The email Olympus Super Fan Experiential in San Francisco
It was late afternoon on Tuesday, Dec 19th that I received an email indicating I was invited to attend a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” entitled ‘Olympus Super Fan Experiential in San Francisco’. Unfortunately, this almost didn’t occur because I thought it was a scam. I researched the email originator of the email but didn’t put too much effort into it since I had a very early flight the next morning and had to begin getting ready for the flight and put this out of my mind with no thought to return to the email.
Thursday afternoon when driving from North Carolina to Pittsburgh, I received an Instant Message from Olympus Visionary, Jamie McDonald asking if I got an email from Olympus earlier in the week. Since I was driving, I didn’t respond immediately. A few hours went by and I reread his IM then responded. “Yes, I received a note but I thought it was SPAM.” – Do you have time to chat? He responded – Yes, call me. I did and he confirmed not only was it true but I needed to respond quickly since the deadline to respond was the next day. – Ouch! Was I going to blow the chance of a lifetime?
I immediately called the number on the email and began the adventure of a lifetime that would begin on my 61st birthday. Yes, the trip would start on January 25th and I would get to meet new folks who love photography, ‘play’ with new gear and meet people whom I admired for a long time.
I was selected as one of ten photographers in the United States to attend the “Olympus Super Fan Experiential” fully paid for by Olympus. To state I was excited is an understatement and as the date approached, I was filled with anticipation taking me back to my childhood when either my birthday or Christmas was close and I ‘knew’ my parents bought me something I wanted but I had to ‘pretend’ I didn’t know I was getting that ‘special’ toy. Yes, I felt like a kid again and loved every minute of it.
The journey to selecting Olympus as my gear of choice
A few years ago I purchased my first OMD camera, it was a used OMD-EM5 and my ‘love’ for mirrorless technology began. I used this for some of my macro work during weddings and it became my exclusive ‘travel’ camera along with the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens and 60mm f/2.8 macro. Over time, I sold this camera, bought a different micro 4/3 mirrorless but when the Olympus OMD-E-M1MarkII was announced, I pre-ordered it along with the 12-100 f/4 (more on these two items in a different article) and purchased a few more used Olympus lenses beginning my full migration to Olympus from Nikon. There were many people along the way who kept fueling my interest but there was one person who stood above the rest, Olympus Visionary Scott Bourne. (Plus, I would get to meet him and another longtime favorite of mine – Derrick Story who wrote an article on our trip. I started my selling off of Nikon gear and fully moved to Olympus in early 2017 telling everyone and anyone I photographed how much ‘funner’ shooting with Olympus was than Nikon. (No doubt, some thought I was annoying :D.)
As the date approached, our group connected on a ‘private’ Facebook group and group instant messaging and connect we did. The IM seemed non-stop in anticipation from one of the members indicating this was the first time they were flying while another lived near and worked in San Francisco.
The day finally arrived, my 61st birthday on this great planet earth and I was off to SF with my backpack of Olympus gear to my standard travel ‘food’. It was going to be a long flight and my body was more than juiced for the trip. I sat by the door (I was ready many hours early) of our house as I waited for a limo to pick me up and drive me to the airport. Yes, Olympus had a limo pick us up ensuring there was no expense on our part and that we would arrive at the airport with plenty of time for the flights across the country.
When we arrived in San Francisco, a limo picked us up and took us to our Hotel, where we hooked up with the others in our Super Fan group, great folks from MullenLowe U.S, and Olympus USA. and given some new toys that we would play with during our trip. For me, the two items I wanted to play with was the new Olympus Pro line of f/1.2 lenses. The 17mm and 45mm, both lenses I was ‘eyeing’ up since they were announced. To me, the 17mm f/1.2 (FF equivalent of 34mm) is the perfect event and street photographer’s lens. The 45mm (FF equiv 90mm) is perfect for event and portraits.
After going to dinner where I was surprised with a nice ‘vegan’ desert and birthday celebration, a few of us went to a local park high above the city to capture the cityscape at night. We walked back to the hotel via Chinatown and continued playing with the 17mm lens where I was amazed by the feel of the lens. (I knew it would be difficult to return it to Eric from Olympus in a few days.)
To state I stayed up too late is an understatement but I wasn’t going to miss one minute of opportunity to photograph San Francisco. Add in the time difference, excitement, and joy, I finally went to sleep nearly 24 hours after I started the journey on Wednesday. However, I wasn’t tired and according to my Fitbit, I averaged 2-4 hours of sleep each night the entire time I was in San Francisco. 😀
Golden Gate Opportunity
The next morning we met in the lobby and headed out to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge from atop a mountain. It was very foggy but we came away with iconic images. From there we went to Muir Woods and had lunch and continued photographing everything and anything. Derrick Story was with us and documented the journey on his blog.
|We had ‘free time’ and a few of us took an Uber trip to Treasure Island and captured a magnificent sunset and blue hour. When we returned from our trip to Treasure Island, the Olympus Visionaries began arriving and a few went to the park from the previous day.|
|The next day our adventure continued but a few of us rose early (why not :D) and went back to the mountain and photographed the Golden Gate bridge again and this time there was no fog but we were given a beautiful sunrise.|
We returned to the hotel and hooked up with the rest of the group heading off to Alcatraz (stay tuned for a story in a future post) and Baker Beach where I could have spent hours taking in the view of the Golden Gate bridge, excitement from the kids playing on the beach, and the unique feel of the sand unlike the sand from the east coast of the country.
We stayed out late again knowing our journey was coming to an end and I didn’t want it to stop. Along the way we ate at some of the finest restaurants, traveled in a limo bus, laughed and talked until our voices where fading. We didn’t want the trip to end but it did end sealing lifetime memories and relationships.
I could write for thousands of more words and my gratitude to Olympus, MullenLowe, the other Olympus Super Fans, and the Olympus Visionaries could not be expressed more than these words – “Thank you! Not only was this a tremendous experience, but I couldn’t have asked for a better 61st birthday gift!”
Everyone got along well, talking, laughing, and enjoying this once in a lifetime experience. We gained more than an experience but a lifetime of friends, a connection to tremendous people, and a unique bond with an amazing company (Olympus).
All of the images in this post were taken with the Olympus OMD-E-M1MarkII, the Olympus 12-100 f/4 (the very sharp, perfect ‘general’ purpose and travel lens), Olympus 7-14 f/2.8, and the new Pro 17mm and 45mm f/1.2 lenses.
To find the images taken but the Visionaries, Super Fans, and me during the trip, search this hashtag on Social Media:
I posted the majority of my images on my portfolio site here. Watch this blog for a write-up on the Olympus 17mm f/1.2 lens.
As I state often, ‘photography is too much fun to be legal’ and using Olympus gear is like ‘cheating’ for it is almost impossible to make a bad image.
Links to Olympus on the net