Putting this collection together each year can be daunting. Some years, the images seem stronger or more creative than others. And it can be challenging to encapsulate a whole year in this job into one cohesive photo story.
Nevertheless, it’s a good exercise for me to take stock of the previous 12 months and to continue to improve my photography. It always boggles my mind how much happened in any given year.
If 2022 felt relentless, 2023 said “hold my beer.” Or maybe I’m finally understanding that there’s no such thing as a normal or quiet month, let alone day.
When an American President stops by for ice cream.
A few examples of miscellaneous things I look for on the road to hopefully turn into a series.
Nerd stuff — Storage and archiving
Due to storage constraints, I do two rounds of deleting images as I narrow down what to edit and archive. One on my camera, the second on my computer. Using the “protect” function, I mark all the photos for saving on my camera before erasing the rest. Once on my computer, I sort through the remainder in Adobe Lightroom.
In all, I’ve filed around 28,000 photos — meaning I have personally captured, edited and captioned each one. This is a slight increase over last year’s 24,000. Being a one person show, I try my best to caption the images as thoroughly as possible and tag them with peoples’ names for archiving and future research purposes.
We maintain folders for each one of the MPs and Ministers in the government, as well as specific folders for staff (PCO, Senior Staff and PMO), Security (RCMP/Canadian Forces, Parliament) and support staff. (note: please remember to download all your photos!)
Raw and jpegs are stored on both LaCie Rugged drives that I shelve once filled, and multiple RAID units in different locations. It is not a backup if you only have one copy.
(Evergreen side note: please never accuse a photographer of not sharing photos. What a horrible business model that would be. Always ask the organizers to share, they have received them!).
Nerd stuff — Gear
My regular equipment is as follows: 2 Sony a9ii, 1 Sony a7Riv, Sony 16–35 f2.8, Sony 24–70 f2.8, Sony 70–200 f2.8.
The a9’s ability to shoot silently has been a game changer enabling me to capture even more candid moments. It is shocking how loud mechanical shutters now seem to me. Two memory card slots are essential because we live in fear of something messing up. Raw files to one card, lower res jpegs to the second.
Newer cameras have been announced but for the time being I don’t see much need in upgrading.
Hopefully I can service my father’s old Leica lenses one day to try my hand with those, but that may be retirement project further down the line. I have bought different adapters to put them on my non-Leica bodies over the years but it just isn’t the same.
Photographers are often asked what is their favourite photo they have taken. Honestly, we may have a favourite photo for a split second, but it is the drive to get the next best image that keeps us going back for more.
Misc travel lessons and tips
Two tips from my father: the front seat of any staff vehicle should be the photographer’s — you travel with the most gear and you often need to be present for whatever arrival greeting. Second tip: nap when you can. Long days mean sleep is a precious commodity. Both tips are as true in now as they were in 1988.
Former Prime Minister Paul Martin’s photographer, Dave Chan, gave me another great tip: When you get on the Airbus, sit on the ‘bench’ and make it your spot. He was right — the couches turn into beds and are life-saving on around-the-world trips.
Some days start before breakfast places open and go long after room service ends in the evening. I pack a few granola bars and a few Mountain House Macaroni and Cheese packs for whenever I get back to the hotel late at night — add boiling water and you are eating a meal within 12 minutes. As silly as it seems, not waiting at a restaurant or for meal delivery means you can get to bed sooner to maximize 5–6 hours of sleep before doing it all over again.
Two must haves on the road for me personally are my Kobo and gym clothes. Books help pass the time in between meetings and on flights whenever I am caught up on my editing. The gym or running are key to keeping energy levels up and avoiding that mid afternoon slump — I often drink decaf coffee for the same reasons as crazy as that sounds.
Not to mention the other essentials like chargers, an external battery for phones, charging cables, etc.
It is an running joke that I say I’ll go out with the team for dinner at the end of any given day but never show up. After 12–16 hour days and being around people constantly, I need a little bit of quiet with a book. If I do go out, I will likely bring my book just the same.
Departures and Arrivals
On a day-to-day basis, I work closest with the PM’s assistants, Phil Proulx and Mark Kachuck and Katie Telford’s assistants, Sarah Jackson(departed) and Katie Poirier(departed) and their successors Elsa Niyongabo and Jackie Lee.
Katie Telford, Chief of Staff, and Cameron Ahmad (departed)/now Vanessa Hage-Moussa, Director of Communications, are my direct bosses. Thankfully they are very supportive of my work and give me a lot of room to do my own thing.
The Prime Minister’s office feels like a small family with many moving parts. Advance, planning, scheduling, communications, issues management — I pester everyone with questions so I can stay on top of what is going on and what is on the horizon. Thank you all for putting up with me.
I often joke that I see members of the Prime Minister’s Protective Detail more than I see my own family. We spend hours on planes, trains, and automobiles together, not to mention hallways and waiting rooms. Thank you for all the help and for all the laughs along the way.
Ottawa airport chauffeuring services provided by Bill McCarthy. Thanks, Bill (dad), for the countless lessons, stories and laughs along the way.
A special thank you to the team and new friends I have made at CrossFit Bytown. I don’t consider myself a CrossFitter but I do love the new challenges that await each time I walk in — it is an hour to disconnect before going back to the real world.
Finally, cheers to PMJT for a great 12 years. I consider my first real assignment with him being the 2011 federal election, followed by an increasing number of assignments such as a boxing match, a leadership campaign and trips across Canada as Liberal leader before signing on full time in 2014.