Autumn Scenery 2013

While on my way to Letchworth State Park in my previous post, I drove by some amazing landscapes where I just had to stop the car (on the side of the road) and enjoy the view. I got my camera out of the trunk, snapped a few photos, and was on my way in the car before you knew it. My wife will tell you otherwise though. 😉

That’s the beauty of a road trip: You’ll just never know what you’ll encounter on the roads! These views weren’t just of ordinary rolling hills though. They were trickled with windmills all over the landscape for as far as the eye can see. I wasn’t able to capture any up close, so you’ll have to live with these wide shots. But just imagine these towering over you with their sails whipping by you at great strengths. It’s awesome to say the least. Just try standing beneath Toronto’s lone windmill on the CNE grounds and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Fortunately, the rain had stopped momentarily just so I can get out and take these photos.

In the photo above, if you look at the far horizon on the left hand side, you’ll see a line of windmills spread out sporadically.

We have some more windmills with rolling greenery, taken with my 70-200mm f/2.8 to get as close as I could get from the streets.

And finally, this photo above just tells it all: overcast clouds, windmills in the background, rolling greenery with autumn colours showing throughout, and a lone farmhouse nestled amongst the trees. It’s just beautiful!

Happy road trips everyone!

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2013

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

It’s been a while since the last time I enjoyed Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. In fact, the last time I went was when the CN Tower took part in the event, allowing photographers and guests to go up to the top observatory all throughout the night. Why won’t they do that again?!

I decided to go this year because there were a few exhibits that piqued my curiosity. Rather than taking photos of just the exhibits themselves though, for the most part, I decided to include the observers in the photos along with the exhibits, making those photos more dynamic. This also gives a sense of how large and engaging the crowd was.

The introductory photo is of the Garden Tower in Toronto, by Tadashi Kawamata of Hokkaido, Japan. Walking into the tower and looking up from the side gave this unique vantage point.

Garden Tower in Toronto
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Romancing the Anthropocene
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

The Arctic Trilogy
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

1nspired Night
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

South on Bay from Queen
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Clothesline Canopy
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

The Big Crunch
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Watching the video on Ai Weiwei
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Crash Cars
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

You didn’t think I missed Ai Weiwei‘s Forever Bicycles did you?

Forever Bicycles close-up
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Forever Bicycles from ground level
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Forever Bicycles from second level
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Nathan Phillips Square
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Arowhon Pines in Algonquin Park

Muskoka chairs line the shores just outside the dining room.

For an all-inclusive resort within Algonquin Park, one cannot go wrong with a stay at Arowhon Pines. The resort, nestled off a dirt road from HWY 60, provides all the amenities one could want in an outdoor getaway. Whether you come here as a couple or as a family, it provides the perfect setting for a relaxing or activity-filled holiday.

To get to the resort, you have to drive through Arowhon Road, a 6-7km dirt road off of HWY 60 (16km from the west gate). Driving through this on the way in makes you wish that you don’t have to drive back out anytime soon. Fortunately, the resort caters to all of your needs, and they do it well enough that you don’t have to worry about this ride until you check out.

A one-night stay includes three meals, which are just fantastic. Each meal we had started off with an appetizer buffet that made our appetites grow even larger. Afterwards, we ordered from the menu, and for dinner, always finished off with a dessert buffet. How could you go wrong with that? Not only was the selection of food good, the quality of the food was just as good as they looked. The chefs do a great job with the presentation and creativity of the dishes that it was always a treat to see what each of us would be getting during mealtimes.

I never actually took any photos of the food since I was too busy eating it, but I did take a fair amount of photos outside in the park. So enjoy these photos, and know that you too can experience the great outdoors while getting pampered at Arowhon Pines.

Evening sunset at Arowhon Pines.

Sunset at Arowhon Pines

Blue hour at Arowhon Pines

The early mornings at Arowhon Pines brought about a lot of fog. I didn’t wake up early enough to catch the fog that was as high as a few feet above the water, but I did manage to get the last of it, at about 7:30am.

Early morning at Arowhon Pines

Early morning at Arowhon Pines

And one cannot get enough sunset photos in Algonquin Park.

Sunset at Arowhon Pines

Watch for my future posts where I will show some of my photos from my kayaking adventures in the park, and my first ever attempt at astrophotography…both posts coming soon!

Backyard Post

I have a rather large backyard but I haven’t been able to take advantage of it at all this year. With so many things to do inside the home, I have yet to be able to take care or let alone enjoy the outside of my home.

So over the weekend, I took a quick break and decided to shoot a series on the flowers and the bees hiding within them. It was overcast both days and it actually rained throughout one of the days, so sometimes it was hard to get to the bees—not to mention they move pretty quickly. These shots were taken with my 24-70 f/2.8 and a 105mm macro lens. Click on the thumbnails to see all the glorious details of the bees.

A showcase of colours from one of the trees in my backyard.

These flowers are late bloomers in that all Spring I was wondering if anything was going to happen with the trees. Alas, these started to bloom the other day, but are already starting to die. We have colourful benches in our backyard that are just waiting to be used too.

Flowers and the bees

And we also have some tomato plants, where we pick a few each day for our dinner. We’re just waiting for that eggplant to grow a little bigger, and hope that it actually tastes like an eggplant.

These bees were flying all over the place, trying their best to suck all the sweet nectar from the flowers. Covered in pollen, it was a sight to see.

Bee getting to the sweet stuff

After the bee sucked all the nectar, it made its way to a dead flower and did some other things there that I’m not quite sure of.

Flowers and the bees

So that’s pretty much what I captured of my flowers and the bees. The bees live a pretty busy life as you can see. Let’s hope one of these days I’ll be able to enjoy more of my backyard, so that I can share even more photos of it.
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Flowers and the bees

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto II

Just over a month ago I posted my experience with Luminato Festival and its partnership with Lomography. Fast forward to July 18, 2013 where I was finally able to see my results from the Lomography workshop that I attended that day, along with the photos from the Youth Volunteer Photography Program at Luminato Festival.

The Toronto Lomography store was nice enough to host a small party for us to view our photos on a rolling slideshow, along with preparing the Lomowall, which had the several hundred photos that we took throughout the 10-day festival.

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto

It was a nice throwback seeing all those images that we took from the workshop and during the festival. Complete with all the special effects that Lomos are capable of, the Lomowall that was hung with all our photos was a treat for our senses. The wall is two sided and has all of our photos that we took with the Sardinia camera. The wall will be up in the Toronto Lomography store until the end of this month, which is also an exciting bonus for all of us.

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto

The walls of the Lomography store are covered with Lomo pictures making them for a perfect backdrop for none other than party pictures with party props! I think they did a great job rockin’ these props!

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto

The party just kept going in front of the wall!

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto

And of course, what party wouldn’t be complete without a giveaway!

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto

The following photos were taken with the Lomo Sardina, which I used during the workshop earlier in June. They were a blast to play with, as you can see.

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto

And as always, all good things must come to an end…just like any film roll…but wait, that’s actually the beginning of the roll…

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto

Here’s the little package that Lomography gives you when you are finished with the roll in the Sardina that you used during the workshop. I had requested my negatives not to be cut since I had used the panorama feature of the camera. Not sure how it actually looks on the negs, but we’ll see as soon as I unroll it!

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto

What’s in my bag?!

I’ve read a lot of other photographer’s posts on various sites on the contents of their bag when they go out shooting. So I thought I’d join in on the fun and let you all see what was in my bag during the 10 days that I was shooting the Luminato Festival. While the contents may have changed slightly from one day to another, the picture here displays the minimum amount of items that I carried for those 10 days.

Let’s break this down by the numbers, shall we?

  1. That’s my trusty old Crumpler Formal Lounge bag that’s no longer in production. I bought this several years ago to take with me on my backpacking trip to Europe, where I carried three lenses and a Nikon D80 film camera with me wherever I went. The bag—even to this day—is by far the most comfortable bag I’ve ever used to carry my camera gear in. It’s a little old, all but one of the zippers have broken off of it, and there’s absolutely no more cushion in the shoulder straps, so I think it’s about time I get a replacement. Any suggestions from out there? This weighs about 1.8kg on its own.
  2. That’s my weapon of choice: Nikon D800. It’s heavy, but it does some pretty neat things. And I love it! Attached to it, shown in the photo, is my 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, which I also love. One look and people think it’s a fisheye, but really, it’s just a really, really, wide-angled lens. It weighs in at a good 2.13lbs (969g).
  3. And that’s the other lens I carried with me wherever I went: 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII. It’s a beauty alright. I love that one as well, even though it weighs 3.4lbs (1.54kg)! It’s great for getting those far away shots on stage, and getting up close and personal with people from afar.
  4. That’s a Macbook Pro. It’s a rather old Macbook Pro, dating back to about 2008. It’s also very, very heavy at 5.0lbs (2.27kg). Urgh! I carried that thing so that I can start “starring” and filtering my photos for the day in Adobe Lightroom, on my subway trip back home. It saved me a load of time from having to do it once I got home to my desktop. During daytime shoots, I would just set myself down at the Hub (typically in the Volunteer Center where they had electrical outlets) and worked away on the photos on my Macbook so that I was done with them even before I got home. The battery doesn’t last more than 30 minutes now so I needed a plug wherever I settled myself down. I think it’s time for a Macbook Air: that will for sure save me in my costs for neck and shoulder massages!
  5. These are the miscellaneous items I had in my front pocket of my Crumpler.
    • I need a tissue wherever I go thanks to my lifelong, yearlong allergy symptoms.
    • And to save me from having to use my tissue, I had some allergy pills in case of emergency. I used them once during the 10 days.
    • SPF60 sunscreen. I hate wearing sunscreen. Because of that, I now have wrinkles around me eyes. But I carried this tube anyway as some days it was just too sunny even for my wrinkles. I actually used it quite a bit. Thanks L’Oreal!
    • While not shown here, I used to carry a small, portable Luminato-branded umbrella that I tucked in the side strap of my camera bag. It worked well, but broke during the week while using it.
    • I got this plastic rain poncho nearing the end of my 10 days. It saved me from getting soaked during the sudden downpours over the second weekend. I was out in the open when the storm came so this was a lifesaver (and camera-saver).
    • And finally, my Luminato lanyard. This was my all-access pass so I needed to wear this wherever I went. It also served as a pocket for my pen and waiver release forms that I needed for some of my photos.
    • A lens-cleaning cloth. Definitely a must for any photographer on the go. I used this in the middle of a shift to clean the inside of my camera because somehow a huge sticky substance made its way onto the mirror inside. A cloth is much more versatile than a lens-cleaning pen since it can get at almost any area on/in the camera. No lens-cleaning pen would have solved my mirror spot problem.
  6. This is my tripod. It’s a Gitzo Explorer series, which is another amazing tool that I love. It’s not carbon fiber so it’s quite heavy when you carry it with you for an extended period of time. It weighs in at 2.35kg for the legs, and 1.1kg for the head for a total of 3.45kg. It’s big, it’s tall, it’s a crappy thing to have to carry with you wherever you go. But with it, I’m able to take pictures like the one you see below. It makes it worthwhile once I see my end results with it. Again, without it, my massage bills would be drastically reduced. See that strap around the center post of my tripod? One of the other photographers commented on how he liked it a lot. I told him, I took that strap off a gym bag and now use it as my shoulder strap for my tripod. I have two of them so that I can carry my tripod like a backpack. It works well even though I may look silly carrying it. Most festival photographers probably don’t carry a tripod around with them since their gear and accessories are enough as it is. I don’t blame them. But it’s something I do since I believe it makes my pictures that much more pleasing than if I were to handhold a shot in low-light situations.

Without a tripod, photos like this would be much harder to get since I can’t put my camera on anything stable in the middle of an open area or halfway down a flight of stairs, like I was on when I took this photo.

Let’s round up the weight:
Crumpler Formal Lounge bag: 1.8kg
Nikon D800 body only: 900g
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII: 1.54kg
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8: 969g
Macbook Pro: 2.27kg
Gitzo Explorer Tripod and Head: 3.45kg

For a grand total of: 10.929kg. If you add in all the miscellaneous items, the total weight will exceed 11kg, or 24.25lbs!

I don’t know about you, but that equates to some long hours on the massage table for me. It’s kind of amazing that I was still standing up after 10 days.

So there you have it. Perhaps this is light compared to what you carry, or perhaps it’s overkill to others. Each photographer works differently and has their own set of goodies in their own bag. That’s why it’s always a nice insight to see what others carry.

The most important thing is, carry what you need to get the job done to your liking.

Luminato Festival 2013

Now that the Luminato Festival for 2013 has come to an end and I have somewhat returned to my regular routine, I’ve had some time to edit my images taken during the festival. As one of four festival photographers, it was an adventure every night with changing schedules and surprises along the way. While this post is by no means an exhaustive list of the photos that I’ve taken during this 10-day extravaganza of art and creativity, it does shed some light into the variety of the events the festival hosts. And a variety it was, as events ranged from a series of “in conversation” talks to nightly (free) concerts at the hub, to doll exhibits and outreach programs like the L’Allegro Movement Project to Future Tastes of Toronto, and more.

Each year “the Hub” is decked out in true Luminato fashion. This year, the (world’s largest?) mirror ball was raised almost 60 feet above ground. Spinning elegantly in the evening light, with spotlights shining from all angles, the resulting reflections added to the festive spirit at David Pecaut Square, just next door to Roy Thomson Hall.

Depending on when you went to the hub, you would get a different feeling of the area as the mirror ball may have been raised or lowered, spinning or not, and with spotlights or no lights.

And looking towards the stage at the Hub, we had our nightly free concerts that are always a huge crowd pleaser. One of the reasons why I love these concerts is that it introduces us to artists that we would have otherwise not known about. Take for example, X Alfonso. They started their set with a short video of their roots in Cuba. Then, without any introduction or talk, the musicians make their way on stage and immediately rock their instruments with a BIG bang. It literally blew me away as I was not expecting this at all (that, and well, I was standing right in front of the stage and speaker!). The energy on stage from the artists was very electrifying.

Now this was a fun event! The Future Tastes of Toronto was held during the opening weekend of the Luminato Festival at the Distillery District. With the food lab challenge, pictured here, the two chefs in the kitchen had to battle it out in a 30-minute cook-off based on a secret ingredient the kids had chosen. Finally, after the time limit, the kids decided who the winner was. The judges were great with their expressions and overall were pretty lenient with the marks.

During the same day as the Future Tastes event, I was called upon to do a quick production shoot for Ronnie Burkett and his marionnettes. I didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t seen the show at the time. The shoot turned out well, and we all had a fun time doing it.

The L’Allegro Movement Project was a very touching event to have been shooting, and I was fortunate enough to capture this moment during a last minute change in schedule. The outreach project brought together students from Nelson Mandela Park PS and the Toronto Dancing with Parkinson’s group with dancers and teachers from the Mark Morris Dance Group‘s Dance for PD® program. With their colourful and bright costumes, the students brought forth their enthusiasm and passion to this program.

Before the show, I asked the kids to give me their best dance move, and this is what they gave me! It was a fun room full of energy that evening.

The Literary Picnic was to be a highlight of the festival but unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, forcing the event to be cancelled midway. It was very unfortunate as only a handful of the 60 authors lined up to talk ever made it to the stage. It was great to see people turn out even in the rain though. During the splash of sun that came out that day, the people did enjoy the poems and stories that were read out loud.

The Courtyard Revue? Oh, I was there too! With bands like Vag Halen and Aurora playing nightly, it was a late night treat for the senses.

And for a more toned down event, the lunch time and evening illumination talks were a big hit as well.

And finally…backtracking to concerts at the Hub. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra once again made their mark on stage at David Pecaut Square as they played a tribute to composers Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi’s 200th birthdays. The evening was conducted by Peter Oundjian and joined by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir to make one spectacular concert.

After the festival ended, I was asked, “what’s the one favourite photo you took during the festival?” One favourite? Is that even possible? While no single photo immediately popped up in my mind, I did have a few choice photos where I thought I captured that moment well. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I would say the following would be one of my favourites of the festival. Why you ask? To me, it captures what was happening that evening. The lighting from the stage makes the audience members stand out and almost makes you feel like you’re in the crowd with them. What’s behind their heads? Well, it’s all left to your imagination as you get a glimpse of the orchestra and choir in the middle.

And with that, this mini-rundown of the Luminato Festival 2013 ends. Hopefully you’ve gained some insight to what this festival is all about, and that you may be interested in seeing some of the events next year. Until then…

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto

As a volunteer for the Luminato Festival for the past six years, and an instructor for the Community and Outreach department’s Youth Volunteer Photography Program for the past three years, it’s been a great privilege for me to be able to work with a fantastic group of people, doing some fun things before—and during—the festival. And this year was no different. For our second youth photography session after I taught some photography tips and techniques, we all made our way to the Toronto Lomography Store on Queen Street, where they gave us a quick workshop on what Lomography is all about, and on how to use one of their cameras. We each got a La Sardina camera to play with during the workshop, learned how to put in and take out a roll of film (yes, film still does exist!), and took in some tips on how to best use our Lomos for some great effects like panoramas and double exposures.

After the workshop, we took a walk to Kensington Market where we all snapped away to exhaust our 36 roll of film. While I’ve tinkered with toy cameras before—and even own a bright orange Blackbird, Fly—this was my first time with a Lomo. I’m surprised it took me this long.

These photos below were taken with my Nikon D800. The pictures I took with my Lomo will come at a later time, when they process the film and digitize it for all to see. Click on each photo thumbnail for a larger version.

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto

The Luminato youth photographers sit and learn enthusiastically with their new toy for the workshop while the instructor and helpers helped us with loading the camera, and winding the rolls.

The Lomography store is filled with lots of toys and goodies for the photographer in all of us. With the large array of Lomos available—each with their own special effect—it was fun times for all of us trying to soak in the Lomo experience. The Lomo wall they had with a large collage of photos taken with their cameras was equally intriguing and inspiring to look at.

One of the things that both Lomography and I stressed during each of our workshops was to be creative with our photography. These cameras are really fun to play around with, so whether it be taking photos from ground-level, or just taking blind shots from the waist, it was good to experiment to see what you can come up with.

I was happy to see that many of the youths were in fact getting creative and doing things to get that one truly unique picture.

Getting down low for a different perspective.

With the clouds rolling in, it looked like we were in for a wet one. Fortunately, the rain held back for us to be able to enjoy our outing with our Lomos.

One tip that I like to tell my students: always be prepared. Walking down the street, this man with a shopping cart and puppy sticking his head out of a shoulder bag came out of nowhere. Before even seeing if my camera was set properly, I brought it up and snapped the photo at waist-level.

Luminato and Lomography in Toronto

And finally, I leave this blog post with one of my favourite shots of the day. Although it’s a relatively simple photo, there are so many things going on in it, that it makes for great storytelling and individual interpretations.

So many things going on in this simple photo!

For additional details on how you and your group can reserve a Lomography workshop, contact the Toronto Lomography store here.

City Hall at Doors Open 2013

This past weekend saw many of Toronto’s finest buildings and architectural wonders open their doors to the public. Doors Open Toronto, now in its 14th year, saw locals and tourists come out over the past weekend as the sun was shining bright, and the temperatures were just so right.

Although I only had a brief moment to enjoy the event, I was able to go to City Hall where I took in the scenery from the 27th floor observation deck, and also made it down to 3C to the council chamber.

City Hall grounds as seen from the ramp.

Here’s a black and white study on the City Hall twin towers.

Doors Open Toronto

And lastly, a panorama taken from the 27th floor observation deck, facing southeast.

Doors Open Toronto