Norm Hann in the Hartley Bay cultural centre

As Anthony as been eluding, b4apres is undertaking a new project and I am very stoked to be a part of it.  The details of this will be released in the near future, but to get things going I have a number of photos from my first visit to the town of Hartley Bay, BC.  Hartley Bay is situated on the north coast of British Columbia and is home to the Gitga’at First Nations people.  These people have a rich culture of living off of the land and the ocean and they are great stewards of the environment.  Hartley Bay is also a part of the Great Bear Rainforest, a wildlife haven both above and  below the sea level that spans from Haida Gwaii down past Bella Bella.  I arrived here 5 days ago and I can say it has been a very inspiring and dynamic 5 days.  The pure beauty of the natural environment gets within you and never ceases to amaze.  Weather here moves faster than I have ever seen, and that means a lot as my home on the south coast of BC involves some already dynamic weather.  From sun to rain to wind to snow to fog to rain to sun to rain to snow, I have pretty much seen it all in the past week.

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Prior to arriving in Hartley Bay, I did not really know what to expect.  I was traveling with Norm Hann (Mountain Surf Adventures), who’s wealth of knowledge in the GBR and in Hartley is great, due to work he has done in the region in the past 12 years. Relying on Norm for any guidance, I was in a ‘go with the flow’ mode from the moment I got on the ferry to leave my home on the Sunshine Coast.  What seemed like a momentary instant later, I was suddenly walking down the boardwalk away from the floatplane that dropped us off at the water/air access only community.  Boardwalks are built throughout the community and act as the main surfaces of transportation for every mode of transportation (ATVs and feet).  As we walked past houses, the community centre, and a moss-rich basketball court, we were greeted with a rainbow overtop of the community gym and totem poles.  It was quite the site to arrive to.



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After settling in at the residence of the ever gracious Cam and Eva Hill (thank you so much for your hospitality!), I began adventuring around the community, soaking in the scene and shooting some imagery.  One thing that I noticed immediately was the friendly nature of the Gitga’at people.  Everyone greeted me with a smile and a ‘hello’ even though I was some fresh white guy with a couple of cameras walking around their town.  As the afternoon sun hit the freshly snow capped mountains, Norm grabbed his paddle board and I donned a kayak and we paddled out on the ocean.  Lesson #1 was learned here : shooting video from a kayak in the ocean is nearly impossible as there is almost always some swell to bob you around.  Lesson #2 was learned shortly there after : cameras cannot swim….nope, just kidding.  The stunning scenery near Hartley Bay is mind blowing.


Fresh snow and a clean ocean

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Our arrival to Hartley could not have been timed better.  It was the low tide of the year, which meant that people would be heading out to collect cockles (a type of bivalve).  Suited up with many layers, Norm and I joined some others and headed out into the darkness for a bay about 25 minutes away.  We raked the ground for cockles for a couple of hours until the tide started rapidly rising higher than our gumboots would allow. It was a real privilege to join the locals on this adventure as it is a traditional harvesting food site where the First Nations have used it as a food source for centuries.  Actual Lession #2 was learned on the boat ride back to Hartley Bay : weather can turn on you in a second on the north coast of BC.  What 2 hours ago was calm smooth waters, even some stars out, became a swell rich ocean dumping rain and pitch blackness….sure glad I wasn’t driving the boat.   These cockles would later serve up the next 3 meals and were so tasty and fresh.  This leads me to the food experience.  Every dinner we had included food provided from the ocean.  Cockles, octopus, black cod, and sockeye salmon, all delicious, all natural, the way it should remain forever in this region!!


Cockle digging in the dark and wet…only 2-3 days a year you can do this as the tides needs to be as low as it gets so whenever that tide hits, you go.

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Throughout the next few days I would wander around town filming various scenes, setting up timelapses, and capture still images of the people, landscape and culture of Hartley Bay.  I ventured out into a nearby estuary on the kayak one rainy day.  With a wetsuit on, I was not worried about getting wet, but my camera gear on the other hand prefers to stay dry.  Dryness doesn’t exist here. Only wet and more wet.  The estuary adventure was filled with amazing sites along the river.  Moss growths on trees beyond one’s imaginations were some of the major sites that caught my attention.  Being in this place, filled with complete silence, no lights, no people, nothing except the prospect of bears or wolves, was unnerving and exhilarating at the same time.  It is moments like this that I fear while at the same time moments like this that I seek as I know they will expand my horizons.  Unfortunately I did not cross paths with a bear or wolf, but maybe next time.  With the rain pouring down like a monsoon, I got my camera out and shot a couple of frames.  My ghetto umbrella came in handy a few times while shooting in pouring rain and I was very thankful to have a warm home to come to to dry gear and dry myself.


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With my hosts and Norm (who are all educators) so graciously hosting me, I put together a small film from the images captured and presented it to the children of the Hartley Bay school earlier this morning.  To see the kids sitting in front of the screen with jaws dropped, looking at images that were recorded only a day before in their own backyards, was awesome.  I plan on coming back up to this community and moments like this solidify the desire to do so and help give back and share my knowledge with the people who so willingly share theirs.

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With so much to reflect on, this is turning into an essay.  If you have made it this far, thank you for reading what is a glimpse into my past few days as we start an adventure that will surely present some great stories and images in a cinematic experience.  A huge thanks goes to Norm Hann for introducing me to so many wonderful people in the community of Hartley Bay, to Cam and Eva Hill for their hospitality and great food, and to everyone else in the town for not giving me weird looks when running around their boardwalks with cameras for 5 days in a row.

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Gallery time!

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2 Responses to First Glimpse into the Culture of the Great Bear Rainforest

  1. Tiffany says:

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  2. Felisha says:

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