This summer we did a combination marketing/special event photo shoot in Gulf Islands National Park and Reserve near Victoria, B.C. Parks Canada hosted a 2-day BioBlitz at Sidney Spit, and then we spent several days visiting some of the outer islands in the marine park.
Posts Tagged ‘national park’
This was Fritz’s first trip to Nahanni, and what a trip it was. Parks Canada took a small team on a 10-day whirlwind tour to many of Nahanni’s great sites – Glacier Lake, Cirque of the Unclimbables, Rabbitkettle, tufa mounds, Virginia Falls – to refresh the park’s photo collection.
This summer Fritz was invited by Parks Canada to photograph one of the country’s newest park reserves. Officially established just a year ago, Naats’ihch’oh is an extensive wilderness adjacent and north of Nahanni National Park. The small crew spent a week exploring the park.
[by Fritz] I’m fortunate to often shoot in our national parks system, trying to capture experiences, moments and landscapes that make people want to visit these special places. Working with Parks Canada has been one of the highlights of my decade as a photographer.
Recently Parks Canada put their photography services out to tender. It was a competitive process – required 10 years of professional experience and fairly rigorous technical and portfolio qualifications. Excited to be selected by Parks Canada as one of six photographers shooting in the national parks and heritage sites system over the next couple of years. And a few parks are already queueing up shoots for summer 2015.
With warm summer thoughts in mind, here’s a selection from a shoot in Ivvavik National Park last summer with the team from the Western Arctic Field Unit.
[by Fritz] Last weekend I attended the official opening of the new Kluane National Park visitor centre in Haines Junction, Yukon where I got to see the results of a commercial shoot I worked on over the past two years. The client was Parks Canada, and they first called me in 2010 about commissioning a series of gigapixel images for their new exhibit hall. Read an earlier blog post about Gigpan Epic Pro and Mars Rover technology.
My job was to follow the exhibit designer’s creative direction to create half a dozen wall-sized gigapixel images to be incorporated into interpretive installations. This wasn’t a photographer-driven beauty shoot – they provided detailed concepts and image sizes, and I scouted locations and completed the shoots to their specs. It was very time consuming and involved lots of technical challenges and computer time. We all had to stay flexible as the project evolved, and the results are impressive. Lots of photographers are creating gigapixel images, but few are fortunate to have them printed at their full size.
It’s exciting to see how veteran exhibit designer David Jenson and his team created an immersive space where you can experience being in the park. When entering Parks Canada’s exhibit hall, you first approach a ceiling-high mountain structure in the centre of the room draped with a gigapixel photograph of King’s Throne at Kathleen Lake. Hiding beyond King’s Throne is a 10-foot high photo of a wall of glacial ice: the toe of Donjek Glacier, with lighting that creates the feeling of clouds and changing sunlight. Other stitched gigapan images anchor habitat exhibits on the surrounding walls.
In the end we made 7 giant photographs, and many of my images from other shoots for Parks Canada are used elsewhere throughout the exhibits. Below you can explore and zoom into five of these gigapixel images of Kluane – click on bottom-left button for full-screen mode. Or better yet, visit the new interpretive centre in Haines Junction!
[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.
[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.
[by Fritz] The thermometer is dipping down, so I’m finding excuses to stay inside and edit photos. I’m working on a collection of images from some collaborative aerial photography shoots I did this summer with Parks Canada. It took a couple of years for the timing and conditions to come together, but in the end we managed to do some pretty extensive shooting of the Kluane icefields.
It’s one thing to get the right weather and light, but it’s another to make a sharp, high-quality photograph while you’re hanging out of a doorless old bush plane over the north face of 19,551-ft Mount Logan. Despite 14 layers of long underwear, I’m still freezing cold. It’s way too early and I’ve probably had too much coffee, and the plane is bucking all over the place. So it’s fair to say that the shakes are a problem. What do you do?
For many years I’ve used an external stabilizing gyroscope to improve sharpness on aerial shoots, but this year I built a new rig that reduces camera shake even more. I use two KenLab KS-8 gyroscopes connected at right angles to each other to stabilize the camera on all three axes, clamped to a Really Right Stuff rail with Arca-Swiss-style clamps to attach the whole beast to the bottom of the camera. It’s crazy heavy, and I should work out more to strengthen my arms, but it significantly reduces camera shake for the first hour or two (before I get tired and my arms give out). Watch for future blog discussions about shooting sharp aerials at night.
[by Fritz] Last year I was fortunate to land several shoots for Parks Canada and the Canadian Tourism Commission. My edge was delivering a new look they’re bringing into their marketing campaigns. Scenic pictures of mountains and wildlife used to be the currency, but those images are a dime a dozen (I know because I shoot a lot of scenery and wildlife). They’ve found that pretty photographs of nature only go so far in luring people to visit parks.
Instead, the marketing experts say that the key to attracting visitors to these special places is to show people experiencing it through their own eyes. The main thrust of these campaigns is to evoke feelings and experiences. For example, instead of showing a vast landscape with a distant red canoe, you might show the visitor’s point-of-view from inside the canoe. This means getting in close, playing with angles and trying some fun photography techniques.
As the population becomes more urban, national parks and historic sites are having a tough time attracting visitors. Most people grow up in the city, and an image of a big empty landscape feels inaccessible and perhaps even scary to them. If they see an image that captures a compelling moment, with people having fun and experiencing a place rather than just looking at it, they’re more inclined to want to visit.
Hopefully this new strategy succeeds in building visitor interest, because our parks can always use more friends.