Rocky Mountain National Park

Sometimes You Gotta Get Really Small.

Sometimes when you go for a six mile hike in the mountains, Mother Nature blesses you with perfect light and subject matter for photography. Sometimes she gives you overcast skies, boring vegetation, and no wildlife to speak of. Today was one of those days, so I busted out the Moment macro lens for the iPhone and went small photographing all sorts of tiny objects of nature. Using the Moment macro is tricky. Depth of field is razor thin, and it requires you to move the iPhone in and out from the subject, with a lot of room for trial and error. Also wind will mess with your shots, since it jacks with focus. None the less using it was fun, and added to the walk.












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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.

aspen-trail

aspens-1

big-elk

bryan-on-the-bridge

elk-1

elk-2

millner-lake-1

monument-rocks-1

monument-rocks-2

rocky

sunrise

the-path

the-road

 

Creative Renewal Part 2

Sometimes you just need to get away and clear your head. Take a couple of days and look for inspiration. Get out and enjoy the world by getting back into nature. Early October in the Rocky Mountains can pose some tricky situations when it comes to weather. Yesterday started out sunny and in the lower 50’s in Estes Park, but less than five miles away, a storm was rolling in over the top of Rocky Mountain National Park bringing rain, snow, hail, and high winds. This didn’t stop us though, we decided to go ahead with a hike up to Beirstadt Lake and take the switchbacks down to the valley floor. The hike was relaxing, and not a complete bust, and I did manage to get a couple of decent photos of a few aspens in full fall color while being pelted with pea-sized hail and high winds.

aspen-trail

A Little Trip to Colorado

  

I’ve been spending the weekend in Colorado hiking and taking photos of the surrounding landscape. One of the goals of the weekend was to find new places, go where we’ve never been, and venture off the well worn path. Mission accomplished. The photos below are JPEGs. I haven’t had a chance to process any RAW shots, or go through auto bracketed images to make selections and adjustments. That’ll happen in a week or two. 

  
       

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

RMNP

I’m going on vacation for a few days starting tomorrow so my concentration is blown. For the next 6 days I’ll be hiking around in Rocky Mountain National Park taking photos and enjoying the emerging spring in Colorado. Last week PetaPixel posted a link to a Phelarn video on tips and tricks for improving landscape photographs. I’ve been using Photoshop since version 1. Since before Adobe even owned the software. The thing that is great about Photoshop and sites like Phlearn is, you can always learn something new, or remember a technique you might have forgotten along the way. The image below is something I shot last year, and used some of the Phlearn tricks from the video below it to enhance my image. RMNP is going to be fun. I’ll be posting images from the trip over the next few days. I hope I don’t bore everyone to death.

RMNP

The Results. The Olympus Zuiko 50-200mm on my OMD EM5.

Last week and over the weekend I spent about 4 days shooting images with the Olympus Zuiko 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 ED SWD Zoom Lens in Colorado. I rented this lens for wildlife and some landscape photography from borrowlenses.com and did it ever pay off. After the last 5 days with this lens, I want to buy it.

This is by no means a comprehensive review of Olympus’s 50 – 200mm f2.8 lens. It is a hands on review of this lens paired to my Olympus OMD EM5 using the micro 4/3 adapter for the lens. To keep things simple and to the point I am going to break down the pros and cons and post a few sample images with a brief overview.

150-mm-at-4-feet f 2.8

First things first. If you rent this lens, or buy this lens make sure the firmware on your camera is up to date if you are using the micro 4/3 adapter. It will make all the difference with autofocus speeds with this lens. I found autofocus to be speeds to be adequate in bright light and open spaces. Where autofocus didn’t hold up was when I was shooting a subject where there were objects close to the subject or breaking into the frame. The lens simply couldn’t make up its mind on where to focus. This was really the case when the lens was zoomed all the way in. For most of my shooting I switched to manual focus. It was simply more accurate, and easier. If I had updated the OMD before I left, autofocus probably would have preformed better.

315mm-at f2.8

Second. This lens is big and heavy. It weighs in at two and a quarter pounds. If you are not used to using a lens that ways this much you’ll be in for a surprise. Collapsed it is almost seven inches long. Zoomed out, it is closer to ten. The lens hood will add another three. Be prepared to carry around a large, heavy lens.

250mm f2.8

Now with that said, the weight and size are a tribute to the quality of materials used in this lenses construction. It is a high-grade lens with a hefty amount of glass in it. Your payoff for all the weight and size is crisp, bright images with creamy bokeh when the aperture is fully open.

elk-at-350mm

The minimum focus distance is just under four feet. When zoomed out and focused this close, the lens takes incredibly sharp macro images. When using it for distance shots, the zoom has incredible reach with the same level of detail found in those images as well.

400-mm f2.8

 

Over the course of five days, half of the images I shot were with this lens. It provided me with a solid zoom that could be used to dial in on wildlife subjects that I just couldn’t get close to. I found this lens to be optically fast, precise, and accurate with sharpness and detail across the entire zoom range. In short I fell in love with it, even though I didn’t upgrade my camera firmware before putting it to use.

200-mm 4 feet f4

Pros:

  • Sharp images
  • Fast aperture
  • Bright
  • Great zoom reach

Cons:

  • Weight
  • Autofocus speed with 4/3 adapter

400mm-at-75-yards lone-aspens-w-cokin