Sunday, 13 January 2013

Postcards from Signal Hill

Signal Hill 12Even though I am a bayman (someone not from St. John's), I have spent a lot of time in Town (St. John's), yet I had never watched the Signal Hill Tattoo. The Tattoo is an annual summer event, and this past summer I decided to finally stop by and take in the spectacle.

The Tattoo has been around since 1967 and takes place on O’Flaherty Field, where fortifications have been in place since the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713). The Tattoo is performed by the Grenadier Company of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Foot, the Royal Regiment of Artillery, and the Drums of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Foot.

For those of you not familiar with St. John's, I should first place the location of the Tattoo. It is held high up on Signal Hill overlooking St. John's harbour. Historically, anyone looking to send ships in and out of the harbour had to control these heights. It is the site of the last battle of the Seven Years War in North America, when the French surrendered St. John's to the British. It is also the site of the first transatlantic wireless transmission, received by Guglielmo Marconi.

Every city has its tourist sites that are photographed over and over. In St. John's, Cabot Tower, which sits atop Signal Hill is one. It is so heavily photographed, that it has become synonymous with the Hill, just as Big Ben, which is the bell inside the tower, has come to be synonymous with Clock Tower (now called Elizabeth Tower) in London. The challenge for a photographer is to make an image of a landmark that is recognizable, yet has a different perspective. I set out to do this by going to the opposite side of the harbour with my monster 300mm telephoto lens. I lucked out with fog and heavy clouds rolling in on the ocean side of the hill making a backdrop for Cabot Tower, which was still lit by the sun.

Signal Hill 12

A high resolution version of this image is on my web gallery, where it is also available to purchase as a fine art print.


The Tattoo is staffed by high school students, both men and women, which I think is an acceptable historical inaccuracy. Not that women didn't fight as British soldiers. Many did, but they had to disguise themselves, as I wrote about in this blog article.

Signal Hill 3


The Tattoo is an exhibit of 18th century British military maneuvers using period equipment, albeit with a few more historical inaccuracies such as protective eye and ear wear. In one part of the exhibit, one side poses as attackers on the low ground, firing uphill at the defenders.

Signal Hill 5

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Signal Hill 20


In this re-enactment, the Tattoo places the defenders uphill with both rifles and cannon to repel the attack.

Signal Hill 4

Signal Hill 2

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As in real life, no matter what is happening, the band plays on.

Signal Hill 1


I thought I would close this post with some other "alternate" views of Signal Hill. I took this image of Cabot Tower from across the Narrows up at the top of Deadman's Bay Path. The extreme close up is courtesy of the 300mm lens, plus a 1.5 times teleconverter.

Signal Hill 22


Taken from almost the same spot, but a bit later and with a different lens, is this shot showing the rolling rock that is almost wave-like in appearance. How suitable for the first rock that ocean waves encounter this side of Galway.

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And finally, this shot is looking back at the Narrows and Signal Hill from a point on Deadman's Path just outside of Blackhead. The specks on the water are fishing boats. The speck on the hill on the right is Cabot Tower.

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Many of my images from Newfoundland are available to purchase as fine art prints from my web gallery.

If you would like to read some of my other posts about Newfoundland, click here and use the "Older" and "Newer" links at the bottom to scroll through the posts.


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