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My OM-1 Field Guide for Birds for Geriatric Photographers Ver. 1.1

Tom Reynolds
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · My OM-1 Field Guide for Birds for Geriatric Photographers Ver. 1.1

OM-1 Field guide for Birds
A guide for geriatric photographers
Ver 1.1

I asked myself why I am bothering to write this field guide. I have read many, including some that I have paid for. After reflection, it is not just because I am disappointed with the many evaluations and setup guides that I reviewed. My primary reaction after moving from Nikon to OM-1 was the dearth of information about my new camera, but that was not the main reason for undertaking this task.

Ultimately my conclusion is that nobody is reviewing my camera setup. I shoot the OM-1 with the Olympus 100-400 attached almost exclusively. There is a reason for this. I am old (81), fat (275# buck naked) and out of shape, although I can still tip a wine glass with the best of them. In short, I resemble the common comment that “as a photographer gets older and less physically able, they invariability consider the M4.3 system.” You should now understand why I like the OM Systems OM-1 and the Olympus 100-400 lens. It is very compact and weighs less than 4.5 pounds fully configured. However great the Olympus 150-400 F4.5 lens is, that extra 1.5 pounds of weight is too much for me.

Yet that was not my only complaint. I am an occasional photographer, on average once a week with 3-5 week-long trips to USA destination in a year. All the setup and field guide authors are full-time photographers who, of course, shoot the 150-400 F4.5 or the 300F4 prime. These professional photographers do not deal with the issues of being an occasional photographer and do not consider the issues of using a lens with a F6.3 minimum aperture simply because they don’t face them.

So, to all the authors of OM-1 guides and all the Olympus Ambassadors out there I say, “You don’t shoot my camera and you don’t understand my limitations. You information and advice has limited value for me.” That is why I writing this OM-1 Field guide.

Let’s get started
I am an occasional photographer. What that means that neither my mental memory nor my muscle memory has set in like someone who shoots all the time. I, and most occasional photographers, need to relearn some basic skills after a layoff. After every layoff I need to relearn how to sight a bird. Covered in basic photography how-to books, I relearn to track the bird with my eyes as I raise the camera to see the subject in the viewfinder every time after a layoff. For an everyday photographer this process is ingrained in his hand eye coordination.

Not for me.
While carrying a 4.5 pound camera around is easier than an 8-10 setup, carrying it around is not the only benefit of a lightweight, compact camera. For a professional photographer, huge FF cameras and weighty 600f4 lenses are sighted hand-held without difficulty. This is not so for me. The 4.5 pound overall weight of the OM-1/100-400 and the shorter lens makes this considerably easier. Going from a Nikon D-7200 with a Sigma 150-600 to a Nikon D500 with a 500PF to an OM-1 with a 100-400, I found that relearning to sight on a bird became successively easier as the weight and moment in my hand decreased.

Then there is how to sight.
Most images of professionals shooting have the lens foot rotated on top of the camera. This creates a sight line with the top of the lens hood. This is how I sighted my Nikon D-500 with a 500pf attached. That is not how to do it with an OM-1/100-400. Here is what to do: Rotate the foot to the side or bottom of the lens. That step creates an ideal sight line with the top of the much smaller Olympus 100-400’s hood. What is the difference you ask? Don’t both work? Yep, but the difference is how much you need to move the camera or your eye transiting from sighting over the camera to sighting in the viewfinder. The difference is about an inch. That is key. This is typically not something that is mentioned in reviews done by a professional photographer, because it is unimportant to them. They use a rig every day. If you don’t, the light weight and compact form of the OM-1/100-400 is worth its weight in gold.

What about how I shoot?
I am not able to carry a full frame camera and a 600F4 strapped to a heavy tripod with a Wimberley gimbal and head up the trail more than say 100 feet. Showing me pictures with this rig does nothing but discourage me.

Originally, I used a Wimberley mono-gimble head which turns a monopod into almost a tripod with a gimble. The weight savings over a tripod is amazing. I was now able to walk down the trail with the rig over my shoulder like a big boy--sort of anyhow. Ultimately, a poster on an internet forum mentioned the WalkStool. It seems that many photographers use them, but one was never mentioned in a field guide. This changed the game for me. A WalkStool is lighter than a tripod and even lighter than a monopod and its monogimble. I carry both in a lightweight backpack. I can set up the WalkStool faster than a tripod, and I am rock solid shooting hand-held while sitting down.

I carry my OM-1/100-400, on a Black Rapids strap (google it). The camera rides perfectly suspended by the lens foot. I can shoot the OM-1/100-400 standing up, but I am much better sitting on the WalkStool. The WalkStool is in my lightweight backpack along with my monopod/monogimble and my hiking sticks (if I am not using them). If I am shooting on a boardwalk with railings, I need neither my monopod nor my hiking sticks. The railings take the place of both. On a trail I do use lightweight hiking sticks. At 81 years old I want to minimize my chances of falling. Only in a blind do I drag out a tripod.
I needed to learn to shoot differently.

Composing the picture is more difficult with the OM-1 versus the D-500. I am using compose in the more general sense, not just where the subject sits in the frame. Every photographer needs to worry about a sharp subject, how the light hits the subject, how the background affects the image, etc. However, there are two characteristics of the OM-1/100-400 that are different from a full frame camera with a 600 f4 attached or even my old Nikon D-500 with a 500pf attached. Both need to be accounted for, and both add task loading for the m4/3 photographer.

I need proper exposure
I find proper exposure is critical for a variety of reasons. I have spent an inordinate amount of time in research and/or experimentation to figure out how to set up the camera to get propre exposure quickly and easily. I really never bothered with this with my D-500. With the OM-1 I considered proper exposure critical.

Shooting a F/6.3 lens with a 2.0 crop factor, you need to know that your effective F-stop is stratospheric. The effective F-Stop is the actual F-Stop multiplied by the crop factor. F/6.3 x 2.0 is F/12.6. UGH! I see this rarely discussed because most professional reviewers of the OM-1 use the 300F/4 or the 150-400F/4.5.

A bit of physics here. The amount of light hitting the sensor is dependent on only two factors, the opening (aperture) and the length of time the opening is open (shutter speed). What was the measurement of film sensitivity, ISO, is now the gain applied to the raw photon count that the camera’s sensor captures. That gain is adjusted via changing the ISO, changing the EXP COMP, or both.

I use Auto ISO but am very careful to properly expose my shots by applying EXP COMP to whatever the camera picks via Auto ISO. However, If the background suddenly changes from light to dark or vice versa, in Auto ISO the camera will attempt to compensate. In manual I would need to compensate myself and I’m not that good.

There is a disagreement concerning Expose To The Right (ETTR). Some experts consider it absolutely necessary. Other’s show graphs that show that today’s sensors are invariant which means that adding exposure in post processing is identical to adding exposure in camera.

What I do know is that proper exposure is necessary for the Subject Identification AI to work properly. Essentially, the camera’s AI looks at the same data that the user sees in the EVF. I shoot as bright as possible without overexposing to white areas because I find that the camera’s AI picks up the bird 100% of the time if the bird is recognizable. The ability of the camera’s AI to identify a subject and focus on it is a function of the actual image coming off the sensor to the EVF, not the image that you brighten in post. A seriously underexposed or overexposed image can play havoc with the camera’s AI subject identification.

I have the EVF Style at Style 3 and only Highlight & Shadow and Histogram are checked. Since you have more than one option, then you will need to cycle through the two choices via pushing the INFO button until Highlight & Shadow is selected. If you see orange shading in the blown-out areas or blue in black areas the Highlight & Shadow shading is engaged. I find this immensely helpful. The histogram only tells me my general exposure. The orange shading shows where the area is blown out while the blue indicates where the area is totally black. Quite honestly, in many cases I don’t care. I only want the best exposure on the subject.

I have two Custom Modes that I use to quickly change exposure. I use the ISO button for a white bird on a dark background (White to the Right) and the AF-ON button for a black bird on a light background. These settings are identical to my main setting except that they are -1.3EV and +1.3EV respectively from the main setting.
One thing to understand about Custom Modes. The settings in a Custom Mode are independent from any other mode. When I begin to shoot a check that my normal EXP COMP is correct a 0.0. If it is not I will adjust it. That adjustment does NOT affect my White Bird or Black Bird Custom mode or any other custom mode. Each must be adjusted independently.

For birds I use Subject Identification: Birds 100% of the time. I do not use a focus point like I did with the D-500. If the image is properly exposed the camera’s AI will find the bird and place a white box around it, and if the eye is visible the camera will place another box around the eye and the eye will be tack sharp. If the camera can’t find the bird I have found that nothing else will work either. I just can’t get that shot.

I need to shoot Low
Second, it’s is necessary to shoot at the subject’s level, not down on a subject. This is simple trigonometry. If shooting down at a bird from the boardwalk the background is the ground at the continuation of the line from the camera to the subject. Generally, that is pretty close. By reducing your height above the subject, the slope of the line is less, and the background appears further away. If you are level with the subject the ground is not the background. Shooting at the subject’s level is good no matter the camera/lens but I could never shoot the D-500 in live view. Focusing was inordinately slow even when I could get the focus point on the subject. The OM-1 finds and focuses just find using the screen and the large effective F-stop makes this a critical skill to learn. What you are doing is substituting for subject isolation which is caused by a small F-stop that reduces the depth of field with subject separation, the distance between the subject and the background. I personally can’t get down on the ground or even down on one knee and then get back up without help but I can sit on a WalkStool holding the camera within a foot of the ground while composing with the screen tilted up. It is actually not hard once you get used to it because the camera will find the bird once it is in frame.

How to post process
You need to substitute a noise reduction step in your post processing. Fortunately, OM Workplace has an add-on that effectively eliminates the noise in most cases.

Better is Topaz Photo AI which uses AI to eliminate noise and sharpen the subject automatically. I use this as a Filter in Photoshop. I adjust in Camera Raw and Photoshop as desired then apply Topaz Photo AI. Once the parameters are set to your taste, Topaz Photo AI automatically finishes the image.

Overcoming the deep depth-of-field is another matter. What you need to modify the background so that it appears more out of focus while preserving the subject and the elements in the focus plane. This requires masking. Topaz Mask AI is the easiest software for me to use when I need to extend the mask. I simply brush over the areas that I want in the mask then invoke Mask AI to finish the mask. In most cases the AI finds the edges of branches, twigs, leaves, and other elements that I brushed over and creates a more accurate mask than I ever can.

I also have ON1 that has lots of cool ways to modify a masked area. If I need to do more than slightly blur the background, I need to use this software. The learning curve is steep, and I am not close to mastering it.

My AF Mode
It took some time to determine this but I turn Tracking (TR) off. My setting is C-AF[MF]. I had run across a statement that OM Systems engineers recommend it turned off if Subject Identification is on which it almost always is for me. This didn’t seem logical, so I remained unconvinced. Finally, I was able to read an interview with OM Systems engineers and confirmed that it should be off and an explanation by the interviewer explained why.
To quote:
The two processes are quite distinct. Here's a narrative description of how I think they each proceed:

AIAF’s subject tracking frame by frame is like:
“Ah, there’s a bird, focus, click
(next frame) “Ah, there’s a bird. Focus, click”
etc, etc...

Tracking AF is like:
Ok, the human told me to focus on this thing here. It’s a pink, roundish blob about so big, and it’s this far away from me right now. Focus, click.
Ok, that blob is a bit more to the right now and 2 feet closer to me; Focus, click.”
All right, between the previous two frames, the blob moved closer to me by two feet and a bit to the right, so I’m expecting it to show up a bit more to the right and another 2 feet closer to me.
Shift focus by 2 feet. (This can happen ahead of time, before it's time to grab the next frame)
Look at the scene. Ah, sure enough, there’s that blob right where I expected it to be, but it’s only about 1.8 feet closer to me this time. I’ll make a note of that for next time...
Focus, click.”
and so on…

Hopefully that makes it all a bit more clear. AIAF and Tracking AF are two fundamentally different processes, and the camera is either in one mode or the other.

What I am thinking is that Tracking is on occasionally it will take over and focus on something other than the bird.

How to shoot ProCapture
I still carry my monopod/monogimble but only use it for ProCapture. Both ProCapture modes, SH1 and SH2 require that the camera to be focused on a subject or a specific point, the shutter half-pressed and wait. Although I can’t find it in the manual, users report that after one second ProCapture stops working. The solution is momentarily release, half press and resume.
The OM-1 allows me to set the number half-press frames to 25. That is one second of frames stored in the buffer that will be written to the card at full-press.

I know that ProCapture combined with subject identification is a game changer. I just don’t know the details. ProCapture has been available in previous m4/3 models but the OM-1 is the first camera to combine competent Subject Identification capabilities with competent ProCapture capabilities.

Not many photographers, including me, are experienced this this Subject Identification/ProCapture combination. Accordingly, I will perform a “Thought Experiment”. This approach is common in theoretical physics, Schrodinger’s Cat being the most famous.

In my thought experiment I am young, thin and in good shape. In the dim recesses of my memory, I recall possibly being that way once-upon-a-time. Anyhow, my “thought” Tom does not stray from the Nikon line and is shooting a Z-9 coupled with a 600F4. I can see him walking down the trail with his tripod and gimble over his shoulder, the Z9/600F4 attached. Down the trail he spies a Banana Tree and in it sits the “proverbial’ Yellow Bird. (Youngsters may not understand. This is intentional.) In my thought experiment “Thought” Tom sets up his tripod at the right place and right distance to sight on the Yellow Bird. As the breeze blow and the clouds move the Yellow Bird is more or less revealed, differently lighted and moves to different poses. However, the Z-9 is locked on the Bird and at 20 frames/second “Thought” Tom has many pictures to chose from. One just happens to be the prefect, award winning shot of the “proverbial” Yellow Bird.

Then the real 81-year-old me enters the thought experiment. Even in a thought experiment I can’t move as fast as “Thought” Tom so I amble down the trail using my hiking sticks, set my WalkStool down at the correct location and fire away at the same 20 frames/second. I also get the same shot, but my higher effective F-stop means a deeper depth-of-field meaning that the subject doesn’t have the same separation from the leaves in the background. It also has less resolution because the Z-9 has more than double the image size and more than one stop more dynamic range. The IQ (image quality) is a bit better because that 600f4 Nikon prime lens. That’s why “Thought” Tom spent 12K for that lens and lugs all that gear down the trail.

Time to Change the Game
Continuing as the 81-year-old mein the thought experiment. I back off my zoom a bit to a 500mm Full Frame equivalent and switch my drive to ProCapture SH2. I am now shooting at 25 frames/second and I am pre-storing 25 frames, a seconds worth, in the buffer. As I half-press the last 25 frames are cycled through, first-in-first-out. Now when that Yellow Bird takes off those 25 frames that occurred before I fully pressed, when I do press the shutter those 25 frames are written to the card. I have multiple shots with multiple backgrounds and multiple wing positions. One is just perfect, not of the Yellow Bird, rather “his lady friend leaving the nest again” (Again no apologies to youngsters.) What I did was back off the zoom to give the bird space to fly and wait with the shutter half-pressed until the bird took off.

Instead of focusing on great IQ, I focused on great action.

Essentially, composition is the same as when I was trying to capture a smaller, fast bird taking off with my Nikon D-500/500pf. I composed predicting the location of the bird in flight and providing enough frame to capture the bird with wings fully spread. Typically, I would do this by focusing on the bird, turning AF off with the lens switch and recomposing to where I expected the bird to be when it took off. Hopefully the bird would remain in the same focus plane in flight as it was in when perched. Alternately, when I expected a bird to land on a specific perch, I focused on the perch and started shooting when the bird was to appear. In both cases I had the D-500 pre-focused and watched and tried to predict when the bird would be in the frame.
Thought experiment aside, have I actually made ProCapture work to capture the Yellow Bird? Yes, I have, with a Yellow Lesser Finch. Unfortunately, the background was a bird feeder. I have not yet caught my Yellow Bird in a good setting, but it is in flight and tack sharp.

PreCapture SH1 is the pre-focus approach on steroids. The camera focuses once then stores up to 120 shots in the buffer. When the bird takes off or shows up a shutter press writes those images to the card. I currently set ProCapture SH1 to 60 f/s because 120 f/s seems insane.

In shooting the OM-1/100-400 combination I need to remember what the OM-1 is all about. It is an action camera optimized for you to capture the action as well as light and compact to allow you to get where the action is.

How I setup shoot and why
I shoot in manual mode with auto iso. I set the maximum ISO to 25,600. If the metering mode is matrix (meaning the camera meters the entire frame) or center weighted (the camera meters the entire frame but weights the center of the frame more) I find that the result is a good starting point for proper exposure.
• I set up the OM-1 for three exposure scenarios, normal, white bird on dark background and black bird on light background.
o When I get to a location I meter the background, the trees or water for example, and see what the histogram says. I then adjust exposure compensation so that the histogram is to the right, brighter exposure, but not blown out. I have the histogram limit set so that the upper limit is 253. If an area is blown out the EVF will color it orange. My typical adjustment in decent light is +.3 to +.7.
o I set my F-stop to largest aperture. At 100mm this is F/5, at 400mm it is F/6.3.
o I set my shutter speed to 1/2500 to 1/3200, my typical minimum shutter speed for birds in flight.
• I then set up a Custom mode where I add +1.3EV for black birds. I assign this custom mode to the AF-ON button. I do not use back button autofocus. It doesn’t work in ProCapture.
• I setup a second custom mode there I subtract -1.3EV for white birds. I assign this custom mode to the ISO button
• Subject Identification: Birds is on. The AF area is ALL. TR (tracking) is OFF. I can turn Subject Identification on or off with the EXP COMP button which is on top of the camera. To change from AF area ALL press the LiveView/Screen Button |[]| on the right of the camera and rotate the command dial. To change EXP COMP press the OK button and rotate the command dial
Button List
• EXP COMP (top of Camera): Subject identification On/Off
• ISO (right top of back): Custom Mode 4 “White Bird” Exposure Compensation -1.3
• AF-ON (middle top of back): Custom Mode 2 “Black Bird” Exposure Compensation +1.3
• AEL (middle top of back): Custom Mode 3: ProCapSH2, 25 frames pre, limit off
• LV (Screen) (left top of back): AF area, rotate command dial
• OK (left middle of back): Exposure Compensation, rotate command dial

In shooting birds in flight things happen quickly for me. This is because I don’t shoot every day or even most days. This lack of experience means my recognition of various conditions is slow or non-existent. The best I can do is set up a good general condition for a bird-in-flight and get the bird in the frame so the camera can identify and focus on the bird, hopefully the eye.
I need the camera to identify and focus on the bird. That means a white box will appear around the bird when the camera recognizes it, and a second white box will surround the bird’s eye when the camera finds it. If this doesn’t happen, I will not get a good shot. The camera’s AI subject identification uses the same data stream that the EVF does. If the bird is too far away or in a pose that doesn’t look like a bird in the EVF it is unlikely the camera will identify it.

As previously explained, an underexposed or overexposed subject will also cause the camera issues. If you try to photograph a black bird without exp comp, the camera typically will not find the eye and may even not find the bird. That is why I have setup the two most convenient buttons for your thumb to quickly set the proper exp comp for the subject. These are on-off buttons. Push once exp comp changes to where that button is set, push again and the camera returns to normal.
If you get the time, you will make changes to the camera. Possibly, the original exp comp is too much or too little as conditions change or possibly you slowed down the shutter speed to 1/1000 for a perched bird or upped the F stop to catch a bird squabble. You have a choice of the camera retaining these changes or discarding the. If you choose to retain, if you leave the mode and return the last settings will be retained. If you. If not, the settings will revert to the last time to saved them. Either way will work BUT you need to remember that you have set up custom modes which are independent of the other custom modes. Changing the settings in one custom mode does not affect another custom mode.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
For standard birds, both perched and in flight I like Silent Shutter 20 frames-per-second. The reason is both my wife and I like this mode is because the EVF flickers with each shot to let us know we are taking pictures. We like 20 frames per second because it gives us almost 5 seconds of continuous shooting and many frames to choose from.
Many others don’t like ECF blackout and while the 20 f/s flicker is not a blackout, SH2 will provide 25 f/s, no flicker, no blackout. You get almost 4 seconds of continuous shooting @ 25 f/s with the 100-400 lens. (With my 300F4, a pro lens, I can shoot 50 f/s)

Still others thing 20 f/s is too many. The Silent shutter mode can be set in increments of 5. SH2 cannot. However you choose, you should choose either Silent Shutter or SH2 and uncheck the other in Sequential Shooting Settings.
I also use ProCap SH2 and ProCap SH1. Everything else us unchecked.
I have trouble pressing a button while simultaneously rotating a command. That’s why I use the OK button to change the exposure. Press once and the screen appears in the viewfinder, the rotate the command dial to change exposure compensation. If I want to change the AF area, I press the LV button and the same screen comes up set to AF area.

• 1-1 Custom mode- Hold means that changes will be retained
• 1-2 RAW
• 1-3 Iso upper default at 25,600, ISO step 1/3 (both defaults)
• 1-5 Metering at Matrix (top icon) or Center Weighted (2nd ICON)
• 1-7 Silent Shutter 20 F/s (left icon 2nd row)
• 17 Sequential Shooting Settings, 20f/s., ProcapSH2 25 F/s only 25 pre/total unlimited, ProCap s1, 60 f/s, 30 pre, total unlimited
• 1-8 Image Stabilization S-IS auto (turn 100-400 IS off)
• 1-8 Image Stabilizer: ON
• 1.AF AF+MF: ON
• 1.AF in C-AF: release Priority: ON
• 2.AF Subject Detection ON:Birds
• 2.AF Eye Detection Frame: ON
• 3.AF C-AF sensitive -2 low sensitivity (more stickness)
• 5.AF Target mode: 1-All, 2-Single point, 4-Mid
• 1Operations Button Settings
o EXP Comp (top of camera): Subject detection On-Off
o ISO (back, top, right): Custom Settings: White Birds
o AF-ON (back, top): Custom settings: Black Birds
o AEL(back-top): Custom Settings: Pro Capture
o LV (Screen) (back-top-right): AF Area (rotate command dial)
o OK (Back-middle-Right): Exposure Compensation (rotate command dial)
• 4EV Style Information 3:
• 4INFO Settings: Histogram, Highligh&Shadow (turns over exposed areas orange, underexposed blue)
• 5Grid/Other Settings: Histogram Settings: H253/Sh0

Nov 08, 2022 at 01:29 PM

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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · My OM-1 Field Guide for Birds for Geriatric Photographers Ver. 1.1

Thanks for update Tom. Like you I shoot OM-1 primarily with 100-400. I struggled a bit with it at first but things are coming around. A bit of a change from my Canon 7D mkii w/100-400

Nov 08, 2022 at 02:01 PM
PV Hiker
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · My OM-1 Field Guide for Birds for Geriatric Photographers Ver. 1.1

Tom before I read the whole post you wrote, Is there anything different written or added from your other post? Asking for a friend

Nov 08, 2022 at 06:30 PM
Tom Reynolds
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · My OM-1 Field Guide for Birds for Geriatric Photographers Ver. 1.1

Yes, I updated several areas. I am still learning. Most significantly is turning on the orange (blown out) and blue (underexposed) shading in the EVF. Also, I concluded that Topaz Photo AI is the best auto post processing software

Nov 08, 2022 at 11:47 PM
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · My OM-1 Field Guide for Birds for Geriatric Photographers Ver. 1.1

As a newcomer to m43/om-1 this is very helpful and contains many tips which carry over to other systems.

Nov 26, 2022 at 02:56 AM

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