Getting south – it began with a camera lens. While I was required to be in Edmonton for our annual, mid-year teacher conference, I would have three days to myself prior to this conference. I could work on finding a used 28mm Zeiss Biogon lens, a rangefinder lens that while wide-angle is rumoured not to offer any distortion. It had just been advertised. And, I had been looking. One 28mm Zeiss Biogon lens was on offer in Calgary. It would be a used lens, but it would be half the price of buying one new. The seller was unloading gear – trading away and aiming toward new and better. From Calgary, I could then head south into the Pincher Creek, Waterton and Lethbridge areas and follow my eye’s curiosity and gather images with my camera.
Locking in this plan, I began my drive late on a Sunday afternoon in February. The drive would be under overcast skies. The temperature would be close to 0C throughout the drive. I would use ten hours to get to my destination. I could manage it. I would pass through Edmonton near 11:00 p.m., proceed to Red Deer and stay the night at a hotel there. The drive to Edmonton was uneventful. The drive beyond Edmonton was not ideal. Temperatures through the day had been warmer. I was driving a car, not my truck. I began my drive toward Red Deer. I got on to the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Highway (between Edmonton and Calgary). With temperatures close to 0C through the day and with a recent snowfall, the QEII was slushy, sloppy and slippery. I passed the Wetaskiwin turn-off and then encountered a brightly lit, highway alert road sign indicating that travel was treacherous. The drive became a matter of keeping a safe speed and working through the road’s slushy, ever-hardening, icy mess. I made it to Red Deer, got a hotel room, showered and got to sleep.
The next morning was sunny. I messaged the lens seller advising that I could meet today and provided a location in downtown Calgary for us to meet. The lens seller indicated that meeting at lunch was possible. All was in the works. I breakfasted across the way from the hotel at Red Deer’s Donut Mill. Then, the seller messaged back. The seller could not meet. The seller would need a day or two in order to meet. I am not sure how best to have managed this situation. But, the time frame would not work for this trip. And, the seller was deviating from his first communication. A red flag went up, for me. Many things could have been at play for the seller. And, perhaps aiming to meet in the same day as my indicating interest was problematic. I halted things and asked the seller to disregard my interest in the lens. All this occurred within and hour and a half of first messaging the seller.
I moved on.
With that done I found myself in Central Alberta, still with an intention to travel further south and to explore with my camera. Travel would take me to Calgary and to The Camera Store. I would look around at books, at new cameras (Nikon and Fuji), at used cameras, at used lenses, at new lenses, at camera bags. I would have two good chats with sales people – warm, educating, engaging conversations, conversations in which my curiosity was able to lead some of the way. Good. I left at the end of store hours aiming to return to the store as I came back through Calgary.
Onward to Lethbridge – my intention was to get settled in Lethbridge and work from there to look around southern Alberta. Later that evening, I got a hotel room, washed my car and got a meal.
The next day, after a good breakfast at the hotel, I started out. The day began as one overcast with heavy, grey cloud. But, weather in this part of Alberta is quite changeable in terms of how it interacts with the Rocky Mountains. Mountain weather is something intriguing, especially for my northern Alberta eyes – something I remember from times hiking along mountain trails on out-trips in the Crowsnest Pass and when camping in Banff and Jasper. Almost as soon as I moved south and west from Lethbridge I encountered windfarms – rows and rows of gigantic, white wind turbines used to gather / produce electricity. I would drive south from Fort MacLeod and on my route to Pincher Creek I would find other wind farms. In posting wind farm images on Facebook, earlier this year, I would find that many people in southern Alberta no longer see their value, are concerned about their impact on the environment and find themselves rejecting how they have altered the landscape they live within. Along the drive I would find last areas of prairie within foothills. I would find homesteads as the only structures seen on the land for miles and miles, the land being that allocated for grain farming. From Pincher Creek to Waterton Lake National Park I moved further into the undulation of foothills and the mountains; the weather was mountain weather, weather that can shift rapidly. Sunshine and bright blue sky would be there one minute, the next I was driving through or standing in a cloud. Cloud work so close to land has immensity and is something to take in. Light and shadow are always moving with these clouds revealing a shifting contour, shape and relief. The highway south from Pincher Creek becomes the path along which foothills meet the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Homesteads are a part of this landscape as well – grain farms and cattle ranches. Again, changeable mountain weather, mountain and foothill landscape, farms and roads – all would catch my eye, my curiosity, my imagination.
I took a chance on a historic site. I drove from the highway out and up to Twin Butte upon which St. Henry’s Catholic Church sits; to the east it looks out to the prairies; to the west it looks from the butte over a valley of foothills and to the front range of the Canadian Rockies. To look out over all this, immensity is there … and it would be appropriate to use the term majestic. I rounded out my day’s picture-taking with a small look into Waterton Lake National Park before returning to Lethbridge. I paid the day’s entrance fee and took a slow drive into the park to gather a couple of images – the Prince of Wales Hotel is subject of two of these images. A good day out with my camera, it was. The next day I would return to Edmonton, to colleagues, to a conference. The Zeiss Biogon 28mm lens remains a lens I am still hunting for.
Quote to Inspire / Consider – “To the complaint, ‘There are no people in these photographs,’ I respond, there are always two people: the photographer and the viewer (Ansel Adams).”
Listening to – a cover of John Prine’s ‘Summer’s End’ by Sierra Hull; a song that’s so big and full of grace; Sierra does John proud with it. Good, good.
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