isn't sharp anywhere in its focal range.

6. Speaking of focus, while you have the big lens on a tripod you might want to find a non-moving target and compare your manual focusing skills against the camera's autofocusing skills. Many times the little AF boxes that litter camera finders aren't as accurately lined up with the actual focusing sensors as we might want to believe. Putting your system on an immovable tripod and then using focusing magnification to go in as tight as you can and manually focus will let you fine tune the exact point of focus better. Then you can test in AF and see what gets you closest. Remember, you want to know what the lens is capable of without covert interference from a camera. 

7. Evaluation of your testing is the last step. I know a lot of people who shoot their "test" shots and then chimp on the rear camera screen in order to evaluate how "sharp" their shots are or how sharp their lens might be. Of course that's an information deficient environment for good evaluation. Maybe wait until you get home, brew a nice cup of coffee, and settle into you favorite office chair first and then pop that memory card into your computer with the calibrated Retina screen, convert your raw files and then have a peek. You'll quickly see where your new lens shines and where it might fall down on the job. 

If your litmus test is the screen on your phone then, don't worry, all your lenses are already good enough.

Once you've figured out that your lens really is sharp when it's on a tripod and nicely focused you can start peering into the weak points of your technique, your support gear, your focusing precision and much more. I normally test lenses the way I use them. I put them on a known good body and head out the door to shoot mostly stuff that doesn't move, which allows me to hand hold shorter lenses and to take time to ensure focusing precision, but, as I've said, the longer focal lengths constitute a smaller percentage of my overall experience and I am more methodical when I test them. If you see me around Austin this week you'll probably see me toting my Gitzo tripod. It's not the biggest tripod I own but it's rock steady while still being small enough to still carry around for a few hours at a time. 

Below are a whole mess of photographs I've done in recent years using the long zooms on the aforementioned Sony and Panasonic one inch cameras as well as a random collection from other lenses and camera systems. With good technique a so-so lens can return better images than a $12,000 lens in the hands of a lazy, incurious person.
OMG. Shot with the FZ2500 from a long way away....







Sony RX10 IV does corporate event. Near the 600mm limit....









Shot from the very top of the graffiti wall about 200 feet away.







shot across four lanes of traffic on Congress Ave.




3.24.2019

Taking a second look at William Klein.


It's easy to assume that photography (art photography) in the 1950's and early 1960's was dominated by people like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and the talented crew who routinely shot for Life Magazine and Look Magazine. Fashion photography was widely thought to be the dominion of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. And we assume that everyone else working back then was using one or another of a small group of superstar photographers like them as role models and beacons of style; that they represented the photo-cultural avant-garde of an era.

But there is one collection of work that I keep coming back to that seems fresher and more modern than most of the famous work from that period and it was done in a short span of time by William Klein, the essential proto street photographer. 

Many years ago Aperture put out the above monograph of Klein's work. It covers his street photography in New York, Paris, Rome, Tokyo and Moscow. It also looks at some of his fashion photography, exhibition design and his graphic design. At a certain point in the late 1950's Klein moved to Paris, took up filmmaking (successfully) and never really came back to the U.S. 

While HCB spent most of his career making (wonderful) images that fit into the formalist constraints of his love for the 50mm lens; with an occasional nod to the 35mm or the 90mm, and while Robert Frank also shot with neutral focal lengths, Klein seemed to have always had a wide angle lens (or a very wide angle lens) bolted to the front of his camera. Where Frank and HCB seemed mostly to relish being unobserved while photographing Klein and his wide angle lens are almost always right in front of the subject and usually fully engaged with them. In their faces! As a result his photographs are much more immersive, emotional, powerful, and even confrontational. They have a power to them that seems to have grown while (perhaps because of saturation or stateliness) the images of his street shooting peers now seem more like exercises in formalism and design by comparison.  Even his printing of images was a rejection of the standard of the day; rejecting a broad range of gray tones from black to white and instead relying on higher contrast printing to accentuate his approach.

When I bought this book, well over twenty years ago I leafed through it a couple of times and then it sat on a bookshelf for ten years. When I took it back off the shelf ten years ago it seemed to have aged well. Better than I expected. And when I pulled the book into my reading nook and sat down for a deeper look again last week I started to develop a stronger re-appreciation for the power Klein wielded; being able to wade into a crowd and compel a group of strangers to respond (not pose) to him and his camera. Almost like the subsequent photography of modern street photographer, Bruce Gilden but with none of the implied malice, voyeurism and affected disregard for the subjects. 

I have not seen a show of Klein's original prints but I certainly want to. Learn more about him here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Klein_(photographer). Read what William Klein's work taught modern street photographer, Eric Kim, here: http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2013/03/26/10-lessons-william-klein-has-taught-me-about-street-photography/

And a quick Google search turns up a trove of his work here: william klein photography

I think everyone should take a dive into the photographs and life of William Klein. Much of what passes for art/street photography now owes a deep debt to his ferocious and energy filled plunge into the streets of the 1950's and 1960's, armed with a camera. 


OT: Can you help me with an ethical issue?

Kirk with light meter, ca. 2007.
My photo (above) has nothing to do with my conundrum described below.

Nothing as easy as whether or not to use a light meter...

When I had my studio built just in front of my house we installed a window air conditioning unit about eight feet up on the west wall. There was not a pre-existing window; we designed the opening specifically for the air conditioning unit. We made it a bit wide so we could have some flexibility when choosing replacement units. I'm now on my third air conditioner and it fits into the space with about five inches to spare on each side. There is a sill that runs under the air conditioner...

Well, over the winter months, during the time during which I don't use the air conditioner, I wasn't paying attention and it seems that an enterprising finch (small bird) has built a nest just to the side of the unit that is least visible. The next is amazingly well done and cozy. The entrance faces straight out and there is a rounded roof that offers the bird some protection from the rain. It's too high up for cats or raccoons to reach and in most regards it's a perfect location for a bird. And in bird nests as in all other real estate ventures the secret is: location, location, location. 

I met the bird the other day. I was looking up at the nest and she poked her head out to see what the hell I was doing. She flew away but she's been back. 

So here's the issue: Right now the weather is mild and cool. The studio has two big windows on one wall and four big windows on another wall and, in conjunction with a nice fan, I can probably use the office with no air conditioning for a while longer into the Spring. But temperatures in the 90's are just around the corner and by May temperatures in the upper 90's should be routine. 

At some juncture I'll have to turn the AC on to stay comfortable while working on my masterpiece, nano-acutance photographs, or I'll need to cool the studio for a visiting client/customer. Providing no air conditioning in Austin should be the perfect way to bring any studio business to a screeching halt. 

But what is my responsibility to this bird and,  perhaps, a burgeoning family of finches? I'd hate to drive them away from a nearly perfect nest by subjecting them to the roar of an air conditioner and, if they stay, I'll feel guilt and remorse for potentially deafening their delicate offspring. I guess I could close the studio and go on vacation until such a time when they are through nesting but I would like the convenience of using my space to work in, and I might find it constraining to try and edit all my photos and video on a smallish laptop computer outside the studio. 

Had I noticed the construction of the avian condo early on I might have gently deconstructed it and discouraged continued squatting but now I worry that by allowing (even tacitly) the construction to go to completion, and having not previously served them notice, that I have set an ethical precedent which seems to defy an equitable solution. One party or the other (or both, as is usually the case...) will suffer depending on our final solution. 

My sweet friends suggest turning the AC unit on for short periods of time to acclimated the birds to the noise but as I mentioned above I fear for the auditory health of the bird and her offspring. My less empathetic friends suggest spraying the nest with a flamethrower....

I want to be a "good guy" in this and would hate to be haunted by the ghost of St. Francis d' Assisi for all eternity....

Perhaps the answer to my poignant dilemma will come from one of you; my sage readers. Can you help?

P.S. The bird seems far too small to eat so my vegan friends need not worry..... 

Thanks in advance, KT

P.P.S. What a nice opportunity it would be to use the new Fuji 100-400mm lens for BIF (hate that acronym) except that the wall on which they've built is about six feet from the wall of our kitchen. Now that I think about it the 8-16mm lens might be a better choice.  

Help?

3.23.2019

Bookending the Fuji XF system with the 8-16mm f2.8 and (ta-da!) the 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 XF WR telephoto zoom lens. Big, heavy and sharp.


I think I've just put the finishing touches on my Fuji "tool kit" for my photography and video production  company. I make a lot of buying decisions that might make no sense whatsoever for non-professional users and in this case I went over the top in terms of what I usually do when I adopt a system. Normally I concentrate on populating the lens  inventory with lenses that range (and I'll use full frame (35mm) equivalent focal lengths for ease of discussion) from about 20mm or 24mm to about 200mm. Over the course of my career that is the focal length range that I use most often. But when I finally decided to dive deeply into the Fuji system my intent was less about streamlining and optimizing and more about opening up new ways of shooting more things than I had allowed myself before.

My trip to Iceland pushed me to think about shooting both wider and longer, when it comes to landscapes. I've always pooh-poohed landscape photography because it never seemed to fit into my narrow idea of my core business but after that trip and the time spent shooting on (sometimes) beautiful and remote locations around the U.S.A. I've softened a bit in my regards to photographs of places.

The Fuji 8-16mm f2.8 which I wrote about yesterday, and earlier this afternoon, is the widest zoom lens I've ever owned. While my first attempts to understand interesting ways to use the lens were a bit stilted the potential, in some tight situations, is obvious and the unusual perspectives might be just the right thing to trot out when a photograph needs more of an immersive feel. In my initial tests I found the lens to be very sharp and (with a little help from computational magic) it's also a very well behaved lens. Most amazing to me is, that for a wide angle lens with such a bulbous front element, the incredible resistance to flare I saw when including sun reflections on the sides of buildings, and even in frames with the sun squarely in the frame was stunning. That makes me happy because I know that when I final figure out the best use cases for the lens I can be confident that it will deliver the results I want.

With the middle ranges of the Fuji system nicely filled out with fast zooms and nice, small primes, it seemed like it was time to reach a little bit and get more reach. The web is full of lens reviews and you can make yourself crazy trying to weigh which ones are legit and which ones are hammered out by nut jobs with no real expertise. But, on the whole, most of the reviews for the 100-400mm said pretty much the same thing: It's a really nice and sharp lens but it's priced too high! This lens should be $500 cheaper. 

But the bottom line rationale for getting one (if you need or want those focal lengths) is the fact that it's the only really long lens that Fuji offers in the system. If you need a good 300, 400, 500 or 600 mm equivalent in a zoom you pretty much have to buy this lens or switch systems (or worst case, use two systems = one for a long zoom and another for everything else). When the lens went on sale with a $500 instant rebate I decided to take a chance on one and add it in as the opposite side of the extreme bookend contingent with the 8-16mm

Here I will interrupt with a sad tale explaining why I have no sample images today....

I got up late today and almost missed the start of swim practice. I got out of bed at 8:15, grabbed a big glass of water, drained it, and rushed out of the house. I hit the pool still groggy and stiff but after a few hundred yards I started feeling like a functional swimmer again. We all blasted through the next hour and a half and by the end of workout I was wide awake, ready for coffee and for something to eat.

Coach, Ian Crocker, reminded me that today was the last day of the Women's NCAA Swim Championship at the UT Swim Center. I made a mental note to put a Fuji XH-1 in the car, along with the new Fujifilm 100-400mm lens. I thought a national championship swim meet would be the most exciting thing one could ever, in a lifetime, photograph through a camera+lens. I knew my readers would be amazed at the resulting images and many might even quit their day jobs just to become full time swim photographers! I knew the images would add thousands and thousands of new readers to my blog (including some who comment!).

After coffee with select member of my masters team, and a nurturing and uplifting (but non-vegan) lunch with my family, I headed over to the swim center. I parked a few blocks away and by the time I got to the front doors the lens and camera already felt heavier than anything (photographic) that I've grappled with since the days of owning full frame DSLR camera...

I presumed that, as an ex-Texas swimmer, an ex-UT faculty member, and a really nice guy that I'd be able to walk right in, find a seat and get to work making the kinds of images that people working with lesser subjects can only imagine. My first hurdle was having to buy a ticket. And you know how expensive world class sporting events can be... I could buy a ticket for the day for......$10.

I pulled out some cash and the kind person behind the counter started to burst my bubble. Before she sold me the ticket she thought it would be wise, on my part, to check with event security to see if I could bring "professional photographic equipment" into the venue. (See! all you naysayers! Officials at UT recognize Fuji cameras and lenses as = professional equipment).  They were very polite and very firm. The lens was too long, the package too cool looking. Without approved press credentials they would not allow it in the door. A big thanks to the ticket lady for saving me a non-refundable $10.

I might have been able to make some phone calls and pulls some strings but then I decided that it wasn't that big a deal and that it was kinda selfish to use a connection just to get in and take some fun test photos. The men's nationals is next week (same venue) and that gives me a few days to line up a legitimate media client and eke out some real credentials.

I walked back to my car as it started to rain. I pulled a plastic trash bag out of my pocket and wrapped my camera. I don't care what the ads say about "weather resistant designs" I figured I've paid for this gear out of my own pocket and I'd rather not risk gear death unless I was doing it trying to get a killer shot for myself or if I was creating brilliant content for one of my clients.

So, no exciting race photographs from the UT Swim Center today. Although I did hear that Louise Hannson from USC set a new NCAA record by going 49.26 seconds in the 100 yard Butterfly. Just amazing!

So, back to the lens:

The 100-400mm is a heavy lens but a compact overall package. It features a million ED elements and has image stabilization that's billed at 5 stops of goodness. It has a nice tripod mount because it would be so wrong to put a lens this big and heavy on a camera and let the camera bear the weight on a tripod. The lens is one of their WR lenses which means that it's weather resistant, and it's also a "red badge" lens which seems to mean Fuji likes what they came up with and wanted to brag about how good they think it is.

So, what will I use this beast for? Well, as I mentioned just above, I think (within the Fuji system) it's the perfect lens for photographing swim competitions and probably also cross country races. Then, of course, there is the ability to get wonderful compression effects in landscapes. And I can't discount the ability to reach in and pull out an individual face in theater productions or corporate showcases. Come to think of it shots of corporate speakers on stage would be a great use!

As with the 8-16mm, I bought this lens to open up my brain to different ways of shooting in the hopes that it would extend my creative boundaries in photography. Hoping they will both push me a bit. So far though my only advantage in owning and carrying this lens with me is to have my gear designated as "too professional" for entry to a cool event. I'm okay with that, I can cool my heels here and write about it and that's almost as much fun.

side note: What do the rest of you do with the boxes that swaddle new equipment you buy? If I kept every box I think I'd have a box warehouse here and that would just flat out be a fire hazard. Do you recycle them? Flatten and store them? Toss them in the garbage? Cherish them hoping they will increase eventual resale value? Ignore them and hope they will go away? Sell them to collectors?

The folks at Precision Camera no longer want, keep or need the boxes for equipment that they accept as trades or take on consignment. What that means to me is that after I test something, and it turns out to work as it should, I flatten the boxes and put them into the recycling bin.

It's a way of embracing my ownership and moving into the future. You might have a different approach. If it's better than mine I'd live to hear it.

A note about the new lens. I bought it because the price dropped. For the moment it's $1399. Much better than $1900....