7.11.2018

Photo Stacking for June Flowers

I did a lot of focus bracketing and stacking in June. Most of the 18 flower images below were taken at a local arboretum and a local botanic garden.  A few were in our yard.  I used mFT camera bodies by Olympus (E-M1) and Panasonic (GX80/85).  Most were taken with the Olympus 60mm macro lens.  Some were taken with the Olympus 12-100mm zoom.  





Both my Olympus and Panasonic cameras have a focus bracketing feature that allows me to focus on the closest part of the flower with the first shot, followed automatically by sequentially further-focused shots.  The beauty of this feature is that this is done with one press of the shutter and at a speed of approximately 10 frames per second.




May's images and post about photo stacking flowers mentioned I had assembled the May images using Zyrene Stacker. In June I instead used photoshop, and I prefer the results it gave me. And of course, for those who already subscribe to Photoshop and Lightroom, there is not the additional expense of buying a plug-in like Zyrene Stacker.




Basically, I find Photoshop does a better job aligning the flowers.  As a result there is rarely any ghosting, something I more than occasionally found using Zyrene Stacker.




Generally, I shot 20 images at a time, starting by focusing on the closest point of the flower.  In Lightroom I viewed each image and deleted any that were focusing further than the farthest point of the flower.  In some cases all 20 images were useable.  In one case, I only used the first seven images.


In all but two of these stacked images I shot wide open at F2.8 (60mm macro) and F4 (12-100 zoom).The two exceptions were at F4 on the macro lens.

Nine more:



With a couple of exceptions I sought hazy or cloudy days.  Light of any kind is good, but diffused light is the best!







 

7.04.2018

My Sony A6000 has been Languishing. Perhaps that will end in July?


I have owned the Sony A6000 for over three years. I (mostly) love the body shape and ergonomics.  My main peeve is the thumb dial on the back plate.  I find this to be awkward to use and very finicky. I have no problems with the other buttons and dials and the menu system works fine for me.

So why have I not been using the A6000 much?  After all it has that fine 24mp Sony sensor, whereas my preferred Olympus and Panasonic systems have a smaller sized mFT sensor and are only 16mp. (I don’t own any of the 20mp Olympuses and Panasonics.)

Well, for starters my collection of Olympus and Panasonic lenses is larger and I am very happy with their performance and quality.  I use them interchangeably on Olympus and Panasonic bodies. Not counting my cell phone, 90% of my images are from my Olympus and Panasonic gear.

The lenses available for the A6000 pale (IMO) in comparison to what I have for mFT. The kit 16-50 (24-75mm equivalent) is okay if all you want are snapshots.  Wanting better image quality, I bought two Sony Zeiss 16-70mm zooms, one after another.  I was hopeful. I found both samples to be equal in sharpness to my Olympus PRO lenses, but the Zeiss was noticeably softer in the corners and edges and suffered terribly from CA. That was too bad, because I am primarily a zoom guy and the 16-70 on the A6000 would have made a nice looking and nice feeling combo. But it couldn’t compete with my Olympus gear. Back the lenses went to the retailer.

What I have done with the A6000 is “cobble” together a collection of primes, but I find I rarely use the system. Nevertheless, I have decided to invest in one more lens. It's on pre-order. Shipment is expected this month (July, 2018).

My current collection of prime lenses for the A6000 come from three companies. From left to right:

12mm F2 Rokinon for E mount
35mm F1.8 Sony
50mm F1.8 Sony
100mm Nikkor F2.8, with Nikon-to-E Mount adapter



The pre-ordered lens:

I am excited about the  lens I have pre-ordered.  It is another Chinese-made Rokinon lens.  It is a 24mm F2.8 autofocusing FE lens designed specifically for the Sony full frame cameras. On the A6000 that is the equivalent of 35mm.

When it comes to primes, I think the 35mm equivalent focal length is my favorite.  I am hoping it will do the trick for me and that I will pull my Sony kit out of the bottom drawer.  

The lens should work fine on the cropped sensor A6000 as it is the same mount as the full frame mount.  I'm expecting it to be nicely sharp even in the corners and along the edges because the A6000 sensor covers only the middle 2/3 of a full frame sensor. Therefore the (expectedly) weaker outer edges of the lens will not come into play on the A6000.  

Full frame lenses are often too big and heavy to handle well on the smaller, lighter APS-C camera. I don’t think this will be the case here, as this lens is only 1.5” long and weighs just 4.2 ounces. A lot of the weight and size is a function of the F2.8 maximum aperture (as opposed to something bigger like F1.4 or F2). The "slow" F2.8 aperture is also, I assume, one reason for the modest offering price of $399. 

From camerasize.com
The pre-ordered Rokinon 24mm FE is on the right with hood attached.
On the left is the Sony 35mm F1.8 without the hood attached.

[I wouldn't be surprised to see in maybe a year that the price will drop from time to time to something like $299.  This is what happened with the $349 Rokinon 12mm I own.  I bought it during a seasonal sale for $249 from a large and reputable New York retailer.]

I love the 35mm equivalent focal length and am pretty stoked about getting my hands on this new lens.  That being said, if the image quality doesn’t impress me, it will get returned.


6.23.2018

My Toddler Granddaughter taught me how to use my Camera

My wife and I were visiting grandchildren yesterday and, as always, I brought along a descent camera hoping to grab one or two cute candid photos. The youngest of our three granddaughters loves to look at photos and watch videos on the back of smart phones and tablets.  And of course, she has also been intrigued by what the LCD on the back of my camera can offer.  



Yesterday’s visit reminded me of Christmas time, when after each click of the shutter she would toddle over to me, her thumb in her mouth, and bend her neck around without making a sound, to see what was on the screen.  She would take her sticky right forefinger and touch the LCD (you wouldn’t believe the fingerprints!), and began swiping through the pictures.  I just laughed.




The funny thing is that I had never tried that on my camera.  And, to be honest, I didn’t even know I could do that!  

So, there you have it.  I learned something about my camera from a one-year old.

[I shared this story with my friend, Hans, and he told me of a video he had seen of a two-year old trying to swipe the cover of a coffee-table book.  I am happy to say that all of our grandchildren have been well connected to books.]

6.14.2018

I Tested a few of my m43 Zoom Lenses


A couple of weekends ago I had to come up with a “plan C” for Saturday morning.  Plan A was to go fly fishing, but with winds in the 10-15 mph range this would not have been wise.  The wind makes casting a fly quite difficult and you never know when the fly will end up in the back of your head.  

I also had to nix Plan B.  That was to go to the local botanic garden and look for flowers to  photograph. As you would imagine, a windy day makes it quite difficult to photograph flowers outdoors. 

I had to come up with Plan C.

The view from Gibbet Hill.
Panasonic 35-100 F4-F5.6 @ 35mm (70mm equivalent)

Plan C became a walk along some paths in Groton with a stop at the top of Gibbet Hill with a tripod, Olympus E-M1, and several zoom lenses. The view was beautiful and I had a nice time “playing around” with these lenses. I was curious about relative sharpness, and the church in the background gave me something distant to focus each lens on. I had my Olympus 12-100 F4 (highest quality), Panasonic 100-300 F4-F5.6 (consumer quality), Panasonic 45-175 F4-F5.6 (consumer quality), and Panasonic 35-100 F4-F5.6 (the miniature and consumer quality kit version). 

Note that Olympus and Panasonic have 2x crop factor sensors.  To obtain the equivalent focal length one must multiple by 2x.  For example, the 12-100mm has an equivalent focal length of 24-200mm.

I believed that the 12-100 is “more than good/sharp enough” and that the other three are “good/sharp enough” for my use.  The results of my experimentation atop Gibbet Hill confirmed this. 

Left to right in order of sharpness: 
Olympus 12-100, Panasonic 100-300, Panasonic 45-175, and Panasonic 35-100

I used these focal lengths:

  • 35mm
  • 45mm
  • 75mm
  • 100mm
  • 125mm (two Panasonics only)
  • 175mm (two Panasonics only)

I used these apertures:

  • F4 
  • F5.6 
  • F8
What I found out was not surprising.  It was just as you might expect.  The bigger and more expensive the lens, the better it performed (in this test, on a tripod, on an Olympus body)… except that the 12-100 is slightly shorter than the 100-300, though heavier and twice the price.

Results:

  • The 12-100 is sharper across the frame than the three below (except equal to the 100-300 at 100mm)
  • The 100-300 is sharper across the frame than the two below
  • The 45-175 is sharper across the frame than the one below
  • The 35-100 is the least sharp (but still sharp enough in my view)

I don’t think I would notice the difference in the three Panasonic lenses over their common focal lengths, except that I examined them at 1:1 and side-by-side in Lightroom. Going forward, I feel equally comfortable with any of these three Panasonic zooms.  It would just be a matter of what my use for them would be.  

The 12-100 is my default lens.  That is a given.  It is a superb lens and 90% of my images since purchasing it when it was introduced have been with this lens.

I would add the 100-300 to my bag if I were visiting Yellowstone again, as I used it for large animal images last summer.  I also used it along the Maine coast because I can zoom into operating lobster boats and schooners in Penobscot Bay.  

Without the animals and the boats, the 45-175 is an adequate and smaller/lighter solution.  It is compact too, as the zoom is completely internal.  

Finally, the 35-100 is very small and matches and balances nicely with my 12-32 and the diminutive Panasonic GM5 camera. That’s a nice package for hiking or bicycling, or any situation where photography is not your main mission but you want something better than a cell phone.

I should note that while on the tripod for this experiment, image stabilization was off.  It may be that my results would be different if I had hand-held the camera instead and used image stabilization.  Perhaps that will be an experiment for another day on top of Gibbet Hill.




6.03.2018

Focus Stacking for May Flowers

I did a lot of focus bracketing and stacking last month.  Both my Olympus and Panasonic cameras have a focus bracketing feature that allows me to focus on the closest part of the flower with the first shot, followed automatically by sequentially further focused shots thereafter.  The beauty of this feature is that this is done with one press of the shutter and at a speed of approximately 10 frames per second.  I then combine the images on my computer using Zyrene Stacker.

Iris

Columbine (wild)


Both cameras were set for 25 images (the maximum is 99) and both cameras allow you to dial in the distance you wish there to be between shots.  Some trial and error is required, because the distance options are 1 through 10, with 1 representing the shortest distance, but none of these numbers are defined.  As far as I can tell the distance varies depending on the subject distance. In all cases I used a distance of "2".

Fern (wild)

Fern (wild)

Only in the Pansy image at the very bottom here did I need 25 images to cover the flower from front to back.  In all other cases it was 4-18 images and on average I needed 11.  Twenty-five images was generally overkill, and the unnecessary ones were just deleted on my computer.  Perhaps the Pansy needed 25 shots because I shot at F2.8 (the others were at F4) and I was very very close.

Trillium (wild)

Fern (wild)

All but the last two were hand-held.  I was able to hold the camera (sort of) steady because I was either sitting cross-legged or was sitting on a folding stool I bring with me.  Either way, my elbows were firmly propped on my knees. But the "elbows on knees" technique is not as stable as a tripod.

Wood Poppy (wild)

Trillium (wild)

The final two images were taken on a tripod.  I think I will use the tripod more, going forward.  I find the tripod reduces the apparent movement of the flower between shots.  It is not a matter of images being sharper, as the shutter speed is sufficiently high to get 25 sharp shots even hand held. But the more movement there is of the flower (and/or camera!) during the 25 shots, the more difficult is it for the software (Zyrene Stacker) to align the images. Hand held images show more movement (change of position?) of the flower within the frame, from shot to shot (though the images are sharp), because the camera moves between frames, while images taken on the tripod show less movement of the flower from shot to shot. Obviously I am unable to hand hold without moving during the three seconds or so it takes to take 25 images. The side to side movement is obvious when viewing the location of the flower in the images, and I am guessing that there is some (but less observable) movement back and forth.



Wild  Geranium

Wild Geranium

Tulip

Wood Poppy (wild)


Trillium (wild)

Spiraea

Guelder Rose

Lilac

Rhodedendron (first bloom of the season)

Pansy

6.02.2018

An Additional Blog for my Wife and Me: Essentially Cooking

I've been working on Essentially Cooking for a while.  One of the fun things about a new blog is doing a "build out", choosing the format, colors, etc. I'd like to get better at food photography, but right now the images are being taken "on the fly" as Laurie works in the kitchen getting dinner ready. She's a great cook and is always experimenting.

essentiallycooking.com








5.23.2018

Emerging Ferns are so Intricate and Detailed

Below is a set of photos from a recent trip to the woods, all ferns in the wild with their fiddleheads unfurling (for lack of a better word) ... so intricate and full of details. All of this season's fronds are wrapped up inside the fiddlehead.

I read a few introductory pages of the "Peterson Field Guide to the Ferns".  I found it rather amazing that worldwide there are about 10,000 species of ferns covering almost all ecosystems. This includes mountains and swamps; in sunny open fields and dimly lit wet crevices; on high, dry windy cliffs and on still waters of ponds and lakes; in the Arctic and Antarctic Circles (though sparingly) and tropical jungles (in great quantities). The only exception seems to be desert ecosystems.

Unfortunately all I know about the images below is that they are ferns.  I have no idea what specie(s) is/are represented here.

All photos were shot with the Panasonic GX80/85 and Olympus 60mm macro.





5.20.2018

The Beautiful White Trillium Wildflower



An  array of White Trillium... from white to pink as they age.


After taking a few photos of the wildflower Trillium last week, I did some reading about it. There are dozens of species.  I believe what I am showing here are called Eastern White Trillium.  It is the official flower of Ontario and Ohio.  As the name suggests, the flower has three petals that rise above what is called a whorl of three leaf-like bracts.  



Some online sources say that the flower turns purple as it ages.  Others say it turns pink.  But according to my Audobon Field Guide to New England, the White Trillium will turn pink, and there is separately a Purple Trillium species. 



One source mentioned that this is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants.  As I understand it, the plants produce small fruits that attract ants. The ants take the fruits to their nests, where they eat the fruit and discard the seeds. Apparently an ant colony's “discard pile” provides a very rich growing environment for the seeds.




Each of the images in this post were created by focus stacking 10 images
Panasonic GX80/85 with Olympus 60mm macro
1/125sec, F2.8, ISO200
Hand held, sitting with elbows on knees