The Long Walk

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Lao-tzu

Fuck you. – David Mamet.

 

Whenever I mention that I’m pretty much done with writing for a living, the inevitable reaction is, “Don’t give up on your dream.”  If I however I told somebody that I was thinking of becoming a Heroin addict, the reaction would be a different one.  You might think the comparison is heavy handed and somewhat hyperbolic but I’ll lay it out.

When you’re a junkie, your entire world is focused on your next fix and how you’re going to get it.  Your friends are junkies, you live in a junkie culture and your general conversation revolves around drugs you’ve done, drugs you’d like to try, good trips and bad trips and of course your next score.

When you write for film, your entire world is focused on film.  getting produced, who can help you get produced, the steps of getting produced and what happens after you get produced.  All of your friends are in film or are associated with film.  Your general conversation revolves around writing and film.  Good experiences, bad ones… you get the picture.

It can and is somewhat soul crushing.

The industry seems to reward bad behavior.  I’ve had people say shit to me over email, that if they’d said it to my face, I’d have been punching them before the words would have fully registered in my brain.  This can cause levels of frustration which send your blood pressure through the roof.  It also with repeated exposure burns you out and reduces your want to deal with people in this way or environment.

It becomes not so much an act of giving up on a dream as it is one of self preservation.  The irony being, much like a junkie, you find yourself continually going back for a fix.  You know, just a bump to take the edge off, which turns into a line and there you go, you’re right back in it.

There is no rehab for writers.  Writer rehab usually involves a shotgun, a pistol or a rope.

Which of course makes me sound pretty miserable but this is not the case.  It has taught me to enjoy the moment, not keep trying for the future experience.  Probably why I enjoy photography so much.  You can tell a story in a picture as well and nobody is asking if you can change this or do that.

I’m still on the needle, writing wise.  I mean I can quit any time, you know I just don’t want to.  You uh haven’t heard about anybody wanting some rewrite work done have you?  I mean I could do some stuff on spec if you wan’t…

Getting Her Ready

This year the Lancaster of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum one of only two flying Lancasters in the world will be crossing, “The Pond,” to join up with the Battle of Britain Commemorative Flight in the United Kingdom to honor the sacrifices of Bomber Command Veterans.  The flight will be the first formation of Lancaster bombers since 1962, the last year Lancasters saw service in what was then the RCAF.

Late Fall into Winter is of course the main maintenance period for all of the flying aircraft in the CWHM’s collection.  All of these aircraft are of advancing ages.  All are very complex machines and require knowledgeable TLC to keep them flying.  Add to that a Trans Atlantic Flight with an aircraft that’s pushing seventy years of age and the level of maintenance on the Lancaster gets stepped up a notch or five.  I’ve been a member of the museum now for four years and I’m used to see Mynarski’s Lanc in bits over the Winter months, but today they had the full court press going on with the fuselage and engines.

Today I wanted to really get some use out of my Sigma 10-20mm f4.0-5.6 Wide Angle Lens.  Light levels aren’t as high as you’d like to shoot in the main hanger but thankfully they allow the use of tripods in the facility so I was able to shoot at ISO 100 for the majority of my shots, I bumped things up to ISO 640 for the shots involving people working on the Lancaster.  These are also almost all HDR because these aircraft have lived a life and it’s written in the warp and shape of their skin.  HDR is a great tool for bringing out texture in the subject matter.

One more engine to be returned to it’s mount.

Heart Transplant

I’ve got to say, I like this lens. This shot is at 10mm.

While it is a great shot of the bomb bay, I was trying to call attention to the fact the aircraft is on jacks.

If you’d like to see the Lancaster in action from the inside, you can check that out here.

Seeing as I had my kit out I decided to check up on how the Grumman Avenger was coming along.

They’ve got the Starboard wing on as well as the tail.

As you can see the Port wing is ready to go on as well, once there’s room.

One from the other side.

The Fairey Firefly is also getting her fair share of TLC

If you’re interested in seeing the Fairey Firefly in some taxi and wing lifting action, you can check that out here.

The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, is a very alive museum.  It’s membership is active and involved in keeping her collection flying and in bringing new aircraft into the collection to celebrate and educate about Canada’s rich aviation history.  I’m really glad to be a part of that.

Another Bike Show

So I made it out to the last bike show of the season at the International Center last weekend.  My goal was of course to pick up a new helmet and snap some shots of any interesting bikes that might be there.

It’s not been a good year for motorcycle shows or should I say not a stellar year.  In fact the shows I’ve attended have been underwhelming to say the least.  The word I’m getting from all over is about the same.  I did however manage to snag a new helmet, a Bell Vortex in their HiViz Yellow and black pattern.  Looks like I’ll be retiring the Dual Sport Fly style for a bit or until I can justify the price of a Hornet.

I’ve got a couple of trips locked down for the year.  A short jaunt down to Charlottesville, VA the third week of May and the big one to Mary’s Harbour, NL the last week of July.  The tracks are laid in now it’s all about the prep and yeah, I’m a little nervous.  It’ll settle down once the wheels are turning under me.

So back to the vintage bikes.  There was a Triumph Trident that caught my Eye and a very nice Vincent.  Say what you want about the Vincents but their engines and frames are well in advance of other bikes of the day and if you could have coupled them with a more modern disc braking system, they’d be formidable even now.  Still I love how almost organic their engine shape is.

I love the triple tail pipes.

So there you have it, somewhat slim pickings.  Spring looks like it’s just about here with temps rising above the 0 degrees C mark.  It’s a lot easier to take pictures when you’re not worried about snapping a finger off or losing an ear to frostbite.  I’m committed this year to getting out to a bunch more vintage dirt bike races (as opposed to none for last year).  I’m also going to try and hit some more action oriented shots of just people doing their thing.

Heritagecon 8 – 2014 – Part 3

So now we’re into the diorama section and this year was different from any of the other years or at least it felt different.  For example in, “The Interrogation,” it depicts a pretty bleak period at the very beginning of the second World War.  Not something I’ve ever seen at a model show before.  Even the diorama with the soldier painting the stained glass window in the bombed out church is a rare subject.  A lot of times dioramas depict the violent moment or the aftermath and yes, there were plenty of those on hand as well but the ones that show the quiet personal ones, the human ones where there isn’t the threat of imminent death, those are unique.

Though the real question on my mind here is, what’s the guy doing over by the tree?

Feels like Stalingrad to me… How about you?

The Maquis assassinate some Germans. This Diorama (and a few others) had a disclaimer, “Not to glorify but to remember.” Not that I disagree but I think history should stand by itself, warts and all. This sort of thing really happened.

I really liked this for the moment it represents because we know that about two seconds after this, it’s going to very pear shaped for everybody involved. The detail on the soldiers is fantastic.

“The streets of Hue,” during the Tet Offensive. I can even see the film footage this display is based upon.

Some formula one to break things up. Shot with the short DOF, I really think it manages to convey the frantic nature of the pit stop.

Freddie Spencer and Eddie Lawson, ready to race.

2 Commando creating mayhem. in France 1944

Trying to take the Eagle in the Napoleonic Wars.

Probably one of the most inspired Star Trek models I’ve ever seen.

 

Somebody practicing the ancient Scottish art of, “Fuck off.” Or the reason the Roman’s built Hadrian’s Wall.

The other side of what looks like a brutal head shot.

More coming in part four…

Heritagecon 8 – 2014 – Part 2

So it’s taken me three days of concerted effort to work my way through the shots I took at Heritagecon 8 on Sunday.  It’s still been worth it.

I’ll be honest, I never mastered the art of dry brushing and while I know scale models of armor are very popular  and I’ve always been impressed by them but for some reason, I was never driven to build any for myself even though their levels of detail can be super intimidating.

How detailed can you go? Check out the chains on the tires.

 

A very nicely done AH-64 in Israeli colors.

A nice Fairey Swordfish. The aircraft that took on the Bismark and knocked four flavors of shit out of the Italian fleet at Taranto.

Another 1/144 scale wonder.

A nicely done 1/32 F-15.

And the 1/32 Douglas Skyray that was right beside it.

 

Giving the HDR treatment to a 1/32 A6. This kit had excellent detail over it’s whole surface right down to the, “Remove Before Flight,” Ribbons.

A Heinkel 219 in North African camouflage. Excellent attention to detail on this model.

Some real close up detail of an He 111

As you can see we’re working our way down the aircraft table moving towards the dioramas but I’ve got to say I really like this A10 in your basic Airforce Grey (with the aircraft manual printed on the fuselage).

Another from the 1/144 club, a Bristol Buccaneer in South African Markings.

The idea of putting a Jetson’s model inside of an old TV set was inspired. Too bad my overall shot didn’t turn out as well as I’d have liked.

For me the joy of checking out models is the surprises that can lurk inside. I love that the maker took the time to put the pilot in there and lit it too!

Which brings us to the Diorama section and this year’s entries were pretty astounding as well as thought provoking.

There was a definite Flying Tigers theme going on this year.

This diorama was titled, Meeting in India. I thought the facial expressions very well done.

This one was called, “The Interrogation,” and it’s a triumph of subtlety. Set during the German’s first drive across Belgium and France, the look on the poor tank commander’s face says it all. Because I was shooting very short DOF the other tank in the diorama and the soldiers standing around it fade into the background.

So there you have the second installment.  Still more to come.

Heritagecon 8 – 2014 – Part 1

Each year I look forward to the Heritagecon held at the Canadian Heritage Warplane Museum in Mount Hope.  The mastery of the model builders is always inspiring to see and the atmosphere is pretty cool too.  This year I was able to get my hands on the old Airfix Stirling Bomber Kit in its original packaging.  I also found a book about Hendon and the contributions of the Graham-White family to the airfield and to aviation as well.  To clarify, my Great Grandfather worked for the Graham White Company, so this allows me to delve deeper into that side of the story.

The turnout for the venue seemed a little down from last year and I don’t think I saw a single paper model on display but there were a lot of very innovative and even evocative dioramas on display.  Some of which I found very effective in their portrayal of a particular moment in history.

The other side of the coin is the event allows me to really indulge my Macro jones.  I mean we can shoot close ups of flowers or even insects all day long but for me, it’s not a very interesting experience but I find the aspect of trying to pull emotion out of a scene rendered in miniature satisfying as well as being really difficult.

One of the choices I made in this set was to shoot the majority of my exposures with the intention to put them through the HDR process in post.  This really does increase you post workflow but my feeling is that any model or diorama is  about texture as much as it is about context.  HDR does amazing things when you’re looking to add texture to the shot.

The other choice I made was to shoot at pretty high ISO settings for a couple of reasons.  One, the lights in the main hanger are high, which means the light at table height isn’t optimal.  I could have used a flash but I prefer to work with natural light as a rule.  Two, higher ISO in my opinion, gives an image tooth, which adds to the reality of the diorama you are shooting.

I will admit, my focus was split.  Part of me wanted to document the skill of the model makers but the stronger pull for me this year was to do service to the idea they are trying to put forward in a way that doesn’t detract from their art.

I thought this was a stunning piece and not typical of what you see at a model show. A diorama of a very quiet moment I’m guessing, towards the end WWII. The stained glass window is really stunning.

 

A better shot of the work on the stained glass window.

 

I can only assume this is Claire Chennault. I wish there had been more info by the display.

1/144 scale or as I like to call it, the scale of ultimate frustration. However, this is a very well done model.

 

Not the best model I saw at the show but the sign on the side of the van made me laugh.

I thought this Beemer was pretty cool.

This CB1100R was also pretty cool.

 

The only thing missing from this bus was the faint smell of pee.

An impressive model of a German Rail Gun.

I loved the Canadian entries this year.

And so ends part one.  I’m still working my way through a bunch of the shots but the next set will deal more with the dioramas.  Hope you’ve enjoyed this though.

The Texture of Desire

Every ounce of weight shaved off of a mechanical platform is translated into increased speed.  Or as Newton put it, F-MA.  Lots of builders have used some exotic (and expensive because speed costs)  materials over the years.  Titanium, Electron and other Magnesium alloys, different grades of Aluminum have all been used and the latest holy grail is Carbon Fiber, which depending on it’s composition is both light and strong, though it is brittle and if it breaks or burns is extremely toxic.  But as the old axiom goes, you can’t get something for nothing.

It also has the added bonus (as do most of these exotic materials) of being very pretty.  Carbon Fiber matting by itself is sort of dull but once you add the Resin to the mix and finish the final exterior surface a real richness of color withing the fibers is revealed.  In the above shot I wanted to reveal this depth under the Triumph logo of the Castrol Rocket a twin engine speed record holder.

Of course the texture of desire comes in many shapes and materials.  For some it’s in chrome and nostalgia, like the latest rebirth of the Indian Motorcycle brand.

In my style of ride, it’s getting to be more about the promise of the escape than the actual capabilities of the bike.  My DL-650 isn’t the best bike at anything it does, it’s very much in the middle.  Capable of doing what needs doing under the proper control but not optimal and I like it like that.  I need to be engaged with my bike, it needs to support me in my ride goals and I’ve spent a fair bit of cash and time making sure it can do what I want the way I want it.

This is the new 2014 Suzuki DL-1000.  The bike is a thrust at the heart of Ducatti and BMW’s Adventure bike market.  Now I’m not saying it’s not a nice bike, it is a nice bike and at a favorable price point in comparison to the offerings from BMW and Ducatti but is it as good as a BMW in regards to capabilities?  Not really.  But it looks the business and it promises the adventure and as far as a touring bike, it’ll deliver but get her off road in any capacity and it’s going to end in tears and busted plastic.  I’m sure they’ll sell a ton of them.

In a final nod to nostalgia, Yamaha goes back ti it’s striped black and white stripes on a yellow background.  It’s a smart move as it looks sharp and harkens back to one of the more famous periods in Yamaha history and it looks pretty cool too.  The Bolt is not my style of bike but I do think it’s a step in the right direction for the cruiser market.

Going for Dreamy

The concourse at the Direct Energy Center, Toronto, ON

Sometimes you visit a place and it immediately strikes you as a cool spot for a composition, which was my exact thought when I visited the Direct Energy Center about a month ago for the boat show.  Though I didn’t just want to shoot it with a standard lens and at the time all I had was my workhorse 17-70mm lens.

Today was the International Bike Show and I had my full kit with me.  The concourse is an interesting space but I also wanted to isolate the elements that really interested me in the first place, namely the art installation that hangs from the ceiling but I also wanted to suggest the crowd of people and their effect on the space.

I knew I wanted to use my Lensbaby Composer Pro for the shot but I also knew I didn’t want to use the standard, “Bore sighted,” sweet spot of the double glass optic.  Instead I opted for the plane style focus of the Edge 80 Optic.

Toronto Autoshow 2014

Or, “More mucking about with the 10-22mm Wide Angle.”

Having missed the December 2013 Bike Show because of work I decided to hit the 2014 Autoshow with my son Colin.  We have found that giving him a camera of his own does tend to slow him down a little bit when I’m going through these types of venues and as I’m not really a, “Car,” I don’t mind following Colin through the displays to see what sort of things twig with him.  Next week we’ll be doing the February Bike Show in the same building as the Autoshow but I’ll be taking two days to do it.  One for Colin and one for me.

It felt like the show was a little less focused on the classic and special cars section in their Autoexotica  offerings.  There were a lot more hybrid and electric cars on display this year and as the demand rises, it looks like the auto makers are finally getting on board with things.  Now we just have to get infrastructure in place.

The Toronto Convention Center is a bear to shoot in.  The lighting is all over the place and it’s hard to set your white balance and you find yourself flipping between ISO settings to try and get a workable image out of the available light.  Add to that that there’s only so many angles to shoot a car in static display from.  Which sounds bad but I’ve always felt that a motorcycle has more to offer visually in the nitty gritty details (and frankly putting those types of details on display was really my motivation to purchase the wide angle lens).

One Colin took of me looking at the new BMW R1200GS. I’ve got to give BMW credit, their front ends always looks the business.  I’m still trying to teach Colin to stand still while he takes his pictures as he has a tendency to start moving before the shutter has finished closing.

One of Colin shot with his camera a small point and shoot Canon. I actually think it gets a pretty good image out of it’s tiny sensor.

A wider shot of Colin taken with his camera by me.

 

The Roadrunner, one of my favorites if for no other reason than it’s pure madness on four wheels. So because of the lights I had to bump up my ISO to 400. The Sigma 10-22mm is an f4.0 – 5.6. I tried to keep the lens as wide open as possible for each shot. I had set my white balance to Tungsten to compensate for the sodium lights overhead but I had to futz around a fair bit in post to get the color accurate.

One taken with my Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4.0 for comparison. ISO 200, 17mm at f2.8 at 1/125 So as you can see, your F Stop greatly influences what shutter speed you can work with. Because I’m shooting fairly wide, there’s not a lot of depth of field issues here.

 

These are the type of shots I bought this lens for.

Here I’m fighting the overhead lights and a flood light in front of the car. Still not super happy with the white balance but it’s the best compromise I could come up with.

 

I love all of the chrome.

The Toyota FV2 an electric concept vehicle covered in TV screens that react to what’s going on around them. Other than that, I’ve got nothing.

And this offering from Ford or as I saw it, double fail.

Full on 360 degrees fail.

 

 

The Hotwheels truck was amusing.

Though the interior was a head scratcher.

The new Corvette looks pretty cool.

And of course something that would eat the Corvette’s breakfast, lunch and dinner.

 

Why We Ride – The Film

 

Just watched this film tonight.  Very enjoyable and pretty much nails it for a lot of us.  Though there are many roads to two wheels and each one is its own story.

I liked a lot of the comments abut personalizing your bike.  Your ride really is a reflection of you.  Its taken a long time and a lot of dollars to get my bike to the point where it fits me like a glove and I can ride it for as long as I need to.  I’m not a big fan of chrome.  I’d rather be riding my bike than polishing it.  I look at water as a way to get mud off my bike, usually by riding through it.  Once in a while I’ll drag the hose out.

The film also focuses on the culture and camaraderie of riding and I’ll admit, this is totally true.  I’ve never had an issue where I was stuck at the side of the road where a fellow rider didn’t stop to offer assistance of one form or another.  Be it a ride to the nearest gas station to  call for help (before the time of cell phones) or to provide a much needed 10mm socket in the middle of Wyoming on a Sunday.  I have tried at every instance to return the help.

I love where my bike has taken me, far ff the beaten path.  I’ve enjoyed the people its introduced me to along the way.  Fellow inmates of the asylum (though the one guy in Gettysburg really needed a shower).

When I ride, my bike is my spaceship and it’s as tight a quarters as you can imagine.  A two wheeled Mercury capsule, where everything that matters is contained in two panniers, a top box and a couple of 10 Liter dry bags.  You bet you get attached to it.  It’s why touching another person’s bike without permission is verbotten and damned rude to boot.   It is a mark f high respect for another rider to offer you their ride to throw a leg over, treat it as such.

IMG_5582Gettysburg

Above is the kind of road I prefer but any road will do.  They say the journey is half the fun.  for some of us, the journey is the fun.  Those brief stops to look at this or that are just breaks between time in the saddle.

So now I’ll sit in my cocoon of Winter and dream of the time when I throw my leg over the bike again.  I’ll have to console myself with watching the last few races of Moto GP from last year and reading every bike mag that crosses my path and going to at least one bike show…

Stay strong fellow travelers and dream of Spring.