The lake is quiet. My breath visible in the cool morning air. The mist swirls, moving silently over the water. As the first light of the day hits the trees, the muted greens bring colour to the landscape. The melody of the dawn chorus drifts over the rhythmic, gentle sound of waves lapping the shore of the lake. I can think of nowhere else I would rather be in this moment.
As the Gothic tower on the lake drifts in and out of view, I frame my shot and wait for the scene to present itself. As the golden light spills onto the hillside beyond, I release the shutter, the moment is captured.
As the sun rises the full light of the day is here. The mist rises, the air clears. The dawn has broken, and another day is underway. I take this time to reflect on the beauty of the scene and contemplate that this moment in time is unique, it will never happen again.
Photography allows me to become immersed in the landscape, the environment and appreciate it for what it is. To connect with a scene and find a moment in time, a single frame, that forever links you to that moment is a wonderful feeling. I hope that when you view my photographs you are pulled into them and allow yourself to feel and experience it as I did. To slow down. To reflect. To enjoy the moment.
I became interested in capturing the world around me as a teenager. I bought a second-hand Olympus OM-10 and enjoyed using it for many years. Somehow, over time I lost touch with photography but always found myself outside, enjoying the space and freedom that it provides.
As it is with some things, a chance conversation led to me acquiring a Yashica FX-3 which was a great camera that accompanied me on many climbing and outdoor adventures. As I moved into the digital world, I used Canon cameras. First a 400D then a brilliant and robust 40D.
I don’t think you can buy a bad camera; they are all well refined and very capable. Somehow though, I stopped taking the camera out with me. I found a reason to leave it behind. Weight and space being popular reasons.
Then, like many, I found myself falling back in love with taking photographs again. I was using my phone. It was with me, it was light and portable, it was great. It wasn’t quite perfect though. I missed the creative control that I had with my DSLR. I made the decision to sell my DLSR and embark on the mirrorless journey.
With so much variety and features on offer from the likes of Sony and Fujifilm, the decision was daunting. It was then the Olympus E-M5 MarkII caught my eye. It seemed like fate. It looked like a digital version of my OM-10 that I started out with in years past. Within days I had it in my hands and I have not looked back.
I have since added the E-M1 MarkII to my bag. Both are excellent cameras and a pleasure to use. The M.Zuiko 12-40mm Pro is a hugely capable and sharp lens that has become the workhorse of my photography, but my favourite has to be the M.Zuiko 40-150mm Pro.
The Olympus system gives me the ability to be in the environment I love and simply exist within it. I don’t have to worry about the kit, it just works. I am lucky to live in the hills of Mid-Wales, a stunningly beautiful environment; as with any upland environment the weather fickle. It can go from blue skies to ominous clouds in mere moments and these transitions are the conditions I adore the best.
The hills and forests can be unforgiving places to be, but this is their magic. You can walk through to woods and see and hear wonderful things. If you immerse yourself in the woodlands for the sheer pleasure of being there, you will have a truly remarkable experience.
To take my camera and explore the woods always presents you with something new. To record a fleeting moment that takes your breath away is a special thing; to be able to share that moment in time with others is a gift. Within moments of allowing yourself to become part of the ecosystem, even fleetingly, you will begin to see new wonders. My challenge is to try and capture the way the forest is, the way it breathes and talks; the life that exists within it and the weather that shows it to us in different lights and moods.
I have found that I gravitate towards trees in my photography; I look for character, shape or a unique group of trees that sits well within its own space exuding a presence. Sometimes I notice a single tree, perhaps the texture of its bark, the colour of the leaves or a distinctive shape. Other times, it is several clustered together as if arranged to be like this, like a family group.
All strong and characterful. I worry that our society forgets their true value and passes them by without a second thought or glance. I like to imagine that maybe viewing a photograph of these powerful beings will help someone reconnect, even for just a moment.
Wandering through the trees, I often make my way to the lake. It is a peaceful place. I enjoy the evenings here. Surrounded by the forest, the water stretches away in front of you to be framed by the far shoreline. As the sun sets, the lake is well positioned to catch the last light of day. Golden hues dance on the water as the Sun sinks lower in the sky with whisps of high cloud catching the last colour of the day.
As the sun sets, I sit as a silent observer, feeling the darkness wrap around me. As the water settles and becomes still, the reflections of the sky on the water create the wonderful illusion of a dual reality. Finding a pleasing composition feels easy as I am treated to the glow of sunset.
Once the sun finally eases under the horizon, the colour is often at its best. Then the light leaves us. The saturation of colour lessens as the sky grows dark. I stay in the moment for a while longer before returning through the forest. The moment passes but is forever captured.
I think my style of photography has benefitted and evolved since using the Olympus system. I have never felt that I haven’t had enough pixels and the weatherproofing is the best I have ever known. I don’t pander over my camera, it’s a tool to help me capture the beauty of the landscapes in front of me. Having the confidence to keep shooting as torrential rain drenches the valley is invaluable. It is then that the best conditions are often found.
Light is fundamental to photography; the word itself means writing with light. Where I like to be to experience nature and take photographs, light is often low. The IBIS of the E-M5 MarkII and E-M1 MarkII never fails to amaze me. I’m not against using a tripod, and I often do, but the capabilities of the IBIS mean I have taken sharp shots handheld with a 1 or 2 second exposure. It has allowed me to develop a much more flowing style to a photographic journey, one in which I am more present in the moment.
On occasion, I will set up using a tripod and the High-Resolution feature is a good tool when the scene is still. I have found that any movement though will create relics within the frame that create a distraction. I use a 3 Legged Thing Punk tripod, it is small and light, but very solid when set up. For long exposures, a good tripod comes into its own and when used with a 5 or 10 stop ND filter it can allow for some artistic shots of water and clouds.
My post shoot workflow has evolved over time. I try and keep things as simple as possible and use Photo Mechanic to move the images from the SD card (I have found Sandisk to be highly reliable), it has the benefit of adding keywords and data fields to each image. After culling the images in Photo Mechanic, I move them into Lightroom which I use to edit my images. I do occasionally use some pre-sets that I have made, but recently, I prefer to edit each set of images as a group to maintain the feel and consistency of the set.
Once edited, I convert images into JPEG format uploading them to the ‘cloud’ and backup the RAW files onto an external drive.
I hope you have enjoyed this article about my photography, you are more than welcome to see more of my work on my website or my Instagram profile @drewwhitley.
Happy shooting folks.
• Olympus E-M1 MkII
• Olympus E-M5 MkII
• M.Zuiko 12-40mm 2.8 Pro
• M.Zuiko 40-150mm 2.8 Pro
• M.Zuiko 14-42mm 3.5-5.6 Pancake lens
• M.Zuiko 40-150mm 3.5-5.6 R lens
• Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards
• 3 Legged Thing Punk Billy Tripod
• Cokin Nuances ND filters
• Peak Design Slide lite and Leash straps
• Peak Design Everyday Sling 10l
• Osprey Kode Rucksack with a generic camera insert
Currently living in Mid-Wales, Drew is an amateur photographer who spends his time capturing the beauty of the natural world. Photography has been a part of his life since he was a teenager, but acquiring a mirrorless system gave it a much-welcomed kick start in recent years.