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Musical moments.

The power of a musical album that succeeds at evoking something deep within is a beautiful thing, yet a raw live performance has a living power to it that can’t be recorded. A show is not a one way thing, but rather a lively conversation between an artist and a crowd that has potential to go in beautifully unpredictable directions. Even on stage, fellow musicians listen, speak, and encourage each other with subtle glances, smiles, and intimacy that can only come through years of shared experience. The best live photography captures these subtleties in a visual way, and captures the heart of what the crowd falls in love with at the live shows they will remember the rest of their lives.

This weekend will mark my fifth year working as a photographer for the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and looking back at my growing photographic collection it’s interesting to see how it has shifted over the years. I will never claim to have output the best of anything – because there’s always more to learn, and if a year from now I look back at my body of work without feeling that I’ve grown, that is the moment I will be disappointed in myself – but I point myself to continuing to develop an eye for greater subtleties and aim to make better photographs with this clarity of vision.

Last year I only posted a few postcards from the event here on my personal website, though many of you will have seen a lot of my work being used for the festival’s social and print media efforts. The usual photos I release are centred around the greater festival experience, but today I would like to share a few of my personal favourite images of musical moments.

Enjoy, and if you see me out in the festival fields over the coming four days please don’t hesitate to come and say hello!

Elder Mae Louise Campbell and her daughter officially kick off Winnipeg Folk Festival 2016

Elder Mae Louise Campbell and her daughter kick off Winnipeg Folk Festival 2016 with a traditional song and blessing.

The rhythm section of the world-beat Lemon Bucket Orkestra.

The rhythm section of the “Balkan-Klezmer-Gypsy-Party-Punk-Super Band”: the Lemon Bucket Orkestra.

Lemon Bucket Orkestra - Saxophone and twirling dancer

A moment of connection amidst a fast paced set.

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July 4, 2017 - 5:54 pm

Jillian Leibert - Hope to see you around there my friend! Happy Fest!

July 5, 2017 - 9:07 am

Daniel - If I swing in for a day I’ll definitely keep an eye for you my friend. Happy fasting 🙂

July 5, 2017 - 4:08 pm

Karenia - Hope to see you on Friday at some point!

Canada’s wild places and us.

Female hiker in the Canadian Rocky Mountains

Hiking in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Every time I find myself returning home to Canada, I am awed by the vast open spaces we have here. Every. Single. Time. The contrast with the high human density common in most other places around the world is stark, and this uniquely shapes both the land and all of us creatures who call Canada home.

Even today, in our modern world, the word Canada conjures up strong images in our minds of expansive landscapes. In this there is a shared national identity amongst diverse multiculturalism; we are proud of our wilderness in a world where it is becoming rarer.

July 1st marks 150 years since Canada’s founding, when people of diverse stripes and colors came together in union to form a country. While the timeline since then certainly hasn’t been without its fair share of bumps, it is still a milestone worth acknowledging and using as a point of union in a time where there is a lot of division both globally and nationally. In acknowledgement of this shared cultural identity around our wild places, the federal government has waived fees to all the protected national parks for this anniversary year so that all may get out to experience them. People have praised this decision, but I have held my breath.

I love our Canadian wilderness and truly wish everyone could experience it intimately. In fact, this was one of the reasons I originally picked up a camera – to show others beautiful corners of the country they never even knew existed and inspire them to explore it as well. The unspoken assumption that accompanies this wish is that anyone who chooses to venture to these protected pieces of nature do so responsibly. There is a reason these places are protected, and that is because they are fragile.

On a normal year, Canada’s national parks are already beyond their capacity during peak months; available campsites are rare, traffic jams around wildlife are common and often accompanying troublesome baiting or pursuit, and people leave much more than footprints with trash and even graffiti. With free access opening the park gates to higher numbers of tourists, who may or may not have the knowledge necessary to respectfully interact with our national treasures, I worry about the damage that may be inflicted on already fragile ecosystems for years to come.

We need to be in good relationship with the land and that needs to be rooted in reverence and respect. Whatever your experience level may be, never assume you know better because there is always room for better understanding. To respect nature is to abandon any acquisitional expectations we might have from it; animals are not there to perform with you and Mother Nature’s diverse moods will change quickly with no heed to your safety on the trail. Instead, enter a place as an open minded guest and accept whatever experience chance happens to deal you. Bear witness without exuding control or influence (pun intended).

The responsibility for our actions, in all our interactions, falls firmly on our own shoulders. The preserved wild places that exist are an inheritance from those who came before us, but they’re also what we will pass on to the next generation.

June 30, 2017 - 12:59 pm

Daniel - Well said David. I admit I was originally really excited about the free park passes this year, but after the initial excitement wore off I feel the same as you.

Backcountry in my own backyard.

When you think about it, plane travel can be a jarring experience; rising early, entering the corrals of airports with a ticket in hand, and coming out the other side in vastly different culture and environment…the differences introduced within a single day can be extreme and quick.  Getting outside of your comfort zone can lead to a lot of growth on the road, but equally important is the potential for these contrasts to help you appreciate at home what you may have been unknowingly taking for granted.

Home now, I am so grateful for the clean air, water, and space we have here in Canada.  I’ve just emerged from the backcountry of Riding Mountain National Park in my Manitoba backyard.  In the backcountry here you can go days without seeing another human being, but you are hardly alone with all the incredibly plentiful and diverse wildlife that also calls this dense forest home.

After several days spent hiking these forests, my gratitude for protected wild spaces like these has never been greater.  Good friends, intimate wildlife encounters, and hilarity mixed with horror over the tick and mosquito challenges…it was memorable on several fronts.

It is good to be home.

Hand drawn map of the Riding Mountain Northern Escarpment

As part of preparing for the trip: a hand drawn map of the Riding Mountain’s Northern Escarpment where we would spend the next few days.

Riding Mountain view towards the eastern prairies

Looking back from the heart of the prairie mountains, flat farmland meets the distant horizon.

Hiking through the bush in Riding Mountain National Park

Turning away from the prairie, we point ourselves deep into the dense bush of the protected park.

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June 18, 2017 - 9:45 am

Daniel C. Crump - Amazing what is in our own backyard. Sorry I missed the trip, not sorry I missed the wood ticks 😛

June 18, 2017 - 10:23 am

Henk - Excellent blog! I envy you sometimes for your travels, far and close by…


Postcards from Guatemala.

Guatemala is a vibrant country.  The people and their culture are as diverse as the land and animals that they live with.  It is a relatively small country, but sharp elevation changes between sea level and the highest peak in Central America translate to an incredibly varied set of ecosystems and a density of life that few other places can boast.

There is a lot of history in Guatemala; from its role as the heart of the ancient Mayan empire to the civil war that ended only a few years ago in 1996, not to mention the massive natural events that have shaped this seismically active land along the Ring of Fire for far longer than humans have walked upon it.

Over the period of a month, I saw many different sides of this country.  Here are some postcards from my time there.  These are the first images I’m releasing of this body of work (besides what I’ve shared on Instagram), with many more sure to come.

Cerro de la Cruz lookout over Antigua, Guatemala

A cross overlooks the old capital city of Guatemala: Antigua.  Nestled in a valley between three volcanoes, this area embodies the intersection of Spanish colonial and Mayan culture.  Based out of here for a couple of weeks, it was a central hub for me to explore the unique festivities of Semana Santa (Holy Week) with the masses of Guatemalans that gather here around it.

Local tourists in Central Park at night - Antigua, Guatemala

Central Park: a gathering place at all times of day.

Creating an alfombra on Antigua

A major part of the local Semana Santa activities is the building of alfombras: artistic carpets created from plant trimmings and/or dyed woodchips.  Elaborate works are completed just moments before they are marched over by a procession and swept away as if nothing had happened.  It is a beautiful illustration of the temporal cycle of everything.

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June 17, 2017 - 8:56 am

Daniel - Whoa! What a taste – great shots David. I look forward to seeing more!

June 17, 2017 - 11:06 am

Ana - MONKEY!!! That monkey image is perfect – the silhouette bears an uncanny resemblance to the classic evolution poster. 🤔

June 28, 2017 - 5:45 pm

Adrien - These are amazing! Especially the animal shots – so hard to get a clear view of them, never mind snap a good photo. Well done! Can’t wait to see more posts on Guatemala!

The power of photography.

A while back, the good folks over at local multimedia company Build Films asked me to write a piece for them about the power of photography.  This is the published article, crossposted here to my own website for your own reading:

Yoho cooking shelter at Takkakaw Falls - first snowfall

Alone, witnessing winter’s first snowfall in Canada’s Yoho National Park.

Here at base camp, the waterfalls are running thinner than I’ve ever seen them; the glaciers above that feed them are returning to their frozen state.  The unseasonably warm sun of a few days previous has relinquished control to winter’s first snowfall, and won’t return in strength for many months to come.  We stoke the fire in the drafty, but still much appreciated, shelter a little ways from our tent to warm our bones and dry the clothes on our backs; clothes which we also slept in the night before for extra warmth.  These memories and more are triggered when I look back on this photograph of a moment I otherwise might not remember so clearly.

There is a deep power in a 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.

Nothing in life is static.  Things constantly shift through the sands of time; complex interactions coming together in beautiful harmony in a way that will never exist again.  With a camera we can capture a moment as we see it, and use the resulting photographs as a form of expression to share our unique view of the world with others.

Think about a time when you were in a crowd of people who all raised their cameras at the same time to take a photograph.  Perhaps that moment was on a popular trail, at someone’s wedding celebration, or when a particularly brilliant sunset broke through the clouds.  In each of these cases I am willing to bet that everyone’s resulting photographs were very different, and I for one appreciate seeing all these perspectives beyond my own.

A camera is a tool and we all wield it differently.  The photographs it produces are a result of our unique selves mixed with the expression possible that comes with pursuing mastery of the tool itself.  They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I daresay a picture can go further than that and express something which words cannot.

April 14, 2017 - 5:19 am

Roger S. - Oh, very nicely said! I fully agree that the camera retains for us moments that will never happen in the same way. This is the beauty of photography.

May 18, 2017 - 11:01 am

Ana - 👏 Well said David. Your view of the world is rather unique and refreshing – thanks for sharing it. I think it’s safe to say that I originally came for the photos but stay for the writing. 😀