Victoria, My New Lover

by sebastien on February 2, 2009

A few months ago I was telling Andrew that my trip to South Korea was coming up and he instantly insisted that I stop to see him in Victoria. I wasn’t so sure... I typically like to take the safe route when doing something I’m unfamiliar with, like travelling to the other side of the globe, haha. Am I ever glad I decided to be a little adventurous...

I think it’s a good time to tell you how Andrew Todd and I started talking... Back in September of 2007 I went to a God Made Me Funky show at the O-Zone in Saint John and I brought my camera and took about 800 or so pictures that night. I was still really new to photography and didn’t really know what I was doing, so I just snapped away... The stage lighting was great so my pictures turned out well. I was also taking a lot of pictures of the crowd. That same night was Andrew’s going-away party of sorts, he was moving out to Victoria to be stationed there (he’s in the Navy), and he and his friends dressed up as Mormons and went out to see GMMF too.

(Photo by Andrew Todd)

One of the pictures I took turned out to be special... It was a picture of one of Andrew’s friends, Laughlan, with some other patrons in the background. I thought it was kinda neat so it ended up in my keepers for crowd pictures of the event, and it was uploaded to facebook. A week or two later Laughlan, whom I didn’t know at the time, found the picture of him on facebook and sent it to Andrew saying something like “hey, this picture’s pretty cool, do you know who the photographer is?” (an aside: I didn’t realize what made that picture good when I first picked it, I just figured he was doing something that looked cool.. Turns out it can be looked at a little deeper as there is a strong contrast between the cool blue Laughlan, and the red hot patrons in the background... oh how much I’ve learned since then.. and would you believe I still know nothing?) Andrew, being the kind of guy who likes to talk with other photographers and exchange knowledge, added me on facebook.

That’s when things started getting interesting for me. Seeing this random person add me on facebook, and being the kind of person who doesn’t typically have people on his friend list whom he hasn’t met in person, I first asked “hi, do I know you?” He said he was a photographer too and saw my pictures from the GMMF show and wanted to have me on his list.. I take a gander at his profile, and look at his pictures, and instantly feel all sorts of weird feelings... I can pretty much sum up the feelings in a few words: “seeing these pictures makes me want to pack my shit up and quit *trying* to be a photographer all together”. Simply, his pictures are amazing... (check out his portfolio) pretty much all of them were of the quality you’d find in a magazine, and I couldn’t understand how there could be someone in the city of Saint John with that kind of talent. I felt pretty inadequate, haha... but also humbled. I realized pretty quickly that I had a lot to learn.

I decide to work up the courage and ask him for some tips on photography. We started talking about gear, and techniques; he was open and willing to share with me a lot of his knowledge, which turned out to be about 95% of what I now know about photography, haha. He also taught me a lot of what I know about the business of photography, how to make money, what to charge, how to deal with clients, etc. He remembers me telling him “I don’t really want to make money from this, I just want to keep it a hobby” and referred to that jokingly when I started telling him about my photo jobs... haha. We chatted on MSN for months while he lived out in Victoria, and he’d have me in stitches laughing at my computer screen telling me all these amazing funny stories, some having to do with photography, but most having to do with his life.

We met for the first time when he came down to visit Saint John last summer. He’s what I’d call a pretty cool guy, and I looked up to him. That was the last time I saw him before going to Victoria, so I still felt like I didn’t know him that well.

I only wanted to stay in Victoria for one full day. I get exhausted pretty quickly being a tourist, so I like to keep visits short. Saturday morning when I woke up, it was 6am local time, (10am out east). I felt pretty jet lagged, and couldn’t sleep much more (something to do with shithawks outside the apartment.) I used that time to write my previous blog post and talk with a friend from back home for about an hour (not looking forward to the cell phone bill, haha.) Andrew and Carolyn woke up eventually and we decided to head out for breakfast, and they picked a place they really like called Lady Marmalade. I took just my camera with me, so I could snap some shots of the city in the daylight.

(Andrew and Carolyn leaving their apartment in the Chinese district)

There are two famous alleys in the Chinese district, the Dragon Alley, where Andrew’s apartment is, and the Fan Tan Alley, just across the street. These alleys are really narrow walkways where store fronts are. The history behind them is quite interesting... Apparently, when the Chinese first started immigrating to Victoria, they did something very smart. They bought many lots in one area of the city, and to avoid paying property tax (which was based on length of store front *on the street*) they made alleyways between the building and made store fronts there, tax free. Ingenious! It’s really gorgeous as you can see in the picture.

(Fan Tan Alley in the Chinese District of Victoria)

Oh, and on the way to Lady Marmalade I saw a pretty cool photo op:

(Poor bastard...)

So far I’m completely loving this city.. It’s super clean (they vacuum and pressure wash the streets on a very regular basis), super not-freezing (something I don’t miss at all about Saint John, haha) and super cultured. And their food is aawwwwwesome.

Lady Marmalade is a lot like Regie’s in Saint John; nothing fancy. The only difference is that Lady Marmalade actually has good food. Oh, and they wait on you, as opposed to that awkward over-the-counter ordering experience. I had the Bueno Rancheritos (I think that’s how you spell it) and it was like nothing I’ve ever had before. Eggs with fruit salsa on it, pitch black beans, fresh veggies, and a single soft tortilla. The dish was delish!

(Bueno Rancheritos)

(Andrew and Carolyn diggin’ into their grub)

While eating we talk a bit about my new camera that I’ve been taking pictures with all morning. It’s the Nikon D90, and it’s the first dSLR with video recording capability. Andrew’s background in photography is film based, as that’s what he started out doing a while ago, so he’s pretty excited that you can have a marriage of the two functions in one camera. He wants the Canon 5D Mk. II, which is faaaar superior to the D90 in its video capabilities.. It would have come in handy later on in the night.. Anyway, Carolyn suddenly has a light bulb light up and said we should record a music video of her singing a remix of Clint Eastwood’s “Sunshine.” We toss the idea around, think up some concepts, and commit the D90 to the real task of recording a cheesy music video. We finish up breakfast and head back to the apartment/gallery. We hang out there for a while, spending some time upstairs talkin’ photo stuff with Andrew, and some time with Carolyn downstairs in the art gallery where she’s working ( I bought a little blue glass dish that I really like for 15 bucks, the only souvenir I bought in Victoria.

**I'll get to taking a picture of this later..**

Later on in the afternoon Andrew and I go out to take some pictures of the city. I usually don’t like the idea of two photographers going out to take pictures together, seems kinda funny to me, but I guess it was OK. The city continued to amaze me, it’s so beautiful! You look over the water and wonder how the city could be any more perfect. Check out the rest of the pictures.

(overlooking the harbour and the other side of the lake)

Just so you guys no, this is the most walking I’ve done in like 3 years, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating, haha.

We think it’s just about time to go grab a beer or two, and head for a local micro-brewery called ‘The Swan). It’s a pretty cool spot, nice environment, good service. We order a pitcher of some beer, I can’t remember what it is, but it had 8% alcohol in it, and it was “hoppy”.. still not 8% sure I know what that means. We also order a plate of nachos, which turned out to be one of my better ideas of the day. The nachos were brilliant. I wish I had a picture of it, it was hand sliced tortillas (unsalted, the only way I like them) piled with perfectly seasoned ground beef, and served with guacamole. So. Fricken. Good. Andrew and I both devoured the entire thing, and there was bits of ground beef all over the table when we were done.. haha. We hang out there for an hour or two talking about photography, the industry and Beaver Smith, all the while gettin’ a good buzz from the beer...

We head back to the apartment, passing by some crack-heads near the homeless shelter, and I realize that Victoria isn’t completely immune to imperfections, it’s a sad thought. Apparently the bums break into cars a lot to make some quick cash to feed the habit.. Andrew was victim to that a few times, and lost a lot of gear because of it. He’s still in denial though, so don’t bring it up ;).

Back at the apartment we start brainstorming the music video we want to make. I’m getting pretty tired by this point, being all jet lagged and all, but I wanted to see this through... When would I have the chance to do that again? Plus, I rarely used the D90 as a video camera, and I’d like to learn a bit about it.

Andrew records a click track that Carolyn can lay a vocal track over and we can play it back on his laptop while recording so we have a good sync for editing later on. He also sets up one of his studio strobes that has a model lamp in it, that’s what we’ll use for lighting. Carolyn starts calling up some friends to be part of the video, it ends up being Emily and Eric, two really cool people. One of whom is from Hampton, go figure! Carolyn also gets to work on deciding what she’s gonna wear, keeping in mind that it’s going to have a rap/gangsta feel to it.

It’s night time before we start shooting. The first location is the top patio of Andrew’s apartment. We set up the light with a softbox, and have the city lights in the background. I put the 50mm on the d90, and hope it all works well (the D90 only has one video option, the quality/size of the video. Haha, everything else is completely automatic (focus, shutter, aperture, iso... etc.) which becomes really frustrating during the night). We record two full takes of Carolyn singing the song as gansta as she can possibly pull off (she did great). I recorded the first take from farther back, and Andrew recorded the second take as a close up of her face, lots of good material to pick from.

(a still from the first scene)

The next set was my idea, the money shot (literally). Before I started my trip from Saint John I ordered a million won so I’d have some cash on me when I got to Korea, and I thought it would be a cool idea to involve the smaller bills in the video by having the money falling on Carolyn while she laid down on a mattress. She totally loved the idea and we set up the lighting. It was awesome! Haha. Andrew held the camera while I poured about 60 1000KRW bills over her upper body. She got right into it and started rubbing it all over her in a pretty sensual Marilyn Munroe-like style. At one point in the scene Andrew said in a strange direct way something like “rub it in your chest.” And I just about lost it laughing. He sounded like a porn director or something, haha.

After that, we headed outside into the Dragon Alley for the next scene, involving the two extras Carolyn invited for the video, Emily and Eric. They got all dressed up in some pretty whacky gangsta clothes. Eric wrapped his front teeth with tin foil to make a ‘grill’ and wore around his neck, I kid you not, a full sized wall clock, wooden. Wtf? Haha, instant classic. Here’s an accidental shot Andrew took while setting up the scene, just to give you an idea of that set.

We’re not so sure how the next idea came to be, but it was a collaborative concept Andrew and I had where Andrew would use his Canon 1D Mk. II with his fisheye lens and get each of the gangstas to hold the camera and walk down the Dragon Alley with the shutter depressed at the full 8 frames per second or whatever machine gun setting that fricken camera has. The lighting in the alley is a series of overhead canopy lights, so the lighting varies in a cool way as you walk. They also did it with the three of them walking down the alley at once following Andrew with the camera, those shots looked wicked too. Several hundred pictures were taken in the matter of a few minutes. I can’t wait to see how Andrew incorporates those into the video :)

After that was done i was feeling dead tired, but also a bit hungry. Carolyn and her friends all want to grab some pizza, so we start walking towards a pizza joint appropriately called “The Joint,” all the while shooting some b-roll footage of random things, like Carolyn seducing a statue on a park bench for example (I hope that makes it to the video.. haha)

Fast forward, the pizza was good.

We head back to the apartment, look over all the footage and stills, laughing our asses off. I feel intoxicated from being so damned tired, so after I get Carolyn and Emily to take a picture of me and Andrew with my camera and say my goodbyes (they won’t be waking up at 5:30am to see me out, that’s for sure) I kick everyone out of my sleeping quarters and pass the faaack out.

I think I found my new favourite city :)

Again, to see all the pictures from this adventure, head over here.

I wrote this post from the overseas flight, but I'm posting it from a hotel in Seoul. Stay tuned for my next post about the adventures of getting from Victoria to somewhere in the middle of South Korea. Take care for now!

(Note: This blog post was imported from my old blogger site to this new WordPress blog.)