November 30, 2009

Cavalcade Of Lights 2009: Neighbourhood Lighting Part 1 (Nov 30 2009)

Every year, Toronto neighbourhoods are decorated as part of the Cavalcade Of Lights. This installment features photos from Bloor West Village, The Kingsway and Korea Town.

Click this post's title to see all 37 photos at my Flickr site.

November 29, 2009

Cavalcade Of Lights 2009: Opening Celebration (Nov 28 2009)

Toronto's 43rd annual Cavalcade Of Lights was kicked off with the help of Mayor David Miller, Michael Kuss, Maie Pauts and a few musical guests.

Click this post's title to see all 81 photos at my Flickr site.

November 28, 2009

Designer Saturdays: laurajean, laurajean (Nov 28 2009)

Armed with an antique printing press, Laura Fetterley visited Freedom Clothing Collective as part of Designer Saturdays.

Click this post's title to see all 25 photos at my Flickr site.

November 27, 2009

Frosty The Sto-Fen

Yesterday, I expanded my crew by one. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Frosty The Sto-Fen (Frosty for short).

Frosty has the same interest as Mr. Diffuser, but it's much easier to take with me. Now I don't have to tote an extra bag just for the privilege of having a diffuser. Due to this advantage, I was considering this purchase for a week or two.

Having said that, even with the extra bag, there's no denying Mr. Diffuser's circular shape. Maybe I shouldn't expect Frosty to perform as well as its predecessor, but all will be revealed this Saturday when I test it out at Freedom for the next edition of Designer Saturdays.

We're movin' on up, even in a week as slow as this one...

November 26, 2009

In Praise Of Slow?

I'm having one of those weeks where having a day job seems like an attractive option. There haven't been any events which I've felt like photographing yet; when that happens, the lack of activity in my life makes itself evident. These days, I can't even work out because my gym is closed for two months. Mind you, I have a membership which allows me to go to any of my chain's locations, but they likely don't have a complimentary towel service and I don't feel like bringing my own with me.

There were two events at the Manulife Indigo which I thought I could photograph, but I'm actually glad I didn't. The first one featured author Michael Chabon; the second, which I attended, featured Margaret Atwood. The latter event (and likely the first one) had an official photographer, although I saw another person making his rounds and taking shots. In any event, I would have felt a bit weird setting up my gear and enjoying the event while trying to get a few good photos.

Even though this weekend brings at least one shoot with it, I hope the situation changes before then.

November 24, 2009

Defense Mechanism

In my last blog entry, I hinted at using my camera as a social crutch, citing the ease of interacting with strangers when we're separated by a viewfinder. I also referred to two incidents where I made a fool of myself; an account of one of them follows.

A few Saturdays ago, I headed to a downtown Lululemon location in order to meet a blogger who'd be making an appearance there. I arrived too early, but fortunately, she got there before I did; we introduced ourselves and I waited for her to begin. Unfortunately, while waiting, I became very conscious of the fact that I was in a store doing nothing and thought I looked weird while doing so. When this happens, I feel as if I should crawl back into my shell instead of trying to come out of it.

Perhaps disappearing would have been a good idea.

In preparation for the blogger's gig, she and the store manager (or someone high on the store's authority chain) were moving a table. The manager said, "You're making this too easy"; I responded by snarkily mumbling that she could move the table herself. I had no idea that this manager was still within earshot of me; when I turned around and saw her near me, I could have died at that moment. She greeted me, but it wasn't exactly a friendly "hello"...more like an icy "hi."

I should have stopped my antics at that moment, but I wasn't done yet. A few minutes later, when a store associate asked me what I was doing, I replied, "I'm taking shots; you're next!" I wasn't intent on saying something so blatantly embarrassing, but I didn't realize the gravity of my response until after I said it. Had the associate taken my reply as a threat, I could have been writing a few blog entries from a police station.

To make a long story short, the blogger started by preparing a smoothie; I tasted it, then proceeded to leave the store before I could dig myself a deeper hole. When I returned home from my remaining photo shoots, I apologized to the blogger via Twitter for any embarrassment I caused her. She hasn't responded yet, so I can only conclude that I did a really good job of making her feel uncomfortable in my presence. This was definitely not my intention.

I don't always have this much of a problem interacting with strangers, even when I have no camera to shield me from them. However, when I mess up, I really mess up. As much as I enjoy photography for its own sake, it also works very well as a defense mechanism.

At this moment, I'm not willing to let my guard down if I don't have to.

Letting Go In Leslieville?

Usually, the decision to photograph an event comes pretty easily to me. After all, I'm trying to make a name for myself as a photographer before the middle of 2010, so I need to take every opportunity that I can afford to take. However, an upcoming event may be an opportunity of a different kind.

Kristen Gale is holding a soirée for the grand opening of The Ten Spot's Leslieville location on December 10th. Barring a practice for my church's upcoming cantata, I'll definitely be in attendance. What I'm doubtful about at this point, however, is whether any members of my crew will be coming with me.

Ever since the incident where I was gently chastised for photographing people without their permission, I've taken a more careful approach when the situation has called for it. For example, at the Swarovski Crystal Wish Tree cemerony, I didn't photograph any children when they were on stage. How was I to know that the parents in attendance would have approved of a total stranger photographing their offspring and doing God-knows-what with the photographs? Not only that, but at the Median Contemporary shoot on that same evening, a few people expressly told me that they didn't want their photos taken. I'm pretty sure that there will be people at the soirée who will just want to get their nails done and/or have a good time, but they won't expect a dude taking photographs for whatever reason.

I also don't want to feel as if the only reason that I'm attending events is to take photographs. I want to be able to leave the camera gear at home and still have a good time, as opposed to using it as my social crutch. Mind you, I've never been a social butterfly. I still remember the disastrous Lush party a few years ago, where I basically made a fool of myself and left with my tail between my legs. It's a lot easier for me to interact with strangers when a viewfinder separates us.

In light of that event plus a recent incident at a downtown Lululemon where I became a self-conscious social disaster, attending this soirée without my crew may not be a good idea.

November 23, 2009

Can't Buy Me Glove

Last month, I received an email from a friend recommending that I buy a pair of Nike football gloves (he didn't specify the exact type). Yesterday afternoon, he told me a bit more about them as well as where I should find them. Armed with this information, I searched for them today - but my efforts turned out to be fruitless.

My first stop was the National Sports store at Yonge & Sheppard. Not only were the gloves not in stock, but the salespeople didn't seem to care about helping me with my purchase. After a few minutes of futilely looking at a few pairs, I walked out of the store without knowing where I'd go next. I eventually headed to SportChek's Eaton Centre location; even though a few pairs looked good, I ultimately decided that I wouldn't drop my cash here. After similar ventures to Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) and Europe Bound - Travel Outfitters, I ended up empty-handed (pardon my diction).

I obviously need my photography gloves to be warm and dexterous. My current gloves are pretty warm, but they're too bulky for me to easily fetch items like my wireless controller. Unfortunately, a less bulky pair may give me dexterity at the expense of warmth. One person at MEC went so far as to say that no one pair of gloves offers an optimal warmth/dexterity balance. She recommended that I buy a pair of liner gloves and slip my current gloves over them until I'm ready to shoot. I tried this method with a few pairs, but this proved to be nothing more than a pain in the neck.

My search is by no means over. If only I could talk to the hand(s)...

November 22, 2009

Quick News Bite: Conflict Resolution Edition

For the next few Saturdays starting November 28, I'll be dealing with a potential scheduling conflict. Designer Saturdays at Freedom Clothing Collective returns on that date, but unfortunately, Cavalcade Of Lights also kicks off at Nathan Phillips Square. Fortunately, I can shoot at Freedom in the mid-afternoon, then hopefully hustle over to the Cavalcade ceremony well before its start time of 7:00 p.m.

This seems like an easy process. However, if I have as much fun while photographing Laura Fetterley as I did with Robin Angell and Amy Jill Snook, I'll have to forget about the Cavalcade kickoff!

No Regrets

Yesterday afternoon, I bumped into someone who worked in the same department as I did; his job was outsourced to India along with mine. Like many other people who were let go, he was recalled due to the resulting backlog. For the record, I haven't been given any offers to return; even if I was, I'd turn them down.

Yes, you read that right. I'd gladly turn down the opportunity to return to my former employer.

I'd really like to have a stable source of income, but I refuse to give up the happiness that comes with doing what I want to do in a way that I want to do it. Some people never encounter the feeling that comes from doing work which comes naturally. Thanks to my crew (particularly Old Faithful), I'm no longer one of those people.

Also, despite the small number of people who make my shoots unpleasant, I also refuse to give up the social opportunities which arise from my current vocation. For instance, at the Median Contemporary shoot a few evenings ago, one of the artists shot a few photos of me while I was shooting her work. Yesterday, I received a Facebook friend request from her, which I gladly accepted...after reminding myself who she was, of course.

I'd much rather deal with people like her than some of my former co-workers. One of them made a particularly bad impression; her cold disposition eventually led to my cold shoulder. For example, after I greeted her one morning, she had the audacity to come to my desk and request that I lower my voice when saying "Good morning" to her. I decided not to speak to her after that incident.

If everything comes crashing down and I don't make a single penny from this new gig, I'll have no regrets. If I don't realize my ambition to become a successful photographer and end up finding another day job, I'll still have no regrets. I'm happy and proud to be charting my own course and doing something meaningful for once in my life.

November 20, 2009

Fun With The Spot Healing Brush

Before I took my photography habit more seriously, I solely used Photoshop Elements 4.0 (PE4) to resize and crop images. Nowadays, I also subtly tweak the lighting if necessary. As of last night, however, I've added another weapon to my arsenal.

PE4 has a spot healing brush which I've never used until recently; professional photo editors probably use it to hide skin blemishes and spots. I've also found that it's helpful in covering up minor hotspots in flash photography. For instance, I used it in this shot from last night's art reception at Median Contemporary.

Group Reception #3

I left a few hotspots because I didn't want to overdo it, but I got rid of the worst ones.

There are bound to be a few people who think that I'm making this up, so I'm going to demonstrate my process using one of the photos from the Swarovski Crystal Wish Tree ceremony. Take note of the hotspot near the upper-left corner of the image below.

Wish Tree Ceremony #10

Here's a close-up of the hotspot in question at 100%.

Using the spot healing brush tool, I pick a brush size which is just large enough to cover the hotspot (but not too large). I also make sure that "proximity match" is selected before I make my fix.

Here's how this close-up looks after the process.

It may not be obvious where the hotspot originally was, so here's the same photo with the location circled.

At this resolution, perhaps a trained eye can see what I did, even without the circle. Of course, the best way to avoid flash hotspots is by not using a flash. ;-)

The Tsar Kasim Show

Upon logging in to my Twitter account last night, I saw this tweet. Unbeknownst to me, someone right behind me was recording part of yesterday afternoon's Jarvis Church concert at First Canadian Place. What's even scarier is that this person either already knew that I was on Twitter or deduced my presence there.

Here's a video if you still need proof. I'm the guy in the Kangol hat (the same one in my current Twitter picture).

I haven't watched the entire video yet, but I just hope I didn't do anything stupid.

Group Exhibition Reception At Median Contemporary (Nov 19 2009)

Once again, I took photographs at an art reception at Median Contemporary.

Click this post's title to see all 37 photos at my Flickr site.

Swarovski Crystal Wish Tree 2009 (Nov 19 2009)

Dina Pugliese hosted this year's unveiling of the Swarovski Crystal Wish Tree with assistance from The Canadian Tenors.

Click this post's title to see all 62 photos at my Flickr site.

Jarvis Church Concert (Nov 19 2009)

Jarvis Church brought his charms to First Canadian Place's waterfall stage.

Click this post's title to see all 42 photos at my Flickr site.

November 18, 2009

Maybe Tomorrow

I'm usually in a good mood when I come back home from a photo shoot. Tonight, it's a different story.

I was on my way to an art opening at Christopher Cutts Gallery, but before going there, I decided to make a detour to Yonge and Bloor. Earlier in the day, structural damage on the Yonge line caused a closure between Bloor and Eglinton stations, which inevitably messed up the evening commute. I decided to take a few shots at the aforementioned intersection in hopes of capturing, at the very least, a decent picture of the rush-hour chaos.

This is the only image I ended up keeping; it's called "Stuck."


After taking this shot, I carried my camera on my tripod to the next location, i.e. the southwest corner of the intersection. While doing so, a security guard at Hudson's Bay Centre decided to give me a hard time; when she saw my cargo, she mentioned that I wasn't allowed to take photographs. Unfortunately, since she failed to note that the lens cap was still on my camera, she made a huge idiot of herself.

Anyway, after taking a few more shots, I headed to the art opening, which definitely did not go without a hitch. I could name quite a few, but the biggest one was carrying my tripod. I used it when I first arrived, but due to the number of people in attendance, it was a liability which slowed me down. I ended up stashing it and using my hands instead, but the shoot still proved to be somewhat difficult.

The journey home was also laden with misery. I took a few shots of someone sleeping on the subway, but right after doing so, a former photography teacher engaged me in a discussion about taking photographs without permission. As he introduced himself to me, I knew what was coming; I'm actually surprised that this didn't happen sooner. The discussion never became heated, but I knew I couldn't justify what I just did, especially when I placed myself in my subject's shoes.

I ended up deleting those photos, along with every other photo I took tonight except for the one above. For the record, I'm also going to delete all of my previous photos of sleepers on public transit.

Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

November 16, 2009

I Love You, But...

I was faced with an important choice earlier today: my body or my camera? Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about how my burgeoning photography gig was causing me to scale back my gym workouts. In particular, I was upset with myself one day last week because on the previous evening, I allowed YouTube videos to delay me from sleeping at a proper time. I also wanted to work out this morning, but yesterday's Don Moen/Mandisa concert at my church went a bit late.

I was planning to attend an event earlier tonight at the Manulife Centre Indigo, but taking photographs surely would have meant coming home later than desired. When you factor in the editing and uploading processes, you have yet another night where I'd go to bed later than necessary.

For those reasons, I put my foot down and decided to stay home.

It's now 8:16 p.m. as I write this blog entry. In about two to three hours, I'll be going to bed. I look forward to my first morning workout.

*EDIT at 9:18 p.m.* I just looked at my gym location's web page; it's closed for renovations. Darn it!!

It could have been much worse. I could have woken up early tomorrow and found out when I got to the gym. Still, I'm dismayed at delaying my return to regular workouts again.

Legs & Millie

Saturday was the debut for two members of my photography team: Legs (my tripod) and Millie (my wireless controller). Due to the extra bulk of carrying a tripod on public transit, I came very close to leaving it home - but I'm glad I didn't.

My first stop was Freedom Clothing Collective for Robin Angell's appearance at Designer Saturdays. I was expecting it to be similar to Jane Haselgrove's shoot in that I'd photograph her, a few of her items and the clerk in attendance (*still moving*'s Amy Jill Snook). On this night, however, they started hamming it up for my camera and modelling different pieces. It's not what I asked for, but I wasn't about to look this gift horse in the mouth.

While shooting the photos with the help of Legs and Millie, I noticed a few weaknesses about using this setup. First, due to the fact that I was using a tripod for the first time, precious seconds were sometimes spent in figuring out which handle controlled the desired direction I wanted to move in. That weakness will be less keenly felt with time and practice. Second, after a few minutes of downtime or turning the camera off, it reverted to the single exposure option instead of staying on remote control mode. This made for more than a few embarrasing moments; if my models weren't so patient, I might have lost this gig. Third, having only three focus points makes for a lot of difficulty with manually focusing and recomposing photographs. Having said that, the obliteration of camera shake is definitely worth the trouble.

After this shoot was done, I headed to Yonge-Dundas Square thinking that I'd at least take a few pictures of the Christmas tree. I did that, but as I was packing up, this thought hit me: since I finally have a tripod and wireless controller, why not go fully manual and try shots with long exposures?

To make a long story short, a brief detour turned into an hour-long passionate experience. After Saturday, the sky is not the limit anymore - it's the bare minimum.

November 15, 2009

One Night Of Passion (Nov 14 2009)

Right after my Freedom shoot, I headed to Yonge-Dundas Square thinking that I'd just photograph the last part of Illuminite. Wrong.

Click this post's title to see all 39 photos at my Flickr site.

November 14, 2009

Designer Saturdays: Ludo And Pig (Nov 14 2009)

Robin Angell from Ludo And Pig showcased her clothing line at Freedom Clothing Collective as part of Designer Saturdays.

Click this post's title to see all 88 photos at my Flickr site.

November 13, 2009

Don't Mess With My Crew

This is a list of my current photographic gear.

Name: Fujifilm FinePix A510
Code name: "Old Faithful"
Date of acquisition: Summer 2006
Interests: no-fuss shooting and snapping.

Name: Nikon D60
Code names: "Nicky," "Nicky Sixty"
Date of acquisition: August 24, 2009
Interest: making people think that I'm a better photographer than I really am.

Name: Nikkor AF-S 18-55mm VR f3.5-5.6G DX
Code name: "Kitty"
Date of acquisition: August 24, 2009
Interests: wide captures and getting closer.

Name: Nikkor AF 50mm f1.8D
Code name: "Nifty"
Date of acquisition: September 28, 2009
Interests: low light, bokeh and wide apertures.

Name: Nikon SB-600 Speedlight
Code name: "Speedy," "Hot Flash"
Date of acquisition: September 8, 2009
Interest: flashing people.

Name: Lambency Diffuser
Code name: "Mr. Diffuser"
Date of acquisition: October 31, 2009
Interest: taming Speedy.

Name: Manfrotto 190XDB tripod and 804RC2 three-way head
Code name: "Legs"
Date of acquisition: November 12, 2009
Interest: making Speedy obsolete.

Name: Nikon ML-L3 Wireless Controller
Code name: "Millie"
Date of acquisition: September 28, 2009
Interest: domination.