(Photo) Scoops on Lisbon in September

Meet Lisbon …

(All the pictures have been taken by Fujifilm X-T20 and X-E3 camera models)
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Straight Photography versus patchwork numérique?




C’est bien là un éternel débat entre les tenants du réalisme inaltéré (pure photographie ou straight photography) et les partisans de l’infinie virtualité créative. Car la photographie a cette particularité depuis son avénement d’être associée sentencieusement comme le témoignage en prise directe d’une objective réalité, ce qu’elle n’est pas puisqu’elle demeure réductrice de l’interprétation qu’elle en fait.

Aujourd’hui la manipulation numérique de l’image est cependant tellement sophistiquée qu’elle devient même pour le regard le plus critique de plus en plus difficile à déceler au point qu’il faut en confier l’analyse de pseudo véracité à des outils informatiques très avancés et dont le résultat reste toujours contestable puisque pas totalement infaillible.

Bien sûr comme adepte de la straight photography, je suis légitimement frustré par l’ampleur et la popularité de l’imagerie “transformée” au détriment de la recherche de l’authenticité, du moins de celle que je prétend être… Car la straight photographycomporte aussi sa grande part de surréalisme mais si elle est en prise directe dans l’usage du médium. C’est cependant son regard immédiat en prise de vue que je choisis au delà du réarrangement pictographique ultérieur du résultat.

Car la straight photographyest jusqu’à un certain point le garant de sa “vérité” iconographique. Elle renvoie à la fenêtre non-altérée de l’observateur. Bien sûr les choix de la fenêtre et de son moment d’observation restent personnels et subjectifs mais si vous endossez les même choix de l’auteur, votre regard se portera sur ce même sujet tout en vous laissant la possibilité d’une interprétation différente.

La manipulation numérique importante de l’image fait souvent basculer profondément le contexte initial de et des image(s). Elle crée un environnement autre qui la dissocie la plupart du temps de la réalité initiale du sujet photographié. Elle est l’expression d’une vision tout à fait onirique de son auteur sans égard ou peu de cette réalité initiale.

Alors straight photography ou patchwork numérique? Les deux modes d’expression artistique continueront de coexister et de se confronter encore longtemps au gré des débats de tous et chacun. Ni voyons ici que l’importance du respect de chacune de ces démarches tout en les reconnaissant comme tel.

(Toutes les photos présentées dans cet article ont été prises à Lisbonne en septembre 2019 avec les appareils photo Fujifilm X-T20 et X-E3)

Les bien-faits et mal-faits du Numérik !


La révolution numérique en photographie n’est pas passée inaperçue tant elle a été bouleversante pour plusieurs sinon la plupart d’entre nous et qu’elle a été aussi déterminante pour le quotidien du photographe peu importe son niveau d’intervention.

Cette révolution fut d’abord éminemment technique se voyant que la substitution moderne des équipements et des matériaux photographiques. À cette étape introductive de l’univers numérique, il s’agissait simplement de “remplacer” une façon de faire traditionnelle de l’argentique plutôt coûteuse, tantôt rigide, tantôt limitée et assurément polluante voire dangereuse. Cet aspect du numérique a été salué amplement par la communauté photographique.

L’invasion numérique a donc contribué très fortement à la démocratisation du médium par son accessibilité et son caractère très facile de diffusion. Cette facilité a conquis un auditoire d’autant plus étendu par un autre avènement encore plus important qui fut l’explosion de la téléphonie cellulaire et des “mobiles” compacts multidisciplinaires. La photographie et la vidéographie sont devenues des formes de langage modernes utilisées dans la vie de tous les jours à tout propos. Le caractère personnel et souvent narcissisme de l’exercice a pris graduellement une ampleur sans précédent.

Pendant ce temps la photographie traditionnelle comme support d’expression autonome a connu des moments difficiles. Sa pertinence même et sa pérennité furent mise en doute et elles sont encore. Mais aussi, au bout du parcours de cette révolution numérique, nous avons appris qu’au fond peu d’éléments déterminants de la photographie ont vraiment changé. Les sujets, les techniques, les modes de diffusion se ressemblent si l’on maintient cette comparaison inévitable avec l’ère analogique (argentique). Les grandes écoles de la photographie comme courants de pensée ou tendances techniques, demeurent. Car tout reste d’abord une question de contenu plus que de contenant si avancé ce dernier soit-il.

L’ère du numérique est bien établi maintenant et il serait inutile d’en discuter la place prépondérante qu’il s’est approprié dans nos sociétés. Mais aujourd’hui on commence à en mesurer les limites matérielles et les lacunes neuro-créatrices. Comme outil au service de l’humain, sa pertinence est indéniable mais comme notre substitut ou notre successeur, la preuve reste toujours à faire!

Is popularity equals (original) content?

If you are a blogger yourself, you may ask this question from time to time. We like to receive some sort of feedback that simply tell us that we are not alone into this Web planet. Why him or her and not us? Is it because we have not been the first ones to do so? Is it my content? Is it my channel? How can we be able to break that barrier to audience posterity?

Web is a very elusive place. You may think you are part of a crowd that is shouting in every directions. But the first thing you know… it seems you are left alone without any attention. And we must add that generosity is not a first quality shared by the Internet users. So even if a small fraction of your “viewed” statistical audience, let’s say 1/1000, have actually read part of your blog output, there is no real feedback from them most of the time.

It is strange phenomena that in this so-call new world of communications, it seems that interaction between humans have been so proportionally low. The demographic multitude is very misleading because over the numbers, you can sense the loneliness of many of them.

In the photographic field more and more you can see that people are in fact telling their own thoughts without really caring about what the “others” may thought of it. So the message is purely voice over by egocentrism. More and more we see content without any implication and further more questioning. It is simply reproducing the accepted norm of pseudo photo competence. But without impact, originality and provocation, all those commercially splendid pictures may vanish at a very fast rate of your memory.

Following existing formulas and subjects is not really advancement or break-through. Yes it can be sophistication at a certain level but it doesn’t represent novelty in the strict definition. And that is the big trap with the search of having an instantaneous popularity. It is like to be the savor of the day, the week or the month that will be forgotten even quickly.

Original content is certainly not a strong recipe for easy success but it can be the essence of longevity of your work or craft. Somehow the two way of producing pictures (following formulas and exploring) can coexist for sure and a lot of professional (commercial) photographers are knowing this for a daily fact. But don’t prevent yourself to explore, try and search again for a content that may part of your future imaging evolution.

The Fujifilm X-H1 strikes again!

Hard to believe, even a few months ago, that the Fujifilm X-H1, the professional APS-C format X-mount camera with IBIS, is now available at a selling price point of $999 US ($1299 CAN). Already offered since the beginning of 2019 year at a very attractive selling tag ($1299 US, $1699 CAN), this time Fuji surpassed all the odds with no indication (at least for the moment) of a release for an updated version of this pro model.

So what the point for us? I would say that if you are looking to buy an X-T3 or X-T2 models, you should certainly consider seriously the alternative. Because the Fujifilm X-H1 is in my sense the real Pro camera from them that give you not only IBIS but also the ruggedness we are looking for an intense use of a photo equipment.

It is true that the Japan Olympics in Tokyo are around the corner and we can expect something in 2020 from Fujifilm that will probably update the X-H1. But the special opportunity to get the actual version is unique especially combined with the grip and maybe an additional lens. And we know that Fujifilm is caring about its customers by issuing frequently useful updated of their models.

So what’s preventing ourselves to have access to such a high profile product? It is now a moderate affordable option…

Le faire pour soi: le freelance photographique!

On parle souvent de photo-thérapie comme une activité dérivative de notre quotidien répétitif et angoissant d’aujourd’hui. Et il existe plusieurs chantres Internet de cette tendance grandissante de relier l’activité photographique à une recherche non-encadrée ou si peu de ressourcement personnel. Bien sûr l’idée n’est pas nouvelle en soi et répond déjà au plaisir de plusieurs de photographier.

Cette thérapie par l’image est un choix libre qui se veut lamons contraignant possible tant techniquement qu’artistiquement. Elle propose l’observation spontanée de notre environnement dans un cheminement subjectif dans le choix ouvert de moments picturaux personnels. Elle nous “décale” de notre schéma habituel quotidien et elle crée une espèce de nouvelle routine de créativité sans la contrainte du résultat obligatoire.

Pourrait-on parler alors d’un véritable freelancephotographique? Certainement dans la mesure où cette liberté nous incite à franchir des frontières à la fois personnelles et sociales dans l’accomplissement de notre existence. Il n’y a plus de mandats spécifiques à l’acte de photographique si ce n’est que notre propre inconscient créatif qui explore ses sujets favoris et c’est bien l’essence même de cette photo-thérapie.

D’autres formes d’expression artistique offre les mêmes potentiels thérapeutiques. L’art engénéral est un formidable exutoire de l’esprit humain.

L’autre aspect intéressant de cet exercice libérateur est son point de vue individuel qui l’exclut de l’encadrement incessant et perturbateur de la pression sociale qui nous enveloppe de plus en plus de son coté pseudo-justificatif de notre existence. Ic pas de place pour le coté moralisateur de l’intelligentsia du monde photographique destructeur de l’inspiration, de la nouveauté et de la provocation. Le traitement du sujet ad-libed est ouvert à toute interprétation iconique.

Quant est-il du résultat de cette démarche libératrice? Assurément un contenu qui diffère de notre grille habituelle d’images enregistrées. Mais surtout un témoignage de notre force créative à produire une photo plus provocante qui peut peut-être demander un effort supplémentaire à celle ou celui qui la regarde. L’émotion est au rendez-vous car elle traduit celle que vous avez éprouvé au moment de la prise de vues.

L’être humain est souvent à la recherche du soi à travers ce qui l’entoure et chaque élément de cet environnement contribue à sa connaissance et son expérience personnelle. La photo-thérapieprolonge cette observation en la figeant sur des moments particuliers que vous avez retenus en toute subjectivité.

The Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R WR: the expensive (muscle) Fujifilm trans-standard!


Not another big bazooka lens to hand-hold all day long! I cannot contradict my own preferences for using more compact and lighter photo equipment. But first I must confess that I had really like working with the Fujifilm X-H1 model. And optically my preference have been always for wide-angle, standard and (short) telephoto lenses. And many “pro” standard zoom lens models offered by manufacturers are in fact fulfilling these various tasks. So why not a test run with the Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR trans-standard zoom lens.

The Fujinon XF 16-50mm F2.8 Pro is a very beautiful piece of optic and very well carefully crafted too. Yes it is big and heavy, I won’t contradict you in that matter. And don’t try to put it into any of your pocket even the largest ones. No, the only way to bring it is holding it in your hands which can be convenient if you are attempting to do pictures with it! But what I love the most regarding many of the “pro” optics is their level of consistency along all the range of their focal lengths and apertures.

The Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R WR is not a compromise lens in any way and that explain mostly its dimensions and weight. Although it is not really a discrete optic device you can manage your behavior to counteract the effect of its relatively larger size. With its largest angle of view of 83.2 degrees the XF 16-55mm offer a perfect flexibility into urban, travel spontaneous photography subjects. And it can also manage interior photography to a some extend. At the long end (55mm) it can be used as a portrait lens. Its close focusing distance is modest but may be sufficient for standard size objects like flowers or food plates.

All the basic lens control rings (Aperture, Zoom, Focus) are easy reachable and their specific “grip” can be identifiable with after a short learning time. The filter-accessory size of 77mm is simply gigantic, so prepare you to spend extra money for even a basic protection filter and remember that at this big diameter the optical glass quality of these add-on accessories is a paramount factor to consider before buying (just for not helping you to keep your economy money). Lastly a beautiful but prominent plastic petal lens hood is included with the lens.

The red badged Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR is part of the select “pro” Fujifilm series X lenses. It insure certains specific characteristics that all these special optics share like the weather resistant feature and an implicite better design and manufacturing for a more intense use of the lenses. And on a long term those red badged XF Fuji lenses represent a better value on the resale market. The three control ring (Focus, Zoom, Aperture) are fairly large and smooth to operate. The aperture ring is click-set for 1/3 stops.

Fujifilm proclames that the Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR is ideal for portraits, landscapes, action/wildlife, urban/ street photography and video. Sure it attests of its own great versatility for all these various subjects. And the temptation to keep the XF 16-55mm F2.8 as a permanent resident on your X-series camera body can be overwhelming. Pairing the lens with complementary one(s) will probably ask you to select another red badged X-series zoom or fix focal length lens to get the same level of overall quality.

An interesting question can be asked concerning the focal length flexibility of the Fujnon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR? Can it replace all these fix focal XF lenses such as the 16mm F2.8, the 23mm F2, the 35mm F2 and the 50mm f2? If you eliminate the size and weight factors of the equation, the respond will be probably yes. Having working with some of those fix focal optics, I cannot see significant differences between their (high) picture quality output compare to the zoom one.  So yes it is a very good combine all-in-one product (however you may have to muscle your arms and shoulders a little bit!).

I was debating myself about the pertinence of selecting a weather-resistant (WR) lens over very good optic such as the Fujinon XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS which a more compact unit with optical stabilisation (OIS). Obviously the stabilisation feature doesn’t really have to be considerate with a Fujifilm X-H1 model that have already in body image stabilisation function (IBIS). But the WR option can be an issue even if I am not always photographying in adverse conditions, it can happens very often in North America (Rain, cold, severe wind, snow, etc) and sometimes during travel (especially high humidity factor). So for a complete peace of mind you may want to fully rely the WR feature that also facilite greatly the maintenance of the lens.

The red badged Fujinon XF series lenses are expensive products. If you are considering to own some of them it can be a strong financial issue. Surely to get one or more of them, you will have to down play your acquisition pace (providing you are not millionaire!). The good thing about it is the fact it will allow you some time to consider seriously which type of lens will really suit you. You may even try one before buying it at a camera shop or may be rent it for a short photo essay (In Canada some  photo product retailers offer such a program).

What to conclude about the Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR zoom lens? It is in fact a very high quality optic and very well built. But moreover it is a very handy trans-standard zoom lens which will answer the needs of an urban traveller photographer who love to move around and choosing a great variety of different subjects to immortalize. It can work in almost any environnemental surrounding (providing you don’t immerse your camera-lens combo!). And it delivers photographic image results that sustain the Fujifilm exceptional optic reputation. There are only small drawbacks (size & weight) that can be compensate by hand-holding your camera for doing … photography!

The One Lens, One Camera Syndrome

One Lens, One Camera or …

You already know that repeating story about this or that photographer that has gotten rid of all his or her precious and abundant photo equipment to be more creative free with a minimalist one lens-one camera (body) combination. It happens periodically and it is adding a lot to the controversy opposing the other extreme that propose to have the latest models and an extensive array of lenses and accessories.

But is it really better to impose you (material) limits at a level that will deter any attempt to transgress any material obvious limitations? Sure, you want to specialize your point of view that will represent your style or your picture signature. Many good photographers have already done this, but you have to remember that their working context was very different in the past because of the lack of photo equipment availability, the technical limitations in optics, in image supports (films) and post-processing were specific conditions of their time.

… Two (or more), better than one? …

Today things have evolved and are still evolving at a fast rate. We are by far a lot more photo educated even in the case of the less photo interested audiences. Ignoring those facts is simply restringing our own capacity to share our works because of the inherent today exigences.

Does it mean that you have to over equip yourself to be able to produce a successful original picture? No for sure, but it can help you if you can extend your technical versatility even slightly just to prevent an eventual succession of repetitive images. Sometimes you need a new point of view to explore that will help to flourish your creativity. It can be a technique, it can be a camera process, it can be a lens, it can be a lighting aid, etc. Because the same basic subject may be represented in such many other ways that are beneficial to our own vision.

We don’t want to encourage redundancies, material over expenses and waist, or simply working incapacity provoked by overabundance of photo equipment. And for most of us, less can be far better that more and more. And we want also to master properly what we own already to extract it the best of our photographic vision of this world. But trying something else is also part of the creative experiment.

… Or purists may ask for a fix focal lens oppose to a vari-focal optic?

Minimalism is not a bad thing by itself and demonstrate an effort to reach the finest use of a photo equipment. It helps to conceive and refine our own visual signature. It imposes to ourselves to transgress other contextual limits to our photography such our choice of subjects or surroundings. But even being minimalist must not prevent ourselves to be open to something else, something new, something disturbing that will force us to reach another creative level.

Off-planning a photo subject


Find your subject. Be focused. Concentrate your effort. In brief don’t improvise! Is it true? Is it the real inspiration? Or it is more redundant and less provocative? That’s maybe the real factor…

What is creativity if not doing something out of the usual path of thinking and be free to improvise something that exceed the precoder limit imposed by the other’s frozen mind. Because in fact although the algorithm of all images from the past is interesting and can be inspiring for certain, it is also a closed store of imagination that justify its dogmatism by saying wrongly that everything has been already done and is now repeated in this today world.

Choosing a starting point, for example a subject, is in fact a way to motivate a new search and open a blank page that has to be written, sketched or registered. Every time it can offer a new perspective if we accept to explore the subject without (too much) pre-conceptions or pre-perceptions that are stopping our creativity. In visual art such as photography is, there is an esthetic to be found in every different subject and which can easily exceed its traditionally known profile.

Each new moment in our brief life has its own particularities. But its uptake (freeze moments) can be challenging for the observer like us. And as we want to transmit this diversity of views perceptions, it tends to vanish instantly. We have to train ourselves to be ready and pre-perceptive of what is happening and be able to participate to the endless flux of life. Because photography is a way to register a moment (action) in the chain of life.

At the end the photographer is the center subject of its contextual surrounding which will define the originality of its own personal perception. Creativity is a fragile thing, a kind of flower of your mind. And this beauty is not really appreciated by many of us that live a gray life because they are submerged by the overwhelming pathologic search of their physical and psychologic security. But it happens that somebody, somewhere, sometime will indeed open its mind and be emotively involved by our work. This why you must persist in your life search, it a human duty!

The essence of revisiting a subject in photography.

Revisiting

What we have first in mind into many artistic fields is the word “inspiration”.Inspiration can be seen as the motor or the fundamental motivation to experiment and produce a pure artistically expression through different medias or techniques. And photography is truly part of this (as for all others visual arts).

Having the motivation can be translate to a spontaneous envy to register something you have seen in the real or foreseen in your mind. This process can be pro-active or reactive and will trigger a series of actions on your part to (tentatively) produce an output that will represent your interpretation of you have seen and what, I hope, you will photograph!

Human are in perpetual evolution to try, to change, to sophisticate their ways of doing things. We can call it refinement or the search for better if not the best. When we stop doing so, we regress or die simply (or disappear) by not being able to follow progress of life.

Clock and Frame Fragmentation.

Revisiting is, in the same time, the observation what it was, what it became and what it would be. It is going beyond of a first view or a first impression of someone, something, some context or situation. It is like to try to represent less trivial aspects of it and better translate its profound signification, sentiment or motivation. Yes, we can be lucky to get at first glance the essence of the subject but consider this as a very rare event. This is also why doing professional photography (seriously) is so a difficult task considering the incapacity to revisit the subject of assignation more than one time most of the time.

For sure you can train yourself to photograph similar subjects and gain a precious experience and knowledge that will serve you in other critical moments. But very often during a professional assignment you may be never really able to explore, experiment and revisit your subject after giving you some time to evaluate your previous work and to plan a new approach to it. That is the beauty to be an artist (amateur or not!) because these factual constraints of commercial photography don’t exist anymore.

A personal favorite among others: The chair.

How many times will I revisit a specific subject? In fact, it never ends because there is always something to observe, to select, to interpret a different way. This on-going eternal sophistication of our life is infinite and even after our own death, someone, somewhere can retake the torch to pursuit our path as we may have done ourselves for works from preceding photographers. That is the beauty of revisiting a subject and enhanced it ad infinitum.