One Photo: Dried Teasel Flower Head Has Benefits

I posted this image of a dried teasel flower head on my IG and Facebook feed and was quite surprised by a couple of informative comments from two "old" high school friends, and I was pleased that they enjoyed the photo.  Personally, I posted it because I like the exposure and the two-tone blurry background.

Dried Teasel Flower Head
Panasonic GX80/85 with Olympus 12-100 mm zoom @ 100mm (200 equiv)
1/250sec, F6.3, +1.3EV, ISO1600

The first comment was from a friend who processes wool for looming (is that such a word?)  She informed me that these flower heads were once used for carding wool.  I did some research (using google, of course) and found some images of one or more rows of dried teasel flower heads being held together in a frame of wood, with a handle for holding.  One arrangement, called a Teasel Cross looks like this, which my friend posted on my Facebook feed:

Teasel Cross

[Well, I guess this "one photo" post technically becomes a "two photo" post because of this second image.  However, the photo is here for documentary reasons, I did not take the photo, and I don't know who did.]
The other comment was from a friend suffering from chronic lyme disease.  She mentioned that teasel was used in the treatment of this disease.  From what I have read, it is the teasel root that holds the secret sauce. Though not an antibiotic, I read that the root is capable of changing the body's environment and that it can stimulate cells to dump lyme bacteria into the blood stream where the body can then detox it.  It appears that it may be an option for those whose condition has not been resolved with antibiotics.  [This sounds good in theory, but I did not find any information on how successful the treatment is, nor did I find any information about possible side effects.]


Olympus E-M1 Is Back From the Repair Shop

I’m pleased with the turn-around time on the repair of my EM-1, and the repair cost was reasonable.  Unfortunately, the warranty had long expired, as I’ve owned and used the camera since December of 2013, the first month it became available.

Received! (Note that it arrived wrapped in bubble wrap for safe transport)

Here’s the problem I was having (for several months), as I described it on the repair order. 

“Camera is kept with mode dial in Aperture (A) Priority. However, most of the time when the camera is powered up, it is actually then in Program Mode as this is indicated in the lower left corner of the LCD. And the dials operate indeed as in the "P" mode. To change to "A" mode I need to click the physical mode dial either clockwise or counterclockwise to any other mode, then click it back to "A" mode. Very annoying.”

Once Olympus received my camera at the repair center in New Jersey, I was notified of the price for repair ($190) by logging into their website. I quickly approved the repair, as that price seemed fair and reasonable for a four year old camera. I received the camera via UPS ten days later. That, too, seemed reasonable. Your mileage may vary, but I’m happy.

I'm looking forward to "re-assembling" with my default lens, the 12-100, and RRS grip.

However, I’m not sure what was actually wrong with the camera. The receipt says “normal repair” and mentions that they “replaced the rear dial, rear cover and grip”. That appears to be the case, assuming “grip” means rear grip (the rubberized area under the right thumb). I notice the replaced rear dial because the “OK” is visible, whereas the lettering on the old OK button had been almost completely scratched off from pressing the button with my thumb nail.

My guess is that a technician removed the back of the camera, gained access to the insides of the camera, repaired something electrical, and sealed it all up with new parts. I’ll assume the new rear dial, new back grip, and new back were necessary for a quality repair. 


Panasonic GM5 With An Olympus FL-LM3 Flash

The last two posts have been about the Panasonic GM5 camera with the tiny 12-32mm kit zoom and the little Olympus FL-LM3 flash.  They worked well for me indoors at Thanksgiving.  Because both items were new to me it was my first experiment with this gear.  

An early discovery was that there is a flash limitation with the GM5.   I discovered that no matter how I set the camera (P, A, S or M mode), shutter speed could not be set faster than 1/50th.  It could be set lower, but not faster.  I later verified that indeed the flash sync speed is a paltry 1/50th.  I thought perhaps the electronic flash might give me a higher sync speed; but the flash is inoperable with the electronic flash and/or silent shutter.

That being said, what worked well for me was Auto ISO and Aperture priority with the aperture set wide open.  At full zoom of 64mm (equivalent) this meant F5.6 and 1/50th.  Setting the camera’s flash setting to TTL (not manual), the camera would choose an ISO that was typically one stop lower (sometimes two) than I would need without the flash.  For example if without the flash I would need ISO 2000, with the flash the camera would choose ISO 1000.  This means ambient light was cut in half and the flash provided the other half of the light requirement.  To me, using the flash meant a higher quality light (half ambient and half flash which I could bounce in any direction), better color (the flash is close to daylight temperature), and a cleaner file due to the lower ISO.

[The same results can be achieved by using M mode and setting the camera manually to F5.6 and 1/50th. Again, I found Auto ISO worked nicely.]

The flash operates in thousands of a second (1/2,000 ?) and froze most of the subject movement, but since some of the light was ambient light being gathered at 1/50th second, there were one or two occasions where I got a blurry subject and a frozen subject, all rolled into one. One of the examples is below.

In this photo our granddaughter was jumping from the chair (which is why the top of her head is out of the scene, unfortunately).  Notice that the flash froze her left hand during the first 1/2,000 (?) second of the 1/50 second exposure, but the remainder of the 1/50 exposure allowed too much movement to prevent blurring. There are essentially two exposures at work, the flash exposure (very fast) and the ambient light exposure (somewhat slow).

Personally I would not want to change any of the camera settings for this particular shooting situation.  The 1/50th limitation was fine… for snapshots of even active grandchildren at family indoor events.  I am a fan of small flashes.  Even though they require high ISO adjustments, this gives a nice balance between ambient and flash.  It looks more natural this way.  Had I used a more powerful flash, set ISO at base 200 and blasted a bounce flash, ambient light would have been eliminated and the result would look like a flash was used, with a bright foreground and a dark background.  Importantly I also couldn’t put a camera and big flash in my pocket like I did with the GM5 plus FL-LM3.


My "New" Panasonic GM5

My “New” Panasonic GM5 

I am in love with this little camera. This really surprises me, as it and it’s predecessor, the GM1, did not appeal to me when released (October 2013 for the GM1 and September 2015 for the GM5). The GM1 did not appeal to me because it lacks a viewfinder. And I think I was turned away from the GM5 originally because the reviews suggested it was simply too small for the user to be able to ergonomically manage the physical buttons.  

The purchase of a used GM5 on eBay for $360 last month was a rather spontaneous purchase. I’m happy I pressed the “buy now” button. The copy I received is in mint condition. Separately I bought the Panasonic additional grip for $50 which I find to be an essential accessory for a secure hold. 

So far, the small size has not bothered me.  If it were my primary camera perhaps I’d be frustrated with the single small control dial, and the weight imbalance if I use my bigger Olympus and Panasonic glass.

GM5 with available grip (attached to a base plate)

So far, what feels good and decently balanced on the camera is the Panasonic 12-32, 45-175, and 15, and the Olympus 25 and 60.  The 45-175 and 60 seem rather long (3.5” and 3.2” respectively), but they are light. The heaviest lens of the group is the 45-175 at 7.4 ounces. This weight seems to handle nicely on the GM5 with the grip attached. But perhaps that is partly because it zooms internally.  This means that it does not extend when zooming, thereby keeping the center of gravity closer to the camera body. The Olympus 60 weighs 6.5 ounces and does not extend either, as you’d expect for a prime lens. All the other lenses are short and featherweight at less than 5 ounces each. The zooms mentioned above are stabilized.  The primes are not.  The GM5 does not have in-body image stabilization.

What I like is the high quality images I am getting from what is not much bigger than a point and shoot camera, and which fits easily in my jacket, ski parka, or even the hand warming pockets of the LL Bean fleece pull-over I wore during Thanksgiving when I took the photos below.

I made my life easier for the images below by bouncing straight up to the white ceiling.
Arguably, better lighting is obtained by bouncing up 45% from horizontal and
off to one side or the other... or even angling rearward.

All but the first image below were taken with the little Olympus FL LM-3 flash, which I had modified to work on the Panasonic body (see prior blog post). My family is used to me using a flash indoors, so it didn’t seem to interfere with the activities and the antics of the children.  Yes, it would have been nice to have not used a flash at all, as that would have also allowed me to shoot in silent mode. On the other hand, the flash kept the ISO lower (about half) than what would have been needed with ambient light alone. As it was, except for ISO 500 for the first image (and only non-flash photo in the group), these shots are at ISO 800-3200. Without a flash, these ISO numbers would have been 1600-6400.


My Modified Olympus Flash FL-LM3

This is the flash that comes standard with the Olympus EM-5.2 and EM-1.2, and is available separately for $69. This little flash is so much nicer than the one (Flash FL-LM2) that came with my EM-1, as that flash does not bounce. But the FL-LM3 flash is awesome. It not only bounces but it rotates 180° in either direction. 

The FL-LM3 flash is a tiny flash.  Here it sits on top of my iPhone 5S

I purchased mine from Adorama. It is listed as compatible with the EM-5.2 only.  I guess the product description has not been updated to reflect its inclusion in the EM1.2 kit.  

I bought my copy earlier this month to adapt it for use on my Panasonic gear and EM-1, as illustrated in a YouTube video by David Thorpe in which he uses a piece of sandpaper to modify the flash to fit a Panasonic GX8. I modified my copy successfully in just a few minutes. It now works on both my Panasonic GX85 and Panasonic GM5. I haven’t tried it on my Olympus EM-1, because that is in the shop right now with a faulty mode dial, but my best guess is that it will work on that body too. 

In one or more posts to follow I will have more to say about using this flash on micro four-thirds bodies.

The images below show the flash as adjusted to a few of the many possible angles.

90 degrees to either side

rearward 180 degrees

Sitting on the GM5


Old Stone Walls Make Me Thankful

Last weekend I was walking through the woods here in eastern Massachusetts.  The woods in this area are filled with old stone walls.  Now, and even as a kid, I would walk through the woods near our home and imagine how hard life was back in the "old days" (18th and 19th century) when the land was being farmed.  I still wonder about this whenever I see an old stonewall and imagine the people who were walking this same spot one or two hundred years ago.

The stone walls were built by farmers clearing the land for crops (and pastures, I guess). As I understand it, this was an ongoing process.  Due to the seasonal freezing and unfreezing of the ground, rocks actually migrated up to the surface.  

It is quite obvious that it has been quite some time since this land was farmed or cleared.

As I walked, I wondered how these early farmers kept warm in winter.  Fireplaces don't give off much heat, unless you stand close to them.  I see old farmhouses built in the 18th century with more than one chimney.  I guess that was one solution.  I'm thinking an upgrade would be a "Ben Franklin Stove”.  These metal inserts made fireplaces more efficient; but a google search finds that it was not invented until 1741.  Thank you, inventor Ben Franklin. Many of the old farmhouses were big and all were uninsulated, so I'm thinking a dozen or more cords of wood were needed every winter, not to mention wood in the kitchen year round.

I am so thankful for what we have now. Yay for insulation and double pane windows.  And a big yay for central heating.  Our home is heated with gas.  It comes from the street, so there are no propane tank to fill.  It is so easy and clean with gas. And if we get cold, we just turn the heat up. No coal to shovel.  No logs to throw into one or more fireplaces. We even have two gas powered fireplaces… no mess, no fuss. I feel warm (enough) with our usual inside temperature hovering around 60F at night and 67F during the day, but my guess is that colonial farmers did not even dream of such warm inside temperatures, and if they did it would never be imagined that the temperature could be maintained throughout the entire house ... and with no effort.

In fact, I take for granted even the programable thermostat that allows me to set the temperature to go from 60F to 67F thirty minutes before we get out of bed in the morning.  And I'm not even talking about the hardware and software that some others have to do all of this remotely.  Hey, want the house warm up in time for your arrival home from work?  Well, just bump up the thermostat remotely from you cell phone.

What about hot showers? My guess is that those colonial farmers who cleared the land never even imagined that one day we would have domestic hot water pouring over heads. A bath may hardly have been in their vocabulary. I doubt they even imagined that there would even be cold water in the house.  Or indoor bathrooms and no need for chamber pots.  

I'm thankful for lots and lots of things today that go far beyond the scope of this posting.  But the stone walls beside which I walked last weekend made me feel thankful for a warm house and a warm shower.  

(In another six months I’ll be thankful for the central air conditioning we added to the house three years ago. During the summer months, I will be grateful for a cool house.  I’ll always be grateful for a warm shower.)


I Had To Be Content With Dried Flowers and Flora

Two days ago I went for a walk in the woods with the Panasonic GX85 and Olympus 12-100 lens, looking for things to photograph.  Outdoor photography is difficult this time of the year.  The days are getting colder and the color is gone.  Stuff is dried up and dead (except for the evergreens and a few of the ferns).  Nevertheless it was nice to get out and breath fresh air.  I walked slowly and looked around a lot. I am pleased (but not exactly excited) with a few of the images. Below is a small selection.

The close up images were taken at 100mm (200mm equivalent), 1/250sec, F4, and auto ISO varied from 320 to 1600 depending on the amount of light available.

This is my favorite because of the background.
A bit of overexposure worked nicely here.
1 1/3 stop positive EV compensation used.