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I Don’t Do Weddings – Wedding photography through a commercial photographers lens

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There was a time when I guess you could have called me a wedding photographer.  Although at that point you could have really called me an ‘anything’ photographer. It was early in my career. At that point in time I would have photographed a cat eating belly button lint if someone had paid me to do so.

As it turned out, being a wedding photographer didn’t really pop my strobe.  I’m more of a problem solving photographer. Planning a shot in advance, scouting, and making it a reality when conditions are right is the kind of creativity I really enjoy investing in my photo shoots. When I do an architectural shoot I’ll often walk around the building for hours exploring angles and finding the perfect way to fit the structure into the surroundings.  On an adventure shoot it’s always about scouting the location and figuring out the perfect time of day for the best possible light, and then returning with everything needed and waiting for the magic moment.  I have made models or athletes reset a dozens of times to get a variety for the final selects. With wedding photography it’s one and done. Hope they didn’t blink.  I have enormous respect for wedding photographers who take on that challenge every weekend, it’s just not for me.  I quickly moved to architectural photography and adventure and hospitality lifestyle photos, and left the blushing brides behind.

Until I got a call from Kayla. Actually it was until I got the second call from Kayla, on the first call I told her politely that I “Don’t Do Weddings” and offered her the names of several excellent local wedding photographers.  Kayla and her hubby to be Jamie had been given my name by my friends at Tyax Lodge, a long-term client that has hired me for lifestyle, architecture and heliski shoots. I guess the folks at Tyax didn’t know about my No Wedding policy.  About a week after her first call, Kayla got back to me to let me know that they much preferred my adventure images to the portfolio images on the wedding photography sites, and asked me to reconsider taking their photos.  Apparently, she was very persuasive.  I had quite a long discussion with her about how the preparation for my adventure images is much different that what usually happens on a wedding day, and that we could likely get a fairly standard set of wedding photos, but put some commercial photography style planning into one or two scenarios to get them a wedding ‘money shot’.  I got back to them a few days later with a rate, and they said yes.

PRE-PRODUCTION

Dale Douglas runs Tyax Air, flying a DeHavalind Beaver from the Lodge at Tyax Resort out to surrounding lakes and back-country camps and cabins.  I called him up to discuss possible locations, and was thrilled to hear that he could take us to Bridge Lake, at the toe of the Bridge Glacier. We agreed that this amazing spot, a 20 minute flight from the lodge would be the shoot location.  I had seen Bridge Lake before on heliskiing shoots. I know it is full of massive ice chunks that have calved off the toe of the glacier, we once landed a helicopter on one for lunch.  In the winter everything is frozen and white, but in the summer, the ice almost glows iridescent blue. Because of the costs involved, the scouting would be virtual. Ground Level view on Google Earth gives a pretty good idea of the scenery.  Along with some photos I found online, I was able to get a decent lay of the land at the lake.  A sunlight calculator let me know when and where the light would be coming from, backlit at about 4:00, when we would have to be there to shoot. I was going to need some lighting.  The plan was to underexpose the daylight a bit, and fill the couple with some warm flash to contrast them with the cool blues of the mountains and the lakes. Because of the awesomeness of the place, I wanted to shoot small people huge background for the main image.

GETTING READY

I hired Kyle Graham, a talented young photographer I know from Whistler to shoot second camera for the traditional wedding shots, and be a voice activated light stand on location for my Paul C. Buff Einstein strobe with lithium battery pack.  We made the 4 hour drive to the lodge the day before the wedding and spent the afternoon testing and organizing the gear, and planning ceremony and family photos.  The weather had been hot and sunny for two weeks, the forecast was for thunderstorms starting at 1:00 (the ceremony time) until 6:00 (Our shoot window) and then hot and sunny for the next two weeks again!  We touched base with the pilot, who said we would have to  make the call to fly or not tomorrow.  We spent the next morning scouting alternate locations that did not require a plane.

SHOOT TIME

The weather was threatening, but held off for the ceremony.  We moved quickly to get the obligatory family photos out of the way, and were just wrapping some wedding party shots when the skies opened. There was a lot of talk about cancelling the flight. Fortunately the pilot and I are quite familiar with the area, and know that the weather is often dramatically different in the mountains a few valleys away.  The Pilot, said he would fly if we still wanted to go.  The Bride and Groom were troopers so we took off in the pouring rain headed for hopefully clearer skies.

The sun started to break thought the clouds just as we approached the lake.  By the time we had landed, there was light, and the background skies were stormy, with some heavy rain in the distance.  It’ couldn’t have been more perfect.  We rushed to get the main shot set up, and in 15 minutes it was in the can, and the sky was still brightening, giving us some time to put some other scenarios together.  Unfortunately our time at this amazing place was very limited, a little less than an hour after we stepped on the beach the Beaver was skimming across the water again to carry us homeward.

Careful planning, attention to detail, local knowledge, preparation, teamwork, and a little help from mother nature helped to give Kayla and Jamie a commercial photo shoot in and exotic location for their wedding. The result is an image that the clients are raving over, and is definitely not your average wedding photo.

As it turned out, photographing this wedding was a great project for me. I treated the clients like a commercial customer, and they were amazing, and trusted us every step of the way.

Am I ready to change my ways and become a wedding photographer?  No.

Will I shoot your wedding for you? Probably Not.

Unless you are planning in an epic adventure at a spectacular location.  Then, maybe I might.

“Akasha” – Photographing Whistler BC’s First $10 Million Home

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Around about the turn of the millennium, Andrew Munster of Munster & Sons Developments in Whistler Canada was putting the finishing touches on his masterpiece “Akasha”. Akasha was the first of the Whistler super luxury home boom. Selling for close to $10 Million in February of 2000, it was the most expensive house sold in Canada that year, the first to sell for even close to that figure in Whistler, and the leader in a long list of incredible luxury Whistler mega-houses. The Spectacular home, centered around a 480 year old Red Cedar Tree that spans all 4 stories of the house, won three Georgie Awards for Munster & Sons in 2002. It lit the Whistler Spec home market on fire.

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When the hype of Akasha was in the news in the early 2000’s I got in touch with the Munsters and offered to take a few photos of the property in order to build my portfolio. At the time I was just starting to branch out into working for myself as a photographer. Images from that shoot (on 4×5″ film by the way) remained in my book for many years.

Early in 2015 I received a call from LuxuryRetreats.com, they had been contracted to make the home available for rentals and needed an architectural photographer to create new promotional images. They were pleasantly surprised that I knew the home well, and that I had photographed it 15 years earlier. That history with the house closed the deal, and I jumped at the chance to revisit an old friend (I make friends with all of my favourite projects!).

I spent 2 days to capturing the best aspects of the house. We ended up with a whopping 60 images to show off Akasha, here are some of my favourites.

If you like the look of the place, and you have deep pockets, you can rent Akasha for you dream vacation in Whistler.

CGI Background Photography for the Auto Industry

For a little while now I have been contributing to an agency that caters specifically to the automotive industry.  CGI Backgrounds is a boutique photo library that provides image plates for car companies to insert 3D modeled CGI vehicles.

Here is one of the first completed images I have seen from a background plate I photographed at Porteau Cove, BC2014-mercedes-benz-e-class-wagon-1_1200Image courtesy of Mercedes.

Here is the original photograph that the Mercedes digital artists have retouched into the final image above.

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Milky Way Time Lapse and Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Here is a time-lapse I cranked off one restless night at Tyax Lodge.  Stars are amazing when you get away from the city.  On a clear moonless night you can see more stars than you could possibly imagine. 

Superhero astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson once said of the stars in the sky in the movie’ Titanic’,…

“There she (Kate Winslett) is looking up. There is only one sky she should have been looking at … and it was the wrong sky! Worse than that, it was not only the wrong sky; the left-half of the sky was a mirror reflection of the right-half of the sky! And I’m thinking, this is wrong.   It was not only wrong, it was lazy! “

The stars in the time-lapse above are all real, and that trumps Hollywood any day!

I hope Neil DeGrasse Tyson would be proud!

Thanks to NDT, James Cameron corrected the starry sky in the re-release of the film.

Hiking the Tour de Mont Blanc in the Alps

I have just recently returned from a trip to the alps.  Some of our lazier friends thought that hiking 80 km in the mountains and sleeping in mediocrely comfortable mountain huts was a horrible way to spend a honeymoon.  Luckily, my awesome wife and I agree with each other in agreeing to disagree with out lazy friends. We had a great time!

Here’s a couple of shots from one of the more dramatic mornings of the hike.

Kristie looking towards the Mont Blanc summit, which was peeking in and out of the clouds.

Me looking out towards the Mont Blanc Massive from the top of Col de la Gliere, somewhere above Chamonix

The full Tour de Mont Blanc is an 160km circle route around the Mont Blanc Massive.  We hiked only the northern half in 6 days, starting from Courmayeur in Italy on the east side, and heading around the north of the Massive through Switzerland, and back into France, ending in Chamonix.  We hike a lot in the Coast Mountains of BC where we live, but the Alps are something completely different.  The terrain is more jagged and spectacular, but the routes are well traveled so the trails are in excellent shape, and easy to follow.  The scenery is breathtaking at every turn.  We highly recommend a visit if you love spending time in the mountains.

Amazing Architecture – Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

I could spend hours and hours in there, Just WOW!

Shot on my awesome little Sony NEX-5N   1/60 @ f4   iso-2500  16mm

I’ve been a bit delinquent in my blogging lately. You know, sold a house, bought a house, moved into an interim rental, got married, went on a honeymoon, blah, blah, blah…  I’ve been traveling and shooting lots of interesting stuff, so more posts are in the works.  Stay tuned!

Air to Air Photo Shoot for Blackcomb Aviation in Vancouver

I have worked with the good folks at Blackcomb Aviation occasionally over the past 20 years while living in the Whistler, BC area.  Usually it has been me, or one of my clients hiring a helicopter to do an aerial shoot of something on the ground, a house, a hotel, scenic photos, or even once a group photo.  Fortunately this time, it was Blackcomb Aviation that was hiring me, which added and exciting new dimension to the shoot.  I got to direct 2 helicopters at the same time to shoot some Air to Air promotional shots for their new contract providing tours for Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, BC.  Here are some of the results.

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Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet.  Mountains, ocean, beaches and glass towers co-exist in gorgeous harmony.  All of the views that we photographed on this shoot are parts of the Grouse Mountain Helicopter Tours packages.  If you are in Vancouver and are looking for an amazing and exhilarating experience,  head to the top of Grouse Mountain, and go for a once in a lifetime scenic mountain flight in one of Blackcomb Aviation’s kick ass helicopters.

A Custom Cafe Racer Motorcycle Build Project

I love the creativity being a photographer allows me.  But sometimes, and especially in this digital age creating an image is a very virtual experience.  You can create incredibly creative image, but it’s not something that you can touch, like a painting or a sculpture.  Sometimes my images don’t even ever go to actual print, they are used only online in the virtual world.  In some sense it feels like virtual creativity.  While I don’t lament my career choice or the freedom it gives me to express myself, sometimes my hands are left wanting.  They need something to touch.

Enter the $350 1981 Honda CM400 Classic!

I picked this beauty up for a steal, and I have big plans for her.  In an effort to busy my hands with some real world creativity (and possibly a hint of a mid life crisis) I will turn this unsightly old beast into a sleek and sexy Cafe Racer style custom motorcycle for zipping around town, and the occasional cruise on the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway that links Vancouver to Whistler.

They (motorcycle folk) say that the CM400 is ugly, and that a CM400 would never make a good looking Cafe Racer.  Well, here is my concept roughed out using a base image of the bike as it was when I bought it (did I mention for a measly 350 bucks? ) and a collage of images from online sources mashed up in photo editing software.  It’s not beautiful, but it gives me a pretty good idea of where I’m headed, and I love it.  I will treasure every time I have to scrub grease from under my fingernails!

I’m not completely sold on the colour yet, so that might change.  I am pretty happy with the styling, and keeping most of the stock parts will keep the costs in line.  I will post occasionally with project updates.

Lake Tahoe Sunset

Here is a blast from the past, a sunset photo on a stormy night at Lake Tahoe from a 2004 trip to photograph the Cal-Neva Resort for Expedia.com.  The Cal-Neva crosses the California – Nevada border, and has a casino in the Nevada side of the of the main room.  The Swimming Pool has the state border painted down the middle.  The Resort was a favourite hang out of the Rat Pack back in the day.

   A photo of the Cal-Neva pool from their Website

Mixing Work and Pleasure – a Shoot in the British Virgin Islands

My last couple of posts have been about shooting for pleasure.  So is this one, but it is something a bit different.

I got a call in February from my good friend and accomplished Lifestyle Photographer Randy Lincks.  Randy has done quite a bit of work for sailboat charter companies in the past, and every year or two he makes a trip to an exotic place to shoot some Sailing Promotion photography.

Either after years of bugging him to take ma along, or out of a  genuine need for a bit of a hand based on the size of the project I was invited along to do some shooting, image management, and some general helping out.

Hooray!  Off to the BVI!

We spend 5 1/2 days shooting all around the British Virgin Islands, and the schedule was pretty intense.  We had a crew of 16, some professional models from Florida and England to represent the clients demographics, and a flotilla of 7 38-56 foot luxury yachts.  The shot list was long and varied.

Although it’s hard to complain, we worked A LOT.  Up early, and going pretty much non-stop all day.  But given the subjects, the location and the weather, no matter how hard we were working we couldn’t help but have a good time.  I am very fortunate that I have associates like Randy, and that I get the opportunity to work for incredible clients, and even occasionally in exotic locations.  I am even luckier that throughout the busy schedule we still found time for an occasional dip in the ocean, and a cool rum cocktail after the daily wrap.  I count my blessings!

Here is some of the work from the project.  Some images are mine, others are Randy’s.  When we work together we make a pretty good team.

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