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Fog clings to the calm water, shrouding the towering pines and a lonely wooden dock. I pause and raise the camera to my eye. Click.

It was a defining moment in my career and one that happened years before I would become a commercial photographer.

1998 Maclean’s Magazine Photo of the Year awarded to Shawn Talbot

It was 1998, and I was a 17-year-old photographer on a scouting mission for the BC Film Commission. In one summer, I put 12,000 kilometers on my car as I drove around the interior of the province taking pictures of every unique place I could find. It was the beginning of what would be a five-year stint as a director of photography in movies and television.

What I didn’t know then, what I couldn’t have known, is that I would still be looking at this photograph nearly three decades later.

Captured on slide film, this image won the Maclean’s Magazine Photo of the Year award and was featured on the Kodak billboard in Times Square in New York.

Returning to Kelowna as a Commercial Photographer

After years of working as a commercial photographer for ad agencies throughout BC, eating ramen for dinner and worrying about bills, I was ready for a change. But, before I could make it on my own, I knew I needed one big client.

Campion Boats in Kelowna Okanagan Lake photography by Shawn Talbot

In the early 2000s Adam Less and Tony Peyton of Think Marketing hired me as a staff photographer. This created an amazing opportunity to shoot for tons of wildly different clients in various markets and develop a diverse portfolio of commercial photography and learn tons of new skills. My work with Think Marketing also allowed me to meet the team behind Campion Boats.

Based in my hometown of Kelowna, Campion Boats has spent nearly five decades building world-class watercraft and is Canada’s largest independent fibreglass boat builder.

This one client led to years of hanging out of helicopters and soaring above the water to capture boat photography for multiple international boat manufacturers.

Chasing the Perfect Shot

Commercial Photographer Shawn Talbot in China

My burgeoning business as a commercial photographer had finally taken off. I soon met Rob Woodhead, CEO of Majestinction, who commissioned me to create a collection of landscape images to be sold as 60”x40” one-off LightJet prints in galleries. This relationship sparked a decade of exotic travel photography that took me around the world.

Hawaiin lava flow into ocean photograph

While I was traveling, David Nault, a friend and film producer, approached me with an idea for a new TV series. As the host and photographer of 1 Stop Closer, I traveled the world with David and his crew capturing lava flows in Hawaii, ice caves in Iceland, desert landscapes in the American Southwest and everything and everywhere in between.

Finding My Focus

They say that the “ABCs”—Animals, Boats, Children—are the hardest things to photograph. When I wasn’t traveling, I was still strapped to speedboats cruising at 80 km/h on Okanagan Lake or tethered to helicopters to capture families with kids and dogs in boats.

After feeling like I had aged 20 years in 10 years, it was time for one more change.

Wendy Nalewajek of Sparkling Hill Resort hired me to capture images of the new resort near Vernon in 2012. Owned by the Swarovski family, this five-diamond hotel was the start of my love for architecture and hospitality photography.

Luxurious Sparkling Hill Resort hospitality photography by Shawn Talbot

As a commercial photographer who specializes in capturing stylized hospitality images of resorts, restaurants and hotels, my career continues to take me all over the world. I’ve led multiple photoshoots in New York, directed a team of 30 artists and technicians to create hotel and resort photographs for a collection of different clients, and spent years using my film industry lighting skills for all types of hospitality clients. I’m currently spending the winter in the Caribbean shooting for a major international resort brand. It’s been a long road but I feel like I’m living my best life and couldn’t be happier.

Hotel and lifestyle photographer in New York

More photographers enter the industry every day. When I came back to Kelowna in the early 2000s, being known only as a ‘commercial’ photographer, I was one of the only photographers in the valley with a niche (“what do you mean you don’t shoot weddings or families?!”). Today, Kelowna is home to food photographers, real estate photographers and beer product photographers, and we’re all better for it.

As I reflect on the past 25 years, I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and thankful for everyone I’ve met and worked with along the way.

I can’t wait to see what the next 25 years have in store for me as an architecture and hospitality photographer.