Life’s Too Short…

Two Wheel Gear Bike Commuter Backpack

Still from the Two Wheel Gear 2019 Kickstarter video production.

Last summer I started working with local cycling company Two Wheel Gear as their content manager. I create photo and video work to promote the brand and their dedication to cycling as transportation. Maybe you’ve noticed, but this is something I am very passionate about! I have dedicated a substantial amount of time and energy into showing folks just how fun, easy and convenient cycling in the city really is. Visuals are the best way to show this.

Two Wheel Gear was a brand I reviewed while at Momentum Mag. From their early years with the garment pannier bag (still a Classic!) to messenger-style shoulder bags, the company has put bike commuters at the forefront of their product line. In 2016, I shot lifestyle images for their curated line of gear. Now, an exciting opportunity for 2020 presented with new distribution at REI in the states, ongoing with MEC in Canada and a greatly expanded product line. It was time to get busy with the visuals once again.

To launch a brand new set of bags, we decided to pitch our fans with a Kickstarter campaign. We led with a video created to introduce our new product designer Greg Bass, and to show off our brand new products — the Modular Commute Backpack Kit. After an action-packed weekend in October filming around Vancouver, the files were off to our editor, Tom Malenica, who turned our storyboard and clips into the informative (and really cool!) video you see below.


It worked, the campaign was fully funded and the product is starting to ship. Since that time, we’ve spent hours in the studio on product shots, filmed demo videos showing off all the product features and did a couple more days of still images — riding around and shooting on the streets of Vancouver. I’ll share more of those lifestyle shots soon. Enjoy the video and see you in the bike lane! After all, life is too short to sit in traffic.

Vancouver, 2019.

+ + T W E N T Y + +

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Making a Mark. Here with my first SLR, a Pentax Spotmatic II “borrowed” from my parents and the original camera they used to document the family growing up. I still use it today.

Twenty years. Two decades. One score. A significant number.

This year – 2020 – marks a few milestones for me:

20 years since I graduated from the Photojournalism program at SAIT.

20 years living in Vancouver, BC after moving from my hometown, Calgary.

20 years since I started my professional career as a photographer.

20 years in business for myself.

20 years ago I met and became close with many of my current best friends.

Looking even further back, I realized it has been about twice that period of time since I got my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic X-15. Yes, I was wee. Figuring some of my earliest snapshots were of my just-born brother Kevin, I can confidently say I’m right around:

40 years as a photography enthusiast.

A very rough estimate counts 10,000 slides and negatives from years shooting 35mm. Digital dominates after 2005, with at least 300,000 frames captured. This includes huge batches of editorial, commercial and event work plus archives from traveling 15 countries. Not to mention the hours of video clips, hundreds of film scans and camera op gigs along the way. I may be underestimating. Whew!

So. This feels significant.

After a tumultuous 2019 and to start the decade with intention, I wanted to honour some of these milestones in my life and pay tribute to the time passed growing, learning, exploring, playing and, above all, shooting pictures.

I made a mark. I took the focal plane symbol from my camera body and found a ‘stick & poke’ tattoo artist to mark my trigger finger. The symbol represents the physical spot inside the camera where the image is made and that finger connects eye, mind and shutter. It was a meaningful start to the year and a permanent reminder of what I do and where I came from. One of the threads weaving my life together from childhood through adolescence to the, ahem, mature man I am now.

Twenty Twenty. Here’s to a few score more.

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Capturing a wedge of light in the studio Nov, 2019. Thanks for your support!

 

Killer* Bee

Killer* Bee

This thing was so huge. I mean check out all those thighs! It was like a thumb with wings.

A Killer.

But that was me, almost. The bee landed in front of my friend, parked but at the wheel of a Modo shared truck. Retreating to the passenger seat after taking a closer look across the cab, my arm struck a lever I didn’t see – the front wiper control. Immediately, the blades leapt into action, the rubber unnecessarily wiping – and fast! – across the pristine windshield. The bee didn’t see it coming. Wham! It’s on the wiper, now it’s on the bottom of the windshield. The wiper is coming back for another hit. Boom. It can’t take another one and in the nick of time, the lever is struck, upwards. Following two strong sorties the blades are put to rest.

The big bee lay motionless, legs askew and frumpled. It’s gone from this world, I thought sadly, and yet still in astonishment over the initial notice of this absolute unit of a bee, seconds before. After such admiration and excitement on my part to get a glimpse of a true insect specimen, right there behind the glass, millimeters within touch — I killed it. There it was, taking its last tiny breath, sweet like honey I’m sure.

Sigh.

Wait! The bee stirs. It’s up! It’s alive and it’s flying straight away and across the street. On a level plane, not stunned at all. On a level plane, yes, but windshield height. It’s a 3-way-plus-alley kind of place, traffic can come from any direction. It’s up to luck now. The bee seems to hone in on a target across the way and, ahem, bee lines at speed. Out of sight, away from this danger and onto a new bee danger I will never know. As for me, I was amazed at this bee not once, but twice today and within seconds. But right there in between, for just a fraction of a moment in time, when a bee and a human interact through glass and mechanical device — a little hint of mortality and humbleness to be human and able to kill at will. Just to keep things interesting.


Related: You’re Gonna Get Some Hop-Ons

Specimen 300

An abandoned umbrella along Hastings Street, Vancouver.

Three Hundred #umbrellalostalone

You were always there for me when I needed you most.
Now the need is gone, and so are you…

Here is it, specimen number three hundred in my ongoing series: Umbrella: Lost, Alone.

Spotted at night in the neighbourhood where many of my lost umbrella shots were taken. I waited a moment for the passing bus and boom, #300 was in the bag.

Where to go from here? 365 for a full year’s worth of abandoned brollies? Yes. Then onto the next milestone! People tell me they don’t see an abandoned umbrella without thinking of me, some even show me their own finds from the streets. I love it. I’ll continue to bag brollies as long as the rain comes down. Here in Vancouver, there’s endless opportunity.

Follow along on instagram with my project hashtag: #umbrellalostalone

See where it all began on flickr, the original (and ongoing) set with alternate takes.

Or scroll the complete set of 300, with more to come, on my website’s umbrella page.

Hastings & Abbott, Vancouver, December 18, 2019.

Putting Words to Music: 2019 Top Tunes

Halloween cabaret...

Photo:  Dave Niddrie (0095c)

I’ve been doing a lot more writing lately and figured I’d start sharing some of it on this here blog. To kick that off, and carry on a tradition going back to the early 00s, I’m writing up my favourite tunes of the year. If you know me even a little bit, you’ll know music is a lifelong obsession of mine. I’m always on the hunt for new sounds, unheralded gems, lesser-known artists and I tend to follow a musical family tree as far back (and forward) as I can. Yep, I’m restless. I can find good stuff within almost all genres, but I have a strong distaste for top 40 radio pop. Sure, I love a good banger every now and then, but to get any depth out of this artform, I look deeper, push further and open my ears with curiosity. I hope you find something just for you, too – enjoy. (more…)

The Silence Between

It may take a few minutes to decipher these images. Layers of sediment, leaf canopy, floating leaves and underwater soil combine in this natural abstraction of a trail side puddle. If you look carefully, you can even see between the layers – the dark water suspending all manner of organics. Like Claude Debussy remarked: The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between. I’m definitely ‘seeing’ some silence in these. What do you see?

Taken on the shores of Mohun Lake near Campbell River, BC.

A State of Surveillance

A series looking at being looked at. Eyes in the sky, on the side of a building, atop a vendor’s stall, or in a Buddhist Temple. Some urban environments are practically impossible to maneuver through without being recorded. In Taichung the camera peers out from unexpected places. Spot the cameras in these images and wonder if you’d have seen them in real life. Once I started to see a few, I started to see a lot.

For more from Taiwan, check my digital brief here.

Taiwan, 2015.

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Hiding in Plain Sight

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Walking to the photo studio on a blue sky morning means I need to budget some extra time to literally stop and smell the flowers. Factor in the occasional photograph along the way, too, and my commute has stretched out a little bit. Stroll the side streets of Mount Pleasant and you’ll find a new scene opens up on each block. Here are a couple iPhone snaps from one such morning — the low angle of spring light, the magnolias caught mid-bloom and a skyfall of floral worms from a pollinating tree overhead. Behind it all, homes, vehicles, streets…urban life, in plain sight.

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The Ghosts of Transit Past

Vintage BC trolley buses on display at Sandon, BC.Have you ever been to Sandon, BC? It’s not exactly a place you happen upon. Ascending into the Selkirk range from the town of New Denver on Slocan Lake, it’s just a short jaunt up Carpenter Creek. The town is one of BC’s most famous ghost towns, not bad for a province with hundreds of ’em! I have a bit of a thing for these places, like Phoenix near Greenwood, BC. Like many others, Sandon has a rich history of mining and pioneering, and with that came brothels, bars and 5000 residents all vying for a piece of that mineral pie. There was even a battle for railroad supremacy, complete with sabotage and scandal! Within 20 years, however, the boom went to bust and the rest is history.

Somewhere along the way, a few decommissioned electric trolley buses from Vancouver found a home in the open air of this (mostly) abandoned place. Maintained by Hal Wright, one of Sandon’s only residents, these ‘Brills’ date back to the 40s and have become a magnet for curiousity seekers and history/transit buffs. I’d been hearing about this place for a few years and finally had a visit. The location is very nice, tucked into a tight valley with towering green all around. Classic Kootenays! The buses were right there on the side of the road, an open-air museum as they are slowly restored and kept in shape. There seems to be a lot to do on that front! Didn’t make it into the museum, and it’s best to check if/when it’s open before visiting. The texture & colour of rusted metal, weather-worn wood and vintage design hits all the marks for me, I could have spent a full day photographing here. There is also an old ‘iron horse’ dating to 1908 if trains are your thing – the Steam Locomotive 6947 in all it’s black beauty.

If you decide to go, bring your hiking boots and take the winding road up and out of town to approach Idaho Peak, an incredible ridge walk taking you up to the peak and a lookout with 360-degree views of the Kootenays. Lakes, mountains, and meadows as far as the eye can see. It really is something to behold.

Sandon, BC.

(click the first image below to view them all larger – recommended!)

A Spring Day Along The Cheakamus

This was no day to leave the sunglasses behind. Sandra and I took a trip up the Sea to Sky last weekend to soak up some of this unusually hot sunshine. We found a nice spot along the Cheakamus River and did the day up right: hammock nap, head dunks in the river, campfire veggie dogs ‘n’ slaw, afternoon bocce through the forest, more dogs on the fire, an exciting visit from two actual dogs — Sprocket and Ned — who must live nearby and, as the sun began to descend, a stoked up fire and final forest feast. An easy day out, giving us enough of a break from the city.

I was also keen to work with my latest lens acquisition, an 85mm f1.9 Super-Takumar. Paired with my Fuji X system, I am totally loving the ‘vintage lenses in digital spaces’ vibe. Deep contrast, crazy-cool bokeh, and unusual colour captured with the lens coatings. I’ll probably do a proper ‘I Heart Takumar’ post sometime soon – yes I am totally re-enamoured by these beauties. These are the lenses I got my start with in photography, paired with the Asahi Pentax bodies I still use today. Needless to say, with the adapter, I was able to add five ‘new’ lenses to my Fuji arsenal. Still have to work out a few kinks with focus and fringing, so consider these shots all part of the big test (the fire shot is iPhone). Check out some previous Takumar pics from ‘Vancouver’s Best Autumn‘ and a catch-all set of ‘Takumar‘ shots on my flickr.

As per usual, click the first image to view them large.