“Failure” is a necessary part of the creative process…

DSCF5654(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 18-55mm lens)

I recently had a discussion with a photographer who said they felt like a “failure”.   They told me  about how they saw amazing photographs online, yet whenever they went out to shoot they rarely came home with anything they loved.

Welcome to being a creative.

I think it’s important to remember that when you look at someone’s work online you are really only seeing their highlight reel… you will never see their garbage.  This is why it is so important to edit your work with a critical eye and only keep your strongest work.  It teaches you what works, what doesn’t, and it strengthens the quality of your portfolio.

During the conversation I was reminded of this quote from Thomas Edison:

“I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

This is the way we need to look at being a creative.  We should embrace our “failures”… they are what make us better at our craft.  It’s kind of like this:

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Some days we make images we love, other days not so much.  All photographers go through this.  Let me tell you about a recent experience I had shooting in Seattle…

Over the holiday season I spent 4 nights staying with my family just outside of Seattle.  I was very excited to have one of these days completely free for a day of photography in Seattle, a city I love very much.  I mean a full 10 hour day:  Getting up at 5am to be on deck for a sunrise, shooting street throughout the day, then being on deck for a fabulous sunset photograph.  My camera bag was packed with my beloved Fuji X100t and Fuji X-T1, my batteries were charged, and in the black of night I hit the road for the 90 minute drive to Seattle.

I shoot in Seattle often, but have never shot the quintessential view of the city skyline from Kerry Park so this was my planned starting point (see the photograph at the top of this post).

The first thing I noticed when I set up my tripod was the cold.  Bitter cold.  Like shaking in your bones cold.  A significant wind only made it worse.  No worries though, I’ve shot in much worse environments before I thought.  As the sun rose it became clear that the sky was bare, not a cloud in sight.  This was nice in the sense that you could clearly see the sunrise glow behind Mount Rainier, but it also meant there would be little colour in the sky as sunrise hit.  Sure enough, that was the case.

I continued shooting through the changing light, hoping maybe the sun would rise behind the buildings of Seattle’s downtown core and perhaps I could do something cool with the backlighting.  Sadly, the sun rose in a different position, and by the time it came out there were no lights in the buildings:

DSCF5747(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 18-55mm lens)

Just… ok.

Next I had planned on shooting at Gasworks Park.  I’ve seen this park many times from across Lake Union, but have never shot at it.  I blasted the heat during the short drive from Kerry Park to Gasworks Park, but never warmed up.  Truth be told when I got out of the car I felt even colder than I had before the drive.

I walked around the park for a few minutes like I usually do before I start shooting:  Trying to find the best shooting angles, the best lines, watching where the light was falling, and looking for my composition.  I was disheartened to see fencing around the main structure in the park, the light contrasty and hard even though it was still early morning, and a pair of people that seemed to instinctually know where to stand to be in my frame:

DSCF5810(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 10-24mm lens)

Sigh….

I decided to regroup and warm back up.  I drove downtown and went for breakfast.  I spent an hour having a delicious meal, reading a good book, and finally warming up.

Warming up, that is, until I went back outside.  🙂

How could it be getting colder as the sun rose overhead?  Shouldn’t it be getting warmer?

I started moving through the streets shooting street photography, but I could never find my groove.  I don’t think I was the only one freezing:  People were bundled up and seemed to be moving fast from point A to point B.    I eventually found one spot I liked, where the hard light breaking between the buildings backlit people walking down the street.  After a long (and cold) stay at an intersection I got this:

DSCF4980(Fuji X100t)

Finally, a frame I really liked.

But I was cold, I was miserable, it felt like everyone on the street was miserable, the sky was bare, and the light was harsh.

Years ago I would have persevered, tried to force something to work, and spent the day getting more and more frustrated with the lack of results.

This morning though I shrugged, realized it wasn’t my day, and got back in the car for a 90 minute drive back to my family.   That last photo was taken at 10:28am, on what was supposed to be a full day of shooting.  Instead, I called it quits 4 hours into the day.

And… I’m ok with that.

There was a time when I would have viewed this day as a failure.  I drove 3 hours roundtrip for a day I eventually abandoned, and only got 1 photo I would put in my portfolio (and maybe 2 or 3 others that were just “ok”).

You can’t look at it like that though.  Photography isn’t a sprint, it is a marathon.  Every time you go out there you will learn something, even if it is one of “10,000 ways that won’t work”.  You can’t force it.  There are environmental factors outside of your control when you are shooting landscapes and cityscapes, and mindset is huge when shooting street.

I am happy that I was able to grab one nice frame from this day.  If you only get one good picture from a day you should be happy too.  Eventually, if you keep going out, all of those “one good pictures” will add up to a nice portfolio.

I’m sure I am going to butcher this, but there is a Japanese phrase, “Ganbatte kudasai”, that roughly translates to “Do your best”.

And that just about sums it up.  As photographers we need to embrace our “failures”, learn from them, keep going, and “do our best”.  After time, even if it is just one photograph at a time, we  will become better at our craft and build portfolios we are proud of.

Cheers,

Ian

 

 

Photo Essay: A Winter’s Morning…

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Life moves incredibly fast, and sometimes you need to hit the pause button.  Last week I was driving home from a quick trip to Seattle (more on that in an upcoming blog post), and when I got back into town I was blown away by a beautiful sight:  Everything was covered in frost.  The ground, the trees, rooftops….  I arrived home to a winter wonderland.

I changed my plans so I could wake up early the next morning before sunrise, and headed down to one of the local rivers near my house.  I had a couple of hours completely by myself to walk, think, and shoot as the sun rose across the river.  This is important,  always remember to make time for yourself.   Make photographs for no other reason than it is what you love to do.

All photos in this post were taken with the Fuji X-T1 and either the 10-24mm, 18-55mm, or 55-200mm lens.  I hope you like them….

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There is a lot to talk about in the next few weeks:  New gear from Fuji, new interviews in the interview series, new photo essays, workshops… 2016 is shaping up to be a great year!

Until next time,

Ian

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