Saturday, December 19, 2015

Passion Reignited

Clouds reflected in a mirrored building captured on the Highline.
A continuation of my last blog post: Why Bother?

Day 2 of my August New York trip and up onto the Highline. Close to my home base, the Highline is a regularly visited site for me. So up the Highline steps I went and I was instantly "in the zone." The blue sky and fluffy clouds reflected in a nearby building’s mirrored windows was the first scene that greeted me upon my arrival. And not only were the reflections beautiful, but the sun was in the perfect position to add a sunburst to the scene. F22 and magic happens, joy! And from time to time those "Why Bother" thoughts crept into my head during the day. But while taking that first photo, I noticed that nobody else seemed to be interested in that building with the clouds reflected in its windows. Many people had cameras, and some were taking photos, but not of that building. Not to say somebody else at some other time on another day didn’t shoot something similar, but the fact that nobody else seemed to care about it at that busy moment encouraged me to pursue my own vision and got me off with a good start to my photographic day. After months of a ho-hum attitude towards my photography, could this be the spark of passion reignited finally? I thought it could be, and so I was off…

Typically most people that visit New York City are going to be attracted to the "big scene subjects" like skyscrapers and wide angle views of the city streets. But as a former New Yorker, I seek to capture the scenes and subjects that are more meaningful to me. And that means capturing what I call the "smalls" of the city. I love Chelsea and The Village because they are sections of the city that feature smaller buildings, courtyards, an array of flowers, interesting store displays, small parks and gardens, reflections, and many other photogenic subjects that often go unnoticed by most passersby. The smalls of the city are easy to miss while looking for the grander view. But I like to capture these more intimate scenes, most of which mean more to me personally than photos of Times Square.

Shooting in the middle of the day can be a challenge. But when on vacation we can’t always choose to skip taking photographs during the mid day hours when the natural light is typically at its harshest. It may be a challenge, but it’s a doable one. And that’s when my passion for the "smalls" comes into play. Intimate scenes are often more easily photographed during the midday hours than shooting wider angle of views where the harsh contrast in lighting can be distracting. See my old blog post "All Pros Shoot Only During The Magic Hours"
for some of the tips I use to photograph during the midday hours.
Above: A beautiful Mandevilla flower captured at the Chelsea Piers at midday.

An attractive boat and fluffy white clouds captured at the Chelsea Piers.
With that middle of the day harsh light and an optimistic attitude, I went off on my way along the familiar path of The Highline. After a few uninspired shots on the Highline, I decided to get off and head towards the Chelsea piers. I love being by the water while photographing the boats and flowers that I find there. Although this was during peak tourist season, for whatever reason the piers were not crowded and most of the activity was inside the restaurants and sports center. That worked out wonderfully for me as I pursued regaining my passion for photography by doing the best thing to cure photographic burnout: taking photos! After shooting a bunch of images that I liked, I felt inspired and so I continued walking from the piers to The West Village.

Break time!
Once again feeling a bit over-challenged by the harsh lighting conditions and August heat, I decided to take a much needed break. After a having couple of very refreshing Blue Point Blueberry Ales, I felt recharged and motivated once again to photographically explore the city. I headed to the East Village and then decided to venture east towards the river and see what I could find there to photograph. And what I found was the Williamsburg Bridge! I had never photographed Williamsburg Bridge before, and the sky was very dramatic with dark clouds rolling in. Those were the final photos of my trip, and my favorite ones.

Williamsburg Bridge and dramatic clouds..

And while I had originally thought that yes, passion for my art was reignited on that trip – it was only a spark at that point and not back to it’s full raging inferno. It is now December and I have fully regained my passion for my art. I have been experimenting with new techniques as well as continuing on with my usual favorite techniques and building on my favorite photographic themes. I have also regained my sense of optimism, and have started pursing my photo marketing efforts once again. I have also recently reopened my Fine Art America store which I am populating with images, and have several projects planned for 2016 including a book on Digital Flower Photography. And there is just something about an artist with passion for their art that attracts success. While I was down, and feeling passionless – I had no photo sales. Now with my rejuvenated attitude, I just sold something after only 1 week of reopening my online store. Without passion, there is nothing. If you are having a passionless moment for your art – don’t sell your gear just yet! It took me almost a full year to get my passion back, sometimes you just need to ride it out.

I gave a few tips to regain passion in my blog post "Loss Of Passion."

I wrote that while I was still in my passionless "funk" and was still playing around with ways to regain my passion. But now that the passion has been reignited and here are a few more things that helped me get excited about my art once again:

Get Out There And Shoot

Sometimes, you don’t feel like making art. If you are going through one of those phases, the first thing you need to do is simply to just do it! So maybe you’re feeling passionless, and your photos are reflecting that. Just keep trying. At worst, you’ll have wasted some time and shutter rotations. At best, you may find yourself absorbed in your shooting and capturing some pretty cool images. Perhaps they won’t be your best attempts, but at least you’re out there trying.
I did not take a lot of photos this year, but it's less about quantity than quality.

Stylistic Shift

Try shooting in a different style. I have been doing that a lot this year and as a result I have noticed a distinct stylistic shift in my work. I often prefer shallow depth of field and dreamy bokeh for my nature photography. This year I have found myself shooting more deeper focus imagery. As a result, while shooting photos this Autumn I found myself instinctively framing deeper focus images without as much effort on my part to do so. I actually found it difficult to do my soft and dreamy style for this autumn’s captures. Have I permanently shifted my style? No. I most definitely will be building on my collections of soft dreamy nature imagery on a subject to subject basis. But you can expect to see more of those deeper focus images amongst my newer captures.

Stop action moment at Chikara Pro Wrestling's Top Banana season finale, flash free.

New Techniques

A variation of above. Simply trying new techniques can help to spark your interest in photography again. It’s great using the same old techniques that are tried and true, when you do it that way you are sure to capture high quality images. But it can lead to boredom. Sometimes it’s good to break out of your usual safety zone and experiment. For example, I love to use flash for my wrestling photography. Having done it that way for 17 years, I know just exactly how to strike the balance I like between ambient light and flash to capture sharp stop action photographs. But every once in awhile I like to experiment. Sometimes I will use a long shutter speed with flash for creative blur images with some sharpness. And lately, now I have been experimenting with shooting with just ambient light when shooting in a brightly lit venue. I especially enjoyed shooting without the flash at a recent event. It was wonderful to not worry about the TTL exposure messing up or waiting for the flash to recharge. It made shooting the show a little different for me, and it was a lot of fun. And I was 100% happy with the results (as were my subjects.) While I don’t necessarily recommend shooting an important event in a new way, I do recommend trying new techniques when shooting your personal work.
 DamNation Machine concert image processed as an experimental black & white during the RAW editing process.

Spend Some Time Viewing Your Old Images

This is what I have been doing for the past few days. Every year in winter, sometime between December and February, I go through the past year’s work decide what images I am going to add to my web site and market. Last year I skipped my year end review because I was too busy with my weight loss program. So this year I am going through 2 years worth of work. I do most of my critiquing while editing the photos, see my old blog post "Editing As Part Of The Learning Process"
for more on that. But at the year end review stage I make my final picks for what images I am going to promote. I also give myself a year end critique during that period, and I think about what types of images I want to create the following year. This year I’m taking this step a little further by also going through some of my much older works as I try to populate my online store with a most diverse range of images rather than just concentrating on my current work. I have been enjoying the process so much that I have decided to write a blog post about the process and how I do it. It has been a most valuable tool to me and I am sure many other photographers will also benefit from taking the time to review their own work. Doing so has helped to fan the fire of photographic passion which I am happy to say is now burning quite brightly.
A favorite image from Mexico City captured in 2002.

Thanks for reading my blog and I hope you will continue to do so as I have many more interesting posts planned or 2016. Enjoy your photography and Happy Holidays!



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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Why Bother?

Here I was drawn in by the color combination of the  row of yellow chairs and the blue of the sky.

I have passed this church many times. First time I bothered to photograph it.

Lately while I’m out taking photos I often wonder how many people have stood in the same place and have taken the exact same picture. Certainly, I have had this thought before, mostly while viewing those "photo spot" signs at tourist locations. But lately I find myself thinking that thought every time I’m photographing at any public place or event. Everyone is a photographer nowadays and with camera phones being so inexpensive and prevalent these days. I see more people than ever before taking photos. Sure, probably a good number of those photos are not good ones, but they are being taken, And with technology and automation improving, many novice photographers are shooting photos that could have just as easily been shot by a pro. And with those thoughts I often find myself thinking "why bother?"

This year I have been spending a lot of time thinking about that and struggling to reignite my passion for my art. I frequently leave my camera at home these days and even when I do make the effort to bring it, I seldom take it out of the bag. I’m not sure what has caused this recent loss of passion, although I suspect it may have something to do with being "middle aged", a period of life even more volatile than puberty. It’s a time when many take stock of their life and reevaluate things. So I find myself questioning my passion of photography and all the time and money I have invested into it over the years. Combine those thoughts with the reality that photography is at a low point value wise (a decrease in paid opportunities and a substantial increase in talented photographers that want those jobs) and it is no surprise that a "why bother" attitude has presented itself.

So here I sit on the first full day of a trip to New York City writing this blog post and questioning what my efforts have all been for. I have been down on photography for the past few months and have been struggling with trying to regain my passion for something that I have loved all my life.

Usually for my New York trips I’ll bring my basic camera and lens (14-45mm) along with some extra
Another image from St. Anthony of Padua Church.
batteries, cards, charger, pluas and extra lens or two (40-150mm, Lensbaby) and sometimes my macro tube and a few filters. Frequently I would find myself using only the basic lens as I hate messing about with lenses on crowded NYC streets. So for this trip, I nixed the extra gear and just brought a most basic kit of 1 camera body, the 14-45mm lens, batteries, cards, and a charger and that was it.

While out photographing today, those "why bother" thoughts crept into my brain. I wondered how many photographers have shot the very same photos. I found myself punking out early and just going back to home base to take a nap. That is unacceptable and needs to change. And soon. I must find a way to regain my lost passion on this trip before it's time to go home.***

So of course the first thought I have is "why didn’t I bring those extra lenses?" At the last minute before leaving, I almost did. But you know what? I don’t need them. You don’t either. We all have what we need to create with us at all times: our creative minds. Sure, creativity takes a nap from time to time. That’s when it’s time to set the alarm and wake it up!

So why bother? Well, no matter how many times a subject has been photographed, your photo is yours. You took it, you own the rights to it. Feel free to print it, post it, sell it (if you can), or just simply archive it. No matter how many times a subject is photographed, a true artist will always add their personal style and vision to the image. It doesn’t matter how simple and basic the equipment used to capture the image is, you can still capture something special if you put a little extra effort into it. I think the recent I-Phone ads really drive that point home. All those images were captured by pros with no use of gimmicks, just a good eye for composition and a solid knowledge of exposure. Many of those images have blown me away with their beauty. In addition, I also know of several pro photographers that often use their phones for their personal work and are consistently creating high quality images that any DSLR users would be proud to put their name on.

Truthfully as down on my craft that I am at the moment, I do not regret any of the time and money that I have spent on it. I truly enjoy my photography and the resulting images for my efforts. I use my photos to decorate my home, use them for vanity book editions, print a calendar for myself every year, share them (low res) online, submit them for publication in magazines and books, and even sell the occasional print. That’s why I bother, and so should you.

So here I am, still sitting and writing. But now I’m getting excited for tomorrow’s adventures. I will go out and use my unique vision to seek out interesting subjects and photograph them my way and not worry about how many others stood there before me with a camera. Maybe I’ll use the "gimmicks" that are available to me, such as my camera’s art filters, double exposures or shoot in black and white. Or maybe I won’t. But either way, I’ll capture images that are meaningful to me and hopefully that will cure my "why bother" attitude and regain some passion.
A beautiful Mandevilla flower.

And if you have been going though the same phase that I have, perhaps this post has helped to inspire you to bother. If it has, please feel free to let me know and if you have some tips to overcome those "why bother" moments, please feel free to share. Enjoy your photography!

When I wrote this post, I wrote it on the road before reviewing the photos that I had shot that day. Those "why bother" thoughts were rolling around in m head, but somehow I still managed to take some shots that impressed me when I got home and had a proper chance to review and edit them. I have illustrated this post with some of those photos.

I ended up getting ill on my trip and had to cut it short. But not until after one more full day of shooting.

Part of my "Building Blocks" series of images. 

And see my previous post "Loss Of Passion" to read some of the tips that I used to help reignite my own passion again.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Loss Of Passion?

In Love At The Carnival
Captured as a straight image, I developed the RAW file in my Olympus software and applied the Pinhole art filter to a cropped version of my initial capture. The filter added a nice vignette and popped the colors a bit

Most photographers first pick up a camera because of a love of subject matter. But what happens when your passion for your subject wanes?

I have been a photographer for more than twentynine years and this year has been one of the strangest years for me photographically speaking. For the past nine years I have been a nature and flower photography nut, exploring every flower, insect, tree, bird, and just about every nature subject that I came upon. Year after year I expected my obsession to wane, but year after I eagerly kept at it. When my flower obsession started six years ago, every year I wondered when I would "hit the wall" of boredom and cease to have the motivation to photograph them. But again year after year the obsession continued.

Until this year. Maybe it’s because of changes going on in my life like my recent 66lb weight loss. Or maybe it’s just a plain ol’ simple case of burn out caused by the same old subject year after year. As this is something I am going through, I can offer no 20/20 hindsight on this situation. But this is not the first time that I have experienced a photographic burn out.

Over the years I have experienced a few periods of various forms of photographic burn out. And for various reasons including boredom of the same subject matter, physical difficulty (after getting sick & weight gain) or just simple lack of creative motivation.

So how does one get motivated again? That’s a tricky question and there are many different answers as there are photographers. But here are some things that have worked for me in the past and what I am doing currently to reignite my creative passion:

Get Inspired

Often when I am feeling creatively challenged, I’ll browse the works of my favorite photographers. Viewing awe inspiring images from other photographers can often motivate me to get out there. And if those images are accompanied by instructional text, it may also motivate me to try new techniques which is often a cure for any kind of creative burnout. So…

Try New Techniques

Many photographers have a mental list of the techniques that they may want to try out. One of the greatest things about photography is that there are a countless number of techniques to experiment with. If you are feeling creatively burnt out, maybe trying out some new techniques on old subjects can ignite that creative spark you’ve been looking for.
Here I captured the image using my camera’s Pinhole art filter which added a vignette and pumped up the colors. While not exactly a new technique, it’s one that I’ve only been using the past year and a half since having my Olympus OMD EM5 camera.

"Hit Your Formula"

The complete opposite of the previous tip. This is the one that I’ve been using the most this year. I have been shooting less so I want to guarantee the highest number of keepers during the short number of hours that I have to shoot. I have been relying on my favorite techniques that I have developed over the years. This is where experience comes in and you receive your payback for all of your previous learning and shooting experiences.

Here I used a telephoto lens and a wide aperture for a nice bubbly bokeh that I often favor. I also added the vignette effect during RAW processing using Olympus’ Pinhole art filter
Find New Subjects Or Photograph Old Subjects A New Way

This is a variation of tip 2 except finding new subject matter may not necessitate the use of new techniques. It can be as simple as finding new subjects local to you or hitting the road to seek out new scenery and subjects.

Or you can try photographing favorite subjects a new way. This year, instead of spending all my time photographing flowers like I usually do, I actually took the time to turn the camera on me. While I have always done "selfies" over the years since I was a teenager, many of this year’s attempts have gone beyond a simple snapshot to actual photo sessions where I am trying to learn lighting, posing, and other portraiture techniques. These sessions have been fun learning experiences, and when I’m done I have high quality portraits of myself as a consolation prize for my efforts. It has been both challenging and rewarding.

Self portraiture has been a recent favorite project for this year. And although I have been photographing myself since I was a teen, my recent photos have been more lessons in lighting and portraiture than my previous attempts. Here I experimented with hot lights and atypical posing for this image.

New Gear

I’m not much of an equipment junkie but new gear can sometimes be the solution to the boredom, especially if it’s a new lens. Adding a new focal length, such as adding a telephoto or wide angle lens to your kit, can offer you a new perspective which could spark creativity. This year’s budget does not allow for a new lens, but I already had a lens that had been seeing less use since I’ve been using my Olympus OMD EM5, my Lensbaby. So I pulled out my Lensbaby this summer and have been playing around with that on some of my recent flower photo sessions and my passion for that lens has been reignited by these sessions.

I captured these potted Petunia flowers with my Lensbaby.

After thousands/millions of photos it is no surprise when one temporarily loses passion for a craft that one loves so much. And when it happens, it’s up to us to reignite the passion, take a break, or perhaps even just give it up forever. Few choose that last option, creative passion rarely leaves us forever. If you are experiencing a temporary loss of passion, I hope my tips help. And if you have any tips of your own that you would like to share, please do!

From my NYC trip in April, my creativity always gets a spark from a change of location.

After the writing of this post, I have since been to NYC which further helped to reawaken my creativity. And while I shot many of the same subjects, I found myself shooting them in fresh ways. This was in part to a different mindset and a suddenly renewed creative spark. Add to that the shooting a new subject on a late afternoon with dramatic clouds, and my brief trip was productive creatively. I will write about it in a couple of upcoming blog posts.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Learning Through Critiquing Others

We all see photos every day. Whether online, in books & magazines, on billboards or other advertising, on tv, photos are just about everywhere we look. And we all critique those photos whether we realize it or not. That critique may be positive such as in "oh what an awesome photos" or negative "I could have taken a better photo using my feet for eyes." But did you know that you could actually learn to be a better photographer by critiquing other photographer’s photos?

I became most aware of that fact when I started to explore 3d digital imaging programs in the early 2000s. At that point, photography was at a comfortable skill level for me. I did most of my learning of photography through reading books and magazines and through real life shooting experience over the many years since first taking up photography as a teen. Widespread internet did not yet exist, so I had to learn the old fashioned way. But to help me learn how to create digital art, I now had a new learning tool that I didn’t have with my photography. Access to online art communities is a wonderful thing.

While posting my 3d digital art to, my favorite 3d art online community, I realized the true value of commenting on other artist’s work. When you post art/photos to a site, you should always take the time to give a little back by commenting on other artists’ work. It is not mandatory, but it creates goodwill and encourages others to keep commenting on your work. While some may take that a little too far, commenting & "liking" or "favoriting" others’ work just to get comments on their own images as part of a silly & meaningless numbers game, the real value is when you slow down and really take the time to look at a stunning image and really put into words what makes it so mesmerizing to you. While formulating those thoughts into words, I discovered that I was learning exactly what elements & qualities that I found appealing and started to incorporate those qualities into my own work. For example, I may have found certain color combinations that I wanted to experiment with, lighting styles and moods, etc.

Eventually my interest in 3d imaging waned, not for lack of love of the art but rather due to the preference for being outside with my camera in nature instead of inside messing around on the computer all day. But I learned so much during that period which has had a strong influence on my photography. That is why many experienced photographers tell those starting out to study all art forms, not just photography. And one of the most valuable skills I picked up during that digital art phase of my was learning through critiquing others. While I may not have as much time to actually comment online, I do still take the time to look at high quality photographs and make the critique in my head. There are many photographers creating inspiring work and there is much to learn from them just by studying their masterful imagery.

Here are some tips on learning through critiquing others:

#1 The Golden Rule

Never be cruel! Seriously. If see an image that you think is absolutely awful, feel free to critique the photo as you wish – in your own mind only though. Don’t place cruel and negative comments on other artists’ works. Why make someone feel bad? I know some great photographers that have had some of their images receive low "star" ratings or negative comments and then they just stopped posting because it bothered them that much even though they received way more compliments than negativity. You may of course feel the need to critique it honestly, offering tips for improvement. But why bother? Unless specifically asked to do so, it’s better to just work out for yourself why you don’t like it so you don’t ever shoot anything like it, and then just move on.

Concentrate On The Positive

See an image that blows you away? Why is that? Is it the color? The atmosphere? The composition, the focus, the subject, what is it? If you see something you like, figure out how it relates to your own photography and how you can possibly incorporate whatever that special something is into your own art.


Formulate It Into Words

Go beyond a standard comment, like "beautiful" "wonderful" "gorgeous" and really explain why you like the image. It will not only help to enlighten the other photographer, but also help you to learn how to improve your own images along the way. And the photographer may even return the favor and give you some enlightenment in return. Or not. But either way, it will be a learning experience.

Don’t Expect Others To Reciprocate

Just because you commented on someone’s work doesn’t mean they will return the favor. Some artists never do. Don’t let that discourage you from commenting. I admit I rarely make the time to comment these days, but I do frequently "like" and "favorite" other artists’ work to encourage them to keep posting the good stuff that I love so much. And I always take the time to critique those outstanding images in my mind even if the words never get posted.

Don’t Take It Personally & Have Fun!

Really this applies to all things, photographic or otherwise. Most of us started taking photos as a casual hobby which then turned into a passion because we enjoy recording the world as we see it. Critiquing other artists’ work can be a valuable part of the learning experience. But don’t view it as a chore or duty. Feel free to just leave a comment that says "beautiful", no need to write a love letter about it to the artist. But when you do take the time to formulate what you love about a particular image, even if only in your mind, it can be an invaluable learning tool. Slow down and enjoy the process of viewing other artists’ works, it is often the first step to becoming an artist oneself.

And don’t let other people’s comments & ratings on your work effect you too much. Sometimes you can learn a lot through other people’s comments on your work. When I first started to get into nature photography seriously several years ago, I did get a unique perspective on my work as people had noticed certain trends in my work that I hadn’t really considered. I found their comments most helpful and encouraging. I rarely receive negative or even just alternative perspective comments on my work, but on those rare occasions it happens I have never let it get me down. Remember, comments are just opinions – nothing more.

I hope this post has encouraged you to start participating in online galleries or at the very least has started you on your way to furthering your own advancement in photography by enjoying the works of others.
3d imaging and they also have a small photography community
My favorite online photo sharing site at the moment

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The Highline After Dark NYC II






Monday, March 30, 2015

EM5 Adventures In NYC

For this image, I combined 2 different RAW edits of this photo. I combined a straight natural version with one developed using the Dramatic Tone art filter. Using layer masks and blend modes, I combined the images in Photoshop to create this striking, but not too unnaturally over the top, version.
This is a  post that I wrote last April but never got around to editing. I have since gotten a lot of experience with my then new Olympus OMD EM5 camera, but this post still remains true. I hope that if you are considering any of the Olympus OMD series of cameras, that you will find this post informative. 

In April, after owning my Olympus OMD EM5 for four months I took my new camera on its first road trip. As I am not much of a winter person, this was the first opportunity to give my camera a real world workout. While I had spent the previous four months shooting a decent variety of subjects, this trip for me was my first real test of this camera in a more pressurized “shoot and go” situation. My winter shooting had consisted of snowy landscapes, birds at my feeder, and indoor florals. All subjects captured at a leisurely pace at home. During those four months I was able to bond with  my new camera and became comfortable with its ergonomics and features. I was feeling pretty confident that I could handle the new camera in a more pressurized situation and was looking forward to my trip.

The first joy came when packing my bag. When going on my New York City trips in the past, my gear consisted of my Olympus E1, 4-54mm lens, and 40-150mm lens (which I would sometimes leave behind.) Also in the bag would be 2 batteries, a couple of optical filters (neutral grad, polarizer) and my ed25 extension tube. That setup just about fit in my small Tamrac bag which I prefer for such travels. The weight, though not objectionable and not as heavy as a full frame camera setup, was still pretty heavy for me. This was a particular problem as I also need to carry other things besides camera gear while commuting at the beginning and end of the trip.

After about a week of packing and repacking my kit for this trip, I decided on bringing the EM5 camera body, the hand grip portion of the battery grip, 40-150mm lens and MM2 adapter, 25mm extension tube (works great with the 40-150mm), 2 close-up filters, polarizing filter, neutral grad filter, 5 batteries, charger, and the tiny flash that came with the camera (because it has no built in flash.) All this fit in my Tamrac bag comfortably. And all this was lighter than my usual E1 kit. What a joy!

My former beloved E1, though smaller than many DSLR cameras, was still bit of a bear to deal with. The E1 and 14-54mm packed some weight and bulk, and most often would be left behind if I wasn’t going out specifically to take photographs. But because my new camera setup is so small and light, I can usually carry the EM5 with a 14-42mm lens around in my purse. This resulted in photos that I would have missed otherwise because I had left my camera behind.

On this trip I wanted to capture photos in the Village and Chelsea areas. I brought the EM5, hand grip, 14-42 lens, 49-150 and adapter on all of my shooting adventures, but ended up leaving the extension tube and filters behind most often due to the fact that I didn’t really use them on the first day. Most of the photos I took were with the 14-42 lens. I don’t particularly like to change lenses in the street (or mess with filters & extension tubes either.) I usually prefer to work with just one lens in urban or crowded shooting situations. I did use the 40-150mm for a few shots though, and it’s so light and small that I didn’t feel like it was a waste of effort to carry. I will mentions some things that I loved and didn’t love about using this camera later on, but long story short – I was pleased with both the experience and the resulting images. I am very happy with my decision to switch to a mirrorless system and glad that I chose the EM5.

If you are considering making the switch to mirrorless and Olympus, here are some thoughts on my experience so far:

Size And Weight
I already touched on this matter at the beginning of this post but want to mention it again. After all,

size and weight are a major attraction of mirrorless cameras. I was completely satisfied here. An added bonus of the small size is that camera thieves don’t really notice you. But that guy with the huge full frame setup and too many lenses precariously balanced in his opened bag hanging off his arm? He has a little more to be concerned about in such situations. I had one shifty looking character look at me at one of my late evening walks on deserted streets, but seeing all I had was a very small bag and a tiny camera he figured I wasn’t worth the effort. 

Right: I used my 70-150mm lens for this closeup of buildings captured from The Highline. With heavier gear, I may have opted to leave the longer lens at home and miss out on this capture.


EVF made figuring out the exposure for this image quickly possible.
I was reluctant to switch to a camera that featured an Electronic Viewfinder instead of an optical one based on my previous experiences with them. But the EVFs of the past are no comparison to the ones of today. While the EVF is not perfect, I am pleased with it and can deal with the minor complaints that I have with it.
My main issue with it is that subtle color gradations can be hard to see and it doesn’t display backlit scenes well. The color balance is also slightly off. I find the color on the lcd to be truer to what actually is captured. Of course neither are perfect options nor are expected to be, regardless of brand. Some photographers may find this to be more of a problem for them, but most should not. I also initially found it a little bit harder to focus manually. I does get easier once you get used to viewing through an EVF rather than through an optical one.

I saved the pros for last because I want to leave you with the positive aspects. For me, there is only one real pro but it’s a big one. If you set the camera to display the scene in the camera so that the viewfinder shows the effect the exposure changes in live time (or in other words, DON’T set your camera to Live Boost mode) then you can get a fair estimate of the proper exposure settings just by looking through the viewfinder. Change your aperture or shutter settings, and watch the display in the viewfinder lighten and darken accordingly. Granted, the EVF is not a highly accurate way to judge critical exposure. If the exposure is extremely critical to the image, you should use the histogram and/or highlight & shadow warning features while reviewing the image on your lcd and bracket your exposures for safety. But that’s another bonus of the EVF, you can actually set the camera to show a live histogram while shooting if you want it. Pretty cool!  And there is also an option to have the recorded image flash on the screen inside of the viewfinder if you want that, sometimes all you need is a quick confirmation that the image looks OK. There are times that you may not want everyone to know you are doing so or just don’t want to move the camera away from your eye just to review the captured image – now you won’t have to. Those features make it quick and easy to shoot without calling undue attention to yourself – which is something I am very into when shooting in urban and crowded situations.

Live View LCD
A tiltable LCD and  live view made composing this image quick and easy.

To be fair, this is no longer a compact and mirrorless camera feature. Regular DSLR cameras have been offering it for years. But this was my first experience using it with anything other than a compact camera. And it was a positive experience. The EM5 has a tiltable screen, making it ideal to use when trying to shoot high or low angle captures. It was nice to be able to take those shots without having to do much kneeling, bending, or climbing. The EM5 also offers the additional bonus of offering the option to be able to focus and trip the shutter just by touching the LCD screen (like a cell phone.) I’m not a big technology person, but sometimes the engineers really do come out with some pretty neat features. The only thing that annoyed me with that feature was sometimes when I didn’t turn the LCD screen off, I would accidentally fire the camera with my hand while walking with the camera hanging off my arm. There is also a slight difference in color between the EVF and the LCD, which I already mentioned. I believe the LCD to be a little more accurate in that respect, but all serious photographers should judge color on a color calibrated monitor during post processing anyway so not too much of an issue. The LCD has the ability to tilt, making it easy to frame low and high angle shots without much physical effort. The new updated version of the EM5, Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II, features the addition of a swivel function for the LCD which makes it even more versatile and the camera of choice for those photographers that like to do self-portraits. Something to keep in mind if you are considering to make a purchase now.


Not from NYC, but a perfect example of shallow DOF with my EM5.
Depth Of Field
Ah, depth of field. You deep focus fans or casual shooters probably won’t  care about this one minor point so much. But for arty types that love shallow depth of field and are addicted to bokeh, the ability to render shallow depth of field is quite a prized feature. Olympus’ DSLR cameras (no longer manufactured) and their mirrorless cameras are known to have a bit more depth of field at any given aperture when compared to full frame models. There is a long, detailed scientific reason for that. But the short reason for it is because of Olympus’ 2x crop factor. You can read more about that by doing a google search for lens crop factor and depth of field:
Lens Crop Factor
So if images with just a sliver of sharp focus is your thing, a full frame camera is your best bet. But I am a lover of shallow depth of field and bokeh, and I do just fine with the EM5. And that’s just with the widest aperture lens in my collection being an f2.8. So don’t get caught up in the naysayer hype, shallow depth of field is possible with Olympus. And even more so if you use one of their 1.8 lenses or one of my favorite lenses, a Lensbaby. Bokelicious!

But on the flip side of that, if you like deep focus you’ll be in for a treat. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little bit more depth of field at a given aperture, especially in low light situations. You’ll also be able to use lower ISOs and/or faster shutter speeds in lowlight conditions because you won’t need to set such a small aperture to render near to far sharpness. I have found Olympus’ little bit of extra depth of field to be a bonus when photographing my backyard birds. 

I used my camera’s Pinhole art filter to add the vignette and enhance the blue tones.
My old Olympus E1 DSLR is a cult favorite, in part because of the colors it produces. I was hoping that the EM5 would produce similar results. But as it is not the same sensor, and not even made by the same sensor manufacturer, I was not expecting it. Yes, the colors are very different from what I was getting from my E1. And I admit, I miss the old colors. I was warned that I would, and sadly they were right. But as much as I loved those E1 colors, the EM5 is no slouch in the color rendering department. And it offers features to help render colors in a unique way, with options for muted colors, vivid, I-Enhance, Natural, and Monochrome (with the option to add virtual color filters and toning!) I especially love working with the pinhole art filter, which offers 3 unique color settings. I learned to really love them during my Great JPEG Experiment Of Summer.
Plus there are other colorful art filters such as pop art, cross processing and more. And all these effects can be done in camera and applied to a jpeg, or later during RAW processing in Olympus’ software (sorry, you lose access to those filters when using Lightroom or another program for RAW processing.)

A high contrast, dramatic tone capture of the arch at Washington Square Park in New York City. I developed the original RAW file in my Olympus software and created this version using Olympus’ Dramatic Tone art filter setting.

This was a particularly pleasant trip photographically speaking. I was pleased beyond my already high expectations while working with this camera and then again when I came home and processed the images. The camera was easy to handle with my small hands. I have heard some users with larger hands find it a bit more difficult to deal with. If you are moving to mirrorless from a large DSLR camera, I do recommend handling the camera in store before purchasing as the ergonomics may surprise you. It did feel weird at first, but now when I try to hold my old DSLR it just feels so bulky and the DSLR just doesn’t feel right now. I chose to shoot all the images in the RAW format, so that I would have the most available options to me later during post processing. I did find however, most of the images were captured correctly at the time of shooting and most didn’t need any changes to be made to settings during RAW processing. I did like that I was able to experiment at my leisure at home with the Art Filters during post processing. I learned a lot about the effects of those filters and which ones work for which subjects that I shoot. I found for the city images, the Dramatic Tone art filter was my favorite. So much so that later in the year, I shot a whole series with that filter WHILE viewing the actual effect in the viewfinder (gotta love that EVF!) See my blog post:
Drama In The City
Long story short: I love this camera! I’ll be sticking with mirrorless and Olympus for many more years to come. If you haven’t checked out Olympus’ mirrorless offerings, now is the time! The lineup has never been better, with cameras ranging from the compact style mirrorless cameras in the PEN series to the more enthusiast/professional style offerings in the OMD lineup. No, I don’t work for them but I have been a longtime fan that has used Olympus cameras almost exclusively for over 10 years. Check them out:

And see more of my New York photos here:

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Captured this one using my camera’s Dramatic Tone art filter, while viewing the effect in the viewfinder/lcd in real time. So surreal!