My E-PL3 just won me a major wildlife photography award

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anupamkatkar Regular Member • Posts: 201
My E-PL3 just won me a major wildlife photography award

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Here's the story:

First, some history. Gather around, folks!

I owe my passion for photography to my first ILC, the Olympus E-PL3. I had never used a DSLR, but believed that the future of cameras was mirrorless and Micro Four Thirds cameras were pioneers in that category. Since MFT cameras weren't available in India (fun fact: Amazon India calls APS-C cameras "medium format"), I bought one on my first visit to the States. A gorgeous white E-PL3 with a silver kit lens. I went to town with it! Shot everything from coastal Redwoods to grasslands in India.

A few years later, I moved to the US. By then I had "graduated" from using the 40-150 to the Canon FD 300mm f4 SSC (MFT didn't have any lens longer than 150mm), and my photography was seriously starting to suffer from a lack of a viewfinder (camera shake while holding the camera at a distance). A used E-M5 cost just a bit more than a used VF-2, so that's what I went for.

Needless to say, I was blown away by the E-M5. A viewfinder! A 16 MP sensor that actually did okay in poor light! The two dials on top that let me easily control shutter speed and exposure! It remained my main camera for many years, until I got an E-M1 to complement it. The E-PL3 annoyed me now ... having to fidget with the back dial to change shutter speed, horrible performance above ISO 1600, and 12 MP images that were inferior in every way to what my E-M5 or E-M1 could produce. I hated using it. But I didn't want to sell my first MFT camera, because nostalgia. It collected dust for years in my closet. I only used it when I needed a third camera on safari.

The absurd story behind this photo

Fast forward to spring 2019, and it's that time of the year when newts are entering local streams to breed. I wanted to get an above/underwater shot, but didn't want to spend $$$ on UW housing. And the cheaper ones didn't have a dome port that I'd have needed for the above/under effect. So I decided to experiment with a fish bowl. Ordered a $4 fishbowl on Amazon (being the cheap bugger I am, there was no way I was going to spend $12 on a bigger bowl when $4 would do). The idea was to place my camera in there and partly lower the bowl in water to get the shot.

Well the bowl arrives, and ... yeah, you get what you pay for. It was too small for my E-M5 with a Rokinon 7.5mm. And the only camera that fit was, you guessed it, my useless E-PL3.

Since this was a "proof of concept" experiment, I thought - heck, why not. And used the PEN with the Rokinon fish-eye to take this photo (among others):

Olympus E-PL3, Rokinon 7.5mm f3.5 at f5.6 and a $4 fish bowl. Heck yea.

Every photo I took just annoyed me more and more. I had to lower the shutter speed to 1/50 to get a decent shot with that awful sensor. No focus peaking. Thankfully newts are slow and fish-eyes are easy to use. I slipped in the mud a few times. The bowl got grimy (you can see it if you look closely). The reflections from the bright white camera and silver lens on the bowl ruined many shots.

I learned valuable lessons, took notes and decided to return to take "real" photos with a "real" camera (and a bigger bowl). Sadly I got busy with work and by the time I could get around to it, the newts had left.

January 2020, and I am entering some of my photos in this major contest that I have followed closely for many years. They include: a gorgeous habitat shot of a tigress in golden light at the crack of dawn (E-M1 and Olympus 50-200), 3 sloth bears mock-charging at me (same setup), a portrait of a gray langur mother and baby, taken with the E-M5 and Canon FD 300mm f2.8. Buttery-smooth bokeh! <3 A night-time shot of the rusty-spotted cat, the world's smallest feline, which few have ever seen in the wild. And I saw this photo and thought - why not. So I entered it as well.

Life has a sense of humor ...

Yesterday, I got an email that one of my photos had won.

"Surely it's the tigress. That lighting was magical!"

... in the Portraits category.

"Okay, I know. The rusty-spotted cat. Or maybe the langur. That bokeh is incredible!"

It was the newt.

And it slowly started to sink in. The "experimental" shot. Taken with a 12 MP sensor. With a PEN Lite. With a $4 glass bowl. Held its own against photos taken with Canon 1D's, Nikon D5's and Sony A7's. A Micro Four Thirds camera won in a field dominated by full-frame and APS-C DSLRs. But not an E-M1 or G-9. An E-PL3. A fricking PEN Lite. That AWFUL 12 MP sensor, that "beauty over utility" aesthetic, those frustrating controls ... they held their own with a $100 Rokinon lens against flagship behemoths.

I flew to the other side of the world and spent thousands of $$$ photographing some of the world's rarest animals. Spent countless hours researching gear (including posting here), looking for the best deals, and practicing with my gear until it became second nature. Risked getting mauled by bears!!!

And the photo that won was taken for "fun" in a local park, a few miles from home, with obsolete, dirt-cheap gear that I'd never have used for "real" photography.


But perhaps it's only fitting that my first camera, which gifted me with a lifelong passion for photography, also won me my first-ever award in a major contest.

Ironic, isn't it? Life has a weird sense of humor.

 anupamkatkar's gear list:anupamkatkar's gear list
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus PEN E-PL6 Nikon D500 Olympus E-M1 II Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD +22 more
Olympus E-M1 Olympus PEN E-PL3 Samyang 7.5mm F3.5 Fisheye Sony a7R II
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