Archive for the ‘Photo Feature’ Category

Robert Service in full color

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

                                    from the Spell of the Yukon, Robert Service

[by Fritz] Last month I headed to Dawson City to shoot the Klondike National Historic Sites for the Canadian Tourism Commission. Most of the talent we pulled in were Parks Canada staff whose jobs had just ended for the season, along with some keen locals and a few tourists. It was supposed to look like a ‘summer’ shoot, but fall was in full swing here in September so we embraced it.

One afternoon we spent some time at Robert Service Cabin. Most visitors to Dawson seek out the home of the famous poet known for his verses about the Klondike Gold Rush. The weather had been cloudy and cold, but while we were there the sun beamed into the historic site. For a short time we were surrounded by magic light and golden fall colour.

While leading us around town on a walking tour, Parks Canada heritage interpreter Fred Osson became Robert Service. By the time we arrived at the cabin, we’d been listening to Fred recite Service ballads and spout off tall tales like Service. I found myself lowering the camera so I could watch the famous bard. I caught myself thinking: this actually is Robert Service, and I really am standing here on the boardwalk in 1903.

It’s easy to think about historic times in monochromatic black and white like we see in the old photos, yet Service’s life was full of colour. That afternoon Fred animated Robert Service’s world for us. Fred is incredibly gifted at what he does, and he took us back a hundred years. We re-created a historic photograph in front of the cabin porch, with Fred teasing us in and out of the past. Oddly, it was 100 years almost to the day since Service left the Yukon for good.

I’ve been to Dawson many times, yet I felt something significant at the cabin that day, like I’d travelled through time and found Klondike gold myself. It was a testament to the power of interpretation.

It’s a big land with magic light and unlimited possibilities for a photographer

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

[by Fritz] YukonWild’s ad in this month’s issue of PhotoLife magazine promotes the Yukon. It’s a pleasure to endorse our wilderness tourism friends at YukonWild, and it’s great to see Yukon being marketed to photographers.

Finding the aurora borealis

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

[by Teresa] This week Fritz happens to be in the right place at the right time: above the Arctic Circle with clear skies under some of the largest solar storms in years. Living north of 60 we’ve seen many aurora, but it sounds like yesterday’s auroral show in northern Norway was something special. His email home says it best:

(January 22)… M3 class magnetic storm. I’m alone along the road to the small fishing village of Tromvik. It’s perfectly clear, calm, maybe -3° C. I’m at the end of a fjord surrounded by snow-covered peaks and it’s a completely magic evening with brilliant stars and aurora are going off everywhere, twisting and rippling, light green and pinks, breathtaking. Then super-strong winds hit going north, buffeting me and the cameras, one tripod without a camera blows over (are winds associated with strong aurora events?!). For awhile I feel like I am standing right on the very edge of the earth looking into space. It’s awe-inspiringly beautiful, exhilarating. I feel almost frighteningly exposed. This was considered an M3 class event, imagine what an X-class event must be like?

It looks like he won’t have to wait long to find out. Within hours of yesterday’s peak, space weather forecasters warned of a massive solar flare due to arrive later today (Jan. 24). Fritz reports he’s eagerly awaiting this next event, which is reportedly the biggest solar radiation storm in seven years. Hopefully the clouds stay away!

 

Hollywood gets cut: the first of many tough book edits

Monday, June 27th, 2011

[by Teresa] We’ve decided to cut Hollywood from our Yukon book – she’s a magnificent old Coast Mountains grizzly celebrated for her cub-rearing success. Sometimes the emotion embedded in an image overshadows its photographic merits. In this case, I sat quietly with my daughters over several days watching Hollywood with her cubs, and whenever I view this image it evokes my empathy and memories of relating to her mama to mama. We have a surplus of great bear shots in a book that distills a decade of northern photography, so we must be ruthless. Hollywood’s portrait is lovely and it shows her gentle character, but we see no cubs or behaviour and little sense of the place that defines her family and habitat. I may see a sweet, selfless, hard-working mother, but the composition doesn’t hold up against photos of bears feeding or fighting or exploring their environment.  

You’d think we’d be able to quickly put together this book, but as our colleague @OutcropJay likes to say, it’s an iterative process, which really means we keep revisiting and rehashing the edit until we get it right. As National Geographic photographer Sam Abell told us: “the book of assembly is the rare book, and the most delight for readers. It’s also more challenging for the creator—a project that requires significantly more thought, more effort. Assembling a book is a thoughtful, deliberate process—often undervalued and hastily done by most book publishers.” As we make these tough calls, we’re trying to take those words to heart.

Summertime photo shoot in Nunavut

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Little critters on Herschel Island

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

[by Fritz] If you ever have the opportunity to visit Herschel Island off the Yukon’s north coastline, jump at the chance. The first time I went there I was a 21-year-old university student and I spent a month in a tent all over the island assisting Swedish researcher Anders Angerbjörn on his study of Arctic foxes. I’ve been back several times since, most recently with my friend and colleague Don Reid, a researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society, who is involved in a study of Arctic food webs and how a changing climate is affecting wildlife populations. Lemmings and voles are key prey for a number of predators on Herschel, and their abundance affects the population dynamics of many wildlife species. I photographed this collared lemming in the tundra meadows of Herschel nibbling on one of its favourite foods, Dryas flowers. They’re important to the food web, and they’re also really cute. Contrary to the myths fabricated by Disney, lemmings don’t commit mass suicide or jump over cliffs. The shorebird is a semi-palmated plover nesting and feeding on the beaches on Herschel.

Mother Caribou

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

[by Teresa]  Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about mothering and maternal instincts and motherhood. I’m going to lose my Mum to cancer, and walking this difficult path with her has brought on waves of introspection about what it is to be a mother. Having my own kids offers some lessons, but when you’re immersed in something you don’t always see things clearly. Plus, mothering is an incredibly tough job and, since my kids aren’t even in school yet, I figure I’m still on probation. Also, I’ve always known I’ll never be half the mother that mine has been to me.

I’ve also looked to nature for lessons in parenting. At this time of year I’m always reminded of incredible mothers I’ve witnessed during birthing season in the North. Feigning injury and putting themselves in harm’s way, nesting birds flutter about in front of predators to lure them away. Grizzly sows dedicate two all-consuming years to nurse, protect and rear their young. Tens of thousands of caribou cows cross half the Yukon Territory to drop their calves in a safer place. They’re all compelling, but it was the caribou mothers that made me cry.

My Mum and some insights about mothering converged on a knoll in North Yukon during one of my richest Yukon experiences. Fritz and I were spending much of June in Ivvavik National Park trying to find the Porcupine caribou herd. One afternoon Fritz fixated on a distant ridge, so we hoisted our packs and crossed a hellish patch of tussocks that followed us for hours, and as I stumbled in the ruts and mud I cursed his route and his impulsive ideas and his heavy cameras and his cheery mug. But we got there, and the site was glorious, and the tent overlooked a greening slope dotted with caribou.

For three days we watched thousands of caribou cows and calves graze and stream across our ridge. The exhausted cows had patchy fur and skeletal frames, while their calves were the picture of good health. The mothers grazed constantly, interrupted only by calves that nursed the nutrients out of them. Heavily pregnant, they’d migrated thousands of kilometres, swam icy rivers and dodged predators to reach their calving grounds, and they were already preparing to return south trailing young. In the caribou migration I found searing lessons about birth and death, survival, and the fragility and fortitude of nature. I pondered their capacity to endure horrendous conditions. I was awed by the instinctive, selfless acts of these mothers.

We carried a satellite phone with us for safety, but one evening, under the intense glare of the June sun and in the company of thousands of caribou, we dug it out for a couple of personal calls. We phoned our parents, who’d unconditionally loved and supported us through years of crazy adventures and dreams, and I stood on that remote ridge with tears streaming down my face as I described to Mum the spectacle around me. She listened intently – she knew satellite calls were precious – and in her voice I heard a mother’s empathy for these hardy caribou and their unthinkable journey. For years she would retell our conversation to others in great detail; she got a huge thrill from that call, and I felt so privileged to share my experience with her. Someday I will stand among the cows and calves with my daughters at my side, and we’ll remember my Mum – their Grandy – and all that she enabled us to be.

Anatomy of an aerial shoot over Yukon’s Mount Logan

Friday, April 1st, 2011

[by Fritz] After two years of false starts, an aerial photography project to shoot the St. Elias Icefields finally came together last summer. See the Mount Logan and St. Elias Icefields aerial portfolio here.   Below, an account of one day’s aerial shoot over Canada’s highest peak.

6:30 pm – For the first time in weeks, the weather looks promising and there’s no wildfire smoke in the air. The Internet connection from Kluane Lake Research Station is sporadic but I manage to preview a couple of weather sites and some satellite imagery. Forecasts for the St. Elias Range are coarse and the mountains create their own weather, so in the end the decision to fly is a guess. Weather has been plowing into the Yukon from the Pacific Ocean for a week, but a small window of high pressure seems to be building over the range, which is why I’ve driven out from Whitehorse again. I’ve lost track how many times I’ve come out only to be turned around by weather or smoke.

7:30 pm – I spread my gear out in the empty mess hall and start packing. I clean my lenses and sensors, charge batteries, check CF cards, arrange my pack and sort through a pile of winter clothing. And then I check everything again.

9:15 pm – I can’t find Donjek Upton (the pilot) and he doesn’t have a phone, so I walk to his house to set things up for the morning. He’s exhausted from a long day of shuttling researchers out of the range and not so keen to hear that I want to fly early tomorrow. This is probably the tenth time I’ve tried to line things up and everyone is getting a little frustrated. I’m pretty sure they think that I don’t know what I want, and to some extent they’re right. Lining up good light and reasonable flying conditions in the St. Elias is a crapshoot.

9:45 pm – I call Lloyd Freese (Parks Canada) at home in the Junction to tell him that we’re on for the morning. I’ve teamed up with Parks Canada to do this shoot. We set up a check-in routine: I will phone by 3:15 am if I’m calling it off, otherwise he’ll head out for the half-hour drive to the base at Kluane Lake.

10:30 pm – I walk over to the Wood Building to log onto the weather sites again. Things look about the same. I stand outside watching the weather. I spend awhile looking at maps and walking through the shoot again before going to bed.

3:00 am – My watch alarm goes off. Though it’s July, I put on long underwear and dress like it’s winter. I splash water on my face, trying to wake up. I check the satellite images again and I’m disappointed to see the high pressure system started to break down overnight, but there may still be a hole over Mount Logan. If we don’t go today it could be weeks before we try again. Should I cancel, or do I mobilize everyone and spend the money?  

3:30 am – Donjek is out wiring his GoPro Hero to the wing because he’s excited about alpenglow on Logan. He never has to fly this early and he doesn’t say much. The plane didn’t get refuelled last night and now the fuel pump isn’t working, but we sort it out. I’m already anxious about being late. It takes 45 minutes just to get to where I want to start shooting, and last time we arrived too late for alpenglow.

3:50 am – Donjek takes the rear door off. I’m wearing a harness and I also tie my cameras, gyros and bags to the plane. Lloyd arrives, we load into the plane, and I start spinning up my gyroscopes. Sunrise is less than an hour away.

4:05 am – We finally take off and head up the shadowy Slims. The Helio Courier labours to gain altitude all the way to Mount Logan.

4:40 am – We’ve crossed Divide and Logan looms in front of us. One of the challenges is to show that this is one of the largest landscapes in the world. Light plays all kind of tricks in the icefields, and Logan is huge with no references for scale. And there’s no sign of humans anywhere. It turns out our timing is good and the weather is perfect. Sometimes it’s really bumpy, but this morning it’s not too bad and that bodes well for sharpness.

4:55 am – Now I’m reframing and shooting pretty much continuously. The morning sun rakes across the peaks, and it’s exquisite. I line up a great composition and have Donjek circle around and then around again. Lloyd has a tougher stomach than the Parks staffer on the last flight, who was keen to be there but was airsick with all the circling.

5:30 am – The light is gorgeous this morning with layers of fog swirling around. It’s all coming together: after two years, the magic moment is here. I keep working more compositions, each time asking Donjek to circle around, banking to get the wing out of the way. Logan is so big we don’t even get a quarter of the way across before we start to run out of time. Donjek is starting to fuss about fuel. I keep ignoring him, lining up new shots. Eventually he swings away from the mountain to head home.

5:50 am – I keep shooting even though it’s clear the magic is gone. My arms and neck hurt, the rattle of the plane is wearing, and I’m feeling fried. In the end I had less than 20 minutes with Mount Logan.

6:05 am – We fly down through the Front Range. I prefer being over the snow because you have the option of landing on skis. Once we’re below the firn line I’m always reminded there’s nowhere to get down safely.

6:20 am – We land at the research base. People are just starting to stir. Now we have way too many layers on and I’m dripping with sweat. We peel clothes off and head to the mess hall for coffee.

See the Mount Logan and St. Elias Icefields aerial portfolio here.

Cold weather, warm edit

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

[by Fritz] It’s definitely easier to edit photos from a tropical trip when it’s -35° C outside. For the last few days I’ve finally gotten around to editing and processing photos from a family camping adventure to Hawaii last year. I don’t know how other photographers keep up with the processing backlog, but I find that months can go by before I get time to process my personal shoots. Here’s a portfolio of images from Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Kea and Honolulu, Oahu.  

And they’re off! The 2011 Yukon Quest start in Whitehorse

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

[by Teresa]  All of Whitehorse turns out for the start of the Yukon Quest, especially when it’s -10 and sunny like today. The girls and I visited with friends and watched the teams race by while Fritz did a bit of shooting. The highlight was a dog who broke loose at the start line and pranced around ahead of his team as they left the chute. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking: “Should I run for it, or should I rejoin the team for the 1000 miles to Fairbanks?” It’s billed as the toughest sleddog race in the world, and these dogs are incredible athletes.