A blue piano in Riverhurst

Blue Piano, Riverhurst, Saskatchewan

More Canada Day musings.

After the Elbow parade, after Gallery 148, after the best milkshake in the world, we found ourselves in Riverhurst.

By the time we got there, the village’s Canada Day festivities had drawn to a close. But the sun was still up, so we decided to take a walk downtown. It’s sort of a personal goal to see every “Railway and Main” in Saskatchewan.

Riverhurst, Saskatchewan (Darrell Noakes)

Railway and Main, Riverhurst, Saskatchewan (Darrell Noakes)

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Best milkshake in the world

Central Butte, Saskatchewan, Canada Day evening. Debby-Lee's Diner in the Central Butte Hotel.When I was growing up, the best milkshakes in the world were at the Dairy Bar. Of course, when you’re a kid, everything in the world is new and every experience is the best.

The Dairy Bar was special. It was in the middle of nowhere, about as far as you’d want to ride a bike on a hot summer day. You had to ride to the end of our subdivision, across the CPR tracks, then up a long, steep hill. You’d have to travel a bit on the highway to cross over a deep ravine. Lastly, you’d have to traverse a wide, gravel-strewn field to reach the Dairy Bar, perched atop a cliff overlooking the ravine and the railway tracks and the river valley and, way off in the distance, the subdivision that we left behind.

But the milkshakes were worth the effort. There were only three flavours — vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. They were the best milkshakes in the world.

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Canada Day at Gallery 148

Gallery 148, Elbow, Saskatchewan.

I don’t know where people get the idea that art galleries are stuffy places to be avoided. Maybe they were taken to fine art galleries on elementary school field trips, where they were admonished to keep their distance from the art. Maybe they’re reminded of movies where someone scratches their nose at an art auction and accidentally finds themselves on the hook for an expensive Picasso. Maybe they’re put off by incomprehensible artists’ statements.

Art galleries, especially the ones in Saskatchewan’s small towns, are great places to get to know a community. You find some amazing art and even more amazing people at these galleries. There’s nothing stuffy about them.

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The friendly people you meet at Hank’s Tavern

Hank's Tavern, Bradwell Hotel

I wonder how often people take the turnoff to Bradwell, I mean, besides the people who live in the little town. Depending on which way you’re speeding down the Yellowhead Highway, Saskatoon is barely 15 minutes behind you or ahead of you. If you’re in a hurry, as most people seem to be these days, you’ll just blow by the Bradwell access sign like it’s not even there.

I like taking the turnoff. As soon as you leave Highway 16, you feel the pace of life change. The road to Bradwell is a narrow ribbon of pavement winding a quiet 6 km into town. If you’re on that stretch of road just as the last drops of a late-day summer thunderstorm sizzle on the pavement and the sun lights your way with a pristine brightness and clarity that you only find after a prairie rain, you can’t help but think to yourself,  Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

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Where the wind blows this summer

Windscape Kite Festival, Swift Current

I can’t believe it’s already six years since I visited Windscape Kite Festival in Swift Current. I was thinking about that earlier today, because the festival takes place on a weekend as close as possible to the longest day of the year, part of the Long Day’s Night Music Festival. This year, Windscape is June 24 and 25. Long Day’s Night is June 22 to 25.

I’d like to go back, but it won’t be this year, I’m afraid. Next weekend is already spoken for.

Windscape had been running annually for six years when I was there in 2011, but its roots go back to 1998, when the Art Gallery of Swift Current curated an exhibition of art by Canadian kite builders.

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Seeing Saskatchewan in a different light

Meewasin Trail, opposite Bessborough Hotel downtown, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Rollei Infrared 400 120mm, 2017-05-20, Hoya R72 filter, 1/8 @ f/16.

I always wanted to try infrared photography. It seemed so mysterious. The film was expensive and hard to get, you had to keep it refrigerated, you had to load it into your camera in the dark, you needed to know how to adjust for the way your lens focused infrared light, you needed special filters to expose it, you had to process it right away, and the results were unpredictable. In a way, I guess that’s what makes it so appealing.

Ilford and Rollei are the only two manufacturers that still make infrared film, and only in black and white. Also, these are more like regular black-and-white films with increased infrared sensitivity. They aren’t as sensitive as earlier films, nor do they cover as much of the infrared end of the spectrum. But it does mean that they are easier to handle and care for, and also behave like regular films when used without a special filter to block visible light. Of the two, Rollei goes a little deeper into the infrared spectrum, and is a very fine grained film, so that’s the one I thought I’d try.

I ordered a few 120 rolls online and set about spending a day of experimentation. The manufacturer recommends making the first exposure, metered correctly, without any filters, to establish a baseline for comparing the developed images. I wandered off with a camera and tripod to a local park on a bright springtime Saturday morning just as the lilacs were coming into bloom.

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Bunking with History: The Magazine School

To describe the midsummer day as sweltering would be an understatement. The thermometer had soared past 35° C shortly after noon. At 5:30 p.m. I’m slouched in one of two big wicker chairs on the porch of a 100-year-old log cabin. The porch, covered by a broad tin roof, faces away from the afternoon sun, and a southwest breeze gently curling around the cabin fans away the day’s heat while I take sips from a tall, dewy glass of water.

The crickets love the heat. They’re chirping frantically, all around. I waggle my wrist and the ice in my drink tinkles against the side of the glass. A few crickets nearby go silent, but only to take a deep breath it seems, because they quickly resume their chorus with renewed ferocity. With a slight chuckle, I lean back in the chair to listen to nature.

There are a few things I’ve always loved about Saskatchewan: the bright, wide open skies; the friendly, welcoming hospitality of the cities, towns and out-of-the way places; and the fiercely inventive spirit of the people. When you combine all those attributes, you get some marvelously creative and energetic activity.

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First day of spring

Downtown Saskatoon, winter night (Darrell Noakes)

Downtown Saskatoon, winter night (Darrell Noakes)

It’s supposed to be the first day of spring today. Instead, it looks like winter is coming back for another blast.

After a sunny morning, it’s turned cloudy. The forecast calls for snow and blowing snow, northeast winds 30 km/hr gusting to 50, a low of minus 20 degrees Celsius tonight and a wind chill of minus 28. We’re not expected to see daytime temperatures go above freezing until well into next week, nor overnight lows above freezing until sometime in April. The past two weeks were so nice, too, in contrast with the minus 30 lows that ushered in the month.

I thought that if March came in like a lion, it was supposed to go out like a lamb! Continue reading

Catching up on photo backlog

Circle Drive South Bridge officially opens, Wednesday, July 31, 2013. (Darrell Noakes)

Circle Drive South Bridge officially opens, Wednesday, July 31, 2013. (Darrell Noakes)

Personal projects always get short shrift.

That’s not good, because personal projects are the most engaging, the most energizing, the most rewarding and the most creative.

But they fall behind because other work pays the bills.

Anyway, I figured this weekend would be a good time to catch up on a backlog of personal work. There are a couple of photo books that have been in the works for far too long and a wall decor project that’s running behind schedule and over budget. Continue reading

Sagging for GASP 2013

GASP 2013, Lake of the Prairies (Darrell Noakes)

A broken spoke can really wreck your day, especially if it’s an outside spoke on the sprocket side of your rear wheel. Fortunately, someone had a spare “S” spoke for such emergencies, and we got our cycling colleague back on the road in fairly short order. GASP 2013, Lake of the Prairies (Darrell Noakes)

“So, what does ‘SAG’ mean, anyway?” someone asked.

Well, as long as I can remember, cyclists where I grew up referred to the support vehicle that accompanied them on trips as the “sag wagon”. Where the name came from, nobody really knew. What the term meant, everybody had their own opinion.

On the club tours that characterized my early tour experiences, the sag wagon was there to offer support and encouragement to tired riders, besides carry gear. We referred to the driver as “mom”, regardless of her or his gender or age, knowing that whoever was in charge of the van would look out for us and take care of whatever we needed. Continue reading

Kinsmen Park memories

No rides in Kinsmen Park this year. After closing the rides at the end of last season, the City began construction of new attractions that are scheduled to be open in 2014.

City of Saskatoon offers free rides (normally $1 per ride) on the last day of operation of the Kinsmen Park train and carousel, Labour Day, Monday, September 3, 2012. The City is decommissioning the miniature train and carousel for a 25-year multimillion-dollar plan to renovate the 46-acre Kinsmen Park. A ferris wheel was removed several years ago. On March 5, 2013, the City of Saskatoon announced that the 38-year-old train had been sold to Country Fun Farms, a 70-acre theme farm 10 km east of Prince Albert. (Darrell Noakes)

City of Saskatoon offers free rides on the last day of operation of the Kinsmen Park train and carousel, Labour Day, Monday, September 3, 2012.

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Banking on words

Crawford's Used Books, Perdue, Saskatchewan.I was just thumbing through an obviously well loved, but also well cared for, copy of the Money-Saving Cookbook by Ida Bailey Allen, published by Nelson Doubleday Inc., 1942. Three years into the Second World War, on the heels of the decade-long Great Depression, folks on the home front no doubt would have appreciated whatever advice they could find on how to stretch scarce resources to make ends meet.

I really enjoyed that warm September day in 2011 when we found that cookbook. I had received an assignment from Westworld Saskatchewan Magazine to photograph Ralph Crawford for a back-of-book piece about his bookstore, Crawford’s Used Books, in Perdue, 60 km west of Saskatoon. Continue reading