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The best equipment can help but it won’t make your shot. That being said there are situations where the right equipment can give a definite advantage.  As an example, drone photography is giving a whole new angle on photography that you simply can’t match without wings.

Thanks to Ebay and the ease with which you can buy and sell camera equipment for nearly the same price, I have bought and sold dozens of professional lens and many different cameras over the past ten years.

One thing I’ve learned is that going overkill on equipment can make it harder to get the shot. For example, when I owned the extremely large Canon 500mm 2.8 lens I found it was not practical to hike long distances carrying the lens. But if I couldn’t have it with me all the time it didn’t make sense for me to own it. I bought and sold that particular lens two times fighting myself over the idea of using it. And in fact during the two times that I owned this lensI never got any images that I thought were keepers. It was a terrific lens to use under the right circumstances but it wasn’t going to help me get the images I was after.

I started out as an Olympus owner back in 2005.  Shortly after I switched to the Canon Rebel.  I’ve used Canon brand up until last year.  Unfortunately last year I had an amazing camera combo stolen while traveling by train in Europe:

  • Canon 5d Mark iii with 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8 L lens – total cost for this setup is about $7000

After losing my prized camera setup and mostly due to a lack of money but also for other reasons, I decided to switch back to Olympus and went with the Olympus EM-1. Aside from being a fraction of the cost ($1200 with lens) the new setup would bring several advantages. The EM-1 is a micro 2/3 format. It effectively doubles the focal length of the lens. A 50mm lens effectively becomes 100mm.

The camera is also smaller and lighter than traditional DSLR cameras like the Canon I was using before. It’s so small that it takes some time to get used to the difference in size if you are accustomed to using a full size camera.  The smaller size would prove to be a lot easier to travel with.

The lens that are available to use on the Olympus EM-1 are top notch and in my opinion are very much comparable to the L professional lens series from Canon.

For landscapes I am usually shooting with the 12-40mm lens with a 2.8 aperture. This lens on my EM-1 gives an effective focal length of 24-80mm.

For portraits I am usually shooting with a 40-150mm lens with a 2.8 aperture. It gives an effective focal length of 80-300mm lens. It’s a really fun lens to shoot with.

Between these two lens I can easily cover a wide variety of shooting conditions. It’s given me even more options than I had with my previous setup. And it does so at a fraction of the cost and in a much lighter package.

The EM-1 is also a fantastic camera for underwater photography. I use the Olympus underwater housing and ports. When I need to go super wide I have the 8mm lens from Olympus. But in reality I have found that it’s too wide. Even for big critters like whales I wound up getting my best images using the 12-40mm lens. I also don’t like the odd effect that super wide angle lens have on the shape of your subject. The 60mm macro lens is incredible and allows me to make full size images of tiny creatures in the sea.

Last year I bought a drone.  With it I can capture the angles from the sky that you just can’t get unless you are flying.  It’s also a great way to do mid-day photography without the worry of  sunlight destroying your shots.  In my opinion it’s even better to do most of your drone shoots during the day instead of the normal sunrise/sunset intervals that land photographers are accustomed to.  If you are shooting straight down you can even shoot at 12 PM and get a beautiful image!

My main camera setup:

  • Olympus EM-1 Micro 2/3 Camera
  • Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens
  • Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 lens

For underwater photography:

  • Olympus EM-1 Micro 2/3 Camera w/Olympus Underwater Housing
  • Olympus 60mm macro lens
  • Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens
  • Olympus 8mm f2.0 lens (rarely use)
  • 2x Sea & Sea YS-03 Flash Strobes

For above land arial photography:

  • DJI Phantom 3 Professional Drone

For accessories I keep a travel tripod, lens cleaner, polarizing filters, extra batteries and a remote trigger for taking selfies with the family.

 

December 13, 2016 0 comment
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I’m certainly not a professional and my technical skills & knowledge would make most professional photographers laugh. But I have taken enough photos over the years to offer some ideas for aspiring photographers to make their images better.

Tip #1 – Start by making photos of compelling subjects.

I can’t imagine anything more important than this. If you want a great photo put something in your viewfinder that is going to excite people.  Here’s a start:

Parliament in Budapest

Parliament in Budapest, Hungary

Two compelling subjects in the same shot is even better:

Chain Bridge in front of Parliament

The Chain Bridge with Parliament in the background

And another example:

Parliament from Fisherman's Bastion

Sexy & Parliament – oohlala!

An average shot of something special is still going to excite a lot more than a technically great shot of something boring.

Tip #2 – Take photos of amazing things at the right time!

Most everyone knows sunrises and sunsets are some of the best times to make photos. But just before sunrise is an interesting time.  You have enough light for your camera to make a great capture:

Torres del Paine at dawn sunrise

Torres del Paine at dawn El Chalten, Argentina

And just after sunrise you can catch a sunburst if you shoot with your lens closed down (smaller aperture like f16 or higher):

Triple Falls in Glacier National Park

Triple Falls, Glacier NP
Montana, USA

Tip #3 – get close enough to fill your image with your subject

It means finding the right angle and position so that what you frame is truly the best part of the scene. Cut out the rest!

Grizzley Bear in Katmai NP

Grizzley Bear in Katmai NP Alaska, USA

My friend, David Bank of London England, is a professional photographer.  He took this outstanding daytime image of Rio de Janeiro:

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

I took a similar image standing at the same spot but at dawn and focused on the main part of the city with Sugarloaf Mountain in the center:

Rio de Janeiro at dawn

Rio de Janeiro

 

Equipment is not going to make or break your images. I’m currently using an Olympus model camera that was made in 2012. If you want a full run down on the equipment I use and why see here:

Hope you get some great photos!

December 13, 2016 0 comment
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