Chris Page and Friends at Raw Sugar

Chris Page at Raw Sugar Cafe in Ottawa

Yet another trip to Raw Sugar Cafe last week… this time to see three different acts in one night. First up was Mark Davis out of Edmonton; great voice but a little too country for my taste, but that’s me. If you like bluesy-country check him out.

Next was Lorrie Matheson who sounded like a cross between Bob Dylan and Joe Cocker; also out of Alberta he’s got a touch of country to his sound but in his own words: “I love songs… but I @#%&ing hate country… unfortunately sometimes country are songs”. Lorrie is definitely worth a second or third listen, I picked up his album, In Vein, and can’t wait to hear what he sounds like with a backing band.

Chris Page of Ottawa’s Camp Radio closed off the night. Good set… what can I say that hasn’t been said, Camp Radio is one of Kelp Records best acts and Chris held his own nicely without a band behind him. Chris will be playing another solo show at the Black Sheep Inn up in Wakefield on July 23rd if you missed the Raw Sugar set. You can see the rest of the night’s pics on Flickr.

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Luxury Pond at Raw Sugar

Luxury Pond at Raw Sugar Cafe in Ottawa

Back at Raw Sugar Cafe again… not only does the place make a great back drop for photos, they book the most interesting bands. Sunday night was Luxury Pond, a two piece band from Toronto.

I’m not really sure how to describe their music besides to say it was a kind of ambient-folk-trance sound. Quiet vocals, looped ethereal chanting, harp like guitar rhythms and all manner of bells and pedals; I think I saw a xylophone too… or something similar. Dan Goldman is the front man for the Luxury Pond project, backed by Daniela Gesundheit. But they also perform, roles reversed as Snowblink.

I can’t say it enough; it’s always a pleasure to shoot a band that goes the extra mile to put on a show, instead of just throw some music at you. The definitely had a stage presence… very hypnotic and calming… a kind of folk meditation. You don’t have to jump around to put on a show… you just have to convince the audience that you’re musicians and not just a bunch of guys with instruments here to show you their hobby. Musicians are easy to shoot, you just need decent light… it’s the garage band hobbyists that really make me work.

Dan and Daniela will be coming back to Ottawa at the end of July as Snowblink, definitely worth checking out. You can see the rest of the Luxury Pond set and other bands shot at Raw Sugar on my Flickr.

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Marie-Josée Houle

Marie-Josée Houle

I first started shooting Marie-Josée Houle at various venues about a year ago. She’s extremely photogenic and her music is definitely unique in the Ottawa music scene. Whether she performs solo or backed by a band, her music sounds like it’s straight out of a 1940’s french cafe in a Bogart film-noir, while still sounding fresh and modern.

It’s always nice to shoot something different than the standard band line up. And it’s especially nice to shoot a performer that dresses for the stage. Too many bands come on stage dressed like they just walked off the street. Ok… that doesn’t really hurt the music, but it doesn’t really make the band memorable. Performers like Marie-Josée make me look good; it’s really hard to get memorable photos of a band all dressed in miss-matched jeans and t-shirts.

Marie-Josée Houle is currently touring here and there all over Canada and will be heading overseas to tour Europe in the fall. You can see more of her in the Live Music section of my Flickr.

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Giant Hand at Raw Sugar

Giant Hand at Raw Sugar Cafe in Ottawa

I recently had the pleasure of shooting two amazing Canadian performers, Giant Hand and Leif Vollebekk at the Raw Sugar Cafe on Somerset. For the last few years I’ve found new music acts pretty much to be dull copies of one another, but the Ottawa indie scene is producing surprise after surprise.

I won’t go into much detail about the music; I’m there for the visuals, excellent audio is just a nice bonus. Suffice to say both Leif and Giant Hand are performers to listen to if you get the chance. They also turned out to be extremely photogenic.

Raw Sugar is quickly becoming my secret weapon… the green walls, warm lights and mismatched vintage furniture make the whole venue a stage. The only thing it’s missing is a nice soft spot light at center stage for the singers face. A little fill flash fixes the problem but I really hate using a flash during a show if I don’t have to. One great thing about Raw Sugar is nice white ceilings to bounce flash off of, although you have to be careful about bouncing off the walls as the greens and yellows will play havoc with your white balance. You can see more photos of Giant Hand and Leif on my Flickr.


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Apocalyptica at Capital Music Hall

Apocalyptica at Capital Music Hall

Every once in a while you luck in to an amazing opportunity… last fall I lucked in big. I was heading out for lunch at work when three big black tour buses pulled up to the curb. A roady jumped out and asked me if I knew where Capital Music Hall is… which is a common question as the thing is impossible to find as it’s only got a non-descript black door on where the address should be, it’s main entrance is on the back of the building on a completely different street.

I told him where it was, and asked who was playing there tonight out of curiosity. Turns out it was APOCALYPTICA!!!!! A favorite of mine for a long time, I had completely forgotten they where playing because it sold out months ago. The roady was so thankful he gave me a couple free passes to the show, they had been looking for the place for hours. I asked if it was cool if I brought my camera and he gave me a full access media pass!

The show was absolutely amazing. They put me in front of the crowd barrier where I was so close I had a hard time fitting them in the frame sometimes. I thought there would be a bunch of other photographers there, as they had a catwalk set out for them, but I was alone and had the run of the stage. You can see more from the show on my Flickr.

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Environmental Portraits

I’m a huge fan of environmental portraits. You wouldn’t shoot a duck on a stool in front of a textured backdrop if you were trying to portray “duckness”… maybe if you were taking a picture for a biology textbook, but to evoke an emotional response you’d make sure the duck was in a stream or pond… maybe with some reeds or lily pads, a few trees and maybe a rock or two… all the things that tell people what that duck’s world is like.

Same goes with people. The best portraits I’ve taken are at times when the last thing I was looking for was a portrait. As soon as someone knows “now is portrait time” they clam up, paste on their plastic smile and look as little like themselves as possible. Most people at least… I’m convinced the entire basis of being “photogenic” is just the instinct to relax and be natural in front of a camera instead of going into smiling-deer-in-headlights mode.

Good portraits tell the viewer things about the subject beyond what they look like and one of the best ways to do this is to capture the subject around things that speak to their personality. Mike here on the left is fun and easy going and this portrait was taken in the crowd of an indie show at a local cafe.

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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.

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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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Mountain Sheep in Alberta

Alberta is a photographer’s dream. There’s mountains, plains, forests, desert and wildlife everywhere. I really wasn’t prepared for the sheer variety of things I’d be shooting. Once you get into the Rockies you can’t move without tripping over something furry.

These mountain sheep were everywhere, on the highways in the towns and looking down at you from every cliff. I’ve seen domesticated animals more easily spooked as well. I’m not sure whether it’s that people are everywhere, and never bother them… or whether they’re just extremely bad ass sheep that know they could trample me to death without breaking a sweat. I’m inclined to believe the latter after seeing two rams go at it literally head to head no more than four feet from where I was shooting them.

I remember them looking at me with a sort of bored indifference then knocking heads with each other with a scary intensity. At this point I started to wonder if the point was to decide which of the two would get to do the same to me next… so decided not to push my luck and got back in the truck.

I can’t wait to get back out to the Rockies again, maybe in the spring next time, or maybe a bit earlier in the fall. This trip I had just missed the fall colours. More wildlife and landscapes from Alberta can be found on my Flickr.

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Westfest 2009

Westfest 2009

This was my first time at this festival and it was a lot of fun. Tons of things to shoot, from street performers, clowns, musicians and art galleries to the people watching it all. I must have taken a dozen or more shots of the clown show on the left alone.

The main thing I like about shooting festivals is that you can walk around with a big camera and no one will pay attention to you because they’ve seen ten other people in the same get up. People are expecting to get caught in photos so they’re more relaxed around cameras and usually having too much fun to even realize they’re under the lens. A great time for candid street shooting.

I regret I was only carrying one camera; I really could have used my medium format gear that day… oh well… there’s always next year.

I also regret missing The Acorn performing on the last day of the festival, but thunderstorms loomed and I really thought the Sunday night show would be rained out for the second year in a row. More from Westfest 2009 can be seen on my Flickr.

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