Dingne (France)

The rapid spread of the Covoid 19 virus has pretty much stopped travel for the next – unknown while. We can’t stop thinking about travel; places where we have been – or places we would like to visit at some point in the future.

Here goes a little challenge – to post places where you have been starting with the letter ‘D’. Lets see how far we can take this, and see how many letters we can include.

Dinge (France). Pictures from April 28, 29 2015.  Camera – Fuji X-E1, X-Pro1 and Revue-3 film camera.

Aix-en-Provence (France)

The rapid spread of the Covoid 19 virus has pretty much stopped travel for the next – unknown while.  We can’t stop thinking about travel; places where we have been – or places we would like to visit at some point in the future.

Here goes a little challenge – to post places where you have been starting with the letter ‘A’. Lets see how far we can take this, and see how many letters we can include.

All photos from April 24 & 25, 2015, with either a Fujifilm X-Pro + 55-200mm 3.5-4.8 or Fujifilm X-E1 + 14mm/2.8

Ice Road Bikering: Bechoko to Gameti

Two years ago. March 2018 – 

With the trucks loaded with bikes, food, camping gear, food and extra clothes, we began the one hour drive to Bechoko. A three day, 194km fatbike adventure on winter roads begins. 

Roll ahead two days, Sarah Lake, March 24, 2018.  

 

The ice on the lake is the most beautiful ice – crystal clear and smoother than most hockey arenas. We are on bikes, on a 25km long lake and heading straight into a 30 to 40km headwind. At times it seems that pushing the bike is less work than trying to peddle. 

I’ve got frostbite on my nose and ears, my body aches from pedaling and my brain is fatigued from concentrating on keeping my bike upright. 

Fortunately, this was the last day – The previous two days were much more …pleasant…

Sarah Lake, March 24, 2018.  

In November 2017 we gathered for the first planning session. Ewan had completed a similar bike trip along the Mackenzie Highways a year earlier – the rest of us – winter bike packing beginners. The maps were unrolled on the kitchen table showing the different winter road options, over portages and frozen lakes.  We settled on the Bechoko to Gameti route, a total of 194 kilometers. With climate change, ice roads are slowly becoming a thing of the past; more and more are being replaced by all-weather roads.    From then on Bob, Amanda and I started depleting our bank accounts to buy winter camping gear including new -40C sleeping bags, winter tents and sleeping mats. 

During the spring we had a couple of practice camping trips and rides with fully loaded bikes. All this gear – how are we going to pack it all on our bikes ?. As time grew closer we decided to have a support/safety vehicle for safety, and for the convenience of being able to bring EVERYTHING needed for any conditions the weather may throw our way. One week before the scheduled departure we were joined by Damian and Bev. By coincidence, they had also selected the same trip on the very same weekend, however at the last minute their logistics support was not available, so now there were six of us.

We had planned for pit stops every 20km, with whom ever was driving in the support vehicle setting up a stove for hot soup or tea. With clear skies, no wind and relatively warm conditions we made good progress.

Pit stop on Marion Lake. Maps laid out to track our progress and best understand the length of the journey.

 

It took several hours to bike the length of Marion Lake, then over smaller lakes and portages. After obligatory photos at the 50km highway sign to mark my 50th birthday – How better to celebrate that occasion. Our pace was surprisingly fast, and by the time we stopped for the night we had biked 68Km. 

Day One. Cooking Dinner along the road, and a surprise birthday cake.

Day two started with pushing our bikes a few kilometers to get out bodies and muscles warmed up for a day of biking. As we rode, lakes and portages passed by. Each of the bikers traveling at their own speed; ride fast enough to keep warm and slow enough to not break a sweat (sweating can cause hypothermia). Surprisingly, even in -70C rated boots feet still got cold.

 

Barren Ground Coffee on Mazenod Lake

 

We traveled over all kinds of road conditions, hard packed snow, bare ice on lakes and portages (the portages are actually flooded to make them last longer as the days get warmer) and rough overflow. With the exception of the odd vehicle – and very curious drivers – no doubt wondering what the heck we were doing, and why we would even think of bicycling this road. Wildlife was also scarce, except for the moose carcass and a wolverine that followed one of the riders for a while. 

 

Towards the end of the second day, Damien and I were at the back of the group. My rear tire was loosing pressure, and we dreaded the thought of changing a fat bike tire in the middle of a windswept lake. Luck prevailed, and we were able to cycle into camp.

Earlier, Amanda, driving the support vehicle had selected a perfect location to set up camp on Mazenod Lake, and had even donned snowshoes to pack a trail and compact the snow to make setting up the tents so much easier. That evening, as we huddled around our camp stoves, comparing the calorie values of our respective boil-in-the bag meals, and tasting Ewan’s homemade hot water disolvable ‘pucks’ – to me they tasted like hand soap. 

On day 3 light crept through our tents around 7, we woke to the sounds of frosted tent zippers and gas stoves and the aroma of fresh coffee. Amanda had selected a perfect camping spot – lots of morning sun and sheltered from the light wind. Conversation during the morning was centered on how amazing the weather had been, and the relatively few bike crashes. Bob had decided to ride in the support vehicle as his knee was still sore from a crash early on day one. This solved the need to fix my flat tire, as I could use Bob’s bike for the day. 

As the hours went by we started to encounter stronger wind. The stronger gusts wanted to push us backwards, or at least cause our bikes to want to veer into the smooth polished, and super slippery bare ice. At times, despite our best efforts, we were slowed to a crawl and even began walking and pushing our bikes. The wind continued to get stronger and stronger, and our route was directly into the wind. More and more smooth bare ice appeared, the wind blowing away the packed snow that we needed for traction for our tires, and boots when pushing. My speed was anywhere from two to five miles an hour.

Blowing snow collected on the leeward side of the snowbanks – saving a narrow strip of suitable riding track. With each gust, the fine crystalline snow swirled around the trail, blowing past me and over the polished glass surface of the exposed sea ice, in hypnotic patterns. 

This was probably the most beautiful ice that I’d ever seen; crystal clear, completely smooth. A speed skaters dream – a bikers nightmare !. At times, the smooth ice surface combined with the high winds made riding virtually impossible.

In front of me somewhere was Ewan, Bev and the truck.. 

“What the F*** am I doing here – this is worse than Planet Hoth”

“What the F*** am I doing here – this is worse than Planet Hoth”(Star Wars reference). I had unceremoniously dropped the bike into a snowbank and took a few pictures to record the experience.  A few minutes later Damien had caught up and we silently pushed our bikes into the wind. 

 

Pushing bikes into the wind.

At 2pm we re-grouped at the north end of Sarah Lake. Our progress has slowed to a crawl. Energy reserves had plummeted. We had biked 150km – only about 40km to Gameti. From here on – a short portage then a nearly 40km crossing on Faber Lake to Gameti. 

It was Decision time. We had three choices:

                             Camp here

                             Continue, 

                             Bail

Occasionally there comes a point in an adventure where circumstances force you to make a decision that will ultimately determine the outcome of the trip. Halfway through day three we had such a decision to make. 

 

I have already reached deep into my energy reserves. On a calm day, I could have eaten a few power bars and pushed on. 40 km wasn’t that far – under normal circumstances. But this was a 30 to 40km/hr head wind. With the decision made to bail, I packed my gear into the truck for the drive to Gameti. Bitter sweet – I’d have preferred to have continued. Two hours later, the truck returned to check in on Damian and Bev. They had covered 25km. Bev’s words were –  

”You didn’t miss a F*ing thing”

 

Ewan – cycled in a few hours later. Frostbitten and completely Spent. He had biked the whole length 190km. That evening, after hot showers we celebrated with a bottle of scotch and had a potluck of sorts finishing off our remaining camping food.

The next morning after waking up in warm beds, we had a leisurely bike tour around Gameti and packed up our gear in preparation for the drive home.  Shana and Maggie had driven from Yellowknife to drive us back to our vehicles in Bechoko. They had been delayed as the road we had biked on the previous day had been closed due to snowdrifts.  They had brought beer, fresh fruit and snacks for the drive home. By 9:30pm we had transferred gear and bikes to the other vehicles and were heading back to Yellowknife. Two hours later (total distance of 100km) we were home – Yes – Exhausted and happy.

One of the most memorable moments of the trip, which really touched my heart, was the birthday cake on Day One. In the middle of nowhere and a few close friends. The least enjoyable was biking on Sarah Lake. I remember my thoughts as I took that picture

 

With frostbite on my nose and ears, my body ached from pedalling and my brain is fatigued from concentrating on keeping my bike upright. 

Fortunately, this was the last day – The previous two days were much more …pleasant…

 

Thanks to Barren Ground Coffee for their sponsorship !

Footnote: Our planned bike ride in 2019, Bechoko to Whati was cancelled due to a sudden warming and the ice road was closed. 

March 2020 – Our last opportunity to bike the Bechoko – Whati ice road as construction has already started on a all-season road. The end of the ice roads is near. Trip planned and ready to go.

 

Commuting

All eyes looking straight ahead Walking home from work today, I mentioned to a neighbor that I have been repeating the very same route that i have followed for 20 years – up the hill to work, down for lunch, up after lunch and down again at 5pm.  Each way, is approximately 12 to 15 minutes.  In winder and in summer, rain or shine. Sometime I bike to work – and it takes a few minutes less. For him – it has been 29 years – up and down on the same route. He is totally happy with his commute as he knows the alternatives – driving, train, subway or bus as many people do.

That brought back a memory of a few years ago when I was in Nepal. On this particular day, March 1, 2015 I was returning to Kathmandu from Syabrubesi afer completing the Langtang Trek. The trek was certainly memorable, even with symptoms of altitude sickness and having a stupendus headaches for three days (actually, it felt like long nail jabbed through my forehead).  The commute – Yes, the bus ride was certainly one to remember. Add in, fog and rain – along with many ill passengers – Just what was that liquid sloshing all over the floor ….!!

I was fortunate to be up front. Myself feeling a bit ill – but not wanting to empty my guts out the window, as it would have gone in through one of the other windows farther back. 

Occasionally we could feel the bus slide in the loose gravel or mud. Time seemed to stand still until the wheels caught and the bus resumed moving forward. I had mistakenly read the news prior to entering the bus and learned that another bus has slid off the road and down a steep ravine and everyone was killed.   In Nepal – bus crashes are common and with deadly results especially on the windy narrow un-paved single lane mountain roads that are carved into the hill sides with abundant blind- hairpin turns. Say that ten times fast.  Thee are no guard rails – anywhere. Usually the bus crashes are blamed on overloaded busses, poor road conditions and poorly maintained vehicles.

Obviously, my bus ride wasn’t so dramatic. A couple of pictures to show the roads, bus and some of the fellow passengers.

Yes – that 15 minute commute doesn’t seem that bad after all. Click on the pictures to make them bigger.

 

All photos taken with a Fuji X-Pro1 and Fujinon 14mm lens.

Wat Chedi Luang, Chaing Mai Thailand

Any visit to Thailand must include a tour of the Buddish temple of Wat Chedi Luang in historic Chaing Mai. Construction of the temple started in the 14th Century, and was not completed until the mid-15th Century. In 1545 an earthquake caused the collapse of the upper 30m of the 82m high structure. In the early 1990’s the Chedi was reconstructed financed by UNESCO and the Japanese government.

 

Yes – These are ‘typical’ tourist photos. There isn’t any human connection, just pictures of scenery. My only excuse is that this was at the start of a 10 month adventure, to Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, Nepal, Turkey, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.  The cultural differences between my native Canada and Thailand were, to say the least ….Enormous. At this stage in my adventure, I was simply overwhelmed – and did not have the courage (the ‘balls’) to interact with the local people. That did change – and within a few weeks I had the courage to photograph people on the street, and even to use hand signals – pointing at them, and then at my camera to indicate that I wanted to photograph them. Once I had this courage, my photographs improved, the image had life, had a personality.  

It just took a bit of courage…

 

All photographs taken using a Fujifilm X-E1 with XF14mm lens or XF55-200mm, and Fujifilm X-Pro1 with XF18-55mm

Dynamic Amsterdam

One of the disadvantages of photography is that it is a snapshot in time based on the shutter speed. As photographers, we can choose freeze time by using a very fast shutter speed, or slow down time by using a slow shutter speed.
This is a composite image, of three sets of three photos (slow, medium and fast shutter speed ie: HDR) all combined together into one.

 

Why ?. The advantage of combining image is to record the static (non-moving objects) and the blur of objects that moved based on the the speed of movement.

 
All photos taken with a Fuji X-E1 and XF14mm, at various shutter speeds with a Hoya 8xND and Hoya Polarizer, and processed in PhotoMatrixPro. Click on any image in the gallery to see it bigger, click on the small black arrows to scroll to the next image.

 

Amsterdam – a ‘soft’ Gallery

Amsterdam. Yes, the photos are all a touch soft (‘blurry’), maybe even a bit over or under exposed. Does it matter – you decide. To me, they show Amsterdam in a new way, without the insane sharpness of a modern autofocus lens. The slight blurriness seems to bring out the atmosphere of a classic Amsterdam ‘Coffee shop’, where you are handed a menu with drugs of the day. All photos were taken with a Fujifilm X-Pro and Russian made Helios 44-2 58mm manual focus lens.

 

Round the World Traveling – Taking it all in

Taking it all in. By now – they are looking forward to being home. In ten months, they have traveled through 10 countries, they have experienced almost everything that the local culture has to offer, they have hiked on the highest mountains, crawled through caves, swam in Indian Ocean, ate fresh croissants in Paris, and deep fried grasshoppers in Cambodia. They have made many friends along the way, and have already made plans to visit those friends in another 8 years. During that time, they have visited many extraordinary places – the temples in Angor, seen re-creations of Roman era battles in a Roman era arena, have seen 1500 year old churches/mosques, visited the sites of ancient battles, and the beaches of Normandy. They have seen the best in human civilization and have seen some of the worst at the Killing Fields in Cambodia. The past 10 months have been an extraordinary journey. Soon we head back to our home in Yellowknife and settle back into a routine to work and school. It simply won’t be the same. They have changed – their world now extends beyond the border of Yellowknife, and most importantly, it includes an understanding of other cultures, other people, other languages, other foods, and how they all blend and work together in our daily lives.

 

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Hot Air Balloons in Goreme (Turkey)

Selected photos of hot air balloons in Goreme, Cappadiccia (Turkey).  All photos taken either while in a hot air balloon, or balloons in-flight – me on Terra Firma.  If you get the chance – do it !

Click on a photo to make it bigger, then click on the small arrows to move to the next photo.

 

 

Street Photography – the fleeting moments real life.

Street Photography in Konya, Turkey. The photos are nothing special – not a sunrise or sunset, not a glorious landscape, and not a slow-motion photo of waves on a beach. To some people, these photos are boring, where as to others, those that take the time to slow down, and appreciate the world around us – these photos are the fleeting moments real life.

 

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