Discovering my inner sole :)

Hi folks,

No, not a typo in the title of the post 🙂 . I know what you’re thinking, “he’s finally lost it, I always knew there was something flakey about him”, not so!. A while back I discovered a great and almost certainly the cheapest way to free a stuck filter or screw on lens hood etc. is an old rubber inner sole for a shoe, it’s worked for me every time. Place the sole on a firm flat surface or, at a pinch, against the palm of your hand, press the front of the filter or lens hood against the sole, apply a little even pressure, and turn. The rubber grips and the filter or hood is easily removed without damaging it. If you’re trying to remove a screw on lens hood and it also removes a protection filter simply let it do so and repeat the above with the filter thread against the rubber and turn the hood then you can refit the protection filter. For this reason I cut up an old inner sole into three pieces (FYI I have fairly large feet) 🙂 and I pack one in each of my camera bags. As must have camera accessories go they don’t come much cheaper than this and I have another one just like it if I need it. Cost me nothing as I’d already got good mileage out of them, your mileage may vary, or you could of course really push the boat out and buy new ones! 🙂

innersoul

Kind regards

Leigh

 

The only filter that I use.

Hi,

I don’t like applying filter effects, or for that matter any effects, to the image when I’m taking a shot or, more usually for me, shots in multiple exposure-bracketed HDR. With this in mind and the fact that I don’t very often want to remove reflections and I enjoy post processing my images and I can change saturation and other parameters, selectively if I choose, as it pleases me, enter stage right DXO Photolab and/or NIK Viveza 🙂 , I don’t carry a polarising filter. As for other filters like graduated filters etc. I can also do this, if I wish, in post processing. Unlike Olympus’ Art filters, colour creator, colour and black and white modes which I could apply to just the JPEG when shooting both JPEG and RAW and discard if I wish, lens filters will effect everything and, if I don’t like the filter effect later, it’s too late as I’m stuck with it or, at the very best, it’d take extra time removing it, if indeed, depending on the effect, that’s possible

The only filter I have with me nowadays, and it doesn’t get very frequent use, at least for most lighting conditions in this country, is my variable ND filter. I think that this type of filter is, by far, the most useful for me.  I use it to reduce the light entering the lens and thus reduce the shutter speed when required and still enable me to set my preferred choice of aperture.

A while back I was shooting  down on the banks of the River Wey on a bitter cold early morning straight into VERY bright sunlight and even stopping right down to f/22, which was something I didn’t want to do anyway, didn’t bring the shutter speed down enough for a correctly exposed single frame exposure let alone multi-frame HDR exposures and my ISO was already set to the lowest. This is one case where this type of filter is so useful as it allowed me to get shots that I otherwise couldn’t have got.

My PEN-F using electronic shutter has a fastest shutter speed of 1/16000 sec. which is usually more than fast enough but when I’m exposing +2 and +4 stops in such bright light as was the case here with my OM-D E-M1 mk 1 with its 1/8000 sec. fastest mechanical shutter speed, then it just wouldn’t have worked out without an ND filter to bring the exposure down within limits whilst allowing me to still shoot at my preferred aperture.

46547773152_263e6051ce_c (1)

This doesn’t happen that often which is why the filter only gets occasional usage but it’s good enough reason to have it with me, especially if I’m visiting a hot country. I prefer the variable type as it doesn’t require changing or stacking multiple fixed ND filters and is thus quicker to fit and remove. The one that I have has a larger front filter diameter which prevents vignetting.

Kind regards

Leigh

 

Lenses, what works for me, what doesn’t and why.

Hi everyone,

For many years now I’ve been very reluctant to go out without a telephoto lens of some sort in my bag, just in case, but I’ve finally decided not to carry one about as, for my interests, I just don’t use them or, if I do, then the number of shots I take with them is absolutely tiny compared to other focal lengths, it’s not that they’re not good lenses it’s just that I don’t end up using them. It’s the norm for me to get back and find that I haven’t used such a lens again all day. I think that it has a lot to do with the way that I compose my shots, the framing and perspective that works best for me or maybe the way that I “see” things.

By far the vast majority of my shots are taken in the moderate wide angle to standard focal length range.  I prefer to have an ultra-wide option like my 9-18mm (18-36mm) zoom with me which is very useful, apart from anything else,  for multi-frame panorama composites but 12mm (24mm) is as far as I usually require and that’s quite often a bit too wide and this is why I don’t usually pack my M.Zuiko 12mm f/1.8  lens as it is too specialised and would get used just about as much as a telephoto would, possibly even less. I know it sounds bizarre, a landscape photographer that doesn’t want to pack a fast wide angle prime lens in the bag. 🙂 . As a general rule I prefer a somewhat tighter framing as the details in very wide landscape shots are pretty small. I like to compose and frame there and then and I very rarely crop in post.

I’ve been raving a lot recently about my tiny Lumix 12-32mm (24-64mm) lens which I’ve got to know very well and it’s so small and light in terms of sharpness, focal length coverage and weight it’s a lens that I can leave fitted nearly all the time without having the requirement to change lenses unless I want to switch to a small faster prime lens like my Olympus 17mm (34mm) f/1.8 or Lumix 14mm (28mm) f/2.5 when the light is very low or my 9-18mm if I need need to go wider or my back’s up against the wall so as to speak, 🙂 as it was ,quite literally, when I was taking these shots taken with my 9-18mm.

49969647991_b3f4395c21_c (1)

49967611726_dbcbf964b3_c (1)

I guess that once in a while I might have cause to wish that I had a longer lens with me but I can live with those very rare eventualities as, after all this time having taken thousands of images, I can speak very much from personal experience, it’s just not worth the extra weight and space in my bag .

Kind regards

Leigh

Comparing apples to oranges.

Hi folks,

During Rob’s Youtube live stream yesterday I started thinking about all the reviews one sees for lenses. I have often read comparisons where the reviewer is comparing like for like lenses of a certain type and focal length. Whilst this is useful if one is looking for help choosing between such lenses it’s not, in my opinion, as useful as comparing a similar, non “PRO” lens with its more expensive rival and trying to evaluate in real world terms the pros and cons of doing so, not the least of which is the difference in cost or as my American fiends call it “bang for buck”. I also think there is an inescapable snobbery where the term Pro immediately screams better and that, in my experience, isn’t anywhere near as often the case as the marketing people would have one believe.

Some would argue that that is comparing apples with oranges well, when I’m looking for a new lens, I want to know how the lens compares with what I’ve already got or if it’s a new focal length how the cheaper and dearer options compare before I buy and then I can make my own decisions on whether the often not inconsiderable difference in price can be justified in terms of better performance, note I said performance and not paper specifications. I don’t often think that the difference is very easily justified. I’ve used lenses which have cost me a fraction of their “Pro” counterparts which have been just as sharp, sometimes sharper and considerably smaller and lighter. Sure the build quality is usually not of the same standard but, if one is careful and takes care of one’s gear then this point is not of such great importance.

Kind regards

Leigh

PS. Then there’s the size and weight of the gear to consider. Below my OM-D E-M5 II body fitted with my M.Zuiko 12-40mm constant aperture f/2.8 PRO lens. An excellent weather-sealed combination which I’d certainly prefer to use in very inclement weather. Below this, in an identical size bag, my PEN-F body fitted with my Lumix 12-32mm, Olympus 9-18mm and Sigma 60mm f/2.8 (both packed underneath on the right), Olympus 17mm f/1.8, Lumix 14mm f/2.5 and Olympus 25mm f/1.8, so all my most frequently used lenses packed on top. Five more lenses including faster primes, giving greater coverage, a good degree of overlap/backup and not appreciably heavier in weight compared with my first example.

As my principal interest is in landscapes the 14mm, 17mm and 25mm focal length prime lenses are very useful, the two zooms allow me to go wider and wider still and the 60mm gives me a moderate telephoto option and none of these lenses are marketed as pro lenses and are thus a lot more affordable, especially when purchased second-hand 😉 . For my work an f/1.2 or suchlike lens, let alone several of them in different focal lengths, collectively costing thousands of pounds and being very much bigger and heavier wouldn’t be that much good to me. Apart from the fact that I don’t shoot wide open, nor in the desert or rain forest, they’d just end up severely limiting my mobility, hurting my back, my shoulders and, to add insult to injury, my wallet! 🙂

GEAR2_NEWGEAR 1_new

Micro Four Thirds, Landscapes and Depth of Field

Hi folks,

One thing that one doesn’t hear so much about is the increased depth of field that one gets with the micro four thirds system and how this benefits landscape photography. You hear quite a bit about how this effects portraiture where everyone seems to go bonkers about bokeh but, as you know, I’m not in the slightest bit into portraiture 🙂 .

For landscape work (and macro work) this is a distinct advantage for me as I get the equivalent of twice the depth of field for a given aperture compared to a full frame camera fitted with a lens of the equivalent focal length. So if, for example, I’m shooting at f/5.6 with a 14mm lens then I’m getting a depth of field of a 28mm full frame lens stopped down to f/11.0, a difference of two very valuable stops, but I’m also getting a faster shutter speed permitting me to capture shots in lower light and negating the need to possibly have to increase ISO which is especially useful when combined with five stops of image-stabilisation for my handheld HDR shots, a real win-win-win situation. 🙂

I usually stop down two or three stops, depending on the lens, to f/5.6 which is the sweet spot in sharpness for most of my lenses much more and one gets diffraction creeping in inducing softness which is the last thing that I want. If I want softness, and I quite frequently do, then I’ll do it in post.

Best wishes,

Leigh

 

It just feels so right!

me and pen f 640

Hi folks,

I didn’t think that a camera could ever be this much fun to use. When it was announced a few years back I remember thinking to myself “that’s a beautiful looking camera” but there was no way on earth that I could afford to buy one. Well, not that long ago, I found a mint condition one secondhand for a fraction of the original selling price and I decided to take the plunge.

I’m delighted that I did, apart from its retro 1960’s rangefinder styling, which of course I love, under the hood lies a very modern 21st century, fully-featured, 20MP camera which has every feature that I’m ever likely to require. But the point is that it goes much further than that, this camera makes me feel good using it. I don’t really know how to describe it but it gives me a feeling which I can only acquaint with the feeling that I used to have when using my first Olympus 35mm film cameras. When fitted with a small fast lightweight lens it’s a joy to use, the combination feels very well-balanced and natural in one’s hand with all the frequently-used controls at one’s finger tips. It’s the antithesis of a mobile phone camera. 🙂

The creative dial on the front which allows one to quickly switch between various, default or user-customisable colour and monochrome profiles as well as easily accessible highlight/mid tone/shadow control dial are fabulous creative features. It’s a bit like having a film camera with say Tri-X and Kodachrome or suchlike both readily accessible at the flick of a switch. If one shoots in super-fine JPEG and RAW then one has the best of both worlds, colour RAW and whichever profile that one has selected applied to the JPEG, it’s a win-win scenario. It’s nice to be able to create, save and upload one’s own profiles, something that I’m definitely going to be looking into more.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy using my OM-D cameras which have and will continue to serve me faithfully, they’re excellent cameras, but the PEN-F is something special. Using it is extra-specially enjoyable and when I’m having fun I’m much more likely to feel creative. I guess, maybe, at the end of the day, it’s just as simple as that.

pen-f and 17 mm small

Kind regards

Leigh

Digital tele-converter

Hi folks,

I was running through the menu on my Olympus PEN-F and reassigning some function buttons and I remembered the 2x digital tele-converter function so I assigned it to a button to try out, not expecting much in the way of image quality. I already knew of it but I’ve never tried it, as it turned out I was previously much too hasty in  assuming that it wasn’t going to be of any good.

To my surprise I was very impressed with the results. I did a few test shots indoors with my Lumix 12-32mm at maximum focal length (32mm) with the tele-converter function enabled giving me a focal length of 64mm/(128 mm full-frame equivalent. As it uses the center of the frame which one might expect to be the sharpest and assuming that one has a lens that is sharp in the center then it should be good. In the many videos that I’ve watched and articles that I’ve read I only remember one that mentioned it in passing.  This could be very handy when one either doesn’t have a longer lens in one’s bag or the time to change lenses. It really does extend the usefulness of this fabulous tiny  lens even more and it fits in squarely with my travel light ethos. It’s not a true alternative to a longer lens of course but, in practical terms you’ve got to look quite hard to notice the difference assuming that you don’t have your shots blown up to very large sizes. I’ve never been a “pixel-peeper” I’ve got a lot more creative things to do with my time when working with my images. 🙂

A test shot taken at f/5.6, 1/6th sec. @ ISO 800 cropped down to 640×480 for the blog which really doesn’t do it full justice, higher res. shot in the link. If your camera has such a function and you choose to try it I’d be very interested to hear about your findings.

12-32mm at 32mm f5.6 ISO 800 with 2xdigital teleconverter for blog

https://leighkempphotography.files.wordpress.com/2020/07/12-32mm-at-32mm-f5.6-iso-800-with-2xdigital-teleconverter.jpg

Kind regards

Leigh

“It speaks”! :) – What’s in my bag? and why?. VIDEO

Hi everyone,

A first for me to be on the other side of a camera, done in one take 🙂 and shot with my E-M5 Mk II and M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lens. This is why I love the Micro Four Thirds system cameras and lenses, so small and light. As to the “why”, all this gear is extremely compact and light and chosen to suit my photographic interests which specifically include travelling. The bag is so small that it easily qualifies as carry on luggage on aircraft and fits at one’s feet under the aircraft seat in one’s front or on a tray table on a train etc. and carrying it around all day I hardly notice that I’ve got it with me, which, for me, is the Holy Grail.

Obviously, as the saying goes, “you mileage may vary” it depends entirely on your photographic interests but,  personally, this combination of kit gives me a super lightweight and highly flexible travel setup. If I’m sacrificing anything in the way of image quality and I believe it to be debatable and at worst, marginal, it is easily outweighed in importance by the super portability of the equipment. Heavy, and this usually also means bulky, gear that habitually ends up getting left at home isn’t of any good when one’s out and about!. I’ve reverse engineered the idea of “I’ve got lots of heavy, bulky gear and now I need a big (and probably relatively heavy) bag to carry it all around” into “I’ve got a small bag and I want to find the best compact and lightweight gear to squeeze into it”. 🙂 . I already had the gear what I needed and, after lots of experimentation, ultimately found was the bag!.

Why these lenses?:

  • 12-32 mm Lumix. A very sharp and ultra-lightweight pancake zoom which covers my most frequently used focal lengths. I’ve been very impressed with this tiny lens. I have the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 and also the Lumix 12-60 mm both of which are excellent lenses, especially the 12-40 mm but they’re both quite large and somewhat heavier and there’s no way that I could accommodate either of them along with a camera body and still have room for other lenses in a bag so small.
  • 25 mm f/1.8 Olympus. This 50 mm equivalent focal length is my absolute all-time favourite. I’ve really tried to get to like my 17 mm f/1.8 (35 mm) and my Lumix 20 mm f/1.7 (40 mm) both of which are excellent sharp and small lenses but they’re both just too wide for my preference as I’m not into street photography. The 25 mm is fast and sharp and good in low light and for me it is a better all round option especially as one can get closer to the subject without distortion.
  • 14 mm f/2.5 Lumix. A tiny super-lightweight pancake lens that is fast, sharp and light and gives me a wider (28 mm equivalent) F.O.V especially useful in tight, often poorly lit, spaces, indoors etc.. I also have the Olympus 12 mm f/2 but that’s bigger and heavier and it’s a bit too wide for most of my shots however it is another great small sharp lens but the 14 mm wins out both in terms of size and weight and ultimately, all round usefulness when travelling .
  • 9-18 mm Olympus.  Ultra-wide angle zoom really handy for scenic landscapes, and covers a good focal length range (18-36 mm) as an alternative walk-about lens that I can sometimes leave fitted.
  • 35-100 mm Lumix. Although I don’t often need a telephoto lens option this one is such a small, light and sharp lens which I occasionally find useful when travelling and it compliments the 12-32 mm very nicely. Most useful to me in the 35-50mm (70-100 mm) focal length range. If I choose to carry a telephoto lens with me, which almost inevitably doesn’t get used, then its got to be very compact and light and this lens fits the bill perfectly. I might be tempted to swap this over for my Olympus 45 mm f/1.8 which remains my favourite telephoto lens or maybe my 60mm f/2.5 Sigma ART which I think is sharper, but, when travelling the zoom offers greater flexibility for the occasions when I need a telephoto focal length.
  • 9 mm Olympus body cap lens. Certainly not the best fisheye in the world by a margin but great fun and so tiny and lighter-than-light that it commands a place in my bag even though I don’t very often need a fisheye lens. At a fixed f/8 aperture it’s not that good in low light but, given good light, it’s capable of producing some quite acceptable images if one remembers to get one’s fingers and feet out of the shot. 🙂 . Along with my 14 mm and 35-100 mm lenses it’s a “just in case I need it” type lens.

 

Kind regards

Leigh

You can’t shoot handheld HDR, sure you can!.

Hi everyone,

I’m a long term fan of High Dynamic Range or HDR photography, I think that it’s one of the most exciting things to have happened in photography for some years. There’s a lot of stuff out there that one can read that say’s that one can’t shoot HDR handheld and that use of a tripod is obligatory. Well I have never subscribed to this as virtually all my shots taken over the last five or so years have been shot as HDR, handheld without a tripod in sight!.

What one needs to routinely reliably capture HDR images without using a tripod are three things.

  1. A camera with excellent image stabilisation like my OM-D and PEN-F cameras. This is an absolute must have, a real game-changer. One must of course always keep as still as possible whilst taking the shots both to avoid camera shake at slow shutter speeds and to promote good image alignment.
  2. Good HDR software like Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019 with its great alignment and ghost reduction features. I very rarely have to set the ghost reduction to more than medium and typically to less.
  3.  Keep in mind what the slowest shutter speed is going to be in the HDR bracketed series of shots if one is going to avoid camera shake. This where my camera’s image stabilisation really pays huge dividends.

Recently I’ve gone back to shooting an average of 5 frames, rather that 3 frames, now that I’m using the camera’s electronic shutter in silent high speed drive mode (11 FPS), the faster the FPS the better, and thus I don’t have to concern myself with the number of mechanical shutter activations and any possible shutter-shock-induced vibrations. It also gives me a bit more scope in post processing. I’m not totally decrying the use of tripods as there are times in low light situations, night shots etc. where a tripod is necessary but this is true regardless of whether or not one is shooting HDR.

A few recent post COVID-19 lockdown example shots, all shot as 5-frame HDR handheld and processed in Aurora HDR which, if one cares to believe what one reads, I shouldn’t have been able to shoot handheld!. 🙂

49967611726_dbcbf964b3_c (1)49969647991_b3f4395c21_c (2)50019212787_63fe39c225_c (1)50039966727_3de073a981_c (1)50039713111_187d41d3f9_c50055304706_6812c38148_c (2)50068222877_1b70d3e961_c (1)50082359382_08a6961aeb_c (1)50084356867_9f10287014_c (1)50104710317_54d1827b13_c (1)50104732236_5f3a15f520_c (1)

50107343441_350e8a0bd9_c50061797712_5902cb5538_c

50105062556_9d8e0957ae_c

After all, some rules are just “made to be broken”. 🙂

Kind regards

Leigh

 

 

 

5 great devices for the travelling photographer.

Hi folks,

Five invaluable bits of kit that I wouldn’t want to be without when travelling. Most of these are useful when travelling whether you’re into photography or not and you need to charge or power multiple USB devices and perhaps need a travel router to share a hotel WIFI or a portable NAS to share movies or music etc..

Travel gear for blog

  1. Jonkuu Two port USB 10000mAh Quick Charge 2.4 A Power Bank as one cannot have too much power for on-the-go USB powering and charging. I chose this one specifically  for its high capacity, ultra compact size, light weight and its handy charge level readout as it’s nice to know how much one has left in the tank.  Link.
  2. RAVPOWER FileHub, Travel Router AC750, Wireless SD Card Reader,  Photo Backup, Data Transfer, Portable NAS, 6700mAh Battery. A very versatile, multi-purpose, bit of kit. This is great for, amongst other things, SD card backups to flash drive or hard drive, it has a one key backup function which copies files directly  from the SD card to the attached  storage device and it also doubles as an extra power bank. It’s also handy as, on one’s return,  one doesn’t have to download files to the computer from multiple SD cards, only from the portable hard disk. It makes a new time and date-stamped folder for each backup. Note: the model that I have, unlike my other devices, takes a USB Type C charge connector. To give you an indication I did a speed test and copied 498 RAW files (approx. 28 GB) from a class 10 SDHC card to my portable USB 3 hard disk drive in a little over 30 minutes. I’ve taken to using smaller capacity SD cards and backing the card up at the end of the day before storing it and fitting a new one ready for the next day.  Link.
  3. Anker 5 port USB charging hub. This little gem has travelled hundreds of miles with me and is great as you don’t have to pack multiple mains USB wall chargers. It is capable of charging/powering up to 5 USB devices simultaneously up to a maximum of 2.4 A per port from one mains wall socket. This is such a useful bit of kit that some time back I bought a second one for everyday use at home and also as a spare. Link.
  4. Neewer USB camera battery charger, the only 100% dedicated bit of photography kit. I usually travel with two of these to charge my OM-D/PEN-F BLN-1 camera batteries and a  similar model to charge my TG-5 camera batteries. Although the TG-5 has USB charging I like to have an additional charger allowing me to charge a total of two batteries at the same time. They’re very small and lightweight and immensely more useful when travelling than the camera manufacturer’s considerably bulkier and heavier mains-powered chargers and of course, hooked up to a power bank or other mobile USB power source,  one can charge a battery on the move. 🙂 I have, on occasions, had one of these chargers in a jacket pocket connected to a power bank charging a battery as I’ve been walking around, cool huh!. Tip: I use a re-usable adjustable cable tie to make sure the battery doesn’t get dislodged when moving around. Link.
  5.  Western Digital Elements 1 Terrabyte portable USB hard disk drive and cable for SD card backups when connected to the RAVPOWER file hub. As I very rarely shoot any video I don’t think that I’ve ever returned from a trip with anything approaching 1 TB of image files but it’s better to have more capacity than needed rather than less. It’s also nice to use it to store and access files like equipment manuals and music etc. which otherwise take up space on my phone. Link.

Throw in some USB charge cables and a suitable figure-of-eight type mains lead for the charging hub and I’m good to go. 🙂 . Just as I’m continually refining my choice of travel camera gear to absolutely minimize size and weight and maximise versatility,  I have also given a lot of thought to my other travel gear. I neither want to carry heavy gear around all day nor do I want to have to wait around for hours until my various device batteries have all finished charging and/or I want to backup my photos.

At the end of the day I want to get these things done as quickly as possible and to relax and chill with a nice meal and a cold beer (or two) 🙂 , travel ultra-light and switch over to taking some shots with my pocket-sized TG-5.

TG-5 green screen macro

I have no affiliation to any of these manufacturers, all links to products on Amazon provided solely for your convenience.

Kind regards

Leigh