Cycle of the Season: Autumn Bike Style

A couple meet in the forest to ride their e-bikes together

“Urban Escapes” — Published as a centrefold in the Autumn 2016 print issue of Momentum Mag. Meaghan Horne rides a Blix Vika+ foldable e-bike to meet up with Franky Morrell, riding a Blix Komfort+ step-through e-bike. Alternate take below, used on the table of contents page.

Photographed in Stanley Park, Vancouver, 2016.

A couple meet in the forest to ride their e-bikes together

The Totem Poles of Alert Bay

Totem poles stand tall at the traditional Namgis Burial Grounds on Alert BayOff the Northern Coast of Vancouver Island, and a ferry ride away from Port McNeill, lies a small island called Cormorant in the Queen Charlotte Strait. Home to the Kwakwaka‘wakw village of Alert Bay, in the ‘Namgis (Nimpkish) territory, this island is living history. At once traditional and contemporary, Alert Bay is home to an active population of ‘Namgis, and it’s these welcoming people who illuminate the island for visitors. From the tourism info centre, one is greeted enthusiastically and with a plan — depending on how much time you have on the island, a map and itinerary is offered for self-guided exploration.

We started at the U’mista Cultural Centre, a museum and heritage stop with the largest collection of Potlatch memorabilia in the world. Many of these items were repatriated from overseas after Canada’s prohibition, which forbade the hosting of Potlatch and other essential traditional ceremonies, was lifted. They are still collecting, still healing and still looking to reconnect a fractured past. By welcoming tourism in a big way, Alert Bay is a beacon for those interested in our West Coast history, both the beauty and the brutal.

From U’mista, we visited the Big House, off limits to visitors as it’s still in use today. Standing before the great facade was impressive enough, our imaginations ran wild thinking of the experiences contained within. Next to the Big House stands the “World’s Tallest Totem Pole“, at 173 feet tall. Beyond that is current ‘Namgis burial ground, and down the road and over the hill is the Anglican graveyard, a place with many mixed symbols and dedications. Private totem poles and arches are found throughout the island, you can see them all in one day as the island is just 12km around the edge.

The highlight was the original ‘Namgis burial grounds. On the edge of the ocean, totems stand tall and some stand crooked. They face the sea and remain alert, protecting and honouring those buried below. As an outsider, we weren’t able to get close, rather taking our photos from the road. Still, the energy can be felt on this island and in this place. While the skies opened up and the mist set in, it was time to take the ferry back to Port McNeill, thoughts of times past and times anew occupying our minds on the slow float across the sea.

Alert Bay, Cormorant Island, BC.

<click on the first image to view large – recommended!>


Vancouver Folk Music Festival 2016 – pt. III Sunday

Country singer Hayes Carll at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. Folk Fest Sunday. It’s day three and everyone is in the groove by this point. The clouds took a while to depart in the morning… then they gathered up some energy and returned darker and firing electric bolts later in the day. Luckily there was just a sprinkle of a shower, and the stormy skies above the North Shore and Howe Sound turned out to be an excellent backdrop. If you haven’t yet, head back in time and check out the scene on Friday and Saturday. Then hit play on the playlist below to get in the mood. Ready?

The final day of the 39th Folk Festival was another standout. Time to catch all the music that’s eluded you so far and listen to the whispers from the crowd about who is a ‘must see’. Today’s the day! Aside from some bands from the previous few days, here we see the Brazilian flavour of Flavia Nascimento, Cape Verde’ Elida Almeida, the mindblowing modern/traditional music of Estonia’s Trad.Attack!, a flamenco/Arabic mashup from France’s Les Noces Gitanes, bluegrass punk rock from Montreal’s Lisa LeBlanc, countrified tales from Hayes Carll (pictured above) and Canada’s beloved Bruce Cockburn. I tried to replicate my shot of Bruce from his last appearance in 2004 — fairly close, right? Rounded out by Land of Talk, Henry Wagons, Cian Nugent, and a few more I took in without the camera.

I received my 15-year veterans badge this year, a milestone for me, and as such I included a little selfie here, too. Yea, I’m really proud to be a folk fest volunteer :) The other thing I have to mention — that Churro Ice Cream sandwich? Incredible! Search out the Dinner by Bayan food truck for this one, I can still taste it. Thanks for viewing, I encourage you to check out some of the artists in the player below and let me know in the comments who caught your ear. Already looking forward to 2017 – the 40th anniversary, it should be epic!

Vancouver, 2016.

Listen to my 2016 Folk Fest playlist below while perusing the photos. Enjoy!

<click the first image below to view large – recommended!>

Vancouver Folk Music Festival 2016 – pt. II Saturday

Ghana artist Jojo Abot performs on stage at the Vancouver Folk Music Fesival.We’re back! Day two at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival took us on a trip around the world with music from Ghana, Estonia, Mexico, Israel, Venezuela, China, right across Canada and parts in between. An incredible diversity of artists, sounds and stage presentation. The sun shone, the bass thumped, fingers picked and strum and today’s artists had you on your feet absorbed in their world of sound in no time. Featured in this set of shots are: Vancouver’s Gamelan Bike Bike (yup, gamelan music made with upcycled bike frame tubes and parts), the Mongolian/punk stylings of China’s Ajinai, Haiti’s Lakou Mizik, Afro-Venezuelan act Betsayda Machado y La Parranda El Clavo (first time in Canada!), Ghana’s otherworldly Jojo Abot (pictured above), the instant party brought to life by Mexican Institute of Sound (“from a small village south of here… we call Mexico City”), ending with Israel’s Yemen Blues on the main stage. Wow.

Check out the photos from Friday over here, and dig into the blog archive for more Folk Fest favourites from the last 15 years.

Listen to my 2016 Folk Fest playlist below while perusing the photos. Enjoy!

<click the first image below to view large – recommended!>

Vancouver Folk Music Festival 2016 – pt. I Friday

Lee Fields digs deep while performing a song at Vancouver Folk Music Festival.Artists from around the world gathered on Jericho Beach for the 39th annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival and, as always, I was up close all weekend shooting images for the festival’s marketing team and archives. Since there was so much good stuff to see, hear and do, I’m posting three sets this year so I can share a few more pics with you. In these Friday evening shots you’ll see local guitar legend (and renowned guitar maker) Michael Dunn, Italy/Algeria’s Faris Amine and the trance of desert blues, England’s Moulettes proggy alt-folk (possibly the first time I’ve seen electrified bassoon positively rocking on stage, it was awesome!), the blazin’ slide steel of Martin Harley, soul sensation Lee Fields & The Expressions (that’s Lee above), the ever-charming M. Ward and local indie heroes the New Pornographers. Killer line up for a Friday night and the sunset rewarded us all with a fiery sky of red and orange. The perfect start to a weekend of worldly music and good vibes.

Check past blog posts for more from recent years, with a small archive right here on flickr, too. Saturday and Sunday… coming up soon!

Vancouver, 2016.

Listen along with my 2016 Folk Fest playlist below:

<click the first image below to view large – recommended!>

Sundown Kingdom – Photography Print

Mount Ferguson is reflected in the waters of Kingdom Lake, BC.

Mount Ferguson is reflected in the waters of Kingdom Lake at sunset. Shore grasses add a layer of abstraction to this shot.

Now available as an archival digital print, this piece would look great printed on aluminum with a floating mount off the wall, or in a classic black wooden frame and matte. Contact me for details and more information on printing options for this piece.

Kingdom Lake, BC, 2016.

Two Wheel Gear – Lifestyle Bicycle Photography

A man poses on a Vancouver street with Two Wheel Gear bicycle pannier.My work niche, developed over the last decade, is bicycle photography. Specifically, urban lifestyle photography showing cycling as a convenient, stylish and simple way to navigate our city streets. We always dress for the destination, whether on a pleasure ride, running errands or riding into work for the day. Working with Momentum Mag these last 10 years has given me an inside look at the growth of this mode of transportation and a goal to change the visual language of urban cycling in North America. Now that I am ‘freelancing’ once again, I’m able to work with different orgs and like-minded small businesses promoting this same view – cycling improves city living whether on or off the bike.

One company that caught my eye early on is Two Wheel Gear. Headed up by Reid Hemsing, this Vancouver company (founded in Calgary, just like me) has carved a niche all their own. They make the Garment Pannier, a beautiful piece of cycling luggage designed for the urban professional. One who rides to work, but has to be looking tip top in their position — ie. suit and tie guys and gals. 2WG has really cornered this market, their products are in use around the world. Their latest is the Pannier Backpack — easily the best representation of this hybrid style I’ve come across, a perfectly functional backpack becomes a pannier for your bike in seconds. Great company, excellent products and it was a pleasure working with Reid and his team on this photography project earlier this summer.

Vancouver, BC, 2016.

Mobi – Vancouver Bike Share Launch Photos

A woman looks out over Vancouver city with a Mobi bike share bicycle by her side.

It’s almost here! Vancouver’s public bike share system, Mobi, is set for launch very soon. The city is buzzing with excitement, it’s true! We’ve been waiting a long time for this and it looks to be a very well-considered system coming into place. I know the team behind Mobi is working extremely hard, literally day and night, to get this system of 1500 bikes ready to go this summer.

To coincide with the brand launch in June, I was commissioned by Mobi to shoot some of the first images of the new bike and announce the arrival of Mobi. Working with the lovely Frederique (whom I photographed a few years back for Momentum Mag), we took the as-yet-unveiled bike into Gastown and down to CRAB Park for some photography. Curious onlookers soon began asking questions, people are genuinely interested in how bike share will change Vancouver. I believe it’s going to propel us from being a bike-curious city — already with an impressive 7% cycling mode share (and up to 10% of commuters get to work by bike!) — to a truly bike-friendly city where anyone aged 8 to 88 can get around safely and conveniently on two wheels. Our downtown cycle tracks, greenways, and other cycling routes are well-used with more being added regularly. The more protected cycling options available, the more people get on a bike to navigate their city – this is proving true time and again in cities all over North America (and globally for that matter). It’s very exciting to be a small part of this cycling momentum as more people discover the joy of city cycling.

Below are a few of the images I shot for the initial Mobi launch. We’re working on some exciting photo projects to come this summer, so stay tuned and don’t forget to sign up as a ‘founding member’ of Mobi, before July 31, for discounted intro rates.

Vancouver, 2016.

Walking With the Wolves in Golden, BC

A grey wolf moves through the forest near Golden, BC.In all my backcountry adventures, there are a few animals I wish to see, and some I would rather view from afar. Big mammals like black bears, deer, elk, and the like are fairly common and don’t pose too much of a threat in my experience. I’m actually disappointed when I don’t see these animals. Grizzly bears, cougars and wolves, on the other hand, are formidable predators I’d rather not come into close contact with. Seeing a big Grizzly right on my trail in the Alberta Rockies was an experience I won’t forget, and while exciting but uneventful in the end, knowing the bear stood between myself and the distant parking lot had the heart racing hard. The cougar, along with lynx and bobcat, now tops my list of animals to spot, but again, I don’t want to be anywhere near these wild cats when I do. I have long camera lenses, that’ll do.

About ten years ago I was camping with Sandra and some friends on the Squamish River, and we knew there were many animals around – fish carcasses, skat, fur, etc gave them away. We were hoping for a quiet night, and we had one. However, at dawn the next morning we both awoke sensing something was outside our tent. Gently peering through the fly, we saw three mature wolves not 10m from where we slept. We had just awoken – was this a dream? What are they doing out there? How come they don’t notice us, as quiet as we were? The wolves were moving along, their bodies almost motionless as their long legs propelling them along in a slow saunter. It was pure magic: the dawn light, the quiet sound of the river, the dreamlike state we felt we were in. Later, after having fallen asleep again, we awoke wondering if we had in fact dreamt it all. But no, tracks were a-plenty around our tent and along the shore of the river. This was a wildlife encounter that’s been etched into my mind.

Since then, I’ve been aching to see wolves at close range again. A hike to Cape Scott, home to a large and robust Grey Wolf pack, didn’t give us any sightings. It’s been quiet. A few years back my brother Jon found out about a wolf sanctuary near Golden called Northern Lights. They have a pack of wolves in their care, from many different backgrounds, mostly rescued from zoos and captive breeding programs in North America. There are eight wolves in acreages, and if you arrange in advance, you can go out into the bush with the two owners (the alphas of the pack) and walk with wolves in their natural environment. Jon bought me this excursion for my 40th birthday, and well, I have to say, this was an absolutely incredible experience! Owners Shelley and Casey took two of their wolves – Scrappy Dave and Flora – onto some Crown land in the Blaeberry Valley. They were released, and we stood fairly still, hands up by our armpits. Here come the wolves, scampering along right towards us. If they approach and are comfortable with your presence, you can reach down and touch their fur. I snuck a light touch. The ice was broken. We walked alongside these two wolves for a couple hours, snapping photo after photo along the way. Eventually the wolves were comfortable enough with us, they forgot we were there. We watched them snack on berries, run amok with each other, dig into critter holes. They posed next to us for photos and we had some licks and paws on our shoulders at one point (stay tuned for a behind the scenes blog post up next). Scrappy Dave disappeared for a spell, and came back covered in something disgusting. They think he found an old black bear carcass. His white fur covered in black sludge, and his demeanour more excitable. We had to end the walk at this point, wild instincts were kicking in.

Back at the centre, we heard an incredibly informative talk on wolves, their role in nature and conservation. We also learned how awful they are treated by just about everyone, including our government’s own conservation efforts. Grey wolves are killed regularly – and systematically – in BC and Alberta, shot from helicopters, snared and trapped through bounties we learned anyone can put up. Often no license required to kill a wolf. Hardly any questions asked. Hunters and trappers kill them so a wild wolf doesn’t take down an elk they would rather hunt for themselves. It’s a little sick. Lessons learned in Yellowstone show how important apex predators such as the Grey Wolf are for a balanced ecosystem. They are an essential part of the forest, a natural manager for grazing animals and habitat conservation. The bad rap they’ve been given over the years (big bad wolf anyone?) has led to a huge misunderstanding of their role in our natural environment and an unnecessary fear of the wolf and what they represent. I would recommend visiting the Northern Lights website to learn more, and take a visit to their centre next time you are near Golden. An illuminating, and thoroughly unique, wildlife experience I can’t recommend enough.

Blaeberry Valley, Golden, BC, 2016.

** Please note: I will be making archival prints available from this series. If you are interested in a print for yourself or as a gift, please get in touch with me for details. I’d love to create prints of these beautiful creatures for you. **

<click on the first image to view larger – recommended!>

Whatever the Weather – Rainy Cycling in the Netherlands

Cyclists ride past bike parking in Utrecht, Netherlands on a rainy day.It’s a bit of a rainy day here in Vancouver, so I kept inside this afternoon and looked back at some of the images I made during my bicycle tour of the Netherlands for Momentum Mag a few years back. Between tours, meetings and presentations from Dutch cycling organizations, I popped outside for quick snaps as the country passed me by, literally on two wheels. As it happened, it rained every day for the week I was there but in every city we visited people went about their daily business on bikes as usual. The difference being perhaps less smiles on their faces, probably a little less traffic on the cycletracks but downpour or not, they ride.

Here in Vancouver the slightest chance of a shower and many casual riders either take transit or suit up top to bottom in some form of waterproof/breathable. The yellow rain jacket from MEC was the de facto uniform identifying you as a cyclist in years past. I’m happy to report, these days more people ride whatever the weather and year round in our city. Nothing wrong with putting away the bike on a particularly nasty day, but I find cycling in the (warm) rain can be a very pleasant experience. The quiet patter of the raindrops, the mist hydrating your face, the muck caught by your fenders, not your pants. With the recent announcement that Vancouver now claims a 10% cycling mode share for commuting to work, it seems we’re on the right track.

What I like about these (hastily shot) images is the diversity of people riding, and the ‘dress for your destination’ mindset that is still visible even under poncho or umbrella. And speaking of, umbrellas are great to ride under! Taking it slow and easy, along dedicated cycling routes, is essentially like walking – only slightly faster, sitting slightly taller and yea, you can go a lot further than on foot. Why change modes when the weather changes? Embrace the fact we’re creatures of the environment and saddle up for a misty ride one of these days. As someone’s grandma once said: ‘you’re not made of sugar, sweetie’. Ride on, whatever the weather!

Amsterdam, Utrecht, Delft
The Netherlands, 2014.

<click the first image below to view large – recommended!>