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 ‘natural history’
[by Fritz] Last week online forums were bursting with sentiments about the end of Kodachrome and the shuttering of the last processing facility. Since 2009 Kodak stopped making their signature slide film. Yet, there was still a crush of exposed film arriving for a guy named Dwayne in Parsons, Kansas, before he closed the world’s last Kodachrome processor.
I don’t mourn the passage of Kodachrome and I definitely don’t miss film. However, reading about Kodachrome did send me digging in my archive for a favourite photo from Africa. In the summer of 1989 I was a wide-eyed zoology grad student working in Tanzania’s Serengeti. I had my own Land Rover and was free to explore the national park. Dreamy stuff. One of my most memorable experiences was following a pride of lions and photographing a resplendent male that we later darted and radio-tagged. He was a magnificent animal with a massive face and mane. I recall being struck by the size and weight of his tail, which I could barely circle with my two hands and had trouble lifting. My photos from the Serengeti evoke all kinds of memories: the smell of wildebeest dung, the night sounds of lions, strange encounters with army ants and porcupines. I had a Nikon F3 HP in Africa, and I happened to be shooting with Kodachrome.
Are people sentimental about Kodachrome, or are we sentimental about the experiences we photographed? I think we’re sad about the passage of time, and this is also a retrospective time of year. Images evoke memories, and we just happened to capture them on Kodachrome, then Fujichrome, and now the latest CMOS sensors. I think many people who are sentimental about Kodachome never used the stuff in a serious way. Professional photographers don’t seem to be filling online forums with Kodachrome nostalgia. The advantages of today’s professional digital cameras, compared to all of the constraints of the film world, are too numerous to count. We have almost grainless images at ISO 12,000, essentially unlimited number of frames, and instant feedback so we can learn from our mistakes as we go. We don’t have to worry about film damage or storage and can almost instantaneously distribute images to anyone anywhere through the Internet. Stills cameras make movies and movie cameras make stills. And we can emulate the look of Kodachrome with a few simple moves in Photoshop or the latest iPhone app. Why hang on to Kodachrome?
Kodachrome reigned during an era when good photographers were revered. They’d mastered a complex craft that was a culmination of 100 years of chemistry, mechanical apparatus and the unpredictability of light and art. Viewers still thought that photos represented the truth. But it never was: photographers and labs and editors were always capable of great manipulation. Digital technology broke that belief and people became wise to it, but images are no more or less truthful than they ever were. Back then there were relatively few photographers, and the images they made felt more precious. Today, everyone is a photographer and we’re awash in a sea of low-grade imagery. Still, profound images and memories are being made every day with digital cameras. The creative possibilities with today’s high-end cameras and the latest software are almost unlimited and we can also be more accurate with our photos than ever before. I think there has never been a more exciting and challenging time to be a photographer.
[by Teresa] Thanksgiving is behind us and Hallowe’en is ahead, and the forecast says a snowstorm is rolling in. I’m reminded of a mid-October blizzard two years ago at the Arctic Circle where I sat at the edge of a river with my friend Phil Timpany watching drowsy grizzly bears plodding up and downstream along the base of Bear Cave Mountain.
Phil – and his partner, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation – runs what may be the most unique bear viewing operation on the continent. Grizzlies congregate here in wintry conditions to feast on a late run of chum salmon before hibernation. Within an hour of arriving by helicopter at North Yukon’s Ni’iinlii Njik (Fishing Branch) Territorial Park, I was seated in the snow on the bank of the Fishing Branch River a few yards from a sow named Boots trailing young-of-the-year triplets. Soon after, Mrs. Tucker presented her one-year-old twins, and Goldie brought around her cocky two-year-old, a stinky teenager that would test our – and his mother’s – boundaries on several occasions. It takes a lot to stun me speechless, but that afternoon I had few words to voice how it felt to be in the company of bears.
Fritz spent a month shooting at Bear Cave Mountain the previous year, so I knew that a confined, quiet routine awaited me: walk to a viewing site, watch bears, return to the cabins for meals and sleep. Imagine my surprise to be awakened at 1am on my very first night by terrific banging and shuffling around my tiny cabin. The building trembled and I sensed that a bear – surely that’s what it was? – had leaned against the wall I was curled next to. The ruckus continued for an hour, and I cursed the last cup of tea I drank before bed. Making a midnight dash to the outhouse clearly wasn’t an option so a spare bottle provided relief.
Turns out a mystery bear paid a visit to camp that night. It was the first time in years one came onto the deck, and this rogue fellow did a bit of redecorating. The clatter was an empty propane tank that he pried loose and batted about like a bowling pin, and we found a few other items scattered among the trees. But Propane Bear never came back. I was thrilled when we were weathered in longer than what was supposed to be a very short stay. When the snow starts to fly, I think about this unruly young grizz playing on the deck as winter took hold. Season’s short and sometimes a young fella just needs to blow off a little steam before hibernation, right?
[by Teresa] Yesterday the girls and I found a wood frog in our front yard. It’s likely this fellow came from a pond teeming with frogs ten minutes down the trail from our house; in the spring we can hear the din from home. Not exactly a remarkable discovery until you think about where we live.
The Yukon isn’t the most hospitable place for amphibians; the wood frog (Rana sylvatica) is one of just a handful of amphibians that can survive our northern winters. This handsome little frog is the northernmost amphibian in North America, and it doesn’t just survive—it thrives in many ponds in the Yukon. Their story of adaptation is incredible; in winter their cells fill with glucose which acts like antifreeze, helping the wood frog survive as its body temperature drops well below freezing.
Watching the frog with the girls reminded me of a special photograph Fritz took at the pond four years ago this summer. In July 2006 I was hugely pregnant and barely getting off the sofa, and with just a couple of weeks to go I was keeping Fritz on a pretty short leash. He’d gone on a few quick trips in June, but by July I wanted him shooting well within cell phone range, and in Whitehorse that means not leaving city limits. No day trips to White Pass, no afternoons in a blind at Kluane. He found stuff to do and things to shoot, but it was frustrating to be stuck so close to home at the height of the northern summer.
One morning he headed to the pond and found loads of frogs and wildflowers—the twinflower (linnea borealis) was in bloom. We spoke a couple of times through the day; I’d had faint contractions and set up a doctor appointment for the next morning. Fritz was home by dinnertime, and that evening he showed me some of his day’s work. One series stopped me short: a pair of frogs flanking a twinflower.
Given that we were expecting twins—and I had basically started going into labour that day—I was struck by the symbolism of the shot. But Fritz had been so absorbed with shooting, the significance didn’t dawn on him till I pointed it out. That night he sent this photo out with a mock baby announcement to our families declaring our “hoppy” arrivals.