Andrew O’Brien – better known to most as gardener @andrewtimothyob from Instagram – takes time out from the garden to answer our questions about his photography
Q: Why and how did you get into photography?
I’ve loved photography since I was a child with my first film camera, which took a 110 format cartridge. My first SLR was a great lump of a thing, a Russian Zenith – built like a tank.
Q: How did you become an Olympus photographer?
I wanted something with the flexibility and quality of a DSLR but in a much smaller format, something that would let me stuff a body and a couple of lenses into my normal day bag. And, I admit, I’m a sucker for the retro styling and Olympus pedigree.
Q: What subject do you most often take photos of?
Plants and gardens, mostly outdoors, some internal still life and product shots.
Q: How often do you take pictures?
It’s a rare day if I’ve not spent at least a few moments staring through a lens…
Q: What kit’s essential for your preferred genre, other than cameras and lenses?
Sometimes a reflector, a tripod if I’m shooting low light indoors, but outside in the gardens the IBIS is so good I’m almost always working handheld.
Q: What keeps you busy, other than photography?
Gardening – on the ground and in my online garden coaching programme where I help people to get the best from their own outdoor spaces.
Q: Do you shoot in Raw or JPEG?
JPEG – I’m mostly shooting non-commercially for myself, so don’t really need the extra flexibility that RAW offers.
Q: How do you know when one of your images is good – what do you look for?
It’s never the technically good ones, always where the light does something magic. You never know quite what you get till you shut the outside world out and peer into the EVF. One of the reasons I can’t quite get used using the (admittedly very good) rear screens.
Q: What’s your workflow like?
As far as shooting goes, it’s mostly handheld though the EVF or with LiveView on the OI.Share app when using a tripod. I love the hot shoe mounted VF-4 on the E-PL7, it lets me hold the camera at chest level like an old TLR, and is great for really getting in amongst the plants. I’m tempted to pick up a second hand OM-D E-M1 Mark I that still has the accessory port for this reason. I shoot in AV mode with copious use of exposure compensation – it’s nice to have the dedicated dial on the PEN-F, though the way I’ve set the E-PL7 up it’s not much less convenient.
Q: How much editing do you do after you’ve taken your photographs?
As close to SOOC as possible. Maybe some sharpening and a minor tweak of the crop.
Q: What do you do with your photos once they’re finished?
I transfer images to my phone for Instagram, and back them up with an SD card reader onto my Mac with a clunky old copy of iPhoto and a couple of external hard drives.
Q: What’s the best feature of Olympus kit?
Got to be the IBIS.
Q: What’s the most useful piece of photography advice you’ve ever heard?
Chase the light.
Q: Who or what inspires you?
The natural world inspires me – we might alter it irrevocably through greed or through carelessness, but no matter what we throw at it, it adapts and carries on, relentlessly.
Q: Aside from photography, what do you wish you were really good at?
Running. I love to run, but I’m not built for it. Plodded my way through a couple of marathons, but the whole lithe-limbed gazelle thing seems as far out of reach as ever!
Q: If you could only have one lens on your camera, which would it be?
The M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO.
Q: What’s next on your wishlist, kit-wise?
The M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm F1.2 PRO.
Q: Where can we see more of your photos?
Come and find me on Instagram! @AndrewTimothyOB
Q: Can you point us at an Olympus-using photographer who deserves more of a spotlight (and tell us why?)
I love the way that serious issues are combined with such a light, playful touch and joy for life in the images of Rayba (@sheflourished_ on Instagram). I’m pretty sure she’s another PEN-F user…