Wrrphoto's Blog

March 31, 2010

FotoFest Meeting Place Days 2-4 Part one!

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 9:30 PM

So this post is entirely overdue and for that I apologize. As you will see in a moment, the Meeting Place is insanely exhausting, and each day tends to leave you with barely enough energy to crawl home! Once I got back to Austin I had a stack of schoolwork to finish and another stack to grade. But better late than never! I’ll split these three days into two posts to better manage it. Here goes…

Day One was an overwhelming success in my eyes, and I was hoping that Day Two would be even half as good. I mentioned my business goals, but in truth my overall goal was simply to determine whether or not I am good enough to make this happen. Day One left me feeling pretty good on that end, and I still had three days to go!

Day Two’s scheduled reviews were: Tom Hinson (Cleveland Museum of Art), Joaquim Paiva (Private collector out of Rio de Janeiro), Rod Slemmons (Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago), David Little (Minneapolis Institute of Arts), and Edward Osowski (Private collector out of Houston).

Sit down with Tom Hinson and get into my description. At this point I feel as though I’m starting to get the hang of cramming a description of my work into a small time frame. That said, I almost immediately make a mistake (which I did not even realize was a mistake) by telling him that I haven’t been a photographer for a very long period of time and that this is my first body of work. The review immediately switched from the work to how to be a student of photography: attending grad school, looking at photo books, etc. He honestly seemed to not pay much attention to the images and was more concerned with telling me these other things. I didn’t want to interrupt and say that grad school wasn’t what I needed. nor more books (I have some 250 now and tend to spend a ton of free time in the fine arts library as it is), but in hindsight maybe I should have. The twenty minute bell rang and it was over with no real thoughts on my work. Count that as the first real miss of the event.

Next up was Joaquim Paiva. Joaquim is an incredibly nice guy who put a lot of energy into reviewing my images. My images can be tough, and they certainly effected him, but he nonetheless gave me his honest opinion. Essentially his opinion was that my images were incredibly strong, very powerful, and that I use too much contrast. Outside of the contrast he didn’t feel there was anything negative to say, and we discussed the use of contrast as it was certainly no accident. In the end I think he respected my decision, but comes more from the full tonal range school of printing, which I as well can respect. Overall a good review with some important insights. One of the more important being that art collectors are not afraid of documentary work, but it needs to be something that doesn’t sadden you if on the wall!

Real quick, if anyone wants to know what the vibe of this kind of portfolio review feels like, feel free to check out this brief video:

On to Rod Slemmons. Now Rod is with the Museum of Contemporary Photography, which is also where Natasha Egan is, whom I had seen the day before. Ideally I would like to exhibit here, but can’t really tell if it’s something they would be interested in. Rod begins looking over my work and is constantly making good comments, such as wow, wonderful, very strong, etc. When finished he went into s discussion about how my work crosses the line between art of documentary, and that such work is often the toughest to find a place for. We start talking about Danny Lyon and how he had faced a similar problem. Interestingly enough, right as he was pretty much writing off the idea of working with me at all he came up with the idea of doing an exhibition featuring photographers such as myself, who straddle this line between art and documentary. He said “Maybe we should do an exhibition with people like you.”, to which I responded, “Yes, you should do an exhibition with people like me!” We’ll see, but regardless is was a great review and an interesting conversation. I got a lot out of it, and again got some further insight as to how to work in this genre.

While waiting on my next review I bumped into Rebecca Norris-Webb, wife of Magnum’s Alex Webb and noted photographer herself. I had briefly met her in Oslo, and it was great to see her again. She was showing more of her Violet Isle work that she did with Alex, and it is stunning…you should check it out. Basically this is how the session works. You get a review, then go out in the hall and sit with everyone else while others are being reviewed. During this time we mostly chat each other up and show each other our work. It was fascinating to me to see the wide variety of work out there. Some things that people do with a camera are pretty amazing…Most of the people I met were incredibly cool. In fact this stereotype of artists being arrogant and condescending was blown out of the water. In fact, there were 3 people that I met the entire week who were arrogant, condescending, and who could not get enough of themselves. They were all photojournalists. I made this comment on my Facebook page and some people were upset, thinking that I was saying that ALL photojournalists have this attitude. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of my friends, and all of my mentors are photojournalists, and I tend to think photojournalists are wonderful people. There were other photojournalists there who were cool as hell also, it just so happened that all of the arrogance I ran into came from photojournalists who spent an amazing amount of time telling everyone how great and important their work was while bragging about all the museums that had bought their work. Stuff it people, we don’t care.

Back to the reviews! Next was David Little, and our review was pleasant. It wasn’t great and it wasn’t bad. He mostly said good things about the work, but also got into the contrast. Sidenote real quick. I realize the contrast is pushed pretty far, and not everyone likes it. That’s fine and I’m cool with that, but for the record it was intentional! The reason I say this is that for the first ten minutes he kept telling me I needed to learn how to make a “good print”. I finally stopped him and asked what he meant by a “good print” as honestly I take a lot of pride in my printing! He told me that a good print has details in the shadows and highlights and that mine obviously did not accomplish this. So I explained to him that it was a conscious decision to lose details in some areas and that the reason is because I don’t look at my job as a photographer as being to record exact 2D images of what I see, but rather to capture the memory of the feeling I had while there. Pushing the contrast and losing some details more accurately reflects that feeling, which is why I did it. After I explained my logic he seemed to like it much better and we wrapped up.

To be honest I was feeling a bit deflated at this point. Each of the reviews was so-so, and while I gained knowledge I didn’t really get anything to be excited about (Unless Chicago goes through with the group exhibition). So I walked up to Ed Osowski not knowing what to expect. To be honest I had heard so many questions about the contrast I thought I would get it again! Sat down and Ed first of all asked me not to show my images, but rather to tell him about myself. So I did and we went into the images. Ed was clearly moved by my work, and had nothing but extraordinary things to say. He mentioned that he may purchase a print, and that he wanted me to meet several other people. He also wanted me applying for the Center for Documentary Studies first book prize. I couldn’t have been any happier and left feeling as though the day and the session as a whole was an overwhelming success. I say this not because of anything Ed offered to do for me, but rather because he was an amazing review. He clearly put his heart and soul into examining each image, and in general was a supremely cool guy. I honestly walked out of that room feeling as though I had made a new friend, which is more important than any sale. Cheesy? Yes, but true, no?

By this time I was completely drained of energy and simply went home to crash. Day Two done, another success.

Day Three was a day I thought would either kill or bomb…nothing in the middle. Reviewing me that day were Frazier King (Houston Center of Photography), Juan Curto (Camera Osuro), Harry Hardie (HOST Gallery), and Benedict Burbridge (Photoworks).

Started off with Frazier and got a bonus as the executive director of HCP, Bevin, joined us. This review was stunning as they loved everything I was doing and were legitimately interested in everything going on in my career and with the project. As I got up to leave they wrote down a list of other people I “had to see”, and told me they would be talking to their exhibition committee about me. I have since spoken with 2 of the people they told me to talk to, and I have the potential for 2 exhibitions from this one meeting. Being from Houston, this could not have been any better for me. Frazier and Bevin both were a joy to talk to, and it would honestly be the coolest thing ever to exhibit in my home town. I’ve got my fingers crossed!

Next was Juan Curto, the second worst review of my time there. It wasn’t bad because he ripped me, it was bad simply because his bio said he doesn’t want to see documentary and that’s what I had (although it should be noted I didn’t select him, just got assigned to him). He looked at my images for five minutes, said they’re good, then started talking about parenting. Mark that as 20 minutes of my life I wish I had back!

Next up was Harry Hardie, who runs HOST Gallery in London, as well as Foto8.com, and 8 magazine. I was excited to see him because I had heard he loved doc work and thought we might get on well. Damn right we did! Harry was a cool cat, and we had a great chat. He said great things about my work, and asked if I would like my work on the website, magazine, and a special multimedia presentation that he does. Yes, please! He also said he would keep me in mind for the gallery, but that my work needed to fit in with something going on. Very cool guy and very productive! I need to buy that guy a beer…

Last review of the day was Ben Burbridge, also from the UK. Ben doesn’t like doc work, but he gave me some great insights into my images. I say he doesn’t like doc work which isn’t entirely true. He likes the images, but feels there is an ethical dilemma as documentarians use other peoples suffering to raise up their name. I explained that in addition to advancing my name that I try to have the work do good directly for my subjects, which he respected but said he wasn’t sure it was enough. I get it, but I also told him that if we don’t put our name and the work out there then no one will support it and the stories don’t get told, which I feel it is imperative that many of these get told. Great guy (despite the philosophical difference), and another one I should buy a beer…

Finally was an off the books review that I had scheduled with noted book publisher Dewi Lewis. By scheduled I mean I chased and pestered him until he gave me a time! So we sat down after the reviews were finished and I told him that I knew he wouldn’t want to publish my book, but that I really wanted his opinion of my sequencing and layout. He looked through my book layout and blew my mind. He immediately asked me to submit it to the Leica European Publishers Award, and while he didn’t feel it would win, he felt I might be able to “get another country to publish it as well”. He said Spain for sure wouldn’t vote for me…wonder why Spain doesn’t like me?!!?!? Anyway, he then started to discuss the distribution issues we were going to face, and how did I think could get around them? I told him I wasn’t sure as I honestly hadn’t thought he would be interested. He then told me that when he looked at my work he felt like he feels when he looks at W. Eugene Smith’s work. I told him I knew it looked somewhat like Minamata, and he cut my off saying “No, no. I don’t mean the look. I mean I feel the same way as when I look at his work and I hope you know that’s a compliment”. He then gave me his card and asked that I get in touch when I’ve thought about the distribution issues. Just. Wow. I still don’t expect him to publish it, but the fact that someone like him took an interest in my work is humbling.

Day three wrapped up with a surprise. Anne Tucker of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston was doing her only day of reviews for that session. She came over and gave me a hug and asked about things (She had bought a few of my prints a few months back). The minute she walked away, people were staring at me like I was a rock star. Score today in the win column…Here’s a parting shot of me and Anne…will give the open artist night, day four, and my discoveries of the meeting place updates in the next post..coming tonight I promise!

Bill and Anne

Bill and Anne

March 25, 2010

FotoFest Day One and R.I.P. Jim Marshall

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 6:20 AM

So FotoFest Meeting Place day one was today and it certainly was an experience! Well, actually even getting here was an experience…

It took me several hours longer than expected to finish packing, printing, burning, etc. and did not even get on the road to Houston until about 10 PM. I had Kiwi (New Shih Tzu) riding shotgun, and about halfway through she decided to start freaking out and I had to pull over about every 10 minutes to get her to calm down. Finally just put her in the crate and she chilled out. Of course then I got pulled over for having a taillight out (Seriously, I can’t see my taillight, how would I know?), and ended up arriving in Houston closer to 2 AM. As a photographer I make it a habit to travel light…somehow I screwed that up on this 4 day trip:

Luggage plus Kiwi

Luggage plus Kiwi

Stagger to bed around 3, wake up at 7, shower and head for the Meeting Place venue. Didn’t have time to eat, but figured I could get something there. Of course the hotel restaurant is open, but after gauging me for $20 just to park I figured I would go to the food court next door…which was closed. Rather than get stiffed by the hotel again I decided to just fast for the morning and head towards the Meeting Place room, which was a standard hotel conference room filled with tables that looked a lot like this:

Meeting Place Empty

Meeting Place Empty

That of course was the calm before the storm. Those being reviewed would start lining up at the door and as soon as they announce that the session begins people make a mad dash to the reviewer they’re scheduled for at that particular time. Everyone is scheduled between four and five reviews per day for the next four days, but each appointment is only 20 minutes so you have to make it count.

My scheduled reviews for the day were Toby Kamps (Contemporary Arts Museum Houston), Natasha Egan (Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago), Juan Travnik (PhotoGaleria Teatro del San Martin, Argentina), and Stephen Mayes (VII). I had no idea what to expect, but here’s what I got:

The time seems way too short. It feels almost impossible to describe your vision, the scope of the project, and what you’re looking to gain while showing your prints in only 20 minutes. I did the best rush job I could, and prayed that these people liked my work. Speaking of my work, you are only encouraged to show one body of work (which you barely have enough time to do anyway), and so I am showing my “A Mirror Will Suffice” series dealing with Nathan Huf and his mother. I have brought down 2 separate edits as well as a book layout. You can see one of the edits currently up on my website at http://www.wrrphoto.com. The hope for this project is that I will leave here with an exhibition, at least two museums having purchased prints, and ideally a book publisher.

The first review was with Toby Kamps, and honestly I couldn’t have picked a better first reviewer. Incredibly nice, thoughtful, and obviously passionate about photography, Toby made it an easy experience for me. He went through my prints while listening to my story, and honestly didn’t say much. When he did say something though it was “Wow”, “Very Powerful”, “Amazing”, etc. HUGE relief! When we got buzzed and told the session was over he asked me to get in touch with him and we exchanged information.

I’ll pause here and say that since I’ve never done this before I thought there were all kinds of purchases made during sessions. After my first session I was a bit disappointed as I couldn’t imagine cramming a sales request on top of the very brief discussion that we were allowed to have given the time frame. So I shifted my thought process to networking mode and decided that I was going to treat this as a giant opportunity to build relationships. This was reinforced upon coming out of the first review. I ended up sitting next to a woman who has been to Meeting Place SEVEN times, and she explained to me that almost never will a purchase go down during the review, but that if the reviewer accepts a business card you’re in decent shape, and if they ask for it, you’re in excellent shape. Instantly felt great!

Next up was Natasha Egan, and I again feel like I won the lottery. Nice, friendly, and obviously sharp as a tack when it comes to photography (and probably most anything else), Natasha had a similar review as Toby. All very positive comments, and it finished with us agreeing to talk again.

So feeling pretty happy about the first two reviews I figured I should grab some food, and so I wandered down to the food court and had some mediocre pizza. Tomorrow I think will be this joint, and I can feel the coronary coming!

Heart Attack

Heart Attack

Back the the reviews, and up next was Juan Travnik. This did not go as smoothly in my mind as Juan seemed to be questioning why I chose such a contrasty approach, and mentioned a few times in a few ways that he thought the work was strong enough without the contrast. I agree, but I also explained to him that I processed these images this way because I was not trying to create a document of these events, but rather was trying to photograph my memory of the feeling of this experience, and that the contrast was thus very necessary. I get that many people disagree with the contrast choice, but hey, that’s what makes photography great…we can create in our own way and some can love it and other can hate! In any case, I felt like he wasn’t the biggest fan of my work and this might be my first fail of the session, which is totally ok, because I know there is zero chance everyone will like what I’ve done. In a twist, when we got buzzed, Juan said to me that he wasn’t sure exactly what he could do to promote my work in his country, but that he really wanted to try! Love it! I’ll take someone trying to help my work further along any day. So he gave me his card and said to get in touch with him after the meeting place to see what we can do together. Awesome.

Had about an hour of waiting in the lobby for my final review of the day with Stephen Mayes. I was quite excited about this as Stephen is the director of VII, and perhaps more importantly is in my mind a visionary when it comes to distributing visual imagery. He is very critical of the way photojournalism is being handled as a business (as am I), and has some interesting ideas about where its going. So I was excited…excited enough to misread my time slot, show up 20 minutes early, and have to awkwardly excuse myself as the girl who was supposed to meet with Stephen glared at me for wasting two of her 20 minutes. It’s okay, I would have kicked someone out of the chair if they were wasting my two minutes!

After waiting out the next 18 minutes I finally sat down with Stephen and we got our chat/review on. His review was excellent in that he was obviously committed to giving his all to each image. He was very thorough and explained what he liked about each one, and then gave me his overall thoughts on my work. His comments were all very positive, actually better than I expected. I think I’m like many photographers in that I am always questioning whether or not my work is truly good enough. I’ve had many amazing people tell me my work is great, yet every time I show it to someone new I get nervous that they will hate it. Odd position to be in, but good I suppose as I could only feel that way if I truly put a lot of myself into it.

In any case, I was Stephen’s last review of the day, and he was gracious enough to continue chatting with me 20 minutes after our session ended. We again swapped contact info, and off we went to the welcoming party. One other cool thing is he encouraged me to apply to the VII Mentor program, which I think would be seriously cool! After my ordeal getting here and the lack of sleep in general, I skipped the majority of the party/tour, but I did hang out for a bit over an hour, most of which was spent again talking to Stephen. He’s a brilliant guy, and very convincing. Not that I needed much convincing as I believe much of what he does concerning the future of this industry, so really I walked away affirmed in those beliefs, with a couple of interesting new nuggets gleaned as well.

Stephen Mayes

Stephen Mayes

So all in all I have to say day one was a tremendous success. I feel as though 2 of my 3 goals could be met simply with the people I met today, so I will cross my fingers, knock on wood, and pray to any god that wants to listen! Hopefully day two will bring more of the same…

I hate to end on a sad note, but while at FotoFest I got a text that friend and legendary rock and roll photographer Jim Marshal died in his sleep the night before. Jim is a legend, such a legend in fact that Annie Leibovitz has called him the greatest rock and roll photographer of all time. He created some of music’s most iconic images, and the world has long yet another imaging icon. He was a gruff man who spoke freely and openly about most anything (I remember at lunch one day with he and my mom where he started talking about how he would kill any motherfucker that walked in his door if he didn’t know he they were with the .45 he keeps next to his bed…this despite him not legally being allowed to own a gun thanks a an “incident” some years earlier). I asked him once if he had any advice for an emerging photographer and his answer was “Nope. Not a fucking thing. I can’t say shit about photography. Just go shoot, and take off that fucking lens cap!”

What I will always remember most about Jim though was the first time I met him. He had me come to his house and we went to lunch together, he signed some books, and I left. When I got home I sent him an Antone’s t-shirt just to say thanks for meeting me. Two days later I had a fedex slip on my door and when I opened the box this was in it with a note that said “Thanks for the shirt, keep in touch, Jim.”

Cash

Cash

Rest in peace buddy…thanks for everything…

March 23, 2010

FotoFest Biennial Meeting Place

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 7:53 PM

So tonight I am driving down to Houston to take part in the FotoFest Biennial Meeting Place. My session takes place from Wednesday to Saturday, and I will be tweeting and blogging live about my experiences. If you aren’t already following me on Twitter, please do so at @WRRPhoto. If you aren’t familiar with FotoFest and the Meeting Place, here is a bit of a primer.

2010 will be the 13th FotoFest Biennial of Photography and Photo-Related Art. It runs from March 12-April 25 of this year, and is an amazing event. FotoFest itself turns a huge portion of Houston into one giant exhibition. Some of the best photography from around the world can be seen at FotoFest. Each FotoFest has its own theme, with the last being Chinese photography and this year’s being Contemporary U.S. Photography. There are literally dozens of exhibitions around the city dealing with this theme, and each one that I have been to has been amazing. In addition to all the amazing photography on exhibit, FotoFest also sponsors a fine art auction and a number of interesting workshops. This years workshops deal with multimedia (Featuring Brian Storm), as well as creative communication in the digital age with Mary Virginia Swanson.

Perhaps most importantly (at least to me!) is the Meeting Place. The Meeting Place gives artists the opportunity to sit down in front of some of the most influential people in photography today. Each of the four sessions has 60-70 museum curators, gallery owners, book and magazine publishers, private collectors and other photo influentials (such as the director of VII) available for portfolio reviews. These sessions are invaluable in that they can provide you with guidance on your work, exhibition and publishing opportunities, as well as the chance to sell your work. Select artists from the Meeting Place are also chosen to exhibit in the next FotoFest Biennial as a “Discovery of the Meeting Place”.

I have known a few artists who have launched their careers via FotoFest, and others who have left entirely discouraged about their prospects. I’m not entirely certain where I will come out at the end of this, but I am looking forward to it. In fact, the nerves have already kicked in and that ancy, anticipation feeling has kicked in. In other words, I’m as ready as I’m going to get and I’m eager to get started!

So follow my experience here and on Twitter, and please post comments with questions, thoughts, etc. as I would truly love to know what everyone is thinking!

March 22, 2010

Olympus offers new – less expensive – configuration of the E-P2

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 7:34 PM

Those of you who read my review of the E-P2 and are now looking to pick one up should be excited by this. Olympus is now offering the E-P2 at 3 new price points: $849.99 for the body only, or $899.99 with either of the kit lenses. This price doesn’t include the electronic viewfinder, but you can always pick one up later if you like. Seriously folks, if you don’t have one and love photography, you need one. details on the Olympus fan page:

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/note.php?note_id=421394397066&id=63355899492&ref=mf

March 14, 2010

LUCEO Images announces Project Fund and Student Project Fund

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 7:48 PM

As most of you know I am a big fan of the photo collective Luceo Images. Comprised of what I believe to be many of the best of the up and coming generation of photographers, I love watching what this group does next.

Well, what they have done next is to create both a project fund and a student project fund to help their fellow photographers make something happen. This is quite an impressive feat for a group in its infancy, so I encourage everyone to get out there and support their efforts!

Press release follows:

LUCEO Announces Creation of the Luceo Images Project Fund and Student Project
Award.

United States – January 11, 2010 – LUCEO is united in a common belief that, through these
times of change, the still image continues to be relevant. We believe that history extends
beyond the news-cycle, and that ordinary people and personal struggle are avenues through
which we can explore the bigger issues facing our world. It is with this purpose that we have
created the Luceo Images Project Fund and the Luceo Student Project Award.

Luceo Images Project Fund:
LUCEO believes in actively encouraging the completion of significant personal bodies of
work, which lack funding through mainstream outlets. In pursuit of this goal, Luceo will
contribute a percentage of all editorial, commercial and corporate commissions toward the
Luceo Images Project Fund. This fund exists solely to support the long-term projects of
LUCEO’s member photographers.
Every commission allows our clients to support significant photographic work.

Luceo Student Project Award:
LUCEO also believes that developing photographers need support. To advance this cause,
LUCEO pledges a portion of this fund towards the Luceo Student Project Award. This award
will be disbursed annually to a talented student photographer in support of a significant and
developing body of work.

This year’s recipient will receive $1,000 along with mentorship for the project from one Luceo
member.

The deadline for receipt of applications is 11:59pm EST May 15, 2010. Finalists will be
announced in late May. A select panel will judge from the ten finalists and the winner will be
announced in June.

LUCEO Images is:
David Walter Banks, Kendrick Brinson, Matt Eich, Kevin German, Tim Lytvinenko, Daryl
Peveto, Matt Slaby
LUCEO is a photographer owned and operated cooperative established with the goal of
supporting the significant work of its members. LUCEO produces the highest quality
commercial and editorial photography and works to provide creative nourishment to our
member photographers. www.luceoimages.com

March 4, 2010

Vote for me! PDN Faces 2010 Contest

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 8:48 PM

I’ve entered some of my UT Football portraits into PDN Magazine’s Faces contest. Here’s a sample shot of Earl Thomas if you haven’t seen them yet:

Earl

I would appreciate everyone taking a look and voting for me! Here are the links to my images. You only get one vote per email address, so have a look at all of them before you decide! Two of them are shown twice, so if you like one of those, please just vote for the one with the most votes!

Link to my overview page with all of my contest images:

http://www.facesphotocontest.com/bin/Rate?searchphotographer=reeves&search=photographer#

Links to individual images:

http://facesphotocontest.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1009401260

http://facesphotocontest.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1009401261

http://facesphotocontest.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1009401262

http://facesphotocontest.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1009401263

http://facesphotocontest.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1009401264

http://facesphotocontest.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1009401265

http://facesphotocontest.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1009401266

http://facesphotocontest.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1009401267

Thanks everyone!

March 3, 2010

E-P2 – Rebirth of a legend or epic fail?

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 11:44 PM

Olympus recently launched their micro 4/3 line with the introduction of the E-P1, which was quickly followed by the E-P2 and now E-PL1. This line of cameras carries the “Pen” nickname, which is derived from a series of film cameras produced by Olympus from 1959 and into the 1970’s. The cameras utilized the half-frame format, allowing for a smaller size and lighter weight. The Pen cameras were incredibly successful, and thus give the “E-Pen’s” a large set of shoes to fill. So do they?

In short, this camera has revolutionized the way I shoot, liberated me as a photographer, and completely changed my view of what photography is, and more importantly, what it can be. I am not in any way exaggerating with such a heady statement, I really feel as though a new world of photography has opened up to me, which is why I decided to post this review despite my blog not really being an equipment blog. So what makes me feel this way?

First of all, let’s address what this camera is NOT. It is not a camera for sports or other fast action, nor is it a camera for extremely low light shooting. That’s about all I can see thus far when it comes to drawbacks. As far as why I feel this way, it is primarily due to focus speed. This system uses a contrast-detect auto focus system, which utilizes the imaging sensor to detect focus, much like most point and shoots. A typical DSLR uses a phase detection auto focus, which is significantly faster. What this means is that it takes a moment to acquire focus, as opposed to the near instant lock of a DSLR. Much has been made of the “slow” focusing of the Pen cameras, however I have not found it to be a problem for most every type of shooting. I simply wouldn’t use it at a sporting event, and it sometimes get bogged down in really low light. Otherwise it has not been an issue for me, and I think as long as you know what it can and can’t do the focusing isn’t an issue. I’ve been using it for street shooting, and have not missed any shots that were the cameras fault. Those I may have missed due to my own error, well that’s another story!

One other drawback (for me at least), is the battery life. This camera has me loving photography so much I shoot constantly now. Trouble is the battery can only handle about 200 shots using the EVF (300ish using the rear screen). I go through at least one battery a day, so an extended one would be welcome!

Now that we’ve covered the drawbacks of this camera, let’s get on to why I love it. First and foremost is the image quality. What Olympus has done with the Pen series of cameras is give you DSLR quality in an almost point and shoot sized body, all the while still allowing you to use interchangeable lenses. My E-P2 is 12+ megapixels, which is more than enough for anything really. I have made prints at 30X40 with a 12 MP camera, so resolution is capable of handling most needs that I can think of. The detail the sensor produces is astounding, and the dynamic range is impressive. This is a camera that I have been confident in shooting under a variety of conditions, and have yet to be disappointed.

Second most important feature, to me, is the size of the camera that this sensor has been packed into. I carry a camera with me EVERYWHERE, and until I bought the E-P2, that camera was a Nikon D3. With the D3 on my shoulder I would often see images that I might want to make, but end up not shooting it because the camera was just cumbersome. Other times I would not want to take a picture because people react to cameras that size (and usually not in a photogenic way), so I often found myself not shooting anything without an assignment for weeks. Every single day since I got the E-P2 I have shot anywhere from 90-300 frames of just everything. I no longer regret missing shots, because I no longer miss them! The camera feels like it was made to my hand, and I am continually reaching for it and shooting whatever it is that catches my eye. This is where I feel the E-P2 has revolutionized my shooting, and opened my eyes to new ways of photography. By having this camera with me at all times and it being so easy to shoot (honestly, pick one up and you won’t want to not take photos), I am now exploring areas of photography that I was previously uncomfortable with, such as street photography, and have been experimenting with everything from new angles to new techniques. Also, having a camera that wants to be used liberates you from classical photographic assumptions. With a DSLR, the moment you bring it to your face you have a desire to make a technically perfect photo. These photos also have a tendency to lack “life”. With the E-P2 I just shoot and shoot whatever it is I feel like at that moment without a need to be technically perfect, and my images have come roaring to life because of it.

Now I’d like to address the metering, color, and lenses. Quite simply, I could not be happier with the metering of this camera. It seems to know the image I am trying to produce, and meters for it. Give it a tough lighting condition and watch it shine. Here is a sample with a lot of bright and dark areas (Please note that all samples were converted from RAW to JPG using Lightroom, with NO processing done, not even sharpening and are simply to illustrate camera function and NOT meant as pieces of art, so no hating!):

Lighting - E-P2

And another, notice how the PEN has balanced shadow and highlights:

Lighting E-P2

Lighting - E-P2

How about the white balance? Well, I tend to shoot in auto white balance mode (shoot me ok?) and fix it in my RAW converter. I have to say that the E-P2 has one of the most accurate auto white balance modes I’ve ever seen. Crappy light in an elevator? Crappy light in a school lab? Check it:

Elevator - E-P2

Elevator - E-P2

School - E-P2

School - E-P2

Now check out the skin tones that camera produced…nailed it if you ask me. Which brings me to the next major plus of this camera, those Olympus colors. Now I had heard Olympus fan boys shouting about the Olympus colors ever since I got my first DSLR and always responded with a resounding “So what? I can do color in Photoshop.” Both of my mentors were or are Olympus Visionaries, and both have raved about the color (even the one no longer with them). I didn’t know what people were talking about until I got this camera. The colors are stunning, very natural, right out of the box. This reduces workflow time tremendously, as your color already looks good and requires no adjusting. Here are several samples:

Color - E-P2

Color - E-P2

Color - E-P2

Color - E-P2

Color - E-P2

Call me a believer. And continue to call me a believer with regards to the Olympus Zuiko lenses. This is something else Olympus fans have raved about, and one which I felt had to be overrated. After all, I have Nikon, my glass is great! Right? Well, the Olympus glass is easily as good, and certainly smaller and easier to handle. I have both micro 4/3 lenses, the 17mm and 14-42mm (34mm and 28-84mm equivalent on full frame). I shoot primarily with the 17mm because I see the world at 35mm, but have to say both lenses are incredible. Sharp across all apertures, nice contrast, and help make those wonderful colors. If for some reason you don’t like the Olympus lenses, then no worries. You can get an adapter to put everything from your old Nikon glass to Leica lenses on your PEN. How’s that for a lens selection?

There’s also no need to worry about which lenses are stabilized, because Olympus uses sensor stabilization. I never thought this was a big deal, and I only worried about it on my big (and expensive) lenses. That said, the image stabilization has been a HUGE help to me. Here are two images I shot to illustrate what it can do:

Slow Shutter - f/2.8 at 1/2 second

Tat’s an exposure at 1/2 second…and it’s sharp! Handheld I can’t get close to this with my other setup. Still not impressed? Try this:

Slow Shutter - f/2.8 at 2 seconds

Now this image is not tack sharp…but it was handheld at 2 SECONDS! It’s a crappy picture of a window, but it’s acceptably sharp, and simply amazing to me for 2 seconds.

So enough gushing. I love this camera because it has enabled me to shoot my existence as I experience it, and have fun while doing it! I didn’t even get into the art filters (which are fun), or the HD video mode with amazing sound. If you want to shoot your kids football game, don’t buy this, but for everyone else I would say go buy it…and an extra battery! You’ll need it because I promise you the amount of shooting you do will increase dramatically!

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