The most often comments I received on my photographs would be on how beautiful and natural the colors are on my photographs. Or how sharp, and how pleasing the bokeh was rendered. Getting beautiful, sharp and bokeh-ful photographs do not require much skills at all. If you have not used an Olympus camera system, pick one up, you will be amazed at how amazingly natural and true-to-life the colors it creates, how sharp the images are due to the wonderful zuiko quality lenses, and also the bokeh due to large aperture prime lenses (such as the Sigma 30mm F1.4 or 50mm F2). The straight out of the camera JPEG files were already optimized for great colours and resolution that you only need minimal or no post processing at all to deliver very good images from Olympus camera system.
Supposedly, we take away the great Olympus color, minus the super sharp output, and do not do any bokeh in the photographs, will I still be able to make good photographs from my Olympus camera? That was the challenge I gave myself today. To move out from my comfort zone.
All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and kit lens 14-42mm
In the morning light
Faster and higher
Open Phone Booth
I know how perfect my Olympus DSLR E-5 handles on the street, how I have come to be able to operate it even with my eyes closed. Hence I decided to use the PEN E-PL1 more, an underutilized camera which I have abandoned for a few months (unintentionally, because a friend borrowed the BLS-1 battery for an extended period of time). We all know the famous Olympus color, so I set the E-PL1 to monotone, shooting in JPEG mode at all times, so there was no turning back if I decided the original colours looked better than black and white. I know how I love the sharp 50mm F2 lens, with the great bokeh quality it delivers. So I used the kit lens 14-42mm on the PEN E-PL1: still decently sharp, but nothing "breathtaking" or out of the ordinary. Similarly with the kit lens, getting bokeh is a difficulty: it is either i completely just set aside the bokeh consideration of my images (come on, how much bokeh can one make with F3.5-5.6 lens?), or if I still wanted to produce some bokeh, I will need to move myself extremely close to my subject, out of my usual comfortable working distance between myself and my subjects. It is all about doing the unusual, and trying something different for a change. I still want to be able to make good images, without the wonders and whistles of the camera. I want to make good images, because I can, not because of what the camera or lens can do.
So what can I do, without doing what I usually do?
I can try out something different, something I do not usually do. I explored different possibilities when it comes to composition. I used more wide angle shots, instead of tightly composed clean images. I incorporated more than one subject in one photograph, and worked to connect them so you will find interaction between the subjects. I played with highlight and shadows, using extremely harsh lighting. I also played around with slow shutter speed, to render motion blur, as well as some slight panning effect. For some unexplained reasons, I would feel "incomplete" if I did not come home with some good headshot portraits. I was stubborn as I was insistent to get some bokeh, so I went daringly close to the subjects, pointing the camera inches away from their faces to get those blur background.
It was about an hour walk on the street, before it decided to rain. Together with the usual gang, we decided to head for coffee after the short shooting session.
Did I come home with enough good images? Not as many as I have original intended, but those would have to suffice.
Not long enough
We all lust for better and newer photography equipments, no doubt (me included). Nonetheless, it is also a fact that the best camera that you have is the camera that you can bring with you at all times, and use it. It is that camera in your hands now that you can use to capture images, as you need to now. It does not matter if the images come out not as sharp as that new D800 with super 36MP resolution, or if your camera cannot shoot clean images up to ISO6400 like the Fuji X-Pro 1. It does not matter if your camera does not have blazingly fast autofocus like the new Olympus OM-D E-M5, or all the newer technologies. As long as you have that camera in your hands, that camera is capable of delivering great images, if you are determined enough to do so. Feeling insecure when comparing yourself, your camera setup against your peers, or what you thought you could have achieved better if you have better gear, will only hold you back from really going out there and make good photography happen. If you have the cash and if you see the need to upgrade and get better equipment, by all means, go for it, and do it. Hesitation, and all those sleepless nights thinking of whether you should jump or use a better system and how that might affect or improve your photography wont actually improve your photography at all.
No matter how many times we are being reminded that photography is more than just gear lust, we still cannot run away from gear lust. Photographers are all humans after all. The only cure, is going out there with whatever you have now, and shoot. Shoot like you do not care about anything else, but your photographs.
I am starting to look beyond the technicalities of the camera, and really find myself in my photographs. The photographer's capabilities should not be restricted by the capabilities of his gear. He should surpass it, because photography is not about what your camera can do by itself, but what you can do with your camera.