Colorful Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park
Landscapes,  National Parks,  Olympus / OM System,  Photo Gear

Exploring the Landscapes of Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks with the OM System OM-1 and its Specialized Features

I recently returned from a photography expedition to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.  Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks have some beautiful landscape photography opportunities but the special features in OM System OM-1 camera make it easier to capture amazing photographs in these parks. 

Some of the OM-1 features that I used during the trip were: outstanding image stabilization, Live ND, Live Composite, Handheld Exposure Bracketing, In Camera Focus Stacking, and Live Time Long Exposures.  In addition, the small size of OM System gear made it easy to fly into St. George, Utah (which was the starting point for the workshop) on a small plane.

Below is a description of each of those special features and how they were used in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

7.5 Stops of Image Stabilization

I did bring a tripod with me on the trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in order to do exposure bracketing sequences in extremely low lighting conditions at blue hour.  However, as soon as the sun came up, I was able to move quickly around to capture the morning light on the landscapes. 

This is especially important at Bryce Canyon where the sun moves quickly across the Hoodoos changing the lighting and compositions.  I find that handholding the camera allowed me to not only move more quickly but also to be more creative with my compositions.

Car Light Trails using Live Composite
Car Light Trails using Live Composite. The strong winds effected the overall image but Live Composite worked like a champ for the Car Light Trails

Live Composite

While we did not do any night photography, we did arrive in time for blue hour for our sunrise photo shoots.  One morning we were positioned above several switchbacks in the road for sunrise. This was a perfect opportunity to photograph car light trails. 

Live Composite made it easy to photography the car light trails.  Once you got the right exposure for the base image, you simply watch the light trails paint on the LCD screen.  When you get enough star trail light in your image, you simply press the shutter button to stop the exposure.  I’d recommend using a remote shutter release like the OM System RM-WR1 Wireless Shutter Release for the OM-1.

Photographers with other cameras needed to estimate the amount of time it would take for the cars to travel the switchbacks in the road and set that time for their exposure.

The Gnarled Tree, Zion National Park - Handheld in Camera Focus Stacking
The Gnarled Tree, Zion National Park – Handheld In Camera Focus Stacking

In Camera Focus stacking

One evening at sunset, we photographed a small gnarled tree perched on a side of a large rock.  The rock had amazing line patterns leading to the tree.  With in camera focus bracketing, I was able to lay on my belly holding the camera low and focus stack the composition. 

What’s nice about in camera focus stacking is that you can see the results of the stack on your LCD / viewfinder right away.  This way you can tell if your stack was successful.  You also get the RAW files from the stack so you can also re-stack the images using post processing software.

Live Time Long Exposures

If you have a dark ND filter like a 10 Stop ND, you can capture the moving clouds in your composition with a long exposure.  Much like Live Composite, you can see the exposure and the histogram on the camera’s LCD screen.  With Live Time you are limited in the number of refreshes on the LCD during the exposure.  These refresh limits vary based on the ISO.  You can set an automated refresh rate for the Live Time exposure and/or half press the shutter on your remote shutter release to refresh the screen.  Here is a link to a blog on using the Live Time feature on Olympus / OM System cameras.

Also, with mirrorless cameras you can compose the scene and focus with the dark ND filter on the camera while with DSLRs you need to compose and focus before you attach the filter.

Early Morning Light on the Hoodoos, Bryce Canyon National Park
Early Morning Light on the Hoodoos, Bryce Canyon National Park

Handheld Exposure Bracketing

Like I mentioned above, the image stabilization in OM System / Olympus cameras reduces the need for a tripod.  But what if you see a scene that needs exposure bracketing while handholding the camera. 

I found that except for those times with really low light, I can successfully use exposure bracketing while handholding the camera.  You do need to practice good camera stabilization techniques with your camera so the compositions in the bracketed images are not wildly different.  I found that Adobe Lightroom Classic does a good job merging these exposures without resulting in an over the top HDR look.

90mm Macro on the OM-1
OM System OM-1

Size and Weight of my OM System / Micro Four Thirds Gear

Since I was traveling on a small plan into and out of St. George, Utah, I loaded all my photography gear, plus my iPad Pro, and backup drive in my WANDRD PRVKE 21L backpack.  Since I had a short connection between flights and I was sure they would gate check my Pelican Case, I decided not to bring it along.

I was able to fit a bunch of necessary Micro Four Thirds gear in the PRVKE 21L backpack.  Just be careful to weigh the bag loaded with the gear you are going to take, and test that you can carry the bag while walking through the airport and in the field.

Here is what I was able the fit in the PRVKE 21L backpack. 

  • OM System OM-1
  • Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III (Back up camera)
  • Olympus 12-100 f/4 lens
  • Olympus 8-25 f/4 lens
  • Olympus 40-150 f/2.8 lens
  • Venus Laowa 7.5mm f/2 lens
  • Venus Laowa 10mm f/2 lens
  • 4 lens filters
  • OM System RM-WR1 Wireless Shutter Release
  • 12.9” iPad Pro
  • Logitech Crayon for Photo Editing on the iPad
  • External Storage Drive and Cable
  • Power cables for my iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch
  • Two SD Card Cases
  • Extra Batteries for the OM-1 and E-M1 Mark III
  • Headlamp

There is no way I could have fit and carried this much full frame gear in my pack.  I also used all the gear that I brought with me (except for the Laowa lenses which were for astrophotography that we didn’t do).

Overall, I’m really impressed with the OM-1 and how it performed on the Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park trip.  I was equally pleased that I was able to bring all the Micro Four Thirds gear that I needed on the trip while traveling on a small plane into St. George.

More OM-1 Blogs

Related Posts

Putting the OM System OM-1 to the Test on a Photography Trip to Alaska
Tips and Locations for Photographing the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Olympus / OM System Handheld Exposure Bracketing – A Useful Tool for your Landscape Photography

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  • Walter I.

    Hi Martin,

    I have a PRKVE 21L with the Essential cube and no way could it fit all that you listed. Did you use the Pro cube in your PRVKE? Just curious.


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