Tag Archives: Industrial

Abandoned Grain Elevator – Thunder Bay

While in Thunder Bay, I paid a visit to the former Saskatchewan Wheat Pool 4A and 4B elevators on Shipyard Road by the waterfront. I have no idea which elevator is 4A and which is 4B. I went in both and climbed onto the roof of the red one. It’s possible to climb the white one, too, but the owners have removed all the metal landings in the stairwell, which means you have to climb over each railing all the way up. Since I was carrying a backpack full of gear, a camera, and tripod, I opted for the easier climb.

Abandoned Grain Elevators

To be clear, the fact that the grain elevators are abandoned doesn’t mean that entering them stops being a trespass. But given that the elevators are visually arresting, trespass seems like a minor matter.

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Men At Work

Over time, as I do more street photography, I expect I’ll accumulate enough images to mount a credible “Men At Work” series. To be balanced, I should also mount a “Women At Work” series, too, but that will take longer because there are far fewer women who work in open spaces. Or … I could put together a series exploring the question of why that is. I have no data to confirm my observation of a gender disparity for work performed out-of-doors. I simply walk and shoot, and when I get home, what I see are mostly men. Or maybe there’s a bias built in to my seeing. I’ll have to sort that one out. In the meantime …

Fire fighter in cherry picker over Sotto Sotto & Spuntini restaurants in Yorkville

Fire fighter over Sotto Sotto & Spuntini restaurants in Yorkville

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Slow Shooting

Have you heard of the slow reading movement? Among those who cultivate literary appreciation, there’s a growing push-back against the instant-on digital environment that treats readers as consumers and books as commodities to be gobbled up as quickly as possible so that consumers can move on to the next product. Slow reading is about savouring the moment and making yourself present enough to the words on the page that you can sense their nuance. Advocates of the movement say that it heightens the reading experience. I wonder if the same thing is also possible – maybe necessary – in photography. Digital cameras make it easy to take hundreds of exposures at a time while incurring little or no expense (except the expenditure of time needed to sort through them). Gone are the days of hiking to a location with a couple photographic plates in your pack and only those two chances to get your shot. Now there are no limitations on your resources. The problem, though, is that such convenience may make us complacent when it comes time to do the real work of our craft – the work of looking closely at a scene and applying our visual imaginations to the creation of an image. Maybe we need to slow down. Maybe we need to discipline ourselves by pretending we have only one or two chances to get the shot.

With this in mind, I tried an experiment. A while back, I had seen a drain pipe that empties into Yellow Creek. Rust from the pipe has discoloured the rock where the water splashes, turning it a bright orange. I took a shot of it before, but wasn’t happy with the result. So I thought to myself: I should go back, but this time, I should approach it slowly, methodically, breathe deeply. So, here, I document how I proceeded:

First off, I found a stable place to set up my tripod. I was going to use my 70-200 mm f 2.8 lens, which is fairly heavy, so there can’t be any shake. Next, I remembered to put on my mirror lock and pull out my remote shutter release. These two steps go hand-in-hand with setting up the tripod. They’re aimed at keeping shake to minimum. Then I lined things up and took a test shot. Here’s the result:

Drain Pipe

The reason for the test shot was to get the focus right. You see, if I really take slow shooting seriously, then I have to slow things way down. That means using an ND64 filter, which slows things down by 6 f-stops. Sometimes, autofocus doesn’t work with a neutral density filter because it doesn’t let in enough light for the camera to detect the correct distance. So, after the test shot, I switched to manual focus and screwed on the filter. At f-16, I set the shutter to 30 seconds. This was the result:


The colour is a little more saturated, but you can’t see that in a small jpg like this. Really, the only difference you can see is in the water pouring from the pipe. It has that silkiness that comes from a long exposure.

slow-shooting-drain-pipe-3I’m not done yet. Taking the shot is only half the story. The next step was to import the RAW file into Adobe Lightroom where I applied a lens correction, upped the clarity, vibrance and saturation, and adjusted highlights and blacks. You can see the settings I applied at right.

From there, I exported the image as an uncompressed .tif file which I opened in Photoshop. There, I did two more touch-ups using Nikon’s Color Efex Pro Plug-In. The first touch-up was to enhance the tonal contrast as shown below. This gave the image some punch and brought out some of the detail lurking in the shadows. I set that adjustment layer to 50% opacity because I’m too lazy to do it within the plug-in.


The second touch-up was to add a subtle vignette to the image. You might not even notice, since it’s only a 1% border with a 3% opacity.


Are we slow yet? Here’s the final image. Take your time. Savour it.


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Charles Tennant

This is an obscure visual joke. It’s a photo of the monument to Charles Tennant that stands in the necropolis behind Glasgow Cathedral. Charles Tennant was the man who invented bleaching powder. It made Mr. Tennant rich and contributed to Glasgow’s reputation as a hub of the industrial world. The joke: to treat this photo, I used a bleach bypass, one of the filters from Nikon’s Color Efex Pro Photoshop Plugin. Ha, ha, ha! And if you’re really sharp, you’ll note the irony that something (harsh weather?) has eaten away Mr. Tennant’s face. The same thing happened to his employees two centuries ago. Exposure to the chemicals used in manufacturing bleach did to his workers’ faces pretty much the same thing that time and acid rain have done to his statue.

Monument to Charles Tennant, Glasgow Necropolis

Monument to Charles Tennant, Glasgow Necropolis

Posted in Elbow Also tagged |

What is it about swans?

People love to take photos of swans. What is it about swans that gives people photographic orgasms? The phrase “photographic orgasms” may not be that wide of the mark. Maybe the curved lines of the swan’s neck suggest something vaguely sexual. Or maybe it’s the (male) lens projecting (female) sexual traits onto a bird that bears those traits regardless of its actual gender.

Swan in Hyde Park, London, UK

Nevertheless, think of the moral outrage if I went swan-hunting and served up braised breast of swan next Thanksgiving. While I expect the taste of swan is indistinguishable from the taste of turkey, turkeys are ugly. Swans are graceful. Feminine. They don’t have an old-woman wattle that shakes back and forth. We insist that matters of sex, gender, and age, don’t play into our aesthetics. Nor into our general moral sensibilities. Don’t believe it.

Swan in Toronto Harbour

Personally, I don’t get off on swan. My taste is more for the curvy industrial pipe.

Graffiti in Ottawa

Posted in Spleen

Sifto Salt Mine, Goderich, ON

Here’s a photo of the Sifto Salt Mine in Goderich, Ontario. I took it maybe 45 minutes before sunset, down at a boat launch where I lay on a small wooden dock so I could get as low as possible to the water.

Sifto Salt Mine

I like the simple blocks of blue and their reflection in the water. It made me think the image might work well as a compressed png file, so I tried an experiment, first with eight colours, and then with four. You can see the results below:

Silfto Salt Mine - 8 colours

Sifto Salt Mine - 4 colours

Then I thought it might work well as a series of coloured blocks, a la Warhol.

Sifto Salt Mine

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