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Blog – Leah Nilson
Leah Nilson
Portrait & Lifestyle Photography

100 Vancouver Memories, Part I

For fun I decided to do a super intensive #tbt. The following are 100 memories from Vancouver, 2009-2011. I lived in Vancouver BC from 2003 until 2016. I first moved out to attend art school at Emily Carr University, but despite dropping out sometime in 2006, I hung around Vancouver, and spent a decade bumming around, working in coffee shops and retail stores, going to shows, making friends, falling in love and trying to do art. Although we eventually became priced out, and the lustre of this gem of the Wet Coast began to fade away, I was heartbroken to leave the city where I “found myself” and became a grown up, when we moved back to Kenora, Ontario last year. I miss my friends, the mountains, the ocean, the moss, and especially the food. I even miss the rain! I am so happy here in Kenora, and in many ways it has been one of the best choices we’ve made as a family. But I sure hope to revisit Vancouver someday soon and find some semblance of the city of my dreams and memories.

In January of 2009, my sweet mum gifted me an entry level digital SLR – the Canon Rebel Xsi. Up until that point, I had made do with a circa 2003 Olympus c5050, a “pro-sumer” level point and shoot, which happened to have a tack-sharp lens and made some beautiful images (which sadly have been lost to the ages). The Rebel was my first foray into an interchangeable lens system, and I soon ventured into a daily photo project, and took it with me everywhere I went. Later in 2010, I upgraded to the same Canon 5D mark ii I use to this day, and began to curate my arsenal of lenses (very quickly became a fan of the prime, or “fixed focal length” lens, and using those guys to shoot wide open).

It was super fun to look back on these images, an re-edit them to my current standards/tastes. It’s funny the things that tickled me then, and still tickle me today; the quiet city at night (especially shooting into empty restaurants), neighbourhood cats, back alley beauty, subliminal light and directing my husband to take portraits of me, because it’s no fun always being the one behind the lens. I received that first DSLR right around the same time that my husband and I started dating, so these images track the trajectory of our relationship, from the giddy heights of new love, to our Christmas 2011 engagement.

Please click through for the slideshow and take a walk down good ‘ol memory lane with me, and stay tuned for part II!

Encore une Fois

Here in Kenora, we had a brief revival of hazy summer weather this week, which abruptly halted today (and I’m writing this in sheepskin slippers and a cardigan – an outfit more befitting of late September in Northwestern Ontario). I made sure to drag my son to Norman beach for a few last splashy frolics before the frosts start to settle in. I even managed to take a full-on swim myself the other night.

I think it’s safe to say that my son is my muse. He’s at this perfect age where he’s still pocket-sized and adorable and needing me to curl up next to him and sing him songs while he falls asleep… But old enough and with the brass tacks to tell me “You’re going to go to JAIL!!!” whenever I have the audacity to ask him not to do something dangerous or careless. His innocence and boyishness really shine when I step back and just quietly observe, rather than pose or direct him. My favourite type of family photography is just this; retreat to the sidelines and let children do their thing… playing in nature and immersing themselves in their imaginative worlds.

Summer’s End

Sometime last week, I remarked to Andrew that the atmosphere has changed. I find every year, there’s a day where it’s like the white balance of the whole world changes. It might not even stick around, but it tells us what’s on the horizon. And sure enough, the mornings and nights have been cooler, and the leaves are turning yellow, one by one.

We shit the bed on taking our son to the travelling carnival in town, so we have been promising a trip to Tinkertown, an amusement park for little kids outside of Winnipeg that’s open only during the summer. The family lore goes that we never went to Tinkertown when I was a kid growing up in Kenora, and even if we were on our way to somewhere ostensibly better via the Winnipeg airport, I would always kick up a fuss to go to there – which, as amusement parks go is pretty low budge. We had a real Ulysses-esque day trying to get there. I was dragging my heels after a few too many the previous night at a gathering of bridesmaids for my friends’ upcoming wedding, and we wound up getting pulled over by a police SUV and having to backtrack several miles to get a permit from a Peace Officer at a weigh station so that we could keep driving our car (expired plates!! Oops…). But we were resolute, and we managed to make it at the 11th hour for 60 glorious minutes of frenzied preschooler rides. It’s no Coney Island, but Soren absolutely loved it and it was worth the Odyssey it took to get there.

Andrew also finally managed to get me to cut his hair – he’s been meaning to ditch “the faschy”, in an effort to distance himself from Richard Spencer, the “Alt Right” et al, and it’s funny how the suedehead look is the LESS racist-adjacent of the two nowadays. Anyway, I’m pretty into it.

We also somehow took a two hour hike on Tunnel Island, during which Soren somehow barely complained.

Not a bad send off to one of our most fun summers as a little fam.

Leah Nilson

About me

Leah Nilson is a portrait & lifestyle photographer based in Kenora, ON. She chases light and hunts the spectacular with her camera