The Canoe Guy Story

The story behind The Canoe Guy Photos that I’ve Taken over the years.

I spend a lot of time at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, as many of you already know. I’ve spent the past 30 years camping at and visiting that park. It’s always been a special place to me. I’ll probably go into more detail about Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park in another blog post.

In recent years I’ve done mostly day trips to the park. One of the things I enjoy to do there at the end of the day before I head home, is to walk around the campgrounds and campsites.

I always try to make sure that I end up at the Babawasse Boat Launch around sunset. The boat launch and dock faces west across Moore Lake, making it the perfect spot to watch and photograph sunsets. I’ve taken many amazing sunset photos from this spot over the years!

One evening, during fall of 2014, I walked down to the boat launch and watched quite an interesting sunset setting over the lake. There were very dark clouds all around, but a glow of pink and purple across the lower section of the clouds, it looked almost like cotton candy. The sunset and clouds changed quite quickly through the short period of time that I was watching.

During the sunset, there had been a man out along one side of the lake in a yellow canoe. He was fishing before dark. He started to paddle himself out towards the middle of the lake and right across the sunset reflections.

It was the kind of thing that landscape/outdoors photographers absolutely love when it happens! Someone paddling a canoe across a lake, in the right place, at the right time. I’ve been lucky to have had that happen many times over the years.

I quickly took advantage of the opportunity and snapped as many photos as I could. I got quite a few good shots right before the pink clouds disappeared. After the sunset was over I left and continued walking, and then went home. Later on I posted some of the photos online and got quite a few likes and comments on them. I ended up giving the set of photos a bit of a nick name after. The Canoe Guy photos I called them.

The interesting thing with taking photos of random people in a canoe out on a lake is that you don’t know who they are, you never see them again, and they will probably never see the photos. I sometimes think when I’m looking through the photos later that I wish I could have shown the people the photos and even have given the photos to them. But of course, that never happens.

Four years later, during fall of 2018, I was walking around the Bagwa Day Use Area beach at Samuel de Champlain late one afternoon. It was the last full day that the park was open for the season, so there wasn’t many people left camping in the park. It was a dull cloudy day, but the bright fall colours of the leaves on the trees glowed from across the lake.

As I stood there photographing the trees I saw a canoe start to glide across the lake. It was far out from where I was so I couldn’t see it very well, but as it got closer I could see it better. A yellow canoe with a solo paddler.

I took a few photos and then started walking up away from the beach towards the other people I was with. I looked through some of my photos on my camera as I walked and then all of a sudden I stopped. A close up shot of the guy in the canoe had popped up on the screen. I zoomed in closer to take a better look. It was The Canoe Guy!

There he was, out on the lake, in the same yellow canoe, four years later! Wow I thought and I ran back down to the beach to take more photos as he passed by and continued paddling to the other end of the lake. It was then that I knew what I had to do. I had to track down his campsite and show him the sunset photos I had took of him four years ago.

Later on in the evening, I walked around the campground and kept my eye out for that yellow canoe. That would be the only way I would know which campsite was his without having to stop at each one and ask. I finally found the yellow canoe sitting alongside one of the campsites near the lake.

It’s a little awkward walking onto someone’s campsite in the dark and saying, hey, are you this guy in the photo? As I walked onto the campsite I saw The Canoe Guy, who I learned was named Hans, and his wife Ann sitting by their campfire. I explained the whole story to them and showed them the photos from four years ago.

They were delighted to see the photos and were happy that I had come to show them. We talked for a while and I learned that they were from Southern Ontario and have been camping at Samuel de Champlain for many years, usually a couple times each year. We had a nice conversation and I got their contact information so that I could email the rest of the 2014 photos, along with the 2018 photos, to them.

I was so happy after that I had finally had the chance to show The Canoe Guy the photos I had taken of him, and was able to give them to him as well. It had been a wonderful experience!

During fall of 2019, while riding my bike around Samuel de Champlain, I once again saw that yellow canoe out on the lake. The Canoe Guy waved at me as he paddled by and later that day I had the chance to visit with him and his wife again, and also share the new photos that I had taken of him out on the lake that day. It was nice to see them again. I’ve met a lot of great people at that park over the years!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of time looking through old photos and pulling some out of my collection, to edit and post online. It’s been fun to look back through them, remember the moments when they were taken, some hold a lot of great memories, and I’ve also found a lot of great shots that never had the chance to be shared to the public before.

But there is also another interesting thing that I’ve noticed while looking through my photos from between 2014 and 2018….. I’ve found more Canoe Guy photos that I never realized I had taken before! I came across more photos of yellow canoes and when I zoomed in and took a good look, sure enough, it was him! How many times had I taken photos of The Canoe Guy over the years and didn’t realize it was the same guy? Maybe I had even taken some photos of him before the 2014 sunset photos?

Photography is really cool in that way. Photos record things that you may have easily forgotten over the years. By looking back at photos it helps you to remember those moments, those memories, and also allows you to look more closely, at all of the small details, in a moment frozen in time. And that’s pretty special!

2 thoughts on “The Canoe Guy Story

  1. This was a fun way to remember meeting up with you through the years when we camp at Champlain. We love your photos of Hans and have shared them with friends and family. Hope to see you there again this year.

    Liked by 1 person

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