Shades of grey

I like black and white pictures. A lot.

But I am not exactly know why, may be it’s like what the famous writer Stefan Kanfer writes – “There’s something strange and powerful about black-and-white imagery.“. Or may be just because I am now old enough, and the world is no longer colorful.

“Shades of grey wherever I go
The more I find out the less that I know
Black and white is how it should be
But shades of grey are the colors I see.”

Billy Joel

Unlike others, I don’t take photos in color mode and then process those to black & white with retouching software. (Yes, I switched to digital photography for quite some years) Instead, I toggle on the black & white mode with my camera (e.g. Olympus E-5, E-P3), and just take the photo as is. Many times, I used the “grainy” mode to add some textures to the photo as well.

So, what’s your story of taking black and white photos ?

From the oldest to the newest

I was told many times by my friends that … “I would take better pictures, if I had a better camera.”, or “I would take better pictures, if I had a more expensive lens”. And of course, many of them said “All I need is a newer camera.”.

In the good old days, you know, a new camera took years to design and make, and then a few years to master, and another few years to make it break. But now camera manufacturers can roll out new cameras one after another every 6 to 9 months. One reason is one can design new cameras easily with all the tools, but another reason is because the consumers also want new cameras every few months.

So even though my favorite camera company, Olympus, spent just two years to rework their E-Px series … people think the company was too slow. Frankly, I don’t get it, I don’t see why you need the latest and greatest camera, to take good photos. Anyway, just yesterday, Olympus announces 3 new cameras (E-P3, E-PL3 and E-PM1), 4 new lens and dozens of accessories.

I am sure these are great cameras and can make magnificent photos. However, I am also sure my two years old E-P1 (the oldest camera in the M43 line) can still take good photos … like a few photos below from Las Vegas I took in May.

Will I buy the new E-P3 ?

Errrrh … yes, of course. I need a newer camera to take better photos … 😎

Olympus E-5 test shots

It’s hard to write a camera test report without a lab like dpreview.com or writing skills like passionate photographer Robin Wong. But what I can do is to give you some first hand information from the point of view of an E-1, E-300, E-510 (I sold it already) and E-P1 user. First the new E-5 is very solid, as good as E-1 if not better. It’s heavier, larger, but also easy to handle.

All the controls are easy to access, and the control menu is no stranger to users from E-510 and E-P1. The 10 art filters are very useful, especially I don’t like to post-process the photos to get the same effect (but as we all Olympus camera owners know, we don’t need to post-process the photos because the JPEG engine is so good).

However, the major breakthrough is the sharpness of the photos, it’s unreal from a camera with “only” 12 Megapixels. I now truly believe 12 Megapixels is all I need but not 20 Megapixels, really. Here are some test pictures I took yesterday, all with the Zuiko 50mm F/2.0 lens.

Loneliness

According to Wikipedia, “Loneliness” is an unpleasant feeling in which people experience a strong sense of emptiness and solitude.

And I think it’s now in that state – the busier the work, the stronger that loneliness feeling … Airport, office, hotel, office, hotel, office, airport … never-ending. To many, they will treat it by visiting their family doctor; to some, they buy something expensive; to Olympus camera fans, they will certainly get the new flagship camera E-5.

An afternoon with M.Zuiko 9-18 and M.Zuiko 40-150

My Micro Four-Thirds camera’s travel kit is now completed – first, the 17 mm kit lens, then the 14-42 mm standard zoom, and then the extremely sharp and fast Lumix 20 mm. This basic set is recently complemented with the ultra lightweight and fast focusing zoom lens – M.Zuiko 9-18 (some pictures here) and M.Zuiko 40-150. So now my travel kit is the trusty E-P1, 20mm, and the two new zoom lens. With only three lens, it covers the range of 18mm to 300 mm. Absolutely lightweight, fun to use and with very good quality as well.

Some photos made in the last weekend along the beautiful Victoria Harbour of Hong Kong.

The best ebook reader

“What’s the best ebook reader in the market ?”, “What’s the best ebook reader for me ?”, “Is iPad better than Kindle ?” … I asked myself these questions many many times in recent months, and I found the answer today.

As you can see from the photo below, I can read an ebook with Kindle, or applications of Kindle for iPhone, iPad, Mac and Windows. I found the Kindle for iPhone is great, just the screen is too small. The Kindle for iPad is also great, just it is too heavy, and you cannot read it under direct sunlight. iPad is perfect for reading eMagazine and casual reading, but to read a good and lengthy book ? No thanks.

And what about the Kindle applications for Mac, Windows, or even Blackberry and Android ? All these are good, but I know I will not take my Mac and my Windows laptop with me all the time; and I don’t have a Blackberry and Android phones (yet). So back to the questions … and there is only one answer:

“The best ebook reader is the one that’s with me.”

In other word the best ebook reader, to me, is the Kindle – as it is always travel with me. May be I will get a new one to replace the Kindle 2 (say, Kindle 4 when they support touch screen or Unicode), but for now, really it is the best. However, if iPad is the one device that always with you … good, it is the best eReader for you – just don’t let other people sell you the Kindle story.

By the way, how did I find the answer today ? I looked at the Shanghai photos I made recently, with my trusty Olympus E-P1 camera and then I reckon …

“The best camera is the one that’s with you.”.

Various eReaders

Shanghai, Shanghai

Not the first time to visit Shanghai and certainly will not be the last. Like many famous cities around the world, Shanghai is a photographer’s paradise. This huge city’s  landscape practically changes every few months, but there are still lots of traditional buildings scatter around. If you want to see what an awakened dragon look alike, then go to Shanghai to check it out … seeing is believing.

Some recent photos of the great city – Shanghai. Photos shot by Olympus E-P1, with lens Lumix 20 mm or Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18 mm.