The One Perfect Bag Is A Lie............

Disclosure........I am a Vanguard Pro which means they sponsor me....But it DOESN'T mean what I write below isn't my honest feelings......Read on my friend!
I am also a member of the Olympus Visionary Program, but again, I love my gear and speak from the heart.

 Are you in search of "the one perfect camera bag"?  If so, I hate to break it to you but.....There is no such thing. No really, there isn't. I've spent the last 8 years being very involved with a few different bag manufacturers, and now, even sponsored by one, and can STILL say...There's no such thing as the perfect bag. This isn't Lord of the Rings folks, no "one bag to rule them all" here.

So now that I've gotten that through to you ( I mean, you believe me right?) and you have decided that the unicorn of the bag world isn't real, we can now get to the meat of this post. So what am I here to write about? I am here to tell you that there IS such a thing as "the perfect bag for specific situations". I hope this helps make things a little easier after dashing the unicorn dreams. I want to spend the rest of this post talking about a couple of bags that for me, have become the perfect bags for specific conditions/settings.


Vanguard Endeavor 900

The Vanguard Endeavor 900 is listed on the Vanguard website as a bag designed specifically for birders thanks to the way the bag is laid out. My time with it has made me realize it is perfect for my trips out into the field where I don't require a backpack. So from hiking wooded trails near my home, or venturing out onto frozen piers in west Michigan in the winter months, the Endeavor has become my perfect get out into the field bag. 

Vanguard Endeavor 900 holding the Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod

Vanguard Endeavor 900 holding the Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod

The Endeavor, although not a "big" bag, is perfect for those who shoot with a mirrorless camera like the ones I use from Olympus. In my bag, right now, I am carrying an OM-D E-M1 MkII, an mZuiko 7-14mm f/2.8, mZuiko 12-100mm f/4, mZuiko 300mm f/4 (with MC-14 1.4x teleconverter) and a 30mm f/3.5 macro, and 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye!. Oh..And how could I forget I also have in this bag a NiSi filter system, and assorted notepads,batteries, lens clothes etc... :) Don't believe me?
Check it for yourself!!


STUFFED...But not over stuffed :)

STUFFED...But not over stuffed :)

Vanguard has definitely made this a bag for an afternoon outing of shooting. So much so that they were thoughtful enough to make one of the saide pouches insulated...Why?

Did you think I was lying? This isn't a fairy tale folks...We have SAMMICH STORAGE!!!

Did you think I was lying? This isn't a fairy tale folks...We have SAMMICH STORAGE!!!

I could go over all the specs with you if you wanted. You know, things like; Water repellent and durable fabric
• Ergonomically shaped and well-padded strap
• Sturdy double sided, well balanced carrying handle
• Attachment for spotting scope/tripod/monopod/any other gear
• XXL silicone zipper pullers
• Modular dividers and dedicated pockets for ultimate set-up freedom
• Water tight pocket to keep essential personal effects secure, clean and dry
• Heat insulated pocket specially to keep snacks fresh and tasty
• Large divider horizontally locks into place to create working platform for sketching, taking notes, checking a guide, etc.
• Water resistant, easy to clean, anti-scratch and durable material on the bottom and anti-shock elevation feet
• Total coverage rain cover
But that isn't my style (instead I stole the specs of the Vanguard site), I'd much prefer to leave you with this parting thought, and parting action shot of the bag. 

If you are looking for a camera bag that is as equally at home in a birding blind with your spotting scope and camera gear, as it is slogging through snow on a frozen pier, or down a muddy woodland trail (don't forget the sammich!) then you should consider the Endeavor. Rugged build, outdoorsman/woman designed, and capable of hauling a lot of gear easily....This is now my "go to" bag when I jump in my car to shoot.




Now above I mentioned that for most of my short "into the woods" trips the Endeavor is perfect right? But what about those trips that are maybe not so short, or that require getting off the beaten path and doing some "real hiking"? For those situations you need more than a standard shoulder bag. Shoulder bags just don't stay put when you are climbing over fallen trees, or when traversing the face of a steep hillside. And let's be honest, for walk that could be several miles, they just aren't comfortable enough. That is where a good backpack comes into play. 

Say hello to the ALTA SKY 49.

The Alta Sky 49......Made for going the distance.

The Alta Sky 49......Made for going the distance.

As with any of the bags from Vanguard the Alta Sky line of bags are designed to work. Period. The materials are very durable and tightly woven to prevent snags and tears, they include rain covers(you can see above the rain cover tag noting the cover in a hidden compartment), and have strap, and padding designs made to make wearing these packs for long distances, and comfortable experience.  The Alta Sky packs look good too! Now, this isn't some "hipster at the coffee shop" looking bag, because, well, those dudes don't do what us dedicated photographers do, and that is actually hike miles into the woods and countryside to take photos.

Sorry guys...No lattes where I shoot.

MIles to go.....And not a worry in the world. Yes, I use my VEO 265CB as a walking stick....Don't you? If you look closely at my side, you can see the waist belt. This makes the bag even more secure and comfortable when wearing it off trail.

MIles to go.....And not a worry in the world. Yes, I use my VEO 265CB as a walking stick....Don't you?
If you look closely at my side, you can see the waist belt. This makes the bag even more secure and comfortable when wearing it off trail.

Yeah so you are probably thinking, "sure it's comfortable, but can it hold much gear?" Well...Yes...Yes it can!

What did I carry to the beach in my Alta Sky?  An Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII (w/ battery grip), Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkI (IR converted) , Olympus 300mm f/4 (w/ 1.4x teleconverter attached), Olympus 12-100mm f/4, Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8, Olympus 8mm fisheye, Olympus 30mm f/3.5 Macro...And filters, lens clothes, batteries...And some other stuff.....WOW! A LOT of gear!

What did I carry to the beach in my Alta Sky? 
An Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII (w/ battery grip), Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkI (IR converted) , Olympus 300mm f/4 (w/ 1.4x teleconverter attached), Olympus 12-100mm f/4, Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8, Olympus 8mm fisheye, Olympus 30mm f/3.5 Macro...And filters, lens clothes, batteries...And some other stuff.....WOW! A LOT of gear!

What's that weird section on the back?

That little pouch on the back? Oh it has a couple of uses!

That little pouch on the back? Oh it has a couple of uses!

If you are the observant type you may have noticed that triangular "flap" on the back and wondered what on earth is that? Well my friends, I just happen to have the answer to that ;)
That "flap" has a few roles to play. First is that it is like a pouch for stowing all the looted Incan treasure you find while hiking to Machu Pichu with this backpack on, second, it can hold your tripod securely(there are straps behind the flap;), and third, it will hold your drone!!! Don't have a drone? Well get this pack and then you will be 100% justified in buying a drone right?

So there you go, two bag options for two different types of photo excursions. And no matter what type of photography you do, a good bag will make the journey to your location easier and more comfortable. And in the end, that will help you to make a better photo.

Thanks for reading, now get out there and make some photos!

After a long trek through the woods I got to end my day with a Lake Michigan sunset and no back pain :)

After a long trek through the woods I got to end my day with a Lake Michigan sunset and no back pain :)

The Lensbaby Trio28 Review

OK so let's get this disclaimer thing out of the way.  For the record, Lensbaby was kind enough to send me this Trio28 to review. They are cool like that. And that concludes our disclaimer! Now let's get to the REAL reason you are here!


The Lensbaby Trio28

The Lensbaby Trio28 mounted to the Olympus PEN-F. A BEAUTIFUL combination!

So what exactly is the Lensbaby Trio28? 

The Lensbaby Trio28 is a single lens unit, with a rotating turret that houses three separate optical designs. These three designs are actually three of Lensbaby's popular standalone optics, the Sweet, the Velvet, and the newer Twist optic. As we go further into this review I'll discuss what differentiates each optic from one another, although I think you may get a good idea of what they do based upon their names ;)

Something else to bring up early in this review is what this unit is not. This unit is not here to compete with those razor sharp, multi thousand dollar lenses everyone seems to rave about. I'm not saying you can't get a decently sharp image from this lens, but I AM saying that this lens goes beyond worrying about satisfying the sharpness craving pixel peepers of the interwebs. The Trio28 was (like all the other Lensbaby optics) designed for creativity. Because let's face it, if you aren't a photojournalist, then you are here to create. Some of us chase the creativity side more than others, and for those who love the ART of photography, this lens is for you.

With that said, let's look at each of the three optics to see what they can do for your creativity. 

The Sweet Optic

The Sweet optic derives its name from the fact that is has a "sweet spot" in the center of your frame when shooting with it. Remember I said you CAN get sharp results with this lens, and in the case of using the Sweet optic, it will be dead center in your frame. To use the Sweet optic you simply grab the front of the lens where you see the three lenses, and rotate it until the word "SWEET" are facing up. Actually, that is how you access all of the optics. 
Once you have the Sweet optic in place simply compose your image, and if you want the subject sharp, center them and shoot.  
The photo below was shot with the Sweet optic.

Note the center of the image as being very sharp, while the edges soften up nicely!

Note the center of the image as being very sharp, while the edges soften up nicely!

As you can see above, the image certainly keeps a sharp center while giving the photographer a nice soft edge all the way around the frame. This offers some very fun creative concepts to be made.  

The Velvet Optic

The Velvet optic, again accessible by simply rotating the lens element turret on the front of the Trio, offers a very unique look. I guess it would be the exact opposite of the "razor sharp" lenses everyone seems to want today. If you have the confidence to just let go of what you think makes a great photo, and embrace the artist inside you, then the Velvet optic can make magic. The only way I can describe what it does is that it makes your scene...Dreamy. It creates a scene with a smooth, silky(velvety?) feel that makes you feel like you are looking at the pages of a fairytale. 

I loved shooting with the Velvet in B&W to create scenes like this that evoke a dreamy feel.

I loved shooting with the Velvet in B&W to create scenes like this that evoke a dreamy feel.

The Velvet optic I think lent itself very well to images processed either in camera (like with the Olympus ART Filters) or in post using B&W or very contrasty color techniques. I also feel like the Velvet optic creates this sense of movement that is slight, but perceptible enough to be used in your compositions.  Looking at the image above there is this sense of "movement towards the door" that this optic creates. I love what this lens can make!

The Twist Optic

Let's do the Twist!!!  No really, let's set the Trio28 to the Twist optic setting and see what we can create!! 
The Twist optic is designed to give the outer edges of your image a slight "twist" in their rendering. I know you've probably heard of the Petzval lens, that crazy big brass lens with a 100yr old design. Well this is a modern twist on that....I guess pun intended. 

Now on the micro 4/3 cameras this twist is less pronounced than it appears to be on larger sensor cameras. Specifically the full frame cameras. But that is not something I would consider a negative, not by any stretch. My rationale for that is because while this Twist is crazy cool...It can get a little overwhelming when there is too much of it. You know, "too much of a good thing". But on micro 4/3 there is enough twist to give you a very distinct and creative look, without inducing motion sickness ;)

The Twist optic with in camera processing using the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII

The Twist optic with in camera processing using the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII

If you look for the individual areas of twist it will be hard to pick out, but if you just observe the image in its entirety you will detect the subtle twist embedded within. This optic will definitely vary in its effect from one scene to the next. So it needs to be played with often :)

Same Scene, Three Optics

It does little good to show three different scenes using the three different optics, when each is so unique. So below you will find the same scene, rendered using all three optics. Here you see a HUGE difference from one to the next in regards to bokeh,clarity,and edge softness/sharpness. 



The Sweet optic straight out of camera w/ the Olympus PEN-F
Note the sharpest portion of the image is on the rear window near the left edge. That was my focal point.


Note the Velvet has little to no "sharpness" but offers one of the wildest bokeh I have ever seen!! Again...A dreamlike qaulity to this optic!


And finally the Twist optic. The Twist offers the largest "sharp area" of all the optics, and leaves the creative feel to the periphery. Here you can detect the slight "twist" to the Christmas lights in the background. 

I will end this blog post with a few more images I've made with this lens, and by telling you that I think EVERYONE needs a FUN lens like this in their quiver. We all too often get wrapped up in how "optically perfect" a lens "should be" and overlook the fun and creativity a lens like this can offer.  I started exploring this creative side a few years ago by purchasing vintage lenses and adapting them to my Olympus cameras. At some point I ended up with a Lensbaby Composer Pro and that really opened my eyes to what is possible with optics.

So again, I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone, and get in touch with your creative side. 

Shot using the Sweet optic on the OM-D E-M1 MkII and in camera processing.

Shot with the Twist optic using the Olympus PEN-F and in camera B&W

Velvet optic on the Olympus PEN-F

The Mirrorless Photographer's Gift Guide 2016

2016 is the best year yet for Mirrorless Photographers.

What a year!! 2016 was the year of the mirrorless camera revolution! We saw huge growth in the market as more and more people realized they don't need a big clunky dSLR to get great images. And as these people (maybe YOU are one of them?) have made their move into a smaller, often times more technologically advanced system, the need for new gear has arisen. And this list will help you either find them a great gift for this holiday season, or maybe it will help YOU get yourself something much deserved.  
I am making this list in order of expense. I will start off affordable (I don't have a huge trust fund so affordable to me is in the under $50 category) and work my way up to luxury items that may run over a couple thousand dollars. No matter what, everyone can find something on this list that will make a great gift. 

One thing before we get going.....I am using all Amazon links because I can make a few bucks of the sale of things when you shop from my links. It doesn't cost you a single penny more, but it helps me pay the bills if you can dig it. So big thanks for shopping through Amazon!!

So what do you say? Let's get to shopping!!

Keep It Steady...Affordably.

I love this product and own and use it myself regularly. It is the Manfrotto Pixi Mini Tripod. 
Now this is NOT a substitute for a regular full sized tripod, but it IS a very capable, ULTRA portable tripod that can easily be taken with you anywhere you go. And the cost? Try $25 on Amazon. 
Buy it here:

I can hold up any mirrorless camera!

I can hold up any mirrorless camera!

Welcome to Filters 101...On the Cheap.

Now this one may be a bit controversial...But hear me out first. 
There is no substitute for using filters on your camera. Especially ND(neutral density) filters. And with that said, there is no substitute for GOOD ND filters. But...What if you are curious as to whether you would use a set of ND filters? Or what if you have never used ND filters, and might only need them for a few shots and won't need them again? Or what if (this is MY case) you just don't have a ton of money to spend on ND filters? Well, what you do is get an affordable set like these from Neewer. I know...NEEWER? Who are they? They are a company that makes a LOT of affordable photo gear that is actually pretty darn good for the money! Whole these may not be made of glass, they are made of acrylic which has a GREATER level of clarity than any glass does...Don't believe me? Google it ;) 
So how mush is the wonder set of ND(standard AND graduated) filters going to cost you?
How about $20? No reason not to order one today now is there?
Buy it here:

Time To Clean House! Well..Maybe Clean Camera :)

If you play, you are going to have to pay at some point. And if you play outdoors (you better play outdoors!) then your camera will DEFINITELY need to be cleaned...And that is why I am seriously suggesting you invest in some sort of cleaning kit for your gear. This one has EVERYTHING you need to clean your camera inside and out...And all for under $20!! Can't go wrong there now can you? Oh..And I know this is for an APS-C camera, but you can trim the swabs to size ;) That'll save you some money.
Buy it here:

Put a Lid On It!!....Or Cap It...Or...Well, you get it!

You know what I lose? Lens caps...That's what I lose. I don't how, I don't know where...I just know I lose the darn things! But I have a secret....You can get them DIRT CHEAP on Amazon!!
How cheap is DIRT CHEAP?!? Well...Actually cheaper than a bag of dirt to be honest. 
Less than $10 for a pack of three...Just pick the size you need..Or buy two or three sizes and STILL be under that $25 price point!
Buy them here:

Shine A Little Light...Err.....REFLECT A Little Light!! 

Great..You are a natural light kind of photographer....So what if the light is on the wrong side of your subject? Or..What if that natural light is making a nasty Phantom of the Opera looking shadow on your model? Well what you do is use a reflector to bounce some light onto your model to fill in those shadows!! And you can do it for under $20! You can also use this to diffuse light by removing the reflective cover! That's why they call this a 5 in 1 reflector ;)
Buy it here:

Time to step up the Money Game...Gifts in the $50-200 price range.

Mirrorless Cameras are Small...So Why Buy a BIG BAG!?!?

This is MY PERFECT small bag for everyday use. Say hello to the Think TANK Photo Urban Approach 10. I LOVE Think TANK bags. How much do I love them? I have 8 of them so uh..Yeah..It could be called love. :) This bag though has now become my EDC(Every Day carry) bag that houses the Olympus PEN-F and a wide assortment of lenses and spare batteries...Oh..And my iPad. :) How much is this little gem? $135...And worth more than that in my opinion!
Buy it here: 

If James Bond Were A Photographer..He'd Be Using This.

Every year new gadgets come out in the world of photography, and often they are just revamped versions of something already out there. But sometimes a company comes at the industry with something completely new,...And that is EXACTLY what the Peak Design Capture Pro is.  This crazy cool clip system is designed to hold your camera on your bag's shoulder strap, or on your belt, or maybe someplace I haven't thought of yet. It's so cool I am sharing not only a photo...But a video of it too. I LOOOOOVE my Capture Clips...Yes...Plural...Love it so much I bought it a buddy. :)  Cost? $60
Buy it here:

You Need A Cloud..Your OWN Cloud..Like THIS Cloud!

Know what sucks? When your hard drive dies and you lose thousands of images. Know what else sucks? When you realize that for the cost of a few months worth of venti lattes you could have prevented that disaster. Know what DOESN'T Suck? This external hard drive that you can access from anywhere you have internet access. You can even access it from your phone or tablet. I was recently in New York and decided to not only download a few images from mine (OF COURSE I own this drive..two actually ;) but to UPLOAD a few images while in the streets of Chinatown just to see how practical it was. How practical was it? Enough that I am telling you that I did it and it worked PERFECTLY! How much is this piece of mind we call a cloud drive? Try $160 for 4TB..That's FOUR TERABYTES! So that is around 400,000 20 megapixel photos!! WHAT!?!? 
Buy it here:

Time To Charge Those Batteries..Like a Boss!

Are you still charging your batteries like the Amish? Ok...So maybe you aren't THAT far removed from technology, but if you are still charging batteries one at a time and not sure how full they are then you have some catching up to do! Introducing the Hahnel ProCube charger. This charger will not only charge TWO batteries at once, it will also do it FASTER and...Tell you how full they are!! Never wonder how close to being done they are. Never wonder if a battery needs charging. Never charge the old way again! Cost for this bronze beauty? $75
Buy it here:

I Hit The Lottery (or I just know how to manage my money better than you) Gifts! $250-$Lots

Edit on the go with a Microsoft Surface Pro! I am 100% a Mac guy...But I will tell you what. The iPad and iPad Pro are NOT full blown computers, but this Surface Pro IS! It will run all the Adobe Creative Cloud apps...Lightroom? Photoshop? Illustrator? Yup, Yup, Yup! And it also acts like a graphics tablet when you use the awesome Surface Pen...Oh and unlike the new Macbook Pro..This thing still has the SD card slot :)  Price? $1100
Buy it here:

 I Told You I Am A Mac Person...See?

I can't imagine editing at home on anything other than an iMac. I won't drone on and on about how great it is...Just trust me...THIS IS THE COMPUTER YOU WANT!!! Seriously...A 27" 5k display, super stunning form factor...And an operating system that is made to run smooth and efficiently...Wait...I am starting to drone on aren't I?  Cost? $2400
Buy it here:

The BEST Camera Out There In My Opinion....PERIOD!

Did you seriously think I wasn't going to suggest the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 MarkII? This camera is so loaded with features I swear I can't even begin to name them all. But I WILL say that one of the newest features, Pro Capture, will absolutely change the way you shoot ANY kind of action photos. Imagine that when you pressed the shutter button the camera not only took that photo, but it also took 14 images PRIOR to that one! So now you have that moment you were trying to capture, and if you just missed it? No worry! you have FOURTEEN other images to select from!! No more missing that perfect moment!! Cost? $2000
Buy it here:

You Bought The Best Camera..Now You Need Some Lenses!! Yes..Plural ;)

So what I am going to do here is share a link to ALL the Olympus PRO lenses. There are many of them. ALL are weather sealed, ALL are made for PRO level work, ALL are a PERFECT match for that new OM-D above. There is definitely a lens to fit whatever you shooting needs may be. And if you aren't sure which one you need? EMAIL ME! I will help guide you on your purchase journey! Cost? It varies....Sorry.
Buy them here: 
8mm f/1.8 Fisheye :
7-14mm f/2.8: 
12-40mm f/2.8 : 
25mm f/1.8 :
40-150mm f/2.8 :
300mm f/4 :

And Saving The BEST For Last!!!
And This Is Not What You Were Expecting

You can't get this one at Amazon....And The price is all over the map...But I think if you can do this then do it...Spend some money on TRAVEL!!! Seriously! Why buy a gift that might not last more than a few months or a year? Why buy a "thing" when you can buy a LIFE MEMORY? Go somewhere and pay for something you will never forget. It will be the best money you have ever spent.  Or buy a learning experience...OR...Best yet...Buy a spot on a workshop in a place you've never been!! Maybe even look at one of the workshops I do with Mike Boening!!
Check out Mirrorless Adventures Workshops Here: Mirrorless Adventures!

I just want to thank you for checking out this little gift guide, and for sharing it with your photographer friends and family. Take care and happy shooting!!!


3 Steps to Seeing In Black and White with your Olympus Mirrorless Cameras

If you have been into photography for any length of time you’ve probably had some interest in, or have tried shooting black and white images. And if you’ve been particularly interested in it, and have started to learn about it, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “seeing in black and white”. This is a wildly popular phrase in the photography education world. With workshops, books, and countless blog posts (including my own) discussing “how to see in black and white”.  But this blog post is not going to be about the “hypothetical seeing in black and white”, but about actually seeing in black and white using your Olympus mirrorless camera. And not only will I show you a few ways to do it,  I’ll also give you a few tips on getting the most from it.  


Part 1:    WHY?

The timeless look of a black and white image is something almost anyone can appreciate. Whether it is the sweeping grand landscapes devoid of color that Ansel Adams created, or the iconic Depression Era work of Dorothea Lange, one thing is certain, a well done black and white images can stand the test of time.  Photographing in black and white not only creates a timeless look, it is also an incredible way to make the patterns and textures of the world around you stand out. When you remove color from the equation, all you are left with is textures, contrasts, and light. Black and white can also be used to remove the distraction of bold colors from a scene to make your subject stand out against a sea of distraction.

My Grandmother the last time I saw her before she passed away.  
E-PM1 + mZuiko 45mm f/1.8

Part 2: WHEN??

When should you should in black and white? This is the hard part to teach. For me personally there are times when I know I will be shooting in B&W based solely on past experiences with shooting a particular location or environment.  A good example is in the streets, and especially at night after it has rained. There is something to be said for a street photo that is in black and white. Again, the term “timeless” comes to mind. And although there are always clues as to the era in which a photo is shot, the emotional connection is what we refer to as timeless. Nothing in the scene feels like it has to be a part of an era….It is just life at any given moment.  Another time I want to shoot in black and white is when I want to create a dramatic and emotional image that color will not contribute to.  Sounds a little abstract I’m sure, but give it a shot. See if you can find a scene that doesn’t need color to make it dramatic.


A storm rolling into my frame as seen through the E-M1 + Rokinon 7.5mm Fisheye

Part 3: HOW? (The Fun Part)

This is the part you’ve been waiting for right? The “HOW” is so easy you won’t believe it, and it may just make you shoot black and white photos more often!!  So let’s get started!!

The first thing we are going to do it set your camera to shoot raw+jpg. The reason we do this is so that you get a black and white image that represents what you see in the camera(the jpg), and you will also get a color raw file. You can skip this step if you only want to “see” in black and white, and not capture a black and white image in the camera. Now, there are several jpg settings we can use, and I prefer to use the LN (Large normal) or LSF(Large superfine).
To get your camera into the raw+jpg mode the first thing we do is navigate to file type setting on the back of the camera. Start off by pressing the OK button, then navigating to the file type on the back of the screen. Hit OK again to open the selection menu, scroll over to the filetype you wish to use. Please refer to the following images to guide you in setting up the file type.

Currently shooting RAW, but we'll change that.

Now I have selected Large Fine JPG + RAW :)

Once you have selected the settings you want, hit OK again to choose it and set it.

Now that we have selected our raw+jpg mode we can move on to setting the camera up in Monotone(B&W) mode. It is as easy as setting up the file type. We start by hitting the OK button again, navigating to the Picture Mode option in the upper right hand side of the rear display, Hit OK once you have it highlighted to open the selection menu. Here you will choose the MONOTONE setting. Hit OK to choose it and now is it set! Please refer again to the visual instructions below.

Selecting Picture Mode here

Now I've selected MONOTONE Picture Mode :)

Now there are a couple of other settings we can adjust. As you can see I like to change mine form the default monotone setting to one with the sharpness,contrast,and color filter altered. Play with these settings to achieve a look you like!

Sharpness Options

Contrast Options

Color Filter (I LOVE RED for dark skies!!)

And color tone. I use NEUTRAL for true B&W. But you can choose color tints as well.

And as you can see from the following image, our camera is now not only showing you an image in black and white….It is capturing an image (jpg) in black and white!!

Now there is no need to guess what a scene might look like in black and white…You will see it that way. 

Eeek!! A Mouse....In B&W  ;)

Now I said there were a couple of ways to go about this right? So here are two more ways.

The first and most obvious is to use the Art Filters! Granted they are a lot different than what we did above, but they still offer very cool results!! The image below was shot using the grainy film Art Filter. 

One of my FIRST Art Filter shots! On the E-M5 MkI

And this one was shot with the Dramatic Tone Art Filter set to Monochrome Mode

Dramatic Tone? In B&W?!?!? YES!!!!!!!

And finally another way to shoot in Monotone is to make your Custom Picture mode be set to monotone. I do this so that I can have my monotone Picture mode set to one look by adjusting the sharpness,contrast, etc…And I have the Custom Picture mode set to monotone with completely different settings. So now my cameras have two very different monotone modes to shoot in.

I love shooting cemetery statuary in B&W :)

So there you have it….Shooting in black and white is beyond easy on the Olympus mirrorless cameras!!!  If you venture out to shoot in black and white after reading this, please share links to your work in the comments below! I’d love to see what you are creating!!

3 Guidelines For Better Bird Photography

Bird photography is something I have recently become more fascinated with since the introduction of the new mZuijko 300mm f/4 PRO lens. I had been photographing birds from time to time over the last few years using the mZuiko 75-300mm, and mZuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO, but never has it been as much fun as it is now thanks to the reach the 300mm f/4 offers.  In the following article I will go over some of the things that have provided me with great success in photographing birds with the OM-D cameras and mZuiko lenses, including the new 300mm f/4 PRO lens, along with the MC-14 teleconverter.


#1 Gear Selection

Let's start off with the gear I am using for my bird photography. 
My primary camera has been the OM-D E-M1 with the HLD-7 battery grip attached. Why the E-M1? Why the battery grip? Let me explain.
I chose this camera body combo because the shape of the E-M1 vs. say the E-M5 Mark II, or E-M10 allows for a more stable grip when handholding the bigger olympus lenses. Not to say that you can't do the same with the other camera bodies, but for me the ergonomics of this combination just made sense. Also the E-M1 is LOADED with custom function buttons, and I take full advantage of that! 
So what about lenses? We have several GREAT options for birding in all conditions when it comes to the Olympus line, and I have three that I love to shoot with. The three I use are the mZuiko 300mm f/4 PRO, mZuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO, and the mZuiko 75-300mmII. The two pro lenses are of course my top choice because they are both of the highest optical quality, have fast apertures relative to their focal lengths, and they can both take advantage of the MC-14 1/4x teleconverter.
My other main piece of is the Vanguard VEO 265CB carbon fiber tripod with their awesome  BBH-200 Ballhead


#2 Habitat and Subjects

So you have the right gear...Now what? Now you seek out a location for photographing birds! 

The location you choose for photographing birds is going to be entirely dependent upon what types of birds you're photographing. You can start in your own yard, and get photographs of birds like finches, Robins or other local birds to your region. Some birds thrive in neighborhood settings, while other birds require a more rural or a wild location away from busy neighborhoods.

A good start in determining where you can find a specific species of bird, would be to get online and visit the Audubon website. I also recommended looking on Flickr for birding groups particular to your area.

Once you have determined the type of birds you would like to start photographing, now you will start to scout out the locations you have educated yourself on. For example, I discovered that Baltimore Orioles are frequently found along the Grand River in West Michigan. This also happens to be a region where my family and I camp every year. Armed with this information I struck out along the shoreline of the Grand River in the late spring as the Orioles started to arrive on their migration. It is here where I had the most success and photographing Baltimore Orioles as you can see in the images below.

Male Baltimore Oriole found along the Grand River in Ottawa County Michigan
E-M1 + mZuiko 300mm f/4 + MC-14 Teleconverter

Female Baltimore Oriole. Ottawa County Michigan
E-M1 + mZuiko 300mm f/4 PRO

And of course you don't necessarily have to venture out into the woods to get great bird photos. Often times your own county may have a Metropark or other outdoor location full of wonderful birding opportunities. Here in Michigan a place I often frequent, Kensington Metro Park, is full of incredible variety. I have even been fortunate enough to photograph bald eagles  at this location.

E-M1 + mZuiko 300mm f/4 + MC-14 Teleconverter

So now that you have a few locations that you would like visit to photograph birds and you know that the birds you want to photograph can be found in these locations, you need to now do a little bit of research on the habits of these birds. You'll have greater success photographing birds, if you understand more about their feeding, nesting, breeding, and general habits. Below are some of the websites I use to gather that information about the birds that I want to seek out and photograph.
(A Michigan based site)


#3 Camera Settings

OK, so we now have the gear, we have the locations and birds we want to shoot..How about the camera settings? Whenever we talk about camera settings it is easy to get overly technical. I prefer however, to keep things as simple as possible, so I can just go and enjoy photographing birds. So this section of the article will be pretty straightforward and simple enough for anyone to be able to follow and use.

Let's start out with camera modes.

If there is plenty of light, I prefer to shoot an aperture priority. This way I can focus on the depth of field since my shutter speed will be good based on available light. When I am able to shoot in aperture priority, I can get a much shallower depth of field which makes my subject pop out from the background more. It is the separation that takes an image from a standard image, to one that really shines. Just look at the two images above of the Baltimore Orioles. These were shot wide-open at either f/4 or at f/5.6 and that allowed for a shallow depth of field (the 300mm and 420mm focal lengths contribute to that as well). When the available light is good, and I am shooting wide-open, my shutter speed is generally high enough to freeze subtle movements that may occur. Once my shutter speed is faster than 1/800 of a second I don't have to worry too much about movement. Now if you are attempting to shoot birds in flight, then you will want a faster shutter speed than 1/800 of a second which brings us to the other mode that I shooting.

When I do not have the greatest amount of light available, I will then switch to shutter priority.I also set the camera to auto ISO. In my camera I have the ISO set to max out at ISO 3200. With the settings, I will adjust my shutter speed two 1/800 eight hundredth of a second, in the camera will automatically adjust the ISO, And Aperture, to help me maintain that 1/800 of a second shutter speed. Shooting in this mode is not my favorite way to shoot, but sometimes we have to make the decision on whether or not we want to not take shots or sacrifice some image quality in order to just get the shots. Admittedly, I can take an ISO 3200 shot and make it 100% acceptable in post processing. Again, I ask you to look above at the image of the female Baltimore oriole. That photo was shot at ISO 1600 and in my opinion is a wonderfully sharp and detailed image easily able to be printed at a moderately large size.

Remember earlier in the article when I mentioned why I use the E – M1? One of the reasons was the many function buttons the camera has. To switch back and forth between shutter, and Aperture priority modes I use one of these function buttons. You can save a bunch of camera settings to a single button, such as being in shutter priority, having a max ISO of 3200, and a minimum shutter speed of 1/800 second. And have it all accessible by hitting a single button. 

A couple other settings that I use that I feel are worth mentioning are: 

Single point focus(centerpoint)
Function button set to 14 X magnification
Image stabilization on
Anti-shock shutter enabled, and low speed sequential shooting on.

Before we move onto the next section I want to mention that with 90% of my bird photography I am on a tripod. I cannot emphasize enough how important a good tripod is to your wildlife photography. Do not go cheap, spent good money and get a good tripod. It will be one of your most important investments in your photography.

#4 (Bonus section!) Composition and Environment

So now that we have the basics out of the way let's finish this off with a few tips on selecting your environment and composing your photographs. A good place to practice photographing birds is in your own backyard, or at the local zoo. While these are great places to get your feet wet in bird photography, my personal preference is to photograph birds in the wild. Nothing offers me more satisfaction,excitement, or a sense of accomplishment as finding a bird in its natural habitat and getting a wonderful photograph of it. Take for example the image below of an American bald eagle that I found right here in my home county of Eaton County Michigan.

I spent several weeks scouting locations where a pair of bald eagles had been sighted and made several trips each day in hopes of finding them along the river. It was on a cold snowy February day that I happen to be making my second trip scouting when I stumbled upon this eagle perched in a tree above the river. So while it may be that you come home with no photos some days, you will find that persistence and determination payoff.

Over my several weeks of scouting for these birds I had seen them on two prior occasions, but was never afforded an opportunity to take a good photograph of them. To me this is an example of a successful photo of this bald eagle. I am always conscious I've having too many branches or objects in the scene that take away from my subject. This is about as busy as I would let a photograph get in regards to having branches behind my subject. Luckily I was shooting at 300mm which allowed the branches in the background to get D focused enough as do not detract from my subject. You can minimize background distractions by moving your body in relationship to the subject to help clear the background, by shooting with a wide aperture, by shooting with a long focal length, or by any combination of those three.


Bald Eagle
Eaton County Michigan
E-M1 + mZuiko 75-300mm

An example of composing in framing a shop with no background distractions is this tufted titmouse. I had to maneuver several different times to get this shot with very little background interference. This took over an hour to accomplish as any movements that I made would's book the bird and it would leave its perch and come back after a few moments. Again, persistence pays off.

Tufted Titmouse
Eaton County Michigan
E-M5 + mZuiko 75-300mm

So a few basic rules about composition that I follow are:

Include some of the environment in the photo.

Make sure there are not too many distractions in the scene such as branches protruding from the bird's head, or a background that is so busy it takes away from your subject.

Make sure that your bird's eyes are in focus.

Try to make sure your exposure allows your bird's eyes to be visible.

I also want to mention a little bit about environment. As I mentioned above your back yard and local zoo are great places to learn the techniques you need to photograph words. But once you learn what bird species are available outside of the suburbs where you may live and where to find them, you will learn to appreciate Bird photography all the more. I also want to mention that as the seasons change so do the birds in your area. It is exciting to see new birds common each season that offer completely different opportunities and challenges in my bird photography. Again, using the websites I shared above, you can learn which birds you can expect to see throughout the year in your area. I will close out this article by sharing a few of my favorite photos from the past couple of years below. If you ever have any questions about how I made any of the shots feel free to email me and I will be glad to discuss birding with you.

Have a great day, and thank you for following in my adventures.

Jamie A. MacDonald


Male Ringneck Pheasant
Jackson County Michigan
E-M5 MarkII + mZuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO + MC-14 Teleconverter

Female Ruby Throated Humingbird
Eaton County Michigan
E-M1 + mZuiko 75mm f/1.8

Bald Eagle
Ottawa County Michigan
E-M1 + mZuiko 300mm f/4 PRO + MC-14 Teleconverter

Male and Female Wood Ducks
Eaton County Michigan
E-M1 + mZuiko 300mm f/4 PRO + MC-14 Teleconverter

Red Bellied Woodpecker
Oakland County Michigan
E-M1 + mZuiko 300mm f/4 PRO + MC-14 Teleconverter.