Running the Phantom

After I had written my thoughts about running I decided to give a trail race a go. It’s getting a little late in the season so there are not that many local races going on. Still I did find a race run by Mountain Madness called the Phantom Run As with everything that I do it was a last minute decision to run the Phantom and I just managed to squeeze in my registration before the deadline. The Phantom run has three separate races to choose from, 12km, 19km and 24km. Of course being a glutton for punishment I chose the 24km. All of the races looped through various trails throughout the lower Seymour conservation reserve in North Vancouver. Even though I have spent lots of time photographing on Mt. Seymour I had never actually visited the lower sections so the whole race was an adventure.

Running the Phantom

Kicking up some dirt on Bottle Top.

Image: Herman Kwong

So how did the race go? Well I seem to have a problem with pacing myself. The start was fast and furious and since I keep thinking that I’m a 30 something Olympic athlete who is in prime condition, I was pooped after about 2km. I ran well for the first few km following the pace of a guy that was obviously in better running condition than I, still I kept the pace until the inevitable happened. The guy in front of me had taken the wrong turn. Since I wasn’t paying much attention I thought nothing of the direction until the small group that was ahead of us at the start suddenly appeared running the opposite direction. It would seem that we were not the only ones who had taken the wrong trail. I looked behind me and there was a small group of runners all as confused as I. Everyone turned around and away we went back to the last junction in the trail. Getting lost put a bit a damper on the start as I now had to catch up and hopefully pass a few people on some single track. The trail itself was a mix of gravel road down to single track with lots of puddles, roots and rocks. All in all it was a tremendous amount of fun.

Somewhere on the internet I had read that moving yours arms a lot while zipping down hill improved balance, I decided to give it a shot. I must have looked quite funny running as fast as I could down steep sections with my arms flapping in the wind. But you know the technique seemed to work very well for me and it felt like I was flying. Equally funny is that my arms now hurt as much as my legs do. I wish the same could be said about running up hill, flapping arms up hill doesn’t help at all. Both down hill and up hill sections I kept a good pace I seem to have more of a problem keeping my speed on the flat sections. Still it was my first trail run and overall I was happy with my time of 2hr:28min, placing 30th out of a field of 90. I’m really looking forward to the next event.

Running the Phantom

Trying to pull a smile just before finishing the 24km Phantom Trail Run in North Vancouver,

Photo: Don Scott

For details of the route be sure to visit

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Running

Throughout most of my life I’ve tried to live a reasonably healthy lifestyle. As a kid growing up in the UK I took part in all of the usual team sports like soccer, rugby and so on. Then it was gymnastics, swimming and Judo. Other than a good excuse to hang out with friends I was never particularly great at organized sport, in part I figure it was a lack of interest. It wasn’t until I discovered rock climbing that I really felt as if I had found my calling. I am tall, slim and light footed so climbing suited me well and I was good at it. For most of my teenage years and early twenties I was obsessed with climbing. For me, climbing was not only my sport of choice but also a lifestyle. Of course as a young adult, especially a young male adult we are often consumed with nothing else other than ourselves and I was convinced that my life would revolve around climbing until the day I died.

Rattlesnake Point

Climbing in the eighties at Rattlesnake Point.The handsome devil second from the top is me.

Of course things in our lives change and mine has been no different. I married, had two children and for the most part my life as a climber changed. Luckily though my desire to spend time in the mountains and the natural world continued to be a constant and wasn’t something that I was willing to compromise on, it continues to be a very important part of my life. On my bio page I mention that nature photography is an excuse for me to spend time in the outdoors. For the most part this continues to hold true. Nature photography is an extension of the outdoor experience just as rock climbing was, scrambling is, mountaineering is, skiing, mt. biking and all of that good stuff continues to be. For me all of these activities are the carrot that I need to get me out there and I suspect for many other adventurers as well.

At the end of 2012 my life hit a bit of a low point. Several years prior to 2012 much of my life had been consumed by what seemed a never ending divorce from my ex wife. Nothing is ever as simple as we hope for and when children are involved the choices we make are often difficult ones. To cut a long story short the resulting stress from dealing with a (deranged) teenage daughter and an uncompromising (psycho) ex-wife was overwhelming. I had reached my breaking point and I needed a valve to release the pressure. I decided to start running.

In the past I had dabbled in running, if there is such a thing. Now and then I would be inspired to run around the block but the desire to continue running was often short lived. Another aspect of running that didn’t really appeal to me was the prospect of suffering from some kind of life long running related injury. When ever I talk to someone about running inevitably the conversation seems to revolve around the injuries associated with running. Usually bad knees, bad joints, bad heart, running is not good for you. I convinced myself that the risk of injury was not worth the physical benefits.

Up until late 2012 I had been diligently going to the gym every morning. For the most part this worked great and when it came to hiking up those steep alpine slopes it payed off tenfold. The problem with the gym is, well, it’s a gym. I don’t particularly like going to the gym and going to the gym just for the sake of exercise is not terribly exciting. Running on a treadmill is okay but it sure feels like there is no end or point to the exercise other than maintaining some sort of fitness level. Still as I continued to go to the gym my attention slowly focused on running. I was really starting to enjoy the benefits from running.

Okay so running can be a source for injuries especially if you over do it but that can be said about most sports (that’s what I keep telling myself anyway). An aspect of running that I hadn’t considered so much was the immense positive mental health side of the activity. For those of you that do get regular exercise you will undoubtedly know about the tremendous benefits of exercise for mental health. It’s no secret that if you want to release a bucket load of tension then exercise is a great start. The difference that I found with running as apposed to say something like climbing is that plain old running doesn’t take an awful lot of concentration and it gives me an opportunity to get lost in my own thoughts and on many occasions work through some of the days problems. I’ll often find myself having a deep conversation with myself while I run. Sometimes it’s great to just run and listen to some tunes. Within the last year running has been a great help in keeping my sanity.

Photography and Running

As with nature photography I’ve now put running on my list as one of the activities that I like to do to get me outside. Running has proven to be a great way for me to keep in shape, it has motivated me to reach some personal goals and most importantly kept me somewhat sane. Throughout the past year I ran a few road races, mostly for my own personal curiosity to see if I could do them than anything. My first race was the Fort Langley Half Marathon that I ran in 1hr:47min, then the Vancouver Marathon that I decided to register for two weeks prior (probably not the smartest move but I did finish) in 3hr:47min. The team ORCA 10km run in Parksville 44min and the Scotiabank half marathon in 1hr:38min (A PB, knocking off 9minutes from the Fort Langley run). I had signed up for the Mt. Robson marathon that climbs to the base of Robson but had to bail at the last minute due to? you guessed it injury. It would seem that my new found enthusiasm for running was a bit too enthusiastic and I ended up with shin splints.

2013 BMO Marathon Finish

Boy I was glad to finish that one. No idea who the snarling guy is in the background. I'll have to talk to my personal photographer about that one.

Over September and October I spent some time photographing in the Rockies and decided to do a few trail runs in between my photography. My shin had healed so I hit a few short trails in Jasper before attempting some longer ones. A couple of trails that I thoroughly enjoyed running were the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park and an in and out run to Mt. Assiniboine. Luckily I had hiked the Iceline before because I lost the trail a few times due to fresh snow. Still the route itself is straightforward enough and is a wonderful way to see some of the most impressive scenery in the Canadian Rockies. Mt. Assiniboine I had visited and photographed several times before although embarrassingly had never actually hiked in always opting for the quick ten minute chopper ride from Mt. Shark. I had planned to spend a few days in Assiniboine so I had all of my gear flown in while I ran in. On the way in I encountered quite a bit of snow especially up at Wonder Pass that added some excitement. On the way out I ran Assiniboine Pass. There are a number of other trails in the Rockies that I would love to run so hopefully next year I’ll be giving some new territory a try.

Diez Vista

One of the great trail runs in and around Vancouver. Diez Vista turns out to be an annual 50km race, hmm I see a new challenge in my future?

Over the years I’ve done a ton of hiking and backpacking but had never really considered trail running as a means to taking photographs. I guess the main reason for not using trail running as a means for photography is that logistically carrying camping and camera gear on an extended photo trip was not really conducive to running light. In the past I had attempted to carry both 4×5 camera equipment and climbing gear into areas but carrying a 60-70lb pack is not fun. I love camping and spending time in the woods but I’m also starting to think that perhaps trail running would be a great way to get into areas fast, take the images that I need and then run out again without investing more time than I need to stay in certain areas. Digital cameras continue to get lighter and the quality also continues to improve in leaps and bounds. With cameras such as the Canon G16, Gx1, Nikon N1 and Sony RX100m the quality and weight are fantastic. I’m also excited about the newer mirror less cameras as a possible alternative to packing in the big guns.

Some goals for the coming year. Well I am excited to try and incorporate my photography with trail running. I’m in the market for a lightweight camera that I can slip in to a pack or running vest and carry on the trails with me. While I enjoyed entering a few road races I am starting to look at perhaps entering a few trail races as well. I must admit that running trails appeals to me a lot more than running on pavement. There seems to be an abundance of trail races and trails in Vancouver so perhaps I’ll give one or two a try next year. Who knows maybe an ultra marathon might be in my future.

Wonder Pass

An early October run in to Mt, Assiniboine via Wonder Pass. I had my gear flown in, spent several days photographing in the area and the ran out via Assiniboine Pass. A really terrific run and often done in and out in one day.

Lastly and somewhat related to running is a piece of equipment that I have been using to record my running progress and outdoor activities. For the last several months I have been using the Suunto Ambit GPS watch. There are a ton of reviews about this watch on the internet so I’m not going to bother doing one myself. I will say though that this watch has been a great way for me to keep track of my travels both on and off trail. The watch has some fantastic features including customizable apps that can be downloaded to the watch. Lastly the watch links up to an online database called Movescount were you can view all of your progress in infinite detail. What I really like about Movescount is that I can view other peoples adventures as well, a great way to inspire and motivate yourself as there are some incredible athletes out there.

If you would like to follow my progress here is a link

Follow my Moves at

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Travelling Adventures for 2013

Flesh for Fantasy

A gorgeous day on the coast with a backdrop of spectacular glaciers and the Billy Idol machine. I had just returned from a long trail run to the foot of one of the glaciers, a very memorable day.

For more details of my run follow me on Movescount

I had a great year of travel this year. This past spring I managed to squeeze in a couple of trips that I had been hoping to do for quite some time. In March I spent three weeks in Iceland. Iceland has been on my bucket list for many years as the place to go for landscape photography. It would seem that Iceland is also on every other photographers list as well as there seems to be an overabundance of workshops, tours and photographers hitting the small island. I chose March as it is a quiet time for me and I was hoping that the weather might be a little more forgiving than say February (boy was I wrong) I was also hoping to get some images of the Aurora. My other spring trip was to Patagonia in Argentina that I’ll report on in my next segment.

Iceland

Images from Iceland can be found here in the new images section.

Landing at Reykjavík was definitely the start of my adventure. As soon as I landed and left the terminal I was blown off of my feet into a 4 foot snow bank. My first objective was to find the bus that would take me to the car rental place in town. To be honest the weather was so bad that I felt like jumping back on the plane and heading home, it was an all out white out. I finally found the bus and was on my way. The trip into town usually takes about 45mins, it took us 3hrs.

Iceland is not exactly cheap so my first task before the trip was to find a reasonably priced camper. On average camper vans are about $200.00 per day and up to rent, more if you want some luxury. As you can see over a three week period that adds up. I found a somewhat obscure company called Ku Ku campers. The campers are relatively cheap (mine was around 70 euro per day, but like most things in life you get what you pay for. My camper was the Billy Idol Mobile. They’re called campers but in reality the vehicle I had was a crudely converted Renault Kangoo van. However I did find the van to be perfect for my needs and not much unlike the vehicle I use at home. As long as I am warm, dry and have a place to lay my head it’s all good, The “Flesh for Fantasy” mobile was home from home.

I traveled around the island for about a week and then went back to Reykjavík to pick up my partner Karin. Karin was a pretty good sport about the whole trip and great company as always. The weather was not ideal and Karin not being a photographer wasn’t as keen as I to face the elements all for the glory of getting the shot. Squeezing the two of us into the van proved to be a bit of a challenge but after a few days we got into a routine and figured out how to convert the van into a camper in good time. It’s amazing how quickly you learn to do a task efficiently when you’re freezing your ass off. Once we both got settled the bed was exceptionally cozy except for those pee breaks, man I hate those.

Probably the biggest challenge was dealing with the weather. On more than one occasion we were faced with whiteout conditions. On one particular evening Karin and I decided to stay at a guesthouse and go out for a meal to a restaurant called the Cow Cafe in Mývatn, about a ten minute drive from our guesthouse. The meal was excellent but as the light began to fade the weather outside worsened. By the time we decided to leave it was an all out white out. It took me an intense ten minutes just to get out of the parking lot and find the road. If you have traveled in Iceland you will have noticed orange markers every dozen or so meters along the side of the main roads, they’re there for a very good reason. We found our way back by driving from one marker to the next, very tense driving.

Iceland is a land of contrast and has a incredible landscape photography opportunities. Did I mention the weather? The weather proved to display some remarkable forces of nature of which I have never encountered before. Wind is a part of what Iceland is all about, the wind is always with you and on a couple of occasions the wind was so strong it was hard to stand. On one memorable morning near Vik I decided to try to get some images of the Reynisdrangar rock pillars. The waves and wind were intense. At one point a large group of photographers shuffled out of a tour bus towards the beach with their tripods flapping in the wind, after I had failed miserably at trying to use a tripod it was tremendously amusing to see others gripe with their equipment in gale force winds. Hand holding proved to be an easier affair. The great thing about Iceland’s extremes in weather is that it changes constantly, these drastic weather changes sure make photography exciting.

Storm Waves : Purchase Prints

Intense weather on the beaches near Vik.

As mentioned earlier one of the reasons for traveling to Iceland in March was to capture the Aurora, March seems to be a good time. I was not disappointed, the northern lights were spectacular. Probably the best show was an evening down at the famous sea stack Hvitserkur. Despite the intense cold it was an amazing display and I spent many hours down at the beach watching the waves of light dance over the iconic sea stack.

Hvitserkur : Purchase Prints

 A particularly magnificant Aurora display over the iconic Icelandic sea stack.

Would I travel to Iceland again? Well, yes but I would do things a little differently. Part of the problem that I have traveling to a new area to photograph is unfamiliarity. It often takes me quite some time to get a feel for an area and work out logistically the areas that I want to photograph. While I am happy with the images that I did take in Iceland I don’t really feel as if I came back with the unique images that I often search for. I found myself going to many of the areas that many others have photographed before and while these areas are worthy and in many cases spectacular I ended up taking more or less the same images that everyone else does. Ideally I would have liked to spend more time exploring the interior of Iceland, preferably by foot. Logistically and expense wise it is a very hard place to explore in the midst of winter. A four wheel drive vehicle is a must for the interior and with that comes a hefty price tag.

Parking the tractor : Purchase Prints

Whatever gets you there I guess. Spotted this tractor parked outside a seniors center. Not a bad way to slow down in the golden years.

I loved the land, the people and the overall vibe throughout Iceland. I especially enjoyed the basic approach to what people really need to live in this part of the world. In North America it is all about choice, most of the time too much choice. I often find myself getting lost in an endless sea of product and wastefulness. In Iceland the choices are slim but the people have all that they need.

Norseman

The people of Iceland are very rugged, this fellow we met in one of the giftshops.

I was surprised at the amount of photo workshops and photographers, in some areas like Jökulsárlón the place was a zoo and this is in March. In all fairness though it is easy to get away from the crowds and make your own way around the island. There are many spectacular locations to discover and photograph without lots of other people around.

Is there Wi-Fi here?

Karin checks out the Aurora report on her ipad while I take in the full moon and look for signs of the northern lights.

Mountain Woman

Karin being a good sport posing on top of a cold and windy location with a magnificant icelandic backdrop.

The Blue Lagoon

What can I say, a trip to Iceland without going to the Blue Lagoon would be a terrible thing. The Blue lagoon is very cool but I must admit that I much prefered some of the smaller and more isolated hot pools hidden throughout the island. There is something special though about sipping back on a cold one while lounging in a hot pool.

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I guess my middle name should be procrastination. Another year has come and gone since my last write up. The usual excuse is that I was just so busy that I didn’t have time to jot down any thoughts, truth is I would rather be outside than sitting behind a computer and if lazing around in an alpine meadow is considered busy then I’m all over it. However now I have run out of excuses, summer has passed, autumn is over, winter is not quite here yet and the weather has turned bleak. Time to tell the world what I have been up to for the past year.

First and foremost I would like to announce some exciting news (albeit a bit late). Once again I had a couple of images place in two notable photography contests. The first contest is the International Garden Photographer of the Year where I had my image “Fairy Mist” place as one of the finalists in the Trees, Woods and Forests category. I have entered this contest a few times now and have had pretty good luck. I figure since my income is derived from mostly garden photography I should enter. Here is a link to the contest and winning images

Fairy Lake, Adam Gibbs, Port Renfrew, Conifer, west coast, british columbia, Canada

Fairy Mist : Purchase Prints

I have photographed this little conifer a number of times now and am always amazed at how no two visits are the same, the conditions are always different. It's quite amazing how this tree clings on to life without much to support it.

The other notable photography contest is The Wildlife Photographer of the Year. I’ve entered this contest quite a few times over the years and to date it is one of the most prestigious and longest running contests of its kind throughout the world. Even though I do dabble in photographing wildlife I am primarily a landscape shooter. While I do enjoy having my images recognized in the contest my main focus is to support a very worthy cause, to showcase not only the beauty of nature but also (and more importantly) the ugly side. What I really like about this contest is its focus on the state of wildlife and nature throughout the world. Lets face it as our world continues to get smaller and smaller nature is the one that often loses out. Species of plants, animals are disappearing at alarming rates. Large corporations continue to ignore global warnings and continue focus on nothing but money and profit. But I digress. This year I had an image awarded Specially Commended in the Wildscapes category. “The Enchantment” is an image that I took on an autumn trip to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness with photographers David Cobb and Sean Bagshaw. To view more of the winning images go here

the enchantments, alpine lakes wilderness, washington, sean bagshaw, david cobb, photographer, nature, larch,

The Enchantment : Purchase Prints

If I had to choose what areas I consider my favourite for photography, The Enchanments would be at the top of my list. I've hiked into The Enchantments three times now and each time find something new to discover and photograph. On this trip I hiked in with Washington photographers David Cobb and Sean Bagshaw. We had great weather and the autumn colour was in its prime.

I took this image on the last morning of the trip. To be honest at the time I was not terribly excited about the shadow on the far shore. But like so many photo situations before nothing is ever exactly how we would like it. I decided to incorporate the shadow into the composition, in this case it worked out nicely.

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Columbia River Gorge

Michael Wheatley and I spent a few days  in the Columbia River Gorge. Flowers were in their prime on the Washington side, a little late on the Oregon shores. It was great to get away for a few days. It’s been quite some time since my last visit to the gorge and like my trip to Zion National Park I am amazed at the amount of photographers flooding these areas. I guess living in Canada I live a sheltered life, rarely do I meet up with other photographers. It was great to bump into a couple of familiar online faces, Floris van Bruegel and Alex Mody. Both talented photographers from Washington state.

 

While down in the gorge I spent some time playing around with a new toy, the GoPro Hero 2 camera. The GoPro is a heck of a lot of fun, I am sure I will be using the camera on a regular basis. Here is a quick video of some random clips taken with the camera. Editing was done quick and dirty on an ipad. Music is catchy but quite annoying after about a minute.

Evening light on Crown Point

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Mt. Seymour

For anyone that has seen my winter images on the web it’s no secret that the majority of them were taken locally. Even though I am not particularly fond of Vancouver, or any other huge metropolitan area come to think of it, living in a city that is so close to an abundance of mountains does have its advantages. The biggest advantage for me is that on any given day I can jump in my car and be in an alpine environment within forty five minutes from my house. Within an hour of hiking, skiing or snow shoeing I can feel as if I am isolated from urban sprawl. Not bad for a city dweller.

One area that I spend a lot of time at in the winter is Mt. Seymour provincial park. Mt. Seymour is a beautiful park that offers some great short back country travel and gorgeous wilderness scenery that extends northward for hundreds of kilometers. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve hiked to the summit, often I’ll just go without a camera to get some quick fresh air and an alpine fix.

Last year I put together a short video about Mt. Seymour that I would like to share with anyone that is interested. Hopefully as time goes on I will be posting more video logs to share some of my travels.

Mt Seymour from Adam Gibbs on Vimeo.

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Winter Light

Winter Light Portfolio: follow the link to discover more examples of my winter photography.

Several years ago I decided to embark on a personal quest. My goal was to capture the quintessential image of a Canadian winter. In my mind’s eye, the ultimate winter photograph would contain all of the ingredients that we associate with the dormant season: snow laden trees, powdery white drifts of snow and perhaps the grandeur of a pristine mountain vista. All of these elements would be bathed in cool, winter light.

 This journey has brought me close to capturing my preconceived vision of the ultimate Canadian winter scene. However, from the start of my quest, it became quickly apparent that there is more to the winter experience than just the visual elements that we associate with the season. The stark ghostly shapes of snow covered trees, intricate patterns of frost and ice, or the simple sensuous curves of fresh snow continue to be the obvious essentials to catch my attention. For me it is the other sensory aspects beyond the visual that have become an important part of the photographic experience. Bracing myself towards a frigid northerly wind, the muted ‘whump’ of snow underfoot or the pure and still, quiet air that often surrounds me when I am out in the field are some of the other essentials that make the winter landscape so enthralling.

 I have renewed admiration for the wildlife that survives tenaciously in this harsh beauty. Often, the only evidence of their existence is a lonely track zigzagging across the snow. So, have I found my ultimate winter scene? Well, I have a collection of winter images that I am very happy with, as far as portraying the ultimate winter scene, well, I’m still working on that one.

 

 

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