When snow-capped mountains meet rain forest, nature expresses itself in dazzling arrays of emotions, sounds, and sights. Where fresh fish, local and sustainable cooking, artisanal craftsmanship, and heavy Asian influences mix, food is distinct and memorable (huzzah sriracha maple bacon!). And when Canadians are Canadians, they'll climb over ledges of snow to save sunglasses for you.

On the rocky shores

For my first visit to the Pacific Northwest, I had no idea what to expect and Vancouver opened my eyes to a culture connected to nature in ways I've never encountered before. I go to the Catskills, Hudson Highlands, and Adirondacks often and love the hikes whose trail heads spawn just a few hours from New York City. But that connection is different. It's in everything from the prevalence of bike lanes to how the city gets its electricity. It's about the size of the parks and commitment to land preservation. It's about sustainable development that's good for both the city and in reverence for the land around it.

Sea to Sky and so much inbetween

From our first day out on the rocky beaches of the shore to exploring Vancouver island, I was struck by the lush greens and moody sprawling skies. For those of us used to the muted palette of the east coast mountain ranges, this was like walking through an enchanted forest. Old growth forests protect a vast ecosystem of moss, lichen, bulbs, and so much more. Even a little mountain lion pee.

Canada Geese in their natural habitat before getting bundled into jackets

As I tuned into the subjects and light that drew my eye, I realized that being present meant more than communing with the Earth. As I slowed down to take in different vistas, I also began to tune out those around me. I love how photography has made me more aware of my surroundings, but as I went deeper into composition I also lost the main reason I was out here in the first place: travel with my partner and friends.

I'm still learning how to strike a balance - one where I can be attentive to and embrace my love of photography but also where I'm fully present with the people I love. Maybe it's about making clearer distinctions about when I'm in the "photography zone" or setting aside specific times of the day for it. Clearly something to work on. But I learned over the trip that as much as I love photography, the greater need is to be fully with the people I love. For while these moments and memories give me real pleasure, it's the moments with people that cap them all.