9.23.2019

I went "off script" yesterday and photographed the dress rehearsal for "Dracula" with a couple of Pentax K1 cameras. It wasn't insanely difficult...


When we make a change, say from a DSLR system to a  mirrorless system, it's generally because the emotional part of our brain got triggered into desire mode by careful advertising, marketing, or some other lure, and our logical side of the brain is then given the (after action) task of rationalizing our emotion's actions. We might never know what compelled our emotional brain to ditch a perfectly good system and venture into the great unknown but we know it probably had to do with a deeply held need to keep up with the Joneses, a need to make a statement about where you fit into the social hierarchy, or the idea that having the latest and greatest stuff might make you more attractive to the opposite sex, thus tipping the scales in your favor that you might one day mate and replicate. All this desire is mostly driven by thousands or millions of years of evolution and there's very little you can do about it.

Funny to think about how desire pushes a species forward on a general basis (desire for consistent food supply helping to create agriculture?) while it can actually impede the happiness of individuals. For example: you might think spending money on a Sony A7R mk4 will make you happy. Happier than you are now with your Canon Digital Rebel. You scrimp and save, spend more time at work than you'd like, and then you walk into the camera store and finally buy the camera of your dreams. For a while you are happy. Everyone around you is impressed with your new camera. But then adaptation takes over and you get used to your camera. Familiarity breeds contempt. The fizz wears off. The sparkle seems to dull. And you start saving up for the next big purchase which you hope with bring you lasting happiness and which will change your life. And you follow this pattern until you can no longer afford to make these kinds of emotionally driven camera purchases. Or you impoverish yourself through the misuse of credit...

You've lost the opportunity to invest the money you spent on cameras and you've lost the income's ability to purchase necessities that might have actually improved the quality of your life, your relationships, and your actual social position. You've effectively traded real happiness for short term attempts to be happy through ownership of stuff you didn't need but allowed the linked camps in your brain to foist upon you.

And the logical part of the brain (which is actually very rarely consulted during the ramping up of desire and the final culmination of the buying cycle) is repeatedly called upon to do the heavy lifting. It tells us that 2 more megapixels will make a profound difference in our work. That 1/3 of a stop more dynamic range will fix everything that currently vexes us. That having a mirrorless camera will make us "future proof" and will provide so many vital features that it just makes sense to own one. There's even a special sub-routine in the brain that clicks in to help us rationalize things like the construction of our desired object in carbon fiber or titanium. The logical side of the brain instantly supplies the rationale (after we've bought the new camera) with something like: "Well. In the near future we'll be moving all of our photography work to nature and wildlife images and the titanium will reduce the weight of our kit and also add more strength to the body. The new camera will last much longer, making the selection of the "Boy Metal" a long term.....investment, when compared to a traditional finish..." 

So, what I've found when I've made the plunge into a new system or a new kind of camera (mirrorless versus DSLR, for example) is that my logical brain jumps in to bail out the emotional part of my brain, which seems to have an iron grip on my wallet, reduce the post purchase second thoughts (post cognitive dissonance) with wave after wave of reasoned justifications. My current favorite is that I must  have the latest Fuji mirrorless cameras because the ability to pre-chimp is so vital to my success in capturing good images during dress rehearsals at the theater. If there's no time to test lighting and to make changes on the fly then seeing the preview of an image in the EVF (pre-chimping) helps me to make quick changes that ensure my success. Which ensures my place in the social hierarchy. Which should make me happy. 

When I picked up a couple of Pentax K1 cameras I'm certain it was an impulsive act driven by a recent deposit into one of my accounts of cash I didn't need in the moment. I was either rewarding myself for completing a long and arduous task or taking advantage of a disruption in the dealer's pricing model when I made the purchase. The after-action booster talk from the logical part of my brain mollified me by assuring me that the full frame sensor in the new cameras, in conjunction with the 1:1 format, and a handful of lenses, would open up a brilliant new way to make classic black and white portraits in the studio; where I would have the leisure to use live view to nail perfect focus. Another argument my brain dredged up was that a new system might motivate me to get back into the game after a tough year of domestic administration. Either argument could have prevailed because what my brain was interpreting from my emotion's actions was that I deserved the new gear and I could afford it without negative consequences. Well done, logical and emotional brains, you saddled me with yet more gear....

Just for grins yesterday I thought I'd repudiate my logical brain's argument about the need for mirrorless cameras in order to do my best job in live theater photography. I had agreed to photograph the marketing images for ZachTheatre.org's new production of, "Dracula"  and I thought I'd substitute the older, DSLR technology and see just how "important" those mirrorless attributes actually were. 

To that end, I shot the bulk of last night's technical rehearsal with the following: Two Pentax K1 cameras, a 28-105mm f3.5-5.6(!!!!!!!) zoom lens and the 100mm f2.8 Macro WR. Sure, I dropped a couple of 50mm lenses in the bag (unused) as well as a really old and crusty 135mm f2.5 Pentax manual focusing lens (also unused) into the camera bag. 

I got off to a slightly rocky start but soon settled into the old way of working with cameras that expect me to know what I'm supposed to be doing. Exposure and color balance are always the linchpins for a good theater photo, I don't worry much about focusing because I seem to have that figured out. At first I thought I'd need to shoot exclusively in raw, just as a safety net, but after the color temperature I'd set matched what I wanted to see in random image reviews I felt fine switching back to fine Jpegs and blazing through the show. 

Both lenses worked well and that's saying a lot when it comes to the 28-105mm zoom. It's basically an upscale "kit" lens and I was using it mostly wide open, which has got to be the worst case scenario, but it seemed to deliver sharp and well detailed images 95% of the time. The other five percent are probably due to my sloppy technique or a mis-focus while shooting a very dark and contrasty scene. 

The 100mm Macro lens was slower to focus but when I got the focusing right the images were great. I shot that lens at f3.5 which is about a third of a stop from wide open and got good images from it as well. 

The trick to shooting the K-1 cameras under low light is to be patient and wait for the green confirmation light to come on before committing to the final shutter push. It's an interesting kinetic ballet (and what kind of ballet would not be kinetic) that requires one to time stuff around the time it takes for the camera's focus to lock in. 

When I looked at the images today on my computer I was happy with the rich tonality the presented. Then I remembered all the hundreds of shows I'd photographed with SLRs, DSLRs, actual rangefinders and even medium format cameras over the course of nearly 30 years and reminded myself that the camera is secondary to the instruction book in your brain. 

Mirrorless cameras can make stage documentation easier a bit easier and can be less noisy, but you can still do great work with antiquated cameras ---- if you take your time and have the right mindset. I will say that the sensor in the Pentax K1 is less noisy at 3200 and far less noisy at 6400 than my X-H1s but the trade off is that the X-H1 and the "killer lenses" (90mm f2.0, the 50-140mm f2.8, and the 16-85mm) focus much more quickly and lock in with more authority. 


Not quite ready to try photographing theatrical stuff with my iPhone. I think I'll have to wait a rev or two for that.....

9.22.2019

Fuji announced the new X-Pro3. The fans go wild. The haters go insane.

I really like cameras set up in a rangefinder style. Keeps my nose off the LCD...

It looks like the X-Pro3 from Fujifilm will be arriving just in time for my birthday. As the very happy owner of several of it's predecessor model (the Fuji X-Pro2) I can only say, "lucky me." I will order one of the new cameras right off the bat because of all the tweaks the new camera is said to have included. To wit: A much better optical finder (more room and less distortion). A much improved EVF (with more space, much higher resolution than the finder in the current, X-Pro2, and better, more accurate color). And a new body structure that is made of titanium (boy metal) and will be stronger and lighter than the structure of the camera it replaces. In addition to all this wonderful stuff there will also be several different coatings, or final finishes, to the "sheet metal." You'll be able to order the basic black or you'll have the option of two different colors of a "Dura" coating (silver and black) which is reported by Fuji to be more scratch resistant than stainless steel and almost as hard as sapphire. Come on! That's just so cool.

To my way of looking at cameras this will continue on the tradition of being a special use camera coveted by fine artists and street shooters. The rangefinder-styling and construction includes everything that's nice about a rangefinder camera (direct viewing, seeing beyond the edges of the frame, no shot black out) but adds the option to switch into EVF mode to pre-chimp or review images already taken. The one thing it removes, when compared to a "real" rangefinder like a Leica M6 is the actual coincident rangefinder mechanism. Some might miss that but a real rangefinder depends on careful, manual calibration to work well. It is also costlier to build than what Fuji has designed for us here, and, in all honesty, works less and less well with longer and longer lenses because the actual image size in the viewfinder gets smaller and smaller the longer the focal length of the lens. In my experience with actual rangefinder Leicas it's already a big bit of a compromise at 90mm and by the time you hit 135mm with an actual, optical rangefinder you'll be begging to use an SLR instead. Heading north from a 135mm? That becomes very, very challenging in actual use. 

I think it's very important to understand that this is a specialist's camera body and not at all intended to compete as a jack of all trades. Fuji says that it is designed for users who want a "pure" photographic experience and in making it for a smaller market one of their design goals was to reduce the intrusion of the camera in the picture taking process. To this end they've designed a rear LCD panel that is so strikingly against the popular notions of what a camera LCD is "supposed" to be used for that one suspects it was designed this way by Fuji just to enrage the general community at amateur photography sites such as DP Review (where a battle is currently raging between Fuji purists and the great unwashed audience, for which every camera MUST check every box).

The new screen is a flip-DOWN screen which is intended to have its active, screen side folded in toward the camera body when the camera is in use, taking photographs. There is no position in which the screen is flat against the camera's back and facing the user. None. The design goal was to reduce the temptation to mindlessly chimp when one should be taking photographs. I, for one, feel vindicated as this screen design strikes at the heart of the "Dirty Baby Diaper Hold" wherein a photograph holds the camera out at arm's length and does all of his photo business with the camera swaying and bouncing in front of him/her in the least stable hold possible (well, I guess they could do the D.B.D.H. with one hand, just to make it even less stable).  The screen, when in use,  is available in only two configurations: setting one is to fold the screen out away from the camera body and use it as a waist level finder. It faces up and is at 90 degrees from the camera body (it is hinged at the bottom to the camera). You can continue to fold the screen past 90 degrees to 180 degrees at which point it will be below the camera (top of the screen at the bottom of the camera) and the screen will be facing the user.

There is no provision to use the screen in any "selfie" mode and it won't twist out to the side or face toward the front of the camera in any way. Your choices are: waist level viewing, parallel to but below camera viewing, and having the screen tucked against the back of the camera in the off position. 

I love it. I love it because it will save battery power, not distract me, and it's a complete repudiation of composing and shooting on what should (on all cameras) be just a screen for menu setting and leisurely image review. I love it when a major camera maker's design initiatives coincide with my use profile prejudices. It shows me that there are still sane and logical camera users out in the world.

But this same screen configuration means that this camera will be very unpopular with casual video makers who need the back screen to be active and viewable during the video taking process. If you buy this camera with the primary objective of making video content I am sure it will have the electronic bells and whistles you'll probably want but I'd advise you to get an external monitor/digital recorder, like an Atomos, for convenient monitoring! I couldn't really use this camera for video without that addition. And that's okay because not every camera is made to be a complete "Swiss Army Knife Tool" ready to do anything and everything photographic and video-wise. 

Finally, the photographic "unwashed" are on fire with rancor and disgust over something that's merely a whimsical and fun design element; something that has no real effect, positive or negative, over the use of the X-Pro3. Here is the thing that has so many people twisted up and screaming, "deal killer! DEAL KILLER!!!" Fuji has added a small, square frame in the middle of the backside of the main LCD screen. When the main screen is folded in this little screen faces out from the back of the camera. It looks very much like the sub-monitor screen on the right hand of a Fuji X-H1 and it shows various bits of useful information such as the shutter speed, f-stop and ISO settings of the camera. All the information is even visible when the camera is turned off. A clever step is that the window can be set to mimic the look of the end label of a film box. Remember how film cameras had a little frame on the back and you could rip the end off a box of Tri-X and stick it into the frame to remind you about which kind of film you currently had in the camera? It's just like that but it's an electronic display, and the film box emulations are (of course) of Fuji films. It's clever and fun and the kinder-digi over at DP Review loathe the very idea of it. This means that it must be both good and useful to real photographers. 

In summary, sight unseen, I like the newest addition to the Fuji X-Pro collection and plan to buy one. Your ideas about cameras may be different from mine and perhaps you'll have reasons not to buy one. That's okay too. 


9.20.2019

OT: Coping with long term success. What's next?

Mulling over the idea that Compound Interest 
can be your Best Friend or your Worst Enemy...
whether you buy cameras or not...

Some of us are laid back and seem content to let life wash over us, making do with whatever the universe decides to send along. This cohort falls into jobs and stumble into careers without much thought. Others of us are planners and worker bees and we tend to set goals, set procedures in motion, and constantly push toward some distant pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I'm not sure where I fall on the continuum but I am discovering one thing: It's more fun to struggle and work hard, and fail, and get back into the game again, than it is to be finally, successful. Why? Because, if you don't have to struggle; if the friction of artistically participating in life is reduced or eliminated, then it seems like there's no point.

"Success" as described by a freelance photographer or small business owner can have many measures and many definitions. A lot of our culture's measures of success have to do with how well we have done financially. Wealth and security are key yardsticks with which to measure small business success.

When I meet with other photographers (or ad agency people, or illustrators, or filmmakers) there is always a question that seems to get asked after everyone is into their second beer, and that is, "Do you have a plan to retire?" And usually what is really being asked is: "Will you ever be able to retire?" The implication being that people in the arts have made a stream of conscious decisions to reject economic stability and security as some sort of required payment for being invested in creative enterprises. For doing their art. For writing their books or painting their canvases.

I am disheartened when, with each mention of my having bought a new piece of gear, the comments pour in questioning whether I have raided my child's college fund, stolen communal money from the kitchen cookie jar, done this behind my partner's back, or if I have just plunged myself into the bowels of sticky credit card debt from which I'll never recover. My acquaintances who opted for STEM careers seem not to be able to conceive of a non-technical/big vision job (like photography) that isn't wedded at the hip with intractable poverty and, at the end of life, financial ruin.

But what if...... what if you had little business successes every day, week, month and year of a long career in the arts? What if you shied away from endless exotic vacations (those are trips which clients are not paying for) and big, fancy cars, and houses which were clearly a stretch too far? What if you ate evening meals that you or your spouse prepared from scratch, in your own dining room, five or six nights a week, for decades at a time (and actually became better chefs than those in 90% of the restaurants you've visited) and saved somewhere between the $9,000 and $13,000 a year the average American family, whose appetite for meals acquired outside the house, spend, on average (family of four, middle class) eating out?

What if you saved up and paid in cash for your cars? What if you started saving when your child was an infant to ensure that you could send them to the college of their choice? What if you put all your "disposable" income in SEP accounts and Roth IRA's? In short, what if you did all the things people in all those other careers do (mostly in concert with HR departments) while you were happily grinding away at a pleasurable career in the arts?

I had a big epiphany this year as I was working on other people's financial legacies. The reveal was that I had followed in my parents' footsteps by doing the 1950's work/live/save construct in which people get decent jobs (or careers), spend less money than they make, invest that money in things that generate compounding interest, and reject the ideas of conventional, contemporary status seeking. No ten thousand dollar watches. No Ferrari in the garage. No skiing in Gstaad. No gold flakes on my butterscotch pudding...And, no gold toilet seats.

Doing the final math I discovered: that I could have retired (with few financial consequences) a few years ago. That I don't need to accept any jobs I don't want and that I can pretty much purchase any gear I want without  impoverishing or inconveniencing anyone in my family. The house is paid for . Our cars are paid for. We have no outstanding debt. We're not in thrall to our credit cards. There's money in the coffers....

At this point of sudden economic realization I hit the wall and experienced my own bout of post responsibility depression. If you don't need to work then you have to come to grips with what it is you really want to do. Why you want to do it. How you want to do it. And all that this entails. You have to find a new target that has meaning for you. A new thing, besides need and want to drive you to do your work.

The realization I've been batting about is related to something I wrote long ago, called "The Passion is in the Risk." (You look it up, I don't get paid to do research...) The whole idea, in a nutshell, is that art works as long as there is fear and friction, and the chance of failure involved. Get too comfortable and you lose the spark that kept you awake at night (sweating the numbers) and working hard at doing your best work during the day.

I wonder if so many of the readers here at VSL are in the same existential boat. Is our random flirtation and dalliance with gear a substitute for the passion we felt for photography when we had to work harder at it?

I don't really have an answer and I haven't figured anything out. But I wonder, if I had the chance to do it all over again (which I may....) whether I should have emulated some of my younger friends and spent every last cent on expensive alcohol, amazingly impressive German cars, and a never ending stream of expensive and emotionally needy partners. Would my work be better now? Even better in the future?

In the end I'm okay with my choices. Now I have to figure out how we succeed once you've been blindsided by success.

the "serious" business face.


9.18.2019

The interesting shift continues; from DSLR to Mirrorless to Phone Cameras. From a brief period when everyone wanted to be a "pro" to a current span when "pro" is almost a pejorative.

Annie. ©Kirk Tuck

The battle lines keep getting re-drawn. In the infancy of digital we scampered around trying to find cameras that had enough megapixels to use for professional work (to take over from our 35mm film cameras) that didn't cost as much as a decent used car. Once prices dropped the aspirational target for nearly everyone practicing any kind of photography with enthusiasm was the "professional" quality DSLR. We fine-tuned that, modifying the "ask" to include a full frame sensor. And then the insurrection started. The shot across tradition's bow were the mirrorless cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. 

Many people imagine that the main selling points of the cameras were: "Small" and "Lightweight" but what really connected for most people (even if they don't realize it, consciously) was the introduction of workable EVFs, with all the new promises of workflow immediacy and instant near visualization of the final image....before you even pressed the shutter. The new aspect of the mirrorless revolution that resonated with photo nerds specifically was the shorter lens mount flange to sensor distance which opened up the adaptation of hundred or thousands of lenses designed for all other systems which could be easily adapted and used with little penalty (except that we learned that a lot of lenses we thought were great were actually mediocre on the smaller format because they lacked resolution and bite).

We've now seen the completion of a circle combining all the things we thought we wanted when they were scarce or non-existent; we have full frame sensor cameras that deliver most of the promises of EVF technology and can also be used in conjunction with a wide, wide variety of older lenses! 

But, of course, no photographic manufacturing target, dependent on consumer interests, can stand still for long and now, after everyone has finally leapt aboard the full frame, mirrorless train (hurry Pentax, the rest of the guys are leaving the station....) We see all that hard work (at least on the part of camera makers and retail marketers) come to a period of slowing or negative growth as previously adamant amateurs and pros of each camp now come to grips with a subject that we've mulled over here on VSL for years: Do top flight cameras matter anymore in an age where 75% of all images are viewed on telephone screens?

I've seen a growing cadre of young and old users who have discovered the new potential imaging quality of phones from Samsung and Apple who are re-thinking their previous dependence on traditional cameras. And, I hate to tell you this, but among people under 40 (maybe under 50) that video capability, which traditional camera users maligned for years as an expensive feature no one wanted, has now become a vital and much used part of the whole camera/phone package. Among younger photographers I'm seeing more video being made than still images....

People push back by talking about the poor handling characteristics of iPhones as cameras but it's only a matter of months before their complaints turn into a torrent of Kickstarter Kampaigns aimed at building cases for phones that add handling features and mimic traditional camera handling niceties. 
I'd count on that. Pop that flat and non-grippy phone into a case that allows for a traditional set of controls and play "street photographer" at will. 

Yes. 12 megapixels will not match the image quality of a Phase One camera with 100 megapixels when it comes to printing a 40 by 60 inch print. But how closely do they match up when the final images are compared on a phone screen? An iPad? A 60 inch 4K television monitor viewed at 10 feet? And do you really need the full potential of whatever top of the line camera for every shot you take? Really? 

It's going to be interesting to see where all this takes us. It seems like a sea change has happened and a bunch of us weren't paying attention and we're still in denial. Not saying we never need to use better cameras than the ones in our phones, only that we're far, far, far from the mainstream market whose mainstream buying previously subsidized the ritzy and technically masterful cameras we've usually embraced. 

I hope my next standalone camera doesn't get priced up into trust fund territory. But the way clients are acting now for many photographers I'm pretty sure the iPhones and Galaxy phones will be more than enough for a number of markets....I have the feeling that full frame, high res cameras are the large format and medium format cameras of our time. The phones are the 35mms and point-and-shoots.

Evolution is tricky, especially when you are in the middle of the process. 




9.17.2019

Just to add a little chaos to the beginning of the week, here's why I like the Pentax K-1.


It happens the same way a lot of the time. I'll go into our bricks and mortar camera store here in Austin, Texas; Precision Camera, with the intention of picking up some ink cartridges for my ever thirsty printer, or I'll have a pressing need for a specific shade of gray seamless background paper, and as I'm standing around chatting with my sales associate I'll spy a camera that's still a mystery to me. 

It happened about a month or so ago. I was finished with my business (buying yet another microphone) and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a used Pentax K-1 nestled at the bottom right hand side of a massive mountain of used Nikon cameras. I asked Tamara if I could take a closer look and she pulled it off the shelf and put it into my hands. This is a camera with that exudes toughness and it's denser and heavier than it looks when sitting dormant. I played with it and deliberated for a few minutes. The purchase price was under $1,000 and I'd casually looked at prices a week or so ago so I knew it must be something the store didn't think would move quickly because typically a very mint condition K-1 sells used for somewhere around $1300. I decided to buy it. I asked about lenses but the store is no longer a Pentax dealer and had no inventory of full frame lenses; used or otherwise.

So, exactly what is the Pentax K-1? In a nutshell, it's Pentax first effort at producing a full frame, high resolution, professional caliber DSLR. Not mirrorless but a traditional DSLR. With all that entails. The camera is obviously over engineered and feels like it's milled from a solid block of metal. All the buttons and dials are inspiring examples of good fit and finish. And the 36 megapixel, full frame sensor is much lauded by reviewers all over the web for both its incredible dynamic range (at least equal to the Nikon D810 when matched for ISO) and it's really good noise performance when used at high ISOs. 

The camera has its own idiosyncracies and it also has some charming features that haven't shown up on cameras from other mainstream makers, yet. My favorite "far out" feature is the inclusion of LEDs all over the body which can be turned on to help a photographer find his or her way around the controls in dark environments. There are lights on the rear of the LCD screen so that when you pull the screen out from the body and push the "light bulb" button on the top of the camera four LEDs illuminate all the controls on the back of the camera. Guess work eliminated. There's an LED in the card slots area so you can be confident you are engaging slot one instead of slot two, if that's your goal (another weird twist is that unlike all other two slot cameras I've used the "first," or number one slot is actually closest to the front of the camera instead of being closer to the user. In other words, the slot closest to the back of the camera is actually slot #2. Weird, but then whose to say which is the "correct" orientation?

There is also a light just under the front of the pentaprism hump which illuminates the aperture ring and is a wonderful help when changing lenses in very dark situations. It's actually a godsend for theatrical photographers. Lens changes no longer have to happen in complete darkness....

Even though the camera is bereft of an EVF the actual optical finder is big and bright and sexy to look into (even if it shows you only a fraction of the valuable information spewed forth by a decent EVF). The body is chunky and amazingly comfortable to hold onto for long periods of time; if you can handle the weight. I've bought four lenses for the system so far. I initially bought the HD 28-105mm f3.5-5.6 FA WR lens because it seemed like the smart thing to do if I ended up relegating the camera to being an expensive "point and shoot" camera. But I quickly added two different 50mm f1.4 lenses because; well, you know ----- 50mm!!! Right?

While all of the lenses worked well and did nice stuff optically I ended up craving a portrait type focal length that would be faster than the 105mm f5.6 of the zoom so I bought the 100mm f2.8 macro lens. It's nice and also a bit Quixotic, at least when it comes to its industrial design.

The camera is pretty much just a summary of what professional DSLRs were like for the last decade= big, robust, fast to focus, full frame-y, and with lots of bells and whistles. The main differences between this camera and the Nikon and Canon variants really comes down to the health of the eco-system. How many different lenses can you buy to use on the camera? How many different third party lens makers supply their better lenses in Pentax K lens mounts? Etc. 

The Pentax faithful will tell you that there are currently 13 billion lenses (mostly left over from the film days) that will fit the newest K mount cameras but most are a compromise as far as utilizing features is concerning. Most are manual focusing and a large portion don't work in most automatic modes. Frankly, lens design has changed and there are things that need to be taken into account when mating any lens with a state of the art, high def sensor. The coatings must be different than those used with film and special care has to be taken to avoid light reflecting off the sensor surface and bouncing back to the rear element where it has the potential to cause artifacts and also create flare. Additionally, film lenses were never designed and calibrated for very high resolutions. Most were designed to favor acutance over lines per mm. 

Don't get me wrong. You can put together a modern system with current lenses, designed for modern sensors but the pickings outside the system will be slim. Only a handful of Rokinon/Samyang lenses are made in the Pentax mount (24mm f1.4, 35mm f1.4 and the 85mm f1.4 as well as the 100mm macro and the 135mm f2.0) but again these are all manual focusing and have no communication between camera and lens. You can put together a Pentax full frame version of the "holy trinity" with the 15-30mm, the 24-70mm f2.8 and the 70-200mm f2.8 and you'll be covered for most shooting situations. There's a pricey 50mm f1.4 that's supposed to be as good as anything out there (and a bargain compared to the price of the 50mm f1.4 for the new Panasonic full frame cameras!!!!) but if you want current, affordable primes you'll really need to pick and choose. I bought two different 50mm f1.4 lenses. One is the last MF model (SMC) and the other is the (still current in the catalog) inexpensive, screwdriver drive version that's potentially a remake of the MF lens. 

One does get the distinct feeling that if Ricoh doesn't pay a bit more attention to fleshing out the full frame product in the next year that they'll be partially responsible for driving the Pentax line into extinction. 

So why did a I bother? Why did I buy a second body? Why do I keep buying additional lenses (like one of those old ladies in Las Vegas who wears a glove to prevent blisters as they keep feeding quarters into a slot machine and pulling down the lever? I guess I like the novelty of the whole experience. Then again it massages my nostalgia for a way of working that goes all the way back to the film days. The files from the camera are as good as anything out on the market at any price, up to (but not competing with) medium format. It's one of the few systems that has really, really good IBIS and that means all my lenses (the small handful I currently have) are now stabilized. The lack of lens choices helps to keep me from spending all my money on ever newer lenses and tricks me into taking seriously the idea of being a Pentax full frame minimalist. 

On the other hand my left brain loves the fact that it's mature technology. That the shutter is rated to 300,000 exposures. That the camera is incredibly well sealed and completely gasketed. And then there all the features that I love the "idea" of even if I may never get around to using them. Things like the multi-shot high resolution feature and the astrophotography feature. The composition fine tuning, horizon adjustment and other weird stuff. When you realize how much full frame goodness you can get for a very satisfying price, in a body built like it's tough enough for a moon launch, the K-1 makes a good candidate for a second system to use during those times when you just want to go old school, or deliver files with even more resolution and sharpness than you can get when you pull out all the stops in your APS-C system. That said, my recent hit rate with a Fuji X-H1 and the 90mm f2.0 Fuji lens far exceeded the success rate I got from the K-1 in a small, dark theater.

I like using the K-1 cameras for personal work. It's just a different feel and a different mindset. One that I'm not immune to enjoying. I'll be taking one of the K-1s, a 50mm and the 28-105mm on vacation with me in a couple of weeks.

Personal note: Though I travel a good bit for clients (about 30 roundtrips in North America and one to Iceland last year) I haven't paid out of pocket for my own travel since Ben graduated from his college in upstate N.Y. I haven't taken a real vacation since my parents started faltering.... So, Belinda finally put her foot down and mandated that we take a real vacation; not a "write off" vacation. We decided to go to Montreal early next month and explore the area around that great Canadian city. We're committed. Tickets booked. Non-refundable hotel suite booked. Passports and Global Entry cards at the ready. Camera selection just beginning. Any VSL readers in Montreal? 











OT: Maintaining an optimum weight and BMI is pretty easy if you have steely discipline, a highly competitive nature and a couple good pairs of running shoes...

Ben Tuck #418. A cross country race in Texas in early September. 

Occasionally we photographers seem to like to go off topic and talk about our philosophies regarding fitness, diet and weight control. A common belief circulating on some photo blog sites around the web is that finding the correct combination of foods and beverages will do the trick. I don't believe it for a second. I think weight loss is easy. Same with maintaining an optimum (healthy) weight and BMI. Here's the secret formula = At first light (or earlier) haul your butt out of bed, strap on a pair of running shoes, don on some weather appropriate clothing and head to your favorite running trail. Warm-up gradually for the first ten minutes and then try to hold seven or eight minute miles (or faster) for the next hour. Warm down a bit at the end. Go home, take a shower and then eat anything you want. 

Get up the next morning and do it again. Get up the next morning and do it again. Get up the next morning and do it again. Get up the next morning and do it again. Get up the next morning and do it again.....

During the day be sure to take the stairs instead of the elevators, walk to lunch, take a midday break to do some push ups. Eat whatever you want. This has been Ben's routine since his sophomore year in high school. My preference is to swim but I still run a couple of days a week. If you move (and move fast) you will burn calories and you will regulate and attain a good stasis over time. 

It was well over 100 degrees yesterday by early afternoon. I swam in the morning but the workout was a bit truncated because of some (coach driven) scheduling mistakes. After a post swim breakfast and some time spent helping around the house I pulled on my running shoes and hit the trail to do the 7+ mile course. I'm sixty three and had already swum for 1.5 hours so I set a brisk walking pace instead of trying to over do and run it. Too hot to go hard on a second workout...

It was hot enough to thin out the crowds on the trail but I spied someone coming towards me fast. Oh, yeah, that's just Ben getting in a Sunday run. Doing the course in the opposite direction.

He came over to the house for dinner last night. His mom made a healthy salad full of cabbage, lettuce, kale and radishes. She also roasted a bunch of cauliflower. Me? I bought the steaks and I was in charge of cooking them. Ben and I ate steak like we hadn't seen food in a while. I got up this morning and......I'd lost a pound. 

Wanna lose weight? Move to Texas and run. Run in the heat. Or just run. Don't be too easy on yourself; you need to get tired and sweaty and sore. Then you'll know you're doing it right. Swimming is a good substitute if you've already trashed your knees.  Or......you could just search aimlessly among the millions of self-certified diet gurus to find yet another "magic bullet" theory, complete with boring food and no discernible pay-off. 

I prefer to do my dieting in the pool or on the trail. If you are swimming or running I can pretty much guarantee that you are NOT snacking. Just don't fill that water bottle with anything but. 

YMMV but it should at least be mileage and not just yards.....

9.16.2019

Marion, Head Chef and Owner of La Traviata on Congress Ave. in Austin, Texas. For an editorial assignment about the best chef's in Austin. Back before everything was sushi...

©Kirk Tuck

35mm Tri-X film. Printed and scanned.

Editorial Portrait of Chef, Emmett Fox, for an article on Austin's Top Restaurants.

©Kirk Tuck
On 35mm Tri-X film.

Horse Photo. Somewhere in northern Colorado.

©Kirk Tuck

Portrait.


Get close. Metaphorically and actually. Be nice. Respect your subject. Collaborate. Don't dick around with all the controls on your camera and your lights. Be ready to photograph when it's time to photograph. Nothing ruins the flow of a portrait shoot worse than the photographer diving into the menu to sort stuff out. Waste of everyone's time. If your work doesn't flow then you are not "working" on a project, you are just playing around with your toys...

Must be Monday. I'm in that kind of mood.