As I noted in my last blog, in late February I travelled to Bangkok to attend CITES CoP 16 (see I’m baaaack….!). While I was there I had every intention of working on my photography in my spare time. Sadly, I greatly underestimated how little free time I would have. More on that in a bit…
When it came to packing my camera equipment, I needed to travel very light. A CoP is a suit and tie kind of event and I needed to have enough clothes to see me through over two weeks of meetings. In the heat and humidity of Bangkok you go through at least one dress shirt per day. And of course you need casual clothes for the evenings—I’m not the kind of guy that wears a suit and tie any more than necessary! In addition to a lot of clothes I needed my laptop and power cord, Blackberry, toiletries, battery chargers…It was ridiculous; I packed less stuff for eight weeks on Safari in East Africa! Mind you, for some inexplicable reason, when I packed for Africa I only included three pairs of socks! But that’s another (and rather stinky) story…
Anyhow, as I was saying, I needed to organise some light and compact yet versatile camera gear for my trip. I knew I would have very little free time (rather an understatement as it turns out) so I left out any serious macro equipment. I figured that as long as I could get a decent photo of a medium sized insect, I’d be happy. I also wanted the option of using an off-camera flash so that if the opportunity arose I could improvise a simple white box like I did in Mexico last fall (see Improvised white box photography of a scarab beetle using photocopier paper). That meant a small flash and hot-shoe extension cable rather than my bulky ring flash or one of my Vivitar 283 flashes.
Above is a picture of the gear I finally put together. For a body I took a brand new Olympus OM-D E-M5 mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera that I bought just before leaving for Bangkok. It’s a sweet piece of equipment but I had absolutely no time to play with it before I left—so I made sure to pack the instruction manual! For a lens I just went with the Zuiko 12-50mm kit lens that came with the camera. In 35mm terms (on the OM-D) it is the equivalent of a 24-100mm lens, and it has a macro feature that allows you to focus almost to 1:2 magnification. This camera and lens together make an amazingly versatile but SMALL package.
The OM-D comes with a FL-LM2 accessory flash that clips onto the camera hot shoe. That’s good enough for general snap-shots. For the off-camera flash I dug out a vintage Olympus T-20 flash I bought back in the 1980s. I only used this flash a few times and it was still packed in its original box. I bought a suitable hot shoe flash cable to connect the T-20 to the camera and of course a high voltage protection hot shoe adapter to protect the camera from damage when using the older generation flash. I also added a small folding Pentax table tripod that I have had kicking around for decades (I honestly don’t remember where I got it). Last but not least I needed a USB cable to download photos to my laptop. This whole assemblage fit in two small bags which fit in turn into my carry-on backpack along with my laptop, book, glasses, etc. Theoretically this set-up was all I needed to do some nice close-up photography both in the field and in the “studio” (my hotel room).
Sadly, the key word is “theoretically”. In the 16 days I was in Bangkok, I only had the time to take fewer than 30 photos (28 to be exact), and none of them were “studio” shots. It’s really too bad that I wasn’t able to really test this collection of equipment. It’s not a bad compact set-up, so I’m going to organise some photo shoots this spring where I’ll limit myself to this gear to just to see if it works as well as I hoped. After all, I’ll definitely be travelling more for work in the future. Stay tuned for an update in the future.
As for those 28 photos I took in Bangkok…they did include a few images of insects—but they are a little bit different than my usual work. They’ll be the subject of my next post…
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus E-620 digital SLR
Lens: Zuiko 35mm macro
Settings: manual exposure (F14 @ 1/125 sec)
Lighting: Olympus RF-11 ring flash (manual; 1/2 power)