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

 

4 Construction site photos – Hardhats and diggers

4 Construction site photos – Hardhats and diggers

I love taking construction site photos. I was digging through my archive, looking for something interesting to share and remembered a series I took a few years back. St Clair W, here in Toronto, has had its share of building projects. I haven’t gone back to them lately to see the progress. Maybe when I stop feeling so lazy, I’ll check them out.

Learning to make do with a kit lens

Photo of a church on Avenue road undergoing a condo conversion

Church to condo conversion

I took this series in 2018 and didn’t do much with them. I did a better job than I thought on capturing the clouds. I had to do a little adjusting to bring out the brickworks and highlights, but other than that, this is the shot as it came out of my Canon. Not a clue how I managed to do it. The camera was still new and I just trying to master holding it steady. The details are outstanding. The photo is a little on the dark side, but when i tried to adjust lights and darks, the highlights blew out and destroyed the symmetry.  I like the light bouncing off the roof and windows. Without that, this would be a bit generic.

Occasionally I wistfully look at camera lenses and dream about buying them. I had budgeted to purchase a good quality lens, waffling between a 24mm lens or a pricier zoom lens but the lockdowns and mom’s death put the kibosh on that. Priorities changed.

After looking at these earlier photos, I’m not so disappointed. I need to continue working further with the basic kit lens and explore how I can get strong photos with it before obsessing about upgrading. It’s easy to get wrapped up chasing new hardware and neglect the basics. More attention is needed on gaining a stronger understanding of light and dark settings. Right now, taking a good photo is still hit and miss. Although I’ve progressed (despite the past few months idleness), there is so much more to master.

Diggers and hardhats – Construction site photos

Construction site photos - digger in a hole

Diggers and hard hats

I stood outside the fenced area to grab a bunch of shots of the site. I went so often some of the workers waved at me when I walked by. This was one of the better ones. Most photos were garbage – not in focus, askew or distorted, the usual sins. While looking at the 2018 photos, I realised how often I get a tilted image. I still do and I’m not sure how to correct the problem. Even the recent balcony photos have a noticeable lean. Everything looks fine in the window, but when I process the photos, they list to one side. It’s annoying, to say the least.

Photo of a gutted church being turned into a condo

Just a shell left and yes, I needed to straighten this photo

These photos were taken before I began to understand how the camera settings worked. Although I’m still shaky in my comprehension, I primarily use full manual now. Photos are crisper, more vibrant, still tilted, but oh well. The last couple batches of photos required fewer adjustments before posting them. I’m getting there.

Night lights on a crane

Construction crane lit up at night

Construction as art

Different construction site this time. The crane has long gone from the landscape and a nice-looking condominium replaced it. I do miss looking out the window to watch the work. It took about 10 photos at this spot before I got the light correct. If I’d used the tripod, the crane would have been sharper, but a decent shot none the less.

I get weirdly self-conscious when I use the tripod. Maybe it has something to do with the hassles I’ve had with officious types who have demanded I “move along, no photos in this area” (with no tripod, just my Canon) all the while people around me are madly snapping with their cell phones.  The idiocy of these encounters discouraged me for a bit.

Last thoughts

I bought a couple of filters over the last few months and hope they will mute the glares and increase colour intensity. I know what I’m looking for, what I’m trying to express in my photos. They aren’t just random shots; each has a reason. Sometimes it takes upwards to 20 attempts to get what I want, but it’s been worth the effort.

Want to see more? 4 Construction Site Photos – Hardhats And Diggers | Bitter Grounds Magazine

 

Revisiting a few memorable 2013 Christmas photos

Revisiting a few memorable 2013 Christmas photos

It’s time to revisit a few favourite Christmas photos. I took these during the incredible ice storm in 2013 that knocked out power for days across Ontario and Quebec. Well, except my little stretch of heaven. Turns out we’re right on a major power grid so we were safe. Lucky that. We did spend a scary night listening to sheets of ice sheer off the side of the building and crash to the ground. Anyone caught under one of the massive sheets would have been sliced in two.

The aftermath was magical though. I’m still amazed, 7 years later. So far it looks like we’ll be having a green(ish) Christmas this year. Bit mild, not much snow. Suits me fine. It fits the overall Grinchy mood of 2020.

In 2013, I went out to take a few pictures with my smart phone that morning, despite being terrified of falling on my back. Once down, I’d never get back up. It was worth the risk.

Christmas Photos 2013

A photo of iced up crab apples after the 2013 ice storm - Christmas Photos

Sugar Plums anyone?

The word dramatic comes to mind. The ice made the crab apples translucent. You can see the core shining through. When I looked at them, I was taken with the idea they were sugar plums. Now that notion is firmly stuck in my head and that’s all I can think of when I look a the photos.

Iced over tree from the 2013 ice storm

It really did look magical

The effect was jaw dropping. I’ve been through several ice storms, but this one was different. It froze everything almost instantly.  I wanted to wander around the neighbourhood taking more photos, but everything was covered in ice, not just the trees. After a few more shots, I slid my way home.

Frozen leaf from 2013 ice storm

Everything was insta frozen

When I was preparing to go out, Mom asked me if I had a death wish. She stood on the balcony and watched as I teetered across the icy road. I remember her shouting across to me that if I fell on my ass, I’d be there until spring thaw. Ah, but the photos were worth the risk.

That was a good Christmas. We were safe and warm in our apartment. We exchanged little gifts, listened to Mom’s favourite Christmas tunes and chatted about the ice storm, dinner and whatever wandered into our consciousness. Yea, it was a good Christmas. Merry Christmas Mom.  Miss hearing you sing along with Dean this year.  Miss you.

Tired of thinking about 2020? Try this:

Harbourfront expedition & some awesome photos

About a flu shot and web sites 2020

About a flu shot and web sites 2020

Get your flu shot!

Went for a flu shot the other day. Yes, I am one of those who diligently toddle off to get it every year. Normally my arm has a powerful reaction, the spot heats up and the entire arm aches for days but not this time. I do however, feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. Hell of a trade off. This too will pass.

But it’s left me feeling whiny and a bit childish so I think I’ll bunker in the apartment today and avoid humanity. Not sure I’m up to dealing with people. I feel like I have low grade malaise, just no energy to do a thing. I shouldn’t be complaining. It’s better than a case of flu. So, yea, I’ll take a flu shot over the alternative any day.

A masked emoji encouraging you to get your flu shot

Mask up & get your flu shot if you can. Protect your friends & neighbours.

Website organization

Instead of working on articles, I’ve spent the last 24 hrs thinking about this site. It’s time to rationalize the categories. I’m going to amalgamate Photography with the Typography and Design section. It makes more sense to have them together. They are related in themes and will be easier to keep the content fresh. It’ll be re-labeled Photos & Design.

Whither now philately?

A lot of time has spent on sorting out newsletters as well. I’ve begun to sign up for stamp related news releases from post offices around the world. It’s time to shake off the Canadian centric view and look at the glorious offerings around the world. Let me tell you, it’s a trip and a half. Some sites don’t translate well. I had to tap a couple of friends for help with a Hungarian translation. Between the too of them, they sorted me out.

I’m playing with an idea of doing a retrospective of stamps around the world from 2020, but that might turn out to be too big a project. But I did manage to line up topics for approx. 100 stamp articles for 2021. As well, I have a number of Christmas themed stamps ready to post. Keep watch in the Philately section them.

What about the rest of the world?

In my travels, I came across a superb website:

Logo for the website "Rest of the World"

Rest of the world – reporting global tech stories

Rest of the world breaks out of the annoying western obsession with Silicon Valley and North America. It offers coverage of important tech and social media issues affecting the world. Well written and insightful. I spent about 3 hours yesterday cruising their website. Subscribe to their newsletter and get the latest news delivered to your mailbox. You won’t regret it, especially if you are like me. I have had a growing dissatisfaction with the smug navel gazing of most tech news sites based in North America. They all report the same news, over and over. That’s partially why I haven’t posted a lot on the tech section of the website. I’ve become bored with technology. Too many sites offer what feels like breathless anticipation of the most insignificant changes but missing the bigger picture.

I’ll have to give thought to the Tech section. It needs a serious boot in the typeface. I will continue to write little reviews and offer advice because I enjoy doing it, but I need to look at tech issues beyond my borders. So many exciting things are happening around the world, it’s a crime to ignore them. I’d be grateful for any ideas pushed my way.

A wee bit of art news

I also discovered a new bit of software – Adobe Fresco and played around with it off an on. So far, I like what I see and will explore it further with my mighty tablet. If I continue to enjoy the software, I’ll drop a few articles about it.

Also in art news, I am arranging an interview with an artist friend. She’s the real deal and I’ve always loved her artwork. When things settle down a bit, we’ll get together for an interview about her work and the thought process behind it. I’m hoping she will discuss with me how she’s evolved as an artist over the years. Will be FUN.

finis

So that’s the round up of my week so far. I originally started out writing about food. The article sat at 50 words for the last 3 days and didn’t get anywhere. I was despairing a bit that I’d never be able to finish it. But here I am. Sometimes you have to let you brain meander where it wants.

Of bonfires, food and friends in a Covid world

Of bonfires, food and friends in a Covid world

Today, is about memories of bonfires, food and friends.  Lately, I’ve been feeling what I call the Covid crunch. It’s that urge to bunker into the apartment and pull the curtains. The gloomy weather shared my momentary affair with misanthropy. The quiet in the apartment can be overwhelming sometimes. I miss mom at the oddest moments. Lately, it’s been acute. I miss the sounds of her rustling about, singing to herself. It has become difficult to shake off the sadness.

They are very good people

They are very good people, and people I love, and am obliged to, and shall have great pleasure in their friendship
Samuel Pepys, Tues, 9 March 1668/69

My friends fit the description above. Two of my closest friends won’t allow me to sink out of sight. Val & Chris made a promise to my mom, that they’d look after me and make sure I didn’t implode with grief. They’ve kept their promise Mom, and I’d like to tell them you’ve released them from it, but Thursday’s meal reminded me of how comforting their persistent presence is and how needed they will always be, as are all the friends who gathered.

A bonfire, food and friends

… a bonfire for joy of the day – Samuel Pepys. Tues, 29 May 1660

Of food and friends - photo of the open garden with friends settling in

All settled in near the fire

Chris went above and beyond recently for those of us in their circle. He arranged a bonfire meal at Actinolite restaurant. If you’ve never been, call and book a bonfire meal -> http://www.actinoliterestaurant.com/. The Actinolite is not just about eating. It’s about creating an atmosphere that fosters laughter and conversation. Nothing makes a meal taste better. They had little bonfires stoked around the garden, warding off the October chill. Tables were set apart, but all within eye view so we could safely chat back and forth. I can’t think of a better way to spend the night.

While Val and Chris arranged our evening, it struck me how something that used to be so easy to do in the past felt like they were mobilizing an army. Coordinating calendars, talk to the restaurant, juggling distancing requirements, watching the weather. That was the nail biter – would Mother Nature cooperate and let us have our night out. As it turns out, yes, she did.

Chris managed to grab photos of each course before we fell on the plates. It wasn’t easy in the growing dark, but he soldiered on. Many thanks to him for the photos I used in this article. I was too absorbed in the cider and wine.

The folks at Actinolite created cottage country in the middle of Toronto. So worth crawling out of my cave to enjoy! When I opened the fence to their backyard, I felt like I was entering the Secret Garden. We were so relaxed; you could feel the stress wash away with the first sips of cider.

… and syder 

and drink wine and syder – Samuel Pepys Wed, 31 Dec 1662

Friends were already there. I laughed when I realised, we were all so eager for a night together, many arrived early. Social distancing didn’t stop the smiles. Cider was offered first, with a healthy dose of bourbon to ward off the cool. I can’t remember the last time I sat in a garden with friends. The cider was a perfect start.

… an exceedingly good dinner

 … an exceedingly good dinner and good discourse. – Samuel Pepys. Fri, 8 Feb 1666

Photo of the chef from Actinolite restaurant cooking over an open fire

Chef doing chef things

The chef cooked a large part of our meal over an open fire. It was fun watching him fuss over the grill.

… bread wiped upon each dish

of putting a bit of bread wiped upon each dish into the mouth of every man … – Samuel Pepys. Sun, 8 Sept 1667

Photo of the author enjoying fresh baked berad

Bread and wine

Oh the bread. I stopped listening to everyone when I bit into my slice. The bread. Oh the bread. That’s as far as my brain will process the information. If possible, I’d put an order in for dinner tonight. And tomorrow night. I should title this “Of bonfires, bread and friends” instead of “food and friends”.

… with a good soup

and dined very handsome, with a good soup – Samuel Pepys. Mon, 15 March 1668/69

Photo of hot soup and bread

Soup and fresh bread

There is an art to making soup. Getting the balance of flavours right but keeping it simple and hearty is an under-appreciated skill. I don’t eat a lot of soup because it often goes so wrong. One ingredient masked, something messing with the flavour dynamics. Not this soup, it was rich and full of clean flavours. Another bowl and more bread wouldn’t have gone amiss.

… nature of vegetables

… all the way having fine discourse of trees and the nature of vegetables. – Samuel Pepys. Thurs 5 Oct 1665

Photo of fresh salad served at the Actinolite

Actinolite does a smashing salad

Actinolite does salad justice. I wanted to arm wrestle for the mushrooms lurking beneath the greens. I felt so selfish in wanting to grab the plate and scamper off with it. I shared, don’t worry. Between mouthfuls, we drank more wine and avoided all thoughts of Covid and politics. Chit chat wound around art, books, food, and catching up with old friends.

… a very great meal

… a very great meal, and sent for a glass of wine, – Samuel Pepys. Fri, 24 Oct 1662

Photo of the pot of beef and potatoes

Slow roasted all afternoon to preserve the tenderness

How did they roast the food for hours but still have it come out so tender? The beef melted on my tastebuds. The root vegetables had that hardy, fall flavour that can only come with the freshest vegetables. I knew there would be no doggy bags after this meal. We’d even be licking our plates. Fun thing about Actinolite, they applaud that level of food appreciation and actively encourage it.

Photo of main meal plated

Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

… a good dinner …

and there to dinner, a good dinner, and were merry – Samuel Pepys. Sun. 14 July 1667

Photo of fresh house made donuts

There were more, but Chris didn’t have much time to grab a photo before we scarfed them down

Then dessert. Poor Chris. We ate most of the fresh, donuts before he had a chance to take a photo. After the meal, we lingered and talked, sipping wine, and enjoying the moment for as long as we could. The world slowed down for a while and everything was perfect.

Thank you to everyone at Actinolite, and friends who were there. But mostly Val and Chris. Mom would be so happy with the thought of that evening.

And so to bed

But we were friends again as we are always – Samuel Pepys. Wed, 24 Oct 1660