i'll go crazy if i don't go crazy tonight

I had an unanticipated nap after work today. I am now in a weird hyper-alert yet wholly unfocused state that does not bode well for getting to bed on time tonight.

There is at least one benefit: I started cruising Lightroom catalog and came across this photo that I had marked but not finished editing for some reason.

I'm struck how incredibly appropriate this image is for where I am right now. Take a step back...

I've been thinking a lot about this blog and where it fits into my life. Obviously it's been a while since I've updated...at some point the Facebooks and Twitters and Flickrs and Tumblrs and other mangled wordmarks tend to run together and it's hard to find where each subject belongs.

The problem (at least for me, anyway) is that I end up writing the same thing over and over again, but skewing it slightly based on my perceived audience. What I post on Facebook is inevitably different than I post on this blog; likewise, I'll post stuff on Twitter that I wouldn't post on Facebook, and vice versa. Some of my posts on this blog have come almost verbatim from that photo's description on Flickr, while some are completely unique.

Frankly, I don't even really know who I'm writing for.

I've also been doing a lot of studying into some of my favorite photographers, and I've come to a realization: the best of them blog ALL OF THE TIME. And not just about weddings or families or babies or whatever it is they are shooting at that time; they will write about themselves, their travels, their likes and dislikes. It's like a conversation with a friend rather than a brochure.

The words show you what is going on behind the camera.

Sarah Rhoads does this brilliantly. Jonas Peterson doesn't even have a gallery, and simply uses a running stream of commentary. Stacy Reeves, Ben Godkin, Mary Dougherty are but a few that I follow on a regular basis to get inspiration and learning.

This is the kind of photographer I want to be.

I'm getting a little scattered here, so let me try and bring it to my main point.

I think that, for the most part, this blog has fulfilled its purpose. My photographic journey has already surpassed my wildest expectations, and this blog really helped me sort my way through it. But it's time to move onto the next step and put on my big boy photographer pants.

I'm working with my utterly brilliant web guy to completely redo my blog concept for my website. This new blog will be more of "professional" blog, with recaps of all the sessions that I do. I'll be blogging more often, and with many more pictures.

It's the next step. It's stepping back and looking at the whole picture. It's examining where you've come from and where you're about to go. It's getting your brilliance out there for all the world to see. And I've got a bucketload of brilliance, dang it.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for commenting back. Thanks for clicking through and looking at the rest of my pictures. Thanks for coming back time and time again.


the unforgettable fire

The following is my account of the Glenrosa, Rose Valley and Terrace Mountain forest fires in July 2009. These pictures and words first appeared on my Flickr account.

(18.7.09. 7:45pm)

My city is on fire.

It's been seasonably hot lately...no rain for at least a week, and temperatures consistently above 30C. Can't lie, I was beaming at the thought of a weekend spent on the beach.

About 2:30 this afternoon a fire started in the hills above Gorman's Mill, in an area called Glenrosa. It started to spread quickly through the dry forest. The winds started to gust. Within two hours it had grown to 15 hectares large. Helos started to appear on the horizon first, dropping their buckets on the blaze.

Then the winds changed direction. The fire jumped the highway, and started burning down towards the lake. Evacuations started coming fast and furious. 4000 homes are currently evacuated, approximately 10000 total people displaced. 5 hours later, the total size was pegged at 50 hectares. Bombers started to appear; according to local radio, every plane in the province has been called to fight this blaze.

The worst part is that only 6 years ago we had a similar fire in this area, directly across the lake from this one. 45000 people were evacuated, 239 homes were lost. Driving across the bridge with the ash coming down and the smoke coming trough the air vents, it felt like reliving a really bad dream.

An overnight bag, my computer and camera gear are sitting at the door. The blaze is 6 km away. Radio just announced it's at 200 hectares wide.

(18.7.09. 10:12pm)

Three local radio stations (Top 40, easy listening, and talk) are simulcasting updates.

Second fire further north announced, near Fintry. Currently 55 hectares large. Sparsely populated, but also growing fast.

Lists of evacuated streets are being read out. Including Reece Rd, unnervingly enough.

Air support has been suspended for the night.

The command center for battling the blaze actually had to be relocated due to advancing flames.

Third fire announced at Rose Valley dam.

Won't be sleeping tonight.

This photo was featured on CBC.com as well as CBC Newsworld coverage.

(19.7.09. 6:50 am)

Awoke with the vague taste of campfire in my mouth.

Hear the whir and thump of helicopters outside my window.

Overnight they evacuated part of Rose Valley. Glenrosa is still fully evacuated. The highway is now shut down at the Gellatly/Gosset intersection.

Starbucks was closed.

(19.7.09. 12:35pm)

Press conference on the radio. 6500 residences on alert or evac'd. 17000 (of 29000 total) residents affected.

Glenrosa fire is at 350 hectares. Looks "much more promising" this morning, slower early morning winds helped to attack some major areas.

The Mill was saved by the work of crews and staff, a small but crucial victory that is repeated as mantra by spokespeople for the forest service and RCMP.

Rose Valley fire is at 100 hectares. Rough terrain has limited heavy machinery, but helicopters and planes have been hitting it.

Terrace Mountain fire is at 100 hectares. Few structures are threatened, guards are maintained, but the focus is on the other two blazes.

Air quality is deteriorating quickly.

(19.7.09. 9:02pm)

The winds stayed steady, but much calmer than yesterday. The Glenrosa fire is now 40% contained. Rose Valley is still burning, but the growth rate has slowed. Terrace Mountain is out of control, over 850 hectares large at last estimate.

Officials have now confirmed that both the Rose Valley fire and Terrace Mountain fire were human caused. No other details given through pursed lips.

Stopped by a producer and reporter for GlobalBC while taking pictures with The Girl. Brought them up to a vantage point from last night. Maybe it will still be glowing? Tune in at 11 to find out.

(20.7.09. 1:10am)

Heard the official opposition's public safety critic on the radio, smearing the government for alleged inaction. Then heard the host absolutely tear a strip out of him for grandstanding in the face of a crisis.

Air is smokey again after a period of clearing this evening. Satellite photos on the evening news show smoke reaching down into northern Washington state.

Every time I go out to my car, it's blanketed by a thin layer of light grey ash.

The night is absolutely silent save for distant sirens bouncing off hills. Highway is deserted.

Fire guards are established. No additional structures were lost.

A decidedly good day.

(20.7.09. 6:55pm)

The morning was surprisingly clear. The smoke hung high above the valley, but the sun shone through. Breathing seems a much more pleasant experience than yesterday, although I might just be used to the smell.

The Regional District declared a state of emergency late last evening, mostly as a precautionary measure in case the fire crossed territorial boundaries.

The fires stayed virtually the same size today, but still remain largely uncontained. Evacuation notices were extended for another 72 hrs. The Top 40 station started regular programming again, with regular updates between Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas.

The air started to descend around dinnertime, until it was impossible to see the other side of the valley.

It's getting hotter. 32 today, 35+ for the rest of the week. Gonna be a scorcher.

(21.7.09. 9:50pm)

Major press conference tonight. Both the Glenrosa and Rose Valley fires actually shrank in size, from 400 down to 290 hectares and 150 down to 100 hectares respectively. Both are now somewhat contained. Terrace Mountain exploded, growing from 850 to over 1300 hectares, but still a ways away from any structures.

6000 of the 11000 evacuees will be allowed to return home at 8am tomorrow morning.

The banner headline on all local news sites quotes the West Kelowna Fire Chief: "We had a really good day today."

As if to celebrate, the breeze picked up a bit after dinner. It blew the hanging smoke cloud out of the valley, leaving a night that almost felt...normal.

(22.7.09. 4:19pm)

The middle school behind my house has been turned into a secondary command center for the firefighters. The parking lot is packed with dark green BC Forest Service F350s, and the soccer fields play host to choppers. They don't appear to be the bucketing ones, however; these are used for chauffeuring bigwigs like Premier Gordon Campbell around the devastation.

Some of the evacuees have reported looting in their homes upon returning.

Friends of mine returned home to find ash covering the entire interior of their house. In the 10 minutes they had to pack up and leave, they had neglected to close the windows.

The cause of all three fires is yet to be determined, but all have been confirmed to be human caused.

(22.7.09. 8:35pm)

All remaining evacuees of the Glenrosa and Rose Valley fires have been allowed to return home. Both fires were reported to be 80% contained, with the goal of 100% by this evening.

A light breeze was blowing north, which took care of any residual smoke from either of these fires. The air was the clearest it's been for a week.

The Terrace Mountain fire, however, was still out of control and beginning to encroach on some far-flung homes. At 1800 hectares and growing, this one is far from tamed. Evacuation alerts have been placed for about 2200 people, mostly because there is only one road to escape should the fire change direction quickly.

The temperature is rising. 36 today, nothing less than 33 for the next week.


(9.9.09 4:32PM)

Weeks later, the Terrace Mountain fire continues to smoulder. It flared up several times over the following weeks, causing evacuations for residents between West Kelowna and Vernon. It remains contained at 9300 hectares, and the Forest Service continues to monitor it.

Yesterday, the provincial government announced they have spent over $300 million on fires since April, with another $100 million more expected. Over 3000 fires have been battled, and 1000 firefighters are still working on blazes.

The remnants of the fires are very obvious; when the air is clear, large dark swaths of forest can be seen on the mountains. Neglected store signs still proclaim their thanks to the brave men and women who fought the blazes. The fields where helicopters came and went play host to soccer teams again, but there still hangs a sign on the fence proclaiming "DANGER" - a darkly poignant reminder of what was.


no line on the horizon

My September thus far has been spent cleaning up after the craziness that was July and August.

Weddings, engagements, concerts, families, blogs, visitors...oh yeah, and my day job...made the summer go by ridiculously fast. I shot a ton this summer, and as I edit the thousands of pictures taken, I'm a little bit surprised to find that my style is changing rapidly.

It has become visibly different.

My composition has definitely matured as I better understand the mechanics of my camera. I'm more confident in my abilities to capture a moment, so I take 6 frames instead of 20. But my processing methods have changed fairly dramatically, and I really like they way it is going.

Through trial and error, I've developed a processing method that gives my pictures a modified sepia/antiqued look. Whites lose their glare as they become ivory. Skin begins to luminesce. Bright colours are still eye-catching, but no longer distract like they do in highly saturated pictures.

I used to hate shooting outdoors in "natural" settings. I always found the brown and green mountains to muddy up my bright, vivid pictures. Now, I've come to appreciate the subtle backdrop they create.

Paradoxically, it feels like a more accurate representation of a specific moment in time. It's not just a snapshot; no, it has become permanent record of what was.

There's a warmth to my pictures now. They invite you into the moment they are recording.

That, for me, is the key. As I flip through picture after picture after picture, I am unconsciously looking to be drawn into that moment. If I don't feel it, it won't make the cut. This new method has saved many a photograph from that unapologetic fate.

15.8.09. Temperature adjusted, increased vibrance, decreased saturation.
14.7.09. Temperature adjusted, increased vibrance, decreased saturation, increased clarity.
9.7.09. Color adjusted, increased vibrance, decreased saturation, increased contrast.
14.8.09. Blues removed, increased vibrance, decreased saturation, increased contrast.



Quite a while ago I had a fleeting chance to use a Polaroid camera. I loved it, and commented that I'd love to get my own to play with. The Girl remembered this, and purchased me one for my birthday.

This is possibly the greatest gift I have ever been given; the only gift that comes close would be the Super Nintendo I got for Christmas when I was nine or ten.

It is hilariously fun. Using this somewhat limited format presents new challenges, which is a welcome respite from my summer of wedding madness. I've been pretty deliberate with my frames though. Film is no longer available outside of Ebay, and it works out to about $2.50 per exposure. There's really no room for error. Each time one turns out blurry it hurts a lot more than usual.

The camera whirs and clicks after the shutter is pressed. The picture is spit out the front, and that's it; there's no duplicate copies. You don't get a second try if it doesn't turn out. It's limiting. But it's also tangible.

This camera is both incredibly maddening and wholly exhilarating.



flower child

My Lightroom library hit 25000 images the other day.

Obviously they aren't all gems. Hitting that arbitrarily important number actually spurred me on to clean out my photo library, and I ended up deleting about 4000 before getting bored with the task. The best part, however, was looking at all these old images I'd taken, with old gear, raw technique and an unsure shutter finger. It was an unabashed reminder of where I've come from on this photographic journey.

I've done one full wedding and two receptions now, a half dozen engagement sessions and a number of various other projects. I've bought some new gear, tried some new techniques, and I'm starting to feel like it's all coming together, and in fact, this session was really the tipping point for me.

It felt like everything worked. The clients were relaxed and having fun. They LIKED having their picture taken. They looked great together. They thought ahead and co-ordinated their outfits...yes, plural; they deliberately brought multiple outfits.

They were willing to do things, to try stuff. "Get in the lake? Sure!" They didn't mind taking direction and brought their own ideas.

The locations worked beautifully, and suited their personalities. The sun was bright yet slightly muted behind a hazy high cloud which made everything glow.

I'm often really paranoid when I shoot. I never feel like I've 'got' the shot while I'm shooting; a photo session always ends with slightly forced enthusiasm that I hope hides my insecurity in my abilities. It usually ends up totally fine, but the feeling has always still gnawed.

Until now. As I was shooting Sarah Jane and Ryan, knew it was going to be amazing. I just knew it.

And that, dear readers, was a tremendous milestone.

14.06.09. Slightly increased vibrance, added vignette, slight colour correction.
14.06.09. Desaturated, increased vibrance, adjusted white balance, increased contrast.
14.06.09. Increased vibrance, desaturaded, increased exposure, slightly increase clarity.
14.06.09. Slightly increased contrast and exposure.