You’ve almost certainly seen her photos on social media – please meet Sue Cro, a long-time Olympus user who creates breathtaking portraits of wild creatures in the summer and colourful abstracts in the winter.
Male bullfinches in the snow: “Oh really guys, behave!”
Q: Why and how did you get into photography?
Like many generations of my family, taking photos to record holidays, family members, pets and seasonal holidays was the norm. Sadly I never met my Grandfather, but I did find a huge cache of his photographs, especially a number from his time serving in the Army in the Far East – so I guess you could say it is in the genes.
Q: How did you become an Olympus photographer?
After a number of throw-away cameras and Kodak film cameras in my youth, my first serious camera was an Olympus OM-20 with a 50mm lens. After that I used numerous cameras as technology progressed, the Minolta Dynax 7000i was my first autofocus camera and I loved it. Then the world of digital arrived – as cameras and computers evolved, I eventually came full circle back to Olympus and the original E-M1. I have had the E-M5 Mark II, then the E-M1 Mark II and now the E-M1 Mark III. I was given the opportunity to try out the E-M1X on my last trip to Skomer – but I’m glad I waited because the newest E-M1 Mark III has all the features I need in a smaller body!
A perfect example of Pro Capture in action with these greenfinches fighting in the snow!
Q: What subject do you most often take photos of?
I would classify myself as a wildlife photographer, my greatest love being birds – but the summer is also my favourite time to capture macro shots of bees taking flight. During the winter months, I focus on learning more processing and also try my hand at some studio work like bubble or splash art.
Q: How often do you take pictures?
I’d love to say every day, but sadly that isn’t always practical. I was lucky to retire four years ago and that has allowed me much more time to get out and about. I’ve also done some amazing trips, Skomer, Sweden, Scotland etc – spending days filling up my SD cards and coming home with thousands of images.
Q: What’s in your camera bag?
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, E-M1 Mark III and just about every Olympus lens! The 8mm F1.8 fisheye, 9-18mm F4-5.6, 17mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8, 45mm F1.8, 60mm F2.8, 75mm F1.8, 12-40mm F2.8, 12-100mm F4, 40-150mm F2.8, 300mm F4 and TC-1.4!
The M.Zuiko 40-150 F2.8 is perfect for bird-in-flight shots if your subject comes close – like these obliging clowns of the sea, the puffins on Skomer.
Q: What kit’s essential for your preferred genre, other than cameras and lenses?
I am out and about at, say, Bushy Park for the deer rut, then my only other essential piece of kit is a BlackRapid strap to take the weight of the camera without hurting my neck. Otherwise, in hides, I use a Benro Gimbal head – or a good old beanbag!
Q: What keeps you busy, other than photography?
Sad to say, photography is what I do – apart from the odd bit of housework (only when someone’s coming though!) and gardening.
Q: Do you shoot in Raw or JPEG? (and did you change – and why?)
I shoot in Raw and enjoy processing. I used to have my own darkroom back in the film days, so I know there is no such thing as “straight out of the camera”, and I really enjoy the process of seeing my images come alive on the screen.
The M.Zuiko 12-100 F4 is so versatile – one of my must-have lenses!
Q: How do you know when one of your images is good – what do you look for?
That’s a tough question. I guess I’m looking for that magic light or unusual behaviour that draws my eye.
Q: What’s your workflow like?
I use Lightroom for most of my processing, then some Photoshop and finish with Topaz DeNoise if necessary. I’m looking to catch that expression, or ‘feather out of place in the wind’ detail, so I do take a lot of shots. My first task is to cull the no-hopers, and then look for those shots I remembered that stood out on the day. Typically after I have processed a good number, I’ll leave it for a while – and as I’m constantly trying to improve my processing skills, I’ll revisit the file and try processing again with the new techniques I’ve learned.
Q: How much editing do you do after you’ve taken your photographs?
That’s another tough question! Most of my images take 5-10 minutes for the basic edit, but sometimes I’ll take several goes at one I really like until I’m confident I’ve got the best out of the raw file.
Macro subjects are always on my mind in the warmer weather, but that doesn’t mean you have to use a macro lens: this M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 works a treat at blending the background colours!
Q: What do you do with your photos once they’re finished?
My favourite way to share my images is on Flickr: I love the supportive community and virtual friends I have made from all over the world. I also use Instagram and Facebook, but I find it can take over your life if you’re not careful…
Q: What’s the best feature of the Olympus kit?
Oh, that’s easy: Pro Capture for sure! For capturing that moment the bird lands or takes flight, it’s invaluable. On a recent trip to Sweden, I was with three other photographers in a hide with their Nikon and Canon gear, and I kid you not, it was like machine-gun fire as they rattled off their cameras, hoping to catch that decisive moment! I’m quietly sitting with my finger half-pressed on the shutter button, then I see the action happen and press the shutter down and have that shot – and the 35 or so before – so I know I have the moment it took flight. You guessed it, there was a lot of swearing as my companions had missed the shot again – sure takes the guesswork out of it!
Q: What’s the most useful piece of photography advice you’ve ever heard?
“Watch your backgrounds” – I’ve been on a couple of workshops with amazing photographers and they have opened my eyes to the art of photography. Until then I would say I had just recorded life with my camera, and thanks to them I’m learning how to sculpt light and show my subjects off in all their glory – this one tip has really stuck with me.
I like to try different photo challenges but cold weather is not something we get very often here in the South East – so it’s rare I get the right conditions for frozen bubbles.
Q: Who or what inspires you?
My photography contacts across the different platforms inspire me to try new things, or just lift me up when I’m not feeling inspired. With the recent lockdown, I did find it difficult to pick up my camera – I had so many photography trips that I was having to cancel that I was understandably feeling a bit down, but our Olympus community reached out and supported me through the first few weeks until I was feeling creative again. My lovely friend Clare Harvey-May put up a technique video on Facebook and I thought to myself, I can do that – so thanks, Clare!
Q: Aside from photography, what do you wish you were really good at?
The one thing I wish was that I was younger and fitter! Whilst one of the things I love about my camera is the flippy out screen, you do need to get into some interesting positions sometimes to get the shot – and at my age it hurts a bit.
Q: If you could only have one lens on your camera, which would it be?
The M.Zuiko 40-150 F2.8 without a doubt – a great medium telephoto but also a useful semi-macro as well, with dreamy bokeh and oh so sharp.
My most popular image on Flickr, all thanks to Gavin Hoey. He did a demo at my local camera store using just one speedlight, a black background and the wonderful model Fern. This was shot just inside the door of the store, a space no more than 6’, then using a little Photoshop magic for the snow and adding light to the lamp and hey presto!
Q: What’s next on your wishlist, kit-wise?
Oh, that’s easy. I would love the Olympus 150-400mm F4.5 PRO + MC-20 when it comes out. I do love my primes but when I’m travelling it would be great to have one lens that covers that range, and knowing Olympus, the quality of their zooms are exceptional – unlike others I expect it will be sharp right through to 400mm.
Q: Can you point us at an Olympus-using photographer who deserves more of a spotlight (and tell us why?)
One of my contacts on Flickr is Karsten Gieselmann from Germany. He shoots amazing architecture as well as wildlife and flowers – for me, he shows how versatile the Olympus system is!