BAJA CALIFORNIABy: Brendan Cull • twitter.com/BAACull
The scent of sweet pines wafts through the scruffy bush on a cool spring morning as I find myself on the shore of a lake that’s part of the Missinaibi River system in Northern Ontario, Canada. The pebble beach crunches underfoot as I check the shoreline for crayfish and wildflowers and catch sight of a shiny frog as it plops into the water, shooting out from under my foot just in the nick of time. The day is unsettled but I’m hopeful that all will become warm and calm – prime conditions for exploration and taking photographs.
I love paddling on days like this because I can plod along, enjoy the scenery, and hop in and out of my boat to take pictures. I know this lake well – I’ve been paddling it alone since I was about ten, although I go much farther from home base nowadays. The familiar high cliffs of the Canadian Shield tremble with roaring aspens when the breeze catches them (you have to experience that in person to fully understand what it sounds like). This place has been the inspiration of many a story, sketch and painting.
Today, I’m on the search for wildflowers and other shoreline life to shoot with my camera. Before I’ve even slipped the boat into the water, I catch sight of a Nodding Trillium near the edge of the treeline. Snap! It’s one of my first and favourite images of the trip and captures that quiet moment that I shared with nobody but a white-throated sparrow watching me from a nearby tree.
I’m off! I slide the canoe into the wind-kissed and icy lake and push along with my cherry wood paddle, cutting into the water and listening for tiny whirlpools as they collapse and fall away. I paddle for a while, soaking in the day. The sun peeks out from behind fluffy clouds and I feel the heat on my back. After some time, I stop to scout out some locations to shoot, have a snack, and apply sunscreen. The wind gently pushes on my starboard side, towards the granite shore where the sun is illuminating a stand of evergreens. Snap! Paddling closer, my eyes fall on the place where the Shield and water meet. The rippling water sprays the rock with light – another of my favourite images of the day. Moving quietly onwards through the water, I’m off for a few hours to bask in the sunshine and snap! snap! snap!
On my way back I smell that sweet, fresh smell from the bush wafting on a cool breeze. The poplars are rattling away – wind’s picking up. At shore I’m greeted by dozens of tiny playful helicopters. The dragonflies are grateful for a guest, especially one who brings dinner with him. I’m grateful for the company too since they make a feast of the mosquitos and blackflies that have been pestering me. Now for food cooked on the driftwood campfire while the sun slips into the western horizon giving way to the twinkling of a billion tiny stars.