Project 52: Week 10

One of the best things about long-term photo challenges is the discipline and sense of responsibility you learn by bringing your camera everywhere and keeping an eye for that shot of the day/week. Also, it's a pain in the ass when you have too much shit going on, and you can't seem to manage to find the time or energy to shoot, not mentioning how much of a failure it makes you feel when it's day 7 and there is no "it" shot.

Week 10 photo comes after one of those moments, where I reluctantly brought along my E-pm1 (it's tiny, fits in my jacket pocket, but it's still annoying) while visiting a new pizza joint in the neighbourhood. Definitely not my best, but definitely my style, and that's the whole point of this project.

Photography is like pizza: Even when it's bad, it's good.

Project 52: Week 07

As I was about to start this project, I knew this moment would come - a matter of 'when', not 'if'. Eventually, I wouldn't have one single photo worth of posting during the course of seven days. Which would mean using a 'keeper', a photo I took earlier and decided not to use.

The deciding factor? Human error. I had planned week six' pic to be one from the Yorkville Icefest, an annual tradition I never miss. I packed three cameras (Fuji X-T1, Panasonic GX7, and the Olympus E-Pm1), a spare battery for each, four lenses, and a clip-on flash for the Fuji. What did I forget? The clip-on flash for the E-Pm1. Pitch dark with an f8 lens and ISO that can't really go north of 1600 WITHOUT A FLASH, equals no usable pictures.

This goes to teach a priceless lesson: There is no such thing as making too sure you are packing all the gear needed. Had I not forgotten that one tiny, wimpy clip-on flash, meant the difference between getting the shot, and coming home empty handed. I also learned that Fuji's clip-on flashes don't work on Olympus cameras. Trust me, I tried.

So this one is a left over from week five, taken in the heart of University of Toronto's downtown campus. It was cold then, and it's even colder now in Toronto, with (at least) another two weeks to go of this arctic chill. I can't wait for the summer.

In case you're wondering, this is the photo I meant to take with the E-Pm1 - taken with the Panasonic GX7 instead (and the AMAZING Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens).

Project 52: Week 04

This week's post comes early! I hope to make this a habit, but I'm afraid will likely be the exception to the rule.

This is from the Stanley Kubrick exhibit which just ended last weekend at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. If you didn't have a chance to go, you missed a fantastic chance to find some meaty visual inspiration (sorry). Kubrick started his career as a photographer, and it's very evident in his film work. 

Zero noise reduction. Embrace the grain. Shot at 1600 on a small sensor, it still looks great in black and white, in my opinion.

On a side note, I've been enjoying shooting in square format tremendously as of lates. I'm slowly settling down to two formats, almost exclusively:

  • 1:1 gives me that bargain medium format feel. I especially like the fact that I don't have to debate between landscape and portrait orientation. No fumbling and awkwardly rotating the camera - just point and shoot.
  • 16:9, I'm just a sucker for that cinematic look.

(Not a real baby)

Project 52: Week 03

Only three weeks in, and I already feel this limited camera setup is making a better photographer. Perhaps not on the skills side yet (it's still a damn hard thing to shoot with and I delete more images that I keep), but in terms of "photographic zen". As you can see in this week's shot, I stopped caring about blurriness, softness, washed-out colours, lens distortion, graininess, etc. 

It's all about composition and the moment.

Project 52: Week 02

Week two proved to be a much harder challenge compared to week one - mainly thanks to the blistering cold weather that forced me to hibernate most of the week.

I came by the below shot at the 11th hour, while struggling to find inspiration. I had a bunch of "ok" shots, but nothing that spoke to me. This grainy, blurry pic of a statue of a child in the lobby of the new RBC builing near the waterfront hit the spot. 

In gear news, shooting with the E-PM1 + 15mm body cap combo is getting better, but still a royal pain. Most times I find a great shot, turn the camera on (wait for what feels like a century), point, focus, and shoot - only to find out later on that it was out of focus. 

On the plus side, I discovered I can actually adjust focus on the body cap lens, meaning I can focus in between infinity and 0.3m. I also figured out a way to assign the magnify function to the video record button. Why Olympus would put that button there is beyond comprehension, but at least it helps tremendously in avoiding misfocused shots when reconfigured.

On to week three...

Project 52: Week 01

It's been a blistering cold week here in Toronto, and I somewhat regret having started this project in the middle of the winter. 

Fortunately, downtown Toronto has a few hidden gems, and Allan Gardens has always been a solid option for great photos while keeping warm in the winter. I have no idea they were having a Christmas Flower Show since early December, and I rushed to check it out before it was over.

Check out the full Allan Gardens set on Flickr (all photos taken with the Panasonic GX7 and Olympus 12-50mm combo).

Week one proved to be relatively easy - it's hard to take a bad picture when you're surrounded by so much beautiful green. Week two however, might be a different story.

Project 52: One camera, one lens, 52 images

The challenge: Shoot one photo a week with one camera and one lens, for one year. The catch? It's not you regular camera.

As photographers, we tend to too often blame our (in most cases) perfectly capable gear for our (sometimes) mediocre images. We tend to too often complain about our current camera's poor low-ISO settings, or lack of a viewfinder, or cropped sensor, etc etc. With a new year, comes new challenges. And with new challenges, no excuses. 

I set myself to put together the cheapest digital camera setup I could find, that would still give me decent image quality and versatility, all for around $200 including all taxes and shipping. The result:

  • An gently used Olympus E-PM1 body, AKA Pen Mini (micro four thirds mount): U$84 (About $100 Canadian), plus shipping. Comes with small external flash (guide number 10 or 15 I believe?)
  • Olympus 15mm f8 body cap - fixed aperture pancake lens with 2 fixed focus settings. The worst lens in the world, according to DXO marks. C$ 49.99.

I've been shooting with this camera and lens for about a month, trying to get used to it, and I can confirm that both camera and lens are extremely...quirky (Scroll down for some samples).


  • It's really unusable in low-light without a tripod because of the fixed f8 aperture and the awful sensitivity of the E-PM1 sensor. I also own an E-M5 and tried the latest E-P5 and E-PL7, and the E-PM1 sensor and processor is far behind in terms of ISO than any of those cameras.
  • Focusing is sometimes inaccurate, forcing magnified view.
  • No shallow depth of field due to the small aperture.
  • No zoom (but I shoot with primes mostly, so no real issue there).
  • The E-PM1 settings menu is atrocious, and lacks many physical controls, including a PASM dial!


  • A relatively larger sensor on the E-PM1 - at least larger than most digital compacts and smart phones, so image quality is great in good lighting, under 800 ISO.
  • Perfect focal length (30mm equivalent in Full Frame) and f8 aperture for street photography, ensuring  that most of the images is in focus in good light, at any given time.
  • Focusing is fiddly, but quick and easy because for the fixed settings.
  • The 15mm body cap is surprisingly sharp at the center, although very soft closer to the edges.
  • The lens focuses very close, to about 30 cm, so there is potential for some macro work.
  • Super compact and portable.

By limiting my gear, I hope to concentrate on finding interesting shapes, lights, and subjects that can make visually pleasing and emotionally compelling images, and finally leave behind the Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) that affects so many photographers - myself included. 2015 will be the year when I hopefully find out that it really is about the photographer - not the camera.

Project 52 starts this week! Keep an eye for photo #01 to be posted before end of the day, Sunday January 11th. You can also follow the project on Instagram @silentjae and my Flickr.

PS: I originally wanted to do this challenge with a used Nikon D3000 DSLR body (C$99.99 from Henry's) and an old, manual focusing Nikon 50mm 1.8 E series lens. I eventually opted for the Olympus setup, since it's a truly pocketable combo, and is more suitable for street photography, which is what I do mainly. The best camera is the one you have with you...

Here are some sample images taken with the E-PM1 + 15mm body cap lens setup. They are all shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom only for cropping and some colour and shadows/highlights, nothing fancy.