Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back to Bird Park with Revenge

Edit: I have overblown the pictures this time, since I believe some of them deserved to be displayed larger. I know I am going to hear some noises, but rest assured this will only happen once in a while, when I feel crazy enough to do it.

I know I have visited the KL Bird Park not too long ago, but I have made another trip back there, and this second trip was sooner than I have expected. I was hoping to save up for a 70-300mm (140 to WHOOPING 600mm in 35mm equivalent, more like 30x zoom on ordinary camera?) F/4.0-5.6 ED Zuiko lens, but I figured that is never gonna happen anytime soon before I made the next visit to the park. For this long weekend, I have friends from Malacca and Penang who came all the way to KL, and a shoot-out walkabout was in order, and I was consulted to give in suggestions. Since neither of them have been to the Bird Park before, I recommended the place for them, since it should have been the must visit place for any photo-enthusiasts or wannabes like me.

For the first time, I was actually in a proper shoot-out session, not being alone. Somehow, it was refreshing to be amongst so many cheerful people, and the fun of being in a group was definitely something new for me, since I have been taking pictures all by myself up to date. The group consists of Darryl, SleepyHao, Akiraceo (Jian), KimFei and Ser. Most of them are bloggers, but all of us own DSLRs and it was a great combination of quite a diverse mix comprising Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus cameras. It was truly rewarding to walk in a group of people who share the similar interest, and are actually as crazy about getting that perfect shot as you are. At least I do not look like the weird one standing out from the crowd.

I have mentioned that I have been to this park for shooting before, but that was with an Olympus E-410. Honestly I was not terribly happy with the turn-out of my shots back then, too many wrongly focused pictures, too many blurred due to hand shake outputs, and also, wrongly exposed pictures. Back then, I was still struggling to produce technically accurate photos, let alone properly composed results !!! Out of the many shots there were a few useable ones, though by now, as I look back at the pictures, they were not really satisfactory by any standards.

This time around, going back to the Bird Park, I aim at getting improved shots. I returned with an upgraded weapon now, an Olympus E-520, with a wicked built in Image Stabilization, and slightly improved ISO-noise performance. Mounted my original tele lens (40-150mm F/3.5-4.5 Zuiko) on it, I could get away with better pictures now, with higher speed without ccompromising the ISO setting (wider aperture than usual), steadier hands after all those countless shooting sessions during all the weekends, and add all that together with the surprisingly efficient Image Stabilization, I seriously expected most of my pictures to come out a heck lot better than my previous visit.

After taking this many pictures, I should have stepped up further in technicality-wise (sharp focus, no-blur due to shake, spot-on exposure/metering, color balance, etc) and all I was most concerned about would be the composition/artistic representation of the shots. Obviously there are still heaps and heaps of things I could improve on, but lets just take one step at a time, shall we?

Generally I was quite happy with the turn-out of the pictures this time. Almost all my shots came out blur-free, and I got sufficient shots on pin-pointed focus exactly where I wanted them to be placed. There were also less wrongly exposed pictures. Nevertheless, I must say that after viewing my pictures, there were still plenty to work on my composition skills. After viewing the results from Jian's camera (sorry, I have not seen the others yet, maybe I can "wow" at the other ones too), I do admire some of his creative side of framing his subjects. Somehow, I do see myself taking pictures in quite a squarish manner, following a certain pattern that I have set up in my mind.

I should have allowed myself to explore further, and not by just binding myself with all the rules. There should be no boundaries to creativity, and I guess being into engineering for this long does take its toll on certain aspects of your life. I should not make this as an excuse, but take it as an opportunity for me to find out my weakness, and find ways to see my framings differently next time.

On lighter side of things, this could have been one of the most fulfilling photography session I have had. I do find joy in observing others being so focused on getting that one shot, and I just cannot help but wonder what would other think of me when I was the one using my camera and being so sucked into my concentration on taking my shots. That is the joy of going out together, something which many of my friends have pushed me to do so.

It is also a very good chance to share knowledge and experience, and you will get feedbacks about your shots and techniques, which would in turn help you progress in photography. Not being selfish as I have been shooting alone most of the time, it was not easy to find photo-kakis. Maybe, I guess I should be trying harder. But do not get me wrong, I do enjoy my time shooting alone, there are just some things that I would rather photograph alone.

I also hope that this entry serves as an example of what an Olympus camera is capable of in general, and busting some myths and misconceptions people have always been tagging Olympus DSLRs.

1) Olympus STRUGGLES/CAN'T produce good bokeh (background blurring/defocussing effect).

Well, the pictures speak for themselves.

2) Olympus lenses are NOT SHARP.

You will be surprised to find how sharp the pictures Olympus can produce, even at full telephoto zoom, without any real noticeable faults at all.

3) Olympus entry level 3-point Autofocus is not as capable/fast/accurate as competitors.

True, other competitors offer 9 points, or 11 points AF, but I only used ONE SINGLE point all the time I was shooting. Works wonders too, if you look at the pictures close enough. What is the point of having so many points of AF, if you could not get the picture focused right at that particular spot you want it to be focused?

4) Built in Image Stabilization on camera body is not as effective as the lens Image Stabilization.

There may be advantages of having the Image Stabilization built on lenses, but it may not be marginally significant in comparison by result outputs. I find Olympus Image Stabilization really improved my sharp pictures to blurred shots ratio dramatically.

Without saying, I am not denying that Oly has its drawbacks too, for example less than average high ISO shooting performance, and lower dynamic range in direct comparison with other cameras. Nevertheless, if you know your camera, you will know its strengths and weaknesses. You exploit the strengths to bring out the best in your pictures, and you work around the weaknesses with ways that you should be able to devise after utilizing it for a while. High ISO making pictures noisy? Stay with lower ISO whenever possible. Period.

I should also consider getting more memory for my camera, I maxed out both my memory cards of 2Gb each, and I was NOT even shooting RAW for goodness sake. Just one session and I somehow ate up the entire memory space available.

After today's session, I do hope to have more future group shooting outings. The fun was something new I have discovered, and having shared that joy with others simply brought in even more.

Come come shooting, anyone??


  1. i wanna shoot too.. :( i miss my camera..
    btw.. smashpop oso post bird park oh.. hehe

  2. wow! Incredible shots. I like it. The parrots like it too! =D

    I'm thoroughly impressed by your precise snapshots. Cool. I see great improvement in your constant work. Keep it up dude!

  3. hey johnson,
    thanks a lot man !! Appreciate it.
    we all gotta improve at one point or another eh?

  4. just to add some comments bout olympus

    1) Olympus STRUGGLES/CAN'T produce good bokeh (background blurring/defocussing effect) - bokeh is not as smooth as full frame cameras. ask canon users who have the 5d + 85f1.2, that is so far the winning combo for portrait photography. f2 lenses on oly unfortunately have a depth of field equal to f4 on a full frame slr.

    2. olympus lenses are NOT sharp - how untrue! the pro / super high grade lenses are as sharp / even sharper than canon L series lenses according to my friends who are pro canon users. Truly a known secret among SLR users, which best remain that way. come on canon users.. prove us wrong this time.. hahaha :p

  5. hey brandon,
    nice to have your thoughts writen down here, and yeah, lets just wait and see what the canon users have to say.
    this place is starting to become a mini-forum itself LOL

  6. I think I had cut down on my trigger happiness a lot. Never take tonnes of pictures anymore. Trying to get it right the first time round.

  7. hey ven,
    I believe it depends on what kind of pictures you are taking. For animals, every second they give you a different look and pose, and if you do not seize a certain opportunity fast enough, it will just vanish. So it is either you continue shooting, or you have nothing to shoot at all one minute later. once the birds fly off to the high branches.

    But yeah, usually it takes heaps of planning, and tonnes of patience to get that right shot. The professionals would wait for hours or even days under horrendous environment and weather just to get that particular one shot.

  8. hey ahlost,
    yeah colorful indeed !!

  9. Colorful, sweet and innocent. :P
    Hmm.. canon users won't say much.. Canon users will only let the photos do the talking?


    Sigh.. still without my DSLR.. :(

  10. this is my friend's blog with the canon 50 1.2 on a 5d. have a look and check it out. I don't think oly can be able to do such lovely bokeh!

  11. hey allen,
    photos are silent. Humans are the one who do the talking.

    hey brandon,

  12. aiyo robin.. pls la.. i'm just showing what canon FF users can do what oly can't, okie? if i could spend a few extra grand to get a 5d mk 2 and a 85 1.2, i would!

    oh btw, i've a panaleica 14-50 2.8 3.5 on the way.. hopefully arrives by end of this week :)

  13. Why my hand OOF wan? LOL

  14. hey brandon,

    hey hao,
    coz its not meant to be in focus? LOL

  15. With reference to your quote in the latest entry... your photo of the bird facing the oncoming hand, is awesome. Seriously.

    And it would make a perfect photo for signs telling people at the zoo to not touch the animals! hehehe.

  16. hey starryluvly,
    thanks a lot !!! But I thought the parrot was too fierce looking, with the red eye and all, LOL...