As an avid outdoorsman and photographer, I can't think of a better place to be than Northwest Ontario. Being surrounded by wilderness, rivers, and lakes makes it ideal for many outdoor activities. Some that I enjoy are fishing, hiking, kayaking, and ATVing.
As a photographer, my interest is primarily in landscape and wildlife photography, and fortunately there is an abundance of both these in the area. While out, I am very likely to find many wonderful things to photograph. For this article, however, I'm only going to talk about landscape photography. Taking photos of wildlife could be a whole other article!
One of my favourite ways to go looking for things to photograph is by kayak. With a kayak, not only am I having a relaxing Zen-like experience—it really is a great way to unwind—I can also get into areas that are not easily accessible by boat due to the kayak's shallow draw, making it perfect for my needs. I use two kayaks when out exploring: one is a Delta 17-foot sea kayak and the other is an Advanced Elements 15-foot inflatable kayak.
I use the inflatable mainly when going to areas that bringing a sea kayak to would be too difficult. There are no worries about safety, as this is not your typical pool toy inflatable—it has redundant air chambers with three layers of thick material for protection, and can carry a 550-pound load. I've hit rocks and wood with barely a scratch on the outer layer to show for it. It folds down compact into a carry bag, weighs about 50 pounds, and can be packed easily in the back of a truck or car, or on the back of an ATV. This makes it perfect for getting into backcountry lakes by ATV for fishing, exploring, and photography. They are very comfortable and stable, thus them great for these activities.
Here is a photo I took shortly after ice-out while in my inflatable. I couldn't ask for a better evening. I had the lake to myself, flat calm, and a beautiful sunset, which there are many here in Northwest Ontario. It is called Sunset Country, after all!
I use the sea kayak otherwise—it's faster and I can cover distance more effectively in it, which is helpful on the larger lakes and rivers. The Delta 17 hatch system is also perfect for my needs: the enormous front and rear dry cargo hatches can carry a lot of gear, and the day hatch positioned right in front of the cockpit is perfect for keeping phone and camera easily accessible, yet dry. Here is a shot of it on a small secluded beach I was able to land on that was much too shallow to get to by boat, unless you wanted to jump in and get wet while wading to shore.
At this beach, I was able to explore and find a nice scene to return to photograph under better conditions. I do this quite often since I like to take photos that not only show a nice scene, but have nice lighting, colour, and weather. Rarely do I like the photos I take during mid-day under a blue sky with harsh lighting or cloudy day with flat lighting. So, if I find something I like I will make note of it and come back during sunrise or sunset, depending on the direction of the sun in relation to the scene and when clouds or weather are moving in.
A lot of the time I don't even need to go to shore, I just take the shot right from the kayak. Quite a few interesting compositions can be found by positioning the kayak in a variety of ways. At times I like to hold the camera down low, almost touching the water, in order to catch the light reflecting off the ripples. It helps to have a camera with a tilting screen in order to compose and focus the shot. Shooting this low from a kayak using the viewfinder would likely mean going for a swim! In these types of photos, I like that the water takes on an almost molten metallic appearance. Here is an example of this type of shot.
Here's another photo that was taken from a kayak. You would think I had been standing on the shore, but not in this case. In order to take this photo, I needed to position the kayak up as close to this rock as I could get, sitting in only inches of water. Then, I steadied the camera as best I could and clicked the shutter. It helps to have a camera or lens with image stabilization for this type of shot!
You can also find many nice things to photograph here that are easily accessible by road. For example, this was taken about ten minutes north of the town of Vermilion Bay where the Wabigoon River passes under Hwy 105. By walking down to the river and looking for unique positions and angles I was able to take this photo, which is unlike most you see of this location since most shoot from high up on the side of the road overlooking the falls. Using a tripod, in this case, allowed me to slow down my shutter speed enough to take a longer exposure in order to give the water that soft flowing look that I like.
At other times only a short hike is required. Here is a photo was taken at Canyon Lake after a short hike of one of my favourite things in Northwest Ontario, the exposed rock of the Canadian Shield. Knowing that I'm standing on some of the oldest exposed rocks on earth—estimated to be close to four billion years old—gives a feeling of wonder and connection to the earth that is hard to describe.
These are just a few of my photos which hopefully give a sense of the beauty of Northwest Ontario and how I approach taking photos here. Thanks very much for coming along with me on this short photographic tour. If you do enjoy photography and want to take photos of unspoiled and majestic wilderness areas while enjoying the great outdoors, I can't think of a better place to visit.
More of Gord Pusnik's work can be found on his website.