I have been an inactive blogger for sometime. I think in February I thought life couldn’t get busier than it was but that changed in March, when I had an assignment (at least one) due every day for the entire month. By April things started to slow down, and since May it’s mostly been a waiting game.
However, while things in April started to slow, I had also begun my chase for summer work. Initially I began with high hopes, at one point in mid-April it seemed like there were at least three reasonably likely prospects with different newspapers. Those petered off and by mid-May I began fearing I’d have to find work outside photography for the summer.
So I travelled to Ottawa, there I found work as a student house painter. On the day I was supposed to start working though I received an email offering me a job with Metroland’s group of newspapers in Toronto.
While I start tomorrow I realized I hadn’t posted a blog update in months. First I was too busy, then I was too lazy and on summer vacation and finally my computer was in for repair. So now I’ll catch up.
My last blog posted was at the end of February, so I’ll start in February in Ottawa.
In mid-February I photographed the Ottawa Fashion Week for FAJO Magazine. It was an interesting affair and my first time shooting anything in the fashion world. While most of the weekend was spent at the end of the runway, I was able to get some interesting moments and get a tour backstage.
My trip backstage was brief, I was only allowed ten minutes but it was fascinating to see what happens behind the scenes at a fashion week event.
Most of my other February exploits are detailed in a previous post here.
As March dawned the second years began finishing up their final projects in preparation for their end of program internships. The first years meanwhile were trying to keep from drowning in tedious assignments. The program is four semesters long and semester two and three are notorious for their intensity.
On the second weekend in March I returned to Ottawa to photograph the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Final 8 men’s basketball championships. It’s Canada’s version of NCAA final in March.
The games were hosted at Scotiabank place in Ottawa, and they were very well attended. As a student at Carleton I photographed this tournament twice before for the charlatan, Carleton’s student newspaper, you can check out some of those pics here for a look at some of my older stuff. I was flooded with nostalgia, especially because several friends from Ottawa were also there photographing the event it felt a bit like a working reunion.
For a while it looked like it was going to be an Ottawa vs. Ottawa final, but The University Ottawa Gee Gees didn’t quite make it. The Carleton Ravens won again making it a record number championship wins in CIS history.
Next weekend I drove a carload of Loyalist students past Ottawa to Montreal for the annual anti-police brutality protest. The protest was begun 17 years ago in response to suspicious deaths at the hands of Montreal police officers. However, in the years since, the march has attracted a more dubious reputation as an opportunity to confront the police directly on the streets.
After last year’s student protests in Montreal new legislation had been passed. In addition to the more controversial Loi 78, Montreal passed municipal laws requiring rally organizers to submit march routes in advance for approval from the police. If not then the protest could be declared illegal and that gave the police sweeping powers of arrest. Which is exactly what happened, as soon as marchers began assembling the police declared the protest illegal and began dispersing it and making arrests.
Loyalist students, completely by accident, went en masse to Montreal. There were about 23 of us in total. We stayed at hotels and spent a few hours chasing columns of police who were chasing the scattered protestors around the downtown core.
I ended up in a CTV News clip during one of the several on street interactions with the police. You can view it here, I’m on the left of the screen taking pictures when the police charge, it’s at the 48-second mark in the clip.
Just before 7pm, two hours after the protest started, the scattered protestors and police now converged at the intersection of Rue Sainte Catherine and Rue Saint-Andre. The police formed a kettle and closed ranks.
Partly by chance and partly because of experiences learned from the G20 I jumped back, narrowly avoiding a gloved hand that was pulling people in. As we found out later 15 Loyalist students were caught up in the kettle.
Some were released on the street, after Montreal police filmed them, and took down their info. They were told they’d be mailed a $640 ticket and to return home, that if they were found out on the streets again that night they’d be arrested, spend the night in jail and face possible criminal charges. Those not released on the street were loaded onto a repurposed city bus and taken to various precincts where they were processed and released. By 10:30pm we had confirmation that everyone was out and everyone was safe. By the numbers Loyalist students, there to photograph the demonstration, accounted for 8% of total arrests that night.
Everyone in my car, myself included, avoided the kettle and arrest and the next day we were all cheerfully headed back to Belleville, where Loyalist College is located. Along the way as we were passing Napanee, which is near Belleville, we spotted a huge plume of smoke rising from a field off the highway. We pulled off the highway and found the source of the fire, a barn in a farmer’s field and began taking pictures. The timing was convenient as we had a spot news assignment, any news that is not scheduled, due in class in two weeks time.
Later that week came the second round of advisory board meetings of the year. Advisory board is a once a semester picture review with photographers and editors from newspapers and newswires across Canada. I sat down with four different people and showed them the same sets of pictures, I heard four different critiques ranging from, “Yeah! This is great!” to, “None of your pictures are memorable.”
The most useful piece of advice I received was to stop pursuing things I thought others wanted to see and instead go with my gut more. So I decided to try and do that, although I was a little uncertain what that meant, I thought I had been going with my gut before.
Around this time we had a whole host of different projects to work on, from videos to picture documentaries, and once a week a lighting assignments. One of the more interesting lighting assignments was the environmental portrait. Which is a fancy way of saying a portrait in a relevant environment… So a firefighter in a fire hall, or a doctor in a hospital. Ours was specific, we had to find either a CEO or business owner, a blue collar worker or a luthier (someone who repairs stringed instruments, specifically lute based designs). I was in Ottawa one weekend, so I started phoning luthiers in the city and David (below) agreed to pose for a photo.
A week later I found myself once again in Ottawa. It was now the end of March, school was truly slowing down and I was trying to find a way to keep busy. So I returned to photographing the drag queen Savannah Couture. Savannah had agreed to let me photograph her before during and after performances a few times and the project had been universally well received amongst the advisors I met with.
Savannah started drag professionally only a month earlier, but with the help of her brother, who also happened to be a well-known queen in Ottawa, she was able to secure a regular weekend performance at Edge, a well-known gay bar in Ottawa.
A drag performance is essentially three parts, the first is the dress, which needs to compliment the queens own style and the song choice. The second is the performance, which is generally a lip sync set to music, song choice determines clothes, hair make-up and the dance itself, and most queens won’t repeat songs, every weekend it’s something new. The final part is audience interaction, like at a burlesque show in part drag is a celebration of sexuality, and so queens interact with and tease audience members usually as part of the show.
On this night there were three individual queens who performed and a fourth, Savannah’s brother and drag mother, who MC’d the evening. The night ended with all four of them dressing like the girls from the Lady Marmelade music video and performing the song as a quartet.
I had produced far better performance pictures that night than I ever had but I also recognized the familiar symptoms of artistic burn-out starting to set in. All of my pictures looked like crap, or that’s how I felt at the time. Scrolling through contact sheet after contact sheet they all looked uninspired. I began to understand what the advisor had meant about photographing things as I felt others wanted to see them. As the end of semester began to wind down I started focusing more on the multimedia projects I had to do, and writing.
In the final week of classes I received a call from the Oakville Beaver, they had been one of the many places I’d applied for a summer internship with. I had been selected for a working interview of sorts along with two others. So I scheduled a day to come down to the 905 and work for the Beaver for the day. In addition to a job interview I was asked to photograph two assignments as a freelancer, one for the Oakville Beaver and one for the Burlington Post, they both work out of the same office.
The first event was a children’s French ‘rock’ concert with Gregg LeRock, I remembered going to a similar show with a guy named Etienne who had songs like, “Etre is to be not, not, to be…” and other such clever things. The kids seemed to genuinely like it though which was the point after all.
Next I had to hop on the 403 and race to Oakville for a presentation at a local public school about a new energy use and education initiative that was being launched in the region.
A week later I was told I didn’t get the job. Later that afternoon I applied for another job at Inside Toronto another paper owned by the same company. After an interview there and a few more weeks of waiting I was offered a paid-summer internship there.
Starting Monday I expect to be busy for at least the next calendar year. This internship has me working full-time until I start school, then I enter into the most important and competitive parts of the Loyalist program and hopefully that leads to an internship and summer job next summer. All of that is to say I spent the last week watching cheap made-for-tv documentaries on Netflix and playing computer games, biking, reading and generally having a pretty ideal summer break.
Fortunately I have a friend who has agreed to rent me an air mattress in a corner of his bachelor’s apartment near High Park and the Junction. So for two months I’ll be living the dream… of sorts.
So with a new job in hand, motivation, functioning computer and period of artistic burn-out conquered, hopefully I’ll be inclined to blog more regularly. I think the summer’s going to be a good one.
This Loyalist PhotoJ program is pretty intensive…
As of right now I have a few projects ongoing and essentially an assignment due every school day in March. I should clarify this is not me complaining, but rather just me remarking on a fact. Frankly I’m relishing the pace and pressure, although this week (break week) has been a much needed respite. It’s allowed me catch up on homework and sleep, resume blogging and reinstall Civilization IV (because it is better than V).
But I digress…
The week before break week I finally got around to shooting the local OHL team, the Belleville Bulls I timed it so I got to see them play the Ottawa 67’s, the OHL team from the city I lived in for the last several years. I wanted to see the Guelph Storm, but they’re in a different division and don’t play Belleville very much.
The game was good although incredibly high scoring with the Bulls winning 8-5. It was also pretty dirty, a few fights and some nasty penalty-deserving plays in the third period. I’ve never photographed hockey at this level before, really the only practice I had was with the Carleton University Ravens and they’re just not as fast or aggressive as their OHL counterparts. It also gave me the chance to practice in game filing, meaning I shot the first period then found a spot, pulled out my laptop and edited and captioned my pics from the first period before the start of the second.
I spent a lot of time trying to anticipate plays rather than follow the action, goalies make for great places to anticipate.
This photo is missing a few elements to make a good pic for a newspaper, but as just a picture I like it.
At the risk of inundating this blog post with hockey pictures I will cut it off there and continue.
The weekend before I was once again in my adoptive hometown of Ottawa. This time I went to Edge Nightclub, up above Sparks and Bank St. with some friends for a special outdoor drag show. The club is Ottawa’s only gay nightclub, I’m told there are many gays bars and places with a bar/club but Edge is the just nightclub place. It’s also home to one of Ottawa most successful drag queens Icesis Couture.
It was a frigid affair, hosted on Edge’s rooftop patio, you could hear the music two blocks over on Metcalfe St, and the club had put out heaters on the patio, but I would argue there were not enough.
The performance was pretty awesome, although I was told Icesis’ hair was tamer than it normally is…
The day before going to Ottawa Justin Trudeau came to Loyalist College as part of a promotional tour. The college had secretly arranged an emotional presentation for Trudeau, which you can view here, you can also see me in action at the start of the video while he’s walking down the hall. The reason I’m not going to talk about it is I missed the golden moment, I had to leave the presentation early because I had to get to a class, and though for this I would have skipped class I couldn’t really. The week before car trouble had me stranded in Ottawa for a week and I skipped a bunch of classes, following that I felt I couldn’t skip anymore. Plus my teacher’s reaction when I said might be late went like this:
“Hi, so I might be late I’m shooting Trudeau.”
“Yeah… so is everyone else.”
“Get your pics quickly and come to class”
So I left when I thought the thing was almost over, still cutting it close, and while I was in class Trudeau gets presented with a photo and tears up. Again check the link.
During the weekend before while staying at my friend’s place I was able to complete my spot news assignment. I was at his place on Flora St. when I saw on Twitter that a car had flipped on its roof a block away at Bronson. I raced out and snapped some pics of the fire crews righting it and towing it away. I also got a chance to talk to the driver, who was unscathed amazingly. He said he swerved to avoid a car and clipped the edge of the snow bank and then the car flipped.
Stepping back further into January, I skipped school on 28th of January. I don’t normally do that but I was in Ottawa that weekend and I found out there was an Idle No More Day of action on the Monday. I was also buying a car that weekend. So Monday morning I photographed the protest, which was much, much smaller than the one two weeks earlier, then bussed out to South Keys to pick up my fancy not-new ’96 Mazda 626, oh yeah. It runs pretty nicely and I got to test it out driving back to Belleville that night, the snow in the day turned to sleet and freezing rain that night and a 2.5 hour drive became four.
Also that weekend I assisted a friend on an engagement shoot on the Saturday, we were in Alymer Quebec and I noticed tons of ice fishing huts. The next day I came back with my gear to shoot what Loyalist calls ‘feature photos’ basically just a fun photo of things happening. In this case because we had so much leeway I borrowed Loyalists 300mm f/2.8 which is a big obnoxious white lens weighing 2.5kg (5.6 lbs), I also own a 2x teleconverter which doubles the focal length of your lens, so I wandered around with the 600mm and discreetly photographed ice fishers. Our news photography teacher loved the ridiculous telephoto and wanted to know if I’d ever stacked converters, I haven’t yet…
That weekend though I was mostly in Ottawa for Raven’s basketball, I was trying to get four assignments done in one weekend and I succeeded, sports feature, sports action, sequence photo and portfolio. Talk about efficiency, three classes, four assignments in two games.
The second game I was specifically looking for features, so I spent little time shooting the game and more time shooting everything else.
That was the second weekend in Ottawa shooting Ravens basketball, the previous weekend I decided to come up for something to do and ended up doing that. I also managed to double up on another assignment, for news photography we had to shoot a collector for what is known as an ‘environmental portrait,’ basically a person known for something photographed in the context of that something. In this case the something a collection. My friend’s roommate collects ‘physical media’ meaning DVD’s, Books and Comics, and has one big shelf dedicated to each collection, alphabetized, I ended up using the pics for our portfolio class and our lighting class in addition to news photography.
After shooting the portraits I went to Carleton to shake the cobwebs out of my head. It had been a year since I photographed any sports, not including surfing. And frankly I was surprised how quickly I fell back on the saddle. I spent a lot of time watching Dave Smart the coach whose animated coaching style made basketball games during my four years at Carleton that much more entertaining.
That brings me all the way to the week following my last blog post, when Idle No More was still headed off at full steam. There had been a day of action the previous week with thousands of people in the streets and a historic meeting between Indigenous peoples, the Crown and the State. That was followed up with the promise of a day of action and that the next Wednesday blockades would happen all across Canada.
There is a Mohawk reserve, Tyendinaga, near Belleville, it’s where I get my gas (avg $1.20/L) and it is also the location of a CP/CN rail line intersection. I found the whole situation immensely interesting. As photographers and journalists we spent the day trying to figure out where and when this would happen. When we found out where the blockade was we had to walk through back woods trails to get to the intersection. A few falls, bruises and cold, wet feet later we found the blockade, although they were absolutely not happy that we were on their land taking pictures.
This is where I found the situation more interesting, technically the rail lines are federal property, but they run through a reserve. In this case the rail line carries Via passengers from Toronto to Montreal and is a pretty important one, but I understand why the police mostly stood back and watched. As it was the protestors hung around for a few hours and made their point, which was that they have the power to do this, then left and things continued on.
As I mentioned March will be a busy month and April will be a lot of wrpping up. For my part though it was nice to have a few days at least to check out mentally and play Civ, but I think those days are past time to get back to work.
New glass is almost more exciting than new cameras. There’s certainly a greater feeling of permanence, good glass will last for a long a time if its treated well and as long as you use the same lens mount, lens are interchangeable with newer camera bodies.
I generally prefer fixed focal length lenses, the reason is two-fold: speed and weight. Fixed focal lengths are lighter because the don’t have to have the glass or mechanisms in place for zoom lenses. Secondly, the base aperture, or ‘wide open’ is usually much wider on fixed focal lengths.
For example the Canon 135 L f/2 is 7.5″ long (with hood) and weighs 1.6 lbs the Canon 70-200 L f/2.8 is almost a foot long and weighs 3.2 lbs.
The 135 is faster (f/2 is a full stope brighter than f/2.8), lighter at almost half the weight and smaller. The only difference is that you can’t zoom.
So the other day I took a break from studying on campus, wandered down to the Ravens nest and watched some of the game. The basketball court (Ravens Nest) has notoriously poor lighting. Shooting there has been the bane of my existence as a photographer at Carleton. No matter how good my gear, or how on the ball I was that day, or what edits I did, the Ravens Nest’s crappy lighting seems to have always made my photos somewhat bad. For the first time this past weekend, exposure in the Ravens Nest was not difficult.
Afterwards I went back and finished my essay.
Thats for today,
Part one: vol.38 2008-2009, the volunteer
When I first arrived at Carleton University in 2008, I had little to no knowledge of photography. I did, however, have a cheap Canon SLR and some old lenses. On clubs and societies day during frosh week I wrote my name on about 50 sign-up sheets. The one I was most excited about and the only one I have stuck with was the charlatan. My interest in photography started with this:
A simple photo, which said more about the massacre than words ever did. I wanted to take that picture, or the equivalent thereof. The problem was I had absolutely no clue how to get a job as a photographer for a newspaper. It seemed like volunteering at the student-run paper on campus during my time would be a good call.
Field Hockey – Sports
Losing your virginity is a metaphor that I feel transcends boundaries, sexual, eventful, in this case; professional.
I’d already gone on two different photo assignments, however, neither of them had resulted in a published photo. I was growing angry, at myself, at CJ (photo editor 08-09) and my equipment. Id’ gotten into the habit of spending my breaks from work at Roosters in the charlatan office. This came to be how I got most of my first assignments. I came in, CJ was slumped in his chair drinking a red-bull.
“Sup?” he asked.
“Not much, got any photos?” I asked.
“Got a telephoto?” questioned CJ.
“A 75-300mm.” I replied.
With that he passed me a photo request for a women’s field hockey game that weekend.
That Saturday I trekked from Prescott residence to Keith Harris Stadium some 500 metres away. I had a Rebel XT, a tripod and a kit 75-300mm f 5.6 whose autofocus was busted was not functional. I’m not really sure how this photo happened, wither way it was intense, enjoyable – yet not totally satisfying – and over way two quick.
After seeing it in print a week later I decided it was time to get better as a photographer and try this again.
Gulu Walk – National
I didn’t know where the park was, it was off campus… I hadn’t really been off campus before. I google mapped the location, it was only a 10 minute walk. Great. Then came the rain.
It had been a few weeks since my field hockey photo ran and when I had been asked to shoot the Gulu walk I jumped at it. This seemed cool. Basically a bunch of people were going to walk the equivalent distance that child soldiers in Uganda walked to reach amnesty. They do it under the dead of night, usually under threat from the group they’re fleeing. It seemed appropriate that it would at least rain like hell in Ottawa.
My equipment was not weather sealed – at all – and I might have been a bit hung over. However, I followed the walkers until I ran out of space on my memory card.
At the time too, the charlatan was printing small photos on the covers as teasers. I was ecstatic that my photo, although tiny, was featured on the cover.
Inside they’d printed five photos from that day. I was quite pleased.
CERN – News
I read Angels & Demons, I have yet to see the movie though. Thus I was pretty pumped to go see the director general. This one is a short story, I learned how to crouch and take photos, I stalked the Ottawa Citizen photog and I jumped on the shot he set up at the end. This was my first photo for the news section.
Clocktower – Perspectives
I love beer, I like bars, I enjoy learning about how beer is made and I love photography. Those pleasures collided when I was asked to take a portrait for the perspectives section. It was the softest least intense photo assignment I’d done yet. It was kind of nice because for once I wasn’t battling nerves, self-consciousness or equipment limitations.
Patrick took me on a tour of the back room where he brews the beer then we went outside and I took a few photos. It was one of the best ones I did in my first year and the first time the CJ simply said, “Nice!”
In December CJ asked if I would be one of two volunteer web editors. It was a trial run for what is now a tradition. After the last print issue each editor picks one-three volunteers to do their section for an online only edition of the charlatan. I was paired with a guy named Andrew and we split the load. Ours was a fairly eventful issue as OC Transpo went on strike on our production night. The strike would last 85 days and quite frankly piss everyone off, and we kick-started the charlatan’s coverage of it. It’s still available online here.
Taken from Andrew’s facebook he took this photo sitting at the photo desk on production night. From left to right, Angela Walsh news ed, Adam Dietrich photo ed, Joel Eastwood news ed (now e-in-c), Chris Hannay editor in chief and Ryan Price production assistant.
The latter half of that year was an important lesson in deadlines. About two weeks into the winter semester I was asked to take a photo of a movie poster. The night before I was going to do it I stayed awake writing an essay, and was quite frankly too tired to do it. I never called CJ and never gave him a photo. Needless to say he was a little pissed, I got an angry phone call and didn’t seem to be able to get any assignments during that time. In March he pulled me into the CIS Final 8 national basketball tournament. I shot the quarterfinals and my photos never made it to print, but the experience taught me something. I needed to keep doing this stuff. Though I needed to be better.
In mid-march the charlatan host’s their elections for the next ed staff, CJ told me applications were due on Tuesday, they were due on monday, journalism has no remorse for missed deadlines. Although I initially resented Lasia a bit for winning the position by default, vol. 39 (2009-2010) became a very important year.
Part two: vol. 39, the photo-assistant (staff photographer) will be online in a few weeks I think. When I get time.