The Sun Still Shines…

I will remember the winter of 2020 as a long, dark period; one marked by feelings stirred up while helping others through their struggles and by the death of my father.  The long winter continues now of course, fuelled by the daily onslaught of COVID-19 related news and the cancellation this week of a family vacation to Disneyland (we were to touch down in LA the day they announced the park closures).

All of this can seem like a lot, can’t it?  Especially when you consider that we humans are wired with a negative bias (our DNA is still watching out for Saber-toothed Tigers), which means that it is easy to become overwhelmed by all of these negative feelings if we allow it to happen.  

Amongst the chaos of life’s challenges, however, there are still opportunities to find peace and simple moments of joy.  Such was the case earlier this year, when I finally had the chance to get away and be a photographer again.  I spent a few days in a city that I love, spending time with my amazing wife and with my photography friends.  I felt the sun on my face, I relaxed and watched the world go by, I dined with friends, and I made photos again with intention and purpose.  It was a wonderful reminder that no matter how dark the winter is… the sun will always shine again.

Even now, at a time when we should all be making realistic modifications to our daily lives to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the sun will continue to shine.  I won’t be travelling again for a while, but there are ways that I can find moments of joy while still doing my part to protect the herd and keep pressure off of our health care system:  I can spend time with my family, shoot landscapes, process old photos, read books, play guitar, re-watch old movies, go out and enjoy my city in a way that respects social distancing, do yoga, etc.

No matter how dark the winter is… the sun will shine again.

So, keep your hands clean my friends.  Don’t use hand rails when going up stairs.  Try not to touch your face while you are out and about.  Stay home if you feel ill.  Stay 6’ away from people when you can.  Perhaps phone or Skype at risk family members and friends rather than visiting them face to face for a little while (remember, you can be an asymptomatic carrier).  Understand that these common sense actions aren’t just about keeping you safe, they are about protecting the herd and our health care system.  They are about protecting immunocompromised people.  They are about protecting pregnant people.  They are about protecting our elderly who have co-morbidities.  After all, we are in this together, right?

Most importantly though:  Be purposeful in deriving joy from your life and your art, even during these troubled times.  No, especially during these troubled times.  Don’t let your passion get drowned out by negative bias or by the onslaught of news that the media sends our way.  Use common sense, but always let the sun shine in… for all winters come to an end.

And with that, I shall leave you with some new photographs.  I hope you like them.

Best wishes,

Ian

What Will Your Verse Be?

The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.  What will your verse be?”

– Walt Whitman

“The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away.”

– Pablo Picasso

2020 is in full swing for most of us, the celebrations of New Year’s Eve already a distant memory.  I normally start each year energized, eager to plan out my year and attack new goals with intent and purpose.  My calendar fills with product launches, travel, presentations, podcasts, workshops, Skype sessions… and before I know it summer has arrived.

This year started out differently though.  Our usual cold, rainy days were followed by snow, causing power outages and blanketing the sky with lifeless grey clouds.  Productive planning sessions were replaced by contemplative periods, and most of my time has been spent writing, playing guitar, and walking the dog.

These have been slow days…. quiet days…. good days.

I initially attributed this different pace to my father’s recent passing, especially as it has only been 21 days since I delivered his eulogy, but more and more I am realizing that there is something bigger forming in my mind… a desire to do something special that is not yet defined.

The last few years have been incredibly productive:  I have reviewed a lot of gear, written almost 300 articles, guested or guest hosted on dozens of podcasts, delivered hundreds of presentations and taught thousands of students.  I cherish all of these things, with no intention of slowing down or stopping, so this desire isn’t because I am unsatisfied with the work that I am doing.  It is, rather, a desire to do something new… something… bigger.  I find myself constantly thinking of the quotes that I started this post with, especially this one:

“The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.  What will your verse be?”

I have always felt that my “verse” was the work that I do with my students.  I am a creator to be sure:  I love crafting a wonderful image, creating a well written essay, or nailing a song on my guitar.  But, I find more joy from seeing my students grow as artists.  It is what I live for.

I am realizing now, however, that the Create Forever project that I participated in last fall set off a huge period of intrinsic reflection… reflection focused on things like service to others and personal fulfillment.  I am sure that these feelings were compounded by many hours spent writing my father’s eulogy, where I spoke about his amazing life, his remarkable accomplishments, and his legacy.

So, it is time for me to write a new verse; not to replace what I am currently doing, but to build something new that can exist alongside my current work and contribute to this wonderful community of people that I am a part of.  It doesn’t need to change the world, but it definitely needs to be meaningful.

….

I am writing this post while sitting in my favourite coffee shop.  It is another rainy Vancouver day, and I am taking a break from reading a script that a film-maker and respected friend sent me.

The script is for a short film, an intensely personal project that tells the story of a loved one’s mental health struggles.  The story is told with passion, with love, and with an artistic vision that I hope to one day achieve in my own work.  In summary, it is brilliant.

This is a great example of what I am talking about:  My friend is writing a new verse in his powerful play, and it couldn’t be more awesome.  I am very proud of him.  And, I am inspired by him as well.

….

Have you ever felt like this?  Like there was something building inside of you… something that you just had to do or create?  If so, I would love to hear about it in the comments below, just as I absolutely plan on writing about my journey here on this site.

In the meantime of course, life goes on:  Soon you will see new work on this site from San Francisco and Los Angeles.  My street photography workshops in Vancouver and Toronto are filling up nicely, and I have many speaking engagements and weddings already booked.  I am sure that Fujifilm will release new equipment of course, which we will definitely discuss here as well.

The powerful play goes on and on though, doesn’t it?  And, it is time to write a new verse.

…what will it be?  What will your verse be for 2020?

Cheers,

Ian

2019: Finding Photographic Success In A Reflective & Disruptive Year

December 31st is upon us again… another year almost in the books.  How crazy is that?  2019 was a bit of a dichotomy for me:  I travelled, I taught, I was blessed with numerous opportunities to write / present / guest on podcasts, I had the privilege of photographing beautiful weddings and I worked with my friends at Fujifilm on multiple projects (the Create Forever project and the X-Pro3 launch).  The latter part of 2019, however, will also be remembered  as a time when I lost several former peers in the emergency services, when I lost my father, and, I think, when I lost my way for a little bit.

Life, right?

As I reflect back on the photographs I made in 2019, however, I am satisfied to see a consistency in my work.  I have invested many years of blood and sweat into my photography and feel like I can reliably make the images that I see in my mind when I am out shooting.  Are they the greatest images?  No, of course not.  But, I think there is a strength that comes from knowing that you can translate what you see in your mind to the creation of an image regardless of what is happening in your life at the time.   This consistency allows you to push the boundaries more, to experiment more, and, ultimately, to grow more.

So, let’s look at some of my favourite images from 2019 and celebrate this awesome art form that we all love so much.

Silhouettes continue to be a big part of my street photography, and these two photos are  examples of how I try to use them as compositional elements in my work:

Photos like these are visual experimentations, but I also try to include a storytelling element in many of my street photographs (as illustrated in the next set of photos).  The images below, featuring the silhouettes of young lovers holding handing hands in Hawaii, of a father walking his child to school in Paris, and of ominous watchers looking down from above all provide opportunities for the viewer to find a story in the photograph.  What that story is will differ for each viewer, of course.  My goal is just to set the stage… people can interpret the image however they chose.

It seems that my eye for composition naturally shifts over time, changing what I am attracted to when composing images.  This year I found myself working with lines and angles a lot, using these compositional elements to add another layer of complexity to my photographs:

Street images can be made everywhere of course, and I am always shooting.  Sometimes I frame the image around beautiful light and shadows, while other times my eye is caught by a subject who has that magical ”X” factor that catches our  interest as photographers.  Here are a few favourites from 2019:

If anything “negative” really stood out to me this year (photographically speaking) it was the realization of how few street portraits I made.

I love interacting with strangers… meeting new people is one of my favourite things about travel and street photography.  It was surprising then to find that I made less than 20 street portraits in 2019; all of which were made in the first half of the year.  There is definitely a correlation between our emotions and the art that we create, so I wonder if my tumultuous fall had anything to do with not wanting to interact with new people? 

There were, of course, also many opportunities to drop a tripod and make a cityscape or two.  I always enjoy these shoots because they represent a slower, more cerebral approach to photography.  I love the time between setting everything up and finally making your keeper images, when you can be lost in your thoughts as you wait for the light to reach that perfect place for your image.  It is a very zen like experience for me.

Here are a few from 2019 that I enjoyed making:

And, finally, I found that I still took time to experiment on occasion… taking the opportunity to try and create something a little bit different than I normally shoot:

A few final thoughts to end the year…

There is clearly a cycle to life.  Some years are formative, some are maintenance, and some are transitional.  This year was definitely the latter for me personally, but it was also a year that gave me  so much to be grateful for.

This blog initially started, years ago, as a simple place for me to share my work.  Over time it morphed into a site that featured countless Fujifilm gear reviews, and has morphed again into a place where I share my work and thoughts with you as openly and honestly as I can.

Along the way I have met new friends, built relationships with wonderful clients and students, supported people who were struggling, had the opportunity to teach all over the world and have had the joy of working on incredible projects with Fujifilm (one of the best companies in the world in my opinion).  It is the absolute truth that my success is owed as much to all of you as it is to my own efforts.

Thank you.

I am excited to see where photography takes me in 2020.  I can’t wait to share new work with all of you and to see some of you face to face at workshops or presentations.  I hope you are all fired up for a new year and for the opportunities that it brings… after a challenging 2019 I know that I am.

Happy New Year everybody, I wish you all the best for 2020!

Cheers,

Ian