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Sunset over Manstone Rock with the new OM-1 and M.Zuiko 150-400mm

When OM SYSTEM cameras sent me a loan body of the new OM1, I really wanted to see what it could do at sunset, when hooked up with the M.Zuiko 150-400mm. Using a sun-tracking app on my iPad, I worked out where was the exact spot to capture the sun sinking behind Manstone Rock on the Stiperstones ridge in Shropshire UK.

The most important factor was the weather and the forecast showed clear skies. Often at sunset, you can be at the right time and in the right place, yet at the last minute a bank of clouds drifts over the horizon, so I end up spending a lot of time in the Shropshire hills getting cold and not getting the shot. It’s a cliché but there are no short cuts to persistence in this game.

This evening, as I parked up by the footpath that led uphill, the sky was blue. I only had the OM1 for a few hours and now I hoped it would be up to the task. Photographing the sun or moon large in the landscape always feels like a technical challenge. When I found the right spot, I could see the sun was already making its diagonal way towards the rock formation which was four kilometres away as the crow flies.

I set up on the tripod, adding the double extender to the lens and engaging the in-built extender to give me 2000mm equivalent reach. I took a few test shots exposing for the now orange sky. The sun was a white-hot ball with blown highlights.

Already I was loving the ability of the OM1 to shoot at 1/32000 with electronic shutter, and with the huge range of focus points covering the entire frame to make sure by using the AF joystick that the rocks were sharp.

As the sun dropped lower I had to work incredibly quickly, fixing the ISO at 200 and hugely underexposing until finally the sun turned a rich yellow in the frame. I was not only trying to capture a shot with extreme light differences in it, but I could feel the new camera absolutely being stretched – 1/26000 sec, F29 and ISO 200. I knew the raw files would yield plenty of dynamic range in post, so I wasn’t worried that the rocks and sky would be deep in the shadows. As the sun fell behind the top of the rocks, I hoped I had my shot, despite freezing ears and fingers. Now it was a race to get home and open up the raw files and pray that I got my settings right.

The file that opened on my screen had a very washed out, over-blown looking sun and the rocks and sky were dark. All the colour I could see with my naked eye had vanished. I wasn’t worried – there have sometimes been comments that ORF files are not anything like as good as full frame, but my experience has been the opposite. I have always found a pleasing elasticity that reveals OM SYSTEM engineers have worked hard over the years to give photographers something good to work with.

A simply touch of highlights down, and shadows, blacks and whites up and the final result now matched the view that I saw. Working on capturing moments like this, I have the feeling of moving towards painting – here is light, form and colour. I am stoked. Since I started with Olympus back in 2018, I have always had the strange sense that the cameras were on my side, eager to please, keen for me to get the best photos possible and I wonder about the Yokai, the Japanese Shinto spirits that can inhabit inanimate objects.

With the OM1, this helpful spirit is alive and well and I know that it will be my more than capable companion for the next part of my journey.

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