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?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Panoramic photos work well in Saskatchewan

A long train parked along the level train tracks on the flat prairie next to a wooden grain elevator and on a cloudy, summer day makes for a photo that works best as a panoramic. The height of the elevator breaks up the horizontal lines by providing a focal point of interest. This elevator stands in Borden, SK.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Trains haul the grain away

While trucks are needed to get the grain to the elevators, trains are used to haul the grain from the elevators to the mills and shipping ports. That is why the elevators were built next to the railway tracks. Duh! Oftentimes trains would pass by while we were photographing the elevators, so we had to be careful not to be in the way. It did make for more interesting photos such as this one. Here the train cars are waiting to be loaded. The photo was taken in Rosthern, SK where I grew up. I hauled quite a few truck-fulls of grain to Rosthern elevators.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Closer view of old elevator

The elevator in Waseca, SK is looking quite old and weather-worn. It makes for interesting photography as a result. This particular shot I made of the elevator looks good in colour and in black and white. I'm adding them both to today's blog as I can't decide which one looks better.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Moving grain elevators to farms

When we were driving around Saskatchewan looking for wooden grain elevators we saw many that had been moved to neighbouring farms. When the elevators closed down farmers would bid on the elevators and the winning bidder got to move the 80 foot "high-rise" to his farm. This set of elevators was located just outside the village of Peterson. The name of the farm, "J & L Farms" is written over the word, Peterson. Normally we didn't photograph farm elevators as it seemed intrusive to drive onto a farmyard and take photos. This one I was able to take quite easily as it was just across the street from the village.
I took this picture on an overcast, wintery December (2002) day with the sun shining behind it. I gave the photo a sepia tone to give it more of an old-fashioned look, more in keeping with the subject.
Does anyone know the history of this elevator?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

You call this flat?

Those who weren't raised on the prairies complain about the flatness of the prairies. This photo shows part of Saskatchewan that is particularly flat. We took this photo through the windshield of our car as we were heading to Eston. During this trip through part of central Saskatchewan, whenever we spotted an elevator in the distance we would check the odometer to see how far away the elevators were. The furthest ones were 15 kms ahead! Now that is flat. The joke about watching your pet dog run away for days is based on this notion of flatness. Considering that the prairies were once a giant sea bottom helps explain the flatness of the terrain. The gulleys and pockets of trees are the left-overs of the receding glaciers during the ice age. If you're ever in Regina there's an interesting section in the Royal Saskatchewan Musuem that shows the history of the prairies back to the ice age.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Prairie Sentinels

"Sentinel: something that seems to be standing guard or keeping watch." Grain elevators are often referred to as prairie sentinels, and judging from the definition of the word, sentinel, it certainly applies. This photo I took of Plato, SK shows a large grain elevator standing in the middle of the village. Imagine that the elevator is the village guard, big enough to look over everything and to keep any misdeed in check. If only elevators could talk and tell stories of life in their villages. I guess we'll have to leave that up to the town "gossips", or storytellers.

Friday, November 03, 2006

When is photography art?

This photo was altered using Photoshop Elements and applying the filter called "glowing edges". I haven't changed the original photo other than adding this effect. It changes the appearance drastically, yet to me it offers another way of looking at the subject, in this case, grain elevators. It's not quite a painting and not quite a photo, but to my way of thinking, it's art.
Photographs have been altered ever since they were invented, so is this really any different? Now we can alter photos digitally, which probably wouldn't even have been considered if it hadn't been for the images manipulated by photographers prior to the digital age.
If you want to see any of my posted photos at at larger size simply click on the photo.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Reflection of an elevator

After taking photos of the Langham elevator I went to the back of our car to put my camera away when I noticed the reflection of the elevator on the roof of the car. The car's blue paint made the reflection look like a lake. When we showed this photo at craft sales a number of people approached us and asked where the lake was in Langham as they didn't recall one being there.
As a photographer one decides whether to take photos as realistically as possible or to take whatever one sees even though it may change the "genuineness" of the photo location. I say there's nothing wrong with taking such photos as long as it's not presented as "fact". Photo journalists must be particularly careful not to manipulate scenes or situations in order to sell their work to newspapers.
What do you think of photos such as this one?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sunrise on elevators

We got up early on August 28 2001 so that we could drive to and photograph elevators at sunrise. It was a gorgeous morning with just a bit of cloud cover, but not enough to fill the huge Saskatchewan sky. The landscape is quite flat as everyone knows, and oftentimes it's difficult to show the great expanse of the horizon on the usual 4 X 6 photograph. By making the photo into a panorama I think it better relays the sense of the vastness of the prairies.
This photo was taken of the Kenaston elevators at 6:30 a.m. The morning sun casts an interesting light on the elevators, causing them to become the brightest objects in the photo.
Does everyone know Saskatchewan's logo? "Land of Living Skies".