171002 Theta Nights II - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

Toronto from the lighthouse.

The Ricoh Theta is a surprisingly capable device considering what a bad camera it is. It has been coming with me on several evening trips to the Leslie street spit, where it produces a surprising number of decent photos. These are some favourites that need a home while I work on a few other sets from the Spit.

There are places on the Spit that I rarely visit; I've only been to the lighthouse at the farthest point a couple of times, and it's been at least a decade since my last visit. I prefer the beaches of the endikement, which are slightly less generally obvious as a destination, but the lighthouse does have its appeal when the crowds have tinned out a bit.

This and the skyline photo were taken within half an hour of each other. The Theta needs manual control and experimentation for night photography, but it can work. Also done manually is the camera positioning: in this case, it's on the end of a selfie stick – I own two – that's propped up against the large concrete block. It was precarious, but if my "S" model plunges to its death then I can upgrade to the new "V" model. Apparently it has better image quality.

Drainage.

The Spit continues to evolve and be refined. The land here isn't on the maps, closing off cell two from cell three, which is open to the lake. The big orange pump is lowering the level of cell two as it has its environment enhanced; I don't know if the land barrier is permanent or if it will eventually be removed.

The Theta knows a couple of neat tricks. One is that it edits itself out of its own photos, and the other is that it looks like it's about two feet higher than it actually was. In the two photos above it's only about six inches above the mud. In the photo below I've had an equipment improvement, and the camera's about three feet up.

Another night, another photo. Another series of post-processing choices. Such is life.

I saw the plane coming, and from previous experience I could guess that it would pass by fairly closely. Fortunately I already had a selfie stick equipped with my new Novoflex Ground Spike – the most expensive and exquisitely-machined piece of metal I own that doesn't have 'RRS' stencilled on it – and quickly tent-pegged it as high up on the mud pile as I could reach. Then it was just a matter of finding a hiding spot and waiting until the right moment to start the exposure.

Building blocks.

A few months ago I stumbled over the scene in the top photo, which is a huge number of bricks dry-stacked into a tall tower and elaborate series of walls. It doesn't really translate in the flat images, but looked impressive in person and on Google Maps. And, given the nature of constant change, I shouldn't have been as surprised when I returned to find it disassembled and scattered. I was, though – I took several photos out of mourning, but haven't posted them to Google Maps yet.

Self portrait. 

The only photos of myself that I've posted on this blog are from the Theta. And yes, here I'm wearing a ballcap backwards while photographing, which I call "doing a Ken Rockwell". I try to avoid that particular look, but in this case the hat and its neck-covering brim are coated with bug repellant, which is the only thing that keeps the evenings tolerable. 

This was taken on the point at the end of the endikement, away from the city and the crowds, where I prefer to be. And, with the return of early sunsets, it wasn't even 9pm yet. That's my kind of night photography. For the first time in my life I'm not dreading the encroaching darkness of winter, and plan on finally making the Spit into an all-season destination this year.


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