Niagara Falls from a Hotel Room

Things at work are getting pretty busy again, and I haven’t been anywhere near a camera for a week now. So, I don’t have anything recent to share with you, so I went digging around in my archives and decided to show a series of photos of Niagara Falls.

Barb won a round-trip pair of airline tickets at the Alereon Holiday (Christmas) Party in December of 2008. We had a year to “cash them in”. We couldn’t think of anywhere that we really wanted to go, so we waited, and waited, and waited. Sometime during 2009, Barb’s friend Pam told us about a trip that she and her husband Bill had taken to Niagara Falls. Evidently they had a hotel room with a fantastic view of Niagara Falls.

That sounded like a great photographic opportunity to us, so a week before our airline tickets expired, we made reservations for June 2010 to fly to Buffalo, NY. We made the reservations over 6 months before we wanted to travel. We decided to go the week of June 22nd, 2010 because we knew that the days would have the maximum number of hours of daylight.

We made our reservation for the Niagara Falls Marriot, which is on the Canadian side of the falls in Ontario. We asked for a room on the upper floors, so that we could have a good view of the falls. We were told that we were guaranteed to get a room in the upper 6 floors (of the 23 total).

Zoom ahead in time to June 22nd, 2010. We had flown into Buffalo, rented a car for a week, and drove into Canada. We had not seen the falls, or any of the Great Lakes. Looking at the map showed that we should be very close, but we had not seen any water of any kind before we arrived at the hotel. When we checked in, I asked the clerk where the heck the Niagara Falls were actually located, and she said that they were right out back, and we should see them when we got to our room. So we hauled all of our luggage up to our room and opened the drapes. This is what we saw:

Holy cow! What a sight!

The shot above was taken right after we returned from dinner – right at 6:31 PM. The last photo in this post was taken at 10:03 PM, a span of only 3 and ½ hours.

The first photo to at the top of this post is shown again here. It is a panoramic, that is composed of 5 individual photos stitched together using an older version of Photoshop.

Niagara Falls is composed of two separate waterfalls. In the photos above, the falls on the left are called the American Falls, because the land on both sides of that waterfall is in the United States (in New York state). The falls on the right span across the international boundary with Canada, and are known as Horseshoe Falls, because of its U-shape.

The most significant thing that I want to bring your attention to is that every single photo in this post was taken from the exact same location, and that was from our room, and through a window that I really had to hunt for an acceptably clean spot to photograph through.

Both of the previous photo used my 24-105mm lens, zoomed all the way out to 24mm. I was using my 2 month old Canon 5D Mark II, which is a full-frame sensor camera. The next photo, of Horseshoe Falls, was taken with the lens zoomed to 50mm.

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I switched to my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, zoomed it to 173mm, and took this photo.

The method that I used to reduce unwanted reflections in the window was developed on the spot. At first I could see the white reflections of the curtains on the right and left sides of the photo, so I pulled them as wide open as they would go (and away from the camera). I did use a hood on the end of each lens. I positioned my tripod as close to the window as possible, but the heater/air-conditioner unit was directly under the window, which complicated that a bit. With my longer 70-200mm lens, I could have let the lens hood actually touch the window, but I did not want the vibrations from the air-conditioner, which were travelling up the window, to be transmitted to the lens, and therefore to the camera. So I left a 0.25 inch (6mm) gap between the lens and the window pane. Lastly, I got a large towel from the bathroom, folded it neatly lengthwise, and draped it over the end of my lens, and bridging the gap between the lens hood and the window pane. That sealed off any extraneous light from coming in from the sides, reflecting off of the glass window, and reducing the contrast in the photo. Lastly, we turned off all of the lights in the hotel room, except for the light in the bathroom, which was a long way behind us. (We needed some light in the room so that we could pour our wine…)

This photo was of the American Falls, using the 70-200mm lens zoomed all the way out to 200mm. This was taken at 6:45 PM, and there was still plenty of daylight, so the shutter was 1/640 of a second and the aperture was f/7.1. Every photo in this blog post was shot in Aperture Priority and had the ISO set to 200.

That photo was using the “longest” lens that I had. I then decided to switch to my “shortest” lens, a 16-35mm f/2.8 II lens. The next photo used that lens zoomed to 22mm, and shows a nice rainbow from the mist of Horseshoe Falls.

Back to the telephoto zoom to get a closer view of that rainbow in the mist.

The little boat just boat in front of American Falls is the Maid of the Mist.

There are actually several of these little boats, but they all seem to share that name. People board the Maid of the Mist on the Canadian side of the river, just past the American Falls. Once on board, they get you up close as they pass by the American Falls, and then take you deep into the mist at the base of Horseshoe Falls. We did take that boat ride a few days later, and I HIGHLY recommend it!

Putting my wide-angle 16-35mm zoom lens back on, I rotated the camera as far to the left as I could, and took this 1 second exposure with the lens zoomed to 19mm. This is our hotel (Marriot) and a few others lined up along this spectacular view.

You can see the reflection of our curtains along the left edge of the photo, but that was the best that I could do at the time….

We drank a glass of wine, relaxed, and waited for the sun to go down.

This next photo was taken at 9:19 PM. Even on the longest day of the year it would have been dark for 30 minutes by now back home in Texas!

The lens was at 19mm and the exposure was a 1.6 second shutter, f/6.3 aperture, and +2/3 stop exposure compensation.

Just 10 minutes later, at 9:29 PM, the sky had quickly turned to twilight. The next photo was taken at that time, with the lens zoomed out to 173mm, but the shutter was now open for 5 seconds.

Less than 2 minutes later, the color of the water seemed to change. What the heck? Using the exact same camera and lens settings, I quickly took this photo.

Within a couple more minutes, the color of the water had changed a couple of more times! It became apparent that this was a man-made phenomenon, but we had no idea how on earth they were doing it.

I was thrilled! I thought my photography was over for the evening, but it was far from over. The scene before us was simply becoming more spectacular with each passing minute!

This next photo was taken at 9:35 PM. The exposure settings were an 8 second shutter, f/6.3 aperture, + 1/3 stop exposure compensation.

Only three minutes later, I took this next photo, but I changed the lens from 35mm to 50mm focal length. I also used all the same exposure settings, except the shutter was now open for 13 seconds.

The change of colors was spectacular to see!  A couple days later, while walking along the river, we saw the large spot lights that they use to illuminate the falls with color. The lights were on the Canadian side, and they shine them across the river to paint the falls with colored light. We never saw the “light beams” cross the river, and I do not see them in these photos right now, either. Very clever!

As it got darker, I had to keep increasing the amount of time that the shutter would stay open. I was now up to 15 seconds.

And at 10:01 PM, I was up to a 20 second exposure.

The longer I kept the shutter open, the more amount of mist would be in the air, scattering the light, and obscuring the beautiful pastel colors of the falls.

This next shot was my last shot of the evening. It was taken at 10:03 PM, and the shutter was open for 25 seconds. It pretty much had to be my last shot, as the camera has a limit of 30 seconds for the shutter speed (in Aperture Priority mode), and the mist was really overtaking the falls.

So there you have it. Yet another sequence of photos, depicting a thin slice of time, where I had my camera with me, and was willing to experiment with it. Niagara Falls is certainly a site to see!

Beginning Construction of a Window Factory

This is my story of how I have witnessed the construction of this building to this intermediate state of completion. The photo above was taken yesterday evening, on July 18, 2012. This is the future home of Ringer Windows factory in Taylor, TX.

This might not be terribly interesting to my photography friends, but I still wanted to make this post, as there are several people in my life that this will have meaning to. I will also probably bore many of those people by also describing many of these photos using “photographers techno-babble”. I’m sorry, but this is my blog, and I make the rules.  🙂

Greg Ringer happens to be a very good friend of mine. Here’s a photo of Greg and I, taken on January 4, 2006 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA – just moments after Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns defeated the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans by a score of 41 – 38.

I still get goose bumps thinking about how that game finished!  But, this is not a story about great friends, or about football…

On Saturday morning, March 3rd, Greg and I drove out to Taylor, TX to look at the location for the future home of Ringer Windows. Ringer Windows has run out of room at its current location in Pflugerville, and the city of Taylor gave him some great incentives to build his new factory in their city.

The engineers had already bored some holes into the soil to see what how firm the foundation was. They didn’t have to go down very far to find water.

Before we left, I asked Greg if I could take his photo. Since he was backlit, I did put my Canon 580-EX II flash on top of my Canon 5D Mark II camera, and took this photo of Greg. I did later have to use the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to add a bit more brightness to him in various amounts to his face, his sweatshirt, and his jeans.

That was the one and only time that I have visited the site with Greg, but I have been back several times by myself (and once with Dad). The next time that I returned was nearly 6 weeks later, on April 14th. They had dug out the area for the building’s foundation where they were going to add back some caliche dirt – a surface deposit that would not expand/contract due to moisture changes like the native soil would.

While I was taking photos from the back of the site, the tractor operator showed up and started leveling the bottom of the pit near the northeast corner of the “building”.

When I returned two weeks later, on April 28th, they had the caliche down and leveled.

Three and a half weeks later, on the evening of May 24th, they were inserting the rebar and plumbing into the caliche foundation, and then covering it all up with a heavy-duty black plastic.

They had also poured concrete into the rebar-enforced support columns, which I believe Greg said would go down about 14 feet (4.25m).

When I returned on Sunday, June 17th, they had already poured the concrete slab, and had it covered with a white plastic to allow it to cure (more slowly than it would if it hadn’t been covered). This image was created from 11 individual photos taken in the portrait orientation and then merged into one huge 21084 x 5478 pixel panoramic image. Here it is in a much reduced 1000 pixel wide version.

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The next time I drove out to Taylor was early in the morning on July 4th. That was the only opportunity that I had to make it out there on that holiday. I had to shoot into the light of the rising sun, but I wanted to be sure to get a couple of photos of the bare steel structure.

The photo above was taken from Carlos Parker Blvd SW, where it rises to cross over the railroad tracks, just south of US Hwy 79. I wasn’t really very far away, and I only had my 70-200mm f/2.8 II lens set to a focal length of 80mm.

I then drove back down to the street in front of the building, and took this photo, which is a panoramic made from 8 photos. The original pano is 18403 x 5553 pixels in size. Here is the 1000 pixel wide version:

Now that takes us to yesterday evening, July 18th. As you can see, the light was MUCH better for photography, and they had the red metal skin up surrounding the front office and showroom area. (This was also from Carlos Parker Blvd SW.)

It was 6:50 PM, and sunset would be in about 80 minutes later. For the shot above, I used my Canon 24-105mm lens, and it was set to 73mm.

As usual, I drove down to the street in front of the building, and took this photo with the lens zoomed wide to 32mm. I cropped off much of the bottom of the photo, as you really don’t need to see that much of the street. (This is the same photo as the one at the top of this blog post.)

I moved a bit closer, and zoomed the lens as wide as it could go, which is 24mm.

Now how the heck am I going to make this partially complete building something interesting to look at in a photo? I didn’t know exactly, but I was going to circle around inside and outside of it – just to see what it looked like from the various perspectives.

I entered the front door, immediately stopped, moved 2 feet to me right, and planted my tripod. People will never see this view of the inside of the building once the interior walls are up, so I thought I would document it.

The photo above is actually an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image, which is created by taking the same picture with four different shutter speed settings and later combining them together using software. I used Photoshop CS6 to merge them and do some initial tweaks, and then finished adjusting it in Lightroom 4.1. It still looks a bit “flat” to me. Maybe that’s partly because there simply wasn’t any color in this scene to start with.

Here is a view from the back right (southwest) corner, looking back toward the office/showroom area.

This is an HDR image that I made from 6 bracketed exposures, and then cropped off the bottom. I did not want to tilt the camera up, as that makes the vertical objects to the side “fall backward” toward the center of the image. Instead, I just kept the camera level, which put a lot of the concrete floor in the bottom of the photo, so I later just cropped it off.

I think the floor has a blue-ish tint to it, as it is simply reflecting that color from the sky.

My 3rd and last HDR photo was taken while looking into the office/showroom area from directly under the peak height of the roof.

That HDR image was made by combining 8 images bracketed one stop apart. That’s a huge dynamic range! The reason was because the sun was poking around the support beam in the upper left corner, which was very bright, and I also wanted to see well into the dark shadowy office area.

The only colorful objects in this photo are seen outside of the front windows. Because everything else is basically devoid of color, there just isn’t that much to make it “come alive”. Be that as it may, I believe that this is a rather faithful reproduction of what I actually saw while I was standing there.

I wanted just a few more photos, and then I needed to go.

Here is the view of the front office/showroom area, as seen from under the covered loading dock area, which is in the left front (northeast) corner of the building. This was a strongly backlit situation, so I did use the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom 4.1 to add 0.8 stop of exposure to the red siding.

After walking out into the “parking lot” a little bit, this is the view of the northeast corner of the building.

At 7:18 PM, less than 30 minutes from when I took the first photo that evening, I took this parting shot before I left.

I wanted to leave this photo for last, as I envision taking a photo from this same angle when the building is complete. I think it will be taken when the sky turns a magical blue, just after sunset. I’ll ask Greg to selectively turn on some of the interior lights, and I’ll have my 4 Einstein stobe units to really make the red siding glow.  I see it in my mind. We’ll all see how it actually turns out a sometime this fall.

Plants and Patterns

This morning, I went out for my usual Saturday morning 3 mile walk through my neighborhood, but this time I brought my camera along.

This is only the 2nd time in the 11 years that we’ve lived in this house that I’ve brought my camera with me. I wrote about my first time, in my blog post that I published on June 4th.

On that walk, I took my brand new Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens. Today, I took the same camera, but I brought the Panasonic Leica 25mm ƒ/1.4 DG Summilux lens, with a B+W circular polarizer on the front of it.

Before I left the house, I performed a Custom White Balance to the camera, set the ISO to 200, and put the camera into Aperture Priority Mode. I did not change any of these three settings for the rest of my walk.

I’m going to try something new with this post. I’m going to keep the number of words to a bare minimum, and just present you with the pictures. I’m going to do it “Robin Wong style”, where I’ll add a two or three word “title” underneath each photo, that attempts to give a little insight into either what I saw, or what I was thinking.  If you like this format, (or if you don’t), please leave a comment (or send me an email using the “Contact Gregg” button under the banner at the top of this page) to let me know that.

Enough words. Here are my photos.

Honey Bee

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Clay Pot

Playground Tunnel

Circular Jungle Gym

Stairs and Handrail

Steel Mesh Stairs

Ford Mustang

Gate Hinge

Low Cactus

View @ Halfway

Prickless Prickly Pear Cactus

Cactus Flower Buds

A Red One

Big Grass

For Libby

Red and Orange Flowers

Pink Flowers

Miniature American Flag

Rusty Fire Hydrant

Ivy Ground Cover

Limestone Wall

My Front Door

Maybe someday soon I will get up the nerve to do some real Street Photography in downtown Austin. Plants and patterns are interesting to me, but I would like to include some architecture and some candid people photos, too.

Who knows, I might even get lucky and bump into Kirk Tuck…

Setting a Custom White Balance in the Olympus OM-D E-M5

This is a short discussion/tutorial on how to go about setting the Custom White Balance on the Olympus OM-D E-M5. The scanned image above shows my handwritten notes on the page in the owner’s manual that explains how to do this.

I have been wrestling with myself as to whether I really wanted to create a post such as this one. In the end I convinced myself that it wouldn’t hurt anyone, but might be helpful to a fellow photographer. So here goes…

Everyone who knows me and/or reads my blog posting, knows that I purchased an Olympus OM-D E-M5 in late May, and that only two days after I received it we left town to spend a week in Ruidoso, New Mexico. We had rented a house, and didn’t fill up all of our time doing all sorts of touristy things. That gave us plenty of time to relax, and more importantly, it gave me lots of time to read the owner’s manual and to practice with this new camera.

It’s a good thing, as there are a LOT of settings that you can change, to allow you to customize the camera to the way that you prefer it to operate.  I am certain that I spent at least 20 hours that week with the owner’s manual in my lap, marking it up with yellow and red highlighters. The manual seems to have all of the information that you need, but it is not organized very well. You spend way too much time flipping back and forth making sure that everything is understood correctly.

At the end of the week, I felt like I understood all but three features. I sort of understood how to set a Custom White Balance and also how to focus using the Zoom Frame AF. I never did figure out how to wirelessly trigger an off camera flash unit from a flash unit mounted in the camera’s hot shoe.

As I said at the opening of this post, this is a short discussion/tutorial on how to go about setting the Custom White Balance on the Olympus OM-D E-M5.

But before I get into the details, I need to show you which of the menu items that I changed from the default settings.

First, you need to know that this camera has only 5 main categories of menus, as shown here.

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Looking down the left side, you see them listed as Shooting Menu 1, Shooting Menu 2, Playback Menu, Custom Menus (which is selected), and lastly the Setup Menu. There are 11 subcategories of Custom Menus, labeled A through K.

Here are the scanned pages from my owner’s manual that show the default settings for each of the menu items. In the right side margin you will see my handwritten notes showing what changes I made, if any.

I have no intention of explaining why I made each and every one of these changes. If you have this camera, you have the full manual (which you can download from here), and you can read the descriptions yourself.

It is worth mentioning that the changes to the Dial Functions at the bottom of Custom Menu B were done to move the Exposure Compensation to the rear wheel (operated by my thumb). This makes this camera behave like my Canon 5D Mark II, and it is what I am used to.

In Custom Menu D, in Control Settings, for P/A/S/M, you will see that I have both Live Control and Live SCP (Super Control Panel) turned on. Later on, you will see that this causes trouble when trying to perform a Custom White Balance. (It gets much simpler if you only have the Live SCP set to On.)

Further down in Custom Menu D, for the item named LV Close Up Mode, I changed it to Mode 2, which was recommended in the excellent user guide put together by R. Butler and Timur Born of That mode helps a lot when trying to get the Zoom Frame AF to work (page 45).

Note that in Custom Menu J, the Built-in EVF Style mode was changed to Style 3. This has the Electronic View Finder (EVF) display the same items that you’ve chosen to display on the rear monitor (but not simultaneously). Once again, thanks to the two at for that one!

And there you have it. Yes, I changed several of the menu items, but ony 5 or 6 of them really made a real difference to how the camera behaves.

Now, down to the real purpose of this post: how to set the Custom White Balance on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera.

First, you need to know that this is not what the owner’s manual calls it! Look closely at page 50.

In the manual, Olympus named the feature Custom White Balance the one where you simply set the color temperature (Kelvin) as a numerical value by using the left and right navigation arrows.

No, Olympus chose to name the feature that I want to use “One-Touch White Balance”. That’s really bizarre, since I haven’t figured out how to do this in less than 6 button pushes!  So, forget the name One-Touch White Balance – everyone else refers to it as Custom White Balance.

OK, so here is how you do it:

If you really want to read this, click on the image to show it full size and then right-click on it to save it to your computer. You can then print it out and put it behind page 51 in your manual.

I realize that this is a rather unorthodox approach. If you really cannot read it, leave a comment to this post stating that, and if you want, you can contact me and I might be persuaded to actually type it up.

Just to help in understanding my handwritten instruction, this is what the Super Control Panel looks like:

And this is what the Live Control looks like:

Ruidoso Downs Horse Races

This post contains lots of photos, but I think that I need them all to tell the photography story that I want to tell. As you can see in the photo above, it was nearly 5 weeks ago on Friday, June 1, 2012 when Barb and I visited the Ruidoso Downs horse racing track in the town of Ruidoso, New Mexico.

I had never been to a horse race in my life, before this day, but many of the people that we had visited with that week in Ruidoso had highly recommended it. We had spent a pretty leisurely week up to that point, where I had spent most of my time studying the manual for my new Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. We had only scheduled one “tourist activity” for each day, and today was going to be the horse races.Even though Barb had been there once before, many years ago, frankly, I had no idea what to expect.

Walking only a few yards from where I had taken the photo above (just off the highway), you can see the grandstands across the narrow valley at the base of this small mountain.

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As we drove up their entrance drive, I just had to stop to take this photo showing the large bend of the oval dirt track.

I was rather surprised that there was no entrance fee, and that the parking was free, too. We only had to walk about 100 yards (meters) from the car to the closest end of the grandstand. That’s where the entrance to the Jockey’s Club was. I just assumed that the entrance that we went through in order to pay to get into the grandstand.

The friendly group at the door let me know that we were welcome to pay to come into the Jockey Club, but if we just wanted to get into the grandstand, we just needed to walk 20 yards to our right. We did exactly that, and I was completely surprised that we could just walk right in – for free – and sit wherever we wanted to!

We had arrived just as the first race of the day had finished. There is a 25 minute delay between each race. (I think there were going to be 9 races that afternoon.) During that delay, they water down the track, and then drag an implement behind a tractor to get the dirt just how they want it.

While we were waiting for the next race to begin, an usher asked to see our tickets. Tickets? What tickets?

I know that I had a dumb expression on my face as I told him that we never encountered anyone asking us to pay for a ticket. He told us that we were sitting in “Reserved Seating” and that if were welcome to sit in the bleachers down below – which were indeed free.

OK, so we moved about 10 feet closer to the dirt track, but our legs were in the direct sun.

And they’re off!  What the heck?  The next race had started and I hadn’t even prepared my camera! Just get what you can…. I raised my camera to my eye, saw the that Olympus instantly focused on the lead horse, so I snapped this photo just as they crossed the finish line!

Wow! We were 30 feet (10 meters) or so from the track, and you could FEEL the horses pounding the ground with their hooves!

Checking the OLED display on the back of my camera, I saw that I had indeed caught the lead horse just after it had crossed the finish line, but wait just a darned minute… horses do not have 8 legs!

Hmmm… The camera was in my default settings: ISO 200, f/8.0, aperture priority, which resulted in a shutter speed of only 1/160 second. No wonder that fast moving horse had 8 legs!

While the grounds keepers prepared the track for the next race, I had some time to think about which camera settings I wanted to change.

I had read in the camera owner’s manual that the camera could shoot 9 frames per second (fps), and this seemed like a great place to try that out! I also changed to Shutter Priority mode, and set the shutter speed to 1/1600 second. To keep a good depth-of-field I didn’t want a wide aperture, so I had to increase the ISO to 800 just to keep the aperture to f/10. I also changed the autofocus to Constant autofocus mode. Lastly, I changed the Image Stabilization to mode IS2, which is for horizontal panning when following moving objects.

After the water truck and the tractor, the jockeys and the horses for the next race always ride past the grandstand and then double-back to get to the starting line.

The races today did not go around the oval track. Instead, they were straight line races, just like at a dragster race – but with about 10 horses at the same time!  As they got the horses into the starting gate, I simply walked down to the railing at the edge of the track, and positioned myself so that I had a good view of the finish line. I zoomed my 12-50mm lens all the way out to 50mm.

And they’re off!  It doesn’t take these race horses long – maybe 7 or 8 seconds before they get close enough that I push the shutter button halfway and lock focus onto the lead horse, and instantly push it the rest of the way and take the following sequence of photos.

Now that you have had a look at this sequence, I want to let you know that I only showed you every other photo (I skipped the odd numbered photos, and only showed you the even numbered photos). Even at the 4.5 frames per second that I am showing you, you should get a sense of just how fast these horses are moving as they came flying past me!

Also worth noting is that as I kept the shutter button held down, and since I was shooting RAW + JPG, the buffer in the camera filled up, and there was a delay between that last shot and the next shot.

Also worth noting is that I did not understand at the time that when the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is shooting a 9 fps sequence, it locks focus at the time of the first shot – even if the autofocus is set to Constant Autofocus. What saved me here is that my aperture was f/10, which gives a fairly deep depth-of-field, especially on a Micro Four-Thirds sized image sensor.

As we waited for the next race, I reviewed the photos on the back of the camera. I didn’t like my composition. I had kept the lead horse in the center (where my focus point was), and so all of the horses were on the left side of the picture, with the right hand side being empty. I made a mental note to try and improve on that. I also told myself to wait until they got a little closer to the finish line before I started machine-gunning RAW + JPG images onto my UHS-1 speed-class SDHC memory card.

It began to get darker as rain clouds approached, and I refused to increase the ISO setting above 800, but that meant that I had to open the aperture form f/10 to f/6.3 AND lengthen the shutter from 1/1600 to “only” 1/1000 second.

Finish line!

The previous 5 photos were taken consecutively – I did not leave out every other one this time. I reviewed this sequence on the back of my camera while they paraded the jockeys and horses for the next race.

It was raining to the south of us, and those rain clouds were blocking the sun. I was going to have to change my settings to compensate accordingly.

Fortunately, the rain was passing us to the east.

Even so, it was getting darker. I was already at the widest aperture that this lens was capable of (f/6.3), but I had to do something. I lengthened the shutter to 1/800 second, but still needed to do something in addition. All I could think of at the time was to zoom the lens to a wider angle, which would support a wider aperture of f/5.7 that I needed. That resulted in a 36mm focal length, equivalent to 72mm on a full frame camera. (Later that evening, I realized that I should have just switched to my 45m f/1.8 lens!)

I decided that I now felt comfortable enough with my timing to wait for them to get closer to the finish line, that I also decided to change to the “low speed” Continuous Shooting Mode of 3.9 fps.

I can’t remember why I made that decision at that time. Maybe I remembered reading in the manual that the OM-D E-M5 will focus between each shot at this lower speed, or maybe I just got lucky. For whatever the reason, it really helped, because I now had a much narrower depth-of-field due to my wider aperture setting.

And they’re off!

So I follow the lead horse, keeping my focus point in it, until I think I’ve timed it just right.

Things move very fast, and I just saw another horse enter the left side of the frame….

Wow! Horse #10 wins the race!

Too bad that I didn’t even know that horse #10 existed until it went thundering right past me – only 3 or 4 yards (meters) away….But the continuous autofocus had locked onto the front legs of horse #3, not horse #10!

Maybe, just maybe I’ll get a good sequence before we get rained on!

The rain was staying east of us, but it just kept getting darker. I had to to open the aperture some more – to f/5.3, which meant that I was now zoomed to only 28 mm.

I also didn’t like the limited number of frames that I captured when using the “low speed” continuous shooting mode, so I went back to the 9 fps rate.

This is the photo captured as they crossed the finish line.

Notice how the horses change their stride immediately after they cross the finish line. They don’t stop instantly, just like you need several steps after running full speed before you slow down and stop.

We could smell the rain coming, and we didn’t want to walk the 100 yards back to the car in the rain, so we decided it was time to go now.

Just before we left the grandstand, I turned around and took this last photo. Barb and I had been sitting on the bleacher in front of the two guys in the white cowboy hats near the left edge of this photo.

I never really got the sequence of photos that I was hoping to get, but I had a really fun time trying, and I’m still amazed that it didn’t cost us any money at all!