181221 Difference - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

Negation

This is an entire ride from the Ward's ferry docks back to the city. Thirty-three photos shot in a sequence over eight minutes, in the dark, and then layered and merged. This was done with the "negation" blend mode and then adjusted in ways I can't clearly remember.

2018 has been an interesting year, as they all are, with things changing and ending, as they always do. Some of that is personal, where it will remain, but a lot of it has to do with cameras.

The machine that defined 2017 for me, the Fujifilm X100F, ended 2018 with a new owner. It turned out that the camera and I wanted fundamentally different things in life, although we hope to remain friends. I'm also – finally – selling the last of my Nikon equipment, and will soon move on to clearing out the compact cameras that I accumulated during my Big Nikon era. The move to a smaller, more focused core collection continues.

My pattern seems to be that I adopt a new camera and use it intensively for about a year. During that time what I do shifts; the initial equipment change reflects both my predispositions and aspirations. Then I pick up a new camera that's better suited to the current version of me, and the older camera continues on as a secondary machine and gradually falls out of use amid continuing change. GR, Merrills, X100F, and now XT2 – it's fairly consistent. Given that I can often resell cameras for about what I pay this isn't itself a problem, but I am hoping that the next one will be my last big change for a while. As always.

Difference

The same stack of images, this time layered with the "difference" blending mode. 

2017 was the year of the Leslie Street Spit, but for 2018 I only went there once, during a snow storm at the very beginning of the year, to try out my new weather-sealed camera. Perhaps I'll venture there again in 2019, to see how things have changed, but the islands are so much easier to visit. This year I went there for seven photo-visits, six of which were in the dark, and four spanned from dusk to dawn. Those ones were my favourites. Call it about fifty hours of post-sunset photography, and that's probably still conservative.

Perhaps the biggest difference this year isn't in my cameras at all, but in my new tripod. My 1-series Gitzo is fine for the X100F and smaller, but the XT2 with the XF16/1.4 stressed it more than I liked. And I used the XF16 for almost all of my night photos; indoors I used the XF80/2.8, and that really wasn't going to work on the small Gitzo. So I bought the majestic Jobu Algonquin, and throw it in the lake as often as I can. Fantastic. With a heavier – but still easily manageable – tripod new possibilities open up. Like stacking images without needing alignment, or holding the camera securely on an admittedly somewhat gentle boat ride. Or getting a slightly larger camera that's even better suited to spending fifty hours photographing in the dark.

While I'm trying to condense my core equipment down to Fujifilm XF cameras, I continue to explore and play on the periphery. I've always been drawn to different ways of seeing; my enduring interest in long exposures is a part of that. But I also still have my spherical Theta, my infrared cameras, and have recently bought a toy thermal camera as well. I've even just added a little Osmo Pocket video gimbal, which will be a completely new way of seeing for me. Although I'm not completely new to the idea of recording movement over time.

Lighten

This is the image stack blended using the "lighten" mode, which it what I had planned for when taking the photos as a more realistic way of showing the scene. All the lights from the entire ferry ride show though, although the smaller, distant city from the beginning of the trip are overwhelmed by the nearness at the end. And isn't that always the way.

But night photography in a city park isn't all that I've been doing this past year. In fact it only ranked third according to my total number of decent photos – although those do dominate the competition for total exposure time. 

My fourth most common keyword for 2018 was "butterflies". I'm still learning to spot them out in the world, so those were largely from three trips to the conservatory in Niagara Falls, but I'm also bad at keywording so I'm sure there are several from the wild that escaped the net. The gardens at Spadina House are always good for them, but they can appear anywhere.

My second-place keyword spans the entire city – it's the one that I use to mark images taken while I'm out photographing with a friend. Photography By Wandering Around, as Brooks Jensen calls it. It's an excuse to get together and go somewhere interesting, have lunch, and share images. It's both more casual and more challenging than my solo intensives, and produces far more diverse images.

And the most common keyword for 2018 is the name of my newest family member, which is especially impressive since she wasn't around for the first third of the year. I have no doubt that she will dominate my favourite photos of 2019 as well. 

Something to look forward to.