Winter is Coming

I missed the transition from summer to fall this year.  I’m not sure how, but one day it was oppressively hot and the next day it wasn’t.  My September was busy, including a trip to Europe to teach a workshop in Amsterdam and to shoot some personal photography in Paris… maybe that is why I missed it.  Suddenly the peaceful calm of summer, with its long lazy days, was replaced by the chaos of the fall:  work, dance lessons for my daughter, business trips, family events, booking weddings and workshops for next year, etc.

The transition from fall to winter feels different though, I can feel the change this time;  the days are getting shorter, the skies darker, the weather colder and the rain is pounding down.  Soon it will officially be winter vacation for my daughter and wife (who is a teacher), Christmas will come, there will be more rain and, I am sure, snow.

Is this happening faster each year?  I swear it is, and I have to remind myself to savour each day, each experience, each memory.  I have to remind myself to be mindful and present so that it doesn’t pass by in the blink of an eye again like the end of summer did.  My life is pretty amazing, full of opportunity, but it is so easy to get swept down the river by the current if I’m not careful.  As they say, it is about the journey – not just the destination.

Here is a short photo essay I took last winter, with one or two images thrown in from the year before but re-processed in black and white.  It won’t be long until the world looks like this again and I can’t wait.  My cameras are ready.

Processing Street Photographs in Classic Chrome

There has been a lot of black and white imagery on this site lately as I shared my “96 Hours in Paris” series, so I think it is definitely time for some colour.  In this post I’d like to share 15 new street images that I have taken recently, talk a little about Classic Chrome and highlight a few steps in my post production workflow.

One of the questions I get asked a lot via email, and one of the things we discuss during my street photography workshops, is how I post process my images.  While some people consider “post processing” to be a dirty word (I know, I know, it is two words), the truth is that working with images in post has been done since the early days of photography.  I definitely subscribe to the “get it right in camera” approach, but I also recognize that many images benefit from a little extra work.  My goal then is to get the photo as close as possible in camera through the careful observation of light and good camera skills; and then, I give the image a final polish in post production as needed (maybe 30 seconds to 2 minutes per image max).

I LOVE using the Classic Chrome film simulation found in the Fuji X Series of cameras for colour street photography.  There is something about it…the colour palette matches my aesthetic perfectly and has a look that I was immediately attracted to when it first came out.  I think it is worth emphasizing that last thought though… “it matches my aesthetic”.  This article is about processing colour street images the way I like to make them, which usually involves contrast and bold colours.  Other photographers may have a different look or approach that they like and that is 100% okay.  After all, art would be boring if we all did it the same way, wouldn’t it?

I have used Classic Chrome extensively since its release and I find the key to making compelling images with it (as with most photos actually) is to have the right light.  When the lighting is flat and muddy I definitely don’t have the same success with Classic Chrome that I do when I have good light.

Let’s use the following image to look at my processing workflow.  Here it is, shot in RAW, straight out of camera in all of its unedited glory:

For context:

I was walking from a meeting with one of my students in downtown Vancouver when I saw the elements of this photo coming together quickly:  the bright, late afternoon sun casting light on the building, the shadow of the pole on the wall, the orange colours and the subject walking toward the intersection.  This photograph is an example of why you should always be ready when on the streets.  Now, being ready doesn’t have to mean being intense, being “in the zone”, etc… but you should always be seeing and your camera should always be ready (you can click here to see how I set up my cameras for street photography).

The first thing I do when I am editing images is decide if it is going to be a keeper or not.  Sometimes this is obvious, other times less so.  This photo came out a little under exposed and the white balance is off a bit, but I love what is happening at the centre of the frame (the light, the subject, the shadows, the colours, etc).  There are a few distracting or unnecessary elements in the scene though, like the car on the right, but a square crop should clean those up:

That’s better.  The exposure isn’t quite where I want it yet, but I like the frame.  I usually wouldn’t crop this much out of a photo, but the moment happened fast and I was across the street when I took it.

Now, let’s apply the Classic Chrome film simulation:

See how the contrast changed?  I love contrast.  I get giddy when I see beautiful shadows to be honest.  This is usually where I adjust my blacks and whites to maximize the tonal range, then make a slight adjustment to the white balance as needed.  I find this is where Classic Chrome comes to life for me:

That’s what I’m looking for.  At this point I always take another look around the photo and see if there are any distracting elements that may lead the eye out of the frame.  In this case, I think there is a hotspot along the lit wall at the top of the frame that is distracting.  Luckily, this is easily fixed with a local adjustment:

That is pretty close.  A bit of export sharpening and this one is good to go.

Could I achieve this look in camera shooting jpeg only?  I could definitely get close by selecting the Classic Chrome film simulation and pushing the blacks and whites, but I find I still often make little tweaks in post.

Here is a series of street images captured over the last few months at random times, all taken because I saw the light first and then processed as described above:

In a future post I’ll also go through my workflow for processing black and white street images; and, if you are interested in learning more about making images like these (and many others) definitely consider attending one of my street photography workshops!

Until next time,

Ian

p.s.  If you enjoyed this article I also have one on shooting silhouettes on the street that you may find interesting.

96 Hours in Paris – Part Four

A few years ago my PTSD raised its ugly head, a hidden scar from years of working as a paramedic that plunged me into darkness.  The long process of healing, of becoming whole again, taught me a lot about mindfulness and purpose.  It led me to re-define my entire life, for the better.  In a strange way PTSD ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me because I, like many others before me, built a new life out of adversity.

This trip to Paris, which came on the heels of teaching a sold out workshop in Amsterdam, was a celebration of this new life in a way.  There is a saying you hear every now and then that goes something like “build a life that you don’t need to take a vacation from”.  That, right there, is exactly what I have done over the past few years.  On this trip I walked the streets of Paris for 96 hours, a camera in my hands, creating art.  Art that I will write about.  Art that will be sold as prints.  Art that I will share on stage during my presentations.  Art that I will use to support my workshops and the books I have in development.  Not art made on a vacation, but art made as part of the creative life that I built and choose to live.

And, to get to do it in Paris, a city that I love dearly, is a beautiful thing.  After all, Audrey Hepburn said it best:

“Paris is always a good idea!”

I hope you like the final set of images from this series.   I have really enjoyed processing them, and I am very thankful for all of the kind words and comments that they have received.  Sharing art is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

Until next time!

Ian