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_DSC8805-EditBeing back in photography school has it’s challenges, especially here on the wet coast. I can’t remember the last time I had a sunny day to shoot an assignment. I’ve given up on a number of occasions and resorted to living-room photo shoots, the product of which are promptly, and unceremoniously, torn apart by instructors. If ever I were to claim I suffered from SAD it would be as a photographer this winter/spring.

That’s why I am always grateful when I get an opportunity to work with models in a proper studio. Sequoyah (above) and Dana were amazing to work with, thanks to them both for standing in front of my lens.

I’m always interested in working with new people, even more so if you are into environmental portraits. Send me an email (matt@mattlaw.ca) if you’re interested in collaborating.

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I am deep in the throes of a portrait photography course. Much to the chagrin of my family, I am now in constant search of people willing to stand in front of my camera. There are a few friends who already know to let my calls go straight to voicemail or to avoid me when I have an assignment due. My parents, however, have yet to figure out that they can say no.

These are two shots taken on an afternoon at their house. Two very different portraits. For my dad, I shot natural light coming in their basement door, I used a black card on the left of his face to further darken the shadows — something a probably shouldn’t have done considering I wound up dodging this side of his face in post.

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For mom,  I tried to use a Martin Schoeller style of lighting with two speedlights in two Westcott Apollo stripbanks.

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One assignment down, now on to the next.

In January, I was awarded the Steve Jackson Scholarship to attend the Langara College Continuing Studies Photography program. Jackson was an instructor at the college who lost his battle with lung cancer in 2012. I did not know Jackson but I imagine I would have liked him. He was a multi-talented man with a background in radio news and culinary training, and, of course, he loved to travel.

It is a honour to be awarded this scholarship and I will be working very hard over the next two years to improve my work. As part of the scholarship, I will be working on a long-term portrait project to photograph people who are suffering from Lyme Disease, a bacterial infection that is transmitted from a tick’s bite. This project hits close to home; Laura was diagnosed with Lyme last year and it has been a hard struggle for her to get the medical attention that it needs. Hopefully this project will bring some awareness to the issue. Stay tuned as this project evolves.

Going back to school for photography is what I needed to do to get my work to the level that I want, particularly for this project.

In the month I have spent attending classes, I can already see how a traditional education in photography can take your work from ho-hum photos to a professional quality.

A few weeks ago I shot this picture of my girlfriend, Laura. It was just a practice shot to learn lighting techniques for headshots; nothing special, but I was very happy with it at the time.

laura blog post-1-2After the following week’s class all I could see were the things I had done wrong.
– The lighting on her face was at a bad angle causing a cast shadow on the right side of her nose.
– There is a dark spot on the right corner of her mouth that has no detail
– The specular highlights are uneven
– The lighting on the backdrop (back burst) is not centered
– I needed to put her in a better position to elongate her neck

This failure is a very good thing. Failure leads to improvement; being able to understand and identify your failures means you won’t do it again (hopefully).

So, in the interest of constant improvement, I photographed Laura again. This time I used a slightly different lighting setup to correct some of the shadow issues. It is a different image but I think it is better, a lot better.

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There are still problems, though.
– Her skin could be a touch darker, it looks a tad over-retouched
– There is a halo around her hair from my retouching her fly-aways. In my defence, I’ve never had any Photoshop training
– I need to work on my direction to get more emotion in her face

One of the most important parts of learning anything is being critiqued on what you did wrong. Yes, sometimes a critique can be subjective, but all constructive criticisms are valid and force you to think about your process. If I had not been in school I would have taken the first image and been happy with it. But thanks to the direct feedback from an instructor I have taken a step forward. It is hard to find that support in any other form.

If you want to read more about the benefits of photography school, head over to an article I wrote for BC Photohub.

More improvements to come.

It’s a new year and the perfect time for some self-indulgent naval gazing.

Bloggers everywhere are posting their “year in review” or “what to expect in 2016” articles. I suppose I will join in the merriment, although, I must say it is with a fair amount of skepticism. 2015 was not a good year.

More newspapers closed their doors. Friends of mine — talented writers and photographers — lost their jobs and many gave up on pursuing their passions. They are bitter and unsure of what to do next. I don’t blame them, I feel the same. It has been more than five months since I had any sort of journalism work and, to be honest, I’ve stopped looking.

Regardless of what some people say, their words muffled with their heads firmly stuck in the sand, the journalism world is in trouble. There is more amazing content being produced than ever before, but it is becoming harder and harder to make a living from it. Bloated media companies continue to make cuts at the bottom while executives protect their views from above. Media consumers are a fickle bunch who haven’t helped the problem. Their attention is divided between the fast-paced world of click-bait content and the ever-struggling traditional media that hasn’t figured out how to compete with all the flash and hype of Anne Hathaway posting photos of herself in a bikini.

I must admit that I question my ability to produce content that readers would even want. As a 30-year-old, I feel like a Luddite clinging to a forgotten and misguided notion of what journalism is. So, like many of my friends and colleagues, I ask myself, what is the next step?

Last year I began taking photography classes and started a blog about the photography scene in B.C. It is purely a self-indulgent exercise but it forces me to practice my journalism skills. Somewhere in the back of my mind there is a modicum of hope that I would find success in these endeavours. The reality, however, is that I am doing it because I enjoy it — with no expectations of success.

All the frustration and bitterness that comes with struggling to make a living from journalism takes the passion out of it. Few of us went to journalism or photography school because we wanted a 9-5 job that paid well. We did it, and continue to do it, because we love it. The next step is going to be a hard one to find, but if we can hold the bitterness at bay and, perhaps, remind ourselves why we wanted this life in the first place, we will endure.

As a new journalist, I finished my degree in 2013, I see two options — four glasses of wine have helped me come to this conclusion. 1) I can tuck my tail between my legs and find a different job, or 2) I can suck it up and press on. Something I learned from my 10 years spent racing bicycles is that I’m stubborn as fuck.

Journalism has never been an easy career path; it has always involved hardship and sacrifice. I have a long way to go as I continue to learn and hone my skills, but, I suppose, only time will tell if my stubbornness will pay off.

Cheers to 2016.

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Model: Diana Miftarii

Every now and then you are introduced to something new in life — something that stops you in your tracks.

It has been some time since I was last jerked out of my day-to-day stupor and forced to look at photography in a new light.

An instructor recently introduced me to painting with light. At first I thought this was a gimmick reserved for photographers doing something different just to be different. But after using the technique of madly waving around a flashlight in the dark, I admit I am completely taken with it.

This photograph was shot with an 80 second exposure and a hand-held flashlight. To some, this might seem an imperfect mess of a a photograph but to me it is beautiful for its imperfections.

I’ll be be painting with light a lot in the future.

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Model: Tiffany Munro

A photograph is the vestige of a passing moment.

To me, at least, my motive behind the camera has been to record moments truthfully. My background as a reporter has demanded this accuracy.

Now, however, I have strayed from this path by the simple act of leaning. As I step into the classroom of light, my understanding of photography has been turned upside down.

Photographers talk about not simply taking a picture, but rather, making an image. To do this, a person needs to understand light and composition — among many other things.

My venture into the wider world of photography, beyond the realm of photojournalism, demands that I explore the process of making an image. This is a novel act, one that I am not certain is for me. But, the lessons learned are some of the most interesting I’ve encountered, and my understanding of the process only adds to the skills I can draw from.

To restrict myself to the photojournalistic world only limits my growth as a photographer. By expanding my experience, even if it is into genre that I may never pursue, I strengthen my ability to see.

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Model: Tiffany Munro
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Model: Michelle Chaska Cyr

_DSC8198Not so long ago I decided to never photograph a wedding again. That lasted for all of a few months until Rachael and Ian asked me to capture their September wedding at the Pitt Meadows Golf Club.

Despite the threat of rain it was a fantastic afternoon with a few light showers that I think added to the beautiful setting.  Here are a few photos from the day.  Continue reading ›

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A man checks his crab trap at the end of the pier in White Rock, B.C. This is a feature photo shot for a photojournalism course I’m taking as I go back to school to study photography.

I am a liar.

Perhaps this is an overstatement, but for the past two years I have drifted off course.

I’ve promoted myself as a photojournalist when, in fact, my training is in journalism. My first internships and jobs were as a reporter not a photographer. I always had a camera close at hand, as every reporter should, but save for a few entry-level courses embedded in my journalism degree I had no training with a camera.

When I finished school I was burnt out. I worked for several newspapers but the work weighed heavily on me. It became impossible to write so I turned to my camera as the final thread connecting me to this notion of being a journalist. The camera, however, lead me down another path.

I photographed weddings, real estate, headshots, even babies. This work improved my eye and taught me how to handle my gear. The camera became my passion and I proudly told people I was a photographer. I drifted further away from journalism.

As we so often do in life, I came to define myself by one thing: I was a photographer and nothing else. This was the lie.

To call it kismet that I found myself so far from writing as a vocation, let alone a pastime, is, admittedly, a narcissistic simplification. However, and I write this with conviction, this wavering journey away from journalism has brought me back to it with renewed passion.

A person only limits themselves if they are defined by one thing. We have many interests and skills, some we are better at than others, but no single interest or job dictates our course in life.

I now realize that photography became a vacation from writing. It was a vacation that taught me to use other skills to better myself as a journalist. Writing no longer weighs so heavily on me.

As I go forward, as we all should in life, I need to draw on all of my skills and passions to find success. I have gone back to school to study photography so that when I call myself a photojournalist it is no longer a lie. As I venture down this rabbit hole into the world of lighting and lenses I am using it as an excuse to reinvent myself as a journalist.

In the coming weeks I will be launching a new website. It is not a promotion of my work but rather a delving into photography for others. It is, in the simplest of explanations, a community newspaper — online of course — for photographers and enthusiasts in British Columbia. Through this outlet, I’m bringing together all the tools I have acquired over these past six years; from web development to the written product. I don’t know what the end result will be but I do know that it is guiding me back to journalism and adding truth to one of the many ways I define myself.

You can check it out at bcphotohub.ca, it’s not live yet but check back soon.

 

_DSC7676I first met Geoff in 2014 while working as a reporter for a community newspaper. I was covering the opening a new bike park and Geoff was one of the standout riders there that day.

After photographing him for the article, I shared some of the images with him and we went our separate ways, but we stayed in touch through social media.

Lately I’ve been trying to expand my experience as a photographer and learn how to use speedlights to their full potential. I messaged Geoff about getting together for a little photo session and he was quick to say yes.

Off to the trails we went.   Continue reading ›

_DSC7258-EditCatching up on the ‘ol blog today.

Last week I had an opportunity to shoot with the amazing dancers Fabiana Vintem and Renato Barbosa, both dancers visiting from Brazil. Aside from being stunning dancers they were very, very patient with me and my lack of knowledge about dance. I can moonwalk, that’s about it.

A big thank you to the dancers and Linda Arkelian for making this happen. Also a big thank you to my ever-supportive girlfriend Laura who helped me out and puts up with me on a daily basis.

Shot with the Profoto D1 Air kit and natural light.

Continue reading ›