Testing aperture & shutter speed at Queen’s Quay

Testing aperture & shutter speed at Queen’s Quay

At long last, I’ve begun to take photos again. I spent a bit of time testing aperture and shutter speed settings, attempting to capture some interesting visuals. Took a couple of hours, but I managed to get some pretty good shots.

I wandered down to Queen’s Quay (one of my favourite haunts) last month. I played with getting a couple of close up lens attachments and filters to improve my photos but decided against it. After examining various lens, (I’m not talking about genuine macro lenses)  I decided the better option is to continue with my nice starter lens and keep working on the basics. Part of the decision was based on a sense of being underwhelmed with sharpness of the lenses. I really like sharp lines and crisp colours, both were lacking with any of the lenses I investigated.

But regardless the quality, all the lenses in the world won’t help if you don’t know the basics. I’m still struggling with aperture & shutter speed. I made great inroads last year but after taking so much time off, I lost a lot of the knowledge. I didn’t pick the camera up for months. And when mom died in April, I just lost my heart for photography. We had worked together on improving my skills – mom was a good critic and gave wonderful advice on content and colour balance.  I really miss her input.

I focused on getting up close and personal with the subjects this time. Can’t remember if I used the macro settings or not. Next time I’ll remember to take my little note book with me. I took a lot of time composing the shots, played with settings to see if I could get a fine balance between shadows, light and sharpness. Here’s a series I worked at the hardest.

ISO 100 f/4 1/1000 – full colour photograph

These images are unretouched. Part of the project was to work with camera settings only to get the best possible quality out of my Canon T6. So you get the unedited versions.

Testing aperture & shutter speeds with a photo of wheat grass against the blue sky

By squatting down and angling up a bit, I was able to capture both the brilliant blues in the sky and the subtle yellows in the shadows.  I tweaked a few settings to get the colour balance just right. Vivid colours came through. After I took a few shots, I switched things up a bit. I kept the same aperture & shutter speed, an played with colour vs B&W.

ISO 100 f/4 1/1000 – black and white settings

Same spot, same settings except for the colour.

Testing aperture & shutter speeds with a photo of wheat grass against the blue sky

This was an interesting exercise. I was curious about maintaining the sharpness, but highlight the shadows.  The colour photo is more visually appealing. It captures the fine details a little better. It also has a crispness about it that this black and white lacks.

ISO 800 f/18 1/200 – black and white settings

Not sure why I ramped the ISO up so high. I think part of it was to see what happens. I adjusted the aperture & shutter speed as well.

Testing aperture & shutter speeds with a photo of wheat grass against the blue sky

Didn’t come out grainy like I thought it would. Bit surprised, actually. And I like it. Completely different feel with this shot. Not so finely detailed, but the shadowed areas really pop out.  The impression is a bit wispy an softer. Again, I didn’t do any post production, just adjusted the image size so it wouldn’t bog down the page. I think, if I used ISO 400, it might have been better. The shadows would have been richer.

All in all, it was a good afternoon. It’s easy to forget how much fun it can be wandering around the city with a camera. I’ve got a new photo project I’m starting tonight, which will be a real challenge. I have access to a south facing balcony for a few days so I’ll be able to do a bit of night photography of the Toronto skyline. This will be a real challenge. The golden hour is around 7:30, the sky is bright an clear. I’ll wait around for the sun to set as well and see what I can do. The tripod is already leaning against the door, waiting to go with me.

Hope you enjoyed the photos. As always, don’t forget to check out the rest of the site. Lots of photos and rambling thoughts to entertain you. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

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Wall art on Bathurst – some older photos revisited

Wall art on Bathurst – some older photos revisited

I’ve been whiling away the hours by looking through photos I’ve taken over the last couple of years, especially the wall art. They’ve been bringing back good memories of long walks with mom and reminding me of the incredible encouragement she offered while I got Bitter Grounds off the ground. She was always saying “just go show people the city the way you see it”. It was good advice. Although mom was never fond of all the construction sites I lurked around.  She figured I should have gone into construction so I could play with the big toys. So, to connect with mom, I’ve been looking at some of the photos we sorted through and enjoyed.

This was trip along Bathurst, running south, from a trip sometime in the summer of 2018. There’s a lot of great architecture and wall art scattered all through the area. One of the best examples was a defunct restaurant’s artwork. The art is starting to fade, but is still pretty lively.

Photo of wall art on Bathurst showing a small cantina  scene

I loved the way the shadows played along the wall.  This is a good spot to stop and recharge.

The entire village scene is fun, but the part I like best is the bar scene.

Wall art on Bathurst from an restaurant. Shows a cantina scene.

I’m not sure who the artist is. Pity, they should get credit for this. It really evokes a mood, doesn’t it.  I think it’s one of my favourite hidden gems. When the quarantine is lifted, I’m going to trot back over there to see if it’s still there.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be revisiting the photo archive. I kept the bulk of what I shot so I could use it as a measuring stick to evaluate my skills and growth. Can’t really go out and do any photography at the moment so it’s a good time to examine my work with fresh eyes.

Thanks for the camera mom.

More bees photos – summers gone

More bees photos – summers gone

It’s Sept already, summer is gone and I didn’t get much time to wander the city taking photographs. I did get a some decent bee photos so all wasn’t lost. Bees don’t really care if you lurk around taking photos of them and by and large ignore any pesky photographer.  I’m using a standard kit lens that came with my Canon Rebel which doesn’t have the best zoom abilities. I have to exercise a great deal of patience when trying to photograph small objects, especially those that zip about on wings.  I spent nearly an hour stalking different bees recently. Out of nearly 100 photos, I came out with 4 or 5 that were publish worthy.  The rest were blurs of activity.

These photos were taken at Ramsden Park (Yonge St across from Rosedale subway station) and Queen’s Quay’s flower gardens. The bumble bee was in the flower patch in front of my apartment building though.

Here’s the first Portrait of a Bee Ignoring the Irritating Human:

Photo of a bee on a purple flower

Bees seem to love purple flowers

Not sure why, but they all seem to be drawn to purple flowers. If I spot a patch of purple, I’ll bee line to the flower patch to check out the activity. I’m never disappointed. The colours were pretty good and the bee photographed nicely. Not as sharp as I wanted but I was content with it.

Photo of a bee on a purple flower closer view

Here’s a closer look at the bee

This next photo was a bit blown out, colour wise. I had a hard time adjusting for the sun’s intensity that day. I’m still working at mastering camera settings so they are second nature. The bee came out pretty good though.

Photograph of a bee on purple flowers

Too busy working to care about me

I was super excited about the wing clarity on the next bee photo.

Up close photo of a bee showing wings in detail

Beautiful translucent wings on this one.

The wings are gorgeous. I’ve tried repeatedly to get clear photos of bee wings. Their delicacy is breathtaking. But, they are rarely still long enough. I got really lucky this time. I was happy with the colour balance and exposure as well. The hairs and eyes were pretty sharp too.

The garden’s outside the building I live in is alive with bumble bees. Every plant is loaded down with them. I stalked around the garden for nearly an hour in August trying to get good shots. I especially like the colour combination on this one.

Photograph of a bumblebee on a pink flower

Bumble bee working away on the flower

I was so close to this particular bumble bee I’m surprised she didn’t come up and sting me. She just worked away and ignored me. The eyes came out nicely. I feel like I could reach out and pat her.

And finally, the one that made me the happiest.

Extreme closeup photo of a bee on purple flowers

The details on this photograph still surprise me

No idea how I managed it, but I finally captured a bee with stunning (for me) sharpness and clarity. The little hairs on her back are wonderfully clear. It was brilliantly sunny out. I really struggled with the sun’s intensity that day. Many of the photos were washed out, with the purples looking anemic. I adjusted settings over and over until I got this. F11 1/500 ISO 100 if you’re curious.

Love the details on the flower petals as well. I can usually get the flower focused or the bee, but rarely the two at the same time. Bonanza with this photograph. I’m thinking of getting this one framed for my wall. It gives me a big high water mark to strive for in future photographs.

I’m hoping Sept is a bit better for getting out around the city. So many places to go and so little time lately.

Best sign in Toronto – Bauhaus Windows & Doors

Best sign in Toronto – Bauhaus Windows & Doors

I didn’t use the camera much this winter. I hate wandering around in the cold. But, there’s a hint of spring in the air and it’s time to start thinking of photographic expeditions into the wilds of Toronto. To prepare, I meandered through  some of last year’s work. I’m fussing a lot over the quality, trying to figure out how to improve the sharpness and clarity. In the meantime, here’s one of my favourites from last year.

photo of a sign with an carved animal over the door. Looks like a dog & rodent cross

Bauhaus has the best signage in Toronto

This has to be the best store signs in the city – Bauhaus – fine windows and doors. If you’re strolling along Avenue Rd, and Davenport, check it out.

Close up of the carved dog on the Bauhaus store signage

What is this animal? Dragon? Dog? Rodent?

The animal is a bit of a mystery. At first I thought it was a dog, but then maybe a cat? But not with that tail. So I’ve settled on a dragon-cat mutant. I stood back quite a bit to take these photos and am pleased with the level of detail that popped on the carving. I worked hard with the various settings until I could see all the fine details and sharp shadowing. One of the successes!

I’m looking forward to this year. There will be more architecture, signage and hopefully flowers as well. The old tripod is ready to go, camera cleaned and polished. Come on spring.

More Toronto wall art – bright city lights

More Toronto wall art – bright city lights

I’ve been digging through older photos, looking for something a bit cheery to blow away the winter blues. My mom often reads through Bitter Grounds, offering ideas and advice. Around Christmas she looked over her glasses at me (never a good thing) and told me to lighten up the content. I took that to mean my passion of construction sites was a bit too much. Not sure if the photo below will pass muster, but I love it so, sorry mom.

I forgot about a short trip I took to Budd Sugarman Park last summer. It’s a wee slice of green, squished between the Rosedale subway station, Aylmer Ave and Yonge. There really isn’t much to see down there, but Sugarman is a nice little spot to sit and relax. The park hosts an amazing piece Toronto wall art, or in this case, utility cover art.

On the south side of Aylmer is a utility box that showcases a stunning piece of art.

Photo of art on a utility box depicting a twighlight scene in the city

The colours are so vivid, the photo doesn’t do it justice. I’m not sure who the artist is, which is a shame. I’d like to see more.

You can follow Bitter Grounds via Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram. I’m working on setting up a subscription system, but time is a bit short so don’t expect it this month. I’ll do my best to get it going. Subscribers will get a few perks – voting on upcoming stories, give aways (modest little items, but fun) and a few other ideas I’m working on. If you’d like to support Bitter Grounds visit my support page to find out how.

International Bee Day is coming

International Bee Day is coming

Bees are fun to watch and don’t get me get started on the whole “beneficial bug” thing. You might be here for hours.  I grew up surrounded by people who would kill any bee that dared buzz near them or drench their gardens in shocking amounts of pesticides.  Hopefully this “kill it, kill it” thinking isn’t so common. Our future survival is intertwined with buzzy little bees.  In 2017, the UN declared May 20th World Bee Day to help foster recognition of the vital role bees play in the chain of life.

World Bee Day isn’t to be confused with World Honey Bee Day held Aug 17th. Not all bees are honey bees by the way. If you aren’t up on the diversity within the bee family, check Wikipedia’s pretty decent page. This May, set aside the 20th to learn a bit more about bees, their diversity in design and the beauty of watching them hover around the plants in your garden.

“Bees play a crucial role in increasing crop yields and promoting food security and nutrition. Without them, we could lose a variety of food such as potatoes, pepper, coffee, pumpkins, carrots, apples, almonds, tomatoes, just to name a few. In short, without bees, FAO cannot achieve a world without hunger. World Bee Day recognizes the importance of these tiny helpers and will increase awareness of the need to protect them.”
Carla Mucavi, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations worldbeeday.org 

And now a few random bee photos

Photo of a bee on a purple flower

I spend a lot of time trying to photograph bees, with a very low success rate.  I figured that if I focused on a single blossom and waited (and waited) eventually I’d be able to grab a decent photo or two. I have a scattering of presentable photos as a result. Despite hours of getting up close photos of bee bums, I’ve never been stung. Bees simply ignore me and get on with their job. It’s surprising how close you can get to them.

Photo of a bee on a purple flower

I think the last two are honey bees but I could be wrong. My bee identification skills rank right up there with my mushroom identification skills. There is a staggering variety within the bee-verse in North America alone – honey bees, bumble bees, orchard bees, mining bees, mason bees, blueberry bees, squash bees, sweat bees, hoverflies. Some bees sting, some don’t. Some collect nectar, some are predatory. Some are parasitic, some are beneficial. Some look vaguely like honeybees, some look exotic … oh my, the specialization. According to the Brampton Bee Keepers Association, there are over 800 varieties of bees in Canada, and between 20,000 to 25,000 worldwide. And they are under threat around the globe.

Collect stamps? Check out my post on Canada’s Bee Stamps 
Scan of 2 Canadian postage stamps with stylized bees

 

My favourite is the humble bumble bee, but they aren’t as plentiful as they used to be. I didn’t spot more than a dozen all summer. The reason is pretty depressing – bumble bees are listed as a species at risk in Canada.

Photo of a bee on purple flowers taken Sept 2014 David Balfour Park

Photo of a bee on purple flowers taken Sept 2014 David Balfour Park – previously posted June 14, 2016

Photo of a bee on a thistle

Bees and thistles in the ravine – Toronto – previously posted Aug 6, 2017

Those are my best photos, and I’m aiming to do a lot this summer. I have a ravine filled with wild flowers close by offering plenty of opportunity.

Want more info on bees?

If you want to learn more about bees in Canada, check out this list from the Brampton Bee Keepers.

To hone your identification skills, try How to Identify Bees

Bees on the Species at Risk list, refer to Wildlife Species Canada.

David Suzuki – Love bees, especially the wild ones can be found here https://davidsuzuki.org/story/love-bees-especially-the-wild-ones/

Some cool info on European honey beeshttp://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/BEES/euro_honey_bee.htm

Bees in Australia http://beekeepers.amazingbees.com.au/european-honeybees.html

Bees in the UK https://friendsoftheearth.uk/bee-count/great-british-bee-count-bee-identification-guide

Bee keeping in India https://www.farmingindia.in/beekeeping-in-india-honey-bee-farm/

European Red List of Bees is a lengthy article on European bees, their importance  and severe problems facing their survival –  http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/species/redlist/downloads/European_bees.pdf

 If you have a good bee resource, post it in the comments below.