2 more night photos – streets of Toronto

2 more night photos – streets of Toronto

Here are a few more photos I took along the streets of Toronto last week. Was it last week? Time is melting into one big mess at the moment. Anyway, after looking through the photos I took at dusk, I realised some of the ones I thought were great, weren’t, but a little work with Photoshop brought them back to life.

The work I’ve done in understanding the camera’s histogram and using it to avoid blowing out the highlights and blacks has paid off. I was able to tweak the photos and bring back the colours and balance. It’s all a learning experience.

Picking over the photos, I realised even with a tripod, I still have issues getting a photo straight. No idea how I managed it, but I had to correct quite a few. They weren’t as bad as usual, but I think I’ll have to start paying closer attention to that little bubble on the tripod’s level. Sigh. I’m planning a trip out later this week, so fingers crossed I manage to get things right.

Streets of Toronto – Looking south on Yonge

Photo of streets of Toronto - looking north on Yonge near Front St

Yonge near Front St

I enjoy playing with cropping. Adjusting the length and widths changes the focus points dramatically. This was an ok photo on Yonge, but when I cropped it, the focus shifted from all the buildings and glass to the lights rushing along Yonge. The eye immediately hits the red lights and then follows up and down the street. I love narrow views like this. I’m eager to go out again and try more street scenes.

What got me the most are the lights in the corner building. The windows look crisp and warm, just the way they were that night.

Looking South on Yonge

South looking view of Yonge and Front

Looking South near the hockey hall of fame

This one was ok. I’m a bit unhappy with the overall sharpness, so that’s another area I’ll have to focus on. I’m not a fan of soft-focus photos, I prefer HDR stylings. I used a mix of AV settings and full manual for all the shots. I did a couple of tests with full auto and was not impressed. The streaming lights weren’t captured, and the camera focused on all the wrong light centres. I guess that’s what it’s about. I know what I’m trying to say with the photos. Automatic is just a mindless function and doesn’t share a vision.

I wish I’d waited a little longer so the lights at the bottom left were moving. The glare is too much and spoils a bit of the balance. But I’m content with it.

Last shot – another look at the Hockey Hall of Fame

Photo of the hockey hall of fame from the north east corner of Yonge St

Hockey Hall of Fame

For some reason, the Hockey Hall of Fame has been my white whale. I must have close to 200 photos of it, taken over the years. None, until this batch, were satisfying. The balance was always off, the lighting and shadows were wrong. It became a mind-numbing experience, but I couldn’t stop trying. Not sure why everything clicked this time. I suspect it’s because I was far more patient than previous expeditions.

I did play around with this photograph in Photoshop before I was satisfied. I used the software’s autocorrect to bring a better perspective to the image first. After that, I pulled down the amount of yellow. I need to explore the camera’s settings a bit more to understand why everything was so yellow and how to prevent it in the future. Once the colour balance was corrected, the building’s shadows popped out.

The sharp lines and clarity in this photo surprised me. I must be brutally honest; I didn’t expect it. I’m used to slightly fuzzy edges in any of my night photos. The lesson is clear – tripod & patience are the keys.

Don’t forget to look at my previous post on night photography. These are more from the same batch of street photos so enjoy.

2 Streets of Toronto photos – dusk in the city

2 Streets of Toronto photos – dusk in the city

2 Streets of Toronto photos – dusk in the city

Finally, some new streets of Toronto photos. I was on a job downtown yesterday afternoon and thought, what a great chance to try out a few new techniques I’ve been reading about. I wasn’t disappointed. The secret to improving is to keep reading and examining photos from accomplished photographers. I often tear apart components in a picture, trying to figure out what it is about that image that I find attractive. I love night photography – the warm, yellow glow coming from buildings, the changing colours of darkening sky, the way headlights streaks offer a sense of motion to the evening.  But it’s frustrating to capture. One site I’ve been studying made a recommendation that set all sorts of bells go off in my head. Use the camera’s histogram. I know I’ve read this before, and I use it extensively with Photoshop, but this time, it made resonated. Not sure why it did, but we’ll just enjoy the epiphany for a bit. I’ve prepared two of the photos to show. One I converted to black and white, the other I left in full colour.

Streets of Toronto photos

After setting up the tripod, I fussed with a number of settings and just watched the histogram bounce around. Adjustment, after adjustment and a couple of test shots and I was good to go.

Streets of Toronto photos showing Yonge street at night

Yonge near Front Street

This was fun. I found a good focus point and waited. Thank goodness for the remote clicker. Saved my hands from freezing off. This photo looked good in full colour, but the black and white brought out the mirror effect in the tall building. Instead of seeing just cars coming, my eye was drawn to reflections. I’m still working on the rest from this spot and will post more later in the week.

Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame

I’ve taken more photos of the Hockey Hall of Fame than I care to think about. It’s not easy to get. A lot is happening on that corner of Yonge and Front and that makes getting a good shot difficult. But, I have to say, this picture makes me happy.

Streets of Toronto photos - Hockey Hall of Fame from the outside

Hockey Hall of Fame with a truck whizzing by

This was epic. When I set up on the corner of Front and Yonge, suddenly the traffic evaporated. And I wanted to capture their lights. I waited and waited. Finally, cars and trucks appeared. The warm yellows and deep blue came out so well in this series of shots. The building remained in focus and the street signs tie the photo together. I managed to capture the truck rushing by as well. I did a little happy dance on the street when I reviewed this one. So, yea, if you were down near the Hockey Hall of Fame last night and saw a small woman dancing around a tripod, that was me. I shouldn’t be, but I’m surprised at the sharpness. It all boils down to using the tripod and watching the histogram. There were no blown highlights, so I had lots of room for adjustments in Lightroom. I think, this is the first set of photos I’ve taken that I’m truly proud of because of all the work I put into understanding the basics. I have more photos to process, so check back later in the week for another round. Also, in March there will be a super moon, which is why I’m so hot on learning more. Fingers crossed the weather will cooperate.  Check out these earlier night shots I took in December and compare them to these new ones. Research & experimentation my friends. That’s the secret. 3 Toronto’s Skyline At Night Photos | Bitter Grounds Magazine

Dropping out of social media for a breather

Dropping out of social media for a breather

Poster reading: Escaping the social media trap & leaving the OCD maze

I made a decision in Dec that it was time to step back from social media for a bit. It can suck you down into a soul-destroying pit if you aren’t careful. I was already stressed and depressed by the years of helping mom through her cancer treatments and operations. When I discovered I had spare time, because of improvements mom’s health, I noticed how Twitter/FB etc were so depressingly stupid. I can troll with the best of them, but sheer level of insanity being actively promoted on social media began to crush me. It was like watching the worse bits of zombie apocalypse shows on an endless loop – hopeless, dark and paranoid. So, sometime in Dec I went to the doctor and am back on antidepressant after many years. They also calmed my OCD. Lately the obsessive compulsions had started to interfere with my life in major ways. Unfortunately, I hadn’t noticed how bad things had gotten.

As my general outlook improved, I decided no social media for a while. It seemed to aggravate everything. I also took a long break from web work, photographing, writing, everything. I’ve gone for long walks, listened to old radio dramas, watched trashy monster movies (Reptilica rules; Godzilla drools) and read. Oh, my I’ve read. Prior to Dec, I was having difficulties concentrating long enough to finish simple novels. Now, I plow through books at a furious pace.

Breaking up with the zombie apocalypse

Before I logged off though, I unfriended a whack of people who I began to view as unhealthy to talk to. Let me tell you, the calm and quiet on this end of the computer has been enlightening. Getting away from social media was one of the smartest thing I could have done. My head feels clear, for the first time in eons. With mom improving to the point of being self-sufficient, I had difficulties refocusing myself. That and the worry cancer will return. In short, I was slowly driving myself insane, with the help of social media. Breaking up with social media was much easier than I thought it would be. I simply … stopped.

I’ve enjoyed the break and don’t think I’ll look at things the same way. I’ve almost attained a zen feel to my outlook. Things are going to happen; some of which I can’t change. That’s ok now. Having a sense of balance back in my head means I can cope with what gets thrown my way. Good days; bad days. I’ll talk about them both here. But right now? The good are far outstripping the bad. I suspect without the disconnect, the antidepressants would not have been as successful. I’ll tell you, I’d forgotten how loud the noise in my head was. When it suddenly stopped, I had problems coping for a day or two. It was so silent. A million different voices competing through the daily noise. Not voices like strangers talking to me. They were me, my internal voice on steroids. My brain was like a runaway train. And the outside noise, oh god the loudness of the world. I was living with my headphones in and a white noise generator running constantly. I was often frantic with anxiety when I got home. OH THE BLISS OF SILENCE.

The sounds of OCD

Want to know what the ‘voices’ were like? Think of 10 people yelling at you to do things a certain way or warning you things aren’t “right” and if you don’t correct them, you’ll be in danger. Complicate that with a sensitivity to noise on a level that makes me sound insane.

You didn’t check the door but you need to take the steps a certain OMG did you touch that. CLEAN YOUR HANDS YOUR hands you didn’t say that correctly please please stop the sink has dishes in it I feel paralyzed what do I do I can’t make dinner in this mess the water isn’t hot enough wash your hands again no again I’m tired but we need to get the phrasing right that’s not balanced try to set things up properly no no you lost count now we have to start over wow it’s noisy wonder if did you remember the sanitizer Oh god this bathroom no nonnononononon check that door again did you have to go this way there’s always dog shit here and you know it does things to you you need to align those pages correctly if I start straightening this out I won’t be able to stop

You get the idea. The meds halted all that. I often wonder if the OCD causes the depression, or the depression causes OCD. I still can’t deal with the external noise well so I bought a pair of earplugs that dim the sound but still allow me to hear conversations. Its difficult to explain the quiet and it’s searing effect on me. When I realised how silent everything in my head was, I stood in the middle of my room with my eyes closed and thought “not going to go off the meds again”. The peace and order in my thoughts are magnificent.

I’ve tentatively dipped my toes back into social media again. A few posts on Instagram, a tweet here and there. But I can’t bring myself back to Facebook. The sheer amount of insanity on the platform is keeping me away. I’ll go back, eventually, because I have friends I like to chatter with. Maybe…

I’ve been working on new content over the last week and very happy with what I’ve created. A few new Instagram posts have already gone up. Now with the weather improving, I’ll head out and start taking photos, well, as long as the COVID-19 stays at bay in my area. Look for a few stamp posts, a new vlog post, and some great tech news. Will be fun.

More bee photos – summers gone

More bee 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.

Photo of bee on a flower

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.

Photo of a bumblebee on a pink 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.

Photo close up of a bee on a purple flower

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.

New podcast premier! – check it out

New podcast premier! – check it out

At long last, I’ve finally did it. Podcast #1 – memoirs of an analogue person was posted last night on YouTube. I decided to turn the diary section of the magazine into a podcast. I talk about why in the it as well as wandering into a bit of nostalgia territory.  As if I don’t have enough things to juggle, right? LOL. I’m back on a schedule now. Not sure how long it will last, but things have settled down now that mom’s cancer surgery is over and she’s home. It’s been a long, rocky year so far with stress rocketing through the roof at times. Life is looking up a bit now and I have spare time again.

I’ll be tweaking the podcast as time goes on. The first one is a bit rough around the edges and in a few months, I’ll find it hideously embarrassing. I need to work on my presentation, and imagery for the podcast. It’s a straight voice recording only. Thought I’d spare you the visuals of me waving my hands about in an espresso rage. If I get a good video camera, I might change my mind.  Who knows?

Now that I have the luxury of time, new content is coming in the next couple of days. Work first, then I get to write.  In the meantime, enjoy the podcast ramble.