Scavenger Hunt

My wife bought our eldest daughter a photography workbook. Go Photo! produced by the Aperture Foundation is pretty much the best book for kids on photography I have seen. The first few pages of tips and tricks are things that most photographers should internalize immediately, but sadly a lot of us don’t or we forget to keep them in mind.

I thought I’d take a moment to share with you the images from our Dad and Daughter photo scavenger hunt that we did, prompted by the book. We did them in about thirty minutes so they are not the most skilled of images. I was using the Fujifilm XT20 and my daughter was using a Canon Powershot ELPH 360 (in purple of course).

I’m going to post the photos side by side, her’s and mine, but not in any order. Each set is a theme determined by the book. I’m not going to list the theme. Get the book or try to guess what the theme is on your own!

If you have kids I highly recommend this. Seeing how our minds work differently and together was one of the highlights of my January. Watching my daughter use a camera is always amazing. I can’t wait to see if she grows more into it as an art form.

My daughter capturing a hi-five shot with her self timer to celebrate our completion.

My daughter capturing a hi-five shot with her self timer to celebrate our completion.

Fujifilm XT20

I’ve been obsessed for years with having a camera I could carry with me at all times. My normal cameras are too big. For awhile I carried a Canon 6D with a pancake 40mm 2.8 on it, but I kept finding myself leaving it behind because it was still too big. A couple of years ago, I purchased a Fuji X100T and it had the size and image look I wanted, but the controls were dismal. I found myself using my phone instead, because I have my iPhone rigged up for quick and easy control. I sold the Fuji X100T and just adopted my iPhone.

This year I revisited this idea of having an everyday walk around camera. I fussed about it for a while. I wanted a camera that was light enough to would allow me to forget it was on my shoulder. I wanted a camera that could shoot jpgs that were super close to what I wanted from my final images. I wanted a camera that could connect to my phone for easy sharing. I needed it to be able to have a profession application in some capacity. I think YouTube was worn out from all the videos I watched. Every website on the planet served me ads for new cameras. My mind was numb from the search. Then I found the Fuji XT20.

Fuji XT20 as imaged with a iPhone 8 plus

Fuji XT20 as imaged with a iPhone 8 plus

This almost didn’t happen. I’m a Canon user. I have a whole series of digital Canon cameras. The main runner up camera was the Canon EOS M50, until I found a local Best Buy that had all the cameras on display and I found my hands worked the Fuji XT20 better. It had a very Canon-like dial arrangement that wasn’t even present on the EOS M50. That feature alone was worth the price difference.

A selection of Canon DSLR cameras imaged with a FUJI XT20

A selection of Canon DSLR cameras imaged with a FUJI XT20

I’ve carried the Fuji XT20 with me everywhere for about a month now. It excels as a camera to always have near for family documentary work. Here are some images made in the first days of having it. These are either edited in camera or not edited at all, straight jpg from the camera. Mostly likely they were all using the kit lens on the camera, the 16-50mm 3.5to5.6 but I may have used a manual lens as well.

The camera was easy to program and figure out. It had a slight learning curve over the cleaner menu designs of the Canon cameras, but nothing too troubling. The dials on the front and back are programmable, and made it simple to make my mind understand how to use it. My only immediate concern was the low light performance out of the box. I felt hindered by the kit lens and a perception of noise in the images when I went above 1600 ISO. I’m not as concerned about that noise now after using the camera and comparing it the Canon 6D Mk2 that I use for work. While the 6D Mk2 had less noise, the noise it did have was less pleasing. The noise structure of the Fuji reminds me a lot of the noise in the original Canon 5D, which always felt right. Adding something to an image rather than taking it away.

The Fuji XT20 is like a compact professional camera. It has done just about everything I’ve asked it to, one of the first things was to test out using it as a portrait camera. Again I was held back by my limited lens selection but I think it did well on capturing my family over the holidays.

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When I first picked it up I was shooting RAW + JPG and it burned through cards. A raw file is about 50MB, and the JPG another 13 or so. I shoot a lot, so that added up quick. I loved the look of JPGs created using the camera but I want raw flexibility in case I need to do some heavy lifting on the images. Then I stumbled on the in camera raw conversion. Now my workflow is to shoot RAW with the Film Simulation set to what I think I want (I mostly like Black and White). Then I edit in camera only the ones I want to share, export them as JPG, share to my phone and then share to the world. When I backup the card to the computer, I keep them all but the JPGs are right there ready for me to keep close to the heart.

The camera immediately started doing it’s job of giving me opportunity to explore concepts and emotions with images on a daily basis. Images I might not make if I had to set them up, or if my iPhone wouldn’t have been able to render them the way I wanted. Images I might not show except maybe once on instagram, but images like that are needed to build your art and explore your practice. Anything that inspires you to explore is worth it’s weight in gold.

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So far, I have used the camera in light rain, snow and really cold weather and it hasn’t dropped a beat. That’s to be expected for a higher end consumer camera. I don’t plan on dropping it in water or freezing it in the freezer, as the camera isn’t considered weather resistant.

Two of these images were created by Nicole Parigo. The ones with me in them.

Two of these images were created by Nicole Parigo. The ones with me in them.

The Fujifilm XT20 fits everything I wanted from a camera for personal use. I’m still not sure if it is what I need for any professional use (it wasn’t designed for that but it could be a gateway drug to other Fuji cameras). I took it out on a few photography assignments. It performs well on anything slow paced that doesn’t require a larger sensor. I haven’t been able to figure out a flow with it and my mind in order to make high speed stuff work yet. Maybe my hands are too big to focus or adjust the controls quick enough. Maybe I don’t understand why sometimes a menu will pop up and sometimes it won’t. Maybe having to drag my shutter too much to compensate for the horrible f stop on the kit lens is causing me grief. I’ll figure it out soon, and if I can make it work, then I might just debate switching to Fuji more often, or at least investing in more lenses.

These images are from a UMKC basketball game I shot on January 24th 2019.

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All of the images in this post except for the image of the Fuji XT20 were created with the Fujifilm XT20. The kit lens being a 16-50mm 3.5-5.6. I also used a 7artisans 25mm 1.8 manual lens for a lot of the work you see here. I really like that lens. Just like using the Fuji, the manual lens throws me back to a simpler time. I find it interesting that when using it I don’t seem to care if my focus is slightly off, but when I switch to an autofocus lens I’m hyper critical of that.

Most the images in this post are straight out of the camera, or converted from raw inside the camera. The basketball coverage was edited in Adobe Color within Lightroom to match my other cameras. I haven’t had a chance to run a lot of video on it, but since most my side jobs are video work, you bet that’ll be in the cards soon!

If you are thinking of buying a personal walk around camera that has many of the features of a professional camera, you can’t really go wrong with this little beauty. If you get a smaller lens on it (like the 7artisans 25mm), it’s a knock out!

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Portrait Practice

I believe in making images that make me uncomfortable. Sometimes it isn’t the situation or the location that makes that feeling rise up inside of me, but instead it is doing something that I’ve been taught is wrong. In 2018 one of the things I started to practice because of this approach was the wide angle vertical. On top of that I decided to create them all, not with a wide angle lens, but instead an 85mm lens using multiple frames to create the portrait.

I completely failed on my first try at it. The vertical part didn’t happen but the wide horizontal did.

Aaron Habel and Justin Evans in January of 2018. Commissioned by the Generation Why podcast for promotional use.

Aaron Habel and Justin Evans in January of 2018. Commissioned by the Generation Why podcast for promotional use.

My second attempt was much more in line with what I had set out to do. It is in this frame that I started to really see and feel the warping that approaching portraits like this can create. The instructors in my head told me to shy away from it but that visual element made the images feel right to me. They have this almost not real feel to them, as if we are pushing the reality of the situation just enough that the world bends.

Professor Felcia Londre photographed backstage at the KC Rep Spencer Theater. Created for UMKC.

Professor Felcia Londre photographed backstage at the KC Rep Spencer Theater. Created for UMKC.

I created about 26 of these portraits in 2018. Sometimes that is all I set out to create and other times I created them on the fly before a different type of session ended.

One of the great things about being the photographer for UMKC is the access to people constantly to create images of. Get bored at lunch? Go make art. It is one of the reasons that I can practice different approaches to my work and I am infinitely grateful for it.

Keenan

Photographed on February 11th 2014

Keenan’s basement smelled like old basements tend to. Dirt and lazy mold, too inhibited to grow fully but lingering in the cracks waiting for an old pipe to burst or someone to fail to clean the toilet. It’s the scent of workspace's or game rooms, those things that typically don’t fit into the house proper, but make a building feel more lived in. More real.

I hadn’t seen Keenan in years. I found him underground, surrounded by sketches of art in the same style that he was perfecting back in high school. It was comforting. As if it was telling me that no matter what changed in our lives, that there is always something in us that calls to our truth.

Under the watchful eyes of honey bear bongs and sketches of social icons he sat at his workbench burning that art into wood. We chatted about life and caught up like old friends can do when they are not burdened by youth.

“Through everything that I’ve been through, love is usually my main motivator in life”

Keenan tells me this once we move to the living room of his home. The personality of Keenan and his wife, Venus, seeps out of every corner of this place. I feel like I’m in a temple devoted to them, and could spend all day long looking at their personal iconography.

“My love for my wife is what brought me back here, and I feel really lucky because a lot of people don’t get that.”

Keenan and Venus were married in 2011. In that same year Keenan came down with Bell’s Palsy. It is a form of facial paralysis.

“It fucking hurt. It was probably the most excruciating pain I’ve ever been in, in my life. I mean there was a couple of days where I just laid on the floor here, like a, like a screaming mute.”

Keenan doesn’t believe in taking hard core medications so he relies on marijuana for pain control. While he took control, we sat and chatted about the history of the honey bear bong, Brad Pit and Missouri.

Listen to an except from that conversation in this video clip:

His clipped laugh and occassional goofy expressions when he was poking fun at something, were time machines for me, that couldn’t be contain by the changes that have occured to him because of the disorder.

Guitar and Keenan were almost the same word in my head in the glowing chaotic years that we were good friends.

He was always one step ahead of everyone when it came to rock and roll.

“My favorite music is just dirty rock and roll music. From there on out, that’s what changed. Guitar was really the first place where I felt like.. this is...this is really interesting to me, and this is what I want to do, and the possibilities are endless.”

I met Venus briefly at the house. She arrived while we were going through drafts of art Keenan had been working on. What he had said about their relationship was abundantly clear from how they interacted.

I left Keenan that night at a bar. One of a couple that he spins records at every week. The place had very few patrons but he didn’t seem to mind. He told me about how if only one person hears something they might not have heard before then he did his job.

A job he describes loosely as a music historian.

I asked him what his goal in life is and he responded in a way that I would nothave expected at the beginning of the day, but after being with him for hours and having my expectations scrubbed from me, it only makes the most perfect sense.

He said this about life, Kansas City and his wife,

“My goal in life is to have love, and be happy, and this is what makes me happy, and where I find love.”


This story is an expansion on a multimedia film I created about Keenan. What the full film below:

Photography and Words by Brandon Parigo

March for our Lives KC

Saturday, March 24th, 2018. Theis Park, Kansas City, Missouri.

It was a cold morning. Forty-five degrees felt like a deeper winter after a few weeks of spring-like temperatures. The student organizers gathered early to rehearse their program and wait for kindred souls to arrive. Later, we found out that there were near six thousand of those souls to honor, mourn and acknowledge the loss of life; demand action from their government and solidify the bond that tragedy will bring.  

This is my witness of the day. The images cannot tell you how inspiring it was to be there, immersed in the soup of reality and humanity that spilled forth from this event. Poetry was abundant both on stage, behind stage, and in the hearts of those who shared it with me. 

Click play on the audio clip and take your time looking at the images. Meditate on what it is to exist in the world we live in today. Think about how you can make change. Change so our sons and daughters can come together and forge friendships over anything else but the loss of their peers to senseless violence.