OverKill Launch Party

Last weekend was the private launch party for Ottawas newest hot spot for drinks and debauchery, Overkill (aka OK). Conceptualized by Guy Berube, owner of La Petite Mort gallery, Overkill looks to set itself apart from the usual Irish Pub flavored watering holes that dominate the capital.  The best description I can think of was written over 40 years ago by one of my favorite bands; I give you, Dr. Hook:

Well there’s gonna be a freakers ball
 Tonight at the freakers hall
 And you know, you’re invited one and all

Come on babies grease your lips
 Grab your hats and swing your hips
 Don’t forget to bring your whips
 We’re going to the freakers ball

Blow your whistle and bang your gong
 Roll up something to take along
 It feels so good it must be wrong
We’re freakin at the freakers ball…

– Dr. Hook (1972)

You can check out more pics from the private launch of Overkill on my Flickr.

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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.

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England Trip 2011: Round Two

I’m slowly going through all the thousands of photos I took on my spring trip to London. As I said in my previous England post, while I brought a bunch of film gear on the trip, I ended up using my Sony Nex 3 for most of the trip. As much as I was impressed with the camera it really made me realize how much my mindset changes depending on what I’m shooting with. When I’m shooting film I’m much more careful with each shot. I take my time framing, judging exposure and I’m much more reluctant to squeeze off a shot at just anything. My keeper rate when shooting film is definitely much higher. Out of a 36 shot roll I’m usually happy with roughly half the frames and will get at least 2-3 really nice shots.

Comparing that to shooting digital, I get the same number of keepers from a full 8 gig card with hundreds of shots on it. I’m much more trigger happy with digital and quite a bit sloppier with framing and exposure because I don’t have that little voice in the back of my head saying “That picture’s going to cost you $0.25 to take, and you only have 10 more shots on the roll”. On the plus side though, I find digital does produce more dynamic and unusual shots because I’m more willing to take risks on subjects I wouldn’t take the chance of wasting a frame of film on. The nightmare begins when I get home after a two week trip with 3000+ images to go through.

I’m about half way through now, I still have all of Iceland to go through but they’re coming. I’m definitely going to have to make a second pass at these shots though in about six months time. Time enough to get some distance from the subject matter.

On a different note, a lot of cool stuff has been going on in Ottawa lately, stay tuned for pics from Fringe Festival, Roller Derby and more from the world of Canadian Music.

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England Trip 2011: Round One

So it’s been a bit over a week since my cross the pond trip to the UK and I’ve finally gotten through the first batch of photos from the trip. People have been asking photos since I got back, but I swear, it’s not laziness, there’s a method to the madness. I usually like to put aside big batches of images like this for about a week after taking them, time permitting. I find that when I try to pair down to just the best images very soon after taking them it can be hard to be objective. By letting them sit for a while and forgetting about them I tend to be much more objective when it comes to picking out the keepers. I’ll probably end up doing the trip in three batches: UK Round One, Iceland and UK Round Two. Breaking it up into smaller batches also makes going through a couple thousand images much less daunting.

Besides being an amazingly fun vacation, this trip to England really opened my eyes photographically. I didn’t want to bring my full DSLR kit with me, I knew I’d be doing a lot of walking and my Canon rig would destroy my back by the end of the trip. I also didn’t want to rely completely on my film Leica kit. What if they wouldn’t hand check my film at the airport and it got X-Ray haze? What if it gets confiscated for some reason? What if I run out of film? What if I don’t bring the right film? I’m probably going to want to take a million shots, do I want to soup 20-30 rolls of film when I get home? I really wanted a digital alternative to compliment my Leica RF kit for the trip. I ended up picking up one of the Sony NEX 3 micro 4/3rds bodies a couple weeks before the trip with a Leica mount adapter so I could use my rangefinder lenses on it. My plan was: Leica M2 loaded with ISO 100 for during the day, Voigtlander R3A loaded with 400 for at night and I could use the NEX for snapshots and what ever focal length I wasn’t using on the film body. By day three I was using the NEX exclusively, it really turned out to be that amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to jump ship on film, I love the stuff… but for running around a big city for 8-10 hours a day even a two body RF kit gets heavy after a while. I also found whichever camera wasn’t around my neck and therefor hanging off one shoulder kept getting bumped and jostled around, especially in the subway. I really wasn’t prepared for how busy London is.

As it turned out, the NEX paired with either my Voigtlander 15mm or 25mm (giving me 24mm and 40mm field of views respectively on the NEX’s 1.6 crop factor sensor) was about all I needed for most of the trip. The NEX’s flip up screen also let me shoot from the hip very effectively. One of the biggest complaints I read about the NEX before buying it was how it was fiddly to focus manual focus lenses on the LCD screen. Well, when set to hyperfocal distance on the 15mm and 25mm, everything from about 3 feet to infinity is already in focus… problem solved! All I needed the LCD for was rough framing, no fiddly focus issues. I’ll be doing a more in depth review of the Sony NEX at some point in the future, but for now, all I can say is that it was probably my most useful photographic purchase in a long time.

I have a ton more to talk about regarding the England trip, but I’ll leave at this for now. Stay tuned for pics from the Iceland and Brighton side trips, a review of my new travel bag from Grafea and more. You can see the rest of the first batch of my UK vacation pics on my Flickr.

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Street Photography in the Byward Market

Busker in the Byward Market

I love working in the Byward Market. Everyday I walk around at lunch and there’s never a shortage of things to shoot. Summer is busker season and the market attracts professional street performers from all over the world. The man in the photo was from Australia, he comes to Canada most summers and busks his way across the country.

The nice thing about the Byward Market is that it’s full of tourists with cameras so no one thinks twice about someone taking their picture. Unfortunately there seems to be a stigma attached to street photography in some peoples eyes. They’ll go to galleries and admire the work of Bresson or Capa, but give a dirty look when someone takes their picture on the street. Street photographers record the mood and culture of the times in a raw and unscripted fashion… giving a true face to period of history. Reading the history books is great but it can be hard to sort out fact from propaganda and pop culture.

Luckily, living in Canada I haven’t encountered the type of harassment photographers in the UK and the US have to deal with; being accosted by security guards or police for taking pictures in subways or bus stations. It’s gotten so bad in the UK that photographers have banded together to try and bring attention to the almost police state mentality that’s sprung up concerning photography. Visit Not A Crime to see what I’m talking about. It’s getting pretty scary to be a photographer in some countries and unfortunately its historic record that will suffer the most in the end.

You can see more of my street photography on Flickr.

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Alberta’s Rocky Mountains

I went to Alberta without knowing quite what to expect. I knew the mountains would be like nothing I’d ever seen… and I was right. The entire place is gorgeous, but the thing that stuck out the most was the water. I’d seen pictures and postcards from the Rockies but always kinda suspected people where generous with the touch ups, boosting the colour to give it that fantasy landscape look, but if anything it was better in person.

The place I liked the most was Johnston’s Canyon, where most of the photos from this set are from. The water coming from the mountains is green… and not the “oh it’s got a greenish tinge” kinda green. It looked like liquid turquoise or emeralds were pouring out of the rock. I’ve never seen anything like it. I tried to do the water justice in my photos, but it’s no substitute for being there in person. It’s the kind of place that if fairies and elves suddenly jumped out from behind a rock it would actually make the place seem more real.

If you’re going there to shoot the waterfalls I highly recommend going in the late fall like I did. The walkways throughout the gorge are fairly narrow and during the peak tourist season it’s packed. Not only is it impossible to have enough room to set up a tripod, you’ll never be able to get a shot without other people in the scene. I do recommend a tripod, the light levels can get pretty dim considering the canyon walls are sometimes hundreds of feet above you and the foliage is pretty thick even after the leaf fall as it’s mostly pine and other coniferous trees in the area. Don’t worry about bad lighting at noon, the light has bounced off so much trees and rock by the time it gets down to you it’s beautifully soft and any direct light just gives you that nice “light peeking through the trees” look. You can see more from the Rockies on my Flickr .

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