The Importance of a Moment in Time

The most significant moments in our lives are usually made up of tiny slivers of time.  I will always remember exactly when my daughter took her first breath and the moment my wife said “yes” when I asked her to marry me.  I remember where I was when I learned that planes had hit the towers in New York City and I remember the time I said something brutally honest to a friend and then regretted it instantly, even before I saw the hurt in his eyes.  I remember all of the times that my sickest patients, whom I had fought so hard to resuscitate, defied the odds and started breathing again.  Many of these moments were only seconds in length, but I remember all of them with absolute clarity.

The times in between these events, however, are rarely remembered with any true clarity.  I don’t have special memories of grocery shopping, waiting in line at the bank or of working out at the gym.  To be honest, as the years go by, I find myself trying to clear the “noise” from my life more and more, actively focusing on the important slivers of time that really matter.  I don’t want a life consumed by “in between” things… I want the memories.

Now, there is a direct parallel between these moments in our lives and our photography.  Anybody who has shot long enough will have experienced at least one special moment when out with their camera;  the street photographer who sees and captures that rare time when the subject, background and light all come together in a perfect composition, or the landscape photographer who finds themselves shooting through a sunrise so beautiful that it must have come from God, or the wedding photographer who captures the first kiss, but who then stays with it and captures a tear on the cheek of the bride as she pulls away, her eyes still locked on her new husband.  These are the moments I live for as a photographer.  

As we gain experience I think it is important to learn how to anticipate these moments, to create them if it is within our power to do so, and to not get distracted by all of the “in between” photos that present themselves.  It is important to know the value of that one special photograph and to not get lost in a sea of “in between” ones.

I love the photograph at the top of this post.  I think the lady is beautiful, the expression on the waiter’s face is perfect, and I love how well the subjects match the background.  The light in the scene is good and, perhaps most important of all, the photograph tells a story.  There is a genuine moment here, captured as a slice of time in my camera. These photographs don’t present themselves often, but I would gladly trade one thousand “in between” photographs for ten or twenty that truly tell a story like this one does.  

When I took this photo I knew I had something I loved as soon as I clicked the shutter, and it got me thinking about the fact that I seem to be making more and more of these images as time goes on.  Upon reflection, I can honestly say that the main difference between now and a few years ago is simply this:  I have slowed down, which allows me to see more.  I have learned to focus on those special moments in time and to not get distracted by all of the “in between”.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, considered by many to be the father of modern street photography, wrote often about this concept.  Here are a few of his thoughts that have influenced my approach to photography:

“It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head.” 

“A photograph is neither taken or seized by force. It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you. One must not take photos.”

“There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.” 

What is Henri saying here?  I think it is that the photograph is already out there, but to capture it we need to be more patient, more cerebral, more focused and yes, sometimes more instinctual.  We must slow down, see more, and be ready to act when we do find that perfect moment in time that will only last for a few seconds.  Henri also wrote:

“We must avoid however, snapping away, shooting quickly and without thought, overloading ourselves with unnecessary images that clutter our memory and diminish the clarity of the whole.” 

When we first learn photography the right side of our brain is often overloaded by the technical aspects of shooting.  This is as it should be, we need to shoot a lot in the early stages to develop our skills.  Once we have the technicals down, however, it is important to place the focus on our creative vision.  For the street photographer, this means learning how to become more attuned to the environment, to anticipate moments, and to shoot photographs in a way that captures the story that our eyes are seeing.  We won’t nail it every time, far from it actually, but it is so satisfying when we do.

So, here is my challenge to you:

The next time you hit the streets, coach yourself to slow down and see more.  Really take the time to become in tune with what is happening around you without a camera up to your eye.  Don’t shoot the “in between” photos during this outing.  Don’t settle… wait for that special moment.  Wait for the decisive moment, where you make that one photograph that will mean so much more to you than a hundred “in between” ones.  

It might take some time, but it will absolutely be worth it.

Cheers,

Ian

Fujifilm… Momentum Defined

This September will mark 8 years since Fujifilm announced the FinePix X100, the little camera that changed photography forever for so many of us.  Over the next few years Fuji enthusiasts and brand ambassadors wrote passionately about each new camera, each new lens, and each new firmware update.  We celebrated successes, noted milestones, provided feedback and enjoyed gatherings with other Fuji X Series users.  I can only speak for myself of course, but it has been a wonderful ride.

This past February I was in Vancouver with Billy Luong (Manager – Product and Marketing Specialist Group) and three of my Official Fuji X Photographer peers for a presentation on the brand new Fujifilm X-H1.  After the presentation, I had long conversations about the Fuji X Series with several of the attendees and went for dinner with Billy and the X Photographer team.  Driving home, I distinctly remember thinking about how far the X Series had come and how mature the system was now.

Well, that was 5 months ago and a lot has happened since then:  Fujifilm have released two more new cameras, 3 new lenses, delivered more than a dozen free firmware updates and even brought out a new colour option for the esteemed Fujifilm X100F (pictured above).  The lens roadmap has also been updated, with three new lens that will be released in the coming years.

And, it is only July.

I have had the privilege of working closely with Fujifilm as a brand ambassador for several years now.  I know how they listen to their user base, and I know how hard they work to release products that meet the needs of their customers.  Still though, when I look at the aggregate of their releases over the last five months, I have to say that I am blown away.  In my opinion, there has never been a better time to get into the Fuji ecosystem… it is mature, robust and, clearly, still growing!

I have a bit of free time right now, so let’s take a look at these new products:

HARDWARE

Photo credit Jonas Rask (https://jonasraskphotography.com)

The Fujifilm X-H1

The X-H1, the first release in 2018, is a new body that exists alongside the other flagship cameras in the Fuji X Series (the X-T2 and X-Pro2).  At launch, it brought a lot of improvements that were welcome additions for many X Series users, including a stronger, more scratch resistant body, a new shutter, an improved auto-focus system, 5 axis / 5 stop in body image stabilization, an improved electronic viewfinder, new shooting options like flicker reduction, and a plethora of new video options.  While some people struggled a bit with the larger size, I found that the X-H1 balanced extremely well with the Red Badge zooms (like the XF16-55mm f/2.8) and with the larger primes (like the XF90mm f/2).  There is no other way of saying it:  the X-H1 is a beast, ideally suited for action and wedding photographers as well as those who are focused on video.

You can learn more about the X-H1 on Fujifilm’s official page here:

http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujifilm_x_h1/

And, be sure to read my buddy Jonas Rask’s review here:

https://jonasraskphotography.com/2018/02/15/the-fujifilm-x-h1-review-technicalitus-maximus/

Photo credit Jonas Rask (https://jonasraskphotography.com)

The Fujifilm X-T100

When mirrorless cameras were first gaining momentum there were many strong arguments in their favour:  the compact size, the ergonomics, the image quality, the “what you see is what you get” nature of the viewfinders, the price point compared to DSLRs, etc.  As these cameras became more advanced, however, the price gap between mirrorless and DSLR narrowed somewhat.  That is why I was so excited to see Fujifilm release the X-T100, an affordable product at an excellent entry level price ($699USD with the kit lens).

There are some differences between the X-T100 and the other cameras in the X Series of course (it uses a traditional Bayer sensor and not the X-Trans sensor, for example), but it is a very capable camera, which makes it an easy recommendation for people who are looking to switch to Fujifilm but who can’t afford the other models.

I also think that this release speaks to the maturity of the Fuji X Series.  Within a few months Fujifilm added what is arguably the most capable camera in the X Series line (the X-H1), and then followed that by releasing a new entry level model.  Something for everyone…. a mature system.

Here are a couple of  links where you can learn more about the X-T100:

http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujifilm_x_t100/

https://jonasraskphotography.com/2018/05/24/fujifilm-x-t100-review-quality-on-a-budget/

Photo credit fujifilm.com

The Fujifilm XF10

A few years ago Fujifilm released a camera called the X70.  It was not one of Fujifilm’s most successful cameras, but it has developed a very strong following since.  The X70 had an X-Trans sensor, a tilt screen, a fixed 18.5mm lens (a 28mm equivalent), and touch screen functionality.  In many ways it was the perfect “always with you” street photography camera and many people (myself included) were sad to see it discontinued.

Last week Fujifilm announced the XF10, a new fixed lens compact camera.  Now, this is not the successor to X70 for several reasons, but it does share a similar size and focal length.  I have not used the XF10 yet but, at its price point of $400 USD,  it is another strong addition to the entry level of the Fuji X Series.

You can learn more about the XF10 here:

http://www.fujifilm.ca/products/digital_cameras/x/fujifilm_xf10/

Photo credit Jonas Rask (https://jonasraskphotography.com)

Fujinon XF200mmF2 R LM OIS WR

Early in the development of the X Series it was not uncommon to hear people say things like, “I would love to switch to Fujifilm, but I need fast, long glass for the the sports that I shoot.”  Or, “I really need dual card slots for my wedding photography”.

Fujifilm moved quickly to fill those gaps though, and last week they announced the new Fujinon XF200mm f/2 telephoto lens.   I have friends who are absolutely thrilled with this announcement, who are already deciding which vehicle or child to sell to get this lens.  The XF200mm has a full frame equivalent focal length of 300mm, but it also ships with a 1.4x teleconverter, offering a fast equivalent focal length of 420mm.  When you add in 5 stops of optical image stabilization, and weather sealing, you can really see that this lens is purpose built for professional work.  It will become a workhorse for those who need it.

Here are a couple of links to learn more about the new XF200mm lens:

http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujinon_lens_xf200mmf2_r_lm_ois_wr/

https://jonasraskphotography.com/2018/07/20/fujinon-xf200mm-f-2-mini-review-the-crown-jewel-of-x/

Photo credit Jonas Rask (https://jonasraskphotography.com)

Fujinon XF8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR

Nikon and other DSLR manufacturers have long had their “holy trinity” of lenses.  Years ago, when I shot Nikon, the trinity consisted of the 12-24mm f/2.8 zoom, the 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom and the 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom.  Odds are that if you were a “working pro” shooting Nikon you would have a bag with two full frame DSLR bodies, these three lenses, a bunch of accessories, and the contact information for your chiropractor.

Several years ago, Fujifilm released the first two Red Badge Lenses in the Fuji X Series, the XF16-55mm f/2.8 zoom and the XF50-140mm f/2.8 zoom.  These fast f/2.8 lenses are weather sealed, have fast autofocus and provide amazing image quality.  I am a prime lens shooter through and through but, as a working photographer, I would never be without these two lenses in my bag.  In my work they don’t come out often, but they are indispensable when needed.

And now, finally, we have the third lens in the Fujifilm trinity:  The XF8-16mm f/2.8 zoom lens.  I do not shoot a lot of wide angle myself, but this lens is going to be a welcome addition for those who want the best wide angle lens they can get for their X Series cameras.

Here are a couple of links to learn more about the new XF8-16mm lens:

http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujinon_lens_xf8_16mmf28_r_lm_wr/

https://jonasraskphotography.com/2018/07/20/fujinon-xf8-16mm-f2-8-mini-review-a-wider-shade-of-fujifilm/

Photo credit Jonas Rask (https://jonasraskphotography.com)

Fujifilm has also been busy on the GFX front over the last few months, releasing the following products:

GFX 250mm f/4 with a 1.4x adapter:

https://jonasraskphotography.com/2018/04/12/behemoth-obscura-fujifilm-gf-250mm-f-4-and-gf1-4x-tc-wr-mini-review/

the MCEX-18G and MCEX-45G:

https://jonasraskphotography.com/2018/04/12/moving-in-close-a-look-at-the-fujifilm-mcex-18g-and-mcex-45g/

As you can see, things have been very busy on the hardware front this year.  Now, let’s talk about software…

FIRMWARE UPDATES

(A “class photo” from a recent workshop I taught.  I would say that Fujifilm was well represented!)

All companies work to innovate and introduce new products, but no one supports existing products the way that Fujifilm does through their ongoing firmware updates.  Sometimes an update may be small, perhaps just a bug fix or compatibility with a new lens, and other times Fujifilm adds entirely new features to their products.  

And, they do it for free!

The X-Pro2, for example, is now a 2.5 year old camera.  It just received an update this past week, however,  that adds additional customization options for the viewfinder, Flicker Reduction for when you are shooting under fluorescent lights, new improvements to the camera’s auto-focus system and several other small feature updates.

…how cool is that?

In the last six months alone, the following cameras have received firmware updates:

  • X-A3:  June 28th, 2018
  • X-A5:  June 28th, 2018
  • X-A10:  February 10th, 2018
  • X-A20:  June 10th, 2018
  • X-E2:  July 24th, 2018
  • X-E2S:  July 24th, 2018
  • X-E3:  July 24th, 2018
  • X-H1:  July 19th, 2018
  • X-Pro2:  July 19th, 2018
  • X-T2:  July 19th, 2018
  • X-T10:  July 24th, 2018
  • X-T20:  July 24th, 2018
  • X100F:  July 24th, 2018

Note:  This list does not include updates made to lenses within the system, of which there were several this year.  

You can check for the most recent firmware updates here:

http://www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/software/

THE Lens ROADMAP

Some organizations are famously secretive when it comes to future product releases (Apple comes to mind), refusing to say anything about future product development or launch cycles.  As a working photographer, however, I want to be able to plan and knowing what is coming allows me to invest in my tools appropriately.  Fujifilm helps us in this regard by publishing the Lens Roadmap (see above).

The current roadmap, recently updated, announces three new lenses that will be coming in 2019/2020.  I can say, from many frequent discussions, that these are all lenses people have been requesting for quite some time now:

  • A 16mm f/2.8 prime lens.  I hope that this lens will be the perfect wide angle companion to join the 23 f/2 and 50 f/2 lenses that I love so much.  This will be an instant buy for me if it is.
  • A 16-80mm f/4 zoom lens.  I am not usually a zoom shooter, but I am actually quite excited for this one.  The 24-105mm f/4 zoom has long been a mainstay in the Canon world, and back when I shot Nikon I often used a 24-120mm f/4 (on a full frame) as my travel lens.  I think that a weather resistant, optically stabilized 16-80mm f/4 will be the perfect addition to my travel bag.
  • A 35mm f/1.0 prime lens.  When the topic of future Fujinon lens releases comes up the 35mm f/1.0 often gets discussed.  It isn’t a lens that would get used very often in my work, but I think this one is going to make many Fujifilm shooters very happy!

In Summary

This post turned out much longer than I originally intended, but I think the main take home is that Fujifilm is clearly not content to rest on their laurels.  On the contrary, they are constantly innovating and working to make the X Series the best camera system possible.  Just look at the last 5 months:  3 new cameras, 3 new lenses and over a dozen new firmware updates.  When I see this I get excited, thinking about what may come in the next generation of the X-Pro2, X-T2 and X100F cameras.

If you are considering a move to the Fuji X Series I can only say that you should jump right in… the water is fine.  You will be working with a camera system from a company that is constantly innovating, constantly listening, and constantly delivering.  Is the X series perfect?  No, nothing is, but as a working photographer I can attest to how well these cameras perform and to how great it is to see a company constantly expand their product line and support their users.

What more can we ask for?

Cheers,

Ian

Patterns of Summer, the Pride of a Nation

The transition to summer is always a busy time in my household.  My daughter has multiple dance recitals and other school related activities.  My wife, a teacher, works tirelessly to complete everything that needs done before the end of the school year.  As June turns to July I enter my busiest period of the year, the summer full of workshops, weddings and other photographic endeavours.  Somehow, however, we always manage to spend some time together as a family before I get too busy.

In a wonderful moment of serendipity we found ourselves in Paris last week when France won the 2018 World Cup.  The energy on game day was palpable, the World Cup capturing the hearts of everyone in the city.  During the game the sidewalks were empty, no cars drove by on the streets, and the usual hustle and bustle of a major city was replaced by an eery silence.  You could stand on a corner, however, and know exactly how the game was going by the collective sighs or cheers that would suddenly explode, without warning, from all around you.  

When the game was over the city erupted, jubilant people flowing out of apartments, cafes, restaurants and pubs to celebrate together.  There were no barriers: age didn’t matter, ethnicity was irrelevant, everyone simply came together as one.  Cars drove along the main streets honking, masses of people waived their flag with pride as they marched across the bridges, the national anthem was sung time and time again… it was pure joy, uncontainable and contagious.

It was perfect.

Over the last year we have heard “leaders” advocate for discrimination, fear, and hatred.  We have seen citizens, emboldened by this misguided leadership, commit crimes against each other purely because of the colour of someone’s skin or because of their gender.  We watched as governments ripped children out of the arms of parents, and we saw terrorists attack the innocent.  On some days it felt like we were watching the worst parts of history repeating themselves.  

But, when the nation came together to celebrate this win you could feel the release of something.  You could feel the tension dissipate, like a balloon popping, and all that was left was excitement and joy.  To be there as a photographer, on those streets, at that time, was amazing.  Once again my camera became a passport to experiencing something wonderful.  I am blessed.

I hope you enjoy these impromptu photos of Paris celebrating their victory, all taken with the Fujifilm X100F.  I am home now for a month or so before my next workshop so I will be sharing a lot of new content with you: some gear related articles, some new photo essays and, I am sure, a few random thoughts.

Until then,

Ian