Tag Archives: Toronto

A Walk Close to Home

Toronto Walk Part 2-1Toronto is a large, diverse city and every so often I remind myself that not all photographic adventures require me to leave town. I pick a part of the city and go for a walk, often with no destination in mind but with a general idea of how I will meander around the area.

Toronto Walk Part 2-2I start with some basic research on what’s going on in the city at the time. In the summer there are generally local activities in a variety of neighborhoods I can visit. Also, I like to visit art galleries and photographic expositions at the same time. I find they provide creative energy and I appreciate the works of others. So I end up with a rough plan for the walk, but often veer off as something catches my eye.

Toronto Walk-2I travel relatively light. Usually my 24-120mm f4.0 with the 50mm f1.4 tucked away somewhere, though it is unusual for me to change lenses unless I want the extra speed with reduced light.

Toronto Walk-3On this particular trip, a rather long walk through town and along the lake, I started at the Ryerson Image Centre to see the most recent photographic exhibits. Outside is a large pool where I sat down with a coffee and captured the man using a spare chair on the table to shade his laptop. From here I walked to Nathan Philips Square at the City Hall, home to a weekend music festival and found some patrons sheltering themselves from the sun.

Toronto Walk Part 2-4I carried on to the waterfront and walked along the boardwalk eventually coming across people leaving the end of the Caribana Parade. Not quite tired, I headed back towards home and came across buskers in the distillery district.

When I get the itch to take photos, I remind myself there is a ton to photograph right outside the door.

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QLIX Studioz and Heather Pollock

QLIX-1Heather Pollock is brave.

Heather is a friend of mine, a professional and excellent photographer with her first gallery show. Most people see photographic art through the final image while photographers experience it. We make creative decisions about where to shoot, how to capture the raw image, how to process the image and even how to display it. The creative options are as infinite as any art form.

QLIX-3So, to put a price tag on your work and then display it to friends and strangers for comment seems pretty brave to me. All those decisions open to scrutiny. Heather’s selection of images, primarily black and white canvasses, range from moody HDRs, the east coast, and portraits of Canadian musicians. While not technically in any of the images, there is one where I was holding the light stand.

QLIX-2Heather is sharing the space with two other artists. Kathleen Urdah works with encaustics and Tommy Vohr, another photographer, works exclusively in the iPhone world with multiple exposed images you have to see to believe.

If you can spare a little time, please spend it at QLIX Studioz at 228 Queen Street East (at Sherbourne). You can also see a preview of the work and more information on the artists at qlixstudioz.com.

 

 

 

A Long Winter Brightened by Hockey

Women's Hockey

Beyond our infamous mayor and the unusually long winter, hockey is always a part of our conversation in Toronto. Beyond the city having the Leafs and Marlies at the professional level (the Marlies offering an exciting brand of hockey both affordable and attainable), the city has the most outdoor rinks anywhere along with numerous recreational leagues.

My wife plays in a women’s league (that’s her by the goalie) every Saturday night at Moss Park and I often bring my camera in tow. I get to wander around the rink and, at times, break a few “rules” slipping behind the bench for the only shots I can take that are not through glass. Everyone seems to appreciate that they can get photographs of themselves playing hockey.

While I usually shoot in aperture priority, I shoot hockey in manual. The lighting doesn’t change in the rink so I don’t want my camera “fooled” when I zoom in or out, having more or less of all that white ice affecting the sensor. I try for a shutter speed of 1/125 but have to crank up the ISO if I’m using my 70-300mm f4.0-5.6 zoom. Lately I switched to the 105mm f2.8 to drop the ISO down and I find I’m not giving up too much. I’m no longer being lazy and trying to shoot the entire arena from one spot – now I focus on one area of the rink.

I’m having some fun with the photos running them through NIK’s Color Effects (detail) to bring out some “grunge” in the photo. Being on the ice has a feel to it; a scent despite being made of odorless water. You can be tired but once you get on the ice and take a deep breath, you feel rejuvinated. I think this brings me closer to that feeling.

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.

 

 

 

Eating with friends

James Cooking

I’m not sure if it is unique to our street, or just to me, but we tend to break bread together frequently. We are fortunate to have a number of excellent cooks on our street with a wide range of cultural influences. As the warm weather approaches, we move outside and get together on the spur of the moment rather than planned dinner parties.

Of course, this gives me an opportunity to capture my friends, who have all come to see my camera as a natural extension of my face. When I first moved here and took pictures, they glared at me; those long stairs that say, “What the #%$* are you doing?” I smile, put the camera away, then slowly retrieve it and carry on. I think I wore them down, and they do like the end results.

I’ve caught some really special moments as everyone has become more comfortable. Mother and child, child licked by dog, and James above caught by the light through a window in his kitchen preparing dinner for the mob.

Yes, I cook, too. I always have. I think it is an extension of the creative urge that is part of my attraction to photography. I love staring at an open fridge and then preparing a meal, although on occasion this has resulted in nothing more than a boiled egg. I attend cooking school at a local college because, much like photography, understanding the theory and techniques first allows me to be creative later.

So, while I will do my share of cooking, I like to think I repay some of the trust my friends show by documenting our time together and sharing with them the moments I’ve captured.

If I never sold a print, that would be enough.

I love my neighbourhood

 

Highfield Hooligans

Highfield Hooligans

I live in an interesting neighbourhood. It is a wonderful mix of people, cultures and transition. Babies and young children seem to be sprouting everywhere, bringing a sense of renewal. There is an odd mix of Indian retail stores closing down while houses are being renovated. I once did a search on our neighbourhood only to find it was the only one in the entire city of Toronto not to have a name. Nobody wanted to claim us.

Still, it is photographically rich. Not in the ruins-of-Rome sense, or rocky mountain vista, but that this is my neighbourhood. We eat and drink together, talk as we pass each other’s house, gossip and share whatever is topical. Yes, we run to each other’s house when we are missing that one ingredient we need for dinner. And just stay for dinner. I enjoy taking my camera to every event we hold together. Maybe the others are a little less enthusiastic, but they like the results. Most of the time.

Our house turns 100-years old this year. Yep, something is older than me. So, I am thinking about having a “street party” to celebrate. If I can tear myself away from cooking – my other great passion – it will be a photographic orgy. All I need is some better weather. It snowed this morning. Really, enough already.

The photograph above is of some neighbours who dress in late-1800’s style and call themselves the Highfield Hooligans. My wife and I will be joining their “gang” this summer.

I am going to have to find a retro camera that is digital.

Hockey is back

Pegasus016While the NHL has been on strike, hockey has carried on for everyone else. Whether you are a parent, a fan of minor league or amateur teams, hockey has continued as usual. In my case, I’m married to a hockey player. My wife plays every Saturday night in an all-women league here in Toronto out of Moss Park arena. And, of course, I get to take photographs.

Pegasus043

It’s a small arena, with little seating save for a small area near the entrance, which is away from the cold of the ice, but poor for taking photographs. This is where I hang out to warm my hands; otherwise I’m circling the rink, trying to find a good location where the glass is still clear.

Up until recently, I would get behind the bench and take pictures from there. There is a little extra room behind the bench where I could pace and get a clear shot without any glass in the way. I just had to watch for errant sticks and the occasional sharp blade on my exposed toes. Eventually, they passed a rule not allowing anyone without a helmet to be on the bench and I’m not going to try and take photographs wearing a hockey helmet and mask.

SLY_7609The lighting is usually pretty good and fairly even across the rink. I will pump the ISO up to 1600 or 2000 to get a reasonable shutter speed and enough depth of field. I set a custom white balance using the ice surface, especially if I’m shooting in JPEG mode. I shoot JPEGs if I think I need very fast frame rates without filling the buffer. Perhaps for a playoff game. Lately I’ve been shooting in RAW mode without any trouble.

Hockey_0079

I shoot in manual, taking a few preliminary shots to get an exposure I like. All that bright white ice can throw the exposure meter off, underexposing the players. And using compensation works for some photographs, but not all. As you change the amount of ice in a photograph, your exposure compensation has to change as well. Too much work. With manual, I pretty much can leave the exposure alone so long as the light doesn’t change regardless of the composition or zoom changes I make.

SLY_7582Having an understanding of the game helps me anticipate what may happen, however at this level of play, anything can, and does happen, mostly to the enjoyment of the game by all. There is usually action around the net, so I will camp out either at the blue line looking in towards the net or on occasion, behind the net to one side to get players rushing in. Other times I will focus on a particular player and follow them around with my camera taking shots. This can create an interesting sequence. If the player is crossing in front of you, you can pan with them and get a great motion blur in the background.

Hockey_0006 B&WIt would be interesting to put one of those mobile cameras onto one of the players, or the goalie and see what the video looks like. Perhaps that will be next year’s project.

In the meantime, I would rather be at a game taking photographs than watching one on TV.

20110212_Beth Hockey_0102

Cleaning up the garbage

Garbage 1We have a garbage problem on our street. Specifically, the business at the end of our street has been using the location to collect garbage from a number of other “low rent/short term” rental properties and then eventually, have it picked up. But it is a real eyesore in addition to whatever health problems are potentially resident in the pile.

No amount of calls to the city seemed to make any difference despite the number of municipal bylaws that were being broken. It is an odd neighbourhood; one in transition where the retail stores seem to do whatever comes to mind. Last year two restaurants simply decided to build outdoor patios without any permits. You practically have to walk on the street to get past one of them.

Garbage 2So, back to the garbage. It takes a certain amount of persistence to finally connect with someone in authority at the municipality, at least with someone who cares. That’s where my IPhone comes into play. Each day I would walk Molly the Doodle past the garbage heap and take a photograph and instantly send it to the municipal bylaws officer. She would then make frequent visits to the location and started giving fines.

At one point, the location property manager claimed that the local residents were throwing their garbage into and around their bin. However, they have a clearly marked pickup truck that routinely brings garbage to the location and a photograph of this activity ended that conversation pretty quick.

Garbage 3So on a recent walk over the Christmas break, it dawned on me that I haven’t seen any garbage there for some time. It seems to have worked. The persistence and the photographs. The “instant” sending of a photo and the response by the authorities. I can’t thank the bylaws officer enough as without the response to my photos, nothing would have changed. We ended up working as a team.

I’m not sure that the problem won’t reappear at some time. Still, it seems to have worked. So, while the photographs are of garbage and exceptionally poor quality, they have made a statement all my early phone calls could not.

Now, about those illegal patios.

Serena Ryder

Serena Ryder Concert-20

As I sit here typing, I am listening to Serena Ryder‘s new album, “Harmony” remembering her fantastic performance November 20th at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club in Toronto. I was a fan before I met Serena and jumped at the invitation to attend the pre-release concert. You can find video clips of the performance on the CBC website.

Serena Ryder Concert-22

At first I wasn’t sure I would even bring a camera. As an invited guest, I thought I would just enjoy the music. Nah. So as usual when I don’t know the location, I did some research. Their web site gave me a good overview of what to expect – large open area with no seating. You stand in a “pit” to watch the performance. Not too photographer friendly. Even up to the end I debated bringing my camera. I knew Sandy, Serena’s manager and our good friend would make sure I would be in a good position to get some photos. Camera in hand, we jumped on the streetcar and headed over to the west side of Toronto.

Serena Ryder Concert-12

I walked through the doors into a dimly lit club and hoped the stage lights would provide enough light. The CBC was taping the performance, so I thought the lighting would be pretty good. The place filled up quickly and people were standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the pit. Sandy led us upstairs where we found seats in a balcony and I had a perfect view of the stage. The lights came on and I smiled through 468 photographs. If I was going to take pictures while listening to music, this is what I would listen to. I did get a chance to go backstage and take a few photographs from that angle, but the layout isn’t conducive to getting good pictures. I have a lot of close ups of the bass player as he swayed back and forth in front of me.

Serena Ryder Concert-8

I brought only one lens with my Nikon 300s – the 70-300mm. It’s not particularly fast, but I crank up the ISO and with the bright stage lights, I was in pretty good shape. The 300s has a slow and fast continuous frame mode (motor drive for us old film guys) that I use in slow mode. This lets me take a short burst of shots and deal with the performer’s movement, slower shutter speed and whatever shake I seem to add to the mix all on my own. You could feel the shake from the bass speakers, so I wondered if the other photographers with tripods were getting any vibrations. I tucked my elbows against my body and shot away.

Serena Ryder Concert-3

Considering I was restricted to one location (a pretty good location, though), I’m pretty happy with the shots. I recently upgrade to Lightroom 4 and CS6 and this was my first project using the software. One of the reasons I haven’t been writing as often as I’ve been so enthralled by the capabilities, particularly the noise reduction going from CS4 to CS6. Another blog, perhaps.

If you haven’t listened to Serena Ryder, she is definitely worth it. You can find her at serenaryder.com

Taste Matters

 

I enjoy photographing events. It combines a lot of happy people in some of the worst lighting conditions I can imagine. Perhaps its the challenge. I recently photographed a charity event for Eva’s Initiatives called “Taste Matters” in the Liberty Grand at the Exhibition Grounds in Toronto.

This is the second year I have attended so I was a little more prepared for the poor light. As you can see from the photograph on the left, the ceiling is very high and dark, dark brown. No bouncing flash around this place, though I rarely like using flash at events as I feel it is very disruptive to the paying guests.

Although there are windows along the side, the evening event was primarily lit from chandeliers and some spot lights that rained down on the row of food and beverage donors lined along the side of the long hall. This became my prime shooting area and I was able to get behind the tables to face the patrons enjoying their evening.

I usually arrive early for an event, especially if I am not familiar with the location. I also like to capture the set up of the room and get pictures of the volunteers behind the scene that don’t always get the recognition they deserve. Not only did I get to photograph the set up, but I helped out, setting up tables and the silent auction. Always makes you feel good to help out. No pictures of me, though.

Did I mention the lighting was poor? I recently upgraded from CS4 to CS6 (Photoshop) so my confidence in noise reduction has increased. The difference is astounding. I shot mostly at ISO 3200 when using the f4 24-120mm lens and 1600 when I switched over to either my f2.8 105mm or the f1.4 50mm. I had my flash with me. There are usually speakers at these events and that is the one time no one really minds the flash going off. Almost expected. Lets me get some low ISO shots. Now if the speakers would only take a breath with their mouth closed I’d get more decent shots of them!

I didn’t take as many photographs as last year, but still took close to 1,000. The Nikon D300s has a low and a high setting for the “motor drive” so I use the slow setting in RAW to take a burst of shots. Working with slow shutter speeds in low light I hope that one of the burst I take will be sharp. It’s not sports photography, so I’ve never exceeded the buffer even in RAW. (When I shoot hockey, I switch to JPEG so I don’t exceed the buffer.)

Funny, this morning my wife reminded me how much I use to shy away from photographing people. I was commenting on my lack of panic for the wedding I’m shooting with my good friend Heather Pollock (see link on the right). Practice. Get out of your comfort zone. Volunteer to take pictures at local events (I’ve done community rallies) or a favourite charity. Take lots of pictures. Try different things so you can learn. And have fun.