1.15.2018

A zany day of shooting. More zaniness to ensue.


The GH5 worked well in our tethered shooting today. We used the new, Lumix Tether software and it recognized and shook hands with the camera instantly. We were less lucky with our final destination software, Lightroom Classic. Though we'd practiced the set up and connection routine a number of times in the studio something wasn't working this morning when we set up at the location. The one failure always happens when the clock is ticking down toward an impending start deadline.

Seems that the Lightroom Classic needs to check in with the Adobe mothership when going one I.P. address to another and, of course, I'd forgotten the password. That brought everything to a screeching halt until Ben reminded me that one could check in with Adobe products by using a Facebook account. We did so and for the rest of the day Lightroom was well behaved.

You can do all the usual stuff with Lumix Tether, as far as controlling the camera goes. The files go from the camera to a watched folder and Lightroom takes over from there. We did drop a connection two or three times during the course of the day but troubleshooting traced the issue down to Kirk's bad cord management. The micro-USB three connection was fussy. We'll fix that before we go back tomorrow.

The images on the calibrated laptop looked great. On the big TV monitor they were quite acceptable but a little cooler, more contrasty and subtly flavored with mild sharpening halos. The clients all thought they looked great. I can only wonder at whether they will like the final retouched files in the same way. After all, discrimination of quality tends to be subjective. And contextual.

The laptop and connected computer brought us a lot of speed and control as well as providing a third tier of redundancy (card slot A, card slot B and the laptop hard drive).  I'm finding that shooting tethered somehow puts the brakes on my rapid shooting style and I'm making due with 10 to 12 images per person instead of the 25-50 I usually shoot.

Ben is walking each client through the post process and helping them choose a perfect selection. We'll take each select and do a mild retouch overnight and then deliver via e-mail. It's actually a perfect compromise.

Tomorrow promises new challenges. I just saw a weather report that says we probably won't get above freezing for the next 36 hours (starting tonight at midnight) and new forecasts are calling for rain, sleet, snow and the possibility that the temperatures will hit 18 on Tues. night. People up north are used to this kind of nasty weather but in Texas we'll see hundreds of car wrecks, thousands of broken water pipes and a total shut down of all commerce and government. The schools have already announced closures everywhere.

Along with the client we've changed our schedule for tomorrow. We'll start later (noon, if we can get up the hill from our house) and go a bit later in the day. The premise being that by noon most of the roads will have been made passable by coffee addicts and workaholics who feel compelled by their addictions to get out early and tempt fate. My hope is that they've bought enough coffee and risked enough lives that they roads will have drivable ruts through the ice that allow us to reach the client by midday.

We'll bring extra food, blankets and a compass just in case.

Wish me luck, it's going to be a Revenent kind of day out there...

P.S. just heard from the swim club. No practice tomorrow morning! You know it's bad when they close the pool !!!

An Early Morning of Packing and Some Notes From the Week.


After the trauma and drama of my family's "holiday" it felt so good to get back to work last week. My first project back was to create video of an interview with Abe Reybold, who is one of the artistic directors at ZACH Theatre. I went "old school" with my audio, running two inexpensive Audio Technica AT70, wired lavaliere microphones into the Panasonic DMW-XLR-1 audio interface and then into the GH5. Say what you will about the miracles of wireless technology but the hard-wired microphones were very clean and the audio from the session is impeccable.

I chose to go with "lavs" because the room we worked in can be noisy and the close proximity of the omni-direction microphones goes a long way toward damping down background noise. There's also an argument to be made that fewer electronics (mic transmitters and receivers) in the pathway of the audio makes for a cleaner sound.

The next day Ben and I headed over to our favorite, big accounting firm to do another flurry of headshots for them. We set up the cordless monolights (Neewer Vision 4) and a neutral gray background and had a very pleasant morning just meeting new people and easing them into the process of looking great.

It was so much fun to have Ben there to help me set up, tear down and cover all the minutia that I find burdensome. From there the rest of the week was about post processing and video editing. We knocked out a two minute rough for one project (with Ben at the editing helm) while creating web galleries for our accounting client (my purview...).

Having distilled my selection of working cameras down to just the GH5's is very liberating. There's no question which cameras and lenses will be in attendance when we head out the door on an assignment. I keep rounding out the lens selection but keep coming back to the 12-100mm Pro and the 40-150mm Pro (both from Olympus) every time I fire up the cameras and point them at profitable subjects. The more recent lenses, and the primes, seem to be my "hobby" lenses.

I photographed an unusual children's play on Saturday. It was done with puppets and puppeteers. It was done in two languages. Again, the 12-100mm was the lens of first choice but I also got some shots from the 30mm f1.4 Sigma that arrived last week. I shot with that lens wide open or stopped down to as low as f2.2 and I was impressed by how sharp the resulting files are. The GH5 is perfectly adept at making good looking photographs at ISO 1600. Not too much noise in the blacks. Not at all.

Sunday was a day dedicated to family stuff. I headed down to San Antonio right after an early breakfast and visited my dad in the memory care facility. That was yesterday. It was a good visit; my dad was sitting in is favorite easy chair and was dressed in pressed slacks, a nice shirt and a sport coat. Yesterday, at least, he was telling me that he is at a very nice conference hotel and has been attending continuing education sessions about hospital management. He was a little embarrassed because he didn't have any cash with him but I reminded him that I had "borrowed" twenty dollars from him and brought the money with me to re-pay him. That was a big relief... His room is well appointed, large and filled with his own stuff. Family photos, books, knick knacks and a small bowl of Hershey's Kisses; his favorite. He seems to have settled into the "perennial" conference quite nicely but would like me to check and see what happened to his subscription to the New York Times.

I spent the rest of the afternoon pulling out bags and boxes of receipts from closets and drawers around the family house in order to get all my parents' financial papers together and stored safely in one of my lockable filing cabinets back in Austin. I think my mother's approach to filing and organizing financial papers was to put everything in a big stack in one room, toss in a hand grenade or two, and then close the door. At least that's the way it seems in the moment.

We've created a process for paper processing the involves three big boxes. One is for trash (store coupons, solicitations, junk mail), one is for financial papers and the third is for "memorabilia" which could be letters from grandchildren or cards or photographs. The last box are things I would normally toss but which need to be seen by my other siblings before any action is taken. Not in the business of generating regrets...

This morning Ben and I are packing up for our three days of tethered shooting. You are reading this because of a personal error I made this morning: I woke up and mis-read my watch. I turned off my alarm clock and took some satisfaction at having awoken without the alarm. I was drinking coffee and looking the news when I glanced at my watch and realized I'd gotten up for my shoot an hour early.

Ah well, I guess that gives me one more hour in the day.

We are packing too much for the shoot. We are setting up at the end of a public hallway, in a Westin Hotel, adjacent to a wall of windows. I asked that the windows be draped so we aren't fighting the sun the whole day but we'll see what happens. Since we are in a public space that can't be secured it seems like I'll be pulling down the set and packing the car for each of the next three days. Every shoot seems to present some glitches but this one has been glitchier than most. It stems from a changing of the guard. The person who booked us was a great client and one we'd worked with for the better part of a year and a half. With changes afoot at the company my ally decided to resign and start his own marketing firm.

The person replacing him was caught, I think, a bit off guard and has a lot on her plate. We have not been able to get the kinds of details we normally get when doing a project of this scope; headshots of large numbers of upper management and sales pros. We're more or less taking the creative reins and implementing our own style. This could mean "course corrections" at any time during the process.

Ben and I practiced our tethering techniques several times last night and Belinda designed us a log sheet that makes organization of the selected photo files a breeze. Now we'll see if the location works and the scheduling is effective. It's all random chaos now but then that's part of our purview: to bring visual order to corporate chaos. We relish the challenge...

A few tech notes: The 12-100mm f4.0 Pro Olympus lens continues to distinguish itself with a blend of flexibility and optical happiness. The Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC DN is as sharp wide open as advertised and super at f2.2, 2.5, and 2.8. Well worth the $339. The Panasonic "Lumix Tether" software works well and is very straightforward. The integration with Lightroom works well too.

The Vizio 32 inch TV/Monitor I bought could be operated while blindfolded and it seems like it will come in handy for all kinds of stuff down the road. A nice addition to the usual set ups.

All of this prep may be undone tomorrow morning when we are expecting ice storms and dropping mercury. The forecast for Tuesday's early hours is: "rain, ice, snow, and temps falling from 32 down to 23." In Austin that means all travel grinds to a halt. Snow tires? Never heard of them. Salt on the roads? Nope; only on the brisket. Fingers crossed......

Keep the coffee flowing and the shutters clicking and we'll settle back into the new normal. Thanks for reading along. I hope all of you have a great and productive day.

1.12.2018

Something I hate to do but must do for three days next week: Tethering. A fool's errand.


I am aware that many photographers like to shoot tethered to their laptops or tethered to their studio PCs. I'm sure this makes sense in still life shooting situations that require exacting compliance to a client's comprehensive layout or when working collaboratively with an art direct bent on arranging props within a static scene in just the right way. But I have never warmed up to the idea of shooting portraits while tethered to a monitor or laptop. It would seem that one loses control over implementing one's own style and the conviction that they understand and can assess the value of the "right" frame in a better, or different, way than can the portrait sitter in front of them. 

So it is with sad resignation that I am approaching a project next week. One of my clients is having a sales meeting. It's an "all hands on deck" function that will bring people in from all over north America for the week. The marketing folks have decided that it will be an opportune time to provide portrait photos for anyone who needs them or wants them. This request falls on the other side of the line from "Large and beautifully crafted prints to be displayed proudly" and resides on the side of the use field that includes: headshot for LinkedIn and Facebook, small snap for electronic proposals and (maybe) use on a website. In other words there stated expectation is that we'll take about five minutes per person to get a good shot. Not much more. 

But here's the kicker: they want us to shoot tethered so we can show the portrait sitters the images immediately after we've shot them. They want the sitter to select an image on the spot and they would like us to send the image directly to them via e-mail, on site. 

The tight scheduling means I have to work with an assistant. I choose Ben. The real issue is the throughput and the inevitable delays as people hem and haw over exactly which frame they should choose. I don't like to work this way because there is always some retouching that can be done in post to make each person look better. It just be a judicious crop but it may also be removing a pimple or smoothing skin. 

Recently Panasonic delivered a new application that is free to GH5 and G9 users. It's called Lumix Tether and it delivers tethered shooting and camera control. It's very straightforward software so it doesn't create a gallery of images; it just shows them one at a time. In order to make it easier on the people who will be choosing the images I decided I would take the tethering one step further and combine it with Lightroom so we can look at images side by side, zoom in, etc. After much trial and error I was able to get the three pieces (camera, Lumix Tether and Lightroom) to work together. I can shoot, pull the images into a "watched" folder and then share them on the screen with the "customer." 

Then I ran into another glitch of sorts; my MacBook Pro laptop has a 13 inch screen and the display images in Lightroom are just too darn small to be easily readable. I'm not about to haul my primary computer off my desk and leave it in a Westin Hotel meeting room for three days so I started looking around for other options. It dawned on me that I could use the Thunderbolt connection on the laptop to create an HDMI port, via an adapter I have in my toolkit. Then I could attach a TV to the whole shebang and people could adore themselves, large scale. It would be a much more cost effective alternative to buying a new, fully spec'd 15 inch MacBook Pro with a i7 processor. 

If I could send the image from the laptop to the TV I could provide enough square footage to make selection easy. I could go straight from the camera to the TV with an HDMI cable (thank you! Panasonic for giving me a full size HDMI port!!!) but that would complicate the process of then sending the selected file via e-mail, on the spot. For that I'd need the laptop in the mix.

We have one TV in the house. It's an older 50 inch Vizio 720p unit and I am loathe to disconnect it and bring it along, mostly because I think a newer model would have a much better and more detailed screen image but also because the size of the unit is painful and our space on site is limited. With all this in mind I headed to Costco to buy a current TV. I bought a 32 inch model that's LED, 1080, wi-fi enabled and has a convenient HDMI port. It's also a Vizio (my other choice was a Samsung...) and it set me back less than $200.

With the whole mess assembled together my number one priority is to remember not to wander off with the camera in my hands and thereby pull everything crashing down to the floor. At peak times the TV image will no doubt attract a "peanut" gallery who will attempt to "inspire" the sitter with exhortations and catcalls. I can hardly wait. Yes, the space the meeting planners have chosen for us is mostly public...

The client and I are still flirting with negotiating a different process. I would be happy to keep the TV in the mix, happy to allow for immediate, on site image selection too, but I am trying to sell them on allowing us to record the frame number of each person's selection on a form, along with the person's e-mail address, and then touching each file with some magic retouching spells at the end of each day and sending along the improved images. We'll see how strong my powers of persuasion might be. 

The lure of the paycheck so far outweighs my righteous indignation at having an external force willfully change my workflow. We'll see if we can't maintain that rational approach as the situation devolves into the unknown by the end of the first day...

On another note, below are images I made yesterday on my first walk through downtown in the new year. Actually, since the 22nd of December. 

The rationalization for the walk was stress relief but the underlying reason was to put the Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC DN (haven't a clue as to what those abbreviations might mean; if anything) through its paces. I was very happy to have it along and I find myself liking the files at least as much as I did when I owned the same basic lens (different mount) for the Sony APS-C, Nex cameras. 











A corner of the kitchen in my parent's house. 
Image shot with the Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN art at 3200 on G85 with no processing. 
Nostalgia included in the mix.

Final thoughts on tethering: Don't do it unless you have to and you're going to get paid for it. Tethering is a pain in the ass.

1.11.2018

Another Blogging Milestone in the Rear View Mirror.

With all the trauma and anguish of the past three weeks I entirely missed noting a small but important-to-me milestone. About three posts ago I put up the 3500th post since the birth of the Visual Science Lab blog. If you figure that the average length of a typical blog here is about 2,000 works then I've bashed out some 7,000,000 million words,  reviewed a lot of gear, and tried my best to piss off the entrenched photo community.

If nothing else the blog has given me the opportunity to improve my skills as a typist...

If you enjoy the blog please take time to comment from time to time so I know that I'm not writing into a vacuum. Of course any contribution is totally voluntary but let's not waste each other's time; checks or cash in thousand dollar increments are the most efficient wealth transfer for both of us....

If you are feeling particularly charitable, and are so inclined, I could really use a new Bentley automobile in order to more efficiently do my writing research in far flung locales. Should a Bentley prove too dear one of the S class Mercedes cars would suffice. We all need to make adjustments....

I think I'll write a few thousand more blogs. Some routines are hard to break.

Assembling a set of prime lenses for a Panasonic G series camera that will see a lot of action in both the video and photography camps...


One of my friends who is a professional videographer is thinking seriously of supplementing his Sony FS7 dedicated video camera with the new Panasonic GH5S. He's looked closely at the files and finds a lot to like about them. We were sitting around having coffee and he asked me for recommendations of lenses to use with the new camera. His requirements (or strong preferences) are to have lenses that have apertures of f1.8 and faster for each lens. He would also like to keep cost down; if possible. 

My first suggestion was that he consider the three new f1.2 Pro lenses from Olympus. All three have been well reviewed and seem to have superior imaging characteristics as well as the ability to move into a manual focusing mode that has hard stops for minimum and maximum focusing distances. We both are on the fence about this family of lenses, we love the "idea" of them but also feel that there are more cost effective options in the overall m4:3 universe which might not be the highest performance where high resolution still photography files are wanted but which would definitely do justice to the 4K video files he (and I ) will likely shoot. 

Now, this is a topic I like to sink my teeth into. He also stated that he was more interested in using lenses specifically designed for the format instead of trying to match lenses from other systems via various mechanical adapters. 

I started making a list. The first lens on my notepad was the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 short telephoto. It fills an important slot as a perfect focal length for intimate video interviews. It's also fast enough that when used close in allows for dropping backgrounds out of focus in a very nice way. I bought my second copy several months back and, in the past, found this lens model to be a bit sharper, wide open, than the Olympus 45mm and it also features lens based image stabilization. It's a solid recommendation for a low cost video centric kit. We wish the focusing ring had hard stops in manual focus but you can't always get what you want at the price you're happy to pay. If you want good, sharp performance at a bargain price then this is the system lens I start with. 

My next suggestion is a cheat because it violates his first preference of only considering lenses faster than f1.8. I'm suggesting that everyone who shoots longer focal lengths with the m4:3 cameras get their hands on the Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN Art lens. Of course I understand that it's a stop and a third slower than my friends limit but it's so sharp and so inexpensive that you just can't go wrong. This is a lens that you can set at its widest aperture of f2.8 and never have a moment's hesitation about its optical performance. At an equivalent of a 120mm lens in the full frame world its a focal length that's almost perfect for classical, tight head shots. Sorry, no built in image stabilization so it's either no coffee or a tripod if you want those frames to be nice and sharp. I love the sleek and minimalist lens body design but it's not everyone's cup of tea. Especially those who shoot year round with soft wool gloves. Not enough grippiness to make those folks happy...

Next up on my list of really good and really well priced fast(er) primes is the universally well-reviewed Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens. It's priced at $339 (or close by) and this will be the second time I've owned this product (albeit in a different mount: I had it for the Sony a6300). On the APS-C frame of the Sony it's the equivalent (FF) of a 45mm lens but on the m4:3 it's closer to 60mm and that's a focal length of happiness for me. I ordered the m4:3 model last week and it came this Tues. Today is the first time I've had enough free schedule to walk around and shoot with it but the first few hundred frames I shot today reminded me what I like about this lens: the center of the frame is nicely sharp and contrasty at f1.4.  The lens is a bit bigger than other m4:3 lenses but it's not nearly as big or heavy as the Olympus Pro series primes. If you like slightly long normal lenses this might be a lens you put on the front of your camera and never take off. I recommend it whole-heartedly. 

Heading down to the wider focal lengths puts me into territory that I only care about when clients request it. The shortest lens I would work with for my personal work would be the 25mm focal lengths for this format which, of course, yield an angle of view like a 50mm lens on full frame. My first choice here (at prices much lower than the Pro series) would be the Panasonic-Leica 25mm f1.4 which is getting long in the tooth but is also a very well made and good performing lens. It's a classic fast lens with the best performance at wider apertures being in the center 2/3rds of the frame. It's not a lens for flat field macro work but if you like shooting fast and you're working in the video world the performance will exceed the resolution the video files well past 4K. So, it's my first choice in this focal length range for the Panasonic cameras. Important to note that this lens does not offer image stabilization either so it's best used on the latest cameras (G9, GH5) for stills or on a tripod or gimbal if paired with the new GH5S. 

If price is an object (and of course it is since we've rejected the budget busting territory of our first choice of the Pro series lenses) then there is one more normal lens that I can recommend with no trepidation or hesitation and that is the Panasonic 25mm f1.7. It's exactly what you might think of as the system version of the Canon or Nikon "nifty-fifty" lenses for full frame bodies. It's decent wide open and then sharpens up very nicely so that by f4.0 and above it's almost on par with the pricier options. This lens is priced at around $250+ but it goes on sale with clock-setting regularity for the blow-out price of $159 and I think it's well worth that price. You can use it wide open and get most of the frame into the very good to excellent category or you can stop it down to f4.5 and get sparkly sharpness throughout. 

As we move down into wider lens territory I can only parrot what I hear from my experienced users and take my cues from them. If I were not content with my Olympus 12-100mm Pro lens and I wanted to stay away from zoom lenses with slower maximum apertures the one additional prime I am actively considering buying is the Panasonic-Leica 15mm f1.7 lens. It seems well made, gets high marks across the reviewing world and seems affordable for 28-30mm equivalent users at around $549. 

I'd suggest lenses wider than 15mm if I knew of any that were really any better than the zooms that cover the wider ranges (Olympus Pro 7-14mm, Panasonic-Leica 8-18mm) but I think when you get into focal lengths under 15mm the inherent depth of field of any of the available primes is no smaller than that of slower zooms; in a practical sense. I can't think that an 8mm f1.8 would have that much less depth of field that the 8mm end of a zoom at f2.8. The zooms I mentioned both have high optical quality; especially near their wider ends so it's not really a question of the primes delivering better image quality. In the end, the flexibility and quality of the two wide zooms wins out in the actual world of making photographs or videos.

My ideal kit for the m4:3 cameras would include the three fast Olympus Pro Primes, the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro and the (incredibly flexible) 12-100mm lens and all of these would be supplemented by wider zoom options (the Panasonic-Leica gets my cash because it has filter threads and I can use variable ND filters on it).

I haven't covered long, fast lenses because I just don't think you can do better than the 40-150mm f2.8. If you need longer or faster you'll probably head into adaptations. The 75mm Olympus f1.8 gets very high marks and I consider it somewhat of a speciality lens. One I'd like to own but one that I have to work hard to justify. 

Everyone's choices will be different. I'd opt for different lenses if I were photographing solely for my own pleasure. I'd be happy with a 25 and a 45 and I'd be opting out of the buying cycle after locking down those two models. But here I am on the cusp of a week long shoot for a large medical practice that will call for very wide shots, very tight shots, large depth of field and shallow depth of field in a random pattern throughout each day of the assignment. It helps me to justify the choices I've made!
To my videographer friend: I hope this is helpful. 

Have I left any good lenses out of the mix that I should know about or learn about? Let me know!


A re-posting from exactly this day in 2012. Same message needed repeating for me this morning...

Irrational purchases versus marketing strength.

(postcard mailer)
Versus...
(new camera of the moment)
Or this....

A piazza in Rome.
Street shooting in Rome.
I love cameras as much as the next guy. Maybe even more. But, at some point the mania of researching, buying, testing, trading and selling off cameras, and then wading through the next generation of offerings seems...over the top.  This isn't really me talking, it's my book on Commercial Photography.  I re-read it last night after having coffee with a pragmatic gentleman yesterday who mentioned the book.  

I get that it took a number of years and a number of tries for camera makers to get digital cameras back to the same level of working transparency that they'd achieved decades ago in film cameras.  Up until the time of the Canon 5D2 and the Nikon D3 we could easily rationalize that we "needed" to upgrade our camera to take advantage of the curve that was still grasping for true "holistic" usability in our professional tools.  But boy did we sacrifice some hard earned money, time and mental rigor.

Around 2009 all of the pieces were firmly in place.  Any of the top cameras on the market that year are totally satisfactory for the function of creating great images and mastering the needs of the mainstream commercial marketplace.  My Olympus EP2 was a perfect camera for the leisurely hobby of shooting fun stuff while on a walk or road trip.  And it still is.

My Canon 5Dmk2 is a perfected working tool for what I need to do to keep my clients happy.  In fact, the 1DS mk2 from 2004 was just about there as well.  When you think about it, just about every camera with delusions of professional competency made since 2008 or 2009 is probably better, overall, than us operators.  And in point of hard fact most professional assignments are usually done either on a stout tripod (at a reasonably low ISO) or in complicity with electronic flash or other supplemental lighting (also at a reasonably low ISO) and can be handled with a wide range of cameras and lenses.  Including (when stopped down) most recent zoom lenses.

What's fueling the race to make every camera full frame?  What's the cattle prod that keeps the herd begging for higher and higher pixel counts?  And what's the new fascination with the new "rangefinder" styled cameras.....that are anything but?  Desire and marketing?

It's fun to buy new cameras but even I have limits.  I was drooling over the Fuji X pro camera shown on Michael Johnston's blog and all over the web when my inner business guy (deeply repressed during most camera buying escapades) emerged, beating me about the head and shoulders with a rolled up copy of my own business book.  

He had a couple of questions.  But first he looked around the studio and started counting cameras and lenses and lights and gadgets.  He was still counting an hour later when I came back from lunch.... and then he turned on me like a spreadsheet badger and demanded to know what the hell I was thinking.

"I see enough cameras to re-brick a wall." He shouted. "But I don't see any new promotional mailers.  I don't see a revised contact list.  I don't see any work being done on adding to the e-mail lists.  Where the hell is the new portfolio of people we've been talking about, ad nauseum?  And why am I stepping over three or four different camera systems here?  Are you fucking nuts?  Or did you just win the lottery?"

(My inner business guy can really get in my face...)

But he had a point.  And I could see it pretty clearly.  And so can my bank account.  

"Hey, Photo-Punk."  My inner business guy taunted.  "Let me give you a quick lesson on asset allocation."  I slunk down in my chair and got ready for the lecture I knew I deserved...

He began:  "I see you have the Canon 1DX on order already.  Pretty sweet.  But dude (he calls me that when he's really pissed...) we're talking seven large  ($7,000) for that one camera body.  And how often, when making one of your executive photos or your product shots of electronic toys do you actually need like, 10 frames per second?  Or more throughput? (said with a vicious sneer...)  What you really need are more new clients and more return visits from old clients and, guess what?  They like the gear  you're shooting with right now just fine."

I reached for my cup of coffee and he slapped my hand with a ruler, hard.  Then he looked at the Starbucks label and just shook his head.  "We'll deal with that money leak in another conversation..."

Back to business:  "For the same $7,000 you could finance a coherent, effective direct mail campaign to every art buyer and worthwhile art director in Texas.  One thousand postcards, printed, would run you around $200.  One thousand stamps for said will run you another $430.  A little more elbow grease and a little less time haunting the Photo Equipment Porno sites and you'd have your mailing list in good shape.  Throw some cash at a good graphic designer and for less than $1,000 you can reach a pretty well defined list of potential, check writing clients.  And you could do that seven times in one year for the price of that one camera body!!!!!"   He was screaming and foaming at the mouth by this point...

"If you get a handful of new clients from just that advertising it would return a zillion times more cash to your pocket than a camera that you'll be convinced is obsolete by the time the next big photo trade show rolls around."  (Then he muttered something unflattering under his breath.  Very much a hard nosed business guy....not a marketing guy.  A marketing guy can insult you and smile at the same time.)

I decided to stand up for my inner artist.  I said that I needed the tools that would make my inner artist happy.  That was the argument I trotted out.  Bad move.

"Your inner-f-ing artist????  You gotta be kidding me.  That guy was happy shooting on the streets with an old Hasselblad, a used lens and a pocket full of slow film.  I haven't seen anything from these profit vampire digital cameras that looks any better.  And do you know why?  Because you keep spending all your money on toys.  Back when a camera would last you longer than indigestion you could put money aside for travel and adventure.  Remember travel and adventure?  A hell of a lot more fun to do, and write about, than the buttons on the lastest f-ing point and shoot cameras.  Wouldn't you agree?"

I looked back down at my shoes and tried to remember the last time I got on an airplane and left town to shoot art for myself.....

"Let's take that same $7,000 and see what you could do if you were smart enough to use if for a trip.  Shall we?"  

"Hey look!   Here on Expedia.  You could get a round trip ticket and ten nights at a decent hotel in Tokyo for less than $2,800 bucks.  But wait, don't you have a friend with an extra room in Paris?  And a couple million frequent flier miles?  So all you'd have to pay for is.....film?  No, not even that?  Just food?  And you're standing around your office, getting older and slower and looking at dinky ass digital cameras?  Just grab one out of the drawer, throw a couple of lenses in a bag and get your sad butt in gear.  What the hell are you waiting for?  Or take the $7,000 and go to Rome for a month.  Maybe you could even write a book about it.  Where's your old penchant for blue sky?  Have you turned into a photo pussy?"

He was right.  Where was my inner business guy as we got all wrapped up in the digital marketplace?  Now that we've got cameras that are more or less as transparent as the film cameras they replaced what was my excuse to buy more?  Was it the habit we got into as we feverishly tried to master early digital?  Or was it just resistance and the thinly disguised belief that we "techie" photographers have that the newest camera is like a magic talisman that will give us power over our competitors?  According to my inner business guy the only real magic is the work you do on your marketing to clients.

Everything else is just addiction to the "new car smell."

1DX order cancelled. Passport renewed.  Cards in process. How's that for a kick in the ass for the New Year?

1.09.2018

The Luxurious Richness of the Panasonic Professional Camera Universe. Three incredible concepts in a row.

The newest sibling in an interesting family.

I've had my nose in family matters for the last few weeks and I nearly missed the exciting news from my current favorite camera company, Panasonic. They've been busy lately churning out very desirable cameras and they've just announced one that most photographers will snub while their friends across the hall in video might just adore. It's labeled as the GH5S and, much like Sony's line extension of the A7 series into an A7S and A7Sii, it's the low light version of their previous flagship hybrid camera, the GH5. While you can do a lot of great engineering in order to make a camera that is a good compromise between still photography and video there are some advantages in presenting a camera with a sensor that is optimized for one or the other. And that improved video segment is what the GH5S is directly aimed. But while its specialization for video files seems to disqualify it as the top choice for a stills camera I still find it fascinating. I'll try to explain why...

Here is an image I made for Zach Theatre's upcoming production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.


I worked in a blacked out theatre, using some of their work lights but mostly shaping light in little pools by using multiple, weakly diffused LED panels. The light was there to provide dimension and shadows, not just to increase illumination.

We worked with a Panasonic GH5 and the 12-100mm Olympus Pro lens attached to a Ninja Flame monitor so the art director and I could move lights and change levels in little steps until we both agreed that we'd gotten what we needed for a whole series of different poses and shots.

The illumination levels were low so I worried about file noise but needn't have. With a bit of noise reduction in Lightroom the image came right into line allowing us to use it almost life-size on lobby posters and, easily, in all our electronic displays; regardless of screen size.

The shoot took an hour and thirty five minutes from start to stop and generated dozens and dozens of different looks and variations.

The background was added in post.

It's challenging play. If you are in Austin it's well worth the price of admission.

Notes: I am back in Austin and heading back to the theatre to shoot a video interview this morning for a very different project. I got a good nights sleep last night and had the first cup of good coffee I've had in weeks this morning. 

I am quite fascinated with the new Panasonic GH5S camera and will be writing a bit about the Panasonic professional camera family (fast growing!!!) this afternoon; just to blow off some steam. I currently feel quite vindicated in my decision to through in my lot with the Panasonic/Olympus systems. Come back later to see if I actually got finished writing about deciding between the G9 and the GH5S.