5 December 2016

Portrait: Lulu

By: Jon Katz
Portrait: Lulu

Portrait: Lulu

My second portrait with the new lens was Lulu – this was a snowy, windy, gray and cloudy day. But I like the detail and depth of the photo. Lulu is angling for a carrot.

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Meet The New Portrait Lens

By: Jon Katz
Meet The New Portrait

Meet The New Portrait Lens. Maria and I photographing one another

Yesterday, on the way to see Robin and Emma,  I stopped in  B&H Photo in Manhattan, every photographer's fantasy place. Someday, someone will give me $10,000 and drop me off outside.

Thousands of people scurrying around from all over the world, miles of lenses, cameras, video equipment, and the knowledgeable, grumpy and notoriously honest sales staff. They brook no fools, and have refused to sell me many things I thought I wanted and thought I needed.

Straight talkers, the sales staff a wild mix of clannish Hasidic Jews and professional photographers moonlighting in a vast block- long, multi-story (you cannot see the end of the sales floor) sensory, vast feast of digital and video and photographic equipment and countless thousands of people from all over the country and the world pore through. It is a madhouse.

It is a place of great yearning, as I am surrounded by so many wonderful things I can never have.

As soon as I saved up another $1,000, I was planning to buy a Zeiss Milvus 85 mm or a Canon 85 mm, both highly regarded portrait lenses, each costing around $2,000 plus tax, etc. I love my used Zeiss lens, but it is limited, I wanted a lens that was as good in color as it is in black and white.

The salesman suggested I look at the Canon 135 mm 1.2 L series lens, and I was doubtful.

It cost half of what the other two cost and I was bred to be careful of the cheapest option, it is rarely the best. Besides, I had barely even heard of this lens, it doesn't show up on any of the portrait lens lists.

The salesman – his name was alleged to be Federico – brought out all three lenses and I attached them to my camera, and I took some photos of Maria and the people in line. I loved the lens right away, it is powerful, sharp and offers wonderful depth of field for portraits – see how the background is soft so that Maria's face is highlighted. It is more versatile, faster, you just have to stand back from the subject a bi. (She, of course, started taking photos of me with the camera this morning as I tried to photograph her. It's a war around here.)

The salesman suggested this was as good a portrait lens as the others, you just have to get back a bit, the lens is fast and powerful, super sharp and great for scenes, the kind of portraits I love to take. And it is $1,000 less, or more. I agonized about this a bit, I went online and pored through professional and amateur reviews, I called B&H several times from my daughter's apartment in Brooklyn, I talked to three different people.

Each one recommended this lens – ones salesperson went on my blog to look at my photos and said it was the right lens for me.  They said it was as good as the ones that cost twice as much, a tough idea to get my head around. And I couldn't disregard the cost factor, for $1,500 more, the other lenses would have to be a great deal better, not just a little. Time to adjust my thinking.

I bought it, brought it home, took a photo of Maria this morning at the pasture gate as she was photographing me with her Iphone. I loved the detail in her face and hoodie, I loved the blurring of the background to highlight the face. I think it was a great deal for me, and also a lesson. The most expensive is not always the best choice. And it helps to listen.

I have so much to learn in life, I am grateful to be learning new things every day.

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4 December 2016

Grandfather Chronicles: Robin’s Eyes, Cont. Seeing The World Anew

By: Jon Katz
Seeing The World

Seeing The World

So far, the most amazing thing about being a grandfather for me is watching Robin see the world for the first time, she is eager to see it and understand it. That seems a miracle to me, the birth of consciousness, creativity and awareness.

There is a great advantage to coming in and out of her life, I can see her changing so clearly. She is touching things, watching, listening. She sat in my lap during lunch and I could feel a closeness between us, or at  least a great level of comfort, even trust. I think Emma is trusting me a bit more also, she is less concerned about the fragility of a newborn baby, which is very understandable.

I think I am sometimes too large an element to come crashing into anybody's life but today it felt so easy and natural all around. I never stay more than a few hours at Emma's, perhaps because I was also so twitchy with my own family, so desperate to get away from them.

I never feel that with Emma and Jay, they are completely gracious and eager for us to stay longer, but I am eager not to overstay, that seems right for me. Robin and I are doing well, we are learning to communicate, and I dearly love to see her discovering life and the color and light of the world.

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Portrait: Robin’s Eyes

By: Jon Katz
Robin's Eyes

Robin's Eyes

Robin has a very thoughtful quality about her, when she is interested in someone or something, she has the most penetrating stare. She reminds me of the some of the tougher bosses and editors I have had in my life, I wouldn't want to cross her. She also has an easy laugh and seems easy going.

She sits quietly at restaurants and move easily to her own bedroom without a fuss. We had a good staredown together and I picked her up and tossed her in the air a bit, to Emma's horror. I do love those eyes, I have this feeling Robin will chart her own course in life.

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Lovefest: Lunch With Robin

By: Jon Katz
Lovefest

Lovefest

Maria and I went to Brooklyn to see my granddaughter Robin and her parents, Emma and Jay. I have to be honest, it was a lovefest. Robin loved the rattles I brought her and studied me closely and thoughtfully, as if I were a large bird who suddenly landed in her midst.

But she was also very loving, and completely at ease with me, she spent half of the day in my lap, including during the lunch we all had together at some trendy Brooklyn bar and restaurant (my Jewish Pirates tattoo was a big hit among the very hip and you staff, Emma may have been mortified a bit.)

It was a lovefest, pure and simple. It was as if we had known one another for years, she also squealed and giggled a bit, I think she found me completely ridiculous. Emma and Jay are amazing parents, I am deeply impressed at the way they have plunged into parenthood, loving conscientious and informed.

Robin was very different that I experienced her on our last visit, she is holding things, and she has a deep and thoughtful way of considering the world. She sat in my lap at the restaurant while I ate and gave her parents a break, and it was the most natural thing in the world, for me, and I think, for her.

She was transfixed by the rattles I got her, which made all kinds of noises, Robin has this very intensive gaze which she turned upon the rattles, and also on me.

Maria also go into this a big, holding Robin (yes I have photos) and talking with her. It was a great sweet visit. I also made a lightning visit to B & H Photo to explore some lenses, and to my great shock, the staff there waved me off of the $2,000 portrait lens I wanted for months and urged me to consider a Canon 135 mm lens which was less than half the price. With the few hundred dollars I had saved up (with Maria's help) the new lens cost about $700 a miracle for a Canon L series lens. At B&H they let me take some photos with all three of the lenses I was interested in, and the 135 mm is the lens for me. First photos in the morning, the first was a portrait of Maria at B & H, I'll put it up shortly.

More tomorrow, I'm wrecked, we got up at 5 a.m. and walked around Brooklyn and Manhattan. I was nervous about buying the lens, but I'm happy about it. And I am delighted about the visit. I feel as if i am really making contact with Robin, and getting to know her,  a lot of good feeling. With my daughter as well.

She said she couldn't wait to take Robin to movies she was too  young to see, much as I had done with her. That was good to hear. I made a point of leaving early – parents and fish smell bad after a few hours. It was a wonderful visit all around. I am also happy Maria is big part of this.

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