Newsletter No. 37: August 2008
© Chris Harris. All rights reserved.
© Chris Harris. All rights reserved.
Well, it’s absolutely fantastic to be back in the mountains again. I’ve recently experienced and photographed some of the most amazingly beautiful back-country in British Columbia and I am looking forward to sharing my adventures with you over the next few months. If you have friends who are interested in seeing B.C. wilderness, tell them about this Newsletter . . .HOLD ON . . .here we go!!
Enjoy the Newsletter, and pass it on to interested friends. Our goal here at the Chris Harris Gallery is to share the creative process, promote the arts, and strengthen our artistic community. Thank you.
During the last month I have travelled with two mountain guide outfitters who offer pack horse trips into the volcanic wilderness of the West Chilcotin. Before I take you out there with imagery, I thought I would say a few words about how I approached these trips as a photographer.
On the first trip I travelled by horse through the Itcha Mountains with Itcha-Ilgatchuz Mountain Outfitters and more recently I hiked through the Rainbow Mountains but was horse-supported by Rainbow Mountain Outfitters. Both outfitters operate a first-class operation – offering pack trips through some of BC’s most spectacular, volcanic wilderness.
As a photographer I needed to ask myself:
- What kind of imagery did I want to make?
- What equipment did I need to bring to accomplish that?
- How was I going to carry that equipment?
Frisky Colt at Dawn
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III; Lens:70-200mm;
Focal length: 200mm; ISO: 400;
Shutter speed: 1/320 sec; Aperture: f8
Exp. mode: AV; Exp.comp: -1
In the Itcha Mountains I was on assignment for British Columbia Magazine so my shoot was prescribed; it included people and trip detail shots that I would normally shy away from. I travelled totally by horse and therefore was restricted in what I could carry. I brought my lightweight Canon 40D camera body with a 17-35mm lens, a 28-70mm lens and a 70-200mm lens. These were placed in my saddle bags where one’s lunch etc. usually goes. I also brought my lightweight carbon fibre Mountaineer Gitzo tripod that I (the horse) carried in a rifle scabbard. I wore a lightweight daypack for my lunch and a few filters (polarizer & split-neutral density). To make an image riding, I would have to dismount, have someone hold my horse, and make my image as quickly as possible so as not to hold up the group. I tried not to use the tripod whenever possible (by increasing the ISO) to save time. The outfitters (and guests) were extremely tolerant and cooperative in allowing me time to photograph. I also brought additional gear in my Lowepro camera backpack that was carried on a packhorse. This allowed me to hike and photograph around base camp.
All other participants had digital point & shoot cameras that enabled them to take photographs while on their horse. So, as you can see, serious photography is extremely challenging on a pack trip. The advantage, however, is that you get to ride on a horse and travel large distances (approx. 250kms.in this case) through back country wilderness that is otherwise almost impossible to get to.
Camp Still Life
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III; Lens:28-70mm ;
Focal length: 65mm; ISO: 200;
Shutter speed: 0.4 sec; Aperture: f14
Exp. mode: AV; Exp.comp: +2/3
In the Rainbow Mountains I hiked the entire distance (approx.100kms.) but was horse-supported. This meant I carried all my camera gear in my Lowepro backpack and was free to hike at my own pace and make images at will. I brought my heavier landscape Canon 1Ds Mark III camera body and added a 14mm and macro lens to the above noted list. This is because my goal was almost entirely landscape photography. On this trip I hiked with my friend Mike Duffy. We both needed to be in excellent shape and qualified with map and compass in order to reach the evening campsite. On most horse-supported hike trips however, I believe there are more day-hikes from base camps and accompanied by a guide – a great way to explore the landscape. Having reviewed my images from both trips, I can definitely see a huge difference in my work. While hiking I was able to seek out better compositions and attain higher quality results by using a tripod more often. So, both types of trips provide advantages and disadvantages depending on your photographic goals and hiking abilities.
As I mentioned above, I joined a horsepack trip operated by Itcha-Ilgatchuz Mountain Outfitting to photograph on assignment for British Columbia Magazine. As the magazine has first rights to the imagery, I can only show you a couple of enticing images to pique your interest. The story is about the relatively new Itcha-Ilgatchuz Provincial Park and should appear in the spring issue of 2009. Be sure to keep an eye open for it. The writer is Larry Pynn.
Itcha Mountains with Riders
Canon EOS-40D; Lens:28-70mm macro;
Focal length: 39mm; ISO: 250;
Shutter speed: 1/200 sec; Aperture: f10
Exp. mode: AV; Exp.comp: +1/3
The volcanic features of the Itchas are more weathered than those of the Ilgatchuz. The landscape is soft and the volcanic cones are disintegrating into large piles of scree. It’s beautiful country for trail riding.
To photograph a pack train in a landscape I had to think well ahead and project the visual in my mind. Visualizing the possible potential of the above image, I yelled ahead to Roger to stop. I then jumped off my horse, grabbed my camera and a couple of lenses, gave my horse to someone to hold, and ran up the slope to get a better perspective. I then asked Roger to start riding once again allowing me to make this image. Every image I made while riding required this same procedure.
Canon EOS-40D; Lens:17-35mm macro ;
Focal length: 17mm; ISO: 250;
Shutter speed: 1/125 sec; Aperture: f16
Exp. mode: AV; Exp.comp: 0
I was most fortunate to have the very weather I wanted for this particular day on the trip. I wanted to capture the feeling of the desolate landscape that must have been some three million years ago when these shield volcanoes were hissing and bubbling. To capture this feeling I used a two-stop split neutral density filter above the horizon. Incidentally, the snow patch on the left represents the very beginnings of the Chilcotin River.
There is one thing I would like to say about both of these trips: both operators provide an absolute first class experience. The leaders, Wanda Dorsey and Roger Williams of Itcha-Ilgatchuz Mountain Outfitters and Joyce and David Dorsey of Rainbow Mountain Outfitters, have a lifetime of experience and are extremely knowledgeable about their respective areas. Their campfire stories alone are worth the price of admission. Both trips had young wranglers and cooking assistants who were multi-talented – they were amazing!
Wranglers at Dawn
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III; Lens:70-200mm;
Wrangler as Naturalist
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III; Lens:28-70 mm; ;
The wranglers on this trip were Leslie Dorsey and Aileen Jorgenson. On the days we moved camp they would hike out to the meadow at dawn (above left) to round up the horses. The image below shows Leslie riding bareback as she pushes the hobbled horses back to camp.
On days we did not move camp, we would set out to explore. Some of the clients would ride while others hiked. Aileen doubled as a hiking guide. With field guide in hand (above right), she led us to the best flower spots as well as the most interesting volcanic areas for me to photograph. She was a formidable leader.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III; Lens:28-70mm;
Focal length: 53mm; ISO: 400;
Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec; Aperture: f16
Exp. mode: AV; Exp.comp: -2/3
I leave you with one of the most powerful visuals I experienced on this trip. My hiking partner, Mike Duffy, and I had hiked all morning and were well ahead of the horse contingent. After eating lunch, we saw the pack-train of horses in the distance; winding its way through this spectacular landscape. As we watched, we realized we were looking at something historical. As lifestyles change, knowledgeable pack-trip operators will probably disappear. For me it was an emotional experience. It was a sight I will never forget.
Packtrain in the Landscape
Canon 1DS MarkIII; Lens:28-70mm;
Panorama of 3 images stitched together