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Reflecting back on 2017, I’d have to say it was a damn good year, inspite of the continuing struggles with my so-called lack of Facebook and Instagram likes and followers, trying to compare myself to others in photography and wondering how in the name of the Baby Jesus people have like 3,000 or 4,000 followers to like 15,000 or 20,000. It’s the “stupid” algorithms of Facebook and Instagram some people who are familiar with social media have told me. Statistically, only about 10% of your followers on average will see your posts. Which definitely makes sense. I’m also trying to watch videos on how to beat the algorithms whether it’s by posting at certain times, using hashtags, and commenting/liking others pictures first to try and engage an audience. I plan on taking these tips seriously and we will see the results.
As you can see, my website is completely changed and I am officially now able to sell prints and more of my work. I also did it at about half the cost of my old website, so saving a bit of money there, YAY!
Twitter is also a struggle, which I am trying to work on, slowly, but surely. Just some of the growing pains of a struggling photographer like myself, I guess. My Twitter name, by the way, is @rjsbirdphoto. If you'd like, you can follow me.
My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/rjsbirdphotography. Give the page a "Like" if you wish to keep up with my picture galleries!
To quote a female photographer I once knew but is now history… she told me, “It takes time and a thick skin.” I think she was right.
Anyways, enough with the social media crap, 2017 was remarkable in many ways for photography, travel and events.
Starting in Buffalo, NY, made three fantastic (as always) Instameets throughout the year including touring Larkinville in the bitterly cold winter, having some drinks at the Buffalo Distilling Company and having a fantastic burger at Soho Burger Bar downtown, and touring the Electric Tower and getting rooftop access for some fantastic views of the city and catching up with my Buffalo friends afterwards. I also had a couple of great nighttime explores with some good friends that year. Including in foggy January with Stephanie (IG name @artiswhy) who is a phenomenal Buffalo commercial photographer, please check out her website, http://www.artiswhy.com/. She and I attended a Buffalo Sabres game (which they won, YAY!) and we did some exploring in the fog that evening and doing some steel wool shooting with Jerry (IG name @sevenoneflix), another friend who met up with us. Jerry's work with his quirkly camera gadgets is phenomenal, especially his kaleidoscope-liked videos he makes.
In February, I went to beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. It was an amazing trip with just about everything you could want for an epic adventure, travelling by bus, taxi, and foot for fantastic pictures and views, super awesome and friendly people making me feel right at home, delicious local cuisine and seeing my Red Wings victorious over the Canucks! It was a phenomenal trip and one of the best I ever had. It made me fall in love in Canada all over again and it is officially my favourite Canadian city. I miss Vancouver every day, but I know I will return someday!
After Vancouver, I made a brief return to Calgary for a couple of days and it was nice to be back, despite the chilly temperatures. I dined on some authentic Western BBQ, got some cool day and night shots, including the Peace Bridge which I missed the year before, and witness a Calgary Flames win over the New York Islanders at the Saddledome.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to make as many trips to my second home away from home, Detroit, as I wanted to, but I made my trips worth it. In May, I went down, I got to ride the new Q-Line streetcar from downtown to midtown and back. Then it was to Comerica Park to get an autographed baseball signed by Hall of Fame catcher and former Tiger Ivan Rodriguez. Then witnessed Justin Verlander and Tigers cruise to a big win over the Rangers (well before their roster tear down). After the game, I got some epic long exposure night shots downtown and over Interstate 75.
Then in June, attended my first ever Ford Fireworks show in Detroit to celebrate both Canada Day (with Windsor across the river) and the Fourth of July. I was lucky to get a great view of the fireworks, but I (and the thousands) were NOT so lucky to have rain start falling shortly after the fireworks began and I was also unlucky that the rain took a toll on my old Canon Rebel T3. The main dial stopped working, meaning I could no longer manually adjust the shutter speed or aperture in Manual Mode.
In July, made it down to the D again and met up with my lovely and close exploring friend, JoJo to go exploring in the newly-opened Beacon Park and met Colin from Detroit Respect (detroitrespect.com) for the first time in person. We had known each other for about three years and I purchased a couple of T-Shirts from him. The clothes his business sells are super cool and comfortable and they support Detroit. Then after that, it was off to do a bit of exploring on the city’s northwest side at a well-documented abandoned high school. We were fortunate enough that there was a community barbecue taking place near the school and we had talked to the volunteers there who were from the area and they were so nice they let us park the car there and they looked after it for us. Me and JoJo bought a couple hot dogs, bags of chips, and pop from them to support their cause. We got into the school through a broken window, checking out the still beautiful auditorium and library inside the school. It was great to be urbexing again, although we were cooking inside as it was a very humid day. I also didn’t get the shots I desired because of my camera’s main dial not working and I didn’t have my tripod with me because I wasn’t sure if we would get in or not because the city police have been patrolling the area very frequently because of break-ins and vandalism. Fortunately, we didn’t get caught, LOL! It was then off to the Detroit Institute of Arts to attend the premiere of “Detroiters” which was a very powerful film by Caldodecultivo who documented many artists in Detroit who used their words to make powerful narratives of the city and its many issues After a great dinner at Slows Bar-BQ, it was off to Campus Martius for drinks and relaxation while in the urban beach at night. It is really incredible how 5-10 years Detroit was completely dead at night and now there’s people everywhere downtown having a great time even in the wee hours of the night.
The next day, it was off to my third-ever Detroit Instameet for the Detroit Respect Comerica Park tour. I met up with some great friends including Colin (who I met earlier before), Angelina, Karen, Ginette, and Evans just to name a few. We got a glimpse behind-the-scenes at the home of the Detroit Tigers, Comerica Park including being in the dugouts and on the playing field, the visitors dressing room, the press boxes and Champions Club. It was a great tour of the one ball park where I have visited most often in Major League Baseball. As for the Tigers, it was very much a bad year for the franchise and for the next 2-3 years, it appears as though they will be rebuilding. Many of us Tigers fans can only hope it’s a quick rebuild or that one of our draft choices will be a generational talent, which we lost when Justin Verlander was traded to the Houston Astros and won a World Series ring. Many of us Tigers fans were happy he finally won, goes to show how classy of a group Detroit sports fans really are. Afterwards, it was hanging out, sunbathing and taking in the performances of the Detroit and Windsor dancers at Beacon Park and went bar-crawling afterwards, totally making fools out of ourselves and even meeting and photobombing random groups of people at the Belt alley at the Z parking garage. Sadly, that would be my final time in the D that year.
In August, my good friend, Matt, from Delaware was vacationing at his relatives' cottage in the Niagara Region of Ontario for a week and we decided to take in the rugged and rustic Elora Gorge in Elora, Ontario. We walked on the rocky trails along the Grand River all the way to Elora and checked out the pretty town. While we toured the gorge, Matt also talked to me about the Grand Canyon in Arizona and how it should be on my bucket list of places to see in my lifetime. I fully intend to put the Grand Canyon on my list, but it remains to be seen when I will get there, but hopefully within the next couple of years! Matt and I eventually went out separate ways and the next day he was heading to historic Quebec City and he had a bit of a scare because his hotel room got double booked by mistake and he had to be relocated to a new hotel room elsewhere. Fortunately, everything worked out, he got a good night sleep and was able to make it to his flight. Come to think of it, Quebec should be another place on my bucket list, it looks a lot like Boston or Old City Philadelphia!
In September, I broke down and bought a new upgraded camera, a Canon Rebel T6i and after a sunset and night photoshoot test in London, Ontario, I was extremely pleased with the results of the shots I got from this serious upgrade.
As Summer 2017 came to a close, I visited an old Lake Huron town, Kincardine, that I used to go to when I stayed at my grandparents’ cottage just south of Kincardine in Point Clark. I got some great splash shots of the waves of Lake Huron and some pretty shots of Kincardine’s harbour and downtown.
I also ordered two new ND filters for two of the lenses on my camera and decided to do some waterfall chasing in the city of Owen Sound, including the Indian Falls north and the Inglis Falls south. I think I probably made a mistake in just wearing a pair of shoes on that trip as my feet were aching easily afterwards and keeping my balance while stepping over mossy and pointed rocks to try and setup for those long exposure waterfall shots. Probably should’ve used my exploring boots, but despite that and the sweaty mess I was, I was pleased with the results. It was then on to dinner and an Owen Sound Attack hockey game. Waterfall chasing and a hockey game made for a pretty good day.
A few weeks later on Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, I attended my first ever Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest to take in the largest Bavarian festival outside of Germany. I went on the Sunday to the Schwaben Club and took in a couple of great local polka bands including the Golden Keys, the Steve Angel Band, and I even got to see the Schwaben Club dancers put on a show, all while having a couple pints of beers and some delicious pork schnitzel. Then the following day, the best part of Oktoberfest was the parade in downtown Kitchener, Ontario. Photographing all the floats, mascots, and people who helped make Oktoberfest a success was an enjoyable experience and I even ate an authentic Oktoberfest sausage with sauerkraut, yes, with sauerkraut. Sauerkraut smells terrible and it’s frequently known to turn me off, however, when you eat it with sausage, it’s actually really good.
Three weeks later, I made my long-awaited return to Chicago with a brief stop in Port Huron, Michigan. This happened because our family’s cottage trip on Lake Huron got cancelled due to being double-booked. So I decided to use the time off I originally had and visit Chicago for a week in the fall. The trip did not disappoint. I returned to Chicago because I wanted to put my photography skills to the test and I was extremely pleased with my shots and I even got up on three rooftops, including the LondonHouse Chicago, which was a place I had my eye on ever since it opened a couple of years ago. It is a popular spot for photographers and they do allow photographers to go up at anytime, although no tripods or zoom lenses are permitted (which I expected). I was very happy with my results. It is never easy to get night shots from anywhere without a tripod, but it can be achieved if you know your camera settings well. I also did get some long exposure shots without a tripod from up on the roof. I also got on the rooftop of the former Hard Rock Hotel Chicago (Carbide and Carbon Building) thanks to a connection on Instagram. You can check out that story in this blog here:
Late that week, I met up with a popular Chicago Instagram photographer and good friend, Rosi, who for the past couple of years loved and enjoyed my work and I loved her work even more, for a sunrise photoshoot at 31st Street Beach on the south side. We had a wonderful meet up, got to know each other and as result, we got some beautiful pictures of the Chicago skyline including seeing the city lights before the sunrise and seeing the sun reflecting off the infamous Trump Tower. Rosi is about the best friend any photographer could ask for and she is always bubbly in person. Her IG name on Instagram is @rosi.visuals, check out her beautiful work, please.
I also toured two of Chicago’s landmarks, the Rookery Building and Chicago Board of Trade, and I even visited the Chicago History Museum to learn about the city’s history. Did you know the word “Chicago” is translated in French from the native word for a stinky onion?
I was so happy to have returned to Chicago after four years and the picture results I got from that trip I will treasure forever.
Finally over the last couple of weeks, I photographed my hometown of Stratford, Ontario at night all decorated for the holidays just for the fun of it and I was pleased with the results of those as well. Those nights were freezing cold, but I intend to use them as a warmup for my trip to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota in March 2018.
I apologize for this lengthy “year in review”, but I just wanted to just share some of the great memories I had in 2017.
As we close out this year, I want to once again take the time to thank all of you, my friends and followers whether it be on Facebook, Instagram, or through my website, for your continued support, friendship and good vibes over the last three years and will continue those in 2018!
HAPPY NEW YEAR! Stay safe and please, don’t drink (or text) and drive.