Brantford rocks the art talks—Pecha Kucha-style

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Oil on canvas – Ian McLean

Thursday night is Brother Night, and last Thursday, Dave and I rocked on down to Brantford to check out some art lightning talks at Glenhyrst Art Gallery.  Our good friend, Jack Jackowetz, was one of the speakers in this Pecha Kucha event: 20 slides/20 seconds each.

It was a great venue, with great talks by seven artists.  Lots of pics follow.  Thought I’d also give you a peek behind the makebright curtain in this post.  I often get questions about photography/photo editing/blogging, so a little inline meta-makebright for you on this one.


Most of these posts start with hauling ass out to the location.  Before I can do that I need to get the other various important components of my life sorted out.  Prep includes getting an address, gas, tickets (sometimes), figuring out parking, business cards, checking the camera gear.  This trip was an hour’s drive and included the GPS inviting us to turn left into the river and a little getting lost out by the airport.  I often joke with my buddy Jacqui that it would be cool if this venture paid gas money.  The reality is: I’m 100% self-funded.

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Found it!

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The place was already packed, but we found…

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Jack, who introduced us to…

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musician/teacher/writer and Glenhyrst board member Murray Charters (centre) who was hosting.  I gave Murray my makebright business card and asked if we could shoot.  He gave us a green light, so…

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we unpacked, set up in a good location in the room, and checked the gear.  I have my mental checklist for setting up the cameras.  It’s really frustrating to think you’ve been shooting aperture priority all night and discover later that you’re on manual.  So, now I run my list.

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I carry two DSLR cameras, both second-hand Nikon D90’s.  One is fitted with a Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 zoom for close-ups and shooting from a distance, the other is fitted with a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 for wide-angle.  Two cameras makes switching between lenses fast.  It also gives a little redundancy if when one of the cameras malfunctions.  You do enough shoots and that will happen.  First time for me was on the piano-rebuild shoot for The Jazz Room

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I like to get a mix of detail shots, and…

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Oil and charcoal on board – Cristina Zanella

broader crowd shots (arm-over-head-shooting technique here).

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Bryce Kanbara, of you me gallery in Hamilton coordinated “The Promise of Painting” show for Glenhyrst.  This show, curated by Kathryn Hogg, features 3 of the artists who spoke Thursday night.

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Oil and charcoal on board – Cristina Zanella

The pecha kucha talks were in a gallery room full of…

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Oil and charcoal on board – Cristina Zanella

Cristina Zanella’s work.  Love the bold charcoal over the oil.

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Murray introduced Marcia Lea (centre), who just the week before stepped into the executive director-curator role at Glenhyrst. 

While I’m shooting photos, I also need to crank a few names into my BlackBerry so I can remember/research them for the blog later.  Going into this shoot, all we knew was “Jack is speaking at something in Brantford at 7:30 at a place called Glenhyrst”.  Don’t know any of the other people, organizations, relationships.  Often have to figure that out as we go and do a lot of googling later to make sense of it.  Social Adventure!

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By the time 7:30 rolled around, the place was packed, with standing in the back and…

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reclining up front.  Love to see and shoot a packed room.

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Murray had wrangled all the A/V equipment.  Yes, that’s a slide projector, but most talks were from a digital projector, including a DVD entry.

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Lights out.

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Aliki Mikulich was up first.

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Mixed media – Aliki Mikulich

The digital projector was not kind to the work.  The brightness needed to be dialed down so the colour doesn’t wash out.  This is pretty common because projectors often get used during business hours with high ambient light so the brightness gets jacked way up.  If you’re projecting in near darkness like this, you can adjust that down.  It can also be hard to photograph mixed media work and capture features like the broken mirror river in this piece.

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Mixed media – Aliki Mikulich

Go to Aliki’s site to see proper pics of this piece.  Great site.  Double-plus points with me for mixed media.  Aliki hit some great points about artists’ social integration into the community, mentioning the mock New Orleans-style funeral for old downtown Brantford. 
Love it.

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Painter Ian McLean, from Sarnia, very near our hometown of Point Edward, was up next.

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Oil on canvas – Édouard Manet

Ian gave us a little art history, which is super-important if you want to see the evolution of influences and appreciate work in a deeper way.  I never really got this when I was in school taking art history, but I get it now.

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Oil on canvas – Ian McLean

The colours are wickedly under-represented here.  Apologies.  See this work in person, or at least go to Ian’s site.

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Oil on canvas – Ian McLean

Swimming pools are a very charged subject.

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Jack Jackowetz was up next and showed…

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Photograph on canvas – Jack Jackowetz

a little Waterloo local flavour.  Great to hear Jack talk about his process and also his business strategy for different markets.

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Dave Hind talked about…

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Reclaimed aluminum – Dave Hind

his totally awesome work with reclaimed materials and when I saw this pic with the pop rivets I knew I had seen his work before…

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Reclaimed aluminum – Dave Hind

in the Paula White Diamond gallery in Waterloo.  Man, that work blew my hair back!  Dave Hind bills himself as a “thingmaker” and I can totally identify.  Respect!

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Cristina Zanella walked us through her still-life work and Shelley Niro showed a DVD of her work.

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Robert Achtemichuk took us through some stories behind…

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Gouache on silk – Robert Achtemichuk

his work.  Robert paints from memory.  Best quote:
“I should get a camera, but I’m just a painter”

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When the lights came up, I had to hustle to get pics of speakers I missed, like…

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Shelley Niro.

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Was looking for a more conventional picture (sans Francis Bacon effects) of Dave Hind and…

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Cristina Zanella.

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Great to have breakout social time in the…

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schedule, and…

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Snacks!  provided by The Golden Teapot right on site at Glenhyrst.  Linda Pickering, who runs the tea room, says try the High Tea here.

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Gouache on silk and paper – Robert Achtemichuk

We had a chance to wander then, through the various rooms.

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then upstairs…

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Oil on canvas – Ian McLean

check out Ian’s work.

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Oil on canvas – Ian McLean

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We wandered on to see…

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Photograph on canvas – Jack Jackowetz


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Photograph on canvas – Jack Jackowetz

work, and…

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Photograph on canvas – Jack Jackowetz

the man himself.

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Oil on canvas – Ian McLean

And then…

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where we packed up all the gear and were one of the last visitors out the door at 10pm.  Another hour drive back to Waterloo, where…


it was time to download the night’s photos and start culling through the pile to find shots that tell the story.  On this shoot, I selected about 70 shots from 363.  Once I have a pared down set, I crop and tweak each photo so it looks the way I want it.  I shoot RAW format in the camera which allows me maximum flexibility in post-processing for things like fixing white balance.  For higher throughput in my workflow, I use Adobe Lightroom (shown here), but occasionally flip to Photoshop for more complex edits. 

The last step in post-pro is to add a subtle copyright watermark as a gentle reminder that this is photography, not freetography.  It’s a bit of a challenge to establish the value of digital photography.  Everybody’s got a camera in their phone, so anyone could shoot this stuff, right?  And it’s easy to copy these photos off the web, so I’m really working on the honour system.  Love when people ask permission to use a photo.  When they don’t offer money, I often reply “how about a trade?

I typically have to spread this post-pro work over a few days.  This set took about 9 hours to process and export to usable JPEG files.


I throw my scaled JPEGs into the flickr uploader that pushes the photos up to flickr where they are hosted.  While my WordPress blog is hosted (thanks Ben Brown!) on that controls the presentation of images, the images themselves are actually pulled from my flickr pro account.  This offloads the heavy lifting of serving up images to a service that is designed to handle it. 


With photos uploaded, I fire up Microsoft Live Writer that allows me some marginal WYSIWYG blog editing with WordPress integration and a flickr import plugin. 

This is where I try to differentiate from other web offerings that just put out photos.  I’m really trying to tell a story.  So I spend a crazy amount of time arranging the order of photos, looking up people in the photos and linking to them from my post, and finding a coherent narrative.  For this post, I spent about 5 hours on this step.  Tons of lookups and linking were required and it’s especially challenging when the people are unfamiliar to me, as here, and my notes have semi-cryptic entries like “Marsha new person”.

With my posts, I want to show people what it was like to be there, and hopefully motivate them off the sofa and get them engaged in the community.  I always say, people can’t support what they don’t know about…


so my next step after posting the blog is to push it out on twitter and facebook.  Sometimes I even push via email for my social-media-challenged friends.  Everybody’s got their favourite info channel.

In total, my time on this post breaks down:
5 hours – travel, shoot, travel
9 hours – photo download/selection/post-processing/upload
5 hours – blog writing/researching/linking/posting/pushing
Total: 19 hours end to end for this post

Then we get to the very interesting and open-ended part: the dialogue with my readers.  This is the most important and most difficult part because readers often think of this like TV: passive consumption.  My most-visited post ever at 1772 views received only 10 comments.  That’s a 0.6% response rate.  The second-most-visited post at 418 views got 11 comments.  So, 2.6% response.  I frequently meet people in the creative ecosystem who say “hey man, I love your blog” to which I reply: WELL, THEN LEAVE A COMMENT, my friend!  Participate.  I put something out there.  Tell me if you hate it.  Tell me if you love it.  Tell me what you had for breakfast.  Something.  It takes about 18 seconds to leave a comment below.  I moderate them to spare you all from the spam, so your first comment on makebright won’t appear right away, but I will put it through.  Promise.

Oh, and thanks Brantford for the fun evening.  Nice place ya got there.

Happy making,

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12 Responses to Brantford rocks the art talks—Pecha Kucha-style

  1. Outstanding coverage Darin, as always. I was waiting in anticipation for your posting so I could experience elements of the night I couldn’t as a participant. Thank you for your kind words and supporting our event in Brantford.

  2. Lindsay J says:

    Was at the show that night. Your coverage was great! Nice photos.

  3. Darin,

    Its great to see these wonderful images, your comments and experience the event again from your eyes. Thanks for being there.


  4. Thanks Darin – for such wonderful coverage!

    It’s always a joy when someone from out of town realizes the terrific things we have in Brantford!


  5. It was great to relive a very good art evening with thanks to your beautiful photos and humourous words.! Thanks for the vivid visual memories.

  6. Fleur-Ange Lamothe says:

    I had to miss this event because I’d have been spreading an awful cold.

    Great coverage. I love that you also showed the beauty of Glenhyrst. Ian McLean’s oil paintings look and are sumptuous! Thank you!

    Also thanks to Bryce for the great idea and to the Board of Directors for agreeing to it! Great choice of artists. Wish there was more on Shelley Niro!

    Hope there’s another Pecha Kucha!


  7. Murray Charters says:

    Darin, this is wonderful! Beautiful, artistic photography and some very helpful insights into what we did and how we can do better. So, you didn’t know where Glenhyrst was before, eh? But I think a lot of people are going to be attracted to us by your photos and words, so that won’t be so much of a problem – soon! Thank you!!

  8. Thank you so much for posting and sharing this dynamic record of a most exciting evening art event at Glenhyrst, Darin! We are in your debt.

    Re-experiencing things from a visitor’s perspective gives a sense of fresh seeing that is wonderful. I’m glad that your friendship with Jack prompted your presence.

    FYI, I’m writing a follow up column re the event for publication in this Thursday’s Brantford Expositor. If it’s OK with you I’d like to mention your visit and your blogpost so others may check it out.

    Best regards and thanks for documenting and explaining your process to a relative Luddite.

    Thanks also to Jack and Bryce for spreading the word.


    • dw says:

      Thanks all for the kinds words. I’m sure I’ll be back to Brantford soon. There was such a great energy in the crowd at this event. A real community. And the more I researched the various Brantford folks/artists/makers, the more this great creative ecosystem emerged for me.

      Arlene, I’m delighted to have makebright referenced in The Brantford Expositor! Thanks a lot.

      Happy making,

  9. Ian McLean says:

    Hi Darin,
    What a nice blog with such fantastic photos. You are very skilled. Such a nice way to remember that night. Thanks for your comments.

  10. Pingback: TH&B United art show–Hamilton delivers again | makebright

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