2016 was a good year of photography for me. Not only did I manage to make some memorable images but I also got to explore some wonderful new locations throughout western Canada. The following selection of images are some of my favourite picks for the year.
- Heavy hoarfrost in Pitt Meadows.
January was a good start to the year with a temperature inversion in and around the Vancouver area. The inversion created heavy fog and cool temperatures in the lowlands and warmer temps with clear skies in the highlands. The results were stunning. I spent a couple of days exploring some of the low lying areas just outside of Vancouver along the waterways and dykes that make up much of the farmland around the Pitt Meadows and Pitt lake area. Without fog or frost these areas are generally not terribly picturesque, so it just goes to show how much light and environmental conditions influence the success and outcome of the final image.Heavy hoarfrost coats trees and foliage along the Alouette river in Pitt Meadows. Heavy hoarfrost coats trees and foliage along the Alouette river in Pitt Meadows.
2. Big Trees.
In the spring I spent much of my time on Vancouver Island. Vancouver Island has a wealth of places to explore and photograph. Some of my favourite spots to visit lie on the southern west coast of the Island not far from the small town of Port Renfrew. I made the long trek into Carmanah Provincial Park twice, searched out some of Canada’s last remaining large trees including the Cheewhat giant, a western Red Cedar on the Pacific Rim National Park boundary. I also found some wonderful temperate rain forests that hadn’t been logged out (yet). Both Carmanah and Walbran are fantastic spots to check out. Difficult to photograph but well worth the time spent getting to these areas.Large Sitka spruce located in Carmanah Provincial Park A very large Big leaf Maple near Nitinat Lake on Vancouver Island.
3. Lac Du Bois
Lac Du Bois lake and the surrounding grasslands is an area that I had never spent much time in so this past spring I hung out in the area to see what I could find. In the summer the BC interior is often very hot and dry so it’s not my first go to place for photography. However in the spring the grasslands are quite magnificent. The usually parched grasslands are a vibrant green and in May Balsam root covers the surrounding landscape. In the autumn the grasslands turn gold and bronze. There are also quite a few small lakes and alkali ponds that are surrounded by scarlet coloured Pickleweed. Definitely an area that I will be returning to in 2017.A shaft of light illuminates the verdant green hills surrounding the town of Kamloops.
Another few visits to the island in late spring early summer took me to Looper Canyon. I had driven over Looper canyon several times on my trips to Carmanah but had never taken the time to find a way down this very deep and narrow gorge. Unless you know where Looper is it is very easy to miss as the logging bridge is not more than 20′ wide. Thomas Dawson, a resident photographer to the island invited me to explore the canyon with him. Neither one of us knew anything about the gorge so we prepared ourselves by purchasing cheap rubber rafts from Canadian Tire and hip waders. It didn’t take long to find a way down to the entrance of the canyon and we soon found ourselves working our way up the canyon in our little dinghies. The canyon itself is a couple of kilometers long and is probably easier to navigate from the top with a wetsuit than to go upstream. I didn’t make it terribly far up the canyon as there are a few small waterfalls blocking the way. Thomas did later purchase a wetsuit and make his way quite a bit further up the canyon. Looper is an amazing location and one I am sure will visit again.Reflected light catches the water worn Karst formations that make up the narrow Looper Canyon.
5. Year of the drone
In October of 2015 I bit the bullet and purchased a drone. I must admit that I have a bit of a hate, love relationship with drones. On the one hand I am very excited about the untapped potential of UAV’s. I can now take photographs of scenes that in the past I would have thought of either impossible to take or very expensive to capture due to the expense of hiring a plane or helicopter. The struggle for me is the annoyance of drones. Drones are noisy and if I am out in the middle of a wilderness setting enjoying nature the last thing that I want to hear is the buzzing of a drone. I am sure that there are a few other like me with the same thoughts. In retrospect I have tried to be cognizant of the fact that not everyone likes drones and usually keep my drone flying to a minimum and in areas that are virtually void of people around me. Still no amount of thoughtfulness is going to appease those that really despise the use of any UAV.An aerial view of Helmcken taken with a DJI Inspire 1 drone. An elevated view of the Saskatchewan River. Drones are not permitted in National Parks as I later found out. I couldn’t resist taking this image very early one morning and then later had my hand slapped by a bunch of photographers who all got their Knickers in a twist. I can’t argue with those that are morally right although it really annoys me when some want blood just to prove a point.
6. Canadian Rockies.
In 2016 I traveled to the Canadian Rockies several times. Any time of the year is a good time to visit the Rockies but have to admit that I do love the spring. The end of June is perfect as the crowds are at a minimum, the weather is variable creating great photo opportunities and the mosquitoes have not come out in to full force yet.
Most of the Rockies trips in 2016 I did tend to stick to the more popular areas. This was due to a number of reasons including a couple of nagging running injuries that prevented me from hiking around and the lack of popular iconic views in my portfolio. Why do I need popular scenes you may ask? Simply put that is what the market demands, iconic views that people can relate to, usually the places that are easy to get to.Late afternoon light finds its way through the remnants of an afternoon storm over Peyto Lake in Banff National park. Beams of light penetrate the last clouds of a passing storm over Bow Lake in Banff National Park.
7. Watersprite Lake.
Local photographer Matt Jackisch was generous to share a lovely shooting location with me that I had never heard of. Watersprite lake lies just outside of the town of Squamish so I was even more surprised when I found out how close it is to Vancouver. The hike in is about 9km up steep terrain that will hopefully keep the area reasonably pristine. I was going to try to keep the area a bit of a secret but it would seem that the cat is out of the bag since the BCMC built an alpine hut in the area just after our visit. Our trip up to Waterprite was a short one. The weather variable, the mosquitoes were out in full force but I did manage to pull off the shot shown here that made it to my list of favourites.
The clouds parted for a couple of minutes and then the rain never stopped coming.
8. Port Renfrew.
This past spring I met Vancouver Island photographer Thomas Dawson. Thomas spends most of his time searching out new areas to photograph, especially undiscovered waterfalls. In September Thomas was kind enough to put together a weekend workshop based in Port Renfrew that turned out to be a great success with the added bonus of having photographer Kevin McNeal tag along. With any workshop that I am running I don’t usually take many images as most of my attention is on clients. There are some exceptions though and the image below of twisted red cedars is one of them. I have passed this area many times and on a number of occasions tried to master a composition out of this tangled chaos. On this trip I found the perspective that I was looking for and am extremely happy with the results. For me the image represents the rugged trails and temperate forests of coastal Vancouver Island wonderfully.The west coast of Vancouver has some wild weather. Many of the trees in this area are twisted and bent from constant strong winds.
September took me to the Rockies once again except this time as a guide for a tour organized by Northshots. The owner of Northshots, Peter Cairns, has a fantastic setup in Scotland that includes everything you could ever need to photograph the indigenous wildlife of the Cairngorms. For this trip Peter had hired my services to guide a group of photographers around the through the Rockies. With any photography tour to popular tourist destinations like the Rockies getting photographers to unique spots to shoot is a challenge. The Rockies is setup so that there is basically only one major road that runs from Banff all the way up to Jasper. There are some great shooting locations along the road but they can get extremely busy. The only way to get away from the crowds is to get off the road and take a hike. The hike doesn’t even have to be that long, a short hike will usually get you away from the masses. That is what we did to get this view of Temple. The hike to Consolation Lakes is short but got us to an area that we had all to ourselves.Mt Temple makes a grand appearance as a passing storm clears to reveal this magnificent mountain.
10. Central British Columbia.
British Columbia is a huge province. In past years I spent much of my time going south to the US and exploring many of the popular areas that photographers still inspire to visit. The unique thing about BC is there is so much untapped photographic potential. I have more or less taken it upon myself to spend my time exploring my own homeland than making the trek south. I have lived in BC for over 30 years and have barely scratched the surface. This past October my partner Karin and I decided to take a road trip to central BC. I have to be honest most of my exploration has been in the south so the north is relatively new territory for me. From Vancouver to the Yukon border both east and west there is an abundance of wilderness to photograph. The only time that I ever see other photographers in mass is if I go to the Rockies or happen to be at one of the handful of iconic views that grace our province. The majority of my time when I am out taking photographs I am alone.The last colour of autumn clings to shrubs and trees in frosty woodland near Smithers A cool and frosty, foggy morning somewhere near New Hazelton, British Columbia.
11. Golden Ears
A reprieve from the rain – October 2016 will go down in Vancouver history as one of the wettest autumns ever. It rained non stop every day for close to a month. So when the rain did stop I was eager to get out and make some photographs. I’ve been photographing in Golden Ears for many years now and it is always one of my go to places that is close to home. There is a very small area located in Golden Ears that used to house a small amphitheater and shelter for small slide presentations. The area was logged many years ago and evidence of these giants can be found throughout the location. What’s unique about this spot are the moss covered maples growing en-mass. This small area is a photographic nightmare as it is a big tangle of trees and moss jutting out in every direction. Regardless of this chaos I love it here and the challenges it represents. The late start didn’t look terribly promising as it was dull and grey, but as the morning progressed the light improved and I made a couple of images that I like very much.I love it when moss covered trees are back lit like this. A bit of a challenge photographically but really satisfying when you can pull a decent composition out of the chaos. A rats nest of vine maples, mosses and fern make photography a challenge.
12. North shore Mountains.
What can I say? I have been trekking up the north shore mountains for many years in search of winter images. Many of my best images have been taken up in these hills not far from Vancouver. The challenge these days is finding areas that haven’t been tracked out by snow boarders, snowshoe trekkers and skiers. Cypress, Grouse and Mt. Seymour are very popular destinations for a quick back country fix and each mountain has its own alpine ski facility. The last few years I haven’t made much of an effort to trek up as great photo conditions don’t happen that often. 2016/17 has been an exception though and even now as I type the mountains have an abundance of snow and the weather is variable with clear skies which makes for some great photo conditions.Every December, January if the conditions are right Seymour is a fantastic place to catch the full moon as it sets over Grouse. Last light looking towards Dog Mountains. Looking down towards Dog Mountain as a backcountry skier makes his way up the hill.