Mapping Toronto – let’s start with Yonge & St. Clair

Mapping Toronto – let’s start with Yonge & St. Clair

My long term photo project is now underway. The bulk of it won’t officially start until I have my DSLR camera, which will likely be sometime in Nov.  I’m waiting for the Black Friday sales before spending my hard earned dollars.  Anyway, I’ve decided to photograph every neighbourhood in Toronto – a project what will take a  long time, but will be fun (see the link below for more info).  I’ll be traveling on public transit to  each neighbour in the city and will try to take photo record of each area, looking for something that makes the neighbourhood unique.  I’m still sorting out how I’ll present everything, but I’m going to kickstart the project today with some photos I took during the summer.

I’m going to start here, with a sideways map:

Map showing Yonge & St Clair neigbhourhood

Always start at home, right? My neighbourhood, a sliver of the city, is an interesting mix of slightly dowdy to old and established. The dowdy parts are now being revitalised and it’s been fun documenting the changes. I have a backlog of photos I’ll use to start the project. When I get the new camera, I’ll retake some because I’ll be able to get a more satisfying sharp focus. I enjoy my little Canon Powershot, but it just can’t get that pristine clarity I really like, it leans more towards soft edges.  I’m getting fussy with what I want to post. But, I’ve managed to snag some very nice snapshots of a neighbourhood going through change.

The biggest change has been the corner of Jackes and Yonge, just south of St. Clair.  The squat, unremarkable CHUM radio building was located on the north east corner for decades before CHUM abandoned it for newer quarters. It sat for awhile, with a few businesses in residence coming and going until the owners kicked it down the fall of 2016. I’m surprised it disappeared with no fanfare. Granted I thought it was an ugly structure and I don’t miss it, but it would have been nice if the city commemorated it’s contribution to Toronto’s cultural history. If you didn’t grow up in Ontario in the 50s, 60s and 70s, it’s hard to understand what a huge impact it had on most of us. Everyone listened to CHUM.

Here’s a mediocre shot taken with my little cell phone camera. You can see the diggers are already ripping the back of the building down.

Photo of the CHUM building being torn downIt really was an ugly as shit 2 story building, filled with a ton of Toronto history. I didn’t think of taking photos when the teardown started. It wasn’t until the diggers moved in and started dismantling the building that I began to wander out and take photos. Check out 1050 CHUM MEMORIAL BLOG by C F Turner for an interesting look at CHUM in it’s heyday.

Right now the spot is a big hole in the ground. The construction firm is laying the foundation for the new condo complex that’s going up. When the big crane was being erected I took the chance to grab photos of the action. Here’s my favourite:

Photo of men preparing to install cab on construction cab

A great shot of the men preparing the cab for the crane.

I have this in colour, but there’s something about the black and white effect that worked so well for the series. Partially, I was trying to hide the soft focus the Canon adores, which drives me bonkers at times. All in all, the above photo came out great! I cropped it a number of times until I had the movement just perfect. I especially like the two men off  to the side watching the action. This is when I worked towards breaking the point and shoot habit. I took my time to think about what I was trying to capture. Did multishot as well, but the time delay in the Powershot is comical. Turned out to be faster just to keep hitting shoot.

Here’s the next one:

Photo of crew unloading toolsI left it in a grainy colour, the black and white didn’t work as well on this shot, but colour made everything come together.  Just after this, the real heavy lifting started.

Photo of worker standing on top of crane component with chainsI call him “King of the crane”. He was standing on part of the disassembled crane, getting ready to hoist the cab onto it. Most of the photos from now on are black and white. Partially to hide some flaws, but also the camera, for some reason, created a horrifically unbalanced colour in many photos. Popping into B&W sure settled them down and contributed to a sharper image. Photo of worker standing beside crane

He didn’t have to wait long:

Photo of workers readying cables

Starting to hoist the cab.Photo of cab being hoisted into air

Long photo showing cab being hoisted into airThe last photo was a still from a video I took of the action. Most of the video wasn’t worth looking at, but a couple of the stills were spectacular.

It took from about 7am to well past 9pm to assemble the crane and install it. I have more photos, but, unless you are really into crane porn, it gets a bit repetitious. Turns out, I really like watching construction sites at work so you’re likely going to see a lot of this type of photography scattered among the rest.

Oh and where did the little cab go? Way up here:

Photo of the cabin installed and hoisted into place

Must be one hell of a view of the city from that perch.

Photo of the crane fully erected


Read more on Mapping Toronto here

If you’d like to contribute to this long term project go here



Scenes from my balcony – no not a Romeo story

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.

Attaching the last piece on the crane

I guess this is what happens to the kids who play with building blocks and Lego – they grow up and find bigger Lego kits to play with.

Photo of crew waiting for concrete blocks to be lowered onto crane The crew was still climbing around when the sun began to set.

Photo of late evening sunset over the workers on the crane. It’s 9:30 pm now, the sun has set and the workers are putting away the equipment. The crane is completed and Yonge street should open up by 10:30pm. I can hear banging and motors still going, so they’ll be a while yet. Long, long day for the crew. Fascinating one for me.


Digital art Motion Project #5 – hardhats & pipes

Digital art Motion Project #5 – hardhats & pipes

I’ve been busy working on more photos – spent a couple days taking hundreds of photos around the city. A couple have potential and I’ve set them aside for later.  Also working on a second series devoted to the demolition & build across the road. I have a perfect roost to watch & record the process. Some of the demolition has been impressive. Right now, there isn’t much left of the old CHUM building, mostly rubble. Soon they’ll start digging a deep hole for the parking space. I’m sorting the photos, trying to make a bit of chronolgical sense of it. I’ll ruthlessly pare threw them and toss 90%. Most of the earliest shots, done with my phone aren’t worth keeping, except to mark the start of the project.  In the meantime, I’ll throw the occassional photo up, but have set the bulk of the project aside for winter work.

I’ve also been working on fine tuning my dodging & burning techniques. Using a slightly different method that gives me great control over how much contrast I get.  I finally have a system that allows me to get an exagerated, hyper real contrast that doesn’t end up looking cartoonish or overblown. Very pleased with the results. It takes a lot longer, but satisfying. Here’s one I worked on yesterday. Took hours to get the contrast between shadows and light the way I wanted. Digital Art: Yonge St Construction

 Construction Workers on Yonge – Oct 13 2016

There’s a tremendous amount of construction going on in my area – you pretty much trip over the sites. This was shot on Yonge St north of Bloor at the huge new condo build. Not sure if the old store fronts will be kept or torn down. Be a shame if they disappear. Construction workers were strugging with some pipes out front and were having a hell of a time. Took a couple of snaps and thought yea, they’ll do.

Anyway, this is a couple of different effects, including HDR Toning (Photorealistic High Contrast), NIK HDR Efex and a lot of dodging & burning the pipes and workers to over emphasis the details. Took hours to do … partially because I sneezed at one point and destroyed some work. Had been so absorbed in some details, I forgot to save for awhile, something I rarely do. I’m a ‘save save save” kind of computer person. A little pissed when I realised how much damage I’d done.

I need a better name than Motion Project. It seems a bit … silly at times. The point of the project is to look at everyday scenes in a large city and turn them into digital portraits of the city.  For the time I’ll keep the name, but it will likely shift. Any suggestions are appreciated.