Tag Archives: #getolympus

New Nikon Z6ii

Amaryllis captured with the Nikon Z6ii

Most of you know I shoot with an Olympus camera system, well, now I’ve added the Nikon Z6ii. Before the Olympus system, I used Nikon gear but when I decided to switch to mirrorless, Nikon didn’t have a great camera, that’s why I moved to Olympus. There are many features to my Olympus system that still impress me like: focus bracketing, focus stacking, in-camera ND filter, focus shift, and starry sky focusing. Not to mention the smaller sensor doubles the focal length of each lens. So, when I head to Florida next month, I will take my OMD1 Mark III and 300mm F/4 lens which is an equivalent focal length of 600mm. And it fits in my camera backpack, along with an extra camera body and two more lenses. My Olympus gear is compact and of high quality.

But, I love cameras and found myself a little jealous when so many participants were shooting with the new Nikon mirrorless cameras, so I purchased the Nikon Z6ii, 50mm macro, and 24-70mm f/4 lenses. I still use my Olympus, but I am loving the new Nikon. But buying a new camera is not simple. Not only is there research before purchasing, but there are also a lot of extra costs involved. Here is a list of items I purchased in addition to the camera:

  • Shutter release
  • L – bracket
  • Tethering cord
  • Camera bag
  • Extra battery
  • Luckily, my Yongnuo and Godox flash units already work with Nikon.

You might be wondering why I purchased the Nikon? Well, to be honest, sometimes it is fun having something new! Frequently I shoot in low light and wanted the full-frame sensor for that purpose. Whether I am shooting night skies, events, or even extensive focus stacks, a full-frame sensor with less noise is always welcome.

What’s different

Compared to my Olympus, this new Nikon camera has a similar grip, and the menus don’t throw me off, so it has been an easy transition. However, the new focus bracketing feature is different. I’m still testing it, but mostly I notice the interval spacing is different. Setting a focus stack on my Olympus with an interval of 5 is a much larger spacing than the same setting on the Nikon. As I use the feature more, it should become more intuitive. I’ve used the internal focus bracketing feature and can’t imagine a camera without one.

Overall, I am very happy with my new Nikon Z6ii. The full-frame sensor does offer less noise but that also means less magnification (macro and telephoto) than the Olympus system. Now with multiple systems, I can pick and choose the right tool for the job. And for now, I plan to use both tools.

Water = Camera Insurance

Pumphouse Wash water pool.
The memory card survived the water!
Olympus OMD 1 Mark III, 12-100mm lens,
1/200 sec, f/7.1, ISO 200.

On a recent hike with my husband through Pumphouse Wash I dropped my two-month-old camera. The hike required wading through many thigh-high polls of water, and I was careful while wading. Hiking was slow through the water, so after three hours of hiking, we turned back toward the car. That meant wading through the pools of water again. The walk-able ledge on the last pool meant we would stay dry, well that was the plan anyway. Somehow, my pack was open and my camera took a swim. I watched it submerge 18” under water, so I jumped in too. As I grabbed the camera strap the lens broke off and water gushed inside the camera. After getting the camera, I spotted the lens wedged between two rocks and retrieved it. I pulled the battery and memory cards from the camera immediately, hoping to keep the images from the hike.

Broken camera lens
Broken lens with water inside.

Once on dry ground, I wrapped the gear in a towel, and we hiked the last 1/3 mile back to the trail head. At the car, I opened every compartment to dry them out and knew Monday I would call my insurance company. Almost ten years ago, I purchased a policy from State Farm Insurance to cover my gear since I own too much camera gear for a traditional homeowner’s policy. On Monday, I called in my claim. A few days later, a claims adjuster called and by the end of the phone call, he issued me a check for the full value of my gear minus the $100 deductible.

Insurance

Camera in bag of rice
Camera in rice to dry out.

Hopefully, this event got you thinking about insuring your gear. My policy cost $20/month and with over $3000 replaced gear, insurance was a wise choice for me. Not only can you get a special policy through most homeowner’s insurance agents, but many photography organizations offer insurance as part of your membership. Here is a short list of options for insurance, but there are many more.

  • PPA – Professional Photographers of America
  • PSA – Photographic Society of America
  • NANPA – North American Nature Photography Association
  • Howard Burkholz of Allstate
New Olympus camera gear

I contacted Olympus to see if a repair was possible. Although they couldn’t say for sure without evaluating it, dropping the camera in water void the warranty. While I waited to hear from my insurance agent, I placed the camera in a bag of rice. I’m glad I had insurance.

The Benefit of Using a Tripod

Barred owl captured with a tripod
Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 300mm, F/5.6, 1/80 sec, ISO 1600, tripod

Do you dislike using a tripod? After teaching photo workshops for several years, I recognize it is not a popular piece of gear for new photographers. Tripods can be clunky, unstable, awkward, and temperamental. The “unstable” can be solved by purchasing a quality tripod from the start. Many photographers start with an inexpensive tripod and then realize why it was inexpensive…it doesn’t support their camera or is not built well. Save yourself some time and money and buy a good tripod from the start. The clunky, awkward, and temperamental can be overcome by using it.

I often hear participants state they only need a tripod when photographing landscapes, low light, or macro subjects, well, that is not true. A tripod in any shooting situation will improve the quality of your photos. Here is an example when I used a tripod in full sun to improve my photos.

Ibis image taken with a tripod
Ibis with a crab. Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 300mm, F/6.3, 1/4000 sec, ISO 400.

While in Florida on vacation, I photographed birds, from egrets to owls and they entertained me for hours. But holding a long lens for hours was not a solution for sharp photos, so I used my tripod. I started with my Olympus 40-150mm lens (80-300mm FF equivalent) and handheld many images, but since I use live view at 3-5x to verify sharp focus on the eyes of my subject, holding the camera still at this magnification was impossible. Even more so when I switched to my Olympus 300mm lens (600mm FF equivalent). As a result, I grabbed my tripod. Not only were my images sharper, but at the end of the day, my arm wasn’t sore from carrying the weight of the long lens.

Burrowing Owls

Photo of burrowing owl, by Amy Horn taken with a tripod
Burrowing Owl. Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 300mm with 1.4x teleconverter, F/5.6, 1/1250 sec, ISO 250.

One afternoon in Cape Coral, Florida, I spent hours photographing burrowing owls. These small owls are only 7-10 inches tall and like all wildlife, a photographer should keep a good distance to not disturb them. Therefore, I chose to use my Olympus 300mm lens and 1.4x teleconverter giving me a focal length of 820mm (full frame equivalency). With such long focal lengths, a tripod was a must. We drove to several neighborhoods in Cape Coral to photograph these owls with different backgrounds.

I recently purchased a Fotopro X-Go Plus carbon fiber tripod for airplane travel since it is smaller, lighter and fits in my suitcase. If you purchase a tripod for travel, be sure to check the weight of your gear with your heaviest lens and make sure that is below the max load of the tripod you are considering. With my lightweight Olympus system, my max load is less than most DSLR’s.

Using a tripod to capture images of owls
iPhone image of cpaturing burrowing owls

Valentine’s Composite

The first two images were used to create the composite on the right.

Photoshop is not for every image, but I like to use it for compositing and making an impact. I decided to create a composite to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Using my Cognisys StopShot Water Drip Kit, I captured several drops and drop collisions. After reviewing the images, I noticed two that if combined would make a fun composite. Since, viewers commented that it looks like the character, “Tigger”.

Layers

Setting the camera on a tripod (a must with water drop collisions) gave me several almost identical images, the only difference was in the actual drops. To create the composite, I would need to utilized layers in Photoshop. The “Tigger” image was my base image. Then I selected the “tail” from the second image and brought the tail layer over to my base. Once the “tail” was in place, I added a mask to erase the part I didn’t need to create a believable Tigger tail. The final composite included two images and you may notice that I also erased a few of the extra water drops. The spot healing brush is an easy tool and blended the area nicely. This took me less than thirty minutes and I have fun creating it.

Transform Tool

On the next image, I envisioned a drop in the shape of a heart. Well, that would never happen naturally, so I used Photoshop’s transform Tool to create the heart. First step was to cutout the heart onto its own layer. Then use transform (Ctrl +T, Cmd +T) to select it. With the transform tool active, a right click will offer additional transforming options and I chose warp. After dragging the sizing handles around, I designed a heart. The last step was to blend this with the original drop. Again, I added a mask to erase the top portion of the original drop and positioned the new heart shape to blend properly.

Photoshop isn’t for everyone or every image, but it is fun to use!

What, When, Why, and How to Keyword

Yellow flower with keyword
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60mm, ISO 200, f/3.5, 1/640 sec.

Before talking about how to keyword, I should discuss photography workflow which is the process a photographer uses for their images from capture to output. This includes culling, developing and posting images. Although there are many differences from photog to photog, there are also many similarities. Many photogs include keywording as part of their workflow, as do I. I am not always the best at it, so I have spent the last month applying more discipline to keywording.

Why keyword?

leaf with waterdrops
Potential keywords: leaf, raindrop, cloudy, green, etc.

When images have a keyword attached it becomes searchable. Imagine searching your images by your child’s name, a color, location, or specific lighting situation. If you take the time to add keywords, it is that easy. I use Lightroom to catalog my images, so to search for a macro image, I type “macro” into the search box and tada, all my macro photos appear. That is, if I added the keyword to each image. If you have not been keywording, don’t fret, just start now. Someday, you can go back and tackle past images but for now, start with today.

When to keyword?

A better question is “when not to keyword”! Don’t wait to keyword! Adding keyworks when you download or very soon afterward helps you to remember the details of the shoot.  For instance, I went to Boyce Thompson Arboretum in January after a rainstorm and captured a few hundred images (many were focus stacked). When I downloaded, I immediately added keywords that applied to all images such as: Arizona, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, desert, raindrops, cloudy, etc. Then after culling my photos and removing obvious images to delete, I added specific keywords such as: focus stacking, cactus, specific plant varieties, etc. To remember the plant varieties, I take a reference photo on my iPhone of my setup with the plant label so I can add the keyword later.

How to keyword?

Adding keywords in Lightroom is very easy. Upon import, scroll down the righthand bar to the keyword tab and start adding words to describe your photos (separate with commas). Remember, these keywords will apply to all images being imported, so start generic first. Then, to add additional keywords once the images are imported, switch to grid view (G) and locate the spray can on the tool bar at the bottom of the page. Once the spray can is selected a text box becomes available to add keywords. Add several keywords with commas in between and “spray” them on to the respective photos. Change the keywords as needed and respray. When you are done, tap the spray can back to its spot and you are finished.

Lightroom screen capture with spray can and keyword tags highlighted.

It really is that easy. The hardest part is taking the extra few seconds/minutes to add the keywords. But for searching after the fact it is a blessing in my opinion.

Olympus Focus Stacking

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60mm, ISO 400, f/3.5, 1/40 sec., Olympus in-camera focus stacking.

After my past workshop at Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona, a participant asked me to explain the Olympus focus stacking process in a macro setting. Since I use the focus bracketing modes almost daily in my macro photos, it made sense. So, follow along to explore capturing focus bracketed images using an Olympus OMD1 Mark II.

First, Olympus offers two different focus bracketing modes – focus stacking and focus bracketing. Focus stacking is a capture of eight images at different focus depths stacked into one JPG within the camera. The original RAW images write to the memory card as well as the finished JPG stack. Focus Bracketing is a capture of up to 999 images at different focus depths and all RAW images write to the memory card for the photographer to stack using other stacking software (Helicon, PhotoShop, etc). This article discusses focus bracketing mode specifically. However, the focus stacking mode is almost identical.

Capture

Olympus focus stacked image of ice and moss
Ice and moss at Watson Lake. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60mm, ISO 400, f/5, 1/8 sec., 30-images focus stacked and circular polarizing filter.

With your camera on a tripod and a lens capable of focus stacking (Olympus 60mm, 12-100mm, etc) frame your shot. I prefer the 60mm and place it as close to the subject as possible. Next, toggle the 1:1 switch on the side of the macro lens and position the camera/tripod to achieve focus. Now, switch to manual focus and focus back and forth to find the part of the image that is closest to the lens. With live view and zooming, manually focus the nearest part of the image.

Olympus Menu

Now you are ready to activate the focus bracketing function. Using the menu, locate Camera 2> bracketing >on >focus bkt >on. At this point, you are given a choice between focus stacking or focus bracketing. With the focus stacking option set to off, set the number of shots and focus differential for focus bracketing. (With focus stacking ON, these other options are grayed out). In the images below, I demonstrate the difference of a focus stacked image (left) and a single image (right).

Number of shots: I am often asked how to decide the number of images to capture in a stack. That is hard to describe. The more intricate and larger depth of field requires more images. Generally, I start with 50. If there are more than I need meaning some are out of focus because it went beyond my subject, I don’t use those images in post-processing.

Differential: The differential is the distance between each bracketed image and more complicated to calculate. I tend to use a small differential of 1-2 with my macro lens and extension tubes. With more practice you will see different results and learn to adjust according to your subject.

With focus bracketing activated, press the shutter using a cable release. A cable release is crucial to avoid camera movement from pressing the shutter with a finger. The camera captures the images using Silent sequential high-speed shutter and they are viewable on my LCD screen at the same time. If I watch closely, I can see the focus move from the front to the back of the frame. It really is that easy! Now, it is all up to post-processing. My preference is using Helicon Focus, but PhotoShop and other software can stack images as well.

View my camera setup in the video to the left. Notice the camera is upside down on the tripod to achieve the lowest perspective.

Tips

If you create more than one stack, you will want to capture a random photo in between each stack. For example, I take a photo of my hand in between each stack. Then when I download, I know where each stack starts and stops.

To learn more about macro photography, check out our book, The Art of Macro Photography. Also available on Amazon.

Be the Family Photographer

Jessica and Emma. Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 12-100mm, f/5.6, 1/320, 400 ISO.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, my husband and I drove to Los Angeles for a few days to celebrate our one-year-old granddaughters’ birthday and to sit by the beach. At the birthday party, I brought my camera and Jessica, my stepdaughter was pleased. The person designated to bring something other than an iPhone forgot so I became the photographer. Not only was I pleased to take on the task, I was given the honor to be front and center in every activity! I captured candid photos, details of the cupcakes, and a few family portraits. It was a great opportunity to give them memories from the day.

Emma’s 1st Birthday! Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 12-100mm, f/5.6, 1/320, 400 ISO.

One-year-old Emma doesn’t sit still for long so I had to be quick! Using aperture priority at f/5.6 and my 12-100mm Olympus lens, I was mobile and could zoom in and out as needed. Once the party was over, I took a few minutes to download a few of my favorite photos from my camera to my phone. Then, I airdropped them to Jessica before we left the party! When I returned home from the trip, I took a closer look at all of the photos and sent them about 40 images through Dropbox. That was the best gift giving ever.

Emma and Grandpa. Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 12-100mm, f/5.6, 1/320, 400 ISO.

Family Photo. Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 12-100mm, f/5.6, 1/320, 400 ISO.

Cupcakes! Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 12-100mm, f/5.6, 1/320, 400 ISO.

Why Focus Stack

focus stack of fordite

Cropped version of final Focus Stack. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60mm + 26mm extension tubes, ISO 400, f/4, 1/50 sec.

Not all macro subjects are captured sharp in a single image, that makes a great reason to focus stack. In preparing for a camera club presentation, I decided to focus stack a new object. I chose a piece of fordite from Cadillac Ranch. If you aren’t familiar with fordite, just think – layers of paint. The first image (image A) is a close-up image of the piece of fordite that measures 2” x 1”. I used my 12-100mm lens and got as close as I could to capture the image. Then, with my macro lens and extension tubes, I captured image B. A small sliver of the subject is sharp, but not the whole piece of fordite. In order to have sharpness throughout the entire frame, I would need to focus stack.

 

At first, I tried a stack of 50 images. My Olympus camera has a focus bracketing mode so all I do is focus on the closest part of the fordite and program the camera for 50 images at a small increment of focus bracketing. The camera then captures 50 raw images changing the focus with small increments from front to back. After looking at image 50, the farthest part of the fordite was still blurry, so I needed more photos in my stack. I tried again, this time with 125 focus bracketing images. When I reviewed the photos, at image 118, I had the sharpness I needed. Next step was to focus stack the 118 images in Helicon Focus. Helicon is amazingly easy to use. After selecting the images in Lightroom, I export to Helicon and press the render button. Helicon does the rest. The last image is the final image of 118 focus stacked images.

A few tips on focus stacking:

  • Mark the start of a focus stack by capturing a single image of your hand, or other random subject otherwise if you capture several stacks, it will be hard to identify the start and stop of the stack otherwise.
  • Use a tripod and shutter release to minimize camera shake. Photoshop CC offers focus stacking but it is more complicated than Helicon Focus.

Benefits of Photographing Alone

Fall Colr
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/14, .5 sec.., Circular Polarizing Filter.

Benefits of Photographing Alone

Dried leaves

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 100, f/4, 1/100., 8 image focus stack in-camera.

Not long ago, I spent a morning in Sedona photographing fall colors. Whenever I travel alone, I do check in with my husband at the start and end of my trip. Checking in with him is more for my benefit; knowing someone is aware of my location makes me feel better. My husband is very optimistic that I will be safe regardless. Photographing alone does require discipline, after all, hitting snooze on the early alarm is tempting, after all, no one is meeting up with me. But I stayed disciplined and left before dark to drive to Westfork in Oak Creek Canyon.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/8, 1/8 sec.., Circular Polarizing Filter.

When I find a scene that interests me, I love working the scene for a while. Constantly challenging myself and looking for better angles or compositions. If there were people around me, they would hear me talk to myself saying things like, “what if I used that rock as foreground…” And then adjust my composition. Walking along the quiet path was relaxing and I didn’t feel a pressure in the world. I worked each composition for as long as I wanted with no time restrictions of leaving. I hiked up the side of the canyon along a small trail with awesome fall colors and scrambled down low when I found mushrooms. It was a fun and rewarding day. Sometimes, creativity is sparked just by shooting alone.

Water Drop Collisions

Creating water drop collisions keeps me entertained for hours. For the last year, I have been very busy completing and publishing the book, The Art of Macro Photography and my drip kit was neglected. So, I blocked a few hours and went to work in my make shift studio (spare bedroom). I kept the setup simple and started with single drops of water. I didn’t use any additives, just wanted to practice making drops and fine tune the timing of the flashes. After a successful single drop, I added the second drop.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60mm, ISO 400, f/16, .5 sec.

In all the time I have been shooting water drop collisions, I’ve never seen the second drop hit next to the original drop as you can see in the image to the right. After several minutes problem solving, I tapped the valve and all subsequent drops collided. Why does this entertain me for hours? I love the challenge of focusing sharp and the varied final images. With a small change on timing of the flashes, I can achieve several different looks. The last image is of my setup for this series.

Stay tuned for more images next week!