Recent Work

“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.”
Dean Karnazes

It’s been a busy few months, with September just as busy as August and finally now, mid October, life is starting ease up a little at a time. Between the start of August and the first week of October I was on hand for running events in Whistler, Squamish, Vancouver, West Vancouver, Buntzen Lake and Surrey, BC. With the exception of the Surrey marathon I shot all of these events including two first time events, the Eastside 10km and the Spirit of the Shore Half Marathon.

Between shooting races I’ve had the opportunity to work with a few new clients, and take care of some longer standing collaborations and there a couple exciting things left in store for this fall. At the end of August a project on which I was a collaborator was offered to the world in the form of a crowd funding campaign to self publish a cook book. Authored by my friend Hana Dethlefsen and featuring her recipes of Japanese home cooking the Let’s Cooking Indiegogo campaign doubled her funding goals. Let’s Cooking is on it’s way to a publication run and I can’t wait to have a finished copy to share. In a couple more weeks I will be excited to share another project announcement more than a year in the making.

From 5 Peaks Trail Series on Blackcomb

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From the inaugural Eastside 10km

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From the Inaugural Spirit of the Shore Half Marathon

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2013 Crankworx – Ultimate Pump Track

Thursday Night at the Pump Track

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Yesterday was a tough day. As I shot, I saw little in the camera that excited me, rather, a lot that filled me with anxiety and doubt. Early on I had a mentor who said “I’d rather be lucky than good.” I never understood that. I always thought that if you were good enough you’d never need luck. I never wanted to rely on luck, to leave certain things to chance; when I got it right, I wanted to get it right not because I was lucky, but because I am good.

When I wrapped last night at the Rockshox Pump Track in Whistler’s Olympic Plaza I was feeling neither good nor lucky. I wasn’t looking forward to the arduous task of choosing my least bad images to share with the Crankworx photo team. It turns out being lucky isn’t so bad. I came away with a few images from last night that I am happy with. Not to say there aren’t a lot of images bound for the bin, because there are, but rather, I am grateful for having something to show that I am reasonably happy with.

But maybe luck is a outcome of experience, maybe it’s true that the harder one works, the luckier one gets.

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2013 Crankworx – Over the Hump

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There are many quotes about doing what you love, many of them, in the context of career, suggest to pursue your passion and the money will follow. I don’t believe it’s this easy; I like what Henry David Thoreau has to say about passion.

“Do what you love. Know your own bone, gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw at it still.” -Henry David Thoreau

It’s contrite and simplistic to believe that one will follow the other just because. It is more likely that through sweat, effort, failure and exhaustion that success will follow for some, but likely not all. I have been pursuing my passion now for 12 years with some significant ups and downs. I have been in a staff position at three newspapers, I have shot commercial product in more than 20 countries and for every piece of paid work I do now there is another that is done as personal work, as portfolio development, as an exercise in honing my craft.

I didn’t wake up one morning with the thought “Today will be the day I become a photographer.” I have always loved photography and over a number of years in my 20’s it came to have a greater and greater significance in my life. I was a member of the UVic photo club, I took a job at a camera store, I went back to school to study photojournalism and for time when my father and I seemed to argue every choice I made about life, school, etc, photography was the one point we could see and communicate eye to eye about.

My father, at the age of 49, lost his fight with Cancer 15 years ago this morning, and I suspect I will spend the rest of my life struggling with this at some level. A few days later, we held a service attended by more than 300 people, it was standing room only, in the hours that followed the service friends and family gathered to celebrate his life. I was lost, I was no where and this is when two dear friends sat me down with a bottle of Oban and mapped a course forward. It was another year before I finished my BA and two more before two more before I had the clarity and capacity to return to school and the following spring I was working at a daily paper with some of the best mentors in the business.
I am doing what I love, but it is not without sacrifice and to sure, I can’t say that I would be here, doing this, had my father survived. When looking forward it helps to consider how far you’ve come.Now that I have laid my somber self before you, here are a few pictures from yesterday on Whistler Mountain, yesterday was hump day and the best is yet to come.2013 CX Robert Shaer Review-12  2013 CX Robert Shaer Review-24 2013 CX Robert Shaer Review-25 2013 CX Robert Shaer Review-30

Recent Work – Coast Mountain Trail Series: Buckin’ Hell.

It is impossible to overstate how challenging fog, rain and darkness can be to capturing a solid trail running photo. Cold hands and wet feet conspire with less than watertight outerwear to make waiting for the next runner to appear on trail truly an endeavour. Yesterday morning on Mount Seymour, on Vancouver’s North Shore runners were hammered by aforementioned rain and fog while I stood waiting and wondering if this is the shoot that exceeds the weather proofing of my camera gear.


I did my best, and though the response has been supper positive as photos have hit the social media feeds, I scroll through the images in lightroom and see more examples of where I can improve than not.

Evey shoot is an opportunity to learn something, how to better prepare, to try new techniques to deal with challenging shooting environments and to think of new uses for zip lock freezer bags. Which I was wishing for as my speed light took a drenching even under the thick canopy of trees. I will stash a few in my still damp camera bag when I am hone again in about ten days.

I’m at an airport this morning, thousands of kilometres away from where my day started yesterday on Mt Seymour’s Old Buck trail for the Coast Mountain Trail Series event Buckin’ Hell and I am trying, for the first time, to publish a post from my phone. Fingers Crossed.

A huge thanks to Gary Robbins and Geoff Langford for inviting me along on their inaugural CMTS season as race photographer, to the scores of volunteers who make events like this possible and to our runners who make challenge look easy and inspire the rest of us.




Recent Work – 5 Peaks Trail Run at Golden Ears Park

2013 5 Peaks BC Golden Ears Preview-9

It’s been a few days since I last made any photos. I would never describe what I do as glamorous, few photographers I know would, though I have been to some cool places. The less glamorous side of photography, however, are the hours of desk sitting, of editing through hundreds or even thousands of event photos, or hours spent spot correcting dust, dandruff or out of place hairs. There are hours of email inquiries, of research, of looking for inspiring content to refresh the batteries. I monitor social media feeds, twitter, facebook, linkedin and flickr and consume my self with site visits, views, retweets and likes. When the weather turns and I have to spend a few more days at my desk than I like, this gets worse and I start to grow restless, anxious and uncomfortable with my own company. It is in the days between shoots that I snack too much, drink too much coffee and tend to forget household chores and leave email unresponded.

These are just a few of the images I shot for Salomon 5 Peaks Trail series last weekend at Golden Ears Park in BC. It was a great way to get the season started in BC for 5 Peaks, new kid’s events, sunshine, and the support of an enthusiastic community of trail runners. I’ve now only been to Golden Ears Park twice, once last year for the same event and again last Saturday. I would like to think that I am more of an outdoors person than I am, so I appreciate that it’s photography that gets me out to places I wouldn’t necessarily consider going just because. Golden Ears Park is gorgeous and is worth a visit.

What’s awesome is that this work doesn’t feel so much like work, especially as I have become friends with so many people involved with the event. I don’t always see everyone on course, but I often hear people yell “Rob!” as they approach me on the trail hoping to get caught in a frame by my camera and a quick hand. We are getting to know one another and I look forward to spending time each weekend in this community even though I am not a runner myself. The impact of social media on events and photography can not be over stated, but for most of us this is a self evident abstraction, but for me, it is a way to generate interest and buzz for my photos. Social media is an instant feedback machine, and I know pretty quickly whether I’ve done well or I botched it, especially with clients who use content driven social media to engage with their communities. Likes, Retweets, views and visits have taken on a cruel meaning in my life and the lives of other photographers producing work destined for the web.

I’m getting ready for another weekend event and look forward to getting back into the trees. I look forward to seeing some of the same faces this Saturday that I saw last Saturday and I look forward to another opportunity to photograph people engaged in something they love.

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Check out what a couple of friends have said in their race reports:

Mike Murphy

Solana Klassen

Shannon Penway

You can see the complete set at the 5 Peaks Flickr page here: 5 Peaks Photos

Recent Work – 2013 Wheel2Heal Fundraiser


2013 W2H Personal-2

Summer seemed to arrive on the South West Coast of BC over night. I feel like one day I was trying to figure out what jacket I would need to fend off the weather and the next I was in shorts and short of sunscreen as evidenced by the impressive sun burn received a week ago. With the sun and summer-like weather event season landed with the intensity of a crashing car and I couldn’t be happier. At some level I will be involved with nearly 100 events this year and I am pretty excited because I love working in the event community. A week ago I was back at the start/finish line and event village of the Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation’s Wheel2Heal cycling fundraiser with close to 500 riders taking on one of three distances and raising an impressive amount of money for the local hospital foundation.

This is a short post to share a few images from last weekend and a good break for me while I work my way through images shot yesterday at BC’s Golden Ears Provincial Park of the first 5 Peaks Trail Running event of the season. I should probably write a little about event photography in general, but for now I will keep it short and sweet.

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Last Weekend – The Yeti Snowshoe Series at Whistler Olympic Park

2013 Yeti Snowshoe Series Whistler

Yesterday morning I polished off the edit from Saturday’s Yeti Snowshoe Series event at Whistler Olympic Park. My clothes are still drying out. It was that wet, and although I will try almost anything, I am a rookie on snowshoes and found myself waist deep in wet snow with my lens bags quickly filling with the white stuff. It was so wet that I feared that I might have to hang dry my jpgs!

Saturday was really the beginning of my photography event season and this year looks very busy. Over the past 5 years I’ve made some truly great friendships in the event world so working waist deep in wet snow doesn’t feel so much like work as it could, and for this I am grateful. There were a lot of familiar faces at the start line on Saturday morning, and by the count of the happy faces that stuck around for prizing, few were held from having a good time by the rain.

2013 Yeti Snowshoe Series Whistler

2013 Yeti Snowshoe Series Whistler

2013 Yeti Snowshoe Series Whistler

Event Season Sneaks Up on You

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2012 MYM 50 Shaer-58

Winter is here. While the snow is blowing and falling in delicious inches in Whistler, Vancouver is wrapped in a shroud of grey. It’s wet, cold and unappealing to be outside, which is difficult for a city like Vancouver which relishes the outside spaces that surround it. It’s the second week of January and I am already thinking and planning for the spring/summer and fall event seasons. I photograph events, although if you pin me down I will tell you that I don’t really see myself as an event photographer, rather a sports photographer who happens to shoot events and I am lucky to have a few clients who invite me to shoot their events the way I see them.

While summer hung around the south coast long into October, it’s cold comfort now. Every few weeks I sneak away into the archive to look at photos from last summer, to imagine the summer sun and being outside in shorts and tshirts. I started September in Whistler with the inaugural Meet Your Maker 50, a 50 Mile Trail Ultra & Relay. I’m looking forward to being back in Whistler soon which may involve snowshoeing and getting out into the cold, but in the back of my head I will be thinking about summer, just as in summer there is always a part of me that waits anxiously for the first snow in the mountains. Here are a few pictures from Labour Day weekend on Blackcomb Mountain and the Meet Your Maker 50.

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