Sunday, October 31, 2010

First ultimate point

My son catches the winning point in his first real ultimate game - I'm not handing over the reins just yet, but thrilled I got to play our first father-son ultimate game. If you look closely you can see the disk is upside down  - catching a hammer, even better !

As my 18-200mm VR lens is with Nikon service at the moment, I had to pull out the my old 70-300mm G lens. Focusing is a slower, but in bright conditions it still can capture a good shot now and again. I trimmed the shot in-camera to frame the shot better which also did a perfect job of cropping out some distracting objects from the shot, leaving the nice fall foliage as a background.

Hey man, I didn't touch that record !

Kooper has been a little bit of a handful recently and has taken a strong liking to my old outdoor speaker for the last few days. Well the speaker really didn't have any business being exposed to the elements for all these years, but it definitely wasn't ready for a canine attack. Although speakers haven't changed much over the years (this home-assembled one I bought from a friend over 15 years ago), many people don't have traditional speakers in their home anymore - that's a long way of saying the beat up speaker looked a little retro. So I thought an old record would be a nice prop for the shot.

I was using treats to get Kooper to work a few different poses (you can see a treat on top of the speaker) and decided the annoyed face shot was pretty funny and a contrast to his calm look. I almost captured a shot with the record in his mouth, but he was losing his patience.

I had the camera on a tripod set for multi-zone focusing and used f6.3 have a reasonable depth-of-field. I had a remote release in my hand. The only thing I kept forgetting was waiting for the flash to charge before firing another test shot.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fire and ashes

Fire and ashes - #349/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
The weather has been turning a little cold this weekend, but we're resisting turning on the heat, so I thought a wood fire would add some festive heat for our Saturday night dinner. I've tried to take shots of fire a few times in the past and it is quite difficult to capture the colours and dynamics of the flames. This was much later in the evening when a lot of ash had formed undisturbed on the grate which I think adds some unusual texture.

I shot this hand held at 1/30th second and was pretty close to the fire (enough to feel my cheeks burning). The shot looks a little closer because I trimmed the shot in-camera. I also used a grey card to set the white balance properly (careful not to burn the card!).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What the big secret, Victoria ?

I heard yesterday that a couple of Angel models from Victoria Secret would be making an appearance today. So I came to the office armed with my best camera gear hoping to look like a pro photog worthy of a smile. The show has moved inside from yesterday and security and photo policies are pretty strict. The ladies will be in person from 5-7pm tonight, but there's a strict no photo policy, so it's highly unlikely you'll see a shot of the Angels here. I'm not exactly certain what all these line ups are for, but I thought I'd grab a shot from the third floor. I managed to snap this one before security told me there was no photography for the event - wow, that's strict - one floor up and outside the store !

As I only had time to grab this one shot, I took the liberty of straightening it a little and making a slight crop to bring the poster into the centre.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Toilet paper fashion window

You may have seen advertising for Cashmere bathroom tissue where the paper is used to make beautiful fashion pieces. Well, the flagship Bay store downtown has a window display showing some of the work from fashion designers. I must say it's pretty impressive stuff.

Lighting was a little tricky so I used the custom WB setting using a piece of white flooring and let my camera calculate the WB. There was more of a pink hue in person, but I'm pleased with the colour reproduction and the blue effect of the window. By the way, there is a rear window where I'm shooting from - I'm not actually in the window display !

Although there isn't a lot of the fashion immediately visible in this tight frame, the reflection shows much more detail. And to round it off, I thought the gaze from the girl on the right gave the whole shot a fairytale feel.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A little out of place for University Avenue

I was standing at Dundas and University looking for some unusual subjects for a nice panning shot. It's worth spending a little time getting your settings right, practicing your pan and looking for an interesting rider. I find that cyclists and scooter riders are better subjects than cars, because you include the human element. For settings, the key is shutter speed, in this case 1/30th second - fast enough to capture the rider in focus, but nice and slow to blur the background.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

I just got a nice comment on Flickr regarding a shot I took at my local park a few days ago in the fog. The comment from Jimbographer was "Like the colors, reminds me of Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind." And guess what, just before bed last night, I browsed the program guide a little in case there was a movie I wanted to record and found one of my favourites - Close Encounters of the Third Kind was plying on HDNet. Really looking forward to watching it now !

Monday, October 25, 2010

What do the management want Eileen ?

I received these gag miniatures from a work colleague a few years ago and keep them at the office beside their boss toss toy gun. Shortly before this shot I realized I had a problem with my Nikon 18-200mm lens. I noticed something wasn't quite right at the Raptor game and the same problem happened today - it's not focusing properly (auto and manual) beyond 150mm close to infinity. Looks like another visit to Nikon shortly, but at least this time the lens is still under warranty and I just hope the repair is covered. So I was playing with the lens, determining the exact issue and set these guys up on top of my telephone on my desk with the blurred cityscape as a background. I added a little spot lighting using a little giveaway LED light pen that's been sitting in desk draw for a while. Close up focusing worked fine with the lens. I've been thinking of using them for a fun shot, and finally came up with a posed composition and some comical context.

Foggy park with colour splashes

Really great foggy night tonight. But I was unsure how best to capture the mood once I was home for the evening. I took the dog for a little walk over to the park and saw this image of the foggy glow of the arena with some car lights piercing through the trees. I took a few shots using a very long exposure from a small tripod (I got a little damp) and just had the camera determine the shutter speed in aperture priority mode and I really liked this shot with the four different coloured light sources. Timing was perfect as it started to rain as I was packing up.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Flag colours of the pillow

I liked the look of the satin texture, colour and folds of this pillow on one of the chairs in my living room, so I started shooting. I then thought the lines and colour segments looked like an interior decorator's flag ! I shot a few different angles and fluffed the pillow a few times, but I came back to a simple aligned composition.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chelsea landing lights

This is actually the ceiling of the Delta Chelsea hotel parking entrance. The reflections were not very clear and a little more abstract when I reviewed the shots on the LCD, but when I flipped the shot and looked at them full screen, the clarity of the parked cars provide and hints of activity lend a little mystery to the shot.

Forty six

Forty six - #341/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
I thought a self-portrait was appropriate for my birthday. Like yesterday's shot I set up my Nikon's flash controls in commander mode to use on the pop-up and the external Speedlight. This time the Speedlight was sitting on a mini-trouble to the left of the camera. I used the diffuser I usually have on the Speedlight to soften the light a little from the pop-up. I then used a warm gold reflector to the right of the camera to fill in the shadows better on the right of my nose (although there's still a small shadow there from my cheek perhaps). If I had a third flash unit, I'd probably even out the lighting behind me. I didn't do anything too fancy trying to get the focus right (even shooting at f2.8 with my 50mm), I just took a lot and tried to have my eyes focused on the lens rather than worrying about being centred (which sometimes but my nose in and eyes out of sharp focus). A trick I did use for composition was that as I was looking into the lens (and the via the mirror thru the viewfinder I could see a clear line between dark and light that I used to get the height right. I used in-camera black & white with a green filter. I still think the shot is a little dark, but in B&W mode, unfortunately there's no D-Lighting option. With all that setup, I still did two cheats, a slight crop to show a little less of my forehead (and there's a lot of it) and spot-healed a blemish (I can do that, it's my birthday).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Canada Malting Co

I dropped off a few colleagues at Toronto's Island Airport (now called the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport) and we passed by the old Canada Malting Co. structure on Toronto's waterfront.  We wondered what they malted ?  Turns out malt is actually a processed grain product and could be used in a number of different end products.

When I got home I caught up on a few blogs and personal items and was pleased to see today's photo on one of my favourite photo blogs - Daily Dose of Imagery.

Halloween Crow

Halloween Crow - #340/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
The kids have been very creative in decorating the house for Halloween, but trying to capture a decent shot of the lighting and the black crow turned out to be quite tricky. I ended up using the pop-in flash in conjunction with my external Speedlight to appropriately (spooky) light the crow from above and try to reduce the white light on the railing. Then it was a bit of a battle trying to keep the background clean of distractions (an overlooked detail with many photographs). I used in-camera Nikon D-Lighting to lighten the shadows a little which brought the eye a little more towards the crow (rather than the glow of the pumpkin lights) and it was nice for the cobweb on the wall too. I used a remote release on a 2 sec timer so I could trigger the shutter and position the flash over the subject. Not sure if the final result was worth all the effort, but it was fun trying.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I had another busy day at work but managed to sit down and have a pint with a colleague late this afternoon at The Irish Embassy pub. I had forgotten my favourite soccer team (Arsenal) were playing a Champions League game today (although I had set the PVR in the morning), so was a little disappointed to walk into the pub and join the game at half time. I talked with my colleague about work for a while but I must say I was a little distracted by the game and shared some running commentary with his gentlemen also sitting at the bar watching the game. When my colleague left to catch his train, I introduced myself and dove into a quick and easy conversation about all things football. Yemi is also an Arsenal fan and we enjoyed the last 10 minutes of the game together and talked about getting together to watch an important match on Sunday.

Simple shot with my kit lens and pop up flash. Original shot included the TV in the background, but I wanted a slightly tighter crop. The Nikon in-camera trim function was a little too aggressive, but no worries, getting in close for people shots never disappoints !

Yemi is #76 in my 100 strangers project.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Leaving downtown to the colours

As I leave downtown from my office at Yonge and Dundas I head underground to the Dundas subway station. I used the unusual red plastic surrounding the entrance to colour the downtown action and chose to blur it and focus on the detail of the fixtures and grating - leaving downtown to its colourful evening.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Raptors - Jarrett Jack on the offensive

snuck down to a better seat to grab some closer shots of the Raptor pre-season game versus Captain Canada, Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns. It's quite challenging taking shots of pro sports, the first is getting the basics right and then shooting a lot to get the timing right with an action shot. I used manual setting, high iso (1250) and a custom white balance (5000K).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cataract Falls

Cataract Falls - #336/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
I've been planning on joining the Toronto Photo Walks group for one of their events for some time now, and finally managed to meet up with them as they explored the Cheltenham Badlands and the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. It was great to meet lots of fellow photographers and take the time to take lots of shots of some new landscape. Although fall colours are still stellar in the city and even around Cheltenham, just a few kilometres further North, the large majority of the trees had already lost their leaves. So when we found Cataract Falls (located in Forks of the Credit Provincial Park) late in the day, I didn't hesitate switching to black & white as I thought the site had lots of interesting contrast and texture. If you look closely, you can spot of our group taking a shot from the lower level. Actually I missed her the first time through and is a nice example of one of the benefits of black & white - the effect of out of place elements or colourful distractions can be minimized. I especially liked the late afternoon shadows of the trees on the water. Taking black & white shots in-camera is still a little hit and miss with the the lack of control and I experiment a little with the filter choices on my D80, it this case I used a yellow filter.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Laughers and posers

Laughers and posers - #335/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
We got together with old friends in the neighbourhood and kids helped me with my daily shot. I like that kids are usually very happy to help out and they often come up with their own ideas for a shot. We were working on a moody kind of alley shot, and while I had them pose for a more traditional group shot, there was a lot of joking going on and I snapped this one. Although depth-of-field was working again me, I really like the mood of the shot.

Gorillaz mixing it up

Gorillaz mixing it up Originally uploaded by PJMixer

The Gorillaz concert at The Air Canada Centre was everything I expected it to be - video and groove heavy, melodic at times, performing most of their hits with a large ensemble (25+ members, including rappers and hip hoppers, back up singers, Bobby Womack, Chicago horns, guest Arabic instrumentation, two drummers and a string section).  Clash guitarists Jones and Simonon were perfect stewards of rhythm with Damon moving between piano, guitar, melodica or just being a warm singing host and enticer.

The large video screen (see other shots) was in constant use, playing full length accompanying videos at times and comic book stills and animation with a splash of culture and historic footage.  It would have been nice to get some live action close ups of the performers.  And the backdrop logo added a strikingly colourful backdrop throughout the show for the varied sets and ensembles.  

The near capacity audience (1/2 ACC format) was enthusiastic throughout.  From my vantage point, the majority  of the audience were standing for the whole (almost 2 hour) show.

Damon didn't introduce all the performers, but I think I saw a few of them on the Demon Days DVD from their Manchester show.  I'd really like to see a DVD/BD released for this tour.

If you've read this far, you're perhaps of fan of the Gorillaz too, so If you still have an opportunity to see one of their shows on the remainder of their North American tour or world wide tour, I'm sure you won't be disappointed and you'll be singing and moving along to their wonderful beats, rhythms, raps and melodies for days afterward.


Gorillaz mixing it up

Gorillaz mixing it up - #334/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
The Gorillaz concert at The Air Canada Centre was everything I expected it to be - video and groove heavy, melodic at times, performing most of their hits with a large ensemble (25+ members, including rappers and hip hoppers, back up singers, Bobby Womack, Chicago horns, guest Arabic instrumentation, two drummers and a string section).

The large video screen (see other shots) was in constant use, playing full length accompanying videos at times and comic book stills and animation with a splash of culture and historic footage.

I took advantage of some of my newer Fuji point-and-shoot, including the 16x9 size setting; it's high ISO NR EXR capability and also using -2/3EV to reduce the highlights on the (white) performers. With the screen being a big attraction (and distraction) it was tricky to find a shot that showing the visual splendor with some wonderful stage performances. But the Gorillaz backdrop logo added a strikingly colourful backdrop to every shot of the stage so I chose this one as it has a mix of the hip hip flavour with the string section silhouetted, Mick Jones (ex Clash) on guitar and fronted by Damon.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gritty pink after work bus

After work I walked a few blocks to see what I could find for my daily shot. As today was very overcast and the days are getting shorter, time was working against me. I spotted this pink bus and liked the gritty building backdrop, but I had to bump up the ISO to 1600 and still had to be steady with a 1/30th second exposure. I bumped up the contrast to get the most out of the colour and the wall texture. I decided on a wider shot to incorporate the street light and show some time of day context. I then just waited for a passerby to add a human element and framed her in the lighter brick work. Having the pink door markings was a unplanned bonus.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

George's hangout

George's hangout - #332/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
I work close to The World's Biggest Bookstore on Edward Street and I've often thought about trying to capture a shot that relates to the bold words written on its red walls. There are often panhandlers on this street and I spotted this man looking for a handout from my vantage spot across the street. I took a few shots looking for some interaction with people passing by and I overheard him asking for viagra so I thought this guy had a pretty interesting sense of humour. So I went over and asked how he was. He asked if I could buy him a bottle of wine and then noticing my camera asked if I wanted to take his photo in exchange for some change. I asked him his name and introduced myself. His name is George and he's been living on the street since 1982.

I've taken a few shots of homeless people from afar in the past and struggled with the difficulty of asking for a photograph with expectations of a donation. But George seemed pretty at ease and we got chatting and I offered him some loose change and started taking some shots.

George told me a little about himself, he has a pacemaker, is suffering from a hernia and a recently injured and badly swollen ankle. I asked him about his Real Madrid shirt. and he said Cristiano Ronaldo gave it to him when he was here in Toronto for the film festival. He said hockey star, Matts Sundin once gave him $50 as well ! He asked me about my English accent, his dad was from Manchester. George was previously a salvage contractor, and he told me he has an 18 year old son. I found it very easy talking with George, while chatting he continued to ask people for a variety of serious and joke handouts and favours. I like his sense of humour, perhaps his way of dealing with his difficult circumstances. I'm sure I'll give George an occasional donation and see how he's doing in the future.

George almost didn't make it into my daily photo project. The shots were taken late in the afternoon and he was facing the setting sun. In-camera, the shots looked ok, but when I looked closer at home, there was lots of overexposure on his face and I'd lost some nice detail. I could easily recover the shots using the RAW versions and I was really pleased with some of the results. So much so, I wasn't sure if an unedited shot was worthy of George and my daily shot. I chose this unedited casual shot because I wanted George in the project (and on my blog) and the shot did capture the initial intention of showing some context with the store's wall of words.

George is #74 in my 100 Stranger project.  For more shots of George, please view them here.

Urban landscape maple leaf

Believe it or not, It took about 30 shots to get this to something I liked (call me obsessive). I spotted a similar leaf as I was walking my dog in the neighbourhood and I thought the mixed wet/dry of the road added a little interest to the shot. There was a distracting unnatural mark on the original leaf so I found a suitable replacement and worked on a few different compositions. I wanted to keep the right side of the frame a little out of focus to give some depth, but as I was taking the shot at an angle I had some difficulty keeping the whole leaf in focus at the same time. I thought the wet/dry line in the road produced a little bit of a geographic contour or map feature, but then again it was late ! Big thanks to my dog Kooper who was a very patient companion while I was on my knees at the side of the road for a good 10 mins. The pop-up flash worked fine and shooting an angle to the ground made sure the flash didn't blow out or flatten the shot.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunnybrook sunburst fall smiles

After a long walk in Sunnybrook park I took a few portrait shots with this warm yellow tree backdrop. As I was shooting into the sun, I decided to use it for effect and allow it to burst through and use flash to brighten my kids' faces and bring out I nice glow.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Someone's late

Someone's late - #329/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
The fall colours come and go so quickly here in Ontario so I've been snapping quite a few shots this weekend while the weather is beautiful. Some trees are in full fall colours, some have already lost of a lot of leaves and many still haven't shown any interest in changing yet. This tree is on my regular dog walk route and I liked the contrast of green outcropping with the sea of orange. The shot is quite close to horizontal and the dark tree branches provided a nice frame for the leaves.

Electric focus

Electric focus - #328/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
My good friend was visiting this weekend and he brought along his electric guitar so he could jam a little with my son. I've tried to play a few musical instruments in my life, but I've never been able to get past real beginner levels. So I'm an awe with musicians at all levels, including my son who's been learning for about a couple of years and my fiend who's recently picked it up again. Just like the concert photography I enjoy, I find taking shots of any musician interesting. The combination of beautifully designed instruments with the concentration, focus and all manner of facial expressions makes for wonderful photography subjects.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Walter's smile

Walter's smile - #327/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
Walter Gretzky is perhaps one of the best known and most loved sports dads. The NHL season kicked off today and there was a large Face-Off 2010 event happening at Yonge Dundas Square. Mr Gretzky was being interviewed along with old Maple Leaf players, Darryl Sittler and Jim McKenny (see here for other shots of the event). This is the first time I've heard Walter speak in person and he came across as such a nice man, comfortably talking about his love of hockey and of course his son, Wayne.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Kooper yawn

Kooper yawn - #326/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
We're still struggling a little trying to control our 18 month old Australian Shepherd. One of his favourite spots is sitting on top of the back of the old (luckily) leather armchair by our front window. It provides a very comfortable view of the street so when I was flaked out on the couch and saw him up there, I let him be for a few minutes and grabbed a few shots. Kooper is a tri-colour (black, white and brown) Aussie so I often shoot him in black & white to accentuate his lovely high contrast coat. I guess he was a little sleepy like me late in the afternoon and I liked this capture of his wide yawn.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


On the way home I noticed a new neighbourhood dollar store and its window display with Halloween costume displays. I thought the costumes may work for my daily shot, so I was considering my angles, when I noticed a man standing by having a cigarette. He was obviously a little curious about what I was doing. He owned the store and asked if I was interested in anything. I explained my interest from a photography point-of-view and I introduced myself. His name is Raj, he lives in Milton and recently opened this dollar store with his wife. This is the second dollar store Raj has opened, but he actually has a degree in civil engineering from Western. He was doing contract work in material engineering for US customers, until the economy worked against him. I liked the bright colours of his sign as a background and I used the pop-up flash to light his face better than the ambient light was providing. I took quite a few shots and paused on occasion as I tried to put him at ease, thanks for being patient with me Raj - good luck with your new store.

Along with my photo of the day, Raj is also #73 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at

Old glass door knob

Old glass door knob - #324/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
This is a very close macro shot of an old glass door knob in my house. As you can see, there is some deterioration of some kind, but actually it adds a little colour to the shot.

I took over 35 shots over about 15 minutes. My Speedlight external flash (+1.0 EV, 24mm manual zoom) was positioned about 4" above the knob point directly down. The pop-up was set at -1.3EV and the lens was about 1" from the knob using the a 10x close-up filter. Other settings: Flash WB;and custom optimization (+1 sharpness, +1 tone, Auto saturation and IIIa colour). This filter does produce very soft edges, but I think it creates a more abstract shot in this case.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Snake, up close at the zoo

It was a bit of a toss up deciding on today's shot from The Toronto Zoo, but I chose this one over the jelly fish because you can always grab a shot of them, but the snakes are not active that often. I took a chance with a very high ISO (2000) and I'm pretty pleased with the clarity of the shot, especially the details of his scales zoomed in 200mm.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Old Georgetown reflections

While visiting Washington, my mom and I took a walk over to Georgetown and it's old canal. The still water and bright sunshine produced some nice reflections of the old buildings, bridges and the runner in red.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Workshop ceremony on TV ?

I shot this through an opening in my brother's photo booth project in his workshop. MY brother was telling us all about this very impressive, new CNC machine.

As the inside frame of the booth got overexposed it works well with a blended white page background (like in Flickr). The overall faded, somewhat nostalgic feel and the serious poses away from the camera looks like some TV shot of a weird workshop religious ceremony.

Barefoot on her opening night

My sister-in-law had her opening night for her "Portcards To My Parents" ( exhibition at Washington DC's Fathom Gallery and it turned out to be a wonderful evening with lots of family and friends. This shot was taken later in the evening when the crowd was thinning and Carolyn was relaxing with her friends. I didn't get the best exposure with my control on the flash, but I really like the composition and her playful pose.  One inconsequential cheat on this is that I think the shot was taken after midnight.  I took lots of other shots early in the morning, but I like this one the most.