The Iris

Allowing the adventure to get in the way of the documentation

Feature type Story

Read time 5 mins

Published Jul 22, 2022

Author Karla Ann

Karla Ann
Karla Ann Having spent a decade in Northern Canada guiding expeditions on horseback and on a snowboard, Karla is currently weaving her love of photography and health with her wilderness skills to mentor young woman.

There is an unspoken tension between myself, technology and the world. But still I haul around my camera gear everywhere I go. Photography is my creative outflow, a form of expression in sharing beauty, if I catch the moment.

Photography was my first love, however I quickly learned how an image could steal your soul. It was the difference of a millisecond. The more travel and adventure I took on, the more stunning imagery I missed on camera. I had witnessed faces change, and light rearrange in the scramble to dial in settings. Lost that epic action moment in sport, missing the light that gave my subject life. 

Capturing the essence of life on film came with operator errors, timing was imperative. When everything lined up though, the ability to capture light and stop time was transcending. Documenting existence had me firing on all cylinders, striving to strike balance in my relationship with imagery.

Original artwork by Tom Jay

Outdoor adventures also stimulate my curiosity. My favourite range to explore is a glacier shoulder in Canada, sandwiched between BC, the Yukon and Alaska. The sheer vastness lures me back time and time again. Each time I return, calculated in my approach to reach the summit, I’m humbled, bullied by the volatility of the weather.

Here, light is sparse. Every hour counts during the northern winters. After patiently waiting, over a couple of months, a weather window arrived for a long day in the range with a close friend.

There is a long drawn out silence as that incredibly powerful image is ingrained in my mind. Two natural forces of multitudes together in the same instant

The first obstacle is a river crossing amongst dense old growth, in which we have to soak our feet. We skin up through the forest, then navigate old glacier features to the summit with stunning views for as far as the eye can see. I pull my camera out to catch a vista of my trip as the sun shines down on a serac. My camera doesn’t share my content. It’s dead from the -25ºC temperatures…classic. I search for my extra battery only to discover I left it at basecamp below… classic. Yet another epic day in the mountains goes by undocumented.

There is a moment of exasperation, but it’s followed by relief. Relief to enjoy the simplicity of the present and the experience in such good company. I take it as a sign from the Universe. Perhaps I need to pay closer attention. Perhaps my intuition is distracted. This kind of thing can be a valuable guide in the wild.

At the summit, we dig a snow pit on the face we intend to surf down and we indulge in tea and snacks. After confirming good stability, we piece our snowboards together, tucking in loose ends. We’re ready to rip. 

The snow is fast and my chosen line is playful, I barely notice the extra weight of my camera gear.

At the base of the mountain we start the walk out, back towards home. Across the valley on a different aspect we hear a ruckus. I look up to see a sow grizzly bear and two cubs propagating an avalanche. The three of them spook and scurry their way safely above the fracture line. After the commotion everything is still. There is a long drawn out silence as that incredibly powerful image is ingrained in my mind. Two natural forces of multitudes together in the same instant. I did capture that moment, as a memory I will never forget.

Let us not forget the magic in observation and privacy. While documentation on an adventure is a bonus, it’s the journey itself that holds the depth.  An image represents only a sliver of where we have been. Let us not forget why we explore, for nurture rather than validation. There is something sacred about living without the interruption of technology, able to embody the fullness of that moment in time.

This story first appeared in issue 07 of BASE. Be sure to subscribe in print to get stories like this first, and take a look at our back catalogue to buy, here. Check out more of Tom Jay’s Illustrations on Instagram. 

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