Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Success and Disappointment in 2015 | Calgary Adventure Photographer

Not too many entries for this year but that is to be expected. There was a lot going on this year and even with a new and smaller client-base, still much to do to make the business run right.

I know the title of this blog sounds strange and maybe a little negative but I want to stress the difference between failure and disappointment. I don't consider failure the opposite of success as it really is just a learning tool on the way to success. And there were one or two events that really were disappointing and changed the direction in my business. Learning tool....indeed.

I am not going to go into great detail here but I would like to share some images and events that were a high point during the year. The first would be some of my clients and people who have trusted me and essentially kept us busy throughout the year.

The Silver Willow Sporting Club in Carstairs have been amazing to work with. Not only do they desire a high level of excellence in everything they do but they also understand the value of a job done well. I was so fortunate to work with them regularly and continually inspired by the way they run their business and focus on their clients.

Marketing assets for the Willow

LPI Group in Calgary is the agency I work with most often, and although it was a little slower this year, it was really cool to see my work from last year show up in a number of places. It takes some time for images to get out there in major campaigns and this spring I started to see assets from the Riviera and Southfork jobs showing up on bill-boards, wraps and other mass-media. My account manager and some of the creatives have been great to work with and I am looking forward to more cool projects this year.

A large wrap seen at Eighth Ave Place in Calgary

The Gull Lake Center is a Christian leadership camp on the shores of Gull Lake and for the last 3-4 years I have been covering their annual adventure race and in the summer generating marketing assets for the camp. Steve Roadhouse and the crew have been so fun to work for and they are great to just let me be creative and run with their projects. The center is a world-class facility and I am honored to be working with them from year to year.

Assets for GLC

Steve Roadhouse at the start of this years Race

Genesis Air is a relatively new client and the work was challenging but this is another company that inspires me with the way they run their business and care for their employees. Relationships are important to me and clearly the Genesis family put a lot of energy into relationships. 

Assets for Genesis Air

AirdrieLIFE Magazine is just one of the dozen publications I work for but they need a special mention. For the last 5 years Sherry and Anne have put a lot of faith in my writing and photography and generally give me creative carte-blanche on local assignments. It is awesome to be identified with this beautiful magazine and those who produce it.

Heroes Series for Winter Issue

I mentioned there are other magazines I work for but part of the reason for that is a great relationship with the well known and brilliant story teller from Calgary, Greg Williams. Working with Greg allows me to continue to be creative with editorial work and through this process I continue to meet the most interesting people. This year I was able to produce a two-part series of images on a motorcycle shop and family in Southern Alberta and see it published in a national publication.

Motorrad photographed for Cycle Canada

Another great success for this year was finding out I had been nominated for the Alberta Magazine Awards by Westworld Magazine and eventually won gold in my category. It has been a pleasure working for David Claydon (my editor) for the last 2 years and I hope that continues in the future.

Winning image at the AMPA awards 2015

These are a few of the highlights of success from my year in the business of photography but certainly not the only ones. I could never have made it through the year without those who considered my work, partnered with me or just support what I do in general. People like:

Derek Pauletto, Teria Penner, Olivier DuTre, Paul & Meg Zizka, Stefan Dalberg, Blaze Energy, Crowfoot Media, Alanah Jensen, Ride Stop N Go, Spirit West, Raf Andronowski, Matt Ford, Marty Lawrence, Cobi Kristianson, R&A Jones, Clayton Doucette, Tillemans, Deb Verbonac (AdFarm), Richie Klassen, Corrie Brewster, Darryl Jensen, Kevin Brown, Dean Owen....and the list goes on.

And now the disappointments. I'm not going to put too much energy into this one but there are a few things I should mention. First of all I found this year that I just can't take any work. Just like a client looking for the right photographer, sometimes as a business owner you need to take the right clients. Being in a business that is based on creativity you find out quickly that not every client is right for you. The worst part is when you find this out after a job has been started. With the economic downturn and O&G companies scattering this fall, it became easy to see where loyalties and values sit with this once great market. 

I actually found myself trying to educate million dollar companies on the value of photography when they were asking for a reduction in fees in the area of 95%. Yes, companies that have revenues in the millions wanting services as low as $20/ headshot for professional corporate photography. I am not in the business of failing at business so I turned down a lot of this kind of work. It may just not be what I am passionate about anyway and if I am going to do this as a business it should be work that doesn't reduce the value of what I love to do.

Another great disappointment for the year was a relationship I had tried to build with a luxury sports car sales company. I spent months proving to them that I was a professional and could put their business in high priority for service work. Unfortunately after months of working for them it was clear that they place no value in quality photography, relationships or trust.

It's no secret that there are bad clients and business that just does not go the way you expected. It's just the nature of a creative business and dealing with people and personalities. I don't take anything personal and very ok with learning from these situations. I am excited about the direction the business is headed this year and the cool stuff I'll be working on with my great client-base. Thank you for continuing to support what I do, for the critiques, for the great relationships and work. See you all in 2016.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Dead Spots and Failures | Adventure Lifestyle Photographer

Mechanically speaking if you don't know what a "dead-spot" is, it is usually a burnt out area on an electrical motor or winding (coil). When the rotating parts line up on the dead-spot, there is no action and even though energy is put to the unit, nothing turns, nothing moves.

Bailing out in very low water

The large gaps in this blog over the last two years can be considered a dead-spot for me but refers in this case to some artistic or creative activity on my part. A lot has happened in the last two years and I know that much has changed for me. I won't go into it except to say that I feel like a lot of what I thought was important has been exposed as trivial and the things I thought would be here for me at this point may not actually be here for much longer.

I can't say that I am un-happy though and don't get me wrong. Having so much change has really distilled my attention and helped me to prioritize what I pour my energy into. Like moving from place to place on a budget, I feel like I had to get rid of a lot of crap and that is awesome. This feeling of throwing off the waste has also given me some energy and momentum to go back after the things I really love even when I thought I was done.

Sometime in the late 90's I was getting pretty good at white water kayaking and really pushed myself to get better fast. Unfortunately, during a class IV drop on a river I followed someone else's suggestion and deviated from the line I had prepared myself for. In minutes I was hammered by waves the size of mini-vans and took a 1km swim through some nasty rocks. A few months later I was so frustrated by the incident that I just gave it up all together. I got pretty banged up but the worst part was my ego never fully recovered. The past 16 years have been a serious dead-spot for something I used to really love.

And now here I am, this week on the Elbow River near Bragg Creek Alberta, trying to get comfortable in class II water, trying to get my confidence back. At first I got back in the boat because my buddy wanted to do it and he was so excited, I remember what that was like. But now I am pushing myself again to get out and get better. This time though I am not pushing myself for my ego, this time I am pushing myself because; 1). I love being on the river in all God's creation and glory and being connected to the energy within it. 2). I'm not interested in letting failure destroy or steal any opportunity I have to continue be what I was created to be or do.

I may be a slow learner but every time I get creamed or fail miserably, these dead-spots get shorter and I get wiser.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Modern Adventurer | Canadian Lifestyle Photographer

Time is no longer relevant.

Derek Pauletto at Bonneville, August 2013

If you know who this guy is then you don't need an explanation for  his gaze in this image.

If you don't know him then what you do need to know is that this expression (captured upon our arrival at the Salt Flats in Bonneville, Aug 2013) epitomizes the character of a man I am proud to call a great friend.

This is a look that would be better to be behind than in the way. This is a look of pure perseverance, a man who is driven to produce and build something for the sole purpose that he imagined it. The distance between his imagination and reality is spanned only by a desire to understand, time is no longer relevant.

A simple idea years ago inspired by a moment, staring out over the salt flats, turned into something bigger for us who know him and are a part of it. Impossible designs, pushing the limits of engineering, personal sacrifice, A gamut of emotions, A world record, and an experience only a few can be a part of.

This expression in the image can be intense for some, but for me it means one thing....

...pure adventure.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Time To Change The Bio | Canadian Adventure Photographer

About a month ago I received a text from one of my editors (Meghan Ward) telling me congratulations on my Alberta Magazine Awards nomination. I was a little stunned and had no idea of the context so as you can imagine a little confused. Meg was good enough to send me the on-line link but I was teaching a class so I figured I could check it later. Once I got home I checked and sure enough one of my images run by Westworld Magazine had been nominated and was a finalist.

Well I am super stoked to say that last Thursday I got a tweet from one of the editors at Westworld that we had actually won Gold in Landscape, Still Life, and Architecture. Really an amazing feeling to win something like this and to be recognized for the work I have put into my lifestyle photography.

The image that ran in the winter 2014 issue.

Looking forward to adding "award winning photographer" to the bio, but in the mean time there are a few thank you's to go out.

My buddy Stefan Dalberg (Speed Specialists / SAIT) for being a great sport and letting me shoot him and his DN Racer at Sunset.

My good friend and photography-pro Paul Zizka for turning Westworld on to me way back when.

My editor in Vancouver David Claydon (Westworld Magazine) for running the shot and continuing to use my work in their world-class travel magazine.

And Kirsten Rodenhizer (Westworld) for accepting my award for me and keeping it warm.

The spot in the online version of the magazine can be seen here.

Now it's time to update the bio...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Great To Be On Top | Canadian Adventure Photographer

I always seem to suffer. Doesn't matter what kind of condition I am in, good or bad. I always suffer. Maybe it is the 30 extra lbs of camera gear I need to bring, or the lack of ski-touring I do. It doesn't matter.

David and Pierre enjoying the wide-open space below St. Nicholas

The suffering only seems to happen on my way up and I am happy it doesn't last for very long. Especially when I finally crest the top of the Glacier and see the boys setting up their kites in perfect wind, all suffering goes away.

This weekend our crew kited up on the Wapta Ice field for two days and the weather has never been so good. Saturday was a little over cast but still had good viz and steady 25 and less wind. Enough for the 12m kites we had brought up. I broke my lens while shooting at the start of our flight so I put the camera away, focusing on the riding and even managed to climb St Nicholas's saddle. The session ended about an hour before sunset so we skied down the creamy head-wall and took in an amazing feast of fine cheeses, prosciutto, oysters and wine. Wow, alpine hut stay in style with good company.

The crew parked and hunkered down (me, Patrice, Chris, David, and Pierre)

Sunday morning we awoke to high winds so I slept a little longer. Pat, Chris and Pierre decided to go for a ski then came back early afternoon to report blue-skies and wind. Once we got back up on to the ice field we knew it would be amazing. I left the kite in the bag and swapped out my broken lens for the 24-70 and shot straight for an hour. Incredible conditions but even though it may have been my last day to kite, I had to shoot. And I am glad I did. I managed to get some real gold.

Well worth the suffering for sure...

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Spindrift News | Canadian Adventure Photographer

Looking back on 2014 it is hard to believe I made it through with all the changes and chaos that happened personally and professionally. But now that I've had a rest and some time off, I'm gearing up for a busy and exciting year....

Over the last month or so I have had some time to develop new skills, do some serious study and introduce some new tools to my business. I have been working with video for two years now but decided to learn the production side and everything that goes along with it. This includes the writing and development of projects whether they are documentary or simple story. With this new knowledge I am planning to finish a few video projects that are in the que as well as add more corporate video work to the portfolio.

Last year was huge for my magazine work and I estimate I published over 70 images with the various local and international magazines I have been working with. Developing a tight working relationship with my editors has been important and recently that has paid-off with a nomination for Best Photograph (landscape Winter 2014) in the Alberta Magazine Awards 2015. Looking forward to hearing later this week if I won, and I have to thank Westworld Magazine for running my image of Stef Dalberg and his ice-boat. See the published page here: Link

Another on-going project is the work I am doing with a local outdoor clothing company called Spirit West. For a few years now I have been helping them with the occasional shooting of some product but now working year round capturing their new product line as well as testing some of the gear. It can be a long road to success for a lot of companies but if you are willing to stick it out for the long run it can really pay off.

Along with the various magazines I am also working on some upcoming projects that I can't really talk about yet. However I can say that it has allowed me to start testing outdoor gear with other companies as well and this is a bit of where I have wanted to go for some time now. Those projects I will be happy to announce about once they have been made public.

Recently one of our past clients (Eighth Avenue Place, one of the larger tenant services companies in Calgary) had asked us to become a Platinum Partner. What this means is we offer an exclusive availability to their tenants for both corporate and commercial photography. So far we are enjoying the partnership and ongoing relationship we have with their staff and management.

Another partnership we are proud to be involved in is the local sport shooting club The Silver Willow. Last year we started offering corporate packages where we come in and photograph their exec's and employees for team building and corporate events. We will be doing this again as well as updating the Silver Willow's website.

One last thing for now, I have been working on a new personal project called "Foothills Magic" that I am showing on a facebook page. Once I have the project running a long for a little while I will be creating a short movie that highlights the beauty of the foothills and the rich landscape we have along the edge of the prairies. The page can be found and followed here: Link.