Can a colour be magic? I certainly thought so as I gazed up in the sky.
Different kinds of tracks mean different kinds of adventure. The joy of the up is a slope that provides great cardio, and a slow pace, allowing one to notice details. The joy of the down is experiencing the sweet transport of gravity, sliding along on top of soft snow.
Two of the things I tend to look for when I’m considering what to photograph, are unique shapes and repetition. The snow-covered trees pointing to the sky in this scene were what caught my eye as I toured behind the warming hut on Hudson Bay Mountain. Nature was telling me to look up.
As much as I enjoy finding the beauty in the littlest of things on the slopes I ski on, sometimes the view across the Bulkley Valley absolutely stops me in my tracks.
On this particular day early in December it was 2:30 in the afternoon and the sun was about an an hour and a half away from setting. The low angle of the sun provided a nice backlight to the ridge of mountains where the wind was blowing the clouds off its peaks. The shade of the mountains provided a nice contrast to the tiny sliver of light that snaked its way along the ridgeline.
Views like this, the grandest of vistas, make me feel so tiny. The sense of scale is immense and makes me appreciate every moment that I get to spend in nature. The sweet transport of skis on snow takes me to places not everyone has the opportunity to get to. For that I am eternally grateful.
It’s such a cool feeling to be above the clouds.
Quite often in the Bulkley Valley we have inversions where I’ll leave town under the grey cover of cloud, only to break through into blue sky as I get closer to the ski hill. This image typifies some of the beauty that I am fortunate witness each time I go touring towards Hudson Bay Mountain.
Of the many things I love about getting up on the mountain early in the morning, two of my favourite are the glow of the sun on the snow, and the details in the snow.
I stare in amazement as the rising sun changes the colour of the snow, highlighting different details over time. There seems to be a bit of magic in the transition from the warmth of the orange/pink to the coolness of the blue/white. i also love the shapes that the snow takes when it’s really cold and clear. The hoar frost is especially pretty for it’s fragility.
That the accumulation of so many of those delicate little flakes is the ultimate foundation for the activity of ski touring l love so much will never cease to amaze me. It’s a testament to the importance of what seems to be insignificant in an of itself. The simple snowflake may be tiny, it may be delicate, but as the old saying goes, “there is strength in numbers”.
In addition to watching the snow change colour from the setting sun, another activity that always comes with a sense of awe and wonder is watching the sky change colour too. It’s almost magical to witness how the light interacts with the clouds to show off an ever-changing colour palette. It’s a peaceful way to relax. It makes me happy.
Each time the weather is clear enough for me to see the peak of Hudson Bay Mountain I am left at a loss. Somehow words don’t seem to adequately describe the varied emotions that I feel. But since these things I’m typing and you’re reading are words, I shall try.
I am continually amazed by things that are always the same and yet always different at the same time. In the winter, the mountains and snow are always mountains and snow. Yet there is never a day when they look exactly the same. Depending on the time of day and the weather, the shape of the mountain, the texture and colour of the snow, they all can change. Even the perspective can change depending on my proximity to Crater Lake. I find this absolutely fascinating.
I enjoyed working with this image after I got home to bring out the details in the wind-hammered snow. It was fairly early in the season so there wasn’t enough snow to cover all the undulations in the ground. It was just after 4 in the afternoon when I made this photograph, so the sun was approaching the horizon across the Bulkley Valley. This served to highlight the shadows above Crater Lake and just below the peak (which is the uppermost reach of Simpson’s Gulch). That the blue/white of the snow was slowing morphing into pink and purple was certainly pretty, however what struck me the most were the shadows and the S-shape that was standing out.
So when an scene like this is more about form than colour, that’s when I know it’s time to process the image in black and white. After I finished processing it, the final image spoke to me of power and grace. It remains to this day, one of my favourite images.
It was the first day of the 2014/15 season and a friend and I drove up to the ski hill and spent the afternoon touring up to Crater Lake. We were glad there was enough snow to tour up, and ski most of the way down. When the snow became impassable for skis we proceeded to walk the rest of the way back to our vehicle.
At a certain point we stopped for a rest and the whiskey jacks that were flying around us were quite glad to make their introductions to us. I couldn’t remember ever having a bird rest on my hand like this before so it was pretty thrilling to be able to offer up a little snack.
Little did I realize that the bird on my hand was just a decoy. For while I was pleasantly watching the granola being pecked at, his buddies were gorging themselves on the bag of granola that lay open on my backpack.
It’s been over three years since this little encounter and it still makes me laugh. The whole time prior to this was spent doing something I love. Yes, it was the first day of the season, and having only toured a few times before my legs were straining and my lungs were burning. But being out in nature and accomplishing a goal was tremendously satisfying. Then to have this experience with the birds was like the cherry on top of a big bowl of ice cream. A little flourish to end the day.
It’s been a growing difficulty for me to describe why I enjoy ski-touring so much. If you don’t already enjoy this activity, I can’t recommend it enough. One warning though, it’s highly addictive.
As long as I had been hiking up on the mountain, Crater Lake had been calling my name. So up until this day, all I had done was make my way up to the edge of the lake in summer. For some reason, the call was strong enough on the 18th of April, 2014 to venture up on my skis.
I don’t remember how long it took for me to get up there, but I’m sure I stopped dozens of times to catch my breath and rest my legs. This particular photo was made as I skinned up the right side of the crater. I was right around the spot where the rim of the crater stops going up and starts going over to the other side of the lake below. It was the first trip of many to this spot in the years to follow.
Being up as high as I was, and being able to look over the far side of the crater to the valley beyond brought a measure of wonder and awe that has only grown to this day. When you’re along in the mountains as I was on this day, it was a good reminder of how vast this world is.
What I didn’t realize at the time, was how important being in places like this was to me. Over the years it’s become an integral part of my work to be able to share with others both near and far, the beauty that surrounds me.
The afternoon of March 28, 2014 saw me touring up on the prairie on Hudson Bay Mountain. The way that the light fell on the drift in front of me caught my eye. There was something about the form of the snow and how the darkness of the shadow gave definition and shape to it. Looking back now the thing that strikes me is how that fascination has grown over the years. I still find snowdrifts one of the most interesting and ever-changing subjects to photograph.
My first exposure to ski-touring was in March of 2013 at the Extreme Everest Challenge on Hudson Bay Mountain (an 24-hour event where people skin up and ski down one of the runs chairside on the ski hill with the goal of doing the equivalent vertical of Mt. Everest).
During the following summer I purchased some frame bindings for my skis and eagerly anticipated the coming winter. While winter seemed to take forever to arrive, once it did, the discomfort of waiting was soon forgotten once I put on my boots and clicked into my bindings on November 21, 2013.
A couple weeks later on December 3, I went touring with up the Trail to Town at the edge of Smithers with an acquaintance I met through a local backcountry ski group. It was a humbling experience being new to the sport as we made our way up. I quickly realized my touring partner had long since learned all the tips of efficient ski-touring and left me gasping in my boots the whole time I was out.
This photo was made as we started along the trail. You can see the peaks of Hudson Bay Mountain in the distance. Little did I realize then how important ski-touring would become to me, and how many thousands of photos I would make in the coming years. Ski-touring and photography have become inextricably linked. I can not think of one without the other.
Ski-touring has proven to be a way for me to access hard-to-reach places that not everyone can get to and photograph the natural beauty that surrounds me.
It is, in a single word, fun.
As I walked around the prairie tonight on Hudson Bay Mountain, I allowed my mind to wander. Being in such a beautiful place, I could hardly help myself.
So I found myself thinking of how many times over the past couple of years that I have traversed this ground with and without the cover of snow (but mostly with). I was filled with emotion at how elemental it is for me to be able to experience this place in the ways that I do.
Whether or not people wonder why I do what I do, I simply say this: I have to ski, I have to hike, I have to wander, and perhaps most importantly, I have to capture scenes like these to share with you.
I share them with the hope that you can get out and be amazed at all this world has to offer.
This past week I was down at Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island for some photography classes. The Sunday morning before I headed up to the school for the week of training, I spent a few hours walking around the inner harbour enjoying Deuce Days. Not having enough time for all the vehicles, I spent a few hours enjoying a few of them with my camera. I set myself a challenge of only one close-up photo per vehicle, highlighting whatever artistic aspect struck my eye first.
I found that form, colour and intriguing details were the key things that caught my attention.
I added a couple new image galleries today:
- Lego Minifigure Skiers: selected images from the past couple of ski seasons where I take my two Lego minifigure skiers out with me and photograph them in different situations.
- Skiing Adventures: selected images from the past four ski seasons that help to tell the story of the places I go and things that I do.
You can also view my most recent Instagram photos as well.
This morning I watched a TEDx talk that both challenged and affirmed my way of looking at photography. It was given by a photographer (Chris Orwig) I’d not heard of prior to watching the video.
I encourage you to spend the next 19 minutes considering the encouraging perspective Chris brings to photography. He starts by saying, “The beauty that we see really is dependant on who we are.”
“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” - Edgar Allan Poe
At the expense of having the time and energy to write about some of the outdoor adventures I’ve had recently, some new experiences helping out a couple different contractors doing some construction work have kept me busy. It’s been both enriching and exhausting at the same time.
With that said, I have managed to get out a few times and enjoy nature, so I’d like to share some of the experiences now.
June 1: I spent an afternoon hiking and ski-touring up on Hudson Bay Mountain. This has been the 2nd year in a row that I’ve been able to ski in June. My goal is to go at least once each month during the calendar year. Since I went once last September, only July and August remain to conquer this year.
June 12: The deeper into the summer I went, the more I had to hike up on dirt and rock before I got to the snow so I could ski. Here’s the view I was blessed to witness partway up the trail to the mountain.
July 2: This was the first year that I attended the annual Midsummer Music Festival at the Bulkley Valley Exhibition grounds. Over three days I had so much fun listening to and photographing the different musical acts that made the trip up to Smithers.
July 8: With a few clear days on both mine and my wife’s schedule, we took our son and made a trip to Terrace and Prince Rupert. Here’s a photograph I made at Exstew Falls which is about an hour west of Terrace. If you’re interested in the directions to the falls, let me know and I can send you a map.
July 17: After a day of hiking and skiing,on the way back to my car, I photographed another hiker availing himself of a newly installed piano. A group of enthusiastic musicians and artists recently collaborated on two public pianos placed in different locations around town. One is outside at the museum/art gallery on Main Street in downtown Smithers, and the other one is here on the prairie beneath Hudson Bay Mountain.
In closing, if you’re interested in purchasing prints of any of the scenic photos here, just let me know.
If there’s anything that drives me as a photographer, it’s the desire to discover for myself and then share with others, the beauty that I find around me. Take my recent hike up the Glacier Gulch trail at the Twin Falls recreation site near my hometown of Smithers, BC.
I started out by photographing the left-most falls which show a bit of the slope that lays below the Kathlyn Glacier. There’s a palpable sense of grandeur when I consider that in a short while I can make my way through the forest path along the side of the mountain and find myself on the rocks and snow above the falls. I enjoy the challenging and varied terrain the path covers and find such peace and tranquility in the sights and sound that delight my senses.
Once I got through the treeline and started up on the scree, the challenge really began. Walking up on such loose rock is tricky at best. Carrying skis and boots on my backpack added more stress, and made me more aware of how carefully I needed to make each and every step. But as is often the case, I am motivated by the desire to achieve a goal. The goal this day was to get as high as I could so that I could make some more turns and add another day of skiing to my season.
While I didn’t get as high as I ultimately wanted, I was happy with where I ultimately ended up. It was nice to pause for a few moments to rest and soak in the view of the Bulkley Valley that now laid before me. Seeing the green and blue of the valley below provided a nice contrast to the brown and white of the snow-covered foreground in the gulch. I enjoy the peace and tranquility in moments like this very much.
But the joy didn’t end there. After taking the skins off my skis, and switching my boots over from walk- to ski-mode, I was able to make a few turns down the snow-covered rocks. Mine, and another friend’s turns were still visible from a week prior, so it was fun to make my own.
The storm clouds over the valley provided a nice visual end to this, my 97th day on skis this season.