STEPHANI

Just ... Simple

BY BERT STEPHANI

A friend asked me to show him how to shoot simple, elegant portraits and so he set up a shoot for us with a lovely young German student. In a way this was pure comfort zone stuff for me but it made me become aware that I’m often overthinking portraiture. In the pursuit of killer-images my mind gets away from the person in front of my camera. For this series I kept it super simple: My X-Pro2, the 35mm 1.4 and the 56mm 1.2 and a big window.

My friend’s next question was: what if I don’t have a window? I usually don’t light with a huge soft light source because it just seems too easy. But why would that be a bad thing? I hadn’t used a softlighter-type modifier for ages because it’s impossible to control. But on the other hand, it just pumps out a bunch of pretty light which gave me and my subject room to move.

We then went outside in a non-descript residential area to see if we could find good light and interesting backgrounds there. I think we did.

In many ways this shoot was effortless and if the wheels in my head were spinning it was just because I was trying to explain how my intuition works to my friend. I was pleasantly surprised by how the images came out and how enjoyable the process was. I’ll keep it in mind not always to try so hard but just enjoy the shoot, the light, the company.

And on the Seventh Day

BY BERT STEPHANI

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Like in pretty much every country in the world, consuming is the national occupation of choice in Belgium. But on Sundays consumerism takes a break. There are exceptions but by law, stores have to close on Sunday. There’s a lot of pressure on the government to loosen or even completely change the rules. Multinationals have to feed their ever growing machines and consumers want to shop 24/7.

But honestly, it’s not so bad to be unable to buy more meaningless stuff once a week.

My oldest working digital camera is the X-Pro1 and my oldest lens for that camera is the 35mm F1.4, so that’s what I used for these pictures. The viewfinder is a bit low res and the controls are a little sluggish in 2019. But if I’m completely honest, I could probably still do 80% of my photo work with this “old” combination. The original X-Pro forces you to slow down and that’s necessarily not a bad thing. Shooting this story reminded me how enjoyable the slow simplicity can be. My X-Pro1 was pretty much retired, but it’s still way too good to sit in the back of my cupboard.

Cycles

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BY BERT STEPHANI

I used to live near these fields and I walked them often for a couple of years to get some air, think, forget, despair, hope or just be. I liked how things changed with the seasons but as soon as I entered the second annual cycle, I got bored because it was like watching a movie again just after finishing it the first time. What's the point of life if it's just a constantly repeating pattern?

It took a while before I started noticing the subtle changes that came with each cycle. I saw wildlife that wasn't there a year before, the puddles on the path were in different places, there were new sounds, unfamiliar faces and so much more. 
This morning, when I walked these fields again for the first time in a couple of years, I noticing that these small changes are all it takes to transform an area over time. 

Nature is wise teacher, small changes do have an impact. Our actions aren't pointless, so let's make them count.


Cruise Control

BY BERT STEPHANI

My headlights always seem to be switched on this time of year. Every morning my car greets me with the ping that warns me for slippery roads despite the new winter tires. I can see a roller coaster year in my rear view mirror and there is that nagging realization that only a fundamental change of course can avoid the view of yet another roller coaster year ahead.

For now I'm going to push the cruise control button, lean back and find joy in the few rays of sunlight that make it over the horizon and through the clouds. I have to have faith that at some point I'll be ready to exit the traffic flow and enjoy the change of speed, the sound of tires on rough tarmac and an unknown but clear view through the windshield. 

Tokyo Mannequin

BY BERT STEPHANI

I’ve just spent 4 jet-lagged days in Japan, followed by 2 hours in a bus, 3 hours at the airport and 13 hours in an airplane seat that was designed for garden gnomes. My mind is still somewhere over Siberia so I’ll just put up the few pictures from the trip that I’ve managed to edit on the plane and I’ll follow up with more soon.

13 October 2018 at 1:30 pm (Zaventem, Belgium)

BY BERT STEPHANI

The familiar seems strange and the strange seems familiar. It’s about the same ingredients but different priorities. The focus shifts and makes me focus on the shifts.

6 October 2018 at 5:05 pm (Zaventem, Belgium)

BY BERT STEPHANI

It’s been a busy week after a busy Photokina week after a busy pre-Photokina week. On Thursday night, my body had enough of it and gave me no other option than to take and aspirin and go to bed. After a sweat drenched flue-like night, I wisely took it a bit slower yesterday. By late afternoon I felt much better. Just in time for Noa’s return after a five day school trip to the coast.

Pizza and a movie and staying in bed until 10 am, those are things that I hardly do these days. But I truly enjoyed them and today was a productive day, catching up on work and healthy food.

29 September 2018 at 8:52 am (Cologne, Germany)

BY BERT STEPHANI

I’m so proud and grateful that I was asked to speak for Fujifilm at Photokina again. They have let me play with the GFX50R, I get copious quantities of food and beer. On top of that, they even pay me for taking some pictures on a stage for 40 minutes each day, using cheap IKEA stuff as modifiers. I’m in a nice hotel and I get to hang out with friends and heroes. And yet it’s hard, exhausting and relentless. The stress to be on stage, the intensity of the conversations, the e-mails that have to be answered, the late nights and the ever present noise are getting to me. Yesterday Pat and I took it easy, went for dinner in the hotel restaurant and added some extra hours of rest to our schedule. Today is the last day, one more presentation and I intend to squeeze the last drop out of the friendships that will become virtual again from tomorrow on.

8 SEPTEMBER 2018 AT 9:02 AM (HOLSBEEK, BELGIUM)

BY BERT STEPHANI

Sometimes I wonder, is the forest an escape or is it home?

September 1, 2018 at 10:05pm (Bruges, Belgium)

BY BERT STEPHANI

A long busy day doing some demos for Fujifilm Belgium at the open doors of a photography school. But it was also a lot fun of to meet a ton of very driven people. Big bonus: Maya came along and we got to spend some father-daughter quality time.