Toronto Zombie Walk

Just before moving away from Toronto in October, 2011, I attended the Toronto Zombie Walk with a photography group I was a part of there. The TZW was started in 2003 and has been scheduled for the week before Halloween:

The zombie walk started one gloomy Sunday, a week before hallows eve in 2003. A handful of the living dead rose from their graves to wander the streets of Toronto in search of brains.

The plague returned every year, and the zombie count grew into a large and deadicated legion of the undead. Not only did the plague hit Toronto, it hit New York, Vancouver, Ottawa, Melbourne and numerous other cities around the world. In 2006 The Toronto Zombie Walk joined forces with the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, to ensure zombies have an enjoyable evening of flicks to see after their flesh eating endeavors. 2012 marked our ten year anniversary and we hoarded in over 10,000 people!

Reference: http://torontozombiewalk.ca/about-tzw.html

In anticipation for this photography event with the group, I had rented a 70-200mm zoom lens to get up close and personal to all the “zombies” that were walking around. The zombies all met at the Trinity-Bellwoods Park in downtown Toronto. From talking to a few people, normally they just start the walk along a pre-determined and permitted route around downtown but this year was special. The creators of the walk, who were obviously big fans of zombies, were getting married before the walk, in their zombie outfits. Let me be clear… the groom, the bride, wedding party, minister, and everyone else involved in the wedding were all dressed up as zombies and hence a zombie wedding took place. It was pretty much like a typical wedding except there were moans and groans from the watching zombies as the ceremony went on. Once they were declared zombie-man and zombie-wife, the walk was on with them in the lead!

I’m not a crazy fan of zombies although I enjoy watching the occasional movie like Zombieland, or a show like The Walking Dead. I read in a blog post after the event that there were over 6,000 zombies in attendance for TZW 2011 which is pretty awesome. The coolest thing is that a lot of zombies got into character and at one point I had my face in my camera and the lens zoomed in to 200mm and one of the zombies actually lunged at me. This was early on in the day and I hadn’t yet gotten used to them getting into character so I, of course, was caught by surprise and ended up falling over backwards right onto my ass! I have to say though, being surrounded by 6,000 zombies, especially since most of them had some awesome makeup on, was a little bit nerve-wracking!

I’ve included a selection of my best photos in this post but for the full set of my favorites from that day, click HERE to link to the set on my Flickr page.

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By far my favorite photo capture from the day

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These zombies stayed in character on the public transit system… awesome!

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Concert at the Fox Theatre in Detroit

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Concert sign

In 2010 I had the pleasure of going to Detroit, MI to attend a B. B. King concert with Buddy Guy as an opener. I’d seen Buddy Guy twice previously when we lived in Saskatoon at the annual Jazz festival. I hadn’t heard of him before the Jazz festival but his performance blew my mind and I became an immediate fan of his. To see him again, at the legendary Fox Theatre, was a fantastic opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.

I went down there with a couple of my brother’s friends and some of their friends. One of his buddies had early access to the tickets due to his membership in some club or other and so he ended up getting us some wicked seats in row 4, just 8-10 seats from the centre aisle. Easy to say these were fantastic seats!

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Keyboard player

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Buddy Guy getting ready to rip it up

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Buddy Guy rocking some sweet tunes

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Rockin’ it out together

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After playing for about an hour and rocking out the theatre, Buddy Guy said his goodbyes and the stage setup began for B. B. King. They started out with some wicked horns (trumpets, etc) and after about 15 minutes of that, B. B. King came on. He played for a bit, stopped and chatted; telling us his stories. Played some more, and talked some more. Pretty amazing that at over 80 years old, he can still rock a sellout theatre with his guitar and that amazing voice.

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Lucille, his famous guitar

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So intense he makes funny faces

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Regaling us with his stories; what a character

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The interior of the Fox Theatre

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My ticket for the concert

Triathlon Training on My Mind

A few years ago when I turned 30 I put together a 40 things(ish) to do before I’m 40 list which I have been slowly plugging away at. One of those items was to attempt an Iron Man triathlon which  is quite a big deal because it requires quite a lot of dedication, support, and, of course, stubborn training. So just like most things, I can’t just jump into an Iron Man right away but have to build up to it instead.

I’ve reached a point now where I’ve done a sprint distance triathlon (750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run) and was very excited to have completed it. However, the one thing that I did not enjoy about it was that I didn’t train properly or enough and ended up getting myself injured and out of commission for a month or so with various issues with my ever-present ankle injury from a few years ago and some pulled muscles.

So this time around, when I signed up for the Olympic distance triathlon (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run) I decided that I would do my damndest to make sure I didn’t repeat the mistakes I made during my sprint distance tri and make sure I get the proper training in place. So I put together a plan and started well in advance of the recommended training times to get my body used to the training regimen. I’ve been swimming 3 times a week, playing squash on and off, and lifting weights to keep my muscles tight and trained up to prevent any injuries while doing the 3 triathlon sports.

When we moved to Kelowna I noticed that there were a lot of seriously athletic people and after getting some tips from my chiropractor and massage therapist, who pointed at the same club, I decided to go have a chat with one of their trainers. The group is called Balance Point Racing and they specialize in training athletes of varying levels from your regular guy like me to elite athletes who compete, and win, at global levels. I figure that if I want to do a good job with my training, this will be a fantastic way of doing it since they put on a multitude of group training sessions every week that each member can attend but I would also get a weekly workout specific to my goals from my coach as well as a weekly discussion on how things are going, etc. I’m not 100% sold on it just yet since there’s obviously a cost to it, but I was also invited to attend a few of the group sessions to see how I liked them and how I fit in to the general scheme of things.

So, tomorrow morning, I’m off to my first swim session with the group to see how I like it. I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy it and, with their help, reach my goals!

CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro Bike Trainer

Woooo, now that’s a mouthful!! What is it exactly you ask? Well, simply put, it’s a stationary bike stand with a weighted flywheel so you can use your personal bike in the comfort of your own home. It allows for you to train on your own bike through the winter (ice and snow and such) as well as when the weather is bad and you just have to have that bike workout! There are several types with varying prices ranges that I won’t get into right now but basically you have either the magnetic or the fluid trainers:

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Close up of the CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro trainer

Historically the magnetic trainers have been very loud but due to advances in technology my research online has shown that they are very comparable in noise level averaging around 75 decibels at full power and speed. This site states that the 70-79 db mark sounds like a “normal street noise” which isn’t super quiet but not super loud either. I got about a half hour workout on it this morning at 06:00 with a re-run episode of Seinfeld playing and Jackie didn’t get woken up by the sound so it’s pretty good I think. It also helps that she’s in the bedroom with the door closed while I’m on the other side of the house, upstairs in the loft. Either way, I will likely be riding this in the afternoons/evenings so the noise level really isn’t a huge deal.

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I bought my CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro bike trainer yesterday from one of our local bike stores, Fresh Air Concept. On Saturday I had gone in the store to talk to them about trainers in general and the different options that were available for someone like me. I ended up spending over an hour speaking with Martin (Marty) about magnetic vs fluid trainers, what the difference was between the different levels of magnetic trainers, and generally educating myself on the best bang-for-my-buck for my upcoming purchase.

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The trainer itself is very solidly built and relatively lightweight. It folds up very nicely and is barely thicker than the size of the flywheel so when it needs to be stored in the summer months it won’t take up too much space. Setting it up was so simple! I simply took it out of box, pushed the pins on each kickstand to release them and click them into their open setting, and cranked the wheel on the back to open up the space and allow my back tire to sit in place. I replaced the standard pin from my bike with the one that they provided and then set the tire in and tightened it into place. A couple cranks on the flywheel to get it snug against the tire and we’re ready to ride!

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All-in-all I’m really happy with it so far. The 30 minute ride I had this morning was a good indication of how much work I still need to put in before my Olympic triathlon on March 9th. It also gave me a good sense of a few aches that became apparent after riding for the 30 minutes and that I was overdue to get my bike fitted. So now I’m booked in with Marty to get my bike fitted for a more comfortable ride and look forward to putting many miles on this trainer to get my butt geared up for the triathlon!

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The shoes are stinky as you’d expect 🙂

 

It’s Alive!

Those who know me well know that I have some neurotic tendencies and am a bit of a perfectionist :). This site and blog is one of those things that I have been fussing over for almost a year trying to get it “just right”. It started with switching my hosting platform from Squarespace to my current one, WordPress. WordPress allowed for more customisability which is great, but unfortunately for someone like me who is neurotic about details, this was also a bad thing. It led to the 12 month delay in putting together actual content in terms of posts but rather spent my energy on the design aspect and the behind the scenes parts.

Finally a couple weeks ago I gave up on all the fancy things I was trying to accomplish that seemed to be slowing down the site, and went with a very clean interface. The theme I’m using is a responsive one which means it should be optimized for any device that is viewing it be it a desktop or laptop monitor, a hand-held tablet, or a smartphone. For those of you who are a little geeky, the site is limited to a width of 1024 px but becomes responsive when narrower than that.

So, here it is! It’s optimized for speed, a few social widgets at the bottom of each post for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, and will soon be filled with content including pictures from mine & Jackie’s last few trips and the occasional rant when something rubs me the wrong way! 🙂

Catching Up… and Krav Maga

Wow, it definitely has been a while since I updated this side of my blog but that’s just because it’s been really busy. Since I last posted over 7 months ago about completing my triathlon I’ve had a few bursts of fitness followed by injuries, taking time to recover and then allowing the fitness to fall by the wayside unfortunately. I also spent over 5 weeks in Turkey for work during that time, mostly in the spring/summer and as everyone knows when you travel and work 12 hours per day, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for fitness. Add to that the fact that the food in Turkey is so tasty, it definitely did not help the waist line.

When I got back from my last trip to Turkey in July I was feeling extra unhealthy and decided to get back on the fitness train once again. This seems to happen a lot and I need to find some way of sustaining the good progress I make when I’m doing all the right things. As per usual, Hratch (my brother), came to my rescue and put together a pretty intense workout program involving weights but set up in such a way that I would be pushing myself cardio-wise while doing the weights – supersets, shorter breaks, intense workouts! I got into a routine with the weights program, playing squash, swimming, and bike riding and things were going very well for about 6 weeks and then I got a nasty cold that had me flattened on the couch at home for at least 5 days and an overall feeling crappy of 2 weeks.

While I was suffering through this cold I was quite annoyed because I had been on such a roll that as soon as I started to feel better I wanted to get active. Coincidentally Jackie & Vince suggested doing the Grouse Grind, which is on my 40 Things before I’m 40 list, and so I decided to join them on my first attempt of this beast of a climb. Of course, since I had just come off a cold, my nose was still running continuously, I was feeling light headed, and my lung capacity was significantly reduced so I didn’t get a fantastic result, but at least now I have the 1h34m time as a baseline to attack next year when the Grind opens once again.

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Of course the 3 weeks of getting over the cold and such put me in a rut again but I refused to stay in it this time. I slowly got back into my swimming where I started a zero to 1500m training program which is great because that’s the distance for the Olympics triathlon. To support the swimming I continued some very competitive squash games since the fall squash league started up again and started getting back into the weights programs that Hratch design for me. Last but not least I started tweaking my diet again to make sure that I was eating the proper foods to keep my body healthy while I was beating it up with this variety of sports.

Near the end of October I felt like I was getting a little bored on the fitness front and I started looking at some fitness classes at my gym to try and mix things up a bit. As though it was meant to be, a deal came up from the daily deal emails that I look through every day for Krav Maga which is something I had been interested in trying for the last few years but have never had the chance to actually try to to schedule issues or it simply being too expensive. The deal allowed for a full month of a Krav fitness class in the evenings from Mondays to Thursdays for just $20 so I jumped at the opportunity and bought myself 2 months worth of pass since that was the limit.

The Krav Maga class is put on by Tactix Gym in downtown Vancouver and I started with them on November 1st. The last 2 weeks have been as crazy insane a series of workouts as I’ve every had in my life. Keeping in mind that I’ve done bootcamps, heavy weights, cardio weights, martial arts, and a whole series of other fitness regimes and Krav, by far, has kicked my body’s ass so hard that I can feel the fat literally dripping off me every class. Showing up 20 minutes before class and being able to get through the pre-warmup, which would’ve killed me before, gives me such a sense of accomplishment that I could be happy with simply that as my workout. Of course, it doesn’t just stop there because although I’m already dripping with sweat, we get to do a “warmup” like no other which has me out of breath and muscle sore. Next we typically do one form of self-defence skill and practice that for a while after which there is some more intense cardio work to finish off the class.

I’ve purposefully stayed away from weighing myself since the beginning of the month but I’m definitely feeling some changes happening to my body. Every class I give my all and come out of it completely drained and satisfied. I haven’t just been doing Krav though because, as you know, I’m still training for a triathlon in March so I’ve been keeping up with the zero to 1500m program (just finishing up week 3, yah!) as well as playing squash at least once a week in the league. Last Wednesday for example I had a 1.2k swim in the morning, Krav in the afternoon, and a 45min squash match at night. Thoroughly exhausted is an understatement but when I have a chance to rest, I’m feeling awesome and looking forward to just keeping this momentum pushing me towards my goals!

Meetup – Olympic Village

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 30 sec, f/11, 22mm – 3 image panorama

The latest meetup I attended was at the Olympic Village in False Creek, basically around Science World. Once again this was part of the low light and long exposure meetup group and so we met up just before sunset and went about picking our spots and setting up. Of course just as the sun started setting and we were getting the beautiful pinks, purples, and orange colours in the sky, an artificial light started rising out in full view of our sunset shot which can be seen in the first photo; I guess they were filming something and needed the light but I was still able to get a shot I’m happy with.

This meetup was yet another perfect opportunity for me to play around with some panoramas. I realized that now that I was getting more into the lower light shots that I was going to need to get myself some ND filters which are currently on order courtesy of eBay!

At one point I was really close to the water where my camera was sitting less than 40cm above the surface of the water (5th photo below) and after I took the series of photos for the pan, I glanced over to where some photographers were and noticed the heron that was just hanging out, enjoying the night, and watching the silly photographers.

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 4 sec, f/32, 42mm

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 10 sec, f/18, 24mm – 3 image panorama

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 15 sec, f/10, 18mm – 5 image panorama

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 2 sec, f/5.6, 105mm

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 10 sec, f/9, 26mm – 4 image panorama

Meetup – 9 O’Clock Gun @ Stanley Park

It was a pretty busy summer this year so I didn’t get to attend too many of the scheduled meetups. The next one I was able to attend was the first meetup of the low light photography group which was at Stanley Park to capture the 9 o’clock gun firing.

I got there with plenty of time to set up my tripod and gear and started taking photos as the sun was setting and the blue moon. This locale is such a great place to take photos of downtown Vancouver as well as see some of the industrial container shipyards that always seem to draw my eye whenever I take a walk downtown during a coffee break. I’ve also been pretty keen on panoramics since I took a short course on it and wanted to combine the long exposure with some pan techniques.

Of course I was talking and being social with the organizer, Barry, so I did actually end up missing the firing of the gun and thus did not get the shot with the fireball coming out of it. However the event wasn’t a bust because I was able to meet some great new photographers and capture some stunning shots of this beautiful city I call home.

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 1/50 sec, f/8, 165mm

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 0.6 sec, f/11, 105mm

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 25 sec, f/22, 35mm

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 25 sec, f/22, 35mm

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 25 sec, f/13, 35mm – 6 image panorama

Jump from the Edge of Space: 128,097 ft Freefall

Today I, along with millions of people around the world, witnessed an historic event which can only be compared to the landing on the moon on July 20, 1969. Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian born skydiver and base jumper, dropped from the stratosphere over 120,000 ft above the Earth’s surface in a free fall that broke the sound barrier.

I turned the live YouTube broadcast on while I was making pancakes for breakfast for my wife and my niece, Nayeli, who was over for her first sleepover at our place. Reaching the altitude took just over 2 hours and 30 minutes and so I just had it running in the background. As we sat down to eat, Felix was past pre-jump check #30 so I scarfed down my breakfast and came to sit and watch the jump.

My heart started racing as he disconnected the oxygen umbilical to the shuttle and was pretty much set to go. I couldn’t imagine what it must have felt like for him to be standing where he was as he made his final statement, saluted the world and viewers, and jumped.

“I know the whole world is watching now and I wish the world can see what I see. Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are.”

Felix Baumgartner – October 14, 2012

I still get chills when I see him take the step and drop out of the camera’s sight in less than 2 seconds. With my eyes pinned to the screen, I saw him reach his terminal velocity and get into that spin that could have been catastrophic. As my heart started racing, you could see his experience as he pulled himself out of the spin to continue a controlled freefall with a triumphant yell coming from mission control and a sigh of relief escpaing from my lips as I released the breath I didn’t realize I was holding.

As I was doing a bit of research for this post, I noticed that today also marked the 65th anniversary of Chuck Yeager’s historic flight where he broke the speed of sound for the first time in a manned aircraft. This is an amazing coincedence escpecially considering the delay in the launch of this mission earlier this week.

The unofficial results of the jump from the press conference are below:

  • Exit Altitude: 128,097 ft
  • Freefall Time: 4m 19s
  • Freefall: Distance: 119,846 ft
  • Maximum Velocity: 373 m/s (Mach 1.24) – that’s INSANE!!!

This was a fantastic experience and I truly want to congratulate Felix for being the first man to freefall from the edge of space!

Reference: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/daredevil-skydiver-felix-baumgartner-breaks-sound-barrier-1.995072

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Final checks before he steps out onto “the ledge”

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Giving a thumbs up before stepping out of the capsule

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An external view of the capsule

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Saluting the world and everyone watching after making his statement quoted above

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Standing at the edge of the precipice

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And off he goes to break those records!

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This was the fastest the estimated speed was shown as during the broadcast but the preliminary results at the top show a much faster maximum velocity which broke Mach 1

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Felix celebrating at the end of his historic jump!

Meetup – Lighthouse Park

When I moved back to Vancouver I really wanted to get out there and take more photos of the city and the beautiful nature so close to the city that I’d been away from for the last 7 years. I’ve been so busy in general since I posted my first photo post about buying the D300 (see here) that I haven’t had a chance to post some of the great photos I’ve been able to capture.

I ended up joining the free site, meetup.com, and more specifically I initially joined a group called Vancouver Photowalks. The site is just like the name states: a place where people can organize meetups about anything they wish and connect with people with like interests. In my case I was looking for a group of people to meetup with on a semi-regular basis and just go out and take photos of interesting things. To me this is a great way to meet people with a variety of photography skills and perspectives and is a good opportunity to learn as well as develop my own photography.

The photos in this post were taken on the first meetup I went to which was at Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. The meetup happened on April 22, 2012 and it was great to get out, go for a short hike, and take some fun photos.

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 1/250 sec, f/1.8, 35mm

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 1/400 sec, f/2.8, 35mm

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 5 sec, f/22, 35mm

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 10 sec, f/22, 35mm

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 15 sec, f/18, 35mm

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Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 1/200 sec, f/8, 112mm (4 image panorama)