Fall Rhapsody at the Willson Carbide Mill

Mary Anne and I made our way to the Willson Carbide Mill in Gatineau Park the other day. Neither of us had ever been there before but we figured we both had our iPhones, GPS and our beloved mutts with us. So despite the bear warnings we set off via Trail number 36. It was a beautiful fall day. The colours just somewhat past their prime and a bit cool but not too cold. At the end of the trail we were rewarded with the Thomas Willson ruins from the late 19th century. Willson (1860-1915) no relation, was a paranoid inventor who learned how to produce Calcium Carbide and set up his own home and mill near Meech Lake around 1911. To make a long story short a fortune was made and lost, he irritated his neighbours by artificially raising and lowering the water of Meech Lake during his experiments and he eventually died of a heart attack in 1915 on a street in New York city while seeking to raise venture capital for his next project.

Anyway, just over 100 years later it has become a popular destination for tourists and photographers. For myself, I found it a great opportunity to put my IBIS Fujifilm XH1 body to the test under trying conditions: bright sunlight, waterfalls, no 10 stop filter etc. For the waterfall images I used ISO 100, F22 and 1/2.5 second handheld. I was quite impressed with the results.

All images photographed with Fujifilm XH1 and XF16-55F2.8 and processed in Capture One 11

Ice Storm

It is supposed to be spring.  I must admit the weather here in Ottawa is leaving a little bit to be desired.  It is going up and down like a yo-yo.  At the end of February it was positively balmy and now that it is mid April we have been getting snow and freezing rain.  In Yellowknife, it is predictably freezing cold for much of the year.  But with a good coat and a pair of mukluks, you are pretty well set for venturing outdoors.  

Today it was so crappy I could barely take Saydee for a walk.  Schools were closed, power lines and tree branches were down and many homes were without power.  I literally had to drop my poochie off at the park and waited by - no hung on to the car as the wind was gusting at about 60km hour.   I did, however, think it was beautiful.  The trees were all glistening with ice as were the roads.  A good day for a photo shoot then.  So off we went in search of beauty amidst the chaos.  

I probably could have used Fuji's new XH1 with in body image stabilization as I wasn't too sure on my feet. 

Here are some of my favourites. 

Travelling to Jasper

Travelling to Jasper

Most recently we have returned from a week long trek to Edmonton and Jasper.  The purpose of our trip to Edmonton was to have some car maintenance done which can't be done where we live in Yellowknife.  Also my Epson 3800 printer needed some repair.  It is a two day drive to Edmonton, which is the nearest major city where these kinds of services can be had.  Since it is hardly worth driving two days just to get car and printer repairs done, and we had a bit of time before Eddie had to get back to work, and with Jasper being just another four hours drive away, we decided to go to Jasper for a mini three day holiday.  

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Cross Canada Road Trip

“If some countries have too much history, we have too much geography” Former Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King

For quite some time I have wanted to head back to the Northwest Territories to revisit and photograph some of the places where I grew up particularly the culture, the land and its people. Last January while out on assignment for the Government of Scotland, I was photographing the Sir John A. MacDonald annual Kilt Skate on the Rideau Canal in -30C weather. We dropped into the Shaw Centre (formerly Ottawa Convention Centre) to warm up and visit the Spectacular NWT exhibit. I had asked if they needed any photographers up north but it seemed they were more in need of Chartered Accountants which is what my husband does. To make a long story short, Eddie was offered a good position in Yellowknife, NWT! The offer was to good to pass up and what an adventure it would be!

I might have preferred to fly there though as we could be there in four and a half hours via Air North. However, we were reluctant to ship our beloved Saydee as cargo in the belly of a 737, it would be too expensive to ship our car more than 5,500 kilometres and Eddie had never crossed Canada on land before. On the other hand, I thought it would be a great opportunity to photograph the beautiful and expansive landscape that we call home. And since I might be the only Fuji Photographer in Canada north of the 60th parallel, I asked Fujifilm Canada if they might be interested in sponsoring me on this journey. They agreed and provided me with a brand new Fuji X-T1 Graphite Silver Edition and the new XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR lens so that I would be equipped to capture the Aurora Borealis! I was thrilled.

So we set out, packed our belongings, loaded the car and headed out for what would be a 10 day drive across Canada. We left from Ottawa, Ontario and drove via the Trans Canada Highway with scheduled stops in Sault Ste. Marie, Thunderbay, East Braintree, Moose Jaw, Banff, Jasper, High Level and finally Yellowknife, NWT. In total we drove 5,825 kilometres, driving on average 7.5 hrs per day. We could have taken more time to get through Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and made more touring stops but I was motivated to spend a few rest days in the Rockies before heading north to Yellowknife.


We left on October 7th which was just prior to peak season for the fall colours, however we did notice some fall colours setting in as we travelled north-west. We were happy to discover that the hotel I booked was located right beside the Elsie Savoie Sculpture Park - a great place to walk Saydee and admire some of the sculptures at the same time.


On day two, we left Sault Ste. Marie along the Trans Canada Highway and made our way to ThunderBay, Ontario. For much of the drive we would be hugging the coastline of the rugged shores of Lake Superior. We stopped at Rossport Coastal Trail for a small photo break. It was wet, windy and cold but beautiful anyway. I always feel energized when I’m near the water.

I certainly could have stayed longer. 


On Day three we made our way to East Braintree, Manitoba. Taking the advice of my brother-in-law we stopped at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park. The Kakabeka Falls are 40 metres high and is the second highest waterfall in Ontario.

It took us three days to leave Ontario and I learned that there isn't a Tim Horton's coffee franchise every 100 kilometres or so!  We stopped for a coffee and a muffin at Rubin's Burger Scoop.  Soon after we found a place where you could shop for Wild rice, moccasins and fudge. 

We arrived at my sister Julie's house around 3:00 pm.  Depite having an authentic turn-of-the-century jailhouse on the property, her home was warm and inviting.  Julie had prepared a lovely thanksgiving dinner for us.  


The trip to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan was rather uneventful. The prairies are rather flat. Except for the odd grain silo, you can expect to see flat wheat fields and blue skies. It was an unusually warm day and it read 29 degrees Celsius when we arrived in Moose Jaw. Fortunately, an Ice Cold Beer could be available if we wanted it.


It was another full day of Prairie landscapes and what seemed to be an endless ribbon of highway on our way to Banff. We did encounter a fierce windstorm with winds up to 100 km per hour. This made it a bit more challenging to drive as we had to continuously adjust our cargo bag straps on the roof of the car and dodge the tumbleweeds that kept blowing across the highway. Apparently it is always windy on the Prairies.

Boy were we excited when we finally got a glimpse of the Rocky Mountains! 


We decided at the last minute to take a trip to Moraine Lake as it was the last day it would be open for the season. We were there once before in 2008 and recalled how beautiful and serene it was. Moraine Lake is famous for being the site where the image that graces the Canadian $20 bill was taken. Even though it was cold and foggy, the colour of the lake was still the vibrant turquoise that I had remembered.

After hiking around Moraine Lake, we made a short stop to the popular Lake Louise. 


Ok, I’ll admit that I was sorry to leave Banff. I wish we could have stayed a few more days as there is so much to see and do. On the way out, we drove up to Mount Norquay which had an amazing view. Saydee didn’t mind getting out of the car to explore the mountain slope. We had to keep her on the leash though as she would certainly have run towards the herd of female Elk that were grazing on the slope. It was really nice of the Alberta government to leave behind a couple of cozy red Adirondack chairs. It could only have been better if we had brought with us a thermos of coffee.

We saw more beautiful mountain vistas along the Columbia Icefields Parkway.  I concluded I would never tire of them.   


This was a much needed rest day. We decided to go for a hike around Maligne Canyon which is over 160 feet deep and has a few waterfalls and streams. I took a few photos along the way and wished that I had brought my tripod, but then again it was a rest day. The Bull Elk seemed to agree with me as I saw him resting across the street from our hotel in the parking lot.


Two more driving days to Yellowknife. Eddie was a bit concerned as it would be quite a long day and he wanted to make certain we arrived at our destination before it got dark as he had been hearing about Elk, Moose and Bison on the roads. For part of the trip it seemed that we were in the Prairies again.


We started early in the morning. At -3C it was cold out but we were excited that we had only one more day to go.

Fogo Island Inn

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of our trip to Newfoundland was our visit to Fogo Island.  I had heard about a new beautiful Inn that had been built by architect Todd Saunders and where an overnight stay begins at $800 (albeit that includes all your food and non-alcoholic beverages).  Not only that but he had been building these odd artist studios on the Island as well.   I couldn't understand why such an elaborate Inn with only 29 rooms would be built on a fishing island that hardly anyone knew anything about.  Anyway, something was drawing me there.  I had also heard from a friend that the people of Newfoundland are very friendly.   I discovered that the barren landscape and the buildings reminded me of Churchill, Manitoba - where I grew up.  

I remember as a child climbing on the rocks which bordered Hudson Bay and picking wild blueberries.  I remembered the wind which was ever present on Fogo Island and especially the evening where we attempted to hike Brimstone Head Trail which felt like 2,000 feet above sea level!   

There are only two ways to get to Fogo Island.  One is to charter a small airplane from Gander, Newfoundland and the other is take the Ferry at Farewell which may or may not be operating that day!  Lucky for us, we only had to wait 3 and a half hours to get on the boat.  It was well worth the wait though because the scenery is absolutely breathtaking and so is the Fogo Island Inn where we stopped for a tour and some lunch.  Following our visit to the Inn we visited Joe Batt's Arm and had the most amazing home-made Partridge-berry ice cream ever.  

The Shorefast Foundation, headed by Zita Cobb is who is behind the Fogo Island Inn and the Artist studios.  Their intention is to revitalize the economy by bringing tourists, artists and jobs.  They are committed to "finding new ways with old things".   Anyway, I'm a much better photographer than writer so I'll share some photos.   As they say "There are no strangers here, when you leave, you'll be leaving home."  

I can't wait to go back.



Ice Fishing at Petrie Island

Years ago I used to bring my young boys ice fishing.  It usually was everything but ice fishing!  There were rocket launches and ice skating that went along with the occasional fish that was caught.    Today we went back for a visit.   Even though there were lots of huts, there didn't seem to be lots of people around.  Just a few.  It can't be due to cold weather because at -7C it was kind of mild.


An Ottawa afternoon

Today I thought I'd try something different.  Inspired by my good friend Valerie who just came back from giving a street photography workshop in Paris, and another photojournalist friend in Iran, I thought I would take to the streets today to see what I could come up with.  I visited Westboro and then the Market area in downtown core.  It was a beautiful day to say the least but I must admit I struggled to find people for my shots.