Parade of Street Visuals with the X100F

There is no question that busy cities such as Vancouver, San Francisco or New York provide a plethora of situations and visuals, making a great stomping ground for street photographers. When talking to photographers I found many of them have their own photography “route” in the city which, with ever-changing city life, provides visuals on demand. I have routes too which are almost guaranteed to provide interesting subjects.

However, I learned a long time ago that routine and complacency are your biggest enemies. After all, photography is all about discovery and risk-taking. You shouldn’t stick to just one genre of photography because it’s detrimental to your seeing and leads to conformism in choosing your subject, place or even composition.

I often receive emails from photographers from small towns or rural areas who would love to do more street photography but are limited by their location. I understand the problem. Indeed, it‘s hard to wait 30 minutes or more in one spot without seeing a single human being.

But don’t give up – there are advantages in photographing in smaller cities or rural areas.

First, places like this have less visual noise so your “seeing” is able to slow down and you can evaluate every element before you start shooting. I notice that my composition tends to get better and even the placement of my subject gets more interesting.  

Second, my interaction with people is more amusing. There is no need to rush to “the next.” You’re not bothered by traffic and crowds and your subject is not rushing to work. It is just a pleasure to chat without feeling rushed by the forces of the Big Apple.

Third, while opportunities are rare, sometimes the visuals you create are really unusual.

After travelling extensively around small-town North America, Kasia and I have run across community gatherings, festivals, parades, weddings and even funerals (those are tough and you have to be very sensitive). These events are full of people and unbelievable energy, providing a great opportunity to observe, interact with your subject and do some street photography. Yes, I said street photography!

Many people have a pre-conceived idea that the term “street photography” only applies to cities, ideally a big metropolis. I disagree. I sometimes find amazing visuals in small towns. They offer a different visual vibe, which requires your seeing to be more acute, tuned and creative. With sufficient effort you may be surprised what you will find.

We recently visited Cloverdale, British Columbia and did some street photography there. I admit we were very lucky because we caught the popular Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair event. I haven’t had so much fun with my X100F for a long time. Great Parade, great event, fantastic people!

Here are the images.

 

Next time … we have so much visual material for you! From street photography with the X100F to our continued coverage of the GFX system. Don’t forget to check in. 

 

And don’t forget that our Streets of Vancouver photography workshop is coming up in late July. Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

Closing Your Eyes

For the last few months I have been running at bullet train speed photographically and organizationally. There were tasks to complete, goals to achieve, deadlines to meet … a never-ending list of Dos.

I probably don’t have to mention the fact that I have done a lot of photography in the last few months. There was a lot of searching, experimenting and evaluating, as always. One of my favourite habits, developed over the last few years, is to go through my imagery (I mean most of the catalogue) on a regular basis.

A confession: I never leave images “for later.” I delete everything I don’t like on the spot as I upload my work. No apologies here. Even though my initial assessment is quite strict and highly biased, I still return to my catalogue for viewing sessions.

My guiding principle when evaluating my own work could best be described by Jens Krauer:

“Find what you want to see by closing your eyes.

Nobody can teach you to shoot like you.”

Closing your eyes?

Yes, put away the noise of social media, trends, LIKEs, comments and popular contests. If you want to create an individual work you will never win there! Don’t get me wrong. I am not a grumpy old man trying to vilify social media (I already do it here). I enjoy interactions with many friends and fellow photographers but there is no doubt in my mind that we all need to take a break from the BEAUTIFIED world of social media, especially if you are a photographer.

I practised what I preached and stayed away from social media for some time (I peeked here and there but in general I was off), slowed down my seeing and just enjoyed my daily routine. It is amazing what the break does for you as a person and your seeing. 

Going back to Jens Krauer’s quote, it is YOU who must look at your own work with YOUR OWN life experiences, YOUR OWN visual sensitivity, honesty and a sense of the photographic place you are in (then there should be an objective, a visual evaluation … but I will leave this highly controversial topic for later).

With fresh eyes and a calm mind, I went through my recent work and picked a few images (with some random thoughts) I would like to share with you once again. Interestingly, most of them were shot with the X100F. Hmm?!

From our series “Amnesia” – still in the works.

 

I will never forget this young man. He has determination and a strong character but you can see internal pain in his eyes. This is one connection made on the street that has a lasting quality. Thank you for letting me photograph you. What a privilege.

 

A young woman waiting for a bus. Where is she going? Visuals without the end of the story. Love it.

 

It took me a few weeks to shoot this image. I had to observe one of the most crowded spots in Vancouver to capture this visual. Yes, you can be that lonely in the crowded city. It’s one of my personal favourites.

 

Files of life? There is a purpose. Ask questions, because I don’t have any answers.

 

This photograph is one of my favourites taken this year. One man in big city. He is walking toward this huge, black space called life. Will he find himself in this chaos? Does he retain his values and personal goals or do the powerful forces of success, money and fame pull him in? We don’t know. We will never know.

 

The gambler on money and life. There is no face, no reward, no consequences, just black space.

 

This is exactly what photography is all about for me. Simple, plain but so strange and troubling. So many questions, so few answers.

 

This is the image I come back to all the time. At first sight there is nothing spectacular here – the light is so-so, there’s no blockbuster subject, it’s a very common place. However, as a whole, this image pleases my eyes. I really like the placement of the elements within the image, the harmony and tonality. I wish I could shoot more imagery like this one. Maybe it’s just me.

 

Is this a person or just a light reflection? I am not sure anymore. It’s a waterfall of light under observation.

 

Visuals I will never be able to repeat. It was a moment in time which offered me this light, this man, this seeing. Priceless.

 

A hand that’s writing the script of life? Or the end of it? Just one more stroke for the memories.

 

The interaction of human beings, light and rain, lines and shadows. City visuals the way I like it.

 

Pure visuals – pattern and harmony.

 

2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

Fujifilm GFX50S – The Fluidity of Light

Although I anticipated that medium format was the next area for camera companies to disrupt, I never thought that such a system would force me to rethink my gear choice.

Since the Fujifilm GFX50S camera was announced, the pixel-peeping crowd has gone berserk (at least this time they had good reason!). After all, the 51.4MP light-gathering monster would disquiet even the most stoical photographer. In my case, it was the amazing team at Fujifilm Canada that elevated me from my boring, uneventful existence. The worst part is that I asked for it! (Thank you Helen, Florence, Aling and the team!)

At first glance, I didn’t like the size of this camera. After stubbornly shooting with the X100-series for years I refused to acknowledge the existence of SLR-like cameras. However, I must admit that my first physical contact surprised me. My hand wrapped around the GFX naturally and firmly and, in fact, I felt so confident that I skipped the strap part (I don’t usually use straps with my cameras anyway).

Then things went quite smoothly. The general layout and menu were familiar to me because I’ve been shooting with the X-T2 and other X-series cameras for many years. Don’t worry, I am not going to go over all the details here, as most of you are familiar with the technicalities of the GFX system. There are many excellent reviews out there.

The primary goal of this highly biased and personal assessment of the GFX system was to focus entirely on visuals or, in other words, the look of the files. This visual appraisal had nothing to do with writing a review or trying to compare the GFX to the many other offerings. The questions were very simple and highly personal.

Do I like the files the GFX produces?

What does the transition between highlights and shadows look like? Does this transition enhance or distract from the visuals?

How does the camera transfix light and enrich my subject? Does it add a new dimension?

Will I be able to make more strokes while painting with light than I would with my other cameras?

Does this camera require me to alter the way I shoot? Does this change push me in the right direction?

After shooting intensively for the last few weeks, the conclusion is clear. I can capture and depict light in multiple dimensions and with variety, which I was not able to do with my other cameras. A new, sort of grey area has appeared – 50 shades of it! Yes, this is the visual sphere which the cellphone crowd will not give a damn about but I do! I call them transition strokes when light changes, bends and submerges into coexisting elements in the image. In most cameras, this metamorphosis is rather abrupt and loud. In the medium-format camera, it takes the form of “melting” (I stole this word from Patrick!) as if there were no border – no beginning or end. Your eyes wander continuously without interruption between shadows and highlights as if Trump’s wall never existed. The light becomes liquid and perpetually spills over. This allows the photographer to blend light and shadow in a way that was not possible before. It reminds me of recording and listening to music.

There are musicians who can compose music in so many dimensions that the sound transcends the instruments. These recordings carry such a spectrum of sounds such as background noises or even the singers’ breathing that elevate the listening experience quite dramatically. 

Damn Olaf, what are you talking about?

OK, I’ve got your point! I’m not sure if the richness of the files is clearly visible when shared on the web. Probably not! However, for those who print images very large and enjoy viewing them on larger screens this fluidity is something to behold.

Finally, there is the cost. Fujifilm has priced the camera very aggressively compared to other medium-format systems – a very smart move! However, there is no way around the fact that it’s still a substantial cost for anyone who doesn’t earn serious money from photography (or other sources). Of course, this is a decision that everyone must make for themselves.

That said, keep in mind that if your “seeing” is still evolving and you are starting to learn photography, spending so much money on a medium-format system may not be the best idea. The X100F is a much better tool to learn “seeing.”

Olaf, cut this musing short and get to the point.

Are you getting the GFX for yourself?

…to be continued

 

Please click on each image to view it properly 

          

If you are interested in more cohesive coverage of this system make sure to check out Jonas Rask’s excellent review and the movie here:

The Fujifilm GFX 50S Review – Portable Beast

Icelandic inclusion – The Fujinon GF 23mm f/4 Review

Spencer Wynn’s jaw-drapping imagery from his Great Canadian Road Trip:

https://www.gfxcanadianjournal.ca/canadian-road-trip/

Patrick Laroque’s no-review-yet  here:  

http://www.laroquephoto.com/blog/2017/4/25/no-review-yet

Imagery and thoughts by the master of portraiture and subtle beauty, Damien Lovegrove:

https://www.prophotonut.com/2017/01/19/gfx-high-res-samples/

Excellent coverage by the always-entertaining and fresh Bert Stephani:

 

next time we will take you to Neah Bay in Washington…

 

2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

 

Tree of Life

It is strange and mysterious – as she said. Just an hour ago, I was eating my breakfast and chatting with a local waitress when she mentioned this special place I had never heard of. When she whispered, “tree of life,” her eyes lit up as if she was talking about something very sacred.

Now I am standing in front of it. What a remarkable sight! This majestic tree is living in the air, straddling two rocks as if it has a special power to sustain itself in this lonely place. I feel as if the tree is inviting me to enter its world, opening its twisted arms in a friendly gesture. As I approach it a bizarre, unexpected but welcome feeling of calm floods my body.

I feel I am under the influence of something much bigger than me. No longer is my brain spinning at unsustainable speeds but quite the opposite, it is calm in a good, nurtured way. Now is forever, as if yesterday and tomorrow never existed. I feel alive, contented and joyful. The tree of life. Yes, indeed.

 

Shot with the Fujifilm GFX50S.

 

 

2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

 

GFX Stipulations (Part 1)

The new medium-format (MF) GFX system was released quite a while ago so there has already been excellent coverage of the camera, including in-depth reviews by talented photographers. Jonas Rask’s review is the one that stood out for me.

Since I am late to the party I am not going to write another review. I don’t think we need one. The prime reason for trying out this new medium-format system was to work with this camera and decide whether it would suit my own “seeing.”

Therefore, this blog is me thinking out loud as I shoot, experience and evaluate the GFX system. Don’t expect objective, measured and technical evaluation – you won’t find it here. I’m trying to answer one question: Does the GFX system make sense for olafphoto? Should it replace the X-Pro2 plus XF lenses? (the X100F would remain my prime, always-with-me camera).  

First, let me make a confession! I have always dreamt about shooting with a medium-format camera but the reasoning behind this fetish is not what you think. I was never interested in MF’s resolution or its pixel quality. In fact, the more I photograph, the less I’m interested in these topics. I was fascinated by its rendering of shadows and highlights – the flawless, tranquil transition between them. Patrick LaRoque used terms such as “fluidity” and “stillness.” In one of his blog posts he said, “It’s like there’s a hush that covers these images.” I couldn’t explain it better.

Then there is another element to this stipulation – a highly personal one. Don Craig, a friend and thought-provoking photographer from Victoria, put it eloquently in his latest blog post. He asked, “Will this new tool help make me a more articulate photographer?” When reading his must-read piece, the word “articulate” jumped out at me and stopped me in my tracks. The concept of “articulate photographer” itself deserves in-depth consideration and discussion (which is coming!).

In sum, I will be sharing with you my personal feelings, observations and conclusions about the GFX system as I shoot in different scenarios. I will share my thoughts about whether this camera would fit my seeing. I don’t know yet.

Last weekend I visited the capital of British Columbia, Victoria, and was hosted by Don Craig, who showed me his incredibly interesting line of work (yes, there will be an entire post dedicated to Don), and by Sally Jennings of ptoediting.com, my friend, editor and psychologist 🙂  Over the weekend, we had a few photoshoots with amazing artists and photographed the historic Craigdarroch Castle (no, it is not Don Craig’s castle!).

Below please find a few teaser images from this weekend. There will be much more to come after we return from our next trip south.

Here is the one and only Don Craig at work. Imagine having (almost) the entire Parliament Building as your “office” or photographing the Royal Family on the go. How cool is that?

Sally, among her beloved books!

We had a mini-photo session with Stephen of stagewinebar in Fernwood. Make sure to visit when on the Island.

Finally, we had the chance to photograph Kyla of Pippinspress.com. Her hand-made books for kids are one-of-a-kind. They are so beautifully made I bought one for my nephew.

And of course, here are some visuals at Craigdarroch castle – all shot with the Fujifilm GFX and GF 120 F4 lens. 

Thank you Moira Dann and your husband Sam for guiding us around the castle. 

 

2017 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.

Observation – The Holy Grail of Photography

Forgotten Memory, X100F

On the surface the photographic process appears to be easy and straightforward. You grab a camera and capture whatever you like. This is true for someone who doesn’t aim at creating a photograph but rather performs the mechanical task of pressing the shutter button to take a snap.

However, if you are interested in creating a photograph, the process is much more complex. Among other things it involves emotions, observation, connection, evaluation, composition, light and some technical considerations. Today, it appears that technicals have taken a central role and occupy the minds of photographers. If I could point to one area that has been the most ignored it is the art of observation.

Elliott Erwitt described it this way: “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” While it may sound simple, for many people it is incredibly difficult to do.  

As humans we are naturally wired to focus on important things and filter out all the rest. While such an approach has served us well over the ages, in creative photography it’s a major obstacle. In addition, our education system and our daily routine push us to see and react in a certain way. Have you noticed while walking around the city how your brain filters out the noise and visuals? We usually stroll around town without challenging what we see or how we see it.

In order to find “something interesting in an ordinary place” you must challenge your seeing. In other words, you need to break your seeing patterns and go for something new, uncomfortable and different.

While such a plan of action sounds great, it is incredible difficult to execute. The key ingredient of breaking our own seeing patterns is to go after visuals, which we miss. For example, while shooting on the streets of Vancouver, I usually include the human element into the frame. In the meantime, there are many scenes, which has no people in them but somehow they imply human activity. Another example would be shooting portraits or scenes with people but showing them in a new perspective and/or harmonizing them with the background.

There is a plethora of similar examples, which we discuss in-depth at our education and mentoring platform, Simplicity-In-Seeing. We also include specific exercises we use to break our usual seeing patterns.

What are your ways of breaking your seeing patterns?  

Here are our latest visual explorations from the streets of Vancouver as seen through the X100F viewfinder.

 

 

2017 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.

It’s all about enjoying the process. Really?

Those who read this blog regularly know that I am fond of disclaimers. Let’s start with one then.

If you are taking photos occasionally and casually to share moments with your friends or family, this post is not addressed to you. In fact, you are probably wasting your time reading this blog.

Fear, X100F

While discussing photography or browsing articles about photography the phrase ‘it is all about the process’ became the Kool-Aid many seem to be drinking nowadays. If you don’t have an F1.2-wide smile on your face when holding a camera and if you don’t shout from the rooftops how happy you are while taking photos … you just don’t get it. After all, it’s all about the process! But what about the imagery?

REALLY?

If there is one place which constantly talks about the processes that lead to creating imagery, it is this blog. Please note, however, that we often use the term “Mechanics of Seeing” instead of the term “process.” The main reason we try to avoid this word is that it has been overused and twisted to the point that “process” has lost its core meaning. Recently it’s been used in the context of relaxed, leisurely, no commitment, maybe-or-maybe-not, fun-first-seeing-later, I-need-my-latte mindset while venturing out with a camera. In fact, if you approach the craft of photography seriously (another dirty word!) and focus on observation, seeing and light with the objective of creating strong imagery . . . well you’re not cool enough! After all, you should be “enjoying the process.”

Trust me, I do! Every day I walk my dog and I do enjoy the process. Each morning I get a cup of coffee at my favourite place and yes, I do enjoy the process. However, when I pick up a camera and start feeling and observing the world around me, my objective is to capture great imagery. Last time I checked, the definition of photography hasn’t changed – Wikipedia defines it as the “practice of creating durable images.” So it is about creating images after all.

Those who stopped reading above this line are probably preparing their first salvo: What’s the point of photographing if you don’t enjoy the process!? Well, there is a serious flaw in this type of reasoning! The assumption that somehow you need to be in a happy, relaxed and blissful state while taking photos is somehow not convincing, if not far-fetched.

Yes, for most people that’s how they feel and that’s okay. I often feel this way too. However, there are others who get creative, pure and honest, not necessarily in their eternal-happiness moments. In fact, while going through the history of art, music, photography you will quickly find out that the best work was often created in moments of anxiety, internal tension, confusion, fear or even depression. Don’t get me wrong! I am not a masochist who would promote such a state of mind. I am just acknowledging that some people get most creative while under pressure, feeling tense and challenged.

Trent Parke, a famous Australian photographer describes it this way: “I’m always ‘wired’, always awake, things are always rattling through my mind” and “The whole time I’m looking, everything is stopping and forming into still frames.” He describes this state of awareness as “being manic, insane.” This doesn’t sound to me like a relaxed, laissez-faire, I-don’t-care-about-images fellow.

Munch’s anxiety and hallucinations led to one of his best-known paintings, The Scream. In his book Tortured Artists, the journalist Christopher Sara said, “In the end, I’m convinced, it all starts with the same thing: a shot of intractable unpleasantness, bubbling to the surface from deep within a tortured soul.”

Ouch! Quite dark, isn’t it? Trust me, I am trying to stay as far away as I can from the commonly-parroted portrait of a suffering artist. I prefer unhinged, insatiable or unruly – take your choice!  

Just recently I was a guest on the Fujilove Podcast (also make sure to subscribe to a very informative Fujilove Magazine here) and Tomasz asked me a very important question about how I deal with dark periods in my photography.

For years I have been looking for an answer to this dilemma. However, with time I’ve learnt to embrace such phases of not-seeing. With time I noticed they somehow help me to get creative, to become hungry for new visuals. I learnt that it is fine to be dissatisfied with my own work and try to reach for the unknown. These difficult periods made me a better photographer!

To summarize, your emotions, happiness, sadness, peace or anxiety –are all part of you – and they should become an important part of your seeing. Don’t be afraid to use your mood, honeyed or not, to observe, see and create. And never, ever use the mantra “enjoy the process” as an excuse. After all, if you are a photographer, great imagery should always be your goal.

Here are our latest visual explorations from the streets of Vancouver as seen through the X100F viewfinder.

 

 

2017 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.