Monday, December 14, 2009

Canada and Global Warming

I am an arctic addict or, as my friend Matthew Swan describes it, I have "arcticus feverus". I try to get there annually, mostly with Adventure Canada, and when I'm there it touches me deeply. Three years ago we went further north than ever we had before to a place in west Greenland called Etah. We managed to get there because it was so ice free. All over the arctic there are clear signs of incredibly fast changes brought on by global warming: glaciers receding at rates faster than anyone previously predicited (checkout this link: Extreme Ice Survey), methane escaping in freshwater arctic pools as permafrost melts, thining ice, shrinking of the permanent ice pack, robins on Baffin island, and more. Regardless of anything we do now to reduce greenhouse emissions, major ecological changes have started in the arctic and will continue. Yet in the face of this, my country, Canada, seems to see no good reason to act decisively to help curb emmissions. The Conservative government says that they intend to lower Canada's greenhouse gases 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020 and to further lower emissions 60 to 70 per cent below 2006 levels by 2050. These targets are far lower than Canada committed to in 1997 since which our emissions increased by 30%!! They are also out-of-step with most other developed countries that are actually trying to reduce global warming.

I expect better of Canada.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring Sea Ice

It’s beautiful, glowing stuff. The light bends around its edges and in places appears to be coming from within. On the underside it is a gorgeous aquamarine. Many people curse it because it makes a long winter feel even longer. But if you choose your moment when the light is soft, or low in the sky, it is nature at its most radiant.

This is sea ice (also known as pack ice or drift ice) that forms in arctic waters and drifts south on the cold Labrador current each spring. It envelopes the coast of Labrador and the northeast coast of Newfoundland extending as much as 200 miles offshore. It is frozen sea water in contrast to icebergs which are frozen freshwater from the land. Newly formed sea ice is indeed salty but over time the salt leaches out and what remains is fresh enough to put in a rum and coke, my preferred winter libation.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Finding the Essence

The art of nature photography can be a daunting task. You are surrounded by a world of exciting visual material - animals, plants, objects, land, water, sky as well as their abstract components of colour, shape, line and texture. In addition there are the non-visual elements such as sounds, smells, wind, warmth, cold, damp, dry - all of which contribute to your total experience when you are immersed in nature. Then there is the internal environment of our beings, our feelings and thoughts from one moment to the next. When you place your eye to the viewfinder all this is rendered down into a strictly-bounded, two-dimensional frame in which you try to depict what you see and, more importantly, what you feel in that moment. For those who have truly tried to do this, you know it is not easy.

It's also inescapably subjective. It has been said that you are in every image you make. Each one is autobiographical. This is because the way you choose to frame an image, select its content and set its boundaries, is such a personal thing. During our tours and workshops I am often with other photographers, both professional and amateur, at the same place, in the same light, at the same time, each of us with high quality gear and perhaps similar skill. But when we share our images afterwards, it's surprising how different they are. Each eye chose a different way to frame the scene or subject.