Les Rues De Paris | The Streets of Paris – Part Two

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

– Elliott Erwitt

“Street photography is capturing the beauty in the mundane”

– Eric Kim

Street photography came into my life during a period when I felt creatively drained as an artist.  I had been shooting a lot of portraiture, working with a creative team in studio to produce images that were often pre-planned and somewhat structured.  I reached a point where this environment felt stifling, like the walls around me were drowning me creatively.  Discovering my love of street photography was like having my head pulled up out of the water;  like I could breath again.  I loved the lack of formality, the lack of a schedule, the excitement of discovering new photos around every corner and the ability to experiment as often as I liked.  The blank canvas of the street challenged me and kicked my ass, but it changed the way I saw the world and rejuvenated my love of photography.  I learned to look past the beautiful model or epic landscape and to appreciate the simple beauty that exists in every day life.

This approach has also had an impact on my professional work:  My wedding photography focuses more on beautiful, candid moments.  My travel albums, which used to be full of epic cityscapes, now feature street scenes and tiny detail shots that tell a better story of the places I visit.  I shoot more candidly during portrait sessions now, featuring environmental portraits more than studio work.  Even my landscape and cityscape photography has changed, as I often include people in the frame now to give a sense of scale and a sense of place.

If you find yourself in a photographic rut I highly recommend shooting in a different genre for a period of time.  It is refreshing, inspiring and will change the way that you see.

And, go to Paris.  It is a wonderful city to photography.  🙂

Cheers,

Ian

p.s.  Part one of this series can be viewed HERE.

Les Rues de Paris | The Streets of Paris – Part One

I’ve been fortunate to photograph Paris on many different occasions, most recently this past July when I was there to teach a workshop.  Paris is a city full of iconic landmarks of course, like the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame, but the truth is that I find the most joy when I am simply sitting by the river, when I am walking along the narrow cobblestone streets, and when I spend time chatting with people in little shops and cafés.  Every one of these simple activities has the potential for so many new experiences and new photographs.  I love that.

Most of the photos from my July trip have been sitting on my computer, unedited, for about six months now.  I’m not sure why I didn’t process them right away, maybe I just needed to let them sit for a bit.  Regardless of the reason, it has been a lot of fun to re-visit these images with fresh eyes.  They bring back memories of travel with family and friends, of working with wonderful students, and of a city that I will never tire of photographing.

This post is part one in a three part series that will feature new street work from La Ville Lumière, the City of Lights (all images captured with the Fujifilm X100F).  I will be back in Paris this June for another workshop, but until then I have these photos to work through.  I hope you like them!

Cheers,

Ian

What Lies Behind : Photographic Insights – Volume One

Camera information:  Fujifilm X100F | f/8 | 1/640th | ISO 200

I recently re-read one of my favourite photography quotes from Ansel Adams:

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it”

This statement is absolutely true.  To quote David Hobby, we should all strive to become thinking photographers.  I love it when my students ask questions about a photograph because I can see their minds at work.  Sometimes these questions focus on how an image was made (the craft), sometimes they focus on why it was made (the vision), but they always show a student’s desire to improve their craft.

Speaking for myself:  I may occasionally want to know something about the technical aspect of an amazing photograph, but far more often what I really want to know is the photographer’s thought process as they made the image:  What drew their eye in the first place?  What did they see in their mind?  What was their process for the creation of the image?  How did they go about achieving success?

With this in mind, I have spent the last year writing a book featuring my images and the stories behind them.  The book will come out later this year, but in the spirit of open source education I have decided to publish 2 dozen of these photos and essays here as well.  My hope is that everyone can benefit in a small way from this sharing of ideas, much like I have benefited from other photographers who shared with me.  Let’s get started by discussing the image above.

This photo was taken in Paris last year, while I was in the city teaching my street photography workshop.  My students were all out on assignment and I was sitting for a few minutes, just watching people on the streets and planning my next lesson.  Practicing observation without a camera in your hand is something I highly recommend; it can be done anywhere, at anytime, and it makes you sharper for when you are out shooting.

While people watching I saw this gentleman turn the corner and walked toward me, perhaps a block away.  I was immediately struck by two things: 

1) how distinguished he looked with his hat and newspaper tucked under his arm.  And,

2) how beautiful the late afternoon light looked falling on his face, especially the way the light was spilling through his hat.

I knew this gentleman would make a wonderful photo subject, but a great subject alone is rarely enough to make a compelling image.  When I shoot, I am always looking for subject, moment, light and background.  I want to create a cohesive image, one that ties as many of these elements together as possible.  I had the right subject for sure, and he was already in perfect light, so it was really just a matter of looking for the right background and waiting for the right moment.

I quickly scanned the buildings across the street and knew I had the potential for a decent image when I saw the poster on the wall of the bearded gentleman with a hat on.  This would look great juxtaposed against my subject, which is a technique I use often in my photography.

I shifted my position a few feet to get the right composition and then turned my attention to the camera.  When I am out and about I leave my Fujifilm cameras in Aperture Priority Mode, usually around f/8 if the light is good, and I use Auto-ISO to ensure I achieve a decent shutter speed (to freeze the motion of a moving subject).  I may change these settings in specific shooting scenarios, but I always return to them when I start walking again.  The only thing left to do was to quickly adjust my focus (manually focusing), bring the camera up to my eye, and time the shot correctly.

For all of the times we miss images, this was one, I knew, that I had timed correctly as soon as I took the shot.  A few seconds later, the subject turned another corner and the moment was gone.

Post production on the shot was minimal:  I applied Acros+R in Lightroom as this image was captured as a RAW file.  I made a few small exposure adjustments, added a little clarity and sharpening and, finally, used a square crop to remove distracting elements from the frame that pulled focus away from the subject and the juxtaposed background element. 

This last step was very important to the final image.  Somebody once said to me that photography is the art of exclusion, that we should remove distracting elements from the frame until we are left with the essence of the photograph.  This is something that we should always try to do before we click the shutter of course, but sometimes that isn’t possible and we have to rely on a little post production to take the image where it needs to go.  In this case, the final crop met this goal.

I am happy with this image, both because I saw it in the first place and with the final edit.  I had missed two great shots earlier in the day (poor timing), so it felt great to see the finished image in my mind and then to be able to quickly bring all of the important elements together to make it happen.

I hope you enjoyed this first article.  If you would like to see a write up about a specific image I have made please let me know in the comments below (if it is from my Instagram, just leave a link to the photo in the comments below). 

I look forward to many more conversations about the process of photography!

Cheers,

Ian

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