By dawn I’m already downtown with my eyes on the sky recording how sunlight strikes the bank towers. The glass spires warp sunbeams over busy streets and their bounce makes beautiful scenery. That’s how I start most days, and how I’ll spend the rest of this morning. I'll chase bent light around the tallest parts of Toronto.
My cinematography hides in the hot spots and I hunt my art with a Panasonic DSLR camera. If I catch a good clip, I’ll post it on my channels, license it for use by others, or sell it exclusive. I’m a freelance videographer, a shooter-for-hire, a stringer who gets footage for TV News. At least that’s what I want to be, and what I hope to do with my life. Unlike other media professionals, I don’t have any way to track the headlines, and so I have to wait for history to happen in front me.
The reflections move with the sun and bedazzle green spaces as the day matures. Anything can happen in those highlights and I try to produce interesting movies. When boys ask about my gear, my clothes or my career, I put them to work in the radiance. I make all would-be Romeos sign photo release forms and model before my lens. ”Go stand in that bright patch,” I’ll say, “and let’s take a look at you.” That’s how I recorded all the videos in my Banker Takes a Break series.
People usually think sunny days are best for taking pictures but they’re wrong. Without cloud-cover, the concrete is too high contrast. Human eyeballs get annoyed and that means sunglasses and ball caps hide every face and Coronavirus masks complete the eclipse. Any subjects without such accessories have raccoon eyes. But on the other hand, I can set a shallow focus which makes soft backgrounds and blurry light blossoms. That’s called bokeh and you need a fast lens. Bright days also yield real sharp images on the far end of my telescopic. I’ve been practicing my long-lens photography for a while now and I guess that’s why I consider myself a huntress. I’m always looking for news-worthy incidents and ways to help underdogs fight their oppressors. I’m like Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks who says he enjoys crushing bastards. I feel like that too when I publish media that shames negligent pet owners, unsafe employers, selfish parkers, and rude commuters.
To enjoy any success as a freelancer requires more than good camera skills. All by myself, I have to sense each scene before it happens, and then pray it works out in my frame. Most of my shots begin a minute too late, or take a wrong turn. But how can anyone know what’s going to happen next? It is possible; that’s the secret I’ve already learned. The solution is to slow down, look around and listen. Toronto is a four-dimensional jungle but it gives fair warning. Victims shout, horns honk, dogs bark; any of these signs will pique my brain to life-in-progress. This morning, a bicycle bell rung in anger catches my ears and shifts my eyes.
“Get out of the bike lane!” A courier yells at a taxi. The cyclist is long gone before I compose the shot. I stand on the north side of King street just west of Spadina. I breathe through my nose so as not to jiggle the lens. This cabbie is breaking the law. He slows his car to unload a passenger in the part of the road that’s reserved for bicycles. I can add this to my collection. That means something. Only one in a hundred videos is worth posting on my channel. I usually walk for hours and come home with nothing. The orange and green Beck Taxi rolls to a stop in a perfectly dappled window-reflection. Sometimes everything just clicks.
The rear door opens and light brown shoes emerge. Black and yellow argyle socks and brown dress pants follow. The rider steps out and I have to tilt-up. He’s a tall man with fair hair, a white mask and mahogany blazer. He sees my camera and squints. He knows I’m focused on him. One glance back at the cab and he knows why. Now he must imagine I’m making a video to highlight the public’s contempt for bicycles. He’s right. I call it Bike Lane Blockers.
Generally speaking, transport professionals know better. This cabbie must have accepted a big tip to make off-loading more convenient. That's probably how it’d happened. Who is this well-dressed passenger? Why does he feel so entitled?
I push-in slow just to show I’m not scared. I creep forward while simultaneously retracting the zoom which hides my bumpy travel and makes my camera move more interesting; the background shrinks while the foreground swells and it showcases the subject.
The commuter’s cream coloured tie has shiny gold stripes. He stands tall with short cropped blond hair and cold blue eyes. Is he a professional athlete? He’s well-built yet I watch him get all-shy underneath his disposable mask which hides most of his face. “Why are you filming me?” he asks. I try to think-up a witty response. He shuts the taxi door and faces me. “I don’t want to be in your video.”
“Oh yeah...?” I reply. Ugh... Brilliant voice track Toni. It throws him though. I watch his eyebrows knit which is kind-of heart-warming and summons emotions contrary to my agenda. I imagine my friend Marcy punching my shoulder for being so rude to such a cute guy and otherwise good prospect. Focus. This’ll be a good video if you don’t screw it up. “Did you ask the driver to let you out here?”
“So what if I did? Who are you?” He eyes me from the ground up. He see my dirty New Balance running shoes, my scratched and bruised skin on my bare legs, and my faded Daisy Duke jean shorts and red-checkered top. His eyes snag on the camera before he lifts his attention to my face. “Honestly. Turn it off.”
“It’s a free country. You’re in public and,” I adjust the shot to show more of his surroundings, “you’re in a bike lane.”
“Well I don’t give you my permission.” He waits to see if that has any effect. It doesn’t. He continues, “If I see myself in your production... I’ll find... I’ll sue for damages.”
“Good luck with that.”
"Good luck with that,” he mocks me and points east toward the downtown core. “Black Lives Matter protest is that way. You’re in the part of town where people actually work for a living.” I don’t react as he comes towards me. When I don’t move, he raises his bag as if to smash my camera, but I still don’t back away. He’s too well dressed to assault me, and his hands are full.
“Mr. Dewer?” A high-powered female executive in a blue pantsuit emerges from a nearby business. She opens a glass door which catches the morning sun and flashes my lens. She has come outside to rescue him.
He glances back at her and then returns his masked face to my camera. He wants to say something clever I imagine, but he comes up empty.
“Go on Dewey.” I tell him, “your mom’s calling.”
His eyes squint again and he turns away. His shoes clack the cement. I keep recording his well-tailored backside and catch an annoyed look from the lady at the door.
When it’s over, I power down and exhale. Good video 7/10. Then I proceed to the next phase of my ritual. I remove my notepad and write down the time and description: 10:20 am, Dewey + Mom, bike lane. But after a moment’s reflection I add a 6 and a period to the front end to reduce the score to 6.7 / 10. The clip isn’t that great. It is a little predatory. Their faces will need to be blurred if I decide to add the shot to Bike Lane Blockers. But on the other hand, I could post it on YouTube unaltered as ‘editorial’, a social comment. But I’m reluctant to do that because it’s also a comment on me.