Sunday, November 9, 2014

Drama In The City

Everyone that follows me on my blog or Flickr account knows that this year I have been using my new Olympus OMD EM5 (see "New Year New Gear".) There are so many reasons to love this little camera and one of my favorite features are the art filters, especially the Dramatic Art Tone and Pinhole filters. I especially enjoy using these filters in combination with my electronic viewfinder/LCD and viewing the effect in real time at the point of actual capture. What I mean by that is that I set my camera to the art filter that I want to use at the time of capture rather than capturing a straight image and then adding the effect later during post processing. It’s not that there is anything wrong with that technique, but this summer I experimented with JPEG shooting and discovered by setting the camera to the art filter that I intended to use at the time of capture, I could compose the image with the effect viewable in the viewfinder (or LCD) and compose the image with the effect being taken into account at point of capture.

On my last trip to New York City, I wanted to use that technique. On my previous trip, I captured all the images in the RAW format and captured all straight images. During RAW processing, I discovered that the Dramatic Tone art filter was my favorite effect for my city images. It was rather time consuming to add the effect during post processing, requiring me to apply the effect and then judge whether it worked or not before putting in the cue for batch processing later on. When shooting numbers of images in the hundreds or even thousands, this can be a time consuming affair.

So on this trip, I decided to do things a little differently. While I had originally intended to shoot all JPEG on this trip to save on postprocesing time, I could not do that if I wanted to use the Dramatic Tone art filters because I also wanted a straight version of every image captured and did not want to spend extra time shooting two of everything. So enter another favorite shooting format of mine, RAW + JPEG. I set my camera to the Dramatic Tone art filter picture mode and off I went into a world of Drama In The City.

Viewing the scenes in real time with the filter effect already in place was an amazing experience. Imagine peeking into an alternative universe’s view of a familiar city. Olympus’ Dramatic Tone art filter renders images with a slight HDR effect, dark strong dark lines, and dramatic skies. What an unusual sight! I went wild, viewing so many familiar subjects in such an unfamiliar way was a fresh experience. And being able to view the effect in real time helped me to compose the images in a most effective manner. My favorite part? With the effect already applied to my JPEG files, they were all ready to be used straight out of camera without any postprocessing needed. Very cool.

It was so much easier and more effective to shoot the images this way. I also loved how the success of my Dramatic Tone captures were less random since the effect was an integral part of the images. All these images were completely conceptualized and visualized at the time of actual capture. I am very into that.

Don’t have an Olympus camera? Get one! It’s the only way to have access to their range of art filter effects. Ok, so you love your camera. Well, while you may not have a Dramatic Tone art filter, chances are your camera has some other effects that you can play with. You may even be able to use live view or your camera’s electronic viewfinder if it has one. But really I do recommend Olympus’ lineup of cameras, especially the OMD lineup. I have been loving mine.

Tips For Using Art Filters On The OMD EM5

With other Olympus cameras, technique may vary. Consult your camera manual for further assistance or clarification of terms.

There are 2 ways to set the art filters on the EM5:

1 Via the Super Control Panel.

This is the option with the most manual control and the one that I use most often. You have free access to change all settings including white balance, aperture, shutter speed, focus point and pretty much any other setting you may want to change. All can be done quickly and easily.

2. Via the mode dial atop the camera.

This is the quickest option. As is, it will switch your camera to program mode and change all your previously chosen settings (such as white balance.) I am not too particularly fond of this option but sometimes it works ok. There is actually a way to change those settings manually after the fact, and that can be done using your camera’s 4 way arrow pad. That procedure is a bit more complicated, especially since all buttons are customizable and your settings may be different than mine. Again, consult your manual for more details on this technique and experiment.

Shoot in RAW+JPEG

This is really the best option if you are going to require a straight version of the image. You could shoot 2 versions, one with the art filter and one without. But the subject or light could move and/or you may lose focus between captures. I was shooting mostly JPEG during the summer, and did in fact shoot two of many of the images I captured. Some worked out, some didn’t. And for some images, I just decided to commit to the art and shoot only a filtered version of the image.

Shoot With The Art Filter Effect On

As I already explained in this post, shooting with the art filter effect on will help you to make the most effective compositions.

Try Filter Bracketing

You can set the camera to make a series of images with different art filter effects applied to a series of JPEG images. This works well if you have few favorite filters but don’t want to spend the time to check them all out at the time of capture but don’t want to have to deal with applying the effects to RAW images one at a time. Unfortunately, a straight image is not one of the choices. You will still need to shoot RAW+JPEG and process the RAW image if you need a straight image (or shoot a straight JPEG image before or after you’re done capturing the art versions.)

Use The Computer

While part of my reason for loving the art filters is being able to spend less time doing computer postwork, there is no real reason to avoid it. Sometimes the filter effects can be a bit too strong, in which case you may want to combine it with a straight version of the same image. Take advantage of your image editing program’s layers, blending modes, and masking features to blend the images to taste.

See more from this series of images here:

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