On August 23, 2018 I celebrated my photography journey with a party and gallery at Last Best Brewing. I can’t believe how many people stopped in throughout the night. Thank you all for coming to support me. I was nervous about this showing because it was not just my art that was on display, but also my writing and my relationships with my friends and family. In this post I have included all the writing and the accompanying images that were printed in order of display. At the gallery showing I also included some photos of everyone with me in them, photos they had taken of me, or photos I had taken of them since I met them.
A lot has changed in ten years and I’m looking forward to seeing where I will end up in another ten years, or even the next five. I hope you enjoy reading about all the people who influenced my journey (I recommend having a beer or gin cocktail while reading as everyone did on the 23rd).
P.S. All prints are 25% off until the end of the month 🙂
The Welcome at the Gallery Entrance
Everyone Needs a Friend
Welcome to Last Best and thank you for coming to celebrate the ten year anniversary of my business, Deviant Optiks Photography. This gallery is not just a collection of images from the last ten years, but also a tribute to many friends who have had a significant impact on me and my photography. The title is taken from the lyrics of a song by Devin Townsend, called “Little Pig.” Townsend is one of my favourite musicians, and his music has inspired my creative work.
The prints you will see tonight are an incomplete sample of the genres of photography that I shoot. They do show a significant part of my journey and tie into the relationships I’ve built through being a photographer. The friends you will read about today are ones who will hopefully be able to stop by tonight. I would love to do a piece for every person who has influenced my photographic journey; however, that would require a huge room and an excessive amount of prints and stories to fill it.
Everyone who has ever hired me, referred me, shot with me, bought my prints, given me a kind word, offered advice or knowledge, will always have my appreciation.
Krystyna & Ed/Mom & Dad
Deviant Optiks would not exist if my parents did not notice that I became interested in taking photos when I was going out to shows. In 2008 I completed a Bachelor of Science in Physics and my parents gifted me with a basic DSLR, a Nikon D90. At the time I had just started immersing myself in the local heavy metal music scene. I would occasionally borrow my dad’s point and shoot camera to take some shots of my friends on stage. I learned how to shoot manual and discovered what ISO is after very unsuccessfully trying to photograph a local show in a very dark bar. I taught myself a lot quickly (with the help of a few friends too), and by August 2008, I had a business name, and my concert photography portfolio was growing rapidly.
Thank you, mom and dad, for that thoughtful gift. It changed my life in so many ways. Thank you for supporting me in all my endeavours, even the odd and scary ones.
I would like to point out to my mom (who is afraid of heights) that it is her fault that I now scare her with photos of me climbing mountains or enjoying sunrises and stars on some unnerving vantage points.
When I first became involved in the heavy metal scene, Pam was one of the first “metal friends” I made. She was a well-known concert photographer in the community. I took her out for cheesecake and grilled her on camera info one afternoon. Shortly after we met, Pam launched a webzine called Pitch Black. I think I was her first contributor and it was through Pitch Black I learned how to properly review and cover a concert/festival, interview bands and how to set up press passes.
I can’t thank you enough, Pam, for sharing your knowledge when I was starting out and trusting me to be a part of your webzine. Unfortunately Pitch Black no longer exists, but I think it was one of the best online publications for supporting the local scene and professionally covering everything from a show in a tiny bar to a large scale concert at the Saddledome.
An essential part of the creative process is experimenting. And to properly experiment with concert and band photography, a photographer needs guinea pigs. The musicians that made up Sacred Ally, a local Calgary metal act somehow became very good friends of mine. I practiced my photography skills at their live shows, hung out at with them at their jam space, attended concerts with them and even played ball hockey with three of them. These guys also witnessed my first and only black eye from a mosh pit. They were all so supportive of my photography.
Colin, Jay, Pete, Tyler, and Vern, thank you for your friendship and for making me feel welcome immediately when I met you all. As a socially awkward nerd, who spent most of her time at university in physics labs and basements with other socially awkward nerds, I appreciated the immediate sense of belonging.
Nate, Jaelle, and Dahlia
I met Nate before I ever met Jaelle, his wife. However, I didn’t quite remember our first meeting until I met Nate (again?) and Jaelle at a New Years Eve party. I walked into the kitchen with my friend Trish who was introducing me to people at her party. This very tall, imposing bearded blonde Viking turns to me and says, “Hey, weren’t you in Mercury Tilt?”. I confirmed I used to play in a band called Mercury Tilt. Nate’s response: “YOU OWE ME MONEY!”. After I had quit the band, Mercury Tilt recorded another album at Slaughter House Studios and did not pay for the session. Luckily Nate laughed about it with me immediately.
Jaelle and I only chatted briefly at that party, but we quickly became friends as we kept seeing each other at shows and ending up at the same parties. Jaelle has one of the biggest hearts in the metal scene. She loves the music and the people.
Nate is such a hard-working force in the Calgary Metal scene. He’s played in some very heavy hitting bands, was the stage manager for internationally acclaimed Noctis Valkyries Metal Festival, runs Big Nate Productions (this includes podcasts, a mostly annual festival, recording bands, etc.). Nate and I worked together at many concerts and festivals, and it was always a pleasure…and sometimes insanity. And of course Jaelle would always be working hard alongside Nate, making the festivals run as smoothly as possible.
Nate and Jaelle, over the years you made me feel part of your family. I know I will always get the best hugs, high fives and laughs with you two and your very fortunate daughter, Dahlia. It’s been a blast working with you. Thanks for supporting my concert work.
My Polish (Heavy Metal) Fairy Godmother. I don’t even know what to tell you about this amazing woman in such a brief write up. From some of the photos here you can probably guess I met Terese in the heavy metal scene. She’s Polish like me, so we bonded over discussions about cooking and perogies. She was VP of a hospital, a mountaineer, runs her own business, put on the biggest and best heavy metal festival in Western Canada, supports her son’s music…and this doesn’t even scratch the surface of who she is and what she does. Over the years since we’ve met, we have gone for dinners, breakfasts, coffees and every time I learn another new and inspiring thing about Terese.
Terese and her festivals (especially Noctis Valkyries Metal Festival) provided Calgary (and Canadian) metalheads the chance to experience some music acts that never would have traveled here otherwise. I should mention she also put on a heavy metal conference – how cool is that?
Terese, thank you for your support of my concert photography and eventually my landscape work. Thank you for sharing your stories and always encouraging me. Everyone in the metal scene that has the honour of calling you a friend is very lucky.
Because of Terese, I met one of my favourite bands, Venom. The album they put out after I met and befriended them, included a thank you to me in the liner notes. A personal highlight of my concert photography career.
Catherine is one of my best friends and my favourite concert/festival adventure buddy. We met through the Sacred Ally guys just before I completed my physics degree and immediately clicked. Catherine and I started going to local shows together and I even somehow convinced her to study with me in one of the physics labs where I worked part-time. We traveled together to see concerts and festivals and also worked together for her father.
When I was photographing shows, one of the hardest things to give up was the front and center spot on the barrier with my best friend at the big concerts and festivals. Catherine always supported me, and we have the best time together at shows, regardless of if I am attending or shooting. We’ve seen many of our favourite bands together and even have two cameos in the Iron Maiden documentary Flight 666. Our appearances happen during our favourite song “Hallowed Be Thy Name” – we are of course head banging up front on the barrier.
Catherine, your friendship has meant so much to me. Our concert adventures are some of the best experiences I’ve had. Although we live in different cities now, I hope we keep meeting up for concerts every once in a while.
Cai’lin is special. That is all I need to say about her.
I will elaborate further though because the way we met always make me laugh. On my 23rd birthday, I was celebrating in Canmore at the Canmore Hotel, and some of my favourite Calgary acts were playing. After the show, there was a party upstairs. I was sitting on a couch talking to friends when Cai’lin came into the room and perched above me on the top of the couch. She said someone had told her I was a physicist, pole dancer, metal head, photographer, and some other things I can’t remember. I confirmed it was all true. She then told me I wasn’t a real person and stormed off.
We became friends after enjoying a Zimmer’s Hole show, standing side by side at the front…and I can’t tell you the rest because of how inappropriate it is. If you find either of us tonight, we may let you know what happened.
Cai’lin is a very talented singer and guitarist. We would often figure out a way to meet bands and get her guitar signed by the musicians whose signatures she wanted on there. One of the silliest and fondest memories I have is of Cai’lin trying to teach Lamb of God the chicken dance on their bus.
Cai’lin, thank you for being my friend, even though you didn’t believe I was real. Thanks for your company at concerts up front on the barrier and also on the edge of the action when I was shooting and hauling all my gear around. Since you stopped going to shows, you’re a little bit lame, but I still enjoy spending time with you (I can’t believe how PG I kept this write up).
The Knott Family
If you’re going around the room in order, you will have read about Catherine. I’m very fortunate to have been welcomed by Catherine’s entire family. I worked with Catherine for her father Tom the summer after Catherine and I met. Working with Catherine and her dad was how I got to know Catherine’s mom, Shirley, and Catherine’s two sisters, Virginia and Deborah.
As of this year, I’ve photographed all three sisters’ weddings. The last one was Deborah’s in May 2018. At Deborah’s wedding, there was a table with all the family photos from the groom’s side and bride’s side. It made me proud and happy to see my images of the family from Catherine’s and Virginia’s wedding on that table.
Thank you, Shirley, Catherine, Deborah, and Virginia for welcoming me into the family, for your trust with everyone’s photos and all the laughs every time we see each other. I am very honoured to have been asked by all of you to photograph your weddings.
Renee & Jef
Renee and Jef are such strong supporters of the metal scene, attend so many shows, and always have a hug and spot for a camera bag for a fellow photographer.
The first time Jef spoke to me was at MacHall (unfortunately I don’t remember what band was playing). He asked me about my camera settings, and I think I only said a few brief words to him. I was still relatively new to concert photography and wasn’t sure why someone was asking me about settings.
Eventually, Jef was obtaining press passes and shooting with me in the photo pit. I became good friends with his wife Renee too. I knew I could always find them and have someone to socialize with/complain to about the terrible lighting. They are such solid and loyal friends. Both Renee and Jef are well known and well respected in the music community.
Thank you, Renee and Jef, for your friendship and companionship at shows. I’ve always been happy and comfortable attending concerts by myself. But having friends there can make the experience even better.
When I started branching out from my sole focus of concert photography, the first thing I tried was portrait and fine art photography. After dabbling with lighting on my own for a bit, I took a few workshops with local photographers. When I met Kevin, we were both attending a workshop. During this workshop, photographers were paired up and then worked with various models in different settings. Kevin and I weren’t paired up, but we ended up chatting a lot.
Eventually, I took one of Kevin’s workshops too. I learned most of my editing techniques from fashion and glamour photographers and then transferred and modified these techniques to what I need for my work. I had my first second shooter wedding gig with Kevin too.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Kevin. Our conversations have always been so helpful and it’s been fun working with you in a variety of ways. And thank you for the studio use – I learned so much playing around there.
I met Becky entirely unexpectedly, in the dark, in the middle of the backcountry. I had just become interested in night photography and only had a few hikes completed when I decided that for my 30th birthday I would treat myself to a stay at the Assiniboine Lodge. As I’m known to do, I went by myself. My close friends did not share my new interest in hiking and landscape photography, so I was pursuing it by myself.
Becky has been hiking, backpacking and going into the backcountry her whole life. She was the perfect person to meet. We have gone on many adventures, and I can’t thank her enough for answering all my questions because I needed to have absolutely everything defined, like do I need to bring two pairs of gloves to shoot the Milky Way from the top of a mountain? Because of Becky, I reached my goal of shooting the Milky Way from the tops of mountains much quicker than if I had been trying to figure everything out on my own.
Thank you, Becky, (and sometimes Brian) for all the delicious snacks, hot chocolates, adventures and backcountry trips. I’ve learned a lot and been able to experience and grow so much by spending time with you.
Lisa is another local concert photographer. She specializes and associates with the punk rock and hardcore crowd and sometimes overlaps with the metal scene. I think we shot some of the same shows and were in the same venues quite often over our photography careers. It wasn’t until I started doing landscape photography that we broke the awkward “don’t talk to strangers” barrier and went shooting together.
Lisa is such a down to earth and no-nonsense person. She does seem to have many pants mishaps in the mountains though… She started an intermittent gathering of photographer friends that was dubbed “Photographers in the Pub.” It’s a very casual night of tasting beers at local breweries and chatting about photo related things. There was even a potluck once.
Thank you for being a wonderful friend Lisa. I hope we get to shoot together more in the future, but having beers or cocktails along with excellent conversation is a pretty good way to spend time together too.
My foray into landscape and night photography has created some bad habits. One of which is meeting strangers in the dark in the middle of nowhere. (Safety note: always tell someone where you’re going and what your plan is, research people you’re meeting, maybe don’t meet them in the dark in the middle of nowhere…).
The aurora wasn’t putting on an outstanding show when we met, so I took Mitch to a location I had scouted to shoot the Milky Way. He was very concerned and perplexed that I chose a spot in bear country. But we had bear spray and were talking loudly, so I wasn’t too worried. Also, I can outrun Mitch, aka bear bait. Mitch is probably the person I shoot the aurora with the most.
There are a few things I look for in a shooting buddy. The first is that they are not extremely chatty – I like to converse but also enjoy the peacefulness of the night sky. The second is that they understand proper night photography etiquette. Thirdly, they should be a rad person and have a sense of humour that somewhat matches mine, because otherwise, someone is going to get offended.
Thank you, Mitch, for being up for a multitude of last minute photography adventures. I appreciate when you encourage me to go out to shoot and also that you enable laziness when the conditions do not look acceptable. You’re a rad friend, and I probably won’t let the bears eat you.
The first time I met Cody was for a sunrise hike in Kananaskis. We were chatting quite a bit online and finally made plans to go to the mountains. I was the odd person out in the group, not having met anyone previously, and had to trust those strangers to lead me up a mountain in the dark. I had done some research, but I was still new to hiking and route finding with only a headlamp.
Cody is my favourite scramble partner. I’ve learned quite a bit from him and appreciate that he approaches the mountains in a very level-headed way – he’ll push himself but for the right reasons and in the right way. It takes a lot for someone to earn my trust, but Cody quickly demonstrated that he was a reliable person, rational and very entertaining.
Thank you for all the adventures, Cody. My confidence in scrambling and navigating mountains wouldn’t be at the level it is without you. So many of my night adventures ideas were made possible because of all the mountains I summited with you.
My friendship with Christy started through our love of chasing the night sky. We initially connected on social media, and at one point we ended up going through very similar situations – trying to build up photography businesses after being laid off in the oil and gas industry. I value the coffee meetings and conversations that I’ve had with Christy. I think we communicate and build off each others’ ideas very well. It turns out we work well together as wedding photographers too. I was fortunate to work with her on three weddings this summer. Christy’s hard work and drive has been inspirational to me and helped me push some of my ideas.
Thank you for your company on night adventures (even though we keep having to deal with things like flat tires, two hr traffic jams in the middle of the night on Highway 1, etc.) and your trust when working together. Our business talks over coffee have been extremely constructive.
I met Shannon during a hiking meet up group and out of the group of approximately ten ladies, she and I hit it off the best. We’ve gone on numerous hikes and snowshoes together, and I trust her completely in the mountains.
Shannon gets a long write up because she was with me during one my “biggest” Milky Way shoots. Shortly after I started shooting the Milky Way, and got it into my head that I wanted to shoot the galaxy from a mountaintop, I decided one day I would photograph the Milky Way from 11,000 ft. I acquired the gear and skills needed to hike and scramble in the mountains and to be able to travel in the dark reasonably comfortably. I also tried to find some friends that would do this with me because it feels a little better to have someone with you for the company, and just in case of any problems.
During the summer of 2016, I kept checking for a good clear sky window to shoot the Milky Way from Mount Temple. The weather, of course, decided to cooperate on a Wednesday. So I took time off work and was lucky that Shannon happened to be free and willing to join me on a night adventure for no other reason than to enjoy the experience. She is not a photographer; she appreciates the mountains, stars and apparently my company.
We carried heavy packs up and found a spot to hang out below the summit with some shelter from the gusting winds. It was one of the coolest and nerve-wracking night shoots I’ve ever done. I had to sit with, and protect my tripod during a time-lapse, and I had to keep an eye out on an electrical storm we could see way in the distance. The Milky Way looked amazing. When the storm started to move towards us, I packed up my camera gear, and we descended in the dark, missing sunrise, unfortunately.
Thank you, Shannon, for coming with me on my favourite summit night shoot. I am not sure I would have done it without you. Thank you for your friendship, the laughs, serious conversations and supporting me not only on adventures but also through a few intense personal moments.
When I met Robin, we were both looking for something new. Something that could change how life was going, motivate, inspire…just get some new energy into our lives. She is the person who finally got me to try climbing, and that has made a significant impact on me. I, in turn, got her to try pole dancing. I would say that since I began immersing myself in mountain related activities, I’ve been surrounding myself with strong women. These are women who work hard, struggle and get better and stronger.
Robin was my sounding board and cheerleader when I decided to give a talk at Night of Lies (a night of presentations about climbing adventures and mountain exploits). It was my first time speaking to a group where I wasn’t really an expert in the topics. Robin and her partner Kevin also provided me with the opportunity to shoot a charity event and movie screening of Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia. I am grateful for these opportunities that allowed me to build my network and extend my reach.
Robin, thank you for being such an inspiration. You are so resilient and steadfast in our friendship. And your butt looks great (a little inside joke here).
My coach and friend, Ian, gets a mention here because without him I would have lacked an excellent mountain athlete resource and my body would probably not be functioning properly. He helped me rehab my shoulder and neck after a car accident. When I started to carry very heavy packs up mountains, he helped me figure out the imbalances that were causing me pain while hiking.
Shooting an event for Ian called Facts and Fables helped me get my foot in the door with various mountain related events and brought me some very cool opportunities.
Thank you, Ian, for helping me get stronger in so many ways. There’s no one else who can point out my deficiencies as you can. And no one who can fix them like you can.
I’ll try not to get too gross with this write-up, but that fact that I’m even mentioning my partner is gross. It’s not easy dating a photographer. Especially a night photographer who goes off into the night on her own quite often. I’ve missed dinners, family gatherings, parties, weddings and much more because I’m working or the weather looks good and I need to shoot the Milky Way or take a chance on some promising aurora data.
Since we met, Geoff has been supportive of all my endeavours. He’s the first person I tell about my successes and one of the people that gets to hear me complain about the skies the most. I was even able to drag him out for a Milky Way shoot with me, and he got to experience it in the most frustrating way…kind of. He got to sleep in the car while I glared at the only clouds which were on the southern horizon, obscuring the Milky Way core. When the clouds moved out the way enough, we tried a bunch of photos and succeeded at standing still sufficiently for a few good ones before the clouds rolled back in.
Thank you, Geoff, for your understanding, patience and unwavering support. I know its not easy all the time, but I can be myself with you and pursue my passions. And thanks for understanding that the Milky Way will always be number one.
There are quite a number of local bands that I have had the pleasure of working with numerous times. In some cases I’ve become really good friends with at least one of the musicians if not all. Thanks for supporting my business, being good models on stage and making faces at my camera. Here a handful that still exist, have disbanded or changed over the years.
Every Hour Kills
Villainizer & Ravenous
There are some local business that I would like to say thank you to. The opportunities to work with them opened a lot doors for me and helped expand my business.
The Camera Store TV – I was interviewed about night photography for one of their Saturday morning live stream.
The Camera Store – Workshop and seminar opportunities. I love teaching, thanks Evelyn!
Crowfoot Media – My first non concert photo publication! Thank you Meghan and Paul.
Baba’s Art Haus – The best place to go for local art, cookies, coffee, numerology and so on. The owners Téa and Viktor are fantastic. They have always made me, and my friends welcome at the Art Haus.
Banded Peak Brewing – My first official gallery display in Calgary. Thanks for showing off my work and all the delicious beer.
The Distillery/The D/The Distortion Live Music Venue – This venue sadly no longer exists. It always felt like home, no matter what rendition. I shot some of my first shows at the original location and made a few of my favourite memories shooting and attending concerts there for the entire span of my concert photography career. Here’s to a few…
Resolve Photo– They printed all my images and made them display ready for tonight.
Last Best Brewing – The venue for my 10th Anniversary Party. Thank you Ashlynn for assisting me with setting this up!