Montréal - Chinatown

J'ai le vague à l'âme. Comme à tous les automnes. Je sais que ça ne durera pas bien longtemps, heureusement. Pour provoquer les choses, faire que tout retombe en place le plus rapidement possible, j'ai décidé de changer de décor hier matin, de me tremper dans autre chose. Ça m'est nécessaire à l'occasion. Comme j'avais à faire tout près de là, dès que je me suis libéré je suis allé faire un tour dans le quartier chinois.

C'est un drôle d'endroit tout de même, niché en plein coeur du Montréal historique - résolument occidental - et jouant du coude avec des monstres de modernité nord-américains comme le Palais de congrès, le Complexe Desjardins ou encore le complexe Guy-Favreau. Malgré tout, les quelques rues du quartier exhalent des parfums, laissent entendre des sons et donnent à voir des choses qui ravivent les sens de quiconque s'y attarde. L'animation y est constante et, pour peu que l'on tende l'oreille et écoute les conversations et les harangues des commerçants, on pourrait réellement se croire ailleurs qu'à Montréal.


I'm in one of these melancholic phases I dive in every fall. I know it won't last long, fortunately. But to shake things up and make everything fall in place as quickly as possible, I decided to change the scenery yesterday morning. Even if for just one day, I wanted to soak in something else. I need it from time to time. As I had business close by, as soon as I set myself free I strolled down to the Chinatown.

Anyway you look at it, the tiny Chinatown is a strange place. It's nestled in the heart of the historic Montreal - which has a resolutely European feel and background - and its limits are marked by monsters of the North American modernity, commercial and administrative, that are the Palais des congrès, the Complexe Desjardins or the Guy-Favreau Complex. Despite all that, its streets exhale perfumes, sounds and scenes that has the power to wake up the senses of anybody. The bustle is constant and, provided that you tend an open ear and listen to the conversations or to the calls of the merchants, you could imagine yourself on the other side of the world.


Fujifilm X-T1  |  XF 35mm F1.4 R  +  XF 18-5mm F2.8-4 R


Textes et photos © 2015 OLNEY


Sherbrooke, 1976

Comment j'en suis venu à la photographie

Sherbrooke, c’est ma ville! Je n’y suis pas né, je suis natif de Danville, mais ça, c’est une autre de mes histoires d’amour que je vous raconterai peut-être.

J’ai passé les cinquante dernières années à Sherbrooke. Élevé dans l’est. Ceux qui ont mon âge savent qu’à l’époque ça définissait en bonne partie qui l’on était et qui l’on pouvait espérer devenir. L’identité s’affirmait, à peu de choses près, dans trois ou quatre lieux incontournables de la vie d’un jeune garçon; la patinoire, le terrain de baseball, le parc et la cour d’école. Les réputations s’y faisaient ou y étaient détruites à jamais. Manque de chance, je n’étais vraiment bon qu’à l’école.

J’ai tout de même réussi à y faire mon chemin, sans éclat certes, mais aussi sans être mis au ban de cette petite société. Sans en faire partie tout à fait, parce qu’il le fallait, parce que c’était tout ce qu’il y avait. Je l’ai fait en fréquentant les lieux obligés, en connaissant les rites et en observant les coutumes, en pouvant en raconter les légendes et rapporter les potins, en étant capable de reconnaitre ceux qu’il fallait reconnaitre et, surtout, en étant en mesure de lire les évènements, les humeurs, le climat, pour me « pousser » si les choses menaçaient de se gâter. Une vie d’adolescent normale pour l’époque; un peu plate, avec l’impression d’un avenir bouché et l’éternel sentiment de n’être nulle part à sa place. Rien de neuf. En fait, je n’attendais qu’une chose; la fin des études secondaires.

Finir le secondaire c’était comme accéder au Valhalla. Pour moi, c’était enfin passer à autre chose, car je savais que peu de mes collègues continueraient à étudier et, même si le collège était dans mon quartier, j’avais tout de même l’impression d’en sortir, enfin. Ça devenait d’autant plus important que, au cours de ma dernière année du secondaire, j’avais découvert quelque chose de neuf et de vieux à la fois, d’archaïque et de contemporain à la fois, quelque chose que je ne pouvais pas partager avec mes copains, quelque chose qui, dans ma tête d’ado, m’aurait mis sur la touche; l’art. Tout l’art. La poésie, la peinture, le dessin, la littérature, l’architecture la sculpture, la musique. Je découvrais tout, j’explorais tout, à une vitesse incroyable et avec une faim de loup, étendant mes découvertes au cinéma, au théâtre et à la danse. J’y cherchais une échappatoire, une place, ma place. Elle s’est présentée par le plus fortuit des hasards.

Il y avait avec nous, en 5e secondaire, un étudiant qui terminait quelques cours et qui nous venait d’une autre école, d’une école qui offrait de bizarres de programmes « artistiques ». Nous retournions à la maison ensemble quelquefois, bavardant de tout et de rien. Aux beaux jours de printemps, juste avant la fin des classes, il se mit à venir à l’école avec un drôle de joujou. Un appareil photo comme je n’en avais jamais vu, quelque chose qui me semblait au moins aussi complexe qu’un microscope ou qu’un théodolite. Je l’observais intrigué et envieux, mais je n’osais pas y toucher. Ici il se reconnaitra peut-être, mais je prends tout de même la liberté de le nommer compte tenu de l’importance de cette brève rencontre dans ma vie; son nom est Guy Kinkead.

Au tout dernier jour du secondaire (je partais pour le Maine dès le lendemain, sur le pouce évidemment), nous nous sommes arrêtés tous les deux au coin de La Bruère et de la 10e avenue, à deux pas de chez moi. Il y avait en ce temps-là un grand Christ en croix, aujourd’hui disparu. Guy en avait déjà fait une photo, magnifique, qui était parue l’année précédente dans un album des finissants de l’option Art et Communication de l’école Montcalm.

C’est devant ce Christ en croix que, pour la première et la dernière fois, Guy a simplement déposé l’appareil dans mes mains, m’a laissé regarder par le viseur et s’est mis en vaine de m’expliquer comment faire la mise au point. J’étais subjugué, accroché, séduit par ce que je voyais et par cette machine intrigante que je tenais dans mes mains malhabiles.

À mon retour d’une semaine à la mer, je me suis mis à travailler en attendant le début des cours au collège. Avec ce que j’avais réussi à mettre de côté, je me suis acheté un Canon AE-1, modèle qui venait à peine de sortir. Il a rendu l’âme 11 ans plus tard, à Bourges. J’ai pris ma toute première photo avec cet appareil, les deux premiers rouleaux de film en fait, au parc Victoria. J’y suis retourné ce matin, pour la première fois en 40 ans et j’ai été frappé par l’aspect spartiate, quasi soviétique de l’ensemble.

Je n'ai plus jamais revu Guy, malheureusement. Je le remercie aujourd'hui.


FUJIFILM X-T1|  XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4


How I came to photography

Sherbrooke is my home! I was not born there though, I am a native of Danville, but that is another of my love stories that I may tell you about, one day.

I spent the last fifty years in Sherbrooke. Raised in what we call « the east ». Those who are my age know very well that, at that time, coming from « the east » largely defined who we were and what we could hope to become. Identity was built in three or four essential places in the life of a young boy; the ice rink, the baseball field, the park and the schoolyard. Reputations were made or destroyed for ever in those places. No luck, school is the only thing I was good at.

I still managed to make my way through, undistinguished of course, but without being ostracized from this small society. Inhabited by the sense of not belonging entirely, just because I had to, because that was all there was. I manage to do it by hanging in the right places, by knowing and observing the rituals and customs, by being able to tell the legends and report the gossips or by being able to recognize those you absolutely had to recognize. Most of all, I had the ability to read the unfolding events, decipher the moods, fell the climate, so I was able to escape if things threaten to turn bad. All in all it was a normal teenage life for that time; a bit dull, with the impression of a blocked future and an eternal feeling that I did not fit anywhere. Nothing new here. In fact, I was expecting one thing only; the end of secondary school.

Finishing high school was like accessing Valhalla. I could finally move on. I knew most of my colleagues would not continue to study and, even if college was in my neighborhood, I still feel like I was going away, finally. It had become that much more important to me that, during my last year at high school, I had discovered something both old and new, archaic and contemporary at the same time, something that I could not share with my friends because I was convinced, in my little teenager’s head, that it would have sidelined me; Art. All forms of art. Poetry, painting, drawing, literature, architecture, sculpture, music. I was discovering everything and I was exploring every aspect at an incredible pace and with an insatiable appetite, extending my interests to cinema, theater and dance. I realized I sought an escape, a place, my place. It presented itself by the most fortuitous of coincidences.

A new student was among us for Secondary 5 to complete some courses. He came from another school, a school that offered bizarre « artistic » programs. Once in a while we returned home together, chatting and having fun all the way. Come spring, just before the end of school, he began to come to school with a funny toy. A camera of the kind I had never seen, something that seemed to me as complex as a microscope or a theodolite. I watched intrigued and envious, but I did not dare touch it nor ask to. At this time of the read he may recognize himself, nevertheless I take the liberty to name him, in light of the importance of this brief encounter in my life; his name is Guy Kinkead.

On the very last day of school (I was off to Maine the next day, hitchhiking of course), we stopped at the corner of La Bruère street and 10th Avenue, close to home. There was a big wayside cross on that corner at that time, it’s now gone. Guy had already done a gorgeous photo of it that got published the year before, in the Art and Communication yearbook of Montcalm school, where he used to go.

It’s beside that huge crucifix that, for the first and last time, Guy simply put that magnificent device in my hands, let me glance through the viewfinder and explain me how I was to put what I was seeing in focus. I was captivated, hooked, seduced by what I saw and by this intriguing machine in my clumsy hands.

When I returned from a week on the Maine beaches, I started working, waiting for the beginning of classes in college. With every penny I had managed to save, I bought myself a Canon AE-1 that had just come out. It died on me 11 years later, in Bourges. I took my very first picture with this camera, two rolls of film in fact, in Victoria Park. I went back there this morning for the first time in 40 years. I was struck by the spartan aspect, almost soviet look of the setting and I share it with you today.

I have never seen Guy again, unfortunately. I thank him today.

 

Texte et photos © 2015 OLNEY


Damned DAM - Going for the Flow

I’m somewhat cured of GAS. Oh I do enjoy a little gearporn session once in a while but, as money goes, I have to refrain a bit on the acquisition part of the acronym. « You can look… but you cannot touch ». That’s my motto for the time being. Although I would probably fall for a 24 mpx X-Pro 2 or X-T2.

One thing is always itching me though; workflow.

I’m pretty sure that I’m not as efficient as I could be. I always wonder if I’m making the best choices for image quality, assets management and security of my data. I’ve looked at a number of articles depicting one’s process of managing images, and versions, but somehow I stay unsure if what I’m doing is the right thing.

So I’ve tried a couple of things in the past one and a half year, from simply organizing my files manually in the finder and processing them in CameraRAW/Photoshop or Pixelmator, to using a full blown DAM and RAW converter like Lightroom, Aperture or Capture one… and yes, everything in between, DAM or RAW converter; Photo Ninja, Iridient Developper, SilkyPix, Photo Mechanics, Perfect Photo Suite, On one, and others I don’t even care to remember… the latest being Mac Affinity Pro and Supreme Photo.

I had not looked at another piece of software than Aperture as long as I shot Nikon. But you know what, I committed to Fuji and everything changed. X-Trans files are special you know. Everyone has an opinion on the rendering of X-Trans files and I got caught in the debate. So I wanted better images AND better worflow.

But, believe it or not, I’m longing for the leanest process possible. If I could use just one application that would be perfect! It is supposed to be quite simple after all; import, manage, cull, develop, output, upload, archive, retrieve. That’s it! Simple. Linear. Like in Lightroom linear.

Sickening… don’t you think? Doctor, am I normal? Ain’t I the worst case you had?

 

The thing is that, by trying all those apps and constantly changing my worflow (including file naming conventions, output formats, metadata presets, keywording, etc.), I finally got results... RESULTS!

  1. Got everything messed up

  2. Spent a lot of time managing files, creating presets while not shooting

  3. Ruin my eyes comparing images on the computer screen

  4. Lost confidence in my abilities to render images the way I want

  5. Lost all pleasure I had in doing post related things

I somehow stopped being an artist and became an application tester. BETA… throw it this way!

That’s when it hit me. « Build it and they will come »

 

DAM Flow olney photographe sherbrooke

It’s not that I’m waiting for baseball legends of the past but, what this quote means to me is « COMMIT and they will come back », meaning the pleasure, the confidence, the awareness, the abilities… more of the FLOW and less of the WORK.

Just like I committed fully to the Fujifilm system and look, I needed to commit to a certain set of tools that I feel comfortable with, that gets good results and that, most of all, allows me to express myself, tools I can use to make my images look the way they should, the way I saw them or imagine them at the moment I pressed the shutter.

So I did. Got rid of every application except Lightroom and Capture One, and I got back to the very simple workflow I had established years before. I even got rid of my once beloved Nik Efex Pro and ditched every presets I had ever downloaded. Down the drain. Everything except the VSCO sets, that I kept just in case or for comparison purposes, as I use my own presets 95% of the time, on RAF files as well as on the superb Fuji JPEGs. And you know what? I feel lighter, clean, honest. By committing to those tools I committed to myself; to the artist and to my peace of mind.

So, here it goes. Simply put:

  1. I shoot RAW+Large JPEG

  2. Import the files in Lightroom (in folders by date and custom name, with generic keywords and copyright info)

  3. Culling using the picked, unpicked and rejected flags (I do this on the JPEG files as they give a better idea of what the photo could look like)

  4. Throw away the obviously scrapped files, RAF and JPEG (yes I do that)

  5. Add relevant keywords to every file that are left, even the unpicked. That little interval soothes my eyes for the next part

  6. Filter the picked files

  7. Assign a star rating to picked files that will only serve as a priority reminder. The more stars the more I want to develop the file

  8. Backup every file on a external HD

  9. Develop files on a virtual copie

  10. Export a MASTER file that I will never tweek again in a MASTERS subfolder, add an « M » to the file name and assign the yellow label

  11. Export a 1200px on the longest side file for WEB publishing in a WEB subfolder, rename accordingly and assign the blue label

  12. Go back and assign the red label to the original file I just develop. This means « as been edited »

  13. When, and only when I decide to print a file I will export with specifics settings in a PRINTS folder, add a « P » to the file name and assign the green label.

I publish to Flickr and 500px using the Lightroom plugins. I use Collections to gather only four types of files : Polychromes, Monochromes, Photos published in my blog posts, Photos delivered to clients.

Lightroom backs up the catalog every day. Time Machine backs up the whole system once a week and Smart Backups backs up everything that is Lightroom related and all my photos and file structure once a week on another HD.

Simple, no?

Texte et photos © 2015 OLNEY


Cap Breton


FUJIFILM X-T1, XF 18-55MM AND XF 27MM


Photos © 2015 OLNEY