Day 1

Day 2: Golden Hour

Day 2: Evening

Day 3: Aftermath

A set of images taken over three days of the Sproat Lake / Dog Mountain forest fire earlier this July. Was an intense, surreal feeling to experience this event with my own eyes.

Cold Creek brook trout on the dry fly... despite the swarming mosquitos and constant threat of tree snags, poison ivy and stinging nettle, this is my favourite kind of fishing. There's something about the adversity you have to go through to catch these easily spooked but pretty little fish that makes it that much sweeter.

A selection of mages from Jasper National Park, the Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, and Lake Louise taken this past February.
"Winter has settled down over the Divide again; the season in which Nature recuperates, in which she sinks to sleep between the fruitfulness of autumn and the passion of spring. The birds have gone. The teeming life that goes on down in the long grass is exterminated. The prairie-dog keeps his hole. The rabbits run shivering from one frozen garden patch to another and are hard put to it to find frost-bitten cabbage-stalks. At night the coyotes roam the wintry waste, howling for food. The variegated fields are all one color now; the pastures, the stubble, the roads, the sky are the same leaden gray. The hedgerows and trees are scarcely perceptible against the bare earth, whose slaty hue they have taken on. The ground is frozen so hard that it bruises the foot to walk in the roads or in the ploughed fields. It is like an iron country, and the spirit is oppressed by its rigor and melancholy. One could easily believe that in that dead landscape the germs of life and fruitfulness were extinct forever." ~ Willa Cather, ‘O Pioneers!’ c.1913

The following images were taken this past February along the Yellowhead Highway between Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Edmonton, Alberta. Having travelled across the Prairies four times previous, this was the first time taking the northern route. In comparison to the Trans-Canada route further south, a separated highway which runs through Regina and Calgary, this two lane highway is a bit slower but offers a more interesting experience. Rather than truck stops and a plethora of fast food chains, you pass through small prairie towns, grain elevators, abandoned farms and other Canadiana. In the depths of winter, the landscape felt frozen in time and space.

The Inglis Grain Elevators are a row of five grain elevators built along a Canadian Pacific Railway bed from the early 1920’s. Rows like this were once a prominent and common feature of larger communities across the Canadian Prairies. Today, this row is the only remaining collection of grain elevators left in Canada. Although they are now protected as a National Historic Site of Canada, the grain elevators likely owe their existence to the dedication of the Inglis area people, who recognized early on that they were an enduring symbol of the Praries, agriculture and way of life.

The amount of abandoned farms is very noticeable along the Yellowhead Highway. Much of this abandonment occurred during a collapse in wheat prices followed by the Great Depression and a series of drought-propelled dust storms known as the ‘Dust Bowl’ in the mid to late 1930s. In 1936 alone, some 14,000 farms like this one were abandoned.

The closer you get to Edmonton along the Yellowhead Highway, the more refineries, oil and gas wells you encounter. A sign of the times; no longer does wealth come from farming the rolling hills, but from drilling deep beneath it.

Since time immemorial, drums have played an inseparable part of First Nations cultural expression. Used in an array of settings, from sweat lodges to singing circles, drums are the heartbeat of spiritual ceremonies that celebrate, heal and build stronger community connections.

During a beautiful day hiking on Meares Island last month I came upon Jorge 'Two Eagles' Lewis, a renowned First Nations artist from the Snuneymuxw nation of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Jorge, with the help of his friend Louie, were at work building traditional Coast Salish drums in the afternoon sun as I passed by. Waving me over, they asked if I’d like to watch. For the two hours that followed I happily stood and documented the drum making process, listening to Jorge as he thoughtfully articulated each step and explained the cultural significance of traditional drums.

It is said that each drum carries its own energy -- it's own heartbeat. For Jorge, praying while crafting the drum helps him concentrate and put his mind in the right place. It is believed that energy you have while making a drum is transferred to the drum itself. “If you’re impatient, the drum will reflect your impatience,” says Jorge.

The heartbeat of every drum also carries with it the energy of the animal and tree used to create it. “It’s important to remember that this was once a living animal. It gave up it’s robe, it’s skin, it’s life for the life of your drum. So to the frame. It was once a standing, living tree.”

Different hydes are used for different drums. For instance, seal skins are used for drums intended for sweat lodges (ceremonial steam baths accompanied by traditional prayer and song) because of their natural ability to withstand moisture and maintain the drum's sound in humid conditions.

Traditional clothes pins (Jorge jokingly tells me) are used to ensure the hyde remains taught with the frame as it dries.

As Jorge and Louie finish working on the third and final drum, one of Meares’ Island’s wild cattle comes to great us. The cattle of Meares Island are a remnant of missionaries who in the early part of the 20th century tried to teach and convert the local Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations from fishermen into cattle farmers. When your backyard is the Pacific Ocean, rich in salmon, crab, oysters, and clams however, why would you ever want to farm cows? Needless to say, the idea never caught on and the cows have been allowed to roam free ever since.

Louie, from nearby Ahousaht on Flores Island, proudly holds largest of the three drums up for a photo. This drum will eventually be pained by Jorge's wife, Tina, another renowned First Nations artist.

I'd like to sincerely thank Jorge and Louie for inviting me to learn about and document this process. It was a truly authentic experience that highlights a very old cultural practice I had no prior knowledge of. I will keep your polite kindness and humour with me for many years to come.

P.S. If you're interested in learning more, the video posted below follows Jorge as he takes you through the making of a traditional Salish Coast drum.

Johanna Braddy is an American actress best known for her work in the ABC series, Greek. She and I met through Nathalie Kelley, as they both work on a new project currently being shot in Vancouver.

We shot these while exploring the Vancouver Botanical Gardens earlier this autumn. Images taken in natural light with a Nikon D810 and a set of Zeiss primes, including the 85mm f1.4 and 35mm f2.

It's actually quite hard to take a bad shot with Johanna. She has a very angelic, graceful way about her. Hope to shoot with her again one day soon.