Category Archives: apeture

My Latest Addition

I’ve been gone for awhile, enjoying a family vacation in the motorhome with my wife and 3 little dogs.  It was also a time where I could experiment with my latest addition to the camera family, the Olympus OM-D E-M5!

This camera was 1st introduced last year and received many great reviews.  Here are a couple in case you’re interested:

Steve Huff – OM-D Review
DP Review OM-D Review

The E-M5 is classified as a mirrorless camera, and not a DSLR.  While it does resemble a DSLR with it’s viewfinder, it really is a different camera.  The viewfinder is electronic (EVF), and works extremely well.  I really like this feature and is the one thing I have missed on my other mirrorless cameras.  Each of the others is equipped with a display on the back of the camera, and it can be difficult to use in certain conditions such as very bright sunlight.  The E-M5 also has a nice large display on the back on the camera, and it articulates, making it much more useful!

I’m one of those guys that jumps right in with cameras, spending very limited time with the manual.  It didn’t hurt having owned another Olympus (the E-P3) because the menu system is very similar.  One of the biggest improvements over my E-P3 is all of the external controls.  The E-M5 has a lot of buttons and dials (makes for faster setting changes).

One of the things I’ve been looking for in a mirrorless camera is better performance with fast moving subjects (airplanes, cars, kids).  As much as I love my E-P3, it really is lousy for this kind of photography.  The E-M5 on the other hand is amazing!  I’ve found the autofocus to be very fast, and having 9 frames per second doesn’t hurt either.  Will this replace my Canon 60D for airshows?  Only time will tell.

There is one other thing worth mentioning, and that is low light performance.  This is another area with my E-P3 struggles.  The E-P3 does work, but requires a tripod and careful handling.  The E-M5 is simply amazing in low light.  With the right lens and settings, this little camera can see better in the dark than I can.  I was very impressed with it’s low light performance.  In a real world example, I was standing near the Imperial Beach Pier after sunset.  The light was low, but beautiful and I thought I’d give it a try.  I used the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens set at f/2.8 and pressed the shutter.    The ISO was set at 1600 for this handheld shot:

Imperial Beach Pier, Olympus OM-D E-M5

The original image was a RAW file, converted to jpeg and resized, no other adjustments were made.

I was also able to use my recently acquired Rokinon 7.5mm Fisheye lens.  What a find this was!  The Rokinon is a manual focus lens, but that really wasn’t a problem.  For most of my shots, I had it set the aperture to either f/8 or f/5.6 and the focus to infinity.  I rarely had to make any other adjustments with these settings.  Here are a couple of photos from the E-M5 and Rokinon:

OM-D E-M5 and Rokinon Fisheye, Imperial Beach Pier

OM-D E-M5 and Rokinon Fisheye, Imperial Beach Pier

I have a couple of thoughts in closing this post.  The 1st is that there are some very good deals out there on equipment that is about to be superseded by the latest rendition or already has been.  The OM-D may be last years model, and although it has been superseded by the OM-D E-M1 it has proven to me that it’s an extremely capable camera!  There are some that must have the latest and greatest every time it is introduced, but that’s not the way I work.  If you can fight the urge to resist every little change in features, you can have what you want and save some $$$ too!  This really goes for anything (cars, bikes, cameras, phones…..).

And my final thought goes back to the E-M5 replacing my Canon 60D.  So far my testing is saying yes!  There are a couple of things I still want to try before selling the 60D, one of those being a kids baseball game!  If I can get similar results with my E-M5, I might just have to put the 60D up for sale.

That’s it for this post.  Until next time – Happy Shooting!

 

Get Your Kicks On Route 66

While on a road trip on the east bound I-40 from California to Oklahoma, I was able to make a quick side trip to the little town of Seligman, Arizona, on Route 66!

Route 66

Route 66, a.k.a. the Mother Road, was established in 1926, and stretched from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California for a total of 2,448 miles.  You can read more about it here – Route 66.

Unfortunately for little towns like Seligman (click the link to learn more) that lined Route 66, Interstate 40 (I-40) opened up, taking away all of the traffic that used to run through the towns.

Seligman seems to have survived and is a great place to stop, get out of the car, and walk around.  There’s a sense of nostalgia in the air.  I felt like I had stepped back in time while walking along the street, and enjoyed every moment.

There are also some wonderful subjects for photographers.  You have everything from street/people photography to colorful buildings and some great vintage cars and trucks!  Speaking of cars, Seligman is the town that the movie “Cars” town of Radiator Springs is loosely based on.  You’ll see some interesting references to it in the town.

Seligman, Arizona

My camera for this little visit was my Olympus E-P3 with its 14-42mm lens.  It was the perfect combination, being light weight and very low profile.  The nice thing about my Oly is that it doesn’t get in the way of my photography.  It does exactly what I want it to do with no fuss.  My results are consistent, predictable, and reliable.

Almost all of my photos were created with the camera set to Aperture Priority mode.  I also had it set up to bracket 3 exposures for further HDR post processing.  While that was my personal choice, you certainly don’t have to do it the same way.  Use whatever mode you’re most comfortable with.  Making memories is more important than all of the geeky techno stuff.  Whatever you do, try to enjoy the experience and don’t let your camera get in the way!

Here are a couple more shots from that day.  I hope you like them!

Seligman, Arizona

Seligman, Arizona

Seligman, Arizona

Seligman, ArizonaThat’s it for now.  Until next time, Happy Shooting!

Before and After

Before and After

It’s been too long since my last post!  Starting a new position (same Company) and the time change, and-and-and….  The extra time has allowed me to think this post through and hopefully it will help those interested in HDR.

The images above are of the same old truck, they were just processed differently and at different times.  The photo was taken at Bodie, a Ghost Town in California.  The only changes to the original below was to convert it from RAW to Jpeg and resizing.

Old Truck, Original, Sony NEX3

Overall, it’s not bad!  I used my Sony NEX3 for this and I think it handled the overhead harsh light quite nicely.  The settings I used were Aperture Priority, f/5.0, 1/500 sec., ISO 200.  I exaggerated the angle of the truck to give it a low to high perspective and a unique non-traditional point of view.

At the time I made this image, I was just getting interested in HDR photography, but didn’t really know much about it.  My thoughts were to make things as “grungy” as possible.  So, I really worked this old truck.  Since this was a single RAW file, I need to use it as a base to create the extra exposures needed for processing (Pseudo HDR).  It’s actually pretty easy to do, using programs such as Adobe’s Camera RAW or Lightroom (or several others).  Below is a screenshot of the Old Truck in Camera RAW:

Old Truck in Camera RAW

As you can see in the image above, there are quite a few adjustments you can make prior to exporting the image to your photo editor (Photoshop in my case).  The most important one to the Pseudo HDR process is the “Exposure” slider.  The exposure is currently “0”, meaning this is exactly as it was recorded in the camera.  The beauty of using RAW is being able to make adjustments to previous camera settings.  The RAW file could be considered a Digital Negative.  Click on this link to read more about RAW files.

Change the exposure in any increment you’d like + or – up to 2 stops, saving each increment as another image file.  I like to use Tiff files at this stage of the game.  You can create as many as you’d like, but for me I usually do them 1 stop apart both + and -, with 5 total images to work with.

Next, import all of your images into Photomatix or your favorite HDR processing program.  Below is a screenshot of the images merged for tone mapping in Photomatix:

Tone Mapping in Photomatix

If you compare the original RAW image to the one being tone mapped in Photomatix, you’ll already notice improvements in color, clarity, and shadow detail.  And another area of improvement is the white puffy clouds.  They seem to have more pronounced detail without being over done.

Another thing to notice in the Photomatix screen shot are all of the adjustment slider on the left and some of the presets on the right.  This is where you can either keep it real or in some cases, over-cook an image.  Since this isn’t a tutorial on using Photomatix, I’ll keep it short and say that I now stay away from the presets, and simply adjust the sliders until I get close to what I’m looking for.  Once the tone mapping process is done, you can save your newly merged and tone mapped image and bring it into your favorite photo editor for some final tweaks.

The image below is what the truck looked like after some heavy handed Photoshop adjustments:

Old Truck in Photoshop

Is there anything really wrong with this version of the Old Truck?  No, not really.  It boils down to personal taste.  While I was pleased with it at the time, I’m no longer interested in over doing the HDR, preferring instead to keep things somewhat real.

Here’s a short run-down of my “keeping it real” process.  I imported a version of the Old Truck into Photoshop that had some of the original features I wanted to retain, in this case it would be the sky.

Next, I copied that image, and pasted it into my work-in-progress as another layer.  Finally, I added a layer mask, picked a paint brush from the tools and painted away the parts of the image I wanted to keep the HDR look and left out the parts I wanted to keep real.  Here’s a screenshot of what that looked like in Photoshop:

Old Truck, Layers and Masks

There are already a lot of great tutorials on-line so I’m not going to go into specific detail.      If you like to actually see someone demonstrating this technique, I suggest going to Youtube and doing a search.  You’ll find more short videos on this subject than you may care to watch.

The main thing to know about using layers and masks is that you have the ability to blend in any part of one image with any other part of a separate image.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

And finally, here’s my newly re-processed version of the Old Truck:

Old Truck, Final version

Personally, I like this version much more than my original attempt.  It has both HDR elements that add some great texture and detail in the shadow areas, and just a touch of grunge without over doing it.  The other thing I like is the sky.  It’s much more real than my 1st version.  The clouds are puffy and slightly dreamy looking, not harsh and over done.

That’s it for this post!  Don’t be bashful, share your thoughts, questions, or comments.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!