I recently had the pleasure of conversing with Sonny Portacio of pocketlenses.com. His website is a fantastic resource for everything involving mirrorless cameras. On it he states, "You don’t need big, heavy camera gear to make great pictures. Mirrorless Cameras have forever changed the landscape of photography. You can learn to make stunning images with lightweight, agile, mirrorless gear. Size, weight, performance and capabilities are some of the many reasons people choose a mirrorless camera over a large, bulky DSLR."
I couldn't agree more. My Olympus gear is incredibly light, durable, and reliable - all without sacrificing image quality. During our conversation we chat about how I got into photography, why I shoot mirrorless, my primary subject matter and some of the tips and techniques that I use to try and create high quality imagery.
Listen to Part 1 of my conversation with Sonny.
In Part 2 of the podcast, I discuss the backstory behind some of my images, give tips on how to improve your photography, and talk about some gadgets that I use to create my images.
It still makes me giddy thinking about it. Me, an Olympus Visionary. Well, actually "Trailblazer" to be more specific.
I've always loved my Olympus cameras. It's the only brand I've ever shot with. I started with the OM1n back in the 70s. A young, skinny teenager who would spend hours hiking through the country side where I grew up, carefully composing a shot. Only when I thought it was perfect would I press the shutter. Every 'click' cost me money so composition was key. Years later I looked through the thousands of slides I'd taken and only a few were really any good. But I did learn a lot about photography.
Fast forward to 2001. During the previous 15 years I'd hardly picked up the camera. Teaching career, family, home renos - these were my priorities and I consumed them wholeheartedly. My children didn't want to hang out with dad all the time, my career was on track and I needed a hobby again. I decided to invest in a new-fangled digital camera. My Olympus had never let me down, so I thought I'd give it another go. I purchased the small Camedia 3040z at a cost of $1200 for a whole 3.2 megapixels. Yikes! (I can't believe I spent that much!)
Alright let's speed this reminiscing up a bit...
I then upgraded to my first DSLR - the E-500 (great camera - really loved it), then the E-510 (which I eventually gave to my dad) and the E-30. All of these models were at least one step below the company's 'professional' cameras, but that was okay. I wasn't a professional. And I really liked the image quality of each of them.
So, how do you get noticed by a major camera manufacturer? Believe me, I wasn't trying to get noticed. I just liked to post my work online. In 2009 I started posting on the Canadian Geographic site and in 2011 I started on 500px.com. In 2012 I received my first request from Olympus asking if they could post some of my photos on their Facebook page. They had seen my work on 500px. I was honoured, but didn't think much about it. Those requests occurred two more times and each time I was pleased to be asked.
Then came the big phone call. In March of this year I received a request for an interview. I had just had a small interview for a photography magazine in the UK so I assumed it would be something like that - "Tell us about your photography." "Why do you shoot Olympus?", etc. The interview was nothing like that.
"Hi Peter. We've been following your work for several months now and we like what we see. Have you heard of the Visionary Program?"
...and the rest, as they say, is history.
Many of today's working photographers and photo enthusiasts had their start during the age of film. I was certainly one of them. I got my first summer job at a fast food joint in the resort town of Sauble Beach, Ontario. The year was 1976. I was 12 and earned $2.15 per hour flipping burgers and making milkshakes. By the end of the summer I had banked over $1K - an amazing amount of money back then. My father insisted that I purchase something useful and said, (insert thick German accent) "Peter, you're not going to vaste your money at za arcade. You're going to invest your money mit zomething useful."
My dad was a bit of photographer and owned a beautiful Voigtlander camera from the old country. As a young child I remember my dad always carrying around the camera and taking snapshots of family gatherings and the occasional day trip we'd go on. I'm afraid I absolutely hated having my picture taken. I don't think there's a photo of me in my dad's collection where I'm not crying or pouting. Even back then I must have known that I would be much more comfortable on the other side of the lens.
I decided to invest my summer earnings in a new 35mm camera. My dad packed me up in the car and took me to the local camera shop, 30 minutes down the highway. We looked at a few and I walked out with a brand new camera under my arm - a truly massive, beast of a thing, a Soviet-era Zenit. As exciting as it was to enter the world of photography, that tank just wasn't doing it for me. A year later and it was definitely time to trade up in quality and down in heft. Dad packed me in the car again and off we went to the small camera shop. My dad was never one to rush a buying decision and we must have looked at two dozen cameras. Fully automatic cameras were just coming in, but the price for those was a little more than a pimply-faced teenager could afford. Plus, my dad insisted that I learn photography the proper way, by purchasing a fully manual camera - the Olympus OM-1n.
That was the last film camera I ever owned - a great little machine that still works. I pumped countless rolls of film through - print, slide, black and white, and infrared. I enjoyed experimenting. Photography was definitely not a cheap hobby - $5 per roll, $20 to print. It adds up quick. It did force me to really focus on the composition because I couldn't afford to take a dozen shots of the same subject.
My little OM-1n worked hard during my teens and early twenties. In my late twenties and into my thirties my teaching career and young family took more and more of my 'spare' time and the camera sat on the shelf for extended periods. I have to admit that I'd lost interest in photography. But that was definitely going to change...
Here are a few of those early shots.
My brother(left) and a friend of his playing catch on the beach.
I would have been about 13 or so when I took this.
My first double exposure attempt. My brother was often the 'guinea pig' for my photographic experiments.
I still love what frost can do for a subject.
This was shot at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park near Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Peter Baumgarten is a professional photographer and educator. He is also an Olympus Visionary and NiSi Official Photographer.