To truly make America great we must become a kinder, more generous nation. We are only as strong as the weakest among us. I am hopeful that President Trump will lead us in that direction. On this historic day, this verse comes to mind. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour." Luke 4:16-19
1) The small size of the camera allows it to sit in my hand perfectly. I don't have large hands and it seems each button was placed in the ideal position. This makes it possible to access the important features without removing my eye from the viewfinder. The aperture and shutter are changed with the front and rear dial while the ISO and WB are accessible on the four way controller.
2) I barely notice when I'm wearing it around my neck. The PEN is really lightweight, especially when paired with the tiny Olympus 17mm f1.8 prime lens. While it doesn't weigh much, it is not cheaply made. In fact, this is one solid camera. Although it's not weatherproof, I have no doubt it will stand up to the New York streets in winter.
3) The B&W mode is beautiful, churning out JPEG files that really pop with great contrast. I especially enjoy Mono Profile 2 with the grain turned off. By shooting in JPEG instead of RAW, I don't have to do much post production. Right out of the camera, images have a real film look with inky blacks and bright whites.
4) Wifi is super easy to set-up and use. I simply downloaded the Olympus app to my Samsung phone and paired it with the camera in a matter of seconds. Once this was done, I was able to transfer JPEG images from the PEN to my phone. This makes it a breeze to share images on social media.
5) Silent Shutter, aka "stealth mode". Working this way is ideal for street photography. The camera literally does not make a sound. This allows me to go undetected, making it possible to get shots I would have been too nervous to try with a noisy DSLR. I have my drive set to Silent/Continuous Low which takes about five frames per second. There is also a high speed burst mode which I've yet to try.
My photography gear has evolved quite a bit over the years. While size is the most obvious difference, that is only a portion of the story. My path is likely quite different from others you may have read.
For me, a bigger sensor wasn't the marker of a great camera. The real a-ha moment was when I tested the full frame Canon 6D against the Olympus OMD EM10. The Olympus image was sharp from corner to corner while the Canon gear produced a very soft photo.
I was shocked of course and wanted to share my findings right away. Could it be that an entry level m43 body could beat a pro quality DSLR? The post stirred up a lot of input and the response was overwhelming. Most everyone who read it criticized my testing process. While I admit it wasn't a scientific comparison, it was eye-opening enough for me to switch to Micro four-thirds completely. I sold all of my Canon equipment and dove into the M43 system without reservation.
The first true test came on a ten day trek around Iceland. It was my first traveling experience with all mirrorless gear. Battery life was a concern so I picked up a bunch of 3rd party Wasabi batteries. My kit was fairly stripped down as I brought two bodies and two lenses. On the OMD EM1 I mounted the incredible Olympus 40-150mm f2.8. The OMD EM10 was paired with the versatile 12-40mm f2.8. For extra reach I also brought the Olympus 1.4x extender. To say I was pleased would be an understatement. The intuitive nature of the cameras allowed me to shoot freely without the gear getting in the way. I was able to hike further, shoot in the rain, and most importantly, the image quality was amazing. You can see some of my favorites in this gallery. I also wrote about the experience in a guest post for MirrorLessons.
It was clear to me that these cameras could handle landscapes well, but what about more fleeting moments like street photography? For my next adventure I headed to Venice where I focused on people, specifically faces and hands. I felt like a photographic ninja, capable of swooping in and out while going unnoticed. I didn't only shoot candids though. For some of the shots I straight out asked if I could take their portrait. The people of Italy are so kind, and just about everyone said yes. I believe the low profile of the OMD also made it less intimidating as opposed to a large DSLR and lens. Having 81 focus points made it easy to create pleasing compositions. I shot everything in RAW and processed them to B&W in Lightroom. You can see that gallery here.
One of my favorite scenic shots from Venice would not have even been possible with my old Canon gear. Thanks to an incredible Olympus feature called Live Composite, I was able to create this 12 minute exposure without overexposing any one area of the scene. I watched in real time as the lights from the boat traffic were recorded onto the frame. This was yet another example of where the camera allowed me to bring my vision to life.
I traveled to Tuscany where I was shooting everything from architecture to vineyards. Features like the double exposure mode made it possible to create really unique images of oft-photographed sights. Not once did I miss my DSLR. Even tricky lighting situations that featured high dynamic range were possible with the mirrorless setup. For this shot I also used a graduated neutral density filter.
The cameras clearly performed well in travel situations but could it hold its own in a studio environment? I put this to the test with a floral design shoot under artificial lights. The client wanted very high res files for print and web. I shot most of the job from above while standing on a ladder. The sensor cranked out beautiful, clean RAW photos. The resolution proved to be more than enough for the assignment, and the photo director was quite please with the outcome. Coincidentally there was a video shoot happening at the same time. The videographer was using a Panasonic M43 camera. It seems that a growing number of people are realizing that M43 is capable of professional quality results.
The most recent addition to my kit is the Olympus PEN F along with a very small 17mm f1.8 prime lens. Remarkably, this is even smaller than the OMD cameras making them ideal for street photography here in New York. Some of my favorite features are the silent shutter, articulating screen, small body size, terrific sensor and image processor, and the various film simulation modes. I will post results after putting the camera through its paces.
The Academia Bridge in Venice is bustling with tourists from morning until night. At any given point you will find hundreds of people taking selfies and photos of the iconic Santa Maria della Salute church. Considering how often this vantage point is used, it’s challenging to create something unique. Yet, as John Lennon sang, “There are no problems, only solutions”. In order to make an image that was truly original, I setup my tripod and waited for dusk. Once the sun went down the artificial lights illuminated the domes of the Salute in the distance. Meanwhile, water taxis, vaporettos and gondolas navigated the channel below. Each boat had its own head and tail light on it. I knew a long exposure could render these as long colorful trails.
This is a 12 minute exposure shot on an Olympus OMD EM1 using the live composite mode. This feature is similar to the bulb setting but has a major advantage. By only recording new light onto the frame, overexposure is not possible. As defined by Olympus, "Live Composite seamlessly composites images in lighten mode so that it can capture images without over exposure unlike normal bulb shooting." The amazing thing is you can actually watch the picture develop right before your eyes on the LCD screen. Once the desired effect is created, you end the exposure. While it sounds sophisticated, the mode is actually simple to use. The hardest part of the shot was trying to keep people from bumping into my tripod.
In checking google images for "salute church venice" about 500,000 results come back. This includes shots taken at all different times of day in various seasons and weather conditions. No other image however shows the heavy boat traffic seen here. This is a good representation of how tourism has overtaken Venice. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's estimated that over 60,000 people visit each day. Many are from massive cruise ships that flood the city with tourists for a few hours before returning to sea.
The best view can often be found just beneath your feet. If you're not careful, you'll stomp right over it. In this tutorial, I'll reveal how to expand your potential choices by simply lying on the ground. Why limit your compositions to the traditional perspectives? Prepare to get your jeans dirty and capture some compelling images.
In New York City, it's tempting to crane your neck towards the massive skyscrapers. After a soaking rain however, the better opportunity is actually found in the street. The standing water provides a mirror like reflection of the surrounding buildings. Just as no two snowflakes are equal, the same is true with puddles. To find your shot, get down and explore it from all angles.
If you walk up to an animal in the wild it will likely flee in fear. By crawling, you become far less threatening. Working from this bug's eye perspective, the photo takes on a more revealing look at their habitat. To add more impact, use a wide aperture like f4. This will turn foreground elements such as grass and flowers into soft washes of color.
While on the ground, try holding the camera in both portrait and landscape orientation. Setting up the vertical frame may initially be somewhat awkward, but the results are worth it. When you get home you'll be glad to have more options to choose from. I've had instances where I like the horizontal composition better, but a client prefers the other. To cover all possibilities, shoot it both ways.
There are occasions when placing the camera on the floor will yield the best photo. This was the case at the very dimly lit cathedral in Siena, Italy. Tripods were not permitted, and a long shutter speed was necessary for a proper exposure. In order to photograph the Gothic interior, I rested the camera on the floor using my camera bag to angle it upwards. The two second timer was used to trip the shutter and record the photo. The security guards didn't hassle me for this, and I got a sharp photo of the impressive structure.
You'll be amazed at just how much beauty can be found on the ground. Sometimes it happens when you least expect it. My favorite find actually came in the parking lot of a shopping center. A light mist had just fallen, turning the pavement inky black. This rainwater mixed with the motor oil from a leaking car. The result was a brilliant pattern of vibrant colors. It was a reminder to always keep a camera nearby.
1) For the secret of how to find artistic fulfillment, you have to go all the way back to Hamlet. In those pages you'll find these words from William Shakespeare, "This above all, to thine own self be true". While feedback can certainly help your growth as an artist, trying to appease the critics can stifle one's creativity.
2) A camera's image quality is only as good as the person controlling it.
3) The lens you choose is often more important than the actual camera.
4) Things will not always go according to plan. In fact, they rarely do. The key then is for you to have the ability to make the best of all scenarios. If you prepare for anything that could go wrong, you'll be able to handle unexpected mishaps in stride.
5) RAW files are like your digital negative. No matter how many copies and edits you make, it's always possible to go back to this original file and start over. The file is uncompressed, meaning it contains all of the beautiful resolution your camera is capable of.
6) The moment you point a camera at someone, they get self conscious and alter their natural behavior. Engage them in conversation for a more relaxed appearance.
7) Photography is a lot like riding a bike in that you never forget how to do it. Don't worry if you're feeling a bit rusty. You'll find your balance with a bit of practice.
8) We've become programmed to quickly search for answers on the web. In art however, it's the questions that often lead to new growth.
9) The most complex ideas are best expressed through simplicity.
10) Extensive travel is not a prerequisite for creating great photographs. Often there are wonderful and willing subjects right in front of you, or just a short car ride away.
11) Recent studies show how one's level of grit and determination can predict success more accurately than an IQ score. And so it is with photography as well. It's those who can find the courage to keep going despite the continuous challenges that ultimately succeed.
12) Say NO to the things that detract from your goals, and YES to those that enhance it.
13) In the Cubist style of painting, it's not what you see, but how you see that matters. This is also true for photographers looking to further develop their eye. Look beyond the obvious and you'll find a deeper truth, not only in your subject, but yourself.
14) The ingredients of any spectacular photo are only one part technical. Sure, the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are important. Yet, as any great chef will tell you, recipes are meant to be tinkered with. Today, we have more control over images than ever before. From in-camera settings to the digital darkroom, our pantry overflows with possible options. Rather than settling for the same tried and true formula, keep pushing yourself to learn new methods. Be bold in your experiments, and you just may stumble on a new recipe for success.
15) Avoid categorizing yourself with labels, or engaging in debates that seek to define terms such as “professional” and “amateur”. A good photographer is not concerned with these phrases, but rather focuses on their craft. The word amateur is often does not imply a lack of skill. The actual definition is "to do something for the love of". This is the spirit that all professionals should strive to retain throughout their career.