M4/3

Below the Ice

Photographing objects within the ice using the E-M5 and Voigtlander - the what, where and how

Photographing what

None of these photos show objects or bubbles on top of the ice, instead all photographic subjects of all pics shown here are several inches below the surface.  The ice itself was clear enough to provide sort of a lens into the subsurface formations, though it also reflected light and was tricky to deal with.

Photographing where

We finally had a couple of nights with temps in the low double digits here in New Hampshire, the thermometer hovering around 10 or 11°F.  Add that to the nights which had already been under 32° and the river has begun to freeze over. 

Horizontal bubbles are pierced by blades of grass growing up from the bed of the river. The small bright circle is not a reflection, but another air bubble a couple of inches  above  the large one.

Horizontal bubbles are pierced by blades of grass growing up from the bed of the river. The small bright circle is not a reflection, but another air bubble a couple of inches above the large one.

This afternoon I walked down to the river and found ice 2 - 3 inches thick. I know, because it froze almost completely clear and I was able to see air bubbles and debris right through the ice by which to judge the thickness. A few inches is plenty thick to support the weight of an adult. The Army Corps of Engineers says just 2" of ice are adequate to support the weight of a person.

The shadow of my camera lens darkens the area around these bubbles a couple inches below the surface. The silhouetted reflection of the camera on a small tripod is visible in the smallest bubble, as are the colors of dusk settling in over the river. 

The shadow of my camera lens darkens the area around these bubbles a couple inches below the surface. The silhouetted reflection of the camera on a small tripod is visible in the smallest bubble, as are the colors of dusk settling in over the river. 

One of the many unique properties of water is that ice becomes exponentially stronger with thickness. For example, if 2" of ice supports a 200 lb. person, 3" doesn't just support a 300 pounder. In fact, The Corps says 3" is enough to hold the weight of a snowmobile and 10" enough for an 8 ton truck. 

A horizontal bubble a couple of inches below the ice surface with vertically rising air bubbles trapped on their journey upwards.

A horizontal bubble a couple of inches below the ice surface with vertically rising air bubbles trapped on their journey upwards.

When I bent down to examine the ice and saw several inches of thickness, I was not worried about falling in. What I did see though was clear, black ice with bubbles and bits of grass and other river debris deeper down.

One common 'scene' was horizontal bubbles which had formed a couple of inches below the surface and vertical bubbles consisting of tiny spiral needles. These spiral bubbles seem to have frozen in time & place as they rose toward the surface and provided an incredible sense of perspective to these mini-scenes.

It pays to look closely, from different angles & perspectives. Unless I had bent down to examine the thickness of the ice, I would have never noticed these formations.  As with all photography, which recommends we get closer to our subject (zoom with your feet), my zooming was done by getting down on my knees to examine the ice closeup.

Photographing how

Since I went down to the river in the late afternoon and the winter light was low, I thought I'd try the Voigtlander with the .95 aperture.  These shots were all taken with that lens on an Olympus OM-D E-M5 in this gloaming light. Sunset was at about 16:15 and the river lies beneath a large embankment, which gives a large area of indirect light.

As with many of us, I use various tripods, depending on the situation.  Two of them are very small travel units with fixed, not telescoping legs. One of those is genuinely tiny - it actually a plastic fold-out unit, small enough to fit in almost any pocket. Given it's light weight, it only supports the E-M5 with a very small lens, such as the Oly 17 or Panny 20.

As you can see in the setup shown here, I used my other small tripod which provides quite a bit of heft & weight and nicely counteracts the weight of the beefy Voigtlander. In fact, even with the weight of this full metal lens, I didn't need any weights on the tripod.

The nice thing about this setup, is how it places the lens perpendicular to the ground / ice and the lens just an inch or so from the surface if the ice itself.  And since the subjects, the air bubbles, were themselves 2 to 3 inches under the surface, this effectively placed the lens 3+ inches away.  I'm impressed the lens was able to focus on subjects so very close; I'll have to check what the closest focus distance is for this lens.

The close placement of the lens to the surface also minimized extraneous light from disturbing the shots and let me easily position the camera over any desired subjects. For some of the shots, I even had to tip the back leg of the tripod up to get the correct angle.

One minor problem was the shadow created by the lens, as it's pretty wide and obstructs quite a bit of light.  This results in a large dark circle over the ice, as seen in the second ice pic in this post.  I've cropped most of the much brighter, area outside of the lends shadow, away.

This was only an issue on some of the shots, depending on lens angle, amount of light in that area of the river, etc...  In fact for some of the shots, since I used the self timer to activate the shutter, my hands were free and I could position myself to completely block the brighter light with my body.  Crude but effective.

Another minor issue was the cold.  Usually when I use the E-M5 in the cold, it's on a strap around my neck and warmly secured underneath  my jacket until I pull it out for a shot.  This was different as the camera was out in the cold for the entire 30 minute shoot.  I did only use a single battery, but the camera registered a flashing red battery icon.  

I did have charged batteries in my pants pocket to keep them as close as possible to my body and hence the warmest possible.  However, I didn't need them, the red flashing battery lasted 30 minutes and that was good enough.

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Given the close focusing nature of the Voigtlander, it should be possible to use it for other sorts of close ups and the wide aperture should let in plenty of light, even with the lens physically blocking some of it at close proximity.

I'd like to try these same shots with a macro lens to see if that changes the perspective. Perhaps it's possible to get closer to the formations in the ice with a macro?

 

Trans Siberian Orchestra with m4/3

Shooting a concert with micro 4/3 - the Olympus OM-D E-M5 

I like how everything works to isolate the blond head of this rocker, even the other one is silhouetted and the audience is partly hidden

I like how everything works to isolate the blond head of this rocker, even the other one is silhouetted and the audience is partly hidden

We saw the TSO tonight and what a show!  As always, TSO puts on a spectacle of incredible music, showmanship, storytelling, flames, smoke, lasers and more.  Playing everything from Bach to Zeppelin, they wowed us for 2 ½ hours at the TD Garden in Boston. 

I really liked the interaction between gazing crowd and rockers flaunting all they've got 

I really liked the interaction between gazing crowd and rockers flaunting all they've got 

This time I brought my camera, an m4/3 Oly and put it to the test in these somewhat demanding conditions. 

For the photographically curious, all shots are from the single vantage point of our seats in the balcony, so the point of view doesn't change across all of these compositions. I don't know how far it was from our seats to the stage, but it was some considerable distance, perhaps 40 yards / meters.   

One of the rockers is this woman, who's profiled so dramatically against the lighting rigs

One of the rockers is this woman, who's profiled so dramatically against the lighting rigs

To reach across that distance, these were all shot with an Olympus 45mm 1.8 lens mounted on an OM-D E-M5. This little lens is really great, it's sort of a mini-telephoto, but the lens itself is downright tiny.  The entire camera + lens setup is almost, but not quite small enough to fit in a coat pocket.

Given the interaction between crowd and stage, it's possible to overlook the guy up on the rig

Given the interaction between crowd and stage, it's possible to overlook the guy up on the rig

I was particularly excited that the camera could shoot so well from such a distance and do so in alternating dark & super-bright circumstances.  

Straight light beam  lines  contrast the freedom & wildness of the dancers

Straight light beam lines contrast the freedom & wildness of the dancers

The OM-D is not new and it's well known as a tool which renders colors well. But capturing the myriad colors and ever changing brightness generated by the concert lighting system is quite a nice test. It's a testament to the ability of this sensor and this glass to reproduce this color and these details so nicely. 

As you may discern from the variable sizes of these snaps, these are all cropped down. All were processed using Apple Aperture, my favorite post processing tool. Too bad it's going away. I really hope the replacement is equally powerful and easy to use. 

One of my favorite shots;  the musician bowing, as if in abeyance to the crowd, upward lights symbolizing their gaze

One of my favorite shots;  the musician bowing, as if in abeyance to the crowd, upward lights symbolizing their gaze

One of my favorite shots in this series;  the musician bowing, as if in abeyance, to the crowd, upward lights symbolizing their gaze.  This composition doesn't render especially well on mobile  phones in portrait orientation, it's a bit too dark.  Perhaps I should have brightened up the rocker a little bit, to emphasize his figure a bit more, but I tried not to radically change any of these pics.

Almost of these shots were enhanced with sharpness, some with a tiny bit of definition, many with a white balance adjustment and all were cropped down in some fashion.

While I first began shooting at ISO 650, I quickly realized that's way too high.  It would expose too much.  Having some aspects of a composition in the dark, lends them a sense of mystery. Shooting at lower ISOs let me expose for the bright spots, leaving parts in the shadows, so I reduced the ISO to 400. 

Before the end of the concert, I'd further reduced it to 200, the lowest setting on my OM-D.  Most of the shots here were taken at ISO 200 with a shutter speed of 200 using spot metering.  The exposure compensation I dialed individually for each shot, depending on how nice the contrast looked through the view finder.

Part of the climax, most musicians are on stage, lights are going crazy

Part of the climax, most musicians are on stage, lights are going crazy

Of course I was also thinking of the dramatically reduced noise I'd get with ISO 200 vs 640.  The low noise levels may not be readily discernible in these reproductions, as they're a) JPEGs and b) reduced to 1500 pixels for web hosting, so they're a bit different from the original RAW files.

I particularly like how the yellow highlights a few audience members, connecting them to the guitarist

I particularly like how the yellow highlights a few audience members, connecting them to the guitarist

Now that I've seen what the 45mm lens does, I'd really like to try the put the Oly 7mm 1.8 to the test under these conditions. I supposed, given similar seats, I could really get some close up shots of the performers, though I wonder if it'd be too close to also include some of the scene. 

Some I processed as B&W, mainly because I felt that color detracted from a few individual compositions.

Not sure why, but these audience members seem frozen in time, as if characters captured in a painting 

Not sure why, but these audience members seem frozen in time, as if characters captured in a painting 

Perhaps it's the very white, almost coherent nature of the lights upon the audience, but they do seem sort of frozen in time, similar to scenes I've seen in some old paintings.

Sometime I'd really enjoy shooting a concert with the ability to walk around, perhaps with a press pass or similar access, so I could get really close to the action.  This spectacle features too many pyrotechnics for that to work, but for a bit more mellow show, that'd be quite a photographic adventure.

 I have to say the Olympus made it reasonably easy to get some shots with which I am quite happy.  ...and ultimately, I take these for myself. Olympus marketing won't want to hear this, but I'm not sure how the improved E-M1 could have made this experience much better.

 

 

See sandtosnow.net/blog for other photography commentary