Canada Project | Back To The Land

Well it's been a while since I have written anything on this blog and I can honestly say its feels good to write something down and I promise to be more diligent making blog posts a weekly part of my schedule. So much is going on and I am stoked to share with you some amazing stories and new exciting projects that are in the works. First and foremost the updates- I have started a new photography project (which we will get to shortly), I have become recently engaged, launched my first published book "The Human Connection", and spent this last month (January) in Australia standing next to my little brother as he got married. I will try my hardest to keep you from falling sleep due to shear boredom, so lets get to it and we can start with the NEW photography project as I will post more about the book in the coming weeks. For those that are familiar with my work, the last major photography project took place in Bangladesh and Nepal back in 2011-2012 and in that time I have discovered many things about myself, my photography, and where I plan to take myself in this crazy world of picture taking. Having travelled to a lot interesting places it was back in 2012 that I discovered a whole different side of Calgary let alone Canada that I never noticed before. Most people including myself tend to leave their own country or escape the familiar in search of adventure, inspiration, and or just for the hell of getting outside and out of the house. My situation is no different and I have decided to take the same approach and process from my travels abroad to my newest project which involves a very large portion of Canada and the inspiration I found within this incredible country I call home. My plan is to travel across Canada and visit all ten provinces and three territories over the span of five years photographing the residents from small towns and remote areas. As of right now the project is still quite new and I'm sure it will evolve over the the five years and possibly more. In the coming weeks I will be posting photographs from Alberta and Saskatchewan including stories of the people I met and photographed thus far. Also I have teamed up with the very talented Chantelle Kolesnik using her creative direction, video skills, and talent where we have created a small trailer of this new Canada project. All I ask is that you be patient and stay tuned as we are just in the final phases of editing the footage and adding the final tweaks.

So before you leave to check your Instagram feed, I am proud and a little nervous to present the official START of ... Drum roll please... "Back To The Land"

August 1st, 2014 was the big day I decided to spend a couple weeks on the road  starting with the province of Saskatchewan (only on the basis because it was close)as I had no specific route planned except a quick look at google maps the night before. I woke the next morning with my equipment pretty much packed from the previous day, I left my home in Calgary at 10am driving North on highway 2 (QE2) through central Alberta. Call me crazy but when you plan to set out on any adventure that has a significant set of challenges, obstacles and not to mention the unknown, you expect when that day comes it is going to be this surreal magical moment. For me that morning felt like any other morning and the feeling could of easily been equal to a cappuccino at my favourite coffee shop. After locking up the house, loading the back of my 97' Tacoma with a tent, coleman stove, a cooler with some food (mostly trail mix, fruit, eggs, and cereal), camera equipment and a change of clothes, I was on the road but not before hitting my favourite coffee spot for a cappuccino to go.

As I made my way out of the city on highway 2, I veered East on highway 582 which turns into highway 27 (Junction 21) and then makes another change into Highway 9 (junction 56) from there highway 9 continues without change until you hit the Sasakatchewan border. As I drove down highway 582 that surreal sense that was non-existent when I walked out the front door suddenly arrived the moment I ventured off the main highway. The feeling was incredible and I loved that I did not have a schedule, I had no expectations for myself or anyone else, the freedom of just driving searching for small towns, and the anticipation of photographing the people that call these soon to be discovered places home. Before setting up camp for the first night, I managed to visit quite a few little towns which included Craigmyle, Morrin, Munson, and Delia. Before I stopped into my first town, I had this preconceived notion that I was going to see some cowboy sitting on a stool spitting his chew into the street outside of a saloon or bar and the main street showcasing the odd rusted old 70's ford pick-up. Well possibly 40 years ago you might have seen such a sight, however the saloon still stands, but it's now the post office and the guy spitting is just another employee for which-ever favourable oil company that is currently drilling in the area. The towns were either overtaken by big trucks sporting every major oil company's logo OR nothing at all where the town was almost abandoned. Once I noticed this I knew this was going to be a tough project and that finding people with that Canadian distinctive feel that I had envisioned in my mind was going to be nothing short of difficult.

At around 7:30pm the sun was slowly starting to creep closer and closer towards the horizon with nothing more than that beautiful golden prairie light and for those of you that love to drive across the prairies you know what I'm talking about. I rolled into Hanna, Alberta... YES the very same Hanna where the ever so popular Nickelback band is from. By this point I had already put more than 250km of road behind me and the first place I stopped was a small RV/Gravel lot. I parked my truck and went directly to the RV office. I was greeted by a pleasant lady and told her I needed a spot for one night, she said fine and asked if I needed any services to hook up my RV too. I laughed and said "no need as I'm just pitching a tent". The lady just looked at me a little confused and said "I'm sorry but we don't allow tents". At this point I was now confused and I asked "why"?, she said it was a company policy and she could not give me an answer or reason as to why. I thought she was joking but there was no laughing after she said "No... I'm really serious". She mentioned there was a small lake 5 km away that allowed tents. I thanked her for her time and went to this small lake on the outskirts of town. As I pulled up and drove around the camp-ground all I could see were motor homes with families watching TV through their half opened windows to escape the summer heat, and once I managed to find a spot right next to the lake, I realized I was the only person with a tent. I found the Camp Office which was an RV and paid my one day fee. As I was in the final stages of setting up my one man coffin, a little girl came over to me. As I glanced towards her, she could not have been no more than five or six years old. Hammering in my last tent peg in case the wind picked up, the little girl curiously asked me "Where is your motor home?" I replied and said "I don't have one. I have a tent instead". She then says "Oh...... that's nice, but where are you going to sleep?" I reply "In this tent". She paused again for a few more moments and says "Oh... ok, I've never seen one of those before." With all the RV's in the area I can see why. I felt like my tent was a MacDonald's Big Mac in a Michelin Star restaurant. It did not fit especially given a few blank stares amongst the other RV'ers next to me.

It was a good first day as the weather was blue bird perfect and I was excited to spend my first night on the road. When ever I travel I usually finish my day off with a book. This time I had a beautiful lake, a chair, and the sun setting over the lakes horizon.The very next morning I woke to some extremely loud thunder at 5:30am and forced myself to get out of bed as I had a bad feeling and could smell the moisture in the air. That gut feeling was right and I scrambled as fast as I could to strike the tent and get in the truck before the rain came. The moment I slammed the truck door shut I kid you not all hell broke lose and I will let the video at the end of the post give you the full depth of that morning.

Stay tuned for more updates on "Back To The Land" as I will be posting more video and of course portraits of my encounters across Canada. If you have any comments, questions, or just want to say "Hi" please do not hesitate to write them in the "Comment Section" or send me an email through the contact form.

Have an awesome day!!

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Craigmyle_Alberta_01
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https://vimeo.com/119178838