10.16.2017

Kirk's Photography Tip of the Day. CWB. (Custom White Balance).

42.5

I was setting up to shoot in a conference room downtown this morning. I had an hour to put together the lighting and design of the shot and used myself, as a halfway willing model, to stand in. The conference room is lit with a bunch of different light sources as well as a wall of frosted, tinted glass windows. I used an LED panel, shining through a 50 inch, round diffusion panel to the left of the frame and a silver bounce reflector about ten feet back on the right. I also added some LED panels with warming filters to the back plane.

With all this light bouncing around I knew I wanted to do a custom white balance. I set up a gray target and made a white balance while using the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7. As I continued setting up I tried several different lenses to see what the cropping would look like with a 50mm and a 40mm focal length. When I switched from the 42.5mm to the 40mm I was surprised at the difference in color between the two lenses. Nothing else was changed and both lenses were stopped down to equal apertures, yielding exactly the same exposures, as measured by the GH5's internal waveform monitor.

The older lens, the 40mm, was much warmer and stumbled into a slight yellow cast. Using the same white balance target and re-setting the color balance brought the two lenses much closer in final color. The third lens had a slightly cool, or blue, tendency compared to the modern Panasonic. It too could be made to get close to the 42.5's color when custom white balance. Without the custom white balances the images created by each lens were quite different.

This reminded me that for precise work a custom white balance actually needs to be done between lens changes. It was a sobering reminder that some of what we do is more of an art (or craft) than a science.

While I am not a good portrait subject my client this morning was. I was delighted with what I finally came up with as a lighting design for her. I think I'll work harder at staying behind the camera.....

Working with precision? Did you know different color balances also change exposure? New rule: New lens on the scene? Custom white balance and create a channel for that particular lens. It's a good way to eliminate the need for color matching between files in post.

The lenses, used on a GH5, were: the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 (the nicest WB in AWB), the Pen FT 40mm f1.4 (the least accurate, color wise) and the Zeiss 50mm f1.7 (Best tonality, middle of the road color accuracy).

It's fun to experiment. Sometimes I learn stuff...

10.15.2017

The G85 is a woefully under-appreciated camera. Coupled with the right lens it can be superb.


I bought the G85 on a whim. I'd purchased the FZ2500 and had been impressed. There were older Olympus lenses in my office (the Pen half-frame lenses) that had been more or less orphaned when I sold off the last of my GH4 cameras and Olympus EM-5.2 cameras several years ago. While the lenses worked okay on the A6x00 series Sonys they just didn't feel right. I bought the G85 in part to use those lenses and then also out of curiosity. 

As someone wisely pointed out this was the "gateway" camera back into the Panasonic system, and, indeed, back into the whole m4:3 ecosphere. I used the G85 with the kit lens (12-60mm) for a while, shot some 4K video that surprised me with its quality and then, with the arrival of the twin GH5s, it got relegated to the bleachers. 

Lately I've been interested to see just how I like the essence of the camera. That would be the look, feel and personality of the files. But not in the way that seems commonplace in the mainstream appraisal; not by a measure of how much resolution the camera has or how quickly it can focus on someone rushing toward me on a turbo-charged unicycle. My measure of value for camera files is how smooth and mellow the tones can be, how accurate the color seems to me, and whether it makes photographs that look like the thing being photographed (good) or photographs that look like hyper-real photographs of the thing being photographed (bad). 

Most people doing a cursory flirtation with smaller sensor cameras get all caught up with the idea that depth of field control is somehow hampered. When I left the house today I decided to remove depth of field from the equation as much as I could so I could concentrate on how real the images seemed to me. How well did the camera and lens translate the three dimensional, color rich world we see with our eyes into files we can evaluate on screen. 

My lens of choice today was the older, Contax Y/C  Zeiss 50mm f1.7 lens, with an adapter. I shot almost everything at f2.0. Once in a while I went to f2.8 just to stay within the range of the mechanical shutter. I used the camera's auto white balance, its standard profile and its large Jpeg setting to do my fun art. The camera has in-body stabilization that works well with non-dedicated lenses. You have to enter the focal length of the lens you are using but I made it easy on myself by only using one lens. Set once and forget. 

In my opinion Panasonic has gotten their interpretation of color and tonality nailed down perfectly. The 16 megapixel sensor in this camera is mature technology and renders images with a neutral grace. If I ignore the implied benefits of the newer, higher resolution sensor of the GH5, as well as the advanced video features of the GH5 and just look at the emotional/perceived quality of the frames then I would have to say that, just by a small margin, the combination of the G85 and this particular Zeiss lens gives me an photographic file that's more pleasing. Not by a huge margin; just by a whisker. 

It's a file that seems less processed and at the same time more organic. And the files have an impression of depth. Very nice depth. Pretty amazing to me just how nice a file one can get with a camera and lens that together cost less than $800.  It's okay to tell me that the A7rii or the D850 is much more detailed (when enlarged past a certain size) but that really doesn't make a difference to me. This (the G85) has a look I like very much. I'll just remember not to blow it up too much. Nothing past say, 20 by 24 inches. 









10.14.2017

It's fun to look back a year and see what we were photographing at Zach Theatre.

A Marketing photo from "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." 

I was over at Zach Theatre a week ago and I walked around the offices. In every hallway they have framed production photos which span decades. All are printed 12x18 inches and are well matted. All but a handful were made by me. There is generally only one image per production but they were carefully curated by the marketing director.

When I walked through I could "see" every camera that I used to take the photos. We started with M series Leicas and Hasselblads, worked our way through a few generations of Contax film cameras and Nikon film cameras; and then there is the long progression of digital cameras, starting with an Olympus e-10 (the first really effective digital "bridge" camera) and continuing through all the different formats and brands, and ending up, recently, with the Panasonic GH5s. 

It's interesting to see that, while there are some minor technical differences in the images between all the generations of cameras, the differences are not nearly as great as camera advertising, photographer blogs and photo-oriented websites would have one believe. The magic is never in whatever camera was used. Whether the photos work or not (aesthetically) is all tied to several decidedly non-technical factors. To wit: Did I compose the scene in an interesting and dynamic way? Did I capture the peak of action within the scene? Was I able to get on film (or "on sensor") the expressions on the actors' faces that help define and refine the story being told on the stage? Using mostly manual focus, was I able to do all of the above while getting sharp focus on constantly moving actors?

If you really think that today's photography is challenging you should step back a decade or two and try nailing focus, and shifting exposure parameters, through the dim prism of, or reversed waist level finder of, a Hasselblad 500C/M camera and a lens with a long manual focus throw. Everything else will seem like gravy on biscuits by comparison...

Part of theater photography is having an intuition for where actors will move next and what their future actions will be. You have to put yourself and camera into the place where the actors will end up next. Not where they were a few seconds ago.

There was a time when we set up, lit and meticulously styled the promotional photographs. Those are still my favorites.


Photograph of Ben on the dock at Emma Long Park. Contax G2 + 21mm Zeiss Biogon. B&W film. Deep Yellow filter.


So much of what we talk about revolves around the technical nuances of cameras but all of that seems to be secondary to grabbing up the camera quickly when you see a shot and just using it adroitly. This image was shot during an assignment. It was unplanned (to say the least) but ended up being the opener for a multi-ad advertising campaign.

Had I planned it all out, lit it and shot with a tripod mounted Hasselblad I am certain that Ben would have been way past me before I got anywhere close to pushing the shutter button.

The client was in another (geographical) state. No idea how the shot came into existence. No idea what camera I was using. No curiosity about the technique. They just recognized that this finished "spur of the moment" shot was what they wanted/needed for their advertising. And, in my 30 some years of daily experience, that's just the way things usually go... We plan and plan but the authentic, uplanned moment usually trumps all kinds of technical perfection.  And, no. You usually can't have it both ways, no matter how hard you try.

10.13.2017

I thought I would share a verbatim promotional e-mail with my VSL crowd. This is what I've been sending (with personal salutations) to my list.

Dear (lovely and coveted clients),

It’s been busy around our studio. My client, ZachTheatre.org just opened their 2017-2018 season with the musical, “Singin' in the Rain.” My company shot the production stills, advertising images, and several promotional videos about the production. One of the coolest parts of the play is when the lead actor, and then the cast, actually dance in the rain. The tech crew created a rain device that delivers the drops from the front of stage to the back, and from side to side. 



Here’s a link to the video interview with the choreographer and the director: https://vimeo.com/237315221 Complete with tap dancing in the rain! 

The video racked up over 8,000 views in its first 48 hours online! 


The musical is a lot of fun and it’s playing thru October 29th. 

Please keep me in mind if you need photography and/or video production.  Umbrellas provided, if necessary... 

All the best, Kirk 

Kirk Tuck Video and Photography 

Web: www.kirktuck.com 
E-mail: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 
Phone: 512-XXX-XXXX 

Industrial Strength Imaging. 

https://vimeo.com/237315221

If you are a decent technical photographer it's so easy to fall into the trap of loving each incremental camera improvement...

A reader assumed that this was an m4:3rd camera shot. He suggested that 
captioning it as such would further nail down the argument I am making below.
Sadly, it was not made with an m4:3rds camera.

It was made with a ONE INCH CAMERA.

...but the huge majority of lackadaisical amateurs, finnicky hobbyists and working professionals routinely, "love", "like" and gush over a multitude of photographic images they see on the internet; enjoying the bounty of the proffered work at sizes nudging up toward 1,200 pixels in a long horizontal row. Most routinely lie about making reams and reams of splendid and delicious large prints from whatever camera represents this quarter's technical miracle. At best they read someone else's lie about master print making at the size of a house and pass that lie along as their own. The adoration of that last 2.3% addition of pixels to the edge of the frame is such a "last century" affectation. The reality; the hard, fast reality is that the screen is our new medium of access and appreciation for the photographic image and the screen has the distinct advantage of being almost completely format and resolution neutral.

People who find themselves all pumped up by the "perceived" difference between a Nikon D810 and a D850 need to have their heads examined. People who denigrate the "smaller formats" as being somehow inadequate are self deluding. No strength of magic wand will make an idea better. No amount of purchase power will replace the hard won skills of seeing well and imagining better.

It's a pursuit as senseless as the pursuit of raw horsepower. The internet is like a crowded freeway at rush hour. Your Dodge Viper may have crazy amounts of horsepower but in Austin, Texas, on the Mopac "Expressway", you'll be right in line behind that 120 horsepower, 1996 Toyota Corolla (with no wheel covers) and you'll both be going the same 15 MPH for miles at a time. The only difference being that you wasted a lot of money buying and gassing up the Viper.




10.12.2017

Austin still has a quirk or two.


A prime downtown billboard without a selling message. It has "Art" instead. 


Trader Joe's downtown location pays tribute to Matthew McConaughy in his role in Richard Linklater's early (2nd) movie: "Dazed and Confused." 

"It'd be a lot cooler if you did....."

Playing around with a "bridge" camera. Getting out of the studio and away from the computer. Mid-afternoon holiday.


Most of us have the tendency to spend more time in front of the computer screen than we intend. At least our kids, who are mightily addicted to their smartphones, can take their hand held devices out the door with them. We seem anchored to our desktops. I guess it's easier to surf the web and handle hot coffee when one is sitting down....

Recently I've started pushing myself out the door when I'm finished with actual work on my computer. I like to take different cameras out with me when I'm walking and it's been a bonus to head toward an "all Panasonic" work environment since the menus are all (rationally) set up the same way. There's less and less fumble for control. 

On my short walk I saw a new restaurant downtown called, Le Politique, on Second St. Built and furnished like a classic French cafĂ©. There was the JW Marriott Hotel, just crawling with conference goers who all had the biggest lanyard-anchored badges bouncing on their chests that I've ever seen (not pictured here). As I left the hotel and was standing at a crosswalk waiting for the light change a woman standing next to me turned and asked if I could pull her water bottle out of a side pocket of her backpack; she couldn't reach it. 

I walked through the convention center where a local company called, SpiceWorks, was holding their conference. They are also celebrating 10 years of existence. It was the usual crew of software developers, etc. You can tell at a glance in Austin. 

I came across the woman in leather pants (above) holding a bouquet of flowers. She is the designated greeter for some boy band. The arrival of their tour bus is imminent. She'll guide them through the loading dock and into the safe confines of the green room complex of the ACL Theater. 

I came across a man eating through his own smallish carton of Blue Bell Vanilla ice cream. A man sleeping on a bench. A crowd of (mostly) young women waiting for the same boy band as the flower bearer above. A coffee meeting in suits. A solitary cigarette break. A woman grappling with a dog and digital parking meter. It was a brisk but lackadaisical afternoon stroll. 

I was using a Panasonic FZ2500 that had a small microphone in the hot shoe. I thought I might shoot some video but the monochrome setting on the camera created a feeling of yesteryear so endearing to me that I just got into the concept of Tri-X-ism and was off on autopilot. It's glorious to be outside when the city is alive, the temperature moderate and the sun shining but mild. 

I didn't want the buzz of the day to vanish so we headed out to dinner instead of staying home. We headed over to Asti Trattoria (see the video on my website....) and had an appetizer of calamari, then shared a tomato, mozzarella and basil pizza, covered with fresh, tossed arugula. Belinda had a prosecco while I had an IPA from a San Francisco brewery. It was so much fun being immersed in real life. Makes me wonder what I'm doing sitting here now. Oh, that's right, I'm just tying up some loose ends before a midday swim. Oh crap. I just remembered something important --- I forgot to work this week.
Yikes. I guess I'll make up for it next week..... 

What do you do when you find yourself overdosed with desk time?