All we can really do is show other people how we see the world.

I am always amazed at the workshop experience.  I start out being baffled that people think there's some secret to be learned.  By the end of the day I end up learning much more about myself and my relationship with photography.  My constant conclusion?  I should spend more time shooting.

Someone asked me, recently, what I would do with my time if I no longer had to work to support myself and my family.  For a second or so I thought about our whole social construct.  Of course, we could sell our house and a lot of my toys and probably live fine on what we've already saved.  But there's that striving gene.  The "gotta put the boy thru school" ethos.  That "need new ________ mantra."  But after a few moments lost in the delirium of just dropping out I respond, from the heart,  I would basically do just what I do right now.  Make photographs that show people my happy and optimistic view of the world around me.
I guess I would swim more.  But wouldn't we all swim more  if we had more free time?  No?  I'm shocked and confused.

Maybe I'd take more road trips to Balmorhea Springs and.........

Spend more time really looking at the little fish on the bottom of the pool.....

Or watching beautiful sunsets.

Or going to more plays and performances....but wait, I'm already go to 28,000 times more than the average American....

I guess I could also learn what's on all the cable channels.  But probably not, since we don't subscribe to cable and wouldn't start if I stopped raking in the fortune that commercial photographers all make.

I'd have more time to venture out and meet beautiful people and ask them to sit for me so I could work on my skills as a portrait photographer.  That's a relentless goal anyway.

And you know that, if I didn't have to work,  I'd become a fixture at the Paris fashion shows.  Just, you know, to keep my runway chops in shape.  Might be easier now, in the days of AF and digital.  But where's the challenge in that?

But really,  whether we call it work or a hobby isn't photography just an excuse to look more closely and relentlessly at the people and things around us?  Maybe it helps us understand something.  Or maybe it just lets us play with patterns in the chaos.

Kind of a silly blog post but I've spent time today just looking at old photographs and reconciling the ways in which they inform what I do right now.  I'm about to make a big shift in the way I work.  Away from the traditional business construct and into areas that are self directed.  More creative.  More multi-disciplinary.  And when you read the blog you're along for part of the ride.

More books.  But self directed books.  So I don't have to feel guilty if they don't sell.  More film projects that make televisions worth having.  And more intersections with other artists.

The cool thing about being in a creative field is that whatever boundaries exist they are all self constructed.  And whatever you want to do you are free to do.  And that's a cool thing to realize.

The last image is just me shooting into a mirrored window at some giant, skyscraper high-rise with the Austin Music Hall reflected in the background.

When I finish typing this last paragraph I'm going to go pack a camera bag for this evening's dress rehearsal shoot of Suzan Lori-Park's play, The Book Of Grace.  I'm using the three Zeiss lenses.  It's a challenge to shoot manual focus lenses in an ever moving  production, in the round, under low lights but....that's what makes it fun!  And we all need to learn how to have more fun.

Totally off topic for you, perhaps. But not for me.

 Poor Ben.  Not a moment's rest.  I went to pick him up from swim practice this morning and I didn't like what I was seeing.  When swimming freestyle his hips were too low in the water,  his hand exchange was too rapid and he wasn't getting nearly the glide he should have gotten from each stroke.  To make matters even worse (for Ben) I didn't have any pressing deadlines today so after lunch and some downtime (and half an hour for Ben to read Emmett Hine's book on fitness swimming.  The all important chapter 4...) we went back to the pool to do a few drills and work on that pesky stroke.

Here's a tip for photographers and swimmers alike.  It's hard to work on pure technique while you are in the middle of a workout or in the middle of a shoot.  You default to what you know.  That's why it's important to walk around with a camera during leisure times and work on seeing and combining the seeing with the eye/hand/brain interfaces.  In swimming you go back to the pool, slow down the pace and work on one piece of your stroke at a time.

We worked on our "catch-up" drill this afternoon.  Swimming continues to evolve as we understand more and more about the physics of hydro dynamics.  We've learned that "longer boats" go faster in the water.  With one hand fully stretched out above your head you represent a longer boat.  If you exchange hands at shoulder level you've shortened "the boat" and now resemble more of a tug boat.  This slows you down almost immediately and isn't good for the streamline you are trying to maintain.  In the 1980's a Russian swimmer, Andrei Popov, changed the face of freestyle swimming by introducing what has become know, in the competitive swimming world, as "front quadrant swimming."  This technique takes full advantage of your streamlined glide and helps you maintain a lengthened body profile throughout the stroke.

The catch-up drill makes you keep one hand out in front of you while the other hand cycles through it's full stroke.  When the moving hand catches up with the front hand you then repeat the pattern with the other hand.  Once you practice the technique 10,000 times you'll find that you're swimming faster without expending nearly as much energy.

Ben and I worked on the catch up drill for a while, modified his head position and then worked on the cadence of his interchange for a bit.  He could definitely feel a difference in his stroke by the end of our practice session.  Tomorrow we'll put in a a little extra time over at Barton Springs.  Just for a change of perspective.  Should be just what a 15 year old wants to do on his summer vacation, right?
Austin's gem:  Barton Springs Pool.

It's important to take some interest in your kid.  Especially when it comes to swimming.

Back at Zach. Playing around with quasi-traditional lights and having a blast.

Sometimes I throw "hipster" caution to the wind, leave the battery powered flashes and massive LED panels at home, disregard available light and just muddle my way thru an assignment with a crate full of traditional studio flashes.  Oh my.  There go all of my "wanna-be cool" credentials.  It is possible to do work with "old fashioned" tools.  I proved it to myself yesterday evening.

Here's the way I decided to handle yesterday's assignment for ongoing client, Zachary Scott Theater.  We needed to do promo shots for an upcoming version of the musical play, Hairspray.  The play has already been cast but we didn't have sets and we're still weeks away from dress rehearsals.  Our brief was to shoot various actors against a white background.  We needed to shoot on location at the theater so we could take advantage of hair and make-up professionals in house, as well as having access to the full costume shop.  We were very limited on actual time with the actors because of rehearsal schedules and actors who were also in the final stages of rehearsal for the Suzan Lori-Parks play, The Book of Grace.

I packed up a white muslin background with stands, four regular light stands, two strobe systems and my cameras.  To light up the background I used two Profoto Acute heads running off a single Acute 600e pack, using standard zoom reflectors.  I plugged both heads into the "B" channel to reduce overall output power.  I like to shoot at f5.6 so I like to keep the photons a bit tame.

Just to the left of the camera I used one Elinchrom head with a 33 inch Varistar umbrella/softbox modifier as a main light and a second Elinchrom head with a 60 inch Softlighter 2 umbrella as a fill light just to the right of the camera.  I used an asymmetrical Ranger RX AS pack so their is always a 2:1 power distribution between main and fill.  The Ranger pack is capable of 1100 watt seconds per flash at full power but on a scale where 7.0 is full power I found myself working mostly around 4.2.  This ensured 1.5 second recycle times and more than enough charge in the battery to easily handle the 680 frames we ended up doing.

Lately I've been working with my bigger Canons and I felt that I was neglecting my APS-C cameras so I used the Canon 7D with the 24-105mm L lens.  The 7D snaps into focus quickly and it's very easy to program in specific focusing spots.  Since we had total control of power I was able to set the camera at ISO 200.  While the Canon 5Dmk2 might be better at ISO of 1600 and up it didn't matter in this set up and I gave the nod to the 7D for its ability to lock focus much quicker in dim lighting.

Speaking of dim light, we were working on a bare stage with only the ceiling mounted work lights for illumination.  I added a small, battery powered LED light down on the floor just to light up the front of the actors enough to take away any last struggles for the autofocus but also the stop down the irises of the actors a bit.  A smaller iris makes the eyes look more natural.  Why was this necessary?  Because the Elinchrom system I was using for the front lights is battery powered and the modeling lights automatically shut off after 15 seconds.  We shot a whole range of images with six different actors but these ladies were my favorites for the evening.

Once you have the lights set up and you've figured out the exposures you can get to the harder work which is the posing and expressions.  There aren't as many quantitative "how-to" books around about those subjects so you really have to work at it if you are as linear and logical as I tend to be. 

We set up at 5pm and we wrapped the whole shoot at 7pm.  I was back home in time for dinner.  I prepped the files this morning and turned my attention to other business.  It felt good to get another one under my belt.  This evening I get to shoot the last dress rehearsal for the Suzan Lori-Parks play.  I've been told the play is "intense."  My job is to translate and convey "intense" into images that will drive audiences to take a chance and see some real, dramatic theater.

Do I like all the stuff I get to shoot and watch at the theater?  Nope.  But I will say that every time I stretch and pay attention to something I didn't think I'd like I learn a lot.  And it's mostly about me.  And self knowledge is a valuable gift.

Hairspray will be a fun play.  The Book of Grace might actually make me think....

Thinking about buying a 17-55 EFS 2.8 for the 7D.  Anyone have experience with this optic?  Can you tell me what you think?