2020 took the wind out of my sails: how I discovered what I have

June 28, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

2020 was going to be a great year.

But then something happened that took the wind out of my (and your?) sails

...but first, here is a video made at Container Park in Las Vegas last February, a month and a moment that for me represents the "Before Times".


On the wedding side of things, a lot of couples (all) had to postpone or change their 2020 wedding plans. I've been fortunate that all of my couples are either rescheduling or holding intimate ceremonies with receptions at a later date. And, to alleviate a lot of stress, I am able to photograph both events for them.

But there is more to my response to this pandemic than just waiting it out. I've found what I am thankful for and see a solid path forward by looking at the past first, learning and adjusting in the present while preparing for the new realities of tomorrow.

The Before Times

I came off of a great Christmas season. I had caring people working in teams photographing Santa at Hazeldean Mall and Mean Green Santa at Billings Bridge. But it wasn't just photography, we were responsible for the system and for each other working as a team at both locations to create experiences that were above expectations. 

The team deserves so much credit - so I will shout out to them (in no particular order) Ted, Frank, Christine, Kathy, Chrissy, Claire, Alain, Bob, Steven, Lisa, Cory, Emma, Kiera, Ionna, Rebecca and Tara.

Santa sleepSanta sleep

The main challenge was people knowingly (and in some cases unknowingly) getting into line ups that would have them waiting for three hours. That's the problem with becoming popular for doing things uniquely the right way - you go a little bit viral and BOOM, you’ve got line ups. Line ups that start early and end late. If your system fails, you go viral in the wrong way, and if it works you win. Our system WORKED. I gotta tell you when you get stopped at Costco by a stranger thanking you for taking their pictures with the "Grinch" you realize the impact you have on the lives of people around you - in spite of the long wait times. 

After such a busy season followed by “nothing” the true understanding that photographs are time machines really sinks in. 

As an offshoot from all of this I was truly surprised by one thing:
it feels great to write paycheques and to pay the rent.


And there is the time I got to photograph these children at Sensory/Silent Santa Sunday, they had me crying (tears of happiness) because they were having so much fun.

Capital Wedding Show
Looking to fill in some dates for weddings in 2020, and getting a jump on 2021, I took the leap and booked a booth at the Capital Wedding Show. It was nice meeting all of the couples with my volunteers (former Brides and a good friend) to help me out. All was good and I handed out a tonne of flyers and then the waiting for calls could start, but in the meantime, it was time to sharpen the saw in two different ways. 

Experimenting with Reservations
We set up Family sessions at Hazeldean Mall on the Sunday of Family Weekend. 

Using online booking software we sold out of 10-minute family sessions within 2 hours of posting - though some people had to cancel due to illness it was so popular that we scheduled more dates in March. This knowledge will really come in handy for Safe Social Distancing Santa photography at Hazeldean and Billings Bridge this Christmas season.

Renewed learning 

There is an annual conference for wedding and portrait photographers (it’s called WPPI). Held in Las Vegas every year I've long held onto the dream of going to WPPI and 2020 was going to be the year. Taking advantage of early booking discounts for flight, hotels and attendance fees I stayed at the Luxor, took in 18 seminar sessions and 4 intensive learning sessions, met some great photographers, had my first In N Out meal, met up with my good friend Bryan Jones and even went to "The Happy Place".

HappyPlaceHappyPlaceBryan Jones and I at the Happy Place in Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas

Bryan Jones shot this slo-mo on my iPhone at the Happy Place (and, yes, that is Bryan doing the jumping high-five with me at the Happy Place)


Vegas2020-7Vegas2020-7 Vegas20202-14Vegas20202-14

Did you know that a Double Double means something different at In N Out? I didn't. But now I like both.


Photowalk session with Scott Johnson in the corridors of Mandalay Bay - model: Payten Lewis


A Pandemic Is Coming
When I came back from Vegas there was talk of a Pandemic and it could be a problem. No one knew how much, or how little, of a problem it would be.


One Last Wedding in "Before Times"
Before everything shut down I did get to photograph Christine and Alex's wedding in early March at the Canadian Golf & Country Club.

Canadian Golf and Country Club Ottawa wedding skyCanadian Golf and Country Club Ottawa wedding sky

And then everything was shut down.

In April we were all set to make pictures with the Easter Bunny at both Hazeldean Mall and Billings Bridge. It was going to be great. Didn't happen. (I even bought a new Bunny Costume which, ironically, arrived from Wuhan Province a week before we were supposed to start).

Time to review and reflect and sharpen the saw some more
The internet is a glorious thing. I've finished all of the Nikon School online courses, completed a Coursera course on Business Modeling and a course on Content Marketing offered up by Hubspot. There are more courses on the near horizon.

Santa never sleeps
Key Santa staff and I had a facetime meeting two weeks ago and discussed the new reality - how to keep families and staff safe while making Santa visits and portraits even better. I was able to bring this to a rough plan form in discussions with shopping centre administration and am working on logistics and protocols to truly wow families this November and December.

Architectural Photography
I've also been getting out to make more pictures - practicing architectural photography (as well as fine art, street and headshots - everywhere I turn there is something else to photograph). There is beauty in buildings and landscapes and I love to get out for moments of zen. Architectural Photography on Instagram.


Old Weddings are New Again
I went as far back as 2010 in reviewing some past weddings, then did some re-edits and posted a selection to Instagram.

Wedding Reflection in GlassWedding Reflection in Glass

2017 Tessa and Lee Night-22017 Tessa and Lee Night-2

And had more time with immediate family making pictures on abandoned railway tracks in Smiths Falls


and recording an audition for University


Through it all I've discovered that talents, skills, experience, a desire to create and empathy are quite a recipe for preparing for the future.

I've been preparing for what I'll get to do again using what I've learned during the last five months (and my entire life). The Pandemic may not be over, not yet and not by a long shot, and I know there is so much more to do and learn. I have always known that the winds will change from ideal to nothing to a gut-splitting 180-degree turn but the best way to be of service is to adjust my sails and hold on tight leaning in to share the gifts that I've been given and have worked for in helping others to uncover their own gifts.


Here are some of the other pictures I made during the Pandemic Shut-Down

Ottawa 2020 06 07-9Ottawa 2020 06 07-9


Fullmoon-5Fullmoon-5 Capone-8ACapone-8A

Ottawa 2020 06 07-24Ottawa 2020 06 07-24 Carleton Place-2Carleton Place-2 Cattle-3Cattle-3 June272020-21June272020-21 Milky Way-11Milky Way-11 Mitch-3Mitch-3 CTC2LRCTC2LR Ontheroad-6Ontheroad-6 Ottawa 2020 06 07-17Ottawa 2020 06 07-17 Ottawa 2020 06 07-20Ottawa 2020 06 07-20 Peace Tower-6Peace Tower-6 Raindrops-28Raindrops-28 SMITHS FALLS SQSMITHS FALLS SQ SnowbirdsoverSmithsFallsSnowbirdsoverSmithsFalls

I even found some old film negatives featuring, among other things, mirror selfies of my teenaged self




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