Photos are the soul of a newspaper, our windows into the communities we cover and the stories we tell.
What might take a writer several sentences or paragraphs to tell, a photo has to capture in a mere glance. And getting to that storytelling moment isn’t just a matter of holding up the camera and saying, “OK, now it’s time to take a photo.”
A good photo isn’t “taken.” It’s made.
Good photography can seem effortless. But into each photo goes a multitude of decisions, all of which must inform how the push of the shutter button will serve the story, whether it’s on our website or in our weekly print edition.
At a time when pretty much everyone can take a photo by reaching into their pocket and pulling out their smart phone, news photos have to be something more than just a record that somebody showed up and did just that.
Here, then, is our retrospective of some of the photos we made in 2019, along with a bit of information about the thought processes and technical considerations that went into them.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Wendy Yates, playing a suspected impaired driver, tells “officers” to give her more space during a simulated traffic stop at Coquitlam RCMP’s Junior Mounties camp, last Wednesday at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex. This year’s RCMP Junior Mounties camp changed the script from the usual obstacle course around the mezzanine at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex, but what’s not to love about the animated expression of a volunteer playing a suspected impaired driver.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS A worker prepares the entrance to Port Coquitlam’s new $132 million recreation complex for the installation of front doors. These preview tours of big new construction projects usually follow a similar script: The reporter and I start off together with our tour guides, then I inevitably fall behind as I look for interesting angles, light and features.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Media rogue, Nardwar the Human Serviette, negotiates with Conservative Party campaign officials for access to federal leader Andrew Scheer during a campaign stop at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam on Friday. Election campaign appearances by national leaders are usually tightly-controlled affairs designed to produce exactly the kind of moments and stories their handlers seek — until renowned rabble-rouser and celebrity interviewer, Nardwar, the Human Serviette shows up.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Keira Cameron, from Ranch Park elementary school, is directed to victory in the Grade 4 girls race on the opening day of the 41st annual Como Lake Relays last Wednesday in Coquitlam. The Como Lake Relays is always a fun event to shoot as the kids are so determined and earnest in their efforts to do well for their school.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Andrea MacIntosh checks out one of the beers brewed by Tinhouse Brewing, which is located right off the Traboulay Trail in Port Coquitlam. The new Tinhouse Brewery in Port Coquitlam is located right on the Traboulay Trail near the PItt River. My challenge was to tell that story with a captivating image.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Coquitlam’s Matthew Shanley, right, celebrates his seventh homerun wiith his teammates at the BC Little League Majors provincial championship tournament, Friday at Vancouver’s Hillcrest Park. Coquitlam defeated Layritz, 7-6, in eight innings. Heading into Vancouver to cover the local Little League team at the provincial championships, who knew this would be the start of a magnificent journey to the World Series for these kids.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Heritage Woods’ Karosh Rafizadeh keeps a close eye on his opponent, Aiden Winterlik, from Terry Fox, in their 66kg match at the Lower Fraser Valley district wrestling championships, last Friday at Port Moody secondary school. I won’t sugarcoat it: wrestling is a tough sport to shoot, made even more difficult by the often dismal lighting in high school gyms. That means you usually have to use a slower shutter speed and higher ISO than you’d like, or wait for a quiet moment of intensity like this.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Callan Morrison juggles oranges while his fiancé and business partner, Jessica Clark, loads the commercial juice presser that is installed in a custom shower enclosure at the back of their new Port Coquitlam juicery, Squish Juicery. The enclosure allows for quick and thorough cleaning of the juicer between pressings. Making juice from a large, industrial squeezer is not the most photogenic activity. But when that juicer is positioned in a huge shower stall and the subject is willing to play along with your suggestion to juggle, the result is a fun photo.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Centennial’s Felipe Ruiz tries to knock a pass from a Carson Graham receiver during a recent controlled scrimmage at the Centaurs’ home field in Coquitlam. A controlled pre-season football scrimmage doesn’t usually produce dramatic pass receptions.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CIY NEWS Mandela Nsenga, the youth pastor at the new Riverside Church in Port Coquitlam, relaxes in the atrium with associate pastor Dave Jonsson. A story about a giant new church building in Port Coquitlam is really a story about the congregation staying relevant and contemporary.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Reid Demelo accepts the high-fives of other students at Heritage Woods secondary school in Port Moody after his three-point shot at the buzzer of last Thursday’s Kodiak Klassic senior boys basketball tournament game between the Kodiaks and Kitsilano secondary went viral on the Internet. Principal Tood Clerkson said everyone in the school knows Demelo, who has Down’s Syndrome, and his moment of glory is testimony to the student’s sense of acceptance and inclusion. AS soon as I walked into Heritage Woods secondary to meet Reid Demelo for an interview about his sudden social media celebrity, I spotted the parting wave of well-wishers and high-fiving friends ahead of me and the enthusiasm never let up as we headed for the main office to extend our chat to the school’s principal.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Daniela Hammond samples one of the 60 or so olive oils and balsamic vinegars she offers at her new olive oil dispensary in Port Moody’s Newport Village. Popping light through bottles is a fun way to bring a shot to life.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Llyn Lindo, a traffic controller on Kingsway Avenue at the site of the new Port Coquitlam recreation complex, said she loves the snow, but the sign she’s holding seems to sum up the thoughts of most people as a snow squall rolls through Thursday morning. It’s March and it’s snowing, just when everybody is thinking about spring. The key to capturing good snowfall photos is a dark background.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Port Moody’s Julia Budd is about to be joined on the Bellator MMA circuit by her stepson, Lance Gibson Jr. Budd will be defending her featherweight world championship in July. MMA fighters do their thing in a caged arena, so of course that chainlink cage has to feature prominently in telling their story.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS A passerby seems to invoke a sneer from a painting for a camel that is part of a new public art installation at Ioco Road and Barnet Highway in Port Moody. The project features works by artists that belong to the Esplanade Artists Studio and camoflouges a temporary parking lot required by TransLink to accomodate parking displaced by its construction of a new storage facility for 30-40 SkyTrain cars just west if Falcon Drive in Coquitlam. I’d been trying to figure out what to do with the art banners affixed to fencing near the Moody Centre SkyTrain station for several days, then just decided to stake it out one afternoon for about 30 minutes. The similarity between the passerby and the painting behind him was just a serendipidous accident.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Chris Lancaster heads back to the barns at Fraser Downs after working out one of his horses. It’s been more than 30 years since I had the opportunity to photograph a horse racing story, so I relished the chance to soak in the atmosphere and characters at Fraser Downs while spending a morning with local trainer and racer, Chris Lancaster.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Danika Michelsen hangs from a high bar at the Momentum Ninja Training Centre in Port Coquitlam. She’s one of 36 athletes from the gym who’ve qualified to compete at the Ultimate Ninja Athletic Association world championships in Minnesota in July. This local Ninja gym is chock-a-block with climbing walls and other apparatus that can quickly overwhelm a photographer, let alone create busy backgrounds. That’s when it’s best to keep things simple.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS The canoe is carried into the gymnasium at the Kwikwetlem First Nation’s Healing Spirit Centre. It’s not everyday you get to photography a giant, 30-foot canoe, so it was important to somehow capture the effort it takes to move such a behemoth into the new First Nation’s Healing Spirit Centre.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Zach Hamed, a 17-year-old student at Heritage Woods secondary school, begins his descent from the training tower. While I’m not afraid of heights, there are other places I’d rather be. So when I get to cover people doing things in high places, I’m always facinated by that moment they release themselves to gravity, such as this student descending from the tower at Coquitlam’s main fire hall during a junior firefighter camp.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Port Moody professional hockey player Wade MacLeod, and his wife, Karly, are keeping a positive outlook he’ll be able to return to his career after he recovers from the third and fourth surgeries last summer to deal with a Grade 3 Glioblastoma tumour that has recurred in his brain. Wade MacLeod’s story of dealing with brain cancer that truncated his professional hockey career wasn’t easy to tell. But his resilience and determination are an inspiration.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Competitors in a boys 100m race leap for the finish line. Shots of the finish line at a sprint race are pretty standard. Less common is catching all three top finishers in mid-air.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Port Moody councillor Meghan Lahti gets emotional at Tuesday’s meeting of city countil as she speaks to a motion by fellow councillor Diana Dilworth asking Mayor Rob Vagramov to resume his leave of absence until his charge of sexual assault is dealt with. Lahti said “it’s our job to maintain the public’s trust.” Shows of emotion are rare at a city council meeting. At least as rare as bringing a camera to cover that meeting.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Kelowna Owls defender Parker Johnstone goes high to try to block a shot by Terry Fox Raven Jaden De Leon, in the second half of their BC High School senior boys AAAA basketball championship semi-final game, Friday at the Langley Events Centre. I spent years covering the high school basketball provincials at the old Agrodome, and one year at GM Place. But last spring was my first opportunity to shoot it at the Langley Events Centre. The great lighting and beautiful fall-off at that light in the background, both in the main arena and the auxilliary gyms was a revelation and instantly trumped any nostalgic for the dim, funky-smelling Agrodome at the PNE.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Wendy Swalwell, the chair of Port Moody Legion’s property development committee, admires the new branch on Clarke Street from its stage. As a background for a photo, the interior of the new Port Moody Legion is rather uninspiring. Except for the giant mural of a poppy field.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Port Moody firefighters like Jeff Scallion will be serving up steaming mugs of coffee and hot chocolate at their annual tree chipping event on Sat., Jan. 4, and Sun., Jan. 5, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Inlet Centre fire hall (150 Newport Dr.). For this photo, I wanted to play on the firefighters serving hot chocolate at their tree chipping event, so I blasted a flash set at full power from behind the firefighter to create a silhouette and highlight the steam from his mug.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Carola Alder, of CityState Consulting, that shares space in The Silk Gallery, removes one of the paintings left behind when two neighbouring buildings on Port Moody’s Clarke Street caught fire Sunday night. The gallery, which is run by Coun. Zoe Royer, sustained smoke and water damage but most of its contents were safely removed to a nearby storage container. It’s been years since many newspapers had the ability to monitor fire and police radios, but often the human storytelling shots of a disaster happen after the fact, as people try to understand and deal with their loss.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Retired engineer Cosimo Geracitano has surrounded himself with paintings in his Coquitlam home by some of the world’s great masters, including Da Vinci, Renoir, Van Gogh and John Constable. But he’s not fabulously wealthy. He’s meticulously painted the reproductions himself. Every once in a while a story comes along that makes even the most grizzled journalist go “wow, that’s so cool.” Cosimo Geracitano dedication and talent to recreate paintings by master artists was one of those stories. Walking into his Coquitlam home was like entering a hall at the Louvre.
Hang out at the “beach” at the annual Donkey Cross cyclocross race in Port Coquitlam long enough, and somebody is bound to go down.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS The Liberal MP for Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, Ron McKinnon, watches election night results come in with one of his campaign volunteers, Haley Hodgson. For all the buildup to covering election nights, they’re usually a visual let-down. The celebration parties are usually in dark, crowded halls, restaurants or pubs with lots of hugging and handshaking. So when Liberal MP Ron McKinnon decided to spend a little more time at his nearby campaign office to monitor the incoming results, I asked if I could tag along.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS A worker is dwarfed by giant wooden beams at the new PoCo Recreation Complex that is underconstruction on Wilson Avenue. Back in the day when newspapers actually employed staff photographers who spent their whole shift doing just that, we’d often use downtime between assignments to check out things we’d spot in our travels that might make a good photo. Sometimes those photos — we called them “wild art” or “tour shots” would end up on the front page, and sometimes they’d help an editor plug a quarter-page hole deep in the paper. I made note of these magnificent beams being lifted into place at the new Port Coquitlam Community Centre, then did something about it when we did a construction update story.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Workers move the Terry Fox Library’s collection of more than 260,000 items into its new home at the new Port Coquitlam Community Centre next door on Tuesday. The move took two days and, the librarian’s manager, Kimberly Constable, said, everything will be in place, along with several new items and features, in time for the community centre’s grand opening on Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 4 p.m. It’s not often a local library moves into a new facility. And when that move is just a short walk away, the toil of that move can make an interesting photo.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS A young female red-tailed hawk that was rescued by Coquitlam city workers is released along the hydro right-of-way on Mariner Way by Carol Norris, of Outdoor Wildlife Rescue (OWL), last Wednesday. Bird releases are always a bit of a photographic gamble as to when the bird will actually take off, which direction it will take, and can my finger react on the shutter button quickly enough.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Jade Lee cried when she first started competing in Tae Kwon Do. Now she’s a Canadian junior champion. Suburban living rooms usually don’t make for the best photo studios. So that’s when you simplify by setting up a single light and zooming in.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Heather Wallace-Barnes and her husband, Johnny Barnes, check out the “ladies room,” one of the themed rooms in their Pinball Alley Vintage shop in Port Moody that sells clothes and all manner of curios from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, as well as old vinyl records. They’re selling the shop to move their family to Spain. Generally, I’m dismayed by mirrors. But I love the challenge of integrating them into my photos. You just have to be careful with your positioning so you don’t end up in the photo, and then think about everything else — like lighting and composition — backwards.
This story originally appeared in The Tri-City News.
Clay Stevenson knew everything was going to be alright when he made 39 saves and shut out the Surrey Eagles 3-0. It was his first game of the BC Hockey League season, and the second for his Coquitlam Express.
It was also his first time strapping on his goalie equipment since his mom, Holly, died by suicide just 10 days earlier.
Stevenson, in his third year with the Express, said that moment has helped propel him to the best season of his career. And his team has followed, all the way to the top of the league standings.
A middle child between two sisters, Stevenson grew up in Alberta and British Columbia after his parents split up when he was a toddler.
At 16, Stevenson finally made the decision to move in with his mom, who was living in Chilliwack at the time, as the Lower Mainland offered more opportunities and access to better coaching to pursue his hockey ambitions.
Stevenson said his mom was always supportive, even as she endured personal struggles with her sexual identity and navigated a challenging career change from dental assistant to paramedic.
When Stevenson left for 100 Mile House to play Junior B, his mom arranged to be posted in that community’s ambulance station so she could support her son and even catch some of his games between shifts.
Stevenson said her sacrifices to ensure he always had the right equipment and to get up at four in the morning so he could get to practice left an indelible mark.
“I wanted to do my best to show her that it was going to pay off.”
It wasn’t always easy, though.
After playing 25 games for the 100 Mile House Wranglers, where he posted a 3.12 goals-against average, Stevenson joined the Express for the 2017/’18 season. He won only four of the 23 games he played, and his GA average ballooned to 3.89.
Still, Stevenson said the foundations of fortitude and perseverance he learned from his mom pushed him forward.
“Everything she did, she wanted to do to the best of her capabilities,” he said. “That rubbed off on me.”
The next season, Stevenson won 14 games and cut more than half a goal from his average. The congratulatory texts from his mom and the proud postings on her Facebook page became more frequent.
“Honestly, it was a bit embarrassing, but that’s what she loved to do.”
Stevenson learned of his mom’s death after a practice.
He was watching TV with his “billet brother” at the Coquitlam home where he stays during the season when his younger sister, Brie, showed up at the front door.
Stevenson said he knew his mom had been having a difficult year, struggling with her mental health, but he never expected the news his sister delivered.
It hit him hard.
The next days were a whirlwind as family came to town and a funeral had to be arranged.
Stevenson missed a pre-season game. But on Sept. 7, he attended the Express’ regular season opener, watching his teammates from the stands.
“Going to the rink takes your mind off things,” Stevenson said. “When I come here, I know it’s going to be a normal day. Just go out there and play hockey.”
Express coach Jason Fortier said creating that sense of normalcy was key to helping Stevenson and his teammates get through the tragedy.
“We’re here to support the players in any way we can,” he said.
By Sept. 10, Stevenson said he was ready to play, saying it’s what his mom would have wanted.
“My mom loved hockey,” he said. “She wouldn’t want me to mope around.”
COURAGE & RESOLVE
Stevenson said he was nervous about how he would get through his first game knowing he would never see his mom smiling up in the stands again or receive one of her texts after a good performance. He pulled a chain through one of her rings that she often wore to twist away her anxiety and wore it around his neck.
Stevenson said that first game back after her death got easier as it went on.
“After the first period, I knew I had to be clear and present, and knowing what I had to do out there.”
He was all that and more. His shutout earned him recognition as the game’s first star. More importantly, he set an example for his team that has reverberated through the season.
“The way I was able to handle myself in that situation was a symbol of strength for my team,” he said. “We can get through anything and come out on top.”
Fortier said Stevenson’s courage and resolve to get through his first game became a bit of a rallying point for the whole team.
“It built confidence in themselves at how good they can be to help their teammate achieve something special,” he said.
The clarity Stevenson achieved in that first game hasn’t waned. He has posted 22 wins and just two losses. He has three shutouts and his goals-against average is a miserly 1.45. He was the league’s player of the month for November.
And while his mom may not be physically present at the rink or on the phone to share his success, Stevenson said he still feels her presence.
“I don’t know if I’m a spiritual guy, but I like to think she’s looking down and watching me when I’m playing,” he said, adding she may even have a hand when a shot he’s missed hits the post behind him.
There’s few things more aggravating to a newspaper journalist than getting beat to a story by TV. That’s especially true today, in this post-literal-all-social-media-all-the-time age when too many people get their immediate news high from quick-hit, superficial digital media; why bother taking the time to read a well-crafted story with context and nuance when you can absorb the big bits in a 30-second clip from YouTube? Last week I got burned twice, in 24 hours. The first story is one I’ve been sitting on for months, holding off because I was asked to due to its sensitivity. I was confident I would eventually get it, but I was also respectful of the situation. Then, it showed up on TV. The other was one of those viral moments that newscasts like to feature because they make people smile or gasp and absolves them of having a reporter or video journalist on the payroll who could otherwise fill that 30-second time slot. Usually I dismiss such stories, as they tend to flare up and then burn out quickly; such is the half-life of electronic news these days. But this one happened right in our backyard, and I sensed there was likely more layers to the story than the post on Twitter that lit the fuse could summarize in 140 characters. In such an instance, you’re playing catch-up right out of the gate. That the story caught fire late on a Friday and we don’t work weekends made it doubly difficult. Should I even bother? I wondered. After all, such stories inevitably become about the number of views the viral video got because viewers love that kind of data and it doesn’t require a lot of manpower or time to tell. But as the weekend went on, I burned to know the rest of the story. Driving to the office, I resigned to playing catch-up but I was determined to tell the story better, and in a way that would hopefully resonate with our own community.
Reid Demelo was excited to get the opportunity to take a shot in a high school basketball game.
But the Grade 12 student at Heritage Woods secondary school in Port Moody never imagined his moment of sporting glory would be seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. That it would capture the attention of local TV stations and national Canadian and American networks — including CBC’s The National and CBS Sports. That it would spark an effort by his schoolmates to get him on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Demelo’s shot, arcing through the air just as time ran out in the Kodiaks’ opening game of their own ninth annual Kodiak Klassic senior boys’ basketball tournament last Thursday wasn’t a winner. (Heritage Woods beat the Kitsilano Blues handily, 79-45.)
It wasn’t Demelo’s only basket of the game — he had sunk another shot about 20 seconds earlier.
It wasn’t even the first time Demelo had come off the bench from his usual role as team manager to get a chance to play — he’d had a similar opportunity last season.
But that shot was so much more than all of the attention it’s getting.
It was, said Heritage Woods principal Todd Clerkson, a celebration of the power of acceptance and inclusion amongst young people.
“Reid knows everybody,” he said. “He brings people together.”
Demelo has Down syndrome.
His life revolves around sports. In addition to playing basketball, he swims competitively, participates in track and field and ultimate, and he’s on the Team BC Special Olympics training squad for speed skating. He also fills water bottles for his younger brother’s academy hockey team at Burnaby Winter Club.
Last year, Demelo took on a similar role with the Kodiaks senior boys’ basketball team.
In addition to keeping the players hydrated or handing them a towel to dab their sweaty brows, he’s also a tireless booster, said Kodiaks coach Greg Schellenberg.
“Reid is such a positive individual,” he said. “He’s got such a great spirit about him.”
So when the throng of more than 1,000 students that traditionally fills the bleachers for the home school’s lunchtime opener began chanting “We want Reid! We want Reid!” in the game’s waning moments, Schellenberg knew what he had to do.
He affirmed his notion with co-coach Roj Johal, then called a timeout with 35 seconds on the clock to talk to the Kitsilano coach, Sylvester Noel, who gave his blessing.
Demelo got the nod but, as a team manager, he doesn’t have a jersey.
So teammate Morgan Liski loaned him his #11, which Demelo pulled on over his maroon “We are Kodiaks” t-shirt.
Demelo, a point guard who has been playing basketball with the Tri-City Youth Basketball Association — where his mom, Jana Demelo, is also a coach — since he was in Grade 2 and takes every opportunity to shoot hoops with his high school colleagues during practice and at home in his driveway, said he was excited and nervous to get on the court.
“I came out flying,” he said.
Demelo got his first touch of the ball after Heritage Woods regained possession from the Blues on a rebound. He scored.
A few moments later, the Kodiaks were able to wrest the ball away again. Viktor Glogovac made a pass behind his back to Demelo, who corralled it then planted his feet just beyond the three-point line. As players from both sides watched in anticipation, he launched a perfect rainbow. The game-ending buzzer sounded just as the ball crested.
And then, bedlam.
The bleachers emptied in a wild celebration. Demelo’s teammates chased him to the opposite end of the court, where they embraced their manager in a bouncing, roiling dance of unbridled joy.
“That was the best moment,” Demelo said, adding he was thinking of his best buddy, former Kodiak star Zach Hamed, who’s sitting out his first year of basketball eligibility at the University of Victoria this season and was in the crowd at Heritage Woods last Thursday. And he said he thought of the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry, the NBA superstar he’d like to meet someday.
Clerkson said it was an apt moment because everybody at the school knows and loves Demelo.
“Reid is just so genuine. He supports all the events at the school and the kids appreciate that,” he said, adding Demelo was presented a special Spirit of the Kodiak award last year for his positive contributions to Heritage Woods and his fellow students.
“Nobody embodies that spirit better,” Clerkson said.
“It was an incredible moment to be there and experience it,” Schellenberg said. “It showcases what a great community we have at Heritage Woods that’s so supportive.”
Monday, with the principal handling a steady stream of media requests, Demelo was free to accept the smiles, high-fives and hugs of nearly everyone he passed in the halls between classes.
It’s “awesome,” he said, but the team has a game at the Langley Events Centre in the Howard Tsumura Invitational tournament on Wednesday, and he needs a ride.
As the Tri-City News’ ad-hoc cycling reporter, pretty much any story on two wheels gets sent my way. But not all bikes have just two wheels. Or one rider.
You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can get him on a bike every couple of years.
At 106 years, Don Simpson certainly qualifies as old. In fact, according to Phil Reist, the driver of the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s “Big Bike,” he’s likely the oldest participant to ever ride the 29-passenger behemoth bicycle that helps raise money and awareness to prevent heart disease.
Simpson was the captain of a contingent of spry seniors from the Mayfair Terrace retirement home in Port Coquitlam who took the Big Bike for a 20-minute spin on the roads around Coquitlam Centre last Friday. It wasn’t his first rodeo, though.
Simpson cycled the Big Bike when he was much younger — two years ago when he was 104. But he also remembers riding his bike as a boy around Vancouver’s Stanley Park and attending the six-day bike races at the old China Creek velodrome.
“That was our stomping ground,” he said.
So when it came time to climb aboard the gargantuan single-geared machine, Simpson knew exactly where he wanted to be. He ignored the requests of a photographer and cameraman to mount an outboard seat so they could get a clear shot of him pedalling, and instead scrambled — slowly, and with a bit of help — to the middle row at the very back. After all, who’s going to argue with someone his age?
And with a few last-minute instructions from Reist, a shake of the maracas and other noisemakers to ensure passersby notice the big bike — like they’re going to miss it? — they were off.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Don Simpson, 106, is the team’s captain, and a veteran of riding the big bike. He last did it two years ago, when he was 104.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS The seniors from Mayfair retirement home in Port Coquitlam arrive to ride the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s “Big Bike” on roads around Coquitlam Centre last Friday.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS The big bike’s pilot, Phil Reist, awaits his charges from Mayfair Terrace retirement home.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Don Simpson, 106, gets a little help climbing aboard the big bike.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Simpson is not going to let a photographer and cameraman dictate his place on the big bike so they can get shots of him pedalling. He heads mid-ship.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Simpson isn’t the only centenarian on the big bike team from Mayfair Terrace. Jessie, who’s being escorted to the team photograph, is 103.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Big Bike driver Phil Reist gives the cyclists from Mayfair Terrace retirement home their instructions to stay safe and have fun.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Simpson gets his photo taken prior to climbing aboard the big bike as captain of a team of seniors from Mayfair retirement home in Port Coquitlam.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Brian and Barb Corbould, right, lead some of their team members from Mayfair retirement home, in a little warm-up dance prior to embarking on a ride on the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s “big bike.”
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS And they’re off, with an appropriate message as their send-off.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Don Simpson, 106, gives the thumbs up for the big bike to depart.
Alex Turner was a new mom when she ran headlong into postpartum depression.
She didn’t have it. But the former television reporter felt deeply connected to the news coverage of a young Burnaby mother who’d gone missing for three weeks until her body was found near Bowen Island.
In a heart-wrenching post on Facebook, the woman’s husband said she had been struggling with breastfeeding her newborn son, but without a community of moms around her to provide support and reassurance, she gave into her feelings of guilt and anxiety.
“I could feel her struggle,” said Turner, whose own son was about the same age as the woman’s child. “You have a new person you have to care for, yet you can feel you’re so alone.”
So when Turner became pregnant with her second child, she was determined not to let herself become isolated by creating her own community of new moms who could lean on and learn from each other, who would appreciate the opportunity to just get out of the house.
A year later, Turner’s Tri-Cities Moms Monthly “Meeting” group has more than 500 members from New Westminster to Maple Ridge, several dozen of whom gathered with their infants and toddlers for their regular assembly Thursday at the outdoor patio behind Yellow Dog Brewery in Port Moody.
Turner said while social media like Facebook and Instagram might provide a refuge for new moms, digital connections aren’t a substitute for real, personal interaction.
“You need to come together face-to-face,” she said.
And what better place to do that than the family-friendly environs of one of Port Moody’s craft breweries where moms can have adult conversations while their babies and toddler roll around on blankets spread on the soft wood chip ground of the expansive and shaded back outdoor patio?
“We’re in this together,” Turner said.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Parking spots for strollers at the monthly Tri-Cities Beer and Babies meetup group at Yellow Dog Brewing fill quickly.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Nancy Wong’s beer is reflected in her sunglasses as she relaxes with her daughter, Joelle, 6 months.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Angela Teymoori turns her arrival at the Tri-Cities Babies + Beer meetup at Yellow Dog Brewing in Port Moody into an Instagrammable moment with her son, Darius, who’s five months old.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Ty Hardless, 11 months, appears to be savouring a beer next to his mom, Sandy.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Fernanda Carli shares a giggle with her two-year-old daughter, Carli.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS The outdoor back patio at Yellow Dog Brewing in Port Moody fills quickly with moms and their babies during the monthly gathering of the Tri-Cities Beer and Babies meetup group.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Olivia Ong, 2, turns a cornhole board into an impromptu slide at the monthly gathering of the Tri-Cities Babies and Beer meetup group at Yellow Dog Brewing in Port Moody.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Chrystal Santos stays cool with a cider while her son, Callum, who’s four-months-old, stays cool with stylin’ sunglasses.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Sarah Williams shares a moment with her son, Aiden, 8 months, during the monthly Tri-Cities Babies and Beer meet up group at Yellow Dog Brewing in Port Moody.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Carly Somner enjoys a beer accompanied by her seven-month-old daughter, Lucy.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Michelle Cochrane makes her arrival, with her five-month-old son, Grayson, at the monthly gathering moms and their babies at Yellow Dog Brewing in Port Moody.
One of the (rare) perks of being a journalist is being able to share some stories that are so cool, you’re walking on Cloud 9 when you leave the assignment.
One of my newsroom colleagues heard about a retired Italian engineer, who also ran a Ferrari and Lambourghini car dealership for several years, with a passion for painting reproductions of masterworks by the likes of Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Gaugin, Renoir. We made arrangements to meet, but nothing could prepare us for the splendour in Cosimo Gericatano’s house.
Every wall, and even some of the ceilings, were hung with precise duplications of renowned paintings that adorn the best museums in the world. Mona Lisa, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Creation of Adam, Allegory of the Planets and Continents were all there, every brushstroke and subtle hue recreated over hundreds of hours of exacting work.
Hanging with Cosimo was like spending a couple of hours with the Italian gentleman we all aspire to be, from his crisp cotton shirt and pressed trousers, as well as his trimmed grey hair to his encyclopedic knowledge of the paintings and artists he’s reproduced, gleaned from hours of research on the internet and visits to the museums where the originals are displayed. Not to mention the red Testarossa parked in his pristine garage.
Here’s the link to our story. And here’s the photos I shot.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS The living room of Cosimo Geracitano’s Coquitlam home is decorated with paintings by some of the world’s greatest masters. But they’re all reproductions the retired engineer painted himself.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Geracitano paints the name of all the master painters whose works he’s reproduced on the leaves of an artificial tree in his Coquitlam home. He still has a lot of leaves to fill.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Paul Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, as painted by Coquitlam artist Cosimo Geracitano.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS When Cosimo Geracitano wakes up every mornng in his Coquitlam home, the first thing he sees is his reproduction of Auguste Renoir’s The Large Bathers.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS A detail from Seaport with the Embarkation of Saint Ursula, painted in 1641 by Glaude Gallée and reproduced by retired engineer Cosimo Geracitano in his Coquitlam home.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Gericatano is in the final stages of completing his last painting, a fresco he will hand on the ceiling in the dining room of his Coquitlam home. He says he’s run out of space for new works.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Gericatano spends hundreds of hours recreating master paintings from high-res images he finds on the internet and high quality posters he keeps filed in a storage room in the basement of his Coquitlam home.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS A detail of Allegory of the Planets and Continents that was painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in 1752 and is being meticulously reproduced by retired Coquitlam engineer Cosimo Geracitano so he can hang it on the ceiling of his dining room. He says it will be his last painting as he’s run out of room in his house.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Geracitano not only paints reproductions of master works on canvas, he also sculpts in marble and jade in a converted garage in his Coquitlam home.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Retired engineer Cosimo Geracitano has surrounded himself with paintings in his Coquitlam home by some of the world’s great masters, including Da Vinci, Renoir, Van Gogh and John Constable. But he’s not fabulously wealthy. He’s meticulously painted the reproductions himself.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Cosimo Geracitano uses posters or high resolution images as his guide to recreating paintings by the master.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS A detail from Cosimo Geracitano’s reproduction of The Gotthard Post, by Rudolf Koller.
MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Cosimo Geracitano paints the name of each master painter he’s recreated on the leaves of an artificial tree in the basement of his Coquitlam home.
While the major rainstorm that was forecast held off, dozens of riders still got down and dirty at Saturday’s annual Donkey Cross cyclocross race in Port Coquitlam’s Castle Park.
The race was the first of seven that comprise the Lower Mainland Cyclocross series.
Cyclocross is like steeplechase racing on two wheels. Riders navigate a winding, undulating course for several laps that includes obstacles, a metres-long “beach” of soft sand, and even a stretch of snow from a local arena dumped into a corner. The sport originated as a form of off-season training for road cyclists in Northern Europe who would often challenge each other to get to the coffee shop in the next village the quickest. Often, that meant traversing farmers’ fields and hopping fences and hedges, elements that are still honoured in modern cyclocross racing.
A version of this article appeared in The Tri-City News.
It’s one thing to build a multi-use path, quite another to get walkers and cyclists to use it.
Port Moody accomplished the former with its $4.627-million upgrade of Gatensbury Avenue to make the steep, winding connector between it and the city and Coquitlam safer for motorists and add a $285,000 multi-use path (MUP) along its western flank for pedestrians and people on bikes.
The project was identified as an early priority in Port Moody’s master transportation plan, which was endorsed by council in March 2017. That plan will see the city invest more than $31 million over the next 20 years to make it easier to get around the city, and encourage more sustainable modes of transportation, like walking and cycling.
Ascending Gatensbury, though, remains a test of fortitude, leg strength and lung capacity.
Already the climb to the top has been dubbed the “Gatensbury Gasp” on social media by some pedestrians who have ascended its 12% average pitch over 1.1 kilometres since it reopened to traffic at the end of May.
But what does that mean for cyclists?
Always up for a good bike story, I set out to find out.
I’m not a climber. Descending is more my jam.
I ride up hills and mountains because I have to get to the top so I can turn around and speed back down.
For the most part, cyclists have avoided Gatensbury for years because of its narrow lanes that lacked a shoulder and its pocked pavement that made it unsafe at worst, uncomfortable at best.
Oh yeah, there’s also its perilous steepness, which ranges from 11.1% at the bottom to 18.3% in its final rise.
By comparison, Mont Ventoux, one of the iconic climbs of the Tour de France, peaks at 12% and the Muur van Geraardsbergen in Belgium, that has been a decisive climb in big-time professional bike races like the Tour of Flanders, rises an average of 9.3% over its 1,075 metres over bumpy, tire-eating cobbles that can rattle the fillings from your teeth.
The pavement on Gatensbury’s new MUP is smooth tarmac, not yet heaved by straying tree roots or ravaged by winter freezes and thaws.
The path is also wide — maybe not wide enough to allow teetering cyclists to weave their own switchbacks to stay upright, but certainly wide enough for pedestrians and riders going uphill to pass each other easily.
According to Strava, an online app that allows cyclists and runners to upload data from their GPS devices, 43 cyclists have completed the segment called “Todds Gatensbury climb,” which is .94 km from the base of the hill at Henry and Grant streets to Bartlett Avenue at the top, this year. The fastest was Matthew Cox, a Port Moody cyclist who made it to the top in four minutes, four seconds. That’s an average speed of 13.9 km/h and well off the all-time record of 17.7 km/h by Brett Wakefield back in 2015, when the road was in much worse shape and there was no MUP. Some notable athletes have also tackled Gatensbury, including Canadian Olympic triathlete Simon Whitfield — he did it in 3:49 in 2013.
At the start of the MUP, after a warmup pedal from The Tri-City News’ office in Port Coquitlam, I could only dream of such blinding uphill speed. In fact, I just wanted to survive without my knees, or heart, exploding.
The climbing starts at a modest 3.9% at Henry and Moody streets but by the time it hits its first switchback, it touches 17%. It’s about then I realize I’m still in second gear. I veer into a driveway to change gears because doing so under high torque in a difficult climb can blow apart a derailleur.
The second switchback is consistently around 15% but goes as steep as 18.2%.
But the nastiness is just getting started.
Looking ahead, the road straightens, the gradient moderates slightly and the end seems in sight. The bike computer says I’m doing 6.6 km/h but, gasping for breath and rocking side-to-side, it feels like I’m standing still.
Then, the road veers left to reveal its cruelest twist: more climbing, some of it is as steep as 17.3%.
I reach Bartlett Avenue 7:09 after I started the climb, the 25th-fastest — or 18th slowest — ascent of the segment recorded on Strava so far this year.
As I turn to cross the road and collect my reward — a speedy descent on Gatensbury’s smooth, new pavement — a cyclist on an electric-assist bike with fat, cushy tires, cruises nonchalantly by on the uphill side. He’s smiling, with barely a bead of sweat on his brow.
We all have mentors. They’re the people who show us the way, whether they know it or not. Mine was Ron Kuzyk. He was a steelworker and a hell of a photojournalist who worked the weekend shift we came to share for a stretch at the Burlington Post, where I started my career. Ron passed away this week.
In 1984, I was just out of journalism school and determined to use a camera as my storytelling tool of choice. Circumstances that summer connected me to George Tansley, then the chief photographer at the Post. He said he could offer me some shifts to relieve his weekend guy who spent his weekdays working at Stelco and sometimes needed a break from the grind.
That guy was Ron.
We probably first met in the studio/darkroom one of those weekends; he was likely passing through to collect something, and I was probably trying to figure out how I too could get some of the great shots that were printed and hung on the walls of the studio and down the hall outside it. I particularly remember a colour wintry silhouette of a kid balancing on a fence, arms and leg splayed out; I loved that photo.
Of course it, and many of the others, was shot by Ron.
Especially the sports.
I knew I wanted to be able to shoot sports like Ron.
He could capture peak action like nobody’s business, but he also had a keen eye for those quiet moments, like the kid stealing a glance back at his coach, the consoling hand on a player’s shoulder, the goofiness of 5 year-old t-ballers.
And, amazingly, he didn’t need big time pro athletes or glorious bright arena lighting to get his great sports photos. He made them in dark high school gyms, dusty sandlot baseball diamonds and pocked minor soccer pitches.
Over the course of that summer, as Ron and I crossed paths, we became buddies. He encouraged me, talked me through the frustrations of learning how to shoot with the Hasselblad because the big colour transparencies made for better front page colour reproduction. But mostly he showed me the way with his eye and his instincts.
Whenever I had the chance, I studied his contact sheets, checked out his prints, paid attention to his byline (although, by the second week I was already pretty good at spotting a Ron shot in the paper), and when my shooting shifts came, I distilled what I learned to get in the right position for a good baseball shot, look all around at a spot news scene to find that storytelling moment, seek out a fun juxtaposition at a community event.
When I happened to be in the darkroom and he popped by for a studio shot, I studied how he set up the lights and, more importantly, how he made his subjects feel at ease, joked with them, broke through their guard to find something that captured the story they were there to tell.
Ron was the most natural, instinctual photojournalist I ever met. More importantly, he was also the most fun. Because as much as we liked to bitch about shooting pet of the week or real estate features, as much as the repetitiveness of shooting the same cycle of community events year after year wore down your creativity, he really got a kick out of his job, and that joy came through in every one of his frames (well maybe not the photos of used cars for dealer ads).
The next summer, all the lessons I’d absorbed from Ron paid off when I landed a full-time gig at Oshawa This Week.
On the weekends I wasn’t working, I often came back to Burlington to visit my family and hang with Ron. Usually over beers, sometimes in the vicinity of naked women dancing on stages. We kibitzed and kvetched as professional colleagues. We also complained, because that’s what journalists do when we get together (oh, if only we knew then what was coming for our industry, for our profession…)
But when Ron finally made the decision to cut his ties — and the big paycheque — to Stelco, he was over the moon with delight, thrilled to be working full-time at his passion even if it meant keeping his heap blue car that smelled like an ashtray on the road a little longer.
There were often adventures on those weekends, usually involving Post sports reporters Kevin Nagel, Dave Rashford and Tim Whitnell as well; road hockey in the back parking lot on New Street, some ice hockey games, the annual Metroland slo-pitch tournament, a concert or two.
When a group of us bought a tournament package for the 1987 Canada Cup series, Ron somehow managed to get photo accreditation for the climactic final so when Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky and the rest of that amazing Canadian team were celebrating their victory on the ice at Copp’s Coliseum, we were peering through our binoculars from the upper deck at Ron sliding around working the scrums. Oh yeah, he scored an amazing photo of the two superstars celebrating, jumping into each other’s arms behind the net in his corner. Like I said, Ron had great instincts for timing.
When I headed west in 1991, our contact became more sporadic.
He came out once, riding shotgun in his brother’s big rig. I drove him around, showing him my new turf, including a bar or two that may or may not have had a brass pole. I think the motel in Port Coquitlam where he stayed burned down shortly after his visit.
Again with the timing.
When I was home for a visit, we’d go for beers or lunch and shoot the shit about old times, compare notes about our current situations.
But I’ve always felt Ron’s guiding hand, tried to follow his eye, even as I forged my own path as a community photojournalist.
I know the changes to our industry weren’t easy for Ron. He was old-school, driven to get the shot and to hell with all the bullshit of the business.
After he left the Post, we caught up a few times on my visits back to Ontario. I think one of those times I managed to tell him how much impact he’d had on my own career, how those early exchanges in the Post studio set me on my path.
We also tried connecting on social media, but Ron was never one for the Facebook, unless he was trading/peddling his vinyl records. I think he Tweetered about 12 times.
But even as our contact waned, Ron was often in my thoughts. He’s the reason I park myself about three metres back of first base at a baseball game so I can reach second base for a steal or double play, but also can grab a close play at first. He’s the reason I sit instead of stand at the touchline of a soccer match because that means a cleaner background. He’s the reason I keep my eye on the bench near the end of a big game as much as on the playing arena. He’s the reason I’m still trying to emulate that great wintry silhouette of a kid balancing on a fence.