7.09.2019

I think each of us knows why we love to do photography for ourselves but a long time ago I figured out the main reason I like to do it commercially.

Checking in on that next job?

Photography can be a bit addictive. You give yourself leeway to walk around with what is basically both a portable time machine and also an almost instant "art factory" and having both operational rationales firmly in mind when you leave your front door you've already gone a long way toward mitigating any guilt you might otherwise experience by having no set schedule, and by taking hours and hours to walk around aimlessly and just look at stuff in a different way from everybody else.

I'm not sure non-photographers get it. Everyone is so goal driven and schedule driven these days. Everyone also seems to want a guarantee that if they spend the hours something of practical value will emerge at the end to justify the temporal expenditure. I think we understand the process of roaming around looking for things to photograph to be more like fly fishing than a newspaper route....Part of the reward is either the looking, or the standing in streams. Or both.

I have friends who, when they have spare time from their work-work jobs, are given lists of things to accomplish by their spouses. Clean the garage. Clean the gutters. Take your ratty leisure suits to the Goodwill.  They tell me how lucky I am to be a photographer; my take is that they should rethink their approach to relationships and priorities. But I digress....

I've used the excuse of photography to go so many places I wouldn't otherwise thought to go, and met people I would have never said "hello" to if I hadn't thought they looked interesting enough to photograph. I approached them because of the camera in my hands and little else.  Photography is also a great hobby, akin to three dimensional puzzle solving.  You get to figure out stuff in your head, on the fly, and in at least three dimensions (not counting time). 

There is a real pleasure for most of us in being able to "research" (spend hours reading reviews on the web) cameras in order to find just the right one for me, and then, having bought it, realizing that there might be a camera out there that would fit you even a tiny bit better and so you start the process of looking for that ultimate portable time machine all over again. 

But given how much the business of photography has changed, and how the foundational make money work  of picture taking has evaporated, how much competition has multiplied, and how accountants and data jockeys have replaced shared creative concepts, you have to wonder why anyone in their right mind would take up, or continue, to ply photography as a trade. 

To read statisticians one would think that embracing a career that has no safety net, no guarantees, no real rules, and no widely acknowledged process of certification, is akin to financial suicide. Hence the jokes:

What's the difference between a commercial photographer and an extra large Pizza from Luigi's? Well, you can actually feed a family of four with the pizza.... (Bada Boom, implied). 

Or: How do you make a million dollars in a career as a photographer? Start by inheriting ten million.... 

Or: ( and this one is for younger photographers or musicians...): "What do you call a photographer whose girlfriend just dumped him? Homeless." 

I just love being at a conference with my cameras and being asked by an employee/attendee/guest: 

"Do you do this photography thing full time?" No, I think to myself. I'm just doing this as I work my way up to being assistant manager at the McDonald's down the street. Then I'll have it made and never have to photograph again. Plus any burger that falls on the floor you get to have for free!!!

Sometimes I tell people who ask these sorts of questions that I used to be a pathologically shy accountant and that I do these "gigs" at the behest of my psychoanalyst as therapy. "I'm getting better. I can talk to strangers now without wetting myself anymore....." 

So, why do I do this? It can't be the only thing I'm acceptably competent at; I mean, after all, I've written seven books, run a regional advertising agency and taught at a University, surely I can find something, anything that makes more sense than hanging out a shingle as a "camera guy." Costco always seems to be hiring....

Well, here's one of the main reasons I decided that this would be a good career for me: I don't like repetition and I don't like being around the same people all day long, everyday. One of the things many people who crave security hate about a freelance lifestyle is the idea that you never know what you'll be doing tomorrow, or next week or next month. But I adore the idea that I won't know what I'll be doing until I book the next job.....or wake up tomorrow and self-assign something that came to me in a dream. 

I take pleasure in knowing that if the client I am working for today is a real train wreck of an asshole my job will probably be over by tomorrow and I'll never have to accept an assignment from him again.  ("I'm so sorry, we're all booked up for 2020. Do you want me to see if we have any openings in 2021?). 

If an  advertising agency demands a Bentley level job but has a Hyundai level budget I can laugh and say. "No." Or "Hell No." and there will be another job in a day or two that comes attached to a wonderful and interesting client who comes complete with an ample budget and the perfect idea of where we should go for lunch during a break from the work. 

Another aspect of the same gleeful reality of only having to be "on" a day or two at a time is the knowledge that there are many, many clients out there and they cycle through regularly enough. Most good art directors at decent sized agencies work with illustrators, are compelled to use stock photography, or use some graphic other than commissioned photography for most of the projects they do. The reality (and it's been the same story for decades) is that each art director usually only gets to produced five or six ads per year which require them to hire and work with a photographer. Pretty bleak...at least until you realize that good photographers are constantly building and repairing their network of clients. Direct clients, advertising agency clients, business owner clients, event producer clients, editorial clients, video producer clients, and even individual portrait commission clients. Some photographers can also add to that list galleries and collectors (the lucky ones). Oops! I forgot association marketing directors....and non profit arts organizations.

I was working at Dell one day about nine years ago. The bottom was falling out of the U.S. and world economies. Banks were failing. You could hear corporate check books snapping shut. You could sense the fear everywhere. I was set up in a little conference room with my Dell Blue Background and a couple of lights, making headshots for the marketing people. 

One of the executives from my list of folks who needed to be photographed came in and sat down and we started talking about all the little stuff you always talk about with strangers who about to be photographed. After a few minutes the talk turned to the economy. How could it not? At any rate he looked a bit embarrassed as he asked me, "With the economy heading into a huge recession aren't you scared all your work will dry up? What if Dell stops using you?"  Things did seem a bit perilous but I thought for a minute before I answered... and then I responded: "I've got forty or fifty clients I shoot with on a somewhat regular basis so if one of them takes a break there's always someone else that steps in. But you work solely for Dell. If you get fired from this job, in this economy, it might take a good long while for you to find another job. Doesn't that scare you? I mean, after all, I have fifty clients you really only have the one..."

For me one of the real pleasures of being a photographer is that it's unlike being a contractor building a house. I'm not stuck on one project for a year or more. It's unlike working in an office because I can be somewhere new and different every day. It's not like working on a team because I don't have to suffer through working with some jerk who demonstrates a personality disorder day after day. It's not like being a doctor because I don't have to argue with an insurance company to get paid (usually) and I don't spend a bunch of time around sick people. 

In fact, quite often people will call me, talk about their creative project, give me a budget and leave me to sort out how I want to do the work. And that's about as much freedom as I guess most of us can expect and still have a real job. 

And when I am not on the clock I always have a good excuse for my family as to why it's more important for me to walk around with my newest camera and lens instead of: cutting the grass (which we pay someone else to do) or trapping skunks under the house (which we would definitely pay someone else to do) or participate in amateur plumbing projects, or draining the crankcase oil from the car into the aquifer. My excuse is that I'm constantly working on getting better and better at my real job. Seeing. And my "hobby" of indolent camera walking is done in the service of keeping my reflexes and my operational fluidity with cameras up to.....a professional level. Yes. Done correctly this career is a great dodge. 

Just don't tell too many people. 
I love all my theater clients. We work with them for a day at a time, a couple times a month...

this is the look I give to potential clients who think it should be fine to miss swim practice for a number of mornings in a row.....

I am certain this is my photographer friend, Tomas, in disguise and under cover. Working as a hobbyist.

mostly I love photography because it's so colorful.


7.08.2019

Mechanicals. Found abandoned behind a building that used to house a printing shop.



I was out strolling with a camera on the 4th of July when I noticed some older machinery behind a building that used to house a print shop, on the west side of downtown . I stepped into the old parking lot and looked around. There were a number of ancient mechanical devices that did things like fold printed paper to make brochures. Another machine was used, I think, for staple stitching brochures and booklets. Some were just like a vague puzzle with no starter clues. Perhaps an old school printing craftsman would have known exactly what each was for, even though they were beyond salvage. 

The parts were mostly monochrome and dirty so I thought they'd render better in black and white. The Fuji camera I was using has a black and white profile called, Acros, and it tends to add sharpness and grain to make photos more like what we used to get from the wet darkroom. The profile also gets me closer to the way I like the tones to appear in black and white photos. 

I spent a few minutes fiddling around with my photos and then moved on. It made me a little sad because I remember ink-on-paper printing very fondly. We used to do a lot of it when I worked in the advertising industry. I remember many a middle of the night press check. The smell of solvents, the viewing booths with their color corrected lighting, and even the little, folding printer's loupes that we used to check registration of the plates. That, and the endless clacking, and soft roar of the four and five color presses. To see parts of the old way cast aside after decades of daily use seemed like a repudiation of all the art and craft of a certain age. All the angst and loss captured by a digital camera, of a subject that was so relentlessly analog.




Side tracked. But still interested.


Do you ever get side-tracked from your primary interests? Man, I do. And I have one of those bulldog personalities that won't let me unclench my tight bite on whatever I have in front of me until it's done, complete, finished and wrapped up. There's very little ability to multi-task over here at the VSL studio. I don't do stop and start well. I am compartmentalize-challenged. 

What am I talking about now?

I should be hunkered down in the studio office trying to get the marketing done that I'll need to succeed financially in the 3rd and 4th quarters. A mix of post cards, e-mails, some Linked In posts and a splattering of Instagram posts. It's a good time to do this stuff because we're officially in the doldrums of Summer when clients run and hide from the heat and nothing much gets done, but I have two things (at least) that are pulling my attention away from doing the work. The first is a re-start of what was, at one time, a never-ending construction project at the multimillion dollar house next door. I've gotten used to the daytime hammering; even the jack-hammering, but what I can't get used to is the contractors mindlessly parking their trucks across both of our driveways --- it's almost like they can't understand that two separate houses could have two separate driveways and that parking across the one that isn't your client's is stupid, and wrong. 

If we were in the perfect world of my imagination my neighbors (who I do like) would be at home instead of out of town for two months. If they were home I'd just stroll next door and ask them to have a word directly with their various contractors and instruct them NOT to park in front of my driveway. Then my neighbor and I would crack a bottle of fine Champagne open and we'd take turns making inane conversation like, "Wow! How about that last game of the World Cup???" But in the real world the neighbors are gone off to somewhere cool and restful and I can't even locate the foreman for the ever expanding project next door. 

So, in those quiet moments during which the offending trucks have been relocated (by me) and the blank stares of the workers have turned back to other tasks, I'll start working on my own stuff until I get a phone call, e-mail or letter asking for clarification of something about my father's estate. Can I send a death certificate? Can I send letters testamentary? Can I fill out this form? Do I know my great grandmother's social security number? Usually I try to return calls quickly only to find that I'm ushered into the original caller's voicemail which then begins the routine so prevalent at big firms; the call back and message left five minutes before closing. I've have been trying to connect with one person who called to "assist" me on this "estate project" about ten times. She's never there. But she does seem to hit the office once or twice a day, usually during lunch or some other inconvenient time, to leave a voice mail in which she consistently tries for an interjection of humor with the hoary and withered, "We seem to be playing phone tag!!! Ha. Ha.

I have a f@cking cure for phone tag. It's called setting up a time certain in which to make and receive the phone call. As in, "Hi Mr. Tuck, I'm sorry I wasn't able to reach you. I'll try again at 10 am tomorrow. If that's a good time can you just send me an e-mail to confirm? If not, can you suggest an alternate time?" But, of course, I don't have a clue as to the nature of her call or what I can offer but it's coming from one of my dad's investment companies so I feel duty bound to find some sort of closure. 

Ah, the mail just came. I picked it up out of our mail box after tracking down another slack-jawed, barbarian worker who once again positioned his oil leaking Chevy pick up truck right in front of my driveway. I was heading out for coffee.... So, now there are letters from three banks, an insurance company, and the Texas Retirement System, and all three of them would love to have... something. Something I'll need to find, research, prepare and send. It just never seems to stop.

And all I really would like to do is take some photographs. You know, use the cameras a bit. Maybe finish an assignment without some unwelcome interruption. 

I'll even blame my recent gear purchases on a repressed desire to actually use photographic devices. Maybe my internal logic is that by buying yet another camera or lens I'll show the universe my intention to make photographs and the universe will move mountains to assist me. In reality, the new toys mostly sit in their boxes or on my desk....taunting me and making my lack of clear direction and unencumbered enthusiasm painfully; excruciatingly obvious. 

I'm actually thinking of going out to buy my own tow truck tomorrow. I'll be hooking up horrifying pick up trucks of the workers (parking illegally) at projects all over my neighborhood and I'll tow them to downtown parking garages where the prices to free one's vehicle are a hundred bucks a day, and let everyone else sort it all out. But I really won't because I can't see how that will help me at with all the paperwork requests.

I've included two photographs from Iceland to remind myself that cool weather will come again someday. That I do get to do fun stuff, usually. That I can afford to take the time off to get stuff done. The only thing I am not sure of is whether the constant remodeling, tearing down and rebuilding, etc. in our neighborhood will ever abate. When pesky homebuyers buy million dollar houses with the intention of demolishing them in order to build much bigger and more expensive homes one wonders whether it's a never ending cycle which will eventually morph into new buyers buying the two to four million dollar houses only to tear those down and start again on even bigger and pricier ones. Maybe it's time to move.....

Sorry, no time for photographic writing today. Too busy being inconvenienced. 


Proof that at some point in the past I actually had time to photograph.

A couple of days with the X-Pro2 have helped me sort out a new working methodology. And use up some shoe leather....


After a bit of trial and error, and the purchase of two competing lines of lenses, I've come up with what is for me a nice, small kit to take when I go out for walks in our lovely urban spaces. It consists of an X-Pro2 body (see the welcome grip attachment in the photo above...)  along with a 23mm f2.0 and the 50mm f2.0. I also bring along two of the NP-126S batteries; just in case. The small bag (it's really very small) is big enough to hold two of the f2.0 WR lenses along with a wallet and, if wanted, a phone. The camera doesn't go in the bag. It would take up too much space. It goes mostly over my left shoulder on a traditional strap but sometimes I wear it, bouncing up and down, on my chest like a 1970's tourist, and that's okay too. 

I guess you could consider this my "day time" rig; the lenses are the f2.0 variety instead of their faster, f1.4/f1.2 counterparts. I'm pretty sure that if I were doing mostly interior photographs (at the museums, in coffee shops, in hotels) that I'd switch out the lens selection and go with the 23 f1.4 and the 56 f1.2 APD. But in broad daylight the max aperture differences are inconsequential as I seem to be settling in on f4.0 and f5.6 as my preferred settings. 

I also keep my car keys in the little bag and, as you can see in the above photo, I keep the batteries in a separate plastic bag to prevent an unfortunate marriage of the battery terminals with the metal keys. 

I've made a few mistakes in shooting the Fuji X-Pro2's but nothing so embarrassing that I'm hanging my head and leaving the field of play. The X-Pro2 just requires a "newbie" like me to pay a bit more attention to the process and the difference in controls; especially when using the optical finder. I tend to get into using EVFs so much I just assume automatically (and incorrectly) that the camera will "see" what I see through the OVF and that's a bad presumption. I'm working on it....
This gentleman was working on a music video with his friend. The camera is a Sony A7xxx. He asked me if I could play a small part in their video and so I acted the part of a photographer taking images on Congress Ave. His actor rode up on a scooter and showed me an I.D. card and asked if I had seen the person in the card. I said "yes" and point off down the street. I'm proud to say we got the shot in just two takes. 

This is the actor I worked with for my short cameo.
It looks like they were having a lot of fun and had their 
camera work well figured out.

The traditional group shot upon completion. 
23mm (I'm still learning with this one).


This store always has the best signage...

One step up from a food trailer? Weird business model in my mind. Cook burgers and fries. 
Delivery them to customers who sit in the sweltering heat under a little tent. 
Want some sweat with your burger? Maybe it all makes more sense in the winter...

This is a new addition to the ever increasing inventory of downtown hotels.
It's called "The Fairmont" and it was the site of the WP Engine Summit Conference 
that I was photographing just two weeks ago.

Big flag on a Rainey St. bar.




Love a good ad. 


So, I discovered Bangers during the WP Engine Summit and I made it the 
"turnaround" destination for my long walk yesterday. I broke with long 
tradition and stopped in for one of their lower alcohol IPAs. 
Very refreshing and a bit of chancy hydration for the long walk back to the car....

I was walking by our new (giganctic, grandiose, over the top) public library when I realized 
that I'd swum hard, walked far and hadn't had lunch yet. It was already 3 pm when 
I ventured into the library's very nice cafĂ© and ordered their version of 
heuvos rancheros. The beans were spicy and delicious. The bacon downright sybaritic. 
Washed down with a blueberry Italian soda.




Nicely manageable walking kit. I'll re-use this packing concept.

Quick Swim news. Our regular pool is closed today so I'm heading over to the spring fed pool known as "Deep Eddy." It's 33 and a third yards long and the water temperature is about 10 degrees (F) cooler than our regular pool. I just want to get a mile or two in before I start my day in earnest. 

7.06.2019

It's Summer everywhere but it's been mild in Austin this year. So mild that I'm paying less in utilities which leaves me more $$$ to buy gear. Surprise!

Lifeguard at eight of a mile long, spring fed, Barton Springs Pool. Shot with a Sony R1.

Here we are in early July and I have yet to pull a sprinkler out to water the lawn. We've had bi-weekly rains all through the Spring, the lakes are full, and the grass is emerald green and growing fast. It's certainly a contrast to many other places; Alaska is setting new high temperature records this week, and the week before parts of France hit record highs of around 115 degrees Fahrenheit. At the same time I was able to do a long walk in mid-afternoon, through downtown Austin, without breaking sweat. It's just not fair.

I took advantage of the mild Summer weather over the last two weeks to go outside and get to know my newest camera addition; the X-Pro2. It's a camera that's been out for over two years so I'll assume you know it's a Fuji camera that is configured like rangefinder cameras of yesteryear, complete with a hybrid viewfinder that gives users a nice EVF or a bright line, optical finder reminiscent of the Leica M series optical finders. The camera also features a 24 megapixel sensor and great external controls. 

I have yet to use the X-Pro2 for a commercial assignment but that hasn't stopped me from using it daily for personal work. I've used it mostly with the 35mm f1.4 and the 23mm f1.4. I'm not much interested in using the camera with any of the bigger and heavier lenses like the 16-55mm zoom lens or the 100-400mm zoom lens. I like the notion of the OVF and the bright frame lines, and they seem ready made for the moderately wide and normal/standard focal lengths. 

So far I've been leaning more towards the 35mm lens as the "favorite-take-anywhere" lens but I keep the 23mm handy just in case some slightly wide scenic inspiration presents itself. 

Lately, as I've warmed up to the X-Pro2, I've started hearing lots of rumors about the imminent release of the next model in the line, the X-Pro3. No official information about this model yet but I'm sure it's only a matter of weeks or months before it turns real.  This time around I'm convincing myself to focus on the current generation, the ones I have in my hands, and only look to the new camera if it's so wildly superior to all of the current Fuji cameras that not buying it would be as stupid as not buying Apple Computer stock in 2002. 

Instead I've decided to dive as deeply as I can into the X-Pro2. That includes becoming operationally efficient and thoroughly understanding how to best leverage the hybrid finder. It's no small thing that the viewing window on the camera is positioned to the far left of the camera, as it faces me, which means I can keep my nose off the rear LCD while shooting. 

But, as you probably know, I'm adamant about the idea that cameras, like rattlesnakes, (should) always travel in pairs. I bought my first X-Pro2 used from Precision Camera here in Austin and went back to see if they had any new arrivals of used X-Pro2s. They did not but they did let me know that the camera, brand new, is currently on sale (nationally) for about $1499. With my current, staggering investment in Fuji cameras the $200 price drop was not enough to move me from the sidelines. Instead, I started looking around the web to see if I could snag a mint X-Pro2 for $1,000 or less. 

I found what I was looking for at Camera West / Leica Store S.F. It was a mint, like new, Fuji X-Pro2 in the original box with all the manuals, paperwork, included flash, camera strap, original charger and  126S battery. The package also included a very nice add on grip and the whole package was a very reasonable $950, with shipping included. I bought it and took delivery of it this afternoon. It's even nicer than my "starter" X-Pro2. This one gives all the appearance of never being used. 

It doesn't make a lot of sense to go all in on X-Pro2s when actually the X-H1 is a more capable camera but then I've never been particularly logical about camera buying and I always remember reading an interview with David Bailey in which he confessed to owning well over 100 different cameras. Believe me, I am no where close....

On the other hand, I did two portraits today and decided that I could use the opportunity to compare my three main cameras of the day. I shot one set of images with an X-H1 and one set with an X-T3. I'll shoot the same set up with Ben as a model, using the Pro2 in the morning, tomorrow. Just to make the whole exercise seem more precise I've used the same 90mm f2.0 and the same lighting and settings for the first two images and intend to maintain that rigor for the third go-round.

I'm shooting at f4.0 and 1/60th of a second, and the ISO was 640. Both times I used a tripod. The lighting was the same. While I've just done the first two cameras I do have a few small observations. The X-T3 creates a slightly less contrasty file. The X-H1 has a bit more snap and contrast. Otherwise there's not a lot of difference between the two cameras. Judging the overall balance and appeal of the Jpeg files I'd give the X-H1 the nod if I had to choose.

It seems as though the X-T3 would be remarkably better, given all the press it's gotten but then again it may just be down to the fact that my 27 inch computer screen is the limiting factor; the "filter" as it were.

I'll let you know if the X-Pro2 does any better or worse after that test.

In swimming news....the lower temperatures and the aerators at the pool are combining to keep the water nice and cool this Summer. After a rather long warm up set this morning my lane mate and I knocked out twenty-one 100's of freestyle on a set interval. Even though the holiday is in full swing the masters workout was well attended. I've been working on maintaining a good streamlined body position  lately and paying special attention to keeping my form solid even when I get tired (especially when I get tired...) and it's helping increase the pace I can keep during longer sets.

The advice I keep getting from our coaches is to concentrate on my kick during freestyle swims. Most of the power comes from the arm strokes but the speed and tempo come from the kick. Most programs use kkckboards during kick sets but I find it messes up the stroke-to-kick pattern. I've ditched the kick board and it seems to be helping me incorporate my kick in a more natural way. Some people use fins during some kick sets to work the legs a bit harder and to help create more ankle flexibility but I think fins can be a crutch and I'm finding more improvement by bypassing them and just kicking better.

A question for all the financially savvy people out here: When is the stock market going to turn and tank? If you could just let us know in advance this time we'll be sure to be more ready than last time....



7.04.2019

Someone referenced this old blog post to me today and I went back and read it. LMAO. Sad to laugh at one's own writing....

https://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2012/02/kirk-tuck-swung-and-missed-this-time.html

Next we'll take on the DXO believers. And the invariance crowd. Warming up for the final event: a mud wrestling match with the Equivalence Coven. Hexagrams and Wolf's Bane galore.

Happy 4th. Don't let the tanks run over your dog.

7.03.2019

Why we rarely see mirrorless cameras of any kind at major events that attract news agencies, photojournalists, sports photographers and guys enslaved by Getty Images.


I don't have all the answers but I do have one notion about why you see so many sports shooters and event shooters working with Canon and Nikon DSLRs instead of the newer generations of Sony, Panasonic, Fuji and Olympus mirrorless cameras. It all comes back to the old saying in politics: "follow the money." The newer the DSLR you see at an event the less likely it is that the photographer holding it does photography as a full time job. He will likely be supplementing his income from part time photography with a full time day job. This gives him a shot at being able to afford the newer cameras. The exceptions are staff photographers from one outlet or another.  When you see sports shooters at events, or contract photographers from Getty Images, at red carpet events you can be certain that they are working for a fraction of the fees that are commanded by photographers who are serving corporate clients directly, and even tinier fractions of the photographers who are servicing national advertising accounts. 

The low fees that websites, contract agencies and magazines currently pay are far below (when adjusted for inflation) the magazine day rates photographers could earn back in the 1960's thru the 1980's. With an average renumeration of between $150 and $250 for a full work day, plus the surrender of all subsidiary rights and copyright to the images, it's almost impossible to consider that people working in this part of the industry have the spending flexibility to change cameras and camera systems very often, if at all. 

If you look closely the next time you are at a sporting event, other than something like the Super Bowl, you'll likely see that the DSLRs and lenses in use are older models and not the cutting edge, newest models. You'll likely see a sprinkling of Nikon D500s and D5s surrounded by a sea of older D3 models and even older cameras. If you surveyed the Canon shooters you'll likely see a few of the near current 1DXxx cameras surrounded by mob of 7D cameras and the like. The longer lenses might be white or gray but they are not going to be the latest release. The reality is that the kinds of photography at which you see cameras from the past are not anywhere near the lucrative other parts of the industry when it comes to monetizing their work and so the practitioners are ill able to afford to make quick switches that might require a financial loss to realize. When the fees are low the camera in your hands is likely to be the one you'll continue to use. And most of the older cameras (older than 2 years) are statistically more likely to be Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Especially in the sports specialty fields. 

And, to be honest, most people who do any profession fit somewhere in a Bell Curve that dictates that a small percentage of an overall group will be risk takers (early adopters) and a very large percentage of the group will fall into the middle of the curve and will be two to three years behind the folks who like to dance along the bleeding edge of technological change. That means that the big hump of people in the middle of the curve have to wait until it's absolutely a proven and confirmed advantage, that has been time tested, before they release their grip on older technology and embrace the newer types of gear. There are always pragmatists that will only shift when they discern an advantage for their own work and, if someone is unchanging in their routine it's unlikely that the cameras with which they practice said routine need to change either. Since 80% (roughly) fall into this category it stands to reason that at least 80% of the cameras being used for public events will belong to that 80% who, by way of analogy, are waiting to see if CDs will actually die off before embracing MP3 music players. And those with an investment in MP3 players who are a bit less conservative are now waiting to see if streaming music is actually a real thing. 

Is it my presumption that the reason for all lack of movement to mirrorless by photographers who shoot public events is a combination of poverty and fear? Not at all. 

Some of the folks you see using newer DSLRs at events are paid staffers for local newspapers, national agencies, or large corporations sponsoring the events. Many times these shooter don't actually shoot with their own gear but are provided gear by their employers. And generally all of these employers have much, much deeper pockets than individual artists. They buy logistically which means they buy in bulk to get better pricing and service and they only buy stuff that integrates into sunk investments already on the ledgers. If they have store rooms of Nikon or Canon lenses the bean counters will make sure no one takes a chance and starts buying camera bodies that don't match up with their prior investments in lenses and accessories. It may be that their buying occurs in five year cycles and they haven't full depreciated, in their minds, the usefulness of the current gear. It will be interesting to see if the next cycle of enterprise camera and lens purchasing will change direction given that the two big past suppliers (C&N) are also moving into mirrorless systems. It's times of evolutionary jumps that deliver disruption in buying patterns ---- as evidenced by millennials shying away from the purchase of personal cars. 

The employee photographer has no incentive to buy new tech out of her own pocket if the employer is providing tools that are at least workable. 

At another level, some practices are predicated on traditions. As video became more and more important fewer people gravitated toward traditional event and sports photographer because the money and opportunities were better in video. The image workers who remained in the field are older that in previous generations, on average. They grew up with Nikon and Canon and learned on the SLRs and DSLRs available when they started out. They are loathe to break what have been, for them, successful habits. If they have the intention to stay the course they have a subconscious disincentive to try other brands because, if they find advantages to the newer tech then they will either be unhappy that they can't swing the finances to sell off their current gear at a loss while fitting out a whole new system in an unfamiliar gear genre or they will have to rationalize their current choices inspire of the new features that mirrorless cameras deliver (silent shooting anyone? Can't imagine someone working on movies sets wanting to work in with a Jacobson blimp instead of a silent shutter Sony or other brand). They will have to learn the process over again if they do jump to the new systems and, while most of us know it's not that daunting, most of us also don't have to live with the financial free fall that may follow if the wrong choices are made. That's the warm fuzziness of doing photography as a hobby instead of trying to put food on the table with your work.

There is another subset of photographers who have the money and the access to affluent clients; who have the ability to move between systems, but can't because the new mirrorless systems don't offer the range of working tools they need in their particular specialities. For example, I have a close friend who is a well known architectural photographer. He grew up shooting 4x5 technical and monorail cameras and for his work he absolutely requires lenses that shift. Tilt/shift lenses. But in the mirrorless universe there isn't a single tilt shift lens currently being offered by any of the mirrorless camera companies. Not a one. My friend could afford to drop $20K or $30K to move to a new system but will not do so until someone with an otherwise compelling feature list joins the Canon and Nikon club and offers a selection of tilt/shift lenses in all the important focal lengths. To do without those lenses would mean changing his entire visual practice and the quality of his deliverables to clients. He encounters the same constraints when moving between medium format systems. 

If you are a well heeled sports photographer who has figured out, through some combination of contracts and sponsorships, how to make real money shooting sports you probably would never consider a company like Fuji for cameras to capture football, soccer and baseball (for examples) and I could not blame you. To date they have one longer lens that would provide competitive performance at just one focal length. It's their 200mm f2.0, and I'm sure it's a magnificent lens. But I'm equally sure that you'd never try to cover a sport that requires continually variable distance between your camera and the action without having a selection of fast, long lenses at your disposal, or at least available to rent.

There are photographers like Joel Grimes, for instance that shoot sports for clients other than editorial  outlets and if they are like their other advertising photographer brethren then they undoubtably make good money doing it. I'm thinking about the folks who shoot the actual advertising images for companies like Nike, Speedo, and Gatorade. Or for ESPN.  They might continue to use Nikon or Canon because they are V.I.P.s in the system they shoot. Their loyalty might be a mix of long experience and nostalgia for their preferred brand but it's equally larded with their ability to call the camera companies' professional services and borrow specialty lenses, loaner bodies, as well as special services. Our perception of the overwhelming presence of DSLRs comes partly because we often see these system V.I.P.s touting their system allegiance in their blogs, interviews and workshops because it's such a powerful synergy for everyone involved. The classic example is Joe McNally and his decades long association with Nikon. I presume that at some point in his digital career (around 2006 to 2012 ? ) Joe could have made one phone call and gotten a crate of Nikon CLS system flashes delivered to his studio with Nikon's blessing and no invoice attached. 

But it was, of course, based on the (realized) perception that Joe would then go out and use the lights on special projects which he would use the images from to push his workshops, books, speaking engagements and pitches for future shooting assignments from other clients. His most over the top use of Nikon gear was the employment of many Nikon speed lights to overpower the desert sun in Dubai while photographing attractive models. A stunt that was covered by the photo industry press at large with almost as much interest and intensity as a moon landing. Joe worked on his brand in the process while Nikon got coverage of their differentiating product portfolio (arguably the best flash system at the time) worth millions of dollars ---- all for delivering a couple dozen flashes to a mad man in the desert. To do a stunt that most of us realized could be equalled by one powerful flash system from Elinchrom  at a far lower overall cost. Well played by Joe and Nikon if you ask me...

So, if mirrorless really is popular at all then why don't you see it everywhere? Hmmm. Mirrorless camera systems, until recently, were not as capable when it came to working with fast, continously moving subjects that needed to be captured in sharp focus. Phase detect AF was the secret weapon that allowed traditional DSLRs to hold onto various areas of the industry. The other secret weapon was the ability to shoot fast with minimal finder blackout. This meant that users of mirrorless cameras were buying  them not for sports and spot news (the bulk of situations where the general public is treated to the sight of professionals work with cameras) but for studio work, considered work, portraits, landscapes and all manner of subject that didn't require the complex focusing capabilities for subjects on the run.

When you consider where most considered photography happens you realize that it is used for just about everything from weddings to corporate executive portraits to nearly all advertising. I'll take advertising as an example as it's the part of the industry with which I am most familiar. Last Fall I spent nearly six weeks flying around the country making advertising portraits for an insanely large construction and infrastructure company. In every location and every situation we were balancing light with the sun or with ambient daylight of one kind or another. We were also making compositions that juxtaposed interesting backgrounds with our portrait subjects. This meant that I was putting up light stands with their attendant sand bags. The light stands held battery powered mono-lights powerful enough to provide enough exposure to match full sun. Even with a modifier in front of the light source. The composition was careful and exact and the lighting position critical so the super fast autofocusing was not required, in fact, some of the images I preferred manually focusing to get the plane of focus exactly where I wanted it. Having a camera with an EVF was more critical to me. 

In fact, in most of my jobs it's the same idea. A system with a good feedback system (pre-chimping) holds value for me while a super fast frame rate or super fast focusing is more or less meaningless; after having reached a level of sufficiency for the work I do. 

And, for most shooters, the differential between focusing speed and accuracy sets up its own value matrix which is subject to the operators' needs or preferences. I would rather every focusing engagement favor accuracy over speed. With portraits the accuracy of a good eye detect AF feature is priceless.

So, for every public event photographer you see who is sporting the older DSLR tech there is likely at least a one to one ratio of other photographers whose work prioritizes other camera strengths. For a long while Panasonic was my top choice because their implementation of video was so much better than their competitors. Now others are catching up (see the Fuji X-T3).  My current happiness with Fuji is that their files, straight out of camera, make for better theater images and better portrait --- at least to my color taste. But for a lot of work out on location the benefits of industry leading image stabilization from Olympus and Panasonic may be of much greater importance.

Look in the small backpack of travel photographers like James Popsys and chances are you'll be much more likely to find smaller format mirrorless systems because they deliver great files while also helping to meet the vagaries of airline restrictions as well as being comfortable enough to carry and shoot with all day long. Gone are the days when the full frame cameras were the first choice for travel. They left along with the last couple inches of airline seat width and the implementation of extra baggage charges. 

The bottom line is that change comes at a snail's pace even when most of the users of a technology understand the advantages of the newer systems. It's the reason city only commuters continue to buy big SUVs to drive to work and to leave parked all day in sun baked parking lots only to drive back home through traffic over the same 15 average miles and the 45 minutes it takes instead of investing in hybrid or all electric cars. Even though they'd save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on gas.

So, the next time you are punishing yourself by watching sports on TV and you find yourself searching the on screen shots of the photo media for what kind of cameras they might be using remember that this cohort of photographers is very small and very specialized and, if you are at all like me, they don't shoot the same way we do or for the same targets. Then take a moment to realize that life is happening all around you while you are watching someone else do something healthy on TV and that your are also shortchanging our own ability to decide your own camera choices by making unequal comparisons with low paid sports workers. Turn the stupid TV off and either grab the camera you carefully researched and enjoy using and head outside, or get those walking shoes all warmed up and ready for action.

Nothing good comes from watching television. And, as Karl Marx once said, "Televised Sports is the opiate of the masses." 



We don't all drag desktop computers with us all over town anymore....
Not the we ever did

usually all the lighting gear is much more important than which type of camera you will use to get the shot. Imagination and experience being the two most important parameters.

Lighting trumps cameras. Sandbags make us safe.

Big equipment is not agile. Or fun to drive.
My old Mamiya Six had no motor, no autofocus and no zoom lenses. I actually had to think about making photographs. 


Contax G2 with the 21mm lens. Mirrorless? You bet.

Sharks move constantly or they die. 
I'd rather be a shark than dead.

Getting to know the gear up close and personal. Plus, photographing at the theater.

Me trying to understand my new camera. Bonding through long walks and playing with all the buttons. 

It's always an interesting day when we have something to photograph at the theatre. I got up early and went to the 7 a.m. swim workout so I'd have plenty of time to get over the Zach Kleberg stage and drag my lighting stuff into the building. The marketing team was working on a TV commercial and wanted to get double duty out of the actor, the make-up person and the dresser by also incorporating a photography shoot for advertising and public relations. We were photographing the actor who will be playing Governor Ann Richards in the upcoming production of "Ann." 

Because I've been photographing in Austin for so long, and because a lot of the people on the stage with me this morning are quite young, I think I was the only person in attendance who had actually known and worked with the real Ann Richards. I'd done public relations work with her during one of her gubernatorial races and I also photographed her for an advertising campaign promoting an Austin luxury condominium project called, the Nokonah. She was a friend of the developers and had also bought an apartment in the building. We photographed her half a block from the Nokohan at the Whole Foods grocery chain flagship store, after getting permission to bring in lights, stands and cameras, and to cordon off part of the produce section early one morning. 

Today's shoot was relatively straightforward. We did seated and standing shots of our actor, Libby, in front of a rear projection screen on which a fluttering Texas flag furled and unfurled. I lit Libby with classic beauty light; a big octabox overhead, aimed down at her at 45 degrees (and used pretty close) and a silvered 42 inch bounce reflector just out of frame below her to pop in fill light. I also used a third light in a small soft box behind her to do some subtle backlight. All three lights were the Godox SL60W LED lights I've been buying lately. If two are good three are better. 

I used my trusty Fuji X-H1 and the 90mm f2.0 for the waist up and head and shoulders shots and when I could not back up any more for the wider head to foot shots I switched to the 16-55mm f2.8 zoom. 

The lights all seem to be almost exactly 5100 degrees Kelvin and that's what I set on the camera. Since I was working with controlled lighting on an otherwise black set I shot Jpegs in the large, fine setting. After shooting a few test shots the only adaptation I made was to turn down the sharpening from the default to minus two. 

The lighting setup took about 15 minutes, the shoot about 15 minutes and the tear down about 20 minutes. Having photographed in this theater at least 100 times my biggest concern was getting the TV crew out of the way so I could light....that, and finding a wall socket that was live.

I'd post a pic but the take is embargoed until the theater uses the images first. 

Although I am currently enthralled by the Fuji X-Pro2 using the X-H1 this morning reaffirmed my strategy of using one for work and one for additional shooting pleasure. 

Off topic (?) I was delighted to find out that, even though tomorrow is a holiday (apparently to celebrate tanks and airplanes...) we have swim practice from 7:30 am until 9:00 am. What a truly great way to usher in the holiday. 

Waiting impatiently for my second X-Pro2 to arrive on Friday.... 



Weird parasitic architecture. There are two hotels adjacent to our convention center. The Marriott to the north and the Fairmont to the east. Both have built pedestrian bridges over to the convention center. 
Austin, working hard to make conventional crosswalks obsolete. 

Just being a photo-nerd and looking for stuff to shoot to show off the sharp, new f1.4 lenses.