20 new Fuji X100F street images (and a quick word of encouragement)

I am blessed to be an educator for many reasons, not the least of which are the amazing conversations I have had with my students over the last 20 years.  Recently, one student told me that they were struggling because they didn’t feel inspired to go out and shoot.  To phrase it exactly like the student did:

“I have been waiting and waiting for inspiration to strike.”

This immediately reminded me of two quotes.  The first is from Chuck Close and the second is from Pablo Picasso:

“Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

There is a lot of truth in these quotes.  Indeed, it is a commonly taught concept in psychology that motivation does not come first, action does.  What does this mean?  It is the belief that action will lead to a sense of accomplishment and through that sense of accomplishment motivation will follow.

Hopefully the tie in here to photography is obvious:  Sometimes there are times when the logistics of photography act as a barrier to going out and shooting.  We have chores to do, emails to respond to, income tax that hasn’t been filed, kids to take to dance classes, etc.  Just the thought of organizing our gear and driving an hour to get somewhere to shoot can seem overwhelming…. even more so when we don’t feel “inspired”.

The thing is though, once you are out in the field shooting you almost always remember why you love it, why you do it and why there is nothing better than holding a camera in your hand.  It’s a little like going to the gym:  you may hate doing it, but you always feel better after (until the next day, anyway).

I honestly believe Zack Arias summed up the best course of action when he said:

“Get off your ass!”

I can say with absolutely certainty that once I push through that initial inertia and find myself on the streets exploring, wandering and shooting, I remember exactly why I love this art form so much.

Here are twenty new Fuji X100F street images taken in either Vancouver or Seattle, all captured because I prioritized action first and went out with my camera.  The colour images are in Fuji’s Classic Chrome film simulation, while the black and white ones use the Acros film simulation.

So, I encouraged my student to push through that inertia we all experience from time to time, to grab his camera and to go out and shoot.  I never regret it when I do!

Until next time,

Ian

On photo walks, friendships and not clicking the shutter

Last Sunday I helped lead a photowalk in Vancouver for Fujifilm Canada, our first one since November.  Spencer Wynn, one of my fellow Official Fuji X Photographers, has embarked on a cross country trip with the new GFX-50S medium format camera to celebrate both the launch of the camera and Canada’s 150th anniversary.  This walk was an opportunity for Vancouver based Fuji photographers to support the trip, chat with Spencer and get some hands on time with the new camera if they so desired.  I have long been a fan of Spencer’s work, so I was very excited to chat with him about this journey.  You can follow Spencer’s trip here:

gfxcanadianjournal.ca

… and view his main website here:

spencerwynn.com

When the group started gathering at the Vancouver Public Library, the weather was perfect:  the sky was blue, the sun was shining, early morning golden light was bouncing around the city creating beautiful pockets of light and shadow and it was warm by early spring standards.  Our Vancouver meet ups have been quite large in the past, but this one was intentionally kept low key to give people ample opportunity to try out the GFX and to ask questions.  It was great to see people I knew from previous photo walks and workshops, and also to finally meet people who I only knew through social media up until now.  Everyone chatted informally until my friend Gord Webster, one of the Official Fuji Guys, gave the high sign to kick off the walk.

We headed west on Robson street, paused to shoot around the Vancouver Art Gallery, then continued northwest until we reached the waterfront where there are commanding views of the Olympic Torch from the 2010 winter Olympics, of beautiful Coal Harbour and of the Vancouver Convention Centre / Canada Place.  Our walk took us from there through Gastown, into the western border of Chinatown and back to the library to wrap up.  Throughout the walk there were lively conversations, a lot of questions, shared experiences, discussions about future projects and occasionally, a photo or two was taken.  It was an enjoyable morning.

When we got back to the library someone asked me how many photographs I took during the walk.  My answer:  zero.  Ironically enough, it was also one of the most enjoyable group photo walks I have been on in a while.

That may sound strange, so let me explain…

A year ago I wrote an article about how photography almost ruined one of my vacations.  Go ahead and give it a quick read, I’ll wait:

https://ianmacdonaldphotography.com/2016/03/28/the-night-photography-almost-ruined-my-vacation-a-cautionary-tale/

That experience, amongst others, made me significantly re-think my approach to photography.  Artists can get pretty “intense” at times, and I truly believe that having an obsession with creating one compelling image after another runs the risk of preventing us from enjoying the process of our art, from spending time with like minded artists and from the pleasure that comes from a walk in a beautiful city on a sunny day.  If I was intensely focused on image acquisition during this walk, I would have missed out on so many other things.  The reality is that we can always find time to click the shutter, but there isn’t always time to talk with friends (both old and new).  To quote myself from the article linked above:

“I create art because it is fun, it is joyful, and because it brings pleasure to my life.  Being an artist is such a gift.  I create because I love the process.”

“I love the process”

This, completely, is how I chose to approach this photowalk.  I prioritized enjoying time with my peers on this beautiful morning over intensely looking for the next image.  It was the proverbial “slow down and smell the roses” approach.

After the walk I had lunch with some friends and then I went out to shoot on my own for a few hours.  I enjoyed the afternoon sunshine and made several frames that I really like (which I will share in a future blog post).  When I was done at the end of the day I drove home to have dinner with my girls.  As Charlie Sheen would say, it was all “win”.

It can’t be said enough:  happiness is a choice.  It can be so easy to focus on negativity;  our brains are actually predisposed to think that way, but it is much more rewarding to focus on whatever it is that brings us joy.  I know that I see better, and I shoot better, when I relax and enjoy the process of photography as much as I do the final product of it (the images).  This doesn’t just apply to my personal work either, my client work has also improved significantly since I adopted this approach.  Life is short… we should enjoy every damn minute of it and not get so wrapped up in ourselves that we miss out on the little things.  For me, on this day, that meant enjoying the company I was with first and then shooting a little for myself later.

Thank you to everyone who came out for the walk.  It was a great morning and I know a lot of you took some great images.  I encourage everyone to follow Spencer on his epic cross country journey, and to check out his GFX images that are both beautiful and inspirational.

Until next time!

Ian

Street Photography Silhouettes

I love candid photography.  It is the way I photograph weddings, the way I photograph events and of course, the way I shoot most of my street photography.  The never ending variety of images intrigues and excites me because I am only limited by my vision and by my creativity.  With all of that variety, it is fair to say that backlit silhouettes are one of my favourite types of street photographs to make.  Silhouettes are defined as:

The great thing if you are newer to photography is that these are technically very simple images to make, once you understand the exposure and the timing.  And, they look great!

Here are some simple tips for making silhouette images:

  1. Point number one is the hardest part of the whole process:  You have to learn to see the light.  Maybe your backlighting is coming through windows or doors.  Maybe it is the light shining between two buildings.  Maybe it is from a light at the end of a hallway.  Maybe it is bright sunlight as you emerge from a subway station.  Images like this always start with seeing the light.
  2. Consider your composition:   You may have strong backlighting, but do you have a composition that can utilize it effectively?
  3. Consider your subject:  You now have great light and a strong composition, but are you in a location where you have appropriate subjects to frame against the light?
  4. If you are happy with all of the above the next step is to expose for the backlight, which should throw everything else into shadow.  There are several ways to do this:   Manual exposure works well here, especially in conjunction with spot metering.  If I am moving quickly and have my camera set to Aperture Priority mode (which I usually do on the street) I will often just use the Exposure Compensation dial to bring my exposure down by 2 or 3 stops, which is usually enough to expose for strong backlighting and throw everything else into shadow.   It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong here… this is very much a “season to taste kind of thing”.  It is ok to blow your highlights or crush your shadows.  Make the image look the way that YOU want it to look.
  5. At this point my final preparatory step is usually to manually focus on the place in my composition were I want my subject to be.
  6. Everything is locked in now:  Your light is good.  Your composition is good.  Your exposure and focus are both good so there is nothing left to do now but make photos.
  7. When considering your main subject, shape is everything:  You want a defined subject, not a black blob.  Think about the lines people create as they walk:  The separation between their arms and their body, and between their legs.  Think about how a great hat can add to your silhouette, or how a backpack can distort it.  Be patient, and wait for the right subject to make the shot look the way you want it to look….  It is always worth the time and effort.
  8. In post production (or in camera) I find these images always work well as contrasty black and white photographs.  Play with it though, and find your own style.  Again, it is YOUR art… make the photos that make you happy.

That last point is important.  Always remember:

There is NO right or wrong, only right or wrong FOR YOU.  This is art, not math, and what works for one person’s aesthetic may not work for another.  I cannot say it enough:  Experiment, practice, play and make the images you want to make.  Make the images that make you happy.

Here are a selection of silhouette images that I have made over the last year or two, all shot with either the Fujifilm X-Pro2 or the X100F.   With all of these images I saw the light first, found my composition, set up my camera, and waited for the right subject to enter my frame.

On an unrelated note, I need to take a short moment to express some gratitude.  Over the last few weeks I have had amazing conversations with people from all over the world, wonderful feedback on my last podcast and chat with my friend Valerie Jardin, and rewarding experiences with my online mentoring students and the students in my street photography workshops.  I have always loved being a part of the photography community, specifically the Fuji community, but the last few weeks have been especially rewarding for me so many thanks to you all.

And, finally, I encourage you to follow me on Instagram where I regularly post photos, stories, and tips between my larger blog posts here.  I can be found on Instagram at:

https://www.instagram.com/ianmacdonaldphotography/

Until next time!

Cheers,

Ian