micro 4/3

Friday Image No. 102

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Three image stitch using Lightroom. Olympus EM5 f/7.1, 1/250" at ISO200. Hanheld with the Olympus 12-40 lens.
Three image stitch using Lightroom. Olympus EM5 f/7.1, 1/250″ at ISO200. Hanheld with the Olympus 12-40 lens.

Last week I was in the Lake District followed by France. That seems so long ago now that I thought I would share one of the images. This one was captured on the Olympus EM5 and is three shots merged in Lightroom. The light on the day was quite blue and the hills were a very vivid green so this image is pretty true to life. I did do a little post processing in Alien Skin Exposure X, applying the Agfachrome 1000 RS slide film simulation. If you think you can see noise in the sky, it’s actually the grain simulation.

Have a great weekend.

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Appealing Nuclear Power

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Seascale Nuclear Power Station. Olympus EM5, Panasonic 45-150. Three image stitch with post processing in Nik Silver Efex.
Seascale Nuclear Power Station. Olympus EM5, Panasonic 45-150. Three image stitch with post processing in Nik Silver Efex. Click to see a larger version of the image.

Firstly, my apologies for the blog and video silence over the past week. I decided to take a break with my wife to do some walking in the Lake District and then to visit our Grandson over in France. In fact, I haven’t been back in the UK for more than a few hours and wanted to share this image.

I shot this from the top of a hill in the Lakes called Black Coombe. The Power Station in the centre of the shot is at Seascale and beyond this you can just make out the hills in Dumfries (somewhere that I have wanted to visit for a while but never found a good excuse).

The image was taken handheld with the EM5 and Panasonic 45-150 lens at 150mm. It’s not bad and should print OK but it is suffering from a lot of atmospheric distortion. The best cure for that of course is convert the image to black and white then throw in a lot of grain. It hides the fine detail but helps make the image appear sharper and less distorted.

Aperture & Sharpness

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Death Valley. Even for extreme cases such as this three image stitch, f/9.0 was all that was required for full depth of field.
Death Valley. Even for extreme cases such as this three image stitch, f/9.0 was all that was required for full depth of field using th e Panasonic GX1.

At one time I didn’t understand the relationship between aperture & image sharpness. I read many magazine articles and books where Landscape Photographers would commonly say they stopped the lens down to the smallest aperture to ensure the image was sharp from front to back. What I hadn’t realised is that they weren’t discussing image sharpness but depth of field. I also hadn’t realised that many of these photographers were using medium format cameras where depth of field could be a real issue. Fortunately, I now understand this relationship but there continues to be misinformation published on the subject.

Here then are the key points you need to be aware of in relation to depth of field:

  • Depth of field is how much of your image appears to be in focus from the nearest point to the most distant.
  • Depth of field is determined by the aperture you use. If all other variables remain the same, as you make the aperture smaller (larger f/ stop number), you will increase the depth of field.
  • Other factors affecting the depth of field include:
    • Where you place the point of focus – the nearer the camera the shallower the depth of field. It’s also worth remembering that the depth of field will extend twice as far beyond the point of focus as in front of it.
    • The size of the film or the image sensor – the smaller this is, the greater the depth of field at the same aperture.
    • The focal length of the lens can also make the depth of field appear greater – a wide angle lens makes the depth of field appear greater than a long telephoto lens.

When I first started in photography, what I failed to grasp is that the factors determining how sharp an image is are different to depth of field. Let’s take an example where you shoot three images using a typical lens; the first image with the aperture as wide as it will go, the second with the aperture as small as possible and the third with the aperture between the two extremes. If you then review the images looking at the point of focus, you would find that the third image with the aperture at mid-value is the sharpest image. This is because lenses are design to perform at their best when aperture is closed down by a couple of stops. Once you go to the smallest aperture though, the performance and sharpness is compromised by something called diffraction, which makes the image appear soft.

One benefit of using a Micro 43 camera for Landscape work is that you can typically achieve front to back sharpness (depth of field) without needing to stop the lens down to the smallest apertures. In my own work I tend to shoot Landscapes with the lens set to 12mm (24mm equivalent on a full frame camera). The aperture I tend to use is f/7.1 or sometimes f/8.0. Providing you place the point of focus correctly you will have all the depth of field you typically need and the lens will be near to its optimum performance.

Where I use the Sony RX10 which has a smaller 1-inch sensor, I tend to shoot with an aperture of around f/5.6 for full depth of field at 24mm. And when I was shooting with the LX5 compact camera I was using f/3.5 to f/5.0 for full depth of field at 24mm.

I hope this helps all you small sensor Landscaper photographers.

Friday Image No.96

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Forest Leaves. Olympus EM5, f/3.5, 1/50" at ISO400.
Forest Leaves. Olympus EM5, f/3.5, 1/50″ at ISO400.

Whilst on my recent road trip I captured this image. What I like is that it could have been anywhere and that I didn’t need to travel to the US to shoot it. My wife thinks I’m mad travelling all that way to take pictures of leaves. I suspect some of the people passing by me would have agreed with her.

What I also want to share is the colour version of the image which is below.

Forest Leaves prior to conversion.
Forest Leaves prior to conversion.

As soon as I saw this I knew how the finished image would look. The greens were so different that I could see them separating out naturally in the conversion. After a while you sort of get an instinct for these things.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

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Hidden Gems

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Boat study at Heswall Marina. Panasonic GX1 converted to Infrared. ISO160, 45mm lens, 1/50" at f/10.
Boat study at Heswall Marina. Panasonic GX1 converted to Infrared. ISO160, 45mm lens, 1/50″ at f/10.

Yesterday I finally decided to sell my Panasonic GX1 that’s been converted to shoot infrared. The cameras been sat in a bag since I had the EM5 converted and whilst I thought it would be a good backup, I need the money for a new project (more on that in the future).

Whilst advertising it on eBay I decided to look through my back catalogue for some example images to show what an Infrared conversion can do when processed. I can’t believe how many shots I really like and that I have overlooked. Again, this is an example of distancing yourself from the event of taking the image.

I don’t know why but I particularly like this cluttered shot of the boats at Heswall Marina on the Wirral.

Hope you like it as well.

Friday Image No. 82

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Winter trees in the Lake District. Olympus EM5 with 12-40mm lens. ISO200, f/7.1, 1/80". 0.6 ND Grad.
Winter trees in the Lake District. Olympus EM5 with 12-40mm lens. ISO200, f/7.1, 1/80″. 0.6 ND Grad.

I shot this image in the Lake District back in early November. It was actually the first snowfall of the winter and light was spectacular for most of the day. Unfortunately, it then deteriorated for the rest of the year.

This is the first time I have processed this image and I really like the results. It may be a little dark for some people but I really quite like it due to the contrast it creates with the trees where the sunlight was falling. How I love the low warm rays of the winter sun.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Setting Your Expectations

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Wet bark on a pine tree. Three images taken on an Olympus EM5. The images were shot for focus stacking using Helicon Focus.
Wet bark on a pine tree. Three images taken on an Olympus EM5. The images were shot for focus stacking using Helicon Focus.

Landscape Photography is much more difficult than most people realise. Sure you spend a lot of time out in the landscape but your also at the mercy of the same landscape. If the weather decides not to play ball, then there is nothing you can do about it. Or is there?

Part of the problem I at least appear to suffer from (I suspect I’m not alone) is unrealistic expectations. Each time I head out into the landscape I have my mind set on shooting the large open landscape bathed in beautiful light. Living in the UK, these conditions probably exist for only a small proportion of the year and only at certain times of day.

The odds are that I won’t be in the right location at the right time. Most of the time the conditions are quite poor (especially in winter) and this can be depressing. This last weekend though I decided to change this and set out with a friend in the knowledge that the weather was going to be dreadful. But guess what, we had a great time and I managed a couple of shots that I quite like.

The difference was that I expected the weather to be poor so set out with the mind-set that I was going to shoot in bad weather and that the light would be poor. I also chose the equipment that would perform well in these conditions. Rather than trying to fight with the Sony A7r I kept to a pocket camera and the Olympus EM5.

The lesson for me is that my expectations have quite a large bearing on how successful I view a day’s photography and probably, how much I try.