Saturday, September 19, 2009

Best photos #5-2

So here are the next few pictures in the grand countdown of Top 10 photos I've taken in my life. Thanks for the kind comments on the first five.


This is a flawed photo, I think. But I deeply love it and, having spoken to other photographers and explaining to them what I was trying to do, this is as good as it was going to get.

The set-up: In early August 2004, Cathy went away to Rankin Inlet to teach for a year. Not for a second am I going to compare what I went through those first few days to what she went through. It was infinitely more scary and depressing for her leaving home and going to Rankin than for me getting to stay home. Still, I was depressed and I missed her something fierce those first few weeks (actually most of the time she was away). The first weekend she was gone, there was both the St. John's Folk Festival in Bannerman Park and the first annual Busker Festival taking place downtown. So I threw myself into work. I think that one weekend I took in excess of 600 pictures.

And it was just like theft. There were so many good pictures I had a hard time picking my favourites when I was putting together a photo spread for The Express. This one was taken at the Folk Music Festival. Basically it's a picture of a young girl dancing to the music at night, swinging around a pair of glo-sticks. I was trying to capture the wonderful swirling arcs of the glo-stick and catch her dancing, and get all of that with her in focus.

Not really possible, so I'm told. Still, I think this is as good as you're going to get. She's a bit ghost-like, but not badly. And I still love the shot. Taken with my Sony DSC F717.


I said no friends photos yesterday when talking about what pictures qualified for this. But I think this one works so nicely that I'm including it. Plus, it is a beloved picture among my circle of friends.

So this fine fellow is a guy named Mark Dyke. I find it amusing, by the way, that this is the picture he still uses on his Facebook profile. It was taken at one of our friend's annual New Year's party. I'm guessing it was around 1998 or 1999. I was playing around with The Packet's Pentax K-1000 (the most indestructible camera ever) and using black and white film. Mainly because I could use the paper's darkroom to develop the pictures myself. I grabbed this shot of Mark cuddled up to his beloved bottle of Scotch, after he nodded off around 4am.

I remember laughing out loud in the darkroom when I saw what I had. Just the peaceful look on Mark's face as he cuddles his bottle of Scotch, the lighting, everything makes me so happy. This is actually a scan of the original, so it doesn't completely translate, but I still love this picture.

It's also one of the first times I had people literally begging me for copies of a photo I'd taken, because if you knew Mark, then you would know just how much this photo captures who he is...or at least who he was at that time.


Remember a post from a few days ago when I said I've wanted to kill editors before. This picture is probably as close as I've come to doing just that.

Understand, I knew the second I took this picture it was a gem. I didn't even need to glance down at the camera's screen to check. I just knew. The composition was perfect. It looks for all the world that the girl is just falling from the clear blue sky and the only think stopping her from going splat is her partner, getting ready to catch her. The colours pop. I even got the added bonus of the two of them being reflected in the mirrored glass of the Scotia Building in the background.

When I went back to the paper with all the photos I had, I was hoping for two pages, full colour. I thought I had the photos to justify it. A pipe dream, as it stands. Full colour is expensive and two pages as unlikely. What I got was about 80% of a page (a banner ad ran on the bottom) in black and white. That was disappointing, but what set me off was when my editor showed me the layout for the page.

In his defence, I should have done the layout myself, but I didn't. I don't know why, I think I was swamped finishing stories, but I didn't. He used this photo, but he cut the background out. So all you had was a guy holding his arms out to catch a girl with no context.

I recall having to leave the office to compose myself, I was so mad. If I had spoken to him the moment I saw the page, I'm pretty certain I would have been joining Cathy in Rankin in short order, because he would have fired me. And because we were so close to deadline, there was no time to change the page. I tried, but no go.

So I love this picture, but it also remains one of the most frustrating I've ever shot, because it was never seen the way it was meant to. It was one of those photos I think I could have won awards for if I had taken the time to shepherd it through the production process properly. Ah well. Taken with the Sony.


The amusing thing about this photo is I don't know exactly where it was taken. I have a pretty good general idea, but that's about it.

In 2006 Cathy and I were driving down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to San Diego. Along the way we decided to stop a Hearst Castle at the recommendation of friends. And they were right, Hearst Castle is one of those surreal places you really ought to make the effort to see if you can.

We decided to spend the night in a community near the castle rather than trying to go any further down the highway. After supper, we were taking a walk and enjoying a stunning sunset so I stopped to grab some pictures. I was so focused on the sunset that I missed this guy walking down the beach, carrying his surfboard. At the last moment, before he wandered out of range, I noticed him and grabbed this quick photo. Yes, I could have shifted position, but it wouldn't have worked as well.

I've always wondered if the picture would have been better if I had caught him earlier, when he wasn't so far down the beach. But I like this a lot. I think it works as is, where he is. The colours of the sunset, the dude in shadow, walking off the screen after a long day of surfing.

And honestly, there is something just so....Californian about the shot.

Tomorrow, #1.

Last Five
1. Take your love out on me - Tracy Bonham
2. As much as I ever could - City and Colour
3. The complex - Blue Man Group
4. Somebody's baby (live) - Jackson Browne*
5. Momsong - The Be Good Tanyas


John O said...

Can't wait to see #1.
You have a talent, my friend.

Jon said...

The photo on the top of the buskers is not a bad shot... I do some fire spinning myself... had a post of photos of this last year too... check it out: