What have you been up to lately?
I’ve been busy focusing on my photography career. Ever since I started photography, I always had other businesses that would take most of my time. In the 90’s it was a clothing brand and an events company, and then in the early 2000’s I co-founded D-Structure Proshop, which was the first 100% freeski shop at the time. After that it was iF3 (International Freeski Film Festival), which I sold about a year ago. All these projects would take 80% of my time and I never really got to properly develop my photography business. I also have a family now, and after spending the past 20 years mostly on the road, I’m happy to stay home and see them grow up.
Have you been working on any adventure and action sports projects?
Last season I spent 10 days on an urban shoot in Quebec with skiers JF Houle, Emile Bergeron and Jules Bonnaire. They were shooting a mini film for the french clothing brand Picture Organic.
What were the best moments from the trip?
I think for me it was the session we did at the Chateau Frontenac slides. The set up was amazing and took place at dawn at a historical landmark. The guys had already done most of the set up days ahead working on the take off and landing. One of the maintenance guys saw us and instead of kicking us out, he was super stoked! He was a big X-Games fan and even offered to turn on the lights under the slide’s arches.
What are the most challenging aspects of these kind of shoots?
Definitely the cold, when it’s -20c celsius without the wind factor, it’s really hard to be focused and creative. You’re just trying to keep warm and your gear is not always working properly, especially lighting strobes. Then snow can get really hard and icy, which makes it difficult when shovelling.
Do you think your background as an architecture student influences the way you photograph urban environments?
Absolutely. I learned about composition and vanishing points when I studied architecture. It’s also where I got my style. I like symmetrical lines and making sure everything is nice and level. A few years ago I started shooting action with landscape/architecture panorama techniques. It consists of using a special panorama tripod head and shooting really tight on your subject, then shoot your overall composition before stitching the images in post. This gives you unique perspectives that your usual lenses can’t offer, you can shoot very high ISO without all the noise downfall and the final file can be printed in a super large format.
What do you prefer? Shooting in the city or shooting in the mountains?
I have to say both. The city gives you so much diverse material to shoot, while the mountains are such a peaceful and majestic environment. However, a lot more work, planning and energy goes into shooting in the great outdoors.
Does your camera set up change depending on whether it’s an urban or mountain shoot?
Since that shoot was in Quebec, I was able to load up my car with as much gear possible. I prefer having it easily available, instead of needing something specific and not having it with me. However, it’s quite different when going on a long distance trip. Weight and space is a big factor. I’ll bring mainly zoom lenses instead of all my prime lenses and more speedlights instead of bigger strobes.
You do a lot of commercial work too, what kind of projects are you doing?
Yes, that is my main occupation now. I’m super lucky to be working in-house for m0851, a high-end lifestyle and fashion brand based in Montreal. I cover all their photo and video needs from studio work and social media to ad campaigns. It’s a part-time gig that has allowed me to open up a whole new style in my portfolio. I still do sports work with brands like lululemon, TNF, Picture Organic plus national retail chains MEC and Sports Experts. I’ve also been doing quite a bit of architecture/design photography.
How big of a role does commercial work play in your photography?
Pretty big, probably 90% of my time. Since I don’t spend half the year on the road anymore, I don’t get to shoot action sports and make a living from it like I used to. When I do, it’s more for my own pleasure than anything else and a chance to hang out with my friends.
What is an important lesson that photography has taught you?
To be a citizen of the world.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?
Find work as photo assistant. Learn from senior photographers about how they run their business. Then find your style. That’s something I wish I had done when I started out.
Images © Felix Rioux