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.

More Toronto wall art – bright city lights

More Toronto wall art – bright city lights

I’ve been digging through older photos of wall art, 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.

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PT 1 – I sacrificed my espresso on the altar of Left Field’s oatmeal ale

PT 1 – I sacrificed my espresso on the altar of Left Field’s oatmeal ale

I wandered back down to Boxcar Social for an espresso fix and ended up sipping a Left Field Brewery Oatmeal Brown Ale.  No idea why, but it seems to fit the lazy, warm Sunday. So here I sit, with a stack of photos to rifle through, a cold ale and my pen & notebook.

While sifting through the mass of shots I took Friday, I acquired a greater appreciation of Toronto’s street artistry. Queen St’s Graffiti Alley gets a lot of attention (and rightfully so), but many are not aware that Toronto is hopping with smaller urban canvases. One of my favourite areas to crawl around is south of Bloor and Bathurst. Aley ways snake through the area, filled with jaw dropping artwork & occasional witty graffiti tirades.

Friday’s walk (Catpaw finds her (photographic) groove) took me through a couple favourite hotspots. On Lennox St, beside the Randolph Centre for Arts, is a long lane worth checking. Some of the art is nothing more than mediocre scrawls, a few are pure whimsy or riotous explosions of colour and a few display an applaudable cynicism.

I keep returning to the old Honest Ed’s site to see what progress is being made. For those not familiar with Toronto icons, Honest Ed’s was the big, gaudy block long discount department store that sat on the south west corner of Bloor and Bathurst for … well for ever, it seemed. The store closed down a few years back and now the land is being redeveloped.  When the big old warehouse style building was torn down, some stunning old wall adverts were revealed for the first time in decades. I posted this photo the  wall on Instagram months ago:

Photo of ads and graffit on exposed wall

I remember standing on the corner thinking grab the shot now, it won’t be there much longer. It’s an amazing combination of old commercial art & modern graffiti. It’s gone now – demolished with the rest of the building. There was something about that particular wall that captured my attention. The mix of structured commercial adverts with colours still sharp after so much time + the graffiti that thumbs it’s nose at the lines below. Ah, I loved that view and now it’s rubble.

Strolling along the alleyways of Toronto is always entertaining, Take the Great Canadian Flame Wars in the next photo:

Photo of a door covered in graffiti

There seems to be a slight disagreement over the philosophy. It cracks me up. No idea why, it just does.

The interesting thing about street art is, it’s never static.

Photo of a garage door covered in layers of graffiti

Time flakes off one layer and someone fills the gap. It’s never static.

These 2 seem to be having issues:

Photo of graffiti that looks like 2 letters of the alphabet argueing

Maybe some counselling might help R & S get over whatever issues they’re experiencing. A bit of anger management therapy? Let’s look down the lane for a consultant, ok?

Photo of graffiti showing a very, very angry face

Umm .. no. Just .. no. Dear god … no.  Some  graffiti is mundane, but once in awhile I stop for a bit and wonder what was the thinking behind a particular patch. This guy defines “I have issues”.

There is so much to see on this one lane,  that I find different things to focus on each trip.  Next post will look at some of the murals scattered along the walls and doors. (I’ve already written the article so you won’t have to wait so long this time.)

Oh .. and that ale from Left Field Brewery here in Toronto? Couldn’t ask for a more divine way to while away an afternoon than sipping it while writing.

Peering through the windows at Allen Gardens

Peering through the windows at Allen Gardens

How about some odd shots from a trip I took to Allen Gardens in March? Ok, I didn’t go into the greenhouse, I lurked around the outside. The place was too crowded, so I stayed in the sunshine. I have a bunch of photos left over from winter shots but, in all honesty, I simply can’t stand looking at one more photo of snow and ice. They’ll have to wait until a heat wave hits and I need a bit of relief.

I wandered around the grounds for a while, taking shots of this and that, finally ending up behind the main building.  When I took the photos, I was interested in the lines and structure of the building itself. I didn’t realise I had captured the people inside until I processed the images. Some of the shots are delightful snippets of random strangers among the foliage.

Hey, look at this photo! – random photos at Allen Gardens

Each pane seems to tell a micro story. Photo taken from outside Allen Gardens

Looking through the windows at Allen Gardens

Hide and seek

Another view of the inside at Allen Gardens, through the windows

Each windowpane tells a different story

Man yelling at tree

Photo of people in the windows of Allen Gardens

Some of the stories are amusing without context

After I looked at these, I quickly threw them up on Instagram and then wished I’d taken more.  It’s interesting that each pane tells its own micro story.   I’ve looked at the settings I used and think a second trip is in order.  Now that the weather has improved, I have no excuse… but I’m sure I’ll find one to justify my inertia.

Tired of winter yet? How about just a few more photos of snow?

Tired of winter yet? How about just a few more photos of snow?

Despite my grumblings about snow and cold, I still ventured into it Saturday. I didn’t take my DSLR and instead relied on my cell phone camera. It’s pretty good for quick shots when I go from point a to point b for some winter shots

I’ve taken shots of this crab apple tree numerous times because it presents such a striking image.

Photo of crabapple tree covered in snow - photos of snow

Lots and lots of snow out there

It lends itself to black and white nicely. Unfortunately, the cell phone doesn’t capture shadows and edges when the light isn’t optimal and produces too much noise for my liking.  I really should have taken the DSLR with me, but I was too lazy.

Photo of street covered in snow with no cars and 2 pedestrians walking - photos of snow

No cars in sight today

It wasn’t that bad out, despite the doom and gloom forecasts. Just a lot of slushy snow as the day continued. But it sure is pretty in the winter:

Photo of snowy street - photos of snow

It’s always so quiet when it snows.

And finally, spring can’t be far away, right?

Photo of a bike covered in snow - Winter shots

Love this bike