TOO MANY BUTTONS

Some months ago, I bought a refurbished (read “used”) Olympus OM-D E-M5. I don’t think anyone ever really used it as a camera. Maybe it was a store demo or something like that, but it had all the plastic wrap still on it, so it was new. Except the there’s a newer version of it out, so this is how you sell off the previous model.

One of the things it didn’t come with is the User’s Guide. It came with no documentation at all, actually and an after-market battery charger.

I haven’t used the camera much. I haven’t been outside much or taken many pictures, so mostly, it’s has been waiting for spring when my interest in photography usually revives.

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This also means that I am not as comfortable using this camera as I am other cameras. In fact, because it came without documentation and it’s got a lot of dials and buttons, I’ve been shying away from it. But. You don’t learn to use a camera by not using the camera.

Today dawned beautiful. The sun was shining, the sky was bright blue and the air was sweet and warm. Garry said “Let’s go.” I grabbed my Olympus OM-D E-M5 and off we went to River Bend. We exited the car and we went our separate ways.

I had decided to begin using the f1.8 25mm “normal” lens. It’s very sharp and has a lens hood, good for shooting on such a bright day.

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I took a few more shots then decided to change to my 14-150 telephoto. Except something happened. After I changed lenses, I couldn’t see anything in the LCD screen. It was dark and for once, it wasn’t because I forgot to remove the lens cap.

I got my hyper-ventilation and panic reaction under control and looked through the viewfinder. I could see through it. See the menu settings too. Which meant my camera was working. This could mean only one thing: I had inadvertently, accidentally, unintentionally, and unknowingly pushed a button.

I had no idea what button I’d pushed. No idea where to look for it. Before I’d done whatever I’d done, the camera had been automatically switching between viewfinder and LCD screen. But I had done something.

Eventually, I found a tiny button near the collar of the lens. I pressed it. The picture returned to the LCD screen. All was right with the world. This is not the first time or the first camera on which a previously undetected button got pushed with disastrous results.

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There are too many buttons. On everything. Cameras. Televisions. Remote controls. Computers. Tablets.  Telephones. Convection ovens. Too many settings for software. Too much. Of everything.

I wanted to buy a rice cooker that cooks rice. I don’t need it to also bake cakes, steam fish, and do my laundry. Just cook rice. White rice. It cost me more to get a rice cooker that does this one thing well, than to buy something with 13 configurable programs to all kinds of stuff I will never want or need.

I understand to sell things, you have to improve them. After all, who would buy a new version of Photoshop if it’s exactly the same as the one you already own? So, for good or ill, you have to change stuff.

But I didn’t buy my Olympus OM-D for its bells, whistles, or little buttons. I bought it because it’s water-resistant, fast, has great resolution, a bigger sensor … and at long last, a built-in viewfinder, something for which Olympus users have been yearning since forever.

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All those extra bells, whistles, and buttons are not a sales plus for me. Do you even know what the menu options in your various system menus mean? What all those buttons do? Or even where to find them?  There are too many buttons. Too many options.

Maybe the next upgrade to our equipment will be … (wait for it) … simplicity. Now that’s an upgrade I would embrace.

A DIFFERENT EYE AT THE CANAL – GARRY ARMSTRONG

When two photographers shoot the same scene, it’s always interesting to see what they will shoot that is essentially the same … and what they will see as different.

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In this case, I was able to get pictures from places Marilyn couldn’t go … partly because I’m a bit more agile than she is, but also because she spent most of our shooting time trying to figure out why her camera wasn’t working. By the time she figured out what had gone wrong, it was time to go home. Better luck next time.

I keep it simple. I use the same lens and camera. I’m happy with my Pentax Q7. It’s light, comfortable in my hands. I know how it works. Results are predictable and usually exactly what I intended. Most of the time. Marilyn says I need to make sure I’m holding the camera straight, to take a look at the horizon and align with it. My bad.

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This was a couple of days ago. Late afternoon down at the Blackstone Canal.

PARTY PHOTOGRAPHY – NOTHING TO SHOOT?

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Parties are where they invite you to take pictures but don’t make it easy. Cluttered locations, poor light, too many folks in tight spaces. I hate battling crowds under any circumstances, but especially when I’m shooting.

So, there I am. At a party. I know one or two people (maybe), and I have to take some pictures. Who are these people? Unless it’s my party … and we don’t give parties anymore … I hope someone will come by to tell me who should be in the pictures.

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Looking around. People are talking in groups. Eating. A few laughing. Some loners. People talking in pairs, in groups.

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Mostly of the other cameras are big ones, Canon and Nikon. I’ve got the funny little camera, my Pentax Q S1 with its lenses, plus extra batteries and accessories. It weighs less than a standard point-and-shoot. They sneer, but I don’t care.

Kaitlin 15th birthday

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Parties are stressful. Garry can’t hear in crowds and I can’t remember names. You can tell me your name and within a breath, I’ll say, “I’m sorry, what’s your name again?” If it happens more than twice, I’m too embarrassed to ask again. I shoot and hope Garry can identify the people in the shot. Later.

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There’s always a picture somewhere. Somehow. You have to look for it, sometimes very hard, but it’s there. And it’s better than sitting in a corner demolishing the brownies.

VINEYARD MEMORIES – ALFRED EISENSTADT AND ME

In the early 1990s, Garry did a feature about Alfred Eisenstadt and Lois Maillou Jones, both of whom lived on the Vineyard and had been given Presidential Medals of Honor for their work. We became friends with both artists. Eisenstadt was in his early 90s, Lois Maillou Jones in her mid 80s.

We own a signed print of this portrait of Robert Frost. It hangs downstairs in the den.

We own a signed print of this portrait of Robert Frost. It hangs downstairs in the den.

I had been an admirer of Eisenstadt’s work as long as I’d been taking pictures. I shot my first roll of film on Martha’s Vineyard in 1966. I had stayed at the Menemsha Inn where (serendipity!!) Eisenstadt lived from late spring till Labor Day. Books of Eisie’s work were all over the inn. In bookcases, on tables. Most of the books featured his landscapes of Martha’s Vineyard.

I was using my first camera, a Praktica with a great Zeiss 50mm lens. Great lens, but no electronic light meter. No electronic or automatic anything. It had a crank film advance.  A bare bones camera. I had brought half a dozen rolls of black and white film with me and I used them all.

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It was ideal for a beginner. I had to take a light reading with a handheld meter. I had to focus the lens, set the shutter speed and f-stop. Choose the film speed — though you only had to set film speed once when you loaded the camera.

It wasn’t a lot of settings to learn, but they were and are the essentials of photography. My 50 mm lens was a prime. No zoom. It was a good piece of glass and moderately fast at f2.8. No flash.

If I wanted a close up, I could move in. Wide shot? Run the other way. I learned photography in a way those who’ve only used digital cameras with zoom lenses can’t learn. Most of today’s photographers have never held a camera that doesn’t include auto-focus, much less taken a light reading.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it does.

The camera was a gift from a friend who had bought a new camera. Armed with the camera and determination, I followed Eisenstadt’s path. I discovered where he’d taken each picture, figured out how he’d gotten the perspective.

I duplicated his shots down to the clump of grass behind which he’d crouched to create a foreground.

Photo by Alfred Eisenstadt

My first roll of film was brilliant — except the photographs were copies of Alfred Eisenstadt’s. He taught me photography by giving me foot prints to follow. By the time I was done with those first rolls of film, I had learned the fundamentals. I’m still learning the rest and I’ll probably never be finished.

When I actually met Alfred Eisenstadt, it was the most exciting moment of my life.

As we got to know Eisie better, I asked him to autograph his books for me. He didn’t merely autograph them. He went through each book, picture by picture.

He was in his early 90s and had forgotten many things, but remembered every picture he’d taken, including the film and camera, lens, F-stop, and most important, what he was thinking as he shot. He could remember exactly what it was about the image that grabbed his attention.

For example, the picture of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on VJ Day, he said he was walking around Times Square with his Nikon. When he spotted the dark of the sailor’s uniform against the white of the nurse’s dress, he knew it was what he wanted and shot. Light, contrast, composition.

We spent time with him every summer for 5 years until he passed. We were honored to be among those invited to the funeral.

Although we were sad Eisie was gone, we found things to laugh about. Knowing him was special and some memories are worth a chuckle. I don’t think Eisie would have minded.

CEE’S COMPOSE YOURSELF CHALLENGE

This is great challenge for me and I want to thank Cee for giving me the opportunity to join it.

I overshoot. Which means I take too many pictures of the same things. I shoot  from many angles, using different lenses (mostly primes, these days), and in changing light. I figure if it’s worth shooting at all, it’s worth shooting a lot.

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Sometimes the differences are sufficiently subtle that I doubt anyone else would notice, but I can always tell not only what I was going, but what I was thinking when I took the picture.

Alfred Eisenstadt could still remember every picture he took, which camera and lens he used, the kind of film he had in the camera and what he was thinking when he pressed the shutter. And that was when he was in his 90s. Read about it here.

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HABITUAL COLORS

CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE: HABITS

Our most colorful habit is coffee. Not the coffee, which is always some shade of brown or tan or mocha … but cups. I love the cups almost as much as I love the coffee in it and cannot resist a brightly colored mug.

And of course, there are cameras. I have a few. I use them all.

 

 

BY THE RIVER

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On the last day of July, the heat finally broke. The humidity, too. A few months ago, I got a Panasonic Lumix f4, 40 to 150mm telephoto for my Olympus cameras … and then, the Olympus f1.8 25 mm went on sale.

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I bought it, thus completing my lens collection for the Olympus cameras. There are others I wish I had, but they are all out of my price range — or they duplicate (or overlap) lenses I already own.

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It was a very bright day. The big problem on very bright days is always exposure. The contrast is so sharp, it is hard to find an exposure where you can see the highlight and not lose the detail in the shadow.

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I learned a lot about my two lenses. That the Lumix telephoto is not as good as I might wish, but it’s okay. It gets me closer than I thought it would with acceptable quality. The exceptional lens in that range is out of my price range. I can work with this.

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The Olympus f1.8 25 mm is a terrific piece of glass. Sharp from edge to edge with lovely bokeh.

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My collection is complete. I know I’ll want something else. That someone will make a camera I lust for because a passion for camera gear never really ends. But for the foreseeable future, I’ve got what I need, more than I ever expected.

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