Ronno Tramper Photography

20 June 2012, David and Goliath

Panasonic G3 and Sigma f3.5/180mm Apo Macro

Believe it or not, this combination just works like a charm. A tiny Panasonic G3, a cheap Kiwi adapter and a huge (almost vintage) Sigma f3.5/180mm Apo Macro bought new way back in the 1990's, the very first version of this lens. I paid a whopping 499,= Dutch guilders for it back then (the equivalent of €225,= or about $300,=).

Assisted manual focus on the G3, tripod collar that makes for a well balanced combination with the G3, miles of working distance and, most of all, 16 megapixel tack sharp images. I would have no reservations about getting a Sigma 2.8/150mm Macro for a m4/3 camera (ought to be even better).

20 June 2012, Missing subject

The shadow of the stamina in the lower half of this image was supposed to be the main subject of this image. But somehow something was missing. After a few minutes, and about 15 exposures, the missing subject suddenly appeared for a couple of seconds. Everything was focused and composed already, so I simply took a few shots. No time for adjustments anyway.

Campanula and bee, Friesland, The Netherlands
Panasonic G3, Sigma f3.5/180mm Apo Macro, 1/160 sec. at f11, tripod.

18 June 2012, Wadden Sea

Sheep grazing the area outside the Sea Dyke at Paesens-Moddergat, Friesland, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Olympus 4-5.6/40-150mm at 74mm, 1/80 sec. at f8. tripod

After an uneventful evening the night started to fall and the light suddenly changed. Around June 21 the nights here are never really pitch dark and dusk seems to last almost until dawn. There is always a hint of the sun being just under the horizon.

All images using the Panasonic GH2 and the Olympus 40-150mm. Stopped down to f8 this is THE landscape zoom for m4/3, sharp from corner to corner across its entire range. Amazing little lens.

Wadden Sea at Paesens-Moddergat, Friesland, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Olympus 4-5.6/40-150mm at 66mm, 1/10 sec. at f8. tripod

Wadden Sea at Paesens-Moddergat, Friesland, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Olympus 4-5.6/40-150mm at 100mm, 1/3 sec. at f8. tripod

Wadden Sea at Paesens-Moddergat, Friesland, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Olympus 4-5.6/40-150mm at 100mm, 1/5 sec. at f8. tripod
Short slideshow (1600 pixels wide).

13 June 2012, Stabilizing and balancing the Panasonic 100-300mm zoom lens

Panasonic GH2, Panasonic 4-5.6/100-300mm + modified Kirk LP-1.

The Panasonic f4-5.6/100-300mm zoom lens is surprisingly small for its focal length range (a little over 5 inches). But on a tripod, especially zoomed out to 300mm, the combination of this lens and any of the Panasonic camera bodies is not very wel balanced. Just slightly touching the camerabody with the tip of your finger will vehemently shake the image in the viewfinder. Not to mention the forces on the lens mount if you are in the habit of resting your left hand on top of the lens barrel for extra stability while photographing.

Panasonic GH2, Panasonic 4-5.6/100-300mm + modified Kirk LP-1.

I know there are other solutions available. Particularly here. But my solution is relatively simple to implement. What you need is a Kirk lensplate, part number LP-1.

slightly modified Kirk LP-1.

It has to be modified just a bit. You will need to cut a piece of cork (approx. 3 to 4mm thick; I used a piece of cork from a beer mat). Cut it to the right size so that it fits exactly in the "depression" at the end of the LP-1 (see image). You can either glue it there or use a piece of thin double sided adhesive tape. I also applied a somewhat thinner piece of rubber where the screw for the tripod mount is (the bottom of the GH2 is not made of metal and the metal tripod mount sticks out a fraction of a millimeter; with the rubber mat it fits a little better). Carefully check if it fits before tightening the screw, because you might be straining the lensmount too much if the piece of cork is too high. The corck should touch the non-rotating part of the lens barrel just before the screw is completely tightened. Do not force anything. If its too high, filing off just a bit will solve that. I filed of the ridge on the back side (in order to still be able to move the LCD on the back) and I replaced the original screw with a screw that I can easily loosen in the field without needing any tools. A contraption like this can get in the way sometimes. Replacing the screw is not really necessary of course. I simply leave the LP-1 on the camera where it doubles as a quick release plate. It does not interfere with any of the other lenses I have. Total costs: $52 for the LP-1 and 49 cents for a destroyed beermat.

11 June 2012, The mechanics

I have photographed this windmill from just about every possible angle. And still, sometimes you need a computer screen to see how you should have framed it in the field. This is a crop from an image that was about twice as large. I used the Olympus 4-5.6/40-150mm at 40mm. If I had seen seen this "crop" last night I could have simply zoomed to 80mm.

There is a large distance in stops between the brightest and the darkest parts of this image. On the one hand there are the specular highlights on the metal wings and on the other there are the almost black mechanical parts in the middle. What I like is the way the detail is rendered in those mechanical parts. I achieved that by "exposing to the right". Normally you might be inclined to try and preserve detail in the highlights (underexpose a bit).

The m4/3 sensor in the GH2 does not have a giant dynamic range. You have to make choices sometimes (or try HDR, but I don't like the look of that). I'm more and more inclined to expose to the right as far as possible (caveat: that only makes sense if you shoot raw and bracket your exposures to a certain extent). If you underexpose the GH2 for a stop or so and then try to retrieve the detail from the dark parts, you will be rewarded with noise. The GH2 has some headroom in its raw files (a little less than a stop). If you shoot raw you can use that bit of headroom to avoid the noise. My experience is that as little as one stop can make a tremendous difference.

Herkules, Veenhoop, Friesland, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Olympus 4-5.6/40-150mm @ 40mm (f5.6, 1/320 sec. handheld)
larger version.

8 June 2012, Smalle Ee, Friesland

You never know what's going to happen around sunset. Often it is nothing at all. This light, last wednesday, lasted only 20 seconds. Fortunately I realized that I probably wouldn't have enough time to install my tripod and change lenses. I found support for my camera on a pile of wood at the edge of the water and mannaged to get a couple of shots at 1/10 sec. just hoping for the best (OIS on).

Smalle Ee, Friesland, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, 3.5-5.6/14-45mm @ 14mm (f8, 1/10 sec. handheld, OIS on)
larger version.

8 June 2012, Dragonfly, Fochteloërveen

The image of the dragonfly (Leucorrhinia rubicunda) was taken a few weeks ago in May. I ended up with so many images that evening that I lost track of a part of those images. My Panasonic GH2 creates a new folder on my 16 Gb SD-card as soon as the number of images reaches 999. Very confusing, my images were spread over two memory cards and on one of those memorycards were two folders. I am glad I didn't format the card yet.

I used the Sigma 180mm macro, getting me a working distance of at least 100cm. In that respect the small micro 4/3 sensor is making life easier when you photograph dragonflies. I feel that sharpness and resolution are not really compromised by using the Sigma on a micro 4/3 camera. No doubt it could have been even better on a full frame Nikon D800e. But a tripod and very precise focusing are just as important.

I found this image difficult to take and post process. The dragonfly is very dark whereas the bark of the birch tree is very bright. I slightly overexposed the image (2/3 of a stop) in order to get enough detail in the dark parts of the dragonfly. I know there is almost a stop of headroom in the GH2 raw files (not in all raw converters by the way; Aperture 3 is much better in that respect than e.g. Bibble 5 Pro). I slightly reduced the exposure again in Aperture and then used "curves" and the "shadows" slider to get get some more detail in the midtones and the shadows (i.e. the very dark parts of the dragonfly). Some extra vibrance, saturation and selective sharpening, and that's it.

Dragonfly, Leucorrhinia rubicunda, Fochteloërveen, Friesland, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Sigma 3.5/180mm Apo Macro (f8, 1/100 sec., tripod, exif in file)
larger version.

Dragonfly, Leucorrhinia rubicunda, Fochteloërveen, Friesland, The Netherlands
same image, 100% crop.

31 May 2012, The Island of Vlieland

Something I posted back in june 2009. t had gotten lost somewhere in the nooks and crannies of the webserver. These images are still very worth while, I think. So if you feel like having a look at Vlieland then click here.

Sea Bindweed, Convolvulus soldanella, Vlieland, The Netherlands
Nikon D300, Tokina AF 4/12-24mm at 15mm, f11, camera resting on the ground, angle finder
larger version.

31 May 2012, Lenses and creativity

Paesens-Moddergat, Wadden Sea, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Lumix G f3.6-5.6/14-45mm at 14mm (f5.6, 1/640 sec., polarizer, tripod, exif in file)
larger version.

In my previous post I argued that there is nothing wrong with using zoom lenses for landscape photography. I do own two fast primes, however. Every now and then I use them, mainly for creative reasons. Not because of their particular focal length or sharpness, but to control depth of field. Stopped down to f4 The Panasonic Leica f1.4/25mm is of course a bit sharper than the Panasonic 14-45mm kit zoom at 25mm, but the difference is not as dramatic as most people seem to think. What's important is that you cannot shoot the zoom at f2.8. Zoomed out to 25mm the kit zoom will be something like f5. The 25mm prime brings with it the possibility for a very shallow depth of field and particularly creamy and soft out of focus backgrounds. That, by the way, is the main quality of this lens, the way it renders out of focus areas in your image. Not it's sharpness. That's not to say that the zoom produces ugly bokeh. It's just not as nice.

Landscape photographs ought to be sharp from foreground to background and corner to corner. And, of course, if you shoot portraits the background has to be out of focus. Or are those just prejudices? In the first image I wanted to lead the viewer to the sky with the clouds in the background. The sky is important there. That's why I used a polarizer. To make the clouds stand out in a blue sky. In the second image I wanted to show the foreground detail in the wheathered wooden poles. I saw no reason to use a polarizer or to stop down the lens. On the contrary, vivid colors and sharp and sharp detail in the background would just distract from the subject. The images were made in the exact same location and about an hour apart.

Paesens-Moddergat, Wadden Sea, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Panasonic Leica f1.4/25mm (f2.8, 1/4000 sec., handheld, exif in file)
larger version.

28 May 2012, Revisited

Willows, Aldefeanen National Park, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Lumix G f4/7-14mm at 14mm (f5.6, 1/250 sec., handheld, exif in file)
larger version.

When I visited this place last week I was quite aware of the fact that I had taken some images there two months before (March 23, 2012). Compare the composition to that of the image in yesterdays post. I did not exactly remember the composition of my images in March. It is funny to see how perspective on a subject changes. Last week I used 8mm, in March it was 14mm and 10mm (I had some more time to spend with the subject back then). Is that a random process? Or was it influenced by the fact that last week I was focused on including the dramatic clouds in my image? Decisions like that (about composition and what to include and what not) are made intuitively, but hopefully not just at random.

Using zoom lenses for landscape photography

I feel that zoomlenses give me a lot of flexibility in framing. It keeps me from always looking at subjects from the same perspective. I know that most landscape photographers say that they prefer primes (zooms are for sissies?!). But in a lot of situations walking back and forth is just not an option (I would have needed a wetsuit here). Framing in accordance with your vision at that moment often requires a zoom. Moreover, a zoom also gives you more control over perspective (What I mean is the distance between foreground detail and more distant detail). I am not ashamed of using zooms. Choosing high quality zooms, stopping them down one or two stops and shooting from a tripod, they will rival primes in image quality. I can recommend the 7-14 Panasonic (very high image quality, even wide open), the 14-45 Panasonic (very, very sharp al the way into the corners, particularly at the long end, 35-45mm, stopped down to f8) and the 40-150 Olympus for m4/3 (pretty sharp over its entire range, stopped down to f8).

Willows, Aldefeanen National Park, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Lumix G f4/7-14mm at 10mm (f5.6, 1/200 sec., handheld, exif in file)
larger version.

27 May 2012, Thunderstorm

Willows, Aldefeanen National Park, The Netherlands
Panasonic G3, Lumix G f4/7-14mm at 8mm (f5.6, 1/200 sec., handheld, exif in file)
larger version.

Something I made last tuesday (May 23). I hadn't had time to review the images yet. 15 minutes after this all hell broke loose (and I got wet). Raw converted in aperture 3. I used the auto button for the curves and brightened the willows with a brush (very convenient tool). The image really conveys the feeling of the moment that way.

26 May 2012, Vantage point

Four-spotted chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata), Fochteloërveen, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Sigma 3.5/180mm Apo Macro (f11, 1/160 sec., tripod, exif in file)
larger version.

Four-spotted chaser looking out over the water. Made last night at the Fochteloërveen. The place was teeming with all kinds of dragonflies after the first warm days in May. I used the Panasonic GH2 and my Sigma 3.5/180mm Apo Macro (for Nikon) with an adapter. That means the lens and its settings are not in the exif. Perhaps not the best macro lens for m4/3, but you do get a lot of reach, since on a m4/3 sensor it's the equivalent of a 360mm. I also like the fact that it has a tripod collar. Perfect for dragonflies and butterflies. Stopped down to f8 or f11 it is certainly sharp enough. You have to do the focusing manually of course. The most important thing is that you use the enlarged preview in the viewfinder (10x) and focus very precisely at the part of the dragonfly that you want to be sharp (eyes & head). The best way to achieve that is by opening the lens al the way to f3.5, focus and then stop down again to f8 or f11. Keeping every part of your subject more or less in the plane of focus also helps (position your tripod very carefully). Using a tripod is mandatory. Camera shake and moving forward or backward after focusing (even if it is just an inch) will ruin the sharpness completely.

25 May 2012, Sea Thrift, Schiermonnikoog Island

Sea Thrift, Schiermonnikoog, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Panasonic Lumix Vario F3.5-5.6/14-45mm at 45mm (f8, 1/160 sec., camera resting on the ground, polarizer, exif in file)

I know, using a polarizer for an image like this is perhaps a bit much. I just couldn't resist it. The ultimate "Velvia look", for those of you who still know what Velvia is. What's more, in bright sunshine at 2 p.m. you do not have a whole lot of choice. It's either this with a polarizer or nothing. If it hurts you eyes, I apologize. If you like it there is a larger version here.

Literally fields of them were swaying (not so gently) in the strong winds.

Sea Thrift, Schiermonnikoog, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Panasonic Lumix Vario F3.5-5.6/14-45mm at 40mm (f5.6, 1/320 sec.,
camera resting on my camerabag, polarizer, exif in file)
larger version.

Sea Thrift, Schiermonnikoog, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Panasonic Lumix Vario F3.5-5.6/14-45mm at 45mm (f8, 1/125 sec.,
monopod, polarizer, exif in file)
larger version.

Sea Thrift, Schiermonnikoog, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Panasonic Lumix Vario F3.5-5.6/14-45mm at 45mm (f5.6, 1/200 sec.,
camera resting on my camerabag, polarizer, exif in file)
larger version.

On small (day) trips like this I routinely take my Panasonic 7-14mm, 14-45mm and Olympus 40-150mm + a monopod, a polarizer and the Nikon 4T close-up lens. I am a bit fed up with hauling around all my lenses and a tripod. I do this for fun. But seeing how many images I have made using the 40-45mm setting I regret not having used the Olympus 1.8/45mm. That would have allowed me to better control foreground and background blur (I am not going to use the word "bokeh" anymore, duh!). It's also supposed to be a bit sharper than the 14-45 kit-zoom. Although the 14-45 is not bad at all! Much better than the 14-42 kit zoom. I have also owned the 14-42 X-powerzoom. I had to send that one back to Panasonic because it had mechanical problems. I traded it for a 1.4/25mm Panasonic Leica. As soon as they solve the problems with the 14-42 X-powerzoom I wil have another look at it (mine was certainly not the only flawed sample of this lens). It seems attractive because of its size. On my G3 body It would make for an almost pocketable combination.

14 May 2012, Lambs

Lambs, Drachten, Friesland, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Panasonic Lumix Vario F4-5.6/45-200mm at 175mm (f8, 1/1000 sec., handheld, ois on, exif in file)
larger version.

The mother of these lambs is a sheep of course, although this particular race at first sight (eyes, horns) has remarkable similarities with a female Alpine Ibex. It's called a "Drents Heideschaap". An old dutch race, originally used to graze the heath areas in the province of Drenthe.

Panasonic Lumix 45-200mm OIS

I used the Panasonic 45-200mm for the photo of the lambs. Out of 100 shots or so only 30 were really sharp. Not very sharp (as in very, very sharp) but acceptably sharp, i.e. what this lens is capable of at the long end of its range. I don't know what it is with this lens. I have the latest firmware for it (1.3) and the latest firmware for the GH2 body (1.1), but it remains very difficult to consistently pry sharp images out of this lens. Not under controlled circumstances. I mean, take a Teddy Bear, put it on chair, put the camera and 45-200 (f8 and 200mm) on a large Gitzo tripod 15 feet from the subject, focus on one of the eyes and fire away. Under circumstances like that you will have to conclude that the IQ is quite acceptable. So what's happening when I use it in the field and more than half of my images turns out to be unsharp? Bad technique? I have done this for more than 20 years!

At 200mm this lens is the equivalent of a 400mm (full frame). The old rule of thumb says that for handholding the camera you should use a shutter speed of at least 1/400 sec. but preferably a bit faster. I would say 1/1000 sec. to be on the safe side. In theory, with the OIS (image stabilizer) on at 200mm it ought to be entirely possible to consistently get sharp images at shutterspeeds of 1/250 sec. and even 1/125 sec. handheld, using proper technique. That means focus on the right part of your subject, steady stance, elbows in your side, using the EVF (so camera close to your body), not hammering the shutter button etc.

My experience with this lens is that you cannot simply say that the internal stabilizer ought to give you two (maybe three) extra stops. The really sharp images are the ones taken at 1/500 sec. or faster, regardless of wether the OIS is on or off. The image above was taken at 1/1000 sec. with my left hand holding the bottom of the camera resting on a fence. In circumstances like that it ought to be sharp anyway, OIS or not. What happens? It beats me! The effect of the image stabilizer is clearly visible in the EVF. So it works. Neither is it caused by an overdose of coffee or strong winds. And it doesn't happen to me when I use other lenses, so we can exclude shaky hands as well.

Update: Searching the internet I found some indications that sharpness can be improved if you use OIS in mode 2 (kicks in when you fully press the shutter button, meaning you won't see the stabilizing effect in the EVF or on screen while composing the image). I haven't tried that yet. Until now I have always assumed that mode 2 was just intended to save the battery. The link is here. If Panasonic itself is claiming this, there ought to be something in it. Although it beats me why stuff like this is not in the manual.

11 May 2012, Herkules

Windmill, De Veenhoop, Friesland, The Netherlands
Panasonic GH2, Panasonic Lumix Vario F4/7-14mm at 12mm (f4, 1/320 sec., 16:9 panorama mode, handheld, exif in file)
larger version.

The windmill shown in the image is locally known as a windmill of the "American Windmotor" type. The design is probably American, but it was built in Germany in the 1920's. In its present location it is used to control the water level in a nature reserve called the "Petgatten" (An area formerly used for peat cutting).

The Panasonic GH2 I used for this image has a so called multi aspect sensor. Although it is a 4/3 sensor it is actually slightly larger than that (13 x 19mm instead of the usual 13 x 17.3). If you switch from 4:3 to 16:9, the camera uses the the entire width of the sensor. The long side of the image then becomes approx. 5000 pixels wide instead of 4650. The 7-14 zoom is, in my opinion, extremely sharp at 12mm. Even wide open at F4. Prints up to 13 x 23 inches ought to be easily possible.