Monday, April 28, 2014

Fishing with the E-M1 and the 12-40 f/2.8

Colorful Rocks


As you've seen from my previous post, the EM1 encouraged me to start going out and take photos again after a long stall. This time I accompanied a few of my relatives on a fishing trip (which doesn't quite interest me, as I don't have a lot of patience), declared beforehand that this is a photographic trip for me (i.e. no one shall expect me to do any fishing), and decided to try out a few new items that I acquired recently. Here's what happened.

Our destination was "Al Ain Al Sokhna", usually a winter vacation destination known for its warm weather, there's a part of the road that gets very close to the shore where there are large mountain rocks were people can setup for fishing. As for the timing, our plan was to start fishing at 5 am, just before sunrise, and keep fishing till 10 am, so I knew I could catch a few sunrise photos, and also a few long exposures as well.

Given all of this information, I decided on the following gear:

  • Olympus OM-D E-M1 (still didn't get a lot of use, but getting there)
  • Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40 f/2.8
  • Bower 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye (ended up inside the bag), I posted about it here
  • Manfrotto 190CX PRO3 tripod with 496RC2 ball-head, carried in its own bag
  • Tiffen 62mm Variable ND
  • Tiffen 62mm CPL
  • Tamrac Velocity 7x sling bag (a brilliant little thing)

All of the above equipment were new to me, except for the tripod, and the EM1 to some extent. I have used a couple of variable ND filters before, the most expensive of which was an Agfa branded 58mm Variable ND, which at $28 wasn't among the best (if you don't know, high quality variable ND filters revolve around the $300 range), so with the new 12-40 lens, and a larger 62mm diameter, I needed a new one, with higher quality, so when I found that a lot of reviews recommended the Tiffen version (~ $100), I bit the bullet and bought one, and I am very glad I did, and I plan to do a separate review.

Enough gear talk, let's talk about picture taking, for my first picture, I wanted to catch the fast rising sun, with the glorious blue dusk / magenta clouds colors, so I setup the tripod quickly, add the Vari ND filter and set it to one stop below its max setting (in case you don't know why, I wanted the water to be smooth and oily looking, this happens with long exposures), set the lens @ 12mm and compose (make sure the horizon is level), aperture priority @ f/8, lowest ISO, self timer, and I started shooting away. After the first image appeared on the LCD, I discovered two things:

  1. White balance was set to auto, and it auto compensated for the blue/magenta colors, and made them neutral white/orange, but since I was shooting in RAW, and the sun was rising very fast, I decided not to waste any time setting WB, and adjust it in post.
  2. To keep the exposure highlights on the sun & clouds from blowing, I had to use a relatively fast shutter speed which didn't give me the oily water I wanted, and the foreground was too dark compared with no discernible details, which looked distracting. Have a look at the single exposure sunrise photo below, after doing as much as I can in post:

Single exposure image, could not get long enough shutter speed to smooth out the waves, but beautiful sky


This was not what I wanted, so next, I started quickly taking bracketed shots, and later see what I can do in post when I returned home. A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a great plugin for Lightroom called LR Enfuse which can solve my problem, it is not another HDR software, instead, it simply picks up the most suitable pixel from various bracketed exposures, and simply blends them into one final, normal looking image, without all the 32-bit HDR-y tone-mapping and artifacts and such, below is my first test for this plugin, I used these two one-stop apart exposures (remember that they have the wrong white balance):

Exposure 1

Exposure 2


To get this final image, which if you compare to the single exposure image (shown below next image for convenience), is better looking in my opinion.

Exposure blend in LR Enfuse

Single exposure image

After getting done with the sunrise photos, I didn't find a need to take bracketed shots for the rest of the photos, since the sun was not included in my composition, so I took a few more 20 second long exposures to show the beauty and the colors of the mountain rocks and the scenery.

Rocks in the clouds

Poster card image

And I found this lady bug wandering on the rocks, it shows how close the 12-40 can focus.

Exploring the rocks
Fishing sticks

If you're wondering how the fishing went, well, I'd say modest at best, the fish were small, and the waves were hitting the rocks in force, not giving enough feel when a fish has captured the bait. At the end, I left early with one of my relatives, and left the others to enjoy their fishing. Below are some BTS photos.

BTS for the opening image

My favorite tripod

You wouldn't believe how convenient having a shoulder bag for the tripod is

The hero of the day

The smaller inside ring is very difficult to attach to the lens


I hope you've enjoyed this post, and wait for my EM1 review (or first impressions if it turns out to take a long time), but in short, I am glad for many many reasons about my upgrade, it was worth it.