I attended and photographed the ‘National Day of Action: Stop Black Deaths in Custody’ protest at the Town Hall in Sydney on Saturday, 10th April, 2021 and, expecting big crowds and tight spaces in one of my least favourite locations, went minimal with my trusty Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 rangefinder-style digital camera and my equally trusty Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro standard zoom lens carried in a Think Tank Photo Speed Belt Pro and a set of MindShift Gear and Think Tank Photo belt pouches.
An overcast day suddenly became sunny and bright as I was preparing to travel into the city, so swapped my currently only fast aperture Micro Four Thirds lens, the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric prime lens that came with my GX8 in a promotional deal for the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R telephoto zoom lens that my partner gave me for a birthday gift.
I needn’t have brought the second lens despite it being so light in weight: the 12-40mm did exactly what I had originally bought it for when I got my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 and ably covered every situation I encountered on Saturday.
I won’t comment here about Australia’s systemic racism, the ongoing deaths in police custody and the never-ending extra-judicial murders that have been going on ever since this continent was invaded, but my attitude towards these issues should be fairly obvious from those words.
Given the slow, erratic roll-out in this country of COVID-19 vaccinations thanks to an incompetent federal government, I have to be choosy about which events I attend and so select those I consider most significant and worth risking the health of my partner and I.
National Day of Action: Stop Black Deaths in Custody at Sydney Town Hall on April 10, 2021
During my magazine and newspaper photography days I relied on a range of film sizes, aspect ratios and camera types depending on the assignment, the subject, the story and the emotions I wanted to convey, from 35mm through 120 roll film to 4”x5” sheet film and Polaroid Type 55 Positive/Negative instant film.
I usually carried a tripod large enough for cameras of any format in those days and thought little of carrying heavy loads, but not any more.
Digital and its far greater image quality whatever sensor size along with lens and in-body image stabilization have changed the game along with smaller, lighter, more versatile tripods that I rarely carry nowadays.
Micro Four Thirds is now more than adequate for documentary photography and photojournalism, especially in combination with DxO PhotoLab and its plug-ins DxO FilmPack and DxO ViewPoint, the raw processing software suite I used for these photographs.
These are the sorts of images I once made with medium format 120 roll film but with much greater depth of focus and thus more data and detail, the lifeblood of documentary photography.
Pre-pandemic, I would have made these images with wider focal lengths right in the middle of the crowd but until we are all vaccinated, distance is a virtue and not the Cartier-Bresson style Surrealist strategy of irony through longer focal lengths.
Just now it has been reported that Australia is the 100th slowest pandemic vaccinator, not too far from this country’s ranking for broadband or in our case, “fraudband”.
Before COVID-19, I would have leapt at the chance to cover this event with images giving the impression of reaching out and touching somebody, made with lenses like the coming M. Zuiko 8-25mm Pro with its 12 to 50mm 35mm-equivalent focal length range:
“…the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4.0 PRO lens,… will join the M.Zuiko lineup as part of Olympus’ commitment to broaden the field of photographic expression.” … 4/3 Rumors
Despite my love for the wider end with equivalent focal lengths of 21mm and 28mm, with 50mm reserved for head and shoulders portraiture, I tended towards the longer end of my M. Zuiko 12-40mm Pro while covering this event, often stopping down to f/8.0 and even f/9.0, still maintaining enough depth of focus to tell the story.
If I was carrying my pre-COVID customary two-camera, two-lens documentary stills set-up then I would have fitted one with a 40-150mm zoom but stealth was the key for me though not, clearly, for the many newspaper and activist photographers carrying two and even three DSLRs with wide maximum aperture zoom lenses.
- B&H – Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro – a great focal length range but with the downside of a protruding convex front element disallowing screw-on filters for protection. Newer alternatives such as the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Aspheric or older ones like the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4.0 Aspheric zoom lens might also work but I appreciate the Olympus M. Zuiko Pro lenses’ excellent manual clutch focusing mechanism with its hard stops at each end, and amazing optical and mechanical quality, though I wish they had aperture rings with the option of clicked or declicked stops.
- B&H – Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens – the only M.Zuiko Pro standard zoom lens available when I purchased my GH4, but today I might consider the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro or Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-45mm f/4 Pro as viable alternatives.
- B&H – Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R Lens – great optical quality for such a small, light and affordable telephoto zoom lens but the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro is legendary for some excellent reasons.
- B&H – Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 12-60mm Lens – a downgrade in my humble opinion from the pro-quality GX8, in Japan the GX9 is more accurately named the GX7 Mark III and is marketed to street photographers instead of photojournalists and documentary photographers.
- B&H – Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH. Lens – excellent optical quality as are other Lumix G lenses with maximum apertures of f/1.7, I consider this a very short telephoto lens suitable for portraiture and documentary photography with my preferred “normal” lens being the equivalent of 40mm in 35mm format. The only downside to this lens is its plastic bayonet filter mount and plastic lens hood which, over time, becomes sloppy and falls off. Far more affordable then the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 prime lens.
- DxO – DxO PhotoLab, DxO FilmPack and DxO ViewPoint – my preferred software suite for processing raw files from other than Fujifilm XF-Series X-Trans sensor-equipped cameras.
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- Unititled.Net – National Day of Action: Stop Black Deaths in Custody at Sydney Town Hall on April 10, 2021 – photo gallery