Hello everyone! My name is Josh Almazar, I’m from beautiful North Vancouver, BC, Canada. I work in the outdoor apparel industry and am a hobby photographer.

In my spare time I can be found snowboarding (on piste and getting into a bit of backcountry splitboard touring), hiking, camping, going to concerts (in normal circumstances), and of course taking photos. I typically shoot while out on snowboarding or hiking trips or occasional travels.

I purchased my first DSLR camera in 2013 and shot photos occasionally, on vacations and hikes until I took an intro to photography class in 2016 to better understand my camera. I kept working on my skills and picked up an OM-D E-M5 in April 2019 and have progressed significantly in the last year and a half being able to bring my camera along on more trips and outings.

My family is from the Philippines and we immigrated to Canada when I was 5 years old. We’ve always lived within walking distance of trails and mountains, but it took until my 20s for me to pick up snowboarding, hiking, trail running, and biking and generally enjoying the outdoors. It wasn’t for a lack of interest though - I simply felt that the high startup costs, lack of knowledge, and the fact that almost none of my Filipino/POC friends did these sports meant that I didn’t belong. I didn’t have an example to follow and I never saw or knew about any other immigrant families going for hikes or learning to ski, and if they did, they were an obvious outlier.

My project for The Break Free Program aims to showcase my friends and peers being active in the outdoors while placing emphasis on people of colour. This subject is especially important to me amidst the COVID-19 restrictions and racial tensions ongoing globally. With people unable to travel, we’ve seen a surge in outdoor recreation, and I want to illustrate its ability to destress, to foster healthy lifestyles, and to unite communities. Showing people – specifically POC - doing the sports they love in the outdoors will hopefully encourage others to do the same. Ultimately my project will show the importance of natural spaces and demonstrate that POC can partake and excel in these sports while normalizing our presence in traditionally white spaces.

The Olympus gear I chose is the OM-D E-M1 Mark III body along with the M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO and 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lenses. The E-M1 Mark III body was an easy choice for me due to its portability, ergonomics, and its full feature set – specifically Pro Capture, quick auto focus, and Handheld High Res  Mode.

The 7-14mm is a great wide angle zoom lens ideal for landscape photography and I’m particularly excited to try it for action shots where I’ll be up close to the athletes. The 40-150mm is a versatile zoom lens with fantastic sharpness along the whole zoom range and it will enable me to get creative with my shots, whether getting up close to an athlete, wildlife, or isolating an interesting part of a landscape. The weather-sealing of all three pieces is crucial living on the west coast as it rains most of the year when I would usually be hesitant to go out and shoot photos.

Now that my camera gear will survive the cold wet weather, the question is if I’ll be able to tough it out.

Photo by Justin Kauffman!

My mentor is Olympus Explorer Justin Kauffman. I wanted to work with Justin as he has a clear ability to tell a story in outdoor spaces, capture the beauty of dramatic landscapes, and show people engaging and enjoying these spaces responsibly. He has a lot of great shots of people hiking, paddling, riding their bike/motorcycle, and skiing and I have a lot to learn as I don’t typically shoot with a model or subject, let alone a moving one.

His guidance in location selection, directing and placement of models, and tips on how to best capture action shots will be a huge help in completing my project. We also both share the joys of winter whether skiing or snowboarding, long hikes, and a healthy respect for the outdoors. Plus, he rides a motorcycle, so he gets a ton of cool points for that.

I’m incredibly excited to combine my love for the outdoors and photography in a meaningful project and to see what I can do with top of the line gear. I’m also excited to push my photography and creativity in new and challenging ways using new techniques and features. This project will challenge me on a personal and professional level as I’m introverted and the idea of asking people to go out for photo shoots is a little bit anxiety inducing. I’ve never planned a shoot so figuring out locations, models, gear, and schedules will certainly test my management abilities. Once I get into my working groove, I’m most excited to capture people truly enjoying spending time outdoors and encouraging and hopefully inspiring other POC to get out there to do the same.

I’m super stoked to start my project, use my new Olympus gear, and improve my photography skills. That’s it for me though, I’ll catch everyone on the next blog!