Monthly Archives: March 2010

My Black Math Masterpiece

In early December I received a White Stripes newsletter announcing the Under Great White Northern Lights boxset containing a documentary detailing their performance in Canada, the complete concert from their 10th anniversary performance, a CD and LP of live music, a photo book and other exclusive goodies. In short it was going to be awesome and I had to own it.

I have seen the Under Great White Northern Lights documentary several times now and there is something powerful and haunting about how the movie concludes. Ben Blackwell tells Jack and Meg that after a decade together they can still pick up their original instruments and be as if nothing has changed. Then Jack looks over to Meg who returns the look, they share a glance and then Meg looks away and fade to white, the interview is over.

The piano performance of White Moon to close the documentary is amazing. The story goes that after their 10th anniversary show in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, after the celebrations and after parties Jack found a piano and started playing it. I was amazed at the passion that came across and how the song ends. It was a surprise to me and I certainly don’t want to spoil anything, but after a powerful, loud and intense 90 minute movie this quiet and intimate end was stunning.

On my re-watch of the documentary I continued watching through the credits and when they got to the ‘thank you’ all but four cities from the 2007 tour were thanked, including Edmonton.

I was a big fan of the Under Nova Scotia Lights concert. I had listened to the audio rip of the DVD prior to watching the video so I knew what to expect, but this just goes to show that seeing is believing. What I thought were average performances of songs on the audio were elevated to another level when I saw the video. The several minute tease of Death Letter made more sense when you saw Jack tuning the Kay guitar. I will never tire of seeing Jack and Meg interact on stage, the glances and nods signalling when one song changes into another.

A nice moment happened between the person doing bagpipes on Prickly Thorn was after his solo he looked at Jack as if to say “I’m good, your turn” and Jack gave him an approving look back. The subtleties, the things that an audio recording can never show made this concert really special. If a show has Astro, Death Letter, Black Math and Boll Weevil it is guaranteed to be good, but when you include Aluminum, Brick House Wood House and Lafayette Blues then it goes into a different category of awesome.

Enough of that, let’s talk packaging! The way this boxset is put together deserves a Grammy in the Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package category. Everything about this is top notch and puts my Battlestar Galactica boxset to incredible shame. The 208 page hardcover photography book is amazing and captured the on-stage and off-stage moments so well.


One thing is obvious: the amount of vinyl I have I need to add a record player to the stereo system as soon as we relocate into a house so I can experience all of this in a new way again.

My Manual Exposure

February 28, 2010No image stabilization, no auto focus, no ability to preview a shot after it was taken and when you start a roll off at a certain ISO you are stuck at that speed until you’re done. All of this sounds like a negative but after using a DSLR for 18 months I decided to take a step back and see where photography came from. I am comfortable with the manual mode on my camera but have constantly read that the basics are learned from old cameras and I thought I would give it a chance.

I am using my Mother’s Canon FTb 35mm camera with a 200mm f/4.0, 50mm f/3.5 macro and 50mm f/1.8 lens. It came loaded with film but I have ISO200 and a roll of black and white that I will try my hand on.

My initial reactions to using the SLR was that it was a challenge but exciting. The way I approach photography on a DSLR is drastically different than on a film camera. With a DSLR I would adjust the settings, or not at all, point and shoot. If the image was blurry I would adjust the aperture, ISO and shutter speed accordingly and try again. If my hand was a little shaky I could rely on stabilization to save a shot. An infinite amount of processing power was available to me on a DSLR to save a shot.

None of that applies here.

After I dial in, literally, a proper exposure I tweak the focus ring and press the shutter I hope that after the fwwwhhiiik sound goes I got a good photo. At this point I am not looking to take profound or engaging photos, I just want something that is not underexposed and out of focus. Both are key fundamentals to photography that I have been able to easily ignore with a DSLR and it is a humbling experience to adjust all of these settings manually and still not know if the shot worked.

If I put the camera down and picked it up an hour later I don’t remember if I advanced the film. This is likely an instinctive process for some but it has not become a habit yet. I also find myself instinctively chimping to see if the show I took turned out…and see nothing but the back of the camera.

I never found a use for the DOF button on the DSLR, but completely understand why it is around now. I prefer seeing the shot lighten or darken depending on aperture and goes to show how much going from f/4.5 to to f/5.6 can really make. I never sought out the DOF button on the XTi or T1i but I will be more cognizant of its presence when I set up shots with the T1i in the future.

The ergonomics of the FTb are a little awkward. I thought my Rebel T1i/500D had much to improve upon and preferred the feel of higher end models like the 50D or 7D. Little did I know how easy I had it with the Rebel compared to the hard rectangle shape of the FTb. It has an uncomfortable grip, difficult to adjust shutter speed dial and yet those force me to concentrate on the photo more, making sure the camera is steady, focus is tight and the subject is in frame.

Roll #1
This roll was in the camera when I got it, so it could have been anywhere between three and eight years old. I didn’t expect the film to develop at that age but I put in the effort to use that roll of film. When I finished off the roll I realized that the camera had been set to ISO400 but the film was actually ISO200 and immediately doubted if anything would develop. To my surprise the age of the film didn’t make all the exposures void, and the underexposed photos were passable.

Some highlights from the first roll were…


Millet Trees Set Dressing Morning Sun

Roll #2
I was going to develop my first roll at the same time I developed the second so I wouldn’t know if there was a problem with the camera or lenses until it was too late. I took the cautious route and before installing the second roll of film (the first roll of film I have installed in a long time, if ever) I cleaned the inside of the Canon to make sure there were no spots or errant specs that could affect the results. I took a photo with each of the three lenses and then got to work.

I had finished strong on this roll of film and when I took all the exposures I confused the steps for removing the film and opened the back door leaking light onto a few of my shots. Sadly the photos I was most proud of were not developed (they are visible on the negatives) but it was a hard lesson learned to properly rewind film first and then open the door second.

Some highlights from the second roll were…


Bauer Eyes Milk and Cookies Quiet Candle Headphones

All photos developed from both rolls are available in my Gallery here.

Project 365: Film versus Digital
On March 11, 2010 I took my film camera out with me when I took my photo of the day with the 500D. I thought it would be interesting to see how the two shots turned out with over three decades of technology separating them. Below are two side by sides of the film and digital, and the originals can be found in the Gallery (digital / film).



The amount of detail picked up in the rocks and wood from the T1i is incredible, but the dull and grainy capture from film gives it a quiet and scerene feel.

Advancing Forward
I know that the body and lenses all function so I am going to take my time on my third roll of film and make every shot count. To ensure that I stick to this I have put in a roll of black and white and will take photos outdoors (people, buildings — things that stay still and don’t require precise focus pulling).

This has been a fun experiment and I am glad I did it. Stay tuned for updates as they develop.

My Olympic Breaks

Like millions of fellow Canadians I enjoyed watching the 2010 Olympics from Vancouver. It was a fantastic seventeen days and I was able to see a lot of memorable moments play out live. I am going to miss switching between three Canadian networks and one American to get complete coverage and regardless of the day or time you knew something from the Olympics would be on.

One thing I am going to miss the most is the commercials. Advertisement is a necessary evil but I never felt one commercial overly annoyed me, even when played repeatedly. Some commercials still managed to excite me, get my blood racing and induce goosebumps. If you were lucky enough you would see the longer version of a commercial and feel a new surge of emotions all over again.

Here are some of my favorites from February:

Molson Canadian – Made From Canada (YouTube – 1:00)
It has great shots of Canada, inspirational words and as the commercial comes to a close you hear the powerful and always motivating music from Clint Mansell. I saw this commercial several times while I had a MGD in hand and felt a little guilt.

Visa – Go World
The “Go World” campaign was amazing. The commercials would change based on current events (like when Canada won its first gold, YouTube – 0:32) and as the medals accumulated the first names of the athletes would be added into the commercial. These were never dull and even after seeing the Dan Jensen (YouTube – 0:30) or Sara Renner (YouTube – 0:32) ad spots multiple times I still got emotional over it.

More TV spots available at YouTube or on their Facebook page.

Coca Cola – Whose Game They’re Playing
The first time I saw the “Whose Game They’re Playing” (YouTube – 1:02) commercial was in a movie theater in January and the way I felt then is how I felt all the way through February. It’s a great commercial, one that would always force me stop what I was doing and watch.

I have noticed that video montages have been appearing on networks as the Olympics came to an end, but one that really stands out was Stephen Brunt’s emotional discussion about being Canadian and celebrating as a nation. Even after multiple viewings it’s still good.

Thanks Olympics for giving us Canadians something to feel and cheer about, it’s been a fantastic seventeen days.