One Year Later…

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This image was taken just over a year ago. I like it because – while technically imperfect – it’s one of the few times (among 16,000 shots according to my camera’s shutter count) I was able to capture a moment of humour, wonderment and curiosity.

It was also just around the time when I “discovered” street photography and fell in love with it. Along with a million other people around the world who have a cellphone camera and an Instagram account. After all, what other genre of photography is more accessible in this digital age besides the almost as ubiquitous bathroom selfie?

When I first started, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I figured all I need to do is go out on the street and take a photo of someone in public, right? And if it isn’t very interesting, maybe turning it black and white will at least make it artsy and gritty. I also latched on to the whole “spray and pray” method – shooting rapid fire (sometimes in burst mode) of random people on the street and hope you get at least one good shot of someone doing something interesting.

Hard lessons, but learning is also a big part of my love affair with photography. Recently, I was lucky enough to learn from @ianmacdonaldphotography for street photography and @adamzivo for portraiture. Getting real-world tips and constructive criticism are essential to learning. There are so many ways an image can be improved, whether it be through composition, light, technique, etc., etc. That also means an almost infinite learning curve. But one that is fun, fascinating and incredibly satisfying too. Every time I read about a “master” photographer, or find on Instagram a new contemporary, there’s always lots to learn and be inspired by. I think maybe that’s why photography is such a good fit for me – I’m always in a constant state of growth and discovery, and pushing for that next great shot.

Inspiration

 

Joel

Just picked up Joel Meyerowitz’s Where I Find Myself.  It’s a hefty retrospective of one of America’s leading photographers and includes his most recent work all the way back to the first photograph he ever took. More than just street photography too – he was the only one allowed to take photos at Ground Zero after 9/11.

 

 

Summer’s End

I can hardly believe it’s already Labour Day weekend. To me – and a lot of other people – it is the unofficial end to summer.

And what a summer we’ve had. I can’t remember the last time we had consistently HOT weather for the entire summer. But I’ll take that over our Canadian winters any time.

A couple of weeks ago, I did get to participate in a street photography workshop led by Fujifilm brand ambassador Ian MacDonald. I first came across his work on his blog and realized I had just missed his workshop held around the same time last year. I like Ian’s style of photography and that he’s been an educator as well, so I decided to invest in learning… considering I’ve never even taken a photography class.

It was a two-day workshop, but unfortunately, I could only attend the first day, as it turned out. Still, I learned a lot of valuable tips and met some great people. I didn’t get many good shots that weekend, but I did apply some of the things I learned in the days after.

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Making the best of a rainy day – I actually shot this through the windshield of my car. Probably not the best thing to do. But I was dry and it turned out to be a good shot!
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Ian’s style often focused on getting silhouettes. This was shot just as the same storm as above was letting up and the sun was breaking out of the clouds. The woman is not in an absolutely clear silhouette, but I like the mix of the rain and the car splash.
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This is one of Ian’s favourite places to shoot in Toronto. It’s literally a wall of light in front of the H&M store at the Eaton Centre – perfect for capturing silhouettes.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve learned a few things about how people react to the photos I take and post online.

There seems to be a move towards “abstract” photos like the ones above… where shapes and colours and textures are the focus, instead of what I consider to be “pure” street photography – capturing people’s emotions, gestures and situations. For example, this one by Aaron Berger is still one of my favourites. For me, this sparked an emotional reaction – it’s funny and strange and it makes you wonder what the story is here.

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By Aaron Berger

It could be coincidence on my part that I’m seeing less of this type of work and more of the abstract. It could also be a way of our photographers of getting around the ethical quandary of respecting someone’s privacy if you don’t have to show their faces, but still be able to make a great photo.

I’ve been doing a balance between the two. I certainly like how light and shadows can come together in a street scene, but I also like capturing someone in a particular moment that reveals a little bit about how they are.

An end-of-summer tradition for me is to visit the annual Canadian National Exhibition fair. When I visited last year, I hadn’t yet devoted my energies to street photography, so I was eager to view the fair this year through a different lens, as it were, and practise getting both kinds of shots.

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I always go to this particular game for this shot each year. This time, I decided to have some fun and focus on a couple of ducks that were on their side. Adds even more humour, I think.

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Part of our workshop with Ian was discussing the legalities and ethics of shooting subjects without their knowledge/permission. Since this child was in a public space, I was within my rights to take her photo without her or her parents’ permission. But this was my third try of the evening to get something like this. The previous times, I couldn’t get close enough without being creepy, and I really wanted the shot. So, as this scene played out before me, I decided to ask her mom for permission and she was more than happy to provide it. In this shot, the kid wasn’t yet aware that I was taking her picture. As soon as she did, though, she hammed it up, which was funny, but I like this candid shot much better.
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This was a simple lesson from Ian – find a background and let the actors come into the scene.

I suppose as “art” – like the kind you’d want to hang in your living room – the abstract is more attractive. You can make up your own narrative to that kind of scene. Fewer people would probably choose to hang a photo of strangers at a fair in their living room.

Which style do you prefer – the more abstract look, or the more “traditional” street photography style? Let me know in your comments!

Pedestrian Sundays Bring Out the Colour in Kensington Market

A couple of weeks ago, I finally managed to make it down to this summer’s Pedestrian Sundays at Kensington Market here in Toronto. The Market is a very lively neighbourhood in the downtown area and in the summer, they close the streets to traffic on the last Sunday of every month.

Making it pedestrian-only, Kensington Market becomes that much more alive, drawing locals and tourists alike to take part in music, food stalls, dancing, etc. It’s a street photographer’s dream with all sorts of subject matter.

I personally think they should increase the frequency of making it pedestrian-only or even making it permanent. In all the years I’ve lived in Toronto, I don’t think I’ve ever driven THROUGH Kensington Market – it has always been a neighbourhood for exploring by foot.

It was perfect weather when we went, although the harsh sun made it a little bit challenging to shoot. Still, I came away with some interesting images. Hope you enjoy!

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Hot in the City

We’ve been having some awesome weather so far this summer – unseasonably warm, but I’ll take that over cold weather any time.

That means it’s a lot easier to go out and shoot these days.

We’ve also moved offices for my day job – I am literally across from the CN Tower these days. That means I’ve been able to take my camera with me to work and sneak in some shots in the neighbourhood. The area is teeming with tourists and a lot more people work here too.

I’ve also been able to take images at various times during the day – including earlier in the morning when the light is nice and warm.

Here are few recent images. Hope you enjoy!

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Exploring Suburbia

When my family settled in Canada, we first lived near Toronto’s Chinatown on Spadina Avenue. It made sense as my aunt, uncle and cousins lived just down the street from us, so we had a bit of a social network to support our first few years in a new country.

Eventually, we moved out to Scarborough, Toronto’s eastern suburb, where I spent my formative years. There wasn’t much going on in Scarborough in those days, so I made the hour-long trek downtown almost every Saturday with friends, checking out record shops, book stores and the like. I guess I knew at an early age, if you didn’t have a car in the suburbs, your social life was limited.

So it wasn’t a surprise that I’ve spent most of my adult life living downtown, even though my family chose to remain in the suburbs. As a downtowner, I, too, would regard the suburbs as places to mostly avoid.

Fast forward to the present and my partner and I have settled onto a quiet street not too far from my childhood home. You still can’t do much without a car in Scarborough, but this little borough sure has changed. There are now dozens of vibrant neighbourhoods, scattered throughout with shops, businesses and restaurants that reflect the diversity that is Toronto these days. Our neighbourhood now is almost the same as it was when I was a kid, but with newer storefronts and as of last summer – a STARBUCKS!

For the past few weeks, I’ve made exploring local neighbourhoods into a project – documenting the streets through photography. It’s a bit harder to get candid shots of people when neighbourhoods aren’t as busy. But it was a challenge that I accepted, stretching my own creative boundaries to make interesting images.

This series doesn’t wholly represent Scarborough – I wanted to highlight some of the more “uninteresting” places to see what I could find. I had fun focusing on the suburbs as a theme. I hope you enjoy these images. You can also view the entire series on LensCulture.

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