Deep Winter 2013 by Strain

I'm writing this from the muggy confines of a rental house in a gated community in Tapachula, Mexico - please forgive me for not giving the subject a proper run-down. I wanted to get a few words out before I forget what snow even looks like. More on why I'm in Mexico to follow, if I have time. It's a bit of a crazy story.

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Birthday Heli by Strain

I don't think there is a better way to turn 28 than to heli into a zone dubbed "Chuter McGavin", shoot photos from the bird of your best friends shredding badass couloirs, then drop into a line named "I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast!" Toss on the skins and go for as many laps as your legs can handle.

Happy (Gilmore) birthday to me!

For some words by Jeff Slack, head over to Unofficial Networks. Some photos from the day below.

The Spell of the Yukon by Strain

Atlin may be located south of 60 but is so isolated from the rest of BC that it may as well be a part of the Yukon. There is a real magic to the north - I've traveled to every corner of BC and have never felt the same electrifying attraction as the one that keeps drawing me to my childhood home. The south coast mountains may be where I live, but my heart will always belong to the vast wilderness of the north... I spent the last 5 days visiting family in Atlin and find myself suffering from severe northern withdrawl. No one writes of the Yukon better than Service - I'll leave you with this. Hopefully my vacation snaps do the words some justice.

I wanted the gold, and I sought it, I scrabbled and mucked like a slave. Was it famine or scurvy — I fought it; I hurled my youth into a grave. I wanted the gold, and I got it — Came out with a fortune last fall, — Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it, And somehow the gold isn't all.

No! There’s the land. (Have you seen it?) It’s the cussedest land that I know, From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it To the deep, deathlike valleys below. Some say God was tired when He made it; Some say it’s a fine land to shun; Maybe; but there’s some as would trade it For no land on earth — and I'm one.

You come to get rich (damned good reason); You feel like an exile at first; You hate it like hell for a season, And then you are worse than the worst. It grips you like some kinds of sinning; It twists you from foe to a friend; It seems it’s been since the beginning; It seems it will be to the end.

I've stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow That’s plumb-full of hush to the brim; I've watched the big, husky sun wallow In crimson and gold, and grow dim, Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming, And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop; And I've thought that I surely was dreaming, With the peace o' the world piled on top.

The summer — no sweeter was ever; The sunshiny woods all athrill; The grayling aleap in the river, The bighorn asleep on the hill. The strong life that never knows harness; The wilds where the caribou call; The freshness, the freedom, the farness — O God! how I'm stuck on it all.

The winter! the brightness that blinds you, The white land locked tight as a drum, The cold fear that follows and finds you, The silence that bludgeons you dumb. The snows that are older than history, The woods where the weird shadows slant; The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery, I've bade 'em good-by — but I can't.

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless, And the rivers all run God knows where; There are lives that are erring and aimless, And deaths that just hang by a hair; There are hardships that nobody reckons; There are valleys unpeopled and still; There’s a land — oh, it beckons and beckons, And I want to go back — and I will.

They're making my money diminish; I'm sick of the taste of champagne. Thank God! when I'm skinned to a finish I'll pike to the Yukon again. I'll fight — and you bet it’s no sham-fight; It’s hell! — but I've been there before; And it’s better than this by a damsite — So me for the Yukon once more.

There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting; It’s luring me on as of old; Yet it isn't the gold that I'm wanting So much as just finding the gold. It’s the great, big, broad land 'way up yonder, It’s the forests where silence has lease; It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder, It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

The Spell of the Yukon, Robert Service

Cabo Pulmo by Strain

A quick post since I'm rushed for time - I spent the past 2 weeks in Cabo Pulmo, Mexico, where my friend Jake Cohn has an incredible place within spitting distance of the ocean. Not a bad spot for a skier to rehab from season-ending shoulder surgery, eh? That boy leads a rough life, I'll tell you what... I tried to take as much time away from the lens as possible, but eventually the orange glow that filtered through the window every morning pulled me out of bed to shoot as the sun rose. Unfortunately, the time flew by and I'm back in Pemberton, frantically unpacking my vacation bags and gearing up for another field season looking for gold [+copper +molybdenum] in the mountains of British Columbia. One night in my own bed and I'm headed into camp.


A few more photos can be found on my flickr.

Tremor by Strain

I'm not feeling particularly wordy but wanted to post a couple photos I shot last week from the summit of Tremor Mountain, the highest point in the Spearhead Range. There are few things as humbling as travelling on skis through big terrain - note the two skiers tackling the spearhead traverse (bottom left) for scale. Tremor was one hell of an adventure and I'm stoked we made it out there - the hourglass is a line I won't be forgetting any time soon. I was quite pleased with how easy the trip was on my splitboard - I can't imagine doing a day trip out to Tremor on snowshoes. Speaking of, anyone want to buy a pair of MSR Denali Evos? I won't be using mine again... ever.

Splitboarding is the answer.


PhotoShelter / D7000 by Strain

People often complain that I don't have a portfolio (a valid criticism). Well, now I do. You can check it out here as well as the link in the top right of this page. I'm using PhotoShelter to run the site and will be setting up galleries for stock and print sales over the next little while - for now, it's just a portfolio. I have it broken up into Mineral Exploration, Snowboard / Ski, Landscapes and People. Check it out and let me know what you think! Next up, business cards... I picked up a Nikon D7000 last week, and the first big dump of the season in Pemberton gave me a perfect excuse to get out and shoot with my new photo-maker. I tested the low light capabilities in Vancouver last weekend and was blown away by the usability of images up to ISO 6400, but realistically my main application for a camera is landscapes and action in good light so I was anxious to get out and see how the new sensor performed in my typical shooting situation.

All three photos taken with the  D7000 / 10.5mm fisheye combo.

I'm quite pleased with the obvious improvements in dynamic range over the D200 that I upgraded from, particularly in shadow detail where I feel that the D200 suffers quite a bit. Image quality is vastly improved in all respects, but given the age of the camera I was upgrading from, that is to be expected.

I haven't done enough shooting to comment much further than that on image quality or functionality of the camera, but my other main observation was just how much smaller it is than the D200. It weighs only 100 grams or so less, but is visibly narrower and shorter than the D200, and fits much better in my small touring/hiking camera bag - I'm pretty excited about the smaller size giving me more packing options for heading into the backcountry.

I'm not a big gear fiend but people do often ask about my equipment and for camera recommendations, so I'll try to share my thoughts on the D7000 over the next couple posts.

Fall Snow by Strain

A few more photos of October snowfall in the upper reaches of the Lillooet River / Salal Creek. Hopefully my next post will be less of a tease and more about actual snowfall. 

Back to the Bush by Strain

I'm looking forward to a busy end to what's been a lengthly field season in mountains of southwest BC - fingers crossed winter holds off for one more month, then hits full force and doesn't stop 'til May. I'm heading back to the bush tomorrow morning - here's a quick glimpse of the area I'll be returning to:

No internet in camp, so I'll see you all in a week (or more).

Wedgemount Lake, 2010 by Strain

For someone who spends as much time outdoors as I do - between 200-300 days per year - I don't actually do much backpacking. In the summers, I tend to spend my days off resting my body and catching up on weeks away from friends, loved ones, and hot/running water. In fact, Wedgemount lake is the only place I've hiked in for camping in the past 5 years or so. I live in a tent and hike around the alpine for a living - the idea of taking time off work to do what I do for work (without pay!) seems a little foolish to me. On the other hand, being able to share with friends the world beyond highway viewpoints and resort chairlifts is a special experience, and one of the reasons I began shooting photos in the first place. And, no matter how much I complain about working for free or not having a helicopter to ferry me around, I can't go for more than a couple days in civilization without feeling the urge to get out and go up.

On Wednesday afternoon I headed up with the Wedgemount Lake trail with Eric and Alix to spend a much needed night in the alpine. The weather was cold but clear - perfect fall hiking conditions. I apparently wasted far too many frames on long exposures Wednesday night, as my camera battery was dead by 830pm, and had to settle for iPhone photography during our Thursday hike around the glacier. Note to self: bring spare batteries next time.


Next time I'm up I'll have to stay for a few nights and bag some of the many surrounding summits. Might have to wait until next summer though, as the next time I'm out hiking for pleasure, I'll probably be on a splitboard...

For comparison: some photos of Wedgemount Lake / Glacier from August 1977.

Wedgemount Lake, 2008 by Strain

One of my most-read and searched for blog entries is a trip report for a hike up to Wedgemount Lake in 2008. I'm heading out the door for the 2010 edition right now... she's gonna be cold but the weather is looking good. Here's a photo from 2008 - this will be joining the photo from my last post on the walls of the Blackbird Bakery sometime next week.

Cayoosh Creek by Strain

It's been a long time - months - since I took the time to shoot some photos for no reason other than to shoot photos. No travel budget, no media pass... no pressure. It was a refreshing change. 

Went for a drive over the Duffey with my dad the other day and stopped along Cayoosh Creek to check out some rock (in case you wondered where I got that from...). I let the old man do the heavy lifting while I got artistic...  I felt kinda bad until I realized he was shooting photos of me shooting photos. Apparently rocks aren't the only thing that run in the family - flannel and gumboots have been a Strain fashion staple for decades.

Love is in the air by Strain


One fine day this summer, after running out of gas while cutting a helipad into the swampy permafrost near the confluence of the White and Yukon Rivers, I looked skyward from the pages of Dr Zhivago and instantly lunged for my bright yellow pelican case. I'm not usually one to see shapes in the clouds, but this particular formation was too perfect to not photograph.

I wasn't planning on posting this shot but someone saw it on my iphone the other day and insisted that I make a postcard out of it. A blog post is close enough, I guess - call me in February for Valentines Day gifts...

It's been a summer... by Strain


I've been gone from Vancouver for 2 and a half months now, and its time to go home. I've had some great adventures working in the Yukon - bears, helicopters, swamps and snowstorms. But, you can only be gone for so long before home comes calling... I'll be in Vancouver on Monday night.


More photos and words to come when I have a little more time... also looking forward to getting back to a calibrated monitor back in the city. A few other photos are on my flickr.

Atlin Arts and Music Festival by Strain


The chaos is over and the crowds are gone, so I've hunkered down to edit the photos I shot during the 2009 Atlin Arts and Music Festival. I wasn't shooting on assignment for anyone so that left me with lots of time to spend in the beer gardens... here's a few photos that I nabbed when I ventured out into the world of no beer. Headwater concludes their Saturday night set:


Mamaguroove put on a killer midnight show on Saturday. I was really feelin' the music, so I shot all my photos from the pit with my trusty 50 1.4.

You can see the rest of my photos here... I'll post some more as I edit them.

Monarch Mtn by Strain


My spot in Atlin may be a little out of town, but it gives me a convenient head-start on the Monarch Mtn trail. I hauled up the trail last night, grouse grind style, to shoot some photos from the alpine at sunset. There's no tram down to ease the knees, but there's plenty of light to navigate by well after the sun finally disappears. Besides, you don't get views like this from Grouse... Looking south to Warm Bay and Teresa Island:


The town of Atlin:


The distinctive Mt Minto can be seen in the distance, rising above the north end of a glistening Atlin Lake...

Long Summer Days by Strain


A quick post of some photos from the last week or so... still lots of daylight to shoot/fish/hike (and work, of course) Some more ND filter fun, as well as practice with another technique I rarely use, exposure blending (it'll have to do til I pitch for a grad ND) - Atlin Mountain at [a very late PM] sunset:


Teresa Island gets hit by a mix of rain and sun as a storm tracks west:

A couple more photos after the jump:


The M.V. Tarahne sits on Atlin's waterfront. Used to ferry tourists around the lake in her prime, these days she has been relegated to hosting the occasional afternoon tea:


Como Lake sunset:


Earlier that evening, we took my cousin to the lake and he caught his first fish, a nice little rainbow in a convenient single serving breakfast size:


I caught one too. Veronica Strain photo: