Pictures of the Year 2013

“Cameras in the hands of photographers with hearts can capture love – hope – passion – change lives and make the world a better place. And all it takes is 1/500th of a second.” -Eddie Adams

2013 CMTS SQ50 Joseph Chick-1

I struggle with my year’s best work. I tend to see my most recent work as my best. I tend to become a little bored of the work which I’ve spent too much time considering or editing. I tend not to see my photos the way others do because I see everything, not just the highlights. I will be working on my 2013 box set over the next week or two; my ten best of the year, as I see them. It’s been a pretty good year, and there should be lots to choose from, but it also feels a little like wading into murky water.

In the meantime I have collected links to Photos of the Year galleries. Photography is getting richer, and while it’s easy to find post after post predicting the long slow decline of both professional photography and photography as most people understand it, I don’t see it the same way. I am optimistic. I believe we are in a Renaissance period in which technology is fueling creativity and broadening the way we share images. There are more ways to make a photo than ever before and there are more ways to share photography than ever before. And while change has come and will continue to impact the traditional channels through which photography has been shared, the value of quality work is getting higher. It does, however, require adaptation. While Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made a statement early this year equating professional photography with the storage capacity one might need, the difference between professional photography and that of even the most advanced amateurs in not merely defined by the equipment or software we use. It is no more the camera that makes the photographer than it is a hammer that makes a carpenter, or a note pad that makes a reporter. Beyond risk and opportunity it is the cumulative total of experience, judgement and skill that makes any photo as much as it is the camera and this year’s best photos are a perfect illustration of this truth.


Year in Pictures

Time Magazine:

LightBox The Year In Pictures (Multiple Galleries)

LightBox The Year in 365 Pictures

The Atlantic In Focus – The Year In Photos:

Part 1: 2013 The Year In Photos January-April

Part 2: 2013 The Year In Photos May-August

Part 3: 2013 The Year In Photos September-December

Reuters Full Focus:

Best Photos of the Year

The New York Times:

2013 The Year in Pictures

National Geographic:

2013 Year In Review


PINKBIKE’S Photos of the Year

Sports Illustrated:

Pictures of the Year

Billboard Magazine:

Photos of the Year: Best Instagrams of 2013  OMG!

Happy New Year everyone.

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

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

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

Personal Work – North Shore Trail Portraits: Run Shanny Run!

2013 MTN Portraits Penway-2

I have a pretty clear memory of the morning I met trail runner Shannon Penway, it was as if her giant smile bounced up to me and said “Hi! I’m Shannon, did you get some good pictures?” Or so that’s how I remember meeting Shannon following the first 5 Peaks event of the year last May at Golden Ears Park, BC.  Since then I’ve photographed Shannon a few times, at 5 Peaks Alice Lake in Squamish, BC, last weekend at the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon, and a few weeks ago in the Lynn Headwaters region above North Vancouver. Shannon is relatively new to competitive trail running, but comes to it with the grace and athleticism of an experienced athlete. When Shannon runs, it is often with a grin stretched ear to ear and although I think that smile is a way to unsettle and intimidate her competition, Shannon says she smiles because running makes her happy. Since meeting her, Shannon has made the podium of a number of events and distances including placing 3rd in the National Mountain Running Championships recently held in Quebec where she ran despite a fall on a training run the day before.

Learning a lesson as a photographer is often humbling and can sometimes be quite expensive, especially humbling when things stop working the way they are supposed to while a subject waits patiently and with good humour for instructions to re run the same 15 meters of trail for 5th time. During our shoot my camera’s display took a nap, I don’t know how else to describe it. At one point I exclaimed, ‘I guess we’ll do this the old fashioned way’ and continued shooting without the digital play back and instant gratification (or horror) that comes from having instant access to review. What happens in situations like these? Well if you’re prepared, you pull your back up camera from your bag and keep shooting. If you are not, you turn the camera off and on for a bit, take out the batteries, groan under your breath and look to the tree tops for answers. After a few unsettling minutes everything was working as it should and we continued. In the end I think we got a few good pics and these are among my favourite.

You can read more about Shannon at her running blog Run Shanny Run, and if you’re a sponsor, you should reach out before someone else does first!

2013 MTN Portraits Penway watermarked-19

2013 MTN Portraits Penway-15

Recent Work – 5 Peaks Alice Lake Provincial Park

2013 5 Peaks BC Alice Lake Preview-4

I’d like to think that I am at the mid point between two event weekends, but I’m not. My head is spinning because it’s already Thursday and last weekend feels like it was a month ago, which is about how old my last post is. In my defense, May and June have been busy months and though I have had to withdraw myself from some events I was keen to participate in due to injury we now we are into the dark heart of summer event season. It’s on.

I’ve taken on a greater role with 5 Peaks Trail Series and I am super excited to see where it takes me and while I continue to shoot the 5 Peaks BC events I now get to help guide the look and feel of the photography from our other events across Canada. This really kicked off last weekend and while I was shooting the 5 Peaks BC event at Alice Lake Provincial Park in Squamish, BC other photographers were shooting in Alberta and Ontario.

It’s also been a busy period in the Photography community. Recently The Chicago Tribune let go of it’s whole photo staff electing to outfit reporters with iPhones and employing freelancers as necessary. I want to address this issue, but I am still processing what this means, and how I feel about it. This is an issue for another post, or a year’s worth of posts, but for now, I have to let it go. After ‘retiring’ myself from photography late in 2008, I have obviously come back to it but I have come back to an industry deep in transition and very much reflective of Chris Anderson’s Long Tail model. Social media has created a voracious market place for content and the event community is being forced to reevaluate how to use photography and how to pay for it. Photography is no longer a value add, it can no longer be simply a revenue stream, it has to be more. Event photography has to interesting, creative and engaging because, in the era of Social Media, every photo has become a tool of outreach and branding. At it’s best photography should be sharing an experience that others want want in on.

2013 5 Peaks BC Alice Lake Preview-13

Saturday in Squamish was a little wetter and a little colder than I had anticipated or prepared for. I definitely failed my Boy Scout training as I left the house in Vancouver unprepared for the conditions in Squamish but somehow I managed through. I even left my shoes on the roof of the car, finding them still there at a stop en route. Squamish is an ideal venue for trail running and Squamish trails are heavily used but also built and maintained by their users. In humping my gear down part of the course known as Credit Line, I came across a trail builder working on a couple of ladders to clean up a section of climbing. I was just as surprised to find out he had no idea that there was an event that morning as he was to look up and see almost 400 runners descend on him and his section of trail repair. Squamish offers an awesome variety of technical trails for runners and mountain bikers, lots of ups and downs under 300 foot trees, this is West Coast trail running at it’s finest, all that’s missing is a salmon bbq and a keg of west coast pale ale!

2013 5 Peaks BC Alice Lake Preview-15

2013 5 Peaks BC Alice Lake Preview-18

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.

2013 5 Peaks BC Golden Ears Preview-14

2013 5 Peaks BC Golden Ears Preview-12

2013 5 Peaks BC Golden Ears Preview-13

2013 5 Peaks BC Golden Ears Preview-22

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

Personal Work – North Shore Trail Portraits

James Marshall April 2013 WM-16


Last weekend I was back on the North Shore with trail runners James Marshall and Tom Craik. Saturday and Sunday couldn’t have been more different. Saturday was dark and wet and by Sunday morning the spring sun was overhead creating an ethereal feel on the forest floor. Tom and James are experienced and active members of the local trail running community and seem quite at home at the feet of towering trees. It is as a surprise to me, as it must be to anyone who knows me, that I am finding a home in the running community, at least as a photographer. I’m not much of a runner, or really at all for that matter but it has been a gratifying and exciting experience getting to work with trail runners and their events.

Through the duration of each shoot we spoke about favourite trails, and the experience of being on these mountains. Tom described trail running in a way that suggested an experience akin to meditation, an experience I think shared by the mountain bikers we saw on the trails on Sunday. I’ve been hearing a term in radio ads for the past couple of months, Biophilia; it is the idea that humans are instinctively connected to their living environments. Tom said something about trail running on Sunday morning which resonated with my experience as a photographer. While I am paraphrasing here, he suggested that trail running was a way to interact with this environment, a way to experience this forest and geography so identified with the south west coast of British Columbia. When people ask me about photography, I sometimes describe it as the way I interact with the world, it is the conduit through which I can create unique experiences for myself and others.

James Marshall April 2013 WM-11


Tom Craik Trail Samples-3


Tom Craik Trail April 2013-11



Personal Work – From the Portrait Project with Gary & Elaine

Gary Robbins Profile WM-43

Lots going on over the last month; but work is like dinner, it’s better to be looking at it than for it. It has been an interesting several weeks of photography including a snowshoe race, shooting trail running, road running and some personal work, a Ms Teen pageant and on going work on a cookbook project for a local restaurant client. I’ve also had the chance to hear and hang out with Photographer Ian Ruhter who has been in Vancouver for a number of local speaking engagements and wet plate demos, if you aren’t familiar with Ian’s work, have a look at the first video he and his crew produced about a year ago: Silver & Light.

Two weeks ago I ventured into the trails above North Vancouver with Ultra Trail Runner Gary Robbins to work on some profile pictures which would serve double purpose for both my personal portrait work and Gary’s need for some new Profile content. Gary took us to a great little trail hub that provided an opportunity for a variety of looks and we finished with a couple of head shot style portraits fitting for a trail runner and event manager. In looking back at this work and the photos that will follow of both Gary and Elaine, I see characters in their environments. These are studies of people in the places they are most comfortable.

Gary Robbins Profile Web WM-13

By now the room that surrounds Elaine at her Piano will be very different. I haven’t seen it yet, but I understand that the shelves are nearly clear of books, packed and bound for new shelves in a new space in a new home. With lees than a month on the clock before Elaine and her husband Ken move into their new home I felt it was important to make a photo of Elaine at her piano in the house she has lived in for close to 30 years. I believe the spaces we inhabit, whether we choose them or they are chosen for us, become a part of who we are. I can’t wait to see Elaine’s new space, but I am glad we were able to get one last look at the old one.

Elaine Carty Portrait Project 2013-15

One more look:

Elaine Carty Portrait Project 2013-9

My space is subject to a perpetual cycle of cluttering and uncluttering. It is never static and often feels like a bit of a disaster. My workspace is often surrounded by piles of paper, folders, files and business cards and equipment transiting from one bag to another between shoots and assignments. One day I will make a self portrait of this chaos when I am brave enough to share, honestly, the state of my desk.