When you first arrive at the Camus house, you are greeted by a variety of animals, dogs, geese, etc. and Thomas lumbers out of his office in the tree house. Your first impression of Thomas Camus is that he is a tower of man. He’s well over six feet tall (6’8″ to be precise), but has a smile that quickly assures you he’s no threat.
He speaks quickly, with a strong French accent, is animated when he speaks and often laughs. He is a person who will make you smile.
His wife Hannah then arrives with their son Lars, who is three, smiling shyly himself.
It’s obvious that this family is relaxed and completely at home in the woods around them, which offer one of the most spectacular mountain glacier views of Hudson’s Bay in the Valley.
However, getting to this serene place meant crossing the ocean, stressing over immigration and leaving loved ones behind.
Thomas and Hannah immigrated to Smithers eight years ago, after researching where to live in Canada and with the encouragement of friends already living in the Bulkley Valley.
Thomas got a job as a welder with Bulkley Electric, and they were bound for Smithers.
They left Lyon, France, where they lived, for a life they believed had more opportunities.
“Lyon really scared me,” said Thomas.
It was a tough place to live, he said, although he felt tall enough to push others away, he worried about Hannah, who is shorter and thinner. It was not the life they wanted to live.
“Coming to Smithers was amazing, we felt like we were walking into a film set or a National Geographic photo, it was so beautiful,” he said.
Thomas took to welding work for his three-year obligation through immigration. While spending time at the Brucejack Mine, for BV Electric, he discovered the pristine areas associated with wildlife and beauty that would convince both Thomas and Hannah (who had her own adventures of discovery) Smithers was going to be their forever home.
After Thomas’ three years at BV Electric were completed, they were allowed to apply for permanent resident status. Through much paperwork and confusion, which led to the hiring of an immigration lawyer to deal with the many layers of bureaucracy, they held the precious papers in hand and never looked back.
They want to go back to visit Hannah’s family in the Netherlands, but both are confident that they call it home here in the Bulkley Valley.
What was hidden in Thomas during his welding years was his true calling and gift, his eye for seeing through a unique lens, the life around him. He has an eye that can take photos that transport you to places seen on the Nature channel, or give you insight into a private, wild world of animals we see, but don’t quite see like Thomas the may.
Camus Photography was born. Hannah is dealing with the end of the business and trying to keep Thomas on track, which she laughs can be difficult.
Thomas explores the area taking amazing photos of everything and does some contract photography for events and the like, but returns to his favorite subject, wildlife.
Brides have found Camus to be an amazing wedding photographer and his 2023 calendar is already full for the upcoming wedding season.
Animal lovers have also found Thomas’ knack for taking beautiful, candid, action shots of their beloved pets.
His gift has expanded from stills to drone photography and video.
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 it,” he said.
Thomas and Hannah are also keen to give back to the community they love. They often donate to an auction or to organizations that raise money for all kinds of things in the area. They donated to all sorts of projects to help out and give them quality photos and videos to use, like the skate park expansion project, to name one.
“This is what we want to do to say thank you to this community and the people. We want to show our appreciation to everyone who has helped and supported us and our dreams to achieve them,” said Thomas.
“We are blessed to be here and never to forget it,” they say in unison.
“We truly believe in giving back and we will continue to support our communities, in any way we can,” Thomas said.
Another attribute of Thomas is persistence in what he shoots. Sometimes back to pictures stories tell you a whole story about the photographer and all it took to take the picture.
There’s a well-known shot that Camus took at night from Smithers, with the lights twinkling like diamonds and the ski hill draped over the mountain in the background. It’s one of his personal favorites and it took him two full years to return to the same spot to get “the perfect shot”. The end result is quite surreal.
Other photos Thomas traveled further afield to catch, such as the Babine River, the Hazeltons and further afield, finding many varieties of wildlife and geography to track and shoot.
Again, when he finds a subject, he is relentless in getting the perfect shot, and his end product is proof of that. He gains worldwide notoriety for this reason.
Now, after the past two COVID years, in which wedding seasons have been canceled and the world shut down, Camus is coming strong to the region and to a bigger stage, and enjoying every minute.
“You have to change over time, adapt a bit, learn new technology, but I can do that because we have the best raw set footage and everything to practice here,” Thomas said.
“We will continue to grow, diversify and give, right here, because we are living our dream,” they said.