Monday, November 04, 2013

Deepavali: Festival of Lights, my Second Attempt

Happy Deepavali to all of my readers who celebrate the Festival of Light!

Last year, in conjunction with the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens review, I went to Shree Lakshmi Narayan Mandir Temple at Jalan Ipoh for the Deepavali Eve, where the Hindu devotees would light up the whole temple with candles and oil lamps. I did have difficulties shooting that event, mainly with restrictions of the single focal length which happened to be my least favourite focal length to work with. This year, I was revisiting the temple to shoot the Deepavali Eve again, and this time with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the few M.Zuiko lenses that I do have now.

I consider myself very fortunate living in Malaysia, where there is a large Hindu Indian community that still practise the traditions and celebrate beautiful festivals such as Deepavali. In this occasion, the Hindus were dressed up in their traditional costumes and presented their best, which made the celebration such a colourful scene for photography. It was a celebration of joy and happiness, hence emotions and expressions were abundantly available as photography opportunities. 

If you were to ask any Olympus users 3  or more years ago, shooting in very dim light condition, many would have complained a few issues using the system, and I do admit to these shortcomings especially on slower focusing, as well as poorer high ISO noise handling in comparison to peer DSLR counterparts. In some conditions shooting this amazing Festival of Lights, it was near darkness with only available light from the not so brightly lit candles. So how did the OM-D and Olympus M.Zuiko lenses fare in this situation?

Lets see some photos first!

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko lenses: 45mm F1.8 and 17mm F1.8 

45mm F1.8



45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F.8

17mm F1.8

As expected from the OM-D it performed very well. I turned off the AF Assist lamp, even when I was shooting in near darkness conditions, the camera still successfully locked focus and it did rather quickly with very minor hesitation. Who would have expected such focusing efficiency from a small camera, and surely from something that is not of a DSLR? In comparison with my E-5, I can confidently say that the E-M5 is almost superior in any way when it comes to focusing. (do take note that I am a single-AF shooter, I rarely use continuous AF). Looking at my set of photographs (I took about 400 images) I only had less than 10 miss-focused shots, and these shots were almost entirely my own fault mainly due to setting the focusing point at the wrong place or did not react quick enough before the subject moved away from the focal point. 

The focusing accuracy was stunningly reliable. In fact, if you have handled any DSLR before, shooting with fast primes at wide open aperture, you will notice the hit and miss issues are quite a common thing. The problem is exaggerated in full frame camera where the depth of field becomes razor thin. This is when the Contrast Detect AF from the mirrorless system surpasses the Phase Detect AF, the Contrast Detect solved the focus hit and miss issues entirely. The focus accuracy is so dead on accurate now that I almost wondered why I even bothered taking multiple shots of a similar subject, you know just in case. The habit was picked up when I was using the Sony A350 and A57, I can get 2 misses out of 5 shots taken, and that is an alarmingly high rate. While my Olympus E-5 suffered much less miss focusing issues, it also can in very rare occasion, miss focus, especially with slower lenses such as the Zuiko Digital 50mm F2 macro. 

There has always been that mindset that the smaller sensor sized systems will not perform on par with the APS-C sized cropped sensor, and small cameras will not outdo the larger sized DSLR. In the beginning of the micro 4/3 releases, that may be true, but the micro 4/3 system has evolved ever since. Considering that the mirrorless cameras are not limited by mechanical parts, and the fact that digital technology is advancing in greater pace than ever before, it can be observed that the Micro 4/3 system has made huge leaps and bounds, especially in the OM-D system. People can still argue that the larger sensor will hold more details, have better dynamic range, etc, but in serious shooting application, the main question is will the OM-D perform and deliver the results? 

Looking at the harsh shooting conditions in this particular session (extreme low light), when high ISO is crucial, the OM-D E-M5 performed admirably well. There was no hiccup, the operations were smooth, focusing was super fast and the images came out beautifully. The default auto-white balance engine was so good I almost did not have to do anything in post-processing. Now that with the electronic viewfinder, giving me the "What You See Is What You Get" live preview of the image even before I click the shutter button, I can ensure very accurate exposure balance. No matter how advanced your metering system is, shooting in such conditions, there is high chance of slight under or overexposure when  the lighting in the entire are was not even. 

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm f1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

17mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm f1.8


This year I told myself to shoot MORE photographs. In my mind, I wanted quantity over quality. Yes I would still maintain the quality, but the objective for this particular shoot was to push myself to compose the shots with more variety, and present the event in a more "complete" manner. I wanted to show more photographs rather than just the few photographs that I wanted to shoot. It takes a lot more focus and energy to be alert at all times and continue to hunt for more and more photos in a single event. Now that I am not restricted to the 17mm focal length I am free to compose with my favourite lenses and shoot with my usual style and execution. 

Indeed the 45mm F1.8 took a lot more photographs than my other lenses, well, I think I shot almost 90% with the 45mm F1.8 lens actually. It was such a versatile lens to use. This is especially true when I was shooting the kids, if I moved any closer to them with wide angle lenses they refused to have their photos taken! Even at such young age they have developed awareness and also we have to recognize their comfort zone and personal space. Intruding their personal space, they would react, and most times they would simple walk away or turned their head away from the camera, almost instinctively. The extra working distance that the 45mm F1.8 worked perfectly in this condition, it allowed me sufficient comfortable space between my camera and subject and still get shots without annoying or tipping the kids off. Of course they knew their photos were taken but I guess at a certain distance away, they did not really care. 

After looking through the pile of photographs I have taken, the "YES!!! I got the shot" moment was not really there. I actually did better last year with the 17mm F1.8, though it was not my favourite focal length to use. Somehow, in terms of quality, I preferred my photographs from last year's shooting, and this actually come as a surprise even to myself. 

I should really reconsider my stance toward the 35mm classic focal length. Perhaps it was not that bad of a lens to use after all, and if used correctly, surely it can produce some really good shots. More items for me to explore and push myself further. More work to be done and I hope to improve from here onward. Discoveries must be followed up with appropriate action. 


45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8. Who says micro 4/3 system cannot produce shallow depth of field? Should have stopped down the aperture even more. 

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

Every one dressed their best in Indian Traditional wear for this auspicious celebration, and this presented the best opportunity to create some portrait shots. The temple people were so friendly and warm toward us, and generously allowed their photos to be taken. 

This was very different than shooting my portraits on the street. Firstly, I needed to boost the ISO to so much higher, and lighting condition was not ideal. To solve some of the issues, I actually directed some of the shots, to move the subjects away from busy or distracting background, and to have them standing in locations with more even light distribution to avoid harsh and unwanted shadows on the faces. I did not want to use flash, because I wanted to preserve the ambient warm light which was quite beautiful actually. Of course the shots will not turn out as beautiful as studio lighting set-up shots, but hey, it was a fun shoot, so even if there were imperfections, seriously, who cares? If you get too serious with all the technicalities, you have less fun during the shoot, and that defeats the whole purpose of this outing. I did not shoot to compete, I did not shoot to win, I was not proving any point. I went out to shoot because I wanted to, and because I enjoyed it. Even if some of the shots have some technical inaccuracies, it does not matter, really. 

Being out there, immersing myself in such a beautiful celebration was a privilege and blessing in itself. Seeing all the happy, smiling expressions brought so much joy to myself, and being able to capture such overwhelmingly positive emotion was not something we can do on any other given day. 


45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

17mm F1.8

45mm f1.8


General Camera Setup:
Aperture Priority, ISO400-3200, adjusted depending on lighting condition, EV compensation adjusted based on my view through the EVF, metering was center-weighted, Auto-White Balance. Main lens (if you have not noticed) was 45mm f1.8, shot mostly wide open, for shallow depth of field and to take advantage of the wide aperture in low light shooting. Noise Filter set to LOW, considering many shots were taken at ISO1600 and higher. 

I know I have been asked countless times about my camera settings, it was VERY difficult for me to explain that there is no one magic setting that will automatically create good shots in ALL situations. I received so many emails asking me what is the optimized setting for their Olympus cameras, and in all honesty, I change my settings ALL the time to suit the shooting condition. Surely I cannot use the settings for my street shooting in this particular Deepavali shoot! Also when I am shooting insect macro I cannot use these settings as well!

Also one VERY VERY VERY important thing to note, in important shooting events, I always share my settings and setup on how to capture the shots. I have actually share ALMOST EVERYTHING on my blog and keep nothing to myself. I have shared all my macro shooting setup and techniques, and I even have a video taken while I was shooting macro. I have shared my street shooting techniques, how to approach strangers and how I normally set my camera, to my favourite lens choices when I am shooting on the street. I have also shared my philosophies and thoughts on the streets, on how I always went against the rules and I do not fit into the general street photography crowd. I have also shared my street black and white post-processing tips. All my photographs have their EXIF data intact, you may download them or use an EXIF viewer plug-in on your browser to view the EXIF data and actually know what shutter speed, ISO or aperture I use.

So you can imagine, after ALL my effort writing here over the span of years, when I still get email asking me "how to set the camera", I really, really want to say "please just use the search function on my blog" but that would show that I am arrogant and did not care enough to entertain to questions from my readers. 

If you are first time reader here, or very new to my blog, PLEASE use the search box at the top of side bar. 

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

45mm F1.8

I hope you have all enjoyed the shots from the Deepavali shooting. It was one of my most enjoyable photography outings, and I strongly encourage you to explore this event next year if you have not done so.

I was shooting with some friends, and they have also updated their blogs, you can view their photographs (Micro 4/3 shooters) and write-ups here:


52 comments :

  1. Great shots. I think the last 3 are best -- or at least my favorites.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haha! I was reading your post and then I scrolled down to the end and saw what you wrote. It's up, finally. Not as many shots as you or Alex, though. Mine were mostly repetitive. And I love the portrait shot of the little boy in blue!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great shots Carmen, glad you decided to have it updated!

      Delete
  3. Last two shots are STELLAR, robin. Love them :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Robin!
    The last 3rd shot is spectactular!
    Love it
    And did you just walk into the temple without knowing any of them and start shooting?
    How did you do that??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hey Tan,
      Yes, I just walked into the temple without knowing any of them and started shooting.
      I just did it.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. Ohh and I thought you have a friend who brought you in!
      And good to know this doesn't apply to only ppl on the street =D
      Nice entry. Thanks

      Delete
    4. People in Malaysia are nicer than you think!

      Delete
  5. Hi Robin, I definitely agree with you, though I tend to prefer the 45mm over the 17mm, your photos had a better composition last year (using the 17mm). the last 3 using the 45mm are very good, the other using the 17mm is excellent as well. Actually and surprisingly I prefer your last year shots with the 17mm over these ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yeah, glad to see another person seeing that too!

      Delete
  6. What awesome result you have, Robin. Absolutely gorgeous. The combination of the colors and warm light is wonderful. Peter

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Robin,

    I'm kind of jealous, because unlike in Europe, it seems like people in your area are much comfortable being shot by a random guy.

    Are you using Olympus Viewer for processing your shots with the E-M5? The last time I tried that software, I really liked the images I was getting out of it, however I really missed the highlight recovery slider an the local adjustments.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes I used Olympus Viewer to convert the RAW to JPEG, with white balance and exposure correction. I further processed the image in Picasa.

      Delete
    2. I often spread the news that Olympus Viewer (now version 3 which can do the clever JPEG processing of TruePic 7) is exactly like the camera JPEG and the Olympus JPEG is signature excellent. I like how Version 2 or 3 has the JPEG adjustments in just a separate tab next to the RAW adjustments tab so you can do quite a bit in one screen - you can use the APICAL gradation adjustments, the NR adjustments, Exposure Curves adjustment and so on.

      However, people with more than one brand of camera often like a third party program, like Lightroom because their post processing skills can be learnt once and used for any brand of camera - I do not like LR - I feel actually, it requires more work to produce a satisfactory JPEG than Olympus Viewer. The third party program I do like as an alternative to Olympus Viewer is Corel Aftershot Pro and that has highlight recovery slider and yet produces a JPEG that is quite near Olympus Viewer without working too hard.

      Delete
    3. Olympus JPEG is alfready so good, that the main reason I use Olympus Viewer 3 is to ontain the original JPEG files. Some may say that this defeats the purpose of shooting RAW but I do a few important adjustments in the Olympus Viewer 3 such as exposure compensation and white balance correction, which by shooting RAW I would not lose image quality by much. Yet I still retain the awesomeness of Olympus JPEG.

      Delete
  8. Robin, several of these photos are truly outstanding! I especially like the ones where the peoples' faces are illuminated by the numerous flames from the candles. Absolutely beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Gregg! I love those scenes too, it only started happening much later in the event.

      Delete
  9. Hi Robin,
    Very striking shots. Make viewers feel they are part of the celebration.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great photos Robin!!! I am a fan of your street portraits and they translated well at this festival of lights =) The photo of the little boy in blue is amazing, but I would have loved to have seen it "portrait style" (ie with your camera turned over) so that the top of his head wasn't chopped off. Nevertheless great work!

    Sam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Sam,
      Thanks for the kind words. I like the boy in blue shirt too. The crop was intentional though!

      Delete
  11. Hi Robin, Do you feel your preference for last years festival compositions may be related to using a camera with a viewfinder vs no viewfinder?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy,
      Nope it did not have much to do with viewfinder actually. Was not exactly shooting at eye level much either this time around.

      Delete
    2. I embraced the PEN E-PL1 after I enjoyed LCD aming with the Olympus E-330 (sadly both are dead now). However if I suspect that the eye is not the aimpoint correctly, I feel more confident with EVF and examining the eye aimpoint better. I am still experimenting with the recent tech of facial recognition by these modern CDAF cameras that can pick left eye, right eye or nearest eye. The trouble with that is if you have more than one face in frame, the AF may pick the wrong face.....

      Delete
    3. I still cannot find myself trusting the face detection thing. I do my AF the traditional way. Not that the face detection is not accurate, just me having issues of trusting the camera haha.

      Delete
  12. Replies
    1. Thanks Sunil! Thanks for having us and being very welcoming.

      Delete
  13. Hi Robin,

    I have been following you for a while now and love your pictures. I'm considering to switch to Olympus from Nikon and have a question about your colors, they look so clean. I compared similar shot via the links you provided, but yours look much better (ex: PB027934.jpg). Can you share your secret in getting these amazing colors? Thank you so much!

    Rene

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey vstrmr,
      Thanks for the support and kind words. There is no secret. Olympus colors is amazing. That is one of the main reasons why I am staying with Olympus.

      Delete
  14. Three words: beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. How you cannot be completely satisfied with this work is beyond me, but if you think you can improve it further, by all means go ahead. I, for one, am in awe. Some shots are exceptional, masterpieces in the atmosphere, the happyness and (genuine) peacefulness they convey. Just lovely pictures of truly lovely people. I have the greatest respect for both.

    Bravo, Robin!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Come to think of it - actually, from a compositional point of view I kinda understand what you mean with some possible improvement (use the 17mm every now and then?). But, again, most shots truly are exceptional masterpieces. So beautiful! I'm gobsmacked.

      Delete
    2. Thanks Andre for the kind words. You were right, varying lenses will surely improve photography, providing different perspective and point of view.

      Delete
  15. Good stuff! I hope the subjects of your photos enjoyed themselves.

    I now have a desire to take the GH3 and the Four-Thirds Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 out into the night, with the adapter, of course. I found the 25mm f/1.4 to work fairly well just after sunset with the E-5, so I could imagine the great things it could do with a body that can focus to -4 EV.

    Funny how you tell people to search, and then you soon see "Paiseh I didn't read the manual, how do you set the camera?" :-D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sakamoto.
      And I am surprised you know the word "Paiseh" !! Where on earth did you learn that!

      Delete
  16. LOL! If you are first time reader here, or very new to my blog, PLEASE use the search box at the top of side bar.
    Ok, now on behalf of your other readers, I also ask, "You use Olympus Viewer and then Picasa - what particular adjustments do you use in either software to get the unique style of skin tone / colour and apparent sharpness where you see the skin hair, clean sharp eyebals and iris?" You know, when you get more financial, you need two bodies like our friend Ming Thein - one with 17mm, one for 45mm.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ananda,
      I don't have any special treatmennt to the photographs really. I even allowed full size downloads for original image samples during my review to display the original sharpness. I think it has something to do with resizing and optimizing the images for web display.

      Delete
  17. wow! l need to join you for a shoot. lovely light and ambience captured.
    Ummm, l have sinned by selling olympus and buying canon eos m, can I still join?

    -vincent

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Vincent,
      You are free to join of course

      Delete
  18. Trading is the Best Business Ever in the World.. All News updates about Forex Business, Latest Currency news updates, latest forex trading business updates, trading updates, forex trading latest news, forex brokers directory, forex brokers list, Dollars news affairs, Stock Markets, stock market news, stock market analysis, technology news, international forex markets, international forex business news and all updates about Forex Trading
    ForexAffairs.Com

    ReplyDelete
  19. Top Ten Classified Website List, Pakistani Classified Sites, USA Classifieds, Indian Classifieds, Entertainment Articles, Entertainment News, Entertainment Pictures, Bollywood, Hollywood and Lollywood Pictures and Videos, Entertainment Latest updates, Hot Entertainment News and Pictures Funny Entertainment Pictures, lol Pictures, Funny Pictures and every thing you want...
    www.hotcurrentaffairs.com

    ReplyDelete
  20. All Latest and Current Affairs, News updates about Forex Business. Latest Currency news updates, latest forex trading business updates, trading updates, forex trading latest news, forex brokers directory, forex brokers list, Dollars news affairs, Stock Markets, stock market news, stock market analysis, technology news, international forex markets, international forex business news and all updates about Forex Trading
    ForexAffairs.Com

    ReplyDelete
  21. Lol is the Laugh out of Laugh where you can Fun Unlimited and Laughing Unlimited. The Best Lol n Troll Network with the Name of Lols Gag... Troll Images, Prank Peoples, Funny Peoples, funny planet, funny facts, funny cartoons, funny movies pics, iphone funny, funny jokes, Prank Images, Fail Pictures, Epic Pictures, Lols and Gags, Lol Pictures, Funny Pictures.
    LoLsGag.Coma

    ReplyDelete
  22. Make Money Online is very easy now, In Internet system we have now best earning system without any work, Just Invest some Money into your Business and Make Perfect Life time Earnings with this Business.
    Join Now for Make Perfect Business and Earn Money online from home.
    www.hotfxearnings.com

    ReplyDelete
  23. http://robinwong.blogspot.com/2013/11/deepavali-festival-of-lights-my-second.html

    ReplyDelete
  24. Oh my, wonderful and magnificent shot! It seems that the merriment and the actual atmosphere of the occasion has been captured in these photos! Great job! Mind if I will pin some of these in my Diwali 2015 Pinterest board? I'd love to share those shots with candles. Happy Diwali!

    ReplyDelete