6.18.2015

Olympus OMD EM-5.2 makes good images of servers. This is part two of yesterday's Hi-Res Mode saga.



Yesterday I wrote about using the Olympus EM5-2 on two jobs but I only showed the salad we shot at Cantine on the second job of the day. I wanted to come back and show one of the products we shot in the morning for our tech client, Salient Systems. I love the fire engine red front bezels for their server units. They look really cool all stacked up in a rack mount configuration.  

I didn't have time yesterday to do the post processing I needed to do on the job before I wrote yesterday's blog (a consequence of being a one man band) but I did finish up clipping paths and dust spotting around midnight last night so I thought I'd show this example while it the whole topic was still fresh in my mind. 

The server was shot in the company's conference room. I brought a short roll of white seamless paper and rolled it out from a set of background stands across the end of a big, conference room table. The room has a wall of windows that were covered by shades but the shades were not completely opaque; in fact, the sun through the shade material lit the room beautifully. I used three Fotodiox 312AS LED panels to light the server from different sides. In a departure from my usual practice I used the three lights without any modifiers other than the plastic diffusers that come with the lights. I also used a Fotodiox 508AS as my main light; again without additional modifiers. 

The OMD EM5-2 was outfitted with a 12-35mm Panasonic X lens set at f8.0. I started out by doing a customer white balance, setting my ISO at 200 and going into the camera's Hi-Res mode. I hadn't checked to see if the latest rev of PhotoShop CC had a converter for the raw version of this mode so I set the camera to the finest Jpeg setting. I focused in manual so I could more accurately distribute focus across the product. 

When shooting at 7296 x 5472 pixels you get to see all the specks of dust you really can't see with your naked eye unless you are twelve inches away from the product. My post production consisted of creating a clipping path around the product so the client can "lift" the image and put it into different layouts, and a more or less

6.17.2015

Olympus OM5-TWO Delivers the Goods in the High-Res Mode. Two jobs in one day with more pixels that I know what to do with!!! An amazing keeper.



I started out my day at a tech company. My job was to photograph several servers and then a rack of servers against a white background. We'll be clipping out the backgrounds later tonight. Recently I did a job similar to this one for the same company using the Nikon D810 and several different Nikon macro lenses. That job was very successful. The client will use the images in everything from website illustrations to trade show graphics. 

And while everyone was quite satisfied with the output from Nikon's best camera I am never one to leave well enough alone, nor do I like to shoot similar stuff the same way every time I head out the door. As I was packing the night before I decided to take the Olympus EM5-Two cameras along with me this time, instead. I packed the two camera bodies and about ten little lenses into a Pelican case, grabbed five LED panels of assorted sizes, and my favorite location tripod and headed up to North Austin to set up a temporary studio in my client's big conference room. 

I have finally really mastered the Hi-Res mode in the Olympus cameras and I was determined to give the system a workout today. I used the Panasonic 12-35mm lens and shot everything at f8.0. That's the smallest aperture the system will let you set while using the Hi-Res mode. I am curious to find out if I can cheat and use an old manual focus lens on an adapter but that's for another time. I set the Hi-Res to give me a full second delay between touching the shutter button and starting the eight shot process+processing.  The Gitzo tripod I used settles down fast and I was as delicate with the shutter button as could be. Like a surgeon. Seriously.

(Quick addition for those uninitiated into the Hi-Res world of Olympus: The Hi-Res setting is a menu item that allows the camera to shoot eight fast frames of a subject. The camera moves the sensor between each exposure by half the pixel size. The oversampling creates files at a size of 40 megapixels and does so without the danger of aliasing or moire. The color is sampled in such a way that it is more pure than color from a single shot camera. It MUST be done on a tripod or you'll just end up with a mess. This new feature is very, very good.)

I was nervous about using the feature on the shoot but reviewed every single shot fired, at 14X. They were all perfect and perfectly detailed. Re-badged Dell servers never looked so good. I was very happy with the results, more so because my paranoia at what might go wrong pushed me to make a series of careful custom white balances and to meter more intently than I might have if just shooting routine, 16 megapixel raw files. I wrapped up that shoot and headed back toward downtown to my next appointment. 

You'll remember that I've been working on a video for a new restaurant called, Cantine. My friend and partner in video crime, James Webb, and I, had shot a bunch of live action cooking and bar shots last week, using the Olympus EM-5-Two cameras and the same buffet of lenses. We decided that we wanted to incorporate some hero shots of the food into the video so we arranged to get to Cantine after their lunch rush and have the chef prepare four or five dishes for us to videotape (with a bit of camera movement) and also to make still images. 

I manned the still camera while the more seasoned and experienced motion artist grabbed the video duty. I set the camera for the Hi-Res mode and did all of my static shots with the bigger files. The top images of this blog is the full frame of the 40 megapixel shot (reduced to 2100 pixels for the blog) while the bottom image, just below, is a 100% crop of the same image. 


I am very happy with the color, tonality and sheer resolution of the photograph. I think it's wonderful. I might select a lighter version for the final use but I grabbed this one first because I was so excited to see just how well the system handled this sort of shot. 

The lens used on this image was the Sigma 60mm f2.8 dn Art lens that I so eloquently praised not long ago. I think it's great wide open and even better stopped down to f4.5 or f5.6. If you shoot m4:3 and don't have this lens you should consider spending the small sum of $220 and adding it to your collection. It's a very nicely done lens and it turns in one great performance after the other. 

I've now shot about 6 hours of video with the Olympus EM5-Two cameras and a selection of lenses and I am upgrading my appraisal of this camera considerably. While the learning curve is a bit steeper than some other cameras I shoot with it is capable of pretty tremendous still image quality and very good video files. I don't regret my choice to upgrade to these cameras in the least. 

The usefulness of the Hi-Res setting for food photography, technical products and architecture should endear it to a lot of users who are eager to downsize from bigger systems while keeping the quality of their deliverables high. If you try one you will almost undoubtably love it.

James and I should have the video up in the next week or so and I think you'll be impressed by the footage(?) these cameras can turn out.

That's all I wanted to say. Now I need to get back to making my clipping paths and retouching fingerprints off the server chassis. That's what I get for not bringing along my cotton gloves to the first shoot.....




Added June 18, 2015: About the iPhone App: The iPhone app for the EM-5.2 will trigger the camera but NOT in the Hi-Res mode. It only works with regular Raw and Jpeg settings. In a previous blogpost from my first adventures with the camera I was mistaken about being able to trigger the camera in hi-res mode. I was working (and being frustrated and on a schedule) I shot a number of images with the Hi-Res mode released by hand and then tried to do the same thing with the phone app. I reset the camera to raw at one point and continued doing the job. When I looked at the images later there were a number of Hi-Res files that were sharp and well done and I assumed that those had come from my the phone app triggering, not remembering my switch back to raw. Instead they were a result of my delicate touch. But it was hit and miss. I am beyond happy to finally find, and learn how to use, the delay method and it works solidly every time. Sorry for my inaccurate testing procedures on the first go around. I blame it on the staff here at VSL.... And the lack of an 8.5 x11 inch, color illustrated, leather bound owner's manual from Olympus....

6.16.2015

Adobe releases PhotoShop CC 2015 with many new and interesting features. Austin and central Texas prepare for more intense rain and flooding.

 This downtown Austin building shot up like a weed.
There's no real signage on it anywhere and no 
big corporate logo on it either. I'm naming it
"the Anonymous Building."

I just finished a seamless and pain free upgrade of my PhotoShop CC application to PhotoShop CC 2015. There's a bunch of new stuff under the hood and I will spend some time this week finding the stuff that's relevant to photography and dive in to the learning curve. I've poked around in the "Blur Gallery" and think that's pretty cool now that a number of the filters are content aware. 

There was much sturm und drang at the launch of PhotoShop in the cloud and many photographers gnashed their teeth and grumbled about "owning" their copy of the program, etc. I had a few misgivings but I dove in because I am an avowed camera junky and I knew that having the automatic updates to Lightroom and PhotoShop would ensure that I'd get the latest upgrades to the raw converters needed for new raw camera files. In the real world the $10 a  month I'm paying to have the constantly refreshed programs isn't even a blip on the old tri-corder. 

In addition to added capabilities the folks at Adobe say many parts of the code have been re-written for speed and performance so things like the Spot Healing Tool, for example, are much faster to use. Sounds good to me. I'm just happy that I was able to launch it and nothing crashed...

If you subscribe to Adobe's cloud versions of Lightroom and PhotoShop they are available for immediate upgrades. 

More rain coming.

We begged for water during the worst of the drought and now people in central Texas are wondering when someone will turn down the giant faucet and allow us to dry out and get the mold and mildew out of the crevices. We are under flash flood warnings until Thursday with the most intense part of the storms hitting us this evening around dinner time. I'm worried about getting more unwelcome water on the floor of the studio but my friends in Wimberly are really on edge after all the destruction that happened there two weeks ago. I cleaned out the French drain next to the studio and added a few barriers to re-direct water so I guess we'll wait and see what the quality of my engineering is like later today. 

I can feel my friend Paul's pain though. He's an architectural photographer and he was waiting for things to green up outside earlier in the year, now the whether has delayed or side-lined his projects for weeks at a time. Just when it seems like we'll have blue skies and good shooting weather more clouds roll in....

Swim Early, Swim Often. 

I am now engaged in "hoarding" swim practices, and it seems everyone else is as well. Swimmers pretty uniformly hate it when we have an early morning practice and we've gotten through warm up and are engaged in a main set only to be ordered out of the pool because of approaching lightning strikes. The coaches actually have apps on their phones that track lightning strikes and their proximity. 

This Spring we've been tossed out of a record number of workouts so on any day available we show up en mass to swim. It was five in a lane this morning, all present in anticipation that tomorrow's workout might get cancelled. Nobody really minds the crowds. Most of us swam competitively in high school and college and that was endless practice circle swimming with a crowd in each lane. 

Paradoxically I hope I get wet but I hope we stay dry. I think you know what I mean....


6.15.2015

How do you make money in this business (photography)? You ask for it.

A tangled view of downtown Austin. 

First, let me set the stage. I grew up in a middle class family and we never talked about money. My parents always seemed to have enough and anything they denied me (a Pontiac GTO 6.5 liter....?) seemed to be more of a Calvinistic choice than a result of any financially motivated deprivation. Then I went to college with the help of both my parents, and few scholarships, and that seemed pretty straightforward as well. It's only when I finished school and started trying to figure out how to make a living that things got scary and complicated. Asking for money---and then asking for more money was something I had never practiced, never prepared for. As a consequence I didn't do it well.

A series of menial or boring jobs soon followed and I believed that there was set amount allocated for each of these jobs, that the allocation was unchangeable and that I could: take it or leave it. 

I think most of us start our "adult" job life thinking that everything is calculated in the number of hours worked x the rate of pay and we grudgingly leave it at that until we realize that we are being financially under-rewarded for our perceived efforts and we go looking for a better job. It's the hourly thing that's the first hurdle. 

The second thing that hamstrings employees and inexperienced freelancers is the idea that the buyer or employer holds all the cards, that there is an endless stream of equally talented people waiting to take our places and that we must, inevitably, invariably capitulate to the client's desires and accept the proffered deal.  Hmmmm. No wonder so many freelance photographers are poor. We seem to be bargaining from a no-win position all the time. 

Let's take the first idea, the pay by the hour concept. An image has a value that's elastic. If you are buying an image because you need something to grace your ad in a small church newsletter you probably base your budget on the draw or profit expected from the ad. The quality of the image has some value but the overall equation the image is part of is small and so the budget is constrained. You'll have a hard time convincing that local, small town realtor that her headshot for the church newsletter is worth your mortgage payment and I wouldn't try to convince either of you otherwise. But imagine the other extreme. Say you are working on a project for a multi-national corporation that sells very valuable high technology services and equipment in 145 countries around the world and earns tens of billions of dollars per year. Perhaps they need an image of a person as well. But imagine that this image is to be the basis of an ad campaign that will be used by the company internationally for the better part of a year. 

Imagine that they were looking around the web and found an image on your website that matched their vision of what their brand wanted to communicate to the world, perfectly. Imagine it was an image of a beautiful and brilliant looking young woman shot casually in an urban environment and it was relaxed and yet technically well done (congratulations on your technique!). They come to you to license the image. Now I ask you to think truthfully about whether this image and this use of the image has the exact same value as the image of the realtor from Smallville commissioned for

6.14.2015

The D810 is fun because you can set the ISO dial at 64. It's just fun. Like Kodachrome 64 only better.


I know that as a blogging, professional photographer I am supposed to make all of the photographic assignments I shoot sound big and dramatic, and matters of life and death (or matters of "Light and Depth" ---the title of one of my favorite books on lighting by R. Lowell---yes, the founder of Lowell Lighting). But the reality is that most of my assignments are re-shootable and most of the photographs I take are actually just for fun. I do earn nearly 100% of my living taking images but that only constitutes about 1/5th of the total images I take. The rest I do because it's fun and the act of photographing makes me feel as though I'm doing something artistic even when I am just taking images of my coffee cup or the same street corner I've looked at a thousand times before.

So, when I proceed to talk about my walk around downtown yesterday with the big, honking Nikon D810 you won't imagine that I was embarking on any solo master class aimed at shifting any paradigms. I was just out to enjoy the heat, the biker rally in downtown and the straightforward act of looking at stuff and playing with the camera. My little exercise for the day was to use the camera at its lowest, native ISO (which is 64) and couple that with my favorite new lens, the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens.  I wish I had seen noble bikers or luscious biker babes but most of the people I saw were obese, middle aged people who just happened to own Harleys. Everywhere I looked downtown it seemed as though I was watching scenes from the Tim Allen movie, Wild Hogs. 

I stopped looking for interesting biker photos and satisfied myself by finding scenes which would show of the capabilities of my camera and lens combination. Setting the camera ISO at 64 means you have to pay closer attention to shutter speeds and f-stops. I shoot mostly in aperture priority when I'm just goofing around so if I set f11 for a sunlit scene that I need depth of field for I must remember to head back to the wider apertures when I get into areas of open shade or walk through a hotel lobby, otherwise I'll end up with some shutter speed like 1/15th and since neither camera nor lens have I.S. it's a real issue.

The interesting thing about shooting the D810 at 64 and using the 14 bit, uncompressed raw files is the sheer amount of dynamic range you end up with in each exposure. You can be a stop or two under and at least a stop over exposed and you can make a beautiful image just by moving the sliders in Photoshop. Of course I love to take things to extremes so when I played with the image above and the image below I went a little slider crazy. My own wacky version of HDR. Only shot in camera and realized in post. 

The amazing attribute of the D810 that I never read about from other photographers and reviewers is the way the camera's sensor renders clouds. The absolute lack of noise coupled with super high resolution means that for the first time since I started shooting digitally I don't see any unwanted texture in the solid blue sky areas. That was my real epiphany from yesterday: The combination of low ISO in combination with high resolution means totally convincing blue skies

6.13.2015

Remember me waxing on about how great the wooden tripods from Berlebach are? Did you know they make a wooden monopod? I didn't either....

Berlebach 112 Monopod.

I know most photographers are now convinced that they can pound down coffee by the liter, run up the stairs and still handhold their image stabilized cameras steadier than a tripod while taking photographs that are needle sharp with exposures as long as 90 seconds.  I am not one of those photographers. I think I'm pretty good with my handholding technique but I know my images can always be a little sharper and better composed when my mortal hands have a bit more assist than is provided by a jiggling sensor or a wobbly lens element.

Since I know for a fact that tripods and other supports make for sharper, better images I own a bunch of them. Just like cameras we always seem to be in search of the holy grail of support mechanisms. We were heading out to do some video last week with the Olympus OMD EM5.2 cameras and our intention was to do most of the work handheld. I couldn't help it though. I tossed two monopods and a tripod into the cargo area of the car. Just in case. What I wanted, but didn't know existed, was a wooden monopod with an integral tilting head. The day after we wrapped our shoot mine came from Adorama via UPS. Ah well, opportunity for immediate use thwarted but I'm still just as excited about the new toy. 

I like monopods when used in conjunction with the image stabilized cameras. I'm not trying to use them at insane shutter speeds but in video, if you are lingering on a shot, it's hard to stay stable for more than five or ten seconds. The monopod adds just enough stability to tighten up the shot. 

The usual video monopod has little feet at the bottom and tries to be a weak tripod. The big fluid heads they all sport at the top are ungainly and the overall combination leaves me thinking I should just bring the tripod along. I wanted a monopod with a little, tiltable head so I could tilt up and down. Nothing fancy, no fluid stuff necessary. And even though I have two metal monopods I've come to enjoy working with my two German made, white ash tripods so much I wanted to have the same tactile experience with a monopod. Why? Easy, the wooden tripods and monopods don't conduct heat or cold to your hands like metal does. Metal is efficient, just ask any one grabbing a black metal tripod that's been baking in the Summer sun. Just ask anyone who forgot their gloves and is trying to use a aluminum monopod in an upstate Maine Winter (do NOT stick your tongue on one that's been outside for a while in the snow...). For that matter the wooden monopod is also not a conductor of electricity so it's even safer than I first thought. I won't be using it in a lightning storm to test that part of my understanding....

So it's two days before our shoot and I come across this on the Adorama website and the Amazon website and the Adorama site has it for $99 while Amazon is showing $149. Both offer free shipping.  
I push the button though I am almost certain it won't come in time. When it finally showed up on Friday I pulled it out of the boxes and was immediately smitten. Even more so because it's the first monopod I've owned that doesn't resemble a tactical anti-personnel baton. It looks like something carpenter-y. It looks vaguely technical but vaguely industrial---in a craft way. 

How does it work? Beautifully. I spent some time walking around with it today, using it to stabilize a Nikon D810 and the big, fat Sigma 50mm. The head handled the weight perfectly. The tripod is exactly as tall as I am. It feels good in my hand. It has two sections which means it's not going to fold down all tiny for airport carry-on logistics. It's more a "back of the car near the old plaid blanket and the fix-a-flat can" sort of unit. 

My intended use? A nice little OMD EM5.2 festooned with the impressive and awe inspiring 60mm f1.5 Pen FT lens on top of that little, wooden head with the handle left a little loose. Just enough tension on it to have some feel but not enough to impede a little forward tilt. Running video in 15 to 30 second chunks in situations where a tripod would be cumbersome or dangerous. 

But now that I've played with it I'll confess that it's addictive and I am already planning to use it extensively for corporate shows where I want to use really cool lenses but have hesitated in the past because I needed just a little bit more stability but didn't want to bring the two extra legs along. Once you've tried wood you might not want to go back to conventional tripods. I think I'll specify this white ash wood on the dashboard of my next Bentley. It should be just the right touch with my off-white leather seats. And yes, I've already checked, it will fit in the "boot."


Dare I say, "Simple and elegant." ?



6.11.2015

Another video project sees the light of day. A broadcast TV commercial for Zach Theatre's show, "Mothers and Sons."

https://vimeo.com/130482558


I went on location to the theater with lights, microphones, cameras, tripod and a video monitor and shot the live action of Michael Learned (mom from the television series, "The Waltons"). The rest of the spot is stock footage and still images I made for the play's print and web marketing. The commercial was edited by Michael Furstenfeld at Zach Theatre.

This one was shot with the Nikon D810 and an 85mm G series lens. Marshall monitor on the top of the cage. Sennheiser lav microphone on talent (consciously shown in the scene to imply that this was an interview...).

It's an example of something that takes an hour to set up, fifteen minutes to shoot and an hour to pack again. It's cool to own the gear instead of renting it. Owning means having what you need for fast breaking projects while keeping costs down. Which should mean more money in your own pocket---not a discount to the client.

The show is great. Well worth seeing. And Michael Learned is a superb actor!

If you click through the link you should be able to see it in 1080p...

Mirror Less Finally Goes Full Frame Professional. Sony Might Have Just Trotted Out the First Real DSLR Killer. The A7r.2

They fixed the one thing I hated about the previous model, the howitzer style, ultra-loud, shutter. And then they started adding the good stuff.

I know, I know, I just got settled in with my Nikon cameras and now look what Sony trots onto the market. Why --- it's the camera they should have released back in October 2013 when they brought out the A7 line. A high resolution, full frame camera that's also fun to use and won't scare children and small pets with its cacophonous shutter banging and rattling. And bonus: Professional quality 4K video. In camera!

The new product (yet another "point" two) is, on paper, a remarkable machine for universal image making. It features a brand new sensor which is the world's large (and first full frame) BSI technology sensor. The advantages of the sensor, coupled with faster processors, gives the camera about a stop and a half to two stops of noise advantage over its previous model. The faster processing chain also makes possible the first full frame camera on the market to deliver 4K video that is written directly to the card in the camera!!! No need to buy an Atomos Shogun digital recorder to suck out the 4K as you

Oh Boy. We've got a busy Thursday. Let's start with the exciting announcement of my next camera from Sony --- the RX10.2

Revolutionary? Maybe not. But to me products like this look like the future of image making for all but the most daunting photographic and video projects.

It should come as no secret to long time readers of VSL that I am a big fan of the Sony RX10 camera and felt that, at the time of launch, it was a powerhouse of imaging for the money. With a firmware update to the XAVC codec it became an even better tool. In 2014 I used my RX10 to complete an eight page photo assignment for an architectural magazine. Crazy? No, very straightforward and logical. Using the almost distortion free 24mm focal length of the lens, the 20 megapixel sensor and the lowest native ISO, all on a great tripod, the camera made images that easily blew up to full page size with no hint of degradation when compared to other formats. But the benefits were interesting. The smaller size of the sensor meant more depth of field which is helpful when shooting architectural interiors. The trade off with the smaller sensor cameras is, of course, less control over shallow depth of field. While a one inch sensor camera might be a great choice for anything requiring sharp focus in depth and the convenience of multiple, good focal lengths in one body, the dedicated portrait photographer who likes the look of the focus ramping in full frame cameras with fast lenses will probably not choose the smaller format for his core work.

But I would suggest that the person who buys a Sony RX10 (or a Panasonic fz1000) is more likely to be someone who values the ability to use that camera for video work as well as studio work and in that arena these "bridge" cameras have lots to commend them. The increased depth of field being one benefit. As I do more and more video I've come to understand that razor thin depth of field might be sexy and trendy in videos but trying to keep an on camera talent in sharp focus during an interview with a lens and camera that gives you a couple inches of sharp focus is much more difficult than using the right tool for the job.

Yesterday I learned that lesson when shooting handheld in a crowded and fast moving restaurant. My video partner and I were shooting with fast lenses on the Olympus EM5.2 cameras and even with focus peaking and the greater depth of field keeping sharp focus on fast moving subjects can be tough. If we'd done the shoot with a pair of Nikon D810s the difficulty in focusing would have been infinitely greater. We would have gotten much less done and we would be much less sure of our results while shooting. Add to that the need to attach external monitors to the D810s for focus peaking and you have just created (by comparison) and ergonomic nightmare for handheld shooting.

The Sony RX10 has been on the market for nearly two years and I assume that Sony thought the time was right for an upgrade. To their credit they kept all the things I liked about the camera (the great 24-200mm equivalent focal length f2.8 Zeiss lens, the body style, the great knobs, the easy menus and the ability to have clickless apertures) but they fixed the stuff that made the camera less than perfect. One big improvement is a doubling of the EVF resolution which means one step closer to eyepiece transparency, but the biggest improvements come from the inclusion of a brand new "stacked" BSI sensor coupled with much faster processors. Based on what I read about state of the art BSI sensors we should expect one to two stops better noise performance at higher ISOs, a much faster frame rate (14fps) and much faster autofocusing.

The icing on the RX10.2 cake is the move to provide real 4K video at 100 mbs data rates which will make this camera a challenger to both the Samsung NX1 and the Panasonic GH4. Yes, I know that those two cameras "feature" interchangeable lenses but I would venture to say that you'll spend a fortune to match the focal lengths and quality that come standard on Sony's fixed lens. A lens carefully calculated and matched to the new sensor.

Of course you also get microphone inputs and headphone outputs, focus peaking, zebras and more.

The rest will most likely appeal only to people shooting video but here goes: This $1000 camera will also feature S-Log and flat profiles for better editing and color grading and can shoot much higher frame rates which will give you amazing, exhilarating slow motion. We're talking rates up to 960 fps!
And not at tiny, weenie, image sizes!

I'll pre-order one as soon as they start the pre-order list at Precision Camera. If the camera lives up to its promise I'll buy two and use them as my full time video cameras. You may need more but for the industrial and art projects I tend to gravitate to having kick ass 4K with good codecs and profiles for editing, along with a great lens and killer image stabilization is a dream come true. I'll keep the big Nikons around for those times when I want the sliver of sharp reality but for run and gun video, like the stuff we shot for hours yesterday, I can't imagine a better or more convenient tool.  Might also be the perfect "crash cam" for big film productions.

What I find amazing is that you can get all this technology and good camera design for such a low price. If you need it the whole package is remarkable.

Olympus better discover the 4K religion quickly or it may be the one missing feature set that retards their goal to gain market share in the semi-professional space. For everyone else (Panasonic, Sony, Samsung) it's here now and people are shooting it. And the video space is a natural for mirror-less cameras. It's the one arena in which I think Nikon and Canon's traditional cameras have the most difficulty competing in.

Just thought you'd want to know. Head on over to DPReview if you want to read Sony's press release or see the specs.

Visit the new (finalized yesterday afternoon) website for my biz: www.kirktuck.com

6.10.2015

Mission Accomplished. The website has been finalized and is up. I'm already on to the next project.

 Noellia. Under the Bridge.

I got a lot of very excellent advice from my VSL readers as I put my website together. A reader named, Max, was harsh but he'll notice that I took his advice (and appreciated it...). I abandoned putting all the galleries on one page, got rid of the cutesy tagline on the bottom of the splash page and made all the galleries bigger. It works in Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari. I know because I checked all of them. It also works perfectly on my iPad. It's even acceptable on my phone now (in landscape mode) and I made the "about" type work in one column that allows someone to actually read what I wrote on a phone.

I know I need to tweak the site and remove a handful of duplicate images. I also want to figure out how to best add a page of testimonials because my clients were so thoughtful and positive when they wrote them. But for right now the site works well and has passed the test with some of core demographic---art directors who use photography daily in their jobs. I'll make little corrections as time permits and that includes adding a link back to the Visual Science Lab.

Thanks to everyone who contributed feedback and helped me work through my iterations to create something with which I am happy. For anyone who wants a simplified application (Apple only)  to make websites with I can whole-heartedly recommend Sparkle. Working with the program I learned more with each revision and in the end decided that it's perfect for someone like me who never, ever wants to sit around and code. The biggest selling point of the software for me was the incredible customer service. If I got stuck or thought something had gone wrong the person in support would respond to my e-mail in minutes. Every piece of advice or instruction offered was right on the money. I hope they keep adding features to their product but I'm not even sure which features I really need.

I have moved on to my next project and times is getting compressed again. My friend, James Webb (incredibly good videographer and artist) is helping me create a 2 minute video like the one I did last year for Asti Trattoria. This year we are doing one for Emmett Fox's newest restaurant adventure, Cantine. We all agreed that we needed to shoot during open restaurant hours to get the energy and kinetics of a working kitchen. But the kitchen is narrow and long and the last thing we want to do is to get run over by chefs with hot pans in their hands. We wanted to be able to shoot without depending on tripods or extra lighting and we needed to work with cameras I already owned (financial constraints) so we decided to go with the Olympus EM5.2s.

James took one away yesterday and came back today stating that they would indeed work for the task at hand. We're shooting in a different way than I did in my previous tests. James suggested that with 8 bit cameras, shooting 4:2:0, that it makes a lot more sense to shoot for the final look than to horse around trying to flatten out the files to emulate what higher performance cameras do via their S-Log files. His contention is that regardless of how much you might want more dynamic range in a file that however you shoot it that's what gets baked into an 8 bit, 4:2:0 file and trying to wiggle and pull on it in post makes it obvious just how little leeway there is in the files for big changes after the fact.

He likens these cameras (and most other consumer based video features) to slide film from the old days. You need to get the color balance and the tonality of the files exactly where you want it because sliding any parameter around is going to cause some sort of compromise somewhere in the mix.

I looked at test files made using a neutral color profile and found myself agreeing 100%. We started filming at the restaurant this morning. We brought along a basket full of lenses. The favorites (from my point of view) are currently the 40mm and 60mm Pen FT lenses. Partly because of the focal lengths and speed but also because they have luxurious manual focusing rings and enviably long focus throws. It's easy to do follow focusing techniques just using the EVF with these lenses. Add to that the ability to stop down or open up while shooting.  It makes for a very fluid shooting style. We're hellbent on shooting with longer lenses and with narrow depth of field but every once in a while I'll grab the Olympus 17mm f1.8 for wide shots. I shot against the light a bit this morning and loved the voluminous flare I was able to get. It's a nicer effect than perfection.

James has been working the longer lenses. He's got a Zeiss 85mm that he likes and the last time I checked in he was shooting with one of the Nikon 105s via an adapter. What we both appreciate is the really great image stabilization in the EM5.2. It's just amazing how it smooths out shots, regardless of focal length. I don't have a chart for the exact numbers of image stabilization but I'm willing to say it adds a minus four espressos to your work right off the bat.

We had a nice lunch at Cantine and we're taking a break during the slow afternoon in order to download what we shot this morning and recharge depleted batteries. We're heading back over to Cantine around 5:30 pm to capture more images during happy hour and dinner service. The restaurant has a nice warm glow to it when the sun goes down.

The wonderful thing about shooting videos in restaurants is that the better ones keep you well fed.
I think we'll have plenty of footage for our project by the time we head home this evening but I intend to go back and set up five or six "hero" food shots to shoot in stills and in video with a little movement. Incorporating still shots is great because you can get everything just right and also retouch out bad technique before you commit an image to the program.

James and I are both slammed with other work so the edit will probably take a back seat for a little while but I am looking forward to sharing it with you here. If the Olympus EM5.2 video was designed for one thing I would venture to say that the one thing is handholding the camera with fast lenses. The proof will be in the (tasting of the) pudding; and the pasta, and the fish and the amazing desserts, and the whimsical bar drinks and the ............

In the meantime, go and visit the newly revised (again and again) website. It's right here:
kirktuck.com