Olympus

Processing Friday Image No.92

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Soft hazy light and subtle colours. The conditions weren't what I wanted but I can now see they work.
Soft hazy light and subtle colours. The conditions weren’t what I wanted but I can now see they work.

Last week I posted Friday Image No.92 and made comment about my having some kind of image blindness. In this particular case I think it was down to the conditions I was shooting in and the expectations I had in my mind. I often go out hoping for wonderful light and clean air, only to find the conditions are dull or hazy. Below you can see the starting shot for Image No.92. before any adjustments were made.

Starting image prior to any adjustment. This is the straight RAW file.
Starting image prior to any adjustment. This is the straight RAW file.

The light was quite nice now looking at this but it certainly wasn’t sharp light which is what I guess I wanted. I still took the shot but it’s only now that I recognise it’s potential. In case you’re wondering why I included all the sky, there is actually a hill in the foreground that prevented me from framing the shot any lower.

For the processing of this image I decided to crop the image to a more panoramic format which would remove the distracting sky and focus attention on the two halves of the image. There is the left half with the path and the right half with the mountain which is almost the inverse of this.

My initial thought was to produce a soft image with subtle colours that would make more of the hazy conditions. Often when you try to fight against and counter the conditions you end up with an image that doesn’t achieve what you want. It’s usually much better to work with the conditions and emphasise them even more. In the following screenshot you can see the conversion settings used in Lightroom – the colour temperature used is quite a bit warmer than the capture setting (originally around 5200).

Lightroom Adjustments
Lightroom Adjustments

The other key change was to use some negative Dehaze, which was set to -7. This was sufficient to lighten the image and emphasise the haze. I also added some selective adjustment to the shadows on the hillside to the right. This was intended to open the shadows so that they appeared to have texture rather than be a mass of black. The resulting image can be seen below.

For the final conversion to Black and white I used On One Photo Effects 10.5 with a Tonal adjustment to highlight the detail together with a black and white conversion. This is the same adjustment that I tend to use with my “Views from the Moors” collection of work.

Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 14-45 lens. ISO200, 1/200" at f/8.0
Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 14-45 lens. ISO200, 1/200″ at f/8.0

I personally can’t make my mind up which I prefer most, colour or black and white. I think I’m favouring the colour version.

Friday Image No.92

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Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 14-45 lens. ISO200, 1/200" at f/8.0
Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 14-45 lens. ISO200, 1/200″ at f/8.0

Last week I shared Friday No.91 which was taken on my first outing with the Olympus EM5. Later the same day I shot this image with the EM5. At the time I liked the scene but the conditions were very poor. It’s only now that I recognise I captured the image I wanted to. I definitely have some kind of block which prevents me from seeing a good image until sometime later (usually many months).

I will share some further thoughts about this next week.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Friday Image No.91

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Haweswater. 4 image series on the Olympus EM5 with 14mm prime. ISO200, 1/160" at f/8.0
Haweswater. 4 image series on the Olympus EM5 with 14mm prime. ISO200, 1/160″ at f/8.0

I shot this image almost 3 years ago in June 2013. It was my first outing with the Olympus EM5, a camera that I feel has changed my photography. This is actually 4 images merged in Lightroom. I shot a lot of these panoramic series back then as I found the EM5 was so easy to use. But until the new Lightroom merge feature was introduced, I have left many of these to sit on my hard drive.

The location is Haweswater in the Lake District. It’s actually a reservoir that’s been engineered to look like a lake. There’s even a very pretty manmade island. It’s a shame they had to flood a village to do this. If you have never visited this area, it’s well worth a look. It’s much quieter than the rest of the lakes and the Haweswater hotel makes a great place to stay.

Hope you like the shot and have a great weekend.

The Olympus 12-40 Sweet Spot

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Olympus Em5 with 12-40 lens. See blog text for settings.
Olympus Em5 with 12-40 lens. See blog text for settings.

I have noticed that when shooting with the Olympus EM5 I have become very lazy about setting the aperture. I have fallen into the habit of shooting at f/7.1 when using the 12-40mm lens. Unless there is something that’s very close to the camera I find that I can get away with using this aperture almost all the time. With this lens and aperture combination I find that it gives me an excellent depth of field for Landscapes but also produces sharp images that are well focussed from corner to corner.

But this isn’t to say that it’s the best aperture for the lens.

I have actually found that my lens tends to perform at its best when stopped down to around f/5.6. There is less depth of field at this aperture but you can still achieve a hell of a lot when used with the 12mm wide angle end of the lens. You just have to take care where you place the focus point – but more on that in another blog post.

You might also find a similar setting are also good with other Micro 43 lenses in this focal range. I also used to use a Panasonic 14-45 and this seem to match the performance characteristics of the 12-40.

The image above was taken inside an old kiln in the Royal Mint in Bolivia. It was shot at f/3.5 so that I could keep the ISO low (in this case ISO400) together with reasonably fast shutter speed as I was shooting hand held. Actually the shutter speed was 1/15” but it was sufficiently fast. I had the camera in burst mode and fired of a few shots one after the other to ensure one of these was sharp.

This lens seems to perform very well across most of the aperture range. Take a look at the enlargement of the top left of the image, shown below. This has minimal capture sharpening applied as part of the RAW conversion in Lightroom.

Corner sharpness at f/3.5
Corner sharpness at f/3.5

So whilst I am always keen to use my lenses at the optimum aperture, I don’t mind deviating if it means that I can capture the image.

Another EM5 Posting

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Taken with a Panasonic GX1 converted to shoot infrared. Post processing in Alien Skin Exposure 7.
Taken with a Panasonic GX1 converted to shoot infrared. Post processing in Alien Skin Exposure 7.

I’m excited. I have bought a second EM5 body given the recent drop in prices. It’s second hand but has a low shutter count. In fact I didn’t want a new EM5 as I am going to get this one converted to Infrared.

When I had the GX1 converted I used a company called ACS. They did a good job but took an age to do the conversion. This time I have spoken to a company called ProTech who a friend has used for a few conversions.

I hope to take delivery of the camera this weekend and then it’s off for the conversion. I hope to be able to report back in a few weeks time and make some comparisons regarding image quality.

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.

Friday image No.034

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Olympus OMD EM5 + 45mm Olympus lens
Olympus OMD EM5 + 45mm Olympus lens. Click the image to enlarge.

Yet another trip from my recent visit to Nantes in France.

This time I was walking along the river and spotted these three bird(two cormorants and a heron). They appeared quite tame as this was shot with my 45mm prime – it was the longest lens I had with me at the time. Fortunately it was the 45mm prime which is exceptionally sharp and will allow me to a high quality enlargement if required.

I hope you like it and have a great weekend.