Nashville street Photography with the Olympus PenF

There is nothing like the feeling of walking the street with a camera in your hands. The possibilities are endless. What stories will unfold before your lens? Such a liberating feeling which is why having a camera in your hand that you can trust is so important. When you are in the moment you don’t want to be messing with your camera dials and miss the shot.

There are so many “rules” online for how to properly do street photography – have a prime lens, only shoot black and white, only shoot film, walk slow, stand in one place, etc.

Here is my one rule for street photography-

take a camera you know how to use

For me, that camera is the Olympus PenF. I usually have a 17mm lens attached to the front. I have the Olympus 17mm 1.8 and PRO 1.2 versions. Both offer that same point of view. Most of the time the 1.8 version is on my camera because of the low profile of the lens. I have shot so much with the 17mm 1.8 that I don’t even have to put the camera to my eye to get the shot I want.

Nashville Street Photography

Knowing my lens and camera meant I did not even have to look at the screen or viewfinder for this shot. I was walking and took it. They were heckling people for money but I just could not get over her look but I did not want to draw attention to my taking a photo either.

I know how to change all my settings quickly on this camera. This is the most important part of street photography. Light can change quickly when you are walking on the street – it’s important to know how to make adjustments without thinking about it. I let the camera decide a lot of things for me. I’m not concerned with ISO. The most important thing to me is shutter speed and aperture. With the PenF all the controls are easily accessed on top of the camera. There is no menu diving.

Creative Controls

The main selling point of the PenF was the creative dial and mainly the mono setting. I love black and white photography. I think it goes back to my time in the darkroom in high school and college. When you turn on the mono dial you have three built-in options. Profile 2 is my go to. You can also customize the settings. I have customized profile 2 to have less contrast. By default, I think, highlights and shadows are really extreme. So I have shadows to -2 and highlights to +2. I also set film grain to low.

What it comes down to

I’m not a technical reviewer. I’ve included links below that have a more technical review and setup. What I am is a reviewer that loves my PenF. It is my day to day camera and my go to street photography camera. It’s a fun camera to shoot with. It’s low profile and allows you to get closer shots. If you are looking for a street photography camera then I would suggest holding a PenF and seeing how it fits in your hand. If you can rent one for a weekend to play with.

The most important thing for street photography is taking a camera you know. After that, it’s waiting for the story to unfold in front of you.

For a more technical reviews

Robin Wong Part 1 | Part 2

Sample Images

All the following images were taken with the Olympus PenF and the 17mm 1.8. Only one image was edited and it was only to lift a shadow. All other images are presented as they came out of the camera using a modified Mono Profile 2.

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Testing the Olympus TG5

I picked up the Olympus TG5 off of eBay. I wanted a camera I could take kayaking with me in Alaska next month. I previously owned the TG3, which I took to New Zealand on a kayak trip, so I knew I would love this version. I got my TG5 in the mail today and immediately threw in a memory card and started shooting. I did not even take the time to customize it or turn on RAW. I literally set the date and time and started shooting!

To test the camera I went to the closest dog park. I have a rescue dog who is terrified of my Olympus OMD and Pen cameras (or any camera). She had a rough start in life and anything big in her face just shuts her down. I’ve yet to get a great picture of her personality. I’m happy to report that the TG5 is timid dog approved. I loved the shots I got of her playing. I was able to capture her personality. It was also an added bonus that I can hold the camera in one hand and play with her with the other. 

I’m really excited to sit down and look into the options of this camera. Set it up to shoot RAW files so I can edit them and see how far I can push the files. For now, I’m very happy with the results and even more thrilled that I have a camera that I can take pictures of my dog without scaring her! Can’t wait to get this camera to Alaska and get out on the water!

Here are some test shots that are straight out of the camera using the sports scene mode on the camera. 

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Auto Bracketing using Custom Settings on Olympus Cameras

I want to start this by saying I’m not an overly techie person. If you came here for an overly techie answer this won’t be the place. If you came here looking for a solution that just works please read on.

Custom Mode…umm what?

Custom mode (Mysets) on Olympus cameras are powerful ways to save a quick setting for your camera. On the Pen F you have 4 custom settings on the top menu dial (C1, C2, C3, C4). You can set these to anything you like. This is something that can be very overwhelming when you are learning your camera. With a little time spent getting to know your camera the custom modes can become your new BFF.  My C1 is a custom black and white setting that I like to do street shooting with. My C2 is the reason for this blog post. I have C2 setup for an auto bracketing solution.

One thing I had a hard time when I switched from Nikon to Olympus was the fact that bracketing was not a one button setup. It’s a little hidden in the menu system and then you have to manually press the shutter for every shot. It might seem lazy to not to want to click the button every shot but it can throw your shot out of alignment slightly. Slight alignments can be easily corrected in Lightroom but why go through all the hassle? This setup has helped me love to bracketing again.


Bracketing is great for landscapes or high contrast situations. It takes a set amount of pictures (I usually do 3) and takes an underexposed, a properly exposed, and an overexposed shot. This allows the camera to see all the shadows and all the highlights in a scene. Every OMD camera can be set up to shoot brackets but I took mine a step further and set up a custom bracketing solution. This is my setup on the PenF but will work on any OMD camera that you can set a custom mode for.

Here are the step by step directions of how I set up my bracketing custom preset.
pictures of menus taken with iPhone – like I said non techie…?

  1. Turn on camera
  2. I put mine in Aperture mode and set it F8 – this means a lot of the frame will be in focus
  3. Hit the menu button and go into 2 menu
  4. Go to Bracketing and go down to “on”
  5. Use right trackpad to go into “AE BKT”
  6. I use 3F 1.OEV which means I shoot 3 pictures with 1 stop in between them
  7. Hit OK
  8. Make sure that when you get back to the bracketing menu you hit OK to turn it on
  9. Back out of the menu and enter the Super control Panel by hitting OK
  10. Go the the shooting menu and scroll over to Custom Self Timer
  11. Hit the info button
  12. Change it to 1 s start time – 3 shots .5 seconds in between and auto focus every frame off
  13. Now you can take a bracketed shot without pushing the shutter button three times
  14. To make this easy to access you want to set this as a custom setting
  15. Go to menu
  16. 1 menu
  17. Set/Custom Modes
  18. Assign to Custom Mode
  19. Use right track pad and set it to which one you would like C1-4 (mine is 2)
  20. Hit Okay and now every time you use that C2 menu you should have it set to automatically proceed through the bracketed shots

This should take less than 5 minutes to setup if you are not that familiar with the Olympus menu. If you know the menu it should be a pretty quick process.  

If you have any questions or comments please let me know. If there are things on your Olympus camera that puzzles you let me know and if I know how to help you I will do a blog post.


Lunch after Alcatraz

See how it started (part 1 | part 2 | part 3)

After the ferry ride back from Alcatraz, we headed to Boudin’s for lunch where I’m pretty sure almost everyone ate half a loaf of sourdough! It truly is the best sourdough bread out there! I spent lunch talking with Laura Hicks and Jay Dickman. Both are amazing photographers and kind people. It was fun listening to a few of Jay’s National Geographic stories.

The whole trip Olympus made sure we had amazing food. It was a foodie’s dream. This dessert from Boudins was almost too pretty to eat.

Beach time!

The schedule had us shooting at Coit towers but, a last minute schedule change was made and we headed to the beach. I think everyone loved the beach! In my mind, nothing can compare to California beaches. I will take a rocky beach over white sands any day! My shoes came off and I walked in the water which was cool and refreshing. I took my tripod but ended up not using it because I decided being in the water was better than using my tripod. At one point I even stuck a 10-stop ND filter on my 12-100 and shot long exposures handheld without the IBIS in the Olympus cameras I would never have been able to do that.

Gallery Images

All images shot on an Olympus EM1mkii and a 12-100 PRO zoom.


The day ended at Ailment for the last feast with everyone. Great conversation and good food to end the night. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone and drag myself into bed for my 4:30 a.m. wake up call and a long day of traveling home.   Olympus is an amazing company. They are paying attention to what their users want,   what they are saying, and what they are shooting. They listen to suggestions for improvements on their cameras. They care about user experience and in this day and age that says a lot about what kind of company they are. Another thing that was great was all of the visionaries, that I talked to, were the kindest people. All the people on the trip were excited to be there and everyone was open to any questions.  I can’t thank Olympus and Mullen Lowe enough for this opportunity to hang out with old friends and meet so many new friends!

Group Shot

Drone shot by: Matthew Quinn

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Day two of Capturing San Francisco

See how it started (part 1 | part 2)

iPhone shot

iPhone shot

Day two was the day we all hung out with the Olympus visionaries and I was lucky enough to time breakfast with all the male Olympus visionaries before heading out to shoot.

Saturday we shot as a full group which meant a van full of crazy photographers! All the Olympus Visionaries were in attendance: Peter Baungarten, Mike Boening, Scott Bourne, Jay Dickman, Laura Hicks, Austin Lottimer, Jamie MacDonald, Tracy Maglosky, Alex McClure, Larry Price, and Frank Smith. Now that is a list of awesome photographers!

Our first stop was Alcatraz. We took the ferry over and finally got to see the Golden Gate! Arriving in Alcatraz we all went out own ways to shoot but kept ending up together. As many times as I had been to San Francisco, I had never been to Alcatraz. It was a unique experience. Getting to walk around, see the cells, and see how far/close (depending on your viewpoint) Alcatraz really is to the City.

Fun times on the island. Tracy and Laura using Victoria as a lighting stand was one of my favorites!

“It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt,
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills,
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Gallery Images

All images shot on an Olympus EM1mkii and a 12-100 PRO zoom.  Alcatraz has a dark history, and I think, it can still be felt. I decided to edit all these photos in black and white.

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