Oh Montreal. Where to even begin?
So I crossed the border into Canada around 1 PM yesterday. When asked where I was from and where I was going, the border patrol officer goes “You’re driving from Louisiana to Montreal to take photos?”
“Well,” I said, “this isn’t my first stop.”
Took me about 20 seconds to find the equation of kilometer speed limits. A bit longer to realize that Quebec isn’t exactly a bilingual province. It’s French. Street signs are in French. It’s the normal conversational language. Even my Garmin GPS lady dropped into a French accent while attempting to pronounce some of these streets.
The first photo of the day took place on an island, basically a huge park which contained a metal dome called the Biosphere. I met up with Anne and Eymen, to make a photograph centering around a dodge and evasion field war involving eggs. I was never sure if the Biosphere would actually be in the shot, but it was a nice central meeting place for everyone.
As it turned out, the fields surrounding it created the perfect backdrop. We overturned a trash can and got to work. Except the rain eventually caught up to me, I’m guessing a straggler from the Boston storm? So we had to quickly move everything out of the open and under trees, and then eventually under a roof. But just as Anne and Eymen predicted, the rain stopped as soon as we moved everything away.
Soo…. we moved everything back!
Here are some test shots while trying to compose the scene in different areas…
After almost an hour of moving gear around, back and forth, we were finally able to perform the action sequence, very aware of the time because Anne had work soon. Eymen received multiple egg splatters to the chest, while Anne and I rallied against the onslaught in a show of support for our fallen comrade. Fun shot that will turn out nicely! Sadly, during this shoot I lost not one but TWO lighting umbrellas. In the hurry to unload equipment, I neglected to bring the sandbags out of the car. Paid the price.
The cast photo…
Anne had to leave, so Eymen and I loaded the car. At this point, I should mention that my cellphone had absolutely no coverage. I had assumed that I would start roaming once I entered Canada, but instead I only saw the “No Signal” at the top of my bar. Sooo… in Canada for awhile, still scheduling photo shoots with local people, mapping out where to shoot, and where I’ll be staying… without cell access. Fun times.
Eymen had to go home and shower the egg away, but we decided to meet back up via facebook in an hour. I’d go into downtown, grab a bite to eat, and locate a WIFI spot. So we separated and I set out for this downtown that I had never been in before. Complete with French road signs.
Instead of the usual sinks, the Biosphere bathroom contained a circular faucet system…
And although it isn’t funny, here’s another convenience store photo…
I have never seen so many bicyclists before in my life. Once I actually arrived downtown, I wasn’t concerned with the other drivers. Instead, it’s the bikers you have to watch out for. Making a simple right turn (which by the way, I learned tonight that it’s illegal to do at a red light here) wasn’t always so easy, not because the pedestrians were crowding each turn, but because cyclists here speed into those spots, seemingly oblivious to both cars and the speed at which their blindspot-prone, nearly invisible self are traveling. And I say this as a biker myself. Almost hit a few people while navigating to a Subway restaurant but in the end, no casualties.
Once I found WIFI, I saw that Eymen added me on facebook so I was able to chat with him and tell him my location. Half an hour later or so, he stopped by the Subway and we started looking for hostels in the area. He was a great help in offering suggestions on which ones would be the best areas to stay in. Also, he loaned me his phone for a few Montreal-based phone calls. So began the start of hopping from one Montreal cellphone to another in order to keep in touch with people I’d be shooting with. I’d be curious to see the number trail I created while here.
Luckily, one of those phone calls was to Anne, who informed me that it’d be fine to crash at her place. She lives with her boyfriend, Alex, and their roommate Jasmine. I planned to do make some portraits of her, possibly with the others in the house. It was also cool if Eymen dropped by, too, for a portrait. I could come by in an hour and a half.
Eymen took off for a bit, so I decided to check out the city during this time, and also visit Old Montreal and pick out a location to use for the next day’s shoot. Of course I got lost a few times while driving around, but the city isn’t so bad. I was able to figure myself out pretty easily. I did ask one girl if she knew where I needed to go to find Old Montreal, though. Turns out this girl, Sophie, was from the Netherlands but was a great help. Pointed in the right direction, I set off.
If you’ve been to Paris or the French Quarter in New Orleans, you have a decent idea of what Old Montreal is like. They are all unique in various ways, of course, but the architecture is somewhat similar, and the main roads inside of it are cobblestone. Great to look at, but an even better massage to your bottom as you drive over them. I parked my car in front of a restaurant and hustled back a few blocks to get the address of a church I had recently passed. Along the way back, though, I cam across a street performer who is one of the most entertaining acts I’ve seen in a long time. I hung out for a good 7-10 minutes watching him, as the crowd grew and grew. Took some video of his show for you guys to see, too! It will be in a post dedicated to video files.
But when I got back to my car, I was greeted with a parking ticket. Apparently I was parked in a residential area? It’s a 50$ ticket that I’ll have to pay relatively soon. So… two busted umbrellas and a ticket, all in the first day in Montreal. I guess things could be worse… I could have never made it there.
So I get to Anne’s house, meet everyone, and unload the car. I set up a portrait station in their living room and started with Anne. Something I noticed while making these portraits: my corny jokes are regional. “What did the 3-legged dog say when it walked into the bar? ‘I’m looking for the man who shot my paw.’ ” No reaction. I guess paw is a phrase too Southern for Canadians. But things went well. I even managed to do a portrait session in stuttering French, because Jasmine is primarily a French speaker, whose English is only marginally better than my French. Alex recorded some video of this session! Sidenote, Jasmine is currently a student studying Sexology… I had to ask her if she meant Psychology, but nope, Sexology. Sounds fun, didn’t realize there was a whole major dedicated to it. I wonder if that’s a hands-on major.
During this time, I also received a phone call from Denise (via Anne’s house phone), someone I was trying to schedule a shoot with the next day. We were trying to set up a time, and also seeing which shot would work best with the location and available other models we had, and also working around her work schedule. We wouldn’t know if it would happen until the next day, though, so she was going to call the house the next morning and give me a definite yay or nay on if we would be able to shoot together.
The portraits went easily into 1-2 AM. Plans were to wake up at 9 AM since everyone had to depart, so I broke everything down the night before and went to the room Anne had set up for me. Overall, a pretty great, productive first day in Montreal!
Everybody, except Eymen, because he had to catch the subway beforehand…