Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why street photography is facing a moment of truth...

A very informative article on the state of streetphotography. Very interesting read indeed.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Some old film

I found some film stuffed into my shoulder bag that I haven't shared before. Nothing spectacular, just lots and lots of people in one of the busiest shopping districts around at the beginning of spring. Maybe about a month or so ago. I would say this happened about 2 weeks before this.

Fujifilm Superia 400 Xtra. All Canon Canonet QL17.

On Woodbine Beach.

More Woodbine Beach. This guy was quite good. Knowing how clumsy I am I would never try something like this unless I had heavy padding for my feet and shins.

Yonge and Dundas Square shoppers and people leaving work. A cool mixture of people with different tolerance levels to the tmperature.

And then I found this crazy guy wondering at a street corner in some extremely strange attire.

The photographers are also out and about. His camera is obviously a lot more advanced and more expensive than mine. And it has a massive flash too. The beauty of a buzzing city: no one gives a crap about what you're shooting as long as it's in a touristy area where everyone else has a camera. But I suppose he won't be taking any street shots with his camera outside of these touristy areas...

I like how everyone were sitting in a straight line. Not intentionally of course, but they did...

Brake dancers on the square.

That dog was like bigger than him and he still rested his foot on the poor dog. I suppose you won't be doing that to a chihuahua...

There were even people playing with football in Downtown Toronto. Now that's unexpected.

People watching the brake dance.

The parking lot of the Hard Rock Cafe is always filled with Harleys. The Hard Rock Cafe is always filled with people who ride the Harleys...

More shoppers on Yonge Street. Apparently Yonge is the longest street in the world and goes on for close to 2000 km. This is close to the beginning of it.

Queen Street W. The sun was setting over some building. I forget what it is. Lens glare wasn't that sexy though...

Don't know why I took this shot. I looked interesting at the time. Think it was the boots. I think I was also trying to pan the shot but obviously screwed up. And I managed to chop half her head off.

I think I was half convinced that the focus was off and decided to test it on this guy. Very Canadian, walking with coffee cups in their hands. Pedestrians often move faster than traffic in Downtown. Old City Hall in the background.

More Queen Street. This time at the intersection with York.

With spring comes the bikers.

I was out yesterday shooting street. Walked for about 6 hours and put in another hour of gym after that. I am still sore from the exertion, so still haven't downloaded the stuff from the camera yet. Tada.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The avian foreplay and the Swan Lake inspiration

I was out and about on the Easter weekend, strolling around in the park with my trusty Olympus E510 with the 14-54 lens attached just looking for miscellaneous things to shoot. As a sign of sprint, the ducks and geese are swimming again. For those of you who don't live in places with sub-zero winters, my heart really goes out to some of these brave creatures who for one reason or another, do not manage to migrate South to warmer climates. Most of them do go away, but when I take strolls in the park in the dead of winter, I always inevitably find a couple of them walking around of the surface of the frozen lake with nothing more than their birth down jackets on. Kind of ironic in a way when I walk past them wearing a down jacket of my own...

But I digress.

So I walked past this one goose that was just standing on a branch and thought it cute - almost as cute as the penguins in Boulders somewhere near Simon's Town in South Africa. I stopped and started snapping away. All of a sudden these two other love birds (excuse the pun) came from nowhere, one chasing another, teasing each other. They walked on water like Jesus did (probably slightly faster) and then took off in the sky. All shots on manual exposure.

See how angry the one sitting on the tree was? Makes sense I suppose. If I was single I wouldn't want people making out in front of me.

I was busy downloading the photos from the beach volleyball the previous day and forgot to put the high speed CF card back into the camera, so I was sort of stuck with the slow XD card. This was regretable. Because my camera then had to stop while it was busy writing to the card and I could not take any more photos until this one:

Then my camera stopped again and by the time it was ready, the birds were gone.

Elsewhere, some other geese were enjoying some quality bonding time...

and so were the ducks, although these two are a lot less racist than the typical South Africans. See, even ducks don't have the brown duck / green duck mentality, why do South Africans have this black man / white man mentality? Perhaps it's because ducks don't get "G" for woodwork and don't have a chip on their shoulders.

This was a little slip stream that runs gradually down the river. Elsewhere, there is this much dam wall where the water just rush down. Apparently this little stream offers a more gradual gradient for the salmon to swim upstream so that they can do their business. They obviously can't hop over the massive dam wall.

Another goose...
and it decided to stand on one foot when I was photographing it. Don't know if that's where they came up with the idea of incorporating a goose into a ballet and called it the swan lake? Just a thought. I mean, who on earth would wake up one morning and say to himself, lets make some person dance by hopping around on his/her big toe of his / her one foot...

and while at it, make them wear a leotard?

See, it's spring and everything is mating. If you're single and everything else is mating, then screwed up things get into your head. Screwed up things like leotards.

Screw this. I am going home.

PS: In retrospect, when I said "screw this", it had nothing to do with the ducks or the geese. No animals / birds / chicks were harmed in the production of this blog entry.

Fly away now, little birdies.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Life hasn't been very interesting this last week - just stuck in the office with a crap load of work that is showing no signs of abating. So this week's entries are all commute related.

The spring rains have started coming down. From the 26 Celsius that we had the previous weekend, the termperature has come all the way back down to two degrees Celsius. Apparently this is the typical April temperature of Toronto. So no beach for me this weekend. Just as well, I had to take work home.

Funny how I used to just quote degrees but now I have to quantify the thing with the kind of degrees. God damn imperial units. Somebody tell them that it's the 21st century.

Pedestrians, please obey your signals. Even when it's not raining and you're carrying an umbrella.

Rush hour doesn't seem all that rushed at all at 8 AM the day after the long Easter weekend. Only construction workers and the courier. And some tourist with a backpack. And some Asian dude with a shoulder bag with his lunch and work laptop inside it, zapping away with his little inconspicuous camera.

This dude did not shut up for the whole trip (35 min) and he was LOUD! I was trying to read but couldn't concentrate with his blabbing in the background. Then I put my iPod on with noice cancelling earplugs. Still couldn't concentrage. I eventually moved away to sit at the other end of the bus and his voice carried all the way. Fucking inconsiderate bastards. Some one should tell these people that cellphones work just fine without the caller screaming into it.

I had fun watching this dude sleep on the subway. He would be sitting straight and then he will fall sideways. Then he'd snore and sort of wake up and sit up straight again. Then he repeats the cycle. The whole process is about 7 seconds each cycle, like clockwork

The blind girl was trying to chat up everyone who sat near her. The questions are always the same: Do you have any pets? Why not? I have a cat, two cats actually. I love cats. Are you married? Does your wife have a cat?

Then this other chap sat there next to her. She asked him the same questions.

Commute reading: boring!

The watermarks from the morning rain.

Commuters reading while they waited for the train to arrive.

It was a packed train.

Rush hour traffic once the effects of the long weekend have worn off.

On my way home. Some screwed up attire. Shirt and tie with jeans and trainers. Accesorised with a formal overcoat and a hat. Sleeper on the side. Poster in the back made my stomach rumble a bit. I was starving.

Left work really late and found myself in a somewhat empty bus outside of rush hour. Actually, I am always outside of rush hour, but this week was especially bad because of work load. The bus was empty enough for this guy to put his feet up and take up the whole row. He was wearing muddy shoes too.

More sleepers on the subway. If I wanted to, I could publish a book everyday with photos of commute sleepers.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Heat: 2010

I have a lot to blog about. About a lot of things. Sometimes, I think I have so much to say that I spend so long contemplating what I should be blogging about that I am left no time to blog about anything. Of course, to add another layer of complexity, my thoughts are usually controversial and involves me moaning and bitching about everything that is wrong with this world (in general, everything that is wrong with humanity). Finding the politically correct way of phrasing anything is just, well, bleh.

So what does a lazy and intelligent dude do when he doesn’t want to rephrase things?

He doesn’t rephrase anything. He knows that there are more ways to communicate than just speaking. He goes out with his camera to soak up the sunshine and then communicates his story through a bunch of photos that demonstrate exactly what is wrong with the world. The disease otherwise known as the human condition. But he doesn’t do it on a mission. He does it when and it suits him.

After my bitching of having to move back to digital sometime last week because of the technical difficulty of film under fluorescent lighting, I buggered off to the nearest Best Buy to buy myself the new Canon S90. The bastards ran out of stock and they had 5 in the morning – I got there at 12pm, about 1 hour after they opened. So I had to trod off to the nearest Future Shop. God bless them, they had a sale on the S90. Paid $399 for the thing instead of $499. Yippee!

The S90 is a digital compact that fits in my pocket but packed with all the controls and image quality of a DSLR. It has a wonderfully wide lens at f2.0 and ISO speed that goes up to 3200. In other words, it’s a camera that a professional photographer would carry when he’s out and about. However, even though this camera is digital, I have made a pact with myself: one shot per scene (so the mentality of shooting 20 shots with a Hail Marry and hoping that quantity will trump quality can take a hike). All images must be taken at full manual exposure control, and no looking at the images until I got home. Also, no zooming in with the camera and all images should be taken at the widest zoom so that I am forced to be close to the subject and I skipped out on the one with the manual focus because, well, it takes too long to manually focus a digital camera with limited knobs and switches on the thing and by the time I am done the cows would have gone home (note: not saying the Canadians are cows, just a matter of speaking).

This post is meant to illustrate my first proper stab at the essence of street photography. Unlike other forms of photography, such as portraits, landscapes, architecture, wedding, and etc. no one has ever defined streetphotography. Although no formal definitions exist, the spirits of streetphotography is quite clear:
  • The subject should be a human doing human activities. 
  • The street photo is candid, capturing the subject in their natural and unposed state, sometimes with the subject not knowing that the photo was taken, at least until after the photo was taken. 
  • The strong street photos should capture the routines of humans going about their daily tasks. This sounds pretty boring all in all, but at some point, one would capture some scene that illustrates the strong contrasts that exist within society, be it racial, religious, wealth, age, gender, occupation, or whatever. See picture 3 below.
  • The photographer should be a part of the scene, although not in the frame itself. No creepy long telephoto zooms. Feel the energy, feel the force and be right in the middle of the action. Now I sound like a little green man named Yoda... Take images with the widest setting on the camera.
  • This does not mean that one should be creepy about it. Interact with the people around. Make eye contact. Smile at people. Even if the smile itself is creepy…
  • Only looked at the images when one gets home (in the old days, that would have been when one developed the gloriously wonderful black and white film) so that one was fully a part of the scene (pun intended) and not too distracted with getting the “perfect composition”.  
  • When looking at the images later on, the photographer is sometimes pleasantly surprised by the other subtle elements in the photo that he wasn’t aware of when he took the photo. 
  • Street photography kicks the ass of all other forms of photography because it's about something real, not made up.
Because of the strong requirements of streetphotography – getting close to the subject and not make them realize that they are being photographed – it is often considered the most celebrated and yet least practiced form of photography.

So I ran out to the beach with my shiny new S90 on Good Friday and shot everything that interested me and did not think too much about what I was shooting. Here is the Easter weekend’s haul. Summer is in the air – shorts, bikinis and tank tops are out. Life is a bliss.

When you cycle, you wait for the gap. When you take the subway, you mind the gap. God these people are confusing.

The boarders are also out and about. Note the bottle of water to quench the summer thirsts.

Now this is a photo that I could never think of taking in good old (New) South Africa for a few reasons:
  • I would have been mugged of my camera at gun point by a pack of criminals wearing “I supot Juju Malema” t-shirts with slogan “because I couldn’t even get a G for woodwork” and on the back “and I want everything but don’t want to work for anything”.
  • A black guy and a white chick? Whatever! A black guy with a hot white chick? The dude must be some corrupt guy or BEE beneficiary and has at least 7 zeros in his bank balance. 
  • Board walk? They would have stripped the wood and either sold it for a neat little profit or used it for firewood. Or they would have burnt it in protest of general dissatisfaction with the government and its corruption, and then went back in the elections and voted for the same government again. Fucking tossers. 
  • People will probably beat me up if they realised that I was photographing them – for some arb reason South Africans are terrified by the camera in a stranger’s hands. And they have no respect for others and no reason to not beat someone else up. 
  • The security would have told me “no photos” (for good reasons), but only until I gave them a handsome bribe to leave me alone, even if I am in a public place. 
  • If a dude was walking around with a vest on, he would have been labelled gay. Admittedly I might be first one to do so (call him gay, not wear the vest), but that's not the point.

Getting my feet muddy. How can something so dirty feel so good?
Strange perspective. I could interpret this picture in so many different ways:
  • Chick pointing a fist at the dude. 
  • Chick about to pull a zap at the dude. 
  • Chick giving dude the come-to-mama sign.
  • Whatever. Doesn’t really matter.

That’s a better perspective. Someone tell me if she looks like Milla Jovovich. My camera could have been staring at the goddess of Resident Evil! She was even speaking some other language to that guy, something that I didn’t recognise.  Anyone know what Milla’s nationality is?
Milla was watching a very good beach volleyball game. I stayed to watch a lot of it too.

Did that cute little Asian guy just take a picture of me? Yes mam, I did. May I also add that despite how wonderful your apparel looks, it’s totally wrong for the beach. Look at the volleyball about to get the correct apparel.

On my way home. The day was quite warm at about 26 Celsius, but the temperature did start to fall when the sun started to wan. Anyways, I wasn’t the only photographer out and about, but at least I didn’t have to lug around a lot of heavy shit. My combined Olympus E510 with lens and Canon S90 wouldn’t weigh as much as this dude’s Canon body. And he would never had been able to shoot the stuff that I did with that huge monstrosity of a camera without either scaring everybody away or at least put up a sort of fake and posed smile. He does have some nice shades though.

Framing the subject(s) with natural objects. Then I realised: hmm, how appropriate – chick on left definitely standing back and definitely not smoking in any sense of the word. The smoking  and somewhat electrifying girls on the right and definitely the dangerous ones – as in life, and as in picture.

If there is one thing about fashion accessories in the past decade, it’s sunglasses. Everyone seems to be wearing or holding a pair. iPods would have been another, but it is really not appropriate in this pic.

Some people don’t like it when you photograph them. The chick in the white top gave me a finger when she realised I was trying to get a focus lock on her. Bitch, pulling a zap on me and you don't even know me. But she is cute, and hotness often comes with attitude. She looked even hotter in colour, but then there is no character in that colour photo...

That aside, there were a couple of other things on this pic that I wasn’t aware of and only discovered when I got home:
  • There was a reflection of a passenger off the glass in the middle of the frame. 
  • The station was Woodbine station. On the wall we could see the two Os that sort of became the eye of a strange looking cartoon character. The reflection of the dude became the face of the character.

“Cleaning in progress”? I very much doubt it.
Ok, against my own rule of only black and white for street, I had to publish this one. Why do people have to alter their appearances to feel cool? Why is the youth today all trying to be different by being the same kind of different? If tattoos and nose rings can differentiate you as being different, then they only differentiate you insofar as to class you as a different kind of a screw up. Ok, some tattoos on girls at strategic places are cool, but to have the whole body covered? Fuck. Maybe I shouldn’t be too judgemental I suppose – I am screwed up in my own little or bigger ways.