Here are a few photos from a scouting trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Thursday. I wanted to see how it was doing in the wake of Hurricane Irma and my shutter finger was itchy. Some things didn’t fare too well:
Wreck at Markers 1 and 2 – on the northwest side of the Max Brewer Causeway
I drove over on SR 46 from Winter Springs and the road was clear the entire way. Although the water’s very high in some locations (especially near the St. Johns River), it doesn’t reach the road.
I made these next three images standing in the same spot near the Bairs Cove boat ramp on Haulover Canal. It’s amazing how reliable a place this is to see wildlife. I almost always find at least these three species when I go there and I was glad to see them still around after the storm.
They’ve finished the Haulover Canal Bridge repairs so it’s open now. I need to go back there and kayak again. It is going to cool off soon I hope!
There were a few shore birds along the causeway. I couldn’t check out the wildlife in two of my favorite areas (Black Point and Gator Creek) since they’re closed due to hurricane damage. I don’t know when they’ll reopen – you can find out the current status at this webpage: https://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147578811
For everyone that ended up on this page after searching for math answers or song intros, I’m sorry about the title. I know it’s bad for Search Engine Optimization, but I couldn’t resist. I only wish I’d found a group of four somethings to photograph too.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Today I’d like to talk more about its high res mode and some things I’ve learned so far while working with it. I’ll use this recent image from the north bank of Haulover Canal in Merritt Island NWR for my example. By the way, please click on the photo, you’ll be able to see a higher resolution version on Flickr.
Daybreak at Haulover Canal
For those of you who aren’t interested in this particular camera or capability, here’s the tl;dr summary: Your capture and processing tools, technique, and skill make a difference in the resulting photo. But that’s true of every camera. And you already knew that, didn’t you?
Okay, for those of you that are interested, here’s some hints on how to get the best out of this mode.
I’ve found that the software I use makes a big difference in the detail that shows up in the file. I normally use Lightroom for all my photos, although I also have DxO Optics pro and I think it does a good job with higher ISO images. But I noticed issues when using either of them with the Olympus high-resolution files. Here are three 1:1 crops, processed in the three different software packages. These are just after importing from the RAW file, with (mostly) default processing, although I did adjust sharpening on the first two to try to improve detail.
Processed in Lightroom CC Version 2015.1.1
Processed in DxO Optics Pro 10 Version 10.4.2
Processed in Olympus High Res Shot Raw File Photoshop Plug-In
To my eye there’s no question: the Olympus software does a better job processing the High Res Raw file. The result is sharper, with more detail – so I’ve switched to using it instead of either Lightroom or DxO Optics Pro for initial input of the high res files. There are limited adjustments available with it, so after importing the file I usually add an Adobe Camera Raw adjustment layer in Photoshop to help fine tune the highlights, shadows, etc.
You can see artifacts on the water surface in the crops above. These are from the way the high res files are created. Each file is composed of 8 separate captures that the camera combines into the high res RAW output file. So any motion during capture will result in strange-looking distractions. If your camera is moving, the image will be unusable. So I use a sturdy tripod, a cable release and / or a shutter delay. If part of the scene is moving (like water, or wind-blown branches) you’ll see the distracting artifacts in that part of the frame. For some subjects (e.g. still life) this isn’t a problem – nothing moves. For landscapes, you’ll need a very calm day or you may want to remove the artifacts in post processing.
If they bother you, there are (at least) a couple of things you can try. Olympus also saves the first of the 8 frames that it uses to create the RAW file. You can open this, up-res it, and mask it into the high res version wherever there are artifacts you want to remove. (Note that you’ll have to rename the normal res file – your software probably won’t recognize the .ORI extension). And you’ll have carefully process the normal and high res files exactly the same up until the point where you do this so that any color or brightness difference doesn’t show. And finally, you’ll have to recognize that wherever you do this, the resolution will suffer.
For water surfaces, you can also try applying a motion blur in Photoshop and masking it in to hide the artifacts. That was easy to do in this photo, since it was a relatively long exposure (1/2 sec.) and the water surface was calm. Here’s a before and after 1:1 comparison:
Motion Artifacts – prior to removal
Motion Artifacts – masked out using a motion blur layer in Photoshop
Olympus outputs 64 Mega Pixel RAW files. Olympus themselves say there’s not 64MP of information in the file. It’s more like 40MP, so they downsize their JPG files to 40MP. When using this mode keep that in mind.
There’s not too much else to worry about, although I have seen some things that look like “hot pixels” in the high res images (2 or less per file). I’m not sure if that’s what they are and I also don’t see them in normal res files from the camera. But they are pretty easy to remove with the Healing Brush in Lightroom. By the way, If anyone else has seen these, I’d be interested in hearing from you.
High Res “Hot Pixel”
So, the E-M5 Mark II High Res mode:
Is most suitable for still life types of images when the camera is mounted on a tripod and nothing is moving.
Is best processed from RAW by the Olympus High Res Shot Raw File Photoshop Plug-In – at least with current (August 2015) versions of software.
Offers better resolution and improved color and noise characteristics than the normal mode images.
Can be used in other situations (e.g. landscapes), but unless the subject is still, you’ll need to deal with motion artifacts.
Provides the greatest benefit with better lenses. Lower quality glass could compromise the output resolution of the system.
If you capture images in high res mode and the artifacts are too difficult to deal with, you can always drop back and use the normal resolution file. The results will be almost as good for anything except large prints (or pixel peeping).
Have you used a capability like this? What have you discovered?
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
If you search the web for “Haulover Canal” you’ll get many hits on fishing and kayaking there. I haven’t tried the fishing, so I can’t really comment on that, but I see people (and dolphins!) fishing there all the time so it’s probably pretty good. I have kayaked there many times and it’s a wonderful place to paddle and to photograph too.
Haulover Canal is in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and it’s part of the Intracoastal Waterway. It connects Mosquito Lagoon with the Indian River. You can launch your Kayak at the Bairs Cove boat ramp on the south side of the canal, but we use a better spot on the north-west end of the canal. Heading north along the Courtenay Parkway, take the first left after the bridge and follow the dirt road to the end where there’s a sandy bottom put in. There’s a fee to launch from Bairs Cove, but not from the north side.
From the put in, you can paddle west and circle around Mullet Head Island where there are usually quite a few birds. We’ve seen Redish Egrets, Great Egrets, Tri-colored and Great Blue Herons, Pelicans, Cormorants, etc. there. It is a protected nesting area, though – so you’re not allowed to get too close.
Handsome Pelican: From my kayak, near Mullet Head Island (Olympus EM5)
We usually paddle east along the canal and stop back in Bairs Cove, where we’ve seen manatees every time we’ve been. They’re very docile and sometimes friendly. You’re not allowed to harass / approach them, but if you sit quietly in your kayak, sometimes they’ll harass you!
Manatee checks out Mary’s kayak (Olympus EM5)
You can paddle further east and go under the bridge to a manatee observation deck along the north shore. However, I’ve never once seen manatees there. Do you think the manatees enjoy the joke?
We frequently see Bottlenose Dolphins too and they’re often feeding. This one was near the launch point and made a fuss chasing fish before swimming off.
Mike & Sara watch a dolphin from their kayak (Olympus TG-2)
There are even a few landscape opportunities, although I haven’t made it over for sunrise or sunset yet. This group of struggling trees caught my eye.
Survivors : On the west side of Haulover Canal. (Olympus TG-2)
You’ll need to watch for boat traffic, but since it’s a no wake zone, it’s fairly safe for kayaks. If you haven’t kayaked before and want to have a little support when you make this trip, A Day Away Kayak Tours is close by and very helpful. They’ll take you on a guided tour or rent you a kayak so you can go on your own, too.
All the photos in this post were made on kayak trips using a variety of cameras. I now have enough experience with our boats that I’m confident in the water and not afraid of tipping, but splashes from paddles and waves are still a worry where camera gear is concerned. A dose of saltwater is not too healthy for most normal cameras. So I’ve been using an Olympus TG-2 and a GoPro Hero3 (both waterproof) on these trips.
Photographing birds near Mullet Head Island (GoPro and EM5)
It’s great not having to worry about water damage, but I do miss some of the higher end photo capabilities (e.g. RAW format, interchangeable and long lenses, etc.). So I’ve taken the higher end gear out once or twice. In the photo above I really photo-geeked and used the GoPro to make a photo of myself making a photo with the Olympus EM5.
Here’s some additional info on Kayaking at Haulover Canal from a couple other sites: