I Lost my Best Friend, Mentor and Teacher
I woke up this morning with the buzz and dings from my various devices going off. My blurry eyes focussed on the sentence “I am sorry to have to tell you this but Dave passed away this morning….” I scrambled to turn on the computer as if checking my email would somehow make things different. Sadly, as my brain reread the messages and the new ones that followed, it was becoming clear. I just lost my best friend.
If you are wondering why I am writing such a personal post on what should be a photography blog about photography in and around Korea, well Dave was the reason that I came to Korea and even started into photography. He taught me so much in the first few years and was responsible for my first major accomplishment in the field. I would not be the man I am today if it were not for him.
Rather than getting too personal, I want to share with you some of the things that he taught me. These were some of the so-called rules that kept my urge to over-saturate my images somewhat in check… well at least for awhile until I found out about HDR. At any rate, I must admit that I am trying not to break down again as I try and write this. He was my best friend and the only one who really understood me. He was a comrade in arms who travelled many places with me and helped me through some tough times. I just wish that I could have done something more for him.
Don’t Go Crazy with the Saturation
I routinely broke this rule for many years. I remember Dave teaching me how to use photoshop and warning me about the saturation and not to saturate the photo too much. I always tried to remember this but I love/loved how colourful the photos looked. I think that he finally gave up on me after my numerous HDR shots that were so piercingly vivid that looking at them now makes me want to puke a bit.
Focus on the Details
The one thing that I always admired about Dave was his attention to detail. He would set for hours trying to get a shot or just researching something. When I visited him in the summer even though he was exhausted he still knew that there was a great sunset and that I should head out at a certain time.
Dave’s attention to detail was what made his photos so amazing. It was also what made everything he did so professional. For his time editing the local English newspaper to his work at Footprints, he never missed a beat. I must focus on doing the same. I usually fly by the seat of my pants and rely on fixing stuff later.
Know your Stuff
Dave was a smart guy. He rarely missed a class in university and was one of the few people that actually remembered anything from those years. When it came to photography he was a walking encyclopedia. I remember getting cocky about how much I was “getting into photography” and he decided to quiz me on the basics. He knew it all. From hyperfocal distances to the rule of thirds. I still struggle with some of those concepts but Dave had really put the time in and he wanted me to do the same.
What Dave taught me was to treat learning photography as serious as you would a class or a seminar. Dave’s house had hundreds of books on photography and works from different photographers. He read and admired the photographers who created stunning images. He never hesitated when it came to picking up a good coffee table book on photography.
Dave was never as anchored to Korea as I am. He lived here for a few years, made his mark and then travelled through India before teaching in Japan for a year. He settled down in Vancouver where he gained a new appreciation for the outdoors and mountain biking. He traveled through the province and his Instagram feed is filled with the beauty of BC, Canada and of his dog Bruno. While living in Vancouver for a year, I was grateful to have gotten out to some amazing locations with Dave. From a Gastown rooftop to the covering a rally race in the backwoods of Merritt we got out to a lot of places. He still taught me a thing or two about photography.
Since getting a little older I tend to make a lot of excuses for not getting out as much as I should. However, Dave was the type of person who just enjoyed life and the stories that would unfold along with it. For photographers that is the perfect combination. For me, I am often trying to pull a story out of a scene instead of just letting it unfold and documenting the process. I miss my adventures with Dave. Many a coffee was consumed and always a good laugh or two along the way.
Another thing that I admired about Dave was the passion he put into his many different hobbies. When I visited him in Japan he was heavy into drift racing. Erin, his wife, would accompany him to numerous event across Japan. He was passionate about Ultimate Frisbee for a while too. As much as I hate that sport it helped me hone my sports photography in many ways. However, it was the passion that Dave put into these things that was inspiring. Listening to him talk about his MTB rides or his new bike, you could really see his enthusiasm. If you want to succeed in photography, you have to have that same energy.
Finally, I guess with Dave’s passing I will add in some things that I realized today after breaking down numerous times and somehow summoning up enough courage to hold myself together in front of 5 straight classes of elementary students. They may not be 100% photography related but at this point I don’t really care.
Turn your Camera Around!
As photographers we often spend so much time behind the camera that we forget that we can it can take pictures of us as well. It an age where pretty much everything has a camera, we should take advantage of this. Take group shots of your friends. When you go out on shoots, take a couple of shots of your guys just goofing around. Trust when I say that those goofy shots will be the most memorable in times like this. I have been combing through all my photos and I have very few of Dave and I together. Thank God, my wife took some when were stay with him back in 2012. I regret not spinning that camera around all those times were out.
Keep in Touch
While I always sent a message to Dave when I could, I didn’t do it enough. There are also so many people that I have let slip through my fingers and the fact that I am at the age where I might lose them for good scares me. Again, we live an age where we can pretty much contact anybody at any given time. However, I rarely do so unless something like this happens. Today, I realized that it is too easy to lose touch with people but it is even easier to send them a message and make that connection again. If I could dial back time for a bit I would call Dave every week or facetime over my numerous solo coffee sessions.
Cherish your Friends
I have a lot of friends but none truer than Dave. He taught me so much but I hope that he knew how much it mattered to me. For those actually reading this, remember that your friends are always going to be there for you no matter where you are. Pick up a phone, text, email or whatever. Get to really know them too. Too often we have “friends” that you have known for years that you have never really taken the time to get to know outside of that one things that brings you together. These days, I have a lot of photo-friends, but I realized today that I don’t know many outside of that. Take the time to get to know your friends and to show them you care. Hmmm… that sounds a bit weird but you get the idea.
Goodbye my friend. I hope that you are feeling better now. I know that you suffered these past few months. You made us all better people simply by being around us. You taught me everything that I know about photography, web design and what it means to be a friend. I will miss you greatly and I will never forget you. – JT