The Streets of San Francisco – Part Four

“Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart.  You want to linger as long as possible.”  – Walter Cronkite

Years ago, when I first started going to San Francisco,  I focused on shooting iconic landmarks:  the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, the view of the city from Twin Peaks, Coit Tower, Alcatraz, Crissy Field, Fort Point, The Presidio, Cupid’s Span, the waterfront and the beaches… the list goes on and on.

Over the years I have definitely felt a change though; those early photo focused trips have given way to unplanned days spent exploring with no agenda.  San Francisco is a remarkable city, full of charm and it is the simple things now that bring me joy and inspire me to shoot.  I am content to feel the energy on the streets, meet the people and find beauty in the day to day life of this city that I love so much.  San Francisco is like an old friend now.

With that said, here is the final set of images from January’s trip.  Until next time, my friend.

Cheers,

Ian

To view part three of this series click here.

The Interview Series: Ten Questions with Wedding Photographer Eric Brushett

Readers of this site will know how much I value the concepts of community, collaboration, sharing and educating.  I love the art of photography for sure, but the creative process and the people in the industry mean just as much to me as the photos do.  It is only logical then that I recognize these traits when I see them in others.

I first found the work of Fuji shooter and professional wedding photographer Eric Brushett on YouTube, where Eric has a channel that is focused on using the Fuji X Series for wedding photography.  His videos are varied, and include:  detailed gear conversations, discussions about the photography industry, videos of Eric shooting engagement sessions and weddings, recommendations on editing and post processing a wedding, day in the life videos, etc.  One of the common themes throughout these videos is Eric’s obvious desire to share the knowledge he has gained with others.  He is enthusiastic, passionate about the subject matter, and clearly has a desire to support the Fuji community.  That’s pretty awesome.

So, with no further delay, let’s talk cameras and weddings with wedding photographer Eric Brushett…

Thank you for being part of this interview series.  Could you please start by telling readers a little bit about yourself and your photography?

Thanks for letting me be a part of the interview series.  I’m a huge Ian MacDonald fan, so this interview is a real joy for me and an honor.

I work mostly with my wife and together we run my studio, and a second wedding studio where we have multiple photographers working for us under a different brand.  Outside of work, we have two kids (a three year old and a one year old), so needless to say our lives are a bit crazy.

My website tagline is ‘Organic Storytelling’ and I really try and meet that definition with my wedding work.  I pose very little, and often refer to myself as being ‘along for the ride’ on a wedding day.

What is it about wedding photography that attracted you in the first place, and what keeps you doing it years later?

In the beginning, the idea of someone paying me to take pictures was pretty absurd.  I remember thinking ‘How could I possibly pass this up?’

Now, nearly a decade later, I’ve really narrowed my focus and established my own style of work.  It took me a while, but I am at the point now where I really only photograph what I want to and how I want to.  My clients know what they’re getting, and it’s refreshing to know that they trust me as a storyteller.

The burnout rate in our line of work is high.  You’ll see people come and go in two or three year cycles.  If you keep things fresh and focus on creating work that you love you’re much more likely to stick around.

You use the Fuji X System for your wedding work.  What it is in your camera bag for an average wedding?

I very proudly and very happily shoot with Fuji equipment for my weddings.  I’ve actually done a couple of YouTube “What’s In My Bag?” videos about my Fuji kit, but here are the essentials:

  • (2) Fuji XT2 Bodies
  • (2) Fuji XT1 Bodies (backups)
  • Fuji 56 f1.2
  • Fuji 23 f1.4

I basically own every prime lens in the XF lineup at this point including both 23 lenses, both 35s, and the 16.  But, for my weddings, I shoot 99% of the day on my 23 and 56.  My longest lens is the 56.

Can you tell us a little bit about your camera settings and your approach to shooting weddings with the Fuji X System?  Focusing techniques, lighting, asset and battery management, etc.

The XT2 has dual card slots, which is an absolute must for a wedding photographer.  I shoot RAWs to slot 1 and JPEGs to slot 2.  When I cull and edit I dip into the JPEGs first and typically deliver 80% of my photos straight out of camera.  I use the RAW files for trickier lighting situations, or really low light venues.  I’m not afraid to push the ISO on my camera to 10,000 or more.

I manually focus the entire wedding day, including when I have to track my subjects (recessional, first dance, etc).  Why?  Habit I suppose.  I grew up shooting on rangefinders, and some of my non-Fuji lenses (my Leica 50 f1.4 for example) are manual focus anyway.  I stand by my proclamation that I can focus faster manually with my XT2, since the focus peaking highlights are so accurate and easy to use.

Outside of that, I travel with very minimal lighting, and lots and lots of batteries.  The EVF on the XT2 is stunningly good, but it asks a lot of your batteries.  Just pick up a bunch, and keep one in your pocket as a backup.

I usually put one strobe up on a stand off-camera, and fire it with a pocketwizard.  There are some really affordable lighting systems rolling out for mirrorless cameras by a lot of third-party companies, so the creative possibilities are pretty endless at this point.

People in forums like to make mountains out of mole-hills when it comes to lighting, but there’s nothing wrong with sticking a strobe on your hotshoe and firing away.  It’s all about getting the images your clients expect.

You are an established, busy, working photographer… which usually means that you have drawers full of gear that you have accumulated over the years.  What gear would you recommend, however, to an emerging wedding photographer who is starting from scratch and wants to shoot weddings professionally?

It’s a tough question, because weddings can be so unpredictable.  From a gear standpoint – you have to have at least two bodies, and those bodies have to have dual card slots.  If you’re missing either one of those things, you are taking a major risk, and you’re doing so at the peril of your own clients.

More importantly, if you really want to do this professionally, try and find an established pro in your area and study under him/her.  That’s how I started.  Ten years ago a wedding photographer friend of mine took a chance and hired me as an assistant.  I shot 50 weddings with him before I ventured out on my own.

But, if I had to pick something I could never live without? Hands down, my 23 f1.4mm lens.   I could shoot an entire wedding with just that lens.

Wedding photography is incredibly challenging, arguably one of the most difficult genres of photography to shoot.  You work long days, in fast paced environments, often under difficult lighting conditions, and you have to be “on” throughout the day to ensure that you capture those split second moments.  How has working with mirrorless cameras, specifically the Fuji X System, affected this for you?

Sometimes I feel like Fuji designed the X system bodies and lenses specifically for me.  Everything about this system fits perfectly into how I approach my weddings.

First, the EVF is a dream.  I can never, ever go back to shooting on my rangefinders or a DSLR.  The ability to preview my white balance and exposure in real time in the eyepiece is something I could never again live without.  Weddings can be very fast paced, but the EVF takes the trial and error out of shooting and lets me really focus on getting the photos I need.

The lens lineup is amazing, especially as a prime shooter.  There isn’t a single prime lens in the XF family that I would hesitate to shoot with in any professional setting.

I know your readers and fans have heard this before, but you cannot overlook the size and (more importantly) the weight of the system.  In a given season I shoot 50-60 weddings, and come October, when I’m plowing through 2 or 3 a weekend, there’s no value I can put on having gear that is 1/3rd the weight of my old DSLR system.  I’m not as young as I used to be, but the system makes it much easier to physically handle my workload.

What does your editing and post production process look like?

I actually recently did a video about my editing process, and it’s remarkably simple.  I deliver mostly from the straight JPEGs, so I essentially cull my 1500 images down to about 600, do some minor cropping and rotating, and off they go to the client.

As photographers, we make a lot out of the editing process.  I’ve gone to meetups where I hear other wedding pros saying they spend 40+ hours in lightroom working with their files.  That is a lot of time, and you’re making the same amount of money whether it takes you 40 hours to edit or 4.

My advice is to keep it simple.  Get it right in-camera so you don’t have to make it right in post.

Custom white balance whenever possible, be thoughtful and mindful of your compositions, and enjoy the benefits later on.  Typically, I can cull and edit a wedding in 7 hours.

When I work with my clients I find they are often surprised by the amount of work that goes into shooting a wedding.  How much time do you think you invest in total, including things like the initial contact with the client, the engagement session, the wedding, post production and editing, delivery, etc.

In a previous life I worked a corporate finance job, so numbers became very important to me.  I track everything in my business, so I can give you pretty exact numbers that might be interesting.

  • Average wedding day:  9 hours
  • Average editing time:  7.35 hours
  • Average # of emails (inquiry to delivery):  53 (this includes the initial contact, all the way through the planning process, teasers, delivery and followup).

In the busiest 6 months of the year I’ll shoot weddings Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and have them edited out and delivered by the following Friday.  I usually come home from the wedding and cull the images that night while they upload into the cloud.  That way, come Monday, I open up Lightroom, import the ‘keepers’ and off I go with the editing.

This past September I did a video called the ‘Week in the Life of a Photographer’ and I think it really shows how crazy our crazy can be.

I love photographing weddings, but I think it is fair to say that as artists we often look for variety in our art and with our creative process.  What do you like to shoot besides weddings?

My kids!  My wife and I keep an XT2 on our counter with a 35 f1.4 at all times.  We have a gallery of images that just crossed the 3,000 mark.  Our kids might be the most well-documented children of all time.

I don’t shoot much else.  I love street photography and follow a lot of incredible artists shooting street on my Instagram page.  I don’t look at a ton of other wedding photographers, but there are a few (Look Fotografia, Jeff Ascough).

Then there is the 2 week period every year where I convince myself I’m going to shoot landscapes on large format film, but then I come back down to reality and remember I know nothing about film, or landscapes.  I very much appreciate that kind of work though.

You have a fabulous YouTube channel, where you talk in depth about many of the things we have discussed here today. What prompted you to launch this channel, and what is your ongoing goal with it?

Originally I was writing for a pretty well-known photography blog, and when I pitched the idea of doing videos they passed.  So I decided then I would just do my own channel.

I felt like I could really be helpful to someone who wanted to shoot weddings (or anything really) on the Fuji X system, but didn’t feel like there were enough resources out there.

My channel is very non-technical.  It’s a lot of real-world reviews, and footage of me shooting at weddings.  You’ll see some cameos of my wife and my kids along the way.  I try and make it as honest as possible.  The work I do is fun, but it’s also challenging. I like to try and show how my Fuji gear compliments that.

Some of my viewers are convinced Fuji pays me or sponsors me to make my videos. Why else would someone dedicate so much time to a brand?  But truly, they don’t.  I’m just a fanboy and I’m very proud to shoot the gear I do.

At the moment my channel has been a bit quiet, but I’m working on another day-of-wedding video now.  Those are a blast for me because I get to show people the process and the end product.  A lot of my clients appreciate the channel too.

Thank you for being a part of this interview series.  Where can people go to find out more about your work?

Website:  www.photographyEB.com

YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCG28U0pUpN0t3swcn-XPAQ

Instagram:   @ericbrushettphotography

The Streets of San Francisco – Part Three

“If you’re alive, you can’t be bored in San Francisco.  If you’re not alive, San Francisco will bring you to life… San Francisco is a world to explore.  It is a place where the heart can go on a delightful adventure.  It is a city in which the spirit can know refreshment every day.”  – William Saroyan

I’m working on this post while sitting on a balcony in Hawaii, looking out over the ocean while I write.  My wife is reading, my daughter is playing and I just finished a photowalk.  Life is good, and it got me thinking…

In the last 12 months I have spent time in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, Amsterdam, Paris and now, Hawaii.  A few of these trips have been for family vacation, but most were photography related (either teaching workshops or creating work for upcoming projects).  I’ll be home for a few months now, giving me time to catch up and enjoy springtime in Vancouver and then I’ll be heading back to Paris to teach a street photography workshop in July.

I’m incredibly fortunate for this life  that I lead.  No, that isn’t right.  I am incredibly fortunate for this life that I built.  It was only a few years ago that PTSD, a gift from decades of working as a paramedic, had a hold on me. It was a turning point though, one that set me on my current path that I wouldn’t change for anything.  Now my time is spent shooting, teaching, writing, working with my amazing clients, traveling and perhaps most important of all… ensuring a proper balance of work and time with my family.  I know I am rambling a bit here, but I’m feeling pretty grateful right now and maybe…. just maybe… this post can serve to inspire someone else to make a change they want to make in their own life.

How does this relate to San Francisco?  The photos in this four part series were made on a trip there in January, and I consider a couple of them amongst my best work.  Not all of them, but one or two will go into my portfolio for sure.  I was able to visit this city, and make these photos, because I changed my life.  That’s a pretty cool thing.

So, here is part three in this ongoing series featuring new street work from San Francisco….

To view Part TWO of this Series click here.

To view Part FOUR of this Series click here.