Actively thinking about the camera I would like to buy next from Panasonic: It would be amazing and would restore the camera world to its previous stature.

Well, it seems to be a favorite thing for photo writers to dream about when none of the new cameras match their very, very particular tastes exactly. They start conjecturing about the camera they know X company should make right now. How it would see zillions of sales if only it had...blah, blah, blah. 

I rarely write this kind of stuff but I ran into a used copy of one of my all time favorite travel cameras and that sent me down memory lane and right smack into this writing subterfuge --- of imagining my own "ultimate" camera. The camera I re-visited, but just in passing, was the Mamiya 6. I had several of them. Along with the three dedicated lenses. It was such a fine camera. Google it. Salivate.

So here goes: It came to me clear as a bell. Panasonic announced (in my dreams) that they had just finished putting the finishing touches on a new variant for the S1 system. This camera, like the GX8 in their micro four thirds family, is set up in a rangefinder style. A viewfinder in the top left corner as you hold the camera for work. The eyepiece is big and generous. The screen is one of the latest 8 megapixel resolution OLED variants. 

The camera is a full frame model and features a new tri-color sensor that allows one to use the sensor as a bayer filtered machine with 60 megapixels or a blended filter which triples up on the pixels to create points that have all three colors but at 20 megapixels. I'll want to use it mostly in the 20 megapixel range where the bigger, combined pixel sites give me a different, and to my mind, better overall look. A look that seems to have greater acutance but at the expense of the currently fashionable higher res of its native 60 megapixels. 

The benefit, beyond the rendering, is also color that's halfway between that of a Sigma Foveon sensor and a conventional but miraculous sensor like the one in the Sigma fp camera. 

The camera is not small, nor is it overly angular. There is the now mandatory 3.2 inch 4 megapixel rear screen and it's worth using because Panasonic, in this new camera venture has drastically reduced menu complexity and made using the rear screen easy and fun for just about any control. That being written, the camera maintains all the major controls as physical buttons or knobs on the camera body. These include: Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO and white balance. 

In order to make the intended use of this particular model clearer to purchasers it is the one camera in the Panasonic line-up  that doesn't include any video capabilities. The idea being that this camera is for decisive moment photography, street photography and travel photography. It's not an all-in-one visual content buffet. 

Taking out the video stuff allows Panasonic to simplify the menu to make the whole camera much more responsive and intuitive for hard core photography buffs. The other side of the marketing coin is that if you love this camera and you love the L-mount lenses, but you absolutely require video, you are more than welcome; in fact, encouraged, to supplement the new rangefinder style body with a shiny, new S1H for all your video needs. 

The camera has the same basic mechanics of the S1 series cameras when it come to things like shutter life, rugged build quality and built-in image stabilization. Since the DFD focusing works well for me, and is at least as fast as the rangefinder in a Mamiya 6, I'm happy that they decided to keep the family focusing mechanisms the same. 

I'm thinking about naming conventions and Panasonic and I think we all agreed at the meeting where I forgot to sign my NDA that we'd call it the S1X. That's: S One X. But it can always be misinterpreted as "six" in order to pay homage to the well regarded and sadly discontinued Mamiya 6 film camera.

The camera will have a two position battery slot which will allow users to use either the S1 series battery or the GH series batteries thereby doing a favor to owners of either previous system or system used in tandem with the new 6. (S1-X, oh, that works). 

Since the finder in the top left is an EVF and not an actual, optical rangefinder there is no compromise when it comes to previewing shots. Nor did Panasonic consider pulling a "Fuji" and adding in a vestigial rangefinder since it represents too much of a compromise when using any lens longer or shorter than a normal lens. 

At the time of launch Panasonic also presented (fully ready to go along with the camera launch, NOT vaporware!) Three new L-series lenses made for the new S variant. Of course the new lenses will also be usable on existing S1 cameras as well as on Leicas but these were made with an eye to reduce lens size and bulk specifically for the very serious photography user the camera was designed and built for. 

The first lens is a 30mm f3.5 which though small is an advanced formula based on a Leica M lens but with optical corrections made to ensure it works most effectively with the sensor stacks in the Lumix S cameras. Sharp and diffraction limited even wide open it will quickly become the defacto standard street shooters paradise lens. No one will ever even think to ask for a 35mm or 28mm or even a faster version since the lens will be that spectacular. If you need a faster lens then look to the Sigma Art Series or browse through the Leica SL catalogs. 

The second lens is the 60mm f2.8 which will also define the state of the art for sharpness and three D quality. "Stunning yet small." I think I saw that tagline at the product meeting last year... It's longer than the regular 50mm or 45mm but it gives a new choice to people who prefer the longer focal lengths over the shorter ones. If you fall into the "shorter is better" camp there is always the current Sigma 45mm, the Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art lens and the Sigma 35mm f1.2 Art lens. All of which are superb. But some of us want a small, sharp, discrete long normal and since this is my fantasy I conjecture that those optical engineers at the Panasonic headquarters took my quirky request seriously. 

The final new lens is, of course, the 90mm f3.5 which, like the other two will bring shivers of fear to the backs of Nikon, Canon and Sony. The lens will be such a stellar performer that all the competitors will abandon their races for fast, fat and plump lenses and reconsider owning lenses that are truly optimized for radically good performance. 

The S1-X camera will be big enough so that none of these three lenses are ever sticking below the bottom of the camera so they will never foul tripods or baseplates. 

The S1-X will be cast and machined from a block of very special aluminum alloy that is structurally rigid and impervious to corrosion of any type. The camera skeleton will act as a one giant heat sink and the camera will be the first of its kind rated to excellent performance at ambient temperatures of up to 115°. 

Of course it will be effectively weather sealed and, when used with one of the three new lenses, can even be immersed in water for up to 60 minutes. (Legal sez: No guarantees). 

The camera will only come in black and will use a highly scratch resistant paint as did the Fuji XH-1. 

Finally, the marketing folks decided that since the whole camera is crafted and assembled by hand from the finest materials that the cost to purchase would be commensurate with the quality. The purchase price is just a hair under $4,000 USD. Or, in a special kit with all three lenses for only $8,000. 

There are no other attachments or accessories to worry about. Just get the camera and a few batteries and get on with it. 

And that's my camera wish for the rest of the year. 

And with that, here are some samples of the kinds of work I'd do with the camera. All these were done with a wild range of cameras from Nikon, Sony, Fuji and Panasonic for Zach Theatre. But that's only because the S1-X did not yet exist. Once it comes out it will be the still camera of the decade....


Critical missteps in lens design? Or a plot to weaken the muscle strength of photographers?

Let's be Frank. Real photographers secretly enjoy buying their lenses by the pound. Or Kilo. A lighter lens represents surrender and infamy. Right?

It's so rare to see a lens introduction get so much press but it looks like the very recent introduction of an "improved" version of Sigma's almost perfect 85mm f1.4 Art lens from 2018 is setting the reviewer world on fire and revealing to me very clearly what the priorities of those weak and out of shape writers and V-loggers  really are. I'm not sure they care as much as they say they do about pure performance; it's beginning to look like all they care about is not being revealed as too weak and lazy to carry around a take no prisoners, super star lens. 

The big news about the new "DN" (mirrorless native) is not that it soundly and roundly outperforms our previous, big-boned (but brimming with personality) lens of the same speed and focal length but that it's shorter and weighs a pound less than the original. The trade off seems to be that the "new and improved" lens has much, much more pincushion distortion and also slightly weaker in performance on the edges and the corners than its endlessly lauded ancestor. Yes, the new one has even more elements, and those elements are even more sophisticated and complex, but one can't help but wonder if most of the complexity and preciousness of the new design is aimed at making it almost as good as the original....but in a smaller package. Downsizing engineering as opposed to the reckless pursuit of optical perfection.

I'm mostly kidding here and I've already pre-ordered one of the new ones. But I still wonder. The "science" of optical design can not have changed a tremendous amount in four or five years so you have to understand that the "new versus old" shift is largely a recalibration of compromises. Buy the new one and watch your left biceps atrophy. Buy the old one and suffer the dreaded effects of manual portage. Suffer the ruinous added weight of the original for the extra 1% of quality in the corners or choose the lightweight version and forever wonder how much optical magic they had to remove to get the lens corpulence under control.

I guess it's really a tempest in a teapot (as usual for web reviews!) since both lenses are demonstrably better than anything any of the major camera manufacturers can come up with in their own lens lines. 

I'll confess that I dislike the weight of the original lens. It's f-ing heavy. Especially if you plan to carry it around all day long. But having just used it almost promiscuously over the last three days I have to say that I'm in awe of its sheer capability to make photographs that make me and my clients go: "Wow."

I may or may not follow through on the actual purchase of my pre-ordered lens. I might wait to see if Panasonic's S1 system roadmap plays out according to plan. They have their version of an 85mm f1.8 coming along and that may just be the sweet one to buy for carrying around and hauling on and off airplanes (if we ever get to do that again). From my experiences with their other S-Pro lenses I'm fairly certain it will be good enough, optically, that we won't be able to see any differences from the results when we peek on our computer screens. The only question, given their monstrously huge 50mm f1.4 S Pro lens, will be whether they can build one that's smaller and lighter than the original Sigma 85mm Art...

If I do opt to pick up the new Panasonic lens I'll probably keep the original 85mm Art lens out of nostalgia and some nagging belief that it's still the best lens in that focal length in the world. And if I use it then some of its magical powers will convey into my own images and help to finally make me famous and loved by the multitudes... YKMV.

Reminds me of stories I read in old magazines about the re-design of the seven element Leica 50mm Summicron M series lens back in the 1960's. Leica reconstituted the lens and removed one of the elements. Leica aficionados, even as late as the early 2000's, were still locked in debate about the relative merits of each. The overwhelming majority felt that the original ( also available as a "dual range" Summicron) was magical and obviously superior. Might we feel the same way in this case, just a few years down the road? 


Olympus lens tops non-existent test chart for charm and vivaciousness. Lack of omni dimensional psychic stabilization and no ponderous bulk = "deal killer?"

So, I wrote earlier today about Belinda finding the Pen FT 25mm f4.0 lens this week and giving it to me for safe keeping. I threatened that I would subject you to more building photographs as soon as I had time to get downtown. And, now, here we are. We finished our final project a bit early and I had time in the mid-afternoon to rush out into the blazing southern heat and humidity because I knew that finding out how this lens performed might be critical to someone out there. 

I parked under a shade tree at Zach Theatre and braced myself for the fiery embrace of August. My omniscient car told me it was 100° outside and warned me not to leave the air conditioned cocoon but how can I test inexpensive, fifty year old lenses for my friends and assorted readers if I'm not willing to take the life threatening risk of walking in a heat wave? Right? Right?
Here is the zesty little lens mounted on the front of the finest 
street shooting camera ever produced, the Lumix 
GX8. Never better for a hot walk.

When I exited the car my feet momentarily stuck to the pavement because the Vibram soles were melting. I realized I needed to get off the heat soaked black top and onto the cinder trail as soon as possible or my shoes would surrender to the heat, melt into the asphalt and I'd be stuck there like a bug in a roach motel, trapped and waiting to die of heat exhaustion....

I set the camera to "A" and ISO 200 and, for white balance, the like sun icon. I turned on the focus peaking and metaphorically got to work. 

Both the focusing ring on the lens and the aperture ring are the best implementations of all metal, structural and haptic engineering ever attempted on a consumer camera product. The feel of the focusing ring is so perfect that when I compared it to a $10,000 Leica lens I found myself feeling sorry for anyone who has wasted their money chasing perfection on the wrong continent.

But the real test is in the look and technical perfection of the finished files and that's where the Olympus excels. I have a special piece of software that allows me to look at images at 2000%. In the seventh photo down, the one of the bridge, there is some foliage over to the left hand, bottom part of the frame. On one of the leaves there was something which, at 400% looked like a dark spot. When I zoomed into 2000% (the equivalent of plastering a print the full height of one of the high rise buildings in one of the frames below). and I had that level of magnification engaged I could clearly see that it was a gnat on the leaf. But not just any gnat. He (yes, I checked) had a tattoo on his back that read: "Gnats Rule." And he had a piece of pollen stuck to his third left leg...

Usually modern lenses tend to fall apart when you examine images from them at 200 or 400% but not the ancient Olympus 25. No sir. And if you think my tale of advanced and astounding resolution is riveting I hesitate to tell you about the nano-acuity and sub-micron level ultra-micro-contrast. I can't really show it off here but just take my word for it; it's amazing. 

And it's all the more amazing given that it's a very small lens. But exquisitely built. I checked on the list price at the time it was on the market as a new lens and factored in fifty years of inflation (including the loss of 9% buying power against the Yen in this year alone --- thank you politicians!) and I concluded that to make and sell a lens like this masterpiece now would run somewhere between 12,000 and 43,000 USD dollars.  My math may be a little dicey but it's almost certainly in that wide ball park.

Or about 200 Yen.

I also did a bit of testing on the lens's resistance to the elements. At one point I was in the heat for so long my sweat was dripping down my arm and onto my camera like torrent of water from a garden hose. The sweat cascaded off the lens like vodka off a duck's back. Both the lens and camera were unscathed by the experience, and once I rinsed them off with a bath of warm Coca-Cola (for nurturing effect) followed by a quick immersion in highly distilled water they seemed no worse for the wear (be sure to send me your favorite camera if you want me to test it as well!!!). 

Well, that's all I can say about this particular lens. We're ramping up security and will no longer keep all the cameras and lenses on the front seat of my car with the doors unlocked and the windows rolled down. No. When people find out about this lens and find out how scarce it is we'll need to lock it in the subterranean
vault, sandbag the studio windows and post armed guards on the roof. The lens is that much of a must have for any true collector's hoard. 

Now, as Ming would say, "Please enjoy this curated gallery. Because curation is all about curating. And having things curated. And writing the word, "curate." A lot. But I bet he doesn't have his mitts on the Pen FT 25mm f4.0 yet. So there. I guess I should also mention that I have a pristine copy of the 25mm f2.8 as well. But that lens isn't nearly as exciting. It's 99% perfect while the f4.0 rings the bell. No wonder people stopped designing new optics decades ago and started to concentrate on just making all lenses bigger, fatter, heavier and more expensive. Give the people what they want!

Click through to see the mesmerizing photos writ larger.

Back to work. Having fun. And very much appreciating the flexibility and sheer file quality of the Panasonic Lumix S1R cameras. And lenses.

Ben assists at our Luminex shoot. 
Upholding the tradition of "standing in."
I'm having a blast getting back to work. We've been shooting product at our client's H.Q. and we've basically got a building all to ourselves since so many people are currently working from home. I enlisted number one (and only) son, Ben to assist me since I knew there were many moving parts to the shoot and his experience and attention to detail would save my butt from my own complacent laziness.  Here are some random observations from the first two days of a three day project: 

Since I am now swimming earlier in the morning than any time since college I did not have to skip my masters swim workout to make the schedule work. I was in the pool at 5:58 a.m. and in the client's offices with my assistant in tow at 8:55. Nice to be wide awake when starting a new project...

The first day of shooting was all about making images of products on a white background. Every photo of every product we shot this way will have the background dropped out to white. We set up a white seamless paper sweep across a heavy duty, wheeled table and the put shiny white boards under the products. The shiny laminate surface reflects a lot of light and we can move things around without worrying about tearing the background paper. 

All the machines we photographed are used in medical testing or chemical testing and are current state of the art. If I remember correctly the machine in the image just above costs something like $150,000. It's about the size of my microwave oven... Armed with this knowledge we used extra caution handling the products since one drop would be....expensive. 

Ben and I arrived at the client's place around 9 a.m. and dragged a hefty cart full of gear down a long hall to a room normally used by the in-house media crew to shoot videos and grab content on the fly. They're all working remotely now so we made ourselves right at home. I had Ben set up a couple of 3x3 foot softboxes on Godox LED lights and then we hung a third fixture on a boom arm directly over the products, shining the light through a 4x4 foot Chimera diffusion panel. This was our basic set up but with every product there were tweaks, and minor re-lighting through the day. 

The client requested that we shoot tethered, which I don't do often, but since we were so happy to have a project to do we readily complied. I downloaded the latest copy of Lumix Tether onto a very recent MacBook Pro. The camera tethers via a USB C 3.1 connection and we hooked the camera and laptop via a sturdy, ten foot long cable. I followed the recommended start-up procedure, Set the USB control for "tethering" on the camera and have had a solid connection for the last two eight hour days. A bonus, beyond nearly total control of the camera is that the laptop charges the battery when the camera isn't shooting. We ended the first day with the same battery we started with; still at 94% charge. I was very pleased to find the transfers from camera to computer were rock solid and speedy; even when moving 340 megabyte high res raw files. 

Each product got photographed from three angles. One frame from about 20 degrees to the side, one frame straight on and on frame from 20 degrees on the opposite side. There are always two challenges when shooting products like the ones we encountered yesterday. The first challenge is in getting everything in focus. We had to make sure that the front logos were sharp and there was structural integrity to the back end of the device. 

To do this I made good use of the manual focus clutch in the Panasonic 24-70mm f2.8 lens. I set it to manual and enabled focus peaking. My methodology was to start focusing from the front to the rear of the product and watch until the focus peaking indicators just started to thin out on the front. That meant I'd gone as far as I could in terms of distributing focus to the rear without losing focus on the front. The old rule of thumb that I learned years ago (and which may not be scientifically accurate...) is that focus extends one third in front and two thirds behind the actual plane of actual focus. It seems to work that way. 

If I could not extend the focus enough to cover from the front to the rear adequately I would move the camera further away from the subject and try again. The reduction in magnification or increase in camera to subject distance meant I would end up with a more generous depth of field. And having the camera tethered to a laptop with a Retina screen I was able to punch in and double check that I'd gotten both front and rear parts in good focus. 

If I felt that we were using too small a portion of the frame to get the resolution I wanted to deliver I would switch from the single, 47.5 megapixel size file to the 180 megapixel, high-res setting which worked flawlessly. In that mode, with really good lenses, I could compose with an object taking up only a third of the overall frame and still delivery at or close to a 45+ megapixel file. Checking the files later on a 27 inch 5K screen I was impressed by the sheer amount of detail in the files! It's a great way to work on subjects that don't move. Felt a little like the old days of using a view camera. 

I tested my methods last week in anticipation of this week's jobs and one of the things I was (needlessly) concerned about was whether I would be able to use the f16 setting on the 24-70mm Lumix S-Pro lens or if the dreaded scourge of diffraction would mar the results. I'm happy to report that I spent the entirety of the first day shooting with the lens locked at f16 and didn't see any degradation of crispness or detail in the final files. The multi-shot, high res files were especially crispy and had good "bite."

The second challenge in photographing products on white is to ensure a good, three dimensional feel to the products. Stuff shot in white tents seems far too flat and it's impossible to deal with combinations of reflective and non-reflective surfaces. I like my product shots to have exposure differences between the three visible planes so that the really seem to have depth. It's difficult to do if you have to get a pure white background in the camera but we really don't have to worry as much about that as we used to. PhotoShop's selection tools have improved tremendously and we've had great luck starting with the quick selection tool, then making adjustments in the "mask and refine" menu which allows for meticulous masking of parts that don't select flawlessly on automatic. Once we've selected and masked as perfectly as we can hitting the return key gives us a file in layers with the background nicely masked out. 

The trick is to make all your color corrections and transforms, or perspective corrections, before you get to the selection stage. Otherwise you'll kill your mask if you make post selection changes that change the image boundaries. Especially when you go to fix keystoning...

On the second day we worked in a large lab with a product manager and a scientist who agree to model the clinical use of the devices we were featuring. I thought we might use the existing light in the lab (fluorescent lights up at ceiling level) for general fill and then augment with some frontal light but when we started setting up I realized that then fluorescent tubes being used were impossible to match with exterior light from the windows and, even if we closed the blinds on the wall of windows, the flo fixtures had an odd and inconsistent combination of tubes. Some almost wildly green and others with heavy yellow spikes. Since color accuracy of logos and finishes on the products was critical, and my own desire to produce very pleasing flesh tones equally critical, I opted to kill all of the interior lights and relight the room with a collection of LED lights. We used three large, Aputure Lightstorm LS-1 panels bouncing off the ceiling for general fill and the supplemented with four Godox SL60Ws in either 3x3 foot soft boxes or pushed through round diffusers. I like the overall control of using diffuser panels but I hate having to use two light stands per light/diffuser combination and should probably just use all four of the SL60Ws in boxes. 

The difference in shots required a change in approach from the day before. When shooting product we had the camera locked down and always used f16, along with low ISOs and very slow (1 second) shutter speeds. Triggering the camera with Lumix Tether, and using the electronic shutter in the S1R, meant that we never worried about camera shake, even with multi-shot, high res set-ups. But with the clinician going through the process of using each analytic machine it was more important to show accurate process. We were also matching a prior shoot on which the art director wanted to play with shallow depth of field. 

While I kept my camera glued to the tripod I raised the ISO to 1,000 and started working at f2.8 or f3.5 along with shutter speeds in the 1/125th to 1/160th of a second range. It's exactly what the client was lookin for. And here I have to praise all of the lenses I ended up using for the "live action." 

We shot most of the clinical shots three ways. Using a 20mm f1.4 Sigma Art lens we comped the shots for a dramatic effect. The camera was close enough to the products and clinician to render them large in the shots while making background details drop away. I think of these as "establishing" shots. The client loved the forced perspective that the wide angle yields. I was impressed by the clean look of the 20mm when used at 2.8 or 4.0. 

Next we shifted to the 35mm f1.4 Sigma Art lens for a normally composed clinician and product shot that made the large room look "accurate" while putting some emphasis on the foreground. These are probably the shots that will get everyday use and we ended up stopping down the camera to around f4.5 - 5.6 just to make sure the clinician and machine were sharp where we needed them to be. 

Finally, we put the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens on the camera to capture tight, detail shots of the model loading capsules into the machine or interfacing with the software on the machines. I used apertures around f2.8 to f4.0 to get good detail on the core of the action but also to help the backgrounds blur into beautiful goo. 

Upon inspection back in the office I observed that each lens delivered superb results. I am always impressed with the images I've been able to get from the 85mm f1.4 but in this instance it was the 20mm f1.4 that made me do a double-take. In concert with the in-camera corrections the 20mm at f2.8+ is sharp everywhere and even across the frame. It's actually the first wide angle that's pushed me to appreciate wider angles than I'm used to. 

No question that I would happily buy all three of these Sigma lenses again. All three were easy to manually focus and worked very well with the camera's focus peaking feature. In fact, the combination of lenses that are super sharp near their widest aputures, along with accurate focus peaking is changing the way I approach this kind of slow and thoughtful advertising shooting. 

I love the S1R as an advertising/studio/high res camera but like other brands of cameras, when working with raw files, the review display isn't as high res as I'd like. Once you get beyond 4X on the review there's no more real detail to see. I use the camera now in the Raw+Jpeg Standard/Medium Res because having generated an attendant Jpeg file means I can punch in to 16X and see real detail

One thing that surprised me when using the camera tethered is battery use! I brought five extra batteries along with the idea that with the camera always on and tethered I'd be going through batteries on an almost hourly basis. But that was based on using previous cameras on older USB connections. And cameras that were not designed to be charged via USB.

When I checked the battery on the tethered camera at the one hour mark I was surprised to see the battery gauge reading 96%. With a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 cable the laptop provides continuous recharge of the battery at all times except during the actual exposure. Sweet. The connection with the laptop just obviated the need to carry around $500 worth of batteries and a charger....

I wasn't expecting that. And, at the end of the day I checked the battery again (same battery we started with about eight hours earlier) and it was hovering around 94% charged. Ripples of applause for everyone who's every had to juggle batteries and recharging during shoots. 

The stand out performer among lenses for this project is the 24-70mm f2.8 Lumix S-Pro. The manual clutch is heaven to work with. The lens is critically sharp at both ends of the focal length range AND the aperture range. When I bought it I had a lot of second thoughts about its ultimate value for its $2,200 price tag. Especially so since I was aware that Sigma was going to have a similar spec'd lens out just a few weeks later. 
I have to say that one could continue with a successful career as a videographer and/or a photographer with just this one lens combined with the equally amazing 70-200mm f4.0. They make a perfect pair. I can hardly wait to get back to shooting live theater again. These lenses will be front and center. 

A few random notes about the rest of the shoot (non-camera related): 

If you find a client that shows up on the first day bringing hot breakfast sandwiches and fresh coffee for you hold onto them. Our client delivered non-stop, premium craft service throughout the shoot and that's only typical on shoots where the CEO will be involved or the client's boss will be on set. We had neither a CEO  nor a higher up and, nevertheless, Ben and I got the "royal" treatment. 

When you have products to shoot for photographs that will be featured on large tradeshow graphics or high res presentation screens you need to be very careful not to handle them with your bare hands because the oils from your hands will require so much cleaning in order to not show up. I left product positioning and cleaning to Ben and he wore either latex or set gloves whenever he was moving or "posing" a product. He also wiped them down and carefully inspected them for dust, etc. Alcohol and towels at the ready. 

Ben and the client also worked as a good team when it came to pulling heavy and expensive products out of their boxes or shipping containers and then staging them for me. I could spend the time I would have wasted if I had been working on my own to fine tune lighting and make sure I stayed on top of the photo process. 

Make sure you and your client agree on the importance of taking breaks during the day. We generally work until lunch. We get another couple of hours of work done after lunch but everyone seems to hit a low energy point around 3 pm. That's when we send out to Starbucks (the only good game around in this industrial part of town...) for cold brew or blended drinks, loaded with caffeine. I stick with brewed, hot coffee out of habit. Ben switches to cold brew in the afternoons and our model favored a blended Frappacino.  After a half hour break in the afternoon we can soldier on through the end of the work day.

A nice aspect of working in a highly secured facility is being able to leave all our lighting gear and grip gear on site each night instead of having to pack up and move it all out. I take the cameras, lenses and computer home out of habit but not having to cart other stuff in and out is a real time saver. 

There's a bit more of the job to get done today and then we're out. Next week I start shooting our video content for Zach Theatre. It's a longer term project with lots and lots of big personalities and I can't wait. 

It's nice to feel productive again. I have to be really honest here. I always think of myself as being in good shape, in terms of physical endurance and energy, but the last two days kicked my butt. Yes, I still got up and swam hard but it's been months since I followed up a hard swim with a long, tightly scheduled advertising shoot and I could tell that I was mentally out of practice. Having to focus on one task for the better part of nine hours is exhausting if you haven't been in "training." 

After the first day I was in "evening zombie" mode. I barely had the energy to speak during dinner and hit the bed at 9 p.m., which is almost unheard of around our house full of night owls. I faired a little better yesterday and I'm getting used to it today. 

More adventures to come. 

Final note: A surprise gift.

When Belinda and I got engaged I didn't think it was "fair" for her to get a diamond engagement ring if I didn't get something in return (looking back that was way too transactional...but I might have been kidding at the time). She agreed and surprised me with a mint condition, black Pen FT camera and an assortment of near perfect lenses.

She bought a Pen FT and a lens for herself as well. She long since handed me the second Pen FT and switched to using conventional digital cameras for most things. 

When I got home from the job yesterday I went to her office to check in. We talked about news of the day and fam business and then she said she had been cleaning out a closet and found something. It was a pristine 25mm f4.0 Pen FT lens; the one she'd gotten for her Pen FT. It had been hiding in the closet for nearly twenty years. She wondered if I'd like to have it...

Of course. 

And, yes. You will probably see some downtown building shots from that lens sooner than you think. 

I have the weekend off. I think I'll sleep in. It's been a while since I tried that. 

So, one big, one medium and two small jobs this week. Seems auspicious.


It was a luxurious day to take a leisurely and comfortable walk with a small camera.

There's something both whimsical and practical about taking a small, discreet and convenient camera along with you when you walk. I've done it both ways; I've hauled around promethian cameras that weighed too much and were complex to operate, and I've walked with the more sybaritic protocol of having a camera along that was just good enough, but weightless to carry. And if your goal is a walk with exuberance and relaxation then the smaller camera is definitely the right choice. If you are in one of those moods where you feel compelled to be a tortured artist then no one is going to talk you out of packing the big gear. 

I woke up late today. I had the most restful sleep I can remember in ages. I didn't rush over coffee and breakfast but I took it outside, on the back patio, away from my laptop and all the news of the day. Only the sound of birds and wind through trees. When I laced my shoes I knew it was going to be one of those walks where you feel like you have endless energy and no pressing schedule to rush you back to the shackles of commerce. 

I went out with nothing special in mind and came back with exactly the same balance. Nothing I photographed was revelatory, nothing sublime. Just a quick snap here and there to commemorate the idea that the walk itself is the treasure. Not whatever might come out of the camera. 

I'm not sure why but I felt relaxed, rich, strong and curious. What a great blend to motivate just the right kind of walk. 

When I got back to the house I was hot and sweating. I tossed the camera on the desk in my office and walked into the north yard. I tossed my sweat soaked shirt onto the edge of the old wooden bench, kicked off my shoes and socks and stood under the cool water of the garden hose. Cool. Refreshing. Calming. I left my clothes in the sun to dry.

I spent the afternoon reading "The Wind in the Willows." Ben made a fine curry dish for dinner. Belinda smiled at me and touched my shoulder just so. For just right now, in this moment, everything is right with my world. Let me stop for a moment and really appreciate that. 

So, that's what gratitude feels like...