Category Archives: My Work
Not long ago, I was challenged to photograph a stranger. Someone I don’t know at all. Not hard for a professional right? I photograph people all the time that I don’t know. But this challenge was different, it was to take myself out of my comfort zone, and approach someone out of the blue, to photograph at that moment. This, if you know me at all, is very much out of character for me.
Between appointments last week, I had some time, and while I wasn’t outfitted for it, I was in need of an escape from the city. Christmas break saw my family in Oro, enjoying the snow and clean air found at the side of Lake Simcoe. Returning to Scarborough served to contrast the beauty of where I was, and where I am. Spying a few fishermen on the ice promised a fresh perspective.
When I lived in Port Sydney, there were always fishermen on the ice of Mary Lake, their huts huddled together as though around a camp fire at night. It wasn’t a past-time I understood, but instead was an annual fixture on the lake, blending into the background of my life. This day, on Frenchman’s Bay, would be a good day for a walk on the ice.
It was by a small hole in the ice that I met Ryan and his Colleague Charlie; Sometime co-workers, and friends. Charlie was introduced to fishing on the Rouge by co-workers, and it was with reluctance that he took up the winter past-time of ice fishing. Bundled in thick, one-pice snowsuits and heavy boots, these men patiently showed me some of the ropes of what they do.
“You’ll find everything here” they tell me. Perch and Trout aplenty. “You can fish a whole lake and find nothing, but in one spot you’ll pull them out all day.” Says Charlie. Ryan sets a bait in one hole, then starts another with his Auger. “Mind the Auger” says Charlie, “It’s sharp”. It has to be to cut through 4″ of ice in seconds.
They use some specialized equipment, Ryan has his Fishfinder setup off of a D-cell battery pack and measures the depth to be 7′. “It gets deeper further out.” Says Charlie. He sets his 2 hooks in his own hole a little further out. He has a weight that sits on the bottom, and the hooks are set on the same line far enough apart to avoid them tangling. I talk some with Ryan and find out he’s from downtown Toronto, while Charlie comes from Stouffville. “Tommorrow” he says, “There’ll be 20, 30 guys out here.” Tomorrow would be Saturday. A weekend hotspot, with a community of its own. A common escape from their urban lives, to a different world atop the thin frozen waters that border the city. The men share a little of how they have made new friends on the ice in its own community, and that born into that community is the competitive spirit to catch the most, if not the biggest fish. A ringing of bells causes Charlie to snatch up his rod. “Fish on” I say, using the only bit of fishing lingo I know.
He pulls out a small colourful fish. I make a feeble guess that it’s a small mouth displaying even more ignorance. He laughs, “It’s a perch. Really good to eat, they’re delicious.” He says with energy. “This one’s a couple of french fries.” “You’ll keep it?” I ask. “Oh yah” He says, “They’re really good.” Ryan drops in some more live bait to attract something of his own.
Not long after, I beg my leave. I have to get to another appointment, but my time on the ice has reinvigorated my day. I remember that food comes from many places outside of a grocery store. I remember that only on the doorstep of the city of Toronto, there is found a different world, with men who still know how to sit patiently in the cold, stoic in their resolve to catch the next big one.
In the midst of doing some isolated shots of some concepts and product, my two wonderful kids decided it was their turn to be photographed. While it’s very easy to get tied up in what you’re doing, I have to admit that rarely am I so acutely aware of how blessed I am to be self-employed as a time like this.
If you’ve read any of my blog, you may have noticed that I have had a lot of repair service from Sony. My A900, My CZ 24-70 2.8 and now infamously, my A77 body has seen the Sony Repair Department here in Toronto. Now to be Fair, all of these repairs have been handled through the hands of Henry’s camera store here, either in Scarborough, or Pickering. Items are sent to a central processing in Henry’s to confirm the problem before being sent to Sony for repair.
The bad news with my A77 started the first week of use, when the Sync port popped out of the camera body when removing the sync cord. It was immediately sent off for repair under warranty. When it returned, I took it out for some macro shooting and realized in the process of it being repaired, the AF selector dial on the front of the camera was disconnected inside. (Indicated by the repair notice received on return). I now got to use the camera for a couple of months before the Mic stopped working in Romania. This time the repair went through quickly, only a couple of weeks, but when it returned it was worse than when I sent it out. This time, out of the bubble wrap, at the counter, the LCD screen and AF were unresponsive, and did nothing. It appeared to the staff, and to myself, that the camera was now even worse off than when it had been sent out.
So now I was sitting here with an A77 that had been sent for repair 3 times, and was going out for a 4th repair in 8 months; of which time I had only gotten to use the camera for a couple of months. It was time to bypass Henry’s and contact Sony. There’s nothing quite like holding a repair order that says “cleaned and tested” and a camera whose rear LCD screen is broken. I felt like I had been the subject of a cruel joke.
Sony “quickly” escalated the situation to a service manager, and I received a call 1 week later after calling 3 times. He offered a new camera body, however here was my predicament. I had purchased the extended warranty for the camera, covering it up to 5 years against defect. Now with a new camera body, I would only have the camera warrantied for 2 years. The solution was obvious, just transfer the warranty. Now Henry’s could have done this, but the store manager in Scarborough was unwilling to do so. Sony couldn’t be held to the warranty since they didn’t sell me the warranty. My issue with Sony was their repair department had essentially broken the camera one me, and their service was terrible. My issue with Henry’s was that the manager was unwilling to fix the situation well within his power.
Enter Henry’s head office. Contact with a gentleman from Henry’s head office was via a BCC ‘d email to Sony. The response was within 1 hour I got an email and a call. The next day I was in the store with a brand new A77 and a transferred warranty. Once again, Henry’s warranty has been stellar, and I have to applaud them on it.
Sony on the other hand has lost some of its grace from me. The abismal repair service was not only shameful, but downright ridiculous. It is with a sincere hope that the A77 I had was just a bad body, and that the new one will hold up well. I am not thrilled by the idea of sending it in for repair in the future. I am looking with fascination on the other camera manufacturers out there, and look forward to a split system in the future.
Thanks again Henry’s, you’ve proven to have some excellent staff and Service in Toronto.
Wow, a great trip to Romania with loads of pictures and video. We flew from Toronto to London, long lay over in London before flying to Budapest and driving to Ghioroc. Same route back, but instead of going into London, we hung around Heathrow and visited Windsor Castle on the way back. God is amazing and we saw 20 kids accept Christ. Additionally, it was such a blessing to meet people who’s child accepted Christ at the camp the team ran last year, and now their whole family is saved and were baptized the week before all together. Amazing testimonies of God’s strength and provision from Marcel and Family. Here’s a sample of some of what we saw and did, a ton of editing to do before this project is wrapped up:
Looking for a Portable solution for video interviews and other convenient purposes, I was intrigued by these LED panels that you can get. So to try it out for the first time, and on a budget, I picked up a couple of 126 LED panels from China for a total of ~$40 each. At that cost, I figure I can try a few of them and still be ahead whether they work or not.
Here’s a frame pulled from a first test. Key light in line with face, background light behind subject to camera left. Both have dimmers on them making ratios a breeze and they run off of the same batteries as my Sony camera bodies, so no extra kinds of batteries to fuss over.
Hopefully I can run some tests to see the battery stamina and if they last under working conditions.
At some point, every enthusiast, and thereby every professional photographer, experiments with unusual techniques. Given some inspiration from Alex Koloskov’s Mastering Splash, I finally got around to playing with some splash.
I shot 2 different ways here. Shooting traditionally with the A900, high speed sync and 4 flashes, and then I cheated one with 60fps HD video out of the A65. You can tell. It’s not bad though, for web use I can get away with it for some ideas, that is until web browsing moves into the HD era.
Studio space was a mess with water everywhere, food colouring all over my hands… So much fun. I can’t wait to integrate some of this into some other projects.
Sadly, yesterday I tried to shoot some macro with my A77. To my dismay I could not get it to disengage the auto-focus drive from my Tamron 90mm 2.8. The front auto-focus mode dial did absolutely nothing. I tried 4 lenses, and a firmware reboot and the dial continued to be unresponsive. Fortunately I did figure out a work-around since the AF/MF toggle on the back of the body continued to work. For those of you following my epic string of Sony fail, here’s the tally.
A77 – (~5 months old)
1- Sync port pulled out of body, warranty
2- Unresponsive AF mode dial
4-Damaged by repair dept at Sony – LCD screen, AF, etc…
1- New body when issues with WB and underexposure (~2 weeks old)
2- Sync port and USB port failure, repaired (~2 years old)
3- Mirror/Shutter assembly failed, New body (~3 years old)
CZ 24-70 2.8
1- Lens barrel loosened, repaired (~2 years old)
2- AF toggle switch fell out, still away for repair (~ 3.5 years old)
Now the CZ has had ~ 100,000 shots through it and I work my equipment everyday. I still think my equipment has performed well, when it’s working. But seriously reconsidering the A77/A65 with the number of issues I’ve had with it. Am I unusually blessed with bad luck with this thing? We’ll see. If someone knows a magical switch I turned to deactivate it, please let me know!
Here’s one of the macros:
So here I am back from Romania and once again my A77 is being sent in for Warranty issues. The audio on the A77 went while shooting an interview in a car between Ghioroc and Arad Romania. Fortunately I had my A65 there as a backup and could finish shooting for the week, but I lost audio for a pretty sweet interview from Stelu. There is a slight audio signal if you crank the volume in post, but it is accompanied by a hiss and beeping from the camera cranking its autogain to try and pick up a signal. What a bummer, tried a hardware reset in a few different ways as recommended online but no cigar. So this is warranty repair #3 since November. Shame really, I hope this is just a screwy body and not indicative of the rest of the A77′s out there.
Another UPDATE August 2, 2012
So I got a call to pick up my A77 from repair. Before leaving the store, I always put a battery in and a memory card to test it, to save time in case there’s a problem. Well what do you know, the LCD screen doesn’t work and the autofocus isn’t working. So I send in a camera with one problem, and get the camera back with more problems? What is up Sony? Do you even test the camera before sending it back “fixed”? Needless to say, it is on its way back to Sony AGAIN.
Working with the Sanfilippo Children’s Research Foundation a little this past couple of weeks. The Linton family and their cause is one held close to my heart, and the hearts of the climbers who are going out to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The climb is to raise awareness for the research foundation, and specifically with the goal of moving closer to human testing for a cure. Please check out http://www.alifeforelisa.org/home%20page where you can learn more about the Sanfilippo syndrome and how you can help find a cure.
Some of my work has put the A77 to work for video and some stills as well. Here’s a sample with the 16-50mm 2.8 kit lens.
And with some processing:
Cell phones are everywhere today. Everyone seems to have one. I can’t imagine why a grade 6 child needs a cellphone, but some parent somewhere decided to give in and get them one. Of the many functions on a cellphone, the one that I confess has been a point of ridicule in my life, is the pathetic excuse for a camera that has been plugged into my mobile communications device. To me, a phone is a phone. I don’t need the bells and whistles, particularly the ones that don’t work well. It’s the classic paradigm of rather having one device that does one thing really well, than have one device that does nothing well.
You can imagine my thoughts when I opened a National Geographic camera guide and found an entire chapter dedicated to cell-phone photography. ”Are you serious?” I thought. I have to admit however that since viewing the imperfections of my cell-phone camera as an artistic choice, I have had a lot more fun with it that I expected. Probably the most useful aspects is as an aid to my hyper-visual memory. I can create visual cues that trigger a part of my memory to recall and enhance an idea.
For instance, I am on the road a lot, traveling around the GTA to various photoshoots. I see a lot of the city and its people. Often times I see things that make me shake my head and say “What were you thinking?”
Other things that make you want to go back a find out what the story is.
Something creative that just speaks to you.
And other things that strike you as a great concept you want to shoot.
It’s the portability and the everpresence of my phone that makes it useful as a memory stimulus. I doubt I’ll be printing anything from its little camera anytime soon, but it has become a useful contributor to my workflow, carrying inspiration and recording ideas rather than pixels.