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

Started 7 months ago | Discussions
anupamkatkar
anupamkatkar Regular Member • Posts: 200
My E-PL3 just won me a major wildlife photography award
53

Relevant URL: http://www.wildlifephoto.com/contests/wildlife-portraits-2019/

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.

Heh.

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 E-M1 II Olympus OM-D E-M5 Nikon D500 Olympus PEN E-PL6 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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Lasse Eisele
Lasse Eisele Senior Member • Posts: 2,002
Re: My E-PL3 just won me a major wildlife photography award
3

Great story, thanks for sharing.

And congratulations to your Pen.

-- hide signature --
Klarno
Klarno Veteran Member • Posts: 4,233
With how inundated we are with images every day...
3

It's hard to be distinctive when you follow the conventional wisdom. Going on safari with telephoto lenses is a pretty conventional situation. If you do a google image search for any given animal you might see on safari, you'll probably find twenty technically competent images that don't really stand out.

With how inundated we are with images every day, it's unconventional choices like this that make for the most memorable photographs.

This is some great work.

anupamkatkar wrote:

Relevant URL: http://www.wildlifephoto.com/contests/wildlife-portraits-2019/

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.

-- hide signature --
 Klarno's gear list:Klarno's gear list
Olympus E-M1 Sony Alpha NEX-6 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm F4-5.6 R Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 Pro +9 more
Martin.au
Martin.au Forum Pro • Posts: 14,092
Re: My E-PL3 just won me a major wildlife photography award
1

Love it (shot and the story).

 Martin.au's gear list:Martin.au's gear list
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 II Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm F2.8 Macro Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm 1:3.5-6.3 EZ Panasonic Lumix G Fisheye 8mm F3.5 +7 more
Javaka Junior Member • Posts: 47
Re: My E-PL3 just won me a major wildlife photography award
1

That's an original image and a great story. Congratulations. The other images you mention sound interesting, too.

Best,

Alastair

 Javaka's gear list:Javaka's gear list
Olympus Stylus 1 Olympus Stylus 1s Pentax K-5 Pentax K10D Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 +7 more
doady Senior Member • Posts: 1,839
Re: My E-PL3 just won me a major wildlife photography award
1

That is a one of a kind photo with great composition, giving us a glimpse of both the underwater world and the above-water world at the same time. Congratulations on your award, it was well deserved.

 doady's gear list:doady's gear list
Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom Olympus E-M1 II Olympus 12-100mm F4.0 Phase One Capture One Pro
MarkDavo
MarkDavo Senior Member • Posts: 1,749
Re: My E-PL3 just won me a major wildlife photography award
1

Congratulations anupamkatkar.  Keep taking those photos.

-- hide signature --

Cheers, Mark
Wouldn't be dead for quids

 MarkDavo's gear list:MarkDavo's gear list
Olympus E-M1 II Olympus OM-D E-M1X Olympus 12-100mm F4.0 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm F2.8 Macro Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 Pro +5 more
burritosandbeer Regular Member • Posts: 303
Re: My E-PL3 just won me a major wildlife photography award
1

Love the story, love the shot.  Excellent job!

 burritosandbeer's gear list:burritosandbeer's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 Olympus PEN E-PL6 Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm F1.7 Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-150mm F4-5.6 ASPH Mega OIS Panasonic Lumix G 25mm F1.7 ASPH +6 more
OLY23 Regular Member • Posts: 220
Re: My E-PL3 just won me a major wildlife photography award
1

Congratulations.

You prove the point, that it’s not the equipment, but the person behind the equipment.

anupamkatkar
OP anupamkatkar Regular Member • Posts: 200
Re: My E-PL3 just won me a major wildlife photography award
1

OLY23 wrote:

Congratulations.

You prove the point, that it’s not the equipment, but the person behind the equipment.

Thank you, Oly. However, the point I "proved" was by accident. In fact, this has been an important lesson for me.

It's easy to start obsessing over specs and catch G.A.S. I most certainly am guilty of this. It seems that every few weeks, there's a new lens or camera to tempt us. And of course the gear we use makes a difference ... but we took up photography because it's fun, and we love connecting with and perceiving the world around us using these fantastic tools. And what's the point of it all if it doesn't make us happy?

I'll bet that most of us enjoy using the camera, composing and pressing the shutter far more than how the photo actually turns out. Isn't the lasting appeal of manual-focus lenses a testament to the fact that we love the interaction, tactile feel and process of creating our art?

Some of the best photos on this forum were created with obsolete equipment. Vass has taken incredible photos of swallows in flight with an E-M1 Mark 1, Phocal prefers Four Thirds lenses, NZMacro uses Canon FD for bird photography. These are just a few examples. Perhaps their photos are so great precisely because it's a challenge to take them.

 anupamkatkar's gear list:anupamkatkar's gear list
Olympus E-M1 II Olympus OM-D E-M5 Nikon D500 Olympus PEN E-PL6 Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD +22 more
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