Amateur photographer Dan Hicks takes beautiful pictures in the Chilcotin which have appeared in the Tribune. He lives at Alexis Creek and works as a forest technologist.

They Call the Cariboo Home: Dan Hicks, a photographic retrospective

I have lived in Alexis Creek since April of 2003 where I came to work for the Chilcotin Forest District.

I have lived in Alexis Creek since April 2003, where I came to work for the Chilcotin Forest District as a forest technologist, a relocation from Prince George necessitated by massive layoffs in the BC Forest Service.

I was originally in compliance and enforcement but moved to the stewardship monitoring program in April 2006.

Stewardship involves monitoring the effectiveness of forest practices regarding cut-block reserves, adjoining streams, and road crossings of streams.

In 2010, the Alexis Creek office was reduced to a field office, becoming part of the Cariboo-Chilcotin District of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.  This month, nearing 29 years with the BC Forest Service and derivatives thereof, I became a confirmed candidate for a pension.

Alexis Creek’s population has dwindled over the years, and our local community and gun clubs have shrunken to a critical membership core.  The absence of social distractions in Alexis Creek has facilitated my taking my photography hobby more seriously than I otherwise would, though I remain an unremunerated amateur.

I have shared many memorable Chilcotin moments with Tribune readers beginning with its Dec. 13, 2007 publication of my illustrated article, “Bull Canyon Billy, the lone goat of the Chilcotin.”

I had managed to capture a portrait photo of our resident goat that September when, in an effort to elude me, he ran uphill and met me.  My next Tribune submission and first Tribune front page photo was of my Feb. 20, 2008 total lunar eclipse photo, in the Feb. 22 Tribune, with another eclipse photo and an article published a week later.  The dark sky of the Chilcotin, relatively free of urban sky-glow pollution, has enabled me to capture various lunar and astronomical images; one of the more memorable images being of a Harvest moon rising above distant Douglas firs, published in the Sept.16, 2011 Tribune.

My Alexis Creek night wildfire images were featured on the Tribune front pages of Aug. 6 2009, and July 30 and Aug. 3, 2010, and on Aug.17, 2010, a front page photo of a “surreal sun,” the setting sun dimmed by intense smoke to resemble a moon-like orb.  The two 2010 wildfire photos, captured on July 29, were of a roaring predawn crown fire west of Bull Canyon whose sound was as intimating as its appearance.  Besides fire, a less dramatic portrayal of the mountain pine beetle scourge was my Oct. 8, 2009 front page photo of a dead pine and its gnarled branches silhouetted by the Harvest moon.  Perhaps the photo of mine which best intimates the sad extent of beetle-caused pine mortality was published in the Tribune on Sept. 21 this year, entitled “Chilcotin Marsh Ghosts In Early Autumn,” at Henri Lake swamp, showing a crumbling and doomed Russell fence extending into a forest of dead pine.

Though I have never been a trap shooter myself, I photographed the annual May BC Forest Service Alexis Creek Trap Shoot for five successive years, from 2007 to 2011, its 40th year.  The Tribune always published my summary of the shoot and at least one of my photos.  Our July Alexis Creek Daze community activity event was initiated in 2011, and the Tribune has featured a few of my Daze photos, the most notable being this year’s July 27 front page image of choreographed dancing cowgirls.  A combination of the trap shoot and the Daze events would be sensational, Alexis Creek would spawn an astounding display of choreographed dancing cowgirls with shotguns.

The Chilcotin rodeo mountain races at Nemiah and Redstone are unique and daring equestrian competitions, and I was proud to have the Tribune publish two of my photos which I believe portray the spirit of these races; the Aug. 10, 2010 “kings of the mountain” photo from Nemiah, and the Aug. 28 “Redstone rumble” photo of this year.

That said, my most memorable Chilcotin equestrian image may be the one which graced the front page of this year’s Aug. 21 Tribune, showing the young winner of the Redstone Rodeo’s second Quarter Mile Flatland Race galloping to victory alone on her steed across the open grassland.

An endearing Chilcotin rodeo artistic experience for me was the painting of two of my Nemiah Rodeo photos of a child barrel racer by an amateur Williams Lake artist who has since moved away.  The artist was inspired to create her first painting after seeing my photo of the tight-turning barrel racer in the Aug. 17, 2010 Tribune, a painting which was in turn featured in the Dec. 9 paper.

The painting was part of the BC Rodeo Association exhibit at the March 2011 Kamloops Cowboy Festival. I acquired both paintings in September 2011, but was unsuccessful in my attempt this February to arrange a trusteeship for them with the barrel racer herself as the future beneficiary.  Although dismissed as cartoonish by some, I see these paintings as charmingly sentimental portrayals of a confident little rodeo cowgirl and her horses in a pastoral Chilcotin setting.

The only formal photography recognition I have ever received was from Montana’s Glacier National Park in 2009, when, for the park’s 2010 Centennial, I was designated one of 14 “Glacier Centennial Artists” for my smokey, August 2000 photo of Kinnerly Peak in Glacier’s Rockies, taken from Akamina Ridge in BC’s Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park.  The photo and Erin Hitchcock’s article was published in the July 15, 2010 Tribune.  I have covered a lot of ground in that park.  The Americans are generous with their national parks and, in Glacier, a network of good backcountry trails facilitates access into some majestic Rocky Mountain vistas.  Although Glacier serves an important role as a nature preserve, it is nevertheless an actual “park,” for the people and open to the people.

What of the Chilcotin’s wild mountainous environs?

Images of these rugged places are the purview of another Alexis Creek photographer, globetrotting adventurer Chris Schmid, who sleeps out under the winter stars.

I am more of an opportunist, observing the rural world around me, and occasionally capturing some memorable moments in time.

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