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 at Queen’s Quay

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. Don’t forget, follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (little links down below). Hit the like button and make me happy.

Offerings from the lilacs on our balcony

Offerings from the lilacs on our balcony

To celebrate spring and all things non snow related, I took a stroll to photograph one of my favourite spring blooms, lilacs. It’s a lazy long weekend here in Toronto with the May 24th weekend the first official long weekend of summer. I know it’s not the 24th but no one calls it by the official name – Queen Victoria’s birthday. The holiday is simply referred to as the 2-4 or May 24th.  I doubt half the people in the country even realise it’s a hold-over from Empire days. But death to the politician who entertains the idea of doing away with it.  It’s a grand excuse to enjoy the first days leading into summer, plant gardens with no fear of frost, open up the cottage, and crack open a case of beer. That’s the 2-4 reference by the way. A case of beer holds 24 bottles, QV’s birthday is the 24th – a match made in Canada.

Alright, I cheated, I went out onto the balcony and snagged some shots without putting on shoes.  We’ve been growing a lilac tree for a couple of years now, and it’s beginning to shine.  We thought we’d lost it two years ago. And again, last year it looked sad and forlorn after we moved. But it survived the extreme cold, benign neglect and a move. During the summer, it shot up and produced a lot of greenery. It has proven to be quite popular with the local sparrow community that flitters about our balcony. We were concerned they may be eyeing it for nesting at one point. Luckily they opted for a less traveled location.  This spring, it’s honoured us with a bumper crop of purple.  It loves the corner we plopped it in. Here’s the first photo:

Photo of the lilacs blooming on our balcony

Too bad there isn’t  scratch and sniff internet.  The scent is intense this year. Can’t get enough of it.

Photo of the lilacs blooming on our balcony

 I leaned over the balcony and debated about getting dressed and actually going out, but nah – it’s the long weekend. Another espresso, prop my feet up and say screw it. I’m not budging for the rest of the day. I can look out my window and admire the birds and the blossoms without putting on shoes. 

 

Look potatoes! I actually grew potatoes on my balcony!

Look potatoes! I actually grew potatoes on my balcony!

Look! My potato plant actually produced – a hell of a lot better than anything else I planted last spring. Looks llike a bit of benign neglect pays off. Photo of the potatoes that grew on my balcony

I’d forgotten about them this week. I was so busy, and the balcony has been so cold, I didn’t wandered out much. Well, mom was pottering around out there and shouted for me to come look. Lo and behold, POTATOES. I confess, you almost need a microscope to see some of them, but who knew one little potato would sprout so many?

Okay, don’t rain on my parade. I know they aren’t very big, but I didn’t expect anything to grow. Plus we didn’t put them in until sometime in June. I have this childish thrill about having grown them on a balcony, in the middle of Toronto, 20 floors up. Not a bad little crop.

… screw growing anything else. I’m going to plant a bushel full of potatoes next spring.

 

We’ll always have the chili peppers

We’ll always have the chili peppers

The best I can say is my balcony garden is green.  My tomatoes don’t seem to want to tomato. They just sit there teasing us, taunting me with potential.  I don’t think they like me.  My herbs are doing well, although I think I crowded my basil a bit too much, they aren’t as big and bushy as I like. But they taste great. The orgegano is awesome, thank you for asking.

Most of my peppers are … sad … bad … and apathetic. They just didn’t want to grow. If the weather holds out, I may get some late peppers in the fall.  However, one pepper is doing reasonably well:

photo of pepper plant I looked out earlier in the week and saw the red peaking through the green and almost did a happy dance.  The wind blew the little identifier marker away a long time ago so I don’t have a clue which one it is. Couple day or two and I should have the first one to try. Lovely colour on it. Can’t wait to see how hot they are.

Heartbreak on Tomato Ridge – more tales from my balcony garden

Heartbreak on Tomato Ridge – more tales from my balcony garden

The gardening gods conspire against me … aphids, withering heat, smog and wind have all played a role in my balcony garden woes. I finally beat back the last of the aphids, admittedly, I think yesterday’s furious winds might have blown away most of the stragglers. But holy cats… when those little bastards entrench themselves, they don’t give up. I finally uprooted a bit of oregano and surrounded two afflicted peppers … yes, they are up to their leaves in leafy, lush herbs. I also go out and prune the garlic chive moat around the other pepper. Since doing that, there hasn’t been a sighting on any of the peppers. I’ve taken to muttering “I love the smell of chives in the morning”.

The morning glory has been a different beast! That was the last aphid bastion and they stubbornly clung to every leaf. I soaked some tomato leaves in water and sprayed the leaves for days and days and days… each time they reappeared, I’d blast them. Finally, my balcony is aphid free! Mr Morning Glory is looking quite robust and aggressive. It’s now hanging down onto the balcony below, looking for more things to grab onto.

But … sigh ….

I’m in mourning ….

We were walloped with a storm yesterday and the winds were so high, it sounded like a freight train was roaring up and down the balcony. We get ferocious winds up here on the 20th floor. How bad? Well, yesterday’s wind almost uprooted our fir tree. It’s been in the pot for about 5 years now. It did need to be propped up a bit, it’s taken to tilting towards the east because of all the winds over the years – it looks like one of those Group of 7 paintings, with the tree branches all pointing in one direction. But the winds were so bad at one point yesterday afternoon, the tree is now tilting almost 45 degrees and roots have lifted out of the ground.

And this brings me to a sad point… one of my tomatoes was beaten to near death. I have the plants in a sheltered spot and the wind rarely affects them, but yesterday it swirled around so fast, even they were battered about. My lovely, lovely cherry tomato plant snapped in half and the branches are mangled, possibly beyond recovery. All my growing tomatoes! Gone … gone … gone.

Sigh. Just … sigh.

The other two tomato plants weren’t affected much, a few battered branches but they came through like troopers. They weren’t showing as many tomatoes as my beloved cherry. Here’s hoping I get a few. They are big and leafy, but not really showing an inclination to sprout tomatoes. Not sure why.

I did, however, spot something lurking in the lavender:

Photo of mushroom found lurking in the lavender

It has been incredibly hot and humid around here so perfect growing conditions for them. I swear, my garden is taunting me. Oh well, if nothing else, I can boast about my nice crop of mushrooms.