As a quick scroll through OM SYSTEM Ambassador Matt Horspool’s Instagram timeline makes obvious, there’s almost no genre of photography he hasn’t explored, experimented with and ultimately excelled at. If you had to pin him down, he’d probably describe himself as an adventure-travel photographer who not only loves dramatic landscapes, but also capturing the underwater world. [Article courtesy of OM SYSTEM]
The Sydney native’s photographic career had its beginning back in 2009 when, inspired by years of poring over National Geographic magazines and watching travel documentaries, he set off on a trekking adventure through Peru and Patagonia with a little point and shoot camera.
By the time he returned from South America, Matt knew he needed to step up to a “proper” camera. Over the next seven years his kit gradually evolved until he’d reached the point that he was using a full frame DSLR. In 2017 he and a friend entered a competition called the Olympus Vision Project, the prize for which was a grant to work on a passion project using Olympus equipment. Happily, their pitch to explore and document remote regions of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan was accepted.
In the months before they set off on their expedition, Matt immersed himself in the Olympus system, knowing that he would need to master it if he was going to do justice to the passion project.
Master it he did and not long after the Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan adventure was successfully completed, Matt became an ambassador for Olympus.
Late last year Matt was given the opportunity to use the OM SYSTEM OM-1 on a nine-day shoot for an upcoming Tourism Hawaii campaign. The scope was ambitious, with Matt and his two-person team being challenged to cover everything from a night dive with Manta rays to tropical landscapes, lifestyle pictures and even food photography in a busy restaurant.
‘For most of the lifestyle and food kind of things I always shoot with the 17mm f/1.2 prime and the 45mm f/1.2 prime,’ Matt said. ‘We weren’t going to have much time. They’d be plating this food up in 10 minutes, and the videographers had to get the same shots as well, because they’re not going to redo everything. So I knew that I had to shoot with two bodies. The primes are by far my favourite thing to shoot with because they are just so fast. The autofocus is so snappy and the eye-autofocus was perfect for following the chef as he was running around.
‘The night dive with the Manta rays was probably one of the most challenging shoots I’ve done,’ Matt said, adding ‘we were documenting a cultural practice and we were in a traditional outrigger run by a local family.’
They paddled out at dusk and then once it got dark, powerful lights installed on the hull of the outrigger were switched on. ‘This attracts plankton, which then attracts the Mantas,’ Matt explained.
The contrast range between the inky black background and the dazzling lights from the outrigger made for an exceptionally difficult shooting challenge. Matt, who is a trained diver, had to capture the constantly moving rays with their photogenic white underbellies while coping with the extreme contrast range. ‘Luckily I’ve set up all of my OM SYSTEM cameras to show highlight and shadow exposure warnings when these are either crushed or blown out. That’s key because I am able to see on the LCD if something’s blown out or under exposed beyond recovery.’
Working in difficult environments is a fact of life for Matt and few environments are more brutal than Antarctica. ‘Even if I wasn’t an OM SYSTEM user, for shooting in the polar regions this system is the best possible toolkit you could ever want,’ Matt says, adding ‘the weather sealing is so good that sometimes I’ve showered with my cameras to clean them. Being out on the zodiacs there’s constant seaspray and they just keep working.’
As anyone who’s been on one knows, a loaded zodiac doesn’t offer much personal space, so for a working professional photographer, the compact OM SYSTEM cameras and lenses offer maximum flexibility.
In Antarctica Matt used an OM-D E-M1 Mark III and an OM-D E-M1X. The lightweight kit allowed him to carry a focal range from 7mm through to 1200mm (35mm equivalent) on the two bodies. On one body, he either had the M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO or the M.Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 PRO IS to cover the passenger/lifestyle situations; on the second, he had the M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 PRO IS with the 2x teleconverter to capture distant wildlife.
The entire kit, along with the M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.2 PRO, could easily fit within his zodiac carry-on limit. ‘I can move fast,’ Matt said, ‘and I don’t have to worry at all about any of the equipment.’