12.02.2016

A portrait from the studio this afternoon. (Revised).

©2016 Kirk Tuck. All Rights Reserved.

My intention all along, as a photographer, was to take more portraits in styles that I like. I've been working on it lately by asking the people I work with, and see in day-to-day life, if they will drop by my studio and collaborate with me on making portraits. Today I had a young, talented actor named Alaina come by. I'd set up the studio to do classic "actor headshot" lighting and we did a number of portraits in the prevailing "headshot" style. Then I set up a 4x6 foot, 1.25 stop diffusion panel to Alaina's left (camera right) and put one LED light on the other side of the diffusion to create a much more (to me) interesting light.

The panel is very close to my subject and runs perpendicular to the camera plane, extending back into the studio but starting about three feet in front of Alaina. I used a very weak, passive fill on the opposite side. 

The image was taken with one of my favorite camera and lens combinations: The Sony A7ii and the 70-200mm f4.0 G lens. The lens was used at f4.0 (wide open) and the shutter of the camera was set to 1/50th of a second. ISO: 800. Of course the camera was held in place with a nice tripod and the focus sensor was set to her right eye. 

We took about 400 images this afternoon but this is the very first one to catch my eye. I could make some fixes but I'm trying not to overproduce or over enhance the stuff I shoot for myself. 

This "one light" set up is one of my very favorites. I'd teach it in my workshops if I had workshops. It's always a nice look. 

11.30.2016

In everyone's rush to own their camera company's 70-200mm f2.8 many people might be overlooking a better (and cheaper) alternative.

"Greater Tuna" star, Jaston Williams, as Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol."

Ask most photographers which zoom lenses are best and most of them will reflexively answer, "The Holy Trinity of f2.8 zoom lenses!" and, for my money, they could not be more wrong. If we're looking at 70-200mm lenses from the major camera makers you'll find that the 2.8 lenses are brutally heavy and ruinously expensive. You might also find, if you actually take the time to shoot them in a direct comparison, that the same company's 70-200mm f4.0 is much sharper over a wider range of focal lengths. 

I've owned both variants in the Canon and Nikon lines as well as the Sony Alpha 70-200mm f2.8 and now the Sony 70-200mm f4.0 and I'm here to tell you that the f4.0 versions are much more fun to use, better optically corrected than their faster counterparts and a heck of a lot easier to use during a long day of shooting. 

I know a lot of you don't put much stock in DXO's lens rankings but in the Sony family the f4.0 G version of the venerable zoom is their top choice for sharpness, resolution and all around goodness in the Sony FE zoom lens catalog. I've been shooting one since the first quarter of 2016 and I find it boring because it's so reliable and flawless. No flare, no unsharp edges, no complaints.

I've pointed out before that every increase of one stop in lens manufacturing requires something like 5X the precision and machining in order to output the same quality results. And what are you really gaining?

I you are shooting a modern camera with a Sony sensors you'll find that choosing the slower lens and then increasing the ISO to cover the one stop difference will probably get you better image quality than trying to shoot a faster lens wide open. Not to mention that the sheer weight might have a stabilizing effect (inertia, mass, etc.) for the first five minutes of handholding the faster lens, the next hour or more will show up the hubris of trying to handhold a four pound dead weight. 

When I shoot stage shows at Zach Theatre with the Sony A7Rii my lens of choice is always the 70/200mm f4.0 G lens and I'm always shooting it handheld. The combination of good image stabilization and great optical performance means I can shoot all evening long at f4.0 and not compromise image quality. An added benefit is that my left arm (the one supporting the weight of camera and lens) isn't sore the next day. 

I suspect that the much denigrated Sony 24-70mm f4.0 Zeiss lens is actually better than the newer, and much lauded f2.8 G master lens of the same focal lengths. I haven't tried them but I've got this sneaky feeling that f2.8 is just a Pavlovian dodge, dangled at photographers who are old enough to remember needing faster apertures to help with manual focusing. And it's faulty knowledge that's been transmitted to following generations. 

If you are following the "teachings" of a more experienced generation you probably need to be careful,;sometimes the old rules don't apply to new technology.  

11.29.2016

Here's the video Ben and I produced last Summer for a utility provider. We'd like to do a lot more in 2017.


Pedernales Electric Co-op Video. Summer 2016 from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.


If you head over to Vimeo you can see it at a higher res.....

I was cleaning out my desk when I stumbled across a CD with scans from some black and white, 35mm film...

Young Ben completing the swim portion of a mid-winter biathlon in the outdoor pool.

About fifteen years ago I was still straddling the film and digital divide. All the commercial stuff got shot on electro-cameras while a lot of personal stuff still got lovingly shot on film with my little Leica rangefinders. We were way too busy back then to deal with the output of my endless stream of consciousness, personal shooting style so when I accrued a backlog of film I'd take it to Holland Photo and have them soup it and write it to CDs. These would come back with a little print of thumbnails and, after a quick inspection, would go straight into a drawer where they would languish for over a decade. 

This week I've been in the mood to throw stuff away and have been going through the filing cabinet drawers with the ferocity of a rabid tornado, tossing journals, reams of paper, corporate film archives and old telephones into the trash. Yesterday I was literally tossing handfuls of CDs and DVDs, that had accumulated over the years like old newspapers in a hoarder's living room, into a second trash can. But I can't let go of anything until I've given it a good "once over" and if it's a piece of storage with a family member or friend's photograph on it I just can't let it go. 

There was a surprise job cancellation for today. I swam early, breakfasted heartily and sat down to plow through e-mail when I remembered that I'd found a disk I wanted to check. There were only twenty or so images on it but when I brought them up in Preview I was delighted to find a tiny sliver of personal history that made me smile. 

The top image was made of Ben's first biathlon. He'd just finished his run and his half mile swim when I snapped this from the sidelines. It feels so ..... 1960's. I love the stark shadows created by the head-on flash. I love the swirl in the water behind Ben, illuminated by the underwater light fixture. I hadn't actually seen this image before this morning...

An even younger Ben unwinding after school with a favorite snack of bleu cheese and grapefruit.

The second image of Ben is one that seems so familiar to me. That was Ben's place at our little butcher block, dining room table. Every day after school he would pull up a chair, play something on his laptop and have a snack. His favorite snack food was "anything with bleu cheese." Often, he would make his own lunch for school and a standard was his crunchy peanut butter (Laura Scudders), bleu cheese and sweet pickle sandwich (on Sweetish Hill Bakery whole wheat bread) with Kalamata olives and mustard. None of the other kids ever offered to trade sandwiches in the school cafeteria. 

I love the photograph for so many reasons but one technical reason is the way the long, long "shoulder" of the highlight curve of film holds detail. An endless sea of tonality with no burnout to white.

Dear friend and gifted photographer, Will, smiling.

The final image is one of my friend, Will. We're "real" photographers. We always bring a camera with us when we meet for coffee or lunch. It's just the way it's done. But my observation here is mostly about the effortless way the Noritsu scan interpreted skin tone from the black and white negative. It's enough to make me thoroughly nostalgic for film. At least it's a prompt for me to turn down the sharpening and contrast on my current camera's standard shooting profile.....

Funny, the stuff you find when throwing things out. Now, what am I going to do with the two Leica Pradovit, professional slide projectors I stumbled across in the closet???





A blog post from one year ago today... Just a brief walk through the tangled garden of memory.

https://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2015/11/a-fond-memory-of-riding-train-through.html