Video: Get Off The Road with James Marshall

“When one tugs at a single thing in Nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” -John Muir

I’m excited to share this video featuring my friend, and frequent subject, runner James Marshall. You’ve seen pictures of James before, but Film Maker, Jeff Pelletier captures in this video something that is almost impossible to capture in a still frame. Both Jeff and James are accomplished runners and experienced 5 Peaks Alumni, both of whom I photograph many times though the event season. Stuck in my ‘quiet season’ I have been scouring the web for inspiration and project ideas for 2014. Any ideas?

2013 James Marshall Mtn Portaits-2

2013 James Marshall Mtn Portaits-1

Project Update: Let’s Cooking Cookbook

“Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements.” ~Marcel Boulestin

Lets Cooking Cover

It’s fair to admit that there are times when even I, a great observer of the world, can not see the forest for the trees. I say this with my tongue in my cheek as I’ve come out of my busiest event season, maybe ever, and into the quiet season. This transition can be difficult, it can feel like a sudden and unexpected train stop. This is the time of year when some of us have to dig deep for the discipline to make our soft deadlines, to make the necessary software updates, to review the year past and start planning for the year ahead. It is a time for housekeeping and review, and if you feel stuck at home while others are away on assignment, it can be difficult to swap the camera for the computer.

But it turns out Autumn 2013 has been pretty good, and has offered a lot more than simply hunkering down with new external drives, and software updates. The first great thing to arrive this fall was Burgoo’s Food For Comfort Cookbook, which I had in hand at the end of October after waiting ‘patiently’ for months. It is important to consider how long the process for these type of projects can take, especially if you might be used to seeing your work in print or online, a few days or hours after shooting it.

On the heals of Food for Comfort, Hana Dethlefsen’s Let’s Cooking: Japanese Cooking at Home Vol. 1 was the next great thing to land in my expectant hands. And if the Burgoo project felt protracted, Let’s Cooking took waiting patiently to a whole new level. In fairness Let’s Cooking was a very different type of project. It is a small book filled with big ideas financed by good will pot luck dinners. The principal photography was produced two years ago with the idea that if circumstances worked out, there would be a book somewhere down the road. Circumstances worked out and after a very successful summer crowd funding campaign an initial print run of 500 copies was produced with plans in the works for 500 more in the new year.

Hana describes Japanese food as more than just sushi, or chicken karage, and while these are popular, it is the shared meal that is most significant to Japanese food. It is the mixture of colour, texture and flavour that makes Japanese food delicious, healthy and beautiful. While Let’s Cooking isn’t available in wide release, if you are interested please get in touch with Hana through her website: Let’s Cooking.

I have an extra copy which I hope to be able to giveaway in the new year with a contest similar to this month’s Food For Comfort giveaway.

Hana Dethlefsen FEEDback Project

Hana Dethlefsen FEEDback Project

Hana Dethlefsen FEEDback Project

Hana Dethlefsen FEEDback Project

The Burgoo Food For Comfort Cookbook Giveaway.

There is a first for everything.

BurgooFrontCover_Web

While I am still hashing out the rules of engagement, I have bought a copy of Burgoo Bistro’s Food For Comfort cookbook to give away on my blog. Any suggestions? If you’ve read my blog in the past couple of weeks you’ll know this is a project that I shot earlier this year and has just been made available through a couple on line retailers, Costco and at Burgoo locations in Vancouver, BC. By all accounts it sounds like Food For Comfort has been selling well and this is pretty exciting to me and everyone else involved. I am particularly proud of this work and would love to be able to share it with you.

Given this is a work of food photography, perhaps a little photo contest is in order, something else to consider, since there are only three or four regular readers of my blog, your chances of winning look pretty good! I would love to see your food photos!

What I would like to see:

Your original work featuring food, cooking, or the social nature of a shared dinner table. I would like to see your photo with a short caption describing it’s creation and something about why it is significant to you. Top photos will be shared on this blog with credit and attribution with the winner being selected between Christmas and New Years. Please include your watermark if possible. Due to the constraints of international shipping the winner will be selected from North American-based entries.

I am excited to see and share your quality images, but most of all I want to see something beyond a glossy magazine style photo. That said, if your photo shares a story and is evocative and engaging I am not concerned if it was shot with your iPhone, compact or Pro DSLR. I care less about your technique of capture and more about the evocative nature of the content. Show us food that makes us hungry, show us a scene we’d be eager to be a part of.

I don’t want to see your whole portfolio, entries are limited to three images at a minimum resolution of 300 dpi at 1024 pixels on the long side.

What I don’t want to see:

Previously published photos will not be considered nor will photos submitted under false pretenses; I want to see your work, not the work of others with your name on it. Any work I deem in violation of copyright will be disqualified immediately and will be shared with the creating photographer where identifiable.

The Fine Print:

I reserve the right to change or alter contest terms based on the number and quality of entries. If I only receive one entry, I won’t be sending out the cookbook, but rather trying again in a couple of months. In no way is this contest affiliated or endorsed by Burgoo Bistro. I am the sole judge and jury and I can be whimsical and subjective. Contest closes on December 24, 2013.

Submit your images to me at Rob@RobShaer.com

Burgoo; Food For Comfort Cookbook
Burgoo; Food For Comfort Cookbook

 

Personal Work from the Archive – The Hotel Room Project

“I do not think that when in a hotel you have to feel “at home”, on the contrary, you have to get the feeling that you are definitely elsewhere…”

                                                    -Aurelio Vazquez Duran

The Hotel Room Project

One million years ago, or so it feels like, I traveled in excess of 200 nights a year photographing hotels. You know the photos. The misleading pictures that make rooms look much bigger, cleaner and better equipped on line, than the room finally looks when you arrive. I have written here and there about my experiences in this industry, but I assure you, the best stories are the ones told over beers or a solid glass of bourbon, and they get better as the drink count climbs.

In five years I worked and traveled in more than 20 countries and photographed many Condé Nast gold list properties. I also photographed more than 150 budget properties strewn across thousands of American Interstate miles. In the last few months in this job, before exhaustion and frustration drove me to resignation, I started a series of self portraits in an attempt to illustrate what had become a very lonely and isolating career opportunity.

These photos were not a deliberate antithesis of the marketing photos I was sent to make, rather an attempt to share my experience with those who had a difficult time imagining what life on the road was like for myself and my colleagues. It was also an attempt to keep things interesting and entertaining as the redundancy of the daily check in and check out of nearly identically furnished rooms wore on after weeks on the road. In between the daily move from one hotel to another, of room shoot after room shoot, we struggled greatly to preserve some degree of normal life.

The photo below is one of my favourites from the series. Not only does it show the make shift workstation I spent hours at each day sorting through photos and trying desperately to maintain connections with my personal world through Skype or MSN Messenger, but it shows me in the process of repairing a flat tire for a bike that I had bought on this particular trip. I had done previous trips with a bike in my baggage and it became the best way to stave off the worst internal crises that surfaced on any extended trip. It became the best, and most healthy, way to preserve what felt normal.

The Hotel Room Project

“I’d invite you back to my place
It’s only mine because it holds my suitcase
It looks like home to me alright
But it’s a hundred miles from yesterday night”

Man in a Suitcase, The Police

The Hotel Room Project

Recent Work – Burgoo: Food For Comfort Cookbook

“First we eat with our eyes.” – Attribution unknown

BurgooFrontCover_Web

Back in January I was asked to sit in on a conversation between a client and a creative director regarding a book project that had fallen off my radar months before. It was the first conversation of many that led to more than a dozen individual shoots including location and studio-style work featuring the spaces and the food of Burgoo Bistro. Burgoo is four neighbourhood restaurants with a reputation for rich and satisfying comfort food. Soup, stews, salads and grilled cheese sandwiches washed down with Imperial pints of their signature beer, Burgoo Brew.

I am very excited, after months of work, and months more of waiting, to have a copy in my hands and to be able to share some of this work with those who have been patiently waiting with me. Having come from a background in photojournalism my approach to photography has always been fast and light. Even when I was photographing hotels, my colleagues and I traveled pretty light compared to others in the industry who traveled with case after case filled with every imaginable piece of gear. We traveled solo with a basic kit and laptop and we accomplished some pretty incredible work relative to the amount of equipment we traveled with.

When I say studio, I am stretching the truth a bit. All the work in Food For Comfort was shot on location. Most of the food photography was produced on a boardroom table in a space shared with the company’s test kitchen. The ephemeral shots, or atmosphere photos were shot in one of Burgoo’s four locations around Vancouver. Unlike my days traveling, I took more of maximist approach to this project. Surrounding the boardroom table, were stands of strobe lights, softboxes, cables & cords and a camera tethered to my iMac which I had brought in for each of the food shoots.

It was my first time shooting tethered with content arriving on the screen a few moments after capture without the benefit of any image selection or corrections. The plus side, and it was a huge plus, was though there were four of us on ‘set’, each with a distinct perspective, we were all able to recognize without negotiation that we had arrived at the right image and it was time to move to the next dish.

I remain super stoked about having this book in my hands, and I think it will take a while before the novelty of having it wears off. Though it is Burgoo’s book, it feels a little like mine and I am proud to be able to share it.

Burgoo: Food for Comfort is available at Burgoo locations in addition to online at:

Burgoo at Chapters

Gooey Grillers Page

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

2013 5 Peaks BC Whistler Preview-7 2013 5 Peaks BC Whistler Preview-17 2013 5 Peaks BC Whistler Preview-18

From the inaugural Eastside 10km

2013 CRS VE10Km Preview-8  2013 CRS VE10Km Preview-9

2013 CRS VE10Km Preview-27

From the Inaugural Spirit of the Shore Half Marathon

2013 SOTS Web-6

2013 SOTS Web-18

2013 SOTS Web-121

Recent Work – 2013 Meet Your Maker Ultra Trail Run

“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.”

2013 MYM50-64

The Meet Your Maker 50 is now a few weeks in the rear view mirror but I keep coming back to the same few images shot in the hour before gun time. I keep coming back to these images because they are unlike any images that I have shot before. It wasn’t my first shoot with my new Nikon D800, it was my second, but it was the first in the challenging conditions offered by a shoot that started at 4am and took me from the valley floor to the alpine high above Whistler Village and back again. I shot into the darkness and into the sun and with the review of each frame I felt stronger and more confident as a photographer.

My feelings about equipment are well known in my circle. The gear debate is for gear fetishists and those more concerned about cameras and technology than photography and content. Whenever I over hear another photographer going on about the latest tech and how they can’t live without it, I respond with a reflexive roll of the eyes. Some of the most iconic images in the history of photography were made long before built in light meters, autofocus and certainly before pixels forever changed the medium. I believe my camera bag is a toolbox and my cameras are tools, the right lens and the right camera can help you get the shot, but no amount of tech will compensate for a photographers sole reliance on it. The difference for me, that Sunday in Whistler, was that the D800 did a better job at capturing what I felt and saw better than any camera I’ve used before.

Since Labour day weekend in Whistler with MYM I’ve completed several shoots and projects including commercial products, packaged goods, running and corporate head shots. It’s been a very busy six weeks and despite my above comments, the D800 feels like a game changer. I feel like it’s made me a better photographer, and although that may say more about my strengths as a photographer than it does about the quality of the Nikon, I am excited that it’s so good at helping me capture subjects the way I see them.

MYM was my second Ultra Marathon shoot in as many months, as you may recall from an earlier post the Squamish 50. Shooting an Ultra maybe one of the hardest things I’ve had to shoot. Without commenting on what I haven’t shot, I will say that Ultras take planning and prep from what you have in your bag, to where on course you’ll shoot, to what you power yourself with. I have a tendency to favour gear and bag prep over making sure I have what I need to survive these long, long days. Do: Take more water than you think you’ll need. Don’t: forget extra batteries, memory cards and sunscreen.

2013 MYM50-70

2013 MYM50-73 2013 MYM50-90 2013 MYM50-180

Catching Up – 2013 Crankworx Red Bull Joyride

Out for a Joyride!

2013 CX RedBull Joy Ride-1

It’s been a month since I left Whistler after 10 days on the mountain with Crankworx, and what a month. I’ve been back to Whistler for event shoots with 5 Peaks and the Meet Your Maker Ultra Marathon event as well as keeping busy in Vancouver with corporate, commercial and more event work. The busy season still has a lot of fight left in it. It was great to be in Whistler again for Crankworx but it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of some great folks including Patti Houston whose ‘sponsorship’ package made the week possible for me. Thanks to the gang at SUPERDROP for keeping me energized and alert with a week’s worth of buzz from their new energy product and to Ultra Runner, James Marshall, for the case of Cariboo which was a cool welcome home after a day in the dust, or rain, on the mountain.

In some ways Crankworx feels a bit like a working holiday, although I am certain no one on our team would describe the week in Whistler as a vacation. For me it feels a bit like a holiday because I was able to focus on one thing for the week at the expense of the day to day chores of life at home. Despite arriving in Whistler with a ton of work on my desktop, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to shoot every day. I believe and I have mentioned it before, there is no substitute for intensity and immersion when it comes to photography and honing your craft.

This year Crankworx was also a tremendous learning experience in adapting to challenges. Leading up to Whistler I was starting to notice that my camera, a Nikon D300s, was not performing quite as expected and my auto focus was starting to act erratically and unpredictably especially when using the otherwise exceptional Nikkor 14-24 f2.8. While I have since upgraded my camera body, more on this later, on event week my ‘gear frustration’ was at a high point and I ended up shooting on manual focus much of the week when using the wide glass. It is a testament to how talented and hard working sports photographers were prior to auto focus, power drives and long before the digital era.

Below are a few images from the Red Bull Joyride event int he Whistler Mountain bike park. There were plenty of spills, chills and thrills to go around.

2013 CX RedBull Joy Ride-2 2013 CX RedBull Joy Ride-3 2013 CX RedBull Joy Ride-4 2013 CX RedBull Joy Ride-5 2013 CX RedBull Joy Ride-6

2013 Crankworx – The Dust and the Glory

“Write your injuries in dust, your benefits in marble.”

-Benjamin Franklin

This morning, between editing photos and sips of coffee, I have been fighting a losing battle. It is dry in Whistler, the fire hazard is listed as extreme, the dust is everywhere and it is saturating. My hair feels like straw and every sip from my water bottle includes what feels like a mouth full of grit. Cleaning myself is one thing, but dust is especially hard on camera equipment. It gets into everything and glass can act like a magnet for dust looking for a surface to land on. Dust requires constant maintenance; gotta keep your gear clear to get the best from it, and I think we can all agree that the challenges that come with trying to capture a mountain biker 20-30 feet in the air or another deep in a berm at 50km/hr are enough without battling the elements as well. But dust is also beautiful, it captures light and creates an aura of place and experience. These are a few shots from Tuesday on Whistler shot in and around the Garbanzo DH course and through the dust.

2013 CX Garbanzo Dust-4

2013 CX Garbanzo Dust-1

2013 CX Garbanzo Dust-2

2013 CX Garbanzo Dust-3

“Whether we fall by ambition, blood or lust, like diamonds we are cut with our own dust.”

-John Webster

Recent Work: Sqaumish Arc’teryx 50

I had to pull the plug last night, late last night, after two days that felt like four and several hours of editing that included photos for SUPERDROP, Burgoo, Crankworx and the 2013 Squamish Arc’teryx 50 Ultra Marathon. It’s been a busy week, but work is like dinner; better to be looking at it than for it. I arrived in Whistler late Sunday night after a truly epic day on course in Squamish where more than 500 runners challenged one of three events, 23 km, 50 km and 50 Mile courses, all of which pushed runners to their limits and sometimes beyond. I got to see first hand runners pushing through their walls in the last 6 km of course, some in tears and others cursing Race Director Gary Robbins for being, sick, sadistic and evil for his trail choices.

At some point last night, close to 1 am, the world around me went black as the power went out turning my iMac lit room absolute black; it was time to pack it in for the day, I had hit my productivity wall. Working through photos late at night is often necessary to meet deadlines, especially when the calendar is full. The tough thing, however, is that it’s also the time of day when I see more errors than successes, and my frustration starts to grow exponentially. It is a humbling experience to distill, edit and reevaluate images that live up to no reasonable expectation. Saturday started so early that by the time I sat down for dinner at 10 pm that night, Saturday morning felt like the day before. Sunday had a similar quality.

I have been working through these projects but felt like it was time to share a few pictures from my Saturday with the Squamish Arc’teryx 50. Thanks to Race Directors Gary Robbins and Geoff Langford for having me along for their first season of the Coast Mountain Trail Series and the second year of the Arc’teryx 50.

2013 SQ50 Fun Preview Gallery-2

2013 SQ50 Start Line-1

2013 SQ50 Fun Preview Gallery-4

2013 SQ50 Fun Preview Gallery-13

2013 SQ50 Fun Preview Gallery-16

2013 SQ50 Fun Preview Gallery-18

2013 SQ50 Fun Pics-6