Get inspired and learn about the action-packed lives of adventurers and explorers by watching breathtaking presentations and listening to incredible stories. Explore the world of wildlife photographers, professional hikers, and wilderness explorers at the Vancouver Convention Centre’s Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show (Feb. 29–Mar. 1).
Emmett Sparling, one of the guest speakers, is a professional photographer and adventurer. Traveling since graduating from high school, Sparling has spent his time diving with whale sharks, hanging from helicopters, and hiking the highest peaks of the world. Discover Sparling’s creative process and watch the first screening of his upcoming short film.
Daniel Fox, another guest speaker, is a wilderness explorer, photographer, and author. Fox often journeys into the wilderness, photographing pristine wildlife. Wishing to pass on his learnings from nature, Fox founded WILD.ECO (Wilderness Immersion for Leadership and Discovery through Education, Conservation, and Opportunities), a non-profit organization aiming to offer disadvantaged youth an opportunity to experience nature and gain leadership and cooperative skills.
The birth of an adventurer
Sparling’s journey began when his mother handed him a camera and sent him into the garden to take photos.
“It all started with taking macro photos of insects,” reminisces Sparling.
Those photos of bugs and flowers blossomed into an obsession with photography. One day, after feeling that his creative freedom was stifled in the fashion industry, Sparling dropped everything to spend five months backpacking through Mexico and Indonesia. It was during these trips Sparling began posting landscape photos to Instagram and growing his portfolio. As his work gained traction, commissions from tourism companies began flooding in. Sparling now works at a diverse range of jobs, creating short films and taking photos of his jaw-dropping adventures and exotic destinations.
Sparling’s landscape photography career was launched into new heights with his groundbreaking shots of Rainbow Mountain before sunrise. Sparling and his team had to create a route bypassing the tourist entrance’s 8 a.m.–opening time to get to the mountain before sunrise. The photo was taken after trekking for hours at seventeen thousand feet above sea level. The group left base camp at midnight, hiking at -20°C, braving the cold and lack of oxygen. Arriving just before sunrise, the sky bloomed pink for five short minutes before returning to the usual grey. It was in these conditions Sparling snapped the photos that would kick-start his landscape photography career.
“You plan something for so long and when you actually stand there, you go: ‘Oh that’s what that looks like.’ It’s an incredibly satisfying feeling,” says Sparling.
An average day in the life of an adventurer
Sparling describes his crammed daily schedule during a photo shoot in Derawan, East Borneo. Each morning, Sparling would wake up at 5 A.M. and ride a speed boat for two hours before reaching a completely open ocean. He would then don a wet-suit and dive into an empty azure ocean. Awaiting below the waves were whale sharks, jellyfish, and all sorts of exotic marine life. No matter where Sparling worked, early mornings and physically demanding activities greeted him. Depending on the job, Sparling would have to skydive, bungee jump, free dive, or hike to capture his desired images.
Exploration versus adventure
Fox has always fashioned himself an explorer, not an adventurer. He explains adventure is about seeking a thrill. It’s a feeling that’s mostly positive.
“Traveling has always been a gene in me,” says Fox.
Jumping out of a plane and feeling that shot of pure adrenaline and excitement is an adventure. Meanwhile, exploration is seeking something unknown, pushing boundaries, and stepping out of comfort zones. Explorers seek to learn something they don’t know or to discover a place they haven’t been. Explorers and adventurers have different motivations while traveling.
“I’m definitely more of an explorer. I’ve always [sought] to learn, to discover, and to use nature as a framework for personal exploration,” explains Fox. “For me, nature is this thing that’s bigger than myself. By spending time in it, by going out, by experimenting, I get to discover myself and discover life.”
It was during a paddle around the San Juan islands that Fox connected the dots of what would become WILD.ECO.
“Why should youth value nature and wilderness when they don’t know what it is?” questions Fox.
Fox works to raise money through selling books and prints of his photographs to send disadvantaged youth to a month-long wilderness camp. Recalling his childhood experiences with nature, playing in parks, climbing trees, and going to summer camps, Fox says these experiences created anchor points for him to return to as he grew older.
Fox feels today’s youth lack memories of the outdoors. Through the wilderness camp, Fox aimed to create anchor points and memories along with new-found appreciation of nature and wilderness in teens.
“You always have these bigger themes around us, and once you include humans, then it makes a lot more sense than trying to exclude humans.”
WILD.ECO also operates a mentorship program geared towards anyone, young and old – Fox explains that nature can be found everywhere: in the air, trees, planet, sun, and even in humans. Using insights from nature, Fox seeks to help people make sense of the confusing forces of life, and to find comfort in them.
He hopes to alleviate some anxiety of the future. Fox compares his belief in nature to religion. He simply replaces religious faith with nature as his framework of understanding things bigger than himself. Over twelve months, Fox teaches people twelve themes found throughout nature and life. He assigns them a task at the beginning of each month that requires research, reading, and exercise. Then he asks them to draw and write one page documenting their learning.
“We’ve created a framework that’s negative towards the human species; we think the human species is a cancer on the planet, and that we’re wrong in all these ways,” explains Fox. “But when we say all these things, no one wants to wake up and be a human. I want to let people know that there’s a future and there’s a way.”
For more information on the event, check out: www.outdooradventureshow.ca.