Project 52: Week 42

When your crappy toy lens has a fixed f8 aperture, and your crappy mirrorless camera can barely handle 1600 ISO, you really need get resourceful when shooting in low-light. Looking for the bright spots, searching for some dramatic hard lighting, finding those solid reflective surfaces, and wasting a lot -a lot- of shots, until you get a decent one.

Project 52: Week 40

City Hall must be one of the Toronto spots I've shot the most. The obvious way to shoot this iconic building is the classic postcard pic - straight up front (now enhanced with the Toronto sign leftover from the Pan Am games). But the real beauty starts when you walk around the block that surrounds Nathan Phillips Square, and start looking at it from different angles. There's always an interesting way to shoot this building.

Project 52: Week 39

Definitely hit my all-time low this week with this project: I haven't taken a single photo with the "el cheapo" Olympus this week. Not one single one. Nada. Blame it on the new job, I say.

Instead, here's another reject from a few weeks past. As a Torontonian, especially living in downtown, you take for granted all the great art in the city because they just become part of the landscape after long enough, like this installation by multi-disciplinary Canadian artist Michael Snow. One of the things about these projects is that it forces you to see everyday objects and places in a different light.

Project 52: Week 38

I've spent a LOT of time at Sugar Beach this summer, and taken more shots that I could care to share. It seems adequate that this is the shot of the week, since I will likely not spend as much time there as I did in the last six crazy months.

As photographers, we often forget the reason why photography even exists in the first place. It's easy to get lost in pixel-peeping, technical perfection, and obsessive composition, when the original purpose of taking pictures is to capture moments and preserve memories.

Project 52: Week 36

One of my favourite spots to shoot in the city is Chinatown. In fact, I make sure I visit the local chinatowns when I'm travelling. They usually hold a wealth of history and culture, unique to each city and country, not to mention cheap and amazing food.

Toronto is fortunate to have not one but two Chinatowns. This shot was taken in the oldest one, in the east end of the city - now far from its heydays and overshadowed by the bigger and more vibrant one in the west end. Who knew a bunch of piled up vegetables would make a good photo?

Project 52: Week 35

I've been trying to shoot things other than street for a while with my cheap Olympus rig for weeks, failing miserably. A quick long-weekend day trip to the nearby Niagara Falls could make the difference. How can you take a bad picture of the world-famous attraction? Bad, maybe not. An interesting picture? That's much harder. 

It's really challenging to take a shot of something that's been shot to death, and that's really, after all, just a really large amount of water, falling. 

Even when shooting landscapes, I can't seem to shake off my street photography instincts, and I need to bring that sense of timing into the frame. Fortunately, a blistering sunny day and the passing Maid of the Mist seemed to align perfectly, just when I had my Olympus in hand. 

Project 52: Week 33

I always bring a camera with me, everywhere. Part of being a photographer is to be ready for the job at hand, and have the right gear for the occasion. Most of the times my iPhone is more than enough for everyday scenarios, but because of this project, I carry my cheap Olympus in my bag almost always. 

This week's pic was taken on my way to work, on a quiet weekday morning, where there just happen to be an international Taichi congress happening at Yonge-Dundas Square. So to recap - Good photos = 90% being in the right location in the right moment + 10% having a camera, knowing how to use it.

Project 52: Week 30

And the disappointment keeps mounting on. I just seem to have too much going on right now to devote a little more time to this fun project, which is a shame, considering the momentum I gaining after the half-way mark. 

This is a reject from week 26, although I still think it's an interesting photo, especially with the reflection of the lady in the window and her yellow dress.


Project 52: Week 29

When I first started this project back in January, I anticipated winter being my worst enemy. Toronto's chilly temperatures during the cold months are usually not good motivators to get you out and shoot. Turns out summer is actually just as bad. The insane number of events and gigs are forcing me to use my "real" cameras, and my cheap Olympus hasn't seen much action lately.

Fortunately, Kensington market never lets me down, so this week's pic is the iconic sign from this beloved Toronto neighbourhood. It's somewhat hidden, and the top level of the parking lot building in the heart of the market, so many visitors miss it, including locals. 

It's no secret that Kensington market is my favourite hood in the city, hands down. Nowhere in Toronto can't you get a mix of cultures, characters, amazing (and cheap!) food, with a genuinely down-to-earth vibe, with little to no gentrification. Let's hope it stays that way.

Project 52: Week 28

I've been busy with a crazy mix of day job, freelance work, and actual paid photo gigs, which didn't leave me much time for shooting for fun. This is the problem with gear-centered projects - You have to bring the chosen camera with you everywhere and shoot with it most of the times. As much as I grew to love my E-Pm1 setup, versatility is not its main strength. I would be amazed if one day, I sell a photo taken with this camera and lens. It would be the perfect finale for this year-long project.

Busy as I may, Sunday brunch is mandatory if you live in Toronto, and I couldn't help snap a pic of this little guy looking up on me at Kensington Market. I have a soft spot for tiny, friendly dogs (who doesn't?).

Project 52: Week 27

Call it instinct, call it practice. Sometimes, you just know that there's a picture happening in front of you. Luckily, you have your trusty camera in your hand, you raise the viewfinder to your eye, and press the shutter, quickly, a succession of shots. Then the moment is gone. And you're so proud of yourself for being able to capture a fleeting moment, to document life as it happens, to truly represent a fragment of time, never to be repeated again.

Except, you forgot to reset your settings from the lat picture you took, so you underexposed the shot by 3 stops. Translation: Too. Damn. Dark. 

Thank god we have technology these days, that recovering a photo that would have been lost in the days of film, is now a matter of a few minutes spent in Photoshop/Lightroom.

Lesson to be learned: ALWAYS reset your camera settings when shooting street. 

Project 52: Week 26

Halfway there!

It really doesn't feel like it's been six months that I started this personal project, and been shooting with my cheap camera set up. The goal was to become a better photographer, to see the photo in my head before taking it - to shoot less and keep more.

From the 26 photos I've taken so far, many are forgettable. But there are a few that are goodI think so, at leastand less than a handful are keepers. And not just "cheap camera keepers"they are actual keepers, regardless of equipment used to capture them.

However, the main lesson learned so far is that gear is really least important element in making the image. I am actually actively minimizing my gear, or actively thinking of buying older or used cameras and lenses. Not only is this a blessing to my pocket (a big plus), but the confidence that I can shoot the images I want with any camera is a bigger benefit. 

I just ordered a used Fuji X-M1 body and a brand new Fuji 18mm lens (won on eBay, at about 1/3 of retail price). A two year-old camera with a (*gasp*) three-year old lens. Coupled with a cheap 28mm equivalent optical viewfinder, set at hyperfocal distance, this is a street photography setup that has nothing to envy to the Leica's of the world, at a bargain price. Can't wait to shoot with it.

Project 52: Week 25

Almost seven months in, I noticed that there are weeks where the picture presents itself, the choice is obvious. And there are other weeks when the choice is not so obvious, mainly because most pictures are equally mediocre...This is one such week, and the above pic is the most interesting one of the bunch. There's always next week (sigh).


Project 52: Week 24

Summer festival season has official kicked in Toronto, where there's roughly 17,000 events happening all over the city ever weekend. A did a lot of walking outdoors, a lot of picture-taking, and the picture of the week was one taken indoors at the Eaton Center. Irony...

In case it's not obvious, what caught my eye was the enormous print-out of the Zara model in comparison to the tiny people. Almost like giant's walking among us (shopping?)...

Project 52: Week 23

Summer festivals and events are just heating up in Toronto, and the Bubble Battle 2015 must have been one of the quirkiest ones yet. More like a picnic than a "battle", the highlight of the day was the guy making giant bubbles for the children to pop. 

funny enough, the Naked Bike Ride was happening just meters away at the same time. Not one conservative parent made a fuss about it, or covered their wee ones eyes. A testament of Toronto's inclusiveness and liberal mindset maybe, but I know this wouldn't happen in many cities around the world, and one of the reasons why I choose to live here.