An Apparent Retrograde Motion


Last week I delivered an article for an upcoming Photo Life issue, about street photography, privacy laws and their impact on our ability (or desire) to capture the world in general. And in the process I was forced to note how these affected me as well—maybe even contributing to this slow dive into abstraction I recently wrote about.

I’m getting ready to leave for the UK this coming sunday (for Snap! 2019) and I’m still on the fence as to which kit I’ll be bringing. One camera/one lens obviously, but beyond the specific choice of gear I’ve also been toying with the idea of forcing certain limits on myself. I thought of using the X100F but shooting solely through the OVF for instance—like I used to, back in the good ‘ol X100 days. But that may be a bit much. Mainly, I want to force my eye back to documenting and relying to a much lesser degree on shallow depth of field, which can easily become a crutch...or a cop out. And traveling is the perfect excuse to weave a proper story.


I grabbed the camera for a couple of hours on Monday and did what I guess we could call a practice run, resisting the urge to play dentist and open wide (terrible pun, sorry). I set the camera to Raw+Fine, using a new Bresson BW custom preset on the JPEGs...but after ingesting the images, colour seemed a much better choice. So these were all processed from the raw files in Capture One 12.

As for the subject: it’s easy to stop logging what may seem like minute changes in the flow of our lives. They all appear to blend in together after awhile. And yet look at Jacob, sitting with Watson. He’ll be off to Ireland in a few short weeks, on a ten day field trip. Spreading his wings.

Same decor, same actors.
And yet barely similar.

Shot with the X-T3 and XF 35mm f/2 R WR

KAGE Assignment Generator

Guidance: Intentions -nobility of -humility of -credibility of.
Assignment: Today you must shoot any subject with a square ratio, using your longest focal length and your favorite camera. 
Time limit: speed shooting—3 minutes.

If you’re wondering what the above paragraph is about, let me add that Siri told me to. Ok, let’s backtrack a little. A couple of months ago my good friend Derek Clark—on our KAGE Slack channel— shared a system he had devised to generate photo assignments. It was based on an Evernote template filled with various elements: camera bodies, lenses, aperture, time limits etc. The idea was to roll the dice for each category and use the random results to force a framework around which to shoot.

At the time he shared this with us I was already on an iOS Shortcuts rampage, setting up various workflows to automate everything from my work environment to morning meditations. So the first thing that popped into my head when I saw Derek’s message was: I can totally automate this. So I did. I built a very quick first draft in Shortcuts, inputting several variables—technical but also expanding into thematic aspects as well. We had a few back and forth conversations, I tweaked and added more variables, more choices and finally here we are: I call it the KAGE Assignment Generator. It’s a totally free Shortcuts workflow that can be downloaded here.

When run it does three things :

  • 1. It provides “guidance” using Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies.

  • 2. It asks how much time you have for the assignment—up to 30mn, up to 3 hours or up to 6 hours. Basically, a quickie, half-day or full-day.

  • 3. Based on this selected time slot, it generates a framework using technical limitations AND subject orientation.

Siri speaks the results while displaying the text on-screen. The shortcut then offers to save the assignment in either Things (1), the built-in Notes app or to simply copy it to the clipboard, allowing the generated text to be pasted in any application.

I’ve tried to make the technical variables as universal and open as possible, but concessions will obviously need to be made depending on the gear you own: if someone only has an X100F for instance, then the focal length or camera body suggestions won’t be as useful. But I think there’s still some interesting stuff to play with in most circumstances.

For me the assignment above resulted in using my X-Pro2 (set to square ratio) with the XF 55-200mm zoom fixed at 200mm. I set a 3 minute timer on my watch and shot the following images (2):

Three minutes is very fast but I didn’t cheat, scout’s honour. Ok, I was never a scout but I still didn’t cheat. If you know your way around Shortcuts feel free to tweak this to fit your needs—I did all of it for fun so please take this in the spirit in which it was created. (3)

And now for my next assignment:
Guidance: Put in earplugs.
Assignment: Today you must shoot small things, using your longest focal length and your newest camera.
Time limit: 30 minutes.

Happy Easter, if it applies :)


1. You’ll need to allow Shortcuts to access Things if you haven't done so already.

2. These were edited on my iPad with the new Pixelmator Photo app. More on this later.

3. Caveat: it runs fine from within the Shortcuts app but sometimes crashes when used as a widget. I’ve had other workflows with similar issues and it probably has to do with complexity/memory requirements. Hopefully this will be fixed at some point in the future.

A subtle warming in the colour of light

Yellows before greens before rays burn skin lathered up swimming drinking sweat barely clothed and hot grasses mowed fragrant kids run days longer than starfull night explosions.

Yellows before greens
yellows before greens.

Shot with the X100F

Dog Sun Habitat

laROQUE-Dog Sun Habitat-012.jpg

Shot with the X100F

The Popular One-Day Diary, 1942

Tonight I asked and received permission to go on the bridge. I stood there for about an hour watching the waves breaking over the deck, the wind screaming through the steel cables.

The first entry is actually from 1950. He’s studying at College Laval, writing about boring classes and teachers, the stuff of every fifteen-year old kid. He’d probably found the old empty diary lying around somewhere.

A few months later he’s on a ship. He’s left school, hopped on a freighter to sail the world. The pages fill with exotic port names, with moments of grace and litanies of darker solitudes. Storms and girls, drinking and stargazing. He writes of a red carnation and there’s a petal, dried but perfect, nestled between pages. A picture with his mom too. And his handwriting slowly changes, from the careful script of a schoolboy into the frenzied, ineligible scrawls that will define him.

The last page is dated November 1954. Just four quick years but the chasm is almost impossible to fathom. He’s now working for the Iron Ore, stationed far up north, feeling cold and alone. He doesn’t know it yet but he’ll be married eight years later. He’ll work in the steel business for the rest of his life. He’ll have two kids—a boy and a girl.

By January 1986, he’ll be gone.

Shot with the GFX 50S