June 13, 2010

Luminato 2010: First Night (June 11 2010)

Jully Black, Melanie Fiona and Sass Jordan helped kick off the 2010 edition of Luminato in a night dedicated to Canadian divas.

See the Flickr photo album.

May 31, 2010

Squeeze It To Please It

One of my photos from Doors Open 2010 has an interesting story behind its conception, which started shortly after I took this photo at the Ontario Heritage Centre.

Doors Open Toronto 2010 #48

Take note of the “bass clef,” which is really an “S” or, if you will, two joined clefs. My idea was to take a photo where you’d be looking through the top curls of the clefs, resulting in quite a visual effect. However, due to the tight space between the railings, obtaining this shot would not be a cakewalk. I decided that I would at least rise to this challenge – even if it meant wasting time, effort, photos and battery power.

I began by removing the flash from my D60 and sliding the camera in its landscape orientation between the railings, holding it at its bottom-left corner with my left hand in order to stabilize it. For additional support, I held its right side with my right hand and put its uncovered hot shoe’s guides against the bottom of the top railing. Next, I attempted to optimally position the camera using my hands and my naked eye. I even tried to squeeze my head between the railings in order to improve this positioning by looking through the viewfinder. Unfortunately, this was a futile denial of an indisputable fact: my difficulty would be compounded by my camera’s lack of a live view function.

I took many photographs and used their results to assist me in achieving optimal composition, focus, aperture, shutter speed and ISO. At one point, I even switched to portrait orientation and restarted my process. After about fifty to sixty failed attempts, I finally came as close to my initial idea as I thought possible.

Doors Open Toronto 2010 #49

Considering the many hoops I jumped through, I think this is a pretty good photograph. (I took a similar picture in landscape orientation, but I eventually deleted it.)

A brief word about this photo’s shutter speed is in order. Without my tripod, I don’t usually use speeds slower than 1/60 (i.e. 1/60th of a second), although I’ve taken a few good photos at 1/40. You’d probably think that using slower speeds would automatically lead to unusable photos. However, thanks to the railings and my stabilizing setup, 1/15 ended up being just the speed that I needed to complete this task.

May 30, 2010

Doors Open Toronto 2010 (May 29 2010)

Toronto's annual celebration of architecture took place on the weekend of May 29 and 30.

See the Flickr photo album.

May 25, 2010

Kitty's Revenge

Ever since buying my first prime lens (Nifty), my kit zoom lens (Kitty) has been relegated to the sidelines. There’s something to be said for zooming with your feet; it’s a valuable learning experience. However, as I mentally planned yesterday’s fireworks shoot, it occurred to me that using my primes would have been restrictive. Two factors would have prevented easy movement: being surrounded by other people and using my tripod (Legs), which is not as easy to swivel as my head. Also, considering the fact that my tripod allows for long exposures, the need for the widest apertures of fast prime lenses is lessened significantly.

Mind you, I did use my 35mm prime (Jane) to take photographs before the fireworks started. However, after setting up my tripod, I did what I haven’t done in a long time: I put my 18-55mm zoom lens on my D60 (Nicky). In retrospect, perhaps using Jane would not have been a bad idea, but in light of the aforementioned factors, Kitty’s flexibility was priceless last night. Also priceless was my wireless remote (Millie), which allowed me to avoid camera shake as a result of pressing the shutter button. It, along with Legs, also increased my photographer cred exponentially. :-)

If you haven’t noticed yet, I don’t have an astronomical amount of camera gear. I own one point-and-shoot, one DSLR body, three lenses (one zoom and two primes), one speedlight, two flash diffusers, one tripod and one wireless remote. Up to this point, my gear has served me well, regardless of how often it’s been used.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s not about having the most tools – just the right ones.

Victoria Day Fireworks: Ashbridge's Bay (May 24 2010)

Toronto's annual Victoria Day fireworks display took place at its usual location, Ashbridge's Bay.

See the Flickr photo album.

May 20, 2010

May 13, 2010

Blissed Off

I had been looking for a new phone for a few months. I was initially set on purchasing the LG Bliss, but my techno-lust grew so much that I started to consider acquiring a smartphone. The BlackBerry Bold 9700 was initially my cellphone of choice, but as time passed, my preference shifted to Apple’s iPhone.

After considering my habits (I mostly text and talk, but I don’t talk often) and the short- and long-term financial implications, I nixed the idea of owning a smartphone. I couldn’t justify paying at least fifty dollars per month for features I likely wouldn’t use. Besides, there are better things to do with a few hundred bucks than buying a phone up front – like buying new camera gear. ;-)

After returning to the idea of buying the Bliss, I did so last weekend.

It’s a big step up from my first cellphone, the Samsung a640, which I used on prepaid service for three years plus a few months. Thankfully, the Bliss is also available with prepaid service on Virgin Mobile (my provider), so I bypass the contract and steep monthly expenses. I’ve had it for less than one week, but it’s impressed the heck out of me thus far.

Last night, I discovered another reason (or five) to love it.

Thanks to the microSD card I bought yesterday afternoon, I can personalize the phone with my own photographs. This is rather cool.

May 06, 2010

Doctor My Eyes

Obviously, my visual health is very important to my photographic aspirations. Since I don’t have a family doctor at the moment, perhaps I shouldn’t be the one to write about the importance of regular check-ups. Nonetheless, I need to tell this story.

A few weeks ago, I had an eye exam with my optometrist; for the most part, it went as it normally does. However, she expressed a bit of concern with the results of my vision field test. (For this test, you stare straight ahead at a light and push a button when you see other lights blink.) Instead of sweeping this relatively minor issue (so I thought) under the rug, she took a cautious approach and scheduled an appointment for me to see an opthamologist. That appointment happened this morning at Mount Sinai Hospital in downtown Toronto.

After a few tests, including one more vision field test, the opthamologist gave me news which I wasn’t expecting: “You’re a glaucoma suspect.” This in itself does not mean that I have glaucoma, but the tests which were done this morning weren’t enough for him to properly diagnose me. He instructed me to see my optometrist in two months, then see him again in six months.

Glaucoma or otherwise, I’m glad that this issue was detected before it could rob me of one of my greatest pleasures and, perhaps, a lot of other ones...

May 03, 2010

Introvert Advantage?

Another good prop [to facilitate socializing] is a camera. Very often it’s the people who are snapping pictures at social gatherings who feel the most awkward.
-Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D., The Introvert Advantage; bracketed words are mine
The situation was already awkward when I arrived at Freedom Clothing Collective to photograph their sixth anniversary party. Not only was I the first guest, but I couldn’t properly engage the staff who were already present. Despite cracking one joke pertaining to a “black mannequin,” I seemed to have left my social skills at home.

When the first set of guests came in, this state of affairs changed from bad to worse; I became keenly aware of being alone in an expanding sea of strangers. This self-consciousness was similar to what struck me when I was at the Queen West Lululemon earlier this year, but this time around, it was debilitating. Instead of acting out, I froze and sulked at the implicit rejection of cliquesters who were too haute-blooded to reach out to people beyond their collective noses. I was also crippled by the possibility of explicit rejection resulting from introducing myself or taking photographs, since these actions would have made me stand out. It seemed as if my only option was to disappear by doing nothing; in any case, disappearing would have been better than putting up with reminders of my inability to fit in…once again.

My perception of this situation was so bad, in fact, that I considered erasing the few photos I did take, packing up my camera gear and returning home. I even turned off my camera a few times and replaced the lens cap in hopes of suddenly finding the courage to make an exit. If it wasn’t for Freedom curator Marsya Maharani asking me to take a photo, this escape would have become a reality instead of remaining a wish.

Shortly after taking this photo (which, ironically, was taken close to the store’s exit), I decided that I’d had enough of self-pity caused by my distorted discernment of a relatively minor situation. The comeback process was by no means instant nor easy, but it started with me making my way to the front of the audience and photographing Chère Françoise’s concert. By the time Abigail Lapell finished her set, I was back where I mentally needed to be.

A set of fourteen photos is by no means a record haul (although I don’t judge a shoot’s success by quantity anymore), but it’s better than leaving with nothing.

April 19, 2010

Bits And Pieces

Apart from my Flickr set posts, it’s been slow here at He Shoots… It’s not for a lack of trying; I’ve had a few ideas which ultimately weren’t worth posting full blog entries. However, in order to prove that the rumours of my death are greatly exaggerated, here are a few bits and pieces of what’s been happening with me.

  • Before the Protest Against Protests, someone recognized me and even called me by my Internet handle. I don’t recall seeing him at a previous shoot, though he may have seen me.

  • Record Store Day at Sonic Boom was the first event where Nifty (50mm lens) and Jane (35mm lens) really worked as a tag team. The resulting set would have been shortchanged if I had used only one of those lenses. Having said that, remembering to bring earplugs would have improved my overall experience. Ergo, I’ve packed one pair in my camera bag for similar situations in the future.

  • At that same shoot, my regular camera battery almost ran out of juice; before it died, I replaced it with my spare battery. Without it, I would have missed shots like this one (shot with Nifty):

    Record Store Day 2010 #62
    Andrew Scott of Sloan

  • I recently contemplated a smartphone purchase (i.e. BlackBerry or iPhone) due to my highly active Twitter account. However, this would not have been wise due to my current lack of steady income; my monthly expenses would have increased by at least $56.50. Also, buying the phone outright would have cost me at least $549.99! I could probably purchase more camera gear with that money.

  • Speaking of my Twitter account, there’s a reason I haven’t been posting too many individual pictures here. I’m now likely to post them to my Yfrog account, especially if I shot them with my point-and-shoot camera. Heck, I didn’t even post the last few that I shot with Nicky, but you can find them at that same Yfrog page. You can also find older shots at my TwitPic account.

April 08, 2010

Keep Toronto Reading 2010: Book Exchange (April 8 2010)

Regular Toronto citizens mingled with local celebrities to swap books in an event moderated by Misha Glouberman.

Click this post's title to see all 24 photos at my Flickr site.

April 03, 2010

Protest Against Protests 2010 (April 3 2010)

Improv In Toronto staged a protest against protests in downtown Toronto.

Click this post's title to see all 27 photos at my Flickr site.

April 01, 2010

It's Paid For

Earlier this morning, I logged into my online bank account and did something I didn’t think would be done so relatively quickly. That’s right, I eliminated my camera-related debt.

When I last took stock of my camera-related purchases, the total cost was $1,285.35 including taxes. I’ve since bought a few more items which I’ve listed below. All purchases were made at Downtown Camera; prices exclude taxes.
  • Nikon EN-EL9 battery: $79.99
  • Lambency flash diffuser: $39.99 (discounted to $27.99)
  • Manfrotto Tripod Kit – 190XBD legs + 804RC2 3-way head: $199.99
  • Tripod bag: $24.99
  • Sto-Fen flash diffuser: $31.99 (discounted to $28.79)
  • Nikon 35mm f1.8G DX lens: $275.00
  • Hoya 52mm UV filter: $19.99 (discounted to $17.99)
  • SanDisk Ultra 4GB memory card: $29.99

With taxes, these purchases total $773.74. Combined with the earlier total of $1,285.35, the total amount of money I’ve spent on camera gear is a whopping $2,059.09!

Thankfully, as of this morning, it’s all paid for. I feel no need to purchase additional gear; what I have right now satisfies my current needs.

March 30, 2010

Money, Shot

I had the pleasure of photographing social media personality Crystal Gibson’s birthday party yesterday evening. It’s not easy to balance photography with eating and socializing, but it’s also not impossible. At one point, the guests started assembling for a group shot; under normal circumstances, this would be cause for excitement. However, due to my autofocus-disabled Nifty Fifty lens and an unfavourable lighting situation, my chances of shooting a good shot were slim.

Picture the situation: me, my camera gear and eleven people – including the birthday girl herself – expecting me to take the shot of my life. Since I was shooting in manual mode (as I usually do), getting the settings right was an absolute must.

After muttering what must have been the shortest prayer of my life thus far, I photographed my first attempt. The resulting shot was too dark and probably unfocused; when I let the guests know that, a few of them weren’t too pleased. Still, they were gracious enough to give me a second attempt, which was also darker than I would have liked. Fortunately, it was focused enough that TK would live to see another day; the guests also liked it.

Naturally, I still had to address the lighting situation in my outdated copy of Photoshop Elements 4.0 in order to produce this final result.

#CrystalTO #17

If I could do it all over again, I would have used my other lens. Then again, this little victory would not have been as sweet as it is.