The Wabamun power plant was built in 1956 as a state of the art coal burning generating station. In 2002, Transalta began shutting it down, with the last burner ceasing operation in March 2010. It is now being demolished, which is a huge undertaking. Most of the materials are being recycled. I got the opportunity to take photos while it was still in the early stages of demolition. It was spectacular in a mad scientist / industrial revolution kind of way. The mass of tubes, wires, and pipes running every which way, combined with all the dials, meters, and switches was crazy. How anyone could make sense of it all is beyond me. On the other hand, there are no black boxes. No computers that you could just replace. If anything was broken, you could just follow the wire or pipe back to the failure point.

Anyway, behold 1950s engineering in all it’s glory.

Limited Light

It’s one of those fall days where you look outside and shudder. Winter’s coming. It’s dark, grey, and just below freezing in the middle of the day. It’s not the kind of day that inspires one to get outside, but once I feel the crisp bite of cold air on my face and hear the silence magnified by the foggy air, I am reminded that almost any conditions can be magical if you embrace them.

All photos taken in Elk Island National Park.

Glacier Hunting

A couple of weeks ago, Anna and I went out to the mountains for a quick getaway. I’d read up on some good hikes, and I wanted to take Anna on a beautiful hike that I’d been on quite a few years ago. We drove out to Jasper and down the Icefields Parkway to the Columbia Icefield. Just past the Centre is the Wilcox Creek Campground, where we stayed that night. We did our first hike up to Wilcox Pass. This is an amazing area, although I think it would be prettier in summer or early fall. By going this late in the year we did avoid most of the tourists—you win some, you lose some.

From the trail you have a great view of the Athabasca Glacier. You can also see glimpses of the Columbia Icefield as it flows over the mountains. Looking down on the icefield from a distance, you can see many colors and textures. I wanted to know what these textures would turn into as you moved closer. So the next day I decided to go to the foot of the glacier and see what I could see. I did the little walk from the parking area up the hill and what did I see? A big roped-off area more than a 100m away from the glacier. I considered my options. I could cross the rope and disobey the signs (like I saw one couple do), reinforcing to the 30 others tourists that they could ignore the park wardens as well. Or I could pay for us to go on the official walk/ride. Or I could try another glacier. I know there are many other glaciers in the parks that I can go see. They all take a bit more effort, but they also offer a lot more solitude.

(We went up Parker Ridge—the hike I had done a few years ago—that afternoon, and you get a beautiful view of the Saskatchewan Glacier and more of the Icefield from there as well).

Upon arriving home, I started researching. There are a lot of accessible glaciers, it turns out. The one that looked most interesting to me was the Saskatchewan Glacier, which we had seen from Parker Ridge. I figured out the route (it’s not really an official trail, although it is travelled quite often) and set off the next weekend to see a glacier. I started fairly early in the morning, hiked up the hill through thick forest, and then crossed the long stretch up the glacial plain. This is the hard part —you’re not gaining any altitude, but there are loose scattered stones of every size, no trail, and you have to be careful where you step. The many moraines (ridges of glacial debris) mean a lot of hiking up a few feet to hike down a few feet. And it’s an 18km hike.

Eventually you get to the glacier. It’s spectacular. There is the roar of rushing water from the melting glacier. There are towers of ice stretching high above you. Cold winds blow off the glacier, which made me glad for my winter attire. There are stretches of fine rock dust and cement-like mud that got into everything. I should also mention right now—BE VERY CAREFUL IF YOU GET CLOSE TO A GLACIER—people die on glaciers, mostly falling into crevasses and millwells. Falling chunks of ice and dislodged boulders are another frequent hazard.

I did not go up on the glacier, even though I had crampons along, because I haven’t done much mountaineering. I did step in quicksand close to the glacier and almost lost a boot. And I got to see some pretty cool stuff. Some day I want to go up on a glacier with an experienced guide to see more and to learn how to safely traverse glaciers. But for now I’m happy to have seen this one up close and personal.

Lack of Inspiration

Sometimes a place just doesn’t talk to me. I’m never sure in these cases whether I’m just having an off day, or if the place is just not photogenic. Maybe the light is not matching up with the subjects I’m thinking of, maybe things are great but I just can’t see them. I still take photos, and work that much harder to try to get a good photo, but in the end I still feel let down. Ironically, some of my better images come from these outings, but I usually don’t find them until I’ve had a chance to distance myself from the experience.

Last week I went out to Ministik Bird Sanctuary. I’ve been there a few times before, but this time I tried a new access point (it is a pretty huge area) recommended to me by a friend. I had a good hike, but struggled with the photos. As it turns out, you don’t have to be inspired to take photos.

Finding Peaceful Spots

People seem a little out of place in the forest. We make trails to have a place that is not quite so wild and easier to navigate. We rush to complete a loop, or reach a destination. I find it very different to pick my way through an unknown forest to no particular destination. You can go 10 feet or 10 miles, there’s not much difference. There’s variety on every scale, from the moss to the trees to the elevation of the land. It’s always a little jarring to run into other people when I’m in this environment.

One of the benefits of doing craft sales is that I get to talk with people who enjoy similar activities. At Kaleido, I talked with a lady who pointed me to a couple new spots that I haven’t been to before. They’re out of the way, not many people know about them, and of course they are beautiful. I like sharing places I discover, because I think we’re better off when we’re more aware of and connected to nature. But when other people confide in me with their favorite spots, I feel it’s not my place to let the world know – I’ll let them do that. I went to one of these places a few days ago, and these photos are the result.

Macro Thanks

Since (as you know since you read my previous post) my macro lens broke, I am severely limited in focal length choices. My current longest lens is 40mm. This is slightly painful to me and Curtis was kind enough to lend me his macro lens for a few days, which gave me a bit of telephoto as well. I very much appreciate it, as it allowed me to get a few macro-scapes.

(if the pictures are too tall to see on your monitor, click on them – they will get sized correctly for your screen)