Olympus

My Annual Photo Weekend

Every year I take a five-day trip to Estes park Colorado to hang out with a couple of friends and just relax. The trip consists of staying at my friend’s house (Aspen Grove), hiking in the woods, taking photos, drinking beer, and eating too much red meat over the five days.

The trip is in some ways creative renewal, but mostly it’s just letting everything go, and focusing on having fun and trying to get a few good images while we are out hiking around Rocky Mountain National Park. This year the three of us changed things up a bit and hit the park the first week of October instead of mid-May, and we still got snowed on. The weather wasn’t exactly cooperative, with almost the entire 5 days filled with off and on rain, snow hail, and overcast. It’s all good though. You make do with what you have and just keep shooting.

This is a baker’s dozen of images shot on my Olympus OMD EM1. Not all of the photos were taken in Colorado, and few were taken at Monument Rocks in Western Kansas about 20 miles from Oakley. And yes, every single image has had some form of post processing done to it, The original images were all shot in RAW format and processed in Lightroom and Photoshop using a number of tools and techniques. That is part of the fun.

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the-road

 

Veydra Cinema Lenses for M4/3 Cameras

Three years ago when my house was broken into, all of my DSLR gear was stolen. The only gear I had left was my Olympus EP2, and 4/3 lenses for it. At the time I decided to not replace my DSLR, and go exclusively with the Micro 4/3 mirrorless format for both still and video work. One of the biggest challenges has been finding high quality lenses designed specifically for shooting video on a Micro 4/3 camera like the Panasonic GH4 or Olympus OMD. The ones that exist are either cost prohibitive to own, or require an adapter to work with my camera bodies. That is why I got all excited about this new KickStarter project from Veydra.

Veydra is planning on producing a set of premium cinema lens made specifically for filmmakers using Micro 4/3 cameras like the Panasonic GH4, Black Magic Cinema Camera, Olympus OMD, and more. The thing I like is the feature set listed on the site which includes, Resolution that exceeds 4K, Cinema 0.8 module focus and iris gears, Consistent front 80mm outside diameter & 77mm filter threading, Similar length for quick lens changes, Constant T2.2 aperture for easy lighting set ups, Brass plated mounts for durability.

Then there is the price. At $3200.00 for the entire set, this is a bit of a steal. Especially if the quality of the lenses is good as Veydra claims on their KickStarter page. I hope these guys make their goal, because this looks really exciting for the film making community, especially those of us working with small budgets.

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The Selfie Obsessed Olympus EPL7.

In a selfie obsessed world where even the spirit of Narcissus is tired of seeing people pop photos of themselves , Olympus has announced the EPL-7 camera with all the selfie shooters in mind. The tech spec on the camera are all over the internet, and as a camera goes, this looks like a pretty solid micro 4/3 system. What is cracking me up though is the marketing materials on YouTube that they have created. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s just me being grumpy, but these videos make me say “Get a life. Get some friends and take pictures of them instead of narcissistic yourself. It makes for far more interesting images.” Watching this woman snap shots of her own mug, by herself, while making kissy faces at the camera, just makes me want to laugh. The thing is though, this angle might actually work, with those people that are selfie obsessed and want more than what their smartphone has to offer. For the complete EPL7 selfie channel, click here.

Art of the Car. Ghosts Amongst Machines.

Today was the eighth annual Art of the Car Concourse at the Kansas City Art Institute. With each new year, the quality of the cars being shown increases, and so do the crowds. Both things are good, since the ticket money goes to a scholarship fund, and everyone gets to see a diverse and interesting group of automobiles. The challenge however for those of us taking photos, is how to get rid of the oblivious passerby that walk through your shot.

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The image above shows both the solution and the problem in action. That ghosted blur is the legs of a man that stood directly in front of my camera as I took the shot. He’s a ghost because the exposure was five seconds long. The photo isn’t ruined, but it isn’t right either. Thankfully by using a heavy neutral density filter, long exposure, and low ISO settings on the OMD, I was able to experiment with a new process and pretty much eliminate the walking masses from some of my shots.

I didn’t want to drop a ton of cash on a piece of gear for a process I’d never tried before, so I picked up an in expensive variable ND filter for 35 bucks at a local camera store. The filter when set to its maximum allowed me to expose for up to five seconds at ISO 200 or lower. Now I wish I had gotten an even heavier ND filter so I could have opened the aperture up and blurred the background out. Because it was 9:30 AM the sun was bright enough that I had to stop down to f16-22 in most of the shots at this exposure length. Lesson for next year.

All the images below were taken on my OMD EM-5 with the Zuiko 12 to 40mm f2.8 lens. ISO was either 200, or Low ISO. Exposure times ranged from 2 to 5 seconds depending on light, and how many people were walking through the shot. Minor post processing was done to the JPEG’s on my iPad in SnapSeed. Raw images will get uploaded later.

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Back in the Saddle.

After five days at Rocky Mountain National Park I’m finding it hard to get back into the swing of things.  Over the course of that five day period I spent 3 days hiking about 25 miles and and taking photos along the way. As the mini vacation wound down, I was hitting my stride and really wished for a couple more days in the park to shoot additional photos and hopefully see a bit more wildlife.

While there, I focused on using two lenses as my primary shooting tools. The Zuiko 17mm f1.8 prime, and the Zuiko 75 to 300mm f4.8 zoom. The 17 was used as a general purpose lens and the 75 to 300 for grabbing distance shots of wildlife in the park. The shots below were all shot as Olympus RAW files that were opened via Adobe Bridge with enhancements being done to the RAW data before opening the file. Once in Photoshop, files were cropped and in some cases merged to create the ultra-wide panoramas.

I’m not going to go into any kind of in-depth review of the two lenses. There is plenty of information on both of them all over the internet, and most give a much more technical review then I ever would. What I will say is this. I rented the 17 to try it out. I’ll be buying it. Hands down it was one of the best primes I’ve shot with on the OMD. I wish we would have had cloudless nights, because I wanted to try it for star trails. Maybe next time. The 17 is a fast focusing, super sharp, ultra quiet lens. The snap ring manual focusing sold it. As for the 75 to 300. It’s a solid lens, but it is by no means a best in class. For the money it was worth every penny. The photos below that were shot with it are annotated with approximate distances to show just how much reach this lens has.

Distance of about 30 feet with the focal length set to about 200mm.

Distance of about 30 feet with the focal length set to about 200mm.

Distance of about 50 yards with a focal length of 300mm. OMD in Black and White mode.

Distance of about 50 yards with a focal length of 300mm. OMD in Black and White mode.

Three images shot with the 17mm merged in Photoshop to create the final composite.

Three images shot with the 17mm merged in Photoshop to create the final composite.

Three images shot with the 17mm merged in Photoshop to create the final composite.

Three images shot with the 17mm merged in Photoshop to create the final composite.

Distance of about 75 yards with the focal length at 300mm.

Distance of about 75 yards with the focal length at 300mm.

17mm at the closest focusing point of about 8 inches

17mm at the closest focusing point of about 8 inches

The 17.

For over a year I have been thinking about picking up the Zuiko 17mm f1.8 lens from Olympus, but never pulled the trigger. I decided before the trip to Estes Park that I should rent the lens from Borrow Lenses and evaluate if it would be worth the investment. I’ve been shooting with it off and on for the last three days, and I’ve decided. It’s time to buy. This lens has been a pure wonder. It’s super sharp, has great bokeh when wide open, and is completely versatile. From candid portraits, to landscapes, to panoramas, the lens can handle it all. Tonight’s test provide the clouds hold back, star trails.

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Bottoms Up.

After spending a total of seven hours of hiking through various trails at altitude it’s safe to say I had my ass handed to me. The photo below was at Lilly lake after hiking up to Jurassic Park trying to find rock climbers. No rock climbers, but a great view from the top was great.

This is a mallard duck couple over in the marshland South of Lilly Lake. The challenge, getting them to sit still, not fly off, or swim behind tall marsh grass. Using a tip from a wildlife photo blog I set the OMD to aperture priority, set the f-stop to f-11 and started shooting. The 150mm to 300mm did a great job and the OMD’s image stabilization saved me. This is all the way out at 300 with the birds at about 50 yards.

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Minor post processing was done in Snap Seed on the iPad with a little tone adjustment.