Toronto Cavalcade of Lights

Maybe I have cabin fever or a progressively worse Vitamin D deficiency; but every year the Toronto Cavalcade of Lights program seems to be getting bigger and better. The Cavalcade of Lights starts the last week of November and culminates the week before Christmas as a series of light shows in Nathan Phillips Square and other spots around town. There are bands and music and games to be played especially out in the boroughs which are putting on ever more elaborate light shows and local events.Of course the Cavalcade is the antidote to Daylight savings time plus the increasingly darker days until the Winter Solstice on December 21st, the darkest day of the year in these parts. Inevitably it is also part of the Christmas shopping season; but don”t discount the Cavalcades strong social and psychological roots. Many faiths, not just Christian, have a festival of lights leading up to and reaching a climax round the Winter Solistice. And there are too many Psych 101 studies around stressing the importance of the Winter maximum in mental health. For photographers, the Cavalcade presents an opportunity to flex their night time shutter skills – a tricky world to say the least. Let me just speak of the hazards: reciprocity failure, deep shadow noise, hue biases, and extreme fluctuating exposure conditions are just a few. For these reasons and cold nights, many photographers avoid night shooting.

But other photographers revel in it. We concur with the latter group and devote this story to it. Night photography and the Cavalcade of Lights are an opportunity to paint light on your film or digital camera sensors in new and novel ways. With exposures lasting several seconds if not minutes their is ample opportunity for light-handed mischief. blueX
the first opportunity to fun occurs early on Cavalcade Night, when they turn on the Blue Christmas tree lights. Time to try a 3 second exposure with a panning of the camera. The action is simple, adide by a monopod; but timing is of the essence. One must get a slow, smooth and even panning over the 3 seconds. The shot above is third time lucky.Our next image pans over to the nearby Sheraton Center.

The Sheraton Center stands as a huge incandescent yellow windowed obelisk over Nathan Phillips Square. Its shape and significance is straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. So I had to come to terms with the Obelisk. And the simplest way was a turning of the screws on the telephoto lens to slowly zoom in on the building. Again the exposure is for 3 seconds and so the trick is to leave a second or more at the end of the zoom to allow for the end image to sink in. Strange, portraying the Obelisk makes it less imposing and more conceivable.Good fortune would have that the Cavalcade of Lights would feature the painting by lights of Old City Hall by Xavier de Richemond who signs his buildings with the title “Immersion”

The show is a photographer”s color heaven – a projecting from 3 stations across the street drenches the Old Lady in new hued gowns and riveting sounds every half hour after 6:00 untill 11:00PM up to December 23rd, 2006. It is a show to revel in if even for a moment because the darkness and traffic and watchers are never quite the same. Of course the the Hall”s clock tower striking the half hours signals the commencement of each show. And we we choose to paint on our camera”s receptor using a simple twist of the whole camera over the 1 second exposure (there is lots of light here – so we have to stop down and increase the shutter speed). The result is a little bit of the Haunted House look – as I am sure some of the nooks and office crannies certainly have the such tales to spill out on a suitable night.

2 thoughts on “Toronto Cavalcade of Lights”

    1. I am using the Sony Rx 100 camera here. It has a special fireworks setting but even better shots were obtained with the video taken with the same camera. Also the fumes from the fireworks added too much “smog” to the scene. Yet the night was had a light breeze – go figure.

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