A profile of the Inca Trail

Before I hiked the Inca Trail, I naturally did the modern thing and consulted the font of wisdom that is the Internet.  Quite a few sites talked about the cardiovascular challenge of the trail, the risk of altitude sickness, etc.  Before I hiked the trail, though, I didn’t appreciate how helpful resistance training would have been.

The normal brief description of the 4-day approach to the trail goes something like this:

  • Day 1 — warm-up
  • Day 2 — painful climbing
  • Day 3 — a little climbing, but mostly down-hill
  • Day 4 — smooth sailing into Machu Picchu

This is generally accurate, but an over-simplification.   Continue reading

25 prohibitions

So I recently returned from a trip to Peru — including a hike along the Inca Trail, a good chunk of time spent in Machu Picchu, even more time spent in Cusco, all sorts of good things.  I plan on writing up a number of blog posts on things I saw and experienced — but first thought this might be helpful to future Machu Picchu visitors (it’s a sign at the entrance, laying out 25 things you may not bring to / do in the site):

So many rules...

Bottom line — there’s lots of inaccurate information online w.r.t what is and isn’t allowed into / at the site of Machu Picchu.  So, since the above text is a bit small, here’s the posted list of restrictions (as of May, 2018), along with my comments on them: Continue reading

This goes here, that goes there (using the E-M1II’s two card slots)…

There’s been some discussion online about ways to use the Olympus E-M1II‘s dual slots, so I thought I’d write up how I use them — in the hope that this is useful for other owners of the camera.

So, first off, three things:

  1. The camera’s two slots have different speeds. Slot 1 (the “top” one) is capable of handling UHS-II cards but is backwards compatible with earlier cards, and Slot 2 (the “bottom” one) is capable of handling UHS-I cards. This is a new thing (to Olympus) with the E-M1II, so earlier models don’t have this capability, and only time will tell what later models will have it. If I’m reading the card specs correctly, the fastest UHS-II card will be 3 times faster than the best UHS-I card.
  2. You can use the two slots in any of six different modes for stills, plus a separate choice for video. Note that your selections are “captured” by custom modes, so you can use the cards differently for each of the 3 custom modes plus your normal mode — if you’ve got the cognitive “real estate” to remember all these permutations.
  3. You’ll need to make changes in two places in the menu system (maybe three, depending on how you set up your camera), but they’re logically separate so pretty easy to keep straight.

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Back-button focusing on the Olympus E-M1II, revisited

Anybody that’s had an Olympus digital camera in recent years can attest to the fact that they are highly customizable.  Possibly, almost too customizable.

So I’ve gotten into the habit of revisiting my custom settings a few times a year, just to fold in what I’ve learned about a given camera model through use, and to see what improvements I can make for my personal style of shooting.  And of course, there is plenty of user-generated information out on the internet, so it’s good to give yourself an opportunity to learn from new things other people have learned and written about (personally, I’m a big fan of wrotniak.net and biofos.com).

So in my last sweep of the E-M1II‘s custom settings, I thought it was about time to revisit how I handled back-button focusing.  As I mentioned in a previous post some months back, this is easy to do with a custom “MySet.”  And commenters pointed out that by setting “Mode 2” for the camera’s back lever (a.k.a. the Fn Lever), two separate sets of focusing settings could be easily managed.  But unfortunately, Fn Lever Mode 2 just “captures” three things — focus mode, focus target shape, and focus target location.  So you can use it to switch between auto-focus and manual focus easily, but you still don’t get back-button focus from it, at least not with this one setting alone.

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Corona, revisited

I’ll admit, I’m new to solar eclipse photography, much less to post-processing of solar eclipse images — so I’ll freely admit to being on a learning curve here.  My previous post contained an image put together from 7 photographs, using some commercial HDR software.  Subsequently, I found two helpful videos on how to do a similar thing using Photoshop (and it’s a pretty quick process, too) — here are my results:

Corona, revisited

This took a bit longer to produce, but I like the results better.  Your thoughts?

Waiting for the light to go out

So, with about half of North America, I plan on driving to the path of totality for the upcoming Total Solar Eclipse on August 21.  I was originally going to write up some tutorial information on this, but since so much of it is already available, I thought it best to primarily link to the sites I think are most helpful. Continue reading

A funny thing happened in Pro Capture mode…

Quite a few people have been posting the photos they’ve taken of moving things (birds, athletes, race cars) using their Olympus E-M1II cameras in what’s called “Pro Capture” mode.  Basically, Pro Capture on the E-M1II brings to Olympus what only a handful of cameras have had to date — the ability to buffer in-camera some frames before the photographer presses the shutter button all the way down.

Given the normal delay in human reflexes, this sort of feature allows a photographer to capture a decisive bit of action, even if they mash down on the shutter a bit late.  Lacking race cars or even many birds to try this out on, I was lucky to have a rodeo to work with.  The bottom line is that Pro Capture worked well in the vast majority of photos I made — but a few frames concern me.

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High-speed SDHC card speed comparison

Since I ordered my Olympus E-M1II, I’ve felt the need to buy new SD memory cards as well, just to keep up with the data rates it can produce.  But of course, cards’ labeled speeds aren’t necessarily all that accurate (“your mileage may vary,” as car ads used to say), so I took advantage of discounts and gift certificates to pick up one each of four name-brand cards, and tested their read / write speeds.  What’s common among them:

  • 32 GB capacity
  • UHS-II / U-3 ratings
  • Fastest SDHC card for their brand

For comparison, I also included one card that until recently *was* the fastest memory card I owned.  So here are the contenders, in no particular order, with their current price at Amazon (just because Amazon sells all of them, so this keeps pricing somewhat consistent between them):

  • Lexar Professional 1000x — advertised speed 150 MB/s (read), available at Amazon for $22.48.  My “old standby.”
  • Lexar Professional 2000x — advertised speed 300 MB/s (read), $54.95 at Amazon
  • Delkin UHS-II — advertised speeds 250 MB/s (write) / 280 MB/s (read), $53.90 at Amazon
  • Transcend — advertised speeds 180 MB/s (write) / 285 MB/s (read), $44.99 at Amazon
  • SanDisk Extreme PRO — advertised speed 280 MB/s (read), $57.69 at Amazon

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The Olympus E-M1II and backyard astrophotography

A lot of people are still waiting for their pre-ordered Olympus OM-D E-M1II cameras to arrive — in the meantime, a number of them asked to see some high-ISO photographs to judge the camera’s abilities in the realm of astrophotography.  After days of waiting, I finally got clear night skies where I live, so took some shots of the constellation Orion.  Please bear in mind that I live in the south Denver metro area, so have to deal with light pollution — here’s the view looking south toward Orion from my house (enough sky glow to silhouette bits of a telephone pole and two trees):

Orion at ISO 1600

For the above image, the EXIF is E-M1II,  12-40mm Pro lens @ 17mm, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 8.0 seconds.  This is a SOOC image, by the way — all I’ve done to it is RAW conversion and scaling (to fit my blog’s template) in Lightroom.

But I didn’t only take this one image — I took a series of them, all unguided (i.e., on a still tripod): Continue reading

Local color — E-M1II experimentation in real life

In our neck of the woods, we’ve had cloudy night skies recently (at least, since my E-M1II arrived).  So I’ve lacked a clear view of stars to test the beast on, but fortunately there are plenty of Christmas lights to work with.  Here’s a quick shot from one of the more-colorful nearby houses:

Local color

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