Why I want the Canon 1DX Mark II…

Somehow. Some way. I am getting the Canon 1DX Mark II.

This isn’t GAS. I need it.

My Canon 5D Mark III is awesome and everything, especially with a 70-200 2.8 IS II on the front of it, but for fucks sake it’s so slow at 6 fps. It feels like 1 fps really.

I shot a massive soccer tournament last weekend, a total of 57 games. Um, I really could have used the 14 fps that the 1DX II offers. This is really about speed people. The image quality from my 5d3 will probably prove to be a hair better in daylight shooting. For my upcoming night football this fall, and volleyball as well, the 1dx 2 should fare better when I push up the ISO.

The 1dx 2 is expensive as fuck. It’s $5999, which is basically a billion dollars….

Still, it’s for business purposes only. I have my Fuji X100F for street stuff and even casual portraiture. I’ll likely keep the 5d3 for any major portrait work that pops up, or god forbid a goddamn wedding or something…

Quick 1dx 2 specs: 20.5 megapixels. 61 focus points with 41 cross type (same as my 5d3 basically). Faster focus acquisition and better and more reliable focusing in low light. Built like a weapon. That’s it really besides the burst rate. Well, there’s the “my camera is better than yours” factor I’ll feel when facing every person I meet along the sidelines, regardless of what they have if it’s not my camera.

I’d love to get it by the start of football/soccer/volleyball/cross country season in the fall but most likely it will be around Christmas if that soon. Once again this isn’t GAS. This isn’t me wanting the 2 year old mirrorless Leica Q for $4300 or the slow focusing medium format Hassleblad X1D for $9000. This is strictly business, as I’ll likely not even touch the 1dx 2 when not shooting sports. I’ll keep you posted as I get closer to my purchase date.

Oh….before I exit. That Sony A9? Lol. The sonofabitch has overheating issues in STILLS mode! Wow. If that proves to be a permanent feature of the camera then it’s dead to me. Well, deader than it already is, being a Sony….

Exit.

The Mirrorless Pro 

With the recent announcement of the Sony A9 mirrorless camera I’ve been wondering when I’ll make the big switch and go all mirrorless. Up until now, going all mirrorless has not been a serious option for me because Sony and Fuji and other serious mirrorless makers don’t make professional level bodies and lenses for sports. 

Sure, a good, well prepared shooter can probably use a pair of Sony a7rII’s to shoot a wedding or a concert, and there is a nice selection of glass available in the wide angle to medium telephoto ranges for that stuff. There is no, say, 400mm 2.8 offered by Sony or Fuji however. Canon and Nikon have several versions of lenses in this focal length going back decades. That’s always been the main point of contention for me changing my sports kit over to mirrorless. There is no fast and long telephoto glass to be had. 

There’s also battery life, which is still far better in a DSLR. I’m talking 3 times as good battery life on average between a pro level DSLR and an alleged pro level mirrorless like the A9 and the Fuji XT-2. Another main thing though, is AF speed and accuracy. This is where mirrorless has been making dramatic strides. It seems that the A9 has AF speed on par with the pro level Canon and Nikon DSLR’s, though this remains to be seen….

A Sony pro body is bound to crush Nikon and Canon is the area of low light and dynamic range, partly because Sony makes the lion share of Nikon sensors these days and holds back the really aggressive tech for their own bodies, and Canon has never seemed to be too concerned with dynamic range, although they have decent noise levels at high ISO’s on some bodies. Sony also has apparently eliminated the “blackout” that happens when continuous shooting with a typical mirrorless body. Also the A9 apparently shoots a disgusting 20fps RAW. It can do this in 100% silent mode. That’s insane!

Will I trade in my Canon sports gear and go full on mirrorless? That remains to be seen. I want to for some reason. It’s not that I hate my Canon gear, or GAS, but more that I feel I’m stapled to outdated tech. Fastened to it. Maybe when Fuji makes a full frame sports camera or fuck it, I may go with a Sony even though I hate them. Some long prime fast glass for these mirrorless jobs wouldn’t hurt either… 

Exit. 

PHOTOGRAPHY: A Disorganized Mess….

Why don’t photographers have unions?

I get it: photographers are not thought to be as “important” as electricians or bricklayers, nor are they generally thought to be as valuable as teachers or meat cutters, but has anyone ever attempted to organize photographers into anything more than an elitist collective like Magnum?

My thoughts on this are as follows: most photographers are petty and despise the work and success of their contemporaries. It’s pretty hard to organize into a brotherhood when you think that way. You cannot be petty and small-minded if you want to unionize. It would be nice to, for example, have standard levels of apprentice, journeyman and master photographer, and to have wage scales commensurate with said levels. This would make shooting for a major publication a straightforward process financially speaking, and may add clarity as to what an apprentice should charge to shoot a wedding as opposed to a journeyman.

Let me pause and say that I’m a political moderate AKA a registered independent. I’m not typically the guy who has strong opinions about labor unions. There are all sorts of counter-argumentative things to consider when organizing a photographic union, and price undercutting and scab behavior would be rampant, but this is just a thought exercise, not a proposal….

Actors and screenwriters have unions, so it’s not like you have to just build or fix or teach something in order to unionize. There can be artists (if we are indeed artists) who form unions. Many photographers would be utterly terrified of being blacklisted or denied work, but I also think many of us on the street photography side would consider joining such a union. Street photographers don’t get paid anyhow and most of us earn a living through conventional jobs. It’s the wedding, portrait, sports, magazine and commercial shooters who would bitch up and cross hypothetical picket lines in all likelihood. I understand that we all have families to feed, but a union would be beneficial to all of us in the long run and provide a much needed hierarchy and eventually structured payment to the whole genre. Of course, as I said earlier, most photographers seem resentful and jealous of other, more accomplished photographers. That is unfortunate and is part of the reason, along with affordable amateurism, that the whole of the photographic profession is drying up money-wise….

This is no micro-struggle. This is real shit that I’d love Peta-Pixel or one of the big dog blogs to address. We are dying and we need to band together in order to survive. Of course I could be wrong for caring about this, being that nobody else seems to….

Exit.

PHOTOGRAPHY: The Black Camera Ambassador 

I’m going to keep this short because, well, I know my audience is basically a bunch of beer drinking white guys. I’m fine with that. Underneath my black skin and aside from sobriety, I’m basically a beer chugging white dude myself. I find something troubling however: 

There is an alarming paucity of black/African-American camera brand ambassadors…. 

I know bruh, it’s not your fault, but hear me out. 

I don’t know why the fuck this is. A number of black shooters are accomplished professionals right? It’s not like black photographers don’t spend a small fortune on camera gear like any other subculture does, but I have an impossibly hard time finding a black brand ambassador for ANY camera brand I can think of. 

Canon? Nah. Fuji? Nope. Leica? Lol! Really?

Late 80’s shooting Ricky Ray style….
I’m sure folks can point me in the direction of a few black guys who get to try out new cameras before they are released and shit like that. I’d appreciate info about them. I suspect they are coons and ass-kissers but I can surely be wrong. I’m keeping an open mind….

Maybe black folks are seen as criminals. Fuji probably thinks I’ll run off with an unreleased camera and disappear or some fuckery like that. Funny how I see so many white and Asian brand ambassadors on YouTube though…. and hardly any women either, regardless of race.

 

This is perhaps a micro-struggle, but it speaks to a larger problem in society. I don’t want to infuriate my loyal readers but I guess I’ll have to wait for you to preview new gear on the web before I buy it because it will never be me. I was born on the wrong side of the color palate. 

Exit. 

Does Image Quality Really Matter?

What matters more: photo content or picture quality? What photo has more intrinsic appeal: a grainy photo of a person getting shot in the head at point blank range or a crisp medium format photo of an apple sitting on a kitchen counter?

People seem to prefer interesting content over visually appealing picture quality. Actually, having both at the same time can be a detriment….

Before I begin I must admit: I’m far more shallow and superficial than I might have hoped….

Let’s take the internet for example, which consists of 3 things: photos, video, and text. That’s it. That’s the internet.

With laptops and PC’s declining in sales and tablet sales becoming stagnant, the main way folks consume the internet these days is by using their phones. Phones have made people highly tolerant of inferior photo quality, especially if the photo features a juicy ass, a nice set of boobs, or a cat, in no particular order. This is because people use their phones to record video and snap photos of the above things, often times in bad lighting or with less than professional level cameras mounted on their phones. Actually, there arguably has never been a professional level camera mounted on a phone…

Come to think of it, amateur porn is the reason this is a debate at all. Every time a chick sends you a photo of her rack and you whack off to it you are taking a side in this debate….

Meanwhile, the internet gives us high quality porn and photographers offer their services for top dollar. Premium porn sites sell content that later gets bootlegged and iPhone photo geeks scoff at paying 5000 USD for a wedding shoot. What the marketplace, both the internet consumer and iPhone shooters are saying is that image quality essentially doesn’t matter.

….and we wonder why our basic friends are simply not impressed by our nice, sharp, well composed DSLR photos, and instead like grainy, drunkly composed iPhone St. Patrick’s Day pictures….

Actually taken with the Fujifilm X100F and ruined in post….

This is why Instagram models are so successful. For every person surfing the web on their phones looking for art there are 2600 men searching the hashtag #tittytuesday. Art is secondary to porn, and in turn, image quality is secondary to content. In fact, many men are suspicious of well lit, professional photos on an Instagram models feed. They suspect a sell is coming, and nobody likes “the sell”. We, ahem, they are more amenable to poorly lit bathroom and bedroom photos where the model is wearing her often worn night clothes…

A nice painting is probably not as desirable as a nice blowjob I suppose, even though the painting normally costs more….

We photographers spend thousands on our cameras and even more on an array of sharp lenses and we only have 900 followers on Instagram and 300 on twitter while some chick in her moms basement using a Galaxy Note has 200k followers on IG and a respectable 24k on twitter, even though she never does more than post photos….

Everything here works besides the Black 4k, which is crap…

Why the fuck are we buying all this gear? Are the camera companies mind fucking us? If you shoot weddings or funerals or school photos I get it, but most of us don’t shoot shit besides street photos and our reluctant family members who we are afraid to tell how much we paid for our gear….

This is a micro-struggle. The debate over image quality vs. image content will not determine whether or not your city legalizes prostitution. This is small shit in the scheme of things. Still, think about how much grainy amateur porn you whack off too compared to over-produced West Hollywood porn…..

Exit.

PHOTOGRAPHY: The Meaningless Struggle

Nobody cares about your photography.

Of course people enjoy glancing at your photos, or maybe they just enjoy “liking” photos on various social media outlets. Hard to tell. It’s very simple to “like” a large number of photos in a short span of time if you want to. In fact, you barely have to know what you’re liking. You scroll and like, all the way down the feed until you get bored, and maybe if you’re lucky somebody will “like” you back….

We sure would like for our photos to be liked, and I don’t mean social media liked…. I mean deeply liked. I know I would like that.

Well…. I think.

Would you like that? We spend a lot of money on gear and time on social media pumping our brands. I know I do. Maybe I should do more. Hard to tell. Will I ever get people to like my photos or will I simply get people to “like” my photos? Hard to tell….

Am I even good? That’s not hard to tell. I haven’t been shooting for very long and I don’t have any formal training so my guess is I’m average at best. Does that even make a difference? I see photographers who are definitely not good have wild success due to their networking skills and personal charm. Is being good overrated? Hard to say….

Delilah Jean never goes outside they said….

We struggle so hard to get a foothold in this business but for what? I could rob an NYC subway train car at gunpoint, demanding each passengers cell phone, and I’m certain that 100% of those phones have cameras on them. Everyone is a photographer these days to some degree. In fact, many folks with cell phones shoot more photos per day, thereby getting far more practice, than art-school bred professionals. An Instagram model may have 2000 photos on her page while an artist might think he’s one of the best in the world having an online portfolio of 20 photos. Both may have thousands of followers but for different reasons, even though the reasons intersect at the corner of brand popularity and photographic content….

This is a micro-struggle indeeed. The fate of our great nation does not hinge on the need for a person to buy a better lens to take better portraits. Still, sometimes I wonder if any of what we do in photography is worth it when nobody gives a fuck about our photos anyhow. In fact, if you let art-school geeks tell it: most people don’t know how to give a fuck about photography. We lack the necessary education and refinement to do so. We’re photographic savages basically…

Well, I won’t give a fuck if you don’t. Let’s keep posting photos we snap and maybe I’ll slap the shit out of an art-school nerd just for fun. Sometimes it feels good to bully the bullies….

Exit.

THE INSATIABLE STREET PHOTOGRAPHER 

Some people are never satisfied….

This is normal to me. I don’t expect to ever be fully satisfied with anything.  I mean, I can find temporary satisfaction at any moment I want to, and I can adopt a realist mindset and be content “in the moment”, but in my humble opinion, long-lasting satisfaction is impossible. 

Many husbands and wives are content with their spouses of course, though I suspect true contentment is evasive and is replaced at some point by filial piety and duty, despite what the contents of the secret mind are. In other words, people may want something better or something different than what they have, but are deeply motivated to resist any and all temptation. This is perhaps the definition of loyalty…..

What about us however? What about our photography and being satisfied with our work? Is there ever a point where we should feel like we have taken enough photos? Probably not. What about gear? Is there a point where we have the perfect kit for our photographic needs and should stop looking at gear forums and adding items to our Amazon wish lists? Probably so…..

Im never satisfied with anything, as I said before. In fact I reject the premise of being satisfied and embrace instead the reality of constant evolution. Sure, it is fruitless to divorce your spouse randomly or to sell all your gear and buy a new camera each year. Still, our kits must evolve and our marriages must grow and both partners need to try to be the best partner they can be, and avoid stagnation and complacency. No matter how good the last photo you took was, you’re only as good as your next photo. Excellence is being able to reproduce results, and there is no hard limit as to the number of results required before you consider yourself excellent.

I am insatiable. I’ll never be satisfied with anything. Well, besides my motorcycle…. and a dozen jumbo steamed crabs…. and a Hasselblad X1D…..

Exit. 

…ABOUT FORM VS. FUNCTION

I used to want every pro lens Canon makes, a thousand dollar Gitzo tripod, and two of the latest and greatest Canon camera bodies. Now I want to sell my Canon gear. Now I believe:

“The less gear you own the better. “ ~ RIC RAY

Do not get shit twisted with me. I love gear. I also love women with big boobs and fat asses. A man shouldn’t have too many of those types of gals in his life either, if he is so fortunate to have one at all. In fact one gal is more than enough….

Similarly, one camera and one lens will suffice for most general photographic purposes, unless you are doing professional work. If you own a compact camera like my Fujifilm X100F that’s all the better. 

God save the poor fuck staying up late nights dreaming of gear….

At the end of months of gear research, the prospective gear buyer arrives at the sterling conclusion that he MUST buy camera X. He has studied many online gear forums and has read and watched dozens of reviews. He has developed a budget so he can reasonably afford the camera. In fact, he has applied reason so thoroughly that reason has given way to a passionate, almost scientific defense of his camera choice. When challenged about his choice, he speaks as if he already owns the camera. 

There is nothing wrong with this, but in truth nobody should buy a camera or lens because of rationality alone. How the piece of kit looks, feels, and how it makes you feel is as important as burst rate, 4K video, and image quality. Indeed any camera will take a fine photo theses days much like any gun can kill a person, but since that is the case I think it is better to buy something that inspires you as opposed to the “best tool for the job” if these two criterion don’t intersect. This is partly why I detest Sony as a camera maker, because however great their cameras may be, they seem to hoist function over form. 

I understand that a pro sports shooter needs something that focuses swiftly and shoots a lot of photos equally as fast. I get it that wedding shooters need low light champion cameras that can focus in near darkness reliably. These shooters may choose function over form. Still, there are plenty of shooters tackling weddings with elegant yet hard to use digital rangefinder Leica’s and film cameras….

I can honestly say I don’t want another piece of camera gear right now. I’m good. Maybe if Leica drops the price on the Q or if a new similar camera comes out from them or a full frame Fuji compact then I’d start planning my budgets again. I still have my Canon 5d3 with the 70-200 2.8 IS II to shoot sports with. Between my two bodies I could probably cover a large number of paid events but fuck all that. I’ve been on that train of thought. It is too easy to surrender to gear lusting. It is way too tempting to put off shooting photos now and surrender to watching gear porn on YouTube while mentally assembling a kit you will hopefully complete a year in the future. 

I know I often defend GAS. This is a bit of a departure from that. I’m not being passionate or speaking from a lectern here today. These are more random thoughts than anything. In fact, let me get the fuck out of here like this: 

“It is man’s natural sickness to believe that he possesses the truth.”  ~ Blaise Pascal

Exit. 

The Gears of Change

My friend told me he was contemplating a switch to Sony. 

This is a big fucking deal to me. No, seriously. 

You see, for years my friend and I defended our mother brand, Canon, against all other brands when it comes to still photography. Not to say Canon is better than say, Nikon, when it comes to image quality and dynamic range (for starters) but Canon has historically been a well rounded brand with few recalls and boasts dependable bodies. When it comes to video Canon obliterates Nikon of course, and my friend is big on video stuff. I don’t give a half of a fuck about video, as many of you know. My friend is excited about the expected release of the Panasonic GH5. 

So why Sony? Well Canon has been sucking ass lately. The 5d Mark IV is a disappointment to many folks. Nobody besides soccer moms cares about the upcoming 6d Mark II. The 5dSR is a nice camera, and is tempting for stills. The 1dX II is expensive as fuck and more than decent for video. All of the above cameras sport Canon’s sharpness murdering anti-aliasing filters, even though the 5dSR cancells the filter effect. 

As far as a camera I’d want to shoot with there is nothing. Canon has not taken producing a viable mirrorless camera seriously to this point. A full frame mirrorless that takes all of Canons famous EF lenses would be game changing, especially if it was compact and elegant. It would have to have 4K video for you guys who care about that shit, and hopefully it wouldn’t overheat like the Sony cameras do….

So again: why Sony? Well what else is there? Nikon is reporting epic losses and is cutting back on the cameras and lenses it produces moving forward. That’s not scary right? We’re talking full frame here of course. What else is there that is worth migrating to that shoots good stills and 4K video besides Sony? Each day more and more shooters are leaving the DSLR empires and migrating to mirrorless systems, myself included. I still have a Canon 5d3 and use it to shoot sports ONLY. If my sports gig ever dries up I will march up to Service Photo the next day and sell all my Canon shit. 

I hate Sony personally unless it’s time to play Uncharted or God of War. I get it though. These big ass DSLR’s just don’t seem worth replacing with another big dumb ass DSLR. Don’t get me wrong, DSLR’s are still the most professional units available for most applications, but with money drying up in photography gigs in general, it’s worth investigating how long that will remain the case….

Exit. 

ARE YOU A GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER? (WHY IT DOES NOT MATTER)

As I have said before, talent is no longer a requirement for success in almost any venture, and it applies especially to photography, music and the arts.

Cutting straight to the heart of the matter, I offer a quote from a famous luminary:

“The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.” ~ Niccilo Machiavelli

To put it in laymens terms: “It is far better to spend all of your energy making folks BELIEVE you are good than it is prudent to spend time trying to actually become good”

This is a sinister yet clearly though out realization once it is deeply embraced, though the implications are not as straightforward as they may seem…

It is not wise to forego all of your practice with studio photography, for instance, including buying equipment that will help you achieve the look you desire. It is better to not believe that becoming some “master of light” will make your career any more substantial than a person who spends far more time video blogging and gaining followers on Twitter than he or she does shooting practice photos. Actually, the shameless self promoter will probably be able to charge more per gig than the hermit-like light master, simply because clients are more impressed with fame than they are impressed skill, all else being equal. In fact, many clients resent the term “skill”….

Skill (and people who profess being skillful) can come off as being elitist or as saying:

This shit is too deep for your simple ass mind to understand

That can be very counterproductive, as one might imagine, and part of what makes some photographers famous and others obscure is simplicity and accessibility. The genius of pop culture success lies in ones ability to do fairly complex things with such magical simplicity that it draws in the uninitiated, as opposed to alienating them.
Rap music especially has suffered from this. Many old school (90’s era) rap aficionados abhor modern rap as being unskillful bullshit. These old school rap fans prefer the wittier and more poetic (debatably) rap of old. They feel like cultivating ones lyrical skill is better than hiring ghost writers and becoming internet famous. This is untrue. Balance is the key in everything, and when the goal is selling to the public the balance should shift healthily towards marketing. What good is it if you are a rap God if you, after a year, only have 7 subscribers on your YouTube channel while the mumbling rapper you hate has 700k subscribers and is averaging 7 new subscribers per hour….

Skill comes naturally with repetition in most things (besides perhaps a golf swing, where repeating poor mechanics can damage your game beyond repair). If you shoot enough photos and look at enough good photos taken by others you will achieve any level of skill you desire. Mix in a bit of innate talent and you could become a legend. Be less concerned with getting better at using your flash and buying a bunch of crap you don’t need, and more concerned with sharing your photos with other humans and letting folks know what you do, as well as being interested in what they are doing. When you think about it, it’s so easy to sit in our studios drinking wine with contempt in our hearts and no business rolling in. It is much harder to get out of our studios, put down the wine bottles and pick up our lives before our lives go the way of the 90’s lyrical Emcee….

Exit