White Impact on Red Coroplast

I knew this was going to happen: I have a whole set of photos that I took in the middle of October that were sidelined by my recent weekend trip to New York City. But on the bright side, at least I have something to post while I work my way through those images.

One interesting note about that weekend, especially in light of my trip to Buffalo, is that my Canon S100 took about 40% of my total photos. Its contribution would have been much higher if it hand't spontaneously failed on Saturday evening, just two-thirds of the way through the trip. That makes it the first camera I've owned that actually stopped working instead of simply being superseded.

It will probably be repaired under warranty, especially since this is a known issue with the camera, but it got me thinking just the same.

So as I process my NYC5 photos I'm going to be paying close attention to my 'keeper' rate, both for photos that are worth doing something with – prints, blog posts – and for photos that are personally important even if they're artistically unremarkable. After all, there could be a new camera in my future.



This photo was a huge reach – working with high-speed sync dramatically limits its range, and underexposing the sky was asking a lot. I like the result, but I have to be honest and admit that this photo probably would have been easier to fake in post-processing.

The key difference is that I wouldn't have thought to try this effect in post.

There's a lot to be said for photographing with a camera instead of with a computer.

Authorized Personnel Only

It was fitting that a security guard challenged me for taking photos of this abandoned factory by asking if I was authorized. I was standing on the road at the time, so it was a short conversation in which I wasn't particularly helpful. It ended when he went to call his supervisor.

I left him to his radio and continued to do what I was doing. The guard's supervisor arrived with surprising promptness, and after they had a brief conference, he drove over to me to let me know that there was absolutely no problem with me photographing from the street.

I knew that already.

I suspect that I was the most interesting thing that happened on a rainy Sunday afternoon.


Rail's End

This one was taxing the little SB900 speedlight, and even though I boosted the iso to 200 and dropped the shutter speed to 1/250, shooting at f/8 still didn't give me as much depth of field as I really wanted.

Site Enter Site

If the site office is inside the site then you're just not getting in.

But then the sign maker also chose to use Arial, so that makes two things that I don't understand about it.



When playing with day-for-night lighting I would occasionally try to use the flash to mimic the harsh look of security lighting. This was one of those times, and while I like the result, I don't think it was my most successful effort.

Yellows and Greens

"scale" is a really tough word to write vertically in lower-case.


Is There Another?

Perhaps it was just a reaction to spending so much time on photos from a simple little point and shoot, but I have been feeling the need to go out and make things more complicated.

Last weekend I spent an overcast afternoon with an SB900 cabled to my D800. High speed flash let me underexpose the background while highlighting something in the foreground, and it just happens that signs are an ideal subject for this treatment. Sometimes I get lucky.

I have used this technique a few times before with my Olympus cameras. The biggest difference in working with the Nikon is that I gain tremendous latitude in refining and adjusting the exposure in post-processing. This does make the results better, but it also means that I can be even more aggressive, and more experimental, the next time that I try it.


Big Texas

The better food options in the Buffalo terminal.

I admit it: I did go for the 'Big Texas Cinnamon Roll'. It wasn't worth it – not only did it not live up to its own billing, the looks I got from the five-year-old sitting across from me were intense enough that I needed to move.

It has taken me sixteen days and nineteen posts to cover fifty-six photos, including twenty-two from the concert that was the purpose of my day trip to Buffalo. That makes for a fairly productive trip, and has been the second-largest project I've done with my little Canon S100.

It would have been nice to have a camera that's a little better, but I wouldn't have wanted anything bigger. At this point there's only one that matches that description, but I'm a long way from being in the market. These would do for small prints, which is more than what I have planned for them.

Taki's Texas

Hiding down a corridor in the Buffalo bus station is this little establishment. I can't say I've ever been there, though, even though there's a goos chance that it was open when I was nearby in the afternoon.

Who knew?

Metro Terminal #2

Three photos from the Buffalo bus station at night. This turned out to be a very slow place to spend four hours – there really isn't all that much going on.

I probably could have bought a newspaper, but the free one was terrible, so why risk it?


Metro Terminal #1

Three photos from the Buffalo bus station in daylight. This turned out to be a good place to hang out in the middle of the afternoon – there weren't all that many places to sit and take breaks during the day.

Bus Station

Like a shining beacon of civilization…



I'm a badly-mannered guest.

After a quick lunch and mixed results from walking around Buffalo, I headed back to the bus station so that I could sit and regroup. The downtown map that's posted in the station includes the Canadian Consulate as a point of interest, so I decided to go and say hello.

The Consulate is in a large office building with planters in a pedestrian plaza surrounding it, completely deserted, but I was able to relax and have fun. I knew that if I was hassled by a security guard I'd just need to show my passport to explain my presence.

The American and Canadian flags flew outside the building, but the American was in the shadow of the building. It's impolite of me, but I just couldn't resist the photo opportunity.


Fountain Plaza

The frustrating thing about downtown Buffalo is that it's really quite a nice place.

There's a great mix of older buildings with interesting architecture, most of them are in very good shape, and there are plenty of signs of preservation and revitalization. I watched crews working on the facade of a building with the largest boom lift I've ever seen – the work platform was nine stories up. Nobody puts that kind of effort into a city that they don't care about.

It just needs more people, more businesses, and more activity.

Welcome, Visitor

Welcomed and watched.

When I was walking around in the afternoon – probably around 4pm – a guy approached me and asked to use my phone. He told me he had just been robbed. I said no; I didn't actually add voice calls to my outrageously expensive roaming bundle, and thought that this could just be a ploy to grab my outrageously expensive cell phone and run.

He then headed down the block to talk to the occupants of the two nearby police cruisers.

Not a ploy.

City Rail

The public transit in Buffalo let me combine my enthusiasms for old signs and long exposures – not in the same photo, but you can't have everything.


Buffalo Streets

Five assorted photos from an afternoon in Buffalo.

One of the first things that struck me about downtown Buffalo – the stretch where the light rail line runs down Main Street – was how empty it was. I live and work in downtown Toronto, and I can bump into more people during a day's walking commute than I could see most of the time in Buffalo. Look at that last photo: I can use a slow shutter speed to blur away people, and often do that when I'm at home, but this one is at a hundred-and-twenty-fifth of a second.

I count three people, not including all of the drivers.

When there are so few people around, the very act of standing becomes an aberrant act worthy of suspicion. The bubbles of personal space and isolation grow until it feels intrusive just to walk past someone on the same side of the road. I'm self-concious about using a camera in Toronto, where tourists and oddball photographers are unremarkable. In Buffalo I felt like I had a flashing light on my head, and that was just when I was carrying the little pocketable Canon S100.

I'm glad I didn't have my D800 with me.

Buffalo Stores

Of these three only one was clearly open for business, and it was part of a four-brand franchise. It certainly made a strong opening statement about what the employment prospects for young people in Buffalo are like.

I don't know if the Visitor Center was open or not. I didn't see anyone going in or out, but I'm pretty sure that I was the only tourist on Main Street on that thursday afternoon. But I did notice people inside other stores that looked dark from the street, so either tinted windows are very popular or there's a strong energy-conservation ethic. Either way, it didn't come across as being particularly inviting.


Two from the Bus

Obviously, I've really liked being able to include many photos as sets with a common theme in each post recently. But posting just two is a very awkward: a pair needs to be strong and connected in ways that larger sets don't.

And no, I don't think these really work as a set, but I couldn't come up with a third.



I think I have enough credibility that I can get away with posting all of these. They were taken through the window of a Greyhound bus, somewhere between St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.


Chocolate Drops, Paired

Hit `Em Up Style


Cornbread and Butterbeans

Sourwood Mountain

A few final photos from Thursday's show. The way everyone was arranged made it impossible for me to include Hubby Jenkins in any small-group photos, but he was there for all of it. Almost. There was one song that Dom Flemons played from a solo album – My Little Lady – and the other three left the stage for it. I don't know what the usual etiquette is, but it struck me as odd and unsupportive. Even if that's the usual way of doing things, having him come back from the break alone would have been less awkward than having the others leave without a word after playing just a couple of songs.

There are two things that disappointed me out of an otherwise excellent show. One is that they didn't play Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine. They played it in a very similar condensed set from Mountain Jam 2012 – I may have recorded it – and did an awesome job. Extended to over five minutes long, it had everything: a bones solo, cello, scat singing, and even a kazoo. I would have loved to see that again.

The other disappointment: Rhiannon Giddens didn't play the kazoo at all. Sad.

I have broken the links to hundreds and hundreds of photos, which will take a long time to repair. The workaround is to replace "photo.matthewpiers" in the link URL with "matthewpiers.smugmug". Awkward, but only temporary.

This is happening because I have revamped matthewpiers dot com. More of what I write and photograph will be going there, so check it out as well.

Older Photos by Month