Midsummer Night Affair Fundraiser

Last night I had the pleasure of photographing an event in the newly renovated O'Born Room at the National Arts Centre in downtown Ottawa. The event, titled Midsummer Night Affair, was a unique one in that it was planned and executed entirely by the graduating students from the Event Management Program at Algonquin College. Each year, at the completion of their program, the students organize a fundraising event for a very worthy local organization, with this year's recipient being the Children's Wish Foundation.

The room looked beautiful thanks to the careful planning of the organizing committee, and to the local organizations who generously donated their time and materials to help make the event a success. We in Ottawa are very proud of our local businesses, and we always encourage others to shop local and support those who support the worthy causes in our region. It was an honour to work alongside these amazing vendors:

Venue - National Arts Centre

Florist - Capital Florist

Decor - LouLou Lounge

Entertainment - Push Pull Dance Ottawa & Ottawa Dance Collectove

Photographer - me! :)

It was so beautiful that I just had to share a selection of photos from the night. I hope you enjoy.

And you can see the full photo set here.

Family Portrait Session at Parkdale Market

I met with Don, Jennifer and their adorable two year old son Edmund a couple weeks ago on a perfect Sunday morning at Parkdale Park in Ottawa's Wellington West Village. Don and Jen chose this location because little Edmund likes to shop for berries at the adjoining market.

We really lucked out with the weather, because July has brought on a heatwave that has seen many days in the high 30s and low 40s. Not very pleasant for a place that is best known for having eight or so months of winter each year, but on this day the weather gods were kind to us. We spent some time schmoozing with the produce and flower vendors... or rather Edmund did, bought (and ate) a few favorite items, and then headed across the lot to play in the park.

I've known of Don and Jen through social media and our mutual friends in the local food scene, but this was the first time we had met in person, and their adorable little family was a dream to photograph. Don and Jen have such a wonderful warmth and calmness about them that make you want to spend hours in their presence, and little Edmund has so much personality that kept us all smiling and laughing throughout the whole session.

Rather than posed family portraits, I was tasked with documenting this amazing trio as they went about their morning together in the park. Don and Jen wanted natural looking images of them interacting with each other and with Edmund, which blends perfectly with my style and takes me back to my days as a street photographer.

I hope you enjoy viewing these photos as much as I did taking them. Don, Jen and Edmund, thank you for letting me be a part of your family for a few hours.

Newborn Portraits of Baby Makena

A couple of weeks ago I met and photographed baby Makena, and her mom and dad Roxanne and Chris. It's always nice when the parents are able to get in on some of the photos too. But seriously though, it was so much fun spending the afternoon with this new young family, and I'm thrilled to be able to share some of the photos from the session.

It's no surprise that babies have many special qualities about them, and their little fingers and toes, their lips and their nose are always such photographic gold because we all know how quickly these little ones grow.

And then there are the moms and dad who love each of these little bundles so unconditionally. 

Family Portrait Session at Andrew Haydon Park, Ottawa

I received a call from a family friend asking if I was available to photograph the families of her two children. The only catch was that the two families were in town for one day as one of the families was had just arrived a day earlier from the UK, and was flying out the next day to live in a new country. I was warned that the grandchildren would be jet lagged and likely grumpy, and it was the morning after I had returned from my own family vacation... challenge accepted!

The other potential hiccup was the uncertainty of the weather. You see, it has rained almost every day, and the weekends were a sure bet to be a little soggy.

Luckily though, the morning was beautiful, albeit a wee bit buggy, and the grandchildren were incredible. Today I share Krista and Neal's photos from the session.

As a father of two energetic young boys, I can't stress enough how important it is to capture the precious moments we encounter as our families grow and develop. Whether it's during a conversation over breakfast, on a simple walk through the neighbourhood, or three days into a summer road trip, you're sure to experience moments that should be captured and cherished forever.

While it's unlikely that I'll be at your breakfast table or on your family vacation, although I'm always happy to tag along, I would love to capture priceless moments of your family that are meant to be shared in photo books and display in large print on your walls. Lets chat.

Photographing Chef Jesse Bell

I recently made a return visit to one of my favorite spots in Ottawa, The Albion Rooms, nestled at the base of Ottawa's Novotel Hotel on Nicholast St. The Albion Rooms prides itself as being anything but your typical hotel restaurant has been a go-to hot spot for many locals and visitors alike. My first visit was back in 2015 when then-Chef Stephen La Salle was at the helm. The food was great - often made with locally sourced ingredients, and the atmosphere was spot on - a perfect mixture of equal parts casual and class.

Today when you visit The Albion Rooms, you still find that same great flavour and service we've come to expect, but when you peak in the back room you'll notice a new Captain steering the ship. Enter Chef Jesse Bell. 

Though his youthful looks may deceive you, Jesse isn't new to the restaurant game. Like many in this city, he is a graduate of Algonquin College's successful Culinary Management program and cut his teeth by working his way up throughout the Capital. Jesse assumed the Head Chef position at The Albion Rooms a little over a year ago, after colleague and close friend Stephen La Salle moved to his new role down the street.

A perfectionist by nature, Jesse takes immense pride in keeping his mouth watering menu new and fresh. And his passion for sustainability and shopping local are a testament to his core values. If you're looking for that perfect location for a date, or need to grab a satisfying bite before catching a show at the NAC, I highly recommend paying Jesse and his team at The Albion Rooms a visit.

Chef John Morris Shot for Shepherds of Good Hope Calendar

Photographing people in and out of their normal work environments is something that really interests me. I have a curious mind and really like learning about what other people do, how they do it, and why they do it. A couple of weeks ago I shared an image I made of Chef Michael Radford for the Shepherds of Good Hope fundraising calendar. Today, I will share the second image I made for the calendar, which was of chef John Morris of the then Le Café at the National Arts Centre NAC) here in Ottawa, and now of 360 Restaurant at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto.

I was excited to meet John after learning how great everyone said he was, and after realizing we had a similar taste in music. I'm probably wrong, but I feel like music can say a lot about someone's personality.

I went into the shoot without having a clear idea of the image I hoped to capture, so we walked through the NAC discussing a few possible locations. And then we found ourselves standing at side stage of the NAC main stage and I knew I had to photograph him on the iconic stage. The problem was, we weren't allowed on stage because of rules and liability issues, and because the orchestra were beginning their evening practice on the stage. We decided to risk it and ran out on stage for a few quick shots. The resulting image for the calendar is the one you see above. 

I often like to light my portrait subjects, but due to the risk of security dragging us off stage I decided to use the room's available light and push my camera settings to their limits. The only strobist work I did in this image was to bounce the desk lamp off the top of the piano to help create a bit of rim light along John's right side.

Here's an out-take that I really like. Though the orchestra was practising behind me, it captures a quiet moment John taking a few seconds from his busy day to admire and appreciate where he worked.

If you haven't already, please check out the Shepherds of Good Hope calendar and buy one. The money raised from the sale of these calendars goes to an incredible local charity that serves thousands of meals each year to Ottawa's homeless community. The calendar also showcases the amazingly creative portraits made by Justin van Leeuwen, Jessica Deeks, Valerie Keeler, Lindsey Gibeau, Christian Lee and Chris Schlesak. If you like photography and you like food, you'll love this calendar.

Chef Michael Radford for Shepherds of Good Hope Calendar Shoot

Late last summer I was contacted to be part of a dream project to shoot portraits of some of Ottawa's best chefs as part of the Shepherds of Good Hope fundraising calendar. The project was a load of fun and I learned an enormous amount from the experience, from scheduling shooting times with busy chefs, to creating a story out of a single image, to working as a commercial photographer for the first time. The first of my three shoots was with Chef Michael Radford.

Michael Radford

Michael Radford entered school intending to become a marine biologist. But it wasn't until he began working in the kitchen that he realized his true calling to become the head chef of two (and soon a third location) of Ottawa's top oyster houses, The Elmdale Tavern and Whalesbone

When I first met Michael, I learned about his past as a DJ and instantly knew that I wanted to combine his passions for music and food into the image. He brought his turntable and a selection of records to the shoot, and came up with the genius idea to shuck oysters on his records. To mimic the mood and look of a DJ spinning records on stage, I killed most of the ambient light, and lit Michael on either side with two bare speedlights, one gelled blue and the other gelled red. To add a touch of fill to his face, I used a 1/2 CTO gel on a third speedlight, and covered it with my Rogue 40 deg grid. The resulting shot is what you see above.

The calendar is an 18 month calendar, and as I mentioned above, the proceeds of all calendar sales go to a great local charity. Why not pick one up for yourself, you'll not only be helping yourself be more organized, but you'll also be supporting a great cause. You can get yours by clicking here, and while you're at it grab one for a friend.

Kai-Lii & Jared's Hart House Wedding | Toronto

My how time flies by. We're already into the middle of November, and I have finally found the time to share the beauty and excitement of Kai-Lii and Jared's Autumn wedding. Knowing that I had never shot a wedding before (not even as a second shooter), these two dear friends asked me to bring my journalistic style to their wedding to capture the day. How could I say no? I love these two people.

Their wedding took place at Hart House, the beautiful and historic student centre at the University of Toronto. Completed in 1919, the Gothic Revival design makes you feel like you're in a scene from Harry Potter.

The day began as the ladies pampered themselves at Green Beauty Salon in uptown Toronto. We spent a couple of hours together as they were transformed from their already beautiful selves into the stunning ladies you see below. I then headed back downtown to meet Jared and the boys at Axe and Hatchet in Yorkville and captured them getting ready before heading to the venue.

Mixed with Scottish and Estonian traditional elements, the ceremony, reception and food made for the most entertaining and fun wedding I had ever been to, including serving Estonian beer and the bride and groom being serenaded by the attendees after the ceremony.

Congratulations Kai-Lii and Jared, it was an amazing day and I can’t wait to see the next chapter of your lives unfold together.

Photographing Chef Stephen La Salle

On a frigid date night late last winter, my wife and I headed downtown to catch a friend’s band play. We were already excited to be out because our friend plays in Sloan, one of my all-time favorite Canadian bands, but a last minute change in plans had us stumble on a nearby restaurant called The Albion Rooms. The show was better than ever, but what we talked about for days and weeks afterwards was this new restaurant we discovered and the incredible food they served. We still talk about it.

Ladies and gentlemen, please meet the head chef and culinary mastermind behind The Albion Rooms, Stephen La Salle.

Leading the charge at The Albion Rooms for the past three years, Stephen has turned a hotel restaurant into one of the best dining experiences in the city with its beautiful mix of modern cool and rustic je ne sais quoi. For all you Mad Men fans out there, this is where the 21st century Don Draper would frequent. Whether you’re in for the salmon & eggs breakfast; the elk burger dinner; or just popping by for a cocktail such as my favorite, Rye PA, you are guaranteed to leave htheappy. But don’t take my word for it, take the word of The New York Daily News and many other positive reviews La Salle has garnered.

When he’s not cooking or overseeing operations in the kitchen, Stephen can often be found at the front of the house, perched at the corner of the bar preparing apps and making final touches to dishes while chatting with patrons. This is yet one more reason why the members of the Bytown Chefs Collective succeed in the industry. After shooting four of this group of seven, I have yet to find one of these guys with an over-inflated ego and too self-absorbed to want to be face-to-face with his customer base. They continue to blow my mind, and La Salle is no exception.

I get the sense that Stephen has a low key, easy going personality which probably serves him well in what I can only imagine to be a highly stressful job. However, when he gets down to work, his game face shows nothing but focus as he prepares his meals, and the swiftness and ease at which he moves around the kitchen is truly something to witness.

If you’re ever in Ottawa and want to have one of the best dining experiences of your life, make sure to visit Stephen La Salle at The Albion Rooms. Oh, and don’t forget to Tweet or Instagram your experience as he loves to engage with people on social media.

I hope you’re enjoying this chef series featuring the Bytown Chefs Collective as much as I’m enjoying producing it. I’d love to hear your feedback on the series, or stories about great dining experiences in the comments. Here is a gallery from the shoot…

Photographing Butcher David Wallace

My ongoing photo series on Ottawa chef group, the Bytown Chefs Collective, didn't take me far from my house to meet and photograph the next member. Today I'd like to introduce you to the Cobden Rd Butcher, David Wallace, owner and head butcher at Around The Block Butcher Shop. Oh, and he's got a knife collection that would make Mick Dundee jealous.

Formerly known as Brian's Butchery & Deli, David worked at the shop for three or four years before he was presented with the opportunity to buy the shop and assume responsibility as Head Butcher. In 2014 he did just that, re-branded the company with a new name and logo, and brought in a host of locally produced meats and preserves. At just 27 years old and working six days a week, David embodies the qualities that this new wave of culinary artists need in order to survive and thrive in their industry. And his timing couldn't be better.

David's presence in the shop is infectious, and is one of the reasons why his business succeeds. He knows his customers by name, and makes time to chat and share a few laughs with each one. He works with local farmers, coffee companies, and canning companies, and offers the best products he can at the most competitive prices. And with supermarket prices continuing to rise as they are, it's no wonder people are turning to support local business like David's. 

Like the other members of his Collective, David possesses an openness, inventiveness, and willingness to collaborate with colleagues in the city. While visiting the shop in the middle of the week, it meant he wasn't butchering so much as serving his customers and attending to the deli side of the business. However, two nights earlier David teamed up with chef Stephen La Salle of The Albion Rooms to prepare sausages for Stephen's Beer Banger Bash, a special brunch collaboration with Beau's Brewery that kicked of Craft Beer Week.

David Wallace is a smart and savvy businessman, and he is a role model for young entrepreneurs. I wish his business the best of luck and look forward to being the newest member of his growing list of customers.

If you've missed the first two parts of this series, you can find them here:

Photographing Chef Paul Dubeau

Photographing Chef Kyle Proulx