by Dr. Robert Berdan & Friends of George Brybycin
June 25, 2017
George Brybycin in Stony Plain Park along the Bow River with the Rocky Mountains behind him - Sept. 30, 2011.
Nicknamed "Ansel Adams of the Canadian Rockies and Canada", George Brybycin was a mountain climber and photographer extraordinaire.
I received the sad news this week that George Brybycin passed away in the confines of his apartment. He was 83 years young. I spoke with him the week before and he told me he was preparing to take some of his new books and drive up to Jasper. He visited the mountains regularly and that is where is heart was.
George camping just below the summit of Mt. Hector (3394 m). His tent is under the snow just left of the Rock which he hopes won't move during the night.
As we celebrate Canada's 150th birthday - I will be thinking about George and his contribution to photography in Canada. I believe that others that knew him recognize his life-long commitment to Outdoor Photography and the Canadian Rockies which he loved so much. For those that never met him I would like to share some of my views and others about this inspirational person and encourage you to seek out his books.
George Brybycin - self portrait on the summit of Mt. Hector (3394 m) with a west view featuring Mt. Balfour and Waputik Icefield. George often included himself in his pictures wearing a red coat.
George has been climbing the mountains and photographing in the Canadian Rockies for over 50 years, and self-published 56 high quality photo-books. He distributed these books to various outlets in Calgary and the Mountain parks. He photographed with a simple Pentax SLR camera, a few lenses and a tripod. His favourite film - Fuji Velvia and he saw no reason to change or upgrade to a Digital Camera in spite of the urgings of his friends and colleagues. He didn't own a computer or cell phone and lived a simple frugal life. He originally came to Canada from Poland and first worked in the oil patch business (mapping) and later left to follow his passion of climbing mountains and photography. He told me he shoots slide film so he can say there is no "hooky poky" in his images. He also liked to take long exposures of the night sky and would often camp out in his car.
George Brybycin with Mt. Lyautey in the background, Upper lake Kananaskis - June 14, 2012
I first saw a slide presentation of George's work about 20 years ago at the Foothills Camera club in Calgary. He had brought about 180 slides and was so enthusiastic they had to ask him to stop or he would have gone on for hours. Later I ran into him at Wedge Pond in Kananaskis around sunrise one Autumn morning. I approached him and asked if he was the famous George Brybycin - he smiled timidly and said no. We talked for a while and over the years became closer friends. I tried my best to bring him into the digital age, but best I could do was sell some of his books online for him.
The Ramparts on the southwest side of Amethyst lake photographed at sunrise from the summit of Mt. Clitheroe (2749 m) in Jasper National Park by George Brybycin. This is Grizzly bear country and he slept alone on the slopes.
I believe that he only let a few people into his circle of friends as he was a very private person. He was modest and humble about his accomplishments. I used to kid him that after he died he would achieve greater fame - I hope so. When he was younger he told me his father wanted him to be pianist, but he had no desire or talent. He also did some painting early on. He certainly has an eye for great composition and colour as is evident in his photos.
Along the Sunwapta river by the Columbia Ice field - no filters. Japser National Park.
His climbing skills were like that of a mountain goat. Most of the time he would climb alone, sleep on the top of the mountain in order to photograph the sunset and sunrise - a feat which takes great courage. In his books he describes his climbing adventures and also promotes his healthy lifestyle. In his writing he tried to encourage young people to follow in his footsteps. Many photographers have been influenced by his photography though not many can follow where he went. He was passionate about conservation and said he would one day like to buy some land and plant trees.
Below is some text and photos courtesy of Calgary Camera Club where George recently received an Award for his lifetime photography achievements.
Pioneer in Canadian Photography
Canadian Association for Photographic Art ( CAPA) Awards “Excellence in Photography” Medal
Left: George Brybycin Right: Michael Squance President of Calgary Camera Club - photo by Ric Matkowski - Vice president Calgary Camera club. David Lilly also a good friend of George introduced the Club to George's photography. George Brybycin receiving an award from CAPA (Canadian Association for Photographic Art).
"Receiving recognition for a life-time of photography meant a lot to George though he would never admit it - RB".
Below here the embedded video and most of the text was provided by Cameron Palmer of the Calgary Camera Club.
George on top of a mountain and right a photograph of the cover of one his books
George Brybycin is a Canadian Photographer and Mountaineer whose pioneering contribution to the visual heritage and ecology of the Canadian Rockies is worthy of national recognition. He has devoted his life to photographing mountains resulting in a prolific historical record from the valleys to the heavenly peaks of the Canadian Rockies. His determination, mental and physical stamina and at times taking great personal risk, sleeping on mountaintops in subzero temperatures to capture sunrise and sunset shots will likely never be surpassed!
Those that know George Brybycin admire his accomplishments climbing over 500 mountains solo and sleeping on the top in subzero temperatures to take great photographs. Not many photographers have the stamina or a willing to go to this extreme and frankly, it is dangerous to say the least. George has had a few close calls on the mountains, he has encountered grizzly bears, snowstorms and even encountered a cougar up close, and yet he persevered. He was not driven by riches but by the pursuit of his two loves of photography and mountaineering and his passion for nature, wildlife and the ecology. His books are how he shares this love with his readers.
George Brybycin - self portrait on Tower of Babel (2360 m) overlooking Moraine Lake in Banff National Park
Brybycin has forsaken family life and the pursuit of wealth in favour of scrambling high into the mountains. He has only one mistress: the Rockies. "They are my life-long love," he explains. George is not a weekend hiker. He penetrates deep into the mountains and after walking 15-20 km, climbs a mountain and bivouacs on the summit. He does this year-round and it matters not whether the temperature is 20 or -20 degrees, snow, blizzard, rain or shine!
Winter camping on Bow lake. George would make an igloo and set up tents with lights to get these type of photos.
You might wonder what motivates him to do this? For one thing, if you want a unique photo and experience, you need to do unique things. On the one hand, out of the 500 mountains he has climbed, only 5% brought desirable results. The darned weather can be the photographer’s worst enemy or sometimes a best friend.
George Brybycin - self portrait, Johnstone Canyon, Banff National Park, AB
George was an ardent adventurer with an artistic bend from a very early age. He was a mountaineer, ski-jumper and artistic painter who appreciated a beautiful sunset! George has also explored the Canadian Arctic, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mount Rainier and visited over 40 countries worldwide. Perhaps that makes him a restless nomad who cannot stand still.
George's tent on Mt. Edith Cavell (3363 m) in wintry conditions, Jasper National Park.
His knees may not be able to mountaineer as he did in his younger years but he had the passion for photography right to the end! He recently released two new hardcover books "The Rockies Mountain Paradise" and "The Wonderful Calgary" which you can find in Chapters and bookstores in the mountain parks. You can purchase some of his older books online - see the links below.
George's most recent books published in 2017
George is a private person who “selects his friends very carefully” as quoted from a good friend: According to Dr. Robert Berdan of Canadian Nature Photographer, George is one of Canada’s best outdoor photographers and his accomplishments merit special recognition. “He is a master photographer of the Canadian Rockies and we have much to learn from him.”
Mt. Sarback (3155 m) is a relatively easy scramble and affords great views in all directions. George was a young author and photographer when he took this shot in 1973. Today the glacier behind him is half the size, shrinking and dying fast. The summit can be reached by following the ridge of rotten rock. Banff National Park.
David Lilly co-founder and past president of the Calgary Camera Club first introduced guest speaker George Brybycin as the “Ansel Adams of Canada”. Now that may be a hard billing to measure up! But it does point out the high regard for George’s accomplishments and the deserving title of “Pioneer in Canadian Photography”.
Comet Hale Bopp and the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) above Jasper's Pyramid Mountain. George liked to shoot long exposures at night and the aurora. Rob Berdan spent a few early mornings with him waiting for the aurora to come out north of Calgary.
Our Canadian culture is one of modesty, honesty and quiet competence. George Brybycin exemplifies those qualities. The downside to these national traits is we are too modest to boast of our accomplishments and do not as readily acknowledge our heroes with folklore and the same zeal as our neighbors to the south.
We have some great photographers in Canada living near poverty levels according to Statistics Canada. They need a voice in getting their accomplishments and work out to the public. Locally, nationally and internationally! History has told us in many instances artists including the world-famous US photographer Ansel Adams did not become famous until after their death.
Presentation by the Calgary Camera Club recognizing George Brybycin's contribution to Photography and Mountaineering in Canada (Uploaded onto YouTube - video presentation created by Cameron Palmer).
The Calgary Camera Club is hoping to reverse this trend for at least one worthy artist! George Brybycin! CAPA awards George Brybycin with an Excellence in Photography Medal on Canada’s 150th Birthday.
George also took beautiful wildflower, wildlife and landscape photography.
"Throughout my friendship and work with George that spanned nearly a decade, my soft-spoken, good-natured and humble friend saw himself as a “Mountain Man”. Embodied in that notion was a sense of pride and satisfaction, not only in meeting the physical and mental challenges required to survive at high altitudes but that he belonged and was legitimately a part of the Rocky Mountain landscape."
Dr. Charles Rose – George’s book editor.
I met George for the first time in 1972, at the Calgary Herald. His first major book: The High Rockies was published in 1978 soon followed by Colourful Calgary in 1979. I edited both books. As in time his collection of slides grew, he came to the conclusion that the best and most efficient way to share his experiences with others was to become a publisher.
The message that George conveyed to me is that the real challenge in life is to conquer your fears. In his case, those fears may have been fear of loneliness in a foreign culture, fear of climbing solo in isolated, remote and difficult of access places, fear of sleeping near a hidden crevasse, fear of freezing on mountain summits, or maybe the simple fear of meeting with his Inner Self? He conquered those fears, even the ones attached to the challenge of publishing 56 books. His greatest pleasure was being out in wilderness taking photos. The actual preparations for printing his books and distributing them was a challenge he met with courage and determination.
George was built with the same dedication, energy and vision that made men like Robert Scott, Ernest Shackleten, Roald Amundsen, all those great pioneers of yesterday. George was a free spirit. Nothing is lost in nature. May his energy soar to new, peaceful heights.
Many of us will miss George, and I know I will think about him when ever I peruse his books or visit the Rocky Mountains which he so loved. I am fortunate to say that I knew him and considered him a friend. If you would like to get to know George better you only need view his pictures and read his stories in one of his many books. He is a true Canadian legend in outdoor photography. RB
Calgary Camera Club
CAPA - Canadian Association for Photographic Art
Calgary Herald Article about George Bybycin and his latest book
Previous article on George Brybcin - by Robert Berdan June 15, 2012
The Legendary Rockies by George Brybycin - his 55th Book by Robert Berdan
Indigo\Chapters - Books of George Brybycin for sale
Amazon.com - Books of George Brybycin for sale
Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banfff sells George's books and has a display about him
The Legendary Rockies
Meet the Ansel Adams of the Rockies - Calgary Camera Club
Foothills Camera Club in Calgary
CTV News story about George Brybycin June 26, 2017 - View it here
Robert Berdan is a professional nature photographer living in Calgary, AB specializing in nature, wildlife and science photography. Robert offers photo guiding and private instruction in all aspects of nature photography and Adobe Photoshop training.
Email at: email@example.com
Web site: www.canadiannaturephotographer.com
Phone: MST 9am -7 pm (403) 247-2457.
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