Sunday | Explorations

I slept late, waking up to the morning light streaming through an open window, sounds coming from the city streets below.  It was hot when I walked out of the apartment building, already 26 degrees.  It didn’t matter.  I was in Paris, with the entire day ahead of me to explore my favourite city.  I walked without destination or purpose.  18,470 steps later, I finished the day on a patio where I enjoyed a lovely dinner before retiring for the night.

It was a perfect day.

Click here to read part four of this series

Patterns of Summer, the Pride of a Nation

The transition to summer is always a busy time in my household.  My daughter has multiple dance recitals and other school related activities.  My wife, a teacher, works tirelessly to complete everything that needs done before the end of the school year.  As June turns to July I enter my busiest period of the year, the summer full of workshops, weddings and other photographic endeavours.  Somehow, however, we always manage to spend some time together as a family before I get too busy.

In a wonderful moment of serendipity we found ourselves in Paris last week when France won the 2018 World Cup.  The energy on game day was palpable, the World Cup capturing the hearts of everyone in the city.  During the game the sidewalks were empty, no cars drove by on the streets, and the usual hustle and bustle of a major city was replaced by an eery silence.  You could stand on a corner, however, and know exactly how the game was going by the collective sighs or cheers that would suddenly explode, without warning, from all around you.  

When the game was over the city erupted, jubilant people flowing out of apartments, cafes, restaurants and pubs to celebrate together.  There were no barriers: age didn’t matter, ethnicity was irrelevant, everyone simply came together as one.  Cars drove along the main streets honking, masses of people waived their flag with pride as they marched across the bridges, the national anthem was sung time and time again… it was pure joy, uncontainable and contagious.

It was perfect.

Over the last year we have heard “leaders” advocate for discrimination, fear, and hatred.  We have seen citizens, emboldened by this misguided leadership, commit crimes against each other purely because of the colour of someone’s skin or because of their gender.  We watched as governments ripped children out of the arms of parents, and we saw terrorists attack the innocent.  On some days it felt like we were watching the worst parts of history repeating themselves.  

But, when the nation came together to celebrate this win you could feel the release of something.  You could feel the tension dissipate, like a balloon popping, and all that was left was excitement and joy.  To be there as a photographer, on those streets, at that time, was amazing.  Once again my camera became a passport to experiencing something wonderful.  I am blessed.

I hope you enjoy these impromptu photos of Paris celebrating their victory, all taken with the Fujifilm X100F.  I am home now for a month or so before my next workshop so I will be sharing a lot of new content with you: some gear related articles, some new photo essays and, I am sure, a few random thoughts.

Until then,

Ian

The night photography almost ruined my vacation – A cautionary tale

DSCF4053-Edit

February was a gear heavy month on the blog, predominantly focused on pre-release shooting with the new Fuji X-Pro2.   I wrote my 5 part review series on the X-Pro2, and also published an interview with one of the official Fuji Guys.  It was a great month and I am so thankful for my relationship with Fuji Canada.  Now that the X-Pro2 is out in the wild I’m really looking forward to getting back to talking about the art and craft of photography for a little while.

Readers of this blog will note that March has been light on content.  This was mostly because I travelled to Amsterdam for a week of photography.  I am editing the photos from that trip right now, and will have a 3 part series coming in the next few weeks from that amazing city.  Before that, however, let’s talk about one specific evening I was out shooting in Paris last summer, and how my love for the art and craft of photography almost ruined what was, up until then,  a perfect vacation.

I should point out as we start that this night was an anomaly for me.  I lead an incredibly fortunate life, full of amazing travel and photographic opportunities.  I work with people I love, use gear I love, and get to share my work with family and friends.  I am incredibly thankful.   Consider this a cautionary tale then on the importance of maintaining perspective, because when you lose perspective it usually works against you.  Let’s get started…

The photo at the top of this post was taken from the  Pont Alexandre III in Paris, looking out toward the Eiffel Tower shortly after sunset.  I love this photo, to me it speaks to the romantic beauty of Paris.  When people view it they often comment any how beautiful that part of Paris is, how peaceful it must have felt to stand on that bridge that night, and how it must have felt amazing to be all alone and watch the tower light up.

Photography can be an illusion though.  A skilled photographer makes photographs, not just takes them.   The actual experience of taking this photo was very different from the experience described above, and that’s what I’d like to talk about.

On this trip to Paris one of the things my wife and I wanted to do was to have a picnic on the Champ de Mars, the grassy strip that runs below the Eiffel Tower.  As we drank wine and ate bread we would watch the sun set behind the tower and I would occasionally click the shutter to grab a beautiful image.  This picnic was also going to be held on my birthday, so it was going to be even more special.  I had a plan.

Due to some low clouds and rain early in the trip we had to postpone this picnic, so when we finally went it was toward the end of our stay.  We got off the Metro and I was totally excited for this night, which I knew would be full of awesome.  I could see it all in my mind.  I had a plan.

Walking up to the place where we were going to sit I was immediately caught off guard by the fences running around the entire area, by the grass that no longer seemed to be there, and by the large festival tents that were erected.  Indeed, the entire area was closed to prep for an upcoming event.

…I was crushed.

I had this whole evening planned and had anticipated it for so long that truth be told I was frustrated by this turn of events.   Now, I love photography.  It brings me joy, and my portrait subjects will tell you that I laugh non stop on my shoots because of that.   As I watched the sun fall though, for what was bound to be a perfect sunset, I found myself scrambling in my mind to pick a new location to shoot before “the night was wasted”.   From my pre-trip research I thought of the  Pont Alexandre III, and set off on the 20-30 minute walk at what could only be described as an angered pace… dragging my poor wife along with me.

It might surprise you to hear this, but artists can take themselves way to seriously sometimes.

Shocking, I know.   Let’s look at the facts for a second though…

I was still in Paris.  I was still with my beautiful wife.  I still had a bag of amazing gear over my shoulder.  There was still a beautiful European sunset falling right in front of me, yet I had fixated so much on one specific plan for the evening that I disregarded all of that when the plan fell apart.  This night reminded me that taking ourselves and our art too seriously almost always ends in failure.  I am human of course and we all have bad days, so I am ok with the fact that it happened and I’m not shy about sharing this story with you.

Back to the story…

Walking fast, I’m sure I went past at least a dozen beautiful photo opportunities along the way:  The Eiffel Tower framed between buildings, a garden, street photographs, beautiful people who I would have usually asked to make a portrait of, etc.  I was in damage control mode to try to save this evening and still get my “trophy shot” for the night.  I stopped seeing as an artist.

We arrived on the bridge, I set up on a tripod and got the photo above framed.  I felt better, and it  was now merely a matter of waiting for the right light as the tower lights came on and the light in the sky fell.

It turns out though that I wasn’t the only person who knew about this bridge and this view.  Amazing, I know, that other people in the most visited city in the world would also know about a scenic vista.  I’m actually talking about hundreds of people.  By the time the light was perfect I had to obsessively ask people to hang back out of the way while I clicked frames.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes they ignored me completely.  I think I got 12 decent frames and that was it, we were overwhelmed and I gave up.  And, let’s not forget that my poor wife, the amazing rock that she is, was waiting patiently the whole time while I destroyed our evening trying to get the perfect photograph.

This should have been a hilarious evening full of calamities (which, in hindsight, it was).  My frustration over the loss of my initial plans made me completely forget why I create art though…

Because it is fun, it is joyful, and it brings pleasure to my life.  Being an artist is such a gift.  I create because I love the process.  Every now and then it is good to be reminded of that.

Since that night 7 months ago I have travelled to Seattle, Las Vegas, and Amsterdam for the purposes of travel photography.  I have shot weddings and portrait sessions.  I have shot a lot of street photography, and that night has been a good reminder to always love the process… ultimately it is just as important as the final product.

Next on the blog, a three part series from Amsterdam.

Until then,

Ian