They say the real estate industry in Vancouver is having an ‘interesting’ time and sales are down on every type of property. Honestly, I haven’t seen a change in the requests for property listing and promo images. I had a photo shoot on the North Shore of a six million dollar home that sold ten days after listing! The home was stunning and included an infinity swimming pool and the most amazing gourmet kitchen. As I worked away photographing ALL 21,000 square feet, I kept thinking to myself “why would you ever need so much space”? I never really came to a conclusion, but I did image myself living as the other half and being the six million dollar man.
The season is changing and the days are shortening and I find myself spending as much time as possible making images on the coast. The sunsets can be especially spectacular and I often wonder why more ‘Westcoasters’ are not spending their moments bathed in the Sun’s embrace? It’s ok though, I am quiet happy to have the beaches to myself... we all have those introverted and serene moments... and it makes for beautiful images. I usually walk with just a single camera with a single fixed lens. It reminds me to be in the moment rather than being about producing a product. It’s a good thing, although there have been a few missed shots, but that’s okay, I still loved the moment!
My ongoing project of photographing the faces of people caught in the viscous Vancouver gentrification cycle continues... but it is difficult personally. So many humans are finding it difficult to exist here in the Lower Mainland. The news is filled with tent cities, people living in vehicles and the horrors of the DTES. I have watched the Eastside change into hipster heaven with micro-breweries, brand name clothing shops, expensive restaurants and exclusive micro loft apartments... and the entire time the people who manage to barely carve out a life have been squeezed into ever smaller spaces. It is heart breaking. With elections looming, I DARE the powers that be to take a walk and open their eyes. I dare the hipster Millennials to not be ignorant.
It’s that time of year again when the days of rain mean my time can be used to process and edit my undeveloped rolls of film. Unlike many, I never did stop making images on film. I did stop using sheet film, but 120 and 35mm roll film are always in my camera bags ready to go. The next couple days will be spent in a very dark room with some fun chemistry that turns the invisible latent image into something magic! It is great to no longer be living on an island, where photo developers and fixers are classified as dangerous goods and could not be shipped. I will never again take for granted my D76 and Rodinal film developers! Film always makes me happy and seeing beautiful and unexpected surprise images is one of my biggest joys in life.
It’s been a couple months since I have done any romance images. I haven’t had time for the bookings or to chase the work. I had a text from Jackson (who I know from another gig) asking if I could take a couple images for their anniversary. I would never say no to anything to do with love, because it is the most important thing and by association those images are also the most important. I had an hour to spare on a Saturday evening and we made a plan to meet beside the ocean. They were a little late because they couldn’t find the secret location I picked... my bad, but in the end we still had about twenty minutes of photo shoot. Some of the pictures are stunning, but how could they not be? Jackson and Elise are crazy about each other
The last time I was away I dropped my C330s into the Pacific Ocean. Even though it was less than a second, the damage was fatal. The salt and sand damaged both the body and the 55 wide that I was using. The noise this poor machine made as I tried to adjust the bellows was horrendous as the sand made it’s way into each meshing gear. I was pretty gutted as this is one of my favorite medium format street cameras. I don’t use the Rolleiflex on the street because it’s too delicate and valuable and the ‘Blad is just too much to be inconspicuous. Luckily, I was able to source an exact replacement out of Japan. It arrived in three days and I couldn’t believe what great shape it’s in. I count myself lucky as all of this film stuff is now scarce and hipster rare!
Remember when photographers made beautiful photos?... I do. Now my desk looks like this... and I worry about engagement, reach, hashtags, bounce rates, KPIs, conversions, awareness, influence, spelling, growth, impressions, fonts, conceptualization, meta data, tracking, budget, impact, click-through rate, design, aesthetics, creativity, marketing, retention, brand awareness... My eyes are going square from looking at screens ;) It’s interesting how many ‘non photographer’ things have to be done these days, but that is the new norm. I think I’m going to grab a roll of B+W film that only gives me twelve pictures and go for a walk like the good old days.
Time...everytime I travel I feel there is not enough time to enjoy what matters. I managed to free up a good block of time (sadly weeks, not months - but I am working on that) and off to Mexico I make my way. I promised myself that I am going to make images of everything I love to experience in my life. It is a tall order, but just a few days in and I have made a couple of images I am so proud of. This time of year is an anniversary (of sorts) that life won't let me forget - so being in paradise allows me to concentrate on images and the future. It's really positve and I am lucky to be traveling with somebody special who is a great photographer in her own right... time is on my side for once!
What’s this? 36 hours off time, a clear weather forecast and a 4x4... that means time to drive up into the mountains and enjoy a photo camping adventure! What I wouldn’t do to actually spend loads of time to make images in the wilds of Canada. Anyway, off in the top-down Jeep with 4-Wheel-Drive engaged and a few hours later - the retreat and withdrawal of the wild! It’s a fantastic feeling to be away in a stunning natural and quiet location where my camera actually sounds like the loudest thing for miles and miles. I’m not really a landscape photographer, but with the amazing sights that sunrise and sunset provide, it’s hard to not get excited and actually look forward to editing!
There are so many places I have made images around this wonderful world of ours... and I seem to always come back to the same conclusion. I love photographing in Mexico. It is a place of life and reality. People are so accepting of my style of making photos, they know I am there, they know what I am doing and they allow me to be part for those split seconds. This time I spent a few weeks staying in a small oceanside town on the Westcoast. A place where the Mexicans come to enjoy family, sun and time away from their busy lives. A place where the Gringos and Touristas avoid... especially at the time of year when heat and rain are at their peaks. It is beautiful, it is alive and it is perfect. Sadly, I have to return to the North, but the moments will echo.
There are a few causes that are dear to me and over the years I have tried to help out. Worthy Causes like Movember, the SPCA, Dreams Take Flight and the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre have over the years had creative donation from me. This year it was Plaid For Dad. One of my client’s entire staff turned up wearing plaid and donated to a baked goods sale to raise awareness and funds to help in the fight against prostate cancer. Although I didn’t wear plaid, I did race across Vancouver on my motorbike between gigs to photograph the team group shot and various other social media images... and I dropped a few bucks at the bake sale, even though my waistline said I should think about! #plaidfordad
You know when you get roped into something that you are not particularly interested in? Well I had one of those moments this weekend as one of my gigs wanted me to make a showing at the Vancouver Convention Centre for Art Vancouver. Sadly it’s not really my thing as it is more about deeper pockets than talent. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing artists represented (and I even saw a pretty good photographer) but on the whole it is a pretty Blasé state of affairs. I prefer some of the art walk/open studio shows that promote talent with little cost to the artist and have less to do with networking and social media influencers. I did dress up and made a few snaps...
Unfortunately Pro Photography is not always about the actual images... it’s about gear. Especially in today’s digital world it’s all about technology and tools. One of the tools I seem to go through very quickly is Laptop computers. They either wear out, get stolen, destroyed, misplaced or just mysteriously stop? I will always utilize a Workstation Desktop because their processing power will run rings around even the best portable computer, but I need a laptop for location and travel. Back in the nineties I bought the first of many Laptops and it cost a whopping $5600! Since then some have been MAC and some have been PC... but all have had limited lifespans. I got almost a year out of my last Laptop, but this weekend I treated myself to a new one. Dual SSD drives, cinema display, Intel® i7 beast of a CPU... and most importantly... a light-up keyboard! ;)
I managed to scrape together three days of no work for my birthday. No small feet and may have upset the scales slightly, but it doesn’t matter... because it is also my Dad’s birthday too. We share the same date , how’s that for a gift all those years ago! My brothers were heading to Mexico to surprise Mum and Dad, and I just had to be included. Last minute booking and a race to the airport and a few hours later - birthday supper at Alonzo’s in La Penita. Mum and Dad were happy as can be and the tequila flowed freely. It wasn’t really a holiday and I still remoted in to keep my photo work on track, but I did manage to make two or three photo excursions and made some stunning images. I am looking forward to having time to work on my Mexico book.
I am always scouting for new shoot locations for both my business and personal work. It probably drives everybody mad that sometimes I just wander off or stop the Jeep and pull out the camera. Most a pretty forgiving and that’s why I guess they choose to be part of my life. What amazes me most is that on and off I have been based in Vancouver twenty five years, I still find places I didn’t know existed. Out on an adventure today and I find a place called Finn Slough - a tiny fishing community that seem to be fighting the onslaught of development. I had a good walk with a special friend and made some fantastic images. I will remember this place for future shoots ... mainly because it doesn’t look like Van City
I have been busy. Sometimes I forget to breath and let those closest to me know how important they are. Luckily, they don’t forget about me and my mobile is always beeping messages for me to come and visit. Today was great because we went down to the beach together and even though it was a little chilly, we had a great time. My little nieces are growing up so fast and it seems that I blink and they are an inch taller and my brothers seem to get older and more gray ;) .We had fun taking a few pics, and I did my best to not let the elements get to my camera of the day. I must always remember to keep spare change in my pocket when I visit so the girls can invest in their future... or buy a few treats. Love them all!
How could I say no to a lovely photo adventure weekend away with a beautiful human? The answer is I couldn’t! Some slight shuffling of work and off we toddled to our Airbnb in Seattle. This town is such a great place to photograph. Fremont, Ballard, Queen Anne and Capital Hill being my favorite places. Three days can pass so quickly, but I feel so productive and inspired. Huh... who would ever of thought Seattle would be inspriring? AsI have said before, I like the scene, I like the people, I like the food and I like the support of the arts. Seattleites support local so used record and book stores thrive. I came home with so many additions to my library that I won’t have to come out of the bunker for decades (TZ reference maybe?)
This might sound slightly snobbish but I don’t do passport photos... at least not normally. There was a time 25 years ago when I worked in a camera shop that I was a star when it came to people and their passport photos. Believe it or not there was a time when you could smile and be yourself for a passport photo. Sadly the world has changed and a smile is no longer associated with your travel documents (I suppose you should look like you just waited for an hour to pass through airport security - we have all been routed through Atlanta right?). I was asked to do a Passport Pic as a favour and I laughed and said sure. I did the math once and with my time on cruise ships I have photographed over a million people in my career. It’s now over a million and one!
Global warming seems to be shaking things up a little. There hasn’t been a flake of snow this season... until today! It was a little surprising upon wake up, but in my trusty old Jeep I can get to any photo location. What didn’t make it was a certain V8 powered, rear wheel drive sports car with summer tires on it! I did my best to work with what we had, and although this set of images won’t win any awards, they were pretty cool - literally. I still would of liked to have been up on a mountain road with the morning sun streaming through the clouds, buy gray and subdued tones work for me and the client too. I’m not complaining - I’ve lived where winter never ends!
I have been working on a personal project on the side as I photograph some of my real estate gigs. So many things are changing quickly here in the Lower Mainland. Buildings are coming down and neighborhoods are being gentrified. So many places I used to use as backdrops twenty years ago have vanished. Now when I show up to make images of the latest condo, I look for the hidden landscapes. Eventually I hope to make a limited run book of these images and perhaps one day these photos will be treated as if on a Fred Herzog level... one can always dream. As it is now, these images show Vancouver and the removed from nature, sterile environment it has become. Hmmm.. Appreciate the space you are in - it is temporary in today’s world.
On my way with things to do and schedules to keep, I ran into the FOG! Now you would think the West Coast would get alot of fog (imaginings of San Fran) but here in Vancouver it really doesn’t happen all that often. Well it did today... and I had two shoots that had to be rescheduled. Made me smile a little because when I lived on the East Coast things were canceled all the time on account of fog (things were canceled because of many other things too... wind, rain, sun, waves, peanuts,etc) . That didn’t stop me going out for a moment to enjoy, and I think I made some really subtly beautiful images - or we shall see when I develop them!
I am such a camera nerd. I am not ashamed to admit it... the polar opposite actually, I would stand on top of the highest building and yell my love to all who would listen! Anybody who has been in my office and seen my collection of cameras knows it. I have been desperate for a Contax 35mm rangefinder for years. Sadly all I have seen have either been professionally abused or priced way out of what I would spend. I scoured the online world for years, and it was actually somebody I knew for 15 years who was now 80 and his eyes just don’t have the ‘patience’ for a rangefinder who surprised me with not only this camera, but three lenses (including the collectible 20mm!). Bob G., Thank you and I will cherish this gift and create my magic with it.
After time away making beautiful images for myself (and myself only) I have come to a realization that some time this year I am going to do my best to scale down the hours working. Certainly working in unfulfilling work environments is going to stop. I am lucky that I can be a little more picky about who I work with, where I spend my work hours and really what’s important. Life is very short so don’t waste it sitting at a desk, creating for people who don’t appreciate what you have to offer. In today’s world of the instantly disposable image and idea, I am often asked for quantity over quality... and that’s not a good thing. Not for me, and not for the end product, which is about having images that are the best!
One of my favorite places to photograph the human condition is in a city called Tepic, the capital of the Mexican state Nayarit. Sadly the city (and it’s people) are dealing with horrifying ‘pressure’ from the drug cartels. Now rated the fifth most dangerous city in Mexico and the 36th most dangerous city on the planet, things are getting bad. It shows on the faces of the wonderful people who call this city home. There is worry, there is distrust and there is fright. As I immersed myself in the street life and began these latest series of photos, I could feel the underlying sadness and hurt that has been caused. The difference from my last visit to Tepic was huge. How far removed the resort gringos of the beaches are from all of this...