Another Adventure Brought To You By Paul.

I'm a pretty strong believer that there should be people in your life who break your comfort zones on a frequent basis. Now the majority of my friends consistently create these scenarios in my life, and I’m not complaining, but Paul tends to do this more than most. The images below are from our 'short 2km hike to a gorgeous hot spring' that we did at the beginning of winter. Now if you’re familiar with any of my other escapades with Paul, you’ll know that his descriptions of difficulty and distance leave much to be desired. Immediately, I should have known to double the distance and maybe even triple it. In addition to the drastically undermined length of this hike, I should have really taken into consideration the difficulty when he was packing long rope and seemingly over preparing for a basic hike. I mean judging by his description of the end goal being a hot spring I just assumed any city girl wanting a new Instagram photo could easily navigate their way to this location. In one way it’s accurate because there is a pretty well-defined trail. It isn't until we reached the saddle between the two mountains where I really started to contemplate the simplicity of Paul’s description.

As we stoically stood, catching our breath, the arduous next few kilometres were right in from of us. Due to the immense amount of wind, the paths from previous people hiking to the hot spring were completely covered. We waited for a few fellow hikers on the trail to pass by so we could proceed along the uncomfortably steep trail that was sheltered from the wind. We wrapped around the corner that you can see Paul and Celine posing on when the wind really decided to escalate my trepidation. The four of us hesitantly made our way along the side of the snow-covered shale and then Sam (Paul's wife) slipped and began sliding down. She managed to dig her feet into the icy snow to slow her decent but we were all stunned. In the exact same spot Celine proceeded to do the exact same thing and then I think Paul might have just done it for fun. Regardless all three of them were not 50 feet further down the mountainside than I was and to their fortune, a little closer to our destination.

After walking a few more kilometres since the saddle, we arrived at the hot spring without any additional company. I didn't get in the water due to some sort of phobia of being wet for non-utilitarian purposes but it was exceptional being able to observe a serene and relatively unknown landscape. After everyone had time to soak in the warm waters and dry off in the relentlessly cold wind, we began hiking back for home.

Just this past long weekend we had the pleasure of hanging out with Paul and Sam again where more adventures occurred. I'll be posting about in the upcoming weeks so thanks again for reading and it would mean a lot if you shared any of my work with someone you think would enjoy joining in the journey.

The Concept of 'Fun.'

What does fun mean to you? Take a minute and think about it, deeper than mere activities.

I’m entirely unaware of what might have just passed through your mind and that idea alone is fun for me to ponder. Somewhat of an odd statement, I know. For some time I’ve been perplexed by the concept of fun. Often mutual confusion occurs when various concepts of fun are exchanged. Currently, I have no desire to experience an adrenaline rush. I’m not sure if many young people are aware but that chemical release occurs in order for us to survive during dangerous situations. I can't help but ask, why would one desire for that mechanism to kick in?Honestly, I don't know and the idea of it is already exhausting me.

The irony of this topic is that the majority of my friends yearn for such a chemical rush to infiltrate their bodies while undergoing dangerous activities. In an attempt to be a good friend I try to engage in some of the activities but I simply become drained during the time of adrenaline endorsed activity. What really excites me is knowing I'm pushing myself outside my comfort zone and learning to adapt to adversity. I'm sure people affirm the same thing while searching for the next adventure, although I think it might be a little different. My primary reason is that it seems as though there are two contrasting sides; the intelectual and physical. You can observe this balance perfectly when watching high-level athletes perform. They are forced to react perfectly on a physical level, as well as, to be mindful of the upcoming play. Personally, the mental part of sports and even video games are what I find exhilarating. Testing the intellect of others and myself in a way that brings about an unexpecting competition is what I can only describe as fun.

I'd love to hear how you perceive the cultural luxury of fun. The photos below are from an extremely windy day of skating in the middle of Two Jack Lake. Enjoy!

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!

The Voyage to Spirit Island pt. 1.

These images are from a scenery dense 48 hour trip to Jasper that was initiated by my friend Elliot. I had the time off and always wanted to experience Spirit Island. Uncharacteristically, my typical aversion to wild ideas and adventure seemed to be thrown to the wolves at the thought of this incredible location for sunrise. Of course millions of people have been there before on the large tourist boats that ferry groups out all day but only a select few have put in an effort to experience the grandeur of viewing light slowly, seeping over the mountains.

After a few short days of planning, I drove to meet up with Elliot in Jasper the day before so we could pick up the rental canoe and ensure we were still up for a seemingly unwise voyage. For those of you who have no idea where Spirit Island is, it's on Maligne Lake, (enjoy trying to decide how to pronounce that :p) which is about a 40-minute drive from Jasper, Alberta. Something you may not know about me is that when I’m nervous about things I like to show up to them irrationally early. The most inconvenient example of this is when I played soccer in Edmonton and before every game I would get dreadful anxiety that would just escalate during the 2.5-hour drive. Due to this angst, I wanted to be at every game 30 minutes before we even had to get ready and warm up. Anyways, the trend seems to continue because we grabbed our gear for the rental canoe and drove to the lake a solid 4 hours early to ‘scout it out.’ We also hoped to catch the sunset at the lake but that was a flop so we didn't really have anything do from 9:00 pm to midnight when we planned to kick off from shore. At this point, I was still a little nervous about Elliot’s canoeing abilities because I wasn't the most confident in my own. I’ve canoed plenty of times on lakes around my home, however in complete darkness and on a lake where the nearest people are a 40-minute drive away, changes that comfort meter just a few notches.

We decided to attempt at sleeping in the vehicle until setting out. I should have known I would n’t be able to fall asleep so I restlessly pursued the art of fast-forwarding time by reading, walking around outside, and even pondering the plethora of potential, problematic paths we may pursue. Anticipation built and so did the nerves. Whenever there is an activity forcing me out of my comfort zone, especially involving life-threatening elements, I look for anything that might allow me to opt out. Contrary to the desires of my buzzkill subconscious, there seemed to be nothing emerging as an escape. Three hours monotonously progressed to the time for me to wake up Elliot so we could pack our bags and grab the canoe. It was a gorgeous night with an unobstructed view of the stars above.

Once packed, we walked down to the shore to unlock the canoe we rented. Earlier in the day, we had checked to make sure our canoe was in proper condition to keep us afloat throughout the night. Both of us were extremely thankful that we had a canoe that wasn't tipped over or filled with water and sand because half of them were in an unfortunate state. We inserted the key, applied the appropriate amount of force to turn the key to only be obnoxiously met with a key that wouldn’t rotate. After fidgeting with the lock for a minute, we looked at the number and realized we were at the wrong number canoe, which conflicted with what we were told to take at the rental store. Logically, we found the canoe with the corresponding number. It was at this point we had a sinking feeling. Indeed, our canoe was one of the submerged.

Come back next week to continue reading more of our canoe ride, our wild encounter and view the rest of the images from Spirit Island. Following these posts, I'll continue with some images from Athabasca Falls. I hope you enjoyed the read!

Dungeon Mountain.

     We silently hiked along the muddy trail as snow pummelled our backs, in an attempt to force us to turn around and abandon our mission. We persevered and continued on our way in hopes of eventually reaching the campsite where we would be staying for the night. To our dismay, the campsite was a lot further than we anticipated and due to the unexpected weather conditions we were soaked, cold, tired, and unsure if the mountains would have mercy on us. We had no idea the elements would try to eliminate us during our last backcountry-backpacking trip of the season. All we could do was bundle up with additional layers in a meagre effort to retain our body heat and regain feeling throughout our extremities. With the clouds covering most of the mountains there weren’t many opportunities for photography but as though to show us a glimmer of hope, the clouds started to break. While this happened I was able to frame the mountains with the trees and ominous fog that encroached on our very well being. My goal with the image was for the tones to portray the menacing atmosphere we found ourselves experiencing in the backcountry. 

     This concludes the three week series of the black and white images I entered into a landscape photography contest. Next week I'm volunteering at Camp Shekinah as a cabin leader so I wont be able to post but once I'm back, I'll have a lot of great images and adventures to share!