Timing Really Is Everything!

Timing is everything, really! This is especially true with photography. Sometimes it’s more about your timing than your equipment. Fortune not only favors the bold, but also the well prepared.

When you go somewhere to take some photos, a little planning can go a long way in creating interesting and unique images, vs. snapshots. So, how does one prepare? Scouting a location you’re interested in helps. You can also use Google Earth and Maps to get an idea of what to expect. And, since there’s an app for virtually anything including photography, you should take advantage of them. Personally, I use one for my Android phone call PlanIt For Photographers. This app (and others like it) can tell you which direction the sun will rise and set, but also when the best light will happen. PlanIt also has the ability to tell me when and where the Moon will rise/set, along with the Milky Way!

A quick note about gear. It’s nice to have a high end, high dollar camera and lens. However, it’s not an absolute requirement. My gear costs a fraction of what some of the high end stuff does, but I don’t let that stop me. Learn how to use what you have to maximize the results you can achieve. I’ve done some night shots of city lights using my Sony RX100 (technically a point and shoot camera). To maximize my results, I put it on a tripod and used the timer to get my shots. My point is that you don’t need to spend a ton of money on gear.  Use what you have to get started, and it may surprise you!

In addition to doing your homework and knowing when the best light is for a particular scene, you also need to bring some patience. There are times when the light may seem like it’s done and gone for the night, but it’s definitely worth it to wait. More than once I’ve been at a site, along with other photographers…the sun sets, and the others pack their bags and head for their cars. I waited, not long, maybe 10 or 15 minutes at the most. And – BAM! The magic happens! Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:


The shot above is the Imperial Beach Pier. You can see that the sun has just about set.

Compare this shot to the one above it. They were taken from just about the same spot, but about 15-20 minutes later. Quite a difference!

This next shot was taken when the sun was low in the sky. The light was very nice, and I could have called it good and packed up.

Now in this case, I waited more than 15 minutes. I wanted to get the San Diego Waterfront all lit up.

Personally, I like the second shot much better. While the first version is nice, and I wouldn’t have a problem sharing it with anyone, the second one is much more appealing. In order to make this shot work, I put my Panasonic FZ1000 on a tripod, and used a delayed timer for the shutter (to help minimize vibration).

To sum up this post, here are the main points:
Prepare – use Google Earth/Maps or get an app (PlanIt or something similar).
Timing – get to the location and set up before best light.
Patience – the show may not be over when the sun has set, give it another 10 or 15 minutes.
City Lights – you may need to stay a little longer to catch the city all lit up (bring a tripod).

That’s it for this post, until next time – Happy Shooting!

FZ1000, Landscape Camera?

Can a camera like the Panasonic FZ1000 be used as a landscape camera?  I’ve seen questions like this, not only for the FZ1000, but also for other small sensor cameras.  From my experience using several different types of cameras, I’d say – Yes!

Yes, of course you can use the FZ1000 for landscapes, or anything else for that matter.  It all depends on your expectations.  If you want to use the FZ1000 in good light, and put it on a tripod from time to time, I think you’ll find that it works quite well.  The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is big and bright, and the controls are easily accessed to make any changes that you’d like.  Put a 62mm filter on it (like a polarizer or ND) and go for it!

Now, if you want to do some handheld, low light shooting, that’s a different story.  While the FZ1000 does quite well with its built-in image stabilizer and decent high ISO performance, it can’t compete with larger sensor cameras (Canon 6D, 5D, etc….).  If that’s what you want to do, then you need to step up your game, and spend some serious money on the larger sensor camera and even more money on fast lenses.

Getting back to the FZ1000 as a landscape camera, I have to say that overall I’ve been very pleased with its performance.  I was recently able to spend a few weeks in the Eastern Sierra for the annual turning of the leaves.  The Fall Color is always a favorite subject of mine.  I switched back and forth between my M43 Olympus E-M5 and the FZ1000.  Here are a few highlights from using each camera for landscapes:

  • E-M5
    Small, very solid in the hand
    Interchangeable lenses
    Plenty of external controls
    Poor EVF
  • FZ1000
    Not so small, not quite as solid in the hand
    Fixed zoom lens, great range
    Plenty of external controls
    Excellent EVF

My plan of walking/hiking with both cameras was to see how each performed in similar settings.  Nothing scientific about it, just my “seat of the pants” experiences.  To cut to the quick, both cameras worked well.  Trying to keep things simple, I put each camera in its own bag.  Even though the FZ1000 is physically larger than the E-M5, it was lighter in the bag because of its wonderful fixed zoom lens.  The E-M5’s bag was a little heavier because I had to carry a few different lenses to match the range of the FZ1000.  Heavy is a relative term in this situation.  Compared to a larger DSLR and equally large lens, both the FZ1000 and E-M5 are very light and easy to walk/hike with!

Along with the E-M5 and FZ1000, I brought along a small, light weight tripod with 2 matching baseplates for quick camera changes.  Both the E-M5 and FZ1000 have excellent 5-axis image stabilization built-in, but for landscapes, I generally prefer to use a tripod and either a remote shutter release or timer.  I also switched between using the EVF’s on both cameras and the LCD’s.  The E-M5’s LCD tilts up and down, and the FZ1000’s not only tilts, but also swivels.  This allows you to put it in quite a few more positions than the E-M5’s, and is especially useful for getting unusual angels (very low or high).  Don’t get me wrong, both of them worked quite well, but I think the FZ1000’s was just a little bit better.

Please keep in mind that a lot of this comparison is very subjective.  We all have our personal preferences, and they can change quite frequently.  After having used the FZ1000 almost non-stop, I had to pause and get the feel for the E-M5 again.  It always feels solid, and looks like a finely crafted machine.  But it is smaller, along with all of its controls.  The FZ1000 felt more natural to use.  The FZ1000’s EVF is big and bright and made the E-M5’s EVF a pain to use.  But once I got re-acquainted with the E-M5, it ended up working out quite well.

Here are some examples from the FZ1000:




And just for comparison, here are a couple from the E-M5:


** Disclaimer – These images were edited for the original RAW files (that just the way I roll)!

I think the results speak for themselves. Just because you have a camera with a smaller sensor, don’t let that stop you from using it for serious landscapes. Serious in this case means specifically going out to capture scenic views, maybe at sunrise or sunset, rather than just grabbing a selfie or snapshot in passing. Yes, there are some advantages in using DSLR’s with large sensors, but they are by no means the only game in town! Keep your expectations realistic and work within the strengths of your camera rather than its limitations and you’ll do just fine!

That’s it for this post, until next time – Happy Shooting!

Mono Lake Drama

Mono Lake is one of my favorite places for photography.  My wife, 3 small dogs, and I make an annual trip to the Eastern Sierra for Fall colors and I always try to make the short trip to Mono Lake.  This year was no exception.

As usual, I brought along several cameras.  The lineup included my Olympus E-M5, Sony RX100, and Panasonic FZ1000.  So far the FZ1000 has seen the most use, followed closely by the RX100.  Sadly the E-M5 has seen no use (the trip isn’t over just yet).  Why the FZ1000?  Because it is the most versatile camera I have ever owned.  I used it to make photos of everything from the Alabama Hills and Eastern Sierra under nothing but moonlight, and to take quick snaps of a herd of deer passing through camp, handheld in low light.

Getting back to Mono Lake. I had a lot of fun with the FZ1000.  The clouds were really dramatic on the day of my visit.  They were so dramatic that they almost didn’t seem real.  I’m sure Mono Lake has had millions of photos made of it.  One of the things I like to do is see if I can find something different, something unique to set my photos apart.  The stormy sky was a big help with that!  The other thing I did was try out some of the different artistic modes available in the FZ1000.  I did shoot normally (RAW, aperture priority, ISO 125/200), but also made quite a few photos using the “Dramatic Black and White” mode.

Here are the results in Dramatic Black and White:

And just for fun, here are some in color (edited from the original RAW files):

I know there are some of you that are wondering if a camera like the FZ1000 is for you. Nobody can answer that question for you but you. But based on my experience using this camera, I can say with confidence that it is an amazing camera! Yes, it is considered a bridge camera (not a DSLR), and it has a 1″ sensor vs cameras with larger APS-C and M43 sensors. And one more thing, it really isn’t that small. In fact, it’s quite large compared to my E-M5. On the plus side, it is quick and easy to use. And not having to change lenses is huge! I carry it and a few other supplies in a small messenger bag. I think the image quality is excellent, and I’m able to tweak the RAW files as much (or little) as I want. Don’t count this camera out (or one like it) just because of its sensor size!

That’s it for this post, until next time Happy Shooting!

Photography, Plain & Simple!