Impressions of the New Olympus 17mm and 45mm f/1.2 PRO Lenses
Disclosure: I am an Olympus Visionary and as such, receive compensation from Olympus America. However, no compensation was paid for this review. I endorse their products because I truly believe in the quality of their gear.
In late 2016 Olympus announced the 25mm f/1.2 PRO - an incredibly fast and sharp lens with beautiful feathered bokeh. For the past year that lens has been pacing the waiting room anticipating the delivery of two promised siblings - the 17mm and 45mm f/1.2 lenses. The wait is now over.
As an Olympus Visionary I was recently provided the opportunity to work with both the 17 and 45mm lenses at a press event in Charleston, SC alongside respected journalists and reviewers in the industry. After a few days of shooting I walked away (actually flew away) with a thoroughly positive impression of both lenses. They meet or exceed all of the claims made by Olympus. So what are those claims?
Achieving More Accurate HDR Images
HDR, or high dynamic range images were all the rage a few years ago. Generally speaking, I see far fewer photographers posting images with that distinctive (and in my opinion, overly processed) look. For those not familiar with it (and there can't be many), the concept is a fairly simple one. Take several photos of the same subject at different exposures and let photo-editing software merge them together so that details can be seen in both the darker and lighter regions of the photo. Like many, I also experimented with creating that style of imagery. I don't anymore, and here's why...
Like most people, I own a smart phone. And, like most phones it has a built-in camera. But, unlike most people I never use my phone for selfies. As a matter of fact, I don't think I've ever photographed myself with my phone. That's mainly because I look far better behind the camera than in front it. So why am I writing an article on selfies? Because this post isn't about snapping a shot of yourself in front of the Grand Canyon or with your friends at the mall. It's about creating a photographic work of art that just happens to include you.
Why a Selfie?
Regardless of the style of photography you engage in, a good image should trigger an emotional response. It could be wonder, intrigue, sadness, joy, calm, curiosity, or the myriad of other emotions that exist. As a landscape photographer I try to keep this in mind and present a final image that will attract and maintain the attention of anyone who sees it. One way of doing this is by including people in your shot. Adding the human element to one of your landscape images can draw the viewer in and tell a more complete story.
So why do I include myself and not someone else? The main reason, but certainly not the only one, is that most of the time, I'm the only person around. I am usually out shooting at odd times of the day and in locations that are very much off the beaten trail. As well, I can usually visualize the image before the shutter is released and know exactly what I'm looking for. Stepping into the frame can sometimes be easier than giving instructions to your model.
As an Olympus Visionary, this article references a number of Olympus products and uses screenshots from the Olympus E-M1 Mark II. The ideas behind the images however, can certainly apply to any brand of camera.
Landscape photography is perhaps the easiest style of photography to get into. All you need is a camera body and a wide-angle lens. That's it. With those two pieces of gear you can start photographing urban, rural and wilderness landscapes. When I was twelve years old, that's what I started with. Of course, you will eventually want to build up your list of equipment to include a tripod, filters, a telephoto lens and a few other items. The one thing that you might overlook however, is the fisheye lens. And that would be a mistake.
The cold Canadian winter is filled with many outdoor pursuits beyond shovelling snow. There is ice hockey, skiing, snowshoeing, and of course, ice fishing. Drill a hole in the ice, drop your baited hook, and wait. Pull up a chair, a thermos of coffee (or perhaps something stronger) and it can be a very relaxing way to pass a winter's day on a frozen lake. Throw in some big prize money however, and you have the makings of a competitive fishing derby.
The Wikwemikong First Nation, located on Manitoulin Island hosts one of the largest fishing derbies in the region. Manitoulin is the largest fresh water island in the world and is located at the top of Lake Huron. This year, Wikwemikong hosted its ninth annual derby on January 11, 2017 and had 440 participants from all over the province of Ontario, and beyond, all vying for over $30 000 in cash and prizes.
Instead of a fishing rod, I grabbed my camera gear and photographed the event.
Looking for an interesting indoor photography project? Then break out the bubbly! Soda water, that is.
Back in my youth, I was the kid who would stare at the glass of soda and watch the bubbles form on the side of the glass and rise in an endless stream to the surface. I was fascinated by it. How did the gas get into the soda in the first place? What caused the bubbles to form on the smooth glass? Why did they create this constant stream of bubbles? (We only had two television stations back then and no Internet, so it was easy to be fascinated by simple things.)
As an adult (soft of), I now understand the scientific principles behind my fascination. I'll explain it in a moment, but first, let's have a look at how you can create your own bubbly photos.
I recently had the pleasure of conversing with Sonny Portacio of pocketlenses.com. His website is a fantastic resource for everything involving mirrorless cameras. On it he states, "You don’t need big, heavy camera gear to make great pictures. Mirrorless Cameras have forever changed the landscape of photography. You can learn to make stunning images with lightweight, agile, mirrorless gear. Size, weight, performance and capabilities are some of the many reasons people choose a mirrorless camera over a large, bulky DSLR."
I couldn't agree more. My Olympus gear is incredibly light, durable, and reliable - all without sacrificing image quality. During our conversation we chat about how I got into photography, why I shoot mirrorless, my primary subject matter and some of the tips and techniques that I use to try and create high quality imagery.
Listen to Part 1 of my conversation with Sonny.
In Part 2 of the podcast, I discuss the backstory behind some of my images, give tips on how to improve your photography, and talk about some gadgets that I use to create my images.
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.
Peter Baumgarten is a professional photographer and educator. He is also an Olympus Visionary and NiSi Official Photographer.