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Nocturnal perambulations

After a day where our status could best be summarised as “inert”, she who must be obeyed suggested we go for a walk. Great idea, I responded, imagining a sunset stroll on the beach or local park.

Instead I found myself, again, at the collection of dross shops known as Theppasit Market. Never mind, I had my camera and a 75mm lens, and as well as the sad capture posted yersterday, I got a few shots.

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January 16th, 2017|0 Comments

Walk on by

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January 15th, 2017|0 Comments

How big do you want it?

Those with only a passing interest in camera will have heard of “megapixels”. They are a measure of how many pixels are jammed onto the sensor and for a while they were the main differentiator used by marketers to pitch their cameras. “The interface is shit and it couldn’t focus on a barn door, but, hey, 8 megapixels!”

Things have calmed down a little, but it is still something to take into consideration. For stuff that ends up on the web (like my photos), you don’t need many megapixels, but the more you have the more detail you can capture (assuming the lens is capable), the more you can crop, and the better things will look when you scale it down for publication.

The new E-M1 II has 20 megapixels. This is 4 more than it used to have and the extra is indeed welcome when I want to crop, and it is more than enough for the things I might want to do with the camera.

My friend Nik has the Sony A7R2 and this is blessed (or burdened) with 42mp. Want it or not, every shot is a massive file that has to be managed, and to get the best out of the sensor you need really good shot discipline to the extent a tripod is preferred. The resulting images are of course amazing with bags of detail, croppability (new word) and no doubt look magnificent when downsized for the web.

I neither need nor want 42mp, but for those who do have the need for the occasional large file, maybe for billboard printing or just to impress people, the E-M1 II offers what is called the Hi-Res mode. And how big a file does that give you I don’t hear you ask; how about 80mp! Take that Sony!

This how it works: The sensor in the E-M1 II floats, suspended as if by by magic and is moved around as required in the service of the stabilisation system. The jolly clever chaps at Olympus have hijacked this system and used it to take a shot, then move the sensor a teeny-tiny bit (technical term), and then again for a total of eight shots. These eight shots are then joined together to produce an 80mp RAW file (and/or a JPEG file of 25 or 50MP). Whizz.

It’s dead easy to use. You select the Hi-Res mode on the back of the camera and press the shutter. It takes less than a second for the eight frames, and then you wait for a couple of seconds while they are processed in camera. Done.

Ah but..
First of all, as it is taking eight shots, and the stabilisation system has been hijacked for the purpose, there is no way you can hand hold and get a result; so you will need a tripod or flat surface.

Secondly, any movement in the scene is likely to be disruptive of the image (although the camera does try to compensate). So forget about a busy street scene and think architecture and product photography (having said that, there are some interesting results incorporating moving objects).

Finally, Lightroom still awaits an update to handle these files, so in the meantime you need to process them initially with Olympus’s software.

So, how does it work? Very well, but not so you my gentle reader would ever notice. Here are a couple of shots:

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One is a 20mp image and one is an 80mp image; but both have been scaled down for this post so the differences are not obvious.

But if we look closer:

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You can see that the second image is crisper and more detailed. The large files also look much cleaner than the standard files that have a faint background noise. Overall, you get a much better image, but if all you are going to do is share it on the web then it is probably not worth using, other than to piss off Sony owners which can never be a bad thing.

Let’s finish with some 80mp strawberries:
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January 14th, 2017|4 Comments

Catching the moment with the E-M1 II

A fundamental of sports photography is capturing specific, interesting moments. It’s also a fundamental of sports photography that in many cases you have no idea when those moments will happen, and when they do you they may have passed before you have had a chance to catch them in a photo. Which is why sports shooting involves taking several frames a second, and hoping that somewhere in the captured frames there will be something worth using.

Polo is a sport where the opportunities for capturing anything are limited. There are only a few minutes of real action during an event, most of which will take place out of the range of your camera; so when the play heads in your direction you fire away and hope for something interesting. So the increased frame rate of the E-M1 II should lead to more shareable shots…

Popular among players are photos of one player interrupting another player’s shot by hooking their mallet, like this:

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or this:
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They like them because they give them a chance to swear at each other which is a popular polo player pastime.

Of course I can’t anticipate these moments. In fact, looking through the camera I rarely see them happening; but they are good to capture and share, and with the E-M1 II I am capturing more of these and other interesting shots. Let’s look at why.

Here is another hook shot:

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And here is the forty two shot sequence that I took, which contained this photo (noted with a red dot):

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Shooting at 18 frames a second, the first shot was taken at 16:03:07 and the last two at 16:03:10; so there are 42 photos covering less than three seconds of play. Of the forty two, five of the early shots had focused on a horse behind the lead horse, and two shots were out of focus, leaving 35 usable shots of the lead horse.

These were the frames immediately before and after the hook shot:

At less than 18fps, I might have been left with one of these and missed the hooking moment altogether.

And so it has been with the other interesting moments I have been able to capture, more of them and more varied than before. The 18fps electronic shutter on the E-M1 II (and the improved focus) is a major improvement for my sports photography.

At the end of the last tournament, where I had published about fifty action shots, one of the players asked me:

How is it all your shots are interesting?
Because I take 2,500 photos during an event and then delete nearly all of them.

He thought I was joking.

January 11th, 2017|2 Comments

Just like the old days

My regular reader (if he is still around, maybe he died) will recall the heady days of yore when this blog was awash with horsey photos (which is maybe one of the reasons I only have one regular reader left).

And then the equine laden content ceased because I sold my sodding big Canon and settled on Micro Four Thirds cameras which were smaller, lighter and more wonderful at almost everything, apart from taking photos of prancing ponies (and anything else that moved).

But then along came the E-M1 II and suddenly action photography was doable again. After an initial test I descended on my favourite club this last week and four thousand or so photos later I can confirm that this new toy really does the business.

I knocked out four thousand photos because at eighteen shots a second you soon rack up the numbers. Then you go through and pick out the interesting moments, like this one:

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or this one:
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And then throw away all the shots captured either side of “the moment”. This extra frame rate really makes a difference, aided by the fact that nearly all the shots are in focus.

The improved stabilisation probably helped in getting some low shutter speed shots. I turned on vertical stabilisation only, and then then panned as best I could.

1/250th second:
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1/160th second:
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Once everyone had headed for the bar, I stuck on the Nocticron and took shots at F1.2 without flash. In the semi-darkness this gave rise to some crazy ISOs, but the camera did an acceptable job:

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Well done my new toy.

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January 10th, 2017|2 Comments

Hua Hin or bust

When I was somewhat younger, I had a plan to windsurf from Pattaya to Hua Hin. I would raise money for charity, I would glide magnificently across The Gulf, there would be groupies (or not, according to she who must be obeyed). Instead of doing that I broke my back in a car accident and the dream remains unfulfilled (although I still dream, inexplicably, of groupies). However, it is a reminder that, as the aquatic crow flies, the two cities are not too far apart.

Six years ago there was a ferry that would whisk you from port to port in a shade over two hours. The service was announced with much fanfare, and then soon after stopped with no fanfare at all, because there were not enough people prepared to pay for a ferry ticket, when for less money they could be crammed in a van for five hours and taken there by road.

Fast forward to April of last year and a grand pronouncement was made that a ferry service would be put in place by 2020! Hurrah! The Marine Department ordered a feasibility study to be completed by the end of the year and a new port would be built in Hua Hin.

Fast forward to November of last year and a grand pronouncement was made by those in overall charge of Pattaya that a new ferry service would swing into operation on the 1st January 2017, Hurrah! The fate of the Marine Department feasibility study was not made clear.

Hang on, said the people who worked in the city council. The Bali Hai pier that would host the ferry is woefully unprepared to handle this additional service. We need 26 million baht to fix the pier first, and we need money for 76 security cameras at 62,000 baht each, and we need to build some speedboat loading areas after someone banned the speedboats from loading on Pattaya beach. And we need even more money for some other stuff that we will think of.

Silence. Tick tock, tick tock.

The grand pronouncement was repeated and the magnificent ferry revealed. Supplied by a country noted for it maritime prowess (China), 389 passengers would be transported in relative comfort across The Gulf and the first crossing would be on January 1st. Hurrah!

But it wasn’t. Because not highlighted in the ferry announcement was the inability of the ferry to forge a passage through waves higher than 2 metres, and the waves on January 1st were more than that. So the passengers, some of whom had queued since 04:00 were offered a ride round the local island instead. Never mind, there was always tomorrow.

But there wasn’t, because the waves were still too high; and it was not until January 5th that a crossing was made; and only then accompanied by a navy frigate to ensure passenger safety. Comforting to those on board no doubt, perhaps of less comfort to those who plan to travel in the future when the frigate may not be in attendance.

Some doubts must remain about the viability of this service. The previous attempt failed because not enough people were prepared to pay for the convenience; has anything changed? And would you include this ferry in your travel planes if you knew that that it might be cancelled due to above average wave heights (heights above two meters are not uncommon in the middle of The Gulf), or with the possibility that wave heights might well increase to beyond a safe level during your journey?

And who the fuck wants to go to Hua Hin anyway? It’s boring.

January 6th, 2017|2 Comments

Dancing in the dark

Have just completed processing the photos from three days of polo, and you will be pleased to know that I am not going to burden you with a bunch of images. But happy to report that the new camera worked a treat and produced many photos that I, and the polo club, are happy with.

The last day of the event rather dragged, with the matches starting later and with many interruptions, such that the last chukka was held in near dark conditions. The other photographer in attendance had long since given up with her flappy mirror Canon; but I was made of sterner stuff and, removing my 40-150mm F2.8, I reached into my bag and brought out the lord of darkness, the tyrant of twilight, the dominatrix of the shadows (etc.), the 42.5mm F1.2 Nocticron. The crowd gasped (if there had been one, those with any sense were either in the bar or fumbling around on horses in the semi-darkness).

Needed a polo pony to stray in my direction, but when one did, I caught this:

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Well done to the camera for maintaining focus when it was hard to see anything, and to the lovely Nocticron for sucking in what little light that there was.

I made a point of showing it to the Canon shooter.

January 3rd, 2017|5 Comments

While the wife’s away

Would I like to go and spend the new year in Ubon with my wife’s extended family?

My answer was succinct, my wife departed north and I found myself alone for four days. My initial dreams of binge watching stuff she doesn’t want to watch, playing hours of computer games and generally slumming around in my underpants, are broken when I am requested to attend the polo club and take some photos for three days. While there I become the good friend and personal photographer to a Maharaja. By good friend I mean he said hello to me, and by personal photographer I mean I took a photo of him on a horse and he said he liked it.

But apart from knocking off about 3,000 shots and knocking around with royalty, there was another project I wished to undertake while my wife was away, a task that will simply be known in history as “the clearance”, but for now I shall refer to it as “clearing all the shit out of the store room”.

The store room sits next to the car port and is one of my disappointments (as is the car port, it doesn’t have an interesting car in it). When we bought the house there were many improvements that she who must be obeyed wanted to implement before we moved in. Mainly small stuff, like two new kitchens, two new bathrooms and a replacement of all the doors and windows. My requirements were more modest: I wanted to extend the tiny store room so that it was big enough to store all our crap and leave space for a little photo studio. For reasons unclear, my proposals were rejected by management and we got a slightly larger store room that was big enough to store all our crap; but that is all.

Over the last couple of years, the crap has slowly increased further, due in no small part to the stated desire of my wife to do some gardening. Her enthusiasm for gardening has not been as great as her enthusiasm for gathering the supplies that will be required when she finally wields a trowel, with the result that the store room has become 70% full of soil, and at least 5% full of fertiliser excreted by animals unknown; but judging by the smell they had upset stomachs.

Something had to be done.

With crampons, climbing boots and breathing apparatus, I ventured into the store and extracted two storage racks, which I then placed in the car port along with paint, spare tiles and she who must be obeyed’s soil collection, .

All the stuff that had been on the racks was dumped in the store, which did not improve the situation:

So this morning I started the day by emptying the contents of the store into the car port.

That took an hour. Then I spent the next four hours sorting out the crap and placing what remained back inside the store. This is a good task to undertake when your wife is away, otherwise you get remarks like “don’t throw out that five year old modem that doesn’t work, it might come in useful”.

Once I had finished, the store looked a great deal tidier, and less smelly:

Final task for the day was to slap some paint on the car port:

Done.

That still gives me a day or so until she is back. Time for some binge watching, game playing, underpant wearing action? Nope, I have those 3,000 photos of my new friend the Maharaja and others to process.

2017 sucks so far.

January 1st, 2017|11 Comments

Compliments of the season to both our readers

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December 24th, 2016|3 Comments

Down on the farm

A couple of years ago we were touring around the north and she who must be obeyed requested a visit to the Jim Thompson Farm. So we went. It was shut. The farm is only open for a few weeks every year, and we had not arrived during one of them; so I promised to take her back at some future date.

This week was the future date and we rolled up early after a night in a nearby hotel. The approach to the farm features several massive car parks and I shudder to think what the place must be like at weekends. But early on a weekday morning it was not too busy, although several school trips made for high noise levels.

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Entry is 180 baht with no double pricing. So well done. The farm itself is seven million rai (or a similarly large figure), so you hop on a shuttle bus to go to the various attractions. The trips takes you through fields of cosmos flowers:

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First stop is at the apparently famous pumpkin patch and the surrounding flower fields.

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Every year the farm has a different theme and this year it is “phrae-e-pho”, the Isaan checked loincloth. So there were phrae-e-pho windmills, phrae-e-pho buildings and phrae-e-pho everywhere:

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A walk through the fields brought us to the Isaan village where various crafts were on display.

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There was also an example of traditional Isaan transport…

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Next stop was the farm shop where my two lady companions surprised me by not buying much, and there was a reasonable restaurant. Eschewing the shuttle bus, we walked back through the cosmos fields where endless selfies were taken. I amused myself taking arty farty shots:

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A well-run attraction, worth a visit. But go during the week, go early, and go when they are open.

December 23rd, 2016|0 Comments