7.25.2017

Using a Contax/Yashica Zoom Lens on a Panasonic GH5 and a G85. Interesting...

I've become quite agnostic about camera formats and brands over the last two years. If I buy a new camera these days it has to bring something valuable and different to the table. While I have a camera (the Sony A7rii) that is arguably one of the top cameras in the marketplace today for dynamic range, resolution and color I recently purchased the Panasonic GH5 for its video prowess (features not equalled in the current marketplace, under $6000). It was the fz2500's video performance that convinced me and the handling and image stabilization of the G85 that made me write the check.

I have a handful of really wonderful, old Olympus half frame lenses that I intended to press into service with the new cameras, as well as the nice 12-60mm kit lens from Panasonic but, on a lark, I decided to buy an inexpensive adapter for the Carl Zeiss C/Y lenses I've picked up over the past two years. I specifically wanted to try out the heavy, massive but well corrected

7.24.2017

Spending a lot of time making short movies for Zach Theatre.



I definitely bit off more than I could chew for what is basically a one person shop. In a moment of languorous downtime I agreed to make five short videos to help Zach Theatre market a fun new production: Million Dollar Quartet. The video above is the first one out of the chute and I'm pretty happy with it. As usual, I learned a lot in the shooting and there are things I would change, but for the most part I am happy with our mini-movie.

I was happy to be able to work with #1 (and only) son, Ben. He helped me schlepp way too much gear over to the Topfer Stage at the Zach Theatre campus on a very hot day. Helped set up the lighting and also ran the second camera. His footage is the stuff you'll like of Cole while mine is the stuff of which you'll say, "Dude, you lit this way too flat..." 

We shot four interviews on location over the course of a long afternoon and then I came back the next day to interview the show's director. After the interviews Ben helped me disassemble all the junk and get it back to the studio. Today he dropped by the studio to see what kind of progress I was making in the editing and it took all his restraint to keep from pushing me out of the edit chair and jumping in, elbow deep. He gave me a legal pad page of "suggestions" and then left for lunch. I'd be stern and cajole him into doing the actual work but I value his expertise more and don't want to push ---- especially since there's no real budget for editing....

The one thing I would like to direct your attention to is the sound. As I wrote a week or so ago, this was our first real immersion using the Samson C02 cardioid microphone and I am blown away with how clean and noise free it is. I would buy a second one if they did not already come two to a package. It's astoundingly good, in my opinion.

I'm always happy when I can shoot an early rehearsal to get some good photos/stills for b-roll but then you get into an ongoing debate of where to stop. I had the piece almost fully edited when I went over to Zach yesterday to watch the technical rehearsal. Of course the actors were now in (nearly complete) costumes and so when I looked at some photographs I'd taken at an earlier rehearsal I immediately wanted to pull the older ones and drop in the new ones. Sounds easy but everything takes time....

So, what did I shoot with?  Most of the stills come from a Panasonic G85 equipped with various ancient Olympus Pen FT lenses. A few of the shots are from yesterday and were shot with the GH5 and an older Carl Zeiss 28-85mm f3.5-4 that was originally made to work on the Contax/Yashica SLRs.

When I actually hit focus both rigs worked very well. If anything I'd say the G85 outperformed the GH5 for exposure and accuracy of exposure and color on the EVF. But take that with a grain of salt because I am still in early days with the GH5.

The b-roll video of stage performances was done with the G85 and the same Pen FT lenses; all handheld and initially shot in 4k and downsampled. The interview footage was shot with two cameras: the frontal camera (my less favorite footage) was my Panasonic fz2500. My mistake? Combining an inadvertently introduced shadow/highlight curve along with the typical flat CineLike D profile. Ouch. (Lesson: always zero out your camera before each new project...). Now that's hard to post process. Ben was much more meticulous with his side angle shots of Cole. He was using a Sony RX10ii. And apparently he used it well.

Our sound track is from live recordings made during rehearsals. My thanks to Allen Robertson for his generous musical assist. The errant guitar riff at the mention of "Elvis" was added by me. Tacky but fun. Just don't blame Allen.

As usual, as long as you aren't snarky, vindictive and mostly say nice things about my work I'd welcome your feedback. I've got a few more videos to go so now is the time for feedback. Really.


David B. Jenkins has a great new book! It's a 300+ page guide to Georgia.

Dave Jenkins has been commenting here at VSL and offering me gentle course corrections almost from the beginning. A couple of years ago he sent me a note and let me know that he was working on a book. I love book projects so I wished him my best and hoped that he would follow through.

Boy. He followed through. About two weeks ago I got a package in my mailbox with a nice surprise inside; it was a copy of the finished book. It's entitled,

Backroads & Byways of Georgia. Drives, Daytrips and Weekend Excursions. 

And it's a beautiful book.



Rather than me trying to re-explain it I'm including the press release here:

Backroads And Byways of Georgia 
An Off-The-Beaten-Path Guide to the Peach State

Photographer and author Dave Jenkins spent the better part of a year crisscrossing Georgia for more than 10,000 miles, exploring the nooks and crannies of the Peach State. He visited old mills, covered bridges (almost every one in the state), courthouses, historic houses and old churches without number, and whatever else caught his fancy. And then he organized it all into 15 tours covering various parts of the state, and wrote it up in a book appropriately titled, Backroads and Byways of Georgia. 

Ride the historic Atlantic coast from Savannah to St. Mary's, ramble the Appalachian northwest, cruise the broad plains of the southwest, or roam the Blue Ridge Mountains of the northeast. Each tour is carefully mapped out with precise driving directions and information about points of interest. Even explore a bit on your own if you like, because there's something new to discover everywhere you look: the historic, the quirky and offbeat, the strange and unusual, and abundant beauty.

More that 200 color photographs make Backroads and Byways of Georgia a visual treat, whether you're in your car of your armchair. And if you're traveling in fact, rather than fancy, the book equips you with itineraries for trips of differing durations and in different seasons plus information about comfortable accommodations, great food, and good shopping too. 

David B. Jenkins is a photographer and writer whose previous books include Georgia: A Backroads Portrait and the best-selling Rock City Barns: A Passing Era, which won the Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal. His domain is the old, the odd, and the ordinary; the beautiful, the abandoned, and the about to vanish away. He is a visual historian of mid-20th-century America and a recorder of the interface between man and nature; a keeper of vanishing ways of life. 

He and his wife live on a small farm in the Northwest Georgia mountains. 

The book is published by Countryman Press, it is priced at $19.95 and is available wherever books are sold. Signed copies are available directly from the author at 706-539-2114 or e-mail dbjphoto@gmail.com

*********************************

Here's my review: Dave sent along a book that made me want to take the rest of the year off and see his home state. His writing is clean, welcoming and direct. His photography did a great job showing the character and personality of the many locations he visited. If I were a Georgian this book would be my travel bible. Not just the site but the commentaries about travel, restaurants, interesting asides and the road stories.

This is not a flimsy book tossed together quickly. It is well researched, complete and it earns a privileged place in the pantheon of regional travel guides; and it does so while also being a printed witness to part of our national history. 

While the book is also available as a Kindle book I would suggest that folks get the paperback. It's a 6x9 so it's easy to handle and it's one I'd want to carry with me as I explored Georgia. 

Congratulations are in order! Way to go Dave Jenkins !!!!

Here's hoping the Visual Science Lab readers are enthusiastic about supporting one of their own. Head over to Amazon and grab yourself a platinum level guide to traveling through Georgia. 

7.22.2017

Thinking about the closure of Bowens. Where is the flash industry headed?


People on various forums and on photo industry blogs have suggested that Bowens, a long time maker of electronic flash equipment for photographers, was forced out of business because they either could not compete with the lower priced gear coming out of China or because they were unable to innovate fast enough in order to stay relevant to consumers. 

Of course I think there is a quite different reason for their demise and it's one that must be haunting Profoto, Elinchrom, PhotoGenic, and even Alien Bees. I think there is a tidal wave of change coming in the practice of photography and it's rendering traditional working methodologies, gear and business constructs obsolete. And it's happening at an accelerating pace...

While photography is a growing hobby and pastime the traditional approaches to photography as a business are in flux. The mainstay customers for studio electronic flash gear (especially stuff that plugs into the wall); the kind of lighting Bowens was selling, was aimed at, and mostly purchased by, photography studio owners. The gear was set up in a "camera room" and used on a daily basis for years and years. Every studio had its own collection of electronic flashes and as technology advanced the studio owners might upgrade or add to their collection. 

In the beginning nearly everything on the market was some variation of a central power pack/generator and an orbit of flash heads with long cables that were plugged into the generators. When I taught photography in the early 1980's the only people we knew who

7.21.2017

It's hot here in Austin. But that didn't stop the intrepid VSL testers from taking a long walk with a GH5.

Selena.

We matched a long standing heat record here in Austin today. It was 104(f) at camp Mabry which matched a record from 2000. With the humidity moderately high the "feels like" temperature is simmering around 108. To be frank, it's a crappy time to be here in Austin. The lake water is about 86 degrees and keeping the swimming pool cool enough to actually do heavy duty swim workouts requires running multiple aerator sprays all night long. It also means that working outside is iffy for a lot of people.

If you are working outside you move a little slower and try to always stay in the shade. A nice, insulated bottle of water helps.

I swam this morning and then I had stuff that had to get done today in the morning. Around noon I was ready to take my first excursion with the new camera. I put on one of my favorite anonymous shoulder straps, latched in a 64 gigabyte SD card, and headed downtown with my newest camera, the GH5.

I have only two things to report. First, the EVF is very nice and much preferred to an OVF. I love being able to see a representation of the camera's reality in the finder. This one is beautiful. The second thing I have to report is that there's nothing remarkable to point a camera at in downtown Austin today. I have made much progress though in getting deep into the 300+ page owner's manual.

Since I had nothing of substance from the walk to post I thought I'd toss up this image of Selena from a few years back. As I remember that was a pretty hot day as well....

More soon. KT