Trial by Fire-A chilly Antelope Island Learning Session

I received my new Olympus OM-D EM-1 (Mark1) camera about 48 hours before heading out on my first “shoot.” I did some in-depth preparation of beginning my new hobby watching a couple YouTube videos at my real job (Firefighting), setting up the camera on my new tripod and taking some sunset shots from my from back porch.  We’ve had a weird weather month in my home city of Salt Lake, with an abnormally grey last month.  So I decided that my trial run would be at Antelope Island State Park, about an hour north of my house, and jutting far enough into the Great Salt Lake that it would be clear of the nasty inversion that had settled into town.

I headed out dark and early to try to catch the sunrise on the slopes of Frary Peak, the spine of the island.  A late arriving gate attendant and the normal trail approach road being closed, I didn’t make it as far up as I would have liked, but I was able to set myself up in what I thought would be a good spot to catch the morning glow off of the peak. Eh…

The spot may have been good, but my earlier experiments with my camera in my den and living room didn’t quite set me up for success in the dark, with a 15-degree breeze blowing over my exposed ridgeline.  A series of under and over-exposed images paraded across my display as I constantly varied my aperture and shutter lengths.  Eventually things started making sense through trial and error, although I hopped from one slightly different location to another in my general vicinity, seeking some fantastic vantage that was so obviously superior to the one ten feet away. By the time I packed up and trudged back down to my car (and encountering a really cool herd of mule deer on my trail with my camera buried in my pack), and I had taken probably 150 photos, ten of which weren’t a total hash on further review. This was my favorite (after some ham-fisted editing on Corel PaintShop x9, of which I know barely the rudiments):

Frary Peak. Antelope Island State Park, Utah. Olympus OM-D EM1 w12-44 PRO.

Not wanting to head immediately back to the grey morass I could see overhanging the Salt Lake Valley, I cruised to the other side of the island to see what other areas might make for a interesting shoot another day.  Out on the appropriately named Buffalo Point I noticed four bison grazing through the shallow snow about 300 yards away. Both a stretch of the Great Salt Lake and Promontory Point (known for pounding of certain golden railroad spikes) lay behind them.  I grabbed my camera, switched to a cheap m40-150 lens that I picked up on eBay and tried to get a halfway decent shot off the hood of my FJ. Best I got:

Bison. Antelope Island State Park, Utah.

I ended up being more pleased with this offhand photo than any of my earlier morning attempts of the mountain landscape.

A few lessons learned, with I think the biggest improvement just coming from learning the basic working of the camera in the field. Looking forward to getting out again.

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