Category Archives: apeture

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!

Using the GX-1 at an Air Museum

I have a Panasonic GX-1. It was purchased on a whim because of a “deal of the day” advertisement that I saw online. The deal was too good to pass up!  The GX-1 showed up in a few days and I immediately started using it.  And then, it stayed unused in a camera bag.

My thought on getting the GX-1 was as a back up camera to my Olympus E-P3.  Both of these cameras are in the same class, Micro Four Thirds (MFT) and are known as mirrorless cameras.  Neither one has an optical or electronic viewfinder and you must rely on the LCD on the back of the camera for picture taking.  While not really pocketable, they are both much smaller than my DSLR (Canon 60D), and produce very nice images.  This type of camera is generally not very good at any type of fast action photography, but do quite well for just about anything else.

I really loved my Olympus E-P3, from the moment I first picked it up.  It felt solid and has a nice retro look.  I’ve taken some very nice photos with it too!  The E-P3 is starting to show its age, especially with its older 12mp sensor.  Low light high ISO capability was not really one of its strengths.  To counter that and work within this limitation, I kept the ISO low and put the E-P3 on a tripod in low light.  The solid build has come into play for me personally.  While out hiking with the E-P3, I slipped and fell – twice!  I came away with some scrapes and bruises, and so did the E-P3.  Nothing too serious but there are a couple of battle scars on it.  Other than the pop-up flash not working very well, the rest of it is just fine.

As for the GX-1, it doesn’t have a very solid feel and is definitely not retro.  The body doesn’t look bad, it just seems like it has more plastic than the E-P3.  Both the GX-1 and E-P3 have plenty of external controls and touch screens.  I’m kind of funny in that I don’t really care for the touch screens and turned them off.  The GX-1 is a very capable camera, and has a newer 16mp sensor and better low light, high ISO performance than the E-P3, and when I used it, found that it too produced some very nice images.  The other plus of having the GX-1 is that being a MFT camera, it could use all of the lenses that I currently had for the E-P3.  I just never really warmed up to it and didn’t use it, especially after getting my Olympus E-M5.

A week or so ago, I was digging around in my camera bags and saw the GX-1.  I decided to get it out, dust it off, and give it another try.  One of the places that I enjoy walking around and using my cameras is the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino California.  It’s fairly close, and always has interesting subjects.  What better place to get re-acquainted with the GX-1!

To my surprise, I enjoyed using the GX-1 more this time than I had when I first got it.  I used my Olympus 17mm f/1.8 and 45mm f1/8 lenses and tried to capture images in a variety of conditions.  Nothing that I want to get too technical about, suffice it to say that there was quite an extreme difference in the indoor lights of the hangars and the harsh mid-day sun.  Not the most ideal shooting conditions, but very realistic.  You can’t always have an epic sunrise or sunset with deliciously warm, golden light.  Sometimes you have to work with what you have!

Here are some of the pictures from that day.  I had the GX-1 in aperture priority mode, and changed the aperture (f/stop) and ISO according to the brightness of the light.  I also set the camera to shoot RAW for the express purpose of post processing.  I know there are some that don’t like post processing, and that’s just fine for them.  Personally, I enjoy working on my photos and finding new methods for creating an image.  Sometimes it’s black and white, sometimes HDR, and other times just a few minor tweaks.  Since I don’t consider myself a journalist or documentarian, I have no problem with post processing.  But to each his own, it’s all good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m very pleased with the GX-1, it was fun to use again.  It’s fairly small and easy to carry around.  I got used to changing settings and didn’t have to fumble around too much.  The RAW files provide good quality images with plenty of pixels for me to play with in post.  I think I’m going to keep it out and use it some more!  Unfortunately it has been discontinued by the manufacturer, but is still available if you look around.  I found it on Amazon – GX-1.

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

Cable Airshow and my OM-D E-M5

The Cable Airshow was something I was looking forward to for a couple of reasons.  The 1st was because it’s an airshow!  And the 2nd is because it was a great place to finally give my Olympus OM-D
E-M5 a real workout!

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5

I’ve been wondering, since I got my E-M5, whether or not it would be a replacement for my Canon 60D, especially with regards to the fast action of an airshow.  And I finally have my answer. Unfortunately it’s no!

In order to really put the E-M5 to the test, I left my Canon 60D at home. This forced me to use the E-M5 in every situation, from high speed fly-by’s to static displays. I brought lenses for the show, but stayed mostly with the Panasonic 45-200mm. I found the 45-200mm adequate, and for this airshow seldom needed the extra reach of a longer lens. The key, no matter which camera system you may own is to be patient. While it can be tempting to start shooting while the planes are far off, the best method for getting that great shot is to wait for them to get closer and then press that shutter. It sounds easier than it is to actually do! As you hear the low rumble of the engines in the distance, the excitement begins to build and you just may not be able to wait. I know I still have that trouble.

As the show progressed, I started to get comfortable with the performance of the E-M5. I set the camera to shutter priority, 1/200th of a second, and let the camera choose the appropriate aperture (f-stop). Some of the other settings were ISO 200, high speed shutter at 9 fps, and RAW file format.

With the shutter speed fixed at 1/200th, the camera could not achieve its maximum 9 fps. How can I tell?  By the sound. Not very scientific and more seat of the pants, but it’s definitely not 9 fps. When I switched over to aperture priority and set the f-stop to f/4, there was a distinct difference in the sound of the shutter firing away in very rapid succession!

Getting back to the airshow, I picked out a good spot about midway down the field and staked out my claim (put my chair down). The planes would take off right in front of me! And, when they would do their fly-by’s, I was perfectly situated to track and pan each plane as it flew by. The E-M5 has an EVF (electronic viewfinder), as opposed to the standard optical viewfinder found on DSLR’s like my Canon 60D. While the EVF on the E-M5 is very good, I noticed a problem using it while trying to track and pan the planes as they quickly flew by. The shutter was firing and I was panning, but the EVF couldn’t seem to keep up. The image in the EVF seemed to stutter, and I’d lose track of the plane. Since I couldn’t consistently keep track of the plane, I’d sometimes end up with pieces of it in the frame and not the whole thing. Frustrating to say the least.

There is a lot of chatter online about the inability of the E-M5 to perform continuous auto focus for fast action. This seems especially true for those involved in capturing birds in flight. One of the techniques used as a work around is the set the camera for single focus, using just one central focus point, pick a spot where the action will happen and press the shutter when your subject enters the frame. Actually I used a modified version of this, tracking and panning the action as best as I could and once the focus locked on I’d press the shutter. I’d capture a few frames and even with the stuttering EVF, I’d try to keep up with the plane, pick another spot, lock the focus on and capture a few more frames.

Compared to my Canon 60D, this is a very clunky way to work. It seems strange that my DSLR 60D, with all of its moving parts does a better job with this type of photography than my high tech E-M5. I don’t think the 60D was much better at locking focus, but it’s defiantly much better at keeping the image in view (optical viewfinder) and continuous auto focus.

There is one thing that I think the E-M5 is equal too or even a little better than the 60D, and that is image quality. Of the shots that I did capture  that were acceptable, I was very pleased with how clean they were. The color and contrast were very nice out of the camera, and even better when adjusted in Photoshop.

And now, here are the results:

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5

Overall, I’m pleased with my results, difficult as they were to achieve. And there’s some good news, I don’t have to wait until May for the Chino Planes of Fame Airshow, there’s a new airshow happening in March and the Blue Angels will be there! Its called the LA County Airshow, here’s the link – I’ll be attending and brining both my Canon 60D and E-M5.

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