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Making Tracks

June 30, 2010

In my last post, I described how the torrential rains we experienced on the recent Extreme Saskatchewan photo tour devastated the southern regions of the prairie provinces. The rains certainly had an impact on the photo tour as well. Tour co-leader Darwin Wiggett described it:

Well… we survived the Extreme Saskatchewan tour… let’s see torrential downpours, flash floods, swarms of mosquitos, greasy mucky roads, collapsed highways, sleepless nights, dangerous abandonded buildings,  high winds, heat stroke, the flu, moldy motel rooms and crappy country music radio… the list goes on.

But for all the inconvenience and damage caused by the weather, our group was there to make photographs. And that’s just what we did. If I may corrupt the motto of the U.S. Postal Service — neither rain, nor more rain, nor even more rain would stay these photographers from the swift completion of their appointed shots!

He Went Thataway, Great Sand Hills

He Went Thataway, Great Sand Hills

And, in fact, the rain had some benefits as well. For one thing, the land was incredibly green, once we had enough light that we could see it. 🙂 The verdant color of growing things was all around, and could be used as an interesting backdrop, if nothing else. Another benefit is one I took note of when we visited the Great Sand Hills on the last morning of the tour. The Great Sand Hills are a fascinating region of contiguous native prairie habitat, and I was really looking forward to this part of the itinerary. We traveled to the open sand dunes, just to the south of Sceptre. The open dunes make up only a few percent of the total surface area of the region (about 1900 square kilometers), but pack a rich and appealing array of visuals!

Once there, it was clear that the relentless rain, now at an end on the final day, was still having an effect. As the sun rose, pockets of mist clinging to the low parts of the rolling country began to burn off. Thick green vegetation was visible in nearly every direction. And the sand itself was heavy and packed, in many places scrubbed clean of most marks including the appealing wind-blown ripples that normally would be so prominent — and photogenic.

A light breeze blew over the dunes, birds were calling from the trees, and a coyote yipped in the distance. The sun bathed everything in a warm glow through the low layer of haze on the horizon. The tracks of small animals, made since the downpour stopped, were crisply formed in small, pristine sections of the still-moist sand. Near the end of our time at this location, as we prepared to make our own tracks back to the hotel, I found an appealing section of sand with good ripples and the prints of a small mouse, sharply limned by the rising sun.

One of the very last compositions I photographed, the result is also one of my personal favorites from the entire trip. Life was good after the rains.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2010 01:40

    Very nice shot, story and a fine example of why some of the best images are made just before or after the weather changes, Royce. As well, surrounded by expanses of majesty, it is always so easy to overlook the small wonders contained within all that is before us. The wonderful shape and texture of the sand’s ripples and the nice diagonal direction chosen by the mouse are so nicely framed by your always careful attention to detail within the frame.

  2. July 11, 2010 06:55

    Thanks Steve. You’re right about small wonders. We got to the dunes for sunrise and my initial focus was all “up & out” — looking at the grand scenes, going for wide angles and big expanses, trying to work with the sunrise-lit clouds, etc. But the most pleasing compositions (on that day, anyway) were all found in the details at my feet.

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