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I'm very excited to introduce you to the subject of today's article, someone whose work I highly admire – photographer and creative director Alen Palander. He's mostly known for his stunning landscape photography, alternately capturing the elegance of man-made structures in densely urban cities and the beauty of more remote settings in the natural landscape. Alen's photos transport you to the location, pull you into the moment, and evoke strong emotion... and that's not an exaggeration! Case in point – look at this photo of him looking down from the top of a tall building and tell me honestly that your heart didn't just drop down into your stomach! Alen is talented, fascinating, and so easy to talk to – I hope you are as excited to learn more about Alen as I am to share his story with you.
When you look at Alen's arresting images, it's difficult to believe that photography wasn't always his intended vocation. He completed his undergrad studies in urban planning at the University of Waterloo before taking a job for the city of Toronto as an urban designer. He continued his education by doing his masters in architecture at the University of Toronto. Throughout this time, Alen dabbled in photography as a hobby, and with no formal training he practiced and learned as much as he could on his own, encountering his fair share of struggles and learning curves along the way. His hard work paid off, as his skills increased quickly to a level that caught the attention of brands who wanted to work with him and he found himself looking back at his previous year having taken over 60 flights, all for his photography work. He realized that his hobby had become his livelihood.
Alen may not have continued on the path to become an architect, but it's evident from the subject matter of so many of his photos that he didn't entirely leave that past behind. He takes the most incredible pictures of cityscapes and skyscrapers from breathtaking heights, and he captures angles that make you look at buildings differently after viewing them through his lens (his 'look up' shots are particularly illustrative of this). He'll go to great lengths to get the shot and his results make it clear that architecture and his urban planning beginnings are still rooted deep within him. So when I asked him who he's inspired by, I'm not surprised that he listed off the names of architects over other photographers – Antoni Gaudí, Zaha Hadid – because where a photographer captures a picture of an existing object, architects must create this object out of nothing, first creating the picture in their mind.
Travel is another huge source of inspiration for Alen's photography. One of his favourite places to visit and explore is the Middle East because there's so much history there and thousands of years of culture; because it's where civilization began. Alen recently spent some time in Jordan working with Jordan Tourism and he's never felt so alive, met people so nice, or tasted food so good. His trips to Iceland and Australia were also incredible experiences and among his favourite places to visit. His photos will give you the travel bug and severe wanderlust! Even Alen gets so caught up with photographing his surroundings that has to remind himself to stop what he's doing, get out from behind the lens, put the camera down for 20 minutes and just enjoy.
Alen loves photographing Toronto when he's home between trips. I thought it would be fun if he took us on a virtual Photography Walk around the city so we can find out where his favourite places to take pictures are. Without any hesitation, Alen quickly listed off his most photographable locations:
The first stop is to always start by the lake – there's a park bench you can hang out on as soon as you cross over to Billy Bishop Airport on the island where you can look back at the Toronto skyline.
Then head back onto mainland, walk through historic Fort York, head north on Bathurst Street to the Queen West neighbourhood and spend some time there.
The next destination is Kensington Market – wander around before heading north again to College Street via University of Toronto's St. George campus.
The ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) is the next must-see destination as is the general Yorkville area its located in.
Finally, head back south to the Financial District and look up at the skyscrapers.
I'm looking forward to spending an afternoon visiting all of these locations! I'm hoping my perspective of them changes after seeing them through a photographer's eyes.
Expect to see a lot more from Alen, and not just more photos – he's going to start hosting one-on-one workshops to teach photography and he'll be re-launching his online shop to sell prints of his photos.
Want more? Here's what #WeWantToKnow about Alen:
I can't start my morning without...a solid breakfast.
I have a weakness for...Sriracha.
Most people don't know that...I'm originally from Iraq.
Currently reading... The 4 Hour Work Week.
I want...to take photos of Earth from space.
Thank you, Alen, for participating in #WeWantToKnow!