POTD: Dessert

_DL5T_L1000735 copy
Pisco sour sorbet, poached melon and a jelly I don’t remember decorated with local nuts and flowers. By chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino of Ristorante Malabar, Lima, Peru. Leica D-Lux 5 and two LED panels.*

*One of the reasons I switched to LED panels for food photography is the matter of dessert: there’s no way you can photograph ice cream with halogens or flashes without getting more than say three or four frames before visible melting sets in. And this obviously isn’t good, though a hint of melting actually helps the viewer know that it is in fact ice cream, and not say, mashed potatoes masquerading as ice cream.** One of the most refreshing, palate-cleansing deserts I’ve eaten – a perk of running a food photography workshop in conjunction with his culinary class…

**Food photography in-joke: mashed potato is actually quite frequently used to substitute for ice cream, for this very reason. MT

Photoessay: A study of wave action

Some experiments into how the same subject can be simultaneously not the same. A bit of contemplative photography while on vacation. Or perhaps I just like water and waves for the same reasons I like clouds. Sometimes, we don’t need to think too much about it – just shoot. I need to go on holiday more often; but then again, don’t we all? MT

This series shot with an Olympus E-PM1 Pen Mini at Tanjung Jara, on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia.

_PM08131 copy

_PM08126 copy

_PM08124 copy

_PM08116bw copy

_PM08094 copy

_PM08088 copy

_PM08128bw copy

POTD: Impromptu conference

_M91_L1000093 copy

Taxi drivers checking out a new ride, new arrival or old friend passing by a rank. Leica M9-P, 50/2.5 Summarit-M

POTD: Urban geometry

_DL5T_L1000615 copy
Outtake from a recent architectural assignment. Look out for a future On Assignment post about shooting buildings. Leica D-Lux 5.

Although most architectural images are shown with nothing but the building, in a vaguely abstracted product-shot-kind-of-way, I personally find the images I like best are the ones which have some human scale or context included; it’s otherwise tough to gauge scale of the building, how it fits into its environment, and more importantly, how does the end user perceive it? Do they use the intended main entrances and traffic routes, or like water, do people find a path of lower resistance? Are there flow routes that the designers didn’t envision, i.e. connections between two back streets? Does the vehicular circulation work? How does the facade look from a human perspective? Once again, it comes back down to understanding something about your subject before you shoot it. MT

Photoessay: The Speake-Marin Immortal Dragon

One of the more unusual watches I’ve photographed, the Immortal Dragon is both immaculately finished on the dial and the movement – the watch has both serious horological pedigree (being from the atelier of highly respected independent watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin and some pretty unique aesthetics. The dial was hand-engraved in relief by master engraver Kees Engelberts, and the watch is a piece unique destined for the Asian market in honor of the current lunar year of the dragon. MT

This series shot with a Nikon D700, AFS 60/2.8 G Micro, and Zeiss ZM 2.8/28 Biogon with Leica M-F adaptor and multiple speedlights.

_7055995 copy

_7055968 copy

_7055992 copy

_7055950 copy

_7055834 copy

_7055766 copy

_7055925 copy

POTD: A classical portrait

_5001019 copy
Nadiah. Olympus OM-D, 45/1.8

Sometimes, everything just comes together serendipitously. In this case, my wife (and muse, but that’s to be the subject of a future post) and I were attending a small function at a rather quirkily-decorated space in downtown Kuala Lumpur. I was going light, so I just carried the OM-D and two lenses; the 45/1.8 and 20/1.7. Just off the space, there was this small room separated by a partition; not only were there some nice details – like the Adams-family-esque hand – but the light was also beautifully directional yet soft. It just happened to be overcast outside, and with the sun at a low angle so the light went all the way into the room; see why I keep saying 99% of photography is light and timing? I grabbed my wife and shot a few frames to create what I think is one of the most satisfying portraits I’ve ever shot. MT

POTD: A vaguely religious notion

_X21_L1020059bw copy
I don’t know why, but there’s something oddly religious suggested to me by this composition. Can’t put my finger on it, though. Leica X2.

Photoessay: The Charles Bridge, Prague

The Charles Bridge – or Karlov Most in Czech – is one of Prague’s great landmarks. Spanning the River Vltava, it was constructed in the 14th century to connect Prague Castle with the old town. Until 1841, it was the only way to get from one side of the city to the other. It is a majestic 510m long, supported by sixteen stone arches and guarded by two towers on either side. The bridge has borne witness to both countless historical events and natural disasters; being severely damaged during several of these and most recently repaired following major floods in 2002. The span itself is decorated by numerous statues, under whose auspices various tradespeople ply their wares during the day.

From a photographic point of view, it’s an interesting place to observe life – both locals and tourists – and a picturesque backdrop to practice street photography or photojournalism, or even a little architecture if the fancy takes you. MT

This series shot with a Leica M9-P, 28/2.8 ASPH, 50/1.4 ASPH and Olympus E-PM1 Pen Mini and 45/1.8 ZD lenses.

_M9P1_L1005751 copy

_M9P1_L1007318 copy

_M9P1_L1005986 copy

_M9P1_L1005109 copy

_PM05215 copy
Not technically of the bridge, but you can see its lookout towers in the background.

_M9P1_L1005101 copy

_M9P1_L1005072 copy

Photoessay: Seascapes

Inspired by Hiroshi Sugimoto. The South China Sea, off the east coast of Malaysia at Tanjung Jara.

This series shot with an Olympus E-PM1 Pen Mini and the 14-42 kit lens.

_PM08047bw copy

_PM08345 copy

_PM08014 copy

_PM08365bw copy

_PM08344 copy

_PM08348 copy

_PM08196bw copy

_PM08331 copy

POTD: The man with the microphone, and some OM-D first impressions

_5000318 copy
The man with the microphone. Olympus OM-D, 12/2

Wesak day is one of the most important days on the Buddhist calendar, celebrating the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha. In Malaysia it’s marked by an enormously long parade through the city, with easily tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, taking part. The man on the megaphone is just one of hundreds of people chanting Buddhist scripture as the procession makes its way. Look out for a full photoessay soon.

In the meantime, this was my first outing with the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 (what a mouthful); I used the 12/2 and 45/1.8 Zuiko lenses, which continued to perform very well on the higher density sensor. Some first impressions:

– It’s fast. Very responsive in every way. 9fps is overkill, reminds me why I didn’t use that mode on the D3 too often – too many identical files to go through afterwards!
– C-AF and AF tracking are pretty much useless; it could have been the lighting conditions, but I gave up and used S-AF after a while.
– Image quality is excellent. A real step forward over the 12MP M4/3 cameras; it seems like we’ve gained both resolution AND dynamic range AND high ISO performance. I wouldn’t hesitate to use ISO 3200, whereas ISO 1600 before would be a bit borderline. I honestly feel that it delivers image quality very close to the D7000.
– Hugely customizeable, and that touch screen is quite handy for low angle shots and selecting focusing points. The control set is well thought with one exception: why can’t I assign any of the buttons to be AF-Lock when shooting C-AF?
– They’ve done another stupid design number with the strap lugs; they of course dig into your palm in true Olympus tradition. I can’t remember a single camera they’ve made without this issue.
– Battery life is outstanding. 600 shots and I was still showing full charge at the end of the night; the recharging time afterwards suggests that I used perhaps 1/3 of the capacity.
– I think I really want the grip to both balance out handling and add the vertical component. But it’s hugely expensive for what it is, and difficult to justify.
– Weather sealing was highly valued at times; the priests were blessing everybody with water sprayed from palm fronds!

I will do a full review at some point once I’ve had more of a chance to shoot with the camera, in the meantime, stay tuned. MT