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A midnight stroll around Paris

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

It’s a stiflingly hot summer’s night in Paris – 37deg C during the day and not really dropping much by midnight and with little breeze to cool the apartments – the best place to be is out on the streets having a wander and exploring without the crowds.

Paris

My quaint hotel room decorated by famous designer Christian Lacroix at Hotel Le Bellechasse adjacent to my favourite art gallery, the Musee D’Orsay in Saint Germain. The staff at this hotel were always extremely pleasant and helpful, and the room clean and quiet, and thankfully was fitted with an air conditioner. There was a lift to avoid the common struggles of staircases and luggage, and a nice buffet style breakfast if one wished to partake.

As nice as it was, the streets of Paris at midnight beckons.

And thanks to my Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Micro Four Thirds camera, there is no need for carrying cumbersome tripods, just hand held image stabilized night street photography, discrete enough to hide it if danger lurked in the dark recesses along the Seine.

Paris

But in Paris, one is never alone, lonely perhaps, but not alone.

Paris

And though it was dusk, in a city where the threat of terrorism is ever present, being able to capture this lovely fleeting candid street photography style shot of these two ladies oblivious to the world and having a laugh is what brings joy to photography – Paris is not just the old buildings and art galleries – it is the people who remind us that humanity is not all that bad.

Paris

I am guessing you don’t need me to tell you this the the famous Louvre, but here are a couple of images before they turn the lights off at midnight and evacuate the square.

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

I can’t write a blog post like this and not include the Eiffel Tower at dusk – oh yes, the sun sets late in Paris, and dusk is around 11pm!

Paris

Or, for that matter, romance along the Seine – they are just too iconic to ignore even for me!

Melbourne street protesters marching against PM Rudd’s new asylum seeker policy

Monday, July 29th, 2013

The recently re-instated Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd has introduced a new policy on the off-shore processing of asylum seekers coming to Australia in the run up to what appears to be a hotly contest election in the next month or two.

This policy is seen as inhumane and unjust by many, particularly, Rudd’s Labor Party core voters – those with a socialist philosophy, including unionists and the Greens – so it was interesting to see their strong feelings on this very complex matter as they staged a protest march through the streets of Melbourne this weekend, although I was in the city to photograph Melbourne’s very popular annual weekend – Open House Melbourne – where major buildings in Melbourne are open to the public and their cameras – a great time for photographers to find new material – if they can put up with the queues.

Unfortunately, this year I ran out of time to view the buildings apart from the wonderful State Library, so here are a few of the protest march which started outside the library, these are all taken with the Micro Four Thirds kit – the wonderful Olympus E-M5 camera and Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens:

 

protest marchers

protest marchers

protest marchers

protest marchers

Walking the streets of London with my Olympus E-M5

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Having arrived in London a few days after the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations finished, many areas such as Buckingham Palace were off-limits due to workman removing the stages.

Nevertheless, I thought it was my duty as an Australian and descendant of a convict – or two, to document a few iconic images of London despite the overcast conditions and lack on nice sunrises to give the classic Golden Hour (not that London’s public transport starts early enough for you to take a train into London before the 4.30am or so sunrise!).

First up we have the fabulous Westminster Parliament Houses and of course, Big Ben – here I used a Cokin tobacco gradient filter on my Panasonic 14-140mm lens to make it a bit more interesting given the otherwise boring gray skies, and it was cropped in a iPad app and uploaded to the net, although this version has been further down-sized in Lightroom:

Westminster

And, the once cute black cabs, which have now been taken over by consumerism (sadly Picadilly Circus is now starting to look a bit like New York’s Time Square with it’s super-sized flashing advertising signs – but I guess that is the sign of the times and money trumps aesthetics and culture):

black cab

and another waiting at traffic lights at the Black Friar’s pub:

Black Friar's

It seems the London youth are fed up with the inequities and injustices created by globalisation exacerbated by the economic adversities resulting from the GFC, although, perhaps unfairly, they are here targeting the Royal family, although a bit of graffiti is nicer than burning down the house:

graffiti

Which affordable low light street photography lens?

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

There are 2 main lenses most people need for their travel photography:

  • general purpose zoom lens – eg. a 10x zoom is favored by many such as the Panasonic 14-140mm HD lens
  • a lens for hand held low light (eg. indoors in art galleries or restaurants with friends) or night photography

Other commonly desired lenses include a ultra wide angle zoom (eg. the Olympus M.ZD 9-18mm) and a wide aperture macro/portrait lens (eg. Olympus 50mm f/2.0).

This post is to look at what is available in the 30-50mm focal length range (in 35mm terms) for cropped sensor travel cameras at a reasonable price.

Although I love my Panasonic Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 Four Thirds lens which is my favorite general purpose lens now, it is too expensive to be included in this category, as are the Canon and Nikon pro lenses such as the 24mm f/1.4 and 35mm f/1.4 lenses.

Panasonic are rumoured to be making a Micro Four Thirds version of this fabulous 25mm f/1.4 lens which one could expect to be much more affordable as it does not need the more complex design of a Four Thirds lens which is further from the sensor.

For Micro Four Thirds then, the main lens to consider is the brilliant Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 ASPH pancake lens:

  • although Panasonic place a ridiculous RRP of $A799 on it in Australia, it is available for $US350 in Asia and in the US.
  • this lens is incredibly sharp even wide open – see dpreview.com which shows that at f/1.7 even out to 50% towards the edge it’s resolution is above 1150 line pairs, and at the corners this drops to 750. At f/2.2 it is much better still across the frame.
  • this lens does have some CA and some distortion but these were part of the compromise for such as small lens design and are corrected in-camera by Panasonic bodies but may need correction in post-processing when used on Olympus bodies.
  • it’s AF is not the fastest or quietest but usually this is not a great problem in practice unless shooting video.
  • it also does not come with a lens hood given it is a pancake design, and unfortunately has the rather unusual 46mm filter thread, but at least t does not rotate so one can use polarising filters.
  • at 100g, combined with sharp optics and an almost perfect street photography focal length of 40mm, this is regarded as the one must-have lens for Micro Four Thirds users.

If you are looking at a lens for a Nikon DX dSLR, your main affordable choice is the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX:

  • a consumer level cheap lens with rather ordinary optics – disappointingly soft wide open.
  • it weighs twice as much as the 20mm f/1.7 but does have a 52mm filter thread and comes with a lens cap
  • at an effective focal length of just over 50mm, it is getting a bit long for street photography, but then I use 50mm a lot so this may not be a show stopper.
  • see dpreview.com which shows that this lens is very soft wide open with only its centre sharpness exceeding 1150 line pairs while corner sharpness drops to a very soft 450 line pairs. It is best used at f/3.5 but even at this aperture, CA becomes prominent which will need post-processing to remove.

Samsung NX users have the option of the Samsung 30mm f/2 pancake lens:

  • see dpreview.com which shows good sharpness wide open, perhaps comparable to the 20mm f/1.7 wide open but not as sharp as the 20mm lens is at f/2.0.
  • it does better than the 20mm lens in terms of CA and distortion – but these are corrected in-camera for the 20mm anyway.

Sony NEX camera users are out of luck, there is no such AF lens available for their system as yet.

Canon APS-C dSLR owners have the Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 lens:

  • non-USM thus noisy AF
  • poor bokeh quality as unlike the above it is an old 5 bladed aperture design
  • relatively sharp in the centre – but “really bad in the corners” – see here.

Canon users also have the EF 28mm f/1.8 USM lens:

  • gives a nice 45mm effective focal length
  • uses 58mm filters
  • a much better build than the above, weighs just over 300g, but still very soft in the corners wide open – see here

Sigma produce a 30mm f/1.4 lens in mounts for Canon, Nikon and Four Thirds:

  • a heavy lens at 430g, with a large filter of 62mm
  • HSM AF is fairly fast and quiet
  • sharp in the centre wide open but extremely soft in the corners – see here for tests on a Canon APS-C dSLR

Conclusion:

While the latest Canon and Nikon dSLRs have marginally better high ISO performance than a Panasonic GH-2, marginally better ability to blur backgrounds, and certainly have better AF for moving subjects, and you can have remote TTL flash if needed, if you want edge to edge sharpness to match the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 or the Samsung 30mm f/2.0 lens, then forget the cheap 35mm f/1.7 and f/2.0 lenses and pay up for the professional quality lenses as the consumer Canon and Nikon lenses have very soft images away from the centre wide open.

In low light, Olympus Micro Four Thirds / Pen camera body users get the extra benefit of in-camera image stabilisation which extends the hand held capability of the 20mm f/1.7 (or 25mm f/1.4 lens) even further.

My preference is to pick the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 up for $US350, and use it with a Panasonic GH-2 if video and its other benefits are a priority, or team it with an Olympus E-PL2 if image stabilisation, remote TTL flash and smaller body size is your priority – but in this latter case you may need to do some post processing to remove CA and distortions.

It will be very interesting to see when Panasonic brings out as a 25mm f/1.4 Micro Four Thirds lens, and Olympus bring out an even wider 12mm or so prime which hopefully will be about f/2.0 aperture.

Image stabilisation is NOT available with prime lenses on Canon or Nikon cameras.

Some of my low light and night photos using the Panasonic GH-1 with a Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens hand held can be seen in these galleries:

All my shots on this page were done with the older GH-1 with either 14-140mm lens or the 25mm lens  – the indoor (eg. photos inside the vatican) and night shots were with the 25mm f/1.4 lens (no IS) with only the night ones of the Vatican being on a tripod, the rest were hand held.
These photos were taken in Denmark with same combination (day shots mainly 14-140mm lens, indoor and night shots all hand held with 25mm f/1.4 lens on GH-1 – EXCEPT for 1 night shot from my hotel room where I used a tripod).
These photos were taken in Melbourne on one day with GH-1 plus 25mm f/1.4 without tripod.