This year I completed well over 150 new photo sets featuring a variety of historic sites, landmarks, and natural wonders from my corner of the world. I made new additions to my Around the Hat series of Medicine Hat, I expanded my Around Alberta collection by leaps and bounds, and I even did a pilgrimage to the desert (but I'm counting that as a 2015 project). This all on top of the corporate or commissioned shoots I did.
In trying to narrow down 5 of my favourite photo shoots of 2014 I didn't base my decision on the 5 most obviously beautiful places I captured - I could have just done a top 5 of Banff National Park in that case. Instead, I wanted to focus on shoots that surprised me, that had stories attached to them, and that I found myself inspired by while doing them (more so than usual anyway). Here is my list of my 5 favourite photo shoots that I did in 2014:
5. Saskatchewan Grain Elevators
In the early spring I drove to Regina, SK, the city where I attended film school. I made the decision before leaving that I wanted to stop off in every town that I spotted an old wooden grain elevator in so that I could photograph and document them. Having taken this drive countless times over the years I had certain spots in mind already, but what surprised me was how many elevators had disappeared from the landscape now that I was actually looking for them.
I ended up doing a 3 part series just based on what I shot on that single drive, and it inspired me to capture a handful of other grain elevators on my various travels throughout the year. My fascination with wooden grain elevators has continued to grow now that I feel like I'm capturing a part of history that's fading. I loved doing this photo set because I feel like it really opened my eyes to something pretty special in my own backyard.
4. Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site
I love places packed with tangible history that you can explore, and for me, the Atlas Coal Mine near Drumheller, Alberta really fit the bill. We walked the site and took a tour of the tipple, all the while I was shooting pictures and looking to capture the less obvious details of the site. It must have worked, because in addition to being popular posts on my site, I later found out that Atlas Coal Mine directly shared/promoted all 3 of my photo sets I did of the location on their official facebook page.
3. Jaguar at the Calgary International Auto Show
Some photo sets I did this year were a lot of fun just because they were pure indulgence. Photographing all of the Jaguars at this year's Calgary International Auto Show was exactly that. Not to be outdone by the Back to the Future DeLorean, sitting in and checking out all of the latest Jags was like being a kid in a candy store for a former Jaguar owner like myself.
2. Aerial Photography of the Alberta Badlands
This was a shoot I was hired to do - and like I've said so many times before, it's always awesome when you get paid to do something you'd enjoy doing anyway. What was additionally great about this shoot was that after touring much of Alberta to shoot my series, it was nice to get an opportunity to see and document the badlands from another perspective. It was also cool to commission a helicopter because it meant that we could fly with the doors off and dictate exactly where we flew. It was just a lot of fun and I got some amazing images out of it.
1. Bar U Ranch National Historic Site
After all of the Alberta shoots I did across the province this year, it was the Bar U Ranch that really took me by surprise. For one, I wasn't expecting the detail and presentation of this historic ranch to be so well done. Just like the Atlas Coal Mine, I loved the tangible history here. It was also incredibly scenic, and so very Canadian - from the books on the shelves to the food in the pantries. I was genuinely excited to see what I'd find as I moved from building to building.
What really made the Bar U Ranch my favourite shoot of the year was that after touring the ranch (having the location almost entirely to myself) I came across one of the guides building a campfire. We began talking about the history of the area and I shared the journey I was on through Alberta's Rockies. It was such an engrossing discussion that it made me further appreciate everything I had captured there. It made the experience personal, and it reminded me that everything I'm documenting now will one day be historical/archival too.
The majority of the photo shoots I've done in 2014 have been eye-opening experiences mainly because so many of them have been spontaneous, documentary-style explorations of places that I was genuinely curious about. Curating the thousands of images I took, it's apparent to me now more than ever that it's through building collections that I'm able to share the experience of what it's like to explore these places - and do so creatively through my own eyes. With every shoot I complete the world around me seems richer, more vibrant, and more tempting to explore.