I find the story of the early Victorian photographers fascinating. They ventured far and wide to capture images of the life and times of those days with huge mahogany and brass cameras mounted on sturdy wooden tripods. The lenses were works of the glass-makers’ art with specially crafted discs of glass allowing the photographer to focus on a fixed point – be it a person or landscape. These pioneers of photography measured their exposure times in minutes; is it any wonder that some of their subjects look wooden and unsmiling – images captured on glass plates, coated with silver salts in a gelatine base and brought to life with developing agents concocted by using chemicals similar to those we use today to restore the shine on silver cutlery.
If you’re interested, take a trip to the science museum or one of the many photographic museums dedicated to past masters of the art. It won’t be a wasted journey.
These thoughts about Victorian photographers were triggered by an invitation to the British Wildlife Centre in Sussex. Olympus were hosting a photography day there to showcase their latest Pro camera, the OM-D E-M1-Mark II and Pro lenses. I use Olympus digital cameras and lenses myself and find their equipment superb – not only for the quality of the glass in the lenses, but also for the cameras, which use a microchip system called ‘micro four thirds.’ It’s a complicated system, suffice to say that the small imaging chip allows the manufacturers using this format, namely Olympus and Panasonic, to produce smaller, lighter cameras without losing the extremely high-quality electronics.
Pictures: Scottish Wildcat, Fox, Otter, Roe Deer
If, like me, you tend to travel in search of subject matter, lighter and smaller professional photographic equipment is very desirable, especially when travelling by air on budget airlines – even the air you breathe seems to carry its own price. I’m loathe to subject my working kit to the gentle care of airline baggage handlers, but at the end of the day no camera, whatever its size and range of lenses, is of much use if the images captured are not of a professional standard.
Naturally, when I received my invitation to play with Olympus’s latest range I was rather excited. For anyone who hasn’t visited The BWC you are missing a chance to see, at close quarters, most of the creatures with which we share these islands but who, sensibly, keep hidden from view most of the time.
The British Wildlife Collection is always enjoyable and the fact that I had the company of a great friend, Peter Willmott, a photographer of some considerable skill and fellow Olympus enthusiast, made it even more so. Peter and I often explore the wildlife potential in the Uk and France together.
You won’t need me to remind you I’m sure, but the weather early in the year was, to say the least, uninspiring; dull, damp and chilly. The chance to get my hands on the professional products of one of the world’s foremost photographic equipment makers and enjoy a day out at the BWC was enough to cheer anyone up – despite the weather.
The Olympus OM-D E-M1-Mark II looks and feels like the professional it is. The body is metal and typical Olympus; slightly retro in style with a finish that echoes the fact that this company also produce medical equipment. Water and dust resistant, reliable in all temperatures, the controls are easy to hand and clearly marked. The image on the large multi position touch screen is excellent quality which makes using this camera for video a doddle. The anti-shake facility is remarkable.
I used two lenses at The BWC, the 12-40 f2.8 pro zoom and the 40-150 f2.8 pro zoom, both of similar size and magnification to those I use on my own Olympus OM-D 5; although the joy of the ‘micro four thirds’ configuration allows the indicated magnifications to be doubled.
My style of photography is usually to ignore the multi shot format, unless there is no alternative, and look to frame individual shots; adjusting exposure, shutter speed and lighting as I need. This means that, by being sparing with the number of images I take, I may sometimes miss a shot that I might have captured in ‘machine gun mode’, but I find more satisfaction in the well- focussed and framed shot of the particular bird, mammal or insect in context, rather than simply capturing an image among so many that have to be discarded. Having said this, every photographer has their own style – and that is just how it should be.
Some of the pictures I took during this wonderful opportunity at the British Wildlife Centre accompany this blog….and more will follow as I use this camera…
British Wildlife Collection – https://www.britishwildlifecentre.co.uk
Olympus – https://www.olympus.co.uk