Nov 272017
 

Every now and then I like to give myself challenges with photography.  

Last weekend, I challenged myself to take out a small camera and only one lens for some indoor street photography at the Pickering Flea Market in Ontario.   This market is like a little world bazaar – full of random cheap merchandise, one of a kind vendors, many ethnicities and interesting characters.   

I grabbed my new Olympus Pen-F and the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8.  I chose a prime lens rather than a zoom, since it would force me to get closer to my subjects and frame by walking instead of twisting a zoom ring.  To make this challenge even more difficult, I restricted myself to shooting JPG’s in the camera’s black and white mode.  Olympus created a good approximation of Kodak Tri-X 400 and since I like the look of that film, I thought it would be fun to use this mode exclusively.  In some ways, this approach is like shooting with a fixed lens rangefinder camera.  Forcing myself to visualize and shoot in black and white, takes me back to my twenties, when I shot 35mm B&W film in the streets of Toronto.

Olympus Pen-F with M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 lens

I wanted to put the fun back into photography and not worry about carrying around a bunch of gear or messing around with RAW files in Adobe Lightroom.   Indeed it was heaps of fun and quite satisfying.  It makes one appreciate the basics and pay more attention to the world around you than your equipment and technology.

Pickering Flea Market

Pickering Flea Market

 

Jul 102017
 

Further to my last post with Kensington Market street photography, I uploaded a short video to youtube.

It was shot with the Panasonic Lumix G85 in 4K/24fps.  All footage was taken handheld, “run and gun” style.  I’m still learning how to shoot video, so this was a good practice run.  There’s much room for improvement and I will plan another day out at Kensington with the goal of getting better footage and telling a story.

That said, I am pleased with the video performance of the Lumix G85.  The video quality is far better than any camera I’ve owned.  Hence my new interest in videography.

 

Jun 302017
 

I love walking around in Kensington Market, I really do. 

It was a treat to take my wife, Melissa on her Birthday weekend to explore this historic Toronto enclave.  Joining us, was her daughter, Bailey and boyfriend, Matt.  Adding to the day’s fun was meeting up with Melissa’s oldest daughter, Brittani and her friend, Meagan, who were attending Pride Day.  Moreover, Kensington Market always offers ample opportunity for street photography. 

Kensington Market represents a sanctuary from uninspired blandness and business culture which unfortunately defines many areas of Toronto, which are crowded.  The city is expensive, at times angry, congested and it lacks a deep sense of history and tradition that one finds in European cities.  Toronto is also a prosperous, clean, modern, peaceful and safe city that adorns itself with a sprawling landscape of skyscrapers and condominiums.  

From an architectural perspective, much of the city is boring, pragmatic, post-modern, homogenized and inflicted by a tyranny of right angled symmetry.  Older buildings are often abandoned factories or businesses designed to fulfill the profit requirements of past generation’s bourgeoisie.  Those buildings are either demolished or converted to luxury residences.  In this accountant’s wet dream, the city prospers and grows.  Its rational and calculated approach to attract business and foster sustained growth succeeds well, but does so at the expense of the soul and a classical sense of beauty.

Kensington Market, Toronto. 06-24-2017

These modern malaises are not the fault of Toronto nor its inhabitants, rather, it is the consequence of its intersection in history and all too recent ascendancy.  Until the 1980’s, Toronto played second fiddle, both financially and culturally, to the much older and established City of Montreal.  Toronto is now Canada’s first city and its fate entangled with the machinery of big money.  Therein lies our historic intersection: the city reflects the unfettered advancement of a new world without the anchor of a long and troubled history.  The logic of global trade and finance sooner or later homogenize all cultures and demands new growth complies to its needs.  If Paris is the achievement of the artist, then Toronto is the achievement of the balance sheet.

Kensington Market, Toronto. 06-24-2017

For the first half of the 20th century, Toronto was that “second city” where one went to do business.  It was serious, law abiding, politically stable, sober and sterile.  Old Hogtown was overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon, its founders were stoic, humourless British Tories and puritanical Scottish Presbyterians.  No wonder Ernest Hemingway found himself despising Toronto during the 1920’s when employed as a correspondent for the Toronto Star.  In a letter to Ezra Pound, written from his room at a Sherbourne Street hotel, he opined:

 “It couldn’t be any worse. You can’t imagine it. I’m not going to describe it.[…] I have not had a drink in five days.” Of Torontonians he wrote, “We have come to the right place to have a baby because that is the specialite de ville. They don’t do anything else.”

Annoyed that purchasing candy from the drugstore was prohibited on Sunday, Hemingway wrote that Canada “is the fistulated asshole of the father of seven among Nations.” And Canadians, he claimed “are all merde [that is, shit].”

Kensington Market, Toronto. 06-24-2017

That rigid version of Toronto has changed in large measure thanks to multiculturalism and the collapse of Montreal as the financial and cultural centre of Canada after the 1976 Quebec referendum.  The role of the aristocratic Tory and curmudgeonly Presbyterian are fading passages in the city’s history.  Toronto is now a tolerant city welcoming all races, cultures, religions and sexual preferences.  At times it is chaotic, unclean, perverse, drunk, stoned, conflicted and uncertain of its identity and status as a “world class city”.  These cultural paroxysms are just what the city needed to wrench it away from the austere control of the old Anglo-Saxon masters.   Hemingway’s old Canadian merde has lost its stench.

Kensington Market, Toronto. 06-24-2017

Kensington Market, Toronto. 06-24-2017

My love of Kensington Market comes from its confident sense of history as well as the harmonious collision of conspicuously different cultures and lifestyles.  The buildings are old, unique and full of character.  Its denizens are mainly young, but they live a local lifestyle that would be right at home in old Europe. One is likely to buy fish, vegetables, meats and clothing from at least 4 different vendors.  It reminds me of my Grandparent’s long gone delicatessen and wine shop in Oostende, Belgium.  All of it a far cry from the modern superstore when one can buy underwear, t-shirts, fruits, meats, electronics and condoms under one roof.  The vendors in Kensington Market are one of kind, with no analog found elsewhere in the city.  Each shop represents the idiosyncrasies of its owners, there is no uniformity and that is a beautiful thing.

Kensington Market, Toronto. 06-24-2017

Kensington Market stubbornly resists the encroachment of the 21st century and corpocracy.  Its streets are dispossessed of corporate logos, obnoxious billboards and men in suits.  It is visually rich, confident, energetic and proud.  It is a uniquely Canadian experience that in its own inexplicable way unifies the promise of benevolent multiculturalism with the surrealism of William S. Burrough’s Interzone.

And yes, you can purchase candy on a Sunday anywhere in Toronto.

Kensington Market, The Modern City Pushed Into The Background

Hopefully my images below were able to capture the spirit of Kensington.

Apr 092017
 

I took these photos back in October, 2015 when my work took me to a conference in Niagara Falls.  After dinner I grabbed my camera and a tripod to take some night photos.  Some were taken from my hotel room and others outside.  It was unusually cold and I was not quite dressed for it, but I managed to grab a few shots before walking back to my hotel.

I forgot to post these photos online upon my return home as I had far, far better things on my mind.  Once I returned home, I proposed to my beautiful wife, Melissa Faucher.  Yes, she said yes 🙂

Jun 282015
 

Poor Jared the Jay, soaked to the bone.

Recently we’ve had a bout of some very rainy weather here in Southern Ontario. As he does each day, Jared waits patiently for me to provide him with some peanuts.  This nearly tame bird looked a bit miffed, but remained vigilant until I opened the door.  Normally I’ll have a little chat with him and then he will take several peanuts away to his hidden stash.

 

 

 

 

 

May 142015
 

In my last post I uploaded photos of dead salmon by the shores of Lake Ontario, no doubt they were the unlucky ones after spawning season.  I had also alluded to posting some more pleasant photos, which are contained herein.

This is an odd time of the year for folks living in Southern Ontario, it seems we no longer have a gradual transition from winter to spring.  The new normal is a long, harsh winter which ends abruptly, then a warm front moves in and it is here to stay until October or November.  This is a far cry from the gentle transition to spring I remember as a kid growing up in Montreal.

The gestalt transition to warm weather occurred about a week ago.  It is definitely motorcycling season, but it is still too early to see leaves on the trees or lush green fields.  That said, it was still fun to get out and take some photos, despite being harassed by clouds of Mayflies.

All photos taken with a Pentax K-3.

May 122015
 

If you recall a song by the same name as this post, guess what?  You’re probably getting old as well!  It was recorded in 1979 by Barnes and Barnes, since then it’s become something of a cult classic.  That insipid melody became an ear worm as I took these shots.

Last weekend, Missy and I hopped on the Harley to enjoy the fantastic weather and take some photos at Wilmot Creek Conservation Area.  Normally this would have been a very pleasant outing, but we were ravaged by tiny Mayflies.  In fact, we were covered by them and it literally clouded the day.  Even my camera bag was covered by hundreds of these pests.

Adding to my bug woes, I noticed that I had forgotten the base plate for my tripod and had to walk to my bike and leave it the trunk.  As it turns out, this was good fate as I needed a free hand to wave off these insects.

When we got the shores of Lake Ontario, the beach was littered with dozens of dead salmon.  I guess spawning season is done and these are the unlucky ones.

Rather than posting some typical rock, lake and tree shots, I thought it would be fun to first show these grotesque carcasses.  A kind of Edgar Allan Poe flavour compared to the Henry David Thoreau nature themed and prettier images for my next post.

All images taken with a Pentax K-3, post processing and grungifying done in Adobe Lightroom.

Apr 202015
 

This bluejay, who we have named Jared is a frequent visitor to my backyard.  We started putting out peanuts in the last month and he comes looking for his treats every weekend morning or any day I am lucky enough to be at home.  In fact, if I’m not paying attention, he will sit on my deck and call out to me.  He won’t leave until I give him a treat.

Dropping In

Dropping In

Jays are smart birds and over time, Jared has started to develop a rapport and recognizes us.  In the last month, he has become more accustomed to our presence and will even hang around just a few feet from us on the deck, look at me with curious eyes and then fly away with his peanut and return a minute later for second, third and fourth helpings.

20150419-12-07-PENTAX K-3-smc PENTAX-DA 70mm F2.4 Limited-51

He Will Be Back

Little by little, we are earning his trust and soon it will not surprise me if he eats out of my hand or at least becomes bold enough to lose his fear.  For the time being, he’s been quite the character and seems to like having his photo taken.