The Olympus E-M1 Mark II and back button focusing

Note to readers: I’m keeping this post alive for its useful comment threads, but the post’s content has really been superseded by material in a newer post.


I recently received an Olympus  E-M1 Mark II — the idea being that it’ll shortly replace my trusty original E-M1 I purchased a few years back.  While I’ve still got both, I’ll be shooting and posting some comparison shots between the two models — but first will be writing a few posts on upgrades and changes in the new model.

First up — setting up back button focusing.

What is back button focusing?

For those unfamiliar with the term, back button focusing refers to separating the focus and expose functions that normally occur sequentially when you depress the camera’s shutter button (focus on half-press, exposure on full-press).  If you “move” the focus function off the shutter button, and assign it elsewhere, life is easier when photographing a fast-moving subject (like wildlife) — you can focus once, then concentrate on your timing / composition / exposure.  Assuming, of course, that your subject doesn’t change its distance from you significantly as it flits about.

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The feeling of falling

For your weekend relaxation — a view of Montmorency Falls, near Quebec City, Quebec, Canada:

The feeling of falling

As waterfalls go, Montmorency is both photogenic and easy to get to, if you’re in the neighborhood (it’s a relatively short jaunt off a nearby highway).  Some thoughts, though, should you be planning a trip to Quebec City: Continue reading

Cuba travelogue: food

By far one of the biggest adjustments we had to contend with when visiting Cuba was food.  Not the food we ate — not at all.  Tourists get treated to food of a quality and in a quantity comparable to what you’d find in visiting many places across the globe.

But the locals don’t get off so easily.

What's available

This is a bodega, the Cuban version of a ration center.  We visited in mid-month, when clients were few and the stock (as you can see from the shelves) thin.  From what we were told, though, bodegas are very busy places on the first of the month — when Cuban citizens can come in with their ration books and collect (at relatively low price) their month’s stock of staple foods.
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The Visual Palette: a book review

VP_250A few weeks back, the publishing company Rocky Nook sent me a copy of a recently released title by Brian Matiash — it’s called The Visual Palette: Defining Your Photographic Style.  Now that I’ve had time to read through the book and digest it, I thought a review / critique would be helpful to this blog’s readers.

At its core, The Visual Palette is about the process of developing / uncovering / growing your own personal photographic style, and learning to apply it in your work. About being personal and intimate in your photography, rather than distant and formulaic. Continue reading

Cuba travelogue: housing

Of the many challenges of life in today’s Cuba, housing must rank among the greatest.  There’s not enough of it, much of the available housing stock is in terrible shape, and the Cuban legal code makes it hard to legally transfer ownership — so moving households is a big challenge.

Looking down on Havana

In this shot from above (courtesy of a hotel upper-floor window), you can see how some units were turned into small yards after their roofs collapsed. Continue reading

Cuba travelogue: getting around

So given that only about 2% of Cubans own a car, and that there is no dedicated city-to-city transit system (a la Greyhound busses or Amtrak in the U.S.), how do Cubans get from place to place?

Well, basically, it’s not easy.

Two-seater

In rural areas, people can make do with more-traditional approaches — you’ll see a lot of semi-modern carriages drawn by horses out here.  I’m guessing this works pretty well for trips into town from farms in the hinterlands. Continue reading

Cuba travelogue: taking license

When people find out you’ve been to Cuba, they always seem to want to talk about the cars (at least in the U.S.).

So, just to get our footing, let’s start by talking about license plates. It didn’t used to be this simple, but relatively-modern Cuban license plates make it easy to tell whether a vehicle belongs to the government, or to a private citizen. Government vehicles have license plates with a blue strip on their left end:

Government / Regular plate (taxi) Government / Tourist plate

Since most cars and trucks in Cuba are owned by the government, you’ll see a lot of license plates like the one above / left. I’m not sure what the “B” stands for, but it’s nearly the only letter you’ll see on Cuban government plates. One prominent exception is the “T” plate (above / right) — these are for government vehicles reserved for tourists, namely rental cars.

License plates for privately-owned vehicles lack the blue strip, and always start with a “P” for good measure:

Private plate 1 Private plate 2

A minor detail, perhaps, but you’ll see where this comes into play in subsequent posts.

Cuba travelogue: La Milagrosa

Our family recently returned from a “people-to-people” tour of Cuba — one of the most unique sights was definitely “La Milagrosa,” in Havana’s Colon Cemetery:

La Milagrosa

This is the grave of one Amelia Goyri de Adot, a woman who died in childbirth at 23 years of age on May 3, 1901. Her infant son who also died was buried in her casket, at her feet.

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