Disneyworld – Magic Kingdom (Pt 1 of 5)

In April of this year, I got the chance to go to Disneyworld for the first time. A lot of people I know went as children and I was curious what it would be like to experience the place for the first time as an adult. It was an interesting experience. In some ways, no different that going to Canada’s Wonderland but it other ways truly magical.

I’ve been pondering the best way to share this trip with folks and after working through the over 2000 pictures I took during this trip, I came up with a plan. Step 1 – I’m not going to show you all 2000 shots… you’re welcome. Step 2- try to highlight the place and experience instead. This is going to be a 5 part series where I show you each of the parks plus a final post with some of my favorite shots.

I wanted to start with the Magic Kingdom as this is the most Disney place of them all, and this shot of Walt and Mickey in front of Cinderella’s castle was a shot that I knew I had to get. You do get caught up in the moment when you come across iconic views like this.


60mm – f 3.8 – 1/2500 – ISO 200 – exp comp -1

As this was my first time visiting, there were certain rides I felt I had to do by law in the Magic Kingdom – It’s a Small World, Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. The first one in the queue was It’s a Small World.

The ride is a technical marvel with what feels like thousands of these child dolls from all over the world singing the song (about a dozen times at least by the time you make your way through the place). I really appreciated the complexity of keeping a ride like this going- that’s a lot of moving parts. That being said, it’s a ride out of time. There are a lot of cultural depictions that land on the wrong side of stereotypical and it feels very awkward in 2018. My friend had overheard that this ride will be shutting down in the next year or so, and I can understand why. Also, my horror movie watching side was convinced they all come to life after dark 🙂


38mm – f 3.3 – 125 – ISO 3200 – exp comp -1

The Haunted Mansion was up next, and it was a lot of fun. Another dark ride (you sit is a seat and move through a place), you travel through the house and get to see a lot of fun setups, including one where holographic ghosts are dancing around a ballroom. One of the things that Disney has done very well is that the areas where you line up for rides usually have a lot of visual items to keep you occupied while you wait. The winding line for this ride starts with these family busts and moves you through  graveyards with cute tombstone epitaphs and architectural features.


16mm – f 6.3 – 1/200 – ISO 200 – exp comp -1

As I walked around (and I did a lot of that, each day at the parks resulted in at least 20,000 steps on the old pedometer), I was trying to keep an eye out for shots and angles that I found interesting. This shot was me enjoying how the lamps lined up. I also framed it so you couldn’t see the hordes of people travelling under the archway.


40mm – f 3.5 – 1/3200 – ISO 100 – exp comp -1

Experiencing Disneyworld involves three things: hot sun, so much walking and crowds. There is no way to avoid any of them. I wanted to capture this shot of one of the gazillion stroller/scooter parking lots around the place to give you that sense of busyness. One of the things I can say about Disney is that they have crowd and traffic management down to science!


16mm – f 5.6 – 1/400 – ISO 100 – exp comp -1

As mentioned earlier, there are moments of Disney magic that caught me off guard. This was a show they do in front of the castle many times during the day. It has Mickey and Minnie going around to invite other Disney characters to a party they are having. As you might guess from this photo, they have stumbled into Frozen land and we are being treated to Let It Go once again (as I didn’t have small children through the Frozen time, I still love this song so much). This moment when Elsa produces snow in the 30C temps of Florida made me gasp a little, it was such a fantastic moment. This show also ends with them shooting daytime fireworks out of the castle:)


80mm – f 8 – 1/125 – ISO 100 – exp comp +1

One of the things I knew I wanted to see was the Festival of Fantasy parade that takes place at 3PM every day. Getting a good photography location for this one resulted in my burning the back of my hand and ears as I waited in the sun- the price of photography!! The parade features a number of character floats, and the details on them were incredible. This one for The Little Mermaid (you can see Ariel’s tail at the top) was just one example of this detail.


The highlight of this parade for me though was the steampunk designed dragon from Sleeping Beauty. As everyone know, I have a bit of a dragon thing, and watching this one go by was amazing.


22mm – f 8 – 1/160 – ISO 100

In yet another example of detail, as this is the Sleeping Beauty dragon, the inside of the dragon is powered by the spinning wheel. I will confess I found out about this detail on the Disney shuttle we took in from the airport. It’s such a nice touch!!


19mm – f 8 – 1/125 – ISO 100

As I walked around, I came across Rapunzel’s tower. I loved how it was framed with the trees and thatched roof. I used a wider aperture to get the tower in focus but blur out the flowers on the branches a bit, lending it a bit of mystery.


80mm – f 4 – 1/1250 – ISO 100

The castle is definitely the key landmark in the Magic Kingdom and I was very happy when I came across this angle that let me frame it between these rocks in Tomorrowland.


55mm – f 3.8 – 1/8000 – ISO 400 – exp comp -1

The Magic Kingdom was an interesting place to visit. As the oldest of the 4 parks, it does feel quaint at times, but definitely is the most Disney of all of them and is worth a wander around if you have the time. I won’t be redoing any of the rides again if I go back, but it’s a wonderful place to just experience. As I and several hundreds of my closest friends left the park at the end of the parade, I relished the atmosphere of the place.


31mm – f 8 – 1/400 – ISO 100 – exp comp -1

Stay tuned for the next blog where we move over to Hollywood Studios and I come clean about my fascination with Storm Trooper outfits!!


Slimbridge (Let there be birds!)

Hi Everyone,

just dusting off the blog for a new year, and thought I would kick it off by just sharing some remaining photos of my trip to England last year. We spent the day at the Slimbridge Wetlands Sanctuary, and here’s some of the folks we ran across. It was a fairly overcast day (shocking for England I know), but it was a great property to wander around.


F 13 – 1/200 – 32mm – ISO 800


F 6.3 – 1/200 – 185mm – ISO 3200


F 6.3 – 1/200 – 250mm – ISO 800


F 14 – 1/200- 90mm – ISO 800


F 11 – 1/200 – 250mm – ISO 800


F 10 – 1/250 – 250mm – ISO 800


F 16 – 1/250 – 250mm – ISO 800


F 14 – 1/200 – 250mm – ISO  800


F 20 – 1/250 – 250mm – ISO 800


F 10 – 1/250 – 18mm – ISO 800

The blog itself will be returning shortly. The weather’s warming up, and my willingness to go out is increasing as well. This year’s posts will include Disneyworld, more Fan Expo and anything else I come up with. Stay tuned!!


Fan Expo ’17 – The Panels

I’m trying something new with the format of this blog. The pics now appear as thumbnails and you can click on them to make them larger.

Welcome to part 2 of my Fan Expo 2017 coverage. Fan Expo holds a number of question and answer sessions with various celebrities across the expo, and I’d thought I’d write up the ones I attended (couldn’t see them all and had to make some tough choices). You may be asking yourself – how could she possibly remember what happened two months later? I TOOK NOTES:)

After going through all my pictures, I found 250 of them that I was willing to share. Don’t panic, they are not all here. Where appropriate, at the end of each section, you will find a link to a Flickr album that has the rest of the pics for that person/group. You can click on pics in the album to make them larger as well.

Matt Smith (Doctor Who, Christopher and His Kind, The Crown)

Okay, I don’t have notes for Matt Smith, but he had the first panel of the expo. One of the things I look for is what I call the Fan Expo Ripple Effect. It’s when I hear about something that convinces me to check it out. In this case, it was Matt talking about playing Prince Philip in Netflix’s The Crown. I was so intrigued, I watch the show in my hotel room during breaks:) – It’s really good and Season 2 is starting soon. He was also fantastic with the wee kids in the crowd who got up to ask Doctor Who questions.

Matt Smith Flickr Album Link – click to open


John Barrowman (Arrow, Doctor Who, Torchwood)

This man was the highlight of the expo for me. He came out on stage in a trenchcoat and proceeded to do a burlesque strip tease to reveal the TARDIS onesie above. His joy of being on stage was incredible and he loved interacting with the crowd. The picture in the middle shows him with one of the Fan Expo sign language interpreters – he spent a few minutes getting her to repeatedly sign “hung like a donkey” . That gives you some idea of how his panel went. He answered questions about working on Doctor Who and Arrow and finished his panel by leading the audience through a group sing of “Copacabana”.

John Barrowman Flickr Album – click to open

Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Clue, IT)

Tim Curry made a very rare appearance at Fan Expo this year. He suffered a massive stroke a few years ago which has left him quite impaired. I felt honored to see him. He’s played some of my favorite characters in film, from the hilarious Wadsworth the butler in Clue, to the terrifying Pennywise the Clown in IT, and the transformational Frank N Furter in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

He was charming and funny in his panel. He mentioned that one of his favorite films he worked in was Muppet Treasure Island and that they had had a 2 week rehearsal period prior to filming Clue, which let them really work out the madness of that movie. (If you haven’t seen Clue – make it a priority). When someone asked him about the upcoming IT remake, he remarked that he just hoped they fixed the ending of the movie (referring to the terrible giant spider effect they had in the 90s TV miniseries).

Stranger Things Panel (Finn Wolfhard – Mike, Gaten Matarazzo- Dustin, Caleb McLaughlin – Lucas)

Definitely one of the most popular panels, their lineup went up the stairs and outside of the convention centre. These guys were hysterical. Although they had moderators to help with their panel, they basically took care of it themselves. Gaten and Caleb both had broadway backgrounds prior to Stranger Things (Les Miz and Lion King  respectively), while Finn was a relative newcomer. They really enjoyed working on the show, especially all the 80s stuff- and were sworn to secrecy about season 2. They said the highlight was finding out that corduroy pants while incredibly ugly are also shocking comfortable! They described their first day filming which was the opening Dungeons and Dragon scene in the show and how it took forever due the attacks of nervous giggles.

Stranger Things Flickr Album – click to open

Star Trek Discovery Panel (Jason Isaacs, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Shazad Latif, Doug Jones, Sonequa Martin-Green)

A fun behind the scenes fact… They were filming this panel for the Innerspace TV show, so prior to the panel, a person had to go through and tear all the labels off the water bottles so the brands wouldn’t appear.

The panel was great and certainly huge- all the main actors and showrunner. The actors seemed to be very excited to be participating in a new Star Trek – which takes place about ten years before James T Kirk heads to the skies. Jason Isaacs said his biggest geek moment was standing on the set holding a phaser and yelling “energize!”.

I’m going to finish off this panel with a hat tip sidebar to Doug Jones (The guy in the grey vest above). If you watch horror and sci-fi you’ve seen him (he’s always the guy under the monster makeup). He was the main creature in Quarantine, Pan’s Labryinth, The Ancient in the Strain, Cochise in Falling Skies, Abe Sapien in Hellboy, one of the Gentleman in Buffy… etc, etc, etc.

Star Trek Discovery Panel Flickr Album – click to open

Nathan Fillion (Firefly Castle, Doctor Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog)

Nathan Fillion was as charming, witty and handsome as ever:) He talked about learning the art of acting when he worked on “One Life to Live” (an extinct soap opera). He spoke about his love for scuba diving which led to me discovering we share the same fear of being eaten alive – he specifically mentioned sharks and bears (“the sharks of the forest”).  As always he spoke of his love for Firefly and what that show meant to him.

Nathan Fillion Flickr Album – click to open

Billie Piper (Doctor Who, Diary of a Call Girl)

Billie Piper’s panel was a low key affair. I could only stay for 30 mins as I had to scoot to my next panel, but it seemed it was taking her awhile to warm up to the session. She spoke about how overwhelming all the attention was when she started on Doctor Who (even though she had been a big pop star in the UK previously). Hilariously, she talked about how she could never take the daleks seriously, as on the set they were always bumping into things and incredibly clumsy. She also confessed to nicking small props of the set of Doctor Who whenever possible:)

Billie Piper Flickr Album – click to open

Justin Roiland (co-creator and the voices of Rick and Morty – on the right)

The expo was pretty well organized this year with lines, rooms etc – except for this panel. I suspect they seriously underestimated the popularity of this show. They had set it up in a room that held 400 people. 30 min prior to the panel 1000 people had shown up and had to be turned away. The ONLY reason I got into this room was my VIP badge.

Rick and Morty is a new love affair in my life. It’s a cartoon that’s just finished it’s 3rd season, and tells the story of a drunk mad scientist who travels the multiple universes with his grandson…. yes, this is Doctor Who on acid – except bitingly funny.  Justin immediately won my heart by saying his favorite sci-fi show was Farscape.

He spoke about writing and voicing these characters and confessed that he is more Morty than Rick. As Rick is a drunk, he has occasionally gotten drunk while recording the voices, which often goes off the rails. His favorite episodes have been the Interdimensional Cable episodes where the dialogue is often improvised.

Stephen Amell (Arrow)

Stephen is a Toronto boy and he always enjoys being home. He was managing his session by himself and doing fairly well. He did have to deal with David Ramsey crashing his panel, but it was sweet to see them together. He shared stories from the set, and jokingly discussed how he always assumes John Barrowman is right behind him.

Stephen Amell Flickr Album – click to open

Anthony Daniels (C3P0 in Star Wars – the only actor to appear in all of them)

What a classy man! He walked through the audience to get up on stage, and then wandered around himself taking the microphone to folks who had questions. Also reminded people to put down their cameras and to be in the moment (which is a big personal philosophy of mine too and yes, I’m aware of the photo blog irony)

He provided lots of stories from filming the movies – including the improvements in the C3P0 costume. It originally would take them 30 min to get him out of the C3P0 head, but now it just takes a few seconds. At the end, he spoke beautifully about Carrie Fisher, and how she will live on through these movies – it was very sweet.

Anthony Daniels Flickr Album – click to open

Rocky Horror Show Panel (Patricia Quinn – Magenta, Nell Campbell – Columbia)

Rocky Horror is a movie that holds great significance to me. As a naive 18 year old from the sticks, it was the first time I was shown a world where things were not as “straight” forward as I thought. It was a seminal moment in my adulthood.

Patricia and Nell both shared they’re memories of working on the stage version and then moving to film for Rocky Horror. Patricia who was the “Lips” at the beginning of the movie, described how she had to be clamped into this mask so that only her lips would be seen. Someone has asked them if they had kept their original costumes, and both jokingly said if they had they wouldn’t be here now:)

Rocky Horror Flickr Album – click to open

Anthony Stewart Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Repo the Genetic opera, and if you’re old enough a series of Nescafe Taster’s Choice Coffee commercials in the 80s)

True confession: I had a mad crush on Giles the Librarian in Buffy. He was handsome, smart AND A LIBRARIAN…. what was not to love? This was my most anticipated panel of the whole expo.

He was as charming and funny as I could have hoped. He spoke of the various shows that he’s worked on, and particularly Buffy. He said that “The Body” is still one of his favorite episodes he’s ever worked on. He said that the character of Giles was half Prince Charles and half Alan Rickman:)

Anthony Steward Head Flickr Album – click to open

That wraps up Fan Expo ’17 coverage, stay tuned for next year’s edition. I think for the next blog we will get around to those ducks and geese I promised you next time:)

Across the Pond… and then more ponds…

At the end of September this year I had the chance to go visit my aunt and uncle in England for a week. They live in the wee town of Ruspidge, located about 3 hours west of London near the border with Wales. It’s a beautiful area known as the Forest of Dean and I spent an amazing relaxing week hiking around forests, ponds and wildlife.


Look for the little red marker in the top left:)

The area is incredibly hilly and used to be mining country. This statue dedicated to the miners of the Forest of Dean can be found in the neighboring town of Cinderford.


iphone (4mm – f2.2 – 1/1200 – ISO 32)

My aunt lives  at the bottom of a hill close to one of the trails that go through the forest. The first morning I was there we strolled through the forest and came across this waterway. The weather while I was there was around 15 degrees and misty, foggy and rainy (mostly due to the geography of the area). As a result, all the greenery was incredibly lush and robust.


f5.6 – 18mm – 1/125 – ISO 280

We took several drives to walking trails while I was there. The fantastic thing about the area is that there are a ton of walking trails that you can drive to. The next few pictures were taken in the Cannop Pond area. We came across this cormorant sunning himself. My poor aunt ended up acting as a tripod for me as my hands were shaking too much to get a steady shot. I cropped this picture so that he was at the bottom right and pointing towards the greenery at the top left to balance it.


f10 – 250mm – 1/250 – ISO 800

As we walked around the pond I came across this tree and loved the way the light was playing through the leaves. I walked back and forth and took a few different shots until I settled on this one.


f8 – 18mm – 1/250- ISO 800

Just before we left the area, I noticed this bird feeder by the side of the road. I had to creep through the trees to get this angle but I loved how the close branches acted as a frame for this shot. The feeder was crazily busy with birds and I took a bunch of shots. I finally settled on this trio as I liked how different they looked and they were nice enough to be facing in the right direction:)


f6.3 – 250mm – 1/320 – ISO 800

On one of our trips we headed out to a lookout point know as Symonds Yat. The name is said to come from Robert Symonds, a 17th-century sheriff of Herefordshire, and yat, an old word for a gate or pass (Wikipedia). The weather had decided to cooperate with us and we could see clearly to Wales. The view was breathtaking and we spent sometime just looking out. 


f8 – 18mm – 1/250 – ISO 160

We took advantage of some of the more unique places in the area. In the nearby Wye Valley was a butterfly zoo. For those that have been to the butterfly place in Niagara Falls it was very similar. For those that have never been, you walk through a greenhouse type area where the butterflies flit around. If you are still enough they will come and land on you. The credit for the shot below goes fully to my aunt. These are known as windowpane butterflies and it was her idea to take a shot where you could see the edge of the leaf through it.


f5.6 – 62mm – 1/100 – ISO 800

We had a number of meals out while I was there including fish and chips, full English breakfast and in the case of the shot below, we headed to an inn for a traditional Sunday roast dinner. Before the meal came, I enjoyed my traditional English pub drink Pimms. They went to town on this one and the fruit and cucumber were all freshly sliced for my drink.


Photo credit Uncle Phil (iphone)

One day, my aunt and I drove to the town of Ross on Wye. They had a walking path along the water which was lovely and then we walked through town. We came across the statue below that was called Mallards. I don’t think it was meant to be as terrifying as it seemed but it looked like they were diving in to eat your face:) I decided to do this one in black as it didn’t have a lot of color in it and the sky was quite grey. I found this helped focus on the contrast of the metal in the sculpture.


f9 – 44mm – 1/500 – ISO 1600   (in case you’re wondering, my shutter was at 1/500 because I had bumped the setting and did not notice – as these weren’t moving, should have been much slower. Same is true for the rest at Ross on Wye 🙂

In contrast to the picture above, we strolled by the nearby candy store. I felt like I was walking up to Willy Wonka’s. We arrived just before 3PM, and at 3PM all the schoolkids began shuffling in just as they do on TV!


f3.5 – 18mm – 1/500 – ISO 800

As we were walking along the water we came across this red door in the stone wall. It was so vibrant compared to the stone area around it.


f3.5 – 18mm- 1/500 – ISO 800

The final day we were there we drove to Slimbridge, a nearby wetlands sanctuary. I’ve include a few shots here, but standby for the next blog post where you’ll learn more about it.

They have a mix of protected birds that stay year round, and those that migrate through. The first ones we say were these flamingos. Every time the wind picked up they would do this display with their wings. The black underside was quite eye catching.


f16 – 250mm – 1/400 – ISO 800

I came across this dragonfly sunning himself. I’m very happy with the diagonal angle of this picture. It allowed my to crop it so it almost perfectly divides your view in half.


f22 – 250mm – 1/250 – ISO 800

We came across these guys hanging out on the fence near the local cafe. I loved that they both kind of have this stink eye expression on their faces. Felt like we were about to get mugged:)


f22 – 155mm – 1/200 – ISO 800

Slimbridge has about 5 different types of flamingos. Not all the flamingos have the same amount of coloring and I liked that these two pale ones were just sauntering through all that color.


f14 – 105mm – 1/200 – ISO 800

Finally, you can buy bird feed to toss out to the birds as you move around the area. As a result, birds will come right up to you. While my aunt was feeding some Mandarin Ducks these Hawaiian Geese sauntered up with a “what about us” look.


f7.1 – 38mm – 1/200 – ISO800

One of the things I wanted to take pictures of were birds that we do not have here in Ontario. Of particular interest were two specific birds and I spent the week hunting them. Below you’ll see a English Robin. They are much smaller than ours, about the size of a sparrow. I found this one singing out his heart near the butterfly zoo.


f6.3 – 250mm – 1/500 – ISO 1600

The other type were Magpies. I stalked these birds for almost the whole week and only got this shot at the far end of my telephoto lens on my last day. Usually they hang out at my uncle’s workshop by the bunch. I maintain there was a conspiracy to keep away from me while I was there.


f9 – 250mm- 1/400- ISO 800

The last set of photos were all taken around my aunt and uncles house. We had an incredibly foggy morning and I like how eerie it looked out the window.


f4 – 18mm – 1/60 – ISO 560

When they moved in this garden area was empty. My aunt has worked hard to fill it in over the years. It was a great place to explore, with lots of details and nooks and crannies. I took this shot through the kitchen door.


f5.6 – 18mm – 1.125 – ISO 200

One of these details was a spiderweb underneath one of the ledges. The morning dew was still caught on the web.


f5 – 62mm – 1/125 – ISO 100

The entire week I was in England was grey, overcast and rainy. On my very last morning just before I left to catch the bus back to the airport the sun came out and gave me this view from my aunt and uncle’s driveway. They both claim it was a sign telling me I have to come back and I couldn’t agree more!


f8 – 50mm – 1/250- ISO 100

Below you’ll find my hosts with the mosts, my Aunt Fiona and Uncle Phil taken up on the Yat. It was amazing to spend time with them as well as explore the area. I can’t wait to go back again.


f8 – 18mm – 1/250 – ISO 180

In the next blog, we’ll spend more time at Slimbridge Wetland Sanctuary. Be prepared for more birds (and perhaps an otter)!!


What It Was Like to Attend Fan Expo ’17

After trying to explain the whole Fan Expo thing to a colleague, I thought it might be fun to try and do a blog about the experience for those who’ve never been. This blog may wander around a bit, but welcome to how it feels to be at a convention!!

I’ve attended Fan Expo almost every year since 2004 (I missed last year for grownup reasons). The lead up to the expo builds over six months as guests are announced and plans are made. By the time I head out for the first day, I can hardly contain myself. This year I decided I would stay at the hotel attached to the convention centre – so I packed my bags and headed out the door filled with dreams, wishes and most of all energy!


f4 – 24mm- 1/60 – ISO 400 (photo credit Sara)

The Expo runs Thursday evening to Sunday evening and takes over both halls of the downtown convention centre. The south hall is where you will find Artist’s Alley (more on that later) and other vendors. There’s still a flavor of the old Comic Con, but to be fair the majority of vendors are now there selling everything else. My routine is to wander the south hall on Thursday and Friday when it is still “quiet”. Once the crowds descend on a Saturday, I literally hide in the basement watching panels for the rest of the weekend.


f2.8 – 19mm – 1/100 – ISO 800


f3.5 – 28mm – 1/160 – ISO 2500

I’m not interested in most of the items being sold, but other folks appear to promote upcoming events. I still have a Hunger Games mockingjay pin attached to my jean jacket they were handing out before the first movie was released. In this case, the folks promoting IT, were offering a VR tour of the Derry sewers that had you hunting for the monster. I decided to stay above ground and moved on.


f2.8 – 16mm – 1/100 – ISO 1250

They had a fantastic display of costumes from the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok movie. I have a particular interest in costumes, and it was great to see these up close.


f3.3 – 35mm – 1/30 – ISO 800

This almost life size Jabba the Hutt was incredible. I got the chance to talk to one of the folks involved in its creation. The amount of artistry that is on display at the Expo is amazing. From sculptures like these guys to the cosplays you see everyday, its really incredible.


f2.8 – 20mm – 1/100 – ISO 800

The horror vendor area is mostly in the north hall. This mask vendor has been coming for a number of years, and I continue to be amazed at the quality of the work they have on display.


f3.5 – 32mm – 1/40 – ISO 400

For those considering attending a full weekend Fan Expo event, you need to treat it as an endurance event (or at least I do at the age of 48). It’s long hours, filled with many people and for an introvert like myself, it can be incredibly draining. As I mentioned above, I was able to stay at the hotel this year and I took full advantage of that. I started each day with a massive breakfast, as I knew I would not be eating real food for another 10 hours or so. I also tucked myself into bed as soon as I could. I think I had a 9 pm bedtime the whole weekend:)

The photo below also demonstrates something I call the Fan Expo ripple effect. One of the reason I like attending panels is to be convinced to check out a movie or TV series I’ve not watched before. In this case, Matt Smith during his Thursday panel spoke about how much he enjoyed playing Prince Philip in the Netflix series The Crown. I spent the rest of my weekend downtime working my way through the show:) [Sidebar: John Lithgow is AMAZING as Winston Churchill]


f3.2 – 16mm – 1/80 – ISO 3200

The final secret to any convention is managing your food and fluid intake through the day. Water is your friend (even for someone like me who thinks camels have the right idea). You also need to find portable food that can fit on your person. I’m a fan of almonds and breakfast bars but miles may vary. Luckily, because this is a convention centre, most of the larger rooms have water dispensers at the back so you can refill your containers. There are food courts on the main floor but: they are expensive and on the main floor (where crowding makes it impossible to move on the weekend).


f8 – 16mm – 1/80 – ISO 100

The crowds are certainly an issue, and something you need to learn to cope with. Fan Expo is the one time of year I purposely send myself into large crowds. I managed to take the two photos below of the north hall on Thursday and Friday. By Saturday, you would not have be able to see any floor space at all. The area on the left with the red carpet is for celebrity autographs. The horror vendors and others are on the right, and the photo op area is at the far back.




f5.6 – 16mm – 1/40 – ISO 800


f4.5 – 16mm – 1/160 – ISO 2500

The other convention reality is lines, lines and more lines. Fan Expo started offering a VIP pass a few years ago that let’s you skip all this for premium pricing. If you are not VIP, your weekend is made up of lining up for autographs, photo ops, or in the case of the pic below for a celebrity Q&A panel. You can see the line goes way back and around the black escalators.


f2.2 – 4mm – 1/30 – ISO 250 (iphone)

While there are a few smaller rooms in the south and north hall, most of the celebrity panels take place in 106 which is a massive 3 ballroom wide meeting room or in 102 which is a smaller auditorium sized room. The picture below is the right half of 106 just prior the the panel being done by 3 of the kids from Stranger Things. To get the full effect, you have to imaging the same number of people sitting behind me. The room holds about 3000 people. Celebrities sit on chairs in the middle where I am, and they have large screens on either side so the people on either end can see what’s happening.


f5.6 – 16mm – 1/160 – ISO 6400

This is the smaller room of 102. Here they simply project up on a screen the interview that is taking place. In both rooms, audience members can line up to ask questions of the celebrities on stage. I’ve never done this as I can never think of a good question!!


f2.2 – 4mm – 1/30 – ISO 160 (iphone)

If all of this sounds crazy and exhausting, you’re not wrong. So you may be asking, what keeps me coming back year after year? It’s the memories that I take away every time. It’s being surrounded by THOUSANDS of other people who are into this weirdness just like me. It’s the fact that you can start up random conversations with strangers about almost any sci fi/ horror/ anime / comic topic. I once spent 20 mins talking about the Critters movies with a fellow while we were waiting in a line. There is also the fact that you get to interact with celebrities, artists and others and share a moment with them. So let me list the things I love.

THING I LOVE #1: The Fans – I can’t overstate how much I love the fans that attend this convention. One of the highlights this year occurred during a Q&A panel held by Meatloaf. After an audience member asked him a question about something they had read on the internet, he cautioned folks to be careful about what they read. He specifically mentioned Wikipedia and how anyone can add to that site, and said that people could post he had told people he was an alligator. 20 minutes later, just before the panel ended, an audience member shouted out that Wikipedia now stated exactly that.


THING I LOVE #2: Photo Ops – I happen to love the photo opportunities with celebrities (the Photo Op). While it’s a blink and you’ll miss it event (you walk up, say hi, they take the picture and you’re gone), it’s a chance to physically be in the same space. This year it was John Barrowman. I’m a big fan of his, and I also suspected he might give a good hug… I was not wrong. Lately, I’ve tended to not worry about autographs so much, I like the brief moment here.


photo credit Epic Photo Ops 🙂

THING I LOVE #3: Artist Alley. Artist alley is rows and rows of new and established artists selling their creations. The items can include artwork, comics, jewellery, sculptures, clothing etc. This was the first year I really took my time and wandered the rows. I got the chance to chat with a few of the artists and let them know how much I enjoyed their work. One fellow and I geeked out about a poster he had created for The Thing. I’ve include below a couple of the prints I picked up this year.


f2.2 – 4mm – 1/15 – ISO 320 (iphone)

THING I LOVE #4: The Shared Moment For folks who don’t do the fan thing, it’s hard to describe the feeling you get from meeting an artist or celebrity that you’re a huge fan of. Most of the time it’s just a few seconds to a minute, but the moment is huge. It’s an opportunity to let them know how much their work means to you, and for the most part I’ve seen that feedback appreciated.

This year I got the chance to meet Drew Struzan. He’s as an artist, and even if you don’t know his name –  you know his work. He drew many of the big movie posters in the 80s and since (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to The Future, Blade Runner, Harry Potter etc, etc, etc). I had a few minutes to talk with him about how much I enjoyed his work. He also did the poster for one of my top two movies of all time, so I did get an autograph after all:)


f2.2 – 4mm – 1/15 – ISO 250 (iphone)

THING I LOVE #5: The Fans in Costume Okay, so I cheated and had two of these. I love folks who come in costume. The work and love that goes into it is incredible. Plus, I’m not brave enough to give it a go (I have themed t shirts and that’s as far as I’ll go).


f2.8 – 16mm – 1/160 – ISO 2500

That sums up the Fan Expo experience for me. I hope for those of you who’ve never attended a Fan Expo that I’ve given you a little taste of what the weekend is like.

After spending the weekend rubbing shoulders with tens of thousands of strangers, and coming home tired, exhausted, malnourished, dehydrated and borderline crazy – will I be doing this again next year? The answer to that unsurprisingly is YES 🙂 Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog where I write up the various celebrity panels I attended.


f4 – 24mm – 1/60 – ISO 400 (photo credit by Sara) **dramatic representation**



A Summer Wonderland!

Fun fact:  I used to be a rollercoaster junkie, but alas, these days I can barely look at them without feeling queasy. So what better way to commemorate my sensitive stomach than to head to Wonderland for the day! I headed there first thing on a Wednesday morning in July, and that worked out well in terms of the crowds. I had a couple of hours to walk around before it got really busy. It was a somewhat cloudy day for the most part, but that meant it wasn’t too hot.


18mm f9 1/320 ISO 100

As Canada’s is celebrating its 150th this year, a number of areas in the park were kitted out to acknowledge that fact. I loved that they had decked out the opening garden with the maple leaf. This is probably the first photo stop for everyone at Wonderland as you get the fountains and the mountain in the background.


32mm f18 1/250 ISO 400

One of the things I wanted to do on this photo trip, was to look for shots that weren’t the usual ones for Wonderland. I took this low angle of the flowerbeds with the fountains in the background. I set the shutter a little fast as I wanted to freeze the water.


18mm f13 1/640 ISO 400

As I entered the park proper,  I followed my old route into the “medievally times” area. I don’t think I had ever paid attention to this fountain before. I hadn’t realised the detail that was there, including the “do not drink” sign with the queasy faces.


22mm f8 1/250 ISO 200

Just before you enter this area, there are dragon pieces attached to the wall.


90mm f8 1/250 ISO 200

When Wonderland used to be a regular stop for me, the first ride I always did was the Dragon Fyre. It’s a nice starter coaster, and you can get to it pretty quickly. I was thrilled to find the iron dragon still stands outside the entry to the ride. I wanted this close up angle so it looks like you are making eye contact with him.


32mm f4.2 1/640 ISO 200

I came across this fellow with the owl. I really liked the expression on his face. Unfortunately I missed the shot where the owl faced my direction as well:)


210mm f18 1/100 ISO 400

Continuing with the Canada Day celebrations, they had a brass band playing its heart out. There was a young lady as well to the left, but she was standing in front of some young kids and I wanted to keep the background somewhat clear, so she got cropped out.


38mm f22 1/100 ISO 400

These two fellows caught my eye as I wandered through the games section of the park. They were so pink and vibrant I had to take a picture.


32mm f8 1/250 ISO 200

The ride below is The Bat. It’s a relatively short coaster that pulls you up a slope and then drops you forward, then it does the same thing on the back half, but you drop backwards. This was the ride where I discovered that roller coasters were no longer my thing. I wanted to capture this ride with the car upside down so you got a sense of it.


18mm f10 1/500 ISO 400

This rainbow covered bridge was in a quieter section of the park. I liked the head on angle of this pic as you get a sense of the wavy bridge, and the rainbow frames it nicely.


18mm f9 1/250 ISO 400

Finally, off to the side of one of the rides I found this quiet water feature. It’s hard to imagine that just above and behind this area, coasters were screaming overhead. It was a nice reminder to keep your eyes open in all directions when walking around.


32mm f10 1/60 ISO 400

It was fun going back to Wonderland, and I’m not sure when I’ll be back again. As a parting word of advice, next time you’re out in the world, look around and see if you can find those out of the way secrets that many others may miss!

Blue Jays Baseball (Jays vs Yankees)

Yes baseball… that’s the one with the skinny stick and the ball. To be perfectly honest, that’s all I really know or care about the game. However, when considering blog post locations for this year, I’d decided that a ballgame would be perfect as I’d only been to one when I was in grade 5. Luckily, a group from work planned a night out that included a Jays game, so I immediately signed up.

I’ve include the group shot below for a couple of reasons. From a photography point of view, I wish I had moved everyone over to the right a bit so that everyone had the sculpture behind them. The reality is I get a little stressed taking pictures of people while they’re waiting, so I just hurried it through. I’d be tempted to gather the group together again to retake it, except for reason number two – the sculpture was moved behind the Art Gallery the following week! So we were some of the few people left to be photographed with it in this location 🙂


f 6.3 – 1/160 – 22mm – ISO 200

As we walked down towards the Skydome (it will never be the Rogers Centre to me), I kept looking for ways to frame the CN tower. As we passed under the OCAD building, the situation presented itself. I love how the OCAD building makes the CN Tower look much smaller from this angle.


f8 – 1/250 – 32mm – ISO 110

Turns out, a lot of people like baseball and I took this picture to get a sense of the steady flow of people heading towards the game. I tried to centre the bridge to get people coming in from both directions.


f8 – 1/250 – 18mm – ISO 140

I’d never been in the Skydome with the roof open before so it was great to get this shot. Our seats were near the top, which helped getting this wide shot of the roof and display screens.


f6.3 – 1/160 – 18mm – ISO 200

Once we were inside the stadium, we had about 15 minutes until it started to rain. They began to shut the roof which seemed to take about 30 minutes. I was amazed how quiet the process it. I got the shot below as the layers separated from each other. I liked how the pattern came together.


f5.6 – 1/125 – 62mm – ISO 280

The rest of the shots in the post were tricky in that we were far from the field and I had my lens extended as far as it could reach. The seats were quite snug, so getting a good hold on the camera to stabilise it was also difficult. As a result, the shots are not as sharp as I would like, but I figured I could talk about what I was trying to get. The shots themselves are cropped in a fair bit focus on the humans.

The next two shots involved the opening throw of the game. After the toss, my attention was caught by the photographer (and all her gear), as well as the interaction between the Jay’s mascot and the Jay’s pitcher.


f6.3 – 1/250 – 250mm – ISO 640

I liked this shot of the mascot and the honouree walking off the field. Guessing she had a good time:)


f6,3 – 1/250 – 250mm – ISO 640


For the rest of the shots I wanted to get a sense of the action of the game. I took many shots of the pitcher throwing the ball. Despite using multiple shot mode, it turns out that trying to capture a 90km/hr baseball was a matter of luck.


f6.3 – 1/250- 250mm – ISO 800

This shot occurred after the ball was hit. By having the shutter speed at 1/250, I was able to freeze the bat flying backward.


f6.3 – 1/250 – 250mm – ISO 720

This shot with a different player captured the ball coming in and the batter half way through his swing. I liked the blur on the ball and the bat showing the movement, but everything else in in focus.


f6.3 – 1/250- 250mm – ISO 720

I cropped way in on the pitcher for this one. I wanted to capture how much body movement occurs during a pitch.


F6.3 – 1/250- 250mm – ISO 800

For the final picture, I chose this one that showed the players waiting for the next play. The sense of readiness to respond came through clearly to me.


F6.3 – 1/250 – 250mm – ISO 1000

I will confess I only made it through the first 4 innings of the game, and we were 0-5 when I left (it only got worse after that). It was a great evening, and I was glad I got a chance to try out taking photos at this type of event.

Canada Day is on it’s way, and I suspect it will be the topic of the next post.