THE DAY OLYMPUS RAN AWAY TO THE CIRCUS
BY GAVIN STOKER
Giffords Circus in the picturesque Cotswolds hamlet of Lypiatt was the setting for an exclusive day-time session for photographers of all skill sets, affording the opportunity to get hands on with OM-D bodies and lenses – with the chance to win an E-M10 at the end of it! Advice and a portrait shoot demo from the self styled ‘Big Dog’ himself, photographer and brand ambassador Damian McGillicuddy, was an obvious additional draw. There was also the fact that the 100 attendees had the chance to photograph circus performers under a real-life big top, performing eye-catching extracts from their latest epic production.
Appearing first from behind the velvet curtain and entering the ring to a sea of lenses was clown act Tweedy, whose deliberately amateurish knife throwing and bowler hat balancing capers had the Olympus team in trepidation but the audience in stitches. For this Damian advised a fast shutter speed to capture the action and spot or matrix metering on the camera itself.
Big top + small camera + Big Dog
On a busy, action packed day for all, we managed to grab a few quick words with the esteemed photographer/tutor himself, who is exclusively using Olympus kit for commercial jobs, with the OM-D E-M1 the current camera of choice. Already in possession of the new silver variant announced at Photokina 2014, it’s obvious that Damian very much enjoys interaction with an audience of like-minded photo enthusiasts found at inspirational events such as the circus shoot.
“It’s taken me 28 years to get to this stage, so I identify with all the people who are going to come to sit, shoot, try out and talk… to me it’s where the enjoyment is. It’s great to be able to meet someone at an event who tells me: ‘Oh, I’m not giving up my Nikon for that…’ and then re-appears months later saying “I just got an E-M5 as a back up…” Then three months later you see them again admitting ‘I’ve ditched the rest of the Nikon stuff and got two E-M1’s…” There are some lovely people who follow everything that we do, and it’s great to see their enthusiasm.”
Apart from the small, relatively lightweight bodies yet big, pro-style performance, something else that Damian loves about the OM-D range is the built in Art Filter digital effects that further set the series apart. As a pro, he admits these tools are something he will use at the time of shooting, rather than trying to re-create the effect in Photoshop later. “At first my reaction was ‘I’m not using that, it’s just gimmicky, I’m a professional photographer don’t-you-know,’ but then I started using Diorama to mimic tilt and shift lenses, plus Pale and Light and Pinhole. But the option I use the most is Colour Creator, to give a little bit of warmth.
“When I ‘m initially given new kit to play with, and there’s no Raw converter, I’m quite happy shooting JPEG. And though I normally shoot Raw and JPEG, I often don’t go back to the Raw file because there’s no time. I don’t feel the need because I like to get as much done in-camera as possible, and the Olympus cameras allow me to do that. Everything needs a bit of post-production even if it’s just output sharpening, and we’ll get rid of spots and stray hairs, but the actual tonality of the colour is mostly done in the camera. Because seeing me with Photoshop is a bit like an orangutan with a crayon.”
In terms of creative advice for attendees on the day, Damian noted that 500-seater “ring itself isn’t huge. My brain works in pictures so when I heard there were people juggling fire I thought ‘brilliant – I’ll drag the shutter slightly… and then what you should end up with is a torso and head that are as sharp as possible, because the juggler won’t be moving that part of his body, but the flames and his arms will be moving to give a nice blur. So you’re capturing the motion within the flame – and are not having to go back into Photoshop and re-create it that way.
“It constantly amazes me what the OM-D’s are capable of. My professional prejudice doesn’t think it should work as well as it does – because of its smaller form factor and the size of the chip. But Olympus was very clever to step out of the market and redesign something that works, from the chip, through the body, through the lens, all the way up. It’s an evolution of something that, while in my head it shouldn’t work, in fact works beautifully in reality.”
Don’t miss out! If you are looking to inspire and improve your own photography with fun events like this from Olympus, please keep checking back at our Image Space website for details of future activities.