6.01.2014

Ben Graduates from High School. Headed east for college.


Over the years I used Ben as a model, an assistant, a sound engineer, a second camera operator in video, and so much more. He's a wonderful kid and he just graduated from one of the top three high schools in Texas. One of the top 50 high schools in the country. He was in the National Honor Society, a varsity cross country runner, awarded as a distinguished athlete scholar and so much more. He graduated with a grade point average over 100. Seven of his eight classes last semester were Advanced Placement classes.  He'll be attending a private college in upstate New York in the Fall. He earned a merit scholarship to the school that he chose. Suffice it to say I will miss the best assistant and most patient model I ever had. Without a doubt the smartest kid I ever met.  But I think he'll have a blast for the next four years. 

Makes every karate practice, soccer practice, swim practice, tutoring session, boy scout meeting,homework helping session and Pokemon card tournament I ever went to with him seem like it was all worth it. 

What does he shoot with? Still using a Sony a57 and a couple of inexpensive lenses. But he's mostly a video guy. Will be follow in my footsteps and pursue a career in the visual arts? Naw, I hope we've done a better job raising him than that...... :-)


It's a VSL tradition: The Sunday afternoon walk. Today it's all about Samsung's 85mm 1.4

©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visualsciencelab.blogspot.com 

Early on I downgraded the Samsung NX30 for several reasons. The main reason was that the EVF is not spectacular and doesn't match the rear screen. The secondary issue was the silliness of dedicating so many resources to NFC and Wi-fi. Which I still consider a supreme waste of resources. So I was lukewarm about the camera and hell bent on making the m4:3 cameras work for everything. 

Then I shot a job for the people at the Appleseed Foundation and I realized that the combination of the really good 20 megapixel sensor and the insanely good 85mm 1.4 lens made the NX30 a very powerful tool for a portrait photographer. I grabbed that camera as I headed out the door today and walked around downtown just looking for stuff to shoot. 

The image on top is my favorite. Not because of the content but because of the wonderful way the building is rendered out of focus in the background, along with the almost impressionistic drawing of the clouds. Have a super fast lens combined with a detailed sensor is a nice thing. 

While I love the performance of the GH4 there's space in my photographic tool kit for a worthwhile combination like the NX30 + 85mm 1.4.  I've also discovered something uniquely interesting about this camera. The EVF is actually showing me the real parameters of the raw file. It's always a little lighter and less saturated than the jpeg file. I never realized this until I switched the camera to shoot raw+jpeg today. I'd look at the image in the finder, like it and shoot. When I chomped it on the rear screen it was darker and more saturated. I had chalked this up to a mismatch between screens but when I opened both files in PhotoShop I found that the Raw files matched the look I got on the internal, EVf screen while the jpeg versions matched (perfectly) what I saw on the external screen. Weird, right?

But knowing this I know have more leeway in deciding how to use and interpret the information. I'll be testing the EVF more and depending on it from now on. Not a fault but a feature not listed in the (damn) owner's manual. Now I have more respect for the camera. In addition the detail I'm getting in the raw files is astoundingly good. As good as what I used to get with the Sony a99 at 24 megapixels. I'll chalk it up the the 85mm maximizing the interplay between lens and sensor. I am smitten with the 85mm lens. I almost did the unthinkable and picked up the phone to call my contact at Samsung to see how cheaply I could get another NX30 body. I was mentally juggling the idea of making it into a full professional system for some of my stuff. I stopped myself and reminded myself not to be so mercurial. How could I be so fickle when just a week ago I'd been gobsmacked by the video performance of the GH4? All the cameras are so good now. It's just that they are all good at separate things....

©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visualsciencelab.blogspot.com 

©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visualsciencelab.blogspot.com 

©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visualsciencelab.blogspot.com 

©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visualsciencelab.blogspot.com 

©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visualsciencelab.blogspot.com 

©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visualsciencelab.blogspot.com 

©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visualsciencelab.blogspot.com 

©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visualsciencelab.blogspot.com 

©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visualsciencelab.blogspot.com 

©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visualsciencelab.blogspot.com 

©2014 Kirk Tuck
www.visualsciencelab.blogspot.com 

I had to buy a camera yesterday to use as a prop for the cover of the soon to be published Novel...

The Prop Camera.
Nikon F4s with ancient 50mm 1.4
©2014 Kirk Tuck

The novel, The Lisbon Portfolio, is out of my hands and in the hands of my book designer. My proofreader loved the story and had a grand time showing me each and every inconsistency and misspelling. We are nearing the finish line and everything is looking great. In two or three weeks, at the most, you'll be able to grab an electronic copy from Amazon. A short time after that you'll be able to order a printed copy from Amazon, if you'd rather read from real paper. 

The story takes place at the dawn of the digital age. The year is 1999. Our protagonist, Henry, is sporting a couple of Kodak professional DSLRs but his personal camera is still loaded up with film and clicking along. Henry is off to cover a corporate trade show in Lisbon unaware that he is about to be sucked into a world of corporate espionage and double dealing. It's an action packed story with enough twists and turns to rival a mountain road. Will Henry escape with his life? Will his photographs turn out? 

But, in order to get the book out we needed to have cover art. The cover design that won our in-house contest juxtaposes a man shooting with a camera up to his eye on one side with a hand pointing a gun on the other side. And in the background is a ghosted back image of Lisbon from my own archive. 

We had the image of the hand with the pistol and, of course, we have the image of Lisbon, but we needed a good, silhouetted shot of the man with a camera. Full length, in a dark suit. Holding a camera of the era....

All the design elements were bouncing around in my head yesterday as I walked into Precision Camera to torture myself with another peek at the Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2.  I went to Precision to buy a new camera strap to replace the promotional strap on my Sony RX10 (that's a good sign; it means I'll probably be keeping that camera for a while...) I also wanted to get a boom pole holder for my Gitzo microphone boom. And I wanted to replace an umbrella that was damaged on a shoot last week. It was one of the Westcott 43 inch collapsible umbrellas. They fold down really small and they're only $20. 

At any rate, I was nosing around, trying to avoid the huge and unexpected crowd who had come for the in-store Photo Expo when I stumbled across a beautiful Nikon F4s in the used cabinet. It's one of my favorite models since it has the MB-21 battery pack which runs the camera from 4 double "A" batteries. I thought that this camera, coupled with a vintage 50mm 1.4 lens would be the perfect prop for my book cover model to hold. Granted, it's not digital but it has the correct gravitas and I was pretty sure it would be inexpensive...

I bargained like a rug dealer in the Grand Bazaar and walked out the door with it. On Tues. or Wednesday we'll set up the shoot and use the new prop. My original intention, once the shot was done, was to put the camera on a shelf with some old Leica rangefinders, an ancient Alpa camera and Nikon F2's and F's. But then I made the mistake of loading a roll of Tri-X into the thing and.....away we go. At least a full weekend of nostalgically shooting film. I'm sure I'll be sobered up by the bill for processing I'll get sometime next week. Oh well. A small price to pay for the perfect prop. 

To reiterate: The book is in production. It's being beautifully designed and laid out. And it's being done by someone who, unlike me, does not procrastinate. For a certain demographic of photographers this may be the hot book of Summer 2014. Stay tuned.



Studio Portrait Lighting

A Sunday afternoon, off topic blog about making poached eggs.

Samsung 85mm 1.4 lens. NX30 Camera.

I opted to go to the 10am swim workout this morning and I found it packed with fast people. We did a lot of yards, circling in the lanes, packed in like sardines. My favorite set was a "golf" set.  One of the secrets to swimming long and fast is to make sure your stroke is very efficient. That means getting from one end of the pool to the other in as few strokes as possible.

The golf set is designed to make you concentrate on efficiency in your technique. In golf the low score wins. That's the premise of this drill. Count your strokes for 50 yards, add in your elapsed time to swim the 50 yards and you have your "score."  We did twenty 50's on a minute. It's a long interval and you get X seconds rest (depending on your speed). All totaled that's one thousand yards. 

Here's how we did the drill: You swim your first 50 and count your strokes (I averaged 15 per length or 30 total for the 50). Then on each successive 50 you try to drop your stroke count by at least one. When you hit the point where you can't improve or you miss your previous low you are required to sprint the next 50 hard and then start the stroke count descend over again. At the very end of the drill we each sprinted a timed 50 with the intention of combining speed and efficiency.

If you swim a 50 yard sprint in about 30 seconds and you can hold your stroke count to 30 then your overall score is 60. My best score today was a middling 68. Some of the fast guys (like the young Olympians in lane six) were actually "shooting" well under 60. As with everything it's a combination of technique meeting intention and practice.

After the "golf" set and a bunch of other, assorted, yardage I headed back home and I was hungry. I decided to make some poached eggs and serve them to myself on some toasted, sprouted grain bread. But first I had to look up how to poach an egg. It's surprisingly easy and may be the healthiest way to eat eggs. 

Here's how you do it: Use the best eggs you can get. The ones from chickens that are free-ranging omega 3 eating, organic-vegetarian feed eating birds. Let the eggs sit out for thirty minutes so you aren't putting them into boiling water cold. Boil two quarts of water in a deep pan and add a bit of vinegar to the water. Just a tablespoon full will do. Crack your egg and divide the shell in one quick motion so the egg drops into the water in a uniform structure. This is the spot that is crucial. If you "pour" your egg into the water in a long flourish it will have many tendrils and the white won't surround the yolk in an aesthetically pleasing way. 

With the water at a gentle boil let the eggs cook for three minutes. A bit longer if you want a solid yolk. I use a pasta scooper to gently pull the eggs out of the water and deposit them on my toast. Voila. You have poached eggs. Three are just right after a nice work out. 

If you intend to photograph your poached eggs I suggest a nice, longer focal length macro lens. My favorite "egg" lens is the Nikkor 55mm Micro lens from the 1960's. Sharp but not too contrast. Convincing and not overly edgy. That, and some big soft light.



Studio Portrait Lighting