The power of the yellow light
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
How slowing down can speed up progression
About 12 years ago, I sat in a meeting with clients discussing 2009 brand planning. We were considering different ways to bring new products to market as wells as continue to advertise our existing ones. Sometimes during a client meeting there will be an exercise that we collectively do to break the ice. This was one of those times. The account team spread out a a pile of cards with different illustrations on them. We were tasked with choosing one and discussing how it relates to what we plan to do for the brand. I chose the most mundane visual on the table. A yellow street light. Such an image can feel like kryptonite to a marketer. Why would they want to slow anything down in the business world? My answer was simple. We should be willing to slow down, and take a closer look at the decisions that we are making to better prepare our brands for the market place. This is something that stuck with me through the years. Not only in my advertising career, but also with my photography. Slowing down helps photographers focus on composition, subject matter, and concept. It allows us to build an image, not just record a moment.
Modern day cameras are fast and intuitive. They are vastly easier to use than their film counterparts. Sometimes they are too easy. A lot of my street photo work was done with a Panasonic Gx9. The camera was incredibly easy for me to use. Everything was within a thumb or index finger's reach and operating it was second nature to me. Very helpful when capturing fleeting moments or working on assignment, but I noticed my process was becoming very mechanical. Less thinking and more doing.
I decided to take the yellow light approach and use some gear that would force me to think more. I purchased a used Fujifilm XE-1, a Seven Artisans 25mm f1.4 manual lens and a vintage Nikon e series 28mm f2.8 manual lens. I had a cheap all manual film type experience in a digital format. It was the perfect set of gear to slow me down, in a good way.
I'm slowly building a body of work with this camera, but I wanted to share the photo at the top of this article with you. I made the photo during a sunset shoot where I had my camera on a tripod, and played with varying focal lengths yet nothing seemed to work. So I reached into my bag and grabbed the Fuji. No tripod, no auto focus, just a fixed 25mm focal length. There was something so satisfying about slowing down, adjusting the aperture and focus on the exterior of the lens, and hearing that shutter sound as I took my shot. It felt like photography, and it felt pretty good.