i believe in father christmas

Sometimes the greatest projects simply fall into your lap.

Several months ago some friends mentioned they would like to do a photoshoot for their Christmas cards. It was one of those hilarious projects that gets talked about, discussed, planned...and ultimately shuffled to the bottom of the priority list until it fades away from memory.

This had the potential to be one of those, except that it actually happened.

Chelsey (middle) and Jordan (left) are married, while Diana (right) lives in their basement. They wanted pictures for Christmas cards - and naturally wanted to look absolutely haggard.

Fortunately, my cheap lighting set up lends itself perfectly to a purposefully amateurish photoshoot. I brought a several of my construction lamps into their living room, and set them up to cast stupid shadows behind the subjects. I myself am quite partial to the star behind Jordan's shoulder.

While I enjoyed doing this shoot, the funniest part came in post-production. I knew they would look ridiculous, but I had no idea how funny the pictures would be; several times I had to actually walk away from the computer because I could no longer see through the tears of laughter.

And the funniest part? After these pics were posted on Facebook, I had FOUR separate people ask me to do family portraits for them. Seriously? Hundreds, thousands of pictures and these make you want me?

Sigh. I don't get it.

8.12.08. Cropped to 3X5, slight colour correction.
8.12.08. Slight colour correction.


walk on

My brother and I are building a house, and moving day is about 5 weeks away.

He and his wife are taking the upstairs, and I'm taking the basement. It's large, well laid out, and provides me the opportunity to design and decorate as I want to.

I'm excited to, for the first time, make prints of my photos to display on my walls. I spent an evening with my photogenic friend, going through my favorite pictures trying to figure out which would look best, and these are two that made the cut:

This was taken in New York during one of the few brief moments I could deke out and take pictures. This is near Lincoln Center, where there was a ton of construction going on. I like how the perspective is very sharp, with clean lines drawing your eyes to the center of the photograph, and how the walls, floor and ceiling are all sharply patterned and defined. I also like how the dark silhouette is slightly off-centered, which keeps the whole picture from becoming too symmetrical.

This shot came from the first wedding I participated in, and it remains one of my favorites. I like the patterns, how the bricks form expanding circles while the flower petals form a subtle triangle pointing up to the top of the frame. This was one of the first pictures that made me say 'hey, I can DO this!'; I think it deserves a place above my couch.

There are a number of similarities between the two pictures with the patterns and dark figures, which creates an interesting juxtaposition, especially if they are hung near each other.

There will likely be a few more, including this one and this one. I realize they are all black and white, but I haven't yet found one in colour I want to print and frame. Plus the monochrome will look really good with the paint scheme I have going on.

18.10.08. Cropped to 3X5, increased contrast, increased black clipping.
29.6.08. Cropped to 3X5, slightly increased contrast.


tryin' to throw your arms around the world

Today I fulfill a promise I made.

To Write Love On Her Arms is a registered non-profit based out of Florida. Their mission statement, ripped from their website, is "to present hope and find help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide." Personally, I discovered them via t-shirts sold at concerts, but many others have found them through MySpace or Facebook, or simply by word of mouth.

I'll admit I was initially hooked by clever design of the shirt, but what sold me was the story.

This isn't theoretical Christianity. This is real and raw. This is compassion and grace. I was inspired, and I was convicted. It's saving a precious life through prayer, coffee, music, and cigarettes, but mostly through Love.

The Love that seeks to rebuild. The Love that pulls someone back from the brink. The Love that gets dirty. The Love that gives and gives and gives and gives.

Today was To Write Love On Her Arms day. What is beautiful about this event is that it was not started by TWLOHA themselves...no, it began as an event created by a fifteen year-old girl in Ottawa. She was filled with the desire to affect change, and once she posted said event on Facebook, an astounding 499,000 (and counting) people identified themselves as taking part. Nearly half a million people pledged to write love on their arms today.

I was one. I took a black Sharpie and wrote 'LOVE' on my left wrist. I had been screwing around in Photoshop with a concept drawing involving the word for a while, and I tried my best to recreate it using marker and skin.

I learned that I am a terrible artist when it comes to using tangible things like pens. I have way more success with computers and cameras, so I think I'll be sticking to them.

But it did the trick. I was asked several times why I had written on my arm, and I was able to share the values and goals of TWLOHA with them. Awareness was spread.

I'm under no illusion that I personally made any huge breakthrough today. But I was one of (maybe) eight at work today with love on his arm. I was one of a half million around the world. Did I make a difference? Maybe, maybe not. But did WE make a difference?

Unequivocally, yes. I firmly believe it.




I am officially a professional photographer.

My friend Josh released his first CD and his photographer for the release party canceled at the last minute. I happened to be going to his show anyway, so he asked me to take pictures of the event in exchange for money. For money! Can you believe it? I've hit the big time.

This was the first concert/show I'd shot, and it was fun to try out lighting effects, metering and exposure levels. I love the halo of light created by the spotlight behind Josh's head. And interestingly, because the guitar picks on the mic stand are translucent, they positively glow in this picture. I had initially edited them out, but I think I prefer them left in.

I must credit my friend Jessie for teaching me this technique. By using a slow shutter speed and zooming your lens halfway through the exposure, you can create this interesting blurring effect. The black background helps to define the streaks, and I ended up with a cool lens flare from the spot in the corner.

This one frustrated me to no end in post-production, but I am really happy with how it turned out. The shoes are the crisp and clean and stand out in the picture, especially in black and white. I probably edited this picture at least a dozen times before I came up with this version. In the end, so worth it.

18.10.08. Cropped to 3X5, increased contrast, slightly increased highlights.
18.10.08. Cropped to 3X5, slight colour correction.
18.10.08. Cropped to 3X5, increased contrast, reduced highlights, increased black clipping, sharpened clarity.


ultraviolet (light my way)

After a whirlwind trip to NYC, I flew on to Los Angeles. JFK to LAX. Just another typical Saturday.

I was sent on to LA/Anaheim with a number of other people from work. Part of the trip was spent in Disneyland doing team-building and brainstorming excercises. We were broken into groups of 3-4 and sent out with a task: to capture on film how families interact in the park.

We were given Polaroid cameras and two packs of film to capture the moments with. My group's camera was straight out of the 70's, so I ended up cruising around Frontierland with a giant box hanging around my neck. It was sweet. So many comments, so many strange looks. Having never used a Polaroid camera before, I was having a blast.

We used 14 exposures during the exercise, which left me 6 to experiment with.

These are the three I liked, but the middle one is my favorite. It's a picture of my laptop, camera and phone - the peak of modern technology captured by the peak of 70's technology. So meta, in a really cheesy way. That pretty much sums me up.

I absolutely fell in love with the Polaroid camera. I enjoyed the challenge of finding the right shot in such a limited format. I'd love to find one of my own, although I better do it soon.

27.10.08. Cropped to 3X5.


new york

I spent 39 hours in New York City - not enough time to capture a whole lot.

I saw a good deal of Broadway, from Lincoln Center to Columbus Circle to Times Square, and Central Park West. I saw the original Macy's and Carnegie Hall.

I saw the Boys in Blue, and what had to have been members of the Mob. I often saw them together.

I missed only one stop while navigating the subway.

I spent time with some great friends. I ate at interesting restaurants that did not belong to a major chain. I was harangued by a woman with a Bronx accent about putting her two-year-old into commercials.

I shot almost exclusively in black and white. New York has texture and depth that can't be replicated anywhere else. After seeing it in movies and television, it felt real and tangible while simultaneously surreal.

I spent 39 hours in New York City - just enough to draw me back.

10.23.08. Cropped to 3X5, increased contrast, decreased exposure.
10.24.08. Cropped to 3X5, slightly increased contrast, increased highlights.


dirty day

I had an hour to kill.

Fortunately, I have gotten into the habit of carrying my camera in my car wherever I go. Out comes the camera and off go I, in search of something interesting. I found several of said somethings, just off of Pandosy (if you can believe it).

Graffiti and bills are about the last thing you would expect to see in the Mission. Fortunately for my photographic self, the abandoned Liquidation World building was an available canvas.

Similarly, no one would suspect the wall behind Sports Rent (née Mountain Surf, née Ski World) was covered in a huge mural of stylized Star Wars figures. Nor would one expect such disrespect for a highly revered member of the tridactyl species.

Photographers will often take (or commision others to take) pictures of themselves that are clear, clean, contrasty and classic. Search any bio page on a photographer's website, and you'll see what I mean.

I didn't expect to take this picture, nor did I anticipate it would turn out like it did, but this is absolutely the pic I will be using on my updated website. I love the many layers in the picture, from the blinds to the sign to me to the cars to the storefronts in the back. It's dirty, it's cryptic, it's nuanced, it's revealing and concealing at the same time. It perfectly sums up what I try to capture with my camera.

My pictures don't always have those layers and layers of subtext...but my best ones do. I hope to take more of them.

30.8.08. Cropped to 3X5, slight colour correction.
30.8.08. Cropped to 3X5, slight colour correction.
30.8.08. Cropped to 3X5, increase contrast, increased highlights.


if god will send his angels

My friend Chelsey is an accomplished makeup artist. Out of nowhere, she was presented with an incredible job opportunity, but there was a catch - she needed to produce a portfolio of her work in less than a week.

So the call went out: any one willing to be painted and/or take pictures? Naturally, I agreed to be paint...I mean take pictures.

This shoot was interesting because I arrived as the sun was beginning to move behind the mountains, and after the first few models, we had to use lights. I had only used lights a grand total of once before, so this was a huge learning experience.

Jocelyn was one of the first I shot, and the only one who I managed to get with natural light. I like rich colors compared to the grey, lightly textured background.

First major learning: models need something to do, or else they get skittish and awkward. This is especially true when their hands are empty. We pulled out a guitar for Jocelyn, and she relaxed immediately.

The lights we managed to wrangle up were those generic yellow work lights, which is pretty much the worst light you can use to photograph. To reduce some of the harshness I added a bunch of tea lights, which actually created a cool scene in addition to softening the light.

Second major learning: models need to be talked to constantly, or else they get skittish and awkward again. This was the first time I tried a scene to act out. The idea is that Kim set up a romantic evening, the table and two chairs, the candles, the hair and makeup...and the guy never showed. Can you see it?

After shooting model after model with the same backdrops I was starting to get bored - the parasol was found in the back of a closet. It made for a great background, the texture and neutral colour complimenting the hair and makeup nicely while the green really makes Shanna's eyes pop.

I took 1200 pictures that night. Not all of them were gems, many ruined by shadows from mis-placed lights. But you can be sure the next ones will be better.

15.9.08. Cropped to 3X5, slight colour correction.
15.9.08. Increased contrast, slight colour correction.
15.9.08. Cropped to 3X5, slight colour correction, increased contrast.


running to stand still

I went grocery shopping yesterday. Not just running in to pick up essentials like milk and veggies, but all the secondary things that you can keep pushing 'til next week (or until it all runs out at the same time). Stuff like freezer bags and paper towel.

It was heavenly.

The last six weeks have been undoubtedly the busiest of my life. The kind of busy where investing two hours to grocery shop is out of the question. The kind of busy where each week has a new major priority that takes over your life. The kind of busy where your focus and attention is split between a million different things.

The business trip. The photoshoots. The race. The concert. The new team launch. At vying for my attention, all now complete, and all successful. Fall has finally arrived. My team is now two weeks in and running full steam ahead. The house already has the joists in and the financing secured.

The craziness has ended, and the craziness begins anew.

Although the concept of routine is finally a plausible reality, I do have lingering regret that I was unable to write this summer. I started this blog to document my journey from Guy With Camera and No Skills to Guy With Slightly Better Camera and Some Skills, and a huge portion of that journey has occurred these past months.

I can't wait to share it with you.

2.9.08. Cropped to 3X5, slight colour correction.



Things that will happen in the next two weeks:

I will begin digging the foundation on my new house.

I will travel to LA for business, one year after my last visit. I will fly there on a corporate jet. And I will stay in a Disneyland Hotel.

I will see Ryan Adams open for Oasis, thus doubling my chance to hear 'Wonderwall' played live.

I will choose seven people to work on the team I have been building this summer.

I will decide what courses to take this fall semester.

I will watch as my teammate descends down West 4th Ave in a soapbox designed to look like a flying penguin.

I will be in the lake at least 15% of my waking hours.

I will continue my character studies of Disney princesses, a project that began as a joke but has actually become somewhat serious as time goes on.

I will take thousands for pictures. And I will document them here. Preferably with the same frequency I used to.

24.8.07. Cropped to 3X5.
18.7.08. Cropped to 3X5.


one minute warning

Things that have happened in the last two weeks:

I (finally!) attended the Beach Blanket Film Festival.
The BBFF is held in Penticton each July, and I always seem to miss it by a week. Fortunately I remembered this year, and made it to the final showing on Sunday night. The evening began at 8PM with live music, which continued until just before the last bit of light slipped behind the mountains. After showing four short films (including a beloved piece of Canadiana), Sarah Polley's Away From Her was presented. While the film is remarkable to begin with, nothing can really compare to seeing it with stars up above and a breeze coming in off of the lake.

I was accepted as a competitor in the Red Bull Soapbox Derby.

The Derickson's did family portraits.
The Derickson's are moving to Vancouver in a few days, so I invited them over for dinner and photos. After "sensuous" cedar planked salmon (caught just days before by my father on his fishing trip), we went down to various spots I had scoped out in Peachland. The light was good, the subjects were relaxed, and the posting of these photographs has prompted another flurry of requests for pictures.

I became the Tour Manager for the biggest band you've never heard of.

The Megan came to visit.
Alana tends to show up in several of my pictures, not only because she is quite photogenic, but also because she isn't afraid of the camera. This is helpful, as I often get tired of just shooting things. Her cousin Megan had seen some of the pics on Facebook, and demanded that we do a photoshoot when she come to visit. And I'm not one to say no to that. I took over a thousand pictures over 3 days, including one of the best pictures I have ever taken.

I became a landowner.

My father turned 50.
To celebrate, my mother planned a shindig and a half: live band, authentic Mexican food catered by my friend Yza, margaritas and Coronas cold as ice, nearly a hundred of my parent's closest friends dispersed comfortably around the house. I spent most of the party fetching supplies that were running low and dodging questions about my love life by the usual suspects. But I got at least three days worth of leftover food, so I consider it a resounding success.

20.7.08. Cropped to 3X5
23.7.08. Cropped to 3X5
26.7.08. Cropped to 3X5
25.7.08. Cropped to 3X5


staring at the sun

I woke up yesterday at 3:02 AM.

This happens occasionally, and I can usually fall back asleep, but this morning I could not. No matter how hard I tried. Then the birds started chirping at about 4, and if you are wide awake, the chirping of birds may as well be rush hour traffic.

I was getting more and more frustrated as time ticked on...until I saw the sky start to lighten through the seams of my tightly shut blinds and I thought about the sunrise.

When I worked waterfront at Green Bay, my favorite part of the job was driving boats before breakfast when the water was the calmest. As the July would move into August, the days became shorter, and I would consistently find myself skimming across the lake while the sun was rising.

An Okanagan sunrise in a boat is probably the closest thing to heaven on earth.

Remembering this, I dragged my seething self out of bed, grabbed my camera, and walked down to the water. The air was crisp, not yet baked by the height of summer. The only sound came from a particularly obnoxious seagull, obviously peeved that I had invaded his beach.

The sky was dusky yet cloudless, turning from yellow to slate to light blue to pink from east to west. I sat on the turquoise dock with the peeled paint with my toes in the water and sang (woefully out of tune) hymns to myself. I sat, and I waited, and I took in the beauty around me.

I like to think that God roused me as he did Samuel.

A week into my new position at work, I can see the responsibility growing rapidly and the possibility for stress to sneak in. Perhaps He knew that I would need a little reminder to slow down and take it all in.

Looking west, I could see the mountains turning purple as the first rays of sunlight hit, so I stood up and took off the lens cap and waited until the sun broke free from the horizon.

14.7.08. Cropped to 3X5.


things to make and do

Tonight was the first public showing of my photography.

Kind of.

Some friends of mine host an event called Mars Hill Cafe. This event, held every other Tuesday, is designed to feature local musicians and artists with an emphasis on social consciousness. Fair Trade coffee is served, and performing acts are encouraged to speak about philanthropic or charitable organizations they support*.

This is the same event that I was brushing up on my guitar skills for, and while that didn't exactly pan out (I was way rustier than I had anticipated), I decided it was time to get some real public feedback on my photos.

Through Flickr and Facebook, all of the pictures I exhibited tonight have been readily available for public view and, in fact, many of my comments about each picture were pulled from this very blog. It was not a traditional showing in that sense, but it was the first time I had presented my work to a group made up of largely strangers.

The popularity of and comments about certain pictures has surprised me at times, and tonight was no exception.

This picture, far and away, elicited the most positive reaction from the crowd. I can understand it: a good portion of the crowd was my parent's age (a demographic I presume to enjoy bridges and greenery), and it is admitedly a decent picture. But it seems like low art, something you again might see on the wall in a guest bathroom. Not the aesthetic niche I'm really looking for.

This is one of my favorite pictures, taken on my trip to Toronto. I love the characters, the pose, the setting, the significance, the aesthetic...THIS is what I what I want to shoot. It is new, unusual, interesting and unique.

It also didn't really capture the audience who had fawned over the previous photo.

Except for the cute blonde that told me that she L-O-V-E-D this picture. And that was enough for me.

12.4.08. Cropped to 3X5.
8.4.08. Cropped to 3X5.

*The organization I chose to speak about is To Write Love On Her Arms, which I have previously mentioned. I am planning to detail this organization in a future post, thus decided to not include it here. Stay tuned.


some days are better than others

Canada Day:

Before barbecued chicken and prawns with some great friends, and a hot show by my new favorite band, the day started with a visit to the Fintry Delta. Even though I've lived in the Valley for nearly 18 years, I only discovered it a few years back. This is one of the most beautiful places I've physically visited; the creek/river/whatever you want to call it has a number of falls along it, each with a deep pool under the fall itself. One fall even has a natural waterslide from one pool to the other, the rock worn smooth by years of rushing water.

You know those commercials that posit that soap can mimic the freshness of a waterfall? No way it could even come close. Swimming under a waterfall is unquestionably the purest thing on earth.

The trick to shooting waterfalls is using a high f-stop and slow shutter to get a smooth, creamy look. I rarely use small apertures, preferring a narrow depth of field and the ability to shoot in natural light. This particular picture was shot at f/22, the highest my camera/lens combination would allow. Although the picture doesn't do justice to the overwhelming beauty of the canyon, I like how the waterfall turned out.

The roommate and I will be going back regularly throughout the summer, so if you're interested in joining, let us know.

1.7.08. Cropped to 3X5, slight colour correction.


luminous times (hold on to love)

I shot my first wedding this weekend.

Fortunately, I was not 'the' photographer; all I was really asked to do was to shoot the guys as they were getting ready in the morning. Once they had jumped in the van to drive to the ceremony, my responsibilities were over.

This was great because, at the ceremony, I felt zero pressure. Since I didn't have to get every special moment, I'd watch where the primary photographer was and try and get a different angle on the scenario*, or even a completely different picture.

And while they were getting family portraits done, I simply walked around shooting whatever I thought looked interesting.

Half of the pictures I took at the ceremony were simply of the guests. People tend to look good at weddings, so I tried to get one good picture of each of my friends. Six of these have ended up as Facebook profile pics so far, so I judge this exercise a success.

It was a really great experience, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Not as the principal photographer mind you; this is too much fun to ruin with responsibility. Besides, to do it properly, I'd need a longer telephoto lens, a lens hood for my wide, UV filters, speedlites...

29.6.08. Cropped to 3X5.
29.6.08. Cropped to 3X5.


a day without me

Well glory be.

I have been laterally promoted to a new position at work and will be joining the ranks of nine-to-fivers Monday-through-Friday. As a result, this previous Sunday was my final Sunday shift at the igloo*, and I knew it had to be a little something special.

I've had this Sunday shift for what seems like an eternity, and it's been really hard. Sundays should be spent chillaxing with friends after church, not dealing with children pretending to be their parents. To combat this dread (and to ensure that my personal feelings don't bleed into the team), I've gone out of my way to make Sundays ridiculous and over the top.

We've done plenty - carefully researched presentations about beloved childhood literature, fondue parties, twin day, all 90s Music Request Weekend - but only one era could capture the ridiculousness that is Sundays...

The 1980s.
Obviously 80s parties aren't breaking any new ground, but it was a good time. We brought in food and had a potluck. We played foosball. I got some wicked pictures. We listened to forgotten 80s classics and relived Saturday morning cartoons.

I was profoundly sad when 8pm rolled around. As much as I am looking forward to the new normal, I will miss my crew. I am blessed to have worked with truly remarkable people.

22.6.08. Cropped to 3X5.

*yes, a pun since we deal with penguins, but fact as well. I swear, they keep the temperture nailed at 17 degrees in the summer. It is ridiculous to be bundled up in jeans and sweatshirts while it's 30 degrees outside, but also necessary to survive.



As you, the vast hordes of regular visitors to my blog, have noticed, I've been far less diligent in posting as of late.

Like everything else in my life, the creative process is predictably cyclical. I find myself currently at the bottom of that cycle, right at the spot where the effort/result ratio seems especially fruitless. My writing seems especially indulgent and overwrought. I'm finding it harder to discover interesting subjects to photograph. It seems counterintuitive that this would come right at the time when the legendary Okanagan weather has finally arrived, but I suppose it makes sense: instead of clickity-clicking away in a coffee shop, I spend my mornings before work lying by the pool amongst the tiny white flowers that line the courtyard.

There aren't any outlets conveniently placed out there, and besides, the blazing sun casts a glare off of the computer screen that makes it hard to work anyway.

The only thing I've found that can prevent me from falling victim to a permanent creative ennui is the work of other writers and photographers I admire. I watched Factory Girl a few nights ago, and while I enjoyed the concept of Andy Warhol's Factory, it was the inspiration and stimulus that Edie brought to Andy that I could immediately relate to.

It's been ten days since I last posted, and my day began with the resignation that I had nothing to say - until my Google Reader flashed with the familiar link in all lowercase.

It's a little piece about shining shoes. A piece that wasn't about shining shoes at all. A piece that was revealing, funny, sad, incredibly descriptive, insightful, and beautiful.

I'm no Andy Warhol, and it would be impossible to fit her in the Edie Segwick box. But this dear friend in Upper Canada was the inspiration to begin this exercise, and it seems perfectly appropriate that she be the inspiration to continue.

11.6.08 Cropped to 3X5.


when i look at the world

My grand epiphany this week: I shoot very happy pictures.

In fact, after pouring through my expanding library of pictures, I could not find one photo of mine that had a decidedly sad or melancholy feel. No matter what the picture is, I always seem to find the laughter and hope in the scene, no matter how minute. It was a startling realization for me.

I think everyone can unconsciously understand (or at least appreciate) the relationship between art and emotion. It's the reason "Reunion Tour" by the Weakerthans is the perfect winter soundtrack. It's the reason Monet prints decorate an untold number of livingrooms. It's the reason So You Think You Can Dance is the best show on television once The Office goes into summer reruns.

Obviously art will affect emotion, but I hadn't really experienced how emotion affects art (by first affecting the artist). This realization that I haven't yet taken sad pictures really makes perfect sense once I've thought about it. Twenty-Five, in addition to being a year of change, has been one of the best years of my life, and my photographic career has coincided perfectly with this period. In terms of job satisfaction, personal growth, financial stability and emotional balance, Twenty-Five is clearly on top. It makes perfect sense that as I document the world around me, that joy would be infused into my pictures.

But...can an artist dissociate themselves from their work? Can I take a sad picture? HAVE I taken a sad picture and just not known it?

The second realization I've had recently is that others will pick things out of my pictures that I would have never considered. And that, I think, is what I love so much about my new hobby. Once I can let go of the pictures I've taken and allow others to critique them, read into them, draw from them, they become something even greater than I intended them to be.

And THAT makes me happy.

9.12.07. Cropped to 3X5.


pride (in the name of love)

I went a little crazy today.

With my B&W Portrait project well under way, there are a couple of photography projects I have been looking forward to starting. Both necessitate the use of a tripod, so I set out to purchase one. A new photography store opened up in Westbank recently, and I like to support my local shop.

Except it turns out they are going out of business. The place was just about picked clean from their blowout sale and the last tripod they had in stock was walking out the door.

I should have left right then.

Instead, I got distracted by the lens case. By the 17-55 f/2.8 staring at me like the puppy in the pet store window. At 30% off.

I ended up finding a tripod at London Drugs. And I picked up Photoshop CS3 from a friend, which means I have all that I needed to begin my new projects: cloning (which will come a little bit later) and self-portraits.

I wanted my first attempt at a self portrait to be meaningful and nuanced or, at the very least, make me look cool. I've been inspired by the snapshot aesthetic lately, a movement that has led to the sort of photography you see in ads for hipster-chic brands like Converse and American Apparel. This was shot in my bedroom with the light from my open windows and the camera's built-in flash. The umbrella is the one I searched for in Toronto, and the zip-up is from To Write Love On Her Arms.

The sweater is one of my favorites. I wore it a lot during my trip, and I have never owned a piece of clothing that has elicited as many remarks as this sweater has. I was constantly stopped by strangers who complimented me on it. By clerks, by baristas, by homeless guys, by a dude in a two thousand dollar suit. All because of the word printed on the front.

I have enough self-awareness to know I am no authority on love, so I won't try and impress you with some pithy aphorism. But I do know the word is powerful enough that strangers will approach others in the street. What other word could trigger that?

Incidentally, I now won't be able to afford food for the next few months. If you feel like showing a little love, why not invite me over for dinner? I could take amazing pictures of you.

8.5.08. Cropped to 3X5, reduced lowlights, slight colour adjustment.


like a song...

Inspiration is a funny thing.

I've been feeling a little dry since I got back from TO. Like I have used up my reserve of creative thought, lost my muse, or whatever else it is that sparks an artist to create. I haven't felt this way in a while. It has been a little disconcerting.

Then I was invited to an open mic night.

Now, I've never really done an open mic night before (unless you count the classic campfire confessional), but for whatever reason I got really excited about this. So I pulled out my guitar for the first time in months and started to play. I figure I can contribute either a song, some slam poetry or a stand-up routine, and of those three I think a song will be the least embarrassing.

It was quickly apparent that I only know about 5 chords. And that writing music is really hard. And that you lose the callouses on your fingers when you don't play for a while (seriously, the tips of my fingers feel like they've been attacked by extraordinarily vicious rodents). But I had a blast. I've always liked the guitar, and I've always wondered what could have been had I, at age 13, chosen the guitar instead of drums.

Guitars are, by and large, way cooler than drums. Guitar players definitely get more attention (or more accurately, attention from girls) than drummers, so one would think that any thirteen year-old boy would naturally choose guitar. I was rather introverted as a kid though, and I think the drums appealed to me because I could hide in the back of the stage*.

But for now the drums are over at my brother's house while I am here, attempting to incorporate a Cmaj7 into my song somewhere. It would be a shame to waste 20% of my guitar knowledge.

8.5.08. Cropped to 3X5

*I vaguely remember this being the same reason that Jughead was the drummer of The Archies, and sure enough, it was confirmed by Wikipedia. Yay for crowd-sourcing.


drowning man

Rain and I have a love-hate relationship. Mostly hate.

Rain meant getting splatters up your back from the bicycle tire. Rain meant sitting through an entire school day with wet socks. Rain meant standing in a boat sopping wet and cold while that kid refused your coaching and continued to stand up on his wakeboard too soon, resulting in him falling flat on his face, over and over again.

But like most things, rain and I have had our good times, and there are a few instances that stand out in my mind.

When I was in elementary school we had next-door neighbours with kids about the same age as us. They had a trampoline, and we had free reign to go jump whenever we wanted to. Once when I was about 13 we had a one of Kelowna's wicked summer storms, where the air was so hot and the sky so dark you could feel something ominous brewing.

The skies cracked open as I bounced up and down. The rain fell so hard it knocked apples off of the tree in our back yard, but I remember feeling shock at how warm the rain was. As I stomped the black canvas over and over and over again, the evening sun hit the seam between the clouds and the mountains, casting a brilliant beam of light over the valley that caught each drop from the side and sent shimmering colour everywhere. I kept jumping until I collapsed in exhaustion, and the warm water began to pool around me as I lay and stared at the sky.

It rained for a couple of days during my recent trip to Toronto. Because I was cycling everywhere (as previously mentioned, I despise the splatter that comes with mixing pedaling and precipitation), I decided to hide in the caffe until it stopped. It didn't, so I left the bike chained up and headed off in search of an umbrella. Maybe it was because I had nowhere to go, but I found myself enjoying my walk through the rain, watching the wipers on cars and the brightly coloured slickers on children. It was strange, how I could find pleasure in something I used to hate so much*.

It rained like crazy today, that same incessant pounding that usually only comes around in the summer. Still sore from my urban adventure, I lay in the hot tub with the water up to my neck and cold spring rain pouring down my face. As I sat soaking, my love for the rain, so recently rekindled, came back like a flood.

Yes. That pun was completely intended.

*Come to think of it, this is also exactly what has happened with broccoli, musical theatre and wearing glasses. My likes and dislikes have completely changed over the years.

7.5.08. Slightly increased exposure.


if you wear that velvet dress

I am actively pursuing spontaneity.

By nature I tend to be extremely careful in everything I do. I rarely speak up without seriously thinking about what I want to say. I'll plan out my day/week/month well in advance, to the point where very little of what I do is left to chance. This has served me pretty well; organized is a nice way to live, and my internal filter has kept me from saying things I probably would have regretted.

Of course, there are the drawbacks that come with it. Predictability. Over analysis to the point of paralysis.

Photography has been a really good exercise for me. The vast majority of my pictures have been impromptu rather than staged because, unless you really know what you are doing, staged pictures tend to look tacky and boring. And I hate tacky and boring.

The spontaneity is what I like about this picture. Instead of a boring picture where everyone is looking at the camera with forced smiles, there is genuine warmth and joy in the frame. I'm want that authenticity and genuineness to be a regular part of my life. Thus, I have made the conscious decision to begin trusting my instincts (which have served me well so far) and acting on their impulse.

We'll see how it turns out.

9.12.07. Cropped to 3X5.


is that all?

I've decide to activate comments on this blog.

One of the surprises of my photographic journey is discovering how people react differently to my pictures. Oftentimes I will post what I think is just an okay picture, and it will generate a huge reaction. I then have to go back and look at it again, and will invariably discover something that I didn't see initially.

I'd like to apply this same concept here. What I see in my pictures and in my life is well documented. What do you see?

Please join the conversation.

Note: this is me being spontaneous (see future post).


elvis presley and america

I became a photographer by accident.

Before last summer, I had never actually owned a real camera. I liked the idea of photography, but like anything else, it requires a certain amount of capital to get started. When the employer announced that they were sending the entire staff down to Los Angeles, I knew this was my excuse.

With this motivation I bought a Canon Rebel XTi with an EF-S 18-55mm, the most efficient entry into the quasi-professional photography game. Imagine passing your roadtest and immediately purchasing a Volkswagen GTI; you'll initially be a bit overwhelmed, but will quickly discover what driving should feel like.

Purchasing the camera before going on a trip was the best idea I ever had. Not only was I motivated to capture the trip itself, I wanted to learn everything my new toy could do. After a few days of learning the ropes, I found the sweet spot the night we walked along Hollywood Boulevard.

What I find remarkable about this picture is how well it was composed without me consciously doing so (I certainly didn't know what I was doing). It's asymmetrical and balanced all at once, the colours are rich, the subjects are all looking in different directions, it's nicely framed by the palm tree on one side and the pillar on the other. I couldn't have posed this picture if I tried.

I count myself lucky that I was able to capture this moment as well as I did. And it gave me the confidence that yes, I had the skills to do this.

This was really the beginning.

24.8.07. No alterations.


stories for boys

I have returned from the East. Summer has arrived in my absence, and I am reminded that I really do live in the greatest place on earth. I loved Toronto, but the Valley is where I want to be. At least until the summer traffic hits. We'll see if I still have the same attitude in a month or so.

This was taken on one of my last days in Toronto. I was cycling back to my temporary abode when I came across this young man playing ball. I could relate to him in this scene, but I didn't immediately know why.

A friend commented that I should sell it to Nike with a caption that says something about dreams, which I found hilarious. I DOES have that inspirational poster feeling, although I certainly wasn't thinking about that when I took it. I like this picture because it reminds me of when I was a kid. Particularly that feeling of playing alone, and not necessarily caring about it.

I like how the building is casting a shadow over him, protecting him from the harsh light that hits the rest of the frame. It creates a picture of childlike innocence being guarded from the rest of the world. All that matters in this moment is lying within the shadow of the school. The more I stare at this picture, the more I want him to succeed.

I hope he follows his dreams.

10.5.08. Cropped to 3X5, increased exposure, reduced lowlights.


stranger in a strange land

I had a few goals for my trip.

First, I wanted desperately to fit into the city; I set out to capture the essence of Toronto as an insider, rather than from the perspective of a tourist. Big cities are notoriously capable at identifying outsiders, and Toronto has an enduring reputation of being incredibly narcissistic. I certainly did come across that mentality occasionally, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that most people I met were welcoming and accepting, even approaching friendly at times. Even at the trendiest cafes and restaurants I was treated as though I belonged. I was also stopped on the street 4 separate times for directions. This felt terrific, even if the directions I gave were woefully ill-informed.

Secondly, I wanted to break my fear of asking people to take their picture. There have been numerous times where I have seen a cool frame or an interesting backlighting and been too timid to ask if I could take the shot. I also don't want to be the guy who just sets up and starts taking pictures in front of people. That guy is creepy.

So I started asking. And I've been shocked to find that every single person has said yes.

C and I were enjoying tea, tarts and the Saturday Globe in a park with a friend of hers who, incidentally, is on the editorial board for the Globe. Suffice to say, it was a strange experience reading the paper in front of a guy who writes it. The sun was beaming, and my eye was drawn to this bench over and over again. People came and went; an elderly gentleman with a cane, an uber-enthusiastic Lulule-mom with three blonde moppets, a busker with his guitar. All were interesting subjects...but not what I was looking for.

Then these two sat down. They perfectly embody the hipster-chic ethos that I love so much about this city. I took a deep breath, and approached them. With a smile, I simply asked 'Do you mind if I take your picture?'

Although it only took a moment, I didn't dare breath.

'Uh, yeah. No worries.' And a small, knowing smile. Another reason to keep on asking.

10.5.08. Cropped to 3X5, slightly increased exposure, reduced lowlights.



A few of my favorite places in Toh-rah-nah:

This Vespa dealer is in Little Italy, and carries some cool Euro-scooter-inspired clothing, including stuff by Ben Sherman, Frank Perry, WeSC and Adidas Originals. Little Italy is home to the uber-hipster crowd, and the staff were no exception. Squared glasses and dry-aged denim appear to be their store uniform.

Aunties and Uncles
I was honestly a little intimidated by this restaurant. Also in Little Italy, this was far and away the coolest place I've ever eaten at. All the tables are Formica, the cutlery missmatched, the pictures deliberately hung crookedly, the wallpaper peeling off just so. Everyone in the place looked like the cast of a Wes Anderson movie. And the breakfast was delicious.

Manic Coffee
In the world of coffee, the Clover is the king of machines. Popular in coffee-mad cities like Vancouver and Seattle, the Clover was foisted on Toronto by Manic. It is reported to be the best way to extract the flavors from the coffee, and it definitely lived up to that billing.

Bikes on Wheels
After getting used to riding again, I have the beginnings of a serious obsession with bikes. Especially fixies. They are everywhere in Toronto, and this place had some serious stock. Maybe when I get home...

Kensington Market
Kensington Market is an area of the city that resembles the market I visited in Mexico a couple years ago. It's a strange mix of cool vintage clothing stores, vegetable stands, cheap sunglasses, cheese shops and restaurants. Like Big Fat Burrito. I didn't actually eat there, but this might be the most succinct name ever: there is no doubt what this restaurant will sell you. Just down the street is a small shop where I bought brightly coloured silk scarves for the women in my life.

Paul's Boutique
The owner of this shop is named Paul, so it may not be a total ripoff of the Beastie Boys album of the same name, but it was just as cool. Amps, guitars and keyboards of every imaginable vintage stacked to the ceiling, and walls covered in album covers and gig posters.

Queen's West
As opposed to the more populated and mainstream Yonge Street and Eaton's Center, Queen's West is made up of edgier stores packed together along the street. Each seemed to cater to a strangely specific clientèle. All I know is that this shop had more Chucks than Warped Tour.

(from top)
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5, slightly increased exposure.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5, slightly increased exposure.


city of blinding lights

Everyone should experience Toronto for the first time from the penthouse suite of a downtown hotel.

How on earth did i end up here?

My vacation hostess C serves at a restaurant in Toronto called the Indian Rice Factory. The restaurant is an institution in the city, with a really cool history. Her boss Aman was kind enough to let me crash at almost-fully-renovated apartment next to the restaurant, and insisted that C and I join him for a tasting event that evening.

We dropped my bags off and headed to C's house. Like at least half the inhabitants of this city, C lives in an old redbrick duplex along a tree-lined street. One of her flatmates is away and offered up her bicycle for me to use while I'm here. This is great, but also a challenge: I haven't been on a bicycle...long enough that I can't remember the last time. There is truth the the expression 'it's like riding a bike', but I was a more than a bit shaky. Oh, and I only had a front brake.

So I'm on a bicycle for the first time in a decade, following C downtown, dodging trucks and streetcars. I'm trying to take it all in as I whiz by increasingly larger and larger buildings, through the most eclectic parts of the city. Toronto is really a city of distinct neighborhoods, and I had a fast introduction to the Annex, Koreatown, Little Italy, Little Portugal, and Queens West on our way to Downtown South.

We had some time to kill before the event, so we locked the bikes and wandered around. One of the things I really like about Toronto is the integration of old architecture into the modern glass towers. Kelowna doesn't have much (or anything) in the way of large old buildings, so this was a treat.

Bay Street. UofT. Queens Park. Yonge Street.

The event was held at the Cosmopolitan Hotel just off of Yonge Street, right in the middle of the Financial District. The concierge smiled when we introduced ourselves and led us to the elevator. He swiped his card and pressed 27, while saying 'Once you get up to the penthouse, turn right'.

We stepped off of the elevator into the swankiest hotel room I have ever seen. Twenty-four foot high ceilings, a glossy white upright piano to match the white leather couches, picture windows overlooking the water on one side and the CN Tower on the other. Even though I had the foresight to throw on a blazer over my t-shirt before we came, I was a little out of place: most of the guests were wearing shoes that cost more than my rent. Nonetheless, we were welcomed with a glass pressed into our hands and an introduction to Carlos, chief winemaker from an estate winery in Chile and the host of this event. Sandwiched in between New York and London, this tasting was the second on a whirlwind tour through the markets they hoped to break into.

I made my way through the smalltalk and laughter up to the rooftop deck illuminated by the lights of the skyscrapers all around. I couldn't help but smile at the absurdity of the situation: less than twelve hours since arriving in the city, I was here on the roof of a boutique hotel at a party with some of the most respected and influential foodies in the city.

My amusement was interrupted when Aman came up and, with a slap on my shoulder, announced that we were moving the party over to the restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Sure. Why not.

(from top)
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5, reduced highlights.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.