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Facts tell but stories sell

A local photographer’s journey from childhood fascination to capturing the planet

By Devon Brooks

If pictures are worth thousands of words than the corollary must be that picture takers are story tellers thousands of times over. Photographer Shawn Talbot’s one man business, it turns out, is a treasure trove of stories waiting to be told.

Some of the stories are the obvious ones, like the behind-the-scenes information that goes with some of his most beautiful shots. And he knows it: “Facts tell but stories sell. We’ve been trying to attach a story to each photo.”

In this instance Talbot is talking about photos that are part of the new company Majestinction (www.majestinction.com).

Majestinction, says Talbot, is the child of Rob Woodhead, who is president of the Planet Woodhead Group in Kelowna. Woodhead’s idea was to recruit a superb photographer who would go to different locales around the globe and take extraordinary photos. The shots would be printed in stunning large formats (60”x40”).

Talbot describes the Lightjet printing system: “There are only a handful of these machines in North America. They utilize a laser that “burns” the image onto the metallic paper and produces stunning, vivid colours. These photographs are then trans-mounted onto a sheet of acrylic. It is the highest quality printing and mounting process available anywhere. It truly is ‘museum quality’. The photographs are then custom framed.”

Selling for a minimum of $5,000, with most in the $9,000 to $13,000 range, a buyer is guaranteed that no other large print will ever be made. Should a purchaser decide to sell the photo later, Majestinction will put it back in their gallery at whatever price the owner thinks they can get for it.
Indeed the signature image of Horseshoe Bend (reprinted above) is back on the market for a cool $50,000.

This is a photographer’s dream. Talbot started by compiling a list of locations around the globe where he will go to obtain these photos. “I’ve got the bucket list of about 60 places on the planet I need to shoot.”

Horseshoe Bend, situated near the Grand Canyon in Arizona, was one of those locations. Other images already shot come from another location in Arizona, the Oregon coast and winter shots at Silver Star in Vernon. More trips are in the offing for this year and next.

On site a typical day for Talbot begins at 4 am and lasts until midnight. “To get the ‘beauty’ light I’ll get up really early and stay up really late.”
If the site is road accessible he’ll go in an SUV, tossing a mattress in the back.

The photographer describes these trips as a real joy, but admits he brings the same intensity to all of his shoots and wonders, half in jest, whether he is going to pay the price for the more dangerous shots.

When he wanted action shots of a Vector speed boat racing across Lake Okanagan he hired a plane to chase the craft, but found the results unsuitable. Next he tied himself to a helicopter skid, urging the pilot closer and closer. When the boat pilot swerved the wake inundated Talbot and sloshed into the helicopter.

The helicopter pilot was forced to swerve the other way, causing g-forces that bent Talbot back like a pretzel. The 29 year old’s back hurt so much he was laid up in bed for days afterward.

Shooting a boat for SVFARA Marine, another Kelowna company, Talbot had a different vision. “I will often strap myself to the bow of the boat.” Images from that shoot are still displayed prominently on the company’s website at:

Svfara Marine Inc.

Last November, near Big White, he carefully set up his equipment on a large rock in a lake for a timed shot. Coming back to check on the process he stepped onto the rock and found his body weight to be the literal tipping point. The rock turned pitching Talbot and almost every piece of equipment he owned into the water.

He smiles ruefully, glad no one was there to capture that moment on film. He was impressed to find his Canon camera kept working even when it was under four feet of water.

Talbot, who is from the Okanagan, says, “I’ve had a camera in my hand since I was eight years old.”

By the time he was 18, Talbot knew he wanted a career in photography, and decided on courses from Ryerson University, Capilano College and the Vancouver Film School to give himself exposure to many different kinds of shooting. After graduation he was hired to do extra shoots for marketing firms before getting involved in the film industry, shooting stills and video. Still photography is where his heart is and when he got the chance to do a three month stint shooting for Campion Boats back on his Okanagan home ground, he leapt at the chance. Talbot doesn’t shoot family portraits or weddings. He says, “My bread and butter is commercial photography.”

His varied schooling, plus the film background has paid off in ways he hadn’t foreseen. He was used to doing whatever was required. If that meant cranes, he’d get a crane. If it meant strapping himself to the front of a power boat skipping across the lake at 80 kph he’d do that too. Once he’s passionate, he admits, “I’ll get tunnel vision for the shot I want to get.”
Talbot worries that descriptions of his “big shot” techniques will scare people off, thinking that every photo shoot will require a fortune to realize.

He insists his philosophy actually leans the other way. “The goal is to keep it as simple as you can it doesn’t have to be big.” Talbot says it’s just that he isn’t afraid to go big, fast or chancy if that’s what is required.
Since his return to the Okanagan his vision has taken him many places, shooting for seven different boat manufacturers, UBC, the Western Hockey League, Fortis BC, Kal Tire, Lake City Casinos, Valley First, several marketing firms and others. Dozens of his pictures are available for viewing online at:

Shawn Talbot Photography

Despite his successes, when the recession hit last year he quickly realized that marketing and advertising budgets were drying up. He also realized, after several years of working with great marketers that a recession was not the time to pull back. So he took the advice he had heard so often. “I re-branded, hired a marketing agency and tripled my budget and ended up with the busiest March/April [2009] I’ve ever had.”

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Photo below:

Horseshoe Bend: This leading image on the Majestinction site is representative of the effort Talbot puts into all of his photos, requiring three days of hiking out to get the “beauty” light. On the third day, Talbot waited while all the other photographers packed up and left and the sun had set. Only after when light from below the horizon painted the clouds and reflection in many hues did he get this image.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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