Seeing in Vancouver

Seeing in Vancouver

I spent last weekend teaching and shooting with an incredible group of students in the Visual Poet Experience Photography Workshop here in Vancouver. I have to say it was one of the strongest groups ever!

After studying the Simplicity-In-Seeing program and having intense image-centred discussions, we hit the streets of Vancouver. Our key focus was learning to observe and craft innovative and bold imagery.   

When we looked at the images we all smiled. Most importantly, we created a bond and friendship between us and have already started planning to meet again. What an experience!

Our next Visual Poet Experience Photography Workshop in Vancouver will take place on August 10-12. There are two spots left (you can register here).

See for yourself. All the imagery was taken by the students. Will share more once they are available.

Raymond Lemoine

 

Stephen Huen

http://stephenhuen.photo

Instagram: @stephenhuenphoto

 

Homi Irani

 

In one week, I am going to London and Berlin to lead the Visual Poet Experience Workshops in those remarkable cities. I believe that there is one more spot for Berlin.

Here is the full schedule for the rest of the year.

London / March 9 – 11, 2018

Berlin / March 16 -18, 2018

Toronto / June 8 – 19, 2018

New York / June 15 -17, 2018

Vancouver / August 10 -12, 2018

Paris / September 21 – 23, 2018

San Francisco / November 9-11, 2018 (registrations will open shortly)

 

Next time…

 

2018 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved

Snow and R-A-I-N

Snow and R-A-I-N

As I am preparing for the upcoming workshop “Project R-A-I-N: Vancouver”  I would like to share with you some imagery taken during challenging weather conditions. I think this is the first time ever when all workshop participants are actually looking forward to R-A-I-N and/or S-N-O-W! 🙂

Enjoy!

 

 

2018 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved

 

The Future of X

The Future of X

Fujifilm has just released a new addition to the X-series line of cameras – the X-H1. This is not going to be a review of this camera as I haven’t had a chance to shoot with it yet. Instead, I would like to discuss some of my highly biased and unfiltered thoughts on the future of the X-series.

It all started with the original X100. I was one of the first shooters of this quirky little camera, which for the first year of its release (2011) was almost impossible to buy. Interestingly, it was not amateur photographers who got excited about it at first, quite the contrary. I remember the reaction of some people: “Why would you pay so much for such a tiny camera?” “Why don’t you get an SLR?” Back then, SLR was king and was perceived as a professional tool and everyone wanted to look like a pro.

How come the X100 became so popular, then? It was because after years of shooting with heavy, complicated, boring SLRs, professionals got their hands on the X100 and couldn’t let it go. It was a new way of approaching photography – it was a highway to creative freedom. We would leave our SLRs for the boring stuff and for fun we would venture out with the X100. Then, of course, as more and more professional photographers started to shoot with the X100, amateurs took notice. Really? How come my favourite photographer is shooting with this little thing instead of the latest FF Nikon or Canon?

Then the X-Pro1 came up with three original lenses. It was roughly the same time as Nikon released their mega-pixel D800 series. The rangefinder-like cameras got into the hands of many great innovative shooters, spreading the news and trouncing the common conviction that serious photography equals SLR.

Then, as you know, the SLR-like small, mirrorless X-T1 showed up and became a huge success for Fuji. It was very different from the X100 and X-Pro1/2. It was high-tech and packed with SLR-like features. The success of the X-T1 surprised Fuji, who quickly realized that the X-T line was going to be their bread-and-butter product. With this week’s release of the X-H1, Fuji continues to recognize this technophile market.

What’s the future of the X-series?

I see two parallel but distinctive lines of cameras. First, the X-T, X-H group of products aimed at the SLR-world, high-tech, video, more-features-the-better type of photographers. In an excellent review of the X-H1, Jonas Rask said it so eloquently: “Technicalitus Maximus.” There is no question that there is a growing market for such cameras with strong video capability and the latest features.

Courtesy of Jonas Rask.

I really like the IBIS addition which allows you to move away from the tripod and throw yourself into creative, hands-on photography (pun intended). What I don’t like is that Fujifilm took away the essential, at least for me, exposure compensation dial. This is one of the most important controls in photography! How could you Fuji, how could you?!

Second, there is the X-Pro2 and the X100. I view those cameras as being based on a design philosophy aimed at different photographers. This is where my heart belongs. A few years ago, I wrote about this un-technical and subjective distinction in the article: “Is the X-Pro for the heart and the X-T2 for the head?” I quickly got into trouble with some of you 🙂

Indeed, I love shooting with the X100F. For me this is the most important camera of the entire X-series line. I am not going to repeat my reasons – you will find plenty about it on this blog.

In the future, I would like Fujifilm to go in two directions. While the X-T/X-H cameras would be for the high-tech video crowd, the X100/X-Pro should be purely for photography. These cameras should be premium-priced, superbly made (premium materials), simplified-to-the-core seeing machines with a minimal number of features but retaining an amazing viewfinder and easy handling (fewer buttons!). The cameras should have a minimalist design and be stripped of everything that is not related to photography: no video, no panoramas, no multitude of autofocus settings, no boosts. This should be Leica-like simplicity but with a modern twist – autofocus and EVF. I realize that the cameras won’t sell in such numbers as the please-everyone X-T/X-H line but I am confident that a pure-photography approach will find its audience. In addition, such beautifully crafted machines will act as ambassadors for the brand. Yes, I will pay extra for fewer features, simple design and to-the-point operations! I want photography at its core. But maybe that’s just me.

 

P.S. You must see this innovative and brilliant X-H1 promo video shot by Jonas Rask. In my view, this is the best promo video for any camera ever. I must admit I have become tired of all the same promos of people walking around with their cameras and talking about how great they are. This promo is bold, fresh and captivating. Seeing at its best.

 

Here is my latest work, in fact shot yesterday, with the X-E3, X-T2 paired with the XF 35mm F1.4 and XF 80mm F2.8.

next time…

 

Our 2018 lineup of “Visual Poet Experience” workshops is almost complete. Make sure to book your space early. Looking forward to meeting you in person. If you are a young, aspiring photographer with a limited budget please give me a shout – maybe I can help.

London / March 9 – 11, 2018

Berlin / March 16 -18, 2018

Toronto / June 8 – 19, 2018

Vancouver / August 10 -12, 2018

Paris / September 21 – 23, 2018

2018 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved

Make a splash with your work and own it!

Make a splash with your work and own it!

There has been lots of buzz about a platform called Unsplash. In fact, the idea has become so controversial that the one-and-only Zack Arias took it upon himself to tackle the issue. I don’t want to repeat all the arguments so please watch these two videos and make up your own mind about it. I did!

 

Over the years, I have been one of the biggest cheerleaders of innovation. It is natural that while some industries die something new is created; it’s never an easy process.

But there’s another side. As you know, every business cycle has its ups and downs. On the edges of real innovation there will be some companies and individuals who hitch on to the innovation and disruption bandwagon and try to make a buck or two. These companies often wave popular flags: community, collaboration, exposure, success, change, etc. No wonder many people jump on, afraid of being left behind, without doing any due diligence.

Some of the “innovations” are based on very clever ideas. Everyone wants to be associated with the novelty and reap the allocated fifteen minutes of fame. From FREE reporting, FREE news and FREE assisting to FREE images – industry after industry has learnt that there is no longer any need to pay for others’ work. FREE has become a buzzword wrapped up in, quoting Zack Arias, “Warm fuzzy feelings of contributing and giving back and inspiring others.”

Here is an example close to home. A local university used to hire a photographer to shoot imagery for their brochures (no, it wasn’t me). However, they figured out that instead of paying professionals to do that they could organize a submission process along the lines of “show us your best images from the university” and you will be featured and get $100. Of course, such a contest looks friendly, harmless and fun. But once you read the disclaimer (who reads those nowadays?) you quickly find out that they require a model release with each image and ask you to give up your rights to the submitted images. In other words, they can use your images for commercial purposes. Of course, they have the right to do so and I don’t blame them. It’s your choice to submit or not.

Let me divert again. Have you complained lately about fake news? If you are one of those who drink “FREE is great” Kool-Aid, then don’t be surprised that news and reporting is now done by inexperienced people who are paid 1/5 or less than full-fledged reporters or journalists. Those reporters who remain are working under the enormous stress of being cut next. Why bother with professionals if there is a line-up of volunteers who will provide reporting for free!

And why do they do that? For the sake of exposure and fame! Many organizations just cannot compete with the torrent of FREE, fast-food news stories, which often mingle complex problems, which really require investigative journalism, with flashy headlines. Think long and hard. You don’t want fake news so maybe it’s time to consider paying for your news and supporting professional journalists! You wanted FREE – you have it! But look at the outcome.

Let’s go back to photography. I have recently talked to some photographers who have reached a point in this FREE FOR ALL economy when they feel ashamed to charge substantial amounts for their services. They shouldn’t. When I go to my car mechanic, I don’t see him being ashamed for charging me for his services. Neither should you, my photographic friends. You deserve to be paid and you need to find clients who value your work. From my personal experience, I can say that if you pour your soul into your product (whatever it is) and deliver it honestly, your clients will be happy to support you! Many of us still value craftsmanship and want to pay for quality and individual experience!

Here’s the key point of today’s ramblings. You must own your work, believe in it and stand behind it! Stop giving away your hard work for free! You, as an individual, as a human being and artist, create one-of-a-kind “handmade products and experiences” – something no corporation can ever do. This is your advantage! 

You can still give back to your local photographic community! Charging adequately for your services, knowledge and products doesn’t clash with being involved in the community! I could even argue that those who value their work are often those who contribute to the community the most (Zack Arias, Tomash of FujiLove, the founders of Creative Live and so on). The idea that one excludes the other is one of the greatest fallacies pushed on us today!

In summary, don’t let bullies corner you with sugar-sweet propaganda especially if it is sprinkled with “free exposure” confectionary. If you don’t stand by your own work then who will?

Accept real innovation which improves our lives but always, always be wary of FREE. The price you eventually pay is much higher than you imagine. I don’t know about you but I certainly cannot afford FREE.     

Here are my visual explorations for today. Enjoy.

 

 

 

2018 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved

Confidence – a roller-coaster to seeing (Intro)

Confidence – a roller-coaster to seeing (Intro)

Josef Koudelka would say, “Look at something and think, this is right.” Unfortunately, it is a constant search and we often doubt if indeed “this is right.” In other words, photography and confidence (or rather lack of it) has much in common.

Wikipedia defines confidence as “a certainty about handling something.” When looking at my own experience and when working with students I’ve noticed that the subject of confidence in photography is crucially important. Not only can it determine success or failure but it can often shape the artistic direction of a photographer.

Of course, some people are naturally confident, others not so much. For me, it has never been an important determinant or characteristic, as today’s society has a tendency to put on a pedestal overconfident, disdainful or even rude individuals, then paint them as confident. I am not going to go there. Let’s stay on the subject of photographic confidence for lack of a better word.

Most people who start in photography lack confidence. This is normal or, I would argue, a highly desirable condition. Too often I come across horribly constructed images presented to the world by the author as “winners.” What’s even worse, those who have zero social breaks often attract a sizable crowd of cheerleaders, who like a magnet, are looking for another loud leader. Usually there is no hope here and no point discussing such cases any further.

When learning and practicing the craft of seeing, most people, including me, are going on an emotional roller-coaster ride. This is a normal and healthy condition. We often hear from photographers: “I don’t know if my work is good enough.”

Unfortunately, the answer they often receive is: “This is great, wonderful,” “Keep doing this.” After all, this industry is all about cheering and clapping. The logic here is to inspire and provide confidence, regardless of results – a noble idea! The problem is that many starting photographers gain what I call “fake confidence.” What many of us cheerleaders don’t even realize is that we are doing a great disservice to a generation of photographers.

Constantly assuring them that their work is great means that many continue along their path to not-seeing, which ultimately leads to huge disappointment and, in many cases, a painful divorce from photography.

There is another way. Yes, confidence in seeing comes after years of struggle, hard falls and successes but confidence should never be consistent! What do you mean, Olaf? It means that even the most successful photographers experience ups and down in their perception of their own work, especially those who have the guts to take visual risks! Josef Koudelka said, “I don’t want to reach the point from where I wouldn’t know how to go further. It’s good to set limits for oneself, but there comes a moment when we must destroy what we have constructed.” Such “destruction” comes with a hit to our confidence!

In other words, our confidence will vary as we go along our photographic journey and IT IS OK! There is no need to artificially buttress it or inject a stream of fake “you can do it” nonsense. The moments of low confidence allow us to pick up where we started and ride those high tides with new ideas. We need to trust in our own ability.

This ability grows from serious visual education. Learning about art, design and aesthetics has been put on the back seat in our productivity – and a low-price-obsessed society. Learning the craft of photography is a slow and tedious process, involving huge effort! Many people lack the time or willingness to learn a new visual language so instead, they fill the void with an “anything goes” scheme.

Interestingly, many aspiring photographers who do marvellous and innovative work lack confidence. In private settings, they often approach me and share their doubts and problems. I say to them, “I wish I could see like you.” I urge them to go out, show their work and own it! However, when you reach the point when you are becoming confident about your success, make sure to take on new visual risks. Make sure you start riding this confidence roller-coaster again.

The worst that can happen when you are riding a roller-coaster is that it could break down – when you are at the top! Then, you have a real problem on your hands. You will need many people to get you down.

 

I am preparing a series of articles about this subject. Looking forward to your own take on the subject.

Here is my latest work I did for my R-A-I-N project (the X-E3, X-T2 paired with the XF 35mm F1.4 and XF 80mm 2.8 lenses).

 

next time…

 

2018 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved

New 2018 “Visual Poet Experience” Workshops Announced

New 2018 “Visual Poet Experience” Workshops Announced

My team and I are very pleased to announce most of the lineup of photography workshops for 2018. We say most because we will most likely add one of the cities in Australia, and San Francisco (end of 2018).

Here is our lineup of “A Visual Poet Experience” photography workshops.

London / March 9 – 11, 2018

Berlin / March 16 -18, 2018

Toronto / June 8 – 19, 2018

New York / June 15 -17, 2018

Vancouver / August 10 -12, 2018

Paris / September 21 – 23, 2018  

A Visual Poet Experience? After receiving amazing feedback from my students over the course of the last few years, I realized that the commonly understood term “Street Photography” doesn’t give justice to what we do at our workshops. Of course, our visual exploration is deeply imbedded in the urban environment and has many of the underpinnings of street photography, but we go way beyond that.

During our workshops, we learn techniques and a design philosophy that not only match each student’s personality but also work in any visual environment. We combine unusual elements to create a STRONG and UNIQUE photographic message. In other words, we learn to craft images by arranging elements within the frame for maximum emotional and visual impact. I want my students to go deeper into their inner-seeing to craft their own stunning visuals.

Those of you who write poetry know that this genre of writing requires “all of you.” To be more specific, you choose words and arrange them in a new and unusual way to craft powerful verse. This analogy applies directly to photography.

Let me tackle another point. Some aspiring (younger and older) photographers say that they are not sure if they are “good enough” to participate in this experience. Let me debunk this nonsense. It is often the case that those who are new to photography make much faster progress in their seeing than those who have been shooting for years. Why? Because they don’t have preconceived ideas of what the final image should be. They are free to explore and experiment. If you are just starting, don’t be afraid – we old timers need you! J   

Having said that, I would like to thank my students and now friends for coming up with this expression, especially Peter from Calgary and Robert from Barcelona. I hadn’t thought about it this way before.     

Today instead of individual imagery, let me share with you a few screenshots from our personal photo books. They are entirely designed and produced by my super-talented wife, Kasia. Next time Kasia and I will share some thoughts about creating and designing photo books.  

Click on every image for a larger view.

 

 

2018 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved