Since April 2016 I’ve joined the Olympus Visionary team for Olympus Imaging Australia.
As a photographer it’s always a huge deal to be able to closely work with a camera company. First of all there’s the gear. Who doesn’t love sponsored gear right?!
But to me it’s more than that! It’s the ability to be part of this bigger thing. Shape it and one day to be able to say: this change happened because I was part of it.
Recently a lot of people have been asking me how I became an Olympus Visionary. So today I’d like to share my story with you. My apologies to start with: this is going to be a rather long read. There’ just quite a story to tell…
But if you plan on working with Olympus (or any company or brand for that matter) I think that understanding the bigger picture is the most important part. Keen to be a Visionary one day? Here’s how I did it:
This story begins about 2 years ago when I decided to switch camera brands.
As a photographer that’s a big deal!
You’re invested into a system, lenses (used to) fit only one brand of cameras, the camera gear loses value and you’re just on the train with one brand. Why the hell would you switch? You’re going to lose money by doing so. So yes, it’s a big deal to switch families and there’s gotta be a good reason for a professional to do so.
For me, there were 3 good reasons:
I love travel.
The gear I was using back then (Canon 1D Mark IV, lenses, housing…) weighed over 20KG. And with long term travel plans in mind I was looking for a solution that would allow me to fit everything into one big and one carry-on bag.
The exact same focal range in lenses and comparable specs of the E-M1 back then would weigh slightly over 10KG. And would use less than half the space!
I love technology.
Sorry Canon, but look at the other camera companies today. 2 years ago I felt like I was on a sinking ship. Just squishing more Megapixels into bodies and producing slightly sharper lenses wasn’t going to cut it for very long. Everything out there is getting smaller and lighter: phones, computers… why do I need to walk around with a massive, expensive looking camera when a half sized equivalent can do better? I felt like Olympus had reached a point of maturity and reliability I could get the job done with.
There was an opportunity.
As a relatively young and inexperienced photographer I was looking for opportunities. I wanted to work with a brand, companies… wanted to be sponsored!
Back in 2014 there was no one using Olympus mirrorless cameras to shoot surf. And the day I saw the Olympus PT-EP11 underwater housing for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 it sparked. Yes it’s a dive housing, yes no one could tell me if it would hold out the pressure of a smashing wave. BUT I knew there was an opportunity there. I went ahead and sold ALL my Canon gear and switched over to the Olympus E-M1 and PT-EP11 housing. I knew that if I was going to be working with Olympus I needed to document my story and plans somewhere. I started writing about it all on my blog. The ups and downs, the thoughts, the tests, the first impressions, the comparisons… everything.
Being the first do be doing/using something is always a good starting point. I knew that if the E-M1 and the housing would work for surf I could very soon have a collection of work no before me would have to show for. This was going to be my golden ticket!
Initially I bought the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO with the Olympus PT-EP11 underwater housing. That was my starting kit. With the M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO to be released I made sure I was going to get one of the first copies of that lens in Australia. On the wide end I got the Panasonic LUMIX 8mm f/3.5 fisheye (Yes, Canon, cross brand compatibility!) and imported a glass dome port from the USA by ZEN Underwater – the ZEN DP-100-EP08 100mm Dome Port. I had it all covered. From fisheye to 300mm equivalent.
Olympus Imaging Australia is a surprisingly small part of the Olympus Global group and it definitely never felt like I was just a number or unknown person to them. I attended shows and product presentations and I soon got to know a few people at Olympus AU and kept sharing my work and feedback with them through social media while I kept on blogging about my progress with the new camera and lenses.
After a few months I felt comfortable enough to send my big pitch. I collected my numbers, blog posts, ideas and most importantly plans for the future and sent Olympus an epic email. Upon which they invited me to a meeting. I’ll never forget when I saw it printed out at the meeting: 5 pages. I went overboard… but I guess it worked.
Yes I didn’t have the big blogger numbers neither the massive social following, nor the huge client list, but solid determination.
2015 I wanted to shoot surf as well as expand my portfolio beyond the ocean photography I had been focussing on so much.
I scored an internship with Chris Burkard at the end of 2015 which was my ticket out of Australia. I planned my 2015 projects around the internship and travel plans before and after that and sent an ambitious list of 6 projects to Olympus.
This was going to be my test year. I received a bit of financial support and one lens from Olympus. I was over the moon! My first ever free camera gear!
By the end of 2015 I had done all but one of my 6 projects and besides the financial contribution by Olympus everything was self funded. I knew that if I wanted people, brands and companies to work with me in the future I had to show a solid body of work and a dedication to what I do. I believe that this only happens by actually going out there and shooting.
I had shot pro surfers in my dream surf spot on Tahiti, worked for one of the most inspiring photographers I knew to date: Chris Burkard, followed the PRO surfers around 2/3 WSL events (Quiksilver PRO and RipCurl PRO) in Australia and expanded my work into adventure, outdoor and travel photography as well as videography.
I felt like I was in the right position to approach Olympus again for 2016.
In April 2016 all details were finally cleared and I was onboard as an Olympus Visionary.
With more support towards projects and the full arsenal of M.Zuiko PRO lenses and the latest camera bodies in my bag I couldn’t be better equipped for the months and years to come.
Obviously A huge thank you goes to Olympus for the amazing support!
As you hopefully realised by now: there’s no easy road. It took a long term plan, 2 years of work, countless hours behind the camera and in front of the computer and the right people to make this happen. But it has been a very exciting time and I can’t wait to see what the future has on offer.
I couldn’t be more grateful for the way things have worked out and to the people I have met along the way.
2016 has been a crazy ride so far and with 4 more projects in the next 3 months alone I’m about to dive into more photo and video work than I’ve ever done before.
But with destinations like Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Scotland, France and Australia I couldn’t be more excited about what’s to come!
If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to send me an email or just comment below. I’m always happy to help.
Now, as an Olympus Visionary my job is… well… “keep on doing what you do” they told me.
Ultimately I represent a camera brand and have to somehow sell cameras and lenses for them. Instead of saying: hey buy this camera… my approach is the more indirect way by sharing my best possible work online and showing what I’m capable of doing through the tools Olympus has given me. Which is also why I will be publishing blog posts about the lenses I use and when I use them as well as new video content. So stay tuned.
And if I’ve inspired you to go out and use an Olympus camera to capture your adventures then I’ve absolutely achieved my goal and I owe you a big Thank You for letting my images inspire you!
I’ll also be working on Workshops together with Olympus AU as well as more Behind The Scenes video content showing you how I approach my photography work while out in nature. Stay tuned for that too – and while you’re at it check out my social channels to find daily updates and news.