Saturday, October 27, 2012

Olympus RM-UC1 Compatible Remote Control

When I had an Olympus E-PL1 I was annoyed you cannot use remote shutter release with it.  Now with my E-PM1 I am able to use the Olympus RM-UC1 as a remote shutter release.  That was until I looked at the price of it.  The cheapest place I found in the UK was £49!  I mean it is just a small switch with a cable, how can it be that expensive?  When I bought my Canon RS-6E remote release, it was only £18.  I was prepared to pay that for original part.  But £49 was over the top.  That was when I decided to look online for alternatives.

I managed to see there are many alternatives on Amazon from as little as £2.99.  That will give you a simple switch to trip your shutter.  However, I found some multi-function switch that can be used as:

Shutter release with bulb function
Timer delay
Exposure time
Interval shutter release
Number of shots

Since I like to shoot stop motion videos I decided to buy the switch for £9.99 from an Amazon seller.  The switch arrived within a week and I am happy to say it does everything it says it will do.  The build quality is not up to OEM standard and you will need to supply two AAA batteries to power it.  The only negative I have to say is it does not have an on/off switch, so I take the batteries out when I am not using it.  So far, I’ve used it as a remote shutter release and interval function and it worked flawlessly.  It is highly recommended.  Even if I am photography professional and use it every day, I would buy two and keep one as spare in my bag.  On the other hand if you only want a simple remote release, buy one for £2.99.  If the Olympus remote release is priced more like £15, I will not have any problem paying, but £49 is another matter.

Here are a couple of firework photos taken with my E-PM1 with this remote release on a tripod.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Murder Mile Studios Shoot

I took part in a group shoot at Murder Mile Studios last weekend with a great bunch of photographers, models and makeup artists.  The event was organised by Krystal Johns, a model, I shot with a few times.  She had assembled eight models and two make up artists and got a lot of fetish designers onboard as well.  Quite a few designers have sent in clothing for the models to wear.  Murder Mile Studios is well known to photographers and models around London who shoot fetish and BDM.  I’ve shot there twice and always enjoyed it.   There are many sets available for us to shoot in and we had a different model for each set to avoid duplication.   I knew it was going to be a long day and decided I will not take too many shoots and concentrate on setting up good lighting.  The key light throughout the shoot was my Strobeam DL4 with a 43” umbrella softbox.  Fill light was provided by a Nikon SB26 in a 60cm softbox.  In some images, I also used a Metz 44 AF-1 with grid or gel for rim light or background light.

Saara at The Office Set

Although it is called the office set, there are a couple of sofas and chairs to use as well as an office desk and chair.  Most interesting to me was the dark wall paper which is an interesting back drop.  I had the Lovely Saara who is from Finland.  I’ve decided I wanted to use the red sofa right at the beginning and set up the light accordingly.  Saara is very pale and I had to make sure her skin is not too blown out in the photos.   Most of the work in post processing was to the wall paper in the background.  While you do not notice it with your eyes, but once you use flash, the joints between the wall papers show up as vertical white lines.  It was very annoying and took your attention from the model.  Saara is wearing a corset by Batties Clothing and makeup by Alice Bizarre.

Betty Havok in The Dinner Set

The dinner set was on the corner of the room with painted black walls.  Betty had dark hair and wearing black underwear with black stockings.  It was going to be difficult to produce something different that is the normal dinner images.  I decided to start with Betty sitting on a stool and had a gridded speedlite behind her pointed at the wall just to be different.  Then quickly position her on hands and knees on top of two stools.  It just progressed from there trying different angles and just loves the one from behind showing off her lovely bottom.  I am really happy with these shots.  Makeup was by Alice Bizarre.

Poppy Thorn on The Bar

The bar was next to the dinner and has a stainless stain top together with shelves of empty bottles.  The studio owner must have a wonderful time gathering them as props.  I wanted to make the bar more interesting by adding a speedlite with red gel to light up the bottles on the shelves.  Poppy was lovely to work with.  Most of the shots were taken with Poppy on top of the bar and showing off her great assets to the full.    Makeup was by Alice Bizarre and she was wearing a dress made by Sophie-Ann Cammish.

Maja Stina in the Office Set

I briefly shot with Maja in the office set and used the arm chair this time.  I set up at the lights in the corner and just tried out a few poses.  It was brief but still came away with great results.  It just shows you do not need to take hundreds of photos.  It does help she is very good at posing.

Krystal At The Boudour Set

With Krystal, I concentrated in getting the lighting correct for one set up and try to get the best out of it.  I've shot with Krystal previously in this set up so was keen to do something different.  That was the reason I used the dressing table rather than the bed.  We tried a few poses and these are my favorite images from that dat.  Makeup by Alice Bizarre.

Sophie Cash at the Dungeon Set

Sophie have the most amazing eyes, they are beautiful and I wanted to show them off.  Although it is the dungeon set, I did not really want to use it as such.  This area of the studio was very dark and my camera had problem focusing.  The close up shots of Sophie were my favorites.  She did her own makeup and wore a dress made by herself

Sarah At The Prison Set

I was lucky to shoot with Sarah Karwaii in the prison set.  She was wearing an orange latex dress made by Hellcat Latex.  I tried to think of ideas to put here behind bars, but thought it is best to have her in front of them.  Due to the white walls, I only used a single light to light her and the light also bounced around to fill out all the shadow.  The only thing I did was to try different angle which worked out well.

Miss Whiplash

Becki was almost the last model I worked with for this group shoot and I really wanted to do something a bit different.  I was suppose to shoot with her at the metal throne but decided to use the dressing table and mirror instead.  I used a third speedlite with green gel aimed at the back wall at the beginning but took it off later to obtain a much darker look.  Becki was very comfortable in front of the camera and needed very little instruction with poses.  I really like the images I got with her.  She was wearing a corset by Waisted Creations, makeup by Robyn Skinner.  In post, I darken the reflection of the mirror which was very distracting.

Gemma At The Throne Set

Gemma was my last model of the day and we got to use the throne set.  Right at the beginning I decided I will not have the model sitting on the throne.  All the photos I've seen with this set had the model sitting.  I normally want my images to be different so I asked Gemma to kneel on the throne instead and then moved on to have her sitting on the floor in front of it.  There was a decorated rams' head which we made use of while she was sitting on the floor.  Again I was very please with photos I got with Gemma.  She is wearing a dress made by Lady Allura's Latex and makeup was by Robyn Skinner.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Canon Demi Half Frame Camera

The Canon Demi (Demi is French for half) is a camera I’ve owned for over ten years.  I was shooting with a number of 35mm rangefinder cameras from the 60’s when I heard about half frame cameras.  The Canon Demi was a response to the Olympus Pen half frame cameras.  In the 60’s colour films were very expensive to shoot and process.  When Olympus introduced the Pen series of cameras, enabling users to shoot 72 photos from a 36 exposure 35mm roll of film, it was an instant hit.  Other manufacturers quickly introduced half frame cameras also.

My Demi was purchased from eBay and listed as not working.  Since these cameras were all mechanical I was sure I could repair it.  The shutter was stuck due to lubricate drying up and the light seal on the back of the camera turning into gunk.   I took the shutter assembly out, cleaned it and put it back.  Then I removed all traces of the light seal on the back of the camera and replaced with new material.  It was all very simple but time consuming work.  I shot with it for a while and happy with the result I got.  I love the retro design and must be quite modern at the time.  It is all metal and is quite solid.

The camera itself is very simple to operate as it is automatic.  First thing you would do after loading the film is to set the ISO which goes from 10-400.  I think in the 60’s 100 ISO is considered a fast film.  You would focus by zone as indicated on the back of the camera by turning the lens to the correct position.  It works well enough, but do not expect absolute 100% accurate focusing all the time, although it works well for landscape photos.  Do remember it was designed in the 60’s when expectation was much lower than now.  After focusing, you then adjust the shutter speed so the dial needle on the top of the camera is in the middle and shoot.  The selenium light sensor on my camera still works after all these years and got some reasonable exposure out of it.  The lens on this camera is a 28mm F2.8 which is equivalent to a 56mm lens on a 35mm camera.

Unfortunately, the negatives I shot with are in a big box in my loft and I do not have time to scan example images shot with this camera.  There is no shoe for mounting a flash, although a separate bracket is available for purchase so you can mount a flash gun.  When I did shoot with flash, I just held it with my left hand.

Thing have come full circle now in the current digital age.  Micro Four Third cameras are now very well received and rapidly gaining acceptance.  It is interesting the MFT sensor is the same size as the half frame image.  In fact the size of the Demi is very similar to my Olympus E-PM1.  The E-PM1 has many advance features and the image quality is far in advance of the half frame cameras.  It is interesting to see how photographic technologies have developed in 50 years.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Metz 44 AF-1 for Olympus MFT Cameras

I am writing this because when I was looking for a flash for my Olympus E-PM1 there were not much information out there.  I based my purchase decision from a couple of user reviews on Amazon.  What I wanted was a low cost (but not low performance) external flash gun that is compatible with the Olympus remote flash control system with a head that can be bounced and swiveled.  My choices from Olympus are FL-300R (GN=20, £152), FL-50R (GN=50, £499) and FL-600R (GN=50, £299).  FL-300R is a nonstarter due to its low power and it inability to be bounced or swivel.  The other two are just too expensive.  That was when I started looking at third party flash guns and started looking at Metz and Nissin.  My choice went to Metz because I was able to find a lot more information for Metz and got one at a great price on Amazon for £99 delivered.  Other retailers sell it for £129 normally.

The flash gun is well built but you can see it is a budget model as there are no fancy stuff included.  Something I like to have is a flash stand so I can mount the flash gun on a tripod stand.  That is not a major issue as I have a few of them knocking around.  There are only 5 buttons on the back with no LCD display.  Here is a summary of the flash gun:

·         Max guide number = 44m
·         Swivel and bounce head
·         Built in white reflector
·         Auto zoom head for lens from 24-105mm
·         Built in diffusor for lens down to 12mm
·         Uses 4 AA batteries
·         Compatible with TTL flash mode
·         Compatible with Olympus RC mode
·         1st or 2nd curtain flash if your camera support it
·         Manual power @ 1/64, 1/8, 1/2 and 1/1
·         Recharge time at full power is 3-4s
·         USB socket for firmware update

Once switched on you have the option of using TTL, manual or slave mode.  For TTL all the controls are on the camera.  Features like flash compensation, red eye reduction, 1st /2nd curtain sync are all controlled via the flash control menu. The zoom head moves with the lens and works well.  One problem is sometimes you want to zoom the head to a position that is different to the lens setting.  This is not possible with this flash gun.  The “Flash” goes green once the flash gun is ready.  After firing, the “Flash” symbol also goes green to indicate a correct TTL exposure.

Pressing the “SL” button switch the flash to slave mode, the Olympus RC flash control.  For my E-PM1, I must mount the supplied flash on the camera and raise the flash for it to work.  Also, I had to enable RC flash mode on the set up menu.  Once enabled, I can control the flash to TTL, Super FP RC (high speed sync) and manual flash control.  First of all, Super FP RC Mode does not work with this flash gun.  For that you need to buy the Metz 50 AF-1 which I do not want to spend money on.  The reason is because I have two Canon EX flash guns for my Canon DSLR and I do not remember using FP Flash at all.  I worked around it by fit ND/polarising filter on the lens to reduce the light level so I can shoot at a lower shutter speed.

Enabling RC Mode

I can report the wireless remote feature works well indoor.  All the features work as far as I can see.  One thing I’ve noticed is when switched to RC manual power control, you can control the power in very small increment, much finer than the normal flash menu.  The only negative of this flash gun is that it can only be used in Group A in RC mode.  My E-PM1 can control three groups (A, B and C) independently.  This mean I can not use three 44 AF-1 to create complex lighting.  As a strobist I love the flexibility of using multiple flash guns and control them separately.  In future I will have to think about adding other flash guns if I want to explore Olympus RC flash further.

Setting flash compensation in RC TTL mode
In summary I am very happy with the Metz 44 AF-1 and it works well with my E-PM1 and is vastly more powerful than the supplied flash.  I would love to have an Olympus flash gun to compare with, but I’ve no access to one.  For the price, I can’t complain about the flash gun.  Two features I like to have is the ability to control the position of the zoom head and change the group for RC mode.  The flash is so much bigger than my camera, it can be a little unbalance, but that is not the fault of the flash itself.  For the money it is excellent value for money.  If you want Super FP mode, then go for Metz 50 AF-1 for a little more money.

Update: 23rd October 2012

I've used the flash now for about two weeks and actually used the wireless flash function for real, I've found the flash tended to under expose images.  I was using RC TTL mode and had to dial in +2/3 flash compensation to correct this error.  When the flash gun is mounted on the camera flash exposure works much better.  I'll try to borrow a Olympus flash gun and compare results if I can find one.

Update: 2rd November 2012

I've just tried to use the wireless flash outdoor and it was not very successful.  Even in the shade it was difficult to trigger the flash.  I had the receiver facing the camera but the success rate was very poor, maybe one in ten.  I don't know if an Olympus would be better.  Used indoor, it was 100% reliable.  In future, I will use radio trigger in manual mode if I am shooting outdoor.

Comparison with Olympus FL-50R

I have done a comparison between the Metz 44 AF-1 to the Olympus FL-50R.  Click on the link to read

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Boxers of Lions Boxing and Fitness


These are the portraits of boxers taken at Lions Boxing and Fitness.  For James and Thomas, I remove clutter behind him so you only look at the boxers.  To achieve that, I shot with my 50mm F1.8 lens fully open and used a Nikon SB800 behind to provide rim light.  In post I increase saturation and contrast to add drama.


With Dan, I want to emphasis him so moved the light higher up pointing down.  With a grid fitted, the light drop off is much more defined so the surrounding is much darker.  Again I increase saturation and contrast after.  The bruising on the left eye is courtesy of our makeup artist Charli.


The final boxer was Alistair.  I wanted some action shots of him punching a punch bag.  In my mind I’ve already settled for a black and white image and used bare flashes to light him.  I wanted dark ambient light level to achieve that.


I converted to 97% mono in Photoshop, so it is not completely black and white.  I thoroughly enjoyed shooting with the boxers.  They were really friendly.  I would like to thank all the boxers that day, some of them I did not have time to work with.  Finally I would like to thank Danny who runs the gym for letting use shoot there and arrange for the boxers.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chloe at Lions Boxing Gym

I had a fabulous day shooting at the weekend and I am still post processing the images.  The shoot was organised by me for The Essex Strobists.  It took place at Lions Boxing Gym in Writtle near Chelmsford Essex.  We had three models and over six boxers to work with during the day.

After going through the RAW files, the images of Chloe was the set I completed.  Chloe does kick boxing so she is quite good with punch bags.

This is what we started with, but somehow when I looked at the images at the back of the camera, there is something lacking.  They lacked dynamic so I decided to change to do some poses instead.  Lighting was kept simple.  I used my Strobeam DL4 in a gridded 60x90 softbox just right of camera.  I wanted to drop the ambient light level and shot the images at F8, 1/200s and ISO 100.  We used a Nikon SB800 with green gel behind Chloe pointed to the white wall to add a bit of interest to the background.

Chloe was very good at posing in front of the camera and needed little prompting to change poses and really liked the images we got.  The only thing that annoyed me was myself.  I was working too fast and did not look hard enough at the background.  There were a number of items on the ground and the wall which ruined the look.  I had to use Photoshop to remove them.  Ideally, I should have moved them before shooting and save myself a lot of work.

In summary, very happy with the images of Chloe and need to finish off the others.

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