On the weekend of 19th-21st May 2017 I travelled with my significant other to the teeming Wheatbelt metropolis of Narrogin as she had entered the annual “Guns and Roses” croquet tournament put on by the Narrogin Croquet Club. Twelve of Western Australia’s best players (the “Guns”) would partner eighteen lesser ranked players (the “Roses”). Each “rose” would get the opportunity to play with a different “gun” at each round. The idea, which seems an excellent one I might add, is that inexperienced players can learn off of top players. My role in this was the self-given task of producing a video documenting the proceedings.
Video is a fairly new medium for me, I’ve been playing around with it but I’ve really not got to grips with it. This was to be a complex multi day project and it wasn’t helped by the fact that it was bitterly cold and there was intermittent heavy rain (yes dear reader we do have cold wet weather in Australia). I ended up using my Olympus OMD EM1 mk i with the Olympus m.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 lens as the main camera, an Olympus Pen EP5 with the Olympus m.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 for wide shots, a Leica D-Lux for time lapses, and my iPhone for social video in the evenings. For sound I used shot-gun microphones (a Rode VideoMicro on the EM1 and a Rode VideoMic Pro on the EP5) to record straight into the cameras. No external audio recorder was used as I felt I had my hands full enough. By the end of the weekend I had got through nine batteries and ten 16Gb SD cards. The EM1 was used on a tripod (a Manfrotto MDEVE 755XB with Manfrotto MV500AH Fluid Video Head), the EP5 was on a video monopod (Manfrotto 562B-1 Fluid Video Monopod), and the Leica D-Lux was on a photo tripod (a very old Manfrotto 190 tripod fitted with an equally old ball head).
What I learnt from this exercise was:
the weather sealing on both the EM1 and the two lenses works very well. At times I got soaked in the rain and the camera just kept going with no adverse effects.
I should have used an audio recorder to get better sound and record some general background noise.
the 40-150mm f2.8 is not parfocal (it is not sold as such) and the autofocus kept drifting and in some cases would not lock on at all. Trying to focus on the night games using just the rear screen and no peaking was hard. Either a camera that has focus peaking in video mode or a monitor that allows it would be really good.
I shot most of the footage at 1080 at 25fps except for that on the EP5 which only shoots 1080 at 30fps. I used Toast Titanium’s video converter to reconfigure it as 1080 25fps. On the whole it worked out well, but on two clips that I really wanted it dropped frames and lost the sound. So next time I won’t mix clips of different frame rates.
With four cameras, each having its own idea of what a neutral colour setting is, made life very hard during editing. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the 8 bit 4.2.0 files didn’t like being pushed too much in post as they would quickly fall apart. It would have been nice to have had a more video orientated camera with a flatter profile and more robust codec.
I did the slow motion in post, it would have been nice to have shot at 60fps or higher to get nicer slo-mo.
I should have shot more B-roll and tried to interview on camera some of the participants.
As a learning experience this was a very good exercise and I enjoyed the whole process immensely. If money were no object I’d get a more video orientated camera and a video field monitor and recorder, but being as I am fiscally challenged I’ll have to settle for some more memory cards and batteries.
I first got my Olympus 60mm macro in May 2013 and wrote about it here. It is an amazing lens, but I was using it initially on an Olympus Pen EP-2 with the less than stellar 12Mp sensor I really wasn’t seeing what the lens was capable of. The picture of the mosquito on the Leopard orchid above was taken with the same lens but now mounted to an OMD EM-10 with the latest iteration of the 16Mp sensor. Tripod mounted and using flash I can now see how much detail the lens is able to resolve – you can see the hairs on the leg of the mosquito. Up until this morning when I processed the shot I never knew that mosquitos have hairy legs.
The other thing that I’m really taken with is the Olympus flash system. When I migrated from Canon I was particularly concerned about the flash capabilities and it was one of the reasons why I held onto my Canon kit. Now I have two dedicated speedlites for my Olympus kit, a Metz 44-AF1 (which I really do like) and a newer Olympus FL-600R (which I’m still getting to grips with and will be the subject of a separate blog entry a little later on). Like most things Olympus when you initially use the flash system the choices offered are quite daunting, but once you’ve set everything up it really is quite easy to use. The remote control for off camera flash is very sophisticated and make it very easy to get good results. Its only down fall is that it is radio controlled and there are no reliable third-party TTL radio controlled flash triggers. The day they arrive the Canon equipment will go.
The above shot shows how I had my camera set up to take the shots of the leopard orchids. The flash and the camera are mounted to a Custom Brackets Mini-RC via Manfotto quick release plates which makes setting things up a quick and easy affair. The TTL cable is by Aputure and was only $30 and the flash modifier is a cheap Chinese no name knock off of a Rogue FlashBender that I got off eBay for $5 including postage. What I like about it is that it is easy to use either handheld or tripod mounted.
As usual clicking on a photo will take you through to my online gallery.
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.
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.
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.
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.