Random Thought

Maybe I (you) should do a OCOLOY Haiku project?

Three related or story telling images each day. Too much and at odds with the intent?

Not sure.

Maybe next year.

More Rules For My OCOLOY

As this project gets rushed into existence, I am making the rules up as I go.

No or little cropping. I will crop to fit the intent of the image when taken (why be artificially limited to 4:3 only), but will limit cropping to 2 edges staying untouched, so squares and rectangles are ok, but not whole sale cropping.

Colour or black and white are fine as best suits. It will be interesting to see how that evolves.

No accessories will be used including a tripod.

Processing will be done at the end of the day or early the next as I can (the next trip to japan will be problematic, but the images will be taken).

Manipulations will be limited to Lightroom, using loading pre-sets and basic “photographic fixes only, no fakery or merging/layers, only direct tools like the brush or gradient filter. Remember, this is an exercise in image taking, but processing.

Excess images may be used for other projects. The point of the OCOLOY is to take at least one presentable image a day, not ditch the rest. More is better.

A day 1 contender.

A day 1 contender.



Fighting the Mid Winter Funk.

The (cold dark days of winter are getting to me this year. The year is colder than average and when it’s not, the weather switches to mild but dull and wet. Neither situation is sitting well with me at the moment and my lack of photographic productivity is evidence of my lethargy. I know for a fact that getting out into the world rewards me with images, but the desire to go and do it is lacking.

Beauty is consistently all around us, so why do we leave it to our phones to be the camera we have with us.

Beauty is consistently all around us, so why do we leave it to our phones to be the camera we have with us.

What to do?

There are a number of ways to cure the creative “doldrums”. One of these is to embark on a project.

One of my favourite projects is called the “One camera, one lens, one year” challenge that Mike Johnson postulated on his blog “The Online Photographer”.

The basic premise (modifications allowed as needed), is to choose one camera (a Leica is recommended for it’s hands on, grass roots practicality, and I dare say, it’s nostalgia quotient), then attach one lens, usually something between 35-50mm on a full frame (modification allowed), then set yourself the task of taking 1 shot per day (any subject) and processing/posting it as regularly as possible (film is recommended, but is not mandatory).

There is no unrealistic expectation that you will not touch other gear, or stop working if photography is your trade, but the OCOLOY discipline must be adhered to, even if it requires you “put on another photographic hat” for a while each day. If you cannot post, or even shoot every day for what ever reason, the challenge does not end, but determined adherence is part of the reward process. You may add self inflicted limitations like jpeg, or mono only, but that is up to you.

More than one image can be taken, but only the best for the day should be used. This adds the life lesson that some days are golden, full of image making potential, others are dust, giving little, but they all count.

Zoom lenses are not technically out of bounds, but they add to the bulk of the go anywhere kit and soften the lesson of getting your eye trained, rather than just throwing more focal length options at the composition.

The point?

1) To learn how consistent work keeps you “on point” and show the benefits of working through different moods, subjects and seasons with the forced requirement of making an effort daily, while at the same time limiting the distraction of too many tools.

2) Getting to know photography on a deeper level through the “eye” of a single camera and lens, then pushing your technique within that very restrictive (at first) envelope, which is widely thought to be the best way of elevating your skills.

3) Become fully immersed in the process, rather than the superficial top layer of gear and photographic desire without solid work to support it.

It is a strongly held belief by many old heads, that you will be a better and/or revitalised photographer at the end of the process.

My tools for this will be an old OMD EM5, as they make the ideal “go everywhere” camera (well known to me and of low “preciousness”) and the 25mm lens which is ironically my least liked, but most trusted and versatile non-zoom lens (the 25mm f1.8 is actually closer to a 45mm FF equivalent, which makes it the ideal standard lens). The Pen F is tempting, mainly due to it’s Leica like ascetic, but the ageing EM5’s need a project as much as I, so one of them will be pressed into service and the Pen has other duties.

My first OMD, battle scars and all.

My first OMD, battle scars and all.

I missed my start date (1st July), due to said malaise and a freezing cold computer room, but the actual date does not matter, only the on-going commitment.

My promise;

To take the daily image as required unless it is somehow not physically possible to do so. I may not post on a daily basis, but I will take all 365 images over the year and wont sneak yesterdays second option into todays etc.

Other images not associated with the OCOLOY will be taken, especially on the next Japan trip, but the Em5 will also go on that trip and an effort to take a relevant image will be made. I may even only take it if the process dictates.

Lights Out

Seconds later, with no warning, the lights were turned off. Just goes to show, hesitate and you loose.

Pen F 12-100

Pen F 12-100

Mystery

Mystery, or the feeling of it, adds an element to some photographs, taking them from so-so to a different level.

Pen F 12-100

Pen F 12-100

In a night work-shop we ran last week, this image became my favourite, but processing it is difficult. There is plenty of reasonable information in the file, but how much to use. With more included, a window frame distracts slightly and clarifies the image possibly too much. With less exposure, it becomes too abstract.

Strange Eyes

Our new pup, it turns out, has unusual eyes.

Like a deep space phenomenon.

Like a deep space phenomenon.

Haiku #84

My image making lately has degenerated into simple garden abstracts.

Haiku #83 New Life

We will not soon forget our old friend Jack, but it is pleasing how a new pup distracts your thoughts.

She has been accused of eating plants, but she insists there is no proof.

Soon It Will Be Time To Make The Call

I really will miss the images making capabilities of the Em5 mk1 cameras when they are all used up. This may be soon (of the 4 I have, two are showing intermittent faults, one has a missing a strap lug and all have “done enough” to be retired), but even with two new cameras in the kit, they offer something I cannot define, and will lament when it is gone.

The front one is missing a strap lug which resulted in a 3 foot fall, the back one has a “twitchy” sensor that bands when I know not what, conditions are met and the 4th, not pictured jumps in and out of mode in the (unused) “Art” setting, but they all still do the job (usually) and I still love the results.

The front one is missing a strap lug which resulted in a 3 foot fall, the back one has a “twitchy” sensor that bands when I know not what, conditions are met and the 4th, not pictured jumps in and out of mode in the (unused) “Art” setting, but they all still do the job (usually) and I still love the results.

I also really like the surety and gentleness of the shutter.

I know the stabilisers in the newer cameras are better, but with practice, I have been able to pull off some surprising results with the EM5’s due to smooth operation and a solid feel.

With a few Lightroom tweaks, the files can look like any other cameras or even film. The Canon colour I grew to like is basically a +20 blue channel saturation fix in calibration, some added whites/reduced highlights and boosted shadows/darkened blacks. The images are however more “real”, sharper more immediate, and crunchier than the files I got from Canon, and often with ridiculously small, mid range primes, not monster “L” glass.

With a few Lightroom tweaks, the files can look like any other cameras or even film. The Canon colour I grew to like is basically a +20 blue channel saturation fix in calibration, some added whites/reduced highlights and boosted shadows/darkened blacks. The images are however more “real”, sharper more immediate, and crunchier than the files I got from Canon, and often with ridiculously small, mid range primes, not monster “L” glass.

For a while Fuji also gave me something to ponder, but the simple, no gimmick Olympus files won again and at the time, the Olympus cameras and their RAW files were considerably nicer to use.

I did buy a well used EM5 from a work colleague (the one with the odd mode dial flicker), but at a reasonable price, so if it gives me a few thousand good files, it will make the pack go longer overall.

This is the first time since owning a Canon Fin years ago, that I am dreading the demise of a picture taking friend. Most other digital SLR’s or mirrorless cameras have been moved on well before this point.

From a job mostly shot at ISO 3200 with 40-150 f2.8.

From a job mostly shot at ISO 3200 with 40-150 f2.8.

An odd phenomenon I have noticed when processing the EM5 files is their ability to effectively clean up noise. The EM1 and Pen F (less so) have “regular” noise, like other cameras. This noise tends to smear, reducing sharpness a little. The EM5’s have black speck noise that cleans up with very little resolution loss.

They have their limits, but when used within their reality envelope, they produce beautiful, honest files.

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No call to be made yet, but soon I guess.

Hard Line

I am tough on, even dismissive of my 25mm f1.8. It is funny how often it gets grabbed and the results are always great in spite of my regular lack-lustre comments.

EM5 mk1 also which is the topic of a future post.

EM5 mk1 also which is the topic of a future post.

New Arrival

We still dearly miss our old boy Jack, but it is time to take on another member of our family.

Meet Daisy, our sweet little Smithfield-Border Collie cross.

Boy, are we in for a busy next few months.

Tandem

Taken on the same day and on a similar theme, otherwise no reason.

No Sake

We visited the Sake area of Kyoto on a glorious spring day. To be honest it was a bit of a wasted trip for us as we have little interest in the museums in the area and there is nothing out of the ordinary otherwise, but the day was the true hero.

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Favourite Times

Probably my favourite time of the year photographically, is the last of Autumn just hanging on against the stark back drop of early winter light.

Our winters are mild compared to many, but spectacular none the less.

These are from a frantic five minutes in the back garden this afternoon.

EM1 mk2, 12-100 F4 wonder lens.

Sense of Community

The spirit of community is very strong in Japan.

Exchanges between friends are common and the congenial nature of the people is touching. Infectious.

Bit o' Basketball and Thoughts on the future of Olympus and Sports Photography

As part of the workshop series we run at work, a small group of us attended a local seniors basketball game.

My own efforts, grabbed between talking to other attendees, surprised me. Sport was the primary reason I picked up a camera in the 80’s. This developed into a more mature and measured love of all things wild, but in my younger days, I was drawn to the “thrill of the chase” sports photography offered.

To clarify, the “thrill” back when I started came mostly from getting a sharp, reasonably relevant image “in the can”. Shooting film, often black and white so I had some control of quality in darker winter months, using a camera with no autofocus or motor drive and on film with maybe 3 rolls (108 shots total) to get the job done, sometimes felt like playing Golf with one arm and in the dark!

To say my skills went up a notch because they had to was an understatement. Some other shooters I knew at the time would expect 5-10 keepers per roll. I was happy to just come away with one decent image for the day.

The EM1 has been my work horse for the last couple of weeks in Japan and it is earning my grudging respect. I still prefer the images out of the old EM5’s, but that is as more habit and “success memory” than an actual measure of compared quality.

Most of the images here were shot at ISO 6400, some at 3200 with apertures of f2.8 to 1.8 as available. They are fine I guess, but needing to work at these ISO settings never sits well with me.

The EM1 has better high ISO quality and meters more consistently, but I like the way the EM5 images clean up. The older sensor has little colour noise, meaning what noise there is tends to be sharper and cleans up well. The stronger colour noise in the EM1 images leads to more “mushy” noise reduction (or maybe that is Lightroom). I have to keep in mind also, that I scrutinise these images more closely. I was often surprised by the EM5, I am often demanding to be surprised by the EM1.

The surprise for me on the night was the AF.

No kidding you might say, it is a sports action camera, but the reality is I have never fully trusted AF for most things. I feel that it is too hit and miss and strips the photographers decisive control and intuition away, but using the 12-40 and 75mm (cupboard is a little bare at the moment), I experienced a better than 75% technical success rate, allowing me to concentrate on the action, not just technical things. Some shots happened as quickly as I could spin around and push the shutter. Very few missed entirely.

If this was to be my main photographic focus, a 17mm or 25 f1.2 (for cleaner, low angle back grounds) and 40-150 Pro zoom (more versatile for down the court runs) would be in the bag and maybe the EM1x, but for occasional stuff this works fine.

The area I think Olympus really needs to offer something is in the super fast medium tele area (200 f1.8 or f2). This would make the most of the the other set of advantages the M43 sensor has to offer*, but until then they are fighting a head to head sensor race with full frame cameras that do offer theses lenses, even with their inherent disadvantages (bigger size, higher price, and a 50% reduction in reach).

*More depth of field at the same magnification, allowing the use of faster glass without razor thin focus and/or the 2x reach at the same focal length (200=400 on a FF) it offers. The reality is, it is much easier to make a 200 f2 than a nearly impossible 400mm f2! My 75mm f1.8 that did really well on the night is a full frame 150mm f1.8 equivalent, or in other words the mid point between Canon’s slightly slower, bigger, more expensive 135 f2 and insanely big and expensive 200 f2 IS lenses. All this power in a lens that fits in a coat pocket. Olympus (or Panasonic) needs to go one better and soon, before the Olympics. To add more emphasis to this argument, they already have a history of making these lenses for the recently replaced 43rds range (a 35-100 f2 and 150 f1.8)!

If not why make the EM1x?