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Discovering Canada – Haida Gwaii (preview)

©Mike Grandmaison
Driftwood on Agate Beach at dusk, Nikon Provincial Park, Graham Island, Haida Gwaii, BC

Once called the Queen Charlotte Islands, Haida Gwaii is an archipelago off the west coast of British Columbia covering an area of about 10,180 sq. km. In terms of location, Haida Gwaii is to the west coast of Canada what Newfoundland is to the east coast — it’s as far as you can get in the country. Haida Gwaii is separated from the mainland of British Columbia in the east by the Hecate Strait, from Alaska in the United States in the north by the Dixon Channel and from Vancouver Island in the south by Queen Charlotte Sound. To the west of Haida Gwaii lies the Pacific Ocean. The two main islands in the archipelago are Graham Island in the north and Moresby Island just south of it, but Haida Gwaii also includes 150 smaller islands. Some of the other major islands include Anthony, Langara, Louise, Lyell, Burnaby and Kunghit. Haida Gwaii is accessed from Prince Rupert by water via the BC Ferries to Skidegate on Graham Island and by air from the airports at Sandspit on Moresby Island and at Masset on Graham Island.


Haida Gwaii is the “Land of the Haida People.” The first humans thought to have settled here arrived some 13,000 years ago to the Americas, presumably via the Bering Strait. Europeans by the names of Juan Pérez and James Cook were known to have visited Haida Gwaii as far back as 1774 and 1778 respectively. It is believed that some 30,000 people inhabited the area when the first Europeans arrived, but the population was decimated in the 1800s by diseases such as smallpox, measles and syphilis until only about 3,500 people remained by 1900. Today the population on the islands is about 4,500, of which about half are Haida people.

Years of longing to visit the group of islands finally paid off last year when I spent five days exploring the area …

To read and see more of Mike Grandmaison’s adventure to BC’s Haida Gwaii region, and to read more of this not-to-miss issue please pick up the Winter 2018 issue today online or at your local newsstand. To never miss an issue you can subscribe here

3 Responses to “Discovering Canada – Haida Gwaii (preview)”

  1. D Bradshaw says:

    I found the article interesting and informative but the photos were just plain awful. I don’t understand what Mike was going for with the images on page 60. The colours are way off and nothing like reality. This is the type of images you present for a travel article?
    Hoping for better in the next issue.

  2. Mike Grandmaison says:

    Hello Mr. Bradshaw:

    Thank you kindly for your note. I am sorry that you were disappointed with the photographs that accompanied the article. In particular, you mentioned that the color of the photographs that appeared on page 60 were not real. While I normally try and stay fairly close to reality with my processing, especially with natural history subject matter, there are times when I may lean more towards my creative side rather than strictly documenting a situation. Photography is an art form and, as artists, we do have the choice of presenting our images based on how we ‘feel’ about them. Travel photography is one genre of photography where I do occasionally stray from reality slightly. In my fine art work, in particular, I usually follow ‘my heart’.

    In the article in question, I can say that the colors are ‘fairly’ true. Photographing digitally, I capture images in the RAW format and later process the RAW images back in the office on color calibrated monitors. Part of the difficulty of course is ‘remembering’ exactly what the scene looked like, based on my memory of the situation, let alone trying to remember the nuances of color that existed at the time. While processing the RAW files and making adjustments of exposure, contrast and color, these all affect how an image will look like. The images on page 60 were the result of very dramatic situations and the published images were my responses to those situations. While they may not be exactly as they were, I for one could never replicate that situation. There is always an element of personal choice involved. The simple fact of selecting a wide-angle lens or a telephoto lens over a ‘normal’ lens changes reality. Anything we do as photographic artists affects the reality of a situation. Years ago, the photo on pages 58-59 would have captured a very distinct ‘blue cast’ on the slide film as a result of the reciprocity failure of the film due to the long exposure as well as the cloudy conditions. Different films also reacted very differently to color and reciprocity failure. Shooting digitally in RAW format, I opted for that same look on pages 58-59 that I was very familiar when with film. The amount of blue depends partly on my taste as much as the overcast situation. Duplicating exactly what we see in nature is a daunting task indeed but it is seldom my intention to do so either. Having said that, I don’t often stray too far from reality when displaying natural history subjects and, to some extent, travel subjects too. In addition to the factors mentioned above, many other factors involved in publishing photographs can also affect the look of an image; these include converting the images we captured in RGB colour space to a CMYK colour space, as well as applying a printer profile and a paper profile to that CMYK converted image. Spending time on prepress and then on press at the printer can truly make a difference on the quality of the resulting printed page. Having said that, time and costs do not allow us to fine tune images printed in books, let alone in magazines. Having said that, the images in question have not been adversely affected from the conversions from RGB to CMYK and from the subsequent additions of the two profiles.

    Again, I am sorry that you did not like the two images printed on page 60. While I would love to please everyone in the process of pleasing myself as an artist, I realize this is not always possible. I think I succeeded in the vast majority of situations, based on the reviews from publishing dozens of articles in various magazines internationally as well as 15 books to date. That doesn’t mean that everyone likes or should like my work however. I too have my own favorite artists that inspire me while others leave me feeling cold or empty. I hope that you will continue to seek out Outdoor Photography Canada magazine because it has, in its first 10 years of publication, featured many excellent contributors and stories. Of course, I hope that you will also have a look at some of the back issues of the magazine and, in the process, perhaps have a chance to see more great imagery by our contributors.



  3. regor250 says:

    On the Winter 2018 Haida Gwaii photos subject, I was somewhat left on my appetite from a lack of any totem imagery from K’una ancient Haida village, which was discussed at great lengths in the article. It would have been a nice complement to this otherwise well written article.


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