Tag Archives: Night Photography

Ruby Reds & The Silver Lining

On a Saturday night in downtown Thunder Bay, Tamiko and I went to The Foundry Pub to hear Ruby Reds & The Silver Lining. No, this was not a random thing. Our daughter is, as Facebook puts it, in a relationship with one of the members of the band, Quintin Golka. They were really good! My impression is that there’s a huge alternative food/lifestyle/economy/music/culture scene in the Thunder Bay area. Musicians draw a lot of people to the restaurants and pubs, the pubs feed people locally grown produce and meat & serve local beers, ciders and wines. Everybody helps everybody else. Win. Win. Win.

Before the show, I asked Quintin if he thought the people at The Foundry would mind me taking some photos. I was thinking of clubs in Toronto where there’s no way you can pull out a big DSLR and start shooting. He smiled and said: “This is Thunder Bay.” When the music started, I knelt right in front of the stage and stayed there for 20 minutes before moving to stairs at the back of the venue. I would never have been able to do that in Toronto!

Outside The Foundry Pub, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Outside The Foundry Pub, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Quintin Golka & Skylar Speer at The Foundry

Quintin Golka & Skylar Speer

Frontman for Ruby Red’s and The Silver Lining

Quintin Golka, frontman for Ruby Reds and The Silver Lining

Frontman for Ruby Red’s and The Silver Lining

Quintin Golka

Ruby Red’s and The Silver Lining, playing at The Foundry

Skylar Speer

 Skylar Speer, Ruby Red’s and The Silver Lining

Skylar Speer, Ruby Reds and The Silver Lining

Skylar Speer playing the guitar

Skylar Speer playing the guitar

Ruby Red’s and The Silver Lining, playing at The Foundry

John Laco, drummer for Ruby Red’s and The Silver Lining

Ruby Red’s and The Silver Lining, playing at The Foundry

John Laco, drummer for Ruby Reds and The Silver Lining

The Foundry Pub, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Interior shot of The Foundry Pub, Thunder Bay, Ontario

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Breitling Bombshell Followup

Last October, I posted a little rant about the Breitling Bombshell that sits in the Canadian corporate headquarters for a Swiss men’s watch manufacturer. The bombshell is a blonde woman with exaggerated breasts and a skimpy red dress who straddles a large bomb. I think the gist of my rant was: what the hell happened to feminism?

I went back one evening for another shot. The store was closed, but a cleaning lady was working around the bombshell. This was just too good. I rushed to capture the scene. The woman looked up and saw me through the window. I smiled and waved. She waved back, then returned to her dusting.


I think this shot lends a little perspective to my earlier question about feminism. I’m willing to wager my genitals that the bombshell sprang to life from a man’s imagination. It’s a post-war fantasy sequel to Shaw’s Pygmalion: if only the blonde could come to life and keep me warm at nights. Meanwhile, the cleaning lady stares past the unbelievably perky boobs as if to say: for all your fantasies, I still get stuck doing this shit job.

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Shooting at Yonge and Bloor

Reviewing all my Toronto images this year, I discovered that they’re all shot in early morning or daytime. I’ve done no night shooting in 2016. Last night I resolved to remedy that situation, so I set out with my monopod, determined to shoot bright lights and blurry pedestrians. Approaching Yonge and Bloor, I stumbled on shooting of a different sort. My first night out and I come to the scene of a homicide. How am I going to top that tonight?


According to the CBC, a man was fatally shot in the back near the coffee shops north of the Yonge Street entrance to the Bloor/Yonge subway station. Three suspects fled the scene. A police officer asked me if I saw anything. He was especially interested in my camera, presumably because I might have shot something of evidentiary value. If I’d witnessed anything, I would have happily provided information (and photos). But it’s awkward trying to explain that you’re not there to experience some kind of photojournalistic rush; you’re in it for the aesthetics. When you use phrases like “police tape bokeh” they give you strange looks.


At one point, I was kneeling (like the 680News guy shown below) when I heard a voice behind me and a tap on my shoulder. I turned and looked up (and up). It was my nephew. Geez he’s tall. Maybe not basketball tall, but tall by our family’s standards. He had just finished his first class of introductory Italian at a place on Cumberland and noticed all the flashing lights at the end of the street. Walks down to see what all the fuss is about and look who he sees on his knees with a big camera.


When I first arrived, I asked a guy what was going on. He told me he’d heard that someone was shot and that three suspects were on the loose. We looked at each other suspiciously, then I said thanks and he left. Someone asked me what had happened and I said more or less the same thing. And so the game of telephone continued. My nephew and I decided to embellish the story: a drug cartel, a mob hit, a getaway by motorcycle to a waiting helicopter. In truth, the only thing I know for certain is how quickly the narrative impulse kicks in. We absorb the facts into a story line that subtly warps the truth.


One report quotes a witness as saying: “The strange thing was there was no screaming, there was no shouting, there was no running away – people were just gathering around in front of him and in front of the paramedics that were working on him.”

How is that strange? City living desensitizes us. Last week I was walking along with Esplanade east of Sherbourne and heard screams coming from an apartment building. A man was sitting on a bench. Another was paying for his parking. A woman with a stroller stopped. We all looked up, wondering what unit the scream had come from. We fingered our phones. Should we call 911? But why get involved? Getting involved is inconvenient. We’re busy. The screaming continued. Ten. Eleven. Twelve times. It induced a paralysis in us. We shrugged and walked away. This kind of thing happens all the time. If we got worked up every time somebody screams, we’d be emotional wrecks.


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Why did I shoot yet another fucking cliché?

This morning my alarm went off at 5:00. I remember setting it last night. My night self was pulling a prank on my morning self. My night self told my morning self that getting up at 5:00 is good for you. That’s when you get all the good shots. Plus: getting up is good for body and soul. Think of Benjamin Franklin: healthy, wealthy and wise. Yeah, my morning self sneers, fat lot of good early rising did him; he’s dead. I turn off the alarm and roll over but I can’t get back to sleep. Fine, my morning self says to my night self, have it your way. I pack my gear, eat a banana, and fill a thermos with hot coffee.

My night self had the vague intention of plopping my morning self on the slope of Riverdale East Park and watching the sun rise over the city. Because it’s nearly two hours until sunrise when I step onto the street, my morning self supplements that plan with another vague intention: taking shots of the Bloor Viaduct. Since the Pan Am Games, the Luminous Veil has been lit up with coloured lights that moved along the length of the bridge. I catch the first train to Broadview Station and set myself up on the east end of the bridge. There are cloudy wisps in the sky and they turn the full moon into a diffuse ball of light hovering in the west. Light trails seem like a good thing to shoot, but afterwards, as I’m packing up my tripod, I remember that everyone and his dog shoots light trails. The world needs more light trails about as badly as it needs more Facebook memes.


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Toronto Nuit Blanche 2015

This post should have a tag line: Art Event, Or Excuse To Get Wasted?

Seriously. The only other men my age on the streets after midnight are the men sleeping on grates to stay warm.

Theoretically, Nuit Blanche is an event to shake up a complacent city, get it engaged with the arts, get people on their feet and interacting with art as a happening instead of art as passive thing one encounters on museum walls. Theoretically.

In practice, it’s an excuse for kids in the 15-25 demographic to party on the streets all night.

That said, I don’t really care. For me, Nuit Blanche is a night time street photography opportunity. It gives photographers like me good cover, and I try my best to take advantage of it.

Here’s a sampling. View more on my flickr account.

Unlocking Bicycle

Woman Walking

Playing Drums

Dressed up for the night

Hot Dog Stand

Photo Booth

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Handheld Photos At Night

Typically, when I go out at night, I bring a tripod, shoot long exposures, cityscapes with light trails, people so blurred you can’t recognize them. But sometimes it’s good to break the rules, even if they are only self-imposed. Here are some night shots without a tripod. I’ve cranked up the ISO and used my Sigma F/1.4 50mm prime lens. For stability, I’ve jammed the camera against a wall or a sign post or a street light. What I find is that if I stay long enough in one position, I become invisible; people walk past me as if I’m not even there.

Walking Along Bloor St. At Night

The exception seems to be skateboarders. They know I’m there, but they want me to be there. They want me to capture them in the middle of a brilliant move.

Skateboarding At Night

I’m not so sure people would appreciate me capturing them as they exit a strip club. In this instance, I captured a panhandler, a taxi, a passer-by, and the bouncer … but no patrons, so I guess I’m safe. I’m curious to know what distinguishes “European Style” dancing from North American Style dancing. Actually, I’m not that curious.

The Brass Rail Strip Club

There’s a fruit & veggie shop open late on Yonge Street. It’s easier to get handheld shots when you’re shooting into a well lit area. I shot both with and without passers-by and prefer this shot with a passer-by; it gives the image a sense of motion.

Fruit Store On Yonge Street

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Toronto Island

It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while I get all sentimental and my camera turns to goo as it did when I went to Ward Island for dinner at The Rectory. Maybe it has something to do with all the grass and trees, or the clean air, or the quiet. Don’t worry. I’ll snap out of it soon.

Sitting on a park bench

Woman with dog on paddle board

Sailboat in Toronto Harbour

Toronto skyline at sunset

Toronto skyline at night

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The Baldwin Steps

Harbourfront Centre has mounted a photo exhibit called No Flat City. It features six young photographers tasked with the challenge of refuting the general perception that the Greater Toronto Area is flat (and therefore topographically boring). The result is an open-air exhibit displayed in 72 frames arranged beside the Power Plant. There is a certain irony in the exhibit’s location given that Harbourfront, which would be submerged in Lake Ontario if not for the landfill, is ironing-board flat and given, too, that the only natural-looking thing about the space is its Astroturf. You can view the exhibit here.


I was curious to know what locales the photographers documented, wondering if I could mine the exhibit for ideas. One of the handiest locales (for me) is the Baldwin Steps which Darren Rigo documented in winter. The Baldwin Steps climb the Iroquois shoreline which was the shore of Lake Ontario when ice age melt water made the lake significantly larger than it is today. The steps rise from Davenport Road to Casa Loma and offer a great view of the city to the south. Climbing the steps serves as a pointed reminder that, no, the city isn’t flat.


I went to the steps one morning, and came away with my version of a topographically interesting photo. However, while I was doing my thing, it occurred to me that, in the No Flat City exhibit, there isn’t a single night shot. While I understand why there wouldn’t be night shots of a forest trail, it seems to me that city lights might reveal fresh ways of seeing urban topography. So I went back to the Baldwin Steps at night. I’m not wholly satisfied with the result, but I’ll keep going back until I am. Plus the steps are good exercise.


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Victoria At Night

Victoria is worth exploring at night, and not just because the legislature is lit up like a Christmas tree. February is off season, so the streets are really quiet. The winter emptiness underscores how much Victoria is dependent upon tourism.


Looking up Bastion Square from Wharf Street.

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Victoria – The Inner Harbour

The 2nd of 10 posts featuring Victoria, B.C.

While the rest of Canada descends into a deep freeze, things stay balmy in Victoria. There’s a calm that settles over the waters of the inner harbour, broken from time to time by the sea planes, then still at night.


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