Friday, November 21, 2008

Gourmet Food And Wine Expo


    One of the most fun events of the year - and god help us, they have a free media area - the Gourmet Food And Wine Expo is back at the Metro Convention Centre.

    As the gallery of my new drinking buddies above attests, this show is an unparalleled opportunity to sample over 1200 fine wines, beers and spirits from around the globe. The Gourmet Food And Wine Expo is for everyone, from the novice to collector, who wishes to experience wines from nearly every wine-making region worldwide.

    I personally managed to sample France, California, Spain, Niagara (on multiple occassions), Italy, Chile, and Australia (ahhh ... Australia :)

    Offerings range from the top sellers of wines, beers and spirits at the LCBO to the hidden gems that are only available through Canada’s top wine agents by consignment or private order.

    As with the annual Beer Festival in the summer, take the TTC to the Convention Centre because you just know, with all the wonderful beverages on hand, you'll be trying out more than a few samples. Let the TTC handle the driving and you are free to make the most of the day.

    Visitors can also sample gourmet food products and signature dishes from Toronto's best restaurants.

    Nov. 20 - Nov. 23 Metro Convention Centre, S. Building , 22 Bremner Blvd. Admission: VIP Preview night (Nov. 20) $35, General Admission $15
    Source URL: http://lawoutsider.blogspot.com/2008/11/
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Toronto Dance Theatre @ The Fleck


    Choreographer Christopher House is back with his new production, Dis/(sol/ver) - what is with dance companies and playing with the cap locks/keyboard symbols? - running at the Fleck Dance Theatre, formerly Premiere Dance Theatre, from Nov. 18 until Sat. Nov. 22

    It's a georgeous production to look at with warm overhead lighting and earth tone textured banners hanging floor to ceiling in the background.
    As far as the dance itself, I had a chance to see in it's entirety last night.
    Really interesting performance as couples come together repeatedly during the piece only to have one partner disolve in the arms of the other by melting slowly to the floor.
    Over and over the elusive embrace fails while dancers come together to link up in a weaving line that spins off more disolving couples.
    It's really quite beautiful, reflected in the intensity with which the audience was watching. Absolute silence.
    It's as if you are seeing people's romantic history replayed in fast motion. False starts, tentative or awkward moments, relationships that last for a brief time and then disolve, as the dancers cross the stage in random patterns intersecting, coupling, moving on.

    I'm not nearly qualified to critique, other than to say that as an average enthusiast I found it very interesting.

    Of course, at the photo shoot, I was watching it through a viewfinder, where your major pre-occupation is making compositional sense within a defined rectangular area while maintaining a focusing point on the subject. But even with all the distractions, it looked good.

    And shooting dance is always entertaining.

    For this one they did two run-throughs of a two minute segment of the show.
    Hoping for greatness here is like expecting a front page sports shot from just two sequences of downs at an Argos football game.

    Same amount of chaos, same 'where the heck is this going next' seat of the pants thrill ride.

    Of course dance company's are as media savvy as any other arts organization, it's just the high cost of having the theatre for rehearsal means they have to be brief with the photo ops, as they have other business to get through in preparation for opening night.

    I did the shoot two ways.



    First time through - where I'm half shooting it, half watching to see what the overall form of the piece is going to be - I was right up at the lip of the stage, at floor level, an angle I really like for group shots, especially if they come really close to the camera.

    The second run-through I was back more and standing. I was going to switch to the 50-200mm and follow just one dancer through the piece, but decided to play it safe and stick with the 12-60mm.

    Toronto Dance Theatre is one of the best dance companies in the city, Dis/(sol/ver) is a new, unseen work, and the cost of admission is as low as $20 per ticket.

    As a date night contender it's a production that will stimulate your senses, spur discussion afterwards, and within the newly renovated Fleck Dance theatre you'll be treated to a classy evening all round.


    All photos shot with the Olympus E3 @ 1600 ISO and copyright Torontowide.com
    Source URL: http://lawoutsider.blogspot.com/2008/11/
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Coco Montoya at The Diesel Playhouse


    The Diesel Playhouse has been a through a few changes over the years. It's a room that somehow has never managed to find it's niche.

    The most recent incarnation sees the venue shrugging off it's theatre leanings of the last couple years to concentrate on live concerts. This is tough territory to make your mark in, as Toronto has a surplus of intimate concert venues - Glenn Gould Studio, Enwave Theatre, Mod Club, Panasonic Theatre, etc.

    Part of the Diesel's upcoming concert lineup is the Toronto Downtown Jazz Series running from Nov. to mid-Dec.

    Sunday's concert with blues great Coco Montoya is a comfortable fit for the room. Table service for food and beverages, wide aisles, steeply raked seating so there is hardly a bad seat in the house. Somehow it all felt very Miami, and makes for a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.

    And relaxed and comfortable is a good description of the artist as his charming low key personality mixed with fiery, soulful guitar work, won people over during the evening.

    There's something about the blues.

    Fast, slow. It's a musical form that seems like a juiced up circadian rythm. No matter how predictable the chord changes and melodies may be, the blues is one of those musical genres that reach into some basic part of ourselves.
    Before you know it you're tapping your foot, swaying to the music, even whistling an improvised version of the last song all the way back to where your car is parked.

    The jazz series continues with: Jane Bunnett - Friday Nov. 21, Kurt Elling - Thursday Dec. 4, Marc Jordan & Friends - Friday Dec. 12, Tuck & Patti - Friday Dec. 19
    Source URL: http://lawoutsider.blogspot.com/2008/11/
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Daniel Lanois at Massey Hall


    Probably best know as U2’s producer, but an excellent musician/ composer in his own right, Daniel Lanois played Massey Hall Friday Nov. 14th.

    The concert was recorded for future broadcast by CBC Two, and I can only assume that was the reason for the unwieldy apparatus in front of the artist as he was double miked with a large studio microphone – if memory serves me right it's an RE20 – which didn’t make shooting him any easier.
    This setup was a real distraction in most of the photos.

    At Massey Hall you are only allowed to shoot from the back of the room by the sound board. Since their sound man always seems to line the singers mic up with the centre aisle, there is always a problem with getting a clear shot of the artist you are photographing as the microphone is in the way for much of the performance.
    But the setup Daniel Lanois was using was like some kind of funky bathroom fixture that was in the way a good part of the two songs we were allowed.

    Speaking of sound boards.
    I turned around to get a good look at the sound board they were using and couldn’t believe how small it was.
    About the size of a school desktop.

    Now a sound board is usually a massive thing about ten feet long. It actually consists of modules, each the same, that contains a fader for volume and various EQ, compression and effects buttons.
    Stacking them side by side leads to the massiveness of most sound boards as, with the large number of tracks running simultaneously during a show, many of these modules are needed.

    However, the sound man at last night’s show (and I forgot to ask his name, doh!) explained that they were using a state of the art digital board that stacks the rows of faders vertically on top of each other like pages in a book, about 8 inputs to a page.
    To access an instrument’s track one just scrolls, almost like an iPod Touch, through the digital pages on a screen. All of the controls themselves are touch points on the screen.
    This allows for a very compact board with all the functionality of the full size version, including memorized settings for each track on every song.
    You could practically pack it away in the back seat of your car, something you’d never attempt with your average 48 track board.

    It was very trick, and I would have done a photo of it for you, but only took the 50-200mm to the concert and would have been able to show you a button or two at best.


    Source URL: http://lawoutsider.blogspot.com/2008/11/
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Friday, November 14, 2008

ROM's Material Ball: Diamonds


    On the same day as the Gehry /AGO unveiling, the Royal Ontario Museum was holding a very stylish gala in honour of their current diamond exhibit (featuring the third largest diamond in the world on display)

    The ROM celebrated this stunning exhibition with a gala fundraising event Material Ball: Diamonds, hosted by Jeanne Beker.
    The evening featured the North American premiere of the spring 2009 collection by world-renowned fashion designer Giambattista Valli. Proceeds from the evening will support the ROM’s Burnham Brett Endowment for Textiles and Costume and the Renaissance ROM campaign.





    I showed up around 10 PM to shoot the post-dinner fashion show that was staged within the angular walls of the Michael Lee Chin Crystal.
    Waiting for the show to start, I marvelled along with the other photographers at the exquisite gowns and dresses the women were wearing as patrons drifted into the area.
    It was like a designer show had come to life in the audience seats.




    The show itself featured beautiful couture clothes and formal wear but was staged on an awkward triangular runway.
    Oddly, the models did not stop in front of the dozen or so cameras, sailing right past the media riser oblivious to our presence.
    Weird.


    Also the runway was carpeted. The only other time I've seen a designer use carpet on a runway was at Fashion Week and it was a real trial for the models in their towering heels.
    Last night proved to be no exception as one girl fell and all of the models walked in a very tentative manner.
    Note to show designers: Carpet / runway / bad idea .



    Still, I had the feeling from the post-show buzz that the evening was a success, and people enjoyed the glimpse of European couture the show afforded. The designs were really quite exceptional, and at a level consistent with ROM standards.

    Olympus E3 and E510 w/ 50-200mm 2.8 and 12-60mm 2.8 Digital Zuiko Lenses


    All photos copyright Torontowide.comSource URL: http://lawoutsider.blogspot.com/2008/11/
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

The New Rejuventated AGO


    I had the opportunity to photograph the newly redesigned Art Gallery of Ontario before it opened to the public today.

    Although the project has often been referred to as a ‘Reno job’ owing to the fact that much of the structure was left intact, in fact the final result is a building truly transformed. Frank Gehry’s vision of glass, natural light and wood has breathed new life into the AGO, visually and spiritually.

    Even with the final touches still being applied – at the time I was there the magnificent spiral staircase in Walker Court, and the 2nd floor galleria were still being worked on ahead of tomorrow’s official public opening of the building – it is a building that just feels completely sorted from the moment you enter.

    Perhaps one of the best compliments that could be given Gehry’s design is that I think the people of this city will recognize themselves in his creation. As Torontonians, as Canadians.
    The building speaks to me in a way the older structure simply didn’t. Inspired glass vistas, thick wooden tresses, the integration of the city views into the design, this is a thoroughly modern interpretation that celebrates our history and pushes the AGO into a new era.

    Well done to all who worked on, and contributed to this project. And for the many that gave so generously so it could exist, thank-you!


    The Art Gallery of Ontario opens tomorrow for free public tours all weekend long.
    Don’t miss it!

    Olympus E3 w/ 9-18mm Digital Zuiko lens

    All photos copyright torontowide.com

    Source URL: http://lawoutsider.blogspot.com/2008/11/
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Harbourfront's World Stage



    The "enfant terrible" of Canada’s dance scene, Dave St-Pierre, brings his groundbreaking dance creation, LA PORNOGRAPHIE DES ├éMES (BARE NAKED SOULS) to World Stage at the Fleck Dance Theatre this week until Saturday.
    In a series of fierce, corrosive scenes, a group of dancers rush headlong through a waltz in 26 movements, mixing all kinds of musical genres into one dance spectacle.
    St-Pierre describes the work as a "hymn to mankind, a celebration of his beauty and ugliness, his depth and superficiality."


    It’s beginning to feel like it’s ‘all nude, all the time’ for this year’s World Stage. First Daniel Levaille’s company gets their kit off, then solo artist Kitt Johnson, now Dave St.Pierre's company of a dozen or so dancers.


    World Stage used to be strictly a theatre festival. In recent years it morphed into a theatre/dance hybrid. I was wondering if it had changed again as all the performances so far have been dance.


    But I was assured by a Harbourfront spokesperson that there is lot’s of theatre coming in the new year.
    The preponderance of dance in the front end of the schedule is a combination of the artists touring schedules dictating the dates, and Harbourfront’s celebration of Quebec culture as part of Quebec City’s anniversary year.


    This was a difficult shoot.
    During the rehearsal for this section (the dressed rehearsal) the lighting was very even and focus was easily achieved.
    But when the dancers got into costume (nude), the lighting for the show was used which consisted of a bank of very bright lights from behind rim-lighting the performers, and strobing frontal light accompanying a driving speed metal rock score.
    The lighting ratio between the two key light sources easily outstripped the dynamic range of digital sensors.
    And it was very difficult to get a focus lock with auto focus, not enough light to be reasonably sure of focusing manually.


    Really it depended on luck whether the frontal lighting would be on the subject during the millisecond of exposure or not.
    Not and you get a silhouette – against a black background. Kind of like the black cat in a coal mine.


    But for the few frames when the lighting co-operated there were some dynamic photos. However with five frontally nude dancers, three female and two male, this is one of the few frames where all the naughty bits are covered to just squeak under the bar for nude depiction on Torontowide.


    It’s the second bare naked dance shoot I’ve done in the last month.
    Interesting how ordinary the lack of clothing becomes in only a short time. Five minutes into the rehearsal and you’re hardly aware of it anymore.
    Photographing dancers this way really conveys the body’s musculature, and the contortions these artists force themselves through.
    As a live spectator I’m not sure it adds too much to the experience, but as a photographer I wish I could do shoots like this again as some frames are just beautiful - only under more controlled lighting conditions next time.


    Olympus E3 w/ 12-60mm 2.8 @ 1600 ISO minus one stop.
    Source URL: http://lawoutsider.blogspot.com/2008/11/
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Monday, November 10, 2008

The Duhks at Hugh's Room



    Hailing from Canada’s Mosquito capital, Winnipeg, and possibly the hardest working band in the country – they have been on the road since last January – The Duhks (‘The Ducks’) played Hugh’s Room last night to celebrate the release of their new CD Fast Paced World.


    Shooting people singing into microphones isn’t something I really find exciting any more. Time was when the latest band blowing into town was ‘huge’ enough to ignore the sloppy stage littered with equipment, and the often indifferent stage shows were seen as proof in themselves of artist credibility.


    But now I kind of look at these shows as an art form that has ceased to evolve. Same rock star poses, same cluttered staging. After five years of being fortunate enough to see some of the best of Toronto culture and entertainment, rock shows look kind of static by comparison.


    So it’s with a somewhat jaundiced eye that I approach this show at Hugh’s Room.
    But it turns out The Duhks are consumate musicians, with a wide-ranging repetoire making forays into different musical terrain seemingly with every song. Strong vocals, tight musicianship, and a workman-like professional approach on stage quickly wins you over.


    It was my first shoot at Hugh’s Room and I made an interesting discovery. You can actually shoot the show quite comfortably right from the 2nd stool on the left at the bar!


    Do a couple frames, swig some Stella while checking out the LCD, do a couple more frames, sip some Stella … you get the idea.

    I hope word of this doesn’t get out. With all the boozehounds in the media it’s likely to look like fashion week next time I show up with gaffer taped X’s on the floor and twenty people squished into a space that would comfortably hold five.


    Nice low key venue, interesting, engaging band. Save my bar stool. I'll be back!


    Photo shot with the Olympus E3 w/ 50-200mm 2.8 (yes folks, with the 2x multiplier that’s the equivalent of a 2.8 100-400mm lens)


    Photo copyright Torontowide.com
    Source URL: http://lawoutsider.blogspot.com/2008/11/
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Friday, November 7, 2008

Opera Atelier: The Abduction From The Seraglio



    Tafelmusik Orchestra in the foreground with the artists of the Atelier Ballet on stage.


    Last night I had the opportunity to shoot the dress rehearsal for Opera Atelier's The Abduction From The Seraglio at the magnificiently restored Elgin Theatre, the perfect setting for an opera.

    Opera Atelier is on a roll having scored a critical and commercial success with Measha Brueggergosman's debut in an opera role last year, and with this, the season's opening production, they look to be well on track for another successful outing.
    Generally Opera Atelier stick with early operas featuring the trials and tribulations of mythical figures and gods, but with Abduction ... they are mounting a commedia dell 'arte written by Mozart that is quite funny throughout.
    All of the main characters do a good job of keeping the pacing fast, and the acting light-hearted. And of course, the singing is excellent.

    Gustav Andreassen as the jailer and Carla Huhtanen as the English Maid

    The Abduction From The Seraglio tells the tale of a noblewoman and her English maid who are abducted by pirates from their ship in an almost slapstick manner. The two men who love them hatch a plan to rescue their ladies from the royal harem of the Pasha.
    However romantic tensions between the women and their captors add some spice to the narrative as this light-hearted opera moves to it's dramatic conclusion.


    Pasha Selim, played by Curtis Sullivan, with his Harem.

    If you've never experienced opera before, this production would make a good introduction.
    Tafelmusik choir and orchestra provide an excellent sonic backdrop, the production moves at a brisk pace, there are many funny moments, and every so often the Atelier Ballet breaks into intricate spontaneous dance numbers.
    In other words, there's something for everyone.
    With English spoken dialogue on stage, and surtitles above allowing you to follow the German singing parts, The Abduction From The Seraglio runs two hours and twenty minutes with one 20 minute intermission.

    Konstanze, played by Amanda Pabyan, sparks desires in the Pasha.


    Bathed in the warm glow of Atelier's signature lighting, this lush production plays at the Elgin Theatre Nov. 8, 9, 11, 13, 14,15. Tickets range from $30 - $130


    All photos were done with the Olympus E3 and Digital Zuiko 12-60mm 2.8 and 50-200mm 2.8 lenses.

    Copyright Torontowide.com
    Source URL: http://lawoutsider.blogspot.com/2008/11/
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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fashion Cares 2008

    After last year's 'Disaster in the Distillery' - an event characterized by women shivering in their best gowns in the cold May weather, snapped stilhettos, and a limp, uninspired stage show - the brain trust at Fashion Cares went on a bit of a hiatus, shifting the event to The Fall, and doing a re-think on the changes that had been made.

    For this year's Fashion Cares the event was back in the comfortable confines of the Convention Centre and once again the show's emphasis was fashion mixed with outstanding musical guests. Phillip Ing is back as the creative director of the show that has become one of the stellar stand-outs in the fashion season.

    This year the musical guests were Caty 'I kissed a girl' Perry, Canadian singer Kreesha Turner, and Dame Shirley Bassey with a 31 piece orchestra.

    Photos from the red carpet at the beginning of the night.


    Kreesha Turner was moving in and out of a dramatic pool of spill light all during one of her TV interviews. I never did catch her exactly right, but the lighting is still more expressive and three dimensional than the usual flat flash-on-camera red carpet effect.
    Olympus E3, 50-200mm 2.8 lens, fill light from the FL50 flash minus one stop.

    A funny moment.

    We're shooting Caty Perry on the red carpet, and I'm beside well known cross-dressing columnist Enza Supermodel, who as usual has the full hair and makeup going.
    Enza gets her to come over and starts whispering in Caty's ear, who's grinning going along with him. I don't know what Enza said next but all of a sudden she jumps back and blurts out "Oh my God! You're a man!"
    And Enza without skipping a beat says "I'm not a man ... I'm a supermodel!"
    Everyone cracked right up.

    I think that was wee Caty's first intimation that this wasn't going to be her average gig :)
    Here, Doug catches the moment of her realisation.


    A highlight of the evening was the performance of Dame Shirley Bassie, seen here arriving for the show. She looks great, and sounded great never missing a note while filling the hall with classic 60's songs driven by her powerful voice.



    Although it got off to a slow start, the show was up to previous standards mixing a Cirque du Soleil sensibility with outstanding contributions from local designers.

    Photos from the show, beginning with the Haloween-themed opening, and including dancers from the National Ballet.

    Proceeds from the evening go to fund AIDS research.








    Photos copyright Torontowide.com. All rights reserved

    Source URL: http://lawoutsider.blogspot.com/2008/11/
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Saturday, November 1, 2008

User Review Of The Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm Lens by Douglas Brown

    I've had a chance to use the new Olympus 9-18mm lens for the last week or so on a couple of paying assignments and some personal snapshots, and this little budget priced over achiever really impressed me.

    It’s a welcome addition to the Olympus line-up as the only alternative prior to it’s release was the pricy, and frankly cumbersome Super High Grade 7-14mm that, while sporting excellent optical performance, is heavy and at $1,900 not exactly a lens of the people.


    The 9-18mm Zuiko has 13 lens elements in nine groups, including one aspherical ED lens and two aspherical elements. It has a minimum focusing distance of 25cm, and weighs in at just 280g. In the hand it feels about the weight of the 14-42mm kit lens only with a larger front ring that takes a 72mm filter. It’s currently priced at $649 CDN.

    Since we don't do ‘no stinkin' brick wall shots’ when testing a lens; you'll have to wait for a formal review on another site for that type of info. I use the lens in situations I’m likely to need it and evaluate the results from that.

    The best attribute of a super wide lens is its ability to place objects right up in the foreground while still retaining the full scope of background detail. This is not something a 28mm equiv. does well, and in fact is sometimes barely doable with the 24mm equiv. wides.

    This built in superwide characteristic has two effects; adding greater depth to the photograph, and better presence to the subject matter within the frame as even people unfamiliar with the technical aspects of photography can recognise the distinct foreground/background relationship that says 'I was standing right there when it happened' – thus it is a mainstay for news photojournalists.

    Photos taken with a lens of this type have the effect of placing the viewer right in the situation, and can never be mistaken for long Tele images.


    To start with, creating depth within the photo.

    I have a client who requires Fall shots of the city and this first sample was taken at The Brickworks, a nature preserve area just a few kilometres from the downtown city core that is home to deer, herons, egrets, kingfishers, foxes and coyotes.


    From the same assignment, this was done in High Park, a large west end park that was just on fire with Fall colours the day I was there. I used live view with the articulating rear LCD screen on the Olympus E3 for this low angle photo. Note how well this lens allows you to put objects in the foreground while leading the eye to the main compositional element in the background.



    Architectural photography is another area where this type of lens is commonly used and the water filtration plant in my neighbourhood provides just the opportunity to try it out.
    The Waterworks, as it is known locally, is a perfect example of what the modern castle would have looked like had castle building continued right up to the Art Deco period.
    As I have clients who require this type of large exterior imagery, it’s a good chance to see how this lens at its widest focal length will fare doing architectural images.




    The 9-18mm does a surprisingly good job here at it’s widest setting. What distortion there is could easily be handled in post-production. Shot without a tripod or bubble level, the verticals stay vertical with little bowing or distortion (the tower tapers towards the top as part of the design of the building).
    While the building leans over backwards slightly, in my experience correcting all distortion out of exterior shots leads to a very artificial and undesirable result.
    A great performance for this lens at 9mm.

    Also I need to do panoramas of buildings and surroundings, so here are two photos merged for a nearly 180 degree panorama of the grounds. Again, the width of the lens allows for lots of foreground detail to lead the eye to the main subject.


    Also in an architectural vein.
    At the media op for the Royal Ontario Museum’s new Diamond exhibit, The Nature Of Diamonds, this lens made it a breeze to frame the exhibit cases by riffing off the sloping architecture of the Michael Lee Chin Crystal’s walls and the angular nature of cut diamonds.
    With the E510’s in-body image stabilisation I was able to add motion with the blurred figure in the background to the composition without the use of a tripod.


    Covering the city’s pro soccer team Toronto FC's last home game of the season, I decided to take the 9-18mm along so I could supplement the game coverage with crowd reaction shots on the E510.
    Here, Toronto FC scores and over in the stands rapturous fans are celebrating. Shooting from just a few feet away, you’ll notice the lack of flare or loss of contrast on the main subject area even though the sun is in the top right part of the frame.
    There is a nice clarity to this image under lighting conditions that are very challenging for a lens this wide.

    However, it would have been good if the lens had been designed to be a little more beer-proof for such photos as fans have been known to hurl the occasional drink skywards like a liquid space bullet when Toronto FC finds the back of the net.

    A photo of Captain Jim Brennan as the team does a lap around the field at the end of the game to acknowledge the fans support throughout the season.
    This is the presence I was talking about that this lens can give you. There's no way this was shot from a distance with a Tele. You can clearly see the person took the photo from right there on the field. In fact I'm shooting about 3 feet in front of him, he's looking over my right shoulder because, well, basically I'm right up there in his face, at a full 9mm of width.
    The fellow with the yellow media vest in the background to the left is also using an Olympus camera but with a 40-150mm lens that will give a more flattened perspective and thus a more stand off look.



    I think there's remarkably little distortion of the facial features for being so close with such a wide lens. And notice the background stadium light poles are all vertical, no leaning over or bending in towards each other. I’ve used my Sigma 10-20mm on a Canon in the this stadium to do the same type of on-field player photo. It never came close to this kind of performance.
    Although a portion of the sky has been cropped slightly in this photo there is very little vignetting with the 9-18mm. Certainly much, much less than I was seeing with the Sigma 10-20mm which some days looks like it's got one of those freakish wedding masking filters on it.



    People who do landscapes are drawn to waterfalls, and having come across a small but interesting little mini cascade on my walks with the dog in The Brickworks, I brought along the E3 one day to see what I could get.
    Starting tentatively down the muddy slope leading to the stream I ended up doing a perfect pratfall, like a cartoon character slipping on a banana peel, sliding right down the embankment on my side, E3 with 9-18mm held aloft in one hand, leash with Cocker Spaniel attached in the other.
    I finally came to a halt just short of the stream the dog jumping on me, tail wagging, wanting to do it all over again.
    I tied her up to tree and told her to keep an eye on a suspiciously large opening in the ground that looked like some large animal's burrow then went about setting up for the photo.



    This image was done with the Olympus E3 in live view mode, rear LCD screen extended out to the side and angled up, strap wrapped around my wrist, while I hung right out over the water anchored to shore by a tight grip on a small tree trunk.
    That tree goes and I'm in water up to my waist, so I didn't take too many shots of this scene. Lens at the 18mm setting.

    Another example of how adaptable the 9-18mm is for people shots, this photo is an out-take from a session at the Stephen Bulger Art Gallery that was done as part of L’Oreal Fashion Week here in Toronto.
    Canadian label Karamea integrated nature images from renowned American photographer Judith McMillan - who uses an X-Ray machine to create images of plants and wildlife - into the designs for this season’s collection.
    The shoot was at the gallery where Ms. McMillan’s photos were being shown (although the pictures in the background of this particular frame are not hers)



    The reason I include it here is, again, the impressive control of distortion by this lens.
    As with the TFC photos, this image was done very close to her, perhaps as close as 18 inches away, at the widest setting of 9mm, and wide-open aperture. I purposely shot from very close for the dozen or so frames with the 9-18mm to see how the lens behaved in that circumstance, but never mind the lens, it was interesting to see how the proximity of the camera seemed to throw the model off. They are not used to being photographed from such distances ordinarily and I‘m sure she thought I was doing some kind of demented headshot, not realizing her body was in the frame as well.
    And again, the background holds together well for a lens this wide. Sharpness is excellent even at f4.

    And lastly, the 'Spot the Eccentric' photo.
    This wonderfully wacky year-round front yard display is a favourite of mine for testing super wides. The house has been featured many times in local magazines and newspapers.
    Note the lack of obvious purple or blue fringing on the branches silhouetted against the bright white of the overcast sky. There’s a bit there, but it’s nicely under control.



    What I liked

    The Olympus 9-18mm lens is a very sharp lens - think almost 12-60mm SWD sharp - that has above average flare suppression for it’s focal range, excellent distortion traits for interior or exterior architectural shots, yet is so light weight that paired with an E520 you'll swear it's made of helium.
    The 9-18mm has low to no vignetting and CA is only occasionally visible when pixel peeping (mainly near the extreme outer edges), but not obviously so at normal viewing sizes.
    Focussing is quick and nearly SWD silent.
    In curves if you drag the point about one third of the way up the centre line downwards just a touch, add a smidgen of extra contrast and saturation, results from the 9-18mm are virtually indistinguishable from the High Grade Olympus 7-14mm. It's that good... and it's one-third the cost.


    What I didn't like

    Nothing.
    Seriously, nothing. Yes the build quality could be better, the max aperture faster, but then it wouldn't be an insanely great superwide at an unbelievably low price, it would weigh a ton, and what fun would that be!


    Compared To:

    The High Grade Olympus 7-14mm has slightly (very slightly) better contrast and saturation, and slightly longer tonal range out of the camera. But as I said, a few tweaks in PhotoShop and the minor differences between the two almost completely disappear.
    I actually much prefer the 9-18mm because the hugely bulbous front element on the 7-14mm is one honkin' optical repair just waiting to happen. That thing just screams ‘scratch me, chip me’. For the kind of work I do, with multiple cameras swinging around and shooting in close proximity to others, the 7-14mm makes me very nervous.
    I also think the focal length range of the 9-18mm suits the kind of subjects I shoot better as I often have people in the frame and distortion at the widest setting is very well controlled with this lens. When you place the 7-14mm at it’s widest too close to objects there’s a smearing effect towards the lens that just doesn’t happen with it’s lower priced cousin.
    The 9-18mm has probably 90 percent of the performance of the 7-14mm.
    The advantage of the 7-14mm is that it is fully weatherproofed, and on the equally weatherproofed E3 you can shoot all day in a downpour (or sandstorm). And it is a full 2mm wider, although not as long, ending as a 28mm equiv.

    The Sigma 10-20mm has only build quality, and having subjected mine to a terrific amount of abuse over the years I can say it is really quite well built, over the Olympus 9-18mm. In every other way the Olympus lens wins. Sharpness, distortion, CA, all are worse with the Sigma.
    Focusing speed, a tie between the two.

    Who should buy this lens

    If you are into nature/landscape photography, photojournalism and street photography, shoot interior and exterior architectural photos, need a light weight option for travel pictures, or are an Olympus user who just happens to have an extra $649 lying around in the bank, you should get one.

    It is a surprisingly good lens covering a very useful spectrum of commonly used wide focal lengths (35mm equivalent of 18mm, 20mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm).

    Coupled with the image-stabilised E520 you’ll be getting near E3 performance from the camera, and near High Grade 7-14mm performance from the optics, at a fraction of the price but with very substantial weight savings.

    Actually, this could be the ultimate hikers landscape combo (If you find this combo too heavy you must be using oxygen just to get out of bed and make toast in the morning).
    It’s such a good lens, offering such a compelling set of focal lengths and compositional possibilities at such a competitive price point, one wonders what took Olympus so long.
    Now that it’s here Olympus users have a whole new view on the world to explore.



    Douglas Brown has been shooting commercial editorial, advertising, and architectural photography for over 25 years and is the Head Photographer / Editor at Torontowide.com.


    All photos and text are copyright Torontowide.com.
    All rights reserved.

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