Monday, December 20, 2010

The Munk Debates: Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair

A must-listen-to podcast between Hitchens (author and atheist) and Blair (former British PM and recent convert to Catholicism) on religion.
"Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes us objects, in a cruel experiment, whereby we are created sick, and commanded to be well,... And over us, to supervise this, is installed a celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea … Salvation is offered at the low price of the surrender of your critical faculties.”
“It is undoubtedly true that people commit horrific acts of evil in the name of religion. It is also undoubtedly true that people do acts of extraordinary common good inspired by religion. Almost half the healthcare in Africa is delivered by faith-based organisations, saving millions of lives. A quarter of worldwide HIV/AIDS care is provided by Catholic organisations. There is the fantastic work of Muslims and Jewish relief organisations . . . So the proposition that religion is unadulterated poison is unsustainable. It can be destructive, it can also create a deep well of compassion, and frequently does.”
The memorable phrase I took away from this debate Is "... the sheer force of logic."

iPhone Diaries #279: "creative ways for funding photo gear"

Photo District News, Dec 2010. Photographed at the Food Court, Stone Road Mall, Guelph. Dec 19th.

iPhone Diaries #278: "Hear, hear!"

How about 50? Chapters, Guelph. Dec19th.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

iPhone Diaries #275: "The University of Guelph Cannon"

Old Jeremiah. See a previous blog entry at:
Dec 11th.

iPhone Diaries #274: "A tree of many colours"

Observed while on a run through the U of Guelph Campus. Dec 11th.

iPhone Diaries #273: "Mouse with a new lease on life"

Just released this mouse outside the house after it spent most of the night being chased by and toyed with by Moxie and Belle (our two cats). Remarkably, other than being drenched in cat drool, this mouse was unharmed. Just goes to illustrate the fact that contrary to popular mythology, cats and mice aren't sworn enemies. Mind you,  if our cats weren't regularly fed, the outcome would have been different.
Dec 11th.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

iPhone Diaries #272: "Cold ducks on a frozen lake, on being creative and the futility of it all"

It's a slow drive along Lakeshore West (Jameson Bridge still undergoing renovation) and Lake Ontario looks frozen still in this -15 Celsius morning. Might as well get off the road and spend a few minutes to take in the view.
And then you notice these ducks, lots of them, hardly moving, seemingly immobilized by the cold, the lake not quite frozen.
And this got me to thinking about what we are all about, in a cosmic sense... the absurdity of our existense. Sure, we can delude ourselves on our self-importance (religion), and immerse ourselves narcissistically in the minutae of our daily lives (and tell the world about it on Facebook). Unfortunately, as a group, we will focus our attention on the supposed failings of others, in order to deflect attention away from our own inadequacies.
We all try not to look at the big picture...we purposely subconsciously miss the forest for the trees. Because if we really look at the forest, I'm afraid we will see that we are not that important in the whole scheme of things.
You know what will make us feel good about ourselves? How does one attain some measure of significance in this huge void? I would guess by being nice and kind to our fellow denizens! By  rejoicing in the small victories that come with raising families and on personal, work, and school achievements, no matter how small! By taking in and appreciating the beauty around us!  By being  creative!
The Toronto skyline as seen from Lakeshore near Ellis. Dec 9th.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I think this is a beautiful word to say out loud... the way the British pronounce it (frak-ah).
It's a noun meaning a noisy, disorderly disturbance or fight; a riotous brawl; an uproar. Try using it instead of the f-off word.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

iPhone Diaries #269: "Off of its moorings...unhinged"

Elm and Elizabeth Streets. Dec 2nd.

Will that be a chicken shawarma? with artwork? to go?

Due to popular demand, the best Shawarma place in Guelph will now have a limited selection of my photo works available for sale, by special order only.
It started out with my offer to decorate the walls of the restaurant with pictures depicting Guelph, particularly downtown Guelph. Mani and Bal, the proprietors are down-to-earth folks who offer the best shawarma I have ever tasted this side of Beirut, at a very reasonable price and with a smile! They were kind enough to say YES to my offer!
Comments on my photos have been unanimously favourable, and inquiries have come in as to their availability for sale. Starting on Monday, December 6th, a portfolio will be available...just ask either Mani or Bal for it. Prints up to 13x19 may be ordered and the prints will be ready in 3 days,  unframed.
The prints will be very, very, reasonably-priced. It is my philosophy that artworks should be viewed (and/or owned) by as wide a circle of  people as possible. Life is short...enjoy the view while we can!

User review: Canon Pixma PRO9000 Mark II inkjet printer

What's a photographer to do when a client orders a 4"x6" from each of 600 files. Especially when a machine-print from either Costco,  Vistek or Henrys just won't do. So I suggested inkjet prints... more expensive than machine prints but guaranteed to look like the files as viewed on the computer screen. I was given the go-ahead shortly thereafter.

I can regurgitate the printer specifications and features but it would be more efficient for you to go to the Canon website as well as the various other websites with their reviews. Here is my layman's user review showing the cost per print as well as the image quality.

The printer cost $299 at Henrys, down from the regular price of $499. I also got the inks from Henrys at $19.95 ($26 at Future Shop). Epson Premium 4"x6" Photo Paper was $19 at Henrys ($25 at Staples). As luck would have it (for ease-of-calculation purposes), I printed exactly 600 - 4"x6" and used exactly 10 cartridges: 2-Yellows, 2-Magentas, 2-Photo Magentas, 2-Blacks, 1-Cyan, 1-Photo Cyan. The Red and Green cartridges were barely touched.

In summary, a 4x6 print on this Canon printer cost $0.533 in materials (ink and paper only). A Costco print would have cost $0.20.

The Canon Pixma PRO9000Mk2 is a dye-based printer, with the archival print-life surpassing by a wide margin the life of chromogenic (traditional photo) prints; approx. 80 years vs 22 years. Pigment-based printers (from Epson) are rated for 100+ years. Of course, the actual life of a print depends on several factors such as ink-and-paper combination, and atmospheric and storage conditions.

Image quality, based on default settings, is amazing! Colours tend to be more saturated than Epson (pigment-based) prints and the blacks aren't as nuanced as, for example, Epson 3800 prints. After all, this Canon has 1 Black cartridge while the Epson 3800 has 3 Blacks (Photo Black, Light Black, Light Light Black).

Speaking of inks, dye-based inks are water soluble (as opposed to the discrete globules of pigment-based inks). It stands to reason that nozzle heads are less prone to clogging, particularly after long idle periods. One notable feature on this Canon is that it has a user-removable print head. Since the print head is the one of the first items to malfunction, this is a welcome feature!

I haven't done side-by-side speed tests but the Canon is slightly faster. As far as costs are concerned, an equivalent Epson printer costs almost twice as much. The inks also cost significantly more.

I'm very happy with this printer (and so was the client). This one job alone paid for the printer...and then some.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

iPhone Diaries - a description

A back-to-basics, less-is-more, photographic project. As photographers, we are inundated (and jaded) by the plethora of digital devices, the latest ones promising (but not delivering the goods) more megapixels and the latest super-ultra-extreme-XLT processor to (potentially) allow everyone to be the best photographer that they could be.

The most popular camera used by Flickr uploaders is the cameraphone (the Canon Rebel Series comes in second). For me, using my cameraphone is an exercise in purging the mind of clutter, as well as in actually shooting on a regular basis, as opposed to "binge" shooting (1600+ clicks on a typical wedding). The limitations imposed by the cameraphone (low resolution, fixed lens, severely reduced dynamic range) forces me to work within these parameters. For example, I have to use my feet to compose the image; I don't have a zoom lens. I am now a slave to how the camera thinks; I can't adjust the exposure to suit my needs. This is the digital Polaroid.

The best camera in the world is the camera that you have with you and that you actually use. The best advise for the "artist" is to practice their craft on a consistent basis. Sketch if you're a painter, sculpt if you're a sculptor, shoot if you're a photographer.

So I leave the 21MP FF Canon with the L lenses at home; I use my iPhone whenever I can.

iPhone Diaries #268: "Toronto City Hall"

A wet and chilly Tuesday night. Nov 30th.

iPhone Diaries #267: "Yumms"

Fish and chips...
Onion rings, and...
the Lady in front of me. To go.
Queen Street/City Hall. Nov 30th.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Toronto, Nov 22nd.

A rainy morning in T.O.

On Bremner Street,  Nov 22nd. Canon 40D, Tamron 17-50f2.8

Moxie and Belle

Last Friday, a kitten/cat, henceforth named Belle (or if Liam has his way, Ginger), sauntered into our lives. We will do due diligence and post notes all over the neighbourhood (done) and will phone the local Humane Society (hesitating to do). This is now familiar territory to us; this has happened before:
Moxie (on the right), is establishing the house rules with Belle (on the left). More pics at:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

2010 Santa Claus Parade in Guelph

What's a Canadian Santa Claus Parade without clowns, the Legion, and bagpipes?
(Answer: It's not a proper parade)
Didn't hang around for Santa...he was at the tail end of the parade...and it was a bone-chilling afternoon. Macdonell Street, Guelph. Nov 21st. 
Olympus E1, 14-54f2.8-3.5

Goodbye Full Frame, Hello APS-C

Fell in love with the 60D, sold my 5D2.
I was an early advocate of full frame (FF) sensors (I had one of the first 5D1s in Canada, Oct 2005...had to be shipped in from the U.S.). There's nothing like big deep wells to soak in the light. Smooth and creamy tones, with a dynamic range previously unheard of. I went through two shutters on that 5D1. Sold the 5D1 for a 5D2.
And now the 60D. Articulating screen, clean ISO1600 files, manual audio for video, 24P, 30P, 720-60P, full HD, and way better low-light AF than the 5D2. Less expensive and lighter lenses.
I always knew that FF was overkill for shooting weddings and events ( 2005, the alternative was a 10MP camera with a rudimentary processing engine). Kind of like the old days of having to get a 5.0L V8 Mustang because size was equated with speed and power.
Nowadays, current APS-C cameras such as the D7000, K-5, T2i, E-5 have finely tuned processing engines and  highly-developed sensors...kind of  the equivalent of 1.8L 4-cylinder Acuras that will leave Mustangs and Corvettes behind. 
Of course, finances is always a concern. I got a relatively inexpensive Tokina 11-16f2.8 and a Tamron 17-50F2.8; both lenses are super-sharp (with just a touch of chromatic aberration on the wide-end on the Tokina at f2.8). A bonus is that the lighter weight of these lenses help alleviate the occasional bout of sciatica.
So goodbye full frame, hello APS-C!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Capturing the essence of being a Filipino...and the Pacquiao phenomenon.

He may be a boxing phenomenon but his personal attributes, as "un-average" as it may be to most people, is  typically Filipino. Filipinos already know this, first-generation Filipinos living outside of the Philipines know this, even non-Filipino spouses of Filipinos  know this. This article is a must-read for understanding the phenomenon that is Manny Pacquiao.
It has taken a non-Filipino (Michael D. Sellers) to make this observation; but that's okay, sometimes one has to be removed from a situation to appreciate the situation.
many thanks to my friend Rolly for pointing out this article.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In Mark Twain's words.

From a review by Shelley Fisher Fishkin (in the Globe & Mail, 13nov2010) of Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, Edited by Harriet Elinor Smith, University of California Press.
(The University of California presents a version that preserves Twain's dictations as he left them, a huge volume of recollections arranged not chronologically but rather as they came to mind, ranging from his earliest memories to his last years. Seattle Times)

Reading this book is a bit like sitting at the breakfast table alongside Mark Twain as he fulminates excitedly about what he has just read in the morning paper. Take his comments on the massacre of Muslim Filipinos by U.S. troops on March 12, 1906: Twain quotes the president's cable to the commanding U.S. officer: "I congratulate you and the officers and men of your command upon the brilliant feat of arms wherein you and they so well upheld the honor of the American flag."
Twain writes that Roosevelt "knew perfectly well that to pen six hundred helpless and weaponless savages in a hole like rats in a trap and massacre them in detail during a stretch of a day and a half, from a safe position on the heights above, was no brilliant feat of arms - and would not have been a brilliant feat of arms even if Christian America, represented by its salaried soldiers, had shot them down with Bibles and the Golden Rule instead of bullets. He knew perfectly well that our uniformed assassins had not upheld the honor of the American flag, but had done as they have been doing...for eight years in the Philippines - that is to say, they had dishonored it."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

iPhone Diaries #259: "Yellow hydrant"

In front of 123 Edward Street, this morning, Nov 11th.

Whose wedding is it anyway? Notes on shooting Stills alongside DSLR video guys.

3 videographers, at least 5 Canon EOS video-capable DSLRs (mostly 7D's), fast and heavy lenses, several heavy-duty "you-don't-get-this-at-Black's" tripods and monopods, stabilizers, supports, halogen/tungsten lights (+ light stands, cords), assorted bags and cases, a Macbook Pro, a hugh screen.

This was the crew and equipment from Static Movement (not their real name), a video production company that proclaims on its website that "... our work is as much about the process as it is about the imagery itself...".  With its use of bright lights, heavy gear, and the innate need for choreography, subtlety/discretion and videography are oxymorons at the best of times; in this case, the pursuit of a cinema-quality product to impress the client, as well as a marketing tool to attract future clients (at the expense of disturbing the solemnity of the current atmosphere) results in a situation where the obvious question arises: "Whose wedding is it anyway?'

And so for the next 10 hours, as Stills photographers, my colleague and I would be working alongside this team who jumped in and lingered in front of, our shots, forbade us from crossing their lines of sights, shone ghastly lights on people's faces, created a pile of bags and equipment in a most obvious spot, and who were, on the whole, arrogant, boorish and impolite (at least to us fellow pros).

Admittedly, it is not easy shooting video to the EXCELLENT  standards of Static Movement. Even more so under the intense pressure to present a short video 9 hours after the start of shooting: a video that would not look out of place on MTV. Well shot (lots of close-ups; hence the video guy getting in front of me, the Stills guy), clever editing (short, short clips), set to loud music,  and with a semi-coherent  storyline, the video appeals to the current taste of a generation with short attention spans. It's like fireworks or fast food: instant gratification folllowed by an empty aftertaste.
(This is my personal opinion of the video presented at the wedding...I have no doubt that the final product given to the client days after the wedding will be a super, superior video; Static Movement has an excellent reputation in the industry.)

But hey, I'm not the client and as a professional who desires to deliver quality images under any circumstance,  I'll do better than "the best I can". But let me ask this question:

Whose wedding is it anyway?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The soaring price of sugar.

On the front page of the Report on Business Section of today's Globe and Mail, is a report on the rising prices of commodities, per cent change, year to date: Sugar has the fourth highest change at +57.3 (by comparison, coffee is at +52.0, gold is at +26.9, crude oil is at +2.1).
Let's hope the added value of sugar trickles down to the long-suffering sugar planters of Negros. But more likely, the money will go to the sugar monopolies!
For a primer on the history and current state of sugar, check out:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

iPhone Diaries #258: "Halloween in two cultures"

prelude to a carving - pumpkin with the top off
It was quite a surprise to me, coming from the Philippines, observing the way Halloween is observed in Canada. We are all too familiar with the October 31st ritual: for adults in the workplace, getting dressed up in costumes and for children, getting dressed up in school and at sundown, going trick-or-treating. It's great for the costume-makers and the Nestle/Cadbury/Mars conglomerates. I don't think I'll hear the kids complaining about the situation.

It's a more sombre observance (celebration?) in the Philippines. October 31st is All-Souls' Day, and the day is devoted to remembering deceased relatives and celebrating their memories. There is the visit to the cemetery(-ies), meeting relatives and friends (live ones), and a stop for refreshments (bud-budpan de sal and Coke). Cemeteries are fascinating places; Philippine cemeteries are not the neat affairs familiar to Canadians. Jammed full of tombs (cremation is unusual in Roman Catholic Philippines), overgrown with weeds between tombs, some decades-old sunken tombs revealing bleached bones. Tropical weather has a distinct effect on cemeteries. On arrival at the house, a small bonfire is lit in the backyard where the kids would jump over and around the fire so that the spirits of our ancestors who have attached themselves to our bodies may ride the bonfire smoke as it rises to the heavens. There would be night/midnight service later on.

On the following link is an image of one of the smaller family-owned cemeteries. The cemetery I am refering to above "houses" thousands more.

Monday, October 25, 2010

October Poetry Slam at the eBar on 41 Quebec Street, Guelph

Awesome vibes at the eBar amidst poets and optimists! Many thanks to Beth Anne and company for allowing me this opportunity to start honing my latent video skills while sitting in rapt attention to the mesmerizing words of word-crafts persons. Shot with both 5D2 and 60D, edited in iMovie'09. (I would use a tripod more often...either a GlideCam or a SteadyCam would also have helped.)
Details and video clips at:
(There should be a total of 16 videos...uploading is so slow that it may be another week before all the clips are up).
Looking forward to the next Poetry Slam at the eBar on Nov 20th! For more details, check out: