To some, Chilliwack may seem like a quiet suburb of Vancouver. But to me it’s a city abuzz with different events that I experience and capture on camera, and then share them with you.
Journalists are constantly curious. We always need to know how something works, or why something happened. Our questions are never-ending, and we’re always seeing and learning new things.
One of my most fascinating experiences this year was photographing owls in a run-down barn out in the country. Inside the barn, attached to one of the walls, was an old but sturdy ladder. At the top of the ladder was a box housing three young barn owls. That’s where I needed to be.
With my camera over my shoulder and my iPhone in my pocket, I started up the ladder. It tilted backwards ever so slightly. I didn’t notice the angled ladder from the floor of the barn, but as I climbed to the top, it felt as if I was about to fall backwards.
The second that I reached the top of the ladder and peered into the box, I was startled and my heart skipped a beat. Three young owls sat huddled together in the box, and stared wide-eyed at me. They swayed slowly back and forth in unison making loud and long hissing noises, followed by several clicking sounds. They were not happy to see me.
I had never seen such a sight in my life. Being just inches away from wild birds of prey was slightly terrifying and very exhilarating. I captured the unforgetable experience on video with my iPhone.
Another memorable experience with a wild animal happened when a cougar was shot and killed in Cultus Lake. Being an animal lover, I felt badly for the grand cat, but I also understood that relocating it was not an option. With a tear in my eye, I patted the cougar, bid it farewell, and said that I was sorry for what had happened to it.
My photographic experiences have also been educational. This summer I got to see the mystery and math behind building a corn maze, and how the corn is planted north-south as well as east-west to create a huge graph consisting of several 50-foot square quadrants. The quadrants on the ground correspond with a blueprint design of the maze. With blueprint in hand, the mapper walks through the entire field of one-foot tall corn with spray paint, and marks lines indicating the maze’s pathways and where the corn stalks will be cut.
Another educational assignment this year was a story I wrote on bats affected by white nose syndrome — a fatal disease that spreads while bats hibernate during the cold winter months. While interviewing, I learned how beneficial bats are to B.C.’s agriculture as each one eats 3,000 to 5,000 insects every day that would otherwise damage crops. Hearing about the vast number of insects the bats consume boggled my mind.
My job brings me into people’s lives, some who are sick or underprivileged. This year I photographed several people with mental illnesses as part of a four-part series that The Progress published in the summer.
One of the subjects I photographed was schizophrenic and I was told that it would be unlikely that he’d cooperate for a photo since he was a difficult person to interview. I arrived hoping for the best, but fully expecting that I would likely be photographing his father instead, who was the main voice in the story.
Perhaps it was my lucky day, because when I got there he was not only willing to be photographed, but he also stood in such a way — his feet apart, his thumbs in his pockets, and wearing mirrored sunglasses — that made him look like a fighter. He looked like a tough guy, and the image I captured couldn’t have portrayed him better.
Sometimes I get to experience some very entertaining events like being lovingly pushed around by two donkeys during the Ryder Lake Ramble. They both wanted to see what I was doing, plus they wanted to be petted constantly and at the same time. And I can’t forget about the sweet, little three-year-old boy with his lips pursed trying desperately to get a mouthful of water at an outdoor spray park.
Then there was the time I was coming home from the office late one summer evening and I drove past a group of people doing yoga outside Chilliwack’s oldest church. I quickly turned my vehicle around to go back and photograph the visually beautiful and serene sight.
Some moments only last for a fraction of a second. I remember when the sun was setting on the Chilliwack Fair, and cowboy Doug Perry was manning one of the cattle gates. The warm, orange light fell beautifully on his face. I turned my camera towards him and snapped one frame before he noticed me. It was then that I captured my most favourite portrait of the year.
In the new year, I’ll get to relive one of my most cherished experiences of my photojournalistic career. My upcoming solo photo exhibition, 14 Gold: Images from the 2010 Olympics, will be on display at the Chilliwack Museum from Jan. 18 to Feb. 27. The opening reception takes place Saturday, Jan. 18 from noon to 2 p.m., and is open to the public.
Also, check out my year-long project, iPhoneography 2013, featuring images shot and uploaded to the internet using an Apple iPhone 4S.