This summer we went to Canada. Arthur had just finished his GCSEs and it felt like the right time to take the boys on a big adventure whilst they are both still living at home. We flew to Vancouver, and from there we rented an RV. We travelled around British Columbia for eight days, staying in an assortment of the beautiful provincial parks. We spent our days swimming, cooking, reading, walking, canoeing, kayaking, napping and playing card games around the fire.
We have learnt over the years that we get along much better as a family, and have far more fun together, if we have strict rules about phone usage. On this trip we agreed we could use our phones for whatever we liked when we were on the move (which meant Richard didn’t get to use his at all as he did all the driving!) and other than that we would use them only for taking photographs. I realised, however, as soon as we landed in Vancouver, that I was feeling burnt out digitally and developed a phobia of picking up my phone and being connected to the online world. So I put it away and barely used it for the whole time we were there. I took precisely eleven iPhone photos in twelve days and instead shot our holiday on film. And I was very glad that I did because the results astounded me.
Shooting film adds a wonderful dimension to a holiday. Each shot costs real money and so you take far fewer photos than you would with a digital camera or an iPhone. The result is that you spend more time being in your holiday than you do recording it. Not using your phone to take photos is a blessing – I don’t know about you but I often find myself picking up my phone to take a photo and somehow end up scrolling Instagram or checking my emails instead. It’s maddeningly hard to resist.
But there is another reason why I love shooting film on holidays. It’s about noticing the details. I notice cloud formations, or dappled light through trees. I study the shape of the waves and the depth and layers of a hedgerow. Sometimes it’s these small details that define the essence of our trips and help us form memories of time and place. I have found that I am far more tuned in to these miniature worlds shooting on film than I ever was with digital.
It made me very, very happy to see both Richard and Evan pick up a camera and start their analogue journey in Canada. It was so nice for all of us to have some time out of our busy schedules to learn a new hobby and practise something creative. Arthur is less interested, but that’s ok, he spends no time on his phone whatsoever and doesn’t need the break from it that the three of us do.
We are all still very much at the beginning of our analogue journey and I had no idea how our images would turn out. I sent our rolls to Carmencita when we arrived back in the UK and began the nervous wait for the WeTransfer email to arrive. The wait for your scans can be one of the chief frustrations with shooting on film, but I have come to love this respite from the immediacy and hyper-convenience of the modern world. Waiting or your images can be a wonderful thing – just as your memories are beginning to fade, you are given the chance to relive them. You have the space and time to look at every tiny detail and lock them away in your mind, sealing your memories forever.
I was nervous to open the email. I conjured up some fortitude, held my breath and downloaded the files. I’d never shot an entire holiday on film before without the backup of iPhone photos, and was terrified they’d be duds and we’d have no record of our time in Canada. I was expecting to be disappointed, but what I saw blew me away and I still can’t believe I took some of these images. There is definitely room for improvement but they are the most wonderful reminder of our holiday and I can’t imagine now ever not recording a family holiday on film.
Shot on a Pentax K100 and Nikon F4 using Fuji Superior 400. Rated 200, over-exposed one stop. Developed by Carmencita.
A few details of our trip, in case you are planning to go too Canada.
We didn’t go to the Rockies, as much as we would have loved to, as it was too far. You really need two weeks for that trip, unless you fly to Calgary rather than Vancouver, or drive from Calgary to Vancouver rather than doing a circular route as we did.
We drove anti-clockwise from Vancouver. We stayed two nights in Manning Provincial Park, one night in Shuswap, three in Lake Mahood park in Wells Grey and two in Nairn Falls. We were restricted by booking so late – we couldn’t get in to the parks we wanted, and we could only stay at Shuswap for one night as it was full for the weekend. If I’d had more time I’d have stayed in the Okanagan Valley too to reduce the driving time on our longest day. Really you need to be booking a year or so ahead to get the parks you want. But having said that, all of the parks were absolutely lovely and we have no regrets.
It’s hard for me to tell you my favourite park as, perhaps like children, they were all wonderful but entirely different. Manning and Shuswap were well maintained and accessible, Manning had a great hire place for canoes and kayaks. Mahood was wild and remote and we loved it for that. It was accessed by a twenty mile drive down an unpaved road. Not much fun in an RV but it did mean it was very quiet there.
We swam. We swam a lot. All of the parks were on lakes, or nearby. Some of the lakes were freezing cold, some the temperature of the Mediterranean.
You don’t leave your campsite really. In the UK, you eat and sleep at the campsite but tend to leave during the day, but in Canada the site is everything. We hired kayaks and canoes from the lake shores at the sites and walked from our RV. It was nice not going anywhere for days on end.
Whistler is fun! It’s really worth paying for the two cable car rides and then taking the chair lift to the top of the mountain and then, if you are braver than me, walking across the bridge at the top. But you need a head for heights. The cable car from Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain is absolutely petrifying. It’s the longest unsupported cable car length in the world. But if you don’t suffer from vertigo like me, do it! Alta lake in Whistler is really lovely for a swim and beach day.
Whatever you do, check where you are picking your RV up from. We collected ours from Gibsons, which meant we spent eight hours collecting it and twelve hours returning it. Yes, twelve hours, spent at a ferry terminal. You can book the ferry in advance – our RV company helpfully didn’t tell us we needed to and by the time we realised the ferries were full so we had to wait on reserve. As pretty as the ferry ride undeniably is, it’s not worth losing two days of your holiday over.
Food is very, very, very expensive in Canada. We did our first shop at Whole Foods, which is expensive in the UK, but there it is eye wateringly dear. Soon enough we were shopping at Save on Foods which was less ruinous but still more expensive than the nicer UK supermarkets.
If you go to Vancouver, go for breakfast and dinner at Forage on Robsons. One of the best restaurants I’ve ever been too. They’ve ruined blueberry pancakes for me forever.