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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gear n' stuff

One of the most common questions from one photographer to another is, "what are you using?"

While there's lot of talk about creativity, gear lust is when the conversation becomes really animated. I'm not so much an equipment junkie as I am a gadget lover. Ever since I was a kid I have been a sucker for them. Show me a 7 in 1 screwdriver and turkey baster and I drool and want one. The dumber the gadget the more I like it.

It occured to me that those who read this blog - that's right, both of you - might be interested in my stuff. I've just finished reading about someone else's, so I thought I'd be a copycat.

Camera - I switched to the Sony a900 last year, with a couple of a700's for back-ups/spares. Love the 900 and the superb Zeiss glass that comes with it. Had to almost sell a kidney to buy those lenses, but they're worth it. I have to force myself to use a tripd, but when I do it's an Induro. Lights are Elinchrom fired by Pocket Wizards, as well there's a whole bunch of wireless Sony speedlights. For location scouting I use a little Canon G9, which apart from being cute is actually very good.

Computer - PC all the way. There's no way I'm paying those inflated Mac prices. The desktop is a 64 Bit Dell Quadcore i7 with 12 Gigs of RAM and a couple of 1TB Seagates. I have a nice 4 bay, eSATA box from Sans Digital housing four 2TB Seagates. My main laptop and also my office machine is an 64 bit, dualcore,18.5" Sony that's just a beaut. It came out a little over a year ago and was specifically aimed at photographers with a rich display that shows 98% of Adobe RGB (almost unheard of in a laptop), as well as many other photo friendly features not found in many desktops even. It cost a bundle and is no longer made. Was I the only one who bought one of these things? I thought they would take the world by storm. Ah well.For on the road I have a little 12" Sony running XP that I've had for years and still runs Lightroom and CS4 just fine. I have a whole bunch of little external drives for the laptops running from 250 gig to 500 gig - Seagate Free Agents - highly recommended. There so cheap now, I'm actually not even formatting them for re-use. I leave the RAW's from a job on the initial drive as one extra step of insurance and file them away after I have copied them to my desktop.

With the exception of the portable Free Agent drives, every drive is "Mirrored" in a RAID 1 configuration. That means for every drive there is another one coupled to it and they both read and write in unison. Should the primary drive fail, the ghost drive kicks in automatically for seamless operation. That's the first backup. The second, is a networked HP Media Server, running Windows Home Server with 8 TB of storage, and it backs up daily, keeping three months of backups all of the time.

Lightroom is the backbone of my business, not just for processing, but the asset managment tools make life so much easier. Don't know how I lived without it. For the heavy lifting, beyond Lightroom's capabilities, I use CS4 with a full suite of Nik plug-Ins and Noise Ninja for noise reduction. Initial processing is with DXo which I prefer for the Sony.

In addition, I have more software from more vendors than I can count and most of it is rarely used. Smart FTP,Skype and Dropbox are really my only regulars.

It's only when you make a list like this, and there's so much I've left off, that you realize how much you have invested and wasted. Quite sobering actually.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Miami Image

Miami Images - Images by Andrew Ptak

I spent last week working in Miami and took an extra day to spend an always educational day with Seth Resnick. Time with Seth is always well spent, but as an extra bonus, Eric Meola dropped in at lunch time. I've admired his work for 3o years, or more, and it was a real treat to meet him in the flesh.

This is a personal shot I took in South Beach one night. I should have a few in my Stock site in a week or so - just got to find the time to edit and process them.

Yes, South Beach was the usual zoo, with Superbowl coming up shortly, adding to the fun and games. Big sound stages and scaffolding for TV crews being built on the beach. Kind of glad I'm going to miss it though, it would be hell to try and work around that.

I met a street artist selling his (awful) paintings outside of Starbucks on Ocean Drive. I didn't buy one of his paintings, but I did buy him a coffee and we chatted for a few minutes. Turns out he's from Provincetown, Mass. and "winters in Miami Beach every year. Guess you don't have to have money to have a winter residence.

Anyhow, we're great lovers of Cape Cod - had a summer place in Hyannis for many years - and I know P'town very well. I asked this fellow about Dixie, a flamboyant Queen who runs the Post Office Cafe and whom we've known for years. He always embodied all of the fun and the intelligence that the place possesses. Bummer of bummers, turns out that Dixie died when he fell down the stairs and cracked his skull. What are the chances of being far from home and meeting someone on the street who is also far from home and finding out something like this? Provincetown will go on but one small and vital piece will be missing.

EDIT - I notice that this image flickers on screen. Damned if I know why, the lighter version of the flickering image is actually the exposure of the real file. Hmmm.