I often see some amazing visuals while trotting around the streets of Toronto. All too often, those are the days I've left my camera on my desk. Today, wasn't one of those days. I was cutting along Adelaide on my way to Yonge and looked up to see snakes and skulls climbing up the side of a building. Or rather one big ass snake mural and a cool skull reflection:
See the skull reflection just above the snake? I looked around trying to figure out how the mirror effect was created, but I'm a bit stumped. The spot is just south off Adailaide, in the courtyard behind the Staples on Yonge at 2pm. Nice little area, but I've never noticed the reflections before. Guess I had to be there at just the right time to spot the lurking skull. Really adds a cool dimension to the snake wall art.
I've been watching videos by professional photographers, trying to learn how to correct what I consider bad photography habits. One piece of advice, that should be obvious but wasn't, was "move around". Basically, don't just stand in one spot snapping away hoping to get a great shot. Look at all angles, move around and evaluate what you see. The second piece was don't be afraid to correct lens distortion with Lightroom or Photoshop. So, I went out on the weekend with a mission to revisit a number of locales.
My favourite is the tower down on 150 King St W. I go by it quite a bit and have tried to take photos but, yikes, they aren't worth looking at. I generally toss them in the trash bin. I now realise I was taking the same shot over and over. This time, I crossed the road (like I said, obvious tip) and walked around the building, looking at various angles. I took about a dozen random shots and sat down to look at them. I flipped through them - nope, nope, nope, distorted and unsalvagable, nope ... now that one has potential. I went back to the spot and started taking photos from various angles, finally finding the right framing. Here it is:
I almost fell on my ass bending back to take the photo. It's dizzying looking up like that. But, I got the shot. It was important to grab the address as well. It makes the photo.
A little cropping and a bit of adjusting and Bob's your uncle. One nice photo. I played with the tilt of the building and angles a bit, but undid them. There's something about this particular tilting that helps fill in the sense of height and brings out the different angles in the buidling's construction.
For a little point and shoot, my venerable Canon Powershot does a pretty fair job. The shot was a little grainy in spots for some reason, it has a habit of breaking down along defined edges, so I simply capitalised on it and used an HDR filter to emphasis the graininess. Can't wait to get my hands on a shiny new DSLR, I'm already oggling some decent used lenses for the future. But, first, I need to get in the habit of framing the photo, looking at it from all angles and moving around more.
We’ve all seen posters/signs that make us shake our head and mutter “whoa, what were they thinking”. It's usually an amusing typo or a grammatical error that raises our eyebrows. Occasionally it's the layout that causes us to stop in our tracks and ask "wait, what?" We all lay clangers and, sometimes, we don’t spot them for months. It's not easy catching your own mistakes, which is why a ruthless proofreader is worth their weight in dark chocolate.
A sign making the rounds on the Internet lately that had me blinking a few times in a bit of disbelief.
Proofing isn’t just about catching typos and grammatical errors. It’s also layout and how the product flows. And oh boy, a fresh set of eyes would have caught this before $ were spent.
I've made a couple things that looked ok on the monitor but when printed, it became obvious the layout altered the message. I find it endlessly fascinating the difference between design for a monitor or small screen and print. What works for an iPhone may not translate well to a large poster and vice versa. The above sign drives home how tricky even a basic sign can be. Our eyes follow natural paths that can have unintentional consequenses. A bad case of designer tunnel vision can blur the message. Everyone involved in the poster design knew what the message was, but didn't stop to see it through new eyes. Lots of words to incorporate, really want to stress the primary message and not seeing how the words flow. "We Support" is great - nice use of a friendly font that draws the eye to it. Then the mistake occurs. The focus is on child abuse not prevention. Such an easy mistake to make. Shrinking "child abuse" would have solved the problem. Increase size of "prevention" so it fills the sign, bumping month below to match the other 5 letter words would have created an interesting flow that would have emphasised prevention, which is kind of the point.
I have a folder with signs and posters that should have worked but didn't for a variety of reasons. I keep them as a teaching tool for myself. I filter through them trying to figure out how a small change would have made a difference. I also have a folder holding what I think are spectacular examples of beautiful layout. I spend quite a bit of time looking at them, trying to figure out what makes them so successful. I have a thing for professional designers. Their work can have a profound impact on how we see the world around us - signs on buildings, posters, movies titles, magazines and books but we're oblivious to the person(s) who created the work. Most of us flatter ourselves we can whip up a poster in no time because hey we have the software and a computer. But good design is so much more than knowing how to use the software. It's an eye and feel for the work. It's knowing how to communicate with an audience. Good design also means good proofreading. You can't have the first without the second.
Tidying up a few loose ends here and there. Cleaned up the sidebar clutter that had been driving me over the edge everytime I looked at the page. Also rewrote the About section - brevity is our friend this month. Filtered out all the noise and posted the essential bits and pieces.
In the process of creating a small "follow me" page to show the various ways to follow Bitter Grounds. I've been busy behind the scenes setting up and clarifying the various methods. Everything began to grow more rapidly than anticipated so I needed to pull back and sort through thevarious methods that actually work.
Will be rewriting the Support page over the next day or two. Needs tidying as well.
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