Planning a great shot

Most of my shots are ’sort-of-planned-in-advance‘, i.e. I know where I go (always helpful) and I know what I’m interested in, so I can bring the right lens and accessories. And that’s ok. But when I went to Sankt Peter-Ording a couple of weeks ago, I knew I wanted to have a postcardish shot of the famous lighthouse there. So on my third day there, I approached the subject much as I approached my other stuff, packed my camera bag, brought a tripod and decided to drive to the lighthouse. There I realized that I had to walk a couple of Kilometers only to get to the lighthouse, that I would have to wait for two hours in the cold to wait for sunset and that I had already got soggy-wet shoes from the saltmarsh. So, no. I had to get back.

At home I downloaded PlanIt!, a photography app that tells me the time of sunrise/sunset, the position of the sun and that can previsualize a shot based on Google-Maps and the information I entered about my Olympus EM1. That way I had a good understanding of the situation before I returned the next day to take the shot.

The photographic problem that the lighthouse presents is that it is only accessible from its northern side so that it is hard to even get some light on the lighthouse together with the sunset. But as it is situated in a national park it is not nice or ethical to simply walk around it. The solution light-wise is to make an HDR image. I decided on three brackets as you could only stand on rather squishy ground and I did not want my camera to wobble too much over the course of taking five images for each bracket. Having fixed the camera on a tripod I decided on doing a five-step panorama in portrait orientation (you can see a bit of that below).

Stitching all fifteen images together in Photoshop was a breeze and the result is somehow campy, but I like the colors a lot. You get a bit of background in the slide-show below and the actual image is on top of this blog-post. Enjoy!

coming towards the lighthouse – notice the difference in light quality

the final panorama

the shot from a different perspective

from car park to lighthouse

contact sheet

Making a portrait session

Some weeks ago I did my first portrait-shoot for a colleague and friend of mine who also happens to be a certified tenor. The images are for his sed-cards, so I aimed for a high degree of professionalism in the process. We booked our assembly hall so we had enough space and power to shoot and set up a basic lighting with white and dark backgrounds as you can see in the images below.

I used my Walimex 150W Studiolight with a shoot-through umbrella, a basic reflector (white and black for both situations) and two Yongnuo 560II speedlights with their wireless controller for the shoot. The lighting setup can also be seen in the image. The goal was to go for a dramatic, yet classy, lighting mood.

For best results I used my Olympus 45mm 1.8 (equals a 90mm f3.6 full-frame lens), which I stopped down to around f5.6 (=f11) to get more depth of field.

 

Once we had set up, we had a fun shoot as Nils is a joy to work with, knows his poses and generally had fun in the process. All in all, we created three moods: classic one-light on white, the same on black with a kick-light or a reflector and some portraits only with the studio lights for a very dramatic mood. We closed the session with a prop, as we happened to have a Steinway Piano standing around(!)

In hindsight I would have wanted to experiment with a couple of more lighting-moods, as my material would have allowed for some more variations, but it all went smoothly anyway. My whole lighting kit costs around €350, which is not a lot considering the range of possibilities you have with that.

 

Enjoy the results!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!