Experimenting with Creative Double Exposures

These are in-camera double exposures created with the OMD-EM-10. For the first image I set the shutter speed to 1/6th of a second and rotated the camera while pointed at the trees. The flowers were then photographed at 1/125 to keep them sharp. The camera puts the two scenes together rather quickly. Of course with a technique like this, there will be a few misses. Nevertheless, the results can be quite interesting when you get it just right.

This Brooklyn Bridge shot was a bit of an accident with the first frame being a long 30 second exposure. Frame 2 was equally as long, but after bumping the tripod mid exposure, I decided to just pick it up and move it around. Whether you love it or hate it, one thing is certain...it sure is different.

The firepit was captured at a family BBQ with the first frame being the flames, and the second including the surrounding trees. I think it has a painterly quality to it. 

For more experimental techniques, check my article "Zoom Past the Competition with Intentional Lens Movement". 

Brooklyn Bridge at Dusk, August 2014

If you were wondering about the image quality of a mirrorless camera, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Not only is it easy to carry and shoot with, but the results are stunning. This is a 25 second exposure at f11 and ISO 200 captured with the Olympus OM-D EM-10. It was mounted on a gorilla-pod as the colors of dusk swept over the city. My lens choice was the Olympus 17mm f2.8 pancake.

Thanks for a Great Workshop!

I would like to thank everyone who came to Brooklyn last night for an awesome photo workshop. The threat of stormy weather actually worked to our advantage with less crowds to contend with, and a stellar sky! We worked on everything from high ISO work, to graduated ND filters, live view, super long exposures, creative composition, and more. Thanks to Sue for capturing these shots of the group at work. 

August in NY, Street Scenes

These are street scenes captured over the last three days with the Olympus OMD EM-10. Thus far, it has been a fun camera to shoot with, offering full manual control and unlimited creative potential. The small size and tilting screen also allow me to blend into my surroundings and capture the unposed side of life.

Panning at 1/25th. Unlike a DSLR, you actually see your captured image in the viewfinder for a split second. 

Panning at 1/25th. Unlike a DSLR, you actually see your captured image in the viewfinder for a split second. 

Early in the day, I've been shooting around ISO 1000 with good results. 

Early in the day, I've been shooting around ISO 1000 with good results. 

Reflections in a Macy's Window.

Reflections in a Macy's Window.

The Empire State Building in a puddle of dirty water. 

The Empire State Building in a puddle of dirty water. 

Enough said.

Enough said.

Train graffiti

Train graffiti

Quieter moments inside cafes and restaurants.

Quieter moments inside cafes and restaurants.

A rough morning?

A rough morning?

Mysterious figure at a phone booth.

Mysterious figure at a phone booth.

At f22, the sun scatters nicely on the 17mm prime.

At f22, the sun scatters nicely on the 17mm prime.

Using the tilt screen, it's easy to shoot from the hip and still see what's in front of you.

Using the tilt screen, it's easy to shoot from the hip and still see what's in front of you.

The healthy biker...

The healthy biker...

Cleaning up the city.

Cleaning up the city.

The camera has a great multiple exposure mode. This is the Macy's window shot, combined with a second shot of the Empire State building. 

The camera has a great multiple exposure mode. This is the Macy's window shot, combined with a second shot of the Empire State building. 

Inside the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

When Sue mentioned she wanted to visit the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, I definitely thought she was joking. Why would anyone want to voluntarily enter a creepy place where people suffered and even died? 

Yet like any photographer will tell you, sometimes you do crazy things for a photo. On an unseasonably dreary day, I parked in the shadow of the clock tower. The heavy double doors creaked open to reveal a woman dressed in vintage nursing garb. And just like that, we were being admitted.

The facility first opened in 1864 with reasons for admission including: asthma, desertion by husband, gastritis, laziness, religious enthusiasm, and women trouble. See the full list here. 

With advances in medicine, the list was narrowed dramatically. Amazingly, the asylum remained open until 1994, often filled beyond capacity. The realization that people were here during my lifetime sent chills down the length of my spine. 

Hallways once painted in bright cheerful colors have peeled to reveal the confining walls beneath.

On Ward F where the most deviant patients were housed, I slipped into a room and found a cot which still remained. 

The guide's voice grew fainter as the group moved on. For a moment, I felt the reality of what it was like to call this place home. I was alone in a room that once belonged to someone. The word HELP was written on a dust covered pane of double glass. I took this photo and quickly left to rejoin the others. The possibility of being left behind was not something I wanted to entertain. 

As if all of this wasn't spooky enough, there was a collection of empty wheelchairs left behind. With only window light to work with, I found myself at ISO 12,800 for most of the tour. Along with a shutter of 1/125 and an aperture of f4, I was able to achieve proper exposures in even the darkest corners of the Asylum.

In the Nurses quarters, I found a sign of the medical procedures performed here. While this was meant to be a place to help people, these details tell a much different story. 

Each floor held a heavy odor that I can best characterize as a mixture of perfumed hospital soap and earthy mildew. While it's difficult to capture a smell in a photograph, it did permeate my clothing for a most unwelcome souvenir. 

Upon reaching the final floor, we looked at the Patient's Art Gallery. This was an extensive collection of art made by those who were admitted here. Here are just a few.

This exhibit area also held original documents, and other unique artifacts from the Asylum's history. I found a typed letter on official letterhead and made a closeup study of it.

Upon stepping outside into the bright natural light, I felt an overwhelming and immediate sense of relief. Unfortunately, some patients never got to experience this freedom. I looked back one last time at the barred windows and expansive structure. The gothic architecture is beautiful, but outwardly appearances can often be deceiving. 

There have been many reports of paranormal activity here, and considering how many people passed away on these grounds, I'm not surprised. Considering this, I thought it best not to linger, and pulled out of the parking lot in a hurry. It was without a doubt, one of the most most chilling locations I've photographed. To learn more about the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, visit online.

New Tutorial: Unleash Your Creativity with Better Pet Photography

Whether your pet has feathers, fur, or a mane, these tips were designed to help you capture its true personality. Every creature is unique, and through photography, we can work to highlight their best side. Of course, even the best trained animals won't sit and pose for long. Thankfully, obedience class is not necessary for successful imagery. In fact, a playful attitude can be used to a photographer's advantage. Read the whole tutorial on the PicsArt blog.

Everything You Want to Know About the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mirrorless Camera

I've done a tremendous deal of research on mirrorless cameras over the last several weeks. This has proven quite helpful in not only understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the system, but also which specific body to purchase. While I already own two DSLRs including a full frame Canon 6D, I wanted a lightweight option that could be with me at all times. I've long hoped for a camera with the functionality of a DSLR, and the convenience and connectivity of an iPhone. With the Olympus OMD E-M10, I believe that is now a reality. 

Before getting into the specifics of this camera, I thought it might be helpful to start with an overview of the technology. If you're wondering what advantages mirrorless cameras offer, this video is for you. It's called "Migration to Mirrorless Digital Cameras". 

My search for information then led me to this informative video from Tony Northrup. He's a photographer rather than a paid spokesperson, so the info is clearly legit with a focus on features that really matter. At 20 minutes, it's a bit long, but I appreciated the thorough review. Check that out here.

Anytime I'm considering a gear purchase, I trust the incredibly detailed reports from DPReview. They're team of experts has put nearly every camera on the market through it's paces, and offer a no-nonsense breakdown of the pros and cons. Amazing, the OMD E-M10 has most of the technology in the more expensive E-M5 model. The big differences were: 1) no weather sealing 2) 3 axis Image Stabilization as opposed to the 5 axis system. Since I rarely shoot in the rain, and don't use IS, these had little to do with the decision. In fact, the M-10 actually received some great new features such as built in wifi. The reviewers gave it their gold award stating, "The E-M10 offers almost everything the E-M5 did, plus a bit more, at a much lower starting price." Read the whole thing here.  

The heartbeat of a digital camera is largely controled by the processor. With the TruePic VII Image Processor, the E-M10 has the same technology as the flagship model, the OM-D E-M1. It also has a similar sensor at 16.1 megapixels. A a result, the top of the line E-M1 barely beats out the E-M10.  A closer look will also reveal better noise levels at higher ISOs. Granted, there are other differences between the two models, but where it counts most in image quality, the two are essentially a draw. 

My Top 10 List of Features

Besides the Olympus lineup, there are so many models to choose from including Sony, Fuji, and recent models from Canon and Nikon. Of course the best fit ultimately depends on your specific needs. In addition to great image quality, these were the top 10 features that made a difference to me.  

1) Dedicated buttons for adjusting the aperture, shutter, ISO and White Balance. Some camera sacrifices this to make the body smaller, forcing users to dig into the menu. For the type of photography I do, the ability to quickly change settings is a must. You can actually customize the purpose of every button and dial on the camera. 

2) Small and light - see the size difference compared to a DSLR above. 

3) Built in wifi that's easy to set up with a QR code. Definitely one of the best implementations of wifi I've seen on a camera. You have to get the free Olympus app to get it started.

4) Multiple exposure mode. These types of options make photography fun with all kinds of creative ways to use it. Let your imagination guide the way. 

5) Amazing time lapse feature. I remember how involved my first time lapse efforts were. You had to have a special QuickTime Pro account, and a specific remote control, etc. Now, this camera actually assembles a finished time lapse movie ready for viewing. 

6) Live bulb mode for very long night time exposures. This is vastly different and much more useful than a DSLRs bulb mode as you can watch the picture get developed in real time! To understand how this works, here's a great example.

7) High ISO capability up to 25,600. While ISOs this high used to be a novelty, I consistently find myself in situations where it's necessary. While the noise does get more noticeable over 1600, it's very easy to clean this up with one adjustment in Lightroom.

8) Adjustable lcd screen for working in awkward angles. The best views are often on the ground. By tilting the screen you can see what you're doing without contorting your body and neck in a painful position. 

9) Quick autofocus - according to Adorama "The autofocus system is said to be Olympus's fastest ever, based on 81 target areas that cover the entire frame." You can even use the touch screen to achieve focus on your subject.

All 81 points, making it possible to focus just about anywhere in the frame. 

All 81 points, making it possible to focus just about anywhere in the frame. 

10) A great family of lenses to choose from. The micro 4/3rds format has a huge selection of lenses from Panasonic, Olympus, and more. I started with the Olympus 17mm f2.8 which is a sweet pancake lens with a nice wide aperture. More lens options here.

Over the next few days and weeks I'll be sharing images captured with the camera. Check back for more here and on Facebook


Photographing Blackwater Falls, West Virginia

The instant I saw Blackwater Falls I understood what all the fuss was about. Cascading 57 feet over the mountain's edge, it's the tallest waterfall in West Virginia. Like most popular destinations, it's complete with tour-bus parking and an overflow lot. On this particular day however, threatening storm clouds kept the crowds away. This offered an ideal opportunity to capture the landscape's natural beauty through my lens.  

blackwater_falls_wv_2014.jpg

People are often surprised when I share my simple tips for waterfall photography. Undoubtedly, a slow shutter speed is helpful, as is a tripod. Yet, the single most important factor is working in soft, even light. This means planning your shoot for a cloudy day. By doing so it's possible to properly expose both the shadow and highlights areas. 

blackwater_falls_boardwalk.jpg

Anytime you mix inexperienced hikers with treacherous conditions, the likelihood of an accident skyrockets. To prevent people from falling on slippery rocks, the parks department installed a series of boardwalks. While this does limit one's ability to explore, they were well designed with optimal viewing points in mind. The trail gradually descends before you come to the final, and most dramatic platform. I used my 17-40mm lens to try a variety of compositions. 

When visiting heavily photographed sites, it's challenging to put your own twist on the scene. How can you do it better or different than everyone else? I start by capturing the classic compositions first. This gives me a chance to take it all in and get a feel for the location. Once I have these shots, I work towards a more unique perspective. Rather than eliminating the surrounding woods, I used them to introduce a sense of scale. Sure the waterfall is beautiful, but it's just one part of the ecosystem in which everything is of equal importance.