Five Chicago Singles

Chicago has a lot of parking garages, and they're going to be the subject of a photo series or two. But this photo won't fit any of them, and I still wanted to point out that – as nice as it is to get away from the traditional lettering style – this is by far the ugliest stop sign I've ever seen.

That cosmetic surgery clinic's logo deserves some serious contemplation. I've heard that many of Freud's theories have been discredited, but still.

Also widely discredited and thoroughly mocked is this Cole Haan ad. Yes, it's a bit hard to see at this size, but the guy who was unable to find a pair of socks to match his car is indeed intently staring at the iso selection dial on the back of his film Leica. Perhaps if he wasn't being such a camera-tool he would have noticed the attractive woman who looked like she wanted to talk to him.

"Prince Commons" struck me as a particularly disneyfied spin on the monarchy that would only happen in America.

My first thought on seeing this sign is that its priorities seem reversed – a people career academy that trains animals might be more useful, but perhaps that market is already over-served. It's only on further reflection that I also think that Futura is a poor font choice, and that its kerning is really terrible.


Two-thirds of the construction cranes that I saw during my time in Chicago.

It's rare to be in downtown Toronto and to not be able to see a construction crane; seeing two or three from any one spot is more typical. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I follow that many Toronto crane operators on Twitter.

Useful Instruction

Chicago has an unusual fondness for sticker graffiti, but this was definitely the best.


Bed and Bath

It was quite the hotel room, with two TVs, a king bed, and a corner view from the 33rd floor. I didn't spend all that much time in it, but photographing an untouched hotel room has been something that I've wanted to do for a while, so that was a win.

Kitchen and Sitting

Hotel rooms are fascinating. Their configuration and amenities are universal, but they're not really designed for living in. The TV faces the room, but not the sitting area; there's a coffee maker but only disposable cups and two drinking glasses. And every hotel room has a binder.


Many years ago I started looking at maps to find interesting places to go. Kalamazoo was one of the first to catch my eye – yes, because its name amuses me. The bus does go there as part of the Detroit-Chicago milk run, but it's much easier to get a good seat from the major terminals, so I went to Chicago instead.

It was a nice surprise to arrive in a small town and find familiar faces.

Businesses generally seemed to be doing well, with only a few empty storefronts in the main pedestrian area.

The town didn't have a lot of modern architecture, but it had its moments.

It's hard not to appreciate a town with a sense of humour.


Paving Back Campus

The smell of asphalt displaced the usual scents of spring and new growth today.

I've been photographing the University of Toronto's Back Campus Fields Project for over a year. Today it turned from being paved over metaphorically to literally. If it were a parking lot it would comfortably fit over 400 cars; if it was a building covering the same area it would need to have a substantial green roof to offset the loss of green space.

Instead it will be carpeted.

More photos from today can be found on my Back Campus Camera project blog.



I rather like this photo, despite all of the birds.

Skyline May 2014

The current skyline of Toronto as seen from Humber Bay park.

There are ten construction cranes visible in this image.


Blue Container

One final DP3M photo from today's commute home. It's just a quick raw conversion – as much as anything to do with the Merrill can be called 'quick' – and it was only meant as a colour and exposure test. But the DP3M is the first camera that I've bought because I really like the way its photos look, and this one has that little something that makes it work for me.

It goes without saying that reading the numbers on the bar-coded asset tag isn't even a challenge on the full file.

The Merrill is a camera that punishes sloppy technique. Its LCD-only viewfinder is poor, the light will change by the time the post-exposure histogram is available, each battery will only endure fifty exposures, the files are large, the bespoke raw-conversion software is clumsy and slow, the resulting tiff files that move to Lightroom are ninety megabytes each, and it's only when they're imported to Lightroom that I can have any real sense of what they look like.

If there's a mistake in the shutter-pushing part of this sequence then I'm guaranteed to not know about it in time to fix it pre-post, and the data workflow is so laborious that I'm inhibited from bracketing or taking follow-up shots that are second nature with any other digital camera.

It's the next best thing to shooting film.

Yet for all that there's no question that I'll be bringing the Merrill whenever I take my thousand-mile day trips. In fact, rather than leave it at home, I just might spend some of my weight savings on bringing a little monopod along as well. Rather than being a hassle, anything that improves my confidence in a sharply focused and properly composed photo is an outright blessing.


Another of my standard subjects that I photograph just to see how each camera works. The metering on the DP3M is not quite what I'm used to, so learning how it handles highlights has been critical.

This photo was shot with a +1EV adjustment and then put through the SPP-LR post-processing routine with only minor adjustments. I have to say that it's the best result I've seen so far.


Vines are something of a standard subject for me – the results are never particularly significant, but they're plentiful where I am.

The first image is from today, taken with the Sigma DP3 Merrill. The joke is that it's essentially a film camera, with the only argument being about which format best captures its essence. The second photo is from my Zeiss Ikon and dedicated 35mm film scanner, which is about as good as small format gets; the third photo is from my Fuji GX680, which is an excellent medium format camera, but the flatbed scanner gives results that can only be called 'atmospheric'.

The DP3M really does have absurd resolution. These film cameras pose no challenge at all, although a decent scan of a good 6x8cm negative would be interesting to see. I haven't yet tried it against my D800, but I did do an impromptu head-to-head with a new 50Mpx CMOS Hasselblad. It might not mean much, but I'm certainly satisfied.


Do Not Lean

I've been here before.

Sigma DP3 Merrill.

High Voltage

The Ricoh GR is an amazing little camera. I'll occasionally need to take some time out from photographing and just marvel at how well built it is, how nice is feels to use, how straightforward its controls are, and of course how well its photos can turn out.

But it's just so incredibly nice to have a small camera with a really good short-telephoto lens.


I should have been closer for the first photo, but there's a limit to how close I want to be to construction equipment for the sake of a couple of snap-shots.

This was really just a check to see if my Ricoh GR and Sigma DP3M can play well together. It's partly that they have such different sensors, but also because of their focal lengths. The 28/75 compact pair is more divergent than my usual 35/60 lenses for my D800, and I'm a photographer of habit.

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.

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