01 September 2018

Taking A Vacation From Photography (Not Really)

"Saint Marguerite" - A statue of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys stands in La Basilique Notre-Dame in Montreal, Canada. Canon 6D Mark II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens, 1/30 second, f/8.0, ISO 3200, handheld.

I know it's been a long while since I've written a blog post. I'm sorry for that. If you have Instagram, please follow me there: @whimbrel_nature as that is where I've been posting the most these days. But I promise to blog more in the coming months and hopefully start to add more video to the mix as well.

"Opulent" - The altar area of La Basilique Notre-Dame in Montreal, Canada. Canon 6D Mark II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens, 1/10 second, f/8.0, ISO 3200, handheld.

Today I wanted to write about taking a vacation from your photography. But not actually a vacation from your photography completely (although that can be good sometimes too); instead a vacation from your usual style/mode of photography. Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Montreal with my lovely wife. Lovely as she is, she understandably has no patience for my normal mode of photography where I might spend hours working one subject or area. She made me promise that if I brought my camera, I would just take quick snapshots as we went about our vacation. No long periods spent composing and working a subject and no special photography-only side trips. This is not my normal mode of photography. As such, I almost left all my heavy gear at home and resigned myself to only using my iPhone. But at the last moment, I decided to haul my gear along and I'm glad that I did.

"Bulbous" - Large stacks of garlic bulbs were a common sight with great visual appeal at the Jean-Talon open air market. iPhone 7, 1/300 second, f/1.8, ISO 20, handheld.

Each day we went out, I'd bring a very stripped down set of gear. I left my trusty tripod (which I use in well over 90% of my photography) at the apartment. That was hard. I left the house only with my Canon 6D, a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens, my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, and my iPhone 7. For quicker trips to the market etc... I did only bring my iPhone 7.

"Red Doors, Blue Doors" - A set of interesting apartment doors near The Plateau area of Montreal. Most buildings in this area have a set of street level apartments and then second floor apartments accessed by a metal staircase. iPhone 7, 1/900 second, f/1.8, ISO 20.

It was a worthwhile exercise to shoot all handheld and to be forced to shoot rapidly, without much pre-planning or limitless recomposing. Not only was it kind of fun to do something different, but it also caused me to think quicker on my feet, become more familiar with my camera controls on my relatively new 6D Mark II body, and worry a bit more about my shutter speed than I normally would with tripod-based landscape or architecture photography.

"Réseau" - Part of the Underground City or RÉSO, a network of over 20 miles of interconnected pedestrian tunnels and buildings in downtown Montreal, Canada. This particular tunnel features the frame of a former bank vault. This network allows downtown Montreal residents to go about their business without ever having to go outside during the harsh winters. I loved the geometry, colors,  light, and reflections in this particular tiny part of the network. Canon 6D Mark II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens, 1/10 second, f/8.0, ISO 400, handheld.

Limitations, particularly ones you are not normally used to, can also really spur creativity. In addition to taking some images that I would not normally do otherwise, I also used the opportunity to take lots of images of architecture and public art that I can use for later composites. For this, I used both my Canon and my iPhone, but more predominantly the iPhone.

"Montreal Origami" - One of my initial composites from Montreal, composed from an iPhone 7 image of an academic building at McGill, an iPhone 7 image of the corner of a building in The Plateau region, and an extracted image of part of an abandoned grain elevator in the old port taken with my Canon 6D Mark II and my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L lens.

An example of some of the great murals and graffiti art scattered around the Plateau, Latin Quarter, and Gay Village neighborhoods.

I even dabbled in some people photography. Although as is my tendency with people/street photography, I tended to focus on gesture and body language, more than faces. I don't think this is because I'm uncomfortable approaching subjects, I've done that before. I think it is because I'm more interested in a more general representation of humanity and the human condition, rather than focusing on a particular individual, in much of my people work.

"Impatience" - This small family sat in some chairs inside the Chalet du mont Royal, but the "dad" was anxious to get moving again. This image was even more of stretch for me as I generally don't like photographing at touristy areas during touristy times of day, or going places with large crowds in general. Converting to black and white allowed me to really emphasize the contrasty lighting and deep shadows and eliminate a lot of distracting color in the background outside the doors. iPhone 7, 1/450 second, f/1.8, ISO 20, handheld.

"Looking Outward" - This image was also taken from inside the Chalet du mont Royal in the Parc du Mont-Royal.  I love the way this doorway frames the scene and the pensive pose this young lady in the dress held for a long time. The telephoto served to compress the scene and make the buildings look closer than they are in reality. Canon 6D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, 1/160 second, f/16, ISO 400.
The architecture in Montreal is amazing and varied. In some ways I really found myself wanting to slow down or revisit in better light. However, learning to shoot good images during less than ideal time or lighting conditions is a worthwhile skill to develop.

"Opulent II" - A view of the ceiling and organ of La Basilique Notre-Dame in Montreal, Canada. Canon 6D Mark II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens, 1/10 second, f/8.0, ISO 3200, handheld.

"Chalet Chandelier" - Looking up at the ceiling and the interesting chandelier at the Chalet du mont Royal in the Parc du Mont-Royal. Canon 6D Mark II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens, 1/10 second, f/8.0, ISO 250, handheld.

"Old Money" - A row of old banks and hotels in the western section of Old Montreal. Canon 6D Mark II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens, 1/1250 second, f/8.0, ISO 400, handheld.
"Royal Treatment" - Architectural detail in the main hall of the former Royal Bank Tower, which is now a beautiful cafe. Canon 6D Mark II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens, 1/15 second, f/8.0, ISO 3200, handheld.
"World Trade" - Inside the Montreal World Trade Center and one of the many entrances to the RÉSO. Canon 6D Mark II, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens, 1/160 second, f/8.0, ISO 400, handheld.
"Biosphere" - One of the first things you notice when driving into Montreal from the south, the Biosphere was the United States pavilion for the Expo 67 World's Fair. The geodesic dome was designed by Buckminster Fuller. Canon 6D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, 1/400 second, f/13, ISO 200, handheld.
Montreal also has a fascinating history and a lot of those historical tensions are still visible in the city today. The initial European settlement was founded by the French and Catholic religious orders. Later the English took over and held economic power. The tension between French speakers/culture and English speakers/culture continues to this day and there are even laws on the books to keep French the predominant language of the city. While photographing the city, I tried to stay cognizant of this history and do justice to both the city's religious roots and the tension between the French and English.

"Prayers, Said and Unsaid" - Catholicism has played a major role in the history of Montreal and several historic churches and cloisters are found in Old Montreal. These prayer candles were photographed in the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours in Old Montreal. Canon 6D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, 1/25 second, f/8.0, ISO 3200, handheld.

"City, In Pieces" - I like this image because I think it represents well all the different influences and tensions that have shaped and continue to shape Montreal. The statue of one of the founders of Montreal and La Basilique Notre-Dame represent the French influence and the importance of the (particularly Catholic) church. Diametrically opposed is the Banque Canadienne Nationale tower which represents the English influence. Behind the statue can be seen three of Montreal’s earliest skyscrapers. These buildings, including the beautiful New York Life Building and the Art Deco Aldred Building, represent both other foreign influence and the city’s emphasis on the arts and incorporating art into city planning. They also show the regulation of building height compared to nearby Mont Royal. I was lucky to catch two pigeons flying which represents the abundant urban wildlife and green space of this large city. Canon 6D Mark II body, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens, 1/1000 second, f/8, ISO 400, handheld.
Some day I hope to revisit Montreal with some time for a slower and more deliberate style of photography, taking into account all that I have learned about the city. But for now, I'm very happy with my brief "photography vacation."

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