Photographer Nick Taylor is a nerd-of-all-trades. If you're trying to spot Nick in the wild, just go to any major Calgary event. Science, art, technology, comics, sports — if something cool is happening, Taylor will be there to capture it.
If you're out near the Rothney Observatory — you might also catch Taylor doing some stargazing.
Taylor's main gig is as a videographer for the Calgary Flames. On the side, he freelances under the banner Pixels and Photons (get it?), where he photographs everything from astronomy to community events like Beakerhead.
His images capture weird and wonderful glimpses of Calgarians and their city.
We spent some time getting to know Taylor, who kindly shared a few of his favourite photos.
Q: Where did you grow up and where do you currently live?
A: I was born in Montreal. I lived there until I was six. I was raised in English at a tense time in Quebec to be an anglophone. My family is from northern New Brunswick, so we returned there after CN laid off a majority of their Montreal workers, my father being one of them. After New Brunswick, we moved to northern Manitoba before finally settling in Calgary in 1997. I've been here ever since.
Q: How long have you been shooting photos?
A: In 2012 I was in the middle of a career shift from radio to TV. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. By this point I had worked on a couple of locally shot films and was working, albeit very part time, with the Calgary Stampeders as a TV assistant for the in-house broadcast. It was a lot of pulling cable and making sure my camera person didn't get his head knocked off by an errant receiver.
After a few seasons, they let you start shooting the games, a quarter at a time. That was my first opportunity to be a professional photo/videographer.
At this point I already owned my first DSLR, a Nikon 40D. I started thinking about what else I could be doing. I have always enjoyed photography but had never really applied myself.
I started taking classes at SAIT, upgraded my camera equipment, thanks to the sale of my 'Magic: the Gathering' card collection, and got more ambitious about looking for work. Three years on, I work for the Calgary Flames as a videographer and freelance under my own banner, Pixels and Photons.
(Photo: Nick Taylor/Pixels+Photons)
Q: What's the most unusual, remarkable thing you've ever had happen while taking photos?
A: I keep hoping for that night when I'll catch some explosion in the sky. Some leftover piece of Skylab falling back to Earth. Until then, the remarkable thing is that you meet people sometimes, and I don't mean by the Peace Bridge or on Scotsmans Hill. I mean standing alone in a field 50 kilometres west of Drumheller at two in the morning, and another photographer will pull up. It happens.
Or getting a text from someone you know while you're out and they're 10 minutes away doing the same thing. I think there might be something wrong with us.
Check out more of Nick's work. Interview continues below:
Q: Have you ever found yourself in a scary situation while shooting?
A: There are times when you go out by yourself, there are things that can go wrong. I was with a group and we took a few vehicles north of Calgary for a workshop. Upon arriving, I immediately got my truck stuck in a snow drift. It was the first real cold night of the year with the windchill approaching minus 30. Luckily we had something to do while waiting for a tow, but that taught me how careful I need to be at times.
I've been deep in the Kananaskis parks at night when all of a sudden you hear all the animals around you and think, "Oh, yeah, I'm in their house." You hear wolves and coyotes.
There have been other times where you're standing in a field or by a road and another vehicle pulls up and just stops and you're like, "Hey, are you just going to sit there and stare at me in the dark? Cool. So this is how I die, just like the gypsy woman said."
Q: What are some of the challenges of shooting astronomy photos?
A: Weather is the biggest challenge. Alberta can be temperamental as anyone who lives here knows. Finding a compelling foreground is also a huge challenge at night. Whenever I travel outside of Calgary these days, I like taking back roads during the day to try and find those unique spots. A single tree, a rusted out piece of farm equipment. Venturing out at night, especially during the winter, it's hard to spot anything that isn't immediately next to a highway.
When you finally get that combination, clear sky, far enough out from city lights with something to shoot in front of, it just hits you with the most satisfying feeling.
Q: What's your advice to people who want to learn how to take great sports photos?
A: The majority of my work is live sports for TV. So, I shoot video, mostly. I've gotten the opportunity, due to the fact that I work for these teams to come in and shoot photos just for fun and it's a blast. There was a steep learning curve.
The first thing I realized was I was chasing the play and not getting good shots. I had to turn my video brain off, and realize I needed to have the lens pointed at where the play was going to go, as opposed to where it already was. The second I pressed the shutter, the picture was already gone. So, you make the adjustment and now all of a sudden the players are sitting in the middle of your shot.
(Photo: Nick Taylor/Pixels+Photons)
Something that I think is the same for both video and photo is you're trying to tell a story. In video, we do that by using multiple cameras. With photo you're trying to catch those single moments, a goal, a hit, a moment between plays. A great sports photographer can show you a whole game in a handful of shots.
Q: What do you like to do when you're not taking photos?
A: Well, I'm a giant nerd so all my non photography related activities tend to revolve around board games, comic books and the like. I've got a couple ideas for some short films I'd like to actually get produced. I'm at a place right now where most of the work I do, be it event photography or sports or just driving around Southern Alberta at night is what I love. I can't think of anything I'd rather do.
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