3rd party inspiration #3: Steve McCurry

This Sunday my good friend Niels and I went to an exposition of Steve McCurry in Helmond, The Netherlands. I just love the work of Steve and I’m a fan of his work for years now.

A couple of years ago he gave a presentation in Amsterdam. Another friend notified me on the event, but I couldn’t get a ticket anymore. Fully booked. I ‘compensated’ this by buying a couple of his books, hardcover and a nice large format. I used to browse the books and put the book opened on a specific page on display in my living room. I actually mounted a bookshelf specifically for this purpose. I would change the page every couple of weeks. Such an inspiration, both the stories of Steve and his photos.

The exposition showed 132 of his photos, printed big, and mounted in black, wooden frames, which were beautifully light by a carefully placed spotlight. Amazing!

As we all know, photography is about emotion. It’s about the feeling it evokes. A lot of the photos I saw triggered a good feeling in me. A feeling of the beauty in the world. Or a feeling of hope. Sometimes this feels odd, because of the terrible circumstances of the subjects. I think that’s why I relate to the photos of Steve. I’m also focused on the good, the positive and the beautiful things around me / in this world. And even when the situation is not too nice, I’m always looking to make the most of the situation.

At some point I notice that some photos didn’t work quite well for me. For some it was the content / the subject and that’s fine, right? We can’t like everything. But I also noticed that some other photos did not work for me because of the technique, or actually the quality of the prints.
Most of the images contain some amount of noise/grain. This makes the scene a bit soft. It gives the photo some specific mood. Like a dream, or a memory being recalled.

Some other photos did not contain noise/grain. For me, these photos were just too clean. Too sharp. Too much details. Too much dynamic range. Too realistic. Too perfect.

This doesn’t work for me at all. These kind of photos do not evoke the emotion that the other photos of Steve do evoke. These photos being too perfect, did not resonate within me as the others did. Quite interesting!

One of the first images I made with my first Fujifilm camera, the X-M1, I loved instantly. Accidentally, I’ve set the ISO to 2000. I had put the XF35mm (also new to me) on and I was very curious about the shallow depth of field the lens could produce. I was curious about the bokeh. I think it is still my favorite photo of my wife. Partly because of de grain, the shallow DOF and the feeling of the details being ‘filtered’. I just love this ‘filtered reality’, the mood it evokes.

Eye Contact
Fujifilm X-M1, XF35mm

I’ve been aware of this for years. I’ve embedded this style in my post processing so that I can decide if I want to apply this mood, and how much of it I want to apply. Seeing the photos of Steve printed big, side by side made me realize even more why I don’t like photos that are just too clean, too perfect.

Now I’m going to think about this. How am I going to use this awareness in my own photography style. I know myself. This will be a lot of thinking, visualizing and doing the actual tests in camera.

Looking forward to it!


Reset – Return – Add project.

We just returned from the family holiday. Three full weeks in a tent in Autrans, France. Such a luxury. Such a great time.

Besides the activities with the family, I did a lot of reading. And thinking.
I’m a person who can get really inside my head. Thinking about a lot of things, but all good. Just filled with energy. In a couple of weeks I’m starting with a new job at the office and I’m really looking forward to it. So that was in my head, sometimes. But most of the time I really did not think of work at all and thought about my family and photography. How to keep at ease when we’re returning of the holidays. Spending lots of time in nature, is one way to stay energized. The other thing is to do what you love, and in my case that’s photography and kayaking.

This blog is about my photography: Street Photography and Street portraits. I love it.
However, I find it difficult to be on the streets often enough to shoot on a regular basis. To be clear: I’m keeping the project, but the current progress isn’t giving me sufficient satisfaction. I’m commuting on a daily basis by car, which is great, but it does not get me ‘in to the city’ as public transportation would. I’m thinking of ways to adjust my thoughts on this, because there are other ways to capture street portraits and probably as well the way I’m commuting. I’m sure the output will increase soon.

But when I was thinking about this, another idea came to mind: create an additional project which does give daily opportunity. Luckily I’m with my family often. The family calendar is full. So why not capture daily live; the mundane. I’m going to commit to an additional project.

There are lots of way to document family live / daily live. I’ve given this quite some thoughts when on holiday. I’m not interested in capturing grand, precise and clear summaries of what I’m doing. I’m thinking more about triggers for my memory. Small slices of what I’m experiencing, what I see, what I feel. I want to capture those as a small series as well. That’s why, for now, I’ll call the project ‘Slices’.

A couple of examples which I made the last couple of weeks, all taken with the X-T1 and the XF35mm1.4, processed in Lightroom. I’m trying some new style here. This style is totally different then I’ve done before. The high contrast, black & white, very gritty style I’ve used most of the time, I’ll keep on using. But for this project it feels too harsh.
So I’ve tried to process in a more subtle way. Bit of muted style. Not sure if I’ll include black & white and color, or that I’ll stick with one type. Still fine tuning both processing styles, but I’m rather pleased with this muted look, so I’m close to capturing it as a preset.

3rd party inspiration #1: Akash

Just now I read this great article about inspiration for Street Photography. The photographer, Akash, has a great portfolio. I follow this blog for some time now and I really get inspired by his work. 

The article below really defines why I love photography and as far as I’m concerned the remarks are not limited to Street Photography. They can be applied to most photography disciplines. 

Definitely a great read and a blog to subscribe to:

An Inspired Eye: 10 tips for encouraging Street Photography


New challenge: Street portraits

A new challenge, a new goal:
I’m going to shoot street portraits, and it will be a long term project.

Photography has had my interest as long as I can remember, although I haven’t spend a lot of time to it in my youth. Then, in 2003 or so I decided to boost my interest and quality by doing a professional photography course.

Until then, I mainly was interested in doing landscapes. And they were terrible.
In the course a wide variety of photography disciplines were handled, which really opened my eyes. I totally forgot about landscapes and I was totally interested in doing portrait shoots. I actually did a lot of portrait shoots, got my own small studio and started doing shoots commercially as a side job. Next were a couple of weddings, which I really enjoyed doing.

But I also enjoyed my day job, being a Business Analyst in IT.
At work I was thinking about the photography clients and when I was doing photography stuff, I was also thinking about all the things I needed to do at the office… In meeting I was actually ‘seeing’ great portraits. The light flattering the attendees of the meeting and I was composing the best portraits I did not shoot.

Also, I did not enjoy photography anymore. I could not get creative like the way I wanted to be. Having clients meant I needed to standardize my workflow to become profitable. But I didn’t want that. I wanted to determine the best shots by looking at the clients. By capturing their inner personality. Not by offering a couple of standardized shots. I’m a bit extreme here, because it has not been really like this, but you’ll get the idea: I did not enjoy my hobby/commercial product anymore.

So in 2009 I decided to stop my photography business. For a long time I did not think of my camera gear. After a while I sold all my heavy Canon gear, the studio strobes and deleted my online presence. I had to take a break.

Obviously, photography was in my blood and it was inevitable my interest would return. It did. I had looked into a small kit, which still offers high quality output, but without a need to go to the gym to be able to lift the bag. I invested in the Fuji X series. First an X-M1 with a couple of fast prime lenses and just last month I upgraded the kit with an X-T1.

Upgrading to the X-T1 was ‘necessary’ because now, in 2017, the photography bug got back from it’s hibernation. I still love photography, but this time I’m not going to restrict myself with paying customers. I want photography to be my hobby so I’ll be able to do whatever I want. For now my interest is focused on street photography and portraits.

To give myself some guidance, I’ve put on this website/blog. I want to do what I want, but still I want to commit to the bug. I love great people, photo’s, being outdoors and to learn new stuff… to challenge myself. So this website is mainly for me; to give my hobby an outlet. And sure, I love the interaction with likeminded people, so please do reach out if you want to ask, comment or whatever.

It would have been easy to grab a photo of from ‘back then’ to set up the blog of this website, but I will not do that. This will be my outlet of my new challenge. And let’s face it, a challenge it is. It has been years without proper shooting, and that is showing. I need to learn to feel the moment again, feel the light, feel the tools. It is not ready at my fingertips. It needs to be re-developed, which is perfectly fine.
So that is what I’m going to do.

I probably will include a few street photos I’ve taken in the past in my portfolio pages, but regarding my blog posts I will use new work only.

For now an easy and posed portrait of my daughter.

Fleur, posed, Fujifilm X-T1, XF60mm