“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf
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.
“The Journey you make is a quest for yourself.” -Anton Corbjin, Photographer
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.
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
“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
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.
“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
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.
‘Welcome to 2013’ the sun seemed to suggest early yesterday morning in Whistler. Welcome indeed.
Happy New Year to you, now let’s get to work!
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
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.
Without any planning or thought I came to this photo shot in the Turbine Hall of London’s Tate Modern Museum exactly nine years ago, today. Over the last couple of days I have been looking for an archive image to post and had a quick look at this, and other images from this time, yesterday afternoon. I have to admit I didn’t put a lot of thought into when it was shot, other than knowing it was shot in November of 2003 in London. To be honest I’ve taken this image for granted for the better part of a decade, I’ve never investigated the artist or the installation piece, I’ve always just accepted that this surreal scene was interesting to me and to others. In fact it is one of the few images of my own, other than newspaper clippings that I have hanging in my apartment.
You can learn new things about old photographs and what I learned this morning about my own photograph is that this piece, called The Weather Project, started out as an idea conceived by Danish Artist Olafur Eliasson during a rare snow in London. It is, in some part, a response to discussion about global warming while suggesting something mystical or almost religious to the people seated on the floor of the great hall. The Tate’s Turbine Hall has been called the most frightening gallery space in the world, but clearly for the people taking a respite from November rain, it was something of a refuge suggesting warmth and light.
It was a surprise to me, making my way into the hall and seeing so many people seated on the concrete floor. It was so wet and so cold walking the Thames embankment that afternoon that this thing high above us felt otherworldly. The Weather Project has been described as apocalyptic, a terrifying beauty and accused of stripping it’s viewers of their individuality. While my limited education in Art History helps me understand these comments, this was not my experience that day. To me, and others, the concrete floor was a surrogate for a sandy beach, and the light overhead a surrogate for something which felt long absent from London’s November skyline.
Within a few days of making this photo, I was en route home to Vancouver having spent nearly 290 nights on the road that year. To me this image is something far simpler than what I have described thus far. It is a reminder of getting out of the rain, imagining the warmth of a setting sun, and exploring London with someone who I had become close with after spending months walking London on my own. Let photography take you places, let it be a reminder of where you’ve been and a fantasy for places you’d like to go. Be curious, be transported, be present and be ready with your camera without compromising your personal experience.
Between 2003-2007 I had the chance to travel through Europe a number of times for work; I liked to imagine that it was my “Backpack Through Europe” experience, but not really. I was there for work, and my nights in 4 & 5 Star hotels way out numbered my nights spent in hostels, and it didn’t hurt that I had an expense account to draw from. I spent nearly a week in Hamburg in September of ’04 and loved almost every minute of it. It was my first time in Germany and I was sold! On one of my few days off, a world cup Triathlon event took over Lake Alster, in the very center of Hamburg and I hung around to make some images.
I was in Seattle in June of 2006 to photograph the Edgewater Hotel and spent a couple of hours wandering Seattle Centre. It was amazing to see how dynamic the ‘Skin’ of Architect Frank Gehry’s Experience Music Project was even in the dull and overcast light.