Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Second landscape shoot with the OM-D E-M1

It's winter here in NZ at the moment, and what a wild and wet winter it's been. The West Coast of the South Island normally bares the brunt of any storm that passes through, although this winter we've been left relatively unscathed (fingers crossed). The weather man predicted a fine weekend (after a fairly wet week) and I didn't need any further convincing to head out with the E-M1 again.

My favorite area to shoot landscapes is around Hokitika - a half an hour drive from where I live in Greymouth. Not only is it the location of my favorite lake (Mahinapua), but it also has several other 'must visit' attractions (Lake Kaniere, Dorothy Falls, Hokitika Gorge and Sunset Point - to name a few). So that's where I headed this morning - first stop Lake Mahinapua.

Lake Mahinapua Sunrise 2017. Olympus E-M1 with Zuiko 12-50mm f3.5/6.3 EZ. 1/4s @ f8, ISO 200
Sunrise was 7.50am, and I arrived at 7.30 to a frosty, but perfectly clear morning (with not a cloud in the sky, unfortunately). The jetty at the lake is a perfect focal point for leading the eye into an image. I usually shoot it from further back, since it's built in an 'L' shape jutting out into the lake. But this time I decided to concentrate on capturing just the end of the jetty. I composed the photo to highlight the jetty itself and not the sky, since the day was cloudless, and I set the E-M1 on a tripod. The morning was perfectly still, so a shutter speed of 1/4s was enough to give me smooth water with perfect reflections. I used an ND grad to darken the sky a little, and also tried some with a polarizer and ND filter to slow the shutter speed to around 2 seconds. Job done. Next stop, Lake Kaniere.

Hans Bay, Lake Kaniere. Olympus E-M1 with Zuiko 12-50mm f3.5/6.3 EZ. 1/640th @ f7.1 - ISO 200
It's been a few years since I shot at Lake Kaniere, so I was looking forward to getting some new images of the area with the OM-D E-M1. Overall I'm pleased with the calm, clean images I was able to take, although I would still have preferred some clouds in the sky. The final result is nothing spectacular - just a 'nice' image. I will need to go back and capture some more moody, atmospheric light. It could also be a better sunset rather than sunrise location? It has potential, I just haven't visited it at its best.... yet.

Canoe Creek Walk. Olympus OM-D E-M1 with Zuiko 12-50mm f3.5/6.3 EZ. 1/40th @ f5.4 - ISO 800. 30mm
Just before the turn-off to get to Hans Bay at Lake Kaniere, there is a small (15min) walking track that follows Canoe Creek to the lake. The track winds through lush native forest and is well maintained with wooden walkways that cross over the creek in several places. These paths curve through the bush and form fantastic leading lines through any composition. They also remind me a little of the jetty's that jut out into the lakes themselves. I'm a sucker for a jetty in an image. I can't go past a jetty without photographing it! Just look at the images that accompany this post!

Deadwood - Lake Kaniere. Olympus OM-D E-M1 with Zuiko 12-50mm f3.5/6.3 EZ. 1/60th @ f6.3 - ISO 800. 36mm
At the end of the Canoe Creek walk you come out the the shore of the lake and can walk around to a sheltered inlet that has an otherworldly feel to it. Very spooky and Jurassic Park-like. The carcasses of fallen trees litter the bank and cast these amazing reflections into the water. It's dark, it's cold and it's eerie - and you could easily imagine a dinosaur (or an orc) emerging from the forest. I took several images I liked at this location - all hand-held with an ISO of 800 to keep the shutter speed reasonably high. Yes, I could have set the camera up on the tripod - and maybe I should have? But with the ibis (in body image stabilisation) of the E-M1 and no real need for a long shutter speed, you can get away with hand-holding most of the images as long as you're ok with shooting at ISO 800 (and I am). I may go back soon and shoot at the same location with my medium format Bronica on ISO 100 film, in which case I definitely will need a tripod.

Sunny Bight, Lake Kaniere. Olympus OM-D E-M1 with Zuiko 12-50mm f3.5/6.3 EZ. 1/1600th @ f5 - ISO 200. 23mm
My final destination for the morning was a picnic spot at the other end of the lake from Hans Bay - Sunny Bight. More clear blue skies, more still calm water, more beautiful reflections - and more jetty images! :-)

I found a small jetty that I was able to access from the car park, and this time decided to place it dead-centre in the lower third of the frame - for the classic jetty-leading-into-the-frame shot. I think it works compositionally by 'grounding' the viewer in the scene and leading the eye into the symmetrical view of the reflected mountains in the upper third. The jetty itself could maybe do with being a touch lighter - although i also like the way it almost 'emerges' from the bottom of the frame?

All-in-all I had an amazing morning shooting around two incredible lakes. I started out on a tripod in the very early morning light at Lake Mahinapua, and ended up hand-holding for the rest of the morning at Lake Kaniere since I was shooting with decent shutter speeds, filter-free. The compact, yet solid form factor of the OM-D E-M1, with its incredible ibis, encourages photography that is unencumbered by a tripod, although you obviously have to be careful when light levels drop or you're purposely wanting long exposures.

Some may look at micro-four-thirds as something of a 'lesser' format compared to full frame, or even APS-C? Yet for landscapes, I think they actually have more benefits that negatives. They are smaller and lighter, which if you are tramping distances is definitely a positive. They have increased depth of field at all apertures - great for landscape photography. And image quality from the 16 to 20MP image sensors is perfect for an A3+ sized print. What more do you want? Seriously....?    

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