Today’s Archive Image – Oceanside Dining

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf

Todays Archive Image Maui Dinning-1

It’s definitely winter in Vancouver. I know this, not only because the temperature and the 1 cm of snow on the ground, but also because the number of photos I am seeing from Hawaii. It’s possible I’m just noticing these pics more, but it’s also possible that everyone I know has been to Hawaii in the last few weeks, or is planning on going in the weeks ahead. Talk about feeling sorry for one’s self! I could definitely use some aloha right now, not to mention fish tacos from Lelani’s and a couple sleeves of Long Board Lager.

This is a pic from a shoot on Maui several years ago, just down Kanapali beach from Lelani’s at Whaler’s Village. It was one of those ‘quick shots’ the client was hoping for, but turned into six people staring into the setting sun trying to get the shot before mother nature turned her lights off. I had the Executive Chef holding a speedlight and the Director of Sales and Marketing holding a reflector while everyone else was watched impatiently.

Sometimes you just have make it work and make use of every set of hands possible. For most of us client work is a collaborative effort, with many stakeholders weighing in, and sometimes busying someone’s hands is a great way to get someone onside. It reinforces that collaborative effort and helps create a sense of ownership by those involved.

Don’t forget about the Burgoo Cookbook Giveaway. Send me your food photos for a chance to win Burgoo Bistro’s Food For Comfort Cookbook.

Today’s Archive Image – The Holy Plains 2006 & 2007

“The Journey you make is a quest for yourself.” -Anton Corbjin, Photographer

2007 High Plains Church NM-1

Happy Thanksgiving to my friends and family in the United States and those celebrating abroad. I came across these images while sorting through my personal travel folder in Lightroom this morning, and while I am not a religious person I have always been drawn to old churches, whether to light a candle for a lost loved one in a European Cathedral or pull off the side of an Interstate highway to capture a few frames.

The top image was shot in South East New Mexico (2007) in the waning evening light as I headed east from Fort Sumner after visiting the grave site of Billy the Kid on my way back into Texas. The image below was found in Kansas (2006), but I can’t tell you where exactly because I was off the Interstate taking the time to explore a little en route to my next client and not entirely sure myself. My best hope is that while we are all free to pursue and believe what feels right for us, that we can all exhibit enough strength of character to respect that what is right for some, may not be right for others. While I would not have worshiped in either of these churches, I can respect that they were at one time likely integral to the communities they served on these remote and unforgiving plains.

2006 Great Plains Church Kansas-1

I am still looking for entries for my Cookbook Contest, and at this point your odds are looking pretty good. Submissions due before Christmas. More details here:

Burgoo Food for Comfort Cookbook Giveaway

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

Personal Travel – A Couple More from Cox Bay

442 Search and Rescue Squadron Carty Cox Bay Christmas 2012 W-5

Long Beach and the West Coast of Vancouver Island offer an ever changing set of conditions, from dark to light, from light surf to storm surge with any given hour of the day possibly different than the hour that came before it. I shot a lot of frames in five days at Cox Bay and the Long Beach Lodge, but these two are among my favourites. This the the 442 Search and Rescue Squadron out of Comox, BC and one afternoon I looked up to see their parachutes overhead.

For these men, this was a drill but for the people on the beach, it felt like something out of a movie to see the Buffalo Aircraft circling the bay and the Sea King Helicopter landing on the beach; one of our party described what she saw as “Very James Bond”. Making pictures of people at work is one of my favourite things to shoot, especially when it involves winter surf, four guys with parachutes and millions of dollars of aircraft. This is the kind of thing that feature photographers live for, and one that I could have very easily have missed had I decided instead to have a nap rather than heading back to the beach. It reminds me of the Boy Scout Motto, Be Prepared. I was lucky that my gear was close at hand, these images just wouldn’t be the same shot from my Blackberry! This is also a great argument to keep a small camera with you, as you never know what might drop from the sky.

Personal Travel: Cox Bay, BC at Dawn

Dawn Patrol at Cox Bay

Something which feels rare, for this time of year, is happening in my apartment this morning; the sun is casting shadows on interior walls. It’s also quiet this morning which also feels rare when you live above a commercial space. Together the quiet and the sunlight have conspired to create a little serenity for me, all that’s missing is a cup of coffee and that’s an easy fix. Fixed; coffee now in hand. Yesterday I photographed a small, intimate wedding, and the day prior I returned from a five day Christmas vacation on Cox Bay, perched between Tofino a few minutes to the north and Long Beach a few minutes south on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

Dawn and early morning has always seemed to me a perfect metaphor for the new year, and with 2013 less than 48 hours out, and what may be my last post of 2012, Dawn seems like a good way to close the year. Dawn is filled with optimism, hope and fresh light. More and more I am becoming a morning person and there are a lot of early mornings when you work in events, in news or as a photographer working in either. I remember reading, years ago, that great photographers are not born, they just get out of bed earlier in the morning. This idea has largely informed my life in photography, perhaps not literally, although certainly true on occasion, because for me it’s been about working harder. I have to work harder; although I was naturally drawn to photography, photography did not naturally come to me.

I believe that photography can be fine art, but I do not identify as an artist. I want to make good looking images, but more importantly I want to tell a story, articulate a client’s vision or capture a moment of energy or exchange, and these images don’t often find homes in frames or on walls. I don’t often look to make photographs as a purely aesthetic exercise, but every now and then, however, I reach out to make a photograph for myself. Last week, on Cox Bay, I found myself in pre-dawn light, using a tripod and dragging the shutter to create something without meaning or governed by pragmatism, but simply reflective of a set of conditions on a remote beach shaped by winter waves.

Happy New Year,

Check out Photographer Derek Shapton’s piece on Art vs. Craft at Peta Pixel

Art vs. Craft: The Nature of Professional Assignment Photography

Today’s Archive Image – Portrait of a Bedu 2006

There is nothing inherently remarkable about this image other than what it means to me. It was shot neither on assignment nor in a conflict zone nor is it a product of adventure travel. I was in Dubai about six years ago and was invited on a day trip into a nature preserve outside the city with a client liaison. It was typical in every way from the large American SUVs we traveled in to the Bangladeshi driver and the “Bedouin Fest” and Hooka pipes that closed the night. We rode camels and bashed about the sand dunes. I can’t even tell you a whole lot of about the reserve. It was one of those rare time when I gave in to enjoying a very typical tourist excursion leaving the planning and execution to someone else.

I was given to understand this Bedouin fellow worked on a type of farm, home to camels, oryx, goats and the like which was a stop on our tour into the reserve. While others were drawn to the animals, I was drawn to this man and indicated that I wanted to make a photo, he smiled and I snapped off a couple of frames. If I didn’t know the conditions with which this photo was made it would feel to me that it could have been made any time in the last 40, 50 or 60 years. I am drawn in by his eyes and expression, there is nothing suspicious or threatening about his face. The only thing I see is what I want to see; a suggestion of Bedouin hospitality and grace.

I have been working on a personal project, 1000 Portraits, and a component of this work is to push myself esthetically and technically as a photographer. I’ve been playing with lighting and back drops and going back into my collection of photo books to help me reframe my understanding of strong portraiture. This frame is one of three favourite portraits that I have shot, and all three were shot simply and spontaneously without lights, reflectors, or backdrops. To me, in this photo, there is nothing but content, nothing except this gentleman in his dish dash with a keffiyeh wrapped about his head.