Duck In Out of the Sun

Nothing was really going right. I was standing somewhere on Wabash Ave. without having captured a single image. Not one picture in 45 minutes of walking.

I decided to change lenses. The 14-42mm that I removed from the camera jumped out of my hand, landed on its side with a thud, and rolled down the sidewalk 15 feet before bouncing off the foot of a homeless man.

Stunned, I just stared at him for a minute. He looked down at the lens on the sidewalk, then raised his head and looked back at me. I walked over to him, smiled, and picked it up. After a quick inspection as I strolled away, I didn't see any cracks in the glass. Amazingly, it seemed OK.

But still no pictures.

I walked another couple blocks without even bothering to take the camera out of my bag. Then it hit me. Just sit down for a moment and watch.

I found a tall, concrete planter just off the sidewalk, and took a seat. My feet swung freely like a little boy waiting for a ride. I began to feel better. People walked by without a glance. But I was watching them. I started to see things. I was feeling like myself again.

I'm amused by my tendency to keep pushing when clearly no progress is being made. What I really need to do is hit the reset button. Relax for a moment. Take a deep breath. Observe. Doing so seems to balance me. Why do I forget that?

I was just about ready to resume my walk when it started to rain. The drops fell gently, and they were warm. I was fine. I pulled out the baseball cap I had stashed in my camera bag, and went to work.

Over the next hour I shot nearly 200 images. Some of them I like a lot. The combination of refueling my energy and seeing the reflections of historic Chicago in asphalt puddles inspired me.

After a while, the rain stopped and the sun shone brightly. "Damn," I thought. It was time to duck in to a restaurant for a bite to eat. 

I know that seems backwards. Most city people retreat from the rain. That is, unless they're photographers.

I'll take it easy for now, then be back at twilight.


A Moment of Truth for Photos

Next Monday, Apple will kick off their World Wide Developers Conference with a keynote address. It's always a big deal. Even though the conference itself is for developers, the keynote is for everyone.

Those 2 hours on center stage lay out the road map for the remainder of the year, and well into 2017. Most folks will be anxious to hear about hardware revelations, such as the new Macs, iPhones, and watches. Others will be curious about the evolution of the Mac operating system and iOS.

I too am interested in all of those things. But I have one additional item on my list: will there be any news about Photos for OS X?

To this point, Apple has had a pass on Photos, as they should. In part, because they've handled the transition from Aperture and iPhoto well. We can still run those legacy apps on the latest operating system. That's a nice touch and greatly appreciated.

But before too long, that will no longer be the case. There will come a day when the latest OS won't support Apple's former imaging apps. And if that day is when Mac OS X 10.12 is announced, then Photos should be ready for prime time.

Don't get me wrong. The current version of Photos for OS X is good... for a V. 1.5 app. I think back to the first year with iPhoto and Aperture. They weren't perfect either. It takes time to polish software. But now, as we're moving to Photos 2.0, we should have a better idea about where this app is going.

In all honesty, I don't know if the next version of Photos even warrants a keynote timeslot. Maybe not. I may have to comb through the press releases to find the information that I'm looking for. But when I do, I'll report back to you.

Because what Apple decides to do, or not to do, will tell us a lot about their vision for managing pictures on Mac hardware.


More than a New Bag

As I think back, it was about 7 years ago that I was a Think Tank affiliate. Their offices were right down the street, and they were starting to get some traction in the photo industry thanks to their serious-shooter-focused bags. I liked their stuff, and their attitude.

Just as we were getting some momentum working together, Lowepro contacted me and offered me a contract to be their photography evangelist. I had published some reviews about their gear, and I had a good working relationship with them. They liked how I handled myself online, and thought that I would be a good fit for them. They were right.

A contract is a wonderful thing when you're an independent. I quickly notified my friends at Think Tank and told them about the offer. They understood completely and wished me good luck.

You probably know the next part of the story. With Lowepro, I traveled all over the U.S., and to Germany twice. At the highpoint of our relationship, I was involved with design decisions and sat in on high level meetings. It was a great run.

Then the bottom fell out of their bottom line. A sequence of top level management changes left me, and many others, out on the curb.

Since then, I haven't really struck up any new relationships for carrying solutions. (That's a term that Lowepro used. It always made me smile.)

That is, until the other day. Brian from Think Tank contacted me through theAnalogstory (of all places). We agreed to have coffee and catch up. The meeting was terrific.

Essentially, we picked up where we left off years ago. At one point he commented, "I appreciated how you handled things back when you were offered the gig with Lowepro." I told him thanks for saying so.

After the meeting, I was thinking about life as an independent. There are all of these relationships to consider. It's not like working for one company and having your allegiance focused there. It's more complicated than that.

And one of those relationships that I have is with you. Just like I chose to let Brian know years ago that I had a new gig with Lowepro, I need to let you know that I'm working with Think Tank again. It's not a job, but we're going to help one another.

As a result, you'll be hearing more about Think Tank Photo. They're a good company. You're part of a good community. And once again, I'm right in the middle of a lot of goodness.

Oh, and I have a couple new bags too. More on that later.


The 7 Year Itch

When Olympus first revealed the PEN E-P1 to me in the Spring of 2009, I felt like I was gazing at the future and the past all at once. It was a suspended moment.

Our first date was Coney Island. I had never been there before, and here I was with a new camera and a group of journalists, each with a PEN in their hands. There were only two lenses available then: the original 14-42mm zoom (a beast by today's comparisons) and the 17mm f/2.8 pancake (which I still use on occasion).

I photographed the boardwalk, explored the fun zone, and rode the rollercoaster. We had to compose on the LCD because there wasn't an optical or electronic viewfinder option then. So on that day, we were using 2009 LCD technology only. (Here's that first set of shots with the E-P1 if you'd like to see them.)

I returned from New York with the camera in my backpack. Over the weeks and months that followed, I used the E-P1 for street photography, candids, and family outings. It wasn't my serious camera yet. But I was clearly smitten. And the affair was far from over.

In December of 2011, I received an email from Olympus asking if I were to attend CES. I was. "We'd like to meet with you. You're going to want to see this." 

They were right. In February of 2012, Olympus announced the OM-D E-M5, and mirrorless photography transformed from a curiosity to a legitimate DSLR alternative. The E-M5 is so good, that I still use it today in the studio for product shots and portraits. Mine has a 25mm Leica f/1.4 Micro Four Thirds lens, and the shots that tandem produces are impressive.

As much as I liked the PEN, I loved the OM-D. The mini-SLR styling, the electronic viewfinder, the way it feels in my hands, 5-axis image stabilization that works with any lens, and the clever two-part grip system... talk about a killer body.

Today, my preferred digital cameras are the E-M5 Mark II and the E-M10 Mark II. Seven years later, and I'm still committed as much as ever.

You probably thought this was going to be a story about a new infatuation - about me getting all twisted up with something young and pretty.

Well, here's the thing: I don't believe in the 7 year itch. Sure, if you make a bad choice and try to stick it out, you'll probably tire of the situation at some point... maybe in 7 years. Probably before. But if you make good choices - in your relationships, career, and yes, cameras too - desire becomes life itself.

Sign me up for another 7. I'm not even close to being through with you yet.



I Wouldn't Jump Out of a Plane Without My Smartphone

Before I leave the house, I check my pockets for two things: my wallet and the iPhone. It's at the top of my essential gear list for nimble photography. In fact, I can't imagine my work without it.

But not for the same reasons as many others.

When you're the type of shooter that I am - always working with new gear ranging from the latest digital to decades-old analog - I need a constant that I can depend on. The smartphone is the one tool that works with everything else. Here are five top of mind examples.

Snapshot Camera - Yes, I'm starting with the most obvious. But the ability to never miss a moment is huge to me. For decades, I've always wanted a camera that would be my constant companion, and the iPhone 6S is exactly that.

Mirrorless Conduit - I love mirrorless gear for event coverage, whether it's being a spectator at an NBA game or working as a festival photographer. Generally I shoot RAW+Jpeg, allowing me to transfer files from the camera to the iPhone, then publish them online while still on location. Whether I'm using WiFi or the Lightning card reader, the iPhone is my conduit from professional camera to the online world.

Personal Backup - The minute I copy an image from the mirrorless, or capture it with the phone itself, those images are automatically backed up to iCloud and Flickr. I don't have to think about it. I don't have to push a button. It just happens. That means I will never lose those shots.

Competent Light Meter - I was shooting with a Pentax ME Super this morning and the light meter decided not to work. This happens with older cameras. No problem. I used the 1/125th mechanical shutter option on the ME, pulled out my iPhone, and launched ProCamera. I set the app to ISO 200 and took a meter reading. Those are the settings that I used for the Pentax, and I kept on shooting. I'm sure the shots will be terrific.

Metadata Tracker - I keep a photo journal with the Day One app. So when I shoot a film or digial shot, I grab a quick iPhone image too that also records weather and location. Plus I can add my own notes and comments. I cannot express how helpful these journal entries have been toward helping understand my photography and improving it.

All of this without even discussing image editing or swiping through Instagram shots while standing in the grocery checkout line.

A competent smartphone has the highest of nimbleosity ratings. And it's the parachute that has saved me so many times.