It is strange how ideas form into actions – sometimes it can be just a passing comment or suggestion that spawns something tangible and interesting. PhotoArk began like this and its conception can be traced to a winter’s evening early in 2012, during a session at our local gym. I have been running my gallery site Visionage.co.uk for more than a decade and it was in desperate need of an overhaul to freshen the appearance and address a few technical niggles arising from technologies steady march onward. My Son also ran a couple of development websites (Digicolabs.co.uk and thenervenet.co.uk), but up until now we had never collaborated in a joint venture.
The recent announcement of the new flagship OMD from Olympus has caused a bit of a stir in photographic circles; the highest priced micro four thirds camera yet to be released – a professional model sporting environmental seals and purported to be freeze proof. Building on the success of the EM5 it adds a host of additional features, but its raison d'être is the dual autofocus system. Combining contrast and phase detection systems, it allows older four thirds lenses to be focussed almost as fast as more contemporary Micro Four Thirds designs. Let’s not forget the large electronic viewfinder sporting a 2.36k dot resolution with a 1.48 magnification for a view that almost allows you to forget you are looking through an EVF.
How many of us have a camera, lens, or combination of both that sees little or no use resulting in it slumbering for months or even years in a bag or drawer, barely seeing the light of day? My own experience of this is symptomatic of GAS – those times when I just wanted to purchase a new bit of gear without any real justification – those moments when I just had to scratch a particularly expensive itch.
Being the keen hill walker that I am, I enjoy being outdoors and taking pictures throughout the seasons, whatever the weather. Because of this I have tried and tested many different outdoor garments ranging from poor to excellent. Walking requires several layers of clothing to fend off the bone chilling cold that comes with visiting open moorland in the depths of winter. The temperature may be just a few degrees below freezing, but add wind chill to this and the fact that I may be standing around for a while preparing to take pictures, and the experience can get uncomfortable.
If ever there was a scene waiting to be photographed, it is during those few minutes at the beginning or end of the day when light becomes really magical, transforming even the most mundane subject matter into a potential work of art. I would guess that nearly all photographers will have a series of sunrise and sunset images in their collection as they can make for stunning viewing and are relatively easy to capture. Add to this the absolute peace that can be found working at these hours…what is there not to like? Some of the memories I have from being up before the silver dawn and walking across moors (or camping out for the night) to get to my chosen subject are every bit as exciting as making the final image. Similarly, taking a walk along coastal cliffs during twilight looking for a good location to capture those warm sky tones after sundown can be spiritual.
PhotoArk have used many different camera systems and models over the years, and we were early adopters of the Olympus E-System, obtaining and using two models early in its history. The first of these was the E-1, followed a little while after by the E-510. I was always impressed with the build quality of Olympus cameras, and my experience with them goes back three decades with their film OM System. These two digital models were no exception; the E-1 being built like it could knock nails into wood and fully weather sealed, and the 510 being lighter, more portable and an ideal travel companion.
Last weekend saw me at a loose end with my time due to an extended period of rain that had moved across the United Kingdom. The hill opposite the house had disappeared under a veil of low rain bearing cloud that occasionally lifted its tendrils, revealing misty outlines of trees clinging perilously to a carboniferous matrix of scree and small cliffs, once a thriving limestone quarry.