As you may have surmised from the increasingly frequent lack of activity on this site, we’ve recently gone through a busy period. I’ve thought of the occasional rant or anecdote I could share, but never got around to posting it. I also fell behind in organizing and rating my photos, and since I was traveling and continuing to experience “photographable” moments, the backlog quickly grew. All this, plus we moved to a new house in October.

With respect to the photography, I got frustrated with my old version of iPhoto because it was too slow to let me work through the mountains of shots. Also, my old iBook had reached its limits in terms of hard disk storage so I had to move everything to a bulky external drive. This tethered me to my desk and further reduced my ability to find time to do photo management.

Relief came in the form of a generous housewarming present from my father, which let me finally retire the four-and-a-half-year-old iBook G3 in favour of a Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro, with Apple’s brilliant new Aperture photo workflow software. Back in business! The new tools make a world of difference in my ability to get back on top of my photography hobby.

This Christmas holiday, we’ve been visiting with Claire’s family at her dad’s place. Thankfully, we’ve all had some downtime and I’ve put it to use by catching up on the pics.

This post links to some of the photo sets I’ve had a chance to upload thus far, which takes us through to October’s photos. Hopefully more will follow soon. To try something new, I’m going to post a description of the photo set, along with any interesting technical notes for the other shutterbugs out there. Here goes!

Toronto Island
Leo in Boat Ride
These shots were taken on August 7th, 2006 at Centre Island (all except for the first candid in the series, which was taken the day before near Palace Pier.) Claire, Leo and I took the ferry there in the morning and returned at the end of the day. I spent most of the day taking pictures with the cheap and cheerful Nikkor 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 G lens, mostly because it was still new, and to get shots of Leo on the rides. Tracking a moving subject with this compact (read: slow) zoom can be a tricky proposition because (a) they want lots of light for a sufficient shutter speed and (b) the autofocus action is slow. I was shooting with a wide-open aperture, which was necessary for acceptable shutter speed, but was less forgiving of focus setting due to the reduced depth-of-field. The shots that turned out the best were taken in sunlight, and the movement being tracked was side-to-side, not towards or away from me. If, say, Leo was coming towards me in a little car, he was already out of focus by the time the camera had focused and snapped the shot. If he was going across the frame, his distance from the camera didn’t change significantly in the time it took to take the shot, so that tended to look OK.

I also used the Nikon D70S’s kit lens, the Nikkor 18-70 f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED for several of the shots, notably the Toronto skylines and shots taken within the confines of the ferry.

This set took me forever to sort because I was using continuous frame shutter activation (three photos per second) in my desperate attempts to get a few usable shots of Leo on the rides. Most of the pictures were throwaways, but I did net out with a few OK ones.

Etobicoke Mardi Gras
Face Painting At Etobicoke Mardi GrasI actually forget the exact name of this summer festival that we visited August 12th, but it had something to do with a New Orleans theme. Leo had a great time on the rides, and we all enjoyed sampling dishes from the many food vendors. We also ran into our friends Jason and Dayna, who had brought their two kids.

Once again, I favored the Nikkor 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 G for its ability to capture candid shots of people doing people things and get right on the kiddie ride with Leo. The 18-70 did its thing too, and could have done more, but lenses switching is a hassle.

The key learning from this day? Make sure your kid’s face is clean before you attempt to make “beautiful” portrait shots of him.

Afternoon @ Pat’s
Colin As Seen In Robin's Sunglasses
This set is a collection of shots I took on August 13th at Claire’s mom’s place. She had invited us and a few other friends over to spend the afternoon on her rooftop patio. As we chatted, I noticed that the light was good and that everyone was up against a pretty plain backdrop so I snapped on the long lens and started shooting. Pretty simple stuff – aperture priority mode, lowest-possible F-stop number, compose and release.

Fortunately, no one really cared that I was doing this, so most of the shots were true candids. As a result, they turned out really nicely, I think.

A least, I hope. Guys, let me know if you like your portraits.

Significant lessons learned: don’t trust the camera’s metering too much. If someone’s wearing white in direct sunlight, it’s OK to have a couple of blown highlights to see their face properly. Bracket more when you’re able to take your time shooting. Maybe some diffuse flash would have worked nicely here for fill in a couple of the situations pictured.

Well, that’s a start, and probably enough for one post. Claire’s birthday party is tonight and I need to tear myself away from the computer. You can count on a bunch of photos of our outing at the Lula Lounge!

Still to come: Nashville, San Francisco, Ennismore, and more!