Getting Inside What is Happening

Another one of those “the best camera is the one you have with you” moments. Yesterday, around 6 pm we were rehearsing for Evensong at St. Thomas’ Church in Toronto, and as we are getting closer to the Fall, the sun is lower in the western sky, and was streaming through a window, illuminating the choir. When the basses (including me) weren’t singing for a moment I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a couple of images.


Many photographers have said that the key to a good photograph is getting closer; I had the good fortune to actually be inside what was happening here.  If I had pulled out a large, loud SLR I’m not too sure the conductor would have been too thrilled though.

A Civil Religious Debate

I was around Yonge and Dundas in Toronto last weekend with my old Nikkormat film camera, when I saw the religious debate pictured below. It was certainly a spirited discussion, but it did not come to blows, or result in any acts of terrorism or wars of aggression.

Given how many places in the world where this kind of discourse would be sadly unthinkable, it’s just one more reason why I am happy to live in Toronto

A Civil Religious Debate

What Does He See?

I continue to be amazed at what images can be found riding the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission subway).  There is a raw, gritty intensity to be found inside every subway car that I find irresistible.

What Does He See?

I continue to use the iPhone 3GS and the Hipstamatic app; so far, none of my subjects have been aware of me taking their picture. I feel though that eventually I will get caught out, and I wonder how the situation will play out. If I want to keep doing “street” photography, it is something I will have to deal with.

Timewarp Tuesday: Murphy the Cat

I’ve been having fun (since I got my film scanner) of going back into my old negatives and scanning pictures I took decades ago, and posting the occasional one here, but I realize that this could be a trap if I’m not careful; I need to keep working on new images.

I’ve decided therefore to only blog one older image a week, hence Timewarp Tuesday. I made this image below with my old Yashica TL-Electro, c. 1977 (the year I got this camera). The film was Ilford HP-4, push processed to either E.I. 800 or 1600, probably the latter, based on the amount of grain in the image.

Murphy the Cat

Our pet cat Murphy was the perfect subject for black & white; this rather scraggly domestic longhair was a furry grey scale; the only colour was in his eyes, but everywhere else he had every shade from white to black and back again.

Light As Painter, Subject as Canvas

Same subject matter, same camera, same film; the only difference was an hour or so on a day in Salisbury, England, on a day when the weather was changeable to say the least. I was struck by how the light treated Salisbury Cathedral as a canvas later in the day, painting it with a golden glow.

Scan-100908-0039 The Spire, Salisbury

Change is Where You Find It

I’ve taken a few pictures in the vicinity of the Toronto Eaton Centre over the years; in fact the first image I posted in this blog was captured in the Eaton Centre. That image was taken on Ilford XP-1 film, on my old Yashica TL-Electro. The image below was taken on XP-1’s successor, XP-2+. I used my Nikkormat FT2 for this image (taken in early August, 2010), a camera of roughly the same vintage.

The change I captured this time was the construction going on currently in the Eaton Centre; the scaffolding to me appears to form a canopy over the young couple.

No matter how often I photograph a location, there is always something new. Expect change, and it will find you.

couple in eaton centre

When Only Film Will Do

The picture today is of the “Scarborough Dude,” a fixture in the Canadian Podcasting Scene, and a valued friend. I took this portrait last weekend using my Nikkormat FT2, an old Nikkor 24mm lens and Ilford XP2-Plus film.

Portrait of a Friend

Although XP2-plus is supposed to be fine grain, the grain can become more noticeable when underexposed, or used at a higher exposure index. Also, from what I am reading, film scanners tend to act in the same manner as condenser enlargers, emphasizing the grain. Combining these factors, it is not a surprise that this photo appears rather grainy (more obvious at larger sizes).

Given the subject of this portrait however, I believe this grainy, organic appearance is appropriate, as it matches the Scarborough Dude’s personality; he is always the “real deal”; never any fakery. And while he is “with it” technologically speaking in terms of blogging, podcasting and other forms of social media, (indeed more so than many of his generation), he does not dismiss the past. He explores his past, and understands how it has shaped him and where he is today.

Film is organic. It is often grainy. There is no mistaking its character. The subject of this portrait would be ill-served by anything less.

The Unique Magic of Film

Here is an image from my recent trip to Salisbury England. It is a close-up of an old door knocker on one of the massive doors of Salisbury Cathedral. It’s also the first black and white film I’ve shot in about twenty-five years. I used a Nikon N6006 film SLR (purchased very cheaply on eBay) with a Nikon 55mm Macro lens (very sharp and also very inexpensive on eBay).

Today, I got a delivery of an ancient Minolta Dimage film scanner (again, purchased on eBay); using Vuescan software on my Mac I was up and running relatively quickly. I’ve still got a few kinks to work as I get this old beast dialed in, but expect to see more film scans posted here. For B/W close-up work, film still has a unique magic!

Door Knocker, Salisbury Cathedral

Portrait of An Artist

I met an artist yesterday via a mutual friend. Her medium of choice is Encaustic Painting, involving the use of oil pigments suspended in melted beeswax. This technique is both ancient and challenging, and her studio showed evidence of mastery and enthusiasm. It seemed to me that the studio itself, covered with colour, was a portrait of the artist.

In addition to some black and white photos taken with my vintage Nikkormat, I also used my iPhone to capture some of the colour. My good friends Rob Lee and Katherine Matthews (also along for the visit) recommended the free Morelomo app, and as I love vintage/Lo-Fi photography I had to give it a try; I was quite happy with the results!

Lofi Paint Bowls

The Best Camera is the One You Have With You ….

It had been a disappointing day, to say the least. In Amsterdam for only four days, and the first full day we lucked into the worst rain the city had seen all summer. My photography got curtailed, and my wife will tell you I was not in a good mood.

In the evening we were scheduled to meet up with some of my wife’s relatives, and since the weather still sucked as we left our hotel to go back downtown, I made the decision not to bring the DSLR along. So of course, 15 minutes after we left, the weather miraculously improved, and all I had was my iPhone 3GS to capture the amazing light

After a long day of rain in Amserdam

I got a few decent shots with the iPhone, but I am still kicking myself for not bringing my main camera along 😦