My story with Olympus

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About Heidi Back

"Photography trained and educated at: New England School of Photography, London School of Photography, Vancouver Photo Workshops, Focalpoint BC, and online – ongoing. The truth is that I am into people photography because I am into people. I love making people look glamorous, and it simply makes my day when people love their photographs. I am very grateful for all those wonderful people crossing my life’s path, who trust me, connect with me and let me amaze them. I hope our paths will cross, too. Until then, stay curious, be inspired and have an open mind and heart."

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This is a story about a late bloomer who fell under the spell of photography and ended up being obsessed with it ever since; this is my love story with Olympus. In 2019 it will be my 10th anniversary with Olympus. Reader beware, I am an Olympus girl through and through, and totally partisan. How it all began… My husband and I met in Germany where I am from. Falling in love with a Canadian turned my life upside down.

Me, the hopeless romantic, took the plunge, left a long-established career in corporate marketing at an international airport and followed my heart to Beautiful British Columbia where me and Spouse Extraordinaire now live happily ever after. My life has been and continues to be an ongoing adventure. We travel a lot, mostly within North America and Europe, but also to other parts of the world.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.25mmF1.2 @25mm . f/6.3 . 1/40″ . ISO 200
Olympus E-M1 . Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mmF1.2 @43mm . f/3.2 . 1/400″ . ISO 400

Starting a new life from scratch is a humbling experience. It makes you vulnerable, but being vulnerable makes you grow. My move to Canada has opened my eyes in many ways: I see many things differently now. Overall, this country has made me a kinder version of myself. Giving back is big here, having something to give back is truly gratifying.

I love people, always have. And photography is a wonderful way to connect with and give back to others. But, besides the joy of giving, it feels so much more rewarding than all my successes in the corporate world ever did, when people love their photographs.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mmF1.2 @43mm . f/2.8 . 1/80″ . ISO 320
Olympus E-M1 . Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mmF1.2 @43mm . f/1.8 . 1/80″ . ISO 400

British Columbia is all about the outdoors. People here ‘do the Grouse grind’, ski, hike, kayak, watch birds, hunt mushrooms, camp and sail. My man and I, we sail. In 2009, Olympus had a booth at the Toronto Boat Show, promoting their weather-sealed camera gear to boaters. The sailor by my side was sold in a heartbeat. Shortly after, I became the proud owner of my first DLSR, an E-520.

My point-and-shoot camera was suddenly out; my love affair with Olympus just started. I’ve subsequently owned almost every model down the E-line thereafter. (Today I shoot mirrorless with the EM-1 and EM5, both Mark II.) In the beginning, I was happily shooting along in auto mode until a dear friend gently suggested taking some courses at a local photography school. I am ever so grateful I did before this gem of a gathering place shut down.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.45mmF1.8 @45mm . f/2.0 . 1/1600″ . ISO 640
Olympus E-M1 . @40mm . f/2.8 . 1/100″ . ISO 250

Mesmerized by my newfound photographic prowess, I enthusiastically offered to photograph almost anyone crossing my path. (I do not do this anymore. It is just too intrusive.) Many people do not want to be photographed. Being photographed is not comfortable, at least not for the generation before selfies became an extension of our left arm. I understand this. Most people do not have many photographs of themselves when they get older.

Their profile images show their younger selves, resembling their glory days – no more. They may just feel the way I do. It has always utterly annoyed me when others took ‘icky’ photographs of me. Who needs that? I guess this is why I eventually got into photography: To put an end to unflattering images that end up hidden or ripped apart. But now I think: a slight change in angle or perspective could have made all the difference.

As you may have figured out, portraiture is where my heart lies; I am into people photography. I am a strong believer that everybody should have their portrait taken once in a while, leaving a visual footprint behind for themselves and others in their lives.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.25mmF1.2 @25mm . f/1.4 . 1/160″ . ISO 200

Over the years, I continued studying photography. A lot of training I get online and by attending courses, workshops and organized photo shoots, whenever and wherever I can. At these events I would often feel intimidated when the “experts” unpack their enormous amounts of gear, and I was tempted to jump to a full frame camera system more than once. But I always stayed faithful with my beloved Olympus, encouraged by the results and feedback I was getting.

People always talk about the Leica magic, and though I have never owned one, I believe I have a similar experience with my Olympus. It just feels right for me. But there is more to it. As I mentioned, I travel a lot. My camera gear has to be light. I try to pack carry-on only, as much as possible. Olympus has always had their strength in the compactness of their cameras combined with excellent lenses. But I always longed for even lighter equipment – and then came mirrorless.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Leica DG 8-18mmF2.8-4.0 @15mm . f/9 . 1/800″ . ISO 200
Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.25mmF1.2 @25mm . f/1.8 . 1/80″ . ISO 1600

It was in the fall of 2013 that I changed from an Olympus DLSR to an OM-D mirrorless. I remember the day so well, because this is when the movie “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug” came out. We were seeing friends in New York, strolling through Central Park. My brand-new OM-D EM1 was casually dangling from my wrist. All at a sudden a noisy pack of actors in costume appeared out of nowhere, dressed like the hobbits in the movie.

Before I could even get my setting right, I was among those jolly fellows and had a ball photographing them. I brought only one image of this little hobbit mayhem with me today, the rest is on my blog. As it turned out, their stint was part of a promotion for the upcoming release of the movie. Imax found the images on my blog and wanted to use them. And that’s how I ended up with some nice ‘Smaug’ shirts. What a great start to my Olympus mirrorless chapter!

Olympus E-M1 . Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mmF1.2 @43mm . f/1.8 . 1/250″ . ISO 1000
Olympus E-M1 MK II . @25mm . f/1.2 . 1/125″ . ISO 640

Shooting mirrorless has made my photography easier, lighter. I started to shoot in more natural light, spoiled by lower apertures, higher shutter speeds, less noise – the ‘what you see is what you get’ electronic viewfinder, and, btw, who needs a tripod? With the image stabilization, I can easily shoot a portrait at a shutter speed of 60.

I know this may cause an outcry among my peers, but the JPEGs out of camera are so good, that often I do not even shoot raw images any more. I love the face detection feature. The autofocus is fast and accurate. My images are sharp. All this lets me walk into a shoot with confidence.

Olympus E-M5 MK II . Olympus M.75mmF1.8 @75mm . f/2.5 . 1/320″ . ISO 320

To keep my photographic muscle toned I love working with models. Vancouver is such a transient place, it attracts loads of creative talent and it is relatively easy to find wonderful models and makeup artists as the photographs here may attest. This makes Vancouver a great place to grow, photographically speaking. While it took and still takes me a lot effort to advance the craft of photography, I find becoming an artist even harder.

This is what I am working on right now. They say you need to develop a style. I do not have a style and I do not want one, not yet. I want to evolve further, play and explore. Even an obsession is supposed to be fun, right? My style is always driven by the person I photograph. Who they are, how they want to be seen and how they want to be remembered. I don’t know where my photographic journey will take me. But I know that Olympus has been a wonderful companion all along the way.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.25mmF1.2 @25mm . f/3.2 . 1/640″ . ISO 200

I have confidence that they will continue their technical ingenuity and not lose sight of what most of us want: the highest possible image quality in the lightest possible package, paired with lenses that spark magic before our eyes – so that we can focus on what really counts: go out into the world, play rain or shine, create beauty and bring joy, kindness and marvel to our lives and the people around us.

Olympus E-M1 . Olympus M.17mmF1.8 @17mm . f/2.8 . 1/1250″ . ISO 200

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