Q+A WITH WAYNE SIMPSON
by Meghan J. Ward
Only a few photographers have been published in all three volumes of the Canadian Rockies Annual published to date. Wayne Simpson is one of them. A master of light, drama and unique perspectives, his images are often described as surreal or otherworldly. Here we interview him about his photography and connection to the mountains, and provide a rare peek at his award-winning essay from Volume 1, Alter Egos.
When we set off to publish the Canadian Rockies Annual, we hoped we’d attract contributors who are at the top of their game and excited to see the work in our pages. We couldn’t have imagined who would come out of the woodwork. Each year, thousands of photos are submitted for our gallery. They come from coast to coast and everywhere between. This leaves us with the nearly impossible task of sifting through mountains of incredible photographs to select the two dozen that appear in each volume of the magazine.
For the past three years, one photographer’s work has consistently floated to the surface. Wayne Simpson, of Elora, Ontario, delivers compelling photographs to us each year. His thoughtful approach and unique style instantly stand out in his landscape images. But perhaps what is most incredible about Wayne is his mastery with both landscape and portraits. When we commissioned him to photograph our Alter Egos essay back in 2015, he produced what turned out to be award-winning portraits that to this day compile one of our favourite pieces across all three volumes so far published.
You can take a peek at these award-winning images below the interview.
Q+A WITH WAYNE SIMPSON
Meghan Ward/ What made you pick up the camera? Where or how did you learn photography?
Wayne Simpson/ The mountains made me pick up the camera! I lived in Calgary for about eleven years before moving back home to Ontario in 2009. The mountains were always calling me. After a few visits with a point-and-shoot camera, I was hooked on photography. It became my personal mission to communicate the amazing mood and drama I was seeing and feeling.
In a short time, I became obsessed with landscape photography. I bought books/magazines and watched endless tutorials and read countless articles. Eventually, my day job required that I photograph people. I found myself in very stressful situations photographing oil company CEO’s and various dignitaries before I really knew anything about photographing people. I was hired as a graphic designer, but I basically had to learn portrait and event photography very fast in order to keep my job. Looking back on all the sleepless nights and gut-wrenching stress I think it was well worth the pain to be on the fast track of learning!
MW/ What’s your connection to the Rockies now that you live in Ontario?
WS/ As I mentioned, I lived in Calgary for about 11 years before moving to Elora to bring our children up near family. Since leaving Alberta, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the Rockies at least twice per year. I assist with, and co-lead, various landscape and portrait photography workshops in the Rockies, as well as around Alberta. The truth is, it’s impossible not to feel a connection after eleven years of appreciating the beauty of the Rockies!
MW/ You’re known for the unique portraits you create. How do you achieve that mythical quality?
WS/ I would say that light quality and direction are absolutely key in achieving the “look” that my portraits have. In my opinion, light is everything – it can add depth to a scene, dimension to a face and mystery to a person or place if used well. I often start with a black photo when working indoors in order to create my own light of more desirable quality. Like all photographers in the digital age, I then post process my portraits in a way that appeals to me. I tend to lean towards muted colours, cohesive tones throughout the image and fairly deep shadows.
MW/ You also offer photography instruction. What is your favourite thing about teaching others?
WS/ Of course, I love to see peoples’ excitement when they create something they thought was beyond their skill set, but I’d say what I love most about teaching photography is how much it can change people’s priorities in a good way. People seem to appreciate nature more intimately and recognize the less obvious beauty in those around them. I, for one, can whole-heartedly say that photography has made me who I am today. I recognize the beauty in wrinkles and scars and I care deeply about our natural areas and wild animals. When we recognize the beauty in things around us we tend to want to care for them.
MW/ You’ve had both landscapes and portraits published in the Canadian Rockies Annual. How did it feel to have your photo essay, Alter Egos, win Gold at the Alberta Magazine Awards?
WS/ I’m super proud of that magazine award, to be honest! I’m proud for several reasons: I’m proud to have contributed to the overall success of a quality magazine that I believe in, I’m proud to showcase the great people that I photographed, and I am proud to have reached a level where my work is receiving recognition in both the landscape and portrait genres. I remember the very first time I seriously attempted to photograph a person. It was the CEO of one of the largest oil companies in Calgary. The results of that shoot were not the greatest! I feel like the moment I received that magazine award things had come full circle.
Alter Egos was conceived in a coffee shop many months before we set to work on Volume 1 of the Canadian Rockies Annual. The magazine’s founders Dee Larosa and Meghan Ward were having a conversation about how a dichotomous life defines many mountain people. They work hard and establish themselves as professionals, respected in their field. And they play hard, often redefining what it means to be passionate about a sport. We decided to profile three such people and commissioned Wayne to capture them. The images speak for themselves. This essay went home with the Gold Award for Best Photo Essay at the 2017 Alberta Magazine Awards.
CONNECT WITH WAYNE
SUBSCRIBE + CONTRIBUTE
You can support our independent publishing efforts and creatives like Wayne Simpson by purchasing a subscription to the magazine or finding a copy in a retail store. Both of these can be found at canadianrockiesannual.com.
Our photo pitch call goes out in September each year, and all photographers are welcome to submit! Please review the Contributor Guidelines prior to submitting. Volume 4 submissions open September 15! Join our Contributor Newsletter to receive a notice and instructions.
Writer, adventurer, outdoorsy mama and summit cartwheeler, Meghan J. Ward is the editor and co-founder at Crowfoot Media and lives for backcountry getaways.
The views and opinions expressed in the articles on CrowfootMedia.com are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the editor, the editorial team or the publishers.