Tag Archives: Lumix

Playing with Fire and Light

A couple of weeks ago, a few friends of mine arranged a night photo shoot to have some fun with light painting and long exposure shots. We headed to this abandoned building in the middle of nowhere and a brave volunteer worked his magic with just some steel wool stuffed in a whisk and swung on a chain. Here’s what I got. I loved the results and can’t wait to do some more of this.

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Here’s something I tried while I was playing around with the 2 axis head on the tripod. I set the exposure to around 10 seconds and then moved the camera on X and Y axis while focused on a string of street lights. This might make a good wallpaper for my mobile phone.

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There was this structure that I lit up using a flashlight and managed to get the stars in the shot as well. The yellow haze is light reflected off clouds from the street lights and just above that the stars are visible.

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Towards the end of the session we played around with one of those LED key-chains and got the following samples.

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While I was editing the pictures I remembered that I’d taken some similar pictures of the Fire Dancers at this year’s Sand Sculpture expo so I figured those would fit into the theme of this post. So here are some shots from the event.

Fire dancers at Remal Festival 2014

Fire dancers at Remal Festival 2014

Fire dancers at Remal Festival 2014

Fire dancers at Remal Festival 2014

Fire dancers at Remal Festival 2014

Fire dancers at Remal Festival 2014

Wasabi Power Battery – Review

Wasabi power GX1

This was one of those posts that’s been in draft for a while now. I just checked my order date on Amazon and realized I bought this set back in May 2012. I’ve been using it regularly ever since so this is probably a good testament to how great these batteries are.

These are just third party batteries so there’s no in-depth review or technical analysis but I’ll just quickly focus on my experience with these batteries.

Initial hesitation:
I needed extra batteries for my brand new (in June 2012) Lumix GX1 but there were two issues that kept bugging me.
1. Expanding/exploding third party batteries – I read in a few articles about how power cells from knock-off battery makers or non-OEM manufacturers could either swell up inside the camera or just simply explode during use or charging.
2. Non- Functional battery power level indicator – The initial batteries that came out were not encoded with Panasonic’s proprietary ‘smart chip’ so some users reported that the camera will not display the remaining charge in the battery and so you might face an abrupt  shutdown while shooting.

Keeping both these points in mind I took the plunge anyway and was happy to find out that both issues were non-existent in Wasabi batteries. So far they haven’t exploded and both of them display the power level perfectly.

Wasabi power GX1 box

What I like: 
. First and foremost, the Wasabi packs in 1500mAh power as opposed to the 1010mAh in the OEM battery. This translates to more shooting time and there were times during my vacation when I didn’t have to charge them for more than a week.
. You get amazing value for money for the 30 odd dollars that you pay. The pack includes two batteries, one wall charger and a 12 volt DC charger that you can plug into your car.
. The charging unit is much smaller than the Panasonic one and it plugs directly into the wall so you don’t have the hassle of packing an additional 2-pin cable.
. The charging unit has a very simple ‘Red for charging’ and ‘Green for completed’ indicators that are more intuitive than the Panasonic’s Morse code indicator.
. The car charger is a handy thing to have but I’ve only used it once as most of the time I leave home with both units fully charged.

Where to buy it from:

I bought mine from Amazon for about 30 USD and then spend another 7 or 8 KD for shipping from NYC. This is the item as listed on Amazon [link]
They’re also available from Mr. Babu for 14.5 KWD which includs shipping so this is definitely a better deal. [link]

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 Fish Eye for MFT

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When I first bought my DSLR one of the lenses I thought of buying was a fish-eye lens. At the time a fish-eye lens from Nikon was prohibitively expensive and I gave up the idea of buying one altogether. Lately I’ve been concentrating more on my Micro Four Thirds setup and that’s when I found this Samyang lens. I contacted AAB World to see if they carried this brand and they turned out to be the dealers for Samyang as well. They were quick to loan me a test lens and I’ve been playing around with it the last couple of weeks. This post will focus on the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 and then I’ll add some photos taken with it over the week.

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Whats in the box:
The lens comes snugly packed in a plastic shell which keeps it from getting damaged during transit. There’s a leather (or leather-like) lens bag included in the box. There’s no separate lens hood since there’s a protective hood built on the barrel itself.

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The lens:

Its a fully manual lens, meaning there are no CPU contacts on the lens that communicate with your camera body and infact your camera will not even recognize that there’s a lens attached. On the Lumix you have to select the ‘Shoot w/o lens’ option in the menu before you start shooting.

It has an aperture ring marked from f/3.5 to f/22 and it turns easily with a solid click in each position. The focus ring is well damped and does not move from its position once you’ve set it to the desired distance. The lens can focus from .19 meters to infinity but I wish it had a marking for 1 meter as well. Overall the lens is very solid and feels like its worth twice its actual price.

The lens has a focal length of 7.5mm and in Full Frame or traditional 35mm format that would roughly translate to 15mm, which is really pretty wide. The lens is sold re-branded as Rokinon, Bower and Vivitar in some markets but essentially its all the same lens. They come in two colors; Black and Silver and in mounts for MFT, E Mount, Fuji Mount etc.

Its available at AAB Studio for KD 94.950 which is reasonable comparable to online prices and plus you get a local warranty too.

Shooting:
This is where everything you know about composition goes out the window. Due to the characteristic distortion on this lens the image will wildly vary depending on which axis you point your lens at. Using the conventional ‘Rule of Thirds’ concept may not always yield good results but that’s up to you to decide. I found that I preferred symmetry in some pictures while in others I didn’t. Using this lens is a lot of fun and a great learning experience. You can see the effect of tilting the camera in this short video that I took here;

Tips:
. This lens is ultra wide and has an angle of view of 180 degrees so make sure you’re not holding the lens barrel or your fingers will wind up in the frame. If you hold the camera too close to your body even your feet will be visible in the frame.

. If you’re shooting at higher apertures like f/11 or f/16 focus is not an issue and you can leave it at Infinity but if you’re shooting closer objects at f/3.5 then it would be wise to use the magnified focus window on your screen (if your camera has that function) so that your subject is in sharp focus.

. Since its a manual lens you’ll have to keep in mind a few parameters like the Aperture setting on your lens, the ISO and Shutter speed on your camera body. Luckily I was able to use the exposure meter on my GX1 and managed to properly expose the majority of the shots in the way that I wanted.

There’s almost no limit to what you can shoot if you’re creative with a fish-eye as you can see from this [link] and here are a sample of the photos I’ve taken with this amazing little lens.

Fisheye Bridge

Fifth RingTraffic

Banking Complex

Warp Speed

Salmiya Tunnel

Prestige Avenues

Avenues Dome

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Final Thoughts: 
This is a high quality lens that’s both affordable and easy to use. Its compact dimensions doesn’t take up much space in your bag and you’ll always have it handy. I loved the lens so much that I’m actually going to buy the lens used in this review. Contact AAB World to see if they have this lens in your camera mount specifications.

Inside the Grand Mosque

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During the National Day holidays a friend of mine arranged a trip for us to visit the Grand Mosque in Kuwait City. This was my second visit to the mosque and this time around I had a fish-eye lens in my bag to capture the enormous prayer hall inside.

Hajji Khalil Habash at the Grand Mosque

The guided tours are conducted by the group; “Western Perception of Islam” and our guide was a very knowledgeable gentleman by the name of Khalil Habash. You can see many videos on Youtube of the tour taken by tourists and here’s [a recent one].

The tour of the Grand Mosque is something that everyone living in Kuwait should take at least once. The rulers have spared no expense in creating this awe-inspiring and beautiful place of worship and it shows when you walk around the hall. Our guide, Mr. Habash, explained in great detail about the structure itself and its significance to both Kuwait and the Muslim world. We were a group of around 20 tourists from different countries and so the medium of communication was English.

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This post contains photos taken with my D60 and also the GX1. On my first visit there I wasn’t able to capture the magnitude of the interior with my kit lens so on the second try I used a fisheye lens on my GX1 and that gave me satisfactory results.

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Street Photography with the GX1

Shooter in the hallway

Shooting discretely with a DSLR is not something that can be done easily and that’s what I’m loving about the mirror-less system cameras. They’re great for Street Photography. On a recent visit to the Liberation Tower I was just shooting images of people on the tour and it felt great to capture random moments without drawing attention to myself. Here’s some of the better ones from the bunch.

Looking at Kuwait

Instagrammer

Composition

Communication

 

Tour of Liberation Tower

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This weekend my wife and I went on a guided tour of Kuwait’s Liberation Tower. The trip was organized by Aware Center and we were lucky to get seats for the tour although we weren’t so lucky with the weather. As we approached Kuwait City it was clear that the haze was not going to clear up during our time there.

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The guide took us to the third level where there’s a bridge that leads to the elevators that access the main tower. The tour would only go as high as 150 meters as there’s sensitive defense communication systems on the top levels and entry is restricted.

This is going to be a long post so click on through for more..

Continue reading

‘High’ Above Kuwait

I was cleaning up some of my camera’s SD cards when I came across some photos I’d taken a few months back. I was on a night flight bound to Kuwait and I was probably a little high either from the stopover in Dubai or the in-flight drinks so maybe that’s why I forgot I took them.

Anyhoo… the following were some of the good ones in the bunch and my favorite is the first one here, I wanted to get a clear shot of the moon but with three layers of glass separating me from the air the ghost moons were unavoidable.

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View on my [Flickr stream]

20 FPS with the GX1

Iftar Cannon 2012

Last year I had posted about my first visit to Naif Palace to see the ceremonial firing of the Iftar Cannon. During my subsequent visits I managed to get some decent shots of the flash and smoke from the barrel. This time I wanted to try out my GX1’s high speed feature at 20 frames per second.

The results were really good and I got about 40 frames in 2 seconds and I combined them all into a short video clip.

My original post about the cannon  is [here] and my post about capturing gunfire is [here]

On [Youtube]

In case you were wondering about the camera setup;
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter: 1/400
ISO: 6400
Release: High Speed @ 20 FPS

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Panasonic Lumix GX1 – My New Companion

After a long time of indecisiveness I finally took the plunge and bought myself a Micro Four Thirds System camera, the Lumix GX1. To say that this is an impressive camera would be an understatement. The GX1 packs in quite a number of features in such a small package that you’ll love it from the get go.

Now this is not an extensive review on the features of the camera itself, for that you can check out the detailed report on DP Review [link].  My first option was the G1X from Canon but then went with the GX1 as I like the freedom of interchangeable lenses. Having a compact camera with SLR-like capabilities was my requirement and this fit the bill perfectly.

Check out the size comparison below  with my Nikon D60 and 18-55mm lens.

Here’s a list of what I liked about the camera;
1. Compact size, metal body and buttons
2. Interchangeable lens options
3. Great ISO performance (check out my Geely launch and Jade Garden posts, all photos were taken in really low light)
4. Fast Autofocus
5. Four customizable function buttons
6. Responsive touch screen and easy to use menu
7. Shoots RAW + JPEG

Here’s some more information about the Micro Four Thirds platform [link]