Another day at the photo office. Working with two cameras. Including the new Sony a58.

A quick summation of last week's hybrid job.

We set up a temporary portrait and interview studio in a big conference/mixed use room. I brought along one of my favorite color management tools, a Lastolite gray/white target. In this room I used the big Sony a99. One click white balance worked for both the stills and the video. I like setting the color correction once in shooting instead of pasting it in post. I lit with two fluorescents and one LED light. And I brought my own stool for the subject's to sit on. The more stuff I can control the fewer problems I seem to have. I went for five hours with one lens. It was the 85mm 1.5 Cine lens from Rokinon.

Using the big Rokinon at wide apertures, in close is what the Sony a99 was built for. The lens is totally manual so I rely on focus peaking to ensure sharp results where I want them. 

I brought the Lastolite target out onto the assembly floor and balanced both the cameras for the existing light. Made it easier to shoot because I only had to focus on composition and focus, not on color balance. I tend to use manual exposure and all of these shots were taken in a landscape format with the camera locked down on a Manfrotto video tripod with a fluid head.

By moving quickly with one camera on a tripod and one camera over my shoulder we were able to move through the space quickly. After every still shot I ran about ten seconds of video and then moved on. We got fifty or sixty set ups during the course of a long day.

I had the client carry a small Fotodiox LED panel around with us but it didn't get much use. I liked the bright way the area was lit and, with the preset color balance the images were easy to work with in post.

My one and only gripe about the 85mm 1.5 lens is the close focusing distance. It's 39 inches. I'm spoiled, the Sony 85mm 2.8 focuses much closer. But then again it doesn't do quite as well at f2...

I unabashedly like the new a58 camera. It may be because I always use it with the 16-50mm f2.8 DT lens. I like the range of focal lengths and I love the high sharpness of the lens. The image above was made with that combo. With all the present generation of digital cameras there is a freedom in being able to comp and shoot a scene as a still photograph and then spin a dial and start shooting the same thing on video. Double threat. Most the work I did on this job with the a58 is available light, handheld and at ISOs of 800 and 1600. The OLED viewfinder is great and the built in IS works well for me. No matter how I handled the camera the metering was spot on.

I decided to live on the edge for this shoot. I realized that there's no way to shoot raw video files on the a58 so I needed to get any video I shot just right in the camera. Just like shooting jpegs. Since they were equally important to the client I decided to go ahead and shoot jpeg as well. I might as well take advantage of the extra care I was using to get things right for video...

The a58, like the a57 before it is small and light and highly usable. The new sensor is sharp and detailed and has as little noise as the a57 did but delivers a much better user experience both in the EVF and the actual sound of the shutter. I can report no focus problems in over 600 shots under regular working conditions.

While this shouldn't be construed as a review I would like to say that the tools are so suggestive to the way I take images. While the a99 was on a tripod, using a longer MF lens the a58 was always handheld and used with a fast wide to short tele zoom. With the smaller camera I found myself moving around the edges of subjects and quickly trying new angles while the locked in camera was used in a more straightforward way.  

All cameras are good these days. I don't care about brands but I know that for my paying work I'll never willingly go back to a camera that doesn't have an EVF as an integral part of the design. Now, after selling off other systems, every camera I have except the Sony a850 is equipped with an EVF. And when I pick up the 850 I have to slow down and think more about operation. That means I think less about the image. I like the real time feedback of the newer finders. They make the feedback loop much more effective.

That's it. Get yout mom an a58. Ask her if you can borrow it. Happy Mother's Day.

The End.

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The inter-relationship of different art. Want to be better in one segment? Broaden your wisdom net. See more stuff.

It's kind of funny but most of the photographic images that I like of people are lit like the pronounced chiaroscuro of Caravaggio paintings. And most of the poses I like I've seen in paintings and sculptures. It would seem to me that a lot of our photographic imagery are really references to work done in other media and in other ages. In most cases I would conjecture that the current photographic practitioners are just copying what they've seen other contemporary photographers doing (and so on) without having a real idea of what the original sources were. Without a wide catalog of cultural references work quickly becomes one dimensional and formulaic. In every field.

I'm going to make a statement here that may sound elitist but is not meant to be. Whether you are a commercial photographer or a hobbyist I think your work (and mine) can be improved in direct proportion to the amount of varied art work to which you expose yourself. If you are lucky enough to live in a cultural center like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago or even Los Angeles you have ample opportunity to see an enormous range of old masters and new, original art in many media. When you add galleries to the pot your range of selections becomes almost infinitely rich.

If you are working or living in one of the major European cities you have the same opportunities. I couldn't imagine being a photographer in Paris and not having been to the Picasso Museum, the Louvre or the Jeu de Paume. Or to live within one hundred miles of Rome and not having been to The Vatican or the Borghese Garden museums.

When our points of reference are too far removed from the original sources they are diluted and become spuriously referential at best. To copy the work and working methodology of a young, technically aimed photographer on Creative Live is a woefully thin substitute for experiencing the real power of art first hand. Standing in front of a great painting is worlds different than flipping through some 640 by 480 pixel thumbnails of a painting. Watching light move around a sculpture is a world different then seeing a two dimensional photo of the same sculpture on Wikipedia.

Often times, because we live in a technical culture, and in thrall to the ideas of best practices, and the tyranny of metrics, we look toward technical fixes when our photography gets stale or when our enthusiasm stalls. We try a different lens or a new filter. We try some "new" lighting technique that's popular on the web. But in the end these are quick fixes for our boredom and not deep fixes that could transform our love of our art. A mindless copy rarely makes for valuable growth.

Not seeing original art but being influenced by its faint and diminished echo is like playing the old game where one person comes up with a phrase and whispers it to the person next to them. That person whispers the phrase they heard to the person next to them and so on. In a small room with thirty players the message becomes garbled and meaningless in a matter of minutes. Imagine the art message in a brilliant piece watered down by centuries of the same game. The end result is a thought artifact that's been distorted, changed and relieved of all context. It becomes a cheap filter or schtick.

Our jobs as artists don't exist in a cultural vacuum. We are all subject to cultural reference points. It's our choice if we want to drink the collective spit in the bucket or participate in the actual wine tasting of art.

I know that I am renewed and recharged when I eschew pondering more and more contemporary photographs and instead sample actual masterpieces and the works that laid the foundations for our work across different disciplines. Today might be a great day to step into a museum and drink from a rich cup of work that stands the tests of time. Work that forms the foundations of our visual culturals. What a gift to be able to experience foundational work first hand. How much greater the impact.

When someone directs me toward the latest over-processed pop photography I like to direct them right back to the masters they unwittingly borrowed from. Almost inevitably they are astonished at how much they learn and how much more organically the power of the original work gets integrated into their own projects going forward.

If you are a portrait photographer you've heard a lot about Rembrandt but you need to look at Leonardo da Vinci's work and Caravaggio and maybe Edward Hopper; even Georges Braque. I love heading down to San Antonio to look at work by Renoir and Picasso, at the McNay Museum. No matter which museum you head to you'll see something new and perhaps be able to add to your own repertoire. At the very least you'll finally learn who to ultimately credit for that neato lighting technique that you saw on some contemporary's website. The magic is all out there for us to sample and subsume and use. Don't you want the undiluted version? I know I do...

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The Three Graces.

I confess that I love to photograph sculpture. From the Bernini pieces in the Borghese Sculpture museum to the Rodin Museum to the ancient Asian examples at the San Antonio Museum of art I am fascinated by all kinds of sculpture.

Often, when I read that the death of photography is approaching I remember that all the arts have been through ebbs and flows and all of them have, at one time or another, been declared dead except for sculpture. And I wonder what it is about sculpture that  grants a collective immunity to it.

I think it may be the difficulty of working in marble or granite, or even with castings. The capability of working to the level at which Bernini did is all but lost in the modern age and it's our fascination with what we can't do that elevates this art to a more impregnable perch. I can no more imagine taking a chisel and hammer and making a home made version of the Pietå than I can making my own deep space passenger rocket in my garage.

I have to wonder though whether the evolution of 3D printing will eventually make sculpture for everyman as accessible as taking still photographs. I imagine a time in the near future when a typical person will walk around his naked girlfriend clicking off frames that will later be sequenced and integrated into a 3D CAD program and them set up to be rendered by a printing machine.

Not a two dimensional printer but one that works in all physical dimensions. One that can, unaided, build statues and sculptures as well as guns and pottery. The technology is here, now, and is becoming more financially accessible every year.

I imagine a time in the not too distant future when new apps and CAD plug-ins will appear that will allow you to INSTAGRAM your sculptures and have them rendered with pre-programmed actions and filters. Click this filter for late Renaissance, click that one for Etruscan, click this setting for modern abstract. Perhaps there will be a button that just wraps pre-made sculptures in cloth. The Cristo filter for conceptual artists....

But I imagine that once done the methods will lose their intrigue because, like current photography, most people's art-in-a-box will look like everyone else's. And the work that is significantly different will retain value.

In the meantime I intend to look at as much sculpture by old and new masters as I can. Then I'll be ready to write series of articles about the GOLDEN DAYS OF PRE-DIGITAL SCULPTURE.
I shudder to think that sometime in the near future I'll drive through neighborhoods and people will all have their digi-sculptures in their front yards, much like we have every photographic permutation resident on the web in the sharing galleries. From soup to nuts.

Most yards will have sculptures of pets and varying degrees of chubby and homely children. Or spouses in odd drapings. Perhaps the masses will revive the Roman and Greek tradition of painting the statues. Perhaps the style will be more and more heightened realism and eventually we won't know if the sculpture in the front yard is live or just a three D replica. If the sculpture is of someone checking their cellphone will there be a difference?

Ah, the march of progress. What would the three Graces have to say about all of this? They would probably tell me to stop the negative daydreaming and just concentrate on what I want to do. And they'd be right...

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