Continuing with the inspiring growth of women behind the lens, we would like to introduce Michelle Pichert in this weeks featured Portfolio Series. Michelle is a new mom living and shooting around the beaches and surrounding area of where her family resides in East Sooke on Vancouver Island. Check out her gallery and interview below.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Michelle Pichert. I grew up in Fort McMurray, Alberta, and 16 years ago, I made a move to Vancouver Island and fell in love with this coastline. After surfing for the first time on the South Island, and while I was terrible at it, I was hooked, and my ocean obsession began.
I studied professional photography at Western Academy and trained to be an Ashtanga yoga instructor in Mysore, India. As I started teaching yoga in other countries, I was able to combine surfing and photography as I travelled, learning so much about both as I went.
I currently live in East Sooke with my partner and our new little boy, Chase.
First off congrats on your latest addition to the family! How has the change over to motherhood been going?
Thank-you! It is a significant change and has been going great; we are loving parenthood. Our Chase is an excellent baby, so I feel like we got fortunate and it has made for a smooth transition to motherhood. I love being a mom so far and it has brought so much joy…talk to me in 15 years when high school is in full swing 😉
When did you start pursuing surf photography?
I was interested in surf photography from day one. I started playing around with a little waterproof camera that I would tuck into my hood when I was surfing. I was drawn to the idea of capturing images of my friends and the awe-inspiring scenery of the West Coast surf. Growing up in Alberta away from the ocean, everything seemed surreal at our local surf spots. After I graduated from photography school in 2012, I started shooting surf from the beach, and a few years ago, I finally started swimming a housing, which I love! It has been an enjoyable endeavour to capture images of waves and surfers and also humbling to feel the forces of the ocean in a new way.
With the growth of surfing on the South Island, are you starting to see more ladies in the water?
Yes, definitely! There has been a significant shift from when I first started surfing the South Island. In those days, there would only ever be a few ladies out there, if any. Now, I feel like there has been an incredible influx of female surfers around our local breaks. I feel like surfing throughout winter is not for the faint-hearted, so it’s fantastic to see so many tough ladies out there enjoying the elements.
With the growth of surfing, there has been a large bump of photographers around the industry, what do you feel makes your work different, or stand out from the crowd?
I try to shoot imagery that means something to me or that will either evoke a pleasant memory in the viewer of places surfed and travelled or inspire them to get out there and explore the ocean. I feel lucky to be in the areas I am shooting and feel my work shows that sense of appreciation and awe. I shoot from the heart and hope it translates in my images.
Outside of the surf and lifestyle, do you have other subject matter you like to shoot?
In the past few years, I’ve made my living shooting a mix of subject matter such as weddings, commercial & fashion. I have recently become more interested in shooting photojournalistic style family portraits-probably because as a new parent. I’ve already seen how quickly time flies and the importance to capture those precious moments. That being said, I would never turn down a being a shooter on the next SBC trip to Indo!
Who are your top three favourite photographers that inspire you?
George Karbus- I love the way his work captures a range of things from the elegance of wildlife, the power and strength of the surf to the majestic beauty of his local Irish landscapes.
Mickey Smith- Dark Side of the Lens, if you haven’t seen it, it is a must! I love Mickey’s determination to pursue his passion and his toughness to shoot in VERY gnarly conditions. Such an inspiring shooter.
Jeremy Koreski – I have followed Jeremy’s work for years and am always amazed at his ability to find a beautiful and unique perspective on anything from surf to landscapes to fish.
I know you only said three, but I have one more…last but not least, Dean Azim! Maybe I am biased because he is my partner, but he always inspires me by the cleanness and beauty of his work.
What type of camera gear do you regularly pack to a shoot?
I shoot a 5D Mark II, and for lenses, I bring my 16-35, 24-70, 70-200 and a 50. I use an Aquatech water housing and DaFin fins for water shooting.
What interests do you have outside of photography?
Surfing, travel, yoga, cooking and swimming in any water bigger than a puddle.
Tell us one thing people don’t know about you?
Once I swam with blue whales in Sri Lanka.
Any family summer trips in the near future?
We are sticking to Vancouver Island this summer. We love it here during the summertime and want to take our little guy out for some local adventures in our favourite places. We were in Bamfield a few weeks ago and are going to head up for some camping in Port Renfrew & Gold River over the next month.
Thanks for the interview, any shout outs?
Thanks for thinking of me for this, it has been such a nice little interlude in between baby playtime and diapers. I am honoured to be a part of SBC surf and love what you are doing with the magazine and online content. And congratulations to you on the new addition to your family!