Monday, May 31, 2010

New board member

New board member - #199/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.

I took a shot of this fence close to my home a little while ago but I wasn't happy with the crispness of the focus so I kept it my proverbial back pocket for a rainy day (I also have spot downtown that I have saved for a day when I'm stuck for a shot).

Well it wasn't rainy, but it was overcast, so I used the vivid+ setting to boost the contrast and bring out whatever colour and tones were there. When I got to the spot, I noticed there was a new sapling planted in front of the fence. There's something to be said for grabbing a shot when you first get the chance - things change. Well, once I moved closer to the fence, I had a clear shot without the sapling in the way - if you're not happy with your composition, move around, there's always a good angle and point-of-view. I took a few shots that showed a little bit of the grass, but following the rule of abstract photography, keep distractions to a minimum and isolate your subject with a telephoto lens.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Arts & Letters Club, Doors Open Toronto

On day two of exploring old and new buildings in Toronto during Doors Open, my wife and are spent some time at The Arts & Letters Club. Interesting old building in the heart of downtown Toronto that seems to step back in time. This artists studio is on the top floor and I can actually see the building right here from my office - I never knew this club existed until this week !

The shot was easy, although I made the mistake of asking if photography was allowed when I first walked in. The host at the front door said no photography was allowed because of copyright on the art, however after seeing many people taking shots of everything in the building, I didn't feel too guilty grabbing a few shots. I thought this studio was lovely, beautifully lit and roomy. I almost asked for a shot of the model posing, but felt it may have been a bit intrusive. I almost thought I may find a subject for my stranger project, however I felt quite insecure and uncomfortable in their presence.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A few life lessons inspired by Nina and a dog

Just got back from walking Kooper and while in the rhythm of the walk and enjoying the smooth remixed sounds of Nina Simone I had an opportunity to reflect on my day and compile a modest list of some life lessons for the day:

  • Dogs are good.  They give you an excuse to get out of the house on a regular basis and they listen to anything you have to say.  And for men, yes, a dog is a perfect wing-dog to attract attractive ladies (proven tonight outside the event theatre on the corner).
  • If you have a evening of adult beverage indulgence in mind, a quick paced dog walk is a perfect way to freshen up and move from dinner wine to the next stage of the evening.
  • If you happen to have sustained a broken ankle at some point in the past and the hardware gets a little sore, then flat shoes are perhaps a better choice than supportive athletic shoes (this one may not apply to everyone).
  • Music can always create and change a mood.  Think of music as fashion for the soul.
  • If you've lost something and you really miss it, now and again, look for it again.  It's such a good feeling when you find something you've lost for a while (I found my iPod tonight).
  • In a pinch, a Blackberry is a decent stand-in for music if you've lost your iPod.  Actually the search feature is better and on my Blackberry (v5 OS), I can create new playlists that I can't do on my iPod Nano (2nd gen).
  • Whenever you get the chance, get out and enjoy your city - it will surprise you and show you sides of the city you may not know existed (I visited quite a few buildings today as part of Toronto's Doors Open event).

Regis College, University of Toronto

My wife and I enjoyed visiting a number of buildings for Doors Open Toronto. Regis College wasn't on our list, but we happened to walk by and stopped in for a quick look. We're pleased that we did and we loved the old rooms, warms woods and the beautiful lighting, you could say heavenly.

I took quite a few shots and in a similar shot, the white balance was off because of the strong natural lighting from the large windows, however in Auto White Balance (and -1EV) here, the proper mix of warmth and artificial white light appears spot on.

Friday, May 28, 2010

iPad Canadian launch day

The iPad was launched in Canada today and I thought it would be a good photo opp. I was pleased to hear that the fine people at Apple had no problems with me taking lots of pictures. In this and the other shots in the set, I think you can see from the different facial expressions, the way the iPad is held and the use of the fingers, what makes Apple's devices pretty special.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Toronto Ultimate Club - 30 year commemorative disc

I started playing ultimate in 1992 and have played every year since. My first team, the Phlithy Flyers were one of about 20 teams, now the league has hundreds of teams. My second team, with a much more creative name of GO Ho Sex Hounds is also on this commemorative disc and my third team and one of the most talented teams I ever played on, Black Toe, make it three. The teams listed here are from the early years, and since Black Toe I've probably played on 6 other summer teams and countless indoor winter teams. I'm also proud to say that I the diving man in the oval is actually my design. I always wished I'd copyrighted it back when I drew it in the 90's as it is still used as th Toronto Ultimate Club logo.

I played a lot with lighting the disc for this photo. I probably could have got a reasonable shot without doing anything too special, but I had a few spare minutes and wanted to get a shot with minimal reflections. I took the shot as the sun was quite low, so I need flash to get the best exposure and be in control of the light. I set up my small (gold) reflector to the right and aimed my external Speedlight flash towards it from camera left. I had to have the pop-up enabled to trigger the IR controlled external Speedlight, but I didn't want direct flash, so I simply shielded the pop-up a little with my hand. I played with camera and flash EV and voila.

My day in court, well a few minutes anyway

I had a date in court today to fight a parking ticket.  Over a year ago, I had an appointment at Toronto East General Hospital.  As you can imagine the parking options are always bad around the hospital, but as I circled a second time I saw someone pulling out of a spot pretty close to the hospital on Coxwell Ave.  I couldn't believe my luck.  I pulled in and hopped out and headed over to the ticketing machine.  Before I got my ticket, and still quite close to my car I notice a ticketing officer and make a gesture of "hey, don't ticket me, I just pulled in and I'm going to pay for my ticket, right now, like, ok!".  Of course, when I came out, I found out that I'd actually parked in a drop off area for another medical building.  I felt that this just wasn't right, the officer must have seen me pull in, allowed me to pay for my ticket and not say I'd parked illegally.  Therefore I went down to the parking office and told then I was going to fight the ticket.  (Funny how ticket means two opposite things in the world of parking!).  

So my court date was today.  This is the second parking ticket I've fought against and they have both been in the court offices on Markham Road in Scarborough (quite the drive).  My first ticket a few years ago was dismissed because the officer didn't show up.  Today, after I checked in, I learnt that the officer was in attendance.  I noticed that many people checking in to the court clerk were pleading guilty, I however wanted to argue my case.  Just after I indicated I was pleading not guilty, the clerk stood up and made a clarification for everyone (and perhaps especially me), that if you plead guilty, it's very likely your fine will be reduced.  However, if you plead not guilty, you could face a larger fine.  Furthermore, she said some legalize about the black and white of a parking offense, you're guilty if you parked illegally.  Maybe I should have just taken the easier path and not worry about taking my chances explaining my case ?  I had parked illegally, but I wanted a chance to explain my story and bring to light what I think was unfair, unethical and perhaps even be as bold as to say it was entrapment !  I wanted my day in court (I honestly would have been ok paying more jsut to make my point!).

So they began calling up the cases, and many people simply confirmed that they were pleading guilty and the judge lowered the fine (quite considerably in many cases, e.g $20 down to $5).  There were a few cases that were dismissed since the officer had no evidence to prove his case.

So my time came and I was called to the front.  I provided my name and the clerk said the officer had no evidence to present so my case was dismissed.  How anti-climatic !  I felt a little cheated.  What evidence did he need ?  Sure, I was happy to leave the court and get on with my day, but I wish I'd had a chance to tell my story - thanks ma'am, but can I tell you what happened, see that officer over there, well he's the one who should be in trouble...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Focused Mat

Focused Mat - #194/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
First night of our summer ultimate [frisbee] league. I took quite a few shots while I was taking a breather on the sideline. This is my old friend and teammate on Oxygen Hazard, Mat. If you're not familiar with ultimate, Mat is looking for an open upfield teammate to pass to as the defense rushing in to try and block his throw. We put in a strong fight in the 2nd half but lost our season opener.

I used the in-camera trim as a quick way to crop before downloading. I'm not certain if there's a difference in quality between the cropping methods, but for casual shots like this, in-camera looks fine. At a sports event, it makes lots of sense to shoot quick multi-frame bursts and worry about what you've captured later on - the luxury of digital. My Nikon in-camera custom image optimization settings for this shot and what I have had set some quite some time now are: +1 sharpening; +1 tone compensation (contrast); IIIa color; auto saturation and 0 hue adjustment.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I went to pick my son up from Don Valley Golf Club and while I was waiting I got talking with Scott. He was working the pro shop and he told me he was turning pro in the fall. Like my son he played CJGA tournaments when he was younger and had a junior membership for the City of Toronto golf clubs. During one of his first years being a member he got a job at Don Valley and has been working there ever since.

The sun was going down very fast so I had to resort to my pop-up flash to get a decent exposure for Scott. I didn't have my external Speedlight flash, so I got some odd colouring in one of Scott's eyes. The red-eye Photoshop and Nikon in-camera fixers didn't work, so one fix I had to make to this otherwise unedited shot, was use the clone tool on one eye and replace the other.

Scott is also #54 in my 100 strangers project.

The Urban Cottage Weekend

I don't have a cottage.  I can't afford one and I'm not lucky enough to have one in the family.  I love visiting Ontario's beautiful lakes and enjoying cottage life.  Even a drive that passes through cottage country, freshens my wish list and tints my mood a little green with envy.  However, what many people say and I may have to agree, owning a cottage isn't all it's made up to be.  You have a second home to maintain and tackling the traffic really taints the whole experience.  I recently heard from one Muskoka regular, that he avoids the lakes on the weekend, because of the chaos on the water with the boom in powerboat action.

So, I decided that we'd have an urban cottage weekend.  Of course, we don't have a beautiful (but cold) lake on our doorstep, but there are many things we can simulate in the city that can give us the feel of cottage life.  My daughter wrote up our rules (version 2) and posted it on the fridge.  We managed to do most of the things on the list, including roasting marshmallows (in our living room fireplace) !  And funnily enough, the city on Sunday and holiday morning was quite quiet, maybe quieter that cottage country !

Although not specifically on the list, I avoided checking my Blackberry all weekend and didn't check email, blogs, Facebook and Twitter at all.  Although I felt a little disconnected from the world (isn't that one of the things you enjoy from being at the cottage), the odd feeling was that time slowed down.  I wasn't always distracted by an incoming email and social posts and neve had to say - just a minute, while I check something !  I managed to get outside a lot  and enjoy the glorious weather, which unfortunately limited the time to play one of my favourite games, but we did enjoy some movies and I had lots of time to read. 

Monday, May 24, 2010


Tankhouse - #192/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
After a tough, hot weather bike ride and a tall glass of water, a beer was the perfect way to finish off a glorious afternoon. The condensation on the bottle added some texture to the shot and I shot from a low angle to get some brighter background bokeh. I used a close-up 4x filter.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

She loves her mug

She loves her mug - #192/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
Now the warm weather is here, we spend a lot of time on our deck. My wife just loved her heart mug and I like the colour of her shirt with the darker brink. I took a few shots, but chose this low depth-of-field shot because I liked the way the mug stood out and the soft focus of my wife fits with the mood of our lazy morning.

Indoor marshmallow roasting

As part of our Urban Cottage Weekend, we decided that wood burning fireplace in the living room would serve just fine for roasting marshmallows.

There is lots of light coming from the flame, so no-flash was an easy choice and I didn't take long with only a few minor adjustments to capture the flames like this. I think the marshmallow silhouette works well.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nightime fauna goes deep sea

I really like the way these branches twist and turn. I changed to B&W and took a low angle and heated it up with direct (pop-up) flash. I like that it kind of looks like something from the deep. The shot has some flaws, but I'm still pleased with the overall creation.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Spring concert notes

The new (and apparently last) LCD Soundsystem album, This is Happening is getting rave reviews this week and just in time for Tuesday night's gig at Kool Haus, tickets are still available - should be a great show.

Neo soul meets some electro beats with Jamie Lidell, new album has lots of collaborators and guests, including locals Zeus - June 12th Mod Club.

Iggy and The Stooges are back together for a world tour in conjunction with a re-release of Raw Power - free at Yonge Dundas Sqaure as part of NXNE - June 19th.

NXNE Festival - 650 bands over 7 days, all for $50 - June 14-20.

One of our all-time favourite jazz crooners Harry Connick, Jr. will be playing the Canon Theatre on June 27th as part of the Toronto Jazz Festival.

TorontoJazz Festival - tons of different venues and some good free options - June 25th - July 4th.

And last but not least, Rush - Molson Amphitheatre (July 13th) and ACC (July 17th).  This tour is coinciding with a documentary that just won the audience award at the Tribeca Flm Festival - and I have to give a plug here to a couple of old friends I met through ultimate - Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen, these guys are on a fantastic hot streak of rock documentaries.

Also check out Concerts we recommend in the right hand column - something for everyone I'm sure !

Doyon-Rivest. Le siècle des lumières

This is just one segment of a very large photographic piece mounted against the West windows of Brookfield Place, downtown Toronto as part of the Contact Photography Festival. It's definitely worth a look if you're downtown, but you have to get up close to really appreciate th quality of the print and what a fantastic concept. Click here for more info and here for other shots.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Man amongst the pigeons

The silhouettes and the warm background were much more attractive that shooting a "correct" exposure. I just had to be patient for an interesting composition.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gord Deppe, The Spoons

Local 80's band, The Spoons played at Yonge Dundas Square in conjunction with a Dairy Queen promotion (they're about the same age). It was great to hear some of their classic tracks and I was pleased to see a lot of people singing and dancing along.

It's always quite difficult to photograph concerts, but at least I had pretty good access and it was in the bright of day. The partly sunny weather made for tricky lighting and exposure, so I ended up using auto white balance (although I do use -1 EV to add some warmth), I used the cloudy setting (with -1 EV again) for this shot.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ontario Veteran's Memorial, Queen's Park

I stopped by Queen's Park for the first time in a long time and I really liked the Ontario Veteran's Memorial - classy, but gritty and grainy textures gave it the appropriate somber feel.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jesus and the chimney

Jesus and the chimney - #185/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
I had a tough time picking a shot today as each shot had something I wasn't happy with. I ended up choosing this one, as I like reflections, and the glass has some interested texture to it and I like the way Jesus is centered over the chimney reflection.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Contact. Gladstone. Slootsky.

I was at The Gladstone Hotel to check out the Exposed photography showing which is part of the Contact Photography Festival. If you've never been to The Gladstone, it's worth the visit for its step-back-in-time interiors. And if you're short on festival time, The Gladstone is perfect because the 2nd floor has a a wide variety of photographic work from a lot of different artists. Then there are other exhibits on the 3rd and 4th floors. This shot is on the 4th floor and gives a glimpse of some of Zach Slootsky's wonderful captures.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lolo scooter

Lolo scooter, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
I walk by Lolo on Yonge (at Albertus) almost every day walking my dog. I had a fantastic Bouillabaisse there a while ago with my wife and a visiting work colleague. Scooters seem to be a popular promotional and style accessory for smaller European restaurants in Toronto.

The exposure was critical to show a little of the inside and not too much to blow out the lettering on the awning. I took the shot from across the street using a lamp post to steady the shot.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Last Olympian

The Last Olympian - #182/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.

I love seeing my kids read. My son is a good reader and gobbles up fiction series very quickly. He just got this book - The Last Olympian today and he's about a third of the way through it in under 2 hours.

I took a whole bunch of shots down at his level but the compositions were never just right, but this elevated perspective stood out. Lesson learned: always look for new angles, especially when you're trying to keep the frame distraction free.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Macro circles and spirals

I had a very busy day at work, so I only got around to taking a few shots around 11pm tonight. One of the reasons I recently bought a set of close-up filters was to add some creative options for photography around the home when I don't get a chance to take shots in the outside world. I like how this one turned out, simple object, close up detail captured with 4x close-up filter. I also used the "commander" mode on my Nikon D80 to trigger the remote flash that helped with reducing the very strong shadows. I could have bumped up the external flash EV to take out the shadow, but perhaps leaving some shadow helps preserve context and depth.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

First round of the year

My son has a junior pass for the city golf courses this year, which includes a couple of evening time slots. The weather was pretty iffy, but we easily finished our 18 hole round in way under 4 hours. I was pleased with a 99 (including a mulligan and max, messed up 10), my son gave me a good run on the first 9, but his frozen hand hurt his swing on the back nine - advantage Dad.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mature blue nose

Mature blue nose - #179/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
Our dog Kooper had a couple days boarding while we were out of town for Mother's day. He seems to have changed a little, more mature, more mellow, more responsive, even less hungry. Mostly good, but worried he may be a little under the weather, we'll see. I caught him on the back deck, enjoying the warm sun and liked the highlight around his eye. The shadow came out rather blue, maybe because of his nose.

G20, Brookfield Properties and street photography

I had a few minutes to kill while I was recently at Yonge and Bloor, so I thought I'd do some street photography and see if I could capture some interesting people. I took a few shots of this guy and a few others before a security guard approached me. I have been told on quite a few occasions that I'm not allowed to take photographs in a particular location (library, mall) but this was the first time it has happened while on the street. My exact location was just outside the doors exiting the Yonge and Bloor subway station, next to the Hudson's Bay store.

I can understand that photography may be formally restricted in certain buildings and I appreciate the concerns around taking pictures of children in public, however I was rather puzzled in this case. The security guard tells me that Brookfield Properties owns the sidewalk where I was standing. I asked where their property ended and I was shocked to hear that they own the property right to the curb - the whole sidewalk ! How can that be ? Could Brookfield Properties go a hop skip and a jump further and restrict certain people from walking on the (sorry, their) sidewalk ? I was rather taken-aback by this and found it quite absurd. I thought it would be funny to ask the security guard if I could take his photograph - I thought this was an interesting encounter and a perfect addition to my 100 stranger project ! Of course he said no, but maybe not for security reasons. The security guard was part native and he said there were very few photographs of him because of his belief that a photograph takes something away from their being. I of course, respected his position, but it made the encounter even more interesting. His name was Sherman, a real nice guy. He also said that they had been asked to step up this type of security because of the upcoming G20 meetings.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Close-up-filter test (10x)

Another close-up filter test. This one was taken with the 10x filter on my 50mm lens. I'd read that the 10x filter produced some very soft focus away from centre, so it's important to keep you subject quite centered.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Close-up-filter test (4x)

I purchased a set of Zeikos closeup filters from Amazon (US) recently after reading about the cheap option to expensive macro specific lenses. These filters basically reduce the closest focusing distance of a normal lens. The set I purchased had 1x, 2x, 4x and 10x magnification factors. This one was taken with the 4x filter on my 50mm lens. The other thing that will take a little getting used to is the dramatic decrease of depth-of-field. But for less than $15, if worth experimenting and seeing if macro photography is your thing.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Cafe Supreme moment in the rain

The weather was really nasty and I didn't have a lot of chances to get out and shoot many photos. I tried to get some car curb splashes, but lost patience with the settings and waiting for a pedestrian victim. I took this one from while under cover and chose it fr the mix of some interesting architectural detail, the reflection and the lady's look.

Thursday, May 06, 2010 - #175/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
I forgot to take my dSLR to the dog park this evening, but had Blackberry did an ok job catching the shot. As I was loading Kooper in the trunk of our wagon, I noticed the powerded sky. I like the layer of Kooper and me, although I wish I'd smiled.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


I asked my son to describe Lady Gaga's set on American Idol tonight.  He came up with the creative "centaury" which kind of surprised my wife who wasn't in tune with his new fantasy fiction vocabulary.

Later in the show, Harry Connick Jr. (one of my all time favourite singers), said he would prefer being a centaur rather than a mentor.  Maybe he saw Lady Gaga's rehearsal, but that's a unusual descriptive coincidence regardless.

AGO white arches

AGO white arches - #174/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
I stopped by the AGO today to see the Barbara Kruger exhibit as part of the Contact Photography Festival. There are so many beautiful shapes and lines in the gallery and the lighting in the open atriums is wonderful.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Busy bee

Busy bee - #173/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
This is my neighbour's tree and as I was takig shots of the beautiful blossoms I spotted this busy bee. Grabbed some good shots even though I chose AF-S (static auto focus) my mistake, I'd meant to chose AF-C (continuous) to keep him in focus as he moved about.

I also accidentally left the vivid+ setting on when I took this shot, so I used the RAW version and saved it unedited as JPG (always good to have the RAW version handy).

Monday, May 03, 2010

West Humber Motown shades

Now the warm weather is truly settling in, we get to enjoy musical performances on a regular basis at Yonge Dundas Square. These events, big or small are wonderful opportunities to capture musicians up close. This was the Motown style band from West Humber C.I.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Dog gone tired

Dog gone tired - #171/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
We picked Kooper up from his trial overnight stay at a pet boarding place and he was so tired all day. I love getting down on all fours to get the best angles.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Old newspaper folds, glimpses of the past

While doing a little cleanup around the house I found this yellowed piece of a very old newspaper. Our house is about 80 years old, so this could be from the 1930's. I thought the way the page was folded was interesting as the left side page shows some housing prices and on the inside page on the right as obituaries. I shot using the marco text setting on our Fuji FinePix 200exr and also used a sepia in-camera setting.