Tuesday, January 28, 2014


There's a reason Collette and I bought annual passes to Ripley's Aquarium of Canada. The first time we visited we stood in line and it was quite busy. When Collette went with her family around Christmas the line up was around the block and it was so crowded she could barely breathe.

This time we went on a Friday evening, no line ups (though you never have to with the pass) and it was quiet and calm and you could take your time, watching the exhibits you wanted and just taking the time to watch the animals do their thing

Not being busy allowed us to take the time focus on our images without someone being in our way or being in their way either. And far less crying and screaming of stomping of feet .. yes, the parents were much better behaved

The first time we were there I really didn't get to see the octopus, his enclosure is kind of in the middle of the room and it's usually surrounded hockey fans wondering how it would look on a rink

Rainbow Reef is what they call the 200,000 litre tanks that holds the aquarium's tropical reef. The first time we were there they had a diver in the tank doing one of their interactive information shows. There was a diver this time as well and he was acting as some kind of aquatic waiter

One of my favorite exhibits in the aquarium is the Dangerous Lagoon. This is not a tank that you walk in front of, it is an enormous 2.5 million litre tank that you walk through ... or ride through on the moving sidewalk. The tank is on either side of you and arches over your head, allowing you to watch the animals, including 14 species of shark, glide just a couple feet above you

The Lagoon features a pair of groupers who live in their own tank. These fish are massive, when you're this big, you get your own tank

Just for the sake of an irresistible juxtaposition, from the gigantic to the teeney tiny ...

One of the best parts of the sparse crowd was Planet Jelly, which features a huge "wall" of jellyfish, specifically Pacific Nettles, that float down from above your head like hundreds of glowing organic parasol searching for their handles. It's hypnotic and there is a bench across from the tank, it's just nice to sit there and watch the show

I took the opportunity of this visit to bring my new camera, the Sony NX30U. One of the reasons I bought this camera is for its "professional" capabilities. I shot 1080p at 60fps; this frame rate is too high for most online posting such as Vimeo or Youtube but the promise is give you razor sharp images and smooth slow mo

There are a few shots from my old HVR and the staff allows me to bring my Go Pro and dip it into the Shoreline Gallery, a huge open tank, but my little Gorilla Grip tripod

I decided to demo the cam by cutting the footage as I would an actual promo video. So here is Ripley's Aquarium of Canada totally free totally unsolicited promo video

Ripley's Aquarium: Sony NX30U Test from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


This post is a tease .. or Version One ... or an abbreviation of another post .. or something

What this post is about is my new camera, though mostly this will be a short post featuring the first video shot on my new camera.

The camera is a Sony HVR-NX30U, one of the Sony NXCams, a small "palmcorder" similar to the HDR cam with which I have shot most of the videos on this blog, at least in the last couple of years. The NX is actually the pro version of the HVR

There are many differences between my old Sony cam and this one, I won't go into them here but I have posted a more detailed description on my film making blog Idiot With A Camera

I really love that little HDR but it is a consumer cam and not only doesn't serve professional needs, I just want more ... wow, that sounded a bit Long Island Princess didn't it

I like the video quality I can get with Collette's Nikon D7000 but it is not a true video camera in my opinion, or at least not one suited to my style of shooting. DSLRs have great lenses and huge image sensors so they can capture excellent images and achieve a wide range of shallow depth of field. They can also record in at a frame rate of 24 frames per second; people say this emulates film .. whatever, they look great. But a run n gun cam the Nikon is not and that suits me style

This little Sony has shoots at 24 fps and it has a floating lens plus image stabilization, so it should be well suited to my style of shooting. And it has a range of pro features that reminds me of my Canon XL1, a great cam in it's day but it's big and bulky and is not HD and it shoots on tape .. I barely remember what that is

At any rate, I got to take the new cam for its trial run this weekend. I took it to a locale where I've shot before, so I can make a comparative assessment of its virtues. I took the cam .. and Terra .. to the long trail that starts at G Ross Lord Park and runs up Dufferin St from Finch to Steeles.

Here would the video

G Ross Lord Park: Sony HXR-NX30U First Shoot from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


IT'S SO COLD: That the hair in your nostrils seem to be imitating giant sequoia trees

IT'S SO COLD: That not only has Hell frozen over, it's built and giant ice hotel and has found sponsorship from Skull Head vodka

IT'S SO COLD: That TTC bus drivers  have been driven into hibernation, look for them curled up under the warming lamps at your local McDonalds; be careful not to disturb them, when roused, the hibernating TTC driver can be very cranky and will use their transfer punching on your genitalia

IT'S SO COLD: Your breath just doesn't freeze on the air, it develops an attitude, slaps you in the face and demands your wallet

IT'S SO COLD: Polar bears are skinning humans for their hide and sewing them into coats; geese are stuffing their feathers with polar bear fur

IT'S SO COLD: Penguins are now considering Toronto as an adventure destination for that "True Winter Experience"

IT'S SO COLD: That when people saw the title of this post they thought it would be info that would help them get warm and now they all hate me but I don't care ...

You know why I don't care?


Monday, January 6, 2014


First there were forests here.

Deep ravines that guarded their rivers with crenelated walls of cedar and pine and oak and willow. Steep hills, cloaked in winter snow, steal the light of the sun, parcelling it out to fall on fallen trees, black water moving fast over gravel beds, clots of ice caught in the stream bends

This big city is built around the ravines and the rivers, for all the condos and shopping malls and highways, the forests are still here, still alive, still places unto themselves. In my neighbourhood, the green belt of Forest Hills sprawls along the northern part of Toronto, sometimes corralled into a park or a nature preservation area but always going the way it has gone for a long time

During this crazy winter of ice storms and arctic temperatures and streets too clogged with ice and fallen trees to drive across, Terra and I have taken the opportunity to move away from the roads and explore this urban forest

Terra is a border collie and a border collie is a sight dog, she relies upon her vision and her stare to control sheep and cattle. Well, Terra has never seen a sheep so she has become convinced that she is a scent dog. She jams that nose in the snow and begins to actively hunt .. something. Earlier this summer up north she discovered frogging, put your paw down and a frog will jump out. Now she has evolved it into snow frogging ... what she is catching only Terra knows but she is dedicated I'll give her that

If there is a frog under that snow, she will root it out

Her real strength as a hunter, though, is her ability to hunt sticks. That is her true prey. She will hunt them everywhere; forest glens, river banks, she is particularly skilled at trapping them on bridges

And if sticks become scarce, there are always ducks. There is a lot of wildlife in the urban forest. Most of it Terra has no hope in hell ever catching. She will never catch a duck, but she has learned that ancient mantra "If you bark at them, they will fly"

Here is a video compilation of our exploration of the urban forest. The song here is by Dallas Green, also known as City and Colour. Some of the lyrics seemed very appropriate. The first few shots of the video, under the titles were recorded with my little Nikon underwater cam, the rest of the video was shot on a 5th gen iPod

Storm Woods: A Trek Through Forest Hills Nature Centre from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

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