Aug 31, 2012

Farewell Column

My column in today's Vernon Morning Star.

Can you list the names of the four Beatles? I could. It was one of the first questions I faced in the newsroom.
Sometimes I think my answer alone got me the summer job at the paper, but I’d like to think my skills and education had something to do with it too.
When I was younger, I never thought to myself, ‘when I grow up, I want to be a reporter.’
No, I had bigger dreams. Like most kids, I dreamed of the NHL, and if I didn’t make that I was going to be in the NFL, but if I absolutely had to I’d settle for the CFL.
I also went through phases where I was convinced I was going to be a firefighter or a police officer. At one point I even thought I was shrewd enough to be a lawyer.
But as we grow older, reality always seems to creep in.
During my high school summers, I had stints working in mineral sampling, lawn and garden care and even a brief term at Walmart, hardly on my way to making the NHL.
Soon dreams of being a professional athlete turned into being a sportscaster. The thought of being a police officer turned into a body guard or security officer, but that just wasn’t enough.
After high school I did some work in forestry, as an electrician, a forest firefighter and even a short tenure at a call centre.
Eventually I moved on, if I couldn’t fulfill my dreams, I wanted to do something where I would at least get some of those experiences.
Fast forward a few years and here I am in the newsroom.
I’m the rookie, the newbie or fresh meat as some might say.
I wish I could tell you some entertaining stories of how Kevin and Rich pestered me throughout my tenure here, but I really can’t.
It wasn’t quite everything you’d expect from an internship. I wasn’t the guy getting coffee for everyone, nor did I change the water cooler on a regular basis.
Instead, Glenn put me right to work writing stories and Kevin had me shooting old(er) guys playing soccer. Little did I know, that would be my Monday nights for the next two months.
In April, I graduated from photojournalism, I was running on a high, ready to conquer the news world.
I figured Vernon, my hometown, would be an ideal place to start my career.
After all, 20 of the 23 years I’ve been alive have been in Vernon, I was born at Vernon Jubilee and I had graduated from W.L. Seaton Secondary in 2006.
While I might be a rookie in the newsroom, I considered myself a seasoned vet when it comes to this city.
Oh, how I was wrong.
The more stories I wrote and the more people I met along the way, the more I realized there is a lot more to Vernon than my early years and it would take at least another 20 before I could actually consider myself the aforementioned ‘seasoned vet.’
I’m not sure where I’ll end up in the future, but if my time here is a sample of what I can learn in this field I have a lot to look forward to.
I’m not a hockey star (yet), nor do I plan on starting police training any time soon.
No, I think I’ve found something that will let me live out all my childhood dreams. Even if it’s by telling the stories of people who are fulfilling theirs.
And who knows? Maybe a sportscaster isn’t so far off.

Aug 21, 2012

Canadian Ultimate Championships 2012

I recently travelled to Victoria for the 2012 Canadian Ultimate Championships (CUC2012)
I primarily went to visit friends and shoot photos of our local teams but I managed to catch some other games too. I also helped out with scorekeeping a few games and managed to catch some great ultimate action. Here are some photos from the weekend featuring teams such as Sofa Kings, Bushfire, Lotus, Too Bad, Grand Trunk, Blackfish, General Strike and Furious George among others.


More photos available on my website,

Jul 17, 2012

The Summer Sufferings of Social Networking

After a rainy June, the sun has finally come and the Okanagan once again feels like the Okanagan.
With the summer I'm finding my social networking has gone down tenfold. Before last week I couldn't remember the last time I signed into my twitter account, and even the use of facebook has gone down.
As you can see, my last post was in May, so my blog hasn't escaped the summer sufferings of social networking.
There's just something about the sun and all it's glory that keeps me from wanting to be on a computer writing things for hours upon hours. I do that enough at work.
Speaking of which,
Following the three-week internship required to graduate, the Vernon Morning Star took me on as a reporter for July and August.
I'm happily working in the community I grew up in and am thrilled to further my education following my graduation.
I thought I'd share a few stories and photos I've taken at the morning star thus far.

Frankie Finds Family of Rescuers
Vernon Morning Star

The Monday of the Canada Day long weekend started out as typical for Vernon residents Denis and Gerry Marson.
The couple had been sitting on their patio with Gerry’s sister watching a hawk’s nest across Highway 97 near Okanagan College when the unthinkable happened.
Two baby hawks were sitting in the nest when the mother swooped down to the Marson’s yard to gather food for her nestlings. She never made it back, the result of being hit by a semi truck.
The Marsons were devastated and unsure of what they could do for the two abandoned nestlings.
“It was the holiday, we weren’t sure who we could call so it was a hard night. In the morning we called the SPCA who put us in touch with the South Okanagan Rehabilitation Centre for Owls,” said Denis.
Two members of SORCO immediately made the trip up to Vernon to try and help the birds despite not usually covering the Vernon area.
“Usually we won’t come as far as Vernon it would go to Kamloops, but the Kamloops rehabilitation doesn’t come out and get the birds, you have to bring them. We felt like we could hopefully have the resources to do this,” said Dale Belvedere of SORCO.
Belvedere and the Marsons quickly called anyone they could in order to find a boom tower that would reach high enough to extract the young birds from the nest.
“It was devastating, we knew there was no way they could survive for very long. I looked at that tree and I wasn’t sure if we were going to find anyone able to get that high,” said Denis.
Darcy Goodwin of Horizon Tree Services was contacted, and agreed to help out but couldn’t have a truck available until 3 p.m. Tuesday.
According to Belvedere a young bird needs to feed every three or four hours, but by the time the truck arrived it had been over 24 hours.
It wasn’t just starvation the birds had to survive, the weather was beginning to play a factor in their survival.
“I was here this morning and we could see the birds in the nest, then there was that hail storm that came in and we were thinking ‘oh geez they’re not going to make it,’” said Goodwin on Tuesday.
By 3 p.m. the storm had subsided but another set of rain clouds could be seen blowing in over Kalamalka Lake.
The boom was quickly set up and within a half hour had touched ground again.
Only one of the birds made it with the younger of the two having succumbed to the elements.
However, saving one of the nestlings was a triumph in itself.
“She was such a great mother, really looking after those chicks. It’s sad but at the same token we did save one, so that’s a good thing,” said Denis.
“Frankie,” the young red tailed hawk, is now with SORCO and is doing well eating raw chicken every three hours.
According to SORCO it should only take about two months to rehabilitate the hawk and release it near the location it was found.
Meanwhile the Marsons are thankful for the quick response by both SORCO and Horizon Tree Services.
“To stop and think what they did to save one little chick, it’s pretty heart warming,” said Denis.
For more information on SORCO visit

Other Stories:

Some Photos So far:

May 16, 2012

Hope, Support, and a 35mm fixed lens

For me, that sums up the two years it took to graduate in the photojournalism program at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario.

A photo from one of my first times going out and
 shooting with my D90 and 35mm fixed, trying to
 learn aperture and depth of field. Found a buggy
washed up on the side of the riverbed, practice 
makes perfect.
A Nikon D90 and a 35mm fixed lens (or the Canon equivalent) was the absolute minimum required to begin the program.
Thats how I started two years ago, but thats not how I ended it.
The D90 and 35mm fixed lens (with a broken auto-focus) is still same setup I use now, but it took a lot more than that to graduate. I guess that's kind of impressive if you think about it. Either way I hope that I can expand on that collection in the near future.
I grew up my whole life in Vernon B.C. until two years ago I decided to attend photojournalism for a reason I can't pinpoint.
I've been a soil sampler, a landscaper (on three four separate occasions with three different companies), an electrician, a tech support for Windows Vista (when it was first released), a forrest fire fighter and I even had a brief stint working at Walmart.
Not once during all those years nor during any of the years prior to those endeavours, did I see myself becoming a photographer or even a writer.
But here I am doing both, sort of.
I was never the one to pick up my dad's camera and instantly fall in love with photography. Nor did I pick up a pencil and become a natural writer. In fact, I can hardly read my own writing and my spelling is atrocious (thank goodness for email and auto-correct).

When I look at other peoples photos I think to myself, 'there is absolutely no way I am that good, and possibly never will be.'
I know it's not a good attitude to have but I'm an average photographer and an average writer.
I attended school with some phenomenal photographers, some of which are making headlines or at least bylines in the newspapers already.

In one of our classes we were told not to blog anything that might downplay ourselves. Potential employers might read our blogs and decide not to hire us.
Potential employers, please stop reading?

I know for a fact that I graduated as a mediocre photographer from my program, and I'm not hurt by it.
It may be true that I'm an average photographer and likely below average writer, but I took something more important from my time at Loyalist.
VERNON B.C. (17/4/12) - Andrew Farmer of the Kal Lakers goes for a run between Jonny Pfutzner (left) and Jarrett Illingworth (right) of the Kelowna Christian Knights during high school rugby action on Tuesday April 17. The Knights came out on top by a score of 19-14 with the game-winning try coming in the final seconds of the game.

– The first photo I had published in the Vernon Morning Star.

During my last semester, my teachers nominated me for a leadership award and I know it might not seem like a big deal but to me it is.
The way I see it, my teachers didn't see me for the camera I had in my hand, nor the photos I had on the board. I was seen for the person that I was (or hopefully was) and rewarded for that.
As I begin my career in photojournalism, that award will likely stick in my head more-so than the diploma.
My work as a photographer is only a part of the person I am, and that's why I felt I received the award.
I can only hope that the qualities that people saw in me to win an award like that are more important than the qualities that it took to graduate from the program.
After all, thats the reason I got into the program in the first place. I wanted to meet new people, tell their stories and maybe inspire a few others including myself.

I met a lot of great people at Loyalist, most of which I'm happy to call friends. Without them it would have been pretty tough to get through the program and especially the two years in Belleville.
I always told myself that Belleville was holding my creativity back. I always felt like I was just waiting to get out of there and blossom.
I'm back in Vernon now and I've completed the three week internship required to graduate and I still don't even feel like I'm budding, let alone blossoming. I guess these things just take time, and seeing as how I have more on my to-do list than taking photos and writing, I'm going to be pretty patient, at least for the time being.

It's impossible to say where my life will lead me in the next few years. It could be into the newspapers, a war zone, a third world country or somewhere/something else entirely, but I do know that I'm ready for it.
After all, I got hope, support, and a 35mm fixed lens. And those things aren't going anywhere.

For fun, here is a Multimedia piece on Slackline Montreal, a third semester project completed during our October reading week. Did some tweaks to an original edit that I wasn't happy with and only released it recently. Enjoy.

Mar 13, 2012

Friends, Fishing in the Fog

BELLEVILLE, Ont. (13/3/12) - Theo and Liam get an early start on the fishing season Thursday March 13, 2012. The two were part of a group of friends that spent a foggy morning fishing at South George Park. Photo by Andre Lodder