Category Archives: Photography

Lumix G9 6K photo mode

This post describes some (good) experience using the Lumix G9 6K photo mode, and explains how to handle the 6K video files on a computer, which is harder than you might expect currently.

4K and 6K photo modes

A favorite feature of mine on my older Lumix GX8 camera was 4K photo mode, which let you set exposure details, for example set a fast shutter speed to freeze fast action, and then take a 4K video from which you could extract 8MP JPEG images, taken at 30 frames a second. This was great for fast action sequences for wildlife, sports, and more. The new Lumix G9 cranks up this capability – with 4K photo mode you can now get 60 frames a second, or you can use 6K photo mode, which takes 30 frames per second but lets you extract 18MP images, so significantly higher quality.

6K photo mode examples

I did an extensive test of 6K photo mode at the fun end of season “pond skim” event at Telluride ski resort. This was also a great test of auto focus with some fast moving action. It passed with flying colors when using 6K mode – pretty much every frame was in focus in dozens of clips, despite very fast moving action, with skiers moving from over 100 feet away to maybe 6 feet away in a couple of seconds, at speeds around 30-40 mph. I used AFC in 255 point focus mode for this, without any custom settings. I was using the Lumix 12-35mm f/2.8 lens with a shutter speed of 1/2000s. Interestingly, I also took several sequences using the “Super high speed” burst mode which takes RAW images at 20 frames per second with autofocus, and while autofocus worked reasonably well and got most shots in focus, there were significantly more out of focus than with the 6K photo mode.

Here’s an example of one of the photos taken in 6K Photo mode – click on it to see a larger assortment at FlickrTelluride pond skim 2018

I was very impressed with the sharpness of these images.

A nice benefit of using 6K photo mode is that you get video footage in addition to photos. Here is a video compilation from the same event, with clips of the footage that I used to create the photos. This is a 4K video.

Telluride pond skim 2018 in 4K from Peter Batty on Vimeo.

Working with 6K videos

The 6K video files that are produced by the Lumix G9 are somewhat challenging to work with on a computer at the moment. You can extract pictures in camera, but the process for this is a bit cumbersome, and you only have a small screen (though it might be better if you use an HDMI connector to plug in to a bigger screen, but I haven’t tried that). Several applications on my laptop just didn’t recognize the 6K video, including Lightroom, which is what I have mainly used in the past to extract frames from my 4K video files. After a little digging around online, I found out that this is because they use a new video compression technique called H.265, which “is one of several potential successors” to the widely used H.264 standard, according to Wikipedia. The widely used VLC video player displayed the first frame and then just choked (as of version 2.2.8 on April 20, 2018). I have a maxed out 2017 MacBook Pro, so a pretty powerful machine.

However, I did find some ways to work with the files on my Macbook …

Quicktime Player

I had by far the best results using the Apple Quicktime Player. This played the 6K videos with no problem at all – no lag or stuttering or anything. Quicktime Player also has the nice feature that if you pause, the left and right arrows take you back and forward a frame at a time, which is great for selecting frames that you want to grab. However, there’s no way to zoom in within Quicktime, that I have found, which would be nice to have. Up to this point I hadn’t known how to copy a frame using Quicktime, but after a bit of googling I found that you can just do a Copy (Apple-C) while the movie is paused, and then switch to the Apple Preview application and do “File -> New From Clipboard” (Apple-N). Then you need to save the image in preview (Apple-S). This is somewhat more fiddly than doing the same thing in Lightroom (with lower resolution videos), where you can do the equivalent operation by pressing a single button to capture a frame and save it as a JPEG (see my earlier post on creating composite photos from 4K video for more details).

Using FFmpeg for bulk image extraction

I also looked around for applications that would do a bulk extraction of images from a video. I tried a couple that didn’t recognize the 6K video. I found a command line utility called ffmpeg that did work, though with some issues at first. I installed ffmpeg in the Applications folder on my MacBook, and then if you open a terminal and cd to the folder with your 6K movie file in, the following command extracts every frame to a jpeg image in the same folder:

/Applications/ffmpeg -i  P1073570.MP4 P1073570-%06d.jpg

At first glance, this seemed to work pretty well. However, on closer inspection I found some odd pixelated artifacts in a few locations on the image, though most of the image was fine. For example, look at the goggles and nose of the snowboarder here:


Details on the googles are pixelated, which I did not see when I grabbed this image from the video using Quicktime. I wondered if the issue was caused by outputting low quality JPEG files (with a lot of compression). I then tried outputting PNG files instead. This did give higher quality images but they were MUCH larger, and much slower to export. In this case, the full image was 87.3MB in PNG format compared to 2.4MB in JPEG format.

I researched a bit more to see if I could find a way to export higher quality JPEGs, and found that adding the parameter -q:v 2 did the trick (2 is a measure of the JPEG quality, with 2 being the best).

/Applications/ffmpeg -i P1073570.MP4 -q:v 2 P1073570-%06d-2.jpg

This is the same crop from the second version of the JPEG:


The quality is much improved here. Now that I have found this approach, I think this may be the most efficient in many cases, especially if you want to compare and/or extract a larger number of frames – overall it is a lot quicker to convert a whole movie clip to images and then skim through those in Lightroom or another photo viewing / editing tool. You can zoom in with this approach, which is a big advantage. There are ways of specifying start and end times also I believe, I will look into those in due course.

Converting the H.265 video to H.264

I did a quick experiment to try converting the H.265 video to H.264, to see if I could then use the new video in other tools, including Lightroom. I used Handbrake for this, which is a powerful video conversion tool. It worked, but all the software I tried, including Quicktime, really choked on playing the video. It seems that you really need the newer H.265 compression to be able to effectively play a 6K video.

Update: video editing

A brief update to my original post – I just wanted to mention that I was able to edit the H.265 video fine using Apple’s Final Cut Pro X – I didn’t try any other video editing tools. But as I mentioned in the previous section, I did try converting the video back to H.264 and found the resulting video to be unusable in all the software I tried, so I’m not sure that would be a viable approach to video editing.


I am extremely impressed with 6K photo mode so far, both how well the autofocus works on fast moving subjects, and the quality of the images I obtained. In this test at least, continuous autofocus worked noticeably better than the 20FPS RAW mode. Dealing with 6K movies on a computer is tricky at the moment, but the two techniques I mention here work well, either interactively viewing the video and capturing a few frames using Quicktime on a Mac, or using ffmpeg with the settings described above to export all the frames from a movie to JPEGs – this should also work on Windows and Linux machines. If you have other techniques that you use, feel free to share below!


Denver from the air

Here’s one of the first shots I took with my Lumix G9, on a flight from Denver to San Antonio. The quality was pretty good considering that it was taken through a not very clean airplane window. I used the Dehaze slider in Lightroom to bring out more details in the mountains especially, but the city too – see the original image below. You can see the full resolution image here, if you would like to check out the details more. At 100% the image isn’t totally sharp, probably mainly due to the effect of the plane window, but you can make out quite a lot of places downtown.

Denver from the air 1024

Here’s the image as it came out of the camera, without any Dehazing or other edits:

Denver from the air original


Story of a photo: mountain goats on Mount Evans

This picture of mountain goats is one of my favorite pictures that I took in 2016, and indeed one of my favorite pictures in my portfolio. I think this is a quintessential Colorado photo, with the two goats, the great mountain view, snow and sunshine.

Mountain goats on Mount Evans
Mountain goats on Mount Evans

It combines my passions of wildlife and landscape photography. From a landscape perspective it has good depth and balance and a range of interesting features, with the texture of the snow in the foreground, the rocks in the middle distance, the mountains in the background and nice clouds in the sky. From a wildlife perspective, the adult goat has quite an imperious pose, looking out into the distance as though surveying his kingdom, and the baby is mimicking this behind him. The whole photo is very sharp and well focused, from the close up snow to the distant mountains.

I have been to Mount Evans many times and have a large collection of good mountain goat photos. Whenever I go these days, I am not just looking for a nice sharp picture of a mountain goat, it has to be more than that. It has to have great scenery in the background or be doing something interesting. So I am always thinking about the background of the photo in addition to the subject. In some cases, if the animals are relatively still, you have time to make your composition. In other cases, like this one, they are moving quickly and you don’t have much time.

The taking of the photo required a combination of a few things, including observation, anticipation, quick thinking and a bit of luck, which you always need to some degree to get this sort of combination of things in a photo. I was driving up Mount Evans and getting fairly close to the top, and constantly scanning around looking for wildlife, which is tricky as it’s a very twisty and dangerous road so you can only take your eyes off the road very briefly. I spotted a goat’s head poking above a ridge of snow higher up on the mountain, some distance away. I quickly pulled over to the side of the road, at the apex of a hairpin turn which looked out over the view you see in the picture. I had a long zoom lens on the camera as I usually do when looking for wildlife, and got a couple of quick shots of the goat in the distance.

Here is the first shot I took of this goat. This was taken with my Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens (200-800mm equivalent), which is a fantastic lens, very light and compact for the reach it has. It was only zoomed to 156mm (312mm equivalent).


As an aside, I was curious how far away the goat was at this point, and so did a bit of research on how to estimate this based on the size of the goat in the photo, and knowing the focal length of the lens. I found this handy web page for calculating the distance of an object of known size in your photo. According to National Geographic, a typical mountain goat is 3.5 feet tall at the shoulder, so using that as an estimate I got this result:


So the goat is a little over a hundred feet away at this point. This calculator is a cool little tool!  This shot was taken at 4:47:18.

At 4:47:21, three seconds later, I took this shot, and obviously had now figured out that there was a baby too, so I was excited about that.


This shot was taken 2 seconds later at 4:47:23, so clearly the goats are moving fairly quickly and the scene is changing.


The final shot I took with my big zoom lens was the following one, at 4:47:58, and at this point the goat is an estimated 40 feet away from me, so it has traveled around 60 feet in 40 seconds, heading pretty much straight down the mountain. My lens is at its widest zoom of 100mm (200mm equivalent) at this point.


By this point I realized that they were coming pretty much in my direction, and might well walk very close to me, and if I was lucky they might walk in front of the spectacular mountain view to my left. But clearly I needed a wider angle lens in order to fit in the goats if they got any closer, and to fit in the mountain scene in the background. A real key to the image that I got was that I was visualizing the shot that I really wanted to get, and I was anticipating what the goats were going to do (while taking pictures at the same time).

One advantage of using a wide angle lens is that it has a larger depth of field than a larger zoom like this one, so you have the possibility of getting a shot with a nearby subject in the foreground, and a distant background, and having both in focus. If you look at the first goat shot above, taken at 312mm equivalent focal length, the goat is in focus, but the rocks that are further away are not. So I quickly scrambled to get my Lumix 14-140mm (28-280mm equivalent) lens which was in the car, and switch that onto my (Lumix GX8) camera. The first shot I got with the wide angle lens on the camera was 24 seconds after the last shot with the big zoom lens, and by this point the goat was 19 feet away. So it’s important in this sort of situation to be decisive and act quickly.

As I was changing the lens I was also thinking about what camera settings to use. I knew I would need a large depth of field to get both the goat and the background in focus, so I would want a relatively small aperture, though I would be helped by using a wider angle lens as I mentioned previously. But I also needed a fairly fast shutter speed in order to make sure I froze the movement of the goats and kept everything sharp. The goats were walking quickly and I knew I would only have a few seconds to get my shots in. So I decided to trust the auto mode (P mode) on my Lumix GX8, which is something I am a big fan of doing. Many good photographers turn their nose up at P mode, but in my experience on modern cameras (my GX8 in particular) the camera generally makes good decisions in most situations, and lets me concentrate on the important matter of making sure I get the right content in my image. This can make a key difference in situations like this when time is very tight. I watch what settings it is using as I shoot, so if I don’t think it is making good choices I can switch to another mode if needed.

One bit of random good luck I had in this instance, which I only found out after the fact, was that somehow in grabbing the camera quickly when I first got out of the car, I accidentally changed the ISO setting from “intelligent auto” to ISO 800, which is a setting you would normally use in somewhat low light. The light was very bright for this picture, so having a higher ISO setting had the effect of the camera choosing both a smaller aperture and a faster shutter speed than it would have done with the auto ISO setting (I assume), both of which were what I wanted. I think I would have still got a good shot without this ISO change, but this inadvertently helped make sure I got the sharpness and depth of field I was looking for. This technique of using a higher ISO in good light is potentially a good one to use intentionally if you are looking for both a fast shutter speed and a large depth of field, whether using P, S, A or M modes.

Once I had the right lens on, I just remained still next to my car as the goats walked quickly down the mountain, and fortunately they did indeed walk by where I hoped they would. My distance estimator says that the goats were about 14 feet away from me at this point. This is probably a good point to say that of course you should not approach wild animals too closely, and this is closer than I would normally approach a goat. However, on Mount Evans the goats are very accustomed to having people around, and my experience there is that if you just stand or sit still they will often come quite close but just ignore you, as they did on this occasion. Plus I was right next to my car, just in case I needed to hop into it!

The goats were walking quickly across the mountain view, so I snapped as many images as I could in high speed burst mode, framing the shots to try to get a good composition for both the background and the goats. Altogether I got a total of 50 shots in the space of about 15 seconds as they walked across my field of view, of which I would say about 36 in the space of 10 seconds were really in front of the best viewing area.

This video sequence is made from the 50 shots I took over the 15 seconds, so gives a reasonable impression of the speed they moved at and the shots I got, though of course it’s a bit jerkier than real life was!

Mountain Goat photo sequence on Mount Evans from Peter Batty on Vimeo.

I got a number of good shots in this sequence. I chose the one at the beginning of this post as the best because I liked the way the large goat is looking out over the mountain view, and the baby is doing the same. But the following are all candidates too.

The top three of these are the same two goats and are all part of that 50 shot sequence in the video. The last one was another goat that followed the first two ten seconds or so later.

There are several factors that make this a unique picture that is hard to reproduce. One is obviously just getting not just one goat but two, and not just any two but a male with good horns and a baby, in a location with such a good view and where I can manage to get this close to them – if this was taken from further away with a longer zoom, it wouldn’t be possible to get both the background and the goats in focus. There are not many spots along Mount Evans Road with such a good view including good details in both the middle and far distance. Another important element of the picture is the snow, especially in the foreground but also in the background, and there is only this much snow for a short period of time after Mount Evans Road opens for the season, normally on Memorial Day (at the end of May). These pictures were taken on June 2. You can also tell this is an early season picture because the goats still have their winter coats – the adult is just starting to lose his very slightly, but for much of the season apart from the beginning and the end the goats are shedding their winter coats and don’t look as nice as they do with a full coat. And on top of all that there is a nice interesting cloudy sky – though still with sun on the subjects.

One of the great things about living in Denver is that you can get these sort of shots after work. On this day I left downtown Denver just a little early, around 3pm, and was up near the top of Mount Evans by 4:30pm.

The $20 accessory that will dramatically improve your outdoor portraits

Photography is a notoriously expensive hobby (or profession!), but this post features a great accessory that is less than $20 :). I mainly do landscape, cityscape and wildlife photography, but this past weekend went out with the family to take some portraits in a sunflower field near Denver Airport. So I took along this reflector, which I bought a few years ago, and it really helped to get some nice pictures. Here it is in action with an iPhone!


The sun is behind Paula, off to the left hand side of the photo, but it is reflecting from the disk to cast a nice golden light onto her face. Here is how one of the iPhone shots looked with no editing – impressive for shooting directly into the sun! This also shows that the reflector can really help even if you are not using a fancy camera.


Though the disk is 43″ across when in use, it easily folds with a twist into a 15″ pouch for carrying, and is very lightweight. It’s actually very versatile – the disk I have can be solid white, silver, gold or black, or translucent white, to let you create a range of effects (the base disk is translucent white with a metal hoop, and it has a reversible lightweight cloth cover that provides the other four colors).

I think it’s a remarkably good deal, for just $18.50 from Amazon at the time of writing.

Here is an example of a picture I took of Paula and Nikki, this is the raw image straight out of the camera, with no processing at all.


Even though I am shooting directly into the sun, you can see that their faces are still fairly well lit from the left hand side. Here I am just holding my camera in my right hand and the reflector in my left hand, which is not ideal – it tends to work a lot better if you can recruit an assistant to hold the disk! The gold color is not too obvious here but comes out more with a little post processing. As a side note, I used a 15mm fisheye lens for this picture, which seems to work well shooting into the sun – I think this is because the sun occupies a much smaller portion of the overall photo than it would with a less wide angle. The other advantage of the fisheye in this situation is that it has a very large depth of field so everything stays sharp and in focus, which is what I want here, so we can see the sunflowers clearly.

The image below is the result of a quick one click edit using Seim Natural HDR presets in Lightroom, which I’m a big fan of – they often given nice results with a single click (this preset is called Big Sky Dynamics, which I use a lot for landscape pictures). I like the effect it provides here.


Finally I did a quick bit of cloning in Photoshop to remove the cars in the background on the left hand side.


The other plus of having a reflecting disk is that it makes you look like you’re a professional 🙂 !! Definitely a worthwhile thing to pick up even if you are a very occasional portrait photographer like I am.


Plotagraph: watching the ocean at Azulik, Tulum

Today’s plotagraph (see more) was created from a picture I took back in 2014 at Azulik in Tulum, one of the most beautiful places we’ve stayed. We love Tulum in general, and have visited four times in the last ten years or so.

Paula Tulum swing (640px, 30fps)

Click on the image above to see a higher resolution version. As with all plotagraphs, this was created from a single image – here is the original:

Paula Tulum swing

Amazing image stabilization with LUMIX GX8 and Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens

I have been using micro four thirds cameras by LUMIX for several years now, having previously shot with a Nikon D7000. Since I travel a lot, and like to travel light, I love how compact and lightweight these cameras are compared to a traditional SLR (see a recent snapshot of my gear here). One thing that has been missing from the micro four thirds space until this year has been long zoom lenses. I have had a 14-140mm zoom for several years, which is my goto “do everything” lens, and is equivalent to 28-280mm in 35mm terms. I added an Olympus 40-150mm Pf/2.8 Pro lens in February 2015, together with a 1.4x teleconverter, which in combination amount to a maximum zoom of 420mm equivalent. This is the sharpest lens I have ever owned, I really love it.

However, for wildlife photography it is nice to have access to something longer than 420mm, so I was very excited when the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm Pro lens was announced, and I got one of these when it came out in April 2016. This lens weighs only 2 pounds, which is absurdly light and small for an 800mm equivalent lens – for comparison this Canon traditional DSLR 800mm (non zoom) lens weighs 10 pounds! There are lots of excellent technical reviews online and I’m not going to duplicate the details that you can find in those. I will just say that overall my experience with the lens has been great and I’ve been very pleased with many of the images I’ve got using it.

But what I wanted to talk about in this post is one particular image which I took on my recent trip to Brazil, in the Floresta da Tijuca, the rainforest in Rio de Janeiro – as it happens at the side of one of the roads that the Olympic cyclists raced along this week. It’s this image of a tufted (or brown) capuchin monkey – it’s not my favorite image that I’ve taken with this lens, but I think it’s technically one of the most interesting.

P1600617 1024px

This is the image directly out of the camera – the raw image just loaded into Lightroom and exported as a jpeg. You can click on the image above to see a full size version. The remarkable thing about this image is that it was taken in very low light, as the rainforest canopy really blocks out a lot of light. It was hand held at 800mm equivalent using a 1/40s shutter speed, which is an incredibly slow shutter speed for such a long lens. A general rule of thumb is that to get a reasonably sharp image without any camera shake, you should use a shutter speed of 1 over the focal length or faster, so 1/800s or faster with an 800mm equivalent lens. For handheld wildlife shots with any longish zoom I will usually try to use a speed of 1/1000s or faster.

Modern cameras can mitigate camera shake using image stabilization technology, which can be done in the lens or in the camera body. My camera, the LUMIX GX8, has some of the most advanced image stabilization technology available today, which lets you combine image stabilization effects from both the lens and the camera body. People talk about the number of stops of improvement you get from image stabilization, and going from 1/800s to 1/40s is about 4.5 stops worth of improvement, which is pretty amazing I think. Of course you also need the subject to be still at such a slow shutter speed, and fortunately the monkey co-operated in this shot.

P1600617 edited

Here’s a version of the photo with a little editing. It’s also worth commenting that this picture was taken at ISO 3200, which is pretty high for a micro four thirds camera, and I think the quality is very good when you consider that too.

Finally I will say that this picture was taken using auto exposure mode, and auto ISO. This is a theme I will return to repeatedly on this blog. A lot of serious photographers have the attitude that you’e not a “proper photographer” if you’re using auto mode. I strongly disagree with that. I am very proficient at using all the main modes on my camera, and use shutter, aperture or manual modes when appropriate. But I think that modern cameras are much smarter than many people give them credit for, and much of the time auto mode makes excellent decisions for you. Much of the time these days my default mode of operation is to use auto mode and keep an eye on the settings it is choosing, and just switch modes if I think the camera isn’t making good choices. This way I can focus more of my attention on the content of my photo, and I really think that has helped me take better pictures. When you’re doing wildlife pictures, saving fractions of a second can make a difference in getting a great shot, and with landscape pictures you can focus all your attention on getting the best possible composition and lighting. Also on occasions, like this one, auto mode will really surprise you in a good way – there was no way I would have attempted to take this picture at 1/40s if I was choosing the settings myself, I would have just given up and concluded that it was too dark.