My currently most used camera gear and technique

This week was a big one, at least for Nikon – they announced their new “Z” line of mirrorless cameras together with three “S” lenses available for those, and while they don’t replace their current DSLR cameras, it’s clearly Nikon’s way into the future (together with what is probably the greatest and most intelligent change, their new and bigger lens mount).

Do I need one, or maybe one of the pretty similar Sony A7 models? No, I don’t think so. Tho one of my cameras and my most expensive lens got stolen by pickpockets in Paris lately, I can still live – and live very good – with what we have already. And I used the favourites of our current gear for this for instance:

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Tuna the cat, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018

Just took this today with my Olympus OM-D E-M10 (first generation), and with Mitchie’s Panasonic Lumix 20mm/1.7 lens used at an aperture of f/2. The camera chose ISO 1600 and 1/15th of a second for exposure, and I had the preview in the camera set to black & white, together with a simulated yellow filter.

I love black & white, and to be able to preview it before even taking the shot is the first of many advantages of mirrorless cameras vs. those with optical viewfinders.

I still took the raw file, which I “developed” using different software products on different operating systems as follows:

1. Olympus Viewer 3 on (a virtualized) Windows 7 (I also have a virtualized and even a bare metal (dual boot) Windows 10 on my machine, but using these is in most cases just overkill).

I’m using the camera makers’ raw processor in almost every image, simply because it gives me the best lens correction and settings which I also have in the camera itself, and because the default conversions look exactly the same as in-camera jpg images. For black & white, even the display of the raw image is still in black & white, tho you can of course change it back to colour at this point. However, the fact that I *don’t have to* look at a colour image is exactly what I want. So at this stage of the process I generally crop only, and I think about if the simulated filter and exposure or contrast settings are good enough to go on. I cropped this image into a 5:4 format (1:1 is too square, 4:3 or even 3:2 or 16:9 are too rectangular in my point of view – I love 7:6 or 5:4 formats which were used in large and in medium format film cameras in ancient times, last millenium or so 😉 ). For this image, cropping was all I did in OV3.

2. Silver Efex Pro2 with one of its presets

Still on my virtualized Windows, I then usually fire up Silver Efex Pro2 which I downloaded for free from Google while they still owned it (it now belongs to DxO and costs a bit of money again, but IMO it’s totally worth it). I mostly use one of the different presets, which I sometimes still alter a bit, but they’re incredibly good. For this image (and most others) I used their “019 Fine Art” preset, because that saves you tons of work in other raw processors, and it brings out detail like no other. Just love it. I save this as a .tif like the original conversion from OV3, so I have both and can still compare and decide which one to use later – but in most cases, SFX just has an easy win. It’s also really great if you want to simulate film, their “grain” alone is totally worth it.

3. RawTherapee on Linux

Back in my main operating system of choice (Debian GNU/Linux, which I use since 15+ years now), I use the free and open source RawTherapee converter to finish the image. I mid-toned it with the settings described a few days ago, and I also add an Exif title, and IPTC tags for categories which describe the image (like animal, cat, cat portrait, bw, and so on).

And that’s it, if I don’t have to make local instead of global adjustments (like on hair or skin for instance).

So here you have my currently preferred gear, software, and techniques on how I make photos. Would I want or “need” “full frame” – that horrible description of cameras with a sensor size of Kleinbildfilm, which was 24x36mm? No, not really. The dynamic range and depth of field I’m getting from my Micro Four Thirds camera are just perfect, the image quality (“grain”) at ISO 1600 looks pretty much like film did (and Silver Efex accentuates this quite nicely as well), and the handling and weight of that small camera is just perfect. I even love that its display “only” tilts up or down, while Mitchie’s E-M5 Mk2 has a fully articulated display a la Canon and others. With my tilting-only display I can still simulate an old TLR (twin lens reflex), and view it from the top, so it’s just perfect for me.

If I would earn money with photography, then I would probably think about additional cameras or gear – but since I’m a humble amateur, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got. I’m trying to make the best out of it, and if people like my shots (like on Flickr), then all the better.

Thanks for reading, as always.

Trying to see squares

I was reminded of some great (and famous) photographers lately, who used square format cameras and films, like the twin-eyed Rolleiflex to name a famous piece of gear. The difference in composition? These cameras were mostly held at breast height, and viewed from above. On their ground glass – with or without a magnifying loupe – you saw a square image, half mirror-inverted. Meaning that when/if you moved the camera right, the picture on the ground glass would move left, and vice versa.

I’ve seen so many good photos from that time that I started to wonder how it would be to use my small Micro Four Thirds camera that way (because that’s all I have, folks). Luckily I have the E-M10 which has a tilting screen, and if I move it 90 degrees upwards then I can use this as a fake ground glass, with or without magnification, but not mirror-reversed (would be funny to have that implemented in firmware I guess). If I switch the camera to black & white I can already see the photo in black and white before I even take it – definitely an advantage compared to the film days when you had to wait for development to see anything.

Just playing around with my camera set up that way, today I took this:

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Sleepy cat, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018

Yes, it’s square. And yes, it’s black & white (both in camera and in “post production” which was to first reduce contrast with Olympus Viewer 3, then to apply the 019 “Fine Art” preset in Silver Efex Pro2, and with RawTherapee (on Linux) to add some title and Exif information).

Yes, it’s a sleepy cat. And yes, this is fun, really. Modern day Rolleiflex or Mamiya 330.

Thanks for viewing.

P.S.: here’s another one. Same cat, same day, a few hours later…

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Looking at my camera strap, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018

Thanks again for viewing.

Pictures from a Sunday walk

I decided to go for a walk today – haven’t done that really since last winter. So I aimed for the Mönchbruch nature preservation area, which is approximately 3.2km or roundabout 5,000 steps away from our place, according to the “Google Fit” step counter in our mobile phones.

Here are some pictures:

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Because I didn’t go into the restricted area, and because I didn’t have my longest lens on the camera, I couldn’t get closer views onto the deer. Approaching them would have been useless anyway, with the wind behind me…

On our way back (Mitchie had met me there after a while) we also saw some new goslings:

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Meanwhile, at home:

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As always, thanks for viewing.

She made it again

Saturday evening I uploaded another photo of Tuna, our cat onto the Flickr servers, and the great wide interweb. And like with the photo from late January, it was an overnight success again – until yesterday morning it easily climbed up my all time favourite list, where it now resides as the number two most successful of my photos of all time:

I laughed and showed it to Mitchie, with words like: “Look, a simple photo of a cat!”. But still, even if I don’t see it, some people at least seemed to really like it, almost as much as the one from January. So here it is (full size on Flickr as always):

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Looking out, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018

10,418 views, 188 faves, and 6 comments as I write this. So thanks, I also like it. Took this with the new (to me) 75mm/1.8 lens at f/2.5 from the dining room table – you see my chair from the computer desk on the left, and a wall on the right. And Tuna was right beside the sofa, so she could look out the veranda door. Pastime paradise for her 😉

Thanks for viewing.

Some more recent photos, birthday presents

Here are some more photos:

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Zuleikha needs glasses, so we went shopping for them. And I took some photos while she tried different frames, to show her how she looks from a slightly different angle. Like here:

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Last Sunday I turned 61, and this is what I’ve got – a book, and a new lens for my camera:

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It’s David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas”, and the Olympus Micro Zuiko Digital 75mm/1.8 lens. Both are wonderful. So the rest of this blog post’s photos were all taken with that new lens, either fully or near fully open:

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This one was at f/5, with an overhead octabox and one of my studio strobes:

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As you can see, that 75mm lens is perfect for head & shoulder portraits, and it reminds me a lot of my 135mm/2.8 which I had for my Canon A-1, and which I now also have for my Olympus OM-2N. The angle of view is very similar, with the 75mm being slightly tighter, and comparable to a 150mm lens on a 135 film camera. Might be a bit long for normal indoor living rooms, where our 45mm lenses shine, but outdoors, or for candids, or the mentioned head & shoulders, it’s just perfect. And for cats of course. Purrfect.

As always, thanks for reading.

Some recent photographs

Here are some photos we took since Friday – half of which were taken with my camera, the other half with Mitchie’s:

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Tulips, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018

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Tuna diva, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018

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Wolfgang, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018 – photographer: Mitchie

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Dying flowers and a bass guitar, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018

Thanks for viewing.

Some photos from an expired film

I had that DM Paradies 200 colour negative film which was in our bookshelf, and expired since over three and a half years. So I loaded it into my camera (see two posts below), and used it. And today I’ve got it back. Here are three photos like the lab scanned them off the film, with grain and not very high-res. I still like them:

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My colleague Arno isn’t in the office at the moment. So today I put some of the prints from that film onto his desk for when he returns. I documented that with the digital E-PL5 and its kit zoom at 14mm:

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Thanks for viewing.

A photo of Tuna, from yesterday

This is on its way to become my most viewed photo on Flickr – it’s the one with the most “faves” already, simply overnight:

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Update, from slightly past 9 pm:

– and it’s done it. Look:

It dethroned every other image in all categories in just 1 day. Crazy.

Thanks for viewing.