2016 – A Photographic Year in Review

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It is hard to believe that 2016 is over in a few days.  This year flew by, bringing with it life’s usual rollercoaster of epic highs and occasional setbacks.  Photographically, however, I am filled with joy and gratitude when I look back on the past year.

I think the quote that best describes my photography in 2016 is this one:

“Don’t pigeonhole yourself. You aren’t just a wildlife photographer, an underwater photographer, a studio photographer. You are a storyteller.”

—Kathy Moran, National Geographic senior photo editor

This quote speaks to me on so many levels, but most importantly about the need to let your vision as an artist take you where it needs to go.  I did that a lot this year and I have no regrets:  I photographed what made me happy,  I traveled, I networked, I taught, I made new friends, and I always tried to keep my focus on visual storytelling.

With that said, let’s look at back at my 2016 (with some of my favourite images from the year), and then look forward to 2017…

Working with Fujifilm, and becoming an Official Fuji X Photographer

Fujifilm was on fire this year and it was so exciting to watch.   I was actively involved with the launch of the X-Pro2 and the X-T2 and I watched, with excitement, as the GFX-50S medium format camera was announced at Photokina in September.   This momentum is not going to stop either as 2017 is shaping up to be another stellar year in the Fujifilm community.

Without a doubt the best part of my year was when I was asked to join the incredibly talented group of Official Fuji X Photographers.  I am so humbled to be a part of this amazing group of artists; and, I continue to be inspired by them on a daily basis.

With that said, I would like to take a moment and thank my friends at Fujifilm.  The team at Fujifilm Canada is exceptional and the support that they have provided me is more than I ever could have asked for.  Beyond that, however, is the need to thank Fujifilm for bringing us these amazing cameras and for bringing the joy of photography back into the lives of so many people.  I speak with photographers from all over the world on a daily basis, and I don’t think I’ve ever been part of such an inspired and passionate community of artists.  It is a beautiful thing.

Travel Photography

My love for travel continues to grow stronger year after year.   I love experiencing new places, meeting new people, and discovering new cultures with my camera.  Travel this year brought me to Amsterdam, New York City, Seattle, and San Francisco.  These trips re-energized me, inspired me, educated me, and provided content for this website.  With trips planned in North America and Europe, 2017 is already shaping up to be another inspiring year of travel.  I can’t wait.

Photographing Love

Portrait photography makes up less and less of my work these days; however, I still photographed several engagement sessions and weddings in 2016.   I truly believe that being asked to photograph someone’s wedding is one of the highest honours that can be bestowed upon a photographer, and I have so much appreciation for all of the couples I worked with this year.

Writing, Publishing and Podcasting

My love for writing continues to be an unexpected, but welcome, byproduct of starting this blog.  This year end review will be the 110th post on this website, and I was honoured to be asked to write for Fuji Love magazine, for the digital Fujifilm X magazine, and I also did an interview on the 53mm website.   I continue to plug away at several eBooks that will finally see completion in 2017 and I love writing my Instagram posts. I also had the pleasure of guesting again on my friend Valerie Jardin’s podcast, which is always a lot of fun.

Workshops, Presentations, and Teaching

I have been an educator for over 20 years, with formal training in adult education, and that became a much larger part of my photography brand this year.   Over the year I was asked to give 11 presentations, some at the request of Fujifilm Canada and some as an independent artist.  In August I had the pleasure of collaborating with Valerie Jardin and assisting with her street photography workshop here in Vancouver. Finally, I have been actively teaching my private street photography workshops, as well as, the Skype mentoring I do with friends and students from around the world. I cannot express my gratitude enough for having these opportunities.  Many thanks to you all.

Street Photography

As always, there was street photography… more than I’ll ever be able to write about or publish as a matter of fact.  I feel alive when I am photographing the streets, in much the same way I felt alive when I worked for almost two decades as a paramedic.  There is nothing that brings me more satisfaction than documenting life on the streets, and it continues to change everything about my photography.

Thank you, and looking forward to 2017…

There are far too many people to thank for this blog post, so suffice it to say that I truly appreciate all of you that made 2016 so amazing for me:  The readers of this site, my friends on Twitter and Instagram, my students, my peers in this wonderful world of photography, the great photographers who inspire me, and those who simply love looking at great photographs.  You are all amazing.

Looking forward to 2017, I am guided by this quote from the late Steve Jobs:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

New changes are going to start early in 2017, with the late spring launch of a new series of 2.5 day street photography workshops in several different cities.  More information on these will be posted at the end of January.  This will be followed shortly after by the publication of my first eBook.  To say I am excited about these upcoming projects would be a huge understatement.

Finally, I encourage you all to read that last quote again, and to always remember to create the photographs that make you happy.  Don’t let your inner voice as an artist get drowned out by the opinions of others.  Satisfy yourself first, and everything else will follow.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, and I’d like to leave you with some of my favourite images from 2016.

Best wishes, and many thanks,

Ian

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Vancouver Street Photography, Light & Shadows, and a few thoughts on the Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens

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I spent a lot of time over the last few months shooting street photography in Vancouver, with a focus on using high contrast light and shadows.  Most of this work was done with the Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens, a lens that I hadn’t worked with before.  I was really curious to try it though, and my friends at Fujifilm Canada were kind enough to send one out to me.

The 27mm pancake lens was originally announced on June 26th, 2012.  At that time there wasn’t a lot of small glass available for the Fuji X Series, making this tiny pancake lens an attractive option for those who wanted a more compact system to carry around.  Fast forward to the end of 2016, however, and we now have the new Fujinon 23mm f/2 and the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lenses available to us.   In regard to price point, the 3 lenses break down as follows:

  • Fujinon 23mm f/2 – $449 USD
  • Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 – $449 USD (currently on sale for $349 USD)
  • Fujinon 35mm f/2 – $399 USD (currently on sale for $299 USD)

Having just been released this year, the 23mm f/2 and the 35mm f/2 are much newer lenses.  They focus incredibly fast, are weather resistant, and operate smoothly and silently.  I love working with both of them, so I was curious to see whether or not the 27mm pancake lens still held up to its newer siblings.

On the surface the 27mm pancake lens is slower, at f/2.8 wide open versus the f/2 of the newer lenses.  It isn’t weather resistant, which the newer ones are.  And, ergonomically speaking, it doesn’t have an aperture ring which definitely took time for me to get used to.  Honestly, the newer lenses are so good that it would be hard not to recommend them if you are looking for new glass in this focal range.

I have to say though that I have really enjoyed working with the 27mm pancake lens.  First off, it is tiny.  Literally, it is not much larger than a lens cap.  The camera profile remains very small when it is mounted, making it easy to put into your pocket and carry.  It performed well, and I had no issues with the autofocus even though it was noticeably slower than its newer siblings.  To be honest I was impressed with how well it held up to some of the newer glass.   Do I prefer the image quality from the newer 23mm f/2 and the 35mm f/2 lenses?  I do, but only marginally so.  Both of those lenses have a character that is unique to them though, and that is important when selecting a lens.

So the question really came down to this:  In 2016 (almost 2017), could I recommend the Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens to people?   The Fujifilm X Series has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 5 years, and their lens design has matured along with that growth.  The new 23mm f/2 and 35mm f/2 lenses are so good, with excellent AF and weather resistance (at great price points);  but the answer is yes, I would still recommend the 27mm pancake lens as a viable option, mainly if size is a deciding factor.  It really is that small, and having the option to put glass on an X-Pro2 that still allows me to slip it into a coat pocket is a great option to have at times.  I think it is a testament to how good Fuji’s lens design is that a lens from the early days of the system still manages to hold a valuable place in the Fujinon lens line up.  We have so much choice available to us now as X photographers, and that really is a great thing!

Getting away from gear, let’s talk about light and shadow.  How amazing is it when you find great light while shooting out on the street?  I love it.  I get excited when I find a good spot, in great light, and know it is just a matter of tenacity and patience before I have a new street image that I am going to be happy with.  That is what this selection of photos represents.  I hope you like them, and if you need something small and pocketable don’t discount the 27mm pancake lens!

Cheers,

Ian

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Travel Photography Tips from Amsterdam

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Note:  This article originally appeared, in part, in the September edition of the official Fujifilm X Magazine that publishes on the iPad.   I was asked to share 8-10 photographs from a recent trip to Amsterdam, and to offer some travel or photography tips with each photograph that could assist people learning about travel photography.  As this content wasn’t created exclusively for the magazine I thought I’d share it here in its entirety.   I hope you like it!

PHOTO ONE (SEEN ABOVE)

Settings:

  • Fujifilm X100t with the Wide Conversion Lens (WCL-X100) on my travel tripod
  • f/8 at 28 seconds at ISO 200

Thoughts:

Whenever I travel I want to tell the story of the location I am visiting.  A final photo essay from a trip usually includes photographs of iconic landmarks, people, and of the little detail shots that tie the story together.  I spend a lot of time before photography related trips doing research, so I have a good idea of what I want to shoot when I get on the ground.  This location is perhaps the most photographed part of Amsterdam.  It beautifully highlights the canals, the bridges, the architecture, and the way the city is lit up at night.

The funny thing about photos like this is that the most difficult part is getting to the right place, at the right time.  Once my camera is set up on my tripod I simply set my ISO to its lowest setting, set my aperture to capture the depth of field I want, and let my shutter speed fall where it needs to be.  The only other technical detail is that I use a remote or the built in timer to take the photograph to prevent any camera shake.  It is important to me to keep it simple, because I want to cherish the experience and not be obsessed with my camera settings.  Sitting with a good friend that night, taking photos of that beautiful location, is a memory I will have for a long time.  It’s great to have the final image, but photography should never ruin the experience of traveling.

PHOTO TWO

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Settings:
  • Fujifilm X100t with the Wide Conversion Lens (WCL-X100) on my travel tripod
  • f/8 at 20 seconds at ISO 200

Thoughts:

When the beautiful post sunset blue light is gone I usually stop shooting, but I found Amsterdam to be different.  They light the city so well that I often continued shooting deep into the evening (this photo was taken soon after I took photo number one above).  I shifted location to make a different frame, and also shifted into a contrasty black and white film simulation as the sky had little detail left in it.  This also helps give the photo a timeless look in my eyes.

PHOTO THREE

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Settings:

  • Fujifilm X100t
  • f/5.6 at 1/125th at ISO 400

Thoughts:

When I am just walking around a city I tend to leave my camera in Aperture Priority Mode, and I also use Auto ISO.  This allows my camera to handle the technicals for me, and lets me focus on finding my compositions.  On this wet day the sky was horrible, so I knew the chances of there being beautiful light and colour were quite low.  With this in mind, I set my camera to one of the black and white film simulations and focused on finding storytelling detail shots instead of the epic cityscapes I might go for in better light.

I call this a storytelling travel photograph because it immediately gives you a sense of place:  The writing on the sign, the bicycle, the canal, the church, the buildings… it is a photograph that helps you feel what winter or early spring in Amsterdam must be like

PHOTO FOUR

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Settings:
  • Fujifilm X100t on my travel tripod
  • f/10 at 20 seconds at ISO 200

Thoughts:

Amsterdam is definitely known for its iconic canals and bridges.  During my pre-trip research I read that there were over 100km of canals and over 1,500 bridges.  I knew that meant a lot of my photos would feature the canals, but also that I needed to ensure I focused on other parts of the city  too so that I could tell a complete story.

This photo is of 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.  This photo also allowed me to cover another important storytelling aspect of Amsterdam, which is the legal use of marijuana at the local coffee shops.

PHOTO FIVE

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Settings:
  • Fujifilm X100t with the Tele Conversion Lens (TCL-X100)
  • f/5.6 at 1/1,000th at ISO 2000

Thoughts:

The Netherlands are famous for their Tulips, so I knew I needed to have them in my final photo essay.  This proved more difficult than you would have thought because we were there before the Tulip season.  I finally found these ones at a small florist, sitting outside on display.  It was incredibly windy, so I had to increase my ISO to 2000 to get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the Tulips as they blew around in the wind.

It is important to trust your camera.  I feel very comfortable shooting up to ISO 3200 on the Fuji X series, and will go higher if it is needed.  The important thing is to get the picture.

PHOTO SIX

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Settings:
  • Fujifilm X100t with the Wide Conversion Lens (WCL-X100) on my travel tripod
  • f/16 at 20 seconds at ISO 200

Thoughts:

This is another iconic location in Amsterdam, where I knew I needed to make a beautiful blue hour shot.  The weather didn’t cooperate for the first few days, but I went back to it a few times until I had the image I saw in my mind.  Pre-trip research helps you plan out your shots, and tenacity will get you the rest.  If a photo is important to you, and if you have the time, it is worth going back until you get the image you want.

PHOTO SEVEN

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Settings:
  • Fujifilm X100t
  • f/8 at 1/250th at ISO 200

Thoughts:

This is actually the exact same location where photo number three was taken, but on a day where the weather was beautiful.  The photo feels totally different with blue sky, sunshine, and light reflecting off of the buildings and water.  I often will take different photos at the same location if I can.  I’d rather grab more than I need while I am on location and make my final selections during the editing process.  In this case I loved both photos, for different reasons.  I think together they help tell a more complete story of Amsterdam.

PHOTO EIGHT

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Settings:

  • Fujifilm X100t with the Wide Conversion Lens (WCL-X100) on my travel tripod
  • f/8 at 1/1,000th at ISO 1250

Thoughts:

When I am out shooting street photography I often find a background first, then wait for an authentic person to enter the scene.  By authentic, I mean a person who fits the locale and helps tell my story.

I loved this spot on this little wooden bridge, where I could look down the canal toward the church.  I manually focused on the railing at f/8, and increased my ISO until I could get a fast shutter speed to capture people moving through the scene.  I probably spent an hour or so photographing people here and this lady with the umbrella, lost in thought, was my favourite image from those photos.

PHOTO NINE

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Settings:

  • Fujifilm X100t
  • f/8 at 1/250th at ISO 3200

Thoughts:

Here is another example of finding authentic settings and authentic people to help tell your visual story.  I love this gentleman walking through the scene, wearing his hat with his hands clasped behind his back.  The buildings reflected in the window, and the writing on the glass and on the menus, also helps to promote a sense of place.

If you are shooting people walking through a scene like this pay particular attention to the timing of their steps.  You want to catch your subject at full stride, rather than mid stride where they have one leg bent up in the air like a flamingo.  Catching them at the right stride makes the photo look more natural and pleasing.

In Summary…

Travel is a wonderful thing, and travel photography provides us with the opportunity to share memories of our travel experiences with others.  The end goal of my travel photography is to create a storytelling photo essay, one which tells the story of the place I am visiting and of its people.
And now I must ask:  Do you love to travel?  Where is your favourite place?  I’d love to hear about it!
Cheers,
Ian