Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Went down to TIFF & took more photos of buildings - 150 King W

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: Photo of the building on 150 King St. W in Toronto

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. 

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Went down to TIFF for people photos & ended up w/ architecture

Wandered down to TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) to grab a few shots of people. What do you know, I came away with more architecture. And a construction site. I think I may need therapy to get past my construction site passion. I did take a few photos of the mass of humanity down on King, but the best photos are the reflections coming off the buildings. I went down for a movie at  3:30pm, and when I came out around 6, the reflections were spectacular. The Bookings.com building on University and Wellington has some exciting light and mirror effects:

View of the Bookings.com building on Yonge near King St.
Yes, I did indulge in some Photoshop chicanery with these photos. I hate the tilted distortion look when taking wide shots of tall buildings. Occassionally the effect is stunning, but it wears very quickly. I've been practicing with the perspective warp feature on Photoshop to untilt the buildings a bit. Kind of hit and miss, but I'll get better as I practice. Be prepared for the odd wonky looking building until I get the hang of it. The above photo came out quite well, but a bit grainy. The built in lens on my little Powershot isn't the best for variable lights. 

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A leisure Saturday stroll along Bloor St.

Had a decent day out yesterday with a trip to Korea Town to pick up kimchi and walnut cakes. Nothing says Saturday afternoon in Toronto like a box full of walnut cakes and a stroll down Bloor St. In anticipation of buying a DSLR camera around Christmas, I've been working on understanding the settings clearly. I've been a lazy point the camera, shoot and hope I get the photo kind of person since moving to digital. I've spent quite a bit of time reading on f stops, exposure, histograms and how to balance the photo. Even when I used a film camera, I was never that aware of the settings. 

I discovered a few interesting things about my habits - I tend to focus far too much on the specific topic I'm shooting and ignore the stuff going on in the background. I had a gorgeous shot of a dog sitting patiently waiting at a fruit store for his owner. The balance was right, the light on the dog was good, the dark fur shone and .. a woman's white leg sticking out of the dog's head pretty much killed the mood of the photo. I didn't even notice it when I took the photo. So, yea, that went into the trash. In hindsight, I should have kept it and posted it here to show what went wrong. 

I almost titled this article "Struggles of an amateur photographer" but that's a bit disingeneous. It's not a struggle, frustrating sometimes, but fun discovering how to get the most out of photos and camera. My current Canon Powershot has limited settings, so I can only go so far, but that doesn't mean I can't get outstanding shots. The new camera setup I'm looking at will also allow me to do some videos, something the Powershot doesn't really excel at. Videos tend to be a bit choppy and chews threw batteries like candy. I've looked at the lens from my old Konica film camera and discovered I can buy an adapter for the DSLR and use it. I loved my old Konica and lens and got all misty eyed nostagic at the thought of being able to use it. I'm interested in seeing what kind of quality the lens will offer. I really, really loved that old lens! 

To today's offering:  

Before setting out yesterday, I fussed with the settings a little, getting ready for a bright sunny day, intense reflections off buildings and getting fun stills.  I used evaluative metering, f/3.4, ISO 100, auto white balance. Pretty basic settings. With the new DSLR I'll be able to fire in RAW, which will be amazing, but in the meantime, I'm quite happy with some of the results.  Photo of a fruit and veg store on Bloor in Korea TownWhen I got home, I adjusted the shadows a little to bring some of the fruit and vegs up a bit clearer, but beyond that, the photo is satisfying as is.  

You can now connect to Bitter Grounds Magazine by wandering over to my new(ish) Instagram account. I set it up a year ago but only recently began working with it extensively. I'm loading up some on-the-fly photos and experiments that may not make it to the website, so it's fun to play with.   https://www.instagram.com/bittergrounds2016/  

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Furthering my construction site obsession

I've been flipping through the photos I've taken over the past couple of years and noticed a growing trend. I've become a bit obessessed with construction sites. You may see a hole in the ground, I see a strange bit of art going on - creating something from nothing. I was shlepping around Berczy Park towards Yonge yesterday and saw the left overs of a completed skyscrapper. It's been under construction for ... feels like forever, but let's just say a long time. At the far east of the building is a small area with a bit of equipment behind fencing. I got all excited and a bit goofy with my face pressed to the fencing muttering "cool, diggers come in small sizes". Felt a bit embarrassed when I realised the man walking behind me was watching. Oh well, not the most embarassing thing I've ever done in public, won't be the last time I accidently say out loud what's binging around in my brain. 

It was cool. I've only seen the big, big diggers and this was so compact, not much bigger than a Bobcat. It was awesome. I'd love to drive around in one! No seriously, I would (speaking of utterly embarassing myself). Don't think there is enough insurance in the world to cover the damage I'd likely bring down around me. What would be cool is to be able to get inside one for a bit and take photos. I wonder what the view is like. 

Anyway, I'm digressing. I took out my handy camera and grabbed a few shots. This time around, I tried to pay attention to the over all framing of the shot. I have a hard time reading the screen to set up the photo so next camera will definitely have an eyepiece. I  took a few shots, being mindful of the buildings around and the sidewalk layout. When I fired up on the laptop to look at them I was impressed with the way the colour of the buildings complimented the digger (what is the name of that machinery?). The sky was blown out, not much I can do about that. A simple filter will help in the future. But the structure was exactly what I wanted.

Photo of a small construction digger

I threw it into Photoshop and ran a few filters to draw out the yellow in the buildings and the machinery. I have a thing for deep, rich blacks and bumped the black up so the colours come out sharp but not over saturated.  I compensated for the bad sky by increasing grey content so it complimented the dirt and gravel. I remember looking at the site thinking the piping on the ground would be a good center to take the shot and turns out it's spot on. So another Construction Site Still Life to add to the collection. 

I wonder if diggers come with training wheels. 

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Scenes from my balcony - no not a Romeo story

I'm going to start a new series titled "Scenes from my balcony".  Every week something chaotic, silly or fascinating seems to play out below and I have a perfect perch to watch the drama unfold.  A notification went up earlier in the week warning Yonge would be blocked Friday night and Saturday for a construction crane installation across the road. Didn't think much of it beyond I might get a few cool photos. Last night when the equipment was moved into place I took a few ok shots. In the wee hours of the morning I briefly stuck my head out the door to see what the "beep beep beep" was about. Workers were already rustling about down there. I thought way too early for this, crawled back into bed and threw a pillow over my head. 

When I woke up and stepped out onto the balcony, I had a "HOLY SHIT" moment. This greeted me:  Photo of a construction worker hanging off crane hitting it with a sledgehammerI'm pleased with that shot. Not at all bad for a little Canon Powershot.  It did a servicable job on the photos throughout the day. It's weak spot is night light so most of the night photos are a wash. I'll likely end up tossing them. I still came away with some great photos. 

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"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera."

- Dorothea Lange

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