Oct 28, 2010


(originally appears in Chill Magazine, available wherever you see people cashing in empties at 9AM.)

Thanksgiving – T-Day – it’s the home opener of a season of gluttony. It begins here, morphs into a month long Halloween sugar-rush, then straight into a half dozen Hannukwanzmas Parties, culminating in the Christmas Crisco Carb-Fest. Thank God our shorts have been put away so we can start rocking the stain-free sans-a-belt slacks.

According to our government, Thanksgiving must occur on "the second Monday of October"—it was proclaimed in parliament, for cryin' out loud. Now, I don't want to be that guy, but mandating when citizens ought to be thankful kinda defeats the whole humility thing. It's like forcing your son to write a note to Gam Gam to show appreciation for that sweater he hates. Also, if Ottawa wanted to get us out of debt, they would well consider the mountain of sales tax they're neglecting when stores are closed on the very day we want to shop ourselves thin. 

And what's with Monday, anyway? I've never bunked in the House of Commons, but in the "House of Jeremy", Sunday is for giving thanks... Monday is for avoiding the kitchen and making rash promises about your Body Mass Index. Clearly this holiday was ill-conceived.

But at least the Canadian version makes sense—if only from an agricultural perspective. Think about it... if Americans are finally getting around to celebrating harvest four weeks shy of Christmas, you have to wonder about those global warming trends.

So let's give thanks, Canada. You don't have to be religious to appreciate the fortune we are bestowed with. We're living in a country where the lowest hourly wage—one hour of scraping gum off theatre seats, for example—can easily buy a Baconator combo with a Frosty for dessert. Heck, even a Jays fan could find a reason to give thanks in October. (Actually, I'm still doing the math on that, but your suggestions are welcome.) 

The point is, as crappy as life gets, we live in a country where it is not only possible, but expected that we download porn in a coffee shop while watching a pirated copy of Saw XIV on an iPad; all the while, studiously avoiding eye-contact with the cashier. There are countries where "WiFi" in a restaurant stands for "With Fire".

So with all this freedom at our disposal, what do we usually do to give thanks? We lock ourselves in a steam-filled bungalow, repeating the same menu as every other year, with people so cherished in our lives that we tolerate their presence a grand total of twice a year, that's what. We further savour the concept of freedom by carving up a sumo-sized fowl that had the outrageous fortune of being raised on a "free" range farm. Hey farmer-dude, Turkey Nation salutes you on your unparalleled benevolence!

I don't know about you, but at my aunt's you get both kinds of food: simple and complex carbs. Gravy is considered a vegetable. There's no touch football in the backyard, but when you consider the very un-athletic nature of the meal, it's funny how "CFL" the kitchen gets at crunch time. Women are organized by food group—running back and forth like offensive linemen, faking handoffs of Tupperware and passing dinner rolls. It can get pretty intense—especially if two women bring the same thing. Even Aunt Stella, who only contributes one tin of No Frills "cranberry" sauce, will start mouthing off like Gordon Ramsay with Tourettes. Then there's Dad, quarterbacking the bird, and shooing nephews away with his Hamilton Beach buzzing at top speed. The smartest place to be—if you can't snag a nap under the coats—is either watching the Thanksgiving Day Classic in the den, or out in the garage with a cold one. Better yet, bring the TV 'round the back.

So here's my two cents on dinner, because no one can stay mad at a bowl of heart-attack potatoes: compliment the chefs, hug your aunts, do the dishes; and at some point, raise a toast—preferably one that doesn't start with "Zigga zagga, zigga zagga..." It's a small price to pay for a great meal, with great people, in a great country.

Just one quick thought... there are a whole bunch of folks—not far from where you live—who are thankful on the days they have a roof over their heads. It probably wouldn't kill you to pack a few turkey sandwiches on Monday, and drop them and a few bucks at your local homeless shelter. Giving thanks is nice. Giving a bit of yourself is better. God bless, and don't hog all the stuffing.

Oct 25, 2010

V-Flats and Big, Soft Lighting

Quick one here.

Just did a test of a lighting setup I plan to use for shooting a friend of mine. I've been doing it in my head for weeks now, so I set it up quickly while the kids were watching TV and couldn't bug me. The flats are opened up, so you can see the SB-600s.
I already had the V-flats (taped together foam core) which are easy, cheap and very useful. When you get them right close to the subject, they bathe the person in big, soft light. As a bonus, they self-gobo the speedlights.

The little slab of foam core in back made a down and dirty white backdrop (illuminated by an SB-800) that had to be remedied in PS. Since the goggles are the main thing here, the glass needed a huge (apparent) light source to give a nice, full reflection. Mission accomplished!
What would I do differently?

  • Put the flats up higher (they don't need to light the ground, doofus).
  • Tape up a larger backdrop.
  • Use ring flash. I like the grey b/g here better than the blown-out white shown below, and a ring flash would give a nice shadow in grey.

Most importantly, I would give my kids whatever they drank from the medicine cabinet that day, which made them willing to pose for me.

All the best!