Dawson City, October 16, 2016

Some shit you just can’t make up…

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Sorry about that one, just couldn’t resist.  Help me for I have punned.  Again.

It’s early morning in Dawson City and the last couple of hours before heading off to photograph the grizzlies north of the circle here in the Yukon.  We arrived here yesterday after spending a day in Whitehorse – see last post about the wildlife photography there.  Spent the better part of the day wandering around Dawson (the locals seem to drop the City routinely) which seems like a bit of a ghost town at this time of year.  Most of the businesses are boarded up for the winter and shops/restaurants are closed up making the streets very quiet in comparison to the summer when boat loads of cruise boaters come through.  I like it this way more I think.  Winter is starting to show itself.  Not much snow about but ice is forming on the Yukon River, some of the boats are already out of the water and today they are taking the ferry out.  This means that if you live on the other side of the river you can’t get to town too easily until the river freezes up enough to drive across.  This may take a few weeks.  If you have to get across, it’s a helicopter ride.

I have only spent a few hours here and without the ability to drive around and see the surrounding countryside but it is already easy to see how people get ‘hooked’ on the north. I have spoken to many people who have come to the Canadian Arctic never left – choosing to call it home.  The peacefulness, solitude and beauty is unmistakable even in such a short visit.  Dawson certainly has made a great first impression for me.  I haven’t left and already looking forward to returning and spending more time here.  I can only imagine how this feeling would increase if one had a chance to explore some more.  Alas, not for me at this time.  I leave you with one last view from yesterday and bid farewell ’til we return in a week and a half to the land of global communication…

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Well okay, one more just for the heck of it…

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Prelude to Ice Grizzlies?

First day in the Yukon – October 15th, 2016.  The Ice Grizzly trip is a wildlife photography adventure so what better way to spend a day than doing wildlife photography.  But, not grizzly bears.  What else calls the sub-arctic regions of Canada home?  Well, deer and sheep for two…

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These little fellas (or could be a gal in the case of the deer I guess) were spotted very close to Whitehorse as we spent a day in the city waiting for the rest of our group to assemble in preparation for the trip to Dawson City and points north of the Arctic Circle tomorrow.  Also seen were muskoxen and mountain goats but I haven’t got to those images yet.  We’ll see how things go tomorrow but after that we will be in ‘electronic silence’ for at least 10 days.  Here’s hoping for some great bear encounters and images to follow.

Cheers

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Celestial Happenings

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I am a firm believer in serendipity and happenstance.  Especially when it comes to photography.  Sure, you have to plan and take every step in the hopes that good things will happen.  And we are definitely largely masters of our own destinies.  But I can’t count the number of times that good things just happen.  Sometimes they involve images that I make and other times they just add to life’s rich pageant.  Last Monday was one of the former.  As I packed up my gear after a Edson Photography Club meeting I received a text from a member saying it looked like the Northern Lights were going to put on a show.  I was tired (exhausted actually) after a long day of errands and meeting preparations and was oh so closed to ignoring the text and heading for bed.  Reflecting back that I had missed some great Northern Lights just the previous week and seeing that the sky was essentially cloudless, I changed my mind and drove less than a kilometre from town just to have a look.  Only camera gear with me was body and 50mm lens (and tripod) so it was not going to be more that a quick look.  It’s a spot that I wouldn’t pick for photographing the lights but it does give one a good idea if they are worth chasing.  Sure enough, they were looking good.  Watched the greens glows dancing silently across the northern skies for a bit, captivated as always by these magnificent phenomena.  Making the decision to head home a get camera gear (and see if Jayne and Michelle) wanted to join me I left – not sure if the lights would continue or if I would return to a blank canvas as often happens.

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We traipsed around the countryside watch the lights, which had lost some of their intensity and were having a hard time finding a spot we liked (well, that I liked).  Finally, fearing total loss of the Aurora, we stopped at the end of a lease road and decided what the heck let’s just watch for a bit.  So, we did.  Mother nature rewarded us with a fairly nice display that went on for about an hour before finally fading away.  The showed ebbed and flowed some, but kept us enthralled visually and our shutter fingers flexed.  The images above are a sample of those acquired and the animation below is a first crack at a Northern Lights animation.  Certainly not the most amazing images of the Northern Lights but decent considering I was just minutes from letting my head hit the pillow!

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MS Bike 2016

Once again we ride for MS.  The Sus Scrofas 2016 Edition is gearing up to ride our bicycles from Leduc to Camrose and back to raise money for the MS Society of Canada.  This will be my third year riding in this fundraiser and I am hoping for a great run.  Last year we rode with a team of 7 (pictured below) and we raised over $22,000.00.

Sus-Scrofas-2015-for-blogThis year our team has expanded to 13 members and we have already topped $25,000.00 in donations with over a month and a half to go!  This blog post is the official  announcement of my fundraising campaign.  I am making the following offer to prospective donors…

For every donation of $100.00 (up to $200.00) the donor will receive a special edition print of one of my grizzly bear photographs entitled After the Ride?.  The prints are signed 5″ x 7″ fine art prints matted to a finished size of 11″x14″ and are ready to frame.  Make a donation of $200.00 (or more) and I will include a high quality black metal frame with antireflective glass fully assembled and ready to adorn your wall.

 

After the Ride?

After the Ride?

If you want to take advantage of this offer, your donation must be made to me as a participant.  You can make your donation online by clicking on the link below and following the instructions.

Click Here To Donate

For more information about MS, the Society, and the fundraiser please go to the MS Society webpage.

Thank you for considering making a donation to this worthy cause.  If you have any questions please feel free to drop me an email.

Julian

PS The title of the image is After the Ride? as this is what I usually look like after a day’s ride.  Except the bear has no beer!

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Home Sweet Home (Almost)

It doesn’t matter how much you love travelling or how great a trip have been on, coming home is always somehow satisfying.  Most of our little dental group left Managua early this morning for a 19 hour travel day (including stops and commute at end of journey) back to Canada.

upQxb53TNnTVCLBe.jpgThe trip was uneventful which is always good when travel is involved.  Flights were mostly on time, luggage showed up (first off the carousel actually), customs and immigration without issue (in fact the agent in Houston was downright friendly) and all good back home.  We didn’t make the last leg to Edson last night as Michelle is back on a plane with Jayne today to visit Las Vegas – a trip that is about two years overdue as they were supposed to go on Michelle’s 21st.  I, on the other hand must get back to reality and head to the office tomorrow.

Back to my original point that it is always good to get home…

I love to get away and travel without a doubt.  I like seeing new things, meeting new people and experiencing what the world has to offer.  I always have and hopefully always will.  I am not as adventurous as some travellers but I think I get out there more than others.  I certainly enjoy traveling the ‘one less traveled’ as Robert Frost put it,  although I’m not sure his poem was so much about travel habits.  I have found that the ideal trip duration for me is between two and four weeks with the sweet spot being right at the midpoint three week mark.  Less than two weeks and you are just getting into the flow of travel when you have to start thinking about the trip being over.  I find it takes a couple or three days to get into a bit of a rhythm of a destination – the people, the climate, the food to name a few factors.  Then you have to identify and work toward realizing the goals of the trip (many times for me it is making photographs).  The middle of the trip is usually the most enjoyable and hopefully occupies the bulk of your time away.  And finally, you have the wrap up phase where you preparing for travel, wrapping up projects and often times wishing you had more time.  If you go much over the three week duration I find it difficult sometimes to avoid sensory overload.  Too many things to see and do can wear me out and I can get frustrated and weary, not able to really enjoy what I usually like doing.  Kind of like going to West Edmonton Mall!

This trip is a little shy of the three week sweet spot but it was the perfect length for the type of trip it was.  Two things account for this.  One was that it was a ‘working’ trip so much less time was devoted to relaxation and personal travel goals.  This is more taxing psychologically and does tire one out more quickly than a purely recreational trip.  The second is it involves traveling with a relatively small group of people which usually creates it’s own stresses.  Our group was really good and I thought we traveled well together in close quarters for the better part of two weeks.  This is made possible I think because we have the common purpose of providing dental care to those in need.

With all that said, I am looking forward to being back in Edson this afternoon after seeing Jayne and Michelle off.  Only have a couple of errands to run then back to real life.  First order of business will be to get images downloaded and backed up – probably while doing some laundry.  Then will need to organize some upcoming projects … and so it goes until the next trip.

 

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Maria

Sometimes things happen for reasons that I cannot figure out.  Right place at the right time.  Good Kharma.  Kismet.  Destiny.  There are many descriptions for these events and occurrences and I think they happen to most of us on a regular basis – at least, they seem to for me (and I hope they do for you, too).  One of these happened in Leon (Nicaragua) on Sunday morning.  Michelle and I were on an early (before 8am) walkabout around the main square and cathedral in this popular town enjoying the less stifling morning air and the sights and sounds of this central area coming to life.  We stop a lot to make photographs along the way, different things piquing our individual interests along the way.  Sometimes we happen on something that attracts us both.  In this case it was a mural painted on two pillars of a doorway across the street from us.  There were bright colours, and some interesting light beginning to hit the doorway but the pictures were caricatures of local ‘heros’.  The one on the left was Sandhino ‘crushing’ Samosa (at least I think I have the characters correct – it does get a little confusing sometimes.

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So what does this post have to do with Kharma (and Maria)?  As we were making our pictures, an older lady in a bright dress approached us and began to speak to us in Spanish.  Normally this act would not have attracted our attention and we would politely decline whatever she might be selling or reply with a ‘no intiendo’ or some other bastardized Spanish but there was something interesting about Maria. She spoke slowly and seemed interested in making herself understood often supplementing her dialogue with hand and body gestures.  She explained that Sandhino was a hero and had killed Samosa to free the Nicaraguan people.  As we moved to the larger mural across the street that is a public landmark depicting the history of the trials and tribulations of Nicaragua, Maria followed.  There was something about her that was interesting and we followed her around the whole mural listening to her explanation of Nicaraguan history.  She was captivating and I found myself enjoying the whole dissertation.  I knew all along that there would ultimately be a request for some money to be exchanged but there were no airs or pretentions on Marie’s part.  She seemed genuinely interested in our dialogue and went out of her way to make sure we understood each point she was making.

At the end, coincidently in front of the mural image depicting the freedom gained for the Nicaraguan people Maria asked where we were from – I’m not sure the words she used but I knew exactly what she was asking.  When we said ‘Canada’, she said she had friends from Canada and produced a little notebook with a handwritten message from someone from Vancouver explaining that Maria did these little explanations to help support her family.  It was easy to part with a few Cordobas and I hope they in some way help with her daily existence because she brightened our day on this morning in Leon.

We saw Maria a couple of times more in our wanderings and she said hello with a big smile each time.  She did want to sell us some postcards one time but with no pressure or disdain when we declined.

Thank you Maria.

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One Week In

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So, as everyone probably suspected, my blogging has been pathetic once again. Maybe I should just give up on the whole idea. I do, however, like to think that the blog is a good way to keep in touch with people and thoughts.  I could resort to Facebook I guess.  Those of you who might read this who know me realize that this will never happen.

We have been away from Edson for seven days now.  It is Friday morning in Acuapa, Nicaragua and the sun is just rising above the hills to the east of us casting long shafts of light into the compound where we are staying.  It’s going to be a hot one I suspect.  Usually at this time of morning it is pleasantly cool in comparison to mid-day but it seems warmer today – we’ll see.  We have a have day of clinic today which will bring our week to four and a half clinic days.  We have been busy for sure but I would not say overrun by any stretch.  We see probably about one patient an hour which might not seem like much in comparison to home (or other dental trips for that matter) but if you consider this includes setup and cleanup of the ‘operatory’, examination, and treatment (often much more than you would undertake at home) it is pretty good.  Also factor in that conditions are a little more taxing on personnel than we would encounter normally I think we do pretty well.

Some patients are very simple – cleaning.  Others are more complex – two root canals, large fillings and a molar extraction for example.  We try to treat the patients as comprehensively as we can knowing that this might be their only visit to a dentist in years (past and to come).  We also have to be careful not to over do it and deny other patients the opportunity to see a dentist.  Always a delicate balance.  We do the best we can and take some solace knowing we have done a good service to those we have managed to treat but it is a sober reality that we cannot do everything for everyone all of the time.

The image above is my view in the mornings here in Achuapa.  As you can see, quite idyllic and serene – until our dental clinic gets going.  Hopefully, more to follow as we should have better internet connection on the weekend…

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T-Minus 9 Hours

Or there about.  In Edmonton on the eve of another dental volunteer adventure.  Michelle and I head out to the airport at about 3am to fly out to Nicaragua for a two-week trip with Dentistry for All.  We are excited about the upcoming days and I hope to be able to make some blog posts along the way.  I know, I know, I make the same promise before every trip but one of these times I will good on my promises – I promise.

A few thoughts before getting an early night.

This will be my 9th dental trip since 2006 when Ian and I went to the town of Pisac in the Sacred Valley region of Peru.  What started as a notion to expand my children’s view and understanding of the world has turned into a bit of an annual habit.  This year marks my first adventure with Dentistry for All.  It will be a bit of a change on a number of fronts.  First trip with good friends Blaine and Trudy – team leaders and dental classmates.  First trip in a few years not being team leader.  First trip in a few years with a family member (Michelle) and her first trip as a full fledged dental assistant.  First trip to this particular part of Nicaragua.  You get the picture.

This post will not hit cyberspace until a week into the trip I’m afraid but is still relevant.  Some issues with Internet connectivity, available time and available energy at a time of day when on remains relatively coherent.  But here it is.

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Out of Touch No More

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This image is a little bit of a teaser for y’all.

Actually it has some significance being included in my first post since departing for the Northwest Passage.  Since the last post, I have had no communication with the electronic world at all and minimal contact with the world outside of our expedition.  No cell service, no Wi-Fi, no newspapers – bliss!  Maybe also a little apprehension and stress also but there it is.  In a nutshell the expedition cruise of the Northwest Passage on the M.V. Ocean Endeavour with Adventure Canada was a great success.  We got to most of the places on the initial itinerary and explored a part of the world very few people ever get to see.  Some remarkable locations and I for one am far wiser about the Arctic than I was before the trip.  Certainly not as knowledgeable as some of my traveling companions and many of the expedition staff but better educated none the less.  It will take some time to absorb the impact this journey will have on me personally and even longer so sort through the images I made.  I hope to be making some of these new images available for viewing on my regular website and perhaps some on this blog if I also have some musings to share with the world.

This image was made on the last night about the Ocean Endeavour.  We had finished the last full of our journey and were about to listen to some music in the lounge before retiring to pack our bags for disembarkation in the morning.  I was looking forward to hearing Barney Bentall, David Newland and James Raffan pluck their guitar strings and ply us with their lyrics one last time.  One of my new friends on the voyage whispered that he thought he had seen some Northern Lights on deck.  I snuck off with him to check it out and sure enough once we found a dark enough spot on deck we were able to see the faint glow above the mountains that line Søndre Strømfjord.  I collected my camera, a couple of lenses and tripod from my cabin in anticipation of a good show.  No disappointment was had.  It didn’t take long for the show to get brighter and more extensive.  We let the rest of our travelling companions in on the show and set about making images and enjoying.  This image is not the only one or even the best of the images I made but it is one that caught my eye as being a good representation of the culmination of a great trip.  By the way, the concert was essentially cancelled due to lack of audience.

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Excitement is Afoot (soon to be Afloat)

Jayne and I made the trek into Edmonton this afternoon marking the beginning of an exciting journey.  Some ten months in the planning, we leave tomorrow on an ‘Expedition’ to the Northwest Passage in Canada’s arctic.  Our bags have been packed and unpacked and repacked after reconsideration of their contents but now we are down to the crunch.  To be honest, I think I am the only one to stew over packing for these trips.  Clothes and such are usually not a problem although things do get picked and unpicked right up until the day of departure.  And then sometimes that changes if I have a little time on the way to the airport to shop for that elusive piece of gear that is absolutely essential to the mission at hand.

This time the last pieces of gear were to be had at Camper’s Village on the way to the hotel in Nisku.  I had spied an umbrella a few weeks ago but did not purchase because we have a whole fleet of umbrellas from previous trips – many purchased out of necessity in the rain whilst travelling.  All good umbrellas to be sure, but this was a trekking umbrella – lightweight and overpriced.  As our packing was getting down to the wire, weight becomes an issue so in the end I decided that I needed the umbrella.  The last time I was in the store I bought a cord for holding glasses in place while doing sports and such.  I thought a couple more of these would be a good idea too!  Don’t want to be losing one’s spectacles while away on a big adventure now do we?  So there we are, new gear for the upcoming trip.  Oops, almost forgot the pair of over gloves to shield me from the wind and rain which we might expect on this trip.

Now we’re almost set to go.  Checked into room for the night and heading off to the pre-trip briefing/meet and greet.  A little over an hour has passed and much has happened.  The Adventure Canada folks had things organized very well and the briefing was informative without being boring.  I am not more excited than ever to get the show on the road and begin this journey.  And I won’t have to wait long.  We are on the early departure tomorrow which entails being in the hotel lobby checked out and ready to go at 4:45am – yes, in the morning.  Have to get the car checked into long-term parking and checked out of the room before getting an early night.  At the briefing we met a few of the expedition staff and they all seem like great people – talkative, friendly and I’m suspecting great sources of knowledge and information.

Some notable meetings already – Freeman Patterson, Andre Gallant, Barney Bentall to mention a couple.  Did I mention that I’m looking forward to the adventure beginning?  Tomorrow’s itinerary takes us from Edmonton to Yellowknife and then on to Kugluktuk arriving about 9:30am.  We then transfer directly to the ship – M.V. Ocean Endeavour and get settled in before lunch and safety sessions and getting under way.  The layout of the trip is much what I expected.  Lots planned but nothing promised.  The crew will do everything in their power to follow the planned itinerary but we must be ready to adapt and change with contingencies in the event of weather and other unforeseen circumstances.  I have never been disappointed in one of these trips before and Adventure Canada seems like they know what they are doing.  Go with the flow, leave your expectations behind, embrace the present and experience the journey….here we go.

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