Routine is an important part of photography. That doesn’t sound very inspiring, but I’ve never considered the act of taking a photograph as exciting. Unlike a performance art form like music or dance, no one is inspired by watching a photographer taking a picture, except for other photographers. Photography is like fishing: a lot of waiting around, checking out different locations, playing with gear, and hoping to catch the big one. For example, landscape photographer Michael Kenna reads books and listens to music while capturing one of his 8-10 hour exposure night images. Again, not very exciting, but that’s one routine he’s incorporated into the workflow that helps him capture amazing photographs. Due to the pandemic, I’ve spent much of my time photographing at night and alone. It’s been difficult to motivate myself to get out and take pictures, but I’ve created a routine that has proven reasonably successful for my photography.
When it came to my pre-pandemic photography routine, I had a walking route for my street photography. I would park my car in Strathcona, walk into Chinatown, make my way to downtown, Gastown, and then back. I would walk past the same buildings, the same businesses, talk with the same people. It doesn’t sound very adventurous to walk the same route every week, but there are plenty of advantages to doing this. In my previous article, I talked about my buddy Richard who recently passed away, and how I would see him all the time because I walked the same route for years. Since March of last year, I’ve stopped this weekly walking routine due to the pandemic, so I created a new regular driving route near my home instead.
As you’ve noticed in my photographs the past year, most of my images are captured at night. This is because I’m doing my best to avoid unnecessary contact with the outside world. I also enjoy the stillness of the night. Unlike the exciting nightlife in cities like Hong Kong or Tokyo, Vancouver nightlife is comparatively quiet and slow, at least in the areas I like to visit. Whenever I have a new camera or lens to review, I will venture out and look for unique locations; but I still go back to my regular spots where I know I’ll be able to capture something interesting. My current routine is to drive around and hit my favourite spots on my way home from my studio at night. I get extra excited when it’s foggy or frosty, and this particular night in December I got just that.
These photographs were captured with the Fujifilm X-T4 and the Viltrox 33mm f/1.4 AF. I was in the process of testing another camera, but since I was coming back from my studio, I had all my main gear with me. I usually like capturing two different versions of the same scene, either using two different cameras, lenses, formats, etc. Many of you will recognize this particular night from my Instagram account; so these photographs taken with the Fujifilm X-T4 were technically outtakes from the primary project I was working on.
I wasn’t attempting to achieve anything specific with this camera-lens combination that night other than shooting wide open and eventually comparing the difference between a 28mm and 50mm equiv. field of view of the same scene. In fact, since capturing these images I didn’t look at the RAF files until I recently stumbled on them last week while reorganizing my hard drives. I had a chance to compare the two sets of images; and in general, I do seem more comfortable shooting with a wider field of view. I have a couple of new lenses on their way, so I’ll return once again and do some more experimenting.
Moreover, creating a regular driving route during this pandemic has allowed me to maintain a consistent routine, even when I don’t feel like taking photographs. I don’t like the cold or the dark, but this is the only time I’ve reserved for photography during this pandemic. Typically I visit a few spots before going home, and half the time I won’t take a single photograph. The point is getting out there with the mindset of capturing something. One motivational trick is to leave my cameras out on the passenger seat or in the cupholders. When your cameras are ready, then you’ll be ready. Many of my favourite images were captured when I wasn’t motivated to do so. This particular evening I could have just as easily turned right instead of left and gone home to a cozy bed and a good book. Instead, I forced myself to maintain my routine and the result was creating two sets of photographs that I’m reasonably pleased with. Thanks for reading ad happy shooting!