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

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.


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, 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.

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.

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!

A Place I Love – Tyax Lodge

Tyax Resort adn Spa - Andrew Doran Photography

I just got the call I wait for every new year! For the past 9 years I have worked with TLH Heliskiing shooting advertising images, and take home memories for their guests.  TLH operates out of  Tyax Resort in the South Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, a place I have come to love winter and summer.  I will make the 5 hour drive on windy mountain back-roads many times in the next few months.  It’s an arduous task getting there, but the reward at the end of the road is so worth it!

Architectural Ingenuity – Creative houses from reclaimed stuff

Dan Phillips has built a dozen houses out of reclaimed and recycled material in Huntsville, Texas. His talk at TED covers how architectural conformity is driven by invented social expectations, and how if we can connect with our real selves, we can break conventions and create unique architecture that has a much lower impact.

While building codes may limit what can actually be done is some places, his concept of stepping outside the box of “the expectations of others” to create is what caught my attention.

Architecture Daily Blog – Great Buildings and Photography

I have been subscribing to the Arch Daily Blog for quite a while now, but they went way up in my good books today when they featured the Richmond Olympic Oval, the 2010 speed skating venue, including the photos I took for Cannon Design Architecture.  Kudos to Arch Daily for featuring the amazing Richmond Oval today, on the opening day of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.andrewdorancom-oval04Check out the Arch Daily blog post including photos by me, and other great photographers, and subscribe to their rss feed to get a little bit of architectural inspiration every day.  If you’re lucky enough to be in town for the Olympics,  go and check out this incredible building, or come and visit us in Vancouver after the 2010 craziness has subsided.

Busy is good – New Architectural Photography

It’s been a surprisingly busy January for me.  I’m not complaining, busy is good, especially at this time of the year, when it’s usually snoozeville around here architectural photography – wise.  With  2010 Olympic Games a few days away, believe it or not, I’m hoping for a bit of a rest.  You see, I live in Squamish, which is about exactly half way between Vancouver, and Whistler, so I pretty much have an Olympic frenzy on all sides.  That means that traffic will be chaos, and I will likely be better off staying at home to prevent a road-rage induced stroke.

I will probably spend a few days on the Olympic buses, visiting some of the Whistler Live! and Vancouver Live! venues, checking our the international pavilions and free concerts.  I can’t let the party completely pass me by, but I will likely spend most of the Olympics editing the architectural photography I have been shooting over the last month.  Then, when the 2010 chaos, and fun is over, breathe a sigh of relief, and get beck to work.

Some of my recent shoots have been Olympic related, I took photos for the Ontario Pavilion, and shot some hospitality spaces for Coca-Cola.  I have also been busy with a few other cool architecture projects including Tyax Wilderness Resort, and the Bank of Montreal.  I will post some details of all of my recent shoots soon (after the images have been delivered to the clients!)  but here are a few tidbits so you can see what I have been up to recently.

009Ontario House 2010 Olympic Pavilion – Hariri Pontarini Architects

_dsc9821Heli-Ski Chalet at Tyax Wilderness Resort

_dsc0618Olympic Hospitality space – Designed by Imagicorps

bmosampleBank of Montreal VancouverIredale Group Architects

More Photos and some Behind the Scenes coming soon!  GO CANADA GO!!!

How Environment Affects Behaviour – Piano Stairs

I just came across this great little video.  Apparently some folks at Volkswagon are working on a project called The Fun Theory, trying to get people to behave differently by making their environment interactive. Project one was the “Piano Stairs” in Stockholm.  Check it out.

Aside from the fact that VW seems to have mastered the purpose built viral video, this project touches on so many other points.  Not the least of which is that our environments affect our lives.  Now, I’m not saying that we should need a piano on every set of stairs to keep us from getting lazy, but an example like this supports the growing trend for Architects, and Designers to really consider how people will interact with the spaces they are creating.

I take the stairs most times. Usually (and especially in airports) it’s faster because there is so much less traffic, and I don’t mind the exercise. But, if these stairs were on my regular commute, I would be practicing a new tune every day so I could show off on my way to the train!  Really, this is public art, but it’s presented integrated into the architecture. Another great example of art meets architecture that engages the public is Cloud Gate, more commonly known as the ‘Chicago Bean’.

Obviously the piano stairs were designed as marketing for VW, but while looking for an idea that would be interesting enough to go viral, they hit on a vital concept: We are connected to the places, things, and people around us. If those relationships can improve our lives and experiences, even better. So, take a look around you.

I’m not usually prone to linking to corporate advertising, but VW’s ‘The Fun Theory’ has earned this one. Here’s the link so you can follow along.

2010 Olympic Oval up for World Building of the Year award

The Richmond Olympic Oval designed and built for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics has been short listed for the World Building of the Year Award, part of the 2009 World Architecture Festival Awards.

Cannon Design Architecture has leased my daylight long exposure images, along with a few others to be used in marketing and award applications.  It is fantastic to be a part of an application for such a prestigious award.

The 2010 Olympic Oval has already been honoured several times, including recognition from the Globe Foundation and World Green Building Council for projects that employ Green Building Practices, and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s 2009 Award of Excellence for Innovation in Architecture. The RAIC award is partly due to the use of more than a million board feet pine beetle kill lumber that forms the 100 meter span gluelam roof supports.  In addition to the RAIC and green building awards, the Richmond Olympic Oval was recently the recipient of the Sustainability Star award. Given by the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Organizing Committee (VANOC), which recognizes the innovative efforts Games partners and sponsors are taking to be sustainable.

The 2010 Olympic Oval is a spectacular building, and a marvel of modern construction  that blends function and aesthetics. If you can, get yourself to Richmond and take a look for yourself.

Hopefully we will see the Richmond Oval walk away with the World Building of the Year Award. (with an ever so little help from my photos)  😉

Expanding your style – Apply what you have learned

A while back I finally got a chance to get out and shoot with my 10 stop neutral density filter.  It allows me to take photos with 30 second – 2 minute long exposures in daylight.  you can see my first attempts in the original post here.

I bought this filter to experiment with, and to use for personal work, photos that might end up as art, or shots that might be just for me.  I had fun experimenting, and was pretty happy with the results.  I left the filter in my most used gear bag, and forgot about it for a while.

When my brother asked me for a ride to the Vancouver Airport a few weeks ago, I grabbed my gear, remembering that the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Speed Skating Oval had recently been completed near the airport, and was supposed to be a unique and spectacular building.  I thought I’d take a look at it after dropping my bro at YVR.  Great Architecture always intrigues me, that’s why I became an Architectural Photographer.  Sometimes I just go out and look at buildings, sometimes I photograph them for fun, even if it’s not a work assignment.  When I arrived at the Olympic Oval, the conditions could not have been better.  The light was in just the right place, still quite low in the sky, but with a bright daytime look.  The blue sky and clouds mirrored the brilliant colours of the ice blue architecture, accented with orange wooden beams for a dash of contrast.

In a case like this, I have to take photos, I don’t have a choice.  It’s like an addiction, looks…..soooo…..goood,……..must…..take……photos….!  It’s the same feeling that would compel a tourist to take 2 dozen shots of a beautiful sunset, even though each one looks just like the one before.  It just looks so good.

I took about 150 frames, wandering around, exploring angles, different lenses, from far and near, low and high.  I was just about to pack up and move on, when I remembered the 10 stop ND filter in my gear bag ( I use a Lowe Pro Photo Trekker in case you were wondering – Free plug for Lowe Pro cause their stuff is so good, and has a lifetime warranty)  It was a pretty windy day, so the clouds and trees were moving quickly, if I made a long exposure I would probably get a unique look to the architecture image. And did I?  Yes.

Now, I’m not the first to take a daylight long exposure of a building, and I won’t be the last.  But, what I did was add a technique to my photography style quiver.  I learned something new by experimenting, and applied it to my personal style.  I really love the results, they add an bit of artistic flair to a standard assignment result.  I will experiment more with the technique, and refine it, learn how to use it as a tool to provide my architectural clients with a better, more unique product.  I will definitely use it on assignments in the future, for the right clients.

The take away here? No matter what your discipline, your style is not static, it grows and evolves.  If you try something new, and it feels right, then go with it.  Experiment, learn, apply, repeat.