Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Where I find new music: Part 6 - concerts

Well this sounds a little backward doesn't it ? Don't we only go to concerts by musicians we already know and like ?  Sure we do, but we may not always know all their material or perhaps the constant playing by our spouse has numbed our senses and we've lost our appreciation for their art. We may also stumble on a opening band that are new to us or we've only heard a small sample of their material.

I'll start with the later as an example.  I like the bad Travis.  I was never a huge fan, but went with the gang to see them live a few years ago.  This year, their lead singer Fran Healey released a solo album which has been getting pretty constant spousal airtime around the house.  In both occasions, I loved their live performances and has made me want to listen more attentively to their music.  Actually, now I've re-listened to Fran Healy's latest album, it sounds quite different to the bare bones acoustic performance (my preference) on Friday night.  However, his beautiful lyrics haven't changed.

I saw Elbow open for Coldplay a few years ago.  They had a few UK hits, but I didn't know a lot of their older material.  They put on a fantastic show, perhaps one of the best openers I've ever seen and as soon as I got home, I downloaded a few older tracks and listened with a new ear to songs I'd passed on the first time around.

And finally, there are the total surprises.  These are often smaller bands or local talent that I see opening for old timers or hot acts from the UK or US.  Some of these finds include: Carney who opened for The Boxer Rebellion; Von Iva who opened for Glasvegas; Diane Birch who opened for Mat Kearney; and our favourite local lads, We Are The Take who opened for fellow Canadians The Waking Eyes and The Arkells.

Massey Hall's red doors and Jenny Nike

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday morning evidence of Saturday night boys

There were a number of cars on the block that had leaf bags on their roofs and hoods. I thought some relatively harmless fun was worth a photo.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Domed shop

Domed shop, originally uploaded by PJMixer.

'ello 'ello 'ello

'ello 'ello 'ello, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
I took a quite few shots here in Hudson's Bay lower level as the tones, lighting and the reflective top of the garbage can opened up a variety of ideas. I must have been there quite some time and I'm sure I was a rather unusual site, but I didn't really notice the time as I was focused on capturing a good shot. Finally a very polite, casually dreshed Englishman with an earpiece approached me and said that I wasn't allowed to take photographs in the store. I apologized and said I'd get in touch with the store if I used the shots [commercially], he was actually kind enough to give me the name of the store manager. I asked him his name and thought briefly about a 100 Stranger shot, but I know security people never want their photo taken. It's odd, but it seems that the majority of security people I've met while pushing the limits of legal photography (incl. Peter at Hudson's Bay) have been very polite and I often take a moment to have a brief chat with them. When I reviewed the shots later, I noticed I actually caught Peter in one of the shots (but not really appropriate for a Stranger entry, pity).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Dreamed about skiing in Whistler last night.  Familiar dream about trying to get a few more runs in before the vacation ends.

First commercial I saw on TV this morning (sports station) was one for Whistler.  I miss my yearly Whistler trips !

Daily emergencies - sky delivery

Daily emergencies - sky delivery, originally uploaded by PJMixer.

Helicopters like this one pass by my office window on a daily basis and land on the roofs of nearby hospitals. I've taken a few shots from my office, but there's always reflections in the windows. While I was out for lunch I heard one coming and grabbed this shot of one passing overhead. I knew the shutter speed would stop the rotors, but didn't have time to adjust - in fact there is a some blur left on the rotors that gives it a bit of a ghostly feel.
Since I finished my 365inCamera project, I feel a little more relaxed and spontaneous. Not having to worry about fine tuning the shot in camera feels like it's creating more freedom for my photography.
The monotone sky worked well to isolate the helicopter and detach it from the world. I improved the lighting and sharpness in Photoshop from the RAW image.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Yonge morning man

Yonge morning man, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
was up early to drop our car off at the local garage and noticed the sun shining on the North York towers on the walk back home. I waited for some traffic to clear at the traffic lights where I stood in the middle of the street. My street is just at the first traffic light in the shot. After the shot I walked up the right (East) side of Yonge street and bumped into a neighourhood friend. I just realized his car is actually in the shot - the beautiful Audi S5 turning onto the side street on the East side - he was making his Starbucks morning run. I thought about cropping out the close cars on the left, but I like the wider shot and it looks like the lady driver is looking at the crossing man in her side mirror.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Marketing the classic 80s

Marketing the classic 80s, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
BOOM 97.3FM bus shelter advertising

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010


Pigeon-pecked, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
I thought these feathers friends were hilarious. It looked like the one on the right was female and the one on the left male, but that's only because the way she was going after him ! She wouldn't leave the poor guy alone - don't know if it was aggressive mating or she was giving him a good telling off. He kept trying to avoid her, pacing back and forth and almost fell backwards a few times as she continued to chase and peck he neck ! I could imagine the voices of a an old married couple - "I told you a thousand times, don't got out partying with those idiot friend of yours", "ok, darling, it won't happen again".

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dale, Rehana and Trisha

Dale, Rehana and Trisha, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
At lunchtime, I noticed a large group of people gathered at Yonge Dundas Square. Upon closer inspection, I noticed many of them were in costume from the Harry Potter movies. It was a fan appreciation event with the release of the latest movie next week, they had a few photographers on the roof top getting a shot of all the fans. There were some modest refreshments for the fans, but it looked like the majority of them, including Dale, Rehanna and Trisha, were just happy to be spending a little time with fellow fans.

In addition to my daily photo, Dale, Rehanna and Trisha are #81 in my 100 strangers project.

New concert listings

I can't say I've been really excited about of lot of concert announcements of late, but looking through this week's NOW magazine, I few new ones caught my attention.

On my shortlist:
Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, Fri Dec 3rd, Mod Club - my brother has seen them a few times and says they're amazing live
White Lies, Sat Jan 29th, Mod Club - new album due out in January

Blasts from the past:
Gang of Four, Fri Feb 4th, The Phoenix, yes - a new album in January (after 15 years away)
Grapes of Wrath, Fri Nov 19th, Horseshoe

Maybe of interest to some of our friends:
Interpol, Tues, Feb 15th, The Sound Academy
Fran Healy, Fri Nov 26th, Mod Club - we're going to this one
Pete Yorn, Sat March 5th, Opera House
Killing Joke, Tues Dec 7th, The Phoenix
Brandon Flowers, Sat Dec 4th, Sound Academy
Einsturzende Neubauten, Sat Dec 11th, The Phoenix and Sun Dec 12th, Lee's Palace
K.T. Tunstall, Tues Nov 23rd, The Phoenix
Lowest of the Low, December 3rd and 4th Lee's Palace
Kate Nash, November 13th at The Phoenix
Mumford & Songs sold out at Sound Academy November 13th

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembering the veterans

Remembering the veterans, originally uploaded by PJMixer.

My little miracle makers and toolkit - shot #365

'm happy to say my 365 in-camera project is done - a year's worth of mostly unedited daily photographs. As time went on, I found myself writing a lot more about the content and the technical photographic elements too. In fact, my 365incamera blog has become a relatively accurate journal of my day-to-day life and almost replaced my personal blog. Although I've completed what I set out to do, I'm not going to quit taking shots on a daily basis. However, I feel that having completed a year, I can relax the rules a little. I'm leaving the 365inCamera set and group and continuing with a new set called Daily Photo. I'm going to keep the 365incamera blog, but perhaps change the name.

For the final shot, I had thought of shooting a family portrait, or a self-portrait, but my test shots weren't that different from other shots in the set, so I thought I'd assemble all my equipment. I could have squeezed myself into the shot, but I was already working in a very tight space and the backdrop and mirror were rather limiting.

My Nikon D80 is in the centre of the shot (on a Ultrapod mini tripod) with the newly repaired/adjusted Nikon 18-200mm VR lens. Actually, I have to make a correction already, as the camera is actually a gift I bought my wife a few years ago. Just last month, she officially gave me half the camera, so it's safe to say it's our camera. Thanks darling for letting me take this camera with me almost everywhere I went over the last year.

Top left are the other Nikon lenses I used, the 50mm 1.8, my wife's old 700-300mm G zoom and the kit 18-55mm VR, with a few lens hoods to their left. Over the year I did borrow a few lenses from a friend and they helped complete the project and add some image variety. Those lenses were the Nikon 10.5mm fisheye, the 105mm Micro and the Sigma 10-20mm. Centre is my Manfrotto monopod (a gift from my brother) and to the right is my old Black's tripod. Below the tripod is my Nikon SB-600 Speedlight with a diffuser and Aurora reflector. The point-and-shoot cameras are our original digital camera, the Canon Powershot A620 and the newer Fuji Finepix F200EXR. And let's no forgot my Blackberry - it came in handy a few times. On the left is my Zeikos battery grip and its AA battery holder. Behind my Blackberry are my Zeikoz close-up filters. Under the Canon are my new Cokin ND Grad filters with one of the filters attached with the holder on 18-55mm. Other bits and pieces include: my lens pen cleaner; a Rocket Air blower; battery charger with an extra battery (Zeikos); filter adapter rings; lens cap (which came in handy on lots of occasions to angle the camera up for a impromptu remote shutter release shot); my Nikon remote control; A small LiteDisc reflector; and lastly my Moo business cards (can't leave home without those). The shot took me a very long time to set up. Lighting could have been better, but I'm pretty happy with the shot.

So what have I learnt from the project ? I'll have to write a more comprehensive list at some point (without it becoming a book), but for now, here are a few things I learnt:

The D80 in-camera settings can produce very good JPG images. Often, it seemed to preserve and reproduce colour better than I could produce from RAW file (note that most of the time I shoot in JPG normal and RAW). Now this may be because I'm still not an expert on RAW post-production, but if I spend a little time tweaking the image optimization settings or use a vivid or vivid+ setting on dull weather days, I find I often prefer those images over my work from the RAW file. My normal (custom) settings (Nikon D80 shooting menu - optimize image) are: +1 image sharpening; +1 tone compensation; IIIa color mode; auto saturation and O hue adjustment. When I'm shooting with flash; I change tone compensation to 0 "normal". I leave white balance (WB) set to auto most of the time and often make a -1EV WB adjustment to add a little warmth. WB setting is usually the setting I forget, but in most situations, auto does a good job. On some occasions I noticed that some colours, especially red would be blown out in the RAW version, but the JPG seems to retain the colour better, this may be due to the in-camera noise reduction (NR). Similar in high ISO situations (above 800), the in-camera NR worked well, but after working with the RAW version, the final image looked too grainy. Again, this is likely because my RAW post-processing skills are not the greatest. Almost all the shots in the project were JPG, but these observations were made as I worked with RAW versions of other shots from the same event. So I'll likely continue to shoot in both JPG and RAW, using the RAW when I need to recover blown out areas (e.g. sky or facial), correct WB or process tricky lighting shoots in batch.

I shot a lot of black & white and was quite happy with the in-camera B&W setting. I used similar custom settings as in colour mode, and experimented a little with the B&W filters. I found that choosing a filter effect other than red was preferable for portraits.

I almost always use aperture priority mode, center focus mode with full matrix light metering. Auto-focus mode set to auto (AF-A) most of the time, but ready to switch to AF-C for moving subject (sports, etc) and AF-S to if auto mode isn't reading my brain !

I always carry an extra battery and my lens pen cleaner. The pop-up flash is ok on the D80, but the SB-600 Speedlight produces much more natural illumination, especially for interior shots. I almost always have a diffuser attached and on occasion use a defector to create better catchlights in the eye. I don't always carry the SB-600 with me, but it's nice to have the pop-up as a back-up when needed.

My 18-200mm VR lens is on the camera most of the time with the 50mm (nifty fifty) stepping in when striving for better portraits, in low light concert settings and for shallow depth-of-field artistic shots. I put the close-up filters to use quite a few times and because they are 52mm filters, used them on the 50mm and the 18-55mm fit lens. I also used a Hoya polarizer filter (cirpl tag, missing from the shot) quite often, especially for reflective effects and landscapes. I only recently bought the Cokin ND Grad filters so haven't shot a lot with them yet. They are a little awkward to use, but having different diameter adapters and a variety of filters provides a lot of flexibility.

Of course the biggest lesson I learnt was to always take your camera with you. Take shots often and don't be shy approaching situations and people. If you're just beginning with taking shots of strangers or people on the street, musicians, street performers and people gathered for an event are much easier subjects.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Heading home

Heading home - #360/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
I got my 18-200mm VR lens back today from Nikon. They said it just needed an adjustment, and it seems to be working fine again. As the hours of daylight are really becoming a premium, I'm finding I'm trying to grab my daily shot in low light situations and it gets dark very fast I'm having to constantly tweak the settings and rethink my shots. The evening reflection on the office building at Duplex and Eglinton was nice, but when I reviewed my shots, I liked the feeling of this shot. This bus is probably the last leg of the commuter's journey home and it looks like it's getting a move on bringing Torontonians home as fast as it can !

Monday, November 08, 2010

Mert's city music

Mert's city music - #359/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.

After dropping my business card off with same day strangers, Nathan and Camille I heard the smooth jazz groove guitar sounds of this young man outside my office on Dundas Street.  I spent a some time working on getting a few street shots first, then introduced myself with my intro comment about his looping technique.  For Mert's full story see his 100 Stranger shot.

I propped my camera up on its lens cap, focused manually, used a manual setting and custom image optimization to keep a blend of city lighting with a warmer street feel.  I had to use a very high ISO (1250) as it was really dark (although you can't tell - remember a camera does better in low light than the human eye).  Once again in-camera high ISO noise reduction worked really well.  I had to take quite a lot of shots to frame the shot as I couldn't easily get down on my hands and knees in my work clothes (need a live view screen on that next DSLR).

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Last gold dreams for the night

The golden hours were fading quick, but I liked the vantage point from Liberty Village and without my trusty 18-200mm VR, I dug out my old 70-300mm and tried to capture the moment. I had to bump the ISO way up to 1250 and still I was only shooting at 1/80 sec so naturally the shot is rather soft, but I think it captures the mood and the setting.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

More towers for TO

More towers for TO - #357/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.

I dropped off my daughter for a birthday party downtown and had a chance to walk across the Bathurst bridge and grab a few shots of the ever-changing Toronto skyline. My circular polarizer worked well to get the most out of today's cloudy sky, and I think it helped produce this rich cool blue and gray feel.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Soft cactus

Soft cactus - #357/365, originally uploaded by PJMixer.
I escaped an unpleasant November day and visited Allan Gardens conservatory during my lunch hour. I hadn't been to Allan Gardens since the photo shoot for my wedding day over 19 years ago. It was just what the doctor and photography gods ordered, beautiful lighting, exotic plants, rich, saturated colours and some lovely warm air.

This large cactus had wide soft lush green leaves and I chose to centre the shot on just one leaf that was reaching out and it was one of the leaves that had its black tip intact. I had my 50mm 1.8, but closed the aperture down to f/2.8 to get more of the leaf in focus and still keeping the background soft. And to cap it off, the natural symmetry of the background leaves worked really nicely.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Shoot to Thrill

Heading out for my evening dog walk and slip on my iPod.  I'd been napping on the couch, so I selected my upbeat tracks for the walk, hoping the cold air and music would wake me up a little for my late ultimate game.  My mind wanders to movies and remembers that I need to rent Ironman 2.  I believe AC/DC features pretty prominently on the soundtrack and I'm pretty sure one of my favourite AC/DC tracks, Shoot to Thrill is used on the trailer.  I've often thought the lyrics were a little too risqué so I was a little surprised the used it for the soundtrack.  I don't recall if I have any AC/DC on my iPod at the moment.  The first track of the playlist is over, I'm not in the mood for the second randomly selected upbeat track, so I skip to the next track - Shoot to Thrill.  Rock on.

Cleanliness is next to...

I had planned to setup a one-shot self-candid, but I thought the lighting, tones and geometry deserved a little more, so I took a few shots trying to get the timing right with setting off the auto senor faucets and capturing myself reasonably framed in the mirror. One thing I would have cloned out if this was not an "in-camera" shot is the yellow notice on the mirror. I used a smaller aperture and low ISO to get a long exposure (3 secs) so the water would have a soft blur and I'd have a chance to move from the closet faucet to the other one. It only took perhaps 10 minutes to shoot, but maybe the most complex shot I've taken in a bathroom.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Junior Associate Director

It was Take Our Kids to Work Day today in Ontario for grade 9 students. I embraced the idea and had quite a full day planned for my son and I. We had a few conference calls, a technical and company primer, a PowerPoint review to prepare for a meeting, a business lunch with customers, a visit to one of my customer's offices, lots of emails, a prospecting phone call, some travel arrangements and of course, after-work drinks. My son said he really enjoyed the day and liked my work environment. He now says he's interested in marketing !

I had my son try a few different poses and I centered him in the frame on most shots. I liked the casual pose the best as it seemed more natural, but I did crop and straighten a little to omit the dull wall on the right, but wanted to include one wall to provide some context. As he's looking left, I thought a little off centre to the right worked. I liked having the big city print (a shot I took about 25 years ago) in the frame and I like the continued reflection. I used slow sync flash to keep some of the late afternoon natural light.

But what makes the shot for me is the confident pose and the look on his face. He's becoming quite a good model for my endless family and creative personal shots. I think he learnt something today.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Ryerson flowers and garbage

I created a small project called Wrecked Landscapes a while ago and when I saw this today at Ryerson University I thought it would be a good addition. So, the groundskeepers go to all this trouble to make the campus look nice with flowers and shrubs, so which department decided to put the big garbage can right next to the flowers ? And like so many garbage cans downtown, are overflowing garbage cans a sign of our wasteful ways or an understaffed or lazy maintenance department ?

I took a few shots, flip-flopping on whether to have the garbage in focus or not and a student walks into the frame and is talking on his cell phone and looking at the same scene. He there's long enough for me to frame the shot and before he leaves he uses his phone to take a picture of the same scene ! Was he thinking the same as me or just curious what I was so interested in ? He then turned and entered the building so I didn't get a chance to talk with him.

I recently read on Digital Photography School about multi-layered photography and thought this was a great example. There is the foreground image, it's connection to the garbage and then you have the student's story.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Grosvenor after work glow

I took a little detour on the way home as the November early evening light was quickly fading. I haven't shot much architecture recently, and I hadn't noticed this building before. I thought the trees and the interior curved lighting was a nice mix with the architecture perspective and symmetry formula. I used the in-camera vivid image optimization setting to give the contrast, sharpness and colour and good boost.