A big thank you to UniGirl Canada for the opportunity to contribute to the 2013 Western Canada Calendar and BAM Marketing Solutions for organizing the event. Congratulations to SoCal Style Photography for nabbing the cover shot!
2012 proved to be an exciting and challenging year behind the camera. A number of successful workshops made new friends, experienced new shooting locations and further developed experience and confidence in shooting the Canadian Wilds. From the familiar peaks of Banff National Park to a few excursions into Jasper National Park, conducting the workshops offered me an opportunity to test new things behind the camera, test my own determination to be in the middle of nowhere in the winter and most importantly, allowed me to start following through on my New Years resolution of helping others learn and exposing them to the photographic world around us. Spring brought new opportunities to further developing and teaching interested students as the flower blossoms and warm winds filled the city and mountains with color. A number of successful zoo days, cityscape workshops and meet & greets continued to develop the techniques as well as allowing me to pass on more information to those around me. The accelerated learning that comes from working with others cannot be understated. I set out this year to become fluid and masterful in being behind the camera. I never intended for the positive side benefit that it would also allow me to better see the world and deliver ever more refined captures.
In preparation for a summer of travel, I spent spring focusing on increasing my confidence at shooting animals, perfecting panorama shooting, new cityscape techniques and refining the little intricacies of camera operation. Side projects in timelapse sequences, graduation photos for clients and the occasional mountain excursions made time fly by. Confidence levels increased with every passing week as the new gear became more comfortable and second nature to operate. The files coming off the camera were getting better with every outing and I was mentally better prepared for the coming trip than I had been for previous ones. Up until this point, I’d made great progress in fulfilling my photography resolutions for the year. I knew my gear inside and out better than ever, I was shooting more for myself and not just for commissions, I had greater patience and calmness when facing adverse weather and most importantly, I was growing better as a mentor and instructor with better feedback from participants and doing a better job of reaching out to a community eager to learn. Can’t go wrong right? I was on top of my mental world and ready to take on whatever Asia threw at me.
Well, that’s where things escalate to a new level of unprecedented gong show. A summer return to Asia broke the will, determination and confidence of all that I’d worked on in the first half of the year. The mental shot lists I had been putting together for months, the sites I’d planned to visit and the experiences I intended to capture were all unavailable, unwilling to cooperate and generally just out of photographic reach. From logistics, time constraints and most importantly, weather, Asia taught me a lesson in humility. Day after day of trying to get preset shots delivered me memory cards of inadequate light & drama, poor framing and general feelings of defeat. By the time I was standing on top of Elephant mountain in Taipei, I wasn’t really sure what I’d gone up for since I almost lost my lunch in the climb and had to stop numerous times along the way to rest a broken self. I took the photos I needed to and for the first time realized that I wasn’t sure if I had anything. Not that it wasn’t publishable or technically well done, but rather whether I had met my own expectations of what I had set out on this trip to do. The small mountain was exposing a crack in my plans for photographic glory. I had prepared myself technically and exposed myself to the different disciplines I wanted to capture, but I never accounted for how large a part the environment and the circumstances of the day would wreck havoc on the photographic checklist I had. Unlike other trips where I was close to home base or could easily make a return trip, I was at the mercy of schedules, commitments and weather that wasn’t very agreeable to sitting on top of a mountain for hours waiting for the perfect light. I got a very good photo of the Taipei cityscape, I just wasn’t sure if it measured up to what I had in mind. Flying out of Taiwan left a feeling of dread to look at the memory cards full of images that I’m not sure is what I wanted or, worse yet, needed to prove to myself that I was a better photographer this year.
Hong Kong then. A return to a familiar second home and a chance at redemption. This time I had all the gear, this time it was going to be different. From temples, cityscapes, and majestic sights, I can’t lose. Friends abound, support directly from Canon and a knowledge of the city inside and out. Here is where summer went photographically right and I could make up for an unfulfilled Taiwan. I had some early successes and small triumphs to get my footing back. I did test runs for my Gigapan project and got favourable results. I ate nonstop to the happiness of my belly. Ok, let’s go. Well things have a mighty fine way of going sideways right when you’re ready to do the victory dance. You can check out the gruesome details here of what happened when it came time to finish the timelapse & Gigapan of Hong Kong. While winter and spring were fruitful, encouraging and rewarding, summer is where the wheels came off. The expectation I set for myself were lofty but it wasn’t anything that I knew I physically couldn’t do, but the world around me got in the way of accomplishing what seemed like a perfectly easy, conquerable photo assignment. I’d never up to this point walked away from a shooting experience with a gut wrenching feeling of being empty handed. I had memory cards and hard drives full of images, but I couldn’t tell you that I was proud of any of them at that point.
Compared to all the other trips that came before, this was the first I went headstrong into with such a predefined set of images to capture, a delivery of a magical vista and landscape that’s eluded me for years. I didn’t know how high my expectations of myself were going into Asia this year were and worse, I didn’t realize how badly it would break me and grind to a halt all the progress I had made so far. It took me a month to unpack my camera gear after returning. The salt water, spray, dirt and debris caked on as a gruesome reminder from the final night of defeat at Victoria Peak. I didn’t shoot for almost two months. Not a commission, not a personal project, not even testing. For a while, I secluded myself from the photographic community I’d worked extensively with earlier in the year. I deferred teaching workshops for the remainder of summer to other instructors and I didn’t find an inspiration to shoot for myself. I hid in the corporate world, familiar, simple and comfortable. There was a lingering dissatisfaction with myself that I wasn’t good enough to get the job done after so much enthusiasm and preparation.
Slowly as summer came to a close, the little voice started to come back. Timely events and a combination of friends having recently picked up the camera gave a Day One start. Slowly but surely with small excursions and little confidence builders, mental confidence started to come back. Mini projects began to build up again, workshops became a regular occurrence and most importantly, friends were there to support a return with encouragement and camaraderie. I found a renewed sense of personal development and more importantly, a better mindset to face adverse shooting conditions. Successes in the mountains, under starlight and the peace of capturing the rising sun gave me situations that I’d faced before but only now appreciated for not just the photo but the journey that accompanied the capture. From the workshops under the stars to sunrise in Waterton, a commission for a models calendar, furthering new techniques in environmental portraiture and having my friends along for the rediscovery of a passion, the end of summer gave me a renewed focus to shoot, enthusiasm to learn and a returning inspiration to become better with every project.
Months removed from the experience of defeat in Asia, I was able to finally face all the images and muster courage to review and begin preparing them for publication. I slowly began to sift through images from Asia a little bit at a time. I went through my goals and my shot lists that I’d prepared prior to the trip and worked tirelessly through the files I captured hoping to check off some victory and regain a measure of composure and confidence. Slowly but surely images started to present themselves. Photos of the micro transactions and images of the world in simple, direct visuals. I went to Taiwan and Hong Kong to capture a landscape and present architecture and cityscape on a grand scale. Although I managed just a few of those compared to what I had in mind, I realized that subconsciously, I was shooting away at a far more interesting story. A story of the human experience and the interaction of the people that inhabited those cities, the cultures that permeate and characterize the architecture and most importantly, that unlike a tour-book like collection of sites and landmarks, I had a complete visual narrative to share about my journey, the places I visited and most importantly, the people that made the journey unique. Looking back on it now, The Hong Kong Diaries gave me what I didn’t know I wanted – a personal project that showed me what it meant to capture life and the world that surrounds it. It’s not the most comprehensive of works due to the challenges discussed, but it is a defining moment in learning to see the world around me and breaking away from just the commercial ready fine art landscapes.
I don’t think I became a better photographer this year. Smashed gear, missed captures and circumstances beyond my control took away the most dramatic of planned shots. In hindsight though, I think 2012 was the year that I finally became a more complete photographer. Complete in the varied disciplines I’d strived for so long to learn, the reinforcing confidence that comes with teaching and most importantly, the experiences of success and defeat. In some ways, 2012 was a long year with very hard lessons and experiences, in others, it was too quick and not enough time to enjoy the small successes that came with progressive lessons. As it draws to a close though, 2012 proves to be the most personally rewarding yet behind the camera. I set out with some resolutions, generally fulfilled them, experienced a deflating and defeating trip after setting such lofty goals and eventually found the energy and inspiration to get back behind the lens.
I look back on 2012 and I’m thankful for being able to assemble a body of work throughout the year that I’m proud of. The year didn’t go according to the plan I had in my head. But at the end of it, I learned more and came to value more about being behind the camera than I had in years past. More importantly, I learned what it takes to push through the difficulties of uncontrollable circumstances and come through with a new appreciation for the opportunities we have every day.
For all the friends and supporters who continue to frequent this site and share the content, this past year marks a new beginning. I look forward to compiling a new set of resolutions for the coming year which I’ll share with you all. Until then, happy shooting and thank you for the support and encouragement.
Check out these selections from the 2012 journey – The Hong Kong Diaries | A Taiwan Excursion | Let The Sun Shine In | A Workshop Under the Stars | A Reminder to Enjoy Summer | We Photographed a Zoo 1 & 2 | Light the City Workshop
Being a gearhead aside, one of the most compelling intrinsic reasons to take up the camera is to document a human experience or adventure that you go through as an individual. Through personal projects in landscapes, adventure and people or comissioned work such as weddings and travel, photography offers a method to documents the world as it unfolds before you. A critical step in ensuring your continued growth and understanding of your skills is dependent upon recognizing the development you’ve undertaken in your journey over the course of time.
Some of the images you’re about to see are from the earliest of my archives. Some are really really bad. In the end, it’s about evaluating where you started, what led you to take those images and most importantly, be able to compare it to where you are today and finitely define where your skills have developed. We are going to go through a mini journey through time to evaluate some examples of the importance of looking back on your personal body of work. It is a critical part of your journey to remind yourself how important it is to recognize the development and growth of your photography. Today’s lesson is about setting an expectation for yourself to learn from how you’ve documented the past, how it affects your current shooting and how to use those experiences to push your capture in the future and allow your style to evolve as a result.
Our first collage demonstrates the scenic views of Victoria Harbour, HK captured in the summer of 2008. These images show the wonderful skyline and have a basic sense of scale with the boats and ferrys in the image. One thing they don’t deliver however is drama and mood to better showcase the vibrace and business of the harbour.
Flash forward to 2012 and we have a vastly different collection of the harbour. The photographs have become more focused with the skyline gaining better attention and framed with more movement, a better perspective on scale and more life. The intervening years taught me a lesson in integrating the environment that your subjects (the skyline) are in so as to better present them as teeming with life. For a long time I saw Hong Kong as a place of wonderful architecture and tall buildings. While that thought is still true and relevant, taking the images a step further but better integrating their scale to the people and vehicles that busily hop through the city and including motion and dynamic lighting has allowed me to showcase a more “alive” image and one that allows people to better relate to the hustle and bustle this metropolis offers.
Next up, Lake Moraine Canada. One of the most photographed places in the Canadian Rockies, Moraine offers a stunning mountain scape, crystal clear water and a view that reminds you of the beauty of nature. All well and good, except it took me about 2 years to figure out that although it was an easy escape to get to, it was a difficult journey to master. The first photo, taken in 2005, is an example of what I considered good enough at the time. It was framed decently well, the horizon was actually somewhat level and I thought for a long time that it had drama. Well it didn’t, at least not the drama and scale that this wonderful place offered visitors. A return in 2006 showed a slight evolution in composition and marked improvement in mood as the late sunset offered a different color palette. I was more careful to step back and frame a wider shot, but it still didn’t give the impact that I had seen on so many others capture.
In 2009 I challenged myself to deliver the images that made Moraine an incredible place to visit. I knew how to get there, I knew what settings were required for a sharp photo, but I didn’t recognize until this trip that the pain and suffering of landscape stems from the need to go when others won’t, get up when it’s not natural and get to the site when the light accents the subject. Now we had the drama of the red light hitting the peaks, the vibrant colors of summer and most importantly, I finally started to learn and appreciate that good photos require great effort in not just the technical side of things, but also the environment to cooperate and allow you an opportunity to capture what is in your head. A progressive photo the following year allowed me to show a dramatically different, snow covered, Moraine Lake. It was an image that although didn’t have as much visual impact as a beautiful sunrise, offered a unique image that wasn’t seen very often. Cold feet and frosty fingers be damned, I was on a mission to learn from past mistakes and strived to deliver something that wasn’t as common as sunrise anymore.
And that brings us to Moraine by Starlight – you’ve seen the previous post here – This was the end of the Moraine journey – it was a culmination of the lessons of grand composition, exceptional lighting and pure effort and determination to stay awake as well as not get eaten by an unseen cougar or bear under the moon & starlight. From the first lesson in 2005 to this effort in late 2012, Moraine has provided a consistent challenge that demands attention to detail while pushing you to capture something unique of such a well documented space. Light, sunrise, stars and the season – these are the variables which, applied to all fields of photography, defined the learning curve that I’m grateful to have undertaken. Had I an opportunity to accelerate this lesson instead of taking 7 years to go through it, I definitely would have, but at the same time, I’m not entirely sure I’d have gotten as much out of it without the downtime in between.
Revisitng the same locations or subjects is a theme of this lesson. It’s about reminding yourself of what you’ve been able to accomplish there before and pushing yourself to getting something better the next time. Photography is not just about capturing the scene before you, but to become better at finding those scenes, you have to invest time and energy into analyzing the past. Your own work and the ones that inspire you help to define where you want to be and also act as a constant reminder of what little details are required to get there.
7 years on, am I done with Moraine? No, I have a few more trips left on the list to conquer this little place and maybe one day deliver the image I know is still left uncaptured.
I’m not going to beat to death the lesson of reviewing your past work and comparing it to what you have now, but I am going to share a few more then and now examples of how things have evolved over the years – here’s a travel photo of cabs in Hong Kong – 2008 vs 2012 – it’s become about mood and lighting. Colors pop, the scene gains drama and it’s gone from a simple snap shot to something that is more telling of the busy city that these cabs operate in.
Calgary Alberta Canada – 2006 vs 2011 – understanding the interplay of sunset, downtown lights and making the best use of the blue hour. Dramatic sky exists in the first with storm clouds but no dramatic lighting gives it a very flat look. Fast forward a few years and patience and a little luck pays off with a much more vibrant color palette and attention to detail with cars filling the parking lot and bringing needed life to frame the city.
That’s it for this round of examples. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a line at email@example.com. Also don’t forget to stop by my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fymphoto and show your support by hitting the “Like” button. Til next time – don’t forget that photography is a journey and more importantly, don’t forget to keep shooting!
I have been taking photos since I was a small kid. I first dabbled in digital SLR photography in 2003 and haven’t looked back since. I capture events and moments as I see them. I share my photos in order to share what I see in my world and how I see yours. The galleries you see is the work I do and the adventures I have. This is the world through my eyes. A reflection of dreams, hope, aspiration and a little inspiration. The shots on this site are the embodiment of my world through the lens. Moments frozen in time. Created from happiness, friendship, adventure and the journey of my lifetime. These are my photos, the world around me and the people that make the difference.
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