…keep on turning neon burning up above
And I’m just high on the world
Come on and take a low ride with me girl
On the tunnel of love”
More old school photography. Pentax 645IIn with Pentax 45-85mm f4 lens and Fujicolor 160s colour negative film.
The title of the post is part of the lyrics to the Dire Straits hit song “Tunnel of Love” released in 1980 on the Making Movies album which was a particular favourite of mine back then and still gets played now.
It has been a very exciting two weeks here at Paul Amyes Photography Towers. A little note from the Fed-Ex man turned up in the mail box saying he wanted to deliver me something. To say I was perplexed was an understatement as I hadn’t been bashing the plastic in an orgy of online shopping. So I dutifully walked up to the depot (its only 500m) up the road, and collected it. On getting it home I found inside a was a shiny new Olympus OM-D EM-10 (which shall just be referred to as the EM-10 henceforth) and an offer to have for long-term testing and evaluation. Woooohooo! A new toy to play with.
So two weeks later I’m siting down and trying to marshal my thoughts about the experience thus far. I think that I should give a little background. My first 35mm camera was an Olympus XA2 and since then I have owned OM1, 2, 4, 20, and 40’s, an XA4, an AF10, a C720 UZ and more recently an EP-2. I was shooting weddings professionally with my OM4 up until 2005 when one sad day it broke down and the repairman said there were no more parts to fix it. I then had an expensive dalliance with Canon, which no matter how hard I tried I could not turn into fully fledged relationship because the spark just wasn’t there. I’ve used other cameras and I really enjoyed them – Voigtlander Bessas, Pentax 645, Panaonic LX-5 all spring to mind, but I have to confess that the EM-10 is the first camera I’ve ever used that has made me want to hurl it across the room and then jump up and down on the pieces in sheer frustration. My EP-2 is my all time favourite camera to use. I accept its idiosyncrasies and can work round them because the whole process is so enjoyable. I use it as my travel camera and for multimedia projects. The EM-10 I thought would be an ideal replacement.
Well lets talk about the good stuff. The camera looks drop dead gorgeous and it feels just right in the hands. My father always used to say that I had hands like bunches of bananas yet this small camera feels just right. In fact it such a tactile experience I’ve found that I often just pick it up to fondle and just hold. I know, I know it just sounds so wrong, but for me a camera has to actually feel good in the hand. I like cameras that become transparent and don’t get in the way of taking photos.
Olympus when they introduced the 16Mp sensor with the EM-5 were onto a sure-fire winner. Its origins were, and still are hotly debated on internet forums and while most accept that it is from Sony a few diehards are like the Birthers in the US arguing that it comes from Panasonic. Personally I don’t care where it comes from, all I know is that the latest iteration in the EM-10 is very good. The dynamic range and the pixel amount are just about perfect for my needs. If you want more details then DXO or DPReview can shed more light on the technical aspects.
I very much like the EVF. When I bought the C720 UZ in 2002 I was convinced that EVFs were the future. The EVF in the EM-10 is not the same as the one in the flagship EM-1 or in the VF4, but it is better than the VF2 and the one in the EM-5. It is crisp, has a good refresh rate, and I find that I can focus manually quite accurately which is better than I can say for the viewfinders on many dSLRs. Where my EP-2 used to frustrate me was that I could not use the viewfinder and a flash, it had to be either or. I like having the EVF built in to the camera. Speaking of flash the EM-10 is the first in the series to have a pop up flash. I can’t see myself using it as a flash, but it can be used as a remote control for off camera flashguns and in that mode it works excellently and I can see myself using the function a lot when I start photographing orchids in spring. The rear screen is nice, it is the first tilt and touch screen that I’ve used and I like both features. The aspect ratio of the screen is 3:2 rather than 4:3 so you have black bars at the edges when shooting in the native 4:3 format. In the strong Aussie sun the screen is hard to see, I think this to do with it being a LCD rather than an OLED as in the other OMDs.
The 3 axis IBIS is a down grade from the previous models 5, but it works very well and the video below demonstrates that. With my 17mm f2.8 I’m able to get sharp images at 1 second which I find amazing. It works very well in video mode in conjunction with digital image stabilisation and it possible to capture steady video without the need for a rig or monopod. Many have poo pooed the video quality of Olympus cameras as being not suitable for serious work because there is only 30fps and a maximum bit rate of 24Mb/s in 1080p. Well I would have to say that while I do shoot a fair bit of video it is only destined for YouTube or converting to SD for DVDs that my elderly relies can play. So for those purposes it is more than adequate. The video clips below are straight out of the camera, nothing has been done to them apart from adding subtitles and a sound track. I’ve uploaded them to YouTube in 1080 so you can see what the camera actually produces. Any artefacts you may see will be a result of the compression YouTube uses. The only thing about the video function I don’t like is that there is nowhere to plug an external mic or recorder in. Yup no accessory port under the hot shoe and no 3.5mm socket. Bad Olympus, very bad!
Ok as I have just started with a fault I’ll move on to them. I like shooting HDR panoramas. I know many will consider that as a crime against humanity, but I like doing it. The EM-10 has both HDR and panorama modes. Can they be used in conjunction? NO! Ah well back to shooting them manually. I’ve programed the function button on my 12-50mm lens to turn exposure bracketing on. Nice it means I don’t have to delve deeply through the notorious Olympus menus. Not so nice is that the bracketing is still limited to 3 frame at -1, 0, and +1 EV. Come on Olympus it is 2014, your sensor has great dynamic range lets at least have 2 stop intervals.
Focus peaking is a very nice feature and it works very well, but as a default straight out of the box it will only work with native m4/3 lenses that have electronic contacts in the lens mount. I searched the manual and there is no mention of focus peaking with legacy glass. I searched the internet high and low and there seemed to be a great deal of confusion as to whether focus peaking could be activated with old lenses. After some fiddling around I found that if you assign a button to activate it you can use it with adapted lenses. Hoorah! But you can’t use it in video. Boo!
Speaking of the manual it deserves special mention. It should be held up as an example to all consumer manufacturers as an example of how not to write a manual. I wanted to test the new live composite function. I shoot a lot of night photos and this looked like it could really be good and save time faffing around in Photoshop with blending layers. Did the instructions tell you how to use it? No. Did Olympus Australia’s website shed any light on how to use it? No. After searching for ½ a day on the internet I found a photo forum in Singapore where one of its members had posted some shots using the function and enough information for me to work it out. Unfortunately since then the local farmers have been burning off their fields and the Avon Valley is choking to death on the smoke haze which means no clear night skies. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to see the stars and photograph them.
I won’t say any more at the moment as I want to use the camera some more. However, I find the EM-10 to be a curious beast. Olympus is going after the first time DSLR buyer with this model, you know the people who buy something like a Canon Rebel or the Nikon equivalent because they want to be able take better pictures while on holiday, or photograph the kids sports day etc. Well both Canon and Nikon know that market very well and they sell their cameras by the boat load because they are relatively cheap, easy to use and can still satisfy the user as their skills grow. The EM-10 is a bit more expensive but thanks to the awful menu structure Olympus insists on continuing to use and poor instructions it is not easy to use. I have a feeling that there will be a lot of EM-10s for sale on EBay in six months time with a lot of frustrated buyers being either put off photography as a whole or buying something from Canikon. I think it is a great shame. The EM-10 could have the makings of a great camera, the sensor is terrific, it looks great, it handles well, but the user interface is absolutely appalling. I’m all for giving people the option of custom configuration, but on a camera targeted at the beginner who doesn’t know their f stops from their ISOs it is not as it just adds to confusion with such a frustrating UI. The EM-10 is like the curates egg – good in parts.
The pearl in the Avon Valley, York is approximately 100 Km east of Perth. First settled in 1831 it is WA’s oldest inland town and it prospered as an important agricultural centre. The Gold Rush saw York become an important commercial centre and fueled its rapid growth. Many of York’s historic buildings date from this era and it is the number of intact Colonial and Federation buildings that has earned the town its National Trust classification of historic town. The main focus of activity is Avon Terrace and walking along it is like stepping back in time. The town hall was built in 1897 and was renovated in 1911 to give it the large and grandiose Romanesque entrance hall that is seen today. Next door is the Imperial Hotel opened in 1886 and is a particularly fine example of a railway hotel. It was the first two storey commercial building in York to be made out of local stone.
The Castle Hotel , just a little further up Avon Terrace, has the distinction of being the oldest inland hotel in WA and was built by ticket of leave men from the York Convict Hiring Depot in 1853. Other significant buildings on Avon Terrace are the Courthouse and Gaol Museum and Settlers House .
Also on the terrace is the York Motor Museum which houses the Peter Briggs collection of one hundred and fifty vehicles that range from an 1894 Peugeot to a Williams FW07 which Alan Jones drove on his way to becoming the 1980 World Grand Prix Champion. The Residency museum on Brook Street ((08) 9641 1751) is all that remains of the original Convict Hiring Depot which was built in 1852. In 1867 the building became the residence of the colonial governor and now houses an interesting museum. Close by is the old hospital building which opened in 1896 in response to a cholera outbreak in the Goldfields.
In spring the surrounding areas of York become festooned with a huge variety of wildflowers, many of which can be found on the roadside verges. If you wish to see more prolific displays the main wildflower sites are:
Beverley is 130 Km east of Perth and is a quiet agricultural town with its own distinct character which has been created by the wide range of architectural styles used to build it. A walk down Vincent Street will take you from Colonial, to Federation, to art deco to a 1960’s geodesic dome. It all sounds a bit of a hodge podge but it really hangs together well. There is a collection of farm machinery at Ferguson’s Machinery Shed on Hunt Road that recalls Beverley’s by-gone years as an important agricultural hub.
The Railway Station was designed by George Temple-Poole and built in the Victorian Tudor style in 1886. It ceased to be a working station some years ago and has been renovated and converted into an arts centre. The Beverley Art Collection is on permanent display, there are resident artists, workshops and an outdoor theatre. The Dead Finish Museum was originally a hotel of the same name, its displays give an insight into what life was like in the early days of the district.
Outside of town are the Yenyenning Lakes which are a haven for birdlife and used for water sports, for directions ask at the Visitor Centre. Also out-of-town is Avondale Discovery Farm which has an 1850’s era homestead and is a working farm run by the National Trust using historic agricultural machinery and techniques.
All the details for these events can be found at www.beverleywa.com/calendar.html .
It only seems like the other day I was blogging about winter coming and getting my wood supply in. Now after a very mild winter spring is breaking out all over. The fruit trees in my garden have been keeping the local bees very busy. And further afield the native terrestrial orchids are starting to bloom. I’ve never known them start quite so early, and I thought that last year was a prolific year, but this spring is looking to be even more bountiful.
Clicking on the photos takes you through to my gallery if you wish to make a purchase.
The Murray River flows westwards past Pinjarra and into the Peel Inlet, which is a roughly circular body of water covering an area of 75 sq. Km (approx. 29 square miles). Although around 75% of the surrounding land has been cleared for farming or housing the inlet is incredibly rich in wildlife. The Inlet is home to crustaceans such as blue swimmer crabs and king prawns, and fish species include black bream, tailor and cobbler. Birdlife International has designated it an Important Bird Area because it supports large populations of Fairy Terns and 1% of the world’s population of Red Necked Stints, Sharp Tailed Sandpipers, Banded Stints, Red Necked Avocets and Red Capped Plovers. At the northern end of the inlet a channel passes through Mandurah and runs out into the ocean and this allows dolphins to visit. At the southern end the inlet combines with the Harvey Estuary. The combined waterway covers 136 km², or 52 square miles, and is extensively used for recreational purposes particularly fishing, crabbing, and sailing (including house boating). Because it is sheltered from the sea by a line of very large sand dunes the beaches and bays are popular with families for picnics and barbecues.
As previously stated the city of Mandurah sits at the top of the Peel Inlet. The name is thought to have come from an Anglicized variant of the Nyoongar word mandjar, which translates as meeting place. European settlement commenced in 1828 when Robert Peel and his workmen arrived from England. Initially the settlement grew very slowly and by 1898 was comprised of 160 people. A mining and industrial boom saw Mandurah grow rapidly from a sleepy beach resort to one of the fastest growing suburbs in Australia. One of the notable features is the canal developments. If nearby Kwinana and Rockingham are synonymous with working class bogan culture then Mandurah is home to the CUB, or Cashed Up Bogan. This can be evidenced by taking a cruise around the Mandurah canals and seeing the opulent houses that line the banks complete with swimming pools, expensive boats, barbecue pontoons and Balinese themed gazebos. In the high-rise developments of the marina precinct it is not unusual to see on a weekend residents dropping a fishing line from their luxury apartment balcony while enjoying a coldie.
Mandurah is now a major tourist destination in Western Australia and is heavily marketed as the gateway to the state’s popular South West Region. Apart from fishing there are also dolphin cruises and the more energetic can hire boats, canoes or jet skis to explore the water ways. In the culinary department there is everything from the usual fast food joints to the finest waterfront dining where it possible to eat locally caught seafood and drink local wines and boutique beers. The Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, near the marina and foreshore, not only plays host to some of the world’s top performing artists but also puts on exhibitions and hosts workshops for the visual arts as well. Take a walk through time with the inner City Heritage walk trail (maps are available from the tourist centre) and see and learn about the notable people and places that shaped Mandurah into what it is today. There is also a public art walk trail along the foreshore and marina that is fun and interactive. Through the year there are several major events that fun for the family to visit, the main one being The Channel Seven Mandurah Crab Fest that while ostensibly being about enjoying the locally caught crabs actually show cases all that Mandurah has to offer on one glorious day in March. There are cooking demonstrations, arts competitions, children’s stage shows, music and the International Waterski & Wakeboarding Federation (IWWF) World Cup competition which attracts the best competitors from all around the world. For those wishing to visit any time of year is good, but summer is when it all really happens and it seems as if the whole population of Perth comes out to play over the Christmas and New Years holidays and the city basks in its brash exuberance.
The Foreshore Heritage Trail tells the history of Mandurah’s pioneer settlers and Mandurah’s indigenous cultural history, showing places of historical and cultural interest and community art installations.
A journey down the Murray River to the sea is like seeing a microcosm of Western Australia. You have the ancient culture of the indigenous Nyoongar, the story of European settlement, mining and agriculture booms, amazing scenery with incredible biodiversity, and fantastic recreational activities. All this just lies on the southern doorstep of Perth.
Wandering around with some time to kill is always a good excuse to do some photography. Photography gives me the perfect pretext for being nosey and I love roaming down alleys and back streets just in the hope of finding something interesting. I was attracted to this scene because of the big slabs of intense colour. The greens of the wall really made the blue of the rubbish bins vibrate and pulse, and the red accents of the bin lids really set the whole scene off.
We have become so familiar with colour photography that we don’t realise how powerful colour can be so visceral that it’s like being punched in the guts. I first became fully aware of this when I saw some photos of a bull-fight by Ernst Haas and now whenever I think of bull fighting those images are so indelibly etched on brain they come to mind immediately and bring up the raw emotions I felt when I first saw them. At this time I was shooting black and white film because that is what serious photographers did and I really didn’t make the connection between what I was doing photographically and what Haas was doing. Shortly after I started subscribing to the English magazine Creative Camera and that introduced me to the work of American photographer Pete Turner. That had the profound effect of making me buy bucket loads of Kodachrome and Fujichrome 50 RD – the precursor to Fujichrome Velvia.
My earliest successful purely colour photograph was taken while on honeymoon in Amsterdam in January 1986. I can still remember taking it as if it were yesterday. Shortly after a trip to Santorini in Greece and the discovery of polarizing filters and I was completely hooked. When we moved to Australia I found the intensity of the light could make your eyes hurt while looking at certain colours and that’s when I coined the phrase “retina ripper”.
I must admit that summer is my least productive time. Generally it is very hot here in York with temperatures over 40℃ (104℉) and this I feel is not really conducive to any form of artistic inclination. Endless blue skies and the intensity of the sunlight also make for boring photos. So my attentions wander to the studio and I play around with still life, this way I’m in air-conditioned comfort and I’m still able to take photos. I happen to believe that like many activities if you don’t keep practicing your skills will diminish. Still life is a very interesting genre as it forces us to make a photo rather than take a photo as you are in control of everything. Composition and lighting is everything in photography and I think the skills learnt with still life transfer to other genres.
The kitchen studio
You don’t need anything elaborate to do this. I tend to work on the kitchen table. Backdrops are made from old sheets, some of which I have painted, that are suspended by ‘A’ clamps from the exposed beams in the ceiling. Unfortunately my kitchen is not orientated to make the best of available light and the windows are very small so I rely on artificial light sources namely flash. I already had a couple of speedlites in my camera kit so it made sense to use them as the light source. I raided E-Bay for stands and light modifiers as I didn’t want to drop a bundle. For $70 AUD I got a couple of light stands, 2 shoot through umbrellas and I made my reflectors from off cuts of mounting board.
Behind the scenes shot of the set up for the shot “Potted Feathers” showing the lighting.
Subject matter is usually anything to hand. Found objects, knick knacks, fruit, vegetables, tools, books anything can be used. It’s a case of once you’ve found something thing about how you’re going to light it so as to bring out it’s character. You could explore the various traditions of still life and use your compositions as allegories to tell stories or illustrate issues that are relevant to you. I find it really engrossing and time passes really quickly as I play around with the composition and lighting. As I said previously I primarily work on the kitchen table shooting small stuff. For anything that is potentially messy I move out to the shed. But if you have the room you could create really large tableaux. For some inspiration a mate of mine, Jules, has fashioned a series of travel photos that look like late 19th Century postcards from Indochina. He drew his inspiration from David Levinthal who has established a whole fine arts practice from this. Have you got access to Lego or other toys, well Mike Stimpson has built a whole photographic practice out of it.
If you like playing with food then see what English photographer Carl Warner does in the video below.
So next time you’re stuck in the house at a loose end give still life a go. You’ll have some fun, increase your understanding of composition and how to use light and who knows maybe you might be so enamored with it that you become a still life maestro.
I wasn’t very happy with the first slide show I did of photos from this years FotoFreo. It was unfortunately a rush job and the work wasn’t really up to par and it has been bugging me for a while. Today I sat down and re-edited and I’m much happier with the result.