Review: The Canadian Rockies: Rediscovered, by Paul Zizka

I’ve been carrying around Paul Zizka‘s photography book, The Canadian Rockies: Rediscovered. It’s a big book and I’ve noticed some of my friends dodging when they see me hauling it out of my backpack (they know they’ll be stuck looking at it for a while, again).

The Canadian Rockies: Rediscovered
The Canadian Rockies: Rediscovered, by Paul Zizka, is published by Rocky Mountain Books.

He’s quite a guy, that Zizka. More than just an Instagram sensation.  He’s a Royal Fellow of the Canadian National Geographic Society, and writer of several books about the Rockies. He knows his subject intimately, and it shows. His wide angle images, long exposures and astrophotography pictures are brilliant.

The last word in the title indicates the direction of this book: Rediscovered. Zizka is more than capable when it comes to creating breathtaking images of natural scenery.

ice climbing
This wide-angle image is just one of the breathtaking photos in Zizka’s book.

But there’s more: in this introduction, Zizka explains his desire to push himself into seeing the countryside in new ways. And that’s both the success and limitation of this book.

Zizka adds a human element to his landscapes, originally for reasons related to composition and to create scale, and then as a form of visual storytelling. Skiers, hikers, ice-climbers, are all present, as are yoga practitioners.

astroyoga
The figures Zizka adds to his landscape photos range from skiers an climbers to yoga practitioners.

 

Sometimes the figures are models and sometimes they are self-portraits. We see the results of Zizka pushing his personal envelope, sometimes with tremendous success. The image below is a favourite: we’ve seen ‘road to beautiful view’ pictures before, and this self-portrait adds to it, in spades:

Blown Away self-portrait
Paul Zizka’s “Blown Away” taken at Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park.

Sometimes, the self-portraits feel out of place, like experiments that pale in comparison to other images:

Phantom Gathering
Phantom Gathering is a self-portrait that isn’t up to the calibre of so many of other images in the collection.

It’s a big book, 240 pages, and image themes start to repeat. There are incredible images of lake-submerged rocks seen with landscapes rising above the water. The power of the image recedes a bit when you’ve seen versions of of the rocks multiple times in the same book.

gathering 2
There are multiple images of above/beneath water in the collection.

I love this book for its grace and beauty, for it’s ability to show me images that are inspirational, and for the author’s willingness to experiment with multiple exposures and to create visual narratives within a single image.

There’s a black and white landscape featuring a cyclist so dwarfed by natural elements that’s the tiny bicycle almost transcends its environment. It’s beautiful. It’s more than beautiful, it’s inspirational and has stuck with me for weeks.

wild winter ride
Wild Winter Ride is an image that has stuck with me. It’s incredible.

So many of these pictures are thoughtful and some are exquisitely executed. Sometimes it all feels a bit much; a slightly more judicious edit might have made for a stronger work.

Also, there’s a lot of white space around some of the images. It’s a big book to carry around (I’ve shown it to dozens of people) and I wish some of the images made slightly greater use of available space.

book
It’s a big book, with a fair bit of white space on each of the pages. And these are images best viewed large.

On a scale of 1-5, this book is a 5. With a bit more editing and a little less white space, I think the book could have been a 6 out of 5.

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