ISO-200 Forest Challenge

A good way to push our photographic skills and our camera gear is to give ourselves the occasional challenge. A little while ago I gave myself an ISO-200 forest challenge. The goal was to hike through the forest at the Niagara Glen Nature Centre on a dead calm day, and to keep my ISO at, or under, ISO-200.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, 2 seconds, f/5.6, ISO-160

As I descended into the Niagara Glen Nature Centre forest walk the first challenge I came to was an interesting mini-cave. What caught my eye was the intriguing combination of shapes and colours. I had to remind myself about my ISO-200 forest challenge. I dutifully adjusted the manual settings on my E-M1X until I had a good exposure. Crouching down low I captured the image above handheld at a shutter speed of 2 seconds.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, 1/8, f/5.6, ISO-160

As I followed the rough path through the woods this scene with a partial reveal greeted me. I was compelled to stop and captured this image at 1/8th of a second.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, 1/15, f/5.6, ISO-200

Continuing down the path I came upon this jumble of logs. I loved the geometric shapes that they created. Another photograph was created. This one at 1/15th of a second.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, 1/15, f/5.6, -0.7 step, ISO-200

A twist along the pathway created a gentle visual bend before my eyes. Another image at 1/15th of a second found its way onto my memory card. I adjusted the curve in post to bring out more of the blue and grey hues to give the colour pallet more of a ‘rock’ skew.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 40 mm, efov 80 mm, 1/15, f/5.6, ISO-200

As I was navigating through a wetter patch along the trail my eye spotted this beautiful leaf with a gently shifting colour pallet. Another image at 1/15th of a second soon followed.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, 1/13, f/5.6, ISO-200

As I drew closer to the bank of the Niagara River this reveal composition jumped out at me. This time my shutter clicked at 1/13th of a second.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, 1/10, f/5.6, ISO-200

Another bend in the trail produced another beautiful scene complete with foliage growing on the face of a large boulder. The photograph above, captured at 1/10th of a second, was the result.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, 1/15, f/5.6, ISO-200

As I walked up to the rocks in the bottom right hand corner of this image I saw a nice, subtle leading line appear before me. I stopped dead in my tracks and captured this photograph at 1/15th of a second.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, 1/10, f/7.1, ISO-200

I liked the scene so much that I recomposed it in a portrait orientation. I adjusted my aperture to f/7.1 for a bit more depth of field. This moved the shutter to speed to 1/10th of a second. I’m glad I decided on the second composition as I find it more dramatic than the landscape version.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 40 mm, efov 80 mm, 1/15, f/5.6, ISO-64

Some decomposing logs caught my eye. By this time in my ISO-200 forest challenge I was having a lot of fun capturing images at fairly slow shutter speeds. So, I left my shutter speed at 1/15th and let my ISO float down to ISO-64 in the auto-ISO range.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 15 mm, efov 30 mm, 1/5, f/8, ISO-200

A dramatic 90-degree angle appeared before me so I moved in closer to frame my image. Wanting to ensure sufficient depth-of-field I set my aperture to f/8 and captured the image above at 1/5th of a second.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, 1/25, f/5.6, -0.7 step, ISO-200

I was now along the shoreline of the Niagara River. Stronger light was creeping in on the left-hand side of the path. I set my exposure compensation to -0.7 to get a balanced exposure and captured this image at 1/25 of a second.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, 1/10, f/5.6, -1 step, ISO-100

As I hiked back toward the cliff-side stairway to return to my car I was travelling uphill into much stronger sunlight. Exposure compensation of -1 step and a shutter speed of 1/10th of a second yielded the photograph above.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, 1/10, f/5.6, -1.7 step, ISO-64

As I got closer to the metal staircase I stopped to capture the image above. With about 1/3 of the frame pointed towards an ever-brightening sky, I adjusted my exposure compensation. This image was captured at 1/10th of a second.

One never knows what will happen when pursuing a photographic exercise like my ISO-200 forest challenge. I started out focused on keeping my camera at ISO-200 or lower. Within a few minutes everything shifted with me being engrossed by the practical slow shutter speeds made possible by the superb IBIS system in my OM-D E-M1X. Funny how things work out sometimes.

Technical Note:
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

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9 thoughts on “ISO-200 Forest Challenge”

    1. Hi Ed,

      Thus far I’ve spent the bulk of my time with Pro Capture H and Handheld Hi Res Mode. I plan on doing some Live ND in December. Live Composite will likely be sometime in the New Year. There’s only so much my old, porous brain can handle!

      Tom

  1. Tom,

    I very much enjoy reading your posts. This post reminded me of the private workshops I had with you a couple of years ago.

    I started looking at the Olympus OM-D E-M1 cameras last summer. I used an E-M1 Mk ii with the 12-100mm f4 Pro lens for about three hours at a street/architecture workshop in Chicago. It seemed fine for single AF subjects, but I was not impressed with continuous AF (recently greatly improved by the 3.0 firmware update).

    Then I was able to borrow an E-M1X with the 40-140mm f2.8 lens for three days to shoot locally. I printed 17×22 inch prints from my Sony A7Riii and the E-M1X and compared them side by side. Not much difference that I could see. [People assume that the E-M1 (20Mpix) has less than half the resolution of the A7Riii (42Mpix), but the real linear resolution factor is 70%.] I was very impressed and recently bought the E-M1X and the 7-14mm, 12-40mm, and 40-150mm Pro lenses.

    My decision to buy the E-M1X had nothing to do with system weight, but rather with unique or superior (relative to Sony) Olympus features that are attractive to me: Highest performing weatherproofing, superior image stabilization, pro-capture mode, in-camera focus bracketing, superior high frequency sensor cleaning, and hand-held and tripod high-res shot modes.

    Are you still doing private workshops, If so, I’ll contact you to set one up for next spring.

    Jack

    1. Hi Jack,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences testing out some Olympus gear! I also had an E-M1 Mark II to test, but I did not find it comfortable to use. Within a couple of days of using the E-M1X I knew that was the perfect camera for our business and personal needs. We bought the same three zoom lenses that you recently purchased, as well as the 60 mm f/2.8 macro, the 45 mm PRO f/1.2 prime, and MC-20 teleconverter. I’ve added two Olympus flashes to our kit. The STF-8 macro flash and most recently the FL-700WR flash. I used the LF-700WR today for the first time today photographing birds at Bird Kingdom… article to follow!

      Yes, I am still doing private workshops and I’d love to work with you again!

      Tom

      1. Tom,

        Thanks for the response. I plan to pick up the 60mm f/2.8 macro and the MC-20 TC this weekend–inspired by your photos using these lenses.

        Jack

  2. Hey Tom
    Excellent photos of a beautiful place. I notice you went well below 200 ISO which I am thinking is the standard for this camera. Am I right on that and if so, do you find any loss of quality when going under the 200? Also would you not be better off to set ISO at 200 on this shoot and always get the highest speed possible since you were in subdued light?
    Thanks,
    Joel

    1. Hi Joel,

      Yes, I did go below ISO-200 which is the base ISO for the E-M1X. I did this as I was having fun shooting at slower shutter speeds… not from a quality standpoint. I agree that from a quality standpoint it would have been better for me to have captured my images at the base ISO for my camera, which in the case of the E-M1X would have been ISO-200.

      Tom

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