This European Diary | Terminal I

There's always an unneasiness associated with leaving everything you know behind, everyone you love and care about. There's anticipation, sure, but loneliness as well. Here we sit amongst strangers, all mostly silent, lost in their own private little worlds; just as we are.

I've spent months thinking of this moment.
This is it.
Gate 56 — now boarding.


Shot with the X100S


This European Diary... And a few more thoughts on community.

So I’m going back to my roots. Starting tomorrow and every subsequent Wednesday (UPDATE: Fridays also) — until I’m done and run out of images — I’ll be posting a series called This European Diary, with selected images and random thoughts from our recent trip to Germany and Italy. Just like I did in 2011 with France (which eventually became 1EYE, ROAMING). But although I’ll again be sticking to a somewhat chronological order, it won’t be as location-driven this time around: I’m expecting to do something much more focused on impressions and, hopefully, visual consistency.

The images from this trip were shot in a very similar fashion to those in 2011: apart from my time at Photokina I was again with Cynthia, walking for hours on end every single day and reacting to everything around us without ever stopping for more than a few seconds at a time. Or traveling by train or boat and watching the world go by. So I think there’s a similar flow to it all, even though I believe my eye has changed somewhat since then. Quite a lot has changed these past couple of years…

For me this will be a way to make sense of our adventure and to frame the images into some sort of coherent ensemble. Well, that’s the idea anyway. It all begins tomorrow with a post entitled Terminal I. I’m hoping you’ll tag along for the ride.


In my post-Photokina post yesterday (oops, that’s a lot of posts) I wrote in length about the outstanding group of photographers Fujifilm had brought together for the occasion and about the genuine camaraderie, the support I felt while I was there from everyone involved. Well, I’ve been reading the roundups my colleagues have been posting, either on Facebook or their respective blogs, and it seems we all felt the exact same thing. It was like an instant family. Not a yeah-I’m-smiling-and-being-nice-but-I-really-think-I’m-better-than-you-and-just-faking-interest kind of “socializing”… Listen, this was my first time presenting in such a large venue, with so many other photographers in attendance — so maybe this is always how it goes. But I can’t shake the feeling that there was a connection here that doesn’t necessarily happen all that often. Something real. All I know is I still can’t help smiling when I think about it.

I’m leaving you with Kevin Mullins and Elia Locardi’s own thoughts on the event. Worth reading.
Later guys…

Decanting the Photokina experience.

We’re home. It’s unseasonably warm but the leaves have begun to turn and autumn is clearly settling in, adding to our disconnect; these past 14 days have been a whirlwind.

I’ve been trying to think of the best way to present everything I shot during our brief but intense time in Europe and honestly, I’m still reflecting. I’ve been sifting through the images and it could easily go in several directions. All I know at this point is that I’m rather happy with the results. Venice and Rome? Kind of inspiring.

But before Italy, before roaming through streets and palaces and ruins… There was Cologne.
Let’s talk about that for now.

One of my images in the X-Photographers Gallery. The prints were big, bold and damn impressive.

Up with People

I spent the entire summer haunted by Photokina — what I’d say, how I’d say it, what I’d shoot, who I’d meet; I’d visualized and prepared and anticipated to the point of obsession. But the actual experience? Way beyond anything I could’ve imagined.

Of course, the event itself is massive: this isn’t a bunch of kiosks in a conference hall but a city within a city. Several huge buildings, outdoor terraces, every single nook and cranny packed with photographic goodness. I had expected Fujifilm to have a small booth next to a live stage — it turned out to be almost an entire floor. Very, very impressive. But beyond the physicality and the scope of the show, the experience for me became more about people than anything else — the people attending the shows, those I had a chance to talk to, the team organizing it all and of course, the photographers with whom I was sharing the stage while I was there: Bert Stephani, Kevin Mullins, Zack Arias, Gianluca Colla, Elia Locardi, Eric Bouvet, Pete Bridgwood, Ken Kaminesky, Alex Lambrechts, Bobbi Lane and Lee Varis. I also got a chance to chat with David Airob and Paul Schlemmer before leaving for Venice. I know this all sounds like a lot of name dropping but here’s the thing: I knew all these guys would be interesting; I mean the sheer diversity in that group was enough to insure there wouldn’t be a dull moment. But I had not expected such a huge, talented bunch of people to be so much fun to be with. There wasn’t a single ego to spoil the mood and we had a total blast before the talks, during the talks and… Well… After hours. Do you know Germany has beer? It does. So there.

Gianluca and Pete checking out the T...

Zack shooting an impromptu portrait outside the pub...

Stage

All the invited photographers were scheduled for either Live Talk or Studio Demo — I was listed as "studio" but was actually doing both, 50/50. The speaking portion was a sort of reflexion on visual storytelling and the importance of seeing at all times. A very condensed version of a much longer talk I’ve been giving this past year. Now the live shoot… That was a whole nother ball game.

On stage. Courtesy of Bert Stephani.

I wanted to do a shoot that was very "free", using movement to try and capture images between the poses with the goal of creating a sequence of images (as opposed to a single perfect portrait). You know, to tie in the shoot with the storytelling angle of the talk. It worked — at least in retrospect. See, I was the first and only guy shooting during the first two days of the event… So there were, let’s say, a few glitches to contend with. This on top of what is already a pretty nerve wracking situation to begin with: shooting with Photokina looking over your shoulder (!). But it worked out in the end and I have to admit that despite the snags, it was actually kinda fun. And of course my guinea pig sessions paved the way to my buddy Bert Stephani bringing the house down with a perfect shoot on Thursday ;)

Bert explaining The Gap...

Kevin bringing on the tears...

Below are some of the images from the live shoot. Quick setup notes for those of you who might be interested: X-T1 with XF 56mm f/1.2, a single Profoto strobe in a beauty dish on camera axis (high up, mostly aiming over the model’s head). Big thanks to Jamie, to my two wonderful models Wioleta and Anna as well as everyone involved in the girls team… They were simply fantastic to work with. Interesting tidbit: total elapsed time on each shoot? About 4 minutes. Only found this out when I came home and looked at the metadata… Stress is one powerful time-stretching machine.


Day One: Wioleta.



Day Two: Anna.


Wioleta and the BMW...

Thanks, thanks and more thanks

Not to go all Oscar speech on you but I do need to acknowledge some people… I want to thank Billy Luong and Greg Poole of Fujifilm Canada for making this possible and being such a joy to work with, Marc Horner of Fujifilm UK, Kunio Aoyama and everyone at Fujifilm Japan who worked like crazy on this entire event.

Photography can be a very quiet and solitary pursuit. Even when we're shooting other people, there's always a part of it that's internal, that innevitably forces us back into ourselves at some point. So for me, on a very personal level, these intense couple of days were like an influx of energy. Meeting these photographers, speaking to so many people fueled with the same passion, working as amateurs or professionals... It was one of the most enriching and moving experience of my life. I come out of this with a boatload of memories and new friends for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect. 

It was an honour and an absolute blast. 
More please ;)

Later

P.S All images were shot with the X100S (except for the studio stuff).

T-Minus Cologne

We’re almost there: tomorrow at 18h55 we fly to Frankfurt. Then it’s a train to Cologne and the adventure begins.

I’d love to say everything’s packed and ready…. Sure… Like that’s how life works with three young kids in the house. But we’re getting there. Below is THE KIT: X100S with the wide and tele converters. I debated taking the X-T1 for a few hours, just enough time to realize I was reverting to exactly the same reflexes the X100 had liberated me from three years ago. Which lens do I take? This? No, that? No. Way.

The reason I have the converters is because Fujifilm Canada is loaning them to me along with the X100S itself — I still have the X100 and they were nice enough to let me borrow this one for the duration of our trip. As much as I still love the original X100 there’s been quite a jump in performance since its release and I’m rather used to this by now. The X-T1 does tend to spoil a guy. The old X100 is fine for quick outings but Cologne, Venice and Rome? I might've regretted my choice along the way (even though I know the images would’ve been great).

Now of course I can hear you thinking “But… The converters add the same dilemma in terms of focal length. Too much choice creating uncertainty. What’s the deal man?”. Well, you’re right and I almost declined bringing them for those exact reasons. Truth is, I might not use them; or if I do it’ll be sparingly and I’ll fully commit to that focal length while it’s on — no switching from one to the other or overthinking every shot with the converters in mind. There’s a shooting philosophy to respect here damn it ;)

If you’re heading to Photokina and planning on dropping by my talks (2PM on Tuesday and Wednesday) I’ll be seeing you soon. If not, the blog will most likely be going dark until we return on the 26th.

Btw I did finally open an Instagram account that I may use to post tidbits from the trip while we’re there. You’ll find me at instagram.com/laroquephotogram

Can you smell that? Beer, sauerkraut and gear… Mmmm.

Later

Always crashing in the same car | XF 56mm APD

Every chance,
every chance that I take
I take it on the road
Those kilometres and the red lights
I was always looking left and right
Oh, but I’m always crashing
in the same car
— David Bowie

Shot with the X-T1 and XF 56mm f/1.2 R APD