One / two weeks off

Two days ago, I took some kind of “street” photo by chance. I just came out of my employers’ garage and thought the yellow street lights and the blue sky made a nice contrast, so I took a photo:

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Early morning beside my employers’ garage

Only when “blowing up” the image, I saw the sleeping guy in his Smart…

It’s autumn holidays now in our county, two weeks for the students, only one for me. We’ll visit my birthplace for a few days, while a neighbour will care for our cat. We haven’t been there since July 2005, when Zuleikha was less than a year old. We’re hoping for good weather and will walk the village quite a bit.

And because today was the last school and work day, both Zuleikha and I could play a bit after dinner:

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Zuleikha, playing with Mama’s Nexus 7, October 2014

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When all the stars align…

All photos taken with my Olympus E-PL5 camera and the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm/1.4 lens.

Thanks for viewing.

What I’m reading right now

I was finally able to get the paperback version of Kirk Tuck’s first novel, called “The Lisbon Portfolio“:

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The Lisbon Portfolio

I’m only some 50 pages in right now, but it seems to be a fun read. Espionage / suspense thriller, and for photographers I consider this a good one already. And now you have to excuse me – can’t wait to finish Kirk’s book…

Thanks for viewing.

P.S. (Update, from Tuesday, Oct. 14th, 2014):

I’ve finished it. Yesterday evening or rather this morning at 3 minutes past 12 (midnight). Just couldn’t stop.

And it’s a real nice book. Fits right in the list of spy fiction authors, and people like Jeffery Deaver, James Patterson, or the Kellermans (Jonathan and his wife Faye) come to mind. And while as a first it’s not as polished and perfect as these, it’s fresh instead.

If you know Kirk’s Blog and have seen some of his photos, you’ll admire how he describes the ‘making of’ of some of them.

This is no book review, so I’ll stop here. But I really recommended it to Mitchie already, since our bookshelf is full of the authors mentioned above, so I think she’ll love it as I did.

So this is really recommended, especially to photographers, but also to fans of the modern espionage thriller genre.

One photo taken with the DSLR – and two with what it shows

Here’s a photo I took using my DSLR:

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My camera – and a book which I’m re-reading

I refer to the small camera you see as to “my camera”, because it’s clearly superior to the DSLR in many ways. And with just the combination of camera and lens you see above, I took the following two images:

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Zuleikha on a Sunday morning in October 2014

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Zuleikha, decorated by a friend’s mum, October 2014

Both photos were taken with the 45mm lens wide open at f/1.8 – so not the whole girl is in sharp focus. But as you probably see, this lens is quite nice for taking someone’s portrait. A must-have for this system if you want to take photos of people.

Anyway – as always, thanks for viewing and/or reading.

Some digital images taken today

Even if I think film when I think photography at the moment, that doesn’t mean that I don’t use my digital cameras anymore. Here are some I took today, not on film:

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Zuleikha, eating and reading, October 2014

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Right above my head

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Tuna the cat after finishing some turkey breast, October 2014

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Wildlife – at my pace ;-)

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Moenchbruch Castle

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Hotel at Moenchbruch Castle, 1/3

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Hotel at Moenchbruch Castle, 2/3

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Hotel at Moenchbruch Castle, 3/3

All photos taken with the Olympus E-PL5 “Pen”-type camera. The first one with Mitchie’s OM Zuiko Auto-Macro 50mm/3.5 at f/5.6, then we swapped our macro lenses back again, and I took the rest today with my Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm/1.4, mostly at an aperture of or around f/4. The cat photo is ISO 1600, the rest 200 to 800 (which is my auto ISO range for that camera).

Thanks for viewing.

Not that many “instant” photos

I shoot film from time to time. At the moment, I have black & white film in my OM-2N, and colour slide film in Zuleikha’s OM-1N cameras, both with ISO/ASA 100. And even on the digital “Pen” I’m sometimes using Mitchie’s OM macro lens, like for this one:

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Zuleikha’s camera (Olympus OM-1N). Photo taken with an Olympus E-PL5 and an OM Zuiko Auto-Macro 50mm/3.5 lens at f/5.6.

Yesterday I was walking with the camera you see here, trying to get some first autumn colours on film. And before that I was using my own OM-2N with the black & white film inside. That’s why you don’t see that many “instant” photos here or on Flickr at the moment – I’m more in a Zen-kind of mood, don’t have to see them right away.

Of course with ISO 100 film and not always using f/1.4 I’m also lugging around my tripod most of the time. It’s fun.

Thanks for reading.

The most important lens you’ll ever buy

No, I can’t tell you which one it is, or will be – for you. But I can tell you what mine is, and how you can get there.

Most people who buy system cameras where you can actually change lenses buy some kind of DSLR, normally with what is called a “kit lens”. And according to the statistics, most people never change it (tho some invest a bit more and get some kind of “super zoom” (which they never change), or – like me, a “double zoom kit”. Both options give you a bit more reach, and thus they’re also quite popular). And the future of the consumer DSLR will be mirrorless, with less parts (which can break), lower costs (to produce at least), and fewer problems (like focusing and exposure).

But let’s get back to lenses. So how do you find out what you probably need, or rather want?

Well the first thing you should probably ask yourself is why you’ve got a camera, or why you’re planning to get one. Is it because you like the technical side, and playing with gadgets? Is it to just document your life, and that of your friends and/or family? You just want to hide behind a camera, or use it as an excuse to get closer to people? Holiday photos, safaris, portraits? Or macros, flowers?

The typical quick answer to this is: “Everything”. Well yes. But what is it really for?

For me, I’m an amateur, and by far the most photos I take are those of my family (which I can’t all show here, because some members of my family wouldn’t like it). My favourite photographic subjects are humans and animals, the occasional land- or cityscape, and something you could call product shots, or still lifes. So what does that translate to when thinking of lenses?

Experiment. Set your kit lens to the widest possible angle (shortest focal length), and keep it there, for at least a week. Now go and shoot everything you can. The next week, set the same lens to somewhere in the middle, to a more “normal” angle of view, and again, leave it like this for a week and shoot everything including your favourite subjects. The week after, repeat with the longest possible setting. Take lots of photos with each setting, of every subject you like to take pictures of, and then look at them.

What was the most difficult setting? With which setting did you get the highest number of “keepers”? Did you wish for even wider or longer, or could you be just happy with something in the middle? How did it all work outside, and how inside, with more difficult and dim light? Did you have to use flash inside most of the time, and would rather try without? Could you actually fill the frame, even with smaller subjects?

Well for me, it was more or less easy. When I was younger, I had a film SLR with what was considered the typical trio of lenses: a 28mm, a 50mm, and a 135mm. I loved the 135mm one, but inside it often was too long and gave me lots of “head shots”, or even crops of those. So I always wished for something a bit more moderate, like a 85mm or a 100 or 105mm. These focal lengths are great for photos of a single person, so the first and most important lens I’ve got after buying my double kit zoom DSLR was – no, not what I wanted. What I wanted was a macro lens, or for the Four Thirds system I bought, the macro lens. The one everyone wanted, because with a maximum aperture of f/2 it doubled as a relatively “fast” portrait lens as well.

Since I couldn’t afford it in the beginning, I got the closest possible substitute (sans the macro capability): an old and used OM Zuiko 50mm/1.8, plus an adapter to mount it to my DSLR. Now I had an angle of view like the one of a 100mm lens on an older film SLR. Life was good.

Of course, I still bought that 50mm/2 macro lens later, and life was even better. For me that is the most important focal length because it covers most of my subjects: people, macros and close-ups, product shots and still life.

Yes, you can also do it with a normal focal length, like here:

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Eight muffins. Olympus E-PL5 camera with Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm/1.4 lens at f/6.3. Studio strobe (flash) with beauty dish, and a reflector.

So while I could do this with what would have been my 50mm lens on the film camera, doing it with a longer lens is a lot easier if you concentrate on just your subject and want to exclude as much background as possible. And because Mitchie lately photographed some small flowers for Zuleikha, I gave her my macro lens which has that 100mm-like angle of view on our cameras:

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Mitchie’s camera and my macro lens. Olympus E-PL5 camera with Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm/1.4 lens at f/6.3. Studio strobe (flash) with beauty dish, and a reflector.

I wouldn’t take that 50mm macro or our 45mm/1.8 primes as my “normal” focal length for outdoors, but Mitchie loves her 45mm, while I have the 25mm lens mounted most of the time. I also have a 14mm lens, so for the Micro Four Thirds camera, I’m pretty much back with a classical trio, equivalent to 28mm, 50mm, and 90mm (plus this 100mm-like macro you see above).

We still have our kit zooms, both the normal 14-42mm (which equals 28-84mm on film), and a 40-150mm (double that for film again). But we both rarely use them. These single focal length lenses are simply better and sharper. They spoil you as soon as you get one. ;-)

So my most important lens – apart from the normal one which I have mounted most of the time – is a 100mm macro (on film or on DSLRs with a sensor in film size), a 70mm macro (on APS-C sized cameras if I had one, that would include today’s most sold DSLRs and even some mirrorless cameras), or a 50mm macro (on Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds cameras).

YMMV as they say – your mileage may vary. But for me, the 100mm-equivalent macro lenses are the lens to get as a second one (additional to your kit zoom or normal prime). I hope that helped with finding out what your most important lens could possibly be.

Thanks for reading.

Some good advice from Ming Thein

If you ask yourself (or even other photographers) which camera you should probably buy, Ming’s latest article “System thinking” has some good advice.

For most people the answer would be either “none”, or a mirrorless camera. Go and read it; he explains why (and has some alternatives mentioned for people who instead ask which next camera they should probably buy).

Recommended reading.

A recently “expored” photo, and some of today

A week ago I took a photo of Zuleikha, which I converted to black & white. She had just taken a bath, and we were about to have dinner. It was “explored” on Flickr, so it had lots of views, and some “favorites” (like “likes” in FB):

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Zuleikha, September 2014. Olympus E-PL5 with 45mm/1.8 lens and a bounced flash.

Today we took a short walk, and I had the 14-42mm zoom on my camera, set to 17mm. Zuleikha was collecting some leaves:

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Three colours: red, yellow, green

And back home I asked Mitchie if she wanted to swap our macro lenses (she’s documenting some of Zuleikha’s work for school a bit). So I gave my ZD 50mm/2 macro lens to her, and took her manual OM Zuiko Auto Macro 50mm/3.5 lens instead. Of course I had to immediately test it:

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Red hot chili pepper. Olympus E-PL5 with OM Zuiko Auto Macro 50mm/3.5 lens at f/8. *Not* sharpened.

Thanks for viewing.

Time to cover up…

These are my knees. It’s autumn, and getting cooler pretty quick. One of our thermometers shows 19.6°C, the other one 17.6°C, in the flat. So I guess the truth is maybe somewhere in the middle. And it’s definitely:

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Time to cover up…

Otherwise, my days are busy, and because of two construction areas on my commute I need some more time to get to work and especially for my way back home.

I’ve been asked to take photos at work on the 8th and 9th of October, but I won’t be able to show most of these here on my blog or on Flickr, especially not those with most of the people. I have something like carte blanche from my colleague Arno, but he’s about the only one. Oh, and from Markus, too. But it will be hard to avoid those other two dozen or more people, including our management. But who knows? Maybe they find something good enough to use it for advertising? For me it will be just a lesson in something like event photography, which I rarely do, so it’s going to be a fun challenge. And even if it’s only documentary, it will still be worth it.

Anyway – as always, thanks for reading.