Category Archives: HDR

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!

March Field Air Museum

It’s been a couple of years since my last visit to the March Field Air Museum (MFAM).  The reasons I had for making a return visit were first and foremost to see what was new.  Occasionally I pass by the museum which is located right off of the freeway in Riverside, and could see that some changes were being made.  My second reason was sort of a challenge.  MFAM has some strict rules about photography, such as no tripods, monopods, or camera bags.  I intended to follow those rules (although I never bring a tripod to air museums or air shows) and limit myself to minimal camera gear.  In this case, I brought my Olympus E-M5 with 45mm f/1.8 lens, Rokinon Fisheye lens, and my little Sony RX100.  Finally, the weather was changing and there were some fantastic clouds (not much rain), perfect dramatic backgrounds for airplane photos!

Walking up to the main building there are a couple of planes on display.  Just past those, you’ll notice several memorials.  They are all contained in what the museum calls the “Heritage Courtyard”.  The memorials include:

  • War Dog Memorial
  • P-38 Lightning Memorial
  • Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) Memorial
  • 15th Air Force Wall
  • Freedom Wall

Be sure to take a little time and look over these memorials!


Once you’re inside the main building, you’ll see the SR-71.  You can’t help but see it since it dwarfs everything else inside the space.  There are an abundance of other displays along the walls surrounding the SR-71 that are worth spending some time visiting.  I spent some of my time walking around the SR-71.  There’s something about that plane that has intrigued me since I was a kid.  I just wish I was able to see one in the air.  I did learn something about the SR-71 from my Dad.  He mentioned to me recently that he worked at the Lockheed Skunkworks for several years, and during that time worked on the 1st SR-71.  My Dad had a long career in aircraft and retired from McDonnell Douglas with over 30 years.  I knew he worked for Lockheed before his time at McDonnell Douglas, but never gave it any thought that he worked in the Skunkworks or on the SR-71.  How cool is that!

When you’ve allowed enough time to explore indoors, it’s time to head outside.  Just beyond the doors leading out there are dozens of airplanes.  There’s a little bit of everything from WWII Warbirds to surprisingly modern age aircraft.  I won’t cover everything there is to see, you can do that on your own.  I do however, want to share some of the highlights, at least from my perspective.

  • The B-29 “Three Feathers III”.  I have a strange connection to this particular plane.  In fact, I felt compelled to head straight across the yard to see it and spent quite a bit of time with it.  In case you missed it, you can read about my connection to the wonderful plane and it’s history here:  Three Feathers Part 1, Three Feathers Part 2, and Three Feathers Part 3.
  • MIG Alley.  MFAM has an excellent collection of MIGs, from the MIG 15 to the MIG 23.
  • YF-14A Tomcat.  This is another plane that I haven’t seen in the air.  While I have seen several in different air museums, I haven’t been able to get a good shot (photo) of one.  Air museums tend to be packed pretty tight, and it can be tough to get a clean shot, and mine always leaves me disappointed.  But not this time!
  • The F-4 Phantom.  The Phantom is one of my favorites and luckily I have seen them in the air.  MFAM has several models of the F-4 on display!
  • The B-17G.  I have a lot of admiration for this plane and the brave souls that flew them.  I was able to take a tour inside of one and they are a whole lot smaller on the inside then they look on the outside.  You really had to be a skinny kid to move around inside one.  And although the B-17 looks formidable with guns sticking out all around it, that thin sheet metal didn’t provide much protection for those within.  I can’t imagine being inside one with flak bursting all around, slicing holes through that thin skin.

So far I’ve done nothing but talk about the planes.  Now I want to talk a little about photography.  One of things about the gear that I chose for this trip is that it is very light and easy to move around with.  I never felt bogged down by my gear and it didn’t get in the way of making photos.  My Sony RX100 is technically considered a point and shoot, and it looks the part.  What sets it apart is its 1 inch sensor (I know its not exactly 1″ for anyone wanting to scream at me, but its close enough).  Suffice it to say that it’s much larger than the typical point and shoot and the image quality in turn is much better.  It also allows me to shoot RAW and many other point and shoot cameras don’t.  I like it so much that I ended up using it a majority of the time.  In fact, I used it for panoramas, black and white, and HDR.  I probably could have left the E-M5 in the car and used the RX100 exclusively.  Yes, for some things I think it’s that good!

My E-M5 with 45mm f/1.8 performed perfectly.  Nothing at an air museum moves very fast so tracking autofocus wasn’t an issue.  The 45mm (90mm equivalent) was perfect for filling the frame and getting what I’d call more intimate shots.  And I did end up using the Rokinon Fisheye lens a little.  You need to be careful not to over use the fisheye and I was selective with my subject and composition.

What about the pictures?  Good question, here they are:







If you like Warbirds and other types of Military aircraft, you owe it to yourself to stop by March Field Air Museum. I just hit some of my favorites and highlights, so check it out for yourself!

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

Olympus E-M1 Test Drive

Thanks to a very thoughtful Father’s Day gift from my Son, I received an Olympus E-M1 from Borrow Lenses for 3 days.

Disclaimerthis is not a scientific review of the E-M1.  There are plenty of those available online.  This is rather my personal opinion and experience.  Some of the photos posted are untouched and others are worked quite a bit.

I already have an Olympus E-M5 and several M4/3 lenses, and am very happy with them.  The E-M1 came as a body only, and that worked out perfectly, allowing me to use my own favorite lenses for this test drive.

In case you’re wondering, here’s a short list of the lenses that I have for my E-M5:

  • Olympus 17mm f/1.8
  • Olympus 45mm f/1.8
  • Panasonic 45-200mm
  • Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye

Here are a couple of comparison shots of the E-M1 and my E-M5. You can see the size difference and some of the additional controls on the E-M1.

The only problem I had with this wonderful gift was figuring out how to make the best use of it.  Since I’m not much of a street scene shooter, I took wandering-around-town-taking-random-shots off of the list.  There were no air shows or drag races going on, and with some very ugly, hazy days, there wasn’t much hope of catching a grand landscape (at least in my area).

My solutions were backyard shots of my dogs playing (gotta try some kind of action), and touring a couple of air museums.  Neither of these options would press the E-M1 to its limits, but it would allow me to see how well it handled in some everyday situations.

First up, backyard action with the dogs.  I have 2 Cairn Terriers, and 1 Chihuahua mix, and they love to play in the water.  I set the E-M1 and Panasonic 45-200mm lens up with C-AF (continuous auto focus), but wasn’t having a lot of luck with it.  Sometimes it would work and adjust focus as expected, then it would be off, lost and hunting (little dogs move fast).  But I did stick with it and got several keepers.    It was late afternoon during this time, and the light was bright and harsh.  Here are some of the settings I used:

  • Aperture Priority
  • ISO – 200
  • 1/2000 sec.
  • f/5.6
  • RAW

Next up – Air Museums.  There was certainly no action to be had at an air museum, but I thought it would be interesting to see how the E-M1 handled in low light.  I purposely did not use a flash and  instead put the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens on the E-M1.  This seemed like a good combination.  The 17mm f/1.8 lens is fast enough to work in low light conditions and I’ve been very pleased with quality of images created with it.

Actually, I visited 2 air museums with the E-M1.  The first was Yanks Air Museum in Chino California, and the second was the Palm Springs Air Museum.  Both are very nice facilities with some fantastic examples of  aircraft.  Yanks has some great WWII warbirds including an F6F-5 Hellcat with an interesting paint job.  It also has some great modern aircraft including an F-14 Tomcat, F-15A Eagle, and an F-18 from the Blue Angels.

The second air museum was the Palm Springs Air Museum.  This turned out to be a show case for a nice variety of planes.  One of the highlights for me was being able to go inside of the B-17G “Miss Angela”.  The Docent was very knowledgable and shared some interesting facts about the B-17 and the men that flew them.  I am in awe of what those brave crews went through on a daily basis in order to win the war.  As for the E-M1, I bumped up the ISO from 640 to 1250 to handle the very low light inside the B-17 and it worked perfectly!

Here are some of the settings I used for the air museums:

  • Aperture Priority
  • ISO – 640 to 1250 (depending on location)
  • Shutter speed varied from 1/15 to 1/100 sec.
  • F-Stop varied from f/2.8 to f/8 depending on location.
  • RAW

One detail I noticed while reviewing the results of my air museum visit was that I forgot to change the auto focus mode on the E-M1.  Seems that in my haste to start shooting, I left it on C-AF (from my dogs in the backyard session the day before).  The nice thing is that this error on my part didn’t seem to create any problems.  The camera would lock on the focus without a hitch, even in the low light.

Overall my impressions of the E-M1 are good.  It’s a little larger than my E-M5, but not so large as to be a burden when carrying it around all day.  The controls are laid out nicely and it has a few additional buttons that E-M5 does not.

I noticed in some online forums that the Olympus menu system isn’t a favorite, with claims that it’s not intuitive and is overly complicated.  I suppose this is true when you first start trying to figure it out.  I didn’t really have a problem with it, but to be fair, I have some experience with the menu system,  going back to the Olympus E-P3.  It can be a bit confusing but there are some good resources out there to help you through that.  Here’s a place to start if you want some help setting up the E-M1 – PhotolisticLife

Just for fun, I tried the canned HDR feature, and didn’t find it to be anything special.  It reminded me of a similar feature in my old Sony NEX3.  The camera takes several exposures and combines them, then it gives you a .jpeg.  Personally I’d rather just bracket the exposures myself and do the HDR work on the computer.

There was one difference between the E-M1 and my E-M5 that I did like,  the quality of the electronic viewfinder (EVF).  Maybe it’s just my eyes getting old, but the EVF seemed much more clear and bright than the one on my E-M5.

As I get ready to pack the E-M1 back in its box and return it to Borrow Lenses, it was a pleasure to be able to use this camera. Unfortunately, it’s about twice the price of an E-M5 (or the new E-M10).  And the bottom line for me is that it wasn’t fantastically advanced enough over my E-M5 to warrant the expense of purchasing one.  Yes, I did like it and enjoyed using it, but not enough to buy one outright.  If I wanted it bad enough, I’d have to sell off some of my other gear to finance it, and right now I’m not in a hurry to do that.

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