Portrait – Zack and his Piano



Here’s a little fun photo set I recently shot of Zack Richard from Swing Connexxion. I used a very simple and portable setup of one flash tethered to my camera and a reflector (a tri-grip reflector to be precise, oooooooo!). I was actually just there to shoot portrait mug shots for Lunou and Zack and maybe a few dancey-dancey pics but I always like to warm up a shoot by shooting something a bit different – hence the piano idea. Sometimes the best shots you end up taking were the ones you didn’t even intend for at all.

Knowing that I was doing mostly portrait shots for this shoot, I made a conscience decision to only bring one lens to the shoot – an 85mm 1.8f. Carrying camera equipment around everywhere is such a pain in the ass that I try to shoot as light as possible and bring exactly what I need and no more. People often ask me why I shoot with just one lens when I’m out for a dance event or photo gigs and honestly fifty percent of is laziness. The other fifty percent is about getting real good with a particular glass rather than spending time packing and unpacking and experimenting while on the clock.

The 85mm lens, in my opinion, is perfect for the “only top-half of the body” look. The pictures always end up being super sharp and having the option to shoot with a shallow depth of field is always interesting compositionally. I used to have a 85mm 1.4 back in the day but I sold it and bought a much cheaper 85mm 1.8 that pretty much does the same job (at $600 less to boot!). The auto-focusing on the 1.8 isn’t nearly as fast as a 1.4 but when you are shooting subjects that don’t move, you don’t even need auto-focusing really.

Admittedly, it would have been easier to have a wireless trigger to control the flash but the $30 tether cord did it’s job. There were some discomforts though of making sure the cord is not in the shot so if you have the cash, definitely go with the wireless option.

For this particular shoot, fellow photographer Jessika was also in the studio so I coerced her of course to be the lighting assistant. Mah hah hah. Often times when I ask people around to hold the flash, hilarity and mayhem ensues. However, having the eye for light herself, Jessika was able to actually come up with some clever angles by holding the reflector with her teeth, positioning it with one hand AND holding the flash with the other hand. Love it.

The flash bounced off the reflector at a 45’ish or so degree angle from Zack’s face, positioned right up against the wall and the piano. You can actually see the reflector in Zack’s eyes if you look closely enough. Neat! It’s worth to point out that I had a little dome diffuser on the flash itself to even out the light on Zack and the piano when it bounced from the reflector.

Since I only had the 85mm lens with me, I had to get a little bit creative and REALLLLY close as there were mirrors right behind me and a wall to my right. I’m not really sure why I crouched down but that’s the angle that I came up with. It would have been interesting to have various height differences though (for example, directly besides or behind the piano) so I’ll file that away in my mind for future shoots.

Randomly, I added a fake rose on the piano for funsies and it actually worked out well to give the image a just a smidgen of contrasting color from his dark blue suit. Oh yah, this entire set of photos took about 3-5 minutes to shoot.

Bagels, Troupe, And Misc Thoughts


If y’all are coming up to Montréal for the blues dance event in under two weeks time, you should probably know that the two best places to get bagels in the city are St. Viateur Bagels and Fairmount Bagels. I don’t really have a preference yet, as both of them are stupendously dee-lish, but the key things to know about the two places are:

  • They are both open 24/7! Perfect for late night snacky snacks or in-between dance munchies to soak up the adult beverages.
  • If you don’t know which flavour to get, you can never go wrong with sesame.
  • St. Viateur is on 1127 Mont. Royal East or 263 St. Viateur West.
  • Fairmount Bagels is on 74 Fairmount West.
  • They are two are super close to each, just in case you wanted to do your own taste test.

The blues troupe that Gen and I have been working on this year are performing on Saturday night. Cheer them on as we are very proud of their progress! Not everything wen’t smoothly however as we actually had a lead drop-out two weeks before the performance. So… I will be doing a cameo appearance ala Quentin Tarantino. It’s a pretty neat routine set in a restaurant (you’ll see…). Check out a sample shot of the “rich people” Robyn and Alex L. up above. One day… a Firefly blues performance. Mark my words.

I’m teaching at MezzJelly! Wahoo, I’m internet famous now!


Seriously though, take my class. Papa needs a brand new set of studio lights…

A month or so ago, Caroline Rossi set up a quick routine for us to perform at a charity function. Check it out… just in case you can’t tell who I am, I’m the short asian guy on the far left… :


The Man, the Myth, the Dargoff?


This was the very first shot that I took during the Lindy Bout weekend. Usually before I start shooting, I like to take a couple of test shots and play with some knobs and buttons to try to get the settings right, or make it seem like I know what I’m doing (really, what I’m doing is checking to make sure I have a memory card actually in the camera… long story).

However, as soon as I looked at my viewfinder for image “DSC0001”, I was blown away by the random happenstance of colours working together. Coincidently, there was this small stage light (behind the speakers) shining right into Dargoff’s face, making that the focus of the image… which also coincidently made me chuckle because of Dargoff’s smile-smirk. *chuckle chuckle*


Stilt Walking Diane Garceau




Tien was able to get a few shots of the Vancouver-renowned artist and dancer, Diane Garceau doing some stilt-walking on a cloudy day last weekend.

Interesting tidbit, Diane Garceau was my first blues instructor in Vancouver even before I knew what blues dancing was even about. I saw Diane and her partner dancing to some slow jazz during the Robson Square series, many years ago and begged them to teach me some of that sweet slow stuff. To this day I still remember (and use often) the grapevine partnered sequence in my very first private :-) Thanks Diane!


Owen Hortop on Taking the Plunge


While I was shooting portrait shots of Owen, I found out that he had recently made a life altering decision to move from the world of academia and finance to full time dance instruction. Admittedly, my immediate reaction was, “whoa, are you sure? Dancers are hobo poor! What if you get injured or get attacked by a brown bear? What is your back-up plan?”.

However, the more he told me about how he came to that decision in his life, the more it sounded like it was less a decision than a calling. There was nothing else in the world he would rather be doing besides teaching and dancing, it was in Owen’s DNA! What’s really interesting for me was to hear that instead of dipping his toes in the shallow end, he just went full on cannon-ball dove right into the deep end. Major props has to be given up for that kind of risk-taking that I’m sure many of us (including myself) would love to do perhaps one day.

As you may or may not know, Owen teaches lindy hop classes at Cats Corner but also recently started a shag troupe. Knowing how hard it was to start a blues troupe in Toronto and Montréal form scratch first hand, I can only imagine the logistics and promotion challenges of starting a shag troupe. Yet, he was able to do it and now it happens every Sunday afternoon at the studio.

That is why I love our dance community so much and how I’m lucky to be able to travel for my dance and work life. I meet so many uniquely interesting people that have this crazy drive to not only succeed but also have the uncanny ability to really focus on what would make them happy.

Instead of trying to fully re-tell Owen’s story, I would just suggest you stop on by his blog: http://stompoff.blogspot.ca/. He has some really interesting posts about dance, life, and the culmination of dance-life.