I didn’t expect to leave Peace River after eight months.
There were several competing circumstances, which eventually led to my decision to change jobs. I have now been in my new home, Whitecourt, Alta. about 300 km southeast of Peace River, or 175 km northwest of Edmonton working at the Whitecourt Star, the weekly newspaper in town, for just over a month.
More to come on Whitecourt, though in another post – for now a wrap up of Peace River.
Below is the text of my final column in the Record-Gazette, it sums up my feelings on leaving the town pretty well. Below that, are a bunch of photos from the summer in Peace River, June – until my departure in early September.
From the Peace River Record-Gazette Sept. 10, 2014
Well Peace River this is it for us.
This will be my final column in the Peace River Record-Gazette and this is the final issue I will be working on.
Starting this Wednesday I will be taking up a position at the Whitecourt Star.
Peace River will forever hold a special place in my heart. Not just because this was my first full-time job in journalism but because Peace River is a truly special place.
This is a town where a trip to the grocery store can involve seeing the northern lights, deer, or a moose or two.
It’s a place of immense natural beauty coupled with great opportunity. Not every small-town is like that.
One of the indicators I noticed are the number of young professionals in town who are from town. The number of kids who move away for post-secondary then return to pursue a career here must be disproportionate, compared to other similar sized towns.
What it says, is that even after ‘getting out,’ seeing the world, and living in the city, lots of the youth still want to come back.
That really says a lot about this place.
What is stunning is the self-awareness of the people here as well. Many of the people I talk to understand not only what a gift a place like this is but also the responsibility it entails.
You see that in the community groups that spring up and the ability of the community to fundraise for certain projects.
Urban centres would pay untold amounts of money to have this kind of community spirit and Peace River has it in spades.
It’s going to take a while to digest all the things that Peace River has taught me.
However, to everyone in this community I want to say thank you, thank you for reading, thank you for caring and thank you for being you.
For all of us here at the Record-Gazette, you stay classy Peace River.
– Adam Dietrich
Well that’s it.
Next post will be about Whitecourt I guess.
Ok so it’s been a month since my last post. April was a bit of a slow and weird month, I spent a lot of time working out the details for my return home and my replacement in July.
However, that’s neither here nor there. I spent most of the month working on a feature about the volunteer firefighters here in Nosara. Aside from that it was the odd assignment for the web. There has been some reorganizing of the staff internally and it’s been a somewhat confusing to say the least, but everything is starting to straighten itself out.
So going in chronological order…
Early in April I stopped by the Nosara Yoga Spa for a trippy little concert featuring three very talented guitarists. One of them, Bill McPhearson, is credited with starting the live music scene, more or less, in Nosara, with a Tuesday night acoustic set at the Gilded Iguana, a popular bar/hotel in town.
Tuesdays at the Iguana have now become an iconic part of Nosara’s nightlife. McPhearson has also left Nosara to take up a teaching post in California. However, he is married to a Tico (slang for Costa Rican) so he plans to return once a year at least.
About a week later I went to the animal rescue centre for a web feature on adoptable pets. It was fun, the animals were cute and the woman who runs it is incredibly dedicated.
Plus I shot all the portraits at f/1.4 it’s the newest coolest thing in photojournalism (I say that somewhat sarcastically). Basically it means shooting with the shallowest depth of field you possibly can, hence in this photo, literally only one eye is in focus. More and more photographers are paying big bucks for lenses that open to f/1.4, 1.8, 2, and I guess the logic is, if you’re paying for it why not use it? This was one of the first times I found it useful for an assignment that wasn’t a portrait.
I’ve also been getting into shape somewhat. We’ve been running a blog-style post a week on the web about fitness options in Nosara. What it means is I get to take a variety of free classes, ask some questions snap some pics then write a brief first person perspective on it.
So far there’s been Crossfit, which defeated me (I’m picking words carefully here), a Zumba/Bootie Fit class and today Tai Chi, my favourite thus far as been Tai Chi. although Crossfit made me feel like the hulk and Zumba/Bootie Fit left me feeling like a back up dancer in a rap video…
Anyway the photos weren’t anything special from any of the classes, but I like this one because I’m visible. I never ‘see’ myself at work, and after looking at this photo I think that’s a good thing.
So this will mark the third post I have with rodeo pictures. This time it was in the beach town of Garza, about 10km outside Nosara. It was pretty cool and it operated the same way as the Nosara fiestas, after two of which, I had a system down.
The big thing at this fiesta was this psychotic bull called ‘Malacrianza,’ which I was specifically asked to get a picture of. Talk about pressure, the rider lasted 7 seconds. At three frames per second (5D Mk II) that gives me a max of 14 photos. I had 8 useable ones, these two are my favorites. It was crazy though the arena was sparsely lit with these flickering floodlights, every photo the white balance is a little different then the last. Also Malacrianza was bucking in he part of the arena where my placement counter to floodlights left my pictures washed out. For those familiar with Adobe Lightroom, these photos have the contrast and black toned tab turned up 100%, and even still the photo lacks contrast…
I like that he wore a hockey helmet, it’s the second one I saw in Costa Rica, the first one was on a motorcycle driver…
These fiestas are crazy… people in and out of the ring.
Over the course of the month I’ve been meeting with the Nosara firefighters, speaking with their funders and founders, and other towns nearby about their situation for a feature on the underfunded and overworked volunteer department here. The feature sprang from an idea I pitched in March about a series of portraits of the firefighters with bios and their opinions on what they needed to better do their job.
The idea was based off a project I saw by Canadian Photojournalist Louie Palu, he worked in Afghanistan for a while and shot a really stunning series of portraits of the soldiers he was with. More pics shot at f/1.4. Palu’s work is here, check it out, I still don’t have anything on it, but that’s how painters in the renaissance learned, first by painting work done by masters before them, then developing past or outside that.
I’ve never been to or photographed an orchestra before, so this past Saturday was cool. In March I wrote a preview story about a group of parents at the local Montessori school, they were planning to bring an orchestra from Nicoya comprised of high school music students to perform in Nosara. It was big, more than 400 people turned out to see it. Most of whom had never seen a show like that before.
The conductor was great, he was so emotive I had a hard time filing down pics.
I shot a bunch of regular photos of people playing instruments but to be honest, just a straight photo of someone playing a violin is boring, unless they’re really emotive or flamboyant. So I was looking for something different. Because they were kids most barely saw over their music stands, I decided to play around with that, this was my favorite.
This one falls outside the chronological order of the post as I shot it on the 24th. I looked outside my window and saw a strangely bright star, I looked it up on Google and it turns out that night Venus was going to rise with the moon and be visible to the naked eye. I set up a tripod and took a photo, I haven’t done much astrography, but I want to try more. It’s more accessible than I thought, I mean this was taken at a 270mm focal length, nothing huge, you just have to know when and where to look.
On the 5th of May there will be what’s called a ‘super moon,’ basically based on the Earth and Lunar orbits this will be the closest the moon comes to the Earth all year, making it look much brighter, bigger and visible.
I think I’ll bust out my medium format, which by the way works. I had this old 50’s folding 6×6 shipped to me and I processed the first roll of film, some expired TriX a friend gave me. Camera works great and it felt badass to process film in Central America. #imanerd
Anyway, that’s it for now.
I’ve now been back in Nosara for about two weeks. The First week was a slow ease into things but last week, starting on Thursday, was incredibly busy. There was a movie opening, a concert, a surf tournament and a few articles and multimedia pieces I had to do coupled with a sudden fire that sprang up Sunday night.
I think the easiest way is explain is to go through this chronologically.
On Thursday March 8, the Voice of Nosara had organized an event with a Costa Rican filmmaker. The Movie, ‘El Fin,’ which is a dark comedy about the end of the world caused by a speeding asteroid, was played. We couldn’t find a big enough sheet or a suitable theatre so instead the film was projected on the side of a truck. We had some 350 chairs and 400 people showed up to watch the movie. Personally I enjoyed it; it was really well written, funny and yet dark.
Some of the scenes were shot at Pelada beach, about 15 minutes walking from my house.
The next morning I was up early for an interview. The local Montessori school is bringing a 90-piece symphony orchestra for a free performance in Nosara; it’ll be the first time a show like this is put on. The organizers are all parents of children at the school, so I had to meet them before they went to work for the day. The interview went well, although transcribing it was fun… I hate transcribing interviews anyway and trying to do it in a foreign language is just that much more tedious.
However, there wasn’t much time to work on it, that evening was the opening night of the second round of Nosara’s fiestas. The first round, held January 28, had been one of my first assignments with Voice of Nosara. I’d be lying if I said I was pleased with the pictures I got from the first round, they sucked. Partially that was because I was still figuring everything out then but that’s not really an excuse. In the intervening month and a bit I had sent photos out to different photographers for critiques, people were generous with their time and responded, I took all the advice I received and kept it in mind and came away with what I considered to be a pretty good showing, especially compared to last time.
There was a doubles ride which seemed like a bad idea…
remarkably no serious injuries…
However, a decline in attendees was bad news for food vendors and games operators.
I got home from the fiestas around 11:30 then started editing, I wanted to stay on top of it otherwise I knew it would catch up. Importing my photos, took twice as long as normal because I accidently broke my card reader so I’ve had to use the camera to import. However, I did download a trial version of Adobe Lightroom 4, it has gotta be the most powerful photo editor I’ve ever used. I finished up around 2am and went to sleep.
At 6:30am the next morning I had to get up to meet my ride to the Triple Crown Surf contest, the first of three surf contests. This one was hosted at Playa Ostional, some 15km from my house and because the quad needed repairs I was getting a ride from my bosses friend.
Upon arriving I saw something I haven’t seen in a while… other photographers! There were three of them, all setting up big tri-pods. Curious, I got talking with one guy who told I needed at least a 400mm lens to be able to properly shoot surfing… I hate when people tell me this, “You can’t shoot such and such, because you don’t have such and such.” It happened for years shooting basketball at Carleton, and I more than made it work.
By the numbers here’s the advantage: All the surf photographers were using 7D’s, whose sensor is slightly smaller than my 1D, this meant that a 400 on their cameras had a true focal length of something like 620mm. The longest lens I have is a 135mm, I also have a 2x teleconverter, which doubles the focal length to 270mm. On my 1D its true focal length, because of sensor size, is 320mm giving them twice the reach. My solution was to wade into the water up to my waist further proving that you don’t ‘need’ a 400mm to shoot surfing.
I got home in the early afternoon; exhausted I edited some pictures then fell into a deep sleep. I woke up just in time to get on the shuttle bus headed up the hill to the 4th Annual Caricaco music festival hosted at the hotel Tierra Magnifica. The set up was unreal, it looked like one of those shots of an after party location in Entourage, the OC or the Hills. There were projectors with fancy light patterns, and open pool in front of the stage, sushi bar etc. The eight bands that played were also excellent. My favorite was one of the local acts called ‘Calle.’ They played ska and did a really good job of it. The lead singer, who wore an Alexisonfire t-shirt, also happens to be the general practitioner in Nosara… Small town.
As I said, the set-up was unreal…
And some fire dancing…
It was capped off with fireworks before the last band, although I asked for the names and even offered digital prints they flat out refused and started making-out. Bah.
By the time I got to sleep again it was close to 2am, although this time I wasn’t able to edit before bed, I was too tired. The next morning I wanted to sleep but there is construction across the road from me and they start with power tools at 6am everyday and go until 7pm. I was up so I started editing pictures and working on a video for the Voice of Nosara website, I’ve started doing more multimedia, its not something I’m good at or comfortable with yet, but I need to learn and the practice is good.
Sunday night I was looking forward to being able to relax again. However, literally just after I finished editing photos from the night before and having decided to make dinner I received a text message from my boss saying the dump had caught fire and she was looking for a ride for us to get there.
We got there just as the sun went down, which made pictures fun. I used my flash a bit, but in the pitch darkness it just ended up flooding the scene and destroying the drama in the pictures. The Nosara volunteer fire dept. barely has functioning hoses much less a system of flood lights, however, in one area they were using the light of a pick-up truck to work by, I settled in there to shoot some silhouettes and actually came away with one picture I’m fond of.
Monday was tying up lose ends. I finished captioning pictures and re-edited a few and finished a multimedia piece on the fiestas. Then Tuesday I returned to the article about the symphony, the interview now four days old it took a while to get into writing it, and then I finished a multimedia piece on Caricaco.
Yesterday after finishing everything off I decided to unwind a bit by going to the beach to read. While there I spotted some locals climbing the trees. Snapped a photo then went over to chat, they ended up offering me a coconut fresh off the tree, sooo good.
Today I’m treating like Sunday, as a day off. Then starting tomorrow I wanna get a head start on an article I’m doing freelance, it’s a travel piece I hope to sell to Canadian media. After that I have several events coming up and I’d like to be ahead of the game for once so I think I’ll contact the people involved in organizing them ahead of time.
Below are some links to the stories from the last couple of days including links to the multimedia pieces.
Also the Voice of Nosara has started working with other Costa Rican papers, mostly online stuff. We share stories that are relevant with them and they do likewise. The idea is to create more web traffic. One of my photos was used on elpais.cr and my preview about the Triple Crown Surf contest was just reposted to insidecostarica.com
So that’s it this week, coming up there’s a second round of the triple Crown Surf contest this Saturday. Saturday night is a picture story about St. Patricks at the Black Sheep pub, the only Irish-style pub in Nosara and on the 20th fiestas come to Garza a town 10km away.
This week has been a little hectic, compared with the previous one at least. It’s production week for the paper meaning decisions about cover, content selection and layout need to be made. I’ve worked production at a paper before, however, the charlatan is a weekly publication, the voice of nosara publishes once a month. Which means content relevance is perhaps the most challenging aspect, since the issue will sit on stands for a month, the stories and pictures inside need to be relevant for the whole month.
So on Wednesday I was asked to go to a hotel in town to get a photo of liquor for a story on the changing liquor laws here. Apparently there are a limited number licenses available depending on community size, most of those licenses have already been bought up at prices as low as $6, the owners of those licenses in many cases rent them out for as much as $3000 a month, that’s a hell of business plan. Most license owners purchased theirs as far back as the 30’s and have held on, clearly some updates to the law are needed.
The folks at the hotel agreed to make me a cocktail so I could photograph it. I was supposed to keep logos and faces out so as not to implicate the hotel as one of the abusers of the liquor licenses… the photos were kind of boring but the drink was on the house, so I lingered by their pool and sipped it after. Not too bad.
Thursday was an equally quiet day; all I did was work on a few police briefs for the printed copy then hit the beach. We managed to figure out that the suspected thief captured in Nosara the other week had been released on his own recognizance pending a trial date. The police seem to have a case against him although the residents are still paranoid. After that I worked on another brief about a car fire from a week ago, seems a battery shorted and the hood caught on fire, otherwise no major issue.
That evening I decided to go to the beach to read. I ended spending more time photographing surfers in the fading light, I got a few nice ones…
As I said.. less reading more photography…
Sunsets here are beautiful, though I think I’ve stated this before.
Though it looks like there’s no waves they show up. One minute the ocean would be calm as can be, then suddenly it would swell and there would be waves.
This time I used the 5D, shooting at 6400 ISO gives you a lot more more leeway, just fewer fps for catching peak action.
Finally the sun hit the horizon and everyone just kind of stopped to watch it.
Friday was the start of two busy days… First I was given a driving lesson on the quad and access to the keys. It was maybe the third time in my life I’d driven a quad and the first time I’d driven a manual transmission vehicle. The driving lesson was mostly my boss groaning every time the quad lurched as I tried to change gears…
The reason I needed access to the quad was to get to Nosara for the fiestas of Nosara, a three-day rodeo and festival on the edge of town. The event opened on Friday evening, it was part rodeo, carnival, running with the bulls and community dance.
Safety precautions were not quite what they would have been in Canada, spectators are allowed right up to the fence, they can even sit on it.
There was a big arena set up in a field outside of town; the rodeo games began with an introduction of the rodeo riders, complete with a prayer. Then they released the first rider, after he was thrown the real games began… Drunk locals and tourists then would taunt the bull until he charged them, then they try to get out of the way… I personally couldn’t believe it, in Canada the Calgary Stampede takes flack every year for potential animal abuse, in Costa Rica participants take their lives in their hands without even signing a waiver…
Although I didn’t get in the ring I did spend most of the time sitting on the fence, at one point a bull charged and in my rush to get back over my sandal caught the edge of the fence and I fell about 5 feet. I din’t break any equipment or bones and I landed on the right side side of the fence.
Of course I might have been overreacting… I mean if drunk, barefoot tourists can get in the ring without spilling their beers, I probably would have been ok.
Friday was a late affair; the event started at 8pm and went until about 2am. I left around 12:45, because after 12 the rodeo was finished, the sober people left and the dance began. I was tired and drove home to edit. Having never shot a Rodeo before, and having to compete with some truly shitty lighting I somehow shot just over 1200 frames, I have never shot that many in a single night. I trimmed them to a further 76 then finally down to 15 for use on the voice of nosara’s facebook page, it was about 3am when I finally got to bed. Apparently they’ve set aside two pages in the paper as well, so some should make it in there as a pictorial story.
Saturday was thus a slow start, however, after lunch it was back on the quad to head to the second event called the Tope (pronounced toe-pay). The Tope is basically a big lunch and party, complete with some cowboy skills competitions. Since I’m missing the all-star game in Ottawa, this is the best I could do…
It was brutally hot, I’m not sure how people could drink beer and whiskey for 3 straight hours in that heat and still ride home…
I tried some shooting from the hip, there’s an old photography adage, “F/8 and be there,” it means closing your aperture enough to increase your depth of field, allowing you to shoot without have to worry too much where your focus is. In this case it let me catch this without having to be obvious about it.
And of course there were lots of horses. I spent some time on a farm in Uruguay in 2007 which cultivated a real appreciation for horses, these were pretty talented riders too.
This evening is the finale but I don’t think I’ll be there, today is my day off and my boss has the quad so I’d have to bike the 7km. Instead I’m going to start work on a new project and get some beach time. There is a hotel, bar and adventure travel company in town called The Gilded Iguana. The owners are originally from Toronto and have established their business here as a sort of fixture. Several people have told me that The Gilded Iguana is the place to be in town on a Tuesday night. I was there this past Tuesday with my boss and the place was packed, we couldn’t find a seat much less a table for most of the evening. I met with the owner and asked if she’d be interested in an interview, I think this is something that if pitched properly could be freelanced to a Canadian publication.
So I sent the owners an email and received a speedy reply essentially saying drop by whenever, so today I’ll call and hopefully be able to meet with them. This isn’t a project I intend to rush, I’d like to take time, and build trust, if this is going to work I’ll need photographic access to the entire operation. So I’d like to start with a very basic introductory interview, and hopefully a tour, I doubt I’ll shoot a single frame today. After a few months, I’ll hopefully have something marketable.
P.S. My apologies for the break in posting this week and thus the huge post today. The office internet has been down for the last three days, it started working this morning again, so fingers crossed it keeps working…