Welcome to my blog!

I'll be sharing my experiences capturing and creating images and inviting your comments so that I, and others, can learn. I won't be posting daily, but when I have something relevant to share. Please have a look and share your thoughts and feedback!

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Henry VanderSpek/ CultureSnap.ca

Toronto Photographer Remembers Rob Ford

March 31, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Every step of the way, we walk the line

Your days are numbered, so are mine

- Bob Dylan, "Mississippi"


Like many Torontonians, I am saddened at the news of Rob Ford’s passing. I want to express my condolences to his family and friends. I did not share his political convictions, but I was rooting for him in his journey of recovery from addiction and in his battle with cancer. It was clear that he was fighting hard. He left this world too early.

I felt compelled to write something with this news.  I encountered him in person – while I had my camera - on several occasions. Sorting these events out in a blog post somehow feels necessary to me.


Rob Ford Media Scrum - Jan 24th, 2013

I was in City Hall on January 24th, 2013, visiting a City Councillor, when Rob Ford spoke to the press outside of his office. It was the day before a three-judge panel would decide whether to uphold or overturn a previous decision that Rob Ford should be removed from office for conflict of interest. Things were no doubt tense as he awaited this decision. Rob spoke in his classic brash manner, but stated “I believe in the judicial system and hope for the best”. Click here for additional details of this moment from CTV News.

The panel ultimately overturned the previous decision and Rob Ford was allowed to stay in office.


Rob Ford Press Conference - May 16th, 2013

My second encounter with former Mayor Rob Ford was on May 16th 2013. I was visiting a City Councillor, and as a press conference was about to begin, I was invited to come observe. There was a bank of cameras lined up to capture the event, and I was able to take photos as well. Rob Ford had been pushing hard for a casino in the Portlands, but as the provincial government would not support his vision, he gathered the media to state he was backing away from the idea.  A video of the event can be viewed here.

Mere hours after this press conference Gawker announced news of a video that showed Mayor Ford smoking crack. The rest, as they say, is history.


East York Canada Day Parade - July 1st, 2014

On July 1st, 2014 (about 13 months after my last Rob Ford encounter) I attended the East York Canada Day parade with my family. I naturally had my camera with me. It was a municipal election year and many politicians were present and engaging the crowds, including Olivia Chow and John Tory.

The parade seemed to be over when we noticed a cluster of people and cars off in the distance, further north on Coxwell Avenue. As they approached, I recognized Rob Ford's infamous Cadillac Escalade leading the group. He had chosen the East York Canada Day parade to make his first appearance after entering rehab a short time earlier. I took a series of photos of him and his entourage, and, knowing this moment would be of media interest, approached two newspapers. The Globe and Mail immediately expressed interest and my image was on the Globe’s website by early that afternoon.


Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit - July 4th - 6th, 2014

Exhibiting my images at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit.Exhibiting my images at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit.

A few days later I was fortunate to be exhibiting my art images at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit (TOAE) in Nathan Phillips Square. One day while there, a member of the Ford family entered my booth, saw the below image, and told me they wanted to buy it – as a gift for Rob Ford. I had heard from staff in Toronto City Councillor Janet Davis' office (who has a number of my Toronto images on display in her office) that Rob Ford, or staff in his office, were interested in one of my images. It was the same image that one of his family members bought from me at the TOAE, as seen below.

Line of ScrimmageLine of Scrimmage© Henry VanderSpek / culturesnap.ca

The Ford family member told me that Rob and Doug Ford are art collectors, and they were certain Rob would appreciate this image. I did not mention to the Ford family member that my photo of Rob was on the Globe website just a day or two before. I also only told a few close friends about the sale at the time. I wasn't sure what to make of the whole experience.


Nada - March 29th, 2016

On Tuesday March 29th, the day before Rob Ford’s funeral, I was shooting photos for another project on Spadina Avenue, and a friendly lady started a conversation with me. Her name was Nada, and she had come from Hamilton that morning to pay her last respects to Rob Ford in City Hall. She was very kind and said how much she admired him.

"He was good for Toronto. He was a man, man you know? He did good things. He was for the little people... The people do love him. They did love him, do you know that? It is sad to go that way, because, you know, early age, because the life is not lived, fully life. It would be nice to see him again in some way, it really would! I'm getting emotional now, I'm sorry."

I am not certain what my encounters with Rob Ford, or his family members, mean entirely. His passing has certainly given me reason to reflect on the brevity of life, how each person has the capacity to create change, and how our actions echo in those near to us long after we are gone.

Despite his failings and struggles Rob Ford was admired and loved by many people - kind people such as Nada from Hamilton - and that will not easily fade with his passing. There will only ever be one Rob Ford and he will not be forgotten.

Rest in peace Rob Ford.

High Park Nikon Photo Walk

March 04, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

On Sunday February 6th I had the pleasure of joining a High Park photo walk organized by Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) and sponsored by Nikon Canada. The event was organized as part of PFR's Snap and Share Contest and open to those who registered in advance.

There were a large number of particpants. I enjoyed meeting a few new photographers as well as a photographer friend from East York, Peter Visima. Kristian Bogner, an incredibly talented Nikon Canada Ambassador, hosted the walk, and led us through some tips before we went out for the walk.

Even without any snow that day, it was still a lot of fun exploring High Park. Several Nikon Professional Services staff were part of the walk, two of which had the new Nikon D5 and D500 DSLRs available to hold and try out. As a Nikon shooter I made sure to give them a try and was very impressed with their capabilities.

Below are some of my favourite images from the event. I hope you enjoy them! (Please allow a few moments for the slideshow to load. It will advance every five seconds or you can use your right arrow key to advance the frame.)

Many thanks to Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff, Kristian Bogner, and Nikon Canada for the great event!




Favourite Photography Moments of 2015

January 14, 2016  •  1 Comment

2015 was a good year of photography for me. I engaged with new clients, explored my creativity in new places, graduated from Ryerson's Chang School of Photography, and found new audiences for my images. Here are some of my favourites, in no particular order, that I am happy to share. (To see these images in a gallery or slideshow format, please click here.)

1. Street

I love getting out to do street photography. One of my favourite street photo moments of 2015 was catching a lone commuter with a bright red bag in a classic Toronto rush near Union Station.

To see some of my favourite images from around Toronto, please click here.

Union Station

2. Graduating from Ryerson Photography

I was thrilled to graduate from Ryerson's Chang School of Photography in June of 2015. I learned a lot from excellent instructors, but also made many friends and photographer colleagues through this program. I will continue to work hard at sharpening my skills, but this program was a real help in my development as a photographer.

More about the Chang School Photography program can be found here.

Graduating from Ryerson in June 2015

3. Non-Profit Documentary

Having worked in the non-profit area for some 15 years, I love to document organizations that are making a real impact. I am especially thankful for the opportunity I have had to document a number of Greater Toronto Area non-profit organizations who partner with World Vision Canada's Canadian Programs.

One of my most memorable 2015 photo assignments was in Hamilton with the environmental charity, A Rocha, as they served newly arrived refugees. I was so impressed at how A Rocha's community kitchen and garden programs not only teach such practical skills, but also strengthen bonds of inclusion and community participation amongst newcomers. How essential for a welcoming country such as ours!

Documentary photographyDocumenting A Rocha, a partner with World Vision Canadian Programs.

4. Live Music

I love capturing live music, and have been doing so at Canadian Music Week and NXNE festivals for about four years now. When it comes to live performances, few artists entice music photographers to raise their lenses the way Rich Aucoin can. This Canadian artist is making audiences bounce, dance and sing along around the world. This image was taken July 14th, 2015 - one of the fantastic Pan Am Panamania concert events that were held across the city.

To see a selection of my favourite music images please click here.

Rich Aucoin at Panamania, Toronto City Hall

5. Air Guitar Canada Championships

Who knew that there's an Air Guitar Championships? Or that the winner goes to compete in Oulu, Finland for the World Air Guitar Championships? Well now you do! Here's the Canadian 2015 winner Jason "Thrust" McNeely performing his way to Finland.

Don't miss the 2016 competition - learn more here. (BTW, Air Guitar Canada supports the great work of Right to Play Canada)

Air Guitar Canada ChampionshipsJason "Thrust" McNeely, winner of the 2015 Canadian Air Guitar Championships

6. Chicago

I had a great time exploring Chicago in late September, 2015. The city's streets and architecture are very appealing for a photographer. Here is one of my favourites from that weekend. Watch for more Chicago images, coming soon on this site. 

Chicago Station

7. Art Shows and Exhibits

I have enjoyed showing and selling my images since 2010 and did so again in 2015. Analogue Gallery's Sound Image show, the Queen West Art Crawl, the Danforth East Arts Fair and the Black Cat Artspace were all highlights.

I am very thankful to Vistek for exhibiting my documentary work with Photographers Without Borders in Uganda at all of their Canadian stores. My images, as seen here, were shown in Vistek's three Alberta stores in early to mid 2015. More about these can be seen on Vistek's Photo Blog.

To see more of my art images please click here.

Vistek Galleries

8. Event Photography

I really enjoy capturing exciting events on behalf of clients. Here is one of several I documented in 2015 - the Reel World Films With Impact event at Artscape's newly opened Sandbox venue. It was packed with very creative and socially engaged film, radio and TV personalities and content creators.

I enjoyed working with my friend and colleague Warren Pot on this event who covered the Red Carpet portraits for the evening. Images from the evening can currently be found here.

To see more of my event images please click here.

Event PhotographyEvent PhotographySome of the many talented people at Reel World's Films With Impact Gala in September 2015.

9. Honest Ed's

In late 2016 the great eclectic shopping experience that is Honest Ed's will be closing. A sad day that will be for many. Here is one of my favourite images of Honest Ed's - taken in July 2015. I'm proud to say this image currently hangs in the office of Toronto City Councillor Mike Layton.

To see images of Honest Ed's final Turkey Giveaway, from Dec 2015, please click here. To see two more of my art images of Honest Ed's please click here and here.

"One More Thing" - street photo of Honest Ed's

10. Pan Am Games

The Pan Am Games were a real success for Toronto and all the cities that hosted events. I really enjoyed the energy and excitement. Here is one of my favourite moments from the games - capturing US long jumper Jeffrey Henderson in every phase of his long jump - an event he went on to win gold in.

More about Jeffrey Henderson can be found here.

Jeffrey Henderson Pan Am Long Jump Gold Medalist

To receive updates on my work throughout the year, please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To contact me for a photo assignment, please click here.

Thanks for sticking with me! Here's to a great 2016!

Henry VanderSpek

P.S. I hope to do more blog posts in 2016. Watch this space for more!

National Camera Day...

June 29, 2014  •  Leave a Comment
In honour of National Camera Day, June 29th, 2014! Have fun with your camera today friends!
Courtesy of: SnapKnot

Share your experiences with moon/lunar photography

May 11, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

What is your experience with lunar photography? I'd love to hear. Please share below! Here's how my recent try went...

Using a budget tripod, and a stabilized 18-200mm zoom lens, I tried my hand at capturing the Lunar Perigee on May 7, 2012.

I headed down to a park in southeast Toronto near the waterfront, just before 11:35 PM Eastern time, when it was set to peak. I placed my Nikon D7000 on a tripod and set it to mirror lock-up mode, to reduce shake during image capture. My camera was set to ISO 100, F11 and 1/125.

Below is my best shot, cropped and slightly adjusted in LIghtroom.

Lunar Perigee May 7, 2012 - Toronto, ON, Canada

And here is my original uncropped image, for the sake of full disclosure...

Lunar Perigee (uncropped) - May 7, 2012 - Toronto, ON, Canada

I'm interested in what you do when capturing the moon. Please share your experiences and links if relevant!


Culture Snap Photography features the work of Toronto-based photographer Henry VanderSpek. Henry specializes in documenting the work of local and international non-profit organizations, special events, live music, street and art photography. To hire Henry for an assignment, please click here to get in touch.
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