Blair Packham and the Jitters show photography

I went to the album release party for Blair Packham, a top Canadian singer-songwriter who was the frontman for The Jitters a short while ago. He continues to write catchy, clever, and thoughtful songs and he also teaches songwriters at Song Studio in Toronto. I know Blair from his numerous appearances on Song Talk Radio (some of our best shows, thanks to Blair’s articulate insights into songwriting).

For this show at the Pilot, Blair performed songs from his new album Unpopular Pop with his band The Impossible Dream, and then took the stage with his old band The Jitters. I had a eureka moment when they played Last of the Red Hot Fools, as I recall that song being on the radio when I was a teenager, but I never lined up Blair (or the Jitters) with the song.

I’m glad I took my camera, as Blair really dug the photos (“Wow! Pictures of me that I don’t hate!”) I’ve been listening incessantly to the Jitters and Unpopular Pop since…

Cherry Blossoms 2017: The Shadow Side

I always look forward to the arrival of the cherry blossoms at High Park. I don’t make it ever year, but each time go I try to think of a different way to capture their fleeting beauty. In 2011, I arrived with a photographer’s meetup at sunrise, in 2012, I focused on the people, and in 2015 I tried out daytime time-lapsed photography.

This time, I wasn’t sure what I was going to try, but after a few photos I decided it might be interesting to only shoot the blossoms on their shadow sides. Perhaps it was because the barrage of people shooting with their backs to the setting sun made it crowded to shoot from the sunny side—who knows?

In any case, I did find myself wanting to step around and turn direction to get the blossoms with direct sunlight many times. It’s easy to argue direct light makes for better photos. Each time, I managed to keep myself in the shadows.

There’s something about the translucency of the blossom petals that make shooting from this side interesting. Of course, this works best when the sun is low; I was shooting during the hour before sunset.

Every photo in this gallery except the first one was shot from the shadow side.

Melanie J. Fishbane website design

I worked closely with young adult novelist and writer Melanie J. Fishbane to develop her new author website in preparation for the launch of her debut novel, Maud.

Melanie is a bone fide Anne of Green Gables and Lucy Maud Montgomery expert. Her first novel is about the teenage years of the famous Anne author—her trials and tribulations of becoming a writer, her love interests, and family dramas.

I presented Melanie with a few design options, including a variety of colour schemes, backgrounds, and general look and feel. We settled on a template, and I continued to refine the style to her taste and the appeal of her audience, which includes readers, teachers, and other writers.

Check out the website at melaniefishbane.com.

One-stop shop

I also helped Mel with photography. We set up a classic typewriter with some of Mel’s Anne-flavoured memorabilia and miscellaneous stuff for her main homepage banner. I also took the photos for a few other banners and items for the website and accompanying media (e.g. bookmarks).

I appreciate that Mel refuses to use stock photography, preferring to instead use her own photos and memorabilia. This gives her website a very personal and intimate presentation. She invites her audience into her personal and professional life, and we even got her cat Merlin in on the action!

I also provided technical support, set up her domain name and a new email address, web hosting, and imported her previous blog into the new website.

Melanie also needed assistance with a small social media campaign. In preparation for the book launch, she selected seven quotes from the novel. I created social media cards which she posted each day for a week until the launch day. I used elements from the cover design to give her campaign a consistent look.

BS Fridays Radio Showcase photography

I was invited to take photos of a singer-songwriter showcase put on by BS Fridays in Toronto on April 7, 2017. The event took place at the Cameron House, and the organizers put on a great show of talented performers.

LHSC FMESS Year in Review

While at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), I developed a Year in Review for the new portfolio of Facilities Management, Environmental and Support Services (FMESS). The new portfolio encompassed many departments and support service areas. I focused on the changes over the 2016-17 year, the great work being done, and visions for the future. We also included friendly congratulations and recognition for staff members who played vital roles throughout the year. The Year in Review was intended for a general audience, both at LHSC and outside the organization.

I worked closely with the Vice-President to develop the framework, with other staff to conduct research and develop the content, and compiled and wrote the content for the report. I also took many photos, profiling the human dimension of support services as much as possible. I designed the final layout in a package suitable for offset printing and online distribution.

Download the FMESS Year in Review 2016-17.

Nashville-style singer-songwriters in the round

Once again, I attended a night of talented singer-songwriters in a Nashville-style round, where four performers do four songs each in turn. What makes this kind of setup amazing is when the performers backup each other with guitar or harmony vocals.

The performers for the February 9 show at the 120 Diner in Toronto were:

  • Chase Stevens
  • John Chris Ford
  • Bruce Harrott
  • Annie Bonsignore

As before, I took some photos of the performers and shared the hi-res copies with them.

Nashville style singer-songwriters in the round photos

Once again, I attended a night of fantastic original music at the 120 Diner in Toronto. I was invited by two of the performers, Sherry Jacoby and Lora Ryan. The show was hosted by Annie Bonsignore and Roger Beckett from A&R Productions.

The great thing about the Nashville-style setup is the interplay between the artists. In particular, Augusta Ray lent her sweet country voice to other performers on stage. As well, Paul Malysa prompted the audience for random key words and improvised a song on the fly, with backup vocals by Augusta. It was a fun night and a privilege to hear such talented singers and songwriters.

I took photos of the performers, and offered to share high-resolution copies with the artists.

Live music photography

I recently purchased a new medium telephoto lens for my camera and put it to the test with photographing a couple of live music events. I enjoyed a “songwriters in the round” event at 120 Diner in Toronto. I already knew three of the performers, and got to meet and hear several new ones.

Beige Shelter was playing a show at Skeaky Dee’s, and I took photos of bands The Thick, The Cashews, and singer-songwriter David Dino White. For this show, the stage was bathed in a very bad blue light, so I converted the photos to black and white in post-production.

For another Beige Shelter show, I took photos of supporting acts Brian Sasaki and Wilson & The Castaways. The show was a great success at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club in Toronto.

The new lens is great for capturing sharp photos in low light. I find the keys to great photos on stage are using spot metering and adjusting the focus point as you shoot. I like to capture high emotional moments in the performances and where possible, get them with their eyes open. Framing with odd angles also adds a cool dynamic.

Is Canada Delivering On The Promises Of Medicare – Presentation

I worked closely with Tony Dagnone, the former CEO of London Health Sciences Centre, on his presentation for the 2016 CHES Conference. Tony wanted to see some creative “whiteboard” illustrations to bring some visual interest to his narrative. For these animations, I used a combination of stock drawings and my own illustrations.

Most of the time, whiteboard animated videos include a recorded voice-over narration. For Tony’s presentation, I had to time the animations to his live narrative and split the animations to insert into Power Point. This way, an animation would finish before Tony would finish his taking point and remain on the final frame of the video, and he could finish talking before proceeding to the next slide / animation. We also worked collaboratively on streamlining his narrative text.

For some of the slides, a simple photograph sufficed. For others, we needed charts and graphs. Between the several types of media, Tony’s presentation had a great variety and dynamic.

The presentation was very well received, and Tony was complimented on the visual interest of his presentation.

This video is an excerpt of some of the “whiteboard” animations I completed, with my own reading of Tony’s narration.

Milky Way Photo at Algonquin Provincial Park

I’ve always had an interest in astro-photography, having previously taken star trail photos and of course, the moon. One subject I hadn’t yet tackled yet was the milky way, or at least the slim, tiny portion that’s visible from Earth.

The most important thing you need for successful astro-photography is a clear, dark sky. Knowing that I was going to spending a few nights in Algonquin Provincial Park, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.

Milky Way photo from Whitefish Lake
Nikon D7000 with Sigma 10-20 DX lens at 10mm, f/5.6 at 30s and ISO 3200

I did some research online, finding a few helpful articles. Even with a relatively dark sky, the band of dense stars is faint and hard to make out with the naked eye. Enter a smartphone app, Sky Guide, to help me out. Run the app, point is at the sky, and it tells you in real time what you’re looking at. The greatest thing about the app is the ability to fast forward in time, to see where celestial objects will be, say, four hours from now. As a starting point, I knew that I needed to be facing south to see the milky way.

The first day at Algonquin, I staked out a spot near a river and dam that faced south over the water. Sky Guide told me that the moon would be out, and it would be full. A full moon, according to my research, is bad; bye-bye dark sky. Still, I tried it out, and sure enough, I ended up with dim star points on a gray sky. The location was less than ideal, too, as the close trees obscured much of the milky way.

I figured that with the moon being full and only starting to wane, my hopes of a good shot were diminished. The next two days at the park brought rain and cloud cover.

On day five, I spent the sunset taking photos at our campground’s beach (which faced north). While waiting for dusk, I looked again at the Sky Guide app to see what other opportunities might be in store for my final night before returning to the light polluted city. Sunset was just before 9 pm. I fast forwarded the time to 10 pm and turned my phone south to see a projection of the milky way. I then tried to locate the moon. Nowhere in the sky. What’s this? It’s below the horizon until after 11 pm!

So, I had a clear night and an invisible moon. The third thing I needed was a clear view south. I checked the park map for a close by location. The neighbouring campground, Whitefish Lake, had a south facing beach. Perfect!

Excited, I ventured out after dark and arrived at Whitefish Lake just after 10 pm. The beach was vacant and dark. It was Monday night, and the campground was relatively empty.

Shooting in the dark has its challenges. You can’t see your framing or if your horizon is straight. The first few photos I took were slanted and had more lake than sky, but the milky way was unmistakable. Anyway, with exposures lasting only 30 seconds, it was easy to have trial and error, unlike a star trail shot which can last 30 minutes or longer before you know whether you had success.

It took several tries before I finalized the framing; obviously, I wanted a ton of sky and hardly any lake.

The most surprising thing about the photo was the yellow glow behind the trees. Even though the sun had set over an hour ago, the long exposure picked up and amplified the latent bit of sunlight that was invisible to the naked eye. Truly, it is darkest just before the dawn.

The final shot didn’t take much post-processing; a small colour adjustment to make it cooler, some sharpening, and a slight straightening.

On the whole, planning and access to the Sky Guide app helped make this venture a success.