Tantalus in Black and White
This newest collection in the portfolio is a 2018 photo-essay on the Tantalus Range of mountains which are located north of Squamish, British Columbia, on the way to Whistler. This range of towering peaks, vast glaciers, rocky buttresses, giant cornices, and knife-edge ridge lines inspires awe in whomever comes upon them (usually while driving along the Sea to Sky Highway #99). The range was named by a mountaineer who wished to climb in the range but was prevented by the Cheakamus river which flows in the valley below. Thus, the climber was tantalized by a prospect that did not come to fruition (at least on that trip).
Mount Niobe rises like a shark's fin at the southern end with Mount Alpha and its skiers' paradise of snowy alpine lines to the north and the razor-backed Mount Serratus hidden from sight in behind. The showpiece is Mount Tantalus which occupies the majority of the range and draws armies of mountaineers every year who brave its heights and dodge the occasional avalanche running off the high ridges and sloughing down onto the vast glacier fields. At the far northern end, Mount Omega lies in modest repose. This collection of 9 black and white photos of a high-contrast nature are inspired by the legendary landscape photography of 20th Century American master Ansel Adams. The depth of allure in this range is matched by the degree of its unmistakeable presence which fills almost all of the horizon when gazed upon from across the valley. This collection is focused on giving the mountains the tribute which they deserve in a medium well-suited to their dramatic features.
Sea to Sky: A Study in Contrasts
This year-long project was launched in early 2015 on Facebook and is a combination of ecological awareness, local history, and nature photography in its content and aims. One photo is launched each month until December, 2015. Each photo is accompanied by text describing the natural contrasts in the image as well as its place in the larger natural system that is the Howe Sound environment. So far, the collection has featured mountain ranges, lush forests, Trumpeter Swans and other bird-life of the Squamish Estuary, mountain peak portraits, and the night sky. All photos are shot with a mind to contrast and the many different interpretations of that word. When viewing the collection, be sure to click on the title of each photo where a link will take you to Panoptikon Photography's Facebook page where you can find the essays that accompany each project posting. Visit the "UPCOMING EVENTS" menu on this site to check for the release date of the next project photo and essay.
The Premier Collection
This collection features the very best wilderness and wildlife photography shot in the years since Panoptikon's founding in 2012. The fiery summer sunsets; lavender winter sunrises; frigid peaks and glacier fields of the Tantalus Range; mist-enshrouded "Chief" (the second largest granite monolith in the world); lush old-growth cedar forests; placid waters of Howe Sound; blowing grasses of the Squamish estuary; and the majestic Bald eagles of Brackendale are but a few samples from this collection.
The Juan de Fuca Collection
This group of photos was taken throughout the Juan de Fuca wilderness on the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. The Juan de Fuca trail runs from China beach (some 35 kilometers west of the town of Sooke) north along sandy beaches, rocky outcroppings, hidden coves, and Sitka spruce forests for 47 kilometers before it ends at Botanical Bay near the remote town of Port Renfrew. It is a rugged and wild part of British Columbia prone to squalls that materialize with little or no warning only to vanish with the arrival of an equally unexpected sunny afternoon. It is often overlooked by visitors to Vancouver Island who set their sights instead on the tourist-magnet towns of Tofino and Ucluelet when they choose to visit the western coast. To those who know the trail and its unique rugged beauty, they would not have it any other way. The Juan de Fuca wilderness is a hidden gem, a diamond in the rough that hides some of the most photogenic coastal territory in Canada and the world at large.
The Spirit of Haida Gwaii Collection
The Islands of Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) sit across the stormy Hecate Straight from Prince Rupert on the mainland of British Columbia. They are the ancestral islands of the Haida First Nation ("Haida Gwaii" translates as "The home of the Haida") who share the island with loggers, eccentrics, artists, Hippies, hunters, fishermen, and other locals. The people of these "Islands of the mist" live in scattered towns and hamlets such as Masset; the Haida town of Skidegate; the logging town of Port Clements; the artist community of Tlell; Sandspit; and Queen Charlotte City. Windblown beach sand-dunes strewn with driftwood carried ashore by violent storms; vast Sitka spruce forests; sodden muskeg; placid glass-like lakes; remote hidden coves; a wide scattering of shipwrecks; and lava rock formations grant these mysterious islands an allure seldom matched in western Canada. This collection of photos reflects the eclectic and varied environment of these islands that draw visitors from around the world every year.
The Alpine Collection
Since moving to the town of Squamish, British Columbia, and even to some degree before then, I have found photographic inspiration in mountains. Since then I have explored extensively with my camera at my side and sought to capture the stark severity of these Leviathans of rock, ice, and snow. Simultaneously I strive to preserve the transcendent beauty that these mountains grace us with on a daily basis when velvet-soft snow covers glacier fields, or when the light falls dramatically over their features. This collection features the best twelve black and white mountain or alpine terrain photographs shot in the Howe Sound Corridor, Vancouver Island, and Vancouver. Though the photographs within this group have changed over the years, the collection always remains at one dozen to ensure the utmost quality. Thus the collection's driving purpose is maintained.
The Premier Black and White Collection
While colour photography can be rich and dramatic through the use of colour, lighting, contrast, and composition, black and white forces the photographer to work with another aesthetic style altogether. This style is more geometrically focused as well as highly-dependent on lighting and its differing relationship with the subject of the photo. This collection contains only the very best monochrome photography and serves as an entirely new way of looking at "Sea to Sky" country and finding the familiar or unusual in a new light.
Colours of the San Juan Mountains
In southwestern Colorado, the towering peaks of the San Juan Mountains offer some of the most impressive and awe-inspiring alpine photography in North America. This collection of wilderness photos from the high-country of that area is alive with Autumn's colours. The vast network of peaks are laid with blankets of gold and auburn deciduous forests mixing with the deep hunter greens of the spruce and pine trees. Exploration of this collection will take you from the foothills and rivers at the southern base of the range up to a height of nearly 12,000 feet at Red Mountain Pass before descending again until the arrival of twilight in the foothill ranges.
The Canyon de Chelly Collection
Within the heartland of the Navajo people in the northeastern corner of Arizona lies the sprawling complex of Canyon de Chelly. This network of spires, curving canyon walls, ancient cave dwellings, dry scrub brush, and fiery red rock is often by-passed by visitors to the state in favor of tourist-magnets such as the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. As such, the canyon is the secret gem of the American Southwest. The awe it inspires within the hearts of those who visit is not to be matched anywhere else in the country. A visitor to this deeply spiritual and inspiring landscape is immediately struck by the sheer immensity of the land itself. Canyon de Chelly (pronounced 'de Shay') leaves its mark on those who choose to seek out its wonders.
This collection of sixteen photos aims to convey the power and grandiosity of the canyons from the storm clouds over the lookouts, to the ancient cliff-dwelling ruins, the sculpted stone, and finally with the enormous towering spire that is Spider Rock.
The South by Southwest Collection
The deserts, forests, grassy plains, sandstone bluffs, red-rock canyons, and high mountain passes of the American Southwest are more than just landscape features of the United States. They hold deep historical roots for descendants of American settlers of the 19th Century as well as the spirituality of the natives of the Navajo, Pueblo, Apache, and Hopi bands that lived in the area for thousands of years. The legacy of Old Spain is seen in family and place names, Hispanic communities and culture, and architecture.
This collection of photos is a sampler from many different areas in the Southwest. It allows you to explore the depths of the Rio Grand canyon; travel the colourful bluffs and spires of the canyon-lands; enjoy the flowers of the desert; admire the changing leafs in the San Juan Forest; marvel at the palatial 14th Century Anasazi cliff-dwellings in Mesa Verde; enjoy the splendor of a fiery sunset in the high country near Taos, New Mexico; and see the skyline-dominating monolith named "Shiprock" towering in profile above the desert floor into a dramatic thunderstorm.
The Sri Lanka Collection
The Sri Lanka Collection is the largest collection on this website and with good reason. This stunningly beautiful, welcoming, and historically rich island in the Indian Ocean is a true marvel to behold and a photographer's dream. Forty-seven days were spent exploring this nation and shooting photography of Buddhist temples carved into mountainsides and rich with treasure; Hindu shrines alive with flashing fluorescent lights of various colours; deep rainforests playing host to a wide assortment of rare lizards; vast ruined cities of Kingdoms long gone but not forgotten; outrigger canoes traveling over crystal turquoise waters; teeming markets with thousands of fruits and vegetables rarely seen in the West; supernaturally green tea fields high above the valley floor; strangely arid rolling hills in the higher altitudes; and so much more. Over 100 photos are featured in this collection making for a slideshow of about 10 minutes and it is an experience that you would not want to miss.
Paw, Claw, Hoof, and Foot: Wildlife of Sri Lanka
The animal kingdom on the South Asian island of Sri Lanka is better described as an empire; indeed an empire as vast, diverse, and rich as any in human history. The island's national parks are treasure troves of fauna whether it be herds of majestic elephants, troops of Capuchin and Grey Monkeys, crocodiles lazing in the sun, water buffalos loitering in the shallows, or spiders and snails that draw the traveler's interest. This collection of 31 photos features a wide array of animals from five major national parks: Wilpattu with its dense brush filled with monkeys; Minneriya which boasts great herds of elephants; the damp Udawalawa with crocodiles and water buffalos; Bundala's smaller game; and an etherial early morning photo of a deer grazing in the higher altitudes of Horton Plains. Also featured are the snails, spiders, and rare lizards of the Sinharaja Rainforest and a host of other locations across the island. This collection even ventures off the coast to spot the surfacing of Pilot Whales. The prevalence of Buddhism in the country works to the benefit of the animals who are well looked after by professionals and everyday people alike. The result is a great boon to all who love adventure and the creatures you meet along the way.
The Birds of Paradise Collection
Birds are the goodwill ambassadors of Sri Lanka. Their myriad calls are the first thing a visitor hears upon waking in the morning and their omnipresence across the island is as continuous as it is exotic. Around 433 species have been recorded on the island and quite a few of them migrate to and from Sri Lanka making them the only wildlife on Sri Lanka that carry themselves to other parts of the world of their own free will. Bird sanctuaries abound and most of the photos in this collection were shot in Wilpattu National Park, Minneriya National Park, Udawalawa National Park, and the Bundala Bird Sanctuary. This 29-photo collection features a wide swath of Sri Lankan birdlife in its natural habitat. The presence of a peacock is always announced by their namesake call of "Peee-Ock!" which stands out like a sore thumb in the background noises of the tropics. Kingfishers come in electric blue, an Oreo black-and-white pattern, and other varieties near the marshlands. A host of birds of prey occupy high-perches over their hunting territories and included in this collection is a Crested Serpent Eagle which has captured its namesake prey for breakfast. Thin-necked and nervous herons, egrets, and ibises become the wallflower wildlife of the island's wetland areas. The wonderfully vibrant Painted Storks stand in colourful relief with the surrounding land in a way that is hard to miss. And the prehistoric-looking pelicans leave no doubt in the tourists' minds that dinosaurs did indeed evolve into birds over the millennia. The island is a birdwatcher's paradise and this collection holds a tantalizing taste of what awaits such an intrepid traveler.
Ritigala: Forest of Buddha
When wandering the ruins of the Ritigala monastery, one can easily see why Buddhist monks first came to this jungle refuge on the slopes of Ritigala Mountain in the First Century BCE. At dawn, rays of sunlight are shattered by the forest canopy and fall on reddish stone, lying in quiet repose along the ground. The monastery is one of Sri Lanka's best kept secrets and few tourists make their way to the mountain which is east of the ancient holy city of Anuradhapura. This major global archaeological site extends over 40 square kilometres with water tanks; winding stone pathways; stairs snaking up rock faces; living quarters; the monastery itself; an ancient stone urinal; and other intriguing relics from a bygone era of meditation and faith. One could scarcely choose a better place for such tranquil contemplation as this forest. It crushes in from all sides and the giant roots of Bodhi trees criss-cross the paths and buildings as you make your way up the mountain. The permanence and inevitability of this process, as it slowly reclaims the ruins for nature, makes for an impactful statement on the impermanence and fleeting nature of life. As you explore, you come to this realization just as the first Buddhist monks did over two millennia ago. It is a simple truth but one that is truly immortal and, when seen a certain way, beautiful.
Growing Eternal: The Sri Maha Bodhi
The spirituality of the tree and temple complex of the Sri Maha Bodhi is palpable and leaves even the most cynical and world-wearied visitor wonderstruck. This Buddhist temple is located in the ancient holy city of Anuradhapura in the north central Sri Lankan interior and surrounds an ancient fig tree that has been guarded and revered for over 2,200 years. It is the oldest tree in the world with a known date of planting and has grown to tower over the shrine in outstretched majesty. We have all heard the story of the westerner who travels to the far east, spends a few weeks traversing the holy sites of the South Asian subcontinent only to return as a changed person with a more zen meditative approach to life (and probably never takes of their sandals from then on). It is in the early morning sunlight, on a Sunday when pilgrims from across South Asia walk in cramped procession around the Sri Maha Bodhi, chanting as they go, that one truly understands the vast spiritual presence that is responsible for this timeworn tale. The experience of divinity here is communal and washes over the newcomer like warm waves on a sunny shore of inestimable beauty. The rush of joyful emotions that one has at the Sri Maha Bodhi is hard to properly describe but it is, above all other considerations, very real and deeply moving.
Polonnaruwa: City of Kings and Monks
The city of Polonnaruwa mixes a regal first impression with a lingering longing for another time; a time of greatness. However, greatness is achieved by the mere stone remnants of that time. Located in north central Sri Lanka, this ancient city was the capital of the Kingdom and Polonnaruwa as named by King Vijayabahu II in the 11th Century after he defeated invaders, thus uniting the country under one ruler. The ruins of fluorescent green ponds, giant ceremonial baths, palaces, thrones, and halls of state share the sun-drenched grounds with lovesick teenagers who find the ruins of another time to be the perfect setting for their romantic forays. Crowds of local tourists, coming up for the weekend from the larger centres of Kandy, Colombo, and Negombo in the south sweat in the heat and enjoy the strong winds off the nearby lake. The echoes of lost centuries ricochet off pillars, stone lions, and Buddha statues, while a subtle sense of the spiritual invests all with a presence that is not lost on even the most casual of visitors. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is the second most ancient kingdom in Sri Lanka and the foremost archaeological site on the island. Undoubtedly the crown jewels of Polonnaruwa are the three stone Buddhas carved into a stone bluff at the far end of the settlement. The careful viewer will notice that the statue of a standing Buddha shows him with a slight smile and one hip jutting out to the side - the only statue in the entire country to mix timeworn awe with surreal hipster attitude. King Vijayabahu II would smile knowing that even after nearly 1,000 years, his capital city has lost none of its splendour or ability to enflame the imagination with dreams of glory.
The Caribbean Collection
The warm waters and white-sand beaches of the Caribbean beckon even to those who have never seen a photo of the place and are inspired by the power of reputation alone. The two-dozen photos of this collection showcase the visual splendour which leads to this reputation. The lush, pristine, and intoxicatingly beautiful landscapes of the Yucatan peninsula in southeastern Mexico meld together with scorching weather to create a dreamlike world. It is a world where 1,001 unique and stunningly colourful sights wash over traveler' senses like the rhythmic waves which lap at the shore. At night, the jungle sings with the sound of cicadas and in the evening the sky reveals itself, fleetingly, as a bonfire of vibrant colours. From the mangrove swamps, fluorescent emerald waters, and sea turtles of Sian Ka'an to the hidden coves, iguanas, and ancient ruins of Tulum, this collection explores that intangible something which keeps millions of travellers making the pilgrimage to this paradise every year.
The Mayan Collection
The jungles of the Yucatan peninsula in southeastern Mexico hide marvels that both beg belief and demand recognition. This ancient and rich culture gave us North Americans our ancient cities rife with pyramidal temples, thrones, palaces, and even an observatory. Some structures are adorned with the carved heads of snarling Jaguars while others are etched with stone reliefs of princes and high priests. While the ancient city of Tulum overlooks the beaches, palms, and aquamarine crystal waters of the Caribbean, the Mayan capital of Chichen Itza sprawls through tropical jungle which encroaches on its wonders with steady patience. Coba, deep in the wilds of the interior, sits covered in trees which have dared to ascend the very pyramids themselves. The Mayan culture survives in Mexico and its artisan carvers continue the tradition of their ancestors making the story of the Mayans very much a living history. There is magic and mystery in these ruins, and when one wanders among them, one truly dons the mantle of an explorer - it is impossible not to. Though centuries of civil war amongst themselves and invasion by foreign powers have taken their toll, the temples and pyramids live on in proud defiance proving that men alone could never destroy such majesty. The photos in this collection are a tribute to such majesty and the people who live today forever in its light.
The Baja Collection
South of San Diego, across the Mexican border, lies the over 1,200 kilometre long peninsula of Baja California. It is a place of three worlds which overlap in contrasting harmony: the vast inland desert, the dramatic Sierra la Laguna mountains, and the stunningly beautiful coast of the Sea of Cortez to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the West. Tourists flock to the resort city of Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the peninsula to relax on the beach and enjoy the warm climes while more adventurous travellers come down from the United States and Canada to make the trek south through the desert as the towering peaks of the Sierra la Laguna rise above them like a rocky spine.
This collection showcases the diversity of this desert environment with photographs taken in the southern reaches of the peninsula. It features the warm beauty of the coast and its sea-sculpted limestone outcroppings known as 'Land's End' or 'Los Arcos'; the brush-stubbled desert of the interior, alive with elephant cacti; the hidden lush sanctuary of Fox Canyon, with its waterfall-fed emerald waters; the rugged Pacific coast with its violent surf pounding the shore; as well as the calmer tides of the Sea of Cortez. Explore this collection and you will develop a sense of this landscape's inviting essence which continues to draw travellers from thousands of kilometres away and will not stop doing so any time soon.
Todos Santos: The Magic Town
On the Pacific coast of the southern reaches of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico sits the sun-drenched seaside town of 'Todos Santos'. It is know as the "Magic Town" to locals and travellers alike. Its store facades, hotels, restaurants, galleries, and Catholic Mission combine vibrant and contrasting colour with aged historicity giving the settlement an aesthetic feel that is at the heart of Latin American culture. The town is home to the famous 'Hotel California' of Eagles fame, has the world's foremost prize-winning margaritas, and marks the Tropic of Cancer. When one wanders through its sleepy streets filled with artists' galleries and chats with the inviting locals, even the most foreign of visitors feels utterly at home. It is perhaps for this reason that the town boasts a large colony of American and Canadian expats who came to visit and never left. It is the soul of Mexican life that captures the imagination of visitors to this place whether it be through the intricate details and colours of the town's Aztec mural, the serenity of its Mission, the paint-peeling on 19th Century doorways, or the flapping multi-coloured pennants above its main street. It is this cultural soul, historical presence, and visual aesthetic that this photography collection captures. Allow yourself a brief glance into this world and you cannot help but acknowledge its title as truly a place of magic.
The Simien Mountains Collection
In the vast northern reaches of Ethiopia lie the Simien Mountains. The result of an ancient volcanic up-surge, these grand plateaus tower over the surrounding lowlands which spread out beneath the 1000 meter cliffs. The range is verdant green with unique species of flora and fauna found nowhere else in the country or the world at large. Huge troupes of Gelada baboons forage on the hillsides and if you have a good pair of eyes you may spot a rare and beautiful Walia Ibex defying gravity as it climbs the sheer cliff-sides. Enormous Lammergeyer hawks circle above even the highest peaks and are feared by shepherd boys as they are known to swoop down and fly off with the occasional lamb when it suits them. If you're lucky, you may be invited into a 'Tukul' hut in one of the area's small villages for a cup of coffee made from fresh beans washed, fire-roasted, and ground all from scratch.
Hikers from around the world trek from the entrance of the range near Sankaber camp all the way to the summit of the highest mountain in Ethiopia, "Ras Dejen", which stands at 4,543 meters (14,906 feet) above sea-level. The ethereal beauty of this uniquely lush mountain range is showcased in this collection's photos from on high at mountain passes (such as "Ras Bwahit") or up close among the Gelada baboons, waterfalls, and Walia Ibex. Explore this collection to see a land visited by few but adored by all who do.
Scorched Earth: The Deserts of Namibia
The deserts of Namibia in southwest Africa make up the hottest part of a continent already well known for sweltering weather. Midday highs often to the high 40s celsius (120 fahrenheit) in the shade. Namibia is a sparsely-populated but strikingly beautiful arid country with great diversity in terms of landscapes and wildlife.
The fire-red sand dunes and golden grasslands of Sesriem and the world famous Sossusvlei are dramatically photogenic with the contrast between the two environments and the clear blue skies making for remarkable landscapes that etch themselves into the memory of any visitor. Chakma baboons climb through the landscape of limestone cliffs and canyons known as the Tsaris mountains. The parched valleys of Damarland and Twyfelfontein play host to colourful lizards and ancient rock-etchings made thousands of years ago detailing the animals and sights of the region. This collection features all these regions of the "Namib Expanse" and offers a unique glance into a harsh but stunning land without the hazards of heat-exhaustion or poisonous insects.
Lalibela: Eighth Wonder of the World
Nestled into the hills of northeastern Ethiopia sits the ancient holy city of Lalibela. For the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church and the people of the nation, Lalibela is a site of great spiritual importance. The city is built around a complex of 11 stone churches that date from the 12th Century and are located beneath ground. At that time, the reigning Abyssinian King Lalibela commissioned the churches to be the founding of a "new Jerusalem" in the heart of Africa. The truly amazing aspect to this grand collection of churches, tombs, passageways, promontories, moats, and even a secret 60-metre-long tunnel, is that they were not built as such. Each church was carved from a single boulder lodged in the ground.
It is for this reason that the city and its holy sites are often referred to as the "Eighth Wonder of the World". This collection showcases the marvels of the churches, some of which are believed to have been completed only with the assistance of angels, the priests who stand inside each church to guard the holy relics within, as well as the normal Ethiopians who clean ever inch of the site by hand regularly. From the Tomb of Adam to the cruciform roof of 'Bet Giyorgis' ('the House of Saint George'), explore the ancient spiritual wonder that is Lalibela and the generous, kind, and devout people of the city for whom interacting with the work of angels is a blessing of untold measure.
The Mercato Collection
The Mercato sits in the heart of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. It is a bustling region of the city and is Africa's biggest open-air market covering several square miles. It employs an estimated 13,000 people in over 7,000 businesses. A stroll through the place will take you through different sections such as metal-working, recycling, manufactured goods, and, of course, the best coffee beans in the world. A traveler passing through will marvel at its endless lanes and thoroughfares which should be navigated with a local guide lest you find your way in and cannot find your way out. The Mercato is the very heart of Ethiopia's grandest city and exploring its alleys and passageways becomes a dip into the very microcosm of everyday African life.
This small collection of black and white photographs is but a taste of what the market has to offer. And yet, even the smallest taste is enough for one to see the heart of adventure that is exploring this vibrant, noisy, bustling metropolis within a metropolis. The Mercato is in many ways a great celebration of Ethiopian culture and a visitor is inevitably humbled and energized by its frenetic beauty.