Born and raised in Pasadena, Newfoundland and Labrador (a town of roughly 3,000), Tom Cochrane has spent the last decade plying his trade as a photographer along the rugged coastlines of Canada’s most eastern province. Within those ten years, he’s photographed everything from mountain top weddings to music videos. Curious about what it’s like to be a photographer based in one of North America’s most untouched regions, we decided to ask Tom a few questions.
What’s your favorite part about being based in Newfoundland?
Oh boy — there’s no way to choose just one thing. Above all else, it just feels like home. No matter where I go in Newfoundland, I feel welcomed, and that’s a wonderful feeling. On top of that, I love how easy it is to be close to the ocean or tucked away in a forest. Within minutes, I can find somewhere that’s completely isolated, quiet, and serene. And the people! The people in this province are incredible. Open, warm, and full of character.
Has taking pictures always interested you? How long have you been practicing photography?
I had done a project in a junior high art class with my dad’s old Pentax K1000 SLR that I really enjoyed, but didn’t get a chance to dig much deeper until my parents bought me a little point-and-shoot camera about 10 or 12 years ago after graduating high school. Shortly after that, I bought my first DSLR — a Pentax K100D Super. My first drone was purchased in mid-2016.
What’s the best thing about having a drone? How has it changed your approach to photography?
I think a lot more about the ways that elements of the landscape interact with each other. For example, one of my favorite sights is a coastline — where ocean meets land. I’m fascinated by the lines and patterns coastlines create that can only be seen from above. There are so many shapes and patterns in the landscape that you don’t get a chance to see unless you can look down from the sky.
What’s your main goal with drone photography — or photography in general — both personally and as a showcase of Newfoundland?
When I’m taking a photo (with any sort of camera), I’m thinking about what kind of story it can tell. Sometimes it illustrates what I was doing or feeling when I created the image, but often it’s more than that.
Lately, I’ve been using my drone to photograph a series of fishing stages across Newfoundland — small wooden sheds used for fishing. Every fishing stage is different, and each one says something different about the person or family that built it — the shape of the wharf, which coastline it’s on, and so on. Every time I make one of those images, I get to tell a bit of the story of the people who own the stage. That feels really good.
On top of that, I just love showing off the amazing places in this province. They mean so much to me, and I want other people to experience what I feel.
Is there something special about photographing Newfoundland during the winter months?
Definitely — it’s often calm, quiet, and peaceful. I think those feelings find their way into my images. Plus, colors are so different in the wintertime. Landscapes become almost monochromatic — just whites, blacks, blues, and greens. So anytime you find other colors, it’s a nice surprise.
What are your favorite places in Newfoundland for photography?
Bottle Cove, it’s a small cove on the west coast of Newfoundland that’s dreamy, quiet, and makes you feel like you’re on the edge of the world. Plus, it has some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen.
Trout River is a small fishing community in Gros Morne National Park, and has some of the best views around. Part of the town is built along a cove with a huge sandy beach. There are stunning cliffs on both sides of the beach. It’s another amazing spot for sunsets, too.
Twillingate is a beautiful town on the coast in central Newfoundland. The town is actually two islands, connected by a small bridge. The coastline is more rugged here than in places like Trout River or Bottle Cove, with higher cliffs and big waves. If you’re there in spring or early summer, you can see hundreds of icebergs off the coast as far as your eye can see. I’ve only been there a handful of times, but every time I go, I find somewhere new and fun to explore.
There are so many more, too. You’ll just have to come to Newfoundland to find them!
Any tips for people traveling to Newfoundland so that they can make the most of their trip?
It can get very cold and very snowy in the winter! It’s also important to note that the weather can be unpredictable in any season, so be prepared.
It’s also an island, so the only way to get here is by ferry or airplane, and travel delays in the winter are very, very frequent. Give yourself as much time as possible so that your trip doesn’t get cut short because of delays.
No matter what season you’re planning to visit in, try to book in advance as much as possible. Rental cars, hotel rooms, campsites, ferry crossings — everything. You don’t want to show up in a remote community and realize you can’t find anywhere to stay or you can’t access a vehicle to get around.
Finally, don’t be afraid to visit some places that are off the beaten path. Find somewhere new and introduce yourself to the locals — I’m sure you’ll find some incredible stories to bring home with you.
Finally, any Newfoundland sayings you live by?
One of my favorite Newfoundland sayings is “Come on we goes!” which basically means “come on, let’s go.” But I love the playful feel of it. It makes me feel like going on adventures.
Come on we goes!