micro 4/3

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.

An Important Decision

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Ullswater Boat Jetty, The Lake District, England
Ullswater Boat Jetty, The Lake District, England

It was an early start yesterday. Up at 4:30 in the morning in order to make the 2 hour journey to Ullswater in the Lake District for a dawn shoot. Despite the early morning start it was without question one of the most enjoyable days photography that I have ever had.

Overnight the temperature had dropped like a stone and there was a thick haw frost on the ground. Most waters in the Lakes had a thin layer of ice starting to form around their edges but because the temperature had dropped rapidly the deeper water was still cooling. Instead of ice covering their surface they had a wonderful mist and the conditions just got better as the day went on. The image you see above is of the boat jetty near Pooley Bridge, at dawn. Captured on the Olympus OMD EM5 with Olympus 12-40mm lens and a 0.3 ND Grad on the sky. Aperture was f/9.0 (a mistake as I would have shot this at f/7.1 usually). ISO200 and shutter speed 1/125″.

So you might ask, what is the important decision? The answer is, that I have decided to sell the Nikon D800; but I want to explain and share my reasoning.

Firstly, this is the third trip I have made where I can’t bring myself to carry the extra weight. When I returned from Bolivia I suffered a prolapsed disk at the base of my neck and for a while it looked like I might need major surgery. Fortunately, this is looking less likely now but the pain over the past couple of months has been unbearable at times – and pain killers just didn’t have an effect on it. I was finding that even trying to lift and support the heavier equipment was aggravating the pain.

OK, so this might be a temporary condition (I certainly hope it is) but other things are more permanent and important. One of the reasons I bought the D800 was that a lot of people were claiming how the image quality is exceptional with the right lenses and I would agree, yes it is. The camera would perform very well even with lesser quality lenses but needed a little more adjustment to really bring this out. But the important point is, the image performance is no better at low ISO (which I use almost exclusively) than the EM5. In fact, the corner and edge sharpness of the EM5 images beats the D800 even with high quality lenses.

All I really get with the D800 is an image file that produces a 24.5″ inch image rather than 15.36″ at 300dpi. Does this additional image size matter? Well, unless I am going to be making a print larger than 30″ and look at this with my nose pressed against it. You really need to be doubling the print size to notice the difference in output quality due to the way inkjet printers work. If you print on Matt paper then you might even need to go larger than this. As for output to the Internet, there is no benefit to having more pixels and then throwing most of these away by downsizing the image.

Where the D800 does score well over the EM5 is in the RAW files. I seem to be able to push these all over the place in editing and see almost no noise, even in shadow areas. This is very nice but again it comes with a downside. The RAW files from the D800 do seem to need much more processing in comparison to the EM5 RAW files. It’s almost as if the D800 RAW files are a little flat, possibly to the additional dynamic range the camera has. Whatever the reason, it feels like I am having to relearn how to get the most out of the camera and I don’t really have time for that at the moment.

The final and most important problem is that the D800 really doesn’t suit my style of shooting. What I don’t like to do is pop the camera on a tripod, spend a lot of time getting into position, check everything and then make one or two good exposures. This just doesn’t work for me. My approach is to move around and into the subject, taking lots of pictures and checking them regularly. As I work I find images that I like or things I like about an image that I work with to incorporate. The shots gradually get better until I arrive at the image I want. This style of working isn’t for everyone but if it’s your style, you will find it hard working with a large DSLR.

I do have to admit though that I didn’t always recognise this. It was only when I moved to the EM5 that my shooting style really started to develop in this way and that I started to feel free. Now when I try to go back it’s as though I am constrained and I have lost that feeling of freedom and spontaneity.

So, this is my reasoning but I will caveat it with a final thought. I reserve the right to change my mind. As I was writing this I was looking back at some of my RAW files from the D800 and they do have a quality that I really like. I’m just not sure it’s enough to make me want to keep the camera.

Don’t buy a Micro 43 lens until you read this – Part 1

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Steps at Sandsend near Whitby. Olympus Em5 + 25mm Olympus lens. The quality of this lens is amazing.
Steps at Sandsend near Whitby. Olympus Em5 + 25mm Olympus lens. The quality of this lens is amazing. Click the image to view larger.

I recently bought another camera (used) and whilst I will have more to say on that in the future, one thing it made me realise was just how good the Micro 43 lenses are. But this isn’t the case for all of the Micro 43 lenses; there are some really poor ones out there. When these lenses are good they are really good. The corners are sharp and show little distortion and you can use them wide open without worry. But when they are poor, they can make you question your decision to invest in the Micro 43 system. With this in mind I thought I would share some of my experiences and hopefully others of you will share yours.

I will point out that this is not a scientific lens review but what I think are the important points having used the lenses discussed. You also need to be aware that being a Landscape Photographer I like to achieve a good depth of field, very sharp images and well defined details. Depending on your photography interests you may have different needs.

Now both Panasonic and Olympus produce some excellent lenses (as well as some poor ones) but they take very different approaches to image stabilisation. Olympus builds stabilisation into their camera bodies whilst Panasonic build it into the lens (but not every lens). This means that if you have an Olympus body you can use any lens and still benefit from stabilisation. If you have a Panasonic body then you will only benefit from image stabilisation when you use a Panasonic lens (and only then if it is stabilised as not all lenses are).

Now you can mount a Panasonic lens on an Olympus body without any problems; this is one of the prime features of Micro 43 – it’s a standard. For example, I frequently use a Panasonic 14-45mm lens with stabilisation on my Olympus EM5. I do take care to turn off the lens stabilisation using a switch on the lens barrel. But even when I forget it seldom causes an issue. With other lenses such as the Panasonic 45-150 the lens is stabilised but there is no stabilisation switch on the body. Despite this I have never experienced a problem mounting these lenses on my Olympus EM5 and leave the stabilisation for the camera on all the time.

In short, don’t worry about mixing lenses and camera bodies from Olympus and Panasonic although you might need to give a little thought to manually switching it off for some combinations of lens and camera body.

Next time we will start to review some of the zoom lenses I have used. But before we go I will leave you with a few section of the above image zoomed to 100% magnification. This shows just how good the Micro 43 system can be.

100% magnification
100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.

 

100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.
100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.

 

100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.
100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.

Friday image No.020

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Not a Landscape Image - Captured on a Panasonic GM1 with 12-32mm lens
Not a Landscape Image – Captured on a Panasonic GM1 with 12-32mm lens

I have been working on a book which discusses how to improve your photography and which takes a different approach to the more usual “instruction manual” format. On reviewing the draft my Editor helpfully commented that perhaps I should drag myself out of my Landscape comfort zone and sample some of my own medicine. So this week’s image is in response to his suggestion.

Have a great weekend everyone.