Here’s the first of a new Image Space series where we ask Olympus photographers to answer our questions: we’re kicking off with Andrew Fusek Peters, who’s been brightening up social media and British newspapers with extraordinary back garden bird action shots and superb star trails…
Q: Why and how did you get into photography?
I was a children’s author for many years: Seven years ago, I bought my first DSLR for my son’s stop-frame animation hobby. Within a couple of months the animation stopped, and I became fascinated with the potential of taking pictures.
Q. How did you become an Olympus photographer?
I went to The Photography Show and started chatting to the people on the Olympus stand, who offered me a Pro Loan to try out the kit. I was using Canon at the time, and they warned me that once I started on Olympus I wouldn’t be able to stop – they were right!
Q. What subject do you most often take photos of?
I am mainly a wildlife and landscape photographer, but also love doing nightscapes, star trails and photographing the moon in context. There are things that have become possible with Olympus kit that have changed everything for me – including birds, bees and butterflies in flight, many of which have been published in the national papers and camera magazines.
Q. How often do you take pictures?
As this is my living, I am out shooting most days.
Q: What’s in your camera bag?
Currently my OM-D E-M1 Mk III and 300 F4, and the 1.4x and 2x converters. For butterfly and insect in flight shots, compressed landscape layers and moon in context shots, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens. For all landscape work, the peerless M.Zuiko Digital ED 12‑100mm F4 IS PRO, and for night work and wide landscape, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm F2.8 PRO.
Q: What kit’s essential for your preferred genre, other than cameras and lenses?
A cheapy cushioned fold-up kneeling mat, a Black Rapid camera strap to carry my wildlife set up during long walks, a Rollei carbon fibre tripod for star trail work, and a Hahnel Remote Control.
Q: What keeps you busy, other than photography?
I am the main cook of the house, and love trying new recipes. I am also a keen club squash player and sing in my local choir.
Q: Do you shoot in Raw or JPEG? (and did you change – and why?)
Raw always, though with handheld focus stack, the image comes out as a JPEG – please give us a raw option for this one!
Q: How do you know when one of your images is good – what do you look for?
It has to be a gut feeling, but I do use social media to evaluate the response to particular pictures. As I supply photos to the national papers via my press agency, it is always interesting to see which pictures get taken up. A very good indicator is if several papers take the same single image or story.
Q: What’s your workflow like and how much editing do you do after you’ve taken your photographs?
As I am shooting with silent shutter or pro-capture H, I can easily take 10,000 pictures in a day. I have a very fast iMac Pro: I open up the memory card on Lightroom and trawl as fast as I can, to winnow down to twenty pictures that I can do some work with. Basic processing happens in Lightroom, but if I need to sharpen or work on noise reduction, I go into Photoshop. As well as basic dodge and burn, my favourite current filters are High Pass sharpening with a layer mask, Nik Viveza to warm up a picture, Topaz AI Sharpen and Denoise (though they are not quite the miracle workers they claim to be!) then back into Lightroom to finish off, crop etc.
Q: What do you do with your photos once they’re finished?
By the end of my workflow process, I have a Tiff file sitting in Lightroom ready for wherever I might need to send it. This could be a commission for one of the camera mags like Amateur Photographer, or sending to my press agency, who then interview me to put a story out with the pictures they then send to the various picture-desk editors. I make collections of my best work in Lightroom and then have various portfolios to enter into competitions (I have won awards at British Wildlife Photographer of the Year, International Garden Photographer of the Year and Close Up Photographer of the Year) Because I also have collections of my best photos on Lightroom Mobile, I am then able to do my social media work – Instagram, Twitter and Facebook from my iPad. I can also use my iPad when I go to places like the Photography Show to pitch to magazines and brands.
Q: What’s the best feature of Olympus kit?
A hard question, and I have to give three answers. The IBIS is incredible – even as dusk is falling and into the night I can keep shooting handheld at low ISO. Thank you! Pro Capture has completely changed the way I get action shots – I would never even have attempted to get butterflies in flight without this feature. And it’s light-weight: I have tremors sometimes and my previous kit was becoming a struggle to carry. I can have a whole set up from 14mm equivalent to 840mm in one small Olympus camera bag.
Q: What’s the most useful piece of photography advice you’ve ever heard?
Work hard! There are no shortcuts… Keep learning every day, and if you are working on a project just keep going with it – it will eventually bear fruit.
Q: Who or what inspires you?
I always go back to Ansel Adams and the way he ‘made’ pictures, and of course Cartier-Bresson. More recently, the incredible Kirsty Mitchell.
Q: Aside from photography, what do you wish you were really good at?
I would love to be able to play the guitar. I started at 15 but gave up too soon.
Q: If you could only have one lens on your camera, which would it be?
The M.Zuiko 150-400 of course – I can’t wait for that lens to come out!
Q: What’s next on your wishlist, kit-wise?
Q: Which Olympus photographer should we speak to next?
Petr Bambousek: he’s one of the Olympus wildlife photographers who I really rate, and who tries to get the very best out of his kit.