Parting Shots from Ottawa Bluesfest 2010

Luckily I got most of the shots I wanted before Bluesfest started enforcing a ban on ‘people with nice cameras‘. At one event I was asked to put away my camera, while the guy behind me continued to videotape the entire show… wha? I will assume that they didn’t discriminate against me because my lens was white.  🙂

That one negative experience aside, I really enjoyed the music at this year’s Bluesfest, and taking pictures of some of my favourite performers!

Here is my last selection of shots, from Matthew Good and Crowded House.

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IMG_7815 Clap for me... like I care...
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THIS is ‘Drummer Face’

Security didn’t like me, but I managed to get a bunch of shots of Matthew Good last night at Ottawa Bluesfest. Apparently their camera policy has changed for the second week, probably based on the realization that camera technology has advanced so far that people were taking 1080p HD bootleg video that was of similar quality to the pro’s.

They seemed to be picking on people with big cameras, particularly ones like my trusty ‘Light Bazooka’. Meanwhile, the guy behind me with a tiny camera took video of the entire show.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. Some people don’t know what it is when I say ‘drummer face’; I saw such a good example of this last night that I had to do this post! This is the drummer from Matthew Good’s backing band (name please?).

IMG_7795 Classic Drummer Face!
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RUSH v. The Light Bazooka

I carried my trusty ‘Light Bazooka’ to try and capture one of my favourite –and oft-maligned*– musical acts, RUSH. I arrived over an hour early hoping to snag a reasonable mid-field location for the 100-400L to work its magic, but I forgot two important things about RUSH that could thwart the mighty Light Bazooka:

  1. Rush fans are overwhelmingly male, which means my usual height advantage in a typical Bluesfest crowd is negated for picture taking.
  2. Never underestimate how may RUSH fans there are! Even showing up 1.5 hours early I was relegated to the cheap-seats. I had been to big Bluesfest shows already (Metric, B-52’s, Flaming Lips) but this crowd was HUGE.

Below represent my best efforts to capture the 3-hour marathon (particularly for Neil Peart) that was the highlight of my Bluesfest so far!

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*For anyone who think these guys take themselves seriously, come to one show –especially on this tour– and you will find otherwise.

Save This Buddha!

Golden Buddah, Bangkok, ThailandI am watching with anxiety the events unfolding in Bangkok, where anti-government protesters are conducting sit-ins, and constructing barricades around areas of interest to foreign tourists, as a means to get the government’s attention. Initially, this all seemed like a great example of Ghandi-style peaceful civil disobedience (like when the protesters ground the Bangkok airport to a halt in 2008), but then the bullets started flying, with an accompanying Twitter feed).

My visit to Bangkok was one of my best travel experiences, a positive culture-shock, and one of my favourite places to take photos.

While the safety of the MANY citizens of Bangkok (10M+) is of the paramount importance, it always frustrates me that there doesn’t seem to be any way for the international community to protect artifacts and architecture of such cultural significance. When trouble breaks out, these artifacts become targets, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes by accident.

About 6 months before before 9/11, there were some very clear signs that all was not right in the heads of those ruling Afghanistan. In an effort to erase Afghanistan’s true cultural heritage, the Taliban decided to blow up two giant Buddha statues carved into a cliff near Bamiyan, in defiance of international protests.

Those are bullet holes!

Unfortunately, historic sites are often the most sturdy things to hide behind.

In Chris Hedges’ book “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning” he indicates that this is a very common element of the prelude to any war; erasing the past to create a new fictitious present. It is particularly prominent in wars that result in ethnic cleansing, like the strife in the Balkan states.

I can’t offer any solutions, only raise awareness. Protecting items of cultural significance isn’t about saving tourism, it is about making sure the truth about the past isn’t eradicated just because it is inconvenient to the present (or it is the sturdiest thing to hide behind when the bullets start to fly).

Yah, I agree…

Life isn't about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.

Our Engagement!

Hello everyone, as you hopefully have heard already by now, Lori and I are engaged!  Here is the tale of the day, and preparation of the day, from my point of view…

I had been thinking about a Christmas engagement for a few months now.  Lori and I were in Scotland over the summer, which would seem to be a perfect opportunity (castles, cliffs, etc.), but the timing just didn’t seem right and I decided that Christmas was the right time.  The first part of the process was to get the right ring, but to somehow do it without Lori knowing anything about it.

The Fellowship of the Ring

I had been looking at some diamonds at Jubilee Jewelers (Bonnie at Rideau helped me out) and was attracted to the Lazare ‘Ideal Cut’.  I liked the idea cut because it is cut in a manner that takes advantage of the physical properties of light to create at ‘retroflector‘.  I am going to geek out here for a bit…  Lazare Kaplan has been cutting diamonds since 1903, and in 1919 Marcel Tolkowsky (Lazare’s cousin) came up with a mathematical formula for the cut of a diamond to maximize the refraction of light using the concept of total internal reflection.  Basically its a ‘cats eye’ which reflects the maximum amount of light back to its source, much like the little glass spheres that they use in the paint of stop signs.  All that to say that 1) an Engineering Physics degree can be useful when diamond shopping and 2) the diamond looks really really pretty.

I was going to shop around a lot more, but then Lori’s friend Naomi told me that Lori had been into a different Jubilee shop and had fallen in love with the exact same cut (in a slightly different setting than I had selected).  I thought that this was a good sign that I should focus on this diamond.

Naomi was kind enough to come help me pick out the final choice, which you can see in the picture below (not to scale):

Lori's Rock

For those into diamond specifications, it is a 0.91 carat Ideal cut SI2 diamond with a ‘G’ clarity rating.  The setting is in platinum.

Jubilee was able to get me the ring before the weekend, which allowed my plan to go off without a hitch.  While I visited the store twice, I managed to bump into people I know BOTH times!  Luckily, they were not people that would bump into Lori on a regular basis.

The Special Day

I had made reservations at 18 Restaurant in the Market as well as the Chateau Laurier for the evening of the 21st of December.  Being a Sunday night, and in a snowstorm (which I didn’t plan), I expected things to be quiet at both places, which was exactly what I was looking for.

At this point, I still had not completely cemented the plan, and the location of the proposal was still up in the air (restaurant, lobby of hotel, hotel room were all possibilities).  I tend to think best under pressure, so my brain helped me out in the end.  I checked into the hotel room so that I could get my bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne chilling on the coffee table with a couple of glasses.  This also gave me a chance to check out the room which was a corner suite (RM# 596) with a great north facing view over the river which you can see below:

Ottawa River from Chateau Laurier

I have to thank the staff at the Chateau Laurier for the great choice of room.  Once I told them what the mission of the evening was they upgraded me to a corner suite with that great view!  Their mission statement is “Turning moments into memories.”, and it certainly seems they practice what they preach.

So the rough plan now was: park at the Chateau, have a great dinner, get her to the hotel to set the mood, get to the room for the proposal, all without tipping her off as to what was going on.

This was when the final plan started to gel.  Rule #1 to creating a really believeable -but false- story, is to root it in as much truth as possible.  I chose my friend Matt Gorbet to be the core of the story.  Matt was a good choice because Lori hasn’t actually had the pleasure of meeting him yet, so there was no risk of her getting suspicious about anything I said.  I have talked about Matt enough so that Lori knows that he does many weird and wonderful things, is from Ottawa, and the idea that he would be too busy visiting friends and family during his ‘short visit’ to Ottawa to have made plans with us ahead of time was plausible.

When I got home, I told Lori that I had bumped into Matt in downtown Ottawa during the day, who was visiting the town on business, and we had discussed that Lori and I were going to have dinner in the Market.  He had then offered his parking pass since he had got one with his really swank room, but was using taxis and didn’t need it.  This allowed me to park at the Chateau without getting Lori suspicious.  It also gave me the excuse to come back to the hotel late in the evening to visit Matt.

After a great dinner at 18 Restaurant, it was clear that Lori did not suspect a thing.  So little did she suspect anything, she actually had us go shopping at Chapters for Christmas gifts for my niece Julia.  Finally, after dragging her out of the store, we made our way to the Chateau to inspect he Yousef Karsh photos that grace the room off of the main lobby.

Karsh came up in conversation before because Lori had bought some stamps that featured a picture of Audrey Hepburn which had been snapped by the photographer.  She didn’t know that Yousef had actually resided in the hotel for some time, taking photos of many famous people including Einstein and Winston Churchill, which are both on display in the hotel.

This gave me the opportunity to get her up to the room.  I pretended to answer my iPhone which Lori knows is always on vibrate (so this was not suspicious):  “Hi Matt… oh ok…. about 15 minutes?….  sure we can wait there… do you really think the parking pass will work?… do you have a mini-bar?… are you being comped?  If so we will help you by cleaning out your mini bar <laugh>… ok, see you soon.”

I then told Lori that Matt would meet us soon, but in the interim, we should wait in his room and we were welcome to have a drink while we were waiting.  Lori then proceeded to take me on a tour of the hotel showing me the various rooms where she had fraternity socials, wedding, receptions etc.  She CLEARLY wasn’t catching on…

FINALLY, I got her to follow me up to the room.  I had swapped the parking pass in my wallet for the room key (which look much the same) and tried the door telling Lori that I wasn’t sure that the key would work, but Matt was sure so there was a good chance that it would.

We entered the room, and I thought the champagne on the table might finally tip her off, but apparently she thought it just fit in to such a swanky room.  I pointed to the following element of the room which forms the corner of the corner suite, and looks like a turret from the outside of the building, and asked “What do you think that is for?”:

Turret at Chateau LaurierLori replies: “Reading!”

After palming the ring box from my jacket pocket, I guide her to the corner and sit down with her.  At this point she still hadn’t noticed that I was holding anything.

Adrian: “I have some good news and some bad news, what do you want to hear first?”

Lori: <look of panic on her face> “Uh… bad news?” [People always want the bad news first.]

Adrian: “The bad news is that I am broke, I have no money to buy you any Christmas presents!”

Lori: <confused panicked look continues>

Adrian: “The good news…” <kneels down on one knee, opens ring box presenting the ring> “Will you marry me?”

Lori: <panicked look changes to combined, about-to-cry/excited/happy look> “Yes.”

And now the punch line…

Lori: “Does Matt know about this??”

Adrian: [This ruse worked a little too well…] “Um… Matt is not coming, this isn’t his room, it is ours.”

Lori: “Oh my… and I had you shop at Chapters!!”

Yah… I thought that was pretty funny too.

Here is a picture of the re-enactment of the happy moment (you can tell it is a re-enactment, she isn’t nearly as excited-looking in this photo):

Lori & Adrian Engaged

So anyway, we had a great night!  Thanks to all for your congratulations!!

My parents probably gave the best response: “We are very happy with your choice… and about time!!”

My Favourite Concert Photo (by me)

I like this shot for a lot of reasons, but here is a few:

  • I had no business getting a shot this good from the 300 level (go Canon G9!)
  • Taylor Hawkins is one of my favourite drummers
  • Hey, he is a Foo Fighter
  • I really like the way the concert lights shine off that top cymbal
  • The blur in the image really captures his dynamic motion
  • He appears to be having a blast!

Technically speaking, you aren’t supposed to take pictures at concerts unless you have permission, but with the number of camera phones in existence, it is really pretty silly to try and enforce this (although one of the security guards did tell me to turn it off).

Great concert by the way!!

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