Chef-turned-photographer Lauren Bath headed to a chilly Norway to put Olympus’s new OM-D flagship – the E-M1 Mark II – through its paces.
Quitting her job as a successful chef in early 2013, Lauren Bath started out in a new career using photography to promote tourism and travel, effectively becoming Australia’s first professional ‘Instagrammer’. Since then she has diversified into other social media platforms and into travel writing. With a passion for tourism – and her hands-on approach to social media – Lauren has grown her online community to over threequarters of a million followers.
Lauren’s approach to travel photography is to create a compelling story about a destination through a series of diverse images: the people, animals, details and landscapes. It’s all about tapping into the all-important “dreaming phase” of holiday planning.
Lauren recalls always having a camera in her hand as a child, but she says she didn’t really get interested in photography until much later.
“I never had a clue about the technical side, I just took shots of my friends in the auto modes. I first picked up ‘creative’ photography in 2011 when I downloaded Instagram and shot on an iPhone first, followed by an entry-level D-SLR. The transition from a phone to a camera was part of the reason why I was so successful at Instagram. I was sharing my stories and photography mishaps on a daily basis and it was the perfect community for it!”
Her passion for photography and travel quickly grew – to the point where she decided to change career paths dramatically and start a new business which combined all her passions and leveraged the huge potential of social media to tell her stories.
“Now every decision that I make, I ask myself will it lead to more time spent travelling, photographing and sharing? Within the broad field of travel, I particularly love shooting wildlife, landscapes and portraits.”
A few years down the track and Lauren’s enthusiasm for what she does remains undiminished and, when asked what motivates her to get out of bed each morning, she quickly replies, “Great light! I don’t think there is a photographer alive who isn’t inspired by beautiful light. When I’m working for a client I am up before sunrise every single day and it’s always worth it when you get those once-a-year majestic sunrises”.
Lauren started using Olympus cameras after a chance meeting with the company’s Australian marketing manager at Vivid Festival in Sydney in 2015.
“Initially the main attraction was to work with a camera brand that had the interest and capacity to work with someone like me. In my longer-term business model, I want meaningful relationships with brands that align with my brand, and I saw potential for that with Olympus.”
Her intuition was right and Lauren has since built a successful relationship with Olympus, finding both the brand and equipment were able to perfectly suit her requirements as a much-travelled travel photographer.
“Initially the attraction was definitely the weight, but I quickly found a lot more to love. Some of my earlier favourites included the true-to-life colours straight out of camera, the corner-to-corner focus points, and the image stabilisation which meant I didn’t have to sacrifice ISO when shooting in low light. Then there are the lenses! The 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens, in particular, became my first love as it can grab a focus when very close to the subject and captures insane details!”
Lauren is also convinced of the benefits of shooting with a mirrorless camera system rather than a D-SLR.
“Again the main advantage is obviously the reduced weight. Because I work in travel, I am always lugging a lot of equipment around, often in inconvenient places. Having a lighter kit means I am more comfortable and less prone to injury… like a lot of photographers I’ve had some back problems. I also love the crop factor [with Micro Four Thirds] that effectively doubles the focal length of the lenses, turning my 40150mm into an 80-300mm which weighs almost nothing!”
Out In The Cold
Olympus’s new flagship OM-D model, the E-M1 Mark II, has been keenly anticipated by many photographers, and Lauren Bath was among the few lucky photographers who had a chance to try out the camera before it was launched.
“It’s very pretty!” she says, only half-jokingly. “I’m not the most tech-savvy photographer, but at first glance the biggest differences are that the camera is slightly larger but sleeker, and has a more comfortable handgrip. After using it more though, I’ve discovered so many new extras and improvements, and I am convinced it is a big step up from the previous model. After shooting exclusively on the Mark II for ten days in Norway, it’s been hard to go back to the Mark I for my trip to South Africa.”
Fortunately, Lauren’s new E-M1 Mark II is on its way so she’ll be able to further explore its many possibilities. She’s already identified some of the features she particularly likes.
“The faster continuous shooting speed is amazing for capturing action and I used it a lot when shooting the Killer Whales in Norway. The autofocus is noticeably quicker too, and the image stabilisation is actually insane! I knew its possibilities in theory, but always preferred to err on the side of caution and use tripods. In Norway I threw caution to the wind and tried shooting with some pretty slow shutter speeds and, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear these images were shot with the camera on a tripod!”
Lauren is also enthusiastic about the new M.Zuiko Digital PRO series lenses that have been launched along with the E-M1 Mark II camera body, particularly the ED 25mm f1.2 PRO.
“I got my hands on the 25mm in Norway. It’s gorgeous, exactly what you would expect from a prolevel prime. I shot some portraits with it, and while I have yet to go through all the edits, I can already see that they look great.”
Lauren says her assignment in a wintery Norway was a challenging test for any new camera, but the E-M1 Mark II performed faultlessly… and the OM-D system also delivered real practical advantages.
“We threw a lot at the camera while shooting in Norway – cold weather, rain and low light levels. It performed professionally and reliably throughout. I came home and called these guys out for being evil geniuses as I am so keen to merge more of my shooting over to Olympus.
“Additionally, flying was much easier, as my carry-on was lighter. Hiking was much easier as I had less weight on my back… even with carrying more lenses. I could shoot through steady rain easily and I didn’t notice any issues with the cold. It’s a great upgrade; a sturdy, lovely to hold and use camera.”
OLYMPUS OM-D E-M1 MARK II