Northward Ho!



Getting up to 4:30 AM sucks anyway you cut it. The early morning flight saves me from going back to San Francisco to then go back to Calgary.    The plan seemed simple enough: fly to Calgary, get a rental car, and drive to Edmonton.  We boarded the plane in Austin on time but after about 30 minutes on the runway they informed us the brakes did not work. We had to go back to the gate and wait about an hour while the teams got everything in order. Getting into Calgary was then pretty routine. The Canadian immigration officer really probed into me why I was coming to Canada.  Apparently there was something super secret in going to photograph friend’s wedding.  After a week of 100+ degree days, I was ready for some cooler weather!  Apparently the weather gods agreed.

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I turned on the radio in the rental car in Calgary and country music was pouring out of the speakers! I hit a few different presets on the radio and country music continued to pour out. I was in heaven! That has never happened anywhere else  Once rolling north on Alberta Highway 2 I was instantly greeted with a line of traffic.  There are two seasons in Canada: winter and road construction. This was definitely road construction.  Once traffic started moving again, I could see a squall line out on the horizon to the north. The radio was warning of tornadoes and strong storms around the Red Deer area. Fortunately, for me, I was going right through Red Deer.

I have to say, it was quite fun driving through the rough weather. Since a small drizzle is a colossal occurrence here in California, actual weather is quite interesting when you go other places. After about 30 minutes of rough weather, the skies opened up and it was a beautiful drive into Edmonton. Edmonton at 53 degrees north of the equator is the furthest north I’ve ever been on a plane.

After meeting Jeremy, the two of us headed over to the West Edmonton Mall. Having seen retail in Atlanta with its 10 major malls in a radius of 30 minutes I was a bit skeptical about why this mall is so cool. When we pulled up to the mall, I took interest in the fact that we were at entrance number 44.

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That then triggered a memory that the West Edmonton Mall was the largest mall in North America. Right after walking inside, we stopped by Lammle’s Western Wear and met Rolland. I remember the last true western wear store faded from the South Bay about 10 years ago. Jeremy and Rolland seem to go back a number of years and it was great to sort of see more color in Alberta. It feels a bit like Silicon Valley meets the old West:

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It is an understatement to say that this mall is huge. They definitely have all the things that a standard mall does: stores, display carts, food courts, and the large anchor stores. They also have a large ice rink, a giant amusement park, and very well articulated displays inside of the mall. I’m really not a mall guy. I promise.  It was impressive though.

Wednesday we decided to head into downtown Edmonton. The downtown area has the North Saskatchewan River flowing through it. With all of the recent weather, the river was full, dirty brown from all the churn, yet the Edmonton area didn’t get near the amount of trouble that Calgary did.  I saw a number of boxes with this logo on it… being a southerner it took a minute for it to click.

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Edmonton was bigger than I thought it was.  Its population is between 800,000 and 900,000. It is about the same size as San Francisco, but much more spread out.  Our first destination was Old Strathcona.  Old Strathcona is a nice area just south of downtown Edmonton that affords decent views of the city.

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Edmonton Alberta
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We walked down from the ridgeline towards the river and found a fun little bridge to camp out under.

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Although it was late June, the environment very much felt like spring back home. We found these creepy crawlers all over the place.

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I’ m trying to spend a little more focused time photographing people rather than things. Portrait photography seems to be one of the most elusive opportunities so I try to take it whenever I can. 🙂

Once we got down to the river we stumbled upon what appeared to be an active power plant. Urban photography is another weakness of mine is I’ m just not sure how to capture the impact of a building on its environment. Since the building was older, this one felt like a great candidate for black and white.

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Right outside of town near where Alberta Highway 2 crosses the North Saskatchewan River there is a monument of stacked, reflective balls. Neither Jeremy nor I were sure why it was there. Nonetheless, very interesting to photograph.

I also learned that June was bike month for Edmonton. Better that it was June rather than January.

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The shoreline of the North Saskatchewan River and a deep rocky feel to it. While rather uninteresting in and of itself, I found the texture provided for an interesting photo. For a while I had a thing for photographing objects that looked well as desktop backgrounds for computers. These two seem to fall in that same vein:

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 We arrived at Ft. Edmonton Park right before closing. It wasn’t worth the admission fee for only 30 minutes inside the park. We took a couple of photographs around the grounds. Alberta’ s provincial flower is the Wild Rose. We found some in the grounds along with some other flowers! The Wild Rose is the one all the way to the left.

Edmonton is also home to Canada’s largest boot. The story that this boot sits in front of ironically doesn’t sell much Western gear. It has turned into a motorcycle shop. After the boot was built, the city of San Antonio one upped Edmonton by building a boot a foot taller.

Jeremy has a very different style of photography than I do.  He likes to use a lot of effects to generate a more abstract look where I’m more of a pixel perfect type of guy.   I took one of my photographs and tried to emulate his style rather than mine.

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Tomorrow were off to the Panoka Stampede. It should be a fun day at the rodeo!


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