It seems ridiculous that my last post on Occam’s Typewriter was my favourite ten photographs of 2015… posted in June of the following year(!). That’s some top-shelf procrastination right there, folks. So, as partial remedy, I’m posting my picks of 2016 right now – New Year’s Day, 2017. Getting the new year off to a running start, I suppose. Unlike last year’s version, the 2016 edition contains a healthy whack of motorsports, which seems a little more like what you’d expect from me.
This was taken at the Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Championships, part of the Royal Horse Show at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. I’m lucky to be part of a team in its second year of shooting this event, helping to cover the enormity of a ten-day event and supplement the excellent work of its full-time, official photographer.
The light in the Ricoh Coliseum is dismally dark at the best of times, and my seven-year-old camera’s sensor really can’t keep up. As both experiment and solution, I tried super-slow-shutter panning – three-tenths of a second in this example being plenty long enough to let adequate light in for a correct exposure. This approach gives loads of motion blur, juicy colour, and once in a while, acceptably sharp details of the rider, the horse, or sometimes both. I love how this one turned out.
My seventh year photographing the Toronto IndyCar race weekend. Here, early in the race, I’ve clambered up to the top of the grandstand overlooking the final turn onto the front straight. The intention behind this shot was to show the packed grandstands, beautiful blue sky, and some Toronto landmarks, ideally with race cars passing by on the track. I took plenty of close-up action photos of race cars, too (a couple of which you’ll see below), but this wide-angle view checked all the right boxes for me.
This is the first of a few from a memorable (and very quick) trip to London in September. Although I was there simply for a one-day meeting to discuss a project on the genomic basis of neurotrauma outcomes (led by a colleague at Cambridge, but with lots of international collaborators), the pricing of flights was such that staying a couple of extra days made sense. This afforded me the opportunity to finally meet Frank in person, for an enjoyable tour of parts of the city on Saturday. Sunday morning I ventured into deepest Chelsea, including a quiet amble through the sprawling, lovely Brompton Cemetery. This little Robin was elegantly perched on a rounded cross headstone – an irresistible subject.
Before meeting up with Frank on Saturday, I took another friend’s advice and clambered up the London Monument, a landmark that, for all the times I’ve visited the city, I’ve never entered. This is a view from near the top, straight down the iron railings of its vertigo-inducing spiral staircase.
An attempt at playing around with macro photography, in part because I was hunting for something to photograph indoors on a blah March day in southern Ontario. This lovely animal, whose body is only about 8 mm across, was hanging out under a chair in the basement. I can’t help you with the species, other than to say, fairly confidently, that it’s some kind of Orb Weaver. It’s lit with an incandescent lamp and photographed with a reversed lens mounted on a set of extension tubes – two tricks to turn a “standard” camera lens into a high-magnification macro lens. Even with the additional lamp, it still needed an eight-second exposure – thank goodness the spider was stationary!
I also tried this with flash illumination. You can see the result here. I rather like the cool-vs.-warm blue and orange tones and translucent qualities of the version above, though.
The “jumpy trucks” have been a wildly popular fixture at Toronto’s annual IndyCar race weekend since first visiting in 2013. Here, I was intentionally hanging out in a spectator area to try and capture the fans in the foreground, while panning the truck in flight. Although I’d like a denser crowd, this wasn’t bad for the first Friday of the event. By comparison with the horse and rider above, this is a much faster 1/125th of a second – but still plenty slow enough to blur the background and the foreground when photographing a fast-moving, flying object.
I mentioned the London Monument above, and here’s a view from the top. While not by any means one of London’s tallest landmarks, there are still stunning views of the city to be seen from the observation deck. This was taken just before 10:00 AM, looking roughly east along the Thames. I’ve wanted to try some dramatic black and white conversions, with a lot of selective burning (darkening) and dodging (brightening) of areas, partly because of watching some of Serge Ramelli‘s very compelling photo editing videos. I like the sky, the silhouette of Tower Bridge, and all the messy and jumbled details of the city in the foreground. The little row of three cars on the street at bottom centre was the one detail that made this my choice out of several similar photos.
I did a bit more concert and event photography this year for the good folks at First Canadian Place Arts & Events, including the intriguing double bill of Port Cities and Small Town Pistols, in the FCP Gallery. While this photograph does suffer a little from “mic in the face” syndrome, Breagh Mackinnon’s look (that hat!) and the background make this one a keeper for me. Port Cities have an album coming out in 2017, which in my opinion is well worth checking out if you like east-coast flavoured folk pop-rock (which is probably a wholly inadequate description of their music, to be honest).
I feel like I take this photograph every year – sometimes successfully, sometimes less so. Turn 5 is really the only location on the Streets of Toronto circuit where you can reliably catch IndyCars banging over the curbs, front wheels in the air. Scott Dixon’s #9 car, blazing in its Target-branded red and white with attractive yellow highlights, is a perfect subject here.
Yet another from the London Monument, this time shooting through one of the many embrasures piercing its walls. I’d spied the steeple of St. Magnus the Martyr, a pretty example of Sir Christopher Wren‘s architectural design, through a window a little lower down the monument, and kept an eye out for an opening at just the right height and pointing in the correct direction. Fortunately, one presented itself, and this is the result.
Finally, here’s a picture from the podium ceremony of the IndyCar race. Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe, whose previous results at his home track have been disappointing, finally made it onto the podium. Here, he’s receiving the third-place, William Ashley Waterford Crystal trophy from Honda Canada‘s President and CEO, Jerry Chenkin. An important shot for the event: Canadian driver, fire suit signed for charity, title sponsor’s executive, signage, trophies (that’s the first-place trophy at left, awaiting race winner Will Power). And, more importantly for me, a nice moment captured: the smiles and the handshake.
So that’s it for 2016, I suppose. No photographs here of my daughter’s horse riding show team, although I took plenty of those, and nothing on film, although I spent a lot of time shooting and developing black and white film in a variety of old and creaky cameras. But the motorsports are back! For 2017… who knows? I’d like to try some remote camera shooting of show jumping, aided in part by a new GoPro (thanks, family). And maybe some dramatic portraits of horses and riders, lit with strobes against a darkened sunset sky. And more film of course. A few of my staple photo gigs have gone away and will likely not return this year, so I’ll have to get my hustle on to come up with more. In the meantime, the creative hat needs to be donned, and some personal projects come up with while the bleak winter months are still here. And with that: off to the basement, in search of more inspiration, and maybe more spiders.