Motocross with the Olympus OMD

I took a break from shooting food and went to a motocross race where I tested shooting fast moving motorcycles, both stills and video. I brought with me the Olympus OMD and my CBG-6 backpack full of lenses.  I ended up only using two lenses for the two hours of race shooting, the Olympus 45mm and the Lumix 35-100mm. I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of the still shots though I did have some challenges with keeping the focus while shooting video. I’ve heard many people say that mirrorless cameras can’t do sports but I don’t think that’s true.

Panning

I always like doing panning shots of fast moving objects so I got several of these shots throughout the race and did not have much trouble there. The OMD has the best image stabilization options. You can use the full 5 axis or you can do horizontal or vertical image stabilization. I recently discovered that the EP5 has an extra option that auto detects what IS mode it thinks you want. I’m not sure I would want the camera to control that. For panning horizontally, I used the vertical IS mode. I almost always use aperture priority but for panning I always switch over to shutter priority so I can slow down the shutter.  I played around with different shutter speeds but found that 1/60 was a good speed for motocross.
Motocross Pan

Exposure

I used spot metering as I usually tend to do and had some challenges with exposure because it was a bright sunny day and trying to shoot the riders during jumps frequently made the riders a silhouette. To overcome this challenge I used exposure compensation which I have the back dial set to control so a few turns of the dial when I know I’m going to shoot a jump shot usually allowed me to capture a jump shot that had the rider exposed well.
Up High

Area of Focus

I almost always use center focusing and used it for this event as well. The OMD makes it very easy to control the focusing point, almost too easy because I frequently accidentally change the focus point on the camera without realizing it. The arrow keys on the back of the camera control where the focus point is so simply touching one of the arrow keys moves the focus point in that direction. I used this a lot when shooting video in anticipation of the riders coming up over a jump so the focus would remain on the ground and not the trees in the background.
Kick Out

Focusing Mode

You definitely want to use auto focus when shooting moving objects which is not something I have spent a lot of time with since most of the objects I shoot don’t move. I used continuous autofocus mode on the riders and it actually did pretty well as the riders closed in on me and while they were in front of me but as they started getting further away the autofocus started getting confused. Luckily this only happened at the end of the clips so I was able to control that some while I was putting the hybrid video together in ProShowWeb. You hardly even notice when it goes out of focus since the creative transitions ProwShow uses manipulates a portion of the beginning and ending of the clips where that happens. I used a combination of 7 video clips and 9 still photos to make this hybrid video using ProShowWeb. It made video editing easy!
Motocross Kids

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About Paula Thomas

Paula is a food stock photographer and blogger based in Seattle, WA. You can find her on , Facebook and Twitter

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6 Responses to Motocross with the Olympus OMD

  1. Geoff Smith August 20, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Nice article and hybrid video. Love your panning shots, too. I haven’t tried fast moving objects like motorcycles on my OMD yet. I mainly shoot stills or slow moving objects. Nice to see how well the camera performs.

  2. Felice DeNigris August 22, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Very Good Article Paula! Your subjects are exposed well in mid air even though you were battling the exposure of the sun. Ihave a question thought, you mention exposure compensation? How did you do this on the OMD? By that I mean how did you set it up? Sorry for the noob question, but I am still trying to refine exposure in my own practice.

    • gapey August 22, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

      Thanks and no problem. Note that it won’t work when you’re in manual mode because when you’re in manual mode one wheel controls the shutter and the other controls the aperture. I’m not sure if it was already set this way as default or if it’s something I changed but the option for this is in the Custom Menu – (B) Button/Dial – Dial Function – You’ll need to go to each mode (P), (A), (S) and use the arrow keys to change what each dial is assigned to. I have the back right one set to +/- which is the exposure compensation.

      • Felice DeNigris August 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

        Ok, Thank you so much! Do you ever use AEL for scenarios where you might need spot metering on a subject in back lit areas , so by locking your exposure with AEL you wouldn’t have to refocus and re meter each shot. There by having it as simple hitting shutter speed down quickly and rapidly taking shots. Excuse the long descriptive.

        • gapey August 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

          Yeah, that’s a good idea. I personally don’t use the AEL/AFL option. Maybe if there was a 3rd function key I would assign it to that but I have my two function keys set to key line for focus peaking and the other one set to digital teleconverter. I do have one of the function keys on my grip assigned to AEL/AFL but I don’t use the battery grip very often.

          • Felice DeNigris August 23, 2013 at 11:46 am #

            Interesting! I also wish the OMD had more function options. I always like to hear how everyone else sets their functions on their OMD’s.

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