Seattle street photography and the importance of always taking the time to do what you love

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It has been a couple of weeks since I wrote my last blog post:  “The importance of light when shooting street photography“.  There is no one reason for this delay, just… life.  This seems to be a theme lately for many people:  My friend Patrick Laroque recently wrote about his struggles with his mother’s illness.  I have a close friend who is also dealing with a new diagnosis, one which has the potential to change the path he and his family walk in the future.  We all go through these times of course, none of us are immune, but it seems to come in waves doesn’t it?

Which brings me to the title of this post….

When life is overwhelming us it is so easy to forget about the simple things we do that bring us joy.  We get busy, we get focused, and all of a sudden we realize that it has been weeks since we last picked up the camera, the paint brush, the musical instrument.  These are the things, however, that balance us as artists and centre us so we can focus on everything else.  These are the things we NEED to make time for.

My wife and I recently spent a weekend in Seattle to see Billy Joel in concert, visit the Seattle Art Gallery, eat a few good meals, and generally take a time out from life.  I brought one camera and one lens with me (the Fuji X-Pro2 and the 35mm f/1.4 lens) and made sure I had a couple of hours here and there to shoot some street  photography.  Yes, I was on a mini vacation with my wife, but she understands that I am a better person when I have the opportunity to shoot and create art and she is always supportive of me in this regard.  I love her for that.  Plus, you know, she goes shopping.

The weather this weekend was incredibly variable.  In one day we had sun, cloud cover, rain, and hail.  Is this my best collection of street photographs ever?  Nope, but that’s not the point.  There is an expression: “process versus product”, and right now I’m very much talking about the process.  I spent time alone with my thoughts for a few hours, wandered Seattle’s streets, and shot when something caught my eye.  I spent time interacting with strangers, made new friends, and shot a few portraits.  What mattered is that I made the time to have a camera in my hands and to do what I love.  I cannot stress how important this is.

Here are some of the images from the weekend, I hope you like them.  Each can be clicked to view large if WordPress compression is causing you any issues.

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I have a lot of new content coming up in June:  Some photo essays I have finally edited, a new interview, and hopefully a new gear review too.

Until then!

Ian

The importance of light when shooting street photography

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Street photography has grown in popularity of late, in large part due to the availability of smaller and more available cameras (i.e. cell phone cameras, mirrorless cameras, etc).   I love that so many people are now finding joy in a genre of photography that means so much to me.

Shooting street photography well, however, has many challenges.   Developing the skills to shoot people candidly without drawing attention to yourself, and/or the skills to talk to and shoot complete strangers takes time and can be challenging for some people.

We all start somewhere of course, and I have definitely made my share of images that will never see the light of day (more than my share, actually).  I think the important thing to remember is that all of the “rules” that apply to other genres of photography also apply to shooting on the street:  The right subject matters.  The right moment matters.  The right background matters.  The right light matters.  The right composition matters.   We don’t always get all of these in our street images due to the unpredictability of the street and the need for split second timing, but we should still endeavour to compose our street images as well as we can.

The word photography actually means “to write with light”, and lately I have been focusing on light a lot while shooting street photography.  Contrasty light.  Golden light.  Back light.  Lines and shadows caused by light.  Here are some images from my recent outings, all taken with either the Fuji X-Pro2 or the Fuji X100t.  All black and white images were taken in the Fuji Acros film simulation, and all colour ones in the Fuji Classic Chrome film simulation.

Each photo was inspired by the light the subject was walking through.  I hope you enjoy viewing them:

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I encourage all of you who aspire to shoot street photography well (and I put myself in this category as I still have so much more to learn)  to endeavour to consider your street compositions with the same level of detail that you probably consider your other photography.  Watch for interesting subjects and great moments.  Compose with the right background in mind when you can.  Above all, always consider the light and how it impacts your photographs.  Your street images will be that much better for your efforts.

Cheers,

Ian

Photographing Amsterdam at Night

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I love cities at night.  I love the lights, the shadows, the reflections, the way life on the street changes.  There is something magical about it for me and Amsterdam did not disappoint.  The canals, the museums, the train station, the Red Light District, everything is lit up and the post sunset blue hour there is simply gorgeous.  My travel companion and I were out every night shooting deep into dusk during our week in Amsterdam, and in this post I’d like to share some of those images with you.

This post is part three of a three part series from my recent trip to Amsterdam:

A quick note:  I have been told that WordPress compression has been affecting the image quality for some people.  If that happens for you please click each image to view it larger.

An even quicker note:  All images in this post were taken with the Fuji X100t, the only camera I brought with me for this trip.

The photo at the top of this post is of the Rijksmuseum, a national museum dedicated to the arts and history of Amsterdam.  Originally founded in 1800, the museum has over 1,000,000 items in its collection (including a large body of work by Rembrandt).   At night it is especially beautiful because of the golden reflections in the pool behind the museum, which is how we chose to photograph it.  In a previous post I discussed how we had “so so” weather throughout our March trip, but this photo highlights that you can still get a beautiful blue hour shot despite the clouds.  Always go out and shoot, you will be surprised what you can capture.

Shooting through blue hour, to capture photos like the one above, became a nightly endeavour for us.  During the day, as we walked the city, we’d see a great spot and make a mental note to return to it for our evening shooting session.  The canals always made for great photo opportunities:  The buildings surrounding them were lit, the canals were lit, and you if you were patient you could even get light trails from the boats passing through the tunnels:

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Here are a few other blue hour shots of the canals and the city streets:

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I rarely shoot past blue hour in the evening because I love that little hint of colour in the sky you get at this time.  Once the sky is dark It is usually time for me to put the camera away and just enjoy the view with my eyes, but I found myself shooting deep into night in Amsterdam often.  There is something romantic about the way Amsterdam looks at night:

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There is a small square in Amsterdam called Rembrandtplein,  named after the famous painter.  The centrepiece of the square is a large sculptural representation of Rembrandt’s famous “The Night Watch” painting, but today the area is more commonly known for it’s clubs, bars, and restaurants.  The square comes alive at night, offering a plethora of photographic opportunities:

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On our stroll back to the hotel each evening we would walk through the Red Light District, specifically to see what new photographic opportunities we could find.   I loved the neon lights, the reflections in the canals, the fabulous people watching opportunities, and quite often the bakeries where I could get desserts far larger than were good for me.  🙂

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The week we were in Amsterdam was also the week that the terrorist attacks happened in Belgium.  The night after the attacks, while returning to our hotel, we walked through Dam Square and were surprised and moved to find the Royal Palace had been lit up in the colours of the Belgium flag:

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It was late at night as we walked through the square, but there were still quite a few people present so I shot this photo as a long exposure to blur out the people and put the focus on the colours of the Belgium flag.  It was a touching tribute.

And finally, a photo taken just down the road from Dam Square at an area known as the Damrak.  This is one of the quintessential views of Amsterdam and is one of my favourite images from the trip:

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I highly recommend a photography trip to Amsterdam.  The city photographs beautifully during early morning and late evening, and during the day you can spend time visiting the museums and places like the Anne Frank House.  You can shoot street photography, mingle with the city’s amazing people, and get off the beaten path where you will find small parks, flea markets, amazing restaurants, etc.  We spent almost six days wandering the city in March, averaging 15 kilometres of walking per day, and never found ourselves lacking for photographic opportunities.

I hope you enjoyed this series from Amsterdam, shot with my beloved Fuji X100t.  Over the next few months I will have a lot of new content on this blog:  A review of the new Fuji X70, a lot of photography from Vancouver, upcoming trips to Seattle and NYC, and two new interviews in The Interview Series.

As always, thank you for visiting and please leave any thoughts you have in the comments section below!

Cheers,

Ian