Thursday, December 13, 2012

Something Special

*No pictures to share here, just blabbering.*

My OM-D hasn't seen any use since my 21st birthday at the end of October...
Something wacky happened internally and it started rejecting all of my SD cards.
No clue why, but it just didn't work.

Naturally, being me, I found out about this on the first morning of my dream roadtrip from San Diego, California to Longmont, Colorado. I had reached Las Vegas at about 9am and headed straight for the Mirage hotel to go visit the dolphins in the "Secret Garden". I was excited - my bag was full of the best lenses I could get my hands on and I was really looking forward to shooting sequences of these animals using the OM-D's blazing 9fps. I walked in and bought my ticket for the day but found out that I was an hour early to enter, so I decided to do a little check and clean of my camera and lenses - something I don't often do.
When I pulled out the OM-D and turned it on all I saw was "Write Protect" on the screen. I thought "WTF?" and opened up the card door to pull it out... That's when I found out that the card was literally jammed into the camera. It refused to come out all of the way, even with some force. After a while of trying to carefully angle it out, etc. I got pissed and just tore the fricken thing out. It came out, but the card casing was cracked and some little metal bits in the camera looked bent... At this point I was done and I walked the camera back to the car and locked it in the trunk.

With my OM-D out on injury I was left with my little TG-1 iHS to photograph the dolphins and all of the rest of my roadtrip... I don't have anything against this camera, but to put it plainly, it's just not my go-to camera for landscapes or animals.
But I used it. I didn't have a choice.

After a day of fun interactions with the dolphins in Vegas I got back on I-15 and headed for I-70.
As I approached the Virgin River Gorge the sun was low on the Western horizon, casting an incredible golden light over the harsh desert landscape. To the North was a vast plain of green Joshua Trees and Mesquite backed by dark, ragged mountains... A great scene for a 3:1 landscape.
But I didn't photograph it.
Not only was my TG-1 dead after a day of shooting, but I honestly just didn't feel inspired.
I just felt empty knowing that "my baby" was dead.
So I cranked the stereo, Children of Bodom, and hit cruise control again. (yay ancient "luxury" car)

It hit me pretty hard as I was speeding through the gorge, just how much life that OM-D actually breathed into my creative spirit. I knew that I enjoyed it more than any other camera I've used, but did I actually fricken fall in love with this camera?

The answer came a few days later as I woke up in the back seat of my car and gazed out upon one of the most beautiful sunrise scenes I've ever seen. At this point I was back in good ol Boulder County and I had picked up my E-P3 from a friend... But I couldn't even bring myself to grab it and take pictures. Not because it is a bad camera, it's a great camera and I love using it, but I still just felt so empty.
Dude losing this camera actually took a blow to my heart.
Great, what does that mean?

I'm not completely sure as of yet, but I think I'll be finding out soon after the OM-D gets back from repair.

Now I know that most who read this will think something along the lines of "What a load of crap, it's a camera not a child." Well I don't have any kids so I don't know completely what kind of connection that is so you may have me there, but come on... The lifestyle I've "chosen" for myself has led me to treat my cameras as my best and closest friends, lol. For weeks at a time they are all I have outside of my car and my hiking boots. So yeah, I'm just a bit connected to them.
Then there is the case of the OM-D that feels to me less like a great camera and more like a great companion.

I must be quite the wackjob ;-)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Introductory Ramble

Alright, so I finally broke down and started a blog...

The first people to read this already know who I am.
They know I'm a generally homeless skanking, thrashing, headbanging, nature-loving punk with a beard, no money, some busted car, tons of time, a loud and generally offensive mouth, but also this seemingly alter-ego soft and compassionate side that comes out here and there.
They also know that I've been addicted to cameras since I got my first one in July 2008 and since then I have progressed a bit and become an Olympus Visionary photographer.
They also know that I particularly enjoy run-on sentences.

But yeah, my name is Bryce Bradford.
I am all of the above and probably more that I'm not aware of yet.
Just like every other "blogger" I have a bagful of strong opinions and I like to hear myself talk.
So here I am with this first post, giving testimonial to a particular gadget that I'm infatuated with.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5
I don't really know where to start bragging about this thing...
The looks?
The speed?
The features?
The quality?
The haters?

Eh, I don't know... I'll just reiterate the fact that I'm in love with this camera.
I remember getting my first Olympus E-3 and being blown away by how fast it was. The focus, the burst, the speed at which it saved photos to the card. Then a few weeks later I got my hands on the Zuiko 12-60mm and 50-200mm "SWD" lenses and my eyes were opened yet again to a new dimension of speed and quality. I was so impressed by how easy it became to photograph birds and other wildlife, as well as surfing and other action sports.
Aim, focus, fire! It was such a blast!

Then in late 2011 I was invited to join the PEN Ready Project by Olympus.
I was sent the new PEN E-PM1 camera and asked to simply shoot to my hearts desire and share my shots. Obviously that sounded like an easy job, but once I got my hands on the camera I knew that it was going to be better than easy... It was going to be a blast!
That little PEN Mini was yet another dimension of speed and quality. The focus was lightning fast, the quality of the images was great, the burst was even faster than the E-3, and the whole thing fit in my coat pocket.
I was sold.

I used that little thing to death. Literally.
It's final shots were taken on one subzero morning in Hygiene, Colorado... I had used it all winter to take tens of thousands of photos during many long hikes, drives, rides, wildlife stakeouts, you name it. After a number of stumbles, knocks, and wipeouts the little thing started sounding funny - the shutter was obviously having issues trying to be "Bryce-proof" as everybody at Olympus calls it. That cold morning was the last straw, I was attempting to shoot sequences of geese against a sunrise in subzero temperatures and the shutter just kinda fell apart.
Poor thing. I've missed it!

Not long after that I picked up its "big brother", the Olympus E-P3.
Equal quality, equal focusing speed, slower burst, but a good number more features than the PEN Mini. Key things like it's big OLED touchscreen, dual control dials, built-in flash, interchangeable grips, more customizable buttons, mode dial, and a more substantial body to grasp made it yet another winner in my book.

I've certainly used it well, taking just under 10,000 photos in the three or so months that it was my main camera. It has it's nicks and scratches but for some reason not nearly as many as the PEN Mini had... Probably because it wasn't often handled over ice while wearing gloves.
So, it's still alive and it is still getting some love!

It's been nothing short of a blast using all of these cameras. I have learned so much and adapted to a multitude of ways to handle a camera; from wrestling around the gripped E-3 with a large f/2.8 zoom to gingerly flicking around the little PEN Mini with a lightweight Micro 4/3 lens. Most importantly I've learned what a positive difference comes from putting aside little "annoyances" that come from changing from one camera to another and simply focusing on my mission as a photographer, as an Olympus Visionary. My mission to create an image that conveys my vision and will hopefully inspire others to go out and appreciate our amazing planet.
With all of the fun I've had with these cameras I was under the impression that it just doesn't get much better than what I've got. I mean, how could it? These cameras are portable, powerful, packed with features, and just plain fun to use!

Well... It did get better.
"It" is the OM-D.

When the OM-D was officially announced I was so stoked. I couldn't stop reading the specifications and oogling over photos of it's sweet little build. On paper it seemed so perfect, from teaser previews it seemed so perfect, and when I heard, "The OM-D is going to be the perfect camera for you" from friends at Olympus... Well, you get the point.

When I got my hands on it I knew I wasn't going to be letting go.
The thing is the perfect blend of everything I love. Blazing speed, portable size, awesome image quality, killer handling, great accessories, and yeah... Retro looks.
I had asked for it specifically to shoot the 2012 Lyons Outdoor Games and I recieved it no less than a day before the event, so I immediately took it out to shoot some biking action.
I'll try to curb my enthusiasm here... I was impressed.

After shooting the L.O.G. and knocking out a couple days at my "day job" as a cook, I finally had a chance to take it out and shoot some landscapes.
Again, I was... Happy.



That one of the lightning... Three hundred and nine second exposure at f/11.
I used what I'm calling The Coolest Feature Ever to take it. The feature is called "Live Time" and what it does it pretty amazing! When you press the shutter once it will open and remain open until you press the shutter again, typical for a "T" setting on any film camera, but the amazing minds at Olympus figured they'd take it a step further... They've made it so that the camera literally shows you the exposure as it is happening. You can actually watch the image go from black to perfectly exposed and then close the shutter when you're happy with what you've got.
I mean really now... I don't care what feature your big ol "Pro DSLR" touts, Live Time is the best thing since canned bread.
So landscapes and long exposures are great, but what is a camera if it can't shoot action or wildlife?

So yeah, U.S. Olympic team BMX racer, pretty birds, and a couple moose... Whatever.
No camera is worth a cent if it doesn't handle extreme ISO's, so what does the OM-D have to show?
Well... This is a crop at ISO 12,800

And these are all at ISO 6400

So yeah. This camera really does some amazing things.
It has actually changed around the way I approach my subjects.
I have started to seriously visualize my landscapes in 2:1 or 3:1 ratios, because I know that the OM-D and the M.Zuiko lenses have the resolution to make great 12x36'' LightJet prints.
I have started to mark and label dark sky locations on my Colorado Gazetteer not just because I'd like to see the galaxy blazing in the night sky, but because I know that the OM-D and my little 12mm f/2.0 are an amazingly capable combo for "Landscape Astrophotography".
I have begun to stake out at places known for active wildlife because I know the OM-D can track and lock focus like a champ.
I've become more daring with storm chasing because I trust this cameras weatherproofing.
I suppose that the OM-D has really given me the confidence to "step up to the plate" when it comes to tricky situations. Situations that I used to back down from because I knew that "camera 'X'' lacked the wide dynamic range, the focus tracking, the blazing 9fps bursts, the high ISO handling, or even the long exposure quality.
I love my OM-D.
It's pretty stinking great.
And thanks to it, I've got a lot more to come on this here web log.
So... If I've caught your attention so far, I hope you'll visit again.
I'm currently running on borrowed computers, so posts might be infrequent, but I promise I'll try to make them worth reading.