I got an email back in April from KLM wanting to know if I would be interested in working with a local writer on a 5-9 page spread covering summer in Toronto.
Normally I wouldn’t hesitate but as I looked the pouring rain and grey clouds I realized the shoot would be a major challenge!
The brief was for original sunny scenes to be submitted in 3 weeks with no previously shot images being allowed (even those that are unpublished). I attempted to push for a later submission date but the press was booked.
I began drawing up my shoot list and working with the writer on concepts, etc. My initial focus was on capturing the ethnic mix and culture of the city. China town, Little India and few other areas were easy to shoot, I tried to include as many locals as I could, and scenes varied form posed to candid. I normally like to get release forms signed but felt I could return later if they were required (turns out they were not) these areas were shot at peak time to capture the atmosphere.
To represent the strong Afro-Caribbean culture I would have liked to shoot the annual Caribana parade but this only occurs in late July. The next best thing was to shoot some steel band members. The weather still wasn’t cooperating and my first shoot was held indoors. Later in the day I got some sunshine so I went for a high key look, shot tightly from a low angle. The result meant I didn’t have to worry about the environment (we actually shot it in the musicians back garden).
I found myself using a fill in flash for most of the portraits due to the overcast skies. I used the same approach for some of the landscape shots, shooting more or less directly into the sun with spot metering allowing me to avoid a silhouette image. Full frame cameras have a great dynamic range so capturing a wide range of tones is possible without banding or loss of shadow detail. The high key image is very popular at the moment; I actually find flare looks a little amateurish. Given the choice I would prefer a more structured image but if it’s what the editor wants than I tend to shoot a number of variations to cover their wishes.
Next I selected some of our unique neighborhoods’. Everything from Yorkville with its up market shoppers too Kensington market and its hippy crowd. Museums and galleries were also included both interior and exterior images.
The initial submission request was for 100 images. I now had almost 250 shots that were good enough to go.
Toronto islands was the last area to be shot. It required 3 visits before I got a sky that didn’t look like a hurricane was about to come together.
The assignment gave me the opportunity to wonder around the city, see interesting neighborhoods and meet interesting characters. Something I don’t normally get the time to do. I’ve chosen to feature some of my personal favorites here.