Saturday, June 30, 2012

Istanbul Day 3- OMD on the Road

Good Morning Istanbul

I started yesterday with sunset from the terrace at the Rast Hotel where I am staying in Istanbul so I thought I would start today with sunrise (or nearly, I overslept a little). What a view, I could spend all day lounging about up there, but I didn't :)

I wandered the streets a little today but in all honesty I think the jet lag and overnight flight from Singapore is catching up so I decided to take it easier and have a more relaxed day. Having said that, I still came across some really nice people like this guy at Beyazit Square. When I asked if I could shoot his ringed hand and cane for a detail shot he promptly assumed I wanted a fully posed portrait and stood to attention. Not really what I wanted but I think the shot works because of the tight crop and the glance from the old man on the right. A quick word on the processing of these shots which is probably a bit more colorful and contrasty than my normal style but I felt it suits the vibrant atmosphere of Istanbul, I hope its not overdone as I am hopelessly color blind but it looks nice to my eyes. Out of interest its a very simple piece of Lightroom editing and I am simply adding a bit more presence and vibrance than normal, just about everything else is the same as usual.

I don't think that the above shot is very inspirational but I really liked the way the light was falling on the scene and it looked very rich and saturated, the coins, notes and paraphernalia the guy was selling was also interesting and I spent a very pleasant five minutes or so looking at his wares.

We all love barber shops, the light is usually good and there is always a mirror for that all important reflection. Its a bonus when the barber is waring the favored Turkish red and has a good tatoo into the bargain. This guy was also very tolerant and allowed me to shoot for a while.

The Turkish Wedding

Sometimes you just get lucky, the hotel manager recomended a restaurant to us and when we got there a wedding party was in full swing and the bride and groom very graciously allowed me to shoot a few photos. 

In looking at these shots I think I overdid the noise reduction as they are looking too plastic for my liking, still its too late at night now and I still like the smile anyway. These are very low light shots at ISO 3200 and while usable, it doesn't take much to push them over the edge.

As at the barbers shop, mirrors are your friend. There seems to be a tradition at Turkish weddings that the girls carry a small candle in each hand, not sure why but it made for interesting photography.

Here's the last shot of the day and although the lighting was poor and my exposure was a bit off I had to include it for the sultry look from this beautiful young Turkish lady....oh to be young again.

That's it for day 3 folks, the workshop with Peter begins tomorrow so it will be interesting to see how it progresses and what other delights this fascinating city has in store.



Friday, June 29, 2012

Istanbul Day 2 - OMD on the Road

Inspirational Istanbul

Hi Folks, and welcome to day two from Istanbul. Well thats not strictly true as I wanted to start with a couple of shots that I took from our hotel balcony last night at dusk, how's this for a view !!! The second shot was at ISO 3200 handheld so I had to give it a bit of noise smoothing in Lightroom, still it has a nice feel to it.

The hotel is called the Rast and is in a fabulous location right in the centre of Sultanahmet in the old city. Before I start on todays shots, now that I am fully rested after the overnight flight from Singapore, I wanted to show a few photos that I took late yesterday afternoon.

Regular readers of the blog will know how fond I am of backlighting and there were many opportunities to take these kinds of shots in the narrow cobbled streets in the old city. If you are trying this, you need around + 1.7 to +2 exposure compensation and shut down the lens as far as possible to help with the starburst effect.

Here is another nice example of a street seller who appeared towards dusk at Beyazit Square near the university. This is a very interesting spot that I visited a few times during the day and it seemed to change very time I went. I took a few shots of him before he got fed up with me and I can't make up my mind which I prefer, I like the feel and action of the first but can see his face and expression in the second.

Here is another backlit streetshot that I like a lot, the rim lighting is just right and as an added bonus I have another model in red in the top left of the frame, this wasn't intentional but I think it improves the photo immeasurably. Ok, Here is the last shot from Yesterday afternoon and its a cigarette street streetseller. In my enthusiasm I didn't spot that I was reflecting in his machine, never mind, I like the back-lighting and the pose. A quick word about the little Lumix lens, the 14mm F2.5 is a fabulous street lens, its extremely light and compact, reasonably fast, sharp wide open and very flare resistant when shooting these kind of backlit photos. Its become a firm favorite with me and is never off the OMD now.

For today, feeling totally refreshed after a long lie and very nice breakfast. I decided to follow the tram lines done towards the Bosphorus and see where I ended up. I personally love just wandering aimlessly and its amazing what you come accross. I found my way to Sirkecis Train Station and got a few nice natural light shots in the old waiting room area.

I am finding that most Istanbul citizens are pretty good when it comes to taking photos of them and they either ignore you or politely smile and let you get on with it. This was the former :)

You really can't go wrong with nice window lighting and its also hard to go wrong when you get a nice graffiti painted wall, all you have to do is station yourself and wait for the right actors to appear on your stage. I had only settled there for a few minutes when along came this guy in red trousers and i had a polarizer on the Lumix 14 so the result is very nicely saturated.

Galata Bridge

Following a refreshing afternoon nap I decided to try the evening light down at the Galata bridge which spans the Bosphorus and is a hive of activity in the late afternoon. The bridge itself is pretty big and has two levels, the lower of which houses restaurants and bars. With the OMD rigged with my favorite 14 mm lens and the GX1 over my other shoulder with the equally flexible 20mm F1.7 attached I was ready for anything. For some reason I found myself favoring the GX1, 20mm combo this afternoon and I quickly found a fascinating shadow opportunity.

I thought it looked cool to leave my own shadow in the shot it seemed to create a nice tension across the frame. I really liked this location and took a lot of shots trying to find the right subject and it turned out that timing was everything, it proved very tricky trying to anticipate and shoot at the right moment. Something I like about the GX1 like the GF1 before it, I seem to be able to view with my left eye and watch for subjects out of frame with my right rather like rangefinder shooters do.

Here is another shot that I liked of the avid fishermen on the bridge. These guys were really keen and some of them spend all day on the bridge and for some it turns into a kind of family affair.

Just to close, here is what I think is my favorite shot of the day that I took just as the light was going. I really like the feel of this and somehow it creates an 'end of the day' type emotion. This really is a gorgeous setting in the late afternoon and I am really liking the flexibility of the OMD 14mm and GX1 20mm set ups, they cover the perfect range for my style of shooting.

Well thats it for day two folks. I am off for some well earned sleep and have one more day to wander about on my own before the course starts. I am off to bed weary but already filled with anticipation for tomorrow.



Thursday, June 28, 2012

Istanbul Day 1 - OMD on the Road

First Thoughts on Istanbul

Hey fellow photo travelers, welcome to this first post from my trip to Istanbul for a workshop with Peter Turnley . The workshop is street shooting orientated with a photojournalistic theme and I decided to arrive a few days early to acclimatize and get into the spirit. I arrived at the hotel at 9:00 a.m. this morning having flown over night from Singapore and decided to hit the streets immediately. The hotel we are in is right in the centre of Sultanahmet in the old city and I just couldn't wait to explore so I grabbed my Olympus OMD with Lumix 14mm F2.5 and hit the streets. First up, this is a wonderful little travel combo, incredibly light, robust and flexible. I mentioned in previous posts that I am really warming to shooting with the touch shutter on the cameras rear screen and I am convinced this is the way to go with street shooting. I am also finding that its not an intimidating set up and it doesn't get the reaction that the bigger DSLR and lenses would. The opening shot is a good example of this as I was able to engage the subject in conversation while I shot away with the touchscreen, and it worked a treat. 

Although I would class myself as an experienced photographer, the thought of focusing entirely on Street Photography was a little foriegn although fortunately I think it aligned with the way I shoot anyway. Traditionally I use wider lenses of the order of the 24, 28, 35 & 40 focal lengths and I usually try to shoot what I would term 'context' shots so I guess trying to story tell and create interesting little series of shots isn't actually that far from what I do anyway. I watched a tremendous little Magnum in Motion clip by Alex Webb when I was researching for this trip and I was struck by the depth of interest in his photos, the best ones seem to be multilayered with interesting elements that all come together to trap your eye in the frame. Inspired by this I have been trying to keep that in mind when I explore any interesting subjects that I come accross and I think the window shot above is about as close as I have got to it yet.

One thing that is clear to me after my first few hours here is that I think I have the gear choices spot on. As is my way recently, I have gone really light and brought the OMD, GX1 and a few primes including the Lumix 14 & 20, the Sigma 30 and the Olympus 45 (these all of course double for equivalent focal length). In addition I brought the Samyang fisheye thinking it might be useful in the gorgeous mosques. I have started out today with just the OMD and 14 & 20 and they have been perfectly suited to this style. I also bought a very cheap Lowepro Exchange Messenger bag which is ridiculously light and a great compliment to the micro 43 kit, housing it all with ease and, in combination with the tiny lightweight lenses, being no trouble to carry in the city heat.

From what I have seen so far of Istanbul, and please remember I have only been here for a matter of hours, its reputation as a street-shooters paradise looks to be warranted. Every turn of a corner holds something new to see and some variety of light and subject matter. The blend of old and new is certainly there as well and contrasts abound. So far I have only been refused by a couple of subjects and thats fair enough, I think as I adapt and become better at this style, the hit rate of keepers will rise. 

Well, I am starting to tire a little so I am going to grab some coffee and a snack before I shoot in the late afternoon light which should be great. It is also my intention to leave the hotel around 5 a.m. tomorrow to see how the city looks around sunrise so it will be an early one tonight. It is my intention to try to update this every day if I can but not sure how achievable that will be once the course starts and I really get into it. Anyway, in the meantime happy shooting.



Sunday, June 24, 2012

Panasonic GX1 - How did I miss this??

Hey fellow photo travel fans, welcome to this short post on my latest purchase, the delicious little Lumix GX1. First of all, how did I miss this delight of a camera?? Those of you that read this blog will know of my deep affinity for the GF1 which I have been using since it came out but somehow I didn't really catch on to this updated version. I think what put me off initially was that I read of the change to a touchscreen interface for the shooting menus from the GF1 shooting dial and that for me was one of the killer features of the GF1. Anyway, I saw a GX1 advertised on Singapore's Clubsnap site for S$630 and as I was looking for an M43 partner for the OMD for my upcoming trip to Istanbul (more later), I went ahead and bought it and boy, am I pleased I did :)

On the shooting menu and touchscreen interface, its nothing like as bad as I feared. I still much preferred the GF1 dial as I frequently use bracketing to protect exposure on the ISO sensitive GF1 and also use the 2 second timer setting when I am in low light and don't want to press a shutter. So why bother with the GX1 if I still prefer the GF1 controls? Well, quite simply, the GX1 is a much more mature camera. The body, grip and in particular sensor are vastly improved over the GF1, and it was a pretty mean design from the start. In particular, the grip on the GX1 is exceptional for such a small camera, this is really well thought out design at its best. The ridged front grip combines very elegantly with a raised thumb rest type grip on the rear to provide a solid and comfortable hold. The sensor is also a huge improvement and pretty much up there with the my favorite camera of the moment the Olympus OMD. The above shot of the busker and the following shot were both taken in pretty murky light and the camera has done a great job of handling them. A little tweaking of the robust RAW files and I have very usable results which would have been simply impossible with the GF1.

The white balance was also spot on and although the meter has a slight tendency towards under exposure its easily adjusted on the simple compensation dial which toggles nicely with the aperture setting. This is a feature it shares with the GF1 and one I like very much, it seems to be the two controls that I use most and they interact nicely. 

Something to consider if you are thinking of getting one of these is that you really need to get the EVF attachment, it really does transform the handling and I really like the flexibility to tilt it. I paid S$300 for one which significantly boosted the overall cost and suddenly it wasn't looking such a bargain. Having said that its still cheaper than the OMD which I think is fair as the OMD outperforms it in several handling areas such as the water/dust sealing and better quality articulated rear screen.

Another area of clear improvement in the GX1 over the GF1 is its color handling. I need to go on record here as being badly color blind and to having a liking for the slightly strange tones from the GF1 which I always felt looked great when slightly desaturated. It is clear even to my eyes that the GX1 is more accurate and the colors also respond very well to the vibrance and contrast controls in Lightroom. I have to say that the files behaved well in editing and they have much more leeway for adjustment. Incidentally, the above shot was taken at a Graffiti art competition at Marina Bay in Singapore.

The more I messed around with the GX1, the happier I became with it as a choice to work with the OMD on my Istanbul trip which is predominately about taking a photojournalistic approach to a theme on the city. One reason for the success of the blend is that they compliment each other very well. The OMD has its lovely tilting screen for high/low angle shooting and its body image stabilization make it better for use with my primes (none of which are stabilized) in low light. I can see me using the Sigma 30 and Olympus 45  on the OMD and the wider Lumix 14 and fast 20 on the Lumix. While the GX1 is very discreet and holds well in one hand and has a cool little ace up its sleeve with the tillable in built flash. I snapped the following shot by tilting the flash into its upwards setting and holding the palm of my hand flat behind it as a reflector. I was blown away with how natural the result looked and to my eyes it has none of the shadow and flatness normally associated with built in on camera  flash. This is one of the few cameras that I know of where you can do this with a built in flash and its a great technique for close in portrait and street snapshots. The only watch out is that the skin tone from your hand can make for an overly rich cast on the subject. It worked fine in this one though.

Usually when I am editing my photos I often get a very strong urge to convert to B&W but I found myself having so much fun with the GX1 files in color that I don't yet have a single B&W conversion. Look at the lovely red in the following shot, really cool rendering and with just a little vibrance added.

I think you can probably tell how pleased I am with this low cost addition to my camera family but here is the real impact of this choice. It has spurred me to clear out my dry cabinet and bag collection !!! I really can't see the reason to carry a lot of gear on my travels from now on. I have always liked to travel as light as possible but I am now so bought into the M43 system and the little Nikon V1 that I simply don't see me taking a DSLR on a trip again (hope I don't live to eat these words ....) I have sold off my Nikon D300 and am working my way through my large Nikon mount lens collection. I do intend to keep my D3 and a few of my best primes but the rest are going along with the larger bags and Think Tank systems.

If you are interested in the GX1 then here are a few reviews from people whose opinions I really respect and they give a nice balanced view. First up Steve Huff , and I think its fair to say that Steve was a little disappointed that the GX1 didn't make up more ground with an in-built EVF and in body stabilisation. I have to say that I am with him on both of these comments but the add-on EVF is very good and has the benefit of tilting (along with the drawback of significant extra cost) and unfortunately, like Nikon and Canon, Panasonic I believe made the mistake of going for lens stabilization. The reason I think this is a mistake is because of the legacy lenses that would benefit from body stabilisation and even the wide and mid range primes that Lumix brought out don't have OS. Here are a couple of other reviews from guys who's attitude and output I really admire. If you get a chance have a look at what Bert Stephani has done with the GF1 and a little flash here , and here is his short review on the GX1. I also like this review by Rob Mitchell where he looks at the OMD and GX1 together (he also reviews the GX1 seperately) Finally, here is a more technical look at the camera by Gordon Laing at Camera Labs. Interestingly, Gordon took the GX1 as his camera of choice on an extended holiday trip and you can see his thoughts on that and the lenses he chose in his video blog on the trip.

Well, that's about it on the GX1 folks and my thoughts are turning seriously to the upcoming Istanbul trip which is based around a workshop with Peter Turnley and I am really excited about the whole adventure which is a real break from my normal travel style of photography. I am sure I will learn loads and am hoping to update the blog with my thoughts as the course develops. In the meantime, have fun shooting and I may have time for one quick post on the gear I am taking and the trip prep before I go, so keep your eyes peeled for that one.



Monday, June 18, 2012

Fujian Pt 2

Traveling with the OMD & G3

Hey fellow photo travel fans, welcome to the second part of the post on my recent trip to the Fujian region of China. Just to recap, I spent eight days on the road in the Fujian region of Southern China shooting with a pretty lightweight kit consisting of the Olympus OMD, Lumix G3, Fuji F600 and a good assortment of M43 primes along with the marvelous, inexpensive Lumix 45-200 zoom. The zoom saw a lot of service for the pattern shots that I mentioned in the last post and I got so much reaction to those shots that I decided to include some more and also add in the overall context so that you can get a better idea of how the shots work. To conclude on the trip I will also take a look at the Hui An coastal region and the stunning Earth Buildings at Tian Luo Keng. So lets get going......

The Pattern Shots

First up here is is the set up for the shots that I took of the boat in the 's' shaped channel created by the poles that protect the waterway and provide the support for the nets to catch crustaceans and shellfish.

The shot is taken from a vantage point on the roof of the local schoolhouse that we were lucky enough to get granted access to - again why you need a local guide. Here is a different variation on the shot that doesn't work quite as well as the others because the pattern and shape is not as strong in the composition. Hopefully you can now get a better idea on how the shot was created though and why a long zoom is simply essential. Most of my traveling companions shot with tripods but I found that the OMD IS worked superbly well and there was enough light to maintain a decent shutter speed. Just remember to switch off the stabilization on the lens if you are using a Lumix OIS version. Full marks to the OMD & Lumix 45-200 combo which worked a treat giving me nice crisp shots. 

For a final look at this set up, here is a shot that works better but I still prefer the vertical shot from the original post.

On to the next location and this was one of my personal favorites for a number of reasons; firstly, the patterns were fantastic, secondly, the boatman rushed back with his catch and also turned out to be a very fine chef who ran a little cafe (more later) where we had lunch. Anyway, here is the context shot for the setting and you can see quite clearly how the sandbanks sit from the vantage point which was a pretty steep climb up a hill behind the estuary.

As with the other location, I think I preferred the vertical shot that I showed in the last post but here is a tighter crop version that works well in Hi Key. Again, the huge pull of the 400mm equivalent on the long end of the Lumix is vital to making this work and while I was shooting with the OMD on a pistol grip with the relatively tiny Lumix zoom, my fellow travelers were all on tripods with 2X extenders on their 70-200's. That's a huge difference in weight to carry up these hills and to be honest I don't think there is much to choose from in the results.

I mentioned in answer to a comment that I got from the post that Steve Huff did that, for me these pattern shots are 'being there' takes, in that any competent photographer could get similar ones if they could find the same locations. Part of the technique on these shots though is timing and the one above is just slightly off as its better to catch the boatman pushing the pole at full extension. On the timing issue, I found the OMD to be highly responsive and much easier to move the focus points on than the G3. It was also capable of nice little bursts and the bracketing is relatively simple to implement although not in the league of the outstanding GF1, am I alone in thinking that the GF1 shooting dial should be copied on every camera? I mentioned previously that the boatman in these shots was a damn fine cook and he rustled us up a marvelous lunch in his little cafe before relaxing to enjoy his own work with his mother watching over. A quick point here, Steve Huff and others pointed out that the Jpg's in vivid mode can be a little over-saturated, particularly in skin tones and this is spot on. I had to use some Jpg's prior to Adobe releasing the RAW converter for Lightroom 4 and also found this to be the case. Vivid renders bright punchy colors that are useful in certain scenes but it doesn't work well on Asian skin so just be careful if you are using it. Apart from that, I thought the Jpg's looked great out of the camera.

Here is the final location and context shot and this turned out to be a very challenging shooting situation as it was wet and overcast. Much has been made of the water resistance of the OMD and its a pretty handy feature. Even although I don't have the weatherproofed kit lens I had the camera and lens in a ziplok bag and felt a sense of added confidence that even although my hands were wet, there would be no problem with the camera. Well done Olympus and its crazy to read critics complaining about the control buttons being a little spongy, that to me seems an obvious consequence of the water sealing and a small trade off to make. Personally, I think dust sealing is more important for the kind of travel work I do and I have never had a single dust related problem with any of my M43 cameras. The OMD looks to take that to a new level of robustness, a big plus in my eyes.

I left the negative space and blueish cast in this photo as I felt it gave a sense of the misty, damp morning and huge expanse of the scene. I tried a few different takes on this location because I loved the shapes and textures but in all honestly the light was just too bad, this is about the best of the efforts. 

Here's the final shot from this location and again, I just didn't have enough light in the misty conditions so went for an atmospheric shot instead. I think when you travel that sometimes you just have to make the best of what your given, although I must say I would love to go back here on a better day, its a great scene to shoot.

The next few photos are my personal favorites of all of the vantage point pattern shots and its mainly because we were eventually blessed with some decent light at this location. You can see the context below and get some feel for how high we were above the actual scene. Incidentally, these first two shots were taken with the Fuji F600 which I find to be a nice handy pocket camera.

As I hope you can see these two shots were taken in quick succession but look at how the impact changes when you zoom in and start to isolate the subject.

As I said, the light here was the best we had on the whole trip and it is just as well as, unlike the other pattern shots, there were no stakes or man made shapes to aid the shooting. This required the sunset light to make it work and give the required contrast. You can see from the following shot what I felt was the most interesting blend of the pattern and contrasty sunset light. This occurred in the area where the tide and waves had left a ripple pattern in the sand. At first I didn't think I was going to get the shot as none of the fisherwomen walked past that area until eventually, at long last I managed to catch one going across the best area. Like the other pattern shots its important to try to get a clean shot of the subject in good motion and also to get the full reflection if possible. I didn't quite make it with the reflection but I think there is enough there to make it work.

Ok, two non pattern locations to go and first up are the magnificent Earth Buildings at Tian Luo Keng.  The buildings in this complex are figuratively known as 'four dishes and a soup' because of their layout and there is a piece of local folklore that the American CIA located them from a surveillance satellite and believed them to be a missile installation from the unique layout. American visitors are therefore treated with humor as being 'CIA spies' come to verify. Either way, the buildings despite, being constructed from earth around a wooden skeleton, have been around for 700 years or thereabouts.

Again, the wet, misty weather followed us from the coast so it was very challenging to shoot anything meaningful. I did find that the drop down graduated filter effect in Lightroom can be a bit of a life saver for these kind of shots. This takes me to one of the few criticism's I have of the M43 system and that is that the lenses are too small to effectively use grad filters. I would much prefer to get the shot right at the point of taking it as, despite the advances in software, it always introduces a trade off of some sort when you start any kind of heavy manipulation. For this reason I find it best to keep use of the effect light. Interestingly on this subject, if you get a chance have a look at how the amazing Bert Stephani uses the Lightroom grad filter to give vignette effects in his portraits. All done with a GF1 and a tiny flash, great stuff Bert.

As I mentioned in the previous Fujian post, its always a good idea to force yourself to shoot a vertical as well and I am glad I did so here as I like the perspective.
Aside from the Earth Buildings, the main reason to come here as a photographer is to shoot the people of this area in their round village environment. Many fantastic street shooting style opportunities will come your way and I have to say that both the G3 and the OMD are great for this kind of shooting with their touchscreen focus and shoot, coupled with the lightening fast focusing. Here are a couple of good examples taken with the G3 and Lumix 20 F1.7. 

The subjects were a mother and daughter and, although they had no English, the universal tried and tested travel photography technique of patience, a warm smile and some simple gestures worked wonders. As did buying a small bag of their delicious tea :)

In the same building I also came across this superb musician who was carrying on the family tradition of making and playing these lovely wind instruments and flutes. He treated us to a virtuoso performance and was very happy to pose for these shots.

When I am shooting subjects like this I usually have two cameras round my neck, one with a widish angle and something like a 40 or 50mm equivalent to get tighter shots. The reason I do this is that I like to take a subject plus context shot first using the wider angle lens and then quickly tighten up with the standard type lens. This gives good variation and, as I have stressed before, don't forget to shoot both horizontal and vertical. For some reason I am a horizontal shooter by nature and I really have to discipline myself to shoot in vertical but it usually pays dividends.

This isn't a particularly good example of the point i am trying to make as it was very tight in the small shop but I did want to show the photo on the wall of what I assumed were the owners father or uncles. This helped a little with the story before going in tight to focus on him and the instrument.

Again, these were pretty low light shots and required faster lenses. This is an important aspect of the M43 system for me in that I find the lenses work great wide open with no compromise to the IQ. This is a major factor that is often overlooked and I read a lot about Nikon and Canon lenses working best when stopped down a little. This good IQ wide open appears to be a trait that the best M43 lenses share with Leica and its a huge advantage of the system. Here are a few final shots that will hopefully give some idea of what the earth buildings are like and also a couple of shots of the locals.

Shooting the locals was a bit hit and miss, with some being ok and others actively discouraging it. This nice lady was very happy to be photographed and one of my traveling companions from Singapore speaks Mandarin and was able to chat to her while I shot. We also bought a couple of her fried bread sticks which are ridiculously cheap and very filling.

Last up, this guy was laughing because the woman who was sitting with them started to berate me and moved off as soon as I raised the camera, he found this hilarious and graciously allowed me to shoot. 

Final stop for this post was at Hui An and we were lucky enough to be able to photograph some of the local women in their colorful traditional costume. These women are famous for their work ethic and they can be found fishing and even laboring on construction sites. In fact the lovely ladies we shot headed straight off in the rain to a local building site.

This nice tight shot was taken with the very nice Olympus 45mm F1.8 which I am finding to be a lightweight marvel. Its not a focal length that I am very comfortable with as I prefer the 24 to 40 zone but I am working on it and there is no question in my mind that it is an extremely capable piece of glass. It works really well in combination with the OMD because of the in-body stabilization and fast aperture which also works really well wide open. 

This is an nice example of the colorful traditional costume hat and scarf combination. Unfortunately it rained heavily again at this location so the light wasn't very favorable. In addition to being bright and colorful the costume also has intricate embroidered detail which is complemented by lovely silver belts.

As I said, the weather was not favoring us and frustratingly we had to call it a day as the girls (and photographers) were getting very wet. I felt a bit frustrated as they were very approachable and photogenic and I think I missed out on what was potentially a very nice and relatively unique travel photography opportunity. never mind, always a good reason to go back :) 

One thing you can do when the weather turns bad is head to a local market and I managed to catch a nice candid of the this stall-holder as the light was fading.

Well that's about it from Fujian folks but I would like to finish with a similar shot to the opener which is of course one of the staged shoots much beloved by Chinese photographers who seem to thrive on smokey scenes. Its easy to be disdainful of these set ups but personally, although I don't see much photographic merit in them, I do thrive on the technical challenge that they represent and its not that easy to get this kind of lighting right.

I was really surprised at how well the OMD and G3 handled the difficult lighting and when I got the RAW files into Lightroom it was very easy to get them to look the way I wanted. I know that Steve Huff picked up on the dynamic range available in the OMD RAW files and I can certainly confirm that there is a lot of leeway to work the shadows and highlights.

Anyway, that's it folks, I hope that this has been at least a little interesting and informative to anyone thinking of going to Fujian. I mentioned in my last post that I was going to Tibet and Nepal at the end of the month but the Chinese Government have closed the border to tourists following some local unrest. That was a bummer but by sheer luck I managed to get booked onto a Peter Turnley workshop in Istanbul, every cloud and all that......

More on this in my next post along with some thoughts on what kit I will be taking for what is essentially going to be street shooting with a photojournalistic edge. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to drop me a note or leave a comment if their is anything I can help with or expand on in relation to this post.