Archive for the ‘Local Stuff’ Category

Highway 7 Relic

Friday, August 31st, 2012

I’ve always thought that old dilapidated barns are a bit of a photography cliche. In many ways, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all: a hulk of a building that used to represent a strong work ethic and economic prosperity that now sits idle – waiting for the inevitable end to its existence. There are some parallels there to the human condition – and maybe that’s why we’re drawn to these old relics.

Up to now, I’ve managed to resist the lure of capturing the “broken-down barn” motif through my viewfinder. Inevitably, though, I succombed to the siren-call of a crumbling monster of a barn whose walls resembled the familiar gap-toothed hick farmer stereotype. This particular barn sits on Highway 7 between Guelph and Kitchener. I drive past it two or three times a week – and it always tries to draw me in as I drive by. Yesterday, I let it win.

I was fifteen minutes ahead of schedule for my meeting in Kitchener so I pulled into the drive – grabbed my camera and went for a walk in the overgrown weeds. I spent about ten minutes shooting – trying to get lots of sky and building together. I was very glad for my new 18-70mm lens – this would have been near impossible with my trusty 28-80mm.

Unfortunately, the time of day was less than ideal for shooting a building like this. The sun was too high and too bright meaning that either the sky was over-exposed or the barn was underexposed – or both. Whatever. I took my shots and continued on with my day.

Back home last night, I pulled the shots in Lightroom and immediately discarded most of them for various reasons. I ended up with five images but I wasn’t particularly enamoured with any of them. The composition was nice, but the colour just wasn’t working. I gave up on the images and decided to use them for some experimentation with tinting. It was playtime.

I spent several minutes doing all kinds of crazy things to these photos… and then something clicked. I was suddenly staring at a fairly compelling photograph of a decrepit barn. It was dark and dramatic – the sunny day had given way to a brooding and threatening sky of gold. The shadows had taken on a blue-green hue. I loved it – it spoke to me. It captured exactly what I felt when I looked at the old barn – which is nothing like what I saw when I looked at it.

So here, for posterity, is the Highway 7 Relic. The highway is slated for expansion sometime soon(ish) and I suspect this relic will finally meet its end to make room.




Cambridge Joins Worldwide Photowalk 2012

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

One of the things I do in my spare time is organize Photowalking Cambridge, a monthly event that brings photography enthusiasts together to shoot, socialize, and get some exercise. I’m excited that we’ve just become part of Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk event on October 13th. Here are the details from the Photowalking Camrbidge blog post:

Cambridge is now offically part of Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk on October 13, 2012!

We will meet in the Civic Square in front of the new City Hall in Galt at 3pm. We will kickoff the photowalk with a group photo and the on a route around the downtown area. All of the details can be found on our Worldwide Photowalk Profile page. It is important that you SIGN UP on that page if you are planning to attend.

A Day and A Night in Hespeler

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

This past weekend I was pleased to have some of my photos exhibited at the A Day and A Night; Art Meets Music event in Hespeler (a neighbourhood of Cambridge, Ontario). I ended up spending most of the day wandering around the festival snapping photos – here’s a look:










Cruise Night

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Another Wednesday night, another set of cruise night photos! My favourite thing about these cruise night photos is the ability to shoot into the setting sun. The timing, direction and background are perfect for creating fantastic sunstar and lens flare effects:


There is also the other row of cars that face into the sun. While these aren’t as much fun, they do provide for some very good high-contrast shots:

All of my cruise night photos are here:

A Walk at RARE

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

20120727_CRC4912We who live in Cambridge are blessed with many natural environments within the city boundaries. Friday we decided at the last minute to drive over to the RARE Charitable Research Reserve.

Luckily, I brought my camera and got some shots of two families – mine, of course, and the family of ospreys that live at the reserve.

RARE is a pretty amazing place – 900 acres of protected land and TON of research projects. A quick look at the projects page reveals things like “Floral interactions and the role of pollination-niche traits in the assembly of spring ephemeral communities”, “Does shear stress determine suitable habitat for juvenile freshwater mussels?”, and “Metacommunity dynamics and community assembly of restored tallgrass prairie.” Clearly not just a walk in the park!

I’ve selected a few photos to share below and the full set can be found here:






Thursday, July 26th, 2012

I’m proud of several of my photos. I work hard at learning and practicing the skills required to get the shot I want when I want it. Sometimes an opportunity presents itself that allows you to put those skills to work – often in a hurry – to create a really stunning image. That happened tonight.

We had been hearing all afternoon about the storm that was approaching promising strong winds, lightning and possibly hail. I didn’t think much of it because, well, we haven’t had much rain at all this year and every time the weather dude says it’s going to rain, it doesn’t. However, I found myself very awake at 1am sitting on my front step watching the intermittent glow of lightning over the north end of the city. I thought of my camera but realized that the trees and houses made for a very poor view of the horizon. Then I remembered the little park I found a few months ago at the south end of the city – on a hill overlooking all of south Cambridge.

I ran back into the house, grabbed my camera bag and tripod and rushed out my car. I drove VERY SLOWLY AND SAFELY the to the park on the hill. As I setup my tripod and got the shot framed up, I could see that rain was already falling on the horizon and I had little time. I had done exactly ZERO research on how to shoot lightning – but I trusted my instincts and set the aperture to 8 and the ISO to 100. I then set shutter speed to “Time/Bulb” and the drive to “Remote”. At the time I had no idea how I knew that this was what I should do. I now realize that it’s what I learned while shooting the Canada Day fireworks earlier in the month. I had researched that a LOT and that experience served me very well here.

Unfortunately, you can’t anticipate lightning the way you can fireworks. So I just opened the shutter and waited. Every so often, I’d close and re-open the shutter to keep the ambient light low enough to still look like nighttime. I captured lots of lightning but no ground strikes – it was all in the clouds. Then the magic happened and a big beautiful fork of electricity hit the ground just on the edge of the frame. I waited another second in the hopes a second strike would happen but none came so a press of the remote closed the shutter. I took a few more exposures of varying lengths but got no groundstrikes. This was it – and it was enough:


The technical stuff: 23 second exposure at f/8, ISO at 100. The lens was my trusty 28-80G at 28mm
Post-production: no colour correction at all. I lightened the lights and darkened the darks and added just a touch of noise reduction. That’s it.

37th Cambridge Highland Games

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

20120721_CRC4684I am not a Highlander. The Scottish blood that runs in my veins is of the more sedate lowland variety. My wife, on the other hand, descends from the Sinclairs – the highest of the Highlanders – hailing from the most northern tip of the auld sod. It’s no surprise, then, that the Highland Games in our adopted city are a “must attend” event for the family.

The Cambridge Games have struggled in recent years with low attendance due mostly to uncooperative weather. This year, however, there was no evidence of the recent troubles. Media reports say that over 6000 people visited the site in the scorching heat. As this was my first games with a proper camera (and the skills to use it) I was excited to see what I could capture. One thing is always certain at a highland event – lots of interesting colours, patterns, and personalities!

I took a lot of photos that day – many of them duplicates and many more that just didn’t turn out for one reason or another. From my original number of 425 exposures, I ended up with 35 finished images. One of the 35, though, is pretty special. This is Keegan. He’s four years old and was at the Cambridge Games for his first competition!


I had seen Keegan earlier in the day competing and so when the massed bands streamed onto the field during the closing ceremonies, I kept an eye out for him. 20120721_CRC4440As it turned out, the spacing between the other drummers worked out perfectly as Keegan came into frame – and just as I was snapping a few shots, he looked right at me with the slightest of smirks on his face. Perfect. I knew immediately that I had captured the shot of the day. It was a good feeling.

Of course, I had no idea who Keegan was at the time. That took a little bit of detective work after the games were over. I’ve since been in touch with Keegan’s Mom and they are as excited about the photo as I am.

Highland games are not ALL about the pipes and drums. There are the heavy events (which I didn’t get as many shots of as I would have liked, see right) and the highland dancing (which I didn’t shoot at all) and, the family favourite, TUG-OF-WAR! Perhaps I had just not paid as much attention in past years, but I noticed something fascinating about the tug-of-war participants this year… their footwear! If you look closely, those are hockey skates! they have hard plastic soles in place of the blades. Only a Canadian could come up with that!


I’m already planning my shots and angles for next year’s games – there were so many that I know I could have gotten! In about a year’s time, keep an eye out here for my 38th Cambridge Highland Games post!

You can see the full set of 35 Highland Games photos here:

An Impromptu Photodrive

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Driving home from St. Catharines this afternoon, I decided to make an effort to stop several time when something caught my eye. It was like a photowalk – but in my car. These are the result.

Cruise Night – a love affair with curves

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

20120704_CRC338120120704_CRC337820120704_CRC3439I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that I like about photographing the cruise nights in Galt on Wednesday nights. You can see previous posts here and here. On previous occasions it has been the colours I’ve noticed most, but this week it was all about the curves. There were several Corvettes from the mid-sixties present this week and if ever there was a car with great curves, it’s a pre-1980 Vette!

I was surprised at the number of folks who showed up because it was very hot and sweaty that night – even at 8pm. Lots of people milling about makes it difficult to get wide shots and even the closeups are sometimes ruined by a reflection of bystanders. I have found, though, that you can only really appreciate the curves when you get really close. From ten feet away a ’68 Vette is just a beautiful car but at ten inches it’s a beautiful curve contained within another curve.

The wednesday night cruise nights have rekindled my love affair with cars. Twenty years ago, though, it was about horsepower and cubic inches. I have now discovered the art of automotive – and you have to get up close to see it.

You can see the full set of cruise night photos, including the 18 from this week, in this set on Flickr:

Save The Dam? Really?

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

I really don’t want to get dragged into this particular debate but last weekend provided an opportunity to, at the very least, provide another perspective. Any idea what this is?

Well, it’s gross, is what it is. It’s the what the water looks like from above in the area that the Save The Dam (STD) people want to “preserve”. Here’s a wider shot to show what I’m talking about:

The STD acronym is fitting, I think, because it looks like you could actually catch an STD in that stuff. This is NOT what rivers are supposed to look like. Here’s another view closer to the dam:

Now, I’m no expert… but I’ve never seen an obstructed river do that.

For my part, I will leave the decisions to the experts and bureaucrats. I simply want to illustrate that it’s just not as simple as saving a dam.

If you’d like an alternative opinion, I suggest you look through local photographer John Mitchell’s blog. I’ll admit he makes a pretty strong photographic argument for keeping the dam but I just don’t think it’s as simple as that.