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PRO STORY: MEGHAN MCCABE

Living in Johannesburg, South Africa, Meghan has an innate interest in wildlife. Prior to being a photographer she was a secretary in a veterinary clinic, spending much of her free time in the bush exploring national parks and learning about the animals.

Her addiction to adrenaline veered her towards the race track, where she then built a successful career as an automotive photographer . Five years on, and a year since becoming the ambassador for Olympus, she’s stepped back into the wild, launching workshops for photographers and changing people’s views of mirrorless models.

How do you define Meghan McCabe as a photographer? A passionate general photographer who adores shooting boudoir as much as wildlife? An award-winning automotive photographer or perhaps a lifestyle portrait photographer dabbling in corporate headshots? A full-time pro since 2014, Meghan has built a career shooting varied disciplines, but one thing has remained constant in the last two years: a devotion to the Olympus OM-D system. Meghan began her photographic career as an automotive photographer fulfilling her need for speed by shooting adrenaline fuelled action at the race track. Five years on and many accolades later, she’s embarking on new territories as a full-time wildlife photographer, sharing her passion for the bush with other photographers through her hands-on courses and elephant walks. Establishing a reputation as a leading automotive photographer is no small feat for any new photographer but for Meghan, surrounded by male photographers whose positions at the track haven’t changed for decades, she had a struggle ahead. Being female makes her stand out but also means Meghan had to work harder to prove her talents and earn respect in the industry and that meant using kit she could rely on. The OM-D system has become just that.

“I’ve had wildlife photographers look at my OM-D E-M1 Mark II and tell me that mirrorless models aren’t built for shooting wildlife – the sensor size is too small or the body isn’t robust enough for the bush –and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve used full-frame marquee brands before the Olympus OM-D system and its image quality is just as superb and its low-light performance spectacular in comparison. I once photographed a lion at night at ISO 5000 and it was so clear – there wasn’t a spot of grain in the shot.”

For some photographers, the size may be a disadvantage if they parallel quality with mass but for Meghan it’s a huge advantage. “I hate using tripods, they’re awkward and uncomfortable to use, so the fantastic Five-Axis Image Stabilisation and light weight of the OM-D system means I can handhold at slow shutter speeds while shooting in low light, which is invaluable. I get pin-sharp images in almost all shooting situations. I used to need to use a monopod to support my DSLR and 150-600mm lens, but not anymore,” she says. Meghan only carries the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens and most of the time, that’s all she needs.

When it comes to the benefits of the OM-D system, Meghan remarks that there are countless and she’s not just applauding it because she’s an ambassador. “It works phenomenally well in all lighting situations. Times when you’d expect the focusing to lag or to hunt works instantly and picks up immense detail too. Not too long ago, while on a course, we were photographing an owl in flight at dusk in near to no light. Shot at ISO 10000, the image was very grainy as you’d expect, but there was no lag in the autofocus, which is amazing in such low light.” The OM-D E-M1 Mark II, in particular, has an innovative 121-point autofocus system (similar to the E‑M10 Mark III), combining contrast detection with TTL phase detection, and is capable of shooting up to 18fps in continuous autofocus and 60fps in Single Auto Focus mode – perfect for capturing the action.

Hadaway feels that his switch to the Olympus system means he is also capturing better photographs than ever before. “Not only has my interest in photography been rekindled to the point that I am out with my cameras nearly every weekend, either at a reserve or an air show, but I have also been on a number of trips abroad for wildlife. Last November, I went on my first overseas trip specifically for aviation and an air show,” explains Hadaway. “I feel that Olympus has given me the freedom not only to get out with my camera, but it has given the freedom to be able to plan trips and projects for the future, which just over a year ago I could not have even contemplated”

“I’m fascinated by wildlife so I love to watch and study their behaviour in the wild – small creatures can be just as interesting as the big cats. Elephants are a favourite of mine, though, which is why I include elephant walks in my workshops: we walk with a herd of tamer elephants for a new perspective,” she adds. The vari-angle 3in LCD screen on most OM-D models is certainly useful in such situations when composing at awkward and unusual angles, but it’s the electronic viewfinder’s image preview that gets Meghan’s praise: “When shooting outside in bright sunshine, which is often the case in Africa, it can be difficult to see images on an LCD monitor so being able to preview images via the viewfinder is a useful advantage. The OM-D series is also equipped with superb Wi-Fi connectivity, making transferring images to a phone fast and easy while in the field. I couldn’t honestly want for anything more from my system.”

Article featured in Digital SLR Photography Magazine in February 2019