Al Dixon Photography

Our World. Our Heritage. My Passion.

Filtering by Tag: Alberta

Buicks & Badlands Bounty

The past few months have been jam packed with several major photo excursions.  As a result, the backlog of images to go through is starting to get a little out of control.  After spending the long weekend barricaded behind closed doors, chained to my computer, I did make some headway in the editing backlog.

Buick's, Badlands, & Old Buildings

In mid-August I had the pleasure of spending some time in the field with Darwin Wiggett & Samantha Chrysanthou of oopoomoo.  Basing the weekend out of the historic St. Ann Ranch in Trochu, the photo opportunities were plentiful.  If you are ever looking for a great place to get away for a few days, I highly recommend a trip to the ranch.

Although Ma' Nature tried her best to 'dampen' our spirits, we did manage to fit in all our planned locations.  Some of the highlights were an afternoon shooting in an auto wreckers, a 'sunrise' shoot at Dry Island Buffalo Jump in extreme fog, as well as the numerous historical buildings of the ranch itself.

One of the things I enjoy most about photo trips like this is getting to spend time with other 'like-minded' individuals... you know... people that will get up long before sunrise, spend hours tromping through fields, and stay out way past sunrise.  I believe my 'non-photographer' friends call people like us 'nuts'.

During dinner on the last evening, Sam & Darwin presented the group with a bit of a photo challenge for the evening.  Shooting around the ranch, we were challenged to come up with a photo essay telling a ghost story.  Of course, Sam had a special little twist to throw into my challenge.  As some of you may recall from last fall, I accepted their Chain Mail Chicken challenge, which entailed creating a photo essay telling the travel story of a rubber chicken.  Well, Sam felt that for my challenge I should be re-united with my old pal Cluckin Chuck and his relative Stu Potts.  Being one that loves a challenge, especially when it involves a camera, I grabbed the chickens and got to work.  The following morning, we all had a good laugh at the final result.  See the full story here.

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Hard Luck Falls

Hard Luck Falls - Whitecourt, AB

It seems like forever since I woke up early on a weekend morning, grabbed my camera gear and hit the back roads looking for something to shoot.  There's just something about loading all the camera gear in the vehicle, packing a picnic lunch in the cooler on ice, and heading off in search of your next great shot.  You might snicker at the cooler comment, but some that have braved a road trip with me have come to appreciate that cooler by the end of the day.  Others, however, come to fear the cooler... for that usually means it's going to be one loooong day. 

I recently found myself staring at the ceiling at 5am on a Sunday morning, attempting to count the stipple.  With a sudden burst of energy, the cooler was packed & I was on the road for parts unknown.  Well, to be honest, it was actually to parts known.  I had been 'tipped-off' about a pretty nice set of waterfalls near Whitecourt, AB & was determined to find them.  The search was actually pretty darn simple... drive to Whitecourt & follow the road signs right to the trail-head.  While the trip there was actually pretty anti-climactic, the falls were anything but.  With a moderate flow and fairly impressive drop, the multi-tiered falls did not disappoint.  Being there relatively early, I had the falls all to myself for nearly 2 hours & took full advantage of it.

Unfortunately my time alone with the falls had to come to an end.  As an endless stream of other visitors came down to the falls, I packed up my gear and heading off to find my trusty cooler.  With a sandwich in hand, and an ice cold beverage in the cup holder, I set off down the road in search of my next subject.  A short distance off the highway, I soon spotted an old abandoned farmstead & soon had it in front of my lens.

After a 14hr day, 500+ km of exploring, and nearly 1000 images; my empty cooler & I arrived safely back home.  It was such a great day that I do not see cooler being relegated to the back of the closet anytime soon.

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Something New

A couple of weeks ago I packed up my gear and hit the road to southern Alberta for an entire weekend of shooting.  As you may remember from my previous post, Saturday was spent shooting my favorite subject... landscapes chock full of old stuff!!  Sunday, however, was spent doing something just a tad different.

The idea for the trip actually originated with Sunday's activities.  In conjunction with the Cochrane Classic Car Show, the IRIS Photographic Society of Alberta was holding an instructional photo walk.  With a focus on street photography, shiny cars, copyright issues, and obtaining model/property releases; this event was just a 'tad' outside my norm.  With no grand landscapes, collapsing barns, or rusty farm equipment in sight; I had to console myself with the fact that at least the cars were old!! 

The walk was led by some of my favorite "shooters".... Darwin Wiggett & Samantha Chrysanthou from oopoomoo, Ian McGillvrey, and Peter Carroll.  It was truly an honor to spend the day learning from photographers of their caliber.  I guess you can teach an "old dog" some new tricks... you just have to make sure there's something old to shoot!!

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Once Was Not Enough...

There are 2 questions that I am frequently asked about my work, whether it's here on my website or in person at shows.   The first is easy to answer... "Yes, it is a photograph".  In all honesty, the answer to the second question is much tougher, but would have to be "I'm not sure why". 

That second question regards why I don't do any work in black and white.  As I mentioned above, I'm really not sure why.  As a result, I have been spending more time working in this medium recently.

While on a trip through southern Alberta last weekend, I was afforded the perfect opportunity to continue this work.  While not what I would officially call a ghost town, Dorothy is a photographer's paradise.  Remnants of the town's past abound, and include a long abandoned grain elevator.

Abandoned grain elevator dominates the skyline over Dorothy, AB.

Nestled in the Badlands south of Drumheller, this town still has a few inhabited households nestled in the coulee floor. I had the opportunity to chat with a couple of the residents during my morning shoot.  Their pride in their little piece of heaven was more than evident in each of them.  They have begun to restore some of the old buildings, all with their own time and money. 

Although it may only be but a dot on most maps, this is one location that has long been on my "Must Shoot" list for quite some time.  Now that I have cleared it from that list, it has become firmly entrenched in my "Must Shoot Again" list.  Who knows, there may even be a few more black and whites to come as well.

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One of the questions I’m frequently asked is how I find my subject matter.  In most cases, the answer is that I just happen to stumble across it.  Whenever I hit the road, my camera gear is always in tow.  If I stumble across something interesting along the way, I have no problems stopping to take a few shots.  Of course, this may help to explain some of the issues I have with being on time!! 

On other occasions, I may find myself travelling near someplace I have heard about and will plan my itinerary to include a slight detour. 

Case in point… last weekend I found myself making a day trip to Calgary.  A couple of weeks earlier while doing some research on the web, I happened to stumble across the small town of Rowley.  The story of this town is really quite fascinating. 

Located north of Drumheller and east of Three Hills, this was definitely no “slight detour” on the Calgary – Edmonton run!!  However, after reading about the history of Rowley and the efforts of its residents to preserve the town I just had to make the trip to see it for myself.


With the closing of the grain elevators and departure of the railway, this town seemed destined to a fate like many others.  The residents, however, have stepped up and not let the town fade away.  It’s now become a popular shooting location for film crews from around the world.  It’s also a common site to see large motor coaches pulling into town full of tour groups looking for a glimpse of how prairie life used to be. 



Ironically, the evening I was there I got to experience both of these new “industries” first hand.  The town was in the midst of straightening up after a German film crew had wrapped up shooting a few weeks earlier.  Buildings were in the process of receiving yet another paint job after being painted for the film, signs were being re-hung, and window displays replaced. In addition, about 15 minutes after I arrived a large motor coach pulled in with a tour group.  By the time the bus was finished unloading, I swear the town’s population had increased 10 fold!!


One of the highlights of the visit was getting to talk with the proprietor of Sam’s Saloon.  His first impression of me, however, was quite likely one of pure bewilderment.  As he came out of the saloon through the swinging doors, he found me lying on the sidewalk behind my tripod.  After a brief pause, and a confused glance, he continued across the street.  On his way back, he paused long enough to ask what I was shooting before continuing back into the saloon.  I still don’t think he can fathom why someone would photograph a pair of broken wagon wheels!! On his second trip out of the saloon, we started to chat.  Shortly after, I was invited into the saloon and we talked for some time. He was an absolute treasure trove of information on the town and its history.  I could have sat and talked with him for hours. 


Thinking back to my childhood memories, I recall many towns like this one that were in their twilight years.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of them have since faded into exactly that… memories.  I applaud the efforts of the residents of Rowley, and I thank them for preserving this nugget of our rural history and heritage.  At some point in time, this town will likely become yet another footnote in the history books; but that time has not come yet.  Before it does, you can rest assured that I will be seeing it through my lens again.

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