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.  

Ready!?!?


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.

http://www.audubon.org/bird-guide
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/
(A Michigan based site) http://mibirdingnetwork.com/

 

#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.


 

 

And Another Year is Coming to a Close

2015...WOW!!! What a year!!!

I try every year to do a "year in review" post as a way to relive what the year gave me. I had a LOT of pain and heartbreak this year, and that stuff will NOT be in this post. What will be here is a month by month breakdown of some of the highlights of the year. All of course with that recurring theme of....PHOTOGRAPHY!!

So to all of you who were a part of my photographic journey in 2015, thank you for making it the best year yet!! And I hope we all connect again in 2016 to make even more memories!!

Cheers!!

 

January:
 

January 1st I headed to the Lake Michigan shoreline for some of the most incredible photos of the year. I went there with friend and fellow Olympus user David Bostedor, and met up with another Olympus shooter Bob Panick (who drove HOURS to get there).


February:

February would prove to be a difficult moth for photography here in Michigan. With weeks of sub zero windchills and snowstorm after snowstorm, finding inspiration was tough. Luckily David Bostedor was a good motivator and mad me go out on crazy rural adventures in the blizzards all in the name of photography! Thank Dave!


March:

March would find me urbexing in Detroit with a great group of guys. Seth Duimstra, Mark Miller were two of them.  It was a great day with great people in a city that is on its way to becoming great once again.


April: 

 

What can I say about April? April was HUGE!!!!! Not even sure where to begin!
So I was asked to go to Whistler ski resort with Olympus for a press event. It was AWESOME! 
I got to meet some of the coolest people in the photo and tech review world. Chris Gampat (A.K.A. the Phoblographer), Vincent Nguyen of Slashgear, and Michael Palmer of Steve's Digicams to name a few. Not to mention just how fun the entire Olympus team is!

April Pt.2: Yes...It deserves TWO parts!

Another big highlight was being able to go to Washington D.C. with my oldest son Mason. I loved being able to spend that time with him. I am not sure if he will even know how much it meant to me, but I am sure those of you who are parents that read this will understand. 


May: 

 

May had a few highlights, one of which was the FIRST MirrorlessMinutes workshop! Mike Boening and I did an Olympus users event in Detroit that was a blast! But the other highlight was getting our new camper onto its seasonal site. My wife found this church on a return trip from the campground one day and told me about it. What a find!!!


June: 

 

Hello Chicago!!
I was lucky enough to be a presenter and photowalk leader at the Out of Chicago Conference in 2015 (and I'll be there again in 2016!) and it was also my first time in Chicago. What an incredible city! Mike Boening landed us this beautiful apartment with stunning views of the city. I was also lucky enough to have my brother come along and see what the whole photography world is like from my end of it. Funny thing is, he was recognized by a LOT of people there since he is a favorite subject of mine to shoot.


July:

 

July was back to Detroit for another MirrorlessMinutes workshop! This time it was a two day event covering both the urban setting of downtown Detroit, and the rural countryside north of the city. It was great to have such an awesome group of attendees to shoot with for two days.


August:

What could be more fun than going shooting with a group of guys who love photography?  I planned out a "guys only" photo trip with Travis Stevens, Mark Miller, David Bostedor, and Seth Duimstra that turned into one of the most epic photo adventures I've ever had. We shot everything from lightning over Lake Michigan to the Aurora Borealis. It was a trip I don't think any of us will ever forget!


September:

 

September.....It is hard to look at these photos because on this trip my wife suffered a broken hip due to her cancer. It is painful to equate so much beauty with so much pain a tragedy. I won't go into detail, but the whole experience was enough to scar us forever.


October:

In October, my family and I headed north (my wife still using a cane to walk) to enjoy the beauty of northwest Michigan in autumn. We were not disappointed. There is no place in the country quite like northern Michigan. 


November:
 

 

This photo is of the Manhattan Bridge from the Brooklyn side. I could not have made this shot if it weren't for Olympus Imaging. Thank you so much!
November is such a blessing for me. I have been given so many opportunities thanks to Olympus and I don't know if I can ever thank them enough. I have gotten to travel all over with them, I get to use the best camera gear out there, and most of all, I get to meet so many wonderful people thanks to them. 
Thank you Olympus for an incredible dream come true. 


December:

 

December has been a slow month...And I am fine with that. The other 11 months were packed with a LOT of activity, the vast majority of which never made it into this post. 
A few more workshops, numerous other outtings, countless weekends camping with my family, and hours and hours of social media and photo editing and Youtube content creation. 

So as I sit here with a glass of MICHIGAN wine on my desk, and the sound of freezing rain hitting my windows, I bid you all a wonderful rest of 2015 and I hope to see (and interact with) you all in 2016...I thank you all for making what I do so much fun!

Cheers!

Jamie

Photo Gift Guide 2015

Oh my! It's that time of year already...You know...Holiday shopping time!
It is stressful enough to do gift shopping when you have an idea of what to get, but it is 100x worse when your gift recipient is a photographer and YOU have no idea what to get them!

So relax a little, and read this guide to some simple gift choices for the photographer in your life. And this list is designed for ANY brand of camera user out there. And I have it broken up into three categories for three different budgets. 

So let's stop talking and get to shopping!!


 


Sub $25


First up is a 6 pack of microfiber lens cloths. EVERYONE can use more of these! And at $9 you can't beat the price! Follow this link to pick them up on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1XtygPh

First up is a 6 pack of microfiber lens cloths. EVERYONE can use more of these! And at $9 you can't beat the price! Follow this link to pick them up on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1XtygPh

What is this crazy thing?! It is used to blow dust and dirt off your camera and lens. It is always nice to blow the dirt off BEFORE you wipe it down to avoid scratching your lens! It's cheap too folks! Less than $10 Follow the link to purchase on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1XtyXbp

What is this crazy thing?! It is used to blow dust and dirt off your camera and lens. It is always nice to blow the dirt off BEFORE you wipe it down to avoid scratching your lens! It's cheap too folks! Less than $10 Follow the link to purchase on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1XtyXbp

You have to get the photos off your cards somehow right?! This card reader is exactly what you need. Why? It is USB 3.0 which means it is FAST!! And it is only $16 AND...I actually own two of these so can speak to their quality. :D Follow the Amazon ink to order: http://amzn.to/1jlAkuY

You have to get the photos off your cards somehow right?! This card reader is exactly what you need. Why? It is USB 3.0 which means it is FAST!! And it is only $16 AND...I actually own two of these so can speak to their quality. :D Follow the Amazon ink to order: http://amzn.to/1jlAkuY

This is the ULTIMATE $10 gift!! But there is a catch....It is $10 a month. ;) For $10 a month your giftee will receive BOTH Adobe Lightroom AND Photoshop! If they aren't using these, they will be FLOORED to get this as a gift!! Follow the Amazon link to hook them up! http://amzn.to/1Id3KHJ

Awesome! You got that special someone the Lightroom and Photoshop subscription!! Now they need to learn how to use it!! This book is PERFECT! Although it breaks our $25 budget by a dollar ;) So for $26 you get a book by the master of Photoshop and Lightroom, Scott Kelby! Follow the Amazon link to pick this up today! http://amzn.to/1PQGZvO

Awesome! You got that special someone the Lightroom and Photoshop subscription!! Now they need to learn how to use it!! This book is PERFECT! Although it breaks our $25 budget by a dollar ;) So for $26 you get a book by the master of Photoshop and Lightroom, Scott Kelby! Follow the Amazon link to pick this up today! http://amzn.to/1PQGZvO

While we're talking about books.....Let's get that special person a how to guide for getting professional results from that camera! Again, a great book by Scott Kelby and it comes in at $20! Follow the Amazon link to purchase: http://amzn.to/1PQHg1M

While we're talking about books.....Let's get that special person a how to guide for getting professional results from that camera! Again, a great book by Scott Kelby and it comes in at $20! Follow the Amazon link to purchase: http://amzn.to/1PQHg1M


Sub $100


One of the MOST IMPORTANT things a photographer needs to do is.....BACK UP THOSE PHOTOS!! Hard drives can fail at any moment, and nothing is worse than losing all those precious memories! So for only $99.99 (under $100!!) you can get 4 TERABYTES of storage! And it is USB3 so it is a fast drive! I personally own 2 of these exact models and have no complaints at all! Follow the Amazon link to purchase! http://amzn.to/1Id4Sen

Another hard drive? Sure! But this one is portable...So if your photographer travels and or uses a laptop with their photo editing, a portable drive is a perfect gift! This is a 1 terabyte hard drive that has been designed to stand up to "clumsy people" ;)  And at $55 it's an easy buy! Follow the Amazon link to purchase: http://amzn.to/1PQHRjY

Another hard drive? Sure! But this one is portable...So if your photographer travels and or uses a laptop with their photo editing, a portable drive is a perfect gift! This is a 1 terabyte hard drive that has been designed to stand up to "clumsy people" ;)  And at $55 it's an easy buy! Follow the Amazon link to purchase: http://amzn.to/1PQHRjY

Yeah so this one will be hard to explain but basically it is a device to hold lenses OUTSIDE your camera bag. So rather than dig into your bag to swap lenses, you can have it hanging over your shoulder or around your neck! I use this out street shooting now a lot! Follow the link, and then choose the brand of camera you have. Cost? $75 http://amzn.to/1Id5QqU

Yeah so this one will be hard to explain but basically it is a device to hold lenses OUTSIDE your camera bag. So rather than dig into your bag to swap lenses, you can have it hanging over your shoulder or around your neck! I use this out street shooting now a lot! Follow the link, and then choose the brand of camera you have. Cost? $75 http://amzn.to/1Id5QqU

I can't imagine editing photos without a graphics tablet! This is the most affordable way to be introduced to the world of graphics tablets. Imagine being able to "draw" your adjustments in Photoshop or Lightroom...It is pressure sensitive so it is JUST LIKE using a real pen! And the price? $82!! The "name brand" version of this is over $300. So follow the link to save a bundle! http://amzn.to/1Id66WW

I can't imagine editing photos without a graphics tablet! This is the most affordable way to be introduced to the world of graphics tablets. Imagine being able to "draw" your adjustments in Photoshop or Lightroom...It is pressure sensitive so it is JUST LIKE using a real pen! And the price? $82!! The "name brand" version of this is over $300. So follow the link to save a bundle! http://amzn.to/1Id66WW


Budget? $100-$1000


EVERYONE can use a good tripod! And the line of tripods from MeFoto rock! The range in price from $118 to about $190. They come in a wide assortment of colors...For those of us who like some bling! And they are sturdy! Don't skimp here...I spent the $189 for the MeFoto Roadtrip model...TWICE. I love them that much! Follow the link to purchase http://amzn.to/1PQJvSA

EVERYONE can use a good tripod! And the line of tripods from MeFoto rock! The range in price from $118 to about $190. They come in a wide assortment of colors...For those of us who like some bling! And they are sturdy! Don't skimp here...I spent the $189 for the MeFoto Roadtrip model...TWICE. I love them that much! Follow the link to purchase http://amzn.to/1PQJvSA

Bigger IS BETTER! And this 30" IPS display from Monoprice is Big and BEAUTIFUL!! Perfect for a secondary display for your computer! Imagine editing images on this big screen! I have their 27" display and LOVE IT! Kinda wish I had tis 30" now! And for only $499 it can't be beat!  Follow the link to get it! http://amzn.to/1PQJNsI

Bigger IS BETTER! And this 30" IPS display from Monoprice is Big and BEAUTIFUL!! Perfect for a secondary display for your computer! Imagine editing images on this big screen! I have their 27" display and LOVE IT! Kinda wish I had tis 30" now! And for only $499 it can't be beat! 
Follow the link to get it! http://amzn.to/1PQJNsI

How could I not recommend an Olympus camera? This here is the latest camera from Olympus. It is the E-M10 MKII. It has some of the most incredible technology inside it. It can do things a BIG CLUNKY dSLR camera can only dream of doing! And the best part? It can fit in your jacket pocket! Cost? Right now $699 WITH this super compact lens! And if you DO get one? You are always welcome to come to me with questions about what your new camera can do! Even if you already own a different brand of camera, it is not a bad idea to have a second camera for emergencies, or in this case, to carry around every day thanks to its small size! Follow the link to pick one up today! http://amzn.to/1Id8Wev

How could I not recommend an Olympus camera? This here is the latest camera from Olympus. It is the E-M10 MKII. It has some of the most incredible technology inside it. It can do things a BIG CLUNKY dSLR camera can only dream of doing! And the best part? It can fit in your jacket pocket! Cost? Right now $699 WITH this super compact lens! And if you DO get one? You are always welcome to come to me with questions about what your new camera can do! Even if you already own a different brand of camera, it is not a bad idea to have a second camera for emergencies, or in this case, to carry around every day thanks to its small size!
Follow the link to pick one up today! http://amzn.to/1Id8Wev

Is Jamie pitching Canon? Nope! I AM trying to show you though that a MICROPHONE is an awesome gift idea for your photographer! More and more people are starting to shoot video, and great video becomes BAD video if the audio is no good! So invest ($199) in  GOOD microphone to make your videos sing! Follow the link to get this awesome Rode mic today! http://amzn.to/1Id9h0L

Is Jamie pitching Canon? Nope! I AM trying to show you though that a MICROPHONE is an awesome gift idea for your photographer! More and more people are starting to shoot video, and great video becomes BAD video if the audio is no good! So invest ($199) in  GOOD microphone to make your videos sing! Follow the link to get this awesome Rode mic today!
http://amzn.to/1Id9h0L


So that's it folks....Just a short list of gift ideas that range from super cheap and easy for anyone, to the more expensive gift ideas that are sure to wow!

Take care and happy holidays!

Jamie A. MacDonald

Hit the Road and Don't Look Back!

That title was my mantra this past weekend as my family and I headed to northwest Michigan in search of some autumn beauty. I decided that there would be no turning around, no looking back at the hectic life we left behind for the weekend. It would be just the four of us and our Shih-Tzu in the car in search of fall color and beautiful landscapes. 

Below is a collection of images taken on our short journey away from the stress of every day life.

 

The first image of the day taken on M22 near Empire Michigan. M22 was just voted America's most scenic fall drive!

The entrance to Sleeping Bear National park is the Pierce Stocking Drive. You are greeted with this quaint wooden covered bridge and tree lined drive.

Further into the drive we stopped at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore to take in the vast view of Lake Michigan and the steep drop to her shores. 

Another place we visited and loved was the Point Betsey Lighthouse. Along the shore were numerous rock stacks that I think always make for cool subjects.

Point Betsey Lighthouse being blasted by a turbulent Lake Michigan. It was cold, and blustery, but it was worth every second to be there.

We ended our day in Buckley Michigan at one of the most incredible locations I've been to yet in Lower Michigan.

I couldn't have asked for a better day. No one argued, no one got bored, we all just enjoyed the trip together....It was PERFECT.

The Challenge of Confinement

I don't have anywhere cool to go shoot.
I don't have the time to go anywhere interesting to shoot.
I don't have anyplace within walking distance to shoot.


I'm bored.............

Yeah well....Get off your butt and get out the door and MAKE A PLACE INTERESTING TO SHOOT.
So how do you do that? How did I do that?

Today I walked out the front door and down the block to this big old warehouse. The warehouse has a grassy, weedy, semi-overgrown lot that it sits on, and this I decided was where I would MAKE a place to shoot. 
 

THE WALL: This is where I decided to challenge myself.

The building has a cement wall that runs along it and as I entered the field/lot I decided that the wall would be where I would find the photos. I love that as a photographer we can find interest in the mundane, beauty in the neglected and overlooked world around us. 

I also decided that not only would the wall be my playground, I also decided that ALL the photos would be shared as is, straight from the camera with NO POST PROCESSING OR EDITING!!  
This is actually no big deal since the camera I was using, the Olympus OM-D E-M10MkII has these cool Art Filters built in. So I could just let my imagination run wild as I wandered along the wall.  

 


Reach For The Sky: OM-D E-M10MkII + MD ROKKOR-X 50mm f/1.4 Using the Vintage Art Filter


Foothold: OM-D E-M10MkII + MD ROKKOR-X 50mm f/1.4 Using a custom B&W setting.


Purple Heads: OM-D E-M10MkII + MD ROKKOR-X 50mm f/1.4 Using the Cross Process Art Filter


Heading Home: OM-D E-M10MkII + MD ROKKOR-X 50mm f/1.4 Using the Grainy Film Art Filter


Autumn Reach: OM-D E-M10MkII + MD ROKKOR-X 50mm f/1.4 Using the Vintage Art Filter


Uninvited: OM-D E-M10MkII + MD ROKKOR-X 50mm f/1.4 Using the Vintage Art Filter


So the purpose of this post was to show you that there is no excuse to not go and create photos. You can go ANYWHERE and find something beautiful. How do I know this? 

BECAUSE YOU ARE AN ARTIST, A CREATIVE SOUL WHO PAINTS WITH LIGHT AND YOUR HEART. 

I believe in what you do, and I want to see what you create! Now go shoot!!

Jamie

What Were You Thinking? Installment #5

Let me preface this with a little info about why this comes so late.

My family and I were vacationing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and we had a very horrible thing happen. We were at a place called Hurricane River when my wife suffered a broken hip. The location we were at was quite remote. It is about a 15 minute car ride to even get somewhere that has a cell phone signal. It took 40 minutes for my 9 year old son to even be able to flag down a passing car and direct them to where my 14 year old son and myself were trying to work my wife back to our car. It was then a further 30 minutes before an ambulance arrive, only to then find out they would need a DIFFERENT ambulance to come because her injuries required a hospital that was two hours away in Marquette!

All in all it ended up being a 30 hour wait in a hospital to get an emergency hip replacement surgery, all while almost 500 miles from home, with no family, no friends and no support for several days.... And all within the first two days of our vacation. It was a nightmare. But we are home, she is healing quickly, and we are trying to get back to some sort of a normal life.

Now on to the image I want to discuss.  This image was shot while I was on a camping trip I arranged for some of my photographer friends just a few weeks before "the vacation from hell".

I took my friends up to my camper with hopes of shooting a few specific places, one of which is the pier in Grand Haven. My goal for this night was to just swing up and get some great sunset photos. But when we started to head out we saw on the radar that a series of thunderstorms were marching inland from across Lake Michigan! The assumption was we'd not get a sunset, but could maybe get some lightning shots! What I ended up with that evening was both at once!!

 

The setting sun and lightning all in one shot! Made with the Olympus OM-D E-M1
and mZuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO

When we arrived we found that we were indeed going to be treated to a sunset, (which if you haven't seen a Lake Michigan sunset then you haven't really seen a sunset) AND to a potential show of lightning! So my friends and I were at various places along the beach and both piers you can see in this shot. We were shooting the sunset and watching the lighting slowly come in form the distance. 

As the sun started to get really low on the horizon I had an idea that I hoped I could pull off. I wondered to myself if I could use Live Composite and capture the tail end of the sunset, but also maybe get some of the lightning as the storm approached.

So this is what I did.

I composed my shot in such a way as to leave a hint of sunset, but make the majority of the scene dark so it would let the lightning stand out. This was not easy because I had to try a few different shots to not get the sunset over exposed.  I ended up being able to shoot this with the following settings

Manual Mode: Live Composite
Focal Length 7mm:
ISO200
Aperture: f/4.5
Base Exposure time: 3.2 seconds.

The Live Composite feature of the Olympus OM-D cameras makes going from a crazy spur of the moment concept, to shooting a once in a lifetime (at least for me) shot and getting this result STRAIGHT OUT OF THE CAMERA. The photo above has had NO EDITING to it.

I know this wasn't probably some wild in depth how to, but then, these cameras make some things so easy that the explanations for how to make images like this are rather short.

Thanks again for stopping in, and for those who reached out over the last few weeks to check in on my wife...Thank you so much! Your love and kind words have been a big blessing to us.

Take Care,

Jamie A. MacDonald
 

What Were You Thinking?: Installment #4

Welcome to the jungle!! Ok, the concrete jungle maybe. 

So first off I am a few days late with this post and I apologize. I had scheduled it to go live, but I somehow had it set to August 28th and not July 28th. And it took me a few days to notice it hadn't launched...Ugh.

So yeah, I began this post with "Welcome to the jungle" and that is my little theme with this shot.

So let's take a look at the image and I'll explain what I was thinking.


The photo above shows the Detroit Renaissance Center as sunset draws near. It was shot from a parking structure across the street from it, and I was about 6 floors up from ground level. 

When I got to the roof of this structure and headed towards the side facing the "Ren Cen" I saw a 4 foot tall wall topped with planters. At first I was a little upset because the view of the Ren Cen was going to be obstructed unless I extended my tripod out to its full height. I know some of the other people that were there with me saw the same potential "problem" and opted to find some openings in that wall to shoot through.  I admit, I wanted to do the same thing at first. But then that landscape photographer in my head asked, "why don't we add some nature to this scene and use the plants in the composition?" 

So that is exactly what I did. I was using the new mZuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO so I had all the width I needed to get all the tall glass buildings into the scene, but I also had that great depth of field shooting a super wide lens gives. This allowed me to not only have the buildings in the background in focus, but to also have the foreground elements (which were key to this composition) in good enough focus to be 100% identifiable in the final image. 

So I set up the shot by LOWERING my tripod down to have the lower third of the frame filled with the yellow lily and other plants, then tilting UP to give the buildings an even more exaggerated height perspective. Once the composition was set in the camera I fired off a three shot bracketed exposure at +/- 2 ev. 

When I got home I ran the bracketed shots through HDRefex PRO2 and exported the final image out to Flickr.   So even when I am "in the city" I am always thinking of things the way a landscape photographer does.  

Thanks for reading and I'll see ya around!! 

The Sweet Smell of Leather....The Cecilia Gallery Strap review

Yes, I DID say the "sweet smell of leather" in the title because, well, there is nothing quite like the smell of leather. Not just any leather mind you, I am talking about high grade, Argentinian leather.  

Don't just take my word for it. They even tell you on the tag what goes into this hand made strap.

Don't just take my word for it. They even tell you on the tag what goes into this hand made strap.

As photographers we are always adding gear to our bags. New lenses, camera bodies, all sorts of accessories that will get far much LESS use than a camera strap. So why do I see so many people with the same crappy strap that came with their camera? No offense to my sponsor Olympus, I love you dearly, but the nylon strap that comes with the camera just isn't my cup of tea. I like things that are hand made, crafted one at a time by humans and not created in a machine. And this strap ever so subtly says," I am beautiful, I am handmade, and I am perfect." Grandiose statement for a camera strap? Maybe to some, but to those who crave some class (in a reasonably affordable product) in their accessories I suggest you have a look at this strap

 


Perfect for your Olympus (or I suppose other) mirrorless camera. The strap is 1.5" wide on the neck portion. Narrow enough to be small, wide enough to be comfortable.

Perfect for your Olympus (or I suppose other) mirrorless camera. The strap is 1.5" wide on the neck portion. Narrow enough to be small, wide enough to be comfortable.

So what else is there to love aside from supple Argentinian cowhide? Let's talk about how strong this strap is. Underneath that leather is a nylon/polyester core that is rated at 250lbs. of tensile strength. Or more simply put, this strap is strong and made to last. 
There is also the Zamac® (zinc alloy) hardware which is impervious to weather and has a beautiful bronzed patina. The Cecilia branding is cast into this zinc hardware which gives it a look of quality that matches the build. 


Cast into the hardware, not engraved of painted on. Casting is in my mind a sign of quality craftsmanship.

Cast into the hardware, not engraved of painted on. Casting is in my mind a sign of quality craftsmanship.

Another feature that I feel I should mention is the leather protective tabs that are placed on behind the split rings. These tabs are there to protect your camera from the scrapes and scratches that would happen from the split rings if no tabs were provided. This is an elegant solution that other companies overlook, or just completely omit. 


Protective tabs.

Protective tabs.


Protective tabs in place and protecting my Olympus OM-D E-M1

Protective tabs in place and protecting my Olympus OM-D E-M1


One last photo before I leave you to lust after this strap.

One last photo before I leave you to lust after this strap.

In closing I only have one thing to say....YOU DESERVE THIS STRAP.  That next gizmo for your camera bag can wait, but this extravagance that has both form AND function cannot wait. Stop advertising the camera brand, and start advertising style.

So head over to CECILIA GALLERY and have a look around. And if you purchase a strap from them....Tell them Jamie sent ya ;)

One more thing....I did a review a while back of one of their other straps....I think you should maybe check that one out too.
 

Take care.

 

Jamie