Algonquin Provincial Park camping trip

For the first time in over two years, my wife and I headed up to Algonquin Provincial Park for camping. Now when I say camping, I mean, with the car about ten feet away, a large cooler, a tent made for six people that I can actually stand up in, an air mattress, and all my camera gear. Oh, and the ability to high-tail it into town for a Tim Horton’s breakfast when you wake up and it’s pouring rain (day 3).

Still, Algonquin is a natural wonder. It’s really the first major destination outside of Toronto where you truly feel like you’ve entered the rugged, beautiful Canadian wilderness.

Here are some of the photos I took while on various hikes off Hwy 60. For some, I used HDR (high dynamic range) photography, where two or three bracketed exposures are combined together, revealing both shadow and highlight details that would otherwise be impossible with a single exposure.

Craigleith Provincial Park & Tombermory

My wife and I missed camping in the summer, since we hadn’t gone since 2013. To get back into the swing of it, we opted for a park close to Toronto, and one where an urban centre was close by, since we were sure we’d have to stock up on something or other.

We chose Craiglieth Provincial Park, on the south shore of Georgian Bay, near Collingwood, Ontario. We also took a day trip up the Bruce Peninsula to Tobermory and Flower Pot island.

The “flowerpot” rock formations are a sight to behold. Despite having been to Tobermory a few times before, I was never aware they were on an island. The biggest challenge in photographing them was finding the 1/200th of a second when no people would be intruding in the shot.

Chicago trip

For a visit to the windy city, I enjoyed shooting the remarkable architecture in the city. Some of the shots were from a guided riverboat tour, and some of them make use of HDR (high dynamic range) photography. For some of these shots, I tried to showcase the contrasts between the colours and textures of the buildings.

Sunrise in Collingwood

While on a family weekend getaway in Collingwood to celebrate the beginning of the summer, I awoke at 4:30 am to capture the sunrise over Georgian Bay. From seven people, only my wife and nephew joined me for the early shoot. Not sure about them, but for me, it was totally worth it.

Cheltenham Badlands

It looks like you’re in Alberta, but the Cheltenham Badlands are actually very close to Toronto. Not much bigger than a city block, it’s a little gem of undulating red shale hills. The distinctive colour is produced by iron oxide. Due to a lot of people climbing over the rocks, the site was closed to human traffic in 2015.

All of these images used HDR, or high dynamic range photography.

Toronto Zombiewalk 2012

I’d never heard of the annual Zombiewalk, but what a feast for a photographer! While the zombies are busy shambling around and eating brains, they’re also very eager to have their photos taken. This is rightly so, since the creativity they put into their makeup and costumes is remarkable.

I took a tip from the photographer’s meetup I was part of and underexposed each photo to give them a creepier look. I also put them through HDR (high dynamic range) photo processing, even though that’s intended for combining bracketed exposures, to give the final photos a grittier effect.

My favourites include the girl with the different coloured eyes, the surgeon zombie, and the pregnant nun with the zombie baby (sick, I know, but that’s kinda the point, so, well done).

I also made a little video:

Distillery District HDR Photo Meetup

For another photographer’s meetup, we went to the Distillery District in Toronto. The area is a rejuvenated Victorian-era industrial park, which now houses shopping, art galleries, a brewery, and restaurants. The Victorian feel with cobblestone streets and old buildings mixes with contemporary art and architecture. It’s also a nice spot for their annual Toronto Christmas Market.

From a photogenic perspective, the interesting stuff here are the old trucks, the wine barrels, and the multitude of textures on display. The trick was trying to compose at least one shot where indications of modernity were left out. I think I succeeded with one photo, not including the close-up shots.

For many of the shots in this collection, I used HDR or high dynamic range photography, where multiple exposures are combined together. Sometimes this technique can be pushed to create gritty and high contrast photos.

Graffiti Alley HDR photo meetup

Meetup.com is a great place to meet others with similar interests and share knowledge, network, and improve your own skills. I joined meetups for songwriting, photography, and social get togethers. For this specific meetup, the organizer started with a quick tutorial on how to capture HDR, or high dynamic range, photos. This was the first time I had heard of it, and have been using it regularly since.

Normally in photography, and more so in the digital era, photos have an exposure that tried to balance the lightest lights and the darkest darks. In high contrast scenes, you tend to lose details in the shadows or in the highlights.

To shoot an HDR photo, you need to bracket your photos. That is, take one underexposed, one overexposed, and one in the middle. You can also do it with two exposures. Then, using special software like Photomatix, you can blend the multiple images to taste, and capture details in both shadows and highlights. It’s critical to use a tripod so your shots end up lining up perfectly. When I don’t have my tripod on me, I tend to hold my breath and shoot in high-speed mode, which gets the shots pretty darn close. Plus, Photomatix has a pretty good algorithm for lining up multiple shots.

The meetup organizer chose Graffiti Alley in Toronto to hold this shoot. Tucked in behind Queen Street West, it’s a popular spot for photographers to shoot cool urban models. Here, we focused on the graffiti itself.

Supermoon March 19, 2011

Every once in a (long) while, the moon gets a bit closer to the Earth, and appears up to 14% larger in the sky. This makes photographer go a little bonkers and get very upset if there’s cloud cover that night.

Fortunately, we had a clear calm night to take our photos as part of a meetup group. We ventured to the Humber River Bay area in Toronto. It’s not much darker here than the rest of the city, but the moon is nice and bright so urban light pollution isn’t a big an issue as when you’re trying to photograph the stars.

The final shot here is a composite of a zoomed in and wide angle shot, to exaggerate the size of the moon in the sky. I had to brush in the moon’s reflection in Lake Ontario to make it look convincing.

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