Fadya in the studio. An exercise in lighting with HMIs from K5600.

I know a good percentage of photographers are wed to their flashes. They use em for everything. I'm more promiscuous with my lighting choices. At any one time we'll have racks of professional florescent fixtures, boxes filled with various tungsten lights, SMD LED lights, as well as three different flash systems in the studio. And that doesn't count the inventory of battery operated portables.

The fact is that different lights have a different affect on a photo shoot. Repetitive flash feels bouncy and staccato to me while feel of tungsten puts me into a time machine and takes me right back to the 1950's. HMIs are different. The light seems more liquid and at the same time its color response on sensors creates a look that's different from other sources. Color correct but a stretched out color range. The constant glow doesn't interrupt the give and take of the subject and the photographer. It's well mannered light.

There is a shutter speed, and it's different for nearly every situation, where constant HMI light gives a shutter speed that's fast enough to give the impression of frozen time but shows micro motion in the details that to me more accurately resembles the way our eyes see things. Sharp and soft overlayed on each other in a wonderful way. The faster the speeds the lesser the effect, and vice versa. I love the look I get with the shutter around 1/4th to 1/8th second. It's not a blur but it's not the sort of actinic sharpness that signals techno-fiction.

And, of course, everyone looks best in black and white.

The Sony RX10 ii was a perfect reporter camera for documenting the construction of Cronuts.

The public relations agency that represented  New York City celebrity chef, Dominique Ansel, hired me to cover an event at which the chef created and shared both his world famous Cronuts (a combination croissant and donut) and a new dessert which was a chocolate chip cookie baked in the shape of a small glass. The cookie cup was filled with cold milk and served as a combination dessert/beverage. In a reversal of typical consumption the cookie cup required the lucky recipient to first drink the milk and then eat the remaining cookie... hmmm.

At any rate I covered the event with several cameras but quickly came to rely on the Sony RX10 model two. I used that camera mostly with a bounced, manual flash but the images above were done in a well lit hotel kitchen. The camera easily handled the required ISO 800 setting and the automatic white balance was right on the money.

The beauty of that camera for this kind of work resides in a  combination of strengths. First, it is small and light and requires no ancillary lenses. The range of 24mm to 200mm is ample for most event work. The image stabilization of the camera, in combination with the deeper depth of field, makes handholding in low light a pleasure. And the EVF, in combination with bounced flash made shooting manually a breeze. The instant feedback in the EVF allowed me to fine tune the fish exposures in stride.

While I am happy with the two RX10 models I currently have I do have a suggestion for a future RX10 product which I hope Sony will consider. I'd like to see a model with a much more limited focal length range that is optimized for low light by having a lens that would cover 28mm to about 105mm (equivalent/35mmm) but which would be an f1.8 throughout the range.  I can't imagine that I'm the only event documentarian who would enjoy the extra light gathering ability combined with still decent depth of field when used wide open.

Did I have a Cronut? You bet I did. It was delicious but it required me to swim and extra 15 minutes the next morning to shed the calorie load...  Sacrifice, sacrifice.

A frustrating day. Thank goodness I had nothing urgent booked.

There is street photography and then there is escalator photography. The vintage version (above) includes escalators in European capitols with wooden slates on the steps...

I woke up this morning with a list of things to get done. One was to get my car inspected. In Texas one must get one's car inspected before the registration can be renewed. Seems easy enough. There's Chevron gas station down the road that does state inspections. Usually takes twenty minutes; tops.

I answer my urgent (?) e-mails, read the news, have breakfast, walk the dog and now I'm ready to tackle car stuff. I find my proof of insurance, along with the paperwork for the registration and head out to the car. Which does not start...

It started yesterday but, to be honest, I seem to remember that the car was a bit hesitant to turnover. One of those realizations that only hits you when you are confronted with a ton or so of useless metal a bit later.  The starter motor made the feeble sound commensurate with a dying battery and, after several attempts, went mute altogether. Crap. Battery. Time suck.

I borrowed Belinda's car and drove to my friendly, somewhat convenient, Costco to buy a replacement battery. Oops. My Costco membership had expired. Goodbye another $50 bucks. Now, newly re-upped and in good standing, I followed through on the battery purchase.

Upon returning home I Googled once again, "How to safely replace a car battery." Then, intellectually armed, I grabbed my tools and popped the hood of the Honda CRV. The battery inside described itself as a "100 month" battery and yet, we were only 26 months into its service, as of today. This was my second "100 month" Honda branded battery but have only owned the car for a total or 36 months. By my rough estimate Honda still owes me another 44 months of battery-ism. But given their track record I am happy to suck it up and replace it with a different brand from Costco. At Costco, when one of their 36 month batteries gives up the ghost earlier than expected (or promised) they just give you another one. Honda, and most everyone else "pro-rates" battery life. Which means they'll give you some small percentage credit for your next faulty and too expensive replacement.
No thanks.

So, I jostle around in the heat and humidity and change the battery. But wouldn't you know it? Honda uses some sort of clamping structure on the negative terminal that I've never seen before and, try as I might, I can get it quite tight enough to stop from moving easily if I pull or push on the cable. Something new to fix....

But the car starts right up and finally I feel as though I'll be able to make progress, get the car inspected and then registered. Today.

I drive over to the Chevron station and hand the keys and my proof of insurance form over to the grumpy mechanic. He drives off in my car and comes back a few minutes later. "Your car failed." he said. "Wha?"

"Did you just change the battery?" he asked.

"Well yes..." I stammered.

"When you do that it erases all the emission information. You fail the test."

"But what can I do now?" I am baffled. Is this a permanent condition? Will my car ever be inspectable?

"You need to drive it for 50 miles or so and then come back and we'll test it." says the mechanic. Then he adds, "You owe $18.50 for today."

I pay up and then get back in the car. I won't be getting my inspection today. Well, I guess I could drive around in circles and then head back but it seems a bit pointless. Instead I take the old battery back over to Costco to get a $15 cash payment for recycling my old battery. I eat a slice of pizza and it's pretty good. Then I decide I've already wasted the whole morning, why not drive to the Honda dealer and see why the heck the negative battery clamp won't tighten.

Two mechanics work on it for twenty minutes and figure out the brilliant and complex engineering that will keep the electrons flowing. And I am home by 2 pm. About $150 dollars poorer and still no closer to having a car with an inspection or a new registration sticker.

I think two things. 1. Thank God I didn't have a big shoot scheduled for this morning. 2. There's always tomorrow...

Car stuff sucks. If I had a personal assistant this is the kind of crap I would make them do. Then I'd have more time to read all the new product announcements from Photokina on the web.

Hello to the new age of medium format cameras. The potential sweet spot? That would be the Fuji GFX.

To be honest I really wasn't expecting to see so much good stuff coming out of Photokina this year. I'm a little puzzled by the Sony a99 mk2 because I thought they were abandoning the "A" system in favor of the E series cameras. I owned the original a99 and think that everything they fixed was exactly what needed to be done. I'm still not sure about the depth of Sony's support for that family but the camera looks to be a good choice for photographers who also do video; especially those who stuck with the A system over time. The two SD card slots appeal and I would be interested to see if they have gone with a hardier HDMI plug than the micros on the FE series cameras....

The GH5 intro from Panasonic was more or less expected. It will be great.  I thought Canon might show a vague prototype of a medium format camera and I hoped that Nikon would show something, anything, mirrorless. My personal wish was for an update to the Sony A7ii.  I wanted to see an A7iii with the same shutter technologies as the A7rii (silent please!) and an update to the video capabilities. 

But the thing that makes this show memorable, and the one product that inspires desire in me, is the new medium format camera being introduced by Fuji. No one has had a chance to play with the camera yet but looking at the specifications and the overall design I'm willing to call this camera the smartest entry into the medium format digital market to date. 

There's nothing to make me stand up and shout, where the sensor is concerned. It's probably a Fuji tweaked version of the same sensor being used in the Pentax MF and both lines of 50 MP sensored Hasselblads. The thing that makes this camera exciting is the combination of features that makes one system superior to another system. While Hasselblad is dicking around with consumer-focused, moderately wide lenses for its initial foray into the markets the folks at Fuji get that these cameras will be used by real, live professionals (at least the ones still standing) and that they want something more (a lot more) that just some point and shoot optics. That Fuji will be rolling out the initial system with a 120mm f4.0 Macro lens (95mm equivalent in 35mm-speak) signals to me that they know how vital portraits are to the commercial practice of photography. You could buy this camera and that one lens and get to work trying to make enough money to pay for it. Not so with anything announced for the mirrorless H-Blad...

The second Fuji lens that makes me sit up and take notice that Fuji intends for this system to be taken quite seriously is the 110mm f2.0. I owned the 110mm f2.0 Planar in the Hasselblad system and the combination of the focal length and the very fast aperture made images that were hard to duplicate in any other way. I can only assume that Fuji's version of the lens will be at least as good. Their current track record, when it comes to lenses, seems pretty much unimpeachable.

Of course there will be wide angles. There are always wide angles. Architectural photographers need them and landscape photographers love them. But the meat and potatoes of any system is the existence of a great normal focal length, fast short telephotos, and beautiful portrait focal lengths. It was the 150mm f4.0 Sonnar that drove the original Hasselblad system. I don't know a single pro who didn't own one in the day (presuming they used Hasselblad). With Fuji's recent track record one can buy into the system with a good degree of confidence that their line of lenses will quickly be fleshed out with outstanding (and useful) products. They've watched the stumbles at Sony and learned that great camera bodies are only part of a successful system equation. You've got to have the lenses buyers want.

I was also happy to see that Fuji's camera  will give us the choice of different aspect ratios; including the blessed and holy 1:1 ratio. It seems that in one fell swoop Fuji has given me most of what I've been asking for and musing about in a medium format system. If there is a shutter in the body, which will allow for an open system when it comes to third party lens choices, it will be sweet icing on the cake. 

This is one of the first cameras to come along in a while that pushes me to start saving for the actual launch. I wish the sensor was larger (spatially) to give more ramp to the focus fall off but it's not a "deal killer" in this situation. The roadmap of future lenses is already enough to make me smile. 

No pricing has been announced yet but my hope is that body stays around the $6,000 or less range while the lenses stick under the $3,000 per range. Less is better. My first system construct? The body and the 120mm. I'll buy the rest of the lens I might want (but not necessarily need) with the money I'll make shooting portraits with this combo.  Well done Fuji!!!! 

The 120mm Macro f4.0 is the lens that signals to professionals that Fuji is serious.