Saturday, November 16, 2013

Feelin It | Canadian Adventure Photographer

My music subsides briefly as the robotic voice of a female trainer pipes through my ear buds, "speed up and run for 6 minutes". The drum and bass rhythm of the dubb-step I'm listening to regains its original volume as I check the timer, '20 minutes' in showing on the almost too-bright liquid crystal display. Deep and hypnotic the beats block out the rest of the world around me and my gaze starts to narrow, I no longer see straight ahead and I forget about any fatigue I might have had.

There is no longer any effort, I am weightless and every stride matches the beat now inside my head. I am not floating but I can see from the view near the floor, the soul of my running shoe crushing the black deck of the treadmill in very slow motion as it rises up to meet my shoes. The red rubber of my heal impacts first, the compression wave slowly compounds then explodes forward along the arch, to the ball and finally through the toe making escape velocity for just a fraction of a second before the other heal ploughs in.

My upper body is motionless, I know I am breathing harder but can barely feel it. I am reduces to nothing but a single sense somewhere inside of myself. I am detached, I am nowhere but right here, right now. So intense, only a pinpoint of focus like balancing on a razor. No distraction, no past, no future, only this minute present. I am moving through space but going no where at all, time has slowed down and I can see everything all at once.

A small bead of sweat has my attention now leaving a cool trail along my temple, through the outer edge of my brow and slowly making its way to my eyelash before living out its evaporative life-cycle. It took years for that liquid to cross the distance, I was there for its whole term, feeling the temperature differential, I was with it all the way, and got to know it intimately. I even felt sorry that it had to go and left.

Or did this just happen in only a few seconds? Did I zone out or was I able to perfectly experience a few moments? Is it possible that time slowed down or I just became hyper aware of these tiny details. I could go on, I know I felt more. Is this what happens to runners in the zone or is it possible to gain the full experience of an event when you truly give yourself over to it?

I'm now 5 weeks into my running training and I absolutely love it. I know it's good for my conditioning but it also seems very therapeutic, very primal and brings me back to my core. It's easy to come back to the world when you have some clarity.

When was the last time you felt something?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Head Space | Canadian Adventure Photographer

This Sunday my usual partners-in-crime (Patrice Bance and Jay Kilgannon) made our way up to the Robertson Glacier for some early season kite-skiing. Problem with having to book a few days off so far in advance is that you never know what the weather is going to do. Sunday morning we arrived at the Burstal Pass parking lot in this season's first serious storm. Close to 3 inches on the ground and near white-out conditions. The last few days I had been mentioning I would likely have an 80 lb pack due to the fact that we were overnighting it and I had the camera gear. Patrice brought a luggage scale and sure enough the total was 76 lbs (I must be nuts).

 Patrice and Jay make their way up the Robertson Glacier moraine

 Even with the snow and wind blasting us in the meadows pass the tree-line I felt really good. I am still trying to take it easy on the back but lately I have had a lot of energy. My wife recently went on a diet and I'm sure my eating habbits have changed enough that I'm feeling better. A trip like this is so much more enjoyable when you have the energy and regardless of weather, it was amazing to be out where we were.

Enjoying a fire, dinner, and red wine at -13 Celsius.

On Sunday afternoon we set-up camp at the lower drainage from the glacier and hiked up to the moraine below the actual glacier. With gusts of up to 60 plus km/hr we figured it might be better to try for Monday. Back to camp we went and had some time to get in a large meal and a few other nice luxuries that were worth packing in. Sleeping under a tarp with a bivy wasn't bad even at -13, it was more the uneven ground that tore me from my sleep at 6 am. I figured building a fire and waking up was better than a screaming back.

I left the trees around 9 am to take some shots of the nearby peaks in morning alpen glow, perfect blue-bird day and no wind. Even without the wind we could still make some great turns. After a long boot-pack through the boulder strewn moraine we made it to the base of the glacier. Unfortunately at about 500 ft elevation gain one of my bindings broke so the boys carried on up to the base of the Robertson col to start their descent.

On the way down after a well-earned ski descent on Robertson.

Even the short ski made up for the long and rough trek into the glacier. I felt good and rhythmic in my movement. I had no place to be at the time, my life as I knew it did not exist, managing my way through the rocks and snow. The only thing from the other side of my mind coming through was my family. I love being out in the mountains and pushing myself and tend to think more about my wife and kids now. My wife is very supportive of what I do and that gives me great energy when I am out there. My kids are great and I am very proud of them and appreciate the good and the bad times, just happy they are here. Getting out is always good but getting the full experience because your head-space is there, that is living.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Constantly Evolving

The last two months have been both very busy and extremely stressful. I don't have a problem with that though as this time it is due to some big changes. I spent some time on another project in August so in trying to catch up with my photography work I went through a series of events (personal and professional) that forced me to re-evaluate my life and what I felt I should be doing as a career.

Again it was driven home that photography should be my primary career / lifestyle yet something had to change. Talking to a friend in the industry (whom I greatly admire) it was evident that I needed bigger challenges, better resources and of course, larger budgets. Strangely enough, and part way through re-designing my business plan (and of course a few key referrals) I managed to pick up a series of large commercial clients and delivered on some very serious work. Just yesterday I sat down with the VP of likely the most prominent communications agency in Canada and at this point am looking forward to potential work with them. Very excited to say the least but feeling very comfortable with the idea of the pressure and professionalism needed to produce a higher level of work.

So in the near future  our website will be changing to reflect a higher commercial value with the kind of images I love to capture. I am also specializing in only a few key sectors but won't be breaking off from current clients and magazines that I am currently engaged with. I am looking forward to the new changes and the chance to share some great images. In the mean time here are a few that have made the rounds or been accepted as key images in large commercial campaigns.

8th Avenue Place reflects another amazing Calgary sunrise.

Light Painting west of Crossfield on a cold fall evening.

Runner on pathway for a large community builder in Alberta.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Seasons Change

Last night I got the privilege to float the Bow River with a good friend of mine that I don't always get to see. Everyone has had a busy summer and just like that, it's over. Can't complain though, our late Fall is always welcome in Southern Alberta.

GoPro image of me and Kenny on the Bow.

And speaking of change, I think it will be time for a few of my own as well. I came at my 40th year with a lot of steam but now that I am well into it I realize some of my priorities have changed. And yet some have become even more focused. Having been back in the mountains (both big mountains and crag-climbing) recently I have had the chance to really learn about what used to drive me and what drives me now.

It is time to start making new plans for the next few years and to really focus on what I feel is important. Business will change, some things will get cut out, more time for my family, and likely a deeper commitment to my beliefs and what I think has value in this world.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Listen While You Still Can

It can be very hard to see far into the future and for most of us still moving between this rock and space and time, there just is no point to it. To know what you will be doing one year from now (or even the next few days) is an exercise in a futility that will most likely change anyhow. However if you look back at the events that did transpire, you can sometimes see a trend or common thread that from time to time, made a significant etch in the shaping of your character.

Two interesting souls making their way up Reid's Ridge in Smith-Dorian area.

The thread that makes it's impression upon me is the people who have come into my life (sometimes if only briefly) to which I have connected both emotionally and spiritually. These individuals may be on some large orbit of their own but as our paths cross we connect, share ideas, grow quickly, and become something more than we could just as ourselves. Like a small collision, leaving a smudge of paint, we both carry on looking a little different then when we started.

You can not find these people, even if you searched them out. But you can increase your odds of running into them for sure by keeping to circles of commonality, like joining some club, involvement in sports and like-minded lifestyles. But you can't force it.

It's great to look back on those times and connections but what is really important here is what is happening now. I know I have had these enormous personalities contend with mine, I know I have had amazing experiences with intimidating souls, and the spirits who have inspired me. They have all left their mark. But I can no longer interact with them, those moments as sweet as they were, are no longer anything more then dusty memory.

What IS happening now IS important. I need to ask myself, "are there individuals within my world right now who will leave their mark, who will make a sea-change in my life, who's path has been set before me so that we may both benefit from what we have to give"? And if so, then these experiences require my full attention. If I get the honour of interacting with these beautiful souls then I should listen while I still can. What could be better than consciously enjoying these conversations, these moments, these shared adventures in the real time now?

There is a popular saying, "Stop and smell the flowers" but these days it should be, "Listen while you still can". Our lives are busier than ever, our attention spans are shot, and more of us seem to be holding on to the past in unhealthy ways. Live now, live deep, enjoy those special relationships and as fleeting as they may be, let them leave their mark.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New World | Canadian Adventure Photographer

A couple weeks ago I finished my PADI Open Water, and Dry Suit certification. I found diving to be a new passion for me and the people I have meet who are involved with the local diving community are as interesting as they are great to be around. I wrote this just after we got back from Waterton.

Ken Brennan and Ken Pon posing for a snap-shot.

 The weight of the tank and BCD is bearable but I wouldn't want to shoulder it for long, especially since I am wearing the equivalent of waterproof chuck-Taylor (canvas shoes) and walking through 8” inches of spring snow. Continuing to weave my way through the bare poplar trees that line the beach, my focus to maintain balance is the only thing that temporarily relieves my anxiety. I have to be honest, I am nervous as hell and why wouldn’t I be? I am walking towards the edge of Cameron Bay on the North end of Waterton Lakes National Park, dressed from head to toe in cold-water SCUBA gear and it is the 18th of April.
According to my guide and open water instructor Ken Pon, our excursion may be rare for this time of the year but not unheard of. In fact Ken was part of an ice diver training course only a few weeks ago on Lake Minnewanka where he and a few other instructors taught the finer points of rescue and dealing with conditions under an enormous 20 inch thick sheet of lake ice. This fact, and the idea that today’s open water and spring conditions could give us an excellent dive still challenges my minds foundation of reality that it is still winter. For Ken, an extremely experienced diver and major pillar of the land locked Alberta SCUBA instruction community; it just means we won’t have to cut a hole.

This is cold water diving and if you live in Alberta and really want to get some time in the water you know that this is a part of life. The diving season here is at best one third as long as anywhere in the world where you might find comfort in a simple wet suit, so unless you’re into rocketing all over the globe to get your log-book filled, you will find ways to dive in the cold. In my case today I am wearing a rubberized laminated dry suit, thermal underwear and heavy neoprene protection for my hands and head. Comfort is extremely important when diving here so we base out of an enclosed cook shack complete with wood fireplace and tables. Sheltered from the wind, the fire is going and we take our time preparing for our dives both technically and mentally, adding a little light-hearted humour in exchange for anxious anticipation.

Ken Brennan very relaxed at 40 feet in the 34 degree water.

After my dives Ken tells me that most students don’t remember much about being under. The focus on skills and overwhelming new environment reduces ones perception to the task at hand and staying within reach of something to cling to. As new as this world was for me it is not the first stressful training series I have gone through and I forced myself to look around, to experience a few moments in the purest certainty with 25’ feet of water overhead.

I have often heard about the “flying” sensation or how close the experience is to what astronauts get on a space walk and I get that. But what really set my mind on fire was the beauty of the spaces, colors and textures as I moved effortlessly (albeit clumsily) through this mostly undisturbed liquid environment. To my right, a 70 degree corrugated wall of fine red and white gravel punctuated by fist sized stones that look like they could tip and glide to the bottom at any moment. On my Left is a deep water column of graduated color with translucent blue at the top and every color of green as it descends into a black void below. Ancient trees seem to materialise ahead of us, bearing fine silt and algae like felt covered bones of some long dead giant creature whose territory we now lurk. My senses are heightened, colors are brighter, the smallest details scream for my attention; I am filled with a mix of wonder and appreciation that I am not in my natural environment.

Then what seemed like hours but really only minutes, the dive ends and we begin our standard safety stop and ascent to the surface. Gravity welcomes us back to our world as we walk out and exchange handshakes and hi-fives, talking excitedly on our way back to the shelter about the clarity of the water and how much I bumped into things (I felt like a pro but the video footage shows otherwise). A quick warm up while doffing and packing our gear, jump in the truck in no time and we are on the road back to Calgary. Stories and laughter make the trip short, friends and future dive partners are made and my head is still reeling from one of the coolest things I have ever done. It’s official, I am a diver now and the best part is that I am happy being a cold-water diver. Supportive Dive Shops, knowledgeable and confident instruction, and an emphasis on a good experience have given me a foundation to enjoy diving for years to come.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Created | Adventure Photographer

(I recently wrote this in response to a question a friend of mine had asked on her blog regarding the energy we feel when we are outside in natural places...)

"Parow par muja Yahweh say mulakat hoga" is an Urdu sentence that an old friend of mine wrote for me. It's been written on the back of my climbing helmet for 12 years and simply translated into english says, "The mountains are where I go to meet with God".

I have been a spiritual person my whole conscious life and it just makes sense that I have contemplated the energy and force I feel when I am out in Creation and beyond the life that I have created on my own.

You see, if we are created beings living in a created world then it just makes sense to be renewed while we are engaged with this Creation. The world we have built for ourselves is the best that we as broken beings could create. Full of imperfection, anxiety, urgency, lies, consumerism, affluence, fear, frustration etc. I am not suggestion there is nothing good we can do, but how much more incredible is it to go to a place that is so much bigger than ourselves and speaks to something greater? Many people can see the revelation of God in nature and those who don't, understand that the natural world holds a spirit of it's own. Like living water and travelling closer to the source every time we connect out there, our spirits are topped off and we can go back to the world we have built and see it in its true perspective.

It feels right to be a part of an orderly system or created by something greater than myself. I don't want to be the centre of the universe, I don't want my life to be all there is. I want to rest assured that when I climb, when I feel the warm limestone, smell the alpine and blasted by the wind whipping through the valley, that I am a part of something beautiful. This truly is a stunning planet we live on here, in a solar system that is bare and singularly faceted, with a sun and gravitational forces that seem to cater to us, our planet is bursting with diversity. Take a look around, it is very hard to imagine that everything here is a result of chance.

"Out there" is energy, passion, focus, reality, love, hope, fun, growth, adventure, and all the good things that come from being a part of it. The mountains are where I go to meet with God, and nature is where I will find myself.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Spike In Evolution | Adventure Photography

Sun sets between a winter Chinook and the Foothills in Southern Alberta.

As most of you probably know I have been extremely busy these last few months. This film project has been stretched due to construction timelines so I am back to filling open dates with new work. Not only have I been out shooting on location and writing a lot but I have also had to learn a whole new set of software and techniques to go along with it. By April I should have all the skills to create graphic overlays and animation in digital video as well as coming up to speed on all the newest tools in the Adobe CS Cloud lineup.

And as if I figured I wasn't busy enough I have finished my Closed water SCUBA certification and will have my recreational cert in the spring. I have found SCUBA (and now FREE-Diving) to not only be a great addition to my work but being in the water gives me a great sense of comfort and removal from the virtual stress of day to day city-life.

There is a lot of cool projects in the works and I will be posting them as they become public. I am looking forward to an exciting and busy year with my family, business and friends while I ramp up to the milestone of 40. I have never had so much going on for the start of a new year but as one of my interviewee's once told me, "life begins at forty"!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Just Add Water \ Canadian Adventure Photographer

The clock has 4 hands with a different colour for each, but it's the green one I'm concerned with, green means "go". Like a pin-wheel they continue to make their way around and the green hand is now at the 45 second mark, breathing deep and relaxed. Now the 50 second mark, exhale and inhale one more long inflow of fresh air. There it is, 55 second mark, three quick shallow breaths, one long gasp and the last thing I see before I drop below the surface is the green hand at zero.

Tile floor comes up into my view and stretches out across the bottom like a super wide runway and I get a momentary rush of euphoria, I can tell this will be a good one. Reaching out ahead of me my hands cupped then pull back to my sides and my body glides ahead another two meters. I hear nothing and only look for the other wall now 28 meters ahead of me. So calm, not concious of my body at all, I am flying and each stroke feels deliberate and natural. Nothing is going through my mind, no signal, no stress, just pure exhilaration in the moment, the only place I need to be right now.

The far wall is closing in now, not much longer to go, yet it is beginning to feel unreachable. Releasing a steady stream of bubbles from my lungs I can start to feel my body rejecting my minds commands to hold on, even for just a few more seconds. Closer now, the muscles in my chest are twitching, I must stay calm, it's all in my mind, I can do this. The force to take a breath is nearly irresistible but there is only a meter to go, I'm uncomfortable but still in control, I got this. I reach out for the wall and wait just one more moment before I pull my head up above the surface. Still focused I rise out of the warm liquid resolving not to take my first breath until I see that green hand. There, the mark made and I focus on it while getting my first breath since going under. Takes a second to register in the brain as my body goes back into it's normal breathing rhythm; one minute and fourteen seconds.

I have never been able to hold my breath for more than 30 seconds and now getting used to the water and working on my comfort level, I realize I have been missing something. For most of my life I have stayed away from water and there is a realization that I have really missed out. However being there now and training my body and mind to be a part of it is a rush that I have only felt from a few other activities in my life. Again pushing past fear and ignorance while adapting your body to a new environment is such an amazing experience. And to think that all a person needs for this is water.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

On The Fly | Adventure Lifestyle Photography

Stefan Dalberg gliding across a patch of glass on the Ghost.

On Sunday I drove out to the Ghost Reservoir to photograph a friend of mine and his ice sailing boat as he prepared for an upcoming project of his own. Stefan Dalberg is the real-deal when it comes to adventure and living. Stef is passionate about a lot of things including speed and putting 100% into whatever he does. It's never dull watching him rip it up on the ice at the Ghost and it always gives me something great to shoot.

I'm just coming off of holidays down on the island where I had to force myself to slow down so this may be the reason my brain hadn't come back up to speed yet. I had envisioned some big production lighting set-up for a sunset shoot with Stef and the boat but when I drug all my gear out on to the ice, the conditions had changed quite a lot. After a few test shots I realized that without some good over head clouds, my sunset would be quick and fairly undramatic.

The sun started to dip below a band of storm clouds on the Foothills to the West and Stef was now blasting by me on every run. I try not to limit my vision too  much when on location as even with a great plan, there is always something serendipitous that could happen if you keep your mind open and keep looking around. I noticed the smokey band of high cloud in the sky was glowing and dropping my exposure by a stop, I was able to pull a lot of detail out of the sky and the ice while the boat was on my up-wind side.

It's important for me to put a lot of pre-production and planning into a session but part of that is leaving room for "something magic" to happen. Especially now that I am using the 5D Mark III I am able to get closer to my ideas and even when creating on the fly, capture more of what I see before it quickly disappears.