It is always amazing to see people who understand what they are passionate about at a very young age. Francis Audet, one of the finest photographers contributing with PhotoConcierge is one of them. As long as he could remember, Francis, loved to take images and had his own dark room in his parents house. Needless to say, his camera went everywhere he went and just like any other photographer, he dreamt of getting his photographs featured in National Geographic.
This blog is about the life of a light-lover, photographer Francis Audet.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography has always been a means to share the beauties of the world through my point of view and this is why I do very little of post processing, layering, etc. I make people realize that beauty surrounds us, everywhere, all the time, but we just do not realize it anymore or we simply take it for granted. I am mesmerized by powerful light, by the colors and textures and shapes of nature, and to capture an immortalize powerful instants is something I thrive for. I shoot for me, my personal fulfillment. I shoot for those moments of unspeakable uniqueness and beauty. And I shoot to share them as much as possible with the world.
Locations and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect to a successful picture, especially in your genre of photography. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?
I have an approach that there is beauty everywhere, all the time. And I was raised to do the best with what was given to me and presented. As such, there is no bad light, no bad weather or locations. With every light and location, perspective and point of view create the image. Light and location are the canvas, but passion, point of view and perspective are the tools to create and harmonize. Of course, shooting locations close to where one lives allows more flexibility on weather and location, so you can plan and visit several times if you are looking for a particular shot. But nature has a way to surprise us. If you do not have the weather or location you were hoping or expecting, you are always faced with two choices. One is turn around and be disappointed, and the other one is discovering what is there instead.
Is there something you always ask yourself or think just before you push the button?
That really depends of the type of shot! For highly technical shots that I have been preparing for quite some time, and that which involves long exposure, or overnight exposure, such as deep sky, or start trail, the last thought is “I hope I didn’t forget anything”. For all the other shots, the typical thought is “How can I get this shot better?”. I will often take a first shot just to have a baseline, in case life makes it that I don’t have the opportunity to take a second. But as I take this first shot, I am asking myself “OK, now that I have this baseline, what technique do I know, what perspective can I take, to go from a Nice Shot to a Wow shot”.
For your genre of photography, which lens do you recommend?
As I hike a lot and carry my gear, I like to have few lens that cover most of my needs. But without neglecting quality, or especially speed. So I will typically use 2 (or 3) lenses, one short range (28-50 or 28-70mm) but fast (f/2.8 typically) and one longer range, such as a 70-200mm (again, fast f/2.8). My bag also carries extension tubes and a 1.4x converter. I also like to have a very wide angle lens with me, just in case.
How to you react to phone photography as a competition?
Since I am not shooting for a living but mainly for the pleasure of it, and a side-line revenue, I do not see any other photographers, or technology, as a competition. If it allows more people to embrace the wonderful art of photography, I am all for it.
Which photographers influenced you, and did they influence your photographing, if yes, how?
Even though I have loved photography since a very young age, I never had one photographer that conscientiously influenced me. Some images influence what I do, make me try new approaches, go beyond what I know, to try to match and exceed, and eventually develop my own style.
How intensively do you get into post production? Can share a few tips for the readers.
Very little post production (except for star trail stacking of deep-sky photography). Nature has its beauty, no need to cheat it. So my post production is often limited to minor crops, dust removal, a bit of contrast increase, simple things like that. As such I do not own expensive post-processing softwares. The in-camera needs to be great (from my scale of greatness perspective at least) and I spend much less than five minutes on average per shot that I publish. I try to know more in-camera techniques, master the depth of field, white balance, hyper focal techniques,under-exposure techniques, etc. and have a clear vision of what my end-image should look like considering what I see in the viewer. Efforts go into taking the shot, creating the shot, versus post-processing an average one into a better one.
Your favourite photograph shot by you and why?
There are several images I am really proud of. To pick a single favourite, just looking at the image, is an impossible task, as if I publish an image, it is because I love it. So to answer the question of favourite, I have to go beyond the image and talk about the context, and for this reason, it would be my first image published by National Geographic, an image of Northern Lights on a lake near where I live in Canada. The funny story about that image is I left my home around 10:30 PM telling my wife, as a joke, that I was going to shoot a night image for National Geographic. I came back at around 1 AM, the household asleep of course, did a bit of post processing on my two favourite images of the lot, and submitted them to a website called www.spaceweather.com. Next morning, I had an email from a National Geographic editor wanting to purchase and publish the image. That image was taken on July 13th, 2012.
Please share about your initiative Photo Planet Project, why you started and how many photographers are part of it now? How do you network amongst each other in order to reach out for more destinations?
While I have traveled the world quite a bit and have some great shots of different places, my greatest variety and portfolio of shots comes from the area where I live. And that is just normal. I know the landscape, I have the luxury of shooting again and again, under different light and weather conditions, and have more chances of being there when a spectacular event takes place, such as a lunar eclipse for instance. And that made me realize that the best way to show the beauty that our blue world has to offer was by gathering what I call Local talent. If my best shots are typically (and rightfully so) from Canada, the same is true for a German, a Russian, an Indian. So that got me going. I wanted to image the world, the natural world, not the human created one. With Local talent, since most photographers will have their own greatest shots from right around where they live. We have now approximately fifty countries present on Photo Planet Project. I receive requests to join regularly, but I am looking for photographers that share the spirit of the project, and photographers of countries not yet represented. Each photographer benefits from a worldwide network, and this gives extra visibility to all. But the intent is not to sell more, or gain fame. The spirit of the project is quite simple: Imaging our world, its natural beauty, one country at a time. What’s next for the project? Only time will tell.
What are your next travel plans and what are you shooting?
Most of my favourite images were not while traveling. Traveling pictures look amazing to your friends, just because they are from somewhere else that they have not seen, but you don’t know the fine details of every location you have the chance to visit. The only place you know really well and that you can go as often as you like, in all the conditions possibly imaginable, is the area where you live in. This is one of the reasons I started Photo Planet Project, to have great photographers shoot the places they know the most, to really have awesome images. That being said, my next planned travel is the Canadian East Coast for summer vacation in a few months. Sunrise, tides, ocean, low exposures of waves and beaches, are all great subjects, but the place I will go is also a very dark night sky, so I will try to take that opportunity to make great Milky Way shots, nebula shoots, and other deep-sky images not achievable from where I live. Might be in the Perseids season so those are on the menu as well.
Tips you would like to give aspiring photographers?
Go out there and shoot. Shoot and shoot again. Practice makes perfect, and we will never be perfect, as there is always another image, another situation, something new to explore. But just shooting blindly won’t make you progress. You need to shoot with purpose, try to create an image, know what you want, and compare what you wanted with what you manage to get, and ask yourself. why the difference.? Look at photographs that you like, and try to imagine what type of settings were used and why. Read tips on forums. Lots of great free resources out there. The camera and the lens are tools, but investing in expensive gear without investing on technique, skills and knowledge won’t give you much. Regardless of the quality of the violin, it won’t play on its own. But a virtuoso will create great music out of any quality of violin. So practice on your skill, invest there, and be mindful of your good shots, and your less good ones as well. Mistakes and bad experiences are awesome teachers. believe me, I blew up a few great shot occasions, but those are some mistakes I am likely not to repeat. But I’ll do others and I’ll learn.