The G5X and musings on Black and White by David Veldman

I unabashedly love black and white photographs. I can trace this love affair to my high school years. At the time my older sister was studying photography, shooting artistic shots of our hometown with an old Minolta SLR. I only had a dingy 35mm point and shoot, a plastic Vivitar affair with minimal controls. I also could only get colour film at the Drug Mart, so I gazed enviously at her grainy, atmospheric snapshots. 

Today, thanks to the digital revolution, any camera can capture a black and white image. Incredibly, mirrorless and compact cameras allow us to preview the world in monochrome, an invaluable technique for composition and inspiration. 

Even with these tools however, some skill, or forethought is required. I find my monochrome photos are often well received, and at times other photographers express their own difficulty capturing them. With that in mind, I would like to go through three recent photos I captured with my trusty little G5X that made, in my mind, beautiful monochrome images. I will briefly touch upon the thought process behind each and share an observation on the process of capturing and creating black and white images. 

 

I quite enjoy the image above. It was taken in the last hours of daylight near the Niagara Escarpment in Eugenia. Astoundingly, there is a beautiful, massive waterfall nearby that I photographed, yet the humble cedar trees around it stole the show. These white cedars can be quite old, some over 1000 years! Few other trees can grow in the hard rock of the Niagara Escarpment. The cedars however, drive their roots into the rock, often clinging tenaciously to cliffs in defiance of gravity. The last sunlight in the west lit these trees on one side - I shot quite dark, knowing that at iso 125 I could recover any shadows I needed. 

One of the great mistakes that I see is people shooting black and white retroactively. In other words, they do not intend to take a black and white image at the time. Even worse, I see many (I am also guilty of this) attempt to 'rescue' an image by converting it from colour. Occasionally, this may work, but bad light is bad light, and the rules of composition and atmosphere apply to monochrome and colour equally. In this case, I envisioned a black and white image from the beginning, recognizing that the textures, as rich as they are, would really pop in grayscale. The image has a depth and drama to it, and I certainly intend to print this one large - or as large as the 20mp from the G5X will allow. Thankfully, I had to do very little cropping in post. 

 

The image above offers a few lessons. The first is that just because you have shot a scene, does not mean you cannot return and do it better justice. In fact, I did shoot this tiny church in Schutt years ago. The image I captured that time was acceptable, but the light was significantly less than ideal, resulting in a flat, patchy image. 

This time around, I was driving back to work after the weekend. As I passed through the eerie, empty Opeongos, I realized that the light was spectacular, albeit transitory. As I neared this church, I was compelled to get out and give the building another go. This time I opted to include the road in the photography, which I feel adds to the sense of scale and space. 

I first created a colour version in Lightroom, and felt very pleased. However, I decided to check the monochrome version, and I liked what I saw. Several potentially distracting colours were erased, placing more focus on my central subject, and the cloudy skies appeared to explode with drama. I finalized the image within minutes, thanks to a roughly accurate initial exposure. 

If you find that an image doesn't quite sit right in colour, be sure to check the mono version. If the image is fundamentally sound, removing distracting colour elements can strengthen it further. 

 

Above is an image that is not fundamentally different from its colour counterpart. When I stopped at this abandoned house near Orillia, I was instantly faced with the age old 'dynamic range dilemma.' Simply put, the G5X is no D850, and simply would not capture both the blue of the sky and details in the shadows. I decided to expose for the sky, accepting that the image would be a dramatic silhouette, confident that I could recover SOME detail from the building. 

Before I even imported the photo, I knew that this image might end up in grayscale? How? Simply put, I have rarely seen silhouette images that look better in colour. Silhouettes are all about simplicity - stark highlights and deep shadows. Monochrome perfectly complements that ethos in a beautiful way. 

 

To sum up, there are many reasons to choose black and white conversion. It's important to realize however, that shooting in monochrome is a skill in itself, one that I try to continually develop. Over time, you may find that you begin to 'see' in black and white. I do not mean that you are colour blind, rather that you develop a sense for what makes a strong monochrome image. The conversion itself is of course, a vital process as well, but that's a post for another day.

Till then, 

Dave 

Wandering Dufferin County With the G5X by David Veldman

I have owned my little Canon G5X for approximately three months now. Unfortunately, I have not spent nearly as much time with it as I would like, thanks to work, and foul weather. This is particularly ironic given that I am currently studying photography with the military. Hopefully in a few months once I have enough experience with it, I can post a full 'experience review' here.

So far I have found the G5X to be an eminently usable camera. With three customizable dials, I am able to shoot in full manual, with the aperture controlled by the ring around the lens, the shutter assigned to the finger dial on the front, and the ISO to the wheel on the back. The touchscreen is impressively well implemented as well.

Last week I did manage to take the G5X out for a little spin. It was a warmer day, but sadly, spring has yet to show itself. The fields are still barren and dead, and there's still a lingering bite in the air.

Despite the barren fields, I found the rolling hills easy on the eyes. Near a tiny town called Terra Nova they slope upwards gradually to the massive Niagara Escarpment. I imagine the entire area will be stunning once some greenery finds purchase.

 

The rolling fields are particularly attractive to me because the area I live in is dominated by rugged, rocky Canadian Shield. Although beautiful, the shield is not the easiest to photograph, and I find myself entranced by the movement of the sun across the gentle slopes further South in Ontario.

Unfortunately, all too quickly the Golden Hour turned blue. With little light left, I headed back to the base, stumbling upon this swamped, abandoned home on the way. I also found a few silhouettes to shoot as well.

In many ways the G5X reminds me of my trusty LX100 that I sold last year. It is a joy to handle, and proves ideal for this sort of casual shooting.

Until next time.

Ice Racers by David Veldman

We all pass spare time in our own ways. Some of us enjoy watching or playing sports. Some enjoy musical theatre, or playing an instrument. A few, like myself, love to document the world around them with a camera. And a very select few love to drive beaten old cars around a homemade ice track on the frozen Ottawa River.

Carl Gauthier is one of those select few. In fact, he might be considered their ringleader. A professional racer, Carl has competed in the NASCAR truck category. And for the last ten winters, weather permitting, he has raced on his own track of ice that he prepares.

Whenever the ice is thick enough, Carl uses his own equipment to clear away excess snow, and marks the track with orange pylons. He also attempts to block the track entrance with sawhorses when he isn't there. This isn't out of spite, but for safety.

Standing outside of the camper that serves as their base, Carl watches a snowstorm blow in from the Quebec shore. He recalls how, years ago, a group of young locals made their way onto his track in the middle of the night. By morning, five of their vehicles were stranded in thick slush.

While brave, Carl and his associates are not foolish. They only race old cars that were bound for the wreckers, and they keep helmets on while driving. In addition, they properly prepare the track for racing by tearing up the ice with a car sporting hard stud tires.

 

While we loiter by the camper, the car tears around the track, spitting up little clouds of snow. Soon enough, the track is ready, and a few cars head out  to give a demonstration.

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The cars are slower than the preparation vehicle, as they only sport snow tires. Nonetheless, they tear about the track with surprising speed, trying their best not to run into each other in the corners.

But, accidents do happen. In one tight curve, a driver tries unsuccessfully to avoid hitting his competition.

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A few seconds later, number 8 blows a tire, and smashes up and over the ice embankment. I jump into one of the nearby cars and we race over to check on the accident.

Fortunately the driver, Betty, is unscathed.

Small collisions like this are common. Carl drives over with the truck to tow her away.

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Carl, Betty, and the others are special people. They brave blowing snow and bitter cold to practice a hobby few would dream of. Perhaps just as importantly, they are incredibly welcoming and friendly. Within moments of meeting my wife and I, they invited us inside of their tiny camper van where a wood stove fought off the river chill.

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Before we left, I asked Carl to pose for one more shot. As we stood in the blowing snow, I felt like I was with the quintessential Canadian, thanks to his weathered face, Yukon hat and reflective sunglasses.

When we parted ways, I couldn't help but feel vaguely satisfied. While I may not race cars around an ice track, it was a special moment to meet those that do.

The 2018 Ice Racing Team, Pembroke Ontario

Impromptu Concert by David Veldman

I returned to the Fiddle Park today, and once more was greeted very warmly by the many talented musicians making it their temporary home.

Below I have a few pictures from today that I really liked.

 

 

Musicians On Their Own Terms by David Veldman

Every year Pembroke plays host to the Fiddle Competition, an event on the Labour Day weekend that attracts musicians and their fans from all over the province. However many of the musicians show up on the monday before the event, filling the waterfront campground with their trailers. I headed down there today, hoping to catch a few impromptu tunes, and I was not disappointed. In fact, once I found a few musicians practicing their craft between two trailers, they welcomed me with a startling display of hospitality.

So I won't bore you with writing. Ahead you will see a few snaps that I took while enjoying their talents, all taken on my Xt10 and Meike 50mm F2.

 

Kontinuum - Light and Sound by David Veldman

This morning, I logged into facebook quickly before I began the ride down to Ottawa to visit my family. Out of the blue, I saw a sponsored page concerning tourism in Ottawa, which I decided to click on.

One of the highlighted events was a multimedia event called Kontinuum - taking place in an LRT station currently under construction. I was intrigued, and once I realized that it was totally free, I quickly ordered a ticket for this evening.

After a wonderful ride down to Ottawa on my speedy little Fazer, and a great visit with my family, I headed up through downtown Ottawa as quick as I could, just making it in time to check my bag and head into the venue.

The truth is, that you can't capture this event with photographs. A large part of the experience lies within the amazing music that pipes into every room. However, I did manage to shoot a few frames that I liked.

 

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The first step on the Kontinuum journey is to step into one of the scanning booths. The booth captures an image of you, tagged to your ticket which you scan in. The rationale behind this step becomes obvious at the end of the event.

 

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The winding path is, to say the least, a bit disorienting. You are confronted with blank corridors punctuated by flashing lights, see through curtains, and haunted by the inescapable music piping through every room. The music itself is wonderful, sliced electronic tunes that really enhance the experience.

 

 

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Shooting inside was very challenging. I pinned my X-t10 at it's maximum ISO - 6400. Even then, the shutter speed was very low, and I had to choose my subjects carefully. I love this shot for the brilliant light that creates its own frame.

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The cinema room appears right before you journey downwards into the actual subway station. Filled with lasers that reflect off of everything, it was a truly memorable experience.

 

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In the subterranean depths of the LRT station, you come face to face with the final multimedia performance - a stunning light show that simulates the arrival of a train. In a special touch, the screen also projects a few of the scans from earlier - giving some of the members a chance to see themselves projected on the screen.

As I exited the venue, I was quite pleased I had chosen to visit. Most importantly, I was elated by the realization that creativity still has its place in modern society. By most definitions, Kontinuum could be considered a work of art, a contemporary one at that. I typically disdain contemporary art, however this installation was both clever and well executed. A big round of applause to the creators, as well as the members of the Ottawa Community who had the vision to approve the project.

Kontinuum runs until the 14th of September. As I said before, it's free, so get your ticket and go see it!

The XF 35MM at the Fair by David Veldman

We all love summer fairs. Although it is already the middle of August, and the days have become noticeably shorter, the Cobden fair was still a celebration of summer, blessed with beautiful warm evening weather.

Tonight I brought my wife, her friend, and my trusty X-t10 with the 35mm F2 to the fair. I didn't expect to shoot anything wonderful - rather I was hoping that I could capture a bit of the atmosphere of a Canadian mid summer fair. As the sun faded quickly, I shot almost everything at ISO 6400, save for the first two pictures.

 

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For a fair atmosphere, 35mm was a tight focal length. But it made me think, forcing me to move about to frame my shots.

 

That said, the 35mm is decent for portraits, and is a very useful all round lens.

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Now that I am working in the photography field, I feel a lot more free in my personal work. Perhaps I feel like I have less to prove, although I still know that I have so much to learn. At any rate, I feel more comfortable with just shooting whatever I want - experimenting.

 

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Tonight I experimented by shooting the vendors interacting with their customers. A fair is not what I would consider a truly interesting event (too commercial for my tastes) but I enjoyed myself regardless.

 

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The X-t10 performs very well at ISO6400, the max native sensitivity of the camera. Combined with the 35mm F2, the focus was dead on, even in very low light. The only thing I missed was image stabilization.

 

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The picture above is probably my favourite from the night. I experimented with several angles, and had to wait for a moment when the proprietor was in the right position, as well as unobstructed by passing pedestrians. I particularly like the almost solitary feel it possesses.

All in all, I was very happy with my shots tonight - not because they were great, but because they were something outside of my comfort zone, and because I managed to capture maybe a tiny bit of the essence of a mid summer Canadian fair.

The Cobden Loop by David Veldman

Before I begin this little ramble, here is the earworm I am currently infected with.

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Today I decided to take my recently acquired FZ750 out for a spin. The FZ750 is a powerful, albeit old (1987) hybrid motorcycle. It was only made for two years, and as far as motorcycles go, it's quite difficult to define. Featuring a quick inline 4 engine that produces 94 horsepower, and a comfortable cruiser look, the Fazer is a byproduct of the 1980s, when manufacturers were experimenting with a variety of different ideas.

 

 

The bike is a monster - it rips away at any speed, in any gear when you twist the throttle. It's nothing like the smooth, civilized ride of the Nighthawk 750. Instead it feels like a drag racer, always threatening to unseat you.

Heading into Westmeath, I passed by the lookout, and then turned south to visit the Whitewater region, more specifically the Rocher Fendu. I have shot more than a few times in that area, but today I concentrated more on hiking than shooting.

 

It was a beautiful day. I captured these white water kayaks left behind by their owners. The mentality of the kayakers is very similar to British Columbian surfers - it's a laid back, friendly vibe.

 

The forest was beautiful, as always. There's almost a hint of autumn in the air. It's only August, but already the insects are less prevalent, which makes for a much more relaxing hike.

The riverside itself was gorgeous, although not exactly an ideal spot for photographs. This is the best I could do, a cumulonimbus cloud over a battleship island.

On the ride home, I FINALLY stopped on the side of the road to catch a picture of this stunning tree leaning over a rustic arch. I've passed this scene many times, but usually on the other side of the highway. I spent a few minutes trying to frame the scene, long enough for a concerned veteran motorcycle rider to pull up behind me and ask if I was ok!

I didn't photography anything great today, rather I enjoyed the cool air, the ride, and the effortless power of my new (to me) bike. Here's to many more safe rides.