String Theory

Let's not look for meaning—there's none to be found. Moments in passing, test shots, oddly painterly scenes glanced through my car window...all a string of inconsequential frames.
Of ten days gone by.

Two Birthdays

I've just spent a couple of days shooting with the great folks from DentsuBos Toronto and Lexus Canada...which means there's a lot of editing on my plate, on top of yet-another-busy-week.

But life keeps moving along regardless—personal life that is. Eleven days ago our youngest turned seven...seven years-old...crazy isn't it? Important events birthdays, even if after awhile we don't necessarily think of them as such. Or choose not to anyway. For me they're both happy and painful, symbols of completion and growth but also of our lonesome,  light-speed trajectory through space. That unavoidable acceleration curve that compresses our world, given enough time.

In spring Anaïs turned ten—a milestone—but I never got around to posting any of the images. I don't know...maybe some sort of Freudian slip at work? A triumph of denial? Can't have that.

So here are two birthdays.
Two very important birthdays.


All images shot with the X-Pro2 and XF 35mm f/2 R WR


ANAÏS - TEN

HÉLOÏSE - SEVEN

Other Tools: Todoist

We all know photography—especially the business of photography—is about much more than just cameras and images. With this in mind I've decided to post articles under a new category entitled Other Tools. Not necessarily in-depth reviews, just quick looks at bits and pieces that are part of my daily workflow. I've tagged a few previous posts but this is the first "official" one.

I've always struggled with organization. Actually no, scratch that: I've always struggled with procrastination. Ah yes, the dreaded I can get to this later syndrome that plagues so many of us. It's an emotional issue, apparently.

I've always tried to overcome this, experimenting with various systems, apps, whatever. And I honestly believed I'd finally found my Holy Grail with 2DO, an app available on both iOS and OS X (soon to be macOS) that had me willingly moving forward with a more throughtful approach to the problem. It's an incredibly powerful app that deserves all the praise it's been receiving this past year and I'm sure we haven't seen the best of it yet.

That said: I recently realized it was too much for me. The trap with task management is that we can end up spending more time organizing our tasks than....you know...doing them. Has to do with friction and flow: the system you use needs to become thoughtless, it needs to just disappear. As well-thought out as it is, after months of use I was still struggling to remember where certain functions were in 2DO—which means it simply wasn't the right fit for me.

Enter Todoist.

Before going all in with 2DO I'd given Todoist a try and dismissed it—mainly due to its SAS model. I'm not a big fan of Software As Service and the nasty surprises it can spring on users: that Premium Evernote account I switched out of last year? I paid $24.99/year CAD. Now, after two consecutive overhauls (in less than 12 months?) access to those exact same features—annoying nags et al—would cost me $89 CAD/year; we're talking a **260% **increase here. Needless to say I've been perfectly happy with Notes and I'm not looking back. But like it or not subscriptions are the new reality—all we can do is choose very, very carefully.

So I downloaded Todoist again, out of curiosity, and this time took a good hard look around. It was as if a light came on: an hour later I had upgraded to Premium; by the end of the day I had everything in my life laid out more clearly than ever before, everything from work to personal tasks. And for the first time ever, I'm actually Getting Things Done.

I think the cleanliness of the design plays a huge part because I don't deal well with visual clutter: my brain tires easily. When my studio is a mess I don't work as well and when an interface throws too much stuff at me, I blank out. Todoist—especially on iOS—pulls me in. I don't feel overwhelmed, even with multiple tasks thrown at me. I've kept my organization simple in order to prevent fiddling; I can switch from my iPhone to my iPad to my Apple Watch to my Mac without skipping a beat. Voice dictation and natural language parsing work very well so watchOS 3's quick launch feature will be a boon (no more waiting 45 seconds for the app to open).

The service also has this feature called Karma which—honestly—felt like a feel-good gimmick at first. It's 1) a reward system based on points that you accumulate when you check-off tasks, with levels from Novice to Enlightened (!) and 2) a way to visualize your productivity through various time-based graphs. As silly as it may seem, I've grown addicted to it. Like the activity rings on the Watch, it provides a strangely compelling incentive to accomplish my daily goals.

It's not perfect mind you: for one there's a bug on iOS that prevents uncompleting tasks that have been mistakenly checked off. I also wish search was easier to get to on that platform and there's no sort option to be found anywhere either (the app defaults to either date or priority depending on the view...I'm still not sure what triggers what). None of these are issues on the Mac or web versions so there should be fixes in the future.

But regardless, I'm having a crazy busy summer that was in desperate need of a system to keep me on track and I seem to have found it. Bottom line: Todoist is quick, it looks nice and it's keeping me highly motivated.

The end of procrastination? Well...fingers crossed.

On Flagships: X-T2 and X-Pro2

So you've been following the news, the leaks and now—finally—it's official: the X-T2 is a real, tangible piece of hardware coming to a store near you. Cue G.A.S.
I wasn't part of the beta project this time around but if you're looking for an extensive hands-on review, check out my good friend Kevin Mullin's yet-again-insanely-in-depth take; frankly, he's now making me feel self-conscious about reviews—take it down a notch will you Kev? Geez. My Canadian X comrade Don Craig also has a very nice review of the camera and my buddy Bert Stephani has a video as well. Obviously, tons of content out there.

I should eventually get some hands-on experience but for now, I thought I'd look at the..."philosophical" implications of this release.

THE RIFT

When FUJIFILM released the X-Pro1 five years ago, it was immediately labelled as the flagship camera of the fledgling X-series system. But with the release of the X-T1, that title suddenly became unclear: we now had more advanced technology (perfectly normal given how fast the series was being developed) and yet the X-Pro1 still maintained its official flagship status. I remember silly debates around this. I think these were growing pains, a transition period—I'd even go so far as to call it "live brainstorming" to a certain extent. The company was testing the waters in terms of design, features and overall direction.

During a small meeting in NYC in the fall of 2014, some of us were briefed (and questioned) about an eventual X-Pro2 and X-T2 and it was apparent, even in those very early days, that FUJIFILM were getting serious about differentiation between both camera lines. We saw various mockups but also preliminary specs—allhinting at a fork in the road.  The final results however, go beyond what I think any of us expected: with the X-Pro2 and the new X-T2 the story is no longer about featuritis or leapfrogging between models: what we have now are two very distinct flagship cameras.

SAME BUT DIFFERENT

At their core, both the X-Pro2 and X-T2 are identical: same 24mp sensor, same X-Trans CMOS III processor etc. In terms of image quality and rendition, they'll be indistinguishable. But the X-T2 pulls away in areas that are defined not by a random addition of features, but by the intended use of the camera itself: this is the workhorse body. It's about versatility and speed...and then more speed. Case in point: the vertical battery grip is dead and we now have a Vertical Power Booster Grip —this isn't just empty rhetoric, the new grip is designed to work in conjunction with the camera not only to extend battery life (although it does, with 2 extra batteries) but also video shooting time, burst rate and EVF refresh rate. In fact when used in boost mode, it'll use all three batteries simultaneously to offer performance tweaks unavailable otherwise. It even includes a headphone jack for video monitoring purposes and doubles as a fast charger. Different beast altogether.

And video is now a serious concern on the X-T2 with 4K capture (higher than 4K actually but standard output), upcoming LUT tables for colour grading, quality HDMI output for monitoring...the list goes on. Most importantly though, there's a new commitment here—and this is only day one, trust me.

Kevin with a fully rigged video-ready X-T2. Courtesy of Rob Ward.

With the X-T2 the operative word isn't so much soul as it is performance. A friend in Tokyo said the X-Pros are for the heart, the XTs are for the head; quite an apt way to put it IMHO.

Can this go too far? In certain areas it can. For instance there are no plans to include tethering for the X-Pro2 and I personally think this is a mistake: when tethering became possible on the X-T1, I assumed all cameras going forward would include that option. I was wrong and I'm a bit surprised. I can understand hardware limitations preventing certain features from being included in a specific body, but this one feels odd to me. Overall however, the strategy makes sense: the X-Pro2 is the high performance, low-profile documentary camera; the X-T2 is the technical, extendible playground. Kaizen will take care of bringing some of the new AF improvements to the X-Pro2 this fall.

The way I see it, this is a new beginning— an affirmation actually. The system has matured and can now cater to distinct categories that aren't simply bound to spec sheets and feature lists. I'm sure some will argue that all cameras should offer everything all the time, that the X-Pro2 now feels crippled...I don't see it that way. As Steve Jobs famously said: it's about cars and trucks now. Tethering issues aside, I've come to the conclusion that I'm generally much more of a car guy...although I haven't yet decided what I'm going to do. The good news? We have choice.

The heart or the head.

Heart of the Meteor

I struggle at times to identify my exact thoughts and emotions. The week flew by without a hint of the usual pangs that stir, pulling at my guts, when I miss the kids. I'm not sure why and frankly, it scares the shit out of me—this unexpected numbness.  

Jacob is headed for high school in September and I know—I know—this is one last summer of innocence for us. I can feel it, like some low hum rattling my ribcage. Maybe the numbness is a safety mechanism, some natural anaesthetic as my heart prepares for the tether's inevitable rupture. Maybe I'm just weary after all we've been through. Or maybe I'm overthinking this. But it's puzzling and unsettling and I can't quite grasp what it all means. It's called Life bucko...sure, yeah.

We ride the highway until it's all a blur; east and west, west and east...repeat. We find the heart of the meteor where mountains froze and land was scarred. Five trajectories in lockstep—for now.


Shot with the X-Pro2 and XF 35mm f/2 R WR (BW images shot with Acros)