Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Experimenting and Adventuring

The weather has been absolutely phenomenal for photography all week. Not that I've been making the most of it, which would be heading to unique locales for a day's worth of shooting. But any time the weather shows itself to be conducive to image making, meaning it's not blisteringly hot, humid and hazy, I feel like I've wasted something if I don't at least snap a few images. Call it opportunist's guilt.

Monday I took the time to hang out with Autumn and Erika, a duo I've taken the company of for years now and thus photographed a great deal. We met at our usual haunt, the Starbucks right next to my apartment. The shenanigans were typical, idle chat and amusing recounting of stories. They've gotten used to my camera after so many years of it being fused with my hand whenever we're together. Much as I enjoy their company on its own merits, it's also nice that I can practice and experiment with my portrait style when hanging around them. For the most part they don't see the camera anymore, and thus I can snap away and capture the occasional high-class candid.

Monday's experiments centered around the Olympus art filters. I'd used them before with the XZ-1 but never tested the E-P3's handling of the effects. Mostly, my curiosity was whether or not it did the processing any differently. Once again, the XZ-1 impressed me in that it effectively handled the processing no differently than the E-P3, it simply featured fewer filters and more watered down versions of them. Not that either of those points are necessarily a bad thing, though, considering the optional effects featured on the E-P3 filters (such as starbursts) are pretty subtle in practical use. It's still neat that the effects are as varied and readily available as they are. While shooting Nikon equipment, I went through a "filter phase" in which I spent hundreds on effect filters from starburst to diffusion to spot focus. Deep down I knew all those effects could be attained in software but my mind rationalized the filter purchasing spree with the logic that it's always better to begin with an image taken with the effects in inherent to it, minimizing the tell-tale layer of Photoshop fakery. The latent purist in me won the battle. These days I usually find effect filters far too gimmicky in the first place, but when the effects are built into the camera, hell, why not have some fun and play around with them? If nothing else, I can easily see the soft focus filter mode working well under controlled studio shooting conditions for nicely smoothed portraits.

After our Starbucks loitering Autumn had it in mind to get herself a tattoo. I'd never even been to a tattoo parlor myself, so the experience was neat. It was everything I expected from such a punk-bohemian pastime - dim lights, casual atmosphere and skinny guys in plaid pants. When she was in the chair, Autumn had the most nonchalant expression on her face the entire time. Afterwards she'd tell me how much the process of getting the tattoo hurt her wrist, but having gotten a few of them over the years she's learned to deal with it. She took the pain like such a pro I couldn't help but to snap a few. Unfortunately I didn't have the little edge of speed I'd have liked to have, the only lens on me being the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6, so I shot wide as I could and ISO 800 to minimize my undoubtedly shaky hands. Ultimately, the results were pretty top notch. Much like prior cameras I've owned, the higher the ISO value gets when shooting the more prudent it is to shoot in black and white. It gives the image the kind of look and feel ASA 400 black and white films have, with speckled grain and good contrast. Again, Olympus' integration of filters impressed me, with a red filter option available when shooting in black and white which makes faces nice and bright and skin blemish-free. The plethora of JPG processing options is simply incredible, no matter what shooting situation I find myself in there's always some mechanism that can and does help me get the image I want. DPReview probably said it best when they completed their full review of the E-P3, RAW really is more of an optional luxury when paired with such a versatile JPG engine. Like heated side-view mirrors or headlight wiper blades.

Monday also saw me taking after the likes of Ken Rockwell with the bathroom self-portrait. I've actually taken a few of those... but in my defense I was drunk all those other times. Don't judge me!