Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ill-Fated Attempt at Aerial Photo of Downtown Toronto

Toronto at dusk October 2014

Thanks to one client in particular I have been challenged a number of years in a row with coming up with a new view of Toronto that includes the CN Tower. Two years ago I had the brilliant idea of taking a helicopter tour during the fall season to try and get a lovely view of the city from above, enhanced by the beauty of the fall foliage. Because I was doing this on spec I had no budget and no official mandate with which to impress the tour operators, so I quickly realized I wasn't going to get any special treatment.

The weather in Ontario being what it is in the fall, that is, fairly unstable and unpredictable from day to day let alone long term (we just endured this irritating reality on a job that had us getting up at 5:00 a.m. multiple days in a row to be faced with forecasts that had changed overnight, and skies that changed even as we drove to the locations), I had a difficult choice to make: either book a flight well in advance at the risk of unphotogenic weather, but at a somewhat guaranteed time, or wait until a good looking day and hope for an available last minute spot at a decent time. I decided on the latter. (Again, on the actual job we just did, we knew from location scouting exactly what times would be best and we committed to them. I have to admit I was a little/way off when I booked the helicopter tour.)

As it turned out, after cancelling one 2:00 p.m. flight, the earliest afternoon flight I could get on the next decent looking day was at 5:30. Way too late if I'd been paying attention. However, as per my usual MO, I arrived super early for my flight in case there was any way I could get on an earlier one. As I waited, I watched anxiously as the sky got cloudier and cloudier and darker and darker until there was almost nobody left in the waiting room except me. Every flight had to have three passengers, and apparently the couple that was booked to fly with me had got lost, or something. I don't know. Regardless of the reason, they showed up at about 6:15 just as the sun was setting. I was beside myself. 

The light was actually incredibly dramatic, and I was not unaware of the irony that a lot of people would have been thrilled at the vivid orange sunset and stormy sky. I hated it. And I was so disappointed I never even showed the photos to the client. And after leaving the raw files untouched on my working hard drive for two years (!) I was finally archiving them, possibly never to be seen again, when I thought I'd just have one last look. Stepping away had maybe given me a chance to return with a fresh perspective, but even after more than 700 days, they still looked grainy, dark and way too sunsetty. However this time I decided to give one of the least awful frames one last try, so I blasted it with some extreme processing, and lo and behold, got a result that actually doesn't look that bad, at this size on a computer monitor (no way would I print it). I'm still not going to show the client. It's not the right picture at all, and it's just not good enough. But before I put the files away forever, I thought I'd share this one picture, now that I've had almost enough time to get over it. 

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