Phil Lewis: Blog en-us (C) Phil Lewis (Phil Lewis) Sat, 01 Aug 2020 21:22:00 GMT Sat, 01 Aug 2020 21:22:00 GMT Phil Lewis: Blog 80 120 Creature of habit I don’t know how old I was when I heard that birds have a very limited range and flight pattern, but that information impacted me; my train of thought went something like, “if I were a bird, I’d go someplace different every day. I’d be free.”

As a photographer, I want to see.  I want to go.  I want to see moments of light and shadow that are striking and unique.  But the reality is, I’m like a bird, going to the same places, seeing the same things.   Necessity seems to keep me within a 10 mile radius of my house.  Or when I do go for a day hike, I choose the same places.  Apart from work and other necessities, there’s something else, subtle, in the back of my mind, like the restraining bolt on R2D2, I can’t seem to think new thoughts about new places... this weekend, or maybe in the fall.  Covid-19 doesn't help.

So, true to form, here are some local black and white images from familiar haunts.  What's special? This is FILM, shot on a Hasselblad 500c, mostly with 80mm or 50mm lenses, maybe a cropped 150mm. Ilford PF+ ISO 50 film. Hover to see controls below.

(Phil Lewis) covid film hasselblad haunts ilford photography tacoma Sat, 01 Aug 2020 21:21:53 GMT
Hold that thought...

Many of the things that will haunt us during the next 90 days will be false terrors. I believe it's important not to get high-centered on things that are not yet true.  Said another way, don't think about things that are not true as if they are or likely to be.

HAVE I actually lost my retirement?

HAVE I actually lost my job?

Has the economy actually disintegrated?

HAVE I actually run out of food, money, gasoline?

HAVE I actually lost my home?  Will I actually lose it?

HAVE I actually lost a beloved family member?

HAVE I actually lost hope?

HAVE I actually gotten the virus? Will I get it? Will I die?

Maybe one or more of these will turn out to be true for me or you, but they almost certainly will not ALL be true.

I’m finding that my mindset really matters right now.  When I envision 90 days from now, I’m back in my office. I’m going out to eat. I’m going to the store.  I’m shopping. I’m driving. I’m hiking. I’m going to church. I’m seeing friends. I think these are the thoughts that are important to hang on to, at least for me.  If you can find that image of the other end of this crisis, I encourage you to hang onto that thought.

(Phil Lewis) corona covid faith hope renewal success thoughts virus Mon, 30 Mar 2020 02:01:35 GMT
An "AHA!" moment: Use your histogram to ETTR (expose to the right) I always thought ETTR was a kind of helpful guideline, "expose for midtones and highlights, get more light on the right side of your histogram," and that was the whole point.  Turns out it's not the whole point.  Exposing to the right is more than a cool idea for generally having more data in your images.  There are some specific actions you can take to optimize exposure in a low-light situation.

I'd say if all you can adjust is shutter in a dark situation, ETTR has more to do with still scenes than moving subjects like your dog or a portrait.  If you want low noise, you're going to want low ISO.  If it needs to be mostly in focus, that limits opening up aperture. What's left?  Your exposure knob and shutter speed.  But really, the principle is to raise exposure all the way to the right without clipping data, however you can.

Take this scene as an example:

This is a dark scene.  ISO 100,  Aperture 5.6, very well-exposed, no noise, but it is a dark scene.  I chuckle as I think of your reaction, "Duh Mr. Smart guy, you just turned your shutter to 25 seconds."  Exactly, but what guide did I use to know how far to turn it without blowing out the highlights?

Compare how this scene would look with our go-to method of raising ISO:


The principal is ETTR, and the guide is histogram.  Specifically, expose all the way to the right, **just to the point before** clipping occurs on the right.  So  if there's a bar on the far right, I've gone too far, back it up 1/3 stop, a click, whatever your measure is.  Now you know that the image will be manageable in Lightroom or whatever your tool of choice is.  In this case, I adjusted exposure in LR down a stop in addition to messing with shadows and highlights.

In Short, ETTR consists of using a tool like histogram to bump right up to but not cross that line of losing data on the high-end.

The two youtube videos that helped me see the light (haha):  The second one is over the top testing on the Sony A7R2.  I hope it helps.

(Phil Lewis) ettr expose to the right exposure light photography Sat, 09 Nov 2019 22:17:36 GMT
Frankie Frankie is learning to model.  He kinda knows what's up when I tell him to stay in one location and start posing him. And since he's always ALLways looking for a hand-out, a simple raised treat-hand, and a "look at this," and he's putty in my hands. 

I was trying out a new Glow 48" deep octagon from Adorama tonight.  

(Phil Lewis) 55mm a7rii dof dog f/1.8 light pet photography shallow softbox sony terrier Fri, 01 Nov 2019 03:38:06 GMT
A Simple Approach to a High-Key Portrait high-key portrait using 60 inch umbrellaA high-key self-portraitThis dead-simple high key portrait was achieved with a 60" umbrella and a couple of reflectors.   high-key portrait using an umbrellaBlack and white high-key self portraitBlack and white high-key self portrait using a 60" umbrella and a couple reflectors.

This is not an elaborate tutorial - you don't need a lot to accomplish this, and this post won't talk about editing or lightroom settings. 

If you have a large umbrella with a diffuser, you can accomplish a really decent high-key head shot portrait. in this self portrait, I'm using a 60" umbrella with a diffuser and a flashpoint studio 400, which is obscured by my body and head.  In front of me to the right is the silver side of a  5 in 1 reflector on a stand, and to the left, a rectangular piece of foam core on a stand, pictured here:

You can achieve some interesting catch-light effects depending on how close or far apart you put the reflectors.  You may want to try this with symmetrical reflectors - two rectangles or v-flats I think would be ideal.

Leave a message if you've used this method, or with other ideas.

Thanks for stopping by!

(Phil Lewis) headshot high key home studio photography portrait small studio v-flats Sun, 08 Sep 2019 19:51:47 GMT
My Hike Movement backpacking, hiking, wildernessPitching by the trailPitching in the twilight. All the spots are taken, so these two stopped and pitched next to the trail. Last Friday - just 3 days ago - I headed to one of my favorite places in the wilderness.  I was there earlier this year when there was still snow in a lot of places on the trail.  But last week, as Summer ended and the last of the mosquitos died, a newer, bigger Autumn enthusiasm arrived once again for the wild places of the PNW. 

My impression is that the weekend backpacking hobby has begun to sprawl, encompassing entire weeks.  I spoke to a fellow on the trail on Friday who had camped at a particular lake on Thursday night, and he said there were at least 50 tents. Since most of us hike with a friend, that’s maybe 100 people - a tiny town - converging on that little remote lake in the wilderness on a Thursday night. It’s a site to see.

joy, hiking, mountains, azure, lake, wilderness, tentsEvening at a wilderness lake in Washington State.First Fall weekend in 2019. A shared joy.

Hashtagged #thehikemovement, the best way to observe it is to participate in it. And that’s what I have been doing for the last 6 years.  And being the haunted, overthinking man that I am, I think a lot about motives - mine and others.  At first I examined my own reasons for my sense of urgency to disappear into the wilderness and abuse my saggy late-middle-aged body, climbing mountains and developing over-sized leg muscles that look and work a lot better than the rest of me. Early on, it was not hard to detect my own “instagram” motives; the harder thing was to admit it and abandon them entirely. 

After I killed all my social media accounts (twitter was spared because I never used it), my compulsion to head out at 4am didn’t go away. As I kept hiking and thinking about why, especially on really difficult hikes, I came to realize that one of the better, more virtuous motives is joy. There are others, but largely, my own “hike movement” is fueled by the joy of an early morning forest, pants and boots wet with dew, so early that I’m knocking down spiderwebs and catching first light and morning mists; it’s fueled by sitting and staring into a remote camp fire (legal only); and by waking up in the wilderness.

(Phil Lewis) backpacking hike movement instagram joy motives REI wilderness Mon, 02 Sep 2019 19:46:25 GMT
Lights I took over a room in our house for a small studio, and I've got lights and modifiers, etc.  But the bedroom light was the typical fixture and it was always in the way and getting bumped.  So I installed a round LED light from Home Depot, thinking it would just be a utility, flush to the ceiling.  But it is color balanced and bright, so last night I grabbed my camera and Noble and took some shots to see how it would turn out.  Pretty good light but needs a fill light and maybe a reflector to provide a catch-light.  I was too quick with my settings; I set my aperture at f/2.8 and my ISO to 800, but in retrospect I could have turned that around, or kept aperture low and used a tripod.  It was just a quick, "hey, Noble, sit in my chair" situation.

Noble Noble Noble Noble  

Self PortraitSelfie, Sony A7rII, Sony 55mm f/1.8


(Phil Lewis) LED light portrait Sony Fri, 16 Aug 2019 14:38:03 GMT
R.I.P. Instagram, facebook. Breaking up with you was the best thing I've done in 2018. It may sound like I'm still obsessed with IG if I'm still talking about it two months later, but nothing could be further from the truth.  I only bring it up because I noticed my May post about it, and thought I should offer a follow-up.

What can I say?  I don't miss it.  I would make the same decision today. I am still hiking, still photographing.  But I'm also free of the anxiety to get something posted all. the. time. That was so dysfunctional. 

(Phil Lewis) instagram photography social media Thu, 28 Jun 2018 02:16:26 GMT
Great glass: Sony G-Master lenses Have you ever rented or borrowed an amazing lens? I borrowed the Sony FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM lens from a (good) friend today.  I'm speechless.  I want to say, "There's no going back" but there's really no way forward.  I just have to enjoy it while I have it.

I already own the F/4, and the differences, I'm sorry to say, go way beyond the f stop.  The zoom and focus rings on the GM are amazing in their ease of use and responsiveness.  The clarity and IQ are leaps and bounds ahead of the lowly G lens.

I also rented the FE 24-70 F/2.8 GM and I'll have it through the weekend.  All of this amazing glass is here to help me shoot my first and maybe last wedding.  My mom is getting married on Thursday, and I am going to be the photographer. So wish me well.



(Phil Lewis) bokeh fe glass gm gmaster lenses photography pixels sony tulip weddings Wed, 09 May 2018 02:51:54 GMT
3 reasons why I killed my Instagram In 2017 I read more than one blog post or article about how Instagram is killing stuff, impacting things, etc.  I've seen several themes:    

IG is negatively impacting The Wilderness:  Trails are getting overrun by would-be adventurers.  People are ending up needing to be rescued from cliffs and ledges and mountain tops because they came unprepared with one thing in mind - getting a shot for instagram.

IG is ruining creativity: Instagrammers aren't "adventuring," they're not looking for the next amazing place, they're going for the same shot with which dozens of others have gotten a million likes.   They still want to go get a killer shot of #VCB and #RowenaCrest (guilty).

IG is shaping photography: Serious amateur and professional photographers are finding themselves awash in kids with really serious gear taking pictures of everything from daily life, street, espresso, you name it, and a lot of them are pulling it off.  It makes us wonder, "what is the future and direction of photography?" and in 2018, the answer to that question must involve social media.  It's not a perception, it's reality: our relationship with photography cannot be described without the word instagram.  

If that's true and I'm serious about photography, why in the world would I click the button to delete my instagram accounts?  Here are my honest answers:

1.  Motives.  When I plan my photographic life around what my little IG audience will 'like', what does that mean?  I asked this question a lot for 3 years, but I never answered honestly, so I never acted on it. This year, I had to face it:  I planned my outings and adventures and hikes with instagram in mind, and it really started to bug me.

2.  Phone addiction. I gave up a couple of things this year for Lent.  One was coffee, and the other was social media on my iPhone.  I read an article, maybe you saw it, by the former google employees essentially blowing the whistle on the overt efforts by social media giants to make their interfaces as addictive as possible, to get you addicted to notifications and red banners, likes, affirmations, etc. etc.  It really resonated with me. So I didn't hesitate, I long-clicked the icons for Instagram and facebook, deleting both off my phone.  

After a few hours, I was a little 'itchy,' but after a day, after a week, I realized I was really going to like it.  I started forgetting my phone.  A Lot.  Even now, weeks later, I still pull it out, stare at it for a second, realize I don't need to do anything on it, and put it away.  

After 40 days of lent, I knew one thing for certain.  I was not going to put Instagram back on my phone.  No way.  I had found extra hours in my day, and I wasn't giving them up.  I was really enjoying the peace of mind that came from being free from phone addiction. 

A week went by, then two, and finally last week, I decided that there was only one thing to do: Install Instagram, post a pic with a message that my adventure was continuing without Instagram, and about an hour later, I pulled the plug; I deleted my accounts and uninstalled the app for the last time.  And the world did not end.

3.  Most importantly, the answer involves the question:  Who am I as a photographer?  I need to find out if my obsession with photography can survive walking away from Instagram.  I enjoy photography and I have nice gear. I love to hike; I daydream about it all the time, and I intend to hit it hard when the snow melts.  But what will be my outlet?  Who is my target audience?  Who will 'Like' my photos now?  What am I going to do with my photography?  This became a driving reason to remove Instagram from my life:  quit taking images that fit nicely in a square, and start thinking about what the heck I'm doing.

I forgot my phone at home twice this week, and I hardly missed it.

(Phil Lewis) addiction hashtags honesty instagram motives photography smartphone Thu, 03 May 2018 05:12:44 GMT