A Photographic Return to San Francisco

I start every year with a trip to San Francisco, a city that I have written about many times in the past.  It is a place I go to re-charge, to visit friends, to get inspired and, of course, to make new images.

Just before my last trip there I happened upon the following quote:

“I walk,

I look,

I see,

I stop,

I photograph.”

– Leon Levinstein

This perfectly sums up how I feel about San Francisco now.  I never make detailed plans when I am in the city, choosing instead to wander randomly for hours at a time.  I may shoot street photography for a few hours, grab a meal, then hop a bus somewhere to spend my evening making a new blue hour cityscape.  On other days I sit by the water and write for a while, then spend the afternoon focusing on making portraits.  There are also many days where I just put the camera away and live in the moment.  It is an instinctual, mindful, wonderful way to approach photography.  I walk, I look, I see, I stop, I photograph.  And, I always come home inspired to tackle the year ahead of me.

Here is an eclectic mix of new images from the city by the bay.  Everything here was taken with a Fujifilm X-T3 and the 23mm f/2 lens.  It’s all I need.

Best wishes,

Ian

San Francisco Chinatown Street Photography in Classic Chrome – Part One

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Every now and then we need to take a time out from our day to day lives.  We need to re-charge, feed our soul, and do whatever it is that makes us happy.  For me, this means getting on a plane and going to San Francisco, a city I photograph often and feel at home in.

I absolutely love San Francisco.  I love staying in the same hotel every time I go.  I love the people.  I love waking up to the sounds of the cable cars in the morning.  I love the food.  I love walking along the ocean, even though I live on the same ocean here in Vancouver.  And, above all, I love shooting street photography in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  Unlike many cities that have small cultural communities, the Chinatown in San Francisco is the largest one in North America and the largest  Chinese community outside of Asia.  It has a vibe and a culture, especially once you get off the well travelled tourist streets.   It is a fabulous location for shooting street photography.

I travelled extremely light this trip, taking just the Fuji X-Pro2 with the 35mm f/2 lens on it.  I added a 16mm wide angle lens in one pocket of my jacket, a few extra memory cards and batteries in another, and I was good to go.

I think it is fair to say that most of my street photography is processed in black and white.  Street photography for me is about capturing the moment, the gesture, and the feel of the scene.  I am almost always of the mindset that if colour doesn’t add anything to a street photograph that it is best viewed in black and white.

This trip was different, however, because the light was amazing the entire week I was there.  At mid day the light was hard and bright and there were brilliant shadows cutting through the streets.  Earlier and later in the day the light was soft and beautiful.  The colours in San Francisco’s Chinatown are vibrant, but they were especially beautiful when combined with the light I had this week so I decided to shoot the entire set in Fujifilm’s Classic Chrome film simulation.

I also decided to spend time this trip working on getting closer to my subjects.  Every photograph in this blog post (except for the one in the intersection above) was shot from less than 10 feet away from my subject, and most were shot within 5 feet.   Most were captured using manual zone focusing which allowed me to move quickly through the city streets and react to a scene instantly.  With a light gear pack, manual zone focusing, and brilliant light it was easy to spend hours at a time just walking, observing, and occasionally shooting.   The week flew by, and I came home with a set of images I truly enjoyed making.  More importantly, I am re-charged and ready to tackle a busy holiday season.

This post and the photographs below are the first of two posts featuring new street work from this trip.  I hope you like the images as much as I enjoyed taking them.

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Part two of this series can be viewed HERE.

Cheers,

Ian

Fuji X-Pro2 Review Part Three: Vancouver Cityscapes, Long Exposures, and Street Photography

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Note:  This is part three of a five part review series on the soon to be released Fuji X-Pro2:

My original plan for part three of this Fuji X-Pro2 review series was to focus 100% on street photography.   Things changed for me a little though because of the weather on the days I went out to shoot.  The clouds were beautiful, the blue hour light was gorgeous, etc.   These conditions just begged to be shot, so I have included some of those photographs in this part of the review too.  Let’s just think of it as a “using the Fuji X-Pro2 in the city” kind of review.

Long Exposures:

Those amazing clouds I mentioned have unfortunately brought us a lot of rain lately (welcome to life on the “wet” coast).   It was dry and sunny yesterday though, with a fairly strong breeze that was pushing the clouds across the city.    The combination of sunlight reflecting off of high rises and moving clouds  always makes for some great architectural long exposure opportunities.

The following three photos were all shot with the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens mounted on the Fuji X-Pro2.  The camera was on a tripod, a 10 stop ND filter was used to lengthen the shutter speed a bit to blur the clouds, and a remote shutter release was used to avoid vibration.  Each image was shot in the Acros film simulation, with the contrast pushed in camera.

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I experienced a lot of good, and a tiny little bit of frustration, when taking these photos…

The good was the exposure preview.  I LOVE being able to preview my exposure, white balance, film simulation, etc in camera, BEFORE I click the shutter.  It never gets old.  Switching to cameras that preview the exposure made a fundamental shift in my workflow, and greatly enhances the creative process for me.

And Acros.  I love, love Acros.  Such a great black and white film simulation.  I did edit these photos in Lightroom a bit though, to push the blacks and highlights a little bit more.

The one small point of frustration was the lack of a tilting LCD.  I have to admit I rarely use this feature on my X-T1, and I get by just fine without it on my X100t.  For these photos I had the camera pointed up and fairly low to the ground though, and an adjustable LCD would have made things easier in terms of focusing, etc.

Street Photography:

My love of the X100 series is well documented, and I was curious to see how the X-Pro2 performed during a day or two out shooting on the street.  I love the X100t for street photography because it is completely silent, it is small, and it is unassuming.  I wondered if shooting street with the X-Pro2 and the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens would be different due to the size and the shutter sound, but once I was out shooting it was all good.

As I shot in Vancouver’s Chinatown and Gastown areas I again noticed the improvements in the autofocus system of the X-Pro2.  It is snappy and accurate.  I often zone focus my X100t when I am out shooting street, but every photo below was taken with autofocus. At this point I feel quite comfortable saying that the autofocus system in the X-Pro2 is a definite step up from previous Fuji X cameras.

All the images below were shot in aperture priority mode (around f/8 depending on light), with the Auto ISO set to maintain a minimum shutter speed of 1/250th and a ceiling ISO of 3200.  If I needed to make any quick exposure adjustments I almost always used the exposure compensation dial.

Colour images were shot in Classic Chrome, black and white ones were shot in Acros.

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I honestly don’t have a lot to say about shooting street with the Fuji X-Pro2.  It was seamless, and despite my earlier concerns people took no more notice of me with it than they do when I am shooting with my X100t.   The camera got out of my way and I was able to focus completely on the shooting experience.

I really appreciated the improved autofocus, and having a little bit more room for cropping because of the new 24mp sensor was also a welcome addition.

Blue hour cityscapeS:

I love a good cityscape, and each evening I was downtown there was a beautiful blue hour.   Here is one of Granville Street in Vancouver:

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Here is another, taken in Gastown:

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These are fairly straight forward photographs to take, regardless of the camera used.  Lock the camera down on a tripod, get your composition, lowest ISO, set your desired aperture, use a remote shutter release, etc.  What I loved about shooting these images with the X-Pro2 wasn’t that the process was any different, it was the colour and detail that I was getting off of the new sensor straight out of camera.  It is very nice.

part 3 – Final Thoughts:

In many ways I feel like part 3 of this series is much ado about nothing, but I mean that in the best way possible.  The X-Pro2 is refined…. the new sensor produces beautiful images, the new autofocus system is snappy and responsive, and I love the new Acros film simulation.

Looking back over this post perhaps the most telling thing is how easy these images were to capture.  I had the Fuji X-Pro2 in a small shoulder bag with 2-3 lenses and a few small accessories.  I walked about 10 kilometres in the city on the days I was out shooting and didn’t even notice the weight of the bag, nor the small travel tripod I was carrying.  I was able to shoot street, cityscapes, long exposures, handheld, tripod mounted, all from this tiny but powerful little kit.

You have to love that.

I did find one situation where a tilting LCD would have been nice.  For those that are curious I burned through 2 batteries during each full day of heavy shooting.  Not too shabby.

In Part 4 of this series we will be talking about using the X-Pro2 in portrait situations, and in part 5 I’ll sum up my final thoughts.

Cheers,

Ian