It’s January, so it must be time for…

Well, that was a bit of a year, wasn’t it?

With the more or less complete absence of photograph-able events that would usually appear in my annual round-up, I’ve had to get a bit creative. With the Honda Indy Toronto canceled, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair migrating to an online format, and highly restricted attendance at what horse shows were running… well, the backyard, the basement, and the deserted halls of Toronto’s business district were among the most available subjects. I also spent a lot of time sifting through old photos and posting some on Flickr, but those aren’t shown here. This is all new.

Here then, in no particular order, are 2020’s Top Ten. If you prefer, they also live in this online set.

The Lab
Sample traces and lab tech
As part of an effort to update content on our divisional website, a friend and I spent some time running around the floor photographing “science-y” things. With a brief to avoid recognizable people, I’ve focused on the DNA quality control traces in the foreground. I’ve not photographed much at work, but I’m pleased how the series turned out – equipment, gloved hands pipetting, and details all made the final cut.

A Christmas Present
Christmas Tree vs. Lensball
In my stocking this year was a Lensball, a polished sphere of optical glass that acts as a low-tech fisheye lens. Although undeniably gimmicky, it’s addictively fun to play with. Here’s one from the first set of attempts, putting it as close to *inside* the Christmas tree as possible. Later lensball fun, at least one of which will likely feature in 2021’s top ten, is in this set.

Film Drop
Film drop
This one’s a composite of dozens of images. Imagine me in the basement, throwing handfuls of film scraps in the air with one hand, or dropping new, boxed rolls, while clicking a remote shutter release with the other. The end result isn’t *quite* what I’d envisioned, but with some effort in Photoshop, I’m pretty happy with the final image.

St. Paul’s, Linton
St. Paul's, Linton
In the earliest days of the pandemic here in Ontario, many of us, including myself, felt that even trips out to photograph some favourite local landmarks were a frivolity – putting myself and others at risk. It wasn’t until a couple of months later that I felt comfortable enough to head out to a favourite haunt in King Township, and exercise an old friend, the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic F.

Blue Snowball Ice
Blue Snowball Ice
April saw the arrival of a modest enhancement to my home video-conferencing setup – the very photogenic Blue Snowball Ice, a low-cost, plug and play mic that sounds better than the built-in microphone in my laptop (a pretty low bar to beat, to be honest). And just *look* at the thing – science-fiction mixed up with retro-chic style.

Two Portraits
Two Portraits, 2020
Didn’t practically every photographer try some self-portraits this year? This is a step up from a similar concept from several years ago – another composite of multiple images, shoehorned into a couple of pictures hanging behind the dining table.

Ford GT Mark IV (1/43 Scale)
1:43 Scale Ford GT Mark IV
Another thing racing and other car nuts did this year was a lot of photography of models, miniatures, and toys. This is the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning car of A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney, in 1/43 scale form.

Cedar Waxwing: Down the Hatch!
Down the hatch!
Cedar Waxwings are charming little birds, passing through this part of Canada in flocks when trees full of ripe berries are available. This one and its friends rampaged through the neighbour’s mulberry tree, back in June.

The Ghost of Christmas Turkey Past
When the turkey dinner's over
Maybe a little macabre, but the shapes of the leftover vertebrae were too alluring to ignore. An experiment with some hard light and deep shadows.

Union Station, Toronto
Union Station, December 2020
After several months at home, things calmed down enough that I was comfortable commuting to work several days a week – taking advantage of easy parking, empty trains, and wide open streets and paths. Many others, however, were still working from home, including the vast majority of those who usually commute through Toronto’s Union Station en route to the downtown financial district. This photograph, part of a series, is no cheat – just one other person in the whole covered concourse area. The rest of the station and underground PATH system was similarly empty.

So there you go – some visual bits of 2020. Not my usual, in many ways, but the best of what there was. Happy 2021, everyone.

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2019 Top Ten (plus one, again)

This year’s question: is it pathetic that Adventures in Wonderland has turned into an annual top-ten-photo blog? Perhaps I’ll do better in 2020. Recent history suggests not, however.

Anyway, on to my favourite ten (plus one, as usual) photographs of 2019, in no particular order.

1. Lloydtown and Kinghorn cemeteries – Instax Mini Monochrome
Instax Mini Monochrome - Llloydtown and Kinghorn cemeteries
This one is a bit of a cheat, as the individual photographs were from late in 2018, but the composite shown here was made on January 1, 2019, so I’m saying it counts. I’ve blogged before about visiting pioneer-era cemeteries in nearby King Township, but this is the first time I’ve borrowed a Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 instant camera and used its monochrome pack film. It’s refreshingly fun. Pro tip: the film takes forever to develop in the winter cold. Throw it in the car and by the time you’re home, it will look fine.

2. A chicken – Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
My new chicken friend - RAWF 2019
I’ve been a photographer for Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair since 2015. You can even find a few of my photos on their website, although most are from pro shooters Ben and Mackenzie. I love birds, and will always take some time out for photos of fowl. This chicken seemed particularly willing to pose, even if it does look like its going to peck my eyes out if I get any closer.

3. Nicole Weatherall and Charlie Rose, Royal Horse Show
Nicole Weatherall and Charlie Rose, RAWF 2019
Another from the Royal – this time, the Knightwood Hunter Derby, part of the Royal Horse Show. Shooting from the rail as Nicole and friend launch over a fence, already looking to the next one.

4. Robert Megennis / Andretti Autosport, Lakeshore Boulevard, Toronto
Robert Megennis / Andretti Autosport, Toronto 2019
If you’ve seen any of these posts before, you won’t be surprised by this combination of car racing and motion blur. Indy Lights series driver Robert Megennis pilots his car down Lakeshore Boulevard, Saturday of the Honda Indy Toronto race weekend. 2019 was my tenth year as part of the track photography team. For a nice retrospective, why not take a look at my friend and colleague Paul’s anniversary blog post?

5. Chequered flag! Honda Indy Toronto 2019
Chequered Flag - Pagenaud wins in Toronto!
Also from the Honda Indy Toronto, this is a kind of bucket-list photograph for me. The flag stand is highly restricted, and usually only a series photographer and one from a major newswire are allowed up for the race. Last year, my team leader John had the opportunity to join in the fun, and this year graciously gave me the nod. It’s a tricky photograph – lots of potential to get in the way of the officials, miss the shot entirely (it’s an overhead, wide-angle, “spray and pray” kind of situation), or generally mess it up. Here, I’ve got race winner Simon Pagenaud right on the finish line, although his face and inevitable fist-pump are unfortunately obscured by the flag. Still, I’m very happy with how this turned out, and the high burst speed of my newest camera came in very handy.

6. Marco and the pack, Toronto 2019
Marco Andretti and the pack, Toronto 2019
One more (for now) from the Honda Indy Toronto. Somehow, I’ve never photographed the race from this particular location before. It affords an opportunity to get a tightly-framed shot of the pack as it streams down the front straight (known in civilian times as Princes Avenue). Grandson of racing legend Mario, Marco Andretti would eventually finish tenth.

7. La Sainte-Chapelle, Paris
La Sainte-Chapelle
In late May, my wife and I took a trip to Paris (framed around the European Academy of Childhood Disability conference, which I was attending). On a friend’s recommendation, we searched out La Sainte-Chapelle on the Île de la Cité – and what a recommendation that was! This building, seemingly made entirely of stained glass held together by magic, is breathtaking. I’m not sure any photograph could ever really do it justice, but this should give you an idea.

8. No bull – Rodeo, Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Toronto
xNov10_RFW4934
These “rodeo clowns” (I’m sure there’s a more modern term… bovine safety workers?) are stars of the rodeo, traditionally held on the last day of the Royal. Here, he’s just tapped the bull on its nose to distract it from its fallen rider (just out of shot to the left), and is high-tailing it away.

9. Pagenaud and Hinchcliffe, Toronto 2019
Simon Pagenaud, James Hinchcliffe
Back to the Honda Indy Toronto race weekend again for this one. I’ve always enjoyed photographing the opening press conferences on Thursday, before the on-track action gets going the next day. Typically, the drivers are loose and relaxed, and there can be opportunities for fun photos of them goofing around a bit. Here, Simon Pagenaud is reminding home-town favourite James Hinchcliffe that he happens to be wearing his 2019 Indianapolis 500 Champion’s ring – just in case Hinch had forgotten. You can see some more smiley drivers (and many other photos from the weekend) in this Flickr set.

10. A rock – Patterson Park, Kingston, Ontario
Patterson Park, Kingston, December 2019
From the very last days of 2019. This gem of a park on the shores of Lake Ontario is only about 10 minutes from where I grew up – and I’d never been there until trying out a film camera in 2016. It’s a shame it’s taken me more than three years to return, but I’m glad I did – mid-afternoon, just two days after the winter solstice, and we’re already into “golden hour“. And the wind and lake were co-operating, unlike the following days, which were calm and overcast.

11. Bonus – Melina Mellé and Alex Lii at the OMCI Showcase, Barrie, Ontario
Melina Melle, Alex Lii - OMCI Barrie 2019
This is the second year I’ve had the privilege of photographing the end-of-summer showcase concert for the Ontario Musicians Co-operative Inc., a not-for-profit organization founded by a good friend, that assists independent artists with career development. Melina Mellé is a delight to photograph, with a seemingly endless repertoire of expressions and moods. Stalwart bass player Alex Lii, no mean singer himself, is backing her up. You can see another of my photos of Melina, from 2018’s concert, on the OMCI website here. The full 2019 roster of Barrie, Ontario’s OMCI musicians is here.

And that’s it! Now I just have to work on my “best of the decade” set, which, based on my usual speed, should be ready for viewing sometime in the 2030’s. Happy New Year, everyone.

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2018’s Greatest Hits

As promised, 2018’s top eleven photographs, since every year I’m blatantly unable to reduce the list to just ten. Also as promised, for once I haven’t waited for over a year to post them.

Saturday night in Zhengzhou
Saturday night, Zhengzhou
Unusually for me, an iPhone photo, upholding that tired adage that the best camera is the one you have with you. An evening stroll near the Songshan hotel, with some American and Australian colleagues from the International Cerebral Palsy Genomics Consortium. The advertisement is, I think, for some traditional medicine products.

Katie and “Mirror Image”
"Mirror Image" - XC, Caledon, Ontario
An equestrian friend and her equestrian friend, out schooling the cross-country course at the Caledon Riding and Hunt Club. Taken with a wide-angle lens while standing quite close to the end of the jump, an approach I hadn’t tried before.

Hummingbird in flight
Hummingbird in flight
A female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, the only species we get in southern Ontario. I’ve stalked these little birds unsuccessfully before, but a bit more effort than usual resulted in this photograph. It’s hovering near a feeder, just out of frame to the right.

Tim Hicks Band / Get Loud Tour
Tim Hicks - Get Loud tour, RAWF18
Guitarist from the Tim Hicks band at the Boots And Hearts festival showcase concert that opened Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. My first experience shooting from “the pit” in front of the stage. It’s great fun.

Young Monk, Shaolin Temple
Young monk, just chilling
On the Zhengzhou trip, our gracious hosts laid on a sightseeing excursion that included a visit to the famous Shaolin temple and Kung Fu school. The light was too challenging for many of my action photos of this performance to work out, but I liked the chill attitude of this young monk as he paused between flipping head over heels and wrapping himself into a pretzel.

Rinus Veekay, Pro Mazda, Toronto
Rinus Veekay, winner, race #2, Pro Mazda
At this year’s Honda Indy Toronto I chose to cover Pro Mazda, one of the support series. Dutch driver Rinus “Veekay” van Kalmthout had a banner weekend, winning both races. Here, he’s celebrating while standing on top of his car. Rather than showing the car and the inevitable cluttered background, I instead chose this clean sky approach. He’s lit with a little touch of fill flash to get some light under his hat brim.

Barrel Racing, Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, 2018
The rodeo is the highlight of the final day of the “Royal”. It’s particularly challenging, combining fast action with truly dreadful lighting. I have a lot of shots like this one, but the combination of the horse looking to camera and the rider looking “around the corner” makes this one work for me.

Robert Megennis, Princes’ Avenue, Toronto
Robert Megennis, Princes' Avenue, Toronto
Pro Mazda series driver Megennis powers down the front straight at the Honda Indy Toronto. Shooting through the debris fence at this location is a popular choice, with every photographer seemingly giving it a try in recent years. With a wide-angle lens and a slow enough shutter speed, it’s just about possible to make the fence disappear.

Lamborghini Huracan GT4
FB_DSC0607
The first big racing event of the year in these parts is the Victoria Day Speedfest weekend in late May at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. I’ve photographed Pirelli World Challenge races from this corner many times, but never zoomed in on a wheel detail mid-race like this. I love this car’s shape, graphics, and day-glo highlights.

Ferry, Chao Phraya River, Bangkok
Ferry, Chao Phraya River, Bangkok
I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at a Computational and Systems Biology conference in Bangkok in December. One evening out with my host and good friend Dr. Jonathan Chan took us to the new IconSiam mall, where the riverside walk affords lots of opportunity to photograph the endless boat traffic. Bangkok is full of examples of classic Thai styling applied to modern conveniences, and I liked this ferry as an example.

Canadian Cowgirl, Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, 2018
One more from the Royal. The Canadian Cowgirls are a show team who are a very popular fixture at the rodeo. While waiting for celebrity guest Amber Marshall to make the autograph-and-selfie rounds, I took the opportunity to capture this nice moment, while trying to show the density of the crowd at the rail.

And there you have it – 2018’s top eleven. 2019 is already well in the works, you can be sure of that.

 

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Setting a new record for lateness… the 2017 top ten

As we approach 2019, it’s about time I got around to sorting out 2017’s best pictures(!). Readers, I present to you: my top ten photographs of last year. So, in no particular order, we have:

Simon Pagenaud in turn 1, Honda Indy Toronto

Simon Pagenaud in turn 1

Back to a location on the track that I hadn’t really spent much time at in recent years, as it’s a bit of a pain to get to. It does afford the opportunity for close-cropped compositions like this one. The tilted motorsport shot is a bit of a trope, to be honest, but I think it works here. Pagenaud would finish fifth in Toronto and second in the championship for 2017.

The Beaches, First Canadian Place, Toronto

The Beaches - FCP, Toronto

I’ve photographed a lot of concerts for First Canadian Place / Arts Brookfield, but this one was just for fun. Winners of the Juno Award for Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 2018, they’re probably best described as “alternative rock”. Here we have bassist/vocalist Jordan Miller and a bit of drummer Eliza Enman-McDaniel, although this photograph is really all about the band’s logo.

Wilted Rose

Wilted Rose - monochrome

Something a little different: some studio (read: basement) work on Kodak Tri-X film. My first experience using Ilford Ilfosol 3 developer, which to be honest is probably not the best choice for this particular film.

Lindsay Mahon and Creme Brûlée, Bronte Creek Fall Horse Trials

Bronte Creek Fall HT, 2017

More fun with slow-shutter panning, in this case 1/15th of a second. Lindsay and “Carmel” are at full gallop, probably about a hundred metres away, seen through a very dense thicket that’s only a few metres in front of me. My success rate on photos of this kind is very low, but in this one I was lucky enough to get both horse and rider acceptably sharp. I only occasionally get a chance to photograph Lindsay, as he’s usually occupied with coaching other riders, including our daughter.

Voigtlander Brillant V6

Voigtländer Brillant V6

A favourite camera of mine, which you can read a little more about here, seen with a large number of ends of film. More basement studio work.

Will Power, #12 Team Penske, Honda Indy Toronto 2017
Will Power, #12 Verizon Penske IndyCar, Toronto 2017

More motion blur, from a tricky position in a high-speed zone obscured by a debris fence. It seems as though all the photographers have tried this location in recent years, but this was the first time I’d really made it work. This is a practice session on Friday of the race weekend; Australian driver Power would ultimately have a miserable Sunday, crashing on the first lap and eventually retiring in last position.

Hikers, Lake Louise, Alberta

Hikers, Lake Louise, Alberta

Worth every bit of the traffic, off-site parking, and crowds, Lake Louise is absolutely spectacular. This photograph is from the early part of the hiking trail up to Lake Agnes, another one of a seemingly endless number of breathtakingly beautiful spots in this part of the Rocky Mountains. A rare family vacation in late June/early July.

Voigtlander Brillant V6

Voigtländer Brillant V6

It’s that camera again, this time illuminated with blue gelled flash. I spent some time exploring different ways of photographing this camera, but there’s something about the restricted colour palette, geometric composition, and overall low-key lighting that I really like about this one. Some more of these experiments are on this Flickr page.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Perching

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird perching

This was, to this date, the best photograph of one of these little birds I’d managed – facilitated by it obligingly sitting still in a tree. These are the only species of Hummingbird found in this part of Canada, and are frequent visitors to the feeder at the Desert Lake cottage – the same place you can see in the header image of this blog.

Kyle McKearny, The New Electric – First Canadian Place, Toronto

The New Electric, FCP Toronto

Finally, we have another concert photo, this time a close study of Calgary rock band The New Electric’s frontman, belting out a song. I’ve rarely taken concert photos this tightly framed, but I liked the energy here.

And that’s it! 2017’s roundup finally in the Occam’s Typewriter books. Roll on 2018’s edition, where I can promise you more cars, more concerts, and even a trip to China.

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2016 Top Ten (plus one)

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.

Like Stephen did, I’ve put these all in an album on Flickr if you want to look at them over there instead of here. Or just scroll down. In no particular order:

1. Mac Cone and Gasper Van Den Doorn, November 2016
Mac Cone and Gasper Van Den Doorn

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.

2.Honda Indy Toronto – view from the grandstands, July 2016
Honda Indy Toronto - view from the grandstand

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.

3. Robin and gravestone, Brompton Cemetery, London, September 2016
Robin, Brompton Cemetery, London

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.

4. Spiral staircase, London Monument, September 2016
Spiral stairs, London Monument

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.

5. Spider guarding her egg case, March 2016
Spider guarding egg case

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.

6. Stadium Super Trucks at the Honda Indy Toronto, July 2016
Stadium Super Trucks - Friday, HIT 2016

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.

7. London skyline and Tower Bridge, September 2016
London skyline and Tower Bridge

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.

8. Breagh Mackinnon of Port Cities, First Canadian Place, Toronto, June 2016
Breagh Mackinnon of Port Cities

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).

9. Scott Dixon, Turn 5 in Toronto, July 2016
Scott Dixon, turn 5

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.

10. Saint Magnus the Martyr from the London Monument, September 2016
St. Magnus the Martyr from the London Monument

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.

11. James Hinchcliffe on the podium, Toronto, July 2016
James and Jerry podium handshake

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.

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2015 Top Ten

I know it’s already halfway through June, but here are my ten favourite photographs of 2015, in no particular order. Strangely, no motorsports made the list, unless you count the tractor.

1. November – Ascot Royals at First Canadian Place, Toronto
Ascot Royals @FCP, Toronto
One of a number of lunchtime concerts that I photographed at First Canadian Place. The band kicked it in this show, playing original songs and a surprising cover of TLC’s “No Scrubs”.

2. March – Sunrise over the Bow River and Mount Rundle, Banff, Alberta
Sunrise over the Bow River, Banff
Early-morning rising made easier by being two time zones west of home, I headed for a location I’d scouted the previous day. The orange light show only lasted about fifteen minutes.

3. February – Cooper’s Hawk eating a Mourning Dove, Maple, Ontario
Cooper's Hawk, eating
A frequent visitor, this juvenile Cooper’s is adept at picking off doves from backyard bird feeders. We’ve had these birds in the neighbourhood for years, but this was from the first good set of photographs I’ve managed. It’s isolated against the snow on top of the neighbour’s shed, nicely avoiding the suburban surroundings.

4. November – Royal Horse Show, Toronto, Ontario
Slow-shutter tractor panning - why not?
I had an opportunity to photograph the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair this year, including a couple of visits to Ricoh Coliseum. The venue’s dim light meant that I had to use slower shutter speeds than I like to. Here, I decided just to go with it, slow the shutter down, and pan the grounds crew’s tractor in among the colourful mess of jumps and other vehicles.

5. March – Self portrait with feet and Toronto
Self portrait with feet and Toronto
I’d never really tried self portraits until this year. This was an entry for a DEDPXL assignment. My feet and face were photographed in the basement and composited onto a backdrop of the view out the window at work. Reflections and some other adjustments were added in Photoshop.

6. February – Remembering David, Maple, Ontario
Remembering David II
My father-in-law enjoyed playing chess, and I’ve placed a photograph I took of him in the background. Another DEDPXL assignment, this time on the theme of “moody black and white”.

7. July – Stephanie Labbé, TO2015 Pan Am Games, Hamilton, Ontario
TO2015 Pan Am Games - soccer, July 19, 2015
I spent some time in the summer shooting the 2015 Pan Am Games soccer matches for the host city of Hamilton, Ontario. Canada lost this final qualification match 2-0 to Brazil, but advanced to the semi-finals anyway. Here, goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé directs traffic. I’m far away on the sidelines.

8. July – Brazil vs. Canada, TO2015 Pan Am Games, Hamilton, Ontario
TO2015 Pan Am Games - soccer, July 19, 2015
This photograph sums up the match – Brazilian players celebrate, as dejected Canadians walk away.

9. July – Men’s rifle competition, TO2015 Pan Am Games, Innisfil, Ontario
TO2015 Pan Am Games - shooting, July 17, 2015
As a bonus to photographing soccer for Hamilton, I had a media credential for the rest of the sports. Since the shooting venue wasn’t far from home, I made the time to go to a full day of men’s competition. A sport of remarkably quiet concentration, it made for some excellent photo opportunities. Here, Cuban Yoleisy Lois shoots in the qualification round. He would fail to make the final eight, finishing 23rd. I’m lying prone to get an eye-level view, in a safe zone to the side.

10. July – Lonely Deadpool, Montreal ComicCon
Lonely Deadpool
Also new this year was some time spent at ComicCons in Ottawa and Montreal. I liked the quiet feel, and the slightly surreal aspect of this character on his own, amid the chaos of the convention.

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TO2015 Tally

And so, that is that. The Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games are finished, and I’ve retired my photo credentials and numbered vest. With as little regret as possible I’ve given back the very nice equipment I borrowed from Nikon Photo Services, and I’m left with an enormous pile of photographs to sort through. Which isn’t really a bad problem to have.

TO2015 - Souvenirs

There’s plenty more to write: about my credential courtesy of the City of Hamilton (host city for Pan Am soccer); some of the amazing athletes I had the privilege of watching; the always good-natured and highly effective corps of volunteers and security; the wonderful venue photo managers and their assistants; the good-humoured police and EMS officers at each site; and of course the three friends I had the pleasure of shooting the soccer with. And all of the other events I made my way to in between.

In the meantime, though, I’ll start with the easy stuff: a lazy-blogger’s list of Things From The Games.

Thirteen events:

TO2015 Pan Am Games - archery, July 16
Some very serious archers.

Five venues:

TO2015 Pan Am Games - soccer, July 19, 2015
The soccer field, from on high.

Four medal ceremonies:

  • Men’s 50m pistol
  • Men’s 50m prone rifle
  • Women’s soccer
  • Men’s soccer

TO2015 Pan Am Games - shooting, July 17, 2015
Happy Brazilians – double gold in target shooting.

Six lenses:

Four camera bodies:

  • trusty old Nikon D5000 – the main workhorse
  • borrowed, and even older, Nikon D200 – some use
  • loaner Nikon D810 – borrowed for 7-a-side soccer, why not? Massive pixel count.
  • loaner Nikon D4 – borrowed for wheelchair basketball. A low light, machine-gunning monster.

Five purchased souvenirs:

  • one official Hudson’s Bay Company Team Canada ball cap
  • two TO2015 T-shirts (shamelessly bought at 50% off toward the end of the games)
  • two stuffed Pachi mascots, gifts for the children of the kind friend who lent me her second camera (the D200) to replace my terminally-ailing second shooter D70S.

TO2015 - Wheelchair Basketball, Canada vs. Brazil
Pachi, in the flesh (more or less).

Two credentials: one for Pan Am, one for Parapan Am. They are different colours.

Dozens of free granola bars consumed, and an unknown number of bottles of water and cups of coffee.

One tired scientist photographer.

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Busy, busy, busy – the Pan Am games are here!

As of Friday, Toronto and places near it are officially in the throes of the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. And I find myself with (a) a full media photographer’s credential, (b) access to every single competition venue, and (c) a distinct lack of time to take advantage of it.

My involvement is the end of a somewhat confusing story involving my six years of work covering the Toronto IndyCar race weekend, coupled to a relationship with the City of Hamilton, which is hosting the soccer competitions. No, I neither live nor work in Hamilton – told you it was confusing. But I will be at the soccer finals, and some other matches, as well as other events here and there at the venues scattered around the Greater Toronto Area (and beyond), as time permits.

Things kicked off for me back in April, with the unveiling of Team Canada’s uniforms. Produced by the Hudson’s Bay Company and riffing on classic combinations of red, white, black and grey, they were modelled in the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio by a very photogenic selection of athletes. Even Chef de Mission Curt Harnett busted out some runway moves.

Scott and Michelle - HBC Pan Am collection unveil, Toronto 2015Curt Harnett walks the walk - HBC uniform unveil, Toronto 2015

And then a wait, as the credentialing process continued – until the arrival a few weeks ago of my card. One quick trip to the main press centre at Pan Am Park (cunningly renamed from Exhibition Place) and I was ready to go.

But – before the competition, or at least the parts of it I’m photographing – an event closer to home, at least that aspect of “home” that is where I work. On its way across Canada, the Pan Am torch made its way to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, carried for the final 200-metre stint by someone really inspiring: Myles Lynch, a Cystic Fibrosis patient. Next time you’re feeling as though you have difficulties, consider this: last year, he had a double lung transplant. This year, he jogged that torch right into the hospital atrium with a big grin plastered across his face, addressed a huge, noisy crowd of supporters, and hung around for photo ops with anybody and everybody. If you’d like to find out more about how to face adversity with grace, humour and not a small amount of grit, check out his Youtube channel.

Myles enters the hospital

Myles and the crowd - Pan Am torch relay 2015

Hand off - Pan Am torch relay

So that brings us to this weekend, where after scrambling a bit to borrow a second camera to replace one that died partway through the IndyCar weekend, I’m finally getting organized to get out and shoot some events. Let’s see how I do with it. In the meantime, I’m happy to point you at some fine examples from my good friend and shooting colleague Chris Tanouye, who was at the opening ceremonies and will be covering everything happening in the swimming pools. Here are some examples from the early  rounds of water polo and synchronized swimming, plus the men’s 10k open water.

Fun and games.

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Did someone say “cold”?

With whatever the current digital version of “mercury” is dipping to an overnight low of 25 below*, and an expected daytime high tomorrow of only two degrees higher, I for one am not planning on venturing outside unless I absolutely have to. Even though tomorrow is Family Day, a holiday of dubious provenance that I’ve lightly complained about before.

This prolonged cold snap is also having an effect on the local wildlife, it seems. Our local Cooper’s Hawk appeared yesterday, fluffing itself up against the cold while gobbling down a tasty meal to keep its metabolism ticking over nicely. I suspect the hapless victim was yet another Mourning Dove, a species that seems to spend most of its time sitting still and pretending nothing’s going to eat it. I’ve long since given up keeping score, but since first appearing some nine years ago or so, the hawks are definitely winning. Mis-identified in that blog post as a female Northern Harrier, our backyard visitors all along have almost certainly been juvenile Cooper’s. Bloodthirsty things.

Get out of my face!
“Get lost! It’s mine!”

Cooper's Hawk, calling
“…and I’m going to squawk about it!”

Cooper's Hawk, eating
“Tastes like chicken!

Guilty Face
“Who, me? I didn’t do nuffink, guv’nor!”


*Those are Celsius temperatures. For US-based readers, that’s minus 13 Fahrenheit. Still pretty cold.

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Holiday Snaps (lazy blogging)

In my usual way, with the Christmas break in full sway, I’ll more or less finish of the year with some lazy photo blogging. First up: Toronto’s Eaton Centre with the 1937 camera:

Black Friday, Eaton Centre, Toronto

And here’s Jill Barber, the mystery holiday chanteuse I alluded to previously:

Jill Barber, First Canadian Place, Toronto

And finally, here’s a view of Vancouver’s Coal Harbour district, from the visit to the conference that Cath just mentioned.

Vancouver waterfront

That’s it. I’ve got nothing more weighty than that to say. Happy 2015 everyone… a year in which you will find me skulking about with a camera or two again, and if we’re all very lucky, posting about some science as well.

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