A step back in history – A little Olympus E-PL2 update

A step back in history, originally uploaded by bang*.

Day 114 / 365

I’m still feeling the black & white vibe so it may well continue for a few more days (kinda depends on what else I find that rocks my world in the mean time).
Pretty atmospheric shot for today, just flexing those interior photography muscles, the little Olympus E-PL2 (PEN) with the panasonic 20mm held up very well indeed with some tricky lighting. The thing just keeps surprising me, although I’m not ready to sell the Canon gear just yet.
I’m still bugged by the battery on the thing but at least I have a back up one now so all is good for full on whole day shooting.
I’ve just about got the thing set how I want it, the jpegs it can produce are darn impressive (although I still shoot jpeg & RAW, and mostly work the RAW if the jpeg isn’t exactly lining up with my vision).
The camera is with me all the time now I trust it, to be honest the 1 & 5D are getting a little neglected (don’t worry the 85mm L has a project to shoot starting soon, plus the PEN can start struggling to compete in a straight up narrow depth of field fight against full frame) That said If I have the choice between carrying the Olympus / 20mm combo or 1D mk3 / 85mm L combo all day I know which one my chiropractor would recommend.

Olympus PEN – E-PL2 Long Term Real World Review – Initial Impressions

The PEN, originally uploaded by bang*.

bang | Photography – Marks Olympus PEN – E-PL2 Long term review – Part 1- Initial Thoughts.

Now that I’m sure i’m hanging on to the PEN, here’s the first of a running real world review of the Olympus E-PL2. I figured the blog could do with some asides from the 365 project which seem to be commanding its posts. Plus my feelings for the micro 4/3 system cameras has changed now I’ve had chance to use one for a week or three.

As I say, this is real world review, no test charts, measuring devices or other dull stuff like that. People do those kinds of reviews in other corners of the web so if that’s what you want google is your friend.

Initial impressions –
As the latest incarnation of the digital Olympus PEN this camera has had effectively three younger siblings, the E-P1, E-PL1 & E-P2. Having never used any of the other models I can’t tell you how this one relates to those. I can however compare it to my Leica DLux4, the Leica DigiLux 2 and fairly or unfairly to my Canons.

Things I liked straight away –
Straight out the camera jpegs – The things just pop.

The screen – It’s big and it’s pretty darn bright.

Image quality – Super good for such a little camera.

Depth of Field control – With a larger (than usual compact sized cameras) sensor this is a huge plus to me. Not as good as full frame dslr but the camera is somewhat smaller and much more portable.

Noise control – Higher iso capability means I’m willing to push beyond where I used to with the DLux4. It isn’t a 5D mk ii though.

Hot Shoe – Well all my other cameras had one too but it’s still a huge plus for me (actually it’s a must).

Its looks – Hey to me how my cameras look plays a big part in my choice or purchase. The kit lens may be an okay lens but it spoils the look of the camera to me. Hence my instant purchase of the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 (well that and the fact I choose to mainly shoot with prime lenses)

It’s customisation ability – Sure the menus could cause some people problems, me however I just jumped right in and got it working how I wanted. Again to me this is a must, I have to have complete control over my camera otherwise It just doesn’t feel (or look) right.

Some things I’m not too keen on –
The kit lens – I know it’s a good lens and all image quality wise, and for most (actually probably all) the other users it will be a perfect companion. It just spoils the retro look of the time for me, the max aperture is kind of slow and the collapsable thing just bugs me too. When I’m out and about I like my camera ready for use but compact enough to sit by my side. Stick one of the pancake primes on and it’s perfect though.

The Strap – Again this is a personal thing. They could have gone for a more retro piece rather than the advertising. Needless to say mine never graced the camera.

ISO 200 as lowest ISO – Grrrrrrgh. Sure it’s only two stops from all my other cameras, but come on that’s two whole stops. If I’m using this thing with flash I’m going to be wanting lower iso some times to knock out some ambient light (again I’m of the minority users of this camera who will want this, most will be happy with the increased iso speed). Also combine this with the max shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second. I’m a fast prime lens shooter and as such like large apertures. On a number of occasions already I’ve been forced to stop down If I want to keep exposure correct, hence having to compromise my vision for the shot.

The Battery life – It pretty much sucks compared to everything but the Leica DigiLux2 (which was pretty old tech batterywise). I’m not sure if the battery warning comes on too early (although this can be tweaked in camera too) but I’m constantly aware of how quickly it seems to appear. Actually after further use I’ve found one battery struggles to power a full day shooting, this weekend I got about 290 shots to the battery and was left powerless at 10pm. I managed a few turn it back ons to grab a couple of extra shots but in todays world I do expect one battery to manage at least one full day. I’m not expecting the 1600+ shots I can get from one charged 1D or 5D battery but still 300 all out seems pretty weak.

As yet no “proper” RAW support – Adobe have candidate releases of LR3 and Camera RAW which support the Oly RAW files but as yet no stable support. Although with the quality of the jpegs this isn’t too much of a problem.

It’s noise – The Leicas I used were both very (read almost silent) quiet. My Canons make noise but aren’t really built for stealth anyway. I thought the PEN would be along the compact camera quiet lines. However it makes a “real” noise, sure it isn’t deafening but it is perceivable in quieter places. Just something to consider I guess. It’s sound is something akin to that of stepping on a big beetle, kind of squelchy.

So those are my initial thoughts after three weeks use. Some things I have figured out work arounds, others I’ve learned to live with. One thing is for certain though, I do love the thing and really love how it renders what I put before it. Compared to any other compact camera I’ve used this blows them away in this respect. I’ve compared it against the 5D mk ii / 35mm f2 and to tell you the truth they are pretty darn close under good “normal” lighting (actually quite frighteningly close). I’ll probably do a comparison post latter in the year so you can see what I mean. I’ve shot some studio portraits with the PEN and they came out beautifully (the jpegs were spot on).
People following my 365 project may have noticed I’ve shot most of my images over the last three weeks with the PEN (and the Panasonic 20mm, which is a very very good lens). It seems to just do what I want and expect it too pretty much all of the time. On that note if you wish to see more sample images from the PEN just browse through either here on the blog (I normally indicate which camera I’ve shot images with) or through my flickr stream (same with the camera details).
Only time will tell if it continues to impress as I push it further.

So far so good for the might small Olympus E-PL2.

I’ve heard internet rumblings about an E-P3 possible release this year. Judging by Olympus’ speedy model upgrades so far I’d expect this to be true. It’ll be interesting to see what they can do to improve this little camera. I am thinking someone needs to put out a fast wide angle prime for the micro 4/3 system though, the Panasonic 14mm f2.5 is good as it serves a good 28mm relative, but something like a 12mm f2 would just be peachy (24mm (relative) and fast, perfect landscape, interiors and for me travel lens when paired with the 20mm (40mm relative)).

More to follow in later updates through the year.

Project 365 – March

Project 365 – March, originally uploaded by bang*.

March Review – 365 Project

Hey it’s only two weeks overdue.
As such It’s going to be a short(ish) recap of what I liked, didn’t like & what I’ve learnt, along with some link love to places I find interesting / inspirational etc. on the web.

March seems to have been the month of many cameras, looking over the shots I’m fairly sure I’ve shot images on seven different cameras. The Leica DLux4 has been replaced by my Olympus E-PL2 but that wasn’t before I had a play with a Leica DigiLux. I’m loving the little Olympus PEN, especially with the 20mm Panasonic lens on the front. It’s such a good looking, compact, heavy hitting piece of technology, I’ve drafted the first of an ongoing review of the camera for on here, so should be posting that in the next few days for anyone interested. Along with the compacts I’ve also shot with both my Canons, the iPhone and also (for the first tie this year) some film.
I like how because I’m shooting more, I’m having more time to play and experiment with my photography. Shooting with the Lordomat rangefinder has been fun too, after running through the first roll in about 20 minutes I settled down into a more relaxed but deliberate state of mind. Film slows me down, well fully manual cameras loaded with film do anyway. Partly due to having to take everything into consideration, focus and exposure along with composition but also partly due to the cost involved. The very descision of firing the shutter is so much more considered to me with film, not to say I just spray and pray when shooting with the digital cameras, it’s just with film you have 36 shots and each one is going to cost you. Even more so when ones car is due for a service and your preparing for it to mug you again.

I love looking at these mosaic images formed from a months work, here is where you can see if your work is united in theme or style. Is there a consistency in what you’re creating? I’m not saying that it has to for everyone, just that I feel that I have a grasp of how I want my images to look, my style, my vision. That’s something that develops over time, but is much more important than all the megapixel, iso boost, face detection nonsense that camera companies will have you believe matter.

I can feel a rant coming on so must repress it, just to say, too often we become blinded by the technology, the lust for new, the camera-geekery. Somewhere along the line a lot of people are forgot what this is all about. Now I know a lot of people go in for all these fancy features as they just want a camera that will take nice pictures of the family and places they visit. I’m guessing those people don’t really read my blog, if you do, Hi!, but also to those people it’s not the camera that takes the picture. Well actually it is the camera that TAKES the picture but it’s you the photographer that MAKES the picture. I’ll not get into the various ways one can respond to the phrase “Wow, you must have a really expensive camera to take beautiful photographs like that”. Just to say that I’m pretty certain that Michelangelo used regular old brushes when painting the Sistine Chapel and Shakespeare would have managed just fine with a pencil and paper.

Ooops that was me repressing my rant.

Also you can probably disregard what I said about this being a short recap . . . . . . . . . .



So after that little aside, down to the business of my March 365 work.

Shots I’m really happy with.
I enjoyed the colour theme, it kind of shows by looking at the mosaic that I have a respect for the use of colour in my photographs. I’m quite deliberate in my choice and usage of it, as I feel in this regard it’s impact is intensified. I guess you can describe my style as minimal, or simple if you like. I’m not the guy who is going to have a busy image with lots going on, I’m very controlled & considered in my placement of the elements within the frame (some of this is thanks to the author of said book “Within the Frame” – D DuChemin) this includes colour too.
I’ve also shot a fair amount of street images this month, I seem to have been lucky to be in the right place at the right time on a number of occasions. I really like “Punk & Pink” and “Every Cloud”.
To be honest I’m happy with almost all of my shots from this March, some really stand out to me as really good work, others just sit at the “i’m happy with that” level.
My fav of the month? Probably “Stars over the City” but saying that I can see some things I’d like to improve in it.

So what I’m not so happy with.
Again there are a couple of shots which just didn’t do it for me this month. Sometimes the image I saw in my head just wouldn’t reveal itself in the camera, other times I was just being lazy and paid for it with a weak image. Either way if these images are the price I have to pay for the shots I’m really in love with then so be it, I learnt a while ago that the price of success is quite often failure. So I’ll take ten clunkers if that is what it takes to get one beautiful photograph. If I come out of this years project with just ten photographs of exhibition quality I’d consider it a success (suckcess 🙂 ) as that would be ten great photographs I wouldn’t have otherwise taken. On that note five of them are already hung on display so I guess I’m headed in the right direction.

Okay if you’ve managed this far It’s time for me to give a little more link love in keeping with last months promise.
The whole blog thing is a great way to get your work out there into the world, probably more importantly it’s a great way to meet other people sharing their work too. People who are willing to share their thoughts or a little of their time to let you know how they see things. It’s a brilliant brilliant thing, and for a creative person, has so much potential for food for thought.
This last month I’ve not had as much time as I’d like to look through others blogs, I have my list that I like to work through (it’s getting longer too). However here are three more that I’d like to share with you as places of interest;

I think I must have raved about Penny before but I just love her work and her ethos on photography. Have a dig around her older work and you’ll see what I mean. She’s a very down to earth but full of life and energy woman, plus she has a cool sounding name. – Penny De Los Santos

Okay, number two comes from my street work this month. Greg shoots so much stuff and although I’ll admit some is way better than the rest he is forming one hell of a body of work. Not sure how he’s going to make any money out of it but that isn’t always the goal is it. – Just What I See

My last is a little different, as I said these are places of inspiration for me. My inspiration comes from many places and takes many forms, a lot of times it comes from within after my mind has had chance to consider all that I have given it. However, much like the JR video from yesterday, sometimes I see something that makes me reassess things, makes me want to DO something. So here we are, the DO Lectures, lots of great stuff on here and LOTS of thought provoking ideas – The DO Lectures

So what’s the plan headed forwards?
Well it’s already half way through April, day 100 has been and gone. I received a really nice email yesterday with a very interesting idea in it (more to follow, as I haven’t even replied yet). I have some good (well I think they’re good) ideas for other projects formulating in my head, a possible workshop coming up, exhibitions and some pretty good jobs in the pipelines.

Thanks again to all those who have taken the time and left comments on here over the last month. I love your input, your thoughts and the fact something has compelled you to share those with me.


Project 365 – February Review

365 Project – February, originally uploaded by bang*.

Hoorah, finally as promised.

Welcome to another belated monthly review of my 365 project. Last months review was quite lengthy so I’ll try to keep this a little shorter.

I felt like I hit my stride with the project this month, collectively I’m so much happier with the photographs I created and also feel they are a little more connected in style and vision. Also it’s been a great help hearing peoples reactions and feelings towards my work here on the blog and also on flickr where I post my work. The Our Daily Challenge group gave me a few ideas for themed shots again and from that I finally got around to creating two pieces of work from an idea I’ve had swimming around in my head for a good few months – Love & Holding Hands (The converse trainer shots).
I also decided to start throwing in themed weeks, starting out with bike week. That was a crazy week for the blog and me. The good people at WordPress HQ decided to frontpage on of my bike week posts and from that I got a HUGE response to my work. It was a pretty awesome week, I was really revelling the constraints of my theme, the work seemed to be resonating with people and alongside this I was taking a pretty big creative step in the refinement of my work. That step came from the realisation and understanding of my own vision & style. I sat down and had a long think about my work, looked at shots which for one reason or another I love and at others which just didn’t do it for me. From this I decided to address my kit, or more specifically my choice of lenses. For too long my choice of equipment has been driven by ease and the “safe” route. I decided now to choose lenses which had a look, a feel, something which I could identify so that when I pull it out the bag I instinctively know what it will give. No more zooms for the time being, I like the challenge of having to work for the photograph, make it happen don’t just stand still and take it. I just find with fixed focal length lenses I’m that much more engaged with my subject, I work in a more fluid way and discover I can far better express myself with them than zooms. That’s just me and my way though, I’m not in anyway saying dump your zooms and go drop a couple of thousand on prime lenses. You need to learn what works for you and the only way to do that is by practise, experience and time.

So which shots am I happiest with?
I love my bike week as a collection and seriously intend to do more later in the year (if not a side project). I was really happy to finally make my idea a reality for the converse shots but I also really love the lone tree photograph, if only as It was taken almost on the spur of the moment. If it wasn’t for doing this project I would’ve just driven home that day, maybe thought to myself “Mmmm nice light, it would be cool to come here some time and photograph”. I had the complete wrong kit for landscape work but it all came together, I worked around the constraints and created something I’m really happy with.

Which shots am I not so happy with?
I’m not sure, I kind of like them all this month. Some stand out as different but that’s mainly due to being shot on the iphone or being unrelated to the rest. However as a collective they pretty much work together.

So onwards and upwards from here. I’ve had some really kind and interesting feedback over the last couple of weeks also, it’s always nice to get feedback. I set out on this project to challenge myself and my creativity a little, driven by the theory that the mere act of creating feeds your creativity (Steven Pressfield – The War of Art). The fact people seem to be enjoying what I create, or that they are finding something interesting in what they see here makes the whole process that much more fulfilling. I read a great quote yesterday on an interesting blog “I just want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares” I think to any creative that is what your true inner voice needs to be saying. Why do I do it? because I love to create.

Okay, I also figured I’d repay the kindness of those who take the time to comment or participate on here by giving out some link love once a month.

First up I’ll give some props to my good friend Will, he’s also walking the 365 path this year.

Next I’ll point you to photographer who has an eye for striking compositions and a very warm / homey feel.

Finally for this month I aim you (randomly you may feel) to this indie or self-proclaimed “anti-Guidebook” to San Diego. Now you may find it strange that a photographer from the UK would point you to a San Diego guide, however I just love the principle behind this site. There’s a humour and friendliness about the articles that are making me rethink my holiday (vacation for those non Brits reading this) plans this year.

That’s probably enough redirections for now, more in the next monthly review.

Alright so I said this would be a short review, maybe I lied a little. Here’s to March (what’s left of it anyway) so far lots of street photography, a little 35mm film action and plenty of colour to go with the B&W.

Project 365 – January Review

Project 365 – January, originally uploaded by bang*.

Hoorah, as promised here’s the review of the 365 project for January. Sure I know it’s nearly March but I didn’t really get into the swing of this until February anyway.

I’m going to try and break down the review into; which shots I like most & least, what I’ve learnt, how I’m planning on proceeding.

My overall impression to the work I’ve created so far is that I’m pretty happy with it, some of the shots sat well within my “safety zone” others pushed my boundaries beyond my “normal” look. I wouldn’t say there’s a theme or even a encompassing style that ties all of the months shots together. This is probably partly due to using different cameras and not fully appreciating how much time can be required some days. The shots taken with my Canons are united in style, the iphone shots are united in style and the Leica shots are too. So maybe that’s something to take forward, maybe anything not shot on the Canons should be black & white from now on in an attempt to tie everything together more.

So on to which shot/s I prefer; that’s a tricky one for me as the artist to decide. As when I look at the photographs I’m reminded by the circumstances in which they were taken, the effort / time / skill needed to create the image. This comes down to my ability to be self critical and objective about the work, something which I luckily learnt early in my career (although sometimes I can be known to take the self criticism too far). I’d probably say I’m happiest with the shots of the Red leaf (that’s the magic floaty leaf to some) they just have something about them which confirms what this project is all about to me. They’re photographs which I wouldn’t have otherwise created, yet they have a commercial value. I highly enjoyed the process of creating them and was honestly really happy with the results. Everything clicked, from initial conception to final image. I ventured along creative pathways which otherwise would have gone unexplored and that Is probably what pleased me the most.

As to the photograph I’m least happy with, well the Rock Jock shot on day three was a clanger, Forkeh (although marvelously named) is a nothing shot really and Riding Dirty didn’t tell the story it was meant to. Of the three Riding Dirty should have been much more so I guess it’s the one I’m least happy with.

So what have I learnt so far along this self prescribed road?
Well there are a number of good photographic blogs out there for anyone wanting some inspiration (or distraction). I’ll probably link to some in future posts.
Flickr has a “look”, I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, It just has. Maybe I’ll expand on this in the future or maybe I’ll just keep it to myself.
Having ideas and lists of ideas is good but don’t forget to execute those ideas otherwise what use are they.
It’s not as simple as just “taking an photograph everyday”. Well to me it isn’t. I have a standard and style of shooting which I strive to maintain and evolve, by just grabbing a quick shot I’m damaging my own integrity. So to further this point, this project is taking up more time than I originally envisaged.
There are good days and bad days, you never know what kind of day it’s going to be.

How am I planning on proceeding?
Well February has been a rollercoaster month for the project so far, more client jobs has meant a busier schedule and it’s only going to get harder as the year progresses. I’m enjoying that part of it though, it’s a nice timeout. So planning and scheduling are going to be more important.
I guess I’d like to try and tie the work together more so that If indeed I do put a book together at the end of the year it will flow a little easier.
Also I may start to look into some themed weeks, like colours or portraits or something.

I’d like to thank those who have commented, given feedback or said they’re enjoying the project so far. It means a lot. I’m working along the Create, Share, Sustain ethos. Sure it’s a personal project and I only really have myself to impress, it’s about creative growth but if in the sharing others gain something then that makes it all the more worthwhile. As for the sustaining, well lets just say some of the photographs will be appearing on more than just flickr.