190727 Recent Work - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

The end of June through mid-late July is always a busy time for me, as summer kicks in and various personally important dates come up. The effect this year has been particularly strong, and remains ongoing, but I'm starting to get out and take photos for no reason again. To just get out, go for a walk, and unwind. Usually I have help with this, but that too has been impeded by a very busy summer.

This is my favourite of my recent photos, and by "recent" I mean "taken yesterday". Long exposures remains my preferred technique, and applying it in an urban setting has some challenges that working on the waterfront does not. Like where to put a tripod, for one thing. Toronto is busy. This was taken with a new ultralight little tripod resting on a mailbox, using a six-stop ND filter on the 23/2 lens for a 1/8s shutter speed. While my impulse is to go as dark as possible for ultra-long times, about a tenth of a second is good for people, while two or three seconds is decent for traffic. More than that and you can't recognize streetcars any more.

I've never been much of a fan or advocate for "street" photography; it's not my aesthetic, and it often has problems with power imbalances and consent. I have a rule that I won't feature a recognizable person whose name I don't know. For me dragging the shutter and letting people blur is both a creative and moral choice, which I feel increasingly better about as facial recognition and data aggregation becomes more powerful. The internet never forgets, and it's being mined.

Not that it matters, but this is actually a merge of two consecutive exposures. I didn't think this through at the time, but doing this has let me choose the positions of the people. The two who are stationary are from different frames, to select a better pose from each; the figures under the tree are doubled, keeping their images from both photos, and another person has been removed for balance. Since the files were in my pixel-editing software anyway I also took the time to clean up some patches in the asphalt and other minor distractions. My policy is that if I notice it then it goes away.

I remain a minimalist at heart. Aesthetically at least, if not in terms of equipment.

So not that it matters even less, but my new tripod is the Gitzo Mini Traveller in its cringeworthily-named "noir decor" colour scheme. Despite the terrible name this two-tone silver and black finish is actually slightly more practical than the all-black edition, especially since I'm likely to use it at night. It's expensive, but like my Jobu Algonquin, has quickly proven to be worth it. And in the same theme, for this outing I was using nominally good-quality Tiffen and B+W round ND filters, and they scrambled the colours in ways that my excellent Nisi square filters do not. So it's a trade-off between filters that are appropriately sized for the smaller Fuji lenses, versus the better quality of the bigger equipment.

As always, there's no single "best" option, so it's good to have choices. And now I know to take multiple photos of the same scene, even with long exposures, just in case I need a few more choices and options.


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