Taking time off even from time off.

From a shoot on Monday. The GH4 hardwired to a big strobe box.

I have what I suspect is a nasty habit and I'm further convinced that most of the people I know have it too. It's the need to be constantly busy even when there's no need to be constantly busy. I've worked a bit in June and July and ample cash is flowing through the business. My body and my spirit want to take time to sit and contemplate and enjoy just being on the couch in the sun drenched living room, drifting in and out of sleep and tickling the Studio Dog's tummy with my bare toes. I don't even want to pick up the novel I've been trying to read through and "get some reading done." In fact, I don't really want to participate in anything that requires me to think about a process that ends with "done."

But my usual way of being is to keep my plate full of commitments. If I'm not writing I'm marketing. If I'm not marketing I'm shooting and when I'm finished shooting for clients my frenetic mind wants me to keep on moving like a perpetual motion machine and so when free time comes along I let my linear brain boss me around and send me out into the world with a camera and a lens and an agenda that's loosely predicated on "experimenting with new photography". Getting some practice in. Grabbing some images that I can use on the blog. But sometimes the forced photo leisure just flies apart and becomes a forced march through a landscape denuded of interest by my own lack of engagement. 

I think that certain strata of our culture feel useless if not wearing the yoke and plowing the fields of commerce. And yet, our underlying ideal; at least the one we give lip service to, is that one day our work in the vineyards of commerce will produce the wine of leisure and we'll enjoy it. 

But will we (collectively) ever know when to let go? I think it's all tied to worry. I'm sure I worry, on some level, that if I am not constantly available to my clients they'll find a path of less resistance and come across someone who can be available 120% of the time. I am certain on some level just below the surface of rational thought that if I buy something like an expensive lens or a computer all work will cease and all cash will stop flowing in some balancing action of nature that's meant to punish my hubris in buying these things in the first place. 

I worry that if I don't write a blog a day that my readership will slowly fall off and the community I've worked to build will relocate to a livelier location on the web. Someplace where they can be guaranteed constant action and adventure. I'll lose whatever audience I've earned and become isolated and bounded by physical geography. 

The thought has crossed my mind that if I don't learn how to disengage at times when it's appropriate I may never be able to enjoy doing nothing. I'll be unable to sit quietly and meditate and push out all the restless activity of my mind in a quiet quest to find some balance and harmony. 

In so many ways photography becomes an analogy for my life. When the jobs are flowing I see myself as successful. When the jobs stop I have failed. When I buy new gear I am bolstered and a bit more invincible. When I don't buy new gear and don't "keep up" I feel like I am diminished and vulnerable. When clients call I feel appreciated and valued. When the phone doesn't ring and the e-mail is empty I feel abandoned and sidelined. 

This can't be a good way to look at life. There have to be moments of recharge and rest. It's good to step away and come back with new energy. I took a step forward today. After lunch I put away all the cameras and turned of the studio phone and the cell phone. I put the computer to sleep. I took a nap. I hung out with no agenda on the couch. I made it through the afternoon without doing one traditionally "constructive" or "productive" activity. Nothing that moves anyone's ball forward and nothing that will "move needles" or "create new synergies."  The postman came by late in the day with various notices, letters and bills. One was a bill for the new computer. I went out into the studio, wrote a check and then left and locked the door. I headed back to the couch where I am planning to do something I so rarely do......I am going to "waste time" and watch something mindless on TV. 

Being busy and productive can be highly overrated. 

The big strobe box hardwired to a Panasonic GH4.

First actual image with the Panasonic/Leica Nocticron.

It was a warm and muggy afternoon. I'd spent most of the day working on accounting and then choosing images for a hardback book I'd promised to make for a client. Frank called to see if I wanted to take a break from the drudgery of work and have a cup of coffee and a nice conversation. Who could say no to that? We agreed to meet at my neighborhood Starbucks. Just before the appointed time I stood up from the desk, grabbed an Olympus OMD EM-5 with a Panasonic/Leica 25mm lens on the front and hustled out to the VSL ultra-performance Honda CR-V.

Since it's a stock car I had to use my imagination to hear the throaty growl of the tuned exhaust. I also had to imagine that I was shifting at the perfect moment in the power curve since, of course, the car has automatic transmission. I also imagined the smoke coming off the tires as I accelerated and  pulled out onto Bee Caves Rd. because I was actually following an older person from the neighborhood who was pushing their Volvo wagon right up to around 15 miles per hour....

I arrived at the agreed time, uncharacteristically I ordered a coffee frappucino, and then joined Frank at a table. I placed my camera over to the side and Frank reached into his camera bag and pulled out the 42.5 mm, f 1:1.2 Nocticron lens. It's a beast. It's dense because it is built with a certain amount of rare metal called, unobtainium. It appears to be completely constructed from metal and glass and, on the camera, it feels like the lenses I used to own for the Leica R system. How does that feel? It feels like you are using the best lenses made anywhere for any money.

Frank allowed me to put the lens on an Olympus OMD EM-5 and play with it to my heart's content. I turned 30 degrees to one side and snapped the image above. While it may not come across on the web (especially if you are reading this on your phone...) the image is crisply sharp and the out of focus areas are subdued and calm.

Frank offered to let me borrow the lens for a week or so for an extended evaluation but I'm afraid I will have to decline. Just having it in my hands created such desire that I know a week of use will make any resistance to buying it as futile as resisting being assimilated by the Borg.

If you are using the Olympus or Panasonic systems and you have buckets of cash sitting around on the floor which you don't have pressing need for you might consider evaluating this lens. It's an ultra fast (an eminently usable wide open) 85mm equivalent, has a real aperture ring (operating on the Panasonic cameras only) and has Panasonic's image stabilization built in. The image quality wide open is, to my eyes, stunningly good.

I am not putting a link to the lens from a camera store because I would feel too guilty pushing you over the edge. If you don't have the budget to spring for one right now and you are weak when it comes to luscious gear then do not handle this lens. If you do, and you are partial to short telephoto lenses, the probability that you will be drawn into its gravitational field is high. You've been warned.

A computer progress report.

The 27 inch iMac arrived on schedule last Thurs. All programs migrated successfully from previous machine with the exception of Adobe Creative Cloud Desktop Application. This is the little program that serves as the gate keeper for updating and loading new software. It's also a key piece of Adobe's security for managing authorized and unauthorized users. When we finally got everything loaded up there was a little red triangle on the tool bar icon that caught my eye.

I was able to open and use all my Adobe software but I figured I needed to take care of this. I spent over an hour with a very impatient support person from Adobe trying to figure out why the program wouldn't load correctly. We finally escalated and the problem was resolved by going through the hard drive and removing every single piece of Adobe software, running Adobe Installer Cleaner, booting up in safe mode, running disk permissions, re-booting, and then re-installing all of the Adobe software. I am happy to report that everything is up and running well.

The machine is much faster than the one it replaces. The screen is four inches bigger and has not seen the ravages of time that my old, faithful cinema screen survived. The new screen is much sharper and is much easier to calibrate. I timed the two computers running a folder of DXO raw file conversions and the new machine is at least twice as fast. I am also now able to open and work on 4K files without hesitation in Final Cut Pro X. This is a nice thing.

The one issue I have with the new computer and the new, jumbo sized screen is that watching movies from Netflix has become so much more fun that I may quit working and just catch up on all the movies I have missed.

Unlike cameras, now that I've done the replacement and gotten everything squared away, all desire for anything computer appliance-y has faded back into its usual, very low level stasis.  To all those who wrote to tell me that I could have gotten the same performance for about $50 if I had built my own windows based machine I can only say that, while I may be very eccentric, I am happy to pay the extra $1750 for the beautiful design. After all, if history is a guide, I'll be looking at it every day for the next four or five years....