Sparring, Boxing, Winning

In the last year I have reflected heavily on my photography (some of the reflecting I found so delightful that I shared it here on my blog). There were two main takeaways from all that glucose-sucking brain activity. Number one, my process of taking pictures is too anti-social, in that it basically is too lonely, i.e. I go out alone and shoot rather silent animals or cityscapes. Number two, my interests in photography changed to portraits and so I had to overcome my imaginary shyness and go out and ask people to make nice pictures of them. The results of both sessions are already on the blog, but the most challenging one came last week and has to with (the observant reader of the headline will have arrived at the conclusion already): boxing! (Yes!)

The gym I go to has a focus on mixed martial arts and boxing, so I went to a group of aspiring Balboas to ask whether anyone was kind enough to have me photograph them after a training session, and as good things happen to good people (tell me about it) two actually said yes and… on the day we arranged to meet, they totally forgot about it and did not come. Bummer.

So the owner of the gym stepped up and generously offered himself and some friends to step in, so I could take the images that day. But the odds for good jpegs were raised as he was really about to have a sparring session in the ring and not a leisurely after-training session. So I set up my two flashlights, one bare and one with a softbox, set my camera to f11 and a low iso and got behind the ropes, dashing around madly to avoid being hit by a tall guy being hammered into my corner.

It was good fun, I took around 350 images, many out of focus, some in pitch black darkness as the speedlights could not reload quickly enough between the clicks of the shutter and a good number were really great.

So here they are, the result of my own sparring with creativity and technology, in glorious black and white. Thanks to you guys for letting me shoot you and

Enjoy!

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Bows and arrows

Yesterday I went to a friend who – amongs a wide variety of other things – builds traditional bows and arrows. The idea is craftsmanship, i.e. building the weapons from scratch with traditional materials like horn, sinew, wood and leather, albeit with modern machinery. He has built dozens of bows and scores upon scores of arrows, which are intricately detailed and deadly as f*#@! The sheer beauty of them is fascninating and almost touching. The details in fabrication and painting work on all senses. These bows look great, sound and even smell good. Moreover, there is a sense of danger about them that makes touching them very special.

A modern carbon fiber bow says deadly with more immediacy, but I doubt that it is possible to have the same level of attachment to a modern tool as you can have towards these new, but traditionally crafted arms. The process of making the more complex composite bows takes up months as it takes a lot of time for the animal glue to set.

While it is easy to appreciate these arches of mayhem in person, it is quite hard to photograph them appropriately. This is my first attempt. The idea was to go from overview to detail. Bows (and arrows) are long and pointy constructions that do not lend themselves easily to image formats that are popular at the moment. A panorama might lend itself and I am going to attempt that at a later stage. But for now I tried to present them in the context of the workshop in which they were built, going ever closer to mimic the process of a visitor who first encounters these little marvels of aptitude. In going from form to detail I relied on a single flashgun pointed at the low-hanging white celing, which emulates soft daylight. I guess it works out nicely.

Enjoy!

Portrait session

Recently I had a portrait session with my friend Sascha at my place. I do not have a studio, but a living room with plenty of space for a portrait shoot.

This year I bought all that’s needed for my prosumer needs, two Yongnuo flashlights, an octobox, an umbrella for soft light, a reflector and some other small light modifiers, all in all an investment of under €300, not bad considering that it takes up very little space, works just fine and is a lot of fun to work with. We cleared a wall, set everything up and used my OMD EM1 and Olympus‘ very own and fine prime lenses, the 45mm 1,7 and the 50mm 1,8 – both lenses are super sharp and a joy to work with since they are light and small.

As we’re no models (neither by looks nor desire) we used a book for male photo shoots in order to get some ideas. Actually, we quite shamelessly ripped the images off. But that’s just the way it is. So here are the images, thanks to Sascha at www.senicer.de for taking the images of yours truly.

Enjoy

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M. Zuiko 12-40, 2,8, pro

My newest lens arrived, the fabulous M. Zuiko 12-40, 2,8 pro. This beast made of glass seemingly turns the advantages of the 4/3rd system upside down, as it heftily unbalances my tiny E-PL3, but makes photography so much more fun.

I used it immediately to capture early autumn colours, which came out in a vibrant and tack-sharp way. – Actually the last bit is probably not true, as I used HDR, which comes with a lot of ghosting in the twigs and branches of trees, so absolute sharpness is not yet there. But I’m getting there, and more and more I am trying to hone my technical skills in order to arrive at sharp images.

My next goal will probably be to remember to set auto-stabilization to off when using my tripod, so … I’ve got a lot to learn.

Botanischer Garten Herbst

Olympus E-PL3 with Kit Lens

In 2012 I bought my first digital camera, the Olympus E-Pl 3, a small mirror-less compact camera with exchangeable lenses. I use the kit-lenses M.Zuiko 14 – 42mm and 42-150mm. I do also use a macro-converter lens and the VF-3 electronic viewfinder. As is obvious, this is beginner’s gear and that’s exactly what I am.

As the images show, the camera/lens-combination is better in some situations and challenged in others. The small MFT-sensor has its problems in low-light situations, which start well before sundown or in almost all indoor situations. Here, a tripod would be helpful, but don’t expect the camera to perform well as a birthday-party shooter late at night, at least not with my lenses. Cranking up the ISO-levels helps, but starting with ISO 1600 the noise level becomes distracting, at least for me.

Luckily for me, I am not interested in framing birthday parties, so moving on.

I like the camera because it travels well. It’s been to dusty national parks in Tanzania and it performs beautifully in daylight, the autofocus is responsive and usually on-spot in those light situations and if you don’t mistreat the camera too badly by exchanging lenses while driving with the hard-top down, it shows no ill effects from road bumps and heat.

In Italy I used it for street photography and landscape shots and usually did not run into problems there, but the small, shadowed alleys sometimes made it harder to get the shots you want and the autofocus finds a middle ground between the object of desire and myself and the results are only mildly sharp and grainy.

I actually like the camera quite a bit when using it with its tack-on macro converter for the telephoto lens; as a novice in this field I managed to get some remarkable shots for that kind of inexpensive gear. The nice creamy bokeh adds to my delight.

When shooting animals with the telephoto lens I sometimes feel too little educated in technical matters, i.e. the autofocus will work or not and it’s hard for me to work out whether I did something wrong or the camera is just not interested in the shot. Anyway, there is a high ration of bad images and I need to work harder at my skills.

Manual focus is hard with the on-board display and the VF-3 has a low resolution, so I almost exclusively rely on autofocus.

All in all, while I do enjoy the PL-3 for its lightness and compactness and the fact that it enjoys daylight as much as I do, I think that it might be time to upgrade my gear, especially as I would like my images to be crisper than they are today. Moreover, my next camera should be able to capture low-light situations better than the PL-3. Enjoy!