A New Year, A New Outlook, And A Portrait

We’re already into our third week of 2016 and I feel like I’ve barely had a chance to stop and think, or even reflect on the year that was.

At the start of 2015, I made a few achievable goals both personally and photographically. This being a photo blog, I’ll stick to my photographic goals. It would be the start of my first full year in a new city… having moved the previous summer. I wanted to get out and meet people, and decided to use photography as a means to do so. I also wanted to push my creative limits with the following goals in mind: shoot more photos; print more photos; make portraits of strangers; get published; shoot a wedding.

The last goal was a long shot and I had no idea how I would achieve it, especially considering that I wasn’t going to market myself as a wedding photographer.

Without dragging you through a long and detailed recap of my 2015 experiences, I’ll try to update you on my results.

  1. Shoot more photos – Yes. I shot nearly thirty thousand images throughout 2015 between family, friends and strangers.
  2. Print more photos – No. While I did print some images, I didn’t print nearly as many as I would have liked. I’ll work on that in 2016.
  3. Make portraits of strangers – Yes. I connected with a number of people in Ottawa last year, and stumbled on a journey of documenting chefs. I’m still working on the series in 2016, but if you haven’t seen the series yet, feel free to brows my past posts. One was even Freshly Pressed!
  4. Get Published – No… well, almost. Through my chef series I have been working on a couple of other projects. One that I’m really proud of will launch in the spring and I’ll be able to share it with you then. I’m still hoping to make it into a magazine this year though.
  5. Shoot a wedding – Yes! Out of nowhere, a pair of friends called me up to ask if I’d be their photographer. I loved the experience and desperately want to do it again.

Perhaps I’ll share my 2016 goals with you sometime soon. For now, I’ll share a portrait of a really cool guy I recently met as a result of my photography efforts. This is Michael, he’s the really rad head chef at one of (actually two of) the best restaurants in the city. He’s also a huge music lover.

Happy New Year everyone!

michael radford


Weekly Photo Challenge: Victory (Portrait of Top Chef Canada Winner)

I have been absent from the Weekly Photo Challenge for quite a while, but Krista’s tales of hard work and determination inspired me to dive back in this week with a true mark of victory!

rene rodriguez

I recently had the opportunity to meet and shoot the winner of Top Chef Canada, Rene Rodriguez, owner of Navarra Restaurant in downtown Ottawa. Rene has an amazing look; we share a love of U2; and after hearing that he purchased a motorcycle with some of his contest winnings, I decided to try to model our shoot after a Rolling Stone cover.

Keeping things simple, I shot Rene and his bike in the alley behind his restaurant using a two-light setup. I placed one speed light in a shoot-through umbrella as the main light, and added a second speed light as a kicker to add a rim (or highlight) for some depth and separation.

I had two setups in mind, one featuring Rene front and centre, with his bike behind him and slightly out of focus, and the second with Rene on his bike. I am really happy with the results of the shoot, and even added some coloured gels for interest, but unfortunately I can’t show you the images from this shoot as they are part of a project to be released next spring. However, I can show you a portrait I took of our victorious chef against a fence at the end of the shoot.

The portrait above uses the same two-light setup, an umbrella as the key (or main) light on camera left, and a bare head flash at camera right to add a slight kiss of light on Rene’s left cheek and down his left arm to help separate him from the background.

Rene was a great subject, and obviously very used to having his photo taken since winning Top Chef Canada in 2014. The culinary scene is truly an amazing scene to be a part of, and I have really enjoyed working with a number of different chefs this year. I look forward to working with some more that I have lined up over the next few months.

Showcasing Ottawa’s Farmers & Chefs at Harvest Table 2015

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of photographing one of Ottawa’s signature food events, Savour Ottawa’s Harvest Table. A collaborative initiative between Just Food; the City of Ottawa; and Ottawa Tourism, Savour Ottawa aims to bring together local farmers, restaurants and retailers to to form partnerships that help sustain the local food economy.


Taking place in the historic and beautifully renovated Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park, this year’s Harvest Table hosted more than two hundred and fifty guests, who enjoyed local beer and wine, and a delicious feast prepared by an all-star cast of some of the area’s top chefs.

If you’ve been following my blog this year, you’ll know that food and the food scene around Ottawa are very near and dear to my heart. I feel honoured to have been asked to take part and document this wonderful day. And if this post inspires you, I’d love to hear what your favorite dish, or wine, or restaurant is in the comments below.

Chef Portraits: Ian Carswell

I have always been an art lover. From a young age I spent countless hours drawing and painting, and I have been lucky enough to visit some of the best galleries in Europe; and since moving to Ottawa I have learned that the city happens to boasts one of Canada’s premier art galleries. That’s why I was really excited to meet and shoot my fifth chef, Ian Carswell, Executive Chef of KW Katering at the National Gallery of Canada.

Ian Carswell National Gallery of Canada

Before the shoot, Ian and I chatted over the phone a few times and hit it off really well. At times I found it difficult conducting business over the phone with someone I hadn’t met while my two kids screamed and sang in the background, but as a family man himself, Ian completely understood. He even cooked my boys breakfast and treated them like kings during the morning portion of our shoot.

Based on our conversations leading up to the shoot I expected to really enjoy this experience, and I did. I can only describe Ian’s personality as amazingly infectious. After meeting me in the parking lot, he led me to the kitchen to introduce his staff, and then delighted me with a tour of the gallery… which was closed for the evening and completely silent. Ian has a great sense of humor, and had us laughing throughout the night, but he also showed that he could easily switch gears and seamlessly manage a couple of issues that arose as the evening wore on.

This shoot differed from the others in the series, because although there were some images shot in the kitchen, it was almost entirely shot in an underground boardroom where the staff set up a makeshift kitchen to prepare the dishes. You’ll notice that once the food was cooked, it was wheeled to the plating area in a large portable warming oven. The other thing you’ll notice, is that the staff were performing their art while being surrounded by famous works’ on the walls.

This was a memorable shoot for me because it’s not everyday that you have complete access to one of Canada’s treasured art institutions. I have Ian and his crew to thank for making the night such a special one for me. If you’re a lover of food and art, then you’ll want to make the National Gallery of Canada a definite stop on your Canadian travels.

I hope you enjoy the images…