Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Consumerist Dribble

I suppose I should have seen this coming. Whenever here has been an absence of doing in any field of interest of hobby, my attention inevitably fixates voraciously on the buying. Capitalism has taught me well - against my will, I find myself wanting to buy buy buy in the delusion that a new acquisition will somehow lead to some degree of artistic ascendance.

Yesterday, in my maddening and stir crazy loathing of the daily 5pm blackout, I set up a shoddy excuse of a studio to practice with some simple lighting. The setup was rudimentary and grossly amateur, a wrinkled black bedsheet, two 100 watt halogen bulbs in cheap Walmart shop light tins and a half-broken old stool (since I'm so tall that the bedsheet would need to reach the ceiling to leave room for my head). Simple and straightforward.

Out of laziness (since the tripod mount was already screwed in) I locked my XZ-1 onto the tripod and set it up right against the bed. Working distance did not exist - the space between the stool and the camera amounted to maybe 3 feet at best. Even with the massive depth of field offered by the smaller sensor, f/1.8 still proved a challenge to nail crisp focus without being behind the camera. Plainly put, the entire effort was both half assed and a royal pain because of it. There really is a reason photographers are supposed to stay behind the camera in these situations.

In the wake of that horrid act of futility, I've been pricing the needs associated with a competent portrait/studio setup. Much to my surprise, it's not nearly as expensive a pursuit as I originally thought it would be, but it is still money to be spent and money is something of a scarce resource to me still (although it is a situation constantly improving). For about $125 there is a solid studio backdrop set available that comes complete with a solid black and solid white background. Lord knows a flat, not-wrinkle-ridden background would do my studio efforts wonders. More importantly, the backs of the backdrops are rugged, permitting outdoor setup of the unit and use of a light I've always been more comfortable with using, natural light. At that point, the only possible future purchase interest would maybe be a beauty dish or some other kind of reflector to bounce light as I see appropriate in any given circumstance. Win win. But, from the financial standpoint, requiring patience.

Shopping for studio backdrops unfortunately proved to be a slippery slope. From backdrops, my mind wandered into artificial lighting, and from artificial lighting it wandered to glass. Never a good way to go because deciding on what you want tends to make you eager and impatient in anticipation of acquiring those things you've chosen. They become like milestones, miniature goals to be achieved that have no real impact or merit other than providing one more item to the list of gear to boast about. Sadly, I've come up with my mini-goals. My consumerist demise is a looming dark in my future.

Truth be told, I have the equipment at my disposal that largely completes my gearing wishlist. But I am a brand loyalist. Shameful, I know. My 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 outshines Olympus' own 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens in sharpness, but it is of a different brand, an antique piece for an extinct camera system, and so I will side with my Olympus lens with subdued reservation. The case for my 14mm f/2.5 isn't nearly as clear. It is my choice fast wide prime, but it is not THAT fast and it is not THAT wide. More so, Olympus' offering in the 12mm f/2.0 is far sharper and far less distorted and just generally much more appealing than the pancake I have, up till now, suffered with. As such, I predict in the future I will sell off my 14-45mm and 14mm lenses, perhaps to a friend who can put them to good use. From that point, I have 2 pieces of glass in mind to construct the kind of system I feel I can stand behind. Two systems, actually. For the casual, the family candid shooting and documentarian approach to events, the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R paired with the acquisition of the 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R is ideal. It is a kit lens system, much like the Nikkor 18-55mm and 55-200mm combo I packed for years. For the art, my 45mm f/1.8 lens has already stood in competently for a normal prime (which I'm still not sure about needing/wanting), but for the wide interior shooting I'm prone to do, the 12mm f/2.0 is a very clear front runner. Two lens systems for 2 very different kinds of shooting. The final complement to the camera system in total is in speedlights, and with the remote capabilities built into the E-P3, a pair of FL-300R flashguns seems more than perfect for bounce, direct and remote, creative flash use. $1600 in acquisitions total. Not as bad as it could be, but wow do I find places for my money to go.

Maybe I'll manage to build such an ideal system up before the end of next year. We'll see.

Today, however, I think I'll go home, iron that black bedsheet, push-pin it to the ceiling and try my faux studio setup one more time.