Events

Mount Lehman Barn - Great Gatsby Party

A while ago, I had the opportunity to take photographs for this amazing event. I’m a huge fan of vintage things (especially vintage cameras!) and I really love the style of the past century so when I was offered the opportunity to be the photographer at this event, I jumped at the chance.

The event took place at Mount Lehman Barn, which is also where I had photographed part of Kevin and Julie’s wedding and it was decorated to the theme of the 1920s classic Great Gatsby. As part of my own preparation, I watched scenes from the newer version of the movie “The Great Gatsby” featuring Leonardo Dicaprio as Mr. Gatsby and was instantly inspired. Seeing everyone dress up and the entire venue decorated “to the nines” really created an amazing atmosphere that I felt had captured the essence of what I would think would be the 1920s… but we did have some smartphones so….

As part of going with the vintage vibe, I rented a 1960s Polaroid camera and shot some expired Fuji 3000B Instant black and white film so people would have photos for their home (the result was an instant professional black and white photograph). The camera was a beast to carry around and setup but the photographs that resulted were beautiful.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” 
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The 7th Annual Insurance Institute Battle of the Bands

For the last 7 years (well, skip 2-3 years as I missed a few), I have been the photographer at the Insurance Institute’s Battle of the Bands charity fundraiser. I don’t consider myself that much of a band photographer (as much as I am a documentary photographer) but I do have a somewhat vast history in music, bands and performances and thus bringing my documentary eye to this brings me a great amount of joy.

After years of having crazy loud speakers blaring in my ears, on the advice of a good friend of mine, I ended up purchasing industrial ear plugs. This saved me from those crazy headaches I’d get the day after the event or the ringing in my ears during.

Photographing in the Blarney Stone presents some crazy lighting challenges. I have in some cases opted for flash (mainly if people want the occasional portrait group shot) but 99% of the time I’m using the existing lighting that is there… and there HAS to be lighting or else… well, how are you going to see the band? Haha. I’ve opted for very fast lenses and shooting at much higher ISO’s (like 1600 or 3200 sometimes), but I’ve found that the best technique is waiting for the rotating strobe lights to illuminate the person at the right time. My style of documentary photographer isn’t simply just blasting away frames with no consideration. I concentrate, wait for the composition, observe, breathe, move to a different angle if I’m getting nothing, feel the flow of the music, observe the rhythm of the strobe lights (they tend to operate in set sequences) and wait for it all to light up and then… click, click click! …

The first image looks like the girl is holding a cigarette and a pack but it’s actually a pen and a stamp button (I think). I do like the “classic” feel of the image and the pose. As you go further into the band photos, you’ll see my tendency to get up close. For a majority of this event, I shot with just one lens: the 24mm F1.4 lens (on an APS-H sensor). That meant I was most likely 2-3 feet away from the people in order to get the closer shots. In some cases, there guitar was right in my face, the speaker-monitors were blaring right in front of me and a whole gaggle of guests were dancing and having a great time behind me. 

A Brief Reflection on 2015 - Documentary Moments

As a documentary photographer who photographs many weddings, I’ve had the opportunity to observe people through the emotional tides that arises from a wedding day and it’s such a privilege to be able to be with brides and grooms in this amazing time of their lives. From anticipation to the sense of relief of having completed the ceremony (without tripping or losing the ring!) to the sense of celebration and exuberance at the celebration in the end, a wedding day is full of moments that are easy to miss in the hustle and bustle of things but are there. I’ve always focused on getting those genuine moment and telling stories through them.

As I reflect back on 2015, I want to share some of my work that expressed my passion for documentary moments. More to come in 2016 but in the meanwhile, here's a brief overview of what 2015 looked like.

This was the CJF Event that occurred just after the election. Amidst the people was a microphone that would be later used to take questions for the panel (behind me) to address. My major was in Economics so a bit of the political talk was over my head... also, I was focusing on photographing so earnestly that I didn't hear much of what was being discussed

This was the CJF Event that occurred just after the election. Amidst the people was a microphone that would be later used to take questions for the panel (behind me) to address. My major was in Economics so a bit of the political talk was over my head... also, I was focusing on photographing so earnestly that I didn't hear much of what was being discussed

From one of my documentary photosessions this year, I photographed Danielle and Stephen (and their cat Misto). While we did have a more "directed" photoshoot later on, this photo and many others I took on this day were completely natural and I did no directing. Just observation. Here, I love how Misto the cat enjoys being both cradled and petted by her owners.

From one of my documentary photosessions this year, I photographed Danielle and Stephen (and their cat Misto). While we did have a more "directed" photoshoot later on, this photo and many others I took on this day were completely natural and I did no directing. Just observation.
Here, I love how Misto the cat enjoys being both cradled and petted by her owners.

I got a chance to work with the clothing store Dynamite for one of their Fall events (ponchos were in, by the way). 

I got a chance to work with the clothing store Dynamite for one of their Fall events (ponchos were in, by the way). 

A quick frame from the Dynamite event. Many bloggers, writers and youtubers were invited to try on the new Fall lineup and get a brief on the direction of where Dynamite was going (#iamdynamite ... if you're curious). 

A quick frame from the Dynamite event. Many bloggers, writers and youtubers were invited to try on the new Fall lineup and get a brief on the direction of where Dynamite was going (#iamdynamite ... if you're curious). 

After photographing the groomsmen at the Italian Cultural Center, I went over to the bride's house. This moment was the moment when the bridesmaids saw the dress for the first time. Their expression is priceless. A few second prior or a few seconds later and the moment would've been lost.

After photographing the groomsmen at the Italian Cultural Center, I went over to the bride's house. This moment was the moment when the bridesmaids saw the dress for the first time. Their expression is priceless. A few second prior or a few seconds later and the moment would've been lost.

As the bride was getting out of the limousine, I saw this moment come together very quickly. I took two quick frames and this was the better of the two compositionally and also the expression of the bride. She was looking just behind me to the bridesmaids.

As the bride was getting out of the limousine, I saw this moment come together very quickly. I took two quick frames and this was the better of the two compositionally and also the expression of the bride. She was looking just behind me to the bridesmaids.

I love how the sunglasses on the groomsmen contrasts with the sky blue dresses of the bridesmaid and the bride in the center of it all.

I love how the sunglasses on the groomsmen contrasts with the sky blue dresses of the bridesmaid and the bride in the center of it all.

This photograph came out of a group photograph that Josh Bowie was trying to do. We always think of group photos as being clean and polished but this honest moment has a life of it's own. Of course, after, we did get the group photograph :)

This photograph came out of a group photograph that Josh Bowie was trying to do. We always think of group photos as being clean and polished but this honest moment has a life of it's own. Of course, after, we did get the group photograph :)

We wedding photographers work in very difficult light situations. In this specific situation with the groom (on the right) and his groomsmen hugging him, this was a basement with very little lights other than a few ceiling spot lights and a door. I could have used flash to brighten things up but decided that staying true to the lighting of the scene would (a) not draw attention to myself (if I fired my flash, people would instantly know I was there) and (b) allow a truer representation of what it felt like to be there.

We wedding photographers work in very difficult light situations. In this specific situation with the groom (on the right) and his groomsmen hugging him, this was a basement with very little lights other than a few ceiling spot lights and a door. I could have used flash to brighten things up but decided that staying true to the lighting of the scene would (a) not draw attention to myself (if I fired my flash, people would instantly know I was there) and (b) allow a truer representation of what it felt like to be there.

I was actually holding the door with this gentleman while the bridesmaids were making their way down the aisle. One foot (or hand?) on the door and the other hands on my camera trying to get this moment composed properly. In the end, it worked out and the bride and bridesmaid were able to make their way up the aisle.

I was actually holding the door with this gentleman while the bridesmaids were making their way down the aisle. One foot (or hand?) on the door and the other hands on my camera trying to get this moment composed properly. In the end, it worked out and the bride and bridesmaid were able to make their way up the aisle.

One of my favorite moments of 2015 :) We had just finished a request for a family group photograph and I saw these two starting to light up a cigarette. As I was walking towards the door, I quickly aligned my camera settings, set focus and clicked the shutter JUST as they saw me taking their photograph. 

One of my favorite moments of 2015 :) We had just finished a request for a family group photograph and I saw these two starting to light up a cigarette. As I was walking towards the door, I quickly aligned my camera settings, set focus and clicked the shutter JUST as they saw me taking their photograph. 

Smiles and expressions really make for a great telling of moments. Here, the groom is smiling while in conversation with some of the other guests. The preliminary stress and nervousness can be daunting for a groom and a bride so I love finding moments like these to show the feelings of the day and hopefully allow the bride and groom to recall these moments.

Smiles and expressions really make for a great telling of moments. Here, the groom is smiling while in conversation with some of the other guests. The preliminary stress and nervousness can be daunting for a groom and a bride so I love finding moments like these to show the feelings of the day and hopefully allow the bride and groom to recall these moments.

While I was photographing the groom inside the ceremony/reception area, I was keeping an eye on the door down the hall to see if a limousine would pull up. Eventually, it did and I was able to head out to the front door and document this moment of the bride making her way out of the limousine.

While I was photographing the groom inside the ceremony/reception area, I was keeping an eye on the door down the hall to see if a limousine would pull up. Eventually, it did and I was able to head out to the front door and document this moment of the bride making her way out of the limousine.

In some scenes I photograph, there can be a few things going on. I intentionally keep all these elements in the photograph to give a broader view of what happened on a particular wedding day. I see the mother of the bride holding the bride's hand while the flower girl is led by her mother (?).

In some scenes I photograph, there can be a few things going on. I intentionally keep all these elements in the photograph to give a broader view of what happened on a particular wedding day. I see the mother of the bride holding the bride's hand while the flower girl is led by her mother (?).

I saw the groom crack this smile as he was signing the wedding papers and quickly grabbed the moment. Just a millisecond prior he was not smiling. The smile really made this photograph. 

I saw the groom crack this smile as he was signing the wedding papers and quickly grabbed the moment. Just a millisecond prior he was not smiling. The smile really made this photograph. 

I do keep some time for more "formal" photographs of the bride and groom but it's usually very short. Bride and grooms hire me to capture honesty documentary photographs of their day and that is what I focus on. That being said, for those more formal times, I just encourage and direct the bride and groom in a certain way so that even though they are being "posed" they're still having natural moments between themselves. 

I do keep some time for more "formal" photographs of the bride and groom but it's usually very short. Bride and grooms hire me to capture honesty documentary photographs of their day and that is what I focus on. That being said, for those more formal times, I just encourage and direct the bride and groom in a certain way so that even though they are being "posed" they're still having natural moments between themselves. 

I very rarely use ultra-wide lenses as I think it's easy to misuse it and make things all distorted but in this case I felt this really worked and gave a wider view of the scene and the architecture of Hazelmere.

I very rarely use ultra-wide lenses as I think it's easy to misuse it and make things all distorted but in this case I felt this really worked and gave a wider view of the scene and the architecture of Hazelmere.

Wedding day moments are about the bride and groom but also about friends, family, children, the service people, etc. While I focus on the bride and the groom, I also keep a second eye on situations happening around the room and capture these moments as they happen.

Wedding day moments are about the bride and groom but also about friends, family, children, the service people, etc. While I focus on the bride and the groom, I also keep a second eye on situations happening around the room and capture these moments as they happen.

I'm including this image in order to show my love for not only prints but also for INSTANT FILM! There's a certain magical beauty in having a print develop right before your eyes (or in this case, in my jacket pocket) and then seeing the smiles and amazement of the bride and groom as they hold the print for the first time. 

I'm including this image in order to show my love for not only prints but also for INSTANT FILM! There's a certain magical beauty in having a print develop right before your eyes (or in this case, in my jacket pocket) and then seeing the smiles and amazement of the bride and groom as they hold the print for the first time. 

There were a lot of stories that I got to tell in 2015 and there's actually a number of personal projects that I have backlogged that I still need to share from 2014-2015 (continuing the Chinatown project, potential Downtown Vancouver Street Photography book, a book on Japan) but at this point I'm very happy for what happened in 2015. THANK YOU to all my clients, fellow photographers whom I worked with and all my friends and family for believing in me and supporting me and, in some cases, teaching me things. I am truly blessed to be able to do this and I look forward to doing more in 2016. 

Yes, it's a day or two late but whatever...
HAPPY NEW YEAR /  XIN NIAN KUAI LE / AKEMASHITE OMEDETOU GUZAIMASU!!

Canadian Journalism Foundation: "How The Vote Was Won" Event

I don't have much to say about this event so I'll let the photographs tell the story this time. The event started with a brief reception and was then followed by Moderator Tom Clark addressing the panel of four speakers about the 2015 Election and How The Votes Were Won. Near the end, people were able to approach a microphone and ask questions of the speakers about the recent Canadian election. There were laughs, there were opinions given and there was live tweeting too! #CJFjtalk

The event was for The Canadian Journalism Foundation (www.wjf-fjc.ca).

Being a photographer at these events (and with any photography work I do), I try my best to be discreet. However, at one point, my waist bag caught under the desk to the side of the stage as I was trying to leave that side of the stage to get another angle and nearly fell over. Thanks to a lot of working out of my thigh and core muscles, I was able to avoid a very distracting and NOT discreet fall... thankfully!

Robson-Sakaba VanVan Izakaya Photoshoot

I don't often take photographs for/of restaurants but with my recent interest in the art of cooking and food-making AND when I saw that a friend of mine was opening up a Japanese Izakaya restaurant and I said to myself "why not?". 

A lot of times, when I think of restaurant photographs, I think of food photos showing the food... and really, that's about it. Here's what you can eat. Thanks. And... that's all the photos really tells you.

As a documentary photographer, I felt I could add another dimension to the usual photographs of just food images and go beyond just food photographs. In this case, I wanted to photograph the "essence" of this Japanese Izakaya and tell their story. You see, an Izakaya in Japan is not just a a food place. It's also a place to hang out with some friends, have some great food and drinks and have a great time together, all the while trying out some very interesting Japanese food items that the kitchen comes up with. It's very social.

So the challenge here was to not just take photographs of the food but to also to convey the essence of the Izakaya through the photographs and hopefully allow you to experience a restaurant on more than "just" the food. 

This was taken just moments before the doors opened and some customers came in to try out this new Izakaya!

This was taken just moments before the doors opened and some customers came in to try out this new Izakaya!

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It was really cool to see all the staff working together as a team. Here they cheer each other on before the oncoming dinner rush.

It was really cool to see all the staff working together as a team. Here they cheer each other on before the oncoming dinner rush.

Most of the time, we delete blurry photos this like. However, in this case, I took a step back and saw my friend's smile outshining the lack of "technical perfection" of the photograph. It's one of my personal favorites. 

Most of the time, we delete blurry photos this like. However, in this case, I took a step back and saw my friend's smile outshining the lack of "technical perfection" of the photograph. It's one of my personal favorites. 

People were actually eating as I took these photos. I was practically a few feet away from them. I apologized in advance and did my best to let them continue eating and conversing. Thankfully they were OK with me photographing the food (no close-up, 1-inch-from-food-macro shots). Being polite and courteous when you have to butt in on someone's meal is VERY important not just for being a documentary photographer but also... it's just good manners :)

People were actually eating as I took these photos. I was practically a few feet away from them. I apologized in advance and did my best to let them continue eating and conversing. Thankfully they were OK with me photographing the food (no close-up, 1-inch-from-food-macro shots). Being polite and courteous when you have to butt in on someone's meal is VERY important not just for being a documentary photographer but also... it's just good manners :)

I focused on using the natural light and also the shadows to give you a sense of what the restaurant looks like. Part of the appeal of this Izakaya is the environment that you are in. Lighting plays an important part in this even if you're just sitting and eating.

I focused on using the natural light and also the shadows to give you a sense of what the restaurant looks like. Part of the appeal of this Izakaya is the environment that you are in. Lighting plays an important part in this even if you're just sitting and eating.

Here I'm taking an image a distance away. What I tried to capture was the essence of engaging with another human being ... and food and drinks seems to do a fantastic job of that. :)

Here I'm taking an image a distance away. What I tried to capture was the essence of engaging with another human being ... and food and drinks seems to do a fantastic job of that. :)

Blue flame torch on a slab of fish? Nice!

Blue flame torch on a slab of fish? Nice!

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I managed to get this image without drawing any attention to myself. Part of it was probably due to the table staff eventually getting used to me moving around a lot and taking photographs from every angle.

I managed to get this image without drawing any attention to myself. Part of it was probably due to the table staff eventually getting used to me moving around a lot and taking photographs from every angle.

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The kitchen in action with my friend at the helm.

The kitchen in action with my friend at the helm.

Taking orders!

Taking orders!

The dishware at this Izakaya caught my attention. Having recently read the manga comic "Oishinbo", I've begun to realize the importance of the art of dishware in Japanese culture. I have to admit that, in my times photographing the food and even eating the food, there appeared to be a deliberate choice in dishware that seems to compliment the style and type of food you're being served. 

The dishware at this Izakaya caught my attention. Having recently read the manga comic "Oishinbo", I've begun to realize the importance of the art of dishware in Japanese culture. I have to admit that, in my times photographing the food and even eating the food, there appeared to be a deliberate choice in dishware that seems to compliment the style and type of food you're being served. 

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Images were shot with ALL Pentax cameras, utilising a combination of film in 35mm format, 645 format in black and white film and color film. Digital was also used, utilising the Replichrome film presets.

I used a Pentax PZ1-P film SLR camera with a Voigtlander 40mm F2 Ultron lens (K Mount), Pentax 645 film camera with 645 55mm F2.8 lens and my Pentax K7 digital SLR utilizing the DA 21 F3.2 Limited lens and the DA*55 F1.4 lens.

Funny story: I was actually surprised that some of these last images in color survived. You see, I opened the back of my film camera thinking I had rewound it. Instead, I opened it and exposed it so some really harsh light!  NOOOOOO!
Surprisingly, most of the images seemed to have survived and, in fact, I think the effect on the film worked in my favor :)