I never run out of things to take pictures of in Nelson.
Having just wrapped up my second calendar year at the Star, I now have an archive that includes literally tens of thousands of photographs, of everything from babies to bears to bank robbers. And every single one comes with a unique Kootenay story.
Below are my Top 10 favourite photos from 2015.
#10. Andrew Stevenson
I first arrived in Nelson only a couple of days after the shotgun-wielding bank robber Andrew Stevenson was captured while making off with stolen funds from the Nelson & District Credit Union. He led police on a harrowing car chase out the highway towards Castlegar.
Because Stevenson injured his legs during the chase and was originally tried via video link, we were unable to get a picture of him being escorted into the courtroom. I staked out the courthouse twice in 2014, all to no avail. I even missed his ill-advised escape attempt.
Then this year, as his sentencing was coming up, my editor Greg had me stake out the courthouse again. This time I was in luck: a local sheriff recognized me and gave me tips on where to get set up for the best angle.
The reason I chose this photo is simple: Stevenson is a regular-looking dude, similar in age to me, and my first reaction upon spotting him was he’s so small.
Stevenson was addicted to black market morphine during his crime spree, and trudging by handcuffed he looked pathetic and miserable. I make no excuses for his actions, but taking his picture drove something home for me: he’s human.
#9. Todd’s Playground
I met Rosemont Elementary’s Todd St. Pierre for the first time this year, when I drove up to check out the grand opening of their newly opened wheelchair-accessible playground.
“This is inclusion,” Todd’s mother told me, tearful during the ceremony. “This is really important, it’s a big piece of having him be included not just in the school but in the whole community. He’s really proud.”
What I like about the group shot I got, which features Todd’s mother Holly, Superintendent Jeff Jones and Principal Kathy Spiers, is it illustrates how many different people are involved in creating our students’ learning environments.
It takes a village, people.
#8. Midsummer Night’s Dreaming
We have a number of talented youngsters in this area, and three that made a big impression on me this year were Luther Perry, Elle Backus-Horton and Sylvia Hardy—all who starred in this year’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I feel like this picture perfectly captures their three characters: Titania the fairy queen, King Oberon and Puck. I should give a special shout-out to Hardy, who was game to wrench her face into ridiculous contortions while Gollum-ing around on all fours.
I predict a bright future for all three of these young thespians.
#7. Mother Bears
On the day they were installing the new sculpture Mother Bears Pray for Earth Healing, crews quickly realized the crane they’d brought to transfer them off the truck was too small.
“This is like Jaws, but instead it’s ‘we’re going to need a bigger crane’,” joked cultural development officer Joy Barrett.
Undeterred, I climbed up on the truck bed with Cree artist Stewart Steinhauer and got this shot of him against Elephant Mountain.
“The mother bear symbolizes acceptance of everyone who comes to the circle. No one is rejected, everyone is valued,” he told me.
I dig it.
#6. Vibrant pink Kootenay sunset
This was easily my most popular photo of the year, earning hundreds of likes on Facebook, and I wasn’t even really working when I took it.
At the beginning of this year, after spending the day owl-spotting in John Fenger Memorial Park with wildlife photographer Jim Lawrence, I was driving back along Highway 3A when I saw several cars pulled over to the shoulder, hazards blinking. What could have compelled all of them to stop simultaneously?
It turned out they’d all been stunned into stopping by this view, one of the nicest I’ve ever seen.
#5. Bill Andreaschuk’s salute
I made a strategic error while covering the Remembrance Day ceremonies—I brought my dog Muppet. Turns out she’s not a fan of bagpipes or large crowds.
Despite this issue, while I was crowded amidst the hundreds gathered at city hall, wedged in next to Mayor Deb Kozak, I got this moving image of Cst. Bill Andreaschuk, who is also the president of the Legion, turning to salute the Canadian flag.
Andreaschuk is a long-serving and admired police officer in this community, and I was happy to capture this moment.
#4. Puss in Boots
It’s outrageously easy to take good photos of Lisel Forst, because she’s one of the most flamboyant and enthusiastic people I’ve ever met. And as the star of this year’s Capitol Theatre pantomime, she once again knocked it out of the park.
“I’m here for a bit of Christmas fun. I hear there are many attractive gatos, so I wanted to come by and check out the scene and the señoritas,” Forst told me, in character.
The pantomime, which is an annual fundraiser for the Capitol, was ultimately a huge success.
#3. Summer Rippels
The moment Bryan Rippel and his daughter Dia told me their last name, I knew I’d have to take advantage of it’s pun possibilities.
The pair were launching their kayak in the gently lapping waters of Kootenay Lake on a Sunday afternoon in August, and I love that you can see the wind in Dia’s hair as she laughs. If you look closely, I make a cameo in one of Brian’s sunglass lenses.
We live in a beautiful place, don’t we?
#2. Lucas Myers’ Campground
I can’t take credit for the PhotoShop wizardry—that credit goes to our graphic design guru Kamala Melzack—but I took these four shots of the various characters Nelson thespian Lucas Myers plays in his latest show Campground.
The one-man show, which is a murder mystery comedy, features a variety of characters played by Myers, including two who have real-life Facebook accounts: Justin Case and Michael Hodgkins.
Interestingly enough, Myers is remounting this show next year with the help of local mystery author Deryn Collier.
It should be awesome.
#1. Lobster Menace
Not only do I walk by this cyborg lobster nearly every day—especially when I’m headed to Thor’s Pizzeria—it’s also been my computer’s desktop background for the past eight months. I find the longer I look at it, the more I notice. For instance, it took me a while to realize the lobster was harvesting bunnies to make slippers.
I can’t get enough of it.
The lobster, painted by local artists Coleman Webb and Chelsey Freyta-Yates, was part of a larger project called Metamorphosis, that saw the wall transform multiple times. First it featured an osprey in-flight, then there was a purple monkey wearing a hardhat and surrounded by penguins.
This final image, though, is my favourite.
Also involved in the project were Sergio and Amber Santos, the latter who also took on the amazing pictograph-inspired Wildflower mural that was unveiled a few weeks ago. In my opinion: the more murals we’ve got around, the better.
Thanks for making Nelson a more beautiful place, guys.