Greetings from Bulgaria


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While our travels have been entertaining, relaxing, and sometimes adventurous, I haven’t had the time to make a blog post about it!

Heading out for dinner shortly, but I thought I would take a few moments and post some pictures!

The night shots were taken where we are now in Varna, Bulgaria. The other shots were taken during our brief stay in Brussels, Belgium. Enjoy!

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A Day in Toronto with a View Camera: Six Pictures


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I attended a recent photowalk in Downtown Toronto with a group of photographers who share their images on Google+. Google+ has a great community of photographers, and when I learned of this little adventure, I had to tag along!

I got to thinking that it would make for a great learning experience and conversation starter to shoot most of the day with just my Large Format 4×5 View Camera. Not sure what that is? Take a look:

(Photo courtesy of Ron Clifford)

The camera is big, uncomfortable to carry, and tricky to set up. You also view the entire image upside down on the back, a fun experience that I’ve yet to get tired of. The camera exposed sheets of film 4″x5″ in size, capable of giving me 300-400 megapixel scans. It may be old, but used correctly it can be extremely powerful.

I loaded six sheets of film into film holders the night before the photowalk: 2 black&white, 4 colour. Here is what I came up with.

Frame #1:

I saw this old building, still well kept in it’s own right, cast in the shadows of the modern skyscrapers around it. Something felt right about photographing it with an old camera.

Frame #2:

I watched this wedding party travel through Kensington Market – a great place for alternative wedding pics! I set up the camera anticipating their movements, and at just the right moment a cyclist entered the frame. When shooting with a view camera, you cannot see through the viewfinder at the moment you press the shutter – it was guesswork trying to get the timing right.

Frame #3:

In the mark of Kensington Market, I noticed this coffee shop with people around. I set up the composition that I wanted, and waiting for the right arrangement of people and interaction. I could have stood there for hours waiting for just the right moment, but eventually took an opportunity. Bonus points if you can find the skateboarder in this image. 🙂

Frame #4:

Heading towards the harbourfront, we briefly stopped by the Rogers Center. I’m not sure why I had this shot in mind, but I had envisioned it before we arrived. I wanted to frame the CN Tower with other landmarks in the city, and this fit the bill. I’m going to try to use this negative for some alternative-process contract prints when I find the time.

Frame #5:

Oops! I goofed up on this one, but learned some lessons. Don’t try to use a view camera on a moving boat would be the most important of those lessons, followed by properly cleaning the film holders. A very dusty image! Ah well, this was a shot I could waste anyhow, I just had one more image in mind for the day, and now one sheet of film left.

Frame #6:

The City of Toronto as seen from Olympic Island (right next to Centre Island) at night. I set up the camera and got everything framed and in focus before sunset, ready for the right moment. A minute and a half exposure, I was pleasantly surprised by the results. The film I was using, Portra 400, did suffer from reciprocity failure a little, but I can live with it. Shortly after this image was made, we packed up and started on our way home.

It was a great day and a great learning experience. One of the things I keep telling myself is to keep trying new things in photography – never stop learning and never stop experimenting. Many of the other photographers on the walk were taking hundreds of pictures. I had no choice but to look at a scene and tell myself whether or not it was worth one of six pictures I could take. So many times I said “no” without even looking through the camera. Being selective is a good thing!

(Photo courtesy of Chris Bagley)

I’ll be the first to admit that 4×5 camera are not the easiest to carry around with on photo walks, my shoulder was a little sore the next day!

Nights with Stars


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We had a crystal clear sky, and with the moon rise set for just after 1AM, it meant a window of opportunity between about 10:30PM and 1AM to photograph the stars.

I had picked out the location earlier this year, at the end of Wilkins Walk here in Barrie. There is a small stream that connects to Kempenfelt Bay and I envisioned a star trail shot here. So, I set out to enjoy the stars.

Along the way, some large fish were splashing in the stream as they moved against the flow. It startled me at first, as walking through a small patch of forest alone at night can make you very alert. I also noticed that Trilliums so not close up at night, and they were glowing along the sides of the trail when my flashlight hit them. It was a beautiful walk to the location, even though I was a little on edge.

After arriving and trying a few different compositions and lenses, I settled on a fisheye shot framed with silhouettes of trees on either side of the stream. The atmosphere was beautiful, and there was even a Great Blue Heron fishing in complete darkness nearby. The bird wasn’t affected by my presence, almost as if we both had a right to be there.

It was at this point that I realized I had forgotten my remote shutter release at home, and had no way to continuously trigger my camera for the star trail shot I was after. After a few frustrating moments, I found a simple solution: using packing tape I carry in my camera bag, I taped a small pebble over the shutter release button to keep it depressed for as long as I wanted to sit under the stars.

For the next hour and a half, I sat and listened to the sounds of midnight nature. The occasional restless songbird, the waves, and fish jumping at flies. At one point I heard the sound of a Mallard Duck’s wings overhead, flying into the distance.

It’s times like this that you’re compelled to reflect on who you are, where you are, and the path you’ve taken to get there. While daydreaming under the stars, the stress of daily frustrations fade away and the most valuable things in life become as clear as the night sky. Memories, love, career choices, hopes and dreams yet to be fulfilled. Being lost in thought is a powerful way to find yourself. The only reminder as to why I was there was the occasional “click|clock” of the camera, ending one exposure and beginning another.

When my alarm buzzed in my pocket at 1AM, I packed up the equipment and headed back to the car. Teeth chattering this time from the cool air, I checked on the fish in the stream – still forging upwards. The Trilliums were still glowing and everything else was waiting for the first light of the new day to spring back to life. I got what I came for, and found more than I expected.

This is the image that I brought home:

This inspired me to do more star trail images. The next one I created was over the town of Collingwood, as seen from the top of The Blue Mountains:

That night was more filled with fear of wild animals than anything, and I drove my car beyond the allowed boundaries to stay comfortable while my camera worked it’s magic.

Checking the weather, it looked like another star trail opportunity opened up for my trip to Sudbury. I was headed up to visit family for a delicious BBQ, and went up one day earlier to capture a star trail shot at The Big Nickel, one of Sudbury’s landmarks. I challenge you to show me a more amazing photograph of this icon:

… and finally, a few nights ago I took a new lens for a test-drive. Canon’s new 8-15mm Fisheye lens creates a circular image so wide that when pointed upwards, anything on the horizon higher than the camera is in the frame, including the tree tops. While not a star trail (clouds were moving in), it rounds out the experience… one I intend to pursue again in my travels:

I’d like to finish this post by saying that we do not see the world as it is, but rather the way it is useful for us to see. There are many different ways to see the world around us, and all of them difficult from our own eyes. 🙂

Macro Photography @ Georgian College


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With spring here and an abundance of insects and flowers to photograph, I’ve been busy! Just like this busy honey bee I captured yesterday:

My Macro Photography course is starting at Georgian College, from May 22nd to June 5th.

The course is 15 hours (9 classroom, 6 in the field) and covers all areas of macro photography. From gear to technical info, composition and all the tricks to take fun pictures like this Dandelion refraction image:

I’ll even have preserved snowflakes on hand!

Here’s the details:

Where?: Georgian College Barrie Campus
Who?: Anyone! No prerequisites, and special lenses are not required!
Cost: $132.00
When: May 22 – June 5, 2012, Tuesday Nights 7-10PM
Saturday June 2nd, 9AM-3PM Outing
Course CRN: #35105
Sign Up: Click Here for Georgian College signup page

I’ll need a few more participants in the course before it can run! It’s a great opportunity to expand your photography and learn all my secrets. 🙂 If you know someone that is interested, please pass the info along.

And for those that simply enjoy the photographs with no desire to make your own – here’s a gallery to browse of some recent images:

Fisheye Toronto


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I got a phone call from a colleague this week to hop in a helicopter above downtown Toronto. “Awesome!” I say, “when?”… leaving immediately!

I did some promotional video work for Eye In The Sky Photography, and then had a moment to try my own thing – a fisheye image about 1800ft above Toronto’s shoreline. This was the result:

It turned out exactly as I envisioned it, and I’m thrilled to have been given the opportunity to make this image. It’s one of those days of random adventure, and a reason why I love my job!

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