When you first arrive at the Camus home, you are greeted by a variety of animals, dogs, geese, etc. and Thomas lumbers out of his tree-house office. Your first impression of Thomas Camus is that he is a tower of a man. He stands well over six foot tall, (6’8” to be precise), but has a smile that quickly assures you he is no threat.
He speaks quickly, with a heavy French accent, is animated when he speaks, and laughs often. He is a person who will make you smile.
His wife Hannah arrives next with their son Lars, who is three, giving a shy smile himself.
It is apparent this family is relaxed and completely at ease in the woods surrounding them that offers one of the most spectacular views of the Hudson Bay Mountain glacier in the valley.
Getting to this serene place however, took a move across the ocean, stress over immigration, and leaving loved ones behind.
Thomas and Hannah immigrated to Smithers eight years ago, after doing research on spots to live in Canada, and with some encouragement from friends already living in the Bulkley Valley.
Thomas secured a job welding with Bulkley Electric, and they were Smithers bound.
They left behind Lyon, France where they were living, for a life they felt had more opportunities.
“Lyon really scared me,” Thomas reflected.
It was a tough place to live, he said, even though he felt he was big enough to fend others off, he worried about Hannah, who is smaller and slim of build.It was not the life they wanted to be living.
“Arriving in Smithers was incredible, we felt like we entered a movie set, or a National Geographic picture, it was so beautiful,” he said.
Thomas got to work welding for his three-year obligation through immigration. While he spent time at the Brucejack mine, for BV Electric, he discovered the pristine areas teaming with wildlife and beauty that would convince both Thomas and Hannah (who was having discovery adventures of her own) Smithers was going to be their forever home.
After Thomas’s three years were completed at BV Electric, they were allowed to apply for permanent resident status. Following a whole lot of paperwork and confusion, which led to hiring an immigration lawyer to deal with the many layers of bureaucracy, they held the precious papers in hand, and have never looked back.
They want to go back to visit Hannah’s family in the Netherlands, but both say assuredly they are home here in the Bulkley Valley.
What was hidden about Thomas during his years of welding was his true calling, and gift, his eye for seeing through a unique lens, the life around him. He has the eye that can shoot pictures that transport you to places seen on the Nature channel, or give you a glimpse into a private and wild world of the animals that we see, but don’t quite see like Thomas can.
Camus Photography was born. Hannah looks after the business end and tries to keep Thomas on track, which she says with a laugh can be challenging.
Thomas explores the area taking incredible shots of everything and does contract photography for events and the like, but gravitates back to his favourite subject, wildlife.
Brides have found Camus to be an amazing wedding photographer and his 2023 calendar is already booked full for the wedding season to come.
Animal lovers have also found Thomas’s talent for taking beautiful candid and action shots of their beloved pets.
His gift has grown from still photos to drone photography and video as well.
His videos have been a hit on social media, which seems to both baffle and amuse Thomas.
“I’m not too sure about all that social media stuff, but people seem to like them,” he said.
Thomas and Hannah also make a point to give back to the community they love. They will often give to an auction or organizations raising money for all kinds of things around the area. They have donated to all kinds of projects to help them out and give them quality photographs and videos to use, such as the skate park expansion project, to name just one.
“It’s what we want to do to say thank you back to this community and people. We want to show our appreciation to everyone who has helped and supported us and our dreams to make them come true,” Thomas said.
“We are blessed to be here and never forget it,” they say in unison.
“We really believe giving back is important, and we will continue to support our communities, in whatever ways we can,” Thomas said.
Another attribute Thomas has is persevering in what he is taking pictures of. Sometimes the back stories to pictures tell you a whole story about the photographer and all it took to get the shot.
There is a well-known shot Camus took at night of Smithers, with the lights glittering like diamonds and the ski hill draped over the mountain in the background. It is one of his personal favourites and took him two full years going back to the same spot to get “the perfect shot.” The final result is quite surreal looking.
Other photos Thomas has moved further afield to catch, such as the Babine River, the Hazeltons and further, finding many varieties of wildlife and geography to stalk and shoot.
Again, when he finds a subject, he is relentless in getting the perfect picture, and his final product bears this out. He is gaining worldwide notoriety for just this reason.
Now past the last two COVID years, during which wedding seasons were cancelled, and the world shut down, Camus is coming on strong in the area and on a bigger stage, and enjoying every minute.
“You have to change with the times, adapt a bit, learn new technologies, but I can do that because we have the best raw footage of scenery and everything to practice on right here,” Thomas said.
“We will keep growing, diversifying, and giving, right here, because we are living our dream,” they said.