One night in December after a long day at work, I decided to catch up on some personal email. I began to read an email that claimed I was chosen to join Olympus for their Super Fan Experiential in San Francisco. With all the fake emails out there, I was skeptical. It's was almost 10pm and I was tired...I must be reading this wrong. After verifying with a few people, this too good to be true opportunity was actually legit!
To say I was excited would be an understatement. I've been an Olympus shooter since I purchased the E-P3 several years ago. I hadn't given up my Nikon gear at that point. I liked the E-P3, but I've never been one for shooting exclusively by the LCD and the optional viewfinder just wasn't up to par for me. It wasn't until I was hearing about the OM-D series listening to Frederick Van Johnson of TWIP and Derrick Story talking about it on their podcasts. It didn't take long before I headed over to my favorite camera store Allen's Camera and I purchased a used OM-D E-M5. That was it, I was in love. Never have I felt so connected to a camera. It reignited my passion for photography. I've been hooked on Olympus ever since and I shoot the brand exclusively.
It's not just the incredible technology...the cameras are just fun to use. From built-in filters that provide endless creative opportunities, to amazing features like live composite. These are not gimmicks, they work and it's wonderful. This is also a brand that innovates, not just to get you to buy the newest gear, as they provide firmware upgrades to make your older gear feel like new again. When silent shutter came out, I was ready to upgrade, but they released a firmware upgrade for my existing body! Oh, and did I mention the Olympus community? It's like none other. I belong to several Facebook groups filled with passionate photographers who are ready to help and provide inspiration. It's amazing what belonging to a community can do for your photography.
Ok, enough about the background, let's talk about the trip!
Olympus chose 10 super fans for the event. We were chosen for several reasons either because we are active in the Olympus gallery, attend Olympus sponsored events, spread the word about the brand through our social media channels in a positive manner, or visit Olympus trade show booths, etc. This is only the second event of it's kind by Olympus and it was truly an honor to be selected.
We were able to experience a few really good restaurants during the trip. All were excellent, but Barrel House Tavern had my favorite dessert (I cannot pass up a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich) and Bistro Boudin had the best sourdough bread ever! At Aliment, I learned what smoked snow is (it's like tapioca powder). Here's a list of the restaurants with links. If you are ever in the San Francisco area, these will not disappoint.
The hotel was located in the financial district right next to Chinatown. There was a lot to shoot right around the hotel but on our first full day, we were whisked away to Battery Spencer which overlooks the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. Along for the ride was Derrick Story, whom I first met in 2014 at one of his workshops, ironically held in San Francisco. Check out his write up on our event here. We then spent a few hours at Muir Woods...a truly magical place with magnificent redwoods all around.
After Muir Woods and lunch in Sausalito, we had some free time, so I took an Uber over to the the Peak Design store in Hayes Valley. I love all Peak Design products so it was a special treat to have time to check out their new flagship store. Take a look at my post from earlier this month with more details. Click here.
On our final full day of shooting, we met up with the Visionaries and headed over to Alcatraz. After lunch, we stopped at Baker Beach. The beach was filled with children, dogs and surfers and the weather was perfect. We had a beautiful, unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge. There is nothing like crisp air, sunny skies and the sound of the waves hitting the shore.
Another benefit of this trip is that Olympus provided us with gear to use, which meant less gear to take on the plane! They provided the flagship OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm f/4 Pro lens and any of the new primes we wanted to use: 17mm f/1.2, 25mm f/1.2 or the 45mm f/1.2. They also had the necessary chargers and batteries and they even had a Wandrd backpack for us to use. I stuck with my Peak Design Everyday backpack, but others were saying that the Wandrd was very comfortable and functional.
I already own the E-M1 Mark II as well as the 12-100mm Pro lens and let me tell you they are a joy to use. I used this combo the entire time. With this focal range, I hardly had a desire to change lenses at all. In fact I didn't. Occasionally I used my PEN-F with the 17mm f/1.8 and the only reason is that I had it on the mono setting and used it for some candid shots when we were walking around. If you are looking for a travel lens and don't want to be bothered carrying lots of gear, the 12-100mm has you covered. It's super sharp throughout the focal length and at f/4, you shouldn't need anything else for most situations. It's even great at close ups - take a look at my tiny bubbles shot in the gallery below.
All in all, this was a fantastic, once in a lifetime trip for me. I enjoyed hanging out with some really awesome people, had great conversation, enjoyed all the places we visited, made some new friends, and learned some new things about the gear I love.
If you are interested in seeing photos from this event from everyone that participated, search the hashtag: #CapturingSanFrancisco
If you are interested in learning more about the Olympus Visionaries, check out their profiles here.
A heartfelt thank you to everyone at Olympus and MullenLowe for organizing this event and for their support throughout the trip. Thank you to the Olympus Visionaries who spent time with us at each location and sharing their passion with us. To my fellow super fans...you are all awesome and I hope our paths cross again some day.
Check out the links below if you are interested in learning more about Olympus.
All photos in the gallery below were taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and the 12-100mm f/4 Pro Lens, except for one which was taken with the PEN-F, 17mm f/1.8. The in-camera dramatic tone filter was used for a few of the fog photos, otherwise the photos have not been processed. Some are using the in-camera digital zoom for extra reach when I needed it.