Blog.

The Voyage to Spirit Island pt. 2.

Engulfed in nearly complete darkness, I lifted the canoe onto the shore to simply drain it out with the internal plea that this wouldn't be foreshadowing to how the trip would go. Somewhat miffed about the sandy, wet seats, we uncomfortably got situated and kicked off from shore to begin paddling toward Spirit Island.

Overall the canoe ride was quite peaceful. We slowly zig-zagged our way along the perfectly calm water in hopes of not tipping over with our cameras. Since I was in the back, I had the responsibility of steering and all I could do to navigate was keep the faintly lit mountains to our right and left in those general directions. It was probably an hour or two into our ride when we started to notice flashes of light above us. We knew there was a chance for a storm in Jasper but after looking at a few sources we concluded it wouldn’t hit us. Another peculiar characteristic of this lighting is that it was silent and seemingly launching from cloud to cloud rather than towards earth. The flashes would momentarily illuminate our desired path but really just created a more eerie ambience. Total silence, complete darkness, motionless water, and aimless navigation all contributed to the sensory deprivation that could have calmed us to sleep if it weren’t for our monotonous paddling.

We eventually arrived at where we thought Spirit Island should be but really had no idea due to the lack of photons. Partially relieved and entirely exhausted we realized about 1.5 hours remained before sunrise. Unsure of what the area offered in terms of terrain or wildlife we decided to attempt sleeping in the canoe for a while. With ease, I managed to fall asleep as we lulled along in the water. If it wasn’t for the gentle knocking occurring from the canoe nudging the shore I could have slept a while longer. The first time it happened I paddled us out again and fell right back to sleep. Apparently, Elliot had to do the same thing but the third time it was just bright enough for us to see the outline of the trees and a dock. As soon as we glided into the dock I was internally ecstatic, knowing that the light was soon to come and I was about to get the image we put in all the work for.

It quickly grew brighter, which allowed us to start scouting out different compositions in hopes of finding something unique. Considering this is a location with millions of photos acquired while standing on the observation platform it wasn't likely that we were going to achieve anything groundbreaking but the pursuit is my favourite adrenaline rush. The light seemed to be optimal as it lit up the cliff faces in the background. In the one image I found a few rocks with intriguing cracks and used those as a foreground but what I really wanted was some of the warped driftwood off to the right. Unfortunately, the angles just didn't line up even after attempting to make it work for at least 45 minutes. Regardless of the light, we shot an abundance of images and I was just hoping that in my exhaustion I remembered to focus and use acceptable settings. I guess that's for you to judge by looking at the technical aspects of the images, yet I doubt many people actually care about that part and mostly focus on how the photos make them feel.

Feeling is an integral piece of photography and far too often ignored by the photographer in this somewhat technical art form. The magical, nostalgic, nuance, atmospheric sensation you are able to portray in a single frame is only half of the experience. Often photographers miss being aware of the emotions they feel while creating an image. Spirit Island is one of those places where I was nearly brought to tears by how wonderful the scene and experience as a whole was. Increasingly I force myself to make a mental note of how I felt at a location, whether I'm pulled over on the side of the road or have hiked multiple kilometres to a mountain pass, the image should erupt emotion from the viewer. This comes into play immensely when editing because it's at that point I can decide to punch you in the face with excess vibrancy and clarity or decide to have a more muted, soft presentation.

I've somewhat strayed away from the riveting story and fallen into photography philosophy so let's resume. After a certain amount of time you can only shoot so many images of the same tree island so I was looking around for different scenes. While Eliot and I were both walking down the path, in search of a new angle, I saw something emerge from the trees. Usually, I'm stoked to see wildlife but the common trend is that whenever I have my long lens I see nothing and when I don't everything seems to present itself. However, in this situation, I was immediately filled with trepidation because it was a bear! We slowly walked back to the dock where our bear spray was as it sauntered down the path towards us. Our gear was scattered all over so we didn't have time to pack it up but we managed to get the bear spray out and a leg in the canoe right as it reached the front of the dock.

Of course, I have to end it there this week. Thank you so much for reading and come back for the third and final part of our time at Spirit Island. If you're enjoying this story and images it would mean a lot if you could share it to social media or just with a friend. Have a great week!

Travel Writing Contest!

     I'm always so thankful for each of you who takes the time to read what I write and share. Recently, I entered a writing contest with the travel company I went to Tibet with in 2015, Extravagant Yak. To my amazement, I made it to the top 10 and in order to advance to the finals I need as many public votes as possible, which is where you come in. It would mean the world to me if you followed the link below, scrolled to the bottom of my article, and clicked the 'like' button. Having the opportunity to win a trip to Tibet is incredible and I know with the help of the community around me I can get one more step closer. Thanks again for the support and feel free to share the link with anyone you know who might enjoy what I wrote about. 

https://extravagantyak.com/blogs/writing-contest/mason-unrau

Barrier Lake Instameet.

     You stuck around! Thanks for hanging out while I was gone. I genuinely appreciate it and even though it technically wasn’t that long since my last post, it feels like a lot has happened. The need to have something to work towards weekly or monthly is a must for me and currently that’s this blog. I’ve been tossing around the idea of starting a YouTube show where I simply go through some of my photos and tell the stories behind them or go through the editing process but who knows if I’ll have time for that. Just to catch you up, my hours at work got cut so now I either have to find another part time job or dive head first into my personal photography career and other creative endeavors! Since Celine isn’t working yet I might have to look for that part time job, but dang it’s tempting, scary, and exhilarating to ponder the possibility of investing 20 hours a week into whatever creative outlet I desire. Speaking of creative outlets, I also started a terrarium business, called Capsule Terrariums (Instagram / Facebook), but I’m not sure how it will do since this first batch didn’t sell immediately like they did last summer. Anyways, Celine is graduated, we’re moved back to Bonnyville, Celine’s getting back from China on Wednesday after two weeks of hiking, Aspen our puppy is growing fast, Herb the fish is still swimming, the “Where’s the Line” podcast with Caleb is still in development, and once again my mind is being infiltrated with fantasies of where my next career move should be since I don’t have the hours I’m used to. 

     I hope that quick update is sufficient for you all and if you have any insight, advice, or wisdom for where or what I should do for money I’d love to hear it. Something else that’s been on my mind lately is how can I use my photography for a more important cause than mere marketing material. By no means do I think marketing or the industry is bad but it feels helplessly shallow for me. I was thinking it might be cool to start an environmental initiative / organization that partners with Church’s to do something to help the environment since were explicitly called to be responsible in the way we live. I don’t think there’s anything like that right now but who knows and it’s an extremely rough concept right now. I digress…

     Now to the part I’m always passionate to talk about; the photographic process and why the first image below is my favorite. If you don’t agree with my personal choice that’s fine but here’s why I chose it. To start, the combination of six 30-second exposures creates movement in the clouds that helps give a dreamy appearance. Also the colours were at their peak while I was taking the succession of photos and lastly the foreground of ice and snow create a path that leads your eye to the mountains. Comment below on which image is your favorite and for those of you who don’t know what an Instameet is, it’s where people on Instagram meet up in real life to take photos and hang out. Maybe that sounds sketchy to some of you but when there are a lot of people who are all getting together with the key purpose to take gnarly photos I think it’s exciting.

     I’m going to conclude with admitting that my competitive spirit, that was once alive and well when playing sports, silently comes through when taking photos with other photographers. Something about other people creating images of a similar subject stirs up this drive to make sure I have the best final result. But seeing some of the other photographers working the scene really reminded me that there’s no such thing as being the best photographer and that it’s all subjective... With that in mind I just need to focus on practicing this craft and improving my own skills. I’m hoping to finish up the posts from past shoots and get up to date with my life so that I actually have to go out weekly in order to have new content and not rely on past excursions. As always, thanks so much for reading and checking out my images.

Soul Medicine.

     This post won’t be nearly as extensive as my last two but it’s something that I think is pretty relevant to our current culture. On Saturday I had the privilege of going down to Drumheller for the afternoon. The sole purpose of the trip was to create images that aligned with my desired photographic style. With my only company being my camera and tripod it was an introverts dream day. Just a side note, the images below are from a trip to Two Jack Lake during Fall but nonetheless work well for the point I want to highlight.

     Everyday I’m thankful for having something that I feel so fulfilled doing. If you you’ve been reading my posts for a while you might remember that as I grew up I often had intense anxiety about what I was to do ‘when I got older.’ This anxiety never really left me but more so motivated me to search out that thing that I could never get tired of. Originally I assumed it was sports since that’s all I did with my time. However, after being injured and not capable of performing at the high level I was used to, my plans were redirected. It was probably one of the more difficult things I’ve had to work through but in reality it was like hitting that jackpot. If it weren’t for this blessing in disguise, the new drug called photography wouldn’t have encompassed me. Maybe it’s just that I was enabled to explore a creative outlet and put in countless hours of learning something new that allowed me to take my mind off the disappointing injuries. I’m not too sure exactly but considering I hadn’t viewed myself (and still don’t) as a creative person this was an avenue virtually unexplored.  Almost immediately I knew this was something that I wanted to do for a lifetime. I’m not sure how long I’ll be fortunate enough to do it as a career but having something that rejuvenates my entire being is unbelievably comforting.

     Generally, I don’t think people are aware of the thing that rejuvenates and gives them life. Even for myself I probably wouldn’t have found photography in the context I did if it weren’t for a drastic realigning of my life’s direction. Being self-aware is something that I admire in people and see that people who know themselves tend to exude wisdom. The only problem is that self-awareness isn’t something that can be taught. I’m not even sure if it can be learned over time but I want to encourage everyone reading this to try to dig deep and find that thing that brings you life. Maybe you already have it and if you're so fortunate to have that I’d love to hear what it is and how you found it (seriously I’d really like to hear your stories). As always, thanks for reading and sorry last weeks post wasn’t sent out in the email (things got messed up after the redesign).

Oh and if you were wondering whats with the boots, I'm a brand ambassador for Bluprint Comfort and those are a few product shots I made. Most comfortable shoes I've ever worn!

Fantastical Food Pt. 2.

If you haven’t read last weeks post, I recommend going back and doing so for some context. 

      A trend that I’ve noticed in many peoples’ lives is that if they were brought up with any sort of extremes in their life, almost inevitably, they’d flip the opposite direction as a teenager or young adult. I’d like to think I’m exempt from this paradox but in many regards I’m recognizing it in myself. Fortunately, I was raised in somewhat of a balanced home (yes mom and dad you guys did great, give each other a high-five or something) so the effects are minimal and due to my inquisitive mind I’ve learned from wise people to always question both sides of any story. Essentially, I think that’s how I’m at the point I am now; always questioning and increasingly aligning with the minority within the social circles I’m part of. Maybe I just need to find different circles but even in high school when everyone partied and thought it was ‘cool,’ I thought it was a waste of time and money. There’s a plethora of other examples of this in my life but it seems consistent throughout the years. I’m aware, or more so cautious, of the reality that I could just be a contrarian, always wanting to go against the social norm, but when it comes to forming an opinion on important matters I think it might be an asset.

     As I mature I’ve reflected back on events that have occurred throughout history and more times than not travesty followed right after something that should have been intensely questioned, simply wasn’t. I’m sure you could list a surplus of case studies so I wont get into it but if that’s the reality shouldn’t we oppose the set standards more? With all this said, I want to get back to the topic of food and hope you’ve been reading everything I’ve said so far with our western perspective of food in mind. As Wirzba adamantly opposes in his book, Food and Faith, our western culture has diminished food into nothing more than sustenance that we need as cheaply and quickly as possible. Before this period of rethinking food I would’ve aligned with the default consumerist mind set of food only existing as fuel for our bodies to use up and burn. It was also due to Food and Faith that I made the connection that since food is one of the most intimate things we experience it should be observed with more reverence. Not only do we ingest matter that has been grown from the earth but also for people who eat meat another being is consumed. A creature that inhaled and exhaled, ate, and existed in many of the ways we do. I don’t recall what context I heard this thought, but why do we decide that eating cows, pigs or chickens is entirely fine but then dogs and cats are off limits. Why is it the cows and pigs get the duty of being perpetually killed to be mindlessly consumed? I don’t have the answer, even though I’m sure there might be one, but I’m unsure if ethically we can justify the treatment of millions of animals being grown for us to devour.

      I want to continue with these food posts while I’m thinking through a lot of the things I’m writing about but they take a lot of time due to the amount of thought I have to exert. If you have any comments, questions or insight I’d love to hear them. I should also mention that I’m currently trying out vegetarianism to see what that would look like and possibly understand things a little better so if you have any advice or personal experiences send me a message. The images below are from a fun day hike I did with Paul in the beginning of winter at Elbow Lake and wedge pond. I don’t think I mentioned it but last weeks photos were from Crescent Falls. Thanks for reading and I truly appreciate your time of sharing these thoughts and ideas I’m working through.