Using a telephoto lens

Telephoto lenses. Not something I usually use.
However, I have recently acquired an old Olympus Zuiko 135mm f3.5 lens - which makes it a 270mm lens on my Olympus EM10ii, due to it being a Micro Four Thirds camera.

How did I come to buy a focal length of lens which I wouldn't usually touch?

Well, a good friend of mine has asked me to be the photographer at her wedding. And straight away my first thought was lenses. Handily, my brother ( has just started shooting on a Sony and offered me his MFT kit to use, including the 17mm f1.7 and 45mm f1.8. Both great lenses which will add to my kit and should cover me.

I then got thinking about lenses with a bit more length to capture people mingling without shoving a camera too closely in their faces. I have my long zoom which I usually only get out for when I head to Silverstone (see earlier post from the Bath Carnival). But it's not the fastest of lenses and it spends most of the time sitting around doing nothing. I'll probably use it for the wedding though, just because it gives me options and I can autofocus with it to capture important things quickly.

I then started thinking about lenses for my visits to motorsport venues and whether I really need a zoom? I very rarely use zooms, preferring to use my feet. And I do get a bit annoyed with cheaper zooms and their variable aperture. If I'm fully wide with a lens at f4, I want to be able to zoom and it stays at f4. And unless I'm willing to pay vast amounts of cash for something I rarely use then I've got to put up with that. Or have I?

I looked at the exif info from various races I've been to and could see that I only really use a couple of different focal lengths with a zoom. At last year's World Endurance Championship race at Silverstone I was pretty much at 200mm most of the time, with a few shots in the 130-150mm focal length. So I got to thinking, why don't I just carry a couple of prime lenses of those focal lengths? They're going to be faster than the zoom. And I reckon the quality will be a bit better. I don't need autofocus - the cars are too fast for it to keep up.

So I went shopping. And after doing some research, the first prime telephoto I have got is the Zuiko. It's a good lens - very small for something of this focal length. It's lightweight and very quick to focus with. It also has a nifty lens hood built in.


I took it out for a wander around town on my lunch break and although it gets some nice shots, I'm finding it a bit odd for my normal kind of photography. I'm used to seeing something and pretty much knowing what I get in shot because of the focal lengths I use. With this, I'm much closer to the subject; so the photo I see in my head I'm not getting and I have to step back a bit.

It also feels a bit odd taking photos of strangers with it. Whereas usually I'm up fairly close, now I'm further away. Which feels a bit sneaky to me. It doesn't feel like I'm involved as much and gives a distance which I'm not 100% comfortable. I'm not sure if that is obvious from the photos or whether I'm reading too much into it.


I think it deserves a bit more experimenting with though. I quite like the idea of being able to get other foreground elements in to frame a subject. So maybe I just need to rethink how I work with it.

Adventures in a disused underground station

I seem to have been a bit tardy recently with posts. But I couldn't resist posting this one....

A while back I noticed Olympus were running a workshop in the disused Aldwych underground station (look up the history - it's very interesting). I've always been fascinated by the ghost stations on the underground network, so this seemed like an opportunity not to be missed! Additionally, I would get to work with models. Which is not something I've done as a photographer; and any new experience can only be a good thing.

There were about 40 of us for the session. We were split into two groups over two locations - the station platform and the ground level area, with the groups swapping locations half way through the afternoon.

The setup on the platform was a kind of post-apocalypse world. Not really my kind of photography. But it was something out of my comfort zone which is good! Our photographer for this session was Gavin Hoey, who had set up two flashes along the platform - both controlled by a wireless trigger on the hotshoe of the camera. This was extremely alien to me!

We had three setups in total with Kerry on the platform and in the train itself.


Although not my usual kind of photography, I did quite like what I got out of this. I played around with it quite a lot to get a particular look - very contrasty with a lot of the colour sucked out. And it was interesting to see just how the flash affected the shot.

After an hour or so down on the platform, we made our way back up the 140 steps for the next location.

This was a 40s inspired setup with photographer Marcus Clackson and model Beth. No flash was used for this, just more straightforward lights. There were once again three setups - in the old lift, on the steps in the concourse, and by the old telephone booths.

This felt more natural to me rather than firing flashes off remotely. But it was still hard work and very focussed! Because of the amount of photographers, we were limited with the amount of time in both locations; sometimes only having 30 seconds to get the shots we wanted. At first that was a bit daunting, but I had a similar experience years ago when life drawing at art school, so havig an intense focus is actually pretty damn good!

Whilst processing these, I thought it best to go in a completely different direction to the platform shots. So the lift shots I went for an Edward Hopper feel; strong colours but lots of dark shadows. The rest of them I went for black and white, but with a touch of split tone to give it a slight sepia edge. The monochrome shots I also really ramped up the contrast to go a bit more film noir.


All in all, it was an excellent day. I mainly used my 19mm Sigma, with some shots on my old 50mm Zuiko and a few on the 14-42 kit lens. The whole set of photos (including detail shots around the tube) can be seen here