Helpful Items in My Photography Bag

Here are 13 mostly ordinary items I find helpful in my travels. None of these are very expensive, but all serve a specific, and important purpose. 

  1.  Tiny LED Flashlight - for working in the dark
  2. Gaffer tape - taping wires down, marking spots, emergency fixes
  3. Small screwdriver - to tighten any loose screws
  4. Rubber bands/Twist ties - to clean up and organize wires
  5. Microfiber cloths - to keep your lens clean
  6. Hotel Shower cap - for rain protection
  7. Allen key - for securing quick release tripod plates
  8. Business Cards - for unexpected marketing opportunities
  9. Pen and paper - to leave a note behind
  10. Extra battery - especially when it's cold out
  11. Spare Memory Card(s) - just in case one fails
  12. Travel First Aid kit - band-aids, aspirin, neosporin, etc.
  13. Reflective white cardboard - as a folding makeshift reflector

Photographing Butterflies with the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8

The macro capabilities of the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 are eye-opening. Coupled with the OMD EM1, I was able to capture sharp, colorful butterfly images at the Sweetbriar Nature Center. BTW, if you haven't been here, they do amazing work to care for and rehabilitate wildlife. Sue volunteered there for a while and the people who run it do an outstanding job. Places like this deserve your support. Like most places on Long Island, it gets a bit crowded on the weekends but I was there on a quiet Friday, which allowed me to really take my time and carefully compose each shot. One of my goals was to shoot through the flowers to create soft, colorful images with shallow depth of field. Anyone who has ever said you can't get good bokeh with a micro 4/3 system has clearly never seen images from this lens. In fact, the depth of field is so shallow, there were times when I chose to stop down to f4 to keep a bit more of the butterfly sharp. 

It's so convenient to have the ability to shoot macro without carrying an extra dedicated lens. With my 12-40 and 40-150 I have an effective 24-300 range with a constant aperture of f2.8 in a weather-sealed system. I may be adding the MC-14 converter for distant wildlife soon as well. This lightweight system has made me feel more dangerous photographically, and by that I mean, ready for anything in an instant. My EM10 has the 12-40mm while the EM1 has the 40-150mm mounted. Again, for those who think a smaller sensor is a limiting factor, they would only need to see these shots at 1:1 in Lightroom. The detail is unreal, allowing me to see the finest hairs on the insects, and even the subtle texture of their eyes. I honestly believe that this is the best overall camera system I've ever used, and that includes my Canon 6D. In the right hands this set-up does everything right with little compromise. At 16mp the files sizes are large with enough resolution for professional work, stock sales, and massive prints. Then again, this was also possible with my old Canon 40D which had 10mp. 

These were all shot handheld around 1/250th of a second to prevent camera shake. Since the lens is smaller and lighter, it's easier to do this. With a bigger lens I would have likely opted for around 1/500th which would have required a higher ISO. This is yet another benefit of the micro 4/3 sensor. The lenses don't need to be as big to cover the larger sensor. I set the EM1 to C-AF in continuous Low, using the small AF points for the ultimate precision. I found focus to be very fast and highly accurate. Of course the ability to instantly see the results in the EVF after capture confirmed my technique was working, and I confidently carried on, shooting a few hundred images. Here a just a few of my favorites. 


Light and Shades

I entered this dark passageway where the sun was peaking through just enough to illuminate faces while everything else fell into heavy shadow. I stood there for a while...waiting, watching, and hoping a compelling subject would appear. 

Beyond the Default B&W Options

This is a series of images I shot in color but thought could work well in B&W. While Lightroom has a few decent options for monochrome images, it's pretty slim pickings compared to many software alternatives. These were all processed with Exposure by Alien Skin using the vintage wet plate look. They have just about every possible style available, and each aspect of your selection can be customized with seemingly endless possibilities. 

A Good Day for Chipmunks

I'm still getting to know the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 and found some cooperative Chipmunks to help out. The lens focused very fast on these little critters even in tough contrasty light, and heavy shadow. 

For this shot below, I tried the 5 axis image stabilization on the OMD EM1, dropping the shutter to 1/40th of a second. This proved to work very well, but keep in mind, I would not do this had the chipmunk been moving. 

I do find myself at the end of the focal range often (150mm) and can definitely see how the 1.4 extender would be useful. I'm very pleased with the performance thus far however. 

I also found this terrific rusty bike over by the beach and made a closeup to show the texture. This lens would have let me get even closer if so desired with pretty great macro capability. 

Just before heading home these dramatic beams of light streamed down from the sky. 


Bright and Airy with an Open Floor Plan

Sue and I found this terrific abandoned structure on Long Island and I carefully maneuvered around any rusty nails and broken glass to compose this shot. The light was streaming in from the upper left, but much of the area was in heavy shadow. I decided to let the highlights go, and expose for the details within.

Camera details: OMD EM1 w/12-40mm. f4, 1/30, ISO 100

Camera details: OMD EM1 w/12-40mm. f4, 1/30, ISO 100