Photography, to me, is the merging of art and technology

to create both a visual image and an emotional response.

A Weekend on Athabasca Island

My latest addiction has quickly proven itself quite satisfying, in fact, kayaking has solved several issues for me. Firstly, I love backpacking, or at least I used to, until the West Coast Trail (first and second time) left me with chronic knee pain. Much to my wife’s sadness I am nervous about carrying a big heavy pack into the backcountry for fear that I end up finishing my poor knee off. With a touring kayak we can once again enjoy the backcountry, letting the boat take the brunt of the weight, not to mention I can take beer! Secondly, it is a great way to spend a cold rainy day, I mean hey, you’re going to be wet anyway, might as well make it an adventure right?

Truly though my favourite thing about paddling is it has opened up a whole new world of adventure and exploration. I find myself pouring over my old ripped maps ignoring the hand drawn mountain biking trails and scoping out all the big blue areas, looking for places previously inaccessible to me. I find myself daydreaming about big trips, or combining kayaking with biking! why not build a bike/boat trailer so I can bike into an area, kayak in tow, then paddle and ride from camp? I’m sure I’ll have something figured out by next summer.

Now for last week’s adventure, my good friend Alyssa celebrated her birthday on May 31 (same day as my little brother’s, happy b-day Shawn) and her man Andrew had booked Athabasca Island Campground (located in Jasper National Park) for a few of us to celebrate it. I had heard of Athabasca Island before but I wasn’t going to get there on a bike that’s for sure. The ‘put in’ we chose is right outside of Jasper on the Athabasca River, my wife and I were in a couple 17′ touring kayaks that our friend Sean (who is pretty much the nicest dude I have ever met) loaned us. Alyssa and Andrew were in a canoe and graciously took the bulk of the gear, and Tern was in a whitewater kayak which doesn’t really paddle great on flat water (more on that later). We all were just getting off work and really pumped to get this trip started! We dropped the boats, gear, and left Tern and Alyssa to drop off my truck at the beginning of Jasper Lake which is where we will come out in a couple days. While we were gone Alyssa and Tern got into a game of shotgunning beer at 6 paces. The exact way you play this isn’t important, the take-home point is that it involves drinking a beer in about 4 seconds several times over.This is what we saw when we returned to the put in:

IMG_2014This is what it looks like when you spend 20 minutes breathing into your drysuit….

Good thing Andrew was in charge of their canoe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Maiden Voyage

I know, I have been seriously neglecting my blog this year. My excuse? I have been having non stop fun, and slacking on the evening photo editing/blog writing duties.

I think to make up for lost time I may do a recap blog covering the last few months. I have photos from several trips I’d like to share with you, including another fat bike mega ride, and my annual Cat Skiing trip that was amazing!

Today I’d like to share an image I took (again with my i-Phone) this morning of my very first kayak (touring kayak) ride. During our Maligne Lake trip last year, we were having so much fun, my wife and I decided that we would like to buy a couple touring kayaks. That canoe trip really rekindled my love for backpacking (subtracting the 50 pound backpack) but we wanted something a little more aggressive in the water. I spent much of this winter day dreaming of paddling trips, researching everything I could get my hands on, and purchasing some gear. A friend of ours loaned us his 2 kayaks as they are exactly what we are interested in so we could try them out.

This morning I got up early with my wife, unfortunately she had to go in to work, so I headed out for my first try.

Monochrome Moody Morning

 

This was the stunning morning scene upon my arrival….

Tonight I uploaded my images and really happy how this one turned out, the sky is dramatic while the lake is calm and smooth. What really got me excited was the yellow color of the boat! I knew right away how I wanted to edit this image, converting all but the boat to black and white. This technique is called monochrome, however mine wouldn’t actually qualify because officially in monochrome you use only one color, I left the tips of my paddle red. Rules are meant to be broken right?

 

I paddled roughly 6 kms while the sun burnt off the morning clouds revealing a stunning warm spring day. It was simply amazing, more images to come.

Mike

 

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Go on and have an adventure, it’s fun.

Its real now, my legs are already burning and I’m only twenty minutes into this megaday. I put my mind elsewhere and quickly shoo away the negative thoughts, you know the ones, “Maybe this isn’t a good idea” “What if I can’t make it?” “The snow might be rotten” Screw that, it’s on! I smile because I had actually said that out loud. They say it’s not an issue if you hear voices, just when you answer them…

DSCN0624

 

Its 7am and -12 out, cold but manageable, the sun hasn’t come up yet, just dawn really.

What’s the plan? Well, I’m attempting to ride my fatbike into the Tonquin Valley to Amethyst Lake, a very popular ski touring destination. This ride is total experiment, my hope is that the trail is firm enough to allow me to ride all the way in, and that the temps don’t turn the snow too soft to ride back out.

 

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Reader’s Comments

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to share one of the nicest comments I’ve ever received on my site. It was in response to one of the photos I used on my last post.

 

Happy Creek

click to enlarge

 

“I love black and white photos. I also love how subtle the bike is in this photo. As if it were naturally occurring in a winter forest setting. No to be too artsy, but I really think this emphasizes the essence of fat biking! It takes you into this magical winter wonderland, where you can appreciate nature, and then leave it relatively untouched. As any true nature lover should… Love it! :)

 

 

 

 

You took the thoughts right out of my head, all I can say is thank you for sharing this with me.

 

Mike

 

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Fat Bike Mike

Yup, “FatBike Mike,” that seems to be my most current nickname, trust me I’m not complaining, I have worse ones floating around out there (Alyssa!). I guess I’ve earned it, my friends and family are sick of hearing about fatbikes and fat-biking I’m sure. When I’m not riding mine, I’m talking about riding, researching them, and/or planning trips etc. Pretty classic obsessive me really… My biggest supporter, my wife, she said yesterday that she’s never seen me so happy, now that mountain biking is a year round hobby! My second biggest supporter, our two dogs who get to come along for the ride.

Last week’s blog was also on fat bikes, the difference this week is we actually have snow now. I was taunting mother nature about our spring-like weather and then kaboom! Jasper received 15 cm s and then Hinton got 10 cm s 2 days following. It was beautiful! Everyone loves snow when there is loads of it, when the trees are stuffed full and the mountains look like they are 10,000 feet taller, it’s simply stunning. What was also great was I really got to prove what this bike could do, I spend 4 straight days getting fresh tracks, it was fantastic!

From a photography perspective my newest obsession has presented some challenges, I can’t always have my nice DSLR camera and tripod available. The gear is large, heavy, and expensive to replace, not practical at all. This month I’ve spent learning to take better images using my i-phone, my wife’s point-and-shoot Nikon Coolpics, and my trusty GoPro helmet camera. I’ve had some success and a lot of epic fails, but it’s been fun and very freeing to just whip out my phone and take a shot, then get back to riding.

Mr. Pugsley

 

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Fat Biking Season

Hi everyone,

Winter this year seems almost non-existant, not that I’m trying to poke a sleeping bear here but we’ve had above zero daytime temperatures for over a month! All through January and February, it’s unheard of! What this has done however, is given me an extra mountain biking season, I can’t say I’m too disappointed either. The problem with this as a blog writer is I have been taking a heck of a lot less photos, in fact my camera must be feeling a tad bit of resentment lately. What I have been doing is using my I-Phone and my borrowed (thanks honey!) Nikon Coolpics point-and-shoot quite a bit. I finally decided to publish a couple of my favourite photos from the last 4 weeks of Fat-Biking.

 

The Lookout

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Update, Wolves in Paradise

Hi everyone,

As promised I was able to dig up a little information that I’m happy to post on the wolves that I photographed last week (plus, an update post is a cheap way to sneak in a couple more images). As it turns out I didn’t have to look too hard, I received roughly 250 views over the first 48 hours of the post (my second highest yet!), one of which was from a gentleman by the name of Mark, who just happens to work for Parks Canada. Here’s his e-mail:

 

Hey Mike,
I'm JNP's wildlife biologist. Thanks for posting the wolf photos. 
Could you send us some jpegs for our records? Also, do you have 
pictures of the 2 wolves missing from the posted photos? We call 
these guys the Pyramid Pack, there are 2 collars, and they range 
from the river where you saw them over to about the BC border, 
and up to about the Snaring Campground,
Thanks, Mark

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The Worst (and funniest) Fireworks Photo Session Ever

Every year Jasper Alberta hosts a winter festival simply called Jasper in January, created as a tourist attraction and a morale booster here during one of the coldest months of the year. Many local businesses have sales, hotels drop their prices, the skill hill discounts their lift tickets, and the town puts on many events like dog sledding, fireworks, and live music to name a few. All in all its pretty fun, and does attract a lot of people.

As you may already know I love photographing fireworks, and have blogged about it a couple times in the past ( time 1 and time 2 ). I had great success with my photos from last years fireworks, this year however, I wanted to try something a little different. I was hoping to get up high and photograph a landscape of the town during the fireworks. I figured out what I thought would be the perfect spot and convinced my good friend Alyssa to join me (well actually I bribed her with a chocolate bar). What I didn’t account for was the weather, five minutes before we left town the wind started gusting and snow began to fall. After a short conversation, we decided to stick with the plan, “It isn’t that bad right?”….

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Wolves in Paradise

Whenever I’m looking at a photo that I like, (especially wildlife) I often wonder about how the photographer captured the shot. Did he or she get up in the middle of the night, hike way out into the middle of nowhere, endure a lengthy, freezing cold stakeout to get the shot? Were they privy to some secret knowledge? How about sitting at the zoo! I often think that they are staged this way, perhaps that’s jealousy talking? Or maybe it’s just a case of being in the right place at the right time?

My blog today was just a pure fluke, I happened to overhear a radio report from a truck driver whom had witnessed a large pack of wolves taking down an elk right outside of town! My good friend Ron was also within earshot and both of us dropped what we were doing and headed straight for our camera bags. I’m never far away from my camera, its like what Wayne Gretzky once said,”You miss 100% of the shots you never take”.

With this hot intel I immediately texted my photo buddies Braam and Hannelie and gave them a heads up. Five minutes later the group of us were on the scene with cameras in hand. My buddy Mark was my personal chase driver and got me in a great spot for some shots. Parks Canada were there monitoring them as well, something I actually really appreciate, it keeps people from interfering with the animals, better for everyones safety.

This was an incredible sight, it is so rare to see, in fact this is only the third time I’ve seen wolves on a kill. There we 7 in total, although I only managed to capture 5 in a single photo.

Jasper Wolf Kill 2012.01.13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Moonrise over the Columbian Icefields

Happy New Year,

Due to all the travelling we did during the holidays this year I didn’t get to pull out my camera as much as I would like. I did however mange to capture this image during our stunning drive back home.

Moonrise over the Icefields

 

I wish you all good health and a prosperous 2013.

 

Mike

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