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Verne Ho

Human being. Making stuff up.

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A Closer Look at Toronto

While I know this course is about travel photography, there's no reason why one can't play tourist in their own hometown. I've lived in Toronto my whole life but it's amazing what new things you can discover through the lens of a camera. Plus, Dan's class was a lot of fun to watch so I thought I would take to the streets and see what I could come up with for the class project. I hope you'll all enjoy it!

Gear

All of the shots submitted for this class project were taken with my Fujifilm X-T1. It's a beautifully lightweight camera with a ton of power – perfect for travel or everyday exploration. Currently, I rotate between a 16mm f1.4 (~24mm equivalent) and a 56mm f1.2 (~85mm equivalent) lens.

Bird's Eye View

Despite its reputation for being a fairly modern city, Toronto's rich history can still be seen in the threads of the buildings in its downtown core. Plate-glass factories, clothing warehouses, and even brothels once inhabited the spaces that we now call offices and studios. I'm so thankful that many of the details that represented a very different time still live on in the walls, ceilings, and floors.

In particular, I love wandering into different buildings and exploring the often original and untouched staircases. This shot was taken from the top floor of a building I walk by every day (it happens to be attached to my favourite pub). I hadn't ever given it a second look, but this project prompted me to actually take a peek inside. Unfortunately, the carpet had been restored at some point, but I think you can still see a lot of history if you look close enough.

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Off the Beaten Path

While not always the safest route, slipping through the alleyways of Toronto definitely leaves you with new perspectives. The eccentric graffiti on the walls, the curious litter sprayed across the floor, the worn down bike abandoned in the corner – there's always a unique story to be told, and it comes only from the equally unique crowd that shares the same route.

It's an interesting exercise to put yourself in the same shoes as those who frequent a space that's foreign to you. In this shot, I found myself in one such alleyway just outside Little Italy, peering out onto life on the main street, but from the safety and isolation of my narrow vantage point.

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Middle of the Road

I wandered past this intersection and spotted the perfect shot. Seconds later, cars mysteriously halted as two police bikes rolled in and blocked off traffic in all directions – the Pan Am torch was being ushered through by a runner and her party of supporters and security personel. And here I was at a key junction of her course. Acknowledging the opportunity, I darted out to the middle of the road and took the shot I originally intended to get. I knew it was going to be better than I imagined.

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Signs of Life

I work in an area that's sandwiched between financial, entertainment, and creative districts – three groups with very different ambitions, but that find commonality around overpriced coffee, a heightened sense of fashion, and a social agenda that never quits. If you're familiar with the area, the never-ending buzz is something you hate but love just the same.

These yellow doors are just around the corner from my office. They're bold, posh, exciting, and just the right amount of obnoxious. Stand around them long enough and you're bound to snap some interesting juxtapositions.

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Iconic Postcard

Toronto has arguably one of the more memorable skylines, in which the CN Tower plays a leading role. I live a few blocks from the landmark, so there are always people – both tourists and locals – stopped outside my doorstep trying to snap the perfect shot. I've always hated taking photos of the CN Tower though. I don't find it that visually appealing and truthfully, it fits awkwardly into a frame.

That being said, I recently found myself a bit out of downtown exploring some abandoned railroads. As my friends and I were leaving, I noticed we were actually on a slightly elevated plane with a perfectly clear view of the city. The sun was just beginning to set to my right so the lighting couldn't have been any better. I climbed atop a bench, fired off a few shots, and renewed my appreciation for our skyline. I guess the CN Tower didn't look so bad afterall.

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Thanks for reading! You can find more of my work and explorations in photography on Instagram.

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