Morning Hike – Beaverdam Resorvoir

Morning Hike – Beaverdam Resorvoir

I’m an outdoors guy in general.

To me, there is nothing better and relaxing than being outside and absorbing all the visceral senses. The warmth of the sun. The wetness from the rain. The breeze against your face on warm day.

This penchant for sunlight and fresh air partially led me to photography in the first place, therefore if there is a chance of nice weather, you’ll find me outside with my camera. Unfortunately, my time outdoors have been truncated substantially since starting graduate school last summer, making my time being outdoors somewhat of a luxury, something I can no longer take for granted.

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Beaverdam Resorvoir Trail | Leica M9

Despite these challenges, I always try to steal an hour or two doing some light outdoor activities. Whether they’re just short walks outside on sidewalk or a short two-hour hike on a local trail. It’s less likely I’ll be doing the latter due to the time commitment involved, such as organizing and driving.

However, I learned something the other day that would scratch my need for a local hike itch.

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Rocky Creek | Leica M9

I’ve recently moved to a new apartment in Ashburn, VA this past January, near the Broadlands (it was a 10 minute move from my old townhouse that I’ve rented with a friend of mine), and my sister (who is also learning the strings on photography with her own Leica M9) had a couple of photos on her Flickr page that showed a trail she was on with her puppy “Pepper“. I looked up the trail on the Google machine, and behold…there was a trail five minutes from where I lived.

That wasn’t the biggest surprise however.

There were several hiking trails and parks outside the desginated National Parks that I liked to frequent. These particular parks were smaller in scale and under a county  sponsored organization known as NOVA Parks, but they were good enough for me who was looking for something short and close.

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Amy trying to avoid getting her shoes wet | Leica M9

That morning, I tricked Amy into coming out with me on a “short walk” since the weather was finally nice outside after suffering through a few days of rain. Little did she know that she was ill-prepared for this hike since trail on Beaverdam was very wet and muddy. I was fortunately wearing my Salomon Speedcross 4 trail shoes, but Amy underestimated the trail and left her Salomon shoes at home. She was not very happy about the muddy conditions, so to make up for it, I piggyback carried her over some of the nastiest parts of the trail.

She seemed to enjoy that (the piggyback riding, not the trail).

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Muddy Legs (Photo by Amy) |Leica M9

After a few encounters with the mud, I was starting to think that the muddy portions of the trail were far and few.

I was wrong.

The trail was in such bad shape from the previous rain, that over half of the trail were just spots of mud and water. Some even as long as 100 feet.

Unsurprisingly, this required more a lot of work for both my shoes and legs as I was carrying another human being on my back, therefore sinking my feet into the mud at a much faster rate.

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The Beaverdam Reservoir, is owned by Loudoun Water, which is also a source of public drinking water | Leica M9

To say that I got a workout while carrying Amy on my back would be an understatement. I jokingly thought of this moment as one of those “this is why I lift” memes as carrying Amy on my back gave my legs a nice workout, playing well with my Apple Watch as my heart rate rose to a warm 130 BPM.

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Beautiful Foliage | Leica M9
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One of the few dry parts of the trail | Leica M9
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Blurry Tae | Leica M9
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These flowers caught my eye in the lush greenery | Leica M9

The trail ended on the northern half of the trail, which led us to a public park where little league baseball and soccer games were usually held. Since we both refused to double-back and go back on the same (muddy) trail again to get to my car, we’ve decided it was a better idea to just Uber from where we were to the car.

I promised Amy that we would eat Acai bowls at Robeks after the hike, so we ended the morning there, but it was a nice experience to go out and explore a new trail. Albeit I got my Salomon trail shoes dirty, they more than paid their weight in gold as I used them in the exact situation they were designed for. I only wished that I had purchased the GTX (Gore-Tex) waterproof version instead, but for $60 on sale (vs. $130 for the GTX models), I’m more than satisfied with their performance.

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An opportunity for a good photo on one of the stairways at the park | Leica M9
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They paid for themselves | Leica M9

If anyone reading this love to be outdoors, I would look at your local county’s parks because you will never know what trails you may find for a quick hit of nature.

Thanks for reading!

All images were taken with the Leica M9 with the Zeiss Biogon 35mm f/2 lens.

Edited in Adobe Lightroom with Leica “Embedded” Color Profile with VSCO Fujifilm Astia 100F – preset.

 

Date Night in DC – Cherry Blossoms

Date Night in DC – Cherry Blossoms

We had a rare change in weather (for the better) where the temperature rose to the 70’s degrees Fahrenheit. To take advantage of this, Amy and I decided to go out on a day date in the city during the Cherry Blossom bloom by the Tidal Basin.

Photos were taken with the Leica M9

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Switching perspectives now with photos taken by Amy

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It was quite hazy outside, but just enough light for some amazing photos

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Amy’s sweet shoes

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Amy had an infatuation with this dog

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As the sun was setting, it was about that time to grab dinner and our friend Katie recommended a Filipino Restaurant in Columbia Heights called the “Purple Patch“.

I have to admit that I was very impressed with the food there, especially their desserts which Amy and I had devoured like fat asses after our entrees.

The small restaurant is located in the lower levels of the of another restaurant, which gives it a cozy atmosphere.

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Despite the M9 having very poor low light shooting capability, the dynamic range allowed me to recover some exposure. 
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The bar inside “Purple Patch”
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The bar had a very tasty selection of beer

More photos by Amy

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After dinner, we took the Metro back home and ended the long day.

Thanks for reading.

Flickr: Tae

Flickr: Amy

A Short Vacation – Weekend in New York City

A Short Vacation – Weekend in New York City

It was one of those rare weekends when I had a gap between my graduate class ending and before starting my next class. To take advantage of this free time, Amy and I had decided to take a trip to New York City (Chelsea to be specific) for the weekend since we both wanted to go away somewhere while I had the opportunity to travel.

Our method of transportation via Amtrak from D.C.’s Union Station because I honestly did not feel like driving five hours for what was essentially an overnight trip out of town. The train tickets were not too expensive, definitely cheaper than flying for two people, and it the entire trip took 3.5 hours, including several stops along the way. I have to say that we were pretty impressed with the comfort and efficiency of Amtrak.

That being said, we’ve arrived.

Photos taken with the Olympus PEN-F + 17mm f/1.8

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We’re here!

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Performer in front of Madison Square Garden

Koreatown

We’ve decided to detour East towards the Empire State Building to stop by Koreatown…and not soon after walking within a block of the area, Amy had to stop by and shop the local Korean beauty shop for facial masks.

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Koreatown, NYC

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After the short shopping event, we were famished and when you’re in Koreatown, you definitely need to eat some delicious Korean BBQ.

The restaurant that we’ve chosen for our late lunch (it was 4:00pm at the time), was Miss Korea BBQ with their famous beef bulgogi that had been marinating for 48 hours in a pot.

One word to describe this meal: amazing

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Adjustable ventilators above the fire pit sucked out the smoke
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…yet it was still a bit smokey – not a bad thing since it smelled delicious inside

Matcha

After our late lunch, we then walked a few blocks south to 28th street to get to our hotel and as with any tourist, we were distracted by every little shop along the way, particularly this matcha green tea shop.

I’m not the biggest fan of match green tea but Amy seemed to love it.

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INNSIDE Hotel by Melia

We’ve arrived at our little posh hotel on the corner of 28th and 7th Ave. The hotel in general was very modern and had a upscale feel to it in term of interior decorating.

Our room was not very big, but it was more than enough for two people staying overnight.

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Amy loved the wallpaper inside the elevators

Heading West

As the evening was drawing near and the sun was starting to set towards the west, we headed west from our hotel towards the High Line to catch some of the sunset and golden hour while we searched for a place to eat dinner.

Photos taken with the Leica Q

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Ready to go
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Construction behind the Post Office

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The High Line

The High Line (also known as High Line Park) is a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) elevated linear park, built on an old rail track from the early 20th century. The park is built on a disused, southern viaduct section of the New York Central Railroad line known as the West Side Line. Originating in the Lower West Side of Manhattan, the park runs from Gansevoort Street – three blocks below 14th Street, in the Meatpacking District – through Chelsea to the northern edge of the West Side Yard on 34th Street near the Javits Center.

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The park’s attractions include naturalized plantings, inspired by plants which grew on the disused tracks and views of the city and the Hudson River

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Chelsea Market

After our long walk south along the High Line, we’ve ended up in Chelsea Market, which I would say is the equivalent of D.C.’s Union Market, but much larger. We felt that this was the perfect place to grab dinner.

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One place Amy had her eyes one was a place called “Very Fresh Noodles”, where they literally served everything that had to do with noodles.

I personal favorite was the beef noodle (I forget the name and maybe Amy can chime in and I can edit this), but I would admit that it was best noodle bowl I’ve ever had.

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People waiting in line for their carryout
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If you could find a place to sit, this would be it.

After dinner, the rest of the market had your usual fare of international foods and desserts that would make any food aficionado happy.

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What surprised me was that Chelsea market consisted of two floors, each with their own decor and theme.

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You can also find fresh produce if you were grocery shopping.

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After a long day, Amy and I walked back to our hotel but not until we had a speakeasy cocktail bar to try out…

…and that failed miserably.

Our idea of a speakeasy cocktail bar was somewhere quiet, exclusive and intimate…

New York City’s version of a speakeasy was just literally a crowded bar with a hidden entrance, which you can easily miss if it weren’t for the bouncers standing outside.

We’ve tried our three of these bars and we walked away disappointed because it was just too crowded and noisy to sit down and chat.

 

Photos taken with the Olympus E-PL8 + Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7

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Not all was lost however as we’ve made a stop at a small and cozy Vietnamese restaurant closer to the hotel. It was no speakeasy, but the small and intimate bar table was exactly what we were looking for.

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Amy’s fancy drink
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My “Passion Martini”

After our nightcap, we finally walked towards the hotel and called it a night.

End of Part I

 

 

Walk with the Locals – A hashtag meetup

Walk with the Locals – A hashtag meetup

For those of you that have never been to these hashtag meets, in this case, @walkwithlocals – it’s a meetup of sorts with a bunch of local instagram photographers that go on a photowalks in various parts of the DC area.

The meetup location and time was at the historical Lincoln Park, east of the Capitol at 11:32am. Despite my best efforts of leaving my place early and grabbing coffee at my favorite coffee shop, alas using the Silver Line on the Metro from Reston-Whiele to Eastern Market took longer than anticipated, therefore Amy and I ended up being 30 minutes late.

We were lucky, however, because by the time we were about 3 blocks away from the park, we could see a large crowd of people walking towards the Capitol.

“Hmmm…I wonder who these people could be?”

The massive mob of people turned out to be the exact group we were trying to meet up with and if the size of the group didn’t give it away, all the cameras around each person’s neck gave it away.

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Walking on East Capitol Street

Strangers from various parts both in and out of the city, showed up today to meet with other photographers with their love for photography. You will meet people of all different backgrounds – from lifestyle photographers to food photographers.

When you’re surrounded by people with a common interest such as photography, you can’t help but notice the gear slung over their shoulders and necks.

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@bendrillick and @anguyen224

General Survey on DSLRs

Most of the people (around 80%) had both Canon and Nikon DSLRs with kit lenses, while the small 1% came with their full-frame counterparts with f/2.8 zooms. The remaining 19% were the mirrorless crew (Fujifilm and Sony) and one shooter with a Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) with a 50mm Summilux.

This mental survey reminded me that majority of people still used DSLRs, but mirrorless made a big presence as well compared to where we were a few years ago.

I have an affinity for mirrorless cameras and DSLRs are going the way of the dinosaurs, people will get tired of carrying bigger and clunkier systems, unless you still think carrying a DSLR makes you look “professional” to impress people or clients. Don’t get me started with that

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Once the group reached the Capitol, some people just hung out and socialized – trading business cards, introduced each other and some were partaking in a couple of photoshoots.

I myself, was talking to strangers – more interested in hearing about how they got into photography and how they grew into becoming better photographers.

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After about 30 minutes of socializing, we took a group picture in front of the Capitol building and departed ways.

Most of the people planned to make a stop at Union Market and that is where our adventure will head to next in the next update.

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Photos taken with the Leica M9 + SUMMICRON 50mm f/2 V3

FLICKR

Holiday Love: Nazia and Siraj’s Wedding Reception

Holiday Love: Nazia and Siraj’s Wedding Reception

It’s no surprise that December is the busiest month of the year and it goes without saying that Christmas has something to do with it; not just for travelers, but for holiday events with families and loved ones.

As far as holiday festivities go, this one was a new experience for me. On top of the typical holiday shopping, family events, and parties – I’ve attended a Bangladesh wedding for the first time.

The invitation was extended out to me since it was one of Amy’s childhood friends, Nazia, was having a wedding reception at the Marriott hotel in Chantilly, VA. Apparently they had their wedding prior to the reception, so I’m not sure if I can count this as Number 20 since this wasn’t a wedding per say.

However, the wedding reception: and I had to describe this evening in one word:

Epic.

I’m no stranger to weddings as you know (number 20), but if I had to rank the top 10 best wedding receptions of all time, this would be one of them.

Armed with my revered Leica Q, I thought it was an important day to do some documentary photography of this life changing event..

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Amy practicing her wedding toast speech with the help of her friends

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Lobby

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Amy’s friend Katie eventually joined the team and it was a good thing that I reserved a room with two beds.

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My “Selfie”
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The hotel bar was pretty well stocked
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Katie’s Mojito and my Sam Adams
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Katie figuring out how to use Amy’s camera

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Amy practicing her speech

The number of people in attendance were easily in the hundreds and people visiting from all over the world.

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Amy loves her E-PL8

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Adrienne’s Dad answering texts

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Appetizers

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Adrienne took a break from her bridesmaid duty to chit chat

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Old friends

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Amy’s asari was quite stunning

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The groomsmen put on quite a dance show.

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Amy’s moment in the spotlight finally came as she gave her speech

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Everybody had their smartphones out to record the performance by the wedding party.

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“…if I had to rank the top 10 best wedding receptions of all time, this would be one of them.”

As the lights were dimmed for the dance floor, the Leica Q had finally met its match: auto-focus in low light.

Any digital photographer will tell you that nailing focus in low light is very difficult without a flash, but the Leica was able to nail focus most of the time. For those other times where the camera had trouble, I switched to manual focus, aperture wide open and dialed in the shutter speeds between 1/15 – 1/30.

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Adrienne and her man striking a smile

Unfortunately, there will be some grain from the spike in ISO but camera performed beautifully.

Right when things were going crazy, it got even crazier when a dancer on stilts showed up in what looked like a walking neon version of the Predator. I have to admit, he really stirred up the crowd with his moves.

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Nazia

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“Right when things were going crazy, it got even crazier”

The Leica Q was not unstoppable, however, as the camera chewed through 3 batteries since 3:00pm with over 300 shots.

It goes without saying: bring extra batteries.

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“It goes without saying: bring extra batteries.”

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As Amy was on the dance floor doing her own thing, I went out to the lobby to check on the others.

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Katie and Adrienne taking a break
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Love the ambient, pink glow.
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“sup”

As the party drew to a close (around midnight), the reception party moved outside to watch the bride and groom leave the hotel.

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Siraj’s friends giving them a hand.

The Following Morning….

The next morning, Amy, Katie and I walked upstairs and treated ourselves to breakfast that was included with the room package…

…and the dining hall was MASSIVE (and empty).

Their breakfast buffet was possibly the best I’ve ever had (most of the reason was due to presentation and the service we were given) and the attention to detail that the staff showed to us. Albeit, we were the only people eating at the time, but impressive nonetheless.

Side note: if you have not had breakfast at the Marriott in Chantilly, do yourself a favor and grab some food because the food is fantastic.

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As we both left the hotel, tired and weary about the next holiday obligation we had to attend, this wedding made me reflect on the beauty behind the commitment of love between two people that love each other very much. I wish Nazia and Siraj the best and congratulations to the both of you.

#happalieverafter

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More photos: Flickr

Gear used:

 

Pittsburgh: 4th of July Weekend with Friends and Family

Pittsburgh: 4th of July Weekend with Friends and Family

I didn’t include from my previous post that I originally took a trip to Pittsburgh to visit my favorite friends and family.

The weekend was pretty much what you would expect if you lived locally next to your friends and hanging out for the weekend: boozing, grilling, help with stuff around the house, go to the gym. It was awesome to see Anna’s brothers and Mr. Ladesic again.

On Sunday, we took a drive up to Chris’ parent house and hung out by the pool with the kids. It was so good to see everyone again.

Since people on this blog tend to like pictures, here are some snapshots from that weekend.

Client Shoot: Senior Portraits – Lauren (BTS)

Client Shoot: Senior Portraits – Lauren (BTS)

Got together with a fun Mother and Daughter team over the weekend for a Senior Portraits photoshoot for Lauren.

We originally had planned to do it on Saturday, but of course, the weather didn’t cooperate thanks to the rain.

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
Olympus PEN-F + Olympus 75 f/1.8 | ISO 200 | 1/800 | f/1.8 |Exp +1

The Photoshoot took place at their friend’s house in Mclean, VA where they had a massive 6 acre estate with similarly massive gardens (plural – more than one). The weather was slightly cloudy so it wasn’t too hot or bright out, but it was definitely a bit humid. Heat and humidity weather will always be challenge for any outdoor activity, especially for photography. The biggest challenge of taking great pictures is to patient with your external surroundings (hot/cold weather, traffic, people, etc).

The Mom, Lynn, was energetic and excited to get shit done. The model, Lauren, didn’t look as enthused but that changed after a couple of photos. We were pretty much all laughing and having a great time. I was fortunate to have a fun team to work with because having fun is half of the photography experience in my opinion.

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
Their dog Chelsea was also our model today

I had Lynn take care of the reflector work on top of doing other “motherly” things like fixing Lauren’s hair, straightening out her dress, etc. You know…the touch ups.

With that, below are some of my favorites from the day:

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
Sony A7II + Zeiss 55 f/1.8 | ISO 100 | 1/500 | f/1.8

I was double-fisting both the Sony full-frame and the Olympus Micro Four-Thirds bodies, both serving different purposes. With the Sony, I mated the body with the Zeiss 55 for those personal up-close photos while the little Olympus and the 75mm combo was used for that “compression” look with the subject further away.

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
Sony A7II + Zeiss 55 f/1.8 | ISO 100 | 1/500 | f/1.8

The legendary Zeiss 55 is probably one of the sharpest lenses ever made. With a camera with a good megapixel sensor (24MP in my case), I could take a photo 50 feet away from the subject, crop it, and it still look as sharp as if I took the photo 15 feet away (photo above).

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
Sony A7II + Zeiss 55 f/1.8 | ISO 400 | 1/500 | f/1.8

The above photo is definitely one of my favorites due to the composition and the good lighting we were able to achieve (thanks to Lynn’s awesome reflector holding skills on the right of the frame). This also shows off the Zeiss “pop” that the company is known for.

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
Olympus PEN-F + Olympus 75 f/1.8 | ISO 200 | 1/2000 | f/1.8 | Exp +1

Gotta love Olympus’ color rendering, which I prefer over the big boy Sony, even in RAW. I was also really impressed with how much dynamic range I had to play with on the 20 MP sensor on the PEN-F.

However, the photos from Micro Four-Thirds sensors will look “darker” compared to a bigger sensor like the full-frame Sony because it’s just not gathering as much light. This is where you can’t fight physics, despite how far technology had progressed. You can compensate for this by cranking down the shutter speed (and let the 5 Axis IBIS help you out) and slightly increasing the exposure by turning the exposure dial.

If you look at the photos and their exposure settings, you can see that the photos taken with the Olympus consistently had a higher ISO than the Sony in similar outdoor environments.

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
Olympus PEN-F + Olympus 75 f/1.8 | ISO 200 | 1/800 | f/1.8 | Exp +1
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
Olympus PEN-F + Olympus 75 f/1.8 | ISO 200 | 1/800 | f/1.8 | Exp +1

This is a perfect example of having that background compression you can only get with a telephoto lens, in this case, a fast prime. The 75mm on a Micro Four-Thirds give you that 150mm equivalent look on a Full-Frame camera. The lens was magical and you can see the subject “pop” from the environment.

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
Sony A7II + Zeiss 55 f/1.8 | ISO 100 | 1/500 | f/1.8

I might fanboy over the Olympus 75mm, but the legendary Zeiss 55 still reigns king.

The 55mm paired with the Sony’s fantastic Facial Recognition focus, I was able to nail the  focus with their faces, even with the aperture wide open.

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
Olympus PEN-F + Olympus 75 f/1.8 | ISO 200 | 1/400 | f/1.8 | Exp +1

This was a fantastic experience and I want to thank both Lynn and Lauren for being a lot of fun to work with.

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
Photo by Tae Kim @ http://www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/

Flickr (High Res): Lauren’s Senior Photos