Category Archives: Flowers

Capturing Spring with the Olympus 60mm Macro Lens


Less than 48 hours after we went on the tour of Circuit of the Americas race track here in Austin, TX, I went for my second walk around my neighborhood with my new Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 lens. I had it on my trusty little Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. The LH-49 lens hood had finally come in to Precision Camera, and I had it on my lens for this flower hunting excursion.

Spingtime has been in full swing here for over a month now, and I really wanted to get out and photograph some of the beautiful flowers while they were still out in full force.

So, on Saturday April 27, 2013 I went for a 3 and a half hour walk before lunch.






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Fortunately, the sunlight was diffused by an overcast sky full of clouds. There was only a mild breeze when I started out, but it did get progressively stronger as I went along. Also, the clouds dissipated over the course of the morning, and by the time I got home, the direct sunlight was really making this type of photography a real challenge.


View from Above


Same Flower from Below

I was determined to try and do a better job of catching the flowers at a standstill this time out. Even in a mild breeze they seem to wag around continuously, and never come to a complete standstill for more than a fraction of a second. As a result, I always took multiple photos of the same flower.


About to Bloom



Honey Bee



Oleander Blossom

Even though the lens is a macro lens, it can also be used as a standard mild telephoto lens (120mm equivalent on a full frame camera).


Yard Bunnies



Purple Iris with Wary Insect






Busy Bee



Bee in a Poppy



Poppy Seeds and Poppy Flower



Ants on an Orange Lantana Blossom



The size of this very small Prickly Pear bud is about 1/2 inch (1 cm) across!


This photo of a Texas Bluebonnet was cropped from a landscape orientation to this portrait orientation.


Multiple colors



Garden Bunny with Yellow Rose



This little flower had a bug on it (at the top) and several water droplets still on it from the lawn sprinkler.


This photo shows just how breezy it had become. Besides, I like our US flag!

At this point I had been gone for just over 2 and a half hours and I noticed that my low battery indicator was starting to flash. That was over 575 photos with a single battery! I didn’t wait for it to die on me, so I changed it out with the spare one I had in my pocket.


Yellow Flower



With light colored flowers like this, I add from +2/3 to +1 stop of exposure compensation. It is very easy to see that this is needed, due to the excellent electronic viewfinder built into this Olympus OM-D camera.

Now on the very same plant as the flowers in that previous photo, was this tiny little lizard. I don’t know who was more surprised to see the other, but he didn’t move more than 6 inches (15 cm) while he watched me take 15 photos of him!


Little Lizard

And this next photo seemed to be a fitting analogy to my morning. Just like this busy little bee was covered in pollen, he was still hard at work. Similarly, even though I had several hundred photos already on my memory card, I was still hunting intently for more of God’s beautiful creations to photograph up close!


I had a lot of fun walking around with my new macro lens. With the breezy conditions, I was intently focused on trying to capture some sharper photos than I did on my previous outing with this lens. I believe that I accomplished that, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.

After reviewing several hundred photos from this outing, one thing that quickly becomes obvious is that I need to get the center of attention away from dead center in the frame.

I hope that you enjoyed seeing this set of macro photos, and I thank you for visiting my blog!

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.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

Searching for Signs of Springtime


A week ago today, on Saturday February 23, 2013, after what seemed to be several gray and dreary weekends here in Austin, TX, we finally had a nice day on a weekend. I noticed out our back window that our Bradford pear tree was looking kind of fuzzy out on the ends of it limb, so I grabbed my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera and headed outside to have a better look.


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I had the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens on, and since it was a cloudless sky, I put on a circular polarizer, just to cut down the glare of the mid-day sun. That lens is considered a “kit lens”, but even so I still use it more than all three of my prime lenses combined. And since it also has a macro mode, and I went in for a closer look.


Yes, even though it was still in late February, our Bradford pear tree was starting to produce buds that will soon turn into leaves and brilliant white blossoms!  That might be a little early, but since our average last frost in Austin is before mid-March, it’s not that unusual.

This was exciting to me, and even though it was just after 1:00 PM on a basically cloudless day (supposedly the worst possible time to be outdoors to make pleasing photographs), I decided right then and there that I was going to walk around my neighborhood with my camera, on a mission to be “Searching for Signs of Springtime”.


I saw these cat tails, and thought it might be fun to capture them with the sun coming from behind them.


I was looking to see if ANY flowers were out yet, and yes there were a few small ones that people had planted in various locations of their yard.


The flowers that I did find were all pretty small in size. This reminded me that the last flowers that I saw in the late fall were also all small in size. Maybe the small flowers are the ones that can tolerate the dozen or so freezes that we get here during the winter.


I stumbled across this pink dogwood tree, which was just starting to blossom.


I was glad that I could tilt the rear LCD on the camera down, as I was holding the camera well above my head as I took this next photo of the dogwood tree.


By now it was 1:30 PM, and the sun was directly above, and I was wondering if any of the photos that I was taking would be “good enough” to put on my blog.


Well, they will not win any awards in a competition, as the sunlight was very harsh and direct. But hey, I was having a great time just being outside and playing with my camera! Robin Wong calls this sort of activity “Shutter Therapy”. I decided to keep going…

Pretty soon, I stumbled upon this strange little flying insect. I assume it is a bee, but I have never seen a bee that looks like this before.


And just a couple of blocks later, I spotted this spotted butterfly!


There were flowers out, but they were few and far between. They were rarely in the shade, and I didn’t have my portable diffuser, so I just photographed them in the direct sunlight.


The variety of flowers was good, and I wasn’t just finding the same type of flower everywhere.


This was the ONLY garden that I came across that looked like it had been freshly planted with new plants. That’s the same bunny that was in the overgrown garden last summer that I photographed just for Libby of ohnostudio. (Libby often photographs the little yard and garden ornaments at her house in New York.)


I walked another half mile and didn’t see any flowers or other signs of springtime worth photographing, so I turned to doing some “Street Photography”. 🙂


I spotted another butterfly, but it would not stay still. It took me six tries before I caught it with its wings spread open.


This photo shows the relative scale of the size of the flowers that I was seeing.


In the same place as the photo above, I used my own shadow to block the sun, and got in close to snap this photo.


I was getting close to home now. I spotted this unusual little flower wagging wildly in the breeze. I took 9 photos of this little red-violet flower, and ended up deleting all but this one – it was just moving too quickly to not be blurry.


OK, so I live just around the corner to the left in this next photo. You can see that even though I was able to find some early signs of springtime, the general vegetation in northwest Austin is still very much in its dormant winter state. The greenery that you do see is green year round.


This is the same street sign that was in the center of the previous photo. Even though the circular polarizer has darkened the sky pretty dramatically, I like the way that it contrasts with the yellow portion of this sign.


In the week since I took these photos and today, the Arizona ash trees have fully put out their vibrant light green leaves. Our Bradford pear tree is just about to “pop”, but the buds are still brown in color. That should change dramatically in the next few days, and I’ll try to capture a “nice” photo of it when it is full of its brilliant white blossoms.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

Tons of Tiny Flowers in Late October

A couple of weeks ago, on Saturday morning, October 20, 2012, the temperature was pleasantly mild, and the sky was bright overcast. So just before I went for my usual Saturday morning walk around my neighborhood, I decided to bring my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with me.

I have noticed that the vast majority of the photos that I have taken with this camera always seem to require me to “add some exposure” (brightness) to them when I process the RAW files on my computer. I had already decided that the next time that I used this camera, I was going to not just accept the default meter readings that Olympus thought were appropriate (using their Digital ESP metering mode that they recommend for general use).

Instead, I was going to increase the exposure compensation until I had visual indication of some highlight clipping, and then I would back off the exposure compensation by 1/3 of a stop. I believe that this method is commonly referred to a “shooting to the right” – in regards to the histogram.

When I first stepped out of my front door, there to greet me are the bed full of flowers shown above. In the past, I have simply referred to them as Dr. Seuss flowers, but now I know that they are actually called Fireworks Gomphrena.

The photo above is the only photo that I took that morning that I include in this post or 22 photos that did not increase the exposure compensation setting in the camera.

For the photo above, and the vast majority of the following photos, I had increased the exposure compensation to +2/3 of a stop.

Although I was very curious to find out what types of flowers that I would find in Austin, Texas in mid-October, I also found a few other plants that were worthy of my attention

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What I found out was that there seemed to be MORE flowers in bloom than during the late spring and summer, the size of the flowers were very small.

For this next photo, because the flowers were white, I increased the exposure compensation to +1 full stop.

There were lots of reoccurring colors, but purple seemed to be rather rare.

I was glad that I had brought the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens along with me for this walk. It has a built in macro mode that allows you to get pretty close to your subjects. When the lens is in the macro mode, the focal length is fixed at 43mm.

There seemed to be several different color variations of the next flower. I wish I could tell you what type of plant it is, but I don’t know what most of these plants are….

I can tell you that this next photo is of some buds on an Oleander plant very close to our community mailbox. I only use +1/3 exposure compensation for this photo.

I probably could have improved the composition of the next photo by simply pulling back a couple of inches, and not cut off the flower at the top and near the bottom corners – but I can’t remember what else that would have included in the photo.

This red rose was the largest flower that I saw that morning, on October 20th.

(I seem to have a problem with the red colors appearing much more saturated in the photos on my web site than they appear on my calibrated monitor. I am still slowly working through some experiments to properly determine the root cause. I invite you to right-click on the photo above and download it to your computer and let me know how it appears in your photo viewing program, as compared to how it appears here.)

Since the next flower was white, I took the exposure compensation back up to +1 stop.

Here are a few more color variants of the flower that I mentioned a few photos ago.

The yellow and salmon colors of this one are nice, so I wanted to include it, even though the photo is a little blurry (due to the focus being at the base of the flowers).  The depth of field (front to back focus) is very shallow when the lens is in macro mode. The exposure compensation was only +1/3 stop.

When you back up a little, and move the lens farther from the subject, you get more objects in the photo, but the depth of field also increases.

I hope that the gentle color of this next flower looks as good on my web site as it does in my photo processing program on my computer.

You get a sense of just how small these flowers are when you compare them to the strands of the spider’s web that are attached to them.

I don’t know what these spindly lavender colored flowers are, but they were the only specimens of them that I saw on this shortened 2 mile long walk.

Although I normally put a circular polarizer on my lens whenever I will be outside photographing, this time I intentionally did not, as I wanted to compare the results to some of my earlier outings.

I like the results that I got without the polarizer, but I also usually like the results that I get when I do use one. I suppose the only real test would be to set up a tripod and shoot the same photo both with, and without, a circular polarizer.

Besides, I was out experimenting with “shooting to the right” on this little outing.

The photo above almost appears to have some highlight clipping, where the yellow petals of the flower are so overexposed that they are about to “blow out” to white. That’s not really what’s happening here, though. Evidently this bush full of flowers is past its peak, and is starting its decline.

When the flowers begin to fade away, they start by turning white around the edges of their petals.

This yellow flower was also one of the largest flowers that I photographed that morning. That plant was also unusual, as the long “string beans” that the plant produced was also worth including in the photos.

I really didn’t feel that I had much to say about this series of flower photos, other than I was experimenting with my exposure compensation and “shooting to the right” of the histogram. That technique seems to be a great success, and something that I intend to utilize in any future use of this great little Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera.

Happy Halloween

It’s that time of year again, when on October 31st some people in the United States celebrate a silly holiday known as Halloween.

Well, that’s not entirely true. It seems what they are really celebrating is trick-or-treating.

At any rate, Barb and I don’t do anything to celebrate this holiday, except to be home from about 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM and hand out to the neighborhood kids that ring our doorbell. We don’t get a lot of trick-or-treaters; some years it can be as high as 120, but lately it’s been dwindling down to between 50 and 70 kids.

The photo above was taken on October 20th, an overcast Saturday morning here in Austin. I was out on my normal Saturday morning walk, and had my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with me. I was curious as to what types of flowers were still out after mid-October, and that’s why I had my camera. It turns out that there a surprising number of different plants that are still producing flowers at that time of year here. I’ll probably show many of them in a post next weekend. I’m getting sort of tired of photographing flowers right now (but I’ll never tired of their beauty). I think it may be about time to head back downtown Austin for another of my solo photowalks.