Posted by: Feet Banks
All images courtesy David McColm.
Photography has been called “the only art form where you can accidentally create a masterpiece” but in the current era of social media and digital everything it has also become an integral means of communication. We no longer need to explain where we are or how we feel (or what we ate for breakfast), a simple photo uploaded to Twitter or Instagram can replace a thousand conversations in an instant.
In Whistler, however, there are a lot of things more interesting to photograph than your breakfast. The stunning coast mountain setting and Whistler’s ability to attract the dreamers, artists and adventure seekers has slowly built this area into one of the premier outdoor and action sport photography hotspots on the planet, with multiple big-recognition photography contests each year and many of the world’s top outdoor photographers holding Whistler addresses as their home base.
“At any given time there are probably more people taking pictures in Whistler than any other spot in the country,” said multi-award winning Whistler photographer Blake Jorgenson in an interview with The Insider back in 2012. “The camera has become an essential part of your toolkit now. It’s just as important as your skis or bike. Being able to capture and share an amazing experience so easily, it enhances the joy of the experience and inspires others to get out and do more.”
And this summer anyone can put that inspiration into action high in the Whistler alpine with one of the best landscape photographers in the game. Twenty-one-year Whistler local David McColm is now offering Alpine Photography Tours that bring aspiring photographers high up to the peak of Whistler Mountain at sunset to learn how to shoot nature and landscapes with one of the best in the business.
The Insider caught up with David one sunny afternoon to get the scoop on his tours and Whistler photography in general.
The Insider: What do love about Whistler alpine sunsets?
David McColm: You get that orange and that afterglow and then you turn around and get that beautiful alpenglow in the east. Just watching the clouds roll and churn, seeing them go over the mountains to the west. The light is creating those magic moments.
The Insider: How is it going with these Alpine Photography Tours?
David McColm: We’ve done a half-dozen or so already and I really enjoy it. For me the big kick is watching people watch the sky and the mountains, getting to see them ‘oooh’ and ‘aaahhh’. With truck access we can move around the mountain easily and it’s really nice to open up these photography opportunities for people but also great to be able to expose them to a truly stunning part of our town. Just being on the top of a mountain at that time of day is amazing.
The Insider: What level of photography skills do people need to take the tour?
David Mccolm: Pretty much anything goes. Some people just sign on to get up there. Most people have a DSLR with interchangeable lenses but I’ve had people up there with just an iPhone. A few participants didn’t really even know how to use their cameras but by the end of it we were getting shots. It’s nice having small groups because I am really able to give everyone tips and answer their questions.
The Insider: Whistler has evolved into a real epicenter of outdoor photography hasn’t it?
David McColm: If you want to be a photographer in sports or landscapes or pretty much anything this is an amazing place to be. There are iconic figures living here like Blake or Paul Morrison and Eric Berger, internationally recognized names. And then there are the events—I remember taking my daughter to her first Pro Photography Showdown when she was two years old. Whistler is really being recognized as a photo and film mecca and kids are coming here to start their careers. It’s like eye candy everywhere.
The Insider: Does this make it very competitive for photographers in town?
David McColm: For sure, it is competitive but, from my standpoint, I just follow my passion— my timelapses and my photography— and focus on sunset to sunrise. I love the night sky, that is my niche. I think you need to have a focus to separate yourself from other people. I’m lucky, the Whistler alpine is my favourite place to shoot and I am finding ways to spend more and more time up there and now sharing that with others.
The Insider: How much of great photography is luck? The “accidental masterpiece” theory?
David McColm: For sure, a lot can be said about the right place at the right time. I think the trick is creating those “accidents” on a regular basis, constantly practicing and shooting and stepping up your game. Just doing your own thing and being creative. For landscape photography so much of it is all about light, so being at the top of Whistler or Blackcomb for sunset… the masterpiece is right there.
David’s Alpine Photography Tours run right into October 2014. Whistler’s next big photo competition is the Deep Summer Photo Challenge on August 13, 2014 as part of the Crankworx Whistler Freeride Mountain Bike Festival and the best place in town for photography equipment and advice is Whistler Foto-Source right in the Village. Check out David's passion for Whistler time-lapse photography in the video below.