Tag: tutorial

A stunning portrait of an Australian Pelican in the early morning sun, captured near Ipswich Queensland Australia by Landscape, Storm, and Weather photographer Murray Fox, branching out into wildlife photography and explaining how to use adapted Canon FD lenses on Micro Four Thirds Olympus OMD Em5.2 Cameras.

Bird Portraits with Micro Four Thirds & Adapted Lens

My favourite photographic competition is open again, the Ipswich Enviroplan. Run by my local council, this competition always gets a huge amount of amazing entries across the categories and I like to try and get a few entries in at least each one.

My fortay is landscapes, and I see it as a real challenge to photograph wildlife, especially birds. Micro four thirds cameras until recently have always struggled with this type of photography as they didn’t have the focus capabilities required especially for birds in flight. The latest top level cameras now have no issue at all with this, but I’m using slightly older tech. Regardless, when it comes to bird portraits (as I like to call them) focus is not as critical and it can be incredibly enjoyable getting out and about with just a long lens and camera, walking local parks, looking for subjects.

The issue for me has always been the cost of long lenses. The latest offerings by Olympus in the 40-150mm Pro and the amazing 300mm Pro are literally thousands of dollars, well out of my budget. But this doesn’t mean you have to go without. The photos in this post were all captured using a 20 year old 70-210mm F4 Canon FD lens, adapted to my Olympus OMD Em5.2 camera. The absolute beauty of Micro four thirds is because there is no mirror, and the smaller sensor size, you can adapt pretty much any lens out there and use it! This lens gives me the full frame equivalent of a 140-410mm lens, prefect for bird portraits.

When adapting lenses, keep in mind it’s best to get a fully manual lens (one that has adjustable aperture on the lens and is all manual focus). I believe you can adapt some autofocus lenses but the adapters can cost more than the lens. My Canon FD cost me a whopping $70 on ebay and the adapter was $27 On Amazon. Under $100 for a long telephoto zoom, than when used right works brilliantly? Yes please.

Take this first photo as an example of what you can capture with this lens. I’ll go through recommendations for settings further into this post. It was bright light, around 9am in the morning, and quite a high contrast scene. By exposing for the brightest feathers on the Pelican, I was able to make the background almost entirely black, really isolating the bird and to me, creating a wonderful portrait.

A stunning portrait of an Australian Pelican in the early morning sun, captured near Ipswich Queensland Australia by Landscape, Storm, and Weather photographer Murray Fox, branching out into wildlife photography and explaining how to use adapted Canon FD lenses on Micro Four Thirds Olympus OMD Em5.2 Cameras.
Olympus OMD Em5.2, Canon FD 70-210mm, F/8, ISO 200, 1/800 sec

The way I use this setup is to stop down the aperture on the lens 2 to 3 clicks, ending up around F/7.1 to F/8. This really helps minimise chromatic aberration these old lenses with their old coatings can get in high contrast scenes. You’ll see this as purple and green edges where bright and dark areas meet. Any aberration left is easily removed in post production.

I put the camera into full manual (M) mode. I will set the shutter speed depending on what focal length I’m at, and how much light there is, but as a general rule of thumb I try and have a shutter speed twice that of the focal length. For this shot I was at 210mm on the lens, which is the equivalent of 420mm on a full frame camera, hence I was at 1/800 of a second shutter. This helps eliminate any blurring from camera movement.

Yes the Olympus has brilliant 5 axis in camera stabilisation, and I’ll use it low light, but if I can get away not using it I will, I’ve just gotten sharper results, birds like to move unfortunately. The final adjustment is ISO. This is the setting I mainly use to adjust my exposure. If the bird is too dark, I’ll increase ISO, if it’s too bright, I’ll lower ISO. I set one of my dials to adjust ISO, making this super easy to do on the fly. If I’m at my max lowest ISO, I’ll then change the aperture to a higher F number like F/11, but to be honest, you rarely get that much light.

I will happily go to ISO 6400 to get a photo but generally max out around 3200. The main trick with Micro four thirds cameras is never under expose the shot. If you can adjust exposure so you are one tick off clipping the highlights, then you’ll most likely have a good photo and the noise will be very controllable, and actually add some detail.

This photograph I captured at ISO 2300, the histogram was as far right as it could go without touching the right edge, a perfect exposure. In post production I actually have to reduce the exposure to get everything back to looking good, and this really reduces the noise in the image. It’s the biggest trick with any camera and high ISO shots.

A beautiful Rainbow Lorikeet surrounded by colourful Grevillia photographed by Murray Fox, Landscape, Weather and Storm photographer at Colleges Crossing near Ipswich, Queensland, Australia
Olympus OMD Em5.2, Canon FD 70-210mm, F/8, ISO 2500, 1/640 sec

I should also mention here in bold, SHOOT IN RAW! This is really critical. Shooting in Raw captures so much more data than JPG does, allows you get really get colours correct, and is very important with regards to noise.

Other important settings I use is only shoot using the mechanical shutter. I’ve tested and tested and I can never get a photo as sharp using the electronic shutter as I can with the mechanical. I usually shoot in Sequential Low with the Diamond which stands for anti-shock being enabled. This gives me around 5 frames per second, and the birds generally are not moving that fast I can’t get a good series of shot from a burst or two. It also saves filling up the memory card so much and trying to sort through so many photos later back home!

For my view setup, I will enable highlight/shadow warning and the histogram in both live view and viewfinder. This allows you to very quickly judge if you are over or under exposed, and as mentioned before, you never want to be underexposed, which is different to letting some parts go black, but you want the bulk of the data as far right on that historgram as possible.

Now to probably the hardest thing to do with these old lenses, focus. It’s all manual, no autofocus here, you have to zoom, find the bird, fill the frame, focus, and shoot all in a very short space of time. Thankfully there are some great tools in Micro Four thirds that really help with this and the king is Focus Peaking. I have a button set to enable/disable focus peaking on my OMD. The reason for this is with the focus peaking enabled, you don’t get highlight/shadow warning or histogram in your viewfinder, so if the bird moves, or the light changes, you might now have an incorrect exposure as we are shooting all manual here.

So I will first check my exposure, then enable focus peaking and get the eye of the bird in focus (most important) and shoot a burst. If light changes, I’ll turn off the peaking and adjust. Rinse and repeat. With a button mapped this becomes second nature and extremely fast. You can also use zoom assist to really get in close and nail the focus, but usually only the the bird is quite content where it is and not going anywhere fast, this really takes time.

That’s exactly how I captured this last photograph. I really really love how this beautiful Blue-Faced Honeyeater is surrounded by those amazing orange Grevillea, a perfect frame for a beautiful subject. This also really shows off the depth of field you can obtain at 420mm f/8, quite impressive and lovely and smooth out of focus areas.

A beautiful Blue-faced Honeyeater surrounded by stunning Grevillea as photographed by Murray Fox, Landscape, Storm and Weather photographer at Colleges Crossing near Ipswich, Queensland Australia
Olympus OMD Em5.2, Canon FD 70-210mm, F/8, ISO 2300, 1/640 sec

So I’ll be out and about chasing more birds over the next few weeks, using all of the techniques I’ve discussed here. If you have the money, yes the latest offerings from Panasonic and Olympus are going to be a lot easier to use and give stunning results, or even some of the older gear like the Olympus 75-300mm will work very well. However, if you’re on a real tight budget, maybe even have an old lens lying around at home, adapt it and go!

Here is a list of the gear I use. These are affiliate links, by following them and making a purchase you help support my photography at no extra cost to yourself.

* Camera : Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II Body Only – Silver
* Canon FD to M43rd Adapter : K&F Concept Lens Mount Adapter for Canon FD Lens to Micro 4/3 Cameras
* My Goto Landscape Lens : Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 12-40mm f2.8 PRO Black Len
* My Favourite Tripod : ZOMEi Z818C Carbon Fiber Camera Tripod With Quick Release Plate and Ball Head (Blue)
* Best Budget Filters Ever : Zomei 10 in 1 Square Z-PRO Series Filter Kit
* Best Budget Portrait Lens Made! : Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 45mm F1.8 (Black) Lens
* The Perfect Walkaround Lens : Panasonic 20mm F/1.7 Pancake Lens
* A great CPL for your 12-40mm : Manfrotto MFESSCPL-62 62 mm Essential Circular Polarizer Filter
* The Best Aftermarket Battery Kit : DSTE 2X BLN-1 Battery + DC133 Travel and Car Charger Adapter

All of my photographs are available for purchase as Fine Art Prints in A2 and A3 size, as well as ready to hang Canvas Prints. Just contact me for pricing.

Be sure to visit at least weekly to keep up to date with my latest blog posts and can I suggest subscribing to my email list to receive occasional Tips, Ideas, News of Prints and Offers.



You can also follow me on Facebook or Twitter where I’ll post links to each new blog post as it happens, also follow me on Instagram where I post up my photographs, and My Story will have lots of behind the scenes photos and videos.

Share and Like!
The stunning core of the milky way rises over this magnificent old steam train near Rosewood not far from Ipswich, Queensland, Australia by Landscape, Weather and Storm photographer Murray Fox

Train Core

With another winters blast coming through in the last few days, moon set around sunset, and no light from the moon regardless, right now is the absolutely perfect time for astro photography this week.

As mentioned in my earlier blog post, I wanted to head back to the steam trains and see if I could capture a photograph with the core of the Milky Way over them. This turned out the be much more of a challenge than I first envisaged.

To start with, it’s actually a bit late in the season to shoot the core facing east now (which is the direction I have to face for this photo). As soon as dark night starts at around 6:30pm, the core is almost 60degrees up, very high and not as vertical as I was hoping. The next big problem, literally, is the size of these engines. Even with my widest angle lens I could not get even half of a train in vertical format, what to do what to do. I could try a panorama, but I was light painting the train, it would be very hard to get the same light between shots.

So I decided I’ll have to do some magic back on the computer to really bring it all together. What I ended up capturing was a vertorama, or vertical panorama. With the camera in horizontal orientation, I took a photo of the train, light painting it. I then took another photo with the camera in the same position for the stars behind. I then tilted the camera up, took another star shot and did this 2 more times. So I ended up with 5 photographs. It’s always a bit nerve racking to capture photos this way as you can’t see the end result. I knew I had a good shot of the train. I knew I had a good shot of the core, but would it all blend and stitch together, only time on the PC would tell.

Back on the computer it was time to get to work. I edited the light painted train photo first, getting it how I wanted. I then edited the photo of the core to get that right, and synced it’s settings to the other star photographs. I then took the light painted photo, and the corresponding star photo into Photoshop and using masks, merged the two together. This is basically putting one photo on top of the other, and then painting in around the train to reveal the light paining. I really like this process, it’s almost like I’m an artist working with a brush. Finally this photo was saved down and then all the photos stitched together into a panorama. The stitching worked perfectly, those trees left and right were a god send helping the software work out where each image started.

From there its my usual polish and creativity with contrast and colour to get this end result :

The stunning core of the milky way rises over this magnificent old steam train near Rosewood not far from Ipswich, Queensland, Australia by Landscape, Weather and Storm photographer Murray Fox
Olympus OMD Em5.2, 12-40mm Pro, 5 images stitched and stacked.

I’ve added this photograph to my Nightscape Gallery.

For camera settings, for the light painting photo, ISO 400, F2.8, shutter locked open for around 2 minutes as I painted the train with my torch. For the star photos, ISO 2000 (I’m facing Ipswich in this direction so couldn’t get higher), F2.8, 15 seconds per photograph.

Thank you for reading. I’ll be out and about a fair few nights this coming week getting more astro photos, I can’t wait to share them with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments by posting below.

Here is a list of the gear I use. These are affiliate links, by following them and making a purchase you help support my photography at no extra cost to yourself.

* Camera : Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II Body Only – Silver
* Canon FD to M43rd Adapter : K&F Concept Lens Mount Adapter for Canon FD Lens to Micro 4/3 Cameras
* My Goto Landscape Lens : Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 12-40mm f2.8 PRO Black Len
* My Favourite Tripod : ZOMEi Z818C Carbon Fiber Camera Tripod With Quick Release Plate and Ball Head (Blue)
* Best Budget Filters Ever : Zomei 10 in 1 Square Z-PRO Series Filter Kit
* Best Budget Portrait Lens Made! : Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 45mm F1.8 (Black) Lens
* The Perfect Walkaround Lens : Panasonic 20mm F/1.7 Pancake Lens
* A great CPL for your 12-40mm : Manfrotto MFESSCPL-62 62 mm Essential Circular Polarizer Filter
* The Best Aftermarket Battery Kit : DSTE 2X BLN-1 Battery + DC133 Travel and Car Charger Adapter

All of my photographs are available for purchase as Fine Art Prints in A2 and A3 size, as well as ready to hang Canvas Prints. Just contact me for pricing.

Be sure to visit at least weekly to keep up to date with my latest blog posts and can I suggest subscribing to my email list to receive occasional Tips, Ideas, News of Prints and Offers.



You can also follow me on Facebook or Twitter where I’ll post links to each new blog post as it happens, also follow me on Instagram where I post up my photographs, and My Story will have lots of behind the scenes photos and videos.

Share and Like!
A beautiful sunrise at Redbank near Ipswich, Queensland, Australia. The sun is just peaking through the trees, illuminating the grass on the rolling hills and lighting up the clouds and sky with amazing colour.

Redbank Sunrise – Importance of practice

With the weather calming down from the recent spate of storms, its time to get back into shooting some landscape photography. I’ve been reading up on a few techniques including focus stacking and exposure blending, so this morning, armed with a brain full of ideas and a nice local location, I set off to see if I could put those techniques into use.

The visualised photo in my head I wanted to shoot, was direct into the sun, have the light directly onto elements of the landscape, be pinpoint sharp from front to back, front elements extremely close to camera (around 20cm) and have detail in shadows and the majority of the highlights. I wanted colour where the sun is, but not necessarily detail, a nice glow would be perfect. Finally, I was going to shoot in portrait orientation as this allows me to really put the foreground very close to the lens and still show the sky, trickier in landscape orientation without an ultra wide lens.

I used my Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II camera, the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 pro lens, I had a manfrotto circular polarising filter on, not to bring out colours (impossible when facing towards the sun), but to help knock a little reflection off the greenery, and finally a 3 stop soft graduated filter, just to help keep the sky/highlights under control.

I arrived about 30 minutes before sunrise, this spot is very close to home and I as I was wanting the sun up in the sky there was no real point getting there earlier, even tho the early pre dawn sky colour can be the best, that wasn’t the goal here. I found a nice composition, where the hills act as layers going into the scene, and I had the tops of some nice grasses as my foreground.

For my first tests, I put the camera in aperture priority mode, ISO 200 (base ISO), f5.6 (sharpest point of lens), and camera decides the shutter speed. As I’m on a tripod I wasn’t worried about shutter speed at all. I then enabled the in camera focus bracketing. All I had to do was pick a focus point closest to the bottom of screen, then the camera would take a series of photos, shifting focus until it figured it had everything. At these settings it was taking around 17 photographs. Now storage is easy but that seemed like too many photographs for me, and a review on the back of camera showed a lot of the final ones had been taken well past infinity and were blurry again.

So I decided on a different route, and this turned out to work extremely well and easy. I set the shutter activation in the camera to 2 second delay, and turned on the select and shoot function of the rear LCD screen. I also stopped down the lens to f7.6 so each photo had a little more in focus. Then it was simply a matter of touching the bottom of the screen, waiting 2 seconds, camera took a shot, then touching a little above that, repeat. All in all I could take photos from front of scene to back in 5 shots, then for the final photo I stopped right down to f22 (aiming for sunstars), dropped the exposure by 2 stops and took a final shot clicking on the horizon to capture detail in the brightest parts of the photograph.

Here is the series of photos I ended up with, the first photo is the completed image. Then there are 5 photos used for focus stacking, and the final f22 exposure that was used to bring some sky detail back (the exposure is adjusted here, it was captured 2 stops darker)  :

Display of the selection of photographs used for focus stacking with my olympus omd em5 mark ii as well as for exposure blending.

To post process all of this I started in Adobe Camera Raw. Working on the first image of the focus stack, I made my initial adjustments and then synchronised those settings to the other 4 in the focus stack. For the photo where I was only going to use the sky, I made some specific adjustments relating to that, as well as adjusting the overall exposure so it was very close to the other photographs, I find this helps with blending.

Next I brought everything into Photoshop. I put all the images for stacking into layers of one photograph, auto align, then auto blend > stacking. This gave me a base photo with everything tack sharp front to back, first success!. I then created some bright luminosity masks, selected one that would allow me to merge in the highlights with detail from the f22 photo, and did the blending. I now had a perfect starting photograph, all of my testing this morning had given me the results I wanted to achieve.

From there I went through my normal post processing, which is to use some curves for local contrast adjustments, then take the image into Nik Filters for some final polishing.

Here is the final photograph in detail, I think you’ll agree the results are great, the realism is still there, I’ve been able to get everything tack sharp which is always a challenge, and I have detail in both shadows and highlights where I want them, a success for me!

A beautiful sunrise at Redbank near Ipswich, Queensland, Australia. The sun is just peaking through the trees, illuminating the grass on the rolling hills and lighting up the clouds and sky with amazing colour.

Now it’s possible to get this all in one photograph, and in fact I did. But I’ve found the highlights aren’t quite as detailed, the over all image required a lot more sharpening and noise reduction, hurting the details somewhat. However, I like to enter photographic competitions, and a lot of them don’t allow the techniques used here, so I always endeavour to capture a single image photo as well and keep that just for those times where I wish to use it in a competition. This one, using stacking and blending, is perfect for printing, in fact I’ll be doing that today and adding this to my personal photo wall.

I’m now confident that next landscape photo I take, I can replicate the process with ease and get the results I want. It pays to practice!

I hope this post has given you some ideas, it’s important to experiment, have those practice sessions where there is no pressure, see what works, see what doesn’t (I won’t bother with f22 next time, the nice stars that were over the ground lost so much detail from diffraction I couldn’t use it).

If you want to learn more regarding exposure blending, I highly recommend watching Jimmy McIntyre’s free videos over at http://www.shutterevolve.com/ and if you use Olympus, your manual has very good information on focus bracketing and the Em1 series can focus stack in camera (I do prefer to do it after the fact in Photoshop, more control). Feel free to ask any questions you have and I’ll endeavour to see how I can help.

Be sure to visit regularly, follow me on Facebook or Twitter where I’ll post links to each new blog post as it happens, also follow me on Instagram where I post up my photographs, and My Story will have lots of behind the scenes photos and videos.



Share and Like!