NYC 2018 Workshop

It’s been some time since I last sat down to write about photography. Since then, Sam and I have traveled to London, Paris, and most recently Brooklyn where I met up with Johnny and Rebecca Patience for their NYC 2018 workshop at the Bushwick Community Darkroom. As for London and Paris, more to come once I’ve finished my selections and edits.

Johnny’s NYC workshop was centered around the goals of better understanding black and white film photography - more specifically, the relationship between exposures and density of negatives along with the importance of your workflow and approach in the darkroom. 

We spent the first day discussing your approach, philosophies behind metering, and spending some time taking photos throughout Bushwick. The second day was spent entirely in the darkroom where we reviewed our negatives, made selections, experimented with the enlarger, ran test strips, and finally narrowed in on our development times for our desired look and feel.

Having shot film for nearly four years now, it’s embarrassing to write that this was the first time I’ve stepped foot in a darkroom. I’ve always collaborated with Richard Photo Lab when it came to my film work including development, scanning, and fine art prints. And, while it sounds cliché, there really is a different feeling when developing your own work. It’s an art in and of itself and left me feeling both incredibly humbled yet inspired.

Needless to say, you can only begin to scratch the surface in a two day workshop, however I left New York City with a new appreciation for both B&W photography and the darkroom. And, the role that it can play in shaping my approach and my work.

All photographs were created with a Leica M6 and the Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 on Kodak Tri-X 400.

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Japan Camera Hunter: In Your Bag

I was recently featured in Bellamy Hunt’s In Your Bag series on his blog. If you haven’t checked out his website, Japan Camera Hunter, I highly recommend it. Bellamy is great to work with if you’re looking for a rare or very specific camera. He also created his own line of film, JCH, in both 135 and 120 and offers various camera accessories.

To read my feature on Japan Camera Hunter, check out Bellamy’s site or read the excerpt below.  

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In your bag No: 1545 – Johnny Schroepfer

Johnny packs some wunderbar glass in his bag when he’s globe trotting, check it out.

Hey, I’m Johnny Schroepfer and I’m a Chicago-based designer and photographer with a passion for travel. I’ve spent the last several years traveling the world and documenting different cultures and its people with my camera and my best friend and wife, Samantha. From Europe to Africa to Asia, I find travel to be a primary inspiration and focus in my photography. After traveling the world, I can still say that Tokyo is my absolute favorite city (and that’s not just because of all the camera gear!).

I had the pleasure of working with Bellamy after my return from Africa in which he tracked down a beautiful mint condition Leica M6. I absolutely love having the Leitz badge as it creates a lot of conversation with fellow Leica geeks. I’ve been shooting the M6 with a Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 lens which leaves little to be desired. In addition to my M6, I shoot a good amount of medium format on my Hasselblad 500 C/M which was a gift from my wife when we were living in Paris, France. I pair the 500 C/M with the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 2.8/80 which is an absolutely breathtaking lens.

It’s been fun watching the Japan Camera Hunter community grow and I enjoy reading all the In Your Bag articles and learning about various set ups and collections. Keep up the great work, Bellamy & Co.

A Life of Travel

As 2017 comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on all that occurred with my photography this year including exploring New Zealand, Australia, and sending my first two photo books to print. For those of you interested in seeing some of my New Zealand and Australia work, check out my post from March 2017

I’ve previously written about A Life in Paris, but I spent part of this year revisiting the book and refining some of the edits, layout and quotes which resulted in a reprint. In addition to reprinting A Life in Paris, I completed my second book A Life of Travel which documents the past five years of international travel including select photographs and writing from San Miguel de Allende, Tokyo, Kyoto, Beijing, Nice, Paris, Cape Town, Kruger National Park, Wanaka, Sydney, and Queenstown

Both of these books required an incredible amount of time and effort but I’m very happy with the final work and it was a pleasure revisiting all of the moments through my photographs and journal entries. I’ve included both cover photos as well as a preview from each book.

All photographs were created with either the Hasselblad 500CM and the Carl Zeiss PlanarT* f/2.8 on Kodak Portra 400 or the Sony A7R Mark ii, Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA, Sony T* FE 35mm f/28, Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4.0 ZA OOS and Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2.0.   

A Life of Travel  Cover

A Life of Travel Cover

A Life of Travel  Sample

A Life of Travel Sample

A Life in Paris  Cover

A Life in Paris Cover

A Life in Paris  Sample

A Life in Paris Sample

Chicago photo walk

Things have been pretty hectic since returning from New Zealand and Australia.

Sam and I have purchased our first condo which has had some impact on our travel and my photography workflow. Over the past few months, a majority of my photography equipment has been stored in boxes and moved from one location to another making it pretty difficult to make, edit and publish photographs. We've finally settled in to our new home and I've set up my new photography workspace.

While we were living out of boxes, I had an opportunity to meet up with Grace and Kevin Sears for coffee and a photo walk. Photo walks are easily one of my favorite parts of being a photographer. More specifically, meeting like-minded individuals who are equally passionate about creating art. While the weather was still a bit brisk, we spent a few hours visiting some of my favorite locations in Chicago while debating Kodak Tri-X vs. Ilford HP5 and discussing various tips and techniques. To view some of Kevin's amazing black and white photography, check out his Instagram or Lomography.

All photographs were created with the Hasselblad 500CM and the Carl Zeiss PlanarT* f/2.8 on Kodak Portra 400. All black and white photographs were created the Kevin's Leica MP and Leica Summilux 35mm f/1.4 on Ilford HP5. 

New Zealand & Australia

It feels good to be traveling again.

Sam and I recently returned from a New Zealand and Australia where we spent time connecting with a good friend who moved to Australia a few years ago and exploring two new countries on our bucket list. It's crazy to think that our last big trip was Africa which felt so long ago, but this past year has been a bit of a blur to say the least. That said, we were still able to find a few smaller albeit equally exciting trips including Avalon with our family and NYCWLK with Johnny and Rebecca Patience.

We began our trip on a long haul flight from LAX to SYD and spent the next few days in Sydney. With a majority of our New Zealand itinerary focused on the more remote South Island we decided to spend our time in Sydney exploring the amazing food scene and various neighborhoods with Surry Hills being my favorite. We dealt with a lot of less than ideal weather in Sydney, but were still able to enjoy ourselves as well as connect with a good friend who I hadn't seen in several years after she decided to move to Sydney. After a few days in Sydney, we were off to the South Island of New Zealand.

For starters, New Zealand was one of the most difficult locations for me when it comes to photography. Places like Tokyo, Cape Town, Beijing, San Miguel de Allende, and Paris are filled with so many people, so much energy, not to mention different languages and customs. But the South Island of New Zealand has far fewer people and leaves you with nothing but some of the most unbelievably beautiful landscapes for as far as you can see. In many ways, the landscapes and views were impossible to accurately capture in a photograph. For the first time since picking up a camera, I found myself spending less time making photographs and more time taking in the views and the incredible star-filled night skies. We spent nearly two weeks throughout the South Island - from Queenstown to Milford Sound, Queensberry, and Wanaka before flying to Auckland and then returning to Los Angeles. Aside from some of the most beautiful landscapes I've ever seen, the people were some of the most welcoming and down to earth individuals I've met since I started traveling and it was not easy leaving such a beautiful and hospitable country.

Up next, Spain and Portugal in September.

All photographs were created with either the Hasselblad 500CM and the Carl Zeiss PlanarT* f/2.8 on Kodak Portra 400 or the Sony A7R Mark ii, Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA, Sony T* FE 35mm f/28, Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4.0 ZA OOS and Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2.0.   

ONA Bags: Photographer Profile Feature

While traveling throughout Australia and New Zealand last month, ONA Bags released a Photographer Profile feature that we had been collaborating on the previous few weeks. It was a pretty humbling experience to be interviewed by a company I've admired since picking up a camera, especially when considering some of the photographers and artists they've collaborated with in the past.

All of this began when I met some of the ONA team this past September in Brooklyn during Johnny and Rebecca Patience's NYCWLK. They noticed that Sam and I both were using ONA Bags that day during the photowalk and we ended up talking cameras, bags and eventually sharing some of my work. Since meeting in Brooklyn, we've kept in touch and decided to collaborate on a Photographer Profile interview for their blog. In addition to our collaboration, they sent me their brand new product, The Bond Street, which is a perfect complement to my Union Street and Bowery. You can read a few excerpts below or the full Photographer Profile interview on their blog.

We’re excited to debut a new format for our community profiles, comprised of nineteen questions that almost every creative individual can answer, along with a “lightning round” of less serious questions at the end. Our first subject is Johnny Schroepfer, who we met along with his wife Sam at a photo walk last September. Share your photos by tagging #ONAbags to be featured.

Name: Johnny Schroepfer

Hometown: I grew up in Dallas, Texas before moving to Chicago, Illinois

Describe your aesthetic in five words or less: Travel, Authentic, Clean, Candid, Bright

Go-to gear: Recently, I’ve been shooting a lot with the Sony a7R Mark iiSony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f1/.8, and the ONA Leather Bowery.

Favorite place to photograph: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Biggest creative influence: Robert Frank

Thing you can’t live without: Hasselblad 500CM with a Carl Zeiss Planar T* 80mm f/2.8 that was a gift from my wife, Sam.

What motivates you: Exploring new places and cultures, documenting small moments in our daily lives, creating a body of work that reflects the experiences I’ve had throughout my life.

Time of day are you most creative: Early Morning

Biggest challenge: Avoiding hibernation mode and forcing myself to shoot more during the brutal Chicago winters.

One piece of advice that stuck with you: I think making photos all time time, even when you don’t feel like it, is critical to developing one’s creative vision and growing as an artist. Its those times when you don’t feel like shooting that are arguably the most important.

Mistake you’ve learned from: Believing that post processing can offset creative vision.

Work you are most proud of: My most recent project, A Life in Paris, which is a book that highlights a selection of my favorite photographs made while living in Paris, France in 2015.

Most used phrase: “Can you come look at this?” whether it’s asking my wife, Sam, about final edits I’m sending to print or coworkers about a design problem I’m working on.

Earliest memory: Playing in my backyard with my older brother

Hidden talent: I’m incredibly passionate about music and can play several instruments.

Dream project: Collaborating with a non-profit that I’m passionate about and actively involved with like charity: water or the National Resources Defence Council (NRDC). I’d love to travel back to Africa, but this time on a photography assignment to help raise awareness about clean and safe drinking water in developing nations.

Most recent “a-ha” moment: Committing to learning the art of printing your work. Whether you shoot film, digital, or both, I believe that you’re significantly limiting yourself as an artist if you don’t take the time to print your work. I’ve been working with Richard Photo Lab in California for a little over a year now and this collaboration has helped strengthen my relationship and love for the art of photography. And, it has helped me grow as an artist in how I approach both digital and film photography.

Goal for 2017: Publish a book containing a selection of my favorite photographs made while traveling the world with my wife, Sam, these past few years. We’ve traveled from North America to Europe, to Asia, and Africa. We’ll be visiting New Zealand, Australia, Portugal and Spain this year and my goal once we return from our travels is to review the tens of thousands of photographs that have been made throughout the past few years and create something of meaning to share with our close friends, family and maybe even some of you.

Lightning round: 

Sweet or savory: Savory

Childhood celebrity crush: Natalie Portman

Cats or dogs: Dogs

Favorite album: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco

Favorite book: Anything by Neal Stephenson

Biggest fear: Flying

Film Workflow

I've been working with Richard Photo Lab for a little over a year at this point and I've started to dial in the final look I've been envisioning this past year. While I'm incredibly excited that all of the time, effort, learnings, failed photos and conversations with my lab have led me to a desirable outcome and more enjoyable in-the-moment shooting experience, in retrospect it's pretty simple.

One of the strange aspects of the photography community is how secretive everyone is about how they shoot and achieve their final results. Instagram, blogs, YouTube videos, and meets up are filled with questions along the line of: "What camera do you use?", "What were your settings for that shot?", "What's your post workflow look like?", "What presets do you use?", etc. These questions are rarely, if ever, truthfully answered. I've always found that to be strange in a community that is inherently collaborative and social, especially all of these Instagram photographs who aren't shooting major commercial contracts.

Of course, there are exceptions, my personal favorite being Johnny Patience, who has blogged in detail about everything from how he shoots film, works with his lab, and even allows you to use his color settings. Matt Day is another photographer who has recently provided a brief albeit insightful video to his film workflow. So, I've decided to share a detailed view of my film workflow in order to help those who may be looking for that one insightful idea that helps them refine their creative vision. In a way, I wouldn't be where I am today from a creative perspective without the help of people like Johnny Patience.

When I first decided to take photography more seriously, one of the biggest mistakes I made was the idea that I could do most of the work after I took the photo - in Lightroom, Photoshop, name your tool. The web is flooded with the benefits of shooting RAW, the power of new mirrorless cameras, digital sensor technology and creative presets. And, they're right. Modern cameras and post processing tools are incredibly powerful but they don't help me achieve the final look I'm after. If you're shooting HDR, panoramas, or more conceptual work - go for it. That said, focusing on the how rather than the why you're taking the photo was my first big mistake. Secondly, spending time after you take the photograph is time intensive and unfulfilling. In retrospect, it took me years and 1,000s of failed photographs to learn how to see light as well as learn that you need to strive for the best possible results, preferably 95% of your desired look, in camera and not rely on the technology.

With those to principles in mind, let's break them down one at a time. First, being able to see light is critical and, unfortunately, can't really be taught. I'm convinced this is a life long pursuit as I'm always learning, failing and uncovering new approaches to each situation. There are amazing tutorials, books, and videos on all the types of light and how to approach them but you ultimately need to experience them, see them, and fail to truly understand how to approach each shot. For the purposes of this post, I'll sum up an impossible lesson in a few key scenarios that I often seek out: window light indoors (no artificial lights on), shade during a intense/bright sunny day, backlit subjects, cloudy/overcast days, morning and evening golden hours.

When shooting in these situations, I always intentionally overexpose with film (rate Kodak Portra 400 at 200) or expose to the right with digital photography (usually +0.75 to +1.25, depending on the amount of available light). There are endless debates about "Film: expose for the shadows", "Digital: expose for the highlights", however my aesthetic tends to be bright, pastel-like photographs, so I always expose for the shadows, even at the cost of lightly blown highlights in digital. That's it - I take the time to view the light in the situation, typically shoot wide open with prime lenses at f/1.8f/2.0, or f/2.8, compose the photograph in Manual or Aperture Priority, make sure I'm slightly overexposed but not losing too much detail, and take the photograph.

Once I receive my film scans or digital files, I spend about thirty seconds to a few minutes on each photograph. Those few minutes are mostly spent brightening whites, darkening blacks for both aesthetic and contrast preferences. In addition to whites and blacks, I may slightly adjust the temperature to be slightly cooler as Kodak Portra 400 can tend to create yellowish tones or make the photograph warmer than I'd like. If any additional edits are required, it's typically bringing up the shadows and adjusting the exposure to ensure I'm achieving my bright, pastel-like look. My aesthetic is very much in alignment with Kodak Portra 400 when shooting film and I do my best to achieve similar results in my digital photography. That said, even with the technology we have today, film still provides a depth and aesthetic that can't be achieved with digital. I'm hopeful that concepts like Fuji's Classic Chrome will be the answer, but I'm not convinced.

Below are examples of my workflow in practice from my recent trip to Avalon. I've provided both the original film scan (ie. straight out of the camera) on the left and the final edit on the right. In addition to before and after, each image includes the histogram and basic Lightroom edits required to achieve the final look. Since focusing on the best possible in-camera results, I've never used features outside of the Basic tab in Lightroom which allows me to spend less time behind a computer and more time enjoying photography. If you have specific questions, leave a comment.

All photographs were created with either the Hasselblad 500CM and the Carl Zeiss Planar T* f/2.8 or the Leica M6 and the Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 on Kodak Portra 400 or Kodak Tri-X 400. All images were scanned and processed by Richard Photo Lab in California.  

I enjoy bright photographs and I tend to over-expose / expose to the right in both digital & film 

I enjoy bright photographs and I tend to over-expose / expose to the right in both digital & film 

Leica M6, Summicron-M 50mm f/2, Kodak Portra 400, Rated @ 200

Leica M6, Summicron-M 50mm f/2, Kodak Portra 400, Rated @ 200 ISO

Leica M6, Summicron-M 50mm f/2, Kodak Tri-X 400, Rated @ 200 ISO

Hasselblad 500 C/M, Carl Zeiss Planar T* 2.8/80, Kodak Portra 400, Rated @ 200 ISO

Hasselblad 500 C/M, Carl Zeiss Planar T* 2.8/80, Kodak Portra 400, Rated @ 200 ISO

NYCWLK 2.0

After our trip to Avalon, Sam and I took the train from Philly to New York for the second annual NYCWLK in Brooklyn with Johnny Patience and his wife, Rebecca. It was an amazing experience and I’m truly grateful I had the opportunity to meet, learn from and shoot alongside someone I find incredibly inspiring in one of the best street photography cities in the world.

In addition to meeting Johnny and Rebecca, Sam and I had the opportunity to meet other film, digital and hybrid photographers from around the world. This truly was a special weekend for me given my decision to pick film back up last year. And, aside from the creative refinements I was looking for, Johnny was a big motivating factor to making the addition of film to my workflow.

It had been awhile since I was last in New York and I found myself amazed with how large the city is and how little one could actually know about a city they’ve visited numerous times throughout their life. The NYCWLK also happened to be during the September 11th fifteen year anniversary weekend and it was a weird mix of emotion, both for myself and the city. I’ve never experienced such a quiet and somber weekend in New York.

All photographs were created with either the Hasselblad 500CM and the Carl Zeiss Planar T* f/2.8 or the Leica M6 and the Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 on Kodak Portra 400 or Kodak Tri-X 400. All images were scanned and processed by Richard Photo Lab in California.

Winter Is Coming

With Fall in full swing, I've started to shift from constantly shooting to reviewing, refining and reflecting on where I am with my photography work. While Fall is still one of my favorite times of year, Winter requires a bit of preparation - especially those months where there's not much to do other than trying to stay warm. I've grown to enjoy winter because it allows me to focus on aspects of photography that don't necessarily require a camera but are equally as important.

Since returning from Paris a year ago, I've continued the overall goal of refining my vision by exploring 135 and 120 film formats as well as printing my work in various formats with the help of Richard Photo Lab. These areas of focus have resulted in significant growth with regard to creative exposure, understanding the nuances between digital and film photography, and understanding the complexities of fine art prints. In addition to learning a great deal, I've finally reached a point where I'm sending portfolio pieces to print as large format fine art prints. The image below is a rough contact sheet of my original selects and final decisions.

Looking ahead, Sam and I will be traveling to Australia and New Zealand in February. That said, one of my goals this winter will be to learn more about the creative process behind Astrophotography (with the help of Ian Norman over at Lonely Speck) given that we'll be spending a majority of our trip exploring the Southern Island. In addition to Astrophotography, I plan on learning more about the technical aspects of digital camera sensors. More specifically - after shooting 135 and 120 film and achieving stunning results out of the camera, I'm interested in better understanding why digital photography images are initially flat out of the camera and how I might be able to achieve more film-like color profiles when shooting digital. 

All photographs were created with the Sony A7 Mark ii and Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8ZA, the Leica M6 and Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2, and the Hasselblad 500CM and the Carl Zeiss Planar T* f/2.8 on Kodak Portra 400. All images were scanned and processed by Richard Photo Lab in California.

Photo Essay: My Livable City

When I first started working at my current design studio, I gave a brief presentation on travel photography and some basic guiding principles for creating more compelling photographs. After my presentation, I was approached by a coworker about an opportunity to write a photo essay for My Livable City around the theme of resiliency.

I immediately thought of both Bo-Kaap in Cape Town, South Africa and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico as two great examples of communities that have been resilient in the face of global economic change, tourism and rampant consumerism. Below is digital copy of my first published photo essay. Thanks again to Amrita for the opportunity to contribute.