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.

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.

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.

Algonquin moose viewing

Every spring in Algonquin Provincial Park, the moose emerge. They like to drink the water on the side of the highway, as the snow melts and salt from the road puddles in the ditches. Of course, this provides photographers with a great opportunity for some up close portraits of Canada’s wanna-be national animal.

Facilities Management Year in Review

The Facilities Management department at London Health Sciences Centre needed to improve its public profile at the hospital, and one strategy was to produce a Year in Review report to deliver key messages and showcase good work.

I wrote the content, took many of the photos, and designed the document for the 16-page report. Content included:

  • letter from the Vice-President
  • the Facilities Management team
  • Featured Projects
  • Infrastructure Improvements
  • Visions for the Future

Downloads

Year-in-Review-layout-1

Facilities Management intranet site

The Facilities Management department at London Health Sciences Centre needed to improve its profile within the hospital’s culture. The internal website I developed served to increase transparency and communication, while showcasing the good work done by the department.

I was responsible for writing, photography, and management of the intranet site.  A working group arrived at a consensus for the site architecture, which I then refined and developed streamlined content for each of the pages, including some photography.

 

Digital wayfinding graphics

While at the Facilities Management department at London Health Sciences Centre, I was responsible for developing the graphical content for the touchscreen wayfinding features, including maps, buttons, and backgrounds, working primarily with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

Special care to be taken with planning and exporting the map graphics so that future edits to the maps did not interfere with the wayfinding data points.  I also took and edited the photographs for the homepage backgrounds, specifically for each kiosk in a different area of the hospital, following the existing wayfinding colour scheme.

wayfinding-with-person

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.

Toronto Colour Run 2015

I knew some people participating in the annual colour run, which looked like so much fun I decided to join them for 2016, despite having no interest in running. I only packed my zoom lens, to get close as possible to the runners, and stay as far away as possible from the explosions of coloured powder. (Turns out, I did get a little on my camera and lens, but it came off easily with no damage).