Victorian goldfields with the the Olympus OM-D E-M5 – part V – Waanyarra gold fields

Written by admin on December 22nd, 2014

Stage V of my road trip takes us north east a few kilometres from the lovely gold rush town of Dunolly to a rather deserted, dry forest which was once the Waanyarra gold fields of the 1850′s – there is a short gravel road drive, first to the old cemetery (1856-1990), then to a picnic and camping area (byo water!), and then in a circuit past Morton’s old hut and then back on to the main highway.

When gold was discovered in Waanyarra in 1852, it was soon discovered that the alluvial gold nuggets were one of the purest in the world. From 1859-1888, large mining companies entered the field and displaced the individual miners who were to return in 1889 when the depression hit.

Waanyarra was a gold rush town in the 1850′s which consisted of 2 hotels, several stores, a school, and a post office which remained opened until the 1920′s – but there are few remains of any of these today, although the foundations of the Jones’ Creek School are still there – this school operated from 1857-1873 and had an average of 16 pupils. In 1877, a new school was built – the Waanyarra School No 1879, and in 1903, 65 students were being taught in one class room. There was a nearby cricket ground and picnic area. Other remnants can be found as one wanders through the bushwalks with a careful eye.

These photos were taken with the wonderful Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera.

Some shots of the mysterious Waanyarra cemetery which is well worth a wander around for a few minutes to get a sense of the history (Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens at f/1.8).

Wooden grave of Jesse Turner who died in the 1860′s aged 37yrs:

grave

Wooden graves:

grave

And this is the grave of one James McCoy who died in 1898 aged 82yrs and who chose to be buried with his mate William Horan who had died there in 1874 at age 46yrs:

grave

Happy campers at the picnic ground (Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens at f/1.8).

happy campers

BBQ

Morton’s hut was once the Welcome Inn – Morton’s Old Hotel built by the ex-convict in 1850 as a replica of his home in Ireland. The building served as a home for his family of 8, as well as a provisioning store and public bar for countless miners (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2.0 lens at f/6.3)

Morton's hut

Morton's hut

Morton's hut

Next stop… the almost ghost town of Tarnagulla….

 

Victorian goldfields with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 – IV – the lovely gold rush town of Dunolly

Written by admin on December 18th, 2014

Stage IV of my road trip takes us to the lovely gold rush town of Dunolly which is just a few kilometres north of Maryborough – the geographic centre of the “Golden Triangle” of the 1850′s gold rush and a great place to base one’s explorations of the nearby ghost towns.

These photos were taken with the wonderful Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera.

The little town hall in the main street of Dunolly (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 lens at f/6.3).

Dunolly Town Hall

The court house (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 lens at f/6.3).

Dunolly Court House

One of the churches with its bell (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 lens at f/6.3).

Dunolly church

A mansion with its lovely gardens given a ghostly infrared haunted look (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 lens at f/6.3).

Dunolly mansion

The main street (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 lens at f/6.3).

Dunolly main street

Verandah of an old cottage (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 lens at f/6.3).

house

Ironmongers shop in the main street (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 lens at f/6.3).

ironmongers shop

Next stop – the ghost town of Waanyarra and its interesting cemetery, camping ground and old Morton’s hut.

 

Victorian goldfields with the Olympus E-M5 – III – Timor and Bet Bet

Written by admin on December 14th, 2014

Stage III of my road trip was just north and north east of Maryborough – the geographic centre of the “Golden Triangle” of the 1850′s gold rush and a great place to base one’s explorations of the nearby ghost towns.

These photos were taken with the wonderful Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera.

Although only a few kilometres from Maryborough, the ghost town of Timor was once a thriving community with a population of 27,000 and 38 hotels. The last hotel closed down in the 1960′s and the General Store has closed down in the last decade (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 lens at f/5).

Timor

The town of Timor was the result of the adjacent large gold mine – the Grand Duke Gold Mine of which there are few remnants remaining such as the main entrance granite arch of the pump house upon which the beam of the pump sat (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 lens at f/5):

Grand Duke

The Grand Duke mine operated from 1869 to 1896 and produced 216,000 oz of gold and was sited upon a deep lead of auriferous quartz which was about 4 miles long – hence an adjacent mine the North Duke Mine also operated on this lead.

This gold mine boasted the biggest and the first Cornish beam pump in Australia with only 2 others of that size in the world – it was imported from England in 1874 and had a massive 30 ton iron beam, used 270 horsepower and pumped 200 gallons per stroke and 2000 gallons of water per minute and 20 million gallons per week out of the 110m deep mine shafts during the last 7 years of its life making the mine the longest and most continuous wet mine in Victoria. The pump did break down in 1879 resulting in the mine becoming flooded and out of action for 2 years. An accident in 1883 killed 4 men.

Wherever possible the miners mined upwards as this was easier as the material fell to the floor and was more easily loaded into skips – this method is called stoping.

The mine required a massive amount of timber to shore up the shafts plus hundreds of tons of firewood was need each week as fuel for the boilers. This devastated the region’s forests and by the end of the century each acre only had a few twisted old trees, and on average 15 young trees. At the turn of the century, the Maryborough forests were closed as a source of timber for mining.

In 1896, finance became an issue and the pumps were stopped and the mine permanently closed, and it was reported the water levels in the shafts rose by 8.5cm per day.

From this mine, one can drive along the gravel road to Bet Bet which is now also pretty much deserted as indicated by the owners putting this old weatherbeaten Church of Christ weatherboard church up for sale along with the cacti (Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 lens at f/5):

church

church

Heading north from Bet Bet one can find this old cottage:

cottage

and just south of Dunolly is the old gold rush era Wighams Junction Hotel built between 1862 and 1867 to serve the Gooseberry Hill gold mining operation. Ann Wigham was the licensee when it opened and the large sign sprawled across its facade read Ann Wigham’s Junction Hotel. The Wighams also ran a nearby corn store. The hotel was a popular meeting place and a venue for indoor and outdoor sports. It was extensively damaged in 1910 and was de-licensed in 1912 (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 lens at f/6.3).

Wigham Hotel

Wigham Hotel

Next stop .. the awesome little gold rush town of Dunolly…..

 

Victorian goldfields with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 part II – Maryborough

Written by admin on December 11th, 2014

Stage II of my road trip was Maryborough – the geographic centre of the “Golden Triangle” of the 1850′s gold rush and a great place to base one’s explorations of the nearby ghost towns.

The region was initially settled by the Simson brothers as a sheep station called Charlotte Plains in the 1840′s when the squatters took up grazing runs throughout Victoria.

Gold was discovered in 1854 as part of the Victorian Gold Rush which led to the development of the township and population is said to have hit 30,000-50,000 and now sits around 7,000 and is consistently ranked as the most socially disadvantaged local government area in Victoria although this ranking is perhaps because it has no pockets of wealth to help mask the poverty as do most other areas. Perhaps only 6 or so houses had been notable for their wealth

One should also ensure they visit the heritage museum at Worsley Cottage (built 1894):

Rebuilt slab squatter’s hut from the local squatter’s farms (c1844):

hut

A painting of a photo depicting a streetscape and portrait photographer in Maryborough’s main street during the gold rush of the 1850′s:

streetscape

Maryborough local council journals from the 1860′s:

council journals from the 1850's

Unlike Bendigo and Ballarat, Maryborough never really did make it rich and has struggled since the gold ran out in 1918, perhaps saved only by the railroad passing through the town in 1874 and one of the greatest railway stations of the 19th century. The town of Timor to its north had a similar population during the gold rush of some 27,000 people, and had 38 hotels, but not one commercial building functions today with the General Store closing down in the last decade and the churches being sold off. Perhaps without the railroad, Maryborough may have suffered a similar fate.

In 1895 American writer Mark Twain visited the town and remarked about the station upon his visit.

Don’t you overlook that Maryborough station, if you take an interest in governmental curiosities. Why, you can put the whole population of Maryborough into it, and give them a sofa apiece, and have room for more. You haven’t fifteen stations in America that are as big, and you probably haven’t five that are half as fine. Why, it’s perfectly elegant. And the clock! Everybody will show you the clock. There isn’t a station in Europe that’s got such a clock. It doesn’t strike–and that’s one mercy. It hasn’t any bell; and as you’ll have cause to remember, if you keep your reason, all Australia is simply bedamned with bells.

railway station

The immense platform at night, with the Olympus mZD 12mm f/2.0 lens at f/5.6, ISO 200, 1.3sec:

railway station

Maryborough Flour Mill – now closed due to safety issues:

flour mill

Maryborough boasts some nice heritage buildings dating from Federation years (1901 onwards) such as:

The Bull and Mouth Hotel (Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens):

Bull and Mouth Hotel

Hadenham House
– a lovely Federation Edwardian mansion with 5m ceilings which is a very nice place to stay a few nights while you are exploring the region:

Hadenham House

Another lovely Federation house on the main street:

Federation  house

In 1909, the town was still full of optimism and built this grand cricket stadium (Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 at f/3.2, ISO 200, hand held at 1/25th sec) – a photo I took at sunset in tribute to the late Australian test cricketer Phil Hughes who was killed in a freak accident when a cricket ball hit his neck:

cricket stadium

After the gold finished, Maryborough kept chugging along thanks to the development of the regional wool industry and the opening of the woollen mills in the 1920′s. Unfortunately, the woollen mills closed in 1978, then the Kennett state government’s economic rationalism stopped the trains in the 1990′s, and along with the continued loss of the manufacturing sector to overseas, has really hurt the people of Maryborough.

In 2007, the train station was renovated and in 2010, a couple of trains per day were re-instated and substantial efforts have been made to boost the economy of this region – hopefully the fantastic people here will again have optimism for their future, in the meantime, it seems to lack the tourism it needs to flourish – perhaps being over 2 hours drive from Melbourne and with significant competition for tourists from Castlemaine and Maldon will always make it difficult to succeed.

Nearby in Talbot, a lovely little town with a great little cafe, book shop and 2nd hand shop (which is more than the adjacent ghost towns of Majorca and Amherst have):

Talbot

 

Victorian goldfields with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera – I – Avoca and the Pyrenees

Written by admin on December 7th, 2014

It’s almost summer, so I took time off to go for a road trip exploring Victoria’s “Golden Triangle” – one of the richest gold mining areas in the world which sparked the gold rush of the 1850′s and transformed Victoria for ever.

Apparently, over 80% of the world’s largest gold nuggets have been found in this region, and some still are being found – although large ones are now rare!

The Golden Triangle is quite a large region roughly outlined by the cities of Ballarat,  St Arnaud and Bendigo, with the smaller city of Maryborough roughly placed in the centre geographically – hence my choice this time to use as a base from which to explore.

This region is one of the more interesting areas of Victoria for photographers as there are many relics of the gold rush period, although most of the transient gold boom towns are now ghost towns with little evidence of their previous glory – many having populations of 20,000-30,000 with dozens of pubs – now often not even a shop open.

First stop was lunch in the small town of Avoca which is situated in the Pyrenees region, 183km from Melbourne, current population ~1,000, and surrounded by lovely undulating hills, and many wineries which produce nice cool climate wines, particularly known for their reds.

See historical society of Avoca.

Lunch in Avoca has several options including a pie shop which sells a wide range of pies including crocodile, kangaroo, seafood, etc.

There is also the widely regarded Avoca Hotel for those wanting a more restaurant-like meal (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 lens at f/5):

Avoca Hotel

There are some interesting old weatherboard miner’s cottages (Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 lens at f/3.2):

miner's cottage

and the Watford House by the Avoca River is rare surviving example of a prefabricated house imported to Victoria in the 1850′s gold rush when building materials and labour were scarce (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 lens at f/3.5):

Watford House

Once one has finished exploring Avoca, a short drive up Vinoca Road which becomes a gravel road to the north-west takes you past the Blue Pyrenees Winery which has a cafe and cellar door with wine tasting, and to a picnic ground near a waterfall – there is water only after significant rains, and the short 20min return walk is only for those wishing to stretch their legs (although there is also a 18km one way “Endurance Walk” which starts here too).

Here is a pic of the falls without water for the curious ones (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 lens at f/5):

waterfalls

Nearby is the Percydale Heritage Park – the old gold mining region now re-forested but presumably full of mine shafts, and a short drive up a gravel road takes you to a nice little lookout which looks eastwards and also south towards the wind farms (Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 at f/4):

waterfalls

 

 

An afternoon stroll through the Brisbane Ranges with the E-M5 and 75mm lens

Written by admin on November 26th, 2014

I love this time of year in Victoria – not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, not too many bullants, no biting March flies and no bush flies to annoy you like there are in summer.

Still have yet to see a snake on my many walks in the bush this year, but I am sure they are watching me!

Here are a couple from yesterday’s impromptu bushwalk into the old gold mining regions of the Brisbane Ranges in Victoria which not too long ago was severely impacted by bushfire.

These were both taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 with the awesome Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens.

 

 

What pushes me on .. is always wondering what I will see around the next bend:

around the bend

And around one bend I came across this little fella leisurely strolling across the path and into the scrub looking for ants – I don’t think he had ever seen a human before, and he didn’t seem to notice me for a few seconds then when he did he quickly “hid” by rolling up next to a tree trunk hoping I couldn’t see him.

This is an echidna, a native Australian monotreme that lays eggs like a platypus.


echidna

 

At last, a full frame “Olympus OM-D” by Sony – the Sony alpha 7 II introduces 5-axis sensor IS

Written by admin on November 23rd, 2014

There are several things I want out of a camera these days:

  • high image quality
  • compact and light camera AND lenses
  • fast accurate AF
  • fast flash sync
  • great range of high quality affordable lenses
  • effective sensor based image stabilisation so manual focus is easy and all lenses can benefit from sharper imagery
  • a nice EVF with live view and all its benefits instead of clunky mirror systems
  • excellent support for manual focus – eg. image stabilised magnified view, etc
  • preferably weather-sealed

Until now, the ONLY cameras which fulfilled these requirements are the wonderful Olympus OM-D cameras such as the E-M1, E-M5 and E-M10.

This month Sony has announced the 1st full frame camera to have 5-axis sensor based image stabilisation similar to the OM-D cameras and said to offer around 4 stops of stabilisation, although currently it is let down by lack of dedicated  lens range, but this can be expected to change over the next few years, and this at least is a great start having the sensor based IS included in such a camera.

The Sony a7 II:

  • 24mp full frame mirrorless camera with E-mount
  • sensor has 117 phase detect and 25 contrast detect points and although presumably the same sensor, it is said to have substantially improved AF and AF tracking over its predecessor, the a7 which did have issues with slow AF ( see here)
    • note that the Olympus OM-D E-M1 has 37 phase detect and 800 contrast detect points and can shoot at 6.5/10 fps, flash sync 1/320th sec,  timelapse, Live BULB/Composite modes, touch screen, and much more.
  • tilting 1,230,000 dot LCD although not touch sensitive
  • 2,359,000 dot EVF with 0.71x magnification
  • shutter speed 30sec – 1/8000th sec
  • no built-in flash, but flash sync a very reasonable 1/250th sec
  • 5fps burst rate is not going to set the world on fire but is OK
  • exposure compensation is +/- 5EV
  • built-in WiFi and NFC for smartphone tethering
  • no timelapse recording
  • has some very nice HD video specs:
    • 1080 in 60p/60i/24p and supports XAVC S codec at 50Mbps and S Log 2 flat picture profile
    • uncompressed HDMI output
    • stereo mic
  • 599g
  • 127 x 96 x 60 mm (5 x 3.78 x 2.36″)
  • at $US1600 it will certainly put some pressure on Canon and Nikon who still have not come to terms with the future being mirrorless cameras for most people

As mentioned, the current poor range of AF lenses dedicated to this camera is a major issue – I would love a 24mm f/1.4, a 35mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4 and 135mm f/2, but instead, all we have is 35mm f/2.8, 55mm f/1.8 and 3 zoom lenses – none of which are f/2.8.

If indeed, Sony and Olympus are collaborating on the development of this system – Olympus is said to be providing input regarding the 5-axis IS (although Sony appear to be claiming it is their own technology and it appears that it is a very different mechanism – see here, and that it is not as effective in video mode), and help with lens design, it would be quite nice if Olympus were to produce an Olympus version which would be compatible with their Olympus flash system and OM-D user interface – even if they kept the Sony E-Mount, this would not be an issue from a photographer’s perspective, and having such a full frame camera would provide a nice compliment to their OM-D cameras.

See more about the Sony E-Mount system on my wiki

 

Ramblings through the Australian bush with the Olympus OM-D E-M5

Written by admin on November 23rd, 2014

These were taken with the E-M5 with the Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens unless specified:

Forest dreams:

forest dreams

Native wild flower Hardenbergia violacea in early Spring near Castlemaine

hardenbergia

Bushfire recovery:

bushfire

Airey’s Inlet region on the Great Ocean Road:

beach

Abstract sea dragon:

sea dragon

Iris at a winery:

iris

Thysanotus native wildflower with the Olympus mZD 60mm f/2.8 macro lens – this lovely little perennial’s flowers only last 1 day:

wildflower

 

Olympus OM-D E-M5 + Orbis Ring Flash + Metz Ring Flash vs the Zombies

Written by admin on October 12th, 2014

The annual zombie shuffle was on again in Melbourne yesterday.

This is a very social event with thousands participating including many, many photographers and it always has a great fun atmosphere.

The zombies spend a LOT of time creating their personas and love being photographed.

It is outdoors and forecast for midday sun is a bit of a nightmare for getting great shots, and you generally only get 5-10 secs to compose and get your shot with each zombie before the photographer horde gets in your way.

This year I decided to take a different approach and did a bit of testing the day before so I could shoot with a main flash light inside an Orbis Ring Flash Modifier to create an off-camera beauty dish effect, supplemented with a Metz macro “ring” flash on the lens as a fill flash.

To deal with a potentially sunny background and the desire for a wide aperture, I used a polarising filter and manual flash via PC sync cables which allowed me to push the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera to 1/400th sec shutter speed – this does result in a small part of the “top” of your frame not being lit by the flash – no problem if there is no subject there!

The ambient exposure was intentionally under-exposed, and by using CTO gels on the flashes with custom WB for the CTO gelled flash, this gave a lovely deep blue background – at least when the sunlit areas was not in the background.

Most were shot at ISO 200, f/1.8, 1/400th sec. Metz flash was on 1/16th output. I used a Canon 580EX II flash in the Orbis Ring Flash (I could have used my Olympus FL50 instead with same effect), and this needed to be fired at almost full output.

All of these were taken with the nice little Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 portrait lens, – although tethered to the Orbis Ring Flash and thus relatively confined to being 1.5m or so from the subject was a little limiting – but I knew that would be the case. I could make the subject lighter or darker by moving the Orbis flash closer or further from the subject.

However, given the rather clunky way the Orbis needs to be held in one hand, have a light, compact OM-D in the other hand was an essential component to the success of this technique – and I did what I rarely do – use Live View on the rear screen instead of the EVF even though the screen was blurry to me (I need reading glasses for it) – I was able to compose at arms length and let the amazing eye detection AF do its job – but being mindful of te fact that some zombie’s eyes cannot be detected in which case I locked AF using the centre AF region and half-press shutter button, then recomposed.

The first shot of the day was something I had pre-planned the night before and required a different set of maths to work out, but in only 2 shots, I managed to come up with this awesome image:

Zombie coming through the time space portal attacking a zombie killer ready with her laser gun:

claw

Zombie laser gun:

zombie killer

Zombie bride:

zombie bride

Cute retro zombie:

retro zombie

Zombie guy:

zombie guy

 

As with any relatively small light source, the light from the Orbis is very directional and relatively harsh, so if shooting portraits, you should ideally avoid oily skin and ensure some face powder has been used to avoid unflattering specular reflections from the skin.

The Orbis could also be used as a true ring flash with the lens protruding through the flash to give that typical shadowless fashion look with soft shadows surrounding the subjects on the wall behind. This usage can be great for emphasising creative makeup and colours while de-emphasising skin texture but may not be flattering for all subjects, particularly those with fuller faces. Be aware that this may produce red eyes with the light being so close to the lens axis.

More details on key shifting and color shifting using flash can be found here.

 

Spring in Australia with the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens

Written by admin on October 9th, 2014

I won’t bore you with how much I love the Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens for Micro Four Thirds – you already know that.

Here are more images from my drives and bushwalks recently in rural Victoria:

Bushwalking through the forests in the Victorian goldfields – reminds me of the Australian impressionist painters of the late 19th century such as Tom Roberts:

Australian impressionism

Bushwalking through ancient lava canals in Mt Eccles National Park:

lava canal

Remains of a petrified forest – an amazing eerie landscape full of remnants of petrified trees in far western Victoria:

petrified forest

petrified forest

petrified vine

Lava columns pounded by the ocean – similar to the Giant’s Causeway in northern Ireland and shows how much dynamic range the sensor has – I was able to gain detail in the over-exposed ocean at top of the image very nicely indeed:

lava columns

Volcanic maars and pastural land with cows and lovely light between the rain showers, Camperdown:

pastures

Spring blossoms with my version of the Orton Effect:

blossoms

and finally, a couple with the Olympus mZD 60mm f/2.8 macro lens hand held – it is Spring after all:

A couple types of Daviesia sp. pea flowers:

Daviesia sp

Daviesia sp

A lonely rare native white orchid as close as I could get without shaking too much:

native white orchid