alan frost photography

in monochrome with occasional colour lapses

Posts from the ‘olympus OMD EM5’ category

Lake District 121 – camera technique at Wasdale Head

On the first morning of my 121 workshop with Paul Gallagher in The Lake District, Paul was keen to establish my camera technique and the typical settings I used. He was not familiar with the Olympus OMD EM5, as he used a Nikon D800E for his digital work, although his preferred system of choice is medium format 5 x 4 Ebony film camera which I was to see in all it’s glory a few days later.

We decided to drive to Wastwater and Wasdale Head.

Wastwater – looking towards Great Gable

I explained that for landscape work I would use the lowest ISO setting available. In the case of the EM5 this was ISO 200. I would also use Aperture Priority. This way the shutter speed would be automatically selected by the camera. I explained that by using ‘live view’ on the OMD, I would preview the image by showing a ‘shadow and highlights’ warning; flashing blue for underexposed areas and flashing orange for overexposed areas or blown highlights. I would then use the exposure compensation dial to make any adjustments in order to balance the exposure. If the dynamic range of the shot was too great for the camera sensor, then it might require the use of a neutral density graduated filter to balance the exposure of say a bright sky with a dark foreground. I told him I would tend to rely upon the camera’s auto focus, rarely resorting to manual focus.

Believing this was a tried and tested way of taking landscape photographs I was a little taken aback when Paul suggested that it would be much easier to use manual settings for the exposure and to always focus manually. He went on to explain that by setting the aperture to say f11 or f16 to maximise the depth of field, the shutter speed could be adjusted to obtain the optimum exposure setting using the histogram as a guide. He was fully in favour of exposing to the right, but suggested that the histogram should not be right on the point of clipping the highlights, as this would leave no room for finer adjustments when it came to post processing. This made perfect sense to me and the exposure compensation dial would no longer be needed. If the histogram was not acceptable, a quick change to the shutter speed would bring about the desired result.

Wastwater screes
Looking across Wastwater to the Screes

Manual focusing is very straightforward with the EM5. Again in using live view, the instant the focus ring was turned on the lens, the screen would magnify the area of view by a factor of 5x. The amount of magnification can be changed in the settings menu. Using the arrow keys on the back of the camera it was easy to select an area of the composition where pin sharp focusing was critical. This would normally be a subject in the foreground. Having preselected a small aperture opening the depth of field should ensure that the background at infinity would also be in sharp focus.

With the camera on the tripod I used the 2 second timer function so that I could press the shutter button and eliminate any camera movement which would spoil the image. Further I turned off the in camera Image Stabilisation as this can ‘fight’ the lack of movement of a camera mounted on a tripod and try and ‘compensate’ for movement when none is actually present. Don’t ask me  how or why, or for a technical explanation, just turn the IS off if using a tripod.

Paul was less concerned about setting the aperture to the optimum opening for the lens, which in the case of some my lenses would be f5.6, as this would rarely give the desired depth of field. Don’t worry about using a much smaller aperture he said. It’s more important that all parts of the image are in focus, even if the lens was not at its very sharpest aperture setting. Again this advise made perfect sense, so I was already benefitting from his knowledge and expertise and it was still only day one.

With photography over for the day but before heading back to our hotel in Keswick, I visited one of the smallest churches in England – St Olaf in Wasdale Head. This church holds special memories for me and in particular the inscription in the glass of a leaded light window. The words are taken from Psalm 121 and the etching is of Napes Needle on Great Gable. A fitting memorial to all mountaineers and climbers who have visited this beautiful part of the world.

The etching and inscription in St Olaf Church at Wasdale Head

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Losing weight with the Olympus OMD EM5

A few weeks ago I made the decision not to invest in a full frame DSLR and associated lenses and to stick with my Olympus OMD (which I love) and various Olympus prime lenses or fast Panasonic zoom lenses.

I don’t need to justify my decision but for a bit of fun I thought I would make one comparison  between the two systems – and that’s one of weight. Many will argue that I am comparing apples with pears and I will be the first to agree that both sets of camera gear have their pros and cons. However the weight of any set up has to be taken into consideration if you intend carrying your equipment any distance or for long periods of time.

It’s not very often that I need to use the kitchen scales(!) but out they came…. and now for the results –

Losing weight with the Olympus OMD EM5

The Olympus OMD EM5 with two part battery grip plus Panasonic 12 – 35 and 35 – 100 lenses with constant f2.8 aperture = 1,440g

….and for the full frame equivalent.

Canon 5D MKIII, with battery grip and 24 – 70 and 70 – 200 f2.8 L lenses = 3,555g

So the Canon system is very nearly 2.5x heavier, not to mention bulkier, and far more expensive.

Both sets of lenses cover the same focal length and  are weather sealed. Yes, I know the Canon set up will produce bigger files and therefore give better results, but for my needs and in real world use I’ll save my back and my bank balance thank you! :o)

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Something completely different

My approach to land and seascapes is I think a fairly traditional one and it’s an approach that works for me. However I do see lots of black and white images using slow shutter speeds and taking a more minimalist view of the landscape. Concentrating on a small area can often result in something which has an abstract ‘feel’ to the image. Accordingly there are few if any reference points and little or no sense of scale. I guess this results in the viewer trying to discern what they might be looking at, a sense of mystery perhaps, which in turn begs the question – ‘what was the photographer trying to say?’ when he or she took the shot.

So I thought I would have a go a this approach myself. Its good to experiment, your eyes start to see things differently. Consequently I returned to a particular location as I could pre-visualise a subject matter which might work for this ‘new’ approach. I also adopted a different technique using a 10 stop ND filter to slow the shutter speed right down. This of course required me to use a tripod which also slows down the photographer. No bad thing in itself as you spend more time composing the shot and getting the right camera settings. The latter was more challenging than the former, as I had never used a 10 stop ND filter before. The Hi Tec filter I was using left a horrible colour cast but this didn’t matter quite so much as I knew I would be converting the image to black and white.

Shown below is the result of me trying to do something completely different. A 30 second exposure and I used Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro2 for post processing.


For my first attempt at this style of photography I am quite pleased with the end result. Is it something I would like to do more of?…….I’m not sure but I enjoyed doing something just a little bit different, well for me anyway.

Oh and if you are wondering, the photograph is the remains of a jetty in Langstone Harbour in Hampshire.

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Lone sheep in Dorset

It has been so wet in the past few months with very little sunshine, so it was a real treat to be in Dorset a few days ago to experience a lovely winter’s day when the sun shone and it cast it’s little bit of magic on the rolling hills of this part of the West Country.

As we drove around the Piddle Valley (great name this!), which lies to the north of the County Town of Dorchester, we came across the view below. Bathed in late afternoon sun, long shadows fell across the ground and the backlit sheep added life and foreground interest to this rather archetypal English landscape.

Nothing more to add, just enjoy the view – I know I did.

Lone sheep
Lone sheep

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Churches in the landscape – South Stoke

In my last post (Idsworth Church) I touched on the topic of choosing a suitable subject which would inspire me for my panel of images for the ‘ARPS Distinction with the Royal Photographic Society. The choice is proving to be quite a challenge in its own right and this is before I start taking any photographs worthy of a submission. Fortunately I am not up against the clock and I will take my time. It’s a bit like a driving test and I would like to pass first time, so it will pay me to prepare properly and take as much time as I need before I apply for an assessment date. Between now and then there is likely to be long gap. The selection of a subject or theme is only the starting point. I will need to undertake a lot of research into my chosen topic, particularly if this involves travelling from one location to another, either at home or abroad. I am sure it will involve being outdoors and therefore I am also in the hands of weather and the changing seasons, which could very well determine the success or otherwise of each photographic session. In total the panel is made up of 15 images, which is quite a number when you consider they all need to be of the same high standard; work as a cohesive panel and all conform to the original brief. I will also seek the guidance and critical encouragement (hopefully!) from a suitable mentor or mentors.

Given that I have not yet jumped the first hurdle (the one called subject matter) for the moment its a question of exploring different ideas and seeing what may or may not work. I think I will know when I find a theme which inspires me; for without the passion and enthusiasm for the subject, how can I expect to produce a strong set images? In truth I can’t, so until that day comes the thinking and the search goes on.

One possibility is ‘churches in the landscape’ and with this in mind I thought I would head off for a tiny hamlet called South Stoke, which is to the north of Arundel in West Sussex and sits alongside the River Arun. I had never been to South Stoke before, although it is clearly visible from the train between London Victoria from the South Coast.

It was a typical winter’s day, the recent snow having been replaced by milder, grey and wet conditions. The church is very pretty but the image I had in mind when I studied the map, was of a church alongside the river, did not materialise. The church steeple was visible from the other side of the river bank, but other buildings and trees prevented a clear view of the church itself. However I was not going to leave the location without any images so here are a selection depicting the church and its immediate surroundings.

Winter light on the Arun
Winter light on the Arun

South Stoke Church
South Stoke Church

Trees by the River Arun
Trees by the Arun

Candelabra in South Stoke Church
Candelabra inside the Church

There was one bonus while I was there – a barn owl. I switched lenses and on its maximum focal length I took a shot. Frankly it was awful and not even worthy of an appearance on this blog. It did make me think how skilled and patient nature photographers have to be, to capture these beautiful birds in flight.

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