Photographing Paris – Part One

DSCF3469-Edit(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

I recently returned from a 9 day trip to Paris with my lovely wife, where I shot actively every day:  beautiful sunrises, street photography during the day, going out every night to catch sunsets and the blue hour light… it was an amazing trip.

It has taken a while for me to decide how to organize my Paris photographs, and even longer to find the right words to describe the city.  To be honest, I still can’t.  Paris is beautiful, the people are amazing, and the lifestyle is so very different than the hustle and bustle I find myself in, here in Vancouver.  I fell in love instantly.  I need to go back.

This post is part one of a five part series, which is going to break down as follows:

This first post, The Beauty of Paris,  is going to show you some of my favourite photographs from the trip.  Consider it a conscious stream of thought… a lot of  photographs, a little historical background, and some links where you can learn more about the places I shot.

If you are curious about my gear pack for this trip, everything was shot on Fuji gear as always.  You can read more about my gear selection here:

https://ianmacdonaldphotography.com/2015/08/23/travelling-with-fuji-cameras/

Alright, let’s talk about some photos…

The photo at the top of this post is of the Louvre, home of the Mona Lisa, shortly after sunset and deep into blue hour.  It was pouring rain on this night, and when I saw the rain I grabbed an umbrella, a plastic bag for my camera, my travel tripod, and I ran to the Louvre.  I knew the lights and the reflections on the wet ground would combine to make a gorgeous image… and the rain drove away the crowds of people that normally would have been there.

As beautiful as blue hour is in Paris, I think dawn is even better.  This is a shot of my favourite bridge, Pont Neuf, shot from the Pont Des Arts bridge:

DSCF3060-HDR(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

 It isn’t just the morning light that is so beautiful in Paris, it is watching the city come to life.  Before  I left on this trip I reached out to Official Fuji X and Vancouver based fashion photographer Kale Friesen, who lived in Paris for several years.  One of the things that Kale told me was how exciting it was to be out early and feel the city come to life in the morning.  As early as 5:30am I was out amongst the street cleaners, the bakers getting ready for the day,  the owners getting their cafes ready.  Like many cities Paris has a soul, and you can feel it early in the morning.

Beauty is everywhere in Paris.  From the image above I literally just turned 90 degrees to my right and saw this:

DSCF3063(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

This is Le Institut de France.  It is a beautiful building, made even more beautiful by the golden morning light hitting it.  The black walls with the writing on them used to hold the famous love locks, which were removed this year due to the damage they were causing the bridge.

Let’s get back to Pont Neuf for a second and look at it from a different angle.  Construction on Point Neuf began in 1578, and was completed in 1607.  The bridge has a beautiful and timeless look which drew me in:

DSCF3070(Fuji X100t)

As you walk through the streets of Paris you are struck by how well they have melded today’s world with years gone by.  Sure the modern businesses are there, but you’d never know it as you walk down the tiny streets that curve and twist:

DSCF2905-Edit(Fuji X100t)

Paris offers many opportunities to shoot the city from places other than street level.  In The Traveling Photographer David Hobby has a segment on the Montparnasse Tower, where you can go to the 59th floor and shoot from an observation deck.  Here is a shot of Les Invalides from that observation deck:

DSCF3095(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 55-200mm lens)

I have many gorgeous sunset and blue hour photographs from here, which I will be sharing in the blog post on Paris at night.

In the heart of downtown Paris you will find the tiny but beautiful Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg), a fenced and gated park that houses the Luxembourg Palace,  home of the French Senate:

DSCF3300-Edit(Fuji X100t)

No first time visit to Paris would be complete without a trip to the Palace of Versailles, the former  royal residence.  The court of Versailles was the centre of power in France from 1682 until 1789 and the French Revolution, which brought the royal family back to Paris.  If you have never been in the Palace before you are instantly struck by the detail that the builders put in:

DSCF3593-HDR-Edit(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

It can be difficult shooting inside the Palace due to the large throngs of people that are also visiting, but thankfully they curate the experience a little by blocking off certain areas:

DSCF3501-HDR(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

The grounds of the Palace are vast, taking hours to walk if you want to see the whole thing.  For my wife and I one of the most beautiful parts  was the Hameau de la Reine (the Queen’s Hamlet), a small hamlet tucked away in the back of the grounds where the queen, Marie Antoinette, could go to escape palace life:

DSCF3614(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

Every day it felt like each new location we visited in Paris was more beautiful than the previous one.   We visited Le Palais Garner,  the Paris Opera House, where I made this photograph of Le Grand Foyer.  Patience was key here, as it took many requests to other visitors to stand behind me so I could get a proper shot of this beautiful hall:

DSCF3875-HDR(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

There is something so compelling and beautiful about these places.  It was never just “click the shutter and go”… you linger, you look, you take the time to breath it in.

By fluke of planning we ended up having a “day of death”, which started with a morning visit to the Paris Catacombs (Catacombes de Paris):

DSCF3161(Fuji X100t)

If you aren’t familiar with the Catacombs:  Up until the 18th century many of the cemeteries in Paris were in largely populated, central areas of the city.  This led to overcrowding and health risks.  Beginning in 1810, the bones of 6,000,000 people (yes, 6 million) were relocated into the series of tunnels that ran under Paris.  It is a solemn, yet strangely beautiful, place to walk through.

Following our trip to the Catacombs, we took the Metro to the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

DSCF3229(Fuji X100t)

Père Lachaise Cemetery, established in 1804, is the largest cemetery in Paris and was the final resting place for Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Jim Morrison and countless other famous people.  According to official records over 1,000,000 people have been interned there.

DSCF3246(Fuji X100t)

The grounds are beautiful and well kept, yet at the same time many memorials are crumbling and broken.  We had a peaceful afternoon walking there for a few hours, and I have to give a shout out to Kale for recommending a visit… it was well worth it.

Finally for this post, here is a sunset behind Notre Dame from my first night in the city:

DSCF2943-HDR-Edit(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

In my life I have had so many amazing experiences as a photographer and traveler.  I’ve met new  people, photographed people in love, captured moments on the street, visited beautiful places… but nothing has compared to the night I spent on that bridge watching the sun go down behind Notre Dame.  The bridge was packed, but I was alone in my own world.  I can’t wait to share 4 more blog posts with you and talk more about Paris, a city that has captured my heart as an artist.

Cheers,

Ian

Vancouver Music Photography

ClintPic1(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

I can’t believe it has been over two weeks since my last post.  It has been an insanely busy summer of shooting, and I have so much to write about (travel, street, portrait sessions, etc).  Today I’d like to share photos from a session with a musician, discuss things that go through my mind during a portrait session, and, of course, share a lot of pictures.

As always, each image can be clicked to view in larger resolution.

Not many people know this, but before my creative life shifted to photography I was a professional musician, playing the usual circuit of pubs, weddings, corporate events, etc.  I love music, love the guitar, and loved every minute of being on stage.  Being able to bring these two worlds together (music and photography) on this shoot was a rewarding experience for me.

This was also an opportunity to continue working with several items I am reviewing for Fuji Canada right now, namely the new Fuji X-T10 camera body, and two of the pro level zooms Fuji offers:  The Fujinon 16-55mm f/2.8 and the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8.

Let’s get started:

Whenever I am discussing a shoot with a client I always ask what they are looking for.  In this case Clint wanted some portraits for his website that showed him as open and collaborative.  He  then uttered that phrase that all creatives love to here:

“Other than that, go nuts with whatever you want to do.  I am putty in your hands.”

YES!!!

We shot on location, and in studio, to capture some of the following images:

ClintPic6(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

ClintPic5(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

Clint4Version2(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

ClintPic3(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

What you see in the above 4 photographs is really want you get with Clint.  He is the nicest guy you’ll ever meet, and a lover of all things music.  It is impossible not to see his passion for it.

Although focused on getting the above images, we also took the time to be a little more creative.  Moving the light to the side and shooting profile got us something like this:

ClintPic10(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

I love this kind of thing.  A clean background, contrasting outfit, side lit… simple and beautiful.

The last thing we did in studio was to bring in 2 small flashes up high on each side, crank the aperture down to get a starburst effect from them, and placed a gridded flash just on Clint’s face.  Oh, and we added a leather jacket of course.  It is rock’n’roll after all.

That gave us this:

ClintPic8(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

It’s cliche, but I love this kind of thing.

In previous blog posts I have said that I love working with actors, dancers, and athletes because they understand their physicality, and usually aren’t shy about putting themselves out there.  You can definitely add musicians to that list.  We put on some tunes and Clint just jammed along while I shot:

DSCF1960-Edit(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

ClintPic9(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

The final shot of the evening was the one at the beginning of this post:

ClintPic1

Where we also shot this:

ClintPic2(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

What an awesome way to end the evening.

You don’t need a lot to shoot compelling portraits.  These were shot in two places only:  My living room, and an industrial park.  I used one camera, 2 lenses, and a light or two.  That’s it.

That’s just the technical though.  Portraits are about so much more.  Portraits are about the person you are photographing.  Once you have your technical down you need to forget about the camera, make a connection with your client, and build a level of trust where they can relax and enjoy the photoshoot.

For example:  Clint is in his comfort zone on stage.  He owns it:

DSCF1289(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

DSCF1324(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom lens)

That definitely made my job easier, but a portrait session is still different.  It is just the two of you, maybe an assistant or two on a bigger job.  It is more intimate, and capturing emotion in a still frame is always more difficult than feeling it during a live show.  As photographers this is where our focus needs to be during a portrait session, and something I am constantly striving to get better at.

Cheers,

Ian

p.s.  Readers of this blog will know I am a prime lens shooter through and through.  I cannot tell you, however, how amazing the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens is.  My full review is coming at the end of August, but this is an incredible lens to work with.

Photography at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

DSCF1553-Edit(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/4 and 1/2000th)

Click any image to view in higher resolution!

Yesterday I visited the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, BC (a suburb of Vancouver).   My daughter is a bird fanatic so it was a great family day, but it was also a great opportunity to continue testing my review copy of the Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens to see how they handled bird photography.  Let’s talk first about this beautiful sanctuary and look at some photographs, then we’ll talk photography and nerd out  a little on gear (and my thoughts on Fuji’s new autofocus system for bird photography).

DSCF1391(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/8and 1/500th)

The George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary is a 300 hectare (about 850 acres) piece of protected land made up of wetlands, natural marshes, and low dykes at the Fraser River Estuary.  The land was originally purchased by George C. Reifel in 1927.  In the 1960’s his son, George H. Reifel, leased the land to the British Columbia Waterfowl Society (a private non profit) to establish a bird sanctuary.  Assistance was provided by Ducks Unlimited, and the provincial government assisted by establishing a game reserve on nearby land.

DSCF1424(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/4 and 1/1000th)

Ideally located along annual migratory paths, millions of birds each year find feeding and resting areas at the sanctuary.   Depending on the time of year you may see Snow Geese, Mallard Ducks, Canada Geese, Sandhill Cranes, Herons, Eagles, Pigeons, Chickadees, Western Sandpipers, Hawks, Cormorants, and Osprey.  According to the official website over 280 species of birds have now been recorded at the sanctuary.

DSCF1638(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/5.6 and 1/2000th)

Visiting the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary could not be easier.  There is ample free parking located right outside of the entrance.   Hours are from 9am to 4pm each day.  Admission fees are low ($5 for an adult, $3 for a child), and the sanctuary is open year round (including Christmas).  You can purchase food to feed the birds for $1 per bag, and there are benches, bathrooms, and picnic locations throughout the sanctuary.

DSCF1384(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/5.6 and 1/640th)

My daughter was a little intimidated by the charge of Canada Geese when we entered the Sanctuary (see photo above), but you quickly realize that the birds are very friendly… sometimes even photobombing a picture:

DSCF1559(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/4 and 1/2000th)

And, they do love to talk:

DSCF1650(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/2.8 and 1/2500th)

We spent approximately 3 hours wandering the sanctuary and found that to be a perfect amount of time to see everything we wanted to see.   Here are a few more photographs from the day:

DSCF1564(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/4 and 1/2000th)

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(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/2.8 and 1/500th)

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(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/5 and 1/1000th)

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(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/4 and 1/500th)

Perhaps the best thing for this trip was the total cost:  $5 for my admission, $3 for my daughter’s, $2 for bird food, and $4 for a souvenir .  $14 in total.

Kudos to the sanctuary, and the society, for making it so cost effective to visit. They even do a 50% discount for classroom visits when the teachers pre-book a visit!

And now, a quick note for my fellow photographers and Fuji lovers:

I shot all of these photographs on the new Fuji X-T10, using the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens.

Fans of mirrorless cameras know that the autofocus systems, when photographing moving targets, have not historically been as mature as those found in SLR cameras.   Fuji recently updated the firmware in their cameras, which gave us a new autofocus system that is damn near on par with SLR cameras in my opinion.

In the photos in this post you can see birds in flight, birds landing in water (screwed that one up a little – shutter speed was too slow @ 1/500th), birds fighting, birds moving towards the camera.  Heck, here is a HEAVILY cropped image of a dragonfly in flight:

DSCF1487

Not once did I miss a shot because the camera couldn’t handle the situation.  These little mirrorless cameras, and especially Fuji’s new autofocus system, are getting closer and closer to perfection in my opinion.  Here is a contact sheet from the first photo at the top of this post.   I shutter mashed these frames in AF-C, CH, with the new zone focusing.  You can click the photography to view it large.  They are all sharp:

AF4

Not too shabby, and another evolutionary step forward for mirrorless cameras for sure.

I’m reaching a little for something in the interest of keeping my review balanced, and If I had any “negative” comment about using the X-T10 in this situation it was that the buffer, write speed, and capacity for high rate shooting is slightly less than I get on my other cameras (i.e. the X-T1).

If I was a full time action or sports photographer I might opt for the faster Fuji X-T1 instead of this camera, but as you can see it was not a barrier to capturing images I am happy with.  It is simply a matter of choosing the right tool for the job, and at it’s price point ($899 Canadian at the time of this writing) I think the X-T10 did a great job.

End of nerdy camera talk!

I would encourage everyone in the Vancouver area to visit the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary.  It is a beautiful place and a great way to spend a day.

Cheers,

Ian