I figure now is the time to tell how this all started. This journey from a being guy who loved to shoot, to an Olympus Visionary. And to be honest, it is a relatively short story since it only took about 4 years.
I got my first dSLR in 2007 for use on a family trip to Florida. I had never shot film, had never done much more with photography other than pull out an old beat up point and shoot and snap a quick photo here and there. About a month before our trip I decided I wanted to capture some great images of our trip and to do so I would need a great camera. Funny how naive we can be when we know so little about a subject. So I thought the only way was with a dSLR. So with that in mind I headed to the local Best Buy electronics store camera shopping.
When I got there I found the usual assortment of brands and was pretty shocked at how much money I was going to end up spending. I was about to give up and go somewhere else when I noticed a single box w/ a sale sticker on it. It was the last Olympus E-500 twin lens kit they had. And it was priced LOWER than the equivalent Canon and Nikon cameras that came with a single lens. I was so excited! I could get a camera and TWO lenses for LESS than a Canon or Nikon. I was sold! So that's where it started, in a Best Buy in Jackson Michigan with high hopes of shooting the coolest family vacation photos ever.
Yeah, didn't quite work out like that. Turns out you actually need to know how to do a few things to get a good photo. So in the month leading up to the trip I shot about 400 or 500 photos. All pretty much crap. LOL. So after doing that I decided it was time to learn. I spent time on Flickr looking at other people's work, I read forum posts, I Googled, I did all the "learning" you can do without actually shooting. And I quickly learned two things.
#1: Book smarts are great , but they only take you so far.
#2: Shoot as much as you can and don't be afraid to try something new.
So this how it went for about 2 years? Yeah, around 2 years worth of trial and error, of seeing what other people were doing, emulating, giving things my own twist etc... And all the while I was getting into the whole "social media thing", actually kinda before most non-techy people were. This is where I confess my technology obsession. I've been a geek for ages, and every time a new social media platform was announced I signed up for the beta. So it is with this in mind that I tell you how I was being very active on Twitter, doing the usual ,"hey I am eating lunch" tweets that were all the rage in the beginning of Twitter's launch. But soon I found that there were actually a lot of really cool people out there, and that there were other photographers out there! And even camera and accessory manufacturers! Well, the ones with enough foresight to see the value in social media that early anyways. This was how I stumbled upon Think TANK Photo. I was instantly impressed by two things with them. First I was floored at how involved they were w/ the photographic community on Twitter. Secondly, once I had gotten my hands on a bag of theirs I was in love with the build quality of their bags!
So I started chatting them up, getting to know them and interact with them on Twitter more and more. Then in the fall of 2010 I decided I was going to host a photowalk, and I also decided to go out on a limb and contact a few companies to see if they wanted to throw in any prizes to give away at the walk. The FIRST company I contacted was Think TANK. And pretty much instantly they said," we'd love to send you a bag to give away!" I was so excited! I got to talking to their social media manager Simon and I made mention of how I shoot Olympus and wished I knew how to get ahold of them. And he (who at the time was living in London) just happened to have the contact information of the head of marketing in the U.K for Olympus!! And he GAVE ME THAT INFO! So I contacted Mr. T. in the U.K. and pitched my walk to him. He was very cool about the whole idea and told me he wished he could help but he was with the European division of Olympus. I was bummed out at first, until he went on to say that he was going to give me the email address of the US marketing arm of Olympus! I was stoked!!
So I contacted Mrs. C. with my idea. And well, my email was replied to. I was asked to give some information and the next thing I know a box full of Olympus merchandise was delivered to my door! Now don't get too many crazy ideas! It wasn't full of cameras or anything, I mean come on, they didn't know me from Adam right? But they were cool enough to send a ton of Olympus PEN hats (the E-P1 and PL1 were BRAND NEW then) and some other little gifts to hand out. How cool!?!? So let's skip ahead a few weeks. I am now up north in Michigan camping with my family when I get a call. I look at the caller I.D. on my phone and see a New York number. I was wondering,"who the heck is this". I answered and a gentleman introduced himself and proceeded to tell me he was the social media arm of Olympus!! He had been watching my activity on Twitter (remember how I said I was being all social on there?;) and he appreciated the devotion to the brand and how I was always engaging other users and most importantly SHARING what I do. I was pretty blown away by this, I mean come on, someone was noticing ME??!? WOW!
He went on to ask me if I were interested in becoming even more involved w/ Olympus by being given the opportunity to get equipment loans from them! Holy cow! Every photographer's dream!!! All I needed to do in return? Just keep doing what I was already doing. I almost screamed! YES!! YES I want to get more involved!! It was about a 30 minute conversation that involved a lot of me saying,"oh my gosh!" and,"WOW" Haha.
And now we can just skip ahead to about a month ago, mid July. I received an email asking if I could take a conference call with my contact at Olympus (well, their PR group). Not too big a deal at this point. I've chatted with them enough to not get too excited, well, ok, I lied. It is always exciting. LOL. So anyways I figured it had to do with a lens loan request I put in. So I responded saying I could do a conference call later that afternoon. After then response I was sent a Google Calendar event notification which listed the time of the call....and the attendees. THAT was when I knew something was up. There were WAY too many people on this call to be just about the lens. There were "higher ups" on it...Right about then I started to uh, shall we say...FREAK OUT. And I suppose you can guess what the call was about. They asked me if I wanted to become one of the new Olympus Visionaries. They ASKED ME.....As if there were any potential doubt at all. LOL And here we are now. I am still waking up in the morning thinking, "really? is this really happening?"
OK, I won't drag this out any longer. I suppose if it got much longer I'd be required to place a disclaimer at the top of the post.
If you have any questions about any of this please feel free to email me via the contact page.
Jamie A. MacDonald