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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. ?

Life Behind Bars – Part 3: Friendly territory around the Salish Sea.

(continued from Part 2: Four corners of the Haida Gwaii by bicycle)

Ferries provide access all the way down British Columbia’s otherwise inaccessible coast.  From the Haida Gwaii, this was the peaceful expressway to access southern British Columbia without making a huge diversion inland.  Port Hardy, at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, was the port of arrival for the push to southern Vancouver Island and ultimately Vancouver, and it was also where my cycling partner hopped on a bus leaving me to ride solo again.  This time however, I was rolling into familiar territory with plenty of friendly faces on the horizon.

Vancouver Island is much bigger than the island designation in its name tends to lead people to believe.  In fact, the island is about the size of the Netherlands, and here I was, setting out to pedal entirely across it.  The first 230km were a challenging bit of wild road: while beautiful, it was narrow with limited visibility – for a cyclist with a fully loaded bike, this was a nerve-wracking experience in trying to stay alive and to avoid getting clipped by vehicles speeding by.  Beyond this, one crosses an invisible line at Campbell River which delineated the beginning of my gradual return to civilization as I ultimately pointed my bicycle towards my urban destination.

Separating Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia is an island-dotted area known as the Salish Sea, and this is where my meandering path through to Vancouver would take me.  Between water hopping on the ferries and rolling on the packed earth, bike touring was a great way to see this part of country even amidst the challenging weather.  After many weeks of wilderness, this final leg felt like a victory lap: full of fresh food, drink, and many pit stops with old friends (and new ones who reached out to host me on Instagram) along the way.

BC Ferries - West Coast Inside Passage

The Inside Passage from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy is a beautiful, full day journey with BC Ferries.

Dark depths, white surface

Dark depths below a bright surface hint at the abundant life these waters hold.

Northern Expedition Victoria - Life preserver on BC Ferries

The aptly named Northern Expedition returns south.  This route covers so much ground, yet there are very few signs of human activity along its route.  It really feels like an expedition amongst predominantly untamed wilderness.

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March 29, 2017 - 8:37 pm

Allison Storseth - Enjoyed reading! Thanks for sharing David 🙂

March 30, 2017 - 4:00 am

Karenia - It is such a treat to be able to get a full sense of your travels through pics and words, balanced out with the stories we share on our wanders 🙂

March 30, 2017 - 11:57 am

Mark Reimer - Looks great Dave!! I’m heading out to Vancouver Island in a week for a little tour on my bicycle, but sadly I only have under a week. Still, this photos are getting me even more excited.

March 30, 2017 - 4:06 pm

David - Have a great adventure out west Mark – short and sweet is still sweet! 😀

Presenting…Pecha Kucha!

On February 23rd, 2017, I will be speaking at Pecha Kucha Winnipeg – an event organized by the Manitoba chapter of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada.  Amidst simply trying to conquer my stage fright, I will be centering my talk around the subject of “Contemplating Contemplation”; weaving in stories and insights garnered from the several months of traveling around remote parts of western Canada by bicycle on my Pedal Powered to the West bike tour.

If you’re a creative who happens to be in Winnipeg with some free time that evening and are looking for inspiration, please come and join us at the Park Theatre.  The doors open at 7:30pm and the show will begin at 8:20pm.  Otherwise, my presentation will be recorded and posted online sometime thereafter.  I will post a link to it on my website when it is available, so if you’re interested feel free to subscribe to my newsletter so you don’t miss it!

Update (March 7th): If you were unable to attend Pecha Kucha at the Park Theatre, my presentation is now online for your eyes and ears here.

Pie Chart of My Hopes and Dreams

A pie chart of hopes and dreams that I had for the bike tour.  I’ve always recharged my soul and found inspiration in the wilderness, so my hopes were to find time to focus on photography, writing, and contemplation on the road.  Notice that small slice of my mind that was focused on responsibilities?  It’s not that I didn’t acknowledge them; I just didn’t realize that meeting basic needs and covering miles consistently would consume so much energy and time.  Amidst the experiences, there was little time for contemplation or any sort of creative thought on the road…hence my talk will revolve around how easily we can take for granted the time we might have for these higher pursuits as a reminder to us all not to squander the opportunity we have with our lives.

March 4, 2017 - 2:27 pm

Rachel - Cool! Sounds interesting. Please post a link when it’s available online!

March 12, 2017 - 11:09 am

Ana - ? I didn’t see any stage fright in your presentation! Very insightful – do more of this sort of thing please. ?