Puffins show me the Way--getting the best out of the new 3.1 firmware.

Bristolero

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I've been off in Western Alaska catching salmon for the last 2 months. Salmon fishing is how we make our living, but it's more than a career, as much an obsession as a profession, and for me it's still the biggest game in Alaska. To be good takes single-mindedness and concentration. Long shot is that I've picked up a camera maybe twice in the last 60 days and not for very long at that. So when I recently returned to internet-land and discovered that Olympus had spewed out new firmware for my E-M1ii, I was excited to see what improvements it made.

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llllll

So yesterday I joined a shooting compadre and skiffed off to a nearby rookery. Sunshine and flat calm seas created the perfect environment for success. We spied a couple oystercatchers, and motored slowly in for a few shots.
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The puffins and murres were rocketing down off the cliffs and out to sea , where they filled their beaks with candlefish for the youngsters burrowed into the soil at the cliff tops. Makes for some challenging shooting!
I spied a bird paddling on the sea and almost did not take the shot, as I was really after some flying puffins, and I have lots of sitting shots. I did take a few (3) frames, and it turned out to be my favorite non-flying shot, full stop.
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The 300 Pro makes for some really lovely OOF swirls if the sea conditions are favorable.

On to the flyers! Lots of action, with incoming birds and the outbounders plummeting off the cliffs. I'm pretty sure my head can't physically rotate 360 degrees, but it sure seemed like I must have been close to that!
Incoming!
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And overhead! This is a hard shot for me.
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As many opportunities as were happening, I was having major difficulty locking on to focus--frustrating. I know my settings pretty well, but I'd moved a few things around with the new firmware and something was obviously wrong. I tried changing my focus points, messed with the sensitivity, changed from focus priority to my usual shutter priority, and even tried C-AF tracking, all with pretty poor results. I was beginning to think that Oly had released a firmware downgrade. My best success with the flyers was to spot an incoming bird and track it through the evf until it came close enough to get a decent capture. But I still had long strings of OOF frames and often it would just not lock on. I noticed that my focus points were not lighting up under the bird when it moved around under my all-points focus mode, and suddenly I realized I had the scanner set to mode 2, instead of the proper BIF mode 3. When changed, the joy of 3.1 came rolling back big time. What a change!
Outbound.
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And inbound with the booty.
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I shoot action on the Manual setting with auto ISO. My upper limit is set to 1600 and I found that even with the bright sunshine, it was not enough to give decent exposure when the birds transitioned from the bright sky/water to the rocky cliffs behind. Without enough light, the puffins were hard to see and track on their final moments before landing. But I slogged on using my "shotgun" method: spray lots and hope. In this case I got a few shots that were not only successful, but surprisingly happen to be some of my favorite bird shots ever.
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And another.
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One more, probably my all-time favorite:
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So I learned a few things today thanks to the puffins, to Olympus, and to the few forum boffins who are into this stuff. Pay attention to the camera settings. While @macro can likely manually focus a brownie box camera and get superb kingfisher captures, many of us (myself firmly included) are markedly elevated by all this technological wizardry. And while Olympus occasionally tosses us a juicy firmware bone, they mostly forget to tell us how to chew and we're left to digest the new treat on our own. It helps that other members are in the same situation and I appreciate the opportunity to learn from their attempts.
Another of todays lessons is that sometimes sub-optimal lighting produces spectacular results. I've not yet taken a gajillion flying puffin shots, but when I do, you can bet my favorites will be the unique frames where the subject is backlit or in some strange contortion with fish hanging out of its' beak. While todays' shots were accidents, in the future I will set up on purpose.
For BIFs, practice. After 2 months I needed it, although fortunately it does return quickly. I guess you never forget how to ride a bicycle.
And above all, get out and keep spraying!
 

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Hendrik

Mu-43 All-Pro
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Hendrik
Sorry for being so uninformed, but does this apply the EM5 MKII also?
If so, how do I change it?

"I realized I had the scanner set to mode 2, instead of the proper BIF mode 3"
Sadly, no. This is a post-E-M1 innovation applicable only to the Mark II and the E-M1X.
 

macro

Mu-43 Top Veteran
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563
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New Zealand
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Danny
Those are just stunning shots Eric! I would love to get a few shots of Puffins, a dream of mine. The details are excellent in all of them, fine shots of the oyster catches as well. Yeah two months is a long time mate, you do need a break for sure. A fine read there and yep, you have picked a career ....... obsession ;) but it's something you enjoy as well obviously.

Just glad the E-M1 MKII is working fine with the update. BTW, I bought one a couple of months back. Excellent sensor and specs. Loving it so far and certainly a different sensor compared to the E-M1.

All the best and top shots Eric, all of them and wonderful Puffin BIFs.

Danny.
 

Bristolero

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
May 15, 2017
Messages
611
Location
Alaska/New Zealand
Those are just stunning shots Eric! I would love to get a few shots of Puffins, a dream of mine. The details are excellent in all of them, fine shots of the oyster catches as well. Yeah two months is a long time mate, you do need a break for sure. A fine read there and yep, you have picked a career ....... obsession ;) but it's something you enjoy as well obviously.

Just glad the E-M1 MKII is working fine with the update. BTW, I bought one a couple of months back. Excellent sensor and specs. Loving it so far and certainly a different sensor compared to the E-M1.

All the best and top shots Eric, all of them and wonderful Puffin BIFs.

Danny.
Thanks Danny,
I'm happy to get at the Puffins while they're here. In a month they'll be off somewhere else and I won't see them until May. As to the oystercatchers, there are surely a bunch more down in your neighborhood. On the way home from NZ last time we spent a couple days at Miranda. Not the greatest shooting, as most of the birds were away from the blinds and I had to set up out on the gravel bars--but what a bunch of birds! Herons, ducks, stilts, a few spooners, and more oystercatchers than I have seen in the rest of my life combined. Fun shooting!
 

DrNuy

Mu-43 Regular
Joined
Apr 10, 2018
Messages
32
Location
France
Congrats !
Puffins are very difficult to catch, specially in flight.
Next time, try to catch arctic terns : an other challenge ;-)
You should be good !
 

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