Friday Tidbits: interview, simulations etc

Is it the weekend again? May in few short days? Boy...this is one fast frikin' train isn't it? Time for a Friday tidbits/mishmash post.

STREET FOCUS INTERVIEW

I had the opportunity to be interviewed by photographer Valérie Jardin earlier this week, for her Street Focus podcast. Valérie and I had been in touch since before the holidays but the timing was finally right and we had a really lovely conversation. I'm quite impressed by Valérie's focus and success at managing what has become a worldwide workshop business. We talked about storytelling in the context of commercial projects, about street, approach...shooting the breeze really. It's online now and you can check it out here: STREET FOCUS 84: VISUAL STORIES WITH PATRICK LA ROQUE

FUJIFILM FILM SIMULATIONS FROM...FUJIFILM

I read this article few days ago and really wanted to mention it: Film Simulation, Revolution by Continuous Evolution. As most of you know, I'm a huge fan of the X-Series JPEG engine and the results I can get from its various film simulations—which have grown into something much more serious than nostalgia-based marketing. To me they're actual tools, just as much as everything else these cameras offer. I already knew, from conversations with engineers, about the complex background behind Acros. But this article goes into the science of the simulations as a whole, the role of the new processor etc. I actually find it too brief— I'd love to hear more about this. Still, quite fascinating.

NATE GATES

I love giving one on one workshops and I have quite a few coming up in the next weeks/months, which is great. It's a chance to share but it's also a two-way conversation that's always surprising and rewarding. Nate Gates came over from Newfoundland some weeks ago and we spent a couple of days together as part of my three-day Shadow Workshop. Nate is originally from the US but he now runs a successful photography business in Newfoundland with his girlfriend and partner Nicole. They also hold workshops of their own.

And that's where it becomes interesting: how do you teach someone who's pretty much there already? We had talked beforehand via email about what he was looking for and hoping to bring back from our time together, but it's always a challenge to find that one small element that might be missing from the mix, that might be just enough to push someone a little further in. It becomes about shaping the path as opposed to building it...it's very subtle.

But I think we got there and Nate was kind enough to post about the experience on his blog so I thought I'd share: In the streets with LaRoque.

B-DAY

Not mine—although that one's coming up way too fast. But today happens to be my KAGE buddy and Tokyo accomplice Bert Stephani's birthday so I couldn't let that pass without a mention. Besides, I've been promising him a spiffy suit shot for months now so here goes...classy stuff my friend ;)

Have a great weekend everyone!

Take a walk on the wide side...

When Fujifilm Canada asked if I'd be interested in shooting images for a book project (an internal publication I believe), I said sure. When they requested street photography? Awesome. With the XF 14mm lens?

Uh oh.

The XF 14mm f/2.8 R is fantastic—a lot of photographers have shot the hell out of this lens and wouldn't be caught dead without it in their bag (my friends Bert and Flemming have both done some seriously amazing work with it). But I tend to use it very sparingly, only in very specific situations: when I need a larger field of view (obviously); when I want to accentuate lines and play with geometry; close-up, using distortion as a visual statement of some kind. When it comes to street however...It's never been in my toolbox.

This has to do in part with habit—shoot long enough with any one focal length and you begin to see the world through that field of view—but mostly, it's about subtext. Focal lengths have distinct voices in my mind: at the wider end they clamour, like town criers, making bold announcements for all to hear. At the longer range they whisper in our ear or scream us out of the room, either intimate or invasive. I tend to lean towards the conversational tone of an extended normal range—35-50mm equivalents (23-35 APS-C). In trying to understand why that is, I've come to the conclusion that it has to do with anonymity: these are fields of view that go unnoticed, that don't call attention to themselves. Raise a wide angle or telephoto lens to your eye and you suddenly have superpowers—the world is an entirely different place. That angle of view, because it's so foreign, becomes part of the subject, for ourselves AND for the viewer. Less so with a telephoto because compression can be harder to notice, butthe impact is certainly present for the shooter. With the normal range there isn't as much of a disconnect—which means the capture isn't "tainted" by effect. I mean this as a purely optical fact, and not at all as a negative. In many ways it's a deeply philosophical difference between reality and augmented reality, something I believe can be felt to a certain extent.

All that being said, I'd been planning on forcing myself to shoot street with the 14mm for a very long time, if only to shake things up a bit. This assignment gave me a reason to finally go out and do it.

On a shoot for Lexus: the 14mm gave those images the right feel by accentuating the converging lines.

EMBRACING THE SUPERPOWER

I've always maintained that the X100 series cameras were my natural, go to bodies for street and travel photography. I still believe that. But my almost constant use of the X-Pro2 and XF 35mm f/2 over the past months has slowly shifted my eye towards a tighter field of view, making even the 23mm feel almost too airy lately. So you can imagine the shock of the 14mm: it took me a good half-hour to get acclimated and settle in.

This has to do with pre-visualizing: when I'm shooting—in any circumstances—I often frame in my mind first. This is a reflex really. Even when I don't have accessto a camera, I'll be taking mental pictures pretty much constantly. But for this to work, what you see in your mind needs to conform to what the camera sees...otherwise you start over each and every time and lose that advantage. It's why I prefer prime lenses over zooms: I know what to expect and I can rely on it. In this case, I basically needed to let go and accept the big, shiny new playground.


Shot with the X-T1 and XF 14mm f/2.8 R


A VOICE

I had fun with this assignment and I'm happy with the results. If I'm perfectly honest however, it does feel like a different conversation in a way—one that isn't on the same level of...intimacy, for lack of a better term. I shot some of these from the hip, using zone focussing (which I rarely do) and there's a randomness to this that I very much enjoyed. But—and this may sound very strange—it feels like I was wearing a disguise for a few hours.

I think there's a reason why so many of the masters mostly kept to a single focal length during their career: it's part of the foundation of our visual voice. This doesn't mean we should limit ourselves, but I think at some point there's an optical aspect to how we interpret the world, a natural point of view that develops over time and allows us to bridge everything together.

Still...it's nice to try on new shoes once in awhile, right?
Now back to those good 'ol boots.

Three still lifes & a short play sequence

Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing spectacular or eventful. A weekend of small moments and long pauses...
and gazing at the clouds. 


Shot with the X-Pro2 and XF 35mm f/2 R WR


KAGE, Belgrade and Collodion

If you're looking for reading material over the weekend, our new KAGE issue is available, free and...well, pretty nice I think. This month we all rallied around Home, a theme that proved much more difficult and complex to tackle than we initially anticipated. Mainly because it's such a fragile and transient concept, constantly at risk of changing or disappearing, for better or worse.

For my part, I ended up revisiting a transition period in an essay entitled One Solitude. I also reflected on loss as my sister and I slowly prepare to sell our childhood home in Rains of March. In all, twelve new stories including an interview with photographer DeShaun A. Craddock and a review of the book Handboek - Ans Westra Photographs.

Speaking of KAGE: Flemming and Charlene are having a ball in Belgrade and Charlene has been posting a daily journal of sorts from their trip...always fun to live vicariously through someone else's eyes ;)

They even attended a collodion photography workshop. You check out their adventures here.

Collodion plates by Charlene Winfred

Collodion plates by Charlene Winfred

Below, a few images from last weekend. Spring has finally come...
Have a great one guys :)


Shot with the X-Pro2 and XF 35mm f/2 R WR


Spanish Train: Lucida Straps

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I've made no secret of how much I enjoy camera straps. It's just one of those things—camera straps and camera bags tend to drive me a little nuts. Shoes...meh...not so much. I don't really indulge mind you: I have one bag for work (Think Tank Retrospective 7) and one for personal/travel (Ona Bowery). Ok, I have a few others from the days of heavier gear but they're stored away so...they don't count. At least that's how I choose to see it. And—like any normal human being—I have a strap for each camera.

So...new camera, new strap. See: perfectly normal. 

I know I've written several times now about this subject but the truth is, I love the stories behind these products. The fact that I gravitate towards handmade leather means it's always a tale of craftsmanship, of manual artistry, usually based on age-old methods. These aren't items I forget about, even after years of daily use: every time I pick up a camera, every time I sling a strap around my neck, I'm reminded of the person behind and the care that went into making it—from Maru's engraving to Tap & Dye and Cecilia's carefully selected materials.

Right before the holidays I received an email from Felix de la Varga Chana, the brainchild behind Lucida Camera Straps, a company based in León, Spain. He offered to send me one of their products (full disclosure: free of charge) so I could test it and give my impressions, possibly help them get the word out if I felt it was worth the virtual ink.

Turns out it is.

THE PACKAGE

The name Lucida comes from the 1980 essay Camera Lucida (La Chambre Claire) by french philosopher Roland Barthes. It's a nod to history that's fitting: not only is the company passionate about photography, their entire line is also steeped in a sense of reverence to the past and to the artisan process. All raw materials are crafted by Genaro Gonzales who runs what is apparently the last Spanish tannery, a family business going back to 1887.

I was hoping to receive the Lucida strap before leaving for Japan but unfortunately, the holidays made the express delivery longer than it should’ve been and it arrived—you guessed it—one day after I left. It's always one day isn't it? But it means I had a nice little package waiting for me when I got home. Beautifully done, in line with this type of handmade, boutique product.

THE STRAP

The Lucida has been on my X-Pro2 ever since—first on the prototype, then making the switch to my production unit the moment it arrived. Leather straps need time to settle, to soften and mould themselves to our contours so there's always a period of adaptation. But it's also what I love about this material: how personal it becomes, the more you use it. In this case I have to say it's one of the most comfortable straps I've had: the leather truly is of an amazing quality—it was already super soft out of the box—and now, several months in, it just keeps getting more comfortable, more beautiful as it wears.

The model I chose includes a neck pad, something I appreciate even on lighter bodies. I find it cradles the neck better; personal taste, obviously.


CONCLUSION

This is a very young company and a labour of love. Essentially a line of products that grew from personal interest, to providing to a circle of friends and now to a full-blown business in a very short amount of time. If you're looking for this type of strap I definitely encourage you to give Lucida a look—if it's anything like mine you won't be disappointed.

For more info visit www.lucidastraps.com (Spanish only as of this writing) or check them out on Instagram. You can also order or contact them through Etsy.