Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas from NZ Digital

'Tis the season to be jolly :-)

Yes folks, it's Christmas tomorrow (as I write this) in New Zealand - the first country to wake up to Christmas Day. So I thought I'd better post something 'Christmassy'.

Greymouth Christmas Tree Festival, 2016. Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII with 12-50mm EZ. F5.2 @ 1/8th sec, ISO 800
Every year the local theater hosts a Christmas tree festival, where businesses and other groups can decorate a tree and the public comes to see the results and vote for their favourite. It's always a lovely place to visit on the week leading up to Christmas - it has a peace and serenity that is often needed at this time of the year. And it also happens to be a lot of fun to photograph.

Reindeer Light. OM-D EM5 MkII.
The last time I shot the event was several years ago, when I had the Pen Ep-1. The camera was fairly new at the time, and I remember I had a lot of fun shooting with the art modes. The grainy black and white was my favourite (and still is). The bright lights, dark backgrounds and multi-coloured trees invite you to experiment with ISO, shutter speeds and creative techniques, which I certainly intended to do this time as well. But to begin with I started out by capturing a 'traditional' view of the scenes around me, for a while at least, to get into the 'groove' and help the creative juices flow.

I didn't take a tripod, preferring to shoot everything hand-held, even though the light is very low. This is where the IBIS (in-body image stabilisation) of the Olympus system really comes into its own. By cranking the ISO up to 800-1600, I find I can still achieve sharp shots with shutter speeds hovering around the 1/6th second mark using the Olympus 12-50mm EZ f3.5/6.3 lens.

Christmas Bokeh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII with 12-50mm EZ. F5.6 @ 1/8th sec, ISO 800
This year, my 'creative inspiration' came initially from a mistake (which is often the case). I was trying to focus on the trees in the dark, and not surprisingly, the camera was hunting for focus. I took a photo while the camera was still hunting, and really liked the way the bright lights were turned into these 'bokeh balls' of light.

Bokeh Balls of Light. Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII and 12-50mm EZ lens set to Macro. F5.6 @ 1/8th sec, ISO 800
I set the camera to manual focus so that I could control the degree of out-of-focus effect (I wanted very distinct looking circles of light), and also found that the best results were achieved with the lens set to macro mode. Then it was just a matter of moving around the room finding light patterns that looked interesting.

Abstraction in Blue. OM-D E-M5 MkII
Some photos worked well when the image was still vaguely tree shaped, while others worked as pure abstractions. I shot in this fashion for over an hour and thoroughly enjoyed making these abstract images. It was only when I got home and looked at them on the computer that I realised I could have taken this in so many other directions.

They would probably also work really well as zoom bursts - by zooming the lens in and out while taking the photo. This would add an extra level of dynamism in the image - if that's what you're after?

Or I could also have experimented with multiple exposures, overlaying different colours and sizes of lights to get some interesting effects?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not disappointed with the shots that I got on the night. But often we are so 'focused' (excuse the pun) on what we are doing that we don't stop to consider if there are other ways of exploring the subject we are photographing.  Some of the other ideas might not have worked, and I may have ended up liking the images I initially took anyway. But at least I would have stretched myself a bit more, and experimented with a few more techniques.

Christmas Bokeh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII
I'm still very happy with the images that I did manage to create on the night - especially the more abstract ones. They work very nicely as backgrounds, as can be seen above.

So from me, to you, Merry Christmas and a Happy 2017. If you have been a regular (or even occasional) reader of this blog, then I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope you've found something interesting from the last year of blogging, especially if you are new to micro four thirds and the Olympus system.

On a personal note, Blogger has informed me that my last post was number 200! I guess that's not setting the blogging world on fire, but it's something of a milestone for me at least. If you have read any of those 200 posts, I'd love to hear from you. Please do drop me a line and say 'hi'. And let me know if there is anything Olympus, micro four thirds, or just photography related that you would like me to cover in 2017? It would be my pleasure.