Monthly Archives: November 2014

Snow Flakes & Long Exposures

Yesterday, I got up before dawn and walked up Yellow Creek in David A. Balfour Park to a place where a small dam has crumbled.

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Low light, flowing water, perfect for long exposures. And then it started to snow. Not hard. Just fluffy white flakes that gave the ground a gentle dusting. Nevertheless, it spoiled my plans or expectations or whatever. Naturally, I complained on twitter. This is what I posted:

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Auto Share Uses Street Artists

How do you feel about the Autoshare signs? Do you even notice them? Do you even care?

Autoshare – the car-sharing service – has made its 400 signs available to five street artists to liven things up.

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But is it street art? I thought street art was supposed to challenge the social order, subvert the corporate shill, draw the margins into the centre for everyone to see.

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I guess everything’s for sale. Even the sign that challenges the claim that everything’s for sale. Maybe I should monetize my web site. I must be doing something wrong.

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Koala Beavers invade Toronto

Koala Beavers have taken over from the Love Bots as the latest invasion in Toronto. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that there are lots of them scurrying around underfoot. They even have their own web site. A whois search reveals that the site was registered 2013-04-08 and the registrant has an address in (surprise, surprise) Australia. Which, I guess, makes this a foreign invasion?

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Some of them are more genetically confused than others. This one looks more like a koala duck:

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Love Bot Street Art

Last year, concrete robots invaded Toronto. You can read about the invasion here. The one shown below can be found on Church Street in the Village:

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The concrete invasion was followed by a sticker invasion. They’re everywhere.

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Dada Is Alive and Well

It’s good to see that Dadaism is thriving at construction sites in downtown Toronto. I call it Canadada:

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The Grammar of Photography

Do photographs have a grammar?

For more than 10 years, I’ve kept a blog called nouspique. I use the blog as a tool to explore more wordy pursuits. That’s understandable given my education (degrees in English, Law, & Theology). I am particularly fascinated by acts of interpretation (how do words mean what we say they mean?) and by the ways we deploy power to determine meaning. Despite my fascination, there are times when it exhausts me. All those words chattering in my head! I have to get away from it, so I turn to my camera. I’ve gone one further and have created a web site to display the images I find. In fact, it’s become quite a distraction and interferes with my writing.

There is an irony in this: images are interpretable in their own right, and the very challenges that hound my writerly experiences now howl loudly in the midst of my quiet photographic contemplations. I may have misunderstood the situation when I launched this web site.

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Perspective in Street Photography

One of the brilliant things about street photography is that the backgrounds (streets, buildings, sidewalks) provide long perspectives. Here are a few shots that try to take advantage of that:

Walking down alley between Bloor and Cumberland, Toronto

Walking down alley between Bloor and Cumberland, Toronto

A child plays on scaffolding while his father looks on.

A child plays on scaffolding while his father texts.

Barrel planters on Church St. at Dundonald, Toronto

Barrel planters on Church St. at Dundonald, Toronto.

Entrance to Museum Subway Station, Toronto.

Entrance to Museum Subway Station, Toronto.

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Tack Sharp or Blurred?

I belong to the “tack sharp” school: an image isn’t any good unless it’s absolutely crisp. But, really, that’s just a convention. I recently heard (though can’t verify) that the impressionist painter, Monet, thought highly of photography because it could create blurred impressionistic effects. Blurring can imply motion, action, chaos; it can produce a mood; it can evoke feelings of nostalgia.

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I could produce a sharp image of an older man walking with a cane, but it doesn’t have the same feel.

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I took this photo while standing in the rain on Mt. Pleasant Avenue, one hand on an umbrella while the other jammed the camera against a light pole. I took 20 or 30 shots of cars passing. This is the one I like best.

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Again, I could produce a sharp image of traffic on a rain-soaked road, but it doesn’t have the same moodiness to it.

Mt. Pleasant Avenue in the rain

 

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More Street Photography

Another debate, when shooting street photography, is whether to be obvious or discreet. Sometimes, the answer is determined by legal considerations. For example, where a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy, the general rule of thumb is that no permission is required. Think of sports games where virtually everyone in attendance has a shot at appearing on the jumbotron. In public situations, I like to “shoot from the hip.” The rationale is that I want to catch people behaving naturally. The minute they realize they’re the subject of my photograph, the expression changes. Everything turns to plastic. The caveat is that I want to respect the subject’s dignity. No shots of inadvertent nose-picking or leaning over the garbage can to puke.

In this photo, you can see my reflection in the store window on the left hand side. At the instant I took the photo, my head was turned away from the subject, pretending to look down the street. Even though the valet didn’t know I took his photo, he still made a Zoolander kind of look, which I guess is what you’d expect from an employee of a high-end clothing store.

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Here’s a photo where I’m obvious. I used my 5D Mk III and had it wedged high against a pole where everybody could see it. But it was Nuit Blanche so nobody cared. Thousands of people were out on the streets with cameras.

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I shot this one straight from the hip. The girl was so engrossed in her phone, I never expected her to look up. She surprised me as much as I surprised her.

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I’m not sure if this qualifies as street. I see something interesting, set up my shot, but don’t take it until somebody passes into the frame. The presence of a person makes it more, um, human. Nevertheless, the person is incidental to the shot.

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Shooting Street

There are all sorts of debates around street photography. One of them is the colour/black and white debate. There’s a convention that street photos should be in black and white. My own feeling is: it depends. Sometimes, like at the Pride Parade, colour is part of the point. Other time’s, a photo cries out to be processed in black and white. Here’s one I particularly like. I shot it late in the day near Bloor & Yonge. Given the direction of the sunlight, their faces should be in shadow, but they catch reflected light from the building. The high contrast makes the image ideal for black and white.

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Here’s one I took in front of the Calvin Klein store. You can see the reflection of a person taking a picture. He’s standing under a poster for the Stanley Kubrick exhibit, so a crazy-eyed Jack Nicholson looks over the scene. Meanwhile a mostly naked couple embrace in the ad.

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