Where There Are Trees



Greetings pupils!

I have just finished a photo essay on Trees in Toronto.

I designed the most interesting way I could find to display it, so you can find it at


There are many ways to present a photo essay, but I really like this way because the images engulf your screen. So let me know what you think and be sure to scroll all the way down to the google map of the locations of the trees.


alone in the city


The city can provide small pockets of solitude in amoungst the busy streets. Sound wise, it is never silent, there are no hiding places. But visually, you can find moments and places where it’s all nature, all you and the woods and the rivers and lakes.

nice wide aperature really makes this mushroom pop

nice wide aperture really makes this mushroom pop

Right next to Cawthra, one of the busiest streets in Mississauga, there is an outdoor sanctuary behind St. Maximillian. You can hear the busy street compete with the birds for sonic dominance. But to look around, the trees block out all of the reminders that your immersed in suburban living. Images of Christ’s crucifixion, the stations of the cross dot this beautiful manufactured landscape.

This is a literal sanctuary. The metaphor of sanctuary is a widely used device to describe nature, especially the prescribed bits of nature we place in cities to provide escape from the constant barrage of brick, steel, and concrete.

exposure was hard to compensate on this one. I wanted the sun in the shot, but still wanted the detail in the trees.

exposure was hard to compensate on this one. I wanted the sun in the shot, but still wanted the detail in the trees.

I have found that High Park is one of these sanctuaries. A place where children play, people run, and dogs bound. A place with space, something we’re not used to in the daily grind of city life. The reprieve is well deserved, but the sounds do not lie. You can hear the birds struggle to find their place on the frequency spectrum amoungst the cars and planes. The images though, tell a different story.

hardened the shadows a bit, the prescribed distance between trees seem natural, but are clearly well thought out.

hardened the shadows a bit, the prescribed distance between trees seem natural, but are clearly well thought out.

You can be alone here. You can find a place in between the trees where it appears to be just you. Appears, but your ears let you know that there is still so much going on around you.

even if I had upped my shutter speed, this ground hog was fast

even if I had upped my shutter speed, this ground hog was fast

The Humber arboretum is one of my favourite sanctuaries. A natural meeting place where the river runs through a valley. The less manicured portion is still a marvel, so many different species of trees. The animals congregate there and probably did even before the arb was there. Again though, you can hear the roar of planes as they push out the sound of the birds.

In the arb though, you can find a nice piece of river to cozy up to and do some thinking. Or just walk around. The walk is nice, we sit a lot in the media wing. To have a place that is for walking expressly is great. The deer like it there as well.

arbdeer arbdeer2

We like to think these places are our sanctuaries, and indeed they can appear that way, but when you really listen, you can see them for what they really are.

Thanks for the imprint on your retina.



greetings from darkpale!

I post too much about the rural side of the urban/rural distinction, yet I am quite fond of the city. As Michael Franti chants in his tune ‘nature,’ “people are the best part of nature” and to quote The Burning Hell, “I Love The Things That People Make.”

boosted the darks, heightened the contrast, and used a B&W mask

boosted the darks, heightened the contrast, and used a B&W mask

Nothing says “you are in a city now” like well done graffiti. Of course there are patches of graffiti in rural towns, but it lacks the artfulness and is usually racist/sexist. This piece above is very clever because the concrete it is on runs east/west and emphatically declares “EA$T END [that way].” The money symbol suggests that if you have money, or want money, go back to the east end, and stay out of Parkdale. It is also tucked away under a train bridge, like the troll it is. The rail tracks are not only the border of Parkdale, but carry passengers all points east.

tried a few of these to get the right kind of focus, in the end I did little to the image in post

tried a few of these to get the right kind of focus, in the end I did little to the image in post

I like the framing of the fence on this one, but not a generic frame, a sticker. There is a treehouse in my backyard (concrete slab) that the neighbours made. This one reminded me of it. The idea of a canopy hideout to be amoungst the mighty maples as the city passes around you. I’m very interested in these places where people go to find reprieve from the constant visual drone of the city.



The aforementioned railtrack that delineates Parkdale from Brockton Village literally underlines the skyline. I know it is one of the most generic and common subjects of photography, the city skyline, but I never look at it and not marvel. I use this shot for everything. It requires some climbing to obtain, but like the beach at Rouge Hill, I find myself capturing the same image over and over, while always being stunned at the results.

again I heightened the darks and the shadows, I like the ominous feel

again I heightened the darks and the shadows, I like the ominous feel

Again we see the cityline, but this time I took it through the fence. It makes me think of the exclusion of Parkdale, like we are fenced out of the rest of Toronto. Traditionally a place where the mentally ill and new immigrants were kept.

a bit saturated to emphasise the sky, but the colours on the building are how I remembered they actually looked

a bit saturated to emphasise the sky, but the colours on the building are how I remembered they actually looked

Parkdale looking out. A view of the Gladstone Hotel from my perch on the railbed. I did not mean to have the theme of ‘Parkdale looking out’ crop up in my images, but you can see most of Toronto’s infrastructure so well from the relatively unpillaged ground-level homes in Parkdale. Here is a place that has still managed to keep the condo out.

Thanks for the optic synapse firings.

studio style pt food


o hai optic nerds,

This may be one of my last updates from the studios at Humber North, but boy was it a good session. We got to eat! Well, it was questionable at first whether we were permitted to eat…

This lighting setup was very interesting. Instead of having multiple lights, I used the power of the reflector. It’s not just a Kierkegaard thing, or a sweet Arcade Fire album. It’s actually what allowed me to light my fruit and pastries with only one dull key light.


building a reflector fortress, foto by RobbyC, edited by APG

My concept was a picnic, so I used my paisley patterned bandana to frame the fruit and pastry. The underneath gold reflector did very well at minimizing shadows and looked great underneath the purple bandana.


gold reflector, tasty treats

I like fancy food photography, but it’s not consonant with my character or interests. The best was seeing what everyone else was doing. I like picnics so I wanted to give the shot an outdoors-but-still-classy vibe. The single light source helped achieve that, seeing as how picnics usually only have one key light, the sun.



Above is the untreated jpeg, well, mostly untreated. I tweaked a few things while converting it from a raw file. Looks good, some blurring from my wide aperture, nice focus, but I really want those fruits to pop.



As you can see, I dodged the fruits to make them more prevalent, while burning the background a bit. I also burned some of the glare off of the orange peel. The blur in the background was good untreated, but I added some blur just to make sure you couldn’t see the food stains on my bandana from where I wiped my mouth off on it.

Food photography is great. Why not take pictures of food? While this exercise did afford me the luxury of a photo studio, many of the concepts can easily be applied at home or even in a restaurant. Make sure you reflect all the light back onto the food you can, and pick a backdrop that makes the food pop. And hey, when in doubt, just Photoshop out the stains.

Thanks for the eye, and thanks to Rob for taking some photos of me.

studio style pt 3


ola corneal compadraes!

Back in the studio once again. This time to light my favourite product, coffee. It smelled great in my section of the studio.

The gear was the same, the studio was the same, but the vibe was totally different. Instead of shouting “you’re a tiger” at gorgeous models, I was having numerous discussions about lighting.


mmmmmm coffee

No set lighting on this piece, so we had to do some free styling. I wanted a completely white background, so I had to light my backdrop really well. I used the harshest light at my disposal and just blew out the backboard with light. It worked well. This allowed me to move a more muted key light around to get  the proper lighting on my coffee.

Much of the work though I did in post.

The lefthand image is that of the untreated media file. Well, I did some overexposing to really get that background as white as I wanted it. But the righthand image I dodged around the bottom edges to remove the gradient. I liked the gradient at the time that I shot it, but decided it would just keep it clean and do a white background. I still wanted the shadow on the jar because it gave the image more depth.

I burned the jar and coffee bag to emphasis the writing and make sure the whole thing wasn’t too washed out from the overexposure.

When it came to helping Parminder with his shot, things got weird. He was looking for a completely dark background, so we needed to use a boom to light it completely from the top. It turned out really well and had us thinking very hard about light and dark, so be sure to gaze in wonderment when you see it.

land as economic narrative

thinking, urban/rural

greetings lid lovers!

As I like to do, I travelled back home to the Kawarthas recently.  I was recording an audio tour of a museum exhibit and interviewing students at the Community Innovation Forum.


While recording the audio tour, I had the opportunity to think about what it means to see, and not see. Always asking ourselves whether this was a supplement to a visual, or stand alone piece of audio. So naturally, I ended taking some pictures with my fellow producer and interlocutor, at a museum.

Otonabee Via Hunter

upped the vibrance to make the greens/yellows more prominent against the blue ice

Otonabee Via Hunter

factory to the left, factory to the right (not visible)

Even during the walk there, I was reminded of how the mighty river that runs through our home is seen merely in the shadow of the industries that encroach on its banks. The history of that river is being written as if the river were a convenience for industry. This narrative continues as we visually explore the museum.

g e

a good example of a low fstop and shallow depth of field


cropped and turned black and white with a boost on the contrast

A reminder of the legacy of GE. The company that processes spent uranium rods in a residential neighbourhood, that can’t leave because of the cost to clean up said uranium. And the old crest which proclaims “Nature Provides and Industry Develops.” It makes it seem as if these things are consonant, when all I hear is dissonance. When it comes to manufacturing and the damming of the river, industry developed at the expense of what nature could provide.

victorian home

washed out the colours


washed out what little colour there was and emphasised the shadows on the butterfly lighting

A diorama of a classic country home from the 19th century reminds me of the old map, when homes were country homes, not suburban ticky tack. Then the museum manager’s strange vanity project made from literal ticky tack.


purposely framed it with the lighting exposed and the rest of the items out of frame

More dissonance. The corn in the glass case, lit by fluorescents. When removing any of these items from their original context, it provides a unique kind of dissociation with nature. The tie that binds them in the continual narrative of how manufacturing built this town on what nature had once provided. The dioramas of canoes in glass cases also removed the canoe from its habitat and places into the context of how industrious settlers came here, took an indigenous form and turned it into economic growth. Is corn a historic relic? Because I ate corn last night. Are canoes a historic relic? Because I’m going canoeing later this spring.


very flat lighting that day, the dreariness works for me though

As you leave the museum, you see this. The abandoned tower of what was once a clock factory. A stark reminder that when you plunder nature to serve industry, sometimes industry leaves. And what you are left with is a monument to capitalism’s uncaring, whereas nature provides, it always cares for you, if you care for it.

Lake Ontario

blurred the edges to get a hand-painted look, inspired by the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich

This is one of my favourite pictures to take, and I will take it as often as I pass it. Unbeknownst to me, my weekend of talking to the future of industry in my hometown and talking about sights vs sounds in a museum turned out to come together. The students I recorded that weekend were starting to work with nature, instead of against it, and I could see the old historical narratives fade into new ones.

Thanks for the peak.

when not to shoot

jounalism, thinking

A few weeks back I went out to Leamington County with Justice 4 Migrant Workers (@j4mw) to help in the kitchen preparing a Thank You meal for those migrant workers brave enough to come out and eat with their helpers.

Migrant workers are facing a crackdown right now due to legislation passed in April 2011 that stated they could only work here for four years, then they have to leave for four years. This is known as, the 4 and 4 Rule.

The meal was also an opportunity to inform the migrant workers of their rights and to let them know that there are people working hard to keep them here. It was mostly a way to thank them for their work, growing and harvesting the Ontario cucumbers, tomatoes, and other produce we eat everyday.

No 4 and 4!

Some media were present, two filmmakers and a freelance photographer. The filmmakers had been filming for quite some time and had established relationships with many of the workers and gained their trust. The photographer though, came in, lenses blazing, wanting to just click away.

The problem with this cavalier attitude towards image capture, is that migrant workers are in a dangerously precarious position. They are tied to an employer, who often hold their passports. Any perceived political activity can have dire consequences for these workers. Therefore, Justice 4 Migrant Workers, while wanting to get the word out broadly and rally support for those who, due to circumstance, are unable to, are also diligent in managing workers’ comfort level and risk when it comes to having their faces out there.

Stop Mass Deportations!

an action at MP Chris Alexander’s office (orangey white balance was a choice by the way)

I had brought my camera, since I had taken photos for J4MW before (see above). I chatted with the media folk about light levels in the room, different lenses and what kind of audio gear they had. So the photographer saw me as a comrade. I am not his comrade, I was there to support the workers. His brazen proclamation that he ‘shoots how he shoots’ when informed of the proper protocol, did not inspire warm feelings of comradery. By the end of the night though, he didn’t ‘shoot how he shoots,’ he was very respectful and took some amazing shots. He was also very grateful by the end.

I used my camera only when asked, during a portion of the meal when we took pictures of the workers’ messages to The Harper Government. Some wished to remain anonymous, some loved the opportunity. I would take their photo when they asked, then show them to see if they approved. One chap said to me, ‘my friend is shy, but I am not shy, I’m here to stand up for my rights.’ I almost burst out into song.

APG: radio writer

ruining photographers shots since 2011

I have run into actual sneaky photographers before. While reporting for the radio I would often see these giant lenses stroll up to events, embed a series of annoying audible clicks into my otherwise pristine soundbite, take some names (while I’m interviewing someone), then take off. I would often be in their shots with my mic though, so the annoyance was mutual.

What I learned though was that sometimes, while lusting for the best shot, we forget about the potential impact of a photograph and that when we shoot people, we are borrowing their visage to incorporate into our composition. This needs to be an explicit, working relationship. Much of the difficulty of documentary style photography, photojournalism, is not the composition itself, but the establishing of a relationship with the subject. They are part of your art, so they need to be more than just their body, but an active participant and co creator in that art.

In radio it is impossible not to establish a relationship because you’re talking to someone and trying to peel away the pleasantries and get to the good stuff quickly. This requires a great deal of honesty about what you’re doing and who you are. This is not the case with photojournalism, if done poorly, you need not leave a lasting impact or establish good relationships.

¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

studio style, pt. 2

lighting, thinking

ola pupil people!

The studio session went swimmingly. As you can see, I lived out my fantasy of shouting directions at fabulously beautiful models, while in a suit.

This was a true experiment in controlling the composition and lighting to the utmost. I like to take pictures in natural light, of natural things, with little to no manipulation of the situation. This was not that. Every element was carefully carved out. The direction of the light, the light sources, the position of the subject, all guided by my vision.

PSB with his weapon of choice

PSB with his weapon of choice

The results were astounding! I had no idea I could easily accomplish the kind of photographs I see coming out of magazines and department store photography studios with just a careful eye and the right gear.

I’m not a photo-gear-head by any stretch, but using the proper equipment allowed me to take control over what I was shooting and get a very specific result. The PocketWizard transmitter on my camera allowed me to use the flash like never before. It syncs your shutter with the external flash on the external lights. Having the flash external from the camera was a level of control I could get used to. Having the diffuser and power levels right on the key light also helped shape how I was able to illuminate Parminder. Black backdrops helped place the emphasis on Parminder, eliminating any other visual information and making him pop right out of the photograph.

don't leave'm hangin'

don’t leave’m hangin’

I found the experience to be analogous to the recording studio. Instead of trying to eliminate all extraneous sounds with baffling and close, tight dynamic ranged unidirectional mics, you’re trying to eliminate all extraneous light with dark backgrounds, key lights, background lights, and external flashes.

thanks for your eye.

studio style, pt. 1

lighting, thinking

Hail retina revellers!

Tomorrow we get back into the photography studio. I’m stoked. It’s similar to the excitement of heading into the recording booth. I have taken portraits outdoors (see above image of Parminder in his natural habitat), which are more consonant with my interest in photography. But now, like recording narration for a radio piece instead of heading out and gathering audio, I head into the controlled environment of the studio.

This makes for a more thoughtful, planned out kind of composition. Like producing a radio drama instead of a news piece. My focus in the photography studio will be composing a PR portrait with Rembrandt lighting and a character portrait using butterfly lighting. Not exactly the detail of a radio drama script, but nonetheless, more of a compositional plan than just shooting Parminder in the arb.


rembrandt lighting

Rembrandt lighting, obviously, was coined to evoke the portraiture of 17th century, anti-Baroque, Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. A small triangle of light appears on the unlit side of the subject’s face due to the 45 degree angle of the key light.


aristotle contemplates homer by rembrandt via google art project

I like thinking of portrait photography in relation to great painters.  Painting takes a considerable amount of forethought and effort compositionally, the kind of forethought that can be taken away from photography in a point and shoot, snapshot, ‘instagram it’ culture.


butterfly lighting

Butterfly lighting is very dramatic and you’ll recognize it from all sorts of films and magazine photos. The technique is employed by cop shows all of the times, with the single overhead shaded tungsten light swinging above the good cop and bad cop in the interrogation room. You may also recognize it as tilt shift lighting.

Prisoners walking the Round by Van Gogh.jpg

tilt shift lighting from van gogh

We’ll see how I deal with this experiment in contemplative composition in the photo studio. I’m excited to see if it is as fun as a recording studio or as fun as the classic image of the fashion photographer, yelling ‘you’re  a tiger!’ at beautiful women as techno music blares.

thanks for the peek.

urban to rural


hello eye balls,

I recently took  trip back home and found that my stepmum was working on a paper about travel from rural to urban. I had recently made this journey and captured some images that reflected some of my thoughts on the matter. The image above has the most thematic continuity in this regard. The light from the sun competes with the light inside the train and even with my great efforts to neutralize the colour balance, you can still see where the sunlight hits the interior light, shifting the sky from blue to green. The reflected interior overhead lighting shooting out from the sun like a dashed, orange sunbeam. This is the dichotomy of rural and urban, the graceful overlap of sunlight and a tungsten bulb.


train to

I decided to sit on the side of the train I could see the lake, because I love the lake. The challenge was keeping the background in focus with such a wide aperture. Angling my lens to reduce window glare also proved to be key in obtaining the image I was going for as well. But the greatest feat was keeping my ISO as low as possible, while still getting the fast shutter speed I needed to get the shot. I wanted some of the reflection though, and the windows and row lighting in the sky were a conscious element that I wanted in the shot.

The way there it was very cloudy, flat lighting, but the fog encompassing certain features of the landscape made it more dramatic. I did have problems keeping the grimy windows out of focus.


mllbrk_churchmllbrk_fish rural life

We took a brisk walk around the quint rural village and I took the opportunity to document some of the high blue, dramatic daylight in different situations. The first image in this sequence is a home-made curling rink. I really just wanted to document the accomplishment but found the line of the path and the line of the creek framed the subject matter well.

The second image I really took advantage of the light to show off the texture of the church.

The third image is my favourite. It has all of the earth tones that I like to use in photos. I also just like the idea of a sensitive fish, sighing, swimming alone. The depth of field emphasises the lineal aspect of the creek as it creeps off into the distance. Thematically though I like images of nature within civilization. To see what human’s do to preserve natural spaces and coax them into the heavily structured municipal plans.


train from

The blue/green scale on this image goes back to my obsession with earth tones, but in this case blue and green are the ultimate representations of colours on earth. Where waters meet, the deep blue becomes more green. The figure of the bridge, a transition between urban and suburban. And again we see the reflection of the windows and lighting in the sky. The light blue of the reflected windows adds another shade of blue and makes the battle of white balance between daylight and tungsten that much more obvious.

thanks for looking