- I like Kirk. Over time I've developed a lot of respect for his body of work. He's one of a handful of folk that I've never met face-to-face, yet managed to create a long-distance friendship around photography. (The other is Matthew Robertson.) So when I say "Kirk might be wrong", it's meant as gentle teasing, nothing more.
- This is humor. Humor. Hilarity. Something to provoke laughter and provide amusement. But not at someone else's expense, unless it's directed at me.
Kirk has something of a love-hate relationship with the Olympus digital Pens. He loves their small size and weight, their ability to mount just about any lens with a suitable adapter (especially his beloved film Pen lenses), and his ability to take photographs far more discretely than with say his Canon 7D or 5DMk2. But the one thing he can't abide is the lack of a built-in viewfinder and using the LCD screen on the back of the digital Pen for composition. In short, he hates holding the camera at arm's length;
I couldn't imagine a real, grown up photographer using the screen on the back of the camera at arm's length. (unless the camera is on a tripod and you're shooting architecture or products.) It's almost as stupid as using an iPhone for serious work. (LINK)How strongly does Kirk feel about this issue? Enough that he's mentioned it more than once, both in the body of his blog postings as well as in comments. Do a Google search for "kirk tuck arms length shooting" and you get over 13,000 results. I'd say that qualifies as a strong opinion on this issue.
|Chimping the Chimp (Not Quite At Arm's Length)|
But all is forgiven with the use of the VF-2 electronic viewfinder (EVF). The EVF bestows a certain gravitas to the Pen and those who use it. The digital Pen no longer looks like a P&S on steroids. It becomes a Real Camera meant for Serious Work.
|How Real Grown-Up Photography Was Meant To Be Done|
There's a lot to recommend the VF-2. In the bright Florida sun the EVF is far easier to work with than the display on the back of the body, especially in direct sun. It's also quite useful when using manual-focus lenses with adapters. Under those situations you'll find me using the VF-2 just like any other photographer.
But there are reasons not to use the VF-2. One is practical, the other philosophical.
The practical reason: The VF-2 must be slipped into the hot shoe of the digital Pen in order for it to work. Digital Pens that use the VF-2, from the E-P2 through all the Lite Pens, have a special port on the back side of the hot show providing signal and power to the VF-2. The problem with this setup is that the VF-2 is not locked down. It's easy (too easy) to knock the VF-2 out of the shoe. I've done it a number of times myself. Fortunately, I've not damaged the VF-2. More importantly, I've not lost it. At $250 per copy, losing the VF-2 isn't something you want to do often. It's not like loosing the E-3's eye-cup. So, when I'm finished using the VF-2 I put it back into its pouch I have attached to the camera strap on my E-P2.
The philosophical reason: It's too easy to get trapped in the viewfinder box. The best photographs are made by photographers who are engaged with the environment they're in, not with their camera. To be honest it doesn't matter if you're engaged with the camera via the viewfinder or the back of the camera. If your total attention is on the camera and what the camera is showing you then in my not so humble opinion you're at a significant creative loss.
Old film SLRs were bad about getting in your way. Decades ago in Atlanta I had a working photographer attempt to give me some sage advice. Out of all he told me the one thing that stuck with me all these years was to focus with both eyes open. One eye showed you the viewfinder, while the other showed you the rest of the world around you. For me, using the back of the camera for composition is just another way for me to remain engaged with the world instead of just the camera.
|The Injured Dove|
I was out on a walk one lunchtime through the parking lot with the E-P2 when I happened to see the injured dove flopping around in the leaves. The dove really didn't want to have anything to do with me. Rather than try to get down with the VF-2 and chase it further away, I simply held the camera out in my right hand. The camera was a lot less threatening than my head, on which the dove's attention was fully focused. With my head held back but the E-P2 close to the dove I was able to compose the shot on the E-P2's screen via my peripheral vision. The E-P2 with the 17mm was on automatic focus when this was taken. Right after, the dove finally decided it'd had enough of me and the E-P2 and fluttered on into the brush, and I never saw it again.
This past weekend I was up in Tallahassee helping Megs get packed up in preparation for moving out of her student apartment. She'd graduated from FSU back in May. A happy time to be sure. But this past weekend was the weekend of the Norway terrorism and Amy Winehouse's untimely death. Megs, the wife and I were having breakfast at a local Tallahassee eatery when a small silence went up around our little table. Megs was thinking about the current events, about her future, about her friends, and so much more.
The E-P2 was sitting in the middle of the table. While Megs was deep in thought I tilted the E-P2 up enough to make sure not to cut off the top of her head. The E-P2 was sitting between her glass of water and a bottle of Heinz. Once again I framed the shot with my peripheral vision. The E-P2 with 17mm in automatic focus.
Photographing while driving in the rain is dicey at best, and arguably stupid at worse. They already have laws against texting while driving, so I'm sure that they'd really frown on an idiot driver who has an accident while driving and simultaneously taking photos. For this photo I was using the E-P2 with my OM 28mm 1:2.8 plus adapters. Before heading on down the road I'd set the aperture to f/4 and focus to the hyperfocal distance of the 28mm at f/4. The E-P2 was on aperture preferred. All I had to do was point and shoot.
I was holding the camera with both hands that were also gripping the steering wheel. Once again I watched the framing with my peripheral vision while grimly maintaining control of the Prius, and tripped the shutter at the "right" moment to grab this image. Once I'd gotten what I wanted I quickly put the camera down and drove the rest of the way home with both hands still gripping the steering wheel, but without the E-P2 to get in the way.
|Frank Lloyd Wright Annie Pfeiffer Chapel|
Finally, there's the issue of architecture. Take for example the Frank Lloyd Wright Annie Pfeiffer Chapel at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. It sits on a gently rising hill. The Four Thirds (and µFour Thirds) have a limited selection of lenses. They don't have, for example, shift and tilt lenses for architecture. For this photograph, using the M.Zuiko 9-18mm at 11mm, I held the E-P2 above my head and then aligned the camera to photograph the chapel with the vertical lines reasonably vertical (later, in Lightroom, I cleaned them up a bit more).
Once again I had to pay full attention as I was moving around the hillside with the camera. There's nothing quite as embarrassing as falling down a hill with your arms flailing above your head. Fortunately, at 6'4", with my arms above my head, and at the right location on the hill, I was able to frame a decent photograph using my peripheral vision as the guide.
In the grand scheme of things sometimes it works to hold the camera away from your eye and at arm's length. Sometimes you have no choice.
So the next time you see someone holding their camera away from them, consider they might be doing it for the sake of their art.