With spring right around the corner, we have to admit we're excited.
Like many other Albertans, we're ready to shed our winter woolies, trade our skis for hiking boots, and hit the mountain trails.
These stunning photos of Alberta wildlife are just fueling that fire.
Husband-and-wife photography team Chad Larsen and Andrea Halwas have been shooting wildlife and landscapes across western Canada together for six years. Together they own Thirteenth Avenue Photography, and also specialize in lifestyle and family photography.
There were kind enough to share some of their awesome animal portraits with us, and answer a few questions about what it's like to work alongside the person you love:
Q: Where did you each grow up and where do you currently live?
A: We both grew up on the prairies – Chad: I grew up in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Andrea: I grew up in High Bluff, Manitoba. We met in Calgary and this is where we now call home.
Q: How long have you been shooting photos -- separately and together?
A: We both came from extensive backgrounds in the arts. Chad: I was a visual artist, a painter, and a graphic designer. Andrea: I was a performer and now I am a drama therapy consultant. However, we found a mutual creative passion in photography. What began as a hobby quickly turned into a passion. We have both taken photos to some degree throughout our lives, but it was in 2009 that we officially launched Thirteenth Avenue Photography.
Interview continues below the slideshow:
Q: Does shooting photos as couple create a challenging dynamic? If so, in what way?
A: Shooting as a couple is rewarding because we are always motivating each other to become better at our work. There are days that are challenging because like any artist, there are days where creativity does not come easily. However, we are lucky that we inspire each other. We have our own roles in our company and that makes it much easier to work together.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face as a team that you might not face as individual photographers?
A: To date we feel pretty lucky to shoot as a team. It hasn’t offered us many challenges. We encourage each other’s work and celebrate each other’s successes. When one of us succeeds, we both do.
Q: What are some of the benefits of working as a team?
A: It is awesome having a photography wingman. We both shoot different angles, depths, and styles. So we know we have two ways to see a subject and we will be able to shoot both perspectives. We always think that we are lucky to have that extra person shooting beside us, capturing the moment, but also being a part of the moment. Plus the catch 22 is if one of us cannot make it out on a particular day the other has twice the gear.
Q: Where do your individual interests lie in photography?
A: Chad: Every day when the sun rises, I know there are animals moving around doing something incredible. There are so many different scenarios that play factors in wildlife photography besides the animals. This is where my drive to explore outdoor photography comes from. You never know what you are going to shoot that day, you just have be ready for those moments when the magic happens.
Andrea: Coming from the narrative tradition of theatre, I am always focused on telling a story with my photography. Drawing on Roland Barthes, I am looking for the ‘punctum’ in a photograph, something that jumps out at me and moves me. I want to create those images for people.
Q: Do your photography subjects/interests differ at all?
A: Although our passion for photography began with wildlife and landscape photography, we have developed our skills and range throughout the last five years. We have expanded our company to work with families and lifestyle photography. It is extremely gratifying work to capture an amazing moment in wildlife, but that work is really for us. When we photograph people, we are given the opportunity to make other people happy with our work, and that makes our jobs pretty awesome. There are certain differences in our interests though - Andrea: Chad loves birds and owls. He is passionate about improving his skill and it shows in his work. I love Chad’s bird photography, but I haven’t developed the skill or patience to capture the perfect owl shot like he has, and I’m okay with that. Chad: Andrea is the first person to take on a new family client. She is always shooting our families, our friends, and their pets. She loves making people happy with their photos.
Q: What's the most unusual, remarkable thing you've ever had happen while taking photos?
A: We have had some pretty amazing moments photographing wildlife. Animals are very humbling to be around. We have come around a corner to see a Sow Grizzly Bear with her three three-month old cubs, one of them falling out of the tree right in front of us. We have sat in tall grass getting eaten alive by mosquitoes just to see a wild horse come running directly towards us. We have arrived at our photography destination just in time to see the sun in perfect placement between two mountains. We would like to think we were in control, but in fact, nature and the wild were in control and we were just lucky to be in that moment.
Q: Have you ever found yourself if a scary situation while shooting?
A: As a matter of fact, we haven’t. When we are shooting, we are very careful to gauge how the animal is reacting. We have never spent any time with an agitated animal.
Q: What do you like to do when you're not taking photos?
A: We are outdoors people. If we aren’t taking photos, we are outside. We spend our summers and winters hiking, at the lake, or on the prairies. However, we can guarantee that our cameras are not far away..
Q: Tell us a bit about your dedication to wildlife advocacy!
A: We are forever fascinated by the wild and their resiliency and will to survive. The Grizzly Bear is an endangered species and its tenacity to continue is incredible. That being said, while we are humbled by the animals, we are also fiercely overprotective. We have been able to watch Grizzly Bear cubs grow up from yearlings to entering their first years on their own. Because of that, we have little tolerance for people treating animals as a commodity. People tend to forget that these are wild animals and that distance and respect must be first and foremost. We do not want to allow the animals to become comfortable with our presence. We are entering their world. They were here first, and they survived without us, in fact, flourished. We cannot stress enough that humans do not have the right to overstep the boundary between domestic and wild. We want to keep the wild wild. We want people to be aware of the issues and conflicts facing our wildlife and to be motivated to protect them.
Follow more of Thirteenth Avenue Photography's work here:
Are you interested in being Alberta's Photographer of the Month? Email us and we can chat!