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Monet’s water lilies and the Musee D’Orangerie in Paris – some of my favorite artworks from the gallery

Friday, July 21st, 2017

The Musee D’Orangerie is adjacent to the Louvre and is a wonderful art gallery mainly of late 19th century and early 20th century art works, but in particular, Claude Monet’s water lily series.

These were all shot with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Micro Four Thirds camera with Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 pro lens such as the above and below image, and the Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 pro lens.

Here are some of Claude Monet’s famous water lily paintings:

Monet

Monet

Monet

Monet

Monet

Despite their dominance in the gallery, there is far more to see such as these:

Claude Monet’s Argenteuile 1875:

D'Orangerie

Pablo Picasso’s Femme au tambourin 1925:

D'Orangerie

Paul Cezanne’s Arbres et maisons 1885-86:

D'Orangerie

Henri Matisse’s Les trois soeurs 1916-17:

D'Orangerie

Marie Laurencin’s Danseuses espagnoles 1920-21:

D'Orangerie

The unmistakable style of Amedeo Modigliani and in this case, Femme au ruban de velours 1915:

D'Orangerie

Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955), who even in his early life was plagued with mental illness, was essentially raised by his grandmother, and was the son of an 18 yr old artist’s model with speculation that his father may have been Renoir or one of the other artists she had modeled for. He was born in Montmartre and like many artists, lived a very bohemian life style. His mental illness was exacerbated by alcoholism and he spent some time in mental asylums.

I am guessing these ladies walking with a painter made Maurice Utrillo’s world go round after the war ended – La Maison Bernot 1924 – the bell tower of the Sacré Coeur basilica which was completed in 1912 was cropped when I took the photo and is not shown:

D'Orangerie

Gustave Moreau’s La Toilette 1885-90:

D'Orangerie

Pablo Picasso’s Saltimbanque aux bras croises 1923:

D'Orangerie

And, for something completely different – Hans Hartung’s T 1963 K7 1963:

D'Orangerie

One week in South Korea – Part 5 – Seoraksan National Park

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Seoraksan National Park is a beautiful mountainous park dominated by rugged granite peaks and maple gullies amongst cyprus forests only 15 minutes drive from the coastal resort town of Sokcho on the north-eastern coast of South Korea.

One should take care with mosquitoes as there apparently is a small risk of mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis virus and even malaria according to WHO, but the more dangerous animals such as tigers and bears are now extinct from most of South Korea including in this region.

Sokcho is a 3-4 hour bus ride from Seoul depending upon traffic conditions.

These images were taken with Micro Four Thirds cameras – the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and E-M5 with the Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 and Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 lenses.

We only had one day in our itinerary to hike in the park and that one day coincided with almost constant heavy rain which absolutely soaked not only my active wear but also my Olympus E-M1 with 40-150mm f/2.8 lens and its lovely rain protective lens hood which fortunately are highly water resistant and did not suffer any ill effect from the constant rain over a 5 hour period – unlike my friend’s “water-resistant” Garmin watch we failed permanently half way due to the rain.

The hike we chose was to the rugged granite peaks which was some 11km and 5hrs return in the rain with seemingly thousands of steps and a total ascent of over 600m to the ~1200m altitude peak which overlooked the Sokcho valley in the very brief intervals where the clouds parted and we could see what was below us.

The scenery so reminded me of Japanese ink sketches that I decided to post-process these images in that style.

The peaks which we were to climb up as seen from the Seoul-Sokcho bus.

At the start of the walk is a Buddhist Temple which provided for some very nice imagery:

Whilst at this temple we took pity on a very keen Canikon elderly Korean man who was trying in vain to get some shots of this temple with his camera on a tripod wrapped in towels to keep the camera dry as well as trying to hold an umbrella in the wind – unfortunately for him he did not choose a weatherproof camera and lens with image stabilisation such as we had with our Olympus gear, and so we helped him out by holding his umbrella so he could get his shot.

As we start our walk alongside a fast flowing stream, we walk over some nice old bridges:

and then perhaps half way up our ascent we arrive at a remote old Buddhist temple built into the mountain side:

a tourist wet and tired and its only a third of the ascent work down:

Perhaps at this point I should have said a few prayers because the ascent from here on became very steep indeed but gave very rewarding vignettes dominated by these beautiful trees amongst the peaks:

and now ascent into the clouds:



and finally to the peak – the hiker and his umbrella – as we found – no match for the strong up-draught winds hurtling upwards and playing havoc with the umbrellas:

The price to pay for these beautiful sights was 3 days of very painful calf muscles but thankfully, we did not trip and fall in the wet, slippery conditions.

After the hike, an incredibly kind young Korean lady who worked in a park cafe finally worked out what we were trying to ask her – “where is the local thermal spas?” and she offered to drive us there as the cafe had closed and so we made it to the thermal spa baths which were in another valley – but to our naive surprise they were authentic Oriental style baths which banned all forms of clothing – so when in Rome ….

One week in South Korea – part 3 – Seoul at night

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

Seoul in August is a wonderful balmy warm and seemingly safe city to explore at night as long as you take reasonable care and respect the locals who rarely like being photographed unless they are doing it themselves – the number of young Koreans walking around taking selfies as they walk is quite disturbing for safety reasons alone – luckily there is no Pokemon Go in South Korea (due to military security concerns with Google street view imagery – although there is a small area in Sokcho where it is possible).

I had no safety concerns carrying my cameras and even having them visible on the subway trains at night – something I would be reluctant to do in my own city of Melbourne !

Usually when I walk streets at night I carry discrete wide aperture lenses on my compact Micro Four Thirds cameras (OM-D E-M1 and E-M5) which allow low light photography and allow the camera to be quickly returned to a jacket pocket – for example the Panasonic 20mm f/1.8 pancake lens and the Olympus mZD 12mm f/2.0. In Seoul, I decided to ditch the 12mm lens and use the larger Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 for greater versatility.

The most popular districts to explore are Itaewon, Hongdae and ultra-modern Dongaemun.

Itaewon

Itaewon is where the US Military tend to congregate at bars and clubs, and thus is the main district for Caucasian tourists – although the night we went there, there were very few of either and it was mainly the local Koreans, and in the back alleys you did need to keep your eye out for opportunistic predators although we did not see any aggression or criminal activity even to 1-2am.

We enjoyed an awesome, albeit, expensive, authentic Korean BBQ in one of the side street cafes, then headed off to some of the bars for some cultural exchanges.

Back alleys of Itaewon where there were a few dodgy people.

Dongaemun

Dongaemun is a popular night precinct for shoppers with lots of street shops, shopping plazas, market and the ultra-modern Dongaemun Design Plaza (DDP).

DDP

DDP

DDP

Ceiling mobiles display in DDP.


DDP

Dongdaemun Design Plaza and the newly opened shopping plaza in the background right.

Helping out the locals with their selfie sticks.

Street stalls

A market which unfortunately had largely closed by the time we arrived at 10pm

A market mobile karaoke lady with her doll who was keen to pose for me.

The famous mung bean pancakes in the market – we were surprised to find a busy cafe behind this stall where we enjoyed our pancake with the local Koreans.

This was a signal to call it a night – perhaps too much soju?

Just managed to catch the last train on the subway – a rare deserted platform but we made it back to our hotel!

Hongdae

Hongdae is a Korean university student night precinct with many bars, clubs and shops, lots of intoxicated young Korean adults and few older adults while there were signs banning US military fro entering clubs due to potential conflicts, and the clubs seem to have an age cut off of 38 years, so no entry for an old guy like me but again, despite the flow of alcohol, there was no overt aggression or criminal activity evident and we felt safe walking the streets and there were plenty of taxis near by to take us back to the hotel (as long as you had the name and address of the hotel in Korean!). I took very few photos here but we did find a quiet late night bar for a dart throwing competition at 2am which finished the day off nicely.

street alcohol vendor for the students

Street alcohol vendor for the students (the vendor refused to allow his photo but did allow this shot).

Back alleyway.

Hongdae bar

Older style Hongdae bar.

This club security guy politely refused entry to the club for my travel buddy who was devastated as apparently now too old to go clubbing!

Not only older folk are banned from the clubs but also the US Military! Korean prevention is the best medicine!

Hongdae street bar.

Finally found a quiet bar where we could relax, talk and play some darts.

 

Hiking with the Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens – what is it good for, how can it best be used?

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

Following on from my previous post on Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 lens with MC14 1.4x teleconverter for hiking, last night I ventured out on another solo sunset bushwalk on a different track through the gorges – but this time I brought some head lamps to get me back in the dark!

For the hike, I only took 2 cameras and lenses as with the last walk, but this time did not use the MC14 teleconverter, and again both cameras were carried on my waist belt which really takes the weight of my back which is fantastic – but see my last post for issues with this method.

The Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens on Micro Four Thirds equates to an ultra-wide angle 14-28mm zoom on full frame, and thankfully, the f/2.8 aperture and image stabilisation provided by the Olympus OM-D E-M5 allows when to keep shooting hand held in the gorges after sunset whilst keeping ISO at only 400 which allowed for f/5 shots for adequate depth of field and 1/6th to 1/3rd sec shots hand held even though my heart was pumping from the exertion and a little fear of heights as I stood on the edge of a 100m sheer drop to get some of the shots!

I have previously discussed the specs of this lens and compared it to the Olympus ZD 7-14mm f/4 lens for Four Thirds dSLRs in which I point out that thanks to the shorter sensor-lens flange distance by removing the clunky mirror of dSLRs, wide angle lenses can now be made much smaller and lighter – this lens is one stop faster at f/2.8 yet is substantially smaller, lighter and less expensive than the Four Thirds version.

What can you use such a wide angle lens for and how can you use it to get the best visual impact?

Ultra wide angle lenses do take a bit of practice to make the most of them and are not to everyone’s tastes but can really add an important tool in your kit, even for hiking.

Most people would initially think, great it lets me shoot really wide shots so I don’t have to bother with panoramic stitching. Whilst that is true, you will end up with lots of sky which can be boring.

A better use is to find an interesting foreground object (these are not always easy to find on Australian bushwalks) and ensure focus is on that subject, and stop down the aperture to give enough depth of field to give the object context and perspective of the landscape background.

Other uses for a lens like this include:

  • ultra wide angle shots of alley way graffiti art – often alleys do not allow one to get far enough back with other lenses to capture the entire artwork – this lens will, and as alleyways tend to be dark, you can use this lens hand held in darker conditions than most other camera combinations.
  • Milky Way astroscapes like the one I captured in the next post after the walk at the railroad crossing – these require a wide aperture lens (f/2.8 or wider), a ultra-wide angle lens (14mm full frame) which is very well corrected for coma aberrations, purple fringing, etc which would otherwise make for ugly star shapes – this 7-14mm lens is really very nice for this.
  • indoors – the lens is awesome for available light real estate agent shots and architecture
  • creative works

Let’s see what I managed to get on my very hurried hike in low light:

First an overall view of the gorge after sunset. Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens at 7mm f/5 1/3rd sec hand held on top of a sheer drop down a gorge after sunset, ISO 400.

gorge

The sheer drop down the cliff, Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens at 7mm f/5 1/5th sec hand held:

gorge

The narrow walking trail of the spur, Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens at 7mm f/5 ¼ sec hand held:

gorge

The narrow walking trail of the spur, Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens at 7mm f/5 1/6th sec hand held:

gorge

More uses for the 7-14mm:

Forest canopy at sunset, Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens at 14mm f/4 1/60th sec hand held.

forest canopy at sunset

Here is how it performs in a dark alley at dusk:

Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens at 9mm f/3.5 1/3rd sec hand held.

alley graffiti art

And some more bokeh shots with the Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8:

62mm at f/2.8:

gorge

70mm f/2.8:

gorge

 

Olympus officially announces their 2 new pro lenses – 8mm fisheye and 7-14mm f/2.8 super wide angle zoom – my take on these lenses

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Back in the days of the Four Thirds dSLR, Olympus created a brilliant but very expensive and heavy super wide angle lens – the Olympus ZD 7-14mm f/4 Super High Grade Pro lens.

This lens was so good, I decided to buy it despite it being well over $2000. Compared to anything I could use on my Canon 1D Mark III, this lens just blew them away in terms of optical qualities – perhaps the only full frame lens to match the optical quality is the highly regarded Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G which is so good, many Canon users bought it for their cameras albeit sacrificing AF.

The Olympus had almost no barrel or pincushion distortion, it was weatherproofed and had excellent build quality.

But that was back in 2007 or so, and now Micro Four Thirds rules with good reason.

One of the big benefits of Micro Four Thirds over the Four Thirds system is that having a much shorter sensor to lens flange distance allows a far more efficient, less expensive, lighter, and smaller lens design for wide angle lenses.

Olympus has finally realised this benefit by now announcing a release date of around June 2015 for their new Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens which also trumps the Panasonic offering which is a 7-14mm f/4 lens.

Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens:

This lens is 1 stop faster than the Four Thirds lens – that is – it lets in TWICE as much light thereby allowing lower ISO to be used in low light, but even with this extra stop of aperture it is a welcome compact size, so let’s look at the specs to see what we get in benefits over the Four Thirds lens:

  • shorter: 105.8mm long instead of 120mm
  • smaller: 78.9mm diameter instead of 87mm
  • much lighter: 534g instead of 780g
  • close focus reduced to a working distance of 7.5cm (the close focus of the Four Thirds lens was 25cm from sensor)
  • new ZERO nanocoating to further reduce flare
  • new manual focus clutch to switch into “analog” manual focus mode with distance scale instead of the default focus by wire mechanism
  • new L-Fn button which can be assigned to any of 17 functions on the Olympus OM-D cameras
  • AF is now silent and optimised for CDAF live view and videos
  • new optical design hopefully maintains the excellent optical performance of its predecessor
  • when matched to the Olympus OM-D cameras, the amazing image stabilisation system in these cameras allow such a lens to be hand held down to 1/3rd sec or even slower depending on technique! This opens up amazingly creative options in situations where tripods cannot be used and you want flowing water to be captured such as on beaches or with waterfalls.
  • but perhaps best of all is it is around HALF the price at $US1299

Where does that leave the Olympus ZD 7-14mm f/4 Four Thirds lens? Well, one would have to say assuming that its optics are not substantially better than the new f/2.8 lens, which appears to be a reasonable assumption given the preview testing, that it will be greatly devalued HOWEVER, it does have one potential trick up its sleeve that the new lens will not be able to do – add a ND100 or ND400 neutral density inside the Four Thirds adapter so that you can achieve long exposures to blur water in bright sunlight.

  • hopefully some enterprising company will make such an adapter with in-built ND400 filter
  • in the interim, it may be possible to cut a Cokin ND100 P155 filter to fit inside the odd-shaped interior of an Olympus or Panasonic adapter – the Cokin filters are plastic and thus can be cut to shape – see how to do this here
  • it would be great if future Olympus camera bodies could have a ND 400 filter activated within the camera body and then all lenses could use it seamlessly, but this is wishful thinking.

Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens:

Olympus have a Four Thirds fisheye lens – the Olympus ZD 8mm f/3.5 fisheye.

But now with Micro Four Thirds, Olympus has upped the ante on its rivals by producing the world’s widest aperture fisheye lens at f/1.8 aperture!

8mm fishe eye image
Why is the f/1.8 aperture important?

If you wish to take landscape photos at night and include the vast expanses of the Milky Way, you need a really wide angle lens – and the fisheye gives you a full 180deg coverage negating the need for panoramic stitching, but in addition, the f/1.8 aperture allows capture of more stars whilst retaining a low ISO of 800-1600. Another benefit of a fisheye lens for star photos is the shutter can be much longer than the usual 25-30secs (if using a non-fisheye wide angle lens) given the wide field of view, and thankfully, the Olympus cameras not only provide 60sec timed exposures, but the option of Timed exposures which negate the need of holding the shutter release down as in the usual BULB mode, or of LIVE TIMED or even LIVE COMPOSITE modes for further creativity at night!

A 14mm lens on a 35mm full frame camera offers around 114° angle of view and this means one can use a shutter speed up to 25-30secs without star trailing being objectionable. As the Olympus lens is a fisheye, one can’t use the usual shutter speed equation of 400/full frame equivalent focal length, but you can use the field of view to come up with 180 x 30secs / 114 = 50secs, so perhaps 60secs would be a reasonable shutter speed for the fisheye lens for Milky Way shots without tracking – this means you can halve the usual ISO to 800 while the f/1.8 aperture will capture FOUR TIMES as much light as a f/3.5 fisheye lens.

In addition, the f/1.8 aperture will be welcomed by underwater photographers.

This Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens is weatherproofed, has very close focus and is very reasonably priced at $US999 while remaining smaller and lighter than even the 7-14mm f/2.8 lens.

The very close focus allows for creative nature and landscape photography.

Obviously, it will also be image stabilised on Olympus cameras to hand holdable 1/2sec or longer – no fisheye lens on a Canon or Nikon dSLR can be image stabilised nor have such a wide aperture – another reason why the Olympus Micro Four Thirds system means more fun, more creative options, less back ache and less cost.

The optics of the fisheye seem extremely good given the example image of the aurora which shows star shapes are pretty good for such a lens, with only the top right corner stars developing significant aberrations – that to me is a sign this lens should be an awesome lens.
aurora taken with the f/1.8 fisheye

Olympus is well on its way to a full catalogue of weatherproofed PRO level lenses designed for Micro Four Thirds and its face recognition capable CDAF autofocus systems we now have:

  • 8mm f/1.8 fisheye
  • 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO
  • 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO
  • 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO with 1.4x teleconverter
  • and coming soon, the 300mm f/4 PRO (equates to an easily hand holdable 600mm field of view lens)

You might well ask, but where are the tilt-shift lenses which pro systems need?

One of the awesome features of Micro Four Thirds, is that the short lens flange distance allows one the option of using a tilt-shift lens adapter which in effect can turn any Nikon full frame lens into a tilt-shift lens!

Why pay a lot of money for a dedicated tilt-shift lens?

Or, if you already have expensive tilt-shift lenses, you can just use the full frame tilt-shift lenses in 2x crop factor (my Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 effectively becomes a 34mm tilt-shift lens with IS), or used with a 0.72x focal reducer (the 17mm lens becomes 24mm f/2.8 tilt-shift with IS).

Perhaps Olympus may develop a super wide angle tilt shift lens to fill the super wide angle gap such as a 7mm f/2.8 tilt-shift – or this may fall to a 3rd party given it does not need AF.

Just awesome, and unlike the Canon and Nikon lenses, these lenses will have their image stabilisation performances improved with each new version of Olympus camera, not to mention fast AF on the closest eye and other class leading functions.

And if you think the image quality of Micro Four Thirds can’t cut it with the full frame world, check out these side by side image samples comparing a Canon 6D full frame dSLR with a Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L lens compared to an entry level Olympus OM-D E-M10 with the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens – the Olympus just blows the Canon away in image clarity and detail edge-to-edge. Furthermore, buying a 50 megapixel dSLR is not going to get you better image detail or ability to make big prints if your lens can’t deliver the image detail you need or you have camera shake because the image stabiliser is not effective enough.