4.12.2018

Power Film Maker, James Webb, goes handheld with an Olympus EM-5ii to shoot food back in 2016. He's the real deal.

James at Cantine shooting food with the Oly EM5ii and an ancient 
40mm f1.4 Pen FT lens. See the restaurant video one more time:



I've been on an older camera bing lately. I thought I'd revisit a contemporary camera that's been on the market for a while now. The Olympus EM-5ii.


I tend to be blinded to the virtues of the stuff I'm shooting in the present by the promise of the stuff I might be shooting in the future. Here's a case in point: the Olympus EM-5ii. I bought two of them back in 2015 when the camera was introduced. I knew I'd probably want to take advantage of the new video codec that yielded an All-I file at 77mbs, which was a much bigger file than the ones coming from my Nikon or Sony cameras at the time so I ante'd up for the battery grips which, in addition to doubling the shooting time also provided a headphone jack with which to monitor audio. 

My friend, James, and I used the two cameras to do a video for our friends at Cantine Restaurant. While I didn't really appreciate it at the time the cameras, and the combination of contemporary and legacy lenses did a great job capturing the unrehearsed clips that we moulded into what I think is a very nice video about the restaurant. While the EM-5ii files aren't as detailed and rich as the best files from the Panasonic GH5's they are absolutely perfect for what was made to be a web-only, 1080p promotional video. Unique at the time (and maybe still....) was the camera's uncanny image stabilization which worked as well in video as it does in still photography. The files were sharp and detailed and easy to edit in either Premiere or Final Cut Pro X. 

But most of my readers don't give a rat's ass about video, and that being the case I thought I would also make the point that the photographic files were in no way shabby either. I've included three images here from the daylong shoot we did at the restaurant. The brilliant I.S. in the cameras made tripods mostly superfluous but we did use them from time to time; especially if we were using really long focal lengths. 

I shot food and pours and people during the course of the day and used whatever ISO was necessary to get the shots I wanted. I mostly worked between 640 and 1600 and found that the files were as good as any other camera I've shot---as long as I used good lenses. We had high success rates with the Sigma 60mm DN Art lens (this will be the fourth time I have owned that lens....) as well as getting great images from a contingent of older Pen FT lenses from the 1970's. 

When I think rationally about the EM-5ii I wonder 1. Why I ever got rid of them? And, 2. What more could a photographer really want in day-to-day work? If you've never tried one you should. They are pretty delightful. After playing around with the focus on the newest Hasselblad MF cameras I can tell you honestly that, given a choice, I'd take a couple of EM-5ii's and the Olympus zoom lenses I got to use on the Panasonic cameras before I'd consider the H-Blad. Your kilometers may be more scenic....




When people don't smile and look into the camera.


For a few years I did little every day other than take photographs or print photographs. Most paid jobs called for portraits or "headshots" of people looking directly into the camera and smiling as well as they thought they should. But many of my favorite images were taken when the person in front of my camera looked away for a moment. I stumbled across these three yesterday and thought I would share them with you. 

The top one is of Belinda and was taken so long ago that it was done with a Nikon FM film camera and a Tamron Adaptall 28-80mm zoom lens. The quality of the image is quite secondary, in my mind, to the way the light works and the wonderfully disordered lock of hair hanging down on her forehead. 

The image just below was taken during a silly "fashion" shoot for a Texas lifestyle magazine. We were shooting winter clothes in the middle of a heat wave and, since we were in Pedernales State Park, one of the models took a few minutes to put on some shorts and stand in the middle of the Pedernales River ( a tributary of the Colorado River) to cool off. I took the photo at that moment when the shock of the cold water had worn off and the delight of being in that moment caused our model to clothes her eyes and savor it. The image was done with a Leica R8 and a 180mm f4.0 Elmar on AgfaPan black and white film. 


The most recent shot of the three was done at a coffee shop on Congress Ave., just a few blocks from the state capitol. I was working with a talent named Jana Steele (who also graces the cover of my LED Lighting Book) and we were going for a realistic, but posed, shot of someone waiting for a first date to show up. The image was done with available light and a Canon 5Dmk2 along with the 100mm f2.0 Canon lens.

In all three images my intention was never to create a traditional portrait that people would hang on a wall but to create small, opened ended visual stories that presented a tableau from which an audience could launch into their own personal conjecture.

Nothing more than a visual poem with very few lines....