Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Annapurna Range of the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal

I spent a month in Nepal and got back earlier this month.  Interesting trip!

I am busy working through my Nepal photos in Lightoom. I made a first cut and now I am preparing those for my website. When that is done I will make another cut and then after that another one. Usually I have 3 cuts and then sometimes after that I remove a few more or add one or two. Anyway, I have the same dilemma I always have. I put them on my website to serve two purposes that sometimes overlap, but sometimes diverge. I want to put the photos I like the best while at the same time try to put photos that are fairly representative of most of the places I went and saw in the particular country.

I recall in 1993 when I got back from 10 weeks on a camping safari in Africa my manager at work asked me to put on a slide show for people in the department and give a talk. Sounded sort of fun. He and his wife had a small wedding photography business on the side so he knew something about photography. Several days later he stopped by my office and asked me how it was going. I had decided to limit it to one slide tray so maybe people wouldn't get too bored, but I was having a bit of a problem going through all the slides and deciding what to include. Without even thinking about it he told me that, of course, I should pick the "best" photos. The trip was 10 weeks going through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and Kenya. Saw many things, went many places, met many people, saw all kinds of animals. I asked him that if it turned out that I decided that out of all the photos I took the best 140 slides were all of one elephant taken over a period of 30 minutes in Botswana should I fill the slide tray with those photos and ignore every other place, thing, animal, and person I photographed. He turned on a dime and said no I shouldn't choose the best photos, but choose a good selection that represented all or most of the trip. lol Of course, I was exactly where I was before he tried to "help" me. lol

This is a panorama of the Annapurna Range of the Himalaya Mountains at sunrise in Nepal taken from the top of Sarangkot.

Here is a larger version of the panorama:


Saturday, November 3, 2012

B&W People

I have created another B&W photo album of people photos and this one is named B&W People. If you feel like taking a look then you can see it here:


The photos are from various places: Italy, Greece, Thailand, Austria, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Jordan, Cambodia, Israel, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Laos, Ecuador, Kenya, Malawi, France, England, Morocco, Netherlands, Germany, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and the U.S.A. (Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, California). Hope I didn't forget any. lol

Friday, October 26, 2012

I will use m4/3 in Nepal

I will soon find out how well the m4/3 gear works for travel.  A couple of days ago I bought plane tickets to go to Nepal for a month and will leave on 11/6.  I hope the new gear meets expectations.  To get an idea of the size difference take a look at these 2 travel camera bags:

The small one on the left is the one that I expect to take with me to Nepal and the one on the right is the one I have been using for the last few years for several trips (Egypt, Guatemala, Vietnam, Mexico, etc.).  Several years ago it took me awhile of looking around for a camera bag that had sufficient interior space while not being overly big on the outside.  Most camera bags have way too much thick padding that I don't need for my uses that causes the bags to be very bulky.  I just want something that has a bit of padding and interior dividers to prevent lenses and bodies from knocking together.  Actually, I would like something more like that bag, but smaller, for my m4/3 travel bag but I haven't found one.  The one I have will work though.  It is the bag I bought in 2002 to use with my Minolta D7i.

I put the following in the bigger bag when I took it on travels:

Sony A700 + 2 batteries + charger
Sony 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 + UV filter + polarizer filter + lens hood
Sony 11-18mm f4.5-5.6 + UV filter + lens hood
Sigma 24mm f2.8 + UV filter + lens hood
Minolta 50mm f1.7 + UV filter
Sony F36AM flash + 4 AA nimh batteries
several CF memory cards
several SD memory cards
lens cleaning kit

I also carried the following separate from the camera bag:

Sony A100 + battery (backup body)
Canon A590IS digicam + 2 AA nimh batteries
AA nimh battery charger

This is what I expect to put in the bag for Nepal:

Olympus E-M5 + 3 batteries + charger
Olympus 14-150mm f4-5.6 + UV filter + polarizer filter + lens hood
Olympus 9-18mm f4-5.6 + UV filter + lens hood
Panasonic 14mm f2.5 + UV filter + lens hood
Panasonic 20mm f1.7 + UV filter
Olympus FL-300R flash + 2 nimh AAA batteries
several SD memory cards
lens cleaning kit

I will also carry the following separate from the camera bag:

Panasonic G3 + battery + charger (backup body)
Canon S95 digicam + battery + charger

You can see the size difference.  I would estimate that the new gear is about 1/3 the weight.  Of course, I don't carry the camera bag around with me when I am out and about.  I just carry a subset of the stuff with me.  This is also where the smaller/lighter gear will be nice since that subset of gear I have with me almost all the time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

B&W West Papua New Guinea photos

I have created a new B&W photo album of some of my photos from West Papua New Guinea that I took when I was trekking there in 1995. Please take a look if you are interested.


By the way, I have a trip report that I wrote in 1995 right after getting home from this most amazing trip:


Digital is cheap compared to film

Not including various digicams, these are the digital cameras I have owned since 2002 (camera: buy date buy price, sell date sell price):

Minolta D7i: 2002/5 $1000, 2004/4 $400
Canon 300D: 2003/10 $900, 2006/5 $400 (should have sold it earlier for more money, but KM 7D was a lemon so kept this one too)
KM 7D: 2005/2 $1500, 2006/9 $1500 (2 KM 7D bodies, 1st an unfixable lemon, KM replaced, 2nd also an unfixable lemon, Sony finally gave me full refund)
Canon 30D: 2006/9 $1180, 2008/7 $650
Sony A100: 2007/1 $640, not sold, maybe unsellable?
Sony A700: 2008/2 $1230, not sold, maybe unsellable?
Canon 60D: 2010/11 $930, 2012/7 $670
Panasonic G3: 2012/4
Olympus E-M5: 2012/5

Except for KM and Sony my experience is that digital cameras are very cheap compared to film cameras. I buy them, use them, and then sell them. All my photos are pretty much free. I recall that in 1993 on a trip I used 100 rolls of 36-exposure slide film and the film + processing + taxes was about $1500 ($2392 in 2012 dollars). Also, think about how big/heavy 100 rolls of film is compared to a couple of SD cards!

Keeping all these digital files safe requires some effort and somehow I have lost a couple of dozen photos that I have taken since 2000, but most I still have. After I die though they will probably all disappear. Or maybe much earlier if I don't keep up with transferring them to new media. Oh well.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

B&W Japan

I have made a new photo album called B&W Japan that has some of my black & white photos of Japan from 1985 to 2012. Please take a look if your are interested:


I have lived in Japan several times over the years and also have traveled there many times.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

B&W Hawaii

I have made a new photo album called B&W Hawaii. The photos are larger than the ones in my other albums. I used LR 4.1 to process all of them and that is very nice because I can easily go back and make a slight tweak or undo something and also I can export a new version of a different size.

I used a new version of the JAlbum Chameleon skin. For those of you who are not familiar with JAlbum it is a photo album generator. There are many skins you can select and the skins usually have many configuration options. I am using an older version of JAlbum so not the current version. The Chameleon skin has a ton of configuration options and you can change the color schemes also. The new version of the skin has a few nice features.

By the way, I again decided not to use Flash.  JAlbum has some Flash skins and I also looked at the album creation function of LR 4.1.  I didn't much like them.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Catching Flies

In Honolulu at the Barnes & Noble bookstore this man fell asleep in the afternoon. He performs a service in return for having a free place to sleep: he catches flies in his mouth. The employees and other customers thank him. :-)

Pooped Japanese

Pooped Japanese in a hotel lobby. They probably arrived in the morning and the jet lag means they ran out of steam in the afternoon so sack out in the lobby. :-) I see this *every* day. :-)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Big Wave

At Waikiki a few days ago.

Watching for the Big Wave

Bracing for the Big Wave

The Big Wave

Aftermath of the Big Wave

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Boys on the beach in Waikiki

Photos from yesterday afternoon at the beach in Waikiki.  The Joy of Childhood. :-)

Adjust Olympus OM-D E-M5 jpeg settings to get better EVF

One big problem with an EVF is that the dynamic range is inadequate so in contrasty situations you will often get blocked up shadows and/or blown out highlights so you can't see the whole scene.  If you shoot raw there are things that can be done to improve the situation a lot though.  I have made several adjustments to the jpeg settings of my E-M5 (since I don't care about jpegs) so that the EVF display will have more dynamic range.  I have my E-M5 set to the following:

1. Picture Style set to Portrait.
2. Contrast set to minimum.
3. Saturation set to minimum.
4. Gradation set to Auto.

Something else I do with my Olympus E-M5 is use the Gradation control. The Gradation control is a curves tool that has 4 settings: Low Key, High Key, Normal, and Auto. Setting it to Low Key further reduces contrast. This is what it says in the manual about the Auto setting:

Divides the image into detailed regions and adjusts the brightness separately for each region. This is effective for images with areas of large contrast in which the whites appear too bright or the blacks appear too dark.

Rather than use the Low Key setting I have mine set to Auto.

I also set Saturation to the minimum. This helps a tiny bit in reducing blowouts in the EVF and also makes the histogram and highlight/shadows blinkies a bit more accurate reflection of what is in the raw file.

Since I shoot raw I don't care what the settings do to a jpeg, I just want the EVF to be as useful as possible.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

More about the Olympus OM-D E-M5

People that know me know that for years I have valued smaller/lighter as long as I didn't have to give up much with regards to flexibility and performance (the kinds of performance that I care about, not the types such as FPS that I don't). When I travel I want to keep things reasonably light and small since I spend lots of time each day walking around, often in hot and humid places, and also must keep gear security in mind. At one time I had hoped the NEX 7 might fit the bill, but the more I looked at it and read about it the more I realized that for my uses it was not the one for me. Then the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was announced and even though I was not at all taken by the retro looks the specs looked very interesting. In April I bought a Panasonic Lumix G3 in Tokyo along with 2 lenses to try out m4/3 and then in May I bought the E-M5, 4 more lenses, a flash (ordered the flash in May and still waiting for delivery :( ), several filters, a Minolta MC/MD lens adapter for my old Minolta MC 50mm f1.4, and an A-mount adapter for my old Sigma 90mm f2.8 macro. This is what I have now:

Olympus E-M5 body
Panasonic G3 body
Olympus 14-150mm f4-5.6
Olympus 9-18mm f4-5.6
Panasonic 20mm f1.7
Panasonic 14mm f2.5
Panasonic 45-200mm f4-5.6
Panasonic 14-42mm f3.5-5.6

Although the ergonomics, particularly for me using my left eye, are not ideal and could be improved, other aspects of the camera and system were so attractive that I decided to get the new gear. After a few weeks of light use so far I am coming to terms with the ergonomics and I hope that they will not interfere when I need to shoot fast. I decided against the 2-part extra grip ($300) because although the top part helps some aspects of the ergonomics it actually hurts a bit one other aspect. It also adds size/weight/cost.

Here is an example of my backpack travel camera kit for several trips and it is typical (this is what I used in Egypt for a month in 2009):

Sony A700 + 2 batteries + charger
Sony A100 + battery (backup body)
Sony 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 + UV filter + polarizer filter + lens hood
Sony 11-18mm f4.5-5.6 + UV filter + lens hood
Sigma 24mm f2.8 + UV filter + lens hood
Minolta 50mm f1.7 + UV filter
Sony F36AM flash + 4 AA nimh batteries
Canon A590IS digicam + 2 AA nimh batteries
AA nimh battery charger
several CF and SD memory cards
lens cleaning kit
card reader
netbook + 500gb ehd

This is what I expect to use on my next trip:

Olympus E-M5 + battery + charger
Panasonic G3 + battery + charger (backup body)
Olympus 14-150mm f4-5.6 + UV filter + polarizer filter + lens hood
Olympus 9-18mm f4-5.6 + UV filter + lens hood
Panasonic 14mm f2.5 + UV filter + lens hood
Panasonic 20mm f1.7 + UV filter
Olympus FL-300R flash + 2 nimh AA batteries
Canon S95 digicam + battery + charger
AA nimh battery charger
several SD memory cards
lens cleaning kit
netbook + 500gb ehd

The size/weight is unbelievably less!

The EVF is pretty good. To improve the DR I set it to portrait mode and minimum contrast. When I look at a contrasty scene I can see quite a large difference using these settings compared to using the default settings. I shoot raw so I don't care about the jpeg settings. On dpreview several people who own both the E-M5 and NEX 7 have reported that they prefer the E-M5 EVF. I have never compared the 2 side-by-side so I can't really comment about that.

The IBIS seems to work very well.

I have been impressed by the IQ. Not what I would have expected from m4/3. Down near the bottom in the Output Quality section there is a table that shows the quality of various print sizes/ISOs for the E-M5, Nikon D7000, Canon 7D, etc. The E-M5 matches those two cameras:


I have my fingers crossed that all this new gear will work out okay for my travel. If it does then I really hope that Olympus (or Panasonic) comes out with a new m4/3 body later that has all the good stuff I like, but with better ergonomics.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 poor ergonomics

I have had the E-M5 for a bit over 3 weeks and after using it my overall conclusion is the same as it was when I first examined it in Tokyo on 3/31. So many wonderful points, I really like the size/weight of the lenses/camera compared to all the DSLRs/FSLRs I have been using for many years, quite happy with the IQ, S-AF is fast and accurate, but the ergonomics are rather poor compared to what could have been done even without making the camera larger. Olympus chose to make it look like a very small 40 year old film SLR and then shrunk that to make it even smaller and added a tilt rear screen and lots of controls that the larger film SLR didn't have. The NEX 7 is as small or smaller, but has a larger sensor, tilt screen, and builtin flash yet the controls, grip, and EVF are in better positions and are not so small. I am not saying the NEX 7 ergonomics are ideal, but it shows how much better Olympus could do while keeping the size the same. The following is a post I made 2.5 months ago on a forum. I was in Japan for 6 months and in Tokyo at that time for a few months so I had many opportunities to handle the E-M5.


I am almost reluctant to post this because I know from my years on dpreview that there are always some people who think anything that is not a glowing opinion of the product/company that they happen to currently like is an assault on their manhood, worth as a human being, ethics, morals, religion, mother, wife, or child. :) I have something about the E-M5 that I am not too happy about, but please be assured that this is not meant as a personal insult to any of you. We are just talking about an inanimate object, a tool, albeit one that most of us have some interest in. Let's please all try to remember that. :)

After trying out the E-M5 yesterday and discovering that the ergonomics were less than I had hoped for, particularly since I use my left eye, I decided to go back to Shinjuku today to try it again. I spent a fair amount of time holding it and checking to see how it felt with it up to my eye and using the control dials, tiny top buttons, and the 2 tiny rear buttons at the top while my eye was to the EVF. Hmmm, I guess I will say that it is barely acceptable. Of course, in other ways the E-M5 is the sort of camera with the small lenses that I have really been hoping for so that influences my evaluation. Oh, and I don't have large hands (not small either). If I didn't want something like this so much I might put it on the other side of the acceptability line.

As it is, barring anything important that comes up in reviews or user reports I am still thinking I will get one later. The feel of it in my hand and the usability of controls while up to my eye though is definitely the biggest negative point. One might say that one must expect compromised ergonomics in such a small body (it is small), but that ignores the fact that the Panasonic G3 is as small and it feels better to me and the NEX 7 is smaller and it is wonderful. Of the MILCs that have a built-in EVF I would personally rate the feel and access to my most used controls while looking through the EVF with my left eye in this order:

1. NEX 7, Panasonic Lumix GH2
2. Panasonic Lumix G3
3. Nikon V1
4. Olympus E-M5

Using my right eye I would rate them in the same order. The GH2 is bigger and heavier than the NEX 7 so it isn't really fair to also put it in the #1 spot since it has the advantage of the bigger body for controls.

The E-M5 ergonomics suffer a lot because Olympus tried so hard to make it look retro and look like the old OM-1 film SLR. Yes, I know that many people like this look. Actually, Olympus made it smaller/lighter than the OM-1:

OM-1: 510g, 136 x 83 x 50mm
E-M5: 425g, 122 x 89 x 43mm
NEX 7: 353g, 120 x 67 x 43mm

Then with that reduced size they added all the controls that digital cameras need, but film cameras didn't (LCD, control wheels, buttons). And since they wanted it to look as much as possible like a smaller version of the OM-1 they put the EVF directly above the lens and in the center of the body so that it looked like an old pentaprism OVF. Well, once they put the EVF there in the center rather than offset then that meant they had even less space to cram all the controls. Definitely a form over function design. It has the retro look and that is clearly important and a selling point for many people. No disagreement from me there. Olympus, like all companies, makes products in order to sell them and they are probably right that this compromised, retro design will sell well and maybe better than a less compromised, modern design. I can't fault them for that. All I can do is offer my subjective opinion that they went too far trying to do it all: smaller than OM-1, more controls crammed onto the smaller camera than the OM-1, and putting that big EVF hump right in the middle so that there was even less space for the controls. Oh well, it is what it is.

Although there are reasons why I am not interested in the NEX 7 (big lenses, few lenses, no IBIS, slower AF) I couldn't help but be so impressed holding it right after the E-M5. Smaller size and lighter weight, but the hand hold is great, the EVF is over on the left so that it works well for people using the right eye and for people using their left eye, controls on the right side are not so cramped and small and since people who use their left eye have their face moved over to use the EVF there is no problem with using those controls. Sony still manages to get a bigger sensor (1.5x), a tilt LCD, an EVF, and a flash into the smaller/lighter body. Something more like this body with the E-M5 sensor, IBIS, and m4/3 mount would be fantastic, IMO. Even if the E-M5 EVF hump was moved to the left (even just 5mm would help) it would give more space for the controls, more space for your face, and more space for your thumb. If they did that then make the hump smaller and smooth too like the V1 since the camera would no longer look like an old OM-1 anyway. Sounds like a nice Olympus additional body. :)

By the way, I also tried using my forefinger instead of my thumb to work the rear control dial. You can do it, but then you have to take your finger off the shutter button. That is fine for many people and many types of photography. For me though it would mean missed shots. I often find myself making a quick adjustment using my thumb while at the same time my finger is ready to press the shutter release. For many people who use their left eye though using the index finger will help. Using the thumb isn't impossible though, just sort of uncomfortable and cramped.

I recommend that anyone who has any doubts at all about the ergonomics that you spend time holding it and using it before buying. Some people will be fine with it, but for some they will think Olympus just went too far.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jamestown Settlement

A blacksmith at Jamestown Settlement.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg

For the last 6 days we have been in Williamsburg, Virginia so I was able to visit Colonial Williamsburg (original capital of Virginia founded in 1632), Jamestown (first English settlement in the New World in 1607), and Yorktown (where the last major battle of the Revolutionary War occurred and English General Lord Cornwallis surrendered to American General George Washington and French General Comte de Rochambeau). Here is a young woman cooking in a traditional Colonial era farm kitchen.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

We visited Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Virginia today while on our road trip. For those who don't know American history this small country community was where the Civil War (aka War Between the States) ended in 1865.  Union General Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee here inside the McLean house.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sunrise over Michigan

Photos out my airplane window over Michigan early Monday morning.  This was on my long flight from Tokyo to Detroit.  Had a 2-hour layover and then flew to Austin.

Just before sunrise:
 After sunrise and flying low over Detroit:
 You can tell from my seat position that I wasn't in first class. lol

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Glad I didn't make photography a career

The only time I ever gave photography as a career much thought was when I was in high school in 1975. Within a short time while still in high school though I decided I would keep photography as a hobby since I didn't want to spoil the fun by turning it into a job, I wasn't so interested in dealing with the business side of things, the money didn't look so hot, etc. All I can say is that over the years I more and more realized how smart a kid I was back then. emoticon - smile I am thrilled I kept it as a much loved avocation. For work I decided on something that I enjoyed tremendously, exercised my brain, that opened up many interesting opportunities, and that was much more financially rewarding. That has given me much more freedom to enjoy photography and travel (my other love).

Me with Lani people in West Papua New Guinea in 1995

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tokyo Gate Bridge and Rainbow Bridge

On Saturday with friends I walked across the new Gate Bridge that crosses Tokyo Bay. The bridge opened just in February. It is 1600 meters one way and when we got to the other side we walked back. This is a photo I took before we got on the bridge.
This is a photo of the Rainbow Bridge that also crosses Tokyo Bay. We walked across it from Obaiba on Saturday and I took this photo. I also walked across it in 1996. This bridge opened in 1993. I remember back in the early 1990s when I lived in Tokyo that it was under construction.

Here is a photo I took of the Rainbow Bridge under construction in 1991:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

More People hanging around in Tokyo

Sister and brother all alone in Shinjuku
Big tree growing at a Y-intersection in Bunkyo-ku
There is something about riding the subway that just makes one so sleepy

Thursday, May 10, 2012

People hanging around in Tokyo

Some photos around Ginza a few days ago taken with my Canon S95.

Trying to figure out which ticket to buy at the subway station
Lovely young lady engrossed in her iphone in front of a handbag shop

Dad and son sitting on the curb -- almost surely waiting for Mom
"Oh my, that is so hilarious!  I love friends who can crack me up."
Having a very bad day in Shinjuku
He lives a life of intensity

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sakura petals

This is after the peak and the petals are starting to fall:

More sakura

Here is another Japanese cultural tradition:  Holding a spot for an hanami.  You can read about hanami here:


In reality an hanami is usually a drinking party under the sakura. :lol:   In these photos taken in the early afternoon you will see places reserved for a hanami in the evening.  Typically one person volunteers or is volunteered to sit in the park all day to hold the spot until his friends or co-workers arrive after work.  For that person he just sits there holding the turf all day.  Good time to take a nap, read a book, listen to music, or these days play with a smartphone. :-)

By the way, a hanami is not just for the evening.  Many people are there during the day too, as you can see, and not everyone is drinking.  The serious drinking parties are usually more in the evening though.  Still, during the day you see a few groups of men who are drinking and from their red faces appear to have been drinking for quite awhile already. :lol:

Photos inside a Tokyo camera store, part 2

Today I was over at Akihabara and stopped by the huge Yodobashi Camera there.  It is even bigger than the one at Shinjuku.  Multiple floors with various kinds of electronic gizmos.  The 3rd floor is all camera related stuff.  It is like going into a large supermarket.  Here is the Sony A77 with 6 lenses for you to play with and even mount on your own camera:
On the other end of this display behind me is a big section with the Sony A65 and 5-6 more lenses.

Here is the tripod section.  It is a little hard to tell in this photo, but I am standing near the front of two aisles of tripods in 4 sections going all the way back to the wall:
A few days ago someone who had visited Japan mentioned how he went into one of the big camera stores at Ikebukuro or Shinjuku and was amazed that the tripod section was bigger than the whole camera store he worked in back home. lol

I should have taken a photo of the camera bag section.  They had 3 long aisles filled from floor to the top with every type, size, and color of camera bag that you could ever imagine.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sakura (cherry blossoms) season in Japan

Here are some photos of sakura (cherry blossoms) a couple of weeks ago during the peak of the sakura blossoming here in Tokyo.  This is a really big deal in Japan every year.