A day in the air with the E-M1

OzRay

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Yesterday I was asked to do a job for a friend at the Yallourn Power Station (http://www.energyaustralia.com.au/about-us/what-we-do/generation-assets/yallourn-power-station) where they were providing helicopter support for repairs being done on the three cooling towers. The job entailed the lifting and positioning of three frames onto the top edge (400mm wide) of each of the towers. The frames were slung individually under one of the helicopters by a 100 foot cable and the pilot had to manoeuvre the frame into position over the lip and then release the hook, a very tricky operation considering the nature of the frame and the conditions on the day.

I was in a second helicopter (S76 - http://www.sikorsky.com/Products/Product+Details/Model+Family+Details?provcmid=ba5955f4a9d98110VgnVCM1000001382000aRCRD&mofvcmid=0dfa55f4a9d98110VgnVCM1000001382000aRCRD&mofid=fcfa55f4a9d98110VgnVCM1000001382000a____) accompanying a videographer who was using a Canon 5D and Tyler gyroscopic stabiliser (http://www.tylermount.com/minigyro-mount.html). I was the stills photographer for the day, but did a few video bursts to see how the stabilisation worked under these conditions. I was using my E-M1, 14-35mm f2 and 35-100mm f2 lenses hand held. The videographer was also using the equivalent FOV Canon 24-70mm f4 and 70-200mm f4 lenses. The videographer had the choice seating position, given the bulkiness of his gear, and I was relegated to the rearmost seat, shooting between the gap in the fuselage and videographer's seat. It wasn't ideal, but with appropriate guidance to the pilot, I was able to get reasonable visibility of the activity.

I had created a MySet for the E-M1 consisting of shutter priority, C-AF Tracking, nine point AF, 11 fps and auto ISO. The MySet was on the iAuto dial. I could easily switch from landscape to portrait mode and using the fn1 button, quickly move the focus point to where the target was located at any time. The nine point focus was essential in order to ensure that the helicopter was always the target against a mixed background. One annoying thing that I found with the MySet was that whenever I changed lenses and turned the camera on again, the shutter speed always reverted to 1/250 sec, which was too slow for sharp photos (though many would have been usable given nothing else). I always had to reset the shutter speed to 1/640 - 1/1250 sec, which was my preferred range. I shot a few at higher shutter speeds, but they didn't turn out as sharp, and I suspect that the IBIS turns off at the higher speeds (as they did with previous 4/3 cameras).

Using the 4/3 lenses with their extra weight I feel totally assisted in maintaining balance and stability under these conditions. When there is unpredictable movement, vibration and gusting wind entering the doorway, a camera lens combination with some mass makes it much easier to keep things stable, regardless of IBIS. Camera holding technique was also important and that meant not leaning against any part of the fuselage or other fixed points. My seating position made holding doubly difficult under the circumstances. Other than being on a rolling, tossing, ship, aerial photography tests stability to the extreme.

I haven't received confirmation about the publishing of still photos yet, but this video is fairly generic, so I see no issue with posting it for viewing. Again, I haven't quite gotten the handle for converting the MOV files appropriately, so that Vimeo produces the best results when it does its own conversion. This time I converted the MOV file to WMV and allowed Vimeo to do its thing. On my PC screen, the full sized video viewed with VLC looks outstanding and the detail is quite amazing. What I'm even more amazed about is the stability that the E-M1 IBIS provided. Once I can find a link to the video that the videographer shot, I'll be very interested to see how his output compared. Anyway, here's the link to the first video: https://vimeo.com/97571768 (as the video progresses, you can see the other helicopter hovering over the second cooling tower with the frame hanging underneath).
 

OzRay

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The power station provides around 20+% of the state's power, shut it down and you'll start to shut down the state. The Wiki entry is well out of date, as the new government is going to get rid of our 'Carbon Tax', which has done nothing other than increase power costs by up to 95% by some estimates.
 

fortwodriver

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You know, that video looks kind-of like Real-D or layered 3D...It must be something to do with that lens and the sensor but it stacks are tumbling into the picture.

Good stuff!
 

OzRay

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I think a lot of it has to do with the sheer size of the power plant. Everything is on a massive scale, so the way we moved would have an affect on the visuals of the video.
 

OzRay

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I did some playing around with stills capture from the video and the simplest way was to use the Microsoft Snipping Tool of a full screen paused video, which gives me this (reduced from the full size and you may need to click on the image to get the full 1200px):

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Overall, the results aren't too bad and quite useable, if you don't need very large prints.

Using Cyberlink Power Director 12, I can get stills quite easily, but I have no control over the quality of the files that it produces and they appear to be heavily compressed, so of little use. VLC does no better. The other tool that I used earlier was better, but it was full of adware, so I refuse to install that crap.
 

OzRay

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My friend sent me a photo he took of the videographer and myself before take off:

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As you can see, my seating position was anything but conducive to easy photography; try shooting through that gap without touching anything that would convey the helicopter vibrations. You can also see the rather large setup required by the videographer in order to stabilise the 5D from vibrations. That mini-gyro was turned on well before the start of the operation and had to be left on for the duration, as it takes about half an hour to warm up and stabilise (it does have an eight hour battery life). You will also note the orange pouch at the front of the videographer, that was the viewing screen he was using to frame and focus with (as well as storage device), as there was no way that he could use the OVF/LCD.
 
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