Capture

The last couple of weeks, I’ve posted some photos of Misha Collins I was lucky enough to take in Vancouver this past August. I’ve been overwhelmed with how kind everyone has been about them, especially when people say things like “I feel like I’m actually seeing Misha for the first time.”

To me, that’s astonishing. Honestly, he was always one of the hardest people for me to photograph. I never felt like I was quite capturing him, not in the same way as other people. I felt like I missed the mark more often than not. But it’s consistently been a comment since I put out the portraits I took in Vancouver, and I’ve been wondering why.

Misha Collins, Vancouver 2016

Misha Collins, Vancouver 2016

Portraiture is this weirdly intimate thing. What you’re essentially doing is you’re asking someone to open up to you. Unless it’s a brief where you are creating a character (like a themed photoshoot, like a cosplay shoot) you are asking someone to bare who they are to you. This is over and above any qualms a person may have about having their photo taken anyway. Anyone who doesn’t like having their photo taken knows what a horrifying thing it can be – staring at an impersonal lens staring back at you. Are you smiling too much? Not enough? Should you be smiling at all? Are you standing in an unflattering way? Do you have something in your teeth?

Actors are used to having their photo taken, it’s part of their job. But it’s not necessarily a pleasant part of their job – a lot of them don’t like it either. So for this amazing cast to agree to sit for me, someone with next to no experience and so adding a layer of awkwardness on top of all the other awkwardness, is a huge deal.

Matt Cohen, Phoenix 2016

Matt Cohen, Phoenix 2016

Rob Benedict, Seattle 2016

Rob Benedict, Seattle 2016

I’m not an outgoing person; I’m quite shy and so to have to direct these people that I admire so deeply felt wrong. They were taking a huge risk on me and I had to try to prove that it was worth it, to give up their time and do something that is so oddly personal.

Briana Buckmaster, Seattle 2016

Briana Buckmaster, Seattle 2016

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Osric Chau, Vancouver 2016

But the interesting thing is that I think it works to my advantage. There’s a push-pull with any photographer / subject that becomes evident in the photograph. For me to bring this almost raw beginner quality to shooting almost makes it okay for them to in some ways take control, but in other ways also open up. I must seem like sort of a safe space. I don’t know if what I was capturing was the “real” Misha, or the “real” Matt, because we don’t know who they are. Their job and their ability to have a proper work / life balance means it’s almost necessary for them to have some form of guard around them, to protect some part of themselves and shield it from people.

But I think what I was capturing was perhaps what I feel about them, and then that is what resonates with people. Because when I’m taking portraits, I’m not only trying to pull some response from the subject, but also from the person who’s going to look at the photo. I’ve talked about it before, but when we look at a portrait of someone we are all going to be looking at it through a framework that is very particular to ourselves. If you care about someone, you’re going to look at a photo of them and see the qualities evident in it that makes that person appealing to you.

Rob Benedict and Richard Speight Jr, Seattle 2016

Rob Benedict and Richard Speight Jr, Seattle 2016

Matt Cohen, Phoenix 2016

Matt Cohen, Phoenix 2016

Osric Chau, Vancouver 2016

Osric Chau, Vancouver 2016

That’s a powerful act of recognition and connection that occurs on an almost unconscious level that we don’t quite understand. I somehow know this person, because I know absolutely how I feel about this person.

So the most mind-blowing comment for me is someone saying that they see a photo I’ve taken and really see the person in it, because over and above whatever I’ve captured, I’ve somehow brought out that feeling of recognition in the person looking at the photo, and that feels like such a huge achievement.

Misha Collins, Vancouver 2016

Misha Collins, Vancouver 2016

Rob Benedict and Briana Buckmaster, Seattle 2016

Rob Benedict and Briana Buckmaster, Seattle 2016

I don’t know if this is something that gets better over time, or if it is even something that can be worked on. Maybe I’m just lucky, and it’s because of how strongly I feel about these people in particular. But I’m lucky that I am able to have the opportunity to try something like this with the people I care about.

Salute to Supernatural Vancouver 2016

By the time August rolls around it usually means three things; my birthday (ugh), lay-by now for Christmas (what?) and Salute to Supernatural Vancouver.

This was my fifth (what??) year going over to beautiful Vancouver, BC to attend Creation Entertainment’s convention at the mecca of Supernatural. While I haven’t done the normal touristy things that people do in Vancouver, the small downtown and harbour side places I’ve hung out are so, so beautiful and make it seem like it would be the coolest place to live. I could spend forever meandering along Robson St, or walking through the lush greenery of Stanley Park, or sitting on a park bench in Coal Harbour.

I was lucky this time, because my friend Chris actually took me out to see some of Stanley Park, so I did get to photograph something other than the inside of a hotel convention hall this time.

But for this weekend it was all about the con, and Supernatural.

The cons have become a well oiled machine by now, although this weekend was going to be different. Richard Speight Jr, who usually hosts the con weekend, was busy filming and couldn’t make the convention. Instead, we were going to be treated to Briana Buckmaster and Kim Rhodes as co-hosts, who promised Richard nothing except to totally throw his rule book out the window.

 

Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster, MC Queens, VanCon 2016

Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster, MC Queens, VanCon 2016

 

Filling in for Richard Speight Jr is a big task for anyone, but Kim and Briana more than rose to the challenge. They are so much fun and their attitudes to life and fandom are heady and infectious. They see fandom for all the good it does and can do. Their different personalities compliment each other in the way that those people with startling chemistry often do. It’s become one of the best parts of these cons for me; watching how these different friendship dynamics work and trying to capture that through photography.

 

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Richard had once joked that VanCon was Porncouver, and that was the only bit of advice Kim and Briana took and ran with. The whole weekend seemed like a chance for each of the cast to try to one-up each other in making it the best Porncouver it could possibly be. But most of all it was about having FUN. Kim and Briana had the same energy at the last panel on Sunday than they had very first thing on Friday.

 

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Kim Rhodes, Misha Collins, and Briana Buckmaster, Saturday, VanCon 2016

 

Kim Rhodes and Rob Benedict, Sunday, VanCon 2016

Kim Rhodes and Rob Benedict, Sunday, VanCon 2016

 

Even Jensen and Jared were a bit taken aback at Porncouver, Sunday, VanCon 2016

Even Jensen and Jared were a bit taken aback at Porncouver, Sunday, VanCon 2016

 

But they quickly got used to it. Sunday, VanCon 2016

But they quickly got used to it. Sunday, VanCon 2016

 

It was hard not having Richard there; without any of the core convention cast there it feels like there’s a hole there that can’t be replaced. He’s become the real heart of the whole thing, the glue that holds everyone together. But if he is the heart, then Kim and Briana definitely feel like representations of us. It was as if we were given the keys to car and we were all driving it headlong through the weekend.

Karaoke was the usual crazy affair, with some added weirdness with the (very) wrong lyrics being put up for a Justin Timberlake song. Matt Cohen was the King of the Con, with Rob Benedict as his Queen (?). Louden Swain came out to do a song, which is always fun (I love those guys).

 

Stephen Norton capturing the Karaoke audience, Friday, VanCon 2016

Stephen Norton capturing the Karaoke audience, Friday, VanCon 2016

 

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Matt Cohen, Karaoke, Friday VanCon 2016

 

The Louden Swain Saturday Night Special was a highlight, just like it always is. It has truly become one of my favourite things on earth, and the day I don’t get to see one anymore I think will crush me.

 

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

You can tell the cast put their all into it. I don’t think I’ve ever known a more talented, dedicated group of people, and the love and enjoyment they obviously get from doing this concert and watching it grow and evolve is so evident during every single moment. I am so, so honoured I’ve been able to photograph it as much as I have, and watch it change and become what it is now.

 

Kim Rhodes, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Kim Rhodes, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Jensen Ackles, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Jensen Ackles, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Osric Chau, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Osric Chau, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Briana Buckmaster, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Briana Buckmaster, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

I could never accurately sum up how much I admire and love the band Louden Swain either. One day I may try, but until then I don’t think I have the words or the photographs to do it justice.

 

Billy Moran, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Billy Moran, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Mike Borja, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Mike Borja, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Stephen Norton, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Stephen Norton, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Osric Chau // Vancouver 2016 Photoshoot

The photoshoot I did with Osric Chau in Vancouver was the 8th photoshoot that we’ve done, and true to form I had no idea it was going to happen until about an hour before it did.

Osric had been really, really busy over the Summer and had even missed a couple of conventions due to filming. When I went over for VanCon I didn’t even know if we were going to be doing a shoot; and even when I got there I was told he would be doing a shoot with Chris Schmelke.

On the Saturday (Osric’s last day at the con before he flew out of the country), Chris messaged me to tell me to meet him, and told me that I was doing the shoot. Osric had driven home to get a suit, and by the time he got back we had about half an hour until he had to eat and do sound check for the Louden Swain Saturday Night Special.

(This is all to illustrate how incredibly rushed things like this are; there’s barely any time to think or plan, but likewise there’s no time to overthink and worry.)

It was about 7PM, but as it was still Summer in Vancouver the light was only just starting to leave. It wasn’t quite golden hour, but close to it.

 

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Because Osric was dressed in a suit, and because of the location where we took the photos, they ended up having a completely different feel to any of the other shoots we’ve done. They looked a lot more mature, and I think it was a combination of things that framed the shoot that way.

It wasn’t cosplay, so it wasn’t necessarily a character. It came from a more personal place, and that felt a bit more grounded. To a certain degree it was still acting, but there was more of an emphasis on trying to capture something rooted in reality as opposed to a concept.

 

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It became more about me trying to find a way to show “him”, but it was a “him” that he was letting me see. I’m still learning direction, and being more proactive about what I want in shoots. I was so grateful my friend Kat was there to help, because she’s excellent at direction and knows Osric well.

 

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It’s probably the shoot I’m most proud of and was most surprised at how it turned out. Because I went into it not really knowing what we were going to do, we ended up just using the location as a guide and going from there. Ideas were bounced around, we tried different things and if something didn’t work we scrapped it and moved on. It was a lot of fun, and I was so happy with how it turned out.

I think it shows a lot how much we’ve both maybe grown, in front of and behind the camera?

Stanley Park / Coal Harbour Vancouver 2016

While I’m finishing my galleries of the Vancouver convention, I thought I’d share some photos that I took of Vancouver itself. I actually ventured outside and saw some of the beautiful landscape this time!

Chris Schmelke took me on a (long) walk on the Thursday before the con started, and showed me around Stanely Park. I didn’t take my camera, but I had my phone with me. He took his Leica, and it was fun watching him take photos, even if he kept making me hold his coffee while he did.

These were all just taken with my phone, that’s how stunning Vancouver is. It’s become one of my favourite places and I’m grateful Chris actually got me out to see some of the beautiful surroundings before a weekend locked in a convention hotel (nice hotel though).

Werribee Open Range Zoo // August 2016

My sister and I took ourselves to Werribee on a beautiful Winter’s day to try the “off-road safari” at Werribee Open Range Zoo here in Victoria. I’d been to Werribee before, but I’d never gone on the safari.

 

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We had a really great safari tour guide, Matthew, who told us about the shift in zoos and wildlife parks away from the traditional attraction sites of the past to a focus on conservation and education, and the animals we saw definitely seemed to benefit from it.

 

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They are given strictly limited human contact (only what conditioning is needed to help keep them manageable and safe) and the environment and species social groups help them to maintain their natural behaviours. It was actually really moving to see how happy and settled they seemed, even when we were driving around near them.

 

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The only part I was disappointed about was that after the tour, we went to see the Lion enclosure but it was largely blocked off. The big cats are my favourite to photograph, so it was hard to take photos that worked from such a distance. I managed to get a couple of photos, but I wasn’t as happy with them.

 

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I’m not really sure what prompted me to try editing them in black and white, I think I just tried it with one of the giraffe photographs and liked how striking the effect was. I did edit a couple of photos in a sort of low contrast, semi-matte colour, boosting the levels of the blues and greens using saturation levels in Lightroom, then selective colour in Photoshop. I made sure whatever I was doing with the colour in Photoshop to keep watching that the whites stayed white, which is always a good guide to keep things looking realistic (unless unrealistic is what you’re going for).

 

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Taking photos of wildlife is, obviously, a completely different skill set to taking convention photos or portraits, and so it’s nice to stretch yourself and do something different!