Weather change

While my “girls” (= wife & daughter) were out ice-skating it got dark. And it cold cold, wet, and even snowy:

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Snowy rain. Or rainy snow? 80 seconds in the wet and cold…

I took this with the E-M10 and the 14-42mm “kit” zoom at 14mm and f/5.6. 40 seconds for the exposure, another 40 for noise reduction, while I was holding my hand over the camera to protect it from getting too wet. Converted from raw using Olympus Viewer 3, then I applied the 020 Fine Arts preset of Nik’s Silver Efex Pro2 software to turn it into what you see here.

Thanks for viewing.

The look of larger formats

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m mostly using digital cameras in the ‘Micro Four Thirds’ format – which is exactly the same as ‘Four Thirds’, except that those ‘Micro’ cameras lost the mirror, so they’re more modern incarnations than their older DSLR brethren.

The format of both systems’ sensors is 13×17.3mm, which is bigger than the so-called “one inch”, but smaller than APS-C or “full frame” sensors which are as big as the old “Kleinbildfilm” – 24x36mm. Most portrait photographers nowadays use those “full frame” systems because of mainly two reasons: the lenses have to be twice longer for the same angle of view, so they give you another “look”, and the depth of field is much thinner with these longer lenses, so you are able to separate your subjects (models and other persons) from the background by blurring that background, which helps in getting rid of unwanted “distractions”.

Apart from that, the simple rule is that the bigger your medium – be it a digital sensor or film – the longer your lenses have to be for the same angles of view. And that gives your images a certain look which simply cannot be achieved with smaller formats.

Instead of further trying to describe this, have a look at Nick Carver taking some photos on route 66 with several different formats, from Polaroid and 4.5x6cm to 6x17cm which is pretty ‘cinematic’ as I would describe it. But also his 6×6 and 6x7cm photos from the Mamiya RZ67 cannot be replicated by anything smaller. Have a look:

So the takeaway from this is:

– yes, using film is a hassle (and he’s using Rollfilm which is quite easy to handle)
– yes, using film is expensive
– no, except with Polaroids, you won’t get instant results

But man oh man, how I love those renderings of larger formats, and the colours of both Kodak Portra (a colour negative film), and Fujifilm Velvia (a slide film, good for landscapes only).

Can’t get that with medium format digital – the biggest Sony sensors are still smaller than 4.5x6cm film, so you’d have to stitch several images after taking them with long lenses. Oh, and those sensors are not exactly mainstream yet, and so they still cost about the same as your typical middle class Mercedes limousine. The cheapest larger-than-full-frame digital camera you can buy at the moment is also one of those ‘cameras of the year’; that’d be the Fujifilm GFX. And yes, being a modern camera, it’s of course mirrorless, like the ones I’m using. Just with a slightly bigger sensor, and longer lenses.

Thanks for reading, and for watching – hope you enjoyed it.

A birthday portrait

Yesterday Zuleikha officially joined the “teenie” club. I took a photo of her in mixed light while she received some greetings and wishes on the phone:

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Birthday wishes on the phone
Zuleikha, December 2017
(just turned 13)

Since it was impossible to correct the colour cast of the mixed (warm) LED and the daylight from outdoors, I tried several options in Nik’s Silver Efex Pro2 software. But in the end, the in-camera black and white conversion worked best.

Thanks for viewing.

The Best & Worst Photo/Video Gear of 2017

This is an interesting one from the Camera Store guys in Calgary, Canada – because they also asked other people’s opinions. And tho these other people are mostly Youtube ‘vloggers’, it can still be seen as a kind of industry overview – they all touch many more gear than you or I do. So if you’re interested and have the time (and understand English, but if you wouldn’t then you probably wouldn’t be reading here), here it is. Enjoy.

I agree with them in their choices of the three best cameras, tho one of them is a dinosaur – but they also make that a topic, so thumbs up for you guys!

Merry Christmas 2017!

Hi there, and thanks for visiting. In case you celebrate it, we (I write in the plural on behalf of our small family here) wish you merry Christmas, nice holidays, a good and happy new year 2018, health, wealth, and all the other stuff, or, using Spock’s words: live long and prosper!

I was a bit quiet on this blog lately, and that’s mostly because I discovered some new and really nice video creators, or vloggers as some call these. And I want to show you some in case you’re also interested. And since it’s hard to decide on which of their videos to show you as an introduction, I’ll simply show you the first ones I saw of them.

The first one was Eduardo, a writer and movie dramaturg from Chile, who’s now living in England together with his girlfriend Fran. Eduardo loves film and street photography (and is pretty good with that), tho the first I saw from him was using a digital back on his Hasselblad medium format camera. It’s worth a look, and his video, storytelling, and photos are beautiful:

After that, I saw a video of a young woman discovering film photography using the exact same camera I had when I was much younger – a Canon A-1 (which is a thing of beauty, but eats batteries for breakfast). Turned out that Dana’s husband Lou is a really good filmmaker (using a Canon 5D Mk3), and together they also are really good story tellers – and they even know Eduardo and Fran from above. But here’s Dana doing a really good job with that Canon film camera:

My latest “discovery” was actually a recommendation from Google’s Youtube, so I watched Sean Tucker talking about his street photography philosophy (in Rome with the Fujifilm XT-20). He’s a pro photographer sharing some really cool and useful tips without much self presentation as I would say (and comparing him with others who do mainly that), so as the other two above, his channel is really recommended. So here’s that first video I saw from him:

See some of his photos on Flickr, or visit his page for more. And the same goes for Lou & Dana’s “Wild We Roam“, and also for Eduardo’s site.

So, sometimes Google’s recommendations actually do work. It’s even a bit frightening to think about how good they are matching my taste of content with their recommendations at times – they must have made a real good profile for/of me already.

Anybody getting something outrageously fun and photographic for Christmas?” – that was a question from Kirk Tuck on his blog, and I answered that no, I didn’t order the latest Leica M-10 or Hasselblad or Fujifilm medium format cameras, but ordered a book instead. Really looking forward to that one.

Which brings me back in a circle to my own photography, and doings, and plans. The last thing I’ve tried with my photos was another “look” for black & white, kind of more traditional or “old school” (which some might argue is black & white anyway). So my approach to it was to take the photos in raw as usual, then converting them to colour .tif files with Olympus Viewer as usual, and then use Silver Efex Pro2 for black & white conversion with a “custom” preset I’ve made myself: take their “019 Fine Arts” preset, then add a white border and some coffee toning, and 95% of the post production work is done. What’s still missing is a bit of curves manipulation, and the adding of metadata like a title in Exif and such, which I do with Rawtherapee. As usual. And here are three examples of how this looks:

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Tuna the cat, December 2017 (this was taken using the E-PL5 “Pen” camera with its kit zoom at 17mm, at ISO 6400)

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Andre, December 2017 (this was taken using my Yongnuo compact flash at 1/4 power bounced over the ceiling from Arno’s desk (opposite of Andre’s), with the 45mm lens at f/2.2)

And finally, a “selfie”, triggered with my (Mitchie’s old) Google Nexus 5 smartphone:

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Selfie, black and white, toned, with border

The next two were actually the last photos I took before Christmas, both of Tuna the cat. Simply cannot resist sometimes when I see something like it:

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Huntress

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Contemplating

About future plans – here’s some music first, from user “nominal6” on Soundcloud again (CC, so I’m allowed to play it here). You can listen to it while reading the rest of my article:

I plan to do some more collaborations with this user nominal6, who calls himself ‘jonetsu’ on the Linux Musicians board. First, I like that he does everything with free tools, and I also like that everything is CC’ed like my own content – so I could for instance take his music for videos I’d publish on Youtube or Vimeo or wherever.

I also looked at some older photos, like Kirk Tuck does it sometimes. So here are some from 2011 or newer:

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Sarah, April 2011, at Haenson’s

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Haenson at work in his studio, January 2014

Sadly Hans has retired from his studio photography already, and sold it all – it always was a great pleasure working with him, even when at that time my digital photography was in its first baby steps. Here’s another photo (of a nude girl) I took in his studios. She was a former Czech “Playmate” from that famous magazine. I used my new toned black & white recipe on her here for that “vintage” look:

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Zuzie, January 2014, at Haenson’s

And one more from 2011, still with my Olympus E-520 DSLR and the 50mm/2 macro lens, and cropped to a more cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio here:

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Female breasts

Starting January, I’ll also rejoin the IBM Fotoklub. Here’s one I took while I was a member of that club, but with my own strobe equipment already. The model calls herself “An Ne”, and I forgot who made the fancy head piece (or who was the MUA (= makeup artist):

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The show must go on
January 2014, Frankfurt

Shows that with good lighting, you don’t need more than an Olympus E-PL5 and the 45mm/1.8 lens to take a nice picture, hm?

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Two beauties, January 2015, Mainz

I like this one of Rhia and Meike, taken in Mainz on a cold January day with that exact same E-PL5 camera and lens. Or this one, which is one of my all-time favourites:

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Mélanie Gomez, February 2015

Mélanie is a real good photographer herself, and I’d love to work with her (and some others) again. So much for my wishes for 2018, for myself.

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A portrait of me, Christmas 2017

Photographer: Hanna Zuleikha Lonien (who will turn 13 in 2 days from now)
Lighting: Simock Mythos E300 into 20″ white beauty dish, socked as key light
Simock Mythos E300 with standard reflector, for background

For you (for whomever is still reading), thanks, and all the best for 2018!

Photos, taken Dec 8 – 16 (today)

During the last week I took photos with all of my primes (fixed focal length lenses), and also some with a zoom because I wanted a focal length I didn’t have in primes. So for the following photos I’ll tell you the titles and also the lenses I used for taking them:

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Smoochin’ girls – Olympus 45mm/1.8 at f/2.8

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Simock Mythos E300 studio strobe – Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R (on Olympus E-PL5 camera) at 17mm/5.6

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Tuna the cat, December 2017 – Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25/F1.4 at f/1.4 (wide open with the camera at ISO 2000)

Now for today’s photos. These were all taken with my Panasonic Lumix 14mm/2.5 lens at apertures between f/4 and f/2.8:

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We’ve got a new light bulb for the dining room light. It’s LED, but clear – so it brings out the structure of the lamp, projected onto the walls around it, just like it did with incandescent lights I had before. Love it. The two photos of the Colorchecker target are still uncorrected, with the camera’s white balance either on ‘auto’ or on ‘incandescent’ (would have to check). Haven’t made a profile for that light bulb yet, but I will. The maker claims a CRI of 95, which is very nice for a 6€ light (get one at Aldi’s if you want).

As always, thanks for reading.

Week 48 – and half of 49 – in pictures

I haven’t written anything since over a week. And I also didn’t take many photos, partly because my colleague Arno is off for his holiday, partly because the weather didn’t play nice at times, and I haven’t been out that much during my lunch breaks.

But apart from the usual cat photos, there were some opportunities, like a pre-Christmas concert from Zuleikha and some of her schoolmates. So let me show you some here:

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Don’t stop!

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Power lines, a chimney, and clouds

Me at work, lit by my monitor

Me at work, lit by my monitor

The next ones don’t have titles. They’re all titled “Vorweihnachtliches Konzert der Prälat-Diehl-Schule”
http://praelat-diehl-schule.de/vorweihnachtliches-konzert-der-praelat-diehl-schule/:

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Then I took some high ISO images, with the maximum ISO set to 6400 (and the camera did make use of that at times)…

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And all of a sudden, we had some first snow:

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The making of… a snow cat

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“Your new Mützenständer!” – that is what Zuleikha said to Mitchie when she saw her mum’s cap on my bass guitar…

As always, thanks for viewing and reading.

Some low light / high ISO photos

I was thinking about my last lens purchase lately. 135mm with a maximum aperture of 1:2.8 is very nice to have on a film camera, but on my Olympus Micro Four Thirds with its crop factor of 2 you’ll have an angle of view like the one from a 270mm lens used with a film camera. A bit long, especially indoors. The 75mm/1.8 prime (single focal length lens) for Micro Four Thirds would be nice to have. To experiment with a focal length of about 75mm, I took my 40-150mm/4-5.6 zoom at that setting.

Angle of view: 76mm – very nice. Maximum aperture at that setting: 1:4.7 – not so nice. I got some nice and blurry photos of Tuna, not so much because of camera shake (IBIS works well, and the background was sharp in some of those photos), but because a moving and breathing subject simply can’t hold still this long. So you have three choices:

– more light (didn’t want to use flash this time)
– wider aperture (couldn’t do that with my zoom lens), or
– higher ISO (for sharper but more “grainy” / noisy photos)

So for today I set the maximum “auto” ISO of my camera to ISO 6400 – normally I have this on 1600. The camera instantly made use of it, tho the following photo was also taken with a -1EV correction (the metering was confused because of Mitchie’s black bag, and wanted to make the image too bright because of it):

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Tuna the cat, November 2017

This is with noise reduction switched off, and without any noise reduction applied in post processing. In web resolutions like here (1600×1200 pixel) this is certainly nice enough, but looking at the photo in its full resolution shows that a Micro Four Thirds camera cannot compete with those which have larger sensors (“full frame”, or Fuji APS-C for instance). On the other hand, none of these cameras except Sony have IBIS, so you have to use much higher ISO settings to avoid camera shake, so the “full frame advantage” isn’t as big as you might think. At the same settings, it might be about 2 stops, so an ISO 6400 photo would look like my normal ISO 1600 ones.

Anyway. After testing that 75mm focal length I asked Mitchie to lend me her 20mm/1.7 Panasonic prime – haven’t used that since a while, and I love that focal length. But since it got darker, I let the camera at its settings, and so I’ve got some more low light / high ISO photos, like the following ones:

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Tuna the cat, in twilight, November 2017 (ISO 3200)

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Zuleikha on her piano, November 2017 (ISO 5000)

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Tuna the cat, being teased by Mitchie, November 2017 (ISO 3200)

Like I said – for the web with its reduced resolutions, these are certainly more than good enough. For prints? I don’t know; haven’t tried printing something big which was taken at such a high ISO setting.

Mitchie liked the “twilight” photo of Tuna with its blue shade from daylight (and yellow from the indoor artificial light) – but pictures as these are impossible to correct of course, which makes them ideal candidates for a black and white conversion.

But which one? Here are three different ones, shown beside each other:

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Tuna the cat, November 2017 – Three different black and white conversions of a low light / high ISO image (ISO 3200)

These photos have captions, but again, here’s what I did:

– left: Olympus out-of-camera or OV3 conversion

– center: Silver Efex Pro2 019 “Fine Art” preset

– right: Silver Efex Pro2 000 neutral with Ilford Delta 3200 film simulation, 50% contrast reduced (like on a low grad paper)

This is a reduced 90% quality jpg for storage on Flickr – remember, one single photo has 16MP, so three of them make 48MP or ca. 50MB. As stored, the photo has its original dimensions, but a file size of about 12MB. But I have the original uncompressed images of course, and my choice would be the middle one, with the 019 Fine Art preset of Silver Efex Pro2. Couldn’t make it much better myself. Your choice might be different of course.

Again, and like always: thanks for viewing / reading.

Update/comment about the low light performance of other cameras, from Sunday morning:

Of course they’re better, all of them, maybe with the exception of Sony. Look here for an example. The Sony A7Mk2 – as much as I love the idea of adapting my old manual Olympus OM lenses to one of these – is clearly beaten by even an APS-C-sized Fuji camera, let alone other “full framers” like Nikon or Canon. See here for an example of the cheapest offerings in current “full frame” cameras. I don’t know about you, but I’d take a D610 or even a 6D – as long as they’re around – any day above all others. Yep; they’re dinosaurs compared with mirrorless, but as long as you’re after image quality, dinos beat those others big time still.

Again, thanks for reading.

Three films, one portrait I liked

Maybe I was a bit sloppy. Or maybe I just pressed the shutter too fast and on too many objects. Out of the three Kodak black & white films which I had in my camera lately, I liked exactly 1 photo – a portrait of my colleague Arno, like so often:

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I quickly (and again, sloppily) “scanned” the negative using my OM-D E-M10 with the old Four Thirds ZD 50mm/2 macro lens against a white background illuminated by one of my studio strobes, using a polaroid slide copier holder in front of that macro lens. So what you see here is a digitized version (ca. 13.5MP) of the 24x36mm negative turned positive.

This was also one of the first photos I made with my new old 135mm/2.8 lens, and it’s very nice and sharp even when used fully open like here.

Like always, thanks for viewing.