December 17, 2015


I was able to spend two days in Merida, Mexico after my last hitch offshore.  I wanted to keep a slim profile and not call attention to myself, so I paired my GX7 with the Lumix 14mm f/2.5 for a majority of the trip. This combination is great for street photography during the day where I could set the camera to aperture priority and focus my attention on searching for interesting subjects and good light.

It was also great for photographing the different architecture around Merida and the ruins that make up Chichen Itza. Sure it would have been great to have the latest and greatest lens offering but I was also wanting to have fun with the people showing me their beautiful country and did not want to fuss over minor flaws in image quality, distortion etc. If you are looking for a small effective lens to pair with your micro four thirds camera, the Lumix 14mm f/2.5 is really all you need if photography is not your main focus throughout your travels.  


At night the combination was good but I had to up the ISO to 1600 to keep my shutter speed high. The GX7's sensor performs pretty well even up to ISO 2000 especially if your final medium is web sharing. Also because of the wide focal length and the GX7's IBIS technology I could get away with shooting at relatively low shutter speeds when my subject was stationary. Again, I was making photos while having fun enjoying the food, sights and sounds and the 14mm pancake was sufficient enough for me capture some of what I thought was interesting.

Of course my trip wouldn't have been complete without me taking some portraits. This was actually the first time I used this lens with the intention of photographing people and I plan to add it to my portrait bag. It is definitely wider than I am used to but I learned if you are trying to show the environment and give some context to the scene this lens works like a charm.

Overall the GX7 is a great travel camera and I prefer it over my EM5 (Mark 1) because of its silent electronic shutter which exhibits a 1/8000 maximum shutter speed and Wi-Fi capabilities. In addition, the tiny Lumix 14mm was all I needed to practice photography while enjoying my micro-vacation. If you are considering adding this pancake lens to your arsenal, at around $300, its a no brainer. However, if you are one to fuss over the technical aspects of your photos (and do not care about size) then I would consider something else, maybe Oly's 12mm f/2 or Rokinon's 12mm f/1.8.


If you live in, or are traveling to Florida and would like to schedule a photo-shoot, I am currently offering portrait services in and around Central Fl. Check out more of my work at

October 16, 2015

After purchasing the very inexpensive Coco Ring Flash and reviewing it for macro work, I hoped to write a follow-up post describing how effective it was for portraiture. This variation of ring flash is most similar to ExpoImaging's first iteration of it's Rayflash and was designed to be used attached to a speedlight "on camera". I tried explaining in my original review that it was incompatible with wider focal lengths because most lenses do not clear the front. Below are a few images of the ring flash attached to my OMD EM5 which show what I was trying to iterate.  

The ring flash was designed for traditional DSLRs which are larger than most mirrorless systems out there and it may not be compatible with your camera (for example, it is not compatible with my Panasonic GX7). As for flashes, I have successfully used the unit with a Yongnuo YN560 II and Yongnuo YN 560 III, both on and off camera. 

Despite these caveats, it has proven to be an effective light modifier in many different scenarios in and out of the studio, check out the examples below.

Back-lit Subject

Situations in which your subject is back lit can prove challenging especially if you are relying on your camera to meter the scene. One solution is to use spot metering to ensure your subject is exposed properly and deal with an overexposed background later. Another option is to switch to manual mode and expose for "the environment", which will likely result in your subject being underexposed. The solution is to then use artificial light to properly expose your subject. The maximum sync speed for flash photography is usually 1/250 so you will need to stop your lens down (f/2.8 - 4) to properly expose for the surroundings or use an ND filter and shoot wide open. In the examples below, I shot at the maximum sync speed and stopped down between f/2.8 and f/5.6.      

Subject in the Shade

While reading through the Lighting 101 course provided by the amazing Strobist website I was particularly inspired by the section describing how to balance flash with ambient lighting. You should definitely check out the article but basically you underexpose your shot and use artificial lighting to properly expose your subject. In doing so, you add a bit of depth to your image. The article describes the use of an umbrella but I found the ring flash gives interesting results as well. The examples below were shot with the ring flash while the model was in the shade and were shot between f/4 and f/8.

As a Key Light in the Studio

Ring flashes are popular in fashion photography because the "head on" light eliminates the shadows usually seen when lights are above or on either side of the model. Attaching the ring flash to a speedlight that is off camera allows you to use it as a key light the same way an umbrella or softbox would be used and introduce shadows to your photos. I find that the ring flash is a great alternative to a more traditional light modifier because its output is "narrow" like that you see from a snoot. Taking the ring flash off camera also allows you to illuminate the subject head on but take the photo at a different angle (as shown in the second example below). In order to accomplish this you will need a wireless trigger (I use Yongnuo's YN 560 TX) or set your speedlight to slave mode and trigger it using your camera's built in flash (works well with my GX7 because I can point it towards the ceiling).  


Speedlight with green gel camera left, ring flash camera right

Considering the $50 price tag and its versatility, it is very hard for me not to recommend this light modifier. The only real downside is its size compared to the EM5 and that theres no guarantee it will fit every camera. Another thing to note is that the light that the ring flash emits is a bit on the cool side (like silver umbrellas I have used) but its nothing that cannot be fixed in post.


If you live in, or are traveling to Florida and would like to schedule a photo-shoot, I am currently offering portrait services in and around Central Fl. Check out more of my work at

May 21, 2015

While visiting home I was able to run off to the mountains of Ruidoso, New Mexico with my brother (Noel) and sister (Sarah) to practice a bit of fashion photography. My sister is an aspiring model and this gave us both an opportunity to add to our portfolios. We got to Ruidoso around 11am (after I got us lost by wanting to take "the scenic route" = dirt road to nowhere), and spent around 30 minutes scouting for locations. After I decided which looks were going to be shot where and waited for my sister to do her makeup we shot until 6pm, with breaks for snacks and wardrobe/makeup/location changes every few hours. It was a long but very fun day.

I used my Panasonic GX7 whose hot shoe randomly gave out last month (apparently I'm not the only one who has experienced this) so rather than trying to rely on my speedlight's slave mode I decided to shoot using a 5 in 1 reflector as my main "light source". I only recently purchased this and it was my first experience using one of them. Throughout the shoot I used the reflectors' shiny silver side which I think mimicked a bare flash pretty well. Since this is the look often sought after in high fashion I was pleased with the results. However, there are a few caveats I encountered:
  • The sun needs to be out.
  • Works best if you have an assistant - Noel was a great sport and ended up calling himself "the lighting guy" throughout the day haha.
  • Sun needs to be behind or to the side of your subject.
  • Works best if when you place the subject in the shade and then illuminate them.
  • When using the shiny silver side, the reflector is hot and blinding - Sarah was a champ, but there were times when she needed a break.
  • It can be difficult to control in the wind.
I used Olympus' trusted 45mm portrait lens for most of the shoot but also used an OM Zuiko 35mm f/2.8 coupled to a generic focal reducer (translates into a 50mm f/2 lens). It was very sunny out and I was extremely thankful for the Panasonic GX7's ability to shoot up to the 1/8000 shutter speed. This allowed me to shoot wide open for most of the photos. Below are my favorites from the shoot. It was a pleasure working with Sarah and seeing what a beautiful woman she is growing up to be. Having my brother there was also a blast because he knew exactly what to say to get her to laugh. Of course the bonding time was priceless and I can't wait to do it again. Hope you enjoy our efforts, Sam.

If you live in, or are traveling to Florida and would like to schedule a photo-shoot, I am currently offering portrait services in and around Central Fl. Check out more of my work at

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