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Nathan Phillips Square


Hello,

Nathan Phillips Square is the geographic, political and social centre of Toronto and is home to two of the city’s most iconic buildings both city halls – one former and one current.

While it isn’t the most beautiful public square ever built, it is a fun place to hang out and a must see for any visitors to the city.

Constructed in 1967 to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday it was the project that was going to turn the city into a modern sophisticated metropolis. The square is built around a modern semi-circular city hall building opening onto a large public square containing a small pool and a concert stage.

Because it isn’t quite as timeless and modern as its builders might have hoped, it received a major makeover in 2008 adding more plants and improved walking areas. Even so the concrete and heaviness of the place can be a little soulless, in no small part because one of the roles the square plays is as a cover for a huge underground parking garage.

While the style may be a little dated, Nathan Phillips Square is a fun place to go and on any day there will be some event happening and it does allow you to exprience the great collection of Toronto architecture surrounding it. From the beauty of Old City Hall to the east, to the uniqueness of new city hall to the north and the glass skyscrapers of the Financial District to the south there to the many people just visiting is a lot to take in.

As far as the photography goes, it gets tougher to figure what to shoot these days, but I can’t seem to stop. I think there will be more of this kind of thing to come. I call the ‘Day In The Life’ tours where I am just trying to capture a vibe from some random place on any random day. Maybe look for the essence of a place rather than the drama of a notable structure. What interests me has always been the people, the places and how those two elements interact and influence each other. The most fascinating thing is how those things change over time.

This mini tour was shot last month as I was kicking around the Toronto for a few days. It was also a chance to try out a newish wider angle lens. While the lens does ‘fit it all in’ I don’t know if I like the look as much particularly when panning back and forth. It seems that the increased distortion added by the lens also increases the distortion of the panning – one of the things that I really do hate about what happens to the images in this type of photography. It isn’t as smooth as it is in ‘real life’.

Anyhow, I’ll leave it with you to figure out if it is good or bad. Until next time thanks for looking and see you later,

Dan (June 2017).


Rainbow Bridge

Hello Again,

So a few years ago (2011 to be exact) I used to save my all my files on single, cheap, external hard drives. I would then walk away assuming that these drives were as secure as Fort Knox and that those pictures would always be waiting for me till death do us part. Then one day I woke up and found out they weren’t.

At some point in 2011, I plugged in my ‘trusty’ hard drive and it was dead and all the files on it unavailable to me. I went to a few people specializing in data recovered and was quoted hundreds of dollars to get them back. Needless to say I immediately started buying high quality drives and double and triple backing stuff up. And I left my cheap, faulty drive sit on a shelf hoping that at some point the data on the disc could be retrieved and I’d get my precious pictures back.

Well, last week that day came.

I was watching some random techie type stuff on YouTube and up popped an external hard drive data retrieval video. For some reason I watched it through and a light came on in my head. I watched a few others, bought some tiny screw drivers, took my hard drive apart, messed around with it, put it back together and suddenly found a whole slew of new (old stock) photos waiting for me.

While there wasn’t too much great photography on it, I’m happy to have crossed it off that nagging long-term ‘to do’ list we all carry around with us and because there was stuff that I couldn’t go back and redo. Today’s post is one of those things.

It is a walk that I took across the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo way back in 2009 along with an extra pano that I took a few months later from Odaiba. Like the Tokyo nighttime collection I posted a few months back, this is one of those tours that, while not a masterpiece, is cool enough to post and reminds me of the ‘good old days’.

The Rainbow Bridge is a two level gigantic bridge that carries two separate highways and a train line. It is an important link taking people across Tokyo Bay. From an engineering standpoint it is a unique bridge because it had to be designed to high enough to allow seafaring ships underneath while being low enough to allow low-level airplane paths for nearby Haneda airport.

The walk along the bridge is great. It has surprisingly few user (maybe because it 800m long and drops you in a bit of a dead-end), but offer great views of the city. It would be a great location to see the city after dark, but they close it at around dinner time every day. So this is the best I could have done for you.

Photographically the tour is okay. The second pier is slightly zoomed in distorting the perspective a little, but back then I didn’t really understand the idea of linking them up like I do today so consistency wasn’t much of a consideration.

Other than that enjoy the tour and thanks for looking,

Dan (May 2017).


Upper Canada Village

Hey gang,

Welcome back, spring has arrived the snow has gone and hockey playoffs are filling my evenings. Even better for all of you who’ve ever wanted to know what life was like in Canada in the 1860s today just happens to be your lucky day.

That’s because in today’s post I’m going to take you to a place just down the road from here called Upper Canada Village (UCV).

Before I tell you what it is let’s break down the name a little. ‘Upper Canada’ is what Ontario was called before 1867 – when we had confederation and just started calling everything Canada. ‘Village’ is just a really small town. So Upper Canada Village roughly means a small Canadian town in pre-confederation times – the 1860s. Picture Little House on the Prairie, but more polite and with universal health care.

Dull you say? Not in the least. But I guess I should admit that I love this history thing and UCV serves up a sweet extra-large helping of it in a pretty cool way.

Laying along the St. Lawrence River (about an hour south of Ottawa) the museum is a result of the building of the St Lawrence Seaway and the necessary flooding of 10 communities back in 1958. To preserve some of the past, unique, historic buildings from these areas were saved and relocated to the site of the current park. Upper Canada Village was opened in 1961 and is one of the best open-air museums in Canada.

Today there are over 40 buildings open to the public and all functioning as they were in their original times. You can watch everything from shoes, to brooms, to newspapers to food being made as they were in the 1860s. Working mills, farms and schools are all filled with actors in period costume giving examples of how they lived and worked in a very different time.

As for the photography, there was little rhyme or reason to the creation of this project particularly because I hadn’t been there since I was a kid and when I went down last summer I had completely forgotten how big the place was. So I took a ton of pictures and this biggish tour is the end result. I might go down again this year to add some interior shots, but for now this will have to do. The weather was great, although the sky was filled with big, slow moving clouds and that caused a little inconsistency in a few of the images. But it was a nice and well worth the drive down.

Thanks for looking and see you next time,

Dan (Apr. 2017).


Winterlude 2017

Howdy Folks,

Welcome back and I’ll be honest with you, I just have a little post today. However, I do think it’s an exceptionally pretty little post, so I promise I’m not wasting your time. I was actually working on a bigger more complex one, but didn’t finish it in time, so I’ll give you this one now and get the other one up later.

As of today (April 3) winter seems to be officially over and my fair city of Ottawa is now a warm pile of thawing, stinky mud. For the most part it was a fairly average winter, although it wasn’t too cold and we had a short skate season, but 2016-17 was the third highest snowfall for Ottawa in recorded history.

For those of you who haven’t experienced it there is nothing more beautiful than walking late at night in the middle of a heavy snowfall. The whole world is clean, fresh and almost totally silent. And if you can put aside the headache of car accidents, shoveling and traffic jams that come with it, it really is a magical feeling. Sure it is cold, but there is just a remarkable peace and stillness to it all. Because of the huge amount of snow we got this winter, I ended up wandering around downtown at the strangest hours of the night with a camera enjoying it all.

Today’s post is one of those nights. It was mid-February we were at the tail end of about 30cm of snow and this is what it looks like on the canal…and Parliament Hill. I didn’t go out planning on shooting these locations, this number of panos or thinking thing out to far in advance. I wandered and this is what I came home with. The two sections are kind of independent of each other, but they work together and give a neat little snapshot of Ottawa going to bed after a huge snow day.

Thanks for looking and see you next time,

Dan (Apr. 2017).


Crashed Ice

Hey gang,

I hope you are well.  Today is the first day of spring and that is always a celebratory event up here in the Great White North.  This past winter has been a weird one for us Ottawans with the third most snow in recorded history, but also some of the warmest weather I can ever remember.   It seemed to me that it was either -30˚ or +10˚ without much in between.

That being said we here in Ottawa are in the early days of a year-long 150th birthday party and part of that is having a bunch of cool local, national and international events here.  Today’s update is my documentation of one of the international ones.

Red Bull made a quick stop here a few weeks back and held the final leg of their Crashed Ice series right here in sleepy little Ottawa.  If you don’t know what Crashed Ice is, I guess I would describe it as downhill skating crossed with rock concert.

The coolest thing about these events is they try to incorporate the host’s city’s landmark locations and here in Ottawa that meant the Chateau Laurier, Parliament Hill and the Rideau Canal (a UNECSO listed site).  They built a track, lit it up, filled the surrounding fields with 20,000 screaming kids on two of the coldest days of the year, sent skaters flying down it four at a time and shenanigans ensued.

For this collection I headed down the night before when they were testing everything – I knew it would be too full and too crazy to shoot any 360s on the day of – and thought I’d come home with just one or two panos, but there was no way to really capture the whole track without doing a bunch…so that’s what did.  I got there at about 10:30 pm and spent nearly two hours taking pictures.  It was a tricky shoot because it was real cold (-25˚), real dark (Ottawa is a surprisingly poorly lit city) and real windy (not good for keeping the camera steady with longer shutter speeds).

I knew the lights would be on on the Thursday but everything was really inconsistently lit.  Spotlights were moving back and forth, sections of the track were being turned on and off, the Chateau Laurier’s floodlights getting turned on and off and changing colours, trying to balance a bright track with a black sky.  It took a long time to get any consistency within the pictures and by the time it was all over my hands were frozen claws and I could barely work the camera anymore.

But it is one of those real unique events that don’t happen too often, so I think it was worth it.

Thanks for looking and see you soon,

Dan (Mar. 2017).


ByTowne Cinema

Hello,

The ByTowne Cinema is something I’ve thought about photographing for a while now. As a guy who’s been wandering around this planet for many decades now, I’ve realized that few things stay the way you remember them and that overnight even historic institutions can shut down and disappear.

Because of this I’ve made a list of some of the off-the-beaten-track Ottawa places that I’ve wanted to document before I find out they’ve turned into condos. Few of them are the big dramatic landmark locations that we initially think of as important, rather they are the smaller, less spectacular and too often overlooked places. The ones that can often have even more meaning to us because we actually use and interact with them. The ByTowne Cinema is one of those places. One of the last movie houses from the ‘golden age’ of theatres here in Ottawa. And one that almost everyone living in this city has seen something in it.

Originally called the Nelson Theatre, it was opened in 1947 and despite Netflix, multiplexes and downloading somehow keeps going strong today. I manage to get out to a movie or two a year here and still appreciate the character and vibe. So here it is for you to appreciate. Ladies and Gentlemen I’m proud to present, in full Technicolor…the ByTowne!

Thanks for looking and see you soon,

Dan (Mar. 2017).


Toronto

Hello folks,

This week is just a mini upload.  Over the years I’ve spent a great deal of time in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).  I get down there at least five or six times a year because I have a ton of relatives who live in the area including  brother and sister and their families.

What that means is I’ve also spent a ton of time over the years aimlessly wandering the streets with camera in hand.  This batch of pics is the result of those misguided efforts.   Some of them are still from the Rooftops Sessions and some of them are from the Time Machine Sessions and the rest are just from the days that I’ve spent down there wandering around.  But I think all of them have been posted to my Instagram account at some point in the past six months, so this may be a rerun for you.

I’ll keep this update short and simple, I’ll let you at the pics and wish you all the best until next time.

Thanks for looking,

Dan (Feb. 2017).


The Distillery District

Hello and welcome back,

I hope everyone has survived the insanity of inauguration weekend. We have definitely entered a very new and very strange era in world history.

While I can’t entertain quite as much as the new American President does I can offer a quaint little photo project for you.

In recent years Toronto has exploded. The construction boom begun in the early 2000s
has drastically changed the face of the city. As a result nearly all of the dingy old industrial areas have, and are, being turned into shiny new glass condos.

The Distillery District is one of those dingy old industrial areas. It is the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial buildings in North America and as the name implies the location was the home of the Gooderham and Worts Ltd. distillery. Founded in 1832, by the 1860s was the largest distillery in the world and it remained in operation until 1990.

In 1988 the Distillery District was named a National Historic Site and discussion was begun on the best way to preserve and use such a unique location.

It is unique because; it is not a site of wealth (like Casa Loma) but shows us something different, it a complex (13 acres) rather than a single building, it presents us with a variety buildings (offices, factories and warehouses) of differing eras (built between 1859 to 1927) and it was in use up until it became a heritage site. Because of that it has a preservation level far better than many other similar sites.

The first phase of restoration work was completed in 2003 and it was opened to the public. Since then a number of additions have been made including three high-rise condos. Today it is an award winning mixed-use architectural site. Walking through it one will find a theatre, restaurants and cafes (none of which can be franchises) and artists studios. It is a popular location for movie shoot and over 800 have been filmed on the site over the years. So it is a different kind of place.

As far as the photography goes, I just kind of slapped something together on the fly. The Distillery District is a cool, historic place to walk around and grab a beer in, but it is a low-key location. Because of that I had no real plan going in. I thought that I’d just shoot one pano in the middle somewhere and go off to do other things. Instead (as is often the case with me), enjoying the beautiful summer day and having fun exploring the place, it grew into what you see before you. As there is substantially more development coming – maybe a little too much – to this little piece of land and so it was nice to have photographed it when did.

I’ll leave it there, thanks for looking and see you soon,

Dan (Jan. 2017).


Banff/Sunshine Meadows

Hello gang,

Happy 2017 and welcome back and I hope your Christmas Holidays were as much fun and as fulfilling as mine were. Mine mostly involved family, junk food, boardgames and watching bad Christmas films.

But we’re beyond that and well into the new year and 2017 is a big year here in Canada. That’s because way back in 1867 a ragtag, underdog group of provinces banded together and created a country – largely due to a heavily armed and expansionist United States fresh off their civil war – and it was a Confederation that changed the world.

Okay we may not have changed the world, but here we are 150 years later still going hard. We’ve grown since then, welcoming a number of newer provinces into the circle, and for the most part it has been a fairly decent arrangement for all. We still don’t speak American, we live safe, quiet lives, we have health care, we are proud of our multiculturalism and higher education is accessible to all.

But maybe the best thing about Canada is all this damn land we have – much of which is exquisitely beautiful. One of the unique and cool things going on in 2017 is that all of our national parks (and there are a lot of them) are going to be open to the public free of charge. To kick the new year off and commemorate our birthday that I dug through the vaults and put today’s pano tour together of Banff and Sunshine Meadows in Alberta.

I won’t go into it too much, but Banff is Canada’s oldest National Park and a place every human being should visit before they die. Sunshine is a ski resort about 15km west of Banff that tops out at 2200m in a stunning high alpine meadow that is a one of the greatest day-hikes in Canada. On top you’ll find British Columbia and the Continental Divide to your west, to the east is a field of flowers, lakes and animals and all of it is surrounded by some of the biggest baddest mountains in the whole world.

The project was shot over three days way back in 2010 and, like all of the stuff I did back then, I saw each as single stand-alone pano without any idea that I’d one day I could link the whole mess together in one big, connected tour. Had I planned it out better I would have shot things a little differently…but not much. This is where the 360˚ concept really shines and something I’d thought I might have done much more of over the years, but I find myself locked into city life.

I’m actually really happy with it and I don’t really know why It took me so long to get to it and post it. I guess I thought I’d have gone back by now and been able to add to it, although I guess it will be one that gets more added as the years go by. However, despite the many years since I photographed this one, I think it immediately becomes one of my best projects.

In addition to the Banff Sunshine stuff, I’ve also posted a couple of one-off Calgary panos in the Canada section of my site.

For 2017 my resolution is to get more organized with things and try and post a group of panos every two weeks…starting today. So tune in regularly and tune in often I think I can entertain and educate you a little.

To help get the word out about when I do I’ve gotten a Facebook page up and running and while I’m not much of a fan these days (FB has morphed into a mind numbing collection of baby pics, animal videos and political rantings), in business you gotta go where the crowds are. Hopefully I can maintain interest in it and add something slightly more interesting to the mix. The link can be found at the bottom of any page on my site.

I’ll leave it there for now, I wish everyone the best in 2017 and with Ottawa being the centre of Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary there will be no shortage of stuff happening here to show you.

Thanks for looking and see you soon,

Dan (Jan. 2017).