March Madness

It seems like I say this after every trip I go  on, but I have no idea how to sum up how incredible the last two weeks have been. I`m going to try my best to recollect all the incredible memories that spanned 3 cities, dozens of friends and thousands of miles.

My adventure first start when I landed in Vancouver to visit my amazing friends that decided to organize a mini-meetup with local photographers. I first spent some time with my good friend Gurbir, attending a fundraising concert and exploring the UBC campus. Later that night we met up with the rest of our team of amazing photographers; Kindra Timmerwilke, Austin Tott, Noah Friebel, Lizzy Gadd, Emerald Shatto, Esther Gadd, Michelle Ellis, and Sandy Chu.


We spent the weekend at the lovely Gadd house and had many adventures around the Vancouver area. On Saturday we ventured to Lynn Canyon, stopping for a traffic jam photo shoot along the way. The canyon was beautiful, with huge tree stumps and lush forests leading us down to the river where we posed in each other`s photos and lit about 50 smoke bombs, watching the sun carry the light through the river canyon.

Lynn Canyon


We then rushed through Vancouver to drive to Wreck Beach near UBC so that I could shoot a client shoot I had booked. A local singer/songwriter Jordan Klassen had contacted me about doing some promotional photos for him and it was great to meet him and spend some time shooting some conceptual photos. That night we lit a fire on the beach and then stuffed ourselves full of amazing vegetarian food.

Sunday we spent the day exploring local minnekhada park. The weather was chilly but we made it much warmer by lighting huge torches for photos and layering on cloaks and blankets for photos. I love meetups like these where I can just stand-off to the side and see amazing hubs of activity and photos. We hiked along the beautiful roots and caves and stumps up to the lookout where we stayed for quite a while shooting photos of each other. That night we said goodbye to Austin and Kindra and Sandy and Michelle and our group was suddenly smaller.


Monday we agreed would be a lazy day and it was spent partially in pajamas and partially in White Rock where we walked along the shoreline with dogs and a kite and prepared to say goodbye to everyone. After another great meal and some late night Harry Potter, it was time to get ready for the next chapter in my adventure.
white rock

Tuesday the 12th I boarded a plane for Las Vegas and was greeted at the airport by a trio of wonderful people, Whitney Justesen, Brooke Shaden and KD Stapleton. After some hectic driving we checked into the hotel and our group grew with addition of Rob Woodcox and Peter Jamus. We explored a tiny bit of Las Vegas before we had to get ready for the whole reason we were all there, the FRAMED AWARDS!  Rob, Brooke and I were each nominated for awards and after taking some prom-style photos we literally ran from our hotel to the exclusive party, twitching with nervous excitement as we were led to the VIP section of the MGM Grand.


pretty peeps

The party was incredible, getting to meet so many talented people who I`ve looked up to for so long was truly an incredible experience. Being able to literally rub shoulders with Aaron Nace, Ryan Brenizer, Kirsty Mitchell, Jeremy Cowart, and so many more was just surreal. Even though I didn`t win my category I felt like the biggest prize was being able to call these people friends by the end of the night. After the party ended, some of the Phlearn crew joined us for continued adventures around the strip and we stayed awake long enough to say goodbye to Rob before crashing into the beds.

Wednesday we said goodbye to Whitney before heading off to see Brooke present a speech at the WPII expo. Peter and I sat in the front row and Brooke`s presentation was just as thought-provoking and insightful as I would have expected it would be. After she was done we kind of hobbled around the expo, bumping into all our friends from the night before along the way. After a few more “my life is amazing!”  moments, we left and drove around Las Vegas to find a vegan restaurant. In one of my favourite moments of the entire trip; Brooke, KD, Peter and I just hung out at a cafe, laughing like old friends and enjoying tasty treats. It was a happy heart moment that I`ll always remember. That night, Brooke and KD left and it was just Peter and I left to fend for ourselves! That night we ended up crashing a penthouse party (actually we were invited by Ben Von Wong) and after about a 5 hour conversation with some amazing people on the balcony we finally headed back to the hotel at about 5 a.m. That night really changed my own view on my photography and solidified my desire to become the best I can possibly be.


After a short but wonderful sleep, Peter and I split off for a few hours. I walked up and down the Las Vegas strip, enjoying the warm weather and stopping to see various things. Randomly saw the Blue Man Group film a commercial, saw a few wax statues and had a great time just walking and thinking.


Later that evening we met up with a duo of beautiful photographers, Janelle Flom and Katie Ruther and ventured into an aqueduct/wash thing and took photos until the sun went down. It was great to actually get some photography done while we were in Vegas, especially in a spot that wasn’t so traditionally Las Vegas.

Friday was our last day in the city and after a great morning coffee with Ben Von Wong, Peter and I walked (it was really more of an epic journey) to Whole Foods so we could finally eat food that was nourishing and not crazy expensive. We then met up with two amazing new friends Samantha and Corey who drove us out to the most amazing place, Nelson’s Landing where we got to shoot photos on a crashed plane, in some cool vintage busses and watch the sun go down behind the Nevada mountains. It was the most amazing way to wrap up my time in the sun there.


Saturday was a full travel day. Between 8am and midnight I spent my entire day in airports and in the sky flying to Chicago and then finally to Atlanta. The next day, St.Patrick’s Day, I met up with one of my favourite people, Taylor McCormick and after we walked around downtown Atlanta and saw more than we ever planned to, we met up with AJ Brustein a friend and fellow photographer who works at Coca-Cola and first discovered my photos and started my whole project with them.


We decided to check out a cool spot, an abandoned train yard which was absolutely incredible. I feel like I could have spent days there taking photos. Big huge warehouses, a train car, trees growing inside buildings, a brick throne and so many cool spots. It turns out the next Hunger Games movie filmed there and I can see why, it’s pretty awesome! I managed to get a lot of photos done in a short amount of time and it was great to be able to shoot photos with Taylor and AJ.  That night Taylor and I met up with another local photographer and friend Patrick Di Rito for dinner and we had a great time hanging out and laughing.

Monday the 18th was the big day. The whole reason I was in Atlanta was to visit Coca-Cola HQ and meet the people behind the company, specifically the people who had been a part of my project with them. The day started with a wonderful tour of the HQ, we went to the former president’s office which was fascinating and told a lot about how the company grew from humble beginnings to where it is now. Then I took a tour down to the archives which was incredible. I was shown original Norman Rockwell sketches and paintings, pieces of memorabilia that have been in movies and television shows, I held an olympic torch and a can that had been on the space station. It was so crazy to know that I was actually there!

Later I met with Wendy Clark, the VP of Marketing Communications and we talked about my project and I had the opportunity to discuss my photography and how I’d love to continue with them in any new projects. Then it was on to lunch in what Casey refers to as the Saved By the Bell Diner inside the complex. In the afternoon I met with Kelly Kozel and the Licensing department where I was able to see how Coca-Cola works with artists and designers around the world to create one of a kind and high-end works of art. It was really assuring to me to see a company actually reaching out to artists in a way that supports and encourages collaboration, something I’d love to keep doing with them. Then I was gifted a huge bag of goodies that weighed half as much as me and was totally a surprise! After that we went to a brand team meeting where I was given the opportunity to voice my opinion on a few topics and share my ideas with the group, it was refreshing (pun!) to see a company valuing a fan’s voice and I felt very comfortable sharing my thoughts and ideas with the group there.

brand team

After the visit at HQ it was a quick trip over to World of Coke where I held a Google+ hangout with a few fans, friends, and fellow photographers. Not everyone showed up but it was still a fun time getting to broadcast a little chat from the lobby! You can watch the whole thing here:

Then I was given a VIP tour led by a kind tour guide, Linda. We watched some videos, toured the whole museum/world and wrapped it all up with the sampling room in which I probably drank about 20 litres of various flavours of different drinks. Just as I was about to leave, she let me know that there was a tornado warning and that I should probably plan to stay a bit longer. I waiting and drank more and finally headed back to the hotel to change for dinner with more Coca-Cola people! We had a nice pizza dinner and it was great to wrap up the entire trip with a laid-back and entertaining evening.
the vault

The day home was long, about 12 hours of travelling but after a few close calls I’m finally home and reflecting back on what feels like a few months worth of adventures and people. I networked in a new way on this trip, I talked to business and top photographers and met people who inspired me to keep chasing my dream. I always leave these types of trips inspired and fulfilled and this is no exception. I feel almost validated as a photographer to know that just in the last few years my life has become so enriched just because I enjoy what I do and I create what I like to create and other people like it to.


I’m hoping to use this new energy to reach further in my photography and try to become more engaged with the community that supports me and hopefully keep progressing and growing in the meantime.

Now to unpack!



Canadian Thanksgiving Meetup

Earlier this year I never would have imagined that I’d be writing about my third amazing meetup with some incredibly talented photographers and friends. At the start of this year I had met only a handful of online friends in real life and never would have thought that I would not only one day meet them all, but several times over the course of a year!

During the weekend of October 4-9, I organized and ‘hosted’ a small group of some of my favourite photographers at a meetup in the mountains of British Columbia. We decided in August to try and meet during this time and after finding the most amazing cabin rental (seriously if you’re ever in the Nelson area, rent from Kootenay Lake Lodge!) we reserved our stay and planned our getaway.

What I don’t think any of us really imagined was that the weekend would be as magical as it was. Our cabin, while only a few rooms, was so cozy and almost immediately filled with a sense of comfort and home. Whether we were making pancakes in the morning, hot chocolate in the evenings or just sitting on the couch making jokes, it felt not like we were renting a cabin, but actually living in a home together. While in the inside of the cabin was filled with magic, the natural environment surrounding it was even more magical. We had our own lakefront rocky ‘beach’ located just steps from our door with a view of the lake that literally spanned as far as we could see. In the evening, the light turned to a beautiful blue hue and in the morning clouds hung low over the mountains creating a soft light over the water and shore.

We had a small forest filled with moss and driftwood, a tiny waterfall framed with falled logs and blackberry bushes and within a short walk we found ourselves climbing over huge boulders and rocks to find the perfect photo locations.

I feel a sense of recharge when I’m with my friends at these meetups, they feel less like photography gatherings and more like the best class I’ve ever taken, it’s like a family reunion that I never want to end. There is an energy in the air, an energy filled with creativity and appreciation and support. We help each other plan shots, help each other edit, help each other move forward toward reaching our very best. It’s an energy I want to bottle and keep for these rainy days when I feel isolated in my little mountain town.


During the weekend we travelled to a sort of abandoned campground place with huge trees and a beautiful river. We took a beautiful ferry ride to the small town of Nelson B.C. and ate at an interesting “fusion” restaraunt and wound up doing cartwheels in a park overlooking the town. On the way home we ended up missing the returning ferry by just a few minutes. Instead of sitting around and waiting, we all grabbed our cameras and gear and immediately started using the available locations for photos. It was like watching a beehive of activity, we were all running back and forth, catching the most beautiful orange sunset. We boarded the ferry in time to watch the water and sky turned purple and then blue and dark.

That evening would become of the most amazing nights of my life. As all of us but Shane sat inside the cabin, cracking jokes and drinking tea all of a sudden the door flew open and Shane called for us all to get outside. I think we all knew what it meant right away. Sure enough, a greenish haze had made it’s way over the north end of the lake and after a few seconds of an open exposure, we were greeted with a neon green light. The NORTHERN LIGHTS! The night suddenly changed into another wave of activity. All I could hear were the waves against the rocks, the sounds of our camera shutters opening and closing and the laughs in between. Watching the night sky be painting with the amazing green and blue waves of light will be a highlight of my life for many many years.


It’s fitting that this meetup happened over thanksgiving as this year, I’m thankful for so many things including my amazing friends, the beautiful scenery in our world, and the incredible opportunity I have to share with all of you.

Vancouver Trip

I really must get myself in the habit of posting more. I usually have grand ideas in my mind about blog posts, tutorials, features on friends and inspiring artists and then… happens and I end up going months without even typing a word! Summer 2012 has been an amazing adventure filled with photography trips, excellent friends, and the occasional nap.

Two weekends ago I travelled by bus across British Columbia to Vancouver to meet up with a small group of fellow friends and photographers.

I can’t say enough how much these opportunities mean to me and how much I get from working in such a creative environment. Being able to wake up and be around a group of friends who understand the same things I do and who see the world in a similar light is such a wonderful feeling and fills the air with such a strong creative energy.

When I arrived in Vancouver, I was welcomed literally with open arms and it was a reunion of sorts as there were a few familiar faces from the Midwest Meetup that I was at in Indiana in June, but the beautiful part of this group was that even though I just met some of the other photographers, I felt as though I had known for my whole life.

photos by Grace Adams

Within a few hours (and a few calls to Greyhound to find my missing luggage) we had set off  into the nearby mountains to Golden Ears Provincial Park to visit Alouette Lake.  After just a short drive we found ourselves in the dense rainforest of the west coast and I felt instantly dwarfed by the size of the trees and ferns growing up and up and up. The lake was beautiful and reminded me of the mountain lakes here at home in the Rockies. We swam for a short while before deciding to head up to an amazing waterfall for some photography time.

If you’ve ever gone on any sort of walk or hike with a group of photographers, you’ll know that you must budget at least twice the time you think it will take. We stopped at every big tree stump (I climbed inside more than a couple and I think some of them were bigger than my apartment) and at every interesting spot in the river. The waterfall was a beautiful vision (although slightly marred by the presence of some “naturalists” enjoying the water above the falls). Within minutes we had all scrambled on top of boulders, logs and into the water to shoot photos, donning dresses and cloaks and vintage jackets. We stayed longer than we thought we would and made our way back to lake for dinner and music.

The second day was off to a lazy start and we took our time organizing ourselves. A small group of us went to a nearby forest to shoot some photos before heading back to Lizzy’s house to gather up the rest of our gang and head down to downtown Vancouver. After a highly entertaining bus ride that involved a slight hit and run by the bus driver we finally made it downtown and wandered our way through the streets and then through a random chinese street festival. Our purpose for this little trip was to see an outdoor concert by Fun. and after a few small detours we finally found ourselves near the front of the crowd, enjoying the sun and song near the ocean.

Dinner, laughs, walking downtown, more laughs, street photography, even more laughs, and we finally decided to call it a night (the girls headed home while the guys stayed back for a few refreshments).

photo by Whitney Justesen

Sunday had started out being our “laid back and do nothing day” but it quickly turned into a “let’s go thrift store shopping and then shoot photos in the forest!” day. We piled back into vans and headed to Value Village to stock up on  vintage clothes and props and then back to the woods to shoot all the ideas we had floating around in our minds.

photo by Emerald Shatto

I felt such a surge of creative energy being amongst the trees and my amazing and talented friends. I would finish one photo shoot and almost immediately start another with a different person and a different idea, it was amazing!  After we had all finished up our shots we headed back for a big family dinner and hung out with everyone for a few more hours. We decided to drive out to try to catch the meteor shower and while we may not have had many shooting stars, it was a magical night filled with song and friendship.

This photography gathering was, like the one in Indiana, such a powerful force in my own creative mind. I felt inspired in new ways, to shoot new types of photos and to try new things without fearing whether I would fail or succeed at them. I fall back in love with photography when I’m surrounded by people who love it and want to share it with the world and I can’t wait until I can once again feel that creative energy, its powerful stuff.


here’s a list of all the photographers that were there:
 Rob Woodcox
Whitney Justesen
Peter Jamus
Lizzy Gadd
Esther Gadd

Emerald Shatto
Casey Maxwell
Gurbir Grewal
Grace (and Austin) Adams
Sarah Rush
Dannielle Brooks
Jarred Kassis

You can also see the photos created at the meetup in our flickr group here:

Midwest Flickr Gathering – Part 1

I’ve struggled with how to actually type up this blog post because I feel that no matter what words I choose to write, they’ll never be able to sum up the magnitude of how awesome my time in Indiana was. I’m breaking my trip into two parts, the big meetup in Indiana and then my time spent with Ali and Rob in Michigan 🙂

On July 5th I set out from my little nest tucked in the Rocky Mountains and travelled to hot and humid Fort Wayne, Indiana. It may seem like an odd place to vacation but this was no ordinary vacation. I was travelling to join 30 immensely talented and inspirational photographers and friends who had travelled from all over the world (really! Estonia, Canada, USA!) to meet and work together.

When I first arrived, I could already feel the positive and creative charge in the air. I was welcomed right off the plane with open arms and upon reaching Ethan Coverstone’s family farm, I was swarmed with smiling silhouettes who made my heart feel so warm with goodness. Within a few minutes people were scrambling to put on costumes so we could entertain the friendly folks of a local Wal-Mart as we picked up some groceries. It was the perfect way to start this trip! I kept looking around at all these faces that I’ve only known through a computer screen and I couldn’t believe that I was actually there next to them, laughing at their jokes and getting spontaneous hugs. I had to pinch myself so many times during the trip because I just couldn’t believe that so many people who I look up to were sitting right next to me.

We awoke each morning at about 5:00am to catch the beautiful soft light that laid over the farm. We shot in beautiful green corn fields, empty plowed fields, a nice little cottage tucked in the trees, a swampy creek, and in the lush trees around the property, and this was just on the farm! Throughout the entire gathering, there was an absolute creative energy in the air. It was rare to look around and not see someone in the midst of a photo shoot or planning their next one. At sunset each night there would be half a dozen shoots going on at the same time all within a few steps of each other, it was impossible to not be filled with inspiration watching these talented photographers work.

The process was entirely collaborative. We all travelled to this place to be together, to work together and to learn from each other. Our mountain of props was a mixture of everyone’s odds and ends and it wasn’t unusual for someone to be borrowing clothes or hats or shoes from another. It was such an amazing feeling to have so many people ready and willing to help out, whether it was modelling, holding a reflector or just helping to carry a huge door into the middle of a field.

We were fortunate to travel to some really cool spots nearby as well, we enjoyed a refreshing dip in a local lake (flipping over a dock in the process) and twice we were lucky enough to have permission to shoot inside an abandoned ketchup factory.

The factory was one of my favourite parts of the weekend, it was huge but filled with all sorts of hide outs and you could stand in the open courtyard area and watch all the different photo shoots happening at the same time, it reminded me of watching a beehive, all the activity happening inside the walls. There were smoke bombs, costumes, beautiful windows in brick walls and even a live bird at one point. Even though the heat made it hard to feel 100% comfortable, we worked non-stop for hours each day, capturing each other again and again. We jumped at the chance to be involved in each other’s work and it was natural to move seamlessly from one shoot to the next, letting other photographers add to the scene, change to story and create their own version.

I loved being able to think of ideas and concepts that involved all of these talented people, being able to work alongside them and capture them with my camera was the most freeing and wonderful feeling I’ve ever had in this photography path I’ve been going down. I hope that they found working with me as enjoyable as I did!

Gradually, after spending the weekend together, people had to start leaving to go back to their ‘regular’ lives and it was difficult to watch each person drive down the long dusty driveway, waving through the kicked up dust. As tough as it was to be saying goodbye, we knew that not only did we all experience something amazing and life changing, we knew that it wouldn’t be the last time we’d see one another, there would be more chances to work together.

This trip for me was a much-needed break from my routine. Before leaving for the meetup, I had been feeling lost in regards to my photography and what I wanted to do with my life. During my time spent with these amazing friends, I felt a charge of passion fill every cell in my body and I knew that I wanted to push myself forward in photography and keep fostering this passion and push towards my dreams. I don’t think I can ever repay those that inspired me, worked with me, laughed with me, and made me feel so lucky to be alive and doing what I’m doing.
Thank you Midwest gang.

You can see all the posted shots, both behind the scenes and final images at our flickr group here:
And you can watch an amazing video put together by Chelsea Roden here: