It is tempting in life to want to see it all; to cover as much ground as possible and leave footprints in a long list of places. This breadth of experience does have its merits, but it also has its sacrifices: namely, depth within each experience. Personally, I increasingly value the depth side of experience and choose adventures that are more in the slow travel category these days rather than trying to see the entire map. There really is a big difference between passing through a spot and spending some quality time there.
When it comes to the natural world, or any place for that matter, you can return to the same location and every time it will be different. There are so many variables – the seasons, the weather, the flora and fauna that are constantly adapting to the environment – and the complex relationships that bind them all result in an infinite number of moments continually arising and falling away.
The next time you see a photo printed on the wall, try thinking to yourself:
The place depicted in this captured moment exists right now as much as it did when the shutter was released, only now its existence in this instant of time it is different. It might be frozen, or perhaps it has grown, or maybe decay has taken over and things have undergone a transformation into something entirely different. Whatever the case, the one thing we can be certain of is that as time marched forward it has changed. All of the elements depicted within the frame have moved on from this momentary confluence that has been immortalized in a photograph and exist somewhere else in space and time right now.
Over the years I have experimented with all sorts of multimedia: photography, video, audio, animation…the list goes on, but I always return to a foundation rooted in a synthesis of images and words. There is a deep power in a still photograph’s ability to freeze time and bear witness to life’s fleeting moments as they arise and pass. For me, this act of seeing is an extension of my awareness practice: noticing moments that will never exactly happen as they are again, capturing them as seen through my eye, and sharing them with others in hopes that they might glimpse what I see too. Despite the many other forms of creative expression that I have played with, I just keep coming back to the classic pairing of photography and writing for this reason.
This past year, I returned to two particular places in the Canadian Rocky Mountains – Kananaskis and Yoho National Park – at two different times – mid-July and late-September. While the locations were constant, returning at different times offered an opportunity to glimpse the relativity of one moment in time with another, resulting in a deeper experience and understanding of the connected ecosystem.
In the 17 days that I spent camped out in the mountain valleys, I got chased out of the alpine by thunderstorms, basked in the sun in my hammock, and huddled around a wood-stove in efforts to dry off after three days of unexpectedly heavy snow. I witnessed the brief flowering and subsequent hibernation of mountain meadows. I watched the animals cautiously reclaim the trails as the summer throngs of humans returned to their cities. The common thread in all of this would seem to be noticing the constant change and dancing with it, because base camp took on as many different forms as the environment in which it rested.
Here are a few slices of time from both of my 2016 ventures into the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Driving from Winnipeg to the mountains takes about 17 hours. If you push through it in a single day you usually find yourself setting up camp after sundown. It’s a long day, but worth it if you get to open your tent to this view in the morning.
Home sweet home in Kananaskis.
Patches of green fading away with elevation. This is the view looking back on the southern access route to Buller Pass in the summer.
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