150518 Three Recent - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

Never let it be said that I'm adverse to bad ideas. My favourite camera these days is the Sigma DP3 Merrill, and my favourite accessory is a ten-stop neutral density filter. With the magic of three different step-up rings – 52-58, 58-72, 72-77 – I've managed to combine the two. The result is a lightweight but funny-looking camera that's very difficult to focus, can't shoot against the light, can give an odd colour response, requires a tripod, and doesn't have a remote shutter release. Good times.

These are three recent photos from this combination that I particularly like.


This photo is a miss. It was my first time out with the very dark filter, and I could barely see what I was doing. I meant to focus on the edge of the bin, but couldn't tell that I'd found the broken edge of the OSB wooden panel instead. Shot at f/5 that ragged edge is incredibly sharp, but the rest of the photo is somewhat ambivalent; the fifteen-second exposure duration didn't add anything in particular, either.

Yet after sitting with it for a couple of weeks it appeals to me in a way that it didn't initially. It's far more chaotic and skewed than my usual, and I've been enjoying dark monochromes recently. 

This is another photo where the darkening filter didn't actually add to the end result even though it was integral to choosing the camera position. It's a 2.5s exposure at f/5.6 of the window of the now-closed Daniel's Art Supplies. It's a perfect example of my typical composition – which I haven't been using as much recently – with everything very carefully straight and square. I can spend a lot of time looking at all the little details in this photo.

For what it's worth, yes, I do like the paintings of both Barnett Newman and Cy Twombly.

Finally, here's something along the lines of what I wanted from using the dark filter on the DP3. It's an eight second exposure, at f/11, of west Queen West. I can get away with that because the camera is on a Joby Gorillapod Focus and perched on whatever street furniture is handy – this was probably a newspaper box, although it might have been a sign post.

This photo might eventually end up in a slideshow of similar photos taken from around the city, although I'll need to take many more before that will happen. My real motivation is to make something to go with audio based on time-stretched traffic and crowds, which I will also need to record, when time permits. We'll see how it goes.


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