Being in limbo

As a year, 2017 is shaping up to be one of change. I'm moving my studio for one thing. This was actually decided on in 2016 but it was late in the year and I had a lot of work going on so I negotiated with my landlord to go month to month until I found a new place. Thats my first case of "limbo". Then, I brought forth a desire that has always been in the back of my mind and stayed there due to several things besides an empty wallet. I rented a medium format Pentax 645z from time to time and loved the images it produced. There is an instant connection between that format and it's properties and my creative mind's eye. I could afford the buy in for the Pentax but it just lacked quality glass, some that was available was marginal at best and the Pentax lenses made for the 645z cost about as much as the buy in. Then Fuji changed all that with their announcement of a format with the same sensor size, a lineup of lenses you could build on and at a price that while high, it wasn't in the same orbit as the Hasselblad H6 and Phase One XF systems. Yet it could compete. So it was said. I went for it; I mean if not now? When? Goodbye Nikon, hello Fujifilm in a much bigger way. Thats limbo #2. Moving to new equipment also has me looking at my lighting both on location and in studio. Lighting is critical and important to the new format I'm switching to as well. I'm actually circling back around to a more strobist like speedlight  based portable lighting setup when I can. I am not getting rid of the Profoto battery lights, I may thin down the stock some, but right now my plan is to just reduce the poundage I lug with when shooting mobile without help. Perhaps combine lighting with a mix of speedlight and strobes. I will be one camera manufacturer now, the same systems more or less, so I can do some things i could not before. Simple is better at this stage of my life and career. 

But I'm in limbo (limbos?) right now. I'm waiting for a medium format camera from Fuji. Seems everyone is unless you are in Australia or Europe. I'm in limbo waiting for my new studio. I will have to store for a month and rent space if needed, either another studio or a hotel room.  So I need a lighting solution that works without needing an assistant or breaking my back. Enter speedlights. Enter triggers. Hopefully. I use the excellent Fuji X system now that my Nikons are gone and it works well with Profoto and the manual air remote but that stuff is big to carry around. Speedlights can work in many cases. I do at times, need TTL, and when using speedlights, remote power adjustment is handy and thats really only available thru a TTL controlled speedlight. I also need high speed sync support which is usually only available via TTL commands. There has to be some language passed and the ground work is there in TTL lingo. Fuji finally delivered a TTL speed light AND high speed sync support via their firmware. But triggers supporting Fuji TTL are rare. Very rare. Enter Serene Automation and their RoboSHOOT Plus triggers. The ONLY game in town that supports Fuji TTL without an accompanying flash product. Nissan does Fuji TTL but only with Nissin flashes. I have Fuji and Nikon flashes and holy crap if Serene's triggers don't support Fuji and Nikon flashes! I know not how or why John at Serene decided to work with Nikon i-TTL but he did and friends, it works very well indeed. I plan to do a write up about that in a few weeks, once I get more use of the product under my belt as they say. So far, it looks very promising and in my discussion with Mr. RoboSHOOT, John Poremba, I can tell you this company, small as it is, is huge on quality and support. There is a lot going on under the covers with hardware talking to other hardware not of the same family. Not many manufacturers get it right. I think I found one that does. So my time in limbo is being put to use in finding a good, lighter, capable lighting package for both systems. 

Being in limbo also means work is VERY slow. I'm not booking large studio gigs right now. I frankly need to find more work and it needs to be mostly non-studio based for now. As if all described above isn't enough, I also need to make some business model changes to satisfy some things on the personal side and to keep those creative juices flowing. Those should be more transparent to my clients, at least I hope so. My move to rebrand my business name will be noticeable but I've tried to incorporate the old with the new. My new business name is looking like its "Kilburg Photography" (thats the DBA) with the use of Wally Kilburg Photography & Services surfacing on the web and Facebook, etc. I have my new cards, new text based logo, and soon a revamped web page. One thing that will also be evident is I will not be renting the studio much, if ever. Thats one change but I may have an answer for that too, as some things are under development and discussion. I may be able to point you to studio space if needed. Just not mine. I'm still going to be working on portraits, lifestyle, commercial product and marketing photography and exploring other areas more in-depth. But it will be done slightly different. I will know but you all shouldn't see the change. 

I am planning right now for a early May move into my new place. I hope to have an open house in June right after, Nothing fancy, but more a chance to see the new place and meet some new "partners" in my studio. No, not true partners per se, but lets say very good friends of the studio, the type that will have input into its use. I'm looking forward to 2017, but its hell being in limbo. Patience was never my strong feature. Luckily, I can geek out over flash triggers while waiting. :)

Just Like Starting Over....

I have been so remiss in producing a blog entry for about 3-4 months now. The reasons are many – laser surgery to repair a torn retina (still in mild recovery), numerous home front related issues with water damage, continued working with my wife as she mends while battling memory issues, and the fact that I have been very, very busy; busier than I would have imagined only six months ago.

I’m still at odds on whether I have this photography thing down. And that’s with over three years into it. I get my work done, and I’m finding that the more “known” you are, the more work you get and the amount of people seeing your work obviously increases dramatically. You then find yourself in odd predicaments where you accept a job with promises of content and available time, then have to deliver with a fraction of what was promised. And there are “politics” and often ego involved. Just doing good solid work isn’t the driving force anymore. This is the territory you get when you are able to charge beyond Facebook gigs, and you dive into the commercial side heavily. It changes your perspective. I’m reminded of the old adage, “be careful what you wish for”.

I feel, at times, that I have learned more this year than the years past since working as a photographer full time. Truth is it’s even tougher to photograph professionally now AND run a studio with the amount of work I’ve been getting. I’m still not using the studio even to 60% capacity so paying the overhead for it drives my financials crazy. Yet, it’s needed when it’s needed and provides more than what a spreadsheet can show. Still, I waffle week to week on keeping it. On one hand, it relieves me of a huge chunk of time if I don’t have to run it. On the other, I have only gotten some gigs because I have it. I’ve found that I can secure gigs too, large money gigs, by providing a studio to other large commercial imaging efforts and by providing what the industry terms, “location services”. Where I broker things like finding cinematographers, caterers, models and actors, locations, and provide input for travel to and from locations, hotels, etc. There are fees you can charge for that. For 2017, my existing location has pretty much exhausted its usefulness. My landlord wants more $$$ per month. I have a garbage/health issue right outside my window and parking has become more of a nightmare. Especially with larger shoots involving many rental cars and 6-8 hours of shooting. Aurora is not a business friendly city in that regard. I’m just not paying more for the diminished value of the location. I’m going to have to move and so I'm searching for a new “home” and its taking up a lot of time. Is it worth it? This is a good time to go forth without a studio if that’s a choice. 

There is the question too of studio operation itself. The equipment and renting the space out. Studio lights come into play more now as my work is more involved. I’m using a couple of a/c powered Profoto D1’s in my studio augmented by my Profoto B series battery strobes I use on location. I hands down prefer the Profoto B’s outside the studio but in the studio, while they are useful and not having cords is fantastic, they just don’t hold up under the heavy use required for a 4-8 hour shoot. You have to swap batteries, charge batteries and that’s a different sort of pain in the butt. Plus having a powerful modeling light really helps at times depending on what sort of work you are shooting. I’m finding for true in the studio work, good old wired a/c powered strobes are better. So if I move to a new location, establish a new studio, I’m better off going back to a/c powered, corded strobes. I’d probably go with the newer DigiBee’s from Paul C Buff. My spreadsheet is not going to like that, even though it’s less than a $1k output. I can adapt the existing studio modifiers to the Balcar/AB light mounts with new speed ring inserts costing all of $50 from eBay. many know, I rent my studio to other agencies and photographers. Given my workload, I just can’t rent it to anyone with a camera anymore. I don’t mind renting it but most of those with a camera in hand and little to no experience in using a studio and/or in lighting, expect the cheap rental fee to include my services for setup and assistance. I can’t do that any longer for a number of reasons. I can, for a fee, offer classes to certify people in the use of a studio and lights, so that you can rent. Moving forward, I will only rent to those that I know, know how to use it. That’s is, if I find a new suitable location at a price that makes sense and is a place I can grow with.

Camera wise, I’m still using a Fuji X system and in fact have invested even more into it. I prefer to shoot with it even with some “perceived” shortcomings. I also still have my trusty Nikons. I’m seeing less of a difference between the two and in fact I’m starting to prefer the results of the Fuji over the Nikon in many shoots where I use both. I have no idea where this will wind up right now. I just don’t. I would like the simplicity of one system. Tethering is not the issue it was, although the Nikon and Capture One is still tops in that area. Medium format is also rearing its head. I could dump the Nikons and go to a studio based medium format system…maybe the newer Fuji GFX since its has some X system similarities…

So yeah going on four years later, even learning what I have and understanding the business way more than I did prior, it is just like starting over. Funny, at this time last year, I had similar thoughts about knowing and understanding the business. I figured I had it pretty well down adjusting here and there for minor bumps.  Man, was I wrong. For maybe four months things went well but I got busier and busier and demands became more than what I had experienced and it all just became very dynamic. It still is and I can honestly say, I have no idea or a plan for 2017 other than to keep on keeping on. I think. I hope…

Studio or not, I will be in business but I guess its more a question of what sort of business and what direction...right now my business compass is just spinning.