Posts from the ‘olympus’ category

An Easter display – Mono where there should be colour

Easter display

Easter display

A few weeks ago I was asked if I would take some photographs for publication in our parish magazine of the truly beautiful flowers which were on display in my local church over the Easter period. I did not need to ask if they wanted colour or black or white images. Of course they had to be in colour and that was absolutely right.

The dominant colour of the flowers was yellow, a sign of Spring, and new life and growth. Irrespective of your own personal religious beliefs this time of year is always a joy; as Winter turns to Spring, the trees turn green and the dawn chorus can be heard each and every morning as night turns into day.

I was pleased with the images I took but as my first photographic love is monochrome and not colour, I could not resist the temptation to convert one of the pictures into black and white. It works for me but it would never have been selected for the colour centre page spread in the parish magazine! Nevertheless it’s one to share on my blog and I hope you agree.

The British Grand Prix at Silverstone – a belated report

Rosberg through Becketts

Rosberg through Becketts
Probably my favourite shot from the Grand Prix.
Nothing is sharp, but there is movement both in the car and also in the sweeping lines of the track at Becketts corner.


I have to admit it feels rather bizarre writing this entry at the end of December, when this great sporting event took place back in early July. Perhaps it just sums up how busy the year has been.

Despite being a keen follower of F1 for many years, I had never been to a Grand Prix, so when my good friend suggested we might go, it was an opportunity too good to miss. It was a special occasion as it was also the 50th Anniversary of the British Grand Prix.

We attended all four days and to avoid the worst of the traffic (it can be notoriously bad) we arrived on Wednesday evening, pitched the caravan and didn’t leave until Monday morning. Whilst I took a fair number of photographs, this was never going to be an outing with my camera, as I wanted to enjoy the racing, the atmosphere, the people and the whole experience, which is what we both did.

The rain came and went, as it always seems to do during the British Summer of sport, but this did nothing to spoil the racing in fact it only added to the drama. For anyone who follows F1 you will know that Lewis Hamilton misjudged how quickly the track would dry out in qualifying, and others, including his own team mate Nico Rosberg posted quicker lap times, leaving Hamilton in 6th place on the grid, and Rosberg on pole. The tight duel between them was nicely set up for a thrilling race, which Hamilton won, much to the delight of the home crowd. He was of course helped by Rosberg breaking down with a gearbox problem which happened right in front of us. The partisan crowd around us rather unsportingly cheered loudly as Rosberg, with head looking towards the ground, walked away.

The tide had started to turn in Hamilton’s favour and the rest of the season is now history. Hamilton won his second Formula One Championship and joined an elite number of British drivers who had won the title more than once. The others being Graham Hill, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart. Only time will tell if Lewis Hamilton will go on to win more titles.

The photographs included in this entry hopefully capture some of the flavour and atmosphere of being at a Formula One race. Even with a 200mm (400mm equivalent) telephoto lens on the Olympus EM1, it is not easy getting close to the action, and even when you can, a wire fence will be between you and the track.

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New Forest Ponies

Pony in the New Forest

The New Forest is a very well known National Park in southern England.  Bordering The Solent to the south, it is situated mainly in the county of Hampshire but extends to the north into Wiltshire. It covers an area of 218 square miles and is home to some 4,000 ponies, deer, cattle and pigs which can roam freely through the ancient forest woodland and heaths.

For reasons which will become clear in a future blog entry we had to visit the New Forest quite recently on our way down to Dorset. Time was short but I did grab the chance to take a few photographs of a small group of ponies as we drove through the quiet narrow lanes of the forest. It was also the first chance I have had to use my new camera, the Olympus OMD EM1. Paired with the Panasonic 35 -100mm f2.8 zooms lens, the camera performed effortlessly and handles so much better then the EM5 which has been my workhorse to date. I will write at greater length about my new acquisition but for the time being I hope you enjoy these few images of the New Forest ponies.

New Forest pony

Pony crossing

The Olympus OMD EM5…..a year on

It’s nearly a year since I decided to commit to the micro 4/3rds system as my principal camera and I went out and bought a black Olympus OMD EM5. All the reviews were very complimentary although at that time the camera was still in relatively short supply. I managed to track one down and a year on I have no regrets. To the contrary the camera, the lenses and the results have exceeded all my expectations.

Olympus OMD EM5 with Panasonic f1.7 20mm prime lens
Olympus OMD EM5 with Panasonic f1.7 20mm prime lens

I have never written a camera review in my life and I don’t want to start now, but it may be helpful to anyone who reads this entry to know why I have so much enjoyed using this system in the past 12 months.

Firstly it has to be the quality of the results. The 16mb sensor captures so much detail and A3 size prints are excellent. They helped me achieve my LRPS distinction back in December when they were viewed by a well qualified and experienced panel of judges; a seal of approval as far as I am concerned. I have yet to print larger than A3 but will be doing so in the near future, so watch this space. I do not use Auto ISO as I prefer to set this myself and  nearly always use ISO 200. I will push it to ISO 1600 if lighting conditions are poor or I need more depth of field and a faster shutter speed. The quality is still good but I have not used a higher ISO rating.  The fantastic built in 5 axis image stabilisation is worth at least two stops which helps to offset the need to resort to a high ISO anyway. A lower ISO of say 100 would be good but it’s not something I really miss that much.

Olympus OMD EM5
The camera, its great 16mb sensor and Part 1 of the HLD-6 hand grip

Secondly it has to be the range and quality of the lenses from both Olympus and Panasonic. I can only comment on the ones I have in my collection. Having committed to micro 4/3rds and the EM5 in particular, I have been fortunate in the last year to acquire a fine range of optics.

The camera was supplied with a kit lens – 12mm to 60mm f3.5 – f6.3 but I have to say I have hardly ever used it. It is splash and dust proof and does have a macro function but that is not my style of photography.  It came with the camera and if ever I sell or upgrade the EM5 then I assume it will help the sale. It’s a reasonable lens, so no real complaints but it’s no match for the lenses I am about to mention.

One of the main reasons I was drawn to the system was the choice of excellent prime lenses. I now have the Olympus 12mm f2.0, the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 and the Olympus 45mm f1.8. They are all great lenses. They are very sharp, fast to auto focus and with their large aperture openings can be used in low light conditions without having to increase the ISO to a very high setting. They are lightweight and keep the camera and lens combination quite compact. I still can’t decide if I like the silver finish of the Olympus lenses on the black body? It is of course down to personal preference – they do look smart, but they are not so discreet for candid work.

Micro 4/3rds prime lenses
A set of prime lenses
From left to right – Olympus f2 12mm, Panasonic f1.7 20mm and Olympus f1.8 45mm

As much as I enjoyed using all three prime lenses, the 45mm probably being my favourite, I did find there were occasions when a zoom lens would be more flexible in general use. So when Panasonic announced the addition  of the 12mm – 35mm f2.8 and the 35mm – 100mm f2.8 to their range, the temptation was too hard to resist. It was made particularly more difficult when I spotted a second hand (as good as new) 12 -35 in my local camera store at a really attractive price, certainly when compared to the cost of a new one. These two lenses are quite superb in my view. To my untrained eyes they are a match in terms of optical quality to the prime lenses, are just as fast to autofocus and whilst f2.8 may not as wide as the primes, it’s plenty wide enough for most situations. They are splash and dust proof and whilst they do add to the bulk of the camera they sit well on the EM5. Compared to their full frame equivalents they are tiny in both bulk and weight. Do read this blog entry for a comparison.

Panasonic and Olympus micro 4/3rds zoom lenses
Zoom lenses for Micro 4/3rds cameras
From left to right
Olympus 12-60 kit lens, Panasonic f2.8 12-35mm and Panasonic f2.8 35-100mm

Lastly I have the Panasonic 45mm – 200mm lens which I bought second hand from a fellow member of my camera club. The two Panasonic lenses mentioned in the previous paragraph were not available when I bought this lens and frankly it doesn’t get a great deal of use. I rarely have a need for the extra length, but there will be times when the additional range will be useful, so I will keep it for now. It doesn’t share the image quality of the other lenses but it’s still very good, it’s just that the others are superb.

Thirdly the size, weight and feel of the camera is just right. This will not be the same for everyone and there are times when the small size of the buttons can be a nuisance, but I would rather have a relatively compact and lightweight system and just accept there will be times when I hit the wrong button. I can’t recall ever missing a shot as a result and I am sure there are seasoned DSLR users who will have used the wrong control unintentionally. Once you have explored all the camera settings the EM5 is very configurable and I now have it set up just as I like it. It does take a little time but it is worth the investment and a little trial and error.The tilt-able screen is a real bonus and the built in electronic view finder (EVF) is very clear.

The tilt-able screen and some of the controls on the rear of the EM5

As far as accessories are concerned I have not used the detachable flash as I prefer to shoot in available light. I do though have the two part grip (HLD-6) and the first part stays on the camera 90% of the time. There is no question that it improves handling of the camera without adding too much extra weight or bulk. The second part of the grip houses the spare battery and provides extra controls for ‘portrait’ use. I don’t use it a great deal but when it is required it’s an excellent accessory. The spare battery on the other hand is essential, as the battery life is not that great compared to say the Nikon D90 DSLR which was my previous camera.

Olympus OMD EM5 with HLD 6 Hand grip
OMD EM5 with both parts of the HLD – 6 hand grip

Lastly I no longer need a large rucksack to carry all my gear, so I now have a Billingham Hadley shoulder bag which takes all I require for a days shoot, apart from a tripod of course. It’s a pleasure to use and I can happily fit the EM5, two part grip, both f2.8 Panasonic lenses and 2 or even all 3 prime lenses in the bag plus other bits and pieces, including an iPad.

Billingham Hadley shoulder bag and Olympus OMD EM5
Billingham Hadley Pro shoulder bag

Another big advantage is that I used to spend a lot of time reading reviews about the latest equipment. I am pleased to say this does not happen now, which frees up more of my time to take photographs and adding new entries to this blog – both of which give me far more pleasure!

I suppose the only draw back is the price. I do not dare to calculate the total cost but like most things in life you get what you pay for. My late father also told me to buy the best you can afford at the time. I am very fortunate and have been able to follow his advice and invest in a first class system, which is really enjoyable to use.

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‘People and Places’ at Glorious Goodwood

The end of July/beginning of August is traditionally the time for one of the most famous race meetings in the country – Glorious Goodwood. Situated on The South Downs the race course enjoys wonderful views of the countryside to the north and to the south, distant views of the sea and even the Isle of Wight on a clear day. I am not a seasoned race goer and definitely not a gambler buts its hard to resist the allure of Glorious Goodwood which attracts the famous, the not so famous and those that are simply there to win some money or have a good day out.

My reason for going this year was as part of a ‘People and Places’ photography course I was attending at West Dean College which is just down the road from Goodwood. I would thoroughly recommend West Dean College to anyone interested in an arts or crafts course held in a beautiful house set in quite superb grounds. The course was being run by Jacqui Hurst and in addition to myself there were five other participants. I will say more about Jacqui and the course in a forthcoming post.
At the outset of the week I set myself the objective of ‘seeing’ in black and white. We had to produce a portfolio of work by the end of the course, so however good some of the images might appear in colour the final selection would all have to be in monochrome. At Glorious Goodwood I wanted to capture the atmosphere of the place and its people, and whilst we were not in the ‘posh’ Richmond or Gordon Enclosures, the Lennox Enclosure would provide just as many photo opportunities.
I should just mention that a couple of weeks before attending the course I made the decision to buy the Olympus OMD EM5 with the 12mm to 50mm kit lens. The body and lens are weather sealed and having enjoyed the E-PL3 so much together with the three prime lens (12mm, 20mm and 45mm) I couldn’t wait to see how this new camera performed. Being on a photography course for a week was the ideal opportunity to find out. I can tell you now, I was not disappointed, to the contrary the results are quite fantastic and I am now wondering when the Nikon D90 DSLR will get its next airing?
Here are a selection of the images taken at Goodwood. They were all taken with the OMD and one of the prime lenses. Shot in RAW, imported into Lightroom with minor adjustments before converting to black and white in Silver Efex Pro2; a dedicated B&W plugin by Nik Software
Racing to the line
Olympus OMD 20mm f8 1/500 ISO 200
Racing for the line

Required reading for the day – The Racing Post
Olympus OMD 45mm f1.8 1/2000 ISO200
The Racing Post

Watching the race
Olympus OMD 45mm f1.8 1/1600 ISO200
Cheering them on

A family day out……could that be the winner of the next race?
Olympus OMD 45mm f3.2 1/2500 ISO400
Family outing to the races

Lining up to place a bet…..I’m happy with those odds
Olympus OMD 45 f3.2 1/640 ISO200
The odds are looking good

Typical headgear at Goodwood
Olympus OMD 45mm f3.2 1/1600 ISO200

Losing her shoe and losing her balance

Olympus OMD 45mm f4.5 1/200 ISO200
Losing her balance and her shoe!

Fingers or fork?

Olympus OMD 45mm f1.8 1/2000 ISO200
Fork or fingers?
Candid portrait
Olympus OMD 45mm f1.8 at f1.8 1/160 ISO 400

Candid portrait

A day out at the races – fun for all the family!
Olympus OMD 45mm f4.5 1/800 ISO200
A day out at the races

Entertainment from a steel band 
Olympus OMD 20mm f8 1/125 ISO200
Caribbean band playing the drums

A band called Squinty McGinty play feet tapping music in the beer tent
Olympus OMD 45mm f1.8 1/160 ISO400
Guitarist of Squinty McGinty

……and Goodwood wouldn’t be the same without a Rolls Royce in the car park.
Olympus OMD 45mm f7.1 1/200 ISO400