Introducing the Google Trekker to Alberta
Sep30

Introducing the Google Trekker to Alberta

I try to get home to Alberta for at least a couple weeks each year. Ideally, I like to spend as much of that time as possible exploring, and shooting images. Somehow, this year I managed a month in the province. And, honestly, I was so glad for a little bit of Alberta time. After driving an RV across Canada, which was an amazing experience, the whole way I kept thinking, “I can’t wait to get this RV to Alberta. I can’t wait to get home”. Of course, 19 days of that was spent packing this crazy, alien looking globe on my back; so it’s not like it was a vacation. My buddy Jeff and I took on a project with Travel Alberta carrying a “Google Trekker” around the province. It was a crazy project that involved long hours, lots of physical output, and some cool photo ops. It resulted in some emotional challenges, a bit of physical struggle, and a lot of weight loss. What is the Google Trekker? Essentially, the Google trekker is like Google “street view” for hiking and walking trails. You’ve probably seen pictures of the Google car that’s mounted with the 360 degree camera on top to photograph the streets. Well, the trekker looks like that. Except, instead of having a car pack it around it goes on your back. Or in this case, it goes on our backs. There wasn’t a single person we passed on hiking trails that didn’t comment on the trekker. The questions we got asked most often were: What is that thing? The Google trekker. Are you Google? No. I’m not a webpage. How much does it weigh? 50Lbs. It’s bloody heavy! Are you trying to catch Pokemon with that? Uhm. Yes? Meet Tristan When we picked up the trekker, I put it out to the world to give it a name. As you might know, most of my gear is named. My drone, for example, is named Fido. Erin from The World Wanderer pushed the name Tristan. However, both Jeff and I weren’t fans of the name; despite the alteration (we all know how much I love alteration). I knew a kid in university named Tristan who was a bit of a pain, so I didn’t want to give it the same name. So, over the first week with the trekker it remained nameless despite having the occasional celebrity-twisted name like Sir Treks-a-Lot and Ben Aftrek. Then, in Crowsnest Pass, I climbed this mountain that was an absolutely brutal hike with the trekker on my back. When I hit the summit, I wanted to roll the trekker off the...

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A Week in The Alberta Rockies
Sep14

A Week in The Alberta Rockies

I keep promising that I’m going to get caught up, but then I never do. So, I’m going to stop promising, and just roll out these posts as they come.  I’m trying to get back to the much more stress-free version of myself I was a couple years ago.  I don’t know when I became such a work-addict unable to step away from it.  But, I’ve been doing my best to do so more often lately. I really have started to feel like work has gotten in the way of my personal life. I also feel like the focus on “me” in these blogs has made me way too self-indulgent.  I don’t like that. So, it’s time to start working on me again, for real.  Travel used to be such a great tool for personal growth. But, since I left Africa I don’t think I’ve done much growth, and may have even regressed a bit. Hopefully, the realization of these things will start to put me back on the right path. But, it’s going to take time to regain the humble, positive, and thoughtless person I believe still sits within my skin somewhere. Anyways, 200 word intros are too long. Let’s get into the travel. Coming Home After our pretty incredible RV trip across Canada with GoRVing Canada, I got to show Erin (from The World Wanderer) a little bit of my home province.  I was so excited to be back. Being home has a way of grounding me.  I’m not sure if it’s the mountains, the open spaces, or the presence of friends and families, but it always seems to bring me back to earth.  I don’t think I’ll even come back to Alberta to live, my lifestyle would make it too hard to be based there, but my heart will always be there. My Favourite Places on the Planet Everyone is proud of where they’re from, I think.  I meet people in some of the most below average places on the planet, and they all rave about their home as if it’s the best place in the world.  So, I might be a bit biased to say it, but The Canadian Rockies really are home to my favourite places on the planet. We only had a short amount of time to explore them, so I really had to pick and choose the highlights to show Erin.  Obviously, I would have loved to get her off the beaten path and to some of the true gems in the mountains that so few people get to, but with only a week we stuck to the more classic locations.  One...

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Driving an RV Across Canada
Sep01

Driving an RV Across Canada

In my last post, I talked about how I was focusing on my vlog and as a result I’d be doing weekly round-up blog posts.  It turns out, though, that I’m quite terrible at keeping up on the weekly blogs too.  I think, to be honest, the more I let things slide, the more things get away from me. So, I’m sorry about the delay getting this article about driving an RV across Canada up.  I swear I’m going to try to be better at keeping you up to speed from now on. I was working on a project dubbed: #bringbackwildhood with GoRVing Canada.  The idea of this project was to try to recapture the excitement of a classic summer vacation camping trip – but, done with style.  I took part in the project alongside Erin from The World Wanderer (check out her post on the trip here).   Though we were suggested that we should take an RV on a bit of a local adventure in the Toronto area, we thought something a bit more epic was in order. It was there than an epic plan to drive an RV all the way across Canada was born. But, we hit a roadblock because it was actually August long weekend when we wanted to do the trip. There weren’t any RVs available. Thankfully, the amazing people at Leisure Vans came through.  They personally drove an RV out from Manitoba to us for our trip.  In fact, they gave us their 2017 model called “The Wonder” which was amazing.  It really became home on wheels. Crossing the Shield and Avoiding Murderers After departing from Toronto, and spending a night in Parry Sound, Ontario, we made the push across the Great Canadian Shield.  I’ve done this section before on the Via Rail train, but have never driven it. I was impressed by how beautiful it all was. It was far more hilly, and the roads far more enjoyable to drive than I expected. One thing I loved about having the RV was the lack of stress around where to spend the night.  For example, when crossing Ontario, we got into our destination extremely late, and just pulled into a parking area of a campsite and crashed for the night – all with the comfort of a bathroom and a luxury home.  Of course, I might have been the only one not feeling stressed about sleeping out in the forest.  Erin, from just outside the hard streets of NYC, was oddly worried about murderers. Check out her hilarious discussion in the vlog below. Oh, The Prairies If there was one part of the...

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A Night of Photography in Banff National Park
Dec23

A Night of Photography in Banff National Park

I found myself a bit stuck in Calgary for much of the month of November.  I needed to get both my driver’s license and passport renewed. But, of course, you need ID to do things like fly, and go to bars, so I couldn’t do both pieces of ID at the same time (since I also flew to Regina to be on the morning news). But, once I finally got everything sorted out in the city, I made sure I had time to head out to the Rockies to do some shooting.  But, as you might know, I’m about 50% cheap, and 50% crazy.  So, instead of making a week of it, I thought “I’ll bet I can shoot all my locations in Banff National Park in one single evening.”  And that’s what I did.  My goal for the Rockies on this visit home was to work on some night photography imagery. So, at 7pm I left Calgary for the mountains, and I would spend the next 12 hours driving, location hunting, and, of course, shooting in Banff National Park. My Locations In total, I tried to shoot 7 different locations on my trip.  However, my two locations in Yoho National Park on the BC side of the border didn’t work out because there was just too much cloud cover.  So, I actually just worked at 5. Vermillion Lakes My first location is a bit of a classic in Banff National Park.  It’s a great spot to shoot in the wintertime because the lake is actually partially hot spring fed meaning that there is open water basically year round.  The challenge to it is that you do get light pollution from the townsite of Banff.  Here, I shot 3 different styles of night photography. I shot 50mm images at an open aperture, I shot quick exposures at high ISO, and I shot extremely long exposures getting star trails. These are some of my images from this location: Castle Mountain I had been envisioning a really specific shot for Castle Mountain from the old highway.  I really wanted to capture a shot of the road itself, with the mountain as the backdrop.  But, it was impossible. First of all, it was far too dark to see the mountains at night when I went looking, so finding my spot was tricky. Then, when I found the spot the road was quite narrow and icy, and I was worried about a car coming down the road too quick and not being able to avoid my car. And thirdly, my second worry was probably illegitimate because the 4 times I went up and down...

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Winter on the Icefields Parkway
Dec20

Winter on the Icefields Parkway

After finishing up in Jasper, I had to get back to Calgary – the city where I went to university and where most of my friends and family live.  My buddy Jeff Bartlett (check out his portfolio here) was kind enough to drive me down the Icefields Parkway and then through Kananaskis to get me home.  Of course, a couple photographers can’t just drive through the mountains without shooting them.  And, Alberta got a tonne of fresh snow so we really did make some fresh tracks and have beautiful white snow to work with.  The Icefields Parkway in the wintertime is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Then again, it’s stunning any time of year. This was our day driving one of the most spectacular roads in the world. Is the Icefields Parkway open in the Winter? The short answer is, yes the Icefields parkway is open in the winter.  In fact, it’s the highest elevation road in all of Canada that’s open year round.   However, that’s not to say that the road doesn’t close.  The road can close throughout the winter for a number of reasons.  The first, of course, being a winter storm or incredibly icy roads.  The road can also be closed because of avalanches (both natural and ones triggered on purpose by the park), rockslides, and other reasons.  A trip down the parkway is never a guarantee in the winter, so always be prepared to have enough time to drive around if you need to get from Jasper to Banff or farther south. What are Road Conditions Like? Again, the road conditions on the Icefields Parkway really depend day-to-day.  It depends on whether the snowplows have been over it after snow, if there’s enough salt and dirt laid down for traction, and how much ice is on the road.  Before you set off to drive the road in the winter, be sure that you ask about the conditions. Also, you probably don’t want to cruise down the road in a little city car with summer tires.  And, no matter what you choose to drive be sure you’re prepared with warm clothes and some snacks in case you get stuck, have an accident, or have car trouble. Locations worth Photographing on the Icefields Parkway in Winter Winter is tricky to shoot photography in the Rockies for the simple fact that most of the lakes are completely frozen over by late December or early January.  Thus, I like to find open pieces of water along the Athabasca Glacier, or head for the larger lakes that tend to stay open for a bit longer.  On...

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