I first became aware of Olympus in about 2019 when a now good friend of mine, Andrew Desiderio, came up to the Pacific Northwest for a photo meet up with myself and some other photographers.
At the time, I was shooting another brand and was not even into the wildlife genre that I am now. We spent a lot of time talking about photography and he instantly inspired me to start focusing more on wildlife and that started to dovetail into an interest into the Olympus system. It was long after that, I sold all my other equipment and transitioned into the Olympus system.
The big deciding factor for switching to Olympus was the compactness and weight of the M.Zuiko 300mm F4.0 PRO lens. Being able to have a 600mm equivalent field of view that I could hike into the backcountry with.
Getting into remote locations to photograph wildlife is already hard, add a heavy lens into the mix and it creates a big problem. I like to be mobile when I photograph wildlife, it allows me to find interesting compositions that I likely would not be able to find by setting a heavy lens on a tripod and waiting for something to happen. With Olympus this is not an issue and that won me over almost immediately.
Olympus has the edge over my old camera system for many reasons. Weight, portability, lens reach and the shooting speed all eclipse my old system and now I couldn’t imagine going back.
What's In My Bag?
- OM-D E-M1X
- OM-D E-M1 Mark III
- M. Zuiko 300mm PRO
- M. Zuiko 40-150 PRO
- MC-14 Teleconverter
- MC-20 Teleconverter
The versatility of the 300mm F4.0 PRO is astounding. With how lightweight that lens is, getting into position for interesting compositions is so simple. Carrying the lens is easy and such a contrast to my previous gear. My go-to kit is the 300mm with the MC-14 1.4x teleconverter. This set up gives me 840mm equivalent field of view and it's astonishing that I can hand-hold that even down to half a second shutter. It has completely changed the way I photograph wildlife. Being so mobile in the field is a huge advantage over big heavy lenses.
When I am in the field, my favorite function of the E-M1X is the AI Bird Auto Focus mode. I have missed so many shots in the past not being able to track as well as I should. With Olympus, tracking has become easy. I don’t have to worry about losing focus on a bird when it flies from its perch, which happened when I used to pre-focus on branches. It is a total 180-degree change compared to the brands I was used to and I don’t have plans of ever going back.
When it comes to my "style" of photography I find this to be a difficult question. Personally, I do not think I have one defined style and I like it that way. I let the scene dictate the style.
While I do not feel like I have a specific style, backlight is what I am most interested in currently. I believe it evokes so much more emotion than a front lit photograph that is just clean.
Sometimes it is more about the story you can tell than following the old rules of photography. In fact, breaking those old rules like stopping down, putting the sun behind you, and centering your subject, might be my style. If you can call it that.
If I had to choose, my favorite shot of all time came when I was shooting with the new M.Zuiko 150-400 F4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO lens.
After a perfect break in the clouds, an eagle came down and landed not 30ft from me as I lay in the coastal low tide. The background was lit exactly how I wanted it to be, backlight with some light reflecting off the cold glassy water. As the eagle landed, it spread its wings and the light pierced through its feathers.
I was using my favorite gear combination I have ever had with the 150-400 PRO Lens attached to my OM-D E-M1X and was able to quickly react and zoom out to catch the eagle as it landed.
Keith Wallach is a wildlife and nature photographer based on the North Coast of Oregon. He specializes in bird photography and aims to bring awareness to coastal birds and wildlife by creating emotive imagery to spark conversation within the conservation space.