Saturday, April 30, 2011

Photographing Lightning Part 1

I love lightning. It’s hauntingly beautiful, yet dangerous and destructive at the same time. It lasts for only a brief moment in time. I’ve been photographing lightning since I got my first digital camera. I never really got anything with the original point and shoot that I was using. There were very few things that I set manually, like shutter time. You could set it, but it could not go as slow as you would want for lightning. You would also then lose control over the aperture, so the photo would expose normally. This was bad since what you ACTUALLY got…was a white frame. You see, it would meter the scene…absolutely not enough time to meter the lightning. Of course, you could always say that you were “this close” to the lightning!

I think with that camera I was about to get down to about 1/4sec. That’s not nearly slow enough. The REALLY bad thing about this was that it didn’t have a tripod attachment point. You are pretty limited in shots when you have to leave the camera on the windowsill. So, my first shots were through glass. There was an upside, it’s slightly tinted, cutting out a little bit of the light.

I moved up to a bigger/better point and shoot a few years later. It made ALL the difference in the world, or so I thought at the time. Finally, I could mount it on a tripod!

Much more control, but still, not a slow enough shutter speed for some really great shots. Not that I didn’t get a few good shots with it, it was much harder than it needed to be. For instance, if you notice lightning every 4 – 5 seconds, a shutter speed of 6 seconds should get you lightning EVERY* time, if the lightning is in frame.

*Note, that doesn’t actually happen.

This is one of the shots that I got with the newer Point and Shoot. It’s not a great shot, but I’ve had it as the background on my laptop for a while. The colours are as picked up by the camera, the only editing done was brightness/contrast, and cropping.

Then, I got my DSLR. Now I have great control over the shutter, and the aperture. You can easily get filters to cut out even more light. I got my DSLR last year, and the stars didn’t cross to allow me to photograph any lightning. Well, that is, except on the first day I had it.

I got home, unpacked the box, read through some things. This was my first SLR, so I read a bit of the manual. I bought it with kit lenses, so I put one of them on and took some test shots. I wanted to look at them, so I installed the included software. This software includes the computer remote release. Then, the storm rolled in. Perfect.

Set my camera up in the window, far enough away that it wouldn’t get wet if the wind changed direction. Plugged the laptop into it, and gave myself a quick crash course in how the program worked. Set the settings I wanted, and click. BOOM. Lightning. First shot. However, it was also the ONLY shot last. And it wasn’t very good.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Paranormal State - The Drinking Game

In honour of Paranormal State’s final episode, I thought it was time to assemble the drinking game rules in one spot. If there are other sites out there, let me know in the comments and I will add them.

I’m going to make this a collaboration, since I can’t remember all the rules, I’m posting this early so we can all add our own rules to it. This drinking game can also be used for re-runs. Not recommended for marathons.

And now ladies and gentlemen…we begin. P.O.U.R.

Chad swears – 1

Chad swears more than once in a sentence – 2

More bleep than sentence – 3

Client calls it a demon – 1

Client lies – 1

Client lies after confrontation – 1

Client relents and admits – 1

Client doesn’t like the answer – 1

Josh talks – 1

Josh says more than a sentence – 2

Elfie swears – 1

Elfie performs a ritual – 2

Elfie is subtitled - 1

Ryan repeats a client’s words – 1

Ryan says “y’all” – 1

Ryan starts deadtime – 1

Ryan ends deadtime – 1

Ryan shushes someone – 1

Ryan suggests something…different - 1

Katrina in night vision – 1

Katrina left somewhere alone – 1

Katrina in a basement alone – 2

Blue tape – 1

Production in shot – 1

“Did you hear that” – 1

“Did you see that” – 1

“What was that” – 1

Voice over – 1

“Directors Log” - 2

Serg with his hat – 1

Serg in a vest – 1

Serg with his camera – 1

Serg with NONE of the above – 1

Dramatic music leading up to commercial – 1

Nothing to show for said dramatic music – 1

Oh hell why not, 1 drink for the commercial itself. Also a good time to note that Josh said that commercials during Paranormal State also count!

Michelle is brought in – 1

Wearing leather – 1

Blindfolded – 1

If you NEVER see her without the blindfold in the episode – 2

A psychic is called in – 1

It’s NOT Michelle – 2

Please add anything else you have in the comments here, or to @Blackbird_2 on Twitter. I’ll leave Tweetdeck open, tag with #PSdrinkinggame in case I miss it. I’ll continually update this over the week. Thanks!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Into the Fire - G20 Documentary

“An educated population is kinda what we need right now”. – Into the Fire

Truer words have never been spoken. We are broken. As a people, we are broken.

It just came out this week, but I finally got a chance to watch it. I would say, almost without a doubt, it is one of the best movies out as of yet that shows what actually happened during the G20. It includes video that has not been seen before. Some footage from inside the Eastern Ave jail is also included. Unfortunately, it only shows Charlie Vietch in jail, likely the only person ever held at the jail seemingly by himself. Which of course begs the question as to why he was sent there, and not to a regular station house.

I wouldn’t go as so far as to say that this is groundbreaking, or that it was shocking. I was there, I saw things I should not have ever seen on a Canadian street. There were things that I saw that were shocking for sure, but not overall. Really, it was just more of the same, with interviews I haven’t seen that tied it all together.

I have to say, I haven’t watched some of the previous videos in a while. I almost had to stop when the woman was trampled by horses, but I didn’t. I would bet most people have forgotten about that. Guess what, she hasn’t. And she won’t for the rest of her life. It did not have to happen.

By the way… does anyone know if Officer 815, aka, “you’re not in Canada anymore” has lost his job yet?

One video I hadn’t seen yet comes in around the one hour mark. The cop basically says that if you refuse anything they ask (whether you have a right not to or not), they’ll dig further. Remember, unless driving, for the most part, you do NOT have to ID yourself to an officer. However, even though it is your right not too, they’ll keep going just because.
“If you give an officer a hard time, I think that you’re hiding something for whatever reason” – So…asserting your rights makes you suspicious. Well, there you have it.

I want to tie this into the current election, and apathy. We have a lot of voter apathy right now, probably because this is the 4th election in 7 years, and it’s the same old same old. Except it isn’t. But that isn’t getting much press. Did you know the Conservative Government was found in contempt? The first time in history…in ALL of the commonwealth? Wouldn’t know it based on the polls. It’s the same thing with the G20. The acts against the population were far past contemptuous and likely illegal in many cases. Though, whenever it is mentioned on the news (still), it is all about the 2 hours on Saturday when the shit hit the fan. EVERYONE with half a brain saw it coming. If you had EVER seen ANY media footage from these, it’s almost standard. Also, despite any other claim, you can clearly hear an officer say “disengage, disengage”. And there you have it again.

We, as a society have become disengaged from the people we elect to ‘control’ us. This needs to stop. This needs to stop quickly. We can no longer just vote the way we always have, or the way our parents did. We need to ENGAGE our politicians, confront them with the cold hard truth. We no longer can afford the apathy that has grown in the last decade. We need to re-assert the fact that we, the citizens of Canada, send 308 representatives to represent US in parliament. Our future depends on it.

For the full movie, click here.

What Does "GST Hike not off the table" Actually Mean?

“GST Hike not off the table”

*note, this quote comes from 2008*

Well, what EXACTLY does this mean? It means exactly that. It’s NOT off the table. Does it make it likely, no. Does it make it possible, yes. Is that bad? Well, it is if you’re a conservative.

Let’s look at it a different way, since the Conservatives make it seem as if the GST is going to rise, lets actually look at what this means. As someone who claims to be an economist, Stephen Harper should ALSO have a GST hike on the table, and a corporate tax hike. As an economist, he should be looking at ALL sources of revenue and then go about picking and choosing what to keep and what to get rid of.
People don’t really save that much with the GST cut on regular items. On big ticket purchases yes, there is a savings. However, if that’s what you’re basing this on, remember, not many people will actually be saving much since not many people buy big ticket items. If they do, it’s not that often.

What would be better than that GST cut? An income tax cut. You may spend a little more on items, but, you already have a little more to work with. What would be better to you, saving $3 - 5 a week on a 2% GST cut, or having $6 – 7 more in your pocket every week due to an income tax cut? These numbers are obviously just made up to make a point, but from what I recall when this was being discussed, those were roughly the ‘average’ numbers.

You have a choice, fear or facts. Make the right one.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Going for the shot...

Since cutting my teeth as a Citizen Blogger for the G20 Summit, I think I've photographed maybe 50 - 60% of the protests in Toronto (that have more than 50 people). There's a lot of 'fun' to be had photographing protests. Whether you believe in the cause or not, there is usually a high level of passion, and expression that you just don't get in many other situations. It's a fluid situation, dynamic and ever changing. It's hard to get that shot you want since it's there one second, and gone the next. You don't get the chance to compose your scene, adjust camera settings, check your focus and shoot. You literally have no time. So, what I've taken to, is running through the protest. If it's marching, I try to get through 2 or 3 times, sometimes as many as 5 or 6 depending on how the crowd is. It's a lot of running, but it's fun.

Once I get to the front of a protest, I usually have a moment or two to wait. Since I'm staying the in same area for a few dozen shots, now I'll take the time to adjust settings, and see if there's anything interesting that I can throw into the background. Sometimes, you have to get into weird positions in order to get the type of shot you want. I've been pinned against light standards, laid out across newsstands, crouched under a first floor window sill, between fake plants and walls, and probably many other places I can't (or don't want to) remember.

While I was at Queens Park today, I saw this guy shooting the horses that were there. He's lucky while shooting this, there aren't a lot of people around him. But this is the kinda thing you have to do to get the shot you want!

University of Toronto Vote Mob

Vote Mob and ...

Today was the day slated for the University of Toronto's Vote Mob and march to an Advanced Polling Station. I arrived at Queens Park just before the start of the event. I'm not sure who was there first, but there were other people there protesting the environment. Well, I assume they were protesting FOR the environment, since it was a nice day. Oh, they also had horses!

There were signs against Nuclear Power, Quarrying, and a few other things. They started off on their march, which I thought was the Vote mob march. They came out from behind, media started following, so I started as well. I went along with them for about 30 mins or so, then made my way back towards the polling station. Stopping for a much needed coffee on the way.

I arrived at the polling station just as the voters did. They were loud, vocal, non-partisan, and basically generally celebrating democracy. As one of the signs reminded me, and as Rick Mercer said, people are DYING for this right, we need to start exercising it.

Here are a few more photos from the day, from both the protest and the vote mob.

There is a National Vote Mob on May 1st, the day before the election. Be there, participate in democracy, you won't regret it!

Click here for details.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wedding Photography

*Updated with new photos*

I shot my first wedding on April 9th, now about 10 days ago. I went into it pretty unprepared as a wedding photographer, mainly because it was my first, and also since the bride and groom liked my style of photography versus traditional wedding photography. The groom is also my Uncle, so that made it a little bit easier, the photographs being their wedding gift. There were very few actual shots that he wanted specifically, more of a documentation of the day. All that was required was the church and the reception, none of the preparation.

Of the shots that he was specific about, they are your regular run of the mill wedding shots:

- Bride getting out of the limousine

- Both wedding parties separate

- Both parties together

- Family shot (two families coming together)

- Shot of them coming down the aisle

These are shots that I also would have taken without direction, since they are really all part of documenting the day. I would say in this way, there isn’t too much difference between wedding photography, and photojournalism.

The wedding took place in a small church, maybe at capacity holding 100 people. Everything for me was limited, but for the most part I was able to stay out of the way…and off the furniture! We made it there plenty early. Early enough so that I was able to get some nice shots of the church, inside and out, before anyone else arrived. Downside was it was a pretty overcast day; lighting was tricky at best, changing every few seconds at worst. I try to shoot fully manual all the time, but somewhere deep inside of me wanted to put the thing into auto mode. I resisted.

Before the reception, we did the family and party shots. The bride and groom picked the location. Not a bad spot beside the reception hall, overlooking a nice flowing creek. The hard part was posing. I’m not a wedding photographer. I’m not a portrait photographer either. In fact, in all the shots I’ve taken (other than of my nephews) I’ve only ever ONCE asked someone to pose for a shot. I don’t like to have people pose, it makes the scene…unrealistic. At least in my mind, based on what and how I shoot. What made it that much more difficult was a children’s play set in the park behind the location. Bright colours that made it stand out against the overcast day. Trying to strategically place people to block it was a little tough!

The reception went well. I got some good ‘regular’ shots of the tables, the food, guests milling around, dancing, and speeches. You know, the usual. What surprised me were the compliments of how well I stayed out of the way. I thought for the most part that I was in the way. I also kept getting asked for my business card. Good thing we rushed out that morning and had some printed up by the reception!

In addition to the ‘regular’ shots, I was still able to throw a bit of my style into it. Some high angle and low angle action shots. Shots through crowds of interesting moments. Getting into weird places to shoot from: like on the floor, on my back, with a group of people dancing in a circle around me. For me, these are the shots I like, right in the middle of the action as its happening. I guess that’s what happens when your first ‘public’ gig is as a citizen blogger for a major news organization…for the G20. You do learn to move pretty fast, and as inconspicuously as possible.

Will I ever become a wedding photographer? I’m not sure. It was a fun day, filled with many interesting moments, and some people I haven’t seen in a while. I think because I was more relaxed, with it being family, and NOT a paid professional gig (the photos are a gift) it was a little bit easier for me, and not really what it is like being a wedding photographer. For that reason, I would likely say no, I’m not going to switch over to wedding photography. However, if the situation arises where they like MY photography, and would like to have their wedding shot that way (with minor changes and some traditional shots), I think I would easily say yes.

(Click to embiggen)

Monday, April 18, 2011

What is Your Real Question

I was recently watching a television show and it stated that a poll in the USA showed that over 50% of people believe UFO’s exist? It got me thinking. What is the real question here? The question is quite ambiguous. In fact, as I’ve previously argued, UFO’s are a 100% certainty, by definition.

So, is the question really asking “do you believe in alien life?” Again, I would answer yes. With the number of stars in our galaxy, and the number of galaxies that we can see, let alone the ones we can’t, it’s almost impossible that there isn’t some sort of life somewhere else out there. Even one single-celled organism out there would be alien life.

“Do you believe in flying saucers?” perhaps, though alien spacecraft would probably be more accurate. This is probably a little bit closer to what the actual question is.

Though, they could also be asking “do you think alien life is here on Earth?” This is also a possibility, since a lot of things often fall under the “UFO” title.

The one poll question that always is quote is “Do you believe in UFO’s?” It’s just become such a large umbrella that the question is not really helpful. Do you think sentient life exists elsewhere? Do you think these aliens have left their planet? Do you think aliens have visited here in the past? Do you think aliens are here now? Do you think your government knows about it and lies to you? They do for other things, why not this?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Leaders Debate - The Drinking Game


Here it is folks, the Leaders Debate Drinking Game

By now you know how most of these work, every time someone says something or does something listed below, you take a drink. Lets see if you can still stand upright after the first 10 minutes.

You can play this two ways, partisan or bi-partisan. Partisan rules are simply for/against. You pick your Leader, and every time one of the other Leaders says the phrase or action, you drink. Bi-Partisan rules – if it drink.


“reckless coalition”
“job killing payroll tax”
“job killing corporate tax increase”
“Ipod tax”
“defeated on budget”
“Tim Hortons Health Care”
“cap and trade”
“carbon tax”
"let me be clear"
"let me be perfectly clear"
"that's simply not true"
"Focus on the economy"
"unnecessary election"
"Fake Lake"


eye roll at answer
'searching' for an answer
avoiding the question
deflecting the question (the 'they did it too' clause)
continuing already rebuked lies
using only talking points only (the 'as I previously stated' clause)
flubbing an answer
hands on hips
shaking head in disagreement

This list is by no means complete, and I'll continue to add to it as the day progresses. Please leave additional entries in comments and I'll include them.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Why is Kettling a Dangerous Tactic


That’s it. It applies to both sides, neither of which have anything close to proper information to make personal decisions. The individual officers do not make the choice to kettle protesters, that is a command given, and the officers would really not know what is happening. They may have some basic info, but not the whole picture. Therefore they ALSO cannot know for sure if their orders are legitimate. The people who are in the kettle ALSO do not know what is really going on. Some might, others won’t, and some will just want to get out. That’s the human behaviour part. If you trap a person, with no chance of them getting out, they will try to get out.

Look at the recent events in London, UK. Police kettled people in Trafalgar Square and the only reported violence in that particular area was AFTER police starting pulling people out of the crowd. This was confirmed by numerous witnesses both inside and outside of the kettle, including members of the media. Yet, on television, the police narrative dominated.

Here, after the G20 Summit, the RCMP presumably trying to distance themselves from the mess that happened released a statement that said they don’t practice kettling and will always leave an escape route for people to leave. Obviously, if the situation warrants taking everyone into custody, they will completely surround the crowd. Why would you leave an exit? Well, because this is ‘lazy’ policing. Catch them all, and then sort it out later. Since you almost ALWAYS get someone who has done nothing wrong (or in the usual case, HUNDREDS) you have to afford those people the chance to leave without being arrested. Otherwise, it’s basically unlawful confinement, which would be pretty serious. The police must be aware that not everyone is ‘eligible’ for arrest. Therefore, they know there are innocent people there, and they have to afford those people a chance to leave.

The only time I’m aware of when they DON’T have to afford the luxury of freedom to leave, is when the ‘event’ is DECLARED an unlawful assembly, or riot. However, there are specific things that must happen if that is to be the case. Specific things that WERE NOT DONE at the G20, like allowing time for people to leave the area, and announcing that to the crowd so that they ALL hear it.

In the G20 handbook given to the Waterloo Regional Police, it states that the reason they acquired the LRAD (Long Range Acoustical Device) was because of an incident of unlawful assembly at Queen’s Park in 2000. I wasn’t there, but I do remember seeing it on TV. No unlawful assembly was declared according to regulations, therefore all the charges had to be dropped as they were based on the unlawful assembly.

Even with all the mistakes that were made that weekend, at least the police didn’t kill anyone. Unlike in London a few years ago when a man named Ian Tomlinson was beaten by the police on his way from work to home. He was kettled between home and work and died on a stoop. Police downplayed it, said he was ‘drunk’ and stumbling around. Which he was, he had already been beaten by the police, and his chest cavity was filling with blood. The beating and blood loss made him stumble and appear drunk. The coroner ruled the death natural. He didn’t perform an autopsy from what it appears as a second coroner brought in by the family found the evidence that he had been beaten and lost an enormous amount of blood. Suffice to say, this refutes the ‘natural’ cause from the first coroner. The inquest has just commenced into his death, after police declined to lay charges on any officer caught on tape beating him, since they could not figure out which officer delivered the fatal blow.

When people are trapped in a situation they do not understand, or comprehend, they will be any combination of things. Scared, frightened, anxious, passive, confused, inability to think clearly. All of this can only lead to fighting back against the officers, leading to injury.

This tactic has been shown time and time again to end in injury. It has to stop. There can be no good reason for something like this to be used.

Looking for help for my book

Hello readers:

I'm working on writing my first book, and I need a little help. I'm attempting to compile about 20 - 30 lesser known or unknown ghost stories or stories of unusual events from areas in Ontario accessible by Go Transit.

If you know a story, or anyone in the area who may know a story, please pass this request along.

For convenience, I have set up an email address for this at

Thank you for all your help,


Time To Go Back to Work

Dear Members of the Media:

It’s time. Time to go back to work. I’m sure a large number of the population is fine with your work, however, they may not be okay with what I see as acquiescing to the Government and other large bodies.

Specifically I am referring to the fact that rarely do I see any member of the media call BS on air. I don’t know if this is due to an ‘invasion’ of American media (or the American media’s erosion), a result of the 24 hour news cycle, laziness, preferring to keep the already limited access that you still have, or any other reason. But you guys have to start pushing back. We cannot have information lorded over us as it has been the last few years. Information that is vital for us, the citizens of this country to make an informed choice.

Hell, it’s the reason were in an election now. Though, there is usually media mention of the budget, but rarely so far have I seen many in the media talk about the real reason the Harper Government was brought down, contempt.

I recently read an article by Lynsey Addario, one of four war correspondents who was recently captured and subsequently released in Libya. In it, she refers to the need for war correspondents to accurately portray what is going on in war zones. Without them, you get one side, or the other. Either the Government ‘facts’ or the rebels ‘facts’, but the problem is, they both lie. So, war correspondents are on the front lines to get an accurate image of what is taking place. Even 2 miles away, you have no clue what to actually believe.

It’s kind of the ‘same’ way here right now, sans war. We hear the Government side over and over and over again, but when the truth finally comes out there’s usually no real story, or it’s deflected by any number of excuses. But no one has really stepped up to the plate to ask the really hard question:


People are entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own facts. When the line between opinion and fact become blurred, one cannot make a fully informed decision. That is one of the biggest problems we have today. I’ll use an example from the United States that should clearly illustrate the point.

Even with proof given, 27% of people don’t think Barak Obama was born in the United Sates. Add to that another number…29% think he ‘probably’ was, therefore having doubts. That’s 56% (+/-) of the population of the United States thinking that the President was not, or may not have been born in the USA.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Badges, It's Not That Hard

I really don’t know what it is with cops today. Seriously. After 90 or more Officers (we don’t actually know how many) were supposedly disciplined for not having their badges on during the G20 Summit, officers STILL don’t seem to get it. Now seems to be an appropriate time to push for more punishment for these Officers. It was in the news, it was talked about publicly, it was even questioned by Parliament and still we have Officers that do NOT wear their badges. Apparently the punishment was loss of a days pay. Well, that’s now no longer good enough. They KNOW its wrong and still do it. Time to start treating them like children. First it was a days pay, let’s make it a weeks pay now. They still have to work, they just will NOT get paid for it. They all have a uniform to wear, and that includes the badge. You’d never see them ‘forget’ their gun, or Taser, or pepper spray, or baton, or handcuffs…would you? I wonder what the punishment would be if they forgot one of those?

Maybe the punishment should be a little different. What about this:

You’re caught without your badge, you still get to work that day, but, that caveat is: you do your job without your gun, and handcuffs. Barring that, maybe we could convince their mothers to join the force to ensure that their children are properly dressed.

I passed a protest march last week and was impressed with not only the protesters, but by the co-operation and communication with the police and their ability to keep the street pretty much open, though slower in one direction. Almost all the officers had their badges. Of the 30 or so that I saw, only one didn’t. And it appeared as though he was wearing a new jacket. More on that later. That works out to about 97% compliance rate. Pretty good, could be better though. Yesterday, I passed 6 bike cops, only 3 with badges, or 50%. That is rather disappointing. Those officers did not appear to have the new jackets.

What is worse in this situation is the ‘excuse’ I heard on a video from Yonge/Dundas Square that was brought to my attention. Apparently, the newer police jackets cannot have the badges on them due to warranty and waterproofing issues. What this simply means is that they bought the wrong jackets. It’s not like this mandate was new. Though, they were fighting it in a tribunal, and recently lost that case, so maybe they were a little over-zealous thinking they might win. But, they can buy new ones; it’s that simple of a fix. What it boils down to is a compliance issue. If the badge is part of the mandated uniform, then any uniform that does not have an attachment point for them should not be worn. It’s a simple concept. Whoever does procurement either screwed up, or went ahead despite knowing that the uniform would not be able to conform to the code. Either way, they’ve wasted your taxpayers’ dollars.

They seem to be able to get it right at MacDonalds...