Saturday, October 29, 2011

iPhone Diaries #428: "Hostas on the front yard"

Hostas, a boring drab green and white in the summer, "come to life" in the fall, exploding in colours as the leaves "die down" for the winter. Hostas on the front yard ringed with frost.
Autumn is like an old book;
Marred spines turn mean yellow,
staples rust red-orange.

Every stained page is stressed
by a splat of color. Rough-red
like an old tavern,

we become hungry birds
and prepared for fall.
Shape and shadow are candied citron

as a lantern turns bitter yellow. Autumn
is a red fox, a goblet filled with dark wine,
a hot chilli pepper with smoky eyes.

Pressed leaves take in the colors
of seafood paella and saffron; these leaves
are like death, climaxing with a smile.

Autumn: her dress is a net of mussels;
dark shelled, it covers up
summer's weatherbeaten body.

So pull out your boots
and stand on an aged, wood floor
like an evergreen.
"Autumn" by Mary Hamrick
                                              Oct 29th.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Maestros of the Bar

No rehearsal, spur-of-the-moment performance behind the bar at the Grand Luxe on Bayview. Flaming lighter fluid on the counter, vodka pouring down bulls-eye on the glasses. It was all over in 20 seconds! Ephemeral! Oct 21st.
Canon 60D, Tamron 17-50f2.8 (busted zoom ring so it's treated like a prime lens, push-pulling on the lens barrel for the right focal length... but still as sharp as any Leica lens around), ISO1600, 1/20@f2.8.

Monday, October 24, 2011

iPhone Diaries #427: "The Emma-Rose Fund's Biennial Fundraising Gala with Grenville Pinto on violin."

Grenville Pinto on violin in performance at the biennial fundraising gala for the Emma-Rose Fund. It is always a privilege to devote one's talent to a worthy cause. Additional photos still being processed; check the Emma-Rose Fund website for more details. Oct 21st.

A gift of flowers

A most beautiful gift! Oct 23rd.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tell me something...

from Adbusters, Nov/Dec2011
... if you only had a loaf of bread, a brick of cheese, and 2 litres of water to last you a whole week, would you eat and drink it all in the first 3 days?
Well, it seems to me that we are drilling oil and scraping the tar sands as fast as we technologically can to take it to market. We (the industry) cheer if the price of oil goes up because then it's "economically feasible" to drill and scrape some more. "Economically feasible" for whom?
It's a limited resource, crude oil, one that's taken millions of years to come to being and will be burned off in less than a hundred years. A litre of gasoline, refined from a few litres of crude oil (millions of years in the making) may be used up in a few minutes, by a car driving to the local store for a loaf of bread.
Sure, most of us don't own shares in the oil companies (directly maybe not, indirectly, for sure yes through investments by pension funds, for example) but do they have the right to deprive future generations of this resource for the sake of satisfying shareholders quarterly expectations? Are we as Canadians responsible for keeping the Gulf area refineries running? Are we responsible for employing tens of thousands of people in the six U.S States that the Keystone pipeline will have to go through? Are we responsible for keeping the lights of Las Vegas on? How do we respond to the landowners along the pipeline route who are against this pipeline, for a variety of very valid reasons? How do we respond to the real concerns of First Nations groups whose land will be forever devastated by this resource extraction?
Haven't we learned our lessons from the past? Or are we going through another bout of collective amnesia, driven by  very, very short term goals.
If this is the free-market, supply-and-demand capitalism that we seem to worship, then it's time to find another altar to bow down to.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Foodstock 2011: "Stop the Mega Quarry!"

Sarah Harmer backstage; one of many performing for the cause...
 people streaming in towards the eats in the woodlot  and the performers' stage on the open field...
 one of the local farmers...
one of the food stalls in the woods...
and what it's all about.
If you had an aerial view of  the intersection of Hwy 124 and Sideroad 25 in Melancthon, you would see ant-like processions of people from the roads, through the fields, and through the almost-totally leafless woodlots.  Notwithstanding the seasonally-low temperatures, the brisk highland winds (the area is the highest point in Ontario), and the wind-driven rain in the latter half of the Event, 30,000-plus brave souls attended Foodstock 2011
It was very well-organized, the "bring-your-boots-and-prepare-for-cold-and-rain" advise was well-advised, the Chefs provided an excellent sampling of what's available, the speeches by the area First Nations' Chiefs were truly inspirational, and the musicians were exceptional!
I am so glad I attended with two of my sons, and I am very happy for the families, muddy-strollers and sore backpackers all, who took part in a worthy cause. I'm very disappointed, upset even, at the lack of representation from visible minorities (I saw 2 people of colour, not counting the great turnout from the First Nations). I would also hope that church and religious communities participated in this Event (you can't leave it to our gods to do everything).
In a world where farmland is disappearing at a frightening pace, when our food is being shipped, trucked, and flown from all over the world, it amazes me when we allow one of the best farmlands in Canada, so close to Toronto, to be dug up by an entity which is responsible only to its shareholders, and not to the area.
Olympus E-330, 14-45, 40-150, a 7.5 megapixel dinosaur when it comes to digital. Oct 16th.

Friday, October 14, 2011


photo courtesy of Facit Light & Abeer Khoury (Occupy Wall Street)
Let's all amuse ourselves on celebrity mags, cheap (we'll face the music later) credit  so we can gorge on non-essential cheap disposable Walmart stuff, reality TV, choreographed  news, and other opiates for the masses. 
Let's consume while exporting our pollution (and complain later when it comes back to haunt us), plunder the Commons while we can, and believe in our god-given right to be better than everyone and everything else. (god is on our side, right?)
Collective denial rules the day and soon there'll be hell to pay.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gloating over the Blackberry

Why in the world would anybody gloat over the current (temporary) technical misfortunes of the Blackberry? For the majority of Blackberry users, their smartphone is a tool of their trade (doctors, scientists, engineers, law enforcement people), which I suspect is not the same as for a major percentage  of the users of most other smartphone brands (fashion accessory/tool-of-trade/bragging-rights) such as the iPhone and Android types. I mean, seriously, does upgrading to the iPhone 4s from the 3Gs increase your worth to society?
Would one gloat over another person's smaller house,  broken-on-the-side-of-the-road car, older outfit?
Is one's world so insignificant  that one has to resort to gloating over a misfortune in order to rise above everyone else?
(for the record, I have an iPhone)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

iPhone Diaries #426: "rainy night and hot comfort"

With an hour to spare before the 8 o'clock bus (working late) on a wet dreary Toronto night, I decided to sneak in to the bookstore on Edward Street for a book on sale...
to read over a hot Vietnamese meal.
On the Greyhound, a fellow passenger and her reflection. Oct 12th.

George Carlin: He knew what he was talking about!

The Real Owners Of America
"The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they're an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They've long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They've got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They've got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying ­ lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else." 
"But I'll tell you what they don't want.  They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They're not interested in that. That doesn't help them. That's against their interests. They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they're getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. 
"You know what they want? Obedient workers ­ people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they're coming for your Social Security. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all, sooner or later, because they own this fucking place. It's a big club, and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the big club."
"This country is finished."

What's with students lounging around in the coffee shops?

Last night, my wife and I were looking for some quiet time over a hot mug of tea.
First we went to Starbucks on Clair, where we couldn't find a place to sit. The whole place was full of young people using the place as if it was a frat lounge: overstaying the unspoken allotted time to sip a cup of coffee, using the free wifi to browse the internet, and spreading their study materials to do school work. Heck, some of them looked like they were in their pajamas.
Not finding a place to sit down, we went to William's Coffee on Stone. It is a bigger place and just as crowded as Starbucks and although we were able to find a seat, we couldn't stay for too long. The noise from the mostly young crowd was unbearable. Most of the students didn't even bother to pretend buying a cup of coffee! ( I feel bad using Tim's washroom without buying a doughnut!)
Here are some suggestions to drive non-paying "young" people away.  Cut out the wi-fi or at least charge for it. If this doesn't work, play some mediocre waltz or any other un-cool music.
I have to admit that when we went to Paris a few years ago, we only paid for a Coke, albeit an expensive one, just to be able to sit for awhile admiring the view.

Occupy Wall Street (NOT the American Spring)

Occupy Wall Street is an American protest inspired by the recent 3-year economic downturn, not by decades of abuse and hardships at the hands of dictatorial regimes (Arab Spring).  It "grew out of a call by Adbusters, a Vancouver-based activist network which boasts a mission to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we live" (Voice of America News, 13oct2011).
Well, it's about time the youth are enraged enough to get engaged in the socio-economic-political process!
(It takes Adbusters, Canadian, to get things moving, eh?)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

iPhone Diaries #425: "You are awesome"

You know who you are. Macalister Park, Oct 10th.

iPhone Diaries #424: "poetry on a park bench"

The lights and sounds, oh god, this is such a mess
It's like our world, but we're the last ones left
the hair it stands on the backs of our necks
And I swear it shows heaven will be just like this...

Monday, October 10, 2011

IPhone Diaries #423: "Ruudi's Thanksgiving"

If Ruudi could articulate his thoughts, he would be thankful for:
a great run and a delicious treat in the park on a gorgeous Thanksgiving weekend, and
his "place in the sun". Oct 10th.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Nine things you didn't know about Steve Jobs

he went with his flow, not with the flow.

Sarah Harmer and the mega quarry

Please sign the petition to stop the mega quarry. This quarry is Ontario's Tar Sands without the spin-off benefits!
She'll also be performing at a Stop the Mega Quarry rally in Honeywood, Ontario, along with Ron Sexsmith, Jim Cuddy, Cuff the Duke, Hayden, etc. on Oct 16th.

Electricity and its apps, Facebook, deer with guns.

(I thought the blog entry title would peak your curiosity)
I attended (photographed) a conference yesterday on Marketing in the Digital World and I learned (or confirmed, with facts and statistics, things which were intuitively logical to me) a thing or two.
I learned, by way of comparison, that electricity was a tool that didn't "take off" immediately; most people didn't know what to do with until its first apps were invented: incandescent bulb, oven, toaster.
We've always had newfangled tools at our disposal; they don't become popular until human behaviour is altered in favour of using those tools.
Facebook is replaceable; as a social medium, it has outlived others such as GeoCities, MySpace. It's longevity has to do with the emotional cost of moving to another media. Whereas moving to another email service merely involves informing everyone on your contact list of your new email address, moving from Facebook involves, potentially, breaking off "friendships".
In today's digital market, where supermarket customers can scan QR codes on the spot for price/quality comparisons, the customer has become the "deer with guns in the woods".
Just some of many that I learned yesterday.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Better B&W from colour digital files

Original colour file. On a country road in the Philippines, July 2011. Click on the photo to enlarge.
Grayscale conversion in Photoshop. Skin tones have the same value as green vegetation and the bluish-gray mountains in the background. Low contrast results in a "blaah" image. Click on the photo to enlarge.
Grayscale conversion in ACR. Skin tones are now differentiated from the vegetation and the mountains. Global changes; no localized burning and dodging.  Greater tonal range for a more dramatic look. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Needless to say, a "successful" image is not so much technique as it is a blend of technique and composition. Composition in B&W involves pre-visualization, taking the time (speeded up in the brain, of course, as the decisive moment(s)  are split-second occurence(s), to think through the scene and imagining what the final image is meant to look in its final form, and more critically, all the steps that the image will go through to produce that final image. This is very important because the end result, this "previsualized image", will determine how the image will be shot (which camera, lens and settings to use, flash, filter options, from which point of view, how Photoshop and/or ACR is used, etc). 
Nothing happens by chance; if it seems it does (did), it only seems that way.

My "aha!" moment in Photoshop

At the risk of sounding boastful, I used to (still think I can, with the right tools) "make a B&W negative sing in the darkroom", to paraphrase Ansel Adams' famous quote: "the negative is the score, the print is the performance". With the advent of digital cameras and printers, I couldn't duplicate or replicate my darkroom expertise, until yesterday! The early digital cameras, in my case the pro quality Nikon D100, did not have sensors and processing engines with a decent dynamic range. When the full frame Canon 5D finally got it right, printer technology could not deliver black Blacks, white Whites, and everything in-between.
When Epson introduced two-black pigment printers (the state of the art is now three-blacks, two-cyans, two-magentas), it seemed that the final hurdle to classic B&W had been achieved. Well, it has been, but not for me, until yesterday.
I envy, and admire, B&W prints that have that Adams-Weston-Paul Caponigro-John Sexton look and feel to them. And I could never achieve them, until yesterday.
Suffice to say that my processing technique involves the principles of channel mixing, and highlight/shadow adjustments in ACR, followed by, if need be, manipulation in Photoshop. The good news is, and this was a surprise to me, is that ACR is sufficient, most of the time.
Of course, processing technique is insufficient; the image itself has to have been exposed with a view to prioritizing tonal values (sadly, the push/pull, pull/push available in film is not available). AND, OF COURSE, composition remains the heart of an image.
I will post samples when I get to my laptop (I'm writing this on an iPhone).
AND, I will revisit some of the thousands of images and mine them for their potential, once again.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

(not my) iPhone Diary

for the first time on my blog, I am entering an iPhone diary that is not of my making. "Budapest" is by Michael Prince, shot and edited entirely on an iPhone4.