WOW – finally! I can’t remember the last time I had such a huge photographic undertaking and then waited so long to blog about it. Things have gotten in the way – actual paying freelance design gigs, parenting my child, DEPRESSION, etc. Despite the fact that I had such an amazing time taking these photos and also experiencing the real life moments happening around them, I felt very little motivation to edit them once I got back home.
First I feel like I need to back up and explain what this trip even was. Back in the summer I saw a post from an instagram account I follow talking about this camp happening in Alberta in September. I had at that point not had a job in over a year, had been exclusively breastfeeding and caring for a baby 24/7, and was feeling creatively restless and totally lost. You KNOW I love my baby Alex more than anything, but I’m also an artist and I needed to create. This camp – Socality Camp – was presented as a camp for creatives/entrepreneurs in the Canadian Rockies, which I felt was the most ideal place to have a creative re-awakening. I love the cold, I love mountains, I love outdoor photography, and I desperately craved the company of fellow artists, makers and more.
We did have to figure out a few things, like who would take care of Alex while I was away? As it happened, we were already sort of planning to enroll him in day care in September anyway so that would take care of the day-to-day. What about feeding? I was his ONLY source of milk at that point. Well, other things transpired leading up to my leaving – we got him started on formula (for an entirely different reasoning) so that was one less thing for Alan to worry about, and I didn’t have to stress out about what kind of breastmilk stores I was leaving behind, OR making on my trip (TMI? Maybe!).
So with all that squared away, I held my breath and bought two tickets; one for the plane and one for the camp. I’ll pause for a minute to acknowledge how PRIVILEGED and LUCKY I am that I was able to do this. I don’t for a second take for granted the good fortune I’ve had in my life, and this trip is more than proof of that. Anyway. Since this blog is so late, and I’ve already seen a ton of blogs from other attendees about the camp, I feel a little bit of pressure to do some EXTREME EDITING. I made an indesign document to layout my photos, because it gives it an editorial feel and allows me to feature a few photos at once in some cases. I thought “20 pages should help me reign it in” NOPE I have over 50. I can’t be anything less than what I am, man. This is my truth. So you’re getting
two blogs however many blogs it takes!
I haven’t even really talked about what this camp even WAS, though. It was at a big ranch-style camp in remote Alberta – extremely off the grid. No cell reception, hardly even decent Wifi. There were guests and speakers and workshops, all centering about creativity – building your brand, working with other brands, finding your voice, etc. Some times we got to play around with actual product, photograph people ~whose actual jobs are being models on instagram~, and getting to pick the brains of Instagram “influencers” who regularly work with companies to create content, and a lot of whom travel around full time taking photos. That’s a dreamy life.
Above is Joelle Friend during a workshop on brand photography led by Garrett King.
This trip was also my first encounter with the Northern Lights!!! The forecast said they’d be out at like 3 AM so I went to bed extra early so I could wake up at 2:45 (and pump milk in a weird fancy outhouse – let’s not forget I was pumping milk the ENTIRE trip) and get my tripod set up. Unbeknownst to me, the Aurora had come out already, at a much more manageable hour, while I was trying to get to sleep earlier and everyone else was still up. So. But, shrug, I still got to see them, and be in a little mini workshop with the super cool Tanner Stewart. He had already shot the Aurora earlier that evening, but still came out to show us normies how it’s done. Such a mensch.
The people who were the de facto “leaders” of the camp I’m just sort of in awe of for their drive, but also for their generosity and patience to help people learn and become better at their crafts. That’s a noble undertaking. I’m really glad I got to meet some of them, even though I was sort of shy. I should work on that. I was going to say “the next morning” but it was actually like, an hour after we started shooting the lights, the camp boarded busses to drive the 3-some hours to Banff, to see the sunrise at Moraine Lake. It’s an iconic shot. Pretty sure it was an Apple default desktop at one point? As we arrived, there was kind of a scramble to get a good spot to shoot from. Most folks went on this big rock hill so I camped out on the rocky shore.
Inevitably, when you’re finally physically in a location that you’ve seen so many times in photos, some of the mystique is gone. I didn’t know what Moraine Lake looked like outside of that view. It’s actually pretty crowded, and there’s like, a gift shop 50 feet away.
I really dug Moraine Lake. The sun rose around ~8AM but for the most part stayed behind the mountains until noon. So it was surreal, walking up and down this spot which, while crowded, was still pretty remote, and if you walked far enough away, you could be totally alone.
Despite the fact that I came on this trip to get to know people and bond with like-minded creatives, I was still a bit of a loner. Being 1 in 150 and trying to make deep personal connections in 5 days is a challenge
. But most everyone I met was so kind and they all listened to me talk about how I had a baby at home and I was looking for a creative rebirth (haha, sorry).
Wendy, aka @nomadicfare.
Speaking of Instagram influencers I was kind of in awe of, Christian Watson, aka 1924 (who actually *deleted* his instagram recently, like a boss). His whole persona is something to behold, online but especially in person. I was way too intimidated to say hi to him almost the entire trip, but on our last night I got up the nerve and we chatted for a few minutes during a campfire dance party. He asked me about myself, and I asked him for a hug, which he obliged. I wonder if I’ll ever get a chance to meet him again?
Christian brought this cool Merrimack Canoe and Sanborn Paddles down to the lake and people started getting in the canoe and taking photos of each other with the mountains in the background. I initially witnessed this from a bench a ways away sipping my second latte (hey – when you come in contact with espresso for the first time in a whole two days, you lean in to that shit). I kind of thought it was funny at first, and wondered what the other tourists standing around would be thinking about – literally – 10 photographers huddled together taking pictures of a person in a canoe, not even paddling the canoe! I wrote about what happened next on Instagram and am not gonna try to phrase it a different way:
The moment when it all clicked for me at @socalitycamp was when I was drinking my *second* latte at Moraine Lake. The sun takes a long time to come up over the lake after it’s risen and it sorta felt like we were in a snow globe — for a place so huge it felt small and contained. @1924us brought out a @merrimackcanoes canoe and a couple @sanborncanoe paddles and people started jumping in, paddling around and taking photos – practicing their craft, together. People on the shore packed in close together to get the perfect shot. The freewheeling collaborative effort shook something loose in me and I had to jump in. What I had been witnessing from afar I suddenly was a part of and I felt connected. To the people, the land, to my camera, and importantly, to myself. I felt at that moment that I could DO this kinda thing.
It’s cheesy but so true! I went to Alberta to feel more connected to my creativity and this one instance really busted open the floodgates. It was so special. @ScottBakken, Socality Founder
Part 2 coming later this week!