Teaser

Been playing with a new lens – and so far I’ve been very impressed and it’s made me reconsider my camera system. I’ll put up a full report in the next week or two. Here are a couple of photos to whet your appetite.

 

Back lit bully. Frida modelling for a lens test.

 

Bully blast off! Frida helping test the auto focus capabilities of a new lens.

 

Both shots were taken with the Canon 6d, which continues to amaze me with its picture quality, and converted to monochrome in AlienSkin’s Exposure 4.

Warning

Warning by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Warning Bull Terrier on guard duty! York, Western Australia. Sony A7r with Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 lens. Exposure: 1/800, f4 at ISO 200.

I’ve had a tremendous change in my workflow of late. Initially when I trained in photography at college we taught to do all our processing in Adobe Photoshop. I think version 4 was the then current one. By the time I started lecturing in photography at the same college things had moved on considerably. Photoshop was no longer the main emphasis, although still taught. The new kid on the block was Lightroom and that is what we focused on. It provided important digital asset management (DAM) as well as allowed a certain amount of non destructive photo processing. Over time its features became more powerful and I rarely opened up Photoshop. Of late I have become dissatisfied with Adobe. One of the main things that started this malaise was Adobe shift away from  perpetual licences to “rent ware” or monthly subscriptions. Initially I went along with this, but it seemed that there were a lot of bugs in the software and I spent a lot of time on the phone to Adobe trying to fix niggling little problems. It was almost as if now because they had a cannula into our wallets there was no incentive to do any quality control on their products. So I stopped my subscription and went back to using Lightroom 6 and Photoshop CS5 vowing to find an alternative to Adobe products. Well I’ve now settled on one!!! It is Alienskin Exposure. I’ve just upgraded to version 4 and am really happy with it. The above photo was processed using Exposure and I’m now using it every day. In fact the photos I’ve submitted for my latest book were all processed with it as well. If you’re in the market for new photo processing software what not give it a burl.

Dry River Bed

Australian summers are hot and dry, and while we are not in a drought cycle like the Eastern States, it does get very warm here in York. 45º C is not unheard of. The hot weather and the lack of rain means that the Avon River largely dries up with the exception of a few deep pools, and so I often go walking along the dry river bed with Frida my faithful canine companion as it allows me to view quite a variety of wildlife that congregates around the pools.

Western Whistler by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Female Western Whistler, sometimes called the Western Golden Whistler, (Pachycephala occidentalis). York, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM10 with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II lens. Exposure: 1/1000sec, f7.1 at ISO 500.

 

Southern Scrub Robin by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A Southern Scrub Robin, Drymodes brunneopygia, achives vertical take off. The Nyoongar name is Djibot. York, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM10 with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f7.1 at ISO 500.

 

White-faced Heron by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae). York, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 250.

 

Brown Honeyeater by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Brown Honeyeater, Lichmera indistincta.The Nyoongar name is Djindjoko. York, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 3200.

 

Sacred Kingfisher by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Sacred Kingfisher, Todiramphus sanctus. Known by the Nyoongar as Koonyenok. Avon River, York, Western Australia. Canon EOS 550d with a Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 250.

It’s not just birds we see, there are small fish in the ponds (difficult to photograph) and masses of different insects like this damselfly below.

Blue Ringtail Damselfly by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Blue ringtail damselfly (Austrolestes annulosus,) at rest on the Avon River, York, Western Australia. Canon EOS 550d with a Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 1250.

 

Frida usually takes my photographic hijacking of her morning walks with good grace. She usually waits for me either in some convenient shade or as shown below standing in some water. She’s not as daft as she looks!

Keeping Cool by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Frida waiting patiently in the cool of a water pool.

The other morning we were quite surprised to have a fox pop out of the long grass on the river bank and on to river bed. Initially it took off, but when it saw that Frida wasn’t in hot pursuit slowed down and turned back. The fox and Frida then played a mad game of chase up and down taking it in turns to be the chaser and the the chasee. Quite delightful to watch. It was like the canine equivalent of Kevin Costner’s film Dances With Wolves. Unfortunately by this time the battery in the camera had run flat so I was unable to take any photos of this rather special occurrence. Although this being a predominantly farming community most round here would not regard it as such as they belong to the “only good fox is a dead fox” brigade. A couple of days later we went back to see if the event could be repeated and I had a pocket full of batteries to ensure that I got some photos. We did find the fox in the same location but this time both it and Frida were indifferent to each other and the fox disappeared into the undergrowth on the opposite bank. Again I stuffed up the photography and all I got was the slightly blurred image below. Perhaps we’ll try again.

 

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) on the Avon River river bed. York, Western Australia.

The soundtrack for summer in the Western Australian bush is provided by Broome based band the Pigram Brothers and their track Dry River Bed provided the title and inspiration for this blog entry.

 

When your drifting on the ocean
and the sea is a perfect blue
But those storm clouds on the horizon
are keeping you true to who are you
So take me away ‘cross the spinifex plains
where the true mirage never ends
And the smell of the rain is a long way away
lay me down on my dry river bed
Don’t have no white picket fence,
don’t have no green english lawn
Just got heat waves dancing for me,
on the red dirt where I was born
Feel the heart of my country,
beating to them lonely blues
Gotta get back there, gotta get back there,
I’ll be back there real soon
Pigram Brothers – Dry River Bed
Music and Words: ( S Pigram/A, D, G, P, S Pigram, P Mamid)

Tootling in Toodyay

We decided to walk along the Bilya Walk Track on the banks of the Avon River in Toodyay ostensibly looking for birds. Although it was a fine winter’s day the ground was yes wet, flooded in places, and the river very high from the winter rains.

 

Toodyay Bird Walk by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Helen and Frida out looking for birds along the Avon River.

 

 

Frida by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Gratuitous shot of Frida

 

 

Toodyay Bird Walk by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The track was flooded in places necessitating some paddling.

 

Oxalis pes-caprae by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A bee pollinating Oxalis pes-caprae. Also known as Bermuda buttercup, African wood-sorrel, Bermuda sorrel, buttercup oxalis, Cape sorrel, English weed, goat’s-foot, sourgrass, soursob and soursop. It is a noxious weed introduced from South Africa to Australia. Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

 

Toodyay Stump #1 by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Toodyay Stump #1 Tree stump, Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

Toodyay Stump #2 by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Toodyay Stump #2

 

Knobbly by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Knobbly Close up of a tree trunk. Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

Brown Honeyeater by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Brown honeyeater, Lichmera indistincta, Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

Crested Pigeon by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Crested pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes), Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

Weebill by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Weebill, , Australia’s smallest bird. Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

Neighbours by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
White-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) and a western corella (Cacatua pastinator subsp. derbyi), Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

So mission accomplished and a good day out.

Kidding About

Kidding About by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Young kids on the Avon Walk Trail in York, Western Australia. Sony A7r with Voigtlander 35mm f2.5 Color Skopar lens mounted via a Fotodiox DLX Stretch Leica M to NEX mount adapter. Exposure: 1/200th sec, f5.6 at ISO 100.

Most morning I walk the dog along the Avon River and regular readers will have seen some of the photos I’ve taken while doing so. We walk past this garden which is home to a sheep, an alpaca and these two kids. The kids are about four times the size from when we first met them. Frida is fascinated by them as they come to the fence and prance about. They certainly aren’t scared of her. The male puts his head to the wire and Frida does the same, generally they just push but sometimes they gently but each other all while the alpaca watches on disapprovingly.

 

The Long And The Short Of It

The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II mounted on an OMD EM-10.

 

The Olympus m.Zuiko 75-300mm f4.8-6.7 mk ii (which shall now on referred to as the 75-300) is an updated version of their original super telephoto zoom for the micro four thirds format.Yes I said super telephoto zoom because that is what it is as it is equivalent to a 150-600mm lens in 35mm sensor terms.

The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II mounted on an OMD EM-10.

 

The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II compared with Canon EF 75-300 f4.5-5.6 IS for comparison. The Olympus gives an equivalent focal length of 150-600mm.

Keeping up with the m4/3s promise of smaller cameras and lenses this lens does not disappoint. It fits comfortably in the hand is quite a bit smaller than my Canon 75-300mm f3.5-5.6 IS which only covers half the focal range when mounted on my EOS5d. There are rumours on the various forums that the lens is designed and built by Sigma, but there is no evidence of that fact when looking at it. The 75-300 is largely constructed from engineering plastic and has a metal mount. There is no weather sealing. The lens extends while zoom, roughly doubling its length, there is no lens creep which is nice. While not heavy it feels reassuringly dense in the hand and not at all cheap and wobbly like some budget zoom lenses.The filter diameter is 58mm which it shares with the 40-150mm f4-5.6 and means that filters won’t be too pricey. Optically the lens has 18 elements in 13 groups, two of which are ED glass and one is Super ED (extra low dispersion). These exotic elements are there to minimise chromatic aberration throughout the zoom range. They certainly do the job for when I open up images shot with the 75-300 in Lightroom they are remarkably free of CA. The lenses elements are coated with Olympus propriety ZERO (Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical) coatings and I’ve found the lens to be quite resistant to backlit flare, however flare can be induced by bright light sources just outside of the frame so I would heartily recommend the use of a lens hood. Unfortunately Olympus does not include one in the box.

 

Cracticus tibicen hypoleuca is a subspecies of white backed magpie found on Tasmania, King and Flinders Islands.

 

A pink and grey galah at our bird table.

 

Performance wise the 75-300 is remarkably good for a lens of this price and zoom range. The AF is quick and precise when shooting stills on both my EM-10 and EP-5, and quite a lot slower when shooting video. Optically the lens is very sharp up until the 200mm mark and then it does soften slightly, but this is not at all unusual with zoom lenses, which is unfortunate because this lens will be bought more for its uses at 300mm than 75mm. There is not a lot of love for this lens on the internet forums where it is harshly criticised for it performance at the long end, but from my experience with it it’s not as bad as people make out. I wonder whether camera shake is a contributing factor here. While Olympus bodies have In Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS) there is a limit to what it can achieve and we have to remember that this is the equivalent of a super telephoto 600mm lens in full frame terms and not many people would expect to handhold one of those and get tack sharp results. When using the lens on a tripod and monopod it certainly delivers the goods. When handholding I would certainly recommend not using a shutter speed of lower than 1/300th sec even when using IBIS.

 

Kite surfing off Park Beach in Tasmania.

 

Kite surfing off Park Beach in Tasmania.

Downsides of the 75-300. Well the slow maximum aperture will be a drawback for many, and I’ve read many threads where people have stated they would have preferred a constant f4. This all very well but lens design is a compromise and such a lens would be very large and heavy and cost considerably more. Personally I don’t mind using higher ISOs to keep the shutter speeds up as I’m happy to clean up my images with Niksoft’s Denoise. Another downside is when shooting video – this is not really a lens for run and gun style shooting, it is much to long to effectively control shooting handheld. Even on a tripod the lens showed up the failings of my fluid head for when panning there was quite a pronounced shudder when using it at its longest end.

Overall I feel that the few drawbacks are outweighed by the positives and I like this lens a lot. It is a very good lens when one considers the price. In Oz a full frame equivalent will cost at least double. I would recommend the 75-300 to anyone who was prepared to accept the trade offs involved i.e compact size and affordability versus the slow maximum aperture and the slight softening of the image at the long end. At the time of writing this there is only one other alternative, the Panasonic Lumix G.Vario 100-300mm f4-5.6 OS, which is at the same price point and has a similar performance. I would only consider the Panasonic over the Olympus if I was shooting on a Panasonic camera which has no IBIS. Both Olympus and Panasonic are introducing higher performance lenses at the 300mm focal length at some time in the near future, but I think we’ll find they are considerably bigger and more expensive.

 

Two black faced cormorants, a little black cormorant, and a little pied cormorant hang out while a silver gull watches on. Lewisham, Tasmania.

 

Frida giving me a cheeky grin while waiting for me to catch up.

So if you fancy doing a bit of sport or wildlife photography then I would thoroughly recommend this lens to all Olympus users.

The Spring Flush Continues

Jug Orchid, Pterostylis recurva, Mount Observation, Western Australia. Canon EOS 550d, Sigma 105mm macro, I/125 sec at f8, ISO 1600 with fill flash.

My shoulder has recovered well from the recent surgery and I’ve been able to get out and about round York. The other day I took a speculative drive out looking for dancing spider orchids when I found this solitary little jug orchid. Normally not seen up in the wandoo forest and when found they are usually in largish colonies. So it was a nice little find and compensated for not finding the others.

Parts of Mount Brown, in York Western Australia, are covered in a carpet of pink everlastings ( Rhodanthe chlorocephala ssp rosea ). Panasonic Lumix LX-5. Exposure: AE priority 1/250 s at f/8.0, ISO 80 with -1 stop exposure compensation and -1 stop flash exposure compensation. Focal length the equivalent of 24mm lens on full frame

Every other day I’m walking up on Mount Brown, which is in York, with the dog and it is now covered with a carpet of flowers that are a riot of pinks and yellows. Even the weeds are looking fantastic!

Non-native yellow daisy Arctotheca calendulae. Mount Brown, York, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix LX-5. Exposure – aperture priority 1/640 s at f/8.0, ISO 80, with -1 stop exposure compensation with fill flash with -1 stop flash exposure compensation.

Of course me on my hands and knees crawling among the flowers created a lot of amusement for Frida, my bull terrier. It took ages to clean the dog slobber from off the front element of my lens.

Frida running through a meddow of pink everlastings on Mount Brown in York, Western Australia.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the photos click on the image and go through to my online gallery.