Sunday, March 8, 2015

Old stuff!

Old Stuff!

March 7, 2015


When I woke up I had no intention of going for a drive with the camera. The last few months haven't produced any really good images so I felt like I lost my drive (pardon the pun) a bit and really couldn't be terribly bothered. But, with a small bonus in the bank, I could afford fuel and figured I'd head out with the weather being warm and sunny.

My main goal would be to find a farm house that is abandoned, that a fellow photographer had posted a picture of the other day in a Facebook group. All was said for location was "North of Nightingale". Not much to go on, really, but figured I'd go and look for it.

On the way there I saw a snowy owl perched on top of a power pole. Before I could turn around and get back though, there was another photographer pulled over. Unfortunately, although he had a larger lens than I do, he still chose to get out of his van and scare it away....one thing I do know about snowy owls is that they are scared easily and when you're that close (width of the road) they will fly when you get out of your vehicle. So, with that disappointing action from a fellow photographer, I carried on to Nightingale. After driving around for a bit, I finally found it and what a great subject it is. I chose to go onto the land (there aren't any signs advising not to lol) and snap a few shots. I wasn't on there long but I'd love to go back and revisit this place when there are more fluffy clouds in the sky. A blank blue sky gets kind of boring....

Nightingale is a very, very, small community just north of Highway 564, East of Calgary, and has many barns in the area. Great for photographs like above. From there I carried on along the 564 East. I figured since I wasn't far away, I'd pay another visit to the Ghost Town of Dorothy, which is East of Drumheller, and I'd get there a totally different way than I've ever been before. The 564 turns into fairly deep and dusty gravel when you turn north, but even then it's pretty easy travelling. Then it gets to a "T" intersection and here I went right onto the 848 which winds itself (I found out...) down to the town of Dorothy. Like many places in the "Badlands", driving along and you see the odd coulee, and can see the start of the Badland formations. Suddenly, the road dives down into the coulee and the brakes get a bit of a workout on the car. The 848 sure is fun winding down towards Dorothy, with it's 90 degree hairpin corners.

At Dorothy, there are a few residents...about 4 I think. Other than that, there is an old school house which I didn't go in this time (last time it was accessible, but wasn't being used) and there is an old Church. The church used to have so much bird crap in it, and unstable structure, that you couldn't (or wouldn't...) go in. Now though, it's been restored, and from the looks of the pews inside, and the candles and books, it's used and kept up nicely.

Some information about Dorothy. This site I got it from hasn't updated or nobody has been out there, as they still state that the church has been abandoned (which it was..) for 30 years. It's definitely being used now.
The village of Dorothy, which never grew beyond 100 residents, is considered one of Alberta’s classic pioneer communities, serving as a popular social centre in the first half of the 20th century in the heart of the province’s famed Badlands Country.Dorothy is located about 15 miles southeast of Drumheller in a flat valley bottom. A few years after the turn of the 20th century, Percy McBeath, a store keeper living in the immediate area, applied to have a post office and wanted to name the site Percyville. However, the district post office inspector decided instead to name the site Dorothy, after the daughter of Jack Wilson, and early rancher who first arrived in the area in 1900. The Dorothy post office officially opened in 1908.The hamlet grew modestly and enjoyed its greatest prosperity in the late 1920s, shortly after a railway line was built through the area.At one time the village had three elevators, the Alberta Wheat Pool, the Alberta Pacific and the United Grain Growers, a grocery store, a butcher shop, pool room, telephone office, restaurant and a machine agency. A school was opened in 1937 and lasted in the hamlet until 1960. The village also supported two churches — a United Church from 1932 to 1961 and a Roman Catholic church from 1944 to 1967. The two churches were considered the focal point for the entire region’s important social events. They still stand today, but are gradually being withered away by time and the elements.Less than a dozen residents live in the hamlet today. One grain elevator, long closed down, still evades being torn down. A community hall still serves residents of the area. For visitors, there is also a small museum to inspect pieces of the once vibrant lifestyle of this unique part of Alberta. For more information on Dorothy, the curious can also go to Drumheller’s public library and browse through Hazel B. Roen’s book of the area, “The Grass Roots of Dorothy 1895-1970. The 354-page book, published in 1971, offers a touching portrait of the Dorothy region and its people. Submitted by Johnnie Bachusky.Submitted by: Johnnie Bachusky
John Percy McBeath was the first Storekeeper and Postmaster and ran the ferry at Dorothy during that time.
His youngest son James McBeath was born in Dorothy in 1914. That’s my husband’s father, the father of R.D. McBeath.
The McBeath family lived there from 1911 – 1916 and only then moved to Delia, Alberta because there was no school for the children in Dorothy.

From Dorothy, I went West to the Atlas Coal Mine which is an amazing piece of history. There are a lot of historical buildings still standing here, and one day in the summer I will pay and go on the tour and get up close and personal with this mine and it's grounds. Here is some information on this mine.

Coal Mining in the Drumheller Valley

Coal was not hard to discover in the area that is now Drumheller, Alberta, Canada. Seams of coal show up as black stripes in the badlands of the Red Deer River Valley. 

The Blackfoot and Cree knew about the black rock that burned, but they didn't like to use it. Later, three white explorers reported coal in the area: Peter Fidler in 1792, Dr. James Hector of the Palliser Expedition in 1857, and Joseph Tyrrell in 1884. 

In the years that followed, a handful of ranchers and homesteaders dug coal out of river banks and coulees to heat their homes. However, the first commercial coal mine did not open until Sam Drumheller started the coal rush in the area that now bears his name. 

The rush started when Sam bought land off a local rancher named Thomas Greentree. Sam turned around and sold this land to Canadian National Railway, to develop a townsite. Sam also registered a coal mine. Before his mine opened, however, Jesse Gouge and Garnet Coyle beat him to it, and opened the Newcastle Mine. CN laid tracks into town, and the first load of coal was shipped out of Drumheller in 1911. 

Once the railway was built, people poured in. Hundreds, then thousands, of people came to dig coal. The greatest numbers came from Eastern Europe, Britain, and Nova Scotia. More mines opened. By the end of 1912, there were 9 working coal mines, each with its own camp of workers: Newcastle, Drumheller, Midland, Rosedale, and Wayne. In the years that followed, more mines and camps sprang up: Nacmine, Cambria, Willow Creek, Lehigh, and East Coulee. 

Coal mining was hard, dirty, dangerous work. Mining in the Drumheller Valley, however, was less hard, dirty, and dangerous than it was in many other coal mining regions in Canada. This was due to both lucky geology and lucky timing. 

The geology of the Drumheller coal field results in flat lying seams, which are much safer to mine than the steeply pitching seams of the mountain mines. In addition, the coal produced in Drumheller is sub-bituminous. This grade of coal is "immature" which means it hasn't had time to build up a strong concentration of gas. Methane gas is the biggest killer in coal mines around the world. 

The timing of the Drumheller mine industry was lucky, too. By the time the Newcastle opened in 1911, the right to better working conditions had been fought for and won by miners' unions in North America. As a result, miners were provided with wash houses, better underground ventilation, and higher safety standards. When the Newcastle opened, there were laws in place to prohibit child labour, so boys under 14 were no longer allowed underground. The worst of the worst coal mining days were over, at least in North America. 

Nevertheless, early mine camps around Drumheller were called "hell's hole" because miners lived in tents, or shacks, with little sanitation and little comfort. It was a man's world, with drinking, gambling, and watching fistfights common forms of recreation. As shacks gave way to little houses, and women joined the men and started families, life improved. Hockey, baseball, music, theatre, and visiting friends enriched peoples' lives. Going downtown Saturday night was a huge event, with every language in Europe spoken by the crowds spilling off the sidewalks. No longer "hell's hole," Drumheller became "the wonder town of the west!" and "the fastest growing town in Canada, if not in North America!" 

Sub bituminous coal is ideal for heating homes and cooking food. People all over western Canada heated their homes, schools, and offices with Drumheller coal. Long, cold winters were good for Drumheller, because everyone needed lots of coal. In these years, miners had of money in their pockets. Short, mild winters were difficult. A miner might only work one day a week, and get laid off in early spring. He got through the summer by growing a big garden, catching fish, and working for farmers. 

Between 1911 and 1979, 139 mines were registered in the Drumheller valley. Some mines didn't last long, but 34 were productive for many years. Between 1912 and 1966, Drumheller produced 56,864,808 tons of coal, making it one of the major coal producing regions in Canada. 

The beginning of the end for Drumheller's mining industry was the Leduc Oil Strike of 1948. After this, natural gas became the fuel of choice for home heating in western Canada. To the mine operators, it seemed that people switched from messy coal stoves to clean gas furnaces as fast as they could. As the demand for coal dropped, mines closed. As mines closed, people moved away and communities suffered. Some communities, like Willow Creek, completely vanished. Others, like East Coulee, went from a boomtown of 3800 to a ghost town of 180. When the Atlas #4 Mine shipped its last load of coal in 1979, the coal years of Drumheller were over. 

From the coal mine I headed South. Just South of the coal mine, the road splits - left is the 564 which would have taken me back to where I turned right, to go to Dorothy. This time though, I took the 569 West as my next destination of Taylor Siding, has many shells of old cars and a couple of old buildings. Another destination I've wanted to visit since seeing some friend's photos a couple of weeks ago.The 569 goes through a tiny hamlet of Dalum. Not much here except a few farms and a church. Heading straight West, the 569 ends and now I turn North on the 841. My friend told me you can't miss it, and you definitely can't. Where the road bridge goes over the Red Deer River, you head down a well groomed road to the valley floor where trains used to haul their goods, and a couple of abandoned structures now stand along with shells of what was once, I'm sure, beautiful old cars.

The train tracks, like most in the Drumheller area and even places like Rosebud and further South are gone and just lies a pile of railroad ties. This does make the old bridges even more accessible though now, so that's not a bad thing. :)

After spending a fair bit of time at Taylor Siding, I figured I'd do a loop. I headed North to the 9 which East is Drumheller, and West is Calgary. I went West to the 840 which I crossed over from Nightingale. There are a ton of cool old barns down this highway, and a couple of interesting very small towns such as Rosebud, and Standard. Not much in Standard, really, but Rosebud seems to have more character. Just keep heading South, then I took the 561 West which ends at Highway 1.

After that it was smooth sailing back home to Calgary, and almost 500km of driving was done.

Seeing the results from yesterday's trip has re-ignited a bit of the passion and drive that I had lost. Barns and old houses represent some great craftsmanship which you don't get today, and with every one I capture, I wonder about the history and the people that lived there or built it. History which we're quickly losing to urban expansion of cities.

Hope you enjoyed this trip!

Cheers!

Fotoman

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

In Search Of The Sunrise....
I've been seeing some fantastic sunrises these past couple of months at work (I work in Airdrie, Alberta, North of Calgary) and I've seen some of my photographer friends capture some of these. This past Saturday (Feb 14th) I decided to head out to the Vulcan area as a friend advised me about this an amazing barn and abandoned house in this one area. The barn is the one pictured above, and above is all the sunrise I could get, unfortunately.

I wasn't sure how far away this place was, from Calgary, but I couldn't sleep past 4am so figured I'd get ready and get on the road so I could take my time. Heading out of my condo building I noticed the sky was solid...no break in the cloud cover. Hopefully it wouldn't be like this at the shooting location. Unfortunately, I was wrong....

On the way down South towards High River, it was getting very foggy on Highway 2. I headed East, and the fog quickly got more dense and to the point I could only see about 20-25 feet ahead of me. I get weary driving in dense fog like that, as (especially on these rural country roads..) you don't know if a moose or deer is crossing the road. Luckily no wildlife was on the highway I was on, and I eventually got to Vulcan through the fog.

Heading South then East, I got to the location and it was crazy, weather wise. The wind was blowing at about 30-40kmph and it was actually snowing at times. When I left it was only -1 so I didn't have a jacket, or toque or gloves. Luckily though, I put my hoodie on but that wasn't as warm as I had hoped in this wind. As I took some pre-sunrise shots of an old car there that rests in the trees, I was anxiously looking forward to one of these amazing sunrises. Even the weather couldn't put me off of capturing one of the sunrises we've been seeing lately.

Unfortunately though, the low level solid layer of cloud didn't really break up. The sun was pretty much up and there had been very little color. The above photo was one that I was able to shoot off in a window of about 10 minutes where there was some color. It was VERY disappointing...

Because Saturday's trip felt more like a failure than anything, since I couldn't sleep Monday morning, figured I'd head out to Keoma where I've found 5 barns and an abandoned house on one plot of land. It's a fantastic sight but you have to be picky with the direction your shooting as there are some houses in the background from the nearby town and such. Again, I was up for the sun and was hoping for a good one. Leaving Calgary the cloud had breaks in it which really add to sunrise shots. My hope was going up that I would finally get my sunrise shots. Unfortunately, again, out at the location it was extremely cold (I remembered a jacket and toque this time!) and extremely windy. I waited and waited and it was starting to get blue - the blue before the sunrise. There was a small band of orange on the horizon, but I wanted that orange bursting through the breaks in the cloud cover. Looking West (you can see the mountains quite nicely from this location) I saw the tops of the mountains in a golden sunlight....the sun was, unfortunately, already up.

Two sunrise "failures" in a weekend wasn't what I was hoping for, but what can you do when you're dealing with Mother Nature.

I'll be back out in a few weeks and hopefully by then it'll be a bit warmer and the clouds won't be as solid.

Cheers!

Fotoman

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Friday, January 30, 2015




Barns and Black and White

“The eye should learn to listen before it looks.” 
― Robert Frank


This last weekend I took a drive East of Calgary to find barns. And find barns I did!! I visited some really "out in the middle of nowhere" tiny towns/villages and areas I'd never been to before, and found some amazing barns which I'll be revisiting very soon and spending some more time there. Next time hopefully with a sunrise to go along with these gorgeous country gems!

The last few years I've really started enjoying taking photos of old abandoned barns and houses that are on their last legs. I imagine who lived in the houses, how long ago, and what life was like for these rural farmers. I'd love to talk to some of the current farmers or owners of these lands to see if they know when they were built or some historical information on the buildings. We're slowly losing a lot of the history and would be nice to know a bit more about our beautiful province.

I've also really enjoyed doing Black and White processing with the images of these old buildings, rather than leave them in color. I've always thought B&W gives more emotion
than color, and I really believe this to be true when dealing with old barns, houses, and abandoned cars growing weeds through the non existent seats, in fields.

Next weekend, February 7th, 2015, I'll be heading out East again to hopefully get some sunrise photos (I leave those ones in color because the colors we get in Alberta, during a sunrise are amazing!!), and obviously spending more time with the Barns I found last weekend, and hopefully find some more out on the country roads. :)

Until then, take care and thanks for browsing my blog!

Cheers!

Fotoman


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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Clearing the brain....

It's been a while since I've been out to take photos. Mainly because I have someone I've been focusing more attention on, but yesterday, December 20th, I just had to get out, go for a drive, visit places I hadn't been before, and clear the head of some crazy thoughts that have been sneaking into my subconscious.

First stop was North or Calgary to get photos of the sunrise. Going to have to go back and re-do those one due to the extreme amount of dust on the lens. The wind was gusting so even though a thorough cleaning was done, it didn't stay clean enough for long exposure sunrise photos. Plus I have a better spot to be in now :)

Just East of Beiseker I saw my first of two snowy owls of the day. This one a male, was a poser and didn't fly away very quickly. The second one, a female, I saw towards Highway one along Highway 56 on my way back to Calgary....I opened my door and she flew off. No chance of a photo of her at all....

After that I went East on Highway 9 to Drumheller. Stopping off for my first time ever in the winter, at Horseshoe Canyon. Due to the very cold wind I didn't stay too long, but got a couple of shots. My main goal though was to visit Wayne, Alberta, which I had heard about, but never visited. I'm glad I did.

All through the valley in Drumheller the railroad tracks have been removed and the railroad ties are just stacked up in piles. The same went for the railroad tracks going to Wayne which used to be a bustling mining town of almost 2500 people. The hotel is the only original building still standing on it's main street, and has been redone and you can even stay a night or two in it. There is no cell service (at least for me..) in Wayne, but that's ok as there's a lot of history here, and with a current population of 38, it's very quiet.

I headed East and then South on Highway 56. There were a few nice barns out this way that I was able to get some shots of, and as you know, I like my old barns in photos!

When I got back to Calgary I figured I'd stop in at Fish Creek Provincial Park to see if I could spot and get some photos of, the infamous FCPP long tailed weasel. Unfortunately, it didn't show itself that afternoon. Hopefully one morning this week I'll get some shots of it prior to going up to Edmonton for 3 days at Christmas.

Anyway, it's good to get out of town, into the rural country, and relax, and stop thinking about things. Although some thoughts keep coming back, most are cured in a day like Saturday. :)

Cheers!

Fotoman

Monday, October 13, 2014



The Golden Hour


The last couple of weeks I've found out that Shawn, a security system specialist, and someone whom I've gotten along with well since I started at the datacentre, has a huge interest in photography as well. He also loves old abandoned things, and has wanted to try his hand at long exposure water shots. 

So, this past week I planned a trip to Kananaskis...it would be an early one as my mate Chris wanted some nice shots of the old abandoned CN Rail Caboose that sits in a field along hwy 7 just East of Eden Valley, on the South side of the Highwood Pass. I've never been up close and personal to this Caboose, but this morning I would walk down to it from the road and get some nice sunrise shots....at least we were hoping for a nice sunrise. There's something special about "The Golden Hour"...the peace. The calmness. The serenity.

We met near Longview and I was there at about 6:30am and got some nice shots of the moon that was in a fairly clear sky prior to Shawn and Max showing up. It was a cool morning at about -3/4 degrees celcius...good job I wore my sweater for this one!! 

We headed to the Caboose and while we were there the clouds to the East were starting to get a nice red and orange tinge on their outer edges....looked like we were going to get the nice sunrise we were hoping for. We spent about an hour and a half shooting the old Caboose and the colors in the sky kept changing every minute. The sun kissing the top of the mountains to our West was a nice sight as well.

After the Caboose, we proceeded up the Highwood Pass to the summit where I found they had never been up here before. It's always nice to be able to show people our beautiful treasures that are so close to home!! We were going to go to Upper Kananaskis Lake, but a storm blew in and it was even snowing a bit so we kept going to my favorite roadside waterfall; O'Shaughnessy falls.

Initially we were getting 6-8 second exposures at the bottom, but walking up the creek into the wooded area, it didn't take long to get to exposure times of 20-35 seconds!! I'm going to have to head out there in a couple of weeks one morning and as the sun is rising get some long (minutes?) exposures of this place....every visit there are different routes that the water takes over and around the rocks and around the mossy areas. The greens are amazing and the contrast with the yellows of the leaves and the dark rocks really provide some great shots.

After lunch in Canmore, we shot the abandoned and derelict old gas station that I'm assuming used to be run by the Native Band out there...

Another great day, with more great friends. Looking forward to seeing what we get up to in the next few weeks....whatever it is, we should be able to get some more stellar shots as always!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Cheers!

Fotoman


Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Grizzly Tale.....

A Grizzly Tale.....



For the last couple of weeks I've seen lots of photographers posting some great shots of Grizzlies from the Kananaskis area....I figured it should be my turn and decided to take a trip down "The 40" and back up....

The day started off with me not being able to sleep so I was on the road by 7am...with the crv fueled up heading west it started to rain a bit (as they had predicted), but soon it suddenly cleared up and had nice blue skies filled with fluffy white clouds. Being that it was so early still, I stopped for some longer than normal exposure shots of my favorite roadside waterfall, O'Shaughnessy Falls. I got a small scare when I turned the camera on to find out I had forgotten my 16GB memory card at home....luckily I have another 24GB of cards on me all times!!

The lower part of the falls are large rock steps (placed by man....from natural rocks from the area...) and the water flows quite quickly. After a few shots of the lower area, I made my way up the creek ignoring the cold water that was pouring into my supposed waterproof hiking boots. They were waterproof when I got them a few years ago, but the last couple of outings I've noticed some leaks....might be time for a new pair....
Higher up the creek, the rock turns to vibrant green moss with the crystal clear water flowing around and past rocks, logs, and moss piles. I love the summer in this area as the vibrant moss adds so much to the photos.

After taking quite a few photos I decided to continue heading South. I came to the "Kananaskis Village" turnoff and decided to keep going...I shouldn't have. As I drove by I noticed a Grizzly crossing the road. I quickly (and I mean quickly....) stopped and turned around and drove up the road. The last of the 3 crossing the road was collard and tagged with 151. Looking at the photos after I got home, I noticed that they were all tagged and collard and the other one I can see the number on is 150, so obviously a family. I met a nice young lady there taking photos and video on her phone and she works at the lodge. She told me that they have been in that area for a few weeks now and they're trying to "shoo" them away from the area so that nobody gets hurt....She told me that all 3 roamed through the front driveway parking area of the lodge the other night. I can see why they're trying to get them to move to a different location....some visitors could have been hurt if they spooked the bears when they were walking by the hotel....After spending about half an hour photographing the family, they moved up the river to the point I couldn't see them anymore.

After my awesome Grizzly encounter, I kept on going to the lower and upper lakes to see if any more bears were out and about for breakfast....but unfortunately, none were seen. Then I continued up the Highwood Pass and still didn't see any more bears.

I decided that I'd go back the same way and then home and when I got back to the Village area again, I decided to go and see if the bears were still around. I noticed a warden truck parked on the shoulder of Hwy 40 in that exact area so no doubt they were still in that immediate area. That's why they put the radio collars on, of course, so that they can track their location. Since I figured that either the warden had scared them off with a banger, or they were just sleeping and grazing and not coming out again, I decided to head home.

All in all, another fantastic drive for photos!! First Grizzly photos of 2014 (the other Grizzly near Radium I couldn't stop and photograph due to the no stopping zone), and some longer than normal exposures of the falls. A great morning!!!


Cheers!!

Fotoman


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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Calgary Flood - 1 Year Later!


Calgary Flood One Year Later



June 21st, 2013 is a weekend that will never be forgotten for a lot of people. Many people in communities in Calgary, cities like High River and Canmore, and even as far South and East as Medicine Hat are still trying to recover from complete losses of houses and possessions from last years Alberta flood. Some of the Reserves East of Calgary got hit hard as well, but this is what happens when you build along the banks of a river.

It started last year with about 3 weeks of solid rain, although it felt more like months... It hadn't been warm enough for the ground to thaw and there was a ton of snow left on the mountains. With all of the rain, plus the ice and snow from the mountains, obviously that had to go downstream.

I'm going to be uploading some of my flood photos from last year onto my website this weekend so that you can see the damage that mother nature did in a matter of 24 hours....it truly was amazing.

The Elbow River, pictured above, was so high that the water was above the road level in this photo. Last week Alberta had a forecast for a lot of rain so they let a lot of water out from dammed reservoirs upstream, and that is why the water level looks like it's high right now. They were preparing for a similar downpour but so far we have been lucky in central and northern Alberta. Southern Alberta last week weren't so lucky and even the southern town of Claresholm was flooded. This flood there though, wasn't due to water levels in the rivers (there is no river in that area...) but the fact that it is an older town, the sewer system simply just couldn't handle the amount of rainfall.

Around Calgary there are still a lot of the bike paths that haven't been rebuilt, and lots of back roads and trails in the mountains still closed. Around SE Alberta and around Calgary, there are a lot of bridges washed out and repair hasn't even begun to start on repairing these.

Let's just hope that rebuilding the infrastructure starts soon, but more importantly, the people that still are living in temporary housing in High River, can get back into their houses soon....another year without a home can only be more demoralizing for these people.

I was hoping to produce a photo book to release today, but I couldn't find a local printer that was affected by the flood, to help out....but 50% of all photo sales will be donated to families affected by the flood in High River as there are a large amount still in temporary housing facilities (aka: atco trailers).

Here's to more sunshine than rain all over the world....2013 was a horrible year worldwide for flooding.


Cheers!

Fotoman