Life

Purpose, passion, perspective

Today is World Photography Day!


To have purpose, passion, and passion… That’s life!

Share one photograph of yours with the world. Starting from today you have one week to submit one of your images, and possibly the story behind it, with the world.

Above is my contribution. It reflects purpose, passion, and perspective to me.

Purpose – a sled dog team training for a big race

Passion – you have to have passion to be a musher, maintaining your own and the dogs motivation throughout the year

Perspective –  my view, with focus on the lead dogs, capturing (with luck) a moment of power and intensity…


The date behind World Photo Day originates from the invention of the Daguerreotype, a photographic processes developed by Joseph Nicèphore Nièpce and Louis Daguerre in 1837. On January 9, 1839, The French Academy of Sciences announced the daguerreotype process. A few months later, on August 19, 1839, the French government purchased the patent and announced the invention as a gift “Free to the World”.

In 2009, Korske Ara, a passionate young photographer from Australia launched the World Photo Day Project with the dream to unite local and global communities in a worldwide celebration of photography.

Today, we can share memories across the globe in seconds. Photography is an invention that has revolutionized the way we see the world. We can visit places without leaving our home. We can share adventures with friends in another city and we can watch grandchildren grow up thousands of kilometers away.

There was a time when photography didn’t exist.

From worldphotoday.com

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Dogs and ponies

A day in a musher’s life

It is 6:30 o’clock in the morning. I don’t even need an alarm any more. Every day for the last 3 months we would get up the same time. A brief look out the window: A starry sky means long underwear, fresh snow on the ground calls for snow pants, horizontally flying ice pellets will be met by goggles and a face mask. Though before we leave the house a quick breakfast is in order. Nothing fancy, hot chocolate, bread and jam, sometimes an egg, yogurt, or fruit for variety.

Rubber boots, insulated pants, a long down jacket, mittens, goggles, face mask, hat?

Check!

Leatherman, knife, lighter?

Check!

And don’t forget the sunblock!

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Walking uphill to the kennel we are sometimes greeted by a howling wind out of the west. A few times we walked in a foot of fresh pow, more recently it is more like a dicey mix of rocks and ice… During the longest nights of winter it is pitch dark. Walking by the kennel we are greeted by some sentinel dogs, pacing outside their house, in any weather. The rest is asleep, staying out of the wind.

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It is now 7 o’clock. Time to take care of the dogs. Feed, scoop, harness and hook-up. Every musher has their own routine. I walk straight to the barn, grab an empty poop bucket and a shovel. While scooping some dogs greet me with wagging tails, other stay in their houses, watching me barely with one eye open…

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Then, when I come with the food bucket all hell brakes loose. Johnny Cash is the first one to spot me coming out of the feed room. A scoop or two for every dog. It’s all gone in about a minute. Some of my pooches don’t eat out of the metal can, some don’t like to eat in the morning, period.

Then there are some general chores mostly related to cleaning the feed room.

Around 9 o’clock our guest arrive. They get an introduction into the history of dog mushing and the story behind our kennel. Once they are dressed appropriately we greet and meet the dogs impatiently waiting for us. As soon as they see me arrive with guest in tow they start a storm: barking, jumping, and jerking on the gang line. Let’s go!

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We tuck some guest into our sleds, some will ride with a musher on the runners. As soon as I pull the snub line it all becomes quiet. My dogs put their head down and accelerate from 0 to 100 in a fraction of a second, if I let them.

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A 10 mile ride to the hot spring is ahead of us. The trail conditions are different every day. I bring different dogs every day. Except Clumber, my lead dog is almost there every day. Without him my life would be much more difficult. He always takes the right turns, keeps my team straight and is always happy to run. It takes us about 1.5 hours to travel 10 miles, with photo stops and little breathers.

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Once we arrive at the hot spring our guest go swimming for about an hour, then come back, have lunch. In the meantime the dogs rest. After lunch we head back to the kennel, mostly downhill. Going home the dogs run a bit faster. After returning to the kennel we say good-bye to our guest, and return the dogs to their houses.

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Another round of feeding, storing the sleds, some general chores and that was it, unless there is something to repair for the next day. Another 12 hour day comes to an end.

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One Man's Paradise

Becoming a musher

© 2015 Pascal Joubert

© 2015 Pascal Joubert

I have now 2 months and 400 miles of dog sledding under my non-existing belt. Does that make me a musher? I don’t think so.

Every day is a new day with challenges and surprises. My main lead dog Clumber has been loosing weight and I needed to give him a break to see what’s bothering him. That meant other dogs had to fill in the key position as lead. None of my other dogs have the same leader qualities and attitude as Clumber, unfortunately.

I realized there are two qualities that make a great leader. First, never turn the team around. A wandering or turning lead dog can cause tangled gang lines resulting in injury, dog fights and a confused and insecure team. Today I had to deal with this issues several times and it was not easy to overcome. At one point I was sitting in a pile of tangled dogs, in the midst of one tail-biting snapper, and a bunch of scared pups. Not a pretty sight. In the end we made it and everybody had a good day, realizing that dogs and mushers are not machines but living creatures.

The second quality in a lead dog like Clumber that I appreciate very much is his confidence and trust in me. This trust goes both ways. When I say „Gee“ or „Haw“ he reacts to that command immediately. He will turn, even there is no trail. He will turn, even we have gone 99 times straight before. I hope Clumber is back leading my team, soon.

Running 20 miles every day for 21 days, a few nights with temperatures below -30F has changed the attitude and motivation of some dogs. I am beginning to „see“ their daily mood when I enter the yard with the harnesses. Most dogs are still happy to see me, a few of them prefer to stay inside their houses until I convince them to come out and run with me.

Learning the broad strokes of running a healthy, motivated dog team was easy. Dealing with fatigue, injury, and motivation is a bit more challenging, but hey, that’s what I signed up for.

Gee, haw, never let go.

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Into the Wild

The long way home

The treacherous trail conditions this year have taken their toll on mushers and dogs. 12 teams have scratched so far. Mushers hit the ground, sleds turned upside down, and dogs were sliding down steep slopes. Then again 57 teams are still in the race, some on record pace.

The bad luck of some gave us the opportunity to talk to mushers and listen to their story. Jim Lanier, 73, has run the Iditarod sixteen times! He always finished. Not this year. After a bad fall in the Steps he decided to scratch at Puntilla Lake. Scratched and bruised he spent two days with us, taking care of his dogs and himself. While he was boiling water on the ice and preparing food for his dogs I tried to pry information from him about his motivation. It was a clear morning. At 9 o’clock the temperature was about 10 degrees, but with a 10 knot breeze out of the North, it was admirable how this man worked the stove, filled the bowls with a hot mix of kibbles, fat and water placing the food in front of every dog with loving care, enticing them to eat.

Jim Lanier

Jim Lanier

“Why do you want to come back next year? What is your motivation?”
“Same as yours. Why do you spend the winter here.”

“Well, I am not really sure.”
“Same here.”

So much for that. I guess the race is an adventure, raising and training dogs is a lifestyle. Once exposed to it and catching the bug you are hooked.

Interested in reading more about Jim first hand? He has written “Beyond Ophir“, confessions of an Iditarod musher, an Alaskan odyssey.

The long way home

The long way home

Musher, dogs, and sleds are being air lifted back to Anchorage in the coming days. It will be a long trip home.

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