Alberta and the Great Sandhill Dunes

Today Nigel and I were headed over the Saskatchewan/Alberta border to check out a small town called Empress. With another day of chilly temps and cloudy skies it made for some great moody photographs.

Abandoned Home

Abandoned Home

This abandoned shack was on the way to the border and I had to get a photo with the stormy skies.

As we drove into Alberta the landscape changed from flat to slightly rolling to hilly. This must be the edges of the badlands. It was a pretty stunning sight to see.

Alberta's Hills

Alberta’s Hills

After enjoying a full day exploring Alberta and enjoying some wonderful local company at lunch in Empress we headed back over the border to get a little more time in with the Great Sandhill Dunes.

Great Sandhill Dunes

Great Sandhill Dunes

Most of the snow had blown off the dunes since yesterday and I had a little fun with Nigel’s infrared converted camera.  The photograph above is a colour corrected infrared out of that camera. It looks like night has fallen on the hills when actually it is still daylight.

We tried our best to stay for the sunset but the cold temperatures and clouds sent us packing. 

Farmstead

Farmstead

As we drove back to the hotel we noticed a break in the clouds so we quickly found a farm to use as the foreground and voila the photo above was created. 

It was a great day exploring both Alberta and Saskatchewan but tomorrow its time to head back to Regina to catch our late afternoon flight home. Tomorrow we will be taking a more scenic route to the airport as we search out some of the old grain mills.

Chilly Day on the Prairies

A few weeks ago when my friend Nigel Banks asked me if I wanted to do a quick trip to Saskatchewan for a couple of days I jumped at the chance. So late yesterday evening we took off from Toronto Pearson Airport and headed to Regina for three days of photo fun. Needless to say when we originally booked our trip we hadn’t expected an arctic air mass to move in. When we landed in the wee hours of the morning temps were at -20ºC. A pretty chilly welcome to Saskatchewan.

We were up early in the morning and with no respite in the weather in the cards we headed straight for Swift Current, our home base for the next couple of nights. On the way towards Moose Jaw I had Nigel pull over at this modern grain elevator to get a few photos.

Modern Grain Mill

Modern Grain Elevator

Before heading to our hotel we decided that with most of the day still ahead of us we would head directly to the Great Sandhill Dunes. Did you know that Saskatchewan has large sand dunes? You thought Saskatchewan was flat right? Yeah so did I.  It was only recently when Nigel told me about it and showed me some photographs from his previous visits that I learned about them (and actually believed him-lol).

Along the main road to the dunes we passed some old grain elevators. You know, the kind you see in photos from the prairies? I will save those for a later post. 😉

An old shack by the side of the road caught our eye so we stopped here for a bit to explore.

Abandoned Shack at Sunrise

Abandoned Shack at Sunrise

There is one thing to notice here and its the sun. By this time it was afternoon, we had stopped for lunch and we expected to hit the dunes about an hour or so before sunset. The sun pretty much stayed at this height all day. I had to remind myself that we were at a higher latitude than where we live. The sun rose here at about 9am and set by 5pm. Okay it wasn’t a huge difference in the amount of light but the quality of light was great.

When we finally reached the dunes the clouds were getting thicker which meant sunset was going to be harder to see. Course it didn’t stop us from hiking up the dunes to check out the view and get some photos of the texture of the sand and snow. Trudging along the sand kept reminding me that I was actually on a sand dune…in Saskatchewan!

Cold Sandhill Dunes

Cold Afternoon on the Sandhill Dunes

Okay, now I know you must be wondering…why on earth would anyone want to go to the prairies in the winter? Well, why the heck not, I say. It allows you to get photographs of places that first, most people won’t have at that time of year and second, are not packed with tourists or locals. And one thing of note, although the temperature hovered at the -20ºC mark it didn’t actually feel that cold. The prairies are very dry and the cold doesn’t seep in like it does in Ontario. So overall day one was pretty outstanding and I am looking forward to day two.