Touring the SkyDome/Rogers Centre

Those that know me know that I am a baseball fanatic. I have a hope to one day visit each and every stadium in Major League Baseball. Of the 30 current stadiums, I’ve seen nine of them, as well as three now-demolished ones.

Anyway, my wife and I went to Toronto this past Monday to see the Blue Jays play the Red Sox. We were outside the stadium a few hours before game time and thinking about what we could do to pass the time. We thought that we’d go up the CN Tower since neither of us had been up to the observation deck in quite a while. As I was taking a couple photos of the tower and Amy was checking out the prices, we heard a guy hollering about last call for Rogers Centre tours. We thought we’d check it out instead since it was half the cost of what the tower was. The tour was pretty informative and it was fun to walk around an almost completely empty stadium (a new dream of mine: photograph every stadium, empty). I knew a few things about the dome because I did my grade 7 speech on it, but learned quite a few new things. Our tour guide was probably the most enthusiastic tour guide that I’ve ever experienced. He knew his stuff and you could tell he loved his job.

As a baseball fan, I find the stadium to be kind of stale and boring, especially when comparing it to the other ones in the league; it’s not the greatest place in the world to see a ball game. Places like PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Camden Yards in Baltimore have really set the bar pretty high. The SkyDome (renamed Rogers Centre in 2005) was built at the wrong time in my opinion. It opened in 1989, three years before Camden Yards opened which more or less set the standard for how baseball stadiums were designed and built from that point forward. The engineering behind the retractable dome is astonishing and while inside on the tour we actually got to see it open.

With Toronto’s climate, a dome/retractable roof is a necessity and there are a number of current stadiums that employ the same feature, including Seattle, Arizona, Milwaukee, Miami, and Houston. The SkyDome does look a little dated in comparison to the others, but it still gets the job done. To me, what sets ballparks apart from other sports venues is that the dimensions, save for the infield, are different with each place so they’re all unique in their own little way. Many stadiums have quirky and uneven distances to the outfield walls, but the SkyDome is perfectly symmetrical all the way around which, frankly, I find kind of dull. I feel there’s too much concrete which gives it a bit of a cold feeling, but what hurts this place more than anything is the turf.

Artificial turf is used by only two stadiums; here and Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay. However, Toronto still only has patches of dirt around the bases and not the entire infield like every other stadium, including Tampa Bay. The turf is harder on the players which I think really works against the Blue Jays in terms of trying to lure top names to come play for them. There’s something about astroturf that screams 1980’s. It was kind of cool and revolutionary in a way when it was invented, but it doesn’t fit well anymore on a baseball diamond.

I really don’t like to put the place down because as a kid I remember thinking it was the greatest place I’d ever been to. Times change of course and while I still wish Toronto’s stadium would’ve been part of the retro craze in the mid-90’s, I’ll still go and see games there. They’re the closest thing I’ve got to a Major League team, although Detroit isn’t too far of a drive in the other direction.

Cruising on King

Friday night was one of my favourite local events: Cruising on King. It’s only the second time I’ve actually been, with the first time being a couple years ago. The last two years I missed it for some reason so I made sure I didn’t miss it this time around.

I don’t know for sure how many vehicles were involved, but the parade from Victoria Park to King Street took a while, so there was a decent amount of cars and trucks to check out. Everyone taking part in the show started off in Victoria Park where people were free to get some close up views of the muscle cars, pick-up trucks and countless other gas-guzzling beauties before the trek to downtown started. We live just down the street from the park, so we were lucky that the parade of vehicles went right by our house. We stood on a neighbour’s driveway taking in the sights, sounds (and gas fumes) before walking up to King Street to see them parked up and down the road.

As mentioned earlier, it was only my second time at the show and this time felt like there was double the amount of people. That’s probably an exaggeration, but there were a ton of people downtown on Friday night. We did a slow walk east on King to see more cars and basically stopped when our stomachs told us it was time to eat. We were hoping to grab a bite at Holy Guacamole, but since they were closed, we were more than happy to substitute that with a visit to Northern Thai on Queen Street.

It was a pretty great night and it made me wish cruise night was held more than once a year. In fact, we were so into the event that I completely forgot about a poker night I was supposed to go to afterwards. By the time we got home at 10:30 it dawned on me that I missed it, but then realized that since I’m kind of very awful at poker, it was no big deal.

Fireworks: kinda neat and kinda boring

My family was recently up at a cottage in Sauble Beach. In nearby Southampton, there was a fireworks display on Canada Day that we all went to. I’ve shot fireworks in the past with tepid results so I wanted to give it another go because, hey, why not?

Similar to sunsets, I actually don’t find fireworks images really all that special but I do like the ones I took here. There’s something about light streaks on pitch black backgrounds that I’m not a fan of, so getting a bit of the sky in a few of them—namely the first shot seen here—I thought made them better. In this situation, we were sitting fairly close to where they were launched, so a wider lens probably would’ve helped; I used my 24-70, but my 17-40 might’ve worked a bit better for our location, although the more I look at the closer crops, the more I like them. I pre-focused and left the camera on manual so it didn’t start hunting while I randomly hit the remote shutter. I had the aperture set at around ƒ11 so I was able to get most, if not all, of the light show nice and sharp. Exposures were anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds.

I find with shooting fireworks you’re really just guessing most of the time because they’re not all going to explode in the same spot. Some of the larger ones can get cut off and some of the smaller ones can be way off frame or just end up being too small.

For most of the show there was a breeze blowing in which gave the fireworks some interesting patterns, not to mention a few spots where the light streaks seemed like they were getting a bit too close to us spectators. Explosions and mini fireballs being blown towards a watching crowd? Totally safe, I know.

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