When Olympus Visionary Chris Eyre-Walker heard that he could have access to a pre-release version of the company’s latest model, the OM-D E-M5 Mark III, he came up with a novel plan. He challenged himself to create a photographic portrait of his country, Belgium – which he would complete in the space of a single day. The goal: 24 photos in 24 hours. [Article courtesy of Olympus]
He rounded up a couple of videographers who, using Olympus OM-D E-M1Xs, would capture the whole process from planning through the 24-hour shoot to a final exhibition entitled ‘The Essence of Belgium’
‘Time was our biggest enemy’, said Chris of the hectic 24-hour, 1100 km project. ‘We were figuring it out as we went. Some locations were pitch dark, empty or simply not that impressive… others were random in-between locations that happened to be a good ‘Belgian’ moment and photo worthy. It was all about being out there and having the camera ready at all times to capture something Belgian.
‘For example, I knew I wanted to shoot the Atomium, or Manneken Pis, but I didn’t know how or what kind of composition. Those things I left over to the moment itself.
‘I think that was the beauty of this project. One might have guessed what I would shoot, but not even I knew how I would shoot it. Some shots ended up being shot out of the moving car, others were just a fraction of the initially planned subject, others were shots that happened right in the moment and wouldn’t be repeatable ever again. That was the beauty of the time restriction in this project. It really forced me to solve problems on the go and to be creative.’
On the technical side of things Chris noted that although he was a little apprehensive about stepping down from his workhorse E-M1X to the new little brother, his concerns quickly evaporated. ‘When I picked up the E-M5 III for the first time, it couldn’t have been easier.
‘I unpacked it, dialled in some of the button and wheel layout settings to match my E-M1X’s and was ready to use it within a few minutes. There’s a consistency with Olympus cameras that just goes across all levels. The menus, button layout, functions and most importantly reliability are similar across the board. As a professional that’s actually a big deal.
‘Of course there are differences,’ Chris added. ‘What really struck me was how small and lightweight the E-M5 Mark III is. But then you start shooting and you realise just how capable and powerful this little camera is at the same time.’
‘It’s unusual for a professional to ‘downgrade’ and shoot with a less professional camera. I was expecting it to be a big step down and expected to struggle more… but it was just a breeze. And once we saw the prints come out in A1 size at the printers there was no doubt: this little camera is just as much a beast as all its big brothers!’
‘Since we were a team of five and all shooting on Olympus cameras, we were constantly swapping around lenses. I’m a big fan of the M.Zuiko PRO lens series, simply because of the weather sealing. I never have to worry about rain or dust so I can fully focus on the subject in front of me.’
Asked which lenses in particular he relied on for the project, Chris said, ‘I shot most of the photos with the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO. It simply allowed me to keep the setup really small and compact and the 12-40mm range is a fantastic all-round setup for the kind of shots we were after.
‘The 17mm f/1.2 is also one of my favourite lenses. It’s just a perfect focal range for almost everything. And the f/1.2 aperture really helps when there’s little to no light, which was something that mattered for the 24-hour project,’ he added. ‘We spent almost 50% of the time in dimly lit, empty streets, or even total darkness.’
Reflecting on the project and how he works these days, Chris said of his approach to photography, ‘unless I travel with a purpose, with a concept, with an idea, with a plan – I don’t go. Projects don’t all need to aim to change the world, but they need to be original or they aren’t worth my time. And I’ve become very self-critical about it. I shoot less and try to make everything count.’