Fujifilm X-E3

Five things I learned about (Life) going to Jerusalem the second time... by Cristian Geelen

Need to make money...
Need to get my motorbike fixed...
Need to do this and that...

F##ck...

April 8th 2018...

Three weeks has passed since my last blog post. And it is incredible how easy you get sucked in everyday life again...

There is never a better moment than now, but in this case and the mindset I have at the moment. It feels more right than ever to write the second part of the five things I learned series.

This one, the second one, is about life!

Sometimes it is so easy as photographer to get stuck in the technical crap that involves photography. But we tend to forget that photography is about life. It is a art form meant to capture life. And it is the only machine we really have to capture life in it's purest form. A bundle of emotion captured in one frame beamed onto your screen or printed on your paper and for you to reminisce. Like a real life time machine in the palm of your hand...

Of course the blog posts are not for photographers only but everyone that loves following my adventures and mind farts. That's why most of my blog posts are more philosophical and about art than gear or tech related stuff.

I use my art to tell stories. About the world, life, but it is also my critique to society. A way I know to let my mind wander and try to make sense of all the stuff that is going on in my head... And even a way try to make sense of the madness we call life....

My photography brings me a lot. And most of the time to places and moments. And because I use it to make sense of all of it it schools me too. Sometimes I realize I am right, sometimes I realize that I am wrong, and sometimes it raises even more questions...

So what does all of this have to do with my second trip to Jerusalem?

I will come to that... No worries...

I guess it is also very easy to fall into the political trap because of the city of Jerusalem. And because of that I will keep my views unbiased. I am a observer. And this article about the lessons I have learned. As a person... And not about someone that needs to do this or that...

So here we go!

  1. We are all human...
    I put this one first but it was the last one I wrote...

    I think it is because this one is the hardest to explain of them all...

    At one point I was having coffee in the old city. And at another moment I was going through a checkpoint and walking around in a 400m2 area where about 15000 humans live. That is a experience...

    The "funny" thing is. I had many similarities with Omar. My guide through the camps. We talked about life there. Life where I am from. And everything in between. He is a talented artist. Seems to make most of the situation.

    A moment later I had a call with my Israeli friend Chana which I was supposed to meet. But her car broke down and she couldn't make it. But she felt so bad... She was engaged to be married and wanted to tell me all about it. And I didn't see her for two years so it was the perfect moment to catch up. But fate decided otherwise...

    Despite all of our differences we are so similar as human beings...

    We all share the same emotions about love, life and death, living and caring...

    It gave me a good sense of direction I want to go with my art and passion projects. We are all one... Let's finally understand that... 
     
  2. Work hard, but don't rush...
    I already mentioned this in my previous blog post in the part take your time. But I want to get into it a little bit deeper.

    Good things come to those who work hard. And that is the absolute truth! Of course there are setbacks. But working hard also involves not giving up.

    The big trap is rushing.

    And I fell for it...

    There is thing called Street Zen and the first time I heard about it was on a podcast by Eric Kim.

    I guess the whole trick is to find that Street Zen! I wanted to do too much. And I rushed and I rushed. Sometimes forced and sometimes self inflicted. We all know we as humans can be our worst enemy.

    Street Zen is a real thing. And you can apply it to everything in I guess and call it being in the zone. Ah well...

    If you want to deliver quality find you Zen. Take your time. Know your intent for the photograph. And go with the flow.

    Rushing never did anyone any good. Same as sitting on your ass.
     
  3. Find your own truths...
    When I was a little kid we had a game in class named "I ga op vakantie en ik neem mee". It roughly translates: I will go on holiday and take with me... It is a game to see if the first person that tells something, will it still be the same if it reaches the end...

    Real life information tends to do the same...

    Taking up a project, a passion project or a normal one, or just regular travel. You need to do some research. Some of it comes to word by mouth. Some of it goes by the news or books. Or the internet. Or even better. The lonely planet!

    Wonderful!

    But I have experienced now numerous times that when I arrive it was different than I imagned.

    Iran was not full of terrorists...
    The Tsjech republic does not have nice beer... (Sorry...)
    And Israelis and Palestinians can be friends...

    Wait whuuut? What did I just say!?

    The last thing I watched on the news was all of the violence that happened during the return march. And of course all the stuff that you read about in the papers. And not to speak of about social media...

    I've seen Israeli soldiers taking photographs of a Palestinian father and son. Arab making small talk with Jews. And little kids having fun in the streets...

    Somehow the whole situation seemed less tense than the first time I was there. And although I came there to work on my photography I had a great time. Yes haha, you can have fun and work at the same time...

    So always find out your own truth. Hell, even doubt this blog... Just go out and explore yourself. It is way more fun anyway.

    And that counts for everything. A camera review. A song you hear in the radio. A certain restaurant that a travel guide says you have to visit! Or not! And than it turns out is is the worst or best experience ever... And even the news...
     
     
  4. We all have our own shit...

    Sometimes I tend to forget that. The part that we are all human... When you have seen a lot and have een trough a lot it is so easy to say: yeah we in the west have forgotten to be happy and we are spoiled to the bone... Especially if you experience the Israeli and Palestinian conflict sort of up close...

    And for a big part it is true...

    Yes, I just said that...

    In a big way with all the wealth that we have we fell into the a giant trap that we have forgotten what is most important in life. And we make a fuzz about trivial shit.

    That does not mean that we do not have our own problems. Because we do have. Because of all of those traps certain other issues arise. Mental health issues, disassociation, a rising gap between rich and poor. Even global warming! Rising suicide rates...

    Actually all of this is nothing new.

    Everybody knows it...

    And I am about to hit the point I am trying to make. So hold on!

    I think the lesson I have learned is not being so judgmental. Actually because of all of those thoughts I just mentioned. Yes! I was judgmental. And it is good for your art to wind yourself up about something.

    But it was to easy for me to get angry at the woman who tried to park her bicycle into my motorbike because she said; "Well as long as I can park my bike here than I will be fine. I don't care about anybody else..." just the day after I got home. And yell at her: You don't know how good we have it here! Be grateful! 

    I need to wind myself up the same amount about the stuff back home as I do with all the other stuff that is happening in the world.

    Why?

    Well because like I said earlier. We are all human. And as long we don't understand ourselves and each other. We will never see any progress and all the bad shit will continue to happen everywhere.

    Who knows what the woman has been trough.

    Be a possitive exapmle...

    That at least is my two cents...
     
  5. Never rest...
    This entire trip lit a bigger fire in me than ever. I am not used to giving up. And I am sure as hell more than ever determined I will make it was a photographer and story teller.

    I mentioned not sitting on your (mine) ass never did anybody good. And it is the honest truth. It is something I took from sports. I you want something go and get. Never give up. And put in the work. All those Gary Vee posts are all about that. You know the drill... Don't expect to reach a target if you hang out on the beach or go out for drinks. Although relaxation is important too. Get your priorities straight...


    The here and the now is this life. One life... And I have to fan the flames of what my soul puts on fire... So Rumi was right after all...
     

At first all of this seems to have nothing to do with photography. But believe me it does... It is a art form despite it does not seem like it in this day and age. If you want to make a beautiful portrait of someone you still have to see the artistic and human side of things. Otherwise you will never capture the essence of that human being. Same goes for architecture or landscape.

If you do your photography with your soul it will all work out and it will show in your work...

And like I said earlier. It does not only count for photography but for everything.

Just put your soul into things... Work, art, friends, family, your partner...

Btw! I named the project "Neshame Sheli". It means roughly translated: You are important to me. You are a part of my soul... And that is how I feel about my photographs and telling stories.  Hopefully it shows and you see that too...

- Cristian
 

 

Five things I learned about (Photography) going to Jerusalem the second time... by Cristian Geelen

Hey all!

I am currently really busy with the processing of all of my material of my latest trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. But that is a long process and when it is all done I want to write a big article about it. And find a proper way to present it to the world.

Until that time arrives I will write short blog posts like this to keep the information and sort of involve you all in a bit of my process.

So this piece part one of a two part piece with five things I have learned during or after my latest trip to Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.

First one is about photography. The second one is about life.

So let's start!

Part one: Photography...

Like I said. Currently I am in the process of working through all of the material I made and that is just something that takes time... A lot of time!

In short. I took around 1100 photographs and I am editing them at the moment. Part of that process is also voicing visually the intent of the photograph. And ultimately after all the editing is done the post processing start.

Of the approximately 1100 photographs there are only a few that will make the cut and want to share with the world.

During that process which is not even done. I ran into a lot of issues. Not everyone shares that stuff. But I am a big believer in that running into problems or even failing is a big part of getting better. It's a rule you can apply to everything in life...

Same goes for photography!

And the whole trick after the whole failing or running into issues thingie. Is that you just don't give up! Get back on the horse and just go go go!

Learn from it. Feed from it... Grow from it!

Btw I am not only summing up stuff that went bad. It's also good to reflect on stuff that went well, or even good! Because also that is a good thing to know.

Alright here it goes. Five things I learned!

  1. Don't buy new gear!
    A couple of weeks before I left for my trip I switched from Olympus to Fujifilm. I sold all of my lenses and my beautiful Olympus PEN-F body... And I did not even hate my gear. There was nothing wrong with it, and I am a firm believer in that you can't buy a bad camera anymore.

    It was more that I was chasing some sort of look or vibe that the Fujifilm sensors have. And I just felt it was time for a change. And if you never try something new you will never know you will like it or not!

    The whole difference between my Olympus PEN-F and Fujfilm X-E3 is a whole other subject to dive into. Because the end conclusion is I love them both. The point I am trying to make here for the DO NOT BUY NEW GEAR issue is the learning curve!

    My ego let me believe I worked enough hours with the Fujifilm to understand the device completely and I would not make any mistakes with it.

    Well I was wrong...

    For example the aperture I shot on my Olympus to get everything sharp was around f5.6 or lower. On my Fujifilm it was way lower. And I realized I had to take my photographs around f8! That resulted in some shots I had a shallow depth of field when I did not want it. Especially when I missed focus.

    That brings me to another point. I missed focus! A lot!

    I was like: How the hell is this happening! Back home I did not have this problem!

    There is a difference between photographing back home and while traveling. And that too will be material for another blog post. But in this case, the conditions were different. The people were different even though I was there before. The gear of course was different. My mindset was different. All the narrow alleyways and using certain techniques to get a shot and doing stuff on instinct. All of that together gave me some out of focus results.

    I analyzed it all. And one of the things was the the single point focus on my Olympus somehow let me get away with errors. While the single point focus on my Fujifilm was unforgiving. If you miss it, you miss it!

    I switched to zone focusing instead and that worked better for me in those conditions. End result. More material I am satisfied with. And no customer or viewer of your art will care if you used a single point focus method or a zone focus method. It is all getting the shot and the story you are telling. 
     
  2. Do your research.
    Like I said, it is not all about the bad things. You also need to reflect on all the stuff that went well!

    For me it was arranging my guide or fixer or whatever you want to call it. Making a plan on what you are going to do everyday and also leave some room for spontaneity. Having a back-up plan if something falls short. All of that so you can get the most out of your time.

    I planned everything well. And I also was very lucky that nothing went wrong. I think on that part I had the smoothest trip ever. Planning helped.
     
  3. Update your software.
    This one is actually not about the time during my trip. But more about the process when you return and start to review your work do your post processing.

    I looked at my shots and I was getting angrier and angrier by the day. My photos looked like crap. And I did nothing wrong! Why? Why was this?

    I was getting into fights with my raw files. And got a bad case of worming. Man o man I was getting frustrated... My photos looked like a watercolor painting!

    A fellow photographer said to me: Cris, did you update lightroom?

    Fujifilm raw files had got some issues with lightroom in the past. And after a lot of Google searches I read that there were a lot of people that used alternative raw processors and bypassed lightroom or not used it at all! The switched to alternatives like for example capture one.

    Small side-note. I used to have the last standalone version of the original lightroom. Because I refused to be part of the subscription model that Adobe started.

    I actually like lightroom a lot. So I followed his advice. Put my ego aside. And updated purchased the monthly version of lightroom. And as soon as I openend my photographs again they looked a lot better.

    I combined that with a different way of sharpening and voila! Instant happy Cris!

    Btw. The whole sharpening thing with Fujifilm raw files... Only use the sharpening slider a little. Use the detail slider more and pull back the radius.
     
  4. Shoot a lot of shit.
    Maybe it is a bit redundant to say. But I hope I don't have to tell any photographer that it is to take a shot extra than you have not taken the shot at all...

    That especially is true with memory cards. Fill those puppies up and shoot everything that peaks your interest.

    And no. That does not automatically nullifies my post about "f##k instant gratification". Those are two completely different things. And if you have a goal in mind... Do whatever it takes. There is no award for getting the decisive moment in the least amount of photos...
     
  5. Take your time!
    I saved this one for last...

    Because for me this is the most important one.

    Why?

    Because I did not do it...

    I wanted to get the ultimate photograph so much. I soared and roared across the area like a idiot. My drive that I am so proud of got the best of me.

    The end result was that I did not take the time take in the moment as I normally do. And that sucks. It is not that I have bad photographs now... But in retrospect there were moments where I should have taken my time more the choose another angle. Or kneel down to take the shot. Get closer. Wait longer. Getting the details more right.

    What if is miss something?

    That mindset held me back to look at some little details. When you see a scenario and you don't need to react in a split second. Just take your time... Relax... Take two photos extra. Inhale... Get low or high. Analyse... Wait for the light. It will all come together if you just let the moment be...

    It is hard to explain I guess... But there goes a lot detail in taking a good or even a great photograph. And a lot has to go with a certain flow and peace of mind. You feel it when you do it. And once you made one. It is a feeling that you will forever chase again...

 

Alright! This is it!

My five lessons about photography. I hope you enjoyed them!

Stand by for Part two: Life...

 

Catching that decisive moment...

Catching that decisive moment...