A generous photographer braved negative temperatures to take these free holiday portraits.

A severe oil price crash in Alberta, Canada, has left much of the area devastated — and at the worst possible time too.

The Calgary skyline. David Boily/AFP/Getty Images

One of Canada's largest oil and gas hubs, Alberta, and specifically the city of Calgary, has been hit hard by major price drops this year. Tens of thousands of workers have been laid off as a result; upwards of 30,000 by some estimates.


That's not the kind of news anyone wants to hear during the holiday season.

Photographer Ben Logan, a longtime resident of the area, wanted to find a way to give back to the city he loves.

"I've always enjoyed doing what I can for others," he says. "But volunteering at certain places didn't seem like it was enough right now."

So, with the help of his girlfriend, Logan had an idea: free holiday photos for families who might otherwise not be able to afford them.

"We thought we'd pick a spot somewhere, set up the camera, put up a sign," Logan says. "Just see who would come by and pick their day up a bit with a free photo."

He says there's something lovably cheesy and timeless about holiday photos and that even a relatively simple shoot with a professional photographer is more than most people can afford these days.

Initially, Logan prepared for only a handful of families to show. But news of the event quickly spread on social media and local news. Soon, he was prepping for over 1,000 people to show up.

Logan set up shop at Olympic Plaza in downtown Calgary on an icy December Saturday, and he waited.

The city was blasted with frigid temperatures that day, as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather, needless to say, put a serious damper on attendance. But it wasn't long before the first families started showing up — below freezing temperates be damned.

The first couple to arrive was bundled head to toe in winter gear. When they stripped down, they showed off sharp dress clothes for a (very) quick photo.

All photos by Ben Logan, used with permission

Others soon followed. Families with giggling kids. Couples in love.

People from all walks of life.

Logan says one man, in particular, stood out in his memory.

The man didn't hear about the photo shoot in advance, he just happened to be passing through. He's currently homeless and had traveled nearly 1,000 miles from Vancouver to see his dying mother.

"While he was walking around, he saw us and was able to capture a Christmas photo for her before she left us," Logan says. "That was pretty touching."

Though only a handful of families were able to brave the breathtakingly low temperatures, the event was a massive success.

Logan says when news began to spread about the photo shoot, a handful of local businesses decided to chip in: They donated a significant sum of money specifically for Logan to give to the Calgary Food Bank in the name of his project.

Logan will be out there at Olympic Plaza again, before Christmas, and he hopes for warmer weather this time. And either way, he plans to do the whole thing again next year. And every year after that.

"That was the dream behind it all," he says. "I would really, really love to do that."

Hopefully, things will have turned around for the citizens of Calgary by this time next year. But if they don't, Logan says he's ready and eager to spread holiday cheer to people when they need it the most.

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Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

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I remember being baffled that so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

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It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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