Category Archives: Colorful

Neighborhood Macro Photo Walk


For those of you who have been reading my blog for any length of time know that I like to shoot close-up photos, mainly of flowers, but also other things that I find interesting. The “kit” lens that I bought with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera is the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens. This lens has a macro mode, which you get into by pushing a button on the side of the lens, and then sliding the outer barrel of the lens backwards towards the camera. When in the macro mode, the magnification is 0.7 to 1, so it isn’t quite a true macro lens, which is generally defined to have a magnification of 1 to 1. In addition, the lens has its focal length fixed at 43mm (86mm equivalent) when in this macro mode.

Now that spring has fully sprung here in Austin, I really wanted to get out and photograph some of the beautiful flowers that I was seeing from my car as I would drive in and out of my neighborhood.

I remember reading the excellent hands-on review of the Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 lens that Robin Wong had put together last September. I decided that it was finally time to open my wallet and make my first purchase of any type of photography equipment in many, many months.

If you are interested in a macro lens for your Micro Four Thirds camera, be sure to visit Robin’s blog to see the fantastic images that he was able to capture with this lens. You can find all three parts by clicking the links that I provide for you here:

Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro Lens Preview

Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro Review: Extreme Close Up Shooting

Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro Review: General Shooting

So, on Saturday, April 13, 2013 I made my first visit to the beautiful new Precision Camera store on Anderson Lane here in Austin. They had only one of the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 lens left, and it looked to be in great shape, so I bought it. They did not have the lens LH-49 lens hood, so I had them order that for me.

When I got home, I only had an hour or so before we had company over for dinner, so I only had time to read through the few pages in the manual, and to re-read Robin Wong’s “Lens Preview” again. I needed to understand the Focus Limiter switch worked (specifically in the “temporary” 1:1 setting).

The next morning, I was anxious to play a bit with my new lens, and that’s when I took the photo above, which is the zipper on the blue pouch that my Lastolite LL LR1250 12-Inch EzyBalance Calibration Card came in.

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It wasn’t until lunch that I had a chance to go walking around my neighborhood with my new lens, but by then, the morning clouds had vanished, and I was faced with direct, hard sunlight.


The first thing that you have to learn to deal with with this lens is the 60mm focal length. That’s a 120mm equivalent on a full-frame camera. That’s good for a macro lens, as you don’t have to be as close to your subject as a shorter focal length lens. That’s a bit much telephoto to be used as a normal “walk around the neighborhood” lens.

The sunlight was very bright, and not diffused by any clouds. Worse than that, there was a pretty good breeze. That’s bad for someone attempting to do some macro photography of flowers – they seem to wag around continuously, and never come to a complete standstill for more than a fraction of a second.

20130414_Neighborhood_Macro_Walk_009As a result, I always took multiple photos of the same flower. Some varieties of flowers seemed to be less prone to constant “wagging in the wind” than other varieties – so I only photographed some flowers 3 times, but many I photographed 7, 8, 9, or even 10 times. Even then, there were a few flowers that I ended up with none of them being “good enough” to show you here, and I didn’t keep any of them….


You might think that I’m being a “sharpness snob”, but I don’t think so. The previous photo and the next photo are not really sharp when viewed at 100% on my 24″ monitor.


This macro lens is supposed to be super-sharp, but this will never be a blog post to prove that! About the only way that I could have improved my situation would have been to use an electronic flash to better “freeze” the flowers with the very short duration burst of light.


I didn’t anticipate the “wagging flower” problem to be as bad as it was. Maybe the 60mm focal length exaggerated it more than I was accustomed to with the 43mm focal length of my 12-50mm lens when it is in macro mode. That probably contributed some to my difficulty, but let’s face it, it was just too windy, but I was determined to play with my new toy, so I just did the best that I could…. and I was having a blast doing it!


Harsh, direct sunlight and a breezy spring day were making my job difficult. The weather was gorgeous, and I was having fun. Those of you who have read this far are having to suffer more than I did. 😉


This next photo is a common dandelion seed head. It’s a weed, but I thought it was pretty.


Hey, now here’s something blooming that wasn’t being affected by the wind!


Those little cacti “spheres” were about the diameter of a baseball. That was small enough to use my body to cast a shadow over it.


Finally, putting that 60mm macro lens to the 1:1 setting, I was able to point it straight into one of the flowers on top of that cactus.


And just so I wouldn’t get run over by a car, I would occasionally watch where I was walking, and then I might see something that a slight telephoto (120mm equivalent) might be handy for.


Palm trees are not common in Austin, but they do exist.


By now it was 2:30 PM, and with the sun directly overhead, I was looking for flowers in the shade, or using my body to create the shade.


By doing so, you sometimes have to put your body into some pretty strange positions, and even then it isn’t possible to always eliminate “hot spots” in the background that you cannot also shade.


I don’t know what this next variety of a flower is, but I like it! I only saw it in one neighbor’s yard.


You’ve seen plenty of this next one, which is a Texas Bluebonnet – our state flower.


Some people plant them in their yard!


Now that last photo had the aperture set at f/8.0, and I was focused on the flowers in the background. The background isn’t as sharp as the flowers, but it’s good enough for this blog post (look at the street sign).

Here’s a photo where I actually focused the lens on a house in the background. That house isn’t “wagging in the wind”, and the bricks and the mortar between the bricks look damn sharp to me when viewed at 100%.


Finally, I arrive at our house at 3:35 PM, and take a photo of this little plant that Barb has sitting outside of our front door, somewhat sheltered from the wind. My shutter speed was 1/30th of a second, so I was thankful for the image stabilization of the camera, which seemed to do a great job even with a 60mm focal length lens.


This blog isn’t a review of this Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 lens. It is just me playing around with my new toy – even though the conditions were such that any sane photographer would have kept the camera at home and just gone out for a walk on a beautiful spring day.

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Walk on Congress Avenue

Last Sunday, April 7, 2013, was an overcast day, but I was tired of being in the house. I needed to get out and walk around with my camera. I needed to go somewhere where a gray sky wouldn’t affect me and my photography too negatively. I decided to go somewhere that I seldom go – downtown Austin. During my 25 minute drive to get downtown, I noticed that the overcast sky was beginning to break up into a partly cloudy sky.

I was travelling light. I brought only my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, with the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens, and my X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. No camera bag, no tripod, not even a spare battery or a hat.

I drove up and down Congress Avenue, and even at 2:45 PM on a Sunday afternoon, there are no parking spaces available. I ended up parking three blocks east of Congress Avenue, on Trinity Street between and East 8th and East 9th Streets.

I thought that I would head towards the Texas State Capitol Building, which is located at 11th and Congress. As I walked west on East 10th Street, just west of San Jacinto Blvd., I noticed this building with reflections of both a Catholic Church and the Texas State Capitol building.


At the corner of Brazos St. and East 10th, I just looked up at the Texas Department of Transportation building and took this simple photo.


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I was pleased to see that the overcast sky had pretty much dissipated into the partially cloudy sky.

This next photo was taken while standing in the center of the crosswalk on Congress Avenue at 10th St.


I really didn’t have a plan, other than to just walk south on Congress all the way to 1st or 2nd Street and then come back up Congress Avenue on the other side of the road.


There are many, many building along Congress Avenue that have been designated as historical landmarks. It makes for a very interesting mixture of old buildings and modern buildings.


Just south of 7th Street, on the west side of Congress Avenue is this interesting statue of Angelina Eberly.


The plaque at the base of this statue tells this fascinating story: “In 1842 Texas was an independent nation, and Austin was its capital. Sam Houston, the president of the Republic of Texas, regarded Austin as a vulnerable and unsuitable location for the seat of the government and waged an unsuccessful campaign to have it moved to his namesake city (Houston). As a last resort, the President sent a military detachment to Austin to remove the government archives. When an innkeeper named Angelina Eberly discovered the men loading their wagons, she rushed to the corner of what is now Sixth and Congress and fired the town cannon, blowing a hole in the Land Office building and rousing the populace. The citizens chased down Houston’s men, recovered the archives, and gave them to Mrs. Eberly for safekeeping. This statue honors a bold woman whose vigilance and short temper preserved Austin as the capital of Texas. It was presented to the citizens of Austin on September 26, 2004, by Capital Area Statues, Inc.”


There’s no doubt where I took this next photo from. 🙂


I’ve seen Kirk Tuck show this same photo on his blog before, so I thought I’d just put my blatant copy here on my blog….


Looking southeast, one sees the Frost Bank Tower, which is located between 4th and 5th Streets, on the east side of Congress Avenue.


At 422 Congress Avenue is Shiner’s Saloon. I’ve never been there, but I like their sign our front!


We are now down to 3rd Street.


Just north of 2nd Street sits The Austonian, which is a residential building. A t 683 feet (208 m) tall with 56 floors, this is the tallest building in Austin.


At the base of the Austonian, is the little coffee shop Caffé Medici.


I thought that I would get myself a cup of coffee and do stake out a place for some relaxed people watching, but as I poked my head inside, I was surprised at how small, and crowded this place was. I guess it must be very good, because there were at least 15 people in line there to get coffee at 3:30 PM on a Sunday afternoon. Someday I’d like to give it a try, though.

So I crossed Congress at 2nd Street, and took a few photos of one of the Austin GuitarTown guitars, named Twinkle Twinkle Lonestar.


Back in 2007, there were 32 of these guitars scattered around Austin for public display before being auctioned off to help a charity. Dad and I located all of them, and photographed them wherever they happened to be located. You can see them all here. It’s hard to believe that was 6 years ago…

Just north of 2nd Street, there is huge construction site, with three very large cranes. This is future site of the 1000 room J.W. Marriot Hotel.

As I passed that construction site, here’s an interesting view of both old and new buildings in downtown Austin.


Out front of the Frost Bank Tower, sits one of my favorite Austin GuitarTown guitars, named Vibrancy. I guess just like colorful things, and this one uses it very creatively!


A couple blocks north, I turned east on the semi-famous East 6th Street. The photos that I took there will be the subject of my next blog post.

So, the day started out being what I considered pretty crappy for going out and making photographs, but it certainly didn’t turn out that way. It just goes to show you that sometimes you just need to get out there, and make the best of what you’re dealt.

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Zilker Kite Festival


Last Sunday, March 3, 2013, was the 85th annual Kite Festival held at Zilker Park here in Austin, TX. Barb had an engagement with one of her friends for that afternoon. Since the weatherman said it was going to be a spectacular spring day, I headed downtown to catch the shuttle.

I was travelling light. I brought only my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, with the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens, a circular polarizer, and my hat. No camera bag, no tripod, not even a spare battery.

I only had to stand in line for 45 minutes before boarding the yellow school bus. The ride to Zilker Park took more than 30 minutes, in what would normally be a 10 minute ride at 1:00 PM on any other Sunday afternoon. I took the photo above just moments after I got off of that school bus. Even though the trees still haven’t yet leafed out, it definitely felt like springtime, and it was a great day to be outside!

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My first reaction was to get close and try to photograph some of the more interesting kites.


Zilker Park is just across the Colorado River (and slightly west) of downtown Austin. As you can see, there were a lot of people and a lot of kites!


It was definitely a warm, springtime day. The TV news and the newspaper both reported that 20,000 people made it out to the park that afternoon.


The circular polarizer can make the blue sky a unnaturally dark. I usually tried to rotate is so that the sky wouldn’t appear that way, but sometimes the action just happened so fast….


There were hundreds, if not a thousand kites in the air simultaneously. With that many kites in close proximity, there were bound to be some entanglements.


Some kites just never seemed to get off of the ground – it was usually the ones without a tail that didn’t seem to take right off.


Note the condition of the grass in that previous photo. While I wouldn’t say that dust was a problem for the people, but with all of the wind, the dust that was in the air was quickly accumulating all over my camera – and especially the front of the polarizer. I kept blowing it off. I was glad that this camera and lens combination is supposed to be weatherproof. I was also glad that I had only brought one lens, as there was no way that I was going to be changing lenses under these conditions.

This tree seemed to be a very popular final resting place for many of the kites. I was wondering just how many Charlie Browns came out to the park today.


After a while, I found the official Kite Contest Field, where people would enter into actual kite flying contest. I think they have different contests for smallest kite, steepest angle of flight, a 50 yard dash (where you kite must remain in the air). When I got there, they were about to start the contest for the largest kite.


I positioned myself with the downtown buildings as my backdrop and waited for that black “balloon kite” to take off. This is as high as I saw it get.


While I was standing there watching that black blob of a “puffer fish”, I noticed another animal was watching me. The owner told me that this is an African Grey Parrot.


Everyone was watching that black balloon kite roll around in the dusty field, including this other kite!


After an hour and a half, I decided to start heading out of there. But first, just one more look northeast towards the downtown buildings, with all of the kites up in the air.


During my one hour wait in line to get back onto the shuttle bus, I took this parting shot looking to the northwest.


It was certainly fun to get out and enjoy the weather, photographing something completely new to me.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

Playing Around at the Playground

This has been a difficult week for me. Yesterday our company laid-off more than 50% of the employees. My boss told me on Monday that Thursday would be “the day”, and asked me to not talk about it. Just knowing about it before hand makes it more difficult. Myself, and the two people that report to me are still there, as are only 13 others. As a result, I’m not in a particularly creative mood to put together any sort of story for a blog post.

Last Saturday morning, on December 1st, the weather in Austin was very mild, and it was overcast, so I thought I’d take my little Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens with me on my usual normal neighborhood walk.

About 3/4 of a mile from our house, along Callanish Park Drive, is Mountain View Park, and within this park is a small playground area. Here are some photos that I took of the playground equipment.

The Tower

Curvey Stairs

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Aperture at f/6.3

Aperture at f/1.8

Aperture at f/1.8, Near Focus

Aperture at f/1.8, Far Focus

Red Tunnel

2nd Set of Equipment


Blue Spiral


Looking Back

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