Square format has always been (or should I say "used to be"?) synonym of fine art photography, the product of medium format film cameras accessible only to serious photographers. With the advent of digital, square became just another crop option. But it is a quite interesting option!
My experiments with square format actually started in the days of film, when I bought an used Yashica Mat-124 G, a 6x6 twin lens reflex. Even though the camera was fun to use (and a great conversation piece), I never ran more than half a dozen film rolls through it. But I found interesting the way how the elements in an image could be neatly arranged on a square frame.
Recently, a few posts by Bruce Robbins on his blog made me start thinking about square format again. Live View on the E-P2 can be configured to display a square crop. If one is shooting RAW, the entire 4:3 image is stored, so one can adjust the cropping later on. So I gave it a try, and I'm enjoying it quite a lot. It is making me think what makes a composition work, before I actually press the shutter.
Here are a few shots taken at the garden of Serralves Museum, in Porto. I think I'll be shooting square for a while longer.
Can you tell I've been obsessing over flowers and extension tubes? And it's not over yet! Part of it is due to Spring being here. But it is also because my little Micro 4/3 lens collection does not have a wide angle. This way I cannot shoot proper landscapes. What else can I do then than go for the flowers?
OK, I admit I'm feeling a bit limited in terms of inspiration lately. What I really should do is take the Pentax K10D and the Distagon 25 mm out of the closet and go for a walk...
Isn't this a fascinating image? The orange creature is stealthily approaching the absent minded toad. In a split second it will attack and devour the poor animal. The tension! The drama! This is what wildlife photography is all about. National Geographic, I'm ready for signing my contract!
Well, in reality those two fellows are not natural enemies about to enter a fight for survival. They were in the same glass cage at an exhibition on amphibians at Porto Botanical Garden. They actually stood in that position for more than an hour - no, they are not made of plastic. Maybe they were engaged in some kind of staring contest...
But there is another reason why I find this photo interesting. It was taken without a tripod, using an extension tube, through a not very clean glass, under quite bad artificial lighting and at ISO 1600. I've made some adjustments on the tone curve and white balance. The color noise in the final JPEG, which is quite evident at this ISO level on the E-P2, was filtered out with Neat Image. I'm impressed at how this software can preserve sharpness and detail on the in-focus areas, while the rest of the image is made absolutely smooth. Silkypix, the RAW editor I use for all my post-processing work, doesn't even get close to this, both in terms of final quality and ease of use. Ironically, I've never been too preoccupied with noise on my photos, but after trying Neat Image I found a particular pleasure in watching the graininess disappear. Of course, grain can be nice on some photos, I did not forget that.
Here's another 1600 ISO photo treated in the same manner and shot in the same location. By the way, that frog did not move much either.
One annoying thing about the E-P2's design is the way the main dial on the back can be easily pressed and rotated while carrying the camera. I've already inadvertently changed aperture, ISO number and white balance. Sometimes I fail to notice it and I take a number of shots with the wrong settings. This is more of a problem with a pancake lens mounted, since then I have to hold the camera by the side grip and my thumb accidentally falls on the dial. With a larger lens I tend to carry the camera holding the lens barrel. That's where the center of gravity is located, even if the lens is not too long, because the camera body is so light. But even in this case I have accidentally changed some settings.
Changing subject, have you ever noticed how the "shadow" white balance setting works quite well on some open daylight shots, lending a pleasing warm light to the scene? I realized that... hmmm... accidentally.