Photos for Book Covers

View from Mistaya Lodge

I love to write. My books are mystery novels set in the Canadian wilderness, and I self publish with First Choice Books in Victoria, B.C. They do all the design work and printing, but for the covers they need photos, which I provide from my trips. One would think that with thousands of photos to choose from (I’m an enthusiastic amateur), that shouldn’t be a problem, but unfortunately, I usually shoot horizontal format, and book covers require a vertical orientation, at least for the front. Sometimes Felicity, my designer, can crop a horizontal photo, as was done for the book above. But it’s better to provide her with verticals to choose from.

I just submitted the text for my next book, Nahanni, along with several photos. The story involves a rafting trip on the Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories, so somewhere on the front or back, I want to show Virginia Falls (the iconic feature of the Nahanni), the river, and a raft. What I like, what I want, and what can be actually be used can differ. The photos below illustrate some of the problems.

My favourite photo of the falls, but it fails a crucial test: there’s no place for the book’s title.

Virginia Falls from the air.

So I found some photos taken from below the falls. This one has all three elements plus space for a title, but the raft isn’t very exciting.

Virginia Falls

This is a better photo, but there’s no raft and very little river.

Virginia Falls

Here the raft is great, there’s lots of river, but the falls are minimized.

Departing from Virginia Falls

The next one is probably not suitable for the front, but my tale is dark, and it might find space on the back.

Chaos at the crest of Virginia falls

Here’s another of my favourites. The scenery’s beautiful and majestic, and there’s room for the title, but is it dramatic enough?

The Gate

No falls, but river, raft and dramatic canyon.

Dwarfed

Another possibility for the back. Not dramatic enough for the front.

Home for the night

As always, I’m eager to see what Felicity proposes; she usually works with two or three. And I think I’ll spend a month this summer taking vertical photos for the book I’m currently writing in order to have more to choose from.

My books are available on Kindle. The cost of postage makes shipment of hard copies impractical, but they are usually available at Café Books in Canmore, Alberta and Friends of Yoho in Field, B.C.

SOME THOUGHTS ON A CANADIAN WINTER

February on the Great Divide, temperature in the -20s C

Beautiful or bleak? Does it make you want to hunker down by a warm fire or put on your skis and go?

Winter in the city can be brutal. It was -30 in Edmonton this morning and barely struggled to -26 this afternoon. Enough wind to freeze your face if it was exposed. At least we’re not shovelling snow or sliding on ice, and our power hasn’t gone out. But wherever you live, Canada has produced a harsh winter, and we haven’t even reached January yet.

I love winter, even in the city. But its real beauty is in the wilderness. Here are some of my favourite memories, some recent, some decades old.

Can there be a more iconic form of transportation than a sled and a team of dogs eagerly pulling you across the land?

Dogsledding in the Tombstones, Yukon

Few animals are more powerful in their beauty than the polar bear. Will we still have them when ice no longer forms in the North?

Polar bear in Churchill

Winter is defined by climate, not the calendar. The photo below was taken in May, but we had temperatures in the -30s. Canada’s highest peak never disappoints in its scenery.

High on Mt Logan

Nor does Baffin Island disappoint. I was there twice. First in 1979 with the Alpine Club of Canada. We had enough light to ski 24 hours a day, and sometimes we stayed out that long.

Full moon over an unnamed peak, Ayr Lake, Baffin Island.

The second trip was a private expedition with my husband and a friend to Auyuittuq National Park. The granite walls and massive glaciers form a landscape worthy of the Norse gods for whom many of the mountains are named.

The land that time forgot.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games. We had the “help” of a snow machine to get to our first camp in Auyuittuq.

Who thought that this was a good idea?

But even bad weather isn’t necessarily bad.

Dais Glacier below Mt Waddington.

Of course, I spend most of the winter in the city, and what I have learned in the wilderness keeps me from hibernating. I’m happy at -40, but when I’m out walking, I understand why so many people hate the season. People who can afford serviceable clothing either don’t buy it, don’t wear it, or don’t use it correctly. Instead of spending an extra five minutes at home to protect themselves, they shiver for 15 to 30 minutes waiting for a bus or walking to the grocery.

The number one error? Not covering the head, neck and face. When I wrote my book on snow camping, I said that we lose 40% of our body heat from the head. That was common wisdom at the time (1993).

Now I saw an experiment a few years ago in which people were stripped naked, placed in a cold room or in cold water, and heat loss from various parts of the body was measured. Turns out, they didn’t lose more heat from the head than from any other place on the body.

I’m not sure what the scientists were trying to prove. When is the last time you saw someone wandering naked down the street in the middle of winter?  (I hope they were treated for hypothermia and frostbite before seeing a psychiatrist.) If you have clothing on all of you except for your head, where do you think you are going to lose heat? And you’ll lose a lot.

So don’t become a cave rat. Bundle up, put a smile on your face, and go for a walk. You’ll feel better and you’ll be able to pity the poor souls who haven’t got the message yet.

For me in winter, there’s really is no such thing as bad weather–only a bad choice of clothing. Now if someone could just tell me how to dress for “hot and humid.”

View from Mistaya Lodge, B.C.

FIRTH RIVER PART THREE: Sheep Creek Rapids

This will be a quick post as I am about to leave for Mexico and Costa Rica. The Firth has many rapids but none as wild as those at Sheep Creek. On my first trip, all guests rode the rafts, but policy has changed. On the second and third trips, we hiked up to a viewpoint while the guides took the rafts through one at a time. What follows in a mix from two trips.

First challenge.

Yes, there's a raft in there.

Yes, there’s a raft in there.

There it is.

There it is.

Second obstacle.

Sideways works as well as straight on.

Sideways works as well as straight on.

A bit of a splash.

A bit of a splash.

Safely through.

Safely through.

Third obstacle.

Let's get lined up right.

Let’s get lined up right.

Paddle hard!

Paddle hard!

Harder!

Harder!

Almost have it.

Almost have it.

Easy does it.

Easy does it.

Made it.

Made it.

There’s lots more to show about the Canyon Reach, but that’s for a later post (probably not for a few weeks).

FIRTH RIVER PART TWO The Mountain Reach

The Firth River Valley

The Firth River Valley

An ancient, gentle landscape, untouched by the overpowering forces of glaciation. Since the British Mountains arose in the Tertiary Period, only erosion has shaped the rounded summits and smooth slopes, broad flood plains, and fluvial and bedrock terraces.

Parks describes the Firth in terms of four regions. The first, which we did not visit, is the Aufeis Reach which provides much of the flow in the river in summer. Aufeis is water that trickles up from the ground and freezes in layers. We would see a lot of it further downstream, but we landed in the Mountain Reach where it had all melted.

First camp near Margaret Lake, and a first taste of Firth weather

First camp near Margaret Lake, and an introduction to Firth weather

Northern light

Northern light

The terrain throughout the Firth makes for easy hiking, but because the river changes course from year to year, it may not be possible to repeat a hike you did on an earlier trip.

My favourite hike.

My favourite hike. Note the flood plain and the winding course of the river.

An easy trek into the unknown.

An easy trek into the unknown.

The landscape is perhaps more dramatic in its history than visually. Over the millennia, rain, wind, freeze-thaw, and gravity have weathered the slopes, exposing the bedrock and moving bits of it downhill to form bedrock terraces, just as the river, in cutting through the earth, has left behind fluvial terraces.

Winding river

Erosion at work

Compare a typical scene from the Canadian Rockies.

View from Deception Pass, Skoki Valley trail.

View from Deception Pass, Skoki Valley trail.

The Rockies are much older than the British Mountains, but because of recent glaciation, erosion has had little time to wear down the rock. Note also the hanging valleys, some of which still hold glaciers.

Another feature which one does not see in glaciated mountains is tors, which are rocky outcroppings on lower slopes and ridges.

Approaching Wolf Tors campsite

Approaching Wolf Tors campsite. Yes, there are rapids on the Firth! These are mild.

Life on the river can be lazy and comfortable or absolutely miserable, depending on what the weather gods dictate.

Short break for fishing.

Short break for fishing.

Campsites are wherever you want to put in and are generally welcoming and scenic.

Home for the night.

Home for the night.

Gravel, but it's flat and makes a good tent site.

Gravel, but it’s flat and makes good tent sites.

Puerto Vallarta North

Puerto Vallarta North

Every party camps at Wolf Tors and on each of my trips we have spent two nights there.

Camp at Wolf Tors. There are multiple levels to choose from, depending on how far you want to carry your gear.

Camp at Wolf Tors. There are multiple terraces to choose from, depending on how far you want to carry your gear.

Tors at Wolf Tors

Detail of tors at Wolf Tors. This was on my first trip and the weather was sunny.

Of course, the Firth has moods. On my third trip we were less fortunate.

Snow at Wolf Tors camp

Snow and my tent at Wolf Tors camp

One day, I may do a post on the travels of my little Hilleberg Jannu tent. It’s been through a lot and has never failed me.

After Wolf Tors, we entered the Canyon Reach and some exciting rapids. That’s for the next post.

FIRTH RIVER, YUKON: PART ONE

Treeless mountains, a winding course, fierce whitewater.

Treeless mountains, a winding course, fierce whitewater, coastal plain, a quiet end.

Eleven days. Ivvavik Nation Park in the Yukon. Ten thousand square km of wilderness north of the Arctic Circle. No roads, no inhabitants. A unique river that escaped the glaciers that scoured and scraped across Canada over the past two million years. Just us. Three rafts carrying people who love being the only humans in a place that has remained virtually unchanged since our species first appeared on the continent.

The only way to get here.

The only way to get here.

It begins with a bush plane that drops us off in a pleasant meadow. It ends on a lonely spit of land by the Beaufort Sea.

Sunset on Nunaluk Spit

Sunset on Nunaluk Spit

I’ve rafted the Firth three times with Nahanni River Adventures. I’d like to do it again before I die. It’s that magical.

I’ll have several posts about the river, using photos from two of my trips (my computer ate everything from my second journey). Below is a sampling.

First camp near Mary Lake

First camp near Margaret Lake. The Arctic was being kind to us.

Gravel beaches, grey skies.

Gravel beaches, grey skies.

Lunch in the cold with good companions.

Lunch in the cold with good companions.

Lots of time to explore.

Lots of time to explore.

Beautiful places to camp.

Beautiful places to camp.

Fascinating, ancient, multi-coloured rock

Fascinating, ancient, multi-coloured rock

Exciting rapids. The guides made us walk around this one.

Exciting rapids. The guides made us walk around this one.

A curious muskox.

A curious muskox.

The river ends in a peaceful and very shallow lagoon.

The river ends in a peaceful and very shallow lagoon.

Nunaluk Spit and the Beaufort sea. A barren, windswept place of haunting beauty.

Nunaluk Spit and the Beaufort sea. A barren, windswept place of haunting beauty.

Land's end at 2 a;m.

Land’s end at 2 a;m.

INTERLUDE IN YELLOWKNIFE

Welcome to Yellowknife, Dene Ndilo First Nations

Welcome to Yellowknife, Dene Ndilo First Nations

I don’t like cities, although I live in one and appreciate the amenities it offers. I don’t pretend to know Yellowknife, but I like it. It’s the capital of the Northwest Territories and its only city.

Four days between rafting trips gave me time to do laundry, plan a couple of hikes (mosquitoes quickly suggested a different itinerary) and visit the old town, which was a pleasant 30 minute walk from my hotel. First Nations, ravens, bedrock, quirky buildings, and Great Slave Lake: those are the images I remember. But even more, I remember how everyone I met while walking smiled and said “Hello.” That doesn’t happen in my city, where people seem afraid to look you in the eye.

From my hotel, I could see the lake in the distance, a generous swatch of the huge northern sky, and one of the brightly coloured buildings that are plentiful in places like Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Inuvik, but sadly lacking in Canadian cities farther to the south. When snow covers the ground for much of the year, what’s wrong with some blue, red, green, purple and yellow to break the monotony?

View from my hotel room.

View from my hotel room.

The historic old part of the city is especially colourful, with new beauty every few steps.

Art works abound.

Art works abound.

Add some flowers.

Add some flowers.

Or just paint your house blue.

Or just paint your house blue.

Quirky houses are everywhere.

One of my favourites.

One of my favourites.

Then I began to get quirky.

Then I began to get quirky.

And then there's the problem of building on solid bedrock.

And then there’s the problem of building on solid bedrock.  No basements here.

You do what you have to do, and if the rock isn't level, neither is your house.

You do what you have to do, and if the rock isn’t level, neither is your house.

But the real beauty of Yellowknife is the lake.

Boats and float planes

Boats and float planes

As the snow swirls around my window, I like to imagine that I am sitting in one of those chairs.

As December snow swirls around my window, I like to imagine that I’m sitting in one of those chairs.

I never did the hikes I planned. Just walking around the city, chatting with the friendly locals, including some who were down on their luck but no less friendly, was enough for this visit.

Will I be back? Of course. The North is a magnet that keeps reeling me in. And this trip, which began on the Nahanni, was not at an end. From Yellowknife I flew to Inuvik and a rafting trip on the Firth. That’s for future posts.

Nahanni Odds and Ends

Makenzie Orchid

Mackenzie Orchid

Most of the flowers I saw were old friends from the Rockies: death camas, potentilla, lousewort, asters, bog rosemary, and reindeer lichen. Lady slippers occur there as well, but the beautiful Mackenzie orchid (a version of Cypripedum guttatum) thrives only in the mist of Virginia Falls. At least I recognized it sufficiently to call it a lady slipper.

The following pretty bloom was a real puzzler.

Boschnialia rossica

Boschniakia rossica

I spent a long time searching the internet in vain for this one. Fortunately, one of our guides was a trained botanist and came to my rescue a few days ago. Its common name is northern groundcone, and it’s a parasite.

The final plant oddity isn’t really unusual; I just had not encountered it before. Plus, it wasn’t fully in bloom. This time, Ben Gadd’s  wonderful Handbook of the Canadian Rockies provided the answer, as it usually does for anything in the Boreal forest.

Striped Coral Root Corallorhiza striata

Striped Coral Root.  Corallorhiza striata

It’s another orchid. No leaves. It feeds on dead plant matter with a little help from fungal friends.

We didn’t see a lot of wildlife, but it was there.

Caribou tracks on a beach

Caribou tracks on a beach

A couple more sky pictures. The clouds were endlessly fascinating.

A sunny day with promise of showers later

A sunny day with promise of showers later

 

Cloud mountains

Cloud mountains

And finally, here is what the Nahanni would look like today if the mountains had not risen up around it. It still has its curves and oxbows, but they are far less obvious as they flow through deep canyons.

Flat-land river

Flat-land river

That’s all from the Nahanni. The next posts will deal with the rest of my summer holiday: Yellowknife and the Firth River.