A Vancouver photographer who sparked joy on the North Shore mountains by stringing Christmas lights on alpine trees over the festive season has come up with a new way to lift peoples’ spirits as pandemic life continues.
Before COVID-19 struck, most of Jason Brawn’s adventures involved at least one friend to share the experience with. But for over a year now, the alpine enthusiast has had to go mostly solo. The change in lifestyle is what has inspired him to come up with new ways to connect with those around him at a safe distance.
“Over the winter I did it with Christmas trees in the alpine, where the smiles I saw filled my spiritual fuel tanks,” Brawn said. "With the sun and warmer weather arriving, it was time to come up with something different.”
Instead of glowing lights, he’s now using a colourful kite to put smiles on faces. It was Earth Day (April 22) that Brawn decided to head into Cypress Provincial Park to fly his kite for the first time this spring.
“I skied up Mount Strachan, where a few folks with either snowshoes or backcountry skis like to head up and enjoy sunset this time of year,” he explained. “I lashed a light-wind kite to my pack, arrived at the summit a little before sunset, and set up my camera to catch an evening flight using a self-timer to take a shot every two seconds from atop a nearby rise.”
As with the festive trees, Brawn said he “saw a number of big smiles and enjoyed some kinds words,” he also answered questions about dual-line kites and “felt that bit of human connection so many of us are enjoying too little of these days.”
Reliving the moment through a composite image
To spread the happiness further, Brawn decided to post some images of the experience on social media, but when he got home and looked over the many photos, he had far too many favourite shots to choose just one.
His answer was to create a composite image in PhotoShop.
“For anyone curious, this involved choosing about 50 candidate photos, importing them as individual layers each set at 50 per cent opacity, so I could see all of them at once, choosing the images I felt complimented each other well, then compositing those into a single image,” Brawn explained.
“I don’t do this often because of the considerable time involved to do it right, but after working on it most of the next evening I could see this was the perfect way to convey the evening’s flight.”
He described the kite’s dance above the mountains as both “frenetic and graceful,” and one that couldn’t be captured in a single image alone.
“I could see that duality in the composite image – hear the buzz of the fabric in a hard turn, the soft hum resonating down the lines to the loops on my fingertips, and the complete silence during a lull when the kite would just hang momentarily like a raven floating on an updraft.
“As much as a still image could capture such a dynamic experience, some luck and careful editing brought the moment to life, and I’m pleased with the results.”
On top of it all, he said the real takeaway from that evening “was profound gratitude for living in such a beautiful part of the world.”
“I can’t imagine having spent Earth Day in a more spectacular setting.”
See more of Brawn’s uplifting photographs on his Instagram account @bcclimber.
Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.