Congratulations CHBA Fraser Valley Awards of Excellence Winners!

Congratulations CHBA Fraser Valley Awards of Excellence Winners!

It was a dark and snowy night on Saturday, but a certain hotel ballroom located mercifully close to the highway on the outskirts of Abbotsford held plenty of good cheer: it was the inaugural run of the CHBA Fraser Valley Awards of Excellence--and we hardy building industry folk weren't going to let half a foot or more of blowing snow, icy roads, stuck cars, and slightly-tardy-but-worth-the-wait catering get in the way of celebrating the work of our peers. And celebrate we did!

Despite the harrowing trip out and back from downtown Vancouver, it's always a pleasure and honour to be part of the first run of any awards program. It's even more of a pleasure and honour when our clients placed as finalists in just under half of the total categories.

So: which projects reigned supreme?

Linhan Design's lovely Family and Formal was a finalist in the Best Single Family Kitchen, Best Master Suite, and Best Interior Design Custom Residence categories. Utilizing transitional design elements, this South Surrey-based project featured a number of clever design elements that allows a mix between public and private space--allowing the house to work equally well for day-to-day family use as well as a space for formal entertaining, music, and art. 

You know it's going to be a good night when you sit down with a glass of wine, flip open the awards program, and discover one of your photos being used on the inside front cover:

Langley Timber Frame

 

That lovely twilight exterior belongs to South Ridge Development's Farmhouse Charm and Cottage in the City projects, which propelled them to win the coveted Grand Custom Home Builder of the Year and Custom Home $450-699K awards, as well as placing as a finalist in the Custom Home $1 Million+ and Best Single Family Kitchen categories. These two timber-frame projects share a multi-acre lot on the edge of Langley. Facing rebuilding after a house fire, and being owners of several beautiful horses (who I got to meet on the shoot!), the owners of this project took the opportunity to build their ideal barn (with open living space above) for their pasture and paddock, and then live in that space while they built their new house next door. This was one of our most intriguingly fun projects to photograph last year: timber frame always shoots well (and our medium format tech cam gear just loves all the texture), and we had the wonderful challenge of chasing the closing of a weather window before the Georgie Awards deadline. That twilight exterior was photographed just minutes before a storm system proceeded to come in and hose the area with a late-September thunderstorm. Good thing all the staging was waterproof!

The big standout of the night amongst our clients was Hayer Builders Group, whose Exchange project near Carvolth Exchange on the Langley border we photographed as part of the crazy week before the Georgie Awards deadline last September, and whose Summit project we've photographed a couple of times this winter--once for interiors, and once for exteriors just a couple of weeks ago...because, while we expected the pervasive snow and ice that caused a big weather delay on the first visit to melt out by sometime in early January, as those of you in Vancouver who are reading this while watching the snow fall yet again, the number of snowy and icy days this winter, particularly in the Fraser Valley, has presently blown past the number of not-snowy-and-icy days. Among other things, both projects are notable for their big private rooftop decks that each unit gets--and you know the weather's been crazy when you have to wait weeks and weeks for a rare non-snowy-non-wet day to photograph the rooftop decks sans slushy mess.

These two projects were (big breath...) winners in Best Multi-Family TownhouseBest Multi-Family KitchenBest Innovative Feature, and finalists in Best LandscapeBest Outdoor Living. With all that love, it was no surprise that Hayer took home the Grand Multi-Family Home Builder of the Year

Congratulations, everyone!

We're looking forward to seeing some very good things from this awards program in the future. One of the things we noticed was that there were far more finalists in the New Home categories than in the Renovation categories; apparently a lot of the renovators didn't complete their entries. Which is a shame, because we know there's a lot of good work out there, and we're here to help! Renovators in the Fraser Valley, time to strut your stuff next year!

If you've never entered an awards program before, we'd strongly encourage you to--especially because for most of you in BC, you now have three levels of awards you could possibly win: your local awards (the GVHBA Ovation Awards, the CHBAFB Awards of Excellence, the CHBAVI VIBE awards, etc.); your provincial awards (the Georgie Awards), and the national CHBA Awards of Excellence. Because all three awards levels have different judges but very similar entry requirements, we'd encourage you to enter as many levels as you can qualify: once you've done the work to enter one, you've done about 90% of the work required to enter the next level, and that gives you more opportunities to win.

To help with that, we've put together a guide that works you through the whole process. It will be several months yet before the Georgie Awards call for entries comes out (it's usually the first out of the gate), but this gives you more time to be prepared and get your project ready!

See You At BUILDEX!

See You At BUILDEX!

For most of the last year, I've been working with my fellow members of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association's Suppliers Council to put together a pavilion for the upcoming BUILDEX show. Many hands (about 16 suppliers, in this case) make light work, and we're looking forward to unveiling it at the show. Thanks to the amazing work of Jamie Banfield and his team in putting a ridiculously diverse selection of product and services into a coherent whole, the pavilion will feature all sorts of wonderful things, including new products for inside and outside your building, and inside the walls as well. (I'm serious!).

It's hard to believe, but the show is coming up in two weeks--February 15 and 16, to be exact--and we're totally excited about being part of it. If you haven't registered, go register already!

I'll be at the booth most of the Thursday morning, so if you're wandering the tradeshow, make sure to stop by. I'm also planning a 15-minute "fireside chat" on specifying architectural photography. We'll have a wall display of our most recent photo shoots, including many that are finalists in the this year's Georgie Awards and many that were winners in other local building industry awards.

 

As The Calendar Turns

As The Calendar Turns

This coming May, I'll be celebrating ten years of running Martin Knowles Photo/Media and serving the local design, architecture, and building communities. We're hoping to be around for many, many decades longer. It's an amazing privilege to be able to see all the work you do, help you promote your design work, and collaborate with so many other amazingly talented people!

Every year, we put together a calendar of some of our favourite images from the year past. This year, we're doing something a little different: we've chosen some of our all-time favourites from the last decade. Narrowing down that big of a pile of files into 9 images that will fit in the vertical format we use was a huge challenge because there are so many fine images and wonderful projects to choose from. As postproduction software has improved over the course of the decade, we also took the opportunity to do a bit of extra work on some of the images, just because we have artistic possibilities now that we didn't have then. It was a labour of love...and if you're one of our current customers or friends, a 2017 calendar is on its way to you. And if you'd like one to hang on your wall (or the end of your cubicle, or the end of any 2x6 wall, or in the front pocket of a project notebook, or, we're told, the A-pillar of most pickup trucks), please let me know and I'll send one your way.

 

Happy 2017, folks!

Capture One 10 Is Out: Go Upgrade!

Capture One 10 Is Out: Go Upgrade!

As an avid Capture One user and Phase One Certified Professional digital tech, I always approach new Capture One releases with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. Anticipation, because there's often good things to play with that are going to make my workflow faster; and trepidation, because I started with Capture One back in version 7, where the learning curve was way steeper because you couldn't be sure of whether the tool wasn't working because the tool was broken, or because you didn't know how to use it...and things would go kerblewie all the time. I'm pleased to say that Capture One 10, just released today, is a worthy upgrade that if you're a CO9 (or earlier) user, will serve you extremely well. I'll leave some of the big feature changes like control surface support and 3-phase sharpening to others to document, but: as is often the case, the most useful features for working pros are the ones that take a footnote in Phase One's documentation. So, having been on the CO10 beta, here are a number of goodies and a few cautions.

It's Faster And More Stable

Now and then, Phase One sends out surveys to us working pros asking us what we'd like to see in future versions of C1. I, and it seems quite a few others, told them that the best feature we'd like to see is...speed and stability. They delivered: CO10 is hands down the fastest and most stable CO release I've used thus far. There are a number of places where this really shines:

Masking on local adjustment layers feels a lot faster. On my 4-core iMac 27 late2011, I run with OpenCL off because OpenCL tends to be slower than native CPU, and masking--particularly on Phase files--has always been a bit laggy. It's still a little laggy, but it's hugely better than it was.

Accessing sessions on slow drives. Phase One recommends not accessing sessions on a NAS, but as someone with a project-based workflow, it's sometimes unavoidable. I run a slow NAS (QNAP TS-419P2--which I swear I'll upgrade sometime this coming year when that last terabyte finally fills), and for anything other than very basic open and process actions (which still haven't tended to work right...), it's been far better to move an old session onto a local drive, whack on it, and copy it back. In CO10, I'm pretty confident doing occasional editing on old files without having to wait to copy what can often be a large session across. There's still occasional hangups and slow performance with big layered 16-bit TIFs, so if your workflow runs towards that (as mine does), you're still probably better to copy everything local. But, if a client calls you for a few images from a past shoot with a few minor edits (which happens a lot here), you can probably now reprocess things without having to wait forever to copy.

Faster preview in general. My onsite tether machine is an ancient, mid-2011 MacBook Air. With only 4GB of RAM, this machine is woefully underspec'd for serious work, but if I'm on the road, sometimes I end up having to do basic editing on it. During one of the early CO10 betas, I ended up doing preliminary edits for a whole session on the Air, and while it sure wasn't fast, it was a lot more usable than CO9 ever was. Bravo!

But the biggest change for me, and probably for all of you who shoot technical cameras?

LCC Creation is multithreaded

...at long last! Most Capture One operations take full advantage of multicore CPUs. The notable exception to this has been creating LCCs. Because I shoot on a technical camera, I'll roll into the office after a shoot, needing to create a whole pile of LCCs at once...which has usually meant selecting about 40 images at a time, right-clicking Create LCC, and fixing tea. Or doing LCC creation on my ancient MacBook Air, because a single core on the Air wasn't much slower than a single core on my iMac.

No more! LCC creation will now use as many cores as you have, so it's going to be faster--from somewhere between twice as fast on my ancient Air, to about 6 times as fast on my iMac.

Tethered focus controls

Tethered focus controls actually slipped into the Live View window in CO9, but with a number of improvements to live view over the last few releases, they're actually useful if you're shooting with a supported camera. I recently ended up shooting a focus stack on my Canon 5D Mark II entirely tethered from the next room (happens a lot if you're shooting in wine cellars or in small bathrooms) by shooting from the Live View window and twiddling the focus controls. Very cool.

Recipe proofing

Capture One has long had the ability to proof using your output ICC profile. This was quite handy, but also very easy to muck up: there have been more than a few times when I've been working on something late at night that I was previewing for print output, then started editing again after a good night's sleep and forgotten that I was outputting to print and subsequently...wondered why all my unedited images were showing up as flat and lifeless. Whoops!

In CO10, things behave a bit differently. There's now a Recipe Proof button on the toolbar that lets you proof your entire process recipe, including sizing and compression. If you're in Recipe Proof mode, you'll not only see the output ICC results, but also the final output size and the results of compression, if you're outputting in a lossy format. This is very handy if you're outputting files to the web, or other situations where you're trying to pack as much quality per size into a particular file output (several of our local architectural awards programs require JPGs at '300 DPI at 5 megs or less', so the challenge is to pack as much detail into that per size and not blow past the limit).

Getting the most out of this may require a few little changes. In CO10, go to View > Proof Profile. You'll probably see Recipe Profile, which is the default. If this is selected, it means that your default view will be using the ICC profile in the process recipe. Now that Recipe Proof exists, you might want to change this to a sensible default for your workflow (like Adobe RGB), and use Recipe Proof when you explicitly want to soft proof your output. 

Upgrading existing sessions

Upgrading previous sessions to CO10 has thus far been very straightforward, but there's a caution. CO10 has a new processing engine, and I've yet to find an image whose preview effectively changes when clicking the magic 'Upgrade' button to move to CO10. Because of the new sharpening options, if you've worked heavily with CO9's sharpening tools, you might find some differences. Unlike, say, the changes from 7 to 8, the move to CO10 seems minor enough that it's safe enough to hit Select All > Upgrade on current 9 sessions and let 'er rip.

A caveat, though: because of the (newer, faster) previewing facilities, when you upgrade a session, CO10 has to repaint all the previews, sometimes twice. This takes time, particularly when you're on a large session. While you can work (sort-of...) when that's going on, my method of choice is to open the session, do a Select All > Upgrade to move everything to the CO10 engine, and wait until all the previews are updated. While having the cup of tea that I can no longer have while waiting for LCCs to create...and enjoying much faster editing afterwards.

Workspace cautions

CO10 has a new default workspace that's a lot more friendly on widescreen displays. They've put the browser view on the far right rather than below, which I'm still getting used to (old habits from Lightroom die very, very hard), moved a bunch of the tools around, added tool tabs for camera focus outside of Live View, and added the aforementioned Recipe Proof button. This means that if you're using a workspace you built for CO9, you might well be missing some good functionality. I've taken the time to re-create my workspaces based on the new default workspaces in CO10, and you might want to as well.

NEED TRAINING?

This January, I'm teaching a two-day soup-to-nuts weekend workshop on Capture One with Vancouver Photo Workshops. If you're looking to make the leap, or if you've been using Capture One for awhile and want to get more out of it, go sign up.

Time to upgrade!?

I'm quite happy with CO10, and chances are good you will be as well. If you're looking at upgrading to CO10 or migrating from Lightroom or Aperture, it's a good time to make it happen. You can also get 10% off using the promo code AMBMKPHOTO from Phase One's online store.

Raise the Roof, Ring the Bells, Feed the Hungry

Raise the Roof, Ring the Bells, Feed the Hungry

For the last year and a half, I've been documenting the most recent phase of the renovation work at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver: the replacement of the roof, the construction of a bell spire, and the major renovation of the kitchen largely to better serve Vancouver's homeless population. It's the cathedral church of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, Vancouver's oldest surviving church building and stone structure, and...my faith home for nearly 18 years. You probably know it, because it's been covered under a big tent of scaffolding for most of the time, and you've probably also wondered "what are they doing under there, and when will it be done"?

Last night, the last few bits of the scaffolding came down, the place was filled with celebration, the bells rang, and the lights lit. And for the celebration, I edited together my choice images from the entire process to share some of my favourite viewpoints from up on the scaffolding, out on the lifts, and under the tent. If you missed it, here it is: enjoy! And stop by the Cathedral sometime: the bells are presently being rung at 9 and 6pm, and there's a lovely view of the bells from the laneway and another lovely view from the semi-public close across the street at Cathedral Place.

It's Ovation Time

It's Ovation Time

A couple of weeks ago, the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association put out the Call for Entries for the annual Ovation Awards. For home builders, renovators, and residential designers in the Greater Vancouver area, this is one of a trifecta of award opportunities that happens every fall--the other two being the Georgie Awards, the results of which we're eagerly awaiting given the number of projects we put together for it; and the CHBA National Awards of Excellence, which should be dropping their call for entries soon.

We love the Ovations! They're a great way for smaller, more clever renovation projects (in particular) to get recognition, and because the requirements for a lot of categories are identical to that of the Georgies, once you've done the work for one, you're well on your way to doing the work for another. As a result, the Ovations are a good opportunity to enter projects that you didn't quite get done in time for the Georgies--giving you some good marketing juice if you place in the finals. There are also a couple of very fun parties at the end of the whole process, and who doesn't love a good excuse to dress up and eat, drink, and be merry with your colleagues?

Resources

We've put together several resources to help you on your journey to making a successful awards entry:

  • This Friday I'm doing a workshop along with a couple of my favourite colleagues on award projects--namely, writer Susan M. Boyce and marketing extraordinaire Lynn Harrison, out at the GVHBA Office. I'm told there are still a few tickets available, so if you want a good two hours of tips, tricks, and exercises to get your creative juices flowing, go sign up while you still can.
  • We have special packages that wrap up all the photography and writing you need for your entry in one bundle for one price. Check out the Ovation Awards menu up top for both photography and photo + writing packages. Are you a first time entrant? Let us know and you'll qualify for our First Time Entrant Discount.
  • Does the online entry form confuse you? Are you dreading that run out to Surrey with a stack of plans? Would you just rather have Someone Else Do It? We get it...and we can be that someone. Ask us for pricing.

Last but not least, we're proud to announce

The Awards Entry Roadmap!

We've put together a checklist to help guide you through the process of submitting your project for an award, and we're sharing it with you for free! Just fill out your info and we'll email you a copy:

Name *
Name

And did those feet...

It can often take a good long time on location between setting up the camera in a position and getting a final shot. There's lighting, staging, cleanup, and...often more lighting to do before everything's solid and we move on to the next image. Particularly in a family home, people can unwittingly (or sometimes intentionally) walk through the scene during that time. And in rare instances, what they leave behind is even...a-track-tive. Yep, couldn't resist.

I considered leaving the footprints in this image for the final version, but decided against it. Next time I shoot a kid's room, though...

The Georgie Awards Call for Entries Is Out: What's New?

The Georgie Awards Call for Entries Is Out: What's New?

As most of you know, the Georgie Awards Call for Entries is out, and there are a number of notable changes this year. If you're bringing the Call for Entries along on your boat trip or beach party over the August long weekend, you'll come across these...but for the rest of you (what, you're not planning on adding it to your summer reading? The good folks at the CHBA-BC will be dismayed!), here's what you need to know:

  • Across the board, there's a new section you need to be sure to cover in your writing: Construction details/techniques to achieve industry best practices. Many of you have been covering this information en passant because it often gets you points in other categories, but now you really need to make sure it's there because the judges will likely issue you points if it's there, and deduct points if it's not.

  • You now get 12 images rather than 10 in most of the custom home categories. We'll be opening a bottle of champagne in CHBA-BC's honour sometime this weekend for doing that, since we've been wishing for that change for ages. Why, you ask? While a lot of houses can be covered just fine in 10 images with a bit of care and close attention, we've photographed a number of (particularly >$3 million) houses where trying to show the salient parts of a 10,000 square foot build in 10 images is an exercise in frustration and more than a few heated emails. Another two will help in these cases.

  • Going down the category list: the breakpoints for Categories 1, 2, and 3 are now under and over 2,300 square feet. Last year, the breakpoints were under and over 2,000 square feet. If your project is a production home between 2,000 and 2,300 square feet, make sure you enter the right category.

  • Similarly, the Custom Home values have ratcheted up, and there is no longer an "under $750,000" category; the lowest category is $500K-899,999--and if through some magic you managed to squeeze a custom home build together for under $500K, seems you're now out of luck. (Somewhere out there, a lane home builder might be crying in their holiday beer).

  • New categories for Townhouse Development. There are now separate categories for Production and Infill, although at least according to our reading, n-plexes and fee simple row homes are supposed to go into the Single Family Detached categories. If you're confused, we recommend contacting the CHBA-BC folks to straighten things out--we've done it more than a few times.

  • Best Condo Renovation has been broken into two categories at $250,000. Given the numbers of very cool condo renovations we see, this should level the playing field a bit.

  • Best Single Family Kitchen - New is now one category, where it's been two in the past. We actually wonder if this is likely to stay this way; we've photographed a fair number of successful entries for these categories, and there have been times where the judges have split the category on the fly based on budget due to how competitive this category can be.

  • The breakpoint for Best Kitchen Renovation is now under/over $125,000. Enough to make a difference based on whether you got your client to spring for a Bertazzoni gas stove, which is what we wish we were cooking on this holiday weekend...when we're not outdoors BBQing, at least!

If you attended our webinar, you'll be glad to know that everything we said holds (although fitting in that extra bit about construction details makes a 300 word entry even more difficult!). If you missed the webinar, you can still watch it.

And on that note, have a lovely long weekend. Come Monday, there are just 2 months and a couple of days left before the entry deadline--yes, we're counting, and yes, we can still get your entry photographed, written, and submitted!

Mise en Place for Better Marketing

Mise en Place for Better Marketing

Back in film days, I used to say that the darkroom and the kitchen were my two main places to express creative energy. While the darkroom's been traded for a high-powered editing workstation, the kitchen remains (much to the delight of my friends). One of the keys to successful cooking is mise en place, the notion of "everything in its place and ready to go". It is, after all, much easier to have your tools and ingredients close at hand (or know where they are) than to be running around trying to find the right bottle of wine when your steak is turning to rubber and your pan sauce is turning into carbonized mush. 

  Mise en place  on location: one of our standard gear bags

Mise en place on location: one of our standard gear bags

Of course, we follow this principle on location: everything we bring has a place in one bag or another, and this lets us quickly get to the camera or lighting bit we need exactly when we need it--and know that it's all packed up when we leave. But mise en place also applies to YOU...before the shoot and after as well!

Before-Shoot Mise en Place

Just like cooking, photo shoots go better when things are prepared (or at least planned). This includes things like planning what your photos might be used for, the overall style of the space we're shooting, what we need to highlight, and so forth. It also extends to figuring out what if any staging and cleanup are necessary, and planning to either have it done or structure a shoot so we can work around places that need to be worked while we shoot. (It happens a lot!)

After-Shoot Mise en Place

When you have great photos available, all the rest of your marketing becomes easier.

Imagine this: you get an email from the publication you've been wanting to get your work into, asking for new projects...and you have a project that's just perfect for them. When you have great photos easily accessible, you're several steps closer to getting your work published because you're all ready to go--possibly even before your competitors!

Or, a tradeshow opportunity comes up, and you need to show off a big print of your most recent 'wow' project, and show recent work on your iPad. You'll have everything you need to make a big splash and impress your future clients. 

Check Out Our Cookbook

Just like in the kitchen, it often helps to get tips, ideas, and best practices from others so you make tastier things faster and don't get burned. We've put together a new guide, 6 Steps to Distinctive Architectural Photos, to help you with that. It covers a lot of the things we've seen that make for smoother preparation and better photography that gives your marketing a boost.

Free Webinar: Georgie Awards Steps to Success

Free Webinar: Georgie Awards Steps to Success

As we all know, the best way to become an award-winning builder, architect, or designer is to build great projects, and then go enter and win yourself some awards. But if you haven't been through the process, entering your first awards program can be a bit of a daunting process. There's a whole slate of categories, a bunch of requirements...and then there's writing about your project and photographing it, which can be a challenge unto itself. The good news is that you don't have to go it alone!

Writer Susan M. Boyce and I have been working on people's Georgie Awards entries for a number of years, and in that time we've helped a plethora of first-time entrants submit and, in many cases, win (And then, the following year, enter and win again!). Last year, our clients Jaheny Custom Builders and Carol Faan Design entered for the first time and won--each in several categories in both the Georgies and the Ovations.

This year, we've teamed up with the Canadian Home Builders' Association to offer a webinar that will give you a good roadmap and some good shortcuts for your Georgie journey. The webinar will be about an hour long on June 29, at 10AM. Register here:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2762946651911400196
 

We're also offering combined writing and photography packages and photography-only packages with discounts for first-time entrants. You don't have to wait until the call for entries to book and have your project photographed--while the writing will wait until the call for entries comes out, we can get your entry well on the way to completion at the start of summer, rather than the end of it. You'll get more flexible scheduling, better weather, and lower prices. What's not to love?

How to get the most from a house tour

How to get the most from a house tour

It's house tour season! There are several coming up, including the Vancouver Heritage Foundation's annual Heritage House Tour, the West Van Modern Tour, and a whole plethora of shorter tours from the VHF, AIBC, and others. That's not even counting cool out-of-town stuff like the Grey Seattle Modern Tour and Palm Springs Modernism Week, both of which I've taken in this year.

I go on a lot of house tours, and am often photographing them for the organizers or myself, and this means that I end up either wanting or needing to get to all the houses on tour. This can be a problem, because for most tours, the houses are so good that you want to spend the entire tour just in one house...but you have 10 houses to see in 6 hours and it's a self-guided tour, so...what to do?

  1. Plan your route carefully. The tour organizer will almost always give you either a list of homes and/or a rough map. Use it, and look at it before you start. Usually this means going, say, north to south and west to east (or east to west), but depending on where the houses are, starting on one of the "middle" houses and spiralling out often lets you avoid lines.
  2. Pace yourself. This is an art. Some houses have so much tight detail that you want to spend lots of time looking at it. Others you can go blasting right through. Keep half an eye on the clock so you can spend the time you want at houses you love, but don't waste time looking at a house that isn't speaking to you. You can sometimes get an idea of this from the pre-tour lit--if you know you love Art Moderne, and there's exactly one of those on tour, leave yourself a bit of extra time for it--particularly if there are two California Craftsmans on tour and you've seen lots of those already. I often divide the number of houses by the number of hours, and then keep a mental note of how many houses I've seen so I know I can either relax or need to hoof it. 
  3. Speaking of lines, figure out where the big lines might be and try to visit those houses either early or late. Particularly on tours like VHF's Heritage House Tour and Laneway Tour, smaller houses tend to have longer lines. A few years back, we were way ahead of schedule until we hit a Strathcona house with a tiny laneway, where the line went nearly around the block. There went the schedule--but the wait was worth it.
  4. Share the tour with someone else. If you're in a group, find out who has the best local knowledge of the bunch and use their expertise for navigation. It's more fun, you get to see more interesting stuff, and you'll spend more time looking at houses and less time looking for parking.
  5. Grab and go food. The Heritage House tour offers several really marvellous sit-down lunch options, which you probably want to ignore on tour day if you're trying to see all the houses, but come back to later and support. Grab and go is the way to go here, whether you eat in line or en route. East Van tends to have the best to-go lunch spots and the smallest but well-clustered houses to facilitate eating and walking. Just make sure to pack your garbage into your shoe bag as you won't be able to drop garbage at the houses. In past years, food carts have popped up either unofficially or officially near tour houses, and this is a fantastic way to go.
  6. Take notes/sketch or ask for photos. Most tours don't let you take interior photos, so note taking and sketching are going to be the way to go for capturing ideas. Some tours will allow you to take photos of some houses, particularly if you ask the owner if they're present. If you're an architect or designer, find the official tour photographer (on VHF tours...that's usually me!) and ask about getting a detail photo--I may be able to share one or two with you. 
  7. Consider your transportation options. Shaughnessy, Strathcona, and the Drive are all parking nightmares. I usually do VHF tours almost entirely by bike, though I'll often mode share--which is to say, bike to all the houses on the Drive, go back to Strathcona, hop on the Canada Line, and blast down to Shaughnessey or Dunbar and ride the rest. If you're not a serious rider, one great way to get around is to book a Modo, Zipcar, Evo, or car2go, all of which allow you to use 'residents only' parking spots. If you're on a tour that isn't as easily accessible, like the West Van Modern Tour, carpool.
  8. Start at the start. Get to the first house on or before the starting bell. Since they don't let early birds in, plan to have coffee in line while you wait for the first house to open. You'll be well on your way to making the most of a long day.

Finally, logistics aside: have fun, enjoy the houses, and appreciate all the work of the organizers, sponsors, homeowners, and everyone else who makes local house tours happen. See you on tour!

Congratulations, Georgie and Ovation Award Winners!

Congratulations, Georgie and Ovation Award Winners!

I'll come out and admit it: I wrap my late summer/early fall schedule around the Call for Entries deadline for the CHBA-BC Georgie Awards, which usually close around the last week of September. When the call comes out in early summer, I block off the couple of weeks before the deadlines as the "crazy-ass Georgie Awards shooting season". Clients can call me in the wee hours of the night with logistical questions and often actually get answers; friends get encouraged to meet up with me at my office instead of home so I can catch up with them while waiting for Capture One to export piles of images, and anything else that doesn't lead directly to someone submitting their project tends to get temporarily deferred until after 5:01pm on submission day--whereupon the bills go out, the phone goes off, the scotch comes out, and I can stare at a blank wall and try to fight the urge to relight it to emphasize its texture, or any of the other things we architectural photographers habitually do on location.

This year was even busier than usual. While encourage our regular clients to shoot their projects early, and this left the "crazy season" for shooting new projects for a lot of first-time entrants. We teamed up the inimitable and indefatigable local real estate writer Susan M. Boyce, who has a stellar track record in writing winning award entries, and to top it off, offered a discount and some extra handholding for first-time entrants.

I'm pleased to announce that most of those first-time entrants at least made finalist in the Georgies and the Ovations, and we're even more pleased to announced that a few of them also "brought home the hardware" in the Georgies and the Ovations. I'll be profiling them in a few upcoming blog posts, because their projects were amazing and one photo just doesn't quite do them justice. It's always great when our clients win, but it's even better still when our clients win the first time they work with us. Gives everyone a good retort when someone says "I'm not going to bother entering because [usual-suspect] always wins". That's officially B.S.: do good work, present it well, and remember: you can't win if you don't enter. And if you enter and you don't win...well, you at least have some tight writing and good photos to enter in some future competition or repurpose for your website.

Congratulations to Jaheny Custom Homes, Carol Faan Interiors & COPA Development, Kerr Construction, and Symphony Homes for your Ovation and Georgie wins. And, to BOLD Developments, South Street Developments, and Smallworks, for making finalist at the Georgies.

Beyond the Georgies and Ovations, a couple of clients have also been winning further afield. South Street is also a finalist for the prestigious CHBA National Awards for Housing Excellence--née the National SAM Awards. And, Carol Faan is a Bronze winner in the A' Design Awards.

So if you're planning to enter your local housing awards this year, for your first time or your fiftieth, we have a number of things planned to help you out.

Stage it and shoot it

Builders and renovators, you've been here. You build a beautiful home for a client, they move back in, and now you have their "Grandmother Special" or "Sally Ann Contemporary" furniture in a sleek modern home, and the look just doesn't work. Or there's just no furniture at all, and things look bare. What to do? Stage it up for photo day. 

When we photographed Highbury Residences for South Street Developments, the two units we photographed were just barely complete (the paint was still drying on some surfaces, I bet...), and the presale owners who bought the units were going to move in the next week...which was after the awards deadline.

The South Street team, Flow Home Staging, and I did a walkthrough of the place; and the Flow crew staged it up just for us. Since staging for photography takes far less furniture than staging for real estate, they were able to do their staging the night before the photo shoot, and were moving bits around and moving staging out as soon as I completed a room. It worked great: when we left the site, there was no trace of the furniture, the two units were pristine for their eventual owners, and the South Street team got photos that made them a finalist in both the Georgie and CHBA National Awards of Honour.

We can do the same thing for you, and we're happy to coordinate things so that we can have a project staged, photograph it, and be "back to normal" quickly and efficiently.

The early bird gets the best package discount

The Georgie Call for Entries won't be out for another couple of months, likely, and the Ovation Call for Entries won't be out until fall. But that doesn't mean you have to wait. We've been at this for nearly a decade, and while there are always a few little tweaks to the calls for entries, the work we do far exceeds the requirements for photography.

You can take advantage of this--as well as the amazing weather we've been having to get your project photographed and your writing lined up so that you'll be all ready to submit when the call to entries comes out, rather than scrambling at the last minute.

We can also take care of your writing and your photography at the same time! As we did last year, Susan M. Boyce will be offering her well-reknowned awards writing services as part of our photography and writing packages, so you'll be able to get your writing and photography done at once. It's faster, more efficient, and you can tell a better story that will impress the judges--and make for better PR for you.

Check out our writing and photography packages. Just need photography? There's a package for that.

You always remember your first time

We've heard the whine: "There's a lot of good work out there, but the usual suspects always win, so we won't bother entering". Bull----, we say! You design and build good stuff, and the best projects win. Why not let it be you?

This past year, two of our clients, Jaheny Custom Builders and Carol Faan were entering for the first time, and both projects took home multiple Georgie and Ovation Awards, among others.

The first time entering an awards program can be a bit daunting. We know, we've seen it. But we're happy to share our experience as well as making it a little easier for you. If you're a first-time entrant, we're offering a discount to encourage you to stop procrastinating and get your entry together. Go check it out!

Great to see you here

Great to see you here

Architectural photography can be a bit of a seasonal pursuit: we rely on projects being finished, and the run from the end of January when we finish up shooting people's Ovation Awards to late March, when the weather starts getting predictably decent again, tends to be slow going as far as onsite work is concerned. However, that has its blessings: it's tradeshow season, so while we're waiting for our clients' projects to be finished up and landscaping to grow in, it's prime time for us to get the word out and catch up with a lot of you. Between Buildex, the IDIBC Vancouver Island DesignEx, and several GVHBA tabletop shows, our new tradeshow display got a workout--and while there isn't a lot of 4K video out there, when you shoot your originals in medium format as we largely do, the results on a 4K screen are stunning.

This also gave us a great opportunity to showcase some of the award-winning work of our clients from the past year. It's been a banner year for our clients getting awards--our clients had about 16 finalist entries in the Georgie Awards, and 4 took home hardware at the end of the night. The Ovation Awards are in another week, and given how many of our clients are in the finals for the Ovations, we're hoping to see many of you there as well.

And finally...welcome to our newly relaunched website! Our previous website served us well for four years, which is a near eternity in web terms. We've taken the opportunity to do a bit of spring cleaning as well as putting up a lot of new projects. If you're a current client and you're looking for your images to download, be aware that we've moved our client site around, so please drop us a note if you're needing to download images older than the last few weeks and are now getting errors.

The things that bug us

Ahh, the joys of late summer and early fall. Excellent sunsets, the start of fall colour, and...flies! We've inadvertently captured two of the little buggers in photos over the last month. The first one was spotted by the eagle-eyed, detail-oriented folks at TQ Construction. Can you see it in the preview image we sent them?

Spot the fly!

This was the very last photo of a long day's quick-turn-around shoot of small projects we did for them that became affectionately known as the "Terrific TQ Tri-Cities Trifecta", so we missed it completely until they noted in their editing instructions "there is a fly on the windowsill, please remove this photo-friendly insect". No flies on them, apparently! The final version:

MKPhoto-1921

 

The next one I spotted was in an edit this morning for Monica Jeffers Interior Design, of her uber-cool lobby for the Coast Hotel on Marine Drive. Noticed a little dot, and zoomed in on it...

mjid-coast26636

 

...and there it was. The winged beast in all its glory--before being virtually swatted with the clone brush.beast

And to put the obligatory disclaimer on: no flies were actually harmed in the production of either of these images.

RadioPopper Jr2 Love and Loss

I've been a long-time user and rabid fan of the RadioPopper JrX triggers. When my first set of no-name eBay triggers packed it in 7 years ago, I made the move to JrX's, and didn't look back. The JrX setup has been awesome--it's been solid, reliable, and just about every piece of gear has survived the rough handling that we location architectural photographers subject our gear to. Yep, my receivers (and RPCubes) have been dropped off balconies, slammed into concrete floors, stuffed into crowded camera bags, and just about all my JrX kit is still going. Having said that, over 7 years I've had 2 (out of almost 10) RPCubes pack it in, and that many receivers pack it in as well, and I once had each plastic knob on a JrX transmitter successively fail (before the transmitter itself took the brunt of a 16 foot fall off my aerial pole rig about this time last year, smashing to pieces and probably saving my camera in the process). But all in all, my JrX gear is still going strong.

RadioPopper Love

When I had to replace a JrX transmitter after the aforementioned fall, RadioPopper had already replaced the JrX transmitter with the Jr2. Looked great, I figured. I could keep my backup JrX transmitter as a, well, backup, and get a Jr2 receiver as well to play with the nifty new stop-accurate control. The Jr2 setup has a number of really cool features:

  • Digital and stop-accurate control. This is awesome--since the JrX dials are logarithmic, the distance between a full power dump and half is a long ways, and then going from half to 1/128 is a series of really, really tiny increments that are difficult to handle quickly. I also have somewhat fat fingers, which makes it even tougher. The new mode dial is super sweet.
  • Per-channel kill switches. 'nuff said.
  • No more having to cable RPCubes all the time. This is really nice, or at least it should be if it worked with all my gear, but more on that later.
  • Built-in support for both my speedlights and monolights in the same module
  • Better battery indication.
  • Backlit display on the transmit unit.
  • An extra group--whee!
  • Receiver makes a nice flash stand
  • Upgradeable firmware. This is more theoretical since it's been a year and a half since introduction and RadioPopper still hasn't updated their firmware, although there's been a promised firmware upgrade for the receivers for...most of a year. sigh.

...and loss

As cool as the Jr2 gear is, it has some near-fatal flaws, and I'm hoping RadioPopper fixes some of these because despite singing the praises of the JrX gear, often and to anyone who would listen, I'm really disappointed with the Jr2 gear. I'm offering this up in the spirit of constructive criticism because I'd really like to stay with RP gear and not have to replace all my triggers. This is compounded by the fact that RadioPopper no longer makes (or at least no longer sells) JrX kit, so at the moment, I'm in the unenviable situation of having had a setup that worked being replaced with an inferior setup that kinda works, with super-annoying limitations.

The biggest issue for me is that my current flash collection consists of 4 WL1600x's, 5 550EXs, and a 580EXII. The JrX setup worked flawlessly with all that gear. The Jr2 receiver won't work properly (if at all) with any of my 550EX's, and this wasn't advertised in RP's lit. (If it was, I would have stockpiled JrX receivers.) I'm a big fan of the 550EX because it's durable (far more so than the 580's), cheap (sub-$150 used), has better range on a remote trigger than the 580EXIIs, and it can be optically triggered and power controlled via Canon's admittedly screwball optical triggering system as a backup. Which isn't very often, but when you need it, you really need it (there was that shoot at an RCMP detachment in Summerland, where I happened to be right next to a huge radio transmitter connecting probably every fuzz in the Okanagan Lake region with home base...yep, triggers wouldn't work there!). Sure, it's obsolescent gear, but dammit, it's solid, and it works!

I'm told by RadioPopper Support the lack of power control is because there were lots and lots of firmware differences across 550s, given how long it was in production. Sure, but, RadioPopper folks: you had a solution on the RPCubes that worked and was very solid (except after about 5 years of unplugging and plugging, where you'd have to pull your JrX receivers apart and replace the 1/8" sync jacks. Afternoon with a soldering iron, and a bit of cussing, and you're good to go.)  At the moment, the built-in hotshoe won't work reliably unless you kill power control in firmware, and you can't even plug the RPCubes into the Jr2 and have remote power. Right now, the only solution for getting remote power control on a 550EX is to use the RP JrX. Which isn't in production, and there aren't many available on eBay either. If there was a hack that would give me power control on the 550EX's via the RPCubes to a Jr2 receiver while I wait for new firmware, and it worked, I'd be a mostly happy boy.

It gets worse. Unlike the comparatively beefy JrX gear, the Jr2 gear is fragile. The mode dial on my Jr2 transmitter popped loose on its own accord a couple of months ago, necessitating an RMA. Which took a month (yes, I'm in Canada, but still: why can't they cross-ship, for the love of all things good and holy? Oh, and good thing I have that JrX transmitter as a backup!). When it finally did come back, the battery lid came back...pre-busted. To their credit, RP Support sent me three new battery lids, quickly, which took care of the problem (and will keep things going when the tiny ears on the lid break off again, which will happen when you're fumbling in the dark changing batteries on location).

Besides bad lid design, the Jr2's battery situation is icky in a couple of other ways. To its credit, Jr2 went from using the downright weird (and pricey) CR123A batteries to using much more standard AAA's. Now, the CR123A setup wasn't half bad once I got my hands on a dozen rechargeable CR123A's and a charger, but rechargeable AAA's are even easier to handle because I carry 48 AA's and chargers for longer shoots, and the AA chargers also all take AAA's, cutting down on the battery and charger count.

Or at least that's how it's supposed to work.

While batteries happily last for 10+ hours in the transmitter, which is more or less adequate, the battery life in the Jr2 receiver is horrible. On Energizer low-self-discharge rechargeables, it's rare for me to get more than about 5 hours...and when a normal shoot for me is closer to 10-12 hours, that means I have to change its batteries at least once if not twice. So, carry 8 spare AAA's, have to change them at the least opportune times per shoot...and hey, rechargeable CR123A's that last for days and days start looking pretty appealing.

When you have to change batteries on a device that frequently, another problem pops up as well: the spring steel that holds the batteries in place is weak and isn't, well, springy enough. About every 20 battery changes or so, these metal bits get loose enough that the batteries don't make a good connection and the receiver won't power up--or even more annoyingly, if you do something like clip your receiver upside down on a clamp to use it as a downlight, your receiver will lose power. Of course, a fairly minor drop of a few feet with batteries in will cause the metal pieces to over-bend immediately, killing your transmitter or receiver until you pull out your Swiss Army Knife and bend the metal bits back to their proper position. (The JrX's would take this sort of (ab)use with no problem at all). And eventually, as happened to me on a shoot earlier today, one breaks. I'm a long way from home at the moment, so first thing tomorrow I get to find a small spring to jam in there to make it work.

Which brings me to a bit of a dilemma. My Jr2 receiver is still just barely under warranty, and it's Georgie season, which is the busiest time of the year for me, and it's also the time of the year where I'm most likely to need to fire all my external flashes. Because it's at least in theory still under warranty, my temptation is of course to ship it right back, but that's going to probably mean having it out of service for a month. Yecch. That's a non-option, so jury-rigging a spring in is going to be the way to go until early October, when I can stand to have another receiver out of service for too long--and if they decide that I've voided the warranty by having to self-service the battery holder, I get to pop it open and solder a spring on. Or probably two, while I'm at it.

The other big problem is: I'm already short one receiver. I can't just buy another JrX receiver as they're basically unobtainable, and I don't want to buy another Jr2 receiver until I know it's going to work with my 550EX's, and the battery life gets even marginally better. Remote power control is something I'd be loath to give up across the board, given my propensity for putting small flashes in odd places in large architectural scenes. So if I want to use all 6 speedlights, one (at the moment) has to be on a Wein peanut, which is a backup-backup solution. This, obviously, doesn't make me happy because I like to have at least one backup of any part of critical workflow, and radio flash sync is critical workflow for me. The whole battery situation has me even more wary of getting another Jr2 receiver, because it's going to mean...managing another 8 more AAA's on location.

I really wish the Jr2 receivers would work as well as the JrX's did, because if they did, the Jr2 would be really truly amazing--and true to RadioPopper's usual tradition of providing excellent price-performance. However, it's looking like my only real solution at the moment that's going to work going forward, and work with all my equipment, is to dump my RadioPopper gear and move to PocketWizard MiniTT1/FlexTT5 gear. Which is more durable but way less convenient (and more f***ing modules, because rather than a stack of receivers and a trigger, I'd end up with 6 Flexes, the AC3 zone controller--to get manual remote power on my Phase gear, and 4 AC9 adapters.) Oh, and it's at least twice as expensive.

RadioPopper: any plans to rectify this situation before I decide that this is the last straw and move to PocketWizard?

Get That Georgie!

Teragon Mayfair outdoor room Summertime, and the living is easy, right? It's Georgie Awards time again, and we think putting together an entry should be equally easy. You can even learn how, from the comfort of your outdoor chaise longue with a drink in hand--but more on that later.

We're trying something new this year. As those of you who've done a Georgie Awards entry know, there are three major parts to an entry: your written copy, the photos, and your plans/budget. The latter part we can't help you with, but for the last few years running, we've often worked on projects where we've closely coordinated our photography with the work of local writers. This year, we're working even more closely with the written side, and are offering packages that include BOTH the photography and the writing in one coordinated package. You'll benefit from the combined expertise of Susan M. Boyce, one of our fine local writers with over 65 winning projects in the last 5 years (and she's been writing Georgie entries since nearly the start of the Georgie Awards, over two decades ago), and our similarly well-known expertise photographing your projects.

This is a great thing if you're entering the Georgies--or any other soon-to-be-opening building award like the Ovations, SAM, or VIBE awards. It makes your administrivia easier--there's one price and one invoice that covers it all. It also gives you better results, because your photos and your written copy will tell one story in perfect sync.

We also understand that entering the awards for the first time is often difficult, and so to make it easier and cheaper, we're offering a first-timer discount for a limited time. We're also putting on a webinar to help you out. That's on August 11, and you can experience it from your own computer (or tablet, or...).

Check it all out!

The Joys of Medium Format Digital

If you've had us photograph a medium to high end architectural or interiors project over the last couple of years, you've likely noticed that I'm often using a slightly crazy-looking camera outfit: Cambo Wide DS and Phase Medium Format

This is a technical camera, with a medium format digital back made by Phase One. If you've been around the photography world for awhile, you'll recognize this as the direct descendent of what used to be one of the standard tools for architectural photography: the 4x5 view camera.

viewcamera

Yes, that's a younger me underneath that darkcloth making use of one, and yes, I still own and maintain that setup though it's largely collecting dust. I did end up pulling it out a few years back for a project for Iredale Group Architecture, and then again for a workshop at Vancouver Photo Workshops. It produces lovely images, and if you want me to use it on your project, just ask--but be willing to wait a lot longer and pay a good chunk of extra change to cover film, development, and scanning costs (hey, vintage goodness is pricey!). The lovely thing about the medium format digital rig is that you get even better quality than on the 4x5, with the speed of digital. It's still big, expensive, and cumbersome...but it's usually worth it.

So Why Use Such A Beast Of A Camera?

Get photographers together, and the talk inevitably turns to gear; but as anyone on a construction site knows, the equipment is there ideally to support one's ability to do Really Excellent Work. For architectural photography, medium format digital is one of the current best tools for the job as far as giving you high resolution, amazing dynamic range, the most flexibility to use your images, and a particular lack of distortion that you'd get working in smaller formats.

 

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is all about maintaining detail in both the light and dark areas of an image, where the brights are really bright and the darks are really dark. This situation happens a lot, particularly when photographing daylit interiors. Our eyes and brains have a much greater dynamic range than any camera, which means that if you've tried to shoot an interior with a daylight view, you've probably gotten an unhappy compromise like the top image, when you really wanted something that looks like the bottom:

DRFlash

There are a half dozen or more ways to deal with this problem, and we use just about all of them. However, often the best way is to start with better materials: namely, a camera that gives you more dynamic range to begin with. In a couple of shots, you've captured what you need and can work with it to pull out the detail you need. We recently photographed this stunning modern beauty for Kerr Construction, and it featured an entryway with a piece of stained glass that, in bright light, lights up the architectural concrete floor: Medium Format Digital Vancouver Modern

This is a tough shot to pull off because the bright colours of the window and the subtle colour detail on the floor, both so important to the project, don't photograph as well in any other medium; and here, they captured beautifully and realistically.

Extending Twilight

We love twilight exteriors and interiors, and we bet you do too. From a photographer's point of view, one of the big problems with twilight is that it doesn't stick around very long. In summer, it's a lovely almost full hour of gorgeous light, during which we can run around and get fine photos. But in winter, twilight lasts for nary more than a few minutes at best. Medium format digital is great at pulling colour and detail out of dark areas, like dark skies at the end of twilight. This sky was almost black to the unaided eye when we photographed it, but the camera happily pulled in the detail we needed to make the shot work:

Yunesitin First Nation Health Centre Williams Lake wood architecture

Perspective

The medium format digital rig, as a good camera for architectural photography should, has the ability to shift the lens so you can look up or down while keeping verticals vertical--and if you're running a one-point perspective, keeping your horizontals horizontal. But there's also something more subtle going on here.

You've probably had the experience of seeing the final images of an interior (particularly in inexpensive real estate photography, a genre in which this is usually considered a feature) and exclaimed "Wow! That tiny bathroom looks as big as BC Place!"; and then later on, someone who experienced your project from photos first probably said "Wow! That big bathroom is actually pretty tiny!" That's wide angle distortion (or if you want to impress your friends at cocktail parties, volume anamorphosis), and it's a particular bane in very large and very small spaces. On a medium format digital camera, there's a lot less of it because the sensor is larger and the focal length of the lens can be longer, which means you get a "flatter" look. It's still present, but it doesn't jump out at you in the same way as it does in smaller formats. Look here:

medium format perspective

These two images were taken at the same position a few minutes apart, and are unretouched except for cropping and matching the colour temperature between them. The image on the left is off my full-frame Canon 5D Mk II, and the one right is medium format digital. It's subtle, but you'll notice that the one on the right looks less stretched. You'll also notice, once again, the extra detail on the ceiling wood and the stained glass light on the floor.

Flexibility

One of the great things about having lots of resolution and lots of detail is the ability to crop your images for various uses and pull more photos out of a single image. Let's take this patio, renovated by Rembrandt Renovations last year, and see this in action:

Exterior Patio Vancouver Spa

The builder of this project was justifiably proud of the woodwork on the pergola. So, let's take a crop of just the pergola and see what we see:

Pergola

And there we go, the pergola...in all its lovely wooden detail.

Getting the advantage

That's the easy part: call us, and you get all the wonderful advantages of this format as part of the photos we deliver, without the five-figure-plus investment required to buy, maintain, and run all the specialized equipment. You'll get images that are cleaner, closer to the reality of being there, and give you more flexibility across your various marketing channels. Since it's technically demanding, it does mean that things sometimes take a little longer to shoot on location, but the results, as you can see, speak for themselves. You're getting more value from your project photography, as well as a look you can't get elsewhere in town. We're also one of the few (if not only) local photographers to be using this gear on the majority of our projects, so you'll get work that definitely stands out from the pack, just like you!

An awards season ends...and another begins!

  Ovation Awards

It's always great when our clients win awards, and this past award season has been a banner year, with at least 17...yes, seventeen...finalists or winners from our client base. We've had clients place in just about every major local building industry awards, as well as a number of local and national wins. There's been lots of celebration, thanks, and bragging rights bestowed all over for some truly excellent projects.

We always recommend that if you go to the effort of having a place photographed and doing your awards writeup, you should try to make that work go as far as possible by entering as many awards and as many categories as your project could reasonably win. For instance, a condo renovation could place as a condo renovation (of course), but also bathroom, kitchen, heritage, sustainable, etc. if it also has these qualities. And since many awards programs have similar requirements, if you've done the work for one, you've also pretty much done the work for another, and the entry fees are inexpensive once you have everything all rolled together and ready to enter. (Just read the requirements carefully as there are always a few little 'gotchas' to check and pay attention to).

Our clients took this to heart this year: almost all the projects placed in either multiple categories, multiple awards, or both. Bravo, everyone!

To paraphrase Iron Chef, "Who got it? Who won? Whose projects reigned supreme!?"

Teragon - Mayfair

The crew at Teragon called us just a few days before the Georgie deadline needing exterior, outdoor room, bathroom, and a few other fill-in photos for a finely renovated Shaughnessy mansion. A goodly chunk of the house had been previously photographed earlier in the project by another photographer, but several areas weren't complete at that time. Luckily, we were able to fit them in, and even luckier still: as often happens in the fall, the rain stopped and the clouds parted for the two hours we needed to get solid images of the outdoor areas.

Teragon Mayfair outdoor room

This project was a finalist for Best Residential Renovation >$800K and Best Outdoor Living in the Georgie Awards, finalist for Best Bathroom and Best Exterior Reno in the Ovation Awards, and the winner in Best Outdoor Living Space in the Ovation Awards, among others.

Reid Development - Eton St.

We originally photographed this sweet heritage renovation for the GVHBA Parade of Renovated Homes--the Reid folks needed exterior and a few choice interior images for the parade brochure and PR--and then came back to rephotograph it later in the season when a few things that weren't quite done by the parade were finished off.

Reid Eton Vancouver exterior

This project was notable for combining aging in place features with a sensitive treatment of a heritage structure, and for this, the project was a finalist in Best Heritage Renovation, Best Renovation $500-800K, Best Exterior Renovation, and a winner for Best Accessible Reno in the Ovation Awards, and a finalist for Best Residential Reno $500-800K in the Georgie Awards.

TQ Construction - Lynndale Retreat

Lynndale Retreat, a renovation of an early-1970's house on a cul-de-sac in central Burnaby, was one of the coolest projects we photographed last award season. As with Eton St., we first visited the project before the Parade of Renovated Homes and shot preliminary photos for parade PR, as well as videos of what has to be one of the best laundry features I've seen in a long time: using a roll-up garage door on the interior to conceal a full laundry station with shelving, work space, ironing, and so forth.

TQ Construction roll-up interior laundry door

TQ Construction Lynndale cozy modern interior

Lynndale was a finalist in the Best Residential Reno $300-$400K in the Georgie Awards, and a finalist in the Best Kitchen >$100K category in the Ovations. We got a wonderful surprise on this one: it's the second CHBA National SAM Award winner we've photographed. We've found that more unusual design and architecturally oriented projects tend to place well in the SAMs, even when they don't necessarily place well in local awards; this was a perfect case of this. Different judging, different criteria.

TQ Construction - Spruce Avenue Kitchen

It's always fun when you've photographed projects that compete against each other--you get to cheer loudly twice at the awards gala! This was the case with this fine kitchen+greatroom renovation, brought to you once again by the folks at TQ Construction:

TQ Construction Spruce Avenue Kitchen Greatroom

Spruce Avenue was a finalist (along with Lynndale) in the Best Kitchen category at the Ovation Awards. It was also a finalist in the Best Kitchen >$100K category at the Georgie Awards.

Porte Development - Lift at UniverCity

I'm an SFU grad, and opportunities to photograph back at the alma mater are always welcome. We've made three visits to Origin, Porte's nearly-neighbouring project on the hill (twice for their successful Ovation and Georgie submissions a couple of years back, and then once again when one of our realtor clients Robert Crowe had us shoot a unit he was selling in the building), so it was great to see what Porte has been up to with their innovative mixed stacked townhouse/apartment project:

Porte Origin at UniverCity SFU Burnaby

Lift brought home the Best Townhouse Development award at the Ovation Awards. Since we photographed this project in frigid January, we wish the Porte team all the best in the upcoming Georgie Awards and whatever else they enter.

Tien Sher Group of Companies - Jade

The Best Townhouse Development category in the Ovations was another where had two projects competing against themselves: Porte's Lift won, and Tien Sher's Jade, on Alberta Road in Richmond, was a finalist. Bravo to both of them! It was great to work with Tien Sher again after a couple of years hiatus for us as they busily built out several projects.

Tien Sher Jade Ovation Townhouse

Prior to this, we  photographed their Quattro3 project in Surrey, and when we were recently photographing their new Balance micro-loft project, Caroline Jecklin, Director of Marketing, referred to our still-often-reproduced image of their Quattro3 project as "one of the prettiest shots we have of any of our projects!":

TienSher-Quattro3

...and another award season begins!

Summer's almost officially here, and the weather's been amazing. We've been shooting some great projects already, and we have it on good authority that the Georgie Awards call for entries will be coming up in July. It's time to start scheduling your awards photos while we have great weather...and the earlier you have us photograph your project, the cheaper it will be and the easier it will be to schedule. We'll have awards packages up soon, but early birds get even better deals, so get in touch!

A loud bang and a big splash

Those of us who own boats usually do everything we can to keep them (either ours or our friends') from sinking. So, it's a rare occurrence to get to watch one--not one's own, naturally--take its final voyage down to Davy Jones' Locker. While it took years of prep (of various varieties, including a couple of lawsuits) on the part of the Artificial Reef Society of BC to make it happen, the actual sinking of the HMCS Annapolis in Halkett Bay on Gambier Island, for the purposes of creating an artificial reef, took just a couple of minutes. Made for a fun shoot and a fine day out, thanks to my friend Sean Murphy being in the right places and knowing the right people to have a bunch of us end up on the right boat in a great position to watch the Annapolis go down. Just like a good twilight exterior: lots of prep, a seemingly interminable wait...and then a few minutes that leave you with amazing photos if you do it right.

 

Happy North Day...er, First Day of Spring!

Spring's busting out all over! Even if it's damp and rainy today, it's time to celebrate. Go enjoy drippy but beautiful cherry blossoms, or try balancing a raw egg before making your morning omelette, or if you're Wiccan, we wish you a happy Ostara. We architectural photographers in the Northern Hemisphere have another thing to celebrate: the return of direct light on north-facing elevations at dawn. Happy North Day to all our clients! Here's a north-facing elevation we photographed just after dawn a few years ago from the roof of a neighbouring building for Drahan Petrovic, project architect: Sapphire Vancouver north elevation

Between now and the Fall Equinox, the sun begins rising increasingly further north of due east and setting increasingly further north of due west, so that means that if your building faces north (and a lot of interesting buildings south of Burrard Inlet do, to maximize their views), we can actually get just a bit of light on that north elevation that, for six plus months out of the year, doesn't get direct light at all unless we bring out a pile of lighting gear and create our own.

So, if your building faces north, and you've been waiting for us to photograph it, it's time to start thinking about getting it photographed while Mother Nature makes it easy. If the elevation you want us to shoot faces northeast, you likely have a few more weeks to figure things out before first light becomes really usable (that's due to weather and, for Vancouver projects, the height of the North Shore mountains blocking true first light), so get planning.

And on that note, happy spring, everyone!