My name is Aaron Lassman. I work as a Tech Support specialist for Uncle Sam. I’m not a diplomat, but I fix their computers. I have spent the better part of the last 15 years living and working overseas. As chaotic as it might be at times, there have always been two constants for me… my amazing family… and photography.
My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic X35. I was about 7 or 8 years old when I got it, and I remember carrying it around with me everywhere. It was just a small, plastic camera that used those square flash cubes that always smelled like ozone after they went off. I used to love to watch them flash and would do all four really fast and hold the hot little cube in my hand while bright blue spots floated around my eyes. I loved that little camera.
My family couldn’t always afford film, but that didn’t stop me from pretending to take photos! When I did have film, I remember trying to make silhouettes of my mom or little brother, having my dad pull over while we were on a road trip so I could capture the sunset, and even using it to take wildlife photos at Yellowstone National Park (back in the day when you could walk up to the elk and pet them). I recall being nose to nose with a bull elk, blissfully unaware of the danger I was in while clicking away with that little point and shoot.
In high school, I got a part time job and purchased a Pentax K1000. I spent my time learning the basics as well as how to process black and white film and eventually invested in Nikon. Years later, when digital first made an appearance, I thought, “PFFFFT! It’s just a fad.” It was grainy, expensive, and didn’t have much practical application at the time. Or so I thought. Digital got better and cheaper (as it still continues to do so). Eventually, I gave in, sold my film kit, and bought two Nikon DSLRs.
After years of lugging those around, I finally met Fujifilm in the form of an X100. To get to know this sweet little slice of cake, I started a 100 Strangers project. I remember clearly the first person I ever approached…. I was sitting outside a coffee shop enjoying a slice and I saw this woman walking her dog.
You know how pets and owners can look alike? Well, these two could have been twins! I took a deep breath (because approaching complete strangers can be unsettling, and she was my first) and ran over screaming, “CAN I TAKE YOUR PICTURE??!!” Now, I’m a big husky guy running at a woman and her dog yelling something that was probably incomprehensible. Yeah. She grabbed her dog and ran away screaming. I’ve since perfected my approach. Lessons learned.
I moved to the UK in 2012, right before the Summer Olympics. In 2013, I met Zack Arias during an X100 Street Photography workshop. The next day, I attended the GPPLondon Pop-Up event where Fujifilm UK was a major sponsor. It was there I was given a thorough sampling of the X-series cameras. And this leads too…..
So, you’re a Fujiholic?
Yes. Yes I am.
I was more than pleased with my X100, excited about Fuji after my street workshop and GPP London seminar. I just dove into the Fuji world after that. In 2013, I attended a Street Photography Workshop in Liverpool. It was there I was introduced to Fujiholics. Finding a group of people that shared a passion for photography on such a different level deeply affected my way of thinking about photography and what photography means to me. Fuji and Fujiholics feel like my photographic family. A slightly unusual and quirky family, but hey… what family isn’t!? Honestly, I’ve never met a group so obsessed with cake.
Now, everyone in my home has a Fuji camera. I personally have four and shoot with Fuji exclusively. And I eat a lot of cake. If I see you on the street with your Fuji, I’ll probably walk over and say, “Hi fellow Fuji shooter!” Feel free to just look at me like I’m crazy… I get that a lot. Or run away screaming. Whichever.
Which is your favourite lens? Why?
I have two favourites, really. I am in love with the 56mm f1.2. There are so many things that make this lens seem like magic. I am a big fan of portraits with very shallow Depth of Field, and f1.2 is about as shallow as you can get. The bokeh is as smooth and silky as cream. Better than any lens I’ve ever used for portraits.
My other favorite, and forgive me just a bit here, is the Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8. I’ve really been enjoying long-exposure photography over the last few years, and this lens takes the cake. It is permanently attached to my XE2 whether I am out in a city or at the beach. It is versatile in its usage for landscape as well as cityscape, architecture, and street photography.
When you next go travelling, what gear will you take?
My next trip is to Lisbon! I will be taking both my XE2 and X100T. I plan on a bit of long-exposure and street photography, and these two cameras are light, easy to carry, and work in superb harmony with each other.
I use either a 3Pod graphite tripod or a 3 Legged Thing. Both are compact, easy to carry, and fit in my carry-on or camera bag.
I have a custom camera bag I put together using an insert placed into a Filson medium field bag. It’s small, light, water-resistant, and comfortably carries my gear.
I always have extra SanDisk SD cards and plenty of batteries.
And of course, a variety of Formatt-Hitech filters including the Firecrest 16 stop ND.
When out shooting, what are your settings? Why?
If I am shooting long-exposure or portraits, I always shoot in manual mode. For me, there is just no other way to do it. I generally shoot around f8 – f16 on a two to three minute exposure. I use Triggertrap to control my exposure time and shutter release for LE. Triggertrap works from my cell phone and allows me to exert quite a bit more control over settings and options, especially for LE work and time lapse.
For street or other work, I shoot aperture priority. I control the DOF and don’t have to worry about shutter speed when moving through different lighting situations or shooting from the hip.
What kind of tools do you use for post processing?
I use a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop. In Lightroom, I am able to pick out my favourite images and quickly adjust RAW files for film profile, exposure, contrast, and white balance. From there, I find Photoshop easiest for fine tuning the details. I use a variety of presets, to speed things along.
The nature of my job requires a lot of travel. After living in the UK for three years, in 2015I moved from London to Amman, Jordan. I can tell you honestly that Jordan has no shortage of photographic opportunities. There is everything from old trade route castles to Petra, from the Dead Sea to the ancient Roman ruins of Jerash. There are markets, wildlife, amazing desert landscapes such as Wadi Rum, and the people are friendly and typically greet camera wielding photographers with a smile. In fact, the last time I went out to do street portraits here in Amman, I went through my entire stock of Instax Printer cartridges!
I am always learning new Photoshop techniques, as well as looking for opportunities to improve my skills through workshops and classes. This summer, I will be attending long-exposure, wildlife, and fashion/glamour photography workshops as well as hosting some local photo walks here in Amman. I’ve been photographing for well over 30 years and still continue to learn new things every day.