River Fog in December

River Fog in December
River fog in the Yukon River Valley in Whitehorse

mercredi 7 septembre 2011

Photographic Adventures in the Dempster Highway Area

Driving the Dempster Highway in Fall, Yukon.

Beginning of September: one of the best time of the year for visiting the Dempster Highway. Gorgeous colours, no bugs and temperatures still acceptably warm. Of course, the Dempster can be travelled any time of the year and always offer stunning landscapes and unforgettable adventures.
In the following article of Yukon, North of Ordinary, Erin McMullan writes about the Dempster experience. Photographers Ron Smid, John Marriott and Damien Tremblay share some of their adventures on this road of legend. The Long and Winding Road, pp-40-44

lundi 20 juin 2011

Protect the Peel River Watershed from industrial development

Photo Credit: Jill Pangman. The crystal clear waters of the Wind River, Yukon.

It will not cost you anything. Just say you want the Peel River Watershed completely protected from industrial development. Completely, no half measures. Just add your name and email to a growing list here. You could win very big. Someday, you and your kids could enjoy a pristine and unparalleled mountain landscape. Check the statement of support.

Photo Credit: Jill Pangman. Late afternoon on the Wind River, Yukon.


vendredi 6 mai 2011

Always following Yukon wolf tracks: Bob Hayes

Bob Hayes, Yukon biologist and author of Wolves of the Yukon

The wolf is a symbol of the Yukon wilderness. Bob Hayes just wrote a book about this magnificent animal. Wolves of the Yukon is a poignant story explaining how wolves and humans fit into the Yukon landscape. I strongly recommend the book. It is a great contribution to our understanding of the animal and it shows clearly the conflictual relation the society has with true wilderness. Bob Hayes was the Yukon wolf biologist for 18 years. Wolves are more than subjects for him. They are a passion. In the following interview he talks about them and share some of the unforgettable experiences he had in the Yukon wilderness.

Damien Tremblay: You studied Yukon wolves for many years. You spent countless hours of low level flying over the Yukon wilderness. You have seen the Yukon has few people have. Years later you write a book on your career and passion. In my standards you had a “dream job”. How do you reflect on all those years of experiences?

Bob Hayes: I came to the Yukon to work with wolves, but never really expected it would come true. The ‘dream’ element was studying wolves in a vast wilderness that was largely unchanged since the end of the ice age. That was the remarkable opportunity few wildlife biologists have. Most contemporary biologists study systems that have been altered by our presence, but in the Yukon we have intact habitats with few people. This is special because it is a natural laboratory where we can learn about how systems evolved where large carnivores are naturally regulated.

Wolf on a Yukon lake

DT: What are the characteristics of the Yukon wolf?

BH: The Yukon wolf is one of the largest races of gray wolf in the world, largely because it mainly preys on moose, which are, of course, large bodied prey. Yukon wolves are also mountain wolves, terrain that at first seems to be daunting for a predator to navigate. But mountain terrain is a great advantage for wolves because windblown ridges and slopes allows for easy and rapid travel through their territory. As a consequence, wolves can easily find where moose, caribou, and Dall’s sheep are located in mountains. Yukon wolves have exceptionally high kill rates, and as a result keep prey populations at low abundance throughout the Yukon.

DT: Can you tell us about a day, in your wolf studies, that you will always remember. It can be a seminal moment, or an adventure….

BH: Perhaps the most memorable event happened in the summer of 1977 on the Firth River delta. We had been searching for a group of about 10,000 Porcupine caribou that had disappeared in a heavy fog bank south of Herschel Island. Unable to find the herd, we landed our helicopter on the west shore of the river. While we were preparing a lunch I looked across the noisy river and watched as a few animals, then a hundred, then thousands of caribou emerged from the fog only a hundred meters away. The lead animals were bulls, with great racks of antlers still in velvet. The herd milled at the edge of the water, then eventually moved off upstream and disappeared like an immense apparition.

Firth River delta, aerial view, Northern Yukon.

DT: When you mention “the Yukon is a complete wilderness”, what do you mean?

BH: What completes our wilderness is the essentially unchanged landscape and the natural predators that roam here. The habitats of large mammals are still mostly intact, and there are as many wolves, grizzly and black bears living in the Yukon today as there were thousands of years ago. This notion of a complete wilderness is why many of us live here. There are few places left on earth that have remained so unchanged. As the world continually loses or fragments its wilderness, the Yukon’s natural state is becoming more and more valuable to retain. I believe the economic and ecological value of our complete wilderness far outweighs the short-term benefits of mining and other activities, and great care needs to be taken to ensure we do not compromise this treasure.

DT: You participated in wolf control programs (killing of wolves), that were supposed to increase game for hunters. Today you say they are not worth it. In a few words, can you tell us why?

BH: If you kill lots of wolves over a large area you will increase moose and woodland caribou. That is the results of wolf control programs in the Yukon. But as soon as wolf control stops, wolves rapidly colonize and their numbers recover within a few years. Wolves immediately begin to prey heavily on moose and caribou, reducing prey abundance again. While there is a short-term benefit to prey, in long run controlling wolves is futile unless you want to continually kill them in large numbers. I don’t believe we have the reason or the right to permanently remove wolves from any area of the Yukon so hunters can benefit from elevated prey. It is morally wrong.

Wolf Pack, aerial view, Yukon

DT: In your book you give many historical examples of wildlife mismanagement. Today, do you think the wildlife legislation is protecting adequately the Yukon wildlife?

BH: The largest challenge we face is finding a way to develop trust with First nation hunters to fairly share the little hunting opportunities that exist in the Yukon. After nearly twenty years of land claims, there is still no First Nation that has developed legislation to limit the number of animals their citizens take. Until there is open, cooperative and transparent mandatory reporting of hunting by all users, we cannot adequately protect wildlife.

DT: In 2008, you survived a grizzly attack. (Learn more here.) You give an important credit to your dog for saving your life. Knowing the wolf and the dog are genetically so close, I like to think that maybe it is the spirit of the great timber wolf who was protecting you that day. Since that attack do you do things differently when you travel in the Bush?

BH: I believe some kind of spirit was ultimately looking after me that day, but the remarkable behavior of my dog Charlie was what saved me from the bear. Bears hate wolves, and by extension, they hate dogs. I was fortunate to be with a good dog who knew bears, and who took the bear’s interest off me momentarily so I could escape up the tree. I have not changed my travel in the bush very much, except to keep my bear spray close and handy.

For updates regarding Yukon wolves you can read Bob Hayes's blog
To purchase the book you can go here

If you wish to have a say in the Wolf Conservation and Management Review 2010-2011
you can go here

lundi 21 mars 2011

Mary Walden in the fight for the Peel River Watershed

Mary Walden at Tom Tom Lake, Little Wind River trip, Peel Watershed.

The Yukon wilderness needs advocates. Mary Walden, wilderness lover and writer, is one of them. Her right cause? The protection of the Peel River Watershed. She writes regularly about it in her blog: http://peelwatershed.blogspot.com/. The Peel question has become a highly divisive issue among Yukoners. A majority of Yukoners wants the protection of the watershed while a powerful minority wants it open to mining.
In the following interview Mary talks about her relation to the region and explains the need for its protection.

Damien Tremblay : What is your personal experience in the Peel watershed ? What are your feelings about the area ?

Mary Walden : My interest in the Peel watershed goes back almost 20 years. I have canoed nearly all of the major rivers and explored parts of the region by dogteam in the winter. I have also travelled the Dempster Highway – a large part of which is in the Peel watershed. My feelings about it ? It’s the most beautiful, magical place I have ever experienced.

Damien Tremblay : Can you tell us about one of your favorite adventure ?

Mary Walden : Of course every trip in the Peel is a grand adventure, but if I had to pick a favourite it would be an exploratory trip on the Little Wind River in 2009 with my husband, Blaine. The river has seldom been paddled, it’s not in any guide book, and it’s the main geographical backdrop for the tragic legend of the Lost Patrol.

Mount Fitzgerald, Little Wind River valley, Peel Watershed, Yukon.

DT : Why should the Peel watershed be protected from industrial development ?

MW : Simply put, because it’s truly a global treasure. Wilderness the world over is fast disappearing. With the current staking and mining boom, wilderness in the Yukon is also under increasing pressure. We don’t have to trash every square inch of the territory. There is a rare opportunity to set the Peel aside – just one of the Yukon’s many regions - and we should take advantage of that before it’s too late.

DT : What are the threats on the area ?

MW : Primarily mineral exploration and mine development, oil/gas development, roads, railways and pipelines. Less than 10 years ago a company drew up plans for a steel-manufacturing complex/coal-fired generating plant on the Wind River. More recently uranium explorers scoured the region in search of the deadly mineral and pushed to build an airstrip and road.

DT : You co-own a wilderness tourism company offering canoe trips in the Peel watershed. Naysayers could say you have an economic interest in the protection of the Peel, explaining your efforts for its protection.

MW : Certainly I have come to know and love the Peel, thanks in part to running canoe trips on its rivers. But my desire to see the Peel protected, for all time, goes far and beyond any short-term economic benefits for the tourism industry. Let the naysayers nay!

Snake River, Peel Watershed, Yukon.

DT : In spring 2011, what’s the status of the Peel watershed question ?

MW : The Peel Watershed Planning Commission is working on a final recommended land use plan for the region. It expects to be finished by this summer. The public will then get a chance to review and comment on it before it goes back to the Yukon and First Nation governments – Na-cho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondek Hwech’in, Vuntut Gwitchin and Gwichin Tribal Council/Tetlit Gwichin Council – for final approval. If all goes according to the current timetable, a final plan could be approved by the end of the year.

DT : What can people do to help for the protection of the Peel?

MW : Get rid of the current Yukon Party government. It has shown nothing but disdain for Peel protection and contempt for the democratic land use planning process. An election has to be called by Oct. 14, 2011. Do what you can to make the Peel an election issue and vote for a candidate/party that supports protection.

DT: Thanks for keeping us updated on the question: http://peelwatershed.blogspot.com/

mardi 1 mars 2011

Learning photography? Read "The Digital Eye" of Norm Hamilton

Yukon River upstream Miles Canyon

The Yukon is a place where many artistic vocations are born or revived. Photography is a very popular art form in the Yukon. When one is serious about photography, learning on a consistent basis is essential. Yukon photographer Norm Hamilton writes articles about photography in his chronicle, The Digital Eye, that you can find at: http://normhamilton.ca/blog/category/photogaphy/the-digital-eye/

The articles are also published in What’s Up Yukon, like this one http://www.whatsupyukon.com/index.php/2011-03-01-20-39-50.html.

Articles like “Shooting Snow”, “What’s your composition” or “Tack-sharp Images” will certainly interest many photographers. Keep reading and improve your skills and knowledge.

vendredi 28 janvier 2011

The large format world of Mark Prins, Yukon photographer.

Mark Prins in his studio, autoportrait

Mark Prins is a fine art photographer based in Whitehorse, Yukon. One of his specialties is the Yukon landscape. In the following interview he talks about his relation to the land and introduces us to the very special large format artwork he produces.

Damien Tremblay: What do you find in the Yukon landscape that stirs your inspiration? What triggers your creativity? What are your favorite subjects?

Mark Prins: The Yukon landscape is ever-changing yet static. I can shoot the same place over and over and each time I find a different way of seeing. The light is what is often the inspiration, from the slate gray flat light that enhances the delicacy of the hoar frost to the stunning colors of the northern lights coloring the landscape. The light is always extreme here, and that in itself is inspiration.

The Gold Rush brought people from all over the world to work in the mining camps. Some of the early camps and cabins still survive and they call me. From the town site of Grand Forks to the creeks in the middle of the largest gold rush that is happening in the Yukon today.

As an artist there is an implied obligation to the land and people, an obligation to help share our common story. From recording the faces of the elders to recording history, the body of work I create will help tell the stories of our land.

I am also passionate about “things that fly” which is reflected in my images of Ravens and all the aircraft I have stitched over the years.

DT: I like the fact that you are trying to embrace vastness in your artwork. The panoramic format seems to help you for that matter. What are your thoughts on this format?

MP: I returned to photography at the same time as the Canada Games Centre was under construction. I was unable to fit the whole frame and maintain detail with the gear I had at the time. This lead my art to stitching, which immediately inspired me.

Stitching I find is an art form in itself. Composition changes, making the frame more dynamic in scope. Over time my eye has learned what makes me happy in the final print. Panoramic work lends itself to a range of styles from macro stacked stitches to HDR panoramas that match your memory of the texture and tone.

The next step for me in my stitching will be to move to a 4x5 view camera and use a digital back to capture four or six frames of the image circle and stitch that. But that is just dreaming for now.

DT: A web display certainly does not do justice to your photographs. You produce very large format prints that have to be seen to be appreciated. The image quality and resolution are stunning. Can you tell us a little bit about your technique? Please comment for us on a few of your images.

MP: One of my favorite lenses is the 105mm f4 Micro-Nikkor. This lens on any Nikon body allows me to push perspective and the focus point in the frame.

78 image stitch native size is 34x81

Nikon D 200, 105mm Micro Nikkor, f8, auto shutter, raw. Processed Capture NX, stitched with PtGui, cleaned in photoshop, printed with Qimage.

In the image above almost every point in the frame is in focus. The blending took some work due to matrix metering but shooting Raw gave some latitude in image adjustment.

I have migrated to medium format gear with a Contax 645 system and a Phase One digital back. I have had this gear nearly a year and I am beginning to feel comfortable handling it. I would note the first camera I ever purchased was a Contax RTS.

Four tier 360 stitch. Grand Forks Town site, Bonanza Creek Yukon.

Contax-Phase One, 45mm @ f8, auto shutter, Capture One, Ptgui, Photoshop, Qimage.

This is one of the locations I have been returning too is the remains of Grand Forks. I hid the sun behind the cabin while keeping the sightline to the pond.

Three tier 36 image stitch - Top of the World Highway

Nikon d-200, 17mm, f8, auto shutter, raw. Processed Capture NX, stitched with PtGui, cleaned in photoshop, printed with Qimage.

This location is one of my favorite places to shoot. The Tombstone Range in the background and the Yukon River in the center leading to the foreground.

My last type of Panorama is a time domain image. Since stitched images can be shot over time there is an opportunity to produce images that I call photo-tunes.

Contax-Phase One, 45mm, f8, three tier.

On this image I built the background frame and then photographed the jumpers as they left the aircraft and landed. I selected the best images of the jumpers and inserted them into the stitch.

DT: Many landscape and nature photographers view industrial development (especially mining in the Yukon) as a negative thing for the land. I believe you have a different opinion on the matter.

MP: Industry is part of our civilization. My whole art form needs technology and I have been formally trained as a mining engineer. There has to be a balance. Industrial imagery has always fascinated me, I enjoy capturing the engineering marvels that man has created. This has lead my cameras onto the ice of the Beaufort Sea and to the underground operations around the Yukon.

DT: Any issues about landscape photography you would like to mention?

MP: Shooting the land takes time. I wish I could take my full studio with me into the field so I can see my final prints in the field but that can never happen. So I have to envision my final print as I shoot which I then remember when I start to build the print.

Creating the final print of a multi tiered image can take a lot of time. Exposure errors create noise while composition is a constant learning process. The click of the shutter is only the beginning of a workflow that will finish with multiple archives of your work and a body of print work.

Many photographers in the digital world forget to hard copy their work in the final print. In my way of thinking, learning how to hardcopy a image through your own print system is a crucial step in self analysis of your work.

DT: Where can we see your artwork?

MP: I am working to finish my gallery space in time for the Yukon Quest dog race. The gallery opening will feature some of the work of Harry Kern, Vince Fedoroff and myself. The gallery is small but will feature photographic images. Most will be printed to canvas and gallery wrapped, ready to hang artwork.

The Gallery is located at 3169 Third Ave in Whitehorse. Mark can be reached at: 867-334-4189