Why do we photograph? I don't ask myself that question too often. Do you? Photography is such a big part of who I am, it's like asking me why I breathe.Read More
Let's spill the beans: Do you feel addicted to social media? I must confess that there are times when I catch myself refreshing FB or Instagram on my phone for no good reason whatsoever, and it's starting to worry me a bit. What started as a way to keep up with family and friends, has changed into a never ending catalog of new products that, strangely enough, always seem to fit my needs. The algorithms have become so sophisticated that FB knows exactly what type of shoes I need for my next workshop or which shampoo will finally give me the shine I've always wanted. I'm not so much worried about the 'big brother is watching you' part of it, as I am about the addictive nature of social media.Read More
Imagine if, as a photographer, you thought you had made your best photograph? It would be very sad. All that would be left for you to do is to hang the camera and never touch it again.Read More
If you want to hear how much winter sucks, you can stop reading. I am in a very positive mood this morning and I am determined to find at least a few positive thoughts about living in frigid temperatures for several months every year. So here it goes:
- You really, and I mean REALLY appreciate the small victories such as reaching the freezing point for a day or two in the middle of January.
- Nothing quite compares to the 'morning after' when you wake up to a fresh blanket of snow. Blue hour is truly blue and soon gives place to a million of sparkles as the sun comes up.
- Shoveling snow, if done properly, is really good exercise and works muscles you don't even know you had.
- The drip-drip-drip of the snow melting from the roof in the spring is music to my ears.
- The first precipitation in a liquid form makes you want to dance with joy.
- Witnessing the first green shoots of the crocuses under the snow is like finding a treasure.
- The call of the chickadees answering each other in their mating call is even sweeter than my favorite Ed Sheeran song.
- And so many other little things that most take for granted: Seeing the blacktop of my driveway after months of packed snow and ice, being able to actually stop at stop signs, not having to worry about your fresh food freezing instantly in your cart between the grocery store and the car...
Okay, it sounds like most of the positives I could find actually happen when winter finally gives way to spring in April, or May... But warmer temperatures are finally right around the corner in Minnesota. Today already, at -18C/0F and sunny, it's starting to feel a little bit like spring ;)
How was that for a positive outlook on winter?
I love new beginnings! Whether it's a new day, a new week, or a new year, it's always a good time to start a new chapter. I don't care much for 'new year's resolutions' in general. But they keep the fitness industry happy for a few weeks every January, so that's a good thing ;)
Whatever the 'new' is for you, why not make a small step towards your dream this year? It doesn't have to be a giant leap. Maybe one simple step in the direction you want to change one thing in your life will be enough to propel you in a new direction. I made many really big changes in my life in recent years. I decided to live my dream and I made it happen. Luck had nothing to do with it, hard work and determination did!
Living your dream is the most difficult task you will ever take on. Let's face it, if it was easy, everyone would do it. It may not be big, but no matter what it is, you owe it to yourself to give it a go. There is no 'back to square one' when your game is over.
Cheers to a beautiful New Year! May you surround yourself with people who love, support and empower you in your wildest dreams.
P.S. In the same train of thoughts, you may enjoy listening my latest podcast episode on Hit The Streets here.
It's been a crazy few months. I should even say: A crazy few years. I've been going full steam for a long time, and I rarely take more than a day or two off from writing, podcasting, blogging or teaching. I never really feel like I need to take a break because I love what I do so much that it never feels like work. Also, being a solo entrepreneur, I never really leave 'the office', it's in my pocket all the time, no matter which day of the week it is or where in the world I am.
I boarded my flight to Paris a week ago exactly and I haven't done any office work other than answering a few emails. I haven't written an article, a blog post or a book chapter in 7 full days. I didn't even work during the 8+ hour transatlantic flight! It's been 100% family fun and camera time.
Part of the reason why I have been more disconnected than usual is that sharing limited bandwidth with three others has been too frustrating to try to spend much time on the internet. Going for an extra walk on the beach with my camera or reading a book at night has been much more relaxing than trying to log on.
I just spent 3 days in Paris with my kids, we walked about 50k, stayed up late and enjoyed every minute of La Vie Parisienne. Now back at my family home in Normandy for the rest of my vacation, I look forward to more walks on the beach, family fun and camera time. Maybe I'll even do a drawing or two. The key is to try not to put any pressure on myself. Phone calls can wait, emails are not all urgent and I already put a few podcast recordings in the queue.
La vie est belle, profitons-en!
I finished reading The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey and I already implemented several of the tips the author describes in his book. I have to say that very few 'self development' books have been as helpful as Bailey's book. So much so that I invited him to come on my podcast Hit The Streets with Valerie Jardin to share some productivity tips with the listeners this summer. So stay tuned for that episode!
One of the big eye openers for me was the value of single-tasking.
I'm a solo entrepreneur and a mom, which by definition puts me in the 'expert multi-tasker' category. I'm pretty good at multi-talking. I can juggle so many things at once, most people would get dizzy. I also realize that multi-tasking can be counter productive at times and I decided to try single-tasking during my peak productivity time. I started setting my iPhone timer in 30-45 minute increments to start. It's about twice as long as the recommended time for the new single-tasker. I thought I might as well challenge myself in the process. It's harder than it looks for people like me, who are used to dealing with dozens of things at once. After focussing on one task only without distractions in 30-45 minute increments for a few days, I am amazed at how much more productive I am. I'm not only more productive, but also more deliberate. It's also a good way to tune out social media for 30-45 minute increments, which is longer that most people can last.
I'm not saying that I will single-task all day, every day. But I am definitely trying to apply the technique several times during the day when I am writing or catching up with office work. The benefits are well worth the effort. I get done faster and more efficiently so I have more time to play!
I believe that multi-tasking has its value and benefits at certain times. It is definitely a necessary skill when I travel and teach workshops for example. But everything with moderation is good and I will continue to improve my single-tasking abilities when it is most beneficial.
This was one of the dozens of valuable nuggets I picked up by reading Chris Bailey's book. It's definitely a must-read if you need to find more hours in the week to do more of the things you love to do!
Are you a multi-tasker or a single-tasker? Or, like me, it depends on the situation?
If you follow this blog, you probably read my last post, a few weeks ago, titled Going Beyond the Stickman. I'm happy to report that, after 3 drawing lessons, I am already beyond the stickman and definitely well beyond all my expectations!
My camera is to me, what a security blanket is to a child. It gives me the super power of forgetting everything else, good or bad, happening in my life. I am truly in the moment when I'm 'in the zone'.Read More
I love what I do and I'm very happy when I'm working, I never really crave time off. My idea of a vacation is probably very different from most people. Many want to chill, get extra sleep and slow down. For me, just the thought of inactivity is enough to give me anxiety. When my family decided on a 'beach vacation' in Mexico for our spring break this year, I was very reluctant. I said that I would go but on one condition: That we stay away from the 'spring break crowd' as much as possible.
This was an easy sell because, wherever we travel as a family, we always want to live like locals. We always rent apartments or houses via AirBnB or similar services. We love getting to know the locals and shop at the neighborhood markets. The human interaction with local people is always the highlight of our trips, whether we're in Iceland, Mexico, Belgium or any of the dozen countries my kids have visited over the years.
I'm a city girl, and much happier on the gritty streets of a large city that on the white sand of a tropical beach. So for me, going to Mexico would ideally mean experiencing Mexico City. Since I get to experience large cities for work the rest of the year, the least I can do while on vacation is to please the rest of the family and also give my camera a little break. Lucky for me, my family is very understanding of my passion and support it 100%. They also love active vacations. You would never see any of us lying on the beach for more than 10 minutes. There are too many things to explore and people to meet to stay idle too long!
We flew into Cancun and rented a car at the airport. We drove at night until we reached the less travelled town of Tulum. Along the way, we saw grand entrances to gigantic resorts which were more reminiscent of Las Vegas than anything else. I was a bit nervous... It was going to be a long week among thousands of other tourists... Finally the bright lights subsided and we arrived in Tulum. Our condo was on the edge of town, very comfortable (definitely not the way locals live...) but at least we were independent and away from the much dreaded resorts.
The next morning we decided to explore the town and go to the local grocery store. It was quite an experience and my Spanish is a bit rusty but it already felt like a real adventure. The people of Tulum are very poor in stark contrast with all the fancy resorts we had passed on the road the night before. While some of the houses are well maintained, many are in complete shambles. several people sharing one room. Some families even live under tarps next to a landfill. There are dozens of dogs on the streets, all are very thin, many are sick. This is the Mexico most tourists are never exposed to, and it is the Mexico I wanted to see and share with my boys. Truth is, this is not even the poor part of the country.
We have so much, and are never satisfied. They have nothing and yet they have the biggest smiles and hearts!
Of course we also enjoyed the beautiful tropical beaches, the Cenotes, the Mayan sites, and the local food and drinks. But we all came back a little humbler and wiser from this vacation after meeting the kind and generous people of Tulum, Mexico.
I will go again. Next time I wish to explore Mexico City with my camera.
This was one of my favorite spring break vacations ever. My family finally experienced a tropical beach vacation and it opened our eyes and heart a little bit bigger too.
What is your favorite Mexican destination?
My inbox became out of control and it was driving me crazy!!Read More
I never quite understood this 'living in the moment' or 'mindfulness' concept. It sounds very romantic but not very realistic. No one can possibly 'live in the moment' all the time, or even for a day!Read More
My experience being phone-less for a few hours and how I need to make some changes to lessen my mobile phone dependency.Read More
In recent weeks I have found myself feeling more and more angry and negative to start off my day. Feeling angry first thing in the morning is not the best way to start the day and be productive. Yet I believe that anger is necessary and that it's also healthy to vent, but it should not get to the point where it sucks all your energy. So I decided to come up with a plan to refocus and conserve my energy for good things.Read More
Let's try something different this week! I did a live Q&A on my FB Page today and put the video on YouTube. I'll be doing more of them so please join me on FB if you can!
Elizabeth Gray: "Hi Valerie, I meant to ask you this in Vancouver but forgot. How often do you use the wide angle and tele converter for you X100T? Are they easy to swap in and out on the fly? Would you recommend them as an alternative to one of the interchangeable lens Fujis?"
Susan Goudge: "Hi Valerie! I want to work on getting some shots with motion blur with people on the street--can you advise what settings to use to get this effect? Thank you!"
Monty Montgomery: "I believe you have said you use single point focus mode. If the subject is off-center you will focus and recompose and take the shot. How does that work for you when you are shooting from the waist level? Do you change the focus mode to zone or are you skilled enough that you are able to focus and recompose using single point? Thanks."
Bonjour! I decided to restart the Q&A blog posts. I put them on hold for a long time because of my Street Focus podcast. I answer listener questions in a monthly Q&A segment and thought that redundancy would not make much sense. I'll try to answer different questions here, but they may cross over on occasion as well. I was also busy writing my first street photography ebook :)
So this week, I want to talk about sunbursts!
Recently someone commented on one of my silhouette pics by asking if I used a sunburst filter. I must admit that, being somewhat of a gear minimalist, I had never even heard of a sunburst filter and wondered why anyone would use one when you can achieve sunbursts without a filter. So I investigated further... There are indeed such things are Star Effect Filters that you can put in front of your lens. They even come in 4 point or 6 point options.
But why? First, a sunburst is quite easy to achieve without the added expense of a filter by simply setting your camera to a small aperture (big number ;) ideally start at f/16). And, wouldn't the use of a filter reduce the quality of the lens?
Does a star effect filter make the sunburst more 'perfect'? Again... Why? Is perfection so important that we need to alter everything to try to achieve it? Are we even wired to respond to perfection? Or rather, aren't we more likely to respond emotionally to imperfections. As a street photographer, I certainly don't look for perfection. I photograph everyday life, it's raw, it's not perfect and it's often those imperfections that make the photograph special.
Okay, but people buy those filters so they must be really awesome. I looked further and saw one great example where such a filter would be very useful: Night street photography. I can definitely see its use to create a star effect on street lights.
I usually try to capture a sunburst when I shoot a silhouette. It's an added challenge and it looks cool. I really never even paid attention whether it has 4, 6 or more points... For one thing, the sunburst is never the subject of my photograph. I look at it as an added bonus that makes a good shot a little bit more interesting.
As I was doing a Google search on the filters, I stumbled upon many tutorials on how to add a sunburst to an image that doesn't have one in the first place... Yikes! Don't even get me started... Call me a purist if you wish. I find it much more fun and challenging (and so much faster) to capture it in camera than spend my precious time making one up in PS. But hey, post processing is an art and I know many amazing photographers who enjoy that part of the craft and do it very well. I admire their PS skills, I'm in awe with what they can do with the tools. But it's just not for me, and that's probably one of the reasons why street photography and I are such good friends.
Conclusion: Maybe my first reaction towards using such filters was a bit strong, they are just another way to create 'in camera', no different than using a creative focus lens or even a toy camera. It's all good, especially if it makes the photographer go out with his/her camera more and make pictures! I may just have to try a star effect filter some day :)
Here are a few of my sunburst pics, they are 'au naturel', no filter or PS magic applied.
Here is Part 3. Enjoy!
This is the first in a series of mini tutorials and tip videos available on my YouTube channel.
Tip # 1 will help you remain invisible in street photography when you want to avoid eye contact and not draw attention to yourself while being very close to your subject. I hope you enjoy it!
I would like to thank my friend Shawn Brezny for making this short video possible.
My favorite photo gear, books, podcasts, and more.Read More