Showing posts with label Observations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Observations. Show all posts

Nov 10, 2020

A Travel Shoot ... in France ... in a Pandemic

With a few weeks back home in mandatory quarantine to reflect, I wanted to take a moment to record a few of the details (and challenges) behind my latest travel shoot in France in the midst of a global pandemic. I can't say I would've predicted saying that at the beginning of this year. 

For starters, it's important to note that traveling during Covid was never the original plan. The dates, flights, and hotels in France were all confirmed and paid for in February 2020 before anyone fully realized just how crazy this year was about to become.

As a travel photographer I have several memberships which provide generous discounts for top-tier flights and hotels. The catch is that these bookings are often non-refundable and have pretty strict rules for cancellation. Over the last 5 years this had never been an issue before, but after everyone began cancelling trips in late March the rules for everything just became more chaotic.

With the trip still half a year away, and with no idea of how long any of this would last, it was clear that the best thing to do at that point was nothing - at least until it got closer.

Here's what was on the table back in March:

  • Two roundtrip / direct flights from Calgary to Paris. 
  • Two weeks worth of hotels at four different properties.
  • And a rough timeline of attractions which dictated where we'd be staying.

As you'll all remember, months went by where everything was closed. Then, in the summer France reopened its borders to Canadians and options became available. Realizing that I'd already be sacrificing an entire summer season of travel projects at that point, with restrictions lifted, I was driven to make the fall trip to France happen at all costs.

My friend Jaycene was also incredibly motivated to make the trip happen, but due to a pre-existing health concern she didn't want to put herself at risk. I understood and respected this decision completely. We've already talked about going again at a later date. However, understanding that we wouldn't be refunded for our existing trip whether we went or not I decided to press on.

This is when the chaos began.

Up until the beginning of September the reservations had been fairly isolated from everything going on, but as the fall approached the impact of Covid became clear. Between September 1 and October 12 my flight reservations were modified 14 times by the airlines. 

The original direct flight to Paris became a complicated series of connections on different airlines after routes were cancelled and passengers were grouped together to fill what few flights remained. I ended up needing to add an extra travel day to the beginning and end of my trip (with hotels) to make room for the new connections.

The worst moment of trying to make sense of these flights came after one more revision where the only option I was offered on my original ticket was to fly from Paris to Mexico City to Montreal to Toronto to Calgary to Medicine Hat over a 72 hour period. I declined, took an unusable credit, and rebooked a route from Paris to Montreal to Calgary with a different airline and a new flight back to Medicine Hat from there.  

The day before leaving I was also notified (after my numerous attempts to get in touch) that one of the hotels I had booked with had gone out of business because of the forced closures from Covid. Not only was the money lost, but I found myself scrambling to book another four nights somewhere else. I wasn't thrilled about losing the money, but the replacement ended up being in an incredible location overlooking the Pantheon in central Paris

I knew this wasn't going to be an easy trip, but the stress mostly came from things that I knew would be outside of my control. I knew the rules for entry to France could change week to week and that I was essentially just putting more money on the line by committing to going when it clearly wasn't ideal. 

Despite years of practice in planning ambitious travel shoots, I've never had a trip like this where despite following all the new rules, there weren't actually a lot of guarantees that someone else wouldn't change something on you. 

Every attraction I went to over the next two weeks required me to book and pay in advance to get a dated, and in most cases hourly, ticket for entry. I tend to have a thorough list of all the places I want to see and all things I want to do on every travel shoot regardless, but the level of planning this time was excessive. Add to this that Paris implemented a 9pm curfew a few days after I arrived, and suddenly hours for everything in the city were shortened in response.

I can pretty much describe the whole experience in two words - extra steps. It was still possible to do most of the things I wanted to, it just meant a lot more red tape for everything. Book your ticket here, but reserve a specific time online. New entryways, new checkpoints, new ways of checking in, and so on. Everything was just an extra step to how it had been done before.

All this said, I can't tell you how grateful I am that everything worked out so incredibly well. After so much planning, rescheduling, mapping of attractions, etc. by the time I was in France I found it so easy to get lost in what I was doing. Sure, I had to wear a mask for 10-12 hours straight everyday and sure, being spontaneous was way harder than usual - but what a place to escape to!

Just a couple days after getting back to Canada, France entered a second lockdown. All of the places I had just explored and photographed were closed again. Travel was off limits again. The reality of this year hit home again. I felt so lucky with my timing, and at the same time dreaded how the options for travel work had evaporated - again.

And so it's back to waiting to see what happens next, I guess. 

It's tough to put all of this into context without knowing how much longer this will be impacting our lives - but, I have a feeling these experiences (and the accompanying photos) will only become more interesting with time. 

Jun 5, 2020

What's In A Name Like Medicine Hat?

As a professional travel photographer, being from a place called "Medicine Hat" has never NOT been a conversation starter when traveling abroad. This small Alberta city has a lot of charm, but given its relative isolation on the Canadian prairies it's perhaps not surprising that people who have never heard of this place always have a few follow up questions regarding its name.

From travel shoots to production work, a big part of my living is wrapped up in storytelling - and more specifically, the research involved in contextualizing what I document. The story of how Medicine Hat got its name, for instance, is relatively common knowledge locally - however, the story of how Medicine Hat kept its name isn't often discussed. 

Medicine Hat Rudyard Kipling

For those unfamiliar, Medicine Hat derives its name from "Saamis" - which is the Blackfoot word for a medicine man's head dress. There are several versions of the Indian legend behind the name - but they all conclude the same with a medicine man losing his head dress in the river here and this becoming "the site of the Medicine Hat".

Despite the novel story behind its origin, in 1910 the young city of Medicine Hat seriously considered changing its name. 

The discovery of natural gas in the area had began to transform Medicine Hat and an economic boom was on the horizon. Some members of the local Board of Trade thought the city's name was "too Indian" or "too informal" and that a name change would attract new industries and residents. Among the considerations - Smithville and Gasburg.

Famed author Rudyard Kipling had visited Medicine Hat on a cross country tour of Canada in 1907. In addition to commenting that the city had "all hell for a basement" on account of the newly discovered natural gas, Kipling took a shine to the area and spoke fondly of it in the correspondence he kept. 

Medicine Hat Rudyard Kipling

As the debate for the name change grew, the publisher of the Medicine Hat News wrote Mr. Kipling to ask his opinion on the matter. This was Rudyard Kipling's response dated December 9, 1910.

Dear Sir:

I have received your letter of the 22nd of November which interests me intensely both as a citizen of the Empire and as a lover of Medicine Hat.

You tell me that a public vote is to be taken on the question of changing the city's name. So far as I can make out from what I heard when I was with you in 1907 and from the clippings you enclosed, the chief arguments for the change are (a) that some of us journalists have some sort of joke that Medicine Hat supplies all the bad weather of the U.S. and (b) that another name would look better at the head of a prospectus. Incidentally I note that both arguments are developed at length by the Calgary Herald. I always knew that Calgary called Medicine Hat names but I did not realize that Medicine Hat wanted to be Calgary's little god-child.

Now as to the charge of brewing bad weather, etc. I see no reason on earth why white men should be bluffed out of their city's birthright by an imported joke. Accept the charge joyously and proudly and go forward as Medicine Hat - the only city officially recognized as capable of freezing out the United States and giving the continent cold feet. 

Let us examine the sound of the present name - Medicine Hat - I have my maps by me but I seem to remember a few names of places across the border such as Schnectady, Podunk, Schoharie, Poughkeepsie, Potomac, Cohoes, Tonawanda, Onenoto, etc. etc. all of which are rather curious to that outsider, but time and the lives of men (it is people and not prospectuses that make cities) have satisfied the queer syllables with memories and associations for millions of our fellow creatures. Once on a time these places were young and new and in process of making themselves. That is to say they were ancestors with a duty to posterity which duty fulfilled in handing on their names intact; and Medicine Hat today is an ancestor - not a derivative, nor a collateral, but the founder of a line.

To my mind the name Medicine Hat has an advantage over all the names I have quoted. It echoes as you so justly put it the old Cree and Blackfoot tradition of red mystery and romance that once filled the prairie. Also it hints, I venture to think, at the magic that underlies the city in the shape of your natural gas. Believe me, the very name is an asset, and as years go on will become more and more of an asset. It has no duplicate in the world; it makes men ask questions, and as I knew more than twenty years ago, draws the feet of young men towards it; it has the qualities of uniqueness, individuality, assertion and power.

Above all, it is the lawful, original, sweat-and-dust won name of the city and to change it would be to risk the luck of the city to disgust and dishearten old-timers, not in the city alone, but the world over, and to advertise abroad the city's lack of faith in itself. Men do not think much of a family which has risen in the world, changing its name for social reasons. They think still less of a man who because he is successful repudiates the wife who stood by him in his early struggles. I do not know what I should say, but I have the clearest notion of what I should think of a town that went back on itself.

Forgive me if I write strongly, but this is a matter on which I feel keenly. As you know I have not a dollar or foot of land in Medicine Hat, but I have a large stake of interest and very true affection in and for the city and its folk. It is for this reason that in writing you I have taken a liberty which to men who have known the city for several months or perhaps three years, must seem inexcusable. 

In conclusion it strikes me that two arguments put forward for the change of name, are almost equally bad. The second is perhaps a shade worse than the first. In the first case the town would change its name for fear of being laughed at. In the second it sells its name in the hope of making more money under an alias or as the Calgary Herald writes, for the sake of a name that "has a sound like the name of a man's best girl and looks like business at the head of a financial report".

But a man's city is a trifle more than a man's best girl. She is the living background of his life and love and toil and hope and sorrow and joy. Her success is his success; her shame is his shame; her honor is his honor; and her good name is his good name.

What then should a city be rechristened that has sold its name? Judasville.

Very sincerely yours, 
Rudyard Kipling

In the end, Medicine Hat kept its name - and fittingly, here I am more than a century later confirming what Kipling believed to be true. The name works.   

Medicine Hat Rudyard Kipling

Jan 1, 2020

Editing Luke in 2019

It was a year of incredible challenges, competition, and stress, but also a year of reinvention, growth, and undeniable achievement for Editing Luke. Once again, I won't bore you with every project that I was involved with in 2019, but here are some of the standout moments and personal bests that made this year one that I'm particularly proud to share: 

Editing Luke 2019

January 2019 - My year kicked off with an invitation to speak and share a bit of my story with hometown photographers at the Medicine Hat Photography Club. One of the coolest things about the invite is that it provided an opportunity to really reflect on my approach in a way that I hadn't considered or contextualized before. 

January 15, 2019 - A series of travel shoots in Calgary, Alberta resulted in the release of a brand new photo set featuring the architectural details of Calgary's newly built Central Library. In addition to one of the images trending on Instagram, the post quickly became the most viewed set on Editing Luke in January.

January 30, 2019 - My documentary, On 2nd received additional attention after playing at the 2019 Mayor's State of the City Address in Medicine Hat, Alberta. 

February 12, 2019 - A new photo set featuring Death Valley National Park in California became February's most viewed post on Editing Luke.

February 2019 - The Hey, Canada travel photography series was officially launched.

March 1, 2019 - With the production company growing, I took a moment to celebrate the 5 year anniversary since Editing Luke became my full-time operation

March 11, 2019 - An overnight frost and well-timed shoot lead to this photo set going viral and easily garnering the most views on Editing Luke in March.

March 21, 2019 - Editing Luke was interviewed on CBC Radio Calgary.

April 1, 2019 - A series of new travel shoots took place in Edmonton, Alberta.

April 8, 2019 - A new photo set of an old lodge in a Florida swamp attracted the attention of the Tallahassee tourism board and lead to this post becoming April's most viewed.

April 2019 - After several months in talks, planning, and negotiations, I secured funding to produce a new feature length documentary.

May 1, 2019 - This new photo set of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida became the most viewed post of May on Editing Luke. 

May 17, 2019 - Documentary production went into full swing.

May 2019 - In what became my most ambitious travel shoot of the year, for the second half of May I embarked on a 14 state road trip through the Northeast USA. This travel shoot was also noteworthy as following it I had officially shot photography and video (in varying capacities) in all 50 United States and D.C. 

June 4, 2019 - Cover images featured on the annual report for the City of Medicine Hat.

June 12, 2019 - Filming on the documentary continued in Vancouver, British Columbia.

June 26, 2019 - Following an exploration of RCA Studio B in Nashville, this new photo set went on to become June's most viewed post on Editing Luke.

July 1, 2019 - Travel shoots in Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

July 15, 2019 - Documentary enters post-production.

July 25, 2019 - This recap of some of my past Canadian concert photography highlights became the most viewed post of July on Editing Luke.

August 2019 - Instagram features for @editingluke abounded this year from tourism related re-posts in places like Montreal, Dallas, Cape Cod, Seattle, Miami, Detroit, Toronto, and Los Angeles. As well as business features from companies like WestJet, McDonalds Canada, and Pizza Hut. 

August 10, 2019 - Long awaited details about what the new documentary I'd been working on for months was actually about were finally released. This also became August's most viewed post on Editing Luke.

September 18, 2019 - After a premiere at Medalta Potteries, my documentary Clay, Creativity & the Comeback debuted to the public online. After several months of shares and multiple streaming links, this post quickly became the most viewed of 2019 on Editing Luke. Additional details about the project were also released here

You can watch the complete documentary here.

September 27, 2019 - A collection of 40+ original art prints were installed in the newly built Stringam Law Office in my hometown of Medicine Hat, becoming the largest collection of my work on display in a single location to date. 

October 26, 2019 - This month was dominated by an epic travel shoot around Japan, and the subsequent launch of the Overseas Collection for all of the future photo sets to come. With so much content debuting on Instagram, this brief recap became the most viewed post of October on Editing Luke.  

November 8, 2019 - Work continued on the expansion of the Around Alberta series.

November 10, 2019 - With the WU17 Hockey Challenge in town, Editing Luke was contracted by TSN to shoot some material for them. This post became the most viewed of November.

December 15, 2019 - The year wrapped with a series of incredible travel shoots around New York City leading up to Christmas. While much of the content has yet to debut, a few of the early hits have included Jagged Little Pill on Broadway, Riding the Subway, Carnegie Hall, and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

December 23, 2019 - Featuring scenes around Old Quebec at Christmas, this new photo set became the most viewed post of December on Editing Luke.