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Specializing in commercial and lifestyle photography

©2023 Graham McKerrell Photography

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Note: This blog post is a replication of the same article and accompanying photos that were published in SBC Skier Volume 18, Issue 2 that came out in January 2020. There is something special about getting published.  I'm not sure exactly what it is but, certainly, seeing my images in print has a lot to do with it.  Of course, being chosen by a photo editor who literally sees thousands of images a year is a big plus too and, of course, exposure to a new audience is always a bonus.  

In this case however, having an article published about me AND having it written by my best friend; that's priceless!  Hits me in the feels every time I read it. A special thanks goes out to Andrew Bradley of SBC Skier for the opportunity and of course to my friend, Budd Brazier for writing such an awesome piece. Here's to many more adventures together.

Graham McKerrell

A tale of patience and perseverance

words by Budd Brazier

photos by Graham McKerrell

Lori McKerrell Photo

Louis Panning-Osendarp

Graham is an experienced and skilled skier. He started out on cross country skis when he was just two years old, motoring around the Cambrian Shield and the dense Manitoba forest with his grandparent’s. School lessons introduced Graham to alpine skiing at the now defunct Shaganappi Ski Hill. Awarded a free season pass, he would end up spending his evenings on that single t-bar, repeating lines on the bumps over and over until he had them perfected. His dedication soon led to racing on the Sunshine Village Ski Team team, which led to coaching and eventually teaching. His passion for skiing consumed him.

With seemingly limitless energy and excitement, Graham would lead me to all his favorite runs and secret hits. I was fairly new to skiing and so I benefited hugely from his background as a ski instructor, not to mention his patience. This was what I wanted, what I needed…plus I didn’t need to pay for lessons. That first season was a blast but man was it tough – it was a steep learning curve. This was the early stages of a friendship that would develop and set us up for many years of adventures and good times.

With seemingly  LIMITLESS ENERGY and

EXCITEMENT, Graham would lead me to

all his favourite runs and secret hits 

Mt. Galatea

During the 90’s, ski movies were becoming a huge hit and Calgary was home base for an edgy, upstart sports production company called Real Action Pictures (RAP Films). Graham, never really being satisfied working the ‘9 to 5’, and wanting to follow his dreams of being in the mountains full time, landed a sweet job with RAP as their director of marketing and occasional producer. Now he was sourcing out world class ski locations, securing pro talent…not us hacks, and landing sponsors to invest in the movie business. It was exciting, Graham was in his element.

When he wasn’t away working, we would catch up on the drives out to the mountains and he would go on and on about how exciting the last film shoot was. He would share details on the logistics of making movies in the harsh mountain environment. About how trying but rewarding it was to get gear to the right spot to set up for that exact location, that exact moment where environment, light and action all come together to make the magic happen. However, as great as all this sounded, I sensed there was still something missing with his work. Graham wasn’t satisfied. Could it be the internal struggles within the job that we all experience from time to time? Was the job getting stale after a couple of years? I didn’t have an answer for him then, but I do now…he wasn’t the one shooting the talent. He wanted to make the magic.

Castle Mountain

Eli Panning-Osendarp

Over the course of a few years, our lives had changed and now there was a perceived emphasis on getting started on the next phase of our life. The work at RAP dried up and we weren’t kids any longer. Careers needed to be developed, houses needed to be purchased and families were about to be started. Graham wanted all of this, like most everyone else in our circle of friends, but he still had the desire to be working or living in and around the mountain culture - that wouldn’t go away. During these years, Graham would take jobs that ranged from working in the family construction business to managing recreation facilities. As challenging as any new job was, I could see this path was slowly eroding Graham’s soul. We had become weekend warriors and the dream was fading.

He wanted to

make the

MAGIC happen 

Ryan Spence, Chickadee Valley

Always on an upward path, Graham would tackle every new job with the same passion and energy that he did with everything in his life, but it wouldn’t take long for him to grow bored or dissatisfied with it and he was off to a new challenge. This was when Graham started to pick up the camera again and purchased his first digital SLR, a Nikon D90 and we went back to those days of blasting around the mountain and taking a few action shots. He would call up and say “Dude, it’s going to be blue bird at the Lake, I’m bringing my camera, wear something bright!” The only problem was…I didn’t own bright coloured gear but I was always up for another day in the mountains.

This was the start of a career being born. An emergence, if you will. Those days of hauling around a backpack full of gear while skiing, scoping out locations and getting his buddies to slash a turn, drop a cliff or what have you, were the foundation to a future career in photography. The photos began to stack up, good ones of course. I loved those days – we were getting photos and documenting our activities, it was great.

Sunburst Peak, Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park

Weekend ski photography was now turning into cityscapes on a day off, hiking, climbing, random family shots and friends hanging out at parties or in the lodge. He just wanted to shoot all the time. Additional photo gear was being purchased; lenses, lights, cameras and bags, you name it. He was, quite literally, invested.

During these years I was fortunate enough to be working in an industry where I needed to renew and build up our photo library for our marketing materials. A variety of action shots were required. Clean, crisp and inspiring was what we were looking for. Of course, the first person that came to mind was Graham. I knew he could shoot what we were looking for and I was happy to help out a friend. Graham lands his first commercial gig. Check. Not only did he lay out the complete shot list, he provided suggestions that would enhance our overall marketing message, and created a schedule for the models. I was impressed. He attacked his first assignment with a level of excitement, professionalism and confidence. He led the day; the first paying gig was a wrap and my team was extremely pleased with the final product. It was a huge success! We had a new look that captured the attention of our audience…our staff and customers loved it.

Ryan Spence, Chick-a-boom Traverse

After this initial photo shoot, Graham continued with his current day job, but started to solicit bits of photography business here and there. Weddings on the weekend, family portraits for Christmas cards or assisting other photographers with their shoots. The experience and energy were building and Graham would be shooting just about anything to build his portfolio. Over the course of a few years, working the camera was starting to pay off.

As time passed, we would have conversations about the next opportunity and depending on what the work was, Graham started to be more concerned on what he wanted to shoot. He had a desire to limit the style of work he was shooting - he wanted to carve out a niche around mountain sport and adventure photography. When this decision was made, Graham embraced his passion even further and immersed himself in the goal of becoming a full-time commercial adventure photographer.

The Leap - this was it, the time had come; another ‘day’ job was in Grahams’ cross hairs. Time to invest in himself permanently and give up working for someone else. Doubts would rage through his mind; can I make a living from this and support my family? His daughter hadn’t graduated from high school yet and university still needed to be paid for. Who will hire me? Am I good enough to do this professionally? The self-doubt about being a self-employed entrepreneur crossed his mind all of the time. Reassurance from family and close friends gave him the courage to chase his dream.

Reassurance from


gave him the courage

to chase his dream

By and far, Graham’s biggest supporter through this transition was his wife Lori. “She is my rock” he says, “the cornerstone of what will become a successful photography business” and her support for him throughout the years has never wavered. Lori knew Graham was never quite satisfied with the status quo and when the time came to being a full-time photographer, she was at his side the whole way. Graham has had so many years of wanting this; the time had finally arrived. He has worked tirelessly on his craft, building a portfolio, creating and building relationships with businesses and athletes, there was a glimmer of hope that now was the time to fully commit. No more distractions. No more 9-5. All in!

Jennie, Cindy and Stephanie, Surprise Pass

Troy Witwicki

To many years of

success my friend,

you are clearly

where you belong

I can’t say this enough, I have greatly admired the drive and dedication Graham has demonstrated for improving his work and pounding the pavement to get his name out in the industry to secure clients and athletes alike. Being an athlete himself, with years of active participation in numerous mountain sports, helps him relate to his subjects which is clearly reflected in his photographic style. I know Graham will find the elusive photography success because he has the skills and passion to do so. He is a life-long learner and is not afraid of failure knowing it only makes him better at his craft. For Graham, it’s about new opportunities, acquiring new experiences and improving. He is building his business, I can see it clearly - it’s coming together and it takes me back to our passionate conversations back in the day about working and soaking up being in the mountains. Graham has now come full circle; his true aspirations and dreams are now a reality with Graham McKerrell Photography. To many years of success my friend, you are clearly where you belong.

Like what you see?

Author, Budd Brazier, enjoying some camera time wearing 'something bright'.  Budd and I continue to be close friends and pursue our mountain activities together when conditions and busy schedules allow.  When he's not out in the mountains, he can be found working in his successful landscaping business or spending quality time with his family and his pup Hurley.

I can't thank you enough for writing this article my friend.  It means more to me than you'll ever know.  It was an excellent recollection of our past together and your observations of my struggles and successes.  I'll never forget this.  Thank you!

Budd Brazier

Snowboarder with Sunflare

Graham McKerrell

Untitled photo

Hey!  Thanks for visiting my blog!  I am a commercial photographer with a deep desire to be in the mountains.  In fact, it's sometimes difficult for me to slow down to take photos as I often get caught up in the moment of the sports and lifestyle that I should be shooting.  Aside from my passion for photography, I enjoy backcountry and alpine skiing, both road and mountain biking and hiking with my pup, Denali. If you represent a business and want to do some work together or you're an athlete with some notable talent, feel free to connect with me.  Let's make some magic!

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