High ISO Bee In Flight

With autumn in Canada fast approaching I spent some time capturing some high ISO bee in flight images with shutter speeds up to 1/5000. This was likely my last opportunity this year to do some testing with fast shutter speeds and related high ISO values with this subject matter. The photographs in this article were captured at ISO values between ISO-2500 and ISO-6400. All were captured handheld with an E-M1X, M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom lens and M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter using Pro Capture H.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4116 pixels on the width, subject distance 2 metres

When Pro Capture H is used, Olympus cameras engage their electronic shutter. This can cause some rolling shutter effect with some fast moving subject matter such as bees in-flight, or sometimes with small birds in flight. I have some additional experimentation planned with this subject matter for next year.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3967 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.8 metres

I’ve been experimenting with various shutter speeds to monitor the degree of rolling shutter effect. It varies significantly and is often dependent on the angle of flight of the bee. Using a fast shutter speed like 1/5000 does create quite a few high ISO bee in-flight images. So, having a plan to deal with noise in post is certainly recommended.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3877 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.6 metres

As regular readers will know, I’ve been using a combination of various software programs in post for quite a while now. I incorporated the use of Topaz Denoise AI into my workflow last year. I use this tool at the end of my process in post.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4929 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.6 metres

I start my approach with noise reduction by using DeepPRIME in DxO PhotoLab 4. DxO is my main RAW processor. I keep this initial noise reduction to a maximum value of 15. To my eye anything above this setting causes an unacceptable loss of detail. I apply DeepPRIME to all of my Nikon 1 and Olympus RAW files regardless of the ISO value at which they were captured.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3946 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.7 metres

I have enjoyed using DxO for many years and found it did a terrific job with my Nikon 1 files… and also with my Olympus files. Since I do not enjoy doing post processing at all, I do my best to spend as little time working in post as possible. Including computer processing time I seldom spend more than a maximum of 3 minutes with an image.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3264 pixels on the height, subject distance 1.7 metres

I create a range of Custom Presets in DxO PhotoLab that are usually camera, lens and subject specific. Typically I don’t make these Custom Presets overly complicated as I really like the automatic lens corrections done by PhotoLab.

Once I apply one of my Custom Presets to an image I always use Spot Weighted DxO Smart Lighting. This can help to stretch the available dynamic range. From time to time I may apply Microcontrast depending on the subject matter. This means that I can be in and out of PhotoLab with a maximum of three adjustments.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3745 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.1 metres

I export a DNG file into an old copy of PhotoShop CS6. My corrections in CS6 for Olympus files can be modest and typically focus on basic sliders like Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Black and White. Clarity and Vibrance are used on occasion depending on the needs of a specific image.

I tend to be more aggressive with my Nikon 1 files due to more challenging sensor performance. From CS6 I can access the Nik Collection and Topaz, both as plug-ins.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3757 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.2 metres

Should I decide to use the Nik Collection it typically would involve either Viveza 2 or Color Efex PRO 4. Again, these are normally tweaks depending on the needs of a specific image. With my Olympus files I sometimes do not need to go into Nik at all.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4253 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.7 metres

I finish all of my files using Topaz DeNoise AI. Usually the Standard Denoise function works well for my needs. Occasionally I may use the Severe Noise function in Topaz DeNoise AI. The majority of my adjustments in Topaz DeNoise AI tend to be fairly modest since all of my images would have already had DxO DeepPRIME applied to them at the front end of my process.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3661 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.0 metres

I own a copy of Topaz Sharpen AI but never use it as I’ve found it to be pretty much useless for my needs. This may be due to my overall work flow and my use of multiple software programs.

My preference is not to apply very much formal sharpening to my images. I’d rather focus my attention on creating the right density in my photographs and getting good edge acuity. This is often done through the use of black and white sliders, as well as making various contrast adjustments.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3915 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.4 metres

At the end of the day each of use have our preferences when working in post. Like other photographers I do try to shoot at low ISO values when possible. Even though I use small sensor cameras like Nikon 1 and Olympus M4/3 I don’t hesitate to use higher ISO values when needed. I’ll shoot my Nikon 1 cameras up to ISO-3200, and my Olympus gear to ISO-6400, without any hesitation. It has taken some ongoing experimentation in post to get to this point… but I think it was time well spent.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted as appropriate. This is the 1,070th article published on this website since its original inception.

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7 thoughts on “High ISO Bee In Flight”

  1. Another excellent article, Tom. I look forward to your rolling shutter experiments.

    I’d also encourage you to re-visit a possible post-production book. I know very little about book authorship, but with your articles, it looks to me like you might already have most of it done.

    1. I appreciate your supportive comment Bill. My basic approach to digital photography has always been to create my images as well as I can in-camera, with the intent of having to do as little as possible to them in post.

      Over the years my self-taught approach has enabled me to cherry pick a limited number of functions from the various software programs that I use for my post processing. This has allowed me to cobble together an approach so I can process my images to my specific taste, and spend a relatively short amount of time with each file. I doubt that I’ve even scratched the surface of more than 10% to 15% of what these programs can actually do.

      I’d be the first to admit that I am not sufficiently skilled to write an eBook on post processing. There are simply too many huge gaps in my knowledge base.

      Tom

    1. Hi Stefan,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with rolling shutter. There are times when subject movement does not lend itself to a vertical image orientation. Having said that, this approach is worth trying out. I’ll make some time to test this out with my E-M1X.

      Tom

    2. Hi Stefan,

      I had a chance to photograph some bees this past week. I tried vertical and horizontal orientations and rolling shutter effects were still visible either way. I will likely need to do some additional experimentation.

      Tom

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