Time

“Time is a gift that most of us take for granted”

– Cheryl Richardson

My photographic life is somewhat seasonal in nature.  Late spring and early summer bring engagement sessions, weddings and the photography workshops that I so love to teach.  May to September is usually non stop for me, with just enough time at home to re-pack my bag between gigs and head out to a new workshop location or to shoot another wedding.  

Summer always gives way to fall though, winter not far off, and I can feel myself slowing down.  I used to lament this time of year because I loved the momentum.  I loved building my business, building my community, meeting new people, chasing new opportunities and “pursuing success”… whatever that means.  My mind wouldn’t turn off as I raced from one idea to the next, constantly seeking to move the ball down the field just a little bit more.

I’m not sure when I came to fully appreciate this time of year.  It happened slowly probably, over years, but now I enjoy the slower pace of fall because it brings me an abundance of time, life’s most precious commodity.  Time to be with family.  Time to be with friends.  Time to breath.  Time to walk without destination.  Time to write.  Time to play guitar.  Time to create… not for clients, but for me.    

Just, time.

Miles Davis once said:

“Time isn’t the main thing, it is the only thing.”

A twenty year career working as a paramedic on 911 ambulances taught me this.  Life is short, and you have to build in periods where you slow down, celebrate success, and rejuvenate.  Going full speed all the time isn’t healthy… not physically, not mentally and definitely not creatively. 

I do still work through the winter of course, but the nature of it changes.  I write more.  I teach via Skype with wonderful students from around the world.  I interview other artists for this site.   I present occasionally.  Much of my work through the winter is self generated, work that I can pick up and put down as needed, work that lays the foundation for the coming year.

By the time winter passes I find myself refreshed, recharged and excited about upcoming workshops and weddings.  I find myself flowing with creativity and look forward to the amazing opportunities that spring and summer bring.  

Bob Dylan said:

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning, gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”

I feel like I have almost reached that point in my life and my career.  It’s not all puppies and roses yet, but I am close.  And, it is a mindful and wonderful place to be.

I know this site has been fairly quiet recently, with only 8 posts since the beginning of summer.  I am filled with things to write about though, so now that I have the time I look forward to sharing work with you over the next few months from Vancouver, Seattle, Toronto, Paris, Amsterdam and so many other sources of inspiration.

Until next time,

Ian

Finding Creativity – A Different Kind of Photo Presentation

A few months ago I wrote the following blog post:

Photography Saved Me

…in which I described my journey with PTSD and how photography helped heal me.  I was originally motivate to write this article after speaking with a fellow photographer, someone who was struggling at the time, to let them know that they weren’t alone and that we all have things we are dealing with.

I was amazed by the response to the article.  No, that’s not enough… I was overwhelmed by the response.  I received a large number of emails and private messages from fellow photographers who thanked me for sharing my journey, because it made them feel a little bit better about their own.  Many of these people originally found me through my photography or through the Fujifilm community, but told me that they also follow my work because it helps keep them focused as people and as artists.

…what do you say to that?

I’m definitely not the only person that has healed themselves through photography, and I am motivated to find new ways to explore / discuss this topic.  I also want to share how my photography changed as I healed, something I didn’t expect but am very grateful for.  So, recently, I created a new 90 minute presentation called:

Finding Creativity – What PTSD taught me about photography

You can read more about the presentation through the link above but, in short, it is a talk about the lessons I learned as I healed from my PTSD and how those same lessons also shaped my photography.  It is a presentation about my journey, filled with photographs and anecdotes, that I think will be of value to others.

If this conversation is something that would be of benefit to a group or organization you know please tell them about it.  My goals, as always, are simply to help people, to inspire people, and to see more people finding joy through the lens.  

This new presentation is just the beginning, too.  Watch for details on a new book on this very subject coming out soon!

Best wishes,

Ian

The Wall – Revisited

Last year I posted a series of images called “The Wall”, taken while I was in Toronto for meetings and a workshop.  The series, which can be viewed HERE, features night time silhouettes photographed against a brightly lit wall.  This is a location that offers a variety of shooting opportunities:  faster shutter speeds allow you to catch some lights turned off as they recycle, creating interesting and often uncontrollable compositions.  Slower shutter speeds, however, produce a pure white wall that is perfect for placing the focus on the silhouetted subject.

As a reminder, here are a few images from last year’s shoot:

I love returning to fruitful shooting locations, so when I was back in Toronto this past summer I made a point of working on the series while out with my students.  This time I decided to focus more on the silhouettes themselves, so I set my shutter speed to produce a consistently white background and spent my time looking for interesting subjects (and combinations of interesting subjects).

Here are a few images from these sessions…

You often see the same people pass by when shooting along the wall, as it is next to a very popular and busy square in Toronto.  I spoke with the gentleman below for a few minutes when he asked me for money to buy a drink, then made a quick portrait of him.  Because we were standing very close to the building the wall acted like a giant soft box and gave us beautiful soft light:

And, people being people, after we parted ways I looked back to see him posing for me one more time with a smile on his face:

My students and I talk often about how fabulous people are, all over the world, when we give them a chance.  Sure, we may meet the rare bad apple, but it is amazing how often we are rewarded with a wonderful conversation and a photo or two when we reach out to a stranger.  That was most definitely the case with this gentleman.

And yes, he did get his drink:

🙂

Photographs that feature silhouettes like these are quite easy to make.  You simply expose for the bright background, lock your focus where your subject is (or is going to be), and time your shot to get a clean silhouette (this is the most important part).  You don’t need a full wall to make photos like this either, you simple need a brightly lit background large enough to fully surround the subject.  Here are two more photographs, taken while a subject walked in front of a sign in another part of the city:

There is an aesthetic and a visual strength in photographs like these that I like, but it is even better when you can add a storytelling element to the photo as well.  This last image is a good example of this, and is one of my favourites images from the series:

I like the composition and the silhouettes in this photo, but there is also a narrative derived from the main subject asking for assistance as the crowds blindly approach and then walk past him. 

…photography really does offer us an endless world of possibilities, doesn’t it?

Until next time!

Ian