It has been over a year since I sent you anything for your blog Steve, so I thought I might finish the year by sending you a brief summary of what I’ve been up to in 2017.
The year started with a rare and enjoyable commission to produce corporate portraits for a leading product design firm based in New York and London. After doing a few days of work in London they flew me out to New York to complete the job. Over 8 long days I shot about 60 headshots and produced a number of environmental images for the company’s website together with a small selection of product shots. The company, Smart Design, are based inside a really cool building (the Starrett Lehigh) on the lower west side of Manhattan.
The portraits mostly came from 2 setups, 1) my Sony A7mk2 with the Leica M 50mm f1.4 ASPH Summilux and the Teacart AF adaptor / lighting for these shots were a mix of ambient and Elinchrom ELB 400 flash with a High Speed Quadra head. And 2) my Olympus OMD EM1 Mk2 with the Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 lens, these shots were lit with ambient light and a big reflector. As a point of interest, the CEO was an Olympus user himself and he even owned the Nocticron. This was handy as part of my commission involved showing one of his staff how to recreate these shots in a consistent way for any new staff portraits made after I returned to the UK. I’ve included some of my favourite shots from the job below.
Olympus EM1 Mk2, Leica Nocticron 42.5mm, ISO 640 1/400s, f1.2 available light, big reflector
Sony A7Mk2, Leica M 50mm f1.4 ASPH, Techart AF adaptor, ISO100, 1/160s. f1.4 Elinchrom ELB 400, Quadra HS head
Environmental shot: Sony A7mk2, Leica M 50mm f1.4 ASPH, Techart AF adaptor, ISO 160, 1/60s, f1.4 ambient light
Environmental shot: Olympus OMD EM1 Mk2, Olympus 12-40 PRO f2.8 lens @ 12mm. ISO 1600 1/60s, f2.8 ambient light
Product shot: Sony A7mk2, Leica M 50mm f1.4 ASPH, Techart AF adaptor, ISO 250, 1/100s, f1.4, ambient light
Product shot: Olympus OMD EM1, Oly 12-40mm PRO 2.8 lens @ 40mm, ISO 200 1/20s, f2.8 Elinchrom ELB400 / Quadra and ambient
The year took a turn for the worse when in February, after a relatively short illness, my older brother David passed away here in my home in Winchester. He had come here for treatment from his home in Jakarta 8 months prior. Some weeks later his wife, who is Indonesian, held a day of remembrance at their home in Jakarta which I and his 2 sons attended. This was an opportunity to remember David with stories from his life from his friends and family and with photographs, some of which I had made while he was here. I also made a few portraits of some of their close friends during the day. It was a lovely day and I’ve included a few pics below.
My brother David in my studio in mid 2016, Olympus OMD EM1mk2 Olympus 12-40mm PRO lens, ISO 200 ELB 400 / Quadra flash
For something completely different, my friend Connie agreed to a pregnancy shoot in my studio and we opted for a “Demi Moore” special. The product of her labours is also shown below, a boy called Griffin, photographed here at 2 days old.
Two springtime trips to Spain and Portugal with friends followed soon. These were less about photography, and more for me to recharge my batteries and just enjoy the sun but of course I took my cameras along.
Spain: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Oly 25mm 1.2, ISO 200 1/12,000 f2
Spain: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Oly 25mm 1.2, ISO 320, 1/60s, f7.1 ambient light
Spain: Sony RX1R2 ISO 200, 1/200s f2
Portugal, a friend’s daughter and my long term project Frida: Oly EM1mk2 Oly 25mm 1.2 1/320s, f1.2 ambient light
Portugal, Frida: Sony RX1R2 ISO 200, 1/200s f2 ambient light
A new collaboration with an interior designer meant that much of the summer was spent on buying trips and site visits to France where she was putting together a luxury ski chalet in the Alps. It was interesting to see the changes in the alpine landscape from summer through fall to my last trip in winter. She also commissioned me to produce some “winter themed’ shots in my studio.
Alpine ski chalet in mid-conversion, Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Oly 7-14mm 2.8 Pro, ISO 200, 1/320s, f5.6
Summer view of the ski slopes of Meribel, Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Oly 40-150mm 2.8, ISO 1600 1/160s f18
Autumnal view of the ski slopes of Meribel, Olympus OMD Em1 mk2, Oly 40-150mm 2.8 PRO, ISO 200, 1/320s, f5.6
Winter view of the ski slopes of Meribel, Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Oly 40-150mm 2.8 PRO, ISO 200, 1/1250, f7.1
Paris Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Oly 25mm 1.2 PRO, ISO 800, 1/60s, f2.8
Paris Olympus PEN F, Oly 17mm 1.8 ISO 800, 1/60 f2.8
Winter studio shot: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Leica Nocticron 42.5mm 1.2, ISO 200 1/250s f8, 2 x Godox AD200, 2 x Octaboxes
Winter studio shot: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Leica Nocticron 42.5mm 1.2, ISO 200 1/250s f8, Godox AD200, Octabox
In November I set off to Hanoi to run the KUONI photo tour of Vietnam and Cambodia. This was my 2nd photo tour for the luxury tour operator and it didn’t fail to disappoint. Less hectic than the India tour I did in 2015, it still offered lots of great photo opportunities for the 10 guests who joined us. Four of the guests were repeat customers who had been with me in India, they agreed that this tour had improved upon the first. Highlights included a half day with two models in Hanoi, an overnight cruise on Halong Bay and a day spent with the locals in a small Cambodian village. A few pictures from the trip are below.
Spectacular Halong Bay in Vietnam: Olympus OMD EM1mk2, Leica 15mm f1.7, ISO 200, 1/1600 f2.8
A model wears traditional costume in Hanoi: Olympus OMD EM1, Oly 25mm 1.2 PRO, ISO 320, 1/60s, f1.2
A military portrait hangs in the man’s village house near Hanoi, Olympus OMD EM1mk2, Oly 25mm 1.2 PRO, ISO 200, 1/30s f1.2
Tourist’s of unspecified origin with their local guide at Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia: Sony RZ1R2, ISO 250, 1/250s, f8
Caves on Halong Bay, Vietnam: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Leica 15mm f1.7, ISO 3200, 1/60s, f1.7
Market trading lady in Hoi An, Vietnam: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Leica Nocticron 42.5mm 1.2, ISO 200, 1/400s, f1.2
Young man talking on his phone in Hoi An bar: Olympus OMD EM1mk2, Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2, ISO 200 1/320s, f1.2
Very old lady (93) pulling on her very old husband’s (98) beard: Olympus OMD EM1, Oly 25mm f1.2, ISO 500, 1/200, f1.2
A beautiful lily pond at one of Cambodia’s famous temples: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Oly 12-100 PRO, ISO 400, 1/200s, f8
A young boy at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2 Oly 25mm 1.2 PRO, ISO 500, 1/250s, f1.2
A village elder welcomes our group: Sony RX1R2, ISO 500, 1/250s f2
A beautiful child near a temple in Cambodia: Sony RX1R2 ISO 400, 1/250 f2
A market trader laughs at my pitiful bartering skills: Sony RX1R2, ISO 1000, 1/250, f8
A boy in his hammock at his home in a Cambodian village: Sony RX1R2, ISO 200 1/400s f2
Almost immediately after returning from Vietnam I was off to France again to photograph the completed design project in the Alps. This was indeed one uber luxurious ski chalet, the likes of which has not been seen in Meribel before. I was commissioned to make a comprehensive set of images by the designer and the management company responsible for staffing it for the owner. I can’t say who the owner is but she’s quite big in the world of photography.
Over 2 weeks a large team worked long days to fill the 6 room chalet with beautiful custom made furnishings. I say ‘rooms’, they were all suites really and one even featured a delightful snug for youngsters. The basement housed a large spa with massage room, sauna and jacuzzi. But what really set this place apart was the huge lounge area with panoramic views. It also featured a 4.5 meter wood table with 14 Philippe Starck gold chairs and 3 huge pendant shades finished in gold leaf. I’ve included a few pictures below.
A view from the dining table to the slopes: Olympus OMD EM1mk2, Oly 25mm 1.2 PRO, ISO 400 1/30s, f13
The 4.5m dining table, gold Cartel chairs and gold leaf pendants: Olympus OMD EM1mk2, Oly 7-14mm 2.8 PRO, ISO 400 1.3s f8, tripod
A bedroom suite: Olympus OMD EM1, Oly 7-14mm 2.8 PRO, ISO 400, 1/10s f8 2 x Godox AD200 through 2 large octaboxes + ambient light
Part of the 4 story staircase: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2 Oly 7-14mm 2.8 PRO, ISO 400, 1/6s f8 ambient lighting, tripod
A section of the basement spa: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Oly 7-14mm 2.8 PRO, ISO 400, 0.6s f4 tripod
The children’s snug: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Oly 7-14mm 2.8 PRO, ISO 400, 1/3s f8, tripod
The Library: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Oly 7-14mm 2.8 PRO, ISO 400, 1s f8, tripod
The library was fully stocked including many fine photography books: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Oly 25mm 1.2 PRO, ISO 800, 1/50s f1.2
Master suite: Olympus OMD EM1 Mk2, Oly 7-14mm 2.8 PRO, ISO 400, 1/80s f3.2
The grey room: Sony RX1R2 ISO 400, 1/4s f8 Godox AD200 via large octabox mixed with ambient light
Red room: Olympus EM1 mk2, Oly 7-14mm 2.8 PRO, ISO 400 1/50s f2.8 tripod, 2 x Godox AD200 2 x octaboxes, ambient light
Overall I’m using the Olympus OMD EM1 mk2 more than anything else but the Sony RX1R2 is a little wonder if I can’t carry much and I want massive files. The Sony A72 and Techart AF adaptor were purchased mainly for that portrait commission in NYC and I can’t see them getting used much more to be honest, they’re a cumbersome and somewhat inelegant solution for Leica M glass. One day if I get in the money again I’d love to buy a Leica M10 but for now I’m happy with what I’m using.
I’m very pleased with my decision to sell all of my Elinchrom lighting gear in favour of the much cheaper but highly capable Godox AD200’s. The Godox gear still gives me high speed sync and about the same power output when I combine them in the one holder bracket. The lithium batteries also last all day and recycling speed is not far behind the Elinchrom kit, with overall, a lot less weight to lug around and a very flexible solution. Modifiers are much less expensive than the proprietary Elinchrom kit too.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you and your readers!
Thanks for the article, it was wonderful to accompany you on your year, fantastic photos and lots of deep life experiences. 🙂
I’m new to photography and i have a doubt; In the picture labelled “Caves on Halong Bay, Vietnam: Olympus OMD EM1 mk2, Leica 15mm f1.7, ISO 3200, 1/60s, f1.7”, why did you use the 3200 ISO? Based on what I learned so far, it would seem to me that a slower shutter speed with lower ISO would be a better way to try that photo, as it seems there wasn’t much movement on the scene.
And on a related follow up, I’m using an EM-10 Mark II as my first camera, do you have any opinion on what should be the highest ISO I should comfortably go to on it?
Thanks a lot again and congrats on all those beautiful pictures and on your way to see the life on and between them. 🙂
Sorry for your loss Neil – and have a great new year 2018! Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos with us.
Hi from Indonesia 😀
First of all, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Beautiful images you have there, sir. Btw, I would like to ask something.
As you may already know, Jakarta is a very humid city. So, the colours that came from the camera are quite “contrasty”. I realize this when I travel to Japan last year. It was about the end of fall season there, and the weather pretty much overcast. Then, I realize, the image that came from the same camera-same lens (7D mk1 with the cheap nifty fifty) looks much more pleasing to me. The colours were not that punchy, even when in a sunny day. I believe it’s because of the humidity, the level of liquid particles in the air that would likely reflects the light more, so the colours become more contrasty (well, in my theory at least..) and the lights from the sun are more harsher!
So, my question is .. do you have some tips and tricks to shoot in this kind of country? You went to Vietnam and Cambodia as well, I believe the humidity condition is pretty much the same. I know that I can edit it in post (toning down the contrast), but still .. it wasn’t as pleasing as my pictures from Japan .. I need your suggestions
Thank you very much in advance!
Hi Naufal, Thanks for your comment, I agree that Jakarta can indeed be very humid and it was pretty humid in Cambodia too. I cannot comment on humidity’s effect on photography, other than the fact that its a pain when your glass comes out of your aircon room at the start of each day, it takes 20 minutes for your glass to stop fogging up! I take no special measures to shoot in humid places and I have not noticed any change in contrast myself. I tend to treat all my files in a similar way, using Lightroom and Nik software to create a fairly punchy file with good contrast.
Sincere condolences on the loss of your brother earlier this year. The beautiful photos of his friends and family tell us that he was very much loved.
I always thoroughly enjoy your submissions to this site – I can tell with so much going on for you in 2017 that it has been a crazy busy year for you.
It’s funny but looking at your images, the shots that I gravitated to most were predominantly taken with the EM1ii and 25 1.2 combo – the rendering on that combo is sublime.
I’m interested to know if you have played with/have any interest in, the new Panasonic G9 ? It looks a particularly interesting camera for me as the body is nicely sized for large hands and coupled with the raft of beautiful m43 lenses, the system is demonstrating to be as capable and versatile as ever.
Hi Tom, Thanks for your comments. With regards to the G9 I’m sure its a fine machine but With an EM1 mk 2 and a Pen F I think I’m happy staying with that setup for now. Although I left the Olympus ambassador program earlier this year (my own decision, as you said, I did have a lot on my plate this year..:) I still love using the gear and prefer it to the Panasonic offerings. I paid for the EM1mk2 and the 25mm 1.2 Pro with my own money, and there’s a few more lenses I’d love to own when I’m less strapped for cash..:) My thanks for all the nice comments below too, As I was saying to Steve, I met a ‘fan’ in Vietnam who was only aware of my work via this website, so I am very grateful for the exposure.
The pictures are breathtaking. Neil is a very talented artist. Bravo!
Neil, what software do you use in post-production?
Hi Val, thank you for the comments, I use Lightroom and Nik Silver and Colour Efex to process my files
First off, so sorry to read about the loss of your brother David. That is a lovely portrait of him.
As always, really nice shots and an excellent essay accompanying it. I always look forward to your posts.
It’s always enjoyable viewing photos made with my system of choice, Olympus m4/3 and Pro lenses. It is inspiring to see the system in use by a master photographer; your images are absolutely wonderful, Neil.
Please don’t wait another year to inspire us again!
Great web site; navigation and aesthetics. I especially like your environmental portraits’ from the “product design” assignment.
Nice pics, thanks. The combination of a good small sensor and extraordinary lenses is a winner. Olympus rocks. And colors are much nicer than many cameras’ consistently, even X1d pics’, which are always vividly unreal. Excellent work.
I read lots of your post here..as always they all are beautiful pictures, one of the few photographers that inspired me..thanks
Some very fine pictures, interesting to see the consequent difference in color rendering between Oly and Sony and to my eyes and preferences Oly floors Sony.
My favorite (the Paris Cafe) is maybe not top notch in technical terms but it just “talks to me” a simply beautiful picture.
Just one outstanding photo after another, your work is an inspiration for me, and I’m sure for many others too. Thank you for sharing.
Neil, Great post with so many beautiful shots and love seeing those oly shots with the pro glass as I’m building my oly pro glass collection. Do you have a link to the one holder bracket for the ad200? I assume you mean that you are paring them into one soft box? Which softboxes did you use? I’m interested in your lighting setup as I just got into the ad200 and have been wanting to combine them into a single box for more power.
Hi Irav, Thanks for your comments. Here is a link to the dual flash adaptor I use with the 2 AD 200 units. https://www.ebay.co.uk/i/263192356813?chn=ps&adgroupid=52137191441&rlsatarget=pla-380309531971&abcId=1129946&adtype=pla&merchantid=113531833&poi=&googleloc=1007237&device=c&campaignid=974961043&crdt=0
I used an Interfit 44″ foldable octabox here: https://uk.interfitphotographic.com/product/44-foldable-octobox-with-bowens-mount/
…and a Photek 46″ Softlighter unbrella with the diffuser here https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/42419-REG/Photek_SL_5000_Umbrella_Softlighter_II.html
The Photek is particularly small and easy to set up
Nice article, Neil, some great shots there!
You are a constant source of inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing with us.
The E-M1 MKII and those Pro lenses really stand out in this post. Thanks for sharing Neil.
Fantastic pictures, in particular when using Olympus lenses (with the 0ly 25mm 1.2 as the most outstanding) and the Leica Noctricon. I wonder if Buchan-Grant or Steve has compared the Noctricon with the new Olympus 45mm 1.2?
I haven’t had a chance to compare them myself but I would guess they were similarly brilliant..:)
Impressive set! Well done.