Laura Kemp @ daVinci Days

daVinci Daysis a Corvallis, Oregon staple.  It rallies the community around science, music, and general revelry.  It has kinetic sculpture races, frisbee dog contests, an electrathon, sidewalk chalk art, and a main stage. 

This year, I had the opportunity to shoot a folk singer from Eugene – Laura Kemp.  Before the gig, to be honest, I didn’t know her music or her name (and couldn’t remember it without looking at the backstage pass around my neck).  But throughout the hour or so set – I had a chance to listen while snapping some images – and she was quite good.  Her website is here – check it out if you get the chance.

About the image?  Pronounced low, strong back light.  Shooting the 70-200 @ f/4 (aperture priority).  Trying to go stealth from low and in the corner.  Live gigs will give plenty of opportunities to show folks in unflattering poses – especially when shooting from a low position.  Be diligent in selecting those images to share and shoot lots (lots!) of images to give yourself a better chance of a keeper.

Olympus + Panasonic: New “Micro” Four Thirds & Wild Speculation

And that means what exactly? 

Well, it means a lot of things – and it could be very cool.  But quickly – what is “four thirds”?  It refers to a sensor size of 18×13.5mm found on the likes of Olympus DSLR cameras (more can be found here).  In contrast – the middle product lines of Canon & Nikon DSLR’s are shooting something near 22x15mm – which translates to a slightly different crop factor between the two lines (x1.6 vs. x2 for the Olympus four thirds).

So, why is “micro” cool?  Well – first, here’s the scoop at DPReview(and pretty good place to read up on other new gear).  Bottom line – Olympus & Panasonic are eliminating the mirror and optical viewfinder on their four thirds systems.  This then allows for smaller lenses and body. 

From my perspective – without a lot of data – I’m thinking the smaller form factor + smaller lenses could create one sweet street photography setup.  But, hey, that’s just me and we don’t even have a product announcement yet – just a technology plug.

Of course, the hot oil and flaming arrows are already hitting the forums (mind you – still without a product announcement).   But I think folks might be missing the point. 

What are folks discussing?  Some folks are concerned that it’s still called a DSLR even though there’s no mirror and optical viewfinder.   OK – fine.  Great catch.  But this certainly isn’t a point & shoot.  Rangefinder?  Nope.  So, what is it?  Well, some DSLR’s have “live view”.  Are they not SLR’s when “live view” is on?  What do we call them then?  Maybe I should be concerned about this – I’m not.

Viewfinder.  OK – this may be something to squabble over.  Often times photographers don’t want LCD’s in the way when framing an image.  It doesn’t matter if it’s on the back of a camera or a very small LCD in the viewfinder.  Photogs are looking for photons reflecting off the subject hitting their eye.  I have to say I’m pretty much in this camp.  A solution?  Optical viewfinder attached to the hot shoe (or cold shoe).  Yeah – OK it won’t be a 100% frame – but, shoot enough pictures – and we’ll figure it out.  I think I can live with an optional viewfinder (if Oly decides to go in this direction).

What gets me most excited by this is the potential cost + performance tradeoff of the system.  Now, mind you, no cost has been announced – because no product has been announced – so we can wildly speculate.  Let’s talk trends.

Olympus cameras are currently in the neighborhood of $450-$600 (body only) for the E-420 & E-520.  This new micro system, theoretically, should cost less to manufacture – could this mean a lower price on the body?  And, then, of course, there’s glass.   Good glass costs money.  Honestly, I don’t have great knowledge of the sweet glass in the Oly system.  But, there does appear to be at least one pancake lens in the lineup – a 25mm f/2.8 going in the mid to high $200’s.  That translates to 50mm with the crop factor – a classic field of view.

What could this mean?  Small, reasonable systems with larger sensors without breaking the bank.  And, yes, us Canon / Nikon users have a thousand reasons to stick to our mainstay – but, wouldn’t it be cool to have something small to tote around on the streets?  Or for that birthday party?  And, really, from what I can tell, Oly makes some reasonably good systems at some reasonably good prices. 

I think I could go this way instead of a P&S in my bag.  But, then again, it’s easier to write about it then to actually fork over the cash for it.  Either way, it’ll be fun to see where this goes.

Of course, Photokina is still over a month away.  It’s likely more cool stuff will be announced soon.

Let me know what you think.  -Jones

Blog Review: Best Seat in the House

Blogs – I was a late adopter.  But now I find myself flipping through something like 150+ feeds a day with Bloglines – and more than 40 of those are photography-ish. 

Of the photography blogs, there’s one written by Rod Mar, a sports photographer for the Seattle Times – and his blog Best Seat in the House talks about his job shooting on the sidelines of Seattle sports: Seahawks, Mariners, Sonics, Huskies, and other local teams.  I just finished reading his recent post on his preparation and gear list for the upcoming Olympics.  Good stuff.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

2008 Philomath Frolic & Rodeo

OK – so last summer was the first time I’d shot a rodeo.  Went on a free admission night at the invitation of another photog friend (Greg).  Didn’t think too much of it – but mostly considered it a photographic challenge.  I figured the action would be fast, and as the sun went down, the lighting would become a challenge.  That first night was “slack” (roping and barrel racing events only).  And truth be told, it was fun.  So much fun, in fact,  that I went again the following Sunday afternoon to shoot rough stock (bull riding, etc.).

This year, I was excited to get an opportunity to get a little closer to the action.  And, so, with camera, one long-ish zoom (70-200 f/4), and a fixed wide (24mm f/2.8), I was off to the shoot the rodeo for all four days.  8000+ images later…

So, how did it go down?  Thursday, Friday, and Saturday events were in the evening.  Before the light got too dim – I was shooting the trusty zoom.  As it got dark – and the dim arena light was the available light – I changed tactics and went wide while pushing the ISO to 1600.  And at the end of the day, I plopped down a few bucks for Noise Ninja to manage noise in some of the low light shots (works great – maybe I’ll work in a review in the future).  Sunday – with an afternoon start time – I was able to shoot with the long lens all day.

For all of you action / event photographers who haven’t yet shot a rodeo – and if you’re at all interested – go for it.  The small, local rodeos have all the action, typically great views from the stands, and low cost. 

Tips?  Fast focusing lenses, shallow depth of field to separate the subject from an often times busy background, frames-per-second, good light, and patience.  The bull won’t always turn your way – but, thankfully, there’s likely another shot in just a couple of minutes.

You can check out the extended portfolio (around 185 images) here

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