Photo Guide: Chester Lake Larches

Everything you need to know about viewing and photographing the stunning larches at Chester Lake.

Kananaskis Country is home to a handful of family friendly and approachable hikes to view and photograph the larches each fall. The larches only grow 1800m above sea level though, so you need to find hikes where you you can gain a lot of elevation. Luckily, Chester Lake hike trailhead starts at a fairly high elevation along the Smith-Dorrien “highway”.

Distance from Calgary: 2 hours 3 minutes
Hiking time (roundtrip): 2.5-4.5 hours
Elevation gain: 420m
Trail Distance (roundtrip): 9.3

Photographing the larches at Chester Lake is really quite beautiful. I would recommend avoiding the area on the weekends if you can. It’s a very busy destination for a lot of families. You should have the place mostly to yourself during the week.

If you’re limited to the weekends only, you might have clone-stamp a few people out of your photos along Chester Lake. I was limited to visiting during the weekend and had to get a little creative to select compositions that didn’t have too many people in the background.

The weather can be a little “touch-and-go” during autumn in the mountains. Be prepared to get rained on without notice. If you’re bringing all your camera equipment, be sure to bring some weather protection for your kit as-well.

From the trailhead, the heavily trafficked path gains a gradual elevation before eventually flattening out once you gain the plateau leading to Chester Lake. The path is very wide and obvious, there is no reason you should lose your way at any point. Once you get to a clearing in the plateau before the lake, you’ll begin to see the larches.

There will be more larches along Chester Lake once you arrive to the lakeside. Once you get to the lakeside you can choose to continue along the path to the left of the lake. This path will circle around the entire lake and affords a bunch of nice photo opportunities.

The detour is well worth the extra time on your feet and it won’t take you long to get around the entire lake. On the far side of the lake, there is an opportunity to gain a little bit of extra elevation. The view of the backdrop looking back towards Chester Lake is stunning. You don’t need to climb very high to see what I’m talking about.

Take the same way back to the parking lot. There is apparently another trail that runs parallel which is less trafficked. However, I was looking out for it and I didn’t end up seeing it.

My shots were all taken during the middle of the day. I had pretty spotty weather where I lucked out with nice light for some photos and had pretty flat light for others. It would definitely be worth going for sunrise or sunset. There are many bears in the area so be loud, groups are always encouraged, bear spray is not a luxury, bring it.

What Adventure Can Teach Us About Beating Covid-19

It’s true, Covid-19 is not an adventure in the traditional sense of the word. Covid-19 is not recreational. It is not something we can opt out of. However, there are a lot of parallels to current circumstances. What can adventure teach us about beating Covid-19?

Adventure // Noun // Meaning // an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks. – Websters Dictionary

It’s true, Covid-19 is not an adventure in the traditional sense of the word. Covid-19 is not recreational. It is not something we can opt out of. However, there are a lot of parallels to current circumstances. What can adventure teach us about beating Covid-19?

Rock climber Yvon Chouinard – , has his own definition of the word. “Real adventure is defined best as a journey from which you may not come back alive, and certainly not as the same person.”

When I think of the definition of adventure, I might imagine an arctic explorer canoeing down an unexplored tributary, or a mountain climber attempting to make the first ascent on a glaciated summit.

Recently, my idea of adventure has shifted. The spike of adrenaline usually reserved for climbing or mountain running, I now experience when shopping for groceries at the local Safeway.

Reflecting back on my own more fond memories of adventure – less daunting in reality than my imagined definitions above – I can underline specific ideas that have always guided me along my journeys.

The first, matter of perspective. Theologian Desmond Tutu said “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time. Or as Mark Twain said – In a metaphor where no elephants were harmed – “One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.”

When climbing a mountain, I will often give myself “mini goals”. First climbing to the boulder 100 meters ahead, then the spruce tree another 100 meters after that, then the ridge 100 meters beyond the spruce. Smaller goals keep you moving forwards. Fixating on the mountain top can sometimes be paralyzing.

Example Covid-19 Translation – Today my mountain is surviving lockdown. Instead of focusing on an unknown date where the lockdown might be lifted in the future though, I’m focusing on the present. Hyper focussed on the macro instead of the micro. How I make today the greatest possible day?

The second, overcoming adversity. Adversity is ever present – or at best recurring – during any adventure. Mountain climber Ed Viesturs wrote “The trick is to find a way of converting adversity into something positive, a challenge to look forward to.”

A detour adding miles to a lengthy trek doesn’t have to be discouraging. Many detours have facilitated brand new opportunities to enjoy the sight of a lush meadow full of wildflowers or wildlife sightings that I otherwise would have been certain to miss.

Example Covid-19 Translation – In search of new creative outlets I’ve reignited my passion for music and guitar playing. Intentionally diving into the outlets available to me instead of focusing on the creative outlets currently out of reach.

Thirdly, Stress management. Astronaut Chris Hadfield says the greatest coping mechanism for potential stressors is knowledge. “If you can pick out what exactly the danger is, you can focus on understanding that. It’s tremendously calming and reinforcing.”

Durning any adventure, safety is always the chief concern. Everyone involved assesses the hazards, and potential emergency scenarios – like which friend to sacrifice in a bear encounter. After investigating all possible hazards and scenarios, the team then implements safeguards to ensure that these scenarios never take place, and if they do anyways, everyone is prepared.

Example Covid-19 Translation – Being educated about the disease is the best way to protect yourself and loved ones. Once you’ve implement safeguards and devised plans. You can rest easy in knowing that you have massively improved the situation and it’s many possible outcomes.

Por cuartos, Resourcefulness not resources. During most adventures, you rely fully on everything you brought with you. Relying on your own ingenuity and resourcefulness might be the only way to adapt and progress.

You might not have the tools you wish you had for the circumstance you now find yourself in. Straps break, tires pop, weather changes, what now? When you don’t have the luxury of access or unlimited resources, you’re forced to find creative solutions.

Example Covid-19 Translation – If I want to leave this lockdown ready to tackle exciting new adventures, I need to stay fit. Being confined to a small apartment, I don’t have a lot of resources for pumping iron or working on my endurance. Yet, with only a few bands and two free weights, I’m managing to have some of the best workouts of my life.

Lastly, bringing it back to my favourite definition of adventure by Chouinard “Real adventure is defined best as a journey from which you may not come back alive, and certainly not as the same person.”

“Certainly not as the same person” – This adventure will change you. There’s no going back to how things were. What does that look like? I’m sure nobody knows yet. Be intentional about the person you wish to be on the other side of this.

There’s two ways to look at this detour in our trek. We can either look at it discouraged by the added miles, or optimistically at the opportunities to discover our own wildflower meadows we otherwise would have been certain to miss.

Getting The Shot: Episode 1 Alberta Ice Caves With Stevin Tuchiwsky

You probably haven’t seen this side of Alberta before. Stevin Tuchiwsky takes us on a journey into Ice Caves, behind frozen waterfalls, and on frozen lakes.

Stevin snowshoes his way towards the toe of the glacier in Jasper National Park where we hope to find hidden ice caves.
Ryan asking Stevin some questions about the glacier and what he hoped to find as we were getting closer to the toe of the glacier (seen in the background).
Stevin spotted an ice bridge that must have formed as the glacier receded during the summer months. This ice bridge was a sort of entrance to where we would later find some cracks in the glacier. As I walked under the bridge, Stevin snapped this frame as we went deeper into the glacier.
The shapes of the ice bridge from the other side were otherworldly. Stevin gained a little bit of elevation by climbing up the glacier to get a higher perspective. He then asked me to walk back and forth along the ice for his composition, giving a sense of scale.
Stevin spent a few minutes assessing the scene, looking for different angle and perspectives before we move deep into the glacier.
After shooting the ice bridge we began looking for ways to get inside the glacier. Stevin found little cracks in the ice then followed them down below the surface. This small crack in particular opened up into a massive ice cathedral.
Stevin climbed down to the bottom of the glacier where he set up his tripod, preparing for a long exposure photo. The light was so limited in the caves, he relied on slower shutter speeds to allow enough light onto his camera’s sensor.
The entire scene was backlit by a sliver of light that came in from the surface. Stevin used the sliver of light to light up the entire scene. Many of his frames were 20-30 second exposures. Asking me to stand in the frame for scale, I stood as still as possible as Stevin took multiple exposures.
Before leaving the ice cave, I snapped this photo of Stevin just as he was exiting the small crack towards the surface and towards the light.
On our way to Nordegg AB, we made a stop at Panther Falls in Banff National Park. Stevin had never been to the frozen waterfall in the middle of the night before. He had a vision for photographing the frozen waterfall. Stevin wanted me to stand in the middle of the frame with a headlamp. As I lit the backside of the frozen waterfall, he snapped a long exposure. The long exposure allowed the headlamp to light the entire frame.
As Stevin says in Getting The Shot Episode 1, “Sleep takes a backseat to everything when you’re a photographer”. We had a few hours of sleep before heading to Abraham Lake where we hoped to find interesting methane bubbles frozen in the Ice.
As the sun began lighting the sky, we realized there were more interesting subjects to photograph than the famous methane bubbles. Watch the episode below to learn what we found.

10 Tips for Shooting Into the Sun for Dramatic Images

They won’t teach you this in photography school. Here’s 9 tips for shooting into the sun for dramatic images and how to do it right.

People are often surprised when they ask me, “where did you go to school to learn photo and film?” – then I respond by explaining I’m 100% self taught. Trial by fire. Here’s the thing though, there’s a reason I didn’t go to school to learn tricks of the trade. Shooting into the sun was the biggest reason. Let me explain.

When I began entertaining the idea of a career in photo and film I started looking into school. I spoke to some profs. I looked at some course outlines. Something caught my eye. “Using natural light and avoid shooting into the sun”. This made no sense to me.

I hadn’t been shooting long at the time but I knew that the images I loved most were almost always backlit (the key light is directly behind the subject). It was one factor among many, but I just knew school wouldn’t be for me after I learned more about it. I’ve never looked back, and some of my favourite photos are still shot right into the sun. Here’s how to do it right. (Not according to traditional schools).

1. Make Blue Bird Days More Interesting.

Shooting into the sun is a great way to make an otherwise high contrast and harshly lit photo into a more interesting and dynamic photo.

Queen Mary Basecamp in Kluane National Park, Yukon. by Ryan Richardson

2. Create Silhouettes by Exposing to the Sky in Low Light.

Silhouettes are dramatic and timeless. Exposing to the brightest part of your composition will under expose your subject when backlit by the sun.

Shot in the remote Highlands of Iceland during Crossing Iceland Expedition. By Ryan Richardson

3. Create a “Sun Burst” Effect by Closing Your Aperture.

Closing your aperture to F/11 – F/16 will create a sun burst effect giving the sun in your photo more shape and definition. Don’t forget to position the sun against something like a rock, tree, horizon, person, etc. The sun burst will look more dramatic if you have it “breaking” against an object or subject in your image.

Taken by Ryan Richardson in remote Utah during a recreational trail run.

4. Try Under Exposing and Pulling Shadows Out in Post.

Even if you’re not creating a silhouette, try under exposing a little and then pulling out your shadows in post. There’s more information in lowlight than highlights. That means you can still have a lot of detail in your shot even after pulling your shadows and the sky looks totally natural just as you shot it.

Cross-country skiing in Milton, ON shot by Ryan Richardson

5. Using Shallow Depth of Field for Real Lens Flares.

Tasteful sometimes in Hollywood, but almost never done well in photography is lens flares. Make sure your lens is spotless, and your aperture is wide open. For best results you want a fast lens like a 2.8 or 1.8.

Product shoot for Wuxly Movement shot by Ryan Richardson

6. Applying Other Rules to Your Composition.

Don’t forget to still consider rules like “leading lines”, or “rule of thirds”. Including traditional rules while intentionally breaking other traditional rules is a recipe for interesting photos.

ACMG Yamnuska Mountain Guide demonstrates ice climbing during the Southern Ontario Ice Festival on assignment for Arc’teryx in Northern Ontario. Photo by Ryan Richardson.

7. Shoot Into the Sun After the Sun Sets.

Using leftover available light it a great way to create dramatic photos. Try exposing to subject and blowing out the highlights a little bit. This technique looks great in the winter when you can see a person’s breath, or ice particles in the air.

Athlete portrait shoot in Milton ON.

8. Celebrate Over Exposing Subjects.

This is of course the exact opposite of under exposing your subject like previously mentioned. Obviously variety is the key. Try a little bit of everything.

Shot on assignment by Ryan Richardson during Trans Namibia Expedition. Namibia, Africa.

9. Pay Attention to the Way the Sun-Light Wraps Around Other Elements in Your Photo.

Watching the sun interact with other elements like people, and foreground is the coolest thing for me. I just love watching the way the sun makes interest shapes and colours around the environment as it sets behind the horizon.

Shot on assignment in remote Africa. Photo by Ryan Richardson.

10. “Paint” Your Subjects in Post.

When you expose to the sky you’ll be under exposing your subjects. Know your camera and it’s capabilities in post. The more megapixels the better in this case. Make local shadow adjustments by painting your subjects to your desired exposure. In this photo I pulled the shadows on Hailey and I and lifted the exposure.

Couple hiking on coast Georgian Bay on the Bruce Trail.
Shot on a multi-day hike on the Bruce Peninsula in northern Ontario.

Thru Hiking the East Coast Trail

A photo essay of my thru hike along the (ECT) East Coast Trail (220km) in Newfoundland.

A photo essay of my thru hike along the (ECT) East Coast Trail (220km) in Newfoundland. I hope these photos transport you to the east coast where myself, my partner, my Mom, and my mom’s best friend Anna attempted to thru hike the length of the ECT.

Three hikers walking past iceberg.

We began our thru hike from the south, starting in Cappahayden. As soon as we arrived to the trailhead we almost immediately spotted Icebergs off in the distance.

Hiker setting up tents near ocean.

We pitched our tents near Cappahayden where we would get a full night’s rest before beginning the our thru hike the next day.

Hiker traveling on trail.

We lucked out on weather the first day. It was reported to be the warmest day of the season so far. We had heard horror stories of how wet and technical this section of trail was. We were happy to be travelling this section with favourable conditions.

Three hikers walk alongside ocean.

The next day a thick fog rolled in off the Atlantic. The fog acted as air conditioning, the temperatures dropped considerably. Most of the views along the coast were left to our imagination. The fog was so thick we could rarely see the ocean.

Two hikers walk through fog.

The following day the cold fog had turned into a cold rain. Much of the trail was exposed to the open ocean making the wind another challenging element.

Three hikers walking in rain.

It was never the wind that slowed us down though, just the trail itself. The trail was a small single track hardly wide enough to fit our packs through in places. The trail was almost always slightly slanted towards to ocean, and it was never straight or level. It was some of the most challenging terrain I had ever walked on.

We were never given any trail names. I suppose because we never saw any hikers on the trails.

Hikers in cabin eating food.

A local introduced himself as we walked through his town and invited us to stay at his cabin along the trail. East coast hospitality is unlike anywhere else. You can expect most locals to invite you into their home for tea, water, and even dinner. As if that isn’t kind enough, we had locals offer up their home, and even buy us a case of beer.

Hiker next to dirty trail shoes.

Our gear finally had the opportunity to dry out before we hit the trail again.

Hikers walking up muddy trail.

I wish I could say the sun made an appearance again so soon. However, the rain continued and the trails became more and more difficult to navigate.

Hikers walking through bushes.

Finally, the fog burnt up in the sun’s rays. It was never as beautiful as our first day on the trail again. However, after almost four days of rain we felt as if we were on a beach in Mexico.

Hikers alongside ocean.

The ECT traveled out into the ocean along capes that would poke out into the ocean. We would walk along these capes until they eventually led back into little inlets where towns and villages were located. Nearly 75% of the trail was entirely wilderness.

Hiker walking near small village.

The villages were home to as few as a dozen people. I couldn’t help but wonder how beautiful these little inlets would look under a fresh dusting of snow in the winter.

Two hikers walking away from small village.

Hailey and I were leaving directly to Iceland from Newfoundland. Our legs began giving out, our back and shoulders were in agony. The anticipation of hopping on a plane to thru hike across the entire country of Iceland was beginning to worry us.

Hiker walking at sunset near ocean.

After thru hiking 170 km, all four of us decided to end our hike. With 50 km to go before reach St. Johns. We felt as though we could physically finish the ECT thru hike. However, we knew the cost be too high, there’s no way we could begin our thru hike in Iceland in such rough shape only a few days later.

Hiker walks alongside ocean and island.

Thru hiking the ECT is truly one of the greatest experiences of my life. Like so many places, it’s the adventure that draws us, but it’s the people and the culture that brings as back again and again. I can’t wait until I’m back in Newfoundland.

Ultra Running is Nothing Compared to This

How these ultra runners intend to help cure an incurable disease by completing the world’s toughest ultra races.

Ultra running is pushing the evolve of what we thought we knew about the human body. Running hundreds of kilometres completely breaks the measuring stick of what the average person believes to be possible.

Yet, these average, everyday, people are toeing in at the starting line of one of the world’s toughest ultra races. The Grand to Grand Ultra (G2G), a 273 km stage race in the high desert of Utah. Here’s why.

Yeah it’s the toughest thing any of us have ever done. However, It doesn’t hold a light to how tough every single day is for a child living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). That’s why we do it. That’s why we run.

Rick Buro – 2x G2G Finisher

How Tough Exactly is DMD

Runner resting in tent.
Two members of the JAR of Hope team sit at CP 4 during stage 1 of 7 stages.

Buro is a second time runner at the G2G. Buro is the owner of a cross-fit gym in New Jersey where he pushes his clients to move as much weight as they can and quickly as they can. His entire life is the antithesis of DMD.

DMD is a muscle wasting disease with no cure. The symptoms often start showing up at around age 2. Children developing with DMD can’t play sports with their class mates, and can’t participate in almost anything physical.

Before long, a child with DMD will be bound to a wheelchair for the remainder of their shortened lives. It’s a devastating disease with very little support from the medical industry, government, or science and research groups.

Why? Because it’s an orphan disease. Not enough children are effected for the disease to be profitable the way cancer or heart disease is. Everyone know’s someone effected by cancer, but how many people have even heard of DMD?

Passion Meets Purpose

Runners lining up at start line.
JAR oh Hope’s team toes the starting line at the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

That’s our goal with these races. If somebody hasn’t even heard of the disease, how can we expect them to reach into their pockets and write a check so we can fund research for it.

Jim Raffone – Founder of JAR of Hope

Jim’s son was diagnosed with DMD. The doctors told Jim and his wife Karen to go home and love their son, “there’s nothing to be done”. That was either the right thing, or the wrong thing to tell the Raffone’s. Jim and Karen took it upon themselves to create JAR of Hope, a pillar in the DMD community with one mission, cure an “incurable” disease.

Building teams that can represent JAR of Hope and continue to spread the word of DMD is extremely effective. Jim recently ran the Alps 2 Ocean ultra in New Zealand. Upon arrival, he was shocked at how many people had heard of DMD from the ultra running community as a result of JAR of Hope’s presence internationally.

Desperate Father Runs World’s Toughest Ultras to Save His Son’s Life

Woman packing backpack at camp.
Nancy Cofrancesco get’s prepared for the next stage after immediately arriving in camp after nearly 12 hours on her feet.

The Grand to Grand Ultra has been a bucket-list race for me for years. Being here with Jim and JAR of Hope gives me a boost of confidence. Now that I’m here, there’s no way that I’ll quit.

Nancy Cofrancesco

The ultra community is extremely international. Participants are often globe trotters, traveling around the world in search of the next great ultra race. DMD slowly working into the fabric of the community at large.

JAR of Hope gives participants a purpose for their passion. If someone is a passionate runner, teaming up with JAR of Hope enables the runner to do some good along the way. If you’re going to run, you might as well run for something bigger than yourself.

Why Raising Awareness for DMD Through Ultra Running is Effective

Tents at Camp.
JAR of Hope’s team hung a flag outside their tent to introduce DMD with other participants and reiterate their purpose.

You look at ultra marathoners right, they move their bodies over the longest distances they can. They reflect on what they’re doing and kids with Duchenne will never be able to do that… There’s just something strong that can’t be explained. There’s this feeling of I can, for those who cannot.

Rick Buro

This isn’t the first time organizations have effectively used racing events as effective tools for raising funds and awareness for diseases. Diseases like cancer and CIBC Run for the Cure. Red Bull’s Wings for Life raising money for spinal cord injury research.

These races are all about community. The friends you meet here become family. That’s what it’s all about. Getting to reunite with JAR of Hope every year at this race gives us the ability to brainstorm effective ways to fundraise and continue spreading the word.

Leanne Richardson – 3x G2G finisher

Ultra running events are an intimate approach to achieving the same goal. The goal for JAR of Hope is to make ultra running become synonyms with DMD, to help make DMD known around the world. Ultimately, funding research for a cure to DMD will save Jim and Karen’s son’s life, and the lives of thousands of other boys.

JAR of Hope is releasing a mini-short of their Grand to Grand Ultra experience. Watch the series online.

To learn more about DMD visit jarofhope.org

All media shot by Life Outside Studio.

Swimming with Orcas in Norway, First-hand Account

Swimming with Orcas felt as though I was witnessing something from a different era. It felt as like I was seeing an extinct dinosaur with my own eyes.

Swimming with Orcas in Norway

Swimming with orcas is something I had never considered, let alone knew was possible until this past November. Swimming with killer whales was never on my radar, in fact, just about anything to do with the ocean is way outside of my comfort zone. Unfortunately, I’ve always lived in landlocked cities, besides, the Rocky Mountains are my first true love. The ocean is just this overwhelming entity. I wouldn’t even know how to get into something like this.

I’m so glad that I did though.

Friends of ours asked Hailey and I if we would be interested in filming a photography workshop they were hosting in Norway. The workshop was swimming with orcas. We thought, what the heck, might as well get our feet wet sooner than later.

Skjervøy, Norway 400 kilometers north of the arctic circle.

Orca swims by whale watching boat.

Every year in the late fall, billions of herring migrate along the gulf stream current. Herring travel thousands of kilometers in massive schools. The herring swim until they finally reach the remote fjords of the Norwegian Sea, in the Arctic Ocean. Behind all those herring, thousands of orcas and humpbacks follow. Herring is a large source of food for both predators, so a gathering like this is well worth the travel if you’re a hungry orca or humpback whale.

The wildlife in the Norwegian Sea is thriving still. Unlike the pacific coast of Washington and British Columbia. Orcas are found in large numbers. There are young and healthy pods scattered all throughout the remote inlets and fjords of the Norwegian coast. Unfortunately, the wildlife there might not be safe in Norway for much longer.  There are oil development, and oil transportation initiatives that are putting the orca’s well-being at risk.

In Norway, there is no code of conduct for approaching wildlife at sea.

The code of conduct in many parts of the world is simple. Don’t have your boat within 200m of the wildlife. Additionally, don’t swim within 200m of the wildlife. The 200m rules helps direct traffic on the waters and enforce a common sense rule. A 200m code of conduct helps to keep swimmers safe from tour boat operators. The operators have eager clients on board. The operators will sometimes stop at nothing to give their clients a “whale watching experience”. Even if that means they’re driving erratically, and dangerously close to swimmers, or right over top of the whales. 

Kayaker kayaking alongside humpback whale.

Unfortunately, the Norwegian government has no such code of conduct. The tour operators and local outfitters do what ever they want at sea. Fortunately for the orcas, small tour boats and eager swimmers with little regard for wildlife etiquette, don’t really cramp their style too much. The orcas are too busy feasting on millions of herring to pay too much attention.

It’s the oil tankers and the threat of oil spills that will really harm these animals. The code of conduct helps protect swimmers more than anything. It’s also just good practice to give the orcas some space.

Regardless, wildlife etiquette is crucial. Our approach, as explained by our wildlife guide and award winning photographer, Jonas Beyer, was to find the herring. If we found herring, we could anticipate the orcas arrival. If the orca came to us, they might be curious and swim with us and interact with us. 

It didn’t take long for us to find them.

Our alarms set well before sunrise, we woke up early. Inhaled some breakfast, and left for the harbour. Our captain was going to meet us on the harbour at 8:00 am. Right around when the arctic sun would rise above the not so distant mountains. I packed up my gear and hopped on board.

We cruised away from the harbour and after only a few minutes our captain spotted a large pod of orcas. The captain then headed in for a closer look. It was an absolutely massive feeding frenzy. Orca everywhere, humpbacks breaching beside each other. Birds flew over head. The birds would try to grab the stunned herring floating at the top of the sea. There were also about half a dozen whale watching boats, and two massive fishing boats in the middle of the action. We definitely wouldn’t be swimming with orcas here. 

After about twenty minutes of sailing along silky smooth waters, our captain spotted another pod of orcas and our wildlife guide, Jonas instructed us to “suit up”. The daytime temperatures hovered around 4 degrees celsius, which was about the same temperature of the water.

“The important thing to consider when approaching wildlife is always respect, it’s important that we get into the water and wait for the orca to come to us, not drive our boat over top of them and then jump in right beside the orcas.” – Jonas Breyer

It felt as though I was witnessing something from a different era. It felt as though I was seeing an extinct dinosaur with my own eyes.

The anticipation was building. It was strange to know I’d be diving into this foreign world. A world with animals I’d only ever seen in bad Hollywood movies. I crawled into my wetsuit and waited on the back of the boat for Jonas to give us the “go ahead”.

Man in wetsuit holding underwater camera.

We got our signal and slowly dipped into the water from the back of our boat. The key was to get into the water quickly, but quietly. I waded the water for a few minutes, with the taste of sea salt in my mouth. I adjusted my breathing so I could use the snorkel effectively. Then I saw it. I saw a dorsal fin sticking right out of the surface water immediately in front of me.

It felt as though I was witnessing something from a different era. It felt as like I was seeing an extinct dinosaur with my own eyes.

The four orcas swam almost within arms reach.

I remember feeling calm, but there was also a tingle that went down my spine, something primal. The feeling wasn’t fear. It felt as though I was witnessing something from a different era. It felt as like I was seeing an extinct dinosaur with my own eyes.  I watched the dorsal fin approach closer, then I lowered my head underwater and looked straight ahead through my snorkeling mask. The orca and I locked eyes. Time practically froze. I was completely in the moment.

Two ladies swimming in wet suits.

I peaked my head above water to see if Hailey, saw what just happened. Smiling ear to ear, I knew she saw the orca as well. We shared the moment and exchanged high-fives. Hailey pointed out a few more dorsal fins twenty meters away to our right. She started slowly swimming over to get a closer look. Four more orcas saw us treading water towards them. They appeared to casually change direction and head straight for us. The four orcas swam almost within arms reach.

Swimmer swimming with orcas.
Swimmer in right hand corner.

Orca are the apex predator of not just the ocean, but land too.

After spending four more days on the water, swimming with the orcas and even humpback whales whenever possible. It’s like everyone knows sea creatures like this exist. However, it’s as if most people don’t  believe they exist the way they do. Watching these predators interact with each other, with us, play, and socialize, it completely reframed my understanding of wildlife in general. 

Orcas swimming in a pod.

Swimming with Orcas is extremely humbling. Orcas are the apex predator of not just the ocean, but land too. Killer whales hunt not only the largest mammals in the water, blue whales, but also the largest predators on land, polar bears. It’s truly an experience beyond words, one I wish I could describe, or gift to others. The only way to truly understand though, is to get in that water.

Would you go swimming with orcas?


All images taken while on assignment by Life Outside Studio and used with the permission of the owners, Hailey Playfair and Ryan Richardson

Taking On Alaska in Arc’teryx’ new Norvan LD Running Shoes

Alaska, where you’re more likely to run into a brown bear on the trails than you are other runners. During midnight sun in June, it’s hard to imagine a better place to tear up some trail, not a bad place to break in my brand new shoes too!

After wearing my Salomon Speedcross 4 runners in Iceland for the Laugavegur Trail, I knew I wanted to swap them out for something a little more comfortable in the future. The Speedcross 4 were fine for the first 40 kilometres of the Laugavegur, but after 2 days on the trail my feet were getting pretty raw, I actually ended up finishing the last 5 kilometres in my Crocs!

Arc’teryx released their new Norvan LD (Long Distance) running shoes, with the intention of creating a shoe for endurance focused running. Most of the running I planned to do in Alaska would be longer trails, ranging from five-eight hours in length. I thought I’d give them a shot!

Taking-On-Alaska-in-Arc'teryx-LD-Running-Shoes-Image-2

My warm up run was in Canmore AB, where we started our long journey to Alaska. Myself and my partner Hailey ran up Mount Yamnuska, and around the back end of the mountain to make it a loop.

The shoes felt great. I hadn’t worn them yet, except for on our way to the airport, so after a day of running and breaking them in, I was really confident I’d be comfortable in them for the rest of the trip!

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Once we arrived in Hyder, Alaska, we laced up and ran along Salmon Glacier for a few hours. It was difficult to not get distracted by the views of the valley, but it was a long way down, so it was best to pay attention!

I spent the next two weeks running on trails and climbing mountains along the boarder of Northern British Columbia, Yukon, and Alaska. I wore more Norvan LD runners for every single run and I felt completely at home in them.

The Norvan LD are certainly intended for a different purpose than the Speedcross 4. If you’re looking for a more comparable shoe to the Speedcross from Arc’teryx, I’d recommend the Norvan VT.

See you on the trails!