It is hard to believe that it has been ten years since I started the Toronto Film Shooters Meetup! A small social group to help bring together film photographers in the Greater Toronto Area. There have been some rough patches, an event where no one showed up, another in the bitter cold, and a few one-off events. But it has thrived and survived a global pandemic. So to celebrate this milestone, I got back in the saddle and planned the first of two 10th-anniversary events. Which, despite the name, took place in Guelph, Ontario, at the beginning of this month.
Attending photo walks was nothing new when I started the Toronto Film Shooters Meetup. I had been attending a photo meetup through the Urban Exploration Resource, which involved exploring abandoned buildings. So when I began to get heavily into film as my medium of choice for photography, I quickly joined the Analog Photography User Group (APUG) forums. There was a dedicated sub-forum for the Toronto Area. It began the section I was most active in, and in 2011 coordinated a meetup between APUG and the Film Photography Podcast (FPP) and attended an APUG-only event. These were a lot of fun, but nothing regular came out of them. I attended Photostock in 2012 and got a real taste of what a photography-centred social event could be. But organising something like Photostock in my part of Ontario would prove difficult; unlike Bill Schwab, I needed a larger property to start things off small and let it grow. Then in 2013, a post in APUG popped up complaining about the lack of film photography-based photo walk groups in Toronto. So I did some hard thinking. Could I do this? While there were enough reasons why I couldn’t, why would this group of older photographers listen to a thirty-year-old? I could have quickly fallen down the rabbit hole of how to run a successful photo walk, but instead, I jumped in feet first. The first event was hosted in July 2013 at the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto and was a simple photo walk through the area, then adjourning to the Longo’s in a former Locomotive Shop. It was also at the event that many who would become regulars, including John Meadows, first attended. The second event occurred in Kleinburg under less-than-ideal conditions when the group was born. At this point, I realised that this group would have some momentum, and I put in place my original plan to run a walk each season, summer, fall, winter, and spring. Did it always work out? Not really; the first winter event saw zero attendees. But by the second year, the real momentum started. We visited the Toronto Islands and Kensington Market and did a sizeable format-focused event at the University of Toronto. We also had a freezing event in 2015 that we all stood around before abandoning the idea. In the fall of 2015, the idea of starting with Coffee and ending with Beer took off when we wandered the Distillery District. The model stuck and quickly became the standard for every meetup, even those I didn’t plan. And that became a crucial part of running the group, which by 2016 had left APUG and moved over to Facebook, was letting other people take the reigns on occasions. We also started to spread our wings a little, heading out to Unionville, Elora, Niagara-On-The-Lake, Cambridge, Hamilton, Collingwood, Burlington (twice) and Guelph. One of the most fun events was a joint event with the Kingston Film Shooters group in Peterborough, Ontario. The Winter 2020 event proved to be the largest ever! With a considerable group walking from Downtown Camera to Liberty Village, I think that was a suitable event before the massive shutdown a month later. And even after a year of nothing, we even had a few virtual events, where we would all head out solo, then join in a Zoom pub after the event. Not perfect, but it worked decently. Although we did restart limited meetups at the end of 2021, in 2022, I hung up my hat as heading up the events and turned them over to John and Bill, both long-standing members of the group. And under their direction, I have seen the group grow beyond my wildest imagination.
There is always the temptation to pack everything and the kitchen sink for a photo walk. I know; I’ve done some insane packing for events. But I tend to be a bit more conservative regarding photo walks. But I wanted to take advantage of later than usual start for the event, so I packed along my Crown Graphic to get in some sheets. I’m finally cracking the box of the new CatLABS X Film 80 II for its review before doing a short solo walk downtown with the AE-1 to test the camera with a roll of Adox CHS100II. This time, I over-exposed the film slightly to help improve the shadow details, then developed normally. I wanted to get my habit of photographing things rather than people. To help with that, I packed my Nikon F5 as my primary camera for the walk with the 85mm lens to help get in close to people but not to distant from the people. It’s been a while since I’ve used the 85mm focal length, but it worked well for the event, especially since I kept my focus (mostly) on the people in attendance. For the film, I went with CineSill BwXX and shot at ASA-250. Enough to ensure I could have good shutter speeds while keeping the lens at f/5.6 and adapting to shifting lighting conditions. But I did pack the 14mm f/2.8D and a roll of Eastman XT as a backup if I needed another roll and had the time.
As mentioned in my previous paragraph, I got into the city early. My first stop was on the southern side of the river to shoot four sheets of 4×5 around the McCrea House, noted as the birthplace of John McCrea. During World War One, John McCrea, a decorated medical officer, gained fame through his poem, In Flanders Fields. I also captured a memorial in the side yard and a couple of attractive houses in the area. Then parked my car downtown before finishing off another four sheets. Then with an hour or so to go, I took out the AE-1 and fired off the initial roll through the camera. I also took the opportunity to record a couple of filler pieces for the Video/Podcast I was recording that day. Then it was getting close to when the pub opened, so I wandered in that direction and ran into my good friend James, and we waited outside the pub. Bill and James joined us shortly. We then headed upstairs; I certainly made the right choice; the beer list lived up to what was mentioned online. And the food proved excellent as well. By the time we were done eating, there were a total of ten of us present. A good size, without being too big, allowed for excellent conversation among everyone and then headed for a short walk. The trouble with downtown Guelph is that it was not designed in a grid pattern but in spokes extending from a central public square. This layout means there is no clear way to see everything easily. So it was a shame to miss some key locations, but I took the group along a side street before heading up the hill to the Basilica. Then down, past the old city hall and the train station before ending at my favourite intersection for drinks at Brother’s Brewing Co. Yes, a shorter event, but we only had the afternoon to play with. But everyone was somewhat satisfied. And I managed to fire off both main rolls and never had to dig into my backup. However, that combo would have been a lot of fun.
And while I haven’t been able to attend as many events recently, it was a lot of fun to get out to one and also plan one out. This was also only the third time in the entire decade of the group that an event happened on a Sunday. And only the second time we started with beer (although we could have ordered coffee at the pub, but with a beer list like Baker Street Station, who would want to!). I want to thank everyone who has attended an event and of course planned one also. It’s because of all of you that this group and event has not only survived but thrived. If you want to check out the rest of my photos from the day, you can see them over on Flickr, and also make sure to check out the entire collection of my photos from past events.