Re-discovering motivation. Or maybe discovering new angles of motivation.

visual problem solving as food for the brain. Images for the heart.  I wonder where radishes fit in?

I've been doing some back of the envelope calculations about why I photograph. The math never really seems to add up. I suppose that after doing so much photography for a living that there's a momentum that keeps me reflexively looking at the world through a camera; but I'm not sure it's a healthy fascination. 

I know that I started taking photographs because of the obvious and largely unconsidered desire to make visual images of the beautiful people I was surrounded by in my late teens and early twenties. So, in fact, my photography has always been driven, from the beginning, by the content and not by either the craft or the lofty ruminations of art philosophy. I bought my first "real" camera in order to take photographs of my girlfriend at the time. I thought she was amazing.  For one period of my life cameras lasted longer than some of my relationships. The girlfriend moved on but the camera stuck around to continue the process of documenting a series of subsequent relationships. Unthinkable in contemporary life where I've been with the same person for nearly 40 years but have changed cameras (as some wag recently wrote) almost as often as most people change their underwear.

I came of photographic age at a time when culture was changing and intimacy, nudity and even the way we defined and described human beauty came out of the shadows of puritanism and became progressively more mainstream --- at least in the university communities in which I lived at the time. Photographing the beautiful face of a person with whom you were also in love had many facets of reward. From having photographic subjects that were almost universally appealing, to having the photographic print with its ability to bring to mind immediately the shared experiences with a person who, in turn, was as interested in you as you were with them. It was a virtuous loop of positive affirmation and happiness, and the photographs were the ongoing souvenir of your object of satisfaction and joy. A reminder that you belonged somewhere. That you belonged with someone.

With this in mind (the experience of making desirable photographs of beautiful people) why would I ever consider landscape or travel photography? Where's the reward? What's the value? Nothing really has the photographic dopamine hit of being able to look at an image of your lover's face and re-appreciate the warm and happy feelings incorporated and expressed there...

As I hit the 30 year mark in commercial photography I've found it harder and harder to stay motivated to do my own work. Maybe the pressures of having to produce on command trims the edges off the endurance required to do work for someone else, in a specific fashion, and then turn around and produce work on cue for one's self. At the end of a long day dragging clients from cliché to acceptable it's a wonder most photographers aren't just sitting in their parked cars weeping and wondering why they chose such an awful way to eke out a living.

But something equally onerous seems to happen as we get older. We've seen so much stuff, at such a relentless pace, that sometimes it feels impossible to do any (personal) work that doesn't seem like a redundant copy, a bad derivation, or a worn out meme when we do pick up our cameras. Nearly every street scene, landscape and abstraction we come across seems to reinforce the feeling that we've been there; we've done that. It's a feeling that goes a long way toward dampening one's enthusiasm to march around with a camera and attempt to make "Art."

The final straw, also aging induced, is the paralysis of understanding that the majority of your life (statistically speaking) is now in the past and the time left is neither guaranteed nor able to be decelerated. If you now have the time and means to pursue the project of a lifetime then the question becomes "which project should it be?" How does one decide between all the competing possible photographic adventures when the catalog of possibilities is laid open in front of you?

Recently, with my attention turned away from the business, I slowed down my engagement with both the work-work and the "fun" work. It gave me the opportunity to be a bit more clear-eyed about my trajectory and my motivations. 

I've come to realize that, for me, the secret to staying motivated is to reach all the way back into the past and connect with what brought me to photography in the first place. That would be making portraits, for myself, of the beautiful people in my life. They are no longer all young, no longer filled with innocence and brimming with enthusiasm over something as ephemeral as potential, but most have become, in their own ways, even more beautiful and alluring, having been dusted with the patina of time and experience. I find that their eyes are now more expressive, the stories they tell more nuanced, and most have come to terms with their look and their physical presentation so that facades are easier to pierce and discard and now we can collaborate on illuminating a combination of experience and intrinsic beauty. 

I've started having prints made again. I'm putting images into small books and making prints for the wall behind my office desk. It's nice to see the physical manifestation of my work without the dependance on a computer or phone...

Another project is one that my wife and I are working on together and that's to make photographs for the house. Lately, we've been attracted to produce markets. Our current project is to make lots of food images from which to "curate" a small number that we'll turn into prints and put on our dining room walls. Something we talked about for years....

The art director + photographer .... it's like the barefoot children of the village cobbler. We've been so busy making content for clients that we almost forgot what it was like to do art for our own enjoyment.

So, the process of re-energizing motivation is as "simple" as getting in touch (and re-interpreting) your own photographic "origin" story and then filling in around the edges with different work you create just for yourselves. I guess that's why they call it "personal work."


I came across another choreography rehearsal image I wanted to share. I have new found respect for the Fuji X system. It's really fun.

Working on dance numbers for the Zach Theatre Production of "Christmas Carol." My favorite play of the year.

They spend a ton of time getting every detail right. I'm just happy when I get the main subject's hands inside the frame....

Can't believe it's the first of November already. Where did this year go?

I read the reviews but I decided to do my own test on the Lumix 24-105mm f4.0, along with the S1 camera. Seems adequate...

An actor dressed as "the Cat in the Hat" for Halloween.

Camera: Lumix S1
Lens: Lumix 24-105mm f4.0
Aperture used: 4.0
Shutter speed: 1/125th
Focal length: 81mm
ISO: 2,000
Lighting: Industrial florescent fixtures in ceiling
Profile: Natural
Color Balance: AWB
Client: Zach Theatre

Mindset: There's a lot to like about good, standard zoom lenses. And cameras with nice shutters....


The Cat in the Hat at Rehearsal. A Fun Halloween Photo.

A serious young actor's workshop at ZachTheatre.org  Just happened to be Halloween evening....

Camera: Fuji X-T3
Lens: Fuji 90mm f2.0
ISO 1600
Profile: Classic Chrome

Mindset: Getting ready to head home. Packing up. See the shot. Get the shot. Smile. Finish packing.

A Favorite Photo from a Choreography Rehearsal Yesterday....

Choreography rehearsal for "Christmas Carol" in the rehearsal studio at ZachTheartre.org.

Camera: Fuji X-T3
Lens: Fuji 56mm f1.2 APD
ISO: 1600

Mindset: Happy and paying attention to movement and gesture.



So, how does that old, crusty Zeiss 50mm f1.7 lens work with a $15 adapter on the Lumix S1? Is it pure crap or was I able to salvage something?

Gone cheap. Thank God!

I've been buying up stuff like a Saudi prince with a open-ended credit card at Rodeo Drive. I put on the brakes but when I was looking through the gear drawer I found an almost forgotten Contax/Zeiss 50mm f1.7 manual focus lens. I went over to the computer and searched for a cheap adapter so I could use the lens on a Panasonic Lumix S1 camera. I found an adapter for about $15 so I ordered it. 

Today I put the adapter and lens on the camera and drove over to the lot next to the lake and then headed off on foot through downtown. I didn't shoot much but I did try to pay attention when I was shooting. You know, get the focus right (thank you, Mr. Peaking) and get the exposure nailed in. 

To say I am "happy" with the performance of the camera and lens together would be an understatement. They work very well together. The lens, by f4.0, is exquisitely sharp and even wide open it's better than decent. Pretty amazing. Putting a used $125 lens on a $15 adapter on a $2,500 camera and I'm as happy as I could be.

Two cons: you have to manually focus so you're not going to be following super fast action, and there is a bit of barrel distortion to the lens. Not that I care....I wasn't shooting test charts with it.

The right eye of the doll on the right, just above. 

This is a pretty good starting point for enjoying art. 
In the perfect world the tacos would be free. 

All done. Dusk. Twilight. The limits of my hand holding.

The cloudscape after the cold front blows through.

We had a cold front blow through last weekend (we're having one blow through right now!!!) and the next day the sky was filled with puffy clouds interspersed with blue sky. I headed out for a walk and I took a most basic set of gear with me. One Pentax K1 and one 50mm f1.4. I put the lens at f5.6 and the camera on turbo and set out. Everywhere I turned the sky was doing something new and different. 

I love shooting cloudy dappled skies because they make for great personal stock when I need to PhotoShop in a new sky in a photograph that had to be taken when the weather was less than cooperative. I have a folder now with about 600 or 700 cloudscapes. When we have to photograph against bald skies I've got my remedy close at hand. 

The weather is restless here this week. We started off pretty but now we've spent a day weaving in and out of rain. The wind has been less than discreet as well. Nothing like what the center of the country is experiencing but a bit disquieting for Texans. Tonight we're dipping down toward freezing but the forecast for tomorrow is sunny skies. Another day to shoot for the cloud folder. I can shoot outside until 3 p.m. but after that I'm booked to shoot a handful of different projects at the theater. I'd like to use the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens for most of the projects but I'm still on the fence. It just seems like another extravagance.....

So. Now we've had our two days of Fall. Get ready for our two weeks of Winter....


I spent $15 dollars and now I have a 50mm Zeiss lens for my Lumix S1...

One thing that's kind of addictive about nearly all the mirrorless cameras is the way you can adapt older lenses that you might already own to the new bodies you love to buy. I have a 50mm f1.7 Zeiss lens that was originally made for the Contax (y/c) line of cameras that were on the market in the 1980's and 1990's and I've used it on micro four thirds cameras and APS-C cameras with very good results. The lens is one that consistently gets high marks when I look around for actual user reviews. It's in short supply these days because several influential budget lens adapters decided that the f1.7 is sharper than the more expensive and faster 50mm f1.4 Zeiss lens from the same family.

While I'm happy as a clam with the "normal" lens (Sigma 45mm f2.8 L-mount) I bought for my Lumix S1 I was sad to see the old Zeiss languishing in a drawer, unused. I went online and found a $14 (+tax) Fotasy brand, "dumb" adapter that would allow me to attach the old lens to the new camera and, since shipping was free, ordered it.

It came yesterday and I put the lens on the adapter first. It fit snuggly but not so snuggly that I might not ever be able to get it off again. Then I gingerly placed the combination on the camera and, with minimal use of force, turned the assemblage on the lens mount until the lock snicked into place. I turned on the camera and was happy to see that in "A" mode the camera meters correctly. Focusing was a little tough until I figured out how to turn on focus magnification and then everything fell into place.

The lens is as nice as I remember it. It's not as sharp, wide open, as some of the 50mm lenses I've owned but once you're past f2.8 everything is gloriously defined. And the lens has a different look than does the 45mm Sigma lens. I'm happy enough but I really didn't need one more option for the camera at that focal length.

What I do feel I need is a fast, fast, fast 85mm for the Lumix S1. To that end I'm currently considering the Sigma Art 85mm f1.4. Lenstip.com reviewed this lens and it even trounced Ming's sacred 85mm Zeiss Otus lens. Sigma makes an 85mm Art in an L-mount and my local bricks and mortar camera store has one for a whopping $1200. But, in comparison with the Otus lens I guess I should consider that to be dirt cheap.

My question to the collective brain trust: Has anyone here used the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens? The mount you used doesn't matter, I'm just interested to hear how you liked the optical performance of the lens. Anybody? 

I've read the reviews but until I hear from real people I always feel like I'm going in blind. Help?

Rainy, cold and damp here. I've pulled the office space heater out of the closet and I'm pulling my meager collection of winter wear out to see what's still fashionable enough to wear to work. I shouldn't really care about how cool something looks around the office but I don't want to embarrass Studio Dog if she has company over....


Belinda helps to execute a durability test on the Panasonic Lumix S1 and a lens.

I've seen a lot of camera reviewers put a new camera and (weather resistant) lens under a shower of water, and one reviewer routinely pours water over camera+lens from his water bottle, but I don't see very many videos of people taking their own brand new cameras and dropping them from two or three feet in the air onto solid concrete or rugged rock terraces. Just generally not done. But we all hear about how "rugged" some cameras purport to be....

Now, Belinda and I did not do a dinner time "crash" test on purpose but I figured that since it happened I'd related the findings here. 

We were having delicious smoked ribs, and lots of healthy salads and such, at a photographer friend's home. It was a beautiful evening and this house has a wonderful terrace with a hand made picnic table and benches set on a rock-floored terrace. Of course I had my camera with me and I had used it a few minutes earlier to take a photo of my son, Ben, sitting at a second table nearby. I put the camera between Belinda and me on our bench and promptly forgot about it. 

A few minutes later Belinda got up to go in the house to get the beautiful chocolate cake which she baked from scratch for my birthday. As she stood up she dislodged the camera from its very tenuous and ill considered parking place and the camera spun off the bench and crashed down to the terrace smacking the uneven flag stones. And it bounced more than once. 

Which camera? Of course it was the newest one, the Panasonic Lumix S1, outfitted with the wonderful, little 45mm f2.8 Sigma L mount lens. Everyone looked at me. I don't know if they thought I was about to cry or if I was angry but ..... hey....it's just a camera. I picked it up, dusted it off and went back to the ongoing conversation. We can always replace a camera we have a harder time replacing wonderful events....

The point of impact seemed to have happened first to the metal lens hood which bent inwards a bit, and also had some paint and bit of the underlying aluminum scraped off. There's a tiny nick on the frame of the rear LCD but no other visible damage anywhere. I turned on the camera, clicked off a few frames and everything seemed to work just as before. Only now the camera gets radio signals, and the volume of the radio can't be mitigated by any control I can find. I wouldn't normally mind but the camera only seems to play country and western music (which I mostly hate with a white hot passion === excluding Bob Wills...) so I am a bit chagrined. 

Just kidding about the radio play (not kidding about my distaste for country music, especially current country music...) but seriously, the camera seems to have survived a kinetic aerial ballet from about 2.5 feet in the air to a hard, scratchy surface. Now I just need to take that bend out of the lens hood. 

Oh! And I should mention that the camera makes nice photographs. I try to help.

The imputed point of initial impact, writ large.


So, what do you get the photographer-who-has-everything for his birthday? I know, I know! How about a new 70-200mm lens for his Lumix system? Yeah. That would work.

Lumix 70-200mm f4.0 Pro. 

Guest post by Studio Dog.

How often do you have a birthday? It's really only once a year for humans, right? So I thought hard and long about what to get my favorite photographer on his special day. I mean the guy never buys anything for himself, right? No kibble. No liver treats. No tennis balls. So I asked around and I almost got him a guide to better understanding Olympus camera menus but that seemed too difficult for him. He is a bit slow on the uptake. But then one of his closest admirers suggested that perhaps a new lens would be a better gift. 

I took them at their word and went out in search of a nice, shiny lens that might bring a spark of joy to his birthday. And there it was. A brilliant Leica 90-280mm f2.8-f4.0 Zoom lens for only $6395. It was a bit more than I wanted to spend so I asked that sales guy in the plaid jacket with the skull head bolo tie hanging in front of his striped shirt if there was perhaps a less expensive lens....something better than Canon or Nikon but not as pricey as the Leica. He assured me that this particular lens would do the trick.

It's a Panasonic Lumix Pro series 70-200mm f4.0 lens. I put it next to his food bowl this morning along with a chewed sock (so he'd know who it was from) and I have to say that I think Kirk liked it. He started to drool, rolled over on his back and let me scratch his stomach and, boy! was his tail wagging...

But what a selfish human, no matter how much I hint around (and believe me I am NOT subtle) he still won't share! He refuses to play "fetch" with his new toy. And to tell the truth I feel a bit deflated --- he keeps playing with it, and I've bitten it a couple of times, and neither of us can find the squeaker. How does Panasonic get away with making such pricey toys if they don't even have a squeaker.

Ah well, you never really know what makes these humans happy. But I think it will be a good birthday for him, I nearly caught that plump squirrel in the backyard and I'm pretty sure I'll get him next time. And, unlike that ungrateful human, I'll actually share.

I found the squeaker. Every time he reads this he squeaks just a bit.

Must smell pretty good to humans...