8.15.2017

Client applies reality to thoughts of camera system change.

Good enough for any scenario? Hmmmmm.

I'm in the honeymoon period with my Panasonic GH5. The camera is shiny and new and all the little stuff like the EVF and the dials seem so just right. After shooting the first thousand photos with the camera I started to entertain the idea of taking my vast collection of Sony cameras out to the camera store and trading them in on a total immersion into the micro four thirds system. I'd get a second GH5 body for those seamless two camera shots. Toss in a bunch of cool, new lenses like the 8-18mm Pro lens and the 42.5mm Nocticron. Add the 25mm f1.2 from Olympus and maybe even spring for the 100-400mm Panasonic. I keep talking about the transition to video. In my fevered mind it was starting to make so much sense. 

Then I went to a meeting with one of my long term, medical practice clients and we started talking about Fall projects. Video came up but one of the partners in the group is hesitant to use video. What they do love using is photography. Lots and lots of photography. And when they use it they seem to embrace the idea that bigger is always better. 

One of the images that we'll be re-doing this Fall is a group shot of the doctors on the plaza of the Long Center with the downtown skyline in the background. The last time we shot this particular shot we had fourteen doctors in the the line up and shot them with lots of space around them and an ample amount to dramatic skyline in the background. They made lots of fun, large 30x40 inch prints. They made a large banner with the shot. Essentially, anything they could think of that would challenge the limits of resolution and detail was fair game. 

I went back and researched to see what camera I was using at the time. It was a Nikon D810. So that sets the bar for future shoots. What it really means to me is that the Sony cameras; and the A7Rii in particular, aren't going anywhere. There's always a need in the tool box for sheer, overwhelming detail for some shots and that line of thought extinguished my brief flirtation with crazy system change at this time. 

Thank goodness we have clients around to keep us sane.

OT: Thoughts about swimming this Fall.

2007 Master's Nationals. Austin, Texas.

On the first of October the pool I've been swimming Master's workouts in for the last twenty years will be closing for much needed repair and renovation. The expectation is that the pool will be out of commission until the end of January (at the earliest). This means that everyone on our swim team will need to figure out a new, temporary home at which to swim. Not working out at least five days a week is not an option for the majority of us. 

As the closure date approaches I'm busy researching options. The obvious one is my alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin, Jamail Swim Center. My friend, Whitney Hedgepeth (Olympian: Backstroke: Two silver medals; one gold) coaches an extremely competitive Masters workout in the big pool there. It's a tough program with tons of no nonsense yardage and tight intervals. There are two drawbacks to swimming at the Longhorn's pool; the first is that it's indoors and I'm used to swimming under blue sky. The second problem is that workouts start at 6 a.m. An additional annoyance would be trying to find parking on a busy campus with nearly 50,000 students plus faculty and staff...

My next choice is the Austin Swim Club run by Brendan Hanson (Six time Olympic medalist who set world records in the 100 and 200 breaststroke). The pool is outdoors and 50 meters, long course. It's about equidistant from my house/studio and there's no indication that parking is ever problematic. Brendan has a reputation as being a demanding coach with tough workouts. Some of the swimmers from our program are negotiating to get a new workout time from this club at 7:30 am. That means my trip there would be against the commuter traffic and by 9 am,  the end of workout, the worst of the rush hour  traffic heading back would be over. 

The final choice would be to swim each day at the spring fed, 1/8th mile long natural pool, Barton Springs Pool. There would be no Masters program to swim with, no pace clock and no lane lines. I would  have to be very disciplined to hit the 68 degree water before first light each morning and push myself to get a really substantial workout done. Barton Springs pool is closed on Thursdays and, when the weather is bad. You have to get there before 7 am if you want a clear path to swim down because the pool starts to get moderately crowded as the light comes up. Not as big an issue in the dead of winter when the temperatures drop....

I'm leaning toward option two. We'll see as we get closer. Might not seem like a big deal to most readers but it's a huge shift for me. I've spent six or seven hours a week, over the last twenty years, swimming up and down the same two lanes, looking at the same black line at the bottom of the pool. I think I could blindfold myself and still hit my turns from muscle memory. Like most people I fear change. 

Not a good time to also think about changing camera systems..... too much change would be overwhelming.

8.14.2017

Pushing off the wall in a nice streamline and gliding through the water is the closest most humans will ever come to the sensation of flying.


Testing the Panasonic FZ2500 at ISO 80. Supposedly the extended ISO limits dynamic range. Is that true?

OOC Jpeg with camera set to Vivid and ISO 80

I needed a walk yesterday. I'd heard the news about Charlottesville and I was disturbed that Nazism and racism reared its ugly, nasty head once again; and in such an obvious and hate filled way. I know some readers think we should only talk about photography here but hatred spreads when normal, middle class people like me choose to "duck and cover" for comfort instead of at least making the public statement that racism and Nazism is unacceptable and has no place in our society. Even less so when used as a tool by political opportunists on the far right. If you disagree then feel free to click away and never come back... 

At any rate, I decided to get away from my computer and my phone and just walk with a camera. I recently saw a YouTube video by Tony Northrup making the case that extended low ISOs were not the bad compromise that many technical photography writers have suggested over the years. He backed up his words with tests and examples and it made me curious to see what files from the Panasonic FZ2500, which has extended ISO range to 80, might look like. Would we see a flattening of the contrast or a diminution of dynamic range? Or something else? 

On nearly every other aspect of the camera I have made my peace, figured out the best ways in which to use the camera and have come to really, really like both the raw and Jpeg files I get from it. I've also discovered that the wide ranging lens is close to equalling the lens on the Sony RX10iii when proper focus is achieved. My little foray into lower ISOs would not change my overall opinion of the camera but a great performance at lower ISOs would be yet another tool in its growing tool kit. 

In looking at the finished files later in the evening, yesterday, I noticed that the skies and flat color areas were mostly noise free. No fine pattern graininess or noise. The obvious use for lower ISOs would be in video where one is working with 24 fps set ups with the shutter speed set to 1/50th. If wider apertures are called for the recourse is either to use the lowest ISO possible or depend on neutral density filters. Too bad the extended ISOs are not available in video so the lowest ISO there is 125. 

After carefully inspecting the files I would say that the lower ISO use case for best image quality would be to use the camera on a tripod, use f5.6 for optimum sharpness (pretty much anywhere in the focal length range) and then find the shutter speed that works best in combination with ISO 80. It was a bit of a revelation for me to see just how sharp the files could be. A final suggestion for ultimate sharpness at lowest ISO would be to turn down the noise reduction within your picture profile. A minus two step or three step setting in noise reduction is just about right for increasing very fine detail without introducing any noise that would be visible in normal use or at normal viewing distances. If your life is spent pixel peeping at 200% then all bets are off. 






The second part of my investigation with the FZ 2500 was to ascertain just how sharp that sometimes maligned lens is; especially when used in a normal, handheld fashion (apologies to people who live in the UK and profess to never seeing sunlight --- this is the bright stuff I live with....). The images below are mostly shot at ISO 125 and ISO 200 because I wanted shutter speeds that would allow good, handheld exposures with sharpness.  The image from Bill's Blacksmith shop is near the longest end of the lens. But the coffee sign painted on the side of the parking garage below ranges from the widest end to the longest end. 

While it may not be apparent in the web compressed images here the sharpness at all focal lengths (mostly shot at f5.6) is very, very good. On par with many of the lens and camera combinations with bigger sensor sizes that I've used in the past. 









Got brick walls if you want them..


As I've noted before, the FZ2500 is a very good still photography camera for many uses. Its one weak spot is high ISO performance. That's a trade off between its sensor size, cost and flexibility. When you add in the amazingly good video performance of the camera it's one on the best bargains on the market today.

Finally, I don't care which political party you affiliate yourself with, hateful racism and any embrace of Nazi ideas is always wrong and we should all stand up against any incursion of this into our society.

8.12.2017

I shot a photography assignment with the Olympus 12-100mm and the GH5 yesterday. Here are a few random observations.


A client I'd done work for ten years ago called me a few weeks back and asked if I could do a photo shoot to replace the images on their website that had been there for over a decade (now that's how to get your money's worth out of a photographer!). When we did the original website it was cool just to have a well designed site and basically the photography was little more than a documentation to prove that the staff existed and that the firm actually had physical offices. Nothing fancy to the photography.

Now so much water has flowed beneath the bridges that photography for a website is a different conversation. The firm still has a central office but it's more of a way station. Most of the executives are working from home or from small, single person, satellite offices that are close to their homes. The client's thoughts about websites have changed as well. Rather than have individual headshots against anonymous backgrounds they wanted to do something much more casual and almost conversational with their people photography. Their business is still a "people" business and they want their people to be visible but they want to be seen as approachable, likable and congenial. Also important was to show their cohesiveness as a team.

I like their out of the box thinking. They asked me (as the assignment) to join their six person executive leadership team for lunch at a new restaurant and to shoot  candid images of them at lunch as they talked and laughed and shared a meal together. The client checked with the restaurant and made sure it was okay with them to have me shooting, almost randomly, in their main dining room during a busy lunch. This being Austin, Texas, home of the very idea of laid back, it was no problem.

The restaurant is near downtown and is in a re-purposed power plant facility. It's very cool. There were a couple stories of glass windows and all the furnishings were spare and modern. We wouldn't be lighting anything but I had full license to be as intrusive and