Child Departs for College. Forlorn Parent/Photographer takes to the streets with a camera. And other stuff.

Boy says goodbye to the critical member of the family, The Studio Dog.

So it's all played out now. We drove the boy to the Austin airport and sniffled as we watched him go through security and then we drove back home and looked around the empty house. The Studio Dog knew something was afoot and she eyed us with harsh judgement for somehow banishing her best friend. 

I kept my camera over my shoulder to get a few last snaps like this. 
Not a great image but one that Belinda, Studio Dog and I will 
like having around until the winter holidays. 

Then of course I shook off all the sentimental fussiness, grabbed my favorite walking around optical machine and headed out to do the routine route; the quick tour of downtown Austin. I had my shooting camera perfectly set up. I was using the Olympus OMD EM-5 (in black) with the full on battery grip, the miraculous 25mm f1.4 Pana/Leica lens with hood, all held together with a black cloth strap that's soft and pliable and compfy to wear over one's shoulder. Auto ISO, aperture set at f4.0-f5.0 and color turned up to exciting. There is something very comfortable about the way the EM-5 is laid out, especially when one adds the battery grip to the whole package. It's just a fun camera to shoot and the Pana/Leica normal focal length lens is just right. 

The neat thing about walking through familiar territory is noticing all the things that have changed. The progress of giant, new building projects. A flock of new industrial cranes. The progress of the new $300,000,000 library building, built on some of the most valuable property in Austin, during an age when everyone downtown has instant internet access to almost anything written and nearly for free on their laptops and their phones. I'm always puzzled by the reason for the new library and also its location and who it is intended to serve...

But the Olympus camera does a nice job documenting the construction and the library's share of cranes...

I took a bit of heat around the web for my prediction that Canon and Nikon would eventually run into trouble if they didn't start introducing some innovations that other companies have already mainstreamed, like EVFs. I couched it all in terms of reducing the feedback loop of picture taking. Many traditionalist rushed to defend the optical viewfinder and disparage the whole idea of needed progress. The main reasons they trotted out in defense of OVFs were sports photography that requires AF tracking and a quaint subsection of photography called, "BIF." 

BIF (damned abbreviations and jargon!) is supposed to stand for "birds in flight." In another age they would have been referred to more poetically as, "birds on the wing." Apparently, and almost unbeknownst to me, there are legions of people who take their cameras out and try to shoot very tightly cropped images of birds as the birds fly around. This apparently requires the use of optical viewfinders. Given that sparrows and even hawks are pretty damned tiny, not to mention the dimensions of a finch, I would think that people who practice this unusual pursuit would probably need 800 or 1200mm lenses to have even the remotest chances of filling the frame with the flying trophies. Which means that their cameras pretty much must be on tripods as the last time I looked those lenses were devilishly heavy and unwieldy. Not the sort of optical construction that one hand holds. 

I presume all that stands between success and failure is the magic of phase detection auto focus. Hence the imagined need for the optical viewfinders. I imagine that all of this must have been true until the Panasonic GH4 with its DfD focusing magic. I've tried it with a borrowed Panasonic 100 to 300mm and it's pretty good. That 300mm has the reach of a 600mm on a full frame camera but I still don't think that's enough magnification to fill a frame with a flighty and nervous bird in flight. On the wing. All BIF-oriented. I'm going to venture a guess that the limiting factor for BIF-ing with m4:3 is not the AF or the AF-tracking but the availability of very fast, long lenses. 

I'd be interested to know where all these BIF images end up. I don't ever see them as I scout around the web looking at images and sites by photographers. I've never seen or heard of an ad agency requesting a BIF-fer and outside of a few low pay nature magazines I've never seen a printed BIF magazine cover either. Are there readers of VSL who regularly BIF?  I'd be interested to hear in the comments your rationale for spending valuable time looking for and tracking the photographing birds on the wing. What drives you to take these kinds of images and what real world impediments are various cameras and lenses putting in front of you? And what do you do with the successful images once you've captured them?

The other rebuttal from the must have/love the OVF crowd is the old standby, SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY. And again, I'm guessing that we're really concentrating on soccer, track and field and American football. Baseball is so unbelievably visually boring (as well as constrained to small, bound spaces) and slow moving that I can't imagine any modern camera not fast enough to catch the endless spitting that seems to constitute the majority of the time spent on field by the players.  Need to catch the action? The batting swing takes place at a stationary position at home plate. They stand still. You have all the time in the world to lock focus. Next, they slide into first base. Again, all you need to do is focus on first base. It doesn't move around! Pop fly? Again, the slow trajectory of a pop fly gives you endless time to lock onto whoever is positioning themselves to catch the ball....

And I know all the cameras are capable of covering swimming. The sport is highly predictable and very linear. You can prefocus on the start. You can prefocus on the finish. You can track a straight line swim. (But you'd be better off going manual and tracking along with the race since water splashes routinely trick the AF and cause shifted focus...

What other sports require fast AF? Do you deal with that sport? Really? Just about every camera made in the last year will do a decent job with most sports. But I'll readily admit, having photographed a lot of top tier gymnastics, that using a top of the line (Nikon D4) with a newish 300mm f2.8 is going to get you a specific look and do it without missing very many frames, even on the rush to the pommel horse. It's specialized. Really specialized. I'd probably use a couple of D4's and some big fast lenses if I made a good living photographing that sport...Something with a huge buffer and great high ISO performance. You'll need it since flash is banned from competitions.

So do you shoot lots and lots of sports? The kinds of sports that move fast (not bowling or golf...) and erratically? Well, maybe you will have to wait a few years until the EVFs become absolutely instantaneous and maybe you will have to wait until the big fast primes come to m4:3 and other mirror less cameras. I can accept that. But I also think that people who never shoot anything moving faster than their lunch like to trot out these arguments because they don't like to think about the future and they don't like to acknowledge change. I look at a lot of portfolios and web sites. Again, not seeing the huge volume of demanding sports imagery.

Finally, two people mentioned the fact that EVFs eat batteries and they mention having day long assignments that mean having to change batteries with an EVF cameras. I laughed my ass off when I read that. Apparently no one remembers the days of pro digital cameras working on metal nickel hydride batteries. My big Kodaks got about 80 shots out of what seemed to be a one pound battery. My buddies who shot with the Nikon D1x carried around five or six batteries to get them through the day and that was a time when there were few third party batteries and the Nikon battery product was something like $125 a whack. 

I just bought a couple of extra batteries to use with my Olympus EM5s for a trip this Fall. I bought Wasabi Power replacement batteries for cheap. I can buy two of them with a charger for about $25. If I'm shooting with the EM-5 and the battery grip it's rare not to get through a shooting day without changing a either battery. I bought them for the extraordinary times when I might shoot a crap ton of images and stay late to shoot some more. It takes me a few seconds to change out a battery. This is an argument upon which the entire decision to skip or embrace a system is based upon? Ridiculous. 

But underneath all of the rhetoric it was never my intention to "sell" a system to anyone or to claim that one system was the perfect fit for all humans who photograph. My argument was that EVFs bring some powerful shooting tools to people that make shooting in most situations easier, more satisfying and fun, more controlled and more predictable. EVFs and their "always on" feedback loop of pre-chimping imagery are easier cameras for rank amateurs to use well, and in the hands of skilled users they offer certain advantages that aren't duplicated nearly as elegantly by various, traditional live view schemes on mirrored cameras. I don't own stock in any of the mirror-less camera making companies and I'm not out shorting Canon and Nikon stocks on the Nikkei. I'm making observations based on my experience and the feedback I hear (constantly) from well schooled enthusiasts and pros. The leitmotif is that once you've pre-chimped with a good EVF you'll never want to go back. The other verse is, once you've shed two thirds the weight of a big kit and still realize that you can take just as great a photograph you'll never want to go back to being a pack mule. It's pretty much logical. 

But Kirk! You just told us last week that you bought a Nikon D7100. What the hell is up with that? 

I'm in a government program for photographers that's modeled on the agriculture programs here in the U.S. The government pays me big bucks and gives me tax credits to buy equipment I don't need and then put it in a boxes and promise never to use it.... (JUST KIDDING). 

But seriously, I do photography for a living and have done so for many, many years. Not all jobs fit one set of cameras and lenses. If I shoot exterior architecture that requires in-camera perspective control I'll rent (not hire, that's what you do with people....) I'll rent a Canon 5D 3 and a couple of perspective control lenses. We don't have those in m4:3rds. If a client comes to me and asks for files that can, A. be blown up to huge sizes, and, B. Examined at very close viewing distances, I'll probably rent a medium format cameras and the right lenses. Or, at the least, I'll rent a Nikon 810 and the right stuff to go with it. But those are just every once in a while situations and those are not cameras I want to use on a day to day basis to shoot stuff that's largely destined for the web. 

The D7100 fits a special niche. I do shoot a lot of event style stuff.  I need at least one camera and flash in my bag that is great with flash photography. Not pretty good, but great. Fast moving flash. Not set up with slaves or CLS and chimp flash but ready, aim fire, got it, good flash. I wasn't getting that with my Sonys (which I sold) and I wasn't getting it with my Olympus or Panasonic cameras and their flashes. I needed it and wanted it so I researched and experimented and liked the D7100 and it's circle of usable, iTTL flashes. The proof is in the eating of the pudding and my first two jobs that required quick, automated flash went even better and more deliciously than I expected them to. I also used the D7100 for some detailed images of museum artifacts against white backgrounds. Not with the auto flash but with a big studio rig. I chose to use the D7100  because I still have a collection of Nikon macro (micro in Nikon parlance) lenses and, locked down on a tripod in a studio, the live view is good enough. I was shooting for maximum resolution. Sorry m4:3 guys but a good, big 24 megapixel sensor can still do some stuff very well. Especially this new sensor from Toshiba.

At any rate it's all good stuff and it all mostly fun to shoot. There are constant trade-offs between ultimate image quality and haptics. Weight and fun. Speed and obtrusiveness. Etc. etc. The bottom line is that everyone gets to shoot with whatever they want. But as far as reading comprehension goes it's not okay to read into an article whatever the hell you want and then go spew your inaccurate interpretation into the marketplace. We will all eventually be shooting with EVFs and when they are fully exploited there will be very few people who will be able to discern the difference between the EVF and an OVF.  The secondary reason for the  technical/manufacturing shift will be cost savings and profits for the makers. Little hi-def screens are much, much cheaper than silvered precision glass pentaprisms.

Cameras will get smaller and smaller until they reach an equilibrium between size and handling. The phone camera acceptance shows us that. Sensors will get better and better and at some point we'll stop talking about them altogether. Then we'll focus on "magic lenses" and have the same kinds of battles over optics. I'll keep shooting what I like for fun and writing what I think photography is all about now and in the near future. The distant future is largely unknowable. 

We're past the point where every little specification is "mission critical." We've hit critical technical mass and we'll be staying here for a while. That's why it will be so hard, economically, on all the camera makers. 

My walk downtown was therapeutic and fun. The files from the EM5 are great. Just as good as the GH4. At the sizes I use them they are as good as the files from any camera on the market. Maybe better if pleasing color is a primary metric. 

You can hold onto whatever you like but eventually everything will change and we'll be looking at new ways to make the same old images. And then it might even dawn on us to try and make new kinds of images. And I'm all for that.

Please help support 
The Visual Science Lab
buying and reading our latest book.
It's an exciting novel about.....
....what else? A photographer.

Final Note: Ben has arrived at college, moved into his dorm room, had two delicious meals, unpacked and met his room mates and suite mates. All the worrying about logistics on my part is over. I hope he has maximum fun. He deserves it.


Kirk Tuck's Free Course, Professional Family Portraits, has racked up over 70,000 viewers. That's a lot of people watching a photography class...

I've been concentrating on letting people know about the novel, The Lisbon Portfolio, lately but I was amazed when I went to the Craftsy.com website to see what's new in the photo courses over there. My course, Professional Family Portraits, which is offered for free has already attracted over 70,000 viewers. 

I've sent a large number of friends there because it's a good starting point in just getting comfortable with using lights, arranging and directing people and thinking about portrait photography. You can go to the site and start taking the course right now. You don't have to hand over your credit card and you don't need any special stuff to start. You can go back and watch as often as you want and you can leave questions for the instructor....which I am duty bound to answer.

There are also photography courses by people who are not Kirk. Like small light expert, Neil van Niekirk (whom I featured in my LED book) and Chris Grey who is a masterful studio photographer who shares the same book publisher as me. 

I use Craftsy.com to learn more about food because, invariably, I am also learning more and more about video from watching how the Craftsy pro video term puts the projects together. 

Give the free course a shot. You might find it entertaining. 

Checking in on the whole noise bug-a-boo. Theater style. And some thoughts about current digital offerings.

Legendary Austin actor, Jaston Williams on stage at Zach Theatre.

My wonderful friends in the marketing department at Zach Theatre asked me to come and photograph  a dress rehearsal of Jaston Williams's one man play, Maid Marian and the Stolen Car. I packed up a little bag of toys and headed over on Tues. evening. I shot primarily with two cameras and two lenses. I was sporting the Nikon D7100 camera with the 18-140mm zoom and the Olympus EM-5 (in its natty black finish...) with the 25mm f1.4 Pana/Leica lens. 

The slow zoom pushed me to shoot at 6400 ISO while the much more functional 25mm f1.4 allowed me to stick around ISO 800 with an f-stop around f2.5.

What's my takeaway? While the D7100 is very usable for this kind of work at ISO 6400 the quickly changing light is murder on exposure consistency and the slower feedback loop of shoot/chimp/correct/shoot/chimp/re-correct means far more missed shots than when I use a camera with a good EVF. The feedback loop goes something like: view/correct/shoot/shoot/shoot. 

Yes, the finder on the Nikon is pretty and the sensor is big and gorgeous but I'll trade all that any day for nimble, accurate and fun-to-hold-and-shoot. Yes, we could have used faster lenses on the Nikon but that would have only changed the ISO I ended up setting, not the iterative nature of shooting with a (finely made ) last century paradigm. 

Looking forward here's what I see in camera marketing: The camera company that is most successful with professionals and advanced enthusiasts in the future will be the forward thinking company that incorporates a great APS-C sensor; a wonderful EVF that cuts down on the iteration-chain for more effective, almost intuitive, shooting, great lenses that work well wide open and good video. 

The Olympus system is almost there with the OMD EM-1 but it remains to be seen whether or not they can sustain profitability in the market long enough to continue consumer camera operations. The marketing hurdle with regards to the masses is always going to be the sensor size. It's too bad they haven't found a marketer/advertising agency who can succinctly and movingly explain the inherent advantages of the smaller format. ( I volunteer to give it a whirl. I couldn't do worse....).

Panasonic is in a similar boat but they've made a conscious decision (I think) to cut all the consumer crap out of their line and focus on the higher end products that we enjoy. The GH4 is 95% of the way there. A bit more work on the Jpeg processing and the EVF quality and they have a good shot of staying in the marketplace and adding market share.

Nikon had a good idea with the V system but destroyed whatever advantages they had when they screwed around with the formula and went gunning for rank consumer markets instead of forward thinking pros and competent amateurs. For Nikon to truly compete going forward they desperately need to create a camera with a sensor as good as the one in the D7100 but with a mirror less configuration that features a wonderful EVF and lightning fast response.  Screw the idea of making a faux rangefinder. It's not the size that matters to most shooters, it's the tight feedback loop of full information we get in the EVF finders!

They have to get that figured out. If they do they can introduce cameras like the D810, the D610 and the D7100 but with brilliant EVFs instead of last century optical finders. Keep the same kinds of lenses, keep the big, hearty bodies. Fix the damn feedback loop! Oly shooters come for the size (supposedly) but they stay because of the finders. Make the finders nearly universal and a major advantage of m4:3 goes by the wayside.

I think Nikon will finally get it because they have little to fall back upon. It's morph or die. It's adapt or shrink into irrelevance. If they want to hedge their bets they can keep a few OVFs in the pipeline during the inevitable transition. That will make the traditionalists (over 50's) happier.  But if they want to provide cameras for the post digital age they need to figure out that once we have almost automatic visual feedback and control we're never, ever going back. And that includes people like Michael Reichmann who only a few years ago pissed on EVFs as not viable. Now he's dumped all his Nikon stuff for a Sony A7r system---- partially because of the size difference but, in my opinion, his brain finally accepted the idea that seeing the final image before you pushed the button was------revolutionary, not evolutionary.

Good luck to you, Nikon. I hope you see the light and I hope it's coming through a small, wonderful eye level screen instead of dead glass....

But onward to everyone's current "golden boy", Canon. The mantra is that they will survive because they've got the momentum. They'll keep making the traditional DSLR cameras because they own so much of the market. And the other line I always hear is, "They have the resources to compete in mirror less any time they want."  I maintain that they may of the resources but they lack the will and the foresight or the EOS-M would never have been such a cynically terrible camera. Deep down I'm starting to believe that they are the Japanese Kodak and they are so sure of their internal research and direction that they don't see the bullet train heading toward them on the same track.

The sad thing for all these guys is that the entire market is changing. Cameras in general are going away. They are being incorporated into all kinds of other products. They are being relentlessly de-valued by smart phones and combo computer products like tablets. If I ran Canon right now I'd jump in and start eating my own babies by making a line of incredible mirror less cameras in the full frame and APS-C spaces that required all new lenses and all new attachments and were the first line to implement the new generation of sensors that we've heard is coming down the line.  And just wait until Apple successfully incorporates a great camera into a beautiful wrist watch that automatically loads the images to your iPhone....

My advice to Canon? Make a mirror free product that's demonstrably better than any mirror less product out there. Three models: good, better, best. Launch with a full line of lenses: extremely wide zooms, fast primes and small but high performing long zooms. And toss the lion's share of marketing into their promotion. They can "halo" the existing products. They can cannibalize sales from all the competitors. Canon has the overwhelming share of name recognition. They have the deep pockets. If they don't follow through I'll be waiting for their Kodak moment with their camera division. 

But wait. Isn't there already a company out there that hits all the main criteria I've been pounding away at? Yep. And it's the only company whose recent products I haven't used. It's Fuji. And it's just right now that they got all their shit together in a meaningful way with the XT-1. Previous to that they had their share of software and firmware issues, zany non-compatible raw file issues, slow focusing issues and even the idiocy of launching a flagship product (the X Pro-1) without an adjustable diopter on the finder. A small point for most but they are still behind on the video front...

But to their credit they've kept improving and now they offer pretty much the golden triangle of good sensor, good (feedback loop) EVF and by most accounts, great lenses. It remains to be seen if they will act on their temporary supremacy and cement some increasing market share by advertising what they have to a wider market. Right now they seem to be the player with the mix. If Canon and Nikon want to aim at a competitor I suggest that they study Fuji and then take their best shots. It would be a waste of capital to aim at Olympus and Panasonic. 

But really, this is all a discussion about marketing trends and the future of cameras as we know them. It's relatively inconsequential to me and you in the short run because I really do believe that nearly every good prosumer and above camera in the current market is more than good enough to serve as an optical-mechanical conduit to my own vision. But your mileage may vary. 

I suggest that we have a bumper crop of choices in the stores right now. Enjoy it as I think the crop will hit some marked declines in the near future.  There are no "permanent" players in the camera industry and now, just like the professional photographers they serve, the companies will only be as popular as their last round of products. 

Other than that how did you enjoy the theatre Mr. Tuck? The play was hilarious and touching at the same time.... favorite camera? That was the EM5.


Putting Product Selection to the test. Did I make the right decision for my event camera?

U.S. Representative, Lloyd Doggett, Speaking at the opening of the 
new Austin Community College campus at Highland Mall. 

Texas State representative, Dawnna Dukes at the same event.

I recently tested cameras with flashes and came to realize that, for me the camera and flash combinations available for the GH4 weren't adequate for my use in event work (notice that I've said, "my use." I'm sure many readers are more adept at finding the right combinations of products and settings to make the m4:3 options successful. Just not working for me...).

I bought the Nikon D7100 based on reviews, previous experiences with Nikon flash systems and actual, hands-on experimentation. I bought an iTTL Metz flash instead of the Nikon brand because it tested just as well and was half the price. But the final test is always the use of the equipment in the field because everything seems to work well in my studio....

The two images above are classic examples of times I need good flash. The speakers are under the cover of a tent while the building in the background is in full daylight. The difference between the background and the speaker in the foreground is at least three and a half stops! I followed directions: I put the camera into matrix metering mode, S-AF, center focus point and focused on my primary subject. The images came out looking just like this. This is not a situation where it was possible to pre-light anything. I had several hundred people in the audience behind me and I was surrounded by six or seven other working photographers all trying to get the same decent shots. I would love to have bounced the flash off the white ceiling of the tent but I couldn't spare the flash power to get the right exposure and match that bright background. 

I could have used manual camera exposure and manual flash exposure but who wants to chimp, chimp, chimp through a fast moving assignment with lots of speakers and the need to also get audience reaction shots on the fly?

I haven't done any post processing to the shots. In fact, you can look at the two sides of the frame and see the obvious geometric distortion provided by the 18-140mm zoom lens. I am very happy with the results. I'll straighten the lines but at least I'm starting out with a well balanced frame that will work well for my client's public relations needs. It's a lot easier to straight a frame than to fix an unbalanced foreground/background lighting error. 

I am happy with all the image quality aspects of the camera/sensor/flash. The files are detailed, well white balanced and tonally happy. My only real complaint is how much I miss being able to chimp in the finder of an EVF camera to see if I got what I needed while I still have the camera up at my eye level. 

After I used this camera and lens for an event in the morning yesterday I spent time shooting the Panasonic GH4 and the 35-100mm for corporate portraits in the afternoon. We were shooting in continuous light and it was so wonderful and fluid to shoot that way. The images looked incredibly good as well. In the same ballpark for sharpness and smooth tonality as the Nikon. The only differences really showed up in basic handling differences. 

To round out my day I shot a rehearsal of THE KING AND I over at Zach Theatre. That job was done almost entirely with the Olympus OMD EM-5 and the 25mm f1.4 Pana/Leica lens. It was fast, did a great job automatically color balancing under weirdly mixed lights and was both sonically and visually unobtrusive. 

Not every camera works perfectly for every imaginable scenario. Yes, you can press most modern cameras into doing everything competently. But isn't it a privilege to work with the best tools for the project in front of you? I could have made the GH4 work with manual flash at the press event but it would have added several layers of complexity and required much more fine tuning and equipment supervision. How nice to have that done for you automatically. 

I could have used the D7100 for the theatre images but it's so much easier and nicer to pre-chimp fast moving and unpredictable rehearsals so you know what you are getting while you are getting it. It's more efficient. And the smaller camera is more pleasant to use. 

Best compromise so far? The GH4. Fast focusing. Fast flash sync and great finder. The files are also wonderful. Now if they would just put out a flash system that works like the Nikon....

AUSBOOM!!! It's all happening in Austin, Texas.

The new "Math Accelerator" at the newly re-purposed Highland Mall. 
Highland Mall was the first regional shopping mall in central 
Texas. It's been more or less mothballed for a little while but 
Austin Community College (which I serve as an advisor to 
the arts programs) bought the facility and are renovating it with
the help of a stellar architectural firm.

Detail of math lab shot with the Panasonic 7-14mm lens on a
GH3. Why the GH3? Looked like the GH4 while I was 
packing in the early morning....

Austin is in another of its regular booms. This time the expansion dwarfs all previous booms. The number of fine dining restaurants has nearly doubled in four years. We have thousands and thousands of high end condominiums coming online each month and the sale of new homes over a million dollars has skyrocketed. Every time the phone rings it's a new start-up company that just moved to central Texas and needs video and photography----right now. 

What a contrast with 2008 and 2009 when everything slowed down to a crawl and photographers were boiling their leather camera straps to make soup.

So how has this impacted or improved the lives of the city's photographers and photo community? Well, of course, everything has changed with the democratization of digital imaging. There is a huge bottom to the the triangular hierarchy now with zillions of "no pay," "low pay," and "won't this look great in your portfolio: you should be paying us for the opportunity" types of jobs to be had but the pyramid thins out quickly as one goes up the scale into jobs that require skill, taste, lighting and a deeper understanding of production. 

There will be, for the foreseeable future, a number of projects that require nuanced lighting and at least a decent inventory of lighting tools and professional modifiers. CEOs still need to be handled well. Juxtapositions of foreground and background still need to be handled gracefully. And the photography based on an idea or good concept or even good cheer instead of a transient technique is always in style with someone out there who still has a budget. 

My take right now is that at least in Austin the pendulum has swung back to benefit tried and true photographic artists and away from the possible cost savings of the untried guy in shipping. The reason is that the movers and shakers who are driving the client side of the market have nearly unlimited budgets and they are in a hurry. A big hurry. They might have used a less expensive, unknown in the past but now they don't have the time. They need guaranteed delivery of very good product and while they might have the budgets to do things over and over again they have neither the patience nor the schedule flex to do iterative sourcing any more. They think of it as "opportunity loss/cost."

My gut feeling is that we get hired for two main reasons: 1. We have done a the thing our clients want done, or a near variation of it, thousands and thousands of times, successfully. All of our learning curves are in the dim, dark past and they were paid for long ago. According to the marketplace we are a "safe bet." Need it done now? We can deliver it every time. Track record. Experience. Now viewed as a cost saving attribute, not baggage.

And 2. Photography can be wonderful and complex and there really are learning curves to things like lighting and portrait/subject rapport and straightforward production. How to get the models your client needs. How to find the right locations. How to put together a crew and how to make sure they work smoothly and on a schedule. How to choose just the right light and lighting device to make the photograph turn out exactly the way the client wanted/envisioned it. Without wasting everyone's time desperately trying to figure it all out with a line of people waiting for you. Oh, I guess that's still just experience. 

And I am re-discovering for the ten thousandth time.....people will pay what it costs to work with someone that they like and trust. It's not enough to know how everything works, you have to bring some joy to getting their job done. You can make a successful photograph and still be a sociopathic nightmare---but you can't be a sociopathic nightmare and count on return clients. Ah, the stories I hear....

At any rate, the  market here is booming but all markets have a parabola. The faster the rise the faster the fall. I think of local economies like sine waves. There's always a peak and it's always followed by a trough. There's no real way to time it but there are clues. When I hear, "This time it's different. This time there won't be a bust!" I start stocking in the canned food and put more money into savings. I've been on this ride before.