ice games

I came across these guys playing a game on a frozen lake today - so of course I had to take a photo!

hamilton tree episode five

Click the "hamilton tree" label below to see all episodes.


This place often shows up in my photographs - the view from Williams Coffee Pub - this time of year the harbour is full of ice.

This shot is wide-angle with the Canon 17-40mm lens. Because the Canon 5D has a fill size sensor, this lens gives a similar focal range to the Sigma 10-20 I had on the Nikon D80 with its cropped sensor.


This is an older shot taken with a Nikon one-handed as I was driving along a busy Toronto street! The ability to take a quick shot like this is something only the ergonomics of a Nikon can deliver. So over the past few days I have had considerable doubts about the Canon 5D. Will the 5D rob me of spontaneous shots like this? Will the 5D redefine my photography in ways that make my photos less fluid and less alive? I am not sure I could have pulled off the action shots of the police SWAT team and the military helicopter (see archives under police) with the 5D, but it was a breeze with a Nikon! So despite my assertion that I was keeping the 5D questions like these made me reconsider over the weekend. In the end, however, the 5D won based on image quality and now it is truly here to stay. So stay tuned and let’s see where this 5D takes us – I have a feeling that it is going to be good places!

the machine

Okay I know this is probably not in good taste, but hey these particular toilets are heard by everyone on the third floor of McMaster’s Kenneth Taylor Hall so they may as well be seen by everyone too. For some reason the plumbing on these systems seems to be turbo driven, so that the flush cycle operates just below warp speed and not only echoes around the halls but shakes the building.


An older shot with the Nikon.


I have been shooting with the Canon 5D now for a few days and a few people have asked how I am finding it, so I will share some impressions.

The 5D is heavy and clumsy. The menus and buttons are not as quick to navigate as the Nikon and they never will be because the design is not as well thought out. Hardly any shooting information shown in the viewfinder and the top data screen also fails to give all the information I need. But most of all, and this has really frustrated me, moving between the focus points is not as easy as the Nikon – and this means I miss shots! There is no built in flash in the 5D so I miss that too.

But there are good points! The full frame sensor gives me the ability to reduce the depth of field (DOF) and blur the background to isolate a subject from a distracting background. The fine detail in the images is extraordinary, in the reduced size images you see here on the web the detail can’t be noticed, but if I zoom into the originals on my screen there are layers of detail that the Nikon and the cheaper Nikon lenses I use just cannot resolve. Another thing I am noticing is less blown out highlights with the Canon (this is where a part of the image is too bright and just white with no detail).

So what do I make of all this? Well I am keeping the canon for the image quality – I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the image quality of my consumer D80 and lenses and I wanted to upgrade to a professional system and the Canon 5D is that for sure. But at times I have been so frustrated with the Canon that I wanted to take it back and get a Nikon. I could get this image quality with a Nikon, but to do so I would need the Nikon D300 or more likely the Nikon D3. Plus I would have to switch all my consumer Nikon lenses to Professional Nikon lenses and that is a much more expensive proposition than the Canon system. Indeed, the Nikon D3 body alone cost more than this entire Canon system.


Tonight it snowed. This is looking up at the McMaster campus lighting on the way home.


A shot today at the Royal Botanical Gardens

finally a 5D

So I finally did it – no not ate an apple – brought a new camera!

I got the Canon EOS 5D and this is one of my first shots. I know that it is not that inspiring and reduced for the web the detail does not look extraordinary, but I tell you shot in JPG and direct from the camera this is one extraordinary apple! So thanks to everyone who gave advice and helped along the way. This is what I got in the end:

EOS 5D (camera body)
EF 17-40mm f/4.0L USM (ultra-wide angle zoom lens)
EF 24-105mm f/4 IS USM (wide angle to telephoto zoom lens)
EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM (longer telephoto zoom lens)


This is a good friend of mine LH. Even though he does not know how to sail, as soon as Daniel and I got the boat he was out there with us. Like me, LH tries to live by the words of this prayer:

Disturb us Lord,
When we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord,
When with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream eternity.
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord,
To dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery,
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back the horizon of our hopes,
And to push us into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Hmmm, that reminds me, I have to get offshore this summer!

storm in colour

I posted this shot some time ago in monochrome – here is the colour version.

Another update on my camera decisions: I have finally decided on the Canon EOS 5D. I don’t like the feel or the ergonomics of this camera, but I love the image quality, and that is what counts. Likely I will get it later this week or early next, and once I do then I will be once again posting less dated images.

research interview

I was out tonight with two members of my research team working on a project. The project incorporates photography and here is a shot from this evening’s session. Most of the photography is done by participants because the project has them telling their stories in words and photographs. This shot, however, was taken by me. All shots are taken with participant’s permission and as well all shots leave the participants completely anonymous.

hillary and tenzing

I took this shot many years ago hiking across the Pyrenees one cold Easter. These are quite different from Himalayan Mountains, but they are mountains none-the-less. So I post them in memory of Sir Edmund Hillary who passed away today age 88, and also in memory of Tenzing Norgay who left us some time ago in 1986. Tenzing and Hillary were the first ever people to reach the summit of Mount Everest on 29 May 1953.

big bird

I took this picture a long time ago with a Nikon FE.

So an update on what am I doing about a new camera. I have narrowed it down to the Nikon D300 or the Canon 5D.

The Nikon D300 is a fast complex weatherproofed camera with several anti-dust features (if dust gets inside a camera like this is a problem) endless electronic menus and the latest processors. Ergonomically the D300 is a pleasure to use.

The Canon 5D currently has a hefty mail-in rebate offer which makes it about the same price as a Nikon D300. The 5D has a full-frame sensor which gives superb images - click here to find out why. The 5D is a slower simpler camera than the D300 - it is not weatherproofed and is known to have a dust problem. It features are now out of date and it is due to be replaced next month by a new model (which is why there is a rebate). The new model will be awesome, but it will launch at about 2x the price of the current D5 and that is far more than I will want to pay.

So the choice is the features and ease of use from a D300, or the exceptional image quality of a 5D.

I am leaning toward the 5D because despite the technology of the D300 it is a bit disappointing. The colour balance looks to me as if it is a little off, it tends to overexpose, and with my 18-200 lens the some of the images look like plastic – a bit like watercolor paintings. This effect can be very pleasing in portraits where wrinkles seem to disappear, but this is not good if you do not want the effect. The problem seems to disappear though with the more expensive professional Nikon lenses but if I give up the Nikon 18-200 for pro-glass then the Canon L range of lenses seems to be more attractive. I am thinking of a 24-105 and the 70-200 f/4.

Decisions decisions! It did not seen this hard to decide when I went out and got that Nikon FE all those years ago!


I took this shot ages ago at the London Zoo - using 35mm film!


I was at an art studio at a US university some time ago and seeing the old lamps and manikins I just had to put them together into some sort of scene for a photograph. So here it is!

I am sure if I thought long enough I could come up with a great title for this shot – but I admit I am at a loss. Anyway, enjoy this rather odd photo.

new year's day

I took this shot a few hours ago. These woods always remind me of Narnia – a great place for a New Years morning walk.

In the real Narnia there is a clearing in a forest called "Lantern Waste" where Jadis, the Witch, threw a piece of streetlight (she brought it there from London) at Aslan in a most terrible argument. The fragment buried in the ground and because Narnia had only just been sung into existence by Aslan, the fragment grew to become a complete lamppost. Hundreds of years later when some children from our world found their way into Narina through a wardrobe the first thing they saw was this lamppost.

When I was about four years old I had never heard of Narnia and I was walking to the corner store in London with my mother. As we went I was comparing the lampposts with the trees beside the road and I suddenly stopped and looking at my mother puzzled I asked, "Hey mom, why is there no soil around the lampposts allowing them to grow?” At that precise moment my mother realized that I had either somehow snuck into Narnia and seen Lantern Waste, or that I was really quite a twit! Which hypothesis is true I will leave you to decide.

Anyway - Happy New Year!