Vanguard ALTA ACCESS 33X Review

     My friends over at Vanguard were kind enough to send me the new Alta Access 33X messenger bag to try out. Typically I like to use a backpack style bag for my gear but one of the features of this messenger is that you can configure it to work as both. It's a good looking bag and very functional. It's perfectly suited for an event photographer and works very well for a nature and landscape photographer too thanks to it's versatility and strap options! Let's check it out....

 Vanguard Alta Access 33X

Vanguard Alta Access 33X

     The first thing you'll notice is how much room this bag has and it's very well padded so you can load it up and don't have to worry about your gear getting banged up. All of the inserts and dividers are removable and you can customize the bag as needed. You can actually empty it out and use it as just a standard bag when you're not out shooting. 

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      The Alta Access has a TON of pockets and pouches. It's setup to keep everything organized and you can get to what you need quickly without fumbling around looking through the bag. It also has a few extra pouches; one of which can connect to the outside of the bag to give you easy access to frequently used items. I like to keep my speed light or Nisi filters in it.      

 Main insert, exterior pouch (for lens, flash, etc), laptop or tablet sleeve 

Main insert, exterior pouch (for lens, flash, etc), laptop or tablet sleeve 

     I really like the size of the Alta Access 33X. It can hold A LOT of gear but it's not so big that it's a pain to carry and travel with. Check out my typical gear when I head out to shoot landscapes. To be fair there are still pockets I could utilize for more items if needed and it has a pocket for a 13" laptop or a tablet. I usually don't carry either with me when I head out to shoot but it's nice to have the option when traveling. 

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 Olympus E-M1 Mark ll, DJI Mavic Air Remote, DJI Mavic Air, Olympus 40-150mm 2.8 Nisi V5 Pro Filter Sysytem, Lens Cloths, Memory Card pouch, Olympus 60mm 2.8 Macro, Olympus 8mm 1.8 Fisheye, Olympus 75mm 1.8, Olympus TG-4

Olympus E-M1 Mark ll, DJI Mavic Air Remote, DJI Mavic Air, Olympus 40-150mm 2.8 Nisi V5 Pro Filter Sysytem, Lens Cloths, Memory Card pouch, Olympus 60mm 2.8 Macro, Olympus 8mm 1.8 Fisheye, Olympus 75mm 1.8, Olympus TG-4

     Alta Access 33X carrying options...

 Alta Access 33X Backpack configuration

Alta Access 33X Backpack configuration

 Alta Access 33X Messenger configuration

Alta Access 33X Messenger configuration

 Alta Access 33X with Vanguard VEO 2 Tripod attached

Alta Access 33X with Vanguard VEO 2 Tripod attached

There is an easy access zipper on the top flap so you can get to your camera without sitting the bag down. 

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Final Thoughts...     

Overall I really like the Alta Access 33X messenger.  Compared to my Alta Rise 30 messenger it has a wider base which I really love. At times the Rise will tip over when loaded up as it has a much narrower profile. That's not an issue with the Access series at all! It's very comfortable in both the messenger and backpack configurations. It's very easy to quickly switch from one to the other. The size is good for heading out for a full day of shooting and a great option for traveling as well. It has a vinyl bottom that will keep it dry and easy to clean up after sitting it down. I love the side pouch and top zipper that allow easy access to my camera and most used items. I hate having to stop and sit my bag down every time I want to get something out or switch lenses. It's also nice to be able to attach my tripod to a messenger style bag. I know other messenger bags have already done this but this is the first one that I personally have gotten my hands on. Going forward this will most likely be my new go to bag when I head out to shoot! If you have any questions or comments let me know

 

Thanks for reading...

Keys to Daytime Long Exposure Photography

     Long exposures have become very popular over the past few years and they are a great way to gain some attention on most photo sharing platforms these days.  It's a fun way to get creative and add interest to an image when done properly. Capturing a surreal image with streaking clouds or smoky waters isn't that hard once you have the keys to long exposures!  

 Minard Mills Damn  Olympus E-M1 Mark ll, M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8, Vanguard Alta Pro 2 Tripod, and NiSi V5 Pro 3 Stop Reverse Grad + 10 Stop ND filters stacked. 8 sec exposure

Minard Mills Damn

Olympus E-M1 Mark ll, M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8, Vanguard Alta Pro 2 Tripod, and NiSi V5 Pro 3 Stop Reverse Grad + 10 Stop ND filters stacked. 8 sec exposure

Gear

     When it comes to the gear there are a few things that you must have and number one is a sturdy tripod. When taking a long exposure the shutter will be open from a few seconds to several minutes depending on the situation. You will need a solid tripod to ensure that you get a nice sharp image in the end. You will want to position the tripod securely enough that it doesn't wobble when touched. In really windy conditions you may need to hang a weight or your camera bag from the bottom column of the tripod to help anchor it (most tripods have a place to do this). I personally would recommend taking your camera strap off the camera too as the wind will catch it and cause some subtle camera shake.  I am a Vanguard Pro and exclusively use their tripods which I would recommend to anyone looking buy. I currently use the Alta Pro 2 and VEO 2 travel tripods. There are a lot of options out there so here are a few things to consider. Weight rating, ease of use, portability, and price. If you have any questions about tripods leave them below and I will gladly help.

     The second item you will need is a remote or cable release. This too will help you avoid any camera shake that would result in a blurry image. You also have the option of setting the cameras timer so any movement created while pressing the shutter is done before the camera starts taking the photo. However if you are set to bulb for exposures greater than 60 seconds it's much better to trigger the camera remotely. There are many options for cable releases out there from name brand to 3rd party. I personally buy the cheap 3rd party ones on Amazon so if I accidentally dangle it into the lake I'm not out a lot. Sooner or later you'll do it ;)

     The next item you will need if you plan to shoot daytime long exposures is a Neutral Density Filter. There are several brands out there and they offer kits and or single filters to buy. To get a decent long exposure during the day you will want a 10 Stop ND Filter. You will find them ranging from a few bucks to several hundred depending on the brand and quality. I am an ambassador for Nisi Filters so I personally recommend them. They are very high quality and they do not create any color casts to my images. Many of the brands in the market you will find that the ND filters add a blue or pink hue to your image. Whichever route you go be sure to check reviews to make sure you get a quality product. 

The last item I recomend is a smart phone. I have a long exposure calculator app on my phone. I will talk about this in a bit. 

 Liberty Falls  Olympus E-M1, M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8, Vanguard Alta Pro 2 Tripod, NiSi V5 Pro 10 Stop ND Filter    2 sec exposure

Liberty Falls

Olympus E-M1, M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8, Vanguard Alta Pro 2 Tripod, NiSi V5 Pro 10 Stop ND Filter    2 sec exposure

Predetermined Settings

 Mode: I use Manual and Aperture priority. I will explain below

RAW: I recommend always shooting in RAW so that you have more flexibility in post processing. This will be very handy if you need to correct color cast from your filter.

Manual Focus: I set my camera to manual focus because most of the long exposures I take are in the dark or using a very dark filter. Your camera's auto focus most likely won't focus or it will miss the spot.

Aperture: I like to shoot between F8 and F11 for sharp pictures with a lot of depth of field. However you will find a lot of different preferences in regard to this so it's up to you on how you prefer to shoot.

ISO: I always want very little noise and the goal is to increase your exposure time so I always set my ISO at the lowest setting my camera will allow. My Olympus is 200 but it also has a low ISO option which is equivalent to ISO 100. Most camera's start at 100 or 200 depending on the brand.

 Saint Augustine  Olympus E-M5 M. Zuiko 12-50mm EZ, Vanguard VEO Tripod, 10 Stop ND Filter. 35 Sec exposure

Saint Augustine

Olympus E-M5 M. Zuiko 12-50mm EZ, Vanguard VEO Tripod, 10 Stop ND Filter. 35 Sec exposure

Technique

Compose:  The first thing I do is compose my shot. I usually look for a stationary object for my foreground to anchor the shot. I don't want something that will be moving in the wind because it will end up blurry in the image. Large rocks, piers, or large trees are usually good. Then I look to see which direction the clouds or water are moving to determine my angle. Make sure your tripod is setup sturdy!

Taking the shot: This is when I set up my camera to the predetermined settings from earlier and connect my cable release. At this point I will manually focus on my foreground object. I will put my camera in aperture priority to see what my shutter speed would be if I were taking a regular shot and this is where the app comes in. Open the app and plug in your shutter speed and the ND filter that you are going to use . Then it will tell you what your shutter speed will need to be with the filter attached. Now set your camera on manual mode and change your shutter speed to the speed given by the app. After that you can attach your filter and you're ready to take the shot. 

 NiSi Filters App

NiSi Filters App

Things to think about: When shooting daytime long exposures I still prefer to shoot the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. It's always the best light to shoot in and you will get much more dramatic shots! Think about your goals and choose conditions that will best suit them. If you want to capture the clouds streaking across the sky you will need a partly cloudy day with a decent amount of wind. If you are looking to capture the milky/smokey water you only need an exposure of a sec to get the movement. If you want to really smooth the water try for an exposure a bit longer. The overall look is purely preference so be creative and play around with exposures of different lengths to  see what you get! If you have any questions or comments be sure to leave them below and I will get back to you soon!

 Passing Time  Olympus E-M1 M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro, Vanguard VEO 2 Tripod, NiSi V5 Pro 10 Stop ND stacked w/ 3 Stop ND. 15 Sec exposure

Passing Time

Olympus E-M1 M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro, Vanguard VEO 2 Tripod, NiSi V5 Pro 10 Stop ND stacked w/ 3 Stop ND. 15 Sec exposure

 Silence  Olympus E-M1 M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro, Vanguard Alta Pro 2 Tripod, NiSi V5 Pro 10 Stop ND Filter stacked w/ 3 Stop Reverse Grad ND Filter. 40 Sec exposure

Silence

Olympus E-M1 M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro, Vanguard Alta Pro 2 Tripod, NiSi V5 Pro 10 Stop ND Filter stacked w/ 3 Stop Reverse Grad ND Filter. 40 Sec exposure

Peak Design Slide Lite Review

     The cool people over at Peak Design were nice enough to send me the Slide Lite Camera Strap to review! I have been using it for a little over a month now so I figured it would be a good time to share my thoughts. 

 Peak Design Slide Lite Strap, Quick Connectors, and Arca Plate

Peak Design Slide Lite Strap, Quick Connectors, and Arca Plate

     The Slide Lite is designed specifically for mirrorless cameras and is quite versatile. The Slide Lite features the Peak Design Anchor Link quick connector system which allows you to change the setup easily depending on how you prefer to wear it. It also has quick adjusters that allow you to change the length from 39" to 54" in no time at all. That's my favorite feature! You have the option to hook your quick connectors to the sides of your camera and they supply an Arca Plate that you can add a quick connector to and anchor from the bottom of the camera. By doing this you have the ability to switch between a neck strap, sling, or shoulder strap within seconds!

     The addition of the Arca plate is very beneficial in comparison to straps that anchor directly to the bottom of the camera. By using the Arca plate you can still use the camera on a tripod without removing the strap. Everything about the Slide Lite is quick, easy, and functional. I personally prefer to wear my camera in the sling position and if you have it adjusted in the right position your camera will lay calmly on the small of your back without bouncing as you walk. 

 Peak Design Slide Lite, Sling position

Peak Design Slide Lite, Sling position

     All of the components of the strap seem strong and well made. They say that is can actually support up to 200 lbs. The Slide Lite is the most versatile strap that I have used and is very comfortable to wear around all day. It's priced at $49.95 and I feel that it is well worth the money if you are looking for a versatile strap. As always if you have any questions or comments leave them below and I will be sure to answer.

Whistler 2017

     Back in April I had the amazing opportunity to join Olympus in Whistler BC for the World Ski and Snowboard Festival. They brought myself and a few other photographers along for a few days of fun and we got to shoot with some of their newer gear while we were there. It was unbelievably fun and the time flew by! Here were some of the highlights...

     The weather there could have been better as it was cloudy and rained on us about 95% of the time. The 2 exceptions were our drive in on the day of arrival and the drive out of town at the end of the week. This shot is one of my favorites and was from the drive in when we stopped to check out Sharon Falls.

 Sharon Falls taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro with a NiSi 6 Stop ND Filter

Sharon Falls taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro with a NiSi 6 Stop ND Filter

     The next morning Olympus hooked us up with some gear to use for the next few days! We got our hands on the E-M1 Mark ll, M. Zuiko 12-100mm f4 Pro, M. Zuiko 300mm f4 Pro, M. Zuiko 25mm 1.2 Pro, and the TG- Tracker. All of these items are fantastic but the headliner for me was the E-M1 Mark ll! After we had breakfast we packed up and went for a drive through the Squamish area. The first stop was along a river down at the base of the mountains known for birds and bald eagles. It was a steady rain at this point and we stayed out there for about 30 minutes. With a fully weather sealed camera system the only concern for me was how wet I was willing to get ;) I'm usually a fair weather shooter but I stayed out so the other guys wouldn't laugh at me lol. We didn't see many birds out there but here is one I snagged with the 300mm f4.

 Taken with E-M1 Mark ll and M. Zuiko 300mm f4 Pro

Taken with E-M1 Mark ll and M. Zuiko 300mm f4 Pro

     The next stop was at Train Wreck! Train Wreck is a hiking area near the Cheakamus River where old train cars are scattered through the woods from a wreck back in the 50's. All of the cars are covered inside and out by graffiti from local artists. We had to hike through the woods on twisting, wet,  and icy snow covered trails. It wasn't a bad hike but was more challenging due to the conditions at the time. At one point we came to a bridge to cross above the flowing river below. We stopped to shoot there and take pics of each other on and around the bridge. after crossing we came up to the Train wreck. It was such an amazing place to see. I spent most of my time there shooting with the E-M1 Mark ll and the M. Zuiko 7-14mm 2.8 Pro that I borrowed. The 7-14 was a perfect fit as l love to shoot wide! I've wanted that lens for quite some time and after shooting with it more on this trip it's moved to the top of my list. We were shooting in fairly low light and the E-M1 Mark ll shot beautifully with high ISO. All of the images were very clear with very little if any noise. Below are some of my favorites from the day...

 Taken with E-M1 Mark ll and M. Zuiko 12-100mm f4 Pro

Taken with E-M1 Mark ll and M. Zuiko 12-100mm f4 Pro

 Train Wreck taken with E-M1 Mark ll and 7-14mm 2.8 Pro 

Train Wreck taken with E-M1 Mark ll and 7-14mm 2.8 Pro 

 Train Wreck2 taken with E-M1 Mark ll and M. Zuiko 7-14mm 2.8 Pro

Train Wreck2 taken with E-M1 Mark ll and M. Zuiko 7-14mm 2.8 Pro

     That night we attended the Olympus 72 hour filmmaker showdown. The event was a lot of fun and there were some really good and entertaining movies shown. Olympus has been holding the contest for a number of years and you can find out more about the event here.  I ran around with the E-M1 Mark ll and 25mm 1.2mm that night. I didn't shoot anything that exciting but I was curious to see how the lens and high ISO on the Mark ll handled. I did an lot of people shooting and used a customer B&W profile setup in camera. I thought the combo did very well and that lens is CRAZY Sharp! Here are a couple shots from the evening...

 Taken with E-M1 Mark ll and M. Zuiko 25mm 1.2 Pro ISO 2000

Taken with E-M1 Mark ll and M. Zuiko 25mm 1.2 Pro ISO 2000

 Taken with E-M1 Mark ll and M. Zuiko 25mm 1.2 Pro

Taken with E-M1 Mark ll and M. Zuiko 25mm 1.2 Pro

     The next day we went to SuperFly Ziplines.  What an unbelievable rush! There isn't much more to say than they take you way up in the mountains and then you literally fly down! The epic views as you soar through the mountains were absolutely beautiful. I took the TG-Tracker up there with me and shot some videos during the runs.  We had a lot of fun that day! 

     Afterwards I went out during some down time to try the Pro Capture feature and focus tracking on the Mark ll. I went over to the ski hill and shot sequences of the skiers and snowboarders coming down the mountain. I have never been flat out amazed at a camera feature like I was with this. When Olympus introduced Live Composite a few years back I was stunned at how cool that was but Pro Capture and the speed of the E-M1 Mark ll will leave you speechless. Whether you're a professional sports photographer, shooting your kids sporting events, or playing with the kids in the backyard you can't miss the shot with this camera. It's very easy to use you will never be going through your images and say "man if I was a second sooner or later".  You will capture every frame and always get the shot you wanted. I didn't get a chance to shoot anyone doing anything really exciting but here is a set so you can see how sharp each and every frame is in the sequence. If you have been on the fence with this one just go get it and thank me later!

     After dinner that evening we went to the Olympus pro photo showdown which a another event they run each year. There were 5 contestants from around the world that shoot stunning action sports photos. Everyone of the slideshows were jaw dropping and inspirational. Seeing the shots those guys capture and what they must go through to get some of them is mind blowing! The night was a lot of fun and I personally left motivated and inspired after seeing the show. 

     I had to fly out the next morning and my whirlwind adventure was over like that. It was truly an experience that I will never forget and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to go. I met a lot of great people and made some new friends out there that I will keep in touch with for years to come. Huge Thank You to everyone on the Olympus Team! I will never forget this!

 Leaving Whistler taken with E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro

Leaving Whistler taken with E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro

NiSi V5 Pro Filter System Review

     Most landscape photographers love to shoot with filters as they allow much more creative control over your scene and limits the amount of processing you have to do in the end. For those of you that have not tried shooting with filters, you have no idea what you are missing! I have used screw on filters for a long time but I recently became a NiSi Ambassador after using the V5 Pro System. Working with this system for a short period I knew that this was the way to shoot! Although I am an Ambassador for NiSi I give my honest opinions in the review. After all I wouldn't endorse a product that I didn't believe in. So lets get into the details....

 NiSi V5 Pro Advance Kit

NiSi V5 Pro Advance Kit

Whats in the Kit?

     I have the V5 Pro Advanced Kit. The items below are all included..

  • 1 x NiSi V5 Pro100mm Filter Holder including step down rings for 67mm, 72mm, 77mm and 82mm adapter ring + C-PL.
  • 1 x Nisi Soft Graduated Neutral Density Glass Filter GND8 (0.9) 100 x 150mm
  • 1 x Nisi Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Glass Filter GND8 (0.9) 100 x 150mm
  • 1 x Nisi IR ND1000(3.0) 10-STOP 100mm Neutral Density Glass Filter
  • 1 x Nisi IR ND64(1.8) 6-STOP 100mm Neutral Density Glass Filter
  • 1 x Nisi IR ND8(0.9) 3-STOP 100mm Neutral Density Glass Filter
  • 1 x Cleaning Cloth
  • 1 x NiSi Air Blower
  • 1 x Nisi Cleaning Eraser for Square filters
  • 1 x NiSi All In One 100mm System Case

Build Quality

     The V5 Pro is CNC machine fabricated aluminum with a black matte finish to reduce reflection. It feels sturdy and solid which is nice compared to some other options that are plastic. It holds 3 x 100 mm filters which slide into the pressed clips smoothly while still holding them snug. The filters themselves are made of high quality glass to ensure minimal color cast and limits the loss of sharpness. Each side is polished and multi coated to reduce reflections and flare. Nano coating to both sides reduces streaking from water and improves scratch resistance. The text is laser etched to the surface to prevent fading. The kit comes in a nice hard leather case that protects the filters and has plastic dividers which makes it easy to get the filters in and out. 

 NiSi V5 Holder and 82mm Adapter Ring

NiSi V5 Holder and 82mm Adapter Ring

Assembly

     First you need to grab a step down ring to the 82mm size of the filter holder. NiSi supplies 67mm, 72mm, and 77mm step down rings with the kit. If you need something other than that you will need to buy your own. After you attach the step down ring to the adapter you can screw it onto the lens. NiSi has come up with an ingenious way to add a polarizing filter to the mix if you want to use one as well. The kit comes with a thin polarizer filter that can screw on to the adapter and fits between the lens and the square filters which allows you to still use 3 square filters in addition the the polarizer. The adapter has a small wheel that allows you to rotate and position the polarizer without having to take the kit apart. Once you have the adapter and polarizer in place (if you choose) you put the filter holder up to the adapter and pull a little knob out the move it into place and release. The knob clips the holder on and you are ready to put the filters in. The filters are slid into the clips on the holder which are snug to ensure the glass stays in place. Watch the video below to see how to assemble the V5 Pro system. Big thank you to Seth Duimstra for helping with the video!  

 NiSi V5 Pro Filter System mounted on the Olympus E-M1

NiSi V5 Pro Filter System mounted on the Olympus E-M1

Results

         So far the GNDs have very little cast if any at all and work as expected. The CPL cuts glare and adds some vibrancy. The three stop reverse GND is one of my favorites. It is designed to help you control your exposure when the sun is close to the horizon. It works perfectly allowing you to keep details in the sky and foreground. Shooting sunrise and sunsets will never be the same! The filters are easy to clean and I have yet to experience any scratches. I am very careful with my gear though.

     Overall the NiSi V5 Pro Filter System is a great addition to any landscape photographers bag. Initially the setup and assembly could be a bit tricky for those who have not used a square filter system but once you get it; it is very easy to work with. I love the design and build quality; especially the design for the polarizing filter!  I will leave you with a few shots taken with the NiSi filters below. If you have any questions or comments be sure to leave them below and I will get back to you soon!

 Vandercook Lake   Take with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro NiSi 10 Stop ND stacked with the Reverse Grad Filter, CPL. 30 Sec exposure

Vandercook Lake 

Take with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro NiSi 10 Stop ND stacked with the Reverse Grad Filter, CPL. 30 Sec exposure

 Sharon Falls  Taken with Olympus E-M1 and the M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro NiSi 6 Stop ND Filter. .04 Sec Exposure

Sharon Falls

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and the M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro NiSi 6 Stop ND Filter. .04 Sec Exposure

 Morning Glory  Taken with Olympus E-M1 and the M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro NiSi Reverse Grad stacked with Soft Grad Filter.

Morning Glory

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and the M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro NiSi Reverse Grad stacked with Soft Grad Filter.

Vanguard Alta Sky 51D Review

     A few weeks ago Vanguard sent me the new Alta Sky 51D bag for my trip to Florida. As I mentioned in my last post I took a lot of camera gear and my Phantom 4 along with me. Needless to say I needed a good solution to carry everything on the airplane because there was no way I was going to check any of my gear. The Alta Sky 51D is designed to configure for multiple situations and was a perfect fit for what I needed.  

 Vanguard Alta Sky 51D, Phantom 4

Vanguard Alta Sky 51D, Phantom 4

     Since this bag is designed to carry a drone along with camera gear at the same time it is big and when I say big it's BIG! Don't be scared though, it's not so big that it isn't practical to wear and use. It is about the max size for a carryon when traveling on an airplane and I was a bit worried that it may not fit once I had it all loaded up but when I got on the plane it slid in perfectly to the overhead bin and we were off and flying!

 Vanguard Alta Sky 51D

Vanguard Alta Sky 51D

     I was able to load my Phantom 4, remote control, plugs, filters, 2 batteries, and the propellers in the main compartment configured for the drone and I was able to carry 2 camera bodies and 4 lenses in the bottom compartment. I do shoot with Olympus Micro 4/3 cameras and lenses so they fit easily into the bottom. I also had my Ipad in the tablet/ laptop slot in the back. (not pictured) I will say that everything did not fit as pictured on the Vanguard website. The Phantom 4 fit pretty snug and I had to adjust some of the dividers and I had to tuck the top arms further forward into the top of the bag. I also had to put the remote at the bottom rather than the top due to the adjustments but it worked out just fine. The propellers are in the very top under the drones arms. When you go to zip it up it looks like the back arms will be too high and tight when closed but it zips easily and there isn't enough pressure to worry about once it's closed up. Now because I got this primarily for drone use I have yet to configure it and use it for camera gear only but you can check out the versatility of this bag here.

 Top: Phantom 4, 2 batteries, charging cords, Polar Pro Filter kit, Remote, Propellers  Bottom: M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8, M. Zuiko 75mm 1.8, Olympus E-M1, Olympus PEN-F, M. Zuiko 60mm 2.8, M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

Top: Phantom 4, 2 batteries, charging cords, Polar Pro Filter kit, Remote, Propellers

Bottom: M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8, M. Zuiko 75mm 1.8, Olympus E-M1, Olympus PEN-F, M. Zuiko 60mm 2.8, M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

     So with all of this gear loaded into the bag I was very curious how comfortable it would be and how long it would take before my shoulders and neck got too tired and strained. Too my surprise it took quite awhile before I got tired. I actually walked the beach with this configuration for a couple hours along with my Vanguard VEO 265CB and it was very comfortable! The straps and padding in the bag were designed perfectly to distribute the load evenly without putting a lot of downward strain or pull on your shoulders. It was also designed to allow air to pass between the bag and your back preventing you from getting to hot and sweaty. 

 A shot me with the Vanguard Alta Sky 51D and VEO 265CB 

A shot me with the Vanguard Alta Sky 51D and VEO 265CB 

 Vanguard Alta Sky 51D back view

Vanguard Alta Sky 51D back view

    The design was well thought out. It was designed for a lot of storage and they give you a lot of access points to the main area of the bag. It has a bunch of Velcro inserts to move around and use to organize the bag how ever you see fit. You can obviously open the entire bag from the back to load and unload but they added an access flap on one side and one on the top so you can get to your camera, lens, etc without opening the entire bag. The bottom hatch is it's own compartment which open with a zipper and 2 buckles. It too is fully customizable with Velcro inserts. They added an exterior flap that can be used to carry your drone on the outside of the bag or you can roll up a sleeping bag or jacket and carry it in the flap.  It has several exterior and interior pockets to hold everything from SD Cards, lens caps, and water bottles. The bag is VERY sturdy and padded well so I am not concerned with anything happening to my gear if it gets bumped around.

 Vanguard Alta Sky 51D side pockets

Vanguard Alta Sky 51D side pockets

          Overall I really like the Alta Sky 51D and I will use it often especially when I have my drone with me. It's not an all around everyday bag for me but if you are going out hiking or traveling with a lot of gear it's a perfect solution! If you have any questions or comments leave them below and I will be sure to respond!

 

Marco Island

     Last week my wife and I were lucky enough to head south for a week of sunshine and white sandy beaches. We went to Marco Island, FL and took a quick trip over to Naples one afternoon. I lugged all my gear and my DJI Phantom 4 along for the trip and it was well worth it! I was able to capture some great images and some fun 4K footage of the island with the drone that you can see here.

 Marco Island Sunrise taken with Phantom4

Marco Island Sunrise taken with Phantom4

     On the first morning I went out with the drone to shoot some video and take some shots. It was a beautiful morning with only a slight breeze so flying wasn't an issue.  After working with the drone for a bit I took a long walk down the beach and just shot all kinds of stuff. The seagulls were extremely comfortable around people and had no issues posing for a picture.

 Seagull taken with the Olympus Pen-F and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Seagull taken with the Olympus Pen-F and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

 Snowy Egret taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Snowy Egret taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

 Umbrella taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Umbrella taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

     Later that evening my wife and I went out to dinner and made it back to the beach just in time to catch sunset. We literally made it just in time and this is the only shot I got as we ran out to the beach.

 Marco Island Beach Sunset taken with Olympus Pen-F and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Marco Island Beach Sunset taken with Olympus Pen-F and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

     Over the next few days it was more of the same as I just walked and explored the Island. However on Thursday afternoon we went to Naples so we could watch the sunset at Naples Fisherman Pier. It was pretty crowed but we got an awesome sunset that night! 

 Naples Pier taken with the Olympus E-M1 and 12-40mm 2.8 & B+W 10 stop ND filter

Naples Pier taken with the Olympus E-M1 and 12-40mm 2.8 & B+W 10 stop ND filter

 Naples Sunset taken with the Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Naples Sunset taken with the Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

     All in all we had a great trip to Florida. Beautiful weather and a nice break form the winter cold in Michigan! I will leave you with a few more shots from our trip...

 Shells taken with the Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Shells taken with the Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

 Palms taken with the Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Palms taken with the Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Bitter Cold

     I recently took a trip to Grand Haven with a couple friends Jamie and Dave to shoot the winter landscapes and lighthouse. When we got to the lakeshore there were blustery winds and heavy snow bands blowing in. With the wind chill it was around -15 degrees and sadly I didn't last that long out shooting. I was able to get a few shots before my hands went numb and I couldn't feel the shutter button anymore. This one was my favorite from the day.

 CrashTaken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 40-150MM 2,8 Pro

CrashTaken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 40-150MM 2,8 Pro

     After we left the lake we headed into the country to shoot some snow covered landscapes and looked for snowy owls. Along the way we ran into some Highland cows and with the falling snow they made a great subject to shoot!

 HighlandTaken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 40-150mm 2.8 Pro

HighlandTaken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 40-150mm 2.8 Pro

     Unfortunately we never found any snow owls that day but we did come away with some nice shots of the wintery country side.

 The PathTaken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro

The PathTaken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro

 Explore (photo of Jamie MacDonald) Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 40-150mm 2.8 Pro

Explore (photo of Jamie MacDonald) Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 40-150mm 2.8 Pro

World Wide Photowalk

     This past Saturday I attended a Kelby WorldWide Photowalk hosted by Jamie Macdonald at the Kensington Metro Park Nature Center. The weather looked sketchy all week but it ended up being a great day for the walk. I spent most of the day shooting with my good friends Mike Boening and Seth Duimstra and we had a lot of fun. The bulk of the time was spent chasing birds to get a good shot of one in our hand.

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 7-14mm 2.8 Pro

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 7-14mm 2.8 Pro

     In between the birds we captured some of the beauty within the park and of course we shot each other. I will leave you with some of my favorites from the day......

 Seth in the Wild

Seth in the Wild

 Shot of me taken by Seth Duimstra

Shot of me taken by Seth Duimstra

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 7-14mm 2.8 Pro

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 7-14mm 2.8 Pro

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 25mm 1.2 Pro

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 25mm 1.2 Pro

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 M.Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

Taken with Olympus E-M1 M.Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

Backyard Exploring

     Every once in awhile I will take my camera into the backyard to see what I can find. I typically travel around looking for landscapes and sunsets to shoot but I find breaking away from that every now and then can be fun. This past weekend I spent some time in my backyard looking for some different subject matter and shot some macro! I played around with the built in focus stacking on my Olympus E-M1 and really liked the results.

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 60mm 2.8 Macro. Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 60mm 2.8 Macro. Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 60mm 2.8 Macro. Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 60mm 2.8 Macro. Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 60mm 2.8 Macro

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 60mm 2.8 Macro

     I found a couple friends to shoot as well but they didn't stay long.

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 60mm 2.8 Macro

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 60mm 2.8 Macro

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 60mm 2.8 Macro

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 60mm 2.8 Macro

     It's always fun to mix it up and shoot something new. Next time you're looking for something to shoot go check out what you can find in your backyard!

Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod Review

     I got the Vanguard VEO 265CB tripod a couple weeks ago as I wanted a better option for a travel/all round tripod. Now that I have had a chance to work with it I figured I would do a quick review.

 Taken with Olympus TG-4

Taken with Olympus TG-4

     So when I'm looking for a tripod I want something very lightweight, compact, and sturdy as I travel and carry it around with me all the time. I primarily shoot landscapes and love shooting long exposures so you will rarely find me without a tripod. The VEO 265CB fits the bill on many levels. While folded up it measures approx. 15.4" which allows it to fit in or connect to just about every camera bag I've used. You can also easily fit in your luggage if needed when traveling. As for the weight this is a carbon fiber tripod so it's designed to be light and it is; only weighing 3.3 lbs! It has 5 section flip lock legs that extend out to 59" which is a pretty good height considering it is a compact travel tripod. I personally prefer to shoot low and they have that covered too. It comes with an extra column that is shorter so you can swap out the standard neck, extend the legs out wide and shoot right off the deck if you need to. The load capacity is 17.6 lbs which is plenty to handle a full sized DSLR without a problem. The VEO is very sturdy but it lacks the hook in the bottom of the center column that some people like to  hang a bag from. It's not a huge deal for me but thought it was worth mentioning for others.

 Taken with Olympus TG-4

Taken with Olympus TG-4

     Another great feature is how the neck folds away. The neck flips downward and the legs surround it. Not only does this make it much easier to setup and take down compared to other tripods where you have to fold the legs up and down but it's handy for taking low angle macro shots as well.

 Taken with Olympus TG-4

Taken with Olympus TG-4

     Below are a couple of long exposures that I took using the VEO and my Olympus E-M1 with the 12-40mm 2.8 pro.

 Drift, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro/ Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod

Drift, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro/ Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod

 Glimmer, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8/ Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod

Glimmer, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8/ Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod

     Overall I really enjoy working with the VEO 265CB! It's a versatile travel tripod and is built to last. It will cost you a little more being that it is made of carbon fiber but in my opinion if you want a super light and well crafted tripod it's well worth the investment.

     Thank you for reading and sharing

Back to Ludington

     Around the beginning of July I told you about a weekend get away to Ludington, MI. Unfortunately during that trip I wasn't able to go shoot Big Sable Point Lighthouse because of poor planning on my part. Well a couple weekends ago I made last minute plans to head back up for the weekend and this time I made it! 

 Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

     My wife and I decide to head up after work on Friday afternoon and got to Ludington around 8pm. We drove over to Ludington State Park to see if we could make the 2 mile walk before sunset. After we walked about 3/4 of a mile we decided it would be best to stop and shoot where we were along the beach seeing how low the sun was getting. Fortunately we found a great place to stop and the sky was amazing that night.

 The Path, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

The Path, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

 Dead Wood, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

Dead Wood, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

      Saturday morning we decided to take a little drive over to Manistee to check out a few locations. First we visited Orchard Beach State Park. It was a nice place but not a whole lot going on there to shoot so we only stayed for about a half an hour. The shot below was one of my favorites from Orchard Beach.

 Pebbles, Taken with Olympus TG-4

Pebbles, Taken with Olympus TG-4

     Next up was North Pierhead Lighthouse in Manistee. We got a few shots of the Lighthouse and then decided to take a nice long walk down the beach. We spent a few hours there and then drove back to Ludington.

 North Pierhead Lighthouse, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

North Pierhead Lighthouse, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

     Saturday evening we drove over to Ludington State Park to finally make the walk out to Big Sable for sunset. We also found out that my friend and fellow photographer Jamie Macdonald had made the drive up to shoot there as well. Give him a follow on IG and you will be glad that you did! After the long 2 mile trek back we finally made it to Big Sable and met up with Jamie who had already arrived. It was good to see and shoot with him as it has been sometime since the last time we shot together. We had a beautiful sunset once again and there was much more to shoot there than Big Sable! 

 Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Taken with Olympus TG-4

Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Taken with Olympus TG-4

 Remains, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Remains, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

 Drift, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Drift, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

     We shot until the last glimmer of sun had fallen below the horizon. It was a great a night shooting and then we had to make the long walk back through the dark. We had a great weekend getaway once again and I was happy to finally make it out to Big Sable!

Thanks for reading and sharing!    

Weekend Getaway

     A couple weekends ago I took the family over to Ludington, Mi for a quick weekend getaway. This was our first time visiting but I had heard that it was a great town with beautiful sandy beaches on Lake Michigan. They also happen to have a couple of really cool lighthouses that I wanted to check out while we were there. Unfortunately it was a quick day and a half trip and the weather wasn't the greatest the whole time so we packed in as much as we could before it was time to head home.

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 pro

     We arrived in Ludington late afternoon on Friday; checked into the hotel and headed to Stearns Park Beach to catch the sunset and see North Breakwater Lighthouse. The kids had a blast playing on the beach and splashing in the water. Then we walked the 1/2 mile down the concrete pier to the lighthouse as the sun was setting. It was pretty windy that day and made for some big waves crashing along the pier.

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro

  Ludington North Breakwater Light,  Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 pro

Ludington North Breakwater Light, Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 pro

     The next morning we woke up to a cool, gray, and extremely windy morning. We let the kids swim in the indoor pool at the hotel for awhile and around noon the clouds finally cleared out and it started to warm up. We spent the afternoon at Ludington State Park on the beach with the kids and I had planned to check out Big Sable Point Lighthouse that evening but didn't realize that you had to hike 1.5 miles one way to get there. So we decided not to make that hike with 2 worn out little girls. Maybe next time with a little better planning I will get to make that hike. So after a long day at the beach we headed back to town to grab some dinner. Later that evening we decided to head back to Stearns beach to watch the sunset once again.

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

      All in all we had a great time in Ludington and we are looking forward to heading back for a longer trip next summer. And I'll be sure to make it to Big Sable Point Lighthouse! As always thank you for reading and sharing.

     Be sure to subscribe below to keep up with my photo adventures, reviews, and giveaways!

Turns Out I have a Blog!

     Well it turns out I'm pretty bad at keeping up with blogging. Based on the date of my last post it looks like I can handle an annual post here. If I filled you in on everything that I've done over the past year this would get rather lengthy and you'd eventually get bored and go back to playing your Pokémon Go. Needless to say I had a pretty fun year with and without the camera in my hand. I was able to take a couple trips to shoot some new locations and a lot of shooting locally. I'll share a little bit about the 2 trips today and try to keep up better going forward.

     Last July, about a week after my last post my wife and I went to Michigan's Upper Peninsula to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. If you haven't been there I highly recommend making a trip there yourself someday. I didn't even know about until about a month before we took the trip and I was shocked that there was a place so beautiful right in Michigan. The area has many hiking trails where you will find some amazing waterfalls and majestic views overlooking the water.

 Munising Falls, taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Munising Falls, taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

 Miners Castle taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Miners Castle taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

     They also offer boat cruises that will take you 32 miles round trip and you will see stunning colored cliffs, sea caves, and sandy beaches along the way. We took one of the late afternoon cruises and it did not disappoint. You can easily see all of the sights and you are able to move around the boat to take pictures from different vantage points. Below are a few of my favorites from the cruise.

 Indian Head taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Indian Head taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

 Indian Drum taken with Olympus E-M1 and Rokinon 7.5mm Fisheye

Indian Drum taken with Olympus E-M1 and Rokinon 7.5mm Fisheye

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and Rokinon 7.5mm Fisheye

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and Rokinon 7.5mm Fisheye

     The second trip we took was to sunny Arizona in February! It was my first time out west and it seemed like I was on a different planet. The mountains and views were spectacular! Not knowing the area very well I was lucky enough to hook up with my friend Alex McClure who is an amazing photographer based in Tempe. He took me all around the area and we spent an afternoon shooting everything from desert poppies to wild Mustangs.

 Desert Poppies taken with Olympus E-M1 M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

Desert Poppies taken with Olympus E-M1 M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

 Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 40-150mm 2.8

Taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 40-150mm 2.8

     Another day my wife and I travelled to Sedona to see the Red Rocks. The drive from Tempe to Sedona was amazing. We drove up and through the mountains with unbelievable views throughout the trip. This shot was actually on the way back as the sun was setting. It turned out as my favorite from the trip.

 Mountain Drive taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

Mountain Drive taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8

 Cathedral Rock taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 40-150mm 2.8

Cathedral Rock taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 40-150mm 2.8

     Here are a couple more shots from Arizona that I really liked as well.

 Peak taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

Peak taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

 Salt River taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

Salt River taken with Olympus E-M1 and M. Zuiko 8mm 1.8 Fisheye

     Overall it was a great year highlighted by these 2 trips that I was fortunate enough to go on. I have a few more trips planned for 2016 and early 2017 that I'll be sure to post about in a more timely fashion. As always thank you for reading and sharing, stay tuned for more!

 

Tough Weekend

     I was fortunate enough to pick up the new Olympus TG-4 Tough camera this past weekend. This little camera blew away my expectations with all that it has to offer! I spent the entire weekend shooting and playing around with all of the fun features built into the TG-4! I decided to do a little write up to talk about it and show some examples. So here we go....

 Sunset on the 4th of July 2015 taken with Olympus TG-4

Sunset on the 4th of July 2015 taken with Olympus TG-4

The first feature I want to talk about is also my favorite, the   TG-4 has an amazing microscope mode (as does some of its predecessors). This mode allows you to take unbelievable macro shots with details that the human eye can barely see. There are 4 settings within the microscope mode that give you even more control over your shot. Taking shots of insects and flowers with great detail has never been easier!

 Tiny little fly on the palm of my hand, taken with Olympus TG-4

Tiny little fly on the palm of my hand, taken with Olympus TG-4

 Hen and Chicks in bloom, (yeah strange name) taken with Olympus TG-4

Hen and Chicks in bloom, (yeah strange name) taken with Olympus TG-4

The next feature is the video capabilities. The TG-4 has full 1080p video along with some really fun slo mo video settings. You can shoot in 120FPS and 240FPS for some great action clips. While I was at the lake we had to take advantage of the 120FPS. Did I mention the TG-4 is also waterproof to depths of 50ft!

The TG-4 has many more features including time lapse, live composite, built in wifi, GPS, and much more. The newest feature is the ability to shoot in RAW format which is a nice option to have for some of us.

 I did take a time lapse of the sunset on the 4th of July but with the lack of clouds it was rather uneventful so I won't waste your time with that. I used my joby gorillapod to set up the quick attempt at a time lapse.

 TG-4 set up for a time lapse taken with Olympus E-M1 12-40mm 2.8

TG-4 set up for a time lapse taken with Olympus E-M1 12-40mm 2.8

All in all the TG-4 was much more then I had expected  for a "point and shoot" camera. I will be sure to have this camera with me at all times going forward. It's compact, rugged, and full of features that will make it a great option for just about anything you encounter. To learn more check it out here

As always be sure to like, share, comment, and subscribe, I look forward to hearing from you

Olympus M. Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 PRO Review

The Olympus M. Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 Pro was one of the most anticipated lenses of 2014. For Olympus Micro 4/3 shooters it was a an exciting new piece to their already fantastic system and for DSLR shooters it was the lens that many of them said they needed in order to consider switching to Micro 4/3.  Having a medium telephoto lens with a constant 2.8 maximum aperture is a must for most professional shooters and Olympus took aim directly at them with this lens. Well; It's finally here and performs great so there is one less excuse to switch to the lighter side of photography! I was fortunate enough to pick this lens up right at the end of the year and have been shooting with it for the past 2 months. Although the weather around me has been less then desirable for my liking I have been able to shoot some portraits and wildlife with it. This lens has become one of my favorites and I look forward to getting out with it a lot more once spring finally arrives. Lets dig into the details now....

 Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 PRO with Olympus E-M1

Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 PRO with Olympus E-M1

Build Quality and Design

When designing this lens Olympus truly hit a home run!  First off they built it to withstand just about anything you can throw at it. This lens is Dust Proof, Splash Proof, and Freeze Proof! When you couple that with the Olympus E-M1 or New E-M5 Mark ll you have a system that can handle all of the elements!  It comes in the sleek black design that you would expect form the Olympus Pro Line. The lens itself is made completely of metal and feels very solid. I won't intentionally test this but I'm sure it can handle being banged around a bit. It weighs  1.94 lbs which isn't exactly light when you think of Micro 4/3 gear but when you consider it's' DSLR counterpart a 70-200 2.8 which weighs 3.375 lbs it's considerably lighter. Not to mention that the 40-150 has the 35mm equivalent focal length of 80-300mm so you are not only lighter then the equivalent lens on a Full Frame sensor you are also getting a bit more reach on the long end. It comes with a tripod collar like you would expect which can be rotated for portrait or landscape shooting without removing it from a tripod. It can also be removed if you have the desire to do so. It also comes with a pretty slick lens hood! The hood is made a high grade solid plastic and attaches to the lens with a quick release ring but unlike other lens hoods it is not reversible for storage. Instead Olympus designed it to be collapsible so with the twist of the ring on the hood it simply slides back rather then having to remove it and reverse for storage. To extend it you just pull it out until it locks into position. It too can be removed if you choose to do so. Overall this lens is built to last.

 Olympus 40-150mm 2.8 with Lens Hood Collapsed

Olympus 40-150mm 2.8 with Lens Hood Collapsed

Focusing

The focus ring has a built in slide clutch so you can switch between auto and manual focus quickly and easily. When the ring is in the forward position the lens will autofocus to whatever auto focus mode you have your camera setup to. When you slide it to the back position it reveals a distance scale and you can instantly use manual focus. This lens also has an internal zoom and internal focus system so the lens never gets any larger then it comes out of the box. Some people will really love that feature since this is the largest lens in the Olympus Micro 4/3 system. I find the auto focusing to be extremely quiet, fast, and accurate. In good light it will focus almost instantaneously even when zooming from front to back.  In lower light conditions I found that it is slightly slower and will hunt a bit but it's nothing to worry about. One surprise with this lens was the minimum focusing distance. Unlike most lenses in this focal length range it has a close focusing distance of 27.55 inches which gives it a bit more versatility. It's not quite in the macro class but it can be used to capture very close up shots of flowers and other fun subjects you may come across while out shooting!

 Close Up taken with E-M1 and 40-150mm  f8.0 120mm ISO 400 4sec

Close Up taken with E-M1 and 40-150mm  f8.0 120mm ISO 400 4sec

Sharpness!

When it comes to sharp glass this lens is one of the best! I'm not a lens chart guy at all so I can only speak to real world shooting. Besides what fun is it to take pictures of excel spreadsheets and lines anyway?? I found that shooting wide open the center is razor sharp like one would expect but even as you move out to the edges you aren't loosing much at all! It is exceptionally sharp across all focal lengths as well. The only time I can say that you would need to stop down is to expand your depth of field. This lens is one of the sharpest I've used, I would say it's right up there with the M. Zuiko 75mm f1.8 prime which is a fantastic lens in it's own right! Yes this telezoom lens rates right up there with fast primes in my opinion.

 Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8  150mm

Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8  150mm

Bokeh

The Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 has beautiful bokeh! It has a 9 rounded blade diaphragm which helps create nice round bokeh balls. When shooting portraits it provides a very creamy soft background that really helps isolate your subject.  Bokeh quality can be somewhat subjective so below I have a couple of images for examples.....

 Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 150mm 1/800 ISO 200

Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 150mm 1/800 ISO 200

 Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 135mm 1/25 ISO 1600

Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 135mm 1/25 ISO 1600

Conclusion

For me this lens is a no brainer, I shoot weddings, portraits, and landscapes. I find it to be perfect for weddings/events and portraits. I don't shoot much wildlife but this lens is perfect for that as well. If I am shooting landscapes I prefer to shoot super wide so using the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 and a fisheye lens are what I go to. It's not going to be for everyone, some may find it too big and bulky for a Micro 4/3 system. Others may say it's too expensive. When you consider what it is replacing in the Full Frame DSLR world neither of those factors would apply. For the focal length and fixed aperture it is much smaller then it's counterpart and at a price of $1499.99 it is a much better deal then the $2499.99 that you would pay for on a Full Frame system. 

During my time with this lens it has performed very well and I am completely happy with it. The build quality is very solid and it's beautifully designed. It is sharp across all focal lengths and it has a very quick autofocus system. Like I mentioned before it will hunt a bit in low light but it is not a deal breaker at all. If you are a photographer that has a need for a fast medium telephoto lens this is for you! It is also worth mentioning that Olympus offers a digital 1.4x teleconverter for this lens which extends the focal length by 40% which would make it 210mm or 420mm for a 35mm equivalent. You do lose one stop of light making it a max aperture of f4 when using the teleconverter. I have not used it myself but if I do get the chance I will be sure to update this review with the new information. 

If you found this review helpful please comment, like, and subscribe below. I always love to hear from you with your thoughts, questions, etc

 

Until next time,

Searching For Light

Having great light is the key element to making a great image. For this reason; I spend a lot of time "searching for light." Having the right light is key because it will help create dimensionality and mood to an image. There are many times that I will see an interesting subject but it's not the right time for me to make the image. I don't believe that post processing or more expensive gear can replace great light. Everything that you do to make an image starts with the light!

Understanding how the time of day and weather can effect the light will greatly enhance your ability to make a spectacular image. The best times for taking photos are around sunrise and sunset. This is commonly know as the Golden Hours by photographers because it is typically when the light is the best. The light is warmer and more directional which helps add saturation and dimensionality. The shadows are longer and softer which makes things look more interesting as well.  During mid day the sun is directly overhead and causes harsh flat light which results in washed out colors and the image will likely lack any real flare. This isn't to say that you can't make a great image during mid day but it certainly is more challenging. 

 Golden Light taken with Olympus E-M5

Golden Light taken with Olympus E-M5

Direction of Light

The angle and direction of the light is a big key as well. Knowing where the light is and how it will help or hurt an image is also very important. You can use it to highlight your subject like I did in the image below. I saw this tree when I first arrived at this location but it didn't stand out until I had been there for about an hour. Once the sun moved lower to the horizon and was just glowing on the tree alone I knew that was the time to capture the image. 

 Divided by Light  taken with Olympus E-M5

Divided by Light  taken with Olympus E-M5

Backlighting will cause your subject to become silhouetted but when it's used in the right way it can result in a great image. I used the setting sun to backlight the city skyline in this image. Sometimes a matter of minutes can completely change an image as well. About 2 minutes before and 2 minutes after this photo was taken the light was different and the rays from the sun were gone.  

 City Rays  taken with Olympus E-M5 

City Rays  taken with Olympus E-M5 

Scouting Locations

When I find a subject that I want to shoot I usually have the final image in my head but sometimes that changes when I finally take the shot. Knowing what I want to accomplish with the image; I will then spend some time to figure out where the light will be at certain times of the day so I know when I need to be there to get the shot that I want. I use an app called The Photographers Ephemeris to help with that. It's a great tool for seeing the direction of the sun at certain times of the day. You just plug in the location and adjust the time to see where the sun will be, it has some other nice features as well. Once I know when I need to be there to get the shot that I want; I will go there early to take photos a few minutes apart and see how the image changes with each shot. You may be surprised how many different images you can get of the same subject all within a short period of time. There will be times though that Mother Nature doesn't cooperate so patience is required. I've tried to get a shot several times before all of the stars aligned to get what I was hoping for. 

 Evening Run taken with Olympus E-M5

Evening Run taken with Olympus E-M5

Conclusion

Although this is somewhat brief I hope that you know a little bit more about how light can make or break an image. I only covered a couple of the ways that you can place the light to create an image but I recommend playing around with composition to see how you can use the light to create mood and interest. I  am always looking when I'm out to find interesting locations and subjects to shoot. The key is paying attention to and looking at the light to know how to make it work for you. It really is about being at the right place at the right time but when you search for the light sometimes you can plan for the "right time."

 

 

Why I Switched to Olympus Micro 4/3

It's been debated over and over... DSLR or Micro 4/3?? Well I'm not here to continue the debate or even say one is better then the other. I'm simply going to tell you why I decided that Micro 4/3 is right for me. I shot a DSLR system for a few years before I gave micro 4/3 a chance; but once I did it was a real eye opener.

The first Olympus camera that I used was the E-M5. Although there are a few things that I do not like about that camera; I couldn't deny that the image quality was fantastic and the size/weight were extremely convenient. My complaints for the E-M5 were the lack of function buttons to make changing settings on the fly faster which I was used to having dedicated buttons on my DSLR. The other was the ergonomics of the finger grip. I prefer a bit more to hold onto when shooting. Both of these issues which were more of a preference problem then anything were corrected with the launch of the Olympus  E-M1 which I now have as well. 

Lightweight and Convenient

The more time that I spent with the E-M5 I found myself drifting further and further away from my DSLR. I was using it exclusively for my landscape/nature work and would only pick up my DSLR for client shoots where I needed specific gear to do the work. That was mainly due to not having fast glass and speed lights for my Olympus yet. Back in June 2014 I was shooting a wedding with my 2 DSLRs and started thinking to myself... why in the world am I carrying these heavy cameras and glass around all day when I know there are smaller lighter options that can produce the same quality of images?  I had been working with the Olympus images for months and knew that for what I shoot there was nothing that a micro 4/3 system couldn't handle. I find that like a lot of others;  the size and weight make a micro 4/3 system hard to turn away from. It's much more convenient for travel and all day shooting. I can pack 2 bodies with 3 or 4 lenses in a pretty small bag and it still weighs a lot less then 1 DSLR with a lens or 2. 

 Olympus E-M5 with 25mm 1.8

Olympus E-M5 with 25mm 1.8

Now for the fun stuff....

When it comes to innovation and features there is NO ONE like Olympus! Other manufacturers are adding features as time goes by but it seems like Olympus is always the first to the party. I'll run through a few of my favorites that make turning back to a DSLR unthinkable.

EVF, Electronic View Finder

There is nothing like seeing instant feedback, when you make adjustments to your cameras settings you see them in real time. It takes the guess work out, what you see is what you get! You can also see the image right in the viewfinder after you take the shot. Lastly when manual focusing you can magnify your view and clearly see what you're focussing on.

Live Composite

This feature for me is simply Brilliant!!! Longexposures will never be the same with this. If you've ever wanted to shoot star trails but were intimidated by the amount of work involved in post processing 100+ images you will love this. Live Composite lets you take a base image exposed correctly and then start taking images at your selected frequency to stack on top of the base without ever blowing out the base image. The best part is the camera stacks all of the images in camera in live time so you can see it happening and once you decide the image is complete you're done! It's really that easy. The camera only records changes in light so everything else remains unchanged. This is also great for light trails around the freeway and light painting. 

WIFI

Who doesn't love to share their images to social networks as soon as possible these days? Well if you prefer to work with a "real camera" and not your mobile phone the built in WIFI is a great solution. You simply take the photo and upload it to your mobile device via WIFI using the Olympus share app and you can send it to IG, FB, Flickr, etc. I know some DSLRs have this now but it's still one of my favorite features.

Built in 5 Axis Image Stabilization

Simply put, the in camera stabilization system works unbelievably well. The 5 Axis system makes shooting handheld in low light much easier then anything I've used before. The best part of this is you don't have to buy a lens that has this function built in. Every lens you own will have IS!

Glass

Just going to touch on this briefly but there are a lot of options now for micro 4/3 from a Pro level to consumer. A few of my favorites are the 40-150mm 2.8 pro, 12-40mm 2.8 pro, 75mm 1.8, and the 25mm 1.8. These are all fantastic options, fast, and Sharp! With the 2x crop factor on a Micro 4/3 system there are options for everything from wide angle to super telephoto available if you want it.

 Olympus 40-150mm 2.8, 12-40mm 2.8, 75mm 1.8, and 25mm 1.8

Olympus 40-150mm 2.8, 12-40mm 2.8, 75mm 1.8, and 25mm 1.8

For me the lightweight system and a camera jam packed full of amazing features that a DSLR doesn't offer is more then enough to make the switch. I'd love to hear your thoughts one way or the other. Leave a comment below


Until Next time,


Monoprice Graphic Drawing Tablet Review

So first off this is my first graphic tablet so I won't try to compare it to others on the market.  I will however compare some of the specs and give you my overall opinion on the build, performance, and features.

I've been very interested in picking up a tablet for quite some time to edit my photos.  I've heard good things about them but I've always backed off due to the hefty price tags.  I saw a post on twitter a few weeks ago for the monoprice graphics tablet that was claiming it to be every bit as good as the Wacom line for roughly $60 plus shipping.  I was very curious if this could really be true; so I did some research and decided to take a shot.  After all to buy a Wacom Intuos in a comparable size it would cost $300+ and Monoprice offers a full 30 day money back guarantee with no restocking fee.  How can you go wrong with that?

I received it about 3 weeks ago and I wanted to really play with it before I wrote this since it is my first experience with a graphic tablet.  It came in simple but good packaging.  In the box was the tablet, pen, pen holder, replacement tips for the pen, AAA battery and the driver disc.  The tablet is light weight but built well. It doesn't seem like you'll ever have any issues with its durability as long as you treat it like any other electronic device.  The pen however seems pretty cheap.  You pull it apart to put the battery in and the battery holder is pretty flimsy.  I was careful not to bend or break it and slid the pen back together.  Monoprice does offer an upgrade pen for $10 if you feel like grabbing one.  I did end up ordering the replacement pen and it is a much better build then the original. The pen holder is very light and the pen doesn't really go all the way into it so it tips over pretty easily.  I just lay the pen down so it's not a huge deal for me.  Installing was extremely simple and fast!  I put the disc in my Mac, installed, plugged in the tablet via USB and started using it in less than 3 min. 

Features

This tablet has a 10 x 6.25 active drawing area which is a good size for photo editing.  It's a comfortable size and doesn't feel cramped for space at all.  It has 8 hot keys and 16 function tabs which come preprogrammed but they do allow you to customize all of them to what you want.  They are prelabeled so changing them could be confusing.  The hot keys run down along the side of the tablet and do things like cut, paste, zoom in/out, etc.  The function tabs run along the top of the tablet just above the drawing area and give you 1 touch access to your mail, web browser, folders,  and print to name a few.  The pen has a 10mm reading height which means your cursor will show up as you move your pen slightly above the tablets surface.  The pen has 1024 pressure sensitivity levels.  That is only half of what the more expensive tablets offer but for me it's not an issue.  I am able to draw pretty fine lines and increase the size nicely with added pressure.

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Maybe a designer would prefer more levels for greater detail but that's not me.  The pen also has 2 buttons on the side for left click, right-click, double-click, and you can choose what you want them to do too.

Performance

After 3 weeks this tablet has blown away my expectations!  I have used it to edit a variety of photo styles to get a good feel for the possibilities.  The cursor moves seamlessly with the movement of the pen.  I haven't experienced any lag or jumping with it.  It is a very comfortable and fluid way to work.  The accuracy is simply amazing!  I have cut several people out from backgrounds using it and it is much easier and faster than working with a mouse.  The time and headaches it saves is priceless!

Summary

The Monoprice graphic drawing tablet is an amazing tool for amateurs and professional photographers.  It offers a lot of features and operates very smoothly.  It's not an item that is good for the price, it's an absolute steal for the price.  In an industry where almost every piece of equipment has a high price tag; this is a refreshing change.  If you have been thinking about buying or trying a graphic tablet I recommend that you give the Monoprice a try.  If you want to check it out use the link below.

http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=108&cp_id=10841&cs_id=1084102&p_id=6814&seq=1&format=2

Until next time

Who am I

This is my first post so I'll tell you a little bit about myself and what you can expect from my blog.

My name is Mark Miller and I'm from southern Michigan. I'm a photographer and family man that loves sports and the outdoors. My passion is to photograph nature and landscapes, but I also work as a wedding and portrait photographer.

I'm fairly new to the world of photography having started in March 2012. I actually stumbled upon this new passion thanks to Instagram and Iphoneography. I quickly fell in love with it and discovered my true passion in life. It didn't take long and I found myself purchasing my first DSLR and all kinds of accessories. I wanted to learn as much as possible to improve as quickly as I could. The majority of my knowledge has been self taught with the help of google and YouTube. It's a great tool for anyone interested in photography. The one thing I've enjoyed most about the photog community is how friendly and willing to help everyone has been. I've made a lot of new friends and its great having people to bounce ideas off and being able to offer tips and advice to each other.

Long term I would love to be able to support my family solely from my photography one day and be able to say I truly love what I do. Until then I will work the day job and keep snapping to share the world as I see it in between.

What you can expect from my blog in the future....
I'll be writing reviews on all things photo
I'll post tips and tutorials
And lastly I'll keep you up to date on what, where, and when I'm shooting.

Until next time,

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