The Olympus EM-5ii for Street Photography

My very first thoughts…

Spoiler – I have had an enormous amount of fun with my new Olympus. There are newer cameras out there, but as a street tool, the Olympus is fast, sharp, light, and discreet. In short everything I had wanted. As always, there are pros and cons; no camera is perfect.

Size

The size was a big issue for me. I wanted something small. The micro four thirds cameras are compact, yet still have a decent sized sensor and plenty of controls. The camera was light, even with the excellent Zuiko 12-40 2.8 pro lens attached (24-80 full frame equivalent). I am a big fan of using primes, but this lens will be stuck on my camera for a while.

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Focusing

OK, my Nikon is showing its age. This thing focused ridiculously quickly, face recognition finds the portrait, selects the eye closest to the camera and then snaps the photo. Saying this, it did not always hit 100% of the time. If I have the choice, I still prefer selecting my focus point. A compromise is to select only one part of the frame that the camera will use for auto focusing – this is more useful than you may think. There is a rather excellent feature on the touch screen, where you touch the focus point, and when the shot is in focus, the picture is taken. This is super quick and discreet.

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I promised to bring more smiles to my blog!

Shutter Click

Near silent, and if that is too loud, you can make it 100% silent.

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Candid shot, with a very quiet shutter click!

Menu

Some people make out it is a menu from hell. It’s not, although some things are taking a while to learn. The super control panel is a display that shows everything you need to know all in one place, however, I still find the settings tricky to alter.

Low Light and it image stabilisation

The Olympus EM-5ii is not a low light monster. Its image stabilisation is fantastic though, and I can shoot handheld at very low shutter speeds. Pics below – so judge for yourself.

Photos

I was slightly worried about getting a camera with fewer pixels and a smaller sensor, but I have no bones with the quality of the pictures I am seeing. Care will be needed when cropping shots, but that will force me to get it right ‘in camera’. Again, I hope that the 12-40 2.8 pro zoom will help.

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Portrait, Hongkou Districts/ Shanghai

Fun Factor

My groove is back on, this camera is heaps of fun and looks gorgeous.

Will it replace my Nikon?

I love my Nikon and will probably upgrade to a Full Frame at some point (update to the D750 please!). This camera is not going to be a low light monster, or an ideal sports camera. However, as a tool for Street Photography, it hits the spot, it is fun to use and produces gorgeous looking photos. I am one happy bunny.

Have fun and keep clicking, Chris

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Photography Slumps, Magnum’s Mistake, Image Theft and Bigger Faster Cameras.

Unslumping one’s self is not easily done. I think that’s a Dr. Zeus quote, if not, it should be. I have been in a photography slump of late, sometimes you’re in the zone, framing shot after shot with wild and wacky characters wandering in and out the frame. Sometimes, it just does not happen. Fortunately, there is an easy way out of a photography slump, the solution is always to buy a new camera. Armed with my new beast, I will capture the most glorious of shots and work my way back to the zone. Landscapes will be laid bare and cities will sparkle. Maybe.

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Cities will sparkle…

 

Things have been going on in my life outside of photography – yes there is one. I am in the last throws of my Master’s degree, while at the same time learning (about learning) on a course run by Harvard. On top of this, I am still battling with paperwork for my upcoming move to India. If anyone knows about moving countries with a dog, please hit me up! In between all of this, I still have to do my actual job. Meanwhile, my photography has focused on a long exposure challenge… not my thing, but it ‘s nice to be challenged. Looking back at my best photos from the last two months, I cannot help but notice they are all a bit dark. It is time to snap out of it and seek the smiles and laughter in life.

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A Time for Laughter

Back to MYNEWCAMERA. I headed off to Luban Lu Camera Mall to purchase a Fujifilm Xt2. I picked it up, held it in my hands and it was…. a little too heavy. So I went smaller, lighter, smaller sensor, fewer megapixels and purchased an Olympus EM5ii. In fairness, this will not completely replace my larger Nikon, which I still love, but will replace my much abused, and now broken Sony N5. Why did I not upgrade to a new Sony? I look at a lot of photos, and just find the Sony ones a little too crisp, although processed in the right hands excellent results can be achieved. The Olympus looks promising – I will post a review and some pics in a few weeks. It does have a flip screen which could be useful for Vlogging, something I have threatened to do for a while. It is also dust and rain proof, so should survive living in India.

Back to other news. I have entered Lens Culture/ Magnum Photo Awards on two occasions. It would appear they have just stuffed up. To market the latest competition, they featured a photo of a man raping a young girl. Yes, you read that right. They have apologised, it was a mistake, but really? And what of the guy that took this photo, is there a point where you have to say enough is enough and intervene? I do think that shocking photography is necessary for action and can help positively transform society. However, photographers, just like any other human being should draw personal ethical lines. Lens Culture runs its competitions claiming that participants will get exposure. The guy who took this photo certainly got exposure, and someone noticed one of his images looked a little too familiar. It turns out that he cut a character from someone else’s photo and then pasted it into his own. There should be a photography equivalent of a doping ban for people who do this kind of thing, two years of not being able to post anything online.

Lastly – what is it with bigger faster cameras? I wanted to update my Nikon D7100 with the D500, but guess what, it’s enormous and cumbersome. It takes 1000 images every second (I made that up – google it if you want the real specs). Henry Cartier-Bresson once said your first 10,000 photos are your worst. With this monster, you can take that many photos in less than a minute. I looked at the Sony A6500, hold the trigger down and it fires like a machine gun. The new Sony A9 is apparently even faster. Camera manufacturers have obviously reached what they can claim is necessary on pixel count, now they are selling us speed. Speed is not what I need more of; my problem is slowing down. Finding that decisive moment with a single click is super satisfying, how many of these moments will now be captured by those that spray and pray?

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Right, I’m off to learn how to work my new camera. Wish me luck. I’m seeking smiles and laughter.

The Cobbler, the Hunter and the Fisherman.

Below is one of my favourite characters, from one of my favourite places.

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The Cobbler

Let’s take a walk down some of the older lanes in Shanghai, we will see a pattern emerge of cobblers at the end of alleyways (called Shikumen in Shanghai). The Shikumen are very narrow alleyways, with small houses built in either side. Washing and cooking facilities are often outside and bathroom areas are usually shared. This moves life to the outside and makes for ideal street photography.

What has this got to do with fishermen and hunters?

The fisherman and the hunter are two metaphors for Street Photographers. A lot of what we do is hunting. We go out and see what we can catch, ‘hunting’ for the perfect picture, or scene to unfold. There is nothing wrong with this technique and it is a great way to explore a new area and find fresh locations to take photos.

The fisherman is different type of Street Photographer, and relates to a style of shooting we should all try. The above shot of the cobbler highlights how this style of shooting works. I know the area well, I know where the light will be at different types of day and have come to know how different people will react to having their picture taken. There are a few shots of this guy, at work and in his home. He happily ignores me, occasionally giving a toothy grin. On this evening I was fishing – the area is well known and photographers will have numerous characters to interact with. As with real fishing, you never know quite what you will catch, and you may come back empty handed. Yesterday I was lucky and caught myself a ‘keeper’.

What kind of Street Photographer are you?

Have fun and keep clicking, Chris.

My Lens Culture Submission

I recently entered a competition through Lens Culture. I didn’t win, but lived to see another day. Critique is a vital aspect of improving your photography and when you enter a LensCulture event there is alway an option for receiving critique. These guys know there stuff, so it is worth listening to what they say.  Here are the pictures I entered and the comments I received. The next competition is on Street Photography…. now maybe I could win that one!

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Additional Recommendations

Recommended Books & Photographers

Other Resources

 

That all folks! Keep clicking, Chris

Wins, fails and bits inbetween

OK, a break from my 10 tips list – heck this is the Internet, go google, there are thousands out there already. This post is more a what have I been up to kinda thing. As ever, life is full of failures and successes, on good days the success wins.

Fail!

I tried a podcast, realised towards the end I was holding the phone in portrait mode and not landscape, I started the day enthusiastically recording everything but at the end of the day it dropped to almost nothing. My podcasting may die a death. The podcast related to going to Luban Lu, the Shanghai camera mall of legends, songs shall be sung about this place. I did not entirely fail as I came back with a shiny new carbon tripod that is as close to perfect as a tripod can be. I may try to publish the podcast – just for fun…

Win…

Battling GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). I found a perfect, still in the box a Nikon FM3a. At 4500RMB (about $650USD) this baby was expensive, too expensive and I resisted. My third eye was seeing into the future as at the end of the month my son asked to go to Vietnam to play against the Netherlands and Australian national hockey teams. The camera would have been great, but cameras come and go. Experiences are priceless. A key lesson here is when you look at how much a new piece of gear costs, think of the FUN you could have with the money instead.

Ongoing…

I am now in my third Arcanum sphere, if you do not know what the Arcanum is then google is your friend. I am now in Glenn Guy’s Travel Cohort. This is forcing me to stretch what I do in relation to Street Photography. Street Photography gets a lot of stick, much of it righty so, there are some awful examples out there and it seems everyone is doing it. The good shots have already been taken, so how do we stand out? To take a lesson from Kodak (digital cameras will never catch on!) innovate or die…

So here are a few shots taken as a ‘travel pilgrim’. Is it Street Photography? I think so, yet each shot is very heavily processed, something street photographers often cite as being unauthentic.

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Hongzhen Old Street, from above.

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Hongzhen Old Street, from below.

I love both these images and they may well be the last ever images I have of this section of Hongzhen Old Street, as there were bulldozers all over the area when I last visited. Neither are traditional examples of Street Photography and have been developed using a technique called HDR. I hate bad HDR and really do not want to live in a world full of HDR Street Photography! However, I think these examples the HDR are subtle enough for me to get away with it.

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Shanghai Overpass.

If you look at this photo, you will see not only the long stripes of colour from the cars, but there are also some people visible on the right. To get these colour stripes you need a tripod and a long exposure (FYI, I set my camera on a tripod, set the ISO to 100, went to aperture priority mode and shot at f9 or f11, you need a higher Fstop if you are shooting full-frame). I wanted the people in this shot, but there was no way it was going to happen using a 10 second exposure. Solution – this is not HDR, but uses two exposures, one at ISO100 and one closer to ISO2000. The two photos were then layered in PhotoShop and the people added from one exposure to another.

So is this cheating? Some would say yes, BUT, how does this differ to someone shooting Black and White when software is used to remove all colour. How does this differ from cameras that use a ‘film simulation mode’ to replicate the look of older footage?

Is this Street Photography? Maybe not, as there is something special about taking a picture and with minimal processing, stating, this is what I saw… However, it is always good to stretch ourselves and try something new.

Keep Clicking, Chris

Street Photography #6 Try Using a Fixed Lens

Spoiler – bit of a rant here….

Just about managing to get a pagespics tip out before the weekend. There were a couple of choices I was playing with today. The first was ‘Don’t buy a Fujifilm X100f, all the reviews say they are great, so there must be something wrong with it’. The second was ‘Don’t read DP Review and PetaPixel – they say the same thing’.

I am going to talk about the X100f though. The camera sounds fantastic; there are so many reviews reporting how wonderful a tool it is. This makes me a little suspicious, particularly when many of the articles are written by Fujifilm Ambassadors. Most reviews wax lyrically about the film simulation mode. Here is the rub – if you want to use film, use film! There are some great SLR’s out there for less than $100; admittedly there is the cost of purchasing and developing stock, but a 35mm film camera is $900 cheaper than the X100f, and that buys a lot of film.

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Shot using Kodak Portra 400 with a 50mm prime.

Here is the second rub – most articles appear to be reviewing the camera based on its black and white capabilities. I’m 95% over B+W, the world is a colourful and beautiful place. Here is the 3rd rub, many reviews talk about the B+W Acros film simulation. What is Acros? I don’t know, but every other street photography shot is now an Acros simulation. Beware, a crap photo is still a crap photo, irrespective of the film simulation mode. There are however 4 reasons why I didn’t write an article about why not to purchase a X100F…

Reading articles about a camera written by someone who does not own that camera is annoying.

The title of the article would be too long for an effective article header.

I will probably purchase a Fujifilm X100F in the end – they look awesome.

It has a FIXED lens – which I like. (I got there in the end!).

So, what is a fixed lens? It is a lens with no zoom. If you want to get closer, you have to get closer using your feet and not your lens.

Why use a fixed lens? Enough reasons to use bullet points…

1. They are small and light.

2. They are (generally) cheap.

3. They have a wide aperture, this allows more light in, which makes the lens excellent      when the light is dying, or just coming up. It also means I can use lower ISO’s.

4. They have a wide aperture (again)– perfect for a nice blurry background when taking      portraits.

5. They force you to be creative.

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Using a fixed lens meant I could shoot in this rather dark room, just off the street, without using a flash.

If you have a DX crop camera, then I would recommend a 35mm lens, or a 50mm if you want something that will get you a little closer. If you have a full frame camera, you probably know all this anyway….

If you want a camera with a fixed lens, then I would strongly recommend the Ricoh Grii (or GR if you want to save money and don’t need wifi – which is crap on the ii anyway). It has a beautiful 28mm fixed lens, which I love.

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The Ricoh Gr is great for more than just Street Photography as seen with this cityscape.

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Ricoh Gr, small enough for your pocket, it’s there when you spot an interesting composition.

Then there is the, er, Fujifilm X100f. It looks awesome. I want one. If I ever start using Acros film simulation, please shoot me…

Have fun and keep clicking,

Chris

Street Photography #5. Re-visit your old photos.

 

OK, this could be a tip, or you could view it as a challenge. I have recently joined my third cohort with the Arcanum and am working with Glenn Guy, a travel photography guru. See his website HERE. Thus far I have taken to shooting most of my work for this group using 35mm film, however, after trudging again to the camera mall to have my shots developed, I remind myself why digital is so much easier. Anyway, a recent ‘Arcanum’ challenge was to post some photos I could never delete.

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Snacks sold alongside a bus.

Is there a time in your life that was filled with photography, yet you did not really see yourself as a photographer? Maybe you were starting out and still a rookie, or were loaned a camera for a week or two. I lived for a year in Bangladesh, placed in a nightmare apartment squeezed between a construction site and a demolition site, imagine trying to live at a Nine Inch Nails gig. I went crazy! Leaving the apartment was not much better;  Dhaka is a colourful and vibrant place, yet riddled with poverty and sickness. Strangely it is here where I have captured the most wonderful smiles on the planet. At the time I had a cheap Panasonic point and shoot (although my EXIF is telling me it was a Samsung?). Is it wrong to think ‘I wish’? If not, then I wish I had owned a better camera, wish I new then what I new now and wish I had taken more photographs! These pictures were not re-edited to a great extent, generally the contrast and clarity were tweaked in Lightroom, with a little vignette added if appropriate.

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Two girls who lived in Dhaka Train Station.

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Dhaka lacks solid rock, so women break up bricks for use in construction.

When you look at your old photos, you will see how much you have improved. I certainly wonder what I was thinking by keeping some of the photos on my hard drive, along with some worrying reminders that I am getting older. Who knows, maybe I have got wiser too…

Enjoy the pics, keep clicking,

 

Chris

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