During my weekend in Queenstown with Olympus, we were lucky to be privy to a couple of photography workshops run by two photography experts that I admire and respect: perpetual traveller (and one of the most beautiful people you’ll ever meet) Lisa Burns of The Wandering Lens – and natural light portrait & family photographer Rachel Devine of Sesame Ellis.
It was a beautiful opportunity to learn from the best, ask lots of questions and work at up-levelling my photography skills, and put new techniques into immediate practice while surrounded by insanely beautiful scenery.
Here are five photography tricks I learned on the road, and have taken home with me from this adventure with Olympus!
1. Use your iPhone screen to make a reflection
In Lisa’s photography workshop, she shared with us a number of techniques to improve and get more creative with our photo composition. If you take a look at Lisa’s work, you’ll notice she has a penchant for noticing, and cleverly capturing reflections – in mirrors, lakes, puddles, pools, shiny tables, and basically any surface that reflects.
But, further to that, Lisa shared with us an amazing (and simple) trick, to create a reflection when you can’t find one naturally – by using the surface of your iPhone (or iPad, or any glass-screened smart phone) as the reflective surface. Who knew?!
It’s simple to do, but does take some practice to perfect. With your phone screen locked, and off, hold the camera up to your iPhone screen. Play around with the angle you hold your phone at, but basically, it should be held flat, and with the short side of the phone along the bottom of the camera. Using a low f-stop will help create a blurred reflection and make the reflection captured look more realistic.
Here’s a photo I took, using my iPhone and the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III.
Here’s a better one that Lisa took!
2. Capture motion with water, in daylight
Creating movement in water within a landscape always makes for a beautiful photograph, but I’d never quite mastered how to do this in broad daylight, or understood the metrics behind how to do so! While the best time to attempt this is at either end of the day, in lower light conditions (i.e sunrise or sunset), it is possible to get photos in the middle of the day, with the right camera settings.
The trick is to drop down the ISO right down (to 100), and to increase the aperture to f-22, or the highest aperture your camera will allow. If you’re shooting on manual mode, slow down the shutter speed to a level that will capture movement in the water, but not overexpose the image too greatly. Otherwise, an easier way to get the effect with the right lighting, is to shoot on AV (Aperture Priority mode). Drop the ISO right down, set the f-stop to f-22, and the camera will shoot at a semi-long exposure on its own terms.
Generally, to shoot with a low shutter speed means you’ll need a tripod to ensure the camera doesn’t shake, and the whole image blurs. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III camera really shines here – because the built-in 5-axis stabilisation system in the camera allows you to hand-hold long exposures, without any need for a tripod.
3. Use a ‘little person’ to create a sense of scale
I’ve been capturing photos like this for a while, but I had never really stopped to think why adding a person in a photo is always so popular on Instagram. Lisa gave us the theory behind this – and it’s all a matter of creating perspective. That is, pointing the viewer towards what you want them to see. When you add a person to the scene, it shows the true scale of a building, or a dramatic landscape. It tells more of a story, and the result is a far more impressive image.
We practiced this at the Crown Ranges in Queenstown – which was literally a picture perfect setting to show scale. Here’s a photo of me, below, as the tiny human against an enormous mountainous landscape. To compare, here’s also a photo of the landscape without any scale reference. Do you agree that the human presence makes the left picture feel so much more impressive?
If you can, use the remote self timer on your camera, frame the composition you want, and run into the frame. Better still, with the Olympus Image Share app, you can set up the camera, then shoot remotely from the app, and see the live result when you’re still standing within the photo. That’s less running back and forth across a mountainscape!
4. Frame your photographs creatively
Another creative technique I picked up from Lisa, is to experiment with framing your photography subject in a unique way. This can be done with tree branches, shadows, walls, windows or lighting, to help lead the eye towards the subject of a photo, and capture something in a unique way.
Soon after Queenstown I visited London, and bought myself a little set of battery operated, portable fairylights to experiment with for some future framing experimentation! I also looked out for any leaf-framing opportunities on the streets.
Here’s a few photos showing this technique in action.
5. See the world with your own eyes
My final point is more of an observation, than a specific photography tip.
In Queenstown, I was lucky to spend the weekend travelling with a group of 10 amazing photographers – all talented and amazing in their own right, and all with the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III in tow.
Despite everyone having the same camera, it was SO refreshing to see how differently everyone captured the same scenery, on our same Queenstown itinerary. It reminded me how we can use equipment in such varying and different ways, if we just focus on capturing our world through our own eyes.
If you have a look through our trip hashtag #OlympusQueenstownExcursion, you can see the beautiful differences in our photography and editing styles. With Olympus equipment, there is no limit to what you can capture, it really just comes down to how you capture it, with your creativity and willingness to learn, experiment and evolve your style.
(Me, just sitting on the edge of The Remarkables – pinch me!)
Bonus tip! Have Coffee with Olympus
On the subject of learning, did you know that if you own an Olympus camera, you can book in for a (free) coffee date with Olympus? In a small group setting, you can enjoy a 45 minute session with an Olympus trainer! It’s a wonderful way to learn the ins and outs of your Olympus camera, and to up-level your photography skills immediately!