Ricky Grove

artist / writer / bookseller

Kerouac on Talent vs Genius

When the question is therefore asked, “Are writers born or made?” one should first ask, “Do you mean writers of talent or writers of originality?” Because everybody can write but not everybody invents new forms of writing. Gertrude Stein invented new forms of writing and her imitators are just “talents.”

The main thing to remember is that talent imitates genius, because there’s nothing else to imitate. Since talent can’t originate, it has to imitate, or interpret…

-Jack Kerouac

My First Professional Camera: The Olympus E-PL5

For the last year, I’ve been taking pictures with the HTC One X smartphone. The phone takes great photos and I’ve become a daily photographer now. However, as good as the HTC is for photos, it simply can’t compare to a professional camera. I decided I wanted to get serious about photography in 2014 and I needed a good camera to do it. After about a month of researching entry-level digital cameras, I chose the Olympus E-PL5 micro four-thirds camera. The camera takes very high-quality photographs and is affordable. What follows is the journey I took to make this decision and the advice I got from pro level photographers on the net. 


Research is part of the fun of buying something of high quality. And, of course, being a good 21st century consumer, I looked at the mid-level to high end cameras first. Nikon and Canon are the kings of this kind of camera, especially for the mid-level market (around $1,000). I spent almost a month going over the various merits of the Canon  vs  Nikon DSLR’s . I simply couldn’t choose between the two.

So I started asking myself questions; what kind of photos do you want to take? How complicated to you want to make the photography learning process? Do you need more than just a camera and a single lens to take good photographs? And I reflected on what I liked so much about using a smartphone to take pictures: it’s quick and easy, I can keep in in my pocket and I don’t need a lot of equipment to get good photos. I realized that what I wanted was a camera that would allow me to have the same kind of freedom that a smartphone has, but with much higher quality photographs.

Taking another look at the Nikon and Canon cameras, I realized these DSLR cameras are big and bulky. Plus, I’d probably need more than one lens. This mean’t I’d need a big bag to carry extra batteries, lenses and other equipment. This didn’t fit into what I wanted to do at all. I was more interested in what I understood was called “street photography”.

I then began to research with a much clearer idea of what I wanted in a camera. This led me to dpreview.com and the micro four thirds system of cameras. Dpreview.com is an excellent website that reviews cameras, posts articles on cameras and provides a very healthy forum community for photographers both pro and amateur. I won’t go into detail about the micro four thirds system as it would take up to much space, but, essentially, the system does away with the reflecting mirror in a DSLR and allows the light to shine directly on the sensor. This in turn allows for a much smaller and thinner camera. Exactly what I was looking for.


Illustration from imaging-resource.com

However, is the quality of image from a micro four thirds camera equal to that of a DSLR? The answer to this question led me to photographers David Thorpe and Robin Wong, whose reviews and photography showed clearly that these cameras can take wonderful photos even though they are quite small compared to a DSLR camera. On their recommendations, I started looking at the Lumix series of cameras by Panasonic and the Olympus Pen series. Both Panasonic and Olympus were the actual founders of the micro four thirds system and seem to have the best combination of features and pricing for their entry level cameras.

In the end, it was David Thorpe’s wonderful, droll review of the Olympus E-PL5 that won me over to this camera.

Once I decided on the camera, I quickly found a good deal for it at B&H Photo in NYC (included extra tele-photo lens + bag + free shipping). I got the camera in 3 days and, true to David’s comments, the menu system is awful and the manual is worse. But the image quality and simplicity of design is better than I expected. I’ve been taking the camera everywhere with me shooting on “automatic” for now. And although I understood that the video on the camera isn’t that great, it’s fine for me. My focus is on learning photography and this camera is exactly what I wanted.

I highly recommend the Olympus E-PL5 for beginning photographers. Despite the poor menu system and so-so video, the camera takes superb photographs. It’s easy to use, small enough to keep in your  pocket and the fast focusing is very, very cool. My thanks to David Thorpe, dpreview.com and Robin Wong for sharing their thoughts and experience with the Olympus E-PL5.


Photo of antique journal using the Olympic E-PL5




Life After the Machinima Expo 6

I’ve been producing a virtual animation festival for the last 6 years. Actually, it’s a unique form of animation called “machinima” (machine + cinema). Originally, the form came out of the gamer/hacker community back in the late 90’s. Basically, by using the real-time-rendering you get from a game engine, you can bypass the incredibly long production time 3D animation has and get a film out much more quickly. One famous film (The French Democracy) was made in 3 days.

I’ve been involved in the machinima movement as a sound designer, voice actor, producer and editor for over 10 years now and I’m still excited about it. Machinima.com is now the big bad boy in the machinima world. They’ve made a huge amount of money by appealing to young males between 15-24, which, ironically, was the original audience for early machinima hacking and filmmaking. The Machinima Expo is much more interested in machinima as a form of self-expression, an art form, if you will.

The most recent Machinima Expo just finished up on November 17th and it was successful. Over 900 people came by and we had over 400 viewer hours on our Ustream channel. It’s pretty exhausting putting together even a small, virtual film festival, so I’m glad it went well, but I’m also glad it’s over.

IMAG0433I was very impressed with the films submitted to the Expo this year. We get anywhere between 100 – 200 machinima submitted each year from all over the world. Africa, Taiwan, Japan, France, Mexico, Canada, Great Britain, South American, we see a wide range of styles and stories every year. This year, I found myself becoming increasingly interested in two machinma platforms: Second Life and the Source Filmmaker. Of the two, I have several friends who are accomplished SL filmmakers, so I decided to take the plunge and become a permanent resident in Second Life for a year. I rented a house and am spending time furnishing it. I plan on having a house-warming in January, which is exciting! Filmmaking will come after I get settled in the virtual world, which is odd, but fascinating.

Here’s picture of me and my avatar in the new house (California Modern style)

1122_HomeAloneI plan on keeping a casual diary of my lives (?) in Second Life. Alot of people have done this, but I want to chart my awareness and understanding of being virtual for the next year. Mostly for my self.


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