Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Digging Dinosaurs

Digging Dino's 6Following my encounter with the Sweeping Silos, I continued across the prairie and descended into the Red Deer River Valley, also know as Dinosaur Valley. This is where The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology is, and it is a pretty popular place. Even though it is located far from a major urban centre, it being just north of Drumheller, it manages to attract about 400,000 visitors a year.

The Red Deer River has carved 140 metres down through the prairie these past few million years, exposing strata that have accumulated over millions and millions of years. In the case of the museum, it is smack in the middle of the fossil-bearing strata of the Late Cretaceous Horseshoe Canyon Formation.

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The Museum is named after Joseph Tyrrell. He was a geologist out looking for coal when he stumbled upon a fossil of Laelaps Incrassatus. This kicked off The Great Dinosaur Rush of 1910-1917 when palaeontologists from all over the world came hunting fossils.

The museum only opened in 1985, but it has a well earned world-class reputation. The Queen bestowed the "Royal" title in 1990. We visited often in the 1990's, and I was very happy to see that, while everything was different from when I was last there, not much had changed, either. I mean, the exhibits were all new and there were new activities for kids, but the staff have maintained the world-class excellence in the exhibits that makes them so enjoyable.

The big guys are the main attraction, and they are on display in two styles of exhibits. The first style shows the fossilized bones of the animals.

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The second style of exhibit shows what scientists think the animals looked like.

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I said that the museum is very kid-friendly. They even have these wonderful exhibits that tell you where you are, just in case you are confused. Like me.

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The arrow is what really made me chuckle. It was as if the bulls-eye wasn't enough and they had to add something else to get the point across! But the sign also reminded me that indeed I was "here", dawdling, whereas I should have been in the car and on the road!

To see more of my blog posts from Western Canada and the U.S., click here. and use the "newer" and "older" links at the bottom to move through the posts.

To see my fine art prints that are for sale on my web gallery, click here.


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

(S)Weeping Silos

Silos 5I love Calgary. I have lived there off and on for over 40 years, starting in the mid-1960's when we lived out on the prairie and spent a lot of time camping in the mountains. Later, I returned with my own kids and we also lived on the prairie and spent a lot of time in the mountains. On a very short trip to Calgary this summer, I had enough time to see either The Prairies or the mountains. Understandably, I was torn.

My solution? I did both!

In order to do both, it meant a very early wake-up call. Early enough to grab this shot of the moon going down behind the mountains just as the sun was coming up over The Prairies. The sunrise bathed the city and the moon in warm light, while the the sky remained a cold blue.

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EDIT: For those not familiar with Calgary, here is a quick description of what you are seeing in the above photograph: the full moon (camera right) is setting behind the mountains to the west and the sun rising over the prairies behind me.

Yes, a full moon setting just as the sun was going up on a crisp, clear day! What are the odds for that? As they say in landscape photography circles, you make your own luck by getting out there.

I decided to start with a loop through Drumheller and see the Royal Tyrrell Museum. To get there I had to drive across 110 km of bald-ass prairie.

The Prairies remind me of the ocean, in many ways. That you can see forever is one way. My friend Randy, who is from Saskatchewan, once told me he watched his dog run away from home for three days. So you would think that driving on The Prairies is boring. Well, when you have The Voices with you and they like what they see, nothing is boring!

Like the ocean, the sky meets The Prairies right at the horizon. Also like the ocean, The Prairies can be a little boring in the colour department*, but if you think in terms of tones, a lot of creative opportunities open up.

As I was driving along, half listening to The Voices, a herd of Black Angus beef caught my eye.

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And some silos leapt over the horizon when I wasn't looking.

The Voices were not satisfied with that shot, but they were intrigued by the possibilities. They decided they wanted to make pictures every 5 minutes. However, that would have totally blown my time and I would not have had a chance to see all that I had on my list, so I only occasionally humoured them. Like this stop a bit later to capture a bushy tree posing with some strippers**.

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And suddenly the silos were a lot closer.

While The Voices were quite happy with the shot, I found these silos a bit too freaky. It could have been the time dilation you get when driving long distances across The Prairies, but every time I wasn't looking, they seemed to get much closer. Just like the Weeping Angels. Could these be the rare, but deadly, Sweeping Silos? Where the hell is The Doctor when you need him?

The Voices didn't pay them any attention.

By using black and white, I can bring out the texture of the sky and the prairie, something I do not really notice when thinking in colour. Clouds, in particular, have many wonderful shades of grey. Much more than 50. If 50 Shades of Grey is a good thing, and these have more than 50 shades of grey, then I should think these will be on the best-seller lists around the world in no time!

And I blinked. While my eyes were closed for just that fraction of a second, the silos had surged forward.

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I needn't have worried. The Voices revealed them for what they were: shills for a helicopter ride! The Doctor was not needed.

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To see more of my blog posts from Western Canada and the U.S., click here. and use the "newer" and "older" links at the bottom to move through the posts.

To see my fine art prints that are for sale on my web gallery, click here.

* Colours on The Praires can be very dull in the middle of a cloudy day, but in the blue and golden hours around sunset, magic happens. As you will see in the next blog post.
** Strippers is my term for trees stripped of their branches and bark and set to work as power-line poles.


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A Walk Through Gasoline Alley

Gasoline Alley 2I have been visiting Heritage Village on and off for over 40 years. I loved the place as a kid, as did my children. On a quick trip to Calgary this summer, I decided to stop by and see what was new since my last visit.

What was new was Gasoline Alley.

Not the comic strip, but a collection of old automobiles and gas station pumps. It was a wonderful visit that presented a whole host of photographic opportunities.

The exhibit has the prerequisite antique automobiles and while I did take some snaps of the cars and trucks, it was the old gas pump exhibit that caught my eye. There were a lot of things I didn't know about how gas was sold, back in the day.

Like the fact that the first pumps had calibrated glass tanks at the top of the pump. An attendent pumped gas into this tank - no self-service back then! They stopped the pump and then drained the required amount of gas into the automobile using gravity. This is a bit like using a measuring cup when you are baking!

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While kind of neat, this process was slow. It also meant having a volatile liquid sitting around exposed in an era when people smoked a lot. Improvements in metering meant that the gas station could always store gas underground and pump it on demand, using a reeled meter that measures the gas flow. The glass tank disappeared off the top of the gas pump and a meter appeared on the face. As an aside, many pumps had a small glass bubble on the side with either a ball or a revolving paddle inside to show customers that gas was actually flowing. You can usually still see them on modern pumps.

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Most of the pumps on display were from this era, and there were a lot of them.

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When the glass tank disappeared, gas companies used the space on top of the pump to present their brand, leading to a whole series of different glass pump toppers.

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The first fuel pump was invented in 1898 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, by a transplanted Norwegian named John J. Tokheim. He founded a company to build pumps, and it was soon bought from him by some of his employes, who then moved it to Fort Wayne, Indiana. They kept the name and went on to dominate the pump business. The brand name is still around today, so keep an eye out for it when you next fill up.

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As I was tallying all of the pumps to see how many were Tokheim (a lot), I was struck by something I found quite funny. Can you spot what it was?

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This pump can only meter $9.99 worth of gas! Using modern gas prices, as at the time of writing this post, this would be a maximum of 7.4 litres of gas*. So using this pump today would mean having to reset it 8 times while filling up an empty tank!**

Perhaps I was thinking about the % rise in gas prices or maybe it was the % capacity of gas tanks, but when I saw this old car, all I saw was a "%" sign!

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If you are ever in Calgary, I highly recommend a stop by Heritage Park. If you do not have a full day to spend at the park, at least book an hour to walk through this little piece of it. The exhibits are wonderful and the friendly staff are very helpful.

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To see more of my blog posts from Western Canada and the U.S., click here. and use the "newer" and "older" links at the bottom to move through the posts.

To see my fine art prints that are for sale on my web gallery, click here.

* using an average price of gas of $1.35 / liter. Prices from

** I am assuming an average car gas tank of 56 l.


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Postcard Solitaire

Solo Postcard 30All of my trips seem to produce some solitary Postcards: pictures that I do not seem to be able to knit into one of my stories. They either end up not being posted, or they end up in a "catch-all" post.

This, my last post about my tour home this summer, is one of those catch-all posts. I think of it as an anthology of little stories.

I will start with some wide-angle panoramas of the Anglican and Catholic churches in Trinity. I find that the Catholic churches in most communities are more ornate than the Anglican churches, but in Trinity it is the other way around.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church was built in 1835. Some say it is the oldest wooden church in North America. I'm not sure about that, but I am quite sure it is not the largest!

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St. Paul's Anglican Church was built in 1892. Much larger than the other church, it also has a unique design: the ceiling looks like an overturned boat.

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Whenever I travel around the island, I always see some old sheds or houses falling into disrepair. Paint, peeling. Wood, greying. They always make me think about the builder(s). It takes effort to plan and then build something. You have to be hopeful. Upbeat. Confident. Seeing the result of that confidence, hope, and effort falling away never fails to make me sad.

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Skies, on the other hand, make me happy. There is always so much promise in a sky.

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So what do I feel when I shoot a dilapidated old shed with a magnificent sky? Well, being an optimist, the hope and promise wins out. I think of the next generation, bright-eyed and enthusiastic, taking over from the previous one.

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Of course, trips to Newfoundland always produce lots of shots of boats. I usually have many more than what I can work into my stories. My friend Anne Maree recently remarked that there is something special about yellow. I agree. So when I saw a yellow boat, I had to take its picture.

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People have different ways of playing lotteries. I figure I can put together some winning numbers from the licenses of these boats.

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This one in particular must be lucky. I mean, how often do you see a boat tied up to a cliff, with a bouquet of flowers blossoming overhead?

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Nose in to a fishing stage, I like the shot of this boat for its tones.

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I always have "outtakes" as well. These are shots that are nice, but just don't seem to fit the text of a post. Like this shot of Cabot Tower on Signal Hill. I had plenty of other great shots and didn't need to use this one. I like it, though, as it seems to bring out the texture of the rock flowing underneath the tower.

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Of course, I always have shots of friends and family. Like this one I took of Zoey in Bowring Park as she was playing with the Peter Pan statue. Zoey loves Tinkerbell.

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While visiting my sister, my nephew William spent the day getting nice and dirty, which warranted getting a bubble bath afterwards. He enjoyed it so much that I am not sure whether his having a bath is because of the play, or if the play is because of the required bath!

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While staying at her B&B, Patricia Devine showed me her collection of dolls. Naturally, I wanted to make a portrait of her with them.

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My Mom worked hard to create a memorial for her old school, Curtis Academy. I was never able to stop by for a look until this summer. This was yet another chance to take a snap.

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MUN's 2012 Reunion, Havin' A Time, had a session called Republic of Doyle: St. John’s Reel and Imagined. I took it in, and got this shot of Lynda Boyd, Marthe Bernard, and Krystin Pellerin. Lynda is looking right at me, wondering who is that jerk with the camera. Marthe is grimacing in pain at the thought of me taking her pic. Krystin is doing her best to simply block me from her thoughts.

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I'm always looking to add to my "windows" collection, and got this shot of Carbonear Harbour out of Mom's window. I could barely see the harbour for the rain and fog. That was quite a surprise, given how rarely you see rain and fog in Newfoundland.

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I am always looking to add to my guardrail series as well, and caught these raindrops ready to invade the rocks below.

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I sometimes see some strange things, like this "solar-powered outhouse". Okay, it's not really an outhouse. It's part of a pumping station. But it does look like an outhouse.

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There are shots that The Voices demand to be taken, but which do not fit any sort of post. Like this shot of a bird skimming across the water near Random Island.

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There is something about a single tree that fascinates me. Perhaps it is the strength it requires to withstand the elements all on its own. Uncommon strength, that.

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To see if your Voices see what my Voices see, go to Google Maps Street View for Ship Cove and see the above tree from the road. This is what I saw when I drove past. Until the Voices started talking, that is. Then I saw the image above.

If your Voices are like mine, they will scream at you if you rotate the Streetview camera a little to the left. My Voices wouldn't leave me alone until I also made this capture.

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This is my last post about my tour home this summer and I have decided to close it with my version of the classic school assignment "Where I spent my summer". You may want to click on the images to see them in a larger format.

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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.