Newsletter #154: April, 2018
© Chris Harris. All rights reserved.
During the month of March, while pouring over old images for a private photographic workshop, images with powerful memories kept appearing. They reminded me of the adventuresome life I have lived. By following my true passions in life, adventure and photography, I have been able to share what is most important to me (nature and the creative process) with hundreds of others. It got me thinking, so I wrote the following:
Photography is not so much about the images I create; it’s about life experiences. I photograph to live a meaningful, creative, and rewarding life; reveling mostly in the art of Mother Nature and sometimes mankind. Through photography I feel blessed.
I spoke to this during my recent workshop, because my camera has provided me a way to live, a path to follow a purposeful life. Through photography I enjoy sharing my real-life experiences. Images are my visual language; my means of expression.
For this Newsletter, I thumbed through some of my publications and chose story images from each. I soon realized there were too many for one newsletter so I’ll turn “Stories Behind the Image” into a series to be continued in future newsletters. To begin this series, here are two image narratives.
Stories Behind the Image
The Royal Hudson: The power and drama of the steam engine is emphasized as it emerges from one of six tunnels on its way to Squamish. (film capture)
I grew up with trains; I travelled everywhere by train; I loved trains. So, in 1992, I chose the British Columbia Railway as a photographic self-assignment. I travelled 50,000 km between North Vancouver and Tumbler Ridge, chasing trains and light. I hiked for miles along tracks, scrambled up mountainsides and forded rivers for better perspectives, and waited for hours (once at -40 degrees) for trains to arrive. Sometimes, by the time the train did arrive, the light was gone, and I would have to do it all over again.
One story centered around my attempt to photograph the Royal Hudson. Having visualized the above image and having failed miserably at trying to create it, I approached the engineers, who were all very excited to help me create my image. After telling them which tunnel I would be waiting at, they told me they would turn on the front light, and just before exiting the tunnel, they would open every valve in the engine to create the most dramatic scene possible. Wow, was I ever excited!
I was at the tunnel an hour early with two cameras, two tripods, and two cable releases. For an hour I constantly checked and re-checked my compositions and exposures. This was a one-time opportunity! Eventually I heard that distinctive steam engine sound in the distance. As it got closer and the sound amplified, my adrenalin soared. When it entered the tunnel, the deafening sound of steam being released had me bursting with excitement.
When the Royal Hudson exploded out of the tunnel, I released a burst of exposures from both cameras. In 3-seconds, the drama was over. I was left standing on the side of the tracks, stunned. I do remember being frightened for my life at one split second, as I thought the engine was going to hit me. Fortunately, the engine followed the curving tracks and missed me by a mere two feet.
I shared this story with Mark Forsythe on CBC’s B.C. Almanac, and 25 years later, I still meet people who comment on hearing it. This story and many others helped my book, ”BC Rail: British Columbia’s Great Train Adventure” become a BC best-seller. It sold over 15,000 copies.
Entrance to Kibbee Lake (film capture)
For over 30 years I paddled the Bowron Lake canoe circuit as both a guide and photographer. I have made the trip 120 times and have shared the adventure with hundreds of clients. There is, however, one moment on every trip that stands out above all others.
The above image describes that most magical and most personal moment of every Bowron Lake experience: the very first minute of a 7-day adventure. For me, it’s the moment when I dip my paddle for the very first time, leaving all traces of hectic life behind. No more phone calls, emails, or appointments to be met. Time becomes meaningless and all forms of stress disappear. At that moment, it’s a beautiful day, and I am on my way.
To capture this special moment photographically, I awaited late afternoon on a sunny day when I could use a polarizing filter to saturate colours, a split neutral density filter to balance light values above and below the horizon, and a flash to illuminate the canoe’s cedar wood (the right side was in deep shadow). Such were the days of film!
Of interest: The above images hang in our Gallery and are available as photographic prints. The third editions of “BC Rail: British Columbia’s Great Train Adventure”, “The Bowron Lakes: British Columbia’s Wilderness Canoe Circuit”, and companion guide book, “The Bowron Lakes: A Guide to Paddling British Columbia’s Wilderness Canoe Circuit”, are all available online through our website.
Back Road Adventures
With a friend, or by myself, I so enjoy a slow drive along the back roads of the Cariboo Chilcotin, high above the mid-Fraser canyon. Below are a few photographs made last spring and summer.
A lone cowboy and his dog set off to irrigate his ranchlands high above the Fraser River
Solitary snag: ponderosa pine
Now that the snow and gumbo-dirt roads are drying up, I’ll be heading out there again in the next few days. I can’t wait!
We are seeking ‘Expressions of Interest’
Once again, Rita and I will be going on tour this fall, and throughout most of next year, with a new and spectacular audio-visual presentation. Titled “Cariboo Chilcotin: A Story of Resiliency and Beauty”, we will take viewers to experience unaltered landscapes, wildfire effected landscapes, and the unique culture of British Columbia’s central plateau.
Last year’s wildfires changed but did not destroy the regions natural beauty. We will explore wildfire as part of the life-cycle of the land, and as forces of regeneration and resilience. By exploring photography as an art form, I will also share how I transformed my evacuation experience into art.
Based on our most recent books, we will also explore the natural beauty of the grasslands, volcanoes, and Coast Mountains as part of the Chilcotin Ark story; a story of international significance.
We invite you to share and understand these powerful phenomena for yourselves. By embracing natural cycles, we inform our lives and our very nature; we embrace our Sense of Place and we invite the world to do the same.
Rita and I will be posting more information about our up-coming tour in future Newsletters, however, if your camera club, natural history club, or organization, have an interest in hosting a presentation, we would be most pleased and interested to hear your expression of interest. Our primary areas to present are British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Washington State, however, we are also preparing to include international destinations.
Thank you. We look forward to hearing from you. The email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.