Lessons Learnt From My Dog

Lewisham Boat Ramp
Lewisham Boat Ramp

One of the lessons that I have learnt from my dogs is that sometimes you should just follow your nose and live in the moment. Today we had planned to go up to Salamanca Markets, but at the last-minute we changed our minds and so I decided to take Frida out for a walk. Just out of habit I picked up my compact camera as we headed out of the door.We went down to a bit of beach we hadn’t been to before and just kept walking. We were having so much fun just looking and taking pictures. I had no pre-conceived ideas, I wasn’t out to make art I was just having fun. Before we knew it we had walked to the Lewisham boat ramp, so as it was warm we stopped to have a drink at the servo. Frida was being heathy and just had water, I had a Pepsi Maxi followed by a Magnum ice-cream. I knew we had stayed to long because Frida was getting fidgety so we had back home. I saw even more picture possibilities as we re-traced our steps simply because I was facing a different direction and the light had changed.

We both got home feeling happy. Frida is now sleeping in her bed as I write this, and I’m happy to have a day where we just were in the moment having fun.

 

Paddling in Pittwater
Paddling in Pittwater

 

Out Walking The Dog

Looking out over the Tasman Bridge over the Derwent River from the top of Rosny Hill.

Nothing of earth shattering importance this week. I took the faithful hound up to Rosny Hill for a walk. It was a beautiful saturday afternoon, and the track was quiet enough so she could run off the lead. All I had to do was just walk and look. I had my Panasonic LX5 with me so I just took some quick and dirty HDR panoramas.

Looking across the Derwent from Rosny Hill at Mount Wellington.

When I got home I just dropped them into Adobe Lightroom. First I did the HDR conversions using HDR Efex Pro2, and then I did the panoramic stitching in Photoshop CS5. Nothing complicated, just a few minutes on each.

Looking across Kangaroo Bay at Bellerive and Clarence Yacht Club. from Rosny Hill.

The dog enjoyed herself, I could tell for when we got home she went to bed. As the great canine philosopher, Snoopy, said “A tired puppy is a happy puppy”.

Olympus EM-10 Redux

 

It's Wet
It’s been raining – a lot! Most unusual for the Wheatbelt.

 

Well here I am back with another look at the EM-10 now I’ve had it in my possession for a month. First I’d like to thank reader Mike Hendren who set me straight about the bracketing feature. Thanks to him I’ve found that if you go into the HDR function then you can find lots of bracketing features. The camera is capable of in camera HDR and it processes the images as a jpg. The camera shoots a burst of four shots each with a different exposure and you have a choice of two settings for the output – one is more “dramatic” than the other.

 

Marwick's Barn
Marwick’s Barn, a large stone and timber structure with a high-pitched iron roof was built in the 1870s. Single exposure with just a little sharpening in Lightroom.

 

 

Marwick's Barn
In camera HDR from Olympus EM-10 using the “dramatic” setting.

Not a lot of difference really, just a flatter image. Scrolling past the in camera processing you can choose to bracket your exposures and then process the images on your computer. You have a choice of 3, 5 or 7 frames at -/+ 2 stops,  3 and 5 frames at -/+ 3 stops.  The picture below was 3 5 frames at -/+ stops and processed in Lightroom and HDR Efex Pro 2.

 

Marwick's Barn
Using the HDR bracketing function of the EM-10 to make 5 exposures -/+2 stops and then process in Google’s HDR Efex Pro.

If HDR is your bag then I think you have a definite idea of how you want your photos to look and will choose to blend the images in software on your computer. However, the function could be just the ticket if you’re a confirmed jpg shooter. Speaking of bracketing and jpgs,  then the Art Filter bracketing may prove to be a boon if you ever feel a little indecisive about how you want an image to look. You can choose as many of the filters as you like, but bear in mind that you will need a bit of patience while you wait for the buffer to be cleared.

 

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I must say that I’m pretty impressed with the robustness of the files the EM-10 produces, they hold up to post processing very well.

Albion
Detail of a vintage car radiator grill. Avon Tce, York, Western Australia. ORF processed in Lightroom and then in the desktop version of Snapseed.
Curly
Curly wire on a fence post. Focusing the Color-Heliar 75mm f2.5 wide open using focus peaking.Raw file processed using Lightroom and Snapseed.
Two's Company
Two horses kept on a property on the banks of the Avon River in York, Western Australia. Shooting with a 35mm Color-Skopar lens wide at f4 with focus peaking. Raw file processed using Lightroom and Snapseed.

 

Ceramic Flock
Sheep garden ornaments. Color-Heliar 75mm f2.5 wide open focused with focus peaking on the new Olympus EM-10. Raw file processed using Lightroom and Viveza 2.

Noise, both colour and luminance, seem very well controlled as this shot Diego my cockatiel shows.

Diego
High ISO noise test. Diego my cockatiel at ISO 6400. No noise reduction applied.
Diego's beak
High ISO noise test. Diego my cockatiel at ISO 6400. Close up of Diego’s beak to show noise.

 

Olympus has always had a good track record when it came to metering systems. The OM 3 and 4 introduced multi-spot reading with shadow and highlight priority, which made them very popular with adherents of the Zone System pioneered by Ansel Adams. The Om 40 saw the introduction of ESP metering which meters from several areas of the image and it is a more sophisticated version of this using 324 areas is present in the EM-10. Spot metering,  high light and shadow spot metering are also present, but multi-spot metering is not present. The metering is very accurate and backlit subjects don’t fool it into under exposing.

Razor Sharp
The ESP multizone metering handled this well with good detail being maintained in both the shadows and the highlights. Straight out of camera jpg.

A few readers asked questions about the capabilities of the camera. Several wanted to know whether the EM-10 was suited to BIF. Sorry the only biff I know about is jujitsu and aikido. Seriously I don’t have a lens long enough to attempt birds in flight, and when I try with my 40-150 they certainly take flight but can only be seen as tiny specks. I do have a sequence of Frida, my English Bull Terrier, doing a “bully run” .

 

Bully Run
Twelve frame sequence on low continuous shooting of my dog running towards me using the 40-150mm zoom. On some of the frames the focus tracking lost focus but then quickly reacquired.

I mentioned in the previous part of the review that I had used the EM-10’s pop up flash to act as a controller for off camera flash and several people asked how I did this. Well the video below should answer that question.

Another reader asked about using the inbuilt WiFi function. This is the first camera I have used with this function and I have to say I think it is really great. I used my iPad and it was brilliant to use it as a gigantic screen to aid with composition and focusing. The only downsides are that it uses up the camera battery real quick and you can’t use to in movie mode.

 

So, as I’ve got to know the camera have my feelings changed? Well I have to say when I first picked it up I felt that the camera felt unnecessarily complicated and frustrating to use. Four weeks on I have to say that we’re starting to establish a relationship, I’ve largely set the camera up so I don’t have to do much menu diving which means I can just get on and shoot. The metering is reliable and the files are great, so for still photography I think the EM-10 has the makings of good camera. As for video, well I’m still out to lunch on that one. As I said at the beginning of this entry it has been very wet here and so I’ve not had enough time to get out and shoot anything. I’m hoping to get out in the next week or two and shoot a small project with it, so when that is ready I’ll post my thoughts about it. Stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment.

I’m Back!

Tasmanian Devil sheltering under a fern during the normal Tasmanian weather – rain.

Well two weeks in Tasmania went faster than an Essex girl can drop her draws. Tasmania is photographic Nirvana and this wasn’t a management sanctioned photo expedition, but rather a holiday. This meant a tripod, full set of filters, an audio recorder and decent microphone were all left at home. All I took was the micro four thirds kit , with  circular polarizing filters and variable neutral density filters, and a tripod substitute in the form of the Manfrotto 585 Modosteady 3-in-1 Support Tripod. It’s a crap steadicam but works well as a light weight video rig and table top tripod. I’ve modified mine by adding a Manfrotto 323 Quick Release Plate Adapter so all my cameras can use a standard quick release mount.

Manfrotto 585 Modosteady 3-in-1 Support Tripod. It’s a video rig, table top tripod and steadicam all in one.

So with some guile and cunning I managed to maximise my photographic success rate by shooting a lot. I’m not us usually a spray and pray photographer, but this time the situation demanded it, but it was well thought out as I bracketed each shot by +/- one stop. This meant that for the landscapes and detail shots I could turn them into HDR images using Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro 2 when I got back home. I also shot a lot of panoramas, these were also bracketed, handheld. I’ve found using the rear LCD screen of my Olympus Ep-2 with the grid overlay means I can get reasonably level shots with sufficient overlap so Photoshop’s photo merge function can do a good job of lining everything up. The photo below was done handheld and was a total of 6 exposures with the bracketing. I first produce the HDR segment and then shove it Photoshop for the panorama.

South Bruny Lighthouse situated on Cape Brunny overlooking Lighthouse Bay.

I also shot a lot of 20 second video clips with the intent of using them along with the stills in a multi media presentation and video eats memory cards like Lance Armstrong takes steroids. In all I used up 60 Gb worth of memory cards. Thankfully class 6 memory cards are really cheap now so I was well stocked up with them. The other aspect of shooting lots is battery consumption. The battery life of mirrorless cameras is pants. Olympus reckon 300 shots from a fully charged battery but I’ve never got anywhere near that so I took six batteries with me and a charger. The most I used in one day was 3 batteries and that was on a very cold day and I’d shot a lot of video. I also took a battery charger with me, not the stock supplied one but a Hahnel Unipal Plus. This charged my camera batteries, the AAs in my torch and shaver, my phone and iPad. It’s a brilliant bit of kit and any travelling photographer should really consider getting one.

Universal charger from Hahnel. Indispensible for travelling.

Over the next few weeks as I process the images I’ll post them on the blog and talk about the hows and the whys.