There are so many beautiful places for outdoor photography in Vancouver that I’m never at a loss for suggestions when clients ask. The problem is that I’m not the only one who knows about Queen Elizabeth Park.
These places tend to be pretty crowded, especially on a bright Sunday (prime time for many families, especially for parents who are essential workers like Vanessa). So it takes a bit of doing to make sure you’re not photobombed by a dozen strangers at once.
This shoot with Vanessa and her daughter Genesis in Queen Elizabeth Park on a Sunday afternoon is a perfect example of getting creative with your location.
Off the Beaten Path
It was a beautiful sunny summer day, and despite the global pandemic going on, the place was packed. Luckily the park is big, and tourists and families tend to gravitate toward a handful of usual spots: the Bloedel Conservatory, the lookout with those statues of people taking vacation snaps, the bridge overlooking the west side of the park. But there are so many spots to choose from that it doesn’t take much wandering to find yourself more or less alone.
This little rock outcropping and bench situation is just northwest of the conservatory, about 60 seconds down the paved path. We got some beautiful dappled light, rocks to climb and some good height above the paths below to prevent background people in the shots.
Outdoor Photography is All About Variety
One of the best things about film is how well it handles changing light. You can go from cool shade to direct sun on the same roll, and all of it will look incredible if you expose each frame correctly. That means I can go where the crowds aren’t.
When everyone is crowded up top under the bright sun, we can head down into garden and shoot with the dappled light through the trees. When the garden paths are crowded we can go up and sit on the stone wall because shooting in direct sun is nbd. And some of my favourites from this shoot were the combo light/shadow images. Film is the best ever.
Work Your Angles
You’d be surprised how often it’s just a matter of shifting my position so my subject blocks the people standing behind them.
When I worked as a photojournalist in university a photographer friend challenged me to shoot with nothing but my 50mm lens for a month. The goal was to learn to move my feet to get the shot I wanted, not rely on long lenses or zoom. I did it, and (with the exception of pandemic shoots that required I be farther away) I’ve never stopped. I shoot almost exclusively with one focal length, and I move myself to capture the best images.
Angles were super important in this outdoor shoot. It happened at 5pm at the Trout Lake playground on a gloriously sunny day.
My last resort is Photoshopping out the unwanted strangers. It’s a good tool to have in the arsenal, but I’d much prefer to spend that time getting the shot I want from the start. I dislike having to sit in front of my computer futzing with the clone tool. One of the best things about film (and a good relationship with my lab, Canadian Film Lab) is how little post-production I have to do. I pick my favourite film stock and the magic of good light and top-notch scanning do the rest. Genius.