On Happiness: Photographically, and Otherwise

Today I was talking to a student, and they asked me what the most important thing I have learned in life is.

That’s a big question, isn’t it?  During my years I have experienced epic success and crushing failure (not in that order, thankfully).  I have been a cook, a musician, a private investigator, a paramedic, an EMS educator, a web designer, a writer, a photographer, a son, a brother, a father, and a husband.  I have been ill, and I have recovered.  I have had experiences that literally run the gamut from delivering babies to holding the hands of those who were passing from this world.  My life, even the worst parts, has been amazing.

Speaking only for myself:  I think this quote sums up my thoughts on this question perfectly:

“Happiness is a choice, not a result.  Nothing will make you happy until you chose to be happy.  No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy.  Your happiness will not come to you.  It can only come from you.”

– Ralph Marston

My work has gifted me the opportunity to speak to tens of thousands of strangers over the years, and the ones who were truly at peace with their lives all had one thing in common: they had learned to take ownership over how they react to things, rather than letting those things dictate how they feel.  When I was younger this seemed mystical to me…. foreign…. impossible even.  Honestly, it seemed like bullshit to my younger self.  But hey, wisdom comes with age if we let it, right?

Epictetus said:

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it.”

This is easier said than done of course, especially in this era of political strife, of a pandemic entering its second year, etc.  But, it is 100% true.  

My student and I had a good chat about where our happiness comes from.  It was a great reflection, and I think we are both better for the conversation.

…and, because I had time on this rainy Sunday afternoon, I thought I would share this with you all as well.

Have a great day everybody.



40 Days | Catharsis

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

– Ferris Beuller

I haven’t posted online in 40 days, by far the longest stretch I have ever gone without writing.  It would be an understatement to say that the last few months have been a little surreal, with life’s rollercoaster of highs and lows moving at a breakneck pace.  All of this necessitated taking a break from my creative work and from this community of people that I love so much.

But here we are now, just 5 days away from Christmas, with so much to catch up on:  Meaningful stories from a small documentary project that I worked on with Fujifilm, my thoughts (and a new article) about working with a pre-production copy of the Fujifilm X-Pro3, a new interview that was recently published on The Phoblographer website and, sadly, a few thoughts on the recent passing of my father.

Let’s get started, shall we?



In early October Fujifilm and Muse Storytelling launched Create Forever, a new series that focused on the reasons behind why we create art.  It wasn’t a series about shutter speeds or apertures.  There was to be no discussion about lens choices or off camera lighting.  No, this was to be something different… Create Forever is a celebration of the humanity behind what we all do.

My journey with PTSD, and how photography helped save me, was one of the mini documentaries that was released as the project rolled out (when it first launched I wrote about it HERE).  This video was actually a bit of a capstone for me, coming on the heels of more than a year of talking about my journey in interviews, on podcasts, and on stages all over Vancouver.  

Immediately after the video came out people reached out to thank me for telling my story, to tell me about their own journey, and occasionally to ask for help.  I am talking about hundreds of emails and messages within days of the release.  Every one of these conversations has meant so much to me, but this one was particularly special (I share it here with the author’s permission):

“I worked in law enforcement, but had to take an early medical retirement due to chronic anxiety.  I lost my wife to divorce and my closest friend to illness.  For the last year I have thought about ending it all, but today I went out and took photos instead.  Thank you.”

I stared at the screen for a long time after I received that.  It is one thing to save lives and care for people as a paramedic, or to tell your story on the hopes of inspiring others, but what do you say when you receive something like that?

I am so proud to have been a small part of this project, and to work with my friends at Fujifilm and Muse Storytelling.  This campaign has touched lives.  If you haven’t seen my video yet, or the street photography tips video that accompanies it, you can see them here:

Create Forever with Ian MacDonald
Create Forever Tutorial – Street Photography



In September I spent a few weeks with a pre-production copy of the new Fujifilm X-Pro3.  This was the fourth or fifth time Fujifilm has asked me to work with them on a product launch, and it is always an exciting process.  

My chaotic fall meant that I didn’t post anything when the X-Pro3 initially launched.  A lot has already been written about this wonderful new camera since then, so I will just echo the thoughts of my friends that also tested it:  The camera is amazing, featuring cutting edge technology in an elegantly simple design. 

Here is an article on the Fujifilm website where I talk about my initial thoughts on the camera:

The Best of Both Worlds – The New Fujifilm X-Pro3



In November I had the pleasure of speaking with the fine folks over at The Phoblographer website, who wrote a series about the Create Forever project. You can read the interview I did with them here:

Photography helped Ian MacDonald overcome the darkness of PTSD



On November 21st we lost my father to a massive heart attack.  Dad was an amazing man:  the head of our family and a leader in our community.  His loss will be felt for a long time to come, but his legacy will last much, much longer. 

Twenty years as a paramedic taught me that life is uncertain at the best of times.  It taught me that we need to live the best life that we can now, because we don’t know how many tomorrows we have left.  Dad was starting his 80th year when he passed, but he somehow managed to pack hundreds of years of accomplishments into his time here on Earth.  His was a life to be celebrated.

He taught me how to be a man / father / husband.  He supported my love of creating art, and served as a moral compass when I needed it.  I have a lot to unpack before I can write about him properly, but one day I hope to tell you all about the man that he was.



It feels good to write again.  I feel rusty, but it feels good.  It feels cathartic.  Next week I will publish my year in review as always, but for now I just want to say thank you to everybody that I interact with through this site and on social media.  Your kind words of support have meant the world to me over the last month or two.

I started this post with one of my favourite quotes from Ferris Beuller:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Last month life dictated that I stop for a little while.  Now, I encourage all of you to do the same over the next couple of weeks.  Spend time with your family, friends and loved ones.  Celebrate life, do what you love, and remember those who are no longer with us.

I wish you all the very best over the holiday season.



On collaboration, community and being true to yourself as an artist…

Hey everyone,

Just a quick post to say that I am the guest on this week’s Hit The Streets podcast with my good friend and fellow Official Fuji X Photographer Valerie Jardin. This is the third time Valerie and I have spoken on her show and this week we talk about three of our favourite things: Collaboration, community, and being true to yourself as an artist.

The episode and podcast can be found on iTunes, but here is a direct link to it on Valerie’s website:


I hope you enjoy the themes we discussed this week!



p.s. There are very few spaces left now for my June 2-4 Vancouver Street Photography Workshop, and only one or two spaces left for my July 21-23 Toronto Street Photography Workshop. If you are interested, more information can be found via the links in the sidebar. I’d love to work with you in these exciting cities!