Category Archives: Close Up

Ripley’s Aquarium

Ripley's Aquarium-3“We’re going to the aquarium.”

We had guests for the weekend and the new Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown Toronto was on the Saturday afternoon agenda. Something new to photograph always gets my attention.

I grabbed my camera along with my 50mm f1.4 and 105mm f2.8 macro and joined what turned out to be a line that extended out the door and around the corner. Both new and getting great press, I would recommend buying tickets online for a specific entrance time and by-passing the line.

Ripley's Aquarium-1The aquarium has a route you follow and despite the crowd (start of March break, Saturday afternoon) we were able to approach each tank with a little patience. The ambient light is very low, accenting the light in the tanks and I had to shoot at ISO3200 to get the shutter speed I wanted, foregoing depth of field.

As we wandered through the “path,” we came to a slow moving sidewalk, which takes you right through a large tank, surrounded by sharks, mantas and all sorts of fish. There were times I felt I could just reach up and touch one moving overhead. This is quite a big, winding “ride” and allows you to experience the tank without waiting for people in front to move along. There is a separate walkway should you wish to return and explore at a slower pace.

Ripley's Aquarium-2I cleaned up the photos using NIK Define to reduce noise and fussed with the color temperature – some tanks have changing colored lights – and the rest was done in Lightroom.

I highly recommend a visit, though for the experience more than for the photo opportunities. It was a fun day and after close to three hours, we were never bored or put off (much) by the crowd.





Cosy on up

Sometimes you just have to change your perspective a bit. I was at the Distillery District in Toronto, a set of old buildings once used for distilling liquor before prohibition and now an interesting collection of shops, restaurants and art galleries. Last year I assisted a friend shoot a wedding here in the old brick buildings and cobblestone road.

I originally came here to visit the CIAO exhibit. I’ll be lazy and quote from the site:

“GAIA is the latest tour de force of Guy Laliberté, Founder of Cirque du Soleil® and first-ever private space explorer to publish a book chronicling his photographic journey. GAIA is comprised of sixty stunning photographs of the Earth taken from 220 miles away during an eleven-day trip in space, with unique views of nearly forty countries. Proceeds from the sale of GAIA benefit ONE DROP.”

Many of the photos in the exhibit, all outdoors on metal (see photo right), seemed more abstract than photographs of the earth. Many show patterns of colour and others graphic images from sand dunes, mountains and rivers. All were beautiful and make an important point about the scarcity of water in so many places.

Of course I had my camera and ironically, I ended up focusing on an old rusted Fargo pickup truck where I decided on some close up shots. I like landscape but when I am not enamoured with the view I tend to look closer. In some cases, very close (I do carry a macro 105mm just in case). I noticed the truck when we stopped for a coffee and remembered that a lot of wedding photographers use this and another old wagon as props. The sun was out, but I managed some photos when it dipped behind some clouds for a while.

They were taken with my 24-120mm f4.0 walking around lens. When I do photographs like these, I tend to try and bring out as much contrast and detail as possible. I used the high pass filter in Photoshop twice (once at 30 and again at 1.5) using a soft overlay blend. I also sharpened using the unsharp mask, keeping the radius high and the percent low. You play around until you get something you like, but I used 30% and a radius of 70 for these photos.  One of the photos is so abstract you wouldn’t know it was a panel on the truck (right)

While I can’t afford to float 220 miles above the earth for a few landscape photos, I can certainly cosy up to something nearby and get equally interesting photographs. Well, at least for me.

My glasses are fogged

Allen Gardens in February

One thing I appreciate about Toronto is Allen Gardens. Well, there are many, many other things, but in the middle of winter you can spend a couple of hours in a complex of greenhouses admiring tropical plants. I’m not a gardener. I enjoy their beauty, but they cringe when the see me coming, fearful that if I am their caretaker, their demise is imminent.

I just completed a course in the centre of the city located across the street from Allen Gardens so I took my camera with me so I could take some photographs of flowers while on my lunch break. Sure enough, it snowed the day I decided to make my visit and I was fearful that the hot-cold-hot-and-humid environmental change would fog up my camera lens. I kept camera and lens as warm as possible, dashed across the street and into the greenhouse. My glasses instantly fogged up but my lens stayed clear. At least from what I could tell through foggily glasses.

There is a wide range of flowers and plants to photograph, none of which I can name. On this adventure, I brought my flash to provide some fill. In the past I have been there on sunny days with bright sunlight flooding in through the glass roof. On other days it has been cloudy providing a more diffused light.

You are constrained to the pathways though the greenhouses, so on a number of occasions I found myself wishing I could climb up over the wall for a better angle. Another reason the plants do not like me.

However, most everything is in easy reach of the lens. The plants come right up to the edge, so I have used a 105 macro on occasion to get some interesting geometric patters. And at the right angle, sun shining through, you can get some interesting back lit leaves.

By a vote our class changed lunch from an hour to half an hour in exchange for an earlier finish, so I had to be quick. One thing I try to do is bring my camera along on trips and do some exploring at lunch regardless of where I am.

Different perspectives

The Red Shoed Drummer

I mentioned in an early post that I have an eye for detail, or at least my eye is attracted to details. What I like about photographing bands in local clubs is that I can circle around what passes for a stage and get different perspectives than shots solely from the front. In this photo I was able to get to the side and low and notice that the drummer had this cool red canvass shoes on.

Yellow Guitar

The yellow guitar on the left is another example from the same set. I managed to get behind and caught an interesting (for me) perspective of one of the musicians.

In a set of photos, I think sometimes that it is those photos of the details that add something special.

An eye for detail

Old Ford Pickup Truck

Perhaps it is the engineer in me, but I am as attracted to detail as I am to vistas. Sort of a little picture/big picture kind of thing. I wonder if there is something in the middle I’m missing out on. Or perhaps a reflection of my personality.

While not at a “macro” level, I do like to get in close. At least to inanimate objects. I’m still working on my people skills. I’ve tried it getting in close with people but it takes forever to get the nose print off my lens. Anyway, that’s another post.

The picture above is an old Ford pickup truck sitting outside at the Blue Mountain Ski Lodge in Collingwood, Ontario. I think everyone with a camera who sees it stops for a photo. I must have walked around it a dozen times, in the rain no less. Of the shots I took, I liked this one the best.

Giant cog wheel

There is a place in Toronto called the Brickworks, because that was what it once was. Now it is a place I bring Molly the Doodle for a walk, check out the weekend farmer’s market and take a photo or two. Some of the original equipment is on display in the buildings now converted for artistic endeavours. It was a little dark indoors, so I had to prop the camera on the railing around the equipment. Again, getting in close seemed much more interesting that the entire piece of equipment.