Tag Archives: Weather

Get Nik Efex For Free

I guess it’s old news now, but last week Google announced that it would no longer charge its usual $149 for the Nik Collection of image-editing plugins. Now, you can download it for free. Personally, I ignore most plugins because the effects they produce tend to be cheesy. They’re one-off novelties that lose their interest almost as fast as a Rob Ford funeral. However, I do like to play with black and white conversion tools. So I downloaded the collection and applied the Silver Efex Pro 2 plugin to a few images. Here are three samples, each using a different effect:


The first image comes from the Yonge/Dundas intersection. As far as I know, the intersection is one of only two remaining all-way crossings in Toronto. I managed to capture three people moving in three different directions, all moving outward from the centre of the street. The woman in the centre is staring directly at me as she approaches. I think it’s a photo that probably works better in a large format, maybe a 16×24 print. I applied the “fine art” setting in Silver Efex.


I shot the second image at a crosswalk on Sherbourne Street after an April snowstorm. In keeping with the wet, reflective asphalt, I applied the “wet rocks” filter.


The third image comes from the intersection of Bloor and Sherbourne where there’s always a long lineup to catch the 75 bus downtown. I liked the dissonance of the smiling effusive ad face against all the gloomy people in their dark coats waiting to board the bus. I applied the “low key” setting.

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Under The Millwood Road Bridge

I think our neighbour has killed himself. Nobody who knows will talk about it, but it seems likely.

We drive home around dinner time and have trouble getting into our building. Police cars block the entrance. An ambulance sits on the sidewalk by a stretch of yellow tape. Our building superintendent is talking to the police. The building manager sends an email message advising us of a police investigation on the premises, but we aren’t to be alarmed; there’s no danger. Later, we leave to go out for the evening and three police officers exit the unit across the hall from us. It belongs to an elderly man who has always struck me as lonely and reclusive. Seeing the police, we know what to think. When we return home from dinner, the night concierge is already on the desk. He isn’t allowed to say anything, but they sent the evening concierge home, told him to take some time off.

There must be something in the air. It’s been a long dull winter without the fluffy decorative cheer that snow brings. We hear in the news how a woman stabs the concierge at a nearby building as he helps her move some boxes. She flees and ends up on the balcony of a 27th floor apartment in another building. Police rappel from the balcony above to capture (rescue?) her. The media identify her as an “internationally renowned architect and philanthropist.” It is implied that her outburst is the result of a mental health issue. The woman is held on a suicide watch. The media interview a friend (she’s a “remarkable woman”), a man who, it turns out, designed the Luminous Veil, the Bloor Street Viaduct’s suicide prevention barrier. The woman in question was instrumental in promoting the barrier and raising funds for it.


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Then and Now – Shoveling Snow


A photograph from the Toronto Archives’ Globe and Mail Fonds. This photograph was probably shot by John H. Boyd who served as the Globe’s first staff photographer from December 1922 to November 1953. It was shot on December 28, 1922. It shows men on Queen Street shoveling snow into a horse-drawn cart.

Snow shovelers, Queen St. - December 28, 1922


A photograph shot on January 12, 2016 which shows men clearing a sidewalk on Bloor Street West by pushing snow onto the road, presumably because all the horse-drawn carts are busy elsewhere.

snow shoveler

I wonder what kind of shots people will be taking in another 90+ years. Driverless cars? The whole city under a giant dome? With global warming, maybe snow removal will be a curiosity from the olden days. Grandparents will sit little ones on their knees and ramble on: When I was your age I had to trudge to the driveway through 2 cm of snow to get to the SUV for the drive to school.

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Thunder Bay

I drove up to Thunder Bay in mid May. Drove all 1400 km in one day. When I got there, the weather was miserable. They told me it had been sunny for three weeks straight, that it had been a brilliant spring. And then I arrived. It even snowed one morning. I got up early and drove out to Pigeon River to hike the Finger Point Trail. When I got to the highest point on the trail, flakes of snow blew around my head. But for the most part, my stay in Thunder Bay was under a blanket of fog and rain. The gloom and the cold got to me and I think that’s reflected in the photos I took. So, for example, I caught this kite stuck in a tree at the foot of Hillcrest Park and low clouds in the background.


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Plastic Mystery

Now that winter is over, Toronto sits in a brief seasonal limbo. Although it’s warm, the buds haven’t come out yet, so the trees are winter barren. City workers are scurrying to clean up all the residual grime that settles after snow melt. Earth day is here and people are gathering up the last remaining garbage. But what about the trees?


I’ve never noticed so much shredded plastic hanging from the trees. It’s as if some malicious prankster has TP’d the city. Where did it come from? Did somebody deliberately put it there? Or did this happen “organically”? Will people remove it? Or will people do nothing, assuming the plastic has disappeared once all the trees come into leaf? It’s a mystery to me.




Here’s NYC’s solution to the problem:

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Frozen Playground

This is (I hope) my farewell to winter for this year. I took these shots a couple weeks ago, but haven’t got around to posting them until now when the snow and ice are thoroughly melted. I took these shots early one morning in East Riverdale. I liked the way the colours of the play equipment reflected on the ice. The ice isn’t as solid as it looks and I got a good soaker trying to shoot from just the right angle. Ah, the sacrifices one must make for the sake of the shot!




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First Snowfall Toronto Dec 11 2014

Toronto had its first decent snowfall of the 14/15 winter season. Although not the first snowfall, it was the first to screw up traffic and require snow removal equipment. The official weather people issued a storm warning. They are a bunch of wusses. It was a minor inconvenience … and a photographic opportunity. View a selection of images from my wanderings:


Milkman’s Lane & streetlights above the DVP/Bayview Extension ramps.

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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.


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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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.


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


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.


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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Toronto’s First Frost

Toronto had its first frost on October 12th. But it wasn’t a killing frost and it didn’t happen much of anywhere. In fact, because it was Thanksgiving holiday, most people missed it. All the little ice crystals had turned into water droplets while people were still dreaming of leftover turkey. Insomnia got the better of me so there I was before sunrise, down in the Weston Quarry behind the Evergreen Brickworks, plastic spread on the grass and me lying on my stomach. Here’s what I saw:

Borwn-eyed susan





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