Sunday, November 23, 2014

Shutter Therapy in Hoi An, Vietnam with OM-D E-M1

I spent the past few days in the picturesque coastal town of Hoi An, Vietnam. Finally, I managed to get some time away from work and just click the shutter button away, while doing that in a quaint, small and peaceful town. I have not had much chance to travel around and I really should have made more effort to explore South East Asia more, there are so many beautiful places, rich in culture and various tradition, all screaming photography opportunities to be discovered. 

I brought along Olympus OM-D E-M1 as the primary camera, an E-M5 as a back-up in case something happens to the E-M1, and four M.Zuiko lenses: 9-18mm F4-5.6, 45mm F1.8, 75mm F1.8 and 40-150mm F2.8 Pro. When I was walking around doing my shutter therapy, I did not bring everything with me of course, usually only one camera (E-M1) and about three lenses (40-150mm Pro stays behind, unless the extra long each was needed). E-M1 and the three lenses weigh less than 1.5kg, all fitted into a small shoulder sling camera bag, easy to carry around without feeling any strain on my shoulder or neck. In comparison to my older days with DSLR E-5 and the Four Thirds lenses, this new combination of E-M1 and smaller lenses made such a stark, huge difference in terms of portability and convenience. And with the 40-150mm F2.8 pro lens, the total weight comes to about 2kg only! 

Beautiful Hoi An, near sunset

Friendly Hoi An farmer

The shops and buildings are old, but with beautiful, traditional design, staying in tact. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

About High ISO Shooting with Olympus

I have noticed several comments, here on my blog as well on forum discussions, mentioning how it was almost impossible (ok, impossible is a very strong word, or simply put as "unlikely") the shots I took with Olympus cameras (E-M5, E-M1, E-M10) exhibiting so little noise, looking so clean when I was shooting at high ISO settings (ISO3200-6400). 

Before we step any further in this subject, I would like to clarify a few items. I never mentioned that you do not see noise in Olympus high ISO shots, and surely I also did not mention that the shots were "clean" and "noise-free". I always, always have been careful when it comes to touchy subjects like high ISO shooting, and I always mentioned my high ISO shots were "good enough" and noise was handled, or controlled well. Noise is present in image even at lower ISO settings, it is either the noise was smoothened out by in camera processing or too negligible to be detected with normal computer screen views. How tolerable the amount of visible noise in high ISO varies from person to person. I was perfectly fine with E-M1's ISO6400 ouput, but showing the exact same image to a friend, he cringed even at the sight of some luminance noise (which I was perfectly fine with since it did not add any destructive effect to the image, instead adding "structure" which looked nice, in my own opinion). 

I do have to reiterate that Olympus cameras CAN shoot very good images, and I shall put a stop at ISO6400 here. Yes we can go higher and still get away with usable images, but we all know there are other "higher end" cameras that can do better. The problem here is, many people thought that I somehow miraculously managed to shoot "supposedly" clean ISO3200 and ISO6400 images. 

ISO3200, Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens

ISO6,400, OM-D E-M10 and M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8

Monday, November 17, 2014

Burger in Flash

I know there are many die-hard believers of available light photography, who would rather throw their cameras down 20 storeys high building than choose to use flash in their photography. 

I am a strong believer in available light. If you have seen even just 2% of what I have posted on my blog, you would see that more than 90% of what I shoot (street photography mainly) were done without aid of additional artifical  lighting. However, I do not deny the advantages of enhancing an image using flash photography. I certainly acknowledge that careful and strategic use of flash can open up a whole new world of possibilities. 

It all comes down to the ability of the photographer to understand the light, and apply it in his photography. Light is not perfect all the time. While most of the time utilizing available light may be the best solution, there are times the available light was simply terrible, or insufficient. Recognising that the light condition is poor, we have a few choices to make: 1) forget about shooting, lighting is everything, thus poor lighting = poor photographs 2) shoot anyway, and screw lighting. available light is king (you must be delirious) and 3) find ways to counter the poor lighting, for example, using flash!

I have encountered this situation while having dinner last night. I was served with a plate of beautiful burger, begging to be photographed (I know, I know, the internet is overflooded with food photographs, but do forgive me this one time to demonstrate my point in flash photography). I tried shooting without flash, and I did not get the shot that I wanted. No, the camera was perfect capable in shooting low light conditions, images came out clean despite high ISO setting, and I had an F1.8 lens so it was not an issue under low light. The problem is the light was poor, being flat, and uninteresting, with poor color cast. The initial image came out dull and honestly, not appetizing to look at. 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8
1/25sec, F2.8, ISO400, FL50R, TTL +1.3EV, bounced directly off ceiling

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Day Out at Sekinchan

When the week was long and it weighed you down, and the weekend came, the only thought that came to mind was run away as far as we could from the city. My friends and I did just that over the past weekend and we decided to do a day trip to Sekinchan (about 2 hours drive away from Kuala Lumpur). It was not exactly a spontaneous plan either, originally this outing was intended to be a model portrait shooting, but somehow plans got shifted last minute and we decided to just head out and have some fun, being silly exposing ourselves under the blistering Malaysian sun, stuffed ourselves silly with cheap and good seafood and just randomly clicked the shutter away, Somehow it was not really a photography trip, and I did not want to focus on shooting so much, but I did come home with a few shots that I was rather happy with. 

I brought along a Silver Olympus OM-D E-M1, and M,Zuiko lenses 45mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8 and the kit lens M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3. I also brought along the E-PL5, as a second body, with the fisheye bodycap lens attached to it at most times. 

This was easily my favourite photo of the day. We actually drove past this scene and I requested the gang to turn back so I can capture this. I know there really is nothing that spectacular about this shot, but everything seemed just rightly in place. There were the strong major colors, bright yellow and red against bold green and soft blue background, there was a reflection by the water and the nunbers on the container added some interest to the overall rather simple and straight forward photograph. The lighting for this scene was just nice and I could not have asked for better. Nothing fancy, but it caught my attention!