Photographing Elegant Still Life Images
As a nature/landscape photographer the quality of my images is very much dependent on the whim of mother nature and the light she decides to present to my lens. It can be a real disappointment to head to a great location only to have poor quality light spoil the scene. I've grown to accept that and cherish those moments when the light is perfect. There are times however when 'bad' light seems to lead to the best results. This 'black velvet' project is one of those cases.
The key elements are quite simple; a still life subject, muted natural light and a piece of black velvet. Although other fabrics will work, black velvet absorbs almost all light and has little to no sheen. It tends to pick up lint easily so having a lint roller handy will save some post-processing work later. Practically any subject will do but I tend to like using natural subjects from my garden. It's a nice change to be able to have greater control over the elements in your photograph. As far as lighting your subject, it may seem counterintuitive, but I find I achieve the best results under rather dull, early evening, overcast lighting - the type you would normally avoid.
Photography is often referred to as the art of “painting with light”. In most instances that 'painting' happens in a fraction of a second. The Live Composite feature on Olympus cameras allows that light to be painted on the sensor for much longer periods of time without overexposing the whole image.
When I first started using Live Composite I had one purpose in mind - to capture star trails. It is certainly ideal for accomplishing that task since the feature is designed to work in low light conditions, but now it's time to go beyond the stars. If you are new to Live Composite or want information specific to creating star trails check out my article, Olympus, Live Composite and Star Trails.
The purpose of this post is to illustrate more earthly pursuits that involve live composite including capturing fireworks, lightning, traffic trails, moving clouds and light painting. Rather than go through a step-by-step process (if you need that check out that link above) I thought I would show some specific examples of photos that use live composite and how that image was achieved. Some of the photos below are my own, but I have also engaged the help of three fellow Olympus Trailblazers; Mike Boening, Frank Smith and Jamie MacDonald.
When Olympus released their flagship E-M1 model back in 2013 it made quite a splash. Reviewers and photographers of all stripes were thoroughly impressed with its feature-packed design. Three years later it is still a highly-regarded camera, but alas, it's time for an upgrade. After spending some time working with the new OM-D E-M1 Mark II, I have no doubt that Olympus has another success on their hands.
Before I get into any details, I must provide two important qualifiers. First, this is not a technical review. It is a 'first impressions' write-up with a few supporting details and a lot of comparison to its predecessor, the E-M1. Secondly, all of the information in this post is based on a pre-production model of the camera.
If you would rather watch a quick summary of the E-M1 Mark II, check out my video description below.
Every autumn, in the forests near my home, a massive reproductive event takes place that I just can't ignore. It starts during the warm days of summer when long tendrils of mycelium digest their way through the rotting corpses of fallen forest detritus. When autumn arrives, an asexual explosion erupts from the earth, as the fruiting bodies strive to spread their genetically identical spores throughout the forest floor. We're talking mushrooms here, people! And I love to photograph them.
Mushrooms grow remarkably quickly and decay even quicker. But if you time it right they can be quite photogenic. Many species are so small that a macro lens is an absolute necessity. Anyone who has worked with a macro lens recognizes that it can be a real challenge to achieve a sharp subject from front to back and still maintain a nice, soft, defocused background. In fact, with most subjects it's an impossible task. Enter focus stacking or focus bracketing.
If the camera was invented for only one of the four seasons, it would have to be autumn. The colours, cooler weather and threat of the long winter ahead inspires countless photographers to get out and photograph the beauty of fall. If you are one of those photographers, here are a few tips and techniques that I use.
It's a Small Thing with a Big Difference
It sounds cliché to say, "it's all a matter of perspective", but in photography a slight change in your camera's position can make a big difference to the overall look of your final image. Let me take you on a recent expedition to a local field to show you what I mean.
Each spring, the hay fields in my area are inundated with thousands of daisies. It's a wonderful sight to see and undoubtedly draws me in to try and capture a few images. This past spring was no different. One particularly pleasant evening I hopped in my car and drove down a local side road until I reached one field that was still nicely lit by the rapidly setting sun.
I grabbed my Olympus OMD E-M1 and, since I wanted to capture the expanse of this floral landscape, I attached my M.Zuiko 7-14mm PRO lens. I jumped the fence (yes, I am guilty of trespassing on occasion) and walked about 30 feet into the field. The daisies were everywhere, so finding the perfect spot was easy.
I had already pictured the image - one large, photogenic daisy, set against thousands, and nicely lit by the orange glow of the sun. I checked my camera settings, composed a shot and...
The OLYMPUS OMD E-M10 MARK II and 12mm F/2.0 LENS
As an Olympus Trailblazer I have the remarkable opportunity to shoot with practically any camera body and lens that Olympus makes. As a nature/landscape photographer I admit that I usually turn to one of the weather-sealed options from Olympus - either the E-M1 or the E-M5 II. After all, I often find myself in weather conditions that may not be favourable. So why am I writing a post on the E-M10 II and 12mm f/2.0? Quite honestly, more and more often I find myself reaching for this exceptional combination.
experimenting with time-lapse photography
As a photographer I've always been fascinated with how the camera can help to expand our vision and freeze a moment in time. But today's cameras can do far more than that. They can capture a long sequence of 'moments' that would be difficult for the human eye to really notice.
Time lapse photography has a long cinematic history. As a child I was always enthralled by the time lapse sequences that I would see produced by Walt Disney (Sunday evenings at 6 - anyone else remember those?!). Now, with your camera, some patience and a computer, anyone can capture a sequence taken over minutes, hours, days or weeks and speed up time.
Here's a cool (or rather cold) photo experiment that might help you embrace some of the coldest days that winter brings your way. Create some frozen bubbles!
Winter can be a great time to get out and do some shooting, but it comes with challenges (and opportunities) that you won’t find in any other season. Here are some thoughts that might help improve your winter-shooting experience.
Peter Baumgarten is a professional photographer and educator. He is also an Olympus Visionary and NiSi Official Photographer.