Friday, May 30, 2008

In other news...

Where there's smoke... there's probably a photographer.

On the way to a meeting in the beaches Kiri and I saw a large black bellowing puff of smoke rising from behind some buildings in front of us. It was pretty black. (Note: As a general rule the more black smoke is the more toxic it is. You don't want to be inhaling that stuff.) We drive down to the Beaches theatre parking lot and parked the car. It was a house on fire. More to the point it was a house roof on fire.

I got out of the car, grabbed my camera bag, gave the keys to Kiri, hopped a fence and ran toward the house all while framing and clicking off shots with the camera. By the time I had gotten close to the front of the house I realized I left my wider lens at home. I only had my 105mm and my 10.5 mm fish eye. Drat. I ran away from the house trying to get as much of the smoke in frame. I managed to get a few shots of flame just before the black smoke turned to grey steam. The firefighters were pretty efficient. The fire was out in minutes.

Later on Kiri told me to get the photos to one of the newspapers. I didn't think much of it but a few months maybe even a year ago I met a guy that worked at the SUN who said if I shot anything "interesting" to email him. Once back at home I looked him up and emailed a few photos not really having any expectations. After all Now and View had used my photos and didn't even give me a photo credit.

About five minutes later I got a call from the photo editor. They were interested in some of the photos and were willing to offer money for them should they use them. "Would I get a photo credit?" I blurted. "Yes, that's standard practice." I got back. "Hmmmm... maybe at the SUN", I thought.

I could see now how being a news photographer on a regular basis and having your main source of income coming from it could be pretty nutty. Sitting in front of police scanners all day waiting for something to happen. Speeding down to the place of interest before it's cleaned up, Wondering if there was another photographer on the scene, did they get better photos, will there be a bigger story that will make the one you're covering less important, so much so that it doesn't get published? Yet there are people that do this on a daily basis. Makes you wonder.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Now, View this.

Top to bottom:
Now Magazine, May 29 - June 4, page 64
View Magazine, May 22-28, page 29

On the off chance you're in Hamilton and get to pick up last week's View or in Toronto and pick up this week's Now magazine (newspaper), you may notice some roller derby photos from the Steel Tank Girls versus the Hamilton Harlots bout that took place on May 10th (also known as the "Mother's Day Massacre 2" bout).

Unfortunately there's no data associated with the photos in terms of what's going on in them, who they are pictures of, or who took the photos. The photos accompany articles or event listings. This blog entry's purpose is to remedy that situation. The following are the photos of the game...

Beverlee Crush-her #69, Jammer for the steel town tank girls

Cheese Grater #289 and Perky Set #3.14 (or PI) race for lead jammer.

Oh yeah, the photographer of both photos was me.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The dance with no music

Penny Chivas, a dancer from Australia, dances "Tender Mess"

Okay I realize it's been a while since I blogged last. A quick update... I've been working on a project and between that and my prior commitment to shooting the HCRG derby I've been pretty busy. Today I managed to get out for a bit while the computer was rendering to see a twenty minute dance.

The number was choreographed by Katarzyna Ignatowska, the dance instructor from Poland, that I met a few months ago (and perhaps if I kept the blog updates going on a regular basis you would already know this). The theme was vulnerability and as stated in the title of this entry there was no music. It was completely quiet was the exception of my camera shutter clicking every few seconds. Because of the surrounding silence, it was like a canon going off. Kapow, KAPOW!!!!

I will be nutty busy until the first or second week in June and then I'll have time off. I'll try to keep updating when I have some spare time or waiting for the computers to render.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Photography in the rain

Went to High Park today for a singles networky thing with the theme being nature photography. It was rainy but the ad for the event said "rain or shine". By the time I arrived at the meet up point I received a message on my cell phone saying that it was too windy and they were cancelling the event.

I ended up buying a mediocre burger from the Grenadier Cafe. Then looked around for others. Not seeing anyone else I went out and took photos since I was there anyway. If I had been beed prepared I could have gotten some amazing photos of the local robins poking their head into the ground for worms. Alas, I left my 70-200mm lens at home. Trying to shoot the bird with a 105mm scared them off as I had to get to close.

A photographer I met once a while back one said "If it's grey, shoot all day.". Nature photography is great with the grey skies. It's like a giant softbox in the sky. I took a bunch of water droplet photos to make use of the macro lens (micro lens if you're Nikon).

Our friend the worm.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Quality sleep is a good thing.

Poking my head outside to see Kyoko busy doing yard work.

Woke up late today. Partially due from working weird hours on a new project for Microsoft and partially because a few nights ago I locked myself out of my apartment. I forgot to take my keys which I left on a hook about two meters away from the outside door. I could see them through the door window. D'oh.

I had gotten home around 2am after shooting Integer, a band playing at Clinton's. My cousin Dave and I walked home from the pub/bar. It took about an hour and a half with a few stops to visit the neighbourhood bathroom and buy some pizza. I had drank about three litres of coke at the pub and it was a bit chilly outside.

COLD + full bladder + walking = need to wee

By the time I got home I was really tired and my feet were starting to get sore. That's when my hand went down to the usual spot on my camera bag to find out that the house keys weren't there. D'oh!

I had a few options...

1. Call Dave and sleep over at his place.
While that would have been the more comfortable option it meant walking back to his place. While it was only 10 blocks away I thought "Nah." Besides, he might already be asleep.

2. Stay up and sit on the porch.
It would only be a few hours until someone woke up. Four hours, five at the most. It was 2am. Chris would leave the house around 7am or earlier to go to work. I was tired so I opted for option 3.

3. Go to sleep on the porch.
After all it was an enclosed space. Wind wouldn't be too much of an issue. So I naively thought. I found four lawn chair cushions that I turned into a makeshift mattress. For the first two hours it wasn't so bad. Then I started to get cold. My bladder started to remind me of all the fluid I drank that night. Luckily there's a Coffee Time that's open 24 hours near by at the intersection of Coxwell and Danforth. I went there to answer the call of nature and while there picked up a chicken patty.

The chicken patty that I bought was pretty warm. It was microwaved. I thought about using chicken patties from the microwave as hand warmers that you could eat later. Would that catch on? The wearer would be the cat or dog's best friend thanks to the potential food and the chicken smell that was wafting around. I decided to eat the patty rather than sticking it into a pocket to warm my hands. After a while the semi-digested patty started making my stomach feel a bit queasy.

On the porch there were some sides of empty boxes. I stacked them against the wall for insulation and the rest I stacked like cards making a makeshift box to crawl into in order to keep some of the warmth around my body. My 70-200mm lens in it's carrying case padded with foam sections from my camera bag was used as a pillow but it might as well have been a hard cold pipe. In the end I used my right running shoe under the lawn chair matte. It created a pillow like bump and worked like a charm.

With the exception of the bit of wind creeping up my back it was pretty comfortable given the situation. I should put tape on the porch next time so I could tape up the cardboard together (or just not forget my key).

At 6am I was woken up by Chris opening the door. He had gotten up to photograph the sun rise. It was at that point I noticed a chill over my whole body. I went up stairs and crawled into bed. I slept until the afternoon within the warmth of my cocoon like blankets.

That was two days ago now, but I'm still in that awake at night, sleep during the day mode. Next time I see some guy sleeping in a refrigerator box I'll make sure he's stuffed it with a sleeping bag first. In general for those I see sleeping outside in cold weather, I won't be as lean with my spare change.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Jeff Healey Rock Tribute

A video of Jeff Healey starts off the night.

Today's gig found me at the Sound Academy, formally known as the Docks. A bunch of musicians (and fans) gathered together to celebrate the life and music of Jeff Healey with the money generated by the event going to the Daisy's Eye Cancer Fund (finding a cure for eye cancer).

The event started at 7pm and went on until just around 2am. That's seven solid hours of music with the odd five or maybe even ten minute break between bands. Each band played about two songs and then the next band would come on. This presented a photographic challenge in that I wanted to cover everyone on stage, from the singer doing vocals all the way to the back including the ever elusive drummer in the background. Not only did I want to get a shot of the person, I wanted to get a good shot. This meant hanging on each performer while trying not to miss some other performer doing something interesting on stage.

Colin Bray of the Jeff Healey Jazz Wizards

It also meant running around. A lot. The stage was pretty wide and some people could be shot on one side of the stage while others not so much. Also depending on which instrument the person was playing determined which side was better to shoot from.

There was also the memory and battery concern. Would I have enough memory and power to shoot seven hours straight? I bought three more batteries for my cameras just in case. Roger (at Monster Records) had told me in advance that I did not want to run out of power or photo capacity before the ending. "We were making Rock and Roll history" after all.

Singer Terra Hazelton

I remember Roger first asking me to shoo the event. I said "sure". As the event date approached Roger started telling me how big it was going to be. "There's going to be Jack Bruce and Ian Gillian!". I dumbly replied "uh, who?". You have to remember that I was a computer geek in school and although I might recognize a tune or two I don't know the names of band members. Band names sure. Band members no. It wasn't until only a few years ago that I was introduced to the appreciation of AC/DC. I am a music feeb. But ask me about computer graphics pioneers like James Blinn (I named my first Hamster after him). Can we say computer graphics geek?

Anyhoo, the names Roger started blabbing off zoomed right through me. "Randy Bachman, Alan Frew, Blue Rodeo.." Oh wait. I've heard of Blue Rodeo. They were an 80s band after all. I told Roger that maybe he should not tell me how big these people are, it would just make me more nervous. "Don't screw it up, don't screw it up.", ran through my mind.

Greg Godovitz

Of course once I was standing on stage with the performers in front of me and my camera in hand everything seemed clear. Find the shot, get the shot. It didn't matter who it was in front of me, how big on the music charts they were. I've shot bands before and this was no different. I take that back, it was a bit different. There was better lighting and I had an all stage pass.

I took photos from the back of the stage, peeking up from behind the performers looking out at the audience, ran around took shots from the media pit, ran around some more to get shots from the other side of the stage. I was in photographer heaven. "Not even the media has the access you have.", Roger's words ringing through my head.

The "Don't screw it up" line was replaced by "Coverage, get coverage, find the angle, get the rock and roll pose, get reaction shots, close ups, wide, the right lighting". My brain was working overtime and my body was trying to keep up. Good thing I brought sneakers.

"Excuse me, Pardon me, sorry, can I get in for one shot?" were the words I used over and over again that night. I tried to be as much of a shadow as possible. I didn't want to stand in any one place too long for two reasons. I wanted different camera angles, and more importantly I didn't want to block anyone viewing the concert. Someone paying money would be a little pissed off if they had a camera guy standing in front of them for all of it. Same with press. You need to get the shot and so do they. It's bad photographic manners to stand in the same position if one can help it for an entire event. They should have a photographic school for good etiquette.

If I had to summarize everything to one rule it would be to be mindful of others.

Photographers are kind of like cab drivers when it comes to people's perception. We're clumped into the Paparazzi group, you know the photographers that push kids, pregnant women and elderly people aside, run around in people's back yards, intrude onto private property, block traffic, and make people lives miserable, just to get the shot.

Much like good cab drivers that actually obey traffic signs, there are some pretty good photographers out there too. My goal is to be one the the better guys. I believe it is possible to get the photo and not be a complete ass while doing so.

Rob Quail (Guitar) and Jerome Godboo (Vocals)

Alan Frew sings "Imagine"

Alannah Myles sings "Black Velvet"

Kurt Schefter

Matt Minglewood

Jimmy Bowskill

Tony Springer

Jeff's wife gives a speech thanking the audience

Blue Rodeo

Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo

Colin James (Guitar) and Dave Murphy (keyboard)

Randy Bachman

Randy Bachman and the Jeff Healey Band

David Wilcox

And then the unthinkable happened. I started running out of memory. I had two 16 gig cards, two 8 gig cards, and a single 4 gig card. I also had an 80 gig Epson hard drive reader on me. I was shooting faster than the drive could copy. In order to keep shooting, I had to switch to JPEG only mode. I was shooting NEFs (or Nikon raw files). While shooting I was extra careful to get "the good shot". Composition, singer pose, focus, shoot. Generally I'll shoot first to establish that I've got the shot, then I'll go in refining the shot, getting close ups, in both landscape and portrait. While shooting the JPEGs I just shot the final shot, no tweeking of the same angle, just shoot and go.

Jack Bruce

The hard drive died while copying the 16 gig card. I had extra batteries but it meant starting all over again (that would be another half an hour). Ugh. I thought for a brief second that I should have two hard drives or maybe more memory cards. I'll know for next time.

Dave Murphy and Jack Bruce

Ian Gillan and Dan Noordermeer

Ian Gillan

The Jeff Healey Band and Ian Gillan

Ian Gillan

The Jeff Healey Band and Ian Gillan

The grand finale

From left top right
Dan Noordermeer (guitar - Jeff Healey Band)
Ian Gillan (vocals - Deep Purple)
Colin James (guitar)
Randy Bachman (vocals, guitar - Guess who, Bachman Turner Overdrive)
Al Webster (drums - Jeff Healey Band)
Alec Fraser (behind Jack Bruce - guitar and vocals - Jeff Healey Band)
Jack Bruce (bass and vocals - Cream)
David Wilcox (guitar)
Dave Murphy (keyboard, vocals - Jeff Healey Band)