The Best of 2015 – A Year in Review

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Editing a year’s worth of photography down to the 25 images that most represent your work is a difficult task, especially when it has been the most rewarding year of your photographic career.

I traveled a lot this year, visiting Hawaii, Paris, Seattle, Las Vegas, and various locations throughout my home country of Canada.  I had incredible moments with my camera, met brilliant people, saw beautiful places, and got to tell stories about these experiences here on this website.

I continued shooting the occasional commercial job (portraiture, weddings, lifestyle and fitness), and most importantly for me I pursued my love of street photography as often as I could.

Away from the camera I made new relationships with photographers I respect,  I guested on a popular photography podcast, and I began sharing my knowledge through teaching workshops and presentations.

Finally, I had the privilege of continuing my relationship with Fuji Canada and reviewing several products in the X series, including the new Fuji X-T10 camera, the Fuji Instax SP-1 printer, and four new lenses (the 16-55mm f/2.8, the 50-140mm f/2.8, the new 35mm f/2, and the 90mm f/2 review which will soon be published).

What a year!

Let’s look back at some of my favourite photographs from the year.  I have divided them into three sections (travel photography, commercial work, street photography), and at the end of this post I’ll give a brief outline of things already planned for 2016.

All photos in this post were taken with either the Fuji X-T1, the Fuji X-T10, or the Fuji X100t.

Let’s get started…

Travel Photography

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Commercial Work

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Street Photography

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What’s coming up in 2016?

I’m excited to say that 2016 is already shaping up to build on the momentum of 2015, and promises to be another exciting year.

My first speaking engagement in 2016 will be a presentation on street photography on January 26th.  This is something I want to build on throughout 2016, so if you are a member of a camera club or organization, and would like a guest speaker to present on travel photography, street photography, or on working with Fuji’s products, please let me know!

In regard to travel,  I will be in Europe twice in 2016 (Amsterdam and London), and there will also be at least one photography road trip through parts of North America.

I am very excited to announce the launch of a new interview series on the website that will showcase photographers whose work I respect and love.  The first interview will drop early in January.

I will be shooting portraiture and street photography as often as I can.

Finally, I will be continuing my journey of learning how to see the world through the lens of a camera.  David duChemin said “Gear is good, Vision is better”.   My main goal in 2016, as it should be for all visual artists, is to continue to learn how to see better.

I would like to end this post by saying thank you.  Thank you to the people I have collaborated with on projects.  Thank you to those who trusted me enough to hire me for their portraits and weddings.  Thank you to those who offer me advice, guidance, and inspiration.  Thank you to the readers of this site, and to those of you whom I engage with daily on social media.  Thank you to my friends at Fuji Canada for all of your support over the last year.  Finally, thank you to my lovely and patient family who understand my need to spend as much time with photography as I do.

Photography is amazing.  I am so lucky.

Best wishes to all of you over the holiday season!

Cheers,

Ian

 

 

Photographing Las Vegas – Fremont Street!

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(All photos taken with the Fuji X100t. Click to view large.)

Note:  This post is part three of a three part series on photographing Las Vegas:

Fremont Street is a place of firsts:  The first paved street in Las Vegas (1925).  The first street to have a traffic light (1931).  One of the first hotels in Las Vegas (The El Cortez, built in 1941).  One of the first casinos in Las Vegas  (The Northway Club, licensed in 1931).  And, it is often the first place people think of when they think of “old Vegas”.

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Like all things Fremont Street has changed with the times and is now referred to as the Fremont Street Experience, a 5 block section at the west end of Fremont Street that is enclosed, and has light shows and concerts every evening.

I wasn’t looking for this though,  as I had already spent a few days along the Las Vegas strip.  I wanted to find Vegas the way it once was.  I wanted to find old Vegas.

The Golden Nugget, the largest casino in the downtown area and an anchor of the Fremont Street Experience, opened in 1946.  After spending days at the Paris, at the Bellagio, and at the Venetian, this felt like old Vegas to me:

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One of the main attractions at the Golden Nugget, oddly enough, is a large shark tank that has a waterslide going through its centre:

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When planning my trip I was told to visit the Fremont Street Experience at night, when the light shows were on and the concerts were in full swing.  Honestly though, I enjoyed my late afternoon / early evening visit a lot.  There were amazing street entertainers, no more so than the gentleman at the top of this post who was absolutely killing it on his guitar.  I mean, killing it.  I played professionally for many years, and this guy just buried me.  I shot many, many images of this fine player:

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I also hung out with this gentleman for while:

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Browsed the tourist shops:

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Got busted by a couple of show girls taking their photo, who in turn took mine:

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And, watched this bartender perform his amazing tricks:

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This is what travel photography is about for me.   Yes, I love shooting epic cityscapes, but it is always my experiences with people that are the most rewarding.   Over and over again I’d watch people stop, look at something for 30 seconds, not engage with anyone, and keep walking.  They are missing something so important about travel.

Now, no visit to the Fremont Street area would be complete without at least checking out the famous Heart Attack Grill, which this gentleman seemed to be doing with some intent:

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This is, of course, the restaurant that boasts the world’s highest calorie burger… weighing in at 9,982 calories!  That is the caloric intake most average people should take in over a 4 or 5 day period!

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The Fremont Street Experience isn’t the only thing to see in this area, however.  There is also the  Fremont East District.  I fell for this area as soon as I found it.  This felt more like old Vegas to me.  Like this:

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…that’s what I’m talking about.  No billion dollar resorts.  No walkways that force you through the casinos.  Just Vegas, the way it once was.  David Alan Harvey once said “don’t shoot what it looks like, shoot what it feels like”.  When I look at this photo, with a vintage treatment, it reminds me of the way Vegas once was.

Fremont East is home to the El Cortez Hotel, which has operated in this location since 1941:

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The El Cortez has a history steeped in Las Vegas lore, including being owned at one time by a consortium that included famous mobster Bugsie Siegel (one of the original founders of Murder, Incorporated).

I loved the feel of this area, and wandered the side streets looking for interesting compositions:

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I returned to the Fremont Street Experience as night fell, and as the neon lights came on:

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And, of course, as the crowds gathered to enjoy their evening:

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It was getting very close to the time the light shows and concerts would be starting, but I decided to head back to my hotel on the strip.  My day was one of searching out old Vegas, and I was happy with my experiences and photos from the day.

This was my final view of Fremont Street, shot just before the sky went dark:

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This is the Fremont Street I came to see.  This is the way I wanted to remember it.

All said and done I highly enjoyed my time in Las Vegas, and especially my time around the Fremont Street area.  It is a photographer’s paradise, and I’m sure I only scratched the surface.  Traveling light with just my little Fuji X100t allowed me to focus on the people, on the experiences, and to both listen to and tell some of my own stories.  It was a perfect way to spend a few days as a traveling photographer.

Cheers,

Ian

Photographing the Las Vegas Strip at Night

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(All images can be clicked to viewed large)

Note:  This post is part two of a three part series on photographing Las Vegas:

Whenever I visit a city I am always looking for a trophy shot, a beautiful city skyline photograph that I’d love to print large and put on the wall (remember, a photograph needs to be real).  I knew during my recent  business trip to Las Vegas that I’d have two or three nights available to shoot, and I wanted to make the most of them.

One of the first things I do when I am researching these trophy shots is to find the best place to shot from.  Many cities have elevated viewing platforms (e.g. the Top of the Rock in New York City, the Montparnasse Tower in Paris, the Vancouver Lookout, etc), and if they do I always spend an evening at the top shooting.  A little research goes a long way here:  Usually you have to pay to go up to these viewing platforms, sometimes you need to make reservations, you want to be there at least 30 minutes before sunset, they may or may not allow tripods, etc.

The photo above is a view of the Las Vegas Strip looking north, shot from the top of the Eiffel Tower Experience.   This photograph is a 3 image stitched panorama shot with the Fuji X100t.  Shooting stitched panoramas allows you to travel light, but still take beautiful scenic photographs.

Looking south from the same platform, this was the view:

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Give yourself time to shoot these images.  The light changes fast in the hour that starts 30 minutes before sunset, and ends 30 minutes after sunset.  As the sky darkens the colours saturate, and there is that beautiful sweet spot between the rich sky and the city lights that only lasts for a few minutes.

Tripods are not allowed at the top of the Eiffel Tower Experience, so having strong camera handling skills is of critical importance to ensure you get a sharp image when it is darker out.  Here’s a few tips:

  1. Increase your ISO.  Yes, you may get a slightly more grainy image, but you will get a faster shutter speed which will help keep your image sharp.  Today’s technology helps a lot here… I know with my Fuji cameras I can get clean files up to ISO 1600, and even 3200 is fine if I need to go that high.
  2. Brace against whatever you can.
  3. Use your timer to trip the shutter.  This eliminates any motion caused by pushing down on the shutter.
  4. Have good “trigger control”.  Control your breathing while the slow shutter is open.
  5. Take lots of photographs.  The slower shutter speeds required to get these images means you are going to get some blurry ones when you handhold.  You can always delete the extra photographs from you hard drive later.

Let’s get back to our evening…

Once the sky is black, I usually switch to black and white.  The Paris Hotel and Eiffel Tower Experience is directly across the street from the Bellagio Hotel, with its famous fountains:

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And just a few minutes away from there is Caesar’s Palace:

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These images, with the bright lights against the dark sky, work well as high contrast black and white photographs.

The longer shutter speeds required at night also provide an excellent opportunity to shoot motion blur:

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The strip is busy.  Hectic.  Chaotic.  A little crazy.  Pictures like this remind me of what it was like to actually be there.   Las Vegas has elevated pedestrian walkways over the strip, which give you an excellent point of view to shoot the traffic below.

On the second night I set up to shoot the Paris Hotel, framed with the fountains from the Bellagio.  Sunsets in Las Vegas have a magenta glow to them, which I loved:

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Shortly after this photograph was taken I moved south by a block or two, and shot back toward the Paris Hotel from one of the elevated walkways:

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Notice the difference in the sky.  These two photographs are taken less than 30 minutes apart, but the change is dramatic.  The sky has darkened and lost much of its colour, but the lights have come on beautifully!

This photograph is shot through the glass that is used to wall in the walkways.  Shooting through glass can be difficult due to reflections.  If you have a lens hood use it, and get your lens right up against a clean section of the glass.  Then use a small piece of dark cloth, your hand, anything to wrap your lens and prevent light from getting in.  You can almost always eliminate unwanted reflections by doing this.

On my last night to shoot there were amazing clouds, and I knew when they saturated with that sunset magenta colour the sky would look amazing:

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Spinning around, I shot another slow shutter speed image to try to capture some of that crazy las Vegas hustle and bustle:

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…and Hooters.  You can’t photograph Las Vegas, Sin City, and not get Hooters in the frame!

Of course, no trip to Vegas would be complete without shooting the famous sign:

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Shooting at night can be very rewarding.  The sky looks gorgeous, the city lights sparkle, and the slower shutter speeds allow you to capture motion.  This is your time as a photographer.   Enjoy the day with your family, visit the sites, enjoy the food.  When the sun is going down though put on your photographer hat and go looking for that trophy picture.

Next up, Freemont Street!

Cheers,

Ian