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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Janice Tokar

Janice Tokar, originally uploaded by johnwmacdonald.

Photographer Charles Earl captured local Ottawa poet Janice Tokar last evening in his own photo blog: I thought I would give my take on the same subject, Janice.

I believe that ambient light, in most cases, like in Charles' photo of Janice, makes the photo a more intimate visual experience than using a strobe flash at an event such as this. Most times public readings and event photography pose a lighting challenge for photographers. The existing light is either very harsh, incorrectly placed, very dim, or non-favourable to making a properly exposed photo. It doesn't help that the venues are usually basements, bars, libraries or combinations thereof...and held at night.

The solution I have figured out is using fast glass (pro-grade lenses with an aperture at f/1.4 or wider) to let as much light as possible hit the camera's sensor. This will let you use a lower ISO which means less digital noise. The other important factor is using a slow enough shutter speed to let in the available light but also fast enough to allow for a sharp image. Nothing worse than motion blur to ruin a photo in this instance. I was also using a monopod to help steady the camera.

This venue at the Ottawa City Hall Art Gallery is such a challenge to photographers. But on the other hand, it is elegantly lit for the occasion at hand. I really enjoyed the placement of the red panel behind the podium which created a depth in the room.

Anyhow, that technical treatise aside, I think I captured a nice moment as Janice had just finished her reading and was about to take her seat. I love that brief pause, the fleeting look of satisfaction in her eyes, and her easy smile knowing that she shared something special with the audience. Click!

Janice Tokar's work appears in a chapbook featuring poems by members of the Pumping Irony Poetry Workshop. She has read at Tree, Sasquatch and the Muses reading series. One of her poems will be published by Bywords in their March on-line edition at


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