Finally able to wrap my brain around the Panasonic S1R.

Zach rehearsal for "A Christmas Carol" in a past life...

There's something about buying too many cameras in a short time frame that seems to intrude on my getting to know the strengths of a particular new camera quickly. It took yesterday's foray into the streets with an S1R, combined with a Leica 90mm Elmarit lens, to finally get me into the groove with that camera. Now I'm all in. About time since I've owned a couple of the S1Rs since last Fall...

I tend to use the S1R's sibling, the 24 megapixel S1, as my working/commercial cameras. The file sizes are just right, the video is great and the EVF is inspiring. I used it so often when the S1 first came into the studio that it just overshadowed the S1Rs that came in at the same time. When we were photographing rehearsals and dress rehearsals for Zach Theatre the S1 was the "go-to" camera because it provided the most noise free high ISO files I'd ever played with. You could pull up the shadows to a tremendous extent and know that you weren't going to be plagued by the speckled color noise monsters. The smaller files also made for a quicker post processing and turnaround time. After working with the S1 bodies for months I got to the point where I started to question why I bought a couple of the S1R cameras in the first place. 

My rationale at the time was that I might need the higher resolution for various advertising projects; and I may yet. If we ever go back to work again. But after yesterday's walk-n-shoot through downtown I've come to realize that I consider the S1R cameras to be the true art cameras in the Panasonic family. A camera that when used with good technique can provide exemplary files. After all, it's a camera the sensor of which ties the Sony and Nikon high resolution cameras for a 100 score at DXOMark. Add to that the ability to use Leica certified L lenses and it's a potent package for a dedicated art photographer. 
Which is what I aspire to. Someday. 

Today is the day I decided not to buy a Leica SL. I finally spent a couple of hours with an SL, loaned to me by a blog reader, and while I love the "idea" of that camera (what with all the "carved out of a solid block of aluminum" enthusiasm) the actuality of it is a much different thing. I do love the minimized control interface and the industrial design but when comparing them side by side either the S1 or the S1R is a significantly better camera. While I haven't been able to compare an SL2 to a S1R I have to believe that the output is so close (when using raw files) as to be inconsequential. 

The Panasonic cameras are much better to actually hold and carry around and use throughout a long shooting day. The sensors in both the Panasonics are at least a generation ahead of the sensor in the SL and the built-in I.S. in both Lumix cameras is a tremendous advantage. From my point of view, if you want the Leica "look" you can do a few things to replicate it in an S1R. 

First, go into the imaging profile in the S1R and turn the noise reduction control down to make the noise reduction less aggressive. Much of the "bite" of the Leica is down to less noise reduction in the files. More defined noise has the effect of making files look sharper. Then, add in a bit more contrast because the Leica files are contrastier by a significant margin. Then go into the WB settings and tweak the hue controls to match the color you see in the Leica files. A bit more cyan, a bit more green a bit less magenta, etc. You'll have to season to your own taste. 

Finally, if you really want the full Leica "look" treatment then just step up and start buying Leica lenses. You can get your feet wet with some of the "R" series lenses but you'll be buying a couple of generations of optical engineering backward. To really get the full-on effect you might try one of the less expensive primes; something like the 50mm (non-ASPH) f2.0 for around $5,000. If that's too rich for your taste I can recommend the Leica certified Lumix S-Pro lenses. Start with the 24-70mm f2.8 and you may be amazed. What Panasonic and Leica are doing with lenses now is amazing and kind of fitting since their target is clearly professional photographers and very well affluent hobbyists for whom expensive glass is not a particular barrier. 

There are three lenses I've bought from Panasonic that continue to amaze me when used on the S1R with the file adaptations I've suggested. These are the 50mm f1.4, the 24-70mm f2.8 and the 70-200mm f4.0. All S-Pro models. All come with the cool focusing ring that you pull back to get manual focusing control. These lenses are all pricey when compared to various competitors but in my experience they are wildly effective. I did try a Leica 90mm f2.0 APO and it is amazing but for $5695 it should be. The Elmarit R 90mm is not in the same ballpark but it's still an amazing lens. 

I'm determined to keep my lens buying powder dry so I can pick up one of the Lumix 85mm f1.8 lenses (announced on the roadmap for this year) if it comes out and I'm pretty sure it will be a good, less expensive option. I have the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens for the L system but it's so darn heavy. It's a great advertising lens or studio lens but it's sure not a walk-around option. At least not for those of us who aren't into competitive body building. 

Once I tweaked the color settings and profile settings on the S1R I got files that were technically much better than similar files from the Leica SL, with the added benefits of much lower high ISO noise and a much higher resolution file (I guess five years makes a real difference...) and I was also able to get files that worked aesthetically at least as well for me. In fact, I prefer the WB from the S1R much more -- in most settings. 

I've given myself the task of really digging into the whole range of the S1R's abilities. I've taken the batteries out of the S1 cameras and the Sigma fp camera and locked all of the non-S1R cameras up in the equipment cabinet. For now, until someone calls, texts or e-mails with a job I'll be working on becoming so intimately familiar with the S1R that I'll know it as well or better than anyone out there. (raw hyperbole).

I find it to be the best combination of sheer image quality, perfect ergonomics and it also excels at basic operation. I hope that by the time I'm finished getting fully self-indoctrinated that I am able to operate the camera (metaphorically) blind-folded. 

We'll try this comparison again with a Leica SL2. It's the current version of their mirrorless pro camera and it matches the S1R for resolution. The issue right now is that everywhere one looks the SL2 is in "pre-order" or "back-order" and it's almost impossible to get one's hands on one. I promise I won't buy one without giving it a rigorous, side-by-side evaluation with the Panasonic. It's my hope that the Panasonic goes toe to toe with the SL2. I'd rather toss the $6K earmarked for the SL2 into some sort of emerging market index fund. Not as my exciting as high end camera gear but probably more sensible...

So that's what I did and thought about today.

In happy, personal news: The swimming pool is once again safe and we'll re-start masters swimming on Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. I'm still getting up early since the first practice of the day is limited to two persons per lane. Seems safer to me; especially now that Texas is breaking its own records for Covid-19 infections....

Still trying to figure out how to swim with a face mask on....

Putting together a new rig for shooting hand-held video for a project. Hello S1 with the V-Log update.

I've recently started off on a few video projects which, because of the current state of the world, require me to be a one person video acquisition team. That's okay because I like everyone on my team, so far.  At any rate I needed to put together a shooting solution for video that would give me the quality I want in 4K but still be handhold-able and manageable when shooting on my own.

The final piece of my simple "puzzle" arrived yesterday and I was able to put everything together and test it this afternoon. Right after I photograph a physician in the studio (it went very well. Thank you).

While I'm still smitten with the Sigma fp as an all-around, hybrid camera I have to admit that I really need the multiple image stabilization capabilities offered by the S1 when used in tandem with the Lumix 24-105mm lens for good hand held work. That puts the Sigma fp out of the running for work that happens with me posing as the tripod but it stays in the fold for all the times I can use a tripod or monopod.

My hand held video intensive rig includes:

The Lumix S1 camera augmented by the V-Log upgrade which gives me 10 bit 4:2:2 4K recording in camera at 150 mb/s..

The Lumix 24-105mm f4.0 lens which upgrades the overall performance of the system by adding dual-I.S. to the mix. It makes holding the camera still much easier. It's more than sharp enough for video, even when used wide open. I wish it had the sliding manual focus ring which has hard stops but I can live without it for most run and gun work. It's a great range of focal lengths for video!

I'm using the Panasonic DXW-XLR1 audio interface in the hot shoe of the camera. This allows me to take advantage of any microphone that uses a balanced output into an XLR cable while putting all the necessary controls within easy reach. It's also a great pre-amp and provides phantom power to microphones that need it.

I go back and forth on types of microphones but if I don't have an assistant and I need to move quickly I'm currently sticking with shotgun style microphones. Pre-Covid19 I'd usually put a lav microphone on my subjects but...social distancing and contamination control makes that risky. I have two different shotgun style microphones I like, for various reasons. One is the original Aputure Deity which has a clean and analytic sound quality. I really like it when the situation is just right. It does require phantom power.

The other microphone is the Rode NTG4+ which is a convenient microphone since it has a built-in power source, low cut filters, and a minus 10 Db attenuator. The sound is a bit smoother and has less "personality" than the Aputure Diety.

I choose the one I'll be taking into the field on any particular day by: A. Seeing if the Rode Mic's battery is charged, and B. By flipping a coin.

Not shown but used anytime we go outside to shoot video is the Zomei variable ND filter. The company makes inexpensive products but they seem to hold up well and are optically very good for video. The lens in this scenario takes a 77mm filter...

Finally, the accessory that holds everything together is the SmallRig cage made for the S1 camera. It provides a stable platform for everything and gives me more connection points for mounting the microphones and, if desired, mounting an external monitor to the assemblage. I like cages because they provide quick solutions for mounting problems.

I'm working on several video projects that have long time lines. A mix of interviews and b-roll. Subject matters as diverse as "Love in the time of Pandemic" and "The LifeLong pursuit of Swimming."

Good to get the tools sorted so you can forget about them and focus on shooting. Hope everyone is having a great day. Drop a note. Say, "hello." Checking for a collective pulse...

What I learned yesterday on my first portrait session since lockdown: 

1. Have your client call from their car when they arrive so you can open the door for them into the space. Doorknobs are a much used touch point.

2. Designate a flat, smooth surface near the door as a place for your client to put car keys, cell phone, pocket junk, etc. So you can "inventory" which spaces were used and possibly contaminated. Then you'll know exactly where to wipe down afterwards.

3. A 90mm lens is sometimes too short to effectively fill the frame and provide the tight cropping you might want while maintaining an appropriate photographer-to-subject distance.. Better to use a 70-200mm lens around its 135mm focal length to keep the social distancing safe.

4. Have a designated C-Stand for hanging additional wardrobe that the client might bring. Again, only one point of possible contamination to wipe down.

5. In your restroom facility be sure to have disinfectant wipes on the counter in case the client wants to wipe down a surface before use. Instead of cloth towels provide a stack of paper towels for hand drying.
Put your trash can adjacent to the door so the client can use the paper towel to operate the door knob for exiting and then toss the towel into the trash. Use a trash can with a foot activated opening mechanism so the lid automatically closes.

6. Wipe down with Chlorox wipes any contact surface used by the client. That would include, in my studio, the posing stool. Re-sanitize restroom if used by client.

7. Invite client to apply readily available hand sanitizer on entry and on exit. You do the same.

8. Try to limit sessions to 20 minutes or less.

9. Before the client arrives and after the client leaves open available windows to allow in fresh air and to dilute any airborne pathogens.

10. Use an air conditioner that can pull in fresh air instead of continually recycling interior air.

11. Wipe down camera, lens and tripod with alcohol after the session.

12. Remember to smile under your mask and also to have fun.

Finally, consider raising your usual rates by a good margin to compensate yourself fairly for all the additional work that's required.

Our session went smoothly yesterday. The doctor was a good source of detailed information. Oh, and everyone liked the photos.


How good is that old Leica R 90mm f2.8 Elmarit? Let's take a look. And while we're at it, how does the S1R perform at ISO 50?

One of the very positive things about mirrorless cameras is the ease with which you can adapt lenses from across systems and across time periods. With most mirrorless systems it's a piece of cake to adapt older DSLR lenses to the new lens mounts. You'll usually need to manually focus the lens and set the aperture ring manually but you'll get all the optical performance the lens has to offer (except that a lot of wide angle "legacy" lenses don't perform quite as well on the edges and corners of the frame!). 

I've been adapting lenses since I first purchased an Olympus EP-2. I started with Olympus Pen-F lenses but quickly moved on to Nikon and Leica lenses as well. It's a lot of fun and sometimes the older glass has properties that give a unique look to images. In the early days Olympus and Panasonic were the only real players in the mirrorless space and it was the short distance from the lens mount to the sensor that made adapting DSLR lenses practical. The DSLRs needed long distances since they were designed to clear the mirrors in those cameras. 

Once Sony came out with full frame A7 series cameras with a short lens flange-to-film plane distance the sport of lens adaptation went fully mainstream. 

In the film days my favorite cameras and lenses were from the Leica M and Leica R series. Each camera type had its own dedicated line of lenses and, while the popularity of the M lenses has never really declined once the Leica R (SLR) cameras stopped being produced there were no ready options to be able to use the lenses. They wouldn't fit on Canon or Nikon DSLRs (exceptions do apply) and mirrorless cameras were not yet on the market. These lenses were great but having been orphaned the prices dropped and more and more units flooded onto the market as people traded in for more modern fare.

One of my friends started collecting great "R" lenses at bargain basement prices back before it was cool. He figured that someone out there would concoct a method to adapt them to either a Canon or Nikon camera and, since Canon's flange distance is shorter (but not as short as a mirrorless camera) he was able to have several of the lenses adapted for use on 5Dmkxx cameras. He tired of that pretty quickly and the rest of his collection languished until Leica came out with the SL camera and the L mount. He snapped up one of the first SL's and a Novoflex adapter and started shooting that way for a while. He's moved on to Nikons and medium format Fuji for now and so I was able to talk him into selling me one of the lenses that I always had good luck with in the filmolithic age. It's the 90mm R-Elmarit. It's a basic 90mm f2.8 lens designed and built to Leica's highest standards by their factory in Canada. 

I'd done some portraits with one of the Elmarits and Agfa's Agfapan 25 and 50 film that I really loved and I was anxious to try the lens with one of the new Panasonic S1R cameras to see if the magic would transfer. I'm using the lens with a Novoflex R to L mount adapter and it fits perfectly. Nice and tight. But not too tight. 

I've had the lens for a while now and for some reason I was lackadaisical about getting out with it and putting it through its paces. I guess it's because I've always thought of it as a "portrait" lens and I suppose I'd been waiting until we could do portraits in the style I like again. Yesterday I decided to put the lens on the camera and just give it all a good try. But I added one more component to my test. I decided to shoot the camera at the extended ISO of 50, as offered by the camera. Why? Well, I've read many reviews of the Leica SL and SL2 and those cameras feature native base ISOs of 50. I figured that the interior genetics between Panasonic and Leica's full frame cameras were so close that perhaps the Panasonic would unlock a special look that many people might never get around to even trying. 

So, everything you see here was shot at ISO 50 on the S1R and nearly every photograph was shot at either f4.0 or f5.6. Those are the apertures at which I'd always gotten the sharpest results before...

I thought ISO 50 might be limiting but I quickly discovered that, in full sun, we can work quite comfortably with that constraint. Even in lower light, such as in the image of the pair of women's black shoes below, it was easy to shoot at 1/13th of a second and have the camera compensate with its effective image stabilization. The lens is very dense which, along with the density of the camera, helps to smooth out operator vibrations to a very effective level. The overall mass gives the I.S. an almost unfair advantage when compared to less dense lens and body systems. Something to remember when we start to bitch about how much stuff weighs. 

People have written over and over again describing Leica lenses as having a "3D" look that is a signature of their lens lines. It may be an accelerated placebo effect but I can clearly see a difference between previous images of Austin's downtown architecture taken with other brand lenses and what I saw coming from this camera and lens combination. It seems obvious to me but then I have the advantage of looking at 47 megapixel files when I'm seeing the effect. I hope it translates to the images here which have been downsampled to about 2200 pixels on a long edge. If you are viewing on a desktop system and click on an image it should open in a separate window at the full 2200 pixels. If you are using a phone then probably not...

If my mind had been completely clear I probably would have stopped down even more to cover the depth of the images but I conjecture that many lenses would be equally good stopped down that far and I was interested in seeing how the combo would perform at f-stops I would normally use in my photographs.

Shoes in the shade of a building. f4.0 at 1/13th of a second. ISO 50. 
Don't know why this pair of shoes was just sitting on the sidewalk in front 
of Chez Nous Restaurant...

Looking toward the door of the studio

This is one of the images that really caught my attention. It looks less photographic and more "real" than I am used to. I chalk it up to a blend of micro-contrast performance and that 3D effect I wrote about above. 

My final thoughts? The 90mm is one third the size of the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens but it's just as satisfying to create images with. The sharpness is there as is the color and the tonal rendering. It's pretty superb! It's enough to push me down the path toward collecting a few more of the older "R" lenses. But I do have to say that the "Leica Certified" lenses being made by Panasonic for the S1 series of cameras gives me a lot of the same look and a lot of the same rendering.

What I like about the R lens is its very robust build, its lack of dependence on AF, its absolute feeling a reliability and its tactile perfection. Since I paid only $300 of the lens I have to say that I'm beyond happy with what it can do. Have we come far at all from lens performance in the 1980's and 1990's? Not if you were already using top grade glass back then. It's nice to have a system that provides best in class glass, even if there are some gaps in the catalog. I can only imagine how good some of the current L series Leica lenses are...

As to the ISO 50... I think the colors are just a bit richer and the contrast just a tiny bit better than what I can usually get at ISO 100. Not a "deal  breaker" in either direction but a nice look. And we'll use all the camera flexibility we can get.

Thanks for reading. KT


OT: Reality intrudes and swimming goes on hold for a week. Hospitalizations rise in Austin area. Mellowness achieved.

We've been doing our masters swimming workouts every morning from 6-8 a.m. The group has devised methods to maintain social distancing and has been very observant about reducing any "on deck" interactions. We've done a good job and, so far, no one in our program has had symptoms of or tested positive for Covid-19. What this meant for me was a return to the pool four weeks ago and a renewed program to get back in shape after months out of the water. 

But...we got a message from the club/pool manager last night that a lap swimmer (not in our program) had been at the pool around 1pm one day early last week and had, shortly thereafter, tested positive for the virus. That was the last week on which we also had noon master swim practices (which I did not attend) and it's possible that some of the noon swimmers crossed paths with the infected person (not likely). But, with a need for caution, and a responsibility to the 400 member families of the club, the board of directors opted to close down the facility for a deep cleaning this week and an attempt at contact tracing with the person who tested positive. 

If the swim gods smile upon us we'll resume regular, morning swim practices on Tuesday morning, June 23rd. I am currently offering offerings to all the wet and wild deities and demigods in the aquatic pantheon... 

Since the pool won't be available in the meantime I'm back on my long, long walks, shorter three mile runs, planking and weight lifting regime. I have added one thing to my total health regimen which is very interesting to me. Let me preface this by saying that what I'm about to discuss should not be taken as a recommendation that you follow the same path! Everyone is different.

At any rate I have to start by admitting that I've grappled with lots of anxiety over the past decade. It was overwhelming for a year or so back in 2007-2008. I tried several medications but didn't like them at all and chose to work through the anxiety by researching and trying all manner of cognitive training approaches. I was able to master and stop the panic attacks that sometimes crept up and surprised me but for the rest of the decade since I've had pervasive and uncomfortable levels of more or less continuous anxiety. It's almost like a low level of electric current running through my body. Swimming both soothes and at the same time exacerbates the anxiety. I love the physicality of it but my anxiety intrudes in the form of performance anxiety. Which is odd for an older swimmer; I should be long past the point where I feel like I have anything to prove; or an audience that wants to see me perform...

My doctor and I talk about this whenever I drop by to see whether some skin abnormality will kill me or if he can burn off the offending blemish with liquid nitrogen. About three months ago he suggested that I might try taking a supplement called 5-HTP for my perennial anxious state. I bought some and it sat unused on a shelf for a couple of months. When we started swimming again I decided to give it a shot. I've been taking it twice a day and, for the first time in a long, long time I'm "electric current-anxious buzz" free. It took several weeks for me to see a real effect but it's there now. 

I don't have more or less energy. I am not more or less depressed (and certainly not clinically depressed...). My mood is neither elevated nor de-elevated. It's just that I don't have that tingling, annoying, frightening feeling that catastrophe is just around the corner and that I should be hyper-vigilant and on full alert. 

An interesting thing happened after I noticed the cessation of anxiety symptoms. I take my blood pressure every day and I also recently started checking my oxygen uptake and pulse rate. My blood pressure has always been under control (without meds) but it dropped from averaging 120/65 to 110/65 in the last two weeks. The metric that really surprised me though was my resting heart rate which dropped from an average of 62 to a new, sustained low of 53 bpm. The resting O2 measurement remained static at 97-98.

Seems that not having the overlay of anxiety is good for one's cardiovascular system. Since I am not having side effects from the 5-HTP I'm certainly going to continue to take it. Maybe it's reducing all that free flowing cortisol.

I now have a little cocktail of medications and supplements I'm taking during the Covid-19 pandemic. I'm taking 10 mg of Atorvastatin since this particular statin is well know to smooth the inner epithelial tissue in arteries and veins. Since the Covid-19 virus seems to do the most damage to the cardio/pulmonary systems it seems wise to reduce inflammation and roughened inner artery walls as much as possible. I'm taking 1000 mg. of vitamin D since recent studies pointed to vitamin D shortages as being a common condition in Covid-19 patients who have had the highest mortality rates. And I continue to take 800 mcg. of Folic Acid daily to reduce arterial inflammation caused by possible build up of homocysteine. 

I'm also dosing myself with good coffee at every opportunity. We eat so many fruits and vegetables you'd think we were product testers for the produce industries, and we eat red meat only glancingly and then in small amounts. 

I do think it's important in these precarious times to do as much as possible to boost your immune system in order to fight off infections, to the extent that it's possible. Diet, anxiety control, exercise and getting enough sleep might go a long way toward lessening the effects of a Covid-19 infection, or just making a seasonal cold less miserable. Any way you slice it there are no real downsides to being is as good a physical shape as you can get. 

Ah. An image from back in the good old days when three people could 
socialize in the pool while doing kick drills....
Not advised these days...

Well, Texans have outdone themselves. Our governor convinced all the "low information" people in our state that everything was more or less dandy and that we should all just suck it up and get back to work. As the scientists and medical experts predicted confirmed cases and hospitalizations have both just ticked back up dramatically. The city of Austin has extended the "stay at home" advisory and asked, pleaded and begged citizens to please, please, please wear a face mask whenever you go out in public. 

I'm only visiting businesses that absolutely mandate that everyone wear a mask to enter their establishment. I don't care what political cult people subscribe to but private property owners can make their own rules up for customer safety and anyone who doesn't want to play by the rules should find some place else to shop. I'm wearing a mask everywhere I go and I'm not stopping till we have a cure and a vaccine. If you have an anti-science response just save it because it will get deleted in the interest of not giving bad information to the public. 

I'm giving Austin citizens mixed reviews on their masking skills and social distancing awareness. The Trader Joe's store in our neighborhood is getting high marks for their 100% required compliance toward masking and limiting overall store occupancy. One local coffee shop flunked miserably (not a national chain) when the counter person who poured and handed me a cup of coffee did so with a face mask pulled down under his chin. 

It's all a reminder to me to pay attention to the visiting doctor in my studio tomorrow, and to also make sure I wipe down the camera, lens and tripod I'll be using before (and after) his visit. 

Waiting for the vaccine fairies to deliver a nice, safe vaccine for all of us.

An image from the past that I hope will once again be routine.
12 people circle swimming in a warm-up lane at UT 
before the Masters Nationals.

Hook Em Horns.


What is my "Photography Business Re-opening" strategy these days?

Exterior, environmental portraits fall into one of my lowest risk categories.

When the pandemic hit and people in the USA started taking it seriously the federal government (or what's left of it...) issued a decree for businesses to close down and for everyone who could to stay home. With regard to both science, instincts of self-preservation, and general ethics, I complied and stopped booking photographic jobs and even halted all but the most cursory business/marketing communications. I think this was all smart and collectively we probably prevented hundreds of thousands of new cases of Covid-19. 

But now everyone is grappling with the nuts and bolts of how (and when) to safely re-open businesses while protecting personal safety and without opening up our businesses to liability lawsuits that may arise from persons contracting the virus and singling out our businesses with what might be frivolous lawsuits. (A program note: Many companies are insisting that customers sign Covid-19 waivers to "protect" themselves from customers contracting the virus while visiting said company location or when using the company's services. There is a decent chance that most of the waivers will prove to be unenforceable and are, in some instances just ploys to discourage the filing of lawsuits. See your attorney to get the best guidance...). 

My business exists in a state that has been in a rush to get back to business. Restaurants, movie theaters, nail salons and most other kinds of businesses are being green-lighted for re-opening in concert with certain restrictions (most of which seem, from the customer point of view, to be voluntary). Texas is tossing the dice and betting that the economic recovery will outperform the effects of the death rate from the virus. The virus spread seemed to take a break when everyone was observing common sense restrictions (face masks and distancing) but the virus's spread is now accelerating again in lockstep with the enthusiastic re-opening. 

I'm not necessarily making a judgment about the calculus of business versus safety for anyone else but since I'm the head bottle washer over here I have an obligation to set policies, strategies and schedules that I think are in the best interests of everyone I work with. It would be sad to die for a portrait.

Some parts of the business are self-limiting. A lot of my profitable business, pre-Covid19, was event photography for corporations. Most events would last for 2.5 to 3 days and involve day long sessions with hundreds or even thousands of people seated side-by-side in row after row of closely packed chairs. While not vociferous like a political rally or a religious revival the spaces got quite crowded and it would not have been possible to maintain social distancing under those circumstances. Even less so in the evening hours when the entire cohort crammed into bars and restaurants to talk close and loud while drinking free adult beverages and listening to loud music. Wading through giant crowds like this, with or without a camera, seems the perfect recipe for a super-spreader event of magnificent proportions. 

Every business that we normally deal with on these kinds of events has shut down their schedule for the remainder of 2020. And, I expect that we'll see the shut down of large, corporate events continue until such a time as a vaccine becomes widely available and acceptable. That might be (optimistically) the third or fourth quarter of 2021. However it pans out I won't have to take the responsibility of giving a thumbs up or thumbs down on my participation because there won't be even a chance of any kind of large event resumption. 

Probably the area I have the least worry about and the most control over is corporate headshot work here in my own studio. I can control the frequency with which I schedule sessions. I can insist that sitters sanitize their hands when they come in the door and also wear a face covering until they are positioned and ready to be photographed. I control the sanitation of the space and I can mentally inventory the surfaces our customers touch and remediate them immediately after the customer leaves our space. 

We don't have physical contact with the customer as a barber or stylist might and our space is well ventilated and air conditioned with fresh air, not recycled air. 

My plan is to re-start portraits by appointment on the first of August unless there is bad news from the public health front. We'll start marketing in earnest in the last two weeks of July. 

Another subset of studio work that's even safer (but is a small part of our service mix) is still life photograph. We have a workflow to deal with unboxing deliveries and feel safe handling most non-organic products. If clients want to supervise the shoot we can do that by tethering the camera and sending images over the web for approval or changes. We could start the marketing for these services right away but will wait and market these alongside the studio portraits in the second half of July. 

In the past two years we've done an increasing number of corporate advertising shoots at exterior locations for clients deeply involved in infra-structure projects. Think of portraits of the CEO or a skilled worker in front of a dam project in a remote part of a state. Or at a job site where a large facility is being built. Since these are outdoor environments there is a lower risk of contagion and we can still control our use of masks, social distancing and the sanitizing of gear used. I think that's a safe bet for a re-start. 

The big caveat in environmental shoots done for our corporate clients is the necessary travel. I'm not at all certain that air travel will be a workable gamble until a rock solid and reliable treatment for Covid-19 is identified and tested. Traveling by commercial airline is very much a gamble at this point and I'd want some sort of treatment "guarantee" if I was to take that gamble. For the immediate future, barring such a treatment or, even better, a vaccine, I'm not planning on accepting jobs that require air travel. The exception would be for those few clients who might be disposed to sending along a private jet. We'd consider that sort of travel... I'll spring for the Chlorox Wipes.

With that caveat about air travel I would still consider undertaking big environmental advertising projects where I'm given enough time to travel by car to each destination. I grew up in Texas. We were trained to drive for hours at a time. We actually enjoy it, mostly. A benefit of driving myself to job sites is that I can bring along all the gear I'd ever want to use, with no weight limits! I can also bring along lots of food and refreshments. The only component of this kind of travel that worries me is staying in hotels and motels. 

Bring those wipes along and maybe your own sleeping bag and look for the motels what have individual window unit air conditioners and heaters. That's about as safe as you can make it. 

I envy my friends who are strictly architectural photographers. They seem to have worked with few impediments (at least locally) over the past few months. But the downside is that you'd have to spend your days photographing nothing but architecture...

I'm doing a test run for studio portrait shooting on Wednesday this week. In anticipation I'm pulling up all the foam floor tiles in the studio, washing the concrete floor with a good disinfectant, separately disinfecting the tiles and drying them in the sun. Wiping down all hard surfaces in the studio space and positioning hand sanitizer next to all doors and touch points. With a 135mm lens or the 70-200mm lens on a high resolution, full frame camera I'll be able to work outside the six foot circumference around the subject to keep both of us safe. 

The corporate headshot sessions require lots of set up before the clients arrive but by the time they walk in the door 80% of the work is done and we usually can do a great job in 15 to 20 minutes in front of the camera. That limits everyone's exposure to what I think are safe levels. I'll keep my mask on throughout but, of course, the sitter will need to be "face naked" for the duration of the shoot. 

I'm using disposable masks so when the client exits I'll put the mask in the trash, sanitize my hands and head into the bathroom to wash by hands and face. Then I'll grab a new mask and keep it handy for the next session. 

It's good to do a trial run before we presume a "full on" photography practice. I want to see where the stress points are and how to handle variations before we ramp back up and are working too quickly to see clearly how we might improve. 

Looking forward to seeing you in front of the camera on August 1st. Safe, happy and oh so photogenic. 


Sometimes looking at what people are currently reading from my blog's past pushes me to revisit posts I wrote nearly a decade ago. And sometimes I like them.

Go here to see a long, long post I wrote in 2012 about the role of critics in art:


I re-read it this morning and my opinion hasn't changed. At all. The industry and the hobby and the webification of everything has changed but not my basic thoughts.

Just thought I'd give you something old and new to read while you are waiting for your international flight to some place intriguing and spectacular...

Loved the appended comments to this post as well.

Happy Sunday! A great day for a swim!!!  KT


Accelerating constant change. Online learning. Virulent Introverts. Moving targets. And, Isolation.

Long time readers will remember that I starred in three online learning projects for Craftsy.com. They were very successful online programs when they hit the market in 2013. I had a blast doing the productions with a great video crew in Denver, Colorado but declined to do any more because I felt like I had tried the experience and moved on. Back in 2018 Craftsy.com sold their online learning assets to NBC/Universal which continued the online learning business under the name: Bluprint. 

Partner/Contributors to Craftsy.com, now Bluprint, got notice last month that the business would be closing and that after giving customers the opportunity to download their paid for programming they will be shutting down the online education products. Craftsy/Bluprint will cease to exist. 

It was interesting at the time to be involved in the earlier stages of online learning products. To many in the industry it seemed that the potential of online glasses was nearly unlimited. The secret of success, many in the online education space thought, was to clearly identify which subjects (and which subcategories) would appeal to broad enough and passionate audiences. Making the right choices and backing up those choices with very high end, three camera video productions, and good editing decisions, would give the site owners enough creative "product" to potentially make a handsome profit while also paying talent/participants very good royalties and a share of the profits. Additionally,  the talents could increase their income by delivering referrals back to the site. 

I had a great time doing the original three programs. Each one took a week or so of pre-production on my home turf. After going back and forth with a producer to fine-tune tight, written outlines, I got to travel to Denver where the company put me up in a comfortable downtown hotel, gave me an generous advance, and an even more comfortable per diem, and then coached me through three or four days of in studio or on location shoots. I learned more about producing video by being on a set for eight to ten hours a day, over the course of a month, than I think I could learn from actually watching endless YouTube videos about video production for a year. Which, in itself, is a pleasant irony. 

2013 was a busy year. On the heels of my three stints at Craftsy's studios I headed to Berlin, Germany for ten days to go to the IFA show and to participate in some beta testing of Samsung's doomed Galaxy NX camera. When I got back home I was off a week later to NYC to participate on behalf of Samsung at the Photo Expo. For about a month I felt like a celebrity photographer. I was even considering buying one of those photojournalist's vest, a Tilley (boomer) hat and maybe even a larger camera bag. People back then would actually pay to go to workshops by small town photographers like me, or pay for photo business advice from at least two semi (web) famous photographers who've spent their careers poised on the precarious edge of bankruptcy. And dissolution.

But that was then and this is now. Life in the pandemic. Businesses closed. The market for creative services on the thinnest ice. 

So.... Craftsy.com/Bluprint is closing. It had a good run. The sad thing will be the loss of those nice royalty checks. Not all of them were big but some were generous enough to pay for wholesale camera system changes whereas others barely covered the cost of a new lens. But I always saw the payments as gravy; not a core part of my business income. Like a continuous and generous tip for a job well done.

Samsung has long since exited the camera markets and, I like to think, at least some of that decision was arrived at with our collective feedback about the Galaxy NX camera which, I think, was universally hated amongst real photographers. Yes, you could play Candy Crush on the 5" screen if you were bored but that was no real compensation for the 30 second start up time.... In spite of the shortcomings I thought the sensor and some of their lenses in the NX system were really good and I have have some great photos as a result of my participation. 

Change happens all the time and it may just be my perceptions but I think rate of change is also continually accelerating. The pandemic will force us (collectively) to completely re-imagine how everything will look in the future: from dining outside your own home to how, and whether or not, commercial photographs get commissioned. I would count it all as scary if you were taking advantage of the status quo previously, and stumbling along on little more than your good looks and your uncanny ability to always show up with a camera in your hands. 

Styles that were pervasive as late as last Fall already seem dated and passé now. "Influencer" work seems to be trouncing conventional photographic work as far as advertising agencies are concerned. I got a call from an agency last week and was asked to bid on a couple of jobs for a multi-national medical products company. To do the jobs right will require $20,000 of budget for each job. I have no reasonable expectation that the company or their agency will go forward on these projects. I wouldn't. The campaign already looks dated and over produced. I'd look for something a lot cheaper and a lot less "produced" but no one really asked me for creative direction. 

I look at stuff like this as the "last gasp." Campaigns like this are being pushed by art directors who've been in the business for twenty or thirty years and it feels like a retreat to familiar safety. No one is willing to take a chance here. But just like the short cycle of online learning I think we'll see a big and scary transformation in the advertising space and people with ten or more years in the business will have absolutely no idea what hit them when the shift gets geared up. 

It seems not to make sense that online learning channels are having more difficulties right now since everyone is staying close to home and either overwhelmed or bored, but in fact Bluprint is hardly alone in seeing a decline in paid access or subscription schemes for online learning channels. Given that most of the people who are in the demographics where they can choose to spend extra dollars for edu-tainment are the same people who are most able to work from home and are also stuck on Zoom calls, helping their kids navigate online education, and then filling their time with TV and movie bingeing on Netflix, Hulu, Disney and Prime burn out with passive entertainment must be rampant. In the case of my classes, specifically, I believe that anyone who was interested has already taken the course and also, so much has changed since those were produced seven and a half years ago that they have become dated. 

But therein lies a similar problem for all the streaming services I mentioned above. The "faucets of content", the producers, crews, etc. have been prohibited by the pandemic from feeding the beasts of "on demand streaming" with new stuff. I often joke that I need to cancel my Netflix subscription because I've already seen all ten of the good movies they have in rotation....Everything is started to look like a re-run.

So, what is the world going to look like after we emerge from our various bunkers and go back out into the sunlight of normalized existence? I can tell you right now that there's going to be a hell of a lot more take out restaurants and a radically declining number of sit down establishments. Haute Cuisine is going to look a lot more like private dining and not a shared dining room experience. 

A lot of advertising is going to keep flocking from photography into video. A lot of video is going to be crowd-sourced from people who've spent the last 3 to 6 months bingeing on tutorial videos at No Film School and all over YouTube and Vimeo. But those same channels are also going to see radical declines in viewership, and by extension, cash in payment for their content. It's a wild time to be a visual artist and yet this more or less clears the decks of the remaining boomers and sets a fresh stage for millenials and gen Z folks to make the industry over in a new way. A way that's essential for them. 

I have a nice office. If only I made the effort to keep it tidy...
Can't imagine staying at home in a smaller space.

For many freelancers right now the big worry is the money. With corporations living in liability fear and unwilling to put their employees in potential danger there are so few video/film/photo projects being done anywhere that you can pretty much count them with a one line abacus. I'm in okay shape financially so I have the "advantage" of being more worried about the effects of isolation on my spirit and my practice of emotional intelligence, and glib conversation. I am, shockingly, sometimes finding myself at a loss for the right word, the right phrase, or the pithy quote that used to fall off my tongue like crystal glasses balanced precariously over a granite floor. 

My belief is that when it's safe to come out again, when there is a vaccine for this coronavirus, when there is a widespread and proven treatment for those who contract the disease - like Tamiflu for the seasonal flu - we are likely to see some really profound changes. And some will be in the nature of a pendular swing back toward enhanced, actual social networking and face-to-face engagement.

If nothing else I think the lock down has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that no one, NO ONE actually likes online education. Not the teachers and certainly not the students! By extension, I think venues like Creative Live, Masterclass and all the firewalled private areas of V-logger's YouTube channels will (already are) experience a huge fall in viewership and revenue as people have been overdosed with Zoom calls and relentless, in-house, video entertainment. 

I can almost see the logic of people betting on Cruise ship stocks, Casino stocks, and airline stocks. People will have had their fill of video in all of its guises and will be ferociously motivated to go out and have real experiences, see real things and talk to real people. In fact, video learning might be the platform shoes and bell bottom pants of the current time.  
What does this presage for photographers over a certain age? Don't know. I think it all depends on why you practice photography. If you have a beautiful, modern style of portraiture you can probably count on business from commercial clients who need to re-introduce their companies to the public and, by extension, introduce their newly re-balanced staffs. If you are a videographer you'll find endless opportunities to help companies explain their new safety standards and processes. Basically, training videos that show customers how to use the company services in a post pandemic society.

Gone for now are the huge crews that used to make TV commercials. I've got an iPhone for that.

If you do photography for pleasure it may well become a new "golden age" for you as things open back up and you find new resolve and pent up passion to get back to making photographs of the things you just could not access a few months ago. Streets, parks and wilderness will re-open and be available as canvases for your ready re-discovery. I might even catch the "landscape bug" and start doing more work in Texas's rougher western region. I can only dream of making photographs in the streets again... of beautiful people without masks. 

It's been a funky year for me. I've lost so many things and people and family members who meant so much to me. But I've also "lost" my photography. The stuff I love to do. I hope it comes back. The parents and Studio Dog are gone. I'm left with my good memories and my photographs. But my photography is the one thing that can, hopefully, be saved. 

I hope I'll once again be able to invite interesting people into the studio and make portraits of them. I hope I'll once again be able to pack a few cameras and a few changes of clothes and travel somewhere I haven't been in order to make photographs that are completely new to me...again. 

Studio Dog watching me carefully to make sure I don't screw up. 

Or drop food on the floor. 

I guess there is no good age at which to experience what we've lived through and continue to grapple with. The specter of a deadly disease and the cessation of normal and fulfilling life. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to be alive and well, but as I get older I get more cognizant of the fact that I've got less time in front of me than behind me and I begrudge anything that's standing in my way and preventing me from experiencing my idea of life to the fullest. But, of course, it could all be lots worse for me.

I am nostalgic now just for work. Not for the billing but the actual process of making photographs.

 More typing at the very end.....and now, a photo intermission...

Ben picking out peppers at Skidmore. Three years ago. 

 one of my favorite, casual studio sessions. 
The amazing and beautiful Michelle. 

In the end it will all work out the way it's supposed to. I guess. But I'll be happy when we have the virus under control and we can blossom into a happy and emotionally prosperous society again. It never helps us extroverts to be surrounded by legions of introverts. They relish the isolation. The revel in the myriad projects they seem to find to work on. They savor the silence of the day.  And they have that look in their collective eyes that says, "Hey extrovert! Calm down and read a book."

Believe me, that's not helping.

Swimming note: It was so beautiful to be at the pool today. On the weekends we only two workouts to choose from each day. You can workout from 8-9 or from 9-10, but you can't choose both times on one day. I opted for 9 am. After a week of rising at 5:15 to be at the pool and ready to go by 6 in the morning, 9 am seemed like a sybaritic holiday. The sun was warm, the sky was clear and the water was an almost frosty 76 degrees. I was fortunate to have my own lane and we thrashed through a nice set under the guidance of our coach, Hannah.

I count this morning as one of the ten most enjoyable swims of the past 365 pool adventures. It was just that perfect...

Camera news: Two friends get Fuji GXR cameras. I am vaguely impressed. I take the Lumix S1R and Leica 90mm out for a spin and I quickly get over any gear coveting I might have had. Seems smart right now.


Out photographing with the ancient Canon G10 last Sunday. It's a wonderful little camera.

Kenny Williams is an actor I met at Zach Theatre well over 20 years ago. He's toured the world in the ensuing years as a gifted singer and performer but we've managed to keep up with each other. He texted me last week to see if I was interested in going for a walk through downtown. He has an interest in photography and wanted to see what I do when I take a camera for a walk. I was happy to have him along with me for a couple of hours. 

We both made odd choices of cameras. He claimed it was too hot (it was!) to carry a big camera around so he prudently opted to take his phone instead. I'm just eccentric and I chose the Canon G10 because it was on a shelf right next to the door and it seemed so obvious, in the moment. 

But I'm almost always interested to see just how great an older, smaller, cheaper camera can take photos if all the parameters of the shooting experience mesh with the capabilities of the camera. Full sun? Check! Slow moving objects? Check! Raw files available? Check. Well then, off we go. 

First off I'll say I'm shocked at how well the G10 handled the scene above. Kenny is in open shade and we can see the sunlight street and sidewalks behind him. Yes, some parts are burned out but I'm impressed by how well the camera (set to "P") handled the exposure and how well the raw files dealt with the background. I'm getting better results from this camera than I remembered and I'm going to chalk that up to the idea that raw converters have been continuously improved so the raw files from cameras follow those improvements in lock step. Even from cameras that are 10 or more years old. Have raw file, will process.

In the photo just above I'm impressed at the differentiation in the greens of the image. From the leaves on the trees to the water behind them. A Jpeg shot at the same time gave me greens that were much less differentiated and actually started to blend into each other. 

I find the colors from the older CCD sensor to be richer and deeper than the colors from the newer CMOS sensor in the G15. Funny. you'd think newer would be better but that's not always the case. I think CMOS trades off color depth and color saturation for lower noise and longer battery life. I'd rather have the colors....

My final observation concerning the G10 is just how sharp the 28-140mm lens can be. While Blogger limits the reproduction size here I was surprised at how competitive the G10 raw files were with more modern cameras fitted with bigger sensors and much, much more expensive lenses. 

As you can see in the image just above, the trade-off for high sharpness and lack of vignetting with the Canon G10 lens is some slightly more complex than simple barrel distortion on the edges of the frame. Not the camera you want to use to photograph projects for architects --- but I think that falls into the category of common sense. Right?

Kenny and I walked through downtown to search for new murals and street art. A lot of the good stuff from the early days of the pandemic are now gone. Taken down as businesses on East Sixth St. rushed to take the plywood off their doors and window and open up for business. Makes me happy I made multiple trips down to document them. 

One of the biggest losses I encountered was the "paint over the top" of the Superman and Wonder Woman mural I showed a week or so ago. Senseless removal as it was replaced by......white paint. Sad. So Sad.