Somehow we had to pack two sets of snorkelling gear plus sufficient clothing for Sally and me on our three week trip to Sri Lanka and Fonimagoodhoo Island in the Maldives and keep within the weight restrictions on the sea plane - the surcharge for excess baggage would have been enough to buy another lens. (Now there's a thought, but don't tell Sally!)
Weight was not the only consideration of course; today's limitations on bag sizes meant one camera and one lens. I chose the E-P2 and my brand new M.Zuiko 14-150mm lens (delivered one day before departure) which fitted into the Small Retro Bag leaving enough room for SDHC cards, spare battery, battery charger and electronic viewfinder (I'm trying to get used to composing on the rear screen but haven't quite mastered it yet!). All of this packed easily into my cabin bag with room to spare.
Whenever I take a trip, I like to have a photographic project in mind. On this occasion, I wanted to try out some of the PEN's functions I had not really used before - ART Filters and movies. Before departure I experimented with the ART Filters and found that I could easily apply the filter to a RAW image after taking it. This suited me as I prefer to shoot RAW. I also brushed up on Will Hutchinson's DSLR Video articles and considered how I might include some clips in a slideshow.
As we were visiting Sri Lanka, "Tea" seemed the obvious choice as the main project theme, although I wanted to keep an open mind and accommodate any other photo opportunities that occurred.
No sooner had we walked along this path than the first opportunity to try out the Pop Art Filter was ahead -
A colourful image in it's own right but I would have boosted the vibrance, if not the saturation, in Camera Raw or Photoshop when back at home. The Pop Art Filter enabled me to do the job in camera whilst the envisaged end result was fresh in my mind. Olympus PEN
Around another corner to the Orchid House to try out the close-up capabilities of the lens. No need for Pop Art or any other Filter here -
Excellent resolution of the lens, as shown by the enlargement of a single bloom of the Kandyan Dancer. The distracting backgrounds for these shots were easily removed with the Colour Range Select Tool in Photoshop.
So what about the main theme? Well after another day's sight seeing, a few cocktails and another night we left Kandy to head south to the mountains and the tea plantations. Olympus PEN
View across the Hethersett Plantation in Nuwara Eliya
Photographed just after sunrise, this is a composite of two shots - one exposed for the sky and the other for the foreground. There was a 5EV difference between the two so there was no chance of retrieving all the detail from a single RAW file. Using Photoshop CS5, I layered the foreground exposure on top of the sky's and masked out the overexposed sky in the top layer with sufficient feathering to give good gradation across the image.
I often use this method when the brightness range of a landscape requires it. Most of the scenes I shoot do not suit the straight line of an ND gradation filter and I find HDR processing to give an artificial, surreal look.
Before returning home to work on the above image, I tried out the in-camera processing capabilities of the PEN on another exposure, selected because the "blinkies" and the histogram revealed that not too much information had been lost - Olympus PEN
The journey through the mountains presented a variety of photo opportunities and I continued to be pleased with the lens because of it's zoom range. Not just for the stills but for the movies as well. I have included a couple of movie clips in the slideshow which can be seen at the end of this article.
There is a another major advantage to using the Olympus PEN which I had not appreciated until this trip. Because the camera has no internal mirror, you can use the VF-2 electronic viewfinder for composing and shooting movies. For all DSLRs with a mirror this is not possible - the LCD screen is the only option and like many others, I much prefer to use a viewfinder. olympus pen
As we entered one of the plantations, I asked a group of tea pickers if I could photograph them at work. They kindly agreed and seemed to appreciate the opportunity. They graciously accepted the modelling fee I offered them afterwards although it was clear that they had no expectation of it.
Such was their enthusiasm, I checked the aperture to blur the background and grabbed the moment to take a couple of portraits.
The Blue Field Tea Plantation is fully operational and welcomes any visitors with a freshly brewed cuppa and a tour of the factory. I had never really considered what process was involved between a picked tea tip and my morning drink. This visit introduced me to some fascinating machinery and the skill with which it is used to produce the many varieties and grades of tea. Whilst this might form the basis for another article some day, I will not leave it at that without discussing a couple more of the Olympus PEN's ART Filters.
The Factory is an impressive building and is a testament to the fine building and engineering of Victorian British Colonial days. A straightforward "Normal" photograph was fine as far as it went but seemed to lack any sense of the time when it was built and, for that matter, the capabilities of the cameras of its day.
Pop Art Filter applied to a shot of the local Tuk Tuk Rank
After a couple of nights and some excellent dinners in a tea factory which has been converted into a hotel, we retuned to Colombo to embark upon the next leg of our journey. Olympus PEN
A jet flight to the Maldivian Capital, Male is totally overshadowed by the thrill of the sea plane trip to Fonimagoodhoo Island. The flight path crosses many beautiful islands and the occasional photograph cannot be resisted.
Straight out of the Camera - not a filter in sight but needed Photoshop.
It was this photograph that first revealed what I consider to be the only criticism of the lens. There is slight though detectable vignetting at longer focal lengths, even at the mid apertures. There is also minimal chromatic aberration at shorter focal lengths. Nothing too serious and easily fixed by profiling the lens in imaging software. Olympus PEN
That said, this is a very versatile lens representing excellent value and it would be unrealistic to expect perfection without doubling the price at least.
How could a holiday on a remote island end without a sunset ? ...
... now, did I use the Pop Art Filter on this one, or not?
Finally a slideshow with a difference, all because of one camera and one lens.
Job done, thanks to Olympus.
When I suggest a store it is because I have found it to offer a very competitive price on a product.
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