If there’s anyone that understands Olympus cameras and the company’s vision, it’s Peter Baumgarten.
Based on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario, Peter is known in the photography world as someone that captures amazing landscape and wildlife imagery. His outdoor photographs let you view the world in ways you wouldn’t think were possible.
Loyalty and innovation
While Peter wasn’t always a professional photographer, he’s had a longevity with his brand of choice — Olympus — dating back to his days as a teenager, when he got his first OM-1n film camera.
Today, Peter is an Olympus Visionary, a title he’s held since 2014. And he’s since gone digital — namely with the new OM-D E-M1 Mark III and E-M1X cameras. So what kept him loyal to the brand he started with so many years ago?
“At the end of the summer my dad said to me in his thick German accent, ‘Peter, you don’t want to be spending your money at the arcade, you want to spend your money on something useful.’ He was a bit of a photographer, so he suggested that summer that I buy my first camera. So I went with him to our local camera store and picked up the Olympus OM-1N. That was my first camera that I used and I was hooked on photography.”
After putting the camera away for 20 or so years, he picked up another camera — an Olympus point and shoot. And since then, he’s continued to use Olympus cameras.
“What kept me with Olympus was [that] I was so impressed with the innovations that Olympus was coming out with in the digital age. Every time I upgraded from one digital camera to the next one, there were new innovations that were coming out,” Peter said, making specific mention of Olympus’ dust reduction system.
As someone who has used Olympus cameras for the past few years, I have to say that the dust reduction system is a groundbreaking feature — but one that’s not often talked about. In my three years having an Olympus camera, I’ve never once had to clean the sensor. Ever.
New technologies that lead the charge
But dust reduction isn’t the only value Olympus brings to the table — far from it. Going back to his early days as a photographer, Peter referenced a book by Freeman Patterson that taught him the art of seeing.
“That’s been the big thing, is how can I see the world differently? Most photographers strive to do that, and they talk a lot about that,” he said. “What they often don’t talk about is how your camera sees the world differently. Your lens choice, and then the features built into the camera allow you to see the world in ways that your eyes just can’t see.”
For Peter, the Live Composite feature found on several of Olympus’ cameras is one of those features that truly changes the way he captures scenes.
“Live composite is certainly one of those features, where you can gather up to six hours of visual data streaming onto the sensor, under darker conditions. And not completely blow out the highlights.”
While Peter started using Live Composite for star trails, the feature has also been embraced by several photographers for things like car trails, moving clouds, fireworks, lightning and more.
In addition to Live Composite (and sometimes in combination with), Peter’s favorite new feature is Starry Sky AF, introduced with the E-M1 Mark III earlier this year.
“When Starry Sky AF came out, I thought, ‘I’m all over that.’ It was absolutely amazing. Even under partly cloudy conditions that’s partly obliterating the stars, it works. It really simplifies it and gives me a much higher success rate. Because I know the stars are sharp — they’re guaranteed to be sharp.
“Those kinds of features allow me to see the world in ways that my audience doesn’t,” he said, also making mention of features like Live ND, focus bracketing and focus stacking.
Compact, lightweight setup
When it comes to being out in the field, Peter sees another benefit of the system — its compactness.
“I don’t know that I could get half of the [wildlife] shots that I am able to capture with a bigger camera system. Or I’d be less likely to carry it with me, anyway. So for me, the size, the feature set and the rugged build … just that I can have it completely soaking wet. A wave crashing over me or rain or snow … it never phases me.”
For landscapes, Peter relies on a few different lenses, but loves the 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO.
“I can get more of my field of view in frame. I can have a nice foreground point of interest, yet still easily capture the horizon and a bit of clouds.”
Know the light
For anyone getting started in landscape photography, Peter emphasizes the need to understand light conditions.
“It is absolutely critical. You know, it’s almost cliché to say that photography’s all about the light. But it’s become a cliché because it’s absolutely true,” he said. “If you go out when it’s convenient — in the middle of the day — you’re not going to get great landscape shots. You have to go out when Mother Nature dictates that the light is right.
“And when you get there, work the scene. Stick around long enough to really work through how best to present that. You’re trying to make an artistic statement with your images, and to present the scene in a way that someone else, who might be standing right beside you, isn’t seeing. That requires time and patience and planning. Getting there before the good light hits.”