Project 52: Week 22

Summer in Toronto wouldn't be the same without its many, many street festival. They are not only an excuse to stuff your face with more than food and drinks than you should be consmuing - they are also a great opportunity for street photography. 

At the Dundas Street Featival (where this week's pic was taken), I saw many photographers lugging they're massive Canon and Nikon DSLR's, with equally massive lenses, surely costing upwards several thousand dollars. I'm more and more impressed on how small and unobtrusive my little cheap-o Olympus E-Pm1 setup is, and how it never lets me miss a shot, all for less than 200 bucks. So much, that it's been my main shooter the whole weekend, and it would still be even if I wasn't doing this project. 

Simplicity is the key in street photography, and a camera so simple that doesn't even give you the option to waste time in zooming in or out, select aperture, focus, etc is the best camera to have. Just compose, point, and shoot.

Project 52: Week 21

It's hard enough for me to take photowalks during the week, and it doesn't help when it rains over the weekend. While I got some interesting shots with my weather-sealed Olympus E-M1, the E-Pm1 with the body cap lens didn't see much action. But I still managed to snag a shot in between downpours.

Project 52: Week 20

I wish I could put my cheap camera set up through more diverse types of photography other than street (which I've been shooting exclusively for weeks now), but street is just so much fun and accessible in the warmer months, I can't help myself. Eventually, I want to try my hand at some studio portraits and more planned shoots, but I guess I can always do that during the cold and rainy days...

Project 52: Week 19

This week's photo comes courtesy of me crashing a photo/video shoot in the middle of the Ryerson Univeristy grounds during a sunny Thursday morning walk (a perk of working nights and evenings at my new gig). I was lucky enough to get this shot in a split second, when the photo drone was out of the way.

Also, this was my one and only shot for week 19, which means a 100% success rate for this week :)

Project 52: Week 18

Full Disclaimer: This is not the picture I intended to take. I just pointed the camera to the big cherry tree in the background, when the glamour lady walked in to the frame.

One of the few benefits of the crappy 15mm body cap lens is that you set it to infinity, point, and shoot. The f8 aperture ensure most things in the frame are (relatively) sharp at a safe distance - about 1.5~2 meters.

On a side note, every year I tell myself I won't be back to see the cherry blossoms at High Park, and every year I still come back. It's just too crowded, and there are only a limited amount of pics you can take before they all start looking the same...but it is really a good photo op (both for the cherry and the people), especially on a warm spring day like it was last Saturday. We don't get many of those in Toronto, so might as well make the most of them.

Project 52: Week 16

I'm trying my hand at some street photography with the E-Pm1 setup this week. When I decided to start this project back in December last year, and settled on the 15mm Olympus body cap, I knew it had the most potential on the streets, with it's fixed f8 aperture and zon-focusing nature.

Project 52: Week 15

A super busy week with work, both full-time and freelance, meant I late posting for the first time since I started this project! Only for a day, but my clean record is broken...

 On a positive note, this is also the first time that I had more than one photo that I considered was worth posing. Especially interesting when considering that I'm shooting less frames with this camera, which means I'm getting more keepers from less photos! Either I'm getting better, or the warm(er) weather is bringing more photo opps. Whichever it is, I hope this trend continues.

Project 52: Week 14

Today was the first time since November last year that Torontonians were able to enjoy a nice, warm, sunny day.

I would normally venture to my favourite parts of the city, like Kensington Market or the Waterfront, but my wife had the brilliant idea of hiking through the beltline that runs along the DVP. This trail can take you from downtown, all the way up to St. Clair and it's a nice respite from the concrete, just a short walk from Yonge & Bloor.

Of course it lead to some awesome shutter therapy opportunities, and the pic of the week is of a rusty but still functional rail bridge, full of graffitis and empty beer cans. I have a feeling that this is were high school kids go drinking, smoking, and do other questionable activities on hot summer nights...

I also took my Yashica D with me, so shots from that camera will be posted soon, whenever I finish the roll. Which could be next winter, as the current pace (*sigh*)

Project 52: Week 13

One of the best things about a long term challenge (photography - or any kind really) is that it forces you to pay attention to things that you normally wouldn't. 

Anyone that's bee to the Toronto City Hall building has surely noticed that giant mural near the main entrance. I'ts not exactly conspicuous. It's striking and monumental, due to the sheer amount of nails that i's made of (lots).

So while at City Hall on Saturday waiting for the Toronto Pillowfight to start, I took shelter from the wretched Lake Ontario wind and snapped this pic. My personal philosophy with public works of art, whenever I'm photographing them, is to give proper credit when available. Today I learned that the mural is the work of British born sculptor David Partridge, and it's called Metropolisand happy that I know a piece of Toronto trivia that had never bothered to learn in my 13 years here, thanks to this project.

Project 52: Week 12


Because of the limitations of my cheap camera setup, I find it difficult to capture moving subjects, sports, or anything that doesn't stay still for more than a few seconds. So this week, I'm taking a break from creepy mannequins and Japanese dolls to bring you some tried-and-true hard ligh shadows. Lazy, I know. 

Come summer, I hope to shoot more street and movement, but it's still ridiculously cold (for spring) in Toronto for anything interesting to be happening outdoors. At lest, that's my excuse...

Project 52: Week 11

It wasn't until I bumped the contrast all the way up, when I noticed the somewhat haunting reflection of the houses on the right hand side, which kind of matched the skull motif. Something I definitely didn't notice when I was shooting. 

Project 52: Week 10

One of the best things about long-term photo challenges is the discipline and sense of responsibility you learn by bringing your camera everywhere and keeping an eye for that shot of the day/week. Also, it's a pain in the ass when you have too much shit going on, and you can't seem to manage to find the time or energy to shoot, not mentioning how much of a failure it makes you feel when it's day 7 and there is no "it" shot.

Week 10 photo comes after one of those moments, where I reluctantly brought along my E-pm1 (it's tiny, fits in my jacket pocket, but it's still annoying) while visiting a new pizza joint in the neighbourhood. Definitely not my best, but definitely my style, and that's the whole point of this project.

Photography is like pizza: Even when it's bad, it's good.

Project 52: Week 09

And just like that, the warm weather is back. I didn't realize how much I missed just walking around the city and shooting, without a set purpose, and be pleasantly surprised with the photos that come back.

This time of the year is fantastic for dramatic lighting, and Project 52 and my little Olympus PEN mini is just perfect to experiment with harsh shadows and highlights.

This week's shot is exactly one of those random moments, that I just happened to have a camera in hand to capture. It also happens to be the window front of one of my favourite diners in the city, The Lakeview in the west end. Three words: Apple Pie Shake.

On a side note, I can't explain how similar shooting with the E-Pm1 is to shooting with film. The only difference is that I have a preview of what I'm getting, but because of the nothing-to-write-home-about screen of this camera, what you see on the screen is rarely accurate to the actually photo recorded, in terms of colour and dynamic range. I hope to expand on this topic in following posts...

Project 52: Week 08

Shooting with an "sub-par" camera means being very resourceful in terms of finding an interesting subject and good light. But an often unmentioned fact, even in these days, is how much an image can benefit from post-processing. The right cropping, noise reduction, and exposure/colour adjustments can make all the difference when deciding which photo is a keeper and which one is not.

99% of the shots with my cheapo E-Pm1 setup are plain garbage. Even the ones I keep are far from stellar, but some Lightroom/Photoshop magic makes them publishable. Many photographers shun this. Get it right in camera, they say. That's what real photographers do, they say. I don't disagree, I actually try to capture as much as possible in camera first. But digital retouching is just another tool you have at your disposal to enhance your images―just like $6000 cameras are to some "real" photographers. 

This week, I'm also including the original unedited image, saved to JPG from the original RAW file. I have no shame in the digital retouching I do (most of my work has very minimal touch-up, in any case) and I don't think anyone should. Personally, it's just another skill/tool that takes time and patience to learn and perfect, and you should be proud to make good use―but not abuse―of them.

Here is the original....

Project 52: Week 07

As I was about to start this project, I knew this moment would come - a matter of 'when', not 'if'. Eventually, I wouldn't have one single photo worth of posting during the course of seven days. Which would mean using a 'keeper', a photo I took earlier and decided not to use.

The deciding factor? Human error. I had planned week six' pic to be one from the Yorkville Icefest, an annual tradition I never miss. I packed three cameras (Fuji X-T1, Panasonic GX7, and the Olympus E-Pm1), a spare battery for each, four lenses, and a clip-on flash for the Fuji. What did I forget? The clip-on flash for the E-Pm1. Pitch dark with an f8 lens and ISO that can't really go north of 1600 WITHOUT A FLASH, equals no usable pictures.

This goes to teach a priceless lesson: There is no such thing as making too sure you are packing all the gear needed. Had I not forgotten that one tiny, wimpy clip-on flash, meant the difference between getting the shot, and coming home empty handed. I also learned that Fuji's clip-on flashes don't work on Olympus cameras. Trust me, I tried.

So this one is a left over from week five, taken in the heart of University of Toronto's downtown campus. It was cold then, and it's even colder now in Toronto, with (at least) another two weeks to go of this arctic chill. I can't wait for the summer.

In case you're wondering, this is the photo I meant to take with the E-Pm1 - taken with the Panasonic GX7 instead (and the AMAZING Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens).

Project 52: Week 06

Week 6 photo is late - blame it on the long weekend. Also, blame it on the -35 windchill cold weather that we Torontonians are suffering through these days. I hate this city in the winter, there's no denying it. Hell, I hate winter, period.

The frigid temps are forcing me to stay indoors mostly, and I don't go out unless I'm in need of absolute essentials (read beer). So this one is from the show window for the American Apparel buried in the underground of Yonge & Bloor. I have no particular opinion about AA's style, but their displays are usually entertaining, and It seems I'm going through a phase where I'm obsessed with  creepy mannequins of all sorts.

Project 52: Week 05

With the amount of snow that fell in the city the last few days and the chilling cold, it's been difficult to find an opportunity to go out and shoot. 

This project is forcing me to go gear up, go out and shoot, even in the middle of the winter, knee deep in snow. Something that wouldn't have happened last winter.

But the most important thing that it's teaching me, five weeks in, is confidence. Give me a camera—any camera—and a few hours, and I can be sure I'll deliver decent images. They may not be great, they may not be master pieces. Hell, they may not even be "good" by many standards, but they will have my personal signature style in them.


Project 52: Week 04

This week's post comes early! I hope to make this a habit, but I'm afraid will likely be the exception to the rule.

This is from the Stanley Kubrick exhibit which just ended last weekend at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. If you didn't have a chance to go, you missed a fantastic chance to find some meaty visual inspiration (sorry). Kubrick started his career as a photographer, and it's very evident in his film work. 

Zero noise reduction. Embrace the grain. Shot at 1600 on a small sensor, it still looks great in black and white, in my opinion.

On a side note, I've been enjoying shooting in square format tremendously as of lates. I'm slowly settling down to two formats, almost exclusively:

  • 1:1 gives me that bargain medium format feel. I especially like the fact that I don't have to debate between landscape and portrait orientation. No fumbling and awkwardly rotating the camera - just point and shoot.
  • 16:9, I'm just a sucker for that cinematic look.

(Not a real baby)

Project 52: Week 03

Only three weeks in, and I already feel this limited camera setup is making a better photographer. Perhaps not on the skills side yet (it's still a damn hard thing to shoot with and I delete more images that I keep), but in terms of "photographic zen". As you can see in this week's shot, I stopped caring about blurriness, softness, washed-out colours, lens distortion, graininess, etc. 

It's all about composition and the moment.