Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year to all

All the best in 2007 and may your grain elevator photo hunts go well!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

II - From combine to truck

Once the hopper in the combine is filled with grain (wheat, in this case) the combine operator notifies the truck driver that he/she can come and pick up the load. The trucker pulls alongside the combine and the grain is loaded onto the truck.

Friday, December 29, 2006

From the field to the elevator

Without the farmer seeding the field and harvesting the grain there obviously wouldn't be a need for the prairie grain elevators. I came across some slides I took of harvesting that I've decided to include in the next few blogs--a short series of photos. The first one is of the combine picking up the wheat swath, a common sight in Saskatchewan every Fall.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

You can't get there from here

There's an old story of a farmer who was asked for directions by a city slicker. After careful thought the farmer told the man that he couldn't get there from where he was. Sometimes the wide open spaces on the prairies make it seem like one is getting nowhere because the scenery changes so slowly. Here's a photo of a typical straight gravel road with canola and flax fields beside it. Where does the road lead to? Keep driving till you get there.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Reflected elevator

Water and grain don't mix. Rain during harvest is always unwelcome as the grain that's lying in swaths is subject to rot and mold. So, although it makes for nicer photos, this reflection of the Bjorkdale elevator probably doesn't sit well with grain farmers.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Surprise find

While going through some old slides (1996) I came across a photo of an elevator. It turns out to be the Bremen elevator. For some reason we don't have a close up of this elevator. The reflection of the lake and the yellow of the harvested fields makes for an interesting long view of this particular part of Saskatchewan east of Saskatoon.
Happy Boxing Day!

Monday, December 25, 2006

It's a holiday

Enjoy today in whatever way you can
Keeping in mind that to harm no one
One must respect oneself and others
For if we don't, life will be no fun.

Remember, I'm a photographer, not a poet
After reading the above attempt, you'll know it.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Celebrate the moment

It's Christmas Eve for many in the world today, so why not make today, at least, an excuse if you need one, to celebrate the moment and the day by doing something nice for yourself and someone else.
I combined a "distorted" photo of Christmas lights with an elevator photo to make it look "electrifying", as if it had some extra "charge" this time of year.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

It's time to be thankfull

It's that time of year to be grateful for what we do have, rather than what we don't have. In keeping with the theme of Saskatchewan grain elevators, I'm thankful that I was able to enjoy the sight of the elevators as long as I did and that I made it part of my "life's work" to take as many photos of them as I could when I did. I missed many that have been taken down, but living with regrets takes too much energy.
I'm celebrating being in a new location with its sights and sounds. I was feeling particularly "creative" yesterday and made the photo I recently took of a rainbow over Nanaimo Harbour into a cut-out kind-of-thing picture.
Let's celebrate every little thing we experience the next few days! After all, it's Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sunset sihlouette

Sometimes a sihlouette of a familiar scene gives it a whole new look. This photo of a combine unloading onto a truck captures a common event on the prairies during the fall harvest. It was taken on a farm north of Saskatoon, SK.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bringing in the swaths

There's an old song we used to sing in church about "bringing in the sheafs". This was a reference to harvesting the old-fashioned way. Nowadays the almost-ripened crops are cut down by swathers and laid in rows to dry rather than bundling the grain into sheafs and having to stack them to dry. This field of swaths is cut beside some standing water. I not only like the design of the swaths but the positioning of drying grain next to water--two things you don't want to mix.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bins of steel

Steel bins, round and smooth, made loading grain much easier for the farmers. (See yesterday's blog.) These bins are small compared to the newer ones farmers are using these days. The windmill in this photo still stands on a farm north of Saskatoon, SK. It's quite rare as wooden ones such as this one are subject to the elements. Windmills were used to pump water for the farm animals, using wind to drive the pump.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bins falling down

Farmers have been storing grain in wooden bins for a long time before the steel bins became popular. The problem with square buildings for grain is that a lot of shoveling is required to get the grain to the opening so that the grain auger can do its thing. I get tired just thinking about the shoveling I used to do all the while gagging on the grain dust. These grain bins west of Blaine Lake, SK have seen their better days. We found it humourous to see how they're falling--much like dominoes.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Grain cars wait to be loaded

Grain cars wait to be loaded at the Nipawin-Codette elevator. (Taken June 2003).

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Elevator's gone missing

One of the first elevator photos we took was of these two in Borden, SK (August 2001). The next time we drove past Borden the second elevator was missing. It was a reminder of how important it was to take photos quickly in order to catch the remaining ones on film before it's too late.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Railway Crossings

In the quiet of the country it's easy to forget that railway crossings are potentially life-threatening. Driving the same route every day can lead to complacence increasing the chance that a train may be heading your way before you realize it. There are many unmarked crossings, but some have the familiar "X" to warn drivers ahead of time. This crossing near the Bladworth, SK elevator adds an element of caution to the photo. (taken August 2001)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Sunset in Rosetown

The setting sun often offers the photographer lighting that is less intense and more colourful. The row of elevators in Rosetown, SK (August 2001) nicely reflected the late sun. A late sun offers the viewer not only a different view but a different mood, as well.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


We all see the world in different ways. Ask 10 photographers to take pictures of a certain item or place and you'll get at least 10 different results. That's the beauty of life--seeing in many different ways. For that we are all richer. Here's my view of a barn as seen through the door of another barn.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

More Saskatchewan gold

Ripened canola crops are a brilliant yellow, which may look like gold to many, especially to the farmers after they bring in a bountiful harvest. This panoramic shot of Carrot River, SK was taken in June 2003.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Is there really gold at the end of a rainbow?

While driving around Saskatchewan to take elevator photos we ran into all kinds of weather. Fortunately, it makes for more interesting photos. At Star City a rainbow was visible and I tried really hard to get a photo of it behind the elevator. I took many pictures but the rainbow didn't show up as well as I would have liked. Here's one result. The only gold at the end of this rainbow may have been a golden crop of wheat.

Monday, December 11, 2006

But this is Biggar

In Saskatchewan the population seems to be stuck at one million inhabitants. The wide open spaces and flat terrain make the sparse population even more evident. The town of Biggar, SK used this to their advantage when many years ago, they posted a sign at the outskirts that read: "New York is big, but this is Biggar". Many small towns have large items constructed on the outskirts to attract tourists-- Biggar has a sign.
The metal siding on the elevator in Biggar (taken August 2001) reflected the sun, making it a brilliant object and an interesting photo, as well.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Towers in Saskatchewan

I thought it was curious that both churches and grain elevators are built for height, but for different reasons. Churches have towers to reach to heaven while grain elevators are built for height to store grain vertically in order to take advantage of gravity for loading purposes.
The juxtaposition of the church and elevator in Wolseley, SK was too good to miss.
(Answer to previous question re crop being harvested: Canola)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Where the deer and the antelope play

In the same area as my previous post we saw an antelope cross the road ahead of us. By the time we got close to it the antelope was walking across a large stubble field. It stopped to look at us as I grabbed my camera to try to get a photo before it was too far away.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Combining the grain

Once the swaths have dried on the ground harvesting can begin. This photo was taken in southern Saskatchewan between Regina and Moose Jaw, south of the Trans Canada highway. The wide open spaces and the flat land make farming easier in some ways. Without hills to climb and trees to avoid, driving in a straight line is possible. Here's a question for you to answer: What crop is being harvested? 1. Wheat 2. Canola 3. Barley 4. Flax 5. Oats 6. Peas 7. Lentils 8. Hemp 9. Other. (Answer coming up soon.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wheat swaths, etc.

In Saskatchewan and other places where the growing season is short, almost-ripened grain is cut down and laid in swaths on the field in order to stop the growth of the grain and to speed the ripening and drying of the stalks. The risk farmers take with the grain on the ground is that lots of rain and strong winds can occur after swathing. The crops can't be picked up when it's too damp and if the grain lies on the wet ground too long it begins to grow mold and rot. If the swaths are blown apart the combine may not be able to pick up all the grain. Wet grain can result in a lower grade of wheat or sometimes it can only be salvaged as "feed wheat".
I had some fun with this photo I took of wheat swaths this August (2006).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Canola is a popular crop

When I was growing up on the farm canola, or rape-seed as it was called then, was almost unheard of, at least in our area. It has since become a very common and popular crop to grow. The farmers were able to sell the seeds without having to go through the Wheat Board, if my memory serves me right. That meant that they had to "play the market" by trying to time the sale of the canola at the highest prices. This is similar to trying to time stocks sales to achieve the highest prices. The farmers that were desperate for cash would have to sell when they could and often sold at a loss. The moral of the story? Being a farmer requires a lot of skills, including being good "gamblers".
This photo of canola swaths was taken north of Saskatoon, SK in August 2006.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Elevator annexes

Many grain elevators have annexes attached in order to store more of the grain before shipping. This annex in Hagen, SK shows signs of aging, although my guess is that the sides have become misshapen due to the weight and moisture of the grain.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Yorkton Flour Mill

We discovered this large flour mill in Yorkton, SK when we stayed there overnight on our trip through the prairies. I don't know the history of the flour mill but just by looking at it it's clear that a lot of flour was produced there. If anyone knows the history and current plans for the mill, I'd be happy to add the information to this blog. I've added a link after a brief search for information regarding this mill. There's not much information but a little bit of history is provided. (Click on heading to read the short history piece.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Farmers store grain, too

When the farmers harvest the grain they can't haul the grain straight to the elevators. They have bins that holds the grain until they're allowed, via the quota system, to sell their grain and transport it to the grain elevators. I took this photo at my brother-in-law's farm this fall at sunset. As I said in an earlier blog, the farmers now require huge trucks to transport the grain. They have to pay truckers to come to the farm, pick up the grain and transport it to the elevator--another major expense for the farmer. It's definitely not the farmers who are making the big bucks.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Elevator row

In Grenfell, SK they're celebrating the history of elevators by displaying a row of elevators to represent many of the grain companies that operated in Saskatchewan over the years. This photo was taken in September 2006.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The train's coming

While photographing elevators we had to drive across or walk across railway tracks to take pictures of the elevators. Quite often trains would be coming through as we were there, so we had to be cautious. The plus side was that the trains added to the photo, as this one did in Watrous, SK. (August 2001).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's winter

It's not only winter on the prairies, but here as well. We've just experienced a record amount of snow for this time of year. Almost exactly four years ago I took this picture of the grain elevator in Watson, SK. It was taken at sunrise and so the sky is still quite colourful. One thing nice about the winter in Saskatchewan--no mosquitoes!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


It's been snowing here in balmy B.C. for the past few days, so a photo of an elevator with the town's (Kenaston, SK) snowman as it's symbol seems appropriate. Although this photo was taken in August (2001), I'm sure it's surrounded by snow at this moment.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dog River elevator

Those of you who enjoy watching the sitcom, "Corner Gas", have probably noticed the grain elevator in the background. They changed the name of the Rouleau elevator to Dog River. Having the elevator nearby for the movie set adds charm and authenticity to the setting. We made sure we stopped by there on our travels. Here's a photo taken in September 2006.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Wheat makes flour

"Canada No. 1 Hard Wheat" makes the best flour. That's what I was taught when I was growing up on our farm in Saskatchewan. The whole world demanded our wheat because of the great breads that could be made from this wheat flour. Many of the larger centres in Saskatchewan made flour for the residents. This Humboldt flour mill (photo taken August 2001) is one example.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Train crossings

You know you're going to have to approach or cross a railway track whenever you get near a prairie grain elevator--one that's still in use and not moved to a farm. In the country it doesn't pay to put up flashing lights so the traditional "X" signifies that you are approaching a railway crossing. This photo was taken (August 2001) of the crossing sign near the Floral/Saskatoon elevator. This elevator was torn down in 2003.
Remember this joke? John: "A train just went by here." Jack: "How do you know that?" John: "It left it's tracks."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Trains and elevators

Trains pick up the grain from the elevators and deliver it across Canada. In this case I used the CN sign to frame the elevator at Wakaw (taken June 2001).

Friday, November 24, 2006

Farm machinery

Running a farm in order to grow grain requires a lot of machinery. It's not uncommon to see farm machinery dealers in small towns with row upon row of machines that are used to till the soil and harvest the crops. Whenever we saw farm machinery near a grain elevator we couldn't resist including the machinery in the photo. This photo was taken in Meacham, SK in August 2001.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Prairie landmarks

While driving in the prairies one notices what "sticks out", what's different in shape and form from the rest of the scenery. Prairie elevators provide the variety that the eye appreciates while scanning the distance. This photo of the Glenside SK elevator (as taken August 2001) is a good example of how the old wooden grain elevators liven up the horizon. Every time one is torn down a part of our vision is lost forever.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Old elevators still standing

There seems to be no rhyme or reason why some older elevators are left standing and why some of the newer ones are torn down. In any case, the older ones make for interesting photography. It would be nice if they could be preserved somehow, but the question of who is willing to foot the expenses goes unanswered. This elevator stands in Gull Lake, SK. The photo was taken in September 2006.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Without grain, elevators aren't necessary

To restate the obvious, the bread-basket of the world needs storage facilities that can be used as a transfer point from farm to the rest of the world, including stops at flour mills, processing plants, etc. But without the grain to harvest, it all becomes redundant. Anyway, I thought a photo of a typical wheat field in Saskatchewan (taken late August 2006) would help to set the scene, so to speak.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Retired grain truck

I posted a blog a few days ago saying that trucks were getting larger and larger in order to transport the grain to the new, cement monstrosities called "Inland Grain Terminals". Sometimes memories of the past, when times seemed simpler but not necessarily easier, affect how one takes photos. I took this photo of a retired grain truck and with the help of Photoshop, turned it into a "burning bright" image (almost like an aura), giving the impression that there's still life in the old vehicle. The leaning outhouse beside it is a vivid reminder of times I definitely do not miss.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Another elevator in the sunset

I came across another photo we took of the late day's sun, this time while we were by this Rosetown elevator.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


While we were out taking photos of elevators it was always a guess as to what kind of weather we would have. It could mean a dull, cloudy day or a clear day with little in the skies to make them more interesting. The time of day also affected the lighting, so that sometimes it was difficult to highlight the best part of the elevators. At sunset we found that the lighting was more interesting, but not always easy to capture in an interesting way. Here's one photo that caught the setting sun, but unfortunately the sky was clear and didn't leave colourful clouds to add to the scene. Here it is, nevertheless. Taken August 2001 in Allan, SK.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Giant Gopher in Eston

Quite a few of the small towns build or create a "mascot" or symbol of their community to bring in tourists and perhaps create some community pride. When we took this photo of the Eston elevator in May 2003, someone was in the process of carving a huge gopher out of stone. We haven't been there since. Has anyone a photo of the finished product? If so, please send it along with your comments. Thanks.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Cost savings?

Is it really a cost-saving to tear down the grain elevators and rebuild monstrosities far away, causing farmers to use huge trucks to haul their grain? Who really pays for this "upgrade"? My guess is, the farmer, as farmers have little control over prices and distribution. Am I being cynical by suggesting that the large corporations are in it for profit, and only large-scale farmers can hope to survive?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Making it more interesting

Taking photos of elevators to show others what the elevator looks like for posterity purposes is different than taking photos that attempt to be creative or perhaps more interesting to look at. It makes taking pictures more fun but it doesn't always result in something that's well-focused or picture-ready. I took this photo of a train that was going by the Kinley elevator thinking that at a slow exposure it would blur the train but show the elevator in the background as the steady object. I forgot that at the slower exposure I would have to hold the camera perfectly steady. I liked the picture however, and with the help of Photoshop I've turned it into an "artsy shot".

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Crows and elevators

When I saw this crow sitting on a post in front of the elevator I quickly took the photo. It seemed to be a juxtaposition of bird and grain storage, or perhaps even more so, a reminder of the importance of grain for the survival of birds, including the crow.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sun-brightened elevator

It was always a challenge trying to take good photos of elevators, as the lighting, particularly, could affect the outcome. Sometimes the sun was shining brightly in mid-day and sometimes the sky was growing darker as sunset approached, creating difficult shadows. On this occasion in June 2001 I decided to take advantage of the bright sun on the light-coloured boards and make it look as brilliant as possible. I think it gives this elevator a special glow as a result.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Elevators aren't the only relics

While photographing elevators is becoming more difficult as they disappear in the name of progress, other relics can be found here and there. While shooting elevators in Wolseley this old Pontiac was standing in the field nearby. I converted the photo to a sepia tone to give it a more old-fashioned look, more in keeping with its age.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Remembrance Day

Today we've been reminded to remember the fallen soldiers--soldiers who died trying to stay alive while following orders from those who decided their lives were worth sacrificing. I don't want to question the motives of those who died during battle, but I do question the constant need for war. By "celebrating" the fallen soldiers are we not keeping the idea of war alive? Why aren't we looking back at our decisions, our mistakes, our lessons learned? That way we might decide that there are better ways to resolve differences than by going out and killing each other.
I could go on. Why is it that men are the ones doing the celebrating of taking and losing lives? I read somewhere a while ago that men don't produce blood naturally, like women do each month, so they "draw" blood as a way of trying to equalize their power with that of women. Men can't give life like women can so they compensate by taking it. Hmmm ... something to ponder.
Shouldn't we be celebrating the joy of life rather than the dread of killing?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Why take photos of elevators?

The question one might well ask is: Why collect photos of grain elevators? There are a number of possible reasons:

  1. To create a keepsake of a disappearing icon.
  2. To stop the destruction of the elevators by creating a visual memory of times past.
  3. To stop time, in a sense, by having a visual recollection of grain elevators.
  4. To hold on to one's nostalgia of what once was.
  5. Feeling helpless to stop the destruction of the elevators, the least one can do is honour them by taking their portrait before they disappear (i.e., die).
What do you think?