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.
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!>
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!>
The largest mountain plateau in Europe is where riders in this year’s Giro d’Italia will end up on the mountain time trial stage this week. Having driven the route from Kastelruth a couple years ago while staying at the Kamaunhof further down the slopes, I can imagine the challenge these cyclists face heading up 700+ meters in elevation over a very short distance. The Dolomites are incredible for both hiking and cycling, and the Südtirol has beauty in abundance. While it may be hard to keep your eyes on the road with this stunning mountain scenery, it should be another fine stage in this classic race.
Alpe di Siusi / Seiser Alm, Italy, 2014.
It would have been easy to stay at Clearwater Lake and explore the trails and canyons surrounding. The fishing was good, too, with Rainbow Trout on the line late aft and past sundown. With the bounty of waterfalls and rivers to explore in the corridor, we will have to make a return some day soon. Our next stop, however, was the far southwest corner of the park — Mahood Lake. As mentioned in my last post (if you haven’t read, go back and check out the pics!), our family has a fondness for Mahood. The lake is warm enough to swim the day away, the trout provide campfire roasted meals and there are waterfalls, rivers and more within easy striking distance. With our floatilla of kayaks we are able to get into the middle of the lake and up the Canim River, a little bit. The rushing water made for a super fun PFD float down river into the vortex at the mouth. Our nieces wanted to do this over and over….we obliged!
The approach to the lake was with some drama. A major windstorm was ripping along throughout the park. While driving up the forestry roads from Hwy 24 (the fishing highway) we saw trees toppling in the wind, and before long we were forced to stop and chop some windfall along the way. Four times we stopped, first chopping with axes then I found a saw in our gear making short work of the fallen limbs. It was an adventure getting there. The lake was calm and beautiful on arrival, and over the next few days we had plenty of sunshine along with some fine electrical storms and downpours. Excellent mountain weather. Wells Gray, a gem in our Provincial Park system.
Wells Gray Park, British Columbia, 2015.
<click the first image to view larger – recommended!>
Every year our extended family gathers for a week in the woods — camping, fishing, hiking, storytelling, swimming, making fires…all that good stuff. It’s the highlight of the summer. We’ve been exploring BC’s amazing Wells Gray Provincial Park for the last few outings, making a base camp at Mahood Lake and following footpaths to waterfalls and swimming holes in that immediate area. The lake is warm, the Rainbow Trout bite (and taste great on the fire!), the Barred Owls hoot and holler all night and the forest is perfect for exploration. Last year, we welcomed my folks with their new Westie and decided to see more of this grand park over the course of a week in August.
This time, we met at Clearwater Lake, our caravans coming in from Vancouver, Calgary and Canmore. With a couple sites setup for fireside chats, a hammock-village quickly established among the trees and we found the fish bite here very quickly, too! It was hot as usual, and while the water of Clearwater Lake is glacier-fed, it was easy to wade in and splash around – the kids chucking rocks while the adults got some casts in. Waterfalls right in the campground were a treat, but didn’t prepare us for the true highlights — Spahats Falls, Bailey’s Chute, Dawson Falls, the Mushbowl and the big one, Helmcken Falls. At 141 metres, this is Canada’s fourth highest waterfall. It didn’t disappoint, plunging into a huge bowl-shaped canyon far below.
This first batch of images features Clearwater Lake, followed by some images from the above-mentioned falls as we made our way back down from the Lake to the town of Clearwater along Wells Gray Road. The park was established in 1939 and covers more than 540,000 hectares. There is a LOT more to this park, including some supreme backcountry routes and even more waterfalls. In the next post, we’ll travel the forestry roads to Mahood Lake, Canim Falls and more.
Wells Gray Park, British Columbia, 2015.
<click the first image to view larger – recommended!>
An early start on a Sunday morning when the sun is up, the air is still cool and the trails are empty will always pay a reward. In this case, the quiet of the wood. We drove up the Sea to Sky to Alice Lake Provincial Park near Squamish and enjoyed a relaxing stroll through the wilderness. The Canada geese are back from migration and I was able to capture a pair taking off from the misty lake amidst a flurry of sound and spray. In the gallery, you’ll see a tight crop of that shot. I worked with my Fuji X-E1 camera for this batch, and I was really impressed how much detail there was in the crop. After all, I shot this from across the lake with a 35mm f1.4 lens, not a tele! Another reason this camera is always by my side. Welcome to spring!
Sea to Sky, Four Lakes Trail, BC, 2016.
<click the first image to view larger — recommended!>
There is an obsession in Vancouver when it comes to Cherry Blossoms. Beginning in March, sometimes even February, the flowering cherry trees stir and come back to life with vibrant displays of pink, fuscia and white flowers, blocking out the sky with impossible colours and contrast after a grey winter. Blooming signals the start of longer days, summer vibes and, as in Japan and increasingly culturally embedded locally, a day spent viewing the blossoms, picnicing beneath a tree in bloom or cycling under a pink canopy, is a modern Spring Rite.
The Velopalooza-sponsored Bike the Blossoms event brought out about 500 people – families with bakfiets, unicyclists as tall as the blooms, groups of friends young and old – for a leisurely, slow ride along the most spectacular blossom-loving streets in East Van. There are more than 30,000 ornamental cherry trees in Vancouver’s ‘street tree urban forest’ plus thousands more magnolia, plum and crab apple throughout the city. At this time of year, you can’t miss ’em! Visit the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website for more info on viewing locations, events and the history of our flowering trees. Below are a few quick snaps from the saddle during the Bike the Blossoms ride.
The tropical breeze languishes across the calm Caribbean sea while a storm gathers strength beyond the reef. A perfect week of holidaying in the sun with my family in late March on Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, 2016.
Wow, it has been some time since I posted on this blog. Summer happened, great times were had, then it was autumn and work resumed in earnest, trips were taken and assignments wrapped. In the New Year I’ll be able to sort the backlog and get back to regular posts. Til then, and because the seasons change tomorrow, here are some autumnal scenes from around Nanoose Bay, across the Salish Sea from here.
Vancouver Island, BC, 2015.
<click the image to view large – recommended!>