January 1st Graffiti Photowalk

I routinely try and take a bit of a longer photowalk at the start of each year. It’s an opportunity to stretch my legs some and a great way to start of the year while, also, getting a chance to document the city while it’s still recovering from New Years celebrations.

This year was no different, save that I ended up leaving for my walk later than intended and was drawn to a number of Toronto’s alleys throughout the evening.

While I did the majority of my shooting through the late afternoon and evening in monochrome, I couldn’t help by see how the positive film simulation in my Ricoh GRs would showcase the vibrant colours of graffiti under artificial lighting situations.

It was only once I’d brought the images home and looked at them that it became apparent that the majority of the photos were made from the same angle. I had no idea I was doing this at the time but, in hindsight, I definitely wish that I’d made images from wider variety of angles.

When I was wandering through some of the alleys I wished that there had been more people about to include in some of the images. Even a wisp of a figure would, I think, have added a bit of a haunting character to many of the photographs.

In their absence, however, I largely (though not completely) tried to channel Tatianna Hopper. She sometimes engages in a kind of street photography that simultaneously showcases the existence and absence of humans. Graffiti and human trash, or waste, expresses this concept to my mind.

In a number of alleys there were quasi-monstrous or demonic imagery. I see more and more of it around the city and have met the artists of some of it. The effort they’re putting in is amazing with really interesting effects; when shooting with humans in the frame and in monochrome, I find the graffiti adds an interesting graphic element and juxtaposition. Even on its own, however, the juxtaposition between colour and monochrome graffiti causes its own novel contrast.

Almost the entirety of 2022, and the tail end of 2021, saw me shoot 99% of my images in monochrome. I’m happy with the progress I’ve made on the street and can see the very real improvements in composition and ability to ‘see’ in monochrome. However I’m inspired by Alex Webb and Gustavo Minas’ ‘Maximum Shadow Minimal Light’. Both use shadow in colour photography and I’d like to develop similar skills . Maybe that means I’ll experiment some through the year in trying to translate what I’ve learned about light and shadows in monochrome images into colour photos!

Solved: Ricoh GR Not Using Auto-Hi ISO

I spent a few frustrating evenings shooting on aperture priority with the original Ricoh GR. It held my shutter speed at 1/40s and varied the ISO so that it was always at 1/40s.

I’ve finally sat down to figure out what the heck was going on as I’d never previously experienced this issue. For some reason each time I tried to set the ISO to Auto-High (with a 5000 ISO maximum and shutter minimum at 1/160s) it kept defaulting to Auto, instead.

The Problem

My Ricoh GR was stuck at 1/40s when shooting aperture priority (i.e., ‘Av’) with the ISO varying to ensure it could hit that shutter speed. My work-around solution was to take manual control of the ISO. When I manually raised the ISO I could get a much faster shutter speed.

The Solution

I had previously disabled ‘Continuous Mode’ when I had been experimenting with an external flash. In doing so I had, unknowingly, simultaneously disabled the camera’s ability to use ‘Auto-High.’1 Auto-High is used to set a maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed.2

To enable Auto-High on the Ricoh GR:

  1. Open the menu
  2. Enter the Shooting Menu (Camera symbol)
  3. Scroll down to ‘Continuous Mode’
  4. Press the right button on the control dial
  5. Scroll to ‘Continuous Mode’
  6. Press ‘OK’

You may, also, need to set the maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed for Auto-High. To set these values:

  1. Open the menu
  2. Enter the Setup Menu (Screwdriver and Wrench symbol)
  3. Scroll down to ‘ISO Auto-High Settings’
  4. Press the right button on the control dial
  5. Set the Maximum ISO and Change Shutter Speed to preferred values
  6. Press ‘OK’

At the conclusion of this you should hopefully have (re)enabled Auto-High ISO.

Note: My solution to this problem differs from some on the Internet. A post in the DP Review forums, as an example, suggests that you must disable ‘dynamic range compensation’ to solve the problem. This is not the case in my experience as I have dynamic range compensation set to ‘Medium’ on my Ricoh GR.

  1. This is not clearly explained in the Ricoh GR manual when when doing a search for ‘Auto-Hi’. ↩︎
  2. If shooting conditions are such that the camera cannot expose properly at a given aperture and maximum ISO setting, it may reduce the shutter speed below the minimum shutter speed set under Auto-High to get a correct exposure. ↩︎

Improving My Photography In 2021

(Climbing Gear by Christopher Parsons)

I’ve spent a lot of personal time behind my cameras throughout 2021 and have taken a bunch of shots that I really like. At the same time, I’ve invested a lot of personal time learning more about the history of photography and how to accomplish things with my cameras. Below, in no particular order, is a list of the ways I worked to improve my photography in 2021.

Fuji Recipes

I started looking at different ‘recipes’ that I could use for my Fuji x100f, starting with those at Fuji X Weekly and some YouTube channels. I’ve since started playing around with my own black and white recipes to get a better sense of what works for making my own images. The goal in all of this is to create jpgs that are ‘done’ in body and require an absolute minimum amount of adjustment. It’s very much a work in progress, but I’ve gotten to the point that most of my photos only receive minor crops, as opposed to extensive edits in Darkroom.

Comfort in Street Photography

The first real memory I have of ‘doing’ street photography was being confronted by a bus driver after I took his photo. I was scared off of taking pictures of other people for years as a result.

Over the past year, however, I’ve gotten more comfortable by watching a lot of POV-style YouTube videos of how other street photographers go about making their images. I don’t have anyone else to go an shoot with, and learn from, so these videos have been essential to my learning process. In particular, I’ve learned a lot from watching and listening to Faizal Westcott, the folks over at Framelines, Joe Allan, Mattias Burling, and Samuel Lintaro Hopf.

Moreover, just seeing the photos that other photographers are making and how they move in the street has helped to validate that what I’m doing, when I go out, definitely fits within the broader genre of street photography.

Histories of Photography

In the latter three months of 2021 I spent an enormous amount of time watching videos from the Art of Photography, Tatiana Hopper, and a bit from Sean Tucker. The result is that I’m developing a better sense of what you can do with a camera as well as why certain images are iconic or meaningful.

Pocket Camera Investment

I really love my Fuji x100f and always have my iPhone 12 Pro in my pocket. Both are terrific cameras. However, I wanted something that was smaller than the Fuji and more tactile than the iPhone, and which I could always have in a jacket pocket.

To that end, in late 2021 I purchase a very lightly used Ricoh GR. While I haven’t used it enough to offer a full review of it I have taken a lot of photos with it that I really, really like. More than anything else I’m taking more photos since buying it because I always have a good, very tactile, camera with me wherever I go.

Getting Off Instagram

I’m not a particularly big fan of Instagram these days given Facebook’s unwillingness or inability to moderate its platform, as well as Instagram’s constant addition of advertisements and short video clips. So since October 2021 I’ve been posting my photos almost exclusively to Glass and (admittedly to a lesser extent) to this website.

Not only is the interface for posting to Glass a lot better than the one for Instagram (and Flickr, as well), the comments I get on my photos on Glass are better than anywhere else I’ve ever posted my images. Admittedly Glass still has some growing pains but I’m excited to see how it develops in the coming year.