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by Lucy Clarke

On 5th April I was lucky enough to be invited to the OLYMPUS OM-D E-M1 Mark II Experience Day at Kew Gardens, hosted by OLYMPUS Ambassador Marcus Clackson. The sun shining, birds singing and OLYMPUS camera in tow I set off and made my way to Kew. I arrived at Cambridge Cottage where I was greeted by the lovely Clare and welcomed into a room where drinks and pastries were waiting for us. It was great to get chatting with other likeminded OLYMPUS photographers. As we had all purchased the same camera it was interesting to hear everyone’s different experiences of the E-M1 Mark II so far.

After everyone had arrived we sat down for a presentation by OLYMPUS Ambassador Marcus Clackson. Marcus began by talking briefly about his background as a professional photographer. He then showed us some of his recent Macro work while talking through it. This was really useful as it gave us some inspiration for shooting later on. Marcus shared with us the reasons he loves working with OLYMPUS cameras when shooting macro, namely because they are so light (he can get shots he wouldn’t be able to if he was using a heavier body) and fast (the speed is fantastic for shooting insects and wildlife). He told us some of his favourite kit to use, which included the M.ZUIKO 30mm f3.5 Macro and STF-8 Twin Macro Flash.

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After the presentation we were split into groups, with some of us starting with a tech demo and the rest of us going out to shoot. The fantastic team of OLYMPUS Experts were ready and waiting to take us round the gardens – Claire Voyle, Clare Harvey-May, Dave Smith and Jez Sugars (who was our expert for the day). We were given the chance to borrow some of the latest M.ZUIKO lenses, which was a great opportunity for those of us that had never tried Macro photography before.

We ventured outside Cambridge Cottage and took our first shots in Duke’s Garden. Jez made sure he spent time with each of us individually to answer any initial questions, but most of all it was about getting stuck in and hands-on with our new cameras in the beautiful surroundings.

After we were finished in the Garden we moved onto the Davies Alpine House – a unique glasshouse designed to provide ideal conditions for Alpine plants. We could really get up close to the fascinating plants here, making it the perfect time to try out the OLYMPUS Macro lenses and STF-8 Macro flash.

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Next was the wonderful Princess of Wales Conservatory. It contains ten different environments covering a range of tropical conditions and climatic zones. It was a really fantastic experience to shoot in here, with so many weird and wonderful plants and flowers (and even water dragons!) to choose from. It was also interesting to see how each of our photos differed from one another, even with the same location and equipment.

You might not think it but photographing plants is definitely hungry work! Luckily it was time for lunch, which was provided for us at the cottage. It was also a great chance to catch up with the other groups and find out what everyone had been up to.

After a delicious lunch, it was time for our group to get some 1-2-1 time with Marcus. We returned the Davies Alpine House, at which point the fan-like shades had covered the windows to protect the plants from the intense heat of the sun (giving us a different light to work with). We also covered the Rock Garden and the Hive. The best thing about Kew is that there are photo opportunities to be found everywhere; even separately from the installations.

For the last part of our shoot we went to spend some more time at the Princess of Wales Conservatory. As there are so many facets of this area, there were still plenty of things we missed the first time round. Marcus spent time with each of us individually, answering questions and showing us how to make the most of our new cameras.

When we were content we had enough photos we sat down for a tech session with Jez. He started by doing a live water splash session to demonstrate the E-M1 Mark II’s Pro Capture mode. This was really useful as it was a feature that none of us had explored before. As well as answering any specific questions we had, Jez covered some of the camera’s unique features, including peaking, hi-res mode, and in camera photo stacking.

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As the day drew to a close, we all returned to Cambridge Cottage, for a Q&A with Marcus and Claire. This was a great chance to ask not only questions about our cameras, but also general questions about OLYMPUS equipment, events, resources and software.

All in all this was a one-of-a-kind experience that gave us all a great insight into our new cameras, with the help of an inspirational setting and incredible team of staff and photographers. If you have bought and E-M1 Mark II and get the chance I would highly recommend booking onto one of the remaining events – you can find out more information about them here.

To see some more photos from the day and other OLYMPUS events, make sure to join the OLYMPUS UK Events Facebook group by clicking here.