A continuation of our latest weekend in Yellowknife. Following Not Enough Words in the English Language, Jen flew up to join us for a couple nights under the lights, and there wasn’t any way in hell she’d miss it after I text her about what was probably the greatest display of the northern lights I had ever seen the night before, when I woke up the following morning at noon.
I’m about three thousand percent sure that in every trip up to Yellowknife this aurora season, I’ve hit it on their coldest weekends. It’s been -30s into the -40s repeatedly, which I love, it’s great. But there is such significant elation in a few nights finally up to the negative teens. Tripod heads don’t freeze up solid after a few minutes outside. Fingers don’t tingle with numbness when they contact metal, and eyes don’t water for four hours straight with the tear drops freezing to your cheeks. One thing that doesn’t change is the way a wind still numbs your face, so we retreated to a small, make shift valley where we contemplated an all nighter but decided to call it as 4am approached on daylight savings night.
It was getting late, like 3am late, and we had already witnessed such a great night. The skies were quieting down, and the aurora was very subtle. We began driving back toward the end of the lake to get back onto the road, and eventually the highway when we felt the impulse at a sudden brightening to pull over. And it wasn’t two minutes later I gave up trying to talk, and I took my hands of my camera, and off my tripod. I stopped spinning in circles trying to decide where to shoot… I laid my body down on the ice road and stared straight up for what felt like an eternity. There was 360ºs of curtains of green, purple, and pink. It felt like you could reach up and touch them. And while Val & I still yelled back and forth laughing trying to pin point exactly where was the most beautiful, there just aren’t words for what we saw.
Ohh, Yellowknife. Here I am, sitting in a friends living room, overlooking a couple islands and great slave lake just past a few homes along the shore line. It’s a beautiful, sunny day. It’s warmed up to 26 below from the 37 below it was as we were driving back from Vee Lake last night.
I’m really so fortunate to have so many terrific friends here, and always meeting more. There’s at least one of those friends, who, at about 11pm last night, asked what kind of drugs I was on. I was staring at AuroraMax. Yes, again. I had the screen brightness on my MacBook cranked all the way up, and I was tilting the screen forward – for absolute maximum allowing of any ‘shadows’ to show because as I told Val, there was a really, really faint just starting to appear right over Yellowknife. But frankly, if you have to work that hard just to THINK you see a band, you’re probably making it all up in your mind. But I wasn’t. And Val was convinced I was. Fortunately, Val’s husband was on my side. And brought Val back to Earth since when I’m not up here, it’s often her thinking so hard to see that first faint band, that it’s probably more in her mind than actually there.
So, with a short battle of who’s more insane behind us, we ended up on Vee Lake with a new friend from Nashville who wanted nothing more than to see the lights for the first time before she had to be at the airport for her flight home in six hours.
It’s amazing the way these nights go. Starting from home where you’re not sure if you’re actually seeing the aurora on camera, or if it’s all in your mind, to standing in starlight outside the city lights seeing just the faintest band overhead, to, within seconds and minutes of that, curtains of bright green and purple sweeping across the entire sky, right overhead.
What an incredible night. Although it still feels like I’m seeing the aurora for the first time on nights like these, it’s the best thing in the world to be out with friends who are seeing it for their first time. And to our friends just down the lake from us who were yelling, screaming, and laughing hysterically, just like we were at the show all last night, thank you for the incredible fun and for co-creation out there. We loved the company.
It was overcast out there. Really overcast. But like every other night, whether I’m in Yellowknife or not, Val and I were watching the AuroraMax camera monitoring the sky above Yellowknife anyway. Out of nowhere, literally within minutes, the clouds went from overcast to broken revealing bands and swirls of green everywhere. And then it was a flurry of text messages between us… “HURRY UP, HURRY UP, HURRY UP! Get dressed faster! Drive faster! Gooooo!!!!!”.
And so, for me personally, there is only one thing better than driving down a road of packed snow in moonlight, with the shadows of 30 foot trees covered in snow on either side of the road under a still band of the northern lights right overhead. To pull over on the side of the road as the lights get brighter within seconds, lean forward over the dash to get a better view, and then to jump out of the car not really dressed to be outside, without your camera really set up to photograph them. Because there’s just so much magic in witnessing the aurora brighten the sky and landscape all within a matter of seconds. You have to come experience it. It will leave you speechless. What an amazing night.
For a while, there was a bit of a recurring theme happening when I was in Yellowknife. If Jen stayed home in Vancouver, I went to the ice caves. And like any genuinely loving, well meaning boyfriend would do, I text her a few photos of what she missed. After all, they’re only ice caves. It’s not anything really spectacular like incredible frozen formations that our spectacular planet produced entirely on it’s own that are so perfect, and so breathtaking, you couldn’t dream up how it feels to stand before them. It wasn’t anything like that at all, so I couldn’t understand why she was making such a big deal of it. Never the less, I couldn’t stand listening to her complain about not having seen them yet any longer jumped at the first opportunity we had together and happily obliged to take her to them.
Another small reward of not… forgetting about schoolwork, but… confirming you work well with a quickly approaching deadline, is you get to hang out under the northern lights. There was a weekend last Autumn I went to Yellowknife without Jen, just before she left to India, and it was the first time I had ever really seen purple aurora with my eye. Again, wanting to share my experience with her even though she wasn’t with me, I text her what I saw, and well… I probably shouldn’t include the screenshot of text messages she sent me in response to the photo I shared with her guided by my best of intentions. But there was nothing to worry about this weekend, because she stood beside me (with a gun to my head until I set up her ALUMINUM tripod for her, at -33ºC) and savoured another awesome night together under our favourite thing in the entire world.
6:06pm. I had it down to a science that that weekend – when the AuroraMax 360º camera of the Yellowknife sky switches on. 6:06pm on that Saturday night also meant the Canucks season opener on CBC was a minute or two away from puck drop. Of course I don’t stray from my phone for more than a few minutes at a time in Yellowknife, except when I drop it into a snow bank along a sidewalk, but that’s a story for another time, so I took a quick look at AuroraMax before settling in for the Canuck game. The sky was still a deep twilight from sunset at 3:30pm, and… wait, what? The northern lights were out already. Not just a faint blob along the northern horizon, but OUT out… across the sky. Sometimes we’re lucky if we see them before midnight. It was only 6pm. Hello, solar flare.
I panicked a little bit. “JEN GET DRESSED! THE LIGHTS ARE OUT!!!”. To pack carry-on only for a place that’s -40ºC, you wear smart casual on the flight, and pack your one outfit of Winter clothes. Well, I was wearing them. Jen… Not so much. She still wanted to be smart casual. So getting her dressed and out the door in record time with Jason, we were outside the city to the lakes by 7pm. And we didn’t stop, well, that’s not true – we went back home for an hour to our warm apple crumble, until somewhere in the likes of 3 or 4am. I had never seen the lights like this before.
Meanwhile on Facebook, initially unannounced to my cooperative model, Jason, Canada Goose chose me as their January ‘Fan of the Month’ with what is now surely myself & Jason’s most proud moment through our photography/modelling careers thus far. Check out the feature on their Facebook page here!
In a recent trip, I stayed with a new friend in Yellowknife who said something I loved. Something I loved, and something I couldn’t help.
“I heart the fact that he hearts the north. He was willing to face the -40 temps to venture out to Yellowknife’s best hidden treasures. That adventure is hard to find sometimes.”
There is actually more to Yellowknife than the northern lights. I know, hard to believe, and you’d never guess it if you only knew Yellowknife by my blog, but it’s true. There’s a lot of amazing in a place this far north, this accessible by foot. As long as you’re covered nose to toe in Canada Goose attire. And while it isn’t always the most comforting feeling to lose the majority of feeling in your fingers because through your gloves you’ve held onto a metal camera body for a total of a minute and a half, there are methods back to ‘warmth’. You learn very quickly that once you make that fist inside your glove to keep your feeling in your fingers, you can’t go back to individual fingers because without your body warmth filling the rest of the glove, it is now negative thirty something like the air that freezes your nose hair.
We caught the aurora for a little bit through some pretty heavy cloud this night, and when you’re crazy enough to sit out in temperatures that low, there’s such a rush of exhilaration when the clouds break just a little bit.
One of the most inspiring people, and experiences I’ve rendezvoused with was chasing for the northern lights years ago with Kjetil Skogli. Some of my first days I had ever spent viewing the northern lights was on a tour with him through Norway, and what ended up being Finland as well, to escape some cloudy weather. More recently, I spent a week with he and his family in Tromsø which did make my blog.
One of my favourite quotes, and it gives me goosebumps every time I hear it, was from Kjetil where he was hosting some folks at the BBC out on tour one night. “You… You can’t imagine it, you have to… You have to see it.”
On nights like this one, you can’t say it any better than that. You can’t imagine how fast the aurora moves, you can’t imagine how beautiful the greens and purples are to your eyes. I’ve got some pretty grand plans brewing to bring you up to see it, and they are in the works very nicely. Until then, I’ll continue to bring nights like these into your living room – the milky way, the crunch of the snow under your boots, the -41°C, the ice fog, and the most spectacular light show in the universe.
Wild horses couldn’t stop me. It wasn’t our usual weekend. There wasn’t going to be two of us this time, it was just me. I wasn’t staying with anyone I had met before, but in the north, you don’t worry about that sort of thing anyway. The temperatures weren’t even going to be comfortably uncomfortable, they were just uncomfortable. And discovered as recently as 24 hours ago, not only does ice fog roll into Yellowknife and frost everything in the most beautiful white I promise you’ve ever seen in your life, but it also takes a… dry, tolerable? -40°C to -40°C with 100% percent humidity. Which is really fun. But there’s one thing that was the same, my eager anticipation of what unexplainable beauty the hours upon hours of sunrises and sunsets would bring by day, and how the lights would dance, or not, come night.
There are no guarantees the lights will come play, even on the most perfect long winter nights of clear weather, but I can tell you this time, going four for four on nightly aurora viewings was something really special. More to come.
This is a post that has been in the works for the better part of two years, and two weeks. Everything I’ve ever wanted to say about a home, my home, just… home, IKEA says here, perfectly. There’s one other thing I do know, and that is, home is the best place in the entire world.
Just about everything changed in one night. I soon became best friends with my bank tellers, leaving with pockets full of laundry loonies and quarters monthly. I’ve had cereal for dinner, more than once a week. I learnt, and am still learning, how to change ceiling lights, and how three way dimmer switches work. I’ve blown fuses. I’ve scraped absurd amounts of candle wax off fiber-board TV stands, and learnt that frozen wax will chip off wood, metal, and fabric at a single touch. I’ve also learnt that pouring boiling water over wax will wash it away. Cleaning glass with newspapers DOES leave streaks. Horrible streaks. No one puts up photos without a level better than me. There is no such thing as too much storage space. If you leave your sweaty hockey equipment on your balcony in winter, it will freeze. Having a friend ship you €30 IKEA roller blinds from Amsterdam IS worth it. LED lighting makes everything cooler. You can never have too many tealights. Running a Christmas light extension cord inside through your slider door does create drafts. Groceries on the bus SUCK. Groceries in the trunk of your brand new Ford Fiesta is heaven. And of course, I now plaster nail holes better than Scott McGillivray.
It’s also worth noting you can now like me on Facebook, and join me on Google+!
The old front bedroom of mine on Citation Drive.
Now what would the last blog post of the year be without my favourites from 2012.
In the highly advanced age of technology with infinite weather apps, and expanding LTE coverage to access them from, a lot of times on our way up to Yellowknife we joke about how cold it’s going to be by if, and how quickly our nose hairs freeze the second our feet switch from inside the aircraft cabin to the iced ramp hooked up to the aircraft at the gate. INSTANTANEOUSLY! There was no buffer of time. Our first breath of arctic air was in, and on the way out, our nose hairs crystallized. Or iciclized.
And still over the course of our stay in the Yellowknife area, (or wherever your final destination may be, isn’t that right, Westjetters?) we were talked into, talked ourselves into?, driving six hours roundtrip around Great Slave Lake to Fort Providence for the Deh Cho Bridge opening. It’s not easy to be organized when it’s -35°, but somehow a half hour bridge walk turned into a few hours of waiting outside. In -35°C. Without the windchill accounted for.
Of course we weren’t going to leave without fulfilling my reason for being. So once the clock struck midnight, and it was officially Jen’s birthday, the lights came out to initiate the celebration. We partied hard, and late. Pretty late. Tears were unintentionally shed – involuntary crying is just a byproduct of hours outside at -32°C. And heading back home with Samantha in the comfort of a +25°C Ford Escape, she asked if we were jumping and dancing around down there on the frozen lake. We had been. It’s just a byproduct of watching the northern lights dance across the sky of a full moon. Three or four years strong into this, and no excitement lost. Not once. Ever.
How cold was it in Yellowknife? Have you ever seen a cat crawl completely underneath a duvet to sleep? That’s how cold.
Now let’s all congratulate Jen on her brand new Canada Goose parka, and Jason on FINALLY WINTERIZING A LITTLE BIT.
I hate to get cliche writing a blog post, especially about a wedding. BUT, when Jen and I shot Tracy & Jason’s engagement session a couple months ago, we knew we’d love these two. Really love them. And of course we did. But we had no idea just how much. Their wedding day went by in a blink, and everywhere was their incredible family and closest friends. I’ve never laughed so hard, and held back tears so much during a wedding in my life. The speeches took your breath away. They were beautiful, hilarious, and genuinely from the heart. Every single one of them. Jen and I adore these two so much, and every single one of their family members and friends did as well, and there was just no hiding it. There’s so much love for you both here.
Annnddddd a special shout-out to our Westjetter friend we recognized at Tracy & Jason’s reception, but can’t for the life of us remember your name. Perhaps we’ll bump into you at 41,000ft tomorrow morning when we’re off to Yellowknife, once again.
title=’Tracy & Jason\’s Vancouver Wedding at the SFU Alumni Club – 21′ />
They say when you don’t know where to start, go to the beginning. So Thursday night, like they always used to be, Jen and I spent it packing after we were both off work late. Stuffing, cramming, sitting on on our little black 22″ suitcases for our early morning departure to the great (almost all white) north. Have you ever tried to pack everything you need for days and nights spent outdoors photographing, hiking, and standing around for hours in the high teens? Wait, the NEGATIVE high teens. You know, -18°C into the low twenties. Only, the low twenties this weekend. We may as well have been in shorts, hey, Yellowknife? Wait a minute, …hey, Jason?
Jason is a very good friends of ours up in Yellowknife who, in the Winter at least, has a habit of making Jen & myself look like the biggest, most pathetic, un… Canadian like ‘Northerners’ in all of the country. I go out in boots, long johns, snow pants, and my beloved Canada Goose parka – Jason goes out in hikers, jeans, and a light bomber. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, do yourself a favour and enjoy a few hours here. Or don’t, because if you do, you’re likely to never come back here, and I like it with you here.
The three of us spent an afternoon avoiding Canadian shield dynamite blow-outs along the Ingraham trail toward Cameron falls, and then one of the most breathtaking sites I’ve personally I’ve ever seen in Canada. And while this trip didn’t end with that sky-filling, purple and green dance Samantha, Jen & I have become a little too accustom to, it was by far, one of our most memorable yet. And we’ll be back for more, real soon.
After the, literally, record breaking heat up in Smithers over the weekend of Kylee & Eric’s wedding, Jen proposed I tax mid-summer weddings an extra 5% to make up for the extreme discomfort that anything over about 21 degrees celsius causes me. As much as I love her, and all of her brilliance, I had a better idea; focus on how amazing it’s going to be to shoot weddings where the weather isn’t anything like that and leave out the extra 5%.
That was until Mandy and I were spending the week leading up to Kristy and Shawn’s (I’m bound to spell Shawn’s name Sean just once in this post somewhere) wedding sending screenshots of weather forecasts from one another’s iPhones, and all I responded with, everyday, was the distraught little Emoji face that has it’s eyes closed in, eyebrows ‘furrowed’, and ‘lips’ trembling. The forecast was ranging, day to day, anywhere from 15-20mm of rain, to 35-45 of rain, at times heavy. And then Friday night came, and we had our traditionally Vancouver ‘Rainfall warning for greater Vancouver’ advertised by the Weather Network. 150mm of rain over the weekend. 5mm an hour. Impressive right?
But then something happened that no one understands. It didn’t rain up at Coquitlam’s Westwood Plateau. So I think we just assumed that somoeone in the area pulled something of China during the open ceremonies for the 2008 summer olympics with the whole shooting chemicals up into the clouds or whatever that was about. But hey, we’ll take it, and the incredible Autumn colours on top of a mountain.
It’s not that I search for things to fuss and worry and complain about, it really isn’t, it’s just that I HATE summer. No, it’s not that I HATE summer, it’s that I’m more comfortable when the temperature is 60 degrees cooler. Sixty. That wasn’t a typo. There’s this thing I do before weddings, everyday, over the course of a couple weeks. Check the weather. Which makes sense, because there’s only one profession where you can do your job entirely wrong every day and still be employed at the end of the week. Isn’t there, weather forecasters? Credit to them this time around, they were right. Every day over two weeks, Smithers was forecast to have the hottest day in two years the Saturday I was shooting a wedding from dusk until dawn. 33 degrees during the open sun ceremony in the middle of the day. Who planned this again?! (Love you, Eric & Kylee!)
I’ll never forget driving the highway outside of Smithers at 6:30 in the morning as the sun was rising. Pastel pinks, oranges and yellows low on the horizon to the right. Deep orange sunlight kissing the glacier to the left. And then the highway would dip, and we’d be in a cover of light fog with the river running 100 feet to our right. If you’ve never been, go. And if you aren’t in a rush to get to the Bear Claw Lodge for a wedding, stop and photograph every second of it.
How does a gorgeous young couple way up in Smithers, British Columbia, find a wedding photographer living in a city of millions, who has been dreaming of shooting up in the middle of no where, British Columbia? That’s a good question. But when you work for one of two airlines that fly into Smithers from Vancouver, it’s probably something along the lines of ‘just meant to be’. I wanted to give Eric & Kylee an engagement shoot, so I flew up a little early with Jen, and we spent the afternoon together, with these beautiful two and many of their loved ones on the edge of Hazelton and beautiful lush forests and waterfalls.
For those who have done it, you know it’s impossible to sum up a wedding weekend like this with words or images on just a blog, so I’m not going to try very hard to. But I will say that for a couple of photographers with not exactly a bucket load of experience between us in such an extraordinarily cultured wedding like this, there weren’t two better people and their families on this planet to start off for. Here’s just a few of my personal favourites.
These two have been such a long time coming for my blog. Although you could probably say that about almost everything I’ll be blogging over the next couple weeks since, you know, I decided to re-design everything in the middle of weddings season.
Tracy and Jason became some of my favourite clients from the second I read their first email to me. They’re getting married in November. NOVEMBER. When temperatures aren’t setting two year highs. Fog. Amazing colours in nature. Crisp air. Low sunlight. It’s the best, next to Winter. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, there’s this amazing thing about Vancouver. Ocean sunsets. Paige has said it from day one, and there’s a running joke, which isn’t really a joke, that she’s queen of the YVR sunrise, and I hold down the fort for sunset. But whether I’m at the airport for sunset or not, you probably shouldn’t be surprised we ended up with these…
Whose brilliant idea was it to tear down their website, and start completely from the ground up right smack dab in the middle of the busiest shooting and blogging time of the year? OBVIOUSLY not mine. All joking aside now, Cory & Patrick joked, or maybe not, I’m still unsure, that I may as well just follow them around and document their every day life from here on out – we were seeing so much of one another.
Jen and I grabbed a ferry with them over to Cory’s mum’s place on the island where they’re getting married in less than a year now. I say THEY’RE because there seemed to be some confusion on the old Instagram that it was somehow going to be my own wedding. So, after allegedly (Hi, Brad!) Instagramming in a cryptic manner how absolutely stunning their property is, we settled in for some fresh crab, an amazing steak dinner, and some really, really nice company. And we eventually took a few photos as well…
Enjoy these, and the new EVERYTHING around here!
By the way, Cory and Patrick – full-time lifestyle photographer or not? Tell me maybe?
when cory first emailed me, she told me that photography, wedding photography, her wedding photography, was really important to her. maybe the most important thing to her. which is good, because it’s really, really, important to me too. maybe the most important thing to me. so it seemed like her and patrick we’re about as good a match to me as they come.
the story of cory and patrick, on the other hand, maybe not so much. they met in a bar, sort of. i’ve been to a total of two bars in my life, one time each. the first, earlier this year on the way home from the driving range with mum because we scored a sweet groupon for dinner. the second time? with cory and pat, for some of their engagement photos. what did i have to drink? a coca-cola. i know, pretty outta control right? i’m not going to go into the significance of the blarney stone to cory and patrick, because i shouldn’t can’t be bothered.
then there’s the story of the weather; cory woke up with butterflies early on the morning of our shoot. just an engagement shoot. but like she said, photography means a lot to her. i woke up with pure exhilaration the morning of our shoot. it was raining. and rain means i get a cool(er) apartment, not that photography isn’t really important me. and after a week of clear blue skies with beautiful, but plain sunsets, in true vancouver fashion, the sky cracked open in the evening for one of the best sunsets i’ve seen this year. i love the energy of this stunning couple – enjoy the images, friends!
in advance celebration of her landing a job helping you explore and enjoy yoga, she wanted to get some beautiful new images of her. you know, her love of ease, her love of sunsets, her love of yoga, and her love of her. maybe it wasn’t that in advance of, because she can now be found at balance yoga studios down on lively main street here in vancouver, lovingly eager to release resistance with you.
when she text me this morning, and asked if she won because she has eight mosquito bites from yesterday night, i laughed out loud alone in my apartment. i prepared with more than one bounce sheet, and then OFF! spray. and still i ended up with about double the bites she had. but hey, i can knock out a pretty sweet session in record time, with record bugs. seriously, check out image seven. just try and count them all.
i probably could have ‘healed’ the sky in photoshop, but only if girlfriends paid better ;) but even still, who doesn’t love a dozen mini-doughnuts after the camera goes away. enjoy this beautiful young lady, friends.
for more on jen’s yoga teachings, head over and get in touch with her on her website here.
as winter summer arrived last weekend, lyn and richard rounded up their growing family after a hockey tournament (gee, i feel like i might have had my share of those back in the day) and we wandered one of our favourite parts of the lower mainland as the sun went down.
no competitive genes here hey. i feel like my brother and i MIGHT have been similiar.
with just hours until summer solstice, why WOULDN’T i blog about winter right? obsessed much? i just, have to tell you, how great of an aurora chasing winter is right around the corner. great things are happening in this little studio apartment to chase the northern, and southern lights, like never before. and until then, there’s LOTS of great sessions and weddings on the way. best yet, friends!
you know, this time last year, everyone in the city of vancouver had one thing on their list of things to do. get home by 5pm, and glue themselves to hockey night in canada on cbc. and here we were one year, and just a week into the nhl stanley cup playoffs, our vancouver canucks were already down 3-0 in a best of seven series. we had the best #reversesweep planned in the history of the universe, and then we lost game five and everything was over.
fortunately, what the canucks going out in the first five games of the first round meant was, about the fifty percent of the evenings that had been booked by the vancouver canucks, had just opened up to great clients for photography sessions. like this one, with kathleen and lucky, out at ubc’s nitobe garden helping out my favourite photographer, mandy jill.
hard to follow up a post of penguins eh? imagine how it felt leaving magdalena island and the thousand plus penguin residents behind. however, if there’s one thing to leave a penguin behind for, it’s a glacier. towering toothpicks of ice the height of our ship, and a sheet of bright blue ice crawling down from the clouds… how do you go wrong? you could have been on any of the previous cruises, that’s how you could go wrong. we had crew tell us this was by far the best weather they’ve seen this glacier in, and it was dark, overcast skies. plus, a few minutes before pulling up, we exited another torrential downpour. but to round the corner of rising fjords, and break through low cloud to see this, to see icebergs floating out at us. there’s no going wrong. but there is, however, going home…
watching a documentary on the world’s biggest cruise ship last night, about disembarkation day, there’s always those few passengers that cling to the ship for as long as they can before having leave. and that was us. sorry, holland america, but when you offer a product second to none, and fill a ship with folks you’ve created life long bonds to, can you blame us for hanging on to the bitter end? i didn’t think so. we were the last ones off. all of that, however, is a little easier to leave behind when you know your next stop is the w santiago, hotel. friends, meet (more) heaven on earth…
i was convinced that after our captain decided to cancel our port of call at the falkland islands because the seas were too rough to dock, that the world, as we knew it, was over. you couldn’t take all the ice of antarctica to make me enough margaritas to feel better. a couple hours of off-roading with a local guide to eventually hit a white sand beach where we would meet three different kinds of penguins, dozens of birds, and sea lions. i don’t think i was unreasonable in my belief that the end of the world may as well have followed the cancellation of port stanley.
wouldn’t you know it though, while my brother and i hammered out our frustrations against each other on the ping pong table, our aunt went straight to the shore excursions desk to book up three of the last five spaces available on the only other penguin tour this season. unless we were going to fly from punta arenas, to antarctica, to spend the winter huddled with the penguins. which i had no problem with, but apparently it’s still pretty expensive, and kind of cold.
we’ve all hit that point somewhere in a day where your cheeks become physically sore and it’s the most painful thing in the world to keep laughing and smiling, and if you’ve never experienced that in your life, well… i’m really sorry, and you should probably come hang out with me more. i can’t begin to describe how amazing this was. it’s a lot like watching the northern lights. you just sort of… stand there, admire them, and laugh because you don’t really know what to say. but i can tell you that i’ve mastered the sounds magellanic penguins make. and i can also tell you that this day started off with my brother throwing a pillow at me at six in the morning to get me up for the sunrise. it was the best sunrise i’ve ever seen in my life. followed by one of the best days i’ve ever had in my life. and now, it’s one of my favourite blog posts. enjoy, friends.
SLIGHT situation? try a low level hostage situation. well it really all depends on how dramatic you want to be, and how deeply you want to read into argentina’s situation with the brits, the falkland islands, and apparently, everything in between the two. literally. talk about getting caught in the middle.
i walked off the ship, took a hundred steps, and went running back onto the ship because someone forgot their monies back in their cabin. so, for the second time in fifteen minutes, i walked off the ship toward town. i fell in love with the place. i mean, really fell in love with the place, even though my iphone and their free wifi at the tourist office were having an elongated disagreement. the town has quirks. streets steeper than everest. flights to the white continent. and the ocean walking distance to the mountains.
ushuaia, coincidently, and uninfluential on my love affair of ushuaia, just happens to be the gateway to antarctica. except we arrived on a sunday, where every office, and every shop were closed. which, as far as getting to antarctica goes, means i would get back on the ship at departure time, still have a job when i got back home, and not be short several thousand dollars. for now, anyway.
not everything was closed this sunday, although they may as well have been – the argentine port authority were there… sort of. as our departure time from port came, and passed, we didn’t move. the only thing moving in the harbour was our captain, standing in the bridge of the ship, pacing. apparently, the argentine government had a letter for us to sign, stating we had not been to the falkland islands. and apparently there was another letter for our captain to sign, stating that along with his country, the netherlands, he believed the falkland islands should be argentinian, not british. well, a few hours late, three to be exact, holland america’s head office sorted something out, and we push away from the dock in ushuaia. late enough to sail through fjords, and past one of the most spectacular glaciers in south america, while it’s pitch black out.
so as easy as it would be to say, “argentina, you lose. i’m done.”, i don’t, because as frustrating, bothersome, and costly as politics can be on travel plans, i know that a real country is not about the government, their policies, or games. a country is just where you and i call home. and there’s a whole lot of amazing you and i’s all over this globe, calling a lot of different places home. all with the same love-fuelled, heart-warming, welcome to our beautiful corner of this planet earth, smile. and for that, ushuaia, argentina, you win.
“CAPE HORN?!? man, i wish i could kick that off my bucket list, that’s a once in a lifetime experience!”
i’m a weather guy. in the same way i’m a turbulence and rough seas guy. for me, there’s nothing better than experiencing the best and most extreme this planet has to offer. and if you’re down around cape horn, you’re probably very similiar. or you’re very, very lost, and you’ll want to get out in a hurry. but it wasn’t that bad, which means if you really tried hard, you could make it to the railing on the top deck against the winds. and it’s not to say the ship didn’t hit significant swells, or list and throw everyone into walls, because it did, but it felt eerily calm knowing the waters we were sailing. in the moment, it was the changing skies from a hail storm to momentary sunshine before another downpour, all in about five minutes, on a continuous cycle, with a landscape you couldn’t dream about that took my breath away. but in the larger picture, it was knowing that i was at the literal end of the earth, and that a few hundred kilometres to our left, was antarctica.
once in a lifetime? bucketlist? yeah, probably… in the same way the aurora borealis were a once in a lifetime opportunity for me too. something i’d go see to say i’ve seen it. hardly. i don’t live that way. i go for the magic of the moment, and the countless moments that take your breath away. and those moments, wont ever just be, once in a lifetime.
travel. when do you stop? when your passport expires, or when your mobility expires? desires. experiences. places and people. they’re all dreams. so when do you stop chasing those dreams? obviously not when your passport starts to get full. when you’re not sure if you’ll be able to get the time off from work? no. because odds are, that’ll sort itself out while you’re walking the walls of a 57,000 ton ship that’s within striking distance of the white continent. for others of us, the hardest part of travel is being stuffed into an aluminum tube for a dozen hours at a time with just 32in infront of you to stretch. but when don’t things work out? like when two people mysteriously walk away from their seats in the exit row, and watching your 6’4″, 210lb brother dart up like a rocket to occupy their now empty seats, making that last 11 hours just a little bit more comfortable.
so where do you begin preparing for a trip to the end of the earth? at home, with both summer and winter in your suitcase, along with everything formal you’d need to fit into a holland america ship. we start in buenos aires, and should have continued into the falkland islands, but when your ship’s captain is more cautious than airport security at the sight of a water bottle, and you throw in some of the roughest waters, deep swells, and high winds in all of the world, the falkland islands fade from your hopes and dreams as fast as they disappear from the bridge’s radar sailing right by them without a tender into shore.
HEY! who wants to meet the two most wonderful people who are going to be my first couple to be married around midnight underneath the northern lights in the canadian wilderness outside of yellowknife?! RIGHT GUYS?! after all the bragging i did about samantha’s uninsured adventures last post, i figured it was about time we formally introduced you to the fantastic two behind all this madness. hey, speaking of the most fantastic, breathtaking, thrilling, bone-chilling, amazing, and awe-inspiringness (hi honey! i know you’re not jealous or anything…), what would be better than getting to do a late afternoon, casual engagement shoot at some ICE CAVES hidden just outside of yellowknife. oh wait, i know what would be better – a winter, or fall, preferably winter though, wedding underneath the aurora borealis on a frozen lake. thanks samantha, thanks alex – love you guys!
just chillin’ on the ice road over great slave lake. what do YOU do on a saturday afternoon?
the title makes this sound like a novel coming from a brilliant imagination. getting stuck in a foot and a half of snow on a frozen lake, somewhere outside yellowknife, as the northern lights dance overhead. you almost couldn’t make this up. fortunately, or unfortunately, although it’s funny now, because we got home that same night (early morning – whatever) it is fortunately, it makes for a good story, and is yet another bit of oddity in my love for a place so beautiful, so north, and so cold.
what better place to be on a friday night, in perfect weather (clear skies, light winds, and -22°C) than on a frozen lake, away from the city lights of downtown yellowknife, set up with my camera to once again, after way too long, enjoy the dance of the northern lights. it was magical. just like i remember almost exactly one year ago seeing them for the first time in my own backyard of northern canada. watching a band of faint white stretch the horizon shimmer into a noticeably green shade while it starts to crackle and curtain into colours of magenta and purple… it is indescribable.
and for a little adventure, because you can’t JUST fly to yellowknife for 48 hours and forty minutes. the three of us had piled back into the explorer as the lights started to fade – perhaps us driving to a new location would spark them again, and backing up a slight incline in less than compact snow was proving to be a little bit more difficult than maybe we had envisioned. ‘just pull forward onto the lake and we’ll turn around and come back up’. i could feel my anxiety building just a little. the snow was less compact than before. we were sinking. we had sunk. we weren’t going anywhere. on our own. we were stuck. and digging down to try and get some branches beneath the tires wasn’t working either. with no luck reaching a tow company, it wasn’t thirty seconds later that two trucks pulled into the ‘parking lot’ above. some minutes later, we had our escape rigged up to their truck, both vehicles in reserve and eventually with four of us on the front of the escape pushing up through the foot and a half of snow (in moonlight – bromantic, i know), we rocked the escape out of the hole we’d dug it into and were free as a ptarmigan on great slave lake.
take THAT, tourists at aurora village! …alex and samantha are now taking adventure bookings.
i know you probably aren’t going to be able to handle this, but how about a wedding thrown up here in the beginning of winter instead of a negative fifteen degree night up around the arctic circle under dancing green skies. ohh, i’m just keeping well balanced is all, and every once in a while i like to re-affirm my love for weddings as well. and i wish i could shoot every wedding in november, in the middle of the countryside, on the most amazing autumn day. or do we call it the suburbs here? countryside or suburbs? you decide, i think i’ll take the countryside though. regardless, with beautiful sun light all day, magic hour seemingly endless, and that defined winter sunset, i’ll trade six months of summer for six more months of winter any day. i’ve always said that should i ever get married, it’ll be in the dead of winter (come on, you know me), but i think i could settle for a november wedding like this indeed. beauty.
friends, i have issues, and i may be insane. you’re welcome, clients who think you want to book with me!
i was on the bus home from work, heading to superstore for a grocery shop. i know, groceries on public transit – sucks right? but who cares, that’s not my issue. in fact, you should have seen my stack of groceries inside those black fabric bags. playing tetris with bags all day at the airport has it’s perks ;) anyway, groceries or not, i was still a few stops away from mine, i had a few minutes, twitter is usually a good time passer. “@auroramax: an aurora is now visible above yellowknife, northwest territories. check it out here…” my phone is in the red. i’m down in the single percentage. i need two things to grocery shop. music. and my ‘reminders’ app. i should be all right for battery. maybe. i check it out anyway… asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/astronomy/auroramax/
then, it happened. the sky was filled with curtains of green, streaks of purple. on a 360 degree webcam. a webcam. i felt it, my heart started to beat fast, it went into my throat, and then it sank. anxiety. all over again. everything seemed to slow down, and my thoughts? it’s monday. i can’t leave until thursday night. at the earliest. why is there a storm hitting the earth’s magnetic field tonight? this entire universe revolves around me, who the hell missed the memo, and why. but i got over it, and here i am settled back in at home, with a full fridge. freezer. whatever. and prepared on the other side of my apartment is a post with another breathtaking show of the aurora borealis, a couple weeks ago, like i had never seen before. i had never seen purples so vivid to my eyes. i’d never seen it dance so fast. i’d never before stood back from my tripod, without the cable release in my hand, given entirely in to just watch it swirl and dance, because as good as i am photographing the lights, there’s no photographing the way it’s moving straight up my head. and maybe one day, that full freezer of mine, will be up in yellowknife, where i’m convinced i belong.
we looked up out the sun roof, out the side windows, straight out of the front windshield and we were socked in. it was all a mess of orange and bright white puffy no-goodness. hours passed at a variety of still lakes, at different pull offs along the ingraham trail. cell service came and went with the kilometres driven, the clouds didn’t. we were watching the aurora dance through the now broken cloud, but it was about to become one of those nights. the kind of night i once spent with good friend, kjetil, when we started off in tromsø, along the norwegian coast, and ended up in finland still chasing for clear skies.
it was now one of those nights. it was one of those nights i would be sitting at home on my couch, glancing up to my mac where open i had a chrome browser with aurora max’s live shot of the yellowknife sky. their 360 degree webcam was filled with a transparent layer of broken cloud, and bands of aurora stretching the entire sky. we stopped the car, looked straight up, and were baffled. really baffled. ‘that’s the sky above yellowknife’. i would look straight up… ‘this is the sky above yellowknife. i don’t underSTAND!’ but as we drove back toward the city, the skies cleared, star square footage almost seemed to match cloud square footage, and finally, after four hours under starless skies, a calm green danced the night away.
because our first trip up to yellowknife was barely six months ago, in february, in the middle of the deep freeze with temperatures consistently hovering around negative 25 degrees celsius, it wasn’t entirely natural to think about yellowknife when it was plus 15 degrees, open waters, and fall colours. i’ve always seen the aurora in the dark of winter, northern norway style, when the sun rises at 11am and sets at 1pm. it wasn’t unnatural to know we’d be watching it in yellowknife on frozen lakes with frozen nose hairs, eye lashes, and eyebrows. but to see the northern lights reflect off lakes, in just jeans, a t-shirt, and an unzipped jacket is still a little unfamiliar, so to see snow in the forecast for yellowknife early next week, has me again, giddy in a winter wonderland.
but until that time, jen and i are going to cherish being able to stroll out to the edges of great slave lake in summer clothes, surrounded by autumn foliage, and chill out watching the water crash onto the rocks with the sun on our backs. …until our next weekend up north, friends, enjoy.
jen, any feelings on being back up in yellowknife?!
we’re a top pilot’s monument for a look over to the sunset and twilight!
there is no real explaining it, but some nights, the aurora just doesn’t come out to play. leaving us for a long, long night watching cloudscapes pass through, and their perfect reflection on the most still lake i’ve ever seen in my life.