Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Path into the water

Sometimes I am so convinced of the excellence of a certain scene that I spend dozens of shots on it. More often than not, all the photos turn out to be quite dull and end up being deleted or forgotten in hard drive limbo. Some other times I take a single casual shot of a vaguely interesting subject, and the visualization on the computer screen reveals an unsuspected potential and an excellent photo is made.

I admire those photographers who are able to visualize the final photo in all detail before actually pressing the shutter button. My work is more intuitive than rational. I have some idea of the kind of image that may come from a particular framing, perspective and choice of camera settings. But, in post-processing, I often create something quite different from what I originally had in mind. Standing behind the camera is only half of the fun in the photographic process.

The two photos in this post are some of the (few) examples when the outcome actually pretty much coincided with my initial idea. I thought this scenario would yield good photos. And I believe it did.

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Small village at night

If I had the time, this would be one of my photo projects. Capturing the way how street lights in (badly lit) rural villages create unique images, completely different from daytime scenes.

PS: Merry Christmas to all!

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dark mountains / white clouds

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 14/2.5

Friday, December 17, 2010

The general formula for Modern Art

Craig Damrauer, an American artist, sells this print as part of a project called "New Math":

Y'know what? I could do that!


(via PetaPixel)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A gallery of natural horrors

Carlos I is the one with the royal belly
Portuguese king Carlos I (1863-1908) was known all over Europe for his research works on Ornithology and Oceanography. He organized 12 nautical expeditions for studying the ocean fauna along the Portuguese coast. Many of the specimens collected were either preserved in formaldehyde in glass vessels or embalmed, for future study and scientific dissemination among the general public.

The Vasco da Gama Aquarium, close to Lisbon, holds a large number of sea animals that belonged to the king's collection. The preservation techniques avoided decomposition, but the creatures now look discoloured and ghostly. The visitors wonder along the exhibition rooms with a mix of fascination and horror.

These photos were taken hand-held with apertures around f/2, using only available artificial light. I must say I quite like the results. If you happen to visit Lisbon, don't forget to take your camera to the Vasco da Gama Aquarium Museum. Other sections of the aquarium include regular displays with live animals. Interesting, but not as entrancing.

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

As a final historic note, I may add that king Carlos I and his older son were shot dead on February 1, 1908, when riding an open carriage in Lisbon. The assassins were two monarchy opposers, possibly connected to Carbonaria - a secret and revolutionary society that existed in Southern Europe in the beginning of the XXth century. They were killed on the spot by the royal guard. The king's second son, Manuel, ruled for two years, until the republican regime was finally implemented in Portugal, on October 5, 1910. That was one hundred years ago.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Granite valleys

A couple weeks ago, we hiked 22 km (13.7 mi.) into the heart of Peneda-Gerês National Park. The low Winter sun casted long and cold shadows over the granite valleys.

A perfect day for carrying a 28 mm (equivalent) lens on a small camera.

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 14/2.5

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Autumn leaves

And here is my annual photo of fallen leaves.
You certainly agree that it would be inconceivable to have a photo blog without one of such images by this time of the year.

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Monday, November 29, 2010

A wide new world - my new Panasonic 14 mm f/2.5

Back in the days of film, I had a Zeiss 25 mm f/2.8, which I quite enjoyed. Then with my Pentax K10D that lens got converted to a 37 mm equivalent. Even though that is a quite versatile focal length, every once in a while I missed working with a wider lens. That's why I could not resist when Panasonic launched the Lumix 14 mm f/2.5 for Micro Four Thirds cameras, a wide angle lens that is equivalent to 28 mm. It is a beautiful little pancake, even smaller than the 20 mm f/1.7. The E-P2 becomes even more compact with this lens on.

However, some of  the reviews so far don't seem to be so enthusiastic about this new 14 mm as they were about the 20 mm. Vignetting at large apertures, distortion and low border sharpness have been pointed out as being significant. So, what's my humble opinion so far? The lens is well built, compact and fast focusing. Vignetting can be used for aesthetic purposes or software corrected when undesired, distortion is only really critical in architectural photography, and border sharpness has never been a key factor for deciding the quality of a photo*. I'm much more concerned with relearning how to compose with a wide angle lens than with optical performance technicalities.

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 14/2.5

* Concerning the (ir)relevance of optical sharpness when evaluating the quality of a lens, Ken Rockwell posted this interesting (and polemical) article in 2008.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The abstract rainbow

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

A gray scale depiction of a rainbow is something quite senseless. But the almost abstract result is not without interest.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The perfect rainbow

A few weeks ago we saw a beautiful rainbow, with incredibly intense colours drawing a perfect 180º arch in the sky. Part of it was actually a double rainbow.

Soon after the initial amazement, one thought crept my mind: "I really need a wider lens!"

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Friday, November 19, 2010

Back at the museum (III)

That´s our daughter watching some of Grazia Toderi's intriguing video projections.
In a completely unrelated note, the photo above reminded me of the iconic Poltergeist film, released back in the early 80's. "They're heeere!"

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Back at the museum (II)

These two women walked ahead of us during most of our tour at Serralves. I couldn't resist taking a few shots.There was something humorous about them having the same hairdo.

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A brief note on the new Pentax K-5

The new Pentax K-5 has been getting a lot of atenttion these days. Excellent sensor evaluation by DxO labs, reports of very low noise at high ISO sensitivities, quiet shutter... I did not buy the K20D because I thought it was not that much better than my beloved K10D. I did not buy the K-7 either, because, besides having a few new bells and whistles, it was not something I really needed. But finally, looking at the performance reports for the K-5, I would consider buying it today. If only... I hadn't meanwhile gotten an electronic-viewfinder-interchangeable-lens-mirrorless-compact-camera (we need a definitive acronym for these).

My Olympus E-P2 is far from perfect, but the concept makes a lot of sense to me. Sure, most current DSLRs have faster focusing and better reactivity. But they are bigger, bulkier, heavier. And the E-P2's performance is fine for what I do. Faster focusing is pointless if I leave the camera at home because do not bother carrying it. Being able to shoot candid portraits indoors at ISO 20.000 is useless if the subjects are made uncomfortable by the presence a conspicuous camera. This is all subjective, of course, but I wonder how many amateur EVIL (that's the most popular acronym) users actually feel the need to own/use a DSLR. I know I haven't been using my K10D since I got the E-P2!

If only there were a MILC (another often used acronym) with the well designed ergonomics, interface and build quality that characterize Pentax DSLRs... Well, by the way, there is a "61 to 80 % chance" rumour that Pentax will announce it's own DILS (yep, another one) on February 2011!

In the mean time, I leave you with a photo taken with my K10D that was forgotten in the bottom of the pile.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Back at the museum (I)

I've written about this before.  Serralves Contemporary Art Museum, in Porto, is a very interesting place to visit, not only for the exhibitions, but also for the architectural space.

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Thursday, November 4, 2010


A while back we bought a large polyester and fibre glass canoe. We've been using it regularly almost every Summer, even with the kids, since it has enough space to sit everybody.

I never get tired of noticing how a river stream can form a very unique landscape when observed from the water instead of the margin.

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Spotted in the crowd

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Friday, October 29, 2010

Facing the other way

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Summer festivity

In Portugal, during Summer, almost every town or village will have some religious festivity in honour of a local patron saint. These events are colourful, noisy and a good opportunity for using a discrete camera like the E-P2, even at night, despite its high ISO limitations.

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kings of the world

The girl above is our 6 year old daughter. She likes all things pink, all things Hello Kitty (TM) and hiking up mountains.

The boy next to her on the photo below is our 3 year old son. He wants to be a "super-strong super-hero" when he grows up.

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mizarela's Slit

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Probably the most visited spot in Serra da Freita (see previous post) is the 75-meter-tall waterfall you see in the image, called Frecha da Mizarela (Mizarela's Slit).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Serra da Freita

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Serra da Freita is a small mountain range in Northern Portugal. It is only about 70 km (43 miles) away from Porto (Portugal's second largest city). Even though this part of the country is densely populated, Freita's upper plateau is an incredibly deserted and calm location, providing a (false) feeling of distance from the modern world.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The cave

The Mira de Aire Caves are the largest in Portugal. A portion is open for tourist visitation.
Some of the stone formations look so "organic" that H.R. Giger's nightmarish art comes to mind.

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

Monday, October 11, 2010

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Just bought "An Inner Silence, the Portraits of Henri Cartier-Bresson." It is good to be able to periodically look at those images. Most of them are slightly blurred and grainy portraits of people who, in most cases, are not even looking at the camera. They are caught in the middle of something: a conversation, a moment of silence, a private meditation, an instant when they were not aware the photographer was pressing the shutter button. Even when someone is looking straight at the camera, he/she looks absent, as if his/her eyes just happened to momentarily look in that direction. HCB did not like posed portraits.

He also did not like close-ups. The people he portrays, most of them well known in the art world of the time, are always shown in a context. A bookshelf, a painting, a curtain, a tapestry, a mask, a street lamp, there is always something else in the frame that makes a lot of sense, that had to be there.

All photos are taken under available light only.

That's all there is to making exceptional portraits: sense of timing and placement. It is not the large aperture lens, the backdrops, the strobes, the diffusion boxes. If it only were that simple...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The last day of Summer (III)

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

These last three posts have the same title as a photography book by Jock Sturges and a song by The Cure. Both are worth a look.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The last day of Summer (II)

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7