Taking photos at the beach with m4/3 gear over full frame

Olympus OM-D + Olympus 75mm f1.8 @ f1.8

Followers of my other blog (ndunning.tumblr.com) may have noticed a strong trend of beach related images over time. The simple reason is that I grew up on the beach and I feel most at home with sand between my toes.

When I first picked up photography in the final year of high school, I went straight to the beach and shot this image:

Canon EOS Elan 7e + Canon EF 75-300mm

It was shot on a Canon EOS 7e with a 75-300mm lens. It was all I could afford at the time but it was a lot of fun to experiment with. This image was off the very first roll of film I shot and it was taken before I really knew what I was trying to capture, I still don't. I kind of liked it when I saw it 4 years ago but now that I see it again, I like it even more. It somehow captured the salt of the air along the beach (excuse the scan though, I've lost the negative so this is a scan of a crumpled print.)

When you grow up in New Zealand like Grant and I have, you are forced into interaction with the beach and the ocean.

Later on when I could finally afford a digital camera, I was disappointed with how my camera was forcing me to portray the beach. I got too stuck into showing the viewer everything there was in one image which resulted in busy, boring and plain pictures. I gave up for a while on trying to get how I see the beach across and focussed on just enjoying my time on the sand.

That was until I bought my first proper telephoto lens. It was a Canon 70-200mm f4 and mounted on my Canon 1ds Mark II it opened up the possibilites to how I could depict intimate moments. I could now focus on just one thing; a shell, a piece of driftwood, some patterns in the sand. Most people arrive at a general consensus that a 35mm focal length is perfect as it fits how our eyes see. Yes, maybe for the field of view but I see in compressed telephoto. I cannot concentrate on everything at once and my eyes pick one thing out of a scene and ignores the rest. I think this is why I have an affinity with longer lenses as they enable me to show in an image what my mind is showing me in real life.

Canon EOS 1ds + Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 @ f5.6

The problem with the whole Canon full frame package was that it was huge. Sure the image quality was better than some other cameras but the lenses were big, heavy and expensive and more often than not, I would leave my camera gear at home and not get any pictures. Especially after Grant's girlfriend described the 70-200mm as a 'stalker lens'.

So how has the move to m4/3 helped? Well, now I actually go out and make images. I have made more images in the 7 months of owning my Olympus OM-D than in the 4 years that I picked up my first camera.
And sure there is a difference in quality: the teeny weeny Olympus OM-D is better than my Canon 1ds Mark II and Canon 60d because I have more fun carrying it and it's lenses are smaller and more practical.

For 5 months of the year I live right on the beach. For a typical trip across the dunes I will take:
- A towel
- Whatever book I am reading at the time
- Sunglasses
- Beers
- Olympus OM-D
- Olympus 75mm f1.8 (this comes no matter what as it is my tele magic wand)
- Panasonic 14mm f2.5 (not all the time this comes but it is so small its hard to not bring it)
- Panasonic 25mm f1.4 (this is usually on the camera anyway so it comes by default)

So now I am carrying 3 lenses and a body which may seem like a pain in the butt and contradictory to a calm stroll down the beach at dusk. But the Olympus 75mm f1.8 stays on the camera most of the time as it is the sexiest lens I have ever owned and hasn't let me down yet (touch wood). The two panasonic lenses are there for back-up in case I see different perspectives that might help my visual narration.

Olympus OM-D + Olympus 75mm f1.8 @ f1.8

I don't think I have taken an image of my beach yet that sums up the whole spiritual experience but then again I don't think this is really possible and I have many years ahead to keep trying anyway. 
Micro 4/3 has been a great gift as it has allowed me to feel more free when I'm out with camera gear which has allowed me to take photos in situations where I would not have taken a camera before. 

Olympus OM-D + Olympus 75mm f1.8 @ f1.8

Olympus OM-D + Olympus 75mm f1.8 @ f1.8

Olympus OM-D + Olympus 75mm f1.8 @ f1.8

I particularly enjoy the Olympus 75mm f1.8 as it just goes to show that even with a smaller sensor than 35mm size, you can still achieve good looking bokeh and limited depth of field.

Olympus OM-D + Olympus 75mm f1.8 @ f2.8

Canon EOS 1ds + Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 @ f5.6

Photos from the 1ds were and always will be impressive. Somehow the colours were just right, something that the little olympus struggles with sometimes. As above, the colour and the tone of the sand was picked up as I saw it by the 1ds.

Olympus OM-D + Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 @ f4

Now if we look at an Olympus file from a similar time of year and day so the lightning is similar, yet the angle into the sun is different, we can see that there is a lot more clarity from the smaller camera but it lakes the smooth gradient of tones that the older full frame sensor can provide when it wants to.

Olympus OM-D + Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 @ f2.8

Canon EOS 1ds + Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 @ f2.8

Olympus OM-D + Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 @ f1.4

Olympus OM-D + Olympus 75mm f1.8 @ f1.8

Olympus OM-D + Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 @ f5.6

Olympus OM-D + Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5 @ f8

Olympus OM-D + Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5 @ f4

Olympus OM-D + Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 @ f1.4

Olympus OM-D + Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 @ f1.4

My 1ds couldn't have capture these two images above, anything above iso400 or something that was too dark would be ruined by noise and I like noise! Just not when it gets in the way of lovely smooth colour transitions like above.

So I guess the conclusion to draw if there is one is that any camera system can produce good images, it just so happens that I like the freedom of carrying a smaller camera with smaller lenses than a larger system that may produce better images 5% of the time. For me, there has only been 4 or 5 times where I wished I had a larger sensor or different lenses but that is a story for another time.

I'm going to continue trying to capture the beach, I have a lot of years left yet, but some nights I like to go to the beach and not take any photos at all and just listen to the surf.

No comments:

Post a Comment