Present Imperfect

An evening out with an old friend, remembering who we where: the heroes, the fiends, the reckless fools; realizing everything's changed but it’s all the same. On the drive back I put on Beach House, Then I switch to Joy Division—yeah...all the same...definitely.

Have a great weekend all.

Shot with the X100T

2015 Global Photo Walk | Montreal

Photo walks always strike me as odd creatures: a gathering around an activity that’s mostly rather private and—let’s face it— doesn’t usually involve moving around with a massive posse. It’s always strange to suddenly become part of a slow, lumbering, camera-carrying meta-beast. But of course it’s about community and meeting others who share the same passion, either as a hobby or a job—because none of that matters; we’re ALL photographers.

This year’s 500px Global Photo Walk was sponsored by Fujifilm and the Montreal chapter was organized by Alexandre Trudeau-Dion who did a great job. The delightful Valérie Racine of Photo Life/Photo Solution was there representing the magazine, lots of folks from the local camera clubs and thriving Fuji community. Always fun to see familiar faces and get a chance to catch up with everyone.

Still, beyond the talking and the socializing it’s all about imagery right? So here’s some of my output for the day. Just one big chronological series. Oh and that last photo? Yeah…don’t shoot and drive kids.

All images shot with the X100T

New book & more: These kings. These subterraneans.

1EYE, ROAMING was a necessary first publication, for many reasons. It frames the origins of a new journey, my first tentative steps with the X-series and the beginnings of a storytelling approach. It's an adaptation of material that was important to me and as such it made sense for it to be gathered and presented the way it was. First stone. Stretching the canvas. But even as I was working on it, even on the very day of its release I knew: 1EYE, ROAMING wasn't about where I was—it was about where I'd been. 

The next project would be profoundly different.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to create something that would blend it all: photography, words, music. Maybe with a few sketches thrown in. A work I could point to and say: look, that's me, for whatever it's worth. But I kept procrastinating, unsure of the direction or form it should take.

When I started giving conferences a couple of years ago it strangely began paving the way for this type of work to finally happen, by allowing me to explore different avenues for presenting ideas, forcing reflections I may not otherwise have spent much time on. Then at some point I also started writing songs again; I didn't expect to release anything (music and I have a troubled history) but I badly needed the outlet. Slowly, through it all, I began imagining more.

Over the holidays I read Dan Winter's life changing Road to Seeing and wrote a post entitled Go Deep, my first one of 2015. In retrospect, this is the moment when it all suddenly made sense: why not? Why not an explosion? Why not a weird composite object to scream or whisper it all in a single uninterrupted stream of consciousness? That post, almost a New Year's became the plan, the guiding light.

 Cue these kings. these subterraneans.

Here's an excerpt from the project page—it's the best explanation I've come up with so far:

Let’s say we’re having a beer. It’s a nice, cool summer evening and we’re sitting in some hip café, shooting the breeze, going from one topic to the next. Now let’s imagine that while we’re having this conversation, you somehow get injected inside my head—like Fantastic Voyage or Innerspace you know? Yeah, old movies...whatever...but though the psyche instead of the blood stream. Images are fading in and out, seemingly random and yet somehow connected. There’s music playing, enveloping the landscape, voices slightly out of range. All the while you can still hear me, murmuring ideas about photography...sometimes going into more personal subjects.

That’s what I had in mind with this. It’s a slice of my brain circa 2015, a project meant to share thoughts and emotions through words, images and music. A raw, disjointed and slightly oneiric journey that I hope will pull you in for the ride.


I know. You're probably thinking "But...what is it exactly?"
It's a mixed media project—which is a fancy way of saying it's not just a book: it's a photography book AND a music album. The book is in PDF format (landscape), 120 pages, 25 colour photographs, 24 monochromes. Drawings, lyrics, short essays and anecdotes. The album features 8 songs in 256 kbps AAC (m4a). All of this available in a single digital download. 

Personal projects can be very volatile, as we go from certainty to doubt and back again. But sometimes they assert themselves out of a sheer sense of urgency. This has been a long and arduous journey for me and I've rarely been this absorbed, at times paralyzed by a project. I also believe it's probably my most personal effort to date, leaving me—to be perfectly honest— in a very vulnerable state. Releasing this feels a lot like placing my head on a chopping block and hoping for the best, damn the consequences. Because it's also a snapshot—this IS where I am, today. WHO I am. It's not a compilation or a look back, there's no distance this time around: it's here and now. Open heart surgery.

I'm very proud to say this is also the first release under KAGE EDITIONS, a new umbrella we'll be using for personal projects.

For the next two weeks (until October 8th) these kings. these subterraneans | Mixed Media Edition (book+music) is available at a special introductory price of $9.99 CAD. For more info and previews please visit the project page here.

I did this for myself. We always do. But I'm hoping this strange object will succeed in touching some of you as well, somehow.

These kings. These subterraneans. | mixed media edition
9.99 12.99

This is the complete digital project which includes both the music album and book with full text, photographs and illustrations.
BOOK: PDF format (landscape), 120 pages. 25 colour photographs, 24 monochromes.
ALBUM: 8 songs, 256 kbps AAC (m4a), running time 34 minutes.


Buy Now (Instant Download - 202 MB)

The button above is the preferred method of purchase: you'll get access to the download immediately following the transaction. If however you prefer using the Paypal option below, be advised that it requires manual intervention on my part and it may take up to 24 hours or more before you receive the link—depending on where I am, time of day etc...


Studies for a Backlit Screen I

I wanted to make something you could slip in and out of. You could pay attention or you could choose not to be distracted by it if you wanted to do something while it was on.
— Brian Eno (on ambient music)

Shot with the X-T1 and XF 60mm f/2.4 R



The Hard Look | Stacking for Shadows

Fashion trends affect every sphere of our lives and our work is certainly no exception. There's a look in product photography that I'm seeing everywhere these days: hard light against white backgrounds. This particular treatment makes for very crisp, sunny "middle of the afternoon" images with a lot of pop.

But usually while the shadows and edges are very defined, the products retain a softness and roundness in terms of texture that's associated with softer lighting. So how does this work? Well, we can go crazy with light positioning, trying to get that perfect ratio...or we can start thinking in layers. The trick is stacking.


Hard to see but that Deep Octa is directly over the table.

Basically, we use two lights: one for softness and one for shadows. But we don't use them together. Instead we shoot two images—one for each light—that we'll then combine in Photoshop or any other image editor that supports layers and masks. The advantage of this method is the amount of control we gain over which area gets a hard or soft treatment. It's then completely up to us to decide what works best. Let's do a quick case study—faults and all.

For image #1 I've positioned a Deep Octa directly overhead, fairly close to the objects (about two feet). The results are what you'd expect: soft; flat even. If I'm going for this kind of final look, I'll usually just play with the edges of the softbox by simply rotating it forwards or backwards, giving more light to either the front or back of the subject; this is a quick and easy way to create dimension. In this case however, because I'm shooting for stacking, I'm leaving it as even as possible. This is my base image.

For image #2 I'm using a 30º grid on an Elinchrom BXRi strobe, slightly behind and above the subject, camera right. The grid is focusing the beam and I've aimed the strobe directly towards the products. This is the afternoon sun, the "shadow and depth" image.

Both versions are processed for basic exposure, contrast etc in Lightroom. Once that's done I select them, right-click and choose Edit as Layers in Adobe Photoshop CC. This will open Photoshop and create a single PSD or TIFF file containing both images already stacked as layers.


From here it's all rather straightforward: I make sure the"base" image is on top and add a layer mask (Layers>Layer Mask>Reveal All). I select this new mask layer, choose a black paintbrush and start painting in the areas where I want the "shadow" image to appear. There's no recipe for this—it all depends on the image itself and the effect we're looking for. But I usually turn the base layer on and off throughout the process, to visualize what I've added or removed. With a mask we can simply switch to a white paintbrush to go over potential mistakes—it's all non-destructive. Once we're done, all we need to do is hit Save: this new image is added next to the originals in Lightroom where we can add further adjustments if we need to. Eventually, this is what you get:

A few more examples using the exact same technique (final image first; click for stacked versions)::

These are all quick and dirty examples just to give a rough idea.

If at all possible I always prefer getting everything done in one take; but sometimes the laws of physics get in the way. Stacking is a method that can prove useful for all kinds of settings: focus, exposure—anything reality can't manage in a single take. Just like bracketing. I personally never use this outside of commercial work but it's a useful concept to grasp.

Now, if I could just find that Remove All Dust, Fingerprints, Smudges And Scratches button....