8.01.2022

The end of photography is nigh. The economy is falling apart. But...

 I answered emails today and got booked far ahead for a corporate event starting on the17th of November and a more detailed project starting on October 24th. Both traditional commercial photography.

In other news clients are paying their bills quicker. About a five day gap between billing and receiving  payment these days. Based on this year's transactions.

And...clients are taking price increases in stride. We've raised rates by between 20 and 30% this year (depending on the type of assignment) with no push back from nearly a dozen clients to date. 

We're trying to track our billing to inflation and our track our spending with a recession in mind. It's all a crap shoot but I'm not really seeing any of the doom and gloom come to fruition. 

I am seeing the trees and landscape drying out and turning brown. But business? Still green.


One of the Google buildings in downtown. 


Long term clients are a nice thing to have.


The dystopian edit and the non-dystopian edits.



These are not exactly the same frame. They are sequential frames. Each edited in its own way.

Sample images by request of a reader... 

Polarizing Filters and Magic Skies. Cheap pre-post-processing.


I used to harbor a prejudice about putting filters in front of good lenses. Any filters. Any good lens. But shooting video has broken me down. If you are going to shoot video outdoors you are going to have to come to grips with the reality that you'll need neutral density filters. And since it would be insanely time consuming and therefore frightfully expensive on an ROI basis to post process say, a sky in a video during post production we quickly found that a circular polarizer goes a long way to restoring most of the drama you see in skies speckled with clouds... if you take time put on the filter as an efficient method of pre-post production. Get it right in camera and you have a lot less twiddling and swearing to do in your editing suite. And, of course, this all ports over to still photography. 

If I photograph an urban-scape image in color and the sky is lackluster there are several common treatments I can do in Lightroom. You can use the selection tools to "select sky." Once your mundane sky has been selected and automatically masked you have a range of controls like exposure, contrast, clarity, saturation, etc. with which to enhance the difference between the white clouds and the blue sky. 

I like to select skies and then increase the saturation just in the blue channel to make the blue of the sky pop against the clouds. Adding a bit of contrast can be visually useful as well. It's cheating but cheating exists in this realm on a sliding scale and it's not "as cheating" as a full scale sky replacement complete with rainbows and circling bald eagles. And hints of unicorns.

But everything takes time and it takes experience to know where the line is between presenting your audience with believable images or stepping over that line and just insulting them. 

On Sunday I took a 28mm lens out for spin and I put a circular polarizing filter on the front of the lens. Never took it off. By carefully orienting the filter for each shot I was able to get the same kind of enhancements directly in camera, tweaking the exposure of the captured skies a bit, after the fact, just for fun. No other big moves needed to be made. 

It's a lot of fun. 

Make sure you test your filter so you don't shoot a bunch of stuff before you find out that your inexpensive, "bargain" filter has a rude color cast.

I now have a box in the lens case filled with N.D. and Cir. Polarizers ranging from 52mm to 82mm and I'm starting to carry the polarizers with me when I go out to shoot photographs. The N.D.s generally only come out when we're shooting video. 


just to be clear: I am still against using "protection" filters on great lenses. 
I'm only willing to slightly degrade the expensive optics if there is a real
payoff.

Swimming: I swam in the chilly, spring-fed, Deep Eddy pool this morning. Unlike a coached workout I just hop in and swim a leisurely mile or so these days. It's more of a recovery workout from the hard swims we do over the weekend. I've been doing swims seven days a week for a while now and the consistency made it nice. 

I read an article a few days ago about the health benefits of swimming or just hanging out in colder water. Apparently it can reduce immflamuation throughout the body. It's also used in some advanced mental health practices as a therapy for anxiety, depression, and a handful of other disorders. Seems the experts are finding that swimming, and even just being in the water, is presenting more and more health benefits with each new study. 

Maybe, if you are feeling bit down or off this week, you could find a chilly body of (clean) water and spend some time partially submerged in it. I know that the cold water's effect on me lasts for hours and hours after I've spent time paddling about in the early hours. 

We're lucky here. We have a big, spring fed pool with lane lines and bottom line markers. We also have the 1/8th mile long spring fed Barton Springs pool. Both are city pools and both are generally open year round with constant water temperatures between 68° and 74°.  Real wealth isn't a Rolls Royce or a private plane. I measure it in access to a good swimming resources and the spare time to use it. Often.



 

7.31.2022

Poor Man's Construct of a Passable Leica Q or Q2 Competitor... Vroom.

Open this one up large to see how three dimensional this image looks.
That old, old 28mm does a wonderful job with depth and separating planes.

 who wouldn't want a brilliant, olive green and Kevlar wrapped Leica Q2 faux rangefinder camera to play with out on the streets? But who wants to pay U.S. $6,000+ for the privilege? While I am sure many of my readers have the wherewithal to order one on impulse and not lose any sleep over the expense I am equally sure that for most of us it would be a stretch. And if one is streeeetching one has to wonder if it's all worth it. Or if one can put together an equally good street shooting set up, based on a nice 28mm lens, for a lot less money. And if you cobbled together a substitute could it match the frothy reputation of the Q2 and also deliver the goods; the images? 

In my mind, if you disregard the difference in build quality and implied prestige of the Q series Leicas and you are looking for pure performance as your deciding metric I would have to suggest that, if you can deal with a little bit longer fixed lens, you might look instead at a Fuji X100V. I've owned two and they are wonderful cameras. Especially for the money. But if you can't move away from that 28mm focal length and you don't want to sell a kidney you could consider building your own street shooting conglomeration. 

A reasonable choice might be something like a Sony A7(x) body coupled with their 28mm f2.0 lens. That might just get you in the same ballpark. You'd have to work on the color science difference with a bit of diligence but eventually you might be able to get close and then make a preset for Lightroom that you could use to automate a bit of the processing. If you really want to stick to using a Leica camera for their killer color science you might consider doing what I did today: Put a Contax Y/C Carl Zeiss 28mm f2.8 (accessible used for around $300 in good shape. Look for the MM version denoted by the f22 number on the aperture ring being green)  on an Y/C to L mount adapter and popping the lens onto a "vintage" Leica SL (usually available for around $2200, in good shape). 

I was thinking about the Q or the Q2 and it dawned on me that I already had enough of the pieces in my collection to toss together an ersatz combo. I set the camera to raw format, set the white balance to daylight, selected the aperture priority mode, and let the auto-ISO range between 50 and 12,500. All I really needed to do was compose, focus and shoot. Sure, every once in a while I'd tweak the exposure a bit with the exposure compensation dial but other than that I was working mostly by touch. Or camera telepathy.

It was stinky hot outside so I stayed on the shady side of the streets and did my usual walk. When I started to feel the heat I'd duck into one of my favorite taco restaurants and grab an ice tea. There wasn't much going on downtown but that was okay with me because another thing I was playing with was messing around with a circular polarizer on the lens. That more or less ruled out photographing fast moving objects today. So did my compulsion to magnify the center part of the frame on a lot of the shots in order to confirm, or acquire, sharp focus. 

I think that older Contax 28mm lens is really good. Especially when you are willing to work stopped down to f5.6 or, even better, f8.0. Since I'm very happy with the overall results I consider that I saved over $6,000 today. The polarizer was free. It's a Minolta polarizer that came attached to a lens I bought and then sold long, long ago. The lens was crap, the filter was really nice. Still is.

When it hit 103° and the heat index parked itself at 107° I decided to pack it in and head home. The sunscreen and bountiful selection of wide brimmed hats are all good and well but no substitute for the comfort of a cool pool or a studio luxuriously awash with air conditioning. 

So, the SL+Contax 28mm is a good substitute for the Q in my mind. Not as small and not as compact but with a bigger, better battery. And dual card slots. But no I.S.  If you really, really need more megapixels you might consider a used Panasonic S1R (around $1800 on the sporadic used markets) and the same lens. If you are lucky enough to already own a Leica SL2 you can sub that into the mix for a full on, toe to toe, replacement. It's got the same high res sensor and the same color science family/look. With the higher res cameras you have the equivalent of a Q2...at least imaging performance wise...

That's all I've got for today. I sure hope it snows tomorrow. I'd settle for rain. Hell, at this point I'd welcome highs in the mid-90s....

 




I absolutely love the girl on the gymnastic rings painted around and under the small window unit A/C. 

Use a much worse 28mm lens if you want Purple Haze. 


Polarizer. Engaged.






It always bugs me when my bodyguard accidentally steps into the frame. 
I guess everyone's been there at one time or another. Right?


And sadly, for the absolutely humorless and literal among us:

I don't have a bodyguard. I was making a joke. It's okay.