Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room – Let’s Survive Forever

Last year’s Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario was so successful that their crowdfunding campaign to purchase a permanent exhibit of hers was met with so much love.

Click here to read my Photographic Guide to Kusama Yayoi’s Infinity Mirrors.

Yayoi Kusama's exhibit, Mirrored Room - Let's Survive Forever, at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada.
Yayoi Kusama’s Let’s Survive Forever introductory panel.

A year later, Toronto finds itself as the latest city to host a permanent exhibit of Yayoi Kusama’s. Named INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM – LET’S SURVIVE FOREVER, the room is almost double the size of some of last year’s exhibits, and brings together three former exhibits into one large mirrored room.

Yayoi Kusama's exhibit, Mirrored Room - Let's Survive Forever, at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada.
Looking inside of Yayoi Kusama’s Let’s Survive Forever at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Nikon Z 7, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/640sec., 14mm.

The permanent exhibit is placed inside the Signy Eaton North Gallery space on Level 2, where on the outside, an LCD screen lists all of the donors names.

The list of donors scrolling on an LCD screen just outside the entrance to the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

You’ll get approx. 1min. to enjoy the room. While staff say that’s more than enough time, if you’re busy taking photographs, you’ll find that minute will fly by very quickly.

Yayoi Kusama’s Let’s Survive Forever description of the silver balls.

This is a permanent exhibit, which opens to the public on May 25th, 2019, so if you don’t get a chance to see the exhibit during its opening frenzy, not to worry as you will eventually get your chance. Donors to the art installation are able to preview the exhibit starting today.

Inside Yayoi Kusama’s Let’s Survive Forever. Nikon Z 7, ISO 400, 1/640, f/5.6, 14mm.

I recommend first taking the time to enjoy the room as it were meant to be enjoyed—without the distraction of taking pictures and selfies. Then, experience the room again with your camera.

Closer to the silver balls on the ground. Nikon Z 7, ISO 400, 1/640, f/5.6, 14mm.

For those interested, I’ve written down my camera settings under each photo so hopefully this will help you in preparing to take your own photos. They were taken on my Nikon Z 7 and for the majority of my photos, at ISO400, 1/640sec., f/5.6, with my 14-24mm f/2.8 lens set at 14mm for that wide angle perspective.

The silver ball! Nikon Z 7, ISO400, 1/640, f/5.6, 14mm.

Upon entering, a staff member will first remind you that no tripods or selfie-sticks are allowed, and that you will need to hand-hold everything close to your body to prevent anything from hitting those mirrored/silver balls. A group of four will be allowed to enter at one time, so you may end up being grouped with people you don’t know—especially during busy periods like at the opening of the exhibit.

Reflecting in one of the silver balls hanging from the ceiling. Nikon Z 7, ISO400, 1/640, f/5.0, 14mm.

With a large enough space to walk around in, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room contains a smaller version of a supplementary installation that AGO had previously hosted, Narcissus Garden. Silver balls hang from the ceiling so pay close attention you don’t hit them during your walk.

The mirrored column. Nikon Z 7, ISO400, 1/640, f/5.6, 14mm.

A mirrored column in the centre of the room has several windows to peer through, providing a kaleidoscope of enjoyment, similar to another one of Kusama’s exhibits from last year—the ones without the flashing LED lights. These windows have a glass front, unlike those we saw last year. Be careful you don’t hit the glass with your camera or nose.

Inside the mirrored column in the centre of the room. Nikon Z 7, ISO400, 1/640, f/5.6, 14mm.

It’s a wonderful exhibit to experience, and I’m happy to have it permanently located at the Art Gallery of Ontario so that we literally have forever to enjoy it.

Let me know in the comments below what you thought about this exhibit.

Unzipped Toronto

The Unzipped exhibit in Toronto is a unique opportunity to browse through projects from the architecture company Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), and those in collaboration with real estate development firm Westbank Corporation. It’s housed in the 2016 Serpentine Pavilion, which attempts to contrast the free-flowing element of a zipper to that of something of the opposite—a brick wall. As you walk in the pavilion, the brick wall—made of fibreglass frames—opens up like a zipper, creating the inner cavity. The open frames and the translucent properties of the fibreglass wall give off plenty of light-play within, as people move about outside and inside the structure.

Unzipped Toronto with the CN Tower.

From the entrance—facing south from King Street—you see the “wall” open up in front of you as you walk in. But seen from the east, facing west, the pavilion is seen as a perfect rectangle, mimicking a brick wall.

The exhibit is rectangular in shape when seen from the east or west side.

It is quite unique to see something like this in the middle of an urban street like King Street, and is a joy to walk in and around it on the lawn that was also created around this exhibit. Believe it or not this area was originally a parking lot!

If you get the chance, I recommend you go see it for yourself, even if it is to just sit down on the grass with a cup of coffee, enjoying the view around you.

Enjoying the view from the faux hill.

Booking is required, and you can register for your time slot here.

Here’s a gallery of images that I took from when I went during the opening weekend.

Mosaïculture Gatineau 2018

Every now and again I come across art exhibitions that really make an impression on me—Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror earlier this year being one of them. When I visited the nation’s capital on Canada Day, I took a trip across the Alexandra bridge to Gatineau, Quebec where the Mosaïculture Gatineau 2018 exhibit was being held. I didn’t know what to expect from this exhibit at first, but as I made my way to the park, parts of it revealed itself and I knew I was in for something exciting.

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A Photographic Guide to Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors

Art Gallery of Ontario
March 3 – May 27, 2018

Scattered across all of our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms are no doubt a feast to our senses. While most may know her for these other-worldly rooms, I had always known her to be the artist behind Pumpkin (April 20, 2017 – March 21, 2018), the polka-dotted pumpkins that were hung from the second floor ceiling as the opening installation for the Ginza Six shopping destination in Tokyo, Japan. Very unique in nature, and unknown to me at the time, I later found out the reoccurring pumpkin theme in her work is more a representation of an entity that had kept her at bay during her childhood, than anything else.

My first encounter with Yayoi Kusama. Pumpkin, at Ginza Six in Tokyo, Japan.

As we learn more about Kusama, we realize there is so much more to her than what we see on the surface: fun-filled brightly coloured works of art. On the contrary, many of her pieces have a deeper connection to her younger years where she began having hallucinations, and produced a fear for the male body witnessing her father’s womanizing behaviours.

The Art Gallery of Ontario logo dressed up in Yayoi Kusama fashion.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, at the Art Gallery of Ontario is the only Canadian stop for this exhibit, and features six kaleidoscopic rooms (filled with mirrors to mimic a never-ending space) in addition to an exhibition of her paintings, sculptures, drawings, and more, representing 70 years of her work. According to the AGO, it’s an exhibit like none other they have ever presented before.


After experiencing the exhibit myself, I’ve noted down a few pointers at the end of this post in hopes of helping you when you experience this exhibit for yourself. And for those of you who are wondering, YES, I highly recommend you go, if you’re able to grab a ticket.

This exhibit is unique in that you only get 20-25 seconds inside the Infinity Mirror Rooms. Because of this, I highly encourage attendees to forego concentrating on taking pictures inside and actually enjoy the exhibit with their own eyes. A simple selfie here or there is fine, but just don’t make it a selfie exhibition tour. Even though I write this, I know there will be those that really want photos, so I’ve gone ahead and written my camera settings down under each photo—perhaps this will help to eliminate the need to fiddle with your cameras inside. This is for guidance only though, since all cameras are different. See my notes at the end of this post.

Entering the exhibit from the main floor, we are confronted with this grand sign below. It’s a good taste of what’s to come.

You’ll line up in a bright and airy room only to have to take the elevator up to the actual exhibition floor. The entire exhibit spans two floors, which is a good thing to spread the crowd.

Depending on which way you go from the elevator, this photographic tour may be backward for you. In my case, I simply went clockwise from the entrance.

The elevators are located around the left here, and the first Infinity Mirror Room is to the right of this wall.

The first wall explaining the exhibit.

Phalli’s Field, 1965

This Infinity Mirror Room consists of thousands of stuffed cotton creations. These serve as a symbol of her fear of the male body, which developed from her childhood years as she witnessed her father’s womanizing behaviours. Standing in the middle of the room almost felt like I was standing out into a bright open field full of interesting objects jutting from the ground. In no way did I ever think these creations were what they were intended to be.

14mm, 1/100 sec., f/2.8, ISO 400

If you have the opportunity, try crouching down or standing tall. You’ll get different vantage points that may be more interesting than just shooting straight on.

14mm, 1/100 sec., f/2.8, ISO 400

And you can experiment by taking close-up photos and wider shots as well…if you have the time.

14mm, 1/200 sec., f/2.8, ISO 800

The Infinity Mirror Rooms may look large from the inside, but they are in fact quite small when you look at them from the outside.

The Phalli’s Field Infinity Mirror Room.

In between rooms, you’ll encounter some striking paintings and sculptures. This one in particular caught my eye because of its colour and texture.

Another piece that is quite striking.

Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009

This next Infinity Mirror Room transports you into a space filled with flickering golden lanterns that seem to defy gravity. These lanterns are symbolic of those in a Japanese ceremony that sees lanterns drifting away down a river, guiding spirits back to their resting place.

As you enter this room the lanterns quickly turn off. You’re left standing in darkness letting you contemplate life. But only for a brief moment. Gradually, the lanterns turn on, flickering rhythmically until you are surrounded by the magnificent orange glow, minus the warmth.

No tripods are allowed, so I tried something different to contrast the lanterns on top. 14mm, 2.0 sec., f/9.0, ISO 1000

Of course, a shot looking straight is always nice too.

The brightness will change depending on the glow of the lanterns. 14mm, 1/25 sec., f/4.5, ISO 1600

Take a look at this intriguing artwork too, right after the Infinity Mirror Room.

Continuing on, we arrive at the pink room, which is more interactive than the first two we entered.

Dots Obsession—Love Transformed into Dots, 2007

This room allows you to walk within it and experience infinity in an interactive way, peering inside a balloon and being enveloped by them. This exhibit allows you to admire the beauty of these dots in a more personable level as you’re able to spend a little more time here.

14mm, 1/50 sec., f/2.8, ISO 1600

Walking through this room, you’ll get a chance to walk into one of these pink balloons, which in turn is filled with even more pink balloons.

23mm, 1/50 sec., f/2.8, ISO 800

You can never escape being pictured in any of these Infinity Mirror Rooms.

14mm, 1/25 sec., f/3.2, ISO 1600

I’m hiding behind a balloon!

14mm, 1/50 sec., f/6.3, ISO 1600

This particular Infinity Mirror Room is big enough to fit up to four people. It could be because there was no line to get in here that they didn’t time my entry, but I found more people doing selfies here than anywhere else. It’s certainly bright (and pink) enough for it.

14mm, 1/50 sec., f/2.8, ISO 800

The next stop in this pink room is the balloon that you peer into.

24mm, 1/50 sec., f/2.8, ISO 800

My favourite part is the approach and transition when you peer into the balloon from the hole on the left. From a room filled with giant hanging balloons your view is instantly transformed into something so surreal. It was quite the experience for me (and one you can experience through my Instagram Stories Highlights). You may be too busy trying to maneuver your iPhone into or around this tiny hole, but when you do, don’t forget to appreciate this one by actually peering in yourself and admiring the beauty within it.

70mm, 1/200 sec., f/3.2, ISO 400

You can get so close to these balls that it actually feels like you’re in the room yourself.

70mm, 1/80 sec., f/6.3, ISO 200

Trying to get that shot. While a wide angle is nice, this particular balloon will benefit from a much tighter focal length. A 50mm may work wonders by allowing you to get that much closer to what’s inside.

22mm, 1/25 sec., f/6.3, ISO 1600

At 24mm, you can’t help but get the outside of this hole in your frame.

24mm, 1/160 sec., f/6.3, ISO 800

Our next stop, directly at the exit of the pink room, is Love Forever. This Infinity Mirror Room may look small, but it sure packs a punch. There is another opening on the other side of this Infinity Mirror Room.

14mm, 1/40 sec., f/3.2, ISO 800

Love Forever, 1966/1994

A hexagonal room with two windows, allows yourself and another to be seen within the infinity room. Do this with your partner to see the expression on their face as you both peer into this light show. The hexagonal shape of the light is sort of Tron-esque and its full effect isn’t realized until your peripheral vision also includes the lights in the Infinity Mirror Room. Admire yourself in the mirror from the outside, then peer through the opening (without your phone!) and look around to get the full effect.

14mm, 1/60 sec., f/4.0, ISO 400

These lights change so fast, it’s almost a surprise to see which colour you got when you pressed the shutter button.

14mm, 1/60 sec., f/4.0, ISO 400

And spotting someone walking by the other hole, I grabbed this image.

20mm, 1/100 sec., f/7.1, ISO 800

Go around the corner and you’ll see this exhibit again.

14mm, 1/60 sec., f/6.3, ISO 800

At this point you’ve made a full circle of the first floor of the exhibit. You can make your way up the stairs to get to the second floor of Infinity Mirrors. One of the first things you’ll see on the second floor of the exhibit is this hallway. This is where a running video of an interview with Kusama is playing. You can sit on the couch and enjoy the show, which is in Japanese with English subtitles.

You can watch the interview with Kusama here.

The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013

Created with hundreds of LEDs hanging and pulsating, this Infinity Mirror Room transports you to an other-worldly experience. When the door closes behind you, you’re left in a magical space with colourful lights all over. While you may be busy trying to get as many selfies as you can in here, admire this for as long as you can to get its full effect.

14mm, 1/60 sec., f/2.8, ISO 1600

I’m always looking out for something different, so again, I decided to prop my camera down below and see the view from there. I was interested in capturing the organized pattern of the viewing platform as it contrasted with the chaotic lights above.

Trying to capture the patterns on the viewing platform to contrast with the pattern of the lights above. 14mm, 1/40 sec., f/6.3, ISO 250

The Infinity Mirror Room from the outside.

14mm, 1/30 sec., f/4.5, ISO 1600

This next Infinity Mirror Room I was very much looking forward to, since it played with Kusama’s love for the pumpkin. When I lined up however, I was told no cameras were allowed inside. I will admit it was a little disappointing to hear that, but read below as to why I believe this was done.

All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016

This Infinity Mirror Room carries you away to a room filled with Kusama’s love for the pumpkin—a symbol of her in a place of happiness. Each of these pumpkins in various sizes are made of ceramic. At the request of Kusama herself, and because of the fragile nature of this particular room (so I was told), no cameras are allowed inside. We were able to take some photos from the outside though, giving you a glimpse of what you may expect.

14mm, 1/30 sec., f/4.5, ISO 1600

Perhaps it was this very reason though, that I was able to appreciate the beauty of this room more. Admiring the intricate patterns and shapes of these pumpkins and being transported into another realm was truly special. Could it be this very sensation that Kusama wants everybody to feel? This was, after all, the only Infinity Mirror Room where cameras were forbidden.

Staff explaining to an attendee that no cameras were allowed in the room. 14mm, 1/50 sec., f/3.5, ISO 1600

It does look very pretty inside though.

28mm, 1/60 sec., f/3.5, ISO 800

Heading over to the final area of the exhibit, we encounter a whole collection of her artwork, which are both unique and colourful in nature.

The vibrant colours catch your attention from afar.

I could have stared at this section for a while.

It was a sensory awakening with vibrant colours, patterns, and textures.

It’s interesting to figure out what exactly these sculptures may represent for Kusama.

I love how much orange and yellow Kusama uses in many of her works.

Directly across from these sculptures and paintings, you’ll find the entrance to the final installation of the exhibit.

Entering The Obliteration Room.

The Obliteration Room, 2002 to present

This room is an invitation from Kusama to participate in completing her piece. Beginning as a completely white space void of any colour, the room evolves throughout the duration of the exhibit as participants are encouraged to place the supplied polka-dot stickers wherever they want. As such, this room will never be the same as any others created throughout the touring of this exhibit, and offers a unique and participatory way for people to experience Kusama and her creative thinking.

The all-white room is slowly transformed into what will become a colour-explosion extravaganza once the exhibit ends in May.

Everyone gets one sheet of stickers and are encouraged to interact with the room by sticking them anywhere. You’re welcome to sit down on the chairs and couch as well. It’s a colourful way to end off the Kusama experience.

This would be an interesting dining experience.

You can stick your stickers on anything you can get your hands on in these two rooms.

Use those stickers.

You must use all the stickers within these two rooms, as you are expected to hand over the empty sheet upon exiting.

A polka-dotted bicycle in the second room.

And finally, if you share your images on social media, tag #infiniteKusama and your image just may appear on this screen here.

Images tagged with the hashtag #infiniteKusama appear on this screen.

If you would like a gift from this experience, be sure to visit the gift store, located at the very end of the exhibit.

Gift store for your love for everything Kusama.

They even sell polka-dotted socks!


Things to Note

  • Timing: You are allowed only 20-25 seconds in each Infinity Mirror Room. There is someone at the entrance of each room with a timer, who will open the door for you, and close it behind you. When there are 5 seconds left, they will knock on the door and open the door when the 5 seconds is up.

These 20-25 seconds go by really quickly. When you’re admiring the flickering lights or the ever changing colours, that time will be up before you remember to take any photos within it. Technically that’s how it should be. I encourage you to actually enjoy each Infinity Mirror Room without having to worry about your selfie or other photos. You’ll be able to fully appreciate your surroundings and the exhibit this way. Besides, some of these rooms are dark—your iPhone isn’t going to take decent photos in them, so rather than be disappointed with your pictures afterwards, take those 20-25 seconds and soak in the surroundings.

If you’re really keen, I’ve been told you are able to line up at the end of the line again and go back in the room for a second time. This may change though, as they see how busy the exhibit will be once it opens.

  • The Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit spans two floors of the AGO. It’s a large show complete with a video interview of Kusama (in Japanese with English subtitles), photographs, paintings, and sculptures of her earlier work. In other words, there is a large amount of her other work that will inspire you and intrigue you, so don’t forget to check these out as they are equally interesting. The Infinity Mirror Rooms may take centre stage, but it’s well worth you spending some time with everything else that is on display too.

Don’t forget, the supplementary exhibit, Narcissus Garden, which features 1300 stainless steel mirror balls, is on display at the AGO’s Signy-Eaton Gallery from February 24 to April 29, 2018.

  • The Infinity Mirror Rooms may look infinite from the inside, but they physically only occupy a small area within the space they are in. I found this to be quite interesting in its own way.
  • With all of the above taken into consideration, you can expect to spend a few hours just with this exhibit alone. With an estimated 20min. wait time between each Infinity Mirror Room, that’s already two hours right there. Some rooms like Dots Obsession and The Obliteration Room, you’ll likely spend more than 20-25 seconds in, as they are interactive in nature. If you spend the time to admire her other works, all the walking around may take up another 30min. to an hour. Add that up and that will give you about three hours for just the Yayoi Kusama exhibit alone.

Your entry into this special exhibit also grants you access to the entire art gallery so add on however many more hours you would like to spend in other areas of the AGO.

  • Camera settings: It’s hard to say exactly what they may be since all cameras are different. The photos and settings above should give you an idea of what to expect. I’m using a Nikon D800, which has decent low-light capabilities so your camera settings may vary from these accordingly. No tripods or selfie-sticks are allowed within the exhibit.

Keep in mind that the 20-25 seconds goes by really quickly, which is why I don’t recommend you tinkering with your camera settings when inside the room—stay away from taking any photos if you really want to appreciate the room. If you really must though, I hope these settings give you a good start as to how to set your camera.

Phalli’s Field
Brightly lit with no flickering lights.
ISO 400, f/2.8, 1/100 sec., 14mm

Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity
The lights actually turn off at one point in this room. If you get caught in the room when this happens, you’re not going to get any photos for the next 10 sec. or so as the lights slowly light up again. Once they do though, you should be ok.
ISO 1600, f/4.5, 1/25 sec., 14mm

Dots Obsession—Love Transformed into Dots
This area isn’t as dark as the Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity.

Walk-in room:
ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/50 sec., 14mm

Peer-in room:
ISO 400, f/3.2, 1/200 sec., 70mm

Love Forever
Flashing lights of various brightness means depending on when you take your photo, your settings may need to change drastically.
At the brightest coloured lights:
ISO 400, f/4.0, 1/60 sec., 14mm

The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away
Very dark room with pulsating lights.
ISO 1600, f/2.8, 1/60 sec., 14mm

All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins
No cameras are allowed inside.

The Obliteration Room
Bright white room with little colour (before exhibition opening).
ISO 200, f/8.0, 1/125, 70mm

Were you fortunate enough to get a ticket to the Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the AGO? Let me know what you thought of the exhibit by commenting below!

A sneak peek at Nordstrom Eaton Centre

A few days ago I spent the evening at a private preview party for the new Nordstrom Eaton Centre, before its grand opening on September 16, 2016. We had a chance to tour the area, take snaps, and enjoy the café on the first floor, and Habitant, the fully license bar on the second floor, serving up some tasty food items.

Here are some 360 photos for you to enjoy, all taken with the LG 360 Cam. Since the opening day wasn’t for another few more days, you can see there are still empty areas, boxes, and many other things that will eventually find their proper places.

The first floor of Nordstrom has an entire wall dedicated to women’s shoes!

[vrview img=”http://www.smaku.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/20160908_180133-1.jpg” width=”900px” ]

Turning the corner around the escalators, we’re closing in on the Beauty section of the first floor in the distance.

[vrview img=”http://www.smaku.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/20160908_180240-1.jpg” width=”900px” ]

Bar Verde has some great things cooking in there.

[vrview img=”http://www.smaku.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/20160908_182749-1.jpg” width=”900px” ]

The most important section of Nordstrom: the Men’s section.

[vrview img=”http://www.smaku.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/20160908_183155-1.jpg” width=”900px” ]

I stand corrected. The most important section of Nordstrom is this men’s lounge, which houses some TVs, fridge, bar, a rather comfortable couch, and a great view of Yonge Street.

[vrview img=”http://www.smaku.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/20160908_183235-1.jpg” width=”900px” ]

The Habitant is a fully licensed bar in the middle of the second floor of Nordstrom. It brings out some great food items and cocktails that are sure to please any palette. That tomato basil soup was awesome!

[vrview img=”http://www.smaku.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/20160908_191008-1.jpg” width=”900px” ]

It was a fun evening, and best of all, the night ended off with a great surprise for every attendant: a personalized painted piece by a local artist who took a photo from our Instagram feed, and painted it himself. Fashion-related attendants received a portrait of themselves, and non-fashion related attendants had a random picture taken from their Instagram feed for the painting.

The original photo from my Instagram feed, Scratched Sky, is below.

The original photo that I posted on my Instagram feed, titled, Scratched Sky.

The original photo that I posted on my Instagram feed.

And the painting that was made is below.

This was painted by a local artist, who chose the picture from my Instagram feed.

This was painted by a local artist, who chose the picture from my Instagram feed.

The painting was a pleasant surprise and offered a nice touch to the evening. The gift package also included a fantastic candy bento box from Sugarfina and a champagne flute to celebrate the evening, all given to us in a handy Nordstrom reusable bag.

Many thanks to the team at Nordstrom Canada for inviting me, and for a fun evening!

Coloured messages

If you’re following me on Periscope, you would have seen this earlier today where I visited the Ontario’s Celebration Zone at harbourfront. It’s one of the main zones during the Pan Am Games and still is, even though the Pan Am Games has finished.

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/6.3, ISO 200, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/6.3, ISO 200, 24mm

This great wall of tags is comprised of plastic tags with messages to the Pan American Games’ atheletes, written by fellow supporters. It’s a great way to support our local athletes, in addition to creating a colourful piece of artwork.

It also makes for a great photography backdrop, as you can see here. I love how there’s only one person here amongst the myriad of colours. It’s a fun place to photograph for sure no matter which angle you confront it from. A closeup angle will also produce some equally interesting results.

When you see unique things like this around you, don’t be shy and take lots of photos of it from different angles to get a feel for the subject matter. Typically if you include a person within the frame, it acts as a great reference to the subject, further adding interest to the photo.

Tubing fun down the river

Not too long ago I had a chance to photograph some people having fun in the water. They were tubing down the river where at one point, it got a little too wild for some riders. It was fun to watch who would make it through that little dip, and who would fall off their tube.

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/5.0, ISO 400, 102mm

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/5.0, ISO 400, 102mm

No harm is done when they fall, as they quickly grab their tube, get back on, and enjoy the rest of the ride down the river. After seeing a number of people fall off, I decided to take some photos of it to capture that moment when they fall into the water.

These tubers are going somewhat fast down the river, but the water is always moving at a fierce pace. That’s why you need a fast shutter speed to really freeze the moment. I didn’t want any part of my picture to be blurry—not even the water.

Nikon D800, 1/2000 sec., f/4.5, ISO 400, 180mm

Nikon D800, 1/2000 sec., f/4.5, ISO 400, 180mm

Setting my shutter speed to 1/2000 sec., I knew it would be fast enough to capture the moment someone falls into the water, freeze the movement of the water, and capture the splash as he went down.

Looking back at this photo above, I love how I was able to capture the expression of the people surrounding him as well. It captures the essence of the moment.

The takeaway from this post is to always be alert and know what type of photo you’re after. Set you settings quickly and then concentrate on taking your shots. If you stop and think about your settings, you’ll end up missing some choice moments that you may end up regretting afterwards.

Fireworks photography 101

Fireworks Photography 101

You may think that taking pictures of fireworks is as easy as pressing the shutter button—and sometimes it really is that easy—but if you’re really keen on taking some great shots, there are a couple things to note in terms of settings and equipment.

Nikon D800, 1.2 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1.2 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Go early to claim your spot

There’s nothing worse in going to see and photograph fireworks only to have your view blocked by a few heads in front of you. You have to go early, scout the area for the best vantage point, and stay in that spot until the fireworks start. There’s really no other way around this unless you have some sort of special access that the general public does not have.

Setting up your equipment

Once you claim your location, be sure to set up your gear well in advance of the start of the event. This will ensure that you’re not fidgeting with your camera settings when the fireworks are going off in front of you.

Ideally, you should have a tripod, cable release, and if you’re trying for an extended exposure, a black card to block light from your lens while the shutter is open—I’ll explain more about this below.

The cable release comes in handy because it prevents you from shaking your camera by having to press down on the shutter button.

Start shooting

There are a couple ways of shooting fireworks. But whichever way you choose to go, be sure to keep taking those photos because fireworks go fast, and they don’t wait for you to ready your camera!

A simple long exposure of about 1-2 seconds will give you a decent display of fireworks that will work for the most part. The photo above was an exposure of 1.2 seconds on my tripod using a cable release.

Given the long exposure nature of fireworks at night, you may instinctively think to set your ISO to a high amount because of the amount of ambient light available. The higher your ISO, however, the more noise you bring into the photo.

My settings above brought in just amount of light without yielding too much noise. My ISO of 200 yielded in a fairly dark image at first, but I was able to open up the shadow areas within Lightroom without producing too much noise. I much prefer to do it this way than increase my ISO from the beginning as it almost always tends to produce cleaner images.

I mentioned a black card earlier in this post. This technique can come in handy if you want to stack multiple fireworks over each other by leaving your shutter open in Bulb mode, and covering the lens with this black card when you don’t want any exposure. You only take the black card away from the lens when you want to capture the fireworks. The photo below is a 4.6 second exposure where I used the black card method. This is why you see the coloured explosion on the top, and the white fireworks from the bottom.

Nikon D800, 4.6 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 4.6 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

You really have to be careful with this though, since you can easily over-expose certain areas of your photo, like you see in the photo below. You will have to figure out in advance how many seconds will give you a properly exposed photo.

Nikon D800, 12 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 12 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 14mm

A little post-processing helps

When you’re done shooting your photos, no doubt a little post-processing will help give your photos that extra oomph. This particular photo was editing completely within Lightroom CC 2015. I opened up the shadow areas while reducing the highlights. I boosted the saturation slightly, and added some overall clarity. And finally, the new dehaze feature of Lightroom really worked well in this case to remove some of the haze produced from the smoke of the fireworks.

The level of post-processing is always different for each photographer, so you do as little or as much as you want to make the final image what you envisioned.

Nikon D800, 0.6 sec., f/5.6, ISO 1250, 14mm

Nikon D800, 0.6 sec., f/5.6, ISO 1250, 14mm

One final note

Remember to enjoy the fireworks while you are there! They happen very quickly so try not to be totally consumed with getting that perfect shot. You can easily be distracted by fiddling with your cameras while the beautiful colours explode above you, preventing you from actually enjoying the evening. But with a little bit of preparation, you should be able to fully enjoy the event and take decent shots that you are happy with.

Luminato Festival 2015 Wrapup

Inside the festival tent.

Inside the festival tent.

It’s just over a month since the Luminato Festival ended in June but the events are still vividly clear in my mind. Looking over these photos, this year’s festival was another big success with such a variety of events for the public to enjoy. The 10 days of the festival went by very quickly, and while I was taking photos for most of those days, it’s hard to believe that there are so many other events that I wasn’t able to see. The variety of events is what always attracts me to the Luminato Festival.

The grounds at David Pecaut Square.

The grounds at David Pecaut Square.

The grounds at David Pecaut Square were always packed, and that’s a nice thing to see. The added artificial turf was a nice touch this year!

Jörn Weisbrodt, Artistic Director of Luminato Festival, does karaoke with Toronto Mayer John Tory.

Jörn Weisbrodt, Artistic Director of Luminato Festival, does karaoke with Toronto Mayer John Tory.

Perhaps the mayor doing a karaoke song with the festival’s artistic director was the highlight of that day, as the crowd loved every second of it.

Having fun under the lights.

Having fun under the lights.

During the evening hours, the lights lit up the square making for an even grander festive mood that I saw many people enjoy.

Looking towards Metro Hall.

Looking towards Metro Hall.

These panels created by acclaimed Brazilian artists Regina Silveira added a very colourful touch all day and night long, and drew many people underneath it to rest and enjoy.

St. Vincent at Times Talks.

St. Vincent at Times Talks.

The multitude of events at Luminato Festival is always a crowd-pleaser: The New York Times‘ TimesTalks brought in Nelly Furtado, St. Vincent, and Charlotte Rampling; there was a cabaret series at the Festival Shed; David Collett’s Basement Revue was always a crowd-favourite; and then there were performances like Apocalypsis, bringing in 1000 performers, and David Byrne’s Contemporary Color, bringing color guards to the forefront.

No matter rain or shine, there would always be a crowd at David Pecaut Square, the hub of the festival. With free outdoor concerts, why wouldn’t there be?

Performer at Luminato Festival.

Performer at Luminato Festival.

The final weekend did bring in a lot of rain, but the Brazilian block party was still a lot of fun with bands and audience members soaking it all in under the festival tent.

The crowd in the rain at the Luminato Festival.

The crowd in the rain at the Luminato Festival.

Of course, the festival wouldn’t be complete without the help of volunteers! There were no shortages of volunteers to help you navigate this festival, and it’s always a pleasure to be able to photograph them in action as well. The Youth Volunteer Photography Program, which I also taught this year, had many of them think creatively to get some fun photos for the festival.

Youth Volunteer Photography Program members at Luminato Festival.

Youth Volunteer Photography Program members at Luminato Festival.

Volunteers at David Pecaut Square

Volunteers at David Pecaut Square

The festival brings many unique photo opportunities, which are always a good challenge, and that’s why I love coming back to this festival year after year. For those of you who would like more information on the Luminato Festival, you can check out their website at www.luminatofestival.com.

As always, I leave you with one last photo, which is one of my favourite shots that I took within the 10-day extravaganza. This photo was taken within the Air Canada Centre at an angle that really makes the venue seem so grand. You can see the stage and performers including all the audience members enjoying the Contemporary Color performance.

Inside the Air Canada Centre for Contemporary Color.

Inside the Air Canada Centre for Contemporary Color.

For my post-festival wrapups from prior Luminato Festivals, you can check them out here: 2013, 2014.

Combining food and photography always makes for a good time!

I’m very fortunate to live in a city where food plays an important part in our society. Every year there are no shortages of food-related festivals, especially during the warmer months of the year. This year, I’ve been tasked to take photos for The Stop’s Night Market fundraising event, which promises to be even more delicious than previous years!

The Stop's Night Market

The Stop’s Night Market

The event raises funds for The Stop’s community food programs, and brings together local chefs, designers, and foodies in one location over two nights. The designers are housed with the responsibility for creating one-of-a-kind food carts that the chefs will use to create and serve their own inventions on. It’s a great concept and one that I’m very excited to be a part of this year.

Corndog from Delica's Kitchen

Corndog from Delica’s Kitchen

Last night saw a huge crowd at a new venue for the event, a huge expanse in front of an abandoned building over in the west end of the city. With 35 custom-made carts and chefs’ creations, it was a feast for both the eyes and our bellies.

The crowd as the sun set.

The crowd as the sun set.

As a festival photographer, I always try and make sure that the event is properly represented with my photography. Since this is a new venue for the Night Market, it was important for me to get overall shots to reflect the location and popularity of the event this year. Details of the carts, and of course the chefs’ creations, and the all important volunteers and sponsors round up my photography tasks.

It was a great first night and I look forward to returning to the second night tonight. See you there!