Don Valley Brick Works

brickworks wall
inside wall

A month ago I had the oportunity to go to the Don Valley Brick Works to spend a few hours taking photos with a good friend of mine. The Brick Works started making bricks for Toronto since all the back in the nineteenth century but now is unused and basically falling apart. It had all the grit and texture I loved, combined with a lurking feeling of creepy lonliness. Needless to say, my friend and I tried really hard to capture the emotions of the site and had a blast doing it. I brought almost all my gear with me but didn’t end up publishing any of the photos where I used external lighting. The condition of the buildings required some challenging tripod setups but rewarded the photographer with some beautiful naturally lit scenes. I got some really great shots, and even with stricter editing I was able to post a substantial set on Flickr. Unfortunately for urban photographers of derelict buildings, the site is undergoing renovation, so it might never be the same again.

lamp lies on the ground next to cement block
fallen lamp

This is the first time ever that I used Adobe Lightroom for my entire workflow. I wasn’t able to use the application before because it was such a resource hog. Lightroom is still not light weight by any means, but at least now I have a faster rig to run it on. The primary reason I made the switch was that I noticed most of my post-processing didn’t happen in Photoshop at all, it was all in Adobe Camera Raw! I am still learning the application but one thing I like is the array of flexible viewing styles (loupe, grid, lights dim, lights off, hide panels, full screen, etc.) all with easy to access keyboard shortcuts. Another thing that I like is the persistent film strip with filtering options, allowing me to quickly compare and navigate through my set. The only complaint I have is that the interface still feels a bit sluggish. Other then that, it has been a very competent tool, replacing my previous workflow of Picasa (or Bridge) then Camera Raw/Photoshop. Oh yeah, and unlike Photoshop, it keeps your EXIF data on export.

R. C. Harris

Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario

Last Monday we went to the R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant. It is located beside the eastern most stop of the Queen Street streetcar route. The plant itself is an imposing but beautiful building in an art deco style. In front, there is a large green lawn with path sneaking down to a tiny beach with a small pier facing Lake Ontario. The whole site is small but well maintained. It is also just a nice place to walk through on a sunny day, espcially since it is also connected to Balmy Beach.

R. C. Harris Facing Lake Ontario
R. C. Harris Facing Lake Ontario

It was a very bright day but I was able to take a couple of shots that I thought conveyed the mood of the place. This is the first time in awhile that I’ve used Adobe Bridge to manage my photos. The program used to be bloated and slow and prone to crashes. It is still not as fast in Picasa in generating thumbnails and high resolution renders, but it feels leaps ahead of its own self. One thing I didn’t like about Picasa was that it always boosted the exposure of underexposed shots. Shots that are underexposed on purpose cannot be previewed properly in Picasa before loading them into Photoshop. With Bridge, not only are previews shown as-shot, but it also remembers each photo’s Camera Raw settings. I wish it had an easier way to export lots of photos at once to jpegs though, since Adobe’s whole Photoshop batch process still feels to clumsy. A tip: turn on high quality previews in the advanced page of Bridge’s preferences. This allows high resolution previews to be much sharper. Before finding this setting, I always wondered why my shots looked so much sharper in Picasa.

Muskoka

We took a break up to Muskoka on Friday and Saturday. It ended up raining all day on Friday so we were stuck inside the resort but that turned out to be pretty nice. It was just serene, sitting on a soft chair by the fireplace, reading a book with the sound of rain in a backdrop of the foggy lake.

Grace looks out of the hotel window
Grace looks out of the hotel window

I was surpised how the lake view and the tall ceiling in our room seemed to help me loosen up and not feel cramped indoors. Away from the all-day traffic noise of Spadina, it was so relaxing that for a few hours my brain stopped craving for an internet connection. Furthermore the resort didn’t have many guests and it seemed like we had the whole place to ourselves. While I was editting these photos I wanted to bring out that feeling of peace and isolation, being in our own private little universe, buffered from the clutter and disarray of our lives back in Toronto.

Lake Muskoka
Lake Muskoka with a bit of fog