October 31, 2009


This is going to sound like a plug or advertisement, but I'm doing this out of my own free will.

Allow me to take the time to show how I appreciate the folks at Downtown Camera. Upon the recommendation of one of my gym's trainers, I've been buying my camera gear from that store ever since I started taking photography seriously. This afternoon was no exception; I purchased a Lambency flash diffuser. I still haven't thought of a nickname for it, but "Adam" is a possibility. (Let's see if you can figure that one out.)

Anyway, John was my salesman today; Stan is usually my go-to dude, but he already had a customer when I entered the store. The truth is that I was going to buy a Gary Fong Lightsphere, but John pointed out the possibility of speedlight "leakage" through the bottom. After this, he retrieved a couple of Lambency diffusers; they looked mighty similar to the Lightsphere, but the first difference I noticed was the price. I sometimes believe that you get what you pay for, but given my current situation, I definitely appreciate the value of a good bargain. I also appreciate the next step that John took: he showed the diffuser's effectiveness by contrasting shots taken with and without it. I was pleased with the results, especially considering the difficulties I experienced at my Curcuit Gallery shoot.

You already know that I made the purchase, but not before finding out about a 30% discount on the diffuser. Since I turned 30 last Wednesday, I like to think of it as a birthday discount. ;-)

October 30, 2009

Thank God For Freedom

The title comes from the fact that Freedom Clothing Collective just gave me a shout, plus they've been good allies ever since our initial introduction.

This entry isn't about them, though. :-P

I just wanted to share this DJ Hero video interview with DJ Jazzy Jeff, who recently released He's The King, I'm The DJ, his Michael Jackson tribute mix. There's a particularly inspiring section starting near the fourteenth minute, where he talks about his relationship with Will Smith (a.k.a. The Fresh Prince) and how far they've come since their "dream session."

For Better Or For Worse

I find that no two photo shoots are exactly the same. Each one brings its own set of challenges, which could be related to weather, lighting conditions or other attendees' dispositions. Heck, even my own state of mind can be a roadblock to getting the best out of any shoot.

For these reasons, yesterday evening's Circuit Gallery Launch at The Department was somewhat difficult.* For instance, when I first arrived, I was pleased that I'd be able to bounce my flash, especially after dealing with the high roofs at Thrill The World Toronto. However, even with the use of this technique, I still wasn't satisfied with all of my results. To make a long story short, I dealt with pitfalls such as overexposure, underexposure and a yellowish hue which really ticked me off (it was probably due to the gallery's lighting). In hopes of alleviating my problems, I kept fiddling with different settings in my camera and speedlight, but this was useless in the long run.

My own state of mind didn't help matters much. Due to the aforementioned issues, my confidence took a bit of a hit yesterday evening. A few of the photos displayed at the reception caused me to reflect on my own lack of gear - specifically, a tripod. One of these photos has a perfectly stacked set of plates; a tripod was obviously used. Photoshop Elements is able to straighten photos, but there's something to be said about getting things right before the shutter button is hit.

Thirdly, despite the fact that I met a few very genial people, one person particularly left a lot to be desired. At one point, I decided to leave a cracker sticking out of my mouth in order to lighten things up. Almost immediately after doing that, I noticed one lady in front of me motioning her hand toward her mouth, as if to push something in it. It turned out that she was telling me to put my cracker in my mouth and eat it. Since I didn't appreciate her snooty gesture, I immediately deleted my photos of her shoes.

Rule number one of public conduct: don't piss off the photographer, especially if he has a blog.

As I journeyed home from the shoot, I entertained thoughts of going back to the relative stability of a desk job, despite the progress I've made since starting this blog. However, before I arrived at my apartment, I started reflecting on this fact: when two people are romantically involved, one may not always feel like doing what is best for the other. Even so, responsibilities are not based on feelings; like it or not, mutual benefit must be achieved or the relationship will die.

Of course, since I'm inexperienced in this topic, perhaps I should leave it alone. :-)

I said that to say this: one less-than-ideal shoot isn't going to stop me from reaching my ultimate goal: to break into the photography industry and make a stable living while doing so.

*To Zach, Susana and Claire: I don't hold any of you responsible for anything that happened yesterday.

Circuit Gallery Launch Reception (Oct 29 2009)

Co-curators Susana Reisman and Claire Sykes threw this party at The Department to celebrate the launch of Circuit Gallery.

Click this post's title to see all 57 photos at my Flickr site.

October 29, 2009

A Bucket Of Nerves

Many of us like to talk about achieving our goals and living our dreams - going out with the prettiest lady, landing a plum acting role or playing a championship game. We even like to imagine that we'll be happy beyond belief when we achieve those goals. However, when the opportunity for achievement finally arises, the resulting nervousness can drive even the most stoic people to the brink. Worse, the possible disappointment inspires many people to embrace mediocrity or sell themselves short.

I haven't reached the disappointment part, but the nervousness keenly made its presence known a few minutes before I started this entry. For the sake of professionalism, I won't get into the specifics. However, I will say that a previous photo shoot might have been the beginning of a good opportunity for me. It's funny...when I talked about the joy of taking photographs as opposed to sitting at a desk, I "forgot" about the possible setbacks. However, even with the possibility of failure, I'd still rather shoot 'em up.

Woody Allen once said, "Eighty percent of success is showing up." Wayne Gretzky once said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Michael Jordan once said, "I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying."

It's time for me to try.

October 26, 2009

Yesterday's Decision

Once again, I attempted to upload my photos from Thrill The World Toronto to this blog's Facebook page yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, the upload failed just like it did early yesterday morning. At that point, I decided to stop uploading pictures to Facebook.

Before yesterday, I previously considered halting Facebook uploads due to the extra work and the fact that my pictures look slightly worse there. There was also the problem of failed uploads, although this sometimes also happens at my Flickr page. Even with that disadvantage, Flickr lets me do much more with my photos than Facebook ever will (e.g. tagging, licensing, titling, etc...). Considering my long-term goals, it's much more advantageous for me to halt a redundant and problem-laden process. I'd rather devote my resources to a useful one.

October 25, 2009

Thrill The World Toronto (Oct 24 2009)

About 200 people dressed as zombies and danced to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," attempting to break a Guinness World Record in the process. This event was especially poignant given MJ's death earlier this year.

Click this post's title to see all 122 photos at my Flickr site.

Unofficially Official

I had a great time shooting photos at Thrill The World Toronto last night. Even though the Harbourfront Community Centre's gymnasium had a high ceiling which pretty much disabled me from bouncing my flash, Nifty and Speedy were once again able to come up with really good shots.

There was one moment, however, where I thought I'd have to leave the centre of the action. Right before the participants started their dancing, we were told that non-dancers and unofficial media would have to leave the gym. Being unaffiliated with any news agencies, I normally would have made my way to the door and made the best of the lemons I'd been given. Last night, however, I decided to use a different strategy: I'd "act official" and risk getting banished to the audience's quarters. This didn't involve doing anything too differently, apart from taking photographs and minding my own business.

The plan worked beautifully and nothing strange happened. As a result, I have photos from the actual Thriller The World dance to share with you. Since I'm uploading the set to Flickr, you'll see them shortly after I publish this post.

October 23, 2009

Turning Crap Into Solid Gold

Yesterday evening, I showed up at The Ferret & Firkin for the Rock Band Video Game Session. There was already one problem which I didn't know about beforehand: the event was cancelled. Looking at SemiSolidMedia's website would not have helped, as there is still no mention of the cancellation as I type this entry.

There was no way that I was gonna be stymied by an event cancellation. As I made my way back to Spadina station, I remembered that a free party was being held at the Drake Hotel as part of LG Fashion Week. Since I wasn't exactly dressed to impress, I thought the bouncer would have turned me away. Even with that possibility, I didn't make my way home just yet.

When I got off the streetcar at Queen and Beaconsfield, I noticed an event happening at Median Contemporary, a few doors east of the Drake. I dediced that before I risked bouncer rejection, I'd at least take another risk and see what this event was about. Rui Pimenta told me what I needed to know: I tripped upon a contemoprary art show. I figured that I'd make the guests uncomfortable if I whipped out Nicky, but Rui insisted that this was my call to make. After deciding that this would be the night's photo shoot and drinking a glass of white wine, I went to work.

Normally, this story would have ended when the photo shoot did. However, right before making my way home, Karen Corrillo recognized me from the night before. After inviting me inside the Drake Corner Café, she introduced me to Sarah Magwood, the young lady behind Cozette Vintage and Designs. Before our conversation started, I almost brought on another awkward moment by cracking wise again.

Rule number two: if you're going to tell someone that she looks like somebody famous, make sure to remember that famous person's name before you make your observation.

Fortunately, despite breaking that rule and being outnumbered three to one, I made it unscathed and turned crap into solid gold again.

Median Contemporary Art Show (Oct 22 2009)

After a disappointing start to my evening, I stumbled upon this art show hosted by Kal Mansur and Rui Pimenta at Median Contemporary.

Click this post's title to see all 41 photos at my Flickr site.

October 22, 2009

My "Bad" Habit

I have a "bad" habit which affects my entire life, so it's no surprise that my photography is also impacted. Here it is: I arrive at events and appointments much too early. I'm not talking about showing up a few minutes early, but rather, thirty to sixty minutes. Mind you, I like to set up my equiment and mingle a little bit before I start shooting. Nonetheless, this can still lead to some awkward moments.

Take yesterday evening's photo shoot at Freedom Clothing Collective. I reached Ossington station at about 7:00 p.m., one hour before the event's scheduled starting time! Even after reading the Metro newspaper for a few minutes, I still had to kill time by walking in the neighbourhood and chilling at the corner of Bloor and Dovercourt.

I walked into the FCC a little after 7:30 p.m. and things became even more awkward. It must have been strange for the ladies there to see some dude walk into their shop and claim to be a photographer. I tried cracking wise to relieve the tension, but I only realized how bad the joke was after I said it.

Rule number one: never start a joke with "A black guy walks into the store," especially when you are black.

Thankfully, despite my early gaffes, the shoot itself turned out fine. Judging from this FCC tweet, it's safe to say that I knocked some socks off.

Cityscape Idéal Opening Reception (Oct 21 2009)

Freedom Clothing Collective held an opening reception for Cityscape Idéal, a group exhibition showcasing the work of six artists.

Click this post's title to see all 64 photos at my Flickr site.

October 21, 2009

The RAW Deal

As you know, I've been shooting individual photos in RAW lately. Given the ongoing debate between RAW vs JPEG photography, it was worth getting my feet wet with a few shots. Alas, RAW photography isn't everything that it's cracked up to be - at least, not with my current software.

Before you start throwing tomatoes at me, let me explain the reasoning behind my conclusion. After I download a RAW image to my PC, I convert it to DNG format using Adobe's free Digital Negative Converter. Next, I open the DNG file in Photoshop Elements 4.0 and make the necessary changes before finally saving the file as a JPEG. Keep in mind that upon initially opening the DNG file, a window opens where I can make changes which don't subtract from the quality of the file. This is a clear advantage over editing a JPEG file, where every edit takes away from its quality.

Unfortunately for me, the advantages end here. Since there is no direct option in Elements 4.0 to save a DNG as a JPEG, I have to work around that issue by saving for the web. Even though I always save it as a maximum-quality JPEG, my dpi is sharply reduced to 96. That's a very low value compared to the 300 that a normal JPEG gives me and the 240 in a DNG file.

The disadvantages don't stop there, neither. When I upload a 96-dpi JPEG to Flickr, no properties (things like ISO, aperture and whatnot) are available for viewing. I'm all about details when it comes to my work; I simply cannot accept the fact that the information behind any photograph is invisible. I might as well keep it on my PC instead of uploading it.

Having said all of that, there is one way that I can work around these problems: use the in-camera editing software on the RAW file, then save it as a JPEG for further editing. Even with this extra step, I retain my 300-dpi advantage. Going forward, this is only way that I'll be shooting and processing RAW files...at least, until I get software that doesn't strip information from photographs.

October 20, 2009

Three Photos I Took This Afternoon

I would have given each photo its own post, but I think it's a bit much when you're dealing with more than two. These were initially shot in RAW before I made my edits; click each title in order to see the photo's Flickr page.

Here's number one.

This one's called Absolut Hello. I shot the bottle by itself, but everything changed when the man on the left stepped in front of it.

Here's number two.

This one's called Missing U. I initially saw it last Saturday night; I instantly made plans to return to this scene when I had my DSLR on me.

Here's number three.

This one's called There's Always One. I tried two more shots like this one, but I kept this one due to the pedestrian who stepped into my picture on the right.

Amanda Martinez Concert (Oct 20 2009)

Amanda Martinez graced us with her presence at First Canadian Place's waterfall stage this afternoon.

Click this post's title to see all 51 photos at my Flickr site.

October 19, 2009


This photography gig isn't my first creative outlet; as a matter of fact, creativity has been a part of my life for many years.

One of my significant endeavours was a comic strip called The Frying Pan. At first, I made fun of my then-current job as a games operator at Centreville, but I went on to use storylines based on, among other things, the world running out of Kraft Dinner. Looking back at my work, some of my jokes were just plain embarrasing. Perhaps people laughed at them because they were too kind to say "Give this up, Tsar" to my face.

Here are a few samples of my work. Click each picture to see a larger version.

As you can see, being a southpaw has its advantages. :-)

I also used to make drum 'n bass music as Charlie Van Pelt. I started by using free software called Buzz, but when I wanted to take my productions to the next level, FL Studio became my meal ticket. My absolute fondest memory is remixing Will Smith's "Party Starter" (from the Lost And Found album); his aggressive rapping in that song was my excuse to make a dancefloor-oriented jam, complete with heavy subbass. I submitted it for an unsigned producers' mix at Dogs On Acid; it didn't make the cut due to software issues on the DJ's side. Fortunately, "Depth Threats" (my backup submission) did make it.

I eventually killed these outlets due to circumstances or a loss of interest. I hope that doesn't happen this time.

October 18, 2009

Camera Envy

I haven't had my DSLR for six months yet, but I'm already dealing with camera envy. The object of my affection isn't even a mid-level or professional camera, but a Nikon model which is aimed at a similar market as the D60: the D3000. Comparing the MSRPs according to Nikon Canada, I would have only paid forty more dollars for this camera.

It's not as if the D3000 is a much better camera than the D60 (in my opinion, anyhow). In any event, I believe that the most important part of any camera is the person taking the photos. Besides, my number one reason for upgrading was to start taking professional-looking photos; Nicky (my DSLR's nickname) undeniably does that very well. One point where the D3000 trumps my D60, however, is in the number of focus points; the former camera would have given me eight more to work with. Having said that, this is only a significant issue when I use spot metering (i.e. metering which uses one focus point as opposed to the whole viewfinder).

Still, I knew about the D60 having only three focus points before I purchased it. Having only had one focus point with Old Faithful, I was very appreciative about gaining two more. Trust me - on my next upgrade, I'll surely gain way more than two.


Nearly one week ago, I established my Twitter account. My lack of a smart phone means that I can only tweet from home, but that "handicap" hasn't stopped me from making 84 tweets and gaining 33 followers (and counting).

Said handicap also hasn't stopped me from expanding the reach of my photography and this blog. There's the obvious phenomenon of gaining followers, but there's a certain person whom I may have never met if it wasn't for Twitter. Before y'all start spreading rumours, I'm still single. :-P

Like I said before - if I build it, they will come. This Twitter experiment has been a success so far.

October 17, 2009

Dundas (Not Square)

I guess only Torontonian readers will get the humour in this photo. Think of where you'd normally see a chair like the one below.

Even if you're not from Toronto, isn't it a little strange to see a portable chair in a subway station? I mean, the TTC can't be so cash strapped that it's relying on outside sources to seat its passengers while they wait for the next train.

October 16, 2009


I've been running this blog and advancing my photography for a few months. It hasn't always been a joyful experience, but overall, I still get a kick out of repeatedly placing subjects in my viewfinder and hitting the shutter button. I'd love to keep doing this for the rest of my life; I even hope to do it on an international scale (God-willing, of course). However, before I dive headfirst into my plan for world domination, there are a few realities and shortcomings I'll have to deal with.

1. I don't have a valid passport.

My last passport expired many years ago; I don't even remember what the expiry date was. It's stupid of me to say this in light of the expenditures I've already undertaken, but passports aren't exactly cheap. Having said that, I do believe in short-term pain if it leads to long-term gain. Now, once I fix that minor problem, I have to deal with this:

2. Right now, I'm afraid to fly.

This is only something I've dealt with since 9/11. There is always the possibility of fatal catastrophe in life; I sometimes joke that birth increases your chances of dying by 100%. However, the prospect of falling thousands of feet or being blown to smithereens right before meeting the Creator doesn't appeal to me.

3. I can't drive.

I'm almost in my thirties, yet I still don't have a driving license. How ridiculous is that?

I can get away with that here in Toronto, where public transit runs consistently enough that I don't feel the lack of a license so much. However, if I ever travel to a city where public transit is scant at best or non-existent at worse, I'll need my own wheels.

I was going to write a line about needing a car in case I entered a serious relationship, but that's ultimately ridiculous. If a woman is so myopic that she can't accept me without a car, it's a waste of time to think that a vehicular acquisition will change her mind.

4. Money!!!

Ecclesiastes 10:19 says that money answers all things. As much as I'd like to think that love and passion is going to keep going, let's face it: this gig is expensive. I already stated my total expenditure in a previous post; that number is not going to decrease anytime soon. To put it in no uncertain terms: either I'm earning a steady income by mid-2010 or I'm in deep trouble.

Having said that, I keep track of my finances using an Excel spreadsheet; to say that it's been a godsend is an understatement. Also, while I don't read financial blogs as often as I used to, Get Rich Slowly and The Simple Dollar have been very helpful in keeping me afloat.

This probably isn't a complete list of my obstacles, but it serves as a starting point. As I like to say, onward and upward!


On my ride home last night, I had the opportunity to take a candid shot. A man in front of me was covering his ears due to the subway noise between Dupont and St. Clair West. Personally, I didn't think it was any louder than the noise between Wellesley and College. Anyway, I (unwisely) readied my shot, even placing my would-be subject in my viewfinder. At this point, I normally would have pressed the shutter button and this man wouldn't have even suspected that he'd been punk'd.

This time, my would-be subject lifted his eyes and faced my camera which was pointing right at him. Forget being caught red-handed; I might as well have been carrying the bloodied corpse on my back. All I could do was mouth the word "busted" and hope that this man wasn't armed.

Fortunately, he was...with a good sense of humour about this incident.

Everything Remains RAW

Before and after the Magic Pony photo shoot, I took a few shots in RAW format.

Click this post's title to see all 5 photos at my Flickr site.

October 15, 2009

Curvy Book Launch & Showcase

Magic Pony hosted Curvy's launch of its sixth issue with a showcase of female artistry.

Click this post's title to see all 12 photos at my Flickr site.

October 14, 2009


Before Jessie Farrell's concert started, I took this photo of one of the spotlights.

This is one of those photos for which I wasn't really trying to grab anything special. However, I'm sure the majority of you would agree that creativity cannot be forced.

Jessie Farrell Concert (Oct 14 2009)

As part of its lunch concerts series, First Canadian Place showcased Canadian country artist Jessie Farrell at its waterfall stage.

Click this post's title to see all 47 photos at my Flickr site.

October 13, 2009

Quick News Bite: Shroombab Edition

DJ Shroombab's Neurotech Fever mix is wrapping up as I begin this entry; it's a high-energy drum 'n bass mix I downloaded last year. I like to crank up music like this (or anything energetic) when I'm editing photos or doing batch edits in Flickr.

Anyway, I sometimes Google myself to find out who is talking about me or using my photos. I never know what will arise when I do this, but sometimes, I get surprised. Such was the case earlier this evening, when I found out that paralympian Josh Cassidy used two of my photos from the Cheer event in one of his blog entries. Not only that, but he even posted a link to this blog. As expected, I've already showed my appreciation at his blog.

Tomorrow brings another photo shoot in the form of a concert. Jessie Farrell will be performing at First Canadian Place's waterfall stage at 12:15 p.m. If I'm not mistaken, she'll be signing autographs after her performance.

Onward and upward!

Guten Tag

This entry's title is German for "good day," but there's another reason why I chose it. Read on...

No matter what, I always tag my photos when I upload them to Flickr. Even though I can add any number of tags to any number of photos via batch editing, this can still take a while if individual photos need individual tags. Heck, this can take even longer if I have to do additional research via Google in order to correctly identify people in any given photo. However, no matter how much time is spent on this process, it's always worth it.

Case in point: a few days after my Pulling For The Hungry photo shoot, the lead singer of Times (Alexander J. Yolevsky) added me as a Flickr contact. Unfortunately, due to my difficulty in finding information for his band, I didn't know that it was him. Only after Googling myself yesterday did I find out what I needed to know, including this singer's name. After I learned that Times used my photos at its Facebook page, I put two and two together and tagged the relevant photos with the new information.

When you add the fact that there was an official photographer for the event, it's even more amazing that my photos were chosen. This could have been due to her photos being fully copyrighted; in contrast, mine were under a Creative Commons license. This also could have been due to Mr. Yolevsky's ease in finding his band's photos thanks to my tagging efforts.

I certainly hope that it's the second possibility, moreso than the first one.

Can't Get Ahead

During my Dairy Milk photo shoot earlier today, I noticed this sign which was pointing in the wrong direction.

The scramble intersection is at Yonge and Dundas (i.e. behind me), not Yonge and Shuter (i.e. ahead of me). Then again, if the sign was correctly positioned, this photo would never have been taken. :-)

Dairy Milk At Yonge-Dundas Square (Oct 13 2009)

Unscrambling an eyebrow puzzle in today's Metro newspaper led me to this event hosted by Cadbury Dairy Milk, where people danced for free chocolate.

Click this post's title to see all 130 photos at my Flickr site.