A few weeks ago my friend Jane stopped by for a portrait session; looking to update some of her web presence it was also time to update her profile photos. Jane arrived in full cycling gear and carried her bike up to my second floor apartment (and makeshift studio) and after a quick change we started to make some frames. Some photographers excel at making people comfortable in their view finders, I have to work at it. This is one of my favourite images from our 90 minutes and is Jane’s response to “Jane, tell me a dirty joke!” She claims she doesn’t know any, but her expression suggests she does. Her spontaneous and unguarded response also suggests that in that instant we broke the ice better than any good handshake or cocktail could
When I googled “How do you relax a portrait subject?” more than 3 million results came back and topping the list on three or four of the sites that I looked at were, engage the subject, relax yourself, no touching and show your work. I like to show my work, but I think I will try asking the subject to tell me a dirty joke a few more times before I rule it out.
Phillipe Halsman (1906-1979) was a master portraitist and had a bag of tools to “unmask” his subjects from their characters or public personae. Photography Critic Owen Edwards, in a 2006 article about Halsman for the Smithsonian Magazine described portraiture as “one of the greatest challenges in photography, because the human face is elusive and often mask-like, with practiced expressions for the standard range of emotions.”
While Halsman was an accomplished photographer and photojournalist with more than 100 Life Magazine covers to his credit, he may be best remembered for asking his subjects to Jump. Starting in 1952 and continuing for six years, Halsman closed his portrait sessions by getting his subjects, including Richard Nixon, Marilyn Monroe and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, to jump and in that moment reveal their true selves. It would be difficult to overstate Halsman’s gift of revealing his subjects, and I can only imaging what a difficult ask it was to make with some of the more conservative or self conscious personalities he photographed. Photographers today owe something to Halsman even if they have never heard of him. We owe him for being innovative and inspiring spontaneity in what could be a rather stayed exercise and I think we could all try a little harder to do the same.
Read Owen Edwards article here:
Well, to be fair, this was about a week before Poppy arrived. Despite my lack of presence on line over the past couple of months, something that I am trying to remedy, I have been shooting. Most recently product for a company which manufactures medical equipment and the Fall Classic, a 10km and Half Marathon on the University of British Columbia campus. Katie is a friend who came to me a couple weeks before her daughter Poppy was born and said “I have an idea for some photos, are you interested?”
We have since shot the after photos, with baby Poppy cradled in a way that mimics the way in which Katie holds her belly in this image. What makes this image for me is the subtle look on Katie’s face, her smile and the suggestion of love, anticipation and the wonder of expectant parenthood. This was a very simple set up, but I am in love with the results and hope that you see what I see in this photo. Oddly enough, the week this image was shot started with a family portrait shoot and ended with a shoot for UBC’s Midwifery Program which involved photographing a Lab session with Midwives to be assessing Moms to be. Looking forward to seeing these images in the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s in house magazine in about a month’s time.
Any photographer I can think of will agree the diversity of the work is one of the reasons why we stick to it. It is the people we meet, work with and feature in our work. It is compelling subject matter and it is the explorations of our passions. I’ve been lucky, I’ve traveled extensively over the years for clients near and far and last January I had the rare opportunity to produce some content for a good friend in New York who had, with partners, opened a new restaurant in an old neighbourhood in Brooklyn. I’ve long since posted a gallery but in revisiting the work recently I decided I wanted to share another look with you.
If you know me, you know food and drink are among my great passions and in keeping with that, it was a great pleasure to work with people and a staff who hold both in such high regard.
You can see more images and more of Fort Reno Provisions here: Fort Reno Provisions
Time flies. If it weren’t for the reminders I would say that it was impossible that my last post was in August. As the winter rain settles into the Vancouver skyline I was drawn back to my photos from Crankworx this past summer. What an amazing week and a tremendous opportunity for very intensive shooting. During a conversation a couple of weeks ago with my photography colleagues from CreativeMornings/Vancouver we talked as photographers do and in the process I was asked about a previous position that I held for almost five years. While that job feels like it is from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I remember it being a tremendous learning experience, just as my first internship was. What set these experiences apart from others was how intensive they were, how high the bar was set for production, delivery and quality. It was hard work but it was possible to see improvements almost daily and certainly weekly. If you are at school or starting out the best advice I can give is to shoot daily. There are far more elements to being a photographer than most of us will let on to, client care, business development, insurance, incorporation et cetera, et cetera. But to see your craft develop is to shoot as much and as often as you can. Be deliberate in choosing your subjects and photograph your passions. Be passionate about your content.
The time between Crankworx and now has gone by in a blur, some disappointments and some successes and some great clips found in the Whistler Question, Pique News Magazine, The Vancouver Sun, The Georgia Straight and the cover of Get Out There Magazine’s Western Canada Winter 2012/2013 issue (above). You wouldn’t know it by the frequency of my posts but there have been some interesting and touching shoots for the UBC Department of Midwifery and portrait clients and I am happy to say that I also have a new position. The photo above was shot last February at Whistler’s Olympic Park during the Yeti Snowshoe Race Series. Since then I have signed on as Photographer and Photography Manager for 5 Peaks Adventures who manages the Yeti Snowshoe Series, 5 Peaks Trail Running Series, Meet Your Maker Ultra Marathon and others. We are three events into our year and I can’t wait to get on snowshoes early in 2013 for the Yeti.
A few more from last night’s Redbull Joyride at Crankworx. It feels like it’s been a pretty long week, but we are back at it for one more day. Last night was the crown jewel of Crankworx, it’s the big money event and the winner, Thomas Genon, suggested that he might buy an ‘ippy van’ with with $25,000 prize money when he gets back to Belgium. Clearly I have no fear in dating myself, but I can remember summers in Whistler being pretty quiet, those summers have long since passed; 25,000 people watched yesterday’s event, which has to rival almost any winter event held in Whistler barring the 2010 Games. The scene on the ground in Skier’s Plaza was only eclipsed by the scene in the air above us. With high winds and broken clouds athletes were pushing 60 foot airs and dipping deep into their bag of tricks. It has occurred to me that it isn’t that these athletes pull these stunts, it is the casual way in which they appear to approach them. For Genon and others there must be some pretty serious things going through their heads as they prepare to hit ramps and drops with blind landings, but as a spectator it can be a little bewildering to see riders hit jump after jump after jump holding little back. I’ve always understood that it’s more than just talent or nerve, or um, Prairie Oysters; as young as they are, Genon and his competitors are professional athletes and their evaluation of a stunt goes far beyond how we might consider a line, trail or obstacle. Today is the Canadian Open Down Hill, time to grab a coffee and clean my lenses.
Three hits from last night at the Giant Dual Slalom from Crankworx. Despite the serious glass fest that is Crankworx (lots of photographers) it’s a pretty good crowd, at least among the professionals. Everyone is pretty respectful of each other’s sight lines and is happy to share a few words between the moments of frenzied movement when a rider appears on course or sets up a trick. I’m new to this world, though I have shot road cycling, and some mountain biking, I am the slightly aging, soft around the middle rookie but I am pretty excited to be on the mountain and I’m pretty happy with the work that I’ve been coming home with at the end of each day. It actually feels a lot like the summer I interned; it’s been getting easier each day to get out of bed in the morning in anticipation of the day ahead. Today is Cheese Rolling and Slope Style. I have to draw up a wedding contract, make coffee and get back to the village before all the free spots in lots 4 & 5 are taken. Cheers!
Enjoying the quiet in Whistler this morning with a cup of coffee while I pull a few ad photos for a client. I couldn’t resist post a couple more images from yesterday’s Teva Best Trick contest at Crankworx. Though it remains true what I wrote last night about the work of others, I am pretty happy with some of the shots I made, not bad for a rookie.
It was so tough to pick one image of the 30 or so edits from today’s Teva Best Trick event at Crankworx but I hope you’ll like this one and that it will keep you interested in coming back and ultimately interested in my post event Crankworx gallery. This is one of those events in which the photographers outnumber the competitors, and today it felt like 3-1, the RedBull Joyride event this weekend is sure to be a glass fest. It is interesting to see so many pros in one place, everyone seeking out their unique vantage point, but ultimately turning their lenses to the same subject. One of the most interesting experiences I have had in photography is how different photographers see and approach the same subject. It hits me every time I look at the work of others who have been at the same event as I have. This is one of those things that makes photography so compelling but also humbling. It can be difficult to look at the work of others and see so clearly the elements of my own work that needs something more.
So much in the hopper right now ahead of this weekend’s 2012 Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon and just a week out from this year’s BC Bike Race. I have been very excited to put together a team of photographers to shoot the ‘Scotia Half’ this year, regularly regarded as among the most scenic Half Marathons in Canada and I am looking forward to seeing a lot of great images from our team, perhaps as many as 18,000 images, which will see post production and upload next week. Wow, it will be interesting to see the final numbers. Get ready SumgMug!
As last summer was coming to an end I was asked to shoot the 2011 RBC Whistler GranFondo and this is one of the images shot that morning in September from the back of a motorcycle on the Upper Levels Highway above West Vancouver. My buddy Chris and I spent a huge day with the event shooting close to 4000 images between us in the period of about 16 hours. It was an intense day, but what can I say, I love shooting events, and I love shooting cycling. Sunday is going to be epic and I am looking forward to a team photo at the start line at UBC early Sunday morning.
The weekend is almost on us, events are everywhere, cycling, running, farmer’s markets, fairs and parades, these are the stock and trade of staff shooters covering weekend shifts across North America, these are where features are made, faces found and stories are witnessed. I hope you find something to shoot this weekend, your latest portfolio piece is out there.
Turning the camera is good advice. Advice that was often heard in the halls and classrooms of the Photojournalism program I completed ten years ago. Wow, ten years. There has been a lot of mileage racked up in that time and a lot of turning of cameras. Perhaps there is no coincidence that within a year of graduating I was shooting 360 degree panoramic images for hospitality and tourism clients, and in traveling the globe for a lot of that work, the world continued to turn under me. Somehow I don’t think my instructors meant their advice so literally. It was also a huge turn from working at a newspaper and though I no longer do that kind of work there are days when I miss both experiences; telling stories and capturing moments to be shared on newsprint and looked at by perhaps hundreds of thousands of readers and producing images capturing elements of style, design and far off places of luxury.
If you’ve been looking at my photos, or have looked through a few of my galleries, you may have already guessed that I have a strong interest in cycling, it goes back to childhood. One of the lessons that wasn’t taught when I was at school was that it wasn’t enough to be interested in photography alone. Photographers need to be interested and curious about the world they live in whether surrounded by family, food, design, heartbreak or even cycling. Start by photographing what you love and what you are passionate about and let the rest unfold. If you don’t like what you see try changing your perspective, try turning your camera. I shot this image in Whistler, BC on a sunny Saturday in May, and to capture this frame I had to take that advice from so many years ago. I turned the camera. In this case I turned it straight up.