A September Newsbrief

So how have you all been? It feels like ages since I’ve spoken in a voice that was purely conversational—as opposed to the Story (capital S) inner monologue. I feel the need for a mea culpa: man did I let the blog fall by the wayside. I still have several essays to publish from the UK series as well as other more mundane episodes, stolen, as usual, from our everyday lives. Some of these have made their way to KAGE’s Chronicle 90 journaling project; others still sit on an external hard drive, waiting. It’s a common byproduct of summer months, to be scattered this way, but it seems to have been more intense this year: part fatigue, part busyness, part imposed secrecy. At some point it all blended together to create a—paradoxically—frantic standstill. Don’t even try imagining ;)

But Fall is here. On cue, the air is cooler and we can finally sleep under the covers again. And I can also share some bits of news I’d been keeping for myself.

PHOTOKINA

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Stoked about this: I’ll be leaving for Germany (via a short detour to Brussels) in a couple of weeks: I’m scheduled to speak at Photokina, on the Fujifilm Studio stage. This will be part talk, part live shoot. Very much looking forward to seeing friends out there again: it’s a really cool lineup and three of my KAGE buddies will be there as well so...beer? Perhaps a few.

If you’re planning to visit be sure to come and say hi if you get the chance.

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KAGE+DOMINIQUE SHAW

We have a new KAGE member too! Dominique Shaw has joined our ranks. We’re very excited to see her work in the months ahead. We’ve added her profile to the website and she’ll start publishing right after we end the Chronicle 90 project I just mentioned. 

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MEDIUM FORMAT MAGAZINE

Admittedly, the GFX has caused a minor seismic shift in my small corner of the universe: what began as a tentative experiment has since impacted much more of my photography than I initially thought it would. Medium Format is a new digital publication and website where, every two months, I’ll be exploring the topic through a column entitled Frailties.

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FFOTON.WALES

While in the UK last June for Kevin Mullin’s brilliant X-Weddings conference, I had the great pleasure of sitting down for an in-depth interview with Brian from Ffoton—a website and podcast based in Wales and dedicated to photography. Most interviews tend to happen through Skype these days—for obvious reasons—and there’s such a different dynamic to a casual, face to face conversation. Ideas and topics bounce off each other so much more naturally. A highly enjoyable encounter. Plus: if you’re looking to spend a few hours listening to photographers, this site will have you covered for days.

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BREATHE PICTURES

Oh and speaking of X-Weddings: that was an absolute blast. The events were a blast, the folks attending the conference and those on my workshop were a blast—and the invited photographers were...well yes, a blast. And crazy talented. This is where I met Dominique (and her brother Liam) but also Marianne Chua, Facundo Santana and Neale James. You’ll see more of these last two compadres when I get around to posting the Brighton pics...I will, promised. But I especially want to mention Neale’s new podcast: Breathe Pictures. Neale is a documentary wedding photographer, but he was once a BBC DJ. He sounds like a BBC DJ. He’s also a storyteller who has a hell of a knack for packaging shows that completely draw you in. Episode 1 is a wrap up of X-Weddings—complete with a few funny car conversations on our way to Brighton. But believe me, you’ll absolutely want to dig into the next episodes. Notably, episode 3 is with the late great Steve Shipman, who we sadly lost a few months ago.

I believe that’s it for the roundup.
Later guys

P.S We have a dog now. And a cat. Discuss...;)

Dignity & republics

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Labour Day
as summer exhales
its faint breath of wilting leaves
 & sorrow.
A final gasp
before the rush
of winds.

The kids went back to school this week, as they usually do. Life returned to its clockwork normalcy and we all settled once again into the grooves we know so well. But on Saturday I turned on the television, a little before 9:00 AM, grabbed a coffee and found a spot on the couch in our living room. I sat there for the better part of the morning, alone at times, answering questions from the girls at others—who is this daddy? What’s going on?. Jacob was playing video games. Cynthia joined me for a bit, then moved in and out.

I couldn’t budge.

I watched a nation remember its soul. I watched as the ghosts of honour, duty and dignity descended and stormed in through soft abandon, the halls echoing from voices possessed, pushing assembled men and women towards some semblance of recollection, of honesty. I watched and hoped for rebirth. How could anyone go back to business as usual after these solemn moments had passed? How could anyone justify inaction in the face of renewed cruelty and lies? Or stand-by as an abyss threatened to swallow the foundational core of their republic? I watched and hoped.

Then during a pause I loaded the cesspool that is Twitter: the vile coward hadn’t even stopped spewing hate as the rest of the world mourned. Not surprising of course. But still another drop of poison in the bloodstream.

I took these images to reconnect—with the things we‘ve lost and those we still have.
As summer exhaled.

​Data Bracelets

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In September 2016 I wrote the following about the state of physical media:

“It's crazy how much our reality has changed over the last few years: faster internet connections, higher or even unlimited data caps (at least in Canada) combined with most of our lives moving to the digital realm...all these factors have contributed to less and less reliance on physical media. In fact I have trouble remembering when I sent files to a client through anything other than WeTransfer, Mail Drop, Box or similar services.”

The paragraph was part of a post entitled Like Candy—and I was writing about personalized USB flash drives I’d received from a US-based company called USB Memory Direct. If anything the situation has intensified since then: last week I sent almost 30GB of raw images though WeTransfer Plus for the last job I shot. The idea of using a physical drive, wrapping it up, sending it to another country through postal or courrier services, waiting for the package to reach its destination on time, hoping nothing goes wrong along the way...none of it makes sense at this point. So while I still love those walnut flash drives from 2016, when the company reached out again a couple of months ago my first instinct was to thank them, but ultimately let them know I didn’t actually need anything. I’ll never feel right about accepting products I don’t intent to use.

But then I noticed the wrist drives...

I’ve always worn bracelets—leather, metal...leather AND metal...whatever. I also own an Apple Watch. All of this to say I’m basically used to wearing stuff on my wrists. So when I saw the USB Wristbands on the company’s website I thought huh...that might be fun. The drives come in either USB 2.0 or USB 3.0, with capacities ranging from 64MB to 128GB, depending on the speed you choose. The material is described as soft rubberized plastic, which feels pretty close to the fluoroelastomer Apple uses on its Apple Watch Sports band. There’s no clasp: the USB connector just slips into the opposite end of the wristband. Tough to do the first time around but you get the hang of it after awhile. And once they’re in they hold tight—I’ve had no issues at all with the wristband loosening up and coming apart.

I decided to keep things simple and go with white, but there’s a variety of colours to choose from. And of course, like all of the company’s products, these can be personalized with logo, text or whatever else strikes your fancy (I added a tag line to mine). The process is absolutely painless too: I downloaded the specs from the website, sent in a PNG and received a proof in less than an hour. Then right before shipping they sent me a picture of the actual product, just to confirm we were good to go. Class act.

I intend to keep one of these for myself and use the others for giveaways. With 8GB I’ll probably include the 1EYE series along with a PDF or ePub portfolio. Heck, maybe These Kings while I’m at it. Now, as to the question on everyone’s mind: yes, it IS a little weird to wear something with your name on it...but fortunately, it’s pretty discreet ;)

Many thanks to Taylor for making this possible. You can find more info about the product at USBMemoryDirect.com.

45, a ball...and mathematics.

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I spent a few days in Mississauga for a shoot last week—material I can’t share, unfortunately. I did a quick visit of Fujifilm’s Canadian mothership on my way in and got to see Jerry, Greg, Helen, Jaime and many others in their...err... natural working habitat ;)

I also had the opportunity to use the GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR on this job (thanks to Billy and all the kind folks I just mentioned), and I still have it with me for a couple of days. As expected, it’s an impressive lens.

So the girls came home from school yesterday and I grabbed a few shots with it. That ball? Yeah, totally out of context. I just liked the mood...

Later


Shot with the GFX 50S and GF 45mm f/2,8 R WR


Machine to Companion: One year with the GFX 50S

Ever since my very first X100, I’ve made distinctions between cameras. Some quickly become a part of me, not just extensions—a threshold most fine tools eventually cross—but something more intimate. Others I consider machines, precise instruments that don’t necessarily pull at my heartstrings but are perfectly suited to the work I need to do. The X-T1 was like that. The X-Pro1 was too...at first. Because sometimes, somewhere along the way, that relationship can change.

I purchased the GFX 50S as a tool. A machine. And over the course of the past year I’ve used it constantly on various jobs, often alongside X series cameras. But just like the X-Pro1 all those years ago...it’s become more than it initially was.

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The pull of medium format

Everything I’ve ever said about the X series remains true to this day. I still love the footprint, the stealth, the psychological impact of these cameras on subjects—either aware or unaware of a shot being taken. I’ll never travel with the GFX 50S and it’ll never become my 1EYE camera. But those files...they’re incredibly hard to dismiss. After all this time I’m still struggling to express the pull they have over me, but it remains impossible to brush off: I get a visceral reaction to the images I shoot with it. If the role of our tools is to inspire, then the goal of this camera has been met, tenfold. No question. The result of course, is that I’ve been willing to compromise on stealth: I’ll now reach for the GFX in situations where I usually would’ve chosen an X-Pro or X100. Which may seem like a serious  shift...until you factor in the beat.

Rhythms

The GFX 50S isn’t slow—especially for a medium-format camera. But it IS slower than its APS-C siblings. It uses contrast detection, for one. The files are also much larger which, regardless of storage prices, is definitely something floating in the back of my mind as I’m shooting; in raw especially. All of this, combined with the camera itself, affects the rhythm somehow. But this is not a negative in my mind. In many ways it brings me back to my early days with the X series, the way the system made me much more aware of each moment, more deliberate in my approach to photography. It’s amazing how much evolution we’ve seen in such a short period of time—how far we’ve come from that X100. But it’s also easy to fall back into that “performance-driven” groove, to forget about slowing down when the cameras don’t force us to do so. Medium-format photography nudges me back into that softer flow. Yes, the footprint is larger...but the intent is familiar. For me, the lineage is clear and very much welcome.

 

Another detail I’ve mentioned in passing a couple of times: the addition of the EVF Tilt-Adapter, which was an important turning point in my relationship with the GFX. This is the small revolving plate that fits between the camera and the —brilliantly designed—removable viewfinder. I first used it on the shoot we did in Toronto for the Lexus+GFX video. Before this I’d only spent a few minutes with it and never while actually working. This small change—being able to look down into the viewfinder for instance—suddenly transformed the camera into a very different tool. Different from my other cameras that is. It gave me a new point of view and ADDED an element to my photography workflow, beyond the bigger sensor. Needless to say it’s stayed glued to the GFX ever since. The only times I remove it is for packing.

Expansion

Ok, enter the rabbit hole. With this camera taking on an ever increasing role in my work, I’ve looked at expanding my visual options. So the initial GF 63mm f2.8 has since been joined by the GF 120mm f/4 Macro, a Pentax 50mm f/1.7 (through a Fotodiox adapter), and recently the superb GF 110mm f/2.

 Family picture

Family picture

The 120 and 110 may seem redundant—they are. I first chose the 120 for its macro abilities on this system which, physics being inescapable, is much less accommodating in terms of minimal focusing distance. And I’m glad I did. It’s both superb and handy. But I now believe the 110 is (so far) the GF line’s magic lens ...much like the 56 f/1.2 or 35 f/1.4 on the X series. Don’t ask me to explain why, I just feel it. Yes, shallow DOF but more importantly character, imprint...something.

What I’m “missing” in this system is a super-wide zoom along the lines of the XF 10-24mm. But I’m using quotation marks because...I do have the XF 10-24mm don’t I? I know. I told you this was a rabbit hole.

 Fun with the electronic shutter...

Fun with the electronic shutter...

Conclusion

A few years ago I spoke of the possibility of a medium-format camera as a companion to the X series—how, in my mind at least, there was a logic to using both systems in tandem. A philosophical kinship if you will. Today I know this to be absolutely true: apart from a size and ergonomic shock when shooting systems side by side (which will be less obvious once the X-H1 arrives), both make sense as a pair. Both complete one another.

Now in some cases, I admit, the GFX 50S has added a layer of uncertainty—I need to think for a second or two before choosing which camera to pick up. But then, every new piece of gear usually has a similar effect, taking away from simplicity. It’s called the paradox of choice and, well...such is life. I consider myself very lucky to even have these choices.

And man, one year in...I don’t regret a single moment.
I've found the soul in the machine.