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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Zuiko and a Giant

I was passing by the row of shops just after having dinner at Mak Jah's.

I was surprised to see this new landmark adorning the Putra Heights skyline at night. The bright neon signage just attracted me to go nearer and nearer. It was not a problem, just a few hundred yards behind the row of shop houses.

Driving by the empty streets, I was looking for the nice angle for the shoot.

I took out my E-3, and latched on the ED35-100mm F2.0. Lighting was not the issue, nor did the lack of a supporting tripod/monopod. All I need was good in-body stabilization and fast aperture. Apparently, I did not check the shutter speed; thus, I ended up with ISO1600. I could have gone down to ISO400 with the shutter speed just kicking in at about 1/15s. Somehow, I liked the texture of the shot. The noise added some gritty dimension to the image, reminded me of film.

Shooting at F2.0 also did not bother me although it was a landscape shot. Since this was based on 4/3 format, the depth-of-field was adequate to render the palm trees and the building in focus. There was a slight flare; as expected though as I shot handheld through the car's windscreen.

Considering the location just a few hundred yards from my house, my shopping days are going to be much easier. I just hope it opens by Chinese New Year. That will be just GREAT!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Zuiko and a Boring Friday Afternoon

I was at the office. Nobody was around, I guess they were taking extended lunch hours. See, when the big bosses were not around, this tended to happen.

There was this plant that was placed at the window sill with the nice landscape of Bangsar! The weather was just nice with the cloud forming. It was just waiting to be photographed!

Indeed it was a boring day, no e-mails, no phone calls..... I was in the brink of ZZZ-dom!!

Oh ya, during lunch, I managed to get myself a new Circular Polarizor for my 77mm threaded-lens. Being curious with the polarizor, and also nobody seemed to be in office, I quickly setup the shot.

Attaching the polarizor on the 14-35mm F2.0 SWD lens, with the FL-50R in RC-mode at the right side facing the white wall and bounced, an instant studio was created!

After many, many snaps, I was not happy with the shots. This in particular was due to the glass reflection. I have changed angle, changed flash output, shifted the polarizor; but nothing seemed to work. I sort of gave up, until I got this shot. Although there was still some residual reflection, it was minimal. I was somewhat glad with it. And it was the last shot!

This was the first shot, to gauge the ambient light with the background scene... it definitely very melancholic. The window frame added dimension to a somewhat sombre composition.

In order to save the shadows due to strong background light, I used the Shadow Adjustment Technology feature in the E-3 to extract the detail in the plant's leaves.
Without it, the whole foreground will just be a silhoutte.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Zuiko and Olympus E-30: A preview

I was approached by Olympus Malaysia to conduct a product review of the new upcoming Olympus E-30 DSLR.

The E-30 is a new DSLR designed to fill the large gap between the E-3 and E-520. Targeted at the enthusiasts market, the E-30 sports E-3 form factor with a shorter build. I suspect it is due to the smaller glass pentaprism, which shortens it by 1cm. Also, the weather-sealing magnesium alloy construction is not with the E-30. But, after handling it for about an hour during our meet, I can safely say that the build is still solid, and should survive a tropical drizzle.

Other key features it has similar with E-3 are the 11-point cross-hair AF system, slightly smaller viewfinder with only 98% coverage, slightly bigger "free-angle live view" 2.7" LCD screen, and 5 frames-per-second rapid continuous shoot. It also happily works with the HLD-4, too.

The E-30 brings new enhanced features and improvements to the fore.
  • A newly developed 12.3MP Live MOS sensor with the TruePicIII+ processor to produce higher quality image reproduction.
  • 6 Art Filters for in-camera image touch-up. These filters are: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, and Pin Hole.
  • 9 different Aspect Ratios: 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 6:6, 5:4, 7:6, 6:5, 7:5, 3:4. For me, I will mostly use the first 5 as these are my favorite aspect ratios.
  • Built-in dual axis level gauge to measure pitch & roll during image composition and capture. This is great for landscape and architecture shoots.
From the short session, I was quite pleased actually with the E-30. Although, being an E-3 user, I had my own prejudice towards the E-30 before handling it. It is now gone! In fact, the E-30 is a great complement to the E-3.

I will be getting the test unit next week, and will be able to provide a full insight into the real capabilities of the E-30. Focus of the review will be on the Art Filters and usability of the Live View in the field.

I just can't wait!!!!!!!!

* Image of E-30 courtesy of Olympus Corporation.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Zuiko and Leaves

One of my earlier workings with the E-system was the passion to shoot leaves, either in abstract or just detail forms.

The picture here depicts a few leaves on a branch with the blue sky as the background.

With just simple composition of positioning the shot from below, the bright blue sky served as a perfect background. With the morning sunlight shining, it added lighting aspect that enriched the shot.

I laid down underneath it, and with the 50mm F2.0 lens meticulously select the desired visual effect. Ample depth-of-field with the macro range was desired, so did stopping motion. Underexposure was a problem too, as the sky is dominant.

To get the shot, I set aperture to F8, shutter speed to 1/200s, and compensated exposure by +1EV.

I further did tonal enhancement in The GIMP to highlight the richness in color.

To my surprise, I receive an e-mail from an editor for a photo magazine in Holland. Eventually, this image was used by a Dutch Pro magazine as a sample for their E-510 review.


One of first foray to explore the tonal qualities of the E-3 was to shoot high contrast subjects.

Again, leaves were my choice. In this case, I overexposed the sky to whitewash, and purely extracted the rich green tones.

Green is a strong color represented in most D-SLR. This is due to the Bayer filter design principles that partition Green as 50% of the color representation, with Blue and Red at 25% each.

The soft subtleties of the greens can be seen clearly. The texture of the leaves are beautifully captured in great detail. The selection of shallow depth-of-field at close-up, adds texture to the image - where the details and off-focus elements of the textures are interleaved. At ISO100, the tones are at the most maximum, and represent the real capabilities of the camera.

Zuiko and the Swing

Watching children play is a delight. Watching them having fun, pure fun, is God given delight.

One day, I brought my daughter to the playground. She liked to play with the swing. While she was having a whale of a time, I quickly took a snap!

Quick response, with constant tracking on the eyes are the key elements of "nailing"this shot. No other tricks required.

For the static effect, and isolation with the background, I used the E-3 with 50mm F2.0 Macro lens, and chose wide aperture F3.2 and fast shutter speed 1/400s. Even in broad daylight, I had to bump up the ISO sensitivity to 400. Fill flash was used to stop the motion.

Further post-processing in monochrome emphasized the expression of satisfaction and joy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Zuiko and Portraits, Part 1


A snapshot of the soul... a picture to tell the whole story of a person... portraits!

I always like to shoot portraits; mostly candids, as my subjects are mostly children.

The details, the expression, the lighting, the mood, the background, the foreground, the focus, the de-focus, the bokeh, the sharpness, the eyes, the soul, the shadows, the highlights, the smiles, the sorrow... I can go on, and on....


A quick snap with the Zuiko Digital ED14-35mm F2.0 SWD lens yields an exquisite rendition of the children's expression. The subtlety of the monotones, coupled with the soft lighting from the background adds aura to the composition. Adequate bokeh qualities to blur the backgrounds adds silkiness to the textures. Eyes, yes, very sharp eyes!

In awe!

This meticulously composed image was done with care. Soft sunlight through the day curtain provided the adequate side lights to this composition. Flash was not used in this shot, but yet able to have a beautiful catchlight in the eyes. How was that possible?

Apparently, my son was watching the telly, and the reflection was caught in the eyes. Marvellous!

All I needed was a Zuiko Digital ED50mm F2.0 MACRO lens, and lots of patience.

My niece suddenly made the pose. I saw, I took the shot. Simple!!!

I was shocked to see the image turned out so nice, with the pair of eyes as the perfect centerpiece! Awesome!!

This was made with the Zuiko Digital 14-54mm F2.8-3.5 lens, at the 54mm end. A flash strobe was used to fill the image, bounced! Thus, the fill light on the hair, and soft shadows lining her arms. Soft Gaussian filtering was used to envoke the elusive feel in the composition. Bokeh was not adequate, but the tight crop was able to hide the obvious.

Portraits are fun. It is even more fun if the innocence are captured; real expressions, with the spur of the moment and the luck of exquisite lighting.

All you need is patience, a good lens, and the light. Any lens will do, and any light will do, too. As long as the subject is comfortable with your presence. That is all it takes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Zuiko and the Wasp

There is this wasp that always flies over my little flower patch. I always notice this happening around 11am. It was during one of those weekend that I actually waited for it to come; waited anxiously with my long telephoto lens.

E-3, HLD-4, ED50-200mm F2.8-3.5, EC-14

I was waiting under the porch, with a distance of about 15 feet to the flower patch. Then, after about 30 minutes, it came. I quickly setup for shooting, and waited for the perfect moment for the wasp to get into the frame that I wanted.

This shot was a sequence of shots, at about 4-5 frames, which turned out to be the best. The composition was just perfect! With a focal length of 283mm on the 4/3 system, the angle-of-view was similar to 566mm on a Full-Frame 135 system. Just imagine!

Oh ya! I shot this handheld, where the E-3's IS was just perfect, to stabilize my hands after long minutes of framing.
A little butterfly flew over before the wasp came, so I managed to make this shot.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Zuiko and Kuala Lumpur City Center

Kuala Lumpur City Center, or more popularly known as KLCC, is one of Malaysia's magnificent landmarks. The Petronas Twin Towers is the pinnacle landmark of KLCC, with its unique skybridge linking both towers. KLCC is not complete without its key park, with a beautiful spread of luscious greens and ponds, children's playground and water park, and jogging pathways outlining the park's perimeter.

E-3 & ZD14-54mm F2.8-3.5

The beauty of the scenery, with the centerpiece being the KLCC Park and KL Convention Center, was captured from the 17th floor of Menara Maxis.

Menara Maxis is just adjacent to the Petronas Twin Towers, along Jalan Ampang.

E-3 & ZD ED14-35mm F2.0 SWD

Storm clouds warned the coming of rain.

The oval lawn at the park added new dimension to this image as if the Petronas Twin Towers is actually situated in a vast flat area. The lack of perspective convergence did not help either to hide the sheer smallness of the lawn. In fact, this oval is just a tiny patch of opening a few hundred yards from the towers.

E-3 & ZD 14-54mm F2.8-3.5

Misty morning, a scene of Petronas Twin Towers and KL Towers, was captured from my old apartment located some 30 kilometers away!

E-500 & ZD 11-22mm F2.8-3.5

The park's fountain is the main showcase, and is rightly located at the center of KLCC.

E-510 & 14-54mm F2.8-3.5

This night shot was made simply with the help of modern camera technology. I framed the scene, and I shot the scene handheld. That was all it took.

KLCC is simply beautiful.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Zuiko and a Baby

Shooting babies is fun; because they don't move much. It's much easier than toddlers.

One requirement, though. Please switch off the flash!

35mm, F2.0, 1/60s, ISO1600

Looking at babies when you are in solace is relaxing, and puts delight to your soul.

14mm, F2.0, 1/60s, ISO1600

In this shot, my grandma was cradling her youngest great-grandson with the other 3 great-grandchildren hustle around. The drama of this shot entailed me to change it to monochrome. And I boosted the contrast to excite the situation.

35mm, F2.0, 1/60s, ISO1600

After a nice feed, the baby needed burping. Who else to give it other than mama.
The split of color and sepia incited the idea of different generations captured in a brief moment of time.

More images here:

*** A little technical here ***

With the E-3 and ED14-35mm F2.0 SWD lens, I used A-priority and I set the ISO to Auto with maximum limit to 1600. All of the shots were at F2.0 and about 1/60s shutter speed. The ISO ranged from 800 to 1600 depending on lighting.
All shots were originally in Vivid mode, and other settings was at default. Auto White Balance was superbly accurate.
I used Flickr's Picnik for post processing, and mostly used the softner filter to add the soothing mood to the images.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Zuiko and Facial/Body Expressions

I was asked by my friend, who was commissioned by our HR Dept. to create a video for our new hirings. My friend, whilst in charge of producing the video, had asked my help to set up a photo shoot for portraiture. The goal was to capture facial expressions that will make up part of the vidoe clip.

With the spirit of using everything in-house, my friend got hold of a staff who was keen to be the model of the shoot. She was able to illustrate what my friend had in mind, and the shoot was all done within 2 hours.

The make-shift studio was simple. We went to the HR training center, and used one of the presentation rooms. The white background was actually a "typical" white board, and to my delight, the surface was matte! What this meant was that my flash setup will be just perfect, without the worry of distracting reflections from the background.

Within minutes, I had setup the location shoot with the E-3 as the main camera, with the Zuiko ED35-100mm F2.0 lens. For the lighting, I used 2 E-system flashes; FL-50R on my left and FL-36R on my right. And I also switched on all the ambient lighting available in the room. There were also windows along the room to my right to allow some sunlight to irradiate into the room.

For the shoot, it was a team effort. My friend directed what he wanted the model to do, and all I did was to capture the facial and body expressions instanteneously. The E-system was up to the task, as I was able to setup continuous shooting with both flash. I set it to the E-3 maximum, which was 5 frames-per-second.

*** A little technical here ***

I set the E-3 to High ISO about 640, with 5FPS continuous shooting. Camera setting was at Manual Mode, with the Aperture at F2.8 and shutter speed at 1/125s. As for the ED35-100mm F2.0 lens, I set the Focus Limiter to 1.4m-3m setting to ensure minimal focus-refocus on the lens.
For the creative lighting, I programmed the on-board flash commander to communicate at full TTL with both flash using different channels. This was ensure the communication for each flash is independent.
For the main flash on my left, FL-50R, I set on Channel 1A with TTL -2.7EV. For the fill-flashon my right, FL-36R, I set on Channel 1B with TTL -1.7EV. Both these flashes were at about 6-10 distance to the model. Both flash head was pointed up 30 degree to ensure the ample illumination from the model's head to stomach.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Zuiko Wide Open into the Sun

There was this pot that perched on the window sill of the Level 17 Breakout area. Although it was the typical PVC pot that you could find in your local Giant, Tesco or Carrefour outlets, what struck me was the rattan weaving pattern. With the small leafy plant, and bright sunlight coming through the window, I saw a beautiful compositional shot.

The bright sun, blue sky, shadow details, backlit leaves, and a single flare. To me this image was quite melancholic, with a touch of hope. It felt silent, yet loud. The thin depth-of-field adds a surreal aura to the background, whilst maintaining the whole pot in focus. The added vigneting through editing in completed the mood of the image.

The details of the rattan weaves could be clearly seen, although the sunlight at the background should have rendered it totally black. The ability of the Zuiko ED14-35mm F2.0 SWD lens to minimize flare and E-3 Shadow Adjustment Technology made it possible. Simply, the combination was able to cope with such a demanding image parameters. I could have used the fill-flash method to capture the details, but it would have killed the impact that I was looking for!

This is the same composition, but I used the monotone touch to represent the shot in a different manner.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Zuiko at Night on Putrajaya Lake

It was not often that you get a chance to cruise on a special occasion under the moolight with the lake's breeze billowing your hair. I had this chance, and I can say, once in a lifetime. It was on the 8th of August 2008, or 08.08.08, and the Putrajaya Lake Cruise had a special dining experience on offer. To top this, I also took the chance to arrange for a birthday celebration for my beloved wife.

The cruise started at the ferry pier, just near the Putra Mosque. By 7.45pm we arrived and were ushered to a nice reception lobby with refreshments. The cruise started at 8pm.

It was actually a full cruise through the lake, and we were dining with cuisine from Hilton Putrajaya. I had chicken, my wife had salmon. All I can say was, the experience was breathtaking as we were cruising down the lake with the moonlight and city lights lining the lake's rim. It was purely romantic!!

Some beautiful scenic shots to savor the beautiful experience of the cruise.

Actuall, the cruise U-turn point was at PICC. There, the captain had the ferry to a halt for about 5 minutes. I went up the top of the ferry, for open view of the scene. It was beautiful!!!
** A bit technical here **
For the moon over PICC shot, I used my E-3 with the Zuiko Digital 14-54mm F2.8-3.5. This lens was a pocket rocket. With fast aperture and 4x zoom, the size is still small with less than 0.5kg.
I framed at 14mm, with the aperture at F3.5, shutter speed 1/4s and ISO2000. To ensure proper metering, I offset the exposure compensation to -1EV.
Thanks to in-body Image Stabilization (IS) feature, I was able to capture the image without blur, although the ferry was rocking its way on the lake's wake. It was truly amazing.

Also, throughout the cruise, we passed the bridges of Putrajaya. the following images are some that I managed to capture. The ferry was cruising at about 10-15knots, and I had to be quick to capture the bridges while the ferry was passing by. It was fast!

** A bit technical here **
The ferry was passing under the bridge. Quickly, I framed at 14mm at A-priority, with the aperture at F4, shutter speed 1/20s and ISO2000. To ensure proper metering, I offset the exposure compensation to -1EV.
Again the IS did the job for me to get blur-free images.

Not to be missed was to definitely have some beautiful portrait shots with the Putrajaya cityscape. Although the situation for photography was very difficult, I managed to pull it off.

** A bit technical here **
The biggest trick was to capture portrait with a dark background with the ferry moving and rocking. I used my E-3 with the Zuiko Digital 14-54mm F2.8-3.5.
I framed at 14mm, with the aperture at F2.8, shutter speed 1/15s and ISO2000. To ensure proper metering, I offset the exposure compensation to -1EV. Flash was used to illuminate my wife, at TTL -1.3EV.
With 4/3 system, the F2.8 actually provide a similar Depth-of-Field of F5.6 on a full-frame 135 system. Thus, the portrait is already at optimum setting.

One thing I can say about the experience; It was out of this world!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Zuiko at a Rugby Tourney

Rugby has always been my passion sport. Although I follow the Barclays Premier League religiously, it is more of watching quality matches; i.e. whenever the Big Four meet. But for rugby, it is different. I will watch if the basic skills are mastered by the players for a very fast flowing game. Even at local club level, I am intrigued. For example, the latest COBRA 10s tournament. The level may not be as high as the 7s game, but to see locals compete for the cup level is very heartening, indeed.

And the thing was, I only knew about it on Saturday morning 8am when I was having breakfast at Syed's Section 3 Shah Alam. I saw the news at the back of a newspaper while someone was reading it. Straight away, I finished my breakfast and went to Stadium MBPJ at Kelana Jaya.

On Saturday, the matches were the preliminaries, and the games were not very fast and engaging. The crowd was poor too. Around 20-30 paying supporters. Yeah, the ticket was RM10 for 2 days, with an RM5 meal voucher. On Sunday, the mood picked up, as the paying supporters reached the thousands. The atmosphere was good, a bit short of electrifying, though!

While enjoying the game, I snapped the action. One thing for sure, this enabled me to get closer to the action as the pictures recorded the gritty moments of the matches. And the weather was just superb for both good old-fashioned rough rugby and great action high quality photographs.

More pictures can be viewed here:

Scenes off the field.

Action on the field.

Some stadium images.

*** Some technical info ***
All action images were captured with the E-3, HLD-4, ED35-100mm F2.0 lens & EC-14 teleconverter for further reach. In the morning, the sunlight was shining from behind; thus providing great illumination for my shots. I used A-priority mode to emphasize shallow depth-of-field to isolate the action from the background. Shutter speed was very high, at 1/1000s although ISO was ramped down to 100. White balance was set to "daylight", and color set to Natural with Contrast -1 (the sunlight provides very high contrast).
To my amazement, all of the images were very crisps (other than user error), and no post-process was done except for cropping and resizing.
The stadium scenes were captured by the ED14-35mm F2.0 SWD lens.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Zuiko of the Past

I started into photography back in 2002, when I got myself an OM-1 film SLR with a couple of Zuikos: 50mm F1.4 (SC) and 75-150mm F4 (SC). My passion grew with other acquisition throughout the years, namely in 2005 when I got an OM-4 with a slew of fine lenses: 28mm F3.5 (SC), 50mm F1.8 (MIJ), 135mm F2.8 (SC), 200mm F4 (SC) and 35-105mm F3.5-4.5 (MC). Among my favorite lenses were the 28mm and 35-105mm.

And I also started to experiment with Kodak Royal Gold films. Slowly, after a couple of years, I moved towards Fuji Reala 100. The reason is simple; Fuji Reala produced the most exquisite skin tones and natural colors for any consumer grade film. And now, the film can be had for RM7 per 36 exposure roll.

*** A little technical stuff, here ***
The shot of Putra Mosque was done with the OM-4 and 28mm F3.5 lens. Using the Auto mode with Off-the-film metering and Hyperfocal focusing, I only have to care on composition without having to worry about over/under-exposure or out-of-focus subjects. Using old manual camera system like the OM-system, can be very fast or even faster than modern DSLR, given a certain situation with the proper settings. The film used was the Fujifilm Reala 100 with the aperture at F11.0 deep depth-of-field. Postprocessing of the negative was done via the Canoscan 4200F scanner at 3200dpi, and converted to monotone. Additional contrast was added to accentuate the mood, and a tighter crop was needed to solely focus on the mosque.

Some shots made using various bodies and lenses.

OM-2000; 70-210mm F4.0-5.6

OM-4; 35-105mm F3.5-4.5

OM-4; 50mm F1.8

OM-4; 28mm F3.5

OM-4; 135mm F2.8