Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A matter of perspective....

A quandary often faced  here at the DeadFly Media offices is the decision process not only around what images are considered for use, but also, how to use them.  Should it be this one, or that one? Colour or black and white? What happens if you flip it? Etc..

It can sometimes cause quite the debate, especially with regards to the originator, i.e. the taker of the shot being overridden with regards to opinions about how it should be treated and cropped and used.

I'm not sure if Van Gogh ever had anybody wandering along from the tavern in town and saying over his shoulder "Why is that bit all blue and squiggly? Wipe that bit away and change its shape, and also it should be purple!" but I am pretty sure that if he had, then it would have caused an interesting and somewhat colourful discourse, at the end of which, I would like to believe, it would have remained blue and squiggly with perhaps a little extra emphasis on the squiggle just to be certain.

Part of the challenge when these conversations happen is that due to the very subjective nature of the perception of art, everyone is right and valid in their thoughts and opinions on it.  We all have our own way of interpreting that which is presented to us, and we all have our own very distinct thoughts and emotions which can be triggered as a result.  Show me some Monet's and I'll willingly show you the money, but show me some Pollock's and my appreciation of them can be summarized with one word that rhymes with his surname.

So here my dear reader is an interactive challenge for you.  This first picture was shot while out on a wander around Downtown Toronto, and the composition and the people within it caught my eye right from the get go, when I first came upon the scene.  I was fascinated by what I saw and captured it accordingly with my 50mm kit lens, so I could not adjust the composition by zooming in or out at all and took in the whole scene.

copyright © DeadFly Media

It's interesting in itself as is, and tells us a unique story of that moment, at that time for these people. The waitress busy serving lunch orders, the guy walking off into the distance, the smoker deep in thought and the vaper vaping his vape thing lost in vapey thoughts.

But.....what if I change it to black and white and change the main focus to here....?

copyright © DeadFly Media

Now we have changed the cropping, giving it something more interesting to look at.  We have lost the dead space to the far right of the shot, goodbye to the tree and the manhole on the street. Less extraneous details and more focus on the people.  Better?

What if we do it again...?

copyright © DeadFly Media
Now we are really focused in on the ponderous smokers and notice that we also have this fascinating bookend effect achieved by the blonde waitress looking in to the image on the left edge juxtaposed against the reflection of the dark haired man walking out of the shot on the far right.

Does this make for a more compelling image than the ones above?  Is this one telling us more of a story by the subtle placement of details?

How about one final version....

copyright © DeadFly Media

Now we are almost dismissing of the real world beyond the smoke and drawn into the mirror universe. No longer aware of the lunchtime activity, but noticing half price wine is available nearby. We find ourselves wondering what is capturing the attention of Vapey McVapeface. What is he studying? Whats happening in the mirror?

Each version has its own story to tell. Each alteration redirects the attention of the viewer and brings different nuances to focus in the mind's eye for us to ponder.  Each shot is arty and artful in its own right, but which one is the right one to use?  My favourite is the third one, the bookends of people seems to tell me more of a story. I am as drawn to them as I am to the smokers in the centre.  Does that make my choice right?  As the photographer I am going to hedge my bets and say 'Bloody right it does!'; but what do you think?  Which one draws your attention better and why?

One last thing...I'm calling it 'Smoke and Mirrors' but that could set off the whole debate all over again........

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Try This Instead.....

As DeadFlyMedia is a studio that focuses (har de har har) mostly on photography and videography (although we have delved into the written word too with reviews and interviews) we are consciously choosing the visuals we post on social media with our brand and image (har de har har again) in mind. We have been cultivating content that we hope will in some way either entertain, educate, entice or engage our followers on the various platforms that we use.

We laugh around the studio a lot. Belly laughing, tears rolling down our cheeks laughter. It's a great thing to enjoy the people you work with and it's important for us to share that mirth with people around us. We like to participate in the various somewhat goofy made up holidays that exist and you will have seen us put our mascot Bob in some precarious situations. Perhaps less than precarious as he is already dead so what can go wrong?! I scanned the calendar for what was coming up and somewhere in between "Lumpy Rug Day" and "Don't Fry Friday" I found "National Notebook Day" (As it turns out, National Notebook Day was May 18 and we all woke up to the sad news of the passing of the very talented Chris Cornell so it seemed disrespectful and somewhat trivial even to run it. The public mourning of another icon lost was the focus of the day, and our efforts were filed away for use someday in a blog......I digress).

I am a huge fan of hard covered journals, notebooks and diaries. Rather than having bits of paper lying around they help keep everything in one spot. Except that I have 4 going at once so that complicates things a wee bit. I jot down what’s on my mind, do my budget, make To-Do to lists, write down ideas for what to write about or cook or anything that inspires me. I am not alone in that endeavour. A quick Google will find you a gazillion examples of published idea books as well as wondrous examples of how to make your own. This article on notebooks and how writing in one can inspire and manifest creativity is a highly recommended read on the subject.

I wanted to take the picture for Notebook Day to accompany the quote by Anne Frank,  perhaps one of the most famous journal keepers of them all - “I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart”

Rather than having Andy take it  I brought out my notebooks to take the picture. I played with how to stack them or how to lay them on the side table in my living room, I fiddled with lights and placement. I took a lot of shots including these ones: 

They weren’t right. I didn’t “feel “ it.  I am perhaps over critical, perhaps a perfectionist. This gut instinct of mine is proving to be a really fickle and finicky thing but I’m going with it. Always go with your gut. I called Andy to express my frustration; which in itself is an endeavour that usually ends up with us both being frustrated as I talk with my hands and can’t quite find the right words to describe what I’m doing. Doesn’t really help over the phone.  But he’s a trooper and he really wants me to hone my skills and think about composition and lighting and such.

“Show me what you’ve done so far.”
I texted him with the above images.
" Why didn’t you use that piece of wood that you refer to as ‘your studio’? They would look great against that. And move the light so that it hits it from behind.”
So off I went to play with the light a bit and proudly submitted this one for review.

“If you stack the books on top of each other along the spines and then angle the light....”
I cut him off before he could finish “What's wrong with this one? What do you mean? I don’t understand!!!”.
He explained some more and after much whining on my part he said "Try this instead."
I received this....

It made me howl with laughter both at his having to resort to a spider like scrawl on a notepad to get his idea across to me, but also because his instructions had been really simple; as George Bernand Shaw once said “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” 

I ended up with these two. We are still debating which is better. I like the first one. Andy likes the second one. I like discussing the results. I like standing up for what I want as well as being open to feedback and making the necessary adjustments.

One of the many insights into Andy's imaginarium of a brain is that sometimes the smallest adjustment in how you look at things can make all the difference to finding 'the' shot.  What I learned through this little exercise is that while every image is subjective, and every composition can abide by, or break the rules to achieve the right effect, sometimes that is not enough.  Sometimes you have to step back and rethink, and 'try this instead' to see what will occur.  This process is, in effect, a pictorial version of a Commonplace Book, scraps of ideas and thoughts which in time become cohesive and complete.

The benefits to journalling or even doodling have been studied and reported for years now. I enjoy sitting down with a nice heavy pen and my hard covered notebook and just letting it flow. It is visceral and cerebral and this form of self-expression has set the stage for my expressing myself with pictures. Are they worth a thousand words? Well the writer in me struggles with that notion a bit; but expression, creativity, dare I say, 'art' in any form is something that I love exploring.

Thanks for reading, I'm off to take some notes about some upcoming shoots!

Till next time,


Monday, 19 June 2017

The making of......Calcite

It all started with a random conversation in a bar (as so many things do) in Kensington Market, with this gangly, skinny, tall 'kid' who was running an open mic night.
"I'm releasing a new single soon, would you like to do the video?"
"Sure!!" I yelped like the exuberant puppy I typically am whenever anyone suggests something creative.   "Come by our studio, lets chat and we can work something out."

Fast forward two weeks and I am sat in the company of this highly energetic, musically talented, and extremely articulate young man explaining the song and the inspirations that he had drawn upon while writing it. We listened to this odd vocalizing harmony introduction into a very cool, and quirky track, with an awesome beat and complex lyrics and the most infectious ear-worm of a chorus I have heard in eons.

"What do you think?"
"Erm....Can I hear it again" drawing a blank the first time through as my brain processed what my one good ear had absorbed, I closed my eyes and let my imagination start to wander.  Now I like to shoot things with odd light sources now and again. I find it fun to make a portrait happen based purely on the natural light source that is available to use at the time without adding any flash or fills etc, and the image that kept bouncing around in my head was a handful of faces, with only cellphones in hand to illuminate them, singing in the intro.   Thus was found the seed.

We talked of his very cool attic apartment with red and black squares, and a multitude of choreographed dancers, wearing outfits inspired by different eras (60's go-go dancers, 70's flared trousered rockers, leather clad punks, angry grunge).  We talked about a huge empty room with a band playing, mixed and cross cut with this dance.  We talked about the hard rocking house party he was planning where we could hear the music first hand, and also possibly, maybe shoot the intro.  We talked for hours, bouncing ideas left, right and centre, and painting landscapes upon the blank canvases within our heads.   Formulating some ideas well, but still missing something....

So the party happens, and Claire and I kill the lights and get the assembled (only slightly intoxicated) peeps and peers to sing along to the harmonies of the start and end of the song.  2 takes and it's in the bag! Then we explore the attic room (which seems to be several square meters smaller than Mario's initial description) to see what we have to work with for the dancing sequence and whatever we will do for his main singing piece.  A great room, but not where I could imagine him performing the song. But tucked in the corner was a tiny corridor to the roof which seemed like it was lifted from a movie set. I kept imagining Alice squeezing into it as her size and environment shrunk and grew around her - and I knew - I knew that was where I wanted to put him.

Fast forward again, and we are filling this small space with Christmas lights, and rigging the main focus of the song.  Pulling the amazing dancers outside of their choreographed comfort zone to 'just wing it' in this less than 2 feet wide hallway where they could not move their feet, and getting Mario to drop his precious cellphone onto a pillow at the exact same moment that Claire fired up the lights for a seamless transition from darkness to light that worked perfectly....on the 5th try.

And then suddenly it's all over. This chaotic cacophony of ideas and improvised moments is in the can and the post production editing process begins to intertwine and weave the pieces together, with a couple of misfires and a few moments of 3:00 a.m. inspiration along the way.

The video for the song Calcite by Myrre is due to be released this week.  A launch party is in the planning stages, and 2 email threads are under way for further music projects already.
Music videos?  yeah, we do that too!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

In the eye of the beholder

This past weekend we were very lucky to be given media access to shoot the opening of the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, ON. The festival is in its 37th year and considerably different now from the original marching band parade! It has evolved into a first rate festival featuring international and Canadian artists from every genre and decade since its inception and there really is something for everyone. Add to the amazing music over the course of the 9-day Festival a vast array of food and drink options, a marketplace, Family Zone, Carnival, Streetfest and yes the Grande Festival parade, and you have yourself loads of summertime fun!

The June 10th kick off concert was on the main TD Stage along the waterfront. A beautiful location on a gorgeous sunny day with a little breeze coming off the lake which got everyone in festive spirits! The bands ranged from punk to classic rock to alternative and the crowd was a cross-section of ages; the energy levels were contagious and much singing and dancing was going on!  Full galleries of our music photography will be up soon but we posted a picture of each act on Instagram as the day unfolded. Sumo Cyco, Killer Dwarfs, Spin Doctors, Smash Mouth, Marianas Trench, Live and The Offspring brought their A games to the field, making for an incredible live music event. 

We were shooting for AntiHero Magazine and were given the traditional "3 songs no flash" concert photography pit access to take pictures of each act except for headliners The Offspring, who restricted access to a couple of event staff only.  In between bands we mingled with our colleagues from various outlets, chatted with fantastic volunteers who guarded our equipment until our return and wandered the grounds for a taste of the new Goslings Dark and Stormy and sample some poutine! You find yourself looking around for shots to capture the mood of the day, to capture the experience for people and when you're part of the DeadFly Media Team you look for something a little different while you're at it!

I found myself looking at rigging and equipment, noticing colours and shapes, scanning the vista. As I looked out over the peaceful lake and at the sailboats docked, the sort of beautiful imagery that would normally have been the focus of my photos, my attention instead returned to the rigging and to the back of the screens that were showing the concert for those further back from the stage.

I grabbed my cellphone (my wondrous new LGG6!) and took a pic...

As I stood there reviewing  the picture and trying to figure out where to go next with it, and where best to stand to make a better composition, suddenly Andy appeared.....

Now I'm not sure if he saw me looking or I was aware of him looking, or what, but we were both drawn to this screen. You hear about people who work together getting in sync with unspoken cues that have people switching between leading and following each other. I was both pleased that he saw something there too and annoyed because I knew he'd get a better shot! 

You get more proficient by working with someone who is better, more adept or more experienced at something; someone who challenges you to leave your comfort zone and up your game. I am inspired to trust my gut instinct more, to test my burgeoning eye, to keep looking, to keep trying....because he finds this insane beauty in the most obscure details.  I found beauty in the big picture, and I knew there was more to discover but I didn't quite go there, whereas he found art in the minutiae.  Look at what the eye of the beholder can see....

Do you have a photo you're particularly proud of? We'd love to see it and hear your story!


Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Long live rock 'n roll

We have been privileged to be on assignment for AntiHero Magazine recently. Just who are they exactly? 

"We are comprised of an international team of writers, photographers and interviewers throughout the world covering Rock, Metal, Punk, Hardcore and more. Our aim is to not only deliver news and features from established acts, but help expose new, upcoming and underground bands to our readers. We are a growing site, currently averaging 50k-60k views per month, 6300+ Twitter followers, and 44,000+ Facebook followers."

Our Editor-in-Chief Thomas Woroniak is incredibly supportive and encouraging and we are thoroughly enjoying working with him to provide interesting content for his magazine. After all, quirky, different, interesting is what we do!

Our first gig was covering the Killer Dwarfs acoustic show at the Hard Rock Cafe here in Toronto in May. Before the show we got to chat with founding members Darrell "Dunk" Millar and Russell Graham. Here is an excerpt:

Are there any new bands or new music that you are listening to?

Dunk – “Kickin’ Valentina! That’s our new band. New Jack Russell but that’s not ‘new new’.”

Russ- “Rival Sons. I like that band. They’re like ‘Zeppelin’, or ‘The Doors’. Go see them if you haven’t seen them they’re awesome.”

Dunk –“They’re good. They have a real ‘70s feel. I’m not listening to a whole lot of new stuff to tell you the truth. I’m kinda stuck back in the day. Like, when we get together drinking or whatever, we end up listening to Foghat, Aerosmith, all these bands we used to listen to.”

Russ- “The stuff from our youth.”

Dunk – “I think everybody does that, don’t they? We revert back to that.”

Russ-  “Well they were mainstream too. The songs were solid.”

Dunk – “I listen to Bad Company and all kinds of 70s rock.”

Russ- “The kids like that shit too.”

Dunk – “Yeah they do, they do.”

The entire interview can be found here on AntiHero Magazine's site as well as photos from the gig. You can also find the gallery of photos on DeadFly Media

The Killer Dwarfs will be playing this Saturday June 10th at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario. And on October 7th at The Rockpile in Toronto. 

And we'll be covering more gigs so keep your eyes peeled!

If you'd like to be featured contact us here !

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

"All I Want is Loving You and Music, Music, Music..."

That line comes from this song. The Team here at DeadFly Media loves music. We have music on all the time in the studio, in the car while on the way to and from clients. And it is something that we love to shoot whilst it's being played live and now write about for AntiHero Magazine!

We have some pretty different, eclectic musical tastes and are rather well-versed ( ba dum tish) in music history and trivia. So in an effort to get to know us better and to peek behind the curtain....we asked each other these questions about music.


What was the 1st album you bought?

Tubular Bells – Mike Oldfield.  Our music teacher played it through in a lesson at school (I think he just wanted an excuse to play his new album all day as he did it for everyone) and I was amazed by it, so went out and spent some coin.

What was the 1st concert you attended?

Queen at Knebworth Park, London (supported by Big Country & Status Quo) in August 1986.  It was Queen's very last concert with Freddie, and absolutely fantastic.

What was the best concert you ever attended?

Marillion Convention Weekends in Port ZĂ©lande and Montreal 2013.  I was one of the featured contributing artists on their 17th studio album Sounds That Can’t Be Made, and I provided artwork for three tracks (Montreal / Sounds That Can’t Be Made & Invisible Ink) - and I can truly say that there is nothing which adequately describes the impact upon me when my images were a featured part of their visuals in their stage show.  An accolade shared by precious few, all incredibly talented and amazing artists. It was truly emotional, so incredibly memorable, and will always be a high point in my photography career.  

If you were stranded on a desert island what is the 1 album you'd want with you?
Only 1? Marbles by Marillion 

If you could create your own SuperGroup, who would be in it?

 Drums - Keith Moon.  Bass -  John Entwistle.   Guitar(s) - Steve Rothery and Gary Moore.  Harmonies & Backing vocals – The Blind Boys of Alabama and Ninet Tayeb.  Keyboards – Tony Banks   Vocals – Freddie Mercury


What was the 1st album you bought?

The Partridge Family. I vividly remember being with my Mum in Towers department store in Quebec City and being given the choice between a long floral dress( it was the 70s we were all hippies!) and the album; I couldn't have both, I had to choose. And thus began my obsession with music.

What was the 1st concert you attended?

Technically it was the Irish Rovers at the Grand Theatre in Quebec City but rock concert would be either Cheap Trick at the Forum in Montreal. Robin Zander in that pink suit. Swoon. Or possibly the KISS one ( see below). Should have kept those ticket stubs!

What was the best concert you ever attended?

Kiss, Dynasty Tour, Montreal Forum in I think 1979. It remains the concert against which all others since have been measured. It was mind blowing. My folks drove me and my brother Mark the 2.5 hours from Quebec City to Montreal, gave us money to buy T-shirts and dropped us off, unchaperoned. Ears ringing and recounting every moment excitedly and probably incoherently to them when they picked us up, we drove to the Holiday Inn in Longeuil and spent the night. It was also important emotionally as we didn't have a lot of money and it was a big deal. Mark and I both included this when we spoke at our Dad's service when he passed away. 

Had my 16 year old self had any idea that this would happen...

As Andy included more than 1....Close 2nd would be Nine Inch Nails at the Air Canada Centre here in 2013 as it launched my 'music tourism' adventures ( globetrotting to see concerts) - that touring line up for Tension 2013 was phenomenal and included some astonishing effects and lighting.

NIN at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas

If you were stranded on a desert island what is the 1 album you'd want with you?

I have a feeling this answer would change depending on my mood....but right now I'd say Kiss Destroyer. 

If you could create your own SuperGroup, who would be in it?

I'm going with people still alive! Joan Jett, Luke Spiller (The Struts), Tom Morello on guitars, Tim Muddiman on bass, Ilan Rubin on drums. That was totally just people I love ; no idea how they'd sound together! LOL

So what about you? Comment below with your answers!

"Till next time

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Andys Angle.....Click

It's that moment the other side of midnight when you are exhausted from shooting an entire awesome concert and you have just schlepped your heavier than ever bag back to a car that seems to be parked miles further away than it was 4 hours ago, and all you want to do is fall asleep for a thousand hours, but you spot something - an image searing into your brain compelling you to put things down in the middle of a rainy car-park and find a camera for one more shot.....

DeadFly Media

It's when you wake up at three in the morning and realise it is foggy outside and suddenly think of something and the next thing you know you are walking across train tracks in the dead of a dark and damp night to get this damned image out of your head....

DeadFly Media

It's that moment when you see something unexpected in the viewfinder and find yourself compelled to spend weeks on the road travelling across North America to write a word in pictures..

Marillion & DeadFly Media

It's spending 10 hours in the studio crafting and tweaking and creating to take one picture which people assume was photoshopped and layered rather than actually taken 'live'.

Steve Rothery, Marillion, DeadFly Media

It's taking an hour to walk a 10 minute distance because you just have to keep stopping and having that close circle of friends who both flinch and suggest running away, while at the same time smile approvingly and happily wait when you utter the phrase "I've got an idea!!"

DeadFly Media

Click.  It's what I do.  Sometimes it's all I do even when I should be doing other things.   It is simply the best noise in the world.......Click.

To see more of what happens when I click....
Find a better way of life with Marillion here....
Postcards From The Road By Steve Rothery available here....