Monday, September 27, 2010

Macro Photography, Part 2 - Photography with Imre - Episode 30

I'm very happy to announce that the second part, and conclusion, to the macro photography series is done. I liked the way it turned out and hopefully in a few days I'll finish up the supplemental blog post. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Yes! I'll be doing Macro Photography Part 2 soon!

I know, I know! It's been a while since my last video and by the end of the week I should be done part 2 to macro photography.

But for now, I thought I'd share a couple of new photos from my wooden fighter plane project I've been working on. For about one to two hours before I head off to bed, and for the last week or so, I've been carving away at this model and it's finally starting to look quite plane-like; not meant to be any specific aircraft by-the-way. Now I can appreciate why such finely hand-crafted wooden art pieces cost so much! In all honesty, when I started on this jet I thought I'd be done within a week. However, the more I got into it and as I'm starting to become more accustomed to carving, it's far more delicate work than I'd ever imagined. This is seriously going to become an addiction though. I'm already starting to think about the next carving.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First Thoughts on the Olympus E-5

Olympus E-5 Press Release

As a long time Olympus camera user, I was quite looking forward to the release of the company's next flagship dSLR. When I bought my C-5050 back in mid-2004, I thought it was an amazing little camera with its f/1.8 lens, crisp 5MP CCD (well... crisp at ISO 100), and the many options it offered. A short while after the E-500 was released, I picked one up and found it to be a worthwhile investment and a wonderful step up from the advanced point and shoot model. By the time Olympus came out with the E-3, I could hardly stay in my skin. I wanted a better, faster dSLR, and Olympus delivered. The E-3 was a monster; weatherproof, faster and more accurate AF, improved image quality, more megapixels, and many controls to keep even the most avid of photographers happy. I was also very pleased to add the E-P2 to my collection at the beginning of this year. Even though the little stainless steel beast sits in a different class, it manages to capture higher quality photos than my E-3, is fairly portable, and the video is superb; the primary reason I snagged one as I could use all of my existing lenses (with the adapter).

So other than I might be an Olympus fan-boy, what else have we learned from this quick history lesson? Progress. Improvement. Those are a couple of words that come to mind. So does the E-5 live up to my expectations? Let's continue... but keep in mind that the following are only my opinions and depending on your experiences and needs, you may feel differently about this which is totally cool.

The Pros
Perhaps some photographers are not impressed by a 12MP sensor, but I'm not terribly disappointed myself. Twelve is still a nice number to produce great looking prints up to 11x14" and even beyond if you don't mind a little resampling. In addition, fewer pixels on a sensor can translate into a cleaner (less noisy) image. Apparently Olympus has lightened up the AA filter and the new TruePic V+ engine can perform a little magic to maximize the detail out of this sensor (which according to a few sources seems to be the same as in the E-PL1). I have yet to see sample pictures, so at this point I'll cross my fingers and hope there is a noticeable improvement in quality and noise levels at higher ISOs.

The larger 3" higher resolution swivel LCD screen is a welcome enhancement and long overdue in my opinion. Although I don't spend a lot of time gazing at the photos on screen after taking shots, this could make macro photography and shots from unusual angles (e.g. very low) easier to compose when using live view. Speaking of live view, it also seems that AF has been improved when using it.

Although a minor change, bracketing can be set to seven frames versus five. I can already hear HDRI fans rejoicing. Lastly, at least what has caught my attention, is the ability to add copyright information to your photos. Canon and Nikon have offered this feature for many years and although it certainly wouldn't prevent some individuals from copying photos, this feature has its merits.

The Cons
Alright, I just wrote that I'm not terribly disappointed with 12 megapixels, but it would have been nice to see a little increase... 14 perhaps... dare I say 16... even if a little noisier. For those of us that jumped on the E-P1, or 2, or PL1 bandwagon, there's not much incentive to upgrade from this perspective, unless the weatherproof body and faster AF is a must (or longer battery life). I'm just as happy composing and taking photos of landscapes and bugs as I am with my E-3; in fact happier as the image quality is wonderful from the PEN. I can only assume at this point, but it's likely the E-5 can squeeze a little extra out of the sensor than the E-P2. Nonetheless, I doubt it is a substantial enough increase to alone justify the roughly $1,700 price tag of the new model.

Art filters... in a pro model? Ok, in all fairness this may not necessarily be a con, but this just seems out of place. Even though my E-P2 has them I've only recently tried them out. Yet I still avoid their use as I prefer to muck around with the effects/tools in Photoshop where have a lot more control over the look and feel I want. May work for some, but not a selling point for me.

Some people may disagree with me here, but I actually quite like the ability to shoot video with my still camera (keeping in mind that I do aspire to one day create some short films and already produce a photography series on YouTube). With my E-P2, I don't mind that it can only do 720P HD video; it's a compact and primarily still camera after all (yet manages to capture some very good looking video). However, to me there is no excuse that the E-5 can't at the very least do one single mode of 1080P HD video. For $100 Canuck bucks more, I can get a Canon 7D body and no less than three useful full HD videos modes (not to mention an excellent 18MP digital SLR).

Imre's Verdict
I'll start this conclusion off with what I think personally. With the equipment I already have there are too few valid reasons to add this body to my collection. I say this with pain though, as I absolutely love the Olympus cameras and Zuiko lenses that I own (especially the lenses). If I had the money and was forced to "upgrade", then at this point I would instead consider moving to a new system entirely (Canon 7D or 5DMkII; they simply offer more bang for buck even though other issues hit the fan such as investing in a new lens collection = $ x lots). On the other hand, I'd like to emphasize that this is coming from my perspective and situation. For example, if you only own an E-3, have a growing lens collection, and require the faster AF and tank-like body, then I see the E-5 becoming a very attractive new workhorse. In this case, you get more megapixels, a better sensor, a few new features, and of course your lenses would still be just as useful (oh... and art filters!). And if you currently have no digital SLR at all, the E-5 may still work for you (smaller and lighter lenses compared to the larger sensor cams for example), but it is certainly up against some stiff and worthy competition. What do you think?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Lonely Composition

Lately I've been braver in applying various image effects to my photographs in order to make them more interesting, which has also infused them with different stories to tell versus their original nonchalant versions. Sepia tones and black and white conversions focus attention on subjects in images where color was distracting or simply didn't add any value to the photo. In addition, such versions can age a scene or add a gritty feel, especially when combined with other effects like pinhole and noise. In fact, I'm particularly becoming quite fond of noise to make it appear as if the shot was taken with a fast film and to remove that digital crispness. For my next outing I think I'll deliberately set my ISO to 1600 on some shots to see what that yields. So much for having a camera that handles high sensitivity levels well.

Image effects aside, I wanted to add a little about unusual compositions. Breaking rules can often be difficult as it both puts us beyond our comfy zone and the results don't always live up to our expectations, which can also put us off of trying again. I find that most of my photos adhere well to the rule of thirds and golden mean (or spiral) and there's nothing really wrong with that, as such photos generally end up being pleasing to the eye. But as a fairly keen photographer, I'd like to start getting more of those, "wow, that's different!" pics versus, "yea that's nice" ones. The picture of the excavator below is starting to get there in my opinion. Rather than worrying about putting the subject where the rules dictate, I focused on the story I wanted to tell with the image. Here's a monster of a machine that has been tired out by the amount work it has been doing all by itself. Sure you're tough, but a little help is always nice.

The original photo was very different and what you're seeing here is a substantial crop. In fact, the machine was centered towards the lower part of the scene, there was plenty of sky present, a few buildings were in the distance off to the right, and a little more dirt filled the lower portion. But by squeezing the excavator to the bottom right-hand corner and tightening in on the shot, the dirt mover actually appeared to shrink and become less significant. Why? Well without the buildings, power lines, and other visual cues, it's now more difficult to relate sizes of objects; plus there's a bit of compression from the zoom lens which exaggerates the dimensions of the rocks in the foreground and the dirt hill to the left.

Anyway, the idea I've hopefully presented, especially if you'd like to improve your composition skills, is to sometimes try to fit the photo to the story you're trying to tell versus trying to fit the story to a set a rules.