Photography – a Growing Passion

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About Christopher Wright

"I am an amateur photographer keen on landscape, street and portrait photography. In my day job I am a professor of organisational studies at the University of Sydney researching the political economy of climate change."

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I’ve lived most of my life in Australia, and growing up on Sydney Harbour my early interest in photography grew out of a desire to capture the beauty of the ocean and beaches on which I spent so much time. Back in my younger days I used a Canon SLR and 35mm slide film which also came with me on fishing trips to Australia’s Northern Territory and Papua New Guinea (some of my shots even featured in fishing magazines of the time).

A few years ago that I rediscovered photography and started to learn much more about its creative potential. The impetus for this shift was buying my first mirrorless camera in 2014; an Olympus EM10 back in 2014. The portability, fast auto-focus and image quality of this little camera made photography a whole lot more fun – I was hooked! I searched the internet for advice, courses and videos to develop my skills.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.12-40mmF2.8 @12mm . f/6.3 . 1/60″ . ISO 200
Olympus E-M10 . Olympus M.40-150mmF2.8 @150mm . f/5.0 . 1/320″ . ISO 200

I attended photography classes, joined online photography groups and avidly watched how-to videos by photographers like Trey Ratcliffe and Serge Ramelli. I learnt about the role of aperture, exposure and ISO. I discovered Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, the advantages of RAW, HDR exposure, and started to explore post-processing techniques (up till then I’d always assumed the JPEG straight out of the camera was the finished product!).

Since then my photography passion has only grown. My work as a university professor has allowed me to travel to many cities in Europe, Asia and North America and my Olympus camera gear is now always with me. In 2015 in preparation for a trip to Athens for an academic conference, I invested in my first serious lens the M.Zuiko 12-40mm PRO.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.12-40mmF2.8 @16mm . f/2.8 . 1/2000″ . ISO 200
Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.12-40mmF2.8 @27mm . f/2.8 . 1/2500″ . ISO 200

This is still my most used lens and in Athens I spent much of my time attending the massive protest rallies in Syntagma Square on the eve of the Grexit vote, chatting to Athenians and trying my hand at ‘street photography’. It was great to be able to capture the sights of this historic event, speak to local people, and see history in the making.

Over the last three years my camera gear has grown. From the E-M10, I added the EM1 and then last year upgraded to the EM1ii (a marvellously fast camera which takes full advantage of the stellar M.Zuiko lenses). I extended my lens collection to include the amazing 75mm 1.8 (a brilliant portrait and street lens), and the 40-150mm PRO (my go-to event and sports lens).

I also started to explore longexposure landscape photography and puchased a Sirui T-024X tripod (an excellent choice for M4/3 systems and marvellously light yet sturdy), as well as several ND filters (Breakthrough X4). This kit is now housed in a Peak Design 20 litre Everyday Backpack, which as the name suggests really is my everyday backpack and goes with me to work most days (with the EM1ii packed inside just in case a photo opportunity presents itself!).

My idea of ‘travel photography’ is best described as photography beyond the confines of my immediate home and involves a combination of landscape, street, portrait and macro photography. While I sometimes research potential photo locations prior to these trips, I also enjoy just wandering around new locations looking for interesting compositions.

Olympus E-M1 . Olympus M.9-18mmF4.0-5.6 @9mm . f/4.0 . 1.6″ . ISO 200
Olympus E-M1 . Olympus M.12-40mmF2.8 @36mm . f/7.1 . 1/500″ . ISO 200

For instance, on a recent trip to New Zealand for a climate change conference, I shot images of downtown Wellington, participants and indigenous performers at the conference, as well as some of the stunning coastal, forest and mountain vistas of New Zealand’s North Island. On another trip to the US last year, I had a day’s break in San Francisco and walked across this fascinating city shooting photos as opportunities arose.

This culminated in my goal of shooting the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset (a cliché but something I’d wanted to do for some time). I eventually got to Baker Beach, set up the tripod and ND filter, and once the crowds had dissipated, got a nice shot in the dimming light. I then had to find my way back to the other side of an unfamiliar city in the dark. This is where the lightweight advantages of the M4/3 system really shine through.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.12-40mmF2.8 @40mm . f/6.3 . 1/1000″ . ISO 200
Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.12-40mmF2.8 @40mm . f/7.1 . 4″ . ISO 200

On these trips I’m often trekking long distances across cities or out in the wild and the smaller size of the M4/3 system is a definite advantage as you can pack two cameras, 3-4 lens and a tripod and still not be excessively burdened by the weight of your backpack.

Beyond travel photography, in my university work I often organise and attend academic conferences and public events where good images are essential for marketing and social media. I’ve found these public events are great opportunities to further develop my photography skills particularly shooting in less than ideal lighting.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.12-40mmF2.8 @12mm . f/13 . 6″ . ISO 64
Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.12-40mmF2.8 @13mm . f/10 . 13″ . ISO 200

The Olympus M4/3 cameras have proven excellent for these situations, with my preferred set-up being the 40-150mm PRO lens mounted on the EM1ii and using the sequential low setting in silent mode (a great advantage in a quiet public event!). Given low light you often need to increase the ISO, however I’ve found noise in images to be quite manageable up to ISO3200 shooting RAW and postprocessing in Adobe Lightroom. Indeed, I’m often surprised at how good an image these Olympus cameras produce in what are sometimes quite marginal lighting conditions.

I’m also doing more street photography in my local surrounds (which helps develop skills for when I do head off on an overseas trip). Taking photos of complete strangers on the street can be quite intimidating and I recently participated in a street photography seminar hosted by Olympus and local photographer Guiseppe Santamaria which really helped in developing confidence in these situations.

Olympus E-M10 . Olympus M.75mmF1.8 @75mm . f/1.8 . 1/160″ . ISO 1600
Olympus E-M1 . Olympus M.75mmF1.8 @75mm . f/2.2 . 1/250″ . ISO 200

While many street photographers rely on relatively wide-angle lenses, some of my best street shots have come from my M.Zuiko 75mm 1.8 lens which produces beautiful subject isolation and more impromptu shots given the greater reach of the lens. Street photography is something I’m looking forward to developing further in my photography journey.

While I’ve rediscovered photography relatively late in life, I’m really enjoying the creative potential that modern digital cameras and computer software provide. It is definitely a buzz coming home from a photography outing, downloading the images, identifying the ‘keepers’ on Lightroom, working with different postprocessing options and then finally uploading the finished images to my website or on Instagram.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.75mmF1.8 @75mm . f/1.8 . 1/160″ . ISO 1250
Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.40-150mmF2.8 @142mm . f/2.8 . 1/100″ . ISO 3200

Olympus cameras have been central to my growing passion for photography; their small form factor, usability and the beautiful images that result have allowed me to rediscover the creative potential of photography and share this via social media. I’m looking forward to where my photography journey will take me next!

Olympus E-M10 . Olympus M.12-40mmF2.8 @18mm . f/2.8 . 1/50″ . ISO 3200

 

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