Las Vegas 2011: Grand Canyon and Zion National Park

After driving through the Canadian Rockies, I thought I was prepared for the Grand Canyon. Not a chance. Standing on the lookout on the North Rim (the highest lookout in the Canyon) the mind recoils at the sheer size of it all. I was expecting guard rails and tourist funnels that would keep people away from the edge, but where I was at least, you could walk right up to the edge. It was so far down my usual fear of heights didn’t even kick in, I think my brain just wouldn’t accept exactly how far the fall would be. Unfortunately this was just a side trip, a 5 hour drive each way from Las Vegas, which is where I spent most of the vacation. I could have easily spent a week at either Zion or the Grand Canyon, maybe next time. Zion was surprisingly beautiful as well, and who knew, the best Crème Brûlée I’ve ever had was to be found in “middle of nowhere” Utah in a restaurant housed in an old Gas Station. If you ever drive through Zion, make sure to stop at the Whiptail Grill and try their Peanutbutter-Chocolate-Habinero Crème Brûlée, it’s to die for.

I went on this trip fully loaded, two Leica bodies and my Sony Nex, and just like my England trip, I ended up using the Sony exclusively. Could I have gotten better pics with my full Canon setup? Would it have been nice to have three bodies on me at all times for different films speeds and faster lens changing? Did I miss having a tripod? Sure… but the small size and weight of the Sony and 3-4 lenses made the trip far more enjoyable than lugging a full gear compliment in 115F weather and I’m happy enough with the shots I got. I probably could have gotten better, yes, but travelling with a group I had to balance social time and photography time. I wasn’t about to make people wait around for the perfect light or the perfect spot to setup a tripod, and I really enjoyed travelling with a group. You can see more of my Grand Canyon and Zion shots on Flickr. Stay tuned for shots from Vegas and the Hoover Dam.


Summer Print Sale!

This summer I’ve decided to do a limited run of three of my favorite images. Each image will have ten signed and numbered prints in its run, stamped for authenticity. You can drop me an email at , or send me a message on twitter or facebook if you’d like to reserve yourself a print. All three images are high quality scans from the original negative printed on archival grade photo paper. Post No Bills and Imposing are 24″x24″ and are priced at $200 and Lumière is 12″x18″ and priced at $120. Local pick up is free, shipping within Canada will be $15, shipping outside Canada will depend on where you are and how fast you want it. If you have any questions feel free to send me a message or comment on this post. If you’ve been wanting a print of an image not in this run, let me know and I might be able to include it in my print order if you catch me in time.

Post No Bills
Photo by J B Hildebrand
24″x24″ on Archival Photo Paper – $200

Photo by J B Hildebrand
24″x24″ on Archival Photo Paper – $200

Photo by J B Hildebrand
12″x18″ on Archival Photo Paper – $120

Reflections on Film

I’ve been having a ton of fun with the new rangefinder setup, especially with the super-wide Voigtlander 15mm lens. I’ve been shooting a lot more film recently, using digital pretty much solely for my professional work.

This image was taken with the 15mm on the Rideau Canal, right near the locks by Parliament. The film was past date Kodak Ektachrome slide film I got processed at Walmart and scanned at home. I’m getting really nice results scanning at home, and should get even better when my glass negative holders get here. They keep the film flatter for scanning, giving much better sharpness.

I’ve added quite a few shots to my Street Photography set on Flickr, and will hopefully have more coming as I slowly go through the rolls I’ve shot over the last couple months. Winter’s a slow time for me going out and shooting, Ottawa weather is usually too cold or too wet for comfortable casual photography so I’ll be using the time to go through the archives… stay tuned.


Two Pieces Accepted in AOE – Selections 2009

 AOE - Selections 2009

As I mentioned previously, I had entered four pieces into the Arts Ottawa East – Selections 2009 juried exhibit at the Trinity Gallery in the brand new Shenkman Arts Centre. Well, the jury is in and I had two pieces accepted to the show: An Urban Aesthetic and Post No Bills.

The exhibit opens on October 1st, but I’ll be attending the opening reception on the 7th from 7-9pm. There’s around forty different artists taking part so there should be something for everyone.

I had a hard time choosing only four images to enter, especially since it was a completely open exhibit, with no pre-selected theme or guidelines for submission. I wasn’t sure whether I should select four that spanned the complete range of my collection or concentrate on one style or subject matter. Originally I had quite a few of my colour shots in the short list I was considering for selection, but I took the advice of another photographer and chose a set of four black and whites to submit in order to keep the set looking focused as a group. Seems to have worked out in the end; Post No Bills was even selected to be on the promo card for the show, shown here to the left.

Stay tuned after the event for photos from the opening as I’ll be shooting the opening reception for Arts Ottawa East as well as attending as a featured artist.


More from the Street

Mackenzie King Bridge

I’ve been digging through the archives lately and have found a ton of shots I had completely forgotten about. This shot in particular I remember being really fond of but somehow it got buried. This was from the first roll of a camera I’ve long since traded away, a Voigtlander Bessa rangefinder.

I always regretted getting rid of the camera, but it was part of a gear swap I couldn’t turn down. I’ve recently managed to acquire another one and it’s in the mail as we speak, almost two years exactly since I parted with my last one. As much as I love my Canon gear, it can be hard to get discrete shots on the street with a giant DSLR around your neck. It’ll be nice to have something nice and small I can carry around easily again.

In other news, a few of my pictures got accepted to a juried exhibit coming up in October, stay tuned for more information. It should be a great show with about forty other artists in all different mediums.


No Particular Place To Go…

I find I take some of my best shots when I have nothing particular in mind to shoot. When I spent the whole day wandering downtown a couple weeks ago, my goal was actually just to blow through the roll of film quickly just to test it out. I got a 100′ bulk roll of badly expired film off a photographer on one of my forums for a song, so I rolled up a few rolls and set off not really expecting anything interesting.

The film turned out much better than I expected and so did the subject matter. This shot in particular really caught my eye. I’ve become a bit obsessed with the telephone poles full of ancient staples around the city ever since my post a while ago about a shot I took of one with my Yashica-Mat. I plan on entering this shot in an upcoming art show, we’ll see if the jury likes it as much as I do.

I think I need to start scheduling time to just wander around, my keeper rate seems to be much higher than when I’m out actively in search of a particular shot.  My favorite wandering lens has always been my macro lens.  Whenever I get bored of what’s available to shoot, or I feel like I’m in a photographic slump, there’s nothing better to force myself into a completely different perspective.


Yes, I Still Shoot Film

As long as it’s available I can’t see myself every giving up shooting film. Digital photography has been a godsend when it comes to events where a quick turn around and hundreds of shots are required, but film has qualities you just can’t duplicate digitally. With digital I have be very carefull with exposure, and I don’t have nearly as much play with it in post processing. For the most part, in decent even light, film is like horseshoes and hand grenades… close is good enough. Highlights don’t blow out as easy and shadow grain looks so much nicer than digital noise. It really lets me concentrate on the image instead of all the technical stuff.

Anyways… this isn’t a digital versus film rant… that horse has been flogged sufficiently. Both sides of the argument seem to have called an armistice and have grudgingly agreed that both photographic mediums have their own time and place. Film has seen a huge resurgence among younger photographers and a lot of the old guard have gone fully or partially digital.

This shot was of a telephone pole in downtown Ottawa. There’s many that have so many staples, that over the years they’ve developed up to an inch of rusted staple and poster paper armor. This one had a nice balance of wood and metal textures. I was also surprised at how well the Rolleinar close up filters for my Yashica Mat-124G worked. Originally made for Rolleiflex cameras, they’ll fit on most TLR’s with the same filter size. I was worried that another layer of glass might introduce some softness or distortion like most of the modern accessory lenses, but I can’t see any degradation at all, gotta love 70 year old German glass.

One unexpected bonus I’ve found to shooting film is how I’m perceived. When I walk down the street taking pictures of random stuff with a big lens on a DSLR, some people have come up with some very imaginative and devious uses I must be using those pictures for. Walking around with an archaic box with two lenses and all kinds of knobs and fiddly bits seems to scream “artist” and people generally leave me alone or take a positive interest in what I’m doing. For more of my film captures you can check out the film section of my Flickr.


Cross Processing Randomness

film, cross processed, xpro, street photography

I still shoot quite a bit of film, especially when I’m out shooting for fun instead of on the job. Cross processed slide film is one reason I don’t think I’ll ever give up film. Digital has made my job a lot easier when I need guaranteed consistent results but film still does things my DSLR will never be able to do.

Film always manages to surprise me. I used to keep detailed notes when I did my own developing or stick with the same lab when for my color film to keep my results consistent, but nowadays I’m pretty loose with my routine. Mostly because it’s so liberating. I can go out and only pay cursory attention to exposure and all the technical stuff and concentrate on composition. I have to be very careful with exposure with my digital gear; too much light and my highlights are blown, too little and you get horrible noise in the shadows. Film is so forgiving I just need to be roughly in the ballpark and I’ll get a scannable negative.

Cross processing throws another wrench in any plans for consistent results as I usually have NO idea how it’s going to turn out. Each brand of film turns out differently when processed in C41 chemicals… anything from a major shift to red or purple to bright greens and blues. I usually shoot old expired film when I cross process as well which alters the end result as well, plus you can usually pick it up on the cheap. You can usually expect reds to be boosted and everything else shifted towards green like the shot shown here… but it’s still a shot in the dark.

It’s just too much fun to go an pick up a developed roll and see what you end up with. The only down side is that because cross processing has developed a devoted cult following due to the holga/lomo movement expired film is actually going for more than the fresh stuff some places. You can see some more examples of my cross processed shots on my Flickr.


City Vice

This is a piece I’m working on for submission to Urban Graffiti 11, a magazine based in Edmonton. The theme this issue is Vice and I thought this picture fit the bill nicely.

One benefit of working in the Byward Market is that I can bring my camera out with me at lunch and be pretty much guaranteed to come across something interesting to shoot. Last week however I came across something more sinister than usual.

The bathrooms in the central market area have safe disposal sites for hypodermic needles, a good idea except when they’re in this state. I was kind of shocked when I found that the staff were fully aware of the situation and were waiting on Hazmat to show up and dispose of the overflowing container. They hadn’t thought to cordon off the stall, or lock the bathroom containing said container, however… something that might have been prudent due to the hundreds of tourists, children and anyone else wandering the area and using the bathroom. This was a terrible accident waiting to happen.

I’m thinking of sending this picture around to a few local newspapers as well. The Market is a huge tourist draw for Ottawa and a situation like this is completely unacceptable… and one picture can tell the story better than I ever will be able to.