The countryside surrounding Shangri-La is a rural landscape of small farms, fields and villages divided by densely forested hills, soaring mountains and deeply carved rivers. When I was in China last month I spent a couple of days driving the narrow roads that connect these places. These are a selection of these scenes as I experienced them.
I returned to Irricana recently to look for Snowy owls. I left early and arrived well before night had given much ground to day. Having criss-crossed the backroads west of the town, I have a decent feel for the farmland in the area and took the opportunity to photograph a couple of locations while the clouds were glowing pink ahead of the sunrise.
A lost wallet and a flat tire, both noticed about an hour after the last of these photographs was taken, made me feel like I earned these images a bit more than usual. The wallet had fallen out of my pocket unnoticed when I was at the farmstead above. A fair bit of time spent retracing my stops before finding it undisturbed in the middle of the gravel road. When I picked up the wallet, I noticed the flat rear tire. Along the way to Irricana, I apparently drove over a hardware store as Phil’s Auto in Irricana (very friendly people – thank you for the coffee!) later showed me the 3 inch long screw that had lodged into the tire. The wallet was recovered before I found the first owl and by the time of my appointment at 3 pm, I was happy to have had several good encounters with 5 different Snowies. I will share those soon. These prairie landscape images from a beautiful morning heralded what became one of the more interesting days I have had out on the prairies.
The horse that ended up posing for me before padding away led the small herd up the hill towards me. During one of their pauses on the way up I took the opportunity to frame them as part of the larger scene of dawn on the prairie. As I said before, I wish I had brought some horse-friendly snacks.
I grew up in a small valley in southwestern British Columbia. Our house faced a large meadow bounded by a creek on one side and the treed flanks of a mountain on the other three sides. The meadow had once been a field with several orchards and the behind the house were the remnants of a farm with barns, corrals and sheds. The buildings were worn down, leaning at odd angles but all held their own treasure of rusted tools, missing floorboards, broken machinery and weathered vehicles. It was a paradise for a kid and I loved that place. We lived there for about eight years and I know there were a few places I still didn’t fully explore. Living on the prairies now, I get to revisit the same objects as they dot the landscape – abandoned farmhouses, vehicles both hidden and exposed as well as many other iconic farm “things”. I’m working on a project tying the photographs to the people behind these farms – let’s just say that is a LONG term project. However, it’s a lot of fun making the photographs in and around the farms – a good escape to the boy I still am.
I will post more on the buildings, tools, etc. from around the farm but for this one, I’ll restrict the images to vehicles. These images are from places across Alberta and in eastern Saskatchewan, linger over the picture for the particular location. As always, click on any of the pictures to jump to a full page version.
Alas, this last vehicle, a combine harvester, is not forgotten but I like it so please allow the exception.
It’s funny the difference a few days can make. That’s true year round in this part of the world but I thought these pictures highlight how quickly things can change.
These winter photographs were made this afternoon in Springbank on the first day in over a week where it wasn’t frigidly cold (still -20 celsius).
And this fall harvest shot below was from just before Remembrance Day near Cochrane. These two farms are about 20 kilometers apart. I think this farmer is pretty glad he got his crop pulled up when he did.