Saturday, January 15, 2011

Canada's National Parks: A Celebration

I find it interesting, and somewhat of a struggle at the same time, to decide what to write in this blog that might be of interest to readers. I really don’t think of myself doing anything special or unique. Then a friend asked me why he couldn’t get a copy of the latest project I was involved with: Canada’s National Parks – A Celebration.

To be honest, it sold out in just a couple of weeks and the printers were having a difficult time getting a second run in before Christmas. In hindsight we now know that didn’t happen, but if one is in the right city and near the right Chapters/Indigo you might be lucky to get a copy. Otherwise, we’ll have to wait.

Perhaps this is something significant. After all, in the five books I have been directly involved with this is the second best seller and by far the most successful. Perhaps then –maybe- the background story might be of interest.

I can’t recall when I first had the idea, but it was near the beginning of my career as a photographer. As a wild guess I can probably say about 15 years ago I had this idea of doing a book on Canada’s National Parks. When we start in our careers as visual artists, many of us have an ego that we carry around in a bucket – I was no different. What a great notion: Produce a great book of my great photographs of the greatest landscape in the country. Well two of the three was possible but I quickly realized that there was no way I could capture images from every national park in Canada in my lifetime, and even if I could they wouldn’t be the greatest available. I gave it a gallant effort though as I have photographed in every national park in eastern Canada, with the exception of the newly gazetted Torngat Mountains National Park, as well as all of the mountain parks in Alberta and British Columbia. I will get to the rest.

Advance to 2008, or so. I do a lot of contract work with Parks Canada and I heard a rumbling some of these folks were looking for a special project for the 125th anniversary of the first park in the system – Banff. I blew the dust of my book and made a pitch; today we have a national bestseller.

Somewhere between the idea and the delivery, thank goodness, my ego was deflated. I recognized that this should be a book celebrating a milestone, and in order to have a celebration one needs a party, and to have a party one needs people. In this case I wanted to invite my photography friends to join me in this party - some of these friends I have known since we started in business together more than 20 years ago. Others are friends I know of and have yet to meet, but I look forward to that day so we can continue this party. Here is the list of these great talents that I was delighted to share pages with.

There was also a team silently working in the background, those unsung hero’s that we never hear about and rarely know what they contribute. If we see an incredible book we accept it for what it is but rarely recognize why. By comparison, if we see a really bad book we often know why, be it bad writing or bad design. With Canada’s National Parks: A Celebration I was unbelievably fortunate to have the finely tuned skills of three Parks Canada employees working with me.

While I slogged away looking at around 150,000 photos in order to find the “right” (I think it was 197) photos, designer Guy LeBlanc laid down the pages with incredible skill and detail. Proof reader, copy editor and writer Suzanne Bagnell spun together the words as only a wordsmith can  and project manager Gerry Boulet kept us all on track and smiling with his dry and off-cuff humour. More detailed specifics and environmental considerations of this project can be found here.

If you are looking for a great armchair trek through some of the most spectacular scenery in the country I think you can do no better than Canada's National Parks: A Celebration.  Yes, (with tongue in cheek) I do still have a bit of an ego and a bias.