Lynn and I met Howard and Nancy T. at the Cape last Tuesday to watch the first launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
Falcon Heavy first launch – This is an Olympus Live Composite, multiple exposure image showing the ascent. From ~12 miles away (the “Close” viewing area off of Vectorspace Blvd near Kennedy Space Center). 40mm eq. Field of View.
Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 and it’s amazing to think about how far they’ve come in so short a time – all as a privately funded company. Their first launch to orbit was in 2008 and last week they launched an object into solar orbit with the Falcon Heavy, which is now the world’s most powerful launch system.
SpaceX 1st Falcon Heavy Launch – sending a red Tesla sports car past Mars! ~600mm eq. Field of View.
To me as an engineer, the capability to land and reuse boosters is even more impressive. Especially when you watch two boosters simultaneously landing back near the launch site!
SpaceX: !st Falcon Heavy Launch – two simultaneous booster braking burns. These two successfully landed back at the Cape. Unfortunately, the third booster crashed at sea. ~600mm eq. Field of View.
If you’re a space fan like I am, you’ve been following this story. But if not, here are a few pages around the web that you might find interesting:
It was truly a wonderful experience to watch this happen. It seems to me that Elon is well on the way to earning his place as another Edison.
As far as the photo-op went, it’s a tough assignment. We were about 12 miles away in the area NASA calls “Close”. This is much closer than our usual viewing area (our driveway – about 35 miles away), but still a bit distant. They also have “Closer” and “Closest” areas about 7.5 miles from the pad. VIPs and press were only 3 miles away. If you want truly great photographs, you’ll have to figure out how to get closer than we did.
Hey Elon – Central Florida Photo Ops needs a press pass!!!
It turns out this wasn’t really about the photo-op. It was about the experience of witnessing history with thousands of other space fans. And these photos will help me remember the thrill.
Post launch vapor trail
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go witness some history! And make some photos!
The short answer is “Nope, not really”. For the longer answer, read on…
Sometimes I’ll take a camera by Bear Creek Nature Trail in our neighborhood (the middle of Tuscawilla, along the north side of Winter Springs Boulevard). On this particular day back in January of 2017, sunlight was filtering down through the trees and hitting the water at a bend in the creek. The light refracting through ripples in the surface created interesting patterns and colors I thought were worth a shutter click.
Bear Creek Ripples 1a (28mm eq. focal length, f/8, 0.5 seconds, ISO 64)
This was a month or so after I started using the Olympus E-M1 Mark II camera. I’d sold my Nikon D-800 and lenses so I could afford to upgrade my Olympus kit and I was still getting used to the new gear. I’d had the D-800 for over four years and it’d worked extremely well for me. It was the very best camera I’d ever used so getting rid of it was a big step and I was still second guessing my decision.
Why did I sell the Nikon gear and move exclusively to Olympus? And how is it working out? Glad you asked!
It seems that discovering micro four thirds cameras is a big thing on the web, lately. Here are a few links with a lot of information you can investigate:
I won’t repeat these discussions. Everyone will have their own opinion and reasoning for the camera equipment they use. I’ll just summarize by saying that for me, no regrets. The smaller and more modern design has many advantages with few real issues. For what I shoot, I haven’t seen much downside.
I can carry much more camera capability with far less weight. And the new gear does things the older Nikon equipment doesn’t. Really, the only thing that concerns me even a bit is star / astro photography with the smaller sensor. I haven’t had much of a chance to test this yet and hopefully ease my concerns, but even if the Olympus isn’t as good at this type of photography, I’m not very worried. I don’t do it all that often and if I need to, I can always rent / borrow a different camera with a larger sensor or use something like the iOptron SkyTrackerTM to make really long exposures. Your mileage may vary of course, and you should investigate thoroughly before you make such a significant change.
If you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments. I’ll be more than glad to try to answer. And you can click on the image below to go to Flickr and browse through an album of the images I’ve made with the new camera:
Great Egret head shot
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – no matter the camera you have, go make some photos!
When I left to meet Kevin K. and Tom M. for some photography before dawn last Monday, the sky was clear, the stars were shining and I didn’t think the sunrise would be very good. If I hadn’t been meeting friends, I might have gone back to bed! Looking at the photos in this post, it’s easy to see I was wrong – the sunrise was beautiful.
Observation 1: Go. You can’t always anticipate what you’ll see when you’re out photographing. But if you stay home, you know you won’t see anything.
Calm Blue Hour. 14mm (equivalent), ISO 64, f/5.6, 10 sec., Hi-res mode.
We ended up at Cocoa Riverfront Park. The clouds were moving in and the light and colors changed as we watched. There were several interesting directions to point the camera.
Observation 2: Arrive early and stay for a while when photographing sunrise. Watch all directions. Bring several lenses to vary your exposure, composition, and perspective. Work the scene!
Fire in the sky. 70mm (equivalent), ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/50 sec., multi-frame stitched panorama
Observation 3: My conclusions from the earlier post are all still true – except for one. I’m happy to report that with the E-M1 Mark II camera, Olympus has made a great deal of progress with hi-res mode. I didn’t have to fix any motion anomalies in either of these photos. Well done Olympus.
Dew on the Boardwalk. 14mm (equivalent), ISO 64, f/5.6, 8 sec., Hi-res mode.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
Today’s post is inspired by a gift the Olympus Camera Company has just given to owners of their OM-D E-M5 Mark II and E-M1 cameras. They’ve issued free firmware updates that add new capabilities, one of which is focus bracketing. Here’s an example image I made while learning about the new features. I wanted all the orchids to be sharp and the background to stay blurry.
Orchid – a focus stacked image processed in Photoshop from 14 frames made with the new focus bracketing feature in the E-M5 Mark II. Individual frames are at ISO 200, f/4, 1/25 second, 60mm (120mm eq.).
You can read about the firmware updates at this link on the Olympus website.
There are several camera companies providing new features in firmware updates to existing cameras. The Olympus engineering team is exceedingly clever and seem to really enjoy exploiting their hardware to come up with novel features, many of which are computational in nature. Focus bracketing is the latest example. Here are my first thoughts about this mode:
Of course, you can focus bracket manually, but having the camera do it for you is a big help.
When you frame your composition, leave room to crop. The stacking process can introduce anomalies at the edges.
Your starting focus point should be on the closest area. The bracketing function will step the focus away from the camera.
You control the number of exposures and relative step size. The step size you use depends on the situation and you’ll have to use trial and error to set it until you gain some experience. If your step size is too great, it’ll leave blurred areas in the processed image.
Set the number of exposures greater than you think you’ll need. Once you look at them on the computer you can discard any unnecessary ones. You can get very good control of depth of field and background blur by selecting which frames to use when post processing.
Focus bracketing uses the camera’s electronic shutter, so there are some limitations from that (e.g. flickering / banding due to fluorescent lights; An 8 sec. longest shutter speed limit; others?)
As with many kinds of multi-frame computational images, subject or camera motion will introduce artifacts. Focus bracketing works best for stationary subjects with your camera on a tripod
Here’s another example. And yes, including this may give you some idea of how old I am – I’m old enough not to care about that.
My engineering school calculator – a focus stacked image processed in Photoshop from 21 frames. Individual frames are at ISO 200, f/4, 1/40 second, 60mm (120mm eq.).
For comparison purposes, here is a single frame from the series. You can see the tremendous difference in depth of field.
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!