James Cowie, founder of Trekkers photo tours. Courtesy Ralph Bridgland


Calgary

Have camera. Will travel. Photo Tour Trekkers’ motto could be just that simple.

From humble beginnings in 2005, the Ontario-based travel organization marked its 100th excursion last year and, with a planned trip to Antarctica in 2019, it will have accompanied photography enthusiasts to seven continents in that time.

The group will also be attaching a wider lens to its operations on Oct. 18 with the launch of a western division in Calgary under the supervision of a veteran photographer. Dave Chidley began his photojournalism career in Calgary before moving to Ontario in 1984, working at the Toronto Sun until 2000 and at The London Free Press until 2006. He has co-hosted Trekkers tours with Cowie since 2005, but only on a part-time basis.

“When Dave decided to move back out west, everything came together to open the western branch in Calgary,” says Trekkers founder and director James Cowie.


Dave Chidley, a Calgary photojournalist, will lead photo tours for Trekkers.

Calgary

“I’m super happy with the way things have gone so far,” says Chidley, who has been talking up Trekkers at area camera clubs and at Saturday morning photography talks. The Camera Store is one of the sponsors of the Calgary launch.

Trekkers got off the ground with a trip to Sedona, Ariz., in 2005, followed up by Yosemite twice the following year. By the third year, the group offered three trips and the first sojourn outside North America was to South Africa in 2009.

The company now averages 16 tours a year and destinations have expanded to include Africa, Asia and Europe. Future tour plans include diverse locales such as Borneo, the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica, Patagonia, India, Italy, China and Scotland.

Cowie says the impetus for Trekkers came from “photographers who were frustrated by regular travel. So I started tours for photographers.”

Not as confined by schedules as regular tours, Trekkers attempts to provide the best possible photographic opportunities with fewer time restrictions. Daily schedules can be somewhat fluid, depending on the most interesting happenings and sightings.

Cowie says it requires 100 to 120 hours to organize each trip and each site is always scouted out before each excursion. “Through our Canadian partners (including travel wholesaler Tourcan Vacations Inc.) we now have tour operators in every country we visit.”

More than half of Trekkers clientele is repeat business — one person has been on 19 trips with the group.

“When the next trip rolls around, it’s sometimes like old home week,” said Cowie.

That said, all photographers are welcome regardless of experience or gear.

“No matter what you shoot with, you’re welcome,” Cowie says. “Keeping it simple is the best method for your photography. Our goal has been to send you home with photographs, not just snapshots. But it’s not just the photos. It’s the experience.”

Trekkers is hoping that eastern-based adventures such as Weekend with the Wolves and four-day workshops at Franklin Island will become popular with western Canadian customers. The group also hopes specialty tours here such as Banff and the Columbia Icefields will attract those from down east.

In partnership with Tourcan, Trekkers also supports the Enriching Lives International Relief Program. The charity sponsors schools in Tanzania and Peru and a hospital project in Vietnam, and participants on Trekkers tours can bring supplies when visiting those locations.

“Our goal is to provide the best experience possible,” Cowie says.

In other words, to be “picture-perfect.”

Registration for the Oct. 18 launch at the Cardel Theatre is available at www.phototourtrekkers.com.

Ralph Bridgland is a London, Ontario-based retired journalist, having spent 34 years at The London Free Press before retiring in 2010.

 

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