Saturday, July 23, 2011

Chicago Trip Day 1 - Just getting there

This was a last minute vacation. Margot only got the time off 2 weeks prior and we didn't know where we were headed until about 1 week ago! Margot drove the car so we could bring Sadie and I rode the motorcycle.

Poor Sadie trying to get comfortable in the car. She gets tired
but has problems sleeping with the bumps and vibrations in the car.

At the end of the week, Margot will head back home while I head down south to meet up with Mike, Alice and Henry for a romp through the Tail of the Dragon, Blue Ridge Parkway, and lots and lots of roads in between!

The first day was pretty much an endurance run to get to Chicago. I rode 11 hours and 900 km's through 3 rainstorms, 3 states and 1 province, 1 timezone change, 30+ degrees celsius with high humidity, met a young woman named Gina who only started riding 3 weeks ago and is doing a road trip from Connecticut to Montana, was smiled at by a pretty young bride with the car made up with bows and streamers, waved to countless kids in the backseat of the family car, saw a motorhome towing a helicopter, waved to another rider on the interstate who was wearing a tank top, sandals, no helmet and riding with no hands! Definitely an interesting day. Unfortunately due to the thread of rain, I didn't take many photos.

And here was our reward:

Chicago deep dish pizza at Giordano's. Look at all that
cheesy cheese!

Now I know why they sometimes call pizza a "pizza pie."
FYI, a large pizza weighs 13 lbs! We just ordered a medium and I could only finish 2 slices.

I'm looking forward to our the rest of our trip :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bad Weather Can Make Great Photo Ops

View of downtown Toronto during a storm on Wednesday June 8, 2011.
Nikon D7000 with 18-200mm VR. ISO 800 1/200 at f3.5 Aperture Priority.
(Click on the photo for a larger version)

I met some friends down at the Keating Pub to try out a new location for our weekly Wednesday night bike meet. Sadly after a couple years of bike nights at St. Louis' on King St., they closed their doors in February.

As I pulled up in the parking lot, the sky was dark and the wind was whipping up. The staff were frantically taking down the patio umbrellas so they wouldn't set sail. Dirt, leaves, paper and everything else that wasn't tied down was flying around so I kept my helmet helmet on. Thoughts of Dorothy and Kansas came to mind with these strong winds and ominous skies. I snapped a few quick photos before heading inside.

The dark clouds sure made for some dramatic photos. Sometimes when you think it's time to put away the camera, it's the best time to capture some great images! Mathematically speaking, 95% of people will bag their cameras so you're already in the top 5 percentile :) My photographer friend Neil Cameron from Competition Images captured some fantastic motorcycle racing photos during the pouring rain with rooster tails, reflections off the water on the track, and a motorcycle almost axle-deep in water as if he was fording a river. I wasn't brave enough to stand out in the rain all day, but Neil got the money shots (well I hope he got some money for his trouble!).

(more photos after the jump)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Photo of the Week (POW) - Karen Alley

Karen at the Ride for Sight charity bike wash in Midland, Ontario in March 2008.
Nikon D80 with 18-200mm VR. Fill flash provided by built-in camera flash
in TTL-backlight mode. (Click on the photo for a larger version)
Karen is a good friend of mine. We met a few years ago at the now defunct Spiducci's in Newmarket, a regular morning fill-up spot for our bellies and launching point for rides (many fine memories of the 507, Muskoka, and sausages). I'm a little selfish when I say she's a good friend of "mine" because really she's a good friend to anybody. Fun-loving, smart, loyal, caring are all attributes that come to mind when I think of Karen. So are cute and sexy.

It's inconceivable to look at this photo and not smile. Between Karen's natural sweet smile and the silly flower's matching expression, your only choice is to respond back in kind. Karen’s gentle, caring spirit brought her to Midland that day for a bike wash that was raising money for Ride for Sight. It's about a 2 hour ride from Toronto if you take the direct route which might seem a long way to some but for bikers like Karen, getting there is 1/2 the fun.

(more after the jump)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Photo of the Week (POW) - Racer Nicole Pilkington

Nicole Pilkington in the pits waiting to get on the track at Shannonville
Nikon D80 with 18-200mm VR.
Motorcycle racing is cool. But women racing motorcycles is really cool. And a 17 year old woman motorcycle racer? That's really cool + awesome + sweet!

In 2010 Nicole Pilkington raced in the CBR Cup (her best result, finishing 3rd overall), AM 125 GP, and AM 250 GP classes in R.A.C.E. In SOAR she raced in Formula Femme, and Formula 2 Stroke, and in the National series she ran in the CBR Cup. That's 6 different divisions across 3 series! Most teenage girls would rather go to 6 stores in 3 different malls. So why does she do it? By her own words, "The one thing I love most about racing is the escape. The track is like therapy to me. It relieves all my stress. Just getting on track and putting all your concentration into what you need to do to improve on track and nothing else." So that tells me that in her "normal" life she's either really stressed out, or super relaxed like Jello.

Nic Pilk grew up at the racetrack. Her father Stuart started road racing in 1989 and Nicole spent every summer of her life at racetracks across Canada and the U.S. with him. He was her inspiration to get into the sport. But first she had to prove herself so at 13 years of age, a determined Nicole hopped on a motocross. The deal was she had to show she could crash and get back up before being allowed to road race. Now that's tough love! Nicole's first road race was 2 years later at Shannonville in 2009 when she was 15.

(Read more after the jump)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Photo of the Week (POW) - Emma

Emma in a peach tree during sunset. May 8, 2009.
Nikon D80 with 18-200mm VR and SB-800 to camera left using CLS*.
IS0 320, 1/200 sec, F3.5 at 28 mm
(Click on the photo for a larger version)

Emma is a Senegal parrot (Poicephalus senegalus) who lives in my house. We have a pear tree on our front lawn that blooms for only 2 weeks each spring and the house faces west. The weather was warm and dry, the sunset was pretty, the flowers on the tree were blooming -- everything was lining up for the perfect photo. If I took a shot of  the tree and sunset, it would've been a good photo ... but not a great photo. Enter Emma. (skip the next paragraph if you don't want to read the technical details).

I put Emma on the lowest branch and took a reading in aperture priority mode using F3.5 (the minimum for this lens) for the shallowest depth of field. I then put my camera in manual mode and underexposed by about a stop and a half by increasing the shutter speed to 1/200. I put my SB-800 flash in remote mode and then put the commander mode in my camera to TTL for this flash. All this while standing on a milk crate on my front lawn with Emma crawling around on the branch. I did a few test shots while holding the flash in my left hand just above Emma to make sure I was happy with the exposure. I popped off about 10 - 15 shots and had to stop a couple times to make sure Emma didn't crawl to the top of the tree while holding the flash in my left armpit. I'm sure I looked quite stupid to my neighbours, but you gotta do whatever it takes to get the shot, right?

I know some of you will have some questions about Emma so I'll try to answer them proactively:

(More after the jump)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Photo of the Week (POW) - Racer Aubrey Bailey

R.A.C.E. Round 5, Shannonville Motorsport Park,
September 4, 2010. Shot with Nikon D80 with 18-200mm VR
at 130mm. ISO 400, 1/800, F5.6 in Aperture Priority
(Click on the photo above for a larger version)
 Aubrey in the zone as he looks through the corner in the final hairpin before the front straight at Shannonville during R.A.C.E. Round 5 in the AM 600 class. This is one of my favourite angles as you can see how the body position is integral to going fast around a corner. His weight is on the inside of the bike with his right cheek off the seat, his right knee scraping the ground, and his head and shoulders on the inside. Racers wear knee pucks and I can hear them grinding as I take the photos. I like to call this the frog position because the legs remind me of a frog sitting on a lily pad.

I first met Aubrey in January 2009 at the motorcycle show in Toronto. He was a beaver and I held his tail. 100% true story. But I digress.

(Continue reading after the jump)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Photo of the Week (POW) - Wiggly

Since it's Valentine's week, I thought I should post about the love of my life. Not the motorcycle. Not the camera. My wife.
Margot and Sadie at the "Woofstock" event in downtown
Toronto. Shot with a Nikon D80 with a 18-200mm
zoom and built-in camera flash in TTL mode for fill.
Click for a larger version.

This photo was taken in front of the flatiron building in downtown Toronto during Woofstock on June 12, 2010. There was a concrete divider that provided the perfect platform for Sadie to sit on. When we tell her to do a sit stay, she does this regal pose. I wanted a fill flash which would have me busting out my SB-800 but when you're this close to the subject, it tends to give unattractive glare on the face and harsh shadows, especially in the vertical position. I was close enough that I was able to use the built-in flash which provided the fill but still looks natural. I also like composition in this one where the eye is lead up to the point at the top of the building. I also Margot's natural smile in this one.

Margot and I have been married for almost 13 years. We weren't quite high school sweethearts but pretty close. We met at the University of Guelph and tied the knot right after graduation in 1998 then moved to a 1 bedroom apartment in the sky in Scarborough, Ontario. Living on the 21st floor we affectionately referred to it as our "hole in the sky".  We had a great view, but there wasn't much space for 2 people, a cat and a 90 gallon aquarium full of fish. We somehow made it work.

(read more after the jump)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Photo of the Week (POW) - Jay's Custom 1972 Honda CB350

Jay's custom 1972 Honda CB350.
Nikon D80 with 18-200mm VR. 2x SB-800 flashes to
camera left and right. Click here for the lighting
setup. Note the umbrellas were used to keep the
flashes dry, not to diffuse the light

Pretty cool bike, right? You'd be forgiven if you parked this old custom beauty in a showroom and charged people $0.25 just to see it. But Jay is a biker first and this is his daily ride. In fact he rode it back from Mods vs Rockers Chicago last summer, 850 kms in 14 hours.

His project began in 2002 when he wanted to buy a couple wheels from a crashed bike but ended up bringing the entire bike home for not much more. She was destined to be a parts bike but Jay saw her beauty past her broken fork legs and non-functioning engine. After about a year and a half of major and cosmetic surgeries, she was reborn and granted the license to stroll on the roads once again.

Chicks dig his bike and many have asked to pose with it for photos. It's inspired at least two women to get their own vintage Hondas! "I can't go for a ride in the summer without at least one person giving me the thumbs up or yelling 'Cool bike!'" exclaims Jay.

(More after the jump)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Photo of the Week (POW) - February 3, 2011

I had a ruff time thinking about this week's POW and it's pawsitively gone to the dogs.

I like to call this the Poodle Model Photoshoot. Sadie (black poodle) belongs to Margot and I, while Tessa (lightest) and Buffy (middle) belongs to our friend Debbie. Tessa is Buffy's mom. Sadie and Buffy have been friends since they were puppies.

We shot this on October 13, 2008 at Bruce's Mill Conservation Area in Stouffville, our absolute favourite place for fall walks. They have a mature forest so the trees are ablaze with colour during the autumn season.  The photo I took of Mel and Mackenzie was also taken here. It's my secret spot. I guess not so secret anymore...
Tessa, Buffy and Sadie, all miniature poodles.
Nikon D80 with 80-200mm F/2.8 with 1 SB-800 flash to
camera left above the dogs' head.
I'm going to get a bit more technical in my description of this photoshoot so if your eyes start to glaze over, I won't be offended if you skip to the next paragraph where I go back to talking about doggies.

(More after the jump)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Photo of the Week (POW) - January 26, 2011

Aileen and her 1999 Yamaha V-Star 1100 Custom.
Nikon D80 with 18-200mm VR. 2x SB-800 flashes
to camera left and camera right.

Say hello to Aileen and her 1999 Yamaha V-Star Custom. This photo was taken at the 6th annual WROAR (Women Ride Out Against Rape) Ride on June 13, 2010. WROAR raises money for the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape. Aileen was not only a participant but a volunteer. She wasn't able to commit as much time as she wanted but was able to help out at the WROAR booth during the off-season motorcycle shows to help promote the event and cause. She also assisted during the event with signage and parking logistics.

(More after the jump)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Accidental Wedding Photographer

Wedding photo with the groom's family at Union
Station, Toronto. That's Kate in the front with the
camera. Nikon D80 with 18-200mm VR.

Last Saturday I headed downtown with my friend SuprPHREAK (but we call him Matt) and other friend Kate from (the other shooter I asked to help out) to meet Mel et al. at Union Station in downtown Toronto. While the wedding shoot didn't go 100% smooth (security told me I couldn't use my light stands), I still had a fun time hanging out with Mel, Shawn, the wedding party, the families etc. and ended up with enough good shots.
Shawn, Mel and Mackenzie.
Nikon D80 with 18-200mm VR. Umbrella camera left and
bare flash behind the subject camera right for rim light.

Mackenzie the Monkey.
Nikon D80 with 18-200mm VR. Umbrella camera left and
bare flash behind the subject camera right for rim light.

I didn't originally plan on attending the ceremony, but since my ride was going, I thought that was a better option than taking the bus home. I don't normally cry at weddings and while this was no exception, the exchanging of the vows was particularly touching and I found a frog in my throat.

(More after the jump)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

So I Said I'd Never Shoot A Wedding

I don't want to shoot weddings because I don't want to deal with Bridezilla or the potentially scarier Mother of Bridezilla. *Cue scarey music from Psycho* Weddings can bring the best and the worst out in people. A lot of time and money is spent to make everything just right. Because you only get one shot at the day, it can cause people a lot of stress. And stress has a way of bubbling up insecurities sometimes combined with a shrill and loud tone.

I do love the concept of weddings though -- a celebration of the union and lifelong commitment of two people. I liked it so much, I had one! Just one, and I'm still married to Margot ... 14 ... 11 ... a number of years later.

More after the jump.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Photo of the Week (POW) - January 19, 2011

I thought I would start this with explaining the photo I use in my profile. This was taken on June 12, 2009 of my new to me at the time 2003 Kawasaki ZX-9R aka Ninja 900. It was starting to get dark and the sunset was behind me. I'm not sure if the light on the skyline is from the low sun, or from smog. Also, I was wearing my tiger ears because I lent my green mohawk to Darlene for the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally

Nikon D80 with 18-200mm VR. No photoshopping, just 1 SB-800 to camera right.