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Friday, December 02, 2011


Lumix @ KL Bird Park

Back in 2007 I visited the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park for the first time. I wrote about it in a blog which can be found in the archives for June '07 if you're interested. I was annoyed at the time because of the misleading advertising which still persists. It may be the 'World Largest Free-flight Walk-in Aviary' (sic—from their website) but a large proportion of the birds are kept in cages, some with wires that make photography challenging.

I'm coming to terms with it a little more now because, having spent most of the past year in Malaysia, I've come to realise that misleading advertising is part of the Malaysian way of life. Despite this I've felt an urge to return to the Bird Park because it provides an opportunity to get my newer cameras close to some interesting birds. So when Panasonic announced they were running a workshop for owners of Lumix G series cameras at the Bird Park, I jumped at the opportunity.

The workshop started with some instruction from professional photographer Aaron Kok.

The guy who was sitting next to me told me he always shoots in Intelligent Auto. I suspect many of the participants do the same. I guess that Aaron was aiming to give us enough knowledge to be more confident in using some of the features of our cameras.

My neighbour had only one lens, a 14-42. His wife had a similar camera with a 14-45, ie almost the same lens. I have a 14-42 lens too. It is the one I almost never use. Panasonic have come up with a good marketing strategy here. They make the full range of lenses available to you and give you time to play with them. Perhaps you'll become attached to them and buy one or two. And to give you a focus for your photography they had a competition. Prizes were given (not sure what) for the best shot in model, macro and wildlife categories.

I wasn't quick enough. There were a limited number of lenses. By time I got to the table the 100-300 extra-long zoom and the macro lenses were all taken. I settled for the 25mm f1.4 lens. Perhaps it is not the lens of choice for wildlife photography but I'm glad I was given the opportunity to try it out. I'm told that at f1.4 it is the lens that lets in the most light in the entire micro-four-thirds range from Panasonic and Olympus. I love what I do at night with my 20mm f1.7 lens without using a flash. This one would work in a similar way for closer subjects. At 25mm it is a good lens for portraits. So I spent a bit of time with the model. Was that exciting? To be honest, I was getting more excited by the bokeh (blur) this lens created from the light filtering through the trees. It's a great lens for keeping the subject sharp while blurring everything else so it won't be a distraction.

After I had more than fifty shots of the model I decided to try the lens on birds and whatever else I found in the park. You could say it does a good job but to be honest, my preference for this job would be the 45-200 zoom lens that I already own (or perhaps the 100-300 lens that I am still yet to try).

We had a total of three hours for our free shoot. I returned after about one hour in hope that someone had returned one of the aforementioned popular lenses. They hadn't. I hung around waiting and that was when I met Alexis who became stranger number four in my 100 strangers project.

Chatting with one of the support staff, he offered to loan me his own Leica 45mm f2.8 macro lens. I hadn't long fitted it to my camera when a hornbill landed on the verandah of our workshop venue. At first I was disappointed but quickly remembered that this lens is not just for macro. I got one or two good shots of this bird. I also noticed that the model was sitting around now. Everyone had moved on. I asked if I could take a few closeups of her eye. Hey, I was doing real macro! I played with this lens for another hour or so and took a few good shots but I have to admit that a lot of my pics could have been better. I trust more consistent quality comes with practice. Once again, for distance shots, my preferred lens is the 45-200 that I already own.

We each submitted our pics for the competition and Aaron offered his critique on each one. When he reviewed the model pics he insisted that a good portrait must have the subject looking straight at the camera. I was interested to learn more about Aaron. When I returned home I searched for him on flickr. He doesn't appear to be there. I did a general search and found a website for an Aaron Kok, lifestyle photographer. It must be a different Aaron Kok. On the home page of this site are three portraits of a child. In only one is the subject looking at the camera.

And what did I learn from the day? I don't usually shoot in Intelligent Auto. Since I got the G2 I mostly shoot in aperture priority. But in a sense I use it in an auto style. I need to pay more attention to the settings, make sure they are appropriate for the photo I want to take and adjust if necessary. I took a lot of not-so-good shots on the day and one or two good ones. Hopefully I can improve the proportion of good ones.

My better shots of the day are gradually being added to my flickr photostream or you can see them together in a set. Please note that if you use these shots to assess any of the Lumix lenses, what I post on flickr has been processed. It is not the way they came out of the camera.

Panasonic tell me they are planning a G series workshop in Penang. I wonder what the venue will be. In any case, I'm interested.

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