Mar 16 2015

Photo walk


I volunteered to assist, as a chaperone, a group of high school photography students.  It was fun and I actually had some time to take pictures of my own when I wasn’t looking out for cars or trying to keep everyone together.  The students really were engaged and often would take great care to create the image they wanted.  I used my Yashica GX and those images can be seen here Yashica Electro 35 GX with Portra 800 but I also had my little Pentax Q7 as well as the Fuji DL mini so here are a mix of digital and film images.

I make no comment on what can and what can not be achieved with the two mediums but here are two snap shots taken from the same location and roughly the same focal length.

Dec 20 2014

The business of cameras or ‘The camera industry isnt dying its just has a little cold’

When ever I read any photo gear forums it seems that the state of the camera manufacturing industry crops up, with discussion around camera phones and their impact on camera manufacturers.  There has definitely been a decrease in the number of cameras being sold in the last few years and a large portion of that is attributable to the lack of sales of basic point and shoot cameras as they have overlap with smart phones in their image making capabilities.  However I think that in the last decade with camera technology constantly improving all these companies needed to do was keep churning out new models and there would be a market there to buy them.  And people did in the tens of millions. More per year than was the case ever with film cameras.  In fact at its peak film camera production was around 36.5 million units in 1997 while digital cameras peaked in 2010 at 121 million units both of these pale when compared to the 968 million smart phones sold in 2013 but even those will have to level off at some point.


If you look at this graph where I brought together the data from several sources you can see that new film camera sales all but disappeared within 3 years of the point that digital camera sales reached the same level.  The same is not true with digital camera’s and smart phones they really are co-existing. Yes camera sales are declining but not at the same rate that smart phones are proliferating.  Some of the slow down can also be attributed to the fact that many people are satisfied with their current imaging technology, the ‘good enough’ factor.  If what they are currently using meets all their needs there is no reason to go looking for something new.  This is perhaps hard for ‘gear heads’ to come to terms with but they really don’t drive the larger market even if they have a greater individual influence through their dedicated forum posting and social media presence.  So yes Digital camera sales have been declining back to 2005 levels at the same time that photography is burgeoning and cell phones are the primary reason but good riddance to bad cameras. I say bring on the awesome and the lenses more lenses.

I believe the point at which digital image quality reached that ‘good enough’ status for the average consumer (If they truly exist) was around the 6-7mpixel mark about the year 2004.  Most of what has occurred since then has been improvements in sensors and camera operation but the leap in quality that we saw in the first few years of consumer digital cameras has not and likely will not be repeated.

There is a lot and I mean a lot of discussion around image sensor size and its impact on image quality but I wanted to illustrate a different point independent of the sensor size.  The image that follows shows the relationship of different megapixel images if they were to be printed at 300DPI (the typical resolution of a minilab print)  The 24Mpixel Pentax K-3 image would print natively at 20 in x 13.3 in. while the 7Mpixel DSC-V3 would be a 10 in x 7.68 in. print at 300DPI, then there is the 1.3Mpixel Olympus D370 that would yield a tiny 4in x 3 in print at 300 DPI and still look terrible.

Comparison copy

What this means for me is that for prints up to around 8×10″ I have had the necessary photographic tools at my disposal for the last 10 years.  Yes my latest greatest cameras provide much better low light performance and quicker operation but if I hadn’t bought them it isn’t like I couldn’t have continued to make images.  And that’s the thing if that is true of a camera from a decade ago then it’s doubly true of a camera purchased in the last several years.  What will camera manufactures do to continue to be profitable or will they need to adapt and scale their operations.  I think what we are seeing with high-end compact cameras is evidence of the shift camera companies are undergoing.  They are creating high quality niche products because customers can justify them when compared to smart phones. Which is not true for basic point and shoot models.

So while smart phone sales have decimated the inexpensive point and shoot market companies continue to produce terrific image making tools and at ever lower prices, we the consumers have benefited from this.  More people than ever before in the history of the world are taking pictures today, it’s just that for most of them the camera in their phone is good enough for what they want.  It’s not shown in the image above but I also captured the same scene with a Samsung Gallaxy S4 phone and when you look at the pixel level you can see that a dedicated camera of similar pixel count still produces a higher quality image, I’m just sayin’.

I think its interesting to consider that practical digital photography has only been around for less than 20 years while photography as a whole has been around for over 175 years,  What purpose and form will cameras have in 2172?



Rather than a rigid image comparison tool that you will see elsewhere on the internet here is a little game you can play while comparing image quality of a few cameras.





Dec 2 2014

Not for walkers


I may have discovered the worst place in Canada to try to go for a walk.  The area around Toronto’s Pearson airport is a wasteland, the sidewalks are littered with holes and obstacles besides the fact they lead to nowhere. The obstacles seem to be primarily signs telling you to use a different non-existent path and unidentifiable  flattened metal things that have come off of vehicles.


My favourite non helpful thing though was the cross walk that led to an island in the roadway with no other exit other than to push the button and wait to go back the way you had come. Later I discovered a less palatable frogger style run across a highway offered but I declined.

I think that the Cab industry must be in charge of the sidewalks


Some of the images from my survival of this pedestrian dystopia can be seen bellow but the most colourful thing and people happening there was the Jem and the Holograms convention that was meeting in the hotel I was staying at. (Ah the 1980’s what joy you continue to give the world)  All of the images were shot with the Pentax Q7.



Jul 28 2014

Interactions #10


As I reach number #10 in my Interactions series I thought I would take a moment to speak about it again.

As I have stated previously the source of the images that form the basis of these paintings is from images seen through mapping software.  So why not just present the image as seen without the process of painting?  Well there are several reasons for this one of them being the necessity to make them stand out from the multitude of images we continuously see.  Another reason is it allows me to simplify the scene to make it about what I choose. By re-creating the scene through painting I can pick and choose what is relevent.  One of the side effects of Google Street view is it grants equal visual weight to a piece of garbage on the street as to a sign in a window or a person.  I as a photographer am not there to compose a scene as I would like it but as a painter I can address that.

Jun 4 2014

Two Niagara Falls


On my recent visit to Niagara Falls Ontario I really saw two places in an uncumfortable coexistence.  There was the bright lights and tourist shops and then there was gritty part of Niagara that appeared left behind decades ago.



There also seemed to be a nearly inexhaustible supply of empty motels and businesses surrounding the city.  No longer needed for tourists that aren’t there.



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To be fair I was there during May not what you would think of as high tourist season but I still think that of those people who were visiting seemed less likely to have arrived in a car and more likely to be staying at one of the larger hotels.  I think there lays the difference from the past and why Niagara Falls is a concentration of restaurants and tourist traps around the one true attraction, the falls themselves.



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I will have more photos to share from this trip as I shot both film and more digital images.  I would have loved to have visited the American side of the falls too. I’m sure I would have discovered yet another visual story.




May 31 2014

Latent Image Magazine


I was fortunate to be included in issue number two of Latent Image magazine a great showcase of photographic talent.  I know, I know so what are my pictures doing in it you ask?  I’m not sure I just take pictures but what I do know is that it is a great magazine from cover to cover.  Here is a snippet of my two pages and yes I am using tarps in these images as a metaphor for the obscuring of the truth.


May 20 2014

It’s all been seen before, in a manner.

It’s all been seen before as the saying goes.  I want to back up for a minute though.  In 2013 I was driving south on the Trans Canada Hwy through the Thompson Canyon.  I am always looking for things to photograph but in this case my desire to pull over was additionally fueled only in the way that too much coffee and hours of driving can.  At a certain point I saw a foot bridge over the river that I had never noticed before and doubled back to see if I could have a closer look.  I made my way down to the footings of the bridge which was completed locked against any entry but I knew I had to photograph it.  I took a few pictures and was quite pleased but what I really wanted was a train with tanker cars across the river.  I didn’t need to wait long.  I took a few shots to get things set up and waited for the right moment when the tankers were in the frame.  I included the river in the composition as I was trying to show in one image the precarious situation of oil filled rail cars on the edge of one of the most important rivers in British Columbia.


Thompson River with tanker cars, 2013 (Wallace Koopmans)

Fast forward to May 2014 when I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery.  I reached the second floor with the Edward Burtynsky exhibit and I was only three images in when I was confronted with the large-scale print (Railcuts #11 CN Track Thompson River, British Columbia 1985)


I knew immediately that this was the same location that I had been at the previous summer.  Now I was aware of Burtynsky’s series ‘Railcuts’ and had seen several examples but I don’t believe I had ever seen this image. That doesn’t really matter though because I am clearly influenced by his work.  Looking at the printed image the amount of detail he captured was amazing far beyond what I recorded with my piddly 35mm camera.

I enjoyed the rest of the exhibit and noticed several things about his work.  In his more resent images he has a greater degree of abstraction with less of a sense of depth and an often higher vantage point.  The difference this makes is that with some works if you stand at a certain distance they give a feeling of looking through a window right into the scene, that effect doesn’t happen with the aerial shots.  If you are unfamiliar with Edward Burtynskys work I encourage you to take any opportunity to see one of his prints that you can, failing that check out one of his books, an image on a screen will not do them justice.


Apr 20 2014

Cellphoneography what happened to all the cameras?


For many photographers and those interested in photography there may be a  bit of a bubble effect where,  we are interested in cameras so we think everyone else is too, but we are in our own little world because most people have given up on single purpose photographic devices (i.e. cameras).  Sure there are more people taking pictures now than there ever has been before but they are not doing it with ‘cameras’.  It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted a picture of something you needed a camera, so that’s what people had hanging around their necks and in their hands at destinations like this Tulip festival.  Now with the proliferation of ‘smart phones’ having a camera is no longer a necessity.  Cell phones and tablets serve the function of proving you attended somewhere or something.  The change hasn’t occurred to the same degree for those of us that fancy ourselves as ‘photographers’ with our cameras and lenses but for everyone else they just don’t need to go out and buy a separate camera if what they already have serves that function well enough.  You can see the camera industry reacting to this, although slightly behind, by dropping the basic point and shoot camera and concentrating on niche higher end cameras for the bubble people and maybe to convince a few cellphoneographers to enter the bubble.   Where will this all lead us?  Leaving the social media and sharing aside for a moment I think that there is likely to continue to be different devices for different photographic purposes of which cell phones are only one.  Now the survival of film that is another story.

Feb 11 2014

Whalley Colour Photographs


I reached a point in my photographic series ‘Whalley’ that I felt warranted collecting into this book ‘Whalley – colour photographs’  .  I took most of the 80 images included in the book over several weeks in the summer of 2013.  The pictures were created using various cameras but all have that they were shot on colour film in common. Even though I limited myself to the neighbourhood of Whalley, in the larger City of Surrey BC, for this series the images themselves speak to the larger issue of change and location.  It just happens that Whalley is undergoing the most concentrated transformation. Collectively the images provide a snapshot of the area at this liminal moment.  It’s as if the neighbourhood is being willed into some new modern reality, even its name is being obscured by the usage of ‘City Center’ rather than the name ‘Whalley’. A name which carries many non positive connotations in the public perception.  I know for me the name doesn’t conjur images of small homes overlooking the Fraser River, even though that exists too.  My immediate reaction is to recall all the news stories of crime and drugs that I’ve heard repeatedly over many years.  As the visual recorder of this location I try not to impart too much of my personal biases into the work but in reality that is an impossibility. The fact of my presence here already alludes to that.  The mostly de-peopled pictures included in the book provide a certain distance between the viewer and the scenes much as if they were to walk around Whalley casting their gaze but never getting too close.


Feb 8 2014

Vancouver Change 43 Years


I picked up a few medium format slides made by an anonymous photographer (Well they knew who they were but I don’t). They were in a box at an antique store and in fact had been there since my previous visit a year prior  The Fate of Photos.  This time looking through them I recognized that some were of the Vancouver area and had been marked as being from 1971.  I talked to the proprietor and we struck a deal.  Once home I scanned them and began looking to see where the pictures had been taken with the intent of finding the same vantage point and re-photographing the scene 43 years later.  There are many interesting images in this vein that can be seen at Changing Vancouver and the concept is also used though differently by Dear Photograph.


The fact that it was a scene that included the Iron workers memorial bridge made it quite easy to find the location.  What was most surprising thought was how little the overall scene had changed.  Sure trees have grown and obscured the view but I really expected there to be houses and development and maybe an upgraded hydro electric tower after 43 years.  The reality though was that it had changed far less than most urban places I’m aware of in that period of time.


As a final image here is the scene in 2014 taken with a camera built before 1971 it’s not a very good camera but that is an entirely different post.