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...;)

New project: CHRONICLE 90

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I’m looking at a backlog of ideas, a backlog of posts and a backlog of projects. I just can’t seem to get myself into gear lately. Ten thousand voices pulling at each other in my mind, competing for focus and time in the spotlight. A couple of hours ago I had to face my very first—EVER—data corruption issue with an important Logic Pro project : audio files suddenly rendered unusable out of the blue, smack dab in the middle of recording. I’d never seen anything like it but a quick search surfaced this as an ongoing issue, as far back as 2005. Well, yay.

But I didn’t fire up the blog to bitch and moan...what I really want is to mention a new KAGE project we launched a couple of weeks ago: CHRONICLE 90. Instead of fixing ourselves a monthly target and publishing several stories as part of a single issue, we’ve embarked on a 90-day journal. That is, one post per day for the next 90 days (seven photographers). The challenge of course is in the material: we won’t be shooting the sublime and the epic every single time. Each entry instead becomes a personal snapshot of where we are, what we’re doing, how our lives are unfolding. Normalcy, wherever it may lead us.

Our homepage has been altered to display those daily stories but it’s all in the blog as well, under the chronicle90 category.
Check it out if you get a chance :)

Five & the Update Cornucopia

Man...We’re going to need an entire week just to get up to speed. I’ve rarely seen such an avalanche of releases back to back—new versions, new apps, firmware updates, the works. But before we take a look at all of it, I need to mention one little thing: KAGE is five years old.

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Hard to believe this project began in 2012 but here we are. We’ve seen ups and downs, lived through internal changes but what an adventure it’s been so far. I’m incredibly proud of every moment with current and past photographers. Our new issue is out today and I invite you to come hang out for a bit.

Right. On with the newness...

CAPTURE ONE 11

There’s a new version of Capture One every year. And every year the company raises the bar—with actually useful features. By that I mean stuff most of us will use on a daily basis. With recent releases, the contrast in philosophy between Lightroom and C1 has never been clearer: on one hand we have little more than a standstill, a trickle of improvements combined with, at best, a deeply confused message (don’t get me started again). On the other, an update that kicks serious $ss. I’ve gone all in with Capture One and I’m not turning back—not to Lightroom anyway. But the app’s speed was never it’s forte and it was one of those things I’d simply come to accept. Version 9 had promised improvements on this front, version 10 had renewed the claim…neither ever made much of a difference on my end. Capture One 11 however, changes everything. Browsing, editing, previewing and applying styles, switching views and workspaces, all operations are monumentally faster. Enough that it makes my iMac suddenly feel like a new machine. In Adobe land that would’ve been the big achievement—here it’s essentially a by-product of the upgrade.

There are tons of big and small improvements (a new colour engine for one), but the tent pole feature IMHO is an overhaul of local adjustments—which are now called layers. All editing tools can now be applied to layers, adding levels, colour balance and all the modes of the clarity and structure sliders. Not only that: styles can be applied to a layer AND all layers now include an opacity slider. Think about that for a second; yup, it’s huge. It means an entire set of adjustments can be throttled up or down in seconds. I definitely need to write a more in-depth look at this software.

If you’re already using Capture One check out the demo. I think it’s killer.

PIXELMATOR PRO

I moved away from Photoshop a few years ago—basically before I signed up for the CC photography plan. And when I did I chose Pixelmator as my replacement. Honestly, although it was much more powerful, moving back to Photoshop after that stint (had to justify the monthly expense) was painful. Not that the app couldn’t do the job—it obviously could—but the UI made me feel like I was going back 5 or 6 years in time.

The new Pixelmator Pro makes Photoshop look like Windows 98.

I wrote about this not so long ago but it still impresses me: what all these new, small companies have in common is a deep understanding of the API’s Apple has built into MacOS. They’re leveraging Metal 2 and machine learning and Coreeverything in ways that allow them to focus not only on features, but also on re-imagining how we interact with software. This is profoundly changing the landscape and the tools we now have at our disposal. Little guys can now hang with big guys. Take something like Adobe’s highly touted repair tools for instance (magic a few short years ago): initial repair tests with Pixelmator Pro were not only on par, in most cases they did a better job of it than Photoshop. That’s a serious leveraging of the playing field. Of course Photoshop is still a beast: if you’re working in CMYK or in need of any of its highly targeted tools, chances are this won’t work as a replacement. But in my case it does.

I’m not 100% sold on all the UI decisions in Pixelmator Pro but I have little doubt they’ve laid a foundation that holds a heck of a lot of promise.

FUJIFILM FIRMWARE UPDATES

These had been announced already so no surprise here. For most cameras we’re looking at compatibility with the new 80mm lens (update released on Nov 21). The Nov 30 updates feature support for third-party flashes (think Profoto and Elinchrom triggers), as well as the new Fujifilm X RAW Studio app. They also add functionalities on the X-T2 (new AF tracking algorithms) and the X-T20 (touch panel operation). If you have a GFX 50S the V2.00 also fixes an exposure compensation bug (it’s not listed but I can attest that the bug is gone). A similar X-Pro2 update is scheduled for mid-December. All of these are (or will be) available here.

FUJIFILM X RAW STUDIO

Which brings us to the brand new baby I just mentioned: Fujifilm X Raw Studio. This is an interesting and quite novel piece of software—I’m not aware of any other camera manufacturer doing anything similar. It’s basically a desktop version of Fujifilm’s raw conversion function found in both X-series and GFX cameras. For those who’ve never used it: this allows a raw file to be re-baked in-camera by using custom settings tools and film simulations. On the X-series it results in a new JPEG file; on the GFX there’s a choice of either JPEG or TIFF. The big deal here is that the app can do batch conversions (a much faster process) AND it uses the camera’s processor to do its thing: a camera needs to be tethered via USB in order for the software to work. Strange? Definitely. Quirky interface? Totally. But…I’ve fiddle with the app very briefly and I’ve already identified an important aspect to it: for anyone at all interested in creating in-camera custom settings, ladies and gents this is our new playground. I really wasn’t expecting it, but this is a great tool to understand how the Fuji processor works, how it affects the images we shoot. When using X Raw Studio we’re seeing the camera work in real time—we’re seeing the curves being applied, the effects of one simulation next to another, all of it. You can even compare Adobe RGB to SRGB in various scenarios, or see the effects of Lens Modulation, Colour Chrome Effect (on the GFX 50S) etc.

So while I doubt I’ll use this to convert images, what I intend to do is input all my custom settings into the app and experiment with various tweaks to see how it all reacts. As far as I’m concerned this is like a free course in X-processing.

As I said earlier: there’s a lot here to digest. If you share any of my geek tendencies however, it’s like an early Christmas. Speaking of which: it’s donut baking time this weekend. Let the season begin...

Have a great one :)

Tuesday Tidbits

I’m genuinely excited about today’s Apple Event: there’s just something that feels historical—and a tad touching—about this first Steve Jobs Theater gig. So I got a bunch of things done this morning, clearing my schedule to catch the presentation via live streaming. I know...I’m a total geek. 

DRESSED REHEARSAL

Miriodor is headed for RIO—Rock in Opposition Festival—in Carmaux, France. If you’re around and into prog/avant rock of the highest caliber check this one out. Last night they played their full set, one last casual rehearsal, over beers, in front of a few friends. I shot a couple of images for the hell of it—X-Pro2, straight to Acros JPEG (processed in LR).

KAGE IN SEPTEMBER

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So we called this new issue WE DID WHAT WE COULD...which is self-explanatory. Things got in the way of a September 1st release but we finally managed to get it out. Jonas wrote the editorial/intro again this month and I believe he pretty much nailed it. Always surprising to see everyone pull together in the end.

A PORTUGAL SERIES

Robert Kahn is a client, who’s also a photographer, who became a friend. Life’s fun like that. We did a couple of workshops together and we’ve since kept an ongoing remote training series. Robert has always had obvious talent but this last trip to Portugal blew me away. He just recently launched a personal website if you want to take a look. Beautiful stuff. 

 

Easy

There's this point I always reach when I exercise regularly: my body feels great, my thoughts are clearer, my mood brighter...and then for some reason, I stop. Like I've earned a break. I skip one day—just one. And then another. I'm still at the top of that hill so it doesn't matter, it's all good. But the slide begins. And the danger lies in the softness of the slope, in not realizing I'm creeping downwards. A frog, unaware the water will eventually boil.

I've recently followed a similar path with photography. Sure, I've been busy—that age-old excuse—but it's never stopped me before. I've let life run by without aiming my lens to it; or not often enough anyway. Maybe because the kids are getting older...maybe out of fatigue. 

I spent last week away from home on a commercial gig, really cool stuff I'll share when I can. I bought a new strobe—a Godox AD600BM—that I'll review in a bit. But I didn't take a single picture over the weekend and for me, that's a danger zone: the eye is a muscle and seeing needs to be fine tuned, exercised constantly, over and over and over again. My friend Kevin Mullins wrote the following in his new KAGE essay (we're back to monthly issues btw—and Jonas Rask has joined the project):

I’m living in an industry where the next big thing is always around the corner. Yet, to me at least, the next best thing is the next picture I print.
— Kevin Mullins

through a hotel window...

It doesn't need to be about prints—what's important is the mindset this creates. The chronicling of days and months and years; the personal feeding the commercial, filling the gaps and making us better at what we do. We need to breathe and swallow images, always. We need to dissect our world, always.

This morning I picked up my X100F at breakfast. Very little light…didn’t matter. It’s all grainy and soft but I was breaking the ice. Then I took the GFX 50S outside, remembering how to speak the words again.

I’m incredibly blessed on many levels.
I can't waste it. I have no right.