When my son was small we often spent wet Sunday afternoons curled up watching Disney classics: Dumbo, Lion King, Pocahontas – you know the sort of thing. Sam loved Pocahontas. Or rather I did. Putting aside her rather beguiling flowing locks and the fact that it was in fact, just a cartoon, I was captivated by the backdrop of vast forests, aquamarine rivers and snow-capped mountains. The frivolous love story was quaint enough but the landscape was to die for.
Of course no such place exists in reality but the Canadian Rockies, where the story was based, comes pretty damned close. Through a convoluted set of friends who knew friends who knew friends, I was persuaded to run a photo tour to Pocahontas Country and a few weeks ago, we did exactly that. For this tour I teamed up with Vancouver-based photographer Adam Gibbs, an under-stated and under-rated landscape practitioner who again, I got to know through friends of friends.
In truth I did need some persuasion to run this tour. Despite the obvious allure, an issue I have with modern photo travel is that the joy of discovery – a key part of the adventure – is inevitably tempered by the plethora of iconic images we can view in advance; we effectively know what to expect before we arrive. Whilst this can undoubtedly aid planning, it can also create an expectation that has little hope of being fulfilled during a short visit. I’d rather get off the beaten track and find new images, but these days that’s easier said than done. To be fair my concerns were misplaced and the Rockies lived up to, if not surpassed, all expectations.
Leaving the urban sprawl of Calgary behind we soon glimpsed the swirling cloud caressing the snow-capped mountains of the Rockies, a sight that would enthral us throughout our travels. Based initially in Lake Louise we had quick access to some of the icons as well as less-visited corners. Moving north to Jasper the landscape changed but became no less spectacular and although the weather – inevitably fickle in an alpine environment - meant we had to work hard for our pictures, that’s no bad thing in my book. We got out early and when the light was good, stayed out late.
One of our guests – a first-time Northshotter and perhaps not used to the dawn and dusk routine – described this tour as “expensive suffering.” I take that as something of a compliment. Canada isn’t cheap and yes, to secure the sort of images that would befit a Pocahontas stage set, you have to be out very early and very late. The day we curtail guest “suffering” is the day we stop delivering photo adventures.
The Canadian Rockies is quite simply stunning and served as a personal reminder of how fortunate I am – how fortunate we all are – to be able to witness the splendour that is the natural world.
There’s a footnote to this trip: It’s rare that Amanda accompanies me on these tours but in this case, we needed a driver for the luggage truck, a role that she fulfilled less than willingly for some reason. It did mean however, a rare chance for what I believe is sometimes referred to as “quality time.” She sprung a wee bit of a surprise and we found ourselves in a wilderness lodge for a couple of days surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever witnessed. I’d be stretching it a bit to compare her with the young and let’s face it, fictitious Pocahontas, but she has her moments.
Thank you to Amanda and Adam – you were both stars. Thank you too to our group. I hope you enjoyed your suffering.