SXSW Japan Nite: Kaori’s etherial petals

Kaori's Etherial Petals, Kao=S at 2013 Japan Nite - Austin, Texas

Kaori’s Etherial Petals, Kao=S at 2013 Japan Nite – Austin, Texas

It’s not often that I have a favorite photograph from a photography session or an event. Typically, I may have a dozen or so selects. Luckily, I was able to attend the 2013 SXSW Japan Nite last Friday and this photograph is my favorite. I shot about 800 photos and narrowed my choices down to about 100. This particular image still bubbles to the top. Of course, it’s from my favorite group, Kao=S. While Kaori, the lead performer, is known for some dynamic and aggressive samurai sword performances, this scene with the cherry blossom petals is quite the opposite.

I wish I can say that I can nail this kind of photo all the time but I do admit there is a certain amount of luck and good timing to these things. I didn’t know she was going to blow the petals and I just happen to be there to catch it and with a good expression. I think the color and light works well and the wispy, motion blurred petals have an etherial quality.

While good timing is key, having the right camera settings also help. Here’s how I got the shot. I used my Olympus E-PM2 with the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 lens. The real star, equipment wise, was the little Olympus FL-300R flash. It’s a really compact flash that runs on two AAA batteries and is properly scaled to the small Olympus Pen bodies. I dialed in a really light -2 1/3 flash exposure compensation. This allowed me to add just a touch of fill on the subject while preserving much of the colorful stage lighting. I used ISO 800 and at f1.4 which gave me 1/160 second shutter.

Like last year, I also used my Canon 7D with the 50mm f1.4 lens but the Olympus Pen really hit its stride this year. I use the older Olympus E-PL1 and the 20mm f1.7 lens last year, with no flash. The images were usable but nothing special. This year’s Pen setup was dramatically better and in some ways bested the results from the 7D. Quite surprising, actually. I’ll talk about how the two cameras compared at Japan Nite, in an upcoming post. Please stay tuned.

Photograph taken with the Olympus E-PM2 with the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 and the Olympus FL-300R Compact Flash.

Make sure to click on the photographs to a see larger version. Hover over the photos to see the picture details.

6 thoughts on “SXSW Japan Nite: Kaori’s etherial petals

    1. Thanks Libby. I’ve had good luck with this little unit. I bought it before my family trip to the East Coast. I find the eTTL on the Pens is a bit more finicky than the Canons, though. More manual tweaking required.

  1. Just curious: do you use the EVF? I bought it, but find I don’t use it much. I’ve been thinking of getting a flash unit … maybe I will now.

    1. Nope, I don’t use an EVF.

      As I mentioned to Libby, I find the Olympus flash a bit tricky to use at times. Sometimes when I shoot normally, it would overexpose. I tend to drop the flash exposure compensation down by 1/2 to 2/3 of a stop. Sometimes, I also underexpose too. Once dialed in though it can really help in dark spots where even a big apertured lens is not enough.

  2. I’m looking forward to your blog re how the two pens worked. I have the OM-D but want to get either a XZ-2 or E-PL-5 as a smaller alternative/backup. I absolutely want the flip up LCD so it’s going to be one of these. I’m leaning towards the XZ-2 because of size and versatility (largely based on your XZ-1 experience.

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