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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Zuiko and Hello Goodbye


Well, the decision was made.

E-5 with Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm F2.0 SWD
30mm, f/2.5, 1/320s, ISO200, -0.3ev

With the coming of E-5, the E-3 and E-30 had to go. There's no two-ways about it. I don't really shoot that much. The thing is, when the buyers asked about my shutter count, I found both cameras registered low figures. The E-3 only had about 17k and E-30 a meager 5k. With the E-5 being rated at 150k, I believe consolidating into a single body is the way to go.

From the 2 cameras, I find more nostalgia with the E-30. This is because of this camera was when Olympus found me. I remember vividly to this day the events that happened. The day when they asked me to review the E-30 in December 2008. Boy, was I proud to be an Olympian - to be recognized by the camera makers themselves. What an honor.

Now, with the E-30 gone, a new chapter in image making surfaces. I need new ideas, new perspectives, new point-of-views. The E-5 should push me to new limits of imagination and creativity. I wonder how to do that, though.

All dried up!

Sadly, I actually went into photographer's rut and malaise during the middle of this year. With dearth of ideas and inspiration, I rarely picked up the E-s. Maybe it's a natural progression, I was not sure. One thing for sure, I was glad it was only for a few months.

I need a push. A push of inspiration.

Some friend advised me that inspiration comes with effort. Maybe that's how I should approach the E-5. I should put more effort to explore the things that are foreign to me. Naturally, fresh new ideas should flow, and my work should flourish into a newer dimension. That's my motivation with the E-5!

E-5 with Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm F2.0 SWD
14mm, f/8, 1/320s, ISO200, -0.3ev

For now, I bid farewell to my E-3 and E-30... May you find good use with your new masters!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Zuiko and Dramatic Tone for Landscaped Portraits

I am still warming up with the E-5. Though it is mostly based on the E-3, the technical jump has challenged my creativity to a new level. Notably on the technical improvements are the image quality ranging from ISO100 to ISO1600 with the excellent sensor pixel sharpness. With my collection of F2 zooms, this has opened a plethora of situations with regards to exposure value parameters (aperture, shutter speed, and sensor sensitivity). On the creative improvements, the addition of Art Filter 10 Dramatic Tone and Hi-Def video at 720p have pushed a new level of imaging possibilities.

E-5 with Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm F2.0 SWD
22mm, f/8, 1/100s, ISO200, -0.3ev

Recently, I have been focusing a lot on the Dramatic Tone art filter. And why not? This new filter beckons to be explored. I started with simple landscape shots during my E-5 review. The 3-day loan was not long enough for me to explore its creative possibilities. Only now do I have the time to explore the beauty of the E-5.

The previous blog entry showed how the Dramatic Tone art filter interacts with wireless TTL flash setup. The diffused lighting seems to bid very well with the filter. I really like the output. I am looking forward to explore different lighting setup with this filter.

In this entry, the exploration of the Dramatic Tone filter with portraiture against strong backlight; in this case direct sunlight, was done. It's simple, actually. I put my composition setup as shooting landscape, meaning small aperture (f/8 or something like that) and pseudo hyperfocal distance focusing technique (not that I use Manual focus, but during Auto Focus, I keep in mind the hyperfocal distance relationship towards the subject to achieve image in-focus sharpness across the frame).

And I purposely did not use the flash for fill-in, as I really wanted to explore the capability of the filter to lift the near silhouette subject, in this case my ever-willing son.

To my surprise, the filter did a very good job. No doubt there was still noise even at base ISO200, but considering that the filter lifted easily about 3 to 4 stops of exposure, I considered this to be very good indeed. I doubt whether the E-3 or the E-30 can deliver this quality (just take a look at the SAT output). The TruePic V processor really shines!

In case, if you noticed, the solar ghosting and flares were also tamed. With the Dramatic Tone tendency to exaggerate contrast, I was smitten with the clear and crisp output. This was practically due to the Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm F2.0 SWD lens. The optical properties for this lens was just phenomenal!

Hmmm.. what's next? Maybe shooting with the Circular Polarizer (C-PL) with wireless TTL Flash. That sounds interesting. The color saturating properties of the C-PL should produce more vivid output to the already eye-popping Dramatic Filter effect.

Now... where did I put my filter pouch?!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Zuiko and Flashed Dramatic Tone


Yesterday, I bought a back-issue photo magazine, if I was not mistaken it was the American Photographer. I like to read up old pro-grade magazines because to buy them new is very expensive, in the territory of RM40 for an issue. The old ones, about 5-6 months old, is about RM10.

I was particularly interested to read the article about lighting technique by Joe McNally. Apparently, the magazine showed Joe's work in Petaling Street right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Now I remember, Joe came here for a workshop early this year. The article was very interesting, especially about the part that he shot with full wireless TTL flash. That's very me, too!!

E-5 with Zuiko Digital ED14-35mm F2.0 SWD + FL-50R
19mm, f/6.3, 1/125s, ISO200, -3.0ev

Looking at his techniques and gears, I could not stand the fact that he used the Lumiquest Softbox III on his SB-900's. Prior to this, I did not hear pleasant comments about this box. I checked with a few flash shooters that I knew, and none have much good to say. But, looking at Joe's results, I might be missing something here. A quick rush to the nearby camera store, J-One at AmCorp Mall was a Godsend! They had a unit. Without hesitation I bought it immediately. On the box, it literally stated that it only works with full TTL flash.

Duh, now I get it why there were some unpleasant comments about it. Lucky me, I am a full TTL flash shooter. I just couldn't stand Manual or Auto flash settings!

Now, having gotten the E-5 a couple of days back, I couldn't resist waiting any more. Quickly I set up the flash on the Manfrotto table-top tripod, and do a rapid TTL flash exposure setting (-3ev on the body, +1 on the flash); this setting will get me the blue sky background. All I needed was the subject. A good thing though. My kids were in a very good mood for a photoshoot. Without much hassle they did the Ultraman and Barbie poses. Shooting was a breeze, both on the photographer and the models.

E-5 with Zuiko Digital ED14-35mm F2.0 SWD + FL-50R
17mm, f/10, 1/250s, ISO200, -3.0ev

I just loved the combination of Dramatic Tone effect with Fill-flash effect. The subject and background just popped up. No post-processing required; the output was just right!!

The E-5 continues to intrigue me in ways I have yet to fully phantom!! This is indeed the best camera Olympus have ever produced, even easily trumping the OM-4!! ( I have the OM-4 in the dry box, the shutter is jammed and I have yet to get it fixed. Bummerrrr!!!).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Zuiko and the E-30

Two days back, I picked my E-30 from the Olympus Service Centre. Again, I was not charged for the service. Thanks, Olympus Malaysia. The problem with my E-30 was the jumping shooting mode, particularly the A, P and Art Filter mode. The technician claimed that the mode dial contacts are dirty. After a whiff of cleaning, true to his word, the mode dial is working normally.

With all the hype of the E-5 running around the forums, I still find myself at awe with the E-30. Clearly designed for the advanced amateur, this little wonder surely deliver the great images. It is in most technical aspects far more superior than the E-3, in which I already sold to a charming gentleman.

After more than 21 months with it, I admittedly still not able to use it to its most capable potential. I remember when Olympus Malaysia explicitly wanted to tout its blazing fast continuous AF with 5fps, and its groundbreaking Art Filters. This was when the rest of the world already shooting with 7-8 fps and hi-def video. Call Olympus nuts, but the E-30 stood by itself. By a far margin it's not the best seller, but I bet it is still the finest designed 4/3 camera.


Because it does not have the aura of complication like the E-3/5, or the bias of rank-beginner like the E-620. This little gem is so refined that many of the things it can do are directly adopted to the E-5, without further development. To hear that Olympus is going to cease its succession really break my heart. Come on, this great camera, the finest in Olympus stable deserves a successor. Call it the E-35, and be done with it.

This jewel is not big nor small, is not heavy nor light; all powerful, it is just right!!!

And that's all it takes to make a great camera.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Zuiko and Beef Rendang


Today is Eid Adha, the celebration of sacrifice and performing hajj in Mecca. In this land of gastronomic paradise, feasting is very essential to complete the celebration. Traditionally, the rendang dish is synonym to the Eid festivities, be it Adha (sacrifice) or Fitri (rebirth).

For this year, I have decided to make beef rendang - after learning that my in-law is making chicken rendang. A quick rush after work Tuesday to get the essential ingredients ready, I worked on the cooking later in the evening.

For starters, rendang is one of the signature dish in the Malay cuisine. It's the festivities food. A must for big occasions. It is a very rich dish comprising mainly on the meat, coconuts (lots of them), seed spice, root spice and leaf spice. The preparation time is tedious as the amount of ingredients range from fresh to pre-processed sources. For the authentic rendang lover, all of the pre-processed ingredients are made fresh prior to cooking (which significantly extends the tediousness of preparing this magnificent dish).

E-30 with Zuiko Digital ED50mm F2.0
Beef Rendang with Rice Ketupat

I decided that 800g of meat, cut into bite-sized cutlets should be enough for the feasting of 6-8 adults. The coconut was freshly grated at the nearby shop, and I pressed about 600ml of it with a cup of warm water. After a few straining to separate the spent coconut flesh, the thick coconut milk (santan pekat) was ready.

Next came the root spice preparation. I used about 20 shallots to 5 garlic pieces, 6 inches of ginger (halia) with 5 inches of galangal (lengkuas) and 6 stalks of lemon grass (serai). All of these aromatics were pureed with a dash of warm water to make a paste.

Then, the seed spice was prepared. About a tablespoon of coriander seed (ketumbar), 50g dry chili (to boil) and a tablespoon of curry mix. All these were pureed with warm water to make a paste.

Finally, the leaf spice. I used 4 large size tumeric leaves (daun kunyit) and 10 kaffir lime leaves (daun limau purut). These were finely sliced into strips of roughly 2mm. The leaves were supposed to "dissolve" in the rendang.

Heat a half cup of oil in the wok, and sautee the root and seed spice. I continued stirring until the aroma started to permeate, and then I watched the heat so that the concoction wouldn't burn. I added 4 table spoons of brown sugar to sweeten the mix and let it caramelize. Then, I put in the coconut milk and beef, lowered the heat, and closed the wok. I let it simmer slowly for about an hour until the beef absorbed all the spicy goodness through the coconut milk.

Then, I put in a tablespoon of tamarind paste to counterbalance the sweetness. Finally, I added in the leaf spice and coconut paste (kerisik). Now, what makes a rendang a "true rendang" is the quality of the kerisik. What is so special about it? Well, it adds the extra dimension to the richness of the rendang. The kerisik is the soul of the rendang. It adds texture, taste and color to the rendang.

What is kerisik? Simply put, is toasted grated coconut pounded into paste. The finer the grate, the finer the texture and more even the toasting. The taste is richer, too. Once toasted, the coconut is pounded with a pestle and mortar until the texture is very fine and the oil starts to appear. The darker the toast, the more tart the kerisik will be. I am from the southern part of Malaysia, where prefer the kerisik to be a bit lighter. The northern part tends to have a more strong tasting kerisik; thus, darker rendang. To make kerisik from scratch takes about an hour from one coconut fruit.

Once I put the kerisik, the rendang was nearly ready. All it needed was the salt seasoning, and the final frying to make the gravy drier (the drier the rendang, the longer it will last without refrigeration). Then, I pair it with another traditional food; the ketupat (rice cake encased in coconut leaves). Personally, I prefer to have the ketupat with glutinous rice, which is much richer in taste as it is cooked and sauteed in coconut milk.

What can I say? This combination is full of good helpings of trans-fat and cholesterol. So, just watch the waist and blood pressure, and all should be fine. Just don't over-indulge, which is very difficult with such a succulent tasting dish!!!